Sunday, September 25, 2016

Book Review: P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #2) by Jenny Han

Release date: May 26, 2015
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 352

Description (from Goodreads):

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I've Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

P.S. I Still Love You continues from where To All The Boys I've Left Before ends. Lara Jean's fake relationship with Peter is over and while she tried her best not to actually fall for him, she failed, because Peter is all she can think about. When it seems like Peter has a hard time forgetting Lara Jean too, they get together and for a while, everything seems perfect. But then someone from Lara Jean's past, someone she never really had closure with, returns and suddenly Lara Jean finds herself confused and not quite sure about the decision she has made.

As I mentioned in my review for To All The Boys I've Loved Before, I think this necessarily wouldn't have had to be a series. By ending the story where the first book ends or by adding a few more chapters, Jenny Han could have finished the story in a satisfying manner. While I am not one for series, mostly because I suck keeping up with them, I think P.S. I Still Love you a satisfying continuation to the story. Do we really need a book three? Not sure. But I will definitely look forward to seeing what readers think about the upcoming third book.

The element that really made me fall in love with the first book and with this one as well are the characters, especially Lara Jean and her sisters. Lara Jean is such a likable, relatable character to spend time with -- she is confused as hell most of the time, but who wasn't as a teenager? She questions her thoughts, actions, and decisions all the time and while she might try to deny it at times, what other people think of her is extremely important to her. I think through the element of bullying this book introduces Jenny Han taps quite well into what it is like to be a girl in high school and how differently boys and girls are treated when it comes to things like sexuality and relationships. 

I know Peter is a fan favorite, but I honestly feel nothing towards him. If I would have been looking for a purely romantic YA contemporary, I probably wouldn't have liked this series at all, because I think Peter is kind of the worst most of the time. He is less absent than present, spends more time with his ex (yes, he is comforting her as a friend, but still) and at least occasionally treats Lara Jean as someone who is obviously going to wait for him to do his thing because "girls like her" don't usually date guys like him. Yes, there might be some chemistry between the two when they actually spend time together, but I just constantly kept thinking that Lara Jean could do better.

The guy from her past is kind of the opposite of Peter in many ways -- he is willing to give all of his attention to Lara Jean and clearly has no other girls in his mind. But in some way, he is this dream-like figure, almost too perfect. Lara Jean has fun with him, but none of it really feels real, if you know what I mean. 

One of the absolute treasures of his book is Stormy, a woman who lives in the nursing home Lara Jean volunteers at. She represents a whole different generation, but as Lara Jean spends time with her, one quickly notices that things are not that different after all. Sure, we have social media and all that now, but the essentials seem same. 

Lara Jean's family dynamics remain as the most interesting element of her story, and I love seeing how she grows as a sort of maternal figure to Kitty. I think this book also brings new maternal figures to her life in the form of Stormy and their neighbor. And while Margot is not physically present for the majority of the book, she still has a huge part in the story.

I didn't enjoy P.S. I Still Love You quite as much as I enjoyed To All The Boys I've Loved Before, but nevertheless found myself entertained and touched by this continuation to Lara Jean's story. As I said, I am curious to see how the third book turns out. At least the cover for it is absolutely beautiful.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Reread Review: To All The Boys I've Loved Before (To All The Boys I've Loved Before #1) by Jenny Han

Release date: April 15, 2014
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 369

Description (from Goodreads):

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

I quite rarely reread books, but because I was dying to read P.S. I Still Love You and didn't really remember the details of To All the Boys I've Loved Before, I thought it would be good to give it a reread before I moved to the second book in the trilogy. 

I read To All the Boys I've Loved Before right around the time it was released in 2014 and couldn't put it down. I gave it glowing five stars and a rave review. When I picked it up for reread almost two and a half years later, I was slightly scared of my possible reaction. Would I love it as much? 

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I can tell you that it was just as awesome as I remember it being, and I think I might have liked it, even more, this time around. 

I love the idea of writing letters to get over something. For Lara Jean the letters represent getting over a guy, but I think you could as easily write letters like that about something else. It is extremely interesting to see how Lara has grown from those letters she has written and how she has changed as a person. 

While I love the romantic aspects of the book, my favorite thing about this book is the representation of Lara Jean's family relationships. She has two sisters, Kitty and Margot, and while she loves them equally, her relationships with them are quite different. Kitty is the younger sister that has pretty much been raised by Lara Jean and Margot while Margot is the wise older sister who takes a leap and leaves her family behind to attend college in Scotland. Margot's departure, while not unexpected, changes the family dynamics and Lara Jean has to adapt into the role of not only a sister, but also someone Kitty can look up to. While their father is around, there are some things girls just find easier to talk about with their sisters. 

