Wildflower (Wildflower, #1)

img_0251First Lines: “Bird!” Jacob whispers urgently over the music.

This was on my to-read list for a long time before I finally snagged it from a Scholastic book order.  (Ah, it’s almost that season again!  Can’t wait!)  So as this summer has been winding down for me, I’ve been trying to also work through the ever-growing stack of books I’ve bought but wanted to read before I took them to school.  This was high on that list.

For nearly half of her life, Bird Barrett has been on the road with her family’s bluegrass band, singing backup and playing fiddle.  And she loves it, spending time with her brothers and her parents.  So it’s a huge surprise when one night, filling in as lead singer for her ill father, Bird gets noticed by a scout and offers Bird the chance to have the spotlight for herself.  Soon, Bird is living the dream in songwriting session, music video shoots, and recording sessions.  Her first song is a hit and suddenly fans and paparazzi are everywhere.  She’s even caught the eye of her long-time crush, Adam Dean.  But with the quick rise of Bird’s star, other parts of her life start falling apart.  Can Bird keep her priorities in order while still being the star she never dreamed she could be?

I was drawn to this book for its country angle.  I love country music.  I grew up on all the same songs and artists Bird mentions in this book–Vince Gill, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood.  So it was really cool for me to read about a girl with the same musical influences as me.  I feel like that rarely happens because country gets a bad reputation.

This story is essentially the story of Taylor Swift, but with some differences.  (You’ll see the similarities in a moment.)  Bird, a tall blonde bombshell, is a killer songwriter who writes a lot of autobiographical songs about boys she likes and struggles in her life.  (Now you see it?)  From the moment her first song takes off, she’s become basically an overnight sensation.

I adored Bird.  She’s an awkward owl, but her heart’s in the right place.  She adores her family and loves playing with them, but she’s also totally enjoying her moment in the spotlight.  Like you would expect from a 16 year old, she makes mistakes and sometimes mopes, whines, and gets caught up in the moment.  I have a feeling that if I were in her shoes, I would be making a lot of the same mistakes right along with her and I have almost 10 years on her.  But I really liked her personality and her drive.

I also really liked her family too.  Bird is the little sis, so her older brothers act like any normal brothers would–protective teasing lovable jerks.  And her parents are the right mix of supportive and grounded.  It was really sweet how close they all were.

But what I truly loved was the portrayal of the music industry.  Some of it was a little magical, some of it seedy and shady.  We got to see all of that–the good and the bad–and how Bird deals with those challenges and perks.

I thought it was a cute book.  Very cool look at what it takes to be a star with a few truly touching moments.  I’m excited to see what happens in the next book, when Bird goes on tour for the first time.

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Spotlight Friday (157)

Hey-o!  It’s FRIDAY!  And that means more books!  Also, I made a banner for Spotlights in my free time.  Let me know if you like it or not.  🙂  It looks so excited.

Screenshot 2016-07-25 14.50.16

a-week-of-mondays-jessica-brodyA Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody

Release Date: August 2, 2016

Summary (from Goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Ellison Sparks is having a serious case of the Mondays. She gets a ticket for running a red light, she manages to take the world’s worst school picture, she bombs softball try-outs and her class election speech (note to self: never trust a cheerleader when she swears there are no nuts in her bake-sale banana bread), and to top it all off, Tristan, her gorgeous rocker boyfriend suddenly dumps her. For no good reason!

As far as Mondays go, it doesn’t get much worse than this. And Ellie is positive that if she could just do it all over again, she would get it right. So when she wakes up the next morning to find she’s reliving the exact same day, she knows what she has to do: stop her boyfriend from breaking up with her. But it seems no matter how many do-overs she gets or how hard Ellie tries to repair her relationship, Tristan always seems bent set on ending it. Will Ellie ever figure out how to fix this broken day? Or will she be stuck in this nightmare of a Monday forever?

