All posts by Kelly

Red Queen

Finished Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?”

First a warning: this book is going to absolutely dominate all your time until you finish it.  And once you do finish it, you will be desperate for the sequel.

I loved this book immediately.  The world and its class system (the Silvers are upperclass; the Reds are…well, I guess we can say somewhere around the level of serfs.  There’s no real middleground because even the lowliest Silver is worlds above the Reds and there are no Red subclasses) was fascinating to me.

And of course I love Mare.  I hate that so much of what happens is not within her control (as a Red, her entire life is basically her being a pawn for other people) but how she is determined to do what she can to make her family’s life better.

I can’t discuss too much more about the book because of spoilers, but suffice it to say that if you haven’t read this book yet, you need to.

Highly recommended.

An Ember in the Ashes

Finished An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.”

Because I got this through Penguin’s First to Read program, I had to read it through this very specific app, BlueFire.  I mention that because the day I was reading this book, my iPad kept crashing every 10 pages (at best; 5-6 pages at worst) so I read most of this almost 450-page book on my phone.  And I didn’t even mind, because the alternative—waiting over a month until the book was released—wasn’t even an option.  That should tell you how amazing this book is, right? I would rather read 450 pages on a phone screen than wait and read a normal size book.

Because you guys, this book really is fantastic.  I don’t read all that much fantasy anymore, but holy crap, this world that Sabaa Tahir made.

I have heard complaints that Laia’s sections were boring, but I didn’t find that to be true at all.  Yes, Elias’ sections are more action-packed (he goes through the trials, after all) but that doesn’t mean that hers were boring.  She was risking her life spying for the rebels, and was at the world’s scariest place, in close proximity to the world’s scariest person.  (Seriously, read this book and tell me the Commandant doesn’t give you chills.)

I have heard that this may be a standalone, but given the ending, I refuse to believe that’s true.  There has to be a sequel, right? Please say yes.

Highly recommended.

Lacy Eye

Finished Lacy Eye by Jessica Treadway.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Hanna Schutt never suspected that her younger daughter’s happiness would lead to her husband’s death and the destruction of their family. When Dawn brings her new boyfriend home from college for a visit, her parents and sister try to hide their doubts because they’re glad that Dawn – always an awkward child – appears to have grown into a confident, mature young woman in her relationship with Rud. But when Hanna and her husband, Joe, are beaten savagely in their bed, Rud becomes the chief suspect and stands trial for Joe’s murder.

Claiming her boyfriend’s innocence, Dawn estranges herself from her mother, who survived the attack with serious injuries and impaired memory. When Rud wins an appeal and Dawn returns to the family home saying she wants to support her mother, Hanna decides to try to remember details of that traumatic night so she can testify to keep her husband’s murderer in jail, never guessing that the process might cause her to question everything she thought she knew about her daughter.”

I absolutely love this book.  I love the fact that my assumptions about what was true kept changing as we learned new things and how Hanna is accidentally an unreliable narrator.

I can’t even imagine what life is like for Hanna.  Her husband was brutally murdered in an attack that also almost killed her and did leave her disfigured.  Her two children don’t speak and it also becomes almost impossible for her to have a relationship with both of them.  (Obviously that’s because Dawn is a suspect in the murder/attempted murder and, while Hanna believes that she’s innocent, her other daughter Iris does not).

The story is full of unexpected occurrences and I will admit to spending most of my time seriously afraid for Hanna and at the same time hoping that she was right and that Dawn had nothing to do with it (because let’s face it, she’s been through more than enough).

I cannot wait to read future books by Jessica Treadway.

Highly recommended.

I Kill the Mockingbird

Finished I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list, they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird included. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm. So they hatch a plot to get the entire town talking about the well-known Harper Lee classic. They plan controversial ways to get people to read the book, including re-shelving copies of the book in bookstores so that people think they are missing and starting a website committed to “destroying the mockingbird.” Their efforts are successful when all of the hullabaloo starts to direct more people to the book. But soon, their exploits start to spin out of control and they unwittingly start a mini-revolution in the name of books.

I enjoyed this sweet, fun read but I didn’t love it the way I was expecting to.  It’s definitely an easy read.  I love books that are about people who love books, and Lucy, Elena and Michael love books.  (Especially Lucy.)

When they decide to come up with a way to have everyone in their class pick To Kill a Mockingbird for their summer reading project, it’s hard not to agree with them.  Even their method, while flawed, is pretty ingenuous.  (They decide that they need to make it look like someone’s trying to keep people from reading it, which will obviously make everyone want to read it.)

Except, of course, things get out of hand.  Because of course they would.  Even if their intentions are good (and they definitely are), there’s no way to keep other people from doing this, too.  And those other people’s intentions may not be as pure.

This is an incredibly fun way to spend an afternoon.

