Category Archives: 5 stars

Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty QueensDetails:  Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

  • Pub. Date: May 2011
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Format: Hardcover , 400pp
  • Sales Rank: 15,938
  • Age Range: 12
  • Lexile: HL690L

Synopsis:
From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island.
Teen beauty queens. A “Lost”-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to emall. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.

My Thoughts:

Okay, so I was not entirely sure about this book but I had been hearing such great things that I had to check it out.  A plane full of beauty pageant contestants crashes on a deserted island and they are forced to survive on their own but is this all it appears to be or is there more going on on this island.  There are very few girls left and honestly is seems that there are not a lot of skills from the remaining girls.  It is going to be a huge challenge to survive and make it back to the contest.  

Libba Bray is one of the funniest authors I have ever read.  This book was so funny, laugh out loud funny.  She has the ability to use humor to teach some very powerful lessons and you don’t even realize that it has happened until it is all over.  This book is quick witted and very quick moving.  I did not want to put it down because I just had to know what was going to happen next.  Everything from making watch catching systems out of evening gowns to exposing who each contestant really was deep down.  This was by far the funniest book I have read all year, and probably for years before that.

My favorite line in this book hits very close to home.  I am from Michigan and here is what Ms. Michigan had to say.
“Yeah. Hi. Jennifer Huberman, Miss Michigan.  Go Blue!  I am from Flint, the smaller Motor City.  Well, before they went bankrupt. Now, I’m from Repossessed City.  Sorry. Little gallows humor there.”

I applaud Libba Bray for the research she completed about all of the states and types of people she put into this book.  This is what made it such an outstanding read.  Not to mention, the unique idea, settings and challenges she brought to Beauty Queens.

My Rating:
Great Read!  I highly recommend this book.


*I was provided a copy of this book by Scholastic.  This in no way affected the opinions and views above. 
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Quick Review: It’s Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder

It's Raining CupcakesDetails:  It’s Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder

  • Pub. Date: March 2010
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
  • Format: Hardcover , 193pp
  • Sales Rank: 101,180
  • Age Range: 8 to 12


Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Isabel is dying to get out of Oregon. She spends her free time in the library, reading and dreaming about faraway places. When her mom decides to open a cupcake shop in their little town of Willow, Isabel feels just like buttercream frosting to a cupcake-stuck. It seems as if it will be another disappointing summer, until Isabel learns of a baking contest. If she can come up with a winning recipe, she might have a chance of competing in the bake-off in New York City! But Isabel’s best friend, Sophie, is also entering the contest, and things always seem to go Sophie’s way. To make matters worse, Isabel and her mom don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on the type of recipe Isabel should enter. In this sweet treat by popular teen author Lisa Schroeder, Isabel discovers that maybe it’s not about where you go in life as much as it is about enjoying the view from wherever you are.

My Thoughts: 

This was a super cute book.  It put a smile on my face and made me look at the challenges of opening a business from a child’s point of view.  The relationships in this book are genuine and real.  Not just between Isabel and her parents, but the best friend, and neighbors too.  I really enjoyed the idea of this baking competition and that it would give Isabel a way to fulfill her dream of getting to travel outside of Oregon.   Lisa Schroeder does a fantastic job with this book.  

My Rating

Super cute book!

*I received this book from the author for review.  This did not affect my review of the book.

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Interview and Review: Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany

Best Kept Secret: A NovelDetails:  Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany



  • Pub. Date: June 2011
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Format: Paperback , 352pp
  • Sales Rank: 112,606



Synopsis:

Cadence didn’t sit down one night and decide that downing two bottles of wine was a brilliant idea.
Her drinking snuck up on her – as a way to sleep, to help her relax after a long day, to relieve some of the stress of the painful divorce that’s left her struggling to make ends meet with her five-year old son, Charlie.
It wasn’t always like this. Just a few years ago, Cadence seemed to have it all—a successful husband, an adorable son, and a promising career as a freelance journalist. But with the demise of her marriage, her carefully constructed life begins to spiral out of control. Suddenly she is all alone trying to juggle the demands of work and motherhood.
Logically, Cadence knows that she is drinking too much, and every day begins with renewed promises to herself that she will stop. But within a few hours, driven by something she doesn’t understand, she is reaching for the bottle – even when it means not playing with her son because she is too tired, or dropping him off at preschool late, again. And even when one calamitous night it means leaving him alone to pick up more wine at the grocery store. It’s only when her ex-husband shows up at her door to take Charlie away that Cadence realizes her best kept secret has been discovered….
Heartbreaking, haunting, and ultimately life-affirming, Best Kept Secret is more than just the story of Cadence—it’s a story of how the secrets we hold closest are the ones that can most tear us apart.

