Wednesday, April 12, 2017

SYNC is a free summer audiobook program specifically geared toward young adults. And starting in less than a month, SYNC will give you free access to two complete audiobook downloads a week - a current young adult title along with a thematically paired classic or required summer reading title. The offerings change each week and are only available for download until the next offering is announced a week later. I've included a list below of all of the scheduled downloads for this summer. SYNC will have all the details on how to download, so be sure to check back over there at the end of this month!

Here are some of the titles I'm most looking forward to:

The Picture of Dorian GrayThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide, #1)BeastThe Witch's Vacuum Cleaner and Other StoriesBetween Shades of Gray

And I've already listened to these and highly recommend:

Of Beast and BeautyPlus One

SYNC also has samples of the audiobooks on offer, if you care to check those out prior to downloading the whole audiobook.

I am seriously so excited for some of these titles and also to experience some favorites again. Every year I am just so impressed with the offerings from SYNC!

in years past, I've done a weekly post showcasing which titles will be featured so you know when to go grab them. I don't know if I'll get around to doing that this year, but I'll try my best to tweet updates about which titles are available each week.

Which titles are you most excited about?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Title: Duels and Deception
Author: Cindy Anstey
Series: n/a
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father's choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.

Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won't hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert's help, Lydia strives to keep her family's good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…

Well, this book was utterly charming. I read a lot of adult historical fiction novels, and I usually love when the characters flout societal norms for a risqué tête-à-tête...or two. But in this case, I was happy to see the young gentleman acting so gallantly and in defense of the main character's reputation.

It's difficult to imagine how hard it was in those days to maintain one's integrity and always act accordingly, especially compared with society today. But even so, Miss Lydia Whitfield stands apart as a headstrong and capable woman of means. She always endeavors to maintain a modicum of decorum, but she also has a knack for making things happen in just the manner she planned. Until someone takes matters into their own hands and makes things happen to Lydia.

I greatly enjoyed the element of mystery to this story, though I did figure out the gist of it pretty early on in the story. And I loved that Mr. Robert Newton made it his mission to discover the truth behind the abduction, going above and beyond his duties as Lydia's solicitor. They were so utterly guileless in their affection for each other and it was completely endearing but also totally frustrating at times because I just wanted so badly for them to kiss already. =)

On a side note, I initially thought this book was a sequel of sorts to Love, Lies and Spies, but it is a completely separate story. Both books can be read on their own in whatever order you choose. But you should definitely read both if you're a fan of wholesome, clean fun by way of historical fiction. Duels and Deception was adorable, quirky, and just plain delightful, and I can't wait to read more from Cindy Anstey.


GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

Cindy Anstey spends her days painting with words, flowers, threads and acrylics. Whenever not sitting at the computer, she can be found—or rather, not found—traveling near and far. After many years living as an expat in Singapore, Memphis and Belgium, Cindy now resides with her husband and energetic chocolate labrador in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Find Cindy:

WebsiteGoodreads | Twitter | Facebook

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Title: Letters to the Lost
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Series: n/a
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

I can't believe how long it's been since I read something new from Brigid Kemmerer. I loved her Elementals series. It was fun and romantic and action-packed. This book is nothing like that series and yet it is still just as amazing.

Wait, I lied. They are similar in that the brothers in the Elementals series have a world of hurt thrust upon them and the hits just keep coming throughout the series. The same could be said of both Juliet and Declan: they've both had something tragic occur to their families, something that seems impossible to overcome. And just when it looks like they might not be able to, they find each other.

This is the second book in as many weeks that I've read featuring the secret pen pal aspect, and I must admit, I really like this method of getting to know the characters...and them getting acquainted, as well. I'm not usually super interested in books focused on grief because I'm not very good at dealing with it myself, but the letter-writing aspect had me intrigued. Plus, I know that Brigid made even elemental powers seem realistic, so I knew she would be able to portray the characters' grief genuinely but without leaving me a sobbing mess.

I loved the connection these two characters shared, in their correspondence and outside of it, even if they weren't aware it was that same connection they were drawing on. I liked that Declan wasn't your typical bad boy, that there was more to him than just acting out. And that people finally started to see beyond that brusk exterior to the boy hurting beneath. I also like that Juliet was one of the first people to do so, even if she was one of those making assumptions about what kind of person Declan was based on rumors and heresay. Both characters showed so much growth and changed so much, just in the short span of time they'd started writing to each other, and I really appreciated that that relied more on their connection than their growing attraction, though I enjoyed that aspect, as well.

Also, the friendships in this book were life-affirming. Friendship should be about support but not being a pushover, and I liked that despite the many tragedies inflicted on these characters, they still managed to be there for each other. (I'm also very glad to see that Rev is getting his own book because there was obviously so much more to his story than what we get in this book.) It was also refreshing to see so much family involvement, especially as the story progressed.

Considering that I'm not a huge fan of this type of story normally, I could not put this book down. In fact, I found myself sneaking it in at work or any other chance I could get. I don't think you can help but be invested in these characters. That connection they share is nearly palpable, and you'll need to see how it plays out.


GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

BRIGID KEMMERER is author of LETTERS TO THE LOST (Bloomsbury; April 4, 2017), a dark, contemporary Young Adult romance; THICKER THAN WATER (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance; and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.

Find Brigid:

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Title: Alex, Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
Series: n/a
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

Do you ever get a book and then put off reading it for eons because you're so afraid it won't live up to your expectations? That was me with this book. I adored Jenn Bennett's YA debut The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, going so far as to name it as my favorite contemporary of 2015. So, to say I had high expectation for Alex, Approximately would not be an exaggeration.

