Book Review: The Summer I Saved the 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz

It's summertime, and thirteen-year-old Nina Ross is feeling kind of lost. Her beloved grandma died last year; her parents work all the time; her brother's busy; and her best friend is into clothes, makeup, and boys. While Nina doesn't know what "her thing" is yet, it's definitely not shopping and makeup. And it's not boys, either. Though . . . has Eli, the boy next door, always been so cute?   This summer, Nina decides to change things. She hatches a plan. There are sixty-five days of summer. Every day, she'll anonymously do one small but remarkable good thing for someone in her neighborhood, and find out: does doing good actually make a difference? Along the way, she discovers that her neighborhood, and her family, are full of surprises and secrets.   In this bighearted, sweetly romantic novel, things may not turn out exactly as Nina expects. They might be better.

Release Date: April 8, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed by: Madi B

This book was so cute/adorable. No cute AND adorable! It was so well done! From the character development to the plot, everything was well thought out and well executed. It’s a great book to give to girls going into high school.


The whole random acts of kindness theme is KICK-BUTT-AWESOME-SAUCE! I’ve always loved the anonymous (Man that’s hard one to spell) kindness thing so to have a whole book of it? Kick-butt-awesome-sauce. Sadly I’ve never read a book like this before. (Sad because kindness towards others is a theme not that common in YA) I LOVED IT!

The romance. It was so sweet and adorable! And the guy was so sweet and adorable! It was just AGHH! (Happy AGHH)

I liked that even with all the sugar sweetness of the plot, there was still substance. There’s Nina trying to grapple with dealing with her grandmother’s death and her parents who are also trying to grapple with the death.

I liked the camaraderie of the neighborhood. (Okay it was a very quiet camaraderie but still) It kind of reminded me of my childhood. (YAY for nostalgia!)

The whole book was so well done, I can’t think of anything that I didn’t like!

Fairy Tale Adaptation: Maleficent

Admit it, now you are humming, "I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream," me too.

I love Fairy Tales, any way I can get them… twisted, a different POV, modern-day, anything. So when a retelling is hitting the theaters so am I.  

Maleficent is a must see for all YA & New Adult book lovers! I absolutely loved the retelling of Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent's perspective. For me, this was an adaptation made for YA & Fantasy fans but all Moms will love it too. Angelina Jolie was so many things. One minute she is freaking creepy then funny and then she puts her big girl wings on and is fierce. I’m not going to lie, #fairycrush. I mean who can make pointy cheekbones look awesome?

When you watch Maleficent (because why wouldn’t you) you will have your heart broken, want revenge and feel snide and then you will fall in love as a mother does and then you will feel the wrath baby! When the action started, I was like “YES, kill that guy! Jerk” and then I was like, “Wait; let me get a better look at that Prince, he’s new”.

As far as a younger audience, I’m not sure they would enjoy it as much. There is a lot of dialogue and I know dialogue equals run down the aisles like wild banshees for my boys (they are 5 & 3). Now my daughter (who is 8), I think she would have liked it, but I think middle school and up is the ideal audience.
Needless to say, Maleficent will be an automatic buy when it is released.
Now, we get to anticipate Cinderella! Set to hit theaters 2015. And all we get is.a.SHOE. But man, a shoe has never looked so good! Lily James is set to play Cinderella.

Bloodlines: The Original Beginning

If you have been sucked into the world of the Moroi and are wanting a little tease before the release of the next installment of Richelle Mead's Bloodlines: Silver Shadows, here is an alternate chapter 1 told in Adrian's POV. If you haven't started this spin-off series, drop everything and start! 

You can sleep when you're dead!

One Month to go!
Until July 29th... we wait... I.AM.DYING.

Source: Entertainment Weekly

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick

Today we're happy to share the book trailer for New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Chadwick's newest release, The Summer Queen.  Keep reading for a book summary, the trailer, and a giveaway!
About the Book

Young Eleanor has a bright future as the heiress to wealthy Aquitaine. But when her beloved father dies, childhood is suddenly over. Forced to marry Prince Louis of France, she barely adjusts before another death catapults them to King and Queen. Leaving everything behind, young Eleanor must face the complex and vivacious French court – and all of its scandals.
About the Author
Elizabeth Chadwick (UK) is the author of 20 historical novels, including The Greatest Knight, The Scarlet Lion, A Place Beyond Courage, The Outlaw Knight, Shadows and Strongholds, The Winter Mantle, and The Falcons of Montabard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Awards.
Buy Links

Giveaway Rules:
Anyone in the US or Canada can enter.  Winner will be chosen randomly and will be notified via email.  The winner has 72 hours to claim their prize, if we haven't heard back from the winner by then, another winner will be chosen." rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

#SpreadTheDeliria: Delirium Pilot on Hulu

There has been such a fantastic trend of YA books being adapted into both film & TV series and now we can add web exclusives to the list. The series Delirium by Lauren Oliver has been adapted into a single episode exclusively on Hulu! (Yes, you read that right, ONE episode).

