~What's Happening at Ramblings of a Daydreamer~
*Post your April reviews for the 2014 HFRC
*Join the Angel Island Street Team
*Win an assorted pack of Angel Island Swag (3 winners, open INTL)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: Great by Sara Benincasa


Great by Sara Benincasa
Series: Standalone
Published: April 8th, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
272 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary young adult/retelling
Acquired this book: From the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Book Depository || Chapters/Indigo}

Everyone loves a good scandal.

Naomi Rye usually dreads spending the summer with her socialite mother in East Hampton. This year is no different. She sticks out like a sore thumb among the teenagers who have been summering (a verb only the very rich use) together for years. But Naomi finds herself captivated by her mysterious next-door neighbor, Jacinta. Jacinta has her own reason for drawing close to Naomi-to meet the beautiful and untouchable Delilah Fairweather. But Jacinta's carefully constructed world is hiding something huge, a secret that could undo everything. And Naomi must decide how far she is willing to be pulled into this web of lies and deception before she is unable to escape.

Based on a beloved classic and steeped in Sara Benincasa's darkly comic voice, Great has all the drama, glitz, and romance with a terrific modern (and scandalous) twist to enthrall readers.
 
 

I read (and loved) The Great Gatsby in high school, so when I heard about Sara Benincasa’s Great - a modern day retelling of The Great Gatsby where the characters were teens - I knew I had to read it. While I ended up with some mixed feelings about this book, I thought it was overall a good attempt at retelling a well-known classic.

I loved how Benincasa worked in all the Gatsby characters, but with a twist - Naomi as Nick the narrator, Jacinta as Jay Gatsby, Delilah as Daisy. I thought it was really clever. Naomi lived with her dad during the year, but spent the summers with her mother (a Martha Stewart type) in the Hamptons. She leads a regular life with her dad in Chicago, but in the Hamptons she has to live up to her mother’s standards by dressing a certain way, acting a certain way, and being friends with the ‘right people’. Naomi was against it all at first, and didn’t want to be part of the superficial lifestyle lead by everyone around her, but she slowly got sucked into that world.

I had a soft spot for Jacinta, just as I did for Jay in The Great Gatsby. Despite coming across as very sophisticated and worldly, she had this innocence and naivety about her. She was so desperate for people to like her, and she wanted to please people at any cost. She had a sweet, childlike quality to her that made it hard for me not to like her.

Benincasa did a great job of modernizing a classic. I liked that technology played a big part, showing how it can be a wonderful thing or a person’s downfall. As someone who read and loved The Great Gatsby, I enjoyed watching how things played out, and how Benincasa twisted the original in a creative and compelling way while still holding true to the heart of the story.

Ultimately, Great is one of those books that’s sort of fun and frivolous. I love really dramatic reality TV, and that’s what this book felt like a lot of the time - lots of drama and intrigue, people with more money than brains, broken hearts, broken friendships, lies, and betrayal. Not a whole lot actually happened until toward the end of the book, but it was mostly a fun ride getting there. Retelling such a well-known classic - one that’s had several movie adaptations (the Paul Rudd as Nick version is my personal favourite) - was ambitious, and I think Benincasa did a really good job. As a retelling, it has a lot of appeal, but I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I weren’t familiar with the original.



 
Have you read Great? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Have you read The Great Gatsby?


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord


Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Series: Standalone
Published: April 15th, 2014
Publisher: Walker
342 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary young adult
Acquired this book: From the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Book Depository || Chapters/Indigo}

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

 
My review: This book was pretty much perfect so GO READ IT NOW.

Seriously though, Open Road Summer really is pretty much perfect. It came at the exact right time for me, between being in a reading slump, dealing with real life issues, and just basically feeling down. I needed an escape, and I got it in this book. It paired gorgeous writing with an amazing portrayal of friendship, a lot of character growth, a sweet romance, country music, and an epic road trip. 

