Book Review: First Kiss Hypothesis by Christina Mandelski

Summary: Nora Reid believes scientific laws control everything, even love. With her grandparents’ epic first kiss story cemented in her brain, Nora develops a hypothesis she’s determined to prove: for each person in the world, there is exactly one other person, and at first kiss, they’ll experience an immediate and intense reaction.

But after four years of zero-reaction kisses, she comes up with a new theory: maybe that pesky crush on her stunningly hot best friend Eli Costas is skewing her results.

She needs to get rid of him, and fast.

Eli Costas is an injury-prone lacrosse star with a problem—the one chance he had at winning over the girl next door resulted in the most epically sucktastic first kiss ever. And now she’s…trying to get rid of him? Hell no. It’s time to disprove her theory and show her exactly what she’s missing.

Game. On.


Release Date: November 2017
Age Group: YA, Contemporary
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By:  Nat

Review:
When it comes to contemporary fiction I like it Hallmark style! I rate them like I do my previously recorded Hallmark movies:
  • Did I get the warm fuzzys? 
  • Was I a bit tortured by their love arc? 
  • Did it end in a nicely wrapped bow? (Don't come at me with no sad, tragic "no winners in this life" kind of story).

With that said, A LOT of contemporary literature is predictable. Sometimes I even think I am re-reading something and that is a major turn-off.

I know.

First, I ask for all the feels and "the formula of Hallmark" and then I throw in "originality". I am a complicated woman.

The First Kiss Hypothesis was a raving win for contemporary YA! I'll admit I went in on a TV high and maybe a bit amped up with all the holiday feels but once I started I did not stop. FKH had such an easy flow and there wasn't anytime wasted on story lines that didn't matter.

I loved the alternating POV's of Nora and Eli. At one point I woke up Sweet Stuff from laughing so hard (I really tried to muffle with the blankets). I blame the kitten in the story. The banter between the two was comfortable & witty and blind love is just so fun to read.

What I really enjoyed about this story was that the characters weren't torn between their ambitions and dreams because of love. It was refreshing to read a love story that allowed both characters to be in love and still have their sights on their future goals.

I am especially happy to report that FKH was pretty darn clean! Like I said, it was really like reading a Hallmark movie!

First Kiss Hypothesis is a win for contemporary YA fans and Hallmark connoisseurs.


Book to Movie Review: Wonder by RJ Palacio


There is nothing that can be said about this book or movie that will do it justice. It is simply WONDERful and a must-see for all humans. The themes throughout Wonder are so beautiful, I related to so much as a mother. 

If Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson never act in another blockbuster hit, that will be just fine because this was a story worth sharing and this is what they should be remembered for giving society- KINDNESS & unconditional love. I could feel the natural motherly love from Julia Roberts and it was so tender, what an ode to the true love of a mother.

And Jacob Tremblay... Oh man kid, you just moved mountains!!! 

image source: google.com

#CHOOSEKIND always!

 

Book Review: I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent #1) by Barry Lyga

Summary:
What if the world's worst serial killer...was your dad?
 

Jasper "Jazz" Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal's point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo's Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret—could he be more like his father than anyone knows?





Release Date: April 2012
Age Group: YA, Psychological Thriller
Source: Library
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
This was darrkkkk, a dark psychological thriller. I Hunt Killers is classified as YA because of the age of the characters BUT I think it is better suited as New Adult or Adult lit. because of the themes throughout: implication of rape, contains graphic violence and brutal murders. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone under 16. With that said, I am 100% confident that all Dexter fans will love this series!

Do you believe violent offenders are the product of nature or nurture?   

Every aspect of this story leads back to this question. Is Jasper Dent a killer? It's something he can't answer yet. As sadistic as it gets in the mind of a serial killer, I was surprised at the sprinkles of humor throughout. I think I felt every possible emotion when reading I Hunt Killers. I sent several texts to the librarian telling her I thought I might have homicidal tendencies! Barry Lyga does such a fantastic job of warping your thoughts and blurring the lines of humanity that it was a bit scary at times. When I went to the store if anyone looked at me for longer than half a second I started to assume they were prospecting (specifically me, I fit the profile of an easy target)!

I sat in shock half the time I read this book. I wasn't shocked by what I was reading because I've been desensitized from all the Criminal Minds I've watched, but more shocked at how I was so passive to the demented thoughts Jasper was having!

This series is for fans of crime shows and psychological thrillers. If this is your cup of tea, then get ready to drink a gallon!









PS. I'm a visual learner by nature and I stumbled upon this awesome graphic guide on GoodReads and had to share. Shout out to Flannery at The Adventurer for sharing!


