Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer Giveaway Hop (US only): your choice between 5 books!

Welcome to the Summer Giveaway Hop
hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Mary from BookHounds & Forever Young (adult)!

For this hop, the winner can choose ONE (1) of these five books:

Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer (ARC - read my review here!)
Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne (ARC)
Gilt by Katherine Longshore (ARC - read my review here!)
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (ARC - read my review here!)
The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier (finished copy - read my review here!)

US only, ends August 7!
Enter through the rafflecopter below, and all my usual giveaway policy rules apply.
Make sure to check out the rest of the linky list, there are some great prizes!
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

PS. I have another giveaway for The Age of Miracles going on! Click the link or check the right sidebar :)

Tune In Tuesday: The Teen Years...ending with a POP!

Tune in Tuesday is hosted by the awesome Ginger at GReads!

I can't believe we've come to the end of the Teen Years flashback, guys! It's been a nostalgic month and I loved getting to relive and remember some of my teen years. Maybe some of them weren't positive memories, and perhaps while going through them it didn't feel so great - but right now as I look back, I'm pretty happy.

And I had to save the best for last! So far I've covered the boys in my teen years, TV shows I watched, and movies that were big releases; but I haven't actually covered what I truly listened to!

I turned 13 in 2000, so my teen years were the early 00s - a fantastically awesome time of boybands, pop music, and choreographed dances. Hate on it all you want, but I know you can sing every word to these songs...and probably do the little Bye Bye Bye wave in perfect sync, too. This was a strange time of technology too, when mp3s and iTunes started messing with sales charts and statistics. Napster went kablooey, the FCC cracked down, and suddenly file sharing was a whole mess of leaking CDs and music.

Still, music was music and will always remain, and these are a few songs that had the most play in my house:

*NSYNC - Gone
Ok, ANY *NSYNC song will get the most play in my house really, but I chose Gone as a bridge between the group and Justin's solo career. (Also, the opening skit in it still makes me laugh. God I miss them.)

Britney Spears - Lucky
Bringin' it BACK to the times of schoolgirl Brit. Anyone remember the Making the Video for this? How the mirror scene was such a big deal? And was I the only one bothered that her mascara streaks are all wrong?

Christina Aguilera - Dirrty
Stripped is legit one of my Top 5 Favourite Albums ever. Shit's my jam.

Eminem - The Real Slim Shady
I love Eminem. That's all.

Alicia Keys - Fallin'
I remember when this song was getting all the play on MTV2, trying to break into the charts...and then one day it went BAM: everywhere. Thanks American Idol Auditions for ruining this song ten thousand times over!

Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone
You do not even know how many times I've belted this song in my car. One of my fondest memories is a trip to San Francisco when I was 18 with 4 of my best friends, driving the hills and cranking this on high.

Destiny's Child - Bootylicious
I don't think you're ready.

John Mayer - Your Body Is A Wonderland
Mmmm...I love me some JM.

Damien Rice - Cannonball
If I was ever depressed during high school, this was my go-to jam. I don't even know how I heard of it since it was never formally released in the US, but to this day this song brings me to tears on my knees. Beautiful.

Some of this may not be the deepest music, but it was a fun time!

What were your Constant Repeat songs?
Leave your link in the comments!
PS. Like I could really make a post title like that and not include this...sassy girl ;)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Top Ten Characters I'd Switch Places With For 24 Hours

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Characters
I'd Switch Places With For 24 Hours
I'm going to work off the idea that I could choose the 24 hours I switch with them. Because if I had no control over the day I'm one of these characters...well, I'd probably change it a bit haha.

(Also, I did something similar to this a couple months ago for a freebie week: Top Ten Things From Books I Want To Do. Some of the following are repeats.)

Fred or George Weasley from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
During a Quidditch match, because you can't tell me being a Beater wouldn't be awesome.

Shay from the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
So I could hoverboard. (Full credit for the reminder of this to Steph and her comment on my old TTT)

Lennie from the Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
As long as the 24 hours were spent in the field bedroom with Joe playing the sax.

Aria from Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Exploring a realm with Peregrine.