The book presents two possible love interests for Lara Jean -- Peter and Josh. Peter is the popular guy. Josh is Margot's ex-boyfriend. While Lara Jean finds herself thinking about these both guys, I wouldn't say this book really has a love triangle, because like I said, at the end of the day this book is more about the family dynamics and Lara Jean's growth as a person when she finds herself from a new situation. So if you are someone who does not like love triangles I think you can still give this one a go.

After rereading To All The Boys I've Loved Before I cannot wait to see how Lara Jean's story continues. Like I said in my original review, I think this book could have been standalone with a slightly ambiguous ending, but I won't complain about the chance to get to know more about these wonderful characters. 



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Cover Reveal - ALL LACED UP by Erin Fletcher


Let us know what you think of the cover for All Laced Up (Breakaway #1) by Erin Fletcher, which releases October 10, 2016!

This cover reveal is brought to you by Entangled TEEN!


About All Laced Up:

Everyone loves hockey superstar Pierce Miller. Everyone except Lia Bailey. When the two are forced to teach a skating class to save the rink, Lia’s not sure she’ll survive the pressure of Nationals and Pierce’s ego. Not only can’t he remember her name, he signed her bottle of water like she was one of his groupies. Ugh. But if there’s one thing Lia knows better than figure skating, it’s hockey. Hoping to take his ego down a notch—or seven—she logs into his team website under an anonymous name to give him pointers on his less-than-stellar playing. Turns out, Pierce isn’t arrogant at all. And they have a lot in common. Too bad he’s falling for the anonymous girl online. No matter how much fun they’re starting to have in real life, she’s afraid he’s going to choose fake-Lia over the real one… Disclaimer: This book contains a swoony hockey player (and his equally swoony friends!), one-too-many social media accounts, kisses that’ll melt ice, and a secret identity that might not be so secret after all…

Want to read more? Pre-order your copy of All Laced Up today!

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Amazon CA | Amazon UK


About Erin Fletcher:

Erin is a young adult author from North Carolina. She is a morning person who does most of her writing before sunrise, while drinking excessive quantities of coffee. She believes flip-flops qualify as year-round footwear, and would spend every day at the beach if she could. She has a bachelor's degree in mathematics, which is almost never useful when writing books.
Website | Blog | Twitter | Goodreads | Entangled Publishing

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday (#71) - My Fall Playlist

I'm not really one to make new playlists for every single season (except maybe Christmas), but I thought for this week's free audio related post I would share with you ten songs that I have been listening to a lot this fall. Some of these went through intense play already during the summer while some are new additions for the fall. 

I have been listening to a lot of these while working on my thesis and I'm always on the look out for new artists to listen to. So if you like especially country music and have an artist in mind you think I should listen to, please let me know in the comments! 

What have you been blasting from your speakers/headphones recently?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Book Review: The Mistake (Off-Campus #2) by Elle Kennedy

Release date: May 6, 2015
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Pages: 296

Description (from Goodreads:)

He’s a player in more ways than one…

College junior John Logan can get any girl he wants. For this hockey star, life is a parade of parties and hook-ups, but behind his killer grins and easygoing charm, he hides growing despair about the dead-end road he’ll be forced to walk after graduation. A sexy encounter with freshman Grace Ivers is just the distraction he needs, but when a thoughtless mistake pushes her away, Logan plans to spend his final year proving to her that he’s worth a second chance.

Now he’s going to need to up his game…

After a less than stellar freshman year, Grace is back at Briar University, older, wiser, and so over the arrogant hockey player she nearly handed her V-card to. She’s not a charity case, and she’s not the quiet butterfly she was when they first hooked up. If Logan expects her to roll over and beg like all his other puck bunnies, he can think again. He wants her back? He’ll have towork for it. This time around, she’ll be the one in the driver’s seat…and she plans on driving him wild.

It's probably no news for those who have read my blog/social media feeds before that I LOVE HOCKEY. In addition to my dog, my family & friends and books/movies/TV, hockey can be counted as one of the greatest loves of my life. Some of my best memories are related to hockey - attending games, meeting players, spending time with my friends. Pretty much, HOCKEY IS MY EVERYTHING. Because of my love for hockey, I set huge expectations for The Deal, which managed to deliver what I was looking for. Now, The Mistake has done the same! With a wonderful set of characters and a romance to die for, The Mistake is just the kind of hockey romance I wanted to read.

Logan is a major player. Ever since he started college, he has been sleeping around a lot and hasn't really even been thinking about a relationship as a viable option for him. But watching his best friend Garrett with his girlfriend Hannah is making Logan question his decisions. Believing he is in love with Hannah, Logan is looking for ways to stop himself from feeling anything. Then he meets Grace, and quickly innocent hook-ups become much more serious either of them was prepared for. 

