Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review + Giveaway: Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley

Rites of PassageAuthor: Joy Hensley
Publication: September 9, 2014
By: Harper Teen
Amazon | Goodreads 

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What’s she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

*I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.*

Now that we've cleared that up...

What I LOVED: Drill. The end. (Okay, so not really.) 
But maybe...considering I imagine he looks like this...

Rites of Passage is an empowering story, one that female AND male readers alike will appreciate and enjoy. (My 14 year old son read it and LOVED it!) Well-written, fast paced and action packed, once I started reading, I found it incredibly difficult to put down! When I finally did though, I felt the urge to do a hundred push-ups. I made it to twenty three before deciding it wasn't necessary to try and kill myself. Because, you know, push-ups suck. 

Sam McKenna is the perfect blend of fierce determination, vulnerability and feminine strength. (I could totally relate to her not ever turning down a dare. I too have been known to do crazy things just because someone dared me, although nothing quite like joining what is essentially a "boys only" club.) But I LOVE that Sam refuses to give up when things gets tough. She doesn't she allow those around her to break her spirit either, even when the people closest to her encourage her quit. 

Go home. 

Find a different way to prove herself. 

Sam just keeps going. 
(For the record, I would've gone AWOL the first time someone screamed for me to drop and give them twenty.)

And then there is Drill.

The romance in this story definitely kicked my heart rate into gear and had me fanning my face a few times, but it stays realistic and doesn't overshadow the more important themes of honor, courage and loyalty. Kudos to Joy Hensley for that because if it had been me, "PT" would have stood for, "Pucker-up Time." ;) 

What Left Me Wanting More: Nothing.

Final Verdict: Read it! 

U.S. Only 
3 winners will get a Rites Of Passage swag pack that includes: signed postcard, bookmark and dogtags. 
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BLOG TOUR: INTERVIEW + GIVEAWAY: Just Like The Movies by Kelly Fiore

Just Like the Movies
Author: Kelly Fiore
Publication: July 22, 2014
By: Bloomsbury/Walker Books For Young Readers
Amazon | B&N| Book Depository | Goodreads

Pretty and popular track star Marijke Monti is confident about almost everything – she’s got great friends, a great family, and she’s on her way to the State Track Championship. In fact, the only thing Marijke isn’t confident about is her relationship with Tommy Lawson.

Lily Spencer has spent her entire high school career preparing for the future – she’s participated in every extracurricular activity and volunteer committee she could. But, at home, she watches her mother go on date after date with dud-dudes, still searching for “the one.” Lily realizes that she’s about to graduate and still hasn’t even had a boyfriend.

While they live on each other’s periphery at school, Lily and Marijke never seemed to have much in common; but, after a coincidental meeting at the movie theater, Lily gets an idea – why can’t life be like a movie? Why can’t they set up their perfect romantic situations, just in time for their senior prom, using movie techniques?

Once the girls come up with the perfect plans, they commit themselves to being secret cohorts and, just like in the movies, drama ensues.


1) Just Like The Movies centers around popular movies from the 80s and 90s. If you had to pick a movie to describe the kind of day you're having right now, which one would you choose?
My son went to day camp for the first time today and I’m on pins and needles, waiting until the time comes to pick him up. I’m sort of a cross between the panicked mother in Home Alone and the frantic fish-dad in Finding Nemo. 

2) If teenage Kelly could star in any movie mentioned in the book, which one would she choose and why?
Ugh. Teenage Kelly was a hot mess. Um, I think she probably would choose Easy A because she would have loved Olive’s ballsy, take-no-prisoners attitude and because Penn Badgley is super-hot.

3) What is the last movie you saw and loved?
Endless Love – ADORBS. In the theater, the last movie I saw was The Lego Movie and that was super-cute, too.

4) What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
Author Jen Jacobson said this at a conference and it really resonated with me – “Anything that happens fast in real life, you should write slowly with lots of details and specifics. Anything that happens slowly in real life you can gloss over and be less specific.” It doesn’t work in every case, but I’ve reminded myself of this a lot lately and it hasn’t steered me wrong.

5) I ask all of my blog guests this one...brownies, pie or cupcakes? 
Brownies. I LOVE BROWNIES. (Although, interestingly, I had a cupcake “company” – meaning me in my kitchen – for a couple years. I made wedding cupcakes, which was a ton of fun and a ton of work!)

Thanks, Kelly!

