Monday, August 29, 2016

Game On by Michelle Smith

Game On
by Michelle Smith
Read: August 19 - 24, 2016
Published: August 16, 2016 by Bloomsbury Spark
Source: NetGalley (thank you, Bloomsbury!)
Category: YA, Contemporary, Baseball, Romance, 

Series: Book 2 in a companion series
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository 

Book Description: As king of baseball in the small town of Lewis Creek, Eric Perry can have any girl he wants and win every game he plays. But when a fight lands him in jail, he’s only got one more strike before his baseball career is over for good. His only chance for redemption? The girl next door, Bri Johnson.

Bri hasn’t talked to Eric in months—for starters, she’s been too busy dealing with her jerk of an ex-boyfriend, not to mention the fact that Eric’s been preoccupied trying to drink every keg in the country dry. But when he needs a way to stay on the team, she proposes a plan: if he helps her out with community service, he can stay on the team. At first it’s a nightmare—Eric and Bri stopped being friends years ago, surely that was for a good reason, right? But as volunteering turns to bonding over old memories of first kisses under the stars, they start to have trouble remembering what pushed them apart.

In a town as small as Lewis Creek, nothing stays secret for long and their friendship and romance might mean bad news. But in this final, tumultuous spring before graduation, Eric and Bri are about to realize that nobody’s perfect alone, but they might just be perfect together.

This is a very smart, well-written, thoughtful contemporary, set in a baseball obsessed small town in South Carolina. It's also one of those stories that I can fully agree with how great it is and understand why people love it, while also recognizing that there were some elements that didn't work for me personally. (You all know I am crazy about some things, guys.)

What struck me the most is how complexly both Eric and Bri are drawn, and, despite their differences, how well they work together. Eric is the new starting pitcher on the baseball team and dealing with a lot of anxiety and self doubt from all the pressure that brings. Much of that comes out in negative ways, like excessive drinking and carelessness. Bri, on the other hand, is a focused student who works hard, plays soccer and doesn't get into trouble. Bri is also t
rying to move past her awful, emotionally abusive ex., who won't leave her alone. At first it seems like the deck is stacked against these two finding their way to each other. 

Eric and Bri two have been neighbors for a long time, and though they used to be close, they haven't been in a while. They didn't have a falling out so much as grew apart over time. On the surface, these two do not seem like a good match, but the wonderful thing about this story is seeing everyone - including themselves - be proved wrong about that. I enjoyed watching Eric and Bri begin to connect again, and realize that the best things are sometimes right there in front of you. These two support each other really well: Bri doesn't let Eric get away with his self pity, and over time Eric shows Bri that there are better guys out there. Their relationship builds slowly, as it should, because these two have a lot things they have to work through in their own lives too. 

I am not a huge sports fan and have never lived in that culture so it was really hard for me to see the way Eric got away with everything in the beginning - including a past drunk driving incident. That was nearly a deal breaker for me, and despite his charm, I didn't like him much at first. But this book does clearly show the brokenness of a town like this, and Eric grows up a lot through this story. I also loved Eric's family. He has a great relationship with his parents and they don't let him get away with the things his town does. 

I'm not a fan of the player guy, and Eric is a big one of those at first, even if a lot of it is self coping for him. This author does a great job at explaining the reasons behind these character's behaviors, which I appreciated a lot. But I was still uncomfortable with that aspect of him. Bri is still dating Matt when the book begins and it was hard to see her still into him, despite his obviously terrible behavior towards her. That ends quickly, however, and I think it was important to see her get out of that abusive relationship, despite how hard it was to watch. I was expecting this book to focus most on the romance between Eric and Bri. I didn't realize how heavy this book would get with their own personal issues, and while that makes it stronger and more complex, it also made it harder to read in places. 

Michelle Smith is definitely a contemporary writer to watch! I haven't read Play On yet and really want to try it after this. Despite some small elements, I liked this author's writing a lot and have heard great things about the first in this series. 

Love Triangle Factor: Mild - If you're interested, I go into more specifics under a spoiler tag in my Goodreads review

Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone companion

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The War that Saved My Life
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley 
Read: August 12 - 14, 2016
Published: January 8, 2015 by Dial Books
Source: Library
Category: MG, WWII, Great Britain, Physical Disabilities 

An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.

Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

This book was amazing! Ada's voice and emotions were so real. I was completely wrapped up in her life and her words and completely hooked on her story from start to finish. I started reading via the audiobook, which was very well done. But I switched to the print near the end so that I could read faster. This book is worth reading in either/both formats. 

