Friday, April 24, 2015

Book Review: Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

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Less than three weeks until TBF!

I recently read Emmy Laybourne’s new book SWEET and let me tell you, it was a delicious read. Take a look:

*People would kill to be thin.*

Solu’s luxurious celebrity-filled “Cruise to Lose” is billed as “the biggest cruise since the Titanic,” and if the new diet sweetener works as promised—dropping five percent of a person’s body weight in just days—it really could be the answer to the world’s obesity problem. But Laurel is starting to regret accepting her friend Viv’s invitation. She’s already completely embarrassed herself in front of celebrity host, Tom Forelli (otherwise known as the hottest guy ever!) and she’s too seasick to even try the sweetener. And that’s before Viv and all the other passengers start acting really strange.

*But will they die for it, too?*
Tom Forelli knows that he should be grateful for this job and the opportunity to shed his childhood “Baby Tom-Tom” image. His publicists have even set up a ‘romance’ with a sexy reality star. But as things on the ship start to get a bit wild, he finds himself drawn to a different girl. And when his celebrity hosting gig turns into an expose on the shocking side effects of Solu, it’s Laurel that he’s determined to save.

Emmy Laybourne, author of the Monument 14 trilogy, takes readers on a dream vacation that goes first comically, then tragically, then horrifyingly, wrong.

I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading SWEET. Was it a thriller? Was it a romance novel? Was it a crazy, horror contemporary novel? The answer: it was all three! I love that SWEET is a mixture of different genres that made it a perfect read.

The thing I love about SWEET is Solu, the new diet artificial sweetener. Even though Solu is definitely not a character in the story, it can easily be one. If I were to personify Solu, it would be the charismatic popular kid, who everyone loves, wants to be best friends with and will do anything to have Solu attend their party. It even outshines all the celebrities on the cruise ship as well as the main characters. Solu seems pretty harmless because it’s an artificial sweetener. And Solu does exactly what it’s supposed to do: help people lose weight. Soon everyone becomes obsessed with Solu and there’s no turning back on this addiction. Thankfully, our main character, Laurel and Tom, refuse to fall into this sugary sweet trap because Solu has a dark side.

I highly recommend SWEET to readers who enjoy Matt de la Pen’s THE LIVING. You can check out my book review of that book here.

Unfortunately, SWEET will not be released in time for TBF. However, you can get a bookplate signed by Emmy Laybourne so you can stick it inside your book when it comes out June 2. Be sure to check out the prequel e-novella, EXPELLED, which is available May 5. Preorder it now on Kindle and NOOK.

To our future filmmakers, check out the super sweet contest, hosted by MacTeen Books (NOT TBF blog). Make a video to promote Solu and you can win amazing prizes! The deadline for this video contest is May 15th, just before TBF so get to it readers!

For more information on Emmy and her books check out her website. Also follow her on Twitter and Facebook page.

That’s it for today! See you guys soon!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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Hello readers,


My last book review was on Sarah J. Maas’s highly anticipated new book called A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES which comes out May 5th (Make sure you pre-order this book! When you pre-order A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, you will receive special book swag from the publisher. The swag includes a bookmark and a temporary tattoo. For more information on how to receive the book swag check it out here). In case you missed the book review, you can read it here. I had briefly talked about Sarah’s other series, THRONE OF GLASS and I thought that didn’t elaborate why this series is incredible. So today’s book review is all about the first book in the THRONE OF GLASS series.

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Although I’m going to be talking about the first book in the series, I recommend reading THE ASSASSIN’S BLADE before starting the THRONE OF GLASS series. THE ASSASSIN’S BLADE is a prequel book filled with five novellas. The prequel novel will get you familiar with the world, the characters and will give readers insight as to why Celaena, the main character, is the way she is in THRONE OF GLASS.
While there are several reasons why THRONE OF GLASS was fantastic, I’ll talk about the two big things that stood out to me. One reason was Erilea, the world that the THRONE OF GLASS series is set in. I praise high fantasy writers because of the creativity that goes into world-building. I am baffled at the different character names, city names and country names that Sarah made up. I constantly looked up the THRONE OF GLASS pronunciation cheat sheet which you can check out here. When I was reading THRONE OF GLASS, I was completely mesmerized by the few places Celaena describes. The first book primarily focuses on Rifthold, the city where the King of Adarlan lives as well as where the competition takes place. I am hoping as the series continues, we will learn more about the different cities in Erilea.