Church the Cat from The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
I want to explore all the hidden nooks and crannies of the Institute!
(Clockwork Angel + Clockwork Prince reviews)

Puck Connelly from The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Riding the island with Sean Kendrick.

Catherine Howard from Gilt by Katherine Longshore
AS LONG as it includes 1) a royal ball, and 2) not a day in the prison. All that finery, gowns and jewels!

Celeana from Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Because then I'd be KICK. ASS.

Lola from Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Working on the Marie Antoinette costume with Cricket by my side.

Hannah from Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Performance day. Dancing all day, with grace and fluidity. Heaven.

Magnus Bane from Cassie Clare's The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices
That much power and magic?! I'd love to explore that in 24 hours. Plus, I'd look like this and spend at least 12 of those hours staring at a mirror:
Godfrey Gao, recently cast as Magnus Bane in the City of Bones movie. YUM.

Who would you switch places with?
Leave your link in the comments and I'll hop by!

Review: Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Clair

Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Clair
Delacorte Press, 368 Pages
US Release Date: July 10, 2012
Format: e-ARC
Source: Publisher, via NetGalley
(thank you Random House and NetGalley!)

When plain and unpopular Annie Nutter gets zapped by one of her dad's whacked-out inventions, she lands in a parallel universe where her life becomes picture-perfect. Now she's Ayla Monroe, daughter of the same mother but a different father—and she's the gorgeous, rich queen bee of her high school.

In this universe, Ayla lives in glitzy Miami instead of dreary Pittsburgh and has beaucoup bucks, courtesy of her billionaire—if usually absent—father. Her friends hit the clubs, party backstage at concerts, and take risks that are exhilirating . . . and illegal. Here she's got a date to lose her V-card with the hottest guy she's ever seen.

But on the inside, Ayla is still Annie.

So when she's offered the chance to leave the dream life and head home to Pittsburgh, will she take it?

The choice isn't as simple as you think.
-----------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
You know, you might be one of the luckiest people in the world. You get to see both sides and make a choice.
Random House is one of those publishers I trust implicitly to put out fantastic books, especially the Delacorte imprint (hello, Wanderlove is one of theirs! Instant trust). So while I had reservations that Don't You Wish would be predictable, I went ahead with it anyway. Though I do think it was on a few things, I was surprised by the plot layers and quite glad to have picked it up!

The story opens with Annie Nutter, in a rather heartbreaking scene exemplifying how she's unpopular and a bit plain and awkward. Even though her family was trying to be set up as embarrassing and unorthodox, I actually found them to be quite endearing - the imagery was great with her inventor dad and gross little brother. I felt like I could picture all the "Nutter Clutter" in the house, her mom's exasperation with Mel Nutter, all of it. I do think that I saw it in an endearing light because I'm older though; if I were 15 and the Nutters were my clan, I'd probably be ashamed of them as well.

Through a quick and slightly confusing event, Annie wakes up the next morning as Ayla Monroe, fantastically wealthy queen bee at her private academy and Grade-A Bitch. Though she's got the same mother, her father is different, and that's what's changed her story. I was pleasantly surprised how they set up Annie's "alternate" life - it wasn't just some typical "wish I had a different life" and POOF! situation; it was thorough, reasonable, and thought-provoking. I mean, how different would your life be if your mother ended up with a different guy? It's an interesting area to explore.

Truthfully, I'm not really a fan of either Annie or Ayla - both have a lot of flaws that never really turn better. And while normally I wouldn't be put off by negative facets (we all have them, it'd be quite horrible if I held it against her), I just felt like she was missing redemptive qualities. She didn't seem to grow as well as I would have liked, and what little she did seemed a bit abrupt or forced. The polarity between her two lives was also one of the areas I felt a bit predictable and extreme; some of the situations felt far-fetched or obvious.

I'm also split on the secondary characters. I really liked Annie/Ayla's mother, she was fabulous in both universes - I can picture her as a real mom. Even though I hated Jim Monroe with a passion, I liked his character and how he was built; he's almost like Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter: you hate her with a passion, but kind of admire how horrible she is. Trent turned out to be ok, but I didn't ever come around on Theo. Lizzie was an ok best friend: faithful and true, but lackluster. I could NOT stand Jade, Bliss, or Ryder though; they were all so one-dimensional and flat I wanted them to shred them up. They were just a little too easy to dislike, you know?

