Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Post - The Week I Spent in an Inferno

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where I can share my wrap up of the past week, as well as plans for the current week.

My Week in Review

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few that sum up the weather this week:

The highlight of my week, was getting an email from Toms telling me about their new LLAMA SHOES!!! Of course I ordered a pair for me and Kiersten, because LLAMA SHOES!

So, that is something I have to look forward to.  😊

I was also very excited to see the announcement about the film adaptation for To All The Boys I've Loved Before. I remember Han talking about this at a BookCon panel (I think 2016?), and how she originally passed, because they did not think the Song girls needed to be Korean. Way to hold out Jenny Han! This means a lot to me as the mother of mixed race child (Chinese/white).

Last week on the blog:
  • Monday: I reviewed Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
  • Tuesday: I shared by Mid-Year Freak Out, because I thought I should punish myself a little by forcing myself to pick some favorites. 
  • Wednesday: I gave some love to A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland with my Can't Wait Wednesday post.
  • Thursday: We hosted a blog tour stop for Tied Up in You by Erin Fletcher. **The giveaway for an Amazon gift card is still open. 
  • Friday: I reviewed Witchtown by Cory Putnam Oakes. 
What I Read Last Week

I was really happy with my reading week. So many unexpected surprises! The Dazzling Heights was a very satisfying sequel, and it looks like maybe a 3rd book is in the works from the way things were set up. But my most favorite book of the week was The Art of Feeling. I don't know. I think I am in love with grief books, because I have been lucky enough to read so many that were simply stellar. I thought the premise for this one was brilliant - a boy who cannot feel no physical pain being part of a the healing journey for girl, who is in constant physical pain. There were tons of funny and beautiful moments in this book, that were topped off by a fairly entertaining cast. Loved. It. I had a few reads that started out shaky, but redeemed themselves by the end, and earned a half star or so back.

What I Am Currently Reading

I am just starting Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink, so I don't have much to say. I am keeping with my tradition of listening to my adult romances with another Rachel Gibson audiobook. This one has a little murder mystery in it, which is adding to my enjoyment.

What I Plan to Read

I am going to try and show some shelf-love again this week. I really need to do more of that. I hope to read some of my physical ARCs soon too, but since they are all currently in boxes, it makes it quite difficult.

How was your week?
Let us know in the comments!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: Witchtown - Cory Putman Oakes

Cory Putman Oakes
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
When sixteen-year-old Macie O’Sullivan and her masterfully manipulative mother Aubra arrive at the gates of Witchtown—the most famous and mysterious witch-only haven in the world—they have one goal in mind: to rob it for all it’s worth.

But that plan derails when Macie and Aubra start to dig deeper into Witchtown’s history and uncover that there is more to the quirky haven than meets the eye.

Exploring the haven by herself, Macie finds that secrets are worth more than money in Witchtown.

Secrets have their own power.
I feel like the blurb did not do a good job describing this book, so I'll do a little intro.

Following the Second Inquisition, witch havens were established as places where both natural and learned witches placed on the National Witch Registry lived openly as witches. Macie and her mother, Aubra, had spent the past decade inserting themselves into these havens only to rob them blind. In the last haven, Macie made the mistake of breaking one of the fundamental rules for being a con, she formed an attachment and fell in love.

Shortly thereafter, Macie and Aubra fled and sought refuge in the utopian haven of Witchtown. Aubra promised Macie, that this would be the last heist, and afterward, they would settle down and establish roots, the way most witches did. However, as their time in Witchtown grew shorter, Macie began to doubt her mother's promise, and also suspected that her mother was harboring a much bigger secret, which involved both her and her mother.

I enjoyed my trip to Witchtown, and found this to be an entertaining tale with filled with some really great characters and some captivating magic.

