Summer Giveaway with Take 5 & Create

It's finally here, SUMMER! I get a break from the academic duties of raising kids! We will officially enter the routine of: 
  • Don't enter my bedroom before 8:30am telling me you are hungry... fasting is good for you.
  • If you swim all day, it counts as a shower.
  • Lunch time will be labeled fen-for-ya aka fend for yourself.
  • Bring on all the outdoor activities! Outside = Worn Out Children.
  • Library every Monday (our attempt to pretend that we try and keep a little routine).
Here's the deal, I have HIGH OCTANE children. I mean, they burn bright from sun up 'till sun down and that's just how I like it. So, how on earth do I manage to read anything? Well, my peak months of activities are October-December and the month of May... reading is slim. But now that it's summer bring on the audio books! I love to sit outside and have my earphones in and my ipod blasting away with some awesome young adult book (only 5 star books make the cut, Kelli has ruined me). 
My kids really enjoy the summer reading program hosted by our public library. I always designate a certain bag as the book bag. Last year it was I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie, which is still fitting but what woman doesn't want another bag?! So this summer I am going with Jane Austen. Laurie, from Take 5 & Create, has offered to host a giveaway for this cute Jane Austen library bag. And she has added a cute tea cup bird feeder to because she loves to listen to audio books while crafting and watching the birds outside her window. 

So, enter for a chance to win these goodies and get ready for the sunshine to hit you in the face! 
There are several easy ways to enter to win. 
Good Luck and Happy Reading!

Thank you Laurie for hosting this fun giveaway!   

Visit Laurie
Instagram @laurielj

PS the giveaway entry for Nutrition with Nat is me, SURPRISE! I've been trying to be a good little Nat... I mean dietitian :)

Book Review: Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley

In the wake of a suspicious fire, Amaranth gathers her children and flees from the fundamentalist cult in which her children were born and raised. Now she is on the run with only her barely aged teenage daughters, Amity and Sorrow, neither of whom have seen the outside world, to help her. After four days of driving Amaranth crashes the car, leaving the family stranded at a gas station, hungry and terrified.

Rescue comes in the unlikely form of a downtrodden farmer, a man who offers sanctuary when the women need it most. However while Amity blossoms in this new world, free from her father's tyranny, Sorrow will do anything to get back home. Although Amaranth herself is beginning to understand the nature of the man she has left, she needs the answer to one question; what happened to the other wives and children.

Release Date: March 28, 2013
Age Group: Adult
Source: NetGalley

It's been a while since I read such an intense book.  Not only does Amity and Sorrow have a very heavy subject matter, Riley's writing read like literary fiction.  I had to use the dictionary feature on my Kindle several times, and that's unusual for me.  

Amity and Sorrow was a good book.  It is very intelligently and emotionally written.  I liked Riley's writing style and thought it suited the story very well.  I loved the way Riley wrote the emotions of her characters.  I loved Amaranth's strength and enjoy reading about a strong female lead, especially a mother.

What kept me from loving this book though, was how sad it made me.  There were definitely no happily-ever-afters, and while a traditional HEA would have made Amity and Sorrow feel unrealistic, I confess that I was still hoping for one.  This book made me melancholy---in fact, I would not recommend reading it unless you are in a good place emotionally.  I take things to heart, and reading about Amaranth, Amity and Sorrow's life really made me sad.  That feeling of despair kept me from falling in love with the book. 

I would still recommend Amity and Sorrow and in fact, probably would have enjoyed it much more had I not been going through a tough time of illness at the time that I read it.


Book Review: Amandine by Adele Griffin

From the first moment of their meeting, Delia Blaine is fascinated by Amandine, who never fails to astonish with her bold, thrilling antics. As the games Amandine invents and the lies she tells become cruel and disturbing, Delia begins to fear her new friend. But breaking away from Amandine comes at a cost much greater than Delia ever could have imagined.

Release Date:  October 1, 2001
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley

This was a unique read.  It really took me back to a terrifying time in my life: being a teenager and the constant fight for acceptance.  When you're in that situation, you think that you're looking for acceptance from your peers.  But what the fight is really about is self-acceptance.  And the journey to self-acceptance is what Amandine was about for me.  

Delia is enthralled with her new friend Amandine, who is totally different from anyone else and does things no one else would do.  At first, they have a lot of fun together; but then, Amandine's games and lies become cruel.  Delia has to decide what to do: stop being friends with Amandine and suffer the consequences, or continue the friendship at the cost of her morals and beliefs.

I've read Adele Griffin before, and enjoy her work.  I like her writing style and characterization.  I also like how her books have a subtle message.  While I felt like Amandine was a little young for me, it was still a great read and I would definitely recommend it for the younger YA audience.


