Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Blog Tour + Giveaway | Love Letters To The Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters To The Dead by Ava Dellaira
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publish Date: April 1, 2014

Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path. (from Goodreads) 

When Love Letters To The Dead by Ava Dellaira released last year, I thought it was amazing. I wanted everyone to read it. Guess what? The book is releasing in paperback today! As part of this blog tour, I wrote my own letter to Judy Garland...and Author Ava Dellaira responded! Check out both letters below and enter to win your very own paperback copy. Don't forget to visit the rest of the blog tour and see some other very exciting news down at the bottom of this blog post. 

Congratulations Ava! I still love the book so much! 


Dear Judy Garland,

I thought of writing to you today because I want you to know that I miss my grandmother so much. I know this may not sound like it has anything to do with you, but I have these wonderful memories of watching your movies with her. Especially The Wizard of Oz, of course. 

I lived with her for a time, you know. Back when I was in high school, actually. This was the best part of my life and you were a part of that. She loved to watch you act and sing on some of her old VHS tapes, and I think that we must have spent months of hours together watching you perform. She would tell me over and over how much she enjoyed your career all throughout her life. I soaked it all up because everything she said was pure gold to me. She showed me so much of you that I might not have ever known. But mostly we watched The Wizard of Oz together, and even today that is the movie and music that I remember most because it was her favorite. 

Judy Garland, when you were making your movies and singing your songs, did you know that people like my grandmother and I would spend time with them, making memories? Because I have these sweet memories now that I can hold onto because of you. Did you realize that your work would be priceless to me not only because it is good but because of how much she loved it? Did you have any idea how much the world would grow to love it too? I wonder what all of this must feel like to you. Is it too much pressure or is it wonderful to know that you are remembered? 

You have been special to me, all of my life. As a child, when I was a teenager, and now that my grandmother is no longer with me. I can look back at your work, and it makes me smile. It feels like a hug. It is good work, Judy Garland. Thank you for it.



Dear Asheley, 

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful letter to Judy Garland. There was something a bit magical for me in getting to be in the intersection between her work and your own memories. Reading your letter, I almost felt like I was in the living room with you, your Grandma, and Judy Garland, too. You brought them both to life with your words.

Even if both Judy and your Grandma have left this earth, you’ll always have The Wizard of Oz, and the meaning that your relationship with your Grandma gave to it. Your personal connection to Judy Garland adds to the love in her legacy, and binds you to others who have their own ties to her. 

I remember watching Meet Me In St. Louis at Christmastime, the year after my mother passed away, in the living room of the house I’d grown up in. When Judy sang “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” it brought tears to my eyes, and made me feel part of something bigger than me. 

Your letter perfectly expresses one of the things that I hoped to get at when I wrote Love Letters to the Dead: the way that public figures can come to represent our personal losses, loves, and ties to the world we are so lucky to live in. Thank you for it. Here’s to your Grandma, her VHS tapes, and the sweet memories you will keep forever.



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Love Letters To The Dead 
Blog Tour Schedule with Giveaways: 

September 21st: Forever Young Adult
September 22nd: Rebel Mommy Book Blog
September 23rd: Fangirl Feels
September 24th: The Reading Nook Reviews
September 25th: Alexa Loves Books
September 28th: YA Bibliophile
September 29th: Into the Hall of Books


With her luminous 2014 debut LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD (FSG Books for Young Readers), Ava Dellaira firmly solidified herself as one of the most notable YA authors to
burst onto the scene. The novel that deftly explores the loss of a sibling through the lens of her teenage sister will be available in paperback on September 29, 2015.

A nod to its resonating power, it was announced that the novel will be adapted into a movie produced by Temple Hill Entertainment and Fox 2000, who together made the hit movie, The Fault In Our Stars. Catherine Hardwicke, who directed Twilight, will direct the film. “It’s a beautiful and challenging project about a very important subject,” Hardwicke tells Entertainment Weekly. Dellaira will write the script.

