Friday, September 29, 2017

Discussion: Yea or Nay - Alternative Format Books

I love reading, but sometimes I want to switch it up a little, and a genre change just won't cut it. That is when I seek a book in a format other than the standard prose. Below are some formats I have enjoyed along with books that utilized the format.

Epistolatory Novels

Traditionally, these are a stories told through a series of letters, but it has grown to include other documents such as emails, dairy entries, transcriptions, and newspaper clippings. They are even beginning to integrate phone messages and texts. I am always amazed at how well authors can make the story flow using these formats, and I especially love when the book is a combination of one or more the aforementioned media. I have so many favorites that fall in this category! It's such a wonderful way to share a story with that personal touch.

Verse Novels

I was a little leery of this format. I am not a huge poetry buff, but I have found that I really enjoy narrative poetry. I find it quite impressive the way the author can capture the mood and voice of the character in this format, which could seem limiting, but when done right, can be so wonderful. I have not read too many books in this format, but I plan to read more.

Mixed Media Novels

These novels have a little bit of everything. These are true hybrids mixing many of the things we see in epistolatory novels, but also add transcripts, poetry, parts of plays/screen plays, graphics, and more. This format is such an experience. I guess there may be some books, where they just jam the extra stuff in there, but the ones I have read seem quite thoughtfully curated. Each thing was specially picked to enhance the story and the reader's experience, and it definitely takes the story to the next level for me.

Oral Histories

These books usually read as transcripts and combine information from many different people gathered via interviews. They are interesting, because each person who contributes information about a past event based on their personal memory. So, we all know memories may be colored by the viewer, and that gives an interesting perspective to a story.

For me, it's a YEA for alternative format books. Now it's your turn!

YEA or NAY for alternative format books? 
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

In a Nutshell Reviews: Hearts Won and Hearts Lost

In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want to know about a book in the fewest possible words. Today, I am sharing my thoughts on three romances.

Approximately Yours
Julie Hammerle
Series: North Pole, Minnesota, #3
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Entangled: Crush
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars
Danny Garland is so out of Holly’s league. And her family is only back in North Pole, Minnesota, long enough to sell Grandma’s house and say “Merry Christmas.” So telling her basketball-star, too-hot-to-be-real long-time crush that she’d like to kiss him under the mistletoe just isn’t going to happen.

And now he’s asked out her cousin, Elda. Elda is a mess at flirting, so when she begs Holly to intervene, she does. Holly helps her flirt with him over text. And then again. And again. Now she’s stuck texting him as her cousin, and Elda is the one going on the date. Holly thought she could settle for just conversation with Danny, but talking with him is some kind of magic. He’s got the perfect comebacks, she makes him laugh, they text until everyone is asleep.

She just can’t ever tell him it’s her he’s really texting.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book has hot texts, gingerbread wars, and a slow-burn romance that could melt a Minnesota winter.
  • Pro: I am a fan of North Pole, and in this book, it's actually Christmas time! There are a bunch of really fun celebratory activities going on with the gingerbread competition being the center of this story. By the way, the gingerbread competition was fabulous. 
  • Pro: Danny and Holly actually share a past, and it was very sweet hearing about them in their younger years. 
  • Pro: This was a fun Cyrano type story, where Holly had this texting relationship with Danny in order to help Elda win his heart. The exchanges were quite fun and adorable, and I couldn't wait for their next text session. 
  • Con: Sometimes I thought Holly was a little too hard on herself about her looks, but I guess it worked with the story. Her self defense mechanism was a bit much at times too, but we did see a lot of her big heart, so I forgave her and sort of understood her a little too. 
  • Pro: I love grandma stories, and although what brought Holly back to North Pole was her grandmother's death, I really enjoyed getting to share all her memories and I loved how she chose to honor her grandmother's memory. 
  • Pro: As with all companion books, I was really happy to see what the other North Pole couples were up to, and was glad Hammerle included them in this story. 
  • Pro: There are some really great silly, fun bits that I found quite amusing. A few of the side characters also gave me things to laugh at, and I always love to laugh. 
  • Pro: I was really grateful for that ending. It was very sweet and gave me the sort of information and closure I need. 

Overall: A super, sweet, adorable Christmas romance, that left me a sappy grin on my face.

