Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Reading on a Theme: American Girl in Europe

Summer has us dreaming of traveling. Since a European trip isn't in the cards for us this summer, we're satisfying our inner travel bugs with YA books about American girls who travel to (or are preparing to travel to) Europe. Perfect summer reads whether you are home or abroad.

Parlez-vous francais?
Abby Berman can't wait for a summer away from her baseball-obsessed family. She's enrolled in an advanced French class at Huntington University in hopes of attending a high school in Paris her senior year. Everything is going her way until she's paired with Zeke Martin, who appears to be as baseball enthused as her family. Hopefully she can keep her head, and heart, focused on her goal. Natalie Blitt has written an absolutely charming story with excellent characters. Abby's roommate, Alice, the poet, and Colin, the artist, are among my favorites. A light, sweet, fun romance, The Distance from A to Z is a perfect summer read and (as of when this post went live) it's only $1.99 on Amazon! Review copy from Edelweiss.

When in Rome:
Laura loves the Classics. She always dreamed of visiting the sites of ancient civilizations, especially Rome. But Rome, as it turns out, is more than she bargained for. Strange things begin happening the day before her class is set to fly home, and Laura finds herself at the mercy of the Roman gods. Paula Morris displays a firm knowledge of Rome and Roman mythology in The Eternal City. A mythology enthusiast myself, I enjoyed hearing about how the fountains and monuments Laura and her friends visited were connected to the Roman gods. The Eternal City is an interesting mythology in the modern world story (more here) made all the better by being set in Rome. Review copy from Edelweiss.

A Tuscan View:
In the wake of her mother's death, Lina moves to Italy to live with her estranged father. When she arrives, she's given her mom's journal from when she lived in Italy before Lina's birth. Through the journal, Lina comes to know her mom better than ever before. In Love and Gelato, Jenna Evans Welch deals with big topics in a calm, comfortable way. I especially enjoyed reading the journal along with Lina. As the reader, I discovered things along with Lina, which kept me invested in the story. The relationship between Howard and Lina was particularly well written, and I really enjoyed the read. Love and Gelato was out May 3, 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.

The Reluctant Tourist:
When Aubree Sadler's sister gets into trouble, Aubree is talked into taking over her summer job. Did we mention that the summer job involves leading a tour of senior citizen across Europe and that Aubree is a huge homebody?  This job definitely takes Aubree way out of her comfort zone. However, as the trip moves from country to country, Aubree begins to really embrace this chance to see the world. Jen Malone's Wanderlost is a cute read. I kind of wish that I could have been a tour guide for the At Your Age tour company when I was a college student. I loved the relationships that Aubree built with the older members of the tour, and the banter between Sam and Aubree is cute and clever. Wanderlost is out May 31st, 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Roman Holiday: 
Love, Lucy made my list of favorite reads of the year for 2014. It was such a treat to read. It's a retelling of E.M. Forster's A Room with a View, and I really, really love A Room With a View. Lucy Sommersworth is bound for college in the fall, but first she's taking a trip to Italy. While there she falls for Jesse Palladino, a free-spirited musician from New Jersey. I think that April Lindner must have been channeling Italy when she wrote this novel. The Italian portions just ooze sun and old-world charm. I love art museums and traveling anyway and Italy just added so much to the romance between Lucy and Jesse. I also loved how Lindner put a little bit of Roman Holiday into the story as well.

The Distance from A to Z, The Eternal City, and Love & Gelato reviewed by Paige.
Wanderlost and Love, Lucy reviewed by JoLee.

P.S. Girls who study abroad here.

P.P.S. Mythologies in the modern world here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Story Continues: Glass Sword, The Mirror King, & Shiny Broken Pieces

Lately I've really been itching to read sequels. I hope that continues because there are a lot of sequels coming out in the second half of the year. Here are a few of the sequels I've read lately.

