Review + Giveaway: Avenged by Amy Tintera



Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: young adult fantasy
Format/Source: ARC, ALA mw
Status: book 2 of the Ruined trilogy

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Summary:
In the sequel to Ruined, the romance of The Selection and the epic stakes of Red Queen come together in a story of revenge, adventure, and unexpected love.

Emelina Flores has come home to Ruina. After rescuing her sister Olivia from imprisonment in rival kingdom Lera, Em and Olivia together vow to rebuild Ruina to its former glory. 

But their fight has only begun. Olivia is determined to destroy everyone who acts against Ruina, but Em isn’t as sure. Ever since Em posed as Prince Casimir’s betrothed in Lera, she’s started to see another side to this war. And now that Cas has taken the throne, Em believes a truce is within reach. But Olivia suspects that Em’s romantic feelings for Cas are just coloring her judgement.


Em is determined to bring peace to her home. But when winning the war could mean betraying her family, Em faces an impossible choice between loyalty and love. Em must stay one step ahead of her enemies—and her blood—before she’s the next victim in this battle for sovereignty.

Review: Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren



Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: contemporary romance
Format/Source: Kindle ebook, purchased
Status: book 3 of the Beautiful series

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Summary:
A bombshell bookworm. A chronic Casanova. And a lesson in chemistry too scandalous for school.

When Hanna Bergstrom receives a lecture from her overprotective brother about neglecting her social life and burying herself in grad school, she’s determined to tackle his implied assignment: get out, make friends, start dating. And who better to turn her into the sultry siren every man wants than her brother’s gorgeous best friend, Will Sumner, venture capitalist and unapologetic playboy?


Will takes risks for a living, but he’s skeptical about this challenge of Hanna’s…until the wild night his innocently seductive pupil tempts him into bed- and teaches him a thing or two about being with a woman he can’t forget. Now that Hanna’s discovered the power of her own sex appeal, it’s up to Will to prove he’s the only man she’ll ever need.

Review + Giveaway: Geekerella by Ashley Poston




Rating: 5 stars
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: young adult contemporary romance, retellings
Format/Source: arc, from the publisher
Status: standalone

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Summary:
Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad's old costume), Elle's determined to win unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons before he was famous. Now they re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he's ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. 


Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Audio Adventures: Perks of Being a Listener, Part 2



Welcome to another edition of Audio Adventures! Back in October I came up with a list of perks of listening to audiobooks. Five months later, I've thought of a couple more audiobook bonuses so I give you

Perks of Being a Listener: Part 2

8. Memorize books.
So I have listened to the Beautiful Player audiobook in full about seven times and parts of it at least on three separate occasions, and man, I KNOW that book. It's just like memorizing lines from your favorite movies or tv shows or Hamilton. There may or may not be a practical use for having these lines memorized, but knowing the story so well you can quote along with it (but if it's a book like Beautiful Player, maybe don't quote it places like work and the grocery store ;D) will help you connect to it and the characters better.  

9. Listening is inclusive for those with visual impairments.
I can't BELIEVE I left this one off the first list! OBVIOUSLY listening to books is a great way for those with visual disabilities to read. The truly sucky thing is that not all books are available via actual audiobook but via text-to-speech apps so I wish there were a way for even more books to be adapted via audio.

10. Road tripping? Say farewell to reading-caused motion sickness!
I HATE that I feel sick when I read in a car. Normally it's not a problem because I road trip so much solo that I'm doing the driving and am already listening to an audio (or Taylor Swift or Hamilton or Frozen). But I hate that when I'm doing a long trip with my family, my parents listen to their own audiobooks that I don't want to listen to, and I can't read my own books or I'll throw up (which would serve them right for bogarting the radio). But with audiobooks, I can put in my headphones, turn up the volume over whatever-the-fuck they're listening to, and entertain myself.

11. Listen when you're not in the mood to read.
Every time my library hosts our book festival, I have a really hard time reading for about the 3 weeks before and a few days after. I spend more time at work so by the time I get home, I don't feel like reading. I usually veg out on my couch for exactly one episode of a mind-numbing sitcom and then drag myself to bed. And after the festival, I feel like death because of how much physical, mental, and emotion energy the day of takes. So audiobooks are a good way to keep my mind engaged without having to hold a book, use overtired eyes, or be in a position that's anything other than horizontal and/or fetal. This is also highly applicable when I'm sick.

