Hey hey! So it’s the weekend; you’re bored. What are you going to read?! Ellen and I plus the fantastic Rebecca from Crunchings and Munchings book blog are having a book pow-wow this weekend and in honor of all the fun books we’re going to be reading, I thought I’d pass along a list of the top books in YA and NA right now that you should have read and if you haven’t, stock up! They’re all less than $5! So get ‘em, read ‘em, and tell us what you think!
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Reviewed by: Judith
Final score: 9/10
No drama. Great storytelling. Interesting premise. Sexy protagonists. Slow build up and sexy delivery. No smut. Need I say more?
Help! I’m leaving on a three week vacation and have absolutely nothing to read. Hard to conceive of but true. So here’s a fun way for me to get recs and a lucky winner to get a free book!
Here’s the deal:
You: leave the name and author of a great book you recently read. When I say great, I mean just that – I want something that wowed you; made you think about the characters long after it was over; made you wish that you knew the author so you could storm over to her home and then beg her to write a sequel.
Me: I’ll take your recs and get great reads for my trip *plus* I’ll gift one lucky reader a free e-copy of any book recommended (your choice!).
So start recommending away! Winner will be picked Tuesday around 9 pm.
Happy, happy release day to Rebekah Crane, one of our fave authors! Aspen, which you may remember us reviewing back in March is out today and you could win a copy! Details later.
We’re really excited to share this book with you and if you don’t know what Aspen is all about, then here’s the blurb:
One quiet night in Boulder, Colorado, Aspen Yellow-Sunrise Taylor made a mistake.
In the next instant, her life changed forever.
Aspen doesn’t want to remember the devastating car accident that killed Katelyn Ryan, a sleek-haired popular soccer player. But forgetting is hard– because Katelyn may have died — but she didn’t leave. Her ghost is following Aspen around, and heading into senior year, it’s kind of a problem. Especially when Katelyn’s gorgeous former boyfriend Ben appears to be the only person at school with a clue as to how Aspen feels.
Popularity, college, Homecoming Court, hot guys – none of these things ever mattered to Aspen. She’s been busy trying to rein in her giant mass of blonde curls, keep her stoner mother Ninny away from Toaster, her mom’s awful bongo drumming boyfriend, and prevent her best friends Kim and Cass from killing – or kissing – one another. But with Ben sitting next to her in Physics looking all too gorgeous, Katelyn’s spirit dogging her steps, and her obsessive snow-globe collecting therapist begging her to remember all the things she wants to forget, Aspen is thrust into a vivid, challenging world she can’t control … and doesn’t want to.
A darkly funny, emotionally gripping story of opening up, letting go, and moving on, ASPEN is about the best-worst accident of your life … and what comes next.
One lucky winner will receive a signed copy of ASPEN and $25 Amazon gift card (US/CA only).
***Any contestant that uses dummy or contest only accounts to enter will be disqualified.***
If you want ANOTHER chance to win some swag:
Purchase and review ASPEN on Amazon by June 22, 2014 to enter to win 2 tie-dye scarves, 1 t-shirt from Moe’s Broadway Bagel in Boulder, Grateful Dead stickers, a signed copy of PLAYING NICE and a signed annotated copy ASPEN, plus $25 Amazon gift card.
Good luck everyone!
Rebekah Crane fell in love with YA literature while studying Secondary English Education at Ohio University. After having two kids, living in six different cities, and finally settling down in the foothills of her beloved Rocky Mountains, her first novel, PLAYING NICE, was published. ASPEN, her second YA novel, set in Boulder, CO, is due to release in summer 2014 from In This Together Media. She now spends her day carpooling kids or tucked behind a laptop at 7,500 ft high in the Rockies, where the altitude only enhances the experience.
Fancy an excerpt? Oh go on…
I swallow hard, trying to wet my dry mouth as someone takes the seat next to me. The bell needs to ring now to save me from further conversation. I scoot my chair over, the room and all its occupants slowly closing in on me—and then my neighbor’s head of messy black hair catches my eye. My stomach drops to the floor.
