Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer Inspired Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is...

Summer Inspired Reads!

There are several things I associate with summer: road trips, summer camp, frolicking on the beach, fun romances, and easy, breezy days. The following are ten books I have read, which evoke the essence of summer for me.

Along for the Ride
Sarah Dessen
Series: N/A
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers 

Dessen is well known for her books sharing settings, and Along for the Ride is one of several set in the idyllic sea side town of Colby. This is a summer book to me, not only because of the beach setting, but because of freedom the characters enjoy over the course of this book. From beach bonfires to 2 am pie, Auden leads a very carefree existence in Colby, and that is a summer trademark, if you ask me.

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Morgan Matson
Series: N/A
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Nothing says summer like a road like a cross country road trip, and that is exactly what we have in Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. This is a car trip, which became more fun, once Amy and Roger veered from the itinerary and starting seeking some adventure. But let's face it, when I can't help but associate Matson with summer, as all her books are set during the summer and are marked with that fancy-free frolicking that happens when school let's out and the temperatures rise.

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland
Rebekah Crane
Series: N/A
Publisher: Skyscape

This book was a pleasant surprise for me. I got it through the Kindle First program, and ended up really enjoying it. This says "summer" to me because it take place during the summer at a summer camp. Although this is not a traditional summer camp, the teen campers have some very typical summer camp experiences.

Chasing Forever Down
Nikki Godwin
Series: Drenaline Surf, #1
Publisher: Self Published

How could this not scream "summer", when it's book that focuses on those seeking the "endless summer" - surfers. This is a series I discovered through an anthology, and it ended up being a really fun read. I loved the premise of taking chances and fell in love with the characters.

This is What Happy Looks Like
Jennifer E. Smith
Series: This is What Happy Looks Like, #1
Publisher: Headline

This is still my favorite JES book. What could be better than accidentally meeting a teen celebrity online, and whiling your summer away with him as he shots his current film in your small town? This sweet little romance wrapped summer in a bow for me, and I remembering not wanting the book to end. **With that said, Smith did give me a follow-up novella, and I cried tears of joy.

Alex, Approximately
Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse

When your young, summer should be filled with falling in love and hijinks, lots of hijinks, and that is exactly what we get in Alex, Approximately. I have nothing but love for this light and easy romance, and can only say good things about it.

At First Blush
Beth Ellyn Summer
Series: N/A
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark

Another celeb encounter, this book finds Lacey not wasting her summer days away, but working hard at her summer internship. We have summer, we have fun, we have a sweet romance, and that is why it is on this list.

Fixing Delilah
Sarah Ockler
Series: N/A
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

This is a time-out summer for Delilah. She was starting to make some bad decisions, so her mother whisks her away to Vermont. I loved the setting for a summer romance, new found friendships, and family healing.

On the Fence
Kasie West
Series: N/A
Publisher: HarperTeen

Kasie West is one of my go-tos for light and fluffy romance, and isn't summer all about being easy and breezy? This is an adorable story of the lone sister in a family of manly men, who discovers another side of herself after being forced to get a job to pay for a very expensive speeding ticket. She is not the only one who notices this new side of her, and a sweet romance ensues. Loved it!

An Abundance of Katherines
John Green
Series: N/A
Publisher: Dutton Books

I know I am in the minority, but this is my favorite John Green book. I loved the road trip, the whole string of failed "Katherine" relationships, and Hassan!, who is one of my favorite sidekicks to date. I loved spending the summer with these guys as they worked out their romantic issues.

What are some of your favorite summer books?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, May 22, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?: May 22, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. Jen Vincent, Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee of Unleashing Readers decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus.

This post is for sharing what I read last week, what I am currently reading, and what I plan to read.

What I Read Last Week

Last week was an ok reading week. The two standouts were Making It Right and Internet Famous. I did have a DNF, but we won't talk about that. And as suspected, Be True to Me was sort of nostalgic. I loved so many of the references, and thought Griffin used just the right amount to let us taste the 70s, but not alienate anyone unfamiliar with the time period.

What I Am Currently Reading

This is a very cool story of how I got my current read. I was in one of my reader groups (Crownover's  Crowd), and there was a giveaway for an ARC of Crownover's newest Saints of Denver book. However, one of the entries required posting a review for the last Saints book. When I lamented on the thread, how I have been on the hold list since the beginning of April and there were still 6 people ahead of me, I was gifted an eBook. Needless to say, I was very touched by the gesture, and quite excited to read it, because I love Jay's books.

