Monday, August 31, 2015

The Sister's Club by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The Sister's Club by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Some families you are born into. Some you choose. And some choose you.

Four women have little in common other than where they live and the joyous complications of having sisters. Cindy waits for her own life to begin as she sees her sister going in and out of hospitals. Lise has made the boldest move of her life, even as her sister spends every day putting herself at risk to improve the lives of others. Diana is an ocean apart from her sister, but worries that her marriage is the relationship separated by the most distance. Sylvia has lost her twin sister to breast cancer, a disease that runs in the family, and fears that she will die without having ever really lived.

When Diana places an ad in the local newsletter, Cindy, Lise, and Sylvia show up thinking they are joining a book club, but what they discover is something far deeper and more profound than any of them ever imagined.

Review: These four women all love to read, but that's not really the reason that Diana brings them all together. She is reaching out for women, of any age, to come together and fill the need of the "sister" in their lives. All four of these women have sisters but they form a much closer and stronger bond with these faux sisters in the Sister's Club.

Baratz-Logsted wrote a well-written and engaging story about four women in various stages of their life who could use a shoulder to lean on and a ear to be a sounding board. Diana is from England and is newly married to an American man, so she is essentially alone when her husband is away at work. This is why she hopes to form bonds with other women in the area through the bookstore newsletter. Cindy is a young woman in a volatile relationship who is mostly cut off from her family, except her sister Carly, when Carly isn't on drugs or trying to put her life back together.

Then you have Lise who is a creative writing professor who is jealous of her students for being able to do what she has not, which is publish an actual novel. Finally, there is Sylvia, who is an older woman who lost her twin sister to breast cancer and who never had a close relationship with anyone else.

Throughout the book, all of these women begin to become closer to each other, with various members of the "group" becoming closer than others. For example, Sylvia and Cindy eventually form a mother/daughter type of bond. Lise and Diana have moments of strife in the book, as Diana begins to become more full of herself. She has surgery to lose weight and it becomes a big focus for her and she starts to annoy the other women, who are all going through problems of their own.

This was a fun read, but it also focused on a lot of serious topics. I think Bartaz-Logsted did a really good job with the different women, as well as their respective men.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Blogger Help: Let's Talk Online Friendships

If you've been following my blog for awhile now, you may have noticed some posts about the movie Ask Me Anything, which is based off the novel Undiscovered Gyrl by Allison Burnett. What's even cooler than a book-made-movie is that Allison himself put the film together, so you know it's the way he would have wanted things (kind of like The Perks of Being a Wallflower book/film). Anyway, Undiscovered Gyrl now has a novella sequel out called Another Girl and I'm trying to helping Allison spread the word.

If you want to read Another Girl, either read Undiscovered Gyrl or see the film (they both give you the information you need and Ask Me Anything is available now on Netflix for free!) Once you've done that, you just need to grab a copy of Another Girl.

I've spent the last week sharing this information (and more) with various bloggers via email. However, I wanted to post about it here in hopes that more people will see this and want to help out. Also, be sure to check your blog emails if you think I may have written you already!

The idea behind Another Girl is essentially online friendships. The novella is more suspense and mystery than a lot of the online bloggy friendships we all have, but to go with that basic theme, I wanted to see if bloggers would help me out with promoting this book by doing the following-

1. Post something on your blog (this would make a great discussion post, I think) about online and blog friendships. Do you have any? What has your experience been like? Any particular bloggers you are close to and want to make a shout out? It's essentially up to you - anything on online friendships is a go!

2. Along with this post, please post something about Another Girl. You can say you haven't read the books or seen the film (be honest and open to your blog readers) but do let them know you are writing about this topic because of the book. The little amount Allison and I would love to see about Another Girl is that you post the cover and a link to Amazon so people can check it out. You can post links to Ask Me Anything, Undiscovered Gyrl, write more, etc., but you only need to do that little amount along with this post!

Now, I know bloggers are busy and maybe you want to help but don't have time to make a whole post. You can still post about the novella in a weekly round up or some other general post that you may post on your blog!

Thank you so much for reading this and I appreciate all of you! Please get in touch if you would like to help in some way or you have already gone ahead and posted something. You can email me at: lauren51990 AT aol DOT com

Friday, August 28, 2015

Craving's Creek by Mel Bossa

Craving's Creek by Mel Bossa

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Fourteen years ago, on a sun-drenched summer day on the banks of Craving's Creek, Ryde swore to his best friend, Alistair, he'd never be alone in the world. Though Alistair was destined for the priesthood, there was something beyond holy about the first kiss they shared. But a fun camping trip went horribly wrong when Alistair was involved in a horrific incident. Now, at age thirty-one, Ryde's life is a mess of alcohol and the painful imprint of his last look into Alistair's desperate eyes. Since the evil they encountered on that shore, his first love has been lost to him-until he learns a friend's wedding is to be officiated by a priest named Father Alistair Genet. Amid the rush of emotions, one thought crystallizes: Ryde's love for Alistair not only has never died, it's stronger than ever. Stronger than God. But it may be no match for the church...and the repressed memories that are slowly tearing Alistair's mind apart.