The second reason why I loved THRONE OF GLASS is the main character Celaena Sardothien. I love the fact that Celaena Sardothien is incredibly flawed. She is very stubborn, headstrong, arrogant and sometimes vain. I feel that negative personality traits are not highlighted enough in books, especially with the protagonist. Celaena is a different case. She is aware of her flaws but accepts them. I’m not saying that Celaena is unlikable main character, she is. While Celaena is physically strong since she is a trained assassin, she is strong emotionally, mentally and morally. She is very intelligent, brave and passionate. These positive personality traits are what attracts the attention of a foreign princess who wishes to be friends with Celaena as well as the possible love interests. There are also some secrets that Celaena has but does not share them with the other characters including the readers. We just have to continue reading the THRONE OF GLASS series to figure out this mysterious assassin.
I highly recommend the THRONE OF GLASS series to readers who want to read about a strong heroine, a high fantasy series and a thrilling plot. Readers who enjoyed HIS FAIR ASSASSIN trilogy and the GRACELING REALM novels will also love this series.

I also urge you to check out Sarah J. Maas's THRONE OF GLASS Pinterest board. By looking at the pins you may figure out what is in stores for Celaena and come up with guesses for what will happen in the next book (By the way, the fourth book in the series, QUEEN OF SHADOWS will be released in September of this year so make sure you remember to have a bookplate signed by Sarah! Bookplates will be sold at the TBF merchandise booth, right next to the Barnes and Noble table.) And to all of you soon-to-be THRONE OF GLASS fans, the somewhat official fandom name is Firehearts. You'll understand why when you read the third book, HEIR OF FIRE.

That’s it for today. Be sure to check out the blog again for more book reviews, author interviews and more!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Book Review: Unremembered by Jessica Brody

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Hey, everyone!

I am so excited to review Unremembered by Jessica Brody today. I actually got my copy of it signed at TBF 2013 by her. One of my favorite parts during TBF is when you get to have your books signed by the authors! She was super nice and is an amazing author. I’m so glad she’s coming back to TBF this year!

Check out Unremembered:

When Freedom Airlines flight 121 went down over the Pacific Ocean, no one ever expected to find survivors. Which is why the sixteen-year-old girl discovered floating among the wreckage—alive—is making headlines across the globe.

Even more strange is that her body is miraculously unharmed and she has no memories of boarding the plane. She has no memories of her life before the crash. She has no memories
period. No one knows how she survived. No one knows why she wasn’t on the passenger manifest. And no one can explain why her DNA and fingerprints can’t be found in a single database in the world.

Crippled by a world she doesn’t know, plagued by abilities she doesn’t understand, and haunted by a looming threat she can’t remember, Seraphina struggles to piece together her forgotten past and discover who she really is. But with every clue only comes more questions. And she’s running out of time to answer them.

Her only hope is a strangely alluring boy who claims to know her from before the crash. Who claims they were in love. But can she really trust him? And will he be able to protect her from the people who have been making her forget?

From popular young adult author Jessica Brody comes a compelling and suspenseful new sci-fi series, set in a world where science knows no boundaries, memories are manipulated, and true love can never be forgotten.

Doesn’t that sound awesome? It is.

Let me tell you, this story goes fast. It keeps you entertained and intrigued as the mystery of who this girl is unravels with every page you turn. Though the plot line may seem like something that is old and worn, this book is far from the usual. I found there to be an element of the unknown always lurking and teasing me as I read. Plot twists throughout the story made it interesting and compelled me to never put the book down until I reached the end. I don’t know how to explain it better than that without spoiling any details for you!

Violet, as the girl is named in the beginning before she remembers her name, is placed in care of a foster family until her next of kin can be located, but the one who finds her is a boy who claims to know her before the crash. His name is Zen, and he won’t let her go. Together, we follow them as Violet tries to remember her past and unlocks some sinister things. The thing I liked about the characters from the book is that they seemed realistic. For example, Violet didn’t know a ton of stuff. She’s amnesic; she’s not supposed to.  Another example, Kiyana, Violet’s nurse, is super sweet and kind when the amnesic girl wakes up. Kiyana makes her feel as comfortable as she can in a hospital not knowing anything. That is something a nurse in her situation would do, I feel.

