Rebel Blue's Bucket List

Sep 30, 2013

Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell

Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Abrams Books | Amulet
Pages: 320 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Rebecca Blue is a rebel with an attitude whose life is changed by a chance encounter with a soon-to-be-dead girl. Rebel (as she's known) decides to complete the dead girl's bucket list to prove that choice, not chance, controls her fate. In doing so, she unexpectedly opens her mind and heart to a world she once dismissed - a world of friendships, family, and faith. With a shaken sense of self, she must reevaluate her loner philosophy - particularly when she falls for Nate, the golden boy do-gooder who never looks out for himself.

Thoughts on Goodbye, Rebel Blue
This book first got on my radar when I spotted it on someone's Fall TBR post for Top Ten Tuesday. I was immediately drawn to the cover - the bright blue is so eye-catching on that white background! I didn't even recognize the author's name at first since I still haven't read Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe. But I was excited when I got approved for it on NetGalley and knew I wanted to dive right in!

Rebecca Blue, known as Rebel Blue, finds herself in detention with the over-acheiving Kennedy Green. Kennedy works on their detention assignment - to write a bucket list - really seriously, but Rebel just thinks it's a waste of time. The two have a short conversation that wouldn't have affected Rebel at all... except that Kennedy dies on the way home from school. Suddenly, Rebel starts to question everything. Kennedy believed in fate, but Rebel tells herself that everything is choice. But who is right?

Rebel breaks into the detention classroom to retrieve Kennedy's bucket list from the trash. Something about it just won't let her go. She tries to get rid of it but it seems like it's following her no matter where she goes. She decides that she's going to have to finish Kennedy's bucket list in order to prove something to herself and to the dead girl who has ended up impacting her life.

To tell the truth, Rebel is the definition of a loner. Her mom died, and she doesn't even know her dad. Her mother was a free spirit, and she raised Rebel to be independent and to live as she pleased. That's all well and good until Rebel has to move in with her uncle, aunt and cousin. In their house, she has to live by their rules... and things aren't going so well. She keeps to herself at school, too, and hasn't tried to make any friends. Basically, she's the exact opposite of Kennedy - a girl who thrived on helping others and connecting to people.

Completing Kennedy's bucket list forces Rebel to face some of the things she's long avoided - her feelings about her mother's death, her frustrations with her family, and her refusal to make friends. Suddenly, Rebel starts re-evaluating her lifestyle and wonders if she really was MEANT to meet Kennedy on that fateful afternoon.

I really liked the concept of Goodbye, Rebel Blue but I wasn't that invested in the storyline. The entire book moves really quickly, and I definitely read it fast. I was a little bored by the opening chapters since the whole setup for Rebel completing Kennedy's bucket list wasn't fully developed and seemed a little too coincidental. I also didn't feel very connected to Rebel or Kennedy. The items on Kennedy's list were sweet but didn't have a any personality. They were somewhat "bland," if that makes sense. I didn't feel like they revealed much about Kennedy (aside from the fact that she cared about making the world a better place). Because of that, I could never understand why Rebel felt so compelled to complete Kennedy's bucket list. I didn't understand that motivation, which left me feeling more lackluster on everything that happened in the book.

Also, there was almost no time spent developing Rebel's character prior to detention. I mean, I know she dyed her hair blue and talked back to her teacher, but those don't necessarily make someone super rebellious in my book. It left me feeling really ambivalent about Rebel as a character. I liked her, but she wasn't that memorable to me. In fact, I liked Rebel's bucket list WAY more than I did Kennedy's, and I kept wishing I could see more of that personality and character.

There's a really strong message in this book about the idea of things being fated to happen and on the idea that the purpose of life is found in connecting to people. I don't necessarily disagree with the second part of that message, but I felt like the book just kept hammering it home. I didn't need to be told that many times and in that many ways that people matter.

Something was just off about Goodbye, Rebel Blue for me. I wanted MORE - more character development, more depth, more fleshing out of the storyline, more feelings, and more connection to what was going on. There was so much potential here, but I just felt like everything rushed along and wasn't fully developed. For a book that could have been incredibly moving and memorable, I needed just a little bit more from this book for it to have become something special. It's still a fun read, however, and I think fans of lighter contemporaries will probably enjoy it.

So Quotable
"We all fall down. We all have scars. Some are more visible than others, and anyone who tries to deny it is full of bullshit."

You've Got Mail!

Sep 27, 2013

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Release Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Hachette | Poppy
Pages: 416 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally send small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham find out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?

