Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: The Promise of Amazing

The Promise of Amazing By Robin Constantine

Available 12/31/13

Reviewed by Honorary Sis Sarah P.

The Sisters Say: read it for the love story

Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how. 

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.

Talk about “meeting cute!” Barfing on a girl’s service Reeboks isn’t the best way to make a first impression. It’s a heck of a beginning. After that, however, the fact that Wren saved Grayson’s life is not at all integral to the plot of the story.

In fact, the book stalls a bit after this dramatic beginning. It takes Wren and Grayson a few chapters to get going as friends, and then something more. The saving grace of the book is the colorful cast which accompanies them. Wren’s older brother and sister are true characters, and their life in eastern New Jersey is well drawn. The Catholic school angle is also entertaining and different from anything I’ve read recently. In much the same way, Grayson’s messier family life is also fully realized—you just cringe along with him over Thanksgiving dinner.

As the book rolls forward, Grayson becomes a credibly complicated and ultimately likable character. The pity is that this takes so long. Grayson is truly ensnared by past mistakes, and they raise the stakes for the plot to an exciting level. Did you ever notice the way the best stories are those which make you pause to ask, “how in the heck could this ever turn out okay?” This book brings you there eventually, but I’d argue that it holds its cards too tightly for the first half.

And here’s a pet peeve which I feel I should mention for the good of humanity. YA authors of the world, please stop naming all your characters Wren and Grayson! This is the third Wren book I’ve read in the past two months, and I’ve lost count of the Graysons. It’s not just me, right?

At the end of the day, The Promise of Amazing is a sexy love story between two people who need one another. Read it for the colorful New Jersey Catholic school catering hall world and amped up, angsty plot line.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles

Living with Jackie Chan, by Jo Knowles
Candlewick Press
Available Now
Reviewed by Honorary Sis Sarah P.
The sisters say: heartwarming and funny as heck! Read it whether or not you've already read Jumping Off Swings.

After fathering a baby, a teenager moves in with his karate-loving uncle and tries to come to terms with his guilt — and find a way to forgive.

This isn’t how Josh expected to spend senior year. He thought he’d be hanging out with his best friends, Dave and Caleb, driving around, partying, just like always. But here he is, miles from home — new school, new life, living with his Jackie-Chan-obsessed uncle, Larry, and trying to forget.

But Josh can’t forget. So many things bring back memories of last year and the night that changed everything. Every day the pain, the shame, and the just not knowing are never far from his thoughts. Why is he such a loser? How could he have done what he did?

He finds some moments of peace when he practices karate with Stella, the girl upstairs and his one real friend. As they move together through the katas, Josh feels connected in a way he has never felt before. He wonders if they could be more than friends, but Stella’s jealous boyfriend will make sure that doesn’t happen. And maybe it doesn’t matter. If Stella knew the truth, would she still think he was a True Karate Man? 

Readers first met Josh in Jumping Off Swings which told the story of four high school students and how one pregnancy changed all of their lives. In this companion book, they follow Josh as he tries to come to terms with what happened, and find a way to forgive.

It took me too long to read this, because even though the title is genius and the premise is awesome, I hadn't read Jumping Off Swings. And I'm an orderly kind of girl.


Last night I just picked it up and dove in. Because how could I resist that cover, with the cat eyeing Josh as if he might be as big a jerk as he thinks he is? And I'm so glad I did. The book is every bit as amusing as its cover. It's a gift to be able to write funny dialog about serious stuff. And that is precisely the gift that Ms. Knowles has.

What I love about this book is that its characters mostly do the right thing, yet that makes nothing easier! On the first day of school, for example, Josh is horrified when a note falls out of the lunch his well-meaning uncle packed:

What is a true karate man? Remember, and you'll be fine. --L
I crumple it into a ball and toss it in my locker. Here's an answer, Larry: A true karate man doesn't embarrass the crap out of his nephew by leaving a note in his lunch on the first day of school senior year.

