Saturday, May 31, 2014

Things About Love (As You Wish #1.5) by Jackson Pearce - Ashley's Review

Amazon | Goodreads

Title: Things About Love (As You Wish #1.5)
Author: Jackson Pearce
Year Published: 2012 

My As You Wish Review
Paul's Things About Love Review
Paul's As You Wish Review

Synopsis: A short story set three years after the events of As You Wish!

Lawrence has spent the last three years dealing with the presence of the jinn-- a consequence of his best friend falling in love with one back in high school. Worried he'll reveal their presence to the world, the jinn send a rotating set of guards to watch him. He's just learning to ignore their constant presence when a jinn named Juliet gets herself assigned to his post. Juliet is determined to learn about love, a strange concept to most jinn, and Lawrence is going to help her-- like it or not.


Review: As You Wish was a cute, teen romance that worked very well as a standalone. I'm really glad, however, that Jackson Pearce wrote this story about Lawrence. He was probably my favorite character in As You Wish, and I'm really glad we got to see a little bit more of him!

There's not really a whole lot to this story, but it was interesting to see a little bit of what Lawrence has been up to in the three years following As You Wish. He's still best friends with Viola even though they don't go to the same school, which I thought was sweet. Juliet is trying to find out what love is for a jinn, but Lawrence is in the middle of trying to figure out what love is for him. Both of them learn things about love, even if they aren't necessarily good things.

Being a story about finding out what love is, there is a little bit of a romance in this story. I wish that I had more time to care about the characters though, because I didn't feel like I cared about the love interest or what happened to him after the end of this story. I enjoyed watching Lawrence and Juliet's relationship change as they spent more time together even though it wasn't romantic. I think if Juliet had stayed longer, she and Lawrence could have become good friends! 

If you've read As You Wish, I would totally recommend this story. It's short and interesting, and adds a little bit more to Lawrence's character and explains a little bit more about the jinn. If you want a magical, fun romance story, definitely check out As You Wish. I'd give this short story a 4/5.


The Moth in the Mirror (Splintered #1.5) by A.G. Howard - Ashley's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: The Moth in the Mirror (Splintered #1.5)
Author: A.G. Howard
Year Published: 2013

My Splintered Review
My Splintered Pre-Reading

Synopsis: An original ebook-only novella in the Splintered series, told from the points of view of both Jeb and Morpheus. Morpheus wants to know more about his rival for Alyssa's affections, so he digs into Jeb's memories of his time in Wonderland. But he may be surprised by what he finds. 

This brand-new story and perspective from A.G. Howard's dark, magical world stands alone, but also provides a tantalizing glimpse of what's to come in Unhinged, the sequel to Splintered.


Review: Splintered was absolutely phenomenal, and The Moth in the Mirror was the perfect novella to tide me over until I can get my hands on Unhinged. It's just as dark, mesmerizing, and wonderful as Splintered was! 

It was really neat being able to see a little bit more into Jeb and Morpheus' minds. Most of this novella is told from Jeb's perspective. We're given several of his memories, and we get to see his thoughts and feelings while Alyssa is off doing something else. We learn why he does certain things (think the Jabberlock box), and just how much he actually loves Alyssa. She's the only girl for him, and he's willing to do so much to keep her safe.

Morpheus is viewing Jeb's memories, so we see his thoughts before and after the memories. He even starts to feel things that Jeb feels, and even though he doesn't want to keep most of the emotions (since they came from a weak human), I enjoyed seeing how he will use Jeb's forgotten memories to possibly get closer to Alyssa and try to win her heart. He's also ridiculously in love with Alyssa, although for different reasons. 

This story left me wanting so much more (in a good way!) and I can't wait to read Unhinged and Ensnared. I also am even more conflicted over which boy to pick! If you've read Splintered, you'll definitely want to read this novella. It's a great refresher of the important points and a fun glimpse into the boys' minds. I do wish it was longer though! A 4/5. 


Friday, May 30, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Lisa Ann O'Kane's PLAYLIST for Essence!

Today, we have something really exciting for you! In celebration of the June launch of Essence by Lisa Ann O'Kane, we have Lisa's playlist for your listening pleasure! Be sure to check back soon for both of our reviews. You can also pre-order Essence now from your favorite retailer. Before we get to the playlist, here's a little bit about Essence and Lisa.

About the Book: 

Title: Essence
Author: Lisa Ann O'Kane
Publication Date: June 3, 2014

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CAN) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo |Goodreads

Synopsis: Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she's fallen into another.

Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question.

Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic -- and he can prove it.

Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall.

About the Author: 

Lisa Ann O’Kane is a young adult author and former vagabond who once camped out in Yosemite National Park for an entire summer, an experience that inspired her debut novel Essence.

Her background is in zookeeping and environmental education, and she has been kicked, cornered, bitten and chased by nearly every animal she has ever loved. She currently resides in Florida, and she is now a huge fan of shooting stars, indoor plumbing and keeping both her feet planted firmly on the trail.

Represented by Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates

WWW | @lisaannokane on Twitter

Lisa's Essence Playlist:

I wrote the first draft of Essence in four and a half months during the winter of 2011-2012. This was less than half the time it took me to write my first (shelved) novel, so I certainly felt possessed for a little while there. I also felt inspired by pretty much every song I heard. This resulted in an Essence playlist that still gives me that electric feeling every time I listen to it. I hope you like it!