Overall, I loved this book. Jessica Brody is a great writer, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. Yes, everybody, there is more to this story! Isn’t that always a great thing to find out? I think so. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy science-fiction, romance, and amnesic people struggling to find not only their past lives, but their present and future ones too.

I hope your day is filled with wonderful books!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne Book Review

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Hello readers! Prior to being introduced to the list of TBF authors in my young adult literature course this semester, I had never heard of Emmy Laybourne nor her book Monument 14. With this being said, I decided to tackle the challenge of reading a work of literature from an unfamiliar author. And I am extremely glad I did! I would highly recommend Monument 14 for those of you who have yet to read it.
       It all starts when brothers Dean and Alex woke up late for school and in a panic, rushed down the stairs to catch their bus. Without even a "goodbye" or "I love you" to their mother. Would the two brothers have taken the time to say these things if they had known what was "in store" for them?(This "pun" will make a lot more sense as you continue to read my review!)  What seemed like a normal ride to school, quickly turned into a catastrophe complete with a giant hailstorm falling from the sky, destroying everything in its path. After Dean's bus crashes, the high-schoolers are luckily picked up by the elementary school bus and taken to seek refuge in a Greenway superstore.
       Things start to get really interesting when Mrs. Wooly, the bus driver, leaves the group of students on their own while she goes to find help. Forced to create their own "society" in the superstore, the students begin to understand the importance of teamwork, rationing food and living together in harmony. As if being on their own doesn't prove to be enough of a challenge for the students, the Network is knocked out as a result of the hailstorm. The ability to communicate with others and use the internet have been destroyed. Honestly, losing the Network would be enough to send me into a panic! After hailstorms, the Network outage and a nuclear power plant spill, the students are simply put over the edge.
       Things start to look really bad when Mr. Appleton and Robbie inform Dean and the others that their only hope is to seek refuge in Alaska.  With a plan in motion to drive the school bus to the Denver airport, Dean, his twin neighbors and Astrid decide to stay in the superstore.
        Will the others make it to the airport and safely land in Alaska? What will happen to Dean and the rest of his classmates who stayed behind? I'll let those questions linger with you for a while! Again, I would highly recommend Monument 14 for those of you who enjoy scientific fiction novels or would like to step outside of your comfort zone. And when this book captivates your interest and reels you in, you'll be glad to know that it is part of a series!

Jason Reynolds Is The Greatest!

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Sixteen-year-old Ali is a walking contradiction. He’s a talented boxer-in-training who’s afraid of stepping into the ring; a straight-laced kind of kid on a bad block in Brooklyn, a neighborhood known for drugs and violence. Most notably, he’s a deeply  compassionate teenager who exudes maturity and grace among circumstances that seem like they wouldn’t allow for such hope. Jason Reynolds’ novel When I Was the Greatest chronicles Ali’s friendship with next-door brothers Needles and Noodles as the three prepare for the party of a lifetime—and pay the consequences for putting themselves into such a risky situation.

When I was researching TBF authors, I stumbled upon Jason Reynolds blog and after reading a few of his posts, I became interested in learning more about who this author was. Also, Beyonce featured Jason Reynolds on her blog during Black History Month. If Queen B is a fan of Jason Reynolds, I knew that he was someone I needed to get to know better. And what better way to get to know an author than through his books? My only challenge, however, was deciding which book I would read first! After learning that Reynolds’ was the 2015 winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award for When I Was The Greatest, I decided that it would be the book I was going to read!

The world Jason Reynolds has created in  When I Was the Greatest is scary at times.   There are elements of violence, drinking and drugs, gangs, and so on - but that's not at all what the book was about. Instead, Reynolds’ tells a gentler story that focuses on the power of friendship, the importance of family, and loyalty. The topic of family stood out to me the most because family plays a role in everyones lives, especially teens, but often is ignored in young adult literature for the sake of plot and romance.

Also, even though things may not be perfect, the story is never focused on that imperfection. The focus is instead on Ali, Noodles, and Needles, and how they develop and grow throughout the book. I have to praise Reynolds’ for how real he makes the characters feel; their voices, relationships, problems, and experiences feel like something that could happen, that does happen in real life. I also liked how there were strong adults in this book who served as role models and mentors. What I particularly liked was how these adults have all made mistakes and not only do they own up to them, but they talk about how much they’ve learned from them. It shows how every mistake is a learning experience and how there is always room to grow in every situation.