Vlog Review: Greek Gods #squadgoals (OMG Classics) by Courtney Carbone

Summary:  
OMG Classics, the greatest stories ever told . . . in texts. Imagine: What if Mount Olympus got WiFi and the gods and goddesses had smartphones? The classic Greek myths get new life in irreverent and hilarious texts and posts!
 

Zeus, a king of the gods always in search of a new bae.
A squad of goddesses who can't resist stirring the pot.
And the selfie-obsessed heroes out for all the likes.
If you have trouble telling Perseus from Theseus (#Greek2Me) or have ever wondered about Oedipus's tragic dating profile or why Medusa's Instagram never got traction--this satirical book of Greek myths retold for the Internet age is for you!
tl;dr D'Aulaires' and Homer's Greek myths told through characters texting with emojis, posting photos, checking in at locations, and updating their relationship statuses. The perfect gift for any reader--young or old--with a sense of humor! 


A glossary and cast of characters are included for those who need it. For example: tl;dr means too long; didn't read.



Release Date: November 2017
Age Group: Middle Grade, πŸ“šπŸ“±πŸ™ŒπŸΌ
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Vlog Review By: Macy Kate



I read Greek Gods while waiting in the parent pick-up line for my daughter & Macy Kate and it was hilarious! The modern day spin of texting & social media combined with the historical personalities of these God/Goddesses was really fun. I mean who doesn't like a good #hashtag or funny emoji? πŸ€“πŸ“±πŸ“š

There are several books in this series, OMG Classics, and I actually want them all. They are such a fun way to introduce classics, in this specific case mythology. My daughter knows I L.O.V.E. Pride & Prejudice (all versions, class and modern day) but she just doesn't get the Darcy vibe BUT I feel that an OMG Classic might peak her interests! Looks like I've found the perfect stocking stuffers for my graphic-novel-loving girl. πŸ˜ŽπŸ’ƒπŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ



Book Review: Offsetting Penalties by Ally Matthews

Summary: Isabelle Oster has dreamed of being a prima ballerina her entire life, so when the only male dancer backs out of the fall production, she’s devastated. Without a partner, she has no hope of earning a spot with the prestigious Ballet Americana company. Until hot jock Garret practicing stretches in one of the studios gives Izzy an idea, and she whips out her phone. But does she really want this badly enough to resort to blackmail?

All-state tight end Garret Mitchell will do anything to get a college football scholarship. Even taking ballet, which surprisingly isn’t so bad, because it means he gets to be up close and personal with the gorgeous Goth girl Izzy while learning moves to increase his flexibility. But Izzy needs him to perform with her for the Ballet Americana spot, and he draws the line at getting on stage. Especially wearing tights.









Release Date: November 2017
Age Group: YA, Contemporary (clean)
Source: Review Copy from Publisher (Entangled Teen Crush)
Reviewed By:  Nat

Review:
Offsetting Penalties was a lighthearted contemporary read that was just perfect to binge on my porch swing. I didn't have to work real hard to follow the plot and it was just relaxing and had an easy flow. I've come to realize that I like sports romances and am a sucker for them! 

The POV changes between the two lead characters and I always love when the male POV gets a voice because let's face it, men are weird and it's interesting to get a peek into their thought process. 

Izzy and Garret are very relateable characters and I think teens will find it easy to connect with them. They are both flawed and come from very different backgrounds. The stark differences in their family dynamics is what I think will make it so relateable to a wide range of teens. The banter between Izzy & Garret was witty and I especially loved his reaction to ballet lessons. I was especially happy that the blackmail scenario ended pretty quick and was not strung throughout the entire story; it ended and the plot matured.

I'll be honest, it was a complete shock to me to learn that some professional football players take ballet to improve their game! I was so intrigued by it that when I finished reading I went online and researched it further. I even brought it up to my husband and got to act all superior with my newfound knowledge. He did look at me a little crazy because we are typical Texas football fans: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. We go on Friday night to watch our local high school play but know nothing of what is happening in professional football... I can't name a single pro... WAIT! Payton Manning! I have no idea what he does but he looks pretty.

Offsetting Penalties is sure to be loved by YA contemporary fans, especially individuals in ballet. In fact, I think this might puff-up a ballet dancer's pride a bit.





  

Book Review: Haven by Mary Lindsey

Summary:  
"We all hold a beast inside. The only difference is what form it takes when freed."

Rain Ryland has never belonged anywhere, He’s used to people judging him for his rough background, his intimidating size, and now, his orphan status. He’s always been on the outside, looking in, and he’s fine with that. Until he moves to New Wurzburg and meets Friederike Burkhart.