1. “Northern Sky” by Nick Drake

I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you're here
Brighten my northern sky.

Essence was inspired by the summer I spent living and working in Yosemite National Park, so it’s only natural the first song on my playlist would be a song I played on repeat while I lived there. Nick Drake’s music is so introspective and meandering, and this song will always remind me of the awe I felt waking up in that beautiful place day after day.

2. “Watching You Watch Him” by Eric Hutchinson

I love you
From the bottom of my heart
And that's not gonna change
But things look grim
When I am watching you watch him.

The love triangle in Essence is purposefully underplayed. I expect readers to know who Autumn is going to choose from pretty much the beginning—as one boy never really stood a chance. Here is that boy’s ode to Autumn as he watched her fall for someone else.

3. “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers

So show me family
All the blood that I would bleed
I don't know where I belong
I don't know where I went wrong
But I can write a song.

I belong with you,
You belong with me,
You're my sweetheart. 

The boy Autumn chooses is certainly no saint, so it’s only fitting his love song to her would include pieces of his imperfections. I think this song by The Lumineers sums him up so perfectly, and I must have listened to it at least fifty times while writing Essence.

4. “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men

Don't listen to a word I say
The screams all sound the same
Though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore.

Deception is at the heart of Essence, so this song was particularly important to me while I wrote the second half of the book. I especially love the fact that “Little Talks” is a duet, and the creaking ship in the song’s background still gives me goosebumps.

5. “Shooting Star” by Bob Dylan

Seen a shooting star tonight slip away
Tomorrow will be another day
Guess it's too late to say the things to you
That you needed to hear me say
Seen a shooting star tonight slip away.

One of my favorite things about being an author is the opportunity to explore the various ways people crash into and out of each other’s lives. We are such passionate creatures that our arrivals and departures often resonate long after our paths are no longer entwined. The rawness of this and the poignancy of this song mesh together perfectly for me, making this a fitting way to close out my Essence soundtrack.

I hope you enjoyed my Essence playlist, and thanks so much for stopping by The A P Book Club for my pre-release blog tour. Have a wonderful day!

Thanks again to Lisa for taking the time to drop by and share this awesome playlist with us! We're really excited to read Essence, and hope you are too!

--Ashley & Paul

Body in the Woods (Point Last Seen #1) by April Henry - Ashley's Pre-Reading

*I received this book as an eARC from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group/Henry Holt & Co (BYR) on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Body in the Woods (Point Last Seen #1)
Author: April Henry
Publication Date: June 17, 2014

In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations

Why?: Mystery, suspense, and a story told from multiple perspectives? Count me in! I've never read anything by April Henry, but the synopsis was enough to draw me in. 

Expectations: I'm honestly not sure what to expect. Definitely a murder mystery, but I'm not sure what else. I don't know how April writes or what will happen to the characters over the course of the book. I don't even know if I should expect this to be more of a horror book or not. I'm excited to be surprised!

Judging a book by its cover: I actually kind of like this cover. I love the ferns and how the girl's eye shadow matches them, and I like how you can't see most of her face. I also like how the font is white, since it stands out against the darker background. I think all of the green is enough to make this book stand out on a shelf, so I would probably pick it up if I saw it in a bookstore or library. 


Thursday, May 29, 2014

TOP TEN: Some Fine Day by Kat Ross + GIVEAWAY

Hello! Today, we're really happy to be hosting Kat Ross, author of Some Fine Day! Her book is out July 1, 2014 from Strange Chemistry, and she's here to tell us her Top Ten Hybrid Creatures (in a fun way!). We also have a giveaway for you - the lovely people at Strange Chemistry have given us one copy of Some Fine Day to give to you, and the winner gets to choose between an ebook and a paperback copy! It's open internationally, so enter away!

Before we get to Kat's Top Ten and the giveaway, here's some information about the book and Kat!

About the Book

Title: Some Fine Day
Author: Kat Ross
Publication Date:
July 1, 2014 (US/Can)
3 July 2014 (UK)

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Jansin Nordqvist is on the verge of graduating from the black ops factory known as the Academy. She's smart and deadly, and knows three things with absolute certainty:

1. When the world flooded and civilization retreated deep underground, there was no one left on the surface.
2. The only species to thrive there are the toads, a primate/amphibian hybrid with a serious mean streak.
3. There's no place on Earth where you can hide from the hypercanes, continent-sized storms that have raged for decades.

Jansin has been lied to. On all counts.

About the Author

Kat Ross grew up in New York City and worked as a bike messenger, legal secretary, coat check girl, and iguana-brander before settling on a career as a reporter and editor. Kat Ross is a pseudonym for Kitty Stapp, who is an editor for Inter Press Service based out of the UN Headquarters in New York. 

Kat's debut, Some Fine Day, comes out July 1 from Strange Chemistry. You can find her on Twitter and her website.

Kat's Top Ten Hybrid Creatures

Let's do this as a smackdown, shall we?

Round one
Brunwulf vs. Tool the Half-man

What in God's name is it? So I came up with brunwolves for a scene in Some Fine Day that I ended up cutting, but I'm quite fond of them and definitely plan to squeeze them into a later book. Brunwulves are about two hundred and fifty pounds, and most of that is a massive triangular head. Teeth like a wolf, claws and musculature of a bear. Status symbol for gang members and foolhardy rich boys everywhere.
If you haven't read Shipbreaker (and you really should, it's awesome), Paolo Bacigalupi imagined a new species called Half-men, which are a combo of human, dog, hyena, and tiger DNA. Oh yeah.