Of course, the note in his lunch is not really the problem. It's the shame so deep he sees it everywhere he goes.

This is the sort of book in which every character (even the minor ones) shines with his own light. Even the freaking cat. As uncle Larry over emotes again and again, you'll cringe right along with Josh. His discomfort is as solid as the front stoop of their nondescript apartment building. But even then, you'll still wish you had an Uncle Larry, too. And that's the genius of Living With Jackie Chan. Read it and smile.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 14 YA Books of 2013

This part of the year is always so hard because each of us sisters read so many great YA books.  We always find ourselves debating which ones should end up in the top spots!  Our goal was to narrow it down to 13, but, of course, we weren't able.  So, we have the Top 14 of 2013.  So instead of actually ranking them 1-14 (which would never be possible...if you have sisters, or blogger friends, or book buddies--you understand), we are going to list the 14 (in no particular order) that we just couldn't have lived without this year!

I read this one very early in the year (yay for arcs), and it absolutely blew me away.  Pun intended.  I love how Shannon took something so simple (wind) and turned it into something unique and amazing. 

Oh Tahereh Mafi, you will always be one of my favorite authors.  This series really does break me down because the characters are so vivid--even the bad guys.  This is one of those books that I will definitely be reading again.

I was never a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland until A.G. Howard opened my eyes to such amazing possibilities.  This book was--Wow!!!!  Just WOW!!!  It's eerie and macabre, but at the same time, it carries a beautiful love story.  I highly recommend this debut novel (and the sequel, Unhinged, that comes out next month!)

This year my favorite sub-genre was YA Gothic.  I just love the eerie settings and macabre characters, and this book was by far the best of all the gothic ya out there.  The language was poetic and beautiful, and April made me fall straight into this world.  I cannot wait for the sequel.

This one was a complete and utter surprise to me because I had not read any Bourne-like ya books--in fact, I don't know of another one similar to this one--which makes it even better.  I loved the action and suspense that Jennifer created, and the boys---oh the boys!

While this one didn't get great reviews from most people, I, personally, loved it.  The idea of a New York that is almost completely under water was fascinating.  I've always been mesmerized by the depths of the ocean, and this book allowed me to see beneath the ripples into a world that was one mighty and strong.  I loved all the twists and turns, and I hope that more people will read this one.
Of course we had to put Sweet Peril in our list because, let's face it, who wouldn't?  This is such an amazing read, and I love that Wendy Higgins plays with the boundaries of YA.  This love story is heart-breaking and hot, and this is definitely one of my all-time favorite series.

I am not usually a high fantasy fan, but this series has completely captured my imagination.  I love the world of the Grisha, and this sequel was even better than the debut.  So many twists and turns, and The Darkling....the hottest villain out there.

We 3 sisters (and our mom) agree--this is one of the best series!!!  It's one of the only series where I would be okay with the girl choosing either guy!  Jessica Shirvington's writing is beautiful, and this installment will take you on a roller coaster ride full of feels!

If you have followed my tweets or some of my posts this year, you will know that Kresley Cole has become one of my favorite authors.  I loved Poison Princess and Endless Knight so much that I decided to check out her adult series, Immortals After Dark.  Read all 13 in less than a month.  She is an amazing writer, and her first 2 books in the ya genre are perfect!  Absolutely perfect.

I'm still Team Cole--even after everything that has happened.  But let me tell you, this sequel--left me speechless.  I did not see that ending coming at all, and I love that Brodi can surprise me!

I just started this series this year, and I adore it.  I love how Marissa has twisted the fairy tales into something new and fantastic. While I liked Cinder, I absolutely loved Scarlet.  It was full of wondrous detail and breath-taking characters.  I have Cress right now, and I can't wait to become addicted to it!

One of the best endings to a series yet!  I can't name one thing in which I was disappointed.  Steamy romance, crazy gods wreaking havoc, and a god killer all join together in this action packed, blow your socks off finale!