But I just couldn't hold out any longer, and you know what? I absolutely loved it. It was quirky and adorable and just all around clever. I really related to Bailey and her status as an evader, her way of avoiding uncomfortable situations by running away or simply pretending it's not happening. But even when she did find herself in an awkward situation -- and Bailey herself was being incredibly awkward -- I didn't find the scenario cringe-worthy. Instead, there was this sense of solidarity because I could easily have found myself in the same situations.

This book was sooo sex positive, too, much like Bennett's last novel. Sex wasn't presented as this insurmountable obstacle, nor was it glossed over in some fade-to-black scene. The awkwardness of first experiences is there but also the open discussion that needs to happen between two consenting adults. Self-pleasure is even presented as a normal, healthy thing. I truly wish there had been books like this when I was a teenager so that I wouldn't have felt so woefully unprepared in those days.

And the relationship that develops between Porter and Bailey is just so genuine and honest. Sure, it has its ups and downs and things aren't perfect 100% of the time, but what relationship is? They have frank discussions about trust and their pasts and how to handle going public with their relationship, and I think it's just such a great portrayal of how a healthy relationship progresses.

This take on You've Got Mail is so unbelievably charming, with the classic movie references and the movie quotes at the beginning of each chapter. But what I especially adored were the forum messages between "Mink" and "Alex". They reminded me of how me and my best friend met online, how we synchronize watching shows together and how well we've gotten to know each other through email and text and miracle of miracles, via chatting on the phone every weekend for hours on end. We're even planning a meet-up this summer. So, I get the sense of camaraderie that Mink and Alex share online but also the anxiety of finally meeting face-to-face.

The only thing I'd change about this book is that summary. It hints at too much. I was constantly waiting to see proof that Porter had discovered the truth; I think it would have been less stressful if I didn't know beforehand that he figures out Bailey's online alias...or even that he was Alex, at least not from the beginning. That's something I like to learn as I read, not know from the get-go.

Even with that looming over my head, this book still managed to be everything I wanted it to be...and more. Bennett easily balances the depth of her characters' pasts with the frivolity of a summer job in a weird museum in a tourist town, along with a swoony romance that is aces above what I usually find in contemporary YA. I already can't wait to read it again. I just hope there's not so long of a wait between this book and her next. ;0)


GIF it to me straight:

About the Author:

Jenn Bennett is an artist and RITA-nominated author of the Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series (Kindling the Moon) and the Roaring Twenties romance series, including Bitter Spirits, which was chosen as one of Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2014 and winner of RT Book Reviews Paranormal Romance Book of the Year, and Grave Phantoms—which was awarded RT's May Seal of Excellence for 2015. The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, (aka Night Owls in the U.K.) is her first YA contemporary romance. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two evil pugs.

Find Jenn:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | FacebookInstagram | Tumblr

Monday, March 13, 2017

Title: Hunted
Author: Meagan Spooner
Series: n/a
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Source: galley received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

So many Beauty and the Beast retellings, so little time. But I made time for this one. Just like I'll make time to take Katie to see the movie on Friday. Because Beauty and the Beast has been my absolute favorite story since childhood...and because Meagan Spooner has already proven her writing chops to me by way of the Starbound series she co-authored with Amie Kaufman.

I loved the chapters from the Beast's perspective, showing his gradual return to humanity the longer Yeva was in his presence. It was kind of like those thrillers where you get to read from the serial killer's point-of-view and get in his head a little. Except not quite as creepy. And it helps to garner compassion for his plight rather than just seeing him as the Beast holding Yeva captive.

Hunted definitely has that fairy tale feel to it: lush imagery, snowy woods, hidden castle. Spooner's writing really transports you there to the middle of those woods, slowly but surely. I was tracking alongside Yeva, captivated and wary, in turns. There is nothing overtly scary or different about this telling, but it is so atmospheric that I couldn't help but be pulled into the story. Not only has Spooner borrowed from the tale of Beauty and the Beast, but she's also woven into the story the tale of The Golden Bird and how the two stories collide is rather magnificent.

There's also this underlying subtext of be careful what you wish for, a definite theme of wanting and yearning and not knowing what you're yearning for. The story felt like heartbreak upon heartbreak but it's also so unforgiving and romantic. And I mean that in the truest sense of the word. This world is so idyllic but also so lovely and so full of love, familial and otherwise.

I've read a lot of Beauty and the Beast retellings over the years, and I definitely have my favorites. And I would have to include Hunted among them. It's a slow build to an increasingly beautiful story, one that I know I'll be reading again.

GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

New York Times bestselling author Meagan Spooner grew up reading and writing every spare moment of the day, while dreaming about life as an archaeologist, a marine biologist, an astronaut. She graduated from Hamilton College in New York with a degree in playwriting, and has spent several years since then living in Australia. She's traveled with her family all over the world to places like Egypt, South Africa, the Arctic, Greece, Antarctica, and the Galapagos, and there's a bit of every trip in every story she writes.

She currently lives and writes in Asheville, North Carolina, but the siren call of travel is hard to resist, and there's no telling how long she'll stay there. She's the author of the award-winning Starbound trilogy (These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, Their Fractured Light) and the Skylark Trilogy (Skylark, Shadowlark, Lark Ascending) as well as the upcoming Beauty and the Beast retelling Hunted.

In her spare time she plays guitar, plays video games, plays with her cat, and reads.

Find Meagan:

WebsiteGoodreads | Twitter | Tumblr | Facebook | Pinterest

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