Okay, you guys, I cannot resist a clever theme, and putting these three sequels together makes my nerdy heart so happy. (You see what I did here, right?)

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Publisher / Year: HarperTeen - February 2016

Genres: YA Science Fiction 

Source: My Local Library

Goodreads | Amazon

Last year Red Queen (featured here and here) made my Favorite Debuts of the Year list. Over time my ardor for the series cooled significantly, but I still really wanted to find out what happened, so I got in the queue for the audiobook at the library.
In Glass Sword, Mare Barrow and Prince Cal are on the run from Prince Maven. There are certain high-ups in the rebellion who are afraid of Mare and her unusual powers but still want to use her for their own ends. This aspect of the story reminded me of Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Mare, Cal, and a few loyal rebels escape the rebellion and go on a hunt to find all the red bloods with powers before Maven does. This part of the story reminded me of how in Breaking Dawn Carlisle and the gang were gathering all the talented vampires to combat the Volturi.

I never find this type of setup--where the heroes are traveling from place to place, living in the wilderness, preparing for battle--quite as engaging as when the heroes are thrust into the heart of the oppressive society. But, it seems like most dystopias need a middle book that does just this. Because it's not really my thing, I rightly cut books like this some slack. 

Glass Sword is definitely not the most original YA fantasy/ dystopia out there, but it is still a lot of fun, and when I finished the book I definitely wanted to know what would happen next, which is always a good sign.

The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows

Publisher / Year: Katherine Tegen Books - April 2016

Genres: YA Fantasy

Source: Review copy from Edelweiss

Goodreads | Amazon 

Last year I read my first Jodi Meadows book, The Orphan Queen (feature here). It's the story of Wilhelmina Korte's plan to take back her kingdom. It has spies, magic with hefty consequences, and a young, masked vigilante who fights crime. I loved how the book combined elements of high fantasy and superhero comics and that Ms. Meadows gave Wilhelmina some serious fighting skills. Plus, it ended with an earth shattering cliff-hanger, so I was all set for the sequel.

In book two, Wilhelmina is still working to gain back her kingdom, but it seems like maybe she is in an even worse position than she was in the first novel. How is that possible!

What killed me about book two is how many conflicts/ crises Wilhelmina had to deal with. Let's see if I can even remember them all. 1. She wants her kingdom back. 2. Her former ally is really more like an enemy now. 3. The ruler of Aecor has no intention of relinquishing his control. 4. Her best friend has abandoned her. 5. The prince is dying. 6. She has turned a bit of the wraith into a living creature and it is completely unpredictable and amoral. 7. She's in love with a man who belongs to someone else. 8. And, oh yeah, the wraith is going to destroy EVERYTHING. Did I miss any? Maybe. There are so many. So my main thought throughout was, "How on earth is Ms. Meadows going to take care of all these problems in one book?" Guys, she did. I'm still not sure how, but it was impressive.

The Mirror King is a very different book than The Orphan Queen. The setting shifts. We don't get to spend as much with with The Black Knife or Prince Tobiah. Those can be hard blows to take. James is still around and the secrets surrounding his character really kept me reading.

Overall, I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to the series.

Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Publisher / Year: HarperTeen - July 2016

Genres: YA Contemporary

Source: Review copy from Edelweiss

Goodreads | Amazon

Huge ballet book fan here, so when I found out that Tiny, Pretty Things, however, were a bit more complicated than I had anticipated. The book is so crazy cutthroat with scary backstabbing and horrifying bullying,

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Reading on a Theme: Mental Health Matters

May is mental health awareness month, and I started working on this post back in May as a way to participate and be conscious of and advocate for mental health. The books that I read for this post are truly gems. They tackle mental health concerns with such honesty. 

