Monday, April 10, 2017

Such a Ginger Read: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno

Where I read a book and then label it as "Such a Ginger Read" because, well, it is such a Ginger read. To see my first edition post of this new feature, please click here.

Fireworks by Katie Cotugno
Published: April 18, 2017 by Harper Collins/ Balzer + Bray
Source: e-ARC from publisher
From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-'90s boy-and-girl-band craze.

It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness. [goodreads]

I had the honor of reading an early copy of this book back in 2016. Already I knew it was a 2017 release that would make waves, and definitely find its place as Such a Ginger Read. Katie Cotugno's writing has always captured my attention. She has a way of telling a story that is endless with its depth, yet so relateable at the same time. She's definitely one of my favorite YA contemporary writers and this novel only proves it more.

As someone who grew up in the 90s as a teenager, the beginning of the boy/girl-band craze is something I can so relate to. I loved how Cotugno takes us back to a time when 90s pop music was all the rage, along with the fashion, and iconic symbols. This novel screams nostalgia for me. There was potential for cheesiness though; however, as I've come to realize with Cotugno's stories, she took what could have been a two dimensional storyline and gave it lungs to breath on its own. The story was so rich, I found myself not wanting to put it down.

The friendship between Olivia and Dana is one I'll remember (and I have, all these months later since I read it). Their relationship was more than tangible, it symbolized so many great friendships from my past. The kind you can rely on and fall back on when life gets rough. But there was an honest portrayal of what can become of friendships through those crucial growing years. These two girls were definitely experiencing some major changes and it was interesting to witness their friendship change as they did. I really appreciated the authentic ending Cotugno delivers.

And then there was the boy. I was definitely picturing young Justin Timberlake as I read the character of Alex. His relationship with Dana was sweet and enduring, yet electrifying and thrilling, as all young first loves should be. It gave this already rich story the icing on the cake. 90s pop music + an emotional contemporary YA is definitely Such a Ginger Read! 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

GIVEAWAY: The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

First and foremost, a very special HAPPY PUB DAY & congratulations goes out to author Sara Biren! I loved her debut novel so much that I wanted to celebrate the day by giving away a copy to a reader of my blog. To find out more about this book I adore so much, read below. Then enter the giveaway just after that. (This giveaway is open to US residents only) -- Good Luck!

The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren
Published: April 4, 2017 by Amulet Books
About the book: Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief.

Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other. [goodreads]

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Such a Ginger Read: Melanie Harlow

Where I read a book and then label it as "Such a Ginger Read" because, well, it is such a Ginger read. To see my first edition post of this new feature, please click here.

It's no surprise that I am a lover of romance reads. Pretty much 95% of what I read is romance. And if you don't consider it in that genre, then there's at least a romantic element in the story. I feature both a lot of YA and Adult romances on my blog that I read, but today I wanted to single out a new-to-me romance author I recently discovered: Melanie Harlow.

If you're a fan of Christina Lauren (like me!!), then you'll definitely want to check out her stuff. She writes romantic comedies that deliver a steamy, yet in depth story about two characters finding their way through love. I've only read two of her novels, but already I know she delivers Such a Ginger Read!

Some Sort of Crazy by Melanie Harlow
Published: November 17, 2015
About the book: When a psychic tells Natalie Nixon her life is about to be upended by a mysterious stranger, she laughs it off. After all, she has everything she’s ever wanted—a successful bakery, the perfect boyfriend, and the keys to her dream house.

Who could possibly make her want to throw all that away?

Then Miles Haas comes back to town.

But he’s no stranger—they’ve known each other since high school. Plus, he’s only around for the summer, he’s still a shameless playboy, and he makes a living writing articles for a men’s magazine with titles like 'Should You Bang the Boss’s Daughter? A Flowchart' and 'Butt Stuff for Beginners: A Field Guide.'

He’s not the man of her dreams, and she’s not about to abandon everything she’s worked so hard for just for a little fun. Except he makes her laugh like no one else, smells like heaven, and looks sexy as hell in those panty-melting glasses.

**SOME SORT OF CRAZY is a full-length standalone romance.** [goodreads]

Can we take a second and just admire that cover? Now I am not one to oogle over romance book covers and the hot dudes on them. However, something about this adorable pose and those eyes? Yeah, it totally grabbed my attention. Once I started reading the book and I met who Miles was, this cover came even more to life to me.