The pilot episode was released just last week and I was eager to watch. For the first time I didnt do a thorough background check or make any assumptions, I just went cold turkey and took the plunge. And I wasnt disappointed, in 42 minutes was hooked. I mean who doesnt love Emma Michaels and  Daren Kagasoff.

This pilot episode will only be available (for free) for 30 days on Hulu. #ticktock. Currently, there are no plans to continue the series; they just want us to all “enjoy” a little piece of Delirium… That’s crap man! What you did was infect me with Amor Deliria Nervosa! You can’t just taunt YA book fiends with a little dystopian eye candy and think everything will be okay in the morning. We have addictive personalities (well, at least I do), we get way too invested in our characters and frankly we just like to have it all.

Dear Wigs & Hulu,
Get your act together.


Book Review: Deception's Princess by Esther Friesner

Some lies lead to true adventure. . . .

Maeve, princess of Connacht, was born with her fists clenched. And it's her spirit and courage that make Maeve her father's favorite daughter. But once he becomes the High King, powerful men begin to circle--it's easy to love the girl who brings her husband a kingdom.

Yet Maeve is more than a prize to be won, and she's determined to win the right to decide her own fate. In the court's deadly game of intrigue, she uses her wits to keep her father's friends and enemies close--but not too close. When she strikes up an unlikely friendship with the son of a visiting druid, Maeve faces a brutal decision between her loyalty to her family and to her own heart.

Release Date: April 22, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed by: Madi B

I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again…I love fairytales. Some people have a weakness for vampire books. I’m a sucker for a fairytale. When I pulled this one out of the box, I knew exactly what I was in for. (I mean take a look at the cover) This book was one of the better fairytales that I’ve read---and I’ve read A LOT of them.

I loved Maeve. She was no pushover. In fact she’s the kind to push over. (Getting my drift?) She’s super fiery and strong and I LOVE IT! Even though she can be a tad conceited sometimes…

The setting was beautiful. Ireland? Oh yes please! Complete gorgeousness.

The plot is crucial when it comes to fairytales. When it’s too typical, then it’s not fun to read.  The writer had to be careful especially when the initial premise of the book is so similar to Brave. (Set pretty dang close to Scotland, feisty heroine who wants freedom, the red hair, the name MAEVE!!) I think the writer did a good job keeping the plot far away from the storyline of Brave. But there are some striking similarities. All things considered, if someone accused this book of being just like Brave, I would defend Deception’s Princess. Even though the storyline occasionally veered towards typical, I would get lost in Maeve’s world every time I picked the book up.

The romance was perfect. PERFECT, I SAY! She was so cute and he was so cute. Gahhhh.

I loved the characters in Deception’s Princess. Devnet was hilarious, Odran was dreamy (take a guess at the love interest.) and everyone else was fantastic. Although I didn’t love how confusing the names were, (Lothar? Eithne? CLOITHFINN???) I still loved the book.

Overall Deception's Princess was a very good read. It’s engaging, with interesting characters and a good plot.


Book Review: Bewitching (The Kendra Chronicles) by Alex Flinn

Bewitching can be a beast. . . .

Once, I put a curse on a beastly and arrogant high school boy. That one turned out all right. Others didn’t.

I go to a new school now—one where no one knows that I should have graduated long ago. I’m not still here because I’m stupid; I just don’t age.

You see, I’m immortal. And I pretty much know everything after hundreds of years—except for when to take my powers and butt out.

I want to help, but things just go awry in ways I could never predict. Like when I tried to free some children from a gingerbread house and ended up being hanged. After I came back from the dead (immortal, remember?), I tried to play matchmaker for a French prince and ended up banished from France forever. And that little mermaid I found in the Titanic lifeboat? I don’t even want to think about it.

Now a girl named Emma needs me. I probably shouldn’t get involved, but her gorgeous stepsister is conniving to the core. I think I have just the thing to fix that girl—and it isn’t an enchanted pumpkin. Although you never know what will happen when I start . . . bewitching.