My audiobook is the second book in the Into the Deep series by Samantha Young. Wow! Young is ruthless. How many times can she tear these two apart!

What I Plan to Read

Planning the normal four books for this week. Hoping for some good things. I am interested in seeing what Williams does with YA, as I have read and enjoyed her NA books. Early buzz on If Birds Fly Back is really good, so hoping it wins my heart too. I am really enjoying all these #OwnVoices books that I have been reading lately, and I hope The Authentics continues this streak for me. And a week of reading is not complete without a sports romance, as far as I am concerned. I have enjoyed the previous books in this series by Doyle, and know Called Out will most likely satisfy my sports romance need.

What are you reading?
Let us know in the comments!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Review: That Thing We Call a Heart - Sheba Karim

That Thing We Call a Heart 
Sheba Karim
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Coming of Age
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Shabnam was preparing to close the high school chapter of her life, just as "fate" brought Jamie into her world. This charming boy swept her off her feet, and she felt like she was simultaneously in the best and worst place of her life. Best, because she was falling in love. Worst, because she missed her best friend, Farah, who she had a falling out with.  She hoped to both repair this friendship and give her heart to someone she thought was worthy.

These are the type of diverse reads that I love. I have starting calling them "bridge books", because I believe they do such a good job of letting people of other faiths/cultures gain a little insight into another person's faith/culture. I was reading a review by Jen of YA Romantics, and she nailed what I think is so perfect about a book like this: while teaching us about differences, it also reminds us how we are the same.  This has been my battle cry for so long, and I am elated to see so many books lately, that are doing this so well.

I instantly took a liking to Shabnam. She was not great at editing her stream of consciousness, and some really amusing and honest things often came out. But it was ok, because she was growing and changing, and this was all part of her process. I was glad she went through this process, because in the beginning of the book, I was sort of disappointed in her. I thought she really under appreciated her parents, was insensitive to Farah's big life change, and made too much of an effort to impress people who should not have even mattered. But by the end of the book, I was so proud of all the work she did to mend her relationship with Farah, to build a relationship with her parents, and to get to know her roots a little better.
"You're Muslim?"
"My mother is," I told her.
"What's your dad?"
She snorted. "And what about you?"
"Me? I'm...nothing."
"You can't be nothing. At minimum, you're a Homo sapiens."
The rift between Shabnam and Farah grew from Farah deciding to be a hijabi. Her choice to wear the scarf, and outwardly declare herself a Muslim made Shabnam uncomfortable. This whole storyline made me sad, because although I thought Shabnam should not be ashamed of being seen with Farah, I knew there was a whole lot of truth to her concerns, and that just made me ashamed of society.
"I knew a piece of cloth should't make a difference, that she was still the same person underneath, but it did make a difference."
One aspect of this book, which I really loved, was the inclusion of Urdu poetry. Shabnam originally began asking her father about the poetry as a way to impress Jamie, but over time, it became a way for her to connect to her father. It was beautiful to see the relationship between Shabnam and her socially awkward mathematician father grow. Karim thoughtfully wove the poetry into the story, and each line selected was beautiful and meaningful within Shabnam's story.
"I felt like a different person than when he'd first visited. Broken, but determined to put myself back together, hopefully into something stronger."
This was a lovely and often amusing story about first love, first heartbreak, family, friendships, and finding oneself. I throughly enjoyed this book, and hope to read more of Karim's work.

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

There are many scenes in this book, which take place with incredible donuts and fantastic pies. 

Do you have favorite kind of pie or donut?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review: Aftermath - Clara Kensie

Clara Kensie
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Merit Press
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This book opens with Charlotte imprisoned, caged like an animal. She had been left for several days. She was hungry, thirsty, and sitting in her own waste. The only thing keeping her from giving up, was the memories of her family, especially her twin sister, Alexa, and all their plans and dreams, which she hoped Alexa was "doing double" for her. This was all quite painful to read, but the real tears started to flow when Charlotte was found, and we learn about the aftermath, of how her ordeal affected her family.

Given the subject matter, I knew this was going to be a tough read, and I struggle with the more difficult stories, but I found that Kensie did a good job balancing out the sad parts. My heart ached for each and every member of the family, but mostly for Charlotte. She lost four years of her life. She lost her innocence, her childhood, and when she is returned to her home, she finds her family shattered. As she heals, so does her family. Although they will never be the same family she left, they are able to move in a positive direction. They are able to pickup the pieces of their broken lives, and move on. So, I had hope for this family.