From the author 52 Reasons to Hate My Father and The Unremembered trilogy comes a hilarious and heartwarming story about second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances. Because sometimes it takes a whole week of Mondays to figure out what you really want.

What’s To Like: I think of this as a fluffier version of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver or like a YA version of Groundhog Day.  And I mean, we’ve all had those days that we wish we could do over.  Ellie gets her chance and I’m totally hoping I can laugh my way through this.

how2bto2bkeep2brolling2bafter2ba2bfallHow To Keep Rolling After A Fall by Karole Cozzo

Release Date: August 2, 2016

Summary (from Goodreads): After a cyber bullying incident turns her life upside down, a handsome wheelchair rugby player shows a former mean girl that everyone deserves a second chance.

The party was at her house. The photos were posted to her Facebook account. That’s all the evidence anyone needed to condemn Nikki Baylor for a cyberbullying incident that humiliated a classmate and nearly resulted in the girl’s suicide. Now Nikki’s been expelled from her old school, her friends have abandoned her, and even her own parents can’t look her in the eye. With her plans for the future all but destroyed, Nikki resigns herself to being the girl everyone hates – almost as much as she hates herself. But then Nikki meets Pax, a spirited wheelchair rugby player who knows what it’s like when one mistake completely shatters your life. Refusing to judge her because of her past, he shows her that everyone deserves a second chance… and everyone deserves to be loved.

What’s To Like: I always like these stories of second chances and meeting people who change your perspective on life.  And I’m always a fan of stories that go dark and personal, and this definitely looks like it’s headed that way.  This is published by Swoon Reads, so we’re definitely guaranteed a love story.  Dark love stories are my favorite.

the-beauty-of-darkness-mary-e-pearsonThe Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles, #3) by Mary E. Pearson

Release Date: August 2, 2016

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Summary (from Goodreads): Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous – what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.

Bestselling author Mary E. Pearson’s combination of intrigue, suspense, romance and action make this a riveting page turner for teens.

What’s To Like: I’m actually a little shocked that this summary is this short, but I’m not surprised that it says virtually nothing.  The previous books were very secretive too.  And I kind of like that because I have no idea where the story is going to go.  I really like this series, and I really like Lia.  I’m interested in seeing how this series wraps up.

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1)

this-savage-songFirst Lines: The night Kate Harker decided to burn down the school chapel, she wasn’t angry or drunk.  She was desperate.  Burning down the church was really a last resort; she’d already broken a girl’s nose, smoked in the dormitories, cheated on her first exam, and verbally harassed three of the nuns.

As many of you know, this came in this month’s OwlCrate and Uppercase Box.  So I figured I needed to get it read, since I have two of them staring me in the face.  And I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary stuff lately, so this was something different.

Kate Harker wants to be as heartless and fierce as her father.  For five years, he’s abandoned her at six boarding schools.  Now, after getting kicked out again, she’s coming home to Verity.  She knows this is her chance to prove she’s just like her father.  August Flynn can steal your soul with a song.  He’s a monster, but he wants nothing more than to be human.  Verity is a city divided and crumbling.  Kate and August are the only ones who clearly see both sides–human and monster.  They could be Verity’s only chance at surviving.  But how do you know who’s the hero and who’s the villain when you can’t tell which is which?

Alright.  Let me start by saying that I love this philosophical question about what makes a person a monster and what makes them human.  (It’s essentially the same question Belle has to ask herself in Beauty and the Beast.  Hence: “He’s not a monster, Gaston.  You are.”  …I didn’t even have to look that up.)  So I loved this play on things that Kate is human wishing she was as ruthless as a monster while August is a monster wanting desperately to be human and normal.  Also, it really helped develop the characters, if you couldn’t already tell from the very interesting first lines.

I also liked the lore of Verity, how the city divided into two and how the monsters formed.  It all kind of has a dystopian feel to it, without actually being at that dystopian level.  Like, during the day, it more or less feels like a contemporary story with a little bit of paranormal simply from the existence of monsters.  But at night, that’s when things turn dark and creepy.  It actually felt like a more realistic story than I expected it to be.

