Sunday, November 23, 2014

In My Mailbox


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

FROM NETGALLEY:



The Rosie Effect: A Novel by Graeme Simsion
The Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Book 1 Clover's Luck by Kallie George
Lessons I Never Learned at Meadowbrook Academy by Liz Maccie
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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Review: The Good Girl's Guide to Bad Boys by Katie Hart


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
When feisty break dancer Andrea left for university, she thought she was ready to step into the real world. But she wasn’t prepared for meeting her new neighbour, Hunter.
Arrogant, dangerous and a bit too sexy, Hunter’s everything Andrea knows she should resist…and can’t.
But when she gets swept up into Hunter’s dark, mysterious family, it seems that falling for a seductive rebel might not be all it’s cracked up to be. Is this good girl really ready to take on a bad boy?
Wattpad sensation Katie Hart is the queen of bad boys! Her debut, The Good Girl's Guide to Bad Boys, is perfect for fans of Kirsty Moseley.

MY TAKE:
If The Godfather and Step Up movies had a British book for a child, it would be this book.

In The Good Girl's Guide to Bad Boys, Andy is starting her first year at university. With costs being high at student housing, she decides to share an apartment with Hunter, who had no idea she was a girl when he agreed for her to be his roommate. Sparks fly between the two, and soon enough a romance between them begins. Hunter, however, is not an ordinary guy and he and his family's activities could put Andy in danger.

As I wrote earlier, this book reminded me at first of the Step Up movies, then later on by The Godfather books and movies. Honestly, with a lot more dancing, this could be the plot of a much darker and more adult Step Up movie.

The story starts relatively light-hearted, with some dancing, descriptions of university life, and the heating up of Hunter and Andy's romance. As more of Hunter's past is revealed, the story starts to head down the thriller/action-adventure path.

Hunter is much more of a bad boy than I originally thought. By that, I mean, he's not just a rebel without a cause. He's not evil, though. If you've read The Godfather or you've seen the movie, he's more early Michael Corleone than Sonny.

Andy, on the other hand, is as advertised. She is quite feisty and says what's on her mind. When I started to get distracted by the number of times the word "smirk(ed)" was used, I tried to picture an actor and actress playing Hunter and Andy. The actress who came to mind immediately was Caitlin Stasey, who plays Kenna on Reign. Naturally, Hunter, in my mind, became Torrance Coombs, who plays Bash on Reign.

The constant banter between Hunter and Andy actually reminds me of Kenna and Bash during the early stages of their relationship. Even some of their sweeter moments vaguely reminds me of some scenes between Kenna and Bash when they got things sorted out between them. Really, if you liked Hunter and Andy's relationship, and you haven't seen Reign, go watch Reign.

The only thing that I wasn't too sure of is the ending. It was a logical ending, but it left me feeling a little cold. Maybe you'll feel differently?

Thanks to NetGalley and Carina UK for the e-copy.

THE GOOD:

  1. Andy and Hunter's romance was pretty hot.
  2. It's not your typical romance story.
  3. Andy can be pretty funny. 

THE BAD:

  1. It was a lot darker than I thought it would be. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You liked The Godfather.
  2. You like bad boys with a good heart.
  3. You like feisty heroines. 

RATING:
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Friday, November 21, 2014

Review: Cooking Allergy-Free: Simple Inspired Meals for Everyone by Jenna Short


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Jenna Short is on a mission--to help home cooks create meals that are safe--and delicious--for anyone who suffers from food allergies or who follows a special diet. As a caterer who specializes in events suitable for those who choose a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, or kosher lifestyle, Jenna knows it's not easy to meet these different needs at the same time. In Cooking Allergy-Free, Jenna comes to the rescue, with 150 recipes that are suitable for weeknight cooking as well as entertaining. Each recipe is free of one or more of the most popular food allergens--wheat, milk, eggs, nuts, shellfish, fish, soy and corn--easily identified by colorful icons, and includes substitutions to convert the recipe for other allergens. Icons also indicate recipes appropriate for those who follow a gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan diet.
Jenna's collection of recipes include starters, soups, salads, main dishes, sides, desserts, and breads. Sample the Mustard Raisin Marmalade on Toasted Crostini, Moroccan Stuffed Tomatoes, Rosemary Skillet Chicken with Mushrooms and Potatoes, Sloppy Joes, Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Blackened Fish Tacos with Guacamole and Cilantro-Lime Slaw, Blueberry Lemon Crumble Pie, Mini Fudge Brownie Bites, Granola Bars, and more. With Cooking Allergy-Free in hand, you'll discover flavorful, easy-to-make dishes that aren't off limits.
Menu suggestions for setting up a kitchen to be allergen-friendly, and essentials for stocking your pantry will make Cooking Allergy-Free your most trusted source for delicious cooking.

