Book Review: Amy Maurer Jones’ April Drools

aprildroolsTitle: April Drools
Author: Amy Maurer Jones
Genre: YA / Paranormal
Series: Yes / Short 2
Rating: 5 out of 5
My Copy: Review Copy via Author

Synopsis:
Hardy Hunter, here (your favorite werewolf). Welcome back to Mundane High. Sadly, not much has changed since Valentine’s Day. You’d think my vampire BFF dating the very human captain of the football team would have made life a little easier for a supernatural at Mundane High, but no such luck. Samantha and I are still lonely outcasts looking for love in all the wrong places, but that’s no surprise. The vamp always gets the girl (or guy, in this case) in Hollywood, but what about the werewolf? Yeah, not so much—unless there’s a new she-were in town.

Claire Crescent is beyond beautiful, and I haven’t failed to notice. Unfortunately, my human male counterparts haven’t either. Making everything more complicated, the mate Claire left behind at her old school still haunts her heart. For the time being, I’m playing it smart by offering Claire my friendship. I pray, after time, my friendship with her will develop into something deeper.

How did that 1950s love song go? Why Do Fools Fall in Love? Um, yeah, you can say it: My life still sucks!

I adored April Drools! Of course there goes my theory of Hardy secretly crushing on Rhapsody. April Drools picks up a few months after Vampire Valentine takes place and our favorite couple Rhapsody and Reese are still together. This time, we get Hardy’s story and oh what a story it is!

Our three favorite supernatural beings are still misfits, even though the school has become more aware of them now that Rhapsody has been dating Reese. When the new girl, Claire, enrolls, every male has eyes for her and Hardy isn’t the exception. Taking one look at her, our favorite werewolf just turns into putty and he’s a bit upset when Rhapsody and Samantha approach her. Only because he’s not sure of what to make of her. Claire isn’t too thrilled to learn she’s one of four supernatural beings now enrolled. At her old school, they pretty much dominated the scene. Claire and Hardy quickly become fast friends, but when a fellow student begins to ask her out, Hardy’s temper flares because he’s protective of her. The two quickly become an item, but when they run into Claire’s ex-boyfriend at a local theater, will Claire’s feelings change?

I’m keeping quiet about the ending, but I had so much reading April Drools. Hardy is such a great character and Jones does a great job with his voice. I love the interaction between Rhapsody and Samantha with Hardy. The three truly are friends and as you read, you can easily feel the comradeship the three have. Rhapsody calls Hardy Fido with Samantha laughing along calling him Fee-Fee too. I really liked how Rhapsody and Samantha welcomed Claire into her inner circle. Ask anyone who has moved, it’s not easy being the new kid and to have two people welcome you with open arms is heartwarming. I felt Claire’s uneasiness at first and here Jones showcases how well she’s familiar with students.

April Drools is a fun read! If you haven’t read Vampire Valentine, I recommend it so you’re familiar with the characters. It’s okay to pick this up and dive right in if you’re so inclined.

Book Review: Arthur Gonzalez’s The Photo Traveler

phototravelTitle: The Photo Traveler
Author: Arthur Gonzalez
Genre: YA / Science Fiction
Series: Yes / Book 1
Rating: 4 out of 5
My Copy: Purchased

I’m a fan of science fiction and as a historian, time travel plots can leave me rolling my eyes. When I came across Arthur Gonzalez’s The Photo Traveler, I was a bit unsure of how to proceed, but within the first three chapters, I was hooked and didn’t want to stop reading.

Life hasn’t been easy for seventeen-year-old Gavin Hillstone. His adopted father is a drunk and beats him and his adopted sister lies to get her way. They both blame Gavin for the death of his adopted mother and he lives with the guilt knowing he caused her death. One night after a beating, he’s had enough. Finding his original adoption papers, Gavin decides to look for the grandparents who gave him up for adoption. One the way to Washington D.C., he encounters some unsavory characters who ask him for the glass vials and he has no idea what they are talking about. He eludes them and when he arrives in DC, he finds his grandparents are alive. Gavin confronts them and they admit to giving him up to protect him. They then tell him a secret…he’s a photo traveler and as one, he’s able to travel anywhere in the world as long as there’s a physical photograph or a drawing of an event as it occurred. Gavin goes on a journey to find the truth of what happened to his parents and along the way discovers how vital it is not to change the past because of the way it affects the future.