Speak Easy, Speak Love
McKelle George
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling, Romance
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars
Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer. Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.
  • Pro: This was a fun and charming retelling.
  • Pro: This book featured a colorful cast of characters, who were complex and interesting. 
  • Pro: The interactions between Beatrice and Benedick were so fabulous. With each page, I was hoping they would share more time together. 
  • Pro: Beatrice may be one of my favorite characters I have met this year. She was too fabulous for words with her genius level intelligence and her moxie not to hide it. She spoke her mind, was a survivor, and I loved her boldness. 
  • Pro: George picked some of the best things about the 20s to feature in this book. I especially loved the slang. So fun. 
  • Pro: Hey Nonny Nonny was more than a house, it was a place where strangers from different socioeconomic and cultural worlds became family. The bond between its inhabitants was obvious, and their actions spoke way louder than any words ever could. 
  • Pro: This debut is filled with some amazing writing. From the dialog to the descriptions, George did an incredible job pulling me in the time period and the lives of these characters. 
  • Pro: George gave me a great and satisfying ending. 

Overall: A fun trip back in time, which made me smile, laugh, swoon, and cheer.

Christina Lauren
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.
  • Pro: Tanner had the most awesome family ever. They were able to be open and honest and it was quite a lovely thing to see. #FamilyGoals
  • Pro: Tanner is awesome. I totally fell in love with him myself. He was funny, witty, and intelligent. This made for some great banter in this book, and also made the time spent inside his head quite enjoyable. 
  • Pro: This book is not just about sexual identity. It's about identity in general, being your true self and doing things that are fulfilling and make you happy. I think a wide audience would be able to relate to this story on that level. 
  • Pro: The authors did such a fantastic job making me understand Sebastian's inner struggle. My heart physically ached for him. Shoot! I am getting a little misty just thinking about it right now. 
  • Con: I could have done without the Autumn-Tanner thing. It wasn't the worst, but it frustrated me. Obviously, it wasn't a deal breaker, as I still gave this book 5-stars, but I just didn't care for it. 
  • Pro: I am always a little scared to read books that feature religion, because religious people are often demonized in books, but Christina Lauren presented the LDS church from many sides. They showed good things about the church, and how some progress has been made regarding homosexuality, but they also acknowledged that more progress is necessary. They had characters who had left the church, and present their grievances with the church, but they also showed current members, who were more progressive and did not follow every last tenant to the T. It was a fair and balanced treatment of the church and I appreciated getting the various viewpoints. 
  • Pro: I adored watching the romance between Tanner and Sebastian blossom. It totally put a stupid grin on my face. 
  • Pro: To all those authors out there, who have disappointed me with their endings - listen up! This is how you do an epilogue. I got closure, and that is all I ever ask for. 

Overall: A beautiful and poignant love story packed with feels, which left me so warm, happy, and hopeful. 

**I would like to thank the publishers for the advanced copies of these book.

Have you read any of these books?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Foolish Hearts - Emma Mills

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I can't wait for Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills!

Foolish Hearts
Emma Mills
Series: n/a
Release Date: December 5, 2017
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Waited on by: Sam
A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn't know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they're both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia's ever seen. As Claudia's world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.
If you saw my post this past Friday, you would know that Mills is an author that I feel like I really need to read. I did buy one of her books, so chances look good, but this book totally caught my eye.

First, the cover is bright and graphic and I was immediately drawn to it. Then there is the title. Did someone say hearts? When I see the word "heart", I think we may have a little romance going on in the book, and you know who loves romance?

The synopsis also hints at the main character going on a journey of self discovery, and those stories are always winners for me. I love the idea that we can become the best versions of ourselves, that we can grow and change, and if this book does a little of that, I will be quite happy. 

There's also a school play, and we know how much fun putting on a school production can be. All those things add up to me being excited to read this book. 

What are you waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Featuring Characters Who Share My Name

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is...

Books Featuring Characters Who Share My Name!

So, we are talking about books, which I have read, that feature characters named Sam or Samantha. True story: when I was a young lass, I could never get anything with my name on it. No license plate for my bike. No pens. No pencils. Nothing. Adding insult to injury, my sister's name is Lisa, and her name was on EVERYthing. Then, in the 2000s, my name was all over the place, and I still see it popping up in books. Apparently, my parents were just ahead of the trend on this one. Bonus: 17 Things That Perfectly Describe All Girls Named Samantha

The Art of Feeling
Laura Tims
Series: n/a
Publisher: HarperTeen

This is one of my top reads this year, and not just because the main character's name is Samantha. I loved this story of a family working through their grief, a young woman trying to figure out her identity, and a boy who felt no physical pain. I laughed, I cried, I felt too much.

