Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review: Twisted Fate by Norah Olson

Pages: 272
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: January 20, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When Alyson meets Graham Copeland, the new boy next door, she instantly feels like he’s a kindred spirit—shy and awkward like her, someone who has trouble making friends. It’s impossible to resist having a crush on him.  As usual, her sister, Sydney, sees things differently. In Sydney's mind, Graham's odd personality and secretive past scream psychopath, not sweetheart. Her gut is telling her to stay away from him, and to protect a love-struck Alyson from her own naïveté. But despite her instincts, Sydney is surprised to realize that a part of her is drawn to Graham, too.  And the more Sydney gets to know him, the more she realizes just how right—and wrong—she is about everything. Perfect for fans of Michelle Hodkin, and E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars,Twisted Fate is an unputdownable novel, teeming with suspense."
Sisters Ally and Sydney don't have much in common; in fact, they are opposites in every way except when it comes to their new neighbor, Graham Copeland. They are both interested in him, but for different reasons.  Ally has a crush on Graham and wants to get to know him better, but Sydney doesn't like the bad vibe she gets from him. She doesn't trust him, but is also intrigued by him as well.  Graham is hiding many secrets and is hoping to start fresh in this new town. He also is obsessed with his video camera and claims he wants to be a filmmaker as he constantly is filming the people and the world around him.  Things aren't what they seem with either teenager in this psychological thriller. Norah Olson's debut, Twisted Fate, is a suspenseful novel that did keep me entertained, but ultimately left me wanting more.

I can't say I connected with any of the characters in Twisted Fate, which is probably why it only earned three stars from me. Ally is the "good girl" in this novel; the kind of girl that bakes muffins and follows the rules. Sydney serves as a foil to her sister. She is darker, smarter, and doesn't follow the rules. Even though she does drugs, she is still one of the smartest kids in school. (Not sure how that works, but whatever.) Graham is mysterious and like Sydney, I wasn't sure about him from the beginning either. I liked the whole concept of an secretive and good-looking boy-next-door, but Graham was just so darn creepy with his video camera, that I couldn't find him remotely attractive at all. 

Twisted Fate is a darker read than I was expecting in that there are psychological issues, references to drugs of all types, and troubled teens. To make matters worse, I wasn't sure who was a reliable narrator in Twisted Fate. Each chapter alternated with a different character's point of view, such as Ally, Syd, and Graham. Olson even included points of view from other people, such as police offers and parents. I am not a fan of this many points of view, especially when the author keeps the chapters so brief, because I feel like I didn't really get to know the characters…like I am only touching the surface of the story. So, for me, this didn't work and left me wanting more.

Historically, I am pretty bad at predicting the ending of psychological thrillers or finding the big twist in a mystery, so the ending of Twisted Fate took me by surprise. It's dark, shocking, and very depressing. 

Although aspects of Twisted Fate didn't work for me, I can still see the appeal if you are fan of psychological thrillers. There's no doubt that this one is haunting.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Stacking the Shelves and Giveaway Winners (67)




The Uninvited by Cat Winters - Thanks to William Morrow and Edelweiss
A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin - Thanks to Tor Teen and NetGalley
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - Thanks to St. Martin's




The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins



The winner of Willowgrove by Kathleen Peacock is 
Clarisa R. 
Congrats! I hope you enjoy the 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.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Five (11)


Sometimes I like to talk about what I am currently into that is not book related. Here's what I have been obsessed with lately.  Let me know what you think!



1.  Breville Juicer -  I jumped on the juicing bandwagon this past month with the hopes that I would consume even more fruits and veggies. Even my son likes my juice concoctions. Is it bad that the pineapple, strawberry, kale drink I make desperately has me longing to add some rum to it, a tropical umbrella and put my feet in the sand?  *sigh*




2.  The Honest Company's Sea Salt and Sugar Body Scrub - I am always on the hunt for all natural skin products and I recently tried this new scrub. I love it!  It smells fantastic (Lavender Vanilla) and does a great job exfoliating.  I've tried a few sugar scrubs in the past (Arbonne in particular) and I prefer this one. New to the Honest Company? Check out my invitation here




3.  Ancestry.com - I made a goal in 2015 to learn more about my ancestors. I am truly a mutt, so I wanted to learn more about where in Europe my family was born. My dad even completed the DNA kit through them, so we got back some very interesting results. Ultimately, I wanted to find out where in Ireland my grandmother's family was from and also get some answers regarding my paternal grandfather's side, because things got fuzzy regarding ancestry after WWII.  Let me tell you…it has been incredible. I am able to track down so much information and I recently found out my great-grandfather served in WWI, which I didn't even know! 