The New Girl in Town:
I've had my eye on Emery Lord ever since I read and loved Open Road Summer. When We Collided may be her best yet. Jonah's mother has been suffering from debilitating depression ever since her husband died. Vivi, a newcomer to the town, seems like just he breath of fresh air that Jonah's family needs. She's quirky and energetic and full of life. But as the story continues, it becomes that Vivi acts the way she does because she is bipolar. A raw and real portrayal of mental illness, I was incredibly impressed with Lord's writing because it so clearly expresses Vivi's thought process--meaning her chapters got increasingly more manic as she did. When We Collided was out April 5th, 2016.

Tennis as Therapy:
After surviving a series of serious accidents, Maguire suffers from anxiety, PTSD, and survivor's guilt. She's going to have to learn to manage her anxiety if she's to go to Ireland for a memorial for her father. With the help of her therapist Maguire begins working on challenges to help her get there.  Maguire takes up tennis in order to be more social and there she becomes closer to Jordy, a boy she actually met at therapy. Jordy and Maguire's relationship is so sweet, and it's nice to see characters who are really good for each other. I've loved everything I've read by Paula Stokes. If you are looking for a book that is cute but also has some serious stuff pick this one. Girl Against the Universe was out May 17th, 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Dance Dreams:
It's Samantha's dream to become a professional ballet dancer. She really good, but in recent months she's received a lot of negative attention because of her taller and curvier new body. The result is crippling anxiety over her appearance. Sam goes to summer treatment camp for artists and athletes who struggle with mental and emotional barriers. I love ballet books, and I love that Kathryn Holmes takes an honest look at some of its more painful aspects. Holmes wrote about her own time as a dancer here, and I think that her personal experiences translate to a book with real emotion--it got better and better with every page. How It Feels to Fly was out June 14th, 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Shared Fandom:
It's been a little over a year since Ari Logan purposely hurt herself. Now that she's doing a bit better it's hard to live in a small town where everyone knows that she struggles with depression. Then Ari meets her from-afar crush and discovers that Camden and his friends also love Silver Arrow, a cancelled sci-fi show. With new friends and a new romance Ari feels like a new person.
 Not just a summer romance, this book confronts a lot of real problems, but it doesn't read like an issue book because Jennifer Castle handles all the tricky relationships between friends and family with such a deft hand. What Happens Now is the first book I read by Ms. Castle, and I'm pretty sure it won't be my last. What Happens Now was out June 7th, 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Traveling Through Time:
Bo believes he can travel through time and that his school, Berkshire Academy, is a school for kids with extraordinary powers. In reality, Bo's school is for teens with emotional and mental disorders. A tragedy at the school and the resulting upheaval causes Bo's tenuous grasp on reality to slip further. I was pretty intrigued by the premise of Beth Revis's new book, and I found it interesting to read from Bo's perspective and see how he made sense of the world around him. Bo's sister also narrates several chapters, and her narration struck me as a way to keep the story grounded. A World Without You is out July 19th, 2016. Review copy from First to Read.

All books reviewed by JoLee.

P.S. More books for Mental Health Matters here and here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Blog Tour: Girl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond | Review + Giveaway

I'm so thrilled to be part of the Girl in the Shadows Blog Tour, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours, today! Two years ago I read the first book in Gwenda Bond's Cirque American series, and I just jumped at the chance to share my love for this series.

Enjoy the post, enter to win a copy of Girl in the Shadows below and follow the blog tour!

Girl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond

Publisher / Year: Skyscape - July 5, 2016

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Source: Review copy from the publisher  


Eighteen-year-old Moira Mitchell grew up in the shadows of Vegas’s stage lights while her father’s career as a magician soared. More than anything, Moira wants to be a magician too, but her father is dead set against her pursuing magic.

When an invitation to join the Cirque American mistakenly falls into Moira’s possession, she takes action. Instead of giving the highly coveted invitation to its intended recipient, Raleigh, her father’s handsome and worldly former apprentice, Moira takes off to join the Cirque. If she can perform alongside its world-famous acts, she knows she’ll be able to convince her dad that magic is her future.

