Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Author: Lilian Carmine Interview and Giveaway!

I'd like to welcome Lilian Carmine to the blog today to celebrate the publication of her novel, The Lost Boys from Random House UK. I'll be reviewing this book soon, but for now, be sure to stick around to learn about this debut author. We have an INTERNATIONAL giveaway for you at the end!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Lilian! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief bio with us?


Lilian Carmine is the author of the popular Lost Boys novels and Bacharel of Visual Arts.

The Lost Boys Trilogy will be published by Ebury Press (Random House UK), the first book of which with over 33 million reads online at Wattpad.

Lilian is currently working as a freelance artist on illustrated children’s books, animation, and artistic creation—as well as the next book in her Lost Boys series.

Readers, here's a bit about the book, which drops tomorrow!

The Lost Boys
Lilian Carmine
Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Official Fan Page | Goodreads | YouTubePublisher Page

Page Count: 512
Release Date: January 1st, 2014
Publisher: Ebury Press (Random House UK)
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult

An intensely addictive romance novel about girls, ghosts, and forbidden love, ideal for fans of Stephenie Meyer 

Fate has brought them together. But will it also keep them apart? Having moved to a strange town, 17-year-old Joey Gray is feeling a little lost, until she meets a cute, mysterious boy near her new home. But there’s a very good reason why Tristan Halloway is always to be found roaming in the local graveyard.

Perfect for fans of Stephenie Meyer and Lauren Kate, The Lost Boys is a magical, romantic tale of girl meets ghost.

Describe The Lost Boys in six words.
  1. Love
  2. Friendship
  3. Music
  4. Courage
  5. Magic
  6. Perseverance

How did you arrive at writing paranormal romance?


I think paranormal fiction gives me a lot of freedom; I can create new worlds, new universes, magical beings, entities with powers... anything is possible and that is what I like the most about the genre.

Supernatural fiction and fantasy are my most favorite genres to read (and write) because of all the possibilities they allow for creativity.


What's the first line of The Lost Boys. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?
“I really was lost.”
That is the exact first line of book.

I think it was a very significant way to start the story, since the main character Joe Gray starts as literally "lost," but then ends up being officially a member and part of the “Lost” Boys, a group of rocking friends and musicians and in the end, the Lost Boys will help Joe to find the way to be herself again and to live a life full of possibilities.

How do you react to negative or harsh reviews of your writing?

I think all feedback is valid, may they be positive or negative.

I try to listen to what everyone has to say and take in the things I agree and discard the things that don’t make sense to me, simple as that.

People are entitled to have their opinion, but you don’t have to agree with everything everyone says.

You also can’t let it affect you, and that goes both ways. People are often concerned about the bad critics, but the high praises can’t be as bad for you, if you don’t know how to deal with them.

Don’t let all the praises go up to your head; but don’t let the harsh criticism bring you down either. Stay centered and true to yourself and you won’t have problems with any kind of feedback you receive. That’s the advice I try to follow myself here.


That's fabulous advice. Authors need to be wary of the negative aspects of positive criticism.

Click "Read more" to find out what kind of kid Lilian was in high school, who her celebrity crush is, and the message she wants readers to take away from her novel. We're also hosting a giveaway for TWO print copies at the end, so you don't want to miss that either!

Monday, December 30, 2013

10 Heart Review: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
Allie Brosh

Page Count: 369

Release Date: October 29th 2013
Publisher: Touchstone (Simon & Schuster)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Simon & Schuster!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Features new material and stories from HyperboleAndAHalf.blogspot.com

This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative—like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it—but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly:
  • "...some might say the book is full of stories..."
  • "...It could be claimed that this has more pictures than the dictionary..."
  • "...IS GREAT BOOK."
So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:
  • Pictures
  • Words
  • Stories about things that happened to me
  • Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
  • Eight billion dollars*
  • Stories about dogs
  • The secret to eternal happiness*
*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!
Allie Brosh's pinpointed humor, childish yet not-quite-childish anecdotes, and incredibly self-realized life stories at her cherished blog, Hyperbole and a Half, are what made her an internet icon. You either have never heard of her, or worship the ground upon she walks. There is no in-between.

For the first time, her illustrated memoir essays are bound, and this print volume features not only eight of her most popular and most affecting blog entries, but also ten brand-new original pieces that will remind you of why you fell in love with her blog in the first place—or if you're unfamiliar with it, just how much you've been missing out.

Hyperbole and a Half is so well known for its bizarrely hilarious cartoons; as exemplified in the infamous "CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!" meme, her essays are accompanied by intentionally rudimentary Paint (et al.) illustrations that bring her personality and wit to life. Some daft early readers commented "I could draw way better than you!" on her posts, and well, that's the point. (Those readers didn't last very long).

Brosh's short memoirs are so special because they are highly conscientious, highly exaggerated (hence the hyperbole part), and perfectly capture the essence of identity and self-acceptance. I find it magical how she manages to be sentimental without being corny, intellectual without being standoffish, and comical without being snarky. She covers nostalgic topics like the mishaps of childhood, edgy topics like chronic depression, and downright entertaining topics like the weird and lovable beasts that are dogs. I swear to you: THERE ARE SO MANY DOGS IN THIS BOOK. If you have dogs, this is a must-read for a good laugh. If you have ever struggled with depression or self-doubt, this is a must-read for harsher realities and a sliver ever-burning hope. If you had a childhood, this is a must-read because—don't even lie to me: everyone was a child once. This book—and blog!—is simply a must-read, no excuses.

Pros


Some of my favorite essays from the blog selected // New content is fresh and original; did not disappoint  // Dorky, strange, hilarious // Spunky and kooky; makes you want to be Allie's BFF // Appropriate for all ages // Still manages to be deeply meaningful and substantial

Cons


Not enough stories! I want MORE

Love

Verdict


This blog-inspired collection of full-color-illustrated memoirs—ranging from lifetime reflections to random observant wisps of humor—is guaranteed to fill you with nostalgia, cripple you with laughter, and become your next internet obsession. An adult graphic novel that would just as easily please preteens, Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened is entertaining, wacky, and at times, even somber—and this attitude of not taking things too seriously, yet still being sincere, makes it that much more of an extraordinary experience. Brosh's intelligent but self-deprecating humor will charm you and disarm you. This is a book to be read over and over again Americanflag

10 hearts: I'm speechless; this book is an extraordinarily amazingly wonderfully fantastically marvelous masterpiece. Drop everything and go buy yourself a copy now! (x)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

7 Heart Review: 21-Day Tummy by Liz Vaccariello

21-Day Tummy
Liz Vaccariello with Kate Scarlata, RD

Page Count: 302

Release Date: December 26th 2013
Publisher: Reader's Digest
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, FSB Media!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Based on the latest science, the 21-Day Tummy diet targets excess weight and belly fat while addressing the most common digestive disorders.

We love to eat but that doesn't mean our stomachs always enjoy digesting what we put in them. Add to this the fact that our nation is heavier than it's ever been, and it's clear that our tummies don't just need to function better, they need to be smaller. In general, smaller stomachs digest food more effectively, and that's why dropping the pounds isn't just a matter of vanity but of health.

Featuring carb-light, anti-inflammatory foods, the 21-Day Tummy eating plan slashes inches from your belly (up to 4 ½ inches!) while banishing gas and bloating, heartburn and acid relux, constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

In addition, 21-Day Tummy includes:

  • 50 scrumptious recipes such as Tomato-Ginger Flank Steak and Almost Pumpkin Mini Pies.
  • a Digestion Quiz to help you measure your overall digestive health tips on how to combat the Four S's—Supersizing, Sitting, Stress, and Sleep Deprivation.
  • inspirational stories and advice from our successful test panelists. Our top tester dropped 19 pounds in 21 days and completely stopped taking medications for acid reflux.
  • an optional equipment-free workout plan that helps to both sculpt and soothe your belly with a mix of core strengthening, walking, and yoga.
  • guidelines on how to incorporate potentially problematic foods back into your life so you are never deprived of your favorite foods.
21-Day Tummy is a fun, easy guide to healthy eating that will have a smaller, healthier you feeling better than, well, possibly ever!
What I love about 21-Day Tummy is that it isn't just a book on weight loss and diet management; it's unique in that it also places importance on the digestive tract. Many of the recipes and theories revolve around the bodily chemistry regarding certain foods and exercises, so this diet plan is one that targets both shedding pounds and metabolizing your digestive system.

If you suffer from weight gain due to digestive slowdown, this is the perfect book for you. It is well backed and well explained, so anyone can follow and understand the logistics of the diet—even if you have minimal experience with dieting. That's what I love about Vaccariello's diet guides; they're so accessible!

The recipes, as expected, are amazing. Just looking at the photographs makes my mouth water, and I love how each ingredient is elaborated upon. There are helpful lists of digestive do's and don't's throughout the book, which are entertaining and useful for the kitchen. Other helpful tools include measurement conversion charts, grocery shopping lists, green lights and red lights of foods (regarding how they'll treat your stomach), and myths about certain foods busted or confirmed.

I find it really helpful that the regimen's goal is to not only flatten tummies, but also regulate the inner workings of the body. It takes the focus off the scale and tape measures, and places it onto feeling and being HEALTHY.


Pros


Methodical, biologically sound approaches to dieting and improving the digestive system // Lots of tried-and-true recipes that are worth testing // Real-life testimonies and weight loss plans and interviews of successful dieters included

Cons


Some recipes don't include pictures and are difficult to follow // I'm skeptical of the timeline. Although the book doesn't necessarily claim to change lives drastically in 21 days, it keeps dieters on a schedule that seems a bit too rigid

Love


Creative healthy recipes for foods I'd actually WANT to eat such as Salmon with Preserved Lemon Topping:

And Cheesy Scrambled Egg "Quesadillas":

Verdict


I personally was not really able to follow this diet book because it deals a lot with digestive issues rather than just wholesome, healthy eating, but I appreciate how specific the regimen is. It isn't something I could actually stick with—in fact, it doesn't seem very lenient—but I recommend Vaccariello's newest diet book for those who struggle with acid reflux and eating the right way due digestive problems. With the perfect amount of motivation and realistic, delicious-looking recipes, 21-Day Tummy helps you look and feel your best by using a targeted approach of not only eating well, but also taking care of what's on the inside Americanflag


7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable; borrow, don't buy! (x)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Exclusive Sneak Peek and Giveaway: Venice in the Moonlight by Elizabeth McKenna

Venice in the Moonlight
Elizabeth McKenna

Considered useless by his cold-hearted father, Nico Foscari, eldest son of one of the founding families in Venice, hides his pain behind gambling, drinking and womanizing.

After her husband's untimely demise, Marietta Gatti returns to her hometown of Venice in hopes of starting a new life and finding the happiness that was missing in her forced marriage.

When Fate throws them together, friendship begins to grow into love until Marietta learns a Foscari family secret that may have cost her father his life. Now, she must choose between vengeance, forgiveness, and love.

Elizabeth McKenna's latest novel takes you back to the days of eighteenth-century Carnival, where lovers meet discreetly, and masks make everyone equal.
Buy the book from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ARe | Publisher

Monday, December 23, 2013

9 Heart Review: Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

Someone Else's Love Story
Joshilyn Jackson
Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Follow the Tour!

Page Count: 320

Release Date: November 19th 2013
Publisher: HarperLuxe (William Morrow; Harper Collins)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Harper Collins and TLC!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

At twenty-one, Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college, raising her delightful three-year-old genius son Natty, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Catholic mother and Jewish father. She’s got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stick-up in a gas station mini-mart and falling in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who willingly steps between the armed robber and her son.

Shandi doesn't know that her blond god Thor has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: It’s been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn't define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice.

Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head on, in a funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness,; about a virgin birth, a sacrifice, and a resurrection; about falling in love, and learning that things aren't always what they seem—or what we hope they will be. It’s a novel about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need.
"These are not mutually exclusive states of being."

Shandi Pierce is no stranger to miracles—she was still a virgin when she had her son, Natty, and he in the flesh is an everyday blessing—and so when, in an extraordinary turn of the cosmic screw during her move to Atlanta, she's held at gunpoint in a Circle K, she sees no other option than to consider her fateful meeting with William Ashe just that: a miracle. This is the moment that changes everything for her; it is the moment she decides she will no longer pretend that beautiful Natty's conception was a miracle—immaculate and tidy—and unbeknownst to her yet, it is the moment she embarks on the poignant quest to finally face up to reality.

Joshilyn Jackson's newest novel is a quirky, surprisingly tender journey that tests the boundaries of personal strengths, as well as weaves a glittering story about destiny or—as pushed by science and numbers—lack thereof.

The story consists of an exchange between two distinct narratives: Shandi's vivid, smart, and smart-assed first-person voice intertwined with Will's blunted, methodical, and seemingly objective point-of-view. The unique timeline—primarily placed in the present, but with flashes of significant events revealed during opportune moments—allows readers  to become intimate with both characters who are similar in that they are both cynically hopeful, loved, and lonely, but diverge because they are ultimately fighting their own inner battles—battles they expose to one another, but cannot expect the other to completely understand. This is, by any measure, a love story—multiple love stories—but it is not their love story, because their stories are established before they even get the chance to meet.

There's nothing that wasn't well done in this novel. The story is intriguing and immersed me completely; the style is at once unusual, observant, and accurate; and the characters are lively, unforgettable.

Shandi is a new favorite female protagonist of mine; she's all of cute, hilarious, mature but still playful, and kickass, and I loved getting to know her in mind and in heart. She totes her delightful genius son Natty—who is obsessed with insect abdomens and has the grammatical capacity of a 40-year-old English professor—and her best friend Walcott-the-poet—whom she's been overly dependent upon since childhood—to Atlanta and as her closest family, these two will absolutely make you melt. Will is a character who doesn't reveal much about himself, but is complex in his own way, and I loved how he is portrayed too.

When the two meet, it's an act of fate—of destiny—and it happens like a collision. Suddenly, Shandi is propelled to search for the truth about Natty's conception, while on the other end of the spectrum, Will learns, through Shandi's own frantic fixation, what faith is and what miracles are—things he never allowed himself to believe in previously, when his world was all science and coincidence. Shandi inadvertently shows Will that hope, that thing with feathers, will find a way to piece his broken life back together... and while the two fragmented souls use one another complete themselves, there is solace—and emptiness—in knowing they do not complete each other.

I can't say much more without giving the important plot points away, but I will end with this: Someone Else's Love Story is brilliant. It is complicated, inspiring, and transfixing, and I don't know how Jackson pulled it off, but it so perfectly embodies the pain of sacrifice—the giving up and giving in for love—as well as the importance of family, faith, and the true definition of being holy. The unorthodox style and the god-honest narration will have you chortling with glee, while the ironic, nearly sacrilegious parallels will stun you emotionally. You have got to read this book.

Pros


Amazing storytelling // Fresh, intelligent, witty voice // Elaborate, enjoyable style // LOVED Shandi // LOVED Will // Loved all the other characters // Huge plot twist that throws everything off cue // A nontraditional love story

Cons


The novel as a whole neglects the more pragmatic aspects of Shandi's life, such as school and work // Unresolved issues by the end

Love

William did nothing better than anyone I'd ever seen. His gaze was on the door, but it was blank. He was deep inside his head, and his foot twitched, faintly, like a dreaming dog's. It was as if he had a thousand toys packed up inside himself, and he didn't let my silent presence stop him from going down in there to get at them. It was weird, but kinda sexy. To be fair, though, I thought the way WIlliam turned oxygen into carbon dioxide was sexy.

Verdict


With incredible attention to detail and penetrating insight of the human syndrome, Someone Else's Love Story is an unconventional love story with a memorable, dazzlingly human cast of characters, and enough personality to make you want to become the author's best best friend. Joshilyn Jackson presents the best and the brightest of deep, soulful, sassy Southern literary fiction with her newest novel; Shandi's rightful investigation and Will's slow resurrection cross paths in an exquisite, charming story about chance, love, faith, and most of important of them all, hope Americanflag

9 hearts: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf (x)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop 2013!

The Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Bookhounds, works like this: each participating blog hosts a giveaway and then we link up together allowing our followers to hop easily from one giveaway to another. For followers, it means lots of chances to win free books. For blogs hosting giveaways, it means lots of new visitors and followers. It's a win-win! The Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop is scheduled from December 21st at 12.01 AM until December 31st at 11:59 PM (EST).


The Prizes


One lucky follower will win their choice of ANY book from their wishlist. I love playing Santa!


As always, winner gets to choose between eBook or print. 

What would you choose if you won?

Just for the holiday spirit, I'll throw in this box of Godiva holiday truffles:
My unopened box, of course! I was supposed to wait until Christmas to open mine, but I couldn't resist. You know me—I have the self-control of an overly eager puppy. I'm willing to ship these internationally!

And yes, we'll have ANOTHER winner for this amazing set of eBooks:

That's two winners total! Woohoo!!!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

8 Heart Review: The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom

The First Phone Call from Heaven
Mitch Albom
Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Follow the Tour!

Page Count: 272

Release Date: November 21st 2013
Publisher: HarperLuxe (Harper Collins)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Harper Collins and TLC!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

One autumn day, in the small northern town of Coldwater, Michigan, the phones begin ringing. The people calling are all deceased. They talk about heaven. They say they are safe and happy. Each call is greeted differently—some with relief, some with love, some with religious zeal, some with fear.

On that same day, Sully Harding is released from jail for a crime he may not have committed. During his time behind bars, his wife, Giselle, passed away, leaving him a single father filled with heartbreak and regret. He returns to his hometown of Coldwater, hoping to rebuild his life. Instead, he finds a community increasingly gripped by miracle fever. As the mysterious phone calls become more frequent, outsiders begin flocking from all over the world to be part of the blessing, changing the small town indelibly, and turning local citizens into worshiped heroes.

When his own son begins to carry a toy cell phone awaiting word from his mother, Sully has had enough. He sets out to prove that the Coldwater phenomenon is a hoax. But is it? Or could this be the world's greatest miracle? Do the calls give people hope or do they imprison the receivers in a never-ending cycle of grief?

The story follows several Coldwater residents whose lives are irrevocably touched when they are confronted with evidence that heaven exists. This remarkable novel takes us on a journey both of individual healing and society's response to the question of life after life.

Albom's work has never been so moving and unexpected. Readers of The Five People You Meet in Heaven will recognize the warmth and emotion so redolent of Albom's writing, and those who haven't yet enjoyed the power of his storytelling will thrill at the discovery of one of the best-loved writers of our time.
"God wants people to know... not to be afraid... Dad, I was so scared when I was fighting... Every day, afraid for my life, afraid I might lose my life... But now I know. Fear is how you lose your life... a little bit at a time... What we give to fear, we take away from... faith."

Mitch Albom is one of those authors who could write about any topic under the sun and make it drop-dead amazing. He captivated readers in the past with his original stories, stunning attention to personal detail, and an unembellished, but deeply poignant style, and in his newest novel, he once again works his rare magic, reclaiming his title as my most cherished inspirational and literary fiction writer.

The First Phone Call from Heaven intimately follows the lives of the chosen children, parents, and spouses of Coldwater whose lives are forever altered when they receive phone calls from those they are mourning... their dead loved ones. Sparking extreme media interest and frenzied support, as well as protest from those who cannot let go of the controversy of divine voices coming through man-made technology, these phone calls become the world's biggest spectacle—except to Sully Harding, who is past skepticism, and now is just downright angry with the nonsense. The sudden "miracle" is giving his young son false hope, and it's making it impossible for a non-believer like him to come to terms with his wife's tragic death; through town resources and the cooperation of his community members, he is determined to expose the phone calls as an utter hoax.

But in the end, we beg to ask: Does it really matter whether the phone calls are actually a miracle from up above, or if they're a worldly intervention? After all, they are the best thing that's happened to Coldwater, and better yet, they're giving lost souls on Earth a chance to reconnect with the lost souls in heaven, and accept the notion of death.

Through the intertwined stories of various personal losses and varying levels of religiosity, Albom gives readers a glimpse of miraculous healing even when the source isn't necessarily a miracle, as well as emphasizes what it truly means to believe. The First Phone Call from Heaven contains one of Albom's characteristic fantasy worlds, so vividly illustrated in a precious literary tone and through a contemporary community.

Regardless of whether your belief is placed in a higher power or just in yourself, I guarantee you will find this an affecting novel about coping, reminiscing, and living—because all these can happen, even if you lose someone you love. It isn't a religious novel if you don't make it out to be. Albom's message isn't about God or prayer or anything remotely affiliated; it's about the importance of healing and keeping faith in our lives.

As Sully begins to accept the loss of his beautiful wife, and as he begins to crack down on the mystery of the heavenly communication, he discovers shattering secrets and an unsettling realization that, although having never received one, he is undeniably connected to these phone calls. Readers will root for Sully on his difficult path to letting go of his anger over what he considers his life's greatest injustice: forgiving those responsible, forgiving the God he's so weary of hearing about, and most of all, forgiving himself.

Pros


Albom does not disappoint // Smooth, simple, but incredibly powerful style // Fast-paced; does not drag // Beautiful inspirational message about loss, love, and life // Well-fleshed characters // Contemporary novel with an almost allegorical, fantastical tone

Cons


Obviously not extremely realistic // Keeping track of all the townsmembers' names gets a little confusing

Love

Sometimes, love brings you together even as life keeps you apart.

Verdict


Mitch Albom's newest and most anticipated book reminds individuals of the omnipresence of heaven and the impossibility of any human soul ever being forgotten, even after death. With the same seamless, heartfelt writing we all fell in love with in his previous works, as well as the kind of fresh, enlightening plot that is unique to his stories, Albom's The First Phone Call in Heaven is a breathtakingly inspirational and deeply meaningful novel about living without fear—which is to say, having faith Americanflag


8 hearts: An engaging read that will be worth your while; highly recommended (x)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

7 Heart Review: Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally and Giveaway!

Racing Savannah (Hundred Oaks #4)
Miranda Kenneally
Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Follow the Tour!

Page Count: 304

Release Date: December 3rd 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (Sourcebooks)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Miranda and Xpresso!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

They're from two different worlds.


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…

High-school senior Savannah Barrow has never had much in her life; her paycheck-to-paycheck life almost crumbled when her mom passed away, and it's only now starting to look up because her dad has secured a job at the Goodwin stables—the only way they can afford housing and the new baby his very-pregnant girlfriend is expecting. Never having had much privilege, her options for the future are pretty limited. If she can just get her dream job of jockeying—which isn't unheard of for girls, but certainly uncommon, and not to mention extremely dangerous—she can at least make a living, and her future baby sister won't have to suffer through her childhood like she did. College is obviously out of the question—she couldn't even dream of affording it—and there isn't anything in the world she's rather do than spend time with horses, anyway.

But then she meets one mischievous, gorgeous boy with stunning blue eyes, and her whole world is turned upside-down—not because of the whirlwind of a romance he consumes her in, but because he shows her what she's really worth... and for the first time, she discovers what she can do beyond her lowly roots if only she believes in herself.

Jack Goodwin is trouble from the start; with his irresistible smile and a cocky attitude, he's a gentleman and a heartbreaker... a deadly combination for Savannah. Despite being firm in not falling for the boss in the beginning, she swoons over him BAD, which I found a little unrealistic. She seems like a strong, solid girl otherwise—one who doesn't go googly-eyed over pretty boys—but the way she admitted her desires to get to know Jack on an intimate level, and then continuously resists these urges, made her a really conflicting character.

Savannah and Jack are both generally unimpressive characters. There are qualities in them that I really liked—feisty, selfless strength, and Southern romantic charm, respectively—but overall they are weakly developed and nothing about either of them stand out to me. Savannah in particular is not that deep of a narrator; readers do get personal glimpses of her past and her deepest desires, but she is neither clever nor adventurous in style. This may sound weird, but in my head, her first-person perspective just droned on in monotone. It was never beautiful or tragic or heartbreaking... it just was—in the most basic, unfulfilling sense. It's not that I dislike her, because all in all she is a very admirable character; I just wish she'd been portrayed a bit more complexly, more entertainingly.

The flirtation that blooms between her and Jack will make your pulse race—Kenneally captures young love, secret love, our-parents-can't-find-out-about-us love expertly—but again, I feel like it just didn't have a good foundation. It seems very forced and unrealistic, with very little interaction between the two characters before Savannah's already swearing she's in love. While the boss/worker forbidden romance cliché is unstimulating, I absolutely love how Kenneally explores class difference in the form of an off-limits relationship. This is the first YA novel (in my working memory) I've read that presents the taboo of dating outside your own socioeconomic status—Savannah being a working-class citizen and Jack being a disgustingly rich and privileged estate heir—and it's interesting and relevant because it's a divide that exists in our time and age, whether we want to admit it or not.

Kenneally vividly probes the jockey life and the world of horse racing, as well. Racing Savannah's biggest strength lies in its setting and world-building; you can practically smell the dirt on the racetracks, feel the dankness of the hot stables, and visualize the green pastures of the Goodwin estates. I was pleased to gain an insider's look of equestrianism as well; horse training and racing are fascinating, and Kenneally definitely portrays them well.

Pros


Smooth, readable; appropriate tone for younger readers // Class barriers successfully depicted, which is an uncommon and difficult issue to tackle in YA fiction // Vibrant setting // Cute banter between Jack and Savannah // Very detailed, personal account of the connection between horses and humans and the world of racing // Makes me anxious to get to know other characters, whose stories are told in previous books in the series

Cons


Mild, indistinct characters // Savannah isn't that exciting or compelling of a narrator // No climax // Unconvincing romance // Predictable, flat, unrealistic

Love

I love fireworks. You never know what's going to happen when they explode in the dark sky. Will it be a giant burst of light, or just a dud? Will sparks rain down like glitter?

Jack touching me just now was like fireworks exploding right in my face. It was so, so dangerous.

But the colors were so real.

Verdict


Readers are reminded of the excitement and turbulence of teenage romance in the latest book of the popular Hundred Oaks series. Savannah's struggle to keep her feelings for Jack hidden because going public with him would embarrass both families, as well as sabotage her own family's work—work they can't afford to lose—and to discover her true potential will strike a chord with young adult readers (ages 12-16). The uncertainty of heartbreak, the freedom from social constraints, and the loyalty of friends and family make Racing Savannah an emotional, eventful addition to YA sports fiction and contemporary romance. Although I found the relationship to be unrealistic and the characters bland, Kenneally's newest novel progresses effortlessly and is a stormy, but satisfying ride Americanflag

7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable; borrow, don't buy! (x)

Giveaway!

There is an AWESOME tour-wide giveaway for these gorgeous Ralph Lauren riding boots:
To enter, fill out this Rafflecopter form:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
This is a tour-wide giveaway and is neither sponsored nor hosted by Books à la Mode. I am merely participating in the promotional tour.
Giveaway ends December 20th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, rest of the world! Please check my sidebar at the top for a list of giveaways that are running internationally :)
Void where prohibited.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤ Plus you get extra entries! ;)
Good luck!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Best of 2013 Giveaway Hop!

The Best of 2013 Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Bookhounds, works like this: each participating blog hosts a giveaway and then we link up together allowing our followers to hop easily from one giveaway to another. For followers, it means lots of chances to win free books. For blogs hosting giveaways, it means lots of new visitors and followers. It's a win-win! The 2013 Debut Author Giveaway Hop is scheduled from December 11th at 12.01 AM until December 18th at 11:59 PM (EST). I'm starting it a bit early, so my regular followers get the advantage of entering a day earlier than everyone else! :)


The Prizes


One lucky follower will win their choice of ANY book that was released this year!


As always, winner gets to choose between eBook or print.

Need some suggestions?

I got the chance to read and review the following novels this year and absolutely LOVED them. They are now up there on my favorites list! 9 or 10 hearts for all of them, which is 5 stars, and VERY rare for me. I cannot recommend these enough!!

Click on the covers for more information about each book, and to read my reviews :)


And yes, we'll have ANOTHER winner for a set of eBooks! Here are some of the books you could win!

That's two winners total! Woohoo!!!!

Men's Fashion: Dockers Game Day Khakis!

Dockers's new men's Game Day Khakis are every college sports fan's dream. This new line of men's long khakis are tailored to your favorite team's colors, so you can wear your team pride loud and proud!

As a devoted college football fan, I knew I had to get involved with this new line, but I didn't see any of MY teams! However, LSU did catch my eye—and it just happens to be my best friend, Mason's, favorite team. He has a bit of a legacy going on; his parents graduated from there, his older brothers graduated from there, and he currently attends LSU now, so I just had to make him try these for me. I couldn't resist... and frankly, neither could he *grin* Geaux Tigers!

Dockers Game Day Khakis are currently available for ten teams all over the country, and they're planning on expanding soon, so I will definitely be keeping an eye on this line. Each team's khakis are available in two colors—including their most prominent school color, as well as the traditional "khaki" shade.
Louisiana State's look like this:
Mason was blessed to be given a sample of those bright yellow pants you see above LOL! I'm sorry, technically it's called "Louisiana Gold," let's be politically correct here. But it's still a tough color to show off without looking like a little Easter chick! :D

But you know what? He loves his team so much, he made it work!

As with all of Dockers's top-of-the-line menswear, these khakis were perfect in terms of comfort and fit. In Mason's own words: "These felt like pants that I would wear every day to work or a nice outing. I would be more than willing to wear these to a game day party ... they are a bit formal so maybe not directly to a game, but they still look great."

He got over the color because he's used to bright chick yellow Louisiana Gold hoodies and sweatpants and whatnot, so in essence, I'd just given him a snazzier way to show his team pride.

I would love love love to see Dockers come up with a women's line. Khakis may not be popular for ladies' fashion, but maybe shorts, polo shirts, or even long socks. Who's ever been dissatisfied with the preppy shorts-and-long-socks looks? Even without my teams (Go Cal Bears! Hook 'em Horns!), I'd be more than happy to support my die-hard sports friends like Mason by wearing team apparel like this (I have an LSU t-shirt that he got me, so I'm already on my way!) and it's comforting to be able to depend on a brand like Dockers to emphasize team pride and men's trends.


Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Dockers via Canopi, but I was not paid to write a positive review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are mine or Mason's alone.