Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: Fool Me Twice

Fool Me Twice
By Mandy Hubbard
Published: May 6, 2014

Mackenzie and Landon were the perfect couple . . . until he dumped her and broke her heart. Fast-forward a year and they're back where they first met—Serenity Ranch and Spa, where they are once again working together for the summer. Talk about awkward.

Then, Landon takes a nasty fall and gets amnesia. Suddenly, he’s stuck in the past—literally. His most recent memory is of last summer, when he and Mack were still together, so now he’s calling her pet names and hanging all over her. It's the perfect chance for revenge. The plan is simple: keep Landon at arm’s length, manipulate him so he’s the one falling love, and then BAM, dump him. There’s just one problem: Mack can’t fall for Landon all over again.

The If Only romance line is all about wanting what you can't have, and Mandy Hubbard's hilarious break-up/love story is sure to captivate anyone who has ever wished for a second shot at love.

My review:

Last summer was amazing for Mackenzie with her job at Serenity Ranch and Spa, spending time with her best friend Bailey, and falling in love with Landon. Sadly he dropped her like a rock at the start of the school year to go back to his ex-girlfriend. This year, Mack and Bailey are back at Serenity and unfortunately so is Landon. The first time they see each other he seems to be mocking her and then expects her to be his friend again. Of course Mack rebuffs him and wonders what she ever saw in him. When Landon takes a nasty spill from his horse during a rodeo practice he has amnesia and thinks it is the previous summer and he and Mack are still a couple. Bailey convinces Mack that this is the opportunity to get him back for dumping her so rudely. They hatch a plan to get him to fall in love with her so this time she can dump him. What Mack doesn't count on is her own feelings getting in the way.

I initially had a problem with Landon because he did come across as a jerk. I half hoped the author would introduce another love interest for Mack. Fortunately things changed after Landon's accident and he once again seemed to be a nice guy but it left me puzzled as to which guy is real. It is only towards the end that the truth emerges about Landon's behavior and why he dumped Mack. 

What I liked about this book was the humor and Mack's friendship with Bailey. Mack and Bailey both enjoy playing pranks on Landon and Bailey pushes Mack outside her comfort zone. She definitely makes the book more entertaining. I also liked that this time around Mack is being herself since she isn't actually trying to impress Landon. She admits that last summer she was too busy trying to be the girl Landon thought she was. The real Mack likes to argue and debate, she likes to play pranks, dressing outlandishly and she loves horror movies. As she starts being herself around Landon, he gets to fall in love with her true self, a message which I appreciated. 

Overall I thought this was a fun romantic comedy even with its flaws. The plot device of convenient amnesia is not very believable but if the reader is able to overlook that, they may find themselves enjoying the humor or friendships. I think Fool Me Twice would appeal to younger teens who are looking for romantic fiction but older teens may find it a little bland.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (135)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I am waiting on:

Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
Release date: October 7, 2014

Description from Goodreads:

Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the "Argo II" have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen-all of them, and they're stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood-the blood of Olympus-in order to wake. 

The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it "might" be able to stop a war between the two camps. 

The Athena Parthenos will go west; the "Argo II" will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea's army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.

The cover seems to show Jason, Frank and Hazel as well as some nasty giants. The e-book The Staff of Serapis (featuring Sadie Kane from the Kane Chronicles and Annabeth) was just released yesterday and I read the excerpt from Blood of Olympus that was included. I am really excited about this book! It will be a long wait...

Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella
Release date: October 21, 2014

Description from Goodreads:

Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) has stars in her eyes. She and her daughter, Minnie, have joined husband Luke in LA—city of herbal smoothies, multimillion-dollar yoga retreats, and the lure of celebrity. Luke is there to help manage the career of famous actress Sage Seymour—and Becky is convinced she is destined to be Sage’s personal stylist, and go from there to every A-list celebrity in Hollywood! But things become complicated when Becky joins the team of Sage’s archrival. How will charming and supportive Luke deal with this conflict? Is it possible that what Becky wants most will end up hurting those she loves most? Shopaholic fans old and new will devour Sophie Kinsella’s newest adventure!

Normally I am the one who alerts my sister to new books from authors we love but this time around I had no idea there was going to be another Becky Bloomwood book until she sent me the preorder link from Amazon. We are both big fans of the Shopaholic series. I can't wait to see what Becky is up to next.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (179)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

Bout of Books 10 started last Monday and I decided to participate, completing five books which is one more than my goal of four. I think I would have read more if I hadn't had other things to work on or be distracted by (like catching up on Game of Thrones Season 3). Hard to believe that Memorial Day Weekend (the unofficial kickoff to summer) is almost here. Especially since we had colder weather again for the past couple of days. I would like to pack away my sweaters for good and break out the sandals...

