Review - Mai Tai'd Up by Alice Clayton

Friday, January 30, 2015

Mai Tai'd Up
By Alice Clayton
Released: December 2nd, 2014
Genre: Romance
Source: Purchased

Mai Tai’d Up is the final installment in Alice Clayton’s Cocktail series, aside from a novella that recently came out earlier in the month. I know, we can all start crying right now. Luckily for us, though, Clayton ended on a strong note.

The book opens with Chloe Patterson (cousin to Clark Barrow, who was a main character in Screwdrivered, the third book), who will be marrying the man of her dreams, Charles, in just a few days. Well, more like the man of her mother’s dreams. Ever since she was a child, she has done her best to please her mother, which means she was constantly applying and winning beauty contests as well as volunteering for groups that her mother supports. She’s a bit of a socialite and Chloe does her best to live up to her expectations. But on the day of her wedding, Chloe realizes that she will never be able to marry Charles, as she doesn’t love him. Reacting to a split second decision, she runs out on her marriage, leaves for Monterey, and goes to her father’s old family ranch. While there, she decides to open up a rescue center of abused pit bulls, called “Our Gang.” In the course of building it and getting it started, she meets a charming – and incredibly hot – veterinarian, Lucas Campbell. And it just so happens that Lucas was left at the alter on his wedding day. Oh, boy.
Both Chloe and Lucas agree that their relationship will remain friendly, as they don’t want to get involved so soon after their bad break-ups. But their hearts have different plans. Between rescuing abused dogs, paddle boarding, and county festivals, they grow closer than they ever anticipated. But Chloe doesn’t know how to tell Lucas that she was guilty of leaving her husband. What will become of the man she’s fallen for when he learns the truth? With a few Mai Tais, the truth might come out – and it’s more than either of them can take.
God, I love Alice Clayton. If any of you have read my previous review of Screwdrivered, you’re probably tired of hearing me praise her. But all of her romances deserve all the praise they get. Just the like previous installments in this series, there is fun, humor, and heart galore. It was especially nice seeing Chloe grow up and learn that she doesn’t need her mother’s approval for everything and that she doesn’t need to feel guilty about following her own dreams. Chloe was probably one of the “weaker” heroines that Clayton had written, but it just made the fact that she grew into herself all the more satisfying at the end of the novel.
Lucas was adorable, too. In this book, unlike the previous two romances, their attraction is instant. With Caroline and Vivian, they fought tooth and nail with their boyfriends – oftentimes resulting in snarky comments and unintended dirty jokes – but the chemistry between Lucas and Chloe made this novel particularly enjoyable. The reader almost squees when they finally kiss for the first time. And the first romance scene? Adorably cute and incredibly sexy. Clayton knows how to hit all the right notes when it comes to humorous and steamy scenes.
So, this is another homerun for me and I absolutely loved the book. I think my favorite will always be Screwdrivered (because, I mean, come on – hot librarian?), but this was definitely a page-turner, too. Do yourself a favor and check out Alice!

Waiting on Wednesday- Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident.

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

"Alarming and uplifting, a rare psychological thriller that has a kind heart at its center. Read it with all the lights on." --E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars
So, I can't wait for March and the release of the new Lauren Oliver book! *Fangirls* I've been a huge fan of her since reading the Delirium series. Yes, the last book was a little underwhelming, but it still remains one of my all-time favorite dystopians. I liked Panic as well. It's the only contemporary I've read from her (I know, I know - I need to get to Before I Fall, but time has been rather short in demand lately.)
At any rate, this book sounds like it will have a whole lot of emotion in it and I'm looking forward to something that will rip my heart out. I know, it's weird, but I'm a glutton for punishment. We all love a good book that can twist our emotions.
What are you waiting on this week? Feel free to link me to your own WoWs or let me know in a comment!

Time To Grow Up!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hey there, everyone! So, I noticed that a lot of people posted their 2015 Reading Goals and Challenges as a part of the Top Ten meme from The Broke and the Bookish. I didn’t post one because – well – I didn’t think I’d have any real goals. I put my 2015 Reading Goal on Goodreads as 60 books, but between work, classes, and an internship I’ll be lucky to even crack open a book within the first five months of the year. So far, I’m on track with reading, but that will most certainly change once the semester really gets started and I have tons of papers, projects, and internship hours to complete.
As I’ve been reading, though, I noticed something. I haven’t read any real, good adult literature lately. I read 75 books last year and only two books could be considered thought-provoking and meaningful adult literature: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. These were actually both fantastic books (I believe I gave both of them five stars), but I find myself wondering why I didn’t read more substantial books last year. I love middle grade and YA books – that’s largely what I read. I read a few Christian Fiction and Romance books, too, that could be considered “adult” fiction, but I read those genres so often that I don’t really considering them true adult literature. They’re great books, but they’re not the books that everyone is talking and raving about, you know?
Does that make sense or does it sound downright stupid? At any rate, my ONE goal for this year – besides (hopefully) reading 60 books – is to read at least five “grown up” books. One of which has to be a classic of some sort. And, luckily, I already have them planned out! So, here are my five grown up books that I plan on reading this year!