But when Moira arrives, things take on an intensity she can’t control as her stage magic suddenly feels like…real magic. To further distract her, Raleigh shows up none too pleased at Moira’s presence, all while the Cirque’s cocky and intriguing knife thrower, Dez, seems to have it out for her. As tensions mount and Moira’s abilities come into question, she must decide what’s real and what’s an illusion. If she doesn’t sort it out in time, she may forever remain a girl in the shadows.

 Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | The Book Depository

Before I get started with my thoughts, why don't we just take a moment to appreciate the splendor of this cover! I love everything about it. I love the font and the colors and how it is all arranged, but I also love the little details of the mask, the playing cards, the knives, and the hearts, all of which are significant to the story. Bravo cover designers! Bravo!

Girl in the Shadows is a companion novel to Girl on a Wire, the first book in the Cirque American series, and my appreciation of this book was definitely that much greater because I had read and enjoyed the first book. The two books have different main characters, but the setting is the same, and, more importantly, the central conflict in each revolves around the same small magical object. Beyond that it was so much fun for me to visit some old characters, even if they weren't taking center stage this time around. (Hello, Jules! Hello, Remy!) And, I also enjoyed getting to know some of the side characters from Girl on a Wire a little better in this second book. (Dita, darling, you are swell.)

Last year we did a post featuring books set in circuses and sideshows. In putting together that post, I found that the circus is a setting that really appeals to me, and, I quickly rediscovered that love within the first few pages of Girl in the Shadows. I think I like how circus folk have a life that is so outside the mainstream, and that is definitely the case with Moira. She grew up traveling with her famous magician father and working behind the scenes at his Las Vegas show.  

Moira wishes to become a magician herself, and her father is adamantly against this. So, feeling like she has no other option, Moira auditions for the Cirque American. Right away strange things begin to happen, and herein is another reason I enjoy circus settings--they present the perfect opportunity to mingle stage magic with the real deal. Moira's magic, its origins, and her estranged mother play a large role in the mystery of Girl in the Shadows

Moira truly has a lot on her plate. There's the whole proving herself to her father thing (and who are we kidding, to herself as well), the issue of controlling her newly awakened power, and being on her own for the first time. As if things aren't complicated enough there's this knife-throwing love interest that the reader is not quite sure can be trusted for most of the book. Really, it's a pretty great time. Girl in the Shadows is all the sleight of hand and tricks of Now You See Me plus the magical underworld of White Cat. It's a book full of mystery, magic, and suspense.

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About the Author: 


Gwenda Bond is the author of the young adult novels Lois Lane: Fallout and Girl on a Wire, among others. Lois Lane: Double Down and Girl in the Shadows, a companion novel to Girl on a Wire set in the Cirque American, are next up in 2016. She’s also hard at work on some secret projects you don’t know about yet.

Her nonfiction writing has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Locus Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. She has an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband, author Christopher Rowe. There are rumors she escaped from a screwball comedy, and she might have a journalism degree because of her childhood love of Lois Lane.

Visit her online: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Reading on a Theme: Missing Memories

Last summer we posted Reading on a Theme: Memories Erased, Stolen and Stored. I found the idea of missing memories (and in those books they were all lost through non-natural means) quite intriguing. So, I'm trilled to be bringing another memory-related post to the table with a bunch of brand new books. The books are a bit more varied this time. Some missing memories are related to accidents or genetic disorders. Others are a bit more sinister. All are fascinating.

Head Trauma: 
When Jill Charron wakes up in the hospital, she has no memory of the car accident that caused her best friend's death or the study abroad trip to Italy during which it occurred. Now there's an investigation and a media frenzy because some people believe that Jill crashed that car on purpose. With Malice is a solid YA thriller. Jill's narration is interspersed with interviews and evidence--documents that lend some insight into what happened but are by no means objective. I love that Eileen Cook doesn't answer all the questions for Jill or the reader, and I imagine that readers will be on all sides of the table when it comes to Jill's guilt or innocence. Out June 7, 2015. Review copy from NetGalley.

