Tag Archives: st. martin’s press

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.

Second Opinion – The Good Sister by Jamie Kain

21847086Title: The Good Sister

Author:  Jamie Kain

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: The Kinsey sisters live in an unconventional world. Their parents are former flower-children who still don’t believe in rules. Their small, Northern California town is filled with free spirits and damaged souls seeking refuge from the real world. Without the anchor of authority, the three girls are adrift and have only each other to rely on.

Rachel is wild. Asha is lost. Sarah, the good sister, is the glue that holds them together. But the forces of a mysterious fate have taken Sarah’s life in a sudden and puzzling accident, sending her already fractured family into a tailspin of grief and confusion. Asha has questions. Rachel has secrets. And Sarah, waking up in the afterlife, must piece together how she got there.

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

River’s Review:

I adored this book! I was NOT expecting to love it as much as I did. Going into it all I knew was that there were three sisters, one of them died (I assumed that a drunk driver hit her) and the hippie parents weren’t much help to the two left-over daughters. I thought this was going to be a feel-good come together happy book and wow. Nope. Not even that.

I also wasn’t expecting the multi-POVs. I guess they made sense. I normally don’t like the whole “view from the dead person” POV, but this worked and it was in there JUST enough that it didn’t get to be TOO much and I liked that.

The voices in this were brilliant. I usually hate multi-POV because I can’t keep track of who-is-who on voice alone. I had no trouble with this. Asha’s was young and unsure and curious. Sarah’s was mature and filled with guilt. Rachael’s was harsh and edgy. Each girl had a story to tell and they def. told it. Each girl also grew a lot in this book (yes even the dead girl) and I REALLY loved that.

The family dynamics in this were very interesting. The parents, Lena and Ravi, are former hippies who kinda went their own ways once their commune guru left the country. The girls grew up in this free love peace loving hippie society that lead them to their own individual independence, but it also left them without adults in their lives. The girls live with their mother, and their father “sold out” and got a job and a hair cut and a BMW. Lena is an awful parent who’s absent a lot of the time because she just can’t deal with her life. She slowly starts to “sell out” as well and ends up with some dude, basically abandoning her children. Usually this type of situation doesn’t seem very realistic to me, but with the whole hippie commune background it worked. And the damage done to the children is there and it is shocking.

Overall I really enjoyed the different stories and secrets each sister had and how they deal with their demons and grew for it. The writing was fantastic and I found myself unable to put this book down!

ARC Review – Breathe by Anne-Sophie Brasme

1504766Title:  Breathe

Author:  Anne-Sophie Brasme

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: Breathe is the haunting confession of nineteen-year-old Charlene Boher. From her prison cell, Charlene recounts her lonely adolescence. Growing up shy and unpopular, Charlene never had many friends. That is, until she meet Sarah, a beautiful and charismatic American-French girl who moved back to Paris for high school. Much to Charlene’s shock and delight, the two girls quickly develop an intense friendship. With Sarah by her side, Charlene finally begins to feel accepted and even loved.

However, after a brief idyllic period, the girls’ relationship becomes rocky and friendship veers towards obsession. As Sarah drops Charlene for older, more glamorous friends, Charlene’s devotion spirals into hatred. Unfolding slowly and eerily towards a shocking conclusion, Breathe is an intense, convincing portrait of a possessive and ambiguous friendship.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review!

River’s Review:

Well this was an odd little book and I’m not totally sure I enjoyed it. The cover is gorgeous and I love toxic friendships that end in murder stories and with the promise of enough substance for a movie I was willing to give it a try.

Sadly it fell a little short of my expectations.

This book is an English translation of a French novel written by the author when she was only 17. For a teen writer I do think that this a rather mature. But it does lack in some places and I’m not sure if the translation is to blame or what.

This story starts out with the main character, Charlene, in jail. She’s thinking about about what got here there. She starts with her childhood, how she was loved but never really felt it, believed it, or cared. She talks about her first real friendship and how after her BFF left she went on to a new primary school where she lagged behind her classmates in maturity. Everyone was “blossoming” and Charlene was a stick-straight as the boys. She wanted to mature and wasn’t and that caused her to isolate herself. At one point she tries to kill herself (by running too hard and letter her asthma knock her down), but everyone thinks it’s an accident… except for Sarah.

Sarah is an enigmatic girl. She’s wise beyond her years, beautiful, and everyone adores her. She sees through Charlene’s “accident” and confronts her, vowing to basically save her from herself. The two become best friends and Charlene spends all of her time with Sarah and Sarah’s mother who… basically has a revolving line of men coming into her bedroom. Sarah’s life is very liberal compared to Charlene’s unhappy parents and annoying brother. Charlene is enchanted with Sarah and lets Sarah have complete control over her.