Thoughts on This Is What Happy Looks Like
After falling for The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I was excited when I spotted This is What Happy Looks Like on the library's New Releases shelf. I'd seen some mixed reviews of this one, so I'd been hesitant to buy it. Finding it at the library was the perfect moment. From the yellow cover to the cheery title, I was hoping this would be the perfect summer read.

This is What Happy Looks Like tells the story of Graham and Ellie - two teenagers on opposites sides of the country with completely different lives who randomly "meet" one day over email. One tiny error - a simple mistyped email address - leads to shared confidences and the building blocks of a new friendship. But there is something they aren't sharing: their names.

Because of this, Ellie has no idea that she's talking to a movie star. Graham's not content with never meeting Ellie. He's intrigued by her emails, and he knows that he can use his influence to make sure that his next movie is shot in Ellie's hometown. So, he does. And then everything starts falling into place...

Interestingly enough, I thought this book read like a movie. It had the meet cute, the comedic missteps, and the somewhat unbelievable setup that still manages to feel charming. My favorite thing about This is What Happy Looks Like is the setting. I've never been to Maine, but I'm absolutely dying to pack my bag and spend a week up there after reading this book. I loved the small town vibe, and I felt like I could picture the place in my head while I was reading. The ocean breeze, the ice cream shop, the lobster... it felt so real to me! I definitely think this is a book where the setting just adds to the story.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was something that I'd also noticed in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - that family plays a role and has a noticeable presence in the book. Graham's family isn't present in Maine, but the tension underlying his relationship with them and his insecurities about how his celebrity has changed their relationship is a recurring theme in the book. There are also questions about Ellie's family (she's been raised by a single mother), and Smith explores those issues as well. I did feel like Ellie's storyline of the secret she's keeping with her mom was somewhat unnecessary, but I CAN still appreciate that parents are certainly present in this book. Sometimes YA novels feel so unrealistic to me because there's not a single adult or parental figure that ever makes an appearance. Or, if they do, they're presented as one who is out of touch or holding the teen back. So, I really like that family issues have played a role in both of Smith's books that I've read thus far. I did wish there was a little more balance in this one, but I appreciated the presence of family regardless.

It's a strange thing to say, but what I liked about This is What Happy Looks Like is the way it made me think about how blogging has changed my life. It's not the same as Graham's email slip-up, but I did start thinking about all the people I've met online through this little blog. I loved that This is What Happy Looks Like celebrates how technology can allow you to meet people that, previously, would have probably never crossed your path before.

This is What Happy Looks Like is very different from The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, but it retains the charm and delight that sucked me into the latter story. It's a light, sweet tale that won't change your life but will probably make you smile. I thought parts of the story seemed a little imbalanced, and it did seem to run a little long, but I enjoyed it overall. The email exchanges between Ellie and Graham made me smile, but they did leave me wanting more "offline" interaction between the two and less family and friend drama. It made me feel less connected to these characters, and I certainly wanted a little more from the ending, but I thought it was a fun and cute read nonetheless!

So Quotable
"It seemed to Ellie that you could tell a lot about someone by the way they carried a secret - by how safe they kept it, how soon they told, the way they acted when they were trying to keep it from spilling out."

Consider This Classic: Jamie Recommends!

Sep 26, 2013

Consider This Classic is a monthly feature where bloggers highlight and recommend their favorite classic. They'll tell you when they first read it, why they love it and where to go from there. If you'd like to participate in Consider This Classic, click here to sign up.

This month, I've got the lovely Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner here sharing her favorite classic. Jamie is a blogger I so respect and admire. She's always full of new ideas, thoughtful discussions, creative ideas and well-written reviews. I'm so happy she was willing to join in and offer her Classics recommendations!

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Publication Date: 1938
Originally Published In: United Kingdom
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten - a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house's current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim's first wife - the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.

I read this book back in high school when it was an option on the summer reading list. Even though High School Jamie was going through an unfortunate phase in the history of my reading life which didn't include a lot of reading anymore, summer reading didn't bother me and I actually looked forward to it. I picked Rebecca because I thought it sounded creepy and mysterious which was totally up my alley.

I distinctly remember this book being such a page-turner for me with all of the mystery, secrets and tension in the romance! Definitely some hold-your-breath kind of moments as the plot furthered and tension heightened. The writing was incredible and I could just FEEL like I was there at Manderley and the characters were given so much life -- especially Mrs. Danvers... that woman, MAN. It's so atmospheric and is the perfect book to curl up with on a rainy day. The setting drew me in and I could swear that I heard the wind blowing or feel a cold draft coming from the mansion. Rebecca's ghostly presence haunted me like it did the young narrator. The suspense and mystery is just so palpable and it's hard not to be absorbed in this one! I don't reread often but I reread this again in college and remembered how GOOD of a storyteller Daphne du Maurier is! Sidenote: I also highly recommend her other book My Cousin Rachel but Rebecca was my favorite!