Niemann-Pick Type C:
Sammie had big plans. She was going to win the National Debate Tournament, attend NYU, and become a human rights lawyer. That was before she was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C, a genetic disorder that, among other things, causes dementia-like symptoms. Sammie, who always saw her smarts as her ticket to success, is losing her memory. The Memory Book is the record that Sammie keeps to help with her memory loss. Part coming-of-age story, part coming-to-terms-with-death story, Lara Avery's book is poignant and sad but also full of bravery and determination. The way the story is told is very interesting because it's written by a girl whose mind and body is deteriorating. The Memory Book is out July 5th, 2016. I won a review copy from NOVL.

Repressed Memories:
Penny is part of the cool crowd at school, but that wasn't always the case. A year ago she was part of the drama club with a group of quirky friends. When Penny loses her memories in an accident, she can't understand why her best friends aren't speaking to her. Can she make things right with this second chance? Rebecca Maizel's A Season for Fireflies is a charming second chance story. As a drama girl myself, I particularly enjoyed all the theater elements of the book. I loved the sincerity of emotion, particularly in the first person narration. This is a great YA about relationships and honesty. A Season for Fireflies is out June 28, 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss. 

Memory Treatments:
When Rose woke up one morning she felt different. She wanted a new name, a new haircut, a new job. But something wasn't quite right. Something was missing. Something big. Set in the near future, Lois Metzger's new book is a fascinating exploration of trauma, depression, and treatment. I don't want to say too much more than that because a psychological thriller like this can be spoiled so easily, but I will say that Change Places with Me is masterfully done. Everything is off just a little giving the reader that eerie unsettled feeling which is so difficult to inspire, and I love the way the book is structured. It's a quiet, cerebral book that I found it quite fascinating. Change Places with Me is out June 14, 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Forgotten Childhoods:
Eleven years ago six kindergartners disappeared. Now five are back. Where is the sixth? And why can't the five remember anything about the time they were gone? Lucas and Scarlett, two of the taken children, want answers. I really like how Tara Altebrando dealt with their missing memories. The physical clues and the gut instincts were well laid. Avery is the sister of Max, the boy who is still missing. Like the characters in the story, I definitely wanted answers! The Leaving is a great YA thriller with an intriguing premise. I also quite like the cover. There's something about that one broken swing that is just so creepy to me. The Leaving is out June 7th, 2016. Review copy from NetGalley.

With Malice, The Memory Book, Change Places with Me, and The Leaving reviewed by JoLee.

A Season for Fireflies reviewed by Paige.

P.S. More missing memories here and here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Highly Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2016

We're linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday. Today is a freebie day, so we took the opportunity to caught up on a topic we missed.

Aack! It is going to be a busy few months of reading. (But really when is it not?) Putting together this list was in some ways really easy because I've been dying to get my hands on some of these books for a long, long time now. But, at the same time, it was so hard to narrow it down! What books are you itching to get your hands on?

The big one that is missing from this list is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I debated whether or not I wanted to include it. It seems like an obvious pick, but I feel a little nervous about the addition to the Harry Potter Universe. Am I the only one?

UPDATE: The publication date for Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer has been pushed back to March 28, 2017. You can bet it'll be in my Highly Anticipated Releases for the first half of 2017.

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West:
A new YA contemporary by my current book crush. Yes, please. P.S. I love you, Kasie West.

Girl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond:
This is a companion novel to Girl on a Wire, a book I quite liked. I'm eager to revisit Cirque American.

Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter:
I think people may be getting tired of me talking about this book already, and I haven't even read it yet. Ghostly Echoes is the sequel to Jackaby and Beastly Bones. It's my most anticipated book of the summer.

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir:
An Ember in the Ashes was just crying out for a sequel. Here's hoping it's great.

