Waiting on Wednesday: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Waiting on Wednesday2

Waiting On Wednesday, hosted by Breaking the Spine, lets us book hoarding bloggers highlight a book we’re excited for each week. This week I’m waiting on Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson.

since you've been gone

GoodReads Description: The Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough.Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait… what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

Why I’m Excited: I’m just in a summer kind of mood and this books sounds like it will fit that vibe perfectly.  I’m actually really looking forward to reading it.

Since You’ve Been Gone comes out 6 May 2014 from Simon & Schuster.

Fiction: Writing the Outcast (Los Angeles Times Festival of Books 2010)

Fiction: Writing the Outcast (Los Angeles Times Festival of Books 2010)Book: Writing the Outcast (Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (2010 Panel 2031)) by Joshua Braff, Mark Haskell Smith, Rob Roberge, Tod Goldberg, Tony DuShane
Narrated by Joshua Braff, Mark Haskell Smith, Rob Roberge, Tod Goldberg, Tony DuShane; 1 hour 1 minute
Release Information: 2010 from Los Angeles Times
Source: Purchased through Audible
Summary: The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books began in 1996 with a simple goal: to bring together the people who create books with the people who love to read them. The festival was an immediate success and has become the largest and most prestigious book festival in the country, attracting more than 130,000 book lovers each year.

 

Quick review for a quick listen: When I lived in LA, my favorite weekend of the whole year was the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.  It is what I miss most about LA.  I always loved the panels–authors are often funny, quirky people, and, at LATFOB, there were always insightful comments about literature and writing.  I was beyond excited to discover that I could buy these recorded panels through audible.

Writing the Outcast is hilarious, but it definitely has adult humor, and in some respects, a very LA-brand of humor.  Go in expecting to be offended at least once.  I appreciated that the moderator said that they wouldn’t take stupid questions; this fit the humor of the panel, but stupid audience questions are my biggest pet peeve at author events, so part of me knows it wasn’t really a joke.  This also isn’t an instruction manual or a writing class; it is a conversation between writers that is loosely focused around writing outcasts.  The conversation meandered, but I found the whole thing incredibly entertaining.

EDIT: There has been some confusing as to what this is.  Sorry, I used the standard review format, but this is not a book.  This is a recording of a live panel that is available on audible.  I definitely recommend it, though.

5 Stars

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Fool Moon by Jim ButcherBook: Fool Moon (The Dresden Files #2) by Jim Butcher
Narrated by James Marsters; 10 hours and 6 minutes
Release Information: 10 June 2009 from Buzzy Multimedia Publishing Corp.
Source: Purchased through Audible
Add to Goodreads
Summary: Harry Dresden--Wizard
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Business has been slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn't been able to dredge up any kind of work--magicalor mundane.

But just when it looks like he can't afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise.

A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses--and the first two don't count...

 

Thoughts: I watched The Dresden Files years ago when it was a TV show, and it has been a few years since I read the first book in the series, Storm Front.  I shouldn’t have waited so long to continue this series.  I love detective stories and I love magic.  This series combines the two in a way that ups the tension, adds to the mystery, and makes everything more exciting.

Fool Moon is a werewolf story and I really enjoyed the different elements it juggled.  I did not piece together what was happening, so I was on the edge of my seat as Harry Dresden solved the mystery, but then had to fight his way out of a tough situation.  The very, very end had a bit of a twist that I found surprising and thought-provoking.  I also appreciated that there are a few clues thrown in for the bigger series mystery.  I’m just as curious as Harry is to find out about his mother, and I hope it’s something dealt with sooner rather than later, as I continue reading.

Favorite Moment: Figuring out what the FBI was hiding… I did not see that coming!

WTF Moment: At one point Harry puts on a magical wolf belt and transforms into a werewolf.  It is a very intense scene, perfect within the book, but also shocking to hear the animal instinct take over within a first person perspective.

Narrator:  I seriously love James Marsters, and his deep, gravelly voice was perfect for Harry Dresden.  He perfectly captures Dresden’s weariness and resignation, but his determination, intelligence, and magic as well.

