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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
Release Date: August 23rd
Publisher: Dutton
*ARC received by publisher for honest feedback*

Mara Carlyle’s senior year at Covington High in suburban New Jersey is going on as normally as could be expected, until the day—wa-bam!—fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc. Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last senior to spontaneously combust without warning or explanation. The body count grows and the search is on for a reason—Terrorism! Drugs! Homosexuality! Government conspiracy!—while the seniors continue to pop like balloons.

Mara narrates the end of their world as she knows it with tell-it-like-it-is insight as she tries to make it to graduation in one piece through an explosive year punctuated by romance, quarantine, lifelong friendship, hallucinogenic mushrooms, bloggers, ice cream trucks, “Snooze Button™,” Bon Jovi, and the filthiest language you’ve ever heard the President of the United States use over Skype.

As soon as I was told that this book was about a high school where teens start spontaneously combusting, I knew I was going to read it. I didn't need to know anything else to be convinced this should be added to my TBR. I've never read a book about spontaneous combustion, but having some basic knowledge about what it is I figured this book could either be really great or really terrible. It definitely falls into the realm of great for me. 

Our narrator is Mara. Mara tells it like it is, or at least she tells it like she sees it. And Mara has seen things, a lot of them being her exploding classmates. Let me just say, there are a lot of exploding teens in this book. Of course, given the plot of this story, this isn't really all that shocking. I'll be honest, the exploding teens aren't even the most interesting part of this book. I'd even venture to say, they are the least interesting part. What I found most interesting, and what kept me turning pages, were the reactions to what was happening in this little New Jersey town. The reactions of the students, the parents, the government, our country, and even the world. The people outside of Covington, and even some of the people inside, had the strongest reactions. We all know that humanity as a whole doesn't really know how to handle it when something they don't understand happens. In this book, and I imagine if it started happening in real life, they ultimately react how you would expect. Keep them contained! Don't let it spread! Do whatever you must to figure out what is wrong with them!

I think what I liked most, though, was after all that initial panic and mayhem. Once the rest of the world started to forget about them, once other tragedies overshadowed this one and they were left to their own devices we got to see this kids trying to get their lives back. To make the most out of their new reality. And I think this is where the true message lies. We never know when our time is up, and while most of us probably won't meet our end by exploding, you have to take charge of your life and get as much out of it as you can while you can. Don't get me wrong, some of them went about it in all the wrong ways, but that seems pretty realistic to me. Mara was one of the worst offenders, hanging out near the rockiest of rock bottoms, but she gets her fight back and while the end is left pretty wide open, there is hope. And really isn't that all we need in life? Hope and a little perseverance?

*Image and synopsis provided by Goodreads

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Furious Rush by S.C. Stephens Teaser Blitz w/ Excerpt and Giveaway!


Author: S.C. Stephens
On Sale: August 23, 2016
Publisher: Forever
Format: Trade Paperback & eBook
Price: $12.99 USD (TP) / $4.99 USD (eBook)

The first in an emotion-fueled, New Adult series from the #1 bestselling author of the Thoughtless novels!

Too fast, too furious—and way too hot to handle… 

Mackenzie Cox has a lot to prove. Daughter of a racing legend, she is eager to show the world that she has inherited her father's talent in the male-dominated sport of professional motorcycle racing. The last thing Kenzie needs is to be antagonized by her rival team's newest rider, Hayden Hayes. Plucked from the world of illegal street racing, Hayden immediately gets under Kenzie's skin. His insinuations that Kenzie is a spoiled princess who was handed her career fuels her desire to win, and much to her surprise, Kenzie soon learns she performs better when she's racing against Hayden.

As Kenzie and Hayden push each other on the track, the electric energy between them off the track shifts into an intense—and strictly forbidden—attraction. The only rule between their two ultra-competitive teams is zero contact. Kenzie always does her best to play by the rules, but when her team slips into a financial crisis, she has no choice but to turn to Hayden for help. The tension simmers during their secret, late-night rendezvous, but Kenzie has too much to lose to give in to her desires. Especially when she begins to doubt that Hayden has completely left his street life behind...