Things I liked:

  • The main character, Macie, was quite complicated. She was struggling with the life she knew and the life she wanted. In Witchtown, she found a solid group of friends, who believed she was good. They supported her and were there for her when she really needed them. This was a huge change from how she was treated by her mother, and she began to rethink a lot of her ways and beliefs as a result of coming to Witchtown. 
  • There were some great secondary characters too. I found Tayla and Kellen to be pretty awesome friends, who really showed Macie that she could trust other people. They opened her up to letting others in. Both Tayla and Kellen were keeping some major secrets, but in the end, they were there to help Macie uncover a huge secret, which was standing in the way of her happiness. 
  • I liked Witchtown. This town was billed as a utopia, and it did not disappoint. Witchtown was green and self-sufficient. The citizens lived in harmony and were always there to lend a helping hand. It's no wonder that Macie grew to love and care about this town and the people in it, because it seemed like such a charming place. 
  • This is a lighter type paranormal. There is conflict and tension and even some violence, but it's never too much or too heavy. I felt that the relationships Macie was building in Witchtown played a bigger role in this story, and therefore, were featured more prominently. 
  • I cannot forget the romance. This was sort of a twofer. We get one romance in the form of flashbacks, and a second that plays out real-time in the story. Both were important with respect to Macie's personal journey, and I always love a good romance. 
  • The ending was strong for me. Although there were still some unresolved plot points at the end of the story, this did not detract from my enjoyment of how Oakes left the story. It was in a neat enough bow and filled with sufficient hope and promise, that I was left happy. 
Overall: a lighter-side paranormal with enough magic and mystery to entertain.

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book.

Do you have a favorite witch book?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Blog Tour: Tied Up In You - Erin Fletcher

Tied Up In You
Erin Fletcher
Series: All Laced Up, #2
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Entangled: Crush
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Everyone says hotshot goalie Luke Jackson is God’s gift to girls, but the only girl he wants is his best friend, Malina Hall. He’s always known how brilliant she is, but now that he’s “accidentally” kissed her, he can’t stop thinking about her…or wanting to kiss her again.

Problem is, things have been a little…awkward since the kiss. Because she likes him, too? Hopefully, but even if she did, their futures—and the ridiculous schedules that come with them—are in the way. And now one of his teammates is showing interest, and the guy has more in common with Malina than Jackson ever will.

As her best friend, Jackson should get out of the way. But if there’s one thing he’s learned from hockey, it’s that you have to go for what you want, even if it means falling flat on your face. And he’s definitely falling for Malina.

Disclaimer: This book contains a hot hockey player who goes after what he wants, a super-hot, super-distracting shirtless workout, and the kind of best friends to lovers romance every girl in the friend zone has dreamed of.

If I had to sum up my thoughts about Tied Up in You, it would be that it was terribly cute.

I love friends to more books, especially when the hero and heroine have shared a long friendship. Malina and Jackson had been friends since they were small children. They shared a past and knew each other so well. Therefore, there was a lot of that awkward getting-to-know-you stuff out of the way.  BUT we also had all that push and pull and resistance to the attraction, as they didn't want to complicate their friendship with romance. I expected this, and part of the fun with this type of story, is the stuff that plays out as they try to deny and fight their true feelings, which resulted a few really amusing scenes that arose as Malina and Jackson worked through their emotions. 

I really liked the way Fletcher incorporated the auxiliary characters. Malina had a fabulous best friend, Izzy, who more or less stole every scene she was in, and I adored her. I also loved Malina's family. Her relationship with her mother and Tutu (that's Hawaiian for grandmother) really tugged at my heartstrings. I will say it right now: the way to my heart is through the grandmother, because I become a total sap for every grandma I encounter in a book. I had a fabulous Oma, who doted on me and treated me like a princess. So, I guess they just remind me of her. Speaking of Tutu, I loved getting a little lesson in Hawaiian culture from her. It was a nice touch to pepper the story with some Hawaiian words, crafts, and food. Jackson also had a great relationship with his mother and sister, and there was an ease to their relationship that helped me understand Jackson a little more. 

These two did run into a few roadblocks, but the drama was low, which is the way I like my drama. And the drama arose, because they each want the best for each other. But fights are ok, as long as they make up, and I got a sort of grand gesture out of it, so a total win for me. 

I love sports romances, so a hockey playing hero is totally my style, but I could not have asked for more in a heroine. This girl was a STEM princess, and that whole girl in science thing, is a conduit to my heart. This girl with her love of astrophysics just made me giddy. I love seeing smart girls score the jock, and I like seeing that there is more to the jock than meets the eye. 