Generally, I liked Kate and August.  Sure, I was more partial to August.  As a monster, he feels like he constantly needs to atone for his darker needs.  He just wants to play music without hurting anyone.  Kate is fierce and willing to do whatever she needs to to get the approval of her father.  And that usually means torturing/killing someone.  She has to balance that need to have power through fear while also wanting to be normal.  Personally, I thought it was easier to relate to August’s atonement than it was to Kate’s desire to hurt people, even if it was guided by a desperate need for approval.

I was even pleasantly surprised that this book doesn’t have a drop of romance in it.  I knew it wasn’t supposed to, but I guess I still expected something.  But the way it plays out, it doesn’t even need a love story.  In fact, I think it would have hurt the story to have one.

But I did feel like the pace was sometimes slow.  The beginning of the book was good because we were getting to know Kate and August, Verity, the monsters, etc.  After a while, it just slows down.  It still kept moving, sure, but it wasn’t as action-packed as I expected.

Part of that might also come from the fact that I wasn’t 100% invested in the story.  I don’t know why.  I just felt distanced from it all.  I enjoyed it, but I never felt like it was a page-turner or something that made me bounce in suspense.  The word that came to mind when I finished was “lackadaisical”.  Weird word choice, I know, but the story kind of flits around a little and I think that’s why.

Totally an interesting concept and I’m interested to see where the series goes next.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want to Do or Learn About

Wow, that’s a long title.  But hey, it’s that time of week again where we start breaking down awesome things about books.  This topic is interesting…and really hard to actually think of answers.  Still, let’s have some fun!

toptentuesday

Top Ten Things Book Have Made Me Want to Do or Learn About After Reading Them

private-french-lessons1. Learn French – Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

I’ve always joked that I learned French from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  (Lumiere is always peppering his speech with French.)  But it was a combination of things that made me want to learn French, not the least of which was this book/TV show.  I know rudimentary Spanish from high school, which has helped me a lot in trying to learn French.  They share many grammar rules.  I’m by no means fluent, but it’s a work in progress.  And it helps out in more books than you’d think.

harry-potter12. Become a Dreamer – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Ok, you knew this was coming.  Be serious.  (Or should I say Be Sirius? *cymbal crash*)  The most influential series of our generation was bound to make the list…but I couldn’t figure out what exactly it had influenced me to do.  “Become a wizard” was my first joking answer.  But the more I got thinking about it, I think this was the book that showed me how so much is possible if we try, no matter what odds are against us.  Good can conquer evil.  Smart girls get stuff done.  No one is purely good or evil.  Friends can be your family.  This was the first book, I think, that truly caught my attention and turned me into a reader, a dreamer, and eventually, a writer.  If I keep this us, I’m going to start rambling.

robin-hood3. Write my own Robin Hood Story – Scarlet by A.G. Gaughen

This is true.  I have been fascinated by the story of Robin Hood for many, many years.  It’s a classic tale of the little guy overcoming a corrupt authority.  I’d tried on and off for a while to write a Robin Hood story, but nothing was really working.  This series was the first time that I really started looking at Marian as a fierce character, someone who doesn’t need Robin to save her.  I’m actually astonished that it took this long, but I’m glad I’ve finally gotten there.  And I loved the idea so much that I’m currently working on turning it into a story.  (Later, we can discuss whether or not it’s actually any good.)