Rebecca is a Gothic romance and I love Gothic literature but have a hard time finding really great modern stuff I like. Classics wise, if you liked works like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights I'd say you'd like this one!

If you liked the atmosphere of these books you might totally be into Rebecca - 

(YA) The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd: Chilling setting and even more chilling revelations and twists. Slow build by MAN I loved the setting and the story. (Review)

(YA) Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan: I didn't end up finishing this one but the setting definitely gives off this vibe and SO many readers I trust LOVED it. I might try again later this year but it wasn't doing it for me when I started it but there wasn't anything specifically wrong with this book so I feel okay recommending it!

(YA) A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray: A friend actually recommended this to me AFTER I had her read Rebecca so that bodes well. It still sits on my shelf unread but I am now thinking I want to pick up after getting to chat with you all about Rebecca!

(Adult) The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield: I fell head over heels with this one and it was so twisty and GOOD. (Review)

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Sep 25, 2013

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Release Date: February 2013
Publisher: Macmillan | Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 454 pages
Series: Lunar Chronicles #2
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle ebook
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison - even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother of the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When she encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Thoughts on Scarlet
Yes, I'm well aware that the title of this post comes from the "Three Little Pigs" and not "Little Red Riding Hood." But, honestly y'all, there's only so much my brain can do sometimes. I've clearly reached the limit on my cleverness for the day.

So, anyway, let's discuss the book at hand. I remember picking up Cinder earlier this year with a little trepidation. I'm all for trying new things, but a cyborg Cinderella just seemed like a little too much for me. I kept putting off reading it, and I was finally convinced almost every single person who commented on my Top Ten Tuesday "Series I Need to Start" post indicated that I was living my life wrong if I didn't start that book immediately. Because I'm agreeable to following directions, I did what everyone told me and read Cinder. While I appreciate the creativity, I found it somewhat disappointing. I chose to do a mini-review instead of a full one, which you can read here, but I did note that I'd already purchased Scarlet and planned to continue with the series despite my so/so feelings on the first book in the series.


Okay, deep breath, and I'll stop yelling. I included this in my post yesterday about my ten favorite sequels, so I'm assuming you can guess my feelings on this one. This was a make-or-break book for me - I knew that I was either going to quit or continue with this series based on my reaction to this book. I'm very happy to report that this just sold me on Meyer's talent and made me excited to see where she goes with these characters.

While Cinder was a re-imagining of Cinderella, Scarlet gives us a version of Little Red Riding Hood. And boy did I love it! I'd previously noted that Meyer's creativity and world-building was so commendable. I think the two things that I was missing in the previous book was a connection to the characters and stronger interest in the plot. Well, both items were delivered in this one!

I adored Scarlet - a young girl in France who realizes that her grandmother has gone missing. She's determined to find her, and she enlists the help of the dangerous Wolf in order to do so. Scarlet is a kick-ass leading lady. She's taking no prisoners, and she's not backing down from a fight. Since this book also continues Cinder's story, I also appreciated that I felt as though I got to know her better and appreciated her character more than I had before.

And the boys! Wolf is intense and fierce and everything you'd expect from someone named Wolf. I mean, gracious, he is a man of complications and contradictions. Do I need to say more? No, I think not. I also so enjoyed Captain Thorne. He was such wonderful comedic relief, but I love that he also had depth. He's not just there for the laughs - although he certainly adds a needed lightness to a few intense moments. I also began to see a different side of Kai, and I felt like I was more invested in his story than I had been before. I still loved Wolf more, but I'll give Kai more credit than I would have with the last book.

Also, I appreciated the plot so much more in this book. I don't know if it's because I was never sure what was coming (whereas I felt as though the climax in Cinder seemed liked kind of a given) or just that it moved more briskly as the drama was heightened. Either way, I was racing through this story! All the pieces start falling into place, and it just left me so impressed with the way Meyer has plotted this book and tied all these separate strands into this masterful work of art. I love how you can still that there is so much that's going to happen, but I also felt so satisfied by everything that happened in Scarlet.

I know, I know. Have I gushed enough? I'm so happy I continued with this series and y'all I GET IT NOW. Okay? So you can save all your "oh I'm sad this one disappointed you" and just be like "of course you loved it so tell us something we didn't know." If you're like me and only liked Cinder, I certainly encourage you to give this book a chance. And you already loved Cinder (most of you, I'm sure) then you'll probably be happy to hear that I'm planning on re-reading Cinder to see if my feelings for it have changed.