What surprised me the most about this book is how layered it is, as well as the depth of the emotions of these characters. We see the world through Ada's limited viewpoint, while also understanding a much bigger picture of what was happening around and to her. This author doesn't shy away from heartbreaking moments or the painful parts of Ada's life, including living with her mother and the ptsd she suffers from that experience, but watching Ada find her own strength and realizing that people do care for her, was so so rewarding. My heart swelled seeing Ada's perspective change and grow. 

The War that Saved My Life features a great cast of characters, my favorite (besides Ada) being Susan Smith, the woman who takes in Ada and her brother. She is not perfect, and isn't sure what to do with these two children she didn't ask for, but she comes to love and need Ada and Jamie as much as they do her. And her journey to open up and love them was more subtle but as lovely to watch as Ada's. I also adored Ada's brother Jamie as well as her new friend Maggie, old Grimes and Stephen White. 

Alongside Ada's personal journey was a fascinating - and sometimes frightening - look at Britain at the start of World War II. What a harrowing time in history. I just cannot imagine having to send my children away into the country for an indefinite amount of time, though I'm very glad for Ada and Jamie's sake that it happened. It was amazing to see how much the country came together during this time and the way the people all worked together across class lines to support each other and even look out for spies. 

I am dying for the sequel to this book, which I've been assured is being written. I cannot wait to find out what Ada does next and catch up with all of her friends again.  

Love Triangle Factor: N/A no romantic love (Ada is 10 in this book)

Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone - I hear word there's to be a sequel and PLEASE!! I feel so invested in these characters' wellbeing, I must know where they go next. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

The Forgetting
by Sharon Cameron
Read: August 10 - 15, 2016
Published: September 13th 2016 by Scholastic Press
Source: Danielle - TY :) 
Category: YA, science fiction, memory loss
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Book description: What isn't written, isn't remembered. Even your crimes.

Nadia lives in the city of Canaan, where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before. But every twelve years the city descends into the bloody chaos of the Forgetting, a day of no remorse, when each person's memories – of parents, children, love, life, and self – are lost. Unless they have been written.

In Canaan, your book is your truth and your identity, and Nadia knows exactly who hasn't written the truth. Because Nadia is the only person in Canaan who has never forgotten.

But when Nadia begins to use her memories to solve the mysteries of Canaan, she discovers truths about herself and Gray, the handsome glassblower, that will change her world forever. As the anarchy of the Forgetting approaches, Nadia and Gray must stop an unseen enemy that threatens both their city and their own existence – before the people can forget the truth. And before Gray can forget her.

Every 12 years the citizens in the walled city of Canaan forget their past. They write detailed accounts of their lives in books they keep with them all the time, so that they won't lose their memories when the time comes. Without their books, their past is lost. But Nadia has never forgotten, and as the days draw nearer to another Forgetting, she is determined to keep her family together and avoid getting caught in the chaos that inevitably comes with the event - because people will do crazy things if they know they will not remember it later. 

I knew very little about this book when I started it, and the story went in many directions I didn't expect, which was awesome. While I was reading, I kept thinking it would turn out to be like the movie The Village, because the idea of an isolated city was similar. But, this book is it's own entity and though
 it's impossible to talk about much of that without spoiling the story, I loved discovering what this story turned out to be. All I will say is that this is a lot more science fiction than anything else. 

I also adored the characters, especially our heroine. Nadia's a quiet fighter. She doesn't talk much and doesn't open up easily, but she's fierce and intensely protective of her family. Nadia has a different perspective on the world than everyone else, because she has never forgotten her past. While they're all afraid of what is beyond the surrounding walls, she regularly sneaks out of the city in search of more. Nadia is very careful, until one day she's caught by Gray, the Glassblower's son. Gray seems at first to be your typical charming hero who's a bit of a player and an opportunist (not my favorite type), but I fell hard for him too, and he proved himself as well. It was lovely watching them slowly get to know each other and see Nadia's walls come down as she began to trust him. They make a great team. I enjoyed watching them work together, plus their romance was goooood.

As time ticks down quickly to the next Forgetting and long held secrets begin to unravel, the intensity and danger of the story picks up. I loved the pacing of when and how the different revelations come out. Nadia is fighting against a lot of factors, not the least is of which is fearing that for a second time, she'll be the only one who remembers.  Basically, The Forgetting had me hooked all the way through. I enjoyed Rook a lot, but this is my favorite of the two Cameron books, by far. I need to read The Dark Unwinding next!

Love Triangle Factor: NONE
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Blog Tour: Game On by Michelle Smith - Excerpt + Giveaway

About the Book: 

Game On 
by Michelle Smith
Published: August 16th 2016 by Bloomsbury Spark (Out Now!)