I appreciated how the story basically launched right in. It would have been easy to give a ton of back-story right away, but it opened with a scene of Reagan and her best friend, Dee - a country music starlet - about to hit the road for the summer on a cross-country tour. We learned why Reagan was going on tour with Dee, and we learned a bit about the girls’ friendship, but it didn’t get bogged down in details. Right from the first page, I was completely hooked by Lord’s simple yet beautiful writing style, and I liked Reagan and Dee instantly. 

Since Nashville is currently one of my favourite TV shows, I loved the country music aspect of this story. I’m not sure if Lord modeled Dee after Taylor Swift, but that’s who I pictured throughout the book. She was sweet, humble, down to earth, and wrote honest, age-appropriate lyrics. Dee was the type of girl you want to be best friends with, and Reagan was lucky enough to hold that title. Reagan and Dee were a solid unit, almost more like family than friends. They knew each other inside and out, accepted each other’s faults, and loved each other unconditionally. Their friendship was definitely my favourite part of the book. There aren’t enough books that focus on strong, healthy female friendships; there’s so much backstabbing and fighting and hurt feelings, and while Reagan and Dee’s relationship wasn’t perfect, it was beautiful and heartwarming and made me tear up more than once.

I found myself really connecting with Reagan. I loved that she had a past; she had done stupid things, she’d made mistakes, and she’d had her heart broken. She was snarky and was the first person to admit that she’s a bitch, but she was fiercely loyal and protective of Dee, and I loved her for that. I loved her passion for photography, and the little surprises about her that were revealed throughout the story. There were a lot of bumps along the way, but she learned a lot, and it felt very authentic and realistic to me.

If you’re looking for a swoonworthy romance, Open Road Summer certainly has it. Matt Finch is one of my new favourite book boys. He was a lot like Dee - sweet and down to earth. He’d been through a lot, and he put on a good face, but underneath the jokes and the winks was a boy who was as broken as Reagan. I loved the way he challenged Reagan, and I also loved that their relationship wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. The progression was natural and believable, and thoroughly enjoyable to watch. 

Open Road Summer made me laugh, cry, and swoon. I could easily picture myself on the road with Reagan, Dee, and Matt, and I found myself constantly wishing I was on their epic summer road trip. I ran the gamut of emotions through the course of Open Road Summer, but I was left with a big smile on my face and a feeling of hope. I would love to see these characters again…maybe a companion novel from Dee’s perspective? *hint hint Ms Lord*

 
“My therapist one told me: you are the only person who can build emotional barriers, but you’re also the only person who can topple them. Other people can’t knock down the walls you’ve built, no matter how much they love you. You have to tear them down yourself because there’s something worth seeing on the other side.”
~Quote from the ARC of Open Road Summer~


 
Have you read Open Road Summer? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you like road trip books? Books about music?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

AFTER THE STORM Release Day!


Today is the official release day for AFTER THE STORM! I'm so excited to have this book out in the world. 

Here's a little fun fact for you: at the beginning of the book, Ella mentions that she and Charlotte are Irish twins (siblings born less than a year apart), so I wanted the WAITING FOR THE STORM and AFTER THE STORM to be Irish twins. WFTS was published April 9th last year and ATS came out a year minus a day later. A little cheesy maybe but I liked the symbolism. ;-)

Want to know more about AFTER THE STORM?

For most people, starting senior year at a new high school would be a nightmare, but for Ella O’Dell it’s the new beginning she desperately needs. Two months after her mother’s death, she’s ready to leave behind the rebellious, unhappy person she became when she found out her mom was dying.

When Ella meets River Maracle and Sadie Fitzgerald, she begins to learn it’s okay to be herself, even if that means being different. River and Sadie aren’t ashamed of their misfit status—River grew up on a reservation, and his mother is the school counselor; Sadie stands out with her funky homemade clothes, and is a master at ignoring the whispered rumors that have plagued her since the beginning of high school.