Why they're a good match: Roughly the same size. Aggressive. Fast. Basically all the big predators are covered here in one crazy Irish stew.

And the winner is… I'm betting on the Half-man, since it's more intelligent and has a longer reach. The key, obviously, is keeping the brunwulf's ginormous fangs away from your jugular.

Round Two
Scorpion Man vs. Anthropophagus 

What in God's name is it? Scorpion Men derive from Akkadian mythology. I'll confess, one of my favorite lists is the one of Legendary Creatures on Wikipedia. That's where I stumbled across this lovely hybrid, back when I was researching another book. So basically, the head, torso and arms of a man and the body of a scorpion.

The Anthropophagus dates to ancient Greece. I'm going with the version from Rick Yancey's Montrumologist series. No head, but a giant, fang-filled maw in the center of the chest. 

Why they're a good match: Both roughly humanoid. Scorpion Man sounds pretty scary. I picture a huge stinger whipping around, so any opponent would have to be lightning-quick. Fortunately, anthropophagi are not only fast, they're nearly impossible to kill.

And the winner is…My money's on the Anthropophagus. They're like twelve feet tall and can spring the length of a tennis court. 

Round Three
C.H.U.D. vs. Level 10

What in God's name is it? So, when I think of mutants, generally this is the first one that comes to mind. A true cult classic. If you weren't around in the early eighties, C.H.U.D. stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. Nuff said.

Level Fives are from Bethany Wiggins' Stung. They're super-scary, super-strong mutants that had a nasty reaction to a bee flu vaccine.

Why they're a good match: Both were human once. Both now have a major vendetta against their erstwhile species. I sincerely doubt they would play well together.

And the winner is…This depends on the venue. If it were in the sewers beneath Manhattan, C.H.U.D. would clearly have the home turf advantage. But out in the open…Very little can stop a Level 10 besides a rocket-propelled grenade.

Round Four
The Thing vs. Fire-Spewing Headless Mule

What in God's name is it? I had to include The Thing because it's one of my all-time favorite horror movies. That music. The creepy sled dog. Kurt Russell as a bearded wildman with a flame-thrower. I guess technically The Thing is an alien, but since it absorbs whatever it kills, I think it qualifies as a hybrid for our purposes today.

Fire-Spewing Headless Mule kind of speaks for itself.

Why they're a good match: The only weapon that's effective against The Thing is fire.

And the winner is…I'm rooting for the Mule. It derives from Brazilian folklore, and is actually a ghost that's been cursed for some pretty heavy-duty sins. But still, better than an intergalactic body-snatching blob.

Round Five
Chimera vs. Jabberwock

What in God's name is it? Chimeras are a lion-snake-goat hybrid from Greek mythology.
The Jabberwock, of course, is Lewis Carroll's beastie from the poem in Through the Looking Glass.

Why they're a good match: The Chimera breathes fire, and the Jabberwock has "eyes of flame," so that's interesting. The Jabberwock has "jaws that bite and claws that catch," but so does a Chimera.

And the winner is…The Jabberwock whiffles and burbles, but the Chimera has three heads. I suspect they'd go the way of the Calico Cat and the Gingham Dog, and eat each other up.

The Giveaway!

Thanks to Kat for the smackdown, and thank you for stopping by! 

--Ashley & Paul

My Little Pony: Friends Forever Vol 1 by Alex de Campi et al. - Ashley's Review

*I received this book as an eARC from Diamond Book Distributors/IDW Publishing on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: My Little Pony: Friends Forever Volume 1
Contributors: Alex de Campi, Jeremy Whitley, Ted Anderson, Rob Anderson, Amy Mebberson, Carla Speed McNeil (Illustrations), Tony Fleecs (Illustrations), Agnes Garbowska (Illustrations)
Publication Date: June 24, 2014

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Pony Tales Vol 1
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Vol 2
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Vol 1

Synopsis: Introducing four tales dedicated to exploring the magic of friendship. First, Applejack and Pinkie Pie enter a baking contest! Then, The Cutie Mark Crusaders team up with Discord, Spike enlists Princess Celestia to help him find a birthday present, and finally, Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armor chase down a mysterious ghost.


Review: It's no secret that I really enjoy My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic more than I probably should and more than I should probably admit. I get really excited when I stumble across a new comic book or see that a new season has been put on Netflix (since I can never figure out when new episodes come on television). And this comic book really did not disappoint me! 

The stories are very short - about 20 pages a piece - and don't really have any overwhelming lessons about friendship. They're short and sweet, and give us a little glimpse into the lives of the ponies. Plus we get to see some new ponies and visit old friends! It's basically just a really good time all around. 

I especially enjoyed all of the pop culture references. There are subtle references (especially in the story with the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Discord) and more blatant ones (the plumbers at the palace in the Crystal Empire are my favorite!) and all of them are just as magical and fantastic as I hoped they would be. I think that's part of the reason I love MLP:FIM so much. Well, the pop culture references and the terrible puns. 