Overall: A sweet and adorable friends to lovers story, which left me with a gleeful disposition. 

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book.


a Rafflecopter giveaway




Erin is a young adult author from North Carolina. She is a morning person who does most of her writing before sunrise, while drinking excessive quantities of coffee. She believes flip-flops qualify as year-round footwear, and would spend every day at the beach if she could. She has a bachelor's degree in mathematics, which is almost never useful when writing books.


Have you been to Hawaii or had any Hawaiian food?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Tessa at Wishful Endings that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I can't wait for A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland!

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
Krystal Sutherland
Series: n/a
Release Date: September 5 , 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers
Waited on by: Sam
From the author of Our Chemical Hearts comes the hilarious, reality-bending tale of two outsiders facing their greatest fears about life and love one debilitating phobia at a time.

Ever since Esther Solar's grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther's father is agoraphobic and hasn't left the basement in six years, her twin brother can t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck.

The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them.

Esther doesn't know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, and crowds are all off-limits. So are haircuts, spiders, dolls, mirrors and three dozen other phobias she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares.

Then Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate. Along with her phone, money and a fruit roll-up she d been saving, Jonah also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn't counted on: love.

The number one reason why I want to read this book is because it is written by Krystal Sutherland. I so adored Our Chemical Hearts. It was a little different from the books I normally love, as this one sort of broke my heart into a thousand pieces, but it did so in such a lovely way. So, as with any great book, I am hoping that Sutherland can deliver another stupendous reading experience for me.

In the synopsis for this book, the words "curse" and "hilarious" jumped out at me, and I knew I could enjoy it. I kind of like the idea of such an odd start to the friendship too. I don't know if I had ever befriended a person after they robbed me. And to have someone there, trying to help you conquer your fears one by one sounds pretty fantastic to me.

I am totally looking forward to this one, and know I will be reading it come September.

What are you waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book Tag: Mid-Year Book Freak Out

We are halfway through 2017, and I have read a lot of books, which I would like to reflect on. This tag is based on the books I read between January and June of this year. I have really been enjoying seeing others bloggers' answers for this tag, and now I submit mine.


Best Book You've Read So Far

I sort of do terrible with superlatives, because it is so hard to pick just one. I have been so book-blessed this year! Here are a few of the best books I have read so far (in no particular order)

Best Sequel You've Read So Far

We all know I have issues finishing series, so it should come as no surprise that I have only read about 5 YA sequels. I would say the best of the bunch was Sparks of Light by Janet B. Taylor. I enjoyed this second trip into the Dim, and found the time period they visited quite interesting. Tesla is actually in this book, and he is one of my favorite scientists. That sort of gave this book an edge over all the others.

New Release You Haven't Read Yet, But Want To

I feel like a broken record, but this is an ARC I had wanted sooooooooo bad, and was not lucky enough to get. I have only read stellar reviews for this book, so it just makes me want it more. I really hope to read What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum, and gosh darn it, I am determined to read it before the end of this year.

Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of 2017

There are so many incredible books coming out from many authors that I love. These are a few I am excited about, which I hadn't already mentioned in my Top Ten Tuesday
  • Warcross by Marie Lu - I am a solid Lu fan. She authored one of my favorite series (Legend) and early reviews are great for this book. 
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green - Oh, how I missed Green! It's been quite a while since we have had a new JG book or movie. This one sounds like it is going to be great. 
  • Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson - This is the sequel to The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You and is inspired by The Importance of Being Earnest. So, based on its predecessor, I am hoping for great things. 

Biggest Disappointment

This book was still good, but it was disappointing in that it did not have the same magic for me that the previous book did. I really loved Passenger, and part of what won my heart, was the dynamic between Etta and Nicholas. They were apart for most of the second book, Wayfarer, and I really missed them being together. Again, it was still good, but it could have been better for me.

Biggest Surprise

I had a few nice surprises, mostly in the form of books I liked a lot more than I expected. One that I want to show some love to is Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant. This book surprised me, because I had zero expectations going in, and ended up reading a story that I loved so much and left me extremely happy.