This is the best Lux book so far!  Prepare yourself for twist after twist in this roller coaster ride of a book.  BTW--Daemon brings all the tummy butterflies and warm fuzzies in this one.  Love that boy!
And there you have them!!!!  Let us know what some of your favorites were, and Leave us a link to your Top Books of 2013!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. It spotlights books that have not yet been released, but ones that you should pre-order today! This week's book that we are anxiously awaiting is BETWEEN THE SPARK AND THE BURN by April Genevieve Tucholke.  It will be released August 14, 2014 from Dial (Penguin).

The conclusion to Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, this gothic thriller romance with shades of Stephen King and Daphne du Maurier is a must-read for fans of Beautiful Creatures and Anna Dressed in Blood.

Freddie once told me that the Devil created all the fear in the world.
But then, the Devil once told me that it's easier to forgive someone for scaring you than for making you cry.
The problem with River West Redding was that he'd done both to me.

The crooked-smiling liar River West Redding, who drove into Violet's life one summer day and shook her world to pieces, is gone. Violet and Neely, River's other brother, are left to worry—until they catch a two a.m. radio program about strange events in a distant mountain town. They take off in search of River but are always a step behind, finding instead frenzied towns, witch hunts, and a wind-whipped island with the thrum of something strange and dangerous just under the surface. It isn't long before Violet begins to wonder if Neely, the one Redding brother she thought trustworthy, has been hiding a secret of his own . . .

Between the Spark and the Burn is the heart-pounding conclusion to the �lavishly rendered, darkly romantic, and beautifully unsettling [Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea.]”—Melissa Marr

I cannot wait for the ending to Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.  It was by far one of my favorite books this year.  The gothic setting mixed with a splash of horror was absolutely perfect.  Add to that that April's writing is terrifyingly beautiful and poetic and you have the perfect gothic novel.  I am DYING to get my hands on this one.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Available Now
Published by Harper Teen
Reviewed by:  YA Sisterhood's Mom
The Sisters (and Mom) Say:  Heartbreaking but realistic and worth the read
The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

For some reason my long awaited, much anticipated pre-ordered Allegiant was due to come in a week after everyone else’s. I moaned, I groaned, I was having Veronica Roth cravings, so I picked up my copies of Divergent and Insurgent and re-read, finishing just as the UPS guy delivered.

I’m not going to lie—I was fearful after reading the reviews in my week of waiting, fears that my heart would be broken with all the “spoiler alerts” that I was carefully avoiding. But maybe because I had just re-read and was back in my Roth Readiness, or maybe because I understood Roth’s realism that a character in a Dystopian novel must and will experience brokenness, or maybe because I truly believe that Roth is one of the top YA writers….whatever the case, I have to say that Allegiant deserves its Goodreads Choice Award for 2013.

We are warned on the book jacket that Tris, Dauntless by choice and Divergent by birth, is shattered as the novel begins, but how could she not be when all things she believed were true are actually lies. Naturally, she would begin to doubt everything—her friendships, the love between her and Tobias, and the very world in which she lives.

The first part of the book will definitely strap you to the whipping post and lash you with one betrayal after another, and just when you feel that you can’t take anymore, that Rothtastic suspense grabs you and takes you on a train ride, filled with all the danger, excitement, and the rush that a Dauntless junkie desires!

The dual POVs were the only thing that bothered me, not because it didn’t work, but because I had fallen in love so deeply with Tris’s character that it was difficult for me to give that up.  I wanted to see everything through her eyes. But it actually matched the separateness that occurs in Tris and Tobias’s relationship. It was necessary for us to see how circumstances were pulling them apart while their hearts were struggling to re-connect.