Interview:


First, can you please tell us about your inspiration for this book?

I began writing the story as a direct result of my own emotional experiences around being a mother and a recovering alcoholic. While the characters and plot are fiction, Cadence’s emotional turmoil during her descent into addiction and her journey back to sobriety are largely based on what I went through. As I worked on the emotional side of getting sober, it became clear to me that there is a special, intense kind of shame that accompanies being a woman who was drunk in front of her children. It’s that shame which forces so many of us to keep our addiction secret, for fear of what might happen if we tell someone the truth. We’re terrified of the stigma and possible consequences, but keeping this secret can have devastating – even deadly – results.
I know that this was a very personal topic for you to writing about what challenges did you face while writing this book?
I think the most challenging aspect of the story was developing Cadence as an empathetic character, a woman who at her core, loves her child more than anything else, and yet slowly descends into the grips of this horrifying addiction. It was important for me to show her vulnerabilities, and for the reader to hopefully understand that her drinking was simply a behavior she used to soothe deeper inner turmoil, the same way a woman with an eating disorder uses food (either controlling or bingeing on it) to manage her emotional strife. She didn’t understand how easily she’d develop a physical tolerance to alcohol, and how emotionally dependent she’d become on the temporary “escape” alcohol gave her from her pain.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t want to absolve her of anything – she is accountable for her behavior – but I also I believe that there is a tendency in our culture to look at mothers who struggle with addiction with enormous judgment and disdain. I think it’s easy to see a woman like Cadence and be adamant that we would never be like her. So the other difficult task I faced was trying to show the reader that in many ways they are like Cadence, even if they never pick up a drink. So many women struggle with feelings of shame and inadequacy, and while we all cope with them in different ways, I wanted Cadence to embody our society’s typically accomplished, professional woman, trying to be and have it “all” in her life. I wanted to show what happens to her when she is blindsided by something she can’t fix or figure out on her own, and how difficult it is to ask for help when she was conditioned to be totally self-reliant. People wonder how a soccer mom ends up drunk, driving the wrong way on the freeway and kills herself and/or others, could have kept her problem hidden. BEST KEPT SECRET is my attempt to give them an honest answer.
Is there anything that was edited out that you felt very strongly about?
Thankfully, I have an amazing working relationship with my editor and we agreed on what the book needed from the start. If anything, with her exceptional insight, the book is more complete.
So there are many women out there facing this challenge every day – What would you say to them?
I’m not a big one for giving advice, especially to someone who is struggling with drinking, but I can say that once I opened my mind to the idea that I didn’t have to figure out the issue on my own, my life began to get infinitely better. The most important thing I would say is that they are not alone.
Who is your favorite character in the book? 
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but that’s like asking a mother to choose a favorite child! I love different characters for different reasons: Charlie, because he loves his mother so fiercely and without judgment. Jess, because she is such a support in Cadence’s life. Andi and Nadine, because they both gently call Cadence on her crap. And Cadence herself, because I know the kind of pain she suffered, and I know what it took for her to find her way back to a better life.
Who was the hardest for you to write?
Cadence, no doubt. While we share emotional similarities, it was important for me to maintain distance from her, but also climb inside her thoughts and feelings enough to flesh her out as a believable, empathetic character. Finding that balance was challenging, but in the end, I feel like I managed to pull it off.
What is one topic that you would love to write about but never have?
Hmm. That’s an interesting question! I’m not sure I know. My ideas tend to come to me after I’ve finished a project, so I rarely am thinking ahead to what I’ll write next. I find that it’s more effective for me to stay in the moment and focused on the task at hand, otherwise, I’m easily distracted!
Now some quick questions:
Coke or Pepsi? – Neither. I don’t drink soda!
Iced Tea or Lemonaide? – Iced Tea. No sugar, lots of lemon.
Black or White? – Black. I’m far from a fashionista, so it’s my go-to color. Slimming, and easy to match!
Day or Night? – Day. Definitely a morning person.
Beach or Pool? – Beach!!!
Summer or Winter? – Summer, in Seattle, though please, where it doesn’t get too hot!
Card or Flowers? – Flowers AND card. With a personal note.
Lake or Ocean? – Ocean, always. Something about it just soothes my soul.
Thank you so much Amy for taking the time to be interviewed.  Your honesty bring more to this book and it’s story.

My Thoughts:


This was by far the most honest and heart -breaking stories I have ever read.  It made me take a really hard look and how something so simple can turn into something huge without even realizing it was happening.  A glass of wine for Cadence turned into a devastating problem, one that she was aware of, but could not save herself from.  The consequent issues that she is faced with are a mother’s worst nightmare.  Especially as she looks back and sees the danger she had put her son in and what she exposed him to along the way.  It was a book that I could not put down even through my tears and feeling expossed because I could put myself in these shoes and it was painful.  I think that Amy Hatvany took on one of the toughest subjects out there and made a piece of art out of it.  It is so personal and at the same time feels like a warning to be careful with the decisions you are making.  All I can say again and again is that this is a powerful story and one that I think every woman should read.  