A big part of Charlotte's healing process was finding "The One Before". Her "Keeper" had apparently kept another girl prior to Charlotte, who he had made clear, was killed when she tried to leave him. This mystery is woven into the story, and drives Charlotte on her road to recovery. There are missteps and stumbles, as the universe works against Charlotte, but she keep hoping for this closure, and she kept trying to find out what happened to this girl for herself, and for the family that is left wondering about her.

This story is told from Charlotte's point of view, so some of the imagery is quite unsettling, but Kensie also conveyed her strength and spirit. She was always moving in the right direction, and although she is not completely whole at the end of this book, she is definitely on the mend.

This book focused on the family and how they were impacted by this nightmare, but Kensie also planted some great twists in there. Aside from the mystery surrounding "The One Before", there were other reveals about Charlotte's abductor, which was somewhat shocking, and when I learned the reasons behind some of the family gilt, I was quite taken aback. I enjoyed this slight shift in focus, and found it did not detract, but rather, enhanced the story.

Overall: A captivating tale of survival that explores the aftermath, which simultaneously broke my heart and filled it with hope, reinforcing my faith in the human spirit.

**I would like to thank Clara Kensie for my copy of this book.

Do you like books that make you cry?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday: Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin

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 Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin!

Aftercare Instructions
Bonnie Pipkin
Series: n/a
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Waited on by: Sam
In the tradition of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell, a big-hearted journey of furious friendship, crazy love, and unexpected hope after a teen's decision to end an unwanted pregnancy

“Troubled.” That’s seventeen-year-old Genesis according to her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything.

As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, she must also confront her most painful memories. Through the lens of an ongoing four act play within the novel, the fantasy of their undying love unravels line by line, scene by scene. Digging deeper into her past while exploring the underground theater world of New York City, she rediscovers a long-forgotten dream. But it’s when Gen lets go of her history, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s finally able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life, and take center stage.

This powerfully immersive and format-crushing debut follows Gen from dorm rooms to diners to house parties to auditions—and ultimately, right into readers’ hearts.

When I saw two of my favorite contemporary authors in the blurb, I knew I needed to find out more about this book. I know you are thinking, that this books sounds a little deeper than what I normally gravitate towards, but "furious friendship, crazy love, and unexpected hope" kept me reading. Then I found out that there is a play within the story, that recounts the main character's love and loss, and I knew I really wanted to read this. I am all about books with mixed formats, and this sounds like it will work brilliantly with the story's premise.

A mixed format story with the promise of self discovery and hope?

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Mothers

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is...

Favorite Mothers!

In honor of Mother's Day, this Top Ten Tuesday will focus on some of my favorite YA mothers and surrogate mothers. I know that YA has often been criticized for their abysmal parents, but I find that YA parents have been getting better and better. 

My Life Next Door
Huntley Fitzpatrick
Series: My Life Next Door, #1
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers

Mrs. Garrett was the head of a HUGE and somewhat chaotic household. Many outwardly passed harsh judgements on her, but she didn't care. She loved her family and her life. Her house was filled with all the love you could ask for and I wish I could be a Garrett and call her my mom.

If I Stay
Gayle Forman
Series: If I Stay, #1
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

I usually cry over book deaths, but when Kat Hall died in If I Stay, I cried because she was such an amazing mom and person. She was so vibrant and had lived her life out loud. This woman loved with her entire soul, and most importantly, those around her knew they were loved.

The Mortal Instruments Series
Cassandra Clare
Series: The Mortal Instruments
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Talk about a tiger-mom. Jocelyn Fairchild went to great lengths to protect her daughter. She abandoned her life and her world. She even made deals with Downworlders in order to keep her safe. And when push came to shove, she put her own life on the line. Maybe she concealed some important information from Clary, but I could forgive her, because it was for her own protection.

Everything All at Once
Katrina Leno
Series: N/A
Publisher: HarperCollins

The protagonist in this book, Lottie, was not only lucky enough to have a great mom, but she also had a most awesome aunt, who doted on her niece in a very motherly way. An example of this mom's awesomeness: after working overnight shifts at the hospital, she would put off going to sleep in order to talk to her kids, and check in on them. That's mom, always self sacrificing. And the aunt, she left letters and tasks for Lottie, in order to help Lottie deal with her death. There she was, dying, and she was more worried about how Lottie will heal.

