May 30, 2014

REVIEW: Fall From India Place (On Dublin Street #4)

Fall From India Place (On Dublin Street #4), by Samantha Young
To Be Published June 3, 2014
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Format: e-ARC, obtained from the publisher
Genre:
adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS


(From Goodreads)  The New York Times bestselling author of On Dublin Street and Down London Road returns with a story about letting go of the past and learning to trust in the future…

When Hannah Nichols last saw Marco D’Alessandro, five long years ago, he broke her heart. The bad boy with a hidden sweet side was the only guy Hannah ever loved—and the only man she’s ever been with. After one intense night of giving into temptation, Marco took off, leaving Scotland and Hannah behind. Shattered by the consequences of their night together, Hannah has never truly moved on.

Leaving Hannah was the biggest mistake of Marco’s life, something he has deeply regretted for years. So when fate reunites them, he refuses to let her go without a fight. Determined to make her his, Marco pursues Hannah, reminding her of all the reasons they’re meant to be together.…

But just when Marco thinks they’re committed to a future together, Hannah makes a discovery that unearths the secret pain she’s been hiding from him, a secret that could tear them apart before they have a real chance to start over again….


I've been jonesing for Hannah and Marco's story ever since it was introduced waaaaay back in On Dublin Street. Samantha Young delivers just what I wanted in this emotionally-charged addition to the Dublin Street series.

Hannah and Marco were best friends for years, even though she always wanted more, and he didn't. One fateful night, her deepest wish was granted, and they finally got together in every sense. But, the aftermath was anything but what Hannah expected. Marco immediately left her, not only in that bedroom on India Place, but he left the entire country to get away from her. Five years later, Hannah is a different person because of that humiliating and devestating event. So, when she runs into Marco unexpectedly, she's surprised to find out that Marco changed too. The question is, is it too little, too late?

Fall From India Place was full of twists and turns and secrets. It soon became obvious that Marco leaving Hannah five years earlier was not the end of Hannah's story. It wasn't the only bad thing that happened to her. It was fairly easy to guess what else was going on, but when the story finally comes out of Hannah's lips (way too late, I might add), it didn't matter that I had pretty much figured it out already. The telling of the story was powerful and emotional. And, really sad too.

Fate dealt both Marco and Hannah a craptastic hand, and where Marco had made the decision to try and do something good with it, Hannah withdrew and closed herself off from the world. In the previous books, she had always seemed bubbly and vibrant, and it was obvious right away that 22-year-old Hannah was very different from 17-year-old Hannah.

The result of Marco leaving Hannah when she wanted and needed him the most was a bitter, distrustful woman who pissed this reader off again and again with her actions. Marco was an absolute dream, and his efforts to woo her and win her back were admirable and sweet and totally above and beyond. But, Hannah's intense fears of rejection continued to thwart both of their attempts at happiness. It resulted in that kind of bookish frustration that makes you want to scream at fictional characters and look like a crazy person because of it.

Marco has secrets of his own that take way too long to come out. He comes clean about where he has been the past five years and why he left in the first place. But, there's another bomb just waiting in the wings to be dropped, and when it does, my heart broke a little for both Hannah and Marco.

I do like books where mistakes are made, groveling occurs, and lessons are learned. What I do not like is going to extremes in any of those areas. Marco well exhausted my limit of groveling. He put up with Hannah running away from him, telling him it was over and ignoring his calls FAR longer than I thought he should have. Definitely far longer than any guy in real life would have. It was irritating. I was mad at Hannah for treating him like crap for so long, and I was mad at Marco for putting up with it.

One of the really delightful parts of Fall From India Place was the glimpse into the lives of the four couples already known and loved from the series. Catching up with Braden and Joss, Jo and Cam, Ellie and Adam, and Liv and Nate was awesome. Of course there are children running all over the place, and it's so fun to see the relationship dynamics of these couples haven't changed.

One character that has changed A LOT was Cole, Jo's younger brother. He's now a strapping, gorgeous, tatted man and Hannah's best friend. We see a lot of him in Fall From India Place, and I am so so hopeful that the next book Samantha Young writes in this series will be about him. Cole is such an amazing character. I need to know more!

I also liked how Samantha Young turned the spotlight on the problem of adult literacy in the UK. Hannah volunteers as a teacher for an adult literacy class, and the scenes with her in that class were poignant and thought-provoking.

Fall From India Place might not be my most favorite in this series (that's still reserved for Down London Road), but it was a good addition, nonetheless. Marco was incredible, and once Hannah got her head on straight, so was she. The ending was happy and satisfying. I can't wait for the next book in this series!

May 29, 2014

REVIEW: Devil's Game (Reaper's MC #3)

Devil's Game (Reaper's MC #3), by Joanna Wylde
To Be Published June 3, 2014
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Format: e-ARC, obtained from the publisher
Genre:
adult erotic romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS 


(From Goodreads) Liam “Hunter” Blake hates the Reapers MC. Born and raised a Devil’s Jack, he knows his duty. He’ll defend his club from their oldest enemies—the Reapers—using whatever weapons he can find. But why use force when the Reapers’ president has a daughter who’s alone and vulnerable? Hunter has wanted her from the minute he saw her, and now he has an excuse to take her.