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD tells the story of Laurel, a teenager who, in the wake of her older sister’s death, is assigned to write a letter to a deceased person. She writes her first letter to Kurt Cobain (her favorite artist), and soon she pens a notebook full of letters to the dead, including Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, and Amelia Earhart, among others. Each of them evokes a different emotion in her. Through these letters, Laurel grapples with not only the emotional trauma of losing her older sister, but also her experiences in navigating the turbulent world of high school—including friendships, love, and even abuse. Laurel finds that in writing down her truths, she is more able to come to terms with her sister’s death.

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD is a miss-your-subway stop, stay-up-and-devour-all-night reading experience that pulls readers in with its heart-wrenching and beautiful honesty. The New York Times observes, “Dellaira has either experienced sibling loss or done good research, because her themes ring true.”

This standout debut garnered exuberant pre-publication praise from numerous YA heavyweights, including Laurie Halse Anderson, Jay Asher, Gayle Forman, and Lauren Myracle, and foreign rights have sold to 23 countries.


Ava Dellaira is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote Fellow. She grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago. She currently lives in Santa Monica, where she is at work on her second book.

Find Ava: Facebook / Twitter / GoodreadsWebsite 

Don't miss my thoughts!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Review | The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Series: Prisoners of Peace #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publish Date: September 22, 2015
Source:  Publisher

Find It: Goodreads / Amazon

A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace - sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals - are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Precepture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace, even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive. 

Enter Elián Palnik, the Precepture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Precepture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages. 

What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war?

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

My Thoughts:  

I needed to be able to discuss it with another person while I was reading. To me, The Scorpion Rules started out very strong and had some very cool things in it. But soon the momentum slowed for me. And the end was like WHAT? 

Things I really liked

1. I like that the ruthless leader Talis has been able to drastically change the way the world handles peace and war because he requires world leaders to send one of their kids to be held as hostage, aka Children of Peace. Basically if these world leaders participate in war, they forfeit the life of their child. This is crazy but also cool because things get interesting and tension builds in the story as political unrest increases between some of the countries. I loved the tension. I could feel it in the characters as they worried for their lives, as they wondered if their parents would send them to their deaths, as they desperately tried to keep appearances but were completely freaking out on the inside because they are young people facing death for no reason at all. This is good reading. 

2. The place where these hostages are kept. It felt like a farm or camp of some sort where the hostages are educated while they grow their own food and raise animals. It almost felt back-in-time and I love when stories with future-settings have that feeling.

3. When Elian comes as a new hostage. He shakes things up because he does not transition smoothly to his new role as hostage and this causes an interesting ripple in the rest of the hostage population. Tension increases further because: for the world to have a new Child of Peace, something must be going on out in the world, right? Elian is by far my favorite character in the story.

Things I did not love

1. The AI. I had the hardest time visualizing the artificial intelligence characters as being AI. The whole AI angle felt really strange in this story, like it didn't fit. I kept having to remind myself that this character and this one and that one were robots. Not only that, but there were tons of little AI creature-things scurrying around spying on the hostages and doing other things like shocking them when they misspoke or broke rules. Because the AI made up so much of this story, The Scorpion Rules was a so-so read for me rather than a really good one. 

2. The romance. Sadly, I think that the romance in this first installment just took away from the overall plot. Greta has a female love interest and she is also romantically linked to Elian. It is no secret that I like Elian-I called him my favorite character in the story-but I didn't love Greta's romantic interest in either of them actually. Those scenes always seemed to pull me out of the plot and I never felt captivated by the romance. I found myself wishing the scenes with both love interests were over so I could get back to the rest of the story. 

3. The ending. Without spoiling, I'll just say that the ending was really strange. 

The Scorpion Rules is a good book, but I think that I would have enjoyed it much better if I understood a little more about things. Like the "why" behind the artificial intelligence - I still have questions about that very large portion of the plot. And the ending? I think that reading this book along with someone else would have helped me so much and would have been fun because it is very discussable (the romance, that ending!) but alas I read it alone, and it took so long. 