Football Close Up on Field4. Play Football – Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy, or at least the girl who hung out with the guys.  I grew up with football and playing it in the backyard with my cousins.  So reading this book reminded me of those good times and made me want to get back out there.  It’s amazing how averse people become to playing outdoors once they hit like, 16.  Still, if anyone wants to take me up on it, I’m always up for a game.

tower_of_london_viewed_from_the_river_thames5. Travel to London – SO MANY BOOKS

This is a bucket list moment.  I want to travel to London desperately.  From all the historical novels I’ve read about the Tudors (Brazen, Gilt, or Tarnish by Katherine Longshore) that mention castles and towers to modern stories set in London (like The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson) all just convince me more and more that I need to go.  I love the accent, the culture, THE HISTORY.  Ok, let’s not pretend I wouldn’t be going for the castles.  Just leave me in the Tower of London for a couple of days and then come pick me up and take me to the next castle.  We’ll be good friends then.

chocolate-chocolate-30471811-1024-7686. Eat Chocolate – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

As if I needed an excuse.  Also, PSA here for you: do not look up pictures of chocolate when you’re hungry.  It’s a bad idea and I’ll just save you the time and heartache now.

tumblr_ltokvjl2iz1qm90q3o2_12807. Rewatch my favorite movies – My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows / As You Wish by Cary Elwes

I am in love with Cary Elwes, who starred in both Lady Jane and The Princess Bride before I was even born.  Alas, he is much too old for me now, but I so enjoy rewatching those movies.  Actually, the same day I finished My Lady Jane, I had to watch Lady Jane again.  And it’s so much fun to read Elwes’s account of all the stuff going on behind the scenes of The Princess Bride in his book.  If it was possible, I think I love this movie even more now.  Another PSA: feel free to look up pictures of Cary Elwes whenever you feel like it.  Whoa, he is hotter than I remembered.

sherlock8. Read the original Sherlock Holmes stories – A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Admittedly, Sherlock also plays a large role in this.  This is a case of loving someone else’s interpretation of the original story and wanting to actually see what the big whoop is.  Cavallaro does a lovely job making Charlotte as neurotic and brilliant as Sherlock and making Jamie as lovable as John, as I’ve come to understand their characters.  I still haven’t actually finished a story, but I have made it a goal to read 2 Sherlock stories soon.  It’s a sticky-note on my goals board.

speak-up9. Speak up – Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson / The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

This sounds a little silly, but it’s true.  In both of these books, the girls are near mute–one by choice and one by necessity.  It’s true that I’m an introvert and far more likely to sit back and let someone talk at me than for me to talk back.  But these books highlight what is lost by not communicating and just how important it is to speak up.  It’s that idea that you don’t understand how important your voice is to you until you’ve been silenced.  And I won’t let anyone silence me.

harry-potter-harry-potter-15333845-1920-256010. Embrace being the intelligent woman that I am – basically every book

Again, it may seem silly, but it’s probably partly because of books that I am unapologetic about being intelligent.  There are girls I grew up with who dumbed themselves down for guys or whatever, and I refuse to do that.  When I grew up with role models like Hermione Granger and Sydney Sage from Richelle Mead’s Bloodline series, it’s impossible to see why I need to dumb myself down.  Sure, they got made fun of occasionally for being so smart from weaker-minded characters, but those girls got stuff done.  And for that, I own them so much.

Shuffle, Repeat

51mqbioyc3l-_sy291_bo1204203200_ql40_First Lines: The car jams to the curb and I hop out before the valet can reach my door.  I’m in the biggest hurry of my life and I don’t care who knows it.

I was initially interested in this book because it’s billed as When Harry Met Sally for YA.  That’s probably my favorite movie ever, so I was all over that.  But it’s also compared to the writing style of Stephanie Perkins, Huntley Fitzpatrick, and Jenny Han.  My expectations were quite high.

June is ready for high school to end so real life can begin.  Oliver is soaking up every minute of high school.  Neither one truly knows the other one, and June would love to keep it that way.  Except that wasn’t part of their moms’ plans.  Now, Oliver is going to drive June to school Every. Single. Day.  They don’t agree on much, but when promises and hearts get broken, Oliver and June will have to figure out what matters and what’s worth fighting for.

Perhaps not so shockingly, it didn’t quite live up to my very high expectations.