4.  Vitamin D Spray - I found out this past fall that I am low on vitamin D. I nearly fell over when my doctor reported it.  Me, the beach bum and sunshine lover, am low. I couldn't believe it, but then I remembered that I sort of went crazy over sunscreen this summer, thanks to my dermatologist making me uber paranoid. I decided to try out Dr. Mercola's Vitamin D spray and I am hoping it helps me out this winter since I live where the sun doesn't shine till about April. I will let you know if it works when I get my levels checked next month. I recently read that most people (unless you live in Florida, etc) are now Vitamin D deficient?!?




5.  Parenthood - Guys, I am in complete denial about the end of this fabulous show. No other show on TV currently makes me cry like a little baby. Seriously. Every time my husband sees me watching this show, he asks me if I need my tissues. It's, like, expected. I find myself at the end of the episode in a puddle of tears. I am actually an episode behind because I can't bring myself to watch the next one. It's that bad.

Happy Friday! Let me know what you think! If you have any great juicing recipes, please share!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review: Searching for Grace Kelly by Michael Callahan

Pages: 288
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: January 27, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "For a small-town girl with big-city dreams, there is no address more glamorous than New York’s Barbizon Hotel. Laura, a patrician beauty from Smith, arrives to work at Mademoiselle for the summer. Her hopelessly romantic roommate, Dolly, comes from a working-class upstate town to attend secretarial school. Vivian, a brash British bombshell with a disregard for the hotel’s rules, rounds out the trio of friends. Together, the girls embark on a journey of discovery that will take them from the penthouse apartments of Park Avenue to the Beat scene of Greenwich Village to Atlantic City’s Steel Pier — and into the arms of very different men who will alter their lives forever."
Laura Dixon, a debutante and college student from Connecticut, comes to New York City for an summer internship with Mademoiselle magazine for their college issue.  The year is 1955 and if you are a female in the city, you want to stay at the famous Barbizon Hotel for Women which is pretty much like a large sorority house. Plus, the beautiful Grace Kelly stayed there!  Laura can't believe her luck when her parents agree to allow her to go to the city and stay at the Barbizon. She meets her roommate, Dolly, who is very different than herself, but charming enough and a friendship ensues.  Dolly worries she will end up being one of the "Women" at the Barbizon, the spinsters who are still staying at the hotel and never married. On Laura's first day at Barbizon, she meets Vivian Windsor; she works at the famous Stork Club as a cigarette girl. Vivian is always pressing everyone's boundaries and breaking the rules at the Barbizon, including having male visitors, which is strictly forbidden.  While at the Stork Club one night, Laura happens upon New York City's most eligible bachelor, Box Barnes, and after a few coincidental meetings, she finds that he is pursuing her with much determination. All three women experience love and loss in the city; one thing is for sure, New York City always promises an adventure. Michael Callahan's debut, Searching for Grace Kelly, is a delightful romp through 1950s America. It was like an episode of Mad Men and I loved being lost in the girls' world. 

Laura is my kind of girl in Searching for Grace Kelly. Although she is a debutante, good looking, and possesses good manners and an education, she still is interested in the gritty side of life and what it takes to be a writer. She wants more for herself than to just be a housewife, much to her mother's chagrin.  I loved that Laura liked to frequent a book store in Greenwich Village as well as a nearby bar. (I'm sure her mother would be horrified.)  There she meets Pete, an intellectual and writer. Even though she should be thrilled New York City's most eligible and very wealthy bachelor is dating her, she can't help but be attracted to Pete.  Laura learns a lot as the story unfolds and I enjoyed her journey.

Dolly is a bit a tag-along character in Searching for Grace Kelly. She is loyal, but is a bit self-loathing, which sort of drove me nuts. Dolly is studying to be a secretary, but ultimately, she wants to find a husband and is having a hard time. Dolly has her fair share of heartbreak that summer.  Then there's Vivian, the larger-than-life British cigarette girl and aspiring singer. Her adventures are a bit too much, especially when she finds herself entangled with a man who is easily angered and is extremely rough around the edges. 

