01 November 2014


Author: Karen Akins
Series: Loop # 1
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: 21 October 2014
Summary: At a school where Quantum Paradox 101 is a required course and history field trips are literal, sixteen year-old time traveler Bree Bennis excels…at screwing up.   After Bree botches a solo midterm to the 21st century by accidentally taking a boy hostage (a teensy snafu), she stands to lose her scholarship. But when Bree sneaks back to talk the kid into keeping his yap shut, she doesn’t go back far enough. The boy, Finn, now three years older and hot as a solar flare, is convinced he’s in love with Bree, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a complete pain in the arse. To make matters worse, she inadvertently transports him back to the 23rd century with her.  Once home, Bree discovers that a recent rash of accidents at her school are anything but accidental. Someone is attacking time travelers. As Bree and her temporal tagalong uncover seemingly unconnected clues—a broken bracelet, a missing data file, the art heist of the millennium—that lead to the person responsible, she alone has the knowledge to piece the puzzle together. Knowledge only one other person has. Her future self.  But when those closest to her become the next victims, Bree realizes the attacker is willing to do anything to stop her. In the past, present, or future.
Review: Loop was, interesting.  There were a lot of things I enjoyed about Loop, I liked the world building, I loved how time traveling was explained throughout the book, and I like how Akins plays on it being genetic and not completely scientific, and I really liked the idea, different timelines corresponding.  I just had a hard time with the execution.  I'm a fan of science fiction, and my suspension of disbelief is pretty high, but there were a lot of parts in Loop that left me confused.  I wish that Bree had been two separate characters, and I really wanted to hear more from Finn about how he remembered her from the future/past.  I felt like the romance was rushed, and that Bree was too far away from her future self to really be believable, I didn't like how bad she felt for reacting the way she did to her best friend Mimi, because Mimi is right smack in the middle of "okay" as far as literary best friends go.  It sucks because time travel is one of my favorite branches of science fiction, but this was hard for me to follow. Add to all of this the not-quite-futuristic jargon and my head was spinning, and not in a good way.  There is a good chance that most of the plot holes will be resolved in the next book, I just had an incredibly hard time with hearing about all of these relationships that Bree has with people and not actually seeing them built, although timelines do intersect at some points, overall this story was a hard one for me to work out.  If I'm feeling ambitious I may attempt the second one, but probably not.  I do feel like I should add an addendum: this would really work as a movie because you could see flashback sequences, etc.  but having to make that up just showed poor editing and plotting, unfortunately.
I would check out the Ruby Red series if you're looking for a good time-travel romance, or if your looking for something more science-fiction check out This Shattered World (out December 23rd).

25 August 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After

Author: Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss # 3
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: 14 August 2014
Summary: From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever. Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and √Čtienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.
Review: **Let me preface this by saying that this has been the hardest review I’ve had to write in a while.  It’s been a week since I read this lovely, lovely story and I’m still trying to put into words just how much I loved it, so bear with me while you read this.**