So now we're up to 11 perks of listening to audiobooks. Have I converted you yet? Do you have any pros I can add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Elizabeth Eulberg


Baby Mary, get some powder for that t-zone!
Longtime readers should not be surprised when I say one of my favorite people, author or no, is Elizabeth Eulberg (I have kind of written about her books a LOT on here). I discovered Elizabeth's books in a Barnes & Noble and was immediately taken by the adorable covers and descriptions of The Lonely Hearts Club and Prom & Prejudice. After purchasing copies at my FAVORITE bookstore Borders (#neverforget), I was hooked for life. And lucky for me, Elizabeth was one of the first authors I EVER met, right when YA author signings started becoming A Thing waaay back in May 2012, which was PRE-BLOG, even.



Peak Mary & Elizabeth

Once I started the blog, Elizabeth and her books became a staple. Her novel Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality is a five star, greatest hits, hall of fame novel for me (check out my review! *reads back through it and snorts at baby blogger Mary*). Better Off Friends is a 280 page love story full of friendship-to-more shippy swoony goodness (review here) that will also make you super hungry for Culvers burgers, cheese curds, and frozen custard. Back when I participated in Top Ten Tuesday, Elizabeth's books made several showings like in my Best of 2013, Authors Who Deserve More Recognition, Best BFF Books, Favorite Contemporary Books, and Favorite Musical Characters lists, as well as my 2013 End of Year Survey

Fun fact: Elizabeth & I do not like to close
our mouths when  we take pictures together
Why do I love Elizabeth so much? First of all, she's funny as heck, both in person and in her books. Humor is not really a primary category/genre in YA, but I know when I pick up an Elizabeth Eulberg novel, no matter what the story is, I'm definitely going to laugh. A lot. Possibly Definitely with snorting involved.

Secondly, Elizabeth's books feel real to me. You know how sometimes you're super aware a book is fiction because the characters could never be real and the story is far-fetched and unnatural feeling? Not the case. I always feel like Elizabeth's characters could be real teens facing realistic conflicts. High school, friendships, romance, family relationships: everything has a real-life feel to it that lends each story great credibility. Her stories are built around plot elements that feel very natural—a girl walking in on her boyfriend cheating on her, girl and boy best friends growing, teenage girl being pushed aside for her pageant-participating baby sister—and then they get fun fictional twists. 


Behaving yet blurry: the story of our friendship

Thirdly, swoons. Ain't no boy next door like an Elizabeth Eulberg boy next door! I love that her guys are sweet and funny (and smart and talented and kind and GOOD) as they are cute. The relationships are, again, presented realistically, and they always leave you wanting more. And yet, as good as the guys are, they NEVER overshadow Elizabeth's leading ladies.

Dapper lady at our Pride & Prejudice party!
And this is the last reason I love Elizabeth and her books. An Elizabeth Eulberg heroine is always a boss lady, but always for different reasons. Penny Lane is a trailblazer and organizes the badass Lonely Hearts Club for friendship-focused girls. Lizzie and Emme are as talented as the day is long and discover how to make the most of the limelight. Lexi learns how to own her image and be comfortable in her own skin. Shelby is brilliant, a little wild, and has amazing hair. These ladies are sassy and smart and shy and sweet and kind and enthusiastic and bold and fierce and so many things all at once. They're also unique, but the best thing is how empowering it is to read about them.

That's why I want to share my love of Elizabeth's books with you guys. I'm giving away a signed almost-complete set of Elizabeth's books. That's right! You can win signed copies of Prom & Prejudice, The Lonely Hearts Club, Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality, Take a Bow, The Great Shelby Holmes, and an arc of her newest novel Just Another Girl (which is also signed)!

Giveaway Details:
One winner will receive the books listed above. Open to US only. Entrants must be 13+ with parents' permission. Giveaway is open until 12 AM CST March 15. Please enter via Rafflecopter below; winner will be chosen at random, and odds are determined by number of entries. I reserve the right to disqualify any entries that are not in accordance with my giveaway policies as stated in the Review & Site Policies tab at the top of the page. Good luck!