However. Charlie Zelinsky? YES. I loved him. I 143'd him (get it?!). I liked how we got to know him, how little bits were revealed as we went along, how he turned out to be this lovable geeky dude with a heart and a purpose. Sometimes he's a bit too perfect of course (did he even have a flaw?!), but amongst all the other characters, he shined brightest. There is another character I liked too, but...I can't say about him/her/it/mysteriouscharacter without minorly spoiling something, so just rest assured that there is one more redeeming person/place/thing/generalnoun.

Something entirely surprising about the book was that Roxanne St. Clair actually explained the alternate universe - definitely did not expect that! Sometimes I felt like it was out of place, because the summary and overall tone seems like some social commentary on the rich not being the happiest or things like that, and then BOOM: science. But really, I loved it. I loved that the plot took all it's time to actually explain a possibility, to really explore how an AU could happen. I'm definitely nowhere near understanding the physics of it, but it was approachable and explained well. I'm not sure I'd have been interested in it as a young reader, but right now, I thought it was unexpected and fresh.

Overall, Don't You Wish was a bit predictable and a little flat on characters; but there were enough plot lines and moments that surprised me entirely that I enjoyed it quite a bit. If you're looking for a small twist to the normal "I wish I were someone else" story, check this one out.

3 Stars / 5

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Weekly Wrap-Up + Stacking the Shelves (7)

It's been a quiet week around here because I had three signing events in three days - all absolutely amazing, but none were particularly close to my house. It sounds like a strange thing to whine about, but it's exhausting with all the driving, meeting, talking, general awesomeness. I'll have the recaps (probably all grouped into one post) up hopefully this upcoming week, perhaps the next week if I can get my comic-con recap done first.

Middle Grade Review: Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood
A delightful, family-focused novel. 3.5 Stars

Tune In Tuesday Teen Years...this time with movies!

Blog Tour + GIVEAWAY! The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
A quietly brilliant novel that transcends genres. 4.5 Stars
(And you can win your own copy! Just click the link!)

Spreading the Love: Sequel ARCs (Such Wicked Intent, Romeo Redeemed, Flesh & Bone)
Do you want to read any of those books? I'll lend it to you!

Coming up this week...
a summer giveaway hop where you'll be able to choose from 5 books as the prize, a review of Reunited by Hilary Weisham Graham, the final Teen Years edition of Tune In Tuesday that features my favourite songs growing up, and hopefully an event recap!

And my shelves!
Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews!
Small week, and I normally wouldn't do one for this but I wanted to say thank you to a few authors!

Purchased: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (for her signing)

Won: The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy (personalized + signed!) + signed Being Friends With Boys bookmark - thank you so much Terra, I'm excited!

Gifted: Butter bookmark by Erin Jade Lange - thank you so much Erin!

What's on your shelves?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Spread the Love: Sequel ARCs (Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel, Romeo Redeemed by Stacey Jay, and Flesh & Bone by Jonathan Maberry)

So, as you probably saw from this post, I picked up a ton of great books from ALA - all of which I am super excited to read. But there are only so many minutes and hours in a day, and unfortunately I just can't read all of them in time for their release no matter how hard I try. Which makes me feel incredibly guilty, because I want these ARCs to serve their purpose! My solution? Spread the love, of course!

This is where you, my fellow readers, come in.

I will lend any of these ARCs to any US reviewer. 