Isla and Josh.  So similar and so different to Anna and Lola.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I always felt that Anna and Lola were essentially the same story, with the perspectives flipped (Lola reminded me of Etienne and Anna reminded me of Cricket) essentially the characters are going through the same thing, wanting each other and figuring out how to get that.  With Isla and Josh the circumstances are very much different.
Isla opens in New York City, on a dark night with a female character who has a stronger voice than I thought she would.  Portrayed as quiet and shy in Anna and the French Kiss, I wasn’t sure how she was going to live within her own story; and although I had enjoyed Josh in Anna and the French Kiss, I wasn’t sure he could stand on his own as a romantic lead.  Let’s just say my expectations were definitely exceeded.
I won’t lie, even with my trepidation towards our main characters, Isla and the Happily Ever After was by far my most anticipated read of 2015.  I’ve had it on pre-order since you could have it on pre-order.  I follow Stephanie Perkins on twitter and knew about why the release date was pushed back and was in complete support of her, but I’m going to be honest I WANTED THE BOOK IN MY HANDS IMMEDIATELY, as soon as I finished Lola I wanted Isla, so I already had a love for the book before I even read it.
The main difference with Isla was this: where Anna and Lola were about the leading up to and very beginning of a relationship, Isla starts off with the beginning and leads us through a relationship; all of the messy, beautiful, funny, and heartbreaking aspects of it.  I was afraid Isla would fall short as a protagonist, until I realized that Isla was me. 
I’ve always felt like my favorite books were the ones when I identified with the main character on a personal level, and I really identified with Isla.  I was never confident like Anna, or outgoing and crazy like Lola, sure I wanted to be that way, but I wasn’t (still am not) but I was like Isla.  Quiet and terrified of talking to that boy (you know the one.  You still check up on him on social media, but if you saw him in real life it would be: ‘do I know you from somewhere?  High school maybe?’) I need an extra shot of caffeine to get up the nerve to talk to guys that I really think are adorable, and throughout high school, and most of college I felt like a blank slate – something Isla refers to herself as.
Isla was just as heartbreaking if not more so that Anna and Lola, but it was more rewarding too.  Josh was perfect, and Isla was perfect for him.  There were so many moments in the novel where you realize that these two people are just so incredibly perfect for each other – not just their personalities, but how much they value each other, and how much they realize that the other is perfect for them.  Although I got this feeling overall when I read the previous two novels, with Isla you got to see the entire relationship, not just the ‘trying to get to a relationship.’  You get to see the messy bits, and see why it made them stronger.  It was an incredible thing to read. 
The only thing I didn’t like was how much more awareness is brought to the type of people that these characters are.  When I read Anna and again when I read Lola I didn’t realize how upper-class these characters must have been.  They seem so down to earth – so realistic and middle class, and in this novel it was very apparent that Josh and Isla come from an entirely different world, one of glamour and glitz and lots of money.
It wasn’t a negative aspect to the story, but it also played a bigger part in this novel than in the previous two (I don’t know any kids, who can afford to run off to Barcelona, regardless of whether they’re living in Paris or not).  Did their personalities reflect this? No, not really, but there were situations in the book that did and that made it seem less realistic than the first two novels.
Overall I loved Isla and the Happily Ever After, I loved it just as much as Anna and Lola.  I loved that we got cameos from our favorites (OMG YAY!!!  I mean, you’ll know the moment I’m talking about, but AKJDHSKJGHOIH!!!!) and that the truth was in the title, even though it wasn’t always there.  I just think if you loved Anna and Lola you’re going to automatically love Isla for all of its similarities, but most importantly for its differences.

08 August 2014


Author: J. Nelle Patrick
Series: Stand Alone
Genre: Historical
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: 27 February 2014
Summary: Natalya knows a secret.
A magical Faberge egg glows within the walls of Russia's Winter Palace.
It holds a power rooted in the land and stolen from the mystics.
A power that promises a life of love for her and Alexei Romanov.
Power, that, in the right hands, can save her way of life.
But it's not in the right hands.

Review: Here’s the thing with me and literature set in Russia: I will eat it up.  I am so excited for Gregory Maguire’s Egg and Spoon I could spit. It is with this that one must realize, no matter what Tsarina was going to be a natural fit, the exception? This novel more than did justice to what, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting countries in Eastern Europe.
I loved the effortlessness of Patrick’s writing style, how she put me in Russia without making it feel stupidly Russian (you know – we were all wearing fur hats, and boots with curled toes, it never stops snowing, etc.)  I loved the setting, how beautifully it was described, and I loved, more than anything, her characters.
I’m not one who can really get behind a character like Natalya, and the first few chapters had me groaning at how utterly childish she seemed, how nothing would or could be better than how it was, slowly I was won over, but it wasn’t easy for me to see things from her perspective.  It was much easier to see things from Leo’s perspective, not that I support his beliefs, but that I get where he’s coming from.  I understand why he sees Emilia and Natalya as disgusting, because in some ways they are.  Natalya’s blind faith in Alexi’s family was unnerving, but not unwarranted. 
There were a few moments of, “oh, I saw that coming” but the thing about this novel: after about fifty pages it starts moving at a breakneck speed.  I love novels like that, where something is always happening, there’s always another bend in the road, and you have to keep up to know what’s going to happen next.
Reading other reviews on goodreads, I can understand their annoyance with the ending.  I too was slightly annoyed with the abruptness of it.  I felt like it was the editor’s fault (love the editor until you have to blame them for something.  Editor:  I blame you – why did you not demand a better ending?  I mean seriously, what the WHAT?)  It was kind of a cliffhanger, I mean WILL THERE BE A SEQUEL? BECAUSE I REALLY WANT A SEQUEL!
I want you to fix that cliffhanger into something real, yo!
In the end this book made me feel something, which is really the point of a book if you ask me, and it was good. Really good.  If you’re looking for a historical fiction set in Russia that is heavy on the supernatural and light on the romance, I recommend this.