The writing is engaging and Gonzalez definitely is able to put the reader into the mindset of a seventeen-year-old boy. It’s quite easy for a YA science fiction centered book to be filled with clichés, but Gonzales does an excellent job keeping things fresh. The Photo Traveler is also well researched and incorporates aspects of history in the narrative. At one point Gavin travels to 17th century America and the Salem Witch Trials. I cringed when I read where he was going because anyone from the 21st century would stand out and instead of brushing that tidbit aside, Gonzalez addresses it. What’s a 17th century person suppose to think at the height of the witch trials when they see a teenage boy dressed in jeans? I won’t say what happens, but I appreciated the reaction to the incident.

In terms of character development, it’s not thorough, but since this is part of a trilogy, it makes sense to draw the characters over the course of the series. Without a doubt, this book is about Gavin and the journey to find out who he is. We find out how Gavin’s adopted mother died and it will be interesting to see if by chance a picture of the events of that day exists and if it does, will Gavin travel to that specific day? Also I have a feeling there’s more to Gavin’s photography teacher. He took an early interest in Gavin and something just doesn’t sit well with me. I think all readers will be able to associate with Gavin and his need for acceptance. Here’s a teenage boy on the cusp on being an adult who doesn’t know why he was given up. One moment he had parents and a loving home and the in the next instant he has nothing. The heartache he experiences will sadden you and make you want to reach out to hug him.

My favorite quotes:

But since I suck at lying, I was probably as believable as that girl, Cynthia, in our class who constantly shows up with hickies on her neck but keeps swearing she’s still a virgin.

When I open my eyes, a twelve-ton elephant is staring right back at me. It gives me the creeps.

With all works of fiction, especially science fiction, the ability to suspend disbelief is needed and The Photo Traveler is no exception. There are a lot of unanswered questions mostly with regards to Gavin’s mistake and inadvertently changing history. I expected a bit more drawn out discussion pertaining to the subject, but there wasn’t one. Book 2, The Peace Hunter, should touch upon this and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Arthur Gonzalez has done an excellent job with his debut novel and he’s an author to watch.

Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway-Jessa Russo’s Ever

everTitle: Ever
Author: Jessa Russo
Genre: YA / Paranormal
Series: Yes / Book 1 of 3
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Review copy via Author

Seventeen-year old Ever Van Ruysdael has a secret: she’s been in love with her childhood best friend, Frankie, for years and never got the chance to tell him. Two years ago, Frankie and Ever were involved in a car accident and Frankie died. He helped Ever stay alive by guiding her to safety and Frankie became ghost following his death. He’s been living with Ever and her family since that night. Although she knows they can never be together she longs for a boyfriend or to experience the feelings of falling in love. When Frankie’s father sells his house, she quickly catches the eye of the new neighbor’s son, Toby. Soon her and Toby are spending time together and she has to grapple with her new feelings for him while keeping him a secret from Frankie. Things are not what they seem and when Ever finds out Toby’s true motivates, she has to deal with the death of a beloved family member and the reality that Frankie may be back.

Jessa Russo does a good job of engaging the reader immediately and Ever is well written. In terms of characterization, I really liked Ever’s best friend, Jessie. Your heart aches for what she goes through regarding her family life. Putting myself into Ever’s shoes and if my best friend had a life like her’s, I would do everything I can to be there for her. In that one scene with Jessie’s mother and her boyfriend, I’m glad Jessie had the support of Ever’s parents.

There are a lot of unanswered questions. The first one is regarding Frankie and how easily he just adjusted to being a ghost and living with Ever’s family. I wish Russo would have explained a little more of her family’s reaction to having him around. Also, why did he focus on Ever and not his own family? I believe a lot of the heartache his parents experienced could have been avoided, but alas in order to have this plot, he needed to be with Ever. There’s also a line that had me scratching my head. When Ever’s mother is standing next to Ariadne, Ever makes note that both of them look alike. That unsettled me a bit because it’s never explored and there’s mention of Ever having a sister dying before she was born. Furthermore, there’s an incident involving Ever’s father and Toby says it was an accident and it wasn’t supposed to happen. Why the change in plans?

I debated heavily with the rating and often bordered on a three / four rating. Ultimately, I went with the three because of some unanswered questions and for the first quarter of the novel. Ever started strong, but it just fell flat with the constant feelings Ever had regarding Toby. It picked up once Ariadne made an appearance and even though she felt like a caricature at times, she was the second intriguing character. Frankie for me stole the show and I wish we had more of his perspective. He’s the first to warn Ever about Toby and says he’s not a good guy. Why is that Frankie? Did Frankie have an idea of Toby’s employment? What was his reaction towards Ariadne when was he given the choice of what ultimately becomes Ariadne’s gift to Ever?

