June 13, 2016

Cover Reveal (& Giveaway): Chasing Truth by Julie Cross presented by Entangled Teen

A story of a girl who's in a family of con artists? Sounds right up my alley.  I love a good con artist story (just search on my sidebar)!

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for
Chasing Truth by Julie Cross
presented by Entanged Teen!

Read on for a special message from Julie!
Special Note from the Author, Julie Cross:
I’m so excited to reveal this cover! I saw it months ago and not only loved it, but felt like I finally had something tangible to show the vibe of this story. Chasing Truth began as a teen romance featuring a girl with a unique past–she’s from a family of con-artists. Until recently, Ellie spent her entire life living under multiple identities, being everyone and anyone. So falling for new neighbor, Miles, as herself is brand new territory and that definitely creates a bit of a rocky relationship for my two leads. While the story is still built on all of that, it also evolved into a slightly different recipe as I wrote.
Chasing Truth is 1 part mystery/thriller, 1 part high school drama, 1 part family story, and 2 parts (maybe 3…) romance. If you’re a fan of the TV series Veronica Mars, you’ll find that Chasing Truth has a similar feel. I can’t wait for all of you to have a chance to the read the book in September, but for now, I’ll have to settle for showing off this beautiful cover!
At Holden Prep, the rich and powerful rule the school—and they’ll do just about anything to keep their dirty little secrets hidden.
When former con artist Eleanor Ames’s homecoming date commits suicide, she’s positive there’s something more going on. The more questions she asks, though, the more she crosses paths with Miles Beckett. He’s sexy, mysterious, arrogant…and he’s asking all the same questions.
Eleanor might not trust him—she doesn’t even like him—but they can’t keep their hands off of each other. Fighting the infuriating attraction is almost as hard as ignoring the fact that Miles isn’t telling her the truth…and that there’s a good chance he thinks she’s the killer.
add to goodreads
Book Title: CHASING TRUTH (The Eleanor Ames Series, #1) 
Author: Julie Cross 
Release Date: Sept. 6, 2016 
Genre: YA Thriller/Mystery
Julie Cross_Author Photo
Julie Cross is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press).
She’s also the author of the Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, and many more to come!
Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA. She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres.
Outside of her reading and writing cred, Julie Cross is a committed–but not talented–long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a very limited, digital ARC of Chasing Truth, once it comes available (INT)

Movie Monday: Love and Friendship

What a scrumptious delight of a movie!  Love and Friendship adapts Jane Austen's juvenile novella, "Lady Susan."  (Not "Love and Freindship" [sic].)  I'd wanted to see it anyway, but one of my project managers raved about how good it was.  It wasn't showing at the Alamo, but I enlisted a friend and drove across town to a Cinemark.  As it turned out, she'd seen it last weekend but was quite willing to see it again.

(Side note: This Cinemark has installed giant recliner seats, which are comfortable.  However, they can't fit very many in the theater.  We ended up having to get front row side seats, from which you could barely see the screen.  If they'd switched the walkway and front row it might've been okay.  Seriously terrible design.  But the movie was great!)

Kate Beckinsale sinks her teeth into the role of Lady Susan.  I've mostly seen her in action movies, so I had no clue she had this in her.  Lady Susan is a tough character to play - she's a terrible person, but one you end up rooting for because she's the protagonist.  But Beckinsale plays her to a tee, the way she can perceive any situation in her favor and twist the truth so sprightly.  And, well, she's does have a point.  She's a penniless widow with a daughter who needs a secure future.  She's playing the game.  She's just more underhanded about it than Austen's future, more famous heroines.

The plot is slight, but that works for a movie.  (After all, many of Austen's other works require a miniseries to be told well.)  There's a decent-sized cast, but everyone is clearly introduced with title cards.  And what a cast!  Chloe Sevigny is hilarious as Lady Susan's equally amoral best friend, a married American on the outs with her husband.  Tom Bennett steals the show as the rather dim Sir James Martin.  Love and Friendship stops dead two or three times to let him babble on, and the movie is better for it.  His digression on the twelve commandments is a bauble of comic genius.

Love and Friendship also does a good job of presenting the complicated morality of the story.  Lady Susan's sister-in-law and her parents are concerned that Lady Susan is abusing her daughter.  Her daughter does blossom when free of her mother's plans to marry her off, but seems to generally feel that her mother showed her love the way she knew how.

It does have some faults.  "Lady Susan" is an epistolary novella, and it shows.  A scene will start, then cut to Susan telling her friend what happened.  Beckinsale sells it, but sometimes it might've been nice to actually see the plot unfold.

You don't have to be an Austen fan to enjoy Love and Friendship.  You just have to be a fan of dry humor and the comedy of a group of good people running into someone who is shockingly terrible.

June 9, 2016

Review: Defending Taylor

Defending Taylor Book seven in the Hundred Oaks series
By Miranda Kenneally
Available now from Sourcebooks
Review copy

I am a massive fan of Miranda Kenneally's Hundred Oaks series.   Her stories are appealingly contemporary, tackling issues like class differences, sexism, or fame in the internet age.  Her characters are realistic, each with their own flaws and strengths.  DEFENDING TAYLOR has all those qualities that make this series such a strong one.  DEFENDING TAYLOR also returns to her classic, sporty heroines after JESSIE'S GIRL.

To be misleadingly frank, DEFENDING TAYLOR isn't my favorite novel Kenneally has ever written.  It's stronger than many others I've read this year, but didn't have the appeal to me of many of her other novels.