Favorite New Author (Debut or New to You)

I have been trying to read a lot of debuts this year, and I have been delighted to get to know some of these new authors. I also finally discovered the greatness of an author, who I had heard so many good things about. So, here are two new favorite authors:
  • Bonnie Pipkin - I read her debut, Aftercare Instructions and was so impressed with the story and the writing. It is among one of my favorite books this year. 
  • Cath Crowley - I had seen a lot of love on blogs for Crowley, and now I finally get it! Words in Deep Blue is another of my favorite reads. Crowley won a part of my heart with that book, and I now have a mission to read her back list. 

Newest Fictional Crush

I read a ton of romance novels, so there is practically a daily crush, but here are three that came to mind first. They all seem to have a similar precious-cupcake vibe to them, which is probably my type since I was burned by all those bad boys when I was younger. 😆

Newest Favorite Character

This one was easy for me: Alosa from Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller. She was such a standout heroine for me. A complete package! Smart, sassy, and a pirate to boot. Loved her and cannot wait to read more of her adventures.

Book That Made You Cry

I am a super sensitive reader. I cry a bunch, both happy and sad tears. Some of the books that reduced me to tears have already been mentioned, and here are a few more books that moved me. All were stories dealing with grief, with the exception of The Radius of Us.

Book That Made You Happy

I love books that make me happy, so I have a long list, but two instantly popped into my head.

Favorite Book to Movie Adaptation You Saw This Year

Confession: I think it has been over two years since I last saw a movie. I find the theatre expensive and I always fall asleep as soon as the lights go out, so I just don't go. I do really want to see Before I Fall based on the book by Lauren Oliver. It's my favorite Oliver book, and when LO was talking about it at BookCon back in 2016, she seemed really excited about the adaptation. Maybe I will catch it on cable or something.

Favorite Review You Have Written

My favorite is probably one of my shortest. I like it, because it was fun to do. It was my review for Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane. I wanted to do three gifs and three quotes that captured my reaction to this precious book, and I was really happy with how it turned out.

Most Beautiful Book You Have Bought/Received This Year

I don't get a lot of physical books. My haul really comes from BEA every year. I would say that Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi is one of the most striking books. I was really caught up in that cover when I saw it.

Books You Need to Read By the End of the Year

Well, I just did a whole post about some books I want to read by the end of this year, and there are a bunch of sequels I hope to get to soon too, but I cannot think of a specific book I need to read.

How is your reading year so far?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: Wesley James Ruined My Life - Jennifer Honeybourn

Wesley James Ruined My Life
Jennifer Honeybourn
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend—until he ruined her life, that is.

So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score all at once—by getting him fired.

But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to just get over it.
Once upon a time, Wesley and Quinn were super close friends, but right before his family moved away, Wesley put a set of events in motion that ruined Quinn's life. Fast forward five years, and Quinn's life is sort of like this:

This girl was dealing with a lot of heavy things, but she had one thing she was looking forward to: the band trip to London. She grew up with her beloved grandmother telling her stories about her life back in England, and Quinn could not wait to journey there and see those places and things in real life. She was working at Tudor Times in order to earn the money for her trip, and all is going swimmingly, until Wesley James moved back to town.

This was the type of fun and easy contemporary romance that I generally gravitate towards, and I really enjoyed this friends-to-enemies-to-lovers story. I am a fan of a would-be couple with history, and these two had a lot. We got small glimpses into their past together as children, and there were some very sweet moments that they shared.

At times, I thought Quinn should build a bridge and get over it. She was really hard on Wesley, and even tougher on him as she tried to deny the attraction and attachment. However, I empathized with her because of all the drama and stress that was in her life. I also really shared that grandma connection with her. I had an Oma, who told me stories of her life back in Germany, and it was very painful when the dementia set in, and the grandmother who I adored and referred to me as her "little stinker" disappeared. So, that really hit home with me, and I may have shed a tear or two during the grandmother parts.

I am glad to say that there were plenty of sweet and fun bits to keep me from getting too sad. And there was Wesley. He was such a prince charming and all around good guy. He kept working at rekindling his friendship with Quinn, and I believe he really missed her. I totally would have loved to have had a friend or boyfriend like Wesley. There were a few really swoony scenes (wish there were more) that I thought were magnificent and totally awwww-worthy.