Because this is a new-ish idea for me and I'm test running it, I'm going to start small with these three sequel books:
1. Flesh & Bone (Benny Imura #3) by Jonathan Maberry - expected Pub date: Sept 11
2. Romeo Redeemed (Juliet Immortal #2) by Stacey Jay - expected Pub date: Oct 9
3. Such Wicked Intent (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #2) by Kenneth Oppel - expected Pub date: Aug 21
I'm asking three things:

1) You post a review within 2 weeks before or after the official pub date. Which means you HAVE to be a reviewer*. Either your own book blog or Goodreads/LibraryThing. You don't have to be a follower of mine, trusted friend, anyone I've ever talked to before, and I'm not going to set a minimum to how long you've been reviewing. You just need to prove to me that you have the means to do so and that you've reviewed books before. (Leave your URL, please!) And I mean an actual review, filled with paragraphs and reasons to love or like or hate. Not some schmoopsy "this was a great book, 4 stars!"

2) You send the book back to me within TEN days of receiving the book and with Delivery Confirmation. Because I am asking for DC, this is limited to the US only.

3) You have read the preceding books in the series or have the means to do so in the next couple weeks. Most of these will release in the next 2 months, and I'd like your review to go up in a timely manner regarding the pub date. While I would like proof you've read the previous books (a link to the review is preferable), I will take it on faith if you just tell me you have.

So. That's that. Are you interested in any of these books? If so, just leave me a comment with which book you'd like to borrow, the URL to your blog/Goodreads/LT/other site where you will post a review, and the reassurances that you have read or will be reading soon the previous books in the series. Questions? Ask me in the comments or tweet me!

As I get more of my reading schedules figured out, I'll definitely be doing more lending and sending and spreading the love with the other ARCs I have :)

*Unfortunately, if I find reason to believe you won't fulfill the 3 things I'm asking (poor track record, few reviews on a blog, etc), I reserve the right to not send you the book. I don't foresee that happening, but...yeah. Sorry!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

[Blog Tour] Review + GIVEAWAY: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Random House, 288 Pages
US Release Date: June 26, 2012
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher, via TLC Book Tours (thank you Random House and TLC!)

“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

Luminous, haunting, unforgettable, The Age of Miracles is a stunning fiction debut by a superb new writer, a story about coming of age during extraordinary times, about people going on with their lives in an era of profound uncertainty.

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

With spare, graceful prose and the emotional wisdom of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker has created a singular narrator in Julia, a resilient and insightful young girl, and a moving portrait of family life set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world.
-----------------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
There was no footage to show on television, no burning buildings or broken bridges, no twisted metal or scorched earth, no houses sliding off slabs. No one was wounded. No one was dead. It was, at the beginning, a quite invisible catastrophe.

One of the reasons I wanted to read this novel is because I saw Curtis Sittenfeld had blurbed it – and though I don’t mention her often on this blog, Curtis Sittenfeld is an insta-read author for me. There’s something so engaging and powerful about her novels, and I read them as fast as they release. (Which, can we please have a new one soon? Pretty please?)

I feel like The Age of Miracles is very reminiscent of a Curtis Sittenfeld novel, in the best way possible. There’s something similar in their writing, in that quiet, understated detail that individually seems to be simple, but together makes the most powerful picture. This isn’t the most action packed novel, not by a longshot – but there’s never a second I feel like it’s boring. There’s always something there right behind the words, always something happening just past the words we’re reading.

When I chose the book to review, I was a little confused as to if it was a YA novel, or adult fiction – and then I found out the narrator is a 12-year-old girl and was even more confused. Truthfully, I never really found out (I think it is classified as fiction), but that’s part of its structure: it appeases so many qualifications of each genre. It’s a bit Dystopian and Sci-Fi, with this not quite futuristic novel but still a different world than our own; it’s a bit contemporary, with the relationships and learning what love means; it’s a bit coming-of-age.

I’m going to say something, and it might lead you astray but let me explain: this book terrified me. It’s not a scary, thriller novel; but the imagination and detail to the world made it feel so real. And the scariest part is that I really feel like this could happen. Who can say that the world isn’t already slowing? How many times do we glance up at a clock and swear that the day lasts a bit longer? Just the other day I was astonished that it was already 8:30pm and still a bit light out. Karen Thompson Walker has built the brilliant situation that seems just out of reach, not quite inevitable but definitely possible. And that scares me shitless.

