Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Underwater by Marisa Reichardt | Review

Underwater by Marisa Reichardt | ReviewUnderwater by Marisa Reichardt
Published by Farrar, Straus on January 12th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive—first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then, herself.

But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.

When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.

Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery, and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.

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I’ve always been the queen of contemporary but it’s not often that I find a contemporary novel that I adore.  That was the case with Underwater.  Marisa Reichardt’s debut novel completely blew me away.

I’m always a big fan of books that are fast paced and have a lot going on.  Underwater is not one of those books but it’s got a lot of other things going for it.  Marisa Reichardt’s writing is phenomenal.  It seemed a little wordy at first but once I got reading, I saw how it made everything come together.  The writing style just worked for this story.  Marisa Reichardt’s writing managed to capture exactly how Morgan felt after the school shooting and convey them perfectly for readers.  It took very little time for me to feel like I could understand exactly what Morgan was going through and how she was feeling.  It takes real talent to make that happen in such a short period of time.

The events that led to Morgan’s agoraphobia (I think that’s pretty much what she had) were a mystery for most of the book.  Readers can tell early on in the book what happened at the school that day but it’s not so obvious why it affected Morgan the way it did.  While other survivors embraced life and decided to take chances, Morgan did the opposite.  She shut herself away from everything that could hurt her, including other people.  Evan, her new neighbor, forces Morgan to reevaluate her choices and actually consider coming out of her apartment for the first time in months.  Evan was a total sweetheart.  He didn’t know what Morgan was like before the shooting but he quickly came to care for her, even with her quirks.  And honestly, Morgan’s quirks made me like her even more.  Sure I felt for her from the start but I only grew to really like her once I started to understand exactly what she thought about herself, the shooting, the shooter, and what her future might hold.

To some, Underwater might seem a little slow and a little lacking in action.  I did mention earlier that that is normally what draws me too a book but I didn’t mind the pace or the lack of action in Underwater.  There was some mystery (not much) which did keep my interest piqued but it was the characters that really kept me reading this one.  Like I said earlier, I felt emotionally connected to Morgan from the start so I never once considered putting Underwater down because of it’s pace.  I do think it’s a good thing to know going in though that Underwater is not necessarily a book you are going to be able to power through and read in an hour or two.  Take your time with this one.  It’s worth it.

I also really loved all the family dynamics in Underwater.  Morgan lived with her mom and little brother and they were all very close.  