Jaime's Top Ten Tuesday!




                1. Dark Caravan Cycle  by Heather Demetrios
                             

                2. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
                              

                3. Bloody Mary by Hillary Monahan
                              

                4. The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
                              

                5. Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones
                           

                6. The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson
                              

                7. Defiance by C.J. Redwine
                              

                8. The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
                           

                9. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

                
              10. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater


        This list is FAR from being a complete list of the series that I would love to start, but it is a list of 10 of the series I am definitely                         looking forward to! I hope you enjoy!


Puckster's Christmas Hockey Tournament

By Lorna Schultz Nicholson and Kelly Findley
Published on October 14th 2014
Published by Tundra Books
Source: Publisher
In Puckster's Christmas Hockey Tournament, it is Christmas Eve and Puckster is nervously watching the heavy snowfall gather on the ground and in the trees. It is his first Christmas away from home and though he is excited to be with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Tournament, he is afraid that the winter storm will prevent his family and friends from travelling to the remote arena and arrive in time for Christmas morning.

But there is another traveler that Puckster and the players are excited to see this Christmas. Santa! When the heavy snow forces the closure of the roads, only Santa and his team of reindeer can help. Will everyone be together for Christmas? In this magical story of friendship, young hockey fans learn the true meaning of the holidays. Puckster's Christmas Hockey Tournament is destined to be a holiday classic.
Here's another adorable children's book that would be a good read for the young sports lover in your life.  I think even kids who aren't into hockey could enjoy reading this one. It's got a great, positive message and whimsical, colorful art.

As with the previous Puckster book, one of my favorite things was how inclusive the cast of characters was.  Taking aside the fact that half of them are animals, it was cool to see that there's a girl on Puckster's team, as well as a disabled character.  Pictures of the Canadian team included characters of color, as well as shots of the crowd.  Hockey is, by and large, a very white sport, so representation definitely matters in a book like this.

This is a great holiday-time read for your little ones to reinforce the (secular) meaning of the Christmas holiday, the importance of friends and family, and having a positive attitude.



Crystalee reviews Kitty and Me

By Sharon Smith Kane
Published on October 7 2014
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Source: Publisher
I love Kitty and Kitty loves me. He comes when I call him . . . usually. We play fun games around this house, Like "Jump" and "Pounce" and "Catch the Mouse."

Playing, chasing, scratching, purring. Kitty and Me is a charming rhyming story of best friendship between a girl and her growing kitten, by Sharon Kane, acclaimed author-illustrator of many beloved Little Golden Book Classics.


This is a very old fashioned picture book, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. Author-illustrator Sharon Smith Kane is known for her Little Golden Books, so I guess it makes sense that this book follows that form.

What I liked about Kitty and Me: It is written in a fun rhyme that kids will love to read, and about a topic that a lot of kids will enjoy. What I didn't like: I'm just not a big fan of the old-fashioned illustrations, like the ones often seen in Little Golden Books, even though I grew up with them. One of the things I love most about picture books these days is that they use a variety of art techniques that kids may not get to see in art elsewhere. This book just wasn't my cup of tea.



Annihilation

By Jeff VanderMeer
Published on February 4th 2014
Published by FSG Originals
Source: Purchased
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.
I bought this book at random a while ago because it sounded interesting, and wound up reading it in a mini book club with another friend.  This is pretty much what I texted my friend every time something happened in Annihilation: 

THIS BOOK IS SO WEIRD!!!

Seriously. Like, I have no other words to describe it than weird.  So weird. So very weird.

This book is kind of sci-fi, kind of mystery, kind of dystopian... it's a lot of things mashed together and it works.  None of its characters get names -- just titles.  You spend the entire book having no idea what the heck is going on. Things are only slightly more clear by the end. But only slightly.

VanderMeer excels at writing things that are weird and that kind of make you shudder. You'll think twice before brushing against a wall in the dark after reading this one.  It's not scary -- at least, it wasn't to me -- but it's definitely unsettling.  This is a story of biology and evolution run amok, with maybe some hints of the otherworldly.

Annihilation is the kind of book I want to take my time with.  The way that he writes is lyrical and packed with detail, so I didn't want to rush.  As the story goes on, we learn more and more about the biologist and what makes her not precisely a reliable narrator.  As she opened up more about herself, there was a lot there that I could identify with - she became more human as the story goes on, which, well, once you've read the book, I want you to come back here and talk with me about that, alright?

