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  1. REVIEW: Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

    ZAC & MIA
    By: A.J. Betts
    Publication Date: September 2, 2014
    Mia's not your typical hospital patient. Her next door neighbor Zac can hear her fighting with her mom and the nurses through their shared wall and he wishes she'd get over herself. But soon they are trading messages that evolve into a bond neither sees coming.
    Apart from illness, they have little in common: she's a gorgeous girl with an entourage of perfect friends and he's a soccer-playing farm boy. In the real world, these two seventeen year-olds would have little to say to each other, but in the hospital the usual rules no longer apply.

    By the time Zac is discharged, Mia is gone too, and he wonders about her. Is she okay? Is she better? He can't find out. She's left Facebook and won't answer his texts. Until the night he hears a tap at his window.

    Told in alternating perspectives, Zac and Mia tracks the relationship of two ordinary teenagers in exceptional circumstances. They're both in remission, but cancer has changed everything, and normal isn't normal anymore. This is a funny and tender novel about hope, love, and courage.


    ABOUT A.J.

    I'm a Perth-based writer who writes realistic fiction for teenagers (14+) but adults enjoy them too. I'm also an English teacher, poet, writer of non-fiction texts, presenter and reader.



    Jaime's Thoughts
    Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    I have to admit I have been excited to read this book for quite some time. I also have to admit that while I liked it… I didn’t love it.

    I know a lot of you are going to immediately compare this to TFIOS when you read the summary, but that wouldn’t be giving the story a fair chance. Is this about teens dealing with cancer? Yes. Is it the same type of story? No. In Zac & Mia, we meet Zac first. He’s been battling his cancer for quite some time… he knows all about the comings and goings in the hospital he’s trapped in and when Mia arrives in a whirlwind of fighting with her mother and lady gaga on repeat, he’s intrigued by her.

    I have to say… My struggles stem from connecting with these characters. While I found Zac sweet and kind and pretty much completely lovely, he fell a bit flat for me. Mia on the other side of the coin was so hard to like it’s almost intentional. While I was reading I tried to take her attitude and such into context with her illness, and dealing with the things she’s dealing with at her age, but I still found it a struggle to care one bit about her.

    That said, we eventually find out some things about Mia that may change your initial feelings about her… I know I found myself feeling a tiny bit guilty about not loving her.

    What I will say is this. I found the contrasts to Zac and Mia’s lives really well done and the eventual bond that they form is believable and understandable. This one was definitely something I thought might be forgettable during the first half of the story, but the end is what made me change my mind. With an ending that is definitely a tiny bit bittersweet but filled with hope, give this book a try if you’re looking for a different take on the a story about kids and cancer.

    Thanks to HarperCollins for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.

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  2. Zodiac
    By: Romina Russell
    Publication Date: December 9, 2014

    I have this book... I stare longingly at it when I pass my bookshelf.  This was one of my must haves when we were at BEA this year and I can't wait to crack it open and devour the story!  "Epic Sci-Fi meets High Fantasy" = WIN.
    At the dawn of time, there were thirteen Houses in the Zodiac galaxy. Now, only twelve remain. . . .

    In the Zodiac galaxy, your astrological sign determines everything about you. The stars tell the story of your life, and nothing—and nobody—is real unless you can actually touch them.

    It’s a galaxy divided, where personalities clash and suspicions run high. Everyone is a potential enemy, so it’s best to stick to your kind. Hard-working realists in House Virgo scoff at sweet-talking Librans, who use stellar social skills to climb to the top. And while the brooding twins of House Gemini take forever to make a decision, optimistic Sagittarians hop from adventure to adventure without a thought.

    House Cancer prizes loyalty and honesty above all else. When an unforeseen catastrophe strikes their ocean planet, the stars select sixteen-year-old Rho as their new Guardian. Rho suspects an ancient, power-hungry evil of legend has returned to exact revenge across the entire Zodiac. But Rho is an unknown novice and one of the youngest Guardians ever. Who should believe her?

    And with the stars anywhere but in her favor, how can Rho defeat an enemy she can’t touch?

    This first book of an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series takes place in a galaxy inspired by the twelve astrological signs—rendered with stunning complexity that both transports readers to a fascinating new world and holds up a mirror to reflect how we can better know each other in our own. 


    So...What are you waiting for this week?

    Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine - make sure you head over and see what other people are waiting for!


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  3. Hi Everyone! Last month was so much fun! We discussed Eleanor & Park and gave a bunch of stuff away to people who participated!! 

    This month we're ready to get started on our newest book club read!  I have to say that I loved loved loved this book and I'm looking forward to a reread!! It's the perfect way to end the summer! 