Ella finds a kindred spirit in Sadie, and something more in River. After almost a year of pretending to be someone she’s not, she finally embraces life and allows herself to have fun without constant guilt. But despite her budding happiness, something is off with her new life. She doesn’t want to dwell on the past, but Angel Island is a small place, and she soon realizes her demons are harder to outrun than she thought…
BUY THE BOOK
Until April 16th you can get AFTER THE STORM for just 99 cents!
AFTER THE STORM is a standalone companion to WAITING FOR THE STORM (GoodReads). You don't need to read WAITING FOR THE STORM first, but it would help in understanding more about Ella. You can buy WAITING FOR THE STORM on Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo for $2.99

I wish I could do a big release day giveaway, but I've had some unexpected expenses lately, and I really can't afford it. *insert sad face here* BUT I'm hoping to do a big giveaway soon. I have something pretty cool in mind, I just need to get everything together. I'm also hoping to have a few fun giveaways throughout the summer, so be on the lookout for those!

Want to win some signed Angel Island swag? I've got postcards, mini bookmarks, and stickers. I'll pick three winners, and this is open internationally!

Do as many or as few of the Rafflecopter entries as you want...depending on how badly you want this beautiful swag! ;-)


Thank you so much to everyone who has shown so much support over the last three years. I really hope you enjoy reading Ella's story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

New Release: The End of Feeling by Cindy C Bennett

Now available: Cindy C Bennett's The End of Feeling

After missed deadlines and pushed-back release dates, it's finally here!

Benjamin Nefer seems to have it all. He’s the most popular guy in school, the star quarterback with college scouts looking at him, his grades are near the top of his class, he can get any girl he wants . . . but he hides behind his dream life to mask the nightmare of his reality.

Charlie Austin is the new girl. Forced to move in with a bitter aunt, she only wants to protect her fragile mom from the world’s cruelty. When Benjamin sets his sights on Charlie, she’s armored against his charm—friends warned her about Benjamin’s game of pursuing and then dumping a long line of girls, not caring about the broken hearts he leaves behind. She doesn’t count on how single-minded he can be when she refuses him, or how charismatic, easing into her life through what he claims is just friendship.

Benjamin thought he could keep Charlie in the same place he keeps all girls—something to be used and then discarded. But Charlie has as many secrets as he does, secrets he’s determined to discover while keeping his own hidden. He realizes she’s the perfect girlfriend candidate . . . someone he can use to keep up the fa├žade of a perfect life. Now he just has to keep his frozen heart from softening toward this unique girl, because if he doesn’t, his carefully constructed lies might just come thundering down around him, crushing him beneath the burden of feeling.

Get your copy today at:

Amazon Barnes & Noble Smashwords CreateSpace Kobo

Proud to be a part of Amazon's Kindle Matchbook - Purchase the paperback, get the Kindle version free!


Here's what's being said about The End of Feeling


The End of Feeling is a story that will stay with you long after you finish reading it. Haunting, heartbreaking, in other words, another winner for Bennett!
~ Sherry Gammon, author of Unlovable

From the moment I picked it up, my heart was warmed, melted, broken, and pieced back together again. A beautiful story that will leave you aching long after the last page.
~ Jamie Canosa, author of Falling to Pieces

A tale of hope and love about a couple of teens who have every reason to believe in neither. It's raw and real, but leaves us believing in the power of redemption.
~ Juli Caldwell, author of Psyched

The reality both characters live makes their story captivatingly unique, and emotionally powerful. . . Demonstrates the beautiful truth that two people can learn to be true to themselves, no matter what—especially while falling in love. 
~ Heather Frost, author of The Seers trilogy

The struggles in this story bring to light the fact that beauty and truly miraculous things can be found in the everyday, and that the most important thing any one of us can possess, is love.

Once again Cindy C Bennett's incredible talent shines through yet another masterpiece . . . a triumphant story of love, compassion and human strength.