MY TAKE:
This is, quite possibly, the best cookbook I've read all year.

Cooking Allergy-Free: Simple Inspired Meals for Everyone contains recipes for starters, soups & salads, mains, sides, desserts, breads & breakfasts, and dressings, sauces & dips that have modified to have as few allergy-inducing ingredients as possible. The first part of the book contains discussions about allergies versus food sensitivity, vegetarianism versus veganism, things to stock in your pantry, among others.

There are several things I liked about the book. First, of course, are the Pinterest-worthy food pictures. If you weren't hungry when you started reading this, by the time you're halfway through, you're probably going to be heading to the kitchen to get a snack.

I also liked that each recipe had serving sizes, nutritional information and icons for easy reference of which allergens aren't in them. Some of the recipes also had variations (what you can remove or change in order to address another allergy), as well as cook tips and wine pairing suggestions.

The last part of the book contains suggestions for menu combinations given certain occasions or themes like Asian Feast, Gluten-Free Menu, and New Year's Brunch. The idea to arrange the recipes in the index by allergen was pretty smart too.

At the moment, since it's the end of the week, my pantry isn't well-stocked so cooking from the book will have to wait. I did spot a few recipes I wanted to try, though. These are: Israeli Meatballs with Tahini Glaze, Grilled Chicken with Pistachio Pesto, Rosemary Skillet Chicken with Mushrooms and Potatoes, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Peanut Butter Huhus.

Thanks to NetGalley and Taunton Press for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. There's a wide variety of recipes.
  2. It's easy to see which recipes don't have certain allergens.
  3. The food photography is superb. 

THE BAD:

  1. There were some recipes that looked a little intimidating for beginners. 

READ IT IF:

  1. Someone in your family has allergies.
  2. You have diet restrictions.
  3. You want to eat healthier. 

RATING:
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review: The Littlest Pet Shop by Georgia Ball and Nico Peña


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Join Russell, Penny, Blythe, and all of the pets for these brand-new adventures based on the hit animated TV series and toy line.
MY TAKE:
I don't think I've ever actually seen the TV show, but I couldn't resist giving this a try anyway.

In The Littlest Pet Shop, readers join Blythe and the different pets that stay at The Littlest Pet Shop on their adventures.

This book contains 10 (if I counted correctly) stories. Most of the stories focus on the pets, but there's one story, plus several other subplots that focus on Blythe.

One good thing about this comic is that even if you haven't seen the show or aren't familiar with the toy line, it's easy enough to learn and remember who the different pets are.

The stories are all pretty amusing and fun to read. My favorite, though, is the one that had Blythe doing a Great Gatsby class project with the Biskit twins. The ending to that story was a little unexpected but definitely made me smile.

The book makes use of vibrant colors and illustrations that wouldn't be out of place in those Disney comics magazines I used to read when I was a kid. That's a good thing, though, since kids tend to be drawn to this style.

Thanks to NetGalley and IDW Publishing for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. The pets have some funny lines.
  2. The illustrations are eye-catching.
  3. You don't have to be a fan of the series to enjoy this. 

THE BAD:

  1.  I would have preferred more stories featuring Blythe.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
And how about those people who talk to themselves, amiright? I like to play a little game I call "Cuckoo or Bluetooth?" 
READ IT IF:

  1. You're a fan of The Littlest Pet Shop.
  2. You've always wanted to talk to animals.
  3. You like watching cartoons. 

RATING:
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Review: SHERLOCK HOLMES The Hound of the Baskervilles (Dover Graphic Novel Classics) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
The intrepid detective and his faithful assistant take on a supernatural challenge in one of Arthur Conan Doyle's most popular mysteries. This graphic novel's original illustrations accompany an easy-to-read account of Holmes and Watson's investigation of a family curse. Readers will be irresistibly drawn into the search for a giant spectral hound that haunts the fog-shrouded moors.
This Dover Graphic Novel Classic offers readers ages 8 and up an exciting introduction to a time-honored tale. Expertly abridged and packed with dramatic illustrations, this version offers a streamlined narrative that retains all of the storytelling essentials.

MY TAKE:
I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan so I'm always eager to read adaptations and any sort of material about Sherlock Holmes.

SHERLOCK HOLMES The Hound of the Baskervilles is the abridged version of the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles. The story is recreated in graphic novel form so it reads like a comic book.

