Tag Archives: st. martin’s press

ARC Review – We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun & Susan Mullen

28220739Title: We Are Still Tornadoes

Author: Michael Kun & Susan Mullen

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends their entire lives. Cath would help Scott with his English homework, he would make her mix tapes (it’s the 80’s after all), and any fight they had would be forgotten over TV and cookies. But now they’ve graduated high school and Cath is off to college while Scott is at home pursuing his musical dreams.

During their first year apart, Scott and Cath’s letters help them understand heartache, annoying roommates, family drama and the pressure to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they want to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should be more than friends? The only thing that’s clear is that change is an inescapable part of growing up. And the friends who help us navigate it share an unshakable bond.

Huge thank you to Raincoast/St. Martin’s Griffin for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I remember hearing about We Are Still Tornadoes at one of the the Raincoast #TeenReadFeed events, and it sounded intriguing to me. It is a novel about a friendship in the 1980’s, and it’s entirely told in back and forth letters. I loved that concept, so when I got the chance to read it, I was immediately draw to how much this narrative style worked for me.

First of all, this is a friendship novel through and through. Scott and Cath have such a beautiful friendship, and they know how to call each other on crapola just as much as they know when to console each other. I also love that we don’t know the events in between letters because we only get a sense of what information is important based on what is told in the letter. It’s a very limited POV, but it works really well in this story because the authors give you just enough information every time to put together the details that aren’t being said.

But seriously, Cath and Scott are adorable. I loved their interactions and I loved how they describe the other people that exist in their lives, particularly Cath’s roommate Dorothy, who was both batty and really hilarious. The whole cake incident alone kinda had me in stitches. I also loved Scott’s dream of wanting to be a musician and I loved the original titles to his songs and I love how his lyrics always came from a deeply personal place. I loved Cath’s constant encouragement, and even when she was mad at him, she would always be able to forgive him because that is how much their friendship means to her.

I also loved the 80’s references! I loved that Scott thought Freddie Mercury was straight (so wrong!), and how “Billie Jean” was one of Cath’s favourite songs. These little touches remind you of a world without e-mail, without instant communication, and it reminds you of a simpler time. I used to send letters to my friends all the time, and it was always such a treat getting a hand-written letter in the mail. Scott’s responses to getting letters — that was totally me when I was his age getting letters in the mail. It’s like Christmas!

And we need more stories like this in YA. Books that showcase friendship as a focal point. While I predicted the ending and was kinda hoping it wouldn’t go the direction it did, I still think We Are Still Tornadoes is a wonderful, quick little read that packs quite the punch given how short it is.

ARC Review – You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan

27158835Title: You Know Me Well

Author: Nina LaCour & David Levithan

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When I recieved You Know Me Well in the mail, I immidately started reading, realizing it was the kind of book I needed in that moment. It’s a book that explores what it means to be out and proud, but also attempting to figure out the next steps in what that actually means. I really adored the way in which the alternative POVs were used, though I did find myself loving Kate’s POV slightly more than Mark’s.

This book has a very memorable opening, one that when you read it, really does a great job illustrating who both Mark and Kate are when they are “truly” themselves. It’s a pitch perfect scene that escalates into a delightful story and an unlikely friendship between two people who likely wouldn’t have become friends if it wasn’t for this event.

A lot of this novel is very vibrant, and given that it take splace during San Francisco’s Pride, that makes a lot of sense. However, not only were our protaginists wonderful to read about, but I actually loved their love interests. While the topic of a broken heart and finding your identity are nothing new, it’s hard not to feel for Mark in a lot of this novel given that he has to watch his best friend fall in love with another person. Kate’s situation is equally something we can all relate to, as she is trying to be the woman she wants to be, and love the woman she wants to love without issue.

I flew through this novel simply because it does an amazing job of sharing what it means to be yourself, while also letting others in who may be afraid to do so. If you love LGBTQIA+ literature, or you love contemporary that focuses on tougher issues, this novel will give you just about everything you’re looking for.

ARC Review – Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories by Stephanie Perkins

25063781Title: Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories

Editor: Stephanie Perkins

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Maybe it’s the long, lazy days, or maybe it’s the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Huge thank you to Raincoast and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I LOVED Stephanie Perkins’ first short story collection, My True Love Gave to Me. This sequel collection, however, though good, read to be a bit of a mixed bag for me. I loved the way in which the stories were all about summer romances, and I loved the subtlety of a lot of the stories, but there were also some that just didn’t work for me, and I struggled to enjoy them. This seems to be the nature of a short story collection.