So Quotable
"She kept a hold on her people by tricking both their eyes and their hearts. She ruled with fear, yes, but also with adoration. It would be easy to abuse a person when they never recognized it as abuse."

No Second Book Slump Here!

Sep 24, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/top ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists - so it makes perfect sense that I'd love this feature!

Top Ten Best Sequels Ever

1. Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi - Seriously, this book sets the standard for amazing sequel. No middle book slump here, and now I cannot wait for Into the Still Blue to be released!

2. Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi - Juliette got on my nerves in this one, but that doesn't mean I didn't spend ALL day tearing through this book. I think it perfectly sets up the conclusion - if only I knew who Juliette will choose!

3. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer - I wasn't crazy about Cinder, but I knew I still wanted to give this series another shot. Thank goodness I did! I fell in love with the Lunar Chronicles when I read Scarlet, and I'm so impressed by the characters and world Meyer has created.

4. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare - I read Clockwork Angel earlier this year, but it didn't leave me dying to read more. I liked it - don't get me wrong - but didn't feel compelled to continue. I planned to finish for the Summer Series Challenge, but I just didn't get to it in time. However, I finally (with some pushing from Cassie) sat down with this book. Two days later, I'd finished the series. It's not for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it!

5. Where She Went by Gayle Forman - I wasn't a huge fan of If I Stay, and I think hype played a huge role in that reaction. However, I was still curious about Where She Went. I'm so glad I gave it a chance because Forman totally stepped up her game in this sequel! I loved getting Adam's perspective, and it made me fall in love with companion novels.

6. Just One Year by Gayle Forman - I haven't reviewed it yet, but HOLY COW. Seriously, y'all, it's even better than you're hoping. I can absolutely say that this sequel didn't disappoint! I'm so excited for this one to finally be released.

7. The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta - I adored Saving Francesca, and I just wasn't sure The Piper's Son could ever live up to my love for it.  I should have known better! Marchetta just proves what a master she is at creating real, flawed characters that get under your skin. I'm so glad she shared Tom's story!

8. Dare You To by Katie McGarry - I had no interest in reading Pushing the Limits, but I finally gave in due to Betty and Cassie's obsessive love for this series. While I liked that one, I fell in love with this one! Seriously, I had some major book hangover after Dare You To. I hate the cover, but I'm crazy about this sequel.

9. Savannah Comes Undone by Denise Hildreth Jones - I fell in love with this Southern series in high school, and it's always remained on my favorites. I love Savannah's sass, and I wish there were more of her adventures. This series just holds a special place in my heart!

10. The Negotiator by Dee Henderson - This is technically book one in the O'Malley series, but there's a prequel so I'm letting it count. I was ADDICTED to this series in high school! Kate's story in The Negotiator is one of my favorites in the entire series. I can't say no to action and swoons!

Read. Review. Rate?

Sep 23, 2013

So, I was recently talking with Cass about how we rated books, what ratings meant to us, and the advantages/disadvantages of having a rating system. As a result of that conversation, she wrote an excellent discussion post on those tricky 3 star ratings. It's a number that means different things to every reader! I encourage you to check out her thoughts and the responses for some insight into how this simple number can be interpreted in so many different ways.

To Rate Or Not To Rate?

I've never used an official rating system on So Obsessed With, but I've debated it for months. As a blog reader, I love when there is a rating system. With one quick glance, I can get an overall impression of how the blogger feels about the book. Then, I read the full review with that knowledge to inform my reading of their review. 

How so? Well, I've noticed that sometimes in a review a blogger might spend a paragraph talking about what they didn't like in a book and yet they've still given it 4 stars. That helps me because I'm able to tell that what they disliked didn't really detract too much from their overall enjoyment of the book. 

My Problem With Stars

Once I realized how often I refer to the ratings on blogs, I realized that I wanted to incorporate something like that into my reviews. I use ratings on Goodreads, but I honestly hate being restricted to a 5 star system. At least let me use half stars! 

Even then, I struggle with stars because they don't necessarily convey everything I want them to convey. For example, I gave Les Miserables 3 stars and Vampire Academy 4 stars on Goodreads. Does that mean I think that Vampire Academy is a better piece of literature than Les Miserables? Or does it just mean I liked it more? For me, it's the latter. But that's not how everyone views stars! So, with that, I've always shied away from using a star-based rating system.