    After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

    We hope you're interested in participating this month!  If so, make sure you join our Goodreads Group so that you don't miss details and dates! Also join our facebook group to keep up with our month long discussion too! 


    Discussion Date - Friday, August 29th at 9PM CST!!
    Tag anything on twitter with #ORSVBC this month so we can all follow along! 

    Also - Recommend Us A Book!!   Next month we'll narrow the choices down to three picks and you all will get the chance to vote for what you want to have us all read! 

    You can grab your own Book Club image to post on your blog here! 
    Virtual Book Club hosted by Fic Fare and Swoony Boys Podcast

    Virtual Book Club hosted by Fic Fare and Swoony Boys Podcast


    So... Let us know - Will you be joining us for book club? We hope so!! Leave us some comments! 

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  4. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the awesome and wonderful people over at The Broke and The Bookish

    Normally we're over here shouting about all the books that we think you should be reading.  But we love recommendations too!! This week, we're highlighting the books that people have been telling us that we must read... and for some reason we just haven't yet.


    Jaime's Picks



    The Bronze Horseman - Erin and Kelly have been raving about this book to me for what seems like ages.  It's an EPIC lovestory... which sounds like something I would love.  BUT I have to admit, the size of the book is what keeps me from grabbing it.  At almost 900 pages I wish I had the time to sit down and just read this.  Maybe it will be a vacation book! 

    Red Rising - So this book is one that I've known I wanted to read, I even own a signed copy!  My lovely Meg flails to me about this book regularly (YOU GUYS!! Have you seen Pierce Brown - he's adorable!!) and the story is so totally something I will love.  I just haven't done it yet.  I don't know why, I have no excuse. But soon... I promise Meg! 

    Reclaimed - I have heard so many amazing things about this, Erin loved it... Liza loved it... and I want to read it. I even have it on my MUST READ THIS YEAR PILE.  So it has to happen.

    Maybe Someday - I have a signed copy of this book too. And I own the audio... At least with this one, I know exactly what my problem is. I feel like I'll read this, but I just don't know when! 

    Making Faces - I've been told that I have to read this... Corie and I have pretty similar tastes in books and she loved this story.  I'm sure I will too, but I just haven't bumped it up my list yet.  Soon... no really... soon. 

    Outlander (Outlander, #1)Simply Irresistible (Lucky Harbor, #1)
    Me Before You
    Alice Bliss

    Outlander- I love historicals and I love fiction.  A lot of people I know LOVE this series but I have been so slow to start this because there are also some people who I have very similar reading tastes with that have said it wasn't for them.  Also, the length of this one is making me hesitate.  I'm not afraid of a long book (see Jaime's note about The Bronze Horseman) but it has to keep me turning the pages and I am worried about this one. 


    Jill Shalvis - Jaime and our lovely friend Bri look at me like I am crazy when I remind them I have only ever read one Jill Shalvis book.  The kicker is that I loved the one I read...I just haven't had the opportunity to pick any more up because there is always something else I need to read.  With that said, I really do want to read a few more yet this year.

    Me Before You - This book has been on my list since Jaime raved about it ages ago.  I continue to put it off because I feel like with what people have told me, I will need to lock myself in the house to read so I don't show my crying, puffy face to the outside world.  All it comes down to is my inability to come up with a plan to not leave my house for a weekend.  It will happen.

    Alice Bliss - My lovely friend Liza has raved about this book to Jaime and I and Jaime finally jumped in and read it.  Now Jaime also raves about this book and I know I need to read this one.

    Red Rising - I've started this book and loved what I read.  When I looked I realized I am more than 30% in actually and for some reason I put it aside and haven't had the chance to pick it up again.  As Jaime mentions, Meg does flail about the book and Pierce Brown is indeed adorable.  I have no excuse for this behavior...none at all.


    What books are people telling you to read?  Tell us all about it in the comments!
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  5. FERAL
    By: Holly Schindler
    Publication Date: August 26, 2014
    Feral
    The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.

    It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

    But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened. 

    But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

    Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

    About Holly
    Holly SchindlerMy debut YA novel, A Blue So Dark, earned a starred review in Booklist, was named one of Booklist's Top 10 First Novels for Youth, received a silver medal from the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards, and won a gold medal in the IPPYs. Playing Hurt, my first romance, released in 2011. My first MG, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, released in 2014.

    Erin's Thoughts
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Feral by Holly Schindler was an interesting read. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure where this one was going to go but the first few chapters really grabbed my attention and from there I wasn’t sure what to expect.

    The book starts out from the point of view of Serena who happens to be dead. We don’t really find anything out other than the fact that her killer is dragging her out to the woods behind the school. One of the things I liked about this story was that perspective – especially this chapter.