07 July 2014

The Secrets of Lily Graves

Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Series: Stand Alone
Genre: Mystery, Romance
Publisher: Blazer + Bray
Release Date: 13 May 2014
Summary: Growing up in a house of female morticians, Lily Graves knows all about buried secrets. She knows that perfect senior-class president Erin Donohue isn’t what she seems. She knows why Erin’s ex-boyfriend, hot football player Matt Houser, broke up with her. And she also knows that, even though she says she and Matt are just friends, there is something brewing between them—something Erin definitely did not like.  But secrets, even ones that are long buried, have a way of returning to haunt their keeper.  So when Erin is found dead the day after attacking Lily in a jealous rage, Lily's and Matt’s safe little lives, and the lives of everyone in their town of Potsdam, begin to unravel. And their relationship—which grew from innocent after-school tutoring sessions to late-night clandestine rendezvous—makes them both suspects.  As her world crumbles around her, Lily must figure out the difference between truth and deception, genuine love and a web of lies. And she must do it quickly, before the killer claims another victim.
Review:  I fell in love with a cover and got a little bit burned.  I should probably preface that I went into this book cold.  Normally before I buy a book I check goodreads, and ask for second and third opinions, sometimes consulting Kirkus, and even then I usually sit debating for a while, but I saw this cover and thought, "Oh my heck!  I had that haircut for years!  I should buy this book!" (Don't question my logic, it cannot stand up to reason.)  I read the back, it sounded reasonable, like something I might be interested in, and it seemed quick.  I've been dying for a quick read.
Well, I got what I was asking for - The Secrets of Lily Graves was a very quick read.  It was also very "surface" and I kept waiting for something deeper, something more. . .I dunno, gratifying?  I really liked Lily, and although it churned by stomach, I liked the attention to detail and how normal it seemed to grow up in a mortuary.  I liked the process, and how Lily's family seemed normal and lovable, I even liked Lily doing her detective work (though this is NOT Veronica Mars style, like, say, Bethany Fantasky's Buzz Kill - it's definitely closer to Nancy Clancy.) 
I didn't guess the ending until about 1/2 way through the book (but take from that what you will, although I love mysteries, I rarely read them), but Erin's unflinching ability to keep a narrow mindset, especially towards the end read gnawed on my nerves.  The ending was also incredibly rushed.  I wish that is had been drawn out a little bit.
If you're looking for a mystery that also gives you a pretty in depth view on the life of your average mortician, check this out.  If you're looking for a fun, gratifying mystery, I would recommend Buzz Kill (Beth Fantasky), The Prince of Venice Beach ( ), and the new Veronica Mars series (Rob Thomas and Co.)

28 June 2014

Disney Princess Cookbook

Author: Cynthia Littlefield
Series: Stand Alone
Genre: Cookbook
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Date: 1 October 2013
Summary: From Rapunzel's Frying Pan Eggs to Ariel's Sea Turtle Cupcakes, this beautiful cookbook is filled with delicious recipes inspired by the Princesses' many adventures. With simple step-by-step instructions, mouth-watering photos of each dish, and helpful tips from the Princesses themselves, this cookbook makes it easy to whip up some kitchen magic.
Review:  When I told junebug I was going to review a cookbook she kind of freaked out, so let me just say: I KNOW this is out of the norm for me, and I take full responsibility if you guys think this is a bad idea, but this is just such a fantastic cookbook and I can't help but promote it.  To start, a history.  I don't cook a lot, or bake a lot for that matter.  I can make chocolate chip cookies and macaroni and cheese from a box, and I considered those my crowning achievements in the kitchen.  The problem?  I am a total sucker for cookbooks, I have, like five, which isn't a lot compared to most people, but for someone who barely braves the microwave on a good day, it's kind of a bad habit.  I've attempted recipes from all of the cookbooks I own (and multiple recipes from The Harry Potter Cookbook) and they were all 1. hard for me to understand, and 2. never turned out the way I think they were meant to.
Low and behold this book comes through cataloging one day and I freak out.  A cookbook!  A Disney Princess cookbook.  What the WHAT?  Yes, yes I will be checking you out and taking you home.  I browsed the recipes, they were fun and catchy, and the illustrations of the princesses were beautiful, and every recipe had a photograph to go with it.  Plus there was a rating system from easy to hard.  Well, the library doesn't let you keep things forever so I ended up asking for this for my birthday.
I've made five recipes since then (my birthday was about 3 weeks ago) and they've all turned out great!  Some of you may think: duh, you're using a cookbook designed for 5-10 year olds of course they're going to work; but let me tell you: rarely does anything I bake turn out so well on the first try, and rarely do I try new things that consistently turn out well: BUT THESE DID.
I've made: Pascal's Pancakes, Frying Pan Eggs, Belle's Baguette, Aurora's Homemade Jam, and Snow White's Apple Dumplings and they've all been delicious, and I can't WAIT to try the rest of the recipes because they ALL sound superb (I'm a picky eater, so rarely does every recipe sound absolutely tantalizing, but all of the recipes in this sound fab.) if you've got picky eaters at home, get your hands on a copy - if you don't want to purchase it, put in a patron request at your local library.
I highly recommend this for anyone who is just getting in to baking, has little girls who are Disney Princess fans, or someone looking for fun, easy recipes to try.  Whether your five or ninety-five, this cookbook is pretty fantastic.