Honda Boy was holding his helmet under an arm while he flirted with the girls surrounding him. He was blond, with a short, shaggy hairstyle that probably took a lot more effort to create than it looked like. I could tell from the way the girls around him were tittering like teenagers that he was charming; with seemingly little effort on his part, he had all of them eating out of his hand. When a break in the crowd gave me a clear view of his face, I realized another thing: He was smokin’, someone-hold-on-to-my-ovaries- before-they-explode hot.
There was a perfect symmetry to his rugged features that made it seem unreal that he was standing just a few feet away from me. He should be plastered on a billboard somewhere, half-naked, selling overpriced cologne to men who wanted just a fraction of his sex appeal. As if he could feel my eyes on him, he turned his gaze my way. Our eyes met and locked, and I was helpless to turn away. There was something carnal about him, primal and dangerous. Exotic. I was instantly captivated, and I hated that I was. This guy was neck-deep in a world that twisted my stomach, a world that spat in the face of my sport. My career.
As his light-colored eyes bored holes into mine, one edge of his lip curved up in a devilish crooked grin that was both playful and promising. He was practically shouting, with just that one deadly smile, that he would satisfy my every desire, satiate every craving I could possibly have. My heart started thudding in my chest as sensations that had been dormant for far too long swirled to life in- side me. Luckily for me, the big man taking the guy’s bets clapped him on the shoulder, breaking our stare down. Once I was free of his steamy gaze, I instantly turned around so my back was to him.  Jesus, was I breathing harder? Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. I was twenty-two, not twelve.
“Damn,” I heard Nikki say. “You were right. I should have bet on him from the get-go. I didn’t really get a good look at him before, but he is freaking hot!”
Inhaling a deep breath, I attempted to force my body back in line with my brain. “This guy is undefeated?” I asked Nikki. “Really?” She nodded in answer and I had to close my eyes for a second. A face like that with racing skills to boot? Jesus.
Clearing my throat, I nonchalantly asked, “What did you say his name was again?” I could at least label the guy in the fantasy I was surely going to have later.
“Hayden... something. He’s been around for a while, from what I gathered.”
I risked a glance over my shoulder at... Hayden. He’d slipped his helmet on, thankfully, although his visor was popped up. The big guy taking bets had been joined by a skinny Hispanic guy who seemed to be giving Hayden instructions. Or maybe a pep talk. The little guy was acting out the race that was about to happen with his hands, complete with swerving and explosions. God, I hoped there weren’t going to be explosions. While he was going through his dramatic highlights, the big guy looped a camera over Hayden’s helmet.
When the two competitors were ready, they backed their motor- cycles onto the street. A cheer ripped up and down the sidewalk as the hopeful gamblers prepared for another round of racing. I didn’t want to feel anything but contempt for what I was witnessing, yet the energy of the spectators, the roar of the bikes—I couldn’t help the zing of excitement that raced up my spine. Against my will, my mouth twisted into a wide grin, and a yell of encouragement left my lips. Hayden’s helmet swiveled my way as he revved his engine. My pulse quickened as our eyes met. Then he winked at me and slammed his visor shut.
As the riders moved into position, Nikki grabbed my arm. “Come on. We can watch the action from the van.”
I had no idea what she was talking about. Before I could ask her, though, she yanked me toward a black van parked on the sidewalk. The back doors were open, and a giant monitor attached to a swinging metal arm was sticking out above the hovering crowd. The screen was split in two, each half showing the footage from one racer’s helmet cam. Hayden and his opponent were both looking straight ahead, and the dual feeds showed similar stretches of barren road. Looking down the street, I saw that the pair were stopped at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to change.
Returning my eyes to the monitor, I found myself holding my breath as I waited for the signal to change colors. When it turned green and the bikes surged forward, I stepped closer to the van, like that would somehow release my pent-up energy. In unison, the crowd around me started hooting and hollering. Swept up in the moment, I bounced on my toes and prayed for speed. But after watching the screen for just a few seconds, I was struck with the harsh reality of the situation I was watching. This was no closed-off track with well-defined paths. This was down and dirty, anything goes, just get to the finish line first racing.
The bikes blew through red lights like they meant absolutely nothing. The streets were fairly empty at this early hour, but they blurred past the few vehicles on the road like they were standing still; they had to be going 100 miles per hour, easy. They dodged obstacles by hopping onto the sidewalk, they fishtailed around slick corners, and they came close to colliding with oncoming traffic more than once.
I turned to Nikki with shock clear on my face. “This is insane! Someone’s going to get hurt. Maybe killed!”