The Wide World of Ratings

But... there are other options. Three of my FAVORITE blogs use a rating system that doesn't involve stars AND is personal and unique to the way they read and review. It's one of the things I've come to love about each blog. I know what to expect with each review, and I'm easily able to get a general sense for how they felt about a book. Take a look:

Books With Cass:

• Uses a letter grade scale
• Includes a descriptive phrase
• +/- system allows for the equivalent for ".5 stars"

Book Rock Betty:

• Uses a shelf scale with six options
• Description indicates where she'd put a book on her shelves
• Rating describes her feelings/emotional attachment to a book

Rather Be Reading:

Uses an action verb scale with four options
Description indicates what action the reader should take (buy it, borrow it, etc.)
• Rating essentially tells you whether a book is worth the investment

See what I mean? I just love how unique the ratings are to each of them, but I also know that an A from Cassie is like getting a Top Shelf from Betty. And a Buy It from Magan or Estelle? Well, on the other blogs, that book would be Fireboxed or getting an A+. The rating is different, but it still conveys a similar sentiment to me. There's no confusion over whether a certain book is BETTER than other. It's all just a matter of their personal reaction to the book.

The Scale of Obsession

So, that led me to brainstorm how I could incorporate what I loved from the other blogs into my own personal rating system. That's when it hit me - the name of my blog is in and of itself a rating! If I ADORE a book, you better believe that means I'm so obsessed with it. So, I decided to come up with a rating system based on that phrasing device.

I knew a wanted six options for a "rating." Why? Well, for me, my rating for a book I disliked is pretty clearly a 1 or a 2. I don't think I've ever felt the need to give a book 1.5 stars. But books I liked? That's trickier! I often wish I could give out 3.5 or 4.5 stars in the Goodreads system. There's more variation in how much I liked a book than there is in how much I disliked it.

So, here's what you'll now be seeing at the bottom of reviews on So Obsessed With:

I didn't hate it, but I came pretty close. My feelings for the book overall were pretty negative.
Not Recommended / Equivalent to 1 Star

By the end of the book, I was ready to be done. I disliked more than I liked in the book.
Not Likely to Recommend / Equivalent to 2 Star

This book was just okay. To be honest, I don't have strong feelings about it one way or the other.
Might Recommend / Equivalent to 3 Star

I liked reading this book! I may have had a few issues with it, but my feelings are mostly positive.
Probably Recommend / Equivalent to 3.5 Star

I really liked this book! It was an enjoyable read - so much so that I'd even read it again!
Likely Recommend / Equivalent to 4 Star

This book was a great read! It was almost perfect, and I would definitely say it's a new favorite.
Recommend / Equivalent to 4.5 Star

I can't get this book out of my brain! I loved everything about it, and I want everyone to know it.
Highly Recommend / Equivalent to 5 Star

As a reader, do you care about ratings?
As a blogger, do you ever struggle with ratings?
And what do you think about my new rating system?

Caught In A Cage

Sep 19, 2013

Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson

Release Date: September 9, 2013
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Pages: 282 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead - if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate's meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured - and rejected - three marriage proposals.

Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There are on wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?

Set in Northern England in 1820, Blackmoore is a Regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn how to follow her heart. It is Wuthering Heights meets Little Women with a delicious must-read twist.

Thoughts on Blackmoore

I read and enjoyed Julianne Donaldson's Edenbrooke last year, so I was excited to see Blackmoore releasing this fall. This book is published under Shadow Mountain's A Proper Romance line, which is essentially offers "clean romances." These books want to make you swoon, but they're going to leave more to the imagination than a traditional historical romance novel.

Blackmoore is the story of Kate Worthington, a girl who feels as though she's caught in a cage. She has dreams for her future - plans to travel to far off India and to escape the path that's been laid out for her - but she's not sure she can make them a reality. Before she goes, she wants to visit Blackmoore, the home of her childhood friend Henry Delafield. Finally, after years of waiting, she receives an invitation. But her mother, a scheming and vulgar woman, has other plans for Kate. She wants Kate to marry, but Kate is staunchly opposed to the idea. She has declared that she will never marry, and nothing can sway her from that decision.

So, Mrs. Worthington strikes a bargain with Kate. Kate can go to India, but only if she can secure and reject three marriage proposals while at Blackmoore. Kate accepts and believes she'll easily accomplish her goals. But she has no idea what her mother's reputation and her sister's past indiscretions may have cost her. Failure is not an option, but Kate soon realizes that she's fighting an uphill battle for her future happiness.

One of the things I loved in Blackmoore was the friendship between Kate and Henry. It was nice to read a story where a man and woman are friends and have a history together with shared secrets, cherished moments and stolen laughs. It added an intimacy to their relationship - just from the first page. I liked the tension between them, and I enjoyed the way they played off each other. You could tell they knew each other well just based on their interactions.