Tangled Magick

Tangled Magick is the second book in Jennifer Carson‘s Hapenny Magick series and will be released on April 21.  You can also add it to your Goodreads and follow her on Twitter.
Tangled-Magick-smallcover
Jacket copy:

“It’s been two years since Maewyn discovered her magick and saved the Wedge from a troll invasion. Now the hapenny villagers are embarking on an age-old tradition that was given up after the first troll invasion: A Great Expedition. This is a chance for the younger hapennies to discover the world outside of the Wedge.  But the world outside of the Wedge can be a scary place, and the hapennies soon find themselves knee deep in troll trouble.”

 

Play On Release Day Blitz

Play On Promo Teaser

Title: Play On

Author: Michelle Smith

Release Date: April 21, 2015

Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary

Play On Cover 

Synopsis: In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.

Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma’s flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius, she’s also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there’s something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek–he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.

As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa s pain, it forces him to look beyond the facade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn t everything–maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.”

There is a giveaway!  Click here to enter.

Prize One: Finished copy of Play On
Prize Two:  $10 Amazon/bookstore gift card
Prize Three: Bookmarks

Buy Links and Goodreads Link:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Play-Lewis-Creek-Michelle-Smith/dp/1939392594/ref=sr_1_3_twi_1_pap?ie=UTF8&qid=1428181303&sr=8-3&keywords=Play+ON

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/play-on-michelle-smith/1120253899?ean=9781939392596

Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Play-on-Michelle-Smith/9781939392596

IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781939392596

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23140153-play-on

Author Bio and social media links:

Author Bio:

Michelle Smith Author Photo

Michelle Smith was born and raised in North Carolina, where she developed a healthy appreciation for college football, sweet tea, front porches, and a well-placed “y’all.” She’s a lover of all things happy, laughs way too much, and fully believes that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.

Michelle lives near the Carolina coast with her family.

Author Social Media Links:

Website: http://msmithbooks.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MichelleA_Smith

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Michelle-Smith/102249256558130

Tumblr: http://michellesmithya.tumblr.com/

  1. Play On touches on several sensitive topics. What do you hope your readers will take away from reading it?

I hope they come away knowing that illnesses do not define us. That setbacks, mistakes, scars, whatever we’ve done in the past—none of that defines who we are. That yes, you can fall to rock bottom, and you can still thrive after that fall. There’s laughter, and happiness, and hope, and love waiting for you—there’s so much love. And I hope they know that they’re worthy of that love.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to reach out. It’s okay to admit that you need help with this crazy life-thing. Because none of us have all the answers—we’re just doing the best we can. And we’re all in it together. J

  1. What scene do you most regret having to cut?

Not really a scene itself, but one of the lines. In the original draft, Austin had an ex-girlfriend that was, in a word, vengeful. One night, Austin told her to leave, and she came back to slash his truck’s tires. After discovering what happened the next morning, his mom said, “Your breakup really brought out the redneck in that girl.” That line always made me giggle.

(There’s no ex-girlfriend in the final version, by the way. She got the cut in my first round of edits.)

  1. On the flip side, what was your favorite scene that got added during edits?

My favorite scene in the entire book was added during edits! It takes place toward the end and involves stars, hand-holding, and Austin and Marisa talking about what’s to come, rather than the past. It’s a sweet moment that makes me grin like an idiot.

  1. Biggest writing quirk?

I have to have something on my feet, whether it’s socks or shoes. Like, I absolutely cannot write with cold feet.

  1. Are you working on any new projects?

I am! I can’t say too much at the moment, but I will say that we haven’t seen the last of Lewis Creek. ;)

 

In this excerpt, Marisa surprises Austin on the baseball field…in more ways than one.

~

I pass the bat to her, watching her face light up like a full moon on a summer night. “Now, it’s a little heavy,” I joke. “Think you can handle it?”

Her eyes widen. “I don’t know,” she says breathlessly. “I may need the help of a big, strong, baseball player. Because we both know that baseball is so superior to softball.”

I shake my head. “That’s not entirely true. Your balls are bigger.”

We stare at each other. Stare. Stare some more. She’s the first one who breaks, bursting out laughing. It’s one of the best sounds I’ve heard in a long time.

“Here,” I say, still laughing. I carefully place my hands on her hips, helping her square up over the plate. “In case, you know, you’re too out of practice.”

She bites back a smile. “Yeah. Because I’ve totally forgotten how to square up for a pitch.”

“Two years is a long time.” Resting my hands on her shoulders, I remind her, “And relax these. You’re too stiff.”

She hangs her head. “You’re killin’ me, Smalls.”

I walked right into that one. She relaxes her shoulders. Slowly, my hands move down her arms until they rest on top of hers. They’re so warm, fit so perfectly in mine that it almost hurts to let them go. But I do, because, you know, friends.

