Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Blog Break!

Guys, I am taking a blog break to spend time from my family and recover since we recently welcomed a second baby boy to our family. 

Declan Dennis
Born on April 19, 2016 at 4:44pm 

I'll be sure to share more details soon and if you are interested, I am posting pictures on Instagram. Declan made a surprise appearance a bit early, but all is well! Big brother Dylan is thrilled and both boys have been keeping me very busy.

I'll still be reading and sharing all of my beach reads for my Summer Kickoff Feature in a few weeks. I wouldn't dream of missing my favorite time of year! You can keep up with me on Goodreads as well to see what I've been reading.

Thank you for visiting and for all your support these past few years. I'll be back soon!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Book Review: Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider

Pages: 304
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source:  Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Warm Hawaiian sun. Lazy beach days. Flirty texts with her boyfriend back in Seattle.  These are the things seventeen-year-old Sloane McIntyre pictured when she imagined the summer she’d be spending at her mom’s home in Hawaii with her twin brother, Penn. Instead, after learning an unthinkable secret about her boyfriend, Tyler, and best friend, Mick, all she has is a fractured hand and a completely shattered heart.  Once she arrives in Honolulu, though, Sloane hopes that Hawaii might just be the escape she needs. With beach bonfires, old friends, exotic food, and the wonders of a waterproof cast, there’s no reason Sloane shouldn’t enjoy her summer. And when she meets Finn McAllister, the handsome son of a hotel magnate who doesn’t always play by the rules, she knows he’s the perfect distraction from everything that’s so wrong back home.  But it turns out a measly ocean isn’t nearly enough to stop all the emails, texts, and voicemails from her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, desperate to explain away their betrayal. And as her casual connection with Finn grows deeper, Sloane’s carefree summer might not be as easy to find as she’d hoped. Weighing years of history with Mick and Tyler against their deception, and the delicate possibility of new love, Sloane must decide when to forgive, and when to live for herself."

Sloane and her twin brother, Penn, spend their school year in Seattle with their father and then they spend their summers in Hawaii with their mother.  Sloane has pretty much lived a charmed life until one day she finds out her longtime boyfriend, Tyler, has cheated on her with her best friend.  So, what's a girl to do? She punches Tyler in the face and consequently, she breaks her hand as well as Tyler's nose.  She escapes to Honolulu to put this huge betrayal behind her and is hoping the Hawaiian sun will cure her blues. She meets charismatic Finn, whose father owns a popular hotel on Waikiki beach, and Sloane thinks that this guy might be the perfect way to get over Tyler.  Except that Tyler and her best friend, Mick, continuously email and text her apologizing, but Sloane deletes each message.  Things get serious with Finn, but as things heat up, she realizes she can't run from her past anymore.  Can she truly forgive Mick and Tyler? Erin L. Schneider's debut, Summer of Sloane, is a full-of-drama beach read that I loved to get lost in. 

At first Sloane was a bit intense for me in Summer of Sloane. I mean her boyfriend and best friend betrayed her BIG TIME, and I secretly love that she kicked Tyler's butt, but you can't really go around punching people in the face.  Her violent tendencies (pushing, etc) came out from time to time, which I found to be a bit troubling. However, she's a passionate girl and I wanted her to realize that she is better than Tyler and Mick.  But she kept running from the betrayal and not facing it. I knew that eventually she would have to and I was hoping she would be strong enough.

Her new relationship with Finn was everything you could want in a summer romance. It was fun, it was sexy, and the backdrop of Hawaii only made it even more appealing. Although I didn't always agree with how she handled Finn, it was a great distraction from the drama she left behind in Seattle. 

My favorite part of Summer of Sloane was obviously the setting of Oahu.  I love Waikiki beach and reading this novel took me right back to the beautiful location. The gorgeous beach, the hotel pool, the nearby waterfalls, the surfing, the fantastic restaurants... all of it really added to my enjoyment as well as my Hawaiian daydreaming. It should be noted that Waikiki (at least beach front) can be an expensive place and both Finn and Sloane come from well-off families.  Sloane's mother gave her and Penn a convertible to drive around in (as well as other presents!) for the summer. So, be forewarned that you are dealing with gorgeous rich teenagers in a gorgeous and wealthy location. 