I would totally recommend this comic to anyone who has enjoyed previous My Little Pony comics or the television show. These comics are excellent for young kids just getting into comic books, especially with the vibrant colors, and for those adults who just need a little bit of an escape from the real world every so often. I am so glad that these comics are doing well, and I can't wait to read more of them! 4/5


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Antigoddess (Goddess War #1) by Kendare Blake - Ashley's Review

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Antigoddess (Goddess War #1)
Author: Kendare Blake
Year Published: 2013

My Pre-Reading

The Goddess War begins in Antigoddess, the first installment of the new series by acclaimed author of Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake.

Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god. 

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning. 

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out. 

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.


Review: I loved Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares, so I've been really excited to read Antigoddess. Kendare Blake tackles Greek mythology? Heck yes! And I was definitely not disappointed, this book was most excellent! 

This book felt like it was a lot of setup, and I didn't think the plot moved along very quickly. It took me a few chapters to get into, but once I finally did I really didn't want to put it down. There's a lot of character introduction, and background information on each of the characters. I did like how famous humans from mythology were incorporated, since I think they're overlooked much too often. I don't know much about Cassandra, Hector, or Andromache (past reading The Illiad and The Odyssey a really long time ago), so it was nice to have some of their background included as a refresher. I also really enjoyed how the relationship between Cassandra of Troy and Apollo plays out in this book. 

I didn't really connect with Athena for most of this book - sure she's dying, but so is every other god and goddess. Why should she be the heroine of the story? I eventually began to understand why Athena and Hermes were the better team to root for (Poseidon is ridiculously creepy, Aphrodite has lost her mind, and Hera doesn't care at all about the human population), and it was interesting to learn more about Aphrodite and Hermes and their opinions of each other. I think there's a lot more to learn about them, and I'm looking forward to meeting more of the gods and goddesses as the series progresses.

Although the plot doesn't race along at a breakneck speed, I really enjoyed how the pacing matched up with the two interwoven story lines (one follows Athena and the other follow Cassandra). They run pretty parallel for a while, and then eventually converge into one crazy story. I think it will be really interesting to see how far Cassandra is willing to go after the end of the book, and what Athena might have to do to rein her in. 

Overall, I think this was a really great start to what will be an excellent series! If you like books that have Greek mythology, you should definitely check out Antigoddess. While it's definitely different from Anna Dressed in Blood, this book is still filled to the brim with Kendare's beautiful writing and incredible characters. I can't wait to get my hands on the next book! 4/5. 


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Orange Blossom by Sarah Daltry Promo + Excerpts!

Book Info:

Title: Orange Blossom
Author: Sarah Daltry

“I’ve never understood a year. A year was always a measurement of something bad for me. A year in my father’s prison sentence, a year since my mom’s death, a year left of school before I could get far, far away from here. Now, as I look down the end of my college career, with only a little more than a semester to go, a year seems like something magical. It has been a year since Lily chose me, since she sat with me on the old swing set and made a decision that I was worthy of her. And every minute of the entire year has been better than the last.”

You already know their stories: Lily, the perfect princess, always living someone else’s life. And Jack, the broken boy, who had stopped believing in hope. Somehow, though, they found each other and what was one night blossomed into a love story.

Now, a year later, Jack and Lily are dreaming of the future. Despite all of his promises to himself that he would never be indebted to anyone, Jack makes a new promise – this time to Lily – that he will be there for her forever. But when life unravels for them, he starts to pull away, and Lily worries he’s out of reach for good.

When Jack does the unthinkable, Lily is left destroyed. Is it possible to have a happily ever after? Does love ever really save anyone?

Amazon | Apple | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | All Romance | Smashwords

Excerpt #1:

“I don’t have a ring, and I don’t have anything planned. I was going to plan something. It was going to be big and special and important, but I can’t. I can’t wait to tell you. I love you, Lily. You make me happy, as if that’s something that can even be real for me. I know you can probably think of a million places more romantic than the cemetery, but this is my family, and this is me, in all that I can offer. It’s nothing much, but you’ve made me believe that it might be good enough for you. You’ve changed my life, Lily. And I want to make you a part of the rest of it. Forever. I want you forever.”
She’s crying as she looks down at me on the ground. “What are you saying, Jack?”
“Marry me, princess? Not now, or really anytime soon. I don’t know when. I have very little to give you. I don’t even know when I can afford a ring. I was going to go look for one this week, although it will probably be tiny and nothing that can represent how much I love you and how much you deserve. I know I’m not what you pictured when you were a little girl and you wanted a husband or whatever, but Lily, I love you more than anyone else can. And I want you to be my wife, whatever that means, because I can’t imagine one day of a future that doesn’t have you in it.”
She lifts me to my feet and hugs me. “Yes, of course. I don’t care about a ring or even a wedding. I just want you. Forever. Nothing else is important to me. I will never not love you. Whatever you want to call that, I’m happy to be a part of it. I have two years left of school, but I can promise you that, in two years or fifty, at the end of it, you’re the future for me.”
We kiss and I wish it was epic and fireworks shot through the sky, but it’s not. It’s just me and Lily, holding each other like we do most nights, but I’m kissing my fiancĂ©e and that has some kind of importance to it. I believe my mom would be happy for me, because I need to believe it. The whole night, the holiday, the setting, the awkward proposal even, it’s all how it should be, because, although it’s not something people tell their kids twenty years down the road, it’s so real to us.