Deacon Locke Went to Prom
Brian Katcher
Series: N/A
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Deacon's parents more or less abandoned him, but he was lucky enough to be blessed with his wonderful grandma, Jean. Although Jean's own children did not turn out great, she grabbed this opportunity to mother Deacon with both hands, and being as Deacon declared her to be his best friend, I would say she was very successful. She definitely filled that mother shaped void in Deacon's life.

It Started with Goodbye
Christina June
Publisher: Blink

This was another book with an awesome grandmother. Tatum did not quite get along with her step-mother, but she developed a very special connection with her step-abuela, who sort of served as her fairy godmother. She listened to her, mentored to her, and she really helped Tatum be the best version of herself.

Letters to the Lost
Brigid Kemmerer
Series: #1 (there will be a companion)
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

This book had some not too awesome parents, who allowed their children to sink into a deep hole of depression, but there was also an example of a fantastic mom - Rev's mom. Rev's mom was his adoptive mom, but there was no distinction for him, because she treated him with more love, respect, and affection, than his biological parents ever did. She took this damaged boy into her heart and home, and has pulled him from the edge to a safe place.

Goodbye Days
Jeff Zentner
Series: N/A
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Once again, we have an amazing grandma, Nana Betsy, who steps in to raise her grandson, when his own mother would not. Not only did Nana Betsy love  and adore her grandson, she also was a great sort of comfort to his friend, Carver, after Blake's death. I loved her spunk, spirit, and her beautiful heart.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Maurene Goo
Series: N/A
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux

When Desi's mom passed away, her father did his best to be both mother and father to her. His relationship with Desi as sweet and adorable and near perfect. I loved when they were on page together, and the way they could anticipate each other's wants and needs. And the love, there was so much genuine love and affection. He was definitely doing a great job in the absence of Desi's mom.

Nowhere But Here
Katie McGarry
Series: Thunder Road, #1
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Olivia was a fierce matriarch. Not only was she the old lady of the president of the Reign of Terror, but she also raised some of the key players of the Terror's next generation. Her heart overflowed for those kids, and she left them with wonderful childhood memories, and a stable moral base.

Who are some of your favorite YA "moms"?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, May 15, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - May 15, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. Jen Vincent, Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee of Unleashing Readers decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus.

This post is for sharing what I read last week, what I am currently reading, and what I plan to read.

What I Read Last Week

This weekend was the culmination of the past four years, and I really enjoyed my daughter's graduation. It was so different from my own. They marched onto the field to live music played by the Brazilian Ensemble, which was so much more festive than Pomp and Circumstance. I went to my state's flagship school, and there were almost as many total graduates at my daughter's ceremony as there were in just the electrical engineering department at mine. Her's was so much more intimate and personal, and I enjoyed it throughly. Below, is a picture of her cap with a quote from ACOMAF and the last stack of books she got for me.

Back to the reading, no bad reads last week, but I was a little disappointed with Wayfarer. I loved when Etta and Nicholas were together, and they spent the majority of this book separated. They had great, separate adventures, but it was not the same for me. One surprise read was Dairy Queen. I had seen it on someone's Top Ten Tuesday as an example of sports done right. They had it on Overdrive, so I checked it out. It was utterly adorable (pun intended) and delightful. I really enjoyed the look at the life of a farming family, and thought DJ was hilarious.

What I Am Currently Reading

Right now, I am reading Liberty and listening to the second Dairy Queen book, The Off Season. DJ, I am glad to report, is still bringing smiles to my face.

What I Plan to Read

I have a few anticipated reads lined up for the week. Making it Right is the final book in the Most Likely To series, and I think it's going to be the best story yet, as this character is the most complicated of the three the series follows. I had requested Be True to Me, because Griffin knocked my socks off with The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone. Her new book is set during the bicentennial summer, and I have some vague, but fond memories of our celebratory block party that year. Visions of bike decorating, playing in the fire hydrant, and wearing the bicentennial quarter on a ribbon around my neck are flashing through my mind, and I am eager to revisit that time period with Griffin. I requested my final read, Amish Guys Don't Call, on a whim, because it sounds like a like of fun.

What are you reading?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Review: Deacon Locke Went to Prom - Brian Katcher

Deacon Locke Went to Prom 
Brian Katcher
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I went into this book having been pleased with another of Katcher's works, The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak, which was quirky and fun. Deacon Lock Went to Prom is another fun and quirky offering, but it's also very sweet and heartfelt.