“There,” I say on an exhale. “Ready?”

Her lips curve up. “Let me have it, Floral Prince.”

My mouth drops open. “All right. No mercy, Marlowe.”

I grab the ball and jog out to the mound. I gotta say, she’s the prettiest batter I’ve ever been up against. Taking a deep breath, I wind up and let my fastball fly.

That girl smacks the hell out of the ball.

Holy… I turn, watching it sail all the way back to the fence. When I whirl back around, she grins, pointing the bat at me.

“And that’s how it’s done,” she calls to me, setting the bat in the dirt. She wipes her hands on her jeans.

All I can do is gape. Some of the guys on our team could take a lesson from her. It’s not like I thought she would be bad, but damn. I pull off my cap as I walk toward her. As soon as I tug it onto her head, she laughs.

“Are you going to have any of these left?”

“I have an endless supply.” I nudge the brim of the cap, so I can see her eyes. “And you’ve earned that one.”

She quirks her lips into this little half-smirk that makes me pure weak in the knees. Takes a step closer. Another. And another. I swallow hard. My hands ache to touch her, to pull her to me and kiss the daylights out of her.

But friends, though.

 

 

Above

Finished Above by Isla Morley.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

I am a secret no one is able to tell.

Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an aban­doned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Deter­mined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give mean­ing to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promis­ing and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.”

This book is so similar to Room, except it’s told from Ma’s perspective.  (And in this one, we know her name, which is awesome.)

The biggest downside for this book is the fact that in the e-galley I read, the timeline was sometimes hard to gauge.  Time tended to fly by and so I was never really sure when things were happening.  I think that may have been done on purpose, though, to illustrate how fluid time is when you’re basically a prisoner.  (It’s genius, if so; it just confused me a bit.)

Like Room, this book was nearly impossible to put down and I was so interested in learning if Blythe (and, later, her son) would be able to escape.  (And, if so, how.)

I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to see what Isla Morley writes next.

Bright Before Sunrise

Finished Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When Jonah is forced to move from Hamilton to Cross Pointe for the second half of his senior year, “miserable” doesn’t even begin to cover it. He feels like the doggy-bag from his mother’s first marriage and everything else about her new life—with a new husband, new home and a new baby—is an upgrade. The people at Cross Pointe High School are pretentious and privileged—and worst of all is Brighton Waterford, the embodiment of all things superficial and popular. Jonah’s girlfriend, Carly, is his last tie to what feels real… until she breaks up with him.

For Brighton, every day is a gauntlet of demands and expectations. Since her father died, she’s relied on one coping method: smile big and pretend to be fine. It may have kept her family together, but she has no clue how to handle how she’s really feeling. Today is the anniversary of his death and cracks are beginning to show. The last thing she needs is the new kid telling her how much he dislikes her for no reason she can understand. She’s determined to change his mind, and when they’re stuck together for the night, she finally gets her chance.

Jonah hates her at 3p.m., but how will he feel at 3 a.m.?

One night can change how you see the world. One night can change how you see yourself.”

As with many stories with two narrators, I definitely preferred one over the other.  I liked Jonah by the end, but I liked Brighton immediately.  It’s probably safe to say that a large part of that is the fact that she also has a dead dad.

I can see how other people would find her obnoxious (she’s so cheerful all the time!) but I absolutely understand the idea that being put together all the time could be used as sort of a protective mechanism.

And I will admit that yes, Jonah absolutely grew on me.  He isn’t close to his parents (or his mom and stepfather, as I’m pretty sure he would clarify) but he loves his little sister so much and their relationship was incredibly sweet.

This isn’t the kind of book that will change your life but it’s the kind that will make your day better.

The Chance You Won’t Return

Finished The Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When your mom thinks she’s Amelia Earhart, navigating high school, first love, and family secrets is like flying solo without a map.

Driver’s ed and a first crush should be what Alex Winchester is stressed out about in high school – and she is. But what’s really on her mind is her mother. Why is she dressing in Dad’s baggy khaki pants with a silk scarf around her neck? What is she planning when she pores over maps in the middle of the night? When did she stop being Mom and start being Amelia Earhart? Alex tries to keep her budding love life apart from the growing disaster at home as her mother sinks further into her delusions. But there are those nights, when everyone else is asleep, when it’s easier to confide in Amelia than it ever was to Mom. Now, as Amelia’s flight plans become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that Amelia is planning her final flight – the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom’s delusions, and how far will they take her?”

I really enjoyed this story.  I especially loved Alex.  Alex is an incredibly realistic heroine.  She is selfish and embarrassed about her mom’s mental problems and close to her brother and sister but also resentful at having to spend so much time taking care of them. I love that she’s a regular teenager and not a perfect person.