I also enjoyed the setting. Blackmoore was a perfection location for this dramatic story! Kate and Henry had a love for the place that made it come alive off the page, and I really enjoyed seeing Kate explore this manor that she'd long dreamed of visiting. She'd previously only "seen" Blackmoore through Henry's stories and a gift he'd given her, so it was nice to see her encounter the place she'd loved before she even went there.

So, in regards to the setting and characters, I was really pleased. Donaldson certainly manages to accomplish the premise of a clean romance. There is romantic tension and moments of delicious swoon in a book that still maintains its subtlety and mystique. In that respect, I was more than happy with this story!

What I did struggle with was central conflict in the book. There are two things that are the driving forces behind everything that takes place - Kate's bargain with her mother and Kate's insistence that she will never marry. Her reasons for the second decision don't become clear until very late in the book, and that was something I really struggled with while I was reading. It's a decision that is very abnormal for that time period, so I wanted to better understand what had happened to make Kate feel that way. Leaving that revelation until the end felt somewhat anti-climactic for me. Instead of connecting with Kate over her difficult family and troubled history, I felt like I was constantly questioning her reasoning and stubbornness. With a little more insight upfront, perhaps I would have understood and cheered for her unusual (for the time) beliefs and decisions.

I also feel as though the bargain with her mother was unrealistic and frustrating. I understand that it added an urgency to everything, but it felt false to me while I was reading. The mother seemed villainous and mercenary from the very beginning. While she's certainly meant to be a troubling character, I did have to roll my eyes at her over-the-top actions and declarations. In fact, both mothers were very one-dimensional in a way that seemed a little too convenient for me.

It was the way these two conflicts were resolved that left me feeling a little lackluster on the book as a whole. I certainly enjoyed it, and I think fans of Edenbrooke will just find more to love in this one. However, I felt as though I knew what was coming and the inevitability of it all tempered my love for this story. I thought it was fun and sweet, but it's certainly missing the depth of Austen or the Brontës.

So Quotable
"I can never look at a bird without thinking of you," he said. "I wonder what you will do with your wings once you have found them. I wonder how far away they will take you. And I fear them, for my sake, at the same time that I hope for them, for yours."

Ready to Fall for These Books

Sep 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/top ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists - so it makes perfect sense that I'd love this feature!

This is one of my favorite topics each season - I love browsing my Goodreads shelves and trying to think about what I'll most be in the mood to read over the next few months. I finished five out of the ten on my Summer TBR post, so I did just fine. It certainly wasn't a huge success, but I ended up really focusing on the Summer Series Challenge and am so glad I did!

So, what's on my radar for fall?

Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR

Because I Said I Would

1. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton - Okay, so I requested this from NetGally because I like the cover, the summary sounds awesome, and it's already being named as a book that could win literary awards. The only problem? I had NO idea that it was so long. Anyway, I'm ready to hunker down with this chunkster and hopefully fall in love.

2. The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway - This is the only book from my Summer TBR to make an appearance on this list, too. I'm still planning on reading this lovely-looking book! I bought a hard copy recently because I just needed to have it on my shelves. Yes, I'm that person.

Because Exciting Things Are Coming

3. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon - I have some really fun things planned with Cassie, and this book plays a part in that. Rave reviews from so many bloggers I trust and an interesting concept means I'm ready to dive into this new world.

4. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty - Another book that will play a role in my upcoming excitement! Cassie's already reading this one, so now I'm dying to find out what this book has in store. It helps that I've read some awesome reviews and was really intrigued by the small sample I've already read!

Because My TBR Is Toppling Over

5. Orphan Train by Christine Baker Kline - I picked this up on a whim at Target one day, and I'm so glad I did now that I've seen so many great reviews of it. It covers a part of history I know next-to-nothing about, so I'm really curious about what I can learn in this one.

6. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey - Although it's probably more wintery than fall-ish, I'm dying to read this book that's been on my TBR since the beginning of the year. I wanted to wait for cooler weather, and it looks like that time has finally arrived!

Because They're New & Shiny

7. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - You better believe this is on my fall TBR! I bought this one the minute it came out (read: pre-ordered), so I'm really excited to go to college with Cath and Rainbow Rowell. I took a little time to read Eleanor & Park, but I just don't think I can hold off on this read!

8. In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters - This book seems a little creepy, which is obviously perfect for October. I mean, it's like it was made to be read in the fall. Alyssa recommended this and The Caged Graves to me, and I loved the latter so I'm really looking forward to being able to chat about this one with her, too.