Before I Fall
Lauren Oliver
Series: n/a
Publisher: HarperCollins

I never realized that this was Oliver's debut, but I can tell you, it's still my favorite book of her's. This was an incredible Groundhog Day-esque book, where the main character, Samantha, grew and changed so much, that my heart broke because we knew her fate from the very beginning of the story.

All-American Girl
Meg Cabot
Series: All-American Girl, #1
Publisher: HarperTeen

This Samantha was tons of fun. I loved her, her lists, and how she saved the president. This sweet romance had me laughing and smiling courtesy of the cute and quirky Samantha.

Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky
Series: n/a
Publisher: MTV Books and Pocket Books

We all know this story, and this Sam was probably my favorite characters in this book. I associate her with one of my favorite quotes from the book - "We accept the love we think we deserve." That quote is so powerful, and years later, it's still in my working memory.

The Memory Book
Laura Avery
Series: n/a
Publisher: Poppy

This Sammie had so much to deal with at such a young age. She just broke my heart in half. I was so grateful for the beautiful moments she had, because we knew she was destined to forget them all. *crying*

How to Hang a Witch
Adriana Mather
Series: n/a
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

The Samantha in this book is a decendent of one of the Puritan leaders, whose claim to fame was prosecuting the Salem Witches. I really liked Sam, and am currently reading her second story, in which she encounters her long lost relatives, who were passengers on the Titanic.

Every Last Word
Tamara Ireland Stone
Series: n/a
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

This Samantha is struggling with Purely-Obsessional OCD and the darkness that accompanies this illness. I really liked being part of Samantha's journey as she developed a new relationship with her illness and found a healthy outlet, as well as a group of friends she could be herself around.

Playlist for the Dead
Michelle Falkoff
Series: n/a
Publisher: HarperTeen

This begins my books, where the Sam is a male Sam. This Sam is trying to figure out why his best friend took his own life. The only information he has is a playlist and the experiences he shared with his friend. I liked how Sam sort of figured out some things about himself along the way.

Artificial Sweethearts
Julie Hammerle
Series: North Pole, Minnesota, #2
Publisher: Entangled: Crush

This Sam is a sweet cupcake of a romantic hero. He loved his family, and would do anything for them, even if it made him so stressed out. He was also so supportive of Tinka. He believed in her when other people didn't, and I just adored him.

This Song is Not for You
Laura Nowlin
Series: n/a
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

This Sam is a stupendous friend to Ramona, and afraid to act on his feelings for her, because they were such great friends. I totally felt for him during this story, which has a very complicated love triangle.

Are there any books featuring a character with your name?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Review: The Date to Save - Stephanie Kate Strohm

The Date to Save
Stephanie Kate Strohm
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Point
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The word is out...

BROOKS MANDEVILLE, quarterback: Friday is the homecoming game and dance. It is a very big deal.

NATALIE WAGNER, marching band clarinet: Our band's halftime show performances are legendary - even if our football team isn't.

CINTHIA ALVAREZ, Academic Battle team member: Our Academic Battle team has won five years in a row. This Friday, it'll be six.

TANNER ERICKSEN, sophomore class candidate for vice president: Holly has to win the election for class president this Friday!

HOLLY CARPENTER, cheerleader, Academic Battle team member, class president candidate: Friday? Everything is on Friday? How can I be in three places at once?

COLIN VON KOHORN, editor-in-chief of the Prepster: This kind of scheduling incompetence could only have come straight from the top.

ANGELICA HUTCHERSON, reporter-at-large: I talked to everyone and my article is going to crack this story wide open...

This is what happens on the wildest day in the history of high school!
One day, five events

Oh, San Anselmo Prep how I missed you and your quirky student body! It was so much fun to be back in this world, and to have an all new oral history to enjoy.

I was such a HUGE fan of It's Not Me, It's You, so when I heard Strohm was releasing a companion, I sort of danced a little jig of joy.

