Google+ YA Romantics: November 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing Nov 29-Dec 5

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the November giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Vampire Academy Teach Me to Forget Fate of the Tearling
Vampire Academy: 10th Anniversary Edition by Richelle Mead (Razorbill)
Teach Me to Forget by Erica M. Chapman (Merit)
The Fate of the Tearling (Invasion of the Tearling #3) by Erika Johanssen (Harper)

Girls in the Moon Frozen Charlotte Avalanche
Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally (Harper)
Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell (Scholastic)
Avalanche by Melinda Braun (Simon Pulse)

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Jen the (Hallmark Christmas Movie) Virgin Part II

Last week, I did a post on watching Hallmark Christmas Movies for the very first time. Thanks to my friend Karen @ FWIW reviews for the inspiration, and all of you for your enthusiastic support of this project -- you can read Part I here. 

I'm pleased the present part II and, if I can withstand the relentless mockery of my family, there may be a part III...

My Christmas Dream (2016)
Starring Danica McKellar, David Haydn-Jones and Deidre Hall
I loved The Wonder Years and had high hopes for this one. Danica looks fantastic and seems like a cool girl IRL, what with her math degree, so Hallmark should have given her a good script. But as I watched My Christmas Dream, my mind kept drifting. Danica plays Christina, a department store manager. You know how every town has the good mall and the sad mall? Well, poor Christina is the boss of the sad department store in the sad mall. In the part where I was still paying attention, the love interest spills paint on Christina's dress and then she fires him. Or doesn't stop someone else from firing him? He's a divorced dad with a adorable kid, and she wants some kind of promotion from Dr. Marlena from DOOL. There's probably more to the plot than that, but I kind of zoned out.
Jen's Rating: DNF

A December Bride (2016)
Starring Jessica Lowndes and Daniel Lissing
A December Bride was sheer cheesy Christmas perfection - my favorite HCM yet! It had better developed characters and a real plot, plus a sweet and charming romance. Layla is an interior decorator who toils thanklessly for her mocha latte-loving boss. Layla's also undergone terrible heartbreak when her cousin stole her fiancĂ©. When Layla is asked to decorate some corporate offices for the holidays, she runs into Seth, the man who introduced her fiancĂ© to her man-stealing cousin. She's not thrilled to see Seth, but makes it clear that the least he can do is accompany her to her cousin's wedding so she's not dumped and dateless. (Layla should feel better that the wedding seems to take place in the rec room of a nursing home, with the most half-hearted decor ever.) At the wedding, Seth feels so bad for Layla that he tells everyone they're engaged and ... a fauxmance is born. This couple's chemistry was adorable. Seth is clearly crazy about Layla, but she's too oblivious to see it. I also loved the fact that the man-stealing plot was actually fully developed, exploring the cousins' relationship so that the whole thing wasn't just a stereotypical catfight. For you HGTV fans, there's also a subplot where Layla competes in a Christmas decorating contest with her boss.
Jen's Rating: Five Chocolate Santas!
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Broadcasting Christmas (2016)
Starring Melissa Joan Hart and Dean Cain

Can Sabrina the Teenage Witch really be 40? Melissa Joan Hart was cute and relatable in this show about Emily, who competed with her boyfriend for a big network job in New York, lost out, and resigned herself to being a local TV reporter in small town Connecticut. Dean Cain, whose boyish charm has turned a little bland, plays Charlie, the now-ex-boyfriend who beat Emily out for the job. When a sidekick spot on a popular morning talk show (think Live with Kelly!) opens up, these two (along with a couple of other contenders) audition for the job and have to face up to their failed relationship. Okay, so this movie wasn't romantic at all, but it was fun. I didn't feel any spark of chemistry between these two, but it was entertaining to watch Emily and Charlie try to one-up each other to impress the show's host and win the promotion. This movie also had the funniest HCM line so far: "You're my 100 year old fruitcake."
Jen's Rating: Three Chocolate Santas
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Friday, November 25, 2016

Freebie Friday: Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

Happy Friday - if you celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, I hope you had a great one.