Ever ends on a cliffhanger, which I won’t reveal, but I’m looking forward to reading book 2, Evade, because I’d love to know what happens to Ever and Frankie. The premise is interesting and if you’re a fan of the paranormal genre, then I recommend this book.

EVER Review Tour Banner Click on the banner for the full review tour schedule


giveaway
Jessa is giving away 1 signed copy of Ever and Evade (when it’s available) to one lucky winner. Click here to enter.

Spotlight: The Photo Traveler

phototravel Title: The Photo Traveler
Author: Arthur J. Gonzalez
Genre: YA / Science Fiction

Synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Gavin Hillstone is resigned to being miserable for the rest of his life. Left alone in the world after his parents died in a fire when he was four, he was placed in foster care, which for him meant ending up in an abusive home with an alcoholic adoptive father.

Gavin’s only escape is in taking and creating images. His camera is his refuge from the unending torture and isolation of daily life in his “family.”

Until he learns by accident that he isn’t alone in the world after all. His father’s parents are still alive and living in Washington DC.

When he takes the plunge and travels 3,000 miles to find his grandparents, he learns that they—and he—are part of something much bigger, and more dangerous, than he could ever have imagined. Something that has always put his family at risk and that will now threaten his own life, while forever changing it.

He learns that he is one of the last descendants of a small group of Photo Travelers—people who can travel through time and space through images. But his initial excitement turns to fear, when he soon discovers that he and his grandparents are being pursued by the fierce remnants of a radical European Photo Traveler cult, the Peace Hunters. What Gavin has, they want!

His adventure will take him to past eras, like The Great Depression and the Salem Witch Trials. Gavin will have to discover who he really is and must make choices that spell the difference between life and death for himself, for the relatives he now knows and loves, and for the girl he will come to love.

For Gavin Hillstone, life will never be the same.

Where to Purchase The Photo Traveler:

Amazon (paperback) | Amazon (Kindle) | Barnes & Noble | eBookpie | Kobo | Smashwords

ajgAbout Arthur
THE PHOTO TRAVELER is young adult author Arthur J. Gonzalez’s first novel. Arthur was born and raised in Miami surrounded by his loud Cuban family. He graduated from the University of Florida, where he acquired his coffee obsession and his chocolate hoarding antics. He’s the proud father of one baby girl, Sookie–his miniature schnoodle dog. Arthur is a self-professed goofball who spends 98% of his life laughing. He’s now working on his second novel.

Connect with Arthur
Official Website
Facebook Page
Twitter: arthurjgonzalez
Goodreads: Author Page

Book Review: Shannen Camp’s Finding June

16161787Title: Finding June
Author: Shannen Crane Camp
Genre: YA
Series: Yes / Book 1
Rating: 4 out of 5
My Copy: Purchased

Can we take a moment to discuss the cover? It’s beautiful! I love the vintage and Hollywood feel to it and it definitely goes hand in hand with the premise of Finding June. What I really like about it, are the clothes worn by the cover models because it is something June and her friend Joseph would wear.

Imagine for a moment having the opportunity of a lifetime: working alongside Hollywood’s heartthrob, Lukas Leighton. For sixteen-year-old June Laurie, her dream of being an actress is about to come true when she’s given the opportunity to audition for her favorite television series, Forensic Faculty. When she lands the job, she’s thrust into the Hollywood lifestyle and quickly learns the business. June believes everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt and soon finds out not everyone in the business, is who they appear to be. June is tested several times and she has to come to grips with her beliefs and the expectations of others.

It’s refreshing to read a book that goes behind the scenes of a television show, but isn’t too technical and you can tell Camp did her research. Although I have a slight theatre background, what goes on behind the camera in terms of filming or a table read (a little different from my own experience of a theatre table read) was pretty new to me. Camp takes us on June’s journey and every new experience she had, I felt it. I could feel her anxiousness while waiting see the casting director and when she first sees Lukas up close during her audition, I think I fainted alongside June! On her first day on the set, I could feel her butterflies and when she made friends among the cast, they became my friends too. It’s rare for author to evoke these feelings and I do believe readers will associate with June.

