Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines

Pages: 260
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: October 12, 2011
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "Ashton is getting tired of being good, of impressing her parents and playing ideal girlfriend to Sawyer Vincent. Sawyer is perfect, a regular Prince Charming, but when he leaves town for the summer, it’s his cousin Beau who catches Ashton’s eye. Beau is the sexiest guy she’s ever seen, and even though he’s dangerous, Ashton is drawn to him. Beau loves his cousin like a brother, so the last thing he wants to do is make a move on Sawyer’s girl. Ashton is off-limits, absolutely. That’s why he does his best to keep his distance, even though he’s been in love with her forever. When Ashton wants to rekindle their childhood friendship in Sawyer’s absence, Beau knows he should say no. Ashton and Beau don’t want to hurt Sawyer. But the more they try to stay away from each other, the more intense their urges become. It’s getting way too hard to resist."
Ashton, Sawyer, and Beau were inseparable childhood friends.  Ashton and Beau were known for getting themselves into trouble and Sawyer, the quintessential good guy, would always bail them out.  Many years have past and they are now in high school.  Beau, Sawyer's cousin, runs with a tougher crowd and is still known to cause trouble, but Ashton is no longer his sidekick. She has grown up; after all, she is the preacher's daughter.  Ashton and Sawyer started dating a few years ago and haven't looked back and while Sawyer is still very close with Beau, Ashton hasn't really talked to him in years even though she sees him at school and the occasional party.  While Sawyer is away for the summer and Ashton is at a party, she sees Beau trying to drive home drunk with his girlfriend.  Ashton offers to drive him home and they sort of reconnect after all of these years.  This excites Ashton, because 1) she's bored at home without Sawyer, 2) her best friend is off at college, 3) she secretly likes and cares for Beau even though he's a "bad boy" and she supposed to be a "good girl." As they spend more time together, you can guess what happens, but there are so many obstacles ahead of them.  For starters, her parents do not approve of Beau. At all.  Plus, everyone in their southern town loves Sawyer and if she breaks his heart, she's in for it. More importantly, Beau is Sawyer's cousin and he needs Sawyer because his home life is less than stellar. How could he ever hurt him? They are like brothers.  The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines is a predictable teen romance, but I will admit I was sucked in and loved being lost in their world.

Guys, sometimes you just want a fluffy summertime read that is pure mind-candy and The Vincent Boys filled that need for me.  Ashton is actually a character that I wasn't a big fan of initially.  She was trying to be someone she's not, mostly because that is who she thinks her boyfriend wants. Plus, it irritated me that she has no life when Sawyer is not around.  Her world was Sawyer and you never want to see that happen to a girl in high school. When she reconnects with Beau, things change for the better and I liked seeing her live a little more, but I will admit she quite often suffered from Bella Swan syndrome. What I mean by that is she often needed either Sawyer or Beau to "save" her.  I wanted her to save herself and be the hero of her own story, but that never really happens.


What kept me reading The Vincent Boys was Beau.  Sawyer is the usual perfect southern gentleman who was overprotective and and the town's golden boy.  But Beau, boy, did I love his character. He was tough, from the wrong side of the tracks, and the kind of guy you'd want in your corner.  I loved his chemistry with Ashton, even if it felt a bit cliche (love triangle!) at times. With that said, it should be noted that this book is not for younger readers. There are some racy scenes and a lot of male characters whom are very sexist.  I wasn't a big fan of the latter. 


In additon to the sexist scenes, I also had issues with Ashton's absent parents. Ashton's father is a preacher, but is sort of a horrible guy for the first half of the book and isn't really around much. He refers to people as "white trash" which doesn't seem very Christianly and he encourages his daughter to hangout with Sawyer more often instead of being an independent woman. Ummm. Ok. Thankfully, this does change as the story progresses and yes, Ashton does have a fantastic role model in her grandmother, but still.  When the parents were around they were abysmal in The Vincent Boys.


The Vincent Boys reminds me of a favorite soap opera, like Dallas meets Dawson's Creek with Beau obviously being Pacey.  *swoon*  It's the perfect kind of summer read where you can get lost in the drama and it's downright fun.  