As an aside: how awesome is it that there is only one man who actually plays a role in this story? I'm not going to give away who he is, but, yeah, one dude.  Our other characters are all scientists who are women, and it makes me happy.

I am really looking forward to reading the other two books in this series and hopefully unlocking some more answers about Area X. This book -- with its weirdness and its lack of answers and its sometimes uneven pace -- isn't for everyone.  But if you're into things that are just sort of undefinably weird, this book should be right up your alley.



Blog Tour ~ Finding Her Way Back ~ Review (by Jaime) and Giveaway




By Heather Van Fleet
Published on October 7, 2014
Published by Swoon Romance
3 1/2 Stars!
Meet Callie. She’s nineteen, quirky, and fears commitments. She also has a love/hate relationship with her tennis shoes.

Nine months of college, done and gone, and all Callie has to show for it is her freshman thirty. But alas, no worries, life has other crap plans for her now. Plans that include a set of nuptials from hell for her older, she–devil sister Anna. Struggling to rid her chubby–sexy vibe, Callie is put on a strict Anna regimen of ‘do this do that’ while attempting to avoid the unavoidable. The unavoidable being Ky Hampton: her once skinny–skater–boy turned sex–god, ex best friend from across the street.

Kylan feels as though he is a waste. A mechanic, country music singer with not a lyrics to his name. A boy with a proverbial skateboard still strung around his neck from high school. He’s lost, and he’d be the first to admit it. But the moment he spots Calla Lily––with a cemented penis in hand––the more he realizes that she’s exactly the muse he’s been missing.

But when the going gets tough, and the secrets of her past grow thicker, Callie has to figure out if her tennis shoes will be her escape this time around in life, or her demise instead.



Yay for me! Stepping outside of my comfort zone yet again! And this time, it is the dreaded romance novel. But I learned something with Finding Her Way Back. Romance isn't always dreaded. Sometimes, it can draw you in and hold you tight just as much as any other genre. The author just has to be that good, and you just have to give it a chance. The author, Heather Van Fleet, was just that good!
 Cheers for the chubby girls out there. I have been there, and I have felt the ire of someone like Callie's awful, horrible "perfect" sister. But the difference, I never embraced it and the fact that Callie embraces herself, Miss Lane Bryant model (!), made me immediately like our MC. Her sister, on the other hand, I really wanted to whoop her arse! That changed (slightly) over the course of the book. We learn some secrets that were always hinted at, but other things were going on that kind of distracted me.
 And that other thing was Ky. Ah, Ky. Good gravy, how I enjoyed Ky! Best friend skater boy who is like a brother turned "what the heck happened to you" hot boy! Ky was her rock through every thing until she left for college. He calls her Calla Lily! But she runs from him, because she is scared.
 I really enjoyed this book, a lot. Callie did tend to get on my nerves on occasion, and the pacing was, for me, a bit slow at times. I did enjoy watching Callie grow throughout the novel, and by the end she no longer got on my nerves in the least. I was proud of her.
 Romance may not be something that I will read all of the time, but thanks to FInding Her Way Back it will definitely not be off the table. And if there ever comes a time when we get more Callie and Ky, I am all in! Thanks so much to YA Bound Book Tours and Heather Van Fleet for choosing me to be part of the tour! I enjoyed it every step of the way!



About the Author

Midwestern native Heather Van Fleet lives in a small town on the Iowa/Illinois border. She’s a wife to her hubby--and high school sweet heart--Chris, as well as a mom to her three little girls, Kelsey, Emma and Bella. When she’s not obsessing over her fictional book characters, cooking dinner, or running around chasing her crazy kiddos, you can usually find her with her head stuck in her Kindle, sucking down White Chocolate Mochas like they're water. 


   Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook




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Crystalee & Sarah review Rain Reign

Rain Reign
By Ann M. Martin
Published on October 7 2014
Published by Feiwel and Friends
Source: Net Galley
Rose Howard has OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter. Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.

Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view
Crystalee's review:

I loved Ann M. Martin's The Baby-sitter's Club series growing up. Martin is a legend in the world of children's literature, so whenever she comes out with a new book or series, I'm eager to pick it up.

