Monday, April 13, 2015

|Review| The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

Title: The Art of Lainey
Published May 20th 2014 by HarperTeen
Genre: contemprary YA
Rating: A
Goodreads summary:
Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.

What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?
Round of applause for Paula Stokes for writing a real teenage girl in all her judgmental glory! I'm here to read about Laineys. Yes please.

So I was the idiot who waited 7 months to read Lainey even though I've been waiting for it for ions and when all the great reviews started trickling in, I become even more excited. So I put it off, of course. Typical me problem. But what matters is that I got to it within a year (miracle, see Typical me problems again) and I'm here to share what I LOVED about it!

+Lainey: she's 17 years old and she can be judgmental and make stupid comments which is perfectly fine and perfectly on point! People don't pop out of the womb aware of what's harmful and what's not. Lainey has her group of friends and her soccer team and this very narrow view of the world which is why she's judgmental to outsider stuff. However, the summer her boyfriend breaks up with her and she gets to meet Micah is when she gets out of her bubble and embraces how everyone is different. I LOVED seeing this character growth.
“If you asked me whether I was the type of person who liked trying new things or preferred sticking with what was familiar, I would have told you I was the second girl. The if –it-aint-broke-don’t-fix-it girl. I also would have told you plays were lame. It suddenly occurs to me that I don’t seem to know very much about…me. It’s a weird feeling, like maybe a stranger is inhabiting my body. Or maybe a stranger was, and I kicked her out.”
+Senior year: the books takes place over the summer before senior year and Stokes captures the uncertainty of what's to come at the end of high school SO WELL. Wariness of change, figuring out who you are outside of a long term boyfriend and a group of friends. These are things that seniors definitely deal with and it took me back to just two summers ago when I was graduating.

+Micah: SWOON TOWN. Can I just leave it there? Micah was for sure top ten YA book boyfriends material. Mohawk. Tattoos. Eyebrow piercing! He was actually kind of a bad boy but he wasn't a caricature one. I liked that he didn't let Lainey get away with her shit but their relationship was still fun and just my favorite in YA to read about.

The Art of Lainey is such a ME book, it's ridiculous. Challenging heroine, swoony guy, realistic high school setting AND soccer. I couldn't ask for more. I'll definitely be rereading this and picking up Paula Stokes' future books.

Recommended for fans of: realistic AND fun contemporary YA & fake boyfriend trope. 
Rating: [A] is one for the all the contemporary fans!
“Not sure how you can get them to him without looking like a crazy stalker chick," Micah says."You think I'm a crazy stalker chick?"
"You're using an ancient war manual to try to win back your boyfriend. I think you're a girl who will do whatever it takes to get what she wants," he says. "Hey, at least you're committed.” 

“I go through memory after memory, looking for reassurance that nothing has changed, but it's like flipping through a book of stories I've outgrown. Everything has changed.”

“Standing up for yourself is about more than flinging barbed-wire insults around. Its about picking your battles, knowing when to fight, knowing exactly what and who is worth fighting for.” 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cover Reveal: All For You by Laura Florand

My name is Racquel and I am 10000% obsessed with Laura Florand's books! I read The Chocolate Kiss in January and it jumped into my favorite-of-the-favorites shelf. I've already reread it twice. It put me in a reading slump for weeks and I was scared to read another Florand book because what can live up to the amazingness that is The Chocolate Kiss? But I was WRONG because I've since then read The Chocolate Rose and fell completely in love and I thought, "this is it! Florand can't do it again". But then I read The Chocolare Touch and she did it AGAIN. And when I read Turning Up the Heat? Yup. It was just as amazing, just as magical and filled with beautiful writing, to die for setting and lovely characters as the whole series. 

Breaking news from the heart of the event: Laura Florand is definitely a new favorite author of mine (and I don't make these claim lightly, AT ALL!)

With that being said, I'm SO EXCITED to share Laura Florand's new series and book cover!
All For You
May 5th, 2015
Paris Hearts series: Three young women trying to make their way in the most romantic city on Earth must learn how to open their hearts to love
Some crushes aren’t meant to be

When her older brother’s best friend left to join the Foreign Legion, eighteen-year-old Célie moved on to make a life for herself as a Paris chocolatier. Now, five years later, the last thing she needs is another man to mess up her happiness.
Let alone the same man.

But five years in the Foreign Legion is a long time for a man to grow up, and a long time to be away from the woman he loves.

Especially when he did it all for her.

Half strangers, more than friends, and maybe, if Joss Castel has his way, a second chance…
I'm SO excited about this because Célie is a lady chef and I've been wanting to read about one since the beginning of the Amour et Chocolat series (though I recently realized The Chocolate Temptation also has a lady chef but the hero is also a chef)! We do meet Célie The Chocolare Touch where she works under Dominique Richard. I'm so excited for this new series from Florand because I. Can. Not. Get. Enough. I haven't been able to focus on a non Florand book and I'm torn between binge reading all of the Amour et Chocolat series and the La Vie en Roses series or pacing my self and enjoying her released books. Being a reader is tough! Anyways, off I go to continue my obsession with Florand's books. If you haven't read a Florand book, you need The Chocolate Kiss in your life NOW. You won't  have to thank me when you love it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Author Interview: Sarah Morgan

Last Wednesday, I left my backpack in my friend's car when we went to Chipotle because I wasn't supposed to get out of the car and then I thought it would take a minute to buy chips and salsa only but long story short, we ended up being inside for 20 minutes and we came out to a broken car window and my bag stolen. Fun! My review copy for First Time in Forever was in the bag so there goes the review I was planning to write since I already read the first quarter of the book. Lesson of the day: never leave anything visible in a car, even if you think it will take 10 seconds.