“Why are you sitting next to me?” I snap.
It’s Ben Tyler. Katelyn’s Ben. His eyebrows are pulled high on his forehead, his eyes wide.
“Taylor and Tyler. I guess Mr. Salmon did the seating chart by last name.” Ben says it like I’m interrogating him and he’s nervous he might give me the wrong answer.
“Oh.” Tingles flood my hands and I shake them out at my side. All around the room, people are looking at me. My cheeks heat with embarrassment. I’d get up and ask Mr. Salmon to change my seat, but then I’d get even more attention. People would start to wonder why I don’t want to sit next to Ben Tyler. Hotty Ben. The grieving, perfect boyfriend of the dead Katelyn Ryan. Me getting up is how rumors start. Suzy tells Olivia who tells Sophia who tells Claire that I didn’t want to sit next to Ben, and by the end of the week, everyone is talking about it.
I slink down in my seat, wishing I could disappear into the floor. “I hate eyes,” I whisper to myself.
“Don’t sweat it. I get that a lot, too,” Ben whispers out of the corner of his mouth. Only one side of his face curls into a smile, like he can’t force himself to pull the other cheek any higher. I feel the same way most days.
Then it hits me. People aren’t staring at me; they’re staring at us.
“I’m sorry.” I force a two-cheek smile. “I’m an ass.”
Ben huffs out a laugh. A scar runs through his right eyebrow, another across his left cheek. But even with the imperfections on his face, he looks handsome. I count all the colors in his eyes. Yellow, green, brown, flecks of blue.
“Aspen,” Ben says. “You don’t need to apologize to me.”
I saw him at the hospital that night. He was sitting in a chair, his head in his hands, while Mr. and Mrs. Ryan talked to a doctor in purple scrubs with a colorful sleeve tattoo down her right arm. The scrubs looked more like a costume than a uniform. Mrs. Ryan had her hand on Ben’s shoulder. Even with a face full of tears, he was beautiful.
At one point, he looked at me from across the emergency room. I was sitting in a bed, waiting for Ninny. My head was bandaged, and my leg was in a splint. I was even wearing one of those terrible gowns that open in the back so everyone can see your ass. As Ben stared at me, I kept seeing him and Katelyn in the halls. The whole school knew when they started dating sophomore year, because all of a sudden Katelyn went from the girl who played soccer really well to the girl who held Ben Tyler’s hand in the hallway.
We stared at each other for so long that eventually it got awkward. I asked the nurse to pull the curtain closed.
Ben doesn’t say anything else to me during class. Mr. Salmon goes over the syllabus for the year and then says he’s retiring in the spring and plans to be sick a lot.
“Nothing’s new in physics anyway,” Mr. Salmon says. “Gravity is still gravity.” He sits down behind his desk, takes a swig of his coffee, and tells us to “read or something.” Maybe I won’t fail after all.
When the class ends, Ben walks out of the room without another look in my direction.
Format: Kindle ARC
Reviewed by: Onnica
Final score: 5/10
It’s no secret that from time to time I just love, love, love to dive into a good paranormal YA book. Done well it can be so much fun – there’s the folklore, the romance and the coming of age of the heroine that makes her rise to her destiny and come into her own. So I was pretty excited about this book when I saw it on Netgalley and when the author made contact on Goodreads.
Plot: (taken from the book’s blurb) When Sophia St. James learns that she’ll be moving from Los Angeles to a podunk town somewhere in Connecticut for her senior year of high school, she isn’t expecting an otherworldly encounter. But there is more to Haven Hurst than meets the eye: it’s home to a family of Guardian Angels, and she is the only one who can see them in spirit form. Sophia soon realizes she wants to see much more of Michael, an irresistible yet volatile Guardian who seems drawn to her too.