Deacon Locke did not have a conventional upbringing. He was always fleeing moving from place to place due to his father's "career" choices. He never had the opportunity to have roots and make friends. When he turned 16, the one stable person in his life, his grandmother, invited him to live with her, and he finally had a home. Now, in the last days of high school, he wants to experience a very normal teenage thing. He wants to go to a school dance, and the prom will be his last chance. After a failed attempt to ask his friend to be his date, he decides he wants to go with someone who is very special to him, someone he considers to be his best friend. So, he asks his grandmother, Jean, to be his date.

The first part of this book was so fun and charming. From the promposals to his geriatric dance class, I totally fell in love with Deacon, Jean, and all his quirky friends. I spent a great deal of those early chapters laughing, grinning, and sighing with satisfaction.

I have to take some time to discuss this cast of characters. I really enjoyed getting to know them, and they all contribution to my enjoyment of this book. When grandma Jean greets Deacon like this:
"I will personally carve out your eyeballs and feed them to the crows!"
I knew we were going to be great friends. Katcher really did create a wonderful character with Jean. She was robust, feisty, and full of life. She seemed slightly haunted by her failures as a mother, and maybe even as a wife, but she was determined to give it her all with Deacon. They had a very special kinship, that jumped off the page, and grabbed my heart. I also had a warm spot for Elijah, the pun-master and friend Deacon didn't want to have, but he was having any way. This kid was all heart. He was a fierce friend, and willing to give a lot to his friendships. Finally, we had Soraya, Deacon's dance teacher turned girlfriend. She was so spunky and spoke her mind. She was determined and worked hard to be true to herself, even when it was difficult. As the daughter of Lebanese immigrants and a muslim, Soraya had faced adversity, and was always able to keep her chin up. She was fabulous, and really rounded out the cast of characters by bringing that diversity to the table.

After prom, a secondary storyline arises. A video, or rather, multiple videos, of Deacon and his grandmother dancing at prom go viral, and he becomes an overnight sensation. As his celebrity increases, Deacon sort of loses his way, and also, loses a little bit of himself. I did not enjoy this part of the book as much, because Deacon was the heart of the story. Part of me understands that this conflict was needed for Deacon to grow and change, but I still missed the fun, lighthearted, geeky Deacon.

As Deacon resolved some of the conflicts, and worked to repair some of the relationships he harmed, the story started moving back in the right direction. It felt right again, and that warmth and humor returned. You could not imagine my happiness upon seeing the book had an epilogue, because I love epilogues. I need them like the air I breathe. They give me that closure, and sometimes, that peek ahead that I yearn for. This was not the worst epilogue, but Katcher did that contemporary thing that I abhor. You know, that open-ended type ending. I guess I could take that ending in the direction I think it should go, but there is no definitive wrap up regarding certain BIG questions. Not bad, but it left me wanting more.

Overall: This was a heartfelt, fun, and quirky coming of age story. I loved seeing Deacon grow into himself, and was happy with the person he became.

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

Do you like reality competition shows ?
Let us know in the comments!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Review: The Traitor's Kiss - Erin Beaty

The Traitor's Kiss 
Erin Beaty
Series: Traitor's Trilogy, #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Imprint
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sage is a strong willed young woman in a time of compliant maidens. She prefers breeches to skirts, and climbing trees to needlepoint. When forced to meet the matchmaker, she reveals her aversion to being matched. The matchmaker decides to take Sage under her wing as her apprentice, where Sage demonstrates her keen observational skills and sharp intellect. The royal guard also admires these skills, and she is recruited to gather information for the crown as they sense an uprising brewing.

I would like to state, that I am a hard-core contemporary reader. However, I do delight in a fantasy novel from time to time, and especially like when the story lean towards high fantasy. I love taking that trip back to an undefined time, to another world, that is entrenched in its own history, geography, and politics. Ahhh, a true escape from the day to day grind.

I was very pleased with the escape provided by The Traitor's Kiss. I know there are some things that will disappoint the hard core fantasy lovers out there. As far as I know, there is no map, and I know it is somewhat crucial to understand the lay of the land. Perhaps, there will be a map in the finished copy (?). And, although Beaty did a wonderful job with the history and politics of the realm, the world building was still a little lacking. Alas, this is slated to be a trilogy, and Beaty can get that done in the next book. But, like I said, I am a contemporary reader, so this did not bother me. This book was all about the characters for me.