Summer of Sloane has a ton of drama, but at its core it examines forgiveness. Can Sloane ever forgive Tyler and Mick? Does she need to forgive in order to move on? Can she ever be friends with Mick again?  So, even though it seems like a frothy beach read, there were some deeper themes throughout the novel.  Overall, a fun read--perfect for armchair traveling. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Book Review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Pages: 352
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date April 5, 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Personal Copy
Other Books By Author: Open Road Summer 
and The Start of Me and You
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along. Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world. Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures. In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever."

Vivi is a charismatic girl; the kind of girl who radiates sunshine when she walks into a room. She loves vintage clothing, bright red lipstick and knock-off Marilyn Monroe hair.  Vivi and her mother are spending the summer in Verona Beach, California and she meets townie and chef-wannabe Jonah.  Jonah is a complex guy and has more responsibilities than your average seventeen year old. His father tragically died and left behind his mother and many siblings in a state of disarray.  You see Jonah's mother never really got out of bed and fully recovered from the shock of her husband's death. Instead she left all the responsibilities to her older children, including Jonah.  When Vivi meets Jonah, sparks fly and he can't help but question why such a vivacious girl would be attracted to him. Meanwhile, Vivi loves Jonah's family and even helps him deal with the ups and downs of his mother's depression. A summer romance ensues...that is until Vivi stops taking her medication and starts to act unpredictably. This obviously impacts their relationship and quickly it becomes a summer romance that either of them will ever forget.  Emery Lord's serious and beautifully written novel, When We Collided, had me feeling it all for these two characters.  In the end, the book ultimately made me think, which all great books do.

Vivi felt larger than life in When We Collided. It took me awhile to warm up to her, because she was so out there at times. She was definitely a force to be reckon with and one of those characters that you slowly gravitate towards.  Some of the things she would say seemed so outlandish, but I realized what she was saying was sort of beautiful in a messy kind of way.  I realized she suffered from a mental illness of some sort and readers will slowly piece together the puzzle surrounding this as the story progresses.  As Vivi would throw her medication in the ocean, my heart would break, because I knew it would impact her relationship with Jonah.

Jonah is such a great guy in When We Collided. I'm pretty sure high school me would have LOVED him and declared him my new literary boyfriend.  He is such a responsible guy, loyal, friendly, caring...the whole nine yards. And to top it off, he makes the most incredible food.  He's pretty much the perfect high school boyfriend.  But his life isn't perfect. As I mentioned before his mother suffers from severe depression and has pretty much given up. It's up to Jonah to take care of his younger siblings, which is no easy task.  It broke my heart.

Their relationship in When We Collided was so much more than a summer romance. It was, like Vivi, larger than life and even when it was going downhill, I still held out hope that these two would work it out. But we all know that summer romances are usually fleeting, especially when dealing with the aftermath of Vivi's choices. Their relationship reminded me a big of Mad Love (I'm sure this reference is showing my age!) for those who are familiar with the movie. Ultimately, both characters had some issues and I just wanted them to find their way...to be happy.

Lord's writing is seriously beautiful in When We Collided. Her style reminded me of John Green's from time to time and that's, obviously, high praise. There were so many quotes that I wanted to write down, because I thought they were so moving. Here's one of my favorites:

“No matter what heaven you believe in, your time on this earth will end. What I’m saying is that you should listen—really listen—to the slosh of the waves and the distant call of Pacific birds. You should feel a boy’s pulse against your cheek; you should fill your lungs with ocean air. While you can, I mean. You should do these things while you still can.”

If you are looking for a smart read this spring that is equal parts serious and romantic, but will also make you think, then check out When We Collided. I know it had me thinking about the importance of mental health and I applaud Lord for writing about such a tough topic.   When We Collided is one of my favorite books of the year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Glitter

This is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.  "Waiting on Wednesday" spotlights upcoming releases that I'm eagerly anticipating.

Glitter by Aprilynne Pike
Pub. Date: October 25, 2016

Goodreads says, "Outside the palace of Versailles, it’s modern day. Inside, the people dress, eat, and act like it’s the eighteenth century—with the added bonus of technology to make court life lavish, privileged, and frivolous. The palace has every indulgence, but for one pretty young thing, it’s about to become a very beautiful prison. When Danica witnesses an act of murder by the young king, her mother makes a cruel power play . . . blackmailing the king into making Dani his queen. When she turns eighteen, Dani will marry the most ruthless and dangerous man of the court. She has six months to escape her terrifying destiny. Six months to raise enough money to disappear into the real world beyond the palace gates. Her ticket out? Glitter. A drug so powerful that a tiny pinch mixed into a pot of rouge or lip gloss can make the wearer hopelessly addicted. Addicted to a drug Dani can sell for more money than she ever dreamed. But in Versailles, secrets are impossible to keep. And the most dangerous secret—falling for a drug dealer outside the palace walls—is one risk she has to take."
It's being described as Breaking Bad meets Marie Antoinette. Doesn't that sound fun? I enjoyed Pike's Wings series in the past, although I still need to read the final book. What do you guys think?  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Book Review: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Pages: 390
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home. But then Lina is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept from Lina for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself. People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more."