Review: By the time I started reading this book, I had mostly forgotten the summary, so it was a lot darker of a story than I originally thought. I knew that Ryde was in love with his best friend Alistair, but that by the time they are adults, Alistair has entered the priesthood and Ryde is desperate to remind him of their teenage love. If you have read the summary above, then you know that there is a lot more to the story than just a teenage love gone wrong.

Alistair and Ryde have been best friends for years, even if other people think that Alistair is weird. His family is very religious and they are certain that Alistair will become a priest one day. Alistair begins to question that when he falls for Ryde. However, one summer when they are teens, Alistair goes on a camping trip with Ryde and his family and both of their lives change forever.

Even if you are more informed of the plot than I was going in, I don't want to talk too much about the moment that changes the boys because it's a big part of the story and you should discover that on your own. However, after this moment, the story skips to fourteen years later and Ryde is now thirty-one. He has had a problem with alcohol for years. His family understands why, but they want him to get better and aren't sure how to go about it.

It takes the news that Alistair is officiating a friend's wedding to get Ryde to try and change his life around. He gets sober, begins really talking to a therapist and begins his quest to take Alistair away from the church and back into his life. If you are a really religious person, you might be a bit upset on how some of the priests and the church are portrayed. At the same time, this book isn't anti-religion or anti-God. Alistair always keeps his belief in God and he continues to pray, regardless of what is going on in his life.

Craving's Creek is an adult novel with mature moments, but it's also an intense read that deals with mental illness, horrific moments in the past, and the power of love in leading you on the way to healing.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

(R)Evolution by PJ Manney

(R)Evolution by PJ Manney 

Review by Lauren

Source: copy sent for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Scientist Peter Bernhardt has dedicated his life to nanotechnology, the science of manipulating matter on the atomic scale. As the founder of Biogineers, he is on the cusp of revolutionizing brain therapies with microscopic nanorobots that will make certain degenerative diseases become a thing of the past. But after his research is stolen by an unknown enemy, seventy thousand people die in Las Vegas in one abominable moment. No one is more horrified than Peter, as this catastrophe sets in motion events that will forever change not only his life but also the course of human evolution.

Peter’s company is torn from his grasp as the public clamors for his blood. Desperate, he turns to an old friend, who introduces him to the Phoenix Club, a cabal of the most powerful people in the world. To make himself more valuable to his new colleagues, Peter infuses his brain with experimental technology, exponentially upgrading his mental prowess and transforming him irrevocably.

As he’s exposed to unimaginable wealth and influence, Peter’s sense of reality begins to unravel. Do the club members want to help him, or do they just want to claim his technology? What will they do to him once they have their prize? And while he’s already evolved beyond mere humanity, is he advanced enough to take on such formidable enemies and win?

Review: This book is a little over 500 pages long, so it's not something I can really help summarize beyond what the official summary tells you. I will say, however, that it was fantastic and I really loved practically every minute. I don't read a lot of science fiction, but I think it's important to branch out sometimes and try new genres, and I'm glad that I took this interesting summary and went with it, because it definitely paid off.

Peter Bernhardt is a scientist who wants to use nanotechnology to help people like his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and lives in a nursing home. However, this same technology can also be used by terrorists and they do, killing thousands of people. Peter and his company are soon seen as suspects and Peter has to use the help of his college friend, Carter, in order to not only stay out of prison for something he didn't even do, but to also find a way to continue working with nanotechnology to create something else that will still help people.

(R)Evolution is very scientific, but for someone like me, who hates science and is really bad it, Manney does a phenomenal job explaining everything. Peter works with some intricate technology and scientific information, so it's important that Manney can hold the average reader's attention. What I also really loved is that everything Peter works with and created felt realistic. Nanotechnology is a real thing, and while Manney makes everything come "to life" so to speak for Peter in today's day and age, this is also based around real ideas and research. It's important for certain science fiction books to feel real and (R)Evolution definitely did! I also didn't realize that this was the first book in a series, but it is, and I can't wait for the second novel to be released.

Regardless of (R)Evolution not being a standalone, it still ends in a really good place, so you won't feel like you have to wait a long time for big answers!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams by Brent Hartinger

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams by Brent Hartinger

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Twenty-four year-old Russel Middebrook and his boyfriend have moved to Los Angeles so Russel can try to make it as a screenwriter.

Almost right away, in a forgotten old house off of Sunset Boulevard, Russel meets Isaac Brander, a once-famous film producer who is convinced he can turn Russel’s screenplay into a movie.

Russel knows that success can’t possibly come this easy. After all, most of Russel’s Los Angeles friends are so desperate to make it that it’s downright scary. His ex-boyfriend, Otto, is trying everything to become an actor, and Daniel, the sexy neighbor, doesn’t even need a casting couch to get naked.

So what’s the catch with Mr. Brander? Could it be that movies about Hollywood don’t tell the whole truth? But what does that mean for Russel’s soul?

