Picture This: Fiction in Fiction in Fiction

October 15, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Picture This, Random6 comments

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I love books. I love photography. And I love getting to know new people. That’s why I decided to combine these three things in this little feature called Picture This, where I ask other bloggers to share five pictures with us, bookish and non-bookish. But mostly bookish. This time, we’re admiring snap shots taken by

jaz of fiction in fiction in fiction

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Literary Reflections: Football in Fiction

October 12, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Literary Reflections12 comments

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Sometimes books get to us in a personal way. Sometimes we can relate to them so much it feels like they tell us the stories of our own lives. Sometimes there is just an aspect that really speaks to us because we love that thing in real life as well. It is impossible to capture that feeling in a review, so we decided to start a series called Literary Reflections to talk about the books that feel almost private to us because of personal reasons.

After reading several books in a row with a football theme, I started thinking about how things I enjoy in my personal life often influence my reading habits, which led to today’s football post. After all, y’all get to see the reviews for these books, so I thought I’d give you a little insight into why I love them so much. I hope y’all like the post, and maybe some of you share this love for the sport with me. Football occupies most of my weekends this time of year, so I decided it was time to devote a post to my favorite sport and tell y’all why you may see a few more “football” book reviews in the future. ;)

Here in Mississippi, football is about as important as air and water. We wear our team colors proudly. Heaven forbid, if you’re unfortunate enough to have to work on game day, your favorite player’s jersey is considered acceptable “work clothing” for the day. Most of our weekends revolve around football. Want to make Friday night plans? You better make sure it doesn’t conflict with your high school’s home football game. Then on Saturdays, you are either A) tailgating from your couch and flipping the channels from one SEC game to another, or B) tailgating at your alma mater before and after—to either celebrate the victory or mourn the loss—the day’s big game. Then on Sundays, you have to hurry home from church to make sure you’re in front of the TV in time for noon NFL kickoffs. By the Sunday night game, you might be a little tired of football, but you’d never admit it! We cheer hard for the teams we love, and we harbor hatred like you wouldn’t believe for our rivals.

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Tailgating in the Grove

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Epic Recs: October 2014

October 3, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Epic Recs6 comments

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Epic Recs is hosted by Amber and myself, and it’s a feature slash book club where people challenge each other to read a certain book each month. We both like to force people to read books, so this is the best excuse to test our book pushing. Welcome and feel free to join in on the fun! Here’s what Amber and I are making each other read this month:

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Review: All Lined Up

October 1, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Review, 3 comments

Review: All Lined UpTitle: All Lined Up (Rusk University #1)
Author: Cora Carmack
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Genre/Age Group: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 3.5 Stars
In Texas, two things are cherished above all else—football and gossip. My life has always been ruled by both.

Dallas Cole loathes football. That's what happens when you spend your whole childhood coming in second to a sport. College is her time to step out of the bleachers, and put the playing field (and the players) in her past.

But life doesn't always go as planned. As if going to the same college as her football star ex wasn’t bad enough, her father, a Texas high school coaching phenom, has decided to make the jump to college ball… as the new head coach at Rusk University. Dallas finds herself in the shadows of her father and football all over again.

Carson McClain is determined to go from second-string quarterback to the starting line-up. He needs the scholarship and the future that football provides. But when a beautiful redhead literally falls into his life, his focus is more than tested. It's obliterated.

Dallas doesn't know Carson is on the team. Carson doesn't know that Dallas is his new coach's daughter.

And neither of them know how to walk away from the attraction they feel.

my thoughts

Holy hotness, what a book! If I had to describe All Lined Up in one word, it would definitely be hot. Steamy. Sexy. Wow. Cora Carmack has outdone herself with the first book in the Rusk University series. I read Losing It last year and was incredibly charmed by her characters and writing, so I had fairly high expectations going into this one, and I’m so happy to report that she far surpassed them. Plus the fact that this book is set in Texas and features football? It’s like Carmack wrote it with me in mind!

All Lined Up is told in the first person, alternating POV of Dallas Cole and Carson McClain. Dallas is the daughter of Rusk University’s new football coach, a man who is renowned for turning losing football teams into champions. Dallas, whose mother abandoned them as a baby, feels as if she’s always coming in second to football, so she resents it and wants nothing to do with the sport. Carson McClain, on the other hand, is a walk-on player, Rusk University’s second string quarterback. Coming from a family with very little money, Carson is used to working hard for what he’s got; he isn’t a great student, so he’s working his ass off in hopes that he’ll get the chance to play and earn a scholarship. What do these two characters have in common?

Well, I’m sure you can guess what happens next. Dallas and Carson meet by chance one night at a party, and the cat and mouse relationship between them begins. Though I found the story (and the ending) to be completely predictable, I loved it. There’s something about Carmack’s writing that makes a familiar story feel as if you’re reading it for the first time. I found Dallas and Carson to be complex and relatable, and I appreciated the fact that there were secondary characters (Stella, Coach Cole, Ryan) that played a significant role and added to the story as well. And, of course, it helped that Carmack included a lot of visuals, such as when Carson’s very nice abs and arms were described in detail multiple times. Ahem.