Hands down my favourite stories were written by Brandy Colbert, Veronica Roth, Libba Bray, Stephanie Perkins and Leigh Bardugo. I found these five stories in particular just worked very well for me — making me swoon and giving me more diverse voices in how a romance could in fact play out. There was always enough drama, but a lot of sweetness too. These were the stories I found myself swooning over, because the fluff factor was there for me.

If there was any story I struggled with and found it oddly placed, it had to be Cassandra Clare’s. I LOVED the setting of her story and the creepy carnival vibe and was totally into it atmospherically, but the story itself I found myself so frustrated by. A lot of it didn’t work for me, or felt too easily resolved. It’s not a bad story, it just didn’t jive with me in the slightest. Francesca Lia Block story was another one, I admit I struggled with too. It was awkwardly written for my tastes.

Summer Days & Summer Nights really is the anthology that will have something for every reader, and it’s diverse on all accounts. There’s delightful LGBT-themed romances, horror stories, and pure fluff. Definitely a great book for sitting outside with a nice glass of lemonade, though as I stated, because it’s a short story collection, your connection to a story is REALLY going to vary. Still, I think this is worth picking up if you enjoyed the previous anthology.

River’s Quickie Reviews #7

It’s been a long time since I’ve thrown one of these together, but River managed to get a crapton of books from ALAMW 2016, and has been writing some mini reviews for a few of the books she got her hands on. Enjoy some mini-reviews of titles that have either just released or will be coming out later in the year!



Title: Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann (May 3rd 2016 by Greenwillow )

Synopsis: Addie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places.

River’s Review: This is a very fast read. I think I read it in about a half hour? It’s written in verse and the writing is SO gorgeous.

This is the story of a girl who has an abortion. She goes to a catholic school so there’s a lot of religious stuff going on in this book, but it’s not a book about condemning what was done. It’s not a book about a broken girl, just a girl who deals with the consequences of her actions and does what she believes is the right thing. This book isn’t preachy, but it does give a very interesting view on both sides of the debate, and I loved the juxtaposition going on in it.

I also really liked how quiet it was. She doesn’t go crazy and become a broken thing, but she does lose faith in herself and interest in things that were once important. Friends and family show concern, but it’s all very subtle and overall very well done.

This is a great book for a lazy afternoon. Beautiful writing, important content. It was something different and I needed it. 5/5 Stars.

25203675Title: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi  (April 26th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin)

Synopsis: Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth. But Akaran has its own secrets – thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar’s plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk – it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.

River’s Review: Here’s another book that I very much enjoyed but didn’t LOVE. The writing in this is breathtakingly gorgeous and I really enjoyed some of the side characters. But over all I felt a little displaced with the world and the two main characters didn’t do too much for me. I LOVED that it was based on Indian mythology, that’s not something that I’ve run into very much in YA. Kamala the flesh eating horse was hilarious, and I really enjoyed Gupta and his eccentricities. Sadly Maya was a little too gullible at times, but I did enjoy her growth as a woman in the story. Amar was every other brooding bad-good-guy.

The first 100 pages or so of this was slow and boring at times, but around 150 things really picked up and I loved the way that things were reveled and pieced together through Maya’s own personal journey.

I’m very excited to see what more Chokshi writes, because wow does she spin some beautiful tales! 4/5 Stars.


Title: The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter (March 15th 2016 by Philomel Books)

Synopsis: Cassie O’Malley has been trying to keep her head above water—literally and metaphorically—since birth. It’s been two and a half years since Cassie’s mother dumped her in a mental institution against her will, and now, at eighteen, Cassie is finally able to reclaim her life and enter the world on her own terms. But freedom is a poor match against a lifetime of psychological damage. As Cassie plumbs the depths of her new surroundings, the startling truths she uncovers about her own family narrative make it impossible to cut the tethers of a tumultuous past. And when the unhealthy mother-daughter relationship that defined Cassie’s childhood and adolescence threatens to pull her under once again, Cassie must decide: whose version of history is real? And more important, whose life must she save?

River’s Review: So I really liked this but something about the story felt super dated. I couldn’t place the time, and then there were mentions of cell phones and a couple of pop culture references, but overall this felt like it was set in the late 80s or early 90s for some reason.