Because I Pre-Ordered Them

9. Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller - I really liked Something Like Normal, but I wasn't actually planning on purchasing this one right away. Well, repeated good reviews and Cassie's book enthusiasm finally prompted me to just do it. Now that I've read a sample? Well, dang! I want this one NOW.

10. The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead - If I could only read one book this fall, I seriously think it might be this one. I LOVED The Indigo Spell, and it left me dying for more (particularly for more of my new favorite couple). I'm frantically anticipating this book's release... it can't come soon enough!

An Interview [Part Two!] With Liza Palmer

Sep 16, 2013

I finished reading Nowhere But Home back in the beginning of June, and I was just a bundle of love and happiness. It immediately moved to the top of Favorite Reads of 2013 list, but I didn't even know how to write about it. I quietly simmered on my feelings - my love just growing day by day. I finally reviewed it in August, and promptly told Cass that she HAD to read it, too. I barely knew Cass at that point, but I did know that she had a major crush on the South. I had a feeling this book would only fuel that fire! Thankfully, I was totally right in my recommendation. Cass LOVED it, and she's been pushing it everyone since then. 

After a few awesome Twitter conversations with author Liza Palmer, Cassie suggested we ask her to do an interview with us. And that brings us to this moment - one I'm SO excited to share with y'all! We've got tons of fun to share with today: Part One of the interview is over on Cassie's blog AND Liza was kind and generous enough to offer to do a giveaway of three SIGNED copies of Nowhere But Home. I MEAN, I'M JUST TAKING DEEP BREATHS OVER HERE. Y'all, I'm pleased as punch to be able to introduce you to this talented author! Enjoy finding out a little more about her, and make sure you enter to win a copy of Nowhere But Home. This Southern girl thinks it's high time you took a trip to Texas! P.S. - Follow Liza on Twitter! You'll love her!

If you weren't a writer, what do you think you'd be doing?

I'd like to think that I would have mustered the passion to be a chef or something wonderful, but the truth is writing saved me. It's always been the only thing for me. So, if I wasn't writing I'd be wiling away in some nowhere job (which is exactly where I was) watching my life just tick away.

(cue sad tuba)

We've been proclaiming our love for Nowhere But Home from the rooftops. 
What's the last book you read that inspired this reaction in you?

John Green's The Fault in Our Stars WRECKED ME. I took it on a plane with me to the Texas Book Festival. So, I'm SOBBING uncontrollably on the plane coming back and the flight attendant is handing me tissues and the businessman next to me on the plane is continually asking if I'm okay...

That book. Beautiful. I'm totally looking forward to the movie adaptation - it's a great team of people. The same guys who did Spectacular Now and I love that Shailene Woodley.

Say you just got big news - Nowhere But Home is going to be a movie! Can you DREAM CAST for us?

I think Taylor Schilling from Orange is the New Black would make an awesome Queenie. I also think Elizabeth Banks would do a great job - she was fantastic in People Like Us. Merry Carole has always been Christina Hendricks in my eyes - I wouldn't mind her being a red head.

I was totally thinking of Ian Somerhalder for Hudson, he just has that looooook that you know he's trouble (and now I have that Taylor Swift song stuck in my head).

Everett. You know he was a tough one. The eyes? The green eyes? Are Jensen Ackles.

And for awhile it was Chris Evans, but this particular picture. It was the bitten down fingernails and the chin up defensive thing that I loved. And that it's Chris Evans. I mean:

Then it kind of morphed into, as all things should, Tim Riggins (when Everett mentions he let his hair grow out? I mean... I had to, right?). And again with the greenish eyes...

[Hannah's Interjection: Thanks for making this blog a WHOLE LOT HOTTER! Swoon.]

What would you choose as the theme song for Nowhere But Home?

I did a whole blog post on this - you know how I love to make a playlist! I also made the Number One and this blog post has the pictures to prove it!

[Hannah's Interjection: The Number One is a famous meal from Nowhere But Home. So, check out the pictures and tell me you don't immediately want to read the book!]

Congrats! We got you a puppy. Now, what literary character is your new dog being named after and why?

Hilariously, I've already accidentally done this with my current dog. Fourteen years ago, I'm walking around a farmer's market here in LA and there's this little girl walking around with two puppies on her shoulders. I couldn't resist and took the Little Girlie Puppy off her hands. I'm walking away with my friend and say, "I think I'm going to name her after a poet." My friend says, "Poet is a great name."

So my dog is named Poet because I didn't have the heart to correct a friend that I no longer even remember.

I mean...