My Rating:

5 Penguins –  This is an amazing yet heart wrenching story that comes very highly recommended!
* I was provided a copy of this book from Amy’s publicist for review. This did not affect my review and opinions of this book.


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Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

StarcrossedDetails:  Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

  • Pub. Date: May 2011
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Format: Hardcover , 496pp
  • Sales Rank: 16,085
  • Age Range: Young Adult





Synopsis

How do you defy destiny?
Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it’s getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she’s haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they’re destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.
As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart

My Thoughts


Helen has always felt kind of out of place even though she has her great best friend who look out for her.  She has never felt that she could be herself and seems to get horrible cramps every time she was the center of attention.  She lives on Nantucket and learns the first week of school that a new family is moving into a huge property on the island.  She has the oddest encounter with one of the boys, and she pretty much loses control.  Helen learns that she is really is different.  There is love and loss and just frustration all though this book.


I LOVED this story.  It was a great taken on the classics.  Josephine Angelini has a wonderful style that makes reading her book play like a movie in your head.  Mythology has always been an interesting topic for me since I studies Greek Mythology in my 5th grade advanced reading class.  It was so fun and different and really made me think about the world as I know it and how different it could be. Helen was a girl facing the challenges of being different which made her very easy to connect with, which I think is very important in a YA book.  For me, it is important in all books to be able to connect with the main character.  Every single character no matter how small was well defined and complete.  The interactions between the characters was well thought out and very diverse.  The book did a wonderful job with the challenges and feelings that Helen has throughout the course of discovering just who she really is and how important she is to the world.  


My Rating:


5 Penguins – This was an awesome book – I could not put it down.

*I purchased this book and all opinions are mine alone





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Review: Planning to Live by Heather Wardell

Planning to Live

Product Details

    • Pub. Date: September 2010
    • Publisher: Wardell, Heather
    • Sold By: SMASHWORDS – EBKS
    • Format: NOOK Book (eBook)
    • Sales Rank: 8,398




Synopsis



Determined to lose weight for her best friend’s wedding, goal-obsessed Rhiannon flees her parents’ Christmas Day feast to avoid overeating but her car skids off the deserted road into a tree. Trapped and bleeding, with her cell phone out of reach, she struggles to escape, and to accept that she’s spent her whole life planning but hasn’t ever really lived. Will she get the chance to change that?.


My Thoughts

Rhiannon was heading home from her parents’ home after Christmas dinner and slides off the road and into a ditch.  She is stuck and her leg is somehow pinned.  She is trying everything she can think of to get herself lose or get help somehow.  This book is this processes and time in between reflecting on her life over the last year.  Her past starts with meeting her fiancée and the story of a jealous ex-girlfriend who kidnaps him and leaves him for dead in the middle of the woods in the winter.  Rhiannon is tormented by the loss of her perfect match and has vowed to be dedicated to her job.  She gives her everything to working and trying to lose weight after a horrible experience with a friend’s grandmother and wedding picture.  Rhiannon is a computer programmer and meets Andrew after a former co-worker planted hidden viruses in the game.  They quickly become close friends and Rhiannon realizes that she might be having feeling for him even though she is still healing from the death of Bill.  The big question is will she be saved or left of the side of the street.


Planning to Live is a very deep and touching book.  Heather Wardell does a terrific job with bring a character together and bring their whole environment to life.  This book touched be deeply because I don’t know if I would have been able to react in the same manner as Rhiannon did in all of the terrible things that happen in her life.  I felt that I could relate extremely well to Rhiannon on so many different levels, which in turn made the book so much more personal.  It has been a long time since a book had in shed real tears, but Planning to Live did just that.  The reflection on life and the decisions made was almost too much for me at times, but there was no way that I could put the story down and come back later.  I kept trying to convince myself that what I thought was going to be the ending could not possibly be so.  Be ready for the emotion when you read this book! 



My Rating

5 Penguins – This book touched me right down to my soul.  It has a powerful message and is written in a format that really makes you think.  


P.S. Please watch for a Character interview with Rhiannon very soon. 

*I purchased this book and all opinions are my own.

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Review: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

What Happened to Goodbye

Overview – 

What Happened to Goodbye

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: May 2011
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Format: Hardcover , 416pp
  • Sales Rank: 88
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • Lexile: HL760L What’s This?

Synopsis

Since her parents’ bitter divorce, Mclean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move – four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother’s new family, Mclean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, Mclean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself – whoever that is. Perhaps her neighbor Dave, an academic superstar trying to be just a regular guy, can help her find out. Combining Sarah Dessen’s trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.

My Thoughts


So, as you can call tell, I have been on a bit of a Sarah Dessen kick since I discovered her outstanding story recently.  Now, I know that I have barely touched on her collection of books, however What Happened to Goodbye has quickly jumped to the top of my favorites list.  I loved this story – Mclean is someone I can completely relate to.  Not only that but her situation is unique.

Mclean has chosen to live with her father after her parent’s marriage ends in ruin after her mother cheats on and leaves her father for the coach of his all time favorite basketball team at his former college.  Mclean was able to make this decision on her own after fights in court about what was best for her considering her father has to move from town to town about every six months for his job as a restaurant consultant    Mclean has taken this opportunity to reinvent herself in each school, down to a new name for each new persona.  They have moving down to a system and it does not take Mclean long to get into some minor trouble in her new town but she is saved my her next door neighbor, Dave.  Mclean realizes that instead of building a new persona and picking new friends based on it, people, “friends” if you will are drawn to her in this town and she might not want to leave.  She gets involved in a large community project but is forced away after her mother files with the court that she is not getting to see her per the agreement.  While away at the “beach” with her mother she overhears a conversation that she thinks is about her and takes off.  Remembering what Dave told her that you need at least one friend to call at 2 am that will bail you out she call him for help and ends up getting him in trouble.  What is Mclean going to do about this situation she wants to stay but her dad is moving on?

Mclean is a diverse person driven to do things that most teen would not based on her current life situation.  I found myself trying to get into her head and figure her out but each time I thought I had gotten then she changed things up on me.  Dave is awesome, the total brainy kid who wants nothing more than to be a normal teen and is pushing his parents past their limiting to do so.  All of the other “friends” in this book as just as well developed.  They all have history, passion and a want to be known.  I love this unlikely group of friends and the project they undertake.  

I also enjoyed the inside picture of a restaurant consulting business.  I found the process very interesting and think that the setting in the book is great.  It is such a dense setting with strong emotional ties all over the place.  This is the type of setting I look for!  

As in all of the books I have read by Sarah Dessen, this book caught my attention and left me wanting more.  I would willing read more about these characters and what happens in their future!

 

My Rating


5 of 5 Stars!  This is a wonderful YA book and one that I would recommend to teen and adult alike!

*I purchased this book and all opinions are my own.

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Review: Rock Hard by Olivia Cunning

Rock Hard

Overview – 

Rock Hard

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: April 2011
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Format: Paperback , 448pp












From Goodreads:


Sinners’ lead singer, Sed, had his heart shredded when Jessica left him to pursue her dreams,so when she dances her way back into his life, he’s not sure he’s ready for her brand of pain, or pleasure, again. 

When she convinces Sed to engage in a benefits with benefits relationship, things seem to be going his way, until one of his fans catches their explicit public display of affection on film and posts it all over the internet. 

Will Jessica ever trust Sed again? And has Sed become the man of Jessica’s dreams or is he just posing to get what he wants



My Thoughts:


I was unaware until I just looked this book up on Goodreads that it is a part of a series.  I must go back and read book #1 in the Sinners series for sure!  This book is one that I picked up and I could not put down.  Let me say this right off the bat, this book is for those age 18+.  It is full of HOT STEAMY Sex scenes.  What make it even better is that it has a great story line.  This is the first book that I read by Olivia Cunning and all I can say it that it was amazing!  Both Sed and Jessica frustrated me to no end at different parts of the story.  That being said I still had to root for them to get back together even when each of the respectively was doing things that were just CRAZY stupid!   Cunning has a way with putting together a story that is believable and enjoyable yet hot and sexy at the same time.  I am thrilled to find an author that can balance both parts of the story.  To date, I would have to say this was the best erotic romance that I have read – Congrats to Olivia Cunning for writing such a great book.


A little about the story itself.  The book starts in the past when Jessica gets into law school and Sed tells her that he forbids her from going.  Jes is fed with his demand and breaks off their engagement to pursue her dreams, leaving them both broken hearted.  Fast forward a few years and Jessica trying to earn enough money to continue in law school is stripping in Vegas.  Sed, now extremely successful, walks into the club she is working at and basically pulls her off the stage and get her fired.  The sexual attraction is there from the first moment he touches her.  Can they be more that just friends again?


My Rating
5 stars I really enjoyed this book!  If you enjoy erotic romance this is a book to check out 


*I received this book as a part of my participation in the Book Blogger and Publisher Convention.  All opinions are my own.

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