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Red Queen

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

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Pub. Date: March 26, 2015


Goodreads says, "Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army, she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a superhuman ability she didn’t know she had. Except . . . her blood is Red. To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a budding Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince and Mare against her own heart."
I know this book's pub. date is far off, but I really love this book's premise. I am a huge fan of high fantasy and this one sounds pretty captivating. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When I'm Not Reading YA: Children's Book Edition (5)

Dylan, my little guy, is almost two now and is still a big fan of books. This delights me to no end, which I'm sure doesn't surprise you.  I thought I would give you an update on what we have been reading and enjoying together.  If you are interested in learning more about a book that I am showcasing, click the book's title and it will take you to its Amazon page.



Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker - My little guy is currently obsessed with cars and trucks.  This book is his absolute favorite. In this book, there's a bulldozer, cement truck, crane truck, excavator, and more. They all get ready for bed and it's absolutely adorable. I love the rhyming and the repetition of "Sshhhhh goodnight" which my little guy likes saying with me.


The Diggers by Margaret Wise Brown- This book isn't my favorite by any means (it's sort of strange), but my little guy loves the digger in this story since he comes to the rescue.  It's definitely fun to read a loud.

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow - This is a cute retelling of the classic song. I like the repetition and the silly pictures. My little guy laughs hysterically at the monkeys and when we get to the "No more monkeys jumping on the bed" part of the story, he shakes his little pointed finger at the monkeys scolding them.

Good Night Beach by Adam Gamble- My little guy loves to read this book after a long day at the beach. Readers say goodnight to the ocean, the sand, the sailboats, the crabs, you name it. It's a lot of fun and captures a wonderful day at the beach with your family.



Baby Penguins Everywhere! by Melissa Guion - This book is one of my favorites because adults can really appreciate the story when reading it with their little ones. It's about a mama penguin who realizes taking care of all the baby penguins is hard work and sometimes she needs some alone time to recharge, which is true of everyone, not just moms! In the end, she realizes that being together is the most fun of all though.

Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss - Who doesn't love animal sounds and hearing your little one saying them? This book cracks me up, because my guy will end up participating by saying back all the sounds and noises. No one is as much fun as as Dr. Seuss.

The Fuzzy Duckling by Jane Werner Watson - This Golden book was mine when I was little and I am so glad my little guy loves it.  The little duckling is lost and explores the farm as well as the farm animals. It involves counting, which is a bonus and of course, it ends happily.  This is one of my little guy's favorites!

Starlight Sailor by James Mayhew - My little guy loves the paper boat that a little boy and his dog travel in. They explore dream lands and there are even dragons in the story! The illustrations are gorgeous and it is so imaginative. 

Sleepyhead by Karma Wilson - I feel like every kid is a fan of Karma Wilson's books. This one in particular is whimsical! It's about someone who isn't ready for bed and wants one more teddy, one more snuggle, etc. I think many toddlers can relate to this read!

Let me know what you think of the books we have been reading. Are you familiar with any of these? Do you have any recommendations for me? 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book Review: Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

Pages: 406
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 18, 2013
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in Nicole's coastal island house off of Maine. But many years, and many secrets, have kept the women apart. A successful travel writer, single Charlotte lives on the road, while Nicole, a food blogger, keeps house in Philadelphia with her surgeon-husband, Julian. When Nicole is commissioned to write a book about island food, she invites her old friend Charlotte back to Quinnipeague, for a final summer, to help. Outgoing and passionate, Charlotte has a gift for talking to people and making friends, and Nicole could use her expertise for interviews with locals. Missing a genuine connection, Charlotte agrees. But what both women don't know is that they are each holding something back that may change their lives forever. For Nicole, what comes to light could destroy her marriage, but it could also save her husband. For Charlotte, the truth could cost her Nicole’s friendship, but could also free her to love again. And her chance may lie with a reclusive local man, with a heart to soothe and troubles of his own."
Nicole hasn't seen her former best friend, Charlotte, in ten years.  When Nicole, a food blogger, has an opportunity to write a cook book about the local food from her beloved island off of Maine, she asks for Charlotte's help. This is because Charlotte also loves the island and she is a writer herself, jet setting off to various magazine assignments throughout the year.  They are staying at Nicole's parents' summer house and are hoping it will be like summers of the past, but Charlotte has distanced herself from Nicole over the years, not just because of her job assignments, but because of a deep secret.  A secret that she is hoping won't come out this summer.  Both girls are busy with writing their cook book, interviewing locals, and catching up.  Nicole has left her husband back in Philadelphia, as he is busy with his work, but he's also battling MS. She is hoping the time away from each other will do them good as things have been less than stellar.  Charlotte also meets a local, Leo, who captures her interest and reminds her of the protagonist of Salt, a novel both girls are reading and discussing.  Secrets unravel bit by bit in Sweet Salt Air and as both girls spend more time together, these secrets slowly float to the surface.  Sweet Salt Air is a thoughtful beach read; one that is slow moving and gentle, much like a warm tropical breeze.  