Overall: I love The Dresden Files.  They take one of my favorite genres–classic crime/detective novels–and add magic!

5 Stars

Waiting On Wednesday: What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Waiting on Wednesday2

Waiting On Wednesday, hosted by Breaking the Spine, lets us book hoarding bloggers highlight a book we’re excited for each week. This week I’m waiting on What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick.

What I Thought Was True

GoodReads Description:

From the author of My Life Next Door comes a swoony summertime romance full of expectation and regret, humor and hard questions.

Gwen Castle’s Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He’s a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island’s summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she’ll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen’s dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

A magnetic, push-me-pull-me romance with depth, this is for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Deb Caletti.

Why I’m Excited: I loved Fitzpatrick’s debut, My Life Next Door, so much.  It is the kind of book that makes you laugh, cry, and end up just being happy.  It’s not just that there is sweet romance, but it is that sweet romance can exist as a beacon of hope in a sometimes-dark world.  It is exactly my kind of romance and I expect What I Thought Was True to be exactly what I need in my life right now.

What I Thought Was True comes out April 15, 2014 from Dial Books for Young Readers.

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

**I received this book for free through Book Expo America in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan SpoonerBook: These Broken Stars (Starbound #1) by Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner
Release Information: 20 November 2013 from Disney-Hyperion
Source: Book Expo America
Add to Goodreads
Summary: It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. 

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. 

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

--

A timeless love story, THESE BROKEN STARS sets into motion a sweeping science fiction series of companion novels. The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

 

Thoughts: I read this book in January before I started student teaching, so this will be a quick review.  Still, I wanted to make sure I reviewed it because I enjoyed it.  It’s different and entertaining, although not perfect nor everything I hoped it would be.

There are plenty of things to like about These Broken Stars.  We get two points of view, something I enjoy in romance, but we also get snippets of Tarver’s interrogation after the rescue.  This set up really kept me flipping pages because I love seeing how different pieces in a novel will come together.  I also appreciated the romance.  Lilac is definitely a product of her upbringing, but, then again, so is Tarver.  They’re from such completely different worlds and watching them reconcile the past and the future was one of my favorite parts of the book.

There is a major WTF moment at the end that I know other bloggers have commented on.  It was definitely a surprise, but ultimately fell flat with me as a reader.   View Spoiler »

Favorite Moments: When Lilac has to take care of Tarver.  It is a very different manifestation of the inner strength that she’s always had.

WTF Moments: Finding out what happened to Simon, the first boy Lilac loved.

Overall: I enjoyed These Broken Stars and am curious to see how the two companion novels will fit into the world created by Kaufman and Spooner.

4 Stars

A Break In the Radio Silence

BEA_logo_starburstI haven’t been around much the last few months because I’ve been student teaching.  It has been challenging and time consuming, but an amazing and rewarding learning experience.  I have two weeks left and am sad to say goodbye, but am excited to have my own classroom next year.  Any advice from current teachers is greatly appreciated as I look for a job and (hopefully) prepare for my first full year of teaching.

I am excited to start reading and reviewing again, but I’m also excited to read blogs.  I feel completely out of the loop and can’t wait to catch up on the latest book boyfriends, newest series to obsess over, and all the announcements I’ve missed for debut authors.  Seriously, point me in the direction of any books or posts I have missed over the last two months that you think are amazing.

The last thing I want to mention here is that I am planning on attending BEA and the Book Bloggers Conference.  If you are going, please let me know!  My favorite thing about BEA is that I get to meet other bloggers and book lovers.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to walk away from blogging because of how much I love the people I’ve met through my blog.  So, old friends and future friends: let’s hang out in New York City.

 

Green Valley by Israel Parker

**I received this book for free through Jen Halligan PR in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Green Valley by Israel ParkerBook: Green Valley by Israel Parker
Release Information: November 2013 from IJP Press
Source: Jen Halligan PR
Add to Goodreads
Summary: A serial killer is on the loose in Green Valley, but what if he's the good guy?