1.) Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

I've actually been eyeing this book for a while and I've finally decided to add it to my TBR pile. I was at the bookstore the other day and thought, well, I'll have no reason not to read it if I buy it now! So, I have my copy and I'm looking forward to reading this dual-time story. It sounds like it has a lot of potential.


2.) The All-Girl Filling Station Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
I first read Fannie Flagg in high school, when I chose to read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café for a term paper. I fell in love with Flagg's writing right from the start and her rich story-telling keeps me coming back for more. She published this last year and I definitely intend to read it this year. I can't wait to dive right in. If you love southern literature, or historicals, you can't go wrong with Fannie Flagg!
3.) At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
I actually hadn't heard about this one until I found it on Netgalley. I loved Water for Elephants, so I'm hoping this will prove just as satisfying. It's another historical and with an exotic location, I'm hoping for the best. Even if I don't get approved through Netgalley, I intend on getting a copy and reading it.

4.) Doll-baby by Laura Lane McNeal
You might remember this from one of my previous Top Tens. I've had my eye on this book for a while now. I'm a sucker for southern lit as well as coming of age stories and this one qualifies as both. It looks like it might be similar to The Help by Kathryn Stockett and, if that's the case, I'll definitely love it!

5.) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
And this will be my "classic" choice. This is another one I've had my eye on for ages - and when I say "ages," I mean since - like - eighth grade. It's a coming of age story set in the early twentieth century and I'm eager to see what all the fuss is about! Plenty of people have raved about this and I truly hope I enjoy it.

And those are my five books! Feel free to hold me to them - I definitely hope to finish them this year! And I already have one out of the way! If you'd like to join in on this little challenge, feel free to do so. Feel free to even link me your posts if you do one similar or tell me what you "grown up" books you plan to read in a comment. I love suggestions and it would be interesting seeing what everyone has planned. 

Review - The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Iron Trial
By Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
Released: September 9th, 2014
Genre: Children's Fiction
Source: Purchased

The Iron Trial is the first installment in the Magisterium series, which will consist of five novels total.

In this first book, Callum Hunt is living a rather normal and uneventful life, caught between the drudges of middle school and a home-life with an overprotective father. As a baby, he shattered his leg and, as a result, he’s left with a permanent limp and is teased mercilessly at school. He’s tired of always being picked last during games as well as sitting out some of the fun activities in gym. It’s during one the these mundane days at school that he,
as well as a ton of other children from across the states, head to complete The Iron Trial, which is a series of tests to determine if children have magical abilities and whether or not they will apprentice at the Magisterium. While all the other kids might be eager to join their ranks, Call is aware of his magical heritage and he tries his best to fail the Trial. Unfortunately, despite having the lowest score among his peers, he’s selected as an apprentice to Master Rufus, along with two others, Tamara and Aaron.
The Iron Trial covers all three children’s first year at the Magisterium, known as their “Iron” Year. During the time, the children try their best to learn how to control their magic, which stems of the elements around them – fire, air, water, earth, and chaos. Halfway through the year, though, it is discovered that a Makar, a rare person who had control chaos, is at the school – and it’s right in their small group! While coming to terms with being the best friend of the Makar, Call tries his best to fit in and, against his father’s wishes, tries to keep his magic from being bound. Before too long, though, danger threatens the Makar and Call finally learns the history of his past. He’s left with an important decision – continue with magic and possibly hurt those he loves or having his magic bound and forget everything he has learned the past year. And it’s a decision he doesn’t make lightly.
It seems that everyone I know have been pretty split with this book. Either they like it well enough, or they don’t even want to read it because it’s too much like Harry Potter. I can understand why some people might be hesitant to read it, especially those of us who grew up with Harry Potter and adored it, but I feel that that’s a little unfair. Just because Rowling created an awesome world where people use magic, there can’t be other books where children learn magic? I just don’t think it’s fair to other writers or even other readers to limit themselves because ONE series was written about magic. And besides, it’s Cassie Clare. I love her work, so how can I NOT read it?
So, I went into this with an open mind and, for the most part, I’m glad I read it. It was a cute children’s read and I think there was enough variation from Harry Potter for me to enjoy it in its own rights. I especially liked the fact that their magic stemmed from the elements, as I haven’t read that many books that use that as a means to tap into magic. More often than not, magic is either tapped with a wand or comes from within, so it was nice to see the kids learn how to control their magic in combination with the elements around them. The inclusion of chaos magic is pretty interesting, too, and I look forward to reading more about how they include that in the plot.
That said, there were a few parts that DID remind me a little too much of Harry Potter. The fact that the Enemy of Death wears a mask and dresses in a black cloak? Yeah, that doesn’t sound like Death Eaters at all. But I was prepared to look over that – at least until I read the last few chapters, when Call eventually finds out who he really is. While the twist is definitely interesting and one I didn’t see coming (I’ll give Clare and Black props for that), I felt that it reminded me WAY TOO much of what happened to Harry when he was a baby and had the Horcrux placed in him.
Again, I’m not against books that involve kids going to magic school – hey, I love reading the stuff – but try not to make some of the plot elements parallel those that already exist. I just felt a little… betrayed as I read the last bit. I was so prepared to write a good review stating that it wasn’t the Harry Potter rip-off that everyone thought it was… *Sigh*
But, that said, there were still elements that gave the book its own little flair and, though the last twist reminds me some of HP, I’m still sort of interested in seeing how it plays out. I’ll probably read the next book, but it’s not one that I’m eagerly awaiting.

Review - Shutter by Courtney Alameda

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

By Courtney Alameda
Release Date: February 3rd, 2015
Genre: Young Adult
Source: ARC

Micheline is a direct descendent of Abraham Van Helsing himself and is one of the most promising students at the Helsing Corp school. Her father, Leonard Helsing, is the current commander and chief of the corporation and Micheline has been training since she was small enough to walk to slay monsters, both corporeal and spiritual. Corporeal monsters, such as zombies and vampires, fall to a well-placed bullet. Spirits, on the other hand, aren’t quite as easy to slay. Luckily for Micheline, she’s a tetrachromat, meaning that she can see the spiritual energy of the undead in the prismatic spectrum. Thanks to the scientists that work for her father, she has a special camera, with quartz lens, that has been made to specially capture ghost energy in film. With her camera in one hand and her gun in the other, she’d a force to be reckoned with.

One night, Micheline and her three friends Ryder, Jude, and Oliver, go into a hospital on an unauthorized mission to exorcise a ghost. What they didn’t anticipate is it being so strong, and that they would end up getting soulchained as a result, meaning that if they didn’t find and exorcise the ghost within a week’s time, they would die. Despite orders from the higher ups for her not to leave the island where Helsing Corp is located, Micheline and her friends take off on a quest to hunt down the ghost and exorcise it before it causes any more casualties – and before time runs out.

All I can say about this book is – wow. I knew from the moment I laid eyes on the cover that it would be one that was automatically added to my TBR list. And, luckily for me, I have friends in high places and was able to get a copy early, before Christmas. And I can truly say that you all have no idea what you’re missing out on, especially if you are a fan of dark, creepy, young adult novels.
While the premise of the novel, being able to catch ghosts on film, isn’t entirely new, Alameda goes one step further, backing up her novel with “scientific reasons” why Micheline’s camera can capture the energy of the ghosts. And, while I’ve seen books and movies with people able to catch a glimpse of a ghost on film, this is the first one I’ve encountered that used film as a media for destroying the entity. I found the quartz field and electrical field of the camera, all the sciency stuff I’m not good at understanding because I majored is social science, a nice touch and added to the authenticity of the story.
The characters were, for the most part, likeable and fun. I especially enjoyed Alameda’s emphasis on making Micheline a character that can think and act for herself. She’s an active character and doesn’t sit around waiting for fate to find her or for other people to help or save her from whatever danger is threatening her. More often, she’s the one risking her neck for everyone else. Ryder, the love interest, is a beauty of an Aussie and is adorable and reliable. I even liked the punk playboy that was Jude and the nerdy bookish type that was Oliver.
Oh, and the side characters with the last name Scully, Mulder, and Skinner? I see what you did there. And I definitely approve. ;)
This book had a decidedly creepy factor that I just adored. It’s grim, violent, and gruesome and I loved every bit of the descriptions involving the necrotic zombies and people being torn apart. Alameda wasn’t afraid to spare her readers the gory details and I definitely respect her for that – we’re young adults, after all, and can survive a few good, creepy scenes.
The one issue I did have, however, revolved around who the ghost really was. I can’t say too much without spoiling readers before the book even comes out, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. I sort of understand where Alameda was going with it, but I still think that it would have been more appropriate for her to have given the ghost another identity. The ending had a few loose ends, leading me to believe there will be additions to the series, which I dearly hope there will be.
For those of you who love a good creepy ghost story and/or are fans of Anna Dressed in Blood, this book is for you!

Review - Let It Snow

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Let It Snow
By Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle
Release Date: October 2nd, 2008
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Purchased

I was grateful to receive a copy of Let It Snow for Christmas from one of my best friends – she knew exactly what I needed, because I’m one of those people who live for Christmas. It’s my favorite time of the year; I live for the Christmas lights, the carols, decorating the tree, and for that eager anticipation of Christmas magic. So, when December 26th rolls around, I fall into a great “Post-Christmas” depression. This year, in order to combat it, I picked up a Christmasy read to help keep those blue feelings at bay.