Book Review: Undeclared (Woodlands #1) by Jen Frederick

For four years, Grace Sullivan wrote to a Marine she never met, and fell in love. But when his deployment ended, so did the letters. Ever since that day, Grace has been coasting, academically and emotionally. The one thing she’s decided? No way is Noah Jackson — or any man — ever going to break her heart again.

Noah has always known exactly what he wants out of life. Success. Stability. Control. That’s why he joined the Marines and that’s why he’s fighting his way — literally — through college. Now that he’s got the rest of his life on track, he has one last conquest: Grace Sullivan. But since he was the one who stopped writing, he knows that winning her back will be his biggest battle yet.

Release Date: April 28, 2013
Age Group:  New Adult
Source: Review copy from author

The summary of this book drew me in, and by the time I had finished the first few pages, I was absolutely hooked.  I sped through Undeclared in one day, finding it difficult to put down.

The premise of two people having a long-standing friendship via pen-and-paper letters is so romantic.  I love that Grace and Noah fell in love with each other (without really acknowledging it) through letters, without ever having met in person.  I don't like books based on physical attraction only, and I especially don't like reading about love at first sight.  So, Grace and Noah's long-standing friendship was perfect for me.

Undeclared is a new adult novel, with several bedroom scenes, some of which are explicit.  I know it must be hard to draw the line between adult and new adult, and with that being said, I would not recommend this book to anyone under 17 (17 and over is the author's recommended age for this book).  Anyway, for people who like love scenes, you will be happy with the ones in Undeclared.  They are pretty hot and heavy!

My favorite part about Undeclared was the slow build to Grace and Noah's relationship, and the character growth in both characters, especially Grace.  I loved that she decides on a major based on her wants, and determinedly pursues her own dreams.  

I would definitely recommend Undeclared, especially to fans of contemporary new adult novels.  I liked the writing, plot, and pacing and would be happy to read more from Jen Frederick.  Her next book will feature Noah's best friend---I love series where each book can stand alone, and each book focuses on one character.  You get plenty of closure from book to book, with no dramatic cliffhanger endings.  I love that!


Book Review: Always the Baker, Finally the Bride (Emma Rae Creations #4) by Sandra Bricker

In Always the Baker, Never the Bride, readers fell in love with Emma Rae and Jackson, and they've gotten more acquainted with them in the two books that followed. But now it s time for the diamond to meet the road as Jackson fields an offer to sell The Tanglewood, a move that will uproot this high-flying family act once and for all. Get reacquainted with all of the lovable and quirky characters from the first three books as your favorite diabetic baker figures out if she'll achieve her greatest goal of all: Will Emma, at last, become FINALLY the Bride?

Release Date: April 1, 2013
Age Group: Adult
Source: NetGalley

What a perfect ending to a very well-done Christian fiction series!  I've really enjoyed this series, and was thrilled to catch Always the Baker, Finally the Bride on NetGalley before it was archived.  

I love Bricker's characters.  They are realistic, easily related to, and respectable.  I love the subtle faith element to her stories.  They are Christian without being too 'goody-goody'.  The characters pray and ask for guidance on big decisions and their faith is believable, rather than in some other Christian fiction novels where the characters are so pure they don't seem real.

I was so happy to see Emma get her happily-ever-after, as well as getting a glimpse of my other favorite characters' own HEA's.  Bricker includes recipes (which were all for cakes and pastries and made me ravenously hungry) and wedding tips/trivia at the beginning of each chapter.  I love those types of inclusions!  They really make books interesting.  

My one complaint about this book is that the conflict was resolved a little too neatly.  Something about it made the book feel a little too sweet for me.  

Other than that, it was a great read, and I would highly recommend this series to fans of Christian fiction, or anyone looking for a nice, clean read.

Book Review: Pink is a Four-Letter Word (Toronto Series #11) by Heather Wardell

Nothing ever comes easily for Larissa, a makeup artist who both loves and fears pink and all things feminine. She longs to start her own business as her late dad had wanted but never quite gets there, her attempt to host her best friend's son's christening is a disaster, and the only dates she can get are dreadful.

When she's offered a job teaching English in Kuwait, at first she says no because her life is bad enough at home without throwing sand and camels into the mix. But when everything goes wrong at once, she can't stay in Toronto another second so accepts the job in the hopes that she will be a new and better person there.

But can she really leave her psychological baggage behind, or is it true that 'wherever you go, there you are'?