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Audio Adventures Review + Giveaway: Hundred Oaks series by Miranda Kenneally



I recently binged all five of the existing audiobooks for Miranda Kenneally's Hundred Oaks series, and I wanted to share some bite-sized reviews for this awesome series and host a giveaway for a copy of one of the audiobooks.


Catching Jordan Audiobook
Audio
Rating: 3.5 stars
Narrator: Christina Delaine
Release date: November 11, 2014
Publisher: Audible Studios
Length: 8 hours, 49 minutes

Novel
Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: December 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire


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Review:
On the one hand, I remembered why I love Catching Jordan so much—it's funny, it's swoony, it's realistic, it's got a badass girl who goes for what she wants, it showcases amazing platonic girl/guy friendships (sometimes it feels like this is a YA unicorn). On the other, DANG JORDAN JUST PICK ONE. On the third hand, YAY for a narrator who gives southern characters ACTUAL SOUTHERN ACCENTS. DANG, Y'ALL IT SHOULDN'T BE THAT HARD. On the other OTHER hand, the narrator's southern accent for some of the characters was whiny and cringe-worthy (here's looking at you, Kristen!).

But overall, still a great book with decent narration. I appreciate Christina Delaine's work in maintaining the southern accents and even giving each character their own unique tone and twist on the accent. I knew immediately who was speaking with every character, and that's always a plus for me.

Book vs audio: Stick with the book. Although I appreciate Christina Delaine including southern accents, I can see it grating on anyone who isn't used to a good southern twang. Readers will appreciate the humor just as much while reading as they would while listening to it.

Purchase Links:
 

Stealing Parker Audiobook
Audio
Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Jorjeana Marie
Release date: November 11, 2014
Publisher: Audible Studios
Length: 7 hours, 7 minutes

Novel
Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: October 1, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire


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Review:
On the one hand, I enjoyed listening to Stealing Parker a lot more than I initially remember enjoying the book. On the other hand, I have discovered my tastes have changed somewhat over the past few years, and part of the plot of SP is a big fat NO NO in my opinion. (man, I  just realized I have a LOT of hands!)

While Stealing Parker is not one of my favorite books in the Hundred Oaks series, I'm glad that I reread it and was able to fall in love with the story a little bit more. I definitely recommend the audiobook as Jorjeana Marie gave a wonderful performance as Parker and all the other characters as well. I'm definitely bookmarking more of her YA books to listen to in the future!

Random complaint: having a Brian and a Ryan in this book is a poor naming choice. Although it's not a problem when you read, things get a little fuzzy in the audio version. So, authors, when you're naming your characters, make sure you say them all together aloud.

Also, because of the whole changing tastes thing, and my now being an adult, I have a LOT more thoughts about the book overall so keep your eyes out because I'll have a full review of Stealing Parker to share soon.

Book vs audio: Audio. Readers might distance themselves from the emotion of Parker's story, which is a good way to become judgmental of Parker (I've done it!). Listening to the audio will keep you invested as Jorjeana Marie makes an emotional and nuanced performance.

Purchase Links:
  





Things I Can't Forget Audiobook
Audio
Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Holly Fielding
Release date: November 11, 2014
Publisher: Audible Studios
Length: 8 hours, 19 minutes

Novel
Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Check out my review for Things I Can't Forget here.


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Review:
Definitely enjoyed this one. Not only did I love the story again, the narration was pretty dang good. Holly Fielding did a great job with all the characters, making them unique and believable. I'll definitely listen to more of her work. A couple minor narrator complaints. It really does bother me when narrators pronounce mischievously incorrectly, Holly's voice for Matt changed, and originally she used a masculine tone for Jordan before changing it mid-scene. I think that's just a bit sloppy, like when Jordan first appeared, Holly didn't know she's a female character. But overall, great performance, good book.

Book vs audio: Like with Stealing Parker, reading the book creates distance between the reader and the story. Listening really puts the audience in Kate's head, and it's easier to understand her point of view and empathize with her. Give the audiobook a go.