And the college aspect of this was REALLY weird for me. I didn’t do the whole “freshman” thing when I was in college (I transferred in during my 2nd year) but I don’t remember my college (or any of my friends) having dances (like formals like you do in high school) and the pay phone at the end of the hallway and the very lack of anybody really following up with anything regarding Cassie just seemed really random and strange.

The emotional aspects, the mental health issues in this, and the writing were all really good though. 3/5 Stars.



ARC Review – In Real Life by Jessica Love

25663733Title: In Real Life

Author: Jessica Love

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, regularly shower each other with presents, and know everything there is to know about one another.

There’s just one problem: Hannah and Nick have never actually met.

Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she’s supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker, she decides to break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Vegas, her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-friend feelings for him.

Hannah’s romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and meets Nick’s girlfriend, whom he failed to mention. And it turns out his relationship status isn’t the only thing he’s been lying to her about. Hannah knows the real Nick can’t be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has one night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I loved Push Girl, a novel that Jessica Love wrote in part with Chelsie Hill. I was excited to hear that she was publishing a novel on her own in the form of In Real Life. This book, though it has some problems, is quite the engaging read.

Hannah and Nick has been best friends for four years, but they’ve never actually met each other. Throwing her good girl image out the door, Hannah, her sister Grace, and her friend Lo decide to go to Sin City, so Hannah can finally meet Nick. Obviously, it’s a meeting that doesn’t go perfectly, especially when Hannah finds out that Nick has been hiding the fact that he has a girlfriend. Drama and comedy ensues, and Hannah and Nick must figure out exactly what their feelings are for each other.

For the most part, I liked Hannah. Her voice felt very authentic, and she’s someone who is just so used to following plans and rules to a tee. She has no concept of doing things freely without fear of consequence. She’s someone who I think a lot of readers can connect with, though her treatment of a specific character disappointed me. Frankie is the girlfriend Nick never speaks of, and when Hannah meets her, there’s this huge part of her that treats her poorly, saying she “wants to hate her” and while I like that Hannah grows out of this phase, part of me thinks that she was a bit nasty at times. I get not wanting to be the other girl, but hating someone because they are kind and wanting to get to know you? Harsh! However, the turn around for both these characters is fantastic, and I love the way that Love shows how they can put their differences aside and try to be friends.

My main issue with this book is that while it’s super cute, it’s quite predictable to a fault. You know that Hannah and Nick are going to get together, but every chapter ends on this cliffhanger where everything is so complicated and yet everything could be solved by a conversation. But Nick and Hannah are constantly blocked by anyone and everyone from having said conversation, so while it makes for good tension, I’m one of those readers who also gets impatient and is like “get on with it!”

Despite those issues with it, there’s some really great moments in the story involving Hannah and Nick. My favourite was the wedding scene, which both made me laugh and grin. I loved the way in which Nick shares his feelings in terms of his anxiety and desire to be a private person. I adored Frankie’s openness and her desire to be someone that shares… even if I disagree with her oversharing. I thought the characters were simply a lot of fun, and quite adorable.

While this is a story you likely might have read already, I think In Real Life is still worth checking out. It might not be perfect, but it does have some absolutely fantastic moments in it that make the reading experience worthwhile. Overall I found this to be a quick, sweet little read, and if you like some fluffy contemporary with some humour and a touch of angst, then check this book out.

ARC Review – Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz

25663880Title: Sanctuary Bay

Author:  Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: In this genre-bending YA thriller, will Sarah Merson’s shiny new prep school change her life forever or bring it to a dark and sinister end?

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.

Huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a finished copy for review!

River’s Review:

I really wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this book. The blurb sounded generic but the publicist letter that came with this mentioned government conspiracies and I was just like WHAT IS THIS.

There were parts of this book that I loved and other parts that were a little annoying. Typical foster kid Sarah somehow ends up getting a scholarship to a super exclusive rich kids boarding school. The school is super secret and once you go in… you don’t get out. Well, until you graduate. At first I was having DARK ANGEL (y’all have seen that show right? No… I’m old? Uh, go watch it. Girls kick ass. Say’s so on a tee-shirt) hopes but nope, no super-soldier kids here.

So Sarah ends up on this island and this crazy expensive school with state of the art equipment and pretty people everywhere. Her roommates are basically socialites and all the guys are straight teeth and tight shirts. Of course two of The Hottest notice her (even though one is her roommates boyfriend! Le Gasp!)