So in answer to your question, “Is Allegiant worth reading?”….Here are a few questions for you.  Would you walk out of the gym during the overtime of your child’s last senior game? Would you buy a 2014 Corvette and never drive it? Would you have a new baby and never hold it? For all of you Roth fans who have let others dissuade you from reading it for fear of a broken heart, I can only say “One choice will define you!” So definitely choose to finish that wild ride that Veronica Roth created for you and start turning the pages of Allegiant!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Nine Best YA Contemporary Romances I Read in 2013

I was on quite the romance bender this year, and some of my favorites were YA. A couple of these books were published before 2013, but deserve mention based on obscurity! These are the books I most admired this year.

By Honorary Sis Sarah P.

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley is an Australian import with something for everyone. A romance. A case of mistaken identity. Poetry and literary awesomeness.

The best romances have much more going on than just the love story, and My Life Next Door is no exception. I loved the whole package--the mouthy four year old, the political poser, the grumpy mom. Can't wait for her 2014 follow up.

All the Truth That's In Me would appear on just about any "best of" list I made this year. What a powerful, haunting read. And how amazing that Ms. Berry sustains such a heartbreaking romance through a plot line full of scary, unromantic stuff. Wow!

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton follows a theme which received lots of airplay recently--her main character is trying to overcome a sexual assault, and a very patient boy helps her do that. This book absolutely rocks that plot line.

Somehow Rainbow Rowell published two bestselling, super romances in 2013. Just... wow. I'm sure these two books are turning up on lists everywhere. But that is as it should be.

Is Every Day a true romance? I believe it is. And with one of the most unique romance plots ever imagined.
Lauren Myracle's latest was a quieter, prettier book than she usually writes. And definitely romantic!

Hilary Smith's swashbuckling tale proves that romance can find you in the places (and during the moments) you're least expecting it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blog Tour Guest Post: Play With Me by Anna Katmore as Piper Shelly

This is a short, sweet novella.

Ryan Hunter's parties are legend. And tonight she's going to be there.

Liza Matthews anticipates the return of her best friend and only love since kindergarten from soccer camp. But when Tony finally shows up, his mind is more focused on another girl. And worse, she's a soccer player. Fighting for the attention Liza craves, she's just a hairbreadth away from making a very stupid decision. But when extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, she's prepared to play ball to get her man.

The tryouts are hell, the first match ends bloody, and the morning after the selection party she wakes up in the worst place possible—in the arms of the captain of the soccer team. The hottest guy in school. Ryan Hunter.

Hi all, and thanks for inviting me to share my thoughts with you today. So right at the beginning, I have one basic question I want you all to answer:

How would you like your hero?

I prefer mine with an athletic body, a touch of danger in everything he says, and a mischievous grin that gives me goose-bumps. I also like them to come with a nice dose of sarcasm, because I think that’s just my second language. LOL

As the reader you have to rely on your favorite authors to capture a nice guy with a fine description. He must make the right moves, say the right things at the right moments, and look just perfect. I hope all of you have found your dream boy in a book which you can read time after time and fall in love with the hero all over again.

As the writer, you’re clearly in the better position. You don’t have to go with someone else’s taste, but you create your own Mr. Perfect. For me, Ryan Hunter was one such guy. 

When I started writing PLAY WITH ME, I was all set to make Tony the sexiest guy alive (for me). I had him standing in this cool way in Liza’s door at the beginning, he gave her that half smile, and he hugged her like a best friend. But at the moment I typed the name Ryan Hunter, I caught my own breath at the imagination that came up with this name. Most of the time, he wears these white shirts with sleeves rolled up to his elbows, that clash so awesomely well with his devilish, black hair. When he looks at a girl, he makes her wonder: Oh my God, did he just notice that my heart stopped beating because of him? And when he hangs out with his friends, he can be playful and stupid and still be sweetly adorable.