I was so impressed with how thoughtful the novel was, too. Every scenario was taken into consideration, and I felt that I was really following the fate of this planet as I read. And though I’m definitely not a scientist, the physics and scientific explanations that happen throughout seem absolutely real. I know a bit about earth’s rotation and how these seasons affect everything on a grander scale, and The Age of Miracles really felt like it was non-fiction in it’s reasonings.

Even though I feel like this novel is mostly a plot- and world-driven novel, that doesn’t mean the characters were any less than fantastic. Juliet, the main character, is an 11-year-old girl having to go through the stress of middle school in this entirely unprecedented and changing world. If we thought we had it bad wondering about training bras and how that boy suddenly smells good, imagine if you had to figure that while the world also seems to be ending! Juliet is quiet and worrisome, and she stole my heart with her sympathy, seriousness and innocence. Each secondary character was also done quite well, with features about them that I equally loved and hated. It was a really great balance of personalities with everyone; just one more way I feel like this entire story was a reality.

The Age of Miracles is both unlike anything I’ve ever read before and entirely like the best parts of my favourite authors’ writing. The story is unique and original in the best way possible, creating a world that feels familiar but is so unlike our own. There’s a soft wisdom in all of Karen Walker’s words, making a beautiful, compelling story. I highly recommend this book.

4.5 Stars / 5
And thanks to Random House, you can win a copy, too!
US/Canada only, no PO boxes allowed (sorry, publisher rules!)
Enter through the rafflecopter below and all my giveaway policy rules apply. Good luck!
ends 8/15
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Karen Thompson Walker is a graduate of UCLA and the Columbia MFA program and is the recipient of the 2011 Sirenland Fellowship as well as a Bomb magazine fiction prize. A former editor at Simon & Schuster, she wrote The Age of Miracles in the mornings before work. Born and raised in San Diego, she now lives in Brooklyn with her husband. The Age of Miracles is her first book.

Website | Facebook Page | Other Tour Stops | Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Indie Bound
(bio taken from the ARC author bio page)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tune In Tuesday: The Teen Years...featuring Movies!

Tune In Tuesday is hosted by the amazing Ginger at GReads!

Since last week's teen years were focused on TV shows, I figured it only fair to give movies a week, too! I'm really big on soundtracks. I don't know if it's the natural writer in me, but I love having stories to go with music. Of course I can make my own stories, but I also like when I have one to go with music in the first place (this is probably why I love musicals so much). Since I turned 13 in 2000, I chose movies that were released between 2000-2005 (my HS grad year) that had songs I distinctly remember.

Wheatus - Teenage Dirtbag
from the movie Loser (2000)

Moulin Rouge - Christina Aguilera, Mya, P!nk, Li'l Kim
from the movie Moulin Rouge (2001)
You can bet your booty I do the Christina part of this song, with the hand motions.

Smash Mouth - I'm A Believer
from the movie Shrek (2001)

Britney Spears - Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman
from the movie Crossroads (2002)

Mandy Moore - Only Hope
from the movie A Walk To Remember (2002)
Ohhh when he nails that 'you're beautiful' line...*swoon*

Eminem - Lose Yourself
from the movie 8 Mile (2002)

Frou Frou - Let Go
from the movie Garden State (2004)
OBSESSED with this song when it released. Got me through some tough times.

Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon - It Ain't Me Babe
from the movie Walk the Line (2005)

Also, doing this made me realize that damn...I liked some really girly movies haha.

What movies do you remember from your teen years?
Tell me in the comments or leave me your link!

Review: Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood (MG)

Bliss (The Bliss Bakery #1) by Kathryn Littlewood
Katherine Tegen Books, 374 Pages
US Release Date:
Challenge: Local Library Challenge

Rosemary Bliss’s family has a secret. It’s the Bliss Cookery Booke—an ancient, leather-bound volume of enchanted recipes like Stone Sleep Snickerdoodles and Singing Gingersnaps. Rose and her siblings are supposed to keep the Cookery Booke under lock and whisk-shaped key while their parents are out of town, but then a mysterious stranger shows up. “Aunt” Lily rides a motorcycle, wears purple sequins, and whips up exotic (but delicious) dishes for dinner. Soon boring, nonmagical recipes feel like life before Aunt Lily—a lot less fun.