In The Date to Save, we get to meet the younger sister of Hutch, one of the main characters from the previous book. While working on an article for the newspaper about the Academic Battle, Angelica discovers that there has been a major scheduling mishap. It was loads of fun navigating the ultra-competitive world of prep school, as she tries to uncover how this monumental mistake occurred.
"Sometimes I feel like Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Obviously, my problems are nothing compared to what that guy goes through, but I'd love Ellison's take on being black, female, and the younger sibling of San Anselmo's most famous academic overachiever."
I really felt for Angelica, because I totally related to living in the shadow of a stellar older sibling. But now he was gone (or so she thought), and she wanted her shot at being the superstar. However, where he was an academic battle star, she wants to be a literary goddess. Strohm showcased so many awesome sides of Angelica, and I was rooting for her to make her mark. It was fantastic to watch her work through her feelings regarding her family, and along the way, find how to define herself.

I was pretty excited to get to catch up with some characters from the previous book. This is really why I love companion books. Everyone knows I never seem to get enough closure when I read a book, so it's a special treat to get to check in with old friends and see what's been going on in their lives since the last book. I was really pleased with the storyline and amount of time Strohm dedicated to Avery and Hutch. I fell in love with these two in INMIY, and was really surprised how I got to know Hutch so much better in this book, where he was more of a supporting character, than in the previous book. The Hutcherson family was so fantastic and I absolutely wanted to spend as much time with them as possible.
"a complete and authoritative oral history of the craziest homecoming weekend San Anselmo Prep had ever seen."
I adore books that stray from the traditional narrative format, and found the oral history added to my overall enjoyment and amusement. The format is fun and allows a larger number of characters to be involved in actually telling the story.

Quick Summary
  • Fun format
  • Quirky and interesting characters
  • A nefarious plot
  • Lots of hijinks
  • Some mystery and mayhem 
  • A super-sweet-adorable romance
  • Visits from the alumni 
  • Fantastic banter and cultural references
  • Terribly fun, fast-paced with a very satisfying ending

Strohm has wormed her way into my heart. When I need to laugh, I know I can count on her to deliver. 

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book.

Have you ever had a scheduling mishap?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday's with Sam - The Sunday Post

Sundays with Sam is a combination of Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

My Week in Review

This week flew by, as September winds down, and I begin counting down the days until I see my daughter. I am excited, because I have not seen her since June, and that is the longest I have gone in 22 years without seeing her.

I was super busy this week with family stuff and whatnot, so I did not get to troll the internet too much, but I did see this little post, which made me super happy:

I know I have mentioned this before, but in case you missed it, Legend is one of my favorite series, and it ended in such a way, that you can make a decision about what happened, but you never really knew. Imagine my delight that Marie Lu wrote a short story for us fans. It was a bonus with a Warcross pre-order, but she confirmed in this post that it will be available for purchase at some later date. Yee haw! That makes me happy. 

I am pretty excited about a TV adaptation of the Raven Cycle books. Let's hope they do it justice. 

Also, My mom told me that she bought the book below, because my cousin is profiled in the book, and she is even on the cover. I thought that was pretty cool. 

On the Blog:
Stacking the Shelves

I went a little nuts with romances this week. There were a ton of great ebook sales, and I could not resist. I also had to request the ARCs. I loved Roehig's debut, and am really excited to get my hands on his next book. I am also a fan of Jen Doyle's Calling It series, and squeed when I saw this book. 



What I Read Last Week

So, Tuesday, I was at the bust stop, waiting to ride the bus to the train station. I was so absorbed in A Short History of the Girl Next Door, that when I checked the time, I realized the bus was already 6 minutes late. Then I looked around and I was alone at the bus stop. So, I ran the four blocks back home, and drove to work. This meant I did NOT get the three hours that I normally have to read, and I did NOT get to finish A Short History until the next day, which was a shame, because it was by far my favorite read of the week. (In case you are wondering, the other two women who are always at the bus stop with me were BOTH off on Tuesday, so I don't know if the bus ever came. )