Nikki’s face was pure elation as she watched the screens. Her expression changed as my words sunk in, then she looked at me like I had a foot sticking out of my head. I supposed it was odd to hear that type of statement coming from someone who routinely hovered around the 150 mark on the speedometer while riding, but that was a completely different kind of environment. Believe it or not, what I did was safe, relatively speaking. Millions of dollars were spent to make it that way. This was not safe. At all.
“They’re breaking every traffic law there is,” I added, feeling like a giant stick in the mud. Someone needed to be the voice of reason here, though, because everyone was clearly out of their ever loving minds.
Nikki smirked at my comment. “It’s a race, Kenzie. They can’t exactly drive cautiously. Why do you think this happens so late at night?”
“Because it’s illegal,” I deadpanned. I got a couple of odd looks from the crowd after saying that, including a particularly nasty glare from Hayden’s bet collector. Maybe this wasn’t the best place to be talking about the law. Shutting my mouth, I quickly refocused on the screen.
Just as I noticed a familiar section of street come into view on the monitor, one side of the screen started wobbling, then the camera showed asphalt, sparks, spinning scenery, and a rapidly approaching telephone pole. The crowd around me hushed as it became clear that Hayden’s competition wasn’t going to finish this race. I heard Hayden’s bike rounding the corner seconds later, then Nikki was once again pulling me along like a rag doll. She shoved us into a good position to see the finish line right as Hayden’s Honda whizzed past. He was alone. Cheers erupted mixed with a few groans from the people who’d bet on the other guy.
Just as I was wondering if anyone was going to go check on the Ninja rider, Nikki grabbed my shoulders and started shaking me with uncontainable joy. “We won, Kenzie! We frickin’ won!”
“Great,” I said, clenching my teeth so I wouldn’t bite my tongue.
Releasing me, Nikki let out a squeal of excitement. “I just made enough money to pay you back and cover my loss. See, aren’t you glad you came?”
I narrowed my eyes into poisonous daggers that would hopefully drill some sense into her. “I hate you,” I murmured.  Nikki held a hand over her heart. “I know by hate you mean love, and I love you too, Kenzie. Now let’s collect my winnings and go home so you can rest up. Big year this year!”
I opened my mouth to scold her with some biting remark about how I’d wanted to leave ages ago, but she turned on her heel and left me there, gaping. Just as I was forcing the muscles in my jaw to relax enough to contract, Hayden pulled up next to where I was standing on the sidewalk. It felt like the world suddenly shifted into slow motion as I turned my head to look at him.
He was still hunched over his bike, hands on the grip and throttle; the only indication that he was looking at me was the direction of his dark helmet. Then, like some freaking Prince Charming in a fairy tale, he slowly removed his helmet and tucked it under his arm. I swear the air around me condensed as his tilted smile came into view. Jesus Christ, this guy was sex on a stick.
Reaching up, he roughly ran a hand through his sweaty dirty- blond hair. The short, sexy shag he’d had going on earlier was destroyed from the helmet, but somehow after just a few scruffs of his hand, the carefree style was back to utter perfection. I kind of wanted to mess it up again, run my hands through the strands, grab a handful and clench it tight while I outlined those incredibly kissable lips with my tongue.
Whoa. No. I didn’t want that.
His penetrating gaze studied my face for a moment. There was something there in his eyes that I couldn’t quite grasp. Interest, sure, but almost... sadness too. Then he smiled, and the look vanished so fast, I was sure I’d imagined it. “Haven’t seen you here before,” he said, his voice low and easy, like he hadn’t just risked his life. “I hope you bet on me. It would be a shame to see someone as beautiful as you... lose.”
His grin turned suggestive, and warning signs started flashing in front of my eyes. Danger! Do not proceed! Rocky road ahead! Turn back now! The warnings flared even brighter when he stood from his motorcycle and began approaching me.
When he was directly in front of me, so close that I could smell the subtle spicy aroma of his cologne, my heart was hammering so hard, I was positive he could hear it, positive he could see my T-shirt lifting and releasing like a frantic hummingbird was hiding under the fabric. What the hell was he doing to me? Was I nervous or excited? Because the sensation was so similar to both, I honestly couldn’t tell.
Extending a hand, he smoothly said, “Name’s Hayden. Hayden Hayes.” I was just about to lift my hand and touch him—my fingers even twitched in response—when he added, “And what should I call you, sweetheart?”
Sweetheart? With those two simple syllables he had just dumped a bucket of ice water over my head and killed any fantasy I might have had about him. I lived, worked, and breathed in a world where men looked at me like I was a second-class citizen. To prove my worth, I had to work harder, longer, and with everything I had inside me, all the fucking time. I felt like he’d just tried to take all of that hard work away from me with that one demeaning word.
“Leaving,” I said, walking away.