Grace's freshman year hasn't really been what she expected. When John Logan, one of the biggest hockey stars of the school suddenly seems interested in her, she does not quite know how to act. Once she spends more time with Logan she realizes that there could actually be something in there. But is she ready for a relationship? And is relationship something Logan is really looking for? 

I loved the dynamic between Logan and Grace. At first, Logan seems like a cocky player, which he kind of is, but as the story develops, Elle Kennedy shows another side to him that absolutely made me fall in love with me. And while Logan might be cocky and a bit of a player, he is not really a "bad boy" and throughout the novel acts like a gentleman, which is something I really appreciate. I loved seeing how Grace's confidence grows as her relationship with Logan deepens, and seeing her take control of her own sexuality and desires felt really empowering and kickass. 

While this book is mostly good fun and consist a lot of hilarious exchanges, there's also a more serious side to it. Logan's family relationships are more than ideal, and there were scenes here that absolutely broke my heart. I think Elle Kennedy has found the perfect kind of balance for this stories with the more serious stuff, the hilarious banter, and the sexytimes. The supporting characters are all extremely interesting and I cannot wait to continue with the series to see who's story will be covered next. 

(I totally want a book about Pace and Evelyn, the airhead hosts of the campus radio show!)

My review of The Deal was made better with gifs of Sidney Crosby, because he's the hockey babe I was thinking about while reading The Deal. I think in this review I will go with Pekka Rinne, my first hockey love and my sweet Finnish prince (he is seriously THE NICEST HUMAN BEING I'VE EVER MET!)

I THINK YOU ARE PERFECTION (*intense fangirling since 2005*


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Just Around the Corner?

I know there are those people who hate even thinking about Christmas months ahead. I remember my undergrad roommate didn't want to listen to Christmas songs until the end of November, which was a challenge for me because I could start blasting Christmas songs the moment my summer holiday ends.

As those of you who have been frequenting my blog for an extended period of time might know, I LOVE CHRISTMAS MOVIES (I think last year I shared reviews for about 20 Christmas/Holiday movies). Though there are a lot of things to love about the holiday season, like the food, gifts, etc. Christmas movies have to be on top of the list for me alongside spending time with my family.

So while Christmas might be still quite far away (150 days to be exact!) I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite Christmas movies of all time. In addition to watching a lot of the TV movies released yearly, these are the ones I try to watch every single holiday season if possible.

Jingle All the Way is far from a cinematic masterpiece, but growing up, I really thought it was one. I remember this was one of those movies they showed on TV every single Christmas, and it was a movie my whole family was able to enjoy together. This probably caters best to the 90s crowd, those who see it as an emblem of nostalgia.

Love Actually is a movie my bought for me for Christmas one year because I used to collect Hugh Grant movies (I was obsessed with Notting Hill when I was like 10). I love the multiple storylines, the romance and humor. A film shown on TV almost every Christmas (at least where I live), so it is easy to catch it up during the Holiday season.

It's a Wonderful Life is a true Christmas movie classic and probably the best Christmas movie ever made. James Stewart is absolutely fabulous in this one, and though I know what happens in it, I do cry every single time I see it.

The Polar Express is so good that it makes my list of all-time favorite animations! I love the music, animated Tom Hanks, and the magic of this story. There are a lot of good Christmas animations around, but I think this one is the absolutely best one!

A Christmas Kiss is a film I came across in a kind of strange way. I was sitting in an airplane on my way back from Edinburgh to Finland for the holidays, and I saw a girl next to me watching it from her iPad. Because I am shy and didn't want to seem stalkerish, I didn't ask her what film it was, but tried to remember visuals of it, so I could find it later. After a brief Google session, I found what I was looking for and ended up watching the film. A Christmas Kiss is a cute, romantic, fairly short Christmas movie that caters best probably to those who like romantic comedies/dramas and who don't look down their nose on made-for-TV movies. I think I have seen this a total of 5 times now and I am already looking forward to my yearly rewatch (or two).

I love everything and anything to do with royal characters (thanks to The Princess Diaries), so when I first heard about A Princess for Christmas I knew I had to see it ASAP (I think I watched it for the first time in September just because I couldn't wait for the Holiday season). A woman travels to a small European country with her nephew and niece and meets a charming prince (played by Outlander's Sam Heughan). What more could you ask for?

Holiday Inn is the most recent addition to my list because I saw it for the first time during last year's holiday season. It has a great cast, catchy songs and while some of the content might be quite aged and questionable, it is a charming product of it's time that managed to make me feel the holiday spirit!

The Shop Around the Corner might be familiar to those of you who have seen You've Got Mail, because the storyline is pretty much the same (You've Got Mail is based on a Hungarian play that was the basis for this movie as well), only in this one they send letters instead of emails. James Stewart is, once again, absolutely charming and I always love the storyline featuring people who first can't stand each other slowly falling in love.