Em has lived her entire life in the shadow of the Reapers. Her overprotective father, Picnic, is the club’s president. The last time she had a boyfriend, Picnic shot him. Now the men in her life are far more interested in keeping her daddy happy than showing her a good time. Then she meets a handsome stranger—a man who isn't afraid to treat her like a real woman. One who isn't afraid of her father. His name is Liam, and he’s The One.

Or so she thinks.


I just can't get enough of The Reapers MC series. It's gritty and dirty and incredibly hot. These guys take the term "alpha male" to a whole new level of sexy.

Em fell for Liam online, but her first in-person meeting with him left a lot to be desired. It turns out he's a Devil's Jack, an bitter rival club to the Reapers, and he was tasked with using whatever means necessary to get inside info. Liam wasn't counting on falling for Em too, though, and after that first meeting went so very, very badly, he was convinced there was no way on Earth he'd have a shot at her. But, situations soon call for the Jacks and the Reapers to work together, and it seems the best place to start is with Liam and Em.

At the end of Reaper's Legacy (Reapers MC #2), there was an exchange between two members of the Devil's Jacks (a rival MC) and Marie and Em after the two girls had been kidnapped. As the scene was being told from Marie's POV (it WAS hers and Ruger's story, afterall), there were aspects from Em's POV that weren't known, until now. The reader knew something had happened between she and Hunter (Liam's club name), but the details didn't come out until now. They showed Liam in a bit of a different light and made me question my opinion of him.

Because, let me tell you, my opinion was not a good one. He may be hot an sexy, but the way he treated Em was absolutely deplorable. He used his online persona to woo her, knowing the entire time what he was doing to her. Then, although he made extra sure not to physically hurt Em and to protect her from the other Jacks members involved, just the fact that he kidnapped her, held her prisoner, and used her to get more info made my blood boil.

That may be part of the reason why Devil's Game is my least favorite of the Reapers series to date. After everything Hunter did, I was really mad at Em when she forgave him of all of it. I get that he's hot and you want to screw him every time you look at him. That's not a good enough reason to excuse his actions. Em seems to be a really strong girl. She has had to be, having grown up the daughter of Picnic, the leader of the Reapers' local chapter. But, just by the sheer fact that she forgave Hunter so easily tells me she's not as strong as I think we're supposed to think she is, and I don't have much respect for her at all.

I missed the club aspect of this series, since most of the book took place in Portland, away from Reaper's property. Em shared an apartment with Cookie, who we met in the previous two Reaper's books, and Liam had his own apartment with other Jacks. There weren't any club gatherings like we saw in previous books - I missed those.

All that being said, there was a lot going on in Devil's Game. There was a lot of set-up of the story arc involving the Reapers, Jacks and the Mexican drug cartel, and all that was done really, really well. The posturing and campaigning between the two MCs was really cool to read about, and was the best part of the book, IMO.

And the last chapter was from Picnic's POV and set up the next book, which will be about him finding a new love. That last chapter was AWESOME. It absolutely left me panting for the next book.

Although neither Liam nor Em really impressed me individually, the chemistry between the two when they were together was undeniable. Wylde really knows how to bring the sexy. I've come to expect it from her and I've never been let down. Devil's Game was a great set-up for future installments in the Reaper's MC series.

May 28, 2014

BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Branded (Sinners #1)


Branded by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki
A Sinners Series

Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best. 
Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home. 

Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain. 

Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.

The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me. 
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. 
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.



Excerpt

I turn on the faucet for a long while only to discover ice-cold water rushing out. The water never warms and I begin to understand. The Commander thinks he can wash away my soul by freezing me to death. He thinks he can destroy me by stripping away my possessions. But he can’t and I won’t let him take my memories, my ambition, and my pride.
He thinks I’m so easily broken.
The Commander doesn’t know anything about me, what I grew up with, what I endured—the father I lost, the mother I hate, the brother who walked out of my life, and the stepfather I was forced to accept. He thinks since I was rich, making me poor will cause me to give up. What he doesn’t understand is that, after my father passed away, I grew up behind walls of hatred. I had nothing, but had everything at the same time. I owned expensive clothes, enjoyed good schooling, and lived in a nice home. But my body was just a shell protecting an empty, desperate heart. My life was a colorful fa├žade.
I had so much time to sit and think. I spent the majority of my life between four walls. I was abandoned, neglected, starved, betrayed, and abused. I’ve already been treated like the scum of the earth, so the Hole is nothing new. He wants to erase every sign of my existence on this earth, but I won’t let that happen. He can strip me naked, but he’ll never reach my soul.
It’s personal, completely personal.

Purchase



About Abi and Missy 

Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.

My Review

3.5 Stars

I'm thrilled to be a part of the Branded blog tour, organized by Mark My Words Book Publicity. I'm particularly excited for this tour, because the author duo of Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki are from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is only a half-hour or so away from me. So, these are local girls, and I'm so happy to help them promote Branded!

Branded was an intense, emotional book. Lexi Hamilton was named a sinner of lust by her mother, of all people, and sent to The Hole. In The Hole, she was branded - tattooed around her neck so that everyone knows what her sin is. She is assigned a guard and a job. Right off the bat, we see that Lexi gets preferential treatment from both her guard, Cole, and her boss, Sutton. That treatment keeps her alive, and as time goes on, she learns that things are going on behind the scenes that might change everything for her.

Branded could be divided into two parts. The first part I'd label as "The Hole." It details Lexi's arrival at The Hole, her branding, her meeting Cole and Sutton and her activities at the hospital where she works. It also chronicles her budding forbidden relationship with Cole.