    Flowing into chapter two, we find out more about Claire Cain who is the main character. After she has survived an attack, Claire’s father is offered a sabbatical in Peculiar, Missouri and Claire jumps at the chance to get out of Chicago and away from her friend who she feels is treating her differently since the attack. Immediately when they get to Peculiar, Claire realizes something isn’t right and she is pulled into the mystery of what happened to Serena.

    Claire was an interesting character. I thought Schindler did a great job showing the reader the impact the attack had on her and how it changed her and her relationships with those around her. She put up a good front but there were times that I just wanted her to tell her dad she needed help or she was still afraid. I have a feeling he knew something was up but he never pushed her and that was another frustration.

    As Claire digs into the mystery of what happened to Serena, we learn more about her as well as the other people in town. As things progress, Claire begins to focus on the feral cats in town and I have to say, this is the part that seemed a bit odd to me. Perhaps I didn’t “get it” but it seemed to drag the story out and I’m not really sure what Schindler was trying to do. I’m pretty sure the cat plot line could be lifted out and the story would still be solid. Admittedly, I was able to push through these sections and get to the heart of the story which I actually enjoyed.

    Additionally, since Claire wasn’t willing to talk to her father, I wanted her to be able to lean on Rich. There were a number of times where her inner dialogue was prompting her to just open up to him and tell him what was going on and I really wanted her to do it. I understand that she has some trust issues and a lot of fear yet about what happened but she definitely needed someone to rely on and I got the sense that he wanted to help her out. He seemed like a solid character from the brief glimpses we got into who he is and his background.

    There were a few twists and turns in this story and although I figured out who did it about half way through, it wasn’t clear what really happened and why until the very end. If you are looking for a mystery that includes some pretty creepy writing and points of view (these were some of my favorite parts of this book) you should check this one out when you can.

    Thank you to Harper Teen and Edelweiss for the review copy.



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  6. THE WINTER PEOPLE
    By: Rebekah L. Purdy
    Publication Date: September 2, 2014
    An engrossing, complex, romantic fantasy perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore or Maggie Stiefvater, set in a wholly unique world.

    Salome Montgomery fears winter—the cold, the snow, the ice, but most of all, the frozen pond she fell through as a child. Haunted by the voices and images of the strange beings that pulled her to safety, she hasn't forgotten their warning to "stay away." For eleven years, she has avoided the winter woods, the pond, and the darkness that lurks nearby. But when failing health takes her grandparents to Arizona, she is left in charge of maintaining their estate. This includes the "special gifts" that must be left at the back of the property.
 

    Salome discovers she’s a key player in a world she’s tried for years to avoid. At the center of this world is the strange and beautiful Nevin, who she finds trespassing on her family’s property. Cursed with dark secrets and knowledge of the creatures in the woods, his interactions with Salome take her life in a new direction. A direction where she'll have to decide between her longtime crush Colton, who could cure her fear of winter. Or Nevin who, along with an appointed bodyguard, Gareth, protects her from the darkness that swirls in the snowy backdrop. An evil that, given the chance, will kill her.

    ABOUT REBEKAH
    I was born and raised in Michigan (just look for the giant mitten on the map—it’ll likely throw a snowball at you). I spent most of my time in Michigan, but while in the army got to call KS, SC, MO, and CA home for awhile as well. 

    As a kid my family moved around a lot. Try spending both your freshman and senior years at new schools (yeah, loads of fun). I could’ve changed my name to “new girl”. 

    I love writing for teens because those are the years I remember falling in love with most of my favorite books. Some of the authors I couldn’t put down were L.J. Smith, Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine, Richie Tankersley Cusick, Joan Lowery Nixon, Lois Duncan, amongst several others. 

    My husband and I have a large family. There are six kids total! So we have LOTS of fun on vacations (although hours on the road, cooped up in the Expedition is kind of stressful—although we pass the time with MAD LIBS and hoping no one gets carsick). 

    Some fun facts about me: 

    My first real crush was on Luke Skywalker (LOL—hey, I was like 8 years old and it came out before I was born).

    I’m obsessed with several TV shows/Movies: The Vampire Diaries, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Sean of the Dead, The Sing Off, Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth, True Blood, Being Human, Fact or Fake, and all the cake designing ones! Oh and all the spoof movies! 

    I still own all the books I bought as a kid/teen. 

    I have a hankering for chocolate (like all the time, seriously. If my arm was made of it I’d chew it off). 

    Celebrity crushes: Johnny Depp (woohoo), Taylor Lautner (okay, I know he’s kind of young for me), Ian Somerhalder (ooh, he’s just right. We’re the same age). Wow, this was like a Goldie Locks and the Three Bears moment. Johnny Depp too old, Taylor Lautner too young, Ian Somerhalder—JUST RIGHT. 