The year is 2036 and the United States is pulling out of an economic crisis, thanks to new industries and technologies that thrive in Green Valley, Ohio. Regarded as "America's Hope," the city also boasts being named the safest city in America for five years running. But now Green Valley, one of only a handful of cities protected by the still-experimental Unified Enforcement Police, struggles to catch a new-era murderer who continues to kill and elude capture. As the elite federal police close in on the killer, they discover that something darker has infiltrated their perfect city.

Happily bumbling through his predictable life, Milton Simon comes face-to-face with murderer Clarence Jasper and is surprised to find that the killer has a message for him: JOIN ME. Milton soon learns that not only is Green Valley not the safe haven everyone perceives it to be; it’s Hell on Earth

 

Thoughts: This book is like nothing I’ve read before.  It is a thriller-mystery with several unique elements and a few twists that I’m still trying to piece together.  It’s told from multiple points of view, which worked well for the complicated storyline, and I was always able to keep track of the narrative.

The main story-line follows a group of cannibals infiltrating the city of Green Valley.  It is creepy, but I was worried that this would turn out to be gimmicky.  It wasn’t.  There is a reasonable explanation for why there are cannibals, and they have reasons for the actions they take in the book.  We also have this sort of supernatural place, called Pinwheel, which introduces some interesting ideas about religion and human consciousness.  Pinwheel is explored in a believable way and I am interested in seeing where Parker takes it in his next book.

I really enjoyed the story, although I would have preferred more resolution at the end.  Green Valley is definitely the first book in a series and while it ended at a natural place, it also left many questions unanswered and the good guys in a tight spot.  While I would have appreciated some moral ambiguity in the bad guys, it is not what this book is trying to do.

Favorite Moments: One character is changed by Pinwheel and comes back to the real world as a BAMF.  I really enjoyed her fight scenes.

WTF Moments: This book is about cannibalism, so logic says that my WTF moment should be about eating people.  It’s not.  My WTF moment came when I realized criminals weren’t tried in front of juries.

Overall: A unique thriller set in a terrifying future.

3 Stars

Blog Tour: Green Valley by Israel Parker

Blog Tour: Green Valley by Israel Parker

Blog Tour: Green Valley by Israel ParkerBook: Green Valley by Israel Parker
Release Information: November 2013 from IJP Press
Source: Jen Halligan PR
Add to Goodreads
Summary: A serial killer is on the loose in Green Valley, but what if he's the good guy?

The year is 2036 and the United States is pulling out of an economic crisis, thanks to new industries and technologies that thrive in Green Valley, Ohio. Regarded as "America's Hope," the city also boasts being named the safest city in America for five years running. But now Green Valley, one of only a handful of cities protected by the still-experimental Unified Enforcement Police, struggles to catch a new-era murderer who continues to kill and elude capture. As the elite federal police close in on the killer, they discover that something darker has infiltrated their perfect city.

Happily bumbling through his predictable life, Milton Simon comes face-to-face with murderer Clarence Jasper and is surprised to find that the killer has a message for him: JOIN ME. Milton soon learns that not only is Green Valley not the safe haven everyone perceives it to be; it’s Hell on Earth.

Green Valley: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

 

Today I get to host Israel Parker, author of GREEN VALLEY, as he shares some of the awkward google searches he conducted while writing his book.  There is a giveaway at the bottom of this post and, later this week, I will share my review.

“Most Awkward Google Searches While Researching This Book”
Guest Post by Israel Parker

Having been given some choices in which to write about I ended up selecting “Most awkward Google searches while researching this book.”  Green Valley tackles some topics, which even given this world where “The Walking Dead” is a hit television show, may seem taboo.

I had nearly finished the book when I conducted the following search “Cannibalism.” What came up was a list of stories where cannibalism had been the theme of a crime. While interesting, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.  I really wanted something that explained the cause of “Cannibalism.”  However before I did that, I texted my writing partner and asked her what she knew about cannibalism.  She replied with, I will paraphrase to keep this PG-13, “what the heck are you doing?”