Realistically though, it played out the way I thought it would.  It’s a cute romance with two characters who initially don’t really care for each other but come to be friends who maybe want more than that.  In that respect, it very much is like When Harry Met Sally.

If you’re interested in the comparison, June is basically Harry and Oliver is Sally.  June’s kind of cynical and definitely not a joiner in anything high school related.  Oliver is bubbly and warm, befriending nearly everyone he meets.

I just had such a hard time connecting to the characters.  I didn’t really care for June because she’s just so cynical sometimes.  Sometimes she’s just plain rude or mean for no reason.  I mean, there were parts of her personality I did like (she’s totally sarcastic, which I usually adore), but I just couldn’t relate to her enough to care, I guess.  But I did like Oliver.

I think probably one of my biggest issues with this story was that I wasn’t feeling the romance.  You know those love stories that get you all tingly and make you feel light inside?  This wasn’t one of them.  I was rooting for them to get together, but I didn’t actually feel that connection.

And one of the minor characters in the story is vulgar and I mean really vulgar.  Trust me, I know that there are guys out there who talk like that, but it’s usually that creepy dude trying to pick you up in a seedy bar rather than a character in a YA novel.  He was disgusting.  And yes, weird as what I’m about to say sounds to me, he does have a reason for being disgusting.  But just as it does in real life, it got old very quickly.

I also noticed there were a few issues with the plot.  On the whole, I didn’t have a problem with the plot.  It was cute and I liked the slow transformation in the characters.  But there were moments that tried to force suspense or really just dropped the ball.  Like why a senior in high school refuses to get her license.  Kind of a crux to the plot, but also not really.  But it keeps getting brought up to (I think?) create some suspense in the story.  But when the answer takes about two seconds to explain, it’s really not worth it.  This happened a couple of times with various plot elements.

Look, it’s a cute story, don’t get me wrong.  But it had a few issues.

And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga, #1)

25324111First Lines: Vlad Dracul’s heavy brow descended like a storm when the doctor informed him that his wife had given birth to a girl.  His other children–one from his first wife, now nearly fully grown, and even a bastard child from his mistress, born last year–had been boys.

I’ve been following Kiersten White on Twitter for a while now, and she was talking about this book for the longest time.  And I got really excited.  It sounded different and interesting.  Plus, it was Kiersten White.  I’ve read everything she’s written.

No one expects Lada Dragwyla to be a vicious and ruthless princess, even given that her father is Vlad Dracul.  But Lada knows that being brutal is the only way she’s going to survive, especially given that her younger brother, Radu, is gentle and compassionate.  Abandoned in the enemy territory of the Ottoman Empire by their father, Lada and Radu know they are doomed to be pawns in a political game that could easily bring about their deaths.  Lada knows brutality is the only way to survive.  She bides her time until she can find a way back to Wallachia.  Radu just wants a place where he can feel safe.  When they meet Mehmed, the lonely son of the sultan, they know they’ve found a true friend and possibly, someone who matches Lada’s passions.  But Mehmed is the heir to the empire Lada hates–the empire Radu now calls home.  Can they all get what they want or will they remain pawns?

I just want to start by saying that this is nothing like White’s previous books.  Even the writing style seems different.  Normally her stories are kind of funny and cute, but this?  Whoa, no.  I’ll explain that more below, but just keep this in mind.  Her writing feels…I guess more like an adult mainstream fiction.

The story unfolds in what I usually call the “life story.”  As you can tell with the first lines, it starts with Lada’s birth and really, the timeline only slowly moves up to her teenage years from there.  It probably takes nearly a quarter of the book before she even hits 13 and at least another quarter before she hits 17.  (This is part of why I compared this to adult mainstream fiction, because that’s one of the few places where I ever see this kind of timeline.)  Even though I understand why the story plays out this way, it also really slows down the story.