As you can see from the cover image, the book isn't colored in. There's a note in the book saying "The evocative illustrations enable colorists to vividly bring this compelling story to life by using crayons, colored pencils or markers." If you're the type who likes coloring in picture books, or if graphic novels or comics never seem to be to your liking, then you'll probably enjoy reading and coloring in this book.

Personally, I like seeing what the colorists do. I don't know if it's because the novel was just in black and white but the illustration style wasn't my style at all. Perhaps I would have liked it more if it were in color.

The Hound of the Baskervilles was the first Sherlock Holmes story I ever read so I already knew how the story would turn out. Obviously, descriptions are richer and emotions are clearer in the original, but this book is still true to the original, and since it's a graphic novel, it's easy to see what is happening.

Thanks to NetGalley and Dover Publications for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. All the important elements of the story are present.
  2. It's easy to follow the story.
  3. You can decide for yourself how you would like to color in the characters and settings.

THE BAD:

  1. The lack of color feels noticeable. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
We are both men of science, doctor. This is nought but a fairy tale.
READ IT IF:

  1. You want to introduce your child to Sherlock Holmes.
  2. Your child prefers coloring books to actual novels.
  3. Your child likes reading comic books. 

RATING:
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Just keep in mind that the substitute you choose may effect the flavor of the dish, so be sure to taste your food-- you may need to add a bit more salt, sugar, or lemon juice.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Review: The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
According to the guys at Fairfield Academy, there are two types of girls: the kind you hook up with, and the kind you're friends with. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Reed is the second type. And she hates it. With just one year left to change her rank, she devises a plan to become the first type by homecoming, and she sets her sights on the perfect date-Justin Carter, Fairfield Academy's biggest hottie and most notorious player. With 57 days until the dance, Aly launches Operation Sex Appeal and sheds her tomboy image. The only thing left is for Justin actually to notice her. Enter best friend Brandon Taylor, the school's second biggest hottie, and now Aly's pretend boyfriend. With his help, elevating from funny friend to tempting vixen is only a matter of time. But when everything goes according to plan, the inevitable break up leaves their friendship in shambles, and Aly and Brandon with feelings they can't explain. And the fake couple discovers pretending can sometimes cost you the one thing you never expected to want.
MY TAKE:
My excitement to read this book came from the fact that it combines two of my favorite tropes: best friends becoming something more and pretend relationships becoming real relationships.

In The Fine Art of Pretending, Ashley has spent the first three years of high school as a bit of a tomboy and the kind of girl that you date long-term rather than just hook up with. She gets it into her head, however, that maybe becoming the hook-up kind of girl would mean that she finally gets guys to notice her and think of her as someone worth dating. After getting a makeover from her friends, she enlists her best friend Brandon to be her pretend boyfriend. Guys do end up noticing her, but as time goes by, her relationship with Brandon becomes more and more complicated.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It wasn't the deepest or most thought-provoking YA book I've read, but it was certainly a lot of fun and it definitely delivered in terms of romance.

There have been plenty of books, movies, etc., that feature best friends falling in love with each other. There have also been plenty of books, movies, etc. that have characters pretending to be in a relationship only for them to actually develop feelings for each other. Despite the many permutations of these tropes I've seen, this book still manages to be sweet and entertaining. The fact that this is the kind of book with an ending you've probably predicted before you even started doesn't take away from the story itself.

The story alternates between Aly's and Brandon's points-of-view. This allows us to see the thoughts of both characters and helps us know what they're thinking and fuels the urge to cheer them on.

While I found Aly irritating at first due to her insistence that dressing risque and hooking up will result in a better life experience for her, eventually I warmed up to her and started sympathizing with her. Brandon, on the other hand, was a sweet guy whom I liked from the get-go. He gets jealous several times and pretty protective/possessive, but personally, as long as he isn't the "don't-be-friends-with-him-anymore"-type, aka the controlling type, it's actually pretty cute.

I also liked Aly's friend Gabi and Brandon's friend Carlos. Those two are great together but didn't get as much page time as I'd hoped. If the author decides to write a sequel featuring Gabi and Carlos, I would definitely read it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Spencer Hill Contemporary for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. The chemistry between Aly and Brandon is practically palpable.
  2. There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.
  3. The author managed to turn possibly cliche moments into something that felt genuine.

THE BAD:

  1. Aly's quest isn't really a good plan. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Say all you want about guys, but I've learned the way to a girl's heart is through her stomach. Especially when French fries or chocolate are involved.
READ IT IF:

  1. You like stories where best friends become more than friends.
  2. You like stories wherein the main characters in a pretend relationship actually fall in love.
  3. You have feelings for your best friend. 

RATING:
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