I am so glad that I discovered Jason Reynolds and his amazing book. I look forward to reading more of his work and seeing him at TBF!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Interview with TBF Author: Katie McGarry

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Happy Friday readers,

In case you didn't know, this entire week was "Katie McGarry Week" on the various TBF social networks. To conclude this fabulous week, I will share with you an interview with Katie McGarry!

Miranda Reads: You have a book coming out called NOWHERE BUT HERE. What is it about?

Katie McGarry: NOWHERE BUT HERE is the first book in the Thunder Road series. The series is about teens who are raised in a motorcycle club. The first book, NOWHERE BUT HERE, follows the story of Emily and Oz. Emily is forced to spend the summer with her father, a high ranking member of the motorcycle club, and Oz, the son of a club member, is ordered to protect Emily while she is town.

MR: Which character from the PUSHING THE LIMTS series do you most relate to? Why?

KM: I put a small piece of myself into every character I write, but the characters I relate the most to are Beth from DARE YOU TO and Haley from TAKE ME ON. While their stories aren't my own, I understand deeply the emotions these two characters go through, especially the hurt and pain. But like them, I also found hope while going through very dark circumstances.

MR: The couples in the PUSHING THE LIMITS series are perfectly matched. What makes a fictional couple perfect for each other?

KM: I believe that what makes a great match in a fictional character is that they challenge each other. That being around this other person causes them to strive to discover who they really are and for them to become the best person they can be.

MR: Let's pretend you're performing in your high school talent show. What's your talent?

KM: I have a great knack of remembering lyrics to my favorite songs.

MR: Which author are you most looking forward to meeting at the 10th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?

KM: Neal Shusterman--Unwind is one of my favorite YA novels.

Thank you so much, Katie! We can't wait to meet you in May!

Speaking of Katie's new book, NOWHERE BUT HERE, if you guys pre-order it before May 26th, you'll get an exclusive full length e-book called CHASING IMPOSSIBLE. It is part of the PUSHING THE LIMIT series. CHASING IMPOSSIBLE is about Abby and Logan (who we met in DARE YOU TO and CRASH INTO YOU). For more information about how to get Abby and Logan's story check out Katie's official announcement here.

That's it for today! Be sure to check out the blog again for more book reviews, author interviews and more!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

If I Stay by Gayle Forman Book Review

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Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.

I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.

Stay, he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.

If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.

       There are novels that people come across in life that positively change you after you've read them. If I Stay by Gayle Forman definitely counts as one of those novels. It is rare that a novel manages to make me laugh, cry, mourn, cheer, and reexamine my own life, but this novel made me do all those actions and more.
        The premise of the novel-Whether Mia should remain alive on earth, or die- was a tough concept, which Forman flawlessly executed. The main characters, Mia, Adam, and Mia's Parents each had well-rounded personalities that made Mia's decision even more heart-wrenching, as it involved leaving at least one wonderful person. As a main character, Mia was not only relatable, but also a character I was completely in awe with. Her talent, pure love, and dedication to playing cello was truly astounding, and as a fellow musician I appreciated the author's combination of music and love in this novel. However, what also made her characterization excellent was her strength as a character to ultimately weigh the pros and cons of each potential decision, and make the best choice based on her goals and wants.
     Nevertheless, the romance in this novel was my favorite part of this awesome book. Adam. Is. Flawless. And swoon-worthy, and overall a great musically gifted rock-star catch!  By no means was he perfect, but that just added to his realness as a sweet, identifiable character. I loved the lyric snippets from the music he wrote that were written within the book, but most of all I simply loved Adam. The love he had for Mia transcended the pages, and made me root for them to remain together. Who doesn't love two people that can bond and fall in love through music?! Although their romance was filled with cute dates and funny banter, it was in no way cliché! Furthermore, Mia and Adam around Mia's parents (every teenager's dream parents) created hilarious scenes that lightened the book as well.
    Overall, it would be a complete shame for someone not to read If I Stay by Gayle Forman, especially if he/she has seen the movie that came out last year. I absolutely loved this Coming-of-Age Romance novel that made me examine what I truly lived for in life, as well as made me hug tighter the loved ones in my own life. Therefore, I recommend to all to read this book! It will be an unforgettable experience you won't want to miss!