    In my spare time I like to write (obviously), read, sing, hang out with my kids, play with my animals, camp, play soccer, check my email (hehehe), watch football (go LIONS). I also love hanging out with my sister and hubby! 

    Look forward to chatting with everyone! And if you’re lucky, I’ll break out the opera voice and chase you around singing! 

    Jaime's Thoughts
    The Winter People by Rebekah L. Purdy
    My rating: 2 of 5 stars

    Unfortunately, for as gorgeous as this cover is and as promising as the summary was, this story just fell flat for me.

    The summary says fans of Kristin Cashore and Maggie Stiefvater will love this… I’m a HUGE fan of both, but the story telling here really didn’t measure up to those two authors.

    I struggled to connect with our protagonist in this story. Salome had something happen when she was younger which has affected her life greatly and has fostered a fear of winter. This year… the year before she turns 18 finds her forced to deal with this fear.

    But she soon finds she isn’t alone and she isn’t sure what to make of everything. Colton, the guy she’s crushed on forever suddenly is interested in her… Nevin, a strange boy who suddenly shows up in her grandmother’s backyard and keeps her company… and Gareth, a boy who has sworn to protect her all have her spinning in circles and trying to come to terms with her feelings.

    You all probably know that I love my heroines and I really can’t tell you one thing that I liked about this one. She did dumb things, she was na├»ve and as much as I hate to say it, she was kind of stupid.

    There is nothing I dislike more than when a heroine admits she’s thinking that the thing she is considering doing is stupid and could harm her… and does it anyway. And Salome seems to do that a lot in this story. And I found my eyes rolling each and every time.

    Then you add in the love square and I just found it all very blah.


    I know I said I struggled to connect with our main character, but I also felt this way about all the secondary characters as well. From Salome’s best friend (I can’t even remember her name) to her mom to her grandmother I just didn’t enjoy any of them and felt they all were one dimensional.

    The story itself is a bit predictable. The actions of the characters I saw from miles away, and I struggled to understand the reason for the family ‘secrets’. Her grandmother basically puts Salome in harms way by leaving her to care for her home without giving her all the information she needed to protect herself. And to be honest, I really didn’t understand her mother and father and their need to be a part of the story… especially her father.

    Anyway – like I said, this wasn’t for me… while I didn’t care for it, Purdy’s writing was still well-done and I found her story-telling easy to follow – hence the two stars not one. BUT if you go in expecting something to match the likes of Cashore or Stiefvater, you may feel like me once you turn the last page.

    Thank you to Entangled & netgalley for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.

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  7. INDISCRETION (Volume 1 & 2)
    By: Elisabeth Grace
    Publication Date: August 4, 2014
    F*ck and chuck. Pump and dump. Hit it and quit it. One night stand. Didn’t matter how I branded it—that’s all she had wanted it to be. That much was clear when she left me with my pants down and my dick still out.

    What she hadn’t counted on was fate intervening and our worlds colliding—again.

    The day I showed back up in the life of Chloe Griffins, I knew I had to have her again. My body was hungry for another taste. Like an addict, I’d been craving another hit for months, and there she was—flesh and bone, tits and ass.

    The fact that she worked for the competition should’ve been reason enough for me to leave her alone. I had a job to do that summer and f*cking Chloe wasn’t part of it. But I was like a man possessed.

    I’d do whatever it took to have her again.

    ABOUT ELISABETH
    I have a soft spot for romance novels with happily ever afters and a hot spot for alpha males! I currently live outside Toronto, Canada with my hubby and two small children. Life is busy, but never to busy for a good story and to share my love of reading and writing with others.





    Jaime's Thoughts
    Indiscretion: Volume One by Elisabeth Grace
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    This is a serial… and to be honest, I said I wasn’t going to do this to myself anymore, but the summary of this one had me anxious to see what it was all about.

    After one amazing encounter with Max, Chloe bolts… She isn’t looking for a relationship and she needs to be focused on her future. When they run into each other several months later, Max is bound and determined to get Chloe to that they have the potential for more than just one night… But convincing Chloe is going to be hard to do, especially when she finds out he’s the competition.

    What really intrigued me most about this I think, was that in this situation Chloe, our protagonist isn’t interested in a relationship and Max is the one who is determined to get more than just one night from her.

    As much as I’m not a huge fan of serials (unless they are all out) this one seems to work well, and while each installment I’ve read so far doesn’t have a huge cliffy, Grace certainly leaves you wanting more.

    I’ve read the first two installments of this and have enjoyed them. They’ve got just enough steam and just enough plot to keep you reading. That said, it’s really hard to review installments of a full story, so keep that in mind!

    My tip – If you're impatient for the full story, wait until the end of August when the last two installments arrive. (I think that's the release date!)

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