Freddie isn’t like normal teen girls, though. And someone wants her dead for it. Freddie warns he’d better stay far away if he wants to stay alive, but Rain’s never been good at running from trouble. For the first time, Rain has something worth fighting for, worth living for. Worth dying for.





Release Date: November 2017
Age Group: YA, Paranormal
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
Haven arrived as a book-mail surprise! I knew nothing about it, didn't read the synopsis and just dove right in simply based on the cover and the Godiva chocolate that accompanied the book (and was sent as a temptress). I can be bought with chocolate... well played Entangled Teen, well played.

Turns out that Haven was just as sweet as the chocolate!

Let me start off by saying it was a real treat to have the boy chasing after the girl! Haven was a true original YA paranormal. There are parallels to Beauty & the Beast mixed with the eternal love of a Twilight romance (in more of a Jacob Black sort of way) but with ALL the feels of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver series! It is no secret that Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors and I couldn't help but think I was reading one of her novels as I sped through Haven.

Whatever the right formula is for a shape-shifter novel, Mary Lindsey got the memo!

I sat and read Haven straight through because there wasn't a good place to just simply break. The story pace was slow in the beginning as it built-up and fleshed everyone & everything out, but midway it was full steam ahead and the pacing was fast and furious!

I enjoyed the mystery & history behind the little Texas town of New Wurzburg and at times I was reminded of Friedricksburg, Texas. Now when I visit there, I am going to be looking for a winery run by wolves... we can wish right?

The characters were nice and flawed too. I hate reading #instalove. Rain & Freddie's story is loaded with crazy and there's nothing insta about it. I do have a warning, there is a scene on the porch that I could have lived without (maybe page 281). When I gave it to my teen reviewer I warned her about the scene and told her to skip that page and that "they smooch hard". She giggled and thanked me for the heads-up. Because of the porch scene and a few violent episodes, I would suggest this book for older teens.

Simply put, Mary Lindsey has a talent for YA Paranormal and she must be forced to write book two! Here's why, it's a bit spoiler'ish so {highlight} the text below to read. Cool trick right?

{WHAT HAPPENED TO MOTH?! He was bitten and lived.} Book two is waiting Miss Mary (that's how we do it in the South, everyone is a "Miss" & it is typically effective in getting you what you want because you are acting like such a polite person). Soooo Miss Mary, get to it!

 

Book Review: The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

Summary: The Handmaid’s Tale meets Blood Red Road in Glass Arrow, the story of Aya, who lives with a small group of women on the run from the men who hunt them, men who want to auction off breeding rights to the highest bidder.

In a world where females are scarce and are hunted, then bought and sold at market for their breeding rights, 15-year old Aya has learned how to hide. With a ragtag bunch of other women and girls, she has successfully avoided capture and eked out a nomadic but free existence in the mountains. But when Aya’s luck runs out and she’s caught by a group of businessmen on a hunting expedition, fighting to survive takes on a whole new meaning.








Release Date: February 2015
Age Group: YA, Dystopian
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Maryn

Review:
When trackers invade her home in the mountains, Aya is taken away from everything she's ever known, and thrown into an entirely new society where women are considered property.

The first part of The Glass Arrow was very slow paced, and uneventful. I wasn't hooked until a third of the way into the book. Simmons spent so long explaining how the society worked, and it all mattered very little to the plot; however, if you love world-building, you feel differently and love that part.

It was very refreshing to not have to deal with a forced love triangle, like in other dystopian books. The love story was so adorable and Kiran was such a likable guy.  The best part of the book for me was that it was believable. Aya had to rely on her strength and intuition to solve her problems, unlike characters in other dystopians that magically solve their problems because they are somehow different than everyone else.

I'm sad to hear that The Glass Arrow is a standalone story, because there's so much more I wanted to know!  The end of the book did however make up for the slow start, and I was on the edge of my seat for those last few chapters.

Overall, I liked the book a lot, and I'm so sad to hear that it won't be a series! Please reconsider Kristen! P.L.E.A.S.E. I am invested and the stage is set.

Book Review: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Summary: Moxie girls fight back!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.
 








Release Date: September 2017
Age Group: YA, Feminism, Contemporary
Source: Surprise mail from fellow blogger!
Reviewed By: Nat

Build-up to Review:
Okay, this might be a little lengthy.

I got an email to receive an ARC of Moxie & by the time I replied they were gone and I was bummed. I didn't really know much about the book other than I liked the cover, the chick is wearing Van-like shoes. #fistbump Fast forward a few months later and I *met a student through Twitter, of all places, who happened to also be a book blogger and guess what she was reading?! MOXIE!