So Rose and her siblings experi-ment with just a couple of recipes from the forbidden Cookery Booke.

A few Love Muffins and a few dozen Cookies of Truth couldn’t cause too much trouble . . . could they?

Kathryn Littlewood’s culinary caper blends rich emotional flavor with truly magical wit, yielding one heaping portion of hilarious family adventure.
------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
Thee was a magic in the two of them sitting there as the brilliant orange of the setting sun glimmered through the trees, but it had nothing to do with spells or mason jars. It was the magic of a person's ability to change, to grow, to heal, without the aid of any magic at all.
This is definitely a MG novel for the true middle grade readers. You know how some MG books can transcend age groups, kind of blur with YA books (all 3 of Rick Riordan's series, Shannon Messenger's Keeper of the Lost Cities, etc)? Not this one. It's for the young readers, and unless you have a distinct liking for Middle Grade books, you might want to pass this by.

Lucky for me, I do have an affinity for MG books, so it didn't bother me! I just had to constantly remind myself as I was reading that this is for the younger set, that the main character is young. The writing is fantastic, incredibly easy to read and approachable to a young set. I loved the language in the book, it was that nice balance of being young but still educational with some "big" words being used and explained. It was clever to focus on a family with several varying ages, because it allowed certain elements to be explored further or elaborated on.

Can I tell you how much I love books that focus on family? I feel like there are so few in today's books (I know that's not true, but still) and it was wonderful to see one that allows a true family unit, one that works together and places value on each other. The dynamic between all the siblings and the parents is great, and I really loved seeing them work through problems together. And that Rose wants to stay with her family, loves them and understands how they're a support system? That's definitely something I would want my kid to read and emulate. Her siblings are all great characters with their own distinct set of skills and personality. I loved how Ty was a little bit narcissistic, that Sage was the bratty younger brother but quite brainy, and even little Leigh, small as she is, has a developed personality trait too. And how much do I love that they're all named after herbs?! Rosemary, Thyme, Sage and Parsley.

Rose is a perfect middle grade character, too; she's at that weird time of growing up where she's trying to figure out who she is by herself as well as who she is within the world. She struggles with a blossoming crush who doesn't know her name, wanting to be something but not knowing quite how to get there, and feeling like she's not really being seen. At the same time, you can tell how strong she is and how much potential there is to her; she's dedicated, loyal and fiercely protective of her family. She loves them no matter how much she feels like they overlook her, and I love that. If I had a little girl, I would love for her to befriend Rose.

The recipes and mischief the Bliss family get into are also fantastically fun and magical, and the wording of the recipes is definitely unique - the book has it's own sort of language, but it's easy to understand and follow along. All the trouble and chaos the family creates through their recipes are such an adventure, and I had a lot of fun reading about the problems and finding out how they would try to fix everything. I usually call books like this predictable, but I can safely say that I didn't know what Rose, Ty, Sage, and Leigh would get themselves into next!

There were a few things I didn't like though. While I didn't predict what the Bliss family would do next, I wasn't particularly at the edge of my seat, either. It wasn't the most action packed book - though the action that was there was breathtakingly amusing - and sometimes I felt like the story dragged on a bit. I appreciate the focus on Rose and her growth, but there were a few instances I felt she could have come to conclusions faster. It wouldn't have been outside her character parameters or potential. The use of modern references (Justin Bieber, for one) was also a bit odd to me; the setting and plot of the book feel so magical and otherworldly, having real world references kind of shattered that illusion. It's this fantastically fantastical world where magic in cookies can make people tell the truth, where love exists and bikes are ridden to town squares and breathe of people who tell no lies can be captured in a mason jar...it feels like this great dream world, and then something real would come along and break the spell. Personally, it felt out of place and a bit disappointing that this could be a real town somewhere.