Release Date: April 4, 2013
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from author

I've read all of the books in Wardell's Toronto series, and have always liked Larissa as a character.  I found her intriguing and wanted to know more about her.  So I got really exited when I learned that Wardell was featuring Larissa in Pink is a Four-Letter Word.  

Larissa is like so many women in that her inside feelings don't match her outside shell.  She puts up a facade to the world, and shows them a confident, self-assured woman who never makes mistakes.  She's cool, collected, and confident.  But the real Larissa is much different.  She doesn't have great self-esteem and her inner critic is turned all the way up to high volume.  Larissa criticizes everything she does and feels that she makes all the wrong choices.  These wrong choices extend from her choice of boyfriends, career, to even small things like accidentally misspelling a name for a baby gift.  

Larissa is constantly beating herself up and eventually gets to a point where she realizes that she needs to completely escape her life.  She is a makeup artist but on a whim decides to take a position teaching English in Kuwait.  The school does not require teachers to have a teaching background, so she decides that if she moves to another country she can start completely over and be a different person.  

But, her choices (which are really the highest level of denial of her true self) come along to Kuwait with her and Larissa sees that the old adage: 'wherever you go, there you are' really is true.  It's not until Larissa starts to recognize her true self and stand up for herself, defending her choices to those who would criticize her, that she grows as a character.  She moves from one extreme (self-loathing) to another, and finally ends up in a state of self-acceptance and self-love.  I loved this theme, and Larissa's journey was my favorite thing about this book.  Wardell's best talent is writing her characters in a way that the reader really sees herself in the characters' thoughts, actions, and feelings.  Even when I am completely different from Wardell's characters, I can always see myself in them, and I love that.

The one thing I didn't love about Pink is a Four-Letter Word is that there was too much casual sex in it for my liking.  I like intimacy to go alongside of characters being in love, but that's just me.  I know much of the people in today's world don't think that way.  

Besides Larissa's story, the story arcs of the minor characters were well fleshed-out and added a lot to the book.  I especially loved Larissa's students, and thought that Wardell did a great job bringing her classroom to life.  

Pink is a Four-Letter Word is one of my favorite books out of the series, and I highly recommend it, and all of Heather Wardell's writing!

Book Review: Mom at Last: How I Never Gave Up on Being a Mother by Sharon Simons

Her biological clock ticking louder each day, Sharon Simons felt her heart sink as yet another “Mr. Wonderful” turned out to be a frog---not the prince she was waiting for. But when the right man did come along, their journey toward parenthood seemed more like a machete trail through a jungle than the smooth path of her dreams. Enduring multiple failed IVFs and the loss of their unborn twins, Sharon and her husband decided to adopt---taking a whirlwind trip to Russia and navigating the rough waters of international adoption red tape. Their journey ended, or rather began, when two baby boys were placed in their arms for the long trip home.
Part love story, part adoption memoir, and all heart,
Mom at Last is the story of one woman’s fierce determination to become a mother. Full of setbacks and emotionally devastating pitfalls, ultimately the journey leads her to true love and pure joy. Mom at Last will inspire women who find themselves on that sometimes difficult journey to motherhood, giving hope that motherhood is possible and encouraging women to never give up on their dreams. While every journey to motherhood is different, Mom at Last lets women know they are not alone in the struggle toward motherhood.

Release Date: August 1, 2013
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher

What a great read!  Books like Mom at Last make me want to read more nonfiction.  Being a mother to a two-year old, I could really identify with Sharon's desire to become a mother.  I can't imagine not having my baby, and the thought of being physically unable to have children is heartbreaking to me.  Mom at Last made me appreciate motherhood even more than I already do.

I liked Sharon right from the start.  She is strong, decisive, and smart.  What really made me fall in love with her, though, was how she triumphs despite her hardships.  No matter the circumstances, she never gave up on her calling to be a mother.  When I read about how Sharon lost her twin boys halfway through the pregnancy, I cried for her.  I could not believe the turn of events that lead to that heartache.  

But the most enlightening part of this book was the portrayal of Sharon's journey to adoption.  I had no idea that Russian adoptions are handled like that!  I was shocked at the cost, the organization of the Russian authorities (or lack thereof) and how long the entire process takes.  I knew adopting a child was a very long and arduous process, but I had no idea just how many steps future parents have to take and how many hoops they have to jump through.  It boggles my mind that it's so hard for good people to adopt a child, but any woman can get pregnant and have a baby, no matter how seemingly unfit of a mother she may be.

The other thing I learned from Mom at Last was how arduous IVF really is.  I always thought of it as daily hormone shots and then getting your eggs harvested at the end of your cycle, then having the fertilized embryos implanted later.  I never realized just how many injections are involved, how painful they are, and what the side effects are.  Sharon went through several IVF cycles and I felt so badly for her.  It is truly a draining process, both emotionally, physically and financially.