  • Shooting for the Stars by Sarina Bowen (audiobook): This was the final book in the Gravity series, and it was wonderful. The ending was so good and such a gift. 
  • My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella: This was Kinsella being Kinsella. Such a fun and quirky story filled with humor, warmth, and hijinks. I enjoyed it immensely. ★ 1/2
  • A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck: The book! I get really emotional just thinking about it. Wait, gotta dry the tears. There are too many things I loved about this book. I am still trying to write the review, but I am struggling to capture my thoughts properly, while not giving too much away. 
  • Approximately Yours by Julie Hammerle: This series has been really cute. I am a fan of North Pole, and this one had a great Christmas gingerbread competition, and the heroine attempting to complete all the plans her late grandmother had in her day planner in order to honor her memory. You know that got me right in the feels. ★ 1/2
  • Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis: I love Shalvis. I love this series. Some great reveals about Spence in this book, and an ending that left my face hurting from the big smile I wore. 
  • Remember When 2: The Sequel by T. Torrest (audiobook): The first book stood on its own, but Torrest decided to have Tripp and Layla cross paths again. The ending was quite painful, and I just realize Hoopla only had the first two books. DRAT! 
What I Am Currently Reading

I am almost finished with Salvaged. It's sort of bittersweet as this is it for the Marked world. I like how Crownover is bringing all the past characters into the story in some way, and how we get to see Poppy heal and take charge of her life. I just started After All, and the beginning was so dramatic! So far, so good.

What I Plan to Read

I have one more library book to read, and then it is all ARCs. I am excited about Haunting the Deep, because I loved How to Hang a Witch so much (and Kiersten said the book is great too).

How was your week?
Let us know in the comments!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Discussion: Authors I NEED to Read

As a bookworm, I am constantly struggling with how to choose what to read and when. There are so many fantastic books out there, but alas, I only have a limited number of hours in a day. Therefore, I am forced to prioritize my reading list, and this could lead to fabulous authors slipping through the cracks. So, I made a list of some YA authors I would like to get to know better by reading their books. 

Jason Reynolds
My Intro Book: Miles Morales 

I remember being interested in Reynolds' book, All American Boys, when I first heard about it, but it pretty much sat on my TBR with a lot of other books. However, after seeing Reynolds on a BookCon panel this year, I really want to make sure I read one of his books before the year is through.

Why do I NEED to read his book? When Reynolds spoke at BookCon, I could not help but listen with rapt attention. He was so real and genuine. I loved that we both grew up in the city and found solace in the public library. (Oh, how I loved the Flatbush branch of the Brooklyn Public library!) He also has a lot to say, and (I'm going there) I think it's important for some young adults out there to have someone like Reynolds to tell the stories he tells.

Emma Mills
My Intro Book: First & Then

Emma Mills has been on my radar since her first book released. It always seemed like timing was bad or I didn't have any of her books. But I did it! I finally bought one of her books!

Why do I NEED to read her book? I was totally inspired to finally buy a Mills book, because I read rave, after rave, after rave. I knew I was missing out on something special, and as a contemporary reader, it seems almost a crime that I have not read any books by Mills. The other reason why I really want to read a book by her is because she does science. I was really excited to see that she was pursuing a Phd in cell biology. Although my love is for the physical sciences, I still think it is awesome that she is super smart, and I hope her books show off her level of intelligence.

Jeffery Self
My Intro Book: Drag Teen

I really regret not getting a copy of Self's book sooner, but you know what they say, better late than never. When I saw he had another book releasing, it sort of lit a fire under me.

Why do I NEED to read his book? I first discovered Jeffery Self at YallFest in 2015. He was on one of my favorite panels. The dynamic between all the authors was phenomenal (Loved the dueling Davids!), but Self stood out to me, and I knew I wanted to know more about him. If his books are even a fraction as funny as he is, I will be kept in stitches, because he was hilarious.

Elizabeth Wein
My Intro Book: Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity has been receiving a ton of praise. I put it off originally, because I didn't think I was a fan of historical fiction, but then, I actually read some historical fiction, and that pretty much changed my mind.

Why do I NEED to read her book? Wein was also on a YallFest panel. It was an incredible panel moderated by one of my favorites, Rae Carson, and packed with powerhouse female writers. As if I was not already high from all the girl-power in the room, Wein began to speak, and I was instantly captivated. She is just brilliant and off the charts intelligent, and she was sharing things with us that were so interesting, but explaining it so it was easy to understand. If she writes in the same manner that she speaks, I should be able to be entertained as I learn some things.

Now it's your turn!

Are there any authors you NEED to read? 
Let us know in the comments!