Today I'm giving away a book that's been raved about, a book that's one of the finalists in fiction in the Goodreads Choice awards, a book that the publisher was kind enough to send me...

...and a book that I don't think is for me. Click on the cover to find out more:

This will be US/Canada only - it's a big hardcover. Hope the winner enjoyed it!

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Thanks U Give: Why I'm Thankful for the Book Community

I'm so grateful to be a part of the book blogging community, so first, thanks to Mishma at Chasing Faerytales and Hazel at Stay Bookish for hosting this Thanksgiving celebration.

I'm so thankful for all my blog readers and book friends. Every time I go to read or respond or return respond my blog comments, I'm reminded of the wonderful, funny, insightful book people that I am able to call my friends and peers. I love all you guys!

I've met so many amazing people through book blogging that I don't want to even try to recognize them all (I'd forget someone important.) Through the 5+ years I've been blogging, I've learned that relationships made online can be real and important and lasting --  every time I've met a "virtual" book friend in real life, it's been a wonderful experience. 

If you celebrate American Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful day today with family and friends. I'm cooking today, so I will be back soon with more reviews, giveaways and book talk. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What Did I Just Watch? Jen the (Hallmark Movie) Virgin, Part I

Every year, my blogger friend Karen of For What It's Worth binge-watches Hallmark movies. I was never that interested ... until this year, when I decided that I needed a little (cheesy) Christmas, right this very minute. So I decided to join her and check out a few of this year's offerings.

Note: Many of you may be already familiar with Hallmark Christmas movies. If, like me, you are a HCMV (Hallmark Christmas Movie Virgin), here are some things to be prepared for:
First, I love Christmas, but some of these movies are about what I came to call "The Cult of Christmas." A typical plot has a Grinch-y character who doesn't like Christmas (usually due to some past December tragedy) and is in serious need of some Rudolph re-education. Second, when these movies talk about a "white Christmas," they're not just talking about snow. To me, these movies were disconcertingly homogenous. Third, HCMs are clearly intended for all-family viewing (not a bad thing!) The romances are 100% G-rated, each capping off with the happy couple sharing a quick peck on the lips. Fourth, these movies offer ... how do I say this? ... a great opportunity for holiday multi-tasking. There's not a ton of plot packed into two hours, and most of these movies have lots of holiday montages to fill the gaps (sledding, shopping, etc.) so you can get presents wrapped and cookies baked while you watch without missing any plot points.

Okay, with that said, here we go:

A Wish for Christmas (2016)
Starring Lacey Chabert and Paul Green
This was my first HCM movie and a rough start for me. The main character is a doormat who makes a wish to Santa that she can stand up for herself. After that, she magically becomes a weird mix of assertive and oversharing. That plot would be enough, but then the male character (her boss) has a whole backstory with an estranged family. I just didn't like the main character or the premise and, while I made it through only one hour of this movie, it felt like ten.
Jen's Rating: DNF

Mistletoe Promise (2016)
Starring Jaime King and Luke Macfarlane
Two Christmas-hating characters meet cute in a mall (harassed by over-aggressive Christmas carolers, which was funny) and decide to make a pact to get through Christmas together. Elise runs a travel agent with her jerky ex-husband, who spends more time with his ditsy new girlfriend than paying attention to Elise's charity travel program. Nick is a lawyer who needs to find a wife to fit in with his firm's "family values" culture. (Um... Nick's firm specializes in Family Law and I'm not sure Hallmark understands that Family Law is actually kind of an oxymoron, but never mind...) Mistletoe Promise was a vast improvement on the first movie I watched and prevented me from crossing  this whole project off my holiday to-do list. While Jaime King looks more like a former runway model than a sad, mall-going divorcee, she had more acting chops than most HCM actors and made Elise an appealing main character. The plot was classic romance novel -- fauxmance-about-to-be-exposed -- but worked overall. The movie even gently reminds HCN viewers that (gasp!) divorced women deserve a second chance at love.
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Jen's Rating: 4/5 Chocolate Santas

Christmas Cookies (2016)
Starring Jill Wagner and Wes Brown

This one had pros and cons for me. Ambitious New York businesswoman Hannah is sent to a town called Cookie Jar to "seal the deal" on a contract to buy a failing business: Aunt Sally's Cookie Company. Of course, Hannah soon discovers that the magic in Aunt Sally's cookie recipe is small town values. I'm all for promoting small business and entrepreneurship over multinational corporate greed, but when it was revealed that the cookies couldn't be made anywhere but Cookie Jar because none of the recipes were written down and each townsperson was the only one could carry out a particular part of the recipe, I was choking on my cocoa. It also felt to me that Hannah's feminist ambition got translated as selfishness. She did not endear herself to me by not telling the love interest that she had a boyfriend back home, a relationship serious enough that the guy was ready to propose. On the other hand, I thought Hannah had the most personality of all the four female HCM characters I've met so far. The sassy BFF is a stock character in both chick flicks and HCM, and this movie had a sassy sister played by Chelsey Reist (Harper in The 100.)
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Jen's Rating: 3/5 Chocolate Santas

Every Christmas Has a Story (2016)
Starring Lori Loughlin and Colin Ferguson
First, my Santa hat goes off to this movie for featuring a romance between an over-40 aged couple. I've loved Lori Loughlin since her Full House days, and she looks amazing. As for the leading man ... we'll get to that. In any case, Every Christmas Has a Story features what I've come to understand is a typical fix-the-Christmas-hater plot. When Kate, a local television reporter, doesn't realize her mike is still on and says she hates Christmas, you'd have thought she'd admitted that she enjoyed drowning kittens in her spare time. The townspeople (hilariously) picket the station, so her network boss (a rare female character of color) immediately sends her to the most Christmas-loving town in the US., accompanied by her producer (and former college boyfriend) Jack. Soon the two of them are hot on the trail of the story of the missing Christmas tree in the town square ... and hot for each other. To me, Every Christmas Has a Story had pros and cons. The story of the missing town tree was so convoluted and improbable that I couldn't explain it to a family member who wandered into the living room. But I loved seeing Lori Loughlin's teenage daughter playing a town local, and this movie had far more diversity than most HCMs. As for the romance, I couldn't get past the fact that the love interest was also...
...the Maytag repairman. I don't know, I just kept thinking about kitchen appliances, not Christmas kisses.
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Jen's Rating: 3/5 Chocolate Santas

If you've enjoyed these reviews, be sure to check out Karen's reviews here and here.  There may be a part II to my HCMV series, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing Nov 22-28

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the November giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Fate of Flames Gap Life pic name
Fate of Flames by Sarah Roughly (Simon Pulse)
Gap Life by John Coy (Feiwel and Friends)
Trouble Makes a Comeback (Trouble #3) by Stephanie Tromly (Kathy Dawson)

Of Fire and Stars Scythe Girl Online
Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst (Balzer + Bray)
Scythe by Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster)
Girl Online: Going Solo (Girl Online #3) by Zoe Sugg (Atria)

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Just Finished Reading: The Amateurs by Sara Shepard

The Amateurs
by Sara Shepard

Published on November 1, 2016
by Disney-Hyperion

Synopsis from Goodreads: Five years ago, high school senior Helena Kelly disappeared from her backyard in Dexby, Connecticut, never to be heard from again. Her family was left without any answers—without any idea who killed Helena, or why. So when eighteen-year-old Seneca Frazier sees a desperate post on the Case Not Closed message board, she knows it’s time to change that. Helena’s high-profile disappearance is the one that originally got Seneca addicted to true crime. It’s the reason she’s a member of the site in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, she agrees to spend spring break in Connecticut working on the case with Maddy Wright, her best friend from Case Not Closed. However, the moment she steps off the train, things start to go wrong. Maddy’s nothing like she expected, and Helena’s sister, Aerin, doesn’t seem to want any help after all. Plus, Seneca has a secret of her own, one that could derail the investigation if she’s not careful. Alongside Brett, another super-user from the site, they slowly begin to unravel the secrets Helena kept in the weeks before her disappearance. But the killer is watching…and determined to make sure the case stays cold.
My take: While I'm a big fan of the TV series made from Shepard's books with Alloy Entertainment, I haven't been as big a fan of the books themselves. The Pretty Little Liars books felt geared to the younger end of the YA market, and I found that I much preferred the fact that in The Lying Game show, both twins were alive. I'm sorry The Lying Game was cancelled!

When I started The Amateurs, I thought it would fall into that same pattern ("I'll wait for the show"). But after finishing the book, I'm not so sure. This book is a little different than Shepard's previous YAs. The characters are all out of high school -- most are freshmen in college. Most of the characters are also regulars on a true crime message board called Case Not Closed. All these developments were positive ones for me -- I was hoping that The Amateurs would be Serial for the YA set.

The negatives? The Amateurs had a ton of characters -- and friends and siblings and love interests -- so many that I had to keep a list. Most of the characters' names were (amusingly) straight out of Millennial Pop Culture -- Heath and Aerin and Maddox. For a while, the plot of this was a little snoozy. Most of the time, the characters ran around upscale Connecticut hunting down clues -- all that was missing was that groovy Mystery Machine!

But the end of the book had a twist that I thought was pretty interesting, a twist that may actually get me to try future books in this series. But then again (highlight for spoiler) if "Brett" turns out to be just another "A" like in PLL, I'm out. I'm so over A that I can't even. (end spoiler). I guess we will see!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Freebie Friday: The Sun is Also a Star (INT)

Happy Friday and welcome (back) to Freebie Friday!

Good news:

1) This FF is open internationally and

2) I'll be doing a bunch of giveaways in the coming weeks.

Today, as promised, I'm giving away a copy of The Sun is Also a Star!

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Just Finished Reading: The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun is Also a Star
by Nicole Yoon

Published on November 1, 2016
by Delacorte

Source: bought

Synopsis from Goodreads: Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story. Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us. The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true? 

My take: It's been quite a week here in the US. Between the initial shock of "Who's the president-elect again?" and "Where does our country go from here?" I read this book.

It was the perfect read for last week. The Sun is Also a Star is a book that addresses cultural and racial diversity in the US. It addresses immigration issues and families in conflict. But it's also a book about dreams, about our commonalities, about love.

Like Yoon's first book, Everything, EverythingThe Sun is Also a Star features a plot that heavily relies on insta-love. But during these tumultuous times, maybe that's okay. I'd describe the book's style as Jennifer E. Smith (love story set in a day) meets A. S. King (unconventional narrative.) Watching these two crazy kids fall in love amidst all kinds of family and personal crises put a smile on my face. I also loved the way that the book gave snippets of narration to even the most minor of characters, emphasizing the humanity of each one. Each of us has a story, everyone's story is worth listening to, and all our stories intersect in unexpected ways.

If you haven't read this, I highly recommend it. I'll be giving away a copy tomorrow, so be sure to stop by.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing Nov 15-21

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the November giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Flashfall Girl in the Picture This Is Our Story
Flashfall by Jenny Moyer (Henry Holt)
The Girl in the Picture by Alexandra Monir (Delacorte)
This is Our Story by Ashley Elston (Disney-Hyperion)

Nerdy and the Dirty Turncoats Gambit My Sister Rosa
The Nerdy and Dirty by B.T. Gottfrid (Henry Holt)
The Turncoat's Gambit (Inventor's Secret #3) by Andrea Cremer (Philomel)
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier (Soho)

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