The real fun was found at Tudor Times. The place was filled with a bunch of quirky and rather wacky characters, and I found myself looking forward to going to work. I also thought many of Quinn's inner monologues were amusing, especially when she was trying to battle her burgeoning feelings for Wesley.

 I have been reading a bunch of reviews, and some take issue with the "conflict" that turned Wesley from friend to foe, but keep in mind, Quinn was 11 when this all went down. I could see an 11 year needing something or someone to blame for what happened, and this made sense in her 11 year old mind. I could also understand her holding onto that scapegoat, because life was hitting her from all sides.

I am all about endings, and Honeybourn did right by me. There were a lot of loose ends tied up in the final chapter, and the epilogue was so sweet, my face sort of hurt from the huge, stupid grin I was wearing.

Overall: A fun and amusing tale of hate to love, with an ending that I found picture perfect.

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book.

In this book, both Quinn and Wesley work at a theme restaurant called Tudor Times. I actually love these kinds of places, though I have not been to many. I once ate at one when I visited Ireland (in a castle no less).

Do you like theme restaurants?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Post: How the Week Was Lost

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where I can share my wrap up of the past week, as well as plans for the current week.

My Week in Review

My week was pretty much work, pack, read, repeat. The worst part is the downsizing. It looked a lot like this

On the blog:

What I Read Last Week

I sort of abandoned by TBR last week, but I still read five books and listened to two audiobooks. A loan came through for North of Happy, so I bumped a book for that. Then I saw that Riveted had Dangerous Girls as a free read, and I have really been wanting to read that, so I put Wicked Like a Wildfire on hold, but it was worth it.

What I Am Currently Reading

I picked back up Wicked Like a Wildfire once I finished Dangerous Girls, and am more than half way through. So far, I love it. I have also been listening to For All Time, and it is really fun.

What I Plan to Read

I don't have a ton of August ARCs, so I am going to show some shelf-love this week. I am looking forward to continuing the Field Party series, as I am a huge Glines fan, and I cannot wait to read The Dazzling Heights after that ending from the Thousandth Floor. I had been wanting to read more of Stohm's books, and I have heard good things about Tims' book. So, hoping for a solid reading week.

How was your week?
Let us know in the comments!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: This is How it Happened - Paula Stokes

This is How it Happened
Paula Stokes
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Somehow I’ve become a liar. A coward. Here’s how it happened.

When Genevieve Grace wakes up from a coma, she can’t remember the car crash that injured her and killed her boyfriend Dallas, a YouTube star who had just released his first album. Genevieve knows she was there, and that there was another driver, a man named Brad Freeman, who everyone assumes is guilty. But as she slowly pieces together the night of the accident, Genevieve is hit with a sickening sense of dread—that maybe she had something to do with what happened.

As the internet rages against Brad Freeman, condemning him in a brutal trial by social media, Genevieve escapes to her father’s house, where she can hide from reporters and spend the summer volunteering in beautiful Zion National Park. But she quickly realizes that she can’t run away from the accident, or the terrible aftermath of it all.

Incredibly thought-provoking and beautifully told, Paula Stokes’s story will compel readers to examine the consequences of making mistakes in a world where the internet is always watching…and judging.

Hi everyone :) This is Day 5 of my THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED blog tour. You can find the whole schedule of posts in the lead post on my blog right now.

I’m blogging about the different challenges I faced while writing and revising the novel. Challenge #5 was how to write an “issue book” or a book with a message. The story is about Genevieve Grace, a girl who is in a car crash that kills her famous YouTube boyfriend. When Gen wakes up from a coma, she knows that she was driving, but she doesn’t remember what happened. The rest of the world has already started blaming the other driver, and they are using the internet to call for him to be arrested for vehicular manslaughter. Many people have gone beyond this message to call the other driver a murderer or threaten him/his family with violence, or try to get him fired from his place of employment, etc. As is often the case online, most people only know part of the story and things spiral rapidly out of control.