Books reviewed:

Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson

Books read:

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

This was not as heavy hitting as her last book but I enjoyed reading about Emily's adventures as she crossed items off the list and experienced new things and made new friends. This would be a great book to pick up for summer reading. 

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

This book reminded me a little bit of the Disney movie Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior. It was fun but not as good as Hex Hall or School Spirits.

Take Me On by Katie McGarry

Definitely not the best book in the series. I liked West more than I thought I would and it was interesting to read about the world of Mixed Martial Arts but I got frustrated with the characters and just didn't care as much as I did with the previous books.

China Dolls by Lisa See

I think this would be a good book for book groups. The setting was really interesting and the dynamics between the three friends and the choices they make would be great for discussion. That being said, I didn't necessarily like the characters! Show business is pretty cut throat...

Nantucket Red by Leila Howland

I was frustrated while reading this because it seemed like Cricket hasn't grown at all from her experiences in the previous novel. She did seem to have grown a little by the end though and I did like the book. I just expected better.

Currently reading:

That Summer by Lauren Willig

This one is interesting so far but I haven't read much of it yet. I do tend to like Lauren Willig's books so I will hopefully enjoy this. History and mystery...

What I plan to read next:

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

This is being compared to The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park so I am prepared to lower my expectations because those comparisons are usually wrong...Hopefully it will still be a good book!

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

This is one of my book discussion books for May and I am looking forward to it. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Unmasking Juliet

Unmasking Juliet
By Teri Wilson
Published: May 27, 2014

Ever since she was a little girl learning to make decadent truffles in her family's chocolate shop, Juliet Arabella has been aware of the bitter feud between the Arabellas and the Mezzanottes. With their rival chocolate boutiques on the same street in Napa Valley, these families never mix. Until one night, when Juliet anonymously attends the annual masquerade ball. In a moonlit vineyard, she finds herself falling for a gorgeous stranger, a man who reminds her what passion is like outside of the kitchen. But her bliss is short-lived when she discovers her masked prince is actually Leo Mezzanotte, newly returned from Paris and the heir to her archenemy's confection dynasty. 

With her mind in a whirl, Juliet leaves for Italy to represent the Arabellas in a prestigious chocolate competition. The prize money will help her family's struggling business, and Juliet figures it's a perfect opportunity to forget Leo…only to find him already there and gunning for victory. As they compete head-to-head, Leo and Juliet's fervent attraction boils over. But Juliet's not sure whether to trust her adversary, or give up on the sweetest love she's ever tasted...

My review:

Unmasking Juliet is a humorous and slightly steamy contemporary romance based loosely on William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Unlike the play, there is no tragedy so readers who like their happy endings will be pleased.

Juliet and Leo have sizzling chemistry and I enjoyed their career rivalry as well. It made for entertaining reading. In a departure from the source material, Juliet is not immediately won over by Leo. She may be very attracted to him but she still views him as the enemy while he is more open-minded and ignores the family feud. 

In addition to the romance, I also enjoyed the humor and the descriptions of yummy chocolate desserts and the scenery. What I found a little disappointing were the over-the-top drama of Leo's uncle and Juliet's mother. They were both one-dimensional characters and I wouldn't have minded some more development or character growth for them. Otherwise I thought this was a satisfying romance. Leo and Juliet are appealing characters and they grow and overcome the obstacles in their path to happiness. 

Note: I received an e-ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bout of Books Update

Bout of Books

Day 1

I read for about an hour and a half

Day 2

I read for 3 1/2 hours
I finished reading Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
I started reading Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Day 3

I read for about 4 1/2 hours
I finished reading Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
I read a few pages of Where Earth Meets Water by Pia Padukone
I started reading Take Me On by Katie McGarry

Day 4

I read over 5 hours
I finished reading Take Me On by Katie McGarry
I read a few more pages of Where Earth Meets Water by Pia Padukone
I started reading China Dolls by Lisa See

Day 5

I read for 6 hours
I finished reading China Dolls by Lisa See

Day 6

I read for 2 hours
I started reading Nantucket Red by Leila Howland

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bout of Books Goals

Bout of Books

Since I have been reading about two books a week which is lower than my usual reading speed, I am hoping to spend more free time reading instead of on Pinterest or watching TV.