The book was short, but I managed to pack everything I want in a guy into those few pages. It’s like I granted you an exclusive glimpse into my personal dream guy zone, which I didn’t even tell my best friend about. ;-) Well, she read the book by now, so I guess she knows pretty well what I like… LOL

All right, I told you mine, so now it’s your turn to tell me your favorite trait in a character that makes him irresistible for you. If you’re game, leave a comment and share your most protected secret with us ;-)

Anna Katmore
(aka Piper Shelly)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Top 10 Covers of 2013

I love the end of the year because that's when I get to go back and reminisce on the great covers and great books.  Plus, you have all your "Best Of" and "Can't Waits" for the past and upcoming year!! 

So, here starts the first of the YA Sisterhood's "Best Of" Lists.  We might have some duplicate lists, also, as each of us has our own favorites!!!

So, here we go.  Best Covers of 2013 (in no particular order)...

I adore this cover!!!!  I love the vines and all the colorful insects.  This cover perfectly foreshadows the craziness that inhabits the book.

I love the flowing white dress with the red ribbon--very gothic and ethereal.

This one is absolutely perfect--the coloring and the clouds, along with the embrace.  This is one of those covers you just have to show off.
Gothic romance has become my favorite genre...and just look at that gorgeous cover.  Heartbreaking and beautiful.

I love the script and the ocean waves--perfect for the gothic horror of this book.

I really loved this book.  It was fun and unique, and I just love the cover!!!  Though I never read about a huge waterfall...

This was another of my favorite books of the year.  It was a bit hard to understand the world at first, but it ended up great.  And that beautiful rose?  Perfect symbol for the cover.

I love the covers in this series.  The coloring is always beautiful and you just know that Violet is kick butt!

I know so many complained about Jackson not gracing the cover, but no worries--he is on the back.  Plus, after you read this one, you might just want Death to grace the next cover, too.
I have not read this one yet, but I love the steampunk background combined with the gorgeous dress.
So, there you have it, my favorite covers of 2013.  I'm sure I have left out some amazing ones!  What are some of your favorites for this year?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Review: Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

Racing Savannah by Miranda Keneally
Sourcebooks, Available Now
Reviewed by: Honorary Sis Sarah P.
The Sisters Say: Perfect for horse lovers

He lives in the estate house, and she spends most of her time in the stables helping her father train horses. In fact, Savannah has always been much more comfortable around horses than boys. Especially boys like Jack Goodwin—cocky, popular and completely out of her league. She knows the rules: no mixing between the staff and the Goodwin family. But Jack has no such boundaries.

With her dream of becoming a horse jockey, Savannah isn’t exactly one to follow the rules either. She’s not going to let someone tell her a girl isn’t tough enough to race. Sure, it’s dangerous. Then again, so is dating Jack…

This is a quick, romantic read stocked with a lot of fun equestrian details. The book is at its best when dishing on jockey secrets, and touring fancy barns larger than your average big box store. There's nothing ordinary about the lives these characters are leading--with their five AM riding sessions before school, and weekend trips to race at Kentucky and Tennessee tracks.

And the track is a fine place to set a romance. I've actually been to Keeneland in Kentucky, where a few scenes in the book are set. It has that mint-juleps-and-big-hats aura. Like this:

Pretty, right? Stolen kisses beside the stalls work well to create a unique flavor for the book.

The rich-vs-poor tension served up in the story line works well. The estate owner proves to be more human and three dimensional than the book's description hints. I was less satisfied by the character development of Savannah's tone-deaf dad, and their awkward discussions about whether or not Savannah would attend college.

The narrative style is first-person present tense, which comes off as a bit breathless. In fact, Savannah felt younger to me than her 17 years. But I liked her feistiness, and the way she stood up for herself before Jack figured out how to do the same.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: What I thought Was True

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme created over on the Breaking the Spine blog. And what fun it is!

Since the moment I cracked Huntley Fitzpatrick's My Life Next Door, I've been waiting for her next book. And the wait will be over on April 15th. Tax day. This shall be my reward: What I Thought Was True

From the author of My Life Next Door comes a swoony summertime romance full of expectation and regret, humor and hard questions.

Gwen Castle's Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

A magnetic, push-me-pull-me romance with depth, this is for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Deb Caletti.