Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Top Ten Beach Reads

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 theme is "Beach Reads".

When it comes to beach reads or summer themed books, my list usually includes authors like Sarah Dessen, Mary Kay Andrews and Morgan Matson. This week I'll be sharing my list of books I've read recently that would make good beach reads as well as books I plan to read this summer.

Books to read on the beach or during summer:

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

I really enjoyed this novel about a young woman whose summer plans go out the window. I also blame this book for my recent ice cream binge :)

Wanderlost by Jen Malone

Can't go to Europe this summer? Armchair travel with this book instead! I loved reading about the places that the they got to visit but I also liked the characters especially the zany senior citizens on the tour.

The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson

Gear up for watching the summer Olympics with this book about an elite gymnast who hides her athletic talent from her friends at school so she can have a more "normal" life.  Plus it's written by Shawn Johnson so it should be accurate!

Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider

This book involves healing a broken heart on the beaches of Hawaii. While I thought the setting could have been more memorable, it was still a fun and engrossing read.

The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews

This book makes my list with some reservations. I thought there were too many points of view and I was a little disappointed by the way the mystery storyline was resolved. Still it was fun and I liked the setting.

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

This book was published last summer but I didn't get around to it till this year and I really enjoyed it. 

Books I plan to read this summer (though sadly not on a beach):

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

More armchair travel plus gelato equals win for me! I plan to read this one soon. I'll be sure to stock up on gelato first :)

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone was one of my favorite books of 2015 so I have been anticipating this sequel. While it is darker than the typical summer book I like to read, I know I will love it. Besides I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the summer of 2007 and I'm sure this won't be as sad as that one. I hope!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Speaking of Harry Potter...I am so excited to read this script though I know it won't be the same as her novels. When are they going to release a final cover? The book will be out in less than two months!

Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen

I love this fun historical mystery series so I can't wait to read the next installment.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review: The Unexpected Everything

The Unexpected Everything
By Morgan Matson
Published: May 3, 2016

From Morgan Matson, the bestselling author of Since You’ve Been Gone comes a feel-good story of friendship, finding yourself, and all the joys in life that happen while you’re busy making other plans.

Andie has a plan. And she always sticks to her plan.

Future? A top-tier medical school.
Dad? Avoid him as much as possible (which isn’t that hard considering he’s a Congressman and he’s never around).
Friends? Palmer, Bri, and Toby—pretty much the most awesome people on the planet, who needs anyone else?
Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks.

So it’s no surprise that Andie’s got her summer all planned out too.

Until a political scandal costs Andie her summer pre-med internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all—working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she expected. Palmer, Bri, and Toby tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control?

My review:

What do you do when your plans fall apart? Andie is an organized and driven teen so missing out on the chance to participate in an internship is a heavy blow. On top of that she has to interact with her dad daily now that he is home all the time. Since her mom died of cancer five years previously she and her dad pretty much just orbit each other without really connecting so this is a challenge. Thankfully she has some great friends like Palmer, Bri and Toby to cheer her up. When Andie gets a job as a dog walker and meets nerdy but sweet Clark, things start to look up.

I liked how this novel was about more than a summer romance (though there is nothing wrong with that!) There is friendship, drama, humor and relationship issues. I thought the novel did a good job of building the relationship between Andie and her dad. I loved seeing them work through their issues and start to bond and get to really know each other. The novel also realistically portrays the ups and downs of teenage friendship and the fallout of betrayal.  The romance is nicely developed as well. Clark is a great love interest for Andie and I enjoyed their relationship as well as the friendship that developed between Clark and Andie's dad. I also can't fail to mention Bertie and the other adorable dogs that made this book so much fun to read.

Morgan Matson proves again that she has a talent for writing YA contemporary novels. I have definitely become a big fan of her work. I think this would be a great beach/summer break read.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (183)

"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:

The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
Release date: August 2, 2016

Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous - what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.
Bestselling author Mary E. Pearson's combination of intrigue, suspense, romance and action make this a riveting page turner for teens.

I still need to read book two but I thought the first book was fantastic. I need to get caught up so I can read this last book.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Top Ten Books I've Changed My Mind About

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 theme is "Top 10 Books I Feel Differently About After Time Has Passed"

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I first tried reading Jane Eyre when I was in 6th or 7th grade because my mom told me she'd liked the story as a kid. I bought a copy at our school book fair and I devoured the pages (I could relate to Jane's issues with a mean cousin) but then I lost interest. I didn't pick it up again till college when I decided to give it another try and I loved it! Now it is one of my favorite novels. 

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

I first read this for my American Lit class in college (my professor was a huge fan) but I didn't really connect with it until I reread it years later for my book discussion group. I was able to appreciate the story much more the second time around.