All Lined Up isn’t just romance, sexy scenes, and flirting. The New Adult genre is so often accused of being this one trick pony—books full of sexy scenes and no substance. That is not the case with All Lined Up. Though the scenes with Dallas and Carson are steamy, no doubt, the characters do have a story outside of that. Dallas, who has always lived in the shadow of her well-known father, is trying to find her own identity. Stella, Dallas’s lifelong best friend, is her roommate and is very protective of her. She’s always there to comfort Dallas, but she’s quick to tell her when she’s being unreasonable, and I adored the friendship between those two. Two thumbs up for a healthy female friendship!

Then there’s Carson, who’s trying to pave a successful path for himself since his family isn’t in a position to help him. In doing so, he’s faced with many difficult tasks, such as learning to coexist with some of the guys on the team who he loathes. As you can see, there are several different storylines threaded into the main story, and I commend Carmack for writing a New Adult novel that has depth in addition to romance!

I was in a terrible reading slump when I picked up All Lined Up, and the lighthearted story was just what I needed to get my reading “mojo” back. I live in Mississippi, where football is HUGE (and I love it), so I connected to the setting and the characters almost instantly, which made me want to devour it even faster. Before I was even finished reading it, I preordered the next in the series, All Broke Down. October 28 can’t get here soon enough! If you’re impatient like me, you may want to wait until October 27 to start All Lined Up because I can promise that you’ll want to start the next one immediately!

memorable quotes

“…But as Stella always says, hindsight is a pretentious, know-it-all bitch.”

“God, do they make WD-40 for flirting? Because I am rusty.”

“Shut up and kiss me, quarterback.”

Review: Zac and Mia

September 29, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Review, 1 comment

Review: Zac and MiaTitle: Zac and Mia
Author: A.J. Betts
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Genre/Age Group: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: Netgalley
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 2.5 Stars

The last person Zac expects in the room next door is a girl like Mia, angry and feisty with questionable taste in music. In the real world, he wouldn’t—couldn’t—be friends with her. In hospital different rules apply, and what begins as a knock on the wall leads to a note—then a friendship neither of them sees coming.

You need courage to be in hospital; different courage to be back in the real world. In one of these worlds Zac needs Mia. And in the other Mia needs Zac. Or maybe they both need each other, always.

my thoughts

Zac and Mia is a story about cancer, but more than that, it’s a story about surviving, and a story about friendship, and a story about trying to go on when life just sucks. It’s definitely well-written and thoughtful, even if I’m not sure if I liked it. For the most part, I felt just okay about this book, but at the same time, I couldn’t put it down. But then again, even though I flew through it, I never connected to it or really felt it, and that’s a problem for me. The book starts with Zac, who has been in the hospital for a while and has a thing with facts and numbers. He knows pretty much every single fact about cancer and his chance at survival. He is a very kind and thoughtful person, who never wants to be a burden for his family. He was open and funny and I just really, really liked reading from his perspective.

Mia, on the other hand, took some getting used to. She is very angry, at her illness, at the people around her, and just at life in general. I didn’t like her at first at all, and since the latter half of the book is told from her point of view, I didn’t enjoy that part as much as the first. At the end, though, I did feel sorry for Mia. It’s obvious that her life has been very tough and I completely understand her reactions, even if the way she tried to deal with things just didn’t work for me. (I mean, the girl would rather die than get treated for cancer and have all her friends find out she’s ill. Which was a little much.) But at the end of the book she is really trying, and I guess that’s just what depression does to a person. Mia’s darkness was a big contrast to Zac’s lightness, even though her odds were so much higher than his. They were opposites in every way, and I think that this made this book more interesting, and ultimately, they were both very realistic characters.

The thing that mostly didn’t work for me was why Zac and Mia were friends. Apart from some shared 3 AM conversations in the ward, they never seemed to have that much in common, or really know each other at all. I think it’s lovely that they pulled each other through, but throughout the story I was really confused. Zac was almost immediately intrigued by Mia because she was the only other patient his age, which okay, that’s fine, but Mia also likes Zac while she doesn’t like anyone. They see each other a couple of times and then start talking on Facebook even though they literally know nothing about each other. And then they’re out of the hospital and somehow Mia ends up visiting Zac and sleeping in his bed. I don’t think their relationship was rushed, per se, but it just seemed to be based on nothing. I just didn’t get it.

But there were also things I liked, like the setting. I haven’t read many books by Aussie authors, which I really do want to remedy, because even though there isn’t much of Australia to see in this book, it was obvious that it was set in another country. I also really liked Zac’s family, even though it’s mostly his mom and his sister Bec who are around. I liked Zac’s relationship with Bec because it reminded me of myself and my youngest brother. Most of the side characters were just a little bland. Overall, Zac and Mia is a pretty good book. I definitely didn’t think it was bad, but I didn’t love it, and the second part didn’t captivate me at all, and ultimately, I wasn’t invested enough to care about it too much. It’s a little forgettable for me, and when I think back to my reading experience, something just didn’t work.

memorable quotes

“It shouldn’t be quiet,” I say aloud, unexpectedly.
Mia reaches for the radio dial, mistaking me.
“Cancer, I mean. The “c” word. With the destruction it brings, cancer should come howling into a body with sirens wailing and lights flashing. It shouldn’t be allowed to slink in and take root in someone’s rain like that, hiding among memories.”

“Perhaps courage is simply this: spur-of-the-moment acts when your head screams don’t but your body does it anyway. Courage, or stupidity. It’s hard to tell.”