As Michael battles his forbidden desire for the beautiful young newcomer, one of Hell’s most notorious Demon Knights arrives. Handsome and charismatic, Dante has come to claim the reincarnated soul of his lost lover trapped in Sophia. Cursed with the demon of Persuasion living inside him, Dante will use his seductive charms to lure Sophia into a dangerous game that ends with the kiss of death—unless Michael, who has captured Sophia’s heart, can now capture her soul.
Review: So although I love a bit of fantasy, usually that love doesn’t extend to angels/demons. It’s just a bridge too far and not even I can suspend my disbelief to that extent. Forbidden made me believe the realm of heavenly bodies and demons – that was not the problem. Ok, so what was the problem I hear you ask? First of all, it was the action – or rather, the inaction. A large portion of the book is Sophia and Michael engaging in terse conversations, sharing heated and hateful looks and then…nothing. One of the main ingredients in a fantasy book (in my humble opinion) should be action and the plot needs to move along at a steady pace. If there’s conflict between the hero and heroine then there need to be sparks and the heat should leap off the page at you. It started well, I was fully engaged then it flatlined until approximately 70% of the way through the book. Then suddenly I started getting answers and finally there was some action!
My second problem was that the plot chopped and changed, certain passages weren’t described well enough to evoke exactly what was going on – which led to me getting frustrated. The dialogue of Sophia’s friends (who I’m guessing were supposed to be latino?) was really over the top and made very little sense to me. Sophia was a typical teenage character and her tendency to whine and pick arguments at the wrong time did alienate me from her at times. Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with this book. Its stilted pace and dialogue wasn’t enough to draw me in, nor was the character development. Ironically however, there was enough action towards the end of the book to make me curious about book two, Awaken. So for these reasons I’m giving it 5/10.
Review based on the following:
How much I liked the heroine: 5 – I didn’t really. Sophia has settled with her father in a smalltown following the death of her mother. She’s worried about her dad who seems to have checked out of life completely and she’s nursing her own scars from an ex-boyfriend with anger management issues. I know she was a high school student who has been through stuff, but she was immature, judgemental and lacked grit. I need a fantasy heroine to grab life by the balls and get on with it rather than whine!
How much I liked the love interest: 6 – it was sweet once they started speaking to each other. A little Twilighty in places and unfortunately their ‘sparring’ did not work for me. But, I think their relationship will be better in Awaken.
How believable was the plot: 5 – Ok, not really relevant here, as we’re talking demons and angels, but in more experienced hands I doubt I’d have had such a hard time believing the story and caring about the characters.
How much I liked the writing style/editing etc: 5 – As mentioned above, I had real problems with the dialogue and the fact that some chapters made very little sense. I stuck with it, but it was really hard work. I’ve never written a book, so I don’t want to criticise too much, but it was a struggle to persevere.
Final score: 5/10 – an interesting premise, if the subsequent books drive the plot forward and develop the characters, then it will be a good series. Sadly, I won’t be pursuing it.
YA Review: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Penguin Group, LLC
Format: Kindle, 2008
Reviewed by: Ellen
Final Grade: 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 out of 10
Choosing your favorite Sarah Dessen book is more challenging than choosing your favorite cocktail – they’re all so awesome (plus cocktails are also easier cause many contain whiskey…not a fan). While Judith has already shared her favorite, I felt it’s time to introduce you all to MY favorite, a book I love so much that I almost purchased it when I found a copy in South Africa just because it was there, which contains one of my Top 3 YA Hotties Of All Time!