Book Description: As king of baseball in the small town of Lewis Creek, Eric Perry can have any girl he wants and win every game he plays. But when a fight lands him in jail, he’s only got one more strike before his baseball career is over for good. His only chance for redemption? The girl next door, Bri Johnson.

Bri hasn’t talked to Eric in months—for starters, she’s been too busy dealing with her jerk of an ex-boyfriend, not to mention the fact that Eric’s been preoccupied trying to drink every keg in the country dry. But when he needs a way to stay on the team, she proposes a plan: if he helps her out with community service, he can stay on the team. At first it’s a nightmare—Eric and Bri stopped being friends years ago, surely that was for a good reason, right? But as volunteering turns to bonding over old memories of first kisses under the stars, they start to have trouble remembering what pushed them apart.

In a town as small as Lewis Creek, nothing stays secret for long and their friendship and romance might mean bad news. But in this final, tumultuous spring before graduation, Eric and Bri are about to realize that nobody’s perfect alone, but they might just be perfect together.

Find the Book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository 

My dad would have a stroke if he caught Eric Perry on our porch. It’s not that Eric’s a bad guy, but he’s, well, not exactly Dad-approved, either. But it’s kind of hard for him to call those shots when he’s either on the road or sleeping for ninety-five percent of my life.

I scoot over, allowing Eric room to sit, which he does. He relaxes, sprawling his legs in front of him as he stuffs his hands into the pocket of his hoodie. Heat pours off of him, and as much as I hate the idea of love and everything about it right now, all I want is to curl up beside him. And that urge scares the living crap out of me. Eric is my neighbor. He’s Matt’s teammate. Being with him would come with a healthy dose of small town gossip for months to come.

And he’s a charmer, and there’s no telling what he could possibly do with a heart if it was in his hands.

My heart doesn’t want to be held. My heart wants to learn to beat on its own for a while.
So we swing in silence as time passes. But now, it doesn’t feel like pieces of me are drifting away—it feels like they’re slowly find their way back home.

“Laura ended up going to the dance with Randy tonight,” he says after a while. I glance over, finding him smirking. “Randy has more boyfriend potential than I do. That’s one hell of a shot to the ego. He’s probably chomping on dip while grinding all up on her.”

My stomach sinks. When he told me that on Monday night, about the conversation he had with Laura, I was kind of rude. But in my somewhat-defense, I was madder than a hornet.

“For what it’s worth,” I tell him, “what she said was dumb. I’ve seen you with other girls. You’re a good boyfriend.”

He lets out a light laugh. “Yeah? And what makes me a good boyfriend?”

Crap. I walked right into that one. A smile tugs at my lips. “Eric—”

“No, you’ve gotta tell me.” The smile in his voice is contagious; now there’s no fighting my own. “I’ve been wounded this week. I need to hear these things. Build me back up.”

I roll my eyes, but my grin widens. “Fine. You’re into the whole hand-holding, kissy thing. That’s good. Take my word for it; I’m a science girl. An observer. I notice these things.” What I don’t tell him is that I started noticing those things a couple years ago, when the tiniest part of me wished it was me holding his hand instead of his other girlfriends. I wished it was me hugging him. Kissing him. Because when you’re sixteen and the guy next door shoots up to over 6’ and all those years of baseball start doing mind-blowing things to his body, a girl’s gonna look once or twice.
Moments like these, when he listens and laughs and grins at me like no one else exists, have an awful lot to do with it, too.

But I pushed those feelings away real quick. He’s not into me like that—he wasn’t then, and I doubt he ever would be. I’m the one who used to climb trees with him. Soared through muddy fields on the back of his four-wheeler. Saw his first zit. Laughed when he nearly fell out of his dad’s deer stand the night we snuck up there to see how many constellations we could find.

Which was the night he gave me my first kiss.

And it hits me that I wish we could go back to that. To the simplicity of trees and constellations and first kisses that mean more than all the stars in the sky. But we’re not kids anymore. Life isn’t that simple. But I’m more than okay with this new whatever-it-is we have going.

He’s quiet for a while. I chance a glance over, only to find him staring ahead, seeming to be in thought. Finally, after what feels like forever, he turns to me. Grins. And that grin turns my heart inside out. “I do like the whole hand-holding, kissy thing,” he says.

He sets the swing in motion. The porch light at his house flips on, while the kitchen window goes dark. I’m pretty sure he’s supposed to go straight home when he’s done at the church, but for whatever reason, his parents aren’t freaking out about him being over here. Which is good. Because I’d be more than happy to sit on this swing with him all night. And that realization is slightly terrifying.

But maybe a little terror can be good for us.