Anyways, instead of a review, I'm here with an interview. Yay! Quick notes that I got from the portion of the book that I did read. The setting is absolutely AMAZING. I fell in love and it's the reason I decided to participate in the blog tour. I'm iffy about small town romances but give me an oceanside setting and I cannot resist. Another thing is that Emily is afraid of the ocean and that is SO fascinating to me because I'm from Jeddah which means I grew up a literal 10 minutes away from the Red Sea. I love bodies of water. I can't imagine anyone afraid of water and I really enjoyed being in Emily's head.

First Time in Forever
Contemporary romance
February 24th 2015 by HQN Books
Goodreads summary:
Windswept, isolated and ruggedly beautiful, Puffin Island is a haven for day-trippers and daydreamers alike. But this charming community has a way of bringing people together in the most unexpected ways…

It's been a summer of firsts for Emily Donovan. From becoming a stand-in mom to her niece Lizzie to arriving on Puffin Island, her life has become virtually unrecognizable. Between desperately safeguarding Lizzie and her overwhelming fear of the ocean—which surrounds her everywhere she goes!—Emily has lost count of the number of "just breathe" pep talks she's given herself. And that's before charismatic local yacht club owner Ryan Cooper kisses her…

Ryan knows all about secrets. And it's clear that newcomer Emily—with her haunted eyes and the little girl she won't let out of her sight—is hiding from something besides the crazy chemistry between them. So Ryan decides he's going to make it his personal mission to help her unwind and enjoy the sparks! But can Puffin Island work its magic on Emily and get her to take the biggest leap of trust of all—putting her heart in someone else's hands?
  • First Time in Forever is the opening book in your brand new Puffin Island series. What inspired you to write this series?
I knew from the start that I wanted the link between the characters and stories to be a strong friendship. I write romance, but I also love exploring the other relationships in my characters’ lives, including family and friends. I had finished my O’Neil Brothers series, which was set in the beautiful mountains of Vermont, and I wanted a completely different setting for my new series. I decided on an island, a coastal retreat where three friends could escape when life was hard. I want readers to dive in, breathe in the sea air, taste the fresh blueberries and the smooth chill of ice cream and take a beach holiday while they read.

  • What made you choose the Puffin as the island bird?
I spent a long time researching the various islands around Penobscot Bay, Maine. Although I prefer to have a fictitious setting, it’s important to me to make it as authentic as possible so I was focusing on the national park and the wildlife of the area. I discovered that although Puffins are not an endangered species, they are rare in Maine and there are projects to reintroduce them to the islands.

I first saw Puffins in the north of England and they are the most amazing sea birds. As I was researching, one of the facts that stayed with me was that although they spend most of their lives at sea, they usually return to breed on the same island where they were hatched. This fitted well with my idea that Puffin Island would be a sanctuary for the three friends. Emily, Brittany and Skylar each live busy independent lives but when they need a safe retreat, they return to the island. In the books, the Puffins actually live on Puffin Rock, which is a small rocky outcrop to the north of the island. They don’t like humans to get too close!

  • Your character Emily has a terrible fear of the ocean. Why did you choose to include this in the book?
Overcoming fear is a theme of the book, and Emily’s fear of the ocean mirrors her fear of emotions. She is afraid of being swamped, of losing everything. She is torn because on the one hand Puffin Island is the perfect place to hide away, but it also means confronting her worst fears. When she visited the island with her friends she was able to stay indoors and inland and think only of herself, but now she has Lizzy, who wants to play in the sand and swim in the sea. She is forced out of her comfort zone and it’s difficult for her. I love challenging my characters and watching them grow, and that’s the case for Emily.

  • You have a strong connection to the ocean. What are your fondest seaside memories?
I love the ocean. I live close to London, so escaping to the sea is nothing more than a dream for most of the year. I have two sons and some of our happiest holidays have been spent by the beach. Every summer we hire a house near the ocean and like many families, we have our own routines and rituals that we often repeat each holiday. If we’re feeling energetic we brave the freezing waves to go body boarding and walk miles along the coast path. If we want a more leisurely day we explore the tide pools, delving beneath rocks and through fronds of seaweed to find hidden treasures. We build the most amazing sand sculptures and of course we eat! Beach picnics are always fun and sometimes we’ll take a fishing trip and cook what we catch. There’s nothing quite like the taste of freshly cooked fish eaten on the beach as the sun goes down. And no beach holiday would be complete without ice cream (my current favorite flavors are pistachio and vanilla). It’s no coincidence that ice cream plays a role in First Time in Forever. I had so much fun dreaming up Summer Scoop and the whole family (and my readers on facebook!) helped pick the flavors.

  • My favorite question! What are you working on next? 
I’m in the middle of the third book in the Puffin Island series, Skylar and Alec’s story, called Christmas Ever After. Sky is a really fun character to write and the tension with Alec is electric. It’s one of those stories where life keeps throwing boulders at the characters (a bit like real life!) and it’s interesting to see them fighting their way out. I love this couple. Their relationship borders on adversarial but they have off the scale chemistry and plenty of humor so it’s fun to write. And it’s a Holiday story, so there is all the extra frosty sparkle I always enjoy.
Thank you Sarah Morgan!! I hope y'all liked this interview and let me tell you, pick up First Time in Forever if just for the beautiful setting alone. It's breathtaking.