Excerpt #2:

He’s smiling. Not that smirk he gets when he’s bitter but also pleased about something. It’s not the smile that says that he knows happiness is temporary. When he lines up his Skee-ball shot, there is a smile on his face that is pure. Genuine. It’s like taking a step back and seeing Jack in a photograph. One from years before his life went crazy. He is just a dorky kid playing Skee-ball and he’s so happy when he nails the shot. He does an awkward little dance and it’s the kind of thing about Jack that makes me love him. He’s gorgeous and sexy and aggressive yet sweet. He’s kind and considerate of me, both sexually and in general. But I don’t love Jack for that. I love him because there is light in the world in the space he takes up. I know he doesn’t see it, but he’s inside himself. From the outside, all I see is the absolute electricity and fire that fills the air around him.
“That’s how it’s done,” he tells me when he finishes his game, wrapping up his ridiculous stack of tickets. I’m so going to lose, but I don’t care. He’s happy. I just almost wish I were better at this, so we could stay here longer, so that Jack could be this part of himself for as long as he needs.
“I think you’re perfect,” I say.
“Because I’m good at Skee-ball? Shit, that’s all it takes?”
I shake my head. “No, but you tell me all the time. I don’t think I ever say it to you. I don’t like the idea of perfection. It’s too much of a standard to live up to, but I don’t think you even understand. It’s cheesy and probably clichĂ©, but I just can’t imagine how I could breathe without you. How did I exist before this?”
He looks down, uncomfortable because it is one thing to tell Jack he’s hot or sexy; he can handle that and he gets arrogant and ridiculous when I tell him that. However, this part of him, this vulnerability, he buries it so deep that drawing attention to it makes him want to disappear. But I don’t want that. I want him to embrace it, because it’s beautiful.
“Don’t look down,” I say and I lift his face to look at me. His eyes explode with light, the way fireworks do on New Year’s when the sky is like ink and then it’s suddenly on fire. I lean in and kiss him, feeling his hands tighten on my arms and his lips opening against mine. He’s scared. I can feel it in the way he kisses me today; he feels himself falling and he is trying to hold on and I need to figure out how to be steady enough to hold him. “Trust me,” I plead. “Let me take some of what you’re feeling. I can handle it, Jack.”
He nods. “Another day. Today, I just want to stay here, to be here with you, where it’s safe and comfortable and my entire world is this. Where strawberries and popcorn and Skee-ball and shitty plastic toys are the entirety of what exists.” He pauses. “I promise, Lily. I will. Soon. But let me hide from it. Just for a little longer?”
“Okay, but don’t hide from me, okay?” I ask.

Excerpt #3:

“It’s been such a long day,” I say to Dave, standing in my doorway. He’s watching TV and he turns it off, looking over at me.
“It really has. I’m sorry this is happening. I know we’ve each lived through an entire lifetime already. It’s kind of overwhelming, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. It is. Do you wanna talk about-”
“No,” he interrupts. “I like coming home, because it’s like I can leave a part of myself here and then slip it back on over what I’ve become. I don’t know if I can ever be ready to merge the two.”
I nod. I get it. Maybe not totally, but each of us has had to be more than one person throughout the things we’ve seen. It scares me, because I only know about war from books and movies, and I hate picturing my friend as a part of that, but I know that he hates us picturing it of him more. So I try to remember the guy he was and forget all that when he’s home.
“Hey, this is weird, but I need pallbearers.”
“Of course,” Dave says. “You didn’t have to ask. You’re still my best friend.”
“I brought Lily to the arcade today. It was nice, hiding there for a while.”
“Remember when you broke the Centipede game? And that guy just shrugged and told you it was a shit game anyway?” He laughs, even though the story isn’t really funny. Some asshole at school had been harassing me again, and he’d been saying things about Alana as well. I had wanted to fight him, but after the last time, I hadn’t wanted to be suspended again. So Dave and I had gone to the arcade to forget it, but I’d lost and then I got pissed at the game, kicking and smashing it until it was ruined.
“I don’t have the best history of handling things well,” I admit.
He shakes his head. “No, you don’t. But really? If it comes down to it… I’d just… well, a game is a thing. I’d rather see you destroy that.”

Excerpt #4:

I turn and thank people for coming. Most aren’t going to the cemetery with us, so it’s the only chance I have to see them. Abby hesitates and I’m not sure if I should ask her to come, to go to the reception after, but this whole thing is uncomfortable. The entire concept of a party after you bury someone is wrong in so many ways, but it’s a tradition and my family is nothing if not committed to traditions. I’m sure if Jack had planned this, we would sit around and get drunk, but instead, we’re going out for Italian food.
“Thanks for coming,” I say absently, until I notice I’m shaking my mother’s hand.
“What’s the matter?” she asks.
How do I answer her? What do I say? Well, Mom, the boy you seem to dislike so much but who is the sole happiness I have in my life is closing me out and I don’t want to be here and I just want to be back at school where this isn’t happening and chemistry exams are my worst problem. Instead, I just mumble, “It’s really sad.”
“These things happen, Lily. It’s part of growing up.”
I look up at her, her face so stoic as always. I do love my mom, but as I get older, I understand her less and less. “Well, it’s a shitty part.”
“Just smile and thank people. It’s the only thing you can do.”
“That’s your solution to everything, isn’t it? ‘Just smile and thank people?’ Just be everything perfect and pretty on the outside even if you’re falling apart?” I ask. I realize I’m raising my voice and I try to quiet myself, because I don’t want to make a scene and the guys are coming back, but it’s a year of frustration coming out now. “What about being real? Being something? How do you go through life just being no better than the pretty decorations you fill the damn house with?”
She doesn’t break her smile, just looks down, and nods softly. “Is standing here yelling at me, during a funeral, making anything better?”
“I don’t know, but being a plastic doll doesn’t, either. I’m tired of being a doll, Mom.”