So, a couple things here. This book obviously has some strong messages about the way we (I say “we” because I’m not totally innocent here either) use the internet to exact justice or exert punishment against people we think deserve it, often before anyone knows all the facts. This story also hinges on a car accident and has some things to say about driving safety. My cousin Dallas died about ten years ago, when he was in his mid-twenties, in a similar (but not exactly the same) type of accident. We weren’t close—he lived in a different state and I only saw that side of my family every couple of years, but I did go to his funeral. It really impacted me that someone so young, so vibrant, so well-liked, so full of life, could just…die. He never got married or had kids or found a career he loved or got to travel the world. That’s tragic, you guys. I don’t want that to happen to any of you. I won’t get into the specifics of the accident, because I think it’s best if you learn what happened alongside Genevieve as she regains her memories, but I really hope this book makes some people who maybe aren’t the safest drivers take a hard look at whether they’re risking their lives (and the lives of others) when they get behind the wheel.

I’ve written eleven novels (fourteen if you count my two drawer novels and the two half-books I quit on) and This is How it Happened is the one with the strongest…agenda, I guess you could say? Not that my other books were “message free” or anything. The Art of Lainey talks about not defining yourself through other people and not judging people based on their physical appearance. Liars, Inc. obviously has some things to say about the danger of lying. Girl Against the Universe delves pretty deeply into anxiety and fear and luck and why bad things happen to good people. And so on. But This is How it Happened tries to be persuasive in a way that my other books didn’t, and that was really hard for me.

You see, I’m kind of jaded ;) I don’t like it when strangers tell me what to do, and this generally goes for books and movies too. As soon as I feel like I’m getting the “But listen. HERE’S how you should live your life” lecture, I tend to emotionally check out. A good example would be the movie Shallow Hal. It’s a cute idea and the messages in it are great, but they’re portrayed in a heavy-handed way (in my opinion.) Ditto for Pay it Forward. I didn’t read the book and I loved the idea for the movie, but the execution was a little too preachy for me. An example of a movie I think that has a strong message but lays it out in a subtle and excellent way is the movie About a Boy, with Hugh Grant. (I cannot comment on the TV show, but the movie is brilliant.)

So. I didn’t want to turn off people like me by being overly moralistic. But at the same time, I’m quite sure some people loved both Shallow Hal and Pay it Forward. And that means one reader’s “Blech! This is so lame *eyeroll*” book is another reader’s “OMG. This affected me on a profound level!” book. In other words, there is no right way to do it. I just had to find a balance of subtlety and persuasion that was comfortable for me. And so that’s what I did :)

I had two major strategies. First, I tried to write the book in a way where it’s not telling people how to behave on the internet—it’s encouraging people to think about the consequences of their posts. Not just what happens in the next five minutes online, but what happens online and offline over the next few days or weeks. Think beyond the sense of satisfaction you’ll get by telling off this stranger, or the laughs you’ll get for this funny own. Think about how this would affect someone who is emotionally struggling or about how it could add to a louder chorus of voices to cause an unintended effect. Think about people beyond the target who your post could hurt. The book is not telling people to be nice online. I respect a person’s right to be angry or mocking or vicious or cruel if that’s who they want to be in any given moment. But is that who we want to be? Or has the internet made it really easy to respond instinctively or emotionally without giving our responses enough thought?

Honestly, some people are probably rolling their eyes right now, and that’s fine. Because other people are probably nodding their heads. Readers bring their own histories, identities, and emotions to each book they read. The same book will be interpreted and experienced differently by different people. If you enjoy calling people out online and you’ve never felt the scorn of a public shaming, this book might not appeal you, and that’s okay. I had never been publicly shamed when I wrote it (I have since, but only mildly), but I had seen it done and it was very easy for me to imagine myself in that role. I mean, who among us hasn’t said something thoughtless or responded to someone in anger or behaved in a way that the general public might take offense to in any given moment. The story of “Dog Poop Girl” that I talk about in the author’s note—so many people I knew in Korea thought it was hilarious that a girl had been forced to drop out of college and go into hiding because she didn’t clean up her dog’s feces when it defecated on a subway. I thought it was horrifyingly sad that a twenty-year-old had been shamed to despair and driven to thoughts of suicide over something so banal.