Nicole was my least favorite character in Sweet Salt Air, which surprised me since I thought a food blogger would pique my interest.  That wasn't the case. She wallowed in self-pity and claimed she wanted to work on things with her husband, but I never fully got that vibe from her.  I mean they didn't even spend the majority of the summer together and she often didn't say what she needed to say to him.  Nonetheless, I felt for her as she dealt with the secret of Julian's MS; plus, she finds out a secret about his past, one that will directly impact her world.

On the other hand, Charlotte was a fun character in Sweet Salt Air. I was drawn to her storyline a bit more as she is adventurous and fun. She's intrigued by local bad boy, Leo, and finds herself visiting his house quite often with the hopes of learning more about him as well as his mother who cultivated the island's best herb farm.  She learns more about Leo and perhaps he isn't just a bad boy…perhaps there's more to him than the townspeople think.  Charlotte and Leo's blossoming relationship was the best part of the story for me.

Delinsky does a good job of capturing what life is like when you are dealing with someone who is battling a disease. Julian has many doctor appointments and many important decisions to face. It played a bigger role in Sweet Salt Air than I initially thought it would. Plus, there's the fact that he hides his MS from co-workers and family members, including his own kids.  Nicole has to deal with this on a daily basis, which is very tough for her.  Things get even more complicated when Julian wants to pursue experimental procedures, which also sends Nicole for a tailspin.   

I had a few issues with Sweet Salt Air in that it was a s-l-o-w read at times and the characters, especially Nicole, marinated in the same problem or feeling for quite awhile.  She definitely fixated on things.  So, you have to be patient when reading Sweet Salt Air as the drama takes time to unravel.

If you are looking for a thoughtful beach read that focuses on friendship, secrets, and the importance of forgiveness, give Sweet Salt Air a try this summer, but if you are looking for a fast-paced beach read, I urge you to look elsewhere.




Saturday, July 19, 2014

Stacking the Shelves and Giveaway Winners (52)




Made For You by Melissa Marr - Thanks to HarperCollins
Island Girls by Nancy Thayer - Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Since Last Summer by Joanna Philbin - Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers






What the Sleepy Animals Do at the Audubon Zoo by Grace Millsaps and Ryan Murphy - Thanks to Novel Novice, I won a signed copy! My little guy is going to love this book.
A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young - Thank you Novel Novice for the signed copy!
A Want So Wicked by Suzanne Young - Thanks to Novel Novice, I also won a signed copy!





The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson




The Winners of My Gently Used ARC Giveaway:

Jen B. - One Hundred Names and The Falconer
Monica R.  -  Empire Girls
Tamara  - The Killing Woods and Foreplay
Christianna - Summer on the Short Bus and The Deepest Night
Congrats! I hope you guys enjoy your books and thanks for entering my giveaway!

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Five (4)


So I thought it might be fun this summer to try writing a more personal post every Friday highlighting some things going on in my life that aren't necessarily book related.  Let me know what you think!



1.  Dust Off the Shelves- Last week, I wrote about how I am epically failing my pledge to read allllll the books on my shelf in 2014.  I decided that I would aim to read one or two by the end of this summer and you guys voted that Just Listen by Sarah Dessen should be my next "oldie-but-goodie" read. I love Dessen and have read most of her books, so I am excited to pick up Just Listen soon.  Thanks for the feedback!