After a summer vacation the two girls grow apart. Sarah finds Charlene to be immature. She’s discovered boys and the power that she has to manipulate those around her. Charlene becomes obsessed with Sarah, following her, watching her, and it’s really weird. Charlene starts to talk about a voice inside her compelling her to be with Sarah. And eventually Sarah “saves” Charlene again and becomes her friend but she’s a huge bitch to Charlene and at this point I was just so confused as to why Sarah kept Charlene around. All she did was saw awful things about her and push her around. I guess she enjoyed the power she had over Charlene, but it was just weird. Charlene finally was breaking out of Sarah’s control when she met a boy, a really nice boy, but Sarah eventually lured Charlene back in and Charlene’s obsession had become hate and she formulates a plan to kill Sarah and does so…

and that’s the end.

Like great plot but I just wanted more. More depth, more craze, more obsession. And that’s why I think that a movie fleshing this out will be good. I can already see it in my head and I plan to watch it. But as a book… I don’t see how it can really stand on it’s own in the current world of YA. All I kept thinking about while I was reading this was that Dangerous Girls did it so much better (now THAT is a book I’d love to see turned into a movie!).

But I’m sure that at the time this was written, and the fact that it was written by a teen… that it was quite brilliant then.

ARC Review – Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

23014725Title: Delicate Monsters

Author: Stephanie Kuehn

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.

Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.

Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past.

But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs.

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

Sam’s Review:

Can this book be a movie? I feel like it needs to be a movie.

When I started Delicate Monsters, I didn’t entirely know what I was getting myself into. The synopsis made it seem like it could have been a mystery/thriller, but it really is one of those scary realistic novels that is meant to paint a horrific picture. Sadie, Emerson, Miles, they are all awful people, driven through awful means, and getting off in strange ways.

What I love about Stephanie Kuehn’s writing is how disjointed and frazzled it feels (more so in this book than her others). The style provides a dreadful feeling throughout, making you ponder what is exactly happening. It almost feels like the reader is being dragged against their will, but they aren’t able to shield themselves away from the violence that takes place in the story. Even the ending feels like it refuses to be tied up into a neat bow.

And I loved the whole experience because of it. These people are ugly, scary, and they make you question how they feel absolutely nothing. Emerson has moments where he feels sadness, remorse, guilt, but it’s coupled with this bizarre behaviour that is often present on his face. Miles is afraid, nervous, and he’s the easiest to sympathize with, but as the novel progresses, you realize more and more how screwed up he is.

Finally, there’s Sadie. Sadie is probably the scariest of the three, if only because she’s honest in her malicious intentions. Reading her sections felt like I was being put into the mind of a sociopath, and overall, her intentions towards other, making them feel pain, fear, she’s just terrifying.

But in all seriousness, Delicate Monsters is a book that will mess with your mind. I read this book in two sittings because the narrative ties were so engrossing. I had to know more, I had to keep going, and boy was I exhausted after finishing this novel. Stephanie Kuehn presents us with such terrifying people, it’s no wonder why she classifies them as monsters.

ARC Review – Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

18484807Title: Hell, I Love You

Author: Katie M. Stout

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.

She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can’t stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can’t deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.

Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she’ll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.

Huge thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin & Netgalley for this ARC!

River’s Review:

Before I get into my review I want to state that I have lived in Asia. While I have never been to Korea (I was there for 2 hours in the airport during my layover last fall, but that’s it) I did live in Japan for seven years. I went to school there, worked there, lived there, got married there. I chose to go to Japan because I wanted to study there. I do understand that my experiences are mine alone and that I can’t say that everyone will experience things the same as mine. So any judgements I make on this book and on Grace’s experiences come from my observations of not only my experiences but others around me. People close to me and not. As a white girl in Asia. As a foreigner far from “home”. And yes, while I might have way more knowledge about Japan than Korea, I did spend a good portion of my undergrad years watching Kdramas, I dated a Korean boy, and I had a lot of Korean friends. I think I have a pretty basic knowledge and a pretty good handle on some of the more prominent cultural points there.

Anyway, going into this book I did not have high hopes for it. Often books written about Asia with the ‘white girl goes to Asia’ plot don’t work for me. Most of the time they’re filled with stereotypes and ideas taken from pop culture. With the promised Kpop angle in this book and knowledge that the author loves Kdramas I figured it would be same-ol-same-ol. I did tweet her and ask if she’d ever lived in Asia (she said yes, China), so I was hoping that she’d have a good handle on the ‘white girl in Asia’ part at least.