My goals for the the read-a-thon are:

1. Devote 12 hours this week to reading (two hours a day if possible)
2. Read four books

The books I might read for the read-a-thon:

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson (my current read)
Take Me On by Katie McGarry
Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey

Bout of Books 10 Sign Up

Bout of Books

I have decided to take the plunge and join the week long Bout of Books Read-a-Thon. I have participated in the past and I like that it is a low key read-a-thon. I also want to see if I can get caught up on some reading so I can get back on track for my annual reading goal.

It is not too late to sign up. Here are the details about the read-a-thon:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 12th and runs through Sunday, May 18th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 10 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Sunday, May 11, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (178)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I spent the weekend visiting my parents and on Saturday my sister and her husband came over for an early Mother's Day lunch. It was wonderful to be with Mom on Mother's Day especially after all she has been through this year. She is doing really well. Last weekend she attended her school's spring concert and the other teachers and her students were so happy to see her. She has also been busy getting seeds started in her planters and spending time in the garden (though not as much as before). Her flowers are blooming and they look lovely (though I don't know what half of them are!). 

This week is the Bout of Books Read-a-thon and I am thinking of signing up but I haven't committed yet. I would like to read a little more so I can reach my goal for the year but I also have some non-reading things to take care of (like cleaning!) so maybe I better not!

Books reviewed:

Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae

Books read:

Fool Me Twice by Mandy Hubbard

This was a humorous "fluff"summer book but I wasn't a big fan of the love interest at first because he seemed like a jerk at the beginning. I enjoyed the pranks that Mackenzie and Bailey played on him and his "new and improved" amnesia version was nicer to read about. 

The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett

I really liked this retelling of the Cinderella tale with its historical feel and the perspective of the oldest stepsister. The story surprised me with its twist of the original. 

Currently reading:

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

I am a fan of Morgan Matson's books and so far this one is really good. I find myself relating to the shy main character who is struggling through her summer without her best friend to act as a buffer and make life more fun. I am looking forward to seeing Emily grow more as a character.

What I might read next:

Take Me On by Katie McGarry

I hated West in Crash Into You so I am curious to see how I will feel about him as the love interest in Take Me On. I have really enjoyed the other books in the series so hopefully this will be just as good.

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Rachel Hawkins's books are usually fun and entertaining. The premise of this one sounds good though I kind of wish she'd written a sequel to School Spirits instead.

Where Earth Meets Water by Pia Padukone

I started reading this one but put it aside for now. I may pick it up again later this week or wait awhile. The addition of a fourth POV kind of made it strange because the other three main characters are Indian/Desi and I was expecting this to be Indian fiction.

China Dolls by Lisa See

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review: Wish You Were Italian

Wish You Were Italian
By Kristin Rae
Published: May 6, 2014

Pippa has always wanted to go to Italy … but not by herself. And certainly not to sit in art school the entire summer learning about dead guys’ paintings. When she steps off the plane in Rome, she realizes that traveling solo gives her the freedom to do whatever she wants. So it’s arrivederci, boring art program and ciao, hot Italian guys!

Charming, daring, and romantic, Bruno is just the Italian Pippa’s looking for—except she keeps running into cute American archeology student Darren everywhere she goes. Pippa may be determined to fall in love with an Italian guy … but the electricity she feels with Darren says her heart might have other plans. Can Pippa figure out her feelings before her parents discover she left the program and—even worse—she loses her chance at love?

My review:

I would love to take a trip to Italy so the setting of this book really appealed to me. While I thought Pippa's decision was irresponsible in a way, I could agree with her desire to actually experience Italy for herself and not just spend her time in a classroom. 

Pippa has a complicated relationship with her parents, particularly her pushy mother. Her parents are opening an art gallery and they expect Pippa to become part of the family business even though her own interests are in photography rather than painting. Pippa doesn't want to go to Florence and study art all summer but her best friend Morgan tries to help her see the positive side with a fun travel journal full of tasks for Pippa to do once she gets to Italy. Things like having a conversation entirely in Italian or falling in love with an Italian boy. Pippa may have a difficult mother and a father who won't take her side but her grandmother and her best friend are both encouraging and positive people in her life.

Once Pippa lands in Rome she makes the decision to stay a few days and actually see the sights instead of traveling on to Florence immediately and she quickly makes new friends in the form of Darren and Nina. She also befriends Chiara a young Italian teen and through her meets Bruno, the requisite hot Italian bad boy. Pippa is not just trying to meet guys however and she has some fun exploring places like Cinque Terre and Pompeii.