Finding June is Latter-Day Saint/Mormon centered with the mention of June and Joseph attending seminary. A good friend of mine explained seminary as a daily class you attend before regular school classes and it’s a way to study the scriptures in-depth. Camp doesn’t fully explain this, but you do get an idea of what it is as you read. Although the Mormon religion is at the center of the book, it is by no means preachy and I believe if you aren’t religious, you can still enjoy this book.

Character development is solid and I loved the fact June was strong and was able to stand up for herself on numerous occasions. For example, she’s uncomfortable with her clothes on set and asks the costume designer if it is possible to get something a little more modest. June daydreams of Lukas like any teen girl, but she isn’t your typical naive teenage heroine. Joseph points out that she’s too smart to go out with a man who is into bar hopping and has a different woman on his arm. June responds to him saying Lukas might be not be at the bar drinking and is there for the atmosphere. She’s careful to take in her settings and realizes her mistakes quickly. Furthermore, she doesn’t sit back waiting for things to happen, rather she makes them happen.

Overall Finding June is a charming read and you’ll thoroughly enjoy it.

Book Review: Amy Maurer Jones’ Vampire Valentine

vampire valentine copyTitle: Vampire Valentine
Author: Amy Maurer Jones
Genre: YA / Paranormal
Series: Yes / Short 1
Rating: 4 out of 5
My Copy: Review Copy via Author

A vampire, werewolf, and a witch walk into a high school…no this isn’t the start of a joke, but the characters in Amy Maurer Jones’ paranormal comedy short. Vampire Valentine is about three misfit supernatural beings who happen to be best friends. Our vampire is Rhapsody Ripper who has crooked fangs and wears braces. Hardy Hunter is a werewolf and is on the football team. He’s protective of Rhapsody and there might be little more to their friendship, but Jones doesn’t expand on this (I believe Hardy is secretly in love with her). Finally, we have Samantha Spell, Rhapsody’s best friend, who happens to be a witch, but she’s still learning to cast spells. So what happens when Rhapsody gets asked to the Valentine’s Day dance by the star footballer? What chaos will ensue? I’m keeping quiet, but I’ll say this, Jones reminds us that high school really does suck.

Synopsis:
How is it that vampires, werewolves and witches always manage to become glamorized in Hollywood? They are forever portrayed as the overwhelmingly gorgeous, record-breaking athletic types with off-the-chart SAT scores! This is such a load of crap. Let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute. It’s never easy being different, even under normal circumstances. Now factor in the reality that your DNA is something far from human and imagine yourself wandering the halls of an ordinary mortal high school. You still think this would be cool, right? Well, you would be dead wrong (no pun intended). Take it from someone who can claim this miserable fate, it totally sucks!

The name’s Rhapsody Ripper and I am a freshman at Mundane High. Everyone in my school hates me and my two best friends, Hardy Hunter and Samantha Spell. Why? The answer is very simple. We’re freaks of nature, complete outcasts. We’re para-ab-normal misfits and we don’t fit in. Our peers go out of their way to avoid us on a regular basis, but today something happened that has never ever happened before.

One of them was nice to me. Actually, he was much more than nice. With only five days remaining until Valentine’s Day, Reese Good, the deliciously warm-blooded star quarterback, invited me to the Sweetheart Dance. Maybe this year I won’t have to spend the holiday invented by a greeting card company alone.

What I really liked about Vampire Valentine is that it reminds us what it feels like to be in high school all over again. Do you remember your high school crush? I do, his name was Gunther and he wasn’t the star football player, but he did play on the team. I’d get all tongue tied when he’d try to talk to me, so imagine my surprise when he called me one day and I hung up on him! When Reese Good asks Rhapsody to the dance, I was cheering her on, but then immediately my mind went to Drew Barrymore’s character in Never Been Kissed, where she’s asked to the prom and at the end, her date throws eggs at her from the limo with his real date. Lucky for us that doesn’t happen to Rhapsody, but we do have jealous girls and you can imagine what they’ll try to do to sabotage Rhapsody’s big day. Never fear Rhapsody has her best friend to back her up.

In paranormal books, we are often given characters with perfect powers. I loved how Samantha was learning how to be a witch and there’s a hilarious scene involving a spell gone wrong. Jones reminds what it’s like to be the outsider. My 15 year old self really could associate with Rhapsody and Samantha. Jones also shows us how students don’t quite understand people from different backgrounds. She does a superb job in Wildflower with this and here she touches upon it with her three misfits. For example, Rhapsody is asked to play the witch in the school play so her fellow students can burn her at the stake and she has to explain that she’s a vampire. Jones is a teacher and it’s very clear from reading this and Wildflower, that she truly knows how to get into a teenager’s mindset.