Aspen by Rebekah Crane
Publisher: In This Together Media
Format: Kindle ARC
Reviewed by: Onnica
Final score: 9/10
Plot: Aspen Yellow-Sunrise Taylor (yes, that’s not a typo) does not want to remember what happened that night in Boulder, Colorado. A devastating car crash killed Katelyn Ryan, the girl who used to sit in front of her in class, while she survived. Not only does she need time to heal physically, she doesn’t know what to do about Katelyn Ryan’s ghost, who insists on following her around and haunting her every moment. After the accident, Aspen finds herself the focus of (nearly) everyone’s sympathy. People she never spoke to before are suddenly asking how she’s doing and she’s being invited to social events. This, for a girl who went unnoticed for years and liked it that way is an adjustment. The only person who seems to understand her anxiety is Ben Tyler, Katelyn’s boyfriend.
With their attraction to each other growing and the class speculation about will-they-won’t-they, Aspen feels as though she’s living the dead girl’s life – fortunately she and her two misfit friends and stoner mother Ninny are at hand to keep her in touch with reality, if only she could share the truth with them about what happened that night. But the funny thing about secrets is they always come out in the end.
Review: Do you ever have those moments where you fancy a trip down memory lane and head back to high school? I do every so often and usually these kind of books deal with really serious ‘issues’ and are all reminiscent of how awful high school actually was. This wasn’t (I’m happy to say) one of those books. Aspen is a quirky, funny and touching book about loss and dealing with the consequences of our actions. There’s no bullying in this book, no students making others’ lives hell – the school community actually gathers around to help Aspen and those affected by Katelyn’s death. If anything, the funny parts of the book are where Aspen is almost killed with kindness from her classmates – she even gets voted Homecoming Queen!
I suppose my only issue with the story was the fact that Aspen’s secrets started to make her ill – yet she wouldn’t tell anyone. Not her friends, her family or her therapist. It annoyed and frustrated me, but it was totally realistic in many ways. That’s why I give Aspen 8/10.
Based on the following criteria:
How much did I like the heroine? 8: Aspen is a great character – she looks after her young, irresponsible mother, who’s always chasing losers and searching for her bong. She’s the responsible one who has to make sense of what’s happened. She’s smart, witty and I really liked her. She has her insecurities like most teenagers – her hair won’t stay straight and is mercilessly curly – she just wants to stay under the social radar, but her new-found popularity makes it impossible. She’s a very likeable heroine – and you don’t see that a lot.
How much did I like the love interest? 9: Ben was a sweetheart, the kind of guy we’d all have liked in high school. Popular without being a jerk, handsome, athletic and sensitive. He’s carrying his own secrets and anxieties and finds support and solace in Aspen. I liked the dialogue between he and Aspen – it rang true. This is how I’d imagine teens to speak to one another.
How believable is the plot? 8: Hard to answer this one – seeing ghosts isn’t my reality thank God – but the realism isn’t important here. It’s a great story and I wanted to keep reading to see whether Aspen was mad, having a nervous breakdown or had a brain tumour. The pace was consistent throughout and none of the story dragged.
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc. 9: Rebekah Crane writes some seriously good-quality dialogue. I laughed out loud in places and felt all sentimental in others. I would happily read more from this author – she’s awesome.
How much did I want to keep reading? 9: I read and read and read until I found out what had happened and why Aspen was so messed up inside. I had guessed some of it, but this didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. There were plenty of secrets that came out at the end which made sense of everything.
Final score: 9/10 – a funny, thrilling story that made me smile, laugh and thank my lucky stars I wasn’t that popular in high school!
Aspen is out in June 2014.
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2013
Format: Library Hardback
Reviewed by: Judith
Genre: YA Vampire
Final Score: 8/10
Judith’s thought process when picking out a book: “oooh, great cover! Sold! Wait…now, what? It’s about what?” A lot of times that awesome cover grabs me and sucks me in and then I’m stuck with a dud. Luckily that didn’t happen here! Look at that cover! It’s freaking-fan-tastic! And score! I was only just mildly confused and pleasantly surprised by this unique brand of vampires…
Publisher: Hachette Book Group, January 1, 2013
Format: Kindle and Audio Book
Reviewed by: Ellen
Genre: Young Adult
Final Grade: 9/10