About the Author
Kelly Fiore has a BA in English from Salisbury University and an MFA in Poetry from West Virginia University. She received an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council in 2005 and 2009. Kelly’s poetry has appeared in Small Spiral Notebook, Samzidada, Mid Atlantic Review, Connotation Press, and the Grolier Annual Review. Her first young adult novel, Taste Test, was released in August 2013 from Bloomsbury USA. Forthcoming books include Just Like the Movies, again from Bloomsbury, in 2014 and The People Vs. Cecelia Price from HarperTeen in 2015.

Kelly teaches college composition in Maryland, where she lives with her husband and son. You can connect with Kelly at her website (, on Twitter (@kellyannfiore), on Tumblr (, or on Facebook (

1 finished copy of JUST LIKE THE MOVIES 
U.S. Only
Must be 13 years old to enter/Void where prohibited.
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Get to Know: King David and Apostle Paul by Nancy I. Sanders

King DavidSeries: Get To Know: King David
Publication: July 8, 2014
By: ZonderKidz
Ages 6-10
Amazon | Goodreads

A Shepherd and A King

David lived an adventurous life. He protected his family s sheep from lions and bears. He fought a giant with just a sling and stone. He even spent years hiding from men who were trying to kill him. And eventually, David became a great king. But David was also a man of God. Learn more about this hero from the Bible and his exciting place in history. Discover what it was like to grow up in ancient Israel and then be a king of God s people. King David part of the Get to Know series will teach you everything you need to know about an imperfect young man whom God used to do great things!

*I received these books from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

As a homeschool mom, I'm always on the lookout for ways to enhance our learning experience with fun and engaging resources and I'm pleased to say, the "Get To Know" biography series does not disappoint.

Even if you're children are older, they can still benefit from the information provided in these books. Each one focuses on a particular Biblical figure and reads like a chapter book, telling their life story using maps, Scripture references, a timeline and fun facts that are very kid-friendly. The key in the front explains how to use the icons; Bible Hero, Eyewitness Account, Did You Know, and Word Bank, all of which pull the young reader into the story and make for an entertaining reading experience. 

The story of King David covers his life from his fight with Goliath up until his death when his son Solomon became King and includes key points such as fleeing from King Saul, his many wives, the Ark of the Covenant, and Psalms he penned. 

This makes for a great addition to any Sunday School or homeschool curriculum. 

Apostle PaulSeries: Get To Know: Apostle Paul
Publication: July 8, 2014
By: ZonderKidz
Ages 6-10

Apostle Paul part of the Get to Know series is a unique biography about Paul. Focusing on the life and character of this Biblical hero, using color photographs, maps, and other visual resources to tell the whole story, young biography fans will come to learn more about this man of the God, his writings, his impact on the early church, and the role he plays in history.

Featuring a bibliography and scriptural references throughout, this is sure to become a favorite for young readers and for first book reports.

As with the King David biography, Get To Know Apostle Paul also provides an account of the Biblical figure in a vivid, colorful way that younger kids will enjoy. Employing the same layout as the other books; maps, icons, Scripture references and a timeline, readers are able to see Paul's life as it spans from the time he converted to Christianity until a few years past his death. The modern day photos allow readers to see the places and landmarks Paul visited on his multiple missionary journeys as they look today. 

Again, this makes for a great addition to any Sunday School or homeschool curriculum. 

#ReadISLA Review: Isla And The Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publication: Dutton
By: August 14, 2014
Pre-Order Campaign
5 Stars!

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and √Čtienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

*I owe you cupcakes the next time I'm in NYC*

Like most Stephanie Perkins' fans, I have been DYING for Isla and Josh's story and I'm happy to say it does not disappoint!

Isla And The Happily Ever After is intense, heart-wrenching romantic perfection!

I happen to love the original covers for this series and there's a tiny part of me that wishes the tradition had continued IF ONLY so I could catch a glimpse of Josh in all of his artsy broodishness. HOWEVER, the background of NYC and the green coloring is a great choice because it all ties into Isla and Josh's story. <3

This is a companion novel and sure, it can be read as a stand alone, but to fully appreciate the growth these two characters experience, AND to be able to understand the significance of certain things that happen (closer to the end), I think you HAVE to start with the other books first. Besides, they're both fun so why would you want to skip them? 

This one is a little angstier than ANNA and LOLA, but in a good way. Isla and Josh's relationship - the one that finally develops after she works up the courage to speak to him while trippin' on pain killers - is fast, intense and at times, all-consuming. She struggles with insecurities, he tries to fill a void, and together they embark on a journey that spans several countries and a myriad of emotions. They do balance each other out, which is good, but they also allow their feelings for one other to trump everything else--family, friends and school, which us unhealthy.