My second strategy was even simpler than the first. I pulled out what I felt were the “preachiest” passages and emailed them to people, like: “Hey, do you think this is preachy?” One of the ones I’m thinking of is near the end of the book. Genevieve is talking about how people think their individual voices have no power, but when a lot of people are saying the same thing, voices amplify, which can be good or bad. I’ll admit—it’s the kind of thing you would hear in a motivational speech in a high school gym. But considering that Genevieve is actually giving a speech in a Mormon youth hall at the time, it felt possibly okay to me that she was being so direct. When my editor and multiple beta-readers told me “I think it’s perfect as is” I trusted their judgment. Some people have reviewed the book and said it felt preachy, some said it felt really moving and profound. And again, that’s okay. If even a handful of people think more deeply about their online posts and/or their driving safety, then in a tiny way this book will have impacted the world. Pretty cool, huh? :)

What do you think about “issue books” or stories that have strong messages? Do you have a favorite book or movie you’d like to recommend? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Want to win a copy of THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED or any of my novels? Enter the Rafflecopter below. And if you want to follow the whole blog tour (it’s only five stops), you can find all the posts on my blog. You can also read the first four chapters, and score a swag pack with a signed bookplate, signed bookmarks, a magnet, and two stickers if you order the book by July 16th.


I confess, I am a Paula Stokes fangirl. I have enjoyed many of her previous books, and have always  admired her ability to genre jump and do it well. This time Stokes brings us a contemporary that takes on two important issues, one being online shaming, a topic which really resonated with me.

This book begins shortly after Genevieve's boyfriend is killed in a car accident. The police have a suspect, but not the full story, as Genevieve has no memory of the crash. Immediately people flock to social media to share their thoughts. This aspect of the book really hit home for me, because I remember when things like this did NOT happen.

Once upon a time, when there was an accident, information would be released to a news outlet and then disseminated to the public. Now, in this digital age, a great deal of information is passed from the man on the street to the world at large. An amateur video, picture, or statement is Tweeted and moves across the earth like wildfire. Details are omitted to fit the author's narrative, and facts are not always verified. People's emotions heighten, and then they wage a war from behind their keyboards. We have seen this happen, and we have seen the results of online vigilante justice. Stokes did a great job capturing the fervor of these exchanges and used these Twitter threads and blog comments thoughtfully and wisely in this book.

This book is sort of split into two parts for me: before Genevieve remembers and after Genevieve remembers. As Genevieve begins to heal from the accident, bits and pieces of the events leading up to Dallas' death are revealed. I thought this part was done so well. I could feel Genevieve's fear as she would get these flashes. There was tension and doubt, and I found myself a little nervous as we approached the truth.

The after focused on dealing with the fallout. Genevieve was tried in the court of social media, while she was attempting to work though her own pain, grief, and guilt. My heart broke when she would deprive herself any enjoyment, because she had to worry what people she didn't even know would think. I really liked Gen, and admired the strength she showed on so many occasions, even if she did not always make the best decisions.

I must mention how much I loved the setting. I have never been to Utah, but now I feel as though I have. Stokes painted it with broad brushstrokes for me, and I can only assumed this is someplace she loves. I had a wonderful time along with Genevieve in the state park, and hope to visit there for real someday.

Aside from the beauty of Zion National Park, there were a lot of great things that happened in Utah. Genevieve grew so much during her time there, and not just with respect to the accident. The experience brought her father back into her life, and it made her appreciate her mother a little more. She opened her heart to a new group of people, and she was better for it. Right here and now, I will tell you that Stokes gave Gen a fantastic love interest. I adored Elliot so much! And his dads were fabulous too. I mean an American Ninja Warrior training gym? That's supercool.

In the afterword, Stokes thanks us fans for "genre jumping" with her. I will always follow, if Stokes continues to deliver books that are interesting, though provoking, and entertaining to me. I was throughly engrossed in this story, and look forward to more from Stokes.

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book. Quotes are from an ARC and may change upon publication.


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Paula Stokes is the author of several novels, most recently This is How it Happened, Vicarious and Girl Against the Universe. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.


What do you think about “issue books” or stories that have strong messages? 
Do you have a favorite book or movie you’d like to recommend?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review: The Bakersville Dozen - Kristina McBride

The Bakersville Dozen
Kristina McBride
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
You have four days to locate five treasured trophies. Break the rules and you all die. Happy hunting!