Emma by Jane Austen

I started reading Jane Austen's novels while in college but I struggled with Emma. I just couldn't get into the story so I didn't finish it. I picked it up again a couple of years later while participating in Barnes and Noble's online book club and this time I finished it but I wasn't a huge fan. Recently I listened to the audio book and I was able to connect better with the story. Emma may not be my favorite of Jane Austen's heroines but I do appreciate the novel more with time.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I first tried reading The Lord of the Rings as a kid because one of my friends loved the series. Unfortunately for me I picked up The Two Towers first and couldn't get into the story (understandably). I then tried The Hobbit and didn't finish that either. It wasn't until 2001 with the upcoming release of The Fellowship of the Ring film that I decided to give the book another try. This time I loved it and it is now one of my favorite books of all time.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

After devouring The Lord of the Rings I decided to give The Hobbit another try. While I did read the book I didn't care for it and felt really let down because I was expecting something more like The Lord of the Rings. When I found out about the film version of The Hobbit, I decided to reread it and this second reading gave me much more appreciation for the story. While I still prefer The Lord of the Rings, I now love The Hobbit too.

The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

When I first started reading the Twilight Saga in 2007 for a YA Services class, Twilight was the book everyone was talking about and many of the other women in my class including our professor loved it. I decided to give it a try and I was hooked on the story too. Fast forward to the release of Breaking Dawn and my love for the series cooled a little. Then after hearing some of the critical backlash I started to pay attention to Edward's treatment of Bella, Bella's characterization and other issues with the books and I changed my mind about them. 

The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

When I first read City of Bones back in 2008 or 2009 I was hooked on the story at once. I just had to know what would happen with Clary and Jace and I cared about the other characters too. I quickly purchased City of Ashes and later City of Glass and I thought both were as good as the first. Then I read City of Fallen Angels and while I didn't like it as much as the earlier three books, I still thought it was okay. Then I started reading her spinoff series and while I liked the first book (Clockwork Angel) I started losing interest with the second book. I finally quit reading her books with City of Lost Souls. I think I just moved on from it.

The Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris

I picked this series up in 2009 because of True Blood (even though I didn't get cable at the time) and I read them all (published at the time) in the course of a week. The first four were my favorite. Then as the series kept going on and on the quality started to drop and by the end I just wanted it to be over.

The Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz

I read this series after Twilight and I initially liked it a lot but I gave up before the series finished as things just got stranger and stranger and I had my fill of snobby rich people and brand names dropped all over the place. I think I was getting tired of vampire and other paranormal YA fiction too (with the exception of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy books).

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

I don't hate this book or other similar books (now sometimes classified as New Adult depending on the age of the characters) but I just don't have the same love or tolerance for this type of story that I used to.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Post (51) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

Last weekend I visited my parents so I didn't get a chance to write a blog post. I had a good time with them though I did wish that we'd had warmer and less rainy weather. When I got back, I had to take Monday off due to some mild food poisoning (my parents got sick too so we think it was something we ate at a church carry in). Thankfully it only lasted one day but I am just now starting to feel back to normal.

I had a busy week at work as we are in the final stretch to summer reading program (or Summer Challenge as we are trying to get in the habit of calling it). I am so behind. On top of that I am expected to overhaul two sections of our website which we are in the process of redesigning and I have to write my staff evaluations. I am so ready for a vacation! Yesterday I spent the day reading for the Clean Sweep ARC Read-a-thon I forgot to post about but it was so nice to just read and forget my worries for awhile. I read two books and started another.

#FitReaders Weekly Check In

#FitReaders is hosted by Felicia at The Geeky Blogger and Jen at That's What I'm Talking About

My step goals were a little derailed this week due to illness and other circumstances but I was happy that I was able to do better on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. 

Sunday--4,583 steps
Monday--1,293 steps
Tuesday--7,151 steps
Wednesday--10,623 steps
Thursday--11,554 steps
Friday--10,425 steps
Saturday--1,193 steps

Last week on my blog:

Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider (review)
The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews (review)

Books read:

Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider

I thought this was a good "beach read" kind of book. I felt bad for Sloane because of what happened with her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend but it was also harder to relate to her because of her wealthy and privileged lifestyle. I also expected more from the Hawaiian setting.

The Skylighter by Becky Wallace

I liked this final book in the Keepers Chronicles duology but it wasn't quite as good as the first book. I cared more about what happened to the Keepers and their storyline than Rafe or Johanna.

The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews

Poor Riley. I thought this was an enjoyable book but I did want to smack Riley's bratty tween daughter and Riley's snobby mother at times. I also was a bit disappointed by the resolution of the murder mystery which I thought was anticlimactic but at least I didn't figure out who the killer was!