The eponymous Taylor is a senator's daughter and former incoming captain of her private school's soccer team.  But she got expelled, and now she's going to public school her senior year.  She isn't making new friends, and she's on the outs with her family.  The only one who is there for her is Ezra, her brother's best friend who is home from college for his own mysterious reasons.  Of course, Taylor is reluctant to trust him ever since he stood her up at her sweet sixteen.

Romantic tension has been long simmering between them, and now they have the shared experience of struggling with their families' expectations of them as they decide what they want in life.  It's cute, but I didn't feel much spark when reading.  There's very little standing in the way of their relationship except for that missed party.  The explanation, when it comes, makes sense and I believe Ezra would keep it secret even though that was a bad decision.  But it felt unbalanced to me because Ezra's issues are a side note while Taylor's are the focus.

Although it is not instantly revealed, DEFENDING TAYLOR doesn't take too long to explain why Taylor was kicked out.  She was caught with a bunch of Adderall (that was actually her boyfriend's).  Taylor didn't snitch, because her boyfriend would lose his scholarship and she can weather the storm better with her powerful father (somewhat reasonable) and because she would be socially ostracized as a snitch (if this were an old-timey teen movie). 

She's pissed that her dad made no efforts to protect her (even though he believes in not throwing the family name around) and her boyfriend didn't confess to protect her (for the same reasons she didn't confess to protect her).  Which is totally fair.  There are mitigating factors, but no one stood by her, and that hurts no matter what.

But here's the thing: the police don't get involved.  She isn't tried as a drug dealer.  Her school treats her solely as an occasional user, which she admits to being.  (In fact, they drug-tested her and she had Adderall in her system.)  She gets kicked out of her posh school, but she doesn't even have to go to rehab or do community service.  DEFENDING TAYLOR makes some great points about how drug users are demonized in the US, but I got tired of Taylor whining about being punished for a crime she didn't commit.  She got caught due to her boyfriend's carelessness, but she is being punished for a crime she committed.  I wish more of the focus had been on the excessiveness of how the public reacts (which is, to be fair, a big deal in the story when the press gets wind of the story).

DEFENDING TAYLOR is a cute summer read, but sometimes I got a little fed up with the heroine.

June 6, 2016

Review: Sleepless in Manhattan

Sleepless in Manhattan First in the From Manhattan with Love series
By Sarah Morgan
Available now from HQN (Harlequin)
Review copy

Paige Walker doesn't like relying on anyone.  Due to a childhood illness, everyone in her family is overprotective and it drives her nuts.  When she loses her job and old friend Jake Romano suggests starting her own business, she realizes how much the idea actually suits her.

SLEEPLESS IN MANHATTAN focuses on Paige and Jake's relationship, but it also sets up the next two books in the series.  Paige's best friends and business partners Frankie and Eva both have their heroes introduced already.  I know Sarah Morgan wants people to get invested in the series, but I sometimes thought that the setup for the rest of the trilogy took away from the central romance.

Jake is actually Paige's brother's best friend, and she's had a crush on him forever.  Unfortunately, he shot her down hard when she was a teenager. He proceeded to go on and sleep with a bunch of women while she pined.  I enjoy Morgan's novels, but this definitely isn't my favorite dynamic between the hero and heroine.

I do, however, appreciate that both of them had to grow as people to make their relationship work.  Paige needs to learn to ask for help when she needs it, and Jake needs to learn that he is worth loving.  (His mother abandoned him when he was young.) 

I also loved the friendship between Paige, Frankie, and Eva.  (Note: I object to the obvious setups of their romances being in this book, not them being present and charming.)  They truly compliment each other as friends and business partners.  It's a lot of closeness, but Morgan convinces me that it works for them.  Frankie and Eva's polar opposites thing could be a bit much (one is a cynic, one is a romantic), but with Paige in the mix there was a reasonable balance.

SLEEPLESS IN MANHATTAN is a sweet, easily digested romance.  It's not Morgan's best, but it has a lot of appeal for fans of the big brother's best friend romance.  (And he's a self-made millionaire, of course.)

June 1, 2016

Review: The Inquisition

The Inquisition Book two of The Summoner trilogy
By Taran Matharu
Available now from Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan)
Review copy

THE NOVICE ended with Fletcher, the protagonist, for his actions protecting himself from the local bully before he left his hometown to train as a summoner.  I expected his trial to take up most of the novel, based on the title THE INQUISITION.  However, the trial is over rather quickly.  A more accurate (if blander) title might be THE QUEST.

Fletcher, his friends, his enemies, and some new characters are put into teams to destroy a genetics experiment by the orcs, rescue a noblewoman, and prove that humans, elves, and dwarves can work together.  Small goals.

Taran Matharu's sophomore novel shares the weaknesses of the first.  It's fairly predictable, and Fletcher is a bit too much.  THE INQUISITION discusses how relationships among the races are severely discouraged, yet almost every girl in the story is openly crushing on Fletcher even when it could get them exiled from their communities.  I also was disappointed by confirmation that Fletcher is not so common.  I liked that THE NOVICE made it clear nobility wasn't everything.

At the same time, THE INQUISITION is just as readable as THE NOVICE.  This is prime popcorn reading, with a dangerous mission on enemy soil and backstabbing galore.  I especially appreciated that Fletcher's habit of overlooking people who aren't his friends came back to bite him.  The politics between the various allied groups continue to add a nice bit of depth and tension.  I also liked that THE INQUISITION gives more insight into the orcs and their culture and possibly more advanced magic.

I'm looking forward to the third and final novel of the Summoner trilogy.  I would like to see Matharu grow more as a writer, but he's already quite good at getting me to turn the pages.


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