Release Date: February 4, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: Library

This book was fun, pure and simple.  It was light reading for me, and the perfect break between heavier books.  I've read Alex Flinn before (read my reviews of Beastly and A Kiss in Time) so I was expecting Bewitching to be a sort of "fluffy" read.  However, I thought Bewitching had more substance than the other two novels of Flinn's that I've read.  

I liked Kendra's voice and especially liked that the story was told in parts.  I liked reading about Kendra's history, and then her other (mostly failed) experiences with witchcraft.  Kendra's story is broken up into parts, and she interjects her own history in between sections of the main story about Emma and Lisette.  I thought that kind of writing style fit this book well, and it made things more interesting for me.

I thought I knew where the story was going, but Flinn surprised me with the ending, which made things even better for me.  I love it when authors surprise me!

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from Alex Flinn.  Her modern-day adaptations of fairy tales are a lot of fun to read.


Book Review: Children of the Most High by Anna Scanlon

Sixteen-year-old Rebecca Graber has lived in the safety of her close-knit conservative Amish community her entire life. She has been dating Zeke Stolzfus, the Bishop's son, since her first singing and anticipates the day when the two will marry. Rebecca's life changes overnight when Zeke, the boy she loves and trusts, forcibly takes her virginity. Taught to "turn the other cheek" like Jesus would have done, Rebecca's religion requires her to forgive Zeke and put the rape in the past. Family relationships and community ties are put to the test in the wake of Rebecca's trauma. Feeling abandoned by her religion's minimization of the assault, she embarks on a journey where she discovers the answers in the most unlikely of places. This powerful novel examines what forgiveness truly means.

Release Date: June 15, 2014
Age Group: 14+
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli

Children of the Most High is an unforgettable book.  I absolutely devoured it: Rebecca's story drew me in from page one and I couldn't put this book down.  The premise of Children of the Most High is devastating---the book starts out with Rebecca's rape---yet so compelling.  I had to know if Rebecca would overcome her circumstances, and if her attacker/boyfriend, Zeke, would be brought to justice.

Despite the crux of the book being the aftermath of Rebecca's rape and its impact on her family, and the Amish community at large, Children of the Most High is a book about forgiveness.  Rebecca's innocence is taken, and her picturesque view of her future is shattered the night Zeke rapes her.  For years, Rebecca has planned out she and Zeke's future, and is content to live her life among her close-knit community of Plain People.  She never questions those in authority or envisions another type of life for herself.  Her only breach of her community's strict rules is her secret love of reading.  Rebecca hides her library books (she's not even allowed to get a library card!) and loves to escape into other worlds, as well as learn as much as she can (she had to stop school after 8th grade per her church's rules for girls).  So the fact that Rebecca starts a journey to discover herself, and how to learn to forgive Zeke, is huge, and so completely foreign to her family and the her Amish community.  

I loved Rebecca's spirit, and how she grows throughout the story.  It was inspiring to see Rebecca get stronger as the story progressed.  The way Rebecca valiantly tries to reconcile the Amish way of turning the other cheek and leaving justice to God, with her feelings of anger, hatred, and betrayal was the essence of her personal journey.  I was so invested in Rebecca's story, and longed for her to triumph over her situation.

As in Unravelled, Scanlon's previous book (which was also fantastic; read my review here), Children of the Most High is written with comfortable assurance.  I can tell that Scanlon researched the Amish and their way of life to the point where she most likely became an expert on them.  I greatly admire a well-researched book, especially fiction, because it shows the author's dedication to writing a great story.  

Children of the Most High has a slightly open ending.  I finished the book with one question, that was really more of a suspicion, but I would have liked to have it confirmed. There's something to be said, though, for authors who have the confidence to leave their endings slightly open.  It shows moxie, and leaves the reader thinking about the book long after it's over (at least for me it does).  In the end, I couldn't stand not knowing, so I emailed Anna Scanlon to ask my question.  She replied and gave me great news: there will be a sequel to this book.  Yay!  I can't wait to read more of Rebecca's story!  

I highly recommend this powerful, moving book.  I can't wait to read more from Anna Scanlon!  

Guest Post: Victoria Doughtery, author of The Bone Church

Today we are happy to host author Victoria Doughtery, author of The Bone Church.  Victoria is here to tell us about her visit to the Bone Church of Kutna Hora, and the inspiration behind her novel.  Welcome, Victoria!