The only thing I didn't love about Mom at Last was that it felt didactic at times.  I wanted more emotion and less instruction---but I got tons of emotion at the end of the story.  I was so happy for Sharon to finally become a mother, and for her sons to have a loving, secure home.  I would definitely recommend Mom at Last.  It's a great, powerful read, perfect for Mother's Day!

Book Review: A Shade of Blood (A Shade of Vampire #2) by Bella Forrest

When Sofia Claremont was kidnapped to a sunless island, uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet, she believed she’d forever be a captive of its dark ruler, Derek Novak.

Now, after months of surviving an endless night, the morning sun may soon rise again for Sofia. Something has possessed Derek’s heart and he offers her a gift no human slave has ever been given in the history of his cursed island: escape.

High school, prom and a chance to move on with her life now await her.

But will she be able to forget the horrors that steal her sleep away at night? … and the feelings that haunt her for that tormented prince of darkness?

Release Date: April 8, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from author

I really enjoyed A Shade of Vampire, book one in the series, and was excited to receive a review copy of A Shade of Blood.  I love Forrest's voice, emotions, and characterization.  I thought I was pretty much through with vampire stories, but I guess I'm not!  

I found A Shade of Blood to be somewhat predictable.  I was able to predict events far before they happened.  While I prefer to be surprised, I still enjoyed the story.  My other complaint was that parts of the story didn't flow well.  

My favorite part of this story was Sofia herself.  I like her strength, and when she decided to trust her instincts, the story really took off.  I enjoyed the minor characters, especially Vivenne and Cora.  I thought that all of the characters were very well-developed.  

Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was the alternating points-of-view.  Not only were the two main characters the narrators, but some secondary characters as well, which really deepened the characterization for me.

What I liked outweighed what I didn't like, and I thought A Shade of Blood was a solid installment to this fun series.  I'm looking forward to book three!   

Book Review: The Elephant of Surprise (Russel Middlebrook #4) by Brent Hartinger

People aren't always what they seem to be. Sometimes we even surprise ourselves.

So discovers seventeen-year-old Russel Middlebrook in The Elephant of Surprise, a stand-alone sequel to Brent Hartinger's landmark 2003 gay young adult novel Geography Club (which has now been adapted as a feature film co-starring Scott Bakula and Nikki Blonsky).

In this latest book, Russel and his friends Min and Gunnar are laughing about something they call the Elephant of Surprise -- the tendency for life to never turn out as expected. Sure enough, Russel soon happens upon a hot but mysterious homeless activist named Wade, even as he's drawn back to an old flame named Kevin. Meanwhile, Min is learning surprising things about her girlfriend Leah, and Gunnar just wants to be left alone to pursue his latest technology obsession.

But the elephant is definitely on the move in all three of their lives. Just who is Wade and what are he and his friends planning? What is Leah hiding? And why is Gunnar taking naked pictures of Kevin in the shower?

The Elephant of Surprise includes Hartinger's trademark combination of humor and romance, angst and optimism. Before the story is over, Russel and his friends will learn that the Elephant of Surprise really does appear when you least expect him—and that when he stomps on you, it really, really hurts.

Release Date: March 30, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from author

I really enjoyed this book!  What a fun read.  The Elephant of Surprise was light-hearted, funny, and sweetly optimistic.  I loved Russel's voice and his outlook on life.  I read this book during a rough time and it really perked up my spirits.

Russel is the narrator (boy, I just love a first-person POV) and I really enjoyed seeing the world through his eyes.  He's got to be one of the most positive, endearing characters I've ever encountered.  Russel and his closest friends have coined a phrase: "the elephant of surprise" meaning that things never turn out how you expect.  People aren't who you think they are and act much differently than you would expect them to.  The crux of the book is how Russel and his friends react to the surprises life throws at them.  

The love story aspect of this book was very sweet and well-handled.  It was definitely appropriate for YA literature.  I'm really happy I read The Elephant of Surprise and would definitely read Brent Hartinger again.   


Love In Bloom Giveaway Hop

As part of the Love In Bloom Giveaway Hop, we're happy to offer 3 winners:

 A Kindle version of  

This giveaway is open internationally and anyone can enter to win!  

I've read The Parts I Remember and thought it was an emotional and thought-provoking story.  It's a contemporary New Adult fiction, a genre I'm loving lately.  Read my review of The Parts I Remember here.

Summary for The Parts I Remember:
Act first. Think never. Remember nothing.