The fact that the ending still has me very curious days after finishing is interesting - when I initially closed the book, I thought that I would probably not feel the need to continue with the series. Since then, though, I've wondered what will happen next with the characters. This particular ending raises more questions than it answers, I think. It isn't really a cliffhanger, but I personally might would have done better to wait and read with the second book on hand to start right away. 


The Scorpion Rules will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Dystopian with Sci-Fi
Romance: Love Triangle.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
is currently available for purchase. 


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Review | Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Series: Glamourist Histories #1
Published by Tor
Publish Date: August 3, 2010
Source:  Library

Find It: Goodreads / Amazon

Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men. 

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right--and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

My Thoughts:  This book was like candy. Who doesn't love a cover like this and traveling back to Regency England where there is magic in the form of glamour? 

This book was really enjoyable; part of what made it so was the fact that it was so easy to read. It took no huge effort at all, after figuring out the cast. It was like being on a vacation, and I like books like that. 

Jane is very plain yet highly skilled in the art of glamour. She considers herself undesirable in terms of marriage because of her looks and her advanced age (she's 28) and as a result, she spends herself puttering around concerning herself with everyone else's business instead. Her sister, Melody, is very pretty and very proper. Melody is concerned with social niceties, but a lot of this is to cover for what she lacks in skill with glamour. Both Jane and Melody are jealous of each other because they wish they could each be more like the other, and this causes drama and jealousy and bad behavior. 

Basically, they act like many sisters do. 

In terms of plot, this book felt like I was watching Jane move about her day-to-day activities: creating glamour, visiting neighbors and friends, and even some fairly exciting things like finding out friends and family have huge socially unacceptable secrets and trying to figure out what she should do about it. There is of course a romance for Jane, but in my opinion it comes a little too late in this book to enjoy. (Although I really like the love interest! I'm excited to see the two together in the subsequent installments.)

This book made me laugh throughout. I think there is humor infused with things like the bigger-than-life personalities of some of these characters, a huge dramatic scene at the end, and the super-stereotypical Regency/Austen-esque feel of the whole thing. I love the glamour in this story, but I wish that there was a little more of it. I feel like the glamour and magic was buried sometimes underneath so many characters. I'm excited to see what this author does with the the glamour in the rest of the series, and with the romance. 

I really liked Shades of Milk and Honey. I felt like more than anything it was a good introduction to the series, as it gave me a chance to get to know all of the characters + it introduced Jane's romance. I usually don't spend too much time previewing my upcoming reads, but a quick glance at the rest of this series makes it seem that the romance sticks and that Jane and her love interest go about creating glamour in different parts of the world. I'm excited for the magic/fantasy aspect to continue and it's looking like the series may veer a little from the style of this first novel a little bit. I'm curious! 

I recommend Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal to readers that enjoy fantasy, Jane Austen-esque style stories, and magic. 


Shades of Milk and Honey will appeal to fans of:

Historical Fiction with Fantasy
Romance: Slow-building. 
Regency England
Jane Austen-esque stories

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
is currently available for purchase. 


The Glamourist Histories: 

I love them. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Review | On Dublin Street by Samantha Young - with Audiobook Notes

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young
Series: On Dublin Street #1
Published by NAL
Publish Date: August 31, 2012
Source: Book - Library, Audiobook - Bought
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

Jocelyn Butler has been hiding from her past for years. But all her secrets are about to be laid bare… 

Four years ago, Jocelyn left her tragic past behind in the States and started over in Scotland, burying her grief, ignoring her demons, and forging ahead without attachments. Her solitary life is working well—until she moves into a new apartment on Dublin Street where she meets a man who shakes her carefully guarded world to its core.

Braden Carmichael is used to getting what he wants, and he’s determined to get Jocelyn into his bed. Knowing how skittish she is about entering a relationship, Braden proposes an arrangement that will satisfy their intense attraction without any strings attached.

But after an intrigued Jocelyn accepts, she realizes that Braden won’t be satisfied with just mind-blowing passion. The stubborn Scotsman is intent on truly knowing her… down to the very soul.

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young

My Thoughts:  I've had my eye on this book for years but I kept reaching past it for several reasons. I think more than anything else, I was judging the book by its cover. Not at all a bad cover, I just didn't expect for the story to be as robust as it was. On Dublin Street is a not only a romance; it is the story of grief, and moving beyond it. It is also the story of relationships and what it means to be family. That sounds like a lot and I know I make it sound like quite the heavy read, but I actually had a lot of fun reading this one. 


Joss Butler tragically lost her family and now does everything she can to keep their memories hidden. She lives immersed in her grief and often has panic attacks. When she moves into a new apartment, she develops a wonderful friendship with her new roommate Ellie. She also builds a great romantic relationship with her roommate's brother, the charming and handsome Braden Carmichael. 

I had the best time reading/listening to this book!

A few things that I loved

1. Braden. Braden really is a super-swoony love interest. He has a take-control personality, but it isn't that over-the-top-controlling like I sometimes find in romance stories. Even as Joss continues to try and push him away and also want him (she's really like a roller coaster at times), he keeps on pursuing her and reminding her that he wants to be with her. Theirs isn't the typical start to a relationship considering it is based on an agreement, but it certainly makes for a great slow-burn. 

2. Ellie. Joss lucked out with her roommate. I love Ellie and found myself kind of geekishly excited when I found myself at scenes including her portion of the story. I love Ellie's concern and support for Joss, and I also love that she is protective over her brother's heart and wants Joss to be careful with him. Ellie had is in this unique position as both Joss' roommate and Braden's sister - she could have been placed in the middle of things and had to choose sides if things would have taken a turn between Joss and Braden. It turns out that Ellie is such a great wing-man to the both of them. I love the direction Ellie's own story took, also, as far as her own romance is concerned, and I am excited to read about it in Until Fountain Bridge

3. Relationships. The friendships and sibling/family relationships in this book are written so well. Joss and Ellie, Braden and his best friend Adam, and more. I adore Braden and Ellie's family - they made me laugh and seem genuinely to care about each other, plus I love the way they accepted Joss into their fold immediately. 

4. Audiobook. Scottish accents are always super fun. 

Don't get me wrong: I liked Joss too, but her issues and insecurities sometimes make her act out. Sometimes she is a little difficult. I think she made things a bit harder than they had to be every now and then, but in all fairness, I've never been in a situation like hers. She certainly has good qualities and I love the transformation and progress that she is able to make, but out of the characters, she is certainly the one that is toughest. Not too tough - just the toughest. 

Overall, this was a great book and a fun audiobook. I'm starting Until Fountain Bridge right away. I'm normally hesitant to begin series that are so long because I feel overwhelmed when I'm so far behind, but I'm nothing but eager to read more from Samantha Young in this case because I enjoyed this experience so much. 

I recommend On Dublin Street by Samantha Young to readers that enjoy contemporary romance with swoony love interests and robust plot-lines. 

Audiobook Notes: The audiobook format of On Dublin Street by Samantha Young is published by Penguin Audio and is 10 hours and 48 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Paula Costello, who made for a fun listening experience. She was a completely convincing Joss and I particularly loved listening to her Scottish accents for the rest of the characters. I think that this book would be great whether read in print or audiobook, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it as an audiobook. I'm glad that I bought it so I can relisten in the future. 


On Dublin Street will appeal to fans of:

Contemporary Romance
Romance: No triangle. 
Issues: Grief
Great friendships & family relationships

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young
is currently available for purchase.


The On Dublin Street Series: 


Sometimes I'm intimidated by starting long existing series, 
but I liked On Dublin Street enough to keep going! 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Review | The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas - with Audiobook Notes

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #o.1-o.5
Published by Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Publish Date: March 4, 2014
Source:  Book - Bought, Audiobook - Bought

Find It: Goodreads / Amazon

Celaena Sardothien is her kingdom's most feared assassin. Though she works for the powerful and ruthless Assassin's Guild, Celaena yields to no one and trusts only her fellow killer for hire, Sam.

When Celaena's scheming master, Arobynn Hamel, dispatches her on missions that take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, she finds herself acting independently of his wishes—and questioning her own allegiance. Along the way, she makes friends and enemies alike, and discovers that she feels far more for Sam than just friendship. But by defying Arobynn's orders, Celaena risks unimaginable punishment, and with Sam by her side, he is in danger, too. They will have to risk it all if they hope to escape Arobynn's clutches—and if they fail, they'll lose not just a chance at freedom, but their lives...

A prequel to Throne of Glass, this collection of five novellas offers listeners a deeper look into the history of this cunning assassin and her enthralling—and deadly—world.

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas


I've seen so many people say this and now I understand why! I read Throne of Glass around its release date and I liked it enough, but I never fell head-over-heels in love with it like so many others. As a result, I never felt compelled to continue with the series as subsequent installments released. Why? Because the hype and excitement surrounding this series feels super duper huge to me and I never do well with that. That may be unpopular, but I'm a reader that must separate myself from lots of hype and promotion. Over the past few years, I've bought a few of these books, but I've not yet given them another go. 

Until now. 

A few days ago, someone Twitter-suggested to me that I should read The Assassin's Blade before diving back in with this series. The reasons discussed: the amazing backstory, the great storytelling, and Celaena's character is more palatable than in the first book in the series. After finishing these novellas, I totally agree with all of these things. I like Celaena so much more now than I ever have before.

I understand now how Celaena became such a well-respected and well-known assassin. I understand how she became fiercely independent and WOW I understand why she has trust issues. (I certainly had trust issues while I read; I trusted NO ONE.) I understand now why she felt so difficult to me in portions of Throne of Glass, although I admit that I don't really remember much of that book (so, reread time?). I feel like I understand her as a character about 1000x better than before and I NEEDED THIS SO MUCH AT THE BEGINNING OF MY THRONE OF GLASS SERIES EXPERIENCE. 

I don't know which of the novellas is my favorite. I think they all had a place in setting up the series, and I think they all had strong points. I do know that there was a certain place that I came to and I realized that my heart might break, and then there was a certain place where it did. There was also several places throughout the collection of novellas where I felt angry and betrayed and just NO! STOP! WHAT? I will have my eye on some of these characters as I continue on with this series - I definitely want Celaena to meet some of these bad guys again. 

I can't even begin to act like I understand the why's and how's of planning series like these - but I want new readers to read this book before starting the series. I wholeheartedly wish that I could go back and redo my first Throne of Glass experience. I wish I could read it again for the first time and only know Celaena like I know her now. I'm so thankful for the recommendations and encouragement of friends on Twitter, though. THIS is why the book community is amazing - I can't say when I would have gotten around to picking this series up again except that it would have for sure been far after the series is completed. Instead, I'm pretty excited about continuing with the series now

Audiobook Notes: The audiobook format of The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas is published by Audible Studios and is 12 hours and 52 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Elizabeth Evans, who delivered an excellent performance with this audiobook. I'm so excited to see that she is reading the rest of the series! (At least so far.) She is a great Celaena; she sounds fiery and defiant at the right times yet is also able to deliver the right amounts of vulnerable when Celaena shows it or thinks it. I love the way this narrator voices other characters too, particularly other females. I loved the accent that Ms. Evans chose for Ansel's character in particular. - I'd already purchased the next several audiobooks in this series, but listening to this one just solidified what a great idea that had been. This audiobook is fantastic and I highly, highly recommend this format for those that want to reread and experience listening to these characters (YES YES YES!!) or even those looking to read this book for the first time. 


The Assassin's Blade will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Fantasy with Romance
Romance: Slow-building. 
Butt-kicking female lead.
Great world-building. 
This is a collection of novellas. 

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas
is currently available for purchase. 


The Throne of Glass Series: 

I'm so glad I've restarted this series! 
I'm SO WORRIED about my heart.