Friday, July 3, 2015

Find Me Tag

I'm going to let you in on a secret: I love getting tagged to do memes! While I often forget to do them in time (I swear, I will get to a few that I still have bookmarked), I was immediately excited to participate in the Find Me Tag, created by the ladies at Novel Ink, when Cee of The Novel Hermit & Lily of Chapters Pages Words both tagged me. It's pretty simple: 

(1) Find books that fit each cover theme category. (I've tried to choose from among the books I actually own, whether they're in NYC with me or back in the Philippines. Of the books I've chosen, there are only two I haven't read yet.)
(2) Tag people you want to do the tag. (Though they don't have to if they don't want to.)
(3) Link back to Novel Ink.
(4) Have fun!

Book with... "Gone" in the Title: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson 
Book with a Weapon: The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows
Book with a Moon: The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne Valente
Book with a Girl in White Dress: Still Star-crossed by Melinda Taub
Book with a Couple Kissing: The Royal We by Heather Cocks + Jessica Morgan

Book with a Sunset: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Book with Headphones: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen 
Book with Water: The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas
Book with Flowers: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Book with Hearts: OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

Anyone who comes across this post and wants to do it, consider yourself tagged.
But I'm specifically tagging Hannah, Kelly and Rachel - tag, you're it!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Emmy & Oliver - Robin Benway

Emmy & Oliver book cover
Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: June 23, 2015
Source/Format: Edelweiss || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the content of my review.]

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.

She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.

He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

Emmy & Oliver. I tried many times to come up with a first sentence that packs more of a punch, but in reality, the title says it all. Robin Benway’s latest is about two people: an independent, smart gal named Emmy, who has a sarcastic streak and loves to surf & a newly-found Oliver, a sweet boy trying to reconcile the truth he’s known for years with the truth he’s just learned about his own life. Their story features unusual circumstances, true. But the way Benway writes these situations just rings with authenticity, easily drawing readers in until the very last page. 

Emmy just wants to be free to pursue what she loves, instead of kept in a protective bubble close to her parents. Oliver just wants to understand and reconcile his history with his present, instead of being told what to feel. While it is their shared childhood friendship that draws them together initially, it is the way they recognize the struggle the other is going through (with family, with friends, with themselves) that keeps them within each other’s orbit. In a world where it feels like nobody else understands, they know they have each other. It lends them both comfort and strength, particularly when they both find themselves forced to face the circumstances that have left them both so conflicted. Also, the slow evolution from friendship to something more? It’s perfect.

Benway has managed to impress yet again with Emmy & Oliver. Blending humorous quips and more emotionally heavy situations, this novel comes to life with every chapter and ends on a satisfying note. I fell in love with Emmy, with Oliver, with their story – and I think many readers will too.

Our question: What is your earliest memory with a friend?

One of my clearest memories was from when I was four-going-on-five. I was already attending kindergarten then, and that day was special. Why? Because we were having a teddy bear picnic! Armed with my favorite teddy bear Casey (who is white with a pink bow around her neck, and yes, she still lives in my room in my parents' house), I marched through a trail that led to clearing in the woods near our school with my two closest friends at the time Amanda and Nicole. I remember walking the path, chattering away about something or the other, and carrying Casey piggyback style. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Jesse's Girl - Miranda Kenneally

Jesse's Girl book cover
Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks #6
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: July 7, 2015
Source/Format: Author (Thank you!) || ARC
[I received this novel for review. This is no way affects my opinions.]

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

Whenever I read a novel by Miranda Kenneally, it's always proven to be a real treat. Jesse's Girl is no exception, as I started and finished the entire thing in one sitting. It reminded me of the boy band fan fiction I used to write in high school (in a good way), but infused with Kenneally's much more charming characters. Plus, the fact that I was overwhelmed by giddiness as I read is definitely a a bonus! Jesse's Girl might not pack the same emotional punch as many of its predecessors, but it is certainly a delightful tale that holds its own.

Maya Henry, Sam Henry's little sister, is a girl with a passion for music but a decided lack of confidence in herself and direction in her life. She meets her match in Jesse Scott, a teen heartthrob who loves music but not all the obligations and pitfalls of fame. Both of them are such well-rounded characters, good, decent people with just the right amount of sass, spirit and snark in their attitudes. It's no surprise that I thought their story was really fun to read! I loved seeing them banter, rooted for them to find their way (separately and together), and just really had a great time getting to know them.

For the sake of brevity, I'm going to share the three things that stood out the most to me:

1. Jesse Scott - I've found a new Kenneally boy to crush on y'all! I still remain devoted to Will Whitfield at this point, but Jesse is his closest competition. It was inevitable that I would fall for Jesse because he's just my type. He's passionate about music, he cares deeply for his loved ones; he's smart, witty and kind. I love his various  layers, and I volunteer to be Jesse's girl anytime!

2. Music - It is music that draws Maya and Jesse together. They're mutually passionate about making it a part of their life, if not the biggest portion of it! I loved seeing how Jesse, who had a full musical career, struggle with his love for the art and the effects his resulting fame was having on his personal life. I loved seeing how Maya, who was looking for a way to start her own musical career journey, struggled with her confidence. Kenneally definitely emphasizes how music is their passion, their salvation, their joy, their creative expression, and that spoke to my own love of music.