Bennett brilliantly weaves the fears and trepidation of two teens treading the hazards of acceptance, young love, and. Curl up with this story and enjoy the ride—it's terrific.

Learn more at Cindy C Bennett's blog.

Visit The End of Feeling blog to read the full reviews.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review: The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi


The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi
Series: Standalone
Published: April 1st, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
352 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary young adult/LGBT
Acquired this book: From the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Book Depository || Chapters/Indigo}

{Read my review of My Life After Now}

Ever since her mom found out she was in love with a girl, seventeen-year-old Lexi’s afraid that what’s left of her family is going to fall apart for good.

You are on the road to truth. Help is on the way.

The road signs leading to New Horizons summer camp promise a new life for Lexi—she swears she can change. She can learn to like boys. But denying her feelings is harder than she thinks. And when she falls heads over heels for one of her fellow campers, Lexi will have to risk her mother’s approval for the one person who might love her no matter what.

 
I want to start out by saying I have so much respect for Jessica Verdi. She’s not afraid to push boundaries and write stories that are bold, brave, and different. When I read her debut novel, My Life After Now, I thought ‘the world needs a book like this’ and I feel the same way after reading The Summer I Wasn’t Me. I can’t wait to see what Ms Verdi comes up with next.

After Lexi’s dad dies, her mother falls apart. Things become worse when she finds out Lexi is gay. Hoping to make her mother happy again, Lexi agrees to go to New Horizons - a camp that teaches young people how to beat the ‘sickness’ of homosexuality. *insert initial ragey-ness here*

The whole idea of ‘de-gayifying’, and homosexuality being something you can 'overcome' made me so angry. I spent a good portion of the book with my mouth hanging open in shock and horror at the things that went on at New Horizons. The teens were told that a trauma in their lives caused them to be gay, and the camp focused on the importance of gender roles - girls wearing pink, boys wearing blue, girls being able to cook and clean, and boys being able to play sports and fix things. The idea of homosexuality being a ‘sin’ is nothing new, but these people took it to a whole new level, and it made me both sick and sad, because even though the book is fiction, places like this do exist, and a lot of churches/religious people do hammer those points home.

I really liked Lexi. She wasn’t afraid to be her own person, and she pretty much knew what she wanted from life. I admired her desire to make her mother happy, even though it would have meant changing who she was, living a lie, and possibly never being truly happy herself. She was mature and selfless for someone so young, and she came across as genuine and believable. Lexi’s group at camp consisted of Carolyn, Matthew, and Daniel. They were all well fleshed out, and each of them had something to teach Lexi. I especially loved Matthew - he was funny and caring and not afraid to be himself.

The romance in this book is so sweet. I love the way the characters bonded and grew a friendship that slowly turned into more. The ‘forbidden love’ aspect worked really well because of the situation the characters were in, and it made their interactions all the sweeter, while sometimes having that sexy exciting feeling of doing something you know you’re not supposed to be doing.

The Summer I Wasn’t Me made me feel so much. I spent quite a bit of the book being angry because of the situation Lexi was in, but it made me connect with her and the story even more. There were moments of humour and sweetness to balance the parts that were rage-inducing, heartbreaking, and sickening. This book is powerful and emotional. It’s a must read whether you’ve struggled with who you are or you’re completely comfortable with yourself. It’s full of beautiful messages about acceptance, friendship, and love.  
 
 

Have you read The Summer I Wasn't Me? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Have you ever done something you really didn't want to/didn't feel quite right about to make someone else happy? Do you read LGBT fiction?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

2014 Historic Fiction Reading Challenge - April Review Link-Up

If you haven't signed up for the 2014 Historic Fiction Reading Challenge, it's not too late. You can sign up here.

Happy April, historic fiction lovers! How are you doing with the Historic Fiction Reading Challenge so far? How about your other 2014 challenges?

If you'd like to check out fellow participants' reviews, you can see all the January reviews here, the February reviews here, and the March reviews here. I've also updated the 2014 Historic Fiction Reading Challenge page at the top of the blog.


