This One Had Lumpy Batter: Beautiful Wreck

BeautifulWreck_frontcoverTitle:                         Beautiful Wreck      

Author:                    Larissa Brown

Genre:                      Fantasy         

Pages:                       423

Publisher:               Cooperative Press

Publish Date:         January 31, 2014

Recipe Variables:   Sex, violence

Series:                      N/A

Book Blurb:

In a bleak future built on virtual reality, Ginn is a romantic who yearns for something real. She designs environments for people who play at being Vikings. But when her project goes awry, she’s stranded in the actual 10th century, on a storybook farm in Viking Iceland.

Heirik is the young leader of his family, honored by the men and women who live on his land. But he is feared and isolated because of a terrible curse. Ginn and Heirik are two people who never thought they would find a home in someone else’s heart. When forces rise against them to keep them apart, Ginn is called on to decide—will she give up the brutal and beautiful reality of the past? Or will she have the courage to traverse time and become more of a Viking than she ever imagined?

Review:

As I licked the batter from the rim of the mixing bowl, I ground into the flour and baking soda particle clumps that didn’t smooth into the concoction. My face scrunches up in consternation, but I soldier on, determined to find nirvana. I am thwarted again when the kitchen timer chimes; tricked into believing the product is done, I find the brownies gooey and undercooked in the middle. Satisfaction only arrives when I work my way to the edges that are baked just right. This, my peeps, mirrors my journey through this novel. I don’t think I can say anything that expresses this story better than the title already has; it’s a beautiful wreck.

For the first 30 pages, I was muddled in the futuristic concept of the Viking virtual reality. There was absolutely no continuity with the exposition; luckily I could grasp enough of the terms to figure out what was happening. If I hadn’t been so determined to finish due to my investment in the characters, I would’ve quit before I hit page 50. Once the heroine, Ginn, made the jump through hyperspace, the shift in pacing was tremendous. Instant chemistry developed between Ginn and Heirik. It was too easy picturing another current Viking fave (Why, hello Chris Helmsworth a.k.a. Thor. Yum!) as the brooding leader.

Even with that distraction, the plot often bogged down in Viking culture—although that did lend itself to the authenticity of time and place. And about half way through the novel’s batter became lumpy with the relationships turning into high school drama. It was almost a relief when Ginn jumped back to the future taking a break from the hurt feelings and misunderstandings. However, by the end, the author hit her stride, much like Ginn did when she returns to Viking land as a force to reckon with. She doesn’t mess around playing any more childish games.

If it wasn’t for those awful lapses in writing? editing? this story would easily cook into a blue ribbon special. Romance, action, adventure, mystery, and intrigue: they all blend together into a messy batter, lumps included.

3 and half squares review copy

 

3.5 Squares

Winners!

FixYou_CoverFabulous author of Fix You, Beck Anderson, released the names of the winners of her Rafflecopter give-a-way:

Courtney Whisenant–won a signed copy of Fix You

Sydney Richardson– won a $25 Amazon gift card

Congratulations to the winners! And people…read the book! It’s a great one to get you through the winter/spring transition!

Smothered in Fabulous: Songs from the Phenomenal Nothing

Title:                       Songs from the Phenomenal Nothing     Songs from the Phenomenal Nothing

Author:                    Steven Luna

Genre:                     YA

Pages:                     178     

Publisher:               Booktrope

Publication Date:   August 31, 2013

Recipe Variables:  Profanity (F-bomb!)

Series:                       Unknown

Book Blurb:

It’s just me and him. Him and me. A man I can’t comprehend, designated by the universe as my father but someone I prefer to call Tom, and a kid he can’t relate to but calls son anyway because he’s determined to try. I really wish he’d just call me Tyler.

He probably wishes I’d call him Dad.

But I’m not comfortable with that at this point.

Our differences and our lack of mutual understanding are the only things we seem to agree on. And even those get heated sometimes.

Seriously, it’s a miracle that we haven’t hurt each other yet.

I’m not sure how much longer we can hold out.

Review:

A couple of weeks ago, this Chick indulged in a piece of triple layer, double chocolate cake from Costco. As if it weren’t already over-the-top decadent, I smothered it in fresh cut strawberries. I just kind of wanted to wallow around in it for a while. Afterwards, I walked around at length in an endorphin daze thinking about the whole glorious experience. That, my friends, is pretty much how I compare my experience to reading Songs from the Phenomenal Nothing by Steven Luna.

Okay, I’m totally going back on what I said a couple of weeks ago about how cliché and tired the stereotype of the guitar-playing, brooding male lead character has become. Tyler blows this notion out of the water as one of the most honest and refreshing windows into the mind of a young adult male I’ve ever come across. There’s nothing mysterious about his actions or thoughts; it’s laid out there, to absorb and have ah-ha moments, one right after the other of, “oh, so that’s why guys do that.”

What makes Tyler such a sumptuous morsel is not only his ability to admit his flaws, but commit to them, go all in despite the repercussions or heavy dollop of guilt that is sure to follow. Purposefully blowing his prestigious music school audition, stumbling across his mom’s private journals, “borrowing” his best friend’s ride, and ignoring his girlfriend’s calls all come into sharp focus through Tyler’s lens of anger, struggle, and search for truth. The solo road trip he embarks upon is one life-lesson after another, richly building up to the final bite of Tyler facing the music back at home with his father.