S. C. Stephens is a #1 bestselling author who spends her every free moment creating stories that are packed with emotion and heavy on romance. In addition to writing, she enjoys spending lazy afternoons in the sun reading, listening to music, watching movies, and spending time with her friends and family. She and her two children reside in the Pacific Northwest.


It's a virtual-party!!! Please join S.C. Stephens (and some pretty awesome authors) on Facebook for a pre-release celebration of Furious Rush on August 22nd! There will be prizes! There will be fun!



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Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody

A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody
Release Date: August 2nd, 2016
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

When I made the wish, I just wanted a do-over. Another chance to make things right. I never, in a million years, thought it might actually come true...
Sixteen-year-old Ellison Sparks is having a serious case of the Mondays. She gets a ticket for running a red light, she manages to take the world’s worst school picture, she bombs softball try-outs and her class election speech (note to self: never trust a cheerleader when she swears there are no nuts in her bake-sale banana bread), and to top it all off, Tristan, her gorgeous rocker boyfriend suddenly dumps her. For no good reason!
As far as Mondays go, it doesn’t get much worse than this. And Ellie is positive that if she could just do it all over again, she would get it right. So when she wakes up the next morning to find she’s reliving the exact same day, she knows what she has to do: stop her boyfriend from breaking up with her. But it seems no matter how many do-overs she gets or how hard Ellie tries to repair her relationship, Tristan always seems bent set on ending it. Will Ellie ever figure out how to fix this broken day? Or will she be stuck in this nightmare of a Monday forever?

I feel like I've been on a roll with YA contemporaries lately. I've read a
 few in a row and I've really enjoyed all of them. A Week of Mondays is no 
exception. It started out a little rocky for me, because I intially pegged 
Ellie as unlikeable and whiny. As I got further into the story and Ellie 
got further into her predicament, I started to feel for her and genuinely 
cared about what was going to happen to her. 

I knew where I wanted things to end up, and I could see the potential for it 
there, but honestly I wasn't sure if it was going to go that way in the end. 
Ellie was so dead set on her endgame and while I admired her tenacity, 
I wasn't sure she was going to  "wake up and smell the roses" so to speak. 

And can we just take a moment to discuss the fact that having the day that 
reoccurs over and over be a Monday really sucks. I mean, come on! Once 
things go back to normal, if they go back to normal, you will still have 
a full week to go through. On top of all of those Mondays. Ick!

Oh, and shout out to her best friend Owen! What a cool kid. He's the kind of 
guy I would have absolutely been friends with when I was her age. 
You know what, I'd probably be friends with him now, too! 
And he was the best kind of best friend, truly there for Ellie.
A Week of Mondays was really fun and SO cute! At first I wasn't sure if
I was going to like Ellie but as the Mondays went on I got to like her more
and more. I liked how she learned new things each Monday, and how these things
gave her more insight into the people around her. It was a fun, quick read
and really pretty funny.
Definitely a solid YA contemporary!
*Advanced copy provided by publisher for honest feedback*

Thursday, July 21, 2016

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Release Date: July 26th, 2016
Publisher: Point

What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery?

While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk! Soon enough Lily and the mystery student are exchanging notes, and lyrics, and even sharing secrets. When Lily finds out that her anonymous pen pal is a guy, she's flustered -- and kind of feels like she's falling for him. She and her best friend set out to unravel the identity of the letter writer -- but when the truth is revealed, the guy is the LAST person Lily could have ever imagined it to be. Now that Lily knows the truth, can she untangle her feelings and gather the courage to listen to her heart?

I absolutely love the idea of a mystery pen pal romance. So I decided to make P.S. I Like You my first Kasie West book. And I was not disappointed. This book was overflowing with cute and had so much wonderful snark. Our main gal Lily liked to stay under the radar. She loves good music, playing guitar, and dreams of being a successful songwriter. Of course, she's got to actually finish a song first.

She jots down a line to her favorite song on her desk in chemistry and the next day, whoever sits at her desk in a different chem class, wrote the next lyric to the song in response. Thus begins the pen pal relationship that is central to our story. Lily and her mystery pen pal find it easy to confide in each other and they start to grow closer without knowing who either of them are. 

It was fun reading their back in forth, especially because it was pretty obvious early on who the mystery pen pal was, but even though I had it guessed it didn't ruin the story. I think it actually made it better, because I was so curious how it was all going to come out and how they were going to handle it when they found out the truth. 

This book was chock full of good banter, awesome friendships, and crazy family that come through in the end. I will definitely be picking up other Kasie West novels, because I am hoping for more adorable and solid contemporaries just like this one!

*Advanced copy provided by the publisher for honest feedback*

*Cover and blurb from Goodreads

Monday, July 18, 2016

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Release Date: June 2nd, 2015
Publisher: Soho Teen

In the months after his father's suicide, it's been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again--but he's still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he's slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely. 

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron's crew notices, and they're not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can't deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can't stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is. 