If you've ever read Martin's A Dog's Life or A Corner of the Universe, you know that her writing isn't always as innocent and simplistic as The Baby-sitter's Club looks to us as adults today. Rain Reign, for example, is written for middle school readers, but it tackles some tough issues. The main character, Rose, has Asperger's syndrome, which is a form of autism. Because of her Asperger's, she is often misunderstood and picked on, even by her own father. Her only friends, it seems, are her uncle and her dog, Rain.

Rose's voice is authentic and kid-friendly and really put me into the brain of a child with Asperger's. I saw every exciting, confusing and terrifying moment of her life through her eyes. A novel such as this one would have been hard to pull off in third person, so I am thankful that Martin gave Rose such a vivid voice.

I also really enjoyed Rose's obsession with homonyms, as weird as that may sound. I am a word person, so that dimension appealed to me. I even learned some homonyms that I had never thought about before! Kids who love words will me equally immersed

Rain Reign was a well-written, emotion-packed book that proves that Martin's talent is better than ever.




Sarah's review...

So if you're ever wondering "how do I make a 31-year old lady get a little weepy on the train with a middle grade book", then go pick up Rain Reign, because oh my goodness did Ann M. Martin ever know exactly what buttons to push.

Crystalee's review up there is spot on.  Rose's voice is perfect, and the characters are described so perfectly that I could easily visualize all of them as I read.  Rose carries this book on her own, and her voice is so engaging that I had a hard time putting this one down once I started it.

I really felt for Rose, who's trying to understand the world the best she can, only the world doesn't always want to bother to understand her.  I think telling this story from her perspective was the absolute right choice, because we get to fully inhabit Rose's world, and for readers who maybe don't know anyone who is autistic, this may be their first chance to really see the world through their eyes.

The story overall is simple but moving, and the world Martin creates is so rich in detail in so few pages. It's amazing how you get such a complete picture of everything that's going on, all through Rose's eyes.  

There is some discussion of child abuse, and Rose's father has a very short fuse, so for younger or very sensitive readers, there could be some scenes that need discussion later.

Overall, I think this is an excellent book for any age reader -- older readers will speed through the book because of the simple writing style, but should still find Rose's story and perspective to be very compelling. Definitely give this one a chance, even if you're not usually a big middle-grade reader. This is probably my favorite middle-grade book that I've read, and honestly so far, one of my overall favorites of the year.





Trust Me, I'm Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer ~ Blog Tour review (by Jaime!) and Giveaway!



Trust Me, I'm Lying
by Mary Elizabeth Summer
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: October 14th 2014
Rate: * 3 1/2 Stars!*

Synopsis:

Fans of Ally Carter, especially her Heist Society readers, will love this teen mystery/thriller with sarcastic wit, a hint of romance, and Ocean’s Eleven–inspired action.

Julep Dupree tells lies. A lot of them. She’s a con artist, a master of disguise, and a sophomore at Chicago’s swanky St. Agatha High, where her father, an old-school grifter with a weakness for the ponies, sends her to so she can learn to mingle with the upper crust. For extra spending money Julep doesn’t rely on her dad—she runs petty scams for her classmates while dodging the dean of students and maintaining an A+ (okay, A-) average.

But when she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and her father gone, Julep’s carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel. Even with help from St. Agatha’s resident Prince Charming, Tyler Richland, and her loyal hacker sidekick, Sam, Julep struggles to trace her dad’s trail of clues through a maze of creepy stalkers, hit attempts, family secrets, and worse, the threat of foster care. With everything she has at stake, Julep’s in way over her head . . . but that’s not going to stop her from using every trick in the book to find her dad before his mark finds her. Because that would be criminal.



“A sexy love triangle and madcap mystery . . . I loved this book.” —Jennifer Echols, author ofDirty Little Secret

“Buckle up! You’re in for a wild and funny ride. I fell in love with the fresh and snarky voice of 16-year-old con artist Julep Dupree. This book has it all: homework and hit men, prom drama and silencers.” —April Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Girl, Stolen

“Summer creates a standout character in Julep. She lies and cheats with so much confidence and skill that readers will cheer her on, but she also adheres to her own strict moral code. The nature of the crime her father is caught up in, when revealed, just ratchets up the suspense. A memorable debut; here’s hoping for a lot more from Summer.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Julep’s investigations and quick escapes keep the high-stakes story entertaining and readers guessing…” – Publisher’s Weekly