I think at this point, we expect strong heroines, and Sage was just that. She had her own thoughts and opinions. She wanted to make her own decisions, and to make her own way in the world. She valued intellect and learning over preening and being matched. She was essentially an anachronism in this undefined medieval-like time. I loved her spirit, her sass, her can-do attitude. I liked that she was not afraid to get her hands dirty. There were so many sides and layers to her. Her past broke my heart, but  what a future I sense for her.
"I could never be happy pretending to be something I'm not. I just wish being myself didn't cause so much trouble."
I thought the matchmaker was well crafted, as well. Mistress Rodelle had this air of superiority, that came along with the power to arrange political unions, but she also had this nurturing side, which was apparent in her dealings with Sage. Some of her plotting elicited grins from me, as I knew I would love the result. She was crafty, and I liked it.

The captain and his men wormed their way into my heart as well. They were swoonworthy, but also so loyal and dedicated to the crown and each other. Their bonds of brotherhood were quite apparent, and their interactions were often amusing. But what I really liked, was the way they respected Sage. Once she was pulled into their circle, they listened to her, and treated her as an equal. They considered her suggestions, and when they worked, they gave her credit. They appreciated her, and didn't underestimate her abilities. That scored them points in my book.

Some reviews I have read did not like when the book took a romantic turn. Um, I love romance, and this one was totally ship-worthy. I smiled and swooned and all that good stuff. It was a slow burn, but once it got there, it was a wildfire.
"Kissing her had been like tasting sunshine."
This is also the type of trilogy I like - no cliffy! I am a fan of series, which have an overarching story, but also a story arc that is completed in each book. This BIG plot is not resolved, but the smaller plot is. We know enough at the end of this book to expect more, but also be sated, and that always pleases me.

Overall: a promising beginning to a new series replete with great characters, battles, duplicitous plots, espionage, and romance.

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

Are you a high fantasy fan?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review: The Duke of Bannerman Prep - Katie A. Nelson

The Duke of Bannerman Prep
Katie A Nelson
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tanner wants out: out of his house, his situation, his circumstances. He wants to see how the other half lives. He finally gets his chance, when he is awarded a debate scholarship to the posh Bannerman Prep School. It is evident, that Tanner is out of his depth as soon as he steps foot on school grounds, and is drawn into this upper crust world. But, will he be able to afford the price tag it comes with?

First and foremost, this is a Great Gatsby retelling, and I thought Nelson's approach was quite fresh and entertaining. The essence of the original story was obvious, but the story was still it's own. The tale of a boy from modest means, who is seeking his fortune, and is drawn into the vortex of this mysterious, but gracious stranger is all there, but now we also have the modern twists, the pressures of high school, and debate.

After reading this book, I am quite upset that my high school did not have a debate, because that world sounds amazing. If Neslon's portrayal of high school debate is even close to reality, count me in. Each part of the book, where debate took center stage, I was able to feel the stress, the pressure, the exhilaration, and the defeat as the characters practiced, prepared, and competed. I was genuinely enthralled by it all.
"I'd seen what was possible, and I wanted it. I wanted it more."
I really loved Tanner. There were so many sides to him: he was a dutiful son, a protective brother and cousin, but also a normal teen boy. Tanner came to Bannerman for all the right reasons: he knew it was his only way out of Hollister and a minimum wage job. He went to Bannerman with the intention of winning the state championship and securing a scholarship, but he sort of lost his way at one point. Being out of his home, he escaped that pressure cooker for a new one. It's no wonder he could not resist the gravitational attraction to The Duke, and was drawn into his orbit. He made a bad choice, which sort of set off a chain reaction of poor choices, and snowballed into disaster, deception, and betrayal. But he was still there. The real Tanner was still present, and his mea cupla and bid for redemption was the stuff that kept me believing in him, and cheering him on.
"But he knew me. Knew exactly what I needed. And he made sure I got it."
The Duke was also written quite well. He was everything we expect in our Gatsby. Gracious, but standoffish, with an air of mystery. I loved finding the breadcrumbs, and trying to piece together who The Duke really was. I thrived on the tension as it all started to unravel, and I was a little on edge waiting to see what the fallout would be.
"You don't know anything about him. You know what he wants you to know."
And yes, there is a little romance in there too. I wanted this for Tanner. I needed this for him. The kid had it tough, and I am glad Nelson gave him a sweet romance, with an independently minded young woman, who supported him, lifted him up, and was compassionate. I was sailing on this ship, even if it was only a minor part of the story.

 Overall: A great retelling, which encapsulated the essence of the original, while still coming across as new and unique.

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

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