Welcome to Kelly Rockport’s existence at Haysville University, where responsibility is just an elective. After all, fake IDs, alter egos, and one-night stands are all part of the college experience, right? So what if she blacks out from time to time? Memory is overrated.

When freshman year lasts about as long as a one-night stand and is quickly followed by the Year of the Blackout, Kelly projects junior year to be nothing shy of amazing. But as shots, beer, cocaine and men mesh together in an intoxicating haze, Kelly’s reckless ways get her into serious trouble. The only problem is, she can't remember what happened.

As she hovers along the edge of consciousness, Kelly forces herself to think past her pain to piece together the shards of her life. This is her story, told in her words: The Parts I Remember.

Book Review: The Parts I Remember by A.K. Mills

Act first. Think never. Remember nothing.

Welcome to Kelly Rockport’s existence at Haysville University, where responsibility is just an elective. After all, fake IDs, alter egos, and one-night stands are all part of the college experience, right? So what if she blacks out from time to time? Memory is overrated.

When freshman year lasts about as long as a one-night stand and is quickly followed by the Year of the Blackout, Kelly projects junior year to be nothing shy of amazing. But as shots, beer, cocaine and men mesh together in an intoxicating haze, Kelly’s reckless ways get her into serious trouble. The only problem is, she can't remember what happened.

As she hovers along the edge of consciousness, Kelly forces herself to think past her pain to piece together the shards of her life. This is her story, told in her words:
The Parts I Remember.

Release Date: March 1, 2013
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Review copy from author

I like the premise of The Parts I Remember.  It is sort of a cautionary tale about what not to do in college.  It's told in flashbacks, a writing style that I really enjoy.  I like it when main characters recount previous actions with the wisdom of experience, knowing that they would have made different choices if they knew then what they know now.  

Kelly's story starts with a car accident.  She wakes up in the hospital and has no idea how she got there or what happened.  As Kelly thinks back to what she does remember, the book goes back in time to the beginning of her freshman year in college.  

I was your stereotypical 'good girl' in college, more like Kelly's obnoxious religious roommate, Angela, than wild child Kelly.  So, I had a hard time understanding some of Kelly's choices.  To drink to the point of blacking out is foreign to me.  I've only had a few drinks in my life and wasn't impressed with the ones I had.  (Maybe I was doing something wrong?)  

Anyway, Kelly was an enigma to me.  To not have any direction in your college career, to just be there to have fun and get drunk/high all the time is inconceivable.  Kelly had a lot of casual sex as well as the drinking and drug use.  I know that this happens all the time now, and I am probably considered a prude (in fact, I have been called as such here on this blog), but I just hate reading about casual sex.  To take something so meaningful and intimate and make it so casual makes me sad.  

I had a hard time connecting with Kelly because of these issues.  She took so, so, long to finally learn from her many bad experiences, that by the time she did change, I was emotionally distanced from her.  

I think The Parts I Remember was a good read, and would definitely recommend it.  It is a new adult book and would be a great for anyone about to go into college.  The Parts I Remember was very powerful and emotionally charged.  I liked the ending and that Kelly finally learns from her actions.  I liked Mills' writing style and would definitely read her work again. 

Book Review: But I Love Him by Amanda Grace

Sometimes at night, I wake up and stare at the heart for hours. I think of how I collected each piece from the beach, how I glued it all together into one big sculpture. I wonder if Connor realizes what it means, that he'll always have a piece of me no matter what happens. Each piece of glass is another piece of myself that I gave to him.

It's too bad I didn't keep any pieces for myself.

At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved - and needed. Ann can't recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor's rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything - and everyone - in its path.

This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong.

Release Date: May 8, 2011
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Purchased

What a powerful book!  I started But I Love Him after reading Amanda Grace's latest book, The Truth About You and Me, and falling in love with her writing.  I adored both books, and will definitely be reading Amanda Grace's other novel, In Too Deep.  

But I Love Him gripped me from the very beginning, and didn't let go until I finished the book.  I tore through this book in one sitting, it was just that good for me.  I really felt for Ann.  At times I could not believe what was happening to her!  

I didn't think I would be a fan of a story told in reverse, but flashbacks were ideal for this subject, because it allowed me to be more objective about Ann's decision to stay in an abusive relationship.

I loved the ending and was really happy with Ann's decision.  I wish there would have been an epilogue, though, so I could know what happened with all of the characters.  My one complaint about But I Love Him was that the story felt repetitive at times.

But I Love Him is not an easy read, and it's definitely not a 'warm and fuzzy' read, but it's a book that should be read by all teens and their mothers.  It serves as a realistic portrayal of a dysfunctional, unhealthy relationship, and would be a great teaching tool  for teens who are just starting to date.  I recommend this book, and Amanda Grace!