Vampire Valentine is a delightful read! If you’re a parent, this is definitely a book you and your teenager can both read and enjoy.

Book Review: Kat Rosenfield’s Amelia Anne is Dead & Gone

11737266Title: Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone
Author: Kat Rosenfield
Genre: Mystery / YA
Series: No
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Purchased

Those of us who grew up in a small town can relate to the feeling of watching your peers leave full of hope and then returning, finding themselves trapped with no way out. On the night of her high school graduation, Becca Williams is dumped by her boyfriend James. She doesn’t know while she was left heartbroken, another woman, Amelia Ann Richardson, took her last breath. In many ways Becca fears being trapped in Bridgeton and in the end Amelia Anne is forever stuck there.

As far as character development goes, there’s not much there. I learned more about Amelia Anne from herself than those around her. In terms of our main character, Becca, I could relate to her and the dread of knowing she might never leave the town grew up in, but who exactly is she? She’s really bland and I found it hard to like her. When we’re told by other characters she’s stuck up, show me. Then we have her boyfriend, James and it’s pretty apparent her parents disapprove of him because he’s a dropout. He harbors a secret that is later revealed and I have to wonder about his personality. What drew Becca to him? Rosenfield also missed an opportunity to expand on Becca’s father as a character. We’re told he’s the town judge and in a murder investigation he’s kept abreast regarding the status. He’s virtually nonexistent and provides a few details that Becca takes away from, but overall there’s much there. I think back to the rest of the supporting cast and walk away with the same feeling. There’s so much that could have been expanded on, but wasn’t. I wonder for the most part if it’s because Rosenfield was trying to remain mysterious by not giving us in-depth characters.

A few readers have mentioned difficulty in the narration with alternating point of views. I found no problem with the set up and in many ways we needed the differing narratives. This also isn’t your typical mystery with a running thread and trying to figure out the events that lead to Amelia Anne’s death. Instead Rosenfield utilizes alternating POVs from First to Third to take us on the journey based in the future that parallels with the events in the past. We’re also presented with three suspects early on and it is pretty easy to narrow it down to one. At times I really wanted ____ to be the murder then realized I didn’t, because what would that mean for Becca? I then decided if ___ really was the murder, then Becca had the excuse to leave without looking back. I’ll keep tight-lipped regarding the ending, but it was fairly obvious early on who the suspect was. For me this isn’t the typical formula followed by most mystery writers, but it works.

Despite a few flaws there’s no mistaking Rosenfield’s beautiful writing. It’s evocative and haunting. Several times I found myself just rereading sentences because of the prose.

Becca describes people coming back to town and the inability to leave, “I’d seen it happen, how hard it was to get out. Every year, one or two kids would visit from college for a long October weekend and simply never leave. They came home, cocooned themselves in the familiar radius of the town limits, and never broke free again. Years later, you’d see them working in the kitchen at the pizza place, or sitting at the bar in the East Bank Tavern. Shoulders hunched, jaw set, skin slack. And in the waning light of their eyes, the barest sensation that once upon a time, they been somewhere else… or maybe it was only a dream.”

On the discovery of Amelia Anne’s body, “She was dry, dry inside like a ten-thousand-year-old tomb, with the last of her life barely dampening the dirt underneath.”

Finally, describing how plans are put to a stop by outside forces, “That girl, dead and gone, her spirit trapped forever just inside town limits—she’d come from someplace, was going somewhere. Until destiny had stepped into the road in front of her, stopped her forward motion, drawn a killing claw against the white, fluttering swell of her future. Whispering, ‘Oh no, you don’t.’

When you made plans, the saboteurs came out to play.”

I had a difficult time deciding what I should rate Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone. In my eyes, it’s a 3; meaning it’s good and not quite up to 4. Ultimately what makes it a 3 is the character development and the timeline. We start off at Becca’s graduation then all of sudden we are in July and at the end of August with no real sense of time passing or being told. Furthermore, the author in several places mentions a past event occurring in the town and never finishes what she’s saying. Later she picks up right where she left off, but never mentions she’s talking about the past event and it’s up to the reader to recognize it’s the past she’s discussing. I also have a slight problem with the ending (I still have questions surrounding a few key pieces) and it all seemed rushed.

Overall Kat Rosenfield’s Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is a strong debut and she has a bright future ahead of her. I, for one, can’t wait to see her future work.