At this point I was like am I really going to keep reading this? But then Sarah got invited to a secret society and I was back in. Until the secret society seemed to just be a weird way to hook up with lots of people? There were no orgies but… I felt one coming. But then the secret society was like WE’RE GONNA KILL ONE OF OUR OWN and I was like okay I gotta see this through…

After that things got good and I was pulled in. Seems to be the case with me and books lately. But student’s went missing, memories went missing, and people started to go crazy. Sarah and Ethan (missing roommates super sexy boyfriend *rolls eyes*) start to sort out this mystery because Ethan’s brother apparently went missing and never returned home and while people can remember him they don’t actually know what happened to him…

I really liked how dark this got at times. There’s an abandoned insane asylum and some really weird shit happening at the school and on the island. Sarah and Ethan uncover the government conspiracy annnnnd we find out what happened to Sarah’s family when she was a child. I was very pleased that things got wrapped up and that the mystery was basically solved by the end of the book. I don’t think there will be another one but if there was I’d really like to see Sarah come to terms with what she learned at the very end.

Check this out if you like twisty boarding school mysteries with government conspiracies!

Blog Tour – Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (Review and Q&A)

I read this book at the end of December, and it was a book that when I had completed it, it kept creeping into my thoughts. This book offers a lot of powerful and interesting messages that often get ignored. Raincoast has once again asked us to be a part of a blog tour, and River and I are here to give our thoughts on Firsts. This book definitely is one that will make you think, as it offers some insight into double standards.

23480844Title: Firsts

Author: Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Rating: ★★★★ / ★★★

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

Huge thank you to Raincoast / St. Martin’s Griffin for these ARCs!

Sam’s Review (4 Stars):

Back when I went to the #TeensRead event in September, this book was discussed in quite amount of detail about it being “more than meets the eye.” Since I’ve finished it, it’s still a book that replays in my mind because the topics that it discusses are really important, and it’s hard to ignore why they need to be brought into the forefront.

This is a book about double standards, particularly when it comes to sex. It’s about boys who enlist in a young woman to help them be better in bed so that they can give their girlfriends the best first time ever. They are cheaters, and if cheating a topic that makes you uncomfortable (as it does me), then this book is going to be a rough ride (no pun intended) for you as a reader. When Mercedes is found out to have been offering such services, she is the one who takes the blame, not the guys. Why? Because women always suffer in the double standard when it comes to sex, and that means they have to be the one to suffer the consequences and the fallout because a lot of these men can’t man up into doing the right thing.

I loved Mercy’s voice, and that’s really what has stayed with me. On one hand, she knows that she is sexual empowered and desires to be in control of her sexual encounters (especially when you learn why this is the case). I loved her refreshing honesty when it came to sex, and her tips to a lot of the men were wonderfully valid. Her voice was something I couldn’t get out of my head, especially when people find out what her services entailed. I felt for her, I did. Especially when she wants to protect her friendship with Angela, someone who loves her as is. Mercy loses nearly everything in this story, and yet she knows she can’t hide from the voices attacking her, or the blackmail that threatens her. She’s stronger than she gives herself credit for throughout the story, and I loved her friendship with Faye and Zach, because with them, she has extra support and strength, even if it wasn’t easy to obtain.

I also loved the double-standard presented between Mercedes and Kim, especially considering how absent of a parent Kim is, and her desire to be young the way her daughter is. It’s horrifically problematic, but I loved the way in which both characters attempt a face-off and somewhat come together on their own terms.

I think the hardest part of this book for me was that it feels older in tone than what is actually on the page. I totally get that sex is a thing that keeps happening younger and younger, but Mercedes read at times like an experienced belle, wise beyond her years. It was a bit strange at first, but it grew on me.

This book offers so many powerful moments that are both awful, sad, compelling, and it’s compulsively readable. Even if you find the content hard to stomach, it’s one of those books that is so well-written that it keeps you wanting to understand more and more about the double-standards and how Mercedes will carry on. I felt for her, and I think that’s why I loved this book as much as I did.

River’s Review (3 Stars):

I knew going into this book I was probably going to have some issues with it. It sounded way too NA for me (and I really dislike most NA). And I honestly think that this would have been a much stronger book with an older cast of characters.

But, you say, why can’t a teen have an active sex life?! That’s… not why I feel like these characters should have been older. I feel like they should have been older because Mercedes read as older than she was. And yes, she had issues and an absent mom who wanted to be twenty and not an actual mom and blah blah blah but for real, this girl had way too much confidence when it came to sex. And we find out that when she starts this “First time” service she’s not even that experienced herself! So where does all of this knowledge and confidence come from? That’s what I didn’t feel was very real. She was dressing up in sexy nighties and “teaching” these guys but… who taught her? Cuz nobody really did.