Getting Organized...

Fellow bloggers, do you have a certain way you organize your review requests?  I have always saved the emails from authors and publishers and tried to keep track of pending review requests that way.  But, when my inbox started to overflow, I started losing track of which books I was supposed to read, and when.  When I'm part of a blog tour, that takes my panic to a new level: I am always terrified that I'll forget to post my tour stop in time.

Today I decided to make a spreadsheet to organize myself.  I ended up with columns for title, author, and the following dates: requested, received, publication, when I read the book, and review date.  It took me the better part of two hours to discover that I have 44 pending review requests, only 14 of which I have finished reading.  ***massive panic attack***  One of the pending books is from July 2012!   ***hangs head in shame***

I have resolved to be better at knowing my limits for accepting review requests, and to try harder with new books, instead of going with books that I know I'll love.  

Have you ever found yourself in this predicament?  How do you keep track of your review requests?

Book Review: Screwed by Laurie Plissner

Grace was the girl who always did everything right, until the night she fell for a boy's sleazy line and became pregnant. Nick couldn't care less about pretty math-geek Grace or the baby he fathered. He's had a dozen girls like her, and he'll have a dozen more. When Grace confesses to her super-religious, strait-laced parents, they deliver a shocker: They've scheduled an abortion. All they want is to pretend this never happened.

When Grace balks, they literally throw her out in the street. A rich, elderly neighbor takes her in, and, with the help of the friendship she needs in Charlie, the old woman's great-nephew, she must make the toughest choice of her young life. The people she believed in were only playing a role, while others, in an unlikely way, are true heroes.

Grace can never have the life she planned, but she has one chance to be the person she will have to live with for the rest of her life. Her choice will cost her, big time, either way--and no one can make it except her.

Release Date: April 18, 2013
Age Group: Mature YA
Source: NetGalley

I love the premise of this book, and overall really enjoyed Screwed.  I felt so badly for Grace.  Didn't we all made mistakes at that age?  She made a mistake and has to pay for it in a big way, while Nick, her baby's father, wants his identity as the father to remain a secret.  Grace has one good friend, Jennifer, who is on her side.  Everyone else, even people she thought were friends, shuns her.  The worst betrayal is from her own parents, who can only see the damage to their social standing when Grace refuses to get an abortion.  Grace's parents kick her out, and before she endures any physical trauma, her kind neighbor takes her in.

I really enjoyed Grace and the other characters in this book, especially Helen and Charlie.  I wish that Screwed would have been a first person narrative, with Grace as the narrator, because I think that would have made for a more personal book.  I couldn't help comparing Screwed to Karen Hart's Butterflies in May (read my review here), another coming-of-age story based on a teen with an unplanned pregnancy.  

One thing that really bothered me about Screwed was the language.  There was a lot of cursing, especially the f-word, which started to get to me.  I don't like it when cursing is used too liberally in teen books; while I understand that four-letter words are a big part of most teens' vocabularies, I think too much of it cheapens the book.  

My favorite thing about Screwed was how Plissner resolves the conflict at the end of the book. I  loved that Grace, Charlie, and even her parents experience a lot of character growth and positive change throughout the story.  I really enjoyed Grace's trip at the end of the book and thought it was a fitting end to her journey.  

Overall, I enjoyed Screwed and would recommend it to fans of coming-of-age novels and fans of mature YA.  I would definitely read Laurie Plissner again.

Book Giveaway!

Are you a fan of actress Lauren Graham?  I sure am.  I love her in Parenthood!

Did you know that she's written a novel?  She has, and we're giving away two copies!

Two winners will receive a copy of 
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham.  

This giveaway is open to residents of the US only.  Thank you to Random House for providing this giveaway!

Fill out the form below to enter.

Book Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

From Lauren Graham, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, comes a witty, charming, and hilariously relatable debut novel about a struggling young actress trying to get ahead―and keep it together―in New York City.

It’s January 1995, and Franny Banks has just six months left of the three-year deadline she set for herself when she came to New York, dreaming of Broadway and doing “important” work. But all she has to show for her efforts so far is a part in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters, and a gig waiting tables at a comedy club. Her roommates―her best friend Jane, and Dan, an aspiring sci-fi writer―are supportive, yet Franny knows a two-person fan club doesn’t exactly count as success. Everyone tells her she needs a backup plan, and though she can almost picture moving back home and settling down with her perfectly nice ex-boyfriend, she’s not ready to give up on her goal of having a career like her idols Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep. Not just yet. But while she dreams of filling their shoes, in the meantime, she’d happily settle for a speaking part in almost anything—and finding a hair product combination that works.