The second part of Branded could be called "The Hole Beneath The Hole." This part would be about the rise of the rebellion looking to take down the Commander and his totalitarian regime.

The Lexi in part 1 was different from the Lexi in part 2. Drastically so. In part 1, she was timid and ashamed. She was afraid to open up and afraid of her own feelings. She forges relationships, though, in unlikely places. She befriends the head surgeon at the hospital, Sutton, as well as a terminally ill little girl. She develops a relationship with Cole and his big dog Zeus. At first, they're civil. Then, they're friends. Finally, they admit their feelings run deeper than that. But, in The Hole, guards can't have relationships with sinners or both will be tortured and killed. It definitely complicates things for both Lexi and Cole.

The Lexi in part 2, I honestly didn't like very much. Yes, she finally reaches deep down and develops some lady balls. But, she seems to sacrifice her softness and kindness in order to do so. She treats Cole like crap, which irked me to no end since he had risked his life over and over again for her. The second someone else from her past shows up, Cole becomes a very quick second choice, even though this other person doesn't always treat her well. I appreciate her wanting to stand on her own two feet, but she shouldn't do it at the detriment of the relationships she had formed to that point.

Cole is an awesome character. He's mean and awful in the beginning, but he softens toward Lexi pretty quickly. His efforts to protect her and take care of her made me melt. And, the way he loved his dog was pretty damn adorable too.

There's a lot of stuff going on underneath the surface. There's a rebellion growing, and its leader and how it got started is somewhat surprising. The Commander is always shrouded in secrecy, and when his identity is finally revealed, it was also surprising. I appreciated the twists and turns in the story and I'm glad the authors didn't draw out the reveal of some of them into the next book. I hate it when that happens!

Branded comes to a satisfying close, although there are enough loose ends still hanging to make me interested in what comes next. I hope the Lexi in the second book is closer to the one I saw in part 1. I liked her much better and I liked her with Cole much more. And, I hope there's much more Cole in book 2. More Cole could never be a bad thing. 

May 27, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This is one meme I can get on board with - I LOVE lists! I'll show you mine if you show me yours!

This week we can choose whatever topic we want. And, since I have BEA on the brain since I'm leaving for NYC TODAY, I'm listing the top 10 bloggers I can't wait to meet/see again while I'm there.

Top Ten Bloggers I Can't Wait To 
Meet/See Again at BEA

1. Jen from At Random - Without a doubt, Jen takes the top spot. She is my bookish partner in crime. I've never attended a signing without her. Since we only live 15 minutes away from one another, we see each other frequently. She was my only roomie at BEA last year, and she's one of three others this year. I can honestly say my BEA experience would be nowhere near as amazing if she wasn't with me.

2. Anna from Annaberry Reads - If it's possible to have a bestie without ever meeting them in person, Anna is evidence of that. We met on Goodreads over a year ago, and we now rarely go a day without texting each other. Anna is roomie #2 this year, and I can't wait to meet her in person... FINALLY.

3. Val from Stuck In Books - If Val wasn't going to be my roomie #3, I'm sure I'd see her in line for every Jennifer Armentrout signing on the BEA books. Luckily, we ARE rooming together, so I'm ensured to see her even outside of those lines. I've participated in a few of her hops and one of her tours, and I'm so excited to finally meet her.

4. Hannah from The Irish Banana - I met Hannah in person last year at BEA, then I just kept seeing her at local signings after that. Hannah is one of those bloggers that would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it - a rare thing these days. I can't wait to be on the receiving end of one of her famous tackle hugs again.

5. Jessica from Lovin' Los Libros - I've said in blog comments and on Twitter several times that I swear Jessica and I are sisters from another mister. Many times our Top Ten Tuesday lists are almost identical and we always seem to end up on the same blog tours together. I can't wait to meet the twin from whom I was separated at birth!

6. Danny from Bewitched Bookworms - Somehow I missed Danny at BEA last year. *GASP* My New Adult Mondays feature was started over at Bewitched Bookworms, and it's one that I continue every week here. Danny is so so nice and we also seem to share many of the same bookish tastes. We both have a deep love for the new adult genre and all things Jeaniene Frost (and, we're finally going to get to meet her!!!!). I'm absolutely determined to find her this year!

7. My fellow Carmcats - When I was one of only 25 bloggers named to Cora Carmack's street team, I felt immensely honored. Bonding with the other 24 bloggers was icing on the cake. We've spent the past three months chatting daily on Facebook and supporting each others' blogs in some incredible ways. A few of us are going to be at BEA - Kim from Kimberly Faye Reads, Andy from Owl Always Be Reading, Danielle from With A Book, and Katelyn from Kate's Tales of Books and Bands. I'd be willing to bet I'll see them in all the Cora Carmack lines. :) Can't wait to meet you, girls!

8. Giselle from Xpresso Reads - Giselle runs an incredible blog tour company - Xpresso Book Tours. I've been participating in her tours for more than a year now, and I've found her to be so organized, well connected, knowledgeable, and just plain nice. I'm really looking forward to meeting such a respected and well-known figure in the book blogging community.

9. Tabitha from Not Yet Read - I met Tabitha last year at BEA and have had the pleasure of conversing with her via Goodreads and text since then. She feeds my urban fantasy addiction with lots of good book suggestions, and her blog is on my daily read list. Can't wait to see you again this year, Pabkins!