Review: Many of you might have heard about the book called Geography Club. That was the first in a YA series of books about Russel Middlebrook. Now Russel is in his twenties and the author has decided to write a series of NA books about the character. If you liked the YA series, you're sure to love a slightly older Russel. Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams is the second NA book, coming after The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know. As with most NA or adult titles, there is some more mature moments and language, but nothing outrageous. It's just a slightly more mature YA, if you will.

Now, as to the actual book, it was interesting to get a look into the struggles of people hoping to make it big in Los Angeles. Russel is hoping to be a screenwriter and when a really old producer, who made some big movies back in the day, wants to make Russel's movie, it really does seem too good to be true. Russel's boyfriend, Kevin, tries to be supportive but it's obvious he's worried about this Mr. Brander and doesn't want Russel to get his hopes up too high.

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams is about chasing dreams, but also learning to let them go. It's about learning how to be a couple with the stress of real life surrounding you. There are a lot of secondary characters that really add to the overall story, like Russel's ex-boyfriend, Otto. He's desperate to be an actor, but with burn scars on his face, people aren't willing to take a chance on him when they are trying so hard to make their dreams come true. It certainly makes sense, but that doesn't mean it's any easier for Otto or for the reader, who is rooting for all these men and women to reach their dreams.

This is, once again, an exciting look into the life of Russel and I can't wait for the third novel coming out next year!

Music Choice:

If you'd like to know what music I feel fits this book, please visit Let's Get Beyond Tolerance!

Monday, August 24, 2015

The War Against the Assholes by Sam Munson

The War Against the Assholes by Sam Munson

Review by Lauren

Source: copy sent for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Mike Wood is satisfied just being a guy with broad shoulders at a decidedly unprestigious Catholic school in Manhattan. But on the dirty streets of New York City he’s an everyman with a moral code who is unafraid of violence. And when Mike is unwittingly recruited into a secret cell of magicians by a fellow student, Mike’s role as a steadfast soldier begins. These magicians don’t use ritualized rote to work their magic, they use willpower in their clandestine war with the establishment: The Assholes.

Review: You can't really read a title like The War Against the Assholes and not be interested. However, I have to admit that it wasn't all that of an interesting read for me. I suppose it got better as it went along, but it was difficult to understand at times and all of the dialogue was written out in paragraphs. What I mean is that they would have dialogue (he says) and then dialogue (she says) back and forth in one paragraph instead of breaking things down line by line. This definitely confused me for a bit, but it got better as I got used to it. You just have to really pay attention to know who is speaking and saying what.

When it comes to characters, there are a mix of people that are important to the story and are part of this "war" so to speak, whether they are assholes or not. However, let me just focus on Mike and Alabama, a member of his group fighting against the assholes.  Mike isn't that likable starting out. He'll fight with people with no shame and he doesn't care if he seriously hurts them, as long as they are still breathing. I like to think he's more likable as the book goes on, though, as you get to see more of his personality and how he really does care for certain people, like his parents. As for Alabama, she's kind of a bad ass. She plays the violin and isn't afraid to wield a gun around. I think a book about her would be kind of cool!

Overall, I'd say this is a 3-star type of read. I don't really rate books, but sometimes I think it helps get my point across. So yes, 3-star: good at times, but not really something I'd go around recommending.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Getting to Know (4): Leaving the Country

Wow, I can't believe it's been another week already! I can't say I'm not excited though  - it's nice to have a mini break since I don't work this weekend.

Getting to Know (4):  I have never been out of the county (United States) but I have a dream of visiting England. My sister said we'd go when I graduate from grad school (she's been a couple times already - and to France and Canada) so we're hoping to go sometime next year. Maybe I can even meet one of you lovely English bloggers in person! That would be fun.

What about you? Have you left your county, and if you have, where did you go? If not, where do you want to go?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Don't Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom

Don't Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom

Review by Lauren

Source: copy sent for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Eva has always wanted to write a modern classic—one that actually appeals to her generation. The only problem is that she has realized she can't "write what she knows" because she hasn't yet begun to live. So before heading off to college, Eva is determined to get a life worth writing about.

Soon Eva's life encounters a few unexpected plot twists. She becomes a counselor at a nearby summer camp—a job she is completely unqualified for. She starts growing apart from her best friends before they've even left for school. And most surprising of all, she begins to fall for the last guy she would have ever imagined. But no matter the roadblocks, or writer's blocks, it is all up to Eva to figure out how she wants this chapter in her story to end.

Review: I do really like books where the main character writes, just because I want to publish a book some day and I can relate to that aspect. Eva has various story and play ideas throughout the book and more than once, I'd stop and go "I'd read that!" which is both a good and bad thing. Good because Eva has some intriguing ideas, but bad because I can't actually read them unless Bloom decides to write them!

There are aspects of Eva's character that can be annoying. She's not always aware of other people, but at the same time, she's someone you can relate to in many ways. For one, she has difficulty with her two best friends over the summer. They are all starting to grow apart, make new friends, and generally aren't with each other 24/7. Eva has trouble with this and her friends aren't always the nicest about it. Yes, her friends have legitimate complaints about Eva, but I think she had reason to complain about them too.