Witch's Pyre by Josephine Angelini:
I find this series so addicting. I'm counting down the days until I can download the audio book.

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas:
It wouldn't be September without the next installment in Celaena's story.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo:
I finally read Six of Crows in April. And that means I haven't had to wait quite as long for the sequel.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor:
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy is one of my favorite fantasy series. I'm so excited to see what Ms. Taylor does next.

Creeping Shadows by Jonathan Stroud:
If you've been around the blog for awhile (or if you know me at all) you know that I am obsessed with the Lockwood & Co. series. I've foisted this series on a number of well-meaning friends.

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff:
Illuminae is another book that I could not stop talking about. I've been pining for the sequel.

My Unscripted Life by Lauren Morrill:
There is a shocking lack of contemporary novels on this list, but I'm always up for a celebrity/ normal person romance.

Replica by Lauren Oliver:
I'm always impressed by Lauren Oliver's writing. I'm intrigued by this book that you can read three different ways.

Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly:
I read Trouble is a Friend of Mine earlier this year and fell in love. I'm so happy that there is a sequel!

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin:
I read Wolf by Wolf in one day last year and have been dying to find out what happens next ever since.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer:
After my deep and abiding love for The Lunar Chronicles I'd try anything by Marissa Meyer. Like maybe her grocery list?

A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray:
How is it that each of these covers is more beautiful than the last?  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Books for Fans of The Prince & Me

Do you remember the movie The Prince & Me? It came out in 2004, and it stars Julia Stiles as Paige Morgan, an American college student who unknowingly falls in love with a prince.

We took our cue for this post from The Prince & Me and gathered a collection of books that feature American girls who fall in love with real-life princes, have royal weddings, or learn they are noble themselves. Here's to all of us who enjoy a modern fairy tale romance.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan:
When American Rebecca Porter begins her year abroad at Oxford, the first person that she meets at her new school is Prince Nicolas, heir to the British throne. Falling in love is the easy part. What comes next--the royal obligations, the paparazzi, the royal family--is much more difficult. This book is snappy and just pure entertainment. I highly recommend the audio book.

The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright:
Evie Gray is attending Oxford, her deceased mother's Alma Mater. Prince Edmund, the younger of the two British princes, is also attending Oxford, and the two soon start dating. Encouraged by letters her mother wrote long ago, Evie is also investigating her family history. What she discovers will change everything.

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot:
The first adult installment in Cabot's ever popular Princess Diaries series, follows Princess Mia and her prince charming as they plan their royal wedding. Of course, there are a few bumps along the way. Pesky press, meddling grandmothers, and scheming politicos, to name a few. With all of the quirk and snap of the rest of the series, here's Princess Mia all grown up,

Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase:
Hardworking Samantha Rousseau has her life turned upside down when she learns she's an heiress to a duchess. Alex D'Lynsal, crown prince of Lilaria, is tired of scandalous headlines and having all his relationships scrutinized by media. He goes to America to try and escape all of that. There he meets Samantha and realizes that maybe he's not so ready to swear off relationships. Sam must navigate this new world of politics, wealth, and her feelings for a prince.

Royally Lost by Angie Stanton:
Becca is not very enthusiastic about the family trip to Europe because no one in her family seems to have time for her. She's lonely and miserable until she meets the mysterious Nikolai. She begins spending every spare moment with him never knowing that he is the runaway prince of Mondovia. Love gets complicated when royalty is involved, especially when the royalty in question is lying about his identity.

The Runaway Princess by Hester Brown:
Amy Wilde's new boyfriend, Leo, is secretly a prince and heir to the throne of Nirona. Dating a royal has quite a few perks, but the downsides are pretty hefty as well. As Amy stresses about meeting Leo's parents, staying in a castle, and dealing with the press, she starts to wonder if falling for a prince means losing herself. Sweet and fun, The Runaway Princess, features charmingly relatable characters, even if they are royal.

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