Everything is riding on the upcoming showcase for her acting class, where she’ll finally have a chance to perform for people who could actually hire her. And she can’t let herself be distracted by James Franklin, a notorious flirt and the most successful actor in her class, even though he’s suddenly started paying attention. Meanwhile, her bank account is rapidly dwindling, her father wants her to come home, and her agent doesn’t return her calls. But for some reason, she keeps believing that she just might get what she came for.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is a story about hopes and dreams, being young in a city, and wanting something deeply, madly, desperately. It’s about finding love, finding yourself, and perhaps most difficult of all in New York City, finding an acting job.

Release Date: April 30, 2013
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher

Someday, Someday, Maybe was such an unexpected treat!  I was interested in reading this book because it's set in New York and because I wondered if it was maybe a little bit influenced by Lauren Graham's own journey to stardom.  

It took me a while to really get fully immersed in the story.  I kept putting the book down and picking up another book which I was reading simultaneously, until I got about one-third into Someday, Someday, Maybe.  Part of the problem, and this is all me, is that I'm used to easier YA reads which take off in the first few pages.  I've gotten spoiled on easy reads and I'm not as used to slower building drama in a story.  

But, once I got to know Franny, I really liked her and became quite invested in her journey.  I loved her internal dialogue---I love it when authors use a first-person narrative and lots of internal dialogue---which opened Franny's character up and helped me get to know her well.  I loved the way Franny thought about things, and that she continually surprised me in her actions.  I loved watching her grow and change, and start to stand up for herself.  You just can't beat great character growth, and Graham provides it in spades.

I couldn't help but compare Franny to Lauren Graham as an actress.  Many things about Franny, such as her tendency to ramble, her forgetfulness, and the fact that she is hard on herself, reminded me of Lauren Graham's character in Parenthood (which reminds me that I have the latest season ready to watch on Netflix, I love that show!).  I think the fact that Lauren Graham has personal experience in show business made the book feel so authentic.  I like it when characters have to work for success, and watching Franny work so hard made me like her even more.

My favorite thing about Someday, Someday, Maybe, besides the character growth, was the clever ending.  It was so fitting to the story.  Graham ended the story on a great note, with enough leeway for readers to imagine their own HEA, but without things feeling too open-ended.  

I would recommend Someday, Someday, Maybe to fans of contemporary fiction and fans of women's fiction.  It's smart, well-written, and just emotional enough to make me happy.  I would most definitely read Lauren Graham again!

About the Author:
Lauren Graham is an actress best known for her roles on the critically acclaimed series Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. She has performed on Broadway and appeared in such films as Bad Santa, Evan Almighty, and Because I Said So. She holds a BA in English from Barnard College and an MFA in acting from Southern Methodist University. She lives in New York and Los Angeles.

Book Review: True by Erin McCarthy

When Rory Macintosh’s roommates find out that their studious and shy friend has never been with a guy, they decide that, as an act of kindness they’ll help her lose her virginity by hiring confident, tattooed bad boy Tyler Mann to do the job…unbeknownst to Rory.

Tyler knows he’s not good enough for Rory. She’s smart, doctor smart, while he’s barely scraping by at his EMT program, hoping to pull his younger brothers out of the hell their druggy mother has left them in. But he can’t resist taking up her roommates on an opportunity to get to know her better. There’s something about her honesty that keeps him coming back when he knows he shouldn’t…

Torn between common sense and desire, the two find themselves caught up in a passionate relationship. But when Tyler’s broken family threatens to destroy his future, and hers, Rory will need to decide whether to cut her ties to his risky world or follow her heart, no matter what the cost…

Release Date: May 7, 2013
Age Group: Mature YA
Source: NetGalley

The good girl falling for a 'bad boy' theme is tried-and-true, and one I never really tire of reading.  I'm not sure why that is, but I'm guessing it has something to do with living out a fantasy through characters in a book.  And I must not be alone in this fantasy, or the subject would not be so often used in literature, especially YA literature. 

So it was with anticipation for a fun read that I started True.  On a side note, aren't 'read-now' galleys on NetGalley simply the best?  I love not having to wait for approval.  It makes me feel special and makes me want to read the book right away.

Anyway, back to True.  I enjoyed Rory as a character.  She's smart and knows exactly who she is.  Her level-headedness and logical nature appealed to that side of me.  I really felt for her, having never had a boyfriend, especially given her lusty and experienced roommates.  

I liked Tyler, but had some problems with him.  He keeps secrets and has a martyr complex.  I loved his devotion to his family and the interactions with his brothers were some of my favorite parts of the book.