I also think the whole idea of trying to experience life, for whatever reason, is something that people can relate to as well. Eva thinks in terms of writing a story, but we're all creating our own autobiography as we live, right? I think most people around Eva's age are trying new things and really figure out who they are, so that aspect comes across well. I also really liked Eva's job at camp. It was fun getting to know the little girls she worked with and how Eva learned a lot about her own personality and strengths helping them.

One thing that was a bit annoying were all the guys in Eva's life. There are essentially three guys she goes out with throughout the book and that she could end up with. There is only one I really like. It's not that she's dating a lot or anything like that, but as someone who never thought people liked her, it's weird for me to read about teenage girls who have all these guys willing to be with them.

Anyway, Don't Ever Change is a good book. There are some moments/circumstances that felt left undone, which is a bit annoying, but overall, this was a quick, fun read!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Influenster Box Product Reviews

I'm part of the website Influenster, and I was really excited that I was offered their Sunshine VoxBox to review this past month (all opinions are my own). You can see the contents in the above photo. Unfortunately, my family ate the Sriracha Blue Diamond almonds before taking the photo, so those were included too! My dad liked them - they were hot, but not too hot!

The other items:

Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel Daily Refreshingly Clean Cleansing Cloths: These work well, but they didn't have a nice scent! I wouldn't really recommend!

Vaseline® Intensive Care™ Aloe Soothe Spray Moisturizer: Good product for the summer and hot weather, as it includes aloe. You just spray and smooth it in right away. I used it on my arms and legs and it felt really nice and refreshing.

Infusium 23 Moisture Replenisher with avocado and olive oil:I liked this! I have really frizzy hair, and it did help keep my hair pretty smooth throughout the day. This picture (above) is after having my hair down for hours and it looked pretty good! Also, the product smells so nice!

Sinful Colors nail polish: I really like the color, but I still need to actually use this! I've used the product before though, I believe, and it didn't last very long. I think it's a good price for a polish though- so check it out!

I also got a coupon for barkTHINS, but I haven't seen them around. They do look quite yummy, so I'd recommend keeping an eye out.

Overall, I liked the products I was sent. They were all great for the summer, and it was fun trying some new things!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Paperless Post: Pink/Orange Wedding Ideas

I'm obsessed with planning parties, and while I haven't had to plan a wedding in my time, I do love thinking of different themes and designs. Therefore, I checked out Paperless Post in hopes of finding an invitation I could kind of "design" around to share with all of you, since Fall wedding season is fast approaching! 

I ended up finding the Lanterns Wedding Invitation above in Sherbert. You can choose from a few other colors too, but the Sherbert is the one I have above! You can always find your own invitation on the website too though. They have many designs! What I like about this invitation, besides it being super adorable and great for a Fall wedding, is that you can use it as an e-invite or get a paper version.

With this invitation in mind, I created this fun collage of other items I thought would be great for a picture perfect fall wedding.

Links for you to learn more about the above photos:

1. How to make a paper lantern
2. Floating paper lanterns for reception decor
3. Pink and orange wedding cake
4. Pink and orange wedding - bridesmaids dresses
5. Orange balloons 

If I were getting married, I would choose Fall as the time because it's my favorite season and I think darker colors are nice. At the same time, you don't have to go too dark as seen by this orange/pink/sherbert look I have created!

What do you think? Would you use any of these elements at your wedding or even just a fun party?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

More Than Words by T. T. Kove

More Than Words by T. T. Kove

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Alex has had about all he can take. He doesn't want to keep enduring one misery after another. All he has to do is clean out his locker, take his stuff home, and then he can bring it all to an end.

But then a random jerk crashes into him, sends his belongings scattering across the floor, and Alex is helped unexpectedly by Andreas. Unexpected because Andreas is friends with the school bullies, who are no small part of the misery that has driven Alex to the breaking point.

Andreas, however, seems nothing like his friends. He's kind and doesn't seem to mind all the things about Alex that drive so many others away. When he also turns out to be bisexual, it seems far too good to be true, and Alex is torn between trusting that good things can happen and the certainty it only exists to be torn away.

Review: Oh, I really loved Alex and Andreas. Alex has been having a rough time lately. His parents are abusive toward each other and him, when he gets in the way, and he wishes they would just get divorced. His two older siblings have long left home and he has nobody to turn too except the razor he uses to try and control his inner pain. It's heartbreaking when you hear about anyone who self-harms, but at the same time, it happens in real life and it's great that authors are showing awareness of this in novels. The day Alex decides he's going to go home and kill himself, Andreas literally runs into him at school and they start an immediate relationship.

Alex is used to being used for sex, and he doesn't mind. He likes it and it gives him something else to focus on. When Andreas invites him to hang out and they end up having sex, Alex assumes that's all he wants. It's not long before he realizes that maybe Andreas actually likes him and wants to hang out with him away from his bedroom. The problem with that is that Alex is sure when Andreas is done hanging around him, he'll go back to being depressed and will eventually kill himself. Also, being with Andreas means being with his friends, and Andreas' best mate, Glenn, has always been cruel to Alex. It's nice to see that Andreas won't take this though and he goes up against Glenn in order to make Alex feel better about himself within their group.

