Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Adult Review: Mogul by Joanna Shupe

Mogul by Joanna Shupe
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Zebra
Amazon Link: HERE
Received From: Author/Netgalley (in exchange for an honest review)

Summary (from Amazon):
The privileged members of the Knickerbocker Club can never climb too high up the social ladder. But for one charming New York bachelor, does the ascent take precedence over love in the Gilded Age?

As owner of a well-respected national newspaper, Calvin Cabot has the means to indulge his capricious taste for excess—and the power to bring the upper crust of society to its knees. So when a desperate heiress from his past begs for his help, Calvin agrees...as long as she promises to stay out of his way. Except, like the newsman, this willful beauty always gets what she wants...

Lillian Davies lives a life brimming with boundless parties, impressive yachts, and exotic getaways. But when her brother disappears, Lily knows that blood runs thicker than champagne and she'll spare nothing to bring him back alive. Unfortunately, the only man who can help her is the one she never wanted to see again. Can Lily keep Calvin at arm's length long enough to save her brother and protect her name...even when the tenacious powerbroker turns out to be absolutely irresistible?

Calvin and Lily fell in love quickly and completely when they were young and eloped. But when Lily's father threatens Calvin with cutting Lily off and revealing Calvin's secret (which isn't his secret to reveal), Calvin knows he has to let Lily go. Lily's not so forgiving, though, especially when her father tells her that Calvin took his offer for money. Her love quickly turns to hate and she never wants to see him again. But years later when Lily's brother goes missing and she receives a threatening note with her brother's and Calvin's names in it, she must ask Calvin for help before it's too late. Calvin always thought he did the right thing with Lily, and even though he still thinks about her every day and yearns to go back in time to change his decision, he knows he wouldn't because he has to protect his best friend. Calvin's reluctant to help Lily but when he finds out the Chinese man he's been investigating for the newspaper is behind the letter, he knows he's their best bet at getting the information they need. Will Calvin and Lily be able to find her brother without risking their own lives and hearts?

Mogul is both a second chance and an enemies to lovers romance since Calvin and Lily were once young lovers (and married) yet because of misunderstandings they grew to hate each other. But as all of us know, there's a very fine line between hate and love, and the chemistry between Calvin and Lily from the first page is evidence of this. Lily isn't too unique of a heroine—she's rich and lives her life lavishly (but she never comes across as snobbish) and puts her family above everything else. She doesn't really stand out from other historical romance heroines, especially because she's also seeing a man she doesn't have feelings for yet everyone expects her to marry him, a man that's in her social class unlike Calvin. At times it bothered me that Lily didn't have a backbone when it came to her father or her beau, but I also thought Lily had redeeming qualities as well including her love for her brother. Calvin, on the other hand, is more ruthless. He has a typical rags to riches story—he wasn't wealthy when Calvin and Lily got married, but he now owns several newspaper presses. Calvin and Lily together were perfect. I loved that it was love at first sight but because they were young when they fell in love, it didn't end up working out, but they still manage to find each other again. And while I typically like second chance romance stories, one thing I disliked about Mogul was that there were too many minor misunderstandings between Calvin and Lily and at times it felt like the author just continued to throw in more misunderstandings to strengthen the conflict, which became frustrating.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Mogul by Joanna Shupe to readers looking for a historical romance with a second chance and enemies to lovers romance.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

YA Review: Spin the Sky by Jill MacKenzie

Spin the Sky by Jill MacKenzie
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Amazon Link: HERE
Received From: Publisher (in exchange for an honest review)

Summary (from Amazon):
Magnolia Woodson wants nothing more than to get her and her sister, Rose, out of the pitifully small, clamming-obsessed Oregon town that hates them—she just doesn't know how. Forced to put up with the snide comments and hateful looks the townspeople throw at them, Mags thinks she's destined to pay for the horrible, awful things her mom did—and that she's left her and Rose to deal with—until the day she dies.

But when a nationwide televised dance competition posts tryouts in nearby Portland, Mags's best friend, George, says they have to go and audition. Not only have they spent the past fourteen years of their lives dancing side-by-side, dreaming of a day just like this, but also it could be Mags's chance of a lifetime—a chance to win the grand-prize money and get her and Rose out of Summerland, a chance to do the thing she loves most with everyone watching, a chance to show the town that she's not—and never has been—a "no-good Woodson girl," like her mother. But will the competition prove too steep? And will Mags be able to retain her friendship with George as they go head-to-head in tryouts? Mags will have to learn that following her dreams may mean changing her life forever.

Magnolia's tired of everyone in their small town judging her and her sister because of their mother's actions. They didn't have anything to do with the death of the mayor's daughter, but no matter how much Magnolia wants to start over and move somewhere where no one knows the Woodson family, she's constantly reminded that they're stuck. So when Magnolia learns about a televised dance competition she begins to hope and dream again. She loves dancing, and being able to dance in front of thousands of people is a dream come true, and not to mention the prize money, which would give Magnolia and her sister a fresh start. But the competition is much more challenging than Magnolia expected and the once in a lifetime opportunity puts a strain on Magnolia's friendship with George, her best friend. Will she be able to persevere and prove everyone wrong or will she finally realize that winning the competition isn't everything?

Jill MacKenzie's writing drew me in from the first page, because her writing's so raw and beautiful. For example, "My hands reach up to move stars, rearrange space." Her words are poetic but I never once thought they were too flowery or distracting. I also enjoyed the plot of the novel. I always love reading about dance, and I definitely give every author props for writing about it because it's difficult to consistently describe dance in a way that a non-dancer, such as me, will be able to understand. I thought the author did a great job with this. I was never confused, and I was genuinely interested in Magnolia's dancing as well as the dance competition. I also appreciated that the author also centered the story around difficult topics—drugs and death. Although Magnolia and her sister had nothing to do with the death of the mayor's daughter (their mother did), I thought it was realistic that there were still repercussions for Magnolia. On a daily basis she had to deal with gossip and mean looks, and I thought she handled herself very well. It was also interesting seeing Magnolia grow throughout the novel and come to realizations about herself as well as about her family. But at the same time, it was a little frustrating that Magnolia constantly let others' opinions get to her. I would have liked her to be slightly stronger in that regard, but I completely understand why she was the way she was because of her past. Although I enjoyed many aspects of this novel, my favorite part was probably the friendship between Magnolia and George. There was so much love and encouragement between them and I smiled whenever they were together.

Overall, I would recommend Spin the Sky to anyone looking for a young adult novel featuring dance.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Interview: Jill MacKenzie, Author of Spin the Sky

Today I'm excited to present to you an interview I did with Jill MacKenzie, author of Spin the Sky, regarding her debut novel that was published on November 1, 2016 by Sky Pony Press. I'll be posting my review of Spin the Sky within the next few days, so look out for that. But now onto the interview:

1.) Can you tell us a little bit about your debut young adult novel, Spin the Sky?
Why, of course! I’d love to! 

Spin the Sky is about a girl from a small, Oregon-Coast town who auditions with her BFF for a reality TV dance competition in hopes of changing her image--an image her town has given her. I felt inspired to write this story after watching multiple seasons of the popular TV dance show, So You Think You Can Dance, and wished the dancers’ lives on that show were explored little more. Because of my own upbringing in dance, I always knew that dancing like the way those competitors do takes strength, desire, determination and perseverance. I kept asking myself the same question about each dancer: what was it that made them never give up? There had to be something bigger than just the love of dance…didn’t there? Well, for my character, there was. Something bigger than her mother, her sister, her town, and the people she was surrounded by. It was her own self-worth at stake. The possibility that without proving to the world that she was valid that she might not be valid at all. That’s where I started with this book. What my main character, Magnolia, had to loose if she didn’t achieve what she set out to. 

2.) Do you have any dance experience like your heroine Magnolia?
Yes! I spent all of my life in dance, immersed in ballet, tap, jazz and contemporary styles. I don’t think I ever possessed the drive or natural talent that Magnolia does, but I loved it even still, and I love it now as well. Dance is life! 

3.) Spin the Sky centers around a dance competition that's broadcasted on television. Do you watch reality television and how did you come up with the idea?
Ah! I answered some of this in question 1. But--and this is a serious guilty pleasure confession here--I also watch…wait for it…The Bachelor. It’s not that I love reality TV. It’s quite the opposite, actually. I find it fascinating that people watch these shows as if they were sitcoms, as if the “actors” are regurgitating lines written by a writer, instead of said organically. I spend a lot of time wondering if reality TV shows are scripted and if so to what extent. I tried to explore this sort of “Hunger Games” side of reality TV and how its participants live under microscopes for as long as they’re on the show. So, I guess it was a combination of my loving that dance show and appreciating how it really, truly makes dancers’ dreams come true and my fascination with the dark side of reality TV.

4.) Which character was the most interesting to write about in Spin the Sky?
For me, the most interesting character to write was Rose. Of course, I LOVE Magnolia with all my heart, but it was really hard for me to write the story of a sister--especially the older sister. In my own family, I’m the youngest, and it’s hard to see outside of that perspective. But Rose ended up being someone I truly love, her compassion, her selflessness, her wisdom. I think it actually made me view my own older sister in a different light. A better one, absolutely.

5.) What do you hope readers will take away from reading Spin the Sky?
I hope readers will take away that dreams--any dreams, all dreams--are everything. At least, they’re everything to me. Right now, I’m writing books. But I have other dreams too, you know? So I want to believe that I can visualize those and go after those one day, too. It’s what I go to sleep each night thinking about. It’s how I get up the next morning and do it all over again.

6.) Do you have any plans for future releases?
Yes! But I’m a very superstitious writer-type! I can’t say a word until things are set in stone, done and dusted. But you’ll be the first to know when I’m ready to spill!

Thanks so much for joining us today, Jill! 
Thanks so much!  

Please check out Jill's novel, Spin the Sky.
Amazon Link: HERE

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

YA Review: You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando

You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Amazon Link: HERE
Received From: Miss Print's ARC Adoption

Summary (from Amazon):
Fighter, Faker, Student, Spy.

Seventeen-year-old Reagan Elizabeth Hillis is used to changing identities overnight, lying to every friend she's ever had, and pushing away anyone who gets too close. Trained in mortal combat and weaponry her entire life, Reagan is expected to follow in her parents' footsteps and join the ranks of the most powerful top-secret agency in the world, the Black Angels. Falling in love with the boy next door was never part of the plan.

Now Reagan has to decide: Will she use her incredible talents and lead the dangerous life she was born into, or throw it all away to follow her heart and embrace the normal life she's always wanted? And does she even have a choice at all?

Find out if you are ready to join the Black Angels in the captivating and emotion page-turner, You Don't Know My Name, from debut novelist Kristen Orlando!

Reagan has never fit in anywhere. She doesn't have any close friends and the friends she does have, she lies to because she knows she'll have to move at any second. Her parents are spies for a top-secret agency, The Black Angels, and Reagan is expected to someday become one too. She's been trained since she was a child to fulfill her parent's legacy, and even though Reagan's great at combat, she doesn't know if she wants her parent's lifestyle. When they have to move after a dangerous criminal breaks into their house, she meets other students that for once in her life she feels connected to. As a spy's daughter, Reagan's never felt like she could be herself, except around Luke. He's more than Reagan's best friend, but Reagan knows she can't get too close to him or allow herself to fall in love because he might be the one person that could make Reagan wish for something more.

From page one, I was pulled into You Don't Know My Name because of the high action plot and interesting heroine. The whole plot of the novel is that Reagan's training to become a top-secret spy, and in the first chapter you get to see her moves and intelligence when it comes to combat. The novel begins with their house being broken into by a criminal and because their privacy is compromised, they have to move yet again. Moving frequently doesn't bother Reagan, because she's so used to it, but once she becomes close friends with Luke, the boy she secretly has a crush on, she begins to see that life isn't all about combat and the Dark Angels. The romance between Reagan and Luke was definitely my favorite part of the story. Their chemistry was apparent from the first page and it was heartwarming seeing how much they both cared about each other, but neither acting on it. Reagan doesn't want to let herself fall in love with Luke because she knows she'll be moving again and doesn't want to hurt him, and Luke isn't sure about Reagan's feelings for him. But once they figure it out, wow was it hot. When the two of them were together, it felt like they were going to burst into flames. I loved seeing Luke and Reagan's relationship transform and then Reagan's dilemma with becoming a spy. Since You Don't Know My Name is about spies, there's obviously a lot of action and suspense, which I thought the author wrote extremely well. And I'm so happy that there's going to be a sequel because I want to read about Reagan and Luke forever.

Overall, I would definitely recommend You Don't Know My Name to any readers looking for a novel about a teenage spy with a hot and sweet romance.