Blog Tour Giveaway: Win one of 3 e-copies of Game On

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Reader by Traci Chee

The Reader
by Traci Chee
Read: July 15 - 30, 2016
Published: September 13, 2016 by Putnam
Source: ALA (Thank you, Penguin!)
Series: Book 1/3
Category: YA, Fantasy, books
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

Three things I loved about The Reader:

1) The whole design of the book adds to the magic of the story. Smudges in the margins, stories within stories, secret messages in the page numbers, I love how all of this adds layers and enhances the experience of reading the book. The writing and words in general are part of this too, as this story as a lovely lyrical quality to it that drew me right in. 

2) The world slowly expands as the story unfolds. At first we're only given Sefia's limited point of view and we only know and believe what she does. But as the book continues, we are given a peppering of other characters' perspectives that adds complexity to her world. And yet at the end you still realize that you didn't have all the pieces you thought you did. Some of the direction of the book, I guessed. Some things I did not. But I loved that I questioned, at times, what exactly Sefia was doing, but I ultimately always trusted her judgement. 

3) Sefia is loyal and fierce and compassionate. This girl has been dealt a difficult hand in life, and I admired her for sticking to her convictions and her mission. She is a survivor but has not lost her humanity along the way. One of my favorite parts of this story is her relationship with Archer. A boy she rescues from terrible circumstances who becomes her companion on her journey. Their support and care of each other was one of my favorite aspects of this story. It is a lovely, slow moving, heading towards a romance that grows out of a tight bond of two people who rely on each other to survive. And I didn't want to rush them. I love the ways that Sefia and Archer are different - they are both ferocious as well as vulnerable - and how well they compliment each other, and take care of each other through everything. I just wanted to give them both a big hug while I was reading! 

Love Triangle Factor: None!
Cliffhanger Scale: Low/medium - definite set up for the next book but ends on a quiet moment. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Hi everyone! A quick note before we get to the book thoughts. As you may have noticed, I took a break for the month of July and half of August. I planned to put up a post explaining what I was doing at the time. But it would have broken my break to do that (ha!). However, I'm back now, feeling much more energized about blogging. I've been reading a lot and am excited to start discussing books on here again! 

Hope you're all having a happy summer :)

xo Lauren 

A Promise of Fire
by Amanda Bouchet
Read: July 15 - 17, 2016
Published: August 2, 2016 by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source: EW (Thank You, Sourcebooks!)
Category: Adult, PNR, Greek Inspired, Hate to love

Catalia "Cat" Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother. But when an ambitious warlord captures her, she may not have a choice…

Griffin is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm in the magic-deprived south. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her. But Cat will do everything in her power to avoid her dangerous destiny and battle her captor at every turn. Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he's ready to do whatever it takes to coax her…even if that means falling in love with her.


I love a good Paranormal Romance, especially one where the featured couple has off the charts chemistry from the very beginning, and spends nearly the entirety of the story together - even if they're fighting for half of that time. I'm also a huge fan of hate to love romances, bonus if they're enemies at first. This book has all of that in spades. I was hooked on this story from start to finish. 

Cat has been on the run from her past for years. Recently hiding out as part of a traveling circus troupe, she's worked hard not to reveal the extent of her magical ability or her heritage. But she's unexpectedly, and surprisingly (to her), kidnapped by the new "Beta Sinta" aka the ruling warlord. Realizing that her abilities are far more than she's letting on, Griffin abducts Cat in an effort to protect his realm. Because he's apparently magic-less and she has a great deal of it, this all shocks Cat big time. Although the story begins with Griffin character capturing Cat, it is made very clear that these two are an equal and strong match for each other. I loved watching their different power struggles - neither of them has the upper hand for long. Cat and Griffin complement each other well and push and pull each other in a delicious way. 

Besides our two main characters, who really are the star of the show. I loved Griffin's close team of soldiers, as well as his family. I'd love to see stories for some of them in the future! I also really like that this fantasy world features Greek mythology as its basis. The setting felt fresh while also playing with recognizable themes. And of course some chaos is going to happen when you get gods involved. 

I loved this entire book, though a few things did bother me. Cat is keeping a secret about her heritage and Griffin still doesn't know what it is by the very end. First of all, I'm not a fan of secret keeping as a catalyst for drama-making. Second, it is SO CLEAR what the secret is right away - to the reader, and it's a little silly that Griffin, or anyone else doesn't put the pieces together. I mean it's basically revealed in the book's description above. I know this is going to cause a bunch of angst in book two, and I'm both excited and dreading it at the same time. Also, this book has a mean girl ex who causes some problems, a trope that I've become very tired of reading about. Plus the antics she pulls become a tad over the time.  

However, that's really all very minor in a story that I loved from start to finish. I highlighted practically the entire story, and I'm DYING for the next installment! 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low - but definitely more story to come!
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