Apart from Glenn, who has a story of his own, there is Peter and his girlfriend, Sarah, within the group. They are nice people, especially Sarah, who is happy to take Alex under her wing as another "partner" in the group. Sarah hangs out with the boys because of Peter, just like Alex does because of Andreas. Alex is uncomfortable around everyone but Andreas for awhile, but he soon starts to fit in and feel like he belongs and that maybe his depression will stay away for awhile.

It's not that easy though, and Alex does realize he needs help beyond Andreas and physical relationships. It's an important revelation, and I think Kove does a good job dealing with mental illness and how people sometimes need therapy, medicine, or even both. Alex and Andreas are really good for each other and More Than Words was a really quick read. There are graphic sex scenes, but it's nothing that overtakes the story and it fits, which is always my main criteria.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book Spotlight: Riding by Cassia Cassitas

Riding by Cassia Cassitas

Amidst real events and landscapes, men and women like us wander the cities we inhabit, rehearsing happier lives in the pages of this motivational narrative. From each one, destiny took a part to make them perfect.

When he is born, Andre propels his mother's life in a new direction. His father, an executive who organizes Olympic competitions around the world and doesn't know when to come back home, strives to make him a worldly citizen. Cycling, his life acquires purpose: becoming an Olympic para-athlete.

Together with his friends, he experiences disappointments and new beginnings. A doctor that builds robots, the daughter of a lonely teenager, and a retired athlete teach André how to overcome his limits and live his dream.

Set in Curitiba with breaks in Los Angeles, Seoul, Johannesburg and Soweto, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London, the narrative ends in 2012, in Rio de Janeiro.

As a tribute to all those who choose to sign the next episodes of their lives, this book is about overcoming one’s self amid achievements, obstacles, love and heroism, written behind the scenes of life.

Buy the book:    Amazon   ~   Barnes & Nobles   ~    Book Depository

Author's Bio:

In my mind, words came in strides. They aligned themselves in arguments that were ready for combat after rebelling themselves - and that was just inkling. Where was my certainty to support the new image? And where were my emotions, with their brushes to bring color to life?"

Born in the interior of the state of Paraná, Cassia Cassitas accumulated various degrees throughout her career in Information Technology. The author of three novels, her texts convey ideas accumulated amidst the smell of coffee plantations, shoe factories, and the technology of the 20th century. These texts deal with life-altering episodes, in a path lit by a harmonious blend of memories and imagination.

Connect with the author:     Website    Facebook    Twitter

This book spotlight is courtesy of:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Crossing Borders by Z.A. Maxfield

Crossing Borders by Z. A. Maxfield

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryTristan knows he’s got issues. His latest ex-girlfriend knows it too. He can’t blame her for dumping him—even though she gets her brother to do it for her. Since he can’t stop staring at said brother’s package, he figures it’s about time to put a label on those issues. He likes guys.

He heads to a local bookstore with what he’s sure is a foolproof plan to find someone to show him what he’s been missing. But who should crash his little adventure? Officer Michael Truax, who gave him a really expensive ticket back in high school for skateboarding without a helmet.

Michael has been trying to catch Tristan for give him a second ticket. Suddenly faced with “Sparky”, all grown up and looking to get laid, Michael’s protective instinct kicks in—and presents him with an opportunity that’s hard to resist. After all, the kid must know what he’s getting into, so why not? 

But when a man with a plan connects with a man with a hunger, the result is nothing short of explosive.

Review: This book was originally published in 2007, I believe, so there are aspects of being in an M/M relationship that have definitely changed since then. You can get married across the U.S. and it's a bit more in the forefront of society than when Tristan and Michael first meet. I'm telling you this so if you do read the book, some of what the boys talk about will make sense, but at the same time, not enough has changed. People are still discriminated against, people can still get hurt just for loving someone of the same gender. It's not a perfect world, so when Tristan realizes that he likes guys, he's not sure he wants to dive right into a real relationship. The world doesn't really let him decide though, when Michael, a local cop, sits down to have a conversation with Tristan in a bookstore one day.

I thought Crossing Borders was a really good book. It focused on a lot of issues beyond sexuality. There is a bit of an age difference (about nine years, I believe) between Tristan and Michael, as well as the fact that Tristan is a student and Michael is a cop. Not just the difference in occupation, but the fact that Michael doesn't really have a secure job. He could easily be hurt and that is something Tristan has difficulty with.

Whenever I review romance novels, I like to note the graphic nature for those that only like certain levels. Crossing Borders reads like an NA novel, as it mostly follows college-aged Tristan, but there are a lot of descriptive sexual scenes. This doesn't bother me, as it fits the story and the guys within it, but if that borrows you, now you know! In all, I'd definitely read more by this author.


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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Getting to Know (3) + Questions Answered

Don't you just love my official button for the Getting to Know feature? I have Kelly over at the amazing blog Diva Booknerd to thank! She's fantastic. Thank you so much, Kelly!

Getting to Know (3):  In a week and a half I'll be starting my final semester in Graduate school. Some of you know this, but for those that do not, I am getting my Master's of Science in Library Science (which means I can be an official librarian). My dream librarian job is probably working with teens, but we'll see what the future holds. It's difficult to get a librarian job these days.