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

Aaron is just a regular kid who hangs out with his friends from the neighborhood, spends time at the comic book store, and hangs out with his girlfriend. Of course, Aaron has been through some pretty intense stuff in his relatively short life and somedays are harder than others. His best friend acts weird around him lately and he's starting to question whether his girlfriend is really the one he wants to be with. Once Thomas comes into Aaron's life, his discontent seems to lessen, things start to feel like they are falling into place for him, and he just genuinely seems happier. I just really wanted Aaron to come out on top.

So when things with Thomas take a turn, I was really bummed that Aaron wanted to turn to the Leteo Institute. Sometimes life sucks and you just really wish you could forget all of the pain, but that's also the stuff that makes us who we are. I guess I understand to some extent, especially because there were so many people that behaved so horribly in reaction to the things going on with Aaron, but the people who truly mattered loved him anyway and that's why I had a hard time agreeing with the decision Aaron was making.

This book had me all over the place trying to decide what was really going on. And I never could have guessed how it would actually end. It definitely got me teared up on a couple of occasions and in the end just left me wanting to give Aaron a hug.

I thought this was a great story and even though I'm a little behind on reading it, I'm glad I finally did. I'm really looking forward to what Adam Silvera has to offer next.

*Cover photo and blurb from Goodreads

Saturday, July 9, 2016

My Weekend at ALA Annual 2016!

I have been wanting to attend a book event like ALA or BEA for years, but for many reasons I have never been able to attend one. This year, though, ALA came to Orlando, which is just a short road trip from where I live. So I got my best friend Shanon on board and we made our way to Orlando!

It was held in the West Concourse of the Orange County Convention Center, which prior to MegaCon in May, I had never been to. Having just been there the previous month, though, I felt a little more comfortable making my way around the area. Let me just say, the OCCC is really nice and the area is so pretty. We were so excited we neglected to actually take any pictures of the convention center, the exhibit hall, or any of the awesome posters and advertisements that were all over the place. The picture of the convention building is actually from their website...

So we got ourselves parked and made our way into the building. Having never been to anything like this, we had no idea what to expect. We got our badges, programs, and tote bags and headed over to the exhibit hall. There was so much to see along the way. There were signs and posters everywhere and they even had images covering the staircases. Very cool. When first walked in it was totally overwhelming and we honestly didn't know where to go first. We ended up at the HarperCollins booth first and it was kind of a whirlwind from there.

It was honestly a little like living in a dream, because there were books everywhere and there was always someone there eager to tell you about what books they were excited for. It felt really strange to pick up a book to read the description and then have someone tell you to please feel free to take one. I mean, don't all of us as book lovers dream of places where there are endless amounts of books and people are just giving them to you?

I guess it stayed pretty overwhelming for about the first half of the day. Amidst all of that, though, we stumbled across some really awesome books that we might have never known about otherwise. While in the Penguin Random House booth, one of the lovely ladies working there started telling me about a book called Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer. It wasn't one that I had known about previously, but once she told us it was about a high school where kids start to spontaneously combust, I knew it was something I had to read. It is one of the books I got that I am most excited about reading and I'm so grateful to have discovered it at ALA!

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

Later in the day we had a few signings that we wanted to attend. We met up with a few other YA contemporary fans and started the line for the Emery Lord signing at the Bloomsbury booth. Then we headed over to Simon & Schuster to have books signed by Morgan Matson and Siobhan Vivian. They were all so incredibly sweet and charming, and Morgan Matson is one of my absolute favorite contemporary YA authors, so getting to meet her was really cool!

There was one book that was at the top of our list to try and get while we were at ALA, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, and it was even more exciting because she was there to sign copies. Unfortunately, when we went to get in line for the signing, we were told that it was for librarians only. We were seriously bummed, but we were having so much fun anyway, we didn't let it get us down for too long. We went by the Macmillan booth a little while later, just to see if they had an ARCs left of Caraval, and they did! We weren't able to get it signed, but we were so excited and grateful. Our ALA trip was made.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber!

I'll admit, I'm a little embarrassed by how many books I ended up bringing home with me. I came home with way less than I could have, but quite a few more than I had planned on. This is the reason we ultimately decided not to go back on Sunday. While we know it would have been another amazing day, and there were a couple of signings we wouldn't have minded attending, we knew the allure of books and book excitement would have been in full force and we already felt greedy. 

After a long, very warm, day in Orlando! This was the only pic we remembered to take of ourselves :0)

We are so grateful to generosity of all of the publishers and authors at ALA Annual this year! It was so much fun hanging out with all of the bookish folks and their excitement for stories. If we get the chance to make it to Midwinter in Atlanta next year, we'll look forward to seeing everyone again!


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