Also, be warned that this is book one of two (I think two anyway, I haven't seen anything about a third one!) - it would have been nice knowing that going in! I wasn't really noticing it for the first half of the book, but as it went on I was definitely thinking, "Hmmm there's only a small chunk of pages left how is this going to wrap up?!" And about 5 pages before it's end I realized OH. Maybe this isn't really the end! and sure enough, there's a book 2. While I do like the ending to this book - it was satisfying and complete while still having a great setup for the next part of the story - I would have liked knowing that heading in. Having a second part doesn't necessarily make Book 1 any worse or difficult, but it did explain the pacing and might have lessened my distraction.

Still, this was a magical story, and sometimes it felt like a fairy tale. I especially liked how the villainess wasn't quite villainous throughout the entire novel; it's brilliant that we find Aunt Lily to actually be kind of likable. I don't blame Ty or Sage for being swept up in her beauty and magnetism, I'm not sure I'd have seen through it either! The subtle little doubts from Rose were great though, and just enough to make you wonder who Aunt Lily really is. It's a great way to make the reader really feel a part of the story.

Though it's not perfect, Bliss is a magical Middle Grade novel filled with some great mischief, better characters and a perfect main character. This is definitely a family and bakery with which I would want to sit in and share a pie.

PS. Isn't it the most magical, delicious looking cover ever?! I wanted to eat so many pastries, cakes, cookies and tarts after finishing this book it was absurd! I'm lucky I don't eat donuts, eclairs, or scones, else I'd have been in some major trouble.

3.5 Stars / 5

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up + Stacking the Shelves (incl. Comic-Con books!)

ALA and Comic-Con have both come and gone, and I feel like I can finally breathe again. Both events are so consuming, and that they were within 3 weeks of each other...it was like just enough time to finally recover from one before the madness of the next started! In any case, both were extraordinarily fun. I'll have my recap of Comic-con up hopefully next week (possibly the next one), and I'll be able to return to actual reading/commenting of blogs. Most of my posts are scheduled in advance since I've been in and out of town, and reading other blogs has all but dropped. But I promise I will get back to it!

Anyway. Haven't done a Weekly-Wrap Up in 3 weeks now, and while I will not recap everything since then, here are select posts from July you may have missed!

Cover Love + Book Trailer Badassery
featuring Debra Driza's Mila 2.0, Lisa M. Stasse's The Forsaken, and more!

Review: The Selection by Keira Cass
Aside from how much the main character annoyed the shit out of me, I liked! 4.25 Stars

ALA 2012 Recap + Notable Moments
Because once again I gush over Ned Vizzini and how he was incredibly nice to me.
(And had tons of love for fellow bloggers!)

Tune-In Tuesdays: The Teenage Years
Three songs that reminded me of three boys from my teen years! Surprisingly emotional.
Five TV shows I watched. Chumbawamba, 2ge+her, and Dawson's Creek all in one post. YOU'RE WELCOME.

TGIF: Quotes To Make You Swoon
Not kidding when I tell you I had to fan myself while making this post. Wowza.

Finally...my ALA books!
I'm super excited for all of these, but which do I read first?!

Coming up next week...
Blog Tour of The Age of Miracles, which includes a review and GIVEAWAY! Plus another Tune In Tuesday for my teenage years, and who knows what madness will show up then! (That photo is a hint...)

Finally, my shelves!
Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews

I did NOT expect to get any of these!
Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) Chapter Samplers
Ended up with 2 on accident, I'll give one away soon!

Keeper of the Lost Cities ARC by Shannon Messenger

Black City ARC by Elizabeth Richards
AHHHH! I've got 4 of the 5 Penguin Breathless Reads now!

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
and I got her to sign it after the panel, yay! I also may have a teensy girl crush on her now, too.

Legend by Marie Lu, with the exclusive Comic-con cover and signed!
I ended up with 2 so I'll give one away soon.

Rift ARC by Andrea Cremer

The Princess Present by Meg Cabot
The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber
Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner
Last Christmas by Kate Brian
(I know, Christmas/winter books in July. But you'll see come September...)

The Storm Makers by Jennifer E. Smith

Reunited by Hilary Weisham Graham
(read already, really liked it!)

Crossed (Matched #2) by Ally Condie

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles #2) by Rick Riordan
The Serpent's Shadow (The Kane Chronicles #3) by Rick Riordan
When Serpent's Shadow came in on my hold list, I realized I didn't remember the end of Red Pyramid. Oops!