I sent back the following. “Research for Green Valley.”

“What?”

“I’m looking up cannibalism for my book.”

“LOL.”

I must stop here and say that when she finally read the final product, she stated that I was both “insane” and…”insane”.

She also said, “This is the most original story I’ve ever seen.”

I said. “Thanks.”

Anyway, so after I finished my texts with my writing partner, I went back to my old friend Google and typed in “History of Cannibalism.”  There came up some delightful articles about several folks in recent years that had taken upon themselves to fry up and eat their friends.  There were also some articles about tribes, some of which are still in existence, in different places, more than you would expect, where eating your freshly dead neighbor is a way to not be wasteful of a dead body or…meat, depending on your perspective.  Interesting concept.  Reduce, reuse, and recycle comes to mind for some reason.

Lastly let me say that it was, for the most part, always taboo for humans to eat other humans.  This was what really intrigued me.  I almost forgot to say that I also Google searched some interesting cooking recipes, but I’ll save that for next time:) So I’ll leave you with the words of Julia Child – “Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun.”

Israel_Parker

 

About Israel Parker

Israel Parker is a former Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmer, Coast Guard Officer, and author of widely successful YA book, The Anne Marie.

In 2004, Israel was stationed at Air Station New Orleans, one of the Coast Guard’s busiest air, search and rescue units. One year later, Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed the Crescent City. He participated in countless daring rescues. These experiences fueled his desire to tell his stories.

Israel currently is stationed in Barboursville, West Virginia with his wife Melanie, their two children and their faithful Basset Hound, Roxanne. He remains on active duty, serving his country as a Coast Guard Officer.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

GIVEAWAY

One grand prize winner will receive a Kindle Paperwhite, and 2 winners will receive a signed copy of GREEN VALLEY. (US only)

***Any contestant that uses dummy or contest only accounts to enter will be disqualified.***
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Forgive Me Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick

Forgive Me Leonard Peacock, by Matthew QuickBook: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Narrated by Noah Galvin; 6 hours and 19 minutes
Release Information: 13 August 2013 from Hachette Audio
Source: Purchased through Audible
Add to Goodreads
Summary: In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I'm sorry I couldn't be more than I was—that I couldn't stick around—and that what's going to happen today isn't their fault.

Today is Leonard Peacock's birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather's P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school's class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out.

Thoughts: I listened to this audiobook back in November, after hearing to Matthew Quick speak at the National Book Festival.  I knew going in that the narrator was going to be angry, but I did not expect how intense this story was.  Part of the reason that I’ve waited so long to write my review is that I still want to cry every time I think of this book.

The story follows Leonard Peacock, a high school student who has no one to care about him except for a few tenuous relationships including a next door neighbor and a teacher.  The story is all packed into 24 hours as Leonard sets out to kill his ex-best friend who ruined his life and then commit suicide.  As he goes, he tries to thank the people who made a difference to him, but he only manages to further isolate himself.  I sometimes find it difficult to relate to stories that take place in such a short time, but we get plenty of scenes from the past, as well as letters from the future.  The letters from the future are letters Leonard writes to give himself hope for a future when he thinks the present is unlivable.  These broke my heart more than anything else (I’m crying right now, just thinking about them).

Leonard  makes some bad choices, but he is easy to love and even relate to.  He tries so hard and it is completely understandable why he has chosen murder-suicide, although I spent the entirety of the book hoping for another way out.  The book ends in a realistic place for the short time span–Leonard has come to terms with a few things and sought help, but he’s not fixed–and leaves us with hope, both for Leonard and the many people out there who share his struggle.

Favorite Moments: The last letter from the future.  It is a perfect way to end the book with hope after such an intense journey.

WTF moments: Pretty much any moment with Leonard’s mom.  There are so many reason’s to hate her. View Spoiler » However, the moment when I completely 100% hated her is at the end.  Leonard comes to terms with the fact that she is a terrible mother and decides it will all be okay if she will just spend 10 minutes making him pancakes.  She can’t even manage that.  I loved Leonard so much and his mom reminded me that there are real kids out there who don’t know they are worthy of love.