Back in September, the town of Bakersville, Ohio made national news when a video went viral featuring thirteen of the high school’s elite in compromising positions. Now it’s May, and every month since the “Bakersville Dozen” made their infamous appearance on the national stage, one girl has gone missing. Officials are no closer to identifying the criminal.

Bailey “Like a Virgin” Holzman is getting really fed up with the scrutiny. She just wants to enjoy the rest of her senior year and have an epic summer before heading off to college. So when she discovers a note in her locker on the last day of school inviting her on a scavenger hunt, she thinks it’s just a sweet surprise from her boyfriend trying to cheer her up.

But following the clue leads her, instead, to the first official casualty. And another sinister envelope. The killer is close, and it could be anyone. Even the people Bailey’s always trusted most—her best friend, her perfect boyfriend, or the boy-next-door she’s always pined for. With the clock ticking, she faces a terrifying choice: play the game by the killer’s rules—follow the clues, tell no one, and no cops—for a chance to save the rest of the missing girls, or risk becoming the next grisly victim.

Months after the disappearances of several of the "Bakersville Dozen", Bailey receives a note, which sets her on a psychotic scavenger hunt. The prize? She may be able to save the missing girls' lives.

I really enjoyed The Bakersville Dozen. McBride crafted a captivating story that seemed "ripped from the headlines", built a great backstory, and filled it with lots of mystery. The thing I always love about mysteries is looking for the pieces of the puzzle, and assembling them in an attempt to solve the crime. McBride was very sly in the way she planted and revealed the clues, which only added to the fun. There were twists, turns, and even some red herrings. I was deceived several times. Just when I thought I knew "whodunit", a piece of information would be uncovered and prove me wrong. I did up being partially right, but I would have never guessed the mastermind behind this nefarious plot.

This book was more than a mystery though. It had all the makings of a great suspense-thriller. There were many times when my heart rate increased, and I found myself biting my nails. There was a spooky quality that permeated most of this tale, and this constant tension that kept me wondering what was next. It all just added to the thrill ride McBride took me on.

This wouldn't be a review by me, if I omitted my thoughts on the romance. I didn't expect it, but it was there, and I really liked it. McBride admirably integrated the romance into the story. It did not seem forced to me, and although it took a looooong time, we finally got some answers and resolutions  regarding said romance. I was quite pleased with the way McBride tied up this storyline, as well as all the other loose ends in the book.

This book toyed with my emotions and pulled on my heartstrings. It took me on quite a wild ride, and I was throughly entertained by this fast-paced mystery/thriller.

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book. Quotes are from an ARC and may change upon publication.

Do you like mysteries?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Date to Save - Stephanie Kate Strohm

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Tessa at Wishful Endings that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I can't wait for The Date to Save by Stephanie Kate Strohm!

The Date to Save
Stephanie Kate Strohm
Series: N/A
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Point
Waited on by: Sam
The word is out...

BROOKS MANDEVILLE, quarterback: Friday is the homecoming game and dance. It is a very big deal.

NATALIE WAGNER, marching band clarinet: Our band's halftime show performances are legendary even if our football team isn't.

CINTHIA ALVAREZ, Academic Battle team member: Our Academic Battle team has won five years in a row. This Friday, it'll be six.

TANNER ERICKSEN, sophomore class candidate for vice president: Holly has to win the election for class president this Friday!

HOLLY CARPENTER, cheerleader, Academic Battle team member, class president candidate: Friday? Everything is on Friday? How can I be in three places at once?

COLIN VON KOHORN, editor-in-chief of the Prepster: This kind of scheduling incompetitence could only have come straight from the top.

ANGELICA HUTCHERSON, reporter-at-large: I talked to everyone and my article is going to crack this story wide open...

This is what happens on the wildest day in the history of high school!

Last year, I had the pleasure of reading, It's Not Me, It's You, and I knew, then and there, that I had to read more of Strohm's books. I loved the style of the book and I laughed until my sides hurt. Imagine my glee, when I saw there would be a companion to this delightfully funny and charming book.

From the description on GoodReads, this one sounds like it will be packed with more of that humor that previously won me over, and I sense some fun hijinks as well. How could there be no hijinks on "the wildest day in the history of high school!"?

What are you waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!