Source - This is the set I bought. They are perfect!
2. More Etsy Finds - I love photography and I came across this local-to-me photographer, CT Costa Photography. I have been on the hunt for black and white photographs of shore birds for almost a year, specifically sand pipers. (My bathroom has a shore bird vibe to it.)  I can never seem to capture the birds just the way I want to, but Chris Costa definitely did. Check out his gorgeous photography here. I love all of his beach scenes, too!



3.  Across the Way - I am obsessed with this store in Cape May and Stone Harbor, New Jersey. I have been going to the Cape May location for a few years now and have found really great artwork for my son's room, our kitchen, and even a few unique pieces for our house (antique-ish large skeleton keys!). I just love their stuff. You can even order some of their items online. Check it out, especially if you like one-of-a-kind pieces.


I go crazy for cherries in the summer. Obsessed.
4.  Farmers Market - I have been trying to eat more locally grown fruit and veggies this summer. We usually hit up a lot of the farms down the shore, but I recently tried out the Farmers Market that is walking distance from my house (duh, why didn't I go sooner?) and I loved it.  There's nothing better than fresh fruit in the summer. 


Source
5. Tahereh Mafi and Ransom Riggs- Guys, why am I just seeing this now? I knew these two fabulous authors got married, but I somehow missed the pictures they posted. Their bookish wedding is stunning. I had to wipe the drool from my mouth. Perfection, right?

Happy Friday,

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Q&A with Katherine Longshore and Courted Giveaway

Guys, I am SO, SO excited to have Katherine Longshore on the blog today. She is absolutely one of my favorite young adult authors and I am a huge fan of her books Gilt, Tarnish and Brazen. I have reviewed all of them here on the blog and LOVED all three! If you enjoy historical reads, you must pick up her books.  Thanks to Penguin, I was able to ask Katherine a few questions and participate in the Midsummer Romance Blog Tour. Plus, I am hosting a giveaway for the recently published Courted, which includes both her novels Gilt and Tarnish.



Mary Howard was such a compelling protagonist in Brazen. What initially sparked your interest in her?
Katherine Longshore
I think I’m attracted to tragedy.  Romeo & Juliet was never my favorite Shakespeare play, but there is something about the star-crossed lovers narrative that I still find fascinating.  What cemented it for me was that historically, Mary didn’t let tragedy destroy her.  She fought to have her own title, her own money, her own life, which was virtually unheard of for a woman in the Tudor age.  You can believe that she lived that life sad and alone, or you can believe that she relished every minute of it, but no matter what you believe, she accomplished it, which in its own right is worthy of celebrating.  I just chose to celebrate it in fiction.

You bring such a fresh perspective to the Tudors.  What do you think makes the Tudors so captivating after all of these years?
I wonder if it’s because there’s something about Tudor history that appeals to an infinite variety of popular story genres.  Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard wrote poetry firmly rooted in Henry’s court, Shakespeare wrote one of his history plays (Henry VIII) based on the king’s early relationships, Donizetti penned an opera about Anne Boleyn in 1830 (and Mary, Queen of Scots in 1834), the craze for historical biography seized the Tudors in the late Victorian era.  And the Tudor themes are similar to those of soap opera, tragic drama and romantic comedy, all of which have been popular on TV and at the movies for the past fifty years.  There’s also something very much like reality TV about them—if Henry was around today, I’m sure his wives would be starring in The Real Housewives of the Tudor Court and gracing the covers of the magazines at the grocery store checkout counter.


I find Anne Boleyn to be an extremely interesting person in history and I loved how you portrayed her in Brazen. If you could sit down with her, what would you ask her?