Excerpt #5:

“I know you’re worried about me,” he tells my parents. “When I met Lily, I knew there were, like, slots in her life for things, but I didn’t fit into any of them. I tried not to feel things for her. I figured she would be better off, and she was with Derek anyway. The thing is, though, I love her. I loved her the moment I saw her and not just because she was beautiful. She made me want to prove myself. I tend to be dismissive of anyone who makes me feel inferior, but I wanted to show her I wasn’t. Still, I tried. But I love your daughter. I can’t not love her and I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry I hurt her and I’m sorry I felt like leaving. I’m sorry I can’t promise you that I won’t do it again. I’m sorry I love her like I do.”
My dad sighs, shaking his head, and he stares at the cheese tray. I know he wants to find the right words, to explain to Jack that they don’t want him to feel guilty for feeling like he does, but that they don’t know what they’re doing, either. I can see all of it and I want to say it for them, but I’m tired of speaking for them and I’m tired of defending Jack.
“You shouldn’t apologize,” he finally says. “We should. You’ve had a lot of challenges in your life, and it scared us. Lily’s young.” He looks at me, taking in my scowl, but he continues talking to Jack. “She thinks she’s all grown up. She thinks she has all the answers. And, in a lot of ways, she does, because it’s her life. But you bring a lot of pain with you, Jack. No father wants to see that kind of pain in his daughter’s eyes, even if your intentions are honorable.”
“I want to sit here and make you promises,” Jack replies. “I want to sit here and make her promises. But obviously, I can’t. I just got out today. I don’t know what I’ll feel like next week or next month, never mind in ten years. But I love her. That’s all I know how to do.”

Orange Blossom Playlist

About the Series:

Forget Me Not (Lily’s Story)

This is a coming of age story, but it isn’t always sweet and innocent. If dirty talk, bedroom toys, and threesomes offend you… this is not your book. 

“No one tells you when you start school just how homesick you will be, or how hard it will be to start life over with no direction and no friends or family. No one says that becoming your own person is terrifying.”

I never wanted anything but Derek, my brother’s best friend. When I chose a college, it didn’t seem to matter that he would be an hour away. We could survive it. After all, we were in love. But almost immediately, things change between us. I blame myself. Maybe I’m just not sure how to be a girlfriend and independent.

Life seems to be getting away from me – and then there’s Jack, the guy down the hall. He’s rude and vulgar and my parents would be shocked by him, yet every single time I see him, I feel like I’m being pulled toward him. It’s physical, sure, but there’s something in Jack’s eyes – and I want to know him.

I know I don’t always make the right choices, and I’m the only person at fault when everything falls apart. How do I tell Derek, the guy who was supposed to be everything, that I don’t feel like fighting for him anymore? And do I run to Jack, when I know his past is way too much for me to handle when I’ve just turned 19? Finally, where do I end up in all of this? Can I be more than just someone else’s idea of what I should be?

Buy Links:
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Lily of the Valley (Jack’s Story): 

Jack’s story isn’t pretty. He’s suicidal, depressed, and he uses meaningless sex and alcohol to survive. However, the story is about finding light in the darkness, but sometimes the road there isn’t always easy to walk.

“No one tells you about pain. They tell you that it hurts, that sometimes it’s consuming. What they don’t tell you is that it’s not the pain that can kill you. It’s the uncomfortable numbness that follows, the weakness in your body when you realize your lungs may stop taking in air and you just can’t exert enough energy to care. It’s the way taste and color and smell fade from the world and all you’re left with is a sepia print of misery. That’s when the shift starts – the movement from passive to active. I fall asleep, hoping that the morning will bring back the pain. At least the pain is a thing.”

I’m a plague, a cancer. My mom is dead – and my father is in prison for it. I survived high school because college was my way out. I needed to escape, to get away from my family and the people who tortured me, but it hasn’t grown any easier.

I don’t pretend that I’m a good person. I drink far more than I should, and I use my best friend, Alana, because together, we thrive on destroying each other – as well as the parts of us we hate. I don’t believe in love, but sex is fun and it also makes me feel something.

The morning I see Lily, the beautiful princess who smells inexplicably like strawberries every time I see her, I realize I’m in trouble. I should hate her. I want to hate her, because the alternative terrifies me. However, as she continues to crash into my life (often literally), I can’t avoid feeling something that is the one thing I swore I would never feel. I can’t fall in love, because people like me don’t live in a world where love saves anyone.

She just won’t go away, though, and I don’t know if I can keep running. The voices and the darkness hover over me and they threaten to bring me back to the safety of my hate, but the stupid scent of strawberries lingers on the horizon, as something like hope.

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Blue Rose (Alana’s Story): 

Warning: This book deals with topics of abuse and may trigger reactions in people who have experienced those things in their own lives. It remains a story about healing, but it’s not always an easy journey.