Answered from the Blog:

I had a couple questions left on my review for Joyland by Stephen King, so I wanted to go ahead real quick and answer those!

1. Will you be reading more in the future? (as in Stephen King books)

I do want to try more of Stephen King in the future. You always hear great things, but I'm not interested in everything he's done. I do want to try out a few though. I'm definitely interested in reading everything Joe Hill has written though (Joe Hill is Stephen King's son).

2. I'm actually scared to read Misery. Why did you find it just okay? 

I read Misery in high school so it's definitely been awhile since I've read it. I think it just dragged to be honest. It could have been more suspenseful if it wasn't as long, I think.

Friday, August 14, 2015

What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi + Make it a Gift

What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: It's all Ryden's fault. If he hadn't gotten Meg pregnant, she would have never stopped her chemo treatments and would still be alive. Instead he's failing fatherhood one dirty diaper at a time. And it's not like he's had time to grieve while struggling to care for their infant daughter, start his senior year, and earn the soccer scholarship he needs to go to college.

The one person who makes Ryden feel like his old self is Joni. She's fun and energetic-and doesn't know he has a baby. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep his two worlds separate. Finding one of Meg's journals only stirs up old emotions. Ryden's convinced Meg left other notebooks for him to find, some message to help his new life make sense. But how is he going to have a future if he can't let go of the past?

Review: When I was younger, I used to just browse the library and pick up books that sounded good. I remember coming across one about a teen father and I loved that it existed, because any books about teen pregnancy for teens tend to focus on the mom and the dad is usually a deadbeat who won't admit the kid is even his child. That's not at all what Verdi did in What You Left Behind.

Ryden and Meg were a teenage romance. They loved each other, they had sex. They probably wouldn't have lasted into college, but Med had cancer and when she got pregnant, she gave up on chemo to have the baby. Ryden blames himself, even after Meg has their daughter Hope and has passed on. He can't move forward in life, surrounded by his grief and guilt and unsure about what will happen after he graduates high school.

I really liked Ryden's friendship with Joni; it gave him a chance to feel like a regular teenage boy again. At the same time, he's keeping Hope and Meg from her and I knew that it would all come out and eventually affect how Joni saw him. Whether that was good or bad, I had a bit of a wait. Another great secondary character was actually Ryden's mom. This was not a case of absent parent in YA novel. While Meg's parents are not happy with Ryden and don't want to be in Hope's life, Ryden's mom does everything she can for her son and granddaughter. It was really great to see!

What You Left Behind is sad and emotional, but it's also full of new hope (pun intended) and joy.

Make it a Gift:

If you decide to gift this novel to someone, I suggest adding Season One of the TV show Raising Hope. Hope is the baby - which is what initially made me think of this show - but it's also about a young father raising the baby with only his parents help.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Toddlers are A**holes (It's Not Your Fault) by Bunmi Laditan

Toddlers are A**holes (It's Not Your Fault) by Bunmi Laditan

Review by Lauren

Source: Copy from BEA; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Toddler a**holery is a normal part of human development—not unlike puberty, except this stage involves throwing food on the floor and taking swings at people who pay your way in life. For parents of toddlers, it's a "you better laugh so you don't cry" period.

Bunmi Laditan's hilarious, satirical guide to toddlerhood offers parents instant (and very welcome) comic relief—along with the very good news that "It's Not Your Fault." Chapters cover the cost of raising a toddler, feeding your toddler, potty-training, tantrums, how to manage the holidays, and "how not to die inside."

Review: I might not be a parent yet, but I have known enough children in my life to be able to empathize with the crazy antics of a toddler that are detailed in this hilarious book. As the summary states above, this book is broken into various chapters and then Laditan shares information on this particular aspect of having a toddler.

One of the chapters I really enjoyed is called Asshole Parents and it details (with a lovely illustration for each) various types of parents that are sure to annoy most, such as The Fake Perfect Parent and Special Little Snowflake Parent.

I really loved the humor in this book, but it's also a great book to show parents that you aren't crazy. Dealing with a toddler (or even more than one!) is difficult and you don't always get the credit you deserve. Toddlers are A**holes is definitely a book that could certainly offend some, but I think it's a matter of understanding that the book is meant to be funny. There are obviously plenty of moments you love being with your child and parenting is great, but it's also true that things don't always go well and it's okay to laugh about it!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday and More!

Hello everyone! I've been reading a lot lately, but I've also been sick and not really in the mood to write up reviews. Therefore, I have a lot I need to get scheduled. There will be a new one tomorrow, so look out for that!

For now though, I wanted to share some of my last posts over at Let's Get Beyond Tolerance if you'd like to check those out.

As I'm scheduling this, I don't have the set post link but if you visit the main blog (link above) you'll see my Waiting on Wednesday post for today, hence the photo.