I would love to know if she really loved Henry, but that’s a very personal question to ask someone you’ve just met.  So I suppose, if I had the chance to chat, I’d like to know what and how she thinks—about the court, about the political and religious atmosphere of the day, and about the people around her in her daily life.  I’d love to ask her about her sister-in-law, Jane Boleyn, and watch her carefully when she answered.  And it would be fun to ask her about her interests and hobbies—the things that aren’t necessarily written down in contemporary documents.  What was her favorite song, what foods did she crave, what did she think about when she daydreamed?  And if someone were to write a book about her, what did she think her character would be like?
Madge was one of my favorite characters in Brazen. She seemed like so much fun! Like any friendship, Mary and Madge had their ups and downs and I felt that you portrayed their friendship realistically. What can you tell me about her? Was she based on a real person?
Madge is absolutely based on a real person (or possibly people)—a cousin of Anne Boleyn.  Some of my research for Brazen revolved around an actual document called the Devonshire Manuscript—a book bound in leather stamped with the initials M.F. (Mary Fitzroy) and containing poetry and notes written by several different hands, including Mary (Madge) Shelton and Margaret Douglas.  Inspired by this idea of a literary brat pack in the Tudor court, I made these three girls fast friends.  

Madge is the most ambiguous, historically.  Because documentation is patchy, historians disagree about whether there were two sisters (Mary and Margaret Shelton) or just one girl (a composite Mary/Madge/Margaret), but they all agree that a Shelton contributed to the Devonshire Manuscript and many give credence to the idea that one Madge had an affair with the king.  I devoured all the stories I could find so I could pick and choose the personality traits and rumors I wanted to apply to my character.  I love her, too.
Which of Henry VIII’s wives is your favorite and why?
Anne of Cleves.  At first glance, her story could be the most tragic—wrenched away from her home and family to marry a balding, aging, ulcer-infested fat man who turns around and tells her she’s repellant.  But taking the long view, Anne’s life could actually be inspiring, and is the least tragic of all of the wives.  She raised no objection to the divorce and was rewarded with her own land, her own money, and her own status, living out her days in peace and luxury with no one telling her what to do (or calling her ugly).  A definite win.
You're having a dinner party and you can invite five people from history.  Who would they be?
This question is always so difficult for me to answer!  I tend to shy away from conflict, so I don’t want to invite anyone who would incite a riot, but I do enjoy lively discussion.  Today, I think I’d like to chat with Galileo (at the age of 13, I wanted to be an astronomer), Joan of Arc (woman warrior, activist, possibly insane), Clarence Darrow (razor-sharp mind and quick wit), Nellie Bly (adventurer, journalist and traveler who really did go around the world in eighty days) and I always want Dorothy Parker at my fantasy dinner table because I have a feeling she’d be able to liven things up and defuse any potential animosity with a well-timed quip.

Can you tell us anything about your next project? 
I’m currently writing a contemporary novel set in the US.  It’s fascinating to write about teenagers in a country and century where they have so much more freedom and education and privilege than they would have in the past, but still suffer from the constraints and preconceived notions of their society.  And it is so much fun to write about their travels and relationships, unrestricted by Tudor dress, marriages or modes of transportation.  I still had to do a lot of research for this book, but of a completely different sort (Google maps and YouTube, mostly!).  It’s been a real challenge, and definitely one that has kept me on my toes and helped me stretch as a writer.


I absolutely love Katherine's answers. Can we please make Real Housewives of the Tudor Court a reality?! That is a show I would definitely watch.  To learn more about Katherine Longshore, visit her website or follow her on Twitter


Thanks to Penguin, I am hosting a giveaway for Courted by Katherine Longshore, which includes Gilt and Tarnish--both fabulous books and two that I recommend.  This giveaway is open to US only, please refer to my giveaway rules and the deadline is July 27th.  Good luck!

Be sure to follow along with the rest of the blog tour for interviews with Katherine Longshore and more historical hotties!

Midsummer Romance Blog Tour Schedule:
Tuesday, July 8 – Good Books & Good Wine
Thursday, July 10 –Perpetual Page Turner
Tuesday, July 15 –Alice Marvels
Thursday, July 17 – Confessions of a Book Addict
Tuesday, July 22 – Novel Sounds
Thursday, July 24 – Starry-Eyed Revue
Tuesday, July 29 – The Midnight Garden
Thursday, July 31 – Novel Thoughts

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