Purchase Links:
  



Racing Savannah Audiobook
Audio
Rating: 3.5 stars
Narrator: Monika Smith
Release date: November 11, 2014
Publisher: Audible Studios
Length: 7 hours, 2 minutes

Novel
Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Check out my review & interview with Miranda here.


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Review:
I forgot how much of a jackass Jack is in Racing Savannah. I mean, he is incredibly charming, but he's also a complete jackass. Not for the entire book or he'd be completely worthless as a love interest, but during crucial character-and-relationship-building moments, Jack shows just how much of a flawed human being he is (please don't let me scare you away. He has some really big great moments too!). Jack is definitely among my least favorite of the love interests, but his redemption arc is pretty impressive.

As for the narration, Monika Smith is possibly my least favorite of the five narrators used for the Hundred Oaks audiobooks. Her voice works for Savannah, who is pint-sized so yeah, a high-pitched, young sounding voice is believable. But her voices for Vanessa, Rory, and Jack sound little kid-ish, and that always weirds me out for a teen novel. Like, I just can't take you seriously having discussions about sex and college and relationships and careers if you sound like you're 7. Monika wasn't horrible; she just wasn't great. Hence, middle of the road audiobook for me. I've heard worse, but I've also heard a whole lot better.

Book vs audio: Mmm, this is more of a toss-up than the others. Book has a slight edge just because of Monika's young-sounding voice.

Purchase Links:
  


Breathe, Annie, Breathe Audiobook
Audio
Rating: 3.5 stars
Narrator: Nancy Wu
Release date: July 3, 2014
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Length: 7 hours, 41 minutes

Novel
Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire


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Review:
This is the funny thing about ratings. I originally gave the first two Hundred Oaks books 5 stars when I read them, but then I gave the others 4 stars, although Breathe, Annie, Breathe is my favorite of the series, and I like it better than Jordan and Parker. Just goes to show how books and taste can change. I definitely started rating a bit harder. But anyway. Annie is such a phenomenal book. It's very much a love story, but it's also a falling out of love story. Annie's motivations are so much fueled by the boyfriend she lost, and it's hard for her to focus on anything but him because of the depth of their relationship and the immense guilt she feels. The Hundred Oaks books all balance plenty of light fluff with the heaviness of growing up and facing adult decisions, but somehow Annie feels the heaviest, probably because it deals with death and all its finality.

That's why I'm only giving this audio 3.5 stars. Annie is a really complex book, but I didn't quite get all of that from Nancy Wu's narration. I didn't hate it, I just didn't love it. She didn't bring out all the emotions in her performance, and I really expected and wanted that.

Book vs audio: Read the book. I most definitely recommend reading the book over listening to the audio. 

Purchase Links:
   

About the Author:
Growing up in Tennessee, Miranda Kenneally dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes, and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.

Author Links:
     

Giveaway:
One winner will receive a digital copy of any Hundred Oaks audiobook of their choice (Catching Jordan, Stealing Parker, Things I Can't Forget, Racing Savannah, or Breathe Annie Breathe) from Audible via the Send This Book feature. Open to anyone who can receive an audiobook this way. Terms and conditions of Send This Book are listed here. Entrants must be 13+ with parents' permission. Giveaway is open until 12 AM CST March 7. Please enter via Rafflecopter below; winner will be chosen at random, and odds are determined by number of entries. I reserve the right to disqualify any entries that are not in accordance with my giveaway policies as stated in the Review & Site Policies tab at the top of the page. Good luck! 

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Mary's Minute: YA tropes


This isn't a discussion so much as a survey (but feel free to chat too!). I'm working on a fun post, but I need your help: what are your favorite AND least favorite tropes in YA books? These can be plot points, character traits, or just descriptions. Here are a few of the ones I came up with, but please please please share your own as well! I'm looking to make a big list.
  • Hidden royalty
  • "Secret" family (think Mortal Instruments and all its "you're brother & sister...JK!")
  • Dead parent
  • Mentioning eye color
  • Being clumsy
  • Biting lips
  • Unisex names
  • Character with many names (Jonathan "Jace Wayland" Lightwood Herondale)
  • Nicknames
  • "Not like other girls"

Please let me know in the comments, and feel free to share why you love or hate certain tropes!