“Four. My life has been shaped by four people. Four men, to be more specific. My father, my stepfather, my best friend, and my boyfriend. The first two shaped it in horrible ways, but what I am, who I am, is all because of four men.”

Over the last twenty years, I’ve learned how to keep secrets. It doesn’t really matter, since everyone already seems to think they know everything about me. So I hide. I avoid confrontation, I treat Xanax like a magic pill that will make it all go away, and I become everything they think I am. A slut. A whore. Nothing but trash.

I can only name two guys who have ever made me feel like I was more than that. Jack is my best friend and I’ve loved him since I met him. Now, though, he’s in love… with someone else, and I guess I need to get over him. Somehow.

And then there’s Dave. The guy I never gave a chance. The guy I used almost as much as people used me, because I wanted to pretend I was someone worth loving. Two years have passed since we last spoke, but I don’t know how to stop thinking about him.

My new therapist is making me face my past, and she tells me that life inevitably changes without our permission. I believe it, but I know what I am. I hear what she’s saying to me, and I want to try again with Dave, to help Jack find joy, to love myself, and to move on. I just wonder if anyone can do that, really.

Buy Links:
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Star of Bethlehem (Holiday Novella): 

This is a holiday novella-length story that follows Forget Me Not and Lily of the Valley.

“With you, Jack, it was the first time I ever felt real. It was the first time anyone looked at me and saw substance. It was the first time I wanted to make someone see me.”

Jack: New Year’s Eve. I’ve somehow managed to get here, and now I’m wearing a hideous and unreasonably itchy sweater, because I want to impress Lily’s family. I want to do anything for this girl who has made me believe in second chances.

Lily: The house is beautiful and shining with light, but it feels empty. At least until Jack gets here. I know how desperately he wants this – a family, love, a home. If I can be the person who can give it to him, it’s all I need, but I hope I can keep him from seeing how hollow it all really is.

Buy Links:

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Ambrosia (Final Title): 

Releases June 6, 2014

Four years. One night that was supposed to be an escape turned into four years. And now, four years is about to turn into forever.

Lily was never anything special. A perfect girl from a perfect world living an empty life. She was lost, thinking she knew who she was and what she wanted. She thought she knew love, but then there was a boy.

Jack has been through Hell. Watching his mother die - at his father’s hands - will never leave him. He had given up on living a life, figuring he would drink himself to death, if he didn’t give in to all the voices telling him to kill himself first. And then there was a girl who smelled like strawberries.

Two years have passed since Orange Blossom. Jack and Lily are only months away from their wedding and their journey is about to come to an end. Join them in the final title in the Flowering series, a story of growing up, of finding yourself, and of “blooming.”

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About the Author:

Sarah Daltry is a girl who writes books. The books are in all genres, because Sarah’s not so great at committing to things. She’s happily married and she and her husband live with their cats in New England. Sarah is painfully shy and, if you are able to find her, she is probably in a corner, hiding. She also wrote Bitter Fruits (urban fantasy NA vampire romance), Backward Compatible: A Geek Love Story (NA/YA gamer geek romantic comedy), The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: A Modern Reimagining (literary novella), and The Quiver of a Kiss: The Seduction of Helen of Troy (historical erotica), as well as several short stories and works of erotica.

Author Social Media Links (Sarah doesn’t handle her own social media):

Social Media Links:
Facebook | Facebook Page (New) | Facebook Page (Old) | Jack and Lily's Facebook Page | Twitter | Google+ | YouTube

Son (The Giver #4) by Lois Lowry - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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Title: Son (The Giver #4)
Author: Lois Lowry
Year Published: 2012

They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive? She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice.

Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messenger where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.

Why?: I remember reading The Giver when I was in elementary school and loving it. And then I read it again. And again. And a few more times. I think, of all the books I've read, it's probably the one I've read the most. And I love it every time. I also enjoyed the sequels, Gathering Blue and Messenger, but I figured that was the end of the story. So I was really excited when I first heard about Son, and I've been wanting to read it for quite a while now.

Expectations: Although it's been a while since my last reread of The Giver, I have pretty high expectations for this book. I don't expect it to be a direct sequel, but I do expect it to rely heavily on the world constructed in The Giver and be more of a companion novel like the other two "sequels." I love Lowry's writing, and I expect this book to be beautifully written and full of life lessons and moments when I just have to put the book down for minute to take everything in.

Judging a book by its cover: This cover is really... stark? I think that's a good word. The white really stands out, especially near the bottom, and it's really unlike any other book you typically see in the YA/MG sections. I think that maybe snow will pay a large part in the story (or maybe just winter), and I like that it gives very little away. I would probably pick this up based on the cover alone.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Everyday Angel #1: New Beginnings by Victoria Schwab - Ashley's Review

*I received this book as an eARC from Scholastic on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Title: Everyday Angel #1: New Beginnings
Author: Victoria Schwab
Publication Date: May 27, 2014

My Pre-Reading

Meet a guardian angel like no other, from a writer like no other. Bold rising star, Victoria Schwab, makes her whimsical, inspiring, and clever middle-grade debut.

At a first glance, Aria seems like your average twelve-year-old girl. She has coppery hair, colored shoelaces, and a passion for cupcakes. But there's more to Aria than meets the eye. She can dream things into existence, use her own shadow like a door, and change the world in small, important ways. Aria is a guardian angel. She's been sent here to earn her wings. But to do that, she'll have to help three different girls.