 I have really been trying lately to step outside of my paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy comfort zone, so when this review opportunity landed in my inbox and I read the synopsis I decided to go for it. It is definitely different from my normal, but it is also yet another reason why I am glad I am trying new things. It was a fun story from the get-go, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly!
 Julep (awesome name) was not the normal YA heroine. She is incredibly smart and perceptive, brave and incredibly independent, a bit naive to certain things. She is fiercely determined to find her dad,setting aside her own wishes, and that is something I can stand behind one hundred percent. 
 Sam and Tyler were both great characters. The romance in this is minimal, which is a nice change of pace. Though the romance is minimal, that definitely doesn't mean there isn't some crushing going on (cue- naivette). I have no idea which side I would even choose, because I like them both. Maybe Sam has a slight edge, just because I love a good BFF turns BF story! 
 All in all, this was a great story and if a sequel were to pop up I would be all in! Aside from the slightly hesitant start that we had, it didn't take long for Trust Me, I'm Lying to grab me and hang on. By the second half of the book, it is non-stop. Action all over the place, relatable issues, an interesting MC who is outside the norm, great secondary characters, with a little mystery and Holmesing and some awesome sarcasm, Trust Me, I'm Lying is definitely a debut to get yours hands on. For you mystery lovers out there, don't miss this one. And if you are like me, trying to step out of your comfort zone, give it a shot, too. 




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Follow the FFBC Trust Me, I'm Lying Blog Tour and don't miss anything! Click on the banner to see the tour schedule.



Mary Elizabeth Summer is an instructional designer, a mom, a champion of the serial comma, and a pie junkie. Oh, and she sometimes writes books about teenage delinquents saving the day. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her daughter, her partner, and her evil overlor–er, cat. TRUST ME, I'M LYING, a YA mystery, will be released by Delacorte in Fall 2014.



Win (1) of (2) signed hardbacks of Trust Me, I'm Lying + a "Grift" bag of goodies (US Only)




Jaime reviews Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey

By Mary Lindsey
Published on December 8, 2011
Published by Philomel/Penguin
Source: The Amazing Local Library System
A thrilling debut story of death, love, destiny, and danger

Lenzi hears voices and has visions - gravestones, floods, a boy with steel gray eyes. Her boyfriend, Zak, can't help, and everything keeps getting louder and more intense. Then Lenzi meets Alden, the boy from her dreams, who reveals that she's a reincarnated Speaker - someone who can talk to and help lost souls - and that he has been her Protector for centuries.

Now Lenzi must choose between her life with Zak and the life she is destined to lead with Alden. But time is running out: a malevolent spirit is out to destroy Lenzi, and he will kill her if she doesn't make a decision soon.
  I wish that I could give this book more than a 2 star rating, but I just can't. It wouldn't feel right to look past issues that seriously bothered me in this book. It would be wrong as a reviewer, and wrong just for myself, to not give this a true rating. But man, I really do dislike giving negative reviews. Especially when the book could have been a great read.

  Second time around, and I didn't quite like it as much as I seemed to last time, which still wasn't a whole lot. Certain things really, really pissed me off about the relationships between Lenzi and Zak and Lenzi and Alden. I won't go into detail here so as not to spoil, but I WILL say for anyone wanting to read this, go check out some of the low rating reviews on Goodreads and read them.... I absolutely can say that I would in no way recommend this to a young female OR male that is still incredibly impressionable. These are not the types of relationships that need to be emulated by anyone at all, much less teens. I know I am saying mostly bad things, and I stand by them, but I will say that this is a very readable story. It is well written, and the premise is a really cool one, with the Speakers and Protectors and their respective jobs. I just wish that certain elements had been left out, and that others had been used as teaching elements about what is NOT okay in a relationship. Abuse is NOT okay, and when someone does abuse you they are not a cool person. They may have had a rough life, and yes that is terrible and no one should have to deal with it, but they also have the choice to rise above and be a better person. And men and women have the right to walk away from an abusive relationship, and not have to feel like they have to give excuses. Last thing, CHEATING is not okay. NEVER is it okay. IF you are truly happy in a relationship, and truly love someone, there won't ever be a question of wanting to kiss someone else. And if there is, maybe that means you aren't in the right relationship and you should walk away before you both get hurt.

  I reread Shattered Souls to re-familiarize myself with the story and the world in anticipation of reading the companion novel, Fragile Spirits. Despite my issues with the first book, I am still going to give Fragile Spirits a shot. Everybody deserves a second shot, especially all of the amazing YA authors out there!


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