Tell us five things to expect from your upcoming novel, Heroine!

1) Romance Novel Cover Models

2) The steamiest couple I've ever written

3) A bit of commentary on being marginalized because you're a woman who speaks for and makes products predominately for women.

4) Be ready to fall for Mr. Lincoln Mallory - I know I did.

5) Great multi-generational female characters and the complicated relationships that come with that.

[Hannah's Interjection: WOW! I was already dying to read Heroine - just based on this announcement - but now I'm even more excited for this book to be released!


Dogs or Cats? DOGS. SO DOGS.

Sweet or Sour? SWEET.

Cucumbers or Pickles? PICKLES

Sushi or Steak? SUSHI!

Radio or iPod? IPOD!

Thank you SO much, Liza! I'm so glad I found Nowhere But Home - and I'm so excited to help introduce more people to your incredible characters!

Don't forget to enter to win a copy of this AMAZING book!
P.S. Betty loved it, Lauren loved it, and Asheley loved it. I mean, come on y'all.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Giveaway is open to U.S. Residents Only.

A Pawn In A Deadly Game

Sep 12, 2013

Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta

Release Date: September 2013
Publisher: Tyndale
Pages: 433 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston's position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia's first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother's mysterious past. Before she knows what's happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country's most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

Thoughts on Born of Persuasion
I first spotted Born of Persuasion on NetGalley, and I immediately went to the author's website to read more about her debut. I was drawn to the summary, and the comparisons to Austen had me even more intrigued. I'm all about anything reminiscent of my very favorite author!

Julia Elliston is an orphan at seventeen. She's alone in the world, and it's not a good time or place to be without a trusted protector. Julia finds herself in the care of a nameless and unknown guardian, and he wants to send her to Scotland to work as a servant. She can't imagine anything worse - all she wants is to be able to marry her childhood sweetheart, Edward. Julia travels to Am Meer, the home of one of her closest friends. She's finally close enough to see and speak to Edward, but what has happened in the four years since they last spoke?

Nothing is the same was it once was, and Julia begins to unravel as many secrets come to light. As things fall apart around her, Julia decides to take matters into her own hands. She makes an agreement with a wealthy woman who promises to help her make a successful match. It's a decision that marks a turning point in Julia's life and takes her down a dangerous path.

While Born of Persuasion has drawn comparisons to Jane Austen, I actually think the book more closely resembles the novels of the Brontes. This is a very Gothic tale, and I didn't think it really resembled Austen at all. The story is filled with drama, and it has a twisted plot that leaves you always feeling a little out of the loop. I thought Julia was an incredibly unreliable narrator - she's naive, too trusting, prone to hysterics and seems completely unaware (or unconcerned?) with proper behavior.

Although it's historical fiction, it didn't feel entirely accurate. The inordinate amount of time Julia spends alone with men just didn't quite ring true to me. I'm not a Victorian expert, but I would think that Julia would be more concerned about her reputation (particularly in light of the fact that she has no real protection in the world after the loss of her parents). I was constantly baffled by her behavior, and I found her to be a very frustrating character.

Born of Persuasion is Christian fiction, and I was really pleased with the way spiritual themes were more thematic rather than overt or lengthy discussions of faith. There are several elements of the story that hinge of Julia's lack of faith (her father was a well-known atheist) and how it interplays with Edward's faith and role in society.

There are several "big reveals" in the book, and I found them surprising but somewhat frustrating. This book relies heavily on all the conflict and angst - and my frustration with Julia didn't leave me very invested in the outcome of the bind she had gotten herself into by the end of the novel. In some ways, I think this read like the Gothic tales that Austen parodies in Northanger Abbey. It has dangerous men, deadly consequences, the potential for comprised virtue, the damsel in constant distress and a seemingly improbable flow of problem after problem. That doesn't mean it wasn't interesting and readable! In fact, I tore through this novel in much the same way that Catherine Morland did The Mysteries of Udolpho. However, it becomes a puzzle that doesn't necessarily make sense, even as the pieces begin to come together.

My main criticism is that, while entertaining, Born of Persuasion felt as though it lacked real substance or depth. It was a high-stakes, high-drama read, but in some ways it reminded me of a roller coaster. There's that rush and thrill while you're on it, but the adrenaline fades quickly once you're back on solid ground. I liked Born of Persuasion, but I was disappointed by the number of inconsistencies that kept me from loving a book that seemed like it'd be a new favorite for me.

So Quotable
"I have found that those who try to shield us from the truth, regardless of the reason, end up doing the greatest harm. Truth alone sets you free, not lies and omissions."

*I received a copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way for this review.
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