For Review
Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, via NetGalley & Scholastic (thank you!)
I forgot to cancel this on NG because I picked up a physical ARC at ALA - do I decline, or can I still input a review if I don't use the e-galley? Anyone know?

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier, via Publisher and TLC Book Tours (thank you!)
For the blog tour. Look for my review and a giveaway in early August!

Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker
from Heather at The Flyleaf Review - thank you SO SO much Heather, I'm so excited!

What's on your shelves this week?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Friday Memes: TGIF (18), FF (16) + Book Blogger Hop (1)

TGIF is hosted by Ginger at GReads!

Throwback TGIF
Pick a previous question you posted on your blog in the past and revisit your answer. Has it changed since then?

I'm kind of twisting the question - I've only done TGIF 17 times, and most of those are recent and/or I still agree with everything. Which would be quite a boring answer! So instead, I'm going to revisit the first TGIF I ever did, which was the first of the new year since my blog was born on January 1: Book Blog Resolutions! What better time to check in on New Year's resolutions than just over halfway through the year?!

For the original post, click here; though in summary, my resolutions were:
     1) Track my reading.
     2) Read 100 books.
     3) Give vampires another chance.
     4) Open up discussions on books.
     5) Blog.

SUCCESSES: I'm surprised that I've actually kept up with these pretty well! Normally resolutions are lost on me by February. But I've tracked my books consistently, and that this blog still exists is testament to number five. I am still on track to read 100 books in the year (3 books ahead!), though I've been slacking lately. It was going swimmingly, I was over 8 books ahead at one point...and then life got in the way and now I'm only on track. Hopefully in the coming summer months I can pick it back up.

EHHH MAYBE: I've tried with the discussion, and I feel I've had some successes. But I'm still crap at responding to comments, and I don't engage on Twitter as often as I could or would like to. I'm working on it, I swear!

NOPE: The vampire thing. Still haven't gone there. I really, really should - I just can't yet. Vampires are a very non-summer weather thing for me, and obviously that's not been happening for most of this year.  Can I just blame it on the world and its weird weather?! (But really, I know, I know; I will get to vampire books! I have The Immortal Rules waiting, and I'm certain I'll check out the Vampire Academy series before the year is out.)

Which TGIF post did you revisit?
Leave your link in the comments and I'll hop by!
Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee's View, meant to spotlight two blogs and allows bloggers to link up and meet other fabulous bookish friends and share the Following love!

This week's spotlight blogs are: A Glass of Wine & Booktastic Reviews

And the question of the week is:
Christmas in July: Someone gives you a gift card for two books (whatever that costs). What two books will you buy?

Crap. Only two?! Way to make it difficult! My TBR stack is too huge to even attempt to narrowing it down to two, so I'm going to go with books I read, loved, but don't own a finished copy of yet.
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller (read my review here!)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green

What two books would you buy?
Leave me your link and I'll hop by!
And of course I'd love to return a follow if you are kind enough to follow me :)
Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Crazy For Books
Q: What's the ONE super-hyped book you'll NEVER read?
I don't like saying I'll never read a book, just because I always find myself picking up strange, random or completely unexpected books at the oddest times. Maybe I end up enjoying them, a few times I've questioned why I kept going...regardless, I've definitely read ones I swore I wouldn't. (Such as the Twilight series.) I'd like to say Fifty Shades of Grey - and I assume that'll be the popular answer because there are very polar responses to that series - but the truth is that I've totally read random passages as I stand in a store killing time. I don't think I'll ever read all of it, but...stranger things have happened!

Though I will say it'd be hard pressed to get me to read the Sookie Stackhouse series. I don't know if that counts as a 'super-hyped' book (kinda? True Blood is pretty huge...) but I've tried to read Charlaine Harris books before and the writing was just...not for me. I had to put it down, and I very, very rarely DNF books. Maybe the SS series is better, maybe the one I tried was just a fluke, but it was so bad for me I can't go back.

What hyped book will you ignore?
Tell me in the comments or leave a link!
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