Before you ask, yes this book is part of a series. Do you need to read them in order? Nope. I sure didn't. They are set in the same fictional world, but each book is about its own separate characters and their own stories to tell. So I didn't find it necessary to follow from book one to three (this is actually book two). I like when authors do this because if a particular storyline intrigues you, you don't feel pressure to read the previous books in order for the whole thing to make sense. You can just jump right to the one you want. And that's totally what I did.

Natalie and Miles are hot. Their chemistry and playful banter was so fun to read. Miles' character delivered some laugh out loud moments. If you're like me, humor can be such a sexy thing! If you're someone who is shy about steamy romance scenes, or the sexytimes aren't your thing -- then this book may not be your cup of tea. It's definitely hot! But I felt that it was done tastefully, and realistically. Forced romance that comes across fake is such a turn off in romance novels.

I loved the dynamic of these two characters, but I also really enjoyed their journey; especially Natalie's. Melanie Harlow promised a steamy read, but I've come to realize that she can also deliver when it comes to storylines with depth and characters that are way beyond two dimensional. Her novels, especially this one, is such a Ginger read and I can't wait to read more from her backlist.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Review + Blog Tour: Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith
Published: May 2, 2017 by Delacorte Press
Source: ARC from publisher
Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect. [goodreads]

Oh this book. Jennifer E. Smith has a way with words that can creep up on you when you least expect them, and burrow somewhere deep inside. While reading this story, I found myself completely connected with the characters and their fortunes, as well as their misfortunes. This is way more than just a novel about two young teens winning the lottery and living out their wildest fantasies. It's about self discovery, growing up, and realizing who you want to be. I ached for both Alice and Teddy. One minute I was rooting for them, while the next I was completely okay with them following different paths. This story has a way of catapulting the reader forward, only to slow everything down and take a long, hard look at what one might do in this unique, yet thrilling situation.

I'm a goner when it comes to romances, so naturally I kept a watchful eye on Alice and her young love for Teddy. I appreciated how Smith doesn't present their romance as the center of the story, yet keeps it right there, allowing so many other facets to propel the story forward. It was interesting to see the ups and downs on how someone of eighteen really would spend that enormous amount of money. To anyone, a check that grand could open so many sealed shut doors. However, I really found myself connecting with the struggles that a human being would experience while deciding on just what to do with that sort of cash.

If you're a fan of Jennifer E. Smith's work, then this novel will not disappoint. I feel she shines at her brightest with this one. If you're new to her, then by all means, let me be the one to introduce you. Her storytelling is so captivating and vivid, yet real and honest. I adored this novel and the unique, yet so profound narrative it weaves. This is a must read!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Such a Ginger Read: Julie Murphy

Where I read a book and then label it as "Such a Ginger Read" because, well, it is such a Ginger read. To see my first edition post of this new feature, please click here.

I've been a fan of Julie Murphy's work since her debut Side Effects May Vary. She continued to wow me with her sophomore novel, Dumplin'. But then she completely blew me away when I had the honor of reading Ramona Blue, her 2017 release. If there ever is such an author who keeps getting better and better as she writes, it would be Julie Murphy. She gives characters a voice that feels so authentic, as if they are speaking directly to me from the page. Her stories are about people we may know, people we encounter daily, or people that may live inside each one of us. I wish I had these novels as a teen, but I am so grateful to have them now as a teacher so that I can put them in the hands of today's youth. They are strong, compelling, relatable, and so needed.

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
Published: May 9, 2017 by Balzer + Bray
About the book: Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem. [goodreads]

Ramona thinks she has herself all figured out, portrayed as the strong girl who is always there to support her friends and family. However, life has a funny way of setting our paths off balance and causing us to question what we always thought was true. I really admired Ramona's fierce personality and her loyal heart to the ones she cares most for. But what really stood out the most is when she must face adversity within herself. It's such a natural feeling to question who we are, especially throughout our teen years. Ramona felt vivid, identifiable, and like someone I already knew. 

I cannot recommend this novel enough. It's a story that reaches deep, bringing up topics that so many can identify with. The beauty of Murphy's writing shines brightest within this novel. She isn't afraid to show the ugly side of growing pains, and discovering one's self. Everything Julie Murphy writes is "such a Ginger read", but this story here, Ramona Blue, might just be THE Ginger read of 2017.

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