And I love that she tries so hard to spend time with her mom and even plays along with everything, as much as she can.  She fails a lot, but she keeps trying.  (And I love that, as someone who also fails a lot and also keeps trying.)

I found everything about this book intriguing.  There is a history of depression in my family, but I’ve never had any experience with delusions and things like this.  I love how it’s presented very matter-of-factly.  I mean yes, Alex is embarrassed by her mom, but it’s never like a freak show, for lack of a better term.

Recommended.

Play On

Title: Play On

Author: Michelle Smith

Release Date: April 21, 2015

Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary

Play On Cover 

Synopsis: In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.

Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma’s flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius, she’s also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there’s something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek–he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.

As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa s pain, it forces him to look beyond the facade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn t everything–maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.”

And I have an excerpt!

In this scene, Marisa’s reporting for her first training session at the Braxton family’s flower shop, and Austin is in charge of the grand tour.

~

I clap my hands together and start for the first display cooler. Marisa’s shoes squeak against the floor as she follows me. “All right, then,” I say on an exhale, turning to her. She stares up at me, all bouncy ponytail and bright eyes. “We’re supposed to be training. So, first things first. Flowers: how much do you know about them?”

She giggles, and dang it, she needs to stop. Please make it stop. All these little things she does that make my stomach do weird flip-flops are going to turn into big things, and big things are a lot harder to ignore.

“It’s safe to say I know a bit about flowers,” Marisa says. “Your mom gave me one heck of a quiz during my interview to make sure I knew my stuff. She even asked what my favorite flower was and how often I’m supposed to change vase water. I mean, really?”

I twirl my finger, signaling for her to continue. “And your answers were…?”

She tilts her head to the side. “Purple roses. Every two-to-three days. Do you think I’m an amateur?”

Even if I did, it wouldn’t matter. I’d train her all day, every day as long as she kept smiling at me like she is now. But that smile falters as her gaze falls to the floor. She clears her throat and says, “Before we moved here, my mom was obsessed with gardening. She taught me everything I know.”

Her voice dips. Before I can ask if she’s all right, she shakes her head and looks back to me, her eyes not nearly as bright, but still as piercing as they were before.

I shrug and force a smile of my own. “Looks like we have something in common. My momma’s a gardening freak, too.” As if owning a flower shop didn’t already give that away. Strike two, Braxton.

She steps to my side, her arm brushing against mine as she gestures to the cooler. “Anyway, continue, Floral Prince. Teach me your ways. I’m sure you know much more than I do.”

I narrow my eyes. “You’re makin’ fun of me, aren’t you? Is it the apron? Because I’ll have you know, I’m rockin’ this apron.”

She grins. “I would never make fun of a prince,” she says seriously and curtsies. The girl freakin’ curtsies.

I cross my arms. “All right, feisty pants. I see what you did there.”

Her jaw drops. “You did not just call me feisty pants. What are you, sixty? Who even says that?”

“I do, obviously. And what I was going to say is, you can’t put whatever flowers you want in the cooler. This is where we keep the special order arrangements and loose flowers. Single roses and stuff like that.”

Instead of replying, her lips curve up again. My heart hammers against my chest. No matter how tough he acts, every guy dreams of someone looking at him this way. Like every word out of his mouth is coated in gold, even if it’s the cheesiest thing that person’s ever heard.

No one’s ever looked at me this way before, not even Jamie. It’s killer. And it’s kind of freaking me the hell out because I’d never even seen this girl until a week ago, and she’s got me acting like an idiot.

“What—” I cough to cover the crack in my voice. “What’s that look for?”

She shrugs and moves past me toward the cooler. In its reflection, I see her staring at the arrangements, her fingertips pressed lightly against the glass. “I like your voice,” she says. “It’s laid-back. Easy-going. Like you have all the time in the world.” She faces me again. “And your accent’s kind of to die for. But you can pretend I didn’t say that.”

So awesome, right? I can’t wait to read this! I’ve heard really good things so far.

Pre-order Links and Goodreads Link:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Play-Lewis-Creek-Michelle-Smith/dp/1939392594/ref=sr_1_3_twi_1_pap?ie=UTF8&qid=1428181303&sr=8-3&keywords=Play+ON

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/play-on-michelle-smith/1120253899?ean=9781939392596

Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Play-on-Michelle-Smith/9781939392596

IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781939392596

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23140153-play-on

Author Bio:

Michelle Smith Author Photo

Michelle Smith was born and raised in North Carolina, where she developed a healthy appreciation for college football, sweet tea, front porches, and a well-placed “y’all.” She’s a lover of all things happy, laughs way too much, and fully believes that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.

Michelle lives near the Carolina coast with her family.

Author Social Media Links:

Website: http://msmithbooks.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MichelleA_Smith

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Michelle-Smith/102249256558130

Tumblr: http://michellesmithya.tumblr.com/