Callahan does a fantastic job bringing to life the 1950s. I honestly felt like I was in an episode of Mad Men, except from strictly a female's perspective. I must admit I was nervous that Callahan wouldn't be able to capture three female's perspectives, but I think he did a good job and it felt authentic. Plus, readers will be happy to know that Callahan did some extensive research on life at the Barbizon. 

If you love the 1950s and you want to read a fluffy novel about love and loss in the big city, you should check out Searching for Grace Kelly this winter..  I was pleasantly surprised!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: An Ember in the Ashes

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

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Pub. Date: April 28, 2015



Goodreads says, "LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution. ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor. When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself."
Doesn't this sound brilliant? I can't say I have ever read a YA book with a Rome-like setting. I loved HBO's Rome and am a huge fan of Gladiator, so I am dying to check this one out. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Giveaway: Six of Time Magazine's One Hundred Best YA Books of All Time


Did you guys know that Time magazine recently published its list of the Top 100 Young Adult and Top 100 Children’s Books of All Time


Thanks to Candlewick Press, I have an awesome giveaway to share with you guys. I am hosting a giveaway for six paperbacks that made Time's list: The Tiger Rising and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane both by Kate DiCamillo, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Jim Kay, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, Feed by M.T. Anderson and Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci. 

One lucky winner will receive all six books! This giveaway is open to US and Canada only and the deadline is January 30, 2015.  Please refer to my giveaway rules and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, January 19, 2015

Book Review: The Bitter Kindgom by Rae Carson

Pages: 433
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Date: April 14, 2013
Source: Personal Copy
Other Books By Author: The Girl of Fire and Thorns (#1), 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Elisa is a fugitive. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves, and they await her at the gate of darkness. Her country is on the brink of civil war, with her own soldiers ordered to kill her on sight. Her Royal Majesty, Queen Lucero-Elisa né Riqueza de Vega, bearer of the Godstone, will lead her three loyal companions deep into the enemy's kingdom, a land of ice and snow and brutal magic, to rescue Hector and win back her throne. Her power grows with every step, and the shocking secrets she will uncover on this, her final journey, could change the course of history. But that is not all. She has a larger destiny. She must become the champion the world has been waiting for. Even of those who hate her most."


The Crown of Embers left readers on the edge of their seats and that's pretty much how things start in this concluding novel. Elisa is on a mission to reclaim her throne and find Hector, whom her enemies have captured.  Elisa has one thing going for her: her Godstone.  Along with her loyal friends, they venture into her enemy's kingdom to rescue Hector, that is if he is still alive!  Many adventures await her while she is on this journey and of course, there's a ton of magic. Rae Carson's final book in The Fire and Thorns trilogy, The Bitter Kingdom, is a superb ending to what is a fantastic fantasy series.

Elisa has grown so much since The Girl of Fire and Thorns. At first, I wasn't so sure about her. She complained about her body, drowned herself in carbohydrates, and really sort of hated herself. As the series progressed, I started to really love her. She is smart, loyal, determined, and did I mention smart? I love that Elisa is bookish and doesn't just rely on her Godstone and magic to get her out of situations, but also relies on her smarts.  Needless to say, Elisa really grew on me as the series evolved and in The Bitter Kingdom I loved her even more.

I was a fan of Hector since the get-go, so I was all about Elisa finding him in The Bitter Kingdom. It definitely had me on the edge of my seat, because Carson has killed off some important characters in her other books! Nonetheless, Elisa and Hector's relationship is one of the best aspects of the series. I love how it has evolved from a friendship to something more. Plus, it doesn't hurt that Hector is completely swoon worthy; fans of Hector won't be disappointed in The Bitter Kingdom.

Carson has done such a great job with this series; fans of fantasy will relish in her world-building, the characters, the magic, and the many adventures. Although I felt The Bitter Kingdom was a little slow at times, unlike the other novels in the series, I still thoroughly enjoyed it.  I highly recommend this series to fans of young adult fantasy. It's definitely going down as one of my favorites.



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