I freaked and demanded it be mailed to me immediately... just kidding, she actually asked me if I wanted to read it and I stayed cool & collected and quickly gave her my mailing address. Well, I didn't read the book when I got it- it turned out to be a tough semester. Fast-forward to Hurricane Harvey and I was desperate to mentally escape the storm. I saw a few tweets from the author, Jennifer Mathieu, about her woes & worries with Harvey. I had no idea she was a Hustonian and a teacher so I thought, "you know what, I'm going to read her book and let this place float away". Coincidentally enough, this all happened as I was watching the news report on Rockport Texas, which was decimated by the storm. I shut off the TV and told my husband "I'm out, I'll be reading until we float away!"

I opened the book and the first few pages I read began with a girl named Vivian who lived in the small Texas town of North Rockport. I immediately closed the book and thought No Freaking Way. Re-opened it and never left my recliner.

I sat and read Moxie cover to cover.

I regret nothing.

Review:
I've never thought of myself as a feminist. I love being a woman. I loved receiving an education. I love my career. I love being a mom (the most). But I've also been extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by strong, independent women that never allowed me to think anything was impossible. So I thought the word "feminist" was more of a radical term.

I was so wrong. It's sad really that I am just connecting the dots because in truth I've always been a feminist, just without the label. Moxie was a game changer for me personally because it was so freaking relateable!

I thought Mathieu was writing my high school memoir! I grew up (and still live in) a small Texas town. I even wrote about one of my memories about meeting the Ku Klux Klan when I was just nine years old.

There are so many things to love about a small town and there are so many things that can drive you crazy. Mathieu does a supurb job of building a story based on real and meaningful problems that young women face in high school and life in general. It doesn't have to be a small town in Texas, discrimination happens everywhere, everyday and no one is fully immune.

I loved how powerful Moxie made me feel. I can't imagine how it would have made me feel at 15, I probably would have ran for Mayor! No matter what your views are politically, religiously or personally, you have the right to feel them. We need more books like Moxie that make our youth think & feel.

Sit back and really think about what you stand for and what you support. I am conservative in some areas of my life and liberal in others and that's okay. Do we laugh and sexualize women because it's simply tradition? Do we equally support one another? Girls can be their own worst enemies. And to put it simply, we need to STOP IT. Support and uplift one another. SHOW SOME MOXIE!

Moxie is a must-read for all teens and parents. It is for the open-minded and the narrow-minded and the close-minded and those that just can't make their minds up.

Fantastic job Jennifer! I hope we meet one day!

Gift Recommendation: If you decide to gift Moxie to someone I would give one suggestion: add a few magazines with the gift, that's what I'll be doing this Christmas.

Side note: Zines are still pretty popular in the skateboarding world. My daughter looks forward to getting her zines from The Skate Witches πŸ’Ž


Mini Book Review: The Richest Man in Town by VJ Smith

Summary: This gift book published by Simple Truths is VJ Smith's story of getting to know Marty Martinson, an elderly Wal-mart greeter in Brookings, SD who affected thousands of people across the country, and all of the lessons on life he taught him. Give a little more of yourself. The only person who can make you happy is you. Be a better you.

 







Release Date: 2005
Age Group: Non-Fiction; Inspirational; Biography
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Maryn

Review:


I never could've imagined that a book with so little pages could have such a meaningful message. If I had to recommend one book to someone, this would be it. The Richest Man in Town is the kind of story that makes you want to be a better person. It is inspiring and shows how even the smallest gestures of kindness can have a lasting impact on a person's life. From now on, I'm going  to start looking for the Marty's in my life. This book touched my heart, and I will definitely re-read it when I need perspective & reminders of what matters.
All it took were simple gestures of kindness by a man named Marty and a Wal-Mart badge to forever impact my thoughts & actions, I am a better person after meeting Marty.

*Nat recommends this as a great book to gift to people {and actually requires her students to read it at the beginning of each semester}.

Whitey Tighties & a Cape


The Mob loves the Captain Underpants series, so when it came to theaters we were front row. It was unanimous that we buy it as soon as it was released.

When it hit the stores I snagged our usual Blu-Ray copy and headed for the register. Little did I know what treasure was hidden in the HERO EDITION...
... okay, if I had read the cover I would have known but I didn't... Don't kill my vibe.

The Cape. 
      
THAT CAPE has brought tears to so many eyes. Oh the tears of pure laughter, what a treat! Truly a treat for me.         
This had to be the easiest character costume I have ever thrown together but it does take a special child to execute it. ***Drumroll for #tomtom.


This is one of those memories where two things are bound to happen:
  1. We laugh at these pictures at this child's wedding OR
  2. He tells his therapist about how damaged he was from this moment
                                                       ... but for now we laugh!

Just one more for laughs & giggles. You're welcome.
I'll hit you up for the therapy bill in about ten years.