Aria's first mission is Gabby Torres. Gabby's always been quiet, but ever since her brother got sick, she's barely said a word.When a new school offers her a fresh start, Gabby wants badly to be someone new, but she quickly learns it's hard to make friends while keeping half her life a secret.

And then Aria shows up. Aria, who knows exactly what to say and do to make Gabby feel better. Will she be able to help Gabby find her voice? And will Gabby still trust Aria when she finds out exactly what she is?

Think John Green for middle grade, with a touch of magic!


Review:  Victoria Schwab continues to stun me with her gorgeous writing, incredible characters, and surprising plots. This is a middle grade book, but the only thing that makes it feel that way is the age of the characters. Other than that, I think this book could and should be enjoyed by people of all ages. It was so good! 

I really loved that Aria is a guardian angel, but she isn't centuries old. She doesn't understand some things in our world since she's only been alive for about a week and on Earth less than that. Sure, she's sent to help, but she can only help in small ways. She can't heal Gabby's brother. She can't magically make Gabby discover that she's her own person. But she can be a friend and encourage Gabby to step outside her comfort zone, make friends, and find her voice. There are rules for guardian angels, and I thought that it was interesting to see how Aria would find ways to accomplish her mission in spite of those rules. 

This book switches perspectives every chapter, and I think that that really helped developed both Gabby and Aria. It allows the reader to get inside each girl's head and find out how they're dealing with certain situations. Because, even though this is a middle grade book about angels, there's still hard subjects to deal with like sickness and death. We get to see Gabby struggle with her brother's sickness, and we get to see Aria's outsider perspective. I thought that the hard subjects were dealt with really well, and that this book could even help young girls who might be in a situation similar to Gabby's. 

Another thing I really appreciated about this book was that, although Aria is a guardian angel sent to help Gabby, there's no mention of who sent her or where she came from or how she got to be an angel. I think that will help this book hit home for a larger audience, since you can believe whatever you want about Aria's beginnings. It makes it easier to relate to this story, and it helps the reader not become hung up on things that don't matter to the story. 

I wish that there were books like this at my book fairs when I was in middle school, because I would have picked it up, devoured it, and then made all of my friends read it too. I'm really excited about this series, and I think that fans of any of Victoria's other books will really enjoy New Beginnings. It's a fresh new take on guardian angels, and I can't want to read the rest of the series! 5/5, for sure.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

The One (The Selection #3) by Kiera Cass - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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Title: The One (The Selection #3)
Author: Kiera Cass
Year Published: 2014

My The Guard (#2.5) Review
My The Elite (#2) Review
My The Selection (#1) Review
My The Prince (#0.5) Review

Paul's The Guard (#2.5) Review
Paul's The Elite (#2) Review
Paul's The Selection (#1) Review
Paul's The Prince (#0.5) Review

Synopsis: The Selection changed the lives of thirty-five girls forever. And now, the time has come for one winner to be chosen.

America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon's heart. But as the competition approaches its end and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she'll have to fight for the future she wants.

From the very first page of The Selection, this #1 New York Times bestselling series has captured readers' hearts and swept them away on a captivating journey... Now, in The One, Kiera Cass delivers a satisfying and unforgettable conclusion that will keep readers sighing over this electrifying fairy-tale long after the final page is turned.

Why?: I really enjoyed the first two books in this series (as well as the novellas), so I've been (not-so) patiently waiting for this book for a while! Mostly I just really want to know if America picks Maxon (Team Maxon all the way!). 

Expectations: I definitely think this book will be darker than the previous two - since the threats outside are growing more vicious. I'm actually looking forward to that, because I think this series has been a lot lighter than I initially though. I'm also expecting America to have to make some hard choices. Overall, I just have really high expectations for The One because I enjoyed the other books so much! 

Judging a book by its cover: I love this cover. I love that she's in white (is it a wedding dress?!), and I love how it matches the other two covers. This cover is gorgeous, and it would totally stand out on a shelf. I'm really excited to finally have it on my shelves!


Friday, May 23, 2014

RELEASE DAY PARTY: Orange Blossom by Sarah Daltry

We’re happy to celebrate the release of new adult contemporary romance Orange Blossom. Come celebrate with us!

Orange Blossom (a Flowering novel) by Sarah Daltry

About the book

 Title: Orange Blossom
Author: Sarah Daltry

“I’ve never understood a year. A year was always a measurement of something bad for me. A year in my father’s prison sentence, a year since my mom’s death, a year left of school before I could get far, far away from here. Now, as I look down the end of my college career, with only a little more than a semester to go, a year seems like something magical. It has been a year since Lily chose me, since she sat with me on the old swing set and made a decision that I was worthy of her. And every minute of the entire year has been better than the last.”

You already know their stories: Lily, the perfect princess, always living someone else’s life. And Jack, the broken boy, who had stopped believing in hope. Somehow, though, they found each other and what was one night blossomed into a love story.

Now, a year later, Jack and Lily are dreaming of the future. Despite all of his promises to himself that he would never be indebted to anyone, Jack makes a new promise – this time to Lily – that he will be there for her forever. But when life unravels for them, he starts to pull away, and Lily worries he’s out of reach for good.

When Jack does the unthinkable, Lily is left destroyed. Is it possible to have a happily ever after? Does love ever really save anyone?

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--Ashley & Paul