10. Jen from Jenuine Cupcakes - Since Jen is not usually too far away from Hannah (see #4), I've also run into her at a few local signings. She's never hard to spot in a crowd - the pink streak in her hair is always a dead giveaway. Plus... she always has cupcakes in tow. Jen is a good friend to have, and she's as sweet as her treats. :)

May 26, 2014

New Adult Mondays: Tease (The Ivy Chronicles #2)

The New Adult genre - their bad boys and big problems and epic loves make them engrossing tales that are so easy to lose yourself in. What's not to love about that? And, now, thanks to the cool chicks at Bewitched Bookworms, we can show these books the love they deserve in a weekly feature - New Adult Mondays.

This week, I'm hosting a stop on the Tease blog tour, organized by Bookslapped. Check out my review, then enter the giveaway for one of two Etsy giftcards or a basket of books from some of the Between the Covers authors, including Sophie Jordan! And, don't forget to check out all the other tour stops!

Tease (The Ivy Chronicles #2), by Sophie Jordan
Published May 27, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow
Format: e-book, provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble


Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads)
What happens when a girl who always calls the shots meets a guy who's too wild for even her?

A born flirt and good-time party girl, Emerson has never had a problem finding a willing guy. She's always chosen her hookups carefully, and she's never broken her three cardinal rules:

Never let them see the real you.
Never fall in love.
Always leave them begging for more.

Then Shaw comes along. A hottie from the wrong side of the tracks, he's immune to her flirtatious banter and come-hither smile. After rescuing her from a disastrous night at a biker bar, he doesn't even try to take her to bed—he calls her a tease and sends her home instead. Unable to resist a challenge, or forget the sexy, dark-eyed, bad-boy biker, she vows to bring him to his knees.

But instead of making Shaw beg, Emerson finds herself craving him. For the first time in her life, she's throwing out her rule book. Suddenly, she's the one panting for a guy she can't control—a guy who won't settle for anything less than the real Emerson and who forces her to do things she's never imagined, including facing a past she thought she'd buried.


A guy who just might leave her wanting more. . . 


Can I just tell you how much I love Sophie Jordan and her Ivy Chronicles couples? Good. 'Cause, I'm gonna.

Emerson loves men and loves sending them home when she's done with them. Don't get close and, for heaven's sake, don't fall in love with them. And then along came Shaw. He was everything she never went for - dark, dangerous, maybe a tad bad, and capable of taking away Em's well-earned control. But, Emerson's been hurt in the past and has decided that not falling in love is the answer. Not even Shaw can change her mind on that one.

Emerson was introduced in the first Ivy Chronicles book which followed Reece and Pepper's path to love. Emerson is one of Pepper's best friends, and I have to say, she seemed different in Foreplay (The Ivy Chronicles #1) when we were looking at her through Pepper's eyes. Emerson seemed to be a very "grab life by the horns" kind of girl. In Tease, Emerson was painted more of an avoider. She parties hard, uses guys and doesn't get close to people just so that she doesn't care about them too much. Because when you care about someone too much, and then they leave, it can sort of destroy you. Honestly, the Tease Emerson was more annoying than the Foreplay Emerson. She toyed with Shaw's emotions more than I usually like - there was a lot of pull and push from her, which became frustrating at times.

Shaw and Emerson meet when he steps in and saves her from a bad situation in a bar. He was chivalrous and kind and totally hot. And Emerson treats him like crap because she's attracted to him. What the what? There's a lot of snarky banter between them which is endearing and funny. Emerson fights her attraction to Shaw by unleashing her inner bitch and Shaw takes it and then some. He seems to be able to detect that she's running away from something and not genuinely a mean person.

And that is just one of the many reasons that I love Shaw. Dude - he was awesome. He put up with way more from Emerson than most men would. It's almost as if he knew she needed him as much as he needed her in his life. He has tats and is a former military man. He is good in a fight and with bikes. He's totally the different type of guy that Emerson usually goes for. And he works really hard at changing her mind. He slowly draws her out of her protective shell.

I loved their hobbies. Emerson is an art major at college. She paints and draws and uses her painting as her outlet. I love that about her. It was a dichotomy - she's not a soft, feely kind of girl, which is what painting seems as if it would be to me. I guess it's her one opportunity to be that kind of girl since she doesn't allow herself to feel that way with people. And, Shaw is a motorcycle guy. He can build them from the ground up, which is also really cool. So, he's sort of an artist too. They really do work well together despite Emerson's denial.

The sexual tension between the two is completely palatable, and when they finally give into it, OMG. It was awesome. Very well written and super sexy and sweet. It was my second favorite part of this book. My most favorite is how Shaw fought to win Emerson's heart. I'd be willing to bet you'll love it too. If you haven't started this totally excellent new adult series by Sophie Jordan, I suggest you get started on it. Although Tease can be read as a standalone, we do catch up with Pepper and Reece from book #1, so why not read Foreplay too while you're at it?


About the Author

Sophie Jordan grew up in the Texas hill country where she wove fantasies of dragons, warriors, and princesses. A former high school English teacher, she's also the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Avon historical romances. She now lives in Houston with her family. When she's not writing, she spends her time overloading on caffeine (lattes and Diet cherry Coke preferred), talking plotlines with anyone who will listen (including her kids), and cramming her DVR with true-crime and reality-TV shows. Sophie also writes paranormal romances under the name Sharie Kohler.

Learn more about Sophie --> Website / Twitter / Facebook


Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 23, 2014

BEA - We're Almost There!