You Don't Have to Be a Star/Once Upon a Cowboy by Susan May Warren and Lacy Williams

I forget why I bought this but I must have seen a review somewhere. It is an inspirational fiction bundle and both were quick reads, perfect for my sick day on Monday. I liked the Susan May Warren story more. It is about a Hollywood actress hiding out from a stalker in a remote cabin. The other story is about a princess hiding on a ranch. 

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

I thought this was fantastic. Something that made me really happy was the  focus on friendship (even with its flaws and struggles) and the relationship between Andie and her dad. It was great to see Andie bond with her dad and have a real relationship with him. I also liked the growing romance between Andie and Clark and I adored Bertie (the Great Pyrenees). 

The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson 

Charlotte/Charlie lives a double life at school where no one knows she is an elite gymnast training for the US Olympic Trials. I really enjoyed this glimpse into the life of a teenage gymnast. 

Books listened to:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (reread)

A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken

This was such a fun audio book to listen to. The novel is written for a tween/young teen audience but it gave some insight into the characters of Leia, Han and Luke and the narration was fantastic. Marc Thompson (the best Star Wars narrator) voiced Han and Luke and any other male voices while Rebecca Soler (she read the audiobooks for the Lunar Chronicles too) voiced Princess Leia. There are also great sound effects. Sadly Alexandra Bracken didn't write the other two books in the series and the second one especially received terrible reviews.

Currently reading:

Wanderlost by Jen Malone

While it is a bit far-fetched I am enjoying this book so far. Recent high school graduate Aubree is definitely out of her depths as she tries to lead a European tour in her older sister's place after losing the itinerary and her phone. I feel bad for Aubree. She is used to being babied by her mom but she also wants people to take her seriously and she tries so hard to succeed and prove she can handle responsibility.

Currently listening to:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (reread)

On my TBR pile:

The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard

This is our afternoon book group's selection for May. I like that there is a bit of mystery to it.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

My evening book group picked this one. I've heard that the other members are enjoying it so far especially all the Shakespeare references.

New books received:

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch (library book)

You Don't Have to Be a Star/Once Upon a Cowboy by Susan May Warren and Lacy Williams (purchased)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review: The Weekenders

The Weekenders
By Mary Kay Andrews
Published: May 17, 2016

Some people stay all summer long on the idyllic island of Belle Isle, North Carolina. Others come only for the weekends-and the mix between the regulars and “the weekenders” can sometimes make the sparks fly. Riley Griggs has a season of good times with friends and family ahead of her on Belle Isle when things take an unexpected turn. While waiting for her husband to arrive on the ferry one Friday afternoon, Riley is confronted by a process server who thrusts papers into her hand. And her husband is nowhere to be found.

So she turns to her island friends for help and support, but it turns out that each of them has their own secrets, and the clock is ticking as the mystery deepens...in a murderous way. Cocktail parties aside, Riley must find a way to investigate the secrets of Belle Island, the husband she might not really know, and the summer that could change everything.

Told with Mary Kay Andrews’ trademark blend of humor and warmth, and with characters and a setting that you can’t help but fall for, The Weekenders is the perfect summer escape.

My review:

Riley is going through a rough time as her marriage is ending and she has to break the news to her daughter. Maggie is only twelve but she has developed a major attitude lately and her recent Diabetes I diagnosis makes things even more difficult. When Riley and Maggie arrive at their beach property she finds out that the house is being foreclosed so they have to stay with Riley's uptight mother Evelyn until they figure out what is going on. Riley's husband Wendell hasn't been answering his phone calls and he fails to show up. There are speculations that he is having an affair or involved in bad business deals. Riley's former flame Noah is also back on the island and hopes to make amends but they start off on the wrong foot. Riley has a lot to handle but she has the help and support of her best friend Parrish and her brother Billy. Then there is a murder...

The Weekenders is a fun beach read. There is humor, romance, mystery and plenty of quirky characters. I felt bad for Riley and all she was going through. I wanted to slap her daughter at times for making the situation worse. I was glad that Riley had a great friend like Parrish on her side and that Noah was there for her too though she didn't always want him around. I enjoyed their rekindled romance. As the story went on there was some mending of the relationships between Riley and her daughter and her mother which was nice to see.

I love mysteries so I was glad that The Weekenders had a mystery to solve. I couldn't figure out who the killer was but in the end I was a little disappointed by the resolution of the mystery and how anticlimactic it felt. I also wished that we didn't have so many shifts in point of view. I don't think we needed to see the story through that many characters' eyes. If she had kept the focus on Riley and Noah, I think it would have been a stronger story.

I enjoyed this novel overall and I think readers looking for something light to read this summer should give The Weekenders a try. Other books by the author that would be great summertime reads include Spring Fever (a personal favorite), Beach Town and Save the Date.