I enjoyed "traveling" with Pippa and while I don't care for love triangles that didn't bother me in this book because it was obvious who Pippa was going to end up with. I think Pippa grew up a little through her adventures and she even found a way to reconnect with her mom which was nice. Wish You Were Italian would make a great beach read. Though there are some sad moments it is mostly lighthearted and fun. The book is part of Bloomsbury's new If Only line of "clean" romances for teens. I would suggest this novel to teens who enjoy contemporary romance and fiction set abroad like The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper or 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson.

Note: I received an e-ARC for review purposes courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (134)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

Talon by Julie Kagawa
Release date: October 28, 2014

Description from Goodreads:

Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they're positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.

Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon's newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember's bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

I am always up for a new book about dragons and I am eager to see what Julie Kagawa does with this series.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Top Ten Book Covers I'd Frame as Art

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten Book Covers I'd Frame as Pieces of Art"

Beatiful Ruins by Jess Walter

The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair

Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Longbourn by Jo Baker

The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

Sunday, May 4, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (177)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I am so glad May is finally here! Hopefully that means I can pack my sweaters away soon :) 

Today is a special day for Star Wars fans. Yesterday we showed the original Star Wars movies at my library just for fun and tonight I am watching my favorite Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back. I was hoping there would be more movie news about Episode VII but I am excited that we got to find out the main cast on Wednesday and that the original actors are coming back.

I didn't get much reading done this week but I did finish the book discussion book thankfully. I hope to get through at least two books this week. I am going home for Mother's Day so we'll see...

Books reviewed:

Books read:

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

I did not like the main character but the book was still interesting because of the descriptions of art and the process of art forgery, etc.

I liked this book that proved to be more than a romance. I enjoyed reading about Lara Jean and her family.

Currently reading:

Fool Me Twice by Mandy Hubbard

This book is similar to the Kurt Russell-Goldie Hawn movie, Overboard. The main character had her heart broken by a boy she met the summer before. Then he has an accident that causes him to have amnesia and think it is still last summer and she has the opportunity for revenge or to fall in love again. 

What I plan to read next:

Where Earth Meets Water by Pia Padukone

I've already started reading this one and I really liked it until they introduced one too many character POVs. The book focuses on Karom, a young man who has survived a lot of tragedies (9/11 and the tsunami of 2004 where he lost his entire family) and how he likes to tempt fate.  The other main characters are his girlfriend Gita, her grandmother back in India, and his college roommate Lloyd.

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

I have loved the author's other books so I am looking forward to Since You've Been Gone. Plus the title makes me think of the Kelly Clarkson song...

May the Fourth Be With You! Happy Reading :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

To All the Boys I've Loved Before
By Jenny Han
Published: April 15, 2014

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them... all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren't love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she's written. One for every boy she's ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

My review:

Lara Jean is the middle child in a family of three sisters, a caring dad and a deceased mom. Her eldest sister Margot is the responsible one who keeps things running smoothly but now she is off to college in Scotland leaving Lara Jean to try to fill her shoes and take care of their younger sister, Kitty. Lara Jean feels woefully inadequate to the task. She is also struggling with some unresolved feelings for Josh, one of her best friends and the boy Margot just broke up with. So when her secret goodbye love letters get mailed, Josh finds out how Lara Jean feels and so does Peter Kavinsky, the on again-off again boyfriend of Lara Jean's ex-best friend Genevieve. To make things even more complicated, Peter decides that he and Lara Jean should pretend to date to make Genevieve jealous and so that Josh will think she has moved on from her crush.

I would say that the romance is actually weaker compared to the other elements. Both of Lara Jean's "love interests" seem less worthy of her though one is better than the other. I did like how Lara Jean and Peter developed a friendship over time but he still seemed to be playing games or just unsure of his own feelings where Genevieve and Lara Jean are concerned. I think this makes Lara Jean feel off balance and not sure where things stand between them and while I found it annoying that there was ambiguity in their relationship perhaps teens would be able to relate to that. I wish the romance had been a little better planned out but it still had an authentic feel to the way teen dating relationships (and even grown up ones) can be confusing.

Lara Jean could seem a little immature and innocent at times for her age and the romance was not quite what I expected but I still liked this book because of Lara Jean and her relationship with her family. I liked how her dad was portrayed in a positive light and how close she was to her sisters. The synopsis of this book makes it sound like it is a contemporary romance and while Lara Jean's romantic predicament is part of the plot, there is much more to the story. Themes of sisterhood, family relationships, failed friendships, facing fears and growing up are all explored. That is what really made the book worth reading for me.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of Amazon Vine