And sadly a lot of the WOOHOO GIRL POWER was lost on me because I spent so much time screaming BUT HOW. I DID like that she was so sexual empowered! I did like that she was confident with her body! I did like that she took care of herself! There was a very strong message about girls and sex in this book, one that books like The DUFF (another book that was a low rating for me because the MC just didn’t work for me) are also participating in.

I do think that this message is important. I do think that the double standards should be addressed. I see so many people saying BUT HOW COULD SHE CHEAT WITH ALL THOSE BOYS. Guess what. SHE didn’t cheat… THEY did. Mercedes was single THE ENTIRE TIME SHE WAS SLEEPING WITH THOSE BOYS. THEY were the ones in relationships. And who takes the brunt of it when everything falls apart? The female.

I can see why people love this book and I agree with a lot of the good stuff being said. But I really think that a college background would have worked better for me. (Unless I’m showing my age and 95% of teens are losing it in high school? :old lady voice: When I was in school… yeah.)

Q&A With Laurie Elizabeth Flynn!

98167541. Firsts was all about “first times.” Why was this such an important topic for you
to explore?

There are so many firsts in a teen’s life, and the first time having sex is one of
them. I wanted to explore the expectations surrounding sex and the loss of virginity for
both teen girls and teen boys. There is so much pressure on both sides—boys are
expected to be born ready, and girls are expected to wait for the right person, who
probably takes the form of a long-term boyfriend. Society hammers standards into sex and
paints a picture of how it “should” be in our heads. But the truth is, there are so
many ways a first time can go. It’s rarely ever perfect. For some, it’s romantic and
memorable. For others, it’s awkward and clumsy. Some people want to wait. Others want
to get it over with. Some talk with their friends and others keep it to themselves. It
was important to me to show several different first times and express that it’s not the
same for everyone.

2. What makes Firsts a unique novel in the YA spectrum? What do you think makes it an
important read for young adults?

I think Firsts is unique because it’s told from an unlikely perspective—not only a
girl having sex with multiple partners, but a girl sleeping with other people’s
boyfriends. She’s a girl who might seem easy to hate, but I wanted to show all of her
dimensions. I wanted to show who she really is and tell her story. This is important for
young adults because teens make mistakes. Adults make mistakes. We all make decisions,
and they’re not always the right ones. I think it’s necessary that we can find flawed
characters between the pages of books. I made a lot of mistakes growing up, and seeing
myself reflected in book characters always made me feel better, even though they were
fictional and my problems were real.

We hope you enjoyed our reviews and the Q&A with Laurie. We wish Laurie tons of success with Firsts! Craving more content about Laurie’s debut? Make sure to check out the other stops on this blog tour! And once again huge thank you to Laurie and Raincoast for all their help and insight, as we love doing this!



Feature — My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

MyTrueLoveGaveToMe_animated_PS[4]My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year’s there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

Huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a finished copy of this!!!

Guys guys guys *points to book cover* IT’S MOVING!!!! Ahh so cute. I love this book so much. I actually am using it as a Christmas decoration in my home right now. It is just that perfect. So I was VERY excited when St. Martin’s Press asked me if I would feature it on my blog. I was like duh!!!! Everyone needs to read this book because it is the most PERFECT holiday read out there! Out of the twelve stories it’s so hard to choose my favorites, but I think that White, Rowell, & Black’s are my favs. But I read them all (which is rare for me when it comes to anthologies of short stories. I usually skip and pick and choose) and really enjoyed each one.

I think the best thing about this book is that it celebrates the winter holidays in very unique ways. Don’t think of his as a Christmas book. It has way more than just Christmas to offer. So dive in, or pick up a copy and pass it on (as I am! This is going to be my sister’s Christmas present… shhhh don’t tell!)

Happy Holiday’s friends!!!!

Feature — The The Violinist of Venice: A Story of Vivaldi by Alyssa Palombo


The The Violinist of Venice: A Story of Vivaldi
by Alyssa Palombo

Out December 15, 2015 — On sale now!

A sweeping historical novel of composer and priest Antonio Vivaldi, a secret wealthy mistress, and their passion for music and each other

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d’Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family’s palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana’s father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice’s patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana’s marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana’s own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana’s life, Alyssa Palombo’s The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends.