After months and months and MONTHS of anticipation, it's hard to believe that it's just about time to leave for my second trip to BEA. To be honest, I haven't obsessed about it as much this year as I did last year. I think that's because I'm not jumping into the wild unknown this time around. I know a bit more of what to expect. That's a comforting thought. I learned a lot from my BEA 2013 experience, and shared some of that earlier this year.

Only this past week have I started getting really excited. I've finalized my schedule and compiled a list of places I want to eat and see while in the city. I'm especially ready for some good quality girl time with my amazing friends Jen from At Random and Anna from Annaberry Reads.

So, now that I know (more or less) what I'm doing, here are the highlights:

Authors I Can't Wait To Meet For The First Time

Jeaniene Frost

Deborah Harkness
Amy Plum


Kiera Cass
Author Friends I Can't Wait to See Again 
 
Cora Carmack

Sylvia Day
Jennifer L. Armentrout

Julie Kagawa

Books I Can't Wait to Add to My Shelf







Food I Will Gorge Myself On





So, will I see you there? What are you most looking forward to?

May 22, 2014

REVIEW: The Forever Song (Blood of Eden #3)

The Forever Song (Blood of Eden #3), by Julie Kagawa
Published April 15, 2014
Publisher: HarlequinTEEN
Format: e-book, borrowed
Genre: young adult paranormal
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble


Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Vengeance will be hers.

Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster? With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.

Monster.

Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions - her creator Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost - the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie.

In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, her triumph will be short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.

THE FINAL HUNT IS ON.


Wow. Just... WOW. I mean, this book was... wow. As you can see, I'm still having a bit of trouble finding accurate words to describe how much I loved the final book in the Blood of Eden series. It had absolutely everything I needed, including some things I didn't even know I needed, to make for the most stunning conclusion to a series that I've read in a long time. 

Ali is struggling with maintaining her humanity after the events of the first two books. I mean, hey - who wouldn't? Sarren has tormented her in the absolute worst way - or so she thought. In actuality, the worst is still to come, and when his master plan comes to light, it leaves Ali and those she cares about racing to beat the clock in order to save everyone on the Earth. 

Ali is the most amazing heroine ever. She is incredibly strong - and I'm not just talking about physically. She has been through some truly awful stuff, and despite struggling, she never, ever gives up. She sets a goal, and she goes after it until she's done. Ali is a vampire, so she's pretty rough around the edges. She's hardened and jaded and, especially in the beginning of The Forever Song, downright scary. 

It was hard to read those beginning few chapters. We've seen Ali struggle to keep a firm grasp on her humanity despite Jackal's constant poking at her to embrace her inner monster, and the Hunger that is always, always there, reminding her that she's not the human she used to be. When she believes she's lost the one person who loved her anyway - and that she loved back - she doesn't think there's any reason to try so hard anymore. To read about Ali giving up and becoming the monster absolutely broke my heart. 

The event to finally bring her back to her former self was so poignant, it brought tears to my eyes. It also brought home the fact that Kanin is there when she needs him the most, like a father-figure. And, his council is needed so many times over the course of the book. The differences between Kanin and Jackal are stark. Where Kanin is supportive, Jackal is combative. Kanin builds up and Jackal delights in wearing down. Kanin is nice. Jackal is... not. 

But, the one thing that Jackal IS is hysterical. Thank goodness for his presence in The Forever Song, because this was a dark and heavy book. His snark and antagonistic personality added some much needed lightness. And, as it turns out, Jackal also added some good insight and a bitch slap to the head when it was needed. He's surprisingly insightful when he wants to be. 

The biggest question when I started the book was, what happened to Zeke? His fate was somewhat ambiguous at the end of The Eternity Cure, and we do have to wait a few chapters to find out what he's doing now. And, although I had guessed it to some degree, there was still SO MUCH that I didn't see coming. Zeke's situation was so far beyond frustrating and it had me torn up in knots for a long while. 

The four of them chase Sarren across the terrain as he heads toward Eden with a crazy deadly virus. He is constantly one step ahead of them with barricades and psychological mind screws. I have never wanted to see a bad guy bite it more. The final showdown is suspenseful and impressive and scary and completely awesome. I loved every second. 

The ending - of both the series and the book - was absolutely perfect. There was heartbreak and destruction and death and hope - it was epic. I highly recommend this series to anyone who is in the mood for a darker vampire tale with a romance that you can write home about. And, for a change, the ending of this series was satisfying to the enth degree.

May 21, 2014

REVIEW: Not a Drop to Drink

Not a Drop to Drink, by Mindy McGinnis
Published September 24, 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: audiobook, purchased
Genre: young adult post-apocalyptic
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble


Rating: 3.5 STARS

(From Goodreads)
Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.


I must admit - I was sucked in by the cover of Not a Drop to Drink. I mean, look at it. It's gorgeous. It helped that the description was super interesting too. That's always a good thing. 

Lynn lives in future Ohio where water is short and violence is high. She has a pond on her property that she has to protect at all costs. When people run into her path, Lynn needs to decide whether to trust them or blow them away. One family in particular has a profound impact on Lynn and the way she looks at the world at large. 

Mindy McGinnis is a beautiful writer. The words that she strings together were so pretty and so impactful. She made the characters really come to life and made me really wonder what a world like this would be like - what I would be like. 