I’m gonna say it right here, folks. I loved this book—even better than Eleanor and Park. Yes, that novel garnered awards, Best of 2013 lists, blah-blah. But this read, peeps, will literally and figuratively rock your world. I haven’t seen my copy of it since I loaned it out…at least, only long enough to hand it out again. What are you doing? Get off this blog and go read this triple layer of fabulous!

5 squares review copy

 

5 Squares

A Mainstay for Your Bulk Chocolate Needs: How to Love

A Mainstay for Your Bulk Chocolate Needs: How to LoveHow to Love Cover

Title:                                     How to Love

Author:                                 Katie Cotugno

Genre:                                  YA

Pages:                                  405

Publisher:                            HarperCollins

Publication Date:                October 1, 2013

Recipe Variables:               sex, drug use, drinking, profanity

Series:                                 N/A

Book Blurb:

Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember. But he’s never noticed that Reena even exists . . . until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.

After: Almost three years have passed, and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter. Reena’s gotten used to life without Sawyer, but just as suddenly as he disappeared, he turns up again. Reena wants nothing to do with him, though she’d be lying if she said his being back wasn’t stirring something in her.

After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

Review:  

We all have our mainstays: Hershey bars, for instance. One can’t go wrong with the simplicity of straight-forward milk chocolate. That’s what I was shopping for when I came across How to Love by Katie Cotuguo. The teens I know gobble up titles like 13 Reasons Why, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and 2012’s smash, The Fault in Our Stars. This chick is happy to add another title to the nest of what I like to term freakin’ fantastic “realistic” young adult lit.

One of my favorite things about the story is the main character, Serena, nicknamed “Reena”, especially since the story is told from her point of view. She is the quintessential Catholic goodie-girl that mixes it up with a bad boy and ends up pregnant; her cliché life ends there, however. Her ability to soldier on becomes a study of courage after having her dreams blow up in her face. It’s the way those dreams were painstakingly built in the first place that mesmorize the reader. She wants to become a travel writer, so Reena hangs posters of exotic locations all over her room, she buys travel guides to distant lands, and she obsesses over travel books. She wants out, but her choices force her to stay in.

There are too many recipe variables to list that would set a conservative community’s cook stove on fire. There is the sex, profanity, drinking, drug abuse, and ultimately, teen pregnancy. Considering the landscape of the lives of teenagers, these are everyday dealings, so take them as you will. What keeps this title from securing the ever-elusive five square rating are a smattering of tired young adult formulas. There’s the tried-and-true love triangle between Reena, Sawyer, and Aaron. The good news is that it isn’t overdone, there isn’t a hideously drawn-out power struggle, and the obvious shipper team wins. The other yawner lives in Sawyer’s chosen profession. Musician? DING! You win the bonus prize! Really? Does every skinny-jean wearing recovering addict have to be a musician? I’ll take a construction worker or firefighting intern for $100, please. Thankfully, those tired elements are off-set by the mystery surrounding the night that Reena loses her bestie and hooks up with Sawyer for the first time. The narrative structure bounces back and forth between the present and the past, keeping the ambiguous nature of that night threaded through the entire novel, creating an explosive lynch-pin at the end.

The novel’s message, delivered through Reena’s journey, is that you can still reach your destination—it just might take some extra time to get there. And that’s always something worth holding out for when you are searching for a mainstay in your cupboards.

4 squares review copy

 

4 Squares

A Frozen, Hot Chocolate You Won’t Want to Let It Go: Polaris Uprising

Polaris Uprising CoverTitle:                          Polaris Uprising        

Author:                     Jennifer Ibarra

Genre:                       YA/Dystopian

Pages:                       328

Publisher:                Tiwala Books

Publication Date:    October 27, 2013

Recipe Variables:    N/A

Series:                      Prepped, primed, and ready (me, that is. The author has a planned trilogy.)

Book Blurb:

In less than seven years, eighteen-year-old Ryla Jensen will succeed her father as the president of Neress, a nation where all citizens are cared for from the moment they’re born. Fed, sheltered, even educated–every need of theirs is met.

The only price they pay is their free will.

Groomed since childhood to take on a role she’s not even sure she wants, Ryla’s only escape from the pressures of duty is her sister, Alanna. But when her eyes are opened to the oppressive regime her father built, she begins to question everything she’s set to inherit–and finds herself at odds with her sister’s blind allegiance to their father.

Torn between loyalty to her family and the fight for freedom, Ryla must decide just how far she’s willing to go to make a stand and risk losing the person she loves most in the world: Alanna.

Review:

Unless you’re just waking up from your winter sugar coma of nights by the fire with your cocoa, stockings stuffed with truffles, and chocolate hearts ablaze (or broken) over Valentine’s, you’ve probably been witness to the most recent Disney franchise, Frozen. Of course I’ve seen the movie and have watched a few “Let it Go” Youtube vids of cute toddlers singing the theme song…I even stopped to watch the performance of one adorable tyke in the frozen food section. Not bad for a three-year-old. I digress. Anyway, by the time I realized The Polaris Uprising, by Jennifer Ibarra, was Frozen for the dystopian crowd, I was completely and utterly invested.