There are a number of other films I could have included here, but once the holiday season gets closer, I will share more Christmas related content, like previews/reviews of the 2016 Hallmark Christmas movies! 

If you are like me and already thinking about Christmas and everything that comes with it, you should definitely check out Paperless Post and their awesome selection of Christmas cards. I am loving the photo Christmas cards (I totally want to make so featuring my dog) + the Online Christmas cards option seems like one that could be very useful too! There are TONS of beautiful template options to choose from and I'm sure everyone can find the kind of style they're looking for!

NOTE: I do realize that not everyone celebrates Christmas/the Holiday season and while this post is clearly targeted for Christmas, it is just my own point-of-view and in no way a generalization of what I think everyone should do on December 25th.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book Review: The Deal (Off-Campus, #1) by Elle Kennedy

Release date: February 24, 2015
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Pages: 358
Purchase links: Amazon - Book Depository - Adlibris

Description (from Goodreads):

She’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy... 

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice…even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.

...and it’s going to be oh so good. 

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn’t going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

Let's just start by saying that I FREAKING LOVED THIS BOOK! I feel like this is the book I have been wanting to read ever since I read the first book in Cora Carmack's Rusk University series - a book with a college setting, romance and athletes playing a sport so near and dear to my heart - ice hockey! 

Hannah has left her hometown behind to attend college and focus on her passions, mainly singing. With her past still majorly playing a role in her present, she hasn't fully engaged in the college experience due to an emotional and traumatic baggage she has been carrying around since she was fifteen years old. When she sees Justin, the star of the football team, in her ethics class, she forms a kind of crush on him she has never experienced before. As an artist, Hannah moves in the different circles with the jocks, but she gets vibes from Justin that make her believe he is kind, gentle, intelligent and pretty much the kind of guy she has been dreaming for her whole life. Too bad she is invisible for Justin and way too shy and nervous to actually make a move.

Garrett is the star of the hockey team and the son of a famous hockey player. He is cocky, confident, handsome and extremely sexy - and he definitely knows that. He has a reputation of being a playboy, and to Hannah, he is the king of the jocks, the kind of guy she has nothing in common with. When Garrett asks Hannah to tutor him for an exam he has to retake for the ethics class, Hannah's instant answer it "NO WAY". But Garrett is very determined to get Hannah to help him, and as he notices Hannah's crush on Justin, he realizes that if Hannah helps him, he can help Hannah. So the two make a deal - Hannah will tutor Garrett while Garrett will help Hannah lift her status which in turn will help her to become desirable for Justin. Of course, things do not go as planned...

The description calls Garrett "bad boy", but I don't think that is really the correct categorization for him. Sure, he is cocky and confident and sleeps around, but he is not the kind of bad boy you sometimes find from novels like these, aka violent or aggressive. Actually, the more I got into this book, the more it proved to me what a good guy Garrett really is. That of course lead to me absolutely falling in love with him. I love his confidence and his sense of humor, but there is also an extremely vulnerable side of him that made me swoon. Most importantly, he is respectful and caring and honest.

Hannah is such a likable character to read about. Despite the horrible things that have happened to her in the past, she is strong and independent, and willing to see the positives in her life. She is caring, funny, and not afraid to admit to her mistakes and misconceptions. The way her relationship develops with Garrett is extremely well done, and I loved the fact that for a long time, they are just friends. 

With this being a new adult novel, there is sex scenes in here, which I loved, by the way. I loved the intimacy between Hannah and Garrett, and the trust between the two. I also loved the respectful way Garrett treats Hannah and never forces her into anything she doesn't want to do. The intimate scenes between the two are HOT HOT HOT! I loved how "natural" the intimacy between the two feels, and how they can be themselves with each other. There is very little awkwardness and whole lot of hotness and chemistry and all that good stuff.

I am a big fan of family plot lines in contemporary novels, and this one definitely delivers on that front as well. The relationship between Hannah and her parents is colored by her past, while the relationship between Garrett and his father is very much tied to the expectations his father has on him. While the relationship between Hannah and Garrett develops, these family relationship will also play a huge role within the development of the story, and I think Kennedy does an exceptional job in intertwining all these elements. The pacing of the novel is executed amazingly, and as I started reading, I soon realized that it was quite difficult to put this book down.

As you can probably sense from my overuse of the word "love", I absolutely adored this book! Garrett will definitely be added to my list of hot book boyfriends and he definitely gets bonus points for being a hockey player. As a fan of hockey, I appreciated the actual game scenes and the behind the scenes stuff, and oh my, just the idea of reading more about this team makes me so freaking excited.

So yes, this book was perfection. Here are gifs of the guy who is also perfection, aka the hockey player I thought about while reading about Garrett...