Lynn was awesome. Talk about living a sheltered life - Lynn was raised by her mom, and the only other person she ever interacted with was their next door neighbor, Stebbs. So when a family from the city, including teen hottie Eli, sets up camp nearby, Lynn doesn't know how to act. I loved her awkwardness and cluelessness. It was endearing and sweet and it softened her hard edges. That was very much needed, because Lynn had A LOT of hard edges. She was tough to love. But, through the course of the book, Lynn came a long way. 

I adored the relationship she developed with Stebbs. He was older, wiser, and actually very sweet. He has a tie to Lynn's past that she eventually finds out about, and that tie means that Stebbs has always watched over Lynn to make sure she was okay. He becomes her closest confidant and friend. 

Although the writing was gorgeous and I loved the characters, there were times when I felt the plot plodded along a bit. There'd be a lot of daily life punctuated by a bit of action here and there - at least until the action-packed last chapter. It was also pretty damn depressing at times, as survival stories usually are. I definitely prefer my books a bit closer to the happy end of the scale. 

I did enjoy Not a Drop to Drink, and look forward to continuing Lynn's story.

May 20, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This is one meme I can get on board with - I LOVE lists! I'll show you mine if you show me yours!

Top Ten Books About Friendship

1. Ron, Hermoine and Harry from the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling - Ron, Harry and Hermoine had the ultimate boarding school bonding experience, which solidified their friendship for life.

2. Rush, Woods, Jace and Grant from the Rosemary Beach series, by Abbi Glines - Rush, Woods, Jace and Grant are the best of friends, always there for each other when  needed. We should all be so lucky.

3. Kai, Anna, Blake, Kopano, Marna and Ginger from The Sweet Trilogy, by Wendy Higgins - Who would've thought that children of demons would ban together to help rid the world of them. In doing so, they forged great friendships with one another to last forever.

4. Rose and Lissa from the Vampire Academy series, by Richelle Mead - Lissa and Rose were best friends even before Lissa saved Rose's life. 

5. Ronin, Ford and Spencer from the Rook and Ronin series, by JA Huss - Even though they don't always like each other very much, the members of "The Team" will always stick together, no matter what.

6. Merit and Mallory from the Chicagoland Vampires series, by Chloe Neill - Even when Mallory was going through some stuff - some REALLY bad stuff - Merit never stopped caring about her.

7. Noah, Isaiah and Beth from the Pushing the Limits series, by Katie McGarry - These three cared about each other enough to tell the truth and to call them out when they're being jerks. True friends there.

8. Jane and Zeb from the Jane Jameson series, by Molly Harper - Best friends since childhood, Jane and Zeb will do anything for one another, including enduring butt bows and public blood drinking.

9. Cassie and Melissa from The Perfect Game series, by J. Sterling - When Cassie hit rock bottom, Melissa was there to help her pick up the pieces. She was also there to tell off the skank who interfered with Cassie's relationship.

10. Charley and Cookie from the Charley Davidson series, by Darynda Jones - Next door neighbors, co-workers, best friends - Charley and Cookie's relationship is full of love, respect and more snarky comebacks than you can shake a stick at.

May 19, 2014

NEW ADULT MONDAYS: Misunderstandings (Woodfall Girls #2)



The New Adult genre - their bad boys and big problems and epic loves make them engrossing tales that are so easy to lose yourself in. What's not to love about that? And, now, thanks to the cool chicks at Bewitched Bookworms, we can show these books the love they deserve in a weekly feature - New Adult Mondays.

Misunderstandings (Woodfall Girls #2), by Tiffany King
Published May 6, 2014
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Format: paperback, provided by the publisher for review
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble


Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) Just when she thought things were going up…

Two years after a devastating breakup, Brittni Mitchell has moved on from Justin Avery—or so she tells herself. But when she returns to Seattle for her best friend’s engagement party, Brittni finds herself the victim of a disastrously timed elevator breakdown. She’s trapped with the last person she wants to face, and forced to recount the past she desperately wants to forget.

She’s going to have to look back…

When Brittni left her podunk hometown for a big city college experience at the University of Washington, hooking up with a guy like Justin Avery was not part of her plan. Between Justin’s attention-grabbing tattoos, cigarette smoking, and bad boy attitude Brittni quickly chalked him up as �Mr. Wrong.” But his charm was unrelenting, and Brittni’s decision to give Justin a chance quickly turned into the worst choice she ever made.

So that she might be able to move forward.

Now she’s stuck with Justin—literally—and the complicated web of misunderstandings that tied up the truth for two years is about to unravel.


Okay - I LOVED the concept of Misunderstandings. Two people who were very much in love, but had a bad break-up, were forced to have it out when they're stuck in an elevator for hours together. You know how we always joke, "If I could lock you two in a room together..." Well, in this case, it really happened.

Justin and Brittni were together for a whirlwind four months before a devastating breakup. So devastating that Brittni moved from the west coast back to her home state of Maine - for two years. Now, she's back in Seattle for her best friend's engagement party, and coincidentally Brittni and Justin run into each other in the elevator of a friend's office building. They are forced to rehash what happened two years earlier and both of them realize that there were parts to each other's version of events that were... misunderstood.

I think my favorite part of Misunderstandings is that the details of what really happened were brought to light very slowly. Some might not care for that, but honestly, for me, it drew me in to the story and ensured that I stayed engaged and engrossed. I wanted so desperately to find out what in the world happened between these two that was so bad to have caused the intense hostility between the two of them in the elevator.