And overall it wasn’t bad. I actually only really felt the need to nitpick a few places. I think thought that, unfortunately, that was because a lot of the time Korea is shockingly absent from this book that takes place in Korea. And if you go into this book expecting Kpop IDOLS (like Big Bang, Shinee or Super Junior) this is not going to deliver. While the band in this book is described as playing Kpop, they don’t do the whole singing/dancing/wearing ridiculous costumes bit. Instead they play instruments and sing poppy songs. I had a hard time placing this band in my mind because I’ve never really thought of anything less than an IDOL group as “Kpop”. (Much like I don’t think of a lot of non Johnny’s groups in Japan as Jpop). But alas it is “pop” music and can be called as such. But don’t get your hopes up TOO high if you’re expecting lots of singing and dancing.

So let me talk about the characters. Grace is our white girl going to Asia. She’s from the south and apparently has no knowledge of Korea. She’s running from her family and what you later learn is a dark secret where she thinks she did something horrible, and randomly choose Korea. This just seemed odd to me from the start, and it really bothered me that Grace had no actual vested interest in the country. Why didn’t she go to Europe instead? She’d still be hours away, but she’d be living in a place where she can communicate and not have to worry about the food (as much). No, she just chooses Korea because it’s far. And this took me out of the story a bit because it didn’t feel like GRACE chose Korea, but the author. So I would have liked to have seen a LITTLE more interest.

Also Grace has seemingly no trouble fitting in and has very little culture shock. And this bothered me A LOT. Not only did it take me months to get used to Japan (a place that I had a vested interest in, had studied about for YEARS and had two years of language study under my belt) but I had a good six months of severe culture shock. And yes, I know that my experience was much different, but a lot of my friends had trouble as well. I do blame some of this on the fact that Grace was pretty much in a bubble. She didn’t really have to do a lot of stuff on her own, she had two VERY westernized friends taking care of her, and she only went out into actual Korea a few times. But it did bother me that she was able to do things like ride the subway for the first time by herself (and you say what? But STEREOTYPES. Why CAN’T she figure these things out on her own? 1. Because she didn’t even have jet lag! How did she not have jet lag?! And I don’t think she had a lot of experience with subways in Tennessee) or just wander off with no knowledge of where she was. Also, did we HAVE to go there with the ‘white girl can’t use chopsticks well’ trope? That one gets to me all the time. I spent seven god damn years explaining to Japanese people that us ‘MERICANs can use our thumbs to hold chopsticks and actually get food into our mouths.

Before reading this I heard a lot of noise about Grace being very judgmental. I did think that she went a little overboard at times with being scared of the food and saying that Kdramas aren’t interesting and what-not. I kinda feel like with her, she chose to go to Korea, so she really shouldn’t be as wary of the food as she was. I worked hard in Japan for people to accept that yes, us Westerners can eat the same kinds of food as Asians. So when people go to other countries (not just Asia) and they aren’t willing to be positive about the food and at least give it a fair try, it bothers me. I did enjoy the part with the squat toilet though. It took me a good two years to work up the courage to use one in Japan!

I also didn’t like how Grace was always expecting that people should speak English to her. YOU ARE IN KOREA. LEARN SOME DAMN KOREAN. She was just so AGAINST learning Korean and just UGH. Yes it’s hard, but study it! SPEAK IT! I know that the book was in English and that having a ton of translations would be annoying, but there are ways to have them speak Korean without losing stuff in translation or even having to write the Korean out! So her poor language abilities (and I don’t mean her insistence that she’s not good at languages) aside, she just didn’t try hard enough.

I really liked both Jason and Sophie. I did not like that they were always using their Western names. It just seemed odd that nobody else had them and they did. I understand that in the USA it’s common for Korean and Chinese people to choose English names, but for everyone to keep using them in Korea was, idk.

I liked that Jason was hot and cold and broody. It matched his “rock star” persona. I did not like that Grace had to describe every. Single. Detail. of his appearance every time she saw him. I get it. He’s hot. He’s Korean. He’s fashionable. I did like Sophie, but there were times when her blanket statements about Koreans or American’s were annoying and stereotypical.

And Jane. I loved her as a sister. Hated her as a Japanophile/Koreophile. All of her talk about ‘bring me a cute Korean!’ made my blood boil. Like you can just go to the store and “pick up a cute Korean!”. I have my own issues with this though, so I’ll just leave it there.

As a story and a contemporary novel it hit all the right notes though! The writing was good, I got caught up in what was happening and I really enjoyed the interactions between the characters! I liked the topics that were dealt with (family, depression, friendship, love) and the way that Grace and Jason were friends for the majority of the book. I liked the side characters, hated the mother (but I think we were supposed to, so that was well done!), and did enjoy the few times we got a glimpse of Korea.

Overall I would have liked this better if Grace had been less dramatic, had a more vested interest in Korea, and her life in Korea had been a bit more realistic.