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (182)

"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:

Smash & Grab by Amy Christine Parker
Release date: July 19, 2016

Ocean’s Eleven meets the star-crossed lovers of West Side Story. Grab some popcorn and get ready for an adrenaline-filled heist!
LEXI is a rich girl who loves a good rush. Whether it’s motorcycle racing or BASE jumping off a building in downtown Los Angeles, the only times she feels alive are when she and her friends are executing one of their dares. After her father’s arrest, Lexi doesn’t think twice about going undercover at his bank to steal the evidence that might clear his name. She enlists her hacker brother and her daredevil friends to plan a clever heist.
CHRISTIAN is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The local gang has blackmailed him and his friends into robbing banks, and he is desperate for a way out. When the boss promises that one really big job will be the last he ever has to do, Christian jumps at the chance for freedom. In fact, he’s just met a girl at the bank who might even prove useful. . . 

Two heists. One score. The only thing standing in their way is each other.
Told in alternating points of view, this caper is full of romance and fast-paced fun. Hand to fans of Perfect Chemistry, The Conspiracy of Us, and Heist Society.

I think this sounds like fun and the premise does remind me a little of Heist Society. I am a fan of Ocean's Eleven too. Not sure about the West Side Story reference but I plan to give this a try.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Review: Summer of Sloane

Summer of Sloane
By Erin L. Schneider
Published: May 3, 2016

Warm Hawaiian sun. Lazy beach days. Flirty texts with her boyfriend back in Seattle.

These are the things seventeen-year-old Sloane McIntyre pictured when she imagined the summer she'd be spending at her mom's home in Hawaii with her twin brother, Penn. Instead, after learning an unthinkable secret about her boyfriend, Tyler, and best friend, Mick, all she has is a fractured hand and a completely shattered heart.

Once she arrives in Honolulu, though, Sloane hopes that Hawaii might just be the escape she needs. With beach bonfires, old friends, exotic food, and the wonders of a waterproof cast, there's no reason Sloane shouldn't enjoy her summer. And when she meets Finn McAllister, the handsome son of a hotel magnate who doesn't always play by the rules, she knows he's the perfect distraction from everything that's so wrong back home.

But it turns out a measly ocean isn't nearly enough to stop all the emails, texts, and voicemails from her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, desperate to explain away their betrayal. And as her casual connection with Finn grows deeper, Sloane's carefree summer might not be as easy to come by as she'd hoped. Weighing years of history with Mick and Tyler against their deception, and the delicate possibility of new love, Sloane must decide when to forgive, and when to live for herself.

My review:

Summer of Sloane would make a good beach read. There is friendship (aside from the destroyed friendship with Mick) and romance and a little surfing and swimming too. There are also darker moments as Sloane deals with the pain and hurt she feels over the loss of her former best friend and boyfriend. Finn has some hardship in his own life with his overbearing father and family issues. 

Sloane is a privileged teen from a well-to-do (but far from perfect) family. Her mom gives her and her twin brother Penn a new convertible and believes strongly in expensive retail therapy to help Sloane get over her sorrow. That aspect of Sloane's life is harder to connect with but her emotional struggles make it easier to relate to her. I could understand her anger and irritation with the constant texts and calls from her exes and I could also understand the sadness she felt because she did lose two people who were an important part of her life from childhood. I thought the book realistically portrayed the journey Sloane takes to overcome the pain and betrayal as well as where those relationships are left in the end. 

Finn is a fun guy most of the time and helps Sloane break out of her funk. She teaches his little sister how to swim and as Sloane and Finn spend more and more time together she falls for him. Finn is not the only one who helps Sloane move past her heartache. She also has a friend in Mia and her family is there for her too. I liked how supportive her parents were although they seemed pretty liberal in their parenting. 

I did think the secondary characters weren't as well developed and some seemed to just disappear from the story. I also wish the setting had been more detailed. There were a few uses of Hawaiian words here or there but beyond that the book could easily have been set in California or Florida and I wouldn't notice the difference.

I did like Summer of Sloane overall. I think readers looking for a pleasant escape this summer should give it a try. I would suggest this book to fans of Jessi Kirby, Leila Howland, Morgan Matson and other similar authors. 

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (181)

"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:

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash
Release date: June 14, 2016

John Hughes meets Comic Con in this hilarious, unabashedly romantic, coming-of-age novel about a teenager who is trying to get his best friend to fall in love with him from the author of Three Day Summer.

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy...
Archie and Veronica...
Althena and Noth...
...Graham and Roxy?

Graham met his best friend, Roxana, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago, and she asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since.

But now they’re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever—moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books.
When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be...even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones.

I think this sounds like a fun book and I like that it is set at Comic Con.