ARC Review – Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

23848031Title:  Instructions for the End of the World

Author: Jamie Kain

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man—except for the one that struck.  When Nicole Reed’s father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it’s too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole’s father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow’s disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today?

Huge thank you to Raincoast/St. Martin’s Griffin for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Last year I read The Good Sister, a book I wasn’t expecting much from considering it was compared to The Lovely Bones, a book I quite disliked. I read it, and I LOVED it along with Jamie Kain’s writing style. I was so excited to hear she had a second YA novel coming in Instructions for the End of the World.

However, this book was lacking compared to her first. I had a hard time trying to connect with the characters at times. Part of it is the multiple perspectives, though by the end of it Nicole and Wolf begin to dominate it. It’s one of those books I kept wondering if I would have liked more written in one perspective or if it had been done in third would it have been more effective.

That being said, once again Kain writes a story about a troubled family coming together, in this case for the inevitable end of the world. She really has an amazing knack for writing family dynamics and making you care about the overall picture in terms of how the family will survive, how they will succeed, and where they have the potential to completely family. I loved reading about Nicole and Izzy’s family life, and I found those moments of the novel, especially when paired with the survivalist aspects to be quite gripping. Kain just really knows how to paint an engaging family portrait.

Despite having read this novel in a day, there’s a part of me that just felt it was lacking in terms of plot. It’s a case where the blurb doesn’t illustrate what the book is really about, and if you are expecting an apocalyptic novel, this probably is going to miss the mark. The ending alone complicates things in that it just ends and doesn’t provide a conclusion to anything really. I see why this was done, but as a reader I didn’t feel entirely satisfied when I finished the novel.

Even though I have some problems with this novel, I still think Jamie Kain is an amazing writer, and I love the experiences that she transplants me into when I start reading her novels. While this is no The Good Sister, I still found myself engaged byInstructions for the End of the World, and read the book in a day. There is a lot to like here, even if it isn’t the most satisfying read out there.

River’s Review:

After reading and LOVING The Good Sister I was very excited for this book. I grew up in a backwoods type country bumpkin town, my father made sure we knew how to hunt and take care of ourselves in the wild, and I went to outdoors camp when I was a kid. My family is NOT crazy “preppers” like the family in this book, but I was curious to see how well I could relate.

Sadly this book just didn’t cut it for me. The writing was still very good, but the payout at the end of this was not what I was hoping for. After the family drama in The Good Sister I was sad to see just a shadow of that in this book. The father clearly had some ISSUES (as did the mother) but it didn’t feel as natural in this book as it did The Good Sister.

This book starts off with Nicole and her family showing up at a dilapidated old house that apparently belonged to some great-great-great-great relative and hadn’t been lived in since that relative had been alive. Nicole’s father has moved them there so they can live off the gird in preparation for the ~end of the world~. Nicole has grown up buying into her father’s beliefs (btw father is some ex Military general who just randomly retired for no reason… until REASONS later on in the book). But somehow the mother and younger sister are NOT on the dad’s side of the fence and I just didn’t know HOW they’d made it this far with the two of them being so NOT a part of this.

And I guess that really bugged me through most of this book. How did the mother and the sister really get this far with the father acting the way he did? I could understand if like, the mother financially couldn’t leave or SOMETHING but again, there was never any explanation (and then the mother later enrolls in Grad school so I don’t think money was ever an issue). And how was the younger sister able to get away with as much as she did?

This was another multi-POV book and it did NOT work for me. There were WAY too many voices and I really didn’t see the need for Laurel’s AT ALL. She literally had NO effect on this book. Her chapters could have been edited out and we would have lost nothing. The younger sister’s were also pretty useless to the story. Sure they showed what she was struggling with, but she was a massive brat (and she did have right to be, but STILL) and I just didn’t feel like her voice really contributed to the plot or story. Wolf’s was okay, but I really would have been FINE if this would have been in first person from Nicole’s POV.

Also this is supposed to be a survival book. I was expecting tension and actual things that needed to be survived. Sure their water stopped working, but their lives weren’t really IN DANGER. And the part with the fires was like two pages and then it was done. I wanted some actual life-threatening survival! And I don’t know the gun/hunting laws in California, but I can they really, LEGALLY, be allowed to just go out hunting on their property any old time of year?! And Nicole, do you NOT know about wearing orange so that OTHER people don’t shoot at you? That part really bugged me.

Overall this wasn’t BAD, it just wasn’t… anything really. And that made me so sad after LOVING The Good Sister.