But while it may be slow, it is incredibly intricate.  There is foreshadowing out the wazoo.  You have to pay attention to every character and a lot of what the characters say because it usually comes back.  And that was interesting.

I hesitate to say that this story is action-packed or suspenseful because I didn’t think ti was.  What we do is follow all these friendships, relationships, and political maneuverings as they tangle and knot and fray.  I was never on the edge of my seat, but I was always interested in what would happen next, just to see what the characters did.

Lada and Radu are interesting.  I truly hate to call it a gender swap, but they have switched the stereotypical personalities types associated with their genders.  Lada is vicious, stubborn, cold-hearted, and tactically brilliant.  Radu is compassionate, gentle, sweet, and sensitive but no less brilliant at political maneuvering.  They are ruthless in their own ways, but Lada is more of the “let’s punch him and get it over with” while Radu is more focused on getting revenge through social manslaughter.  Radu plays with subtleties, Lada plays with cannons.

Now that I’ve repeated myself about five times over, I just want to say that I liked this change.  I liked that Lada had to prove herself as a strong and competent woman and shocked the crap out of a lot of men.  (It’s an underdog story, truly.  And I’m a sucker for those.)  But what was really fascinating was seeing how Radu became a master of social manipulation and how he used that to further his own aims.

And it was pretty interesting from a historical standpoint as well.  (If Vlad Dracul isn’t exactly ringing any bells for you, he was also known as Vlad the Impaler and was the inspiration for Dracula.)  For this story, White has turned this into a little bit of a fantasy by taking liberties with Vlad.  Basically, she’s replacing Lada into all that stuff that Vlad did, so it’s not totally historically accurate, but the setting is legit and culture, as is the stuff with Mehmed.

Overall, I thought it was an interesting read once I got past the slow beginning.

You Should Check Out Swoon Reads

PrintI don’t normally do this, but this is kind of cool.  You may recall lately that I’ve sorta been talking about Swoon Reads because I’ve read two of their books (The Way to Game the Walk of Shame and All the Feels).  I was curious about what else they had published and by what their mission statement, per se, was.  Because those two books mentioned above are so so different.

So I visited their website and I’m really surprised by what I found.

Screenshot 2016-07-23 13.47.30

This is what I found.  Basically, if you make a profile, you can essentially beta read a bunch of the manuscripts that people have submitted/Swoon Reads is considering publishing and give feedback.  You can save books that look interesting to read later and even rate books in a scale of how much of a tearjerker they were, how hot the romance was, etc.  It’s actually really cool.

And there are SO MANY TITLES.  I narrowed them down for what I like, but there are so many options.  Sci-Fi, fantasy, historical, contemporary, LGBT, family issues, relationships, aliens, werewolves, vampires.  SO MUCH.

To give you a eensy-teensy preview of why I think this is cool, here are four of the books I’m very interested in checking out.

A Curse of Thorns by Nicole Mainardi – billed as Beauty and the Beast meets The Hunger Games.  Hello, I am so there.  You had me at “beauty”.

Beau & Bett by Kathryn Berla – contemporary Beauty and the Beast set in southern California.

How To Drown by Vicky Skinner – a contemporary story of a swimmer trying to hold her life together.

Robyn by Lizzie May – a retelling of Robin Hood where two kids grew up playing Robin Hood, but now that Prince John is on the throne, “Maid Marian” is stepping into the “Robin” role to save her country.

And seriously, this is only a fraction of the books on this site.  I only started looking at this for like twenty minutes before I had to get off before I bookmarked too many of them.  But this is really cool because there are a lot of stories on here that I don’t normally see in bookstores.  I don’t see a lot of Beauty and the Beast stories make it to print.  (Ok, I do, but not nearly as many as I’d like.)  I don’t see enough stories about Robin Hood where women take a starring role.  So it’s really awesome that these are out there, but maybe not published yet.

If you’re interested, I really recommend checking this out.  It’s really cool.  And then maybe we can swap stories about what we’ve read.  😉