The Bone Church: Real and Imagined
by Victoria Doughtery

The Ossuary at Sedlec – or Bone Church of Kutna Hora as it’s more commonly known – is a relatively plain church from the exterior. At least as far as Old World European standards go. It sits about an hour outside of Prague in the Czech Republic, and last time I was there, some ten years ago, it was still a dingy mustard color on the outside.

In fairness, most ossuaries are just church basements filled with neatly piled up human bones, so there typically isn’t anything out of the ordinary about the actual structure it’s housed in. There’s no electrically powered Grim Reaper standing with a scythe a chuckling a deep MWAAHHAAHAAA, the way there is at any self-respecting haunted house.

In fact, the only feature that advertised that there just might be more than meets the eye to The Bone Church of Kutna Hora was the skull and crossbones spiked at the top of its spire – right where you’d usually see a crucifix.

Otherwise, the place just sat there like Boris Karloff without make-up.

When I visited on a gloomy October day in 2004, dragging my 20 month-old son and a prehistoric digital camera with me, I thought I would have to muscle my way through a throng of tourists.

But we were alone there.

Suitably, the only sounds we could hear were my own boot heels clicking on the stone tiles as we entered the foyer, the wheels of my son’s dilapidated MacLaren stroller and the whistle of a fall wind – the kind that blows tufts of dead leaves in a swirl. Some of those, mostly a fresh cluster of fiery orange oaks, blew with us into the Bone Church. A young man, very pale and black haired with a warm smile and crooked teeth, greeted us.

It should have been eerie, but it was exquisite.

A short staircase – also stone – led us down into the chamber, where an enormous chandelier lorded over the place. It was fashioned entirely of human bone – utilizing every bone in the human body, the young man told us in his hushed, churchy voice. The skulls would have held candles, I suppose, but the chandelier was unlit. In fact, the only light in the Bone Church came from the outside through a few kidney-shaped Gothic windows.

There were urns made primarily of femurs, a bone Coat of Arms belonging to the Schwarzenberg family, an endless garland (skull-vertebrae-vertebrae-knee cap, skull-tibia-skull-tibia) strung loosely along the trim like it was Christmas and several pyramids constructed of bones – ones that sat in iron-barred enclaves like slayed prisoners.

My son and I stood there absorbing the sheer magnitude of death around us. People who’d died of flu, arsenic poisoning, small pox, swords thrust into their rib cage, a heart-attack, a mallet to the temple, infection, childbirth, trampling, a broken heart.

The bones of some 30,000 Christians beautified this stark, chapel-like holy chamber – prominent and presumably pious Christians who had been promised burial in the Church of All Saints cemetery. But due to a string of plagues and wars, had found themselves without a place to land after they blew their last breath.

It occurred to me this strange permanent installation of sacred art – the devil’s art, some called it – was actually a clever solution to a very sensitive dilemma. Church teachings, after all, forbade cremation. And the poor souls who had counted on burial in the Church of All Saints holy cemetery had paid considerable tithes to earn their way into some kind of dignified and noble entombment.

And what could be more noble than the care and inspired vision required to create such a communal, yet deeply personal way to honor the departed? To me, it was the ultimate expression of both grief and hope.

My little son – and my first and most tender reminder of my own mortality – was getting restless and hungry, so I snapped a couple of pictures and we left.

But The Bone Church stayed with me and made its way into a story I’d begun writing.

Summary for The Bone Church:

In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, fugitive lovers Felix Andel and Magdalena Ruza make some dubious alliances – with a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement, and a gypsy with a risky sex life. As one by one their chances for fleeing the country collapse, the two join a plot to assassinate Hitler’s nefarious Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels.

But the assassination attempt goes wildly wrong, propelling the lovers in separate directions.

Felix’s destiny is sealed at the Bone Church, a mystical pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Prague, while Magdalena is thrust even deeper into the bowels of a city that betrayed her and a homeland soon to be swallowed by the Soviets. As they emerge from the shadowy fog of World War II, and stagger into the foul haze of the Cold War, Felix and Magdalena must confront the past, and a dangerous, uncertain future. 

About the Author

Victoria Dougherty writes fiction, drama, and essays that often revolve around spies, killers, curses and destinies. Her work has been published or profiled in The New York Times, USA Today, International Herald Tribune and elsewhere. Earlier in her career, while living in Prague, she co-founded Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting in several Czech plays. She lives with her husband and children in Charlottesville, Virginia.
For more information, please visit Victoria Dougherty’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.