Sixteen year old Lina's world is turned upside down when her mother dies from cancer. Her mother makes Lina promise that she will spend the summer with her father in Italy. This sounds ideal, but she has never even met her father and he works at a WWII cemetery.... not exactly the Italian location she had in mind.  As she gets to know her father, Howard, she realizes that maybe he isn't too bad and Lina actually starts to enjoy her time in Italy. Plus, she comes across her mother's old journal and as Lina is starting to heal, she finds herself flipping the pages learning more about her mother's stay in Italy. Thanks to her new friend/possible love interest, Ren, she is starting to fall in love with Italy. The architecture, the food, the romance, the gelato...it's all turning out to be a gorgeous summer. Except there are secrets her mother never told her and she is determined to figure them out.  Jenna Evans Welch's debut, Love & Gelato, is the perfect kind of beach read for those who have a serious case of wanderlust.  

Lina is an interesting character in Love & Gelato. I can't say I was overly invested in her, but I was interested in her finding out exactly what her mother was hiding. One of my favorite aspects of the novel was her mother's journal. Her mother was a photography student in Florence and Welch gives us snippets of her journal. It was a nice addition to the story, especially as Lina tries to piece together the truth.

Obviously the best part of Love & Gelato is the setting. Tuscany. Florence. Rome. *sigh* This book had me longing to go back to Italy and explore the cobblestone streets, eat some amazing food, check out the sights...Welch did a fantastic job bringing it all to life. I read that she lived in Florence for quite sometime and that is evident in Love & Gelato.  

Although the romance was just ok for me, I still liked the whole fish out of water concept and the idea of meeting a cute boy to show you around an exotic location. There were definitely some ups and downs in Lina's relationship with Ren and plus, there's a hot Brit as well!

Love & Gelato felt a bit young to me at times, but nonetheless, I enjoyed my "visit' to Italy. If you love to armchair travel, you should definitely check out Love & Gelato this summer. You'll be craving gelato by the novel's end and planning your escape to sunny Tuscany.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Summer Kickoff Feature for 2016

Guys, if you follow my blog, you know I am all about my Summer Kickoff Feature which I have been doing for the past five years! But this year it's going to be a bit different. Normally, I showcase all my beach reads/reviews during the month of May, but this year I am unable to do that. My second baby is due right around this time, so that throws a wrench in my plans.  

However, I am still going to be sharing my beach reads and recommendations with you all summer long instead. Whenever you see the header above, you'll know that I'm reviewing one of my beach reads for 2016.  I'm still going to have an awesome giveaway in May to kickoff summer, a giveaway at the end of my feature and of course I'll still share fun beach read posts.

So, I hope you'll join me in celebrating the unofficial start of summer and beach read season. Now if only the weather would cooperate! 

Here are some of the beach reads I plan on reviewing and showcasing this summer. So, keep your eye out for them:

YA Fiction: New Releases

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider
Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Wanderlost by Jen Malone
A Walk in the Sun by Michelle Zink
Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood
Whisper to Me by Nick Lake
Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods
A Season for Fireflies by Rebecca Maizel
What Happens Now by Jennifer Castle
With Malice by Eileen Cook
The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone
Hearts, Fingers, and Other Things To Cross (Broken Hearts & Revenge #3) by Katie Finn

The Island House by Nancy Thayer
The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews
Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand
All Summer Long by Dorothea Frank Benton
A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams
Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon
First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

If you want to see what beach reads I reviewed in the past, check out this link.  There's five years of beach reads listed and so much more to check out. 

Thanks for visiting and let me know what beach read you are looking forward to reading this summer.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Stacking the Shelves (101) and Giveaway Winners

The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone - Thanks to Little, Brown Books and NetGalley
Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima - Thanks to Harper Collins
Belgravia by Julian Fellowes - Thanks to Grand Central Publishing 

When We Collided by Emery Lord

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

And the winner of Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase goes to....


Congrats! I hope you enjoy your book!

So what do you guys think? Have you read any of these books or are they on your TBR list? Let me know! This meme is hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews.

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