It becomes apparent through the flashback story telling that, although Brittni and Justin had a bit of a rough start to their relationship, they eventually fell very much in love. The backstory was told in alternating chapters with the present day elevator situation. It seems that, after the event that separated them for good, Brittni was so destroyed, she left the city for good and hasn't been back. So, this is the first time they've seen each other in two years.

It doesn't go well for quite awhile. They're both shockingly nasty to one another. But, after a few hours pass, they start to talk, and the real events from two years ago come out. They realize that things weren't as they had thought. That everything wasn't so black and white. And, worse of all, that, if they both hadn't been so stubborn and idiotic back then, they could've avoided two years of misery.

Gosh - can you imagine what that would be like? I would be furious - mostly at myself for not opening my mouth back when I should have. And, the reason why they separated years before was a pretty big reason; it was something that should've brought two people together, not torn them apart.

Eventually, of course, the elevator is fixed, and Justin and Brittni are released from their confinement. They now have to decide if the knowledge they gained gave them a big enough reason to give their relationship a go again. And they have to decide if they can put the ugly words and all that time behind them.

Misunderstandings was told entirely from Brittni's POV. I admit, I wasn't a fan of hers in the beginning. She seemed to play games with Justin, stringing him along, not returning calls - that sort of thing. She was a little cold and not very likable. But, I eventually warmed up to her, as did Justin. The heat between these two was pretty awesome, too.

Misunderstandings was a fantastic book to add to my new adult collection. There was a lot to love, including a little mystery. I can't wait to read more from Tiffany King!

May 16, 2014

BLOG TOUR AUTHOR INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: All Lined Up (Rusk University #1)


I'm incredibly excited to hold a spot on the blog tour for Cora Carmack's brand new novel, ALL LINED UP, organized by Inkslinger PR! Read on for an interview with Cora and then enter the giveaway for 5 signed copies of All Lined Up! And, don't forget to check out the other stops too.

All Lined Up (Rusk University #1), by Cora Carmack
Published May 13, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

 

Read my 5-star review here

(Synopsis) 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.


And, now on to the fun stuff...

An Interview with Cora Carmack

Thank you so much for talking with me about ALL LINED UP, Cora. I can imagine this is an exciting time for you, having seen one series come to completion and a brand new one kick off. Back when you were getting ready to publish LOSING IT, did you ever see yourself here? What has been the biggest surprise to you in your career so far?

Oh goodness, no. I mean, I hoped. There's always that hope, but it feels like this far off, intangible thing. It still feels that way most days. Until I see my books in a store or a hold a new in my hands, and it sort of shocks me all over again.

So, let’s talk football. ALL LINED UP is about the daughter of a Texas college football coach. You’ve mentioned that YOU were the daughter of a Texas football coach. Is Dallas perhaps a reflection of a younger Cora Carmack?

Parts of her, absolutely. The biggest similarity is that by the time I graduated high school, I (like Dallas) resented football (and Texas really). I also have two sisters, so I pulled from their experiences as Coach's daughters too. (My poor Dad just had three girls, no boys).

If Dallas is loosely based on you, is there a real-life Carson out there somewhere?
Not really, no. I mean I've known and dated guys that are the same type of guy as Carson-- sweet, funny, just all around good guys. But Carson isn't based on any of them.

Dallas is a dancer. Her BFF Stella would play football, if she could. What about you? Were you a lady-jock in school? Or were you more artistic in your extra-curriculars?

I was definitely a lady jock. Basketball was my first love, though I did dance, track, cross country, and tennis, too. And I wanted to be a basketball coach until Junior year. But really, I did everything. Sports, arts, and academics. I went to a small school, and one year they did a survey to determine how many groups and activities students participated in, and I had the most out of the whole school with 41. That's probably where a little of the over-achiever in Carson comes from. :)

How many books are planned in the Rusk University series? And, will they all follow the guys on the football team, or can we hope for a book detailing Stella’s HEA somewhere along the way?

Right now I'm contracted for three. Book two is about Silas, and book three is Ryan. But I've got at least three more that I'd like to do. But, of course, whether the series continues or not depends largely on the readers and my publisher. I'm not stuck on doing just players, but I want to focus on people close to the team. Stella is definitely in the mix, and I have a book planned for her, provided the series continues. Either way, she continues to play a pivotal role in the series as a whole.

Has your dad read All Lined Up? Has he issued Dad’s My-Daughter-Is-A-Freaking-Genius Seal of Approval?

HAHA. He's read parts of it. He actually helped a lot with the football sections to help me find that right balance between technical accuracy and easy, understandable descriptions for my non-football readers.

Of your leading men so far – Garrick, Cade, Jackson and Carson – which one most closely resembles your perfectly ideal book boyfriend?

I mean... I wouldn't say no to ANY of them. But Carson is my usual type. I like funny guys who are sweet, but strong enough to not let me walk all over them. And you gotta know sports to survive meeting my family. :)

Thank you so much, Cora, for taking the time to answer my questions about you and your new Rusk University series. I’m so excited to see what else you have planned for us (like, oh I don’t know… Silas and his sexy potty mouth, maybe…)!

Thank YOU. And yes, things are definitely taking a turn for the dirty with Silas in book two. ;)


About the Author


Cora Carmack is a twenty-something writer who likes to write about twenty-something characters. She's done a multitude of things in her life-- boring jobs (like working retail), Fun jobs (like working in a theatre), stressful jobs (like teaching), and dream jobs (like writing). She enjoys placing her characters in the most awkward situations possible, and then trying to help them get a boyfriend out of it. Awkward people need love, too. Her first book, LOSING IT, is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller.