Other Posts:

YA Author Transitions- read more

New Feature (Etsy Pride) - second one here

Teacher Comes Out Every Year - read more

If you haven't checked out the blog, then please do. I have two Etsy Prides up, more articles/discussion posts, some Waiting on Wednesday posts from previous weeks, and even some music videos! More of these posts (and more!!) to come.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Joyland by Stephen King

Joyland by Stephen King

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: After realizing his romantic life is not going in the direction he'd hoped, Devin Jones decides to take a summer job at an amusement park. There he makes friends with Tom Kennedy and Erin Cook, also summer hires at Joyland, which years before had been the scene of the murder of a young woman named Linda Gray whose ghost is said to be seen at the Horror House. He also befriends a young boy, named Mike Ross and his mother, Annie. Their lives all become entwined when Devin decides to investigate the mystery of Linda Gray's unsolved murder by the "Carny Killer."

Review: The only other Stephen King novel I have read was Misery, which was interesting, but definitely not a book for my favorites list. Joyland wouldn’t make that list either, but it is something I would recommend reading, especially if you like mysteries with very little violence or gore. When I think of King, I tend to imagine truly creepy stories that keep you up at night, but Joyland isn’t really like that. Overall, it is about a young man named Devin who begins working at an amusement park called…you guessed it…Joyland. Amusement parks make me think of summer, so it might be a good time to check this story out.

The beginning of the book doesn’t seem to have all that much mystery or intrigue. We, as readers, know that there will be more, so it keeps us reading and a bit in suspense of what’s to come. Devin soon comes to learn that a young woman was murdered at Joyland years ago and her killer had never been caught. Some people seem to believe that the Horror House is haunted, as that is where she had been killed and thrown aside. Eventually, Devin becomes interested enough to want to know more. Fellow Joyland employee Tom Kennedy is spooked by a trip into Horror House and refuses to investigate, but Erin Cook continues to look into the murder after her Joyland summer is over, offering what she finds to Devin.

Now, I’m not one of those people who tend to guess the culprit in a mystery novel, so this one came as a surprise to me. I can’t say it won’t be a thought with some people, but I guess that’s always the chance when reading these books. In all though, I thought the mystery was well done, and like I said, there isn’t really any violence and gore so it’s a pretty tame read. Joyland contains a bit of the supernatural as well, which made some aspects of the ending a bit too easy, but overall, I did enjoy this one.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Getting to Know #2

Welcome back to Getting to Know. Thanks for all the lovely comments last week!

Getting to Know (GTK #2): I have spent the entire night in a library. I used to volunteer with the teen librarian at one of my local libraries and at least once a year they have a Teen Overnight, where teens can sign up to spend the entire night in the library. It's full of movies, board games, video games, and lots of snacks. I think most of us book lovers have a dream to live in a bookstore or a library,  so it was fun to experience that for at least one night!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Author Interview: Adi Alsaid

Photo Credit: Peter Ross
1. What made you interested in writing YA? Would you ever write an adult novel?

I have written adult novels before, and I expect I will again. But a few years ago, when I was still unpublished, I was starting to read more and more YA. I absolutely loved some of the books, and I thought the general voice used in the contemporary YA and the coming-of-age storylines were very much in line with what I like to write about, and I wanted to see if I could do it.

2. If you could collaborate with any author (dead or alive), who would you pick and why? It can be more than one!

It'd be amazing to have Bill Watterson illustrate a story I wrote. Being a huge Calvin and Hobbes fan, childhood me would freak out (and so would teenage me, adult me, every version of me ever).

3. Your book talks about avoiding high school cliches, and when people think of high school, they tend to imagine the typical cliques. What clique did you find yourself in during high school? Any particular stories you care to share? 

I was in a strange clique because of the unique school I went to. I grew up in Mexico City and was always a huge basketball fan. So you would think I'd fit into the jock clique. But in my high school, basketball was not a popular sport at all, falling far behind soccer and American Football in popularity. We usually had more people on our bench than in the bleachers. I was also a shy kid, not too into large crowds, not very into what all the popular kids were doing. Much like Dave and Julia and their self-sustained friendship of two, I had my small group of friends that I was close to and spent most of my time with.

We were also kind of weird. We made films where people lip-synched Pulp Fiction monologues while looking into a mirror, and the few times we went to parties we'd maybe take random religious pamphlets that I don't exactly remember how we acquired and tried to convert people.

4. Have you "broken" any of the rules that Dave and Julia create in the book, such as dying your hair the color of the rainbow? Please share any stories!

I had a pretty common lunch spot, either this one corner table or at the gym, sneaking bites in between games of basketball. I definitely pined silently after people, although none of my unrequited crushes stretched out the entirety of high school, and none were best friends. Parties at my school were a little different because Mexico, so drinking was a little easier to come by, without the need for secretive keggers when parents were out of town. Some parties were at night clubs and were referred to as "pedas" which is a slangy way to say a party specifically meant to get drunk at. I sometimes attended these, but never joined in on the intent of the party, since I was too into basketball and being unlike other people to partake. 

5. What is something you have NEVER done but have ALWAYS wanted to? Why?

Gone to an airport spontaneously with no plans, picked a random flight, and taken off to somewhere new with absolutely zero agenda. 
Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid is out now!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they'd never, ever do in high school.

Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never die your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he's broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It's either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember.

Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they've actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.

Review: When I first started this book, I was a little wary because it wasn't quite grabbing me. However, it didn't take long before I really fell for the characters and was taken on a journey with Dave and Julia. What I really loved about these two characters is their friendship and banter. Yes, Dave has been silently in love with Julia for years, but that doesn't mean they have an awkward or stilted friendship. On the contrary, they are each others' best friends. They are also each others' only friends, so when Julia decides to actually do all the things they wrote on the Never list before starting high school, it's not long before they begin to socialize with other people.

Julia is fun, outgoing, and really witty. She loves being friends with Dave and she sees the Never list as something fun to do before graduation. Dave goes along with the idea, enjoying the passion and amusement that Julia brings along on her quest to dye her hair pink and seduce her math teacher. Dave ends up meeting other people and realizing that high school was not this big cliche that him and Julia always thought. What has he missed out on? The Never list is a good thing for Dave, in the end, because it brings him out of his shell a bit and he begins to experience more. As for Julia, she seems to be enjoying the Never list, but she's not entirely ready for a big change to occur. It's more fun for her, and the difference in opinion does affect their friendship as the book goes on.

Never Always Sometimes could have followed a typical high school story cliche, the opposite of what Dave and Julia think they want, but it doesn't. Sure, there are things you could point at and say "that's a cliche" but it often just means it's true. These things happen. Overall though, I think this was a really well done contemporary novel.

Sorry for the lack of commenting! I have a few things scheduled, but I need to get a new computer soon and therefore, there might be a few days of nothing or lack of comments on my part. I will try and do my best, but if I'm a bit invisible in the next week, you now know why! Please comment though and I'll get back to you soon! Also, be sure to check out all the posts over at Let's Get Beyond Tolerance.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman

Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman

Review by Lauren

Source: personal copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Behind every mask is a real man. 

Two men joined by blood but separated by murder: Thomas, the rebellious doctor and heir to the vast Wayne empire, and Bruce, his son, whose life is forever altered when he witnesses the brutal death of his parents.

The slaying of Thomas and Martha Wayne is the torturous point on which Bruce turns to become the mysterious crusader Batman—the genesis of a simple mugging gone horribly wrong. The Dark Knight's file on the case has long been closed, the foundations of Bruce Wayne's secret life secure. But these foundations are shaken when an unexpected guest invades the grounds of Wayne Manor, raising questions about the event that ended the lives of the mother he loved and the father he worshipped, and sparked his unquenchable drive to protect and avenge.

To discover his true family history, Batman must face down old foes, confront his only confidant, invade the evil heart of Arkham Asylum, and shoulder the terrible new burden of a dark legacy.

Review: In the past year or so, I've been getting really into reading Batman comics/graphic novels, so I was really excited to check out a novel based around the iconic character. Wayne of Gotham goes back and forth between a young Thomas Wayne and his grown up son, Bruce Wayne. Bruce uses the death of his parents to propel him into a life of fighting crime as the caped crusader, Batman. However, Wayne of Gotham plays with this idea by showing a side to Thomas and Martha Wayne that other versions of Batman seemingly do not.

In Bruce's mind, his parents were wonderful people who were killed for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But what if there is more to the story? What if there are people out there who know more about his parents than Bruce does? Wayne of Gotham is an interesting look into the past of the Waynes' and I really enjoyed this alternative history. It gives a new perspective on Bruce's parents and his reason for even becoming Batman, which is fascinating.

Before you start thinking that the Wayne family are corrupt or evil, that's not the case. They have secrets and they do things that are not quite right, but it's not out of maliciousness. Since the story goes back and forth between perspectives, readers are able to see what Thomas was thinking in the past and then how it affects Bruce as he slowly relearns his family's history. Both perspectives are in third person point of view, but you still get their thoughts and feelings about their situations, so it's almost as good as first person.

Wayne of Gotham is perfect for any Batman fan in your life - so check it out!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Getting to Know (1): Random Blogger Facts

First off, I don't have a button for this as I still don't know how to do if anyone knows of someone (or can do it themselves) that can make a cute button for this new feature, that would be awesome. Plus, I have some other features that I said I would do or have done in the past and I promise I'm going to try and bring those back more - break things up between all the reviews, etc.

Getting to Know or GTK depending on how much room you want to give the title.

The idea behind Getting to Know is to share at least one fact about yourself once a week (or hopefully once a week!) I know a lot of people have round up type posts on Saturday or Sunday, so you can add this there if you like.

I think it's fun to get to know the blogger behind the blog, so feel free to share whatever you wish! It doesn't have to be anything terribly personal. The fact can be something from your childhood, it can be something that pertains to your previous week, whatever! I hope my facts will give you some idea of what to go with. If you decide to take part in this, please let me know and feel free to leave a link in the comments!

Getting to Know (GTK) Number 1: When I was younger, I used to read some of the Harry Potter books out loud to my dad. He wanted to read them but never really read much, so I decided to read them aloud as I had already read and loved them. If he fell asleep, I'd go back to whatever he remembered and continue on! We got through about two or three of them, I believe.