So far for the challenge I've read:
Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough
Lady Thief by AC Gaughen
The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan

Books I plan to read in April:
Jewel of the Thames by Angela Misri {GoodReads}
Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman {GoodReads}

Here's a refresher of how this works:
  • You read as many (or as few) historic fiction books as you want during the month of April
  • Post your review on your blog (or GoodReads, Amazon, etc if you don't have a blog) between April 1st and 30th
  • Post a direct link to your review in the Linky below
  • If you'd like to enter the giveaway, first make sure you're signed up for the challenge, then in the entry that says 'Post a review', tell me the name of the review you linked up in the Linky. Each new review = an entry in the giveaway, so don't forget to add your reviews. You can enter as many as three reviews each day (which I don't expect anyone to actually do, I just wanted to be sure there were lots of spaces for reviews). 
  • If you didn't have a chance/forgot to link up your reviews from previous months, you can link them up in April. No double posting of reviews though please. 

Sponsor/Giveaway: 
This month we have the wonderful Angela Misri as our sponsor. One lucky participant in April will win an ebook of Angela's brand new book, Jewel of the Thames, plus a signed postcard. Want to know more about Angela? You can find her on her website, Twitter, and GoodReads.


 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Reminders: 
  • If you're on Twitter, you can use the hashtag #2014HFRC to update your progress or when you share your reviews. I'll randomly retweet tweets that use the hashtag.
  • You don't have to post the challenge button on your sidebar, but if you'd like to, you can grab the code in my right sidebar.
  • If you're interested in becoming a sponsor for the Historic Fiction Reading Challenge by donating books, ebooks, swag, gift cards, etc., please contact me at irishstar_83(at)hotmail(dot)com. If you're an author, I'll spotlight your book for the month and include your website, Twitter, Facebook, etc.; if you're a blogger, I'll spotlight your blog and other social media. All sponsors are listed on the 2014 Historic Fiction Reading Challenge page, which will stay up all year.
 
How many historic fiction books did you read in March? Which was your favourite? What do you plan to read in April?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Cover Reveal: My Soon-To-Be Sex Life by Judith Tewes

Today I'm pleased to be part of the cover reveal for Judith Tewes's My Soon-To-Be Sex Life. This book sounds really good, and the cover is cute and fun. Here we go!


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. . . . . .

. . . . .

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Charlie is down to her absolute. Total. Last. Resort. 

Despite a thoroughly comprehensive list of potential cherry poppers, er…suitors, and careful plotting, Charlie is three weeks into her devirginzation campaign, still untouched, and getting desperate. In the movie of her life, this aspiring screenwriter is giving herself a PG, for please, get some. 

Her project goes into freeze frame when her mom checks herself into rehab and packs Charlie off to live with her estranged, or just plain strange, grandfather, Monty. How is she supposed to get a date when she has to go pick up his Depends? 

Enter Eric, a hot rehab grad on the road to redemption, and the only one who can make Charlie rethink her strategy. The more she gets to know him, the more convinced she becomes that is the one, and not just another to add to the list of people who will abandon her. 

In this hilarious and heartbreaking story of one girl’s detoured road to womanhood, Charlie’s list develops a life of its own – right when she realizes there’s so much more to lose. 
Coming June 24th, 2014 from Bloomsbury Spark
{Add on GoodReads}

Multi-published, award-winning author, screenwriter, and playwright, Judith Tewes resides in small town Alberta, where she: writes, sings, plays bass guitar in an all-woman band, walks her three crazy labs, and suspects she's living the life of a superhero's alias. A commercial writer writing under several pen names, Judith’s work includes: paranormal, steampunk, and contemporary young adult fiction, as well as thriller, horror, and dramatic comedies for the stage and screen. 

Find Judith Online:

Want to win $25 Paypal cash? Hurry and enter - the giveaway only runs for 48 hours!


What do you think of the cover and synopsis? Will you be reading this one?

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