Learn more about Cora --> Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads


Giveaway

Enter below to win one of 5 signed copies of ALL LINED UP!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 15, 2014

REVIEW: The Naturals (The Naturals #1)

The Naturals (The Naturals #1), by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published November 5, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: audiobook, purchased
Genre: young adult suspense/crime/mystery
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble


Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides—especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.


The Naturals is different from what I usually read. It's not driven by a romance. It's not paranormal. And, it's just a little bit scary. I felt like I had gotten in a bit of a rut lately, and was looking for something outside of the box I had found myself in. The Naturals sounded interesting to me, so I decided to go for it, and I was astounded at how much I enjoyed it!

Cassie has an uncanny ability - she can tell you all about a person just by observing them. She lives with her overbearing Italian extended family after her mother was murdered and her military father threw himself into his work. When Cassie is approached by the FBI and asked to work with them to use her gift to help solve cold cases, she jumps at the chance to do some good. The four other kids in the program have similar abilities to hers, and Cassie thinks she's finally found a home and a purpose. Until a serial killer the FBI is currently tracking seems to set his sights on her. 

The Naturals was like two parts Psych and one part The Alphas.


Cassie finds herself in a house with four other kids. There's Sloane who is like a walking encyclopedia, Michael who can tell people's feelings and emotions by looking at them, Lia is like a human lie detector and Dean is also a profiler like Cassie. Dean and FBI agent Lacey Locke take Cassie under their wings to teach her how to hone her ability and use it to help the FBI solve cold cases. 

Cassie is a really strong female main character. She is ballsey, takes chances, and goes for what she believes in. Despite the grisly nature of what these kids do, Cassie remains compassionate and sensitive. She's like most other 17-year-olds - she only wants to fit in and make friends. But, with her tragic past and her ability to pick people apart just by observing them, it's a little hard for her to be "normal." She thinks she's finally found her place in the world among the other teenage freaks. 

Her reception in the house is varied. Sloane, who is, by nature, very logical and calculating, takes her arrival in stride. I enjoyed Sloane's no-nonsense attitude and the fact that she's been banned from coffee because of what the caffeine does to her. Poor girl. 

Michael loves Cassie. He's a bit of a player with a screwed up home life. He sets his sights on Cassie and sets to work wooing her immediately. But, Cassie seems to be most interested in Dean, perhaps because of all the kids there, he is the most like her. Except for the fact that Dean is a brooder. He always seems angry and withdrawn, so it's hard to get close to him. That makes the moments when he lets his guard down around Cassie all that much sweeter. There's a reason for Dean's aloofness, and when it's revealed, you can sort of understand why he is the way he is. 

Finally, there's Lia, who is the book's token mean girl. She's BFFs in a weird way with Dean and an on-again, off-again hook-up with Michael. You can't tell even a little white lie around her or she will call you out. Do you have any idea how many itty bitty fibs you tell in a day? And how hard it would be to be around someone who knew every single time you let one slip? It would get old, fast. Lia was a great mean girl. You get the impression that, perhaps, she's not really as bad as she makes herself out to be. But, the uber bitch in her always comes out, and your temporary softening toward her disappears immediately. 

The overarching mystery was awesome. There is a serial killer giving the FBI trouble. He's killing girls, and although the kids were only hired to take on cold cases, they're eventually brought in on this active one after the killer starts leaving little presents for Cassie here and there. I loved seeing the two boys in protector mode - they both care for Cassie in their way, and it was clear she was in deep. I enjoyed watching all five kids use their abilities to work together to try and get to the bottom of the mystery before another girl turns up dead. 

I'm really excited for the next book! Although the mystery was solved, the love triangle was not. I use the term "love triangle" loosely - the romance angle was not pressed hard in The Naturals. It was more of an afterthought, which was fine since the mystery took center stage. But, there was a triangle of sorts between Cassie, Michael and Dean. I have my favorite, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book to see if I will get my wish.

May 14, 2014

Rusk University Spirit Week Scavenger Hunt



It's day three of the Rusk University Scavenger Hunt! This week-long hunt for phrases to make up some of the best quotes from Cora Carmack's ALL LINED UP, will culminate in a winner of ALL THE AWESOME THINGS. Namely, a Rusk University tote filled with goodies from Cora Carmack herself!

Today, I have the third and last clue for today. Put this together with clues #1 and #2, and enter the complete phrase in the Rafflecopter. Collect all five phrases for a chance to win the grand prize! You can still collect Monday's clue one, two, and three and Tuesday's clue one, two and three and enter them in the Rafflecopter. But, first - about the book...

All Lined Up (Rusk University #1), by Cora Carmack
Published May 13, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

 

Read my 5-star review here.

(Synopsis) 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.


And, now on to the fun stuff...




And, now for Clue #3...



Now that you have all the clues, enter your quote in the Rafflecopter below. There are two more days of clues coming, so be sure to check in at the Rusk University Spirit Week Facebook Page to know where to go to get them. And, you know, there will be lots of other cool stuff going on there too - guest authors, giveaways, fun questions and discussions. Today is Twin Day, and the Rusk University Street Team on hand has some super fun stuff planned!

a Rafflecopter giveaway