When circumstances force them apart, Isla and Josh both have to come to terms with the difference between loving someone (ugly parts and all), and loving the idea of someone. I thought this was crucial to their growth as individuals and as a couple. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Kurt because I really enjoyed his character! He was *different* seeing him portrayed in such a positive light was refreshing. 

My only qualm with this story is that as it progressed, Isla and Josh felt less like teenagers and more like adults.

This really is a FANTASTIC ending to the series and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVED the way all three books were brought full circle! ;D


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton

Adrenaline CrushAuthor: Laurie Boyle Crompton
Publication: September 23, 2014
By: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
3 Stars
Amazon | Goodreads

When a daredevil teen pushes herself too far, she must choose between two boys: the one who wants to keep her safe, and the one who dares her to return to her old self.

Seventeen-year-old Dyna comes from a family of risk takers and is an avid thrill-seeker herself, until the day she splinters her ankle in a terrible fall. Her whole life goes from mountain biking and rock climbing to sitting at home and attending group sessions at the bizarre alternative healing center that her hippie mother found. The boy who witnessed Dyna’s accident believes her injury is a wakeup call and he encourages her mild new lifestyle, but a young Afghanistan War veteran she meets at the healing center pushes her to start taking chances again. Forced to face the consequences of her daredevil impulses, Dyna finds herself in danger of risking the one thing she’s always treated with caution—her heart.

*Thank you MacKidBooks for this ARC which I received in exchange for an honest review.*

The writing style took some getting used to but the story itself was fast paced and well told. I was surprised at how much was packed into such a small book too.

Dyna is an interesting character and despite my own urges to take risks, I had some trouble connecting with her. She acts without fear of pain or consequence and both of her parents are okay with it which seems pretty irresponsible to me. Her relationship with Jay develops at light speed and felt forced at times. I also didn't appreciate how his wanting to keep her safe was portrayed as a negative thing especially after what they experienced together. And then there's Pierce, another relationship that, while better matched, also happens at warp speed.

The book as a whole had a good message, learning to live life the way you want to but with boundaries

Saturday, July 26, 2014

BOOK PROMO: Four Houses by Victoria Scott

Cover designed by Jeremy West of Red Creative Design.
A frightened girl.

An empty field.

Four houses.

Which house would you choose?

FOUR HOUSES is a dark short story told in an unusual format that leaves readers wondering how they'd react if found in the same situation as seventeen-year-old Maddy.


A digital copy of Four Houses and a signed copy of The Warrior.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Before You (Before and After #1) by Amber Hart

Before You
Series: Before and After Series
Author: Amber Hart
Publication: July 29th 2014 
By: Kensington Teen
3 Stars

Some say love is deadly. Some say love is beautiful. I say it is both.

Faith Watters spent her junior year traveling the world, studying in exquisite places, before returning to Oviedo High School. From the outside her life is picture-perfect. Captain of the dance team. Popular. Happy. Too bad it’s all a lie.

It will haunt me. It will claim me. It will shatter me. And I don't care.

Eighteen-year-old Diego Alvarez hates his new life in the States, but staying in Cuba is not an option. Covered in tattoos and scars, Diego doesn’t stand a chance of fitting in. Nor does he want to. His only concern is staying hidden from his past—a past, which if it were to surface, would cost him everything. Including his life.

At Oviedo High School, it seems that Faith Watters and Diego Alvarez do not belong together. But fate is as tricky as it is lovely. Freedom with no restraint is what they long for. What they get is something different entirely.

Love—it will ruin you and save you, both.

 *I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This series is edgier YA that gradually progresses into NA and I like that the covers reflect that. (At least to me they do.) 

Before You is fast paced and engaging with alternating POVs that bring the characters of Faith and Diego to life. The prose has a rhythmic feel to it, almost like poetry, but the author uses a lot of flowery comparisons that, at times, were distracting. 

I liked Diego and Faith, (as well as the supporting cast of Melissa and Javier) and I enjoyed watching them navigate the ins and outs of a forbidden relationship, which was surprisingly clean, and was eager to see where their journey would take them. But then there was a twist thrown in, that for me, felt too over the top and I almost stopped reading. Almost. I finished and was ultimately satisfied with how things worked out though.

This is a good start to a new series and fans of Simone Elkeles' Perfect Chemistry series will definitely want to check it out.