Narrator: This narrator brings across all of the anger bubbling up inside of Leonard Peacock.  I loved it and thought he did a fantastic job with very intense material.

Overall: A very intense, important story that has stayed with me.

5 Stars

Blog Tour: The Real Prom Queens of Westfield High (Review and Guest Post)

**I received this book for free through Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Blog Tour: The Real Prom Queens of Westfield High (Review and Guest Post)Book: The Real Prom Queens of Westfield High by Laurie Boyle Crompton
Release Information: 4 February 2014 from Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Publisher
Add to Goodreads
Summary: Shannon’s ‘clique’ is just her and her best friend and she has a super-embarrassing nickname that won’t go away. It is no huge shock when her classmates vote her least likely to be crowned Prom Queen. What is shocking is the new hidden camera reality show she finds herself starring in, titled The Prom Queen Wannabes! Shannon and two other Wannabes must battle to be elected Prom Queen and snag the One! Million! Dollar! prize. After a summer of makeovers and training at Prom Queen Camp, the hidden cameras watch the three of them enter their senior year equipped with secret skills to help wage war on the popular set. Things at Westfield High are about to get ugly, and Shannon must decide how much she's willing to give up for a shot at winning that tiara.

 

Thoughts: I loved Blaze and was excited to review The Real Prom Queens of Westfield High as part of the blog tour.  Both books made me laugh out loud and explored feminist themes without shoving an agenda down my throat.

What I love about Prom Queens is that it feels both familiar and different at the same time.  We’ve all read stories where a girl is offered her dream (popularity, fame, etc.) and then she slowly realizes what she really needs (friends, family, love, etc.).  Prom Queens made this feel fresh.  Shannon never wanted popularity or fame.  She only wanted to not be mercilessly teased by her classmates.  When she thinks about being popular in the beginning of the book, she imagines all of her new friends as relationships like her current best friend.  Then, we see her slowly manipulated into ignoring her own value system for one constantly promoted in the media to sell beauty products to women.

While there are over the top shenanigans, I didn’t have trouble believing it because the characters are always real.  Even the mean girls develope likeable qualities and it is easy to understand where they are coming from.  In the end, everything wrapped up in a satisfying way that allowed a group of teen girls to rise above competing with each other (although not before humiliating themselves).

Favorite Moment: The stage-diving moment at the end had me gasping for breath.  It was the highlight of a steady stream of hilarious moments.

WTF Moment: Any time the corporate sponsor manipulated real lives in order to create drama for the show.   View Spoiler »

Overall: Very Mean Girls, but with reality TV.  Real Prom Queens of Westfield High is funny with a great message.

GUEST POST

My relationship with reality TV started when I first fell in love with MTV’s The Real World years ago. Since then, I’ve logged enough hours of guilty pleasure viewing to qualify as something of an expert.

My family is very musical and we like to watch singing competition shows together. We even went to see the American Idol winners in concert a few years ago when we were visiting my family in Pittsburgh. The concert was a lot of fun with the perfect amount of cheesiness. We will sometimes watch Cake Boss which properly gets everyone in the mood for baked goods and I’ve been known to watch Hoarders as motivation for spring cleaning.

But my greatest guilty pleasure reality TV show has to be America’s Next Top Model. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve barely missed a show in all twenty cycles. I did skip the British Invasion one when it originally aired, but then just last week I binge watched the whole season and still feel an appropriate level of shame. I wrote THE REAL PROM QUEENS OF WESTFIELD HIGH in an attempt to redeem some of the hours I’ve spent in front of the TV and I really hope readers enjoy the over-the-top spoof.

Laurie Boyle Crompton grew up in Butler, Pennsylvania, where she was never in danger of becoming prom queen despite looking fairly cute in a tiara. She now splits her time between Queens and New Paltz, NY, and is the author of the YA novel Blaze. As research for The Real Prom Queens she may or may not have watched every episode of America’s Next Top Model.

Visit www.lboylecrompton.com.

4 Stars