What bothered me about True, and this was huge for me, was that the ending was rushed and unrealistic.  There was no logical conflict resolution, and no explanation or hints of the future of the characters.  Instead, there was a definite "love conquers all" feeling, which I felt McCarthy used as a  deus ex machina to resolve the major points of conflict.  This issue nearly ruined the book for me.  I was left with many questions, too many for me to say that I loved the story.  Had True had a different, less rushed ending, I would have felt much differently.

If you don't have a problem with love fixing all of your characters' problems, I would recommend True.  As it is, if you are a fan of mature contemporary YA, I would still recommend the book, with the caveat of the ending.

The Loop Blog Tour

Today we're happy to be a part of the blog tour to promote Shandy Lawson's debut novel, The Loop
Keep reading for an excerpt from The Loop:



“I’m sixteen years old. I don’t want to die in a Walgreens.”

She smiles, sad and sweet. “It won’t be the first time, Ben. And hey”—she lets go of my arm and takes my hand— “maybe this is the one. Maybe we get it right this time around.”

“Maybe.” But I don’t believe it.

The squeal of a rusty hinge splits the silence of the stock­room, and Maggie’s eyes widen, panic spreading from her face to mine. “Here we go,” she says, her voice unsteady.

She stuffs the envelope into the waist of her jeans and drops to her knees. Reaching under a crate topped with cases of bottled water, she emerges with a two-by-four that has three rusty nails sticking out of one end. Though it’s only a few feet long, it makes for one gruesome weapon.

Maggie hands it to me, then reaches under a nearby shelf, coming up with a long steel hook—the kind used by ware­house workers to drag heavy pallets around.

I turn to slip behind a low shelf, and Maggie grabs my arm. “Not there,” she says. “You get shot in the face there.”

I shudder and find us a spot behind cases of air freshener. Crouching low, I realize that my breathing is heavy, and I try to muffle it with my hand. Every little movement, every heart­beat sounds a hundred times louder now, and I’m afraid that all the noise will give us away.

I try to slow my breathing. I try to calm my heart, but it just beats that much faster.

And in walks Roy.

I hear him before I see him, his shoes echoing across the concrete floor. I feel cold all over, my skin turning clammy and my fingers trembling. He stops within spitting distance. His voice is deep, reverberant in the expansive stockroom. “You know it’s over, you little bastards.”

His shoe makes a soft shhh as it pivots on the cement; he turns toward us, homing in.

Before I can stop her, Maggie springs, swinging the hook at his chest. She misses by inches as Roy takes a neat step back, watching as Maggie falls to the floor. One quick jog forward, and his shoe is on her neck. He fakes a yawn, nod­ding in my direction. “Your turn, junior.”

I rise slowly, legs weak, everything numb. He points to my board with its twisted nails. “Drop your little club, Benjamin.” I nod, but before letting the two-by-four slip from my hand, I twist my whole body, wind it up like a corkscrew, and swing with everything I have. Roy barely has time to react as one of the nails tears through his cheek and draws blood.

Then, in one smooth movement, his right hand sweeps forward, and I see the gun. Small, black—almost anticlimactic.

The muzzle flashes bright white, and the sound of the shot rebounds off every surface in the stockroom.

My chest is on fire. I land hard on the concrete, head turned toward Maggie. Her eyes are filled with terror as Roy lifts his shoe from her neck, bending to take the envelope of cash from her jeans.

She pulls in a deep breath and whispers, “I love you,” a moment before he presses the muzzle to her temple and fires a second time.

That’s the last thing I see. My right arm grows warm as my own blood pools around it—everything else feels cold. I suck in one last stuttering breath before it all turns to black.

And I die.

Excerpted from THE LOOP © 2013 by Shandy Lawson. Excerpted with permission from the publisher. All Rights Reserved.

Sound interesting?

Here's the summary for The Loop:
Ben and Maggie have met, fallen in love, and died together countless times. Over the course of two pivotal days—both the best and worst of their lives—they struggle again and again to resist the pull of fate and the force of time itself. With each failure, they return to the beginning of their end, a wild road trip that brings them to the scene of their own murders and into the hands of the man who is destined to kill them.

As time circles back on itself, events become more deeply ingrained, more inescapable for the two kids trapped inside the loop. The closer they come to breaking out, the tighter fate's clutches seem to grip them. They devise a desperate plan to break free and survive the days ahead, but what if Ben and Maggie's only shot at not dying is surviving apart?

A fascinating, high-concept premise with hints of Inception and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Loop is a fast-paced and action-packed story that will keep readers guessing.

More information about Shandy Lawson and The Loop: