Monday, February 27, 2012

My Favorite Mistake (The A Circuit) by Georgina Bloomberg and Catherine Hapka

Title: My Favorite Mistake (The A Circuit #2)

Author: Georgina Bloomberg and Catherine Hapka

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
My Copy: finished copy from publicist


Tommi, Zara, and Kate are all elite riders on the A Circuit. Tommi, the billionaire heiress, is training a young horse to prove she can make horses a real career. But when her new beau, Alex, convinces her to skip a horse show to party in the Hamptons, the results could be disastrous. Zara, the celebutante wild child, is finally taking her riding seriously. Until the new "nanny" her dad hires threatens to upstage Zara's party girl status. Then there's Kate. She doesn't have money to burn like the others, but she does have Fitz, the barn's resident hot guy. But when the pressure of being a working student builds, Kate's perfectionist tendencies threaten to get in the way of her relationship and her riding.

Readers who are growing out of the Canterwood Crest series or searching for an A-list fix have found just what they're looking for in the A Circuit series.

My Thoughts: The A Circuit series is officially my guilty pleasure series. While I enjoyed the first novel in the series, I enjoyed My Favorite Mistake much more. The authors truly hit their groove with this one, creating a novel that is fun and enjoyable while also hitting upon some tougher subjects.

I love this series because it plays into all the dreams I had when I was 12 – to ride horses competitively and spend almost every minute living and breathing horses. What I love even more is that while I don't really have any experience riding horses at all, let alone in such a competitive circuit, I am still able to relate to the characters. So while this is aimed at horse-lovers, I think others will be able to enjoy it too.

The one thing that bothered me the most about the first book was the drinking and other things “just because”. And while those things still happen in My Favorite Mistake, I felt they were handled so much better. A few other topics, like eating disorders, are also touched upon and while this is far from an “issue” book, I was glad to see these things brought up. I am looking forward to Book 3 where we hopefully get to see the characters go a little more in-depth with some things.

Overall, I definitely recommend this to readers who have grown out of the Canterwood Crest/Thoroughbred/Saddle Club age range. While I don't think it's appropriate for younger teens, I think that anyone 15+ (or even 14+) will love this one. Can't wait for Book 3!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Interview with Holly Cupala!

Today, I am so excited to interview one of my all-time favorite authors, Holly Cupala. She's the author of Tell Me a Secret and the newly released Don't Breathe a Word, which is now one of my all-time favorite books. You can read my review of Don't Breathe a Word here and check the the wonderful trailer here.Link
Enjoy the interview and be sure to leave your thoughts below!

Hello, Harmony, and thank you for inviting me to your blog!

What was the inspiration for DON'T BREATHE A WORD? Did you do any research about teen homelessness?
I’ve heard it takes two ideas to spark a story, and that was true for DBAW. I keep a writing notebook, and years ago I wrote down “girl who fakes being homeless.” She was going to be maybe a cheerleader by day and fake being on the streets after school. Of course it was a ridiculous idea, but I wrote it down anyway. Then my friend Jack, a youth pastor, put out a call for socks and toiletries to take to the homeless teens in Seattle, and suddenly I had an idea for a girl who runs away for real. Creed and Santos and May kind of came all at once, so vividly. I went home and wrote a fifteen page synopsis of the story.

I didn’t know if my ideas would fit with the reality of teen homelessness, so I did a lot of independent research, talked to people, took a class at New Horizons (the homeless teen org in the book), and asked my friend Pam Longston, the board president at New Ho’s (that’s what the homeless kids call it) to read the story. I was really surprised when the ideas I already had for the story (like street names, ideas of justice, and banding together for family and protection) were confirmed by real life.

Music plays a pretty big role in DON'T BREATHE A WORD. (Gotta love boys with guitars!) Pick a theme song for each of the main characters and one for the novel itself.Link
I have to say I Linklove Creed. I’m so glad you do, too! After TMAS, I really wanted to create a character who was honorable, courageous, and worthy. And who happens to be a genius musician. ;)
Joy: Deserter, by Splashdown. (listen here)
Creed: I Will Follow You into the Dark, Death Cab for Cutie (video here)
May: Something of an End, My Brightest Diamond. (listen here)LinkSantos: Street Spirit (Fadeout), Radiohead (video here)
One for the novel…oh, that’s so hard! All of the above songs and more, because each captures a different moment. If I had to choose one, maybe it would be You’re Not Alone, Saosin (video here).

Both of your books deal with serious subjects. Was one harder to write than the other? Why or why not?
TMAS was an enormous challenge—in part because it came out of a personal loss in my own life, and also because I was fighting all of the personal demons telling me I couldn’t possibly write, finish, or publish a novel. In some ways DBAW was easier, but then I still had to delve into the core of that story and where it came from (I wrote about my own abusive relationship in DEAR BULLY: 70 AUTHORS TELL THEIR STORIES). There are no emotional shortcuts, unfortunately!

What are you working on now?
I’m writing a third novel now, and it’s very intense—highly emotional and suspenseful and hopeful. It’s about four different characters, each with buried secrets, and a murder that brings them all together in one gigantic twist…

DON'T BREATHE A WORD deals with a lot of serious topics, from teen homelessness to drug usage to abusive relationships. Do you have any advice for your readers who may be in one of these situations or any organizations you would like to point them towards for help? Also, how can readers get involved in the fight against teen homelessness?
One thing I learned that really struck me during my research was that wanting to leave bad habits is not a motivation to quit—finding purpose and meaning is. One better choice can make the difference between a hopeful outcome and a grim one.

There are some wonderful organizations, both locally and nationally, to help teens in abusive or dangerous situations:Link

The National Runaway Hotline, 1-800-RUNAWAY, is dedicated to helping teens stay safe and off the streets. Link
is such a great site with info on relationship warning signs and getting help, and they launched a dating abuse hotline: 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 77054.

Glamour Magazine launched the Tell Somebody campaign, including 10 Surprising Warning Signs You’re Dating an Abusive Guy.

How can you help?

Begin in your neighborhood, as Joy does. Look for opportunities to give toiletries and essentials, or volunteer in a teen sLinkhelter. If you have a friend in trouble, you may be more important than you know. Encourage your friend to find help. True friendship shines through adversity, and there is hope on the other side.

Thanks, Holly! I hope my readers will check out those great links you provided. Be sure to check out Holly's website and the official Don't Breathe a Word site. You can also read the first two chapters of DBAW here. (Though be warned that it's going to make you want to buy the book right away!)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Catching Jordan

Author: Miranda Kenneally

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

My Copy: Bought for Kindle


What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though- she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she's ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he's also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan's feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart's on the line?

My Thoughts: I reread this book three times within 24 after purchasing it. That should pretty much tell you everything you need to know about this novel.

Catching Jordan has the perfect amount of football, boys, and romance to keep both the diehard football fans and the ones who care more about staring at the player's butts intrigued and reading. I fall into the latter category – I understand absolutely nothing about football – but I could not put Catching Jordan down.

Jordan is such a likeable character. She's tough and determined, a real leader on the field, but at the same time, she's just like every other teenager worried about boys. I really loved reading about her relationships with the boys on the football team. Their banter was one of my favorite things about the story. Henry was my favorite character in the entire novel and that's all I will say about that.

The romance, while it had a high risk of being cliché, is perfectly executed. It's not tacky or overdone but it is honest and real.

The only issue I had with this at all is that Jordan cries a LOT. It felt like she was tearing up on every other page and while sometimes it was for good reasons, I just felt like it happened too much. But it is certainly not enough to take away from the novel.

Overall, Catching Jordan is one of the best contemporary young adult novels out there. I am anxiously awaiting Kenneally's next novel and, in the meantime, I will keep rereading this one!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Panama Trip and Promotion Opportunities for Authors

One of the things that I love about my cyber school is that it offers so many wonderful life-changing opportunities. Each year, my school takes students to Guatemala, Panama, China, Quebec, and on a "behind-the-scenes" Disney workshop in Orlando.

Last year, I took the opportunity to go on the trip to Guatemala. It was the first time that I ever left the country and my first time on a plane. The anxious girl who stepped on a plane for the first time and the confident girl who stepped off ten days later are not the same person. That trip did more for me than I can ever put into words. It changed how I view the world and it changed what I want to do with my life. Ever since returning home, I have wanted to travel, to help others, and do my small part in keeping the world a good place to be.

It turns out that this year's trip to Panama is a new opportunity for me to do just that. In previous years, the students that went to Panama have installed new water systems and held festivals for the local children. While both of those things are wonderful, this year's mission touched my heart. This year, the group that goes on the trip will be partnering with an organization called Casa Esperanza that works to "help eradicate child labor through literacy, education, and nutrition".

This mission spoke to me for a variety of reasons. First off, after visiting the children in Guatemala, I have a new level of caring towards children born into poverty in foreign countries where little to no aid is available. Secondly, we are going to be helping these children with LITERACY. Anyone who reads my blog obviously knows that I care a lot about literacy and I do believe that having the ability to read will open up a whole new world to these children. There are over 47,000 children involved in child labor in Panama and if I can make a difference to just a few of them, I will have accomplished something amazing.

For more information, please view this website I created for the trip.

I am working my butt off to be able to go on this trip because it means so much to me. Unfortunately, things are not quite going as planned. So, I am going to offer a few promotional things below in hopes that I will be able to get a little closer to my goal. Any money I receive for any of the following will go directly towards the Panama Trip.

1.) Promotional Tshirt

I did this last year and it worked out quite well. I will be designing a Tshirt that features the title and authors of books on the back, with a cover on the front. Here is a picture of the one from last year:

The front has a picture of Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert and it looks pretty spiffy.

This year, I will be offering the same thing. I am aiming to be able to make one shirt but if I have a lot of interest, particularly for the front photo, I am willing to design more. (I have lots of friends who like to read and be social!)

To have your book cover on the front it is $45.
To have the title of your book and your name on the back, it is $15.
Each additional book title is $10.

2.) Ad Space
For $8 a week, you can have an ad of for your novel/website/blog/whatever posted on this site.

For both of these I would like payment via Paypal or money order. Please email harmonybookreviews[at]yahoo[dot]com with questions or interest!

While these are my only "official" services, I am willing to help with whatever needs to be done. So if there's something internet-related that you just keep putting off and would like someone to do, please email me! Chances are I am more than willing to help.

This trip is really important to me so thank you in advance for any help in reaching my goal!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: Trial by Fire (a Raised by Wolves novel)

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Publisher: Egmont USA

My Copy: ARC received


There can only be one alpha.

Bryn is finally settling into her position as alpha of the Cedar Ridge Pack—or at least, her own version of what it means to be alpha when you’re a human leading a band of werewolves. Then she finds a teenage boy bleeding on her front porch. Before collapsing, he tells her his name is Lucas, he’s a Were, and Bryn’s protection is his only hope.

But Lucas isn’t part of Bryn’s pack, and she has no right to claim another alpha’s Were. With threats—old and new—looming, and danger closing in from all sides, Bryn will have to accept what her guardian Callum knew all along. To be alpha, she will have to give in to her own animal instincts and become less human. And, she’s going to have to do it alone.

Bryn faces both the costs, and the rewards, of love and loyalty, in this thrilling sequel to Raised by Wolves.

My Thoughts: I LOVE this series. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is one talented writer. I absolutely adored Raised by Wolves – in fact, I think it's one of my all-time favorite paranormal books. It took me a while to get to this one and while it did not pack the punch that Raised by Wolves did, I wish that I had read it sooner.

This series is different from all other werewolf series about their because while there is a human girl involved, she's not falling mindlessly in love with a guy and then later finding out he's a werewolf. Bryn was raised by wolves and she is strong and determined because of that. She consistently pushes the boundaries between what it means to be human and where the line is drawn in our animalistic desires.

The one thing I love about this series, aside from its originality, is the characters and their relationships. I would love to have Devon and Lake as my best friends and everyone, from Ali to Maddy to Lucas, has secrets and multiple sides. I spent most of the novel trying to figure the characters out and, honestly, I still can't decide what I think about a few certain characters.

Unfortunately, while there was a lot of action in this, I did not feel the connection to the story that I felt with Raised by Wolves. Even though many of the plot twists caught me off guard, it didn't blow me away as the first novel had. However, this is common with the second book in a series and, overall, Trial by Fire is still a great book.

Trial by Fire is a worthy second book in a great series. If you haven't picked this series up yet, I suggest you do!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Stealing Parker

WoW is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

My pick for this week is Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally. It's a companion novel to Catching Jordan, which I recently read and ADORED (review coming soon!) and releases in October 2012. Here's what Miranda's website says of the book:

Companion to Catching Jordan. This book is about a girl named Parker, who has a crush on the 23-year-old coach of the school baseball team. Parker goes to the same school as Jordan Woods and Sam Henry, so you *might* see some familiar faces in my second book.

That's not much to go on but I loved Catching Jordan so much that I'm eager to read anything by Kenneally, even if the characters are different! (Though I'd love to see some more Woods & Henry!)

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top 10 Books That Broke My Heart a Little

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and The Bookish. Check it out here!

This week's theme is books that broke my heart and, honestly, there are SO many books that break my heart, all for different reasons. Mostly because of some gut-wrenching romantic theme or the tough subject that it deals with. I could probably come up with a list of about 100 books that have broken my heart in one way or another so I'm just going to list ten of my favorites off the top of my head (which also means they're either staring at me on my shelf or I read them recently.)

In no particular order:

1. The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy by Jenny Han. I recently read this trilogy in less than 24 hours and it certainly packs a punch. Each one broke my heart a little more than the previous one did.

2. Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert. Oh, Ballads. You twist my heart and smash it to pieces every time I open you. Maybe that's why I love you so much.

3. Sea by Heidi R. Kling. Oh, the last 50 pages of this book smashed my heart to pieces. It's such a well-written book but it's pretty much guaranteed that your heart will ache by the time it's over.

4. Saving June by Hannah Harrington. Dead sister, hot guy with a secret, and a roadtrip. Enough said.

5. Burned by Ellen Hopkins. This is my favorite Hopkins book but I think it's impossible to read any of her books without having your heart broken just a little bit. So intense, so gut-wrenching, so perfect.

6. By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Read by Julie Anne Peters. This book is just...yikes. Intense. Sad. Wonderful. Made me want to cry.

7. Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala. Oh, know how to break someone's heart! Both of her books broke my heart a little bit but since I've been fangirling over Don't Breathe a Word lately, I wanted to give Tell Me a Secret some love. It deals with such a tough subject matter and you want the characters to succeed SO badly and it just...heart. pieces.

8. The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder. This is definitely a book of hope but it's also a book about the day before some very life-changing things happen and even though we don't get to see those things happen, it kind of breaks me heart for the characters.

9. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen. Oh, Owen. I love you. I love this book, the romance in it, and everything about it. Even though everything *spoiler* ends up okay, it still hurt my heart to watch it happen.

10. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. This book is so sad and overwhelming that if it doesn't hurt your heart a little, nothing will. Laurie Halse Anderson is a goddess.

Do you agree/disagree with my choices? What would you put on your list?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

Title: Don't Breathe a Word
Author: Holly Cupala
Publisher: HarperCollins
My Copy: received from publisher
Summary: Joy delamere is suffocating.

From asthma, from her parents, and from her boyfriend, Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out. She can take his cruel words, his tender words . . . until the night they go too far.

To escape, Joy sacrifices her suburban life to find the one who offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. He introduces her to a world of fierce loyalty, to its rules of survival, and to love—a world she won’t easily let go.

Set against the backdrop of the streets of Seattle, Holly Cupala’s power­ful new novel explores the subtleties of abuse, the secrets we keep, and the ways to redemption. But above all, it is an unflinching story about the extraordinary lengths one girl will go to discover her own strength.
My Thoughts:
Um, holy crap. Don't Breathe a Word is THE book of 2012. Nothing has affected me or made me think this much since Ballads of Suburbia two or three years ago. Once I started reading, I could not set this book down and even though I finished it in the final days of 2011, I still cannot get it out of my head. Everyone needs to read this book - when I finished, I texted about ten different people and forced them to purchase the book for themselves. I suggest that you do the same!

Okay, so what makes the book so wonderful? Well, um, everything.

Holly Cupala has officially established herself as being an incredible writer of tough subjects, first with Tell Me a Secret and now with Don't Breathe a Word. She writes with such vivid prose, throwing the reader straight into tough situations and holds absolutely nothing back. She writes with such raw honesty that even the most close-minded readers will find their thoughts challenged, if not changed completely.

The plotline of DON'T BREATHE A WORD is superior to any other novel on teen homelessness. As someone in a middle-class family, it's hard to imagine that some of these things happen but Cupala makes it real. My favorite aspect was that this wasn't just a novel about homelessness or an abusive relationship. It was a novel about friendship, love, and what either of those actually means.

While the prose and plot add so much to the story, it's the characters that truly make Don't Breathe a Word one of the best books out there. I don't think I've read a book with such real, messed up characters in a long time. The reader will find themselves identifying with Joy, whether you've ever been pushed as far as she has or not, and sympathizing with May, Creed, and the rest of the gang. Creed is one of the best male leads out there - he's sweet, strong, and so imperfect. He screws up and says the wrong thing and he doesn't have that psycho possessive thing that so many other male characters seem to have lately. Oh, and he plays a guitar. Asher, as evil as he is, is also a great character, perhaps because he is so bad and therefore real.

I could go on about this book all day because, honestly, the one downfall is that it ends. I wanted to stay with these characters forever. Holly Cupala is officially one of my favorite writers and I highly, highly recommend Don't Breathe a Word. It is the best teen contemporary out right now and I don't say that lightly. So do yourself a favor and go buy a copy!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Title: Stolen
Author: Lucy Christopher
Summary: A stunning debut novel with an intriguing literary hook: written in part as a letter from a victim to her abductor. Sensitive, sharp, captivating!

Gemma, 16, is on layover at Bangkok Airport, en route with her parents to a vacation in Vietnam. She steps away for just a second, to get a cup of coffee. Ty--rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar--pays for Gemma's drink. And drugs it. They talk. Their hands touch. And before Gemma knows what's happening, Ty takes her. Steals her away. The unknowing object of a long obsession, Gemma has been kidnapped by her stalker and brought to the desolate Australian Outback. STOLEN is her gripping story of survival, of how she has to come to terms with her living nightmare--or die trying to fight it.

My Thoughts:
Stolen is the most intense, twisted, and mind-blowing book I've ever read. From the minute I read the first sentence to the final page, I could not get this book out of my head. I rushed through dinner and dishes just to get back to the book and when I finished, my mind was reeling.

Stolen is Gemma's letter to her captor. It's not told in traditional letter format but the narrator often uses "you". While it is a little weird at first, in the end it makes the story much more emotional, especially at the end.

Lucy Christopher is one talented writer. She tugs the reader right into the world of her characters, tears their heart apart, and makes them question everything they thought they knew. I, for one, never thought I could feel anything but hatred for someone that kidnaps a girl and I'm sure everyone else feels the same. But STOLEN will at least make you think, if not make you understand people a little more. Both Gemma and Ty are such complex characters that it's impossible to not feel attached by the end of the novel.

Another thing that made this novel stand out so much was the setting. The outback of Australia just fit the plot so perfectly and it adds an extra sense of desperation to the novel. If this had been set in an American suburbia or the countryside, it would not have had the same effect. Poisonous snakes, desert, and camels just make everything better.

Overall, Stolen in an absolute must-read. It's a powerful book that you're guaranteed to never forget. I definitely recommend picking up a copy today!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Harmony Returns!

Yes, you read that right - I am officially BACK!

I never meant to leave but as I'm sure you can see from my lack of posts from July to January, I ended taking a very long break.

There were a lot of reasons for this. My summer was crazy and hectic. When school started up, I was beyond overwhelmed. I'm doing two years at once to graduate early and the course-load is far from easy. I moved in October and that, on top of college application stress and my already huge school load, meant I had a very small amount of free time.

However, if I'm being totally honest, none of these excuses were the real reason that I haven't been blogging. Because I could have fit time in there, to read and to blog about the books.

The truth is that reviewing was killing my desire to read. I was in a huge reading slump and I can honestly say that a huge contributing factor was the big stack of books that I *had* to read and the feeling of no matter what book I read, I was going to end up letting someone down. So I just quit reading.

I've been thinking about making this post for a while and while this may only be interesting to other bloggers, I felt that it was important to get that out there. The girls at Bloggers [Heart] Books said it better than I ever could here. I highly recommend reading that post because it says everything that I was feeling.

Before I go any further, I want to make something clear. I am so grateful for every person, whether author, publisher, or publicist, who has ever sent me a book, who has ever taken the time to email me with a request. I would be nowhere without any of you. So thank you!

The fault does not lay with anyone but myself. I got too carried away by the desire to try books that I would not necessarily read. I said "yes" too much and "no" far too rarely. Saying yes to books I'm not positive I'll like doesn't work for me.

I was pretty miserable for a while, after I stopped reviewing. Because not only did I stop reviewing, I stopped reading. Me, the girl who can often read a 200pg book a day, reading no books at all. It was pretty bad but it seemed that every book I picked up couldn't hold my attention past page 30.

Luckily, my love of reading has returned. I don't know when or why. It may have been just because I let myself take a break from it for so long or it may have been that shiny new Kindle Fire that I received for Christmas. Either way, I have been INHALING books lately. Seriously. I've been practically reading a book a day lately.

Because, guys, did you realize how many AMAZING young adult books are out there? I've read so many wonderful books lately...DON'T BREATHE A WORD, STOLEN, and THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY, just to mention a few! It makes me so excited.

What makes me even more excited than all of these awesome books is that I want to talk about them and share them with everyone else. That's why I started this blog in the first place and it is why I will continue.

I have a stack of reviews written and a list of more to write. I have a bunch of books that I'm ready to dive in to. I have opinions and thoughts and excitement over these books. I AM HAPPY TO BE BACK.

I'll be doing things a little different this time. The biggest change is that I will be much more selective in what I accept for review. Please see my updated Review Policy for more information. It will mean saying "no" more often but it will also ensure that I am better able to promote and share my feelings on the books that I do review.

I'm also now reviewing self-published books, mostly ones that I purchase on my Kindle.

I may be adding a few more non-book-related posts here and there and I may not be blogging 5 days a week.

However, I'm here to stay and I hope that you'll stick around for all the fun things I have planned!

Remember to follow me on Twitter @harmonybreviews!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Top 10 Books I'd Hand to Someone Who Says They Don't Like to Read

This post is part of Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish! Check out their blog and participate in Top Ten Tuesday on your blog!

Below are a list of books that I've personally handed to people when they tell me that they don't like to read. All of them are books that I absolutely adored and while I wouldn't give all of them to the same person, I think that this list encompasses people from a variety of different interests.

1.) Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert. I recommend this book to EVERYONE. Ever since I first read it a few years ago I've been handing it out to anyone that will stand still for a few seconds. The best part? Most of them, even if they don't read, end up loving it.

2.) Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken. I hand this out to people who like action-fantasy movies or fans of Harry Potter. This book has magic, action, romance, and it's written so well that one can almost forget that they're actually reading a book.

3.) Stolen by Lucy Christopher. I just read this over the weekend but when a friend who normally doesn't read beyond Ellen Hopkins asked me if there was anything I could recommend, this was it! It's intense, twisted, and mind-blowing. Plus, it's short and it flies. Those two things combined make it a great read for a reluctant reader.

4.) Saving June by Hannah Harrington. I have a friend who is kinda punk, totally addicted to music that never reads and after I finished this book, I threw it at her and demanded she read it. Guess what? She loved it! This book has music, a roadtrip, a hot boy, and characters that force you to care. A perfect combo for almost anyone.

5.) Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder. Books in verse are the way to go for people that don't like reading. Even if there are a large number of pages, there are fewer words and still short. The poetry format cuts down on unnecessary words and descriptions and keeps the book straightforward, making them more accessible to slow readers. While I love all of Lisa's novels, Chasing Brooklyn is by far my favorite and I recommend it all the time.

6.) Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala. This is another of my all-time favorites. I tend to recommend it to people who are intense and like things honest. This book tackles the tough subject of teen homelessness and introduces the reader to a whole new world. Once you start reading, you immediately become attached to the characters, which makes it difficult to put down. Short, sweet, and intense.

7.) Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Sometimes I think that it is easier to convince people to read a book when they can be enticed with watching the movie afterwards. I suggested Water for Elephants to multiple adult family members and nearly all of them loved it.

8.) Vampire Academy by Richelle Meade. This one is for all of the people who say "Twilight is the only book I like". It has action, romance, and vampires, just like Twilight but it's so much better. Plus, it's a series which means that people won't just be reading this one book.

9.) Ordinary Beauty by Laura Weiss. I'm cheating with this one because I recommend it to adults who read adult fiction but stick their noses up at YA. While Ordinary Beauty is technically a young adult book, it also exhibits qualities of adult fiction. Because the characters deal with mature themes and are close to adulthood, it is easier for adults to sink their teeth in it. Plus the book just flat-out rocks. Once they're addicted to this, I start handing them the other books mentioned on the list.

10.) Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready. Real life with a dose of paranormal plus boys in kilts and music. Shade has something that will appeal to almost any reader out there. I recommend this over and over and I've yet to find someone that doesn't love it.

Honorable Mention:
Sirenz by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman. I recommend this to my fashionista friends and those who may not enjoy paranormal or a really intense novel. It's cute, short, and fun. Always a hit.

Don't Breathe a Word Trailer Release!

Today, I am excited to share the trailer of one of my all-time favorite books, DON'T BREATHE A WORD BY HOLLY CUPALA. The book released back in January but the trailer releases today and Holly is hosting a HUGE giveaway in honor of that! So watch the trailer below, enter the contest, and then purchase a copy of the book because it freaking rocks! (Review coming soon!)



Five Grand Prizes:
Signed copies of Don’t Breathe a Word, Tell Me a Secret, the TMAS special edition audiobook, bookmarks, stickers, and other swag*

Ten Runner-Up Prizes:
Don’t Breathe a Word flyers, bookmarks, stickers, and a TMAS button*

Plus the first forty people who buy the book at this link between now and Valentine’s Day get DBAW bookmarks, stickers, and undying book love from me!*

*Must include mailing address with entry. (US + up to 20% international winners)


1. Click here to go to the DBAW trailer link, then click the Share button to send to your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, MySpace, blog, or other social network. 5 pts each

2. Buy the book at this link for more chances to win (include in your entry below)!

3. Click here to enter with your links and/or purchase!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Title: The Beautiful Disaster
Author: Jamie McGuire
Publisher: self-published
My copy: Purchased for Kindle
Summary: The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate percentage of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance between her and the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend America, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the charming college co-ed. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his charms, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’ apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.
(Summary from author's website)

My Thoughts:
Beautiful Disaster may be the title of the book but it also heavily reflects the content. Between the covers, the reader finds a mish-mash of everything wonderful and bad thrown in to one novel, providing an end result of disappointment.

The first half of Beautiful Disaster is wonderful. It is fast-paced, intriguing, and everything else that a superb novel should be. The reader is introduced to a cast of characters that are both complex and lovable while keeping the reader curious about their motives in relationships. The relationship between Travis and Abby is, at first, what keeps the novel from becoming just another one of "those" books where the girl meets the bad boy and forgets any standards that she ever had. The fact that Abby is able to keep her standards and stand up for herself for the majority of the novel may be one of the best things about it. Another thing that makes Beautiful Disaster good is the unique setting - The Circle at Eastern University, where secret fights happen. This certainly adds intrigue and tension to the overall novel.

Unfortunately, despite all of the great things about the novel, there are also a lot of bad things. After the half-way mark in the novel, the entire thing goes downhill. The plot is rushed, actions taken by certain characters are abrupt and unjustified, and anything negative in the first half is magnified.

The first thing that falls apart is the relationship between Abby and Travis. Throughout the first half of the novel, their relationship is unique and it makes sense. Abby does not let him get away with anything and she stands up for herself. However, at this point in the novel she seems to lose all self-respect and begins to do anything he says. Even more disturbing than their relationship, however, is Travis himself. He is an angry boy with drinking problems and often resorts to violence and lies. At some points in the novel, the fact this is bad is clearly obvious but in the end, the general message that violence and lying are okay in a relationship is sent to the reader.

While there is a fantastic cast of supporting characters, including Abby's best friends and Travis' brothers, none of them are fully developed. The reader sees enough of them to be curious about them but the desire to know more is never fully fulfilled, particulars in the area of Travis' brothers. At times the actions are of the supporting characters are questionable, especially those of Shepley's.

The final quarter of the novel is rushed and very abrupt, leaving the reader going "wait, what?" and does not seem to fit the quality of the rest of the novel, leaving the reader disappointed.

Beautiful Disaster could have easily been one of the best books out there, had more time been taken to explain, develop, and resolve. Unfortunately, it fell short of expectations due to lack of development and erratic behavior from the characters. A possible sequel is in the works and the good parts of the novel may intrigue a reader enough to pick up a copy upon release.