3. Cameos - Two of our favorite Hundred Oaks characters, Jordan and Sam, make an appearance in a big way! For long-running series, I love it when an author manages to bring back some familiar faces. And the way Sam and Jordan are written into this novel? It's perfection. I was so happy to see them, and so glad to see how they played a big role in Maya's story.

It was nice to dip my toes back into the world of Hundred Oaks! I adored Jesse's Girl, and had the silliest grin on my face the entire time I was reading it. It definitely appealed to me because of the musical aspect of the tale, but I think that Jesse's Girl is much more than just the story of a girl and a heartthrob who fall in love. It's about one girl's journey to gaining confidence to pursue her dream. It's about one boy's turmoil as he tries to reconcile his passion with its unexpected consequences. Kenneally successfully managed to entertain me with Jesse's Girl, and I highly recommend this most recent installment of the Hundred Oaks novels.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 2015

Oh June, you've been ever so lovely! Things slowed down a fair bit this month, but in the best way. Summer is finally upon us, and each day has felt like a gift - a gift of joy, of relaxation, of enjoyment, of living and loving. I've been happily allowing myself to embrace the season, and it excites me that there are still two summery months ahead.

I kicked off my month in the best way by a trip to LA to hang out with my college roomies - the first time we've been complete since my wedding. In spite of my travel woes on my return trip, I had an incredible amount of fun! I've been spending more quality time with Macky, since we don't have any guests and the weather has been great. There have also been a few book events that I've been lucky enough to attend here and there, and I'm so happy I've gotten to meet two more authors I absolutely adore - Trish Doller and Tamara Ireland Stone - and seen Emery Lord again.

Of the 33 books I've read, my favorites were:

I'm so pleased by my progress with this challenge of ours! In June, I read 6 fantasy novels - and pretty much every single one was a stellar reading experience. (In case you were wondering, I reread The Queen of the Tearling and The Kiss of Deception, and I read The Invasion of the Tearling, The Heart of Betrayal, Nightborn and Truthwitch.) 10 more books, and I'll be hitting my reading goal - so yay me! How are YOU doing with your challenge?

Also, we're excited to announce our first set of winners for the mid-year Flights of Fantasy giveaway! Winner #1 is Alicia of Awesome Book Assessment and Winner #2 is Joanne of Littlequeen Rules. Congratulations ladies!

Monday, June 29, 2015

A New Hope - Robyn Carr

A New Hope book cover
A New Hope by Robyn Carr
Series: Thunder Point #8
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: June 30, 2015
Source/Format: NetGalley (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.]

After losing her child, Ginger Dysart was lost in grief. But since moving to Thunder Point, a small town on the Oregon coast, and with the help of her cousin Ray Anne, Ginger is finally moving forward. Her job at the flower shop is peaceful and fulfilling, and she's excited to start her first big assignment, assisting with the Lacoumette wedding. 

In spite of her lasting heartache, Ginger finds herself swept up in the pleasure of the occasion. But the beauty of the Lacoumette farm and the joy of the gregarious family are ruined by an unfortunate encounter with the bride's brother, Matt. Struggling with painful memories of his own recent divorce, Matt makes a drunken spectacle of himself and Ginger when he tries to make a pass at her, forcing Ginger to flee the scene in embarrassment. 

But when Matt shows up at the flower shop determined to make amends, what started out as a humiliating first meeting blossoms into something much deeper than either of them expected. Discovering they have a lot in common, they form a solid friendship, though everyone around them worries that Ginger will end up with a broken heart yet again. But if Ginger has the courage to embrace the future, and if Matt can finally learn to let go of the past, there may still be hope for a happy ending.

Reading a Thunder Point novel always feels like a homecoming. Every story I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far always immerses me deeply into this little community, reuniting me with old friends and introducing me to new folk to love. A New Hope is certainly no exception to this phenomenon. Not only do I get to see what became of some of my old favorites (Seth, Iris, Peyton, Scott, Grace, Cooper and more), but I also got to meet Ginger and Matt and watch their own little love story unfurl.

Their relationship, and how it unfolds, is very sweet. Both have been burned by past relationships; both are heartbroken souls so wounded that they think shying away from the possibility of love is the best course of action. It is quite satisfying to see how they both slowly open up to one another, hesitant yet hopeful that this could be a good thing; it is even better to watch them wrestle with the demons of their past, occasionally making a mistake or two, in order to find their way to the good future together they so deserve. Even if it felt slightly predictable, it was still lovely to read about the ups and downs of their romance.

But I honestly wouldn’t have been so attentive to their romance had I not developed a fondness for Ginger and Matt as individuals. Ginger is heartbroken over the loss of her son, reeling from the effects of an unhealthy relationship; Matt has had his ideals shattered when it comes to marriage. Yet both are trying, in their own way, to move on, to make new lives for themselves – even before they stumble across each other. I enjoyed getting to see the smart, thoughtful side of Matt, and the strong, friendly side of Ginger, and I definitely think they’re great additions to the Thunder Point clan. (And speaking of that clan, I just love that, as always, the secondary characters get a nod or a mention. Carr integrates multiple story arcs and characters so well into each novel.)

All in all, A New Hope is certainly a charming addition to this series.

(P.S. On a random note, this cover is slightly misleading because it doesn't really fit any particular scene in the book. Just my personal opinion, of course.)


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