Overall, this was good holiday read. There was a nice Christmas feel to the book, complete with plenty of snow, a night of wonder, and careless, teenage abandon. For romance lovers like me, this was a perfect read, gift wrapped and ready to be devoured. Let It Snow is a compilation of three interconnected winter stories, revolving around a small town that is (for the most part) snowed in. The different characters in the stories are all connected by the town and deal with the unprecedented blizzard in different ways, ultimately finding love on Christmas. When the book hit its mark, it was right on it, but – unfortunately – when the book failed to hit that mark, it failed miserably. I liked the book for the most part, but there were certain areas that I was eager to be done with. More often than not, I would read a little bit, flip forward to see how much of a particular story I had left, sigh, and trot on like a trooper.
But I’ll review each story in turn.
The first story is by Maureen Johnson and is called, Jubilee Express. It follows a girl called Jubilee (naturally), whose parents have been arrested on Christmas Eve, after being involved with a skirmish at the local store that sells holiday collectibles that her family has a penchant for collecting. As a result, she’s shipped off to spend the holidays with her grandparents but the snowstorm blows through, causing her train to be caught in the snowdrifts and inoperable for several hours. Instead of being trapped in the cars with a bunch of obnoxious cheerleaders, she leaves the train and manages to make her way to a nearby Waffle House where she meets a guy named Stuart. Before she knows it, the cheerleaders follow her and, in an effort to escape them again and from being trapped on a freezing train, she decides to stay at Stuart’s house for the night and Christmas morning.

First of all – how many times do I have to say this? – STRANGER DANGER! If it were me, I wouldn’t have braved the blizzard in the first place. I would’ve gone back to my car on the train, wrapped myself up in blankets, and waited it out. But that would be the sensible option. Instead, Jubilee follows a stranger home, where he lives with his mother and sister. Okay, it didn’t end in disaster for Jubilee, but if it had been me and my luck, Stuart would have ended up being a creeper and raping her. (I guess that’s why I don’t ever find love in unexpected places.) At any rate, they form a connection and friendship evolves into something more over Christmas. She had been dating a rather crappy boyfriend before and Stuart gets her to understand that she’s worth more than just being second place to a guy who hardly spends time with her. Despite the obvious danger she could’ve gotten in, I liked sweet little Stuart and I liked the premise of the story, where her parents were involved in the mishap and getting arrested. It made for a interested story and was a strong beginning for the novel.
The second story entitled A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green, paled in comparison. I never thought I’d say this about John Green, but I couldn’t wait to get his portion of the story over with.

I think Yzma summed up my thoughts easily:
This story revolves around Tobin, JP, and “the Duke,” – aka: so forgettable I can even remember her real name – who, after getting word that the Waffle House is full of sexy cheerleaders, romp a round in the blizzard, trying to find their way there. First of all, gag. The premise of this story was horrifyingly boring and terribly predictable. I grew tired of the guys’ sexual innuendos from page two and the Duke’s willingness to follow them around blindly because they are friends and because she was motivated by hash browns was laughable. (I get it, Waffle House hash browns are awesome, but not worth risking hypothermia.) No kidding, the story was 90 pages long and consisted of them trudging through snow and talking about how they wanted nothing more than to ogle cheerleaders. Every chapter was a pain to get through and there was absolutely no character development until the last few pages when – gasp! – Tobin and the Duke finally saw the light and ended up getting together.  
So, yeah, this one sucked and was something I wish I had never read, especially since it had John Green’s name attached. I want to remember him as writing TFiOS and other best-sellers, not for this monstrosity.
Lastly, we have Lauren Myracle’s story, called The Patron Saint of Pigs. The beginning of this story didn’t sound very promising, either, but I was pleasantly surprised. It deals with a girl named Addie who, after getting drunk at a party kissed a boy who wasn’t her boyfriend, which led to a rocky relationship. She’s trying to mend bridges between herself and her boyfriend, Jeb, as well as her friends, who think she’s too self-absorbed. In an effort to prove her friends wrong, she agrees to pick up one of her friend’s Christmas presents, which is a teacup pig from the pet store. Of course, all sorts of things go wrong and Addie has to dig herself out of the metaphorical hole she put herself in. What I found so refreshing about this story is that it was, firstly, a story of personal grown and a love story secondly. I was nice to see a girl on the wrong end of relationship drama for a change and I really loved seeing her grow and better herself. The story was just over 100 pages, but it managed to convey feeling that the others didn’t quite reach.
Overall, this book was a decent holiday read. It kept the post-Christmas blues at bay, but there were – atmittedly – a few aspect that I didn’t appreciate or like very much.