26 June 2014

Summer is for Lovers/Views from the Grass

A collection of songs perfect for a summer evening.

.hold you in my arms.ray lamontange.
One of the best love songs ever written.  You tear me apart, sir.  Tear. Me. Apart.
.the lions roar.first aid kit.
I'm new to the First Aid Kit scene, but this is the stuff I listen to when I'm wandering.
.fade into you.mazzy star.
I'll never get sick of Mazzy Star.  Never.
.like a star.corinne bailey rae.
Another newbie, but I'm digging this track like it's nobody's business
.big jet plane.angus and julia stone.
I've loved these two for a long time.  This track just *sigh* makes me believe that there are still good things in the world.
.bonfire hearts.james blunt.
Yep.  The song that I will hear in thirty years and be instantly taken back to this summer.
.afire love.ed sheeran.
I'll never get over my love for Ed Sheeran,  I could listen to him sing a grocery list and be happy.  Luckily his stuff is ten times better than that.
.tee shirt.birdy.
I've felt like this.  Especially recently.
.home (jon hopkins remix).daughter.
I purchased the How I Live Now soundtrack recently (I'm a pretty big Jon Hopkins fan) and this song just took my breath away.  I'd heard the original by Daughter before, and though this isn't majorly different when it's bookended by Jon Hopkins it has such an impact.  Instant love.
.a sky full of stars.coldplay.
Is it wrong to still love Coldplay?  Does it make me too old?
.wild horses.the rolling stones.
I wore a Rolling Stones shirt to the store and had someone tell me it was the devils music (true story). If loving The Rolling Stones is wrong, I don't want to be right.  This is my current favorite of theirs.  I rawness you hear throughout just tears me apart.
.jolene.ewert and the two dragons.
I got sucked in by a band name, and became a massive fan.  This reworking of a classic is my current favorite of theirs.
.all the sand in all the sea.devotchka.
The fastest romp on this mixtape.  I'm just a huge fan.
Another song that gets to me, Birdy has a way of reminding me of the innocence of being young, but how jaded you are too.
.old mythologies.the barr brothers.
This feels like driving to the beach, or floating down a river, or laying on the banks of a stream, or in the sun in a trampoline.
Songs don't always need words to make you understand what they're saying.
.ring of fire.jack savoretti.
I've included this on a lot of playlists.  It's a good song anytime, anywhere.
.pieces.andrew belle.
Another beautiful track that I think I may have used before. . .?
.holding on to good.delta rae.
I run and hike to this song,  it gets me through the hard things.

 Spotify users click here.

How I Live Now

Author: Meg Rosoff
Series: Stand Alone
Genre: Action/Adventure, Dystopia/Sci-Fi, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Random House Children's/Wendy Lamb Books
Release Date: 30 November 2004
Summary:“Every war has turning points and every person too.”
Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.
As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.
A riveting and astonishing story.

Review: I actually heard about this book after seeing a trailer for the film.  The film didn't get a wide release, so I picked up the book from the library and read it.  This book was unlike anything I had ever read before, and I'm still on the fence of whether that is a good or bad thing. 
Okay, upfront things to know:  There is no actual dialogue in this book.  It is written in the same vein as Stolen by Lucy Christopher (with the exception that I really enjoyed that book).  Second: there is cousin lovin, and it's not innocent.
The weird thing; it didn't need to be there.  It would have been so easy to make Edmond a boy from the village or a next door neighbor instead of a cousin - as a matter of fact, doing this would have probably made this story more poignant for me, because although everything is glossed over (this is YA after all) it was still creeping me out throughout the book. 
That aside, I really enjoyed the overall story.  Placing this bohemian family under a microscope on the outbreak of war was fascinating to watch.  Getting to see Daisy grow and change and evolve within this family and throughout the war was also wonderful.  I loved Piper's character, she was probably my favorite part of the novel, who knew I could get so attached to a fictional nine year old.  I loved the world Rosoff created, that she wasn't afraid to show us the truly gritty side of things, because this novel is dark and twisted and scary and real.  If it hadn't been for the incest, I would definitely have given this a four or five, but as it stands I'm throwing it up as something between a three and a four.
The film version is currently available to watch on Netflix (as of 6/25/2014).  I have yet to watch it, but here is the trailer: