Posted in Blog Tour

BLOG TOUR: The Keeper of Dragons by J.A. Culican

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How would you react if you found out you were a dragon? Not just any dragon–the one who was fated to save all that was redeemed true. 

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On his eighteenth birthday, Cole’s once humdrum life spirals into an uncontrollable battle for life or death. First, he learns that his family isn’t really his own and his birth parents are actually dragons. With that legacy comes a special calling; devoting an eternity to protecting all true beings from creatures bent on controlling the Earth and bringing an end to dragons. 

As the newly-minted Prince of Ochana, Cole is also the Keeper of Dragons and his first task is to keep the nefarious farro-fallen fairies at bay. With no formal training, no control of his mahier-dragon magic, and fear like he’s never experienced before, will Cole be able to reach outside of his human side and embrace his destiny in time to defeat the farros? 

Grab a Copy!

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Also available on itunes!

 

About the Author

J.A. Culican is a teacher by day and a writer by night. She lives in New Jersey with her husband of eleven years and their four young children. She spend her evenings at home, with her family watching Harry Potter and Star Wars. When not home you can find her at the soccer or field hockey fields, rooting her children on.

J.A. Culican’s inspiration to start writing came from her children and their love for all things magical. Bedtime stories turned to reality after her oldest daughter begged her for the book from which her stories of dragons came from. In turn, the series The Keeper of Dragons was born.

 

Connect with J.A. Culican!

 

Email:

jaculican@gmail.com

 

Newsletter sign-up:

http://eepurl.com/bopYkz

 

Website:

http://jaculican.com

 

Facebook Author Page:

https://www.facebook.com/JA-Culican-263341474010182/

 

Amazon Author Page:

http://amazon.com/author/jaculican

 

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/jaculican

 

Add me on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15287808.J_A_Culican

 

Facebook Street Team:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/231352253901799/?ref=bookmarks&qsefr=1
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Posted in 4 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

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Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Formats Available: Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed. 

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other–and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

A book told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour, the award-winning author of Hold Still and The Disenchantments, and David Levithan, the best-selling author of Every Day and co-author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), You Know Me Well is a deeply honest story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time. 

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚

True Rating: 3.5 Stars

Your poor teenage heart. It isn’t equipped for decisions like this. Except maybe. Maybe it is.

Wow. What an emotional roller coaster this book is. This is my first experience with both Nina LaCour and David Levithan, and while I’m not sure what I was expecting, this book definitely exceeded those expectations.

I don’t usually read books with LGBT+ characters, not because their existence offends me, but more because as a heterosexual woman who has always felt and behaved as such, I assumed it was doubtful I could relate. But this book made me hyper aware of, not my differences with these characters, but our similarities. Tear away those labels of sexuality and gender identity for just a minute, and beneath it you find what you knew was there all along: a beating heart. A human being. As it turns out, there aren’t many differences after all.

I knocked my rating down 1.5 stars because of a few minor issues. It was difficult for me to accept that the events of this book happened over one week–the quickness and depth of Mark and Katie’s new friendship, especially, seemed a little far-fetched. The alternating first person narratives was a good idea, but even though Mark’s chapters were written by Levithan and Katie’s by LaCour, the voices weren’t distinctive enough. There were several times I caught myself flipping back and forth, trying to figure out who was speaking, since (at least in the digital ARC I was given) there were no chapter headings to clue you in on who the speaker was. Lastly, I would’ve enjoyed more backstory on Mark and Katie, especially regarding their family lives. I thought both of them had great parents, and I would have liked to learn more about them.

Ultimately, You Know Me Well is about things we all know well–heartbreak, friendship, and struggling to find acceptance. If the synopsis interests you, I suggest you give it a try.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in 3 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi

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Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: June 1, 2016
Formats Available: Kindle, Paperback, Audio

In trendy Silicon Valley, Priya has everything she needs – a loving husband, a career, and a home – but the one thing she wants most is the child she’s unable to have. In a Southern Indian village, Asha doesn’t have much – raising two children in a tiny hut, she and her husband can barely keep a tin roof over their heads – but she wants a better education for her gifted son. Pressured by her family, Asha reluctantly checks into the Happy Mothers House: a baby farm where she can rent her only asset – her womb – to a childless couple overseas. To the dismay of friends and family, Priya places her faith in a woman she’s never met to make her dreams of motherhood come true. 

Together, the two women discover the best and the worst that India’s rising surrogacy industry has to offer, bridging continents and cultures to bring a new life into the world – and renewed hope to each other. 

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚

While this book isn’t necessarily short, it’s a fast read. I could hardly be persuaded to put it down over the 24 hour period in which I read it. I found myself fascinated by this strange, sad, and at times horrible predicament Priya and Asha found themselves in.

This is my first experience with Amulya Malladi’s work, and I was not disappointed with her writing. Through Priya, who while biologically half-Indian is essentially American, those unfamiliar with Indian culture (like me) learn customs, traditions, and cultural norms organically through her eyes. Between this and the lovely descriptions, I felt immersed in the story almost immediately. Torn between Priya’s heartache and Asha’s plight, I often found myself on the brink of tears. Malladi does an excellent job exposing the joys and the tragedies of such a nuanced, morally complex issue like surrogacy.

I gave this book 3 of 5 stars for a couple of reasons. First, I could not stand Priya’s husband Madhu. He’s not understanding of Priya at all, tells their secrets, makes decisions without her, and frankly doesn’t seem very committed to her or the family they ostensibly hope to build together. While I understand that some of this bad behavior is triggered by mistakes Priya has made, I felt he was just too petty and immature for someone supposedly in his mid-thirties.

Second, the ending was not at all what I had hoped for. The resolution is not complete. Throughout the entire book, there are hints at exploitation and unethical behavior surrounding not only the Happy Mothers House but potentially all of these pregnancy “outsourcing” clinics in India, and with regards to that there is no closure for the reader. I won’t say anything more for fear of spoiling, but if the thought of doctors and businesses taking advantage of the poor and uneducated upsets you, this book will most likely not leave you feeling satisfied.

That being said, A House for Happy Mothers and the tale it holds is relevant to this modern age, where technology, transportation, and a global economy create new ethical minefields for us to traverse. This is an excellent read for those who often ponder whether ability justifies action.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in 2 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: Break-Up Club by Lorelei Mathias

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Genre: Chick-Lit, New Adult
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: May 19, 2016
Formats Available: Kindle

There’s never been a better time to be single . . . 

Holly Braithwaite and loveable loser Lawrence have been together for five years. But the obvious cracks in their relationship can no longer be ignored and Holly soon finds herself saying “it’s not me, it’s you.” 

In the shock aftermath of their break-up, Holly finds unlikely companions in Olivia, Harry and Bella. Together, they form the Break-up Club, as they support each other through their mutual melancholy and find ways to love, laugh and function as human beings again. 

Break-up Club meets every Sunday. Each week, as the comedy and drama unfolds, they discover a new BUC “rule.” And one by one, the rules become vital markers on their journey to recovery . . . 

MY RATING: 📚 📚

I’m disappointed by how much this book disappointed me. The premise is spot-on, and the reading was somewhat enjoyable, but in the end, it’s just not for me.

For one thing, I couldn’t connect with the characters. All the members of the Break-Up Club seemed incredibly immature for their age. Most of the book consisted of them getting hammered, taking drugs, and being all-around silly–not exactly what I’d expect from a group of (mostly) professional people in their late twenties. Their interactions with one another seemed even more unhealthy than their previous relationships.

For another, this pacing was slow. As I mentioned above, pretty much every chapter consisted of the characters getting together to get wasted and whine. The only parts of the story I didn’t find boring were Holly’s short film ideas.

The tone also shifts drastically, going from silly to satirical to serious with little to no warning. The ending didn’t seem to fit at all, and I was really disappointed that a certain coupling–which was hinted at quite a bit–never took place. **SPOILER** I was also disappointed that the Break-up Club didn’t become a reality show. It would have been a terrible idea for the characters, but would have been really interesting.**END SPOILER**

That being said, there were several clever bits that entertained, and despite not really liking this book overall I am interested in looking for Ms. Mathias’ other works. If you’re a big fan of chick lit and don’t mind the issues I mentioned, I’d give this a go.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in 4 Stars, Book Review

REVIEW: Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black

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Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal/Urban
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Formats Available: Kindle, Hardcover

Blue Riley has wrestled with her own demons ever since the loss of her mother to cancer. But when she encounters a beautiful devil at her town crossroads, it’s her runaway sister’s soul she fights to save. The devil steals Blue’s voice–inherited from her musically gifted mother–in exchange for a single shot at finding Cass. 

Armed with her mother’s guitar, a knapsack of cherished mementoes, and a pair of magical boots, Blue journeys west in search of her sister. When the devil changes the terms of their deal, Blue must reevaluate her understanding of good and evil and open herself up to finding family in unexpected places. 

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚

This book’s description, along with the lovely cover, stole my attention almost immediately. I loved the idea of a modern approach to the devil at the crossroads myth and the soul selling motif, although I was a little worried about the execution. I shouldn’t have been. Jennifer Mason-Black’s writing is strong and soulful, and even though readers know nothing about Blue when the book opens, it’s difficult not to connect with her in the very first chapter.

There is an episodic nature to this story that some will not like, but I rather enjoyed. Blue is forced to trust strangers on her cross-country odyssey, and is exposed to both the kindness and cruelty human beings are capable of. I hope this is part of a series, because I’m definitely interested in learning more about some of the minor characters in Devil and the Bluebird, particularly Steve and Dill.

While this book is listed as a YA novel, it’s rather dark in places and I probably wouldn’t personally recommend this to readers under 16. If strong language is an issue for you there is some present, although fairly infrequent.

As a note for interested readers, there are LGBT elements in this book. There are a few trans characters, as well as mention of a lesbian/bisexual relationship. These don’t really play into the main plot much, but I know some people like to list books with LGBT characters, so I wanted to mention that.

The only reason I deducted a star was that the pacing was a little slower than I would have liked. Overall though, this is a fantastic read and I hope to see more from this author soon.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Blog Tour

BLOG TOUR: An Unhuman Journey

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There’s a war brewing between good and evil, and the chess pieces are being set . . . 

Aaron has gone missing, and Mordecai has taken over Kirsten’s training. She’s learning by leaps and bounds under the god-of-old’s not-so-gentle tutelage, but with Nathan in charge of Drake Security during The Dragon King’s unplanned absence, everything is upside down. 

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★ ☆ ✰Amazon http://amzn.to/1V17s6W

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The evil Celrau vampires were banned from creating new offspring, but they’ve bargained for permission to do so in the Underworld, where the Concilio has no authority. As part of their army-building, the Celrau vampires kidnap Kirsten and take her to the Underworld with the intention of making her one of them. Alone in another realm, Kirsten must form unexpected alliances to survive a most Unhuman Journey.

Join bestselling author Candace Blevins on a thrilling adventure into the critically acclaimed sequel to Only Human.
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About the Author

a74a9eff-d85c-464a-8e17-74d69db2fb88.jpgCandace Blevins lives with her husband of 18 years and their two daughters. When not working or driving kids all over the place she can be found reading, writing, meditating, or swimming.

Candace’s urban fantasy series, Only Human, gives us a world where weredragons, werewolves, werelions, three different species of vampires, as well as a variety of other mythological beings exist.

Candace’s two paranormal romance series, The Chattanooga Supernaturals and The Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club, are both sister series to the Only Human series, and give some secondary characters their happily ever after.

Visit Candace on the web at candaceblevins.com and feel free to friend her on Facebook and Goodreads. You can also join her Facebook group to get sneak peeks into what she’s writing now, images that inspire her, and the occasional juicy blurb.

Posted in Tags

Unpopular Opinions Book Tag

The Unpopular Opinion Book Tag was created by TheBookArcher. No one actually tagged me, and this tag is kind of old, but I came across it today on Booktube and I really wanted to join in.

If you don’t like unpopular opinions, this is probably not the post to read. If you disagree with any of my opinions, I’m happy to discuss them in the comments as long as you’re able to keep things civil. My opinions are based solely on my own personal preferences and should not be considered a personal attack. 

1. Name a popular book/series you didn’t like.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991)

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This is probably one of my most unpopular bookish opinions, and we’re opening with it, so that’s fun!

Outlander introduces us to Claire Randall directly after World War II. She and her husband Frank have been separated during most of their marriage because of their involvement in the British military–she was a nurse and he was an officer. They’re enjoying a second honeymoon in Scotland to become reacquainted with one another. After stumbling upon an ancient circle of stones, Claire is whisked back to the eighteenth century where she encounters Frank’s terrible ancestor Black Jack Randall. She’s captured by Scottish clansmen who distrust her because she’s British. (If you’re not familiar with British history, Scotland and England–not friends at this time. Not friends.) One thing leads to another, and she’s forced into a marriage with Jamie Fraser for her own protection. The story goes on from there.

I put off reading Outlander for several years, even though many friends recommended it to me. As a rule, I tend to shy away from books surrounded by this much hype, but I finally gave in and read it last February. I do usually love historical fiction, especially when it involves an element of time travel–in fact, this summer and fall I’m actually editing a fantastic debut novel by Becca MacLean Lyman that fits that very description–but I absolutely hated Outlander. And I don’t use the H word often.

First off, I didn’t love the writing. Gabaldon is one of the authors who seems to feel the need to prove they have a large vocabulary. I love learning new words, don’t get me wrong, but in Outlander, a lot of these large or unfamiliar words didn’t really fit the story. It was almost like paying for a $4.79 purchase with a one hundred dollar bill instead of the five that’s right there in your wallet.

I also felt the book could have been much shorter. I have no problem reading long books–War and Peace is one of my all-time favorite reads and it clocks in at over 1200 pages–but this story in particular could have been told in several fewer pages. There are a lot of scenes where the characters are eating or walking or what have you, and I don’t feel like they really contributed to the plot or to character development. The pacing could definitely have been better.

This book is also much more graphic than I expected, both in the love scenes and also in the acts of violence portrayed. I don’t really care for descriptive sex scenes. If there are going to be sex scenes in a book, I personally prefer for the focus to be on the characters’ emotions and feelings for each other, and I found the sex in this book to be too physically descriptive and too frequent for my personal tastes. Also, there is a lot of violence, particularly sexual violence, which is described in detail in this book. I understand that the author was most likely trying to show the reader how barbaric this time period could be, especially towards women, but it really just turned my stomach. Honestly, I wish I hadn’t finished the book, because there is an incident near the end that still makes me sick to think about over a year later.

Maybe I could have gotten over some of these issues if I’d liked Claire, but I really didn’t. Even though the narrative is in first person and we spend the entire book in her head, I really don’t like her or feel any kind of sympathy or pity for her. She didn’t seem to be too upset about her second unexpected, perhaps permanent separation from Frank, and she was entirely too eager to fall in love with someone else almost immediately. I didn’t understand her choices or motivations, and I didn’t really care what happened to her. The book ends on a cliffhanger, and I have felt zero interest in finding out what happens in the subsequent books.

2. Name a popular book/series that everyone else seems to hate but you love.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957)

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Atlas Shrugged is one of those polarizing books that almost everyone who reads it has a strong opinion one way or the other. I probably wouldn’t say I love it in an ordinary conversation, but I do think it’s underrated. Ayn Rand was kind of crazy and had some pretty extreme views that I don’t agree with, but this book is probably the only modern book set in the United States that has this quality that reminds me of the classic Russian literature I love. There’s this absurdly large cast of characters, most of which feel more like ideas in an animated body than actual human beings, and all these intricate subplots that are so difficult to keep track of, but somehow it all comes together and it works. As wooden as the characters are, there are some really beautiful moments that it seems like most people skip over when they talk about how much they hate this book.

3. Name a love triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with, or an OTP (one true pairing) that you don’t like.

The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer (2005-2008)

twilight-books.jpgI’m not really a Twilight fan these days–I kind of lost interest after reading Breaking Dawn, which I definitely did not care for–but even though I’m not really into the books anymore, I still get pretty ticked off that Bella and Edward ended up together. I thought that she and Jacob were much more compatible, and their friendship/relationship would have been much healthier. Plus, I never really cared for Edward. I thought he was a very bad example of what love looks like for teen girls–he’s very controlling, emotionally manipulative, and he pretty much stalks Bella for a good chunk of the first book. It’s just a little creepy, and I never really got why Bella cared so much about him.

 

4. Name a popular book genre you never read.

I love a good love story, but I have a hard time getting into a straight-up, old-school romance. I’ve never read the stereotypical paperback with the Fabio model on the cover, and I doubt I ever will. I also don’t read erotica, for reasons I mentioned in #1, and I don’t really read much in the paranormal genre, although what I have read I liked.

5. Name a popular or beloved character that you do not like.

Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series (1997-2007)

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I don’t not like Dumbledore–I think he is a great character, and he’s obviously important to the plot of the entire series–but I’m not enamored with him as most people are. Especially in Deathly Hallows, I found myself really disillusioned with Dumbledore. It’s obvious that he meant well by Harry, but he made some grave mistakes that are kind of brushed over by most fans of the series. It’s difficult because in the earlier books he’s clearly the character that symbolizes the greater good, and sometimes even seems to stand in for a deity, but as the story progresses he becomes more and more questionable. I understand that Harry’s discovery of Dumbledore’s past mirrors real life, when we grow up and realize that our parents and mentors and personal heroes are all human and have all made mistakes, but it just felt too extreme in this situation. I wish he’d been humanized in a less severe way.

6. Name a popular author that you can’t seem to get into.

Rainbow Rowell

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I’ve only tried to read one book by Rainbow Rowell–Carry On–and I DNF’d it at 6%. The writing itself wasn’t bad, but I really hated the story because it was basically a pretty blatant ripoff of Harry Potter. That being said, I’ve read that many Rainbow Rowell fans didn’t care for Carry On either, so maybe there’s hope for me in the future. I really want to read Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, and Landline, I just haven’t bit the bullet on any of those yet.

7. Name a popular book trope that you’re tired of seeing.

Especially in YA speculative fiction, I’m tired of the special snowflake female protagonist.

8. Name a popular series you have no interest in reading.

There are several that come to mind, but the two that really stick out for me is the Me Before You duology by Jojo Moyes and the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth.

 

9. The saying goes “The book is always better than the movie,” but which movie or T.V. adaptation do you prefer more than the book?

This assumption is often not true, and I’ve long discarded it. I have several answers to this question, all of which I’m planning to blog about in greater detail very soon.

Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer (1999) vs. ABC’s Flashforward (2009-2010)

 

Up in the Air by Walter Kirn (2001) and Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air (2009)

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (2008) and David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

 

The Firm by John Grisham (1991) and Sydney Pollack’s The Firm (1993)

Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell (2005) and Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia (2009)

 

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham (1996) and Gary Fleder’s Runaway Jury (2003)

And I’ll admit, I have more! I just can’t think of them right now. I’ll be sure to blog them later, though!

So there you have it–some of my most unpopular bookish opinions! Be sure to comment down below with your own unpopular opinions. If you disagree with me on any of these points, I’d love to hear why! Let’s have a respectful discussion about it.