Pretty much from start to finish, Ibarra plants seeds of surprise all along the Polaris path. She is one of the few YA writers who dares to take more time developing the relationship between two young women—sisters—than another tired love triangle. Don’t get me wrong there’s lots-o-love. In this world where everything is decided for the characters, our two siblings, Ryla and Alanna already have their husbands matched for them via DNA. That doesn’t stop the youngest, Ryla, from mixing it up in the inner-city hood with the less fortunate Tyson. In the meantime, Alanna predictably falls for her chosen Captain Fabulous…although I have to say in this season of amore, I looked forward to every chapter that focused on them. Clandestine meets in the treehouse! He takes of his shirt! Woohoo!

The beginning of the story gets off to a slow start…the jaded Valentine in me was thinking that it was going to be just another typical dystopian read. The author took too much time getting into the specific elements of the dystopian society; however, once she got there, she doled out the pieces in just the right amounts. By the time Ibarra makes it through her exposition, she hits her stride and picks up the pace to end the story with an explosive ending mirroring two different sides to the sisters’ destinies.

When I finally emerge from my winter hibernation, there darn well better be a sequel, or fans like me will not be able to let it go. I might even have to sing about it.

4 squares review copy

4 Squares

Fire and Ice Blog Hop: Fix You

reviews

Remember this scrumptious morsel? Yeah, well, it’s time to go back for seconds!

Check out the link to the left for your chance to win an Amazon gift card or a signed copy of the novel through Rafflecopter!

Author: Beck Anderson

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Adult

Publication Date: September 10, 2013

Publisher: Omnific Publishing

Recipe Variables: Adult themes and language

EXCERPT – Fix You

He holds my hand, just by the fingertips, and leads me through the house. I notice little or none of the details of his living room, kitchen, stairs. All I can focus on is the tingle in my fingers and making sure I don’t step on the back of his heels in my haste.

“Do you like it?” He turns around as we climb the stairs. He hasn’t let go of my hand.

“Like what?”

“My house.” He smiles. Does he know how distracting that smile is?

“Yes.” I’m thinking about his lips, his shoulders, his hips, his back.

“Are you just saying that?”

“Yes.” I sound breathless.

He laughs. “Thought so.”

We’re at the door of his bedroom. He kisses me, and my head spins.

“I don’t want to be forward, but you need to cool it with the Parade of Homes tour.” I push past and pull him into his bedroom.

“The master suite does have a lot of amenities.” Now he’s just being goofy.

“Shut up and kiss me.”

He takes the hint. He does take direction well, I must say. On this occasion especially…

Can You Resist the Urge for Seconds? A Book Review for Escape From Eden

EscapeTitle:                       Escape From Eden

Author:                   Elisa Nader

Genre:                    Young Adult  

Pages:                    272

Publisher:             Merit Press

Publication Date:  August 18, 2013

Recipe Variables: Profanity, sex, nudity

BONUS!! Escape From Eden Kindle edition is now on sale for only 1.99 through amazon.com until January 31st. Woohoo!

Book Blurb:

Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules–even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.

But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of their undeniable attraction to each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?

Review:

A really sharp chick named Judith Viorst once said, “Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands—and then eat just one of the pieces.” Yeah, that’s pretty much how I felt after reading Elisa Nader’s novel, Escape From Eden because after I finished the final page, I went to reach for the next piece…and there was none to be had. Nooooooooooooooooooooo!

Nader’s novel starts in the thick of things, like a dense South American jungle, as our unwitting protagonist, Mia, sits through a raging sermon by the utopian leader, Ethan Eden. From there, I learned the basics of the theology of this society, but thankfully (praise baby Jesus!) nothing too deep that would catapult this reader into a snore fest. Instead, I delved into the rebellious thoughts of Mia, and how she is jonesing for the opportunity to fly the coop, only to discover the pen is literally lined with razor wire. She is briefly distracted by the arrival of hot and saucy Gabriel, who willing leads her around the fence for a taste of what’s beyond her reach.

Be warned, the content of this young adult novel added plenty of spice to the original YA dystopian recipe. There are bare butts, brutal blood-shed, and SPOILER ALERT…a sex trafficking scandal, not to mention our hottie’s potty mouth. Would I give the stamp of approval to a teen to read this novel? Abso-friggin’-lutely. There’s nothing in these pages that a kids hasn’t heard in the halls of a modern-day high school or seen depicted on the silver (or small) screen with a PG-13 rating.

Nader’s writing is strong, and her banter between characters is quick, witty, and humorous in places where the reader needs a break from clenching her butt cheeks together during the adrenaline-filled close calls Mia and Gabriel are constantly battling. As far as I know, there isn’t a sequel; thankfully, the ending was strong enough to leave this chick satisfied, yet testing Viorst’s theory to the strength of eating only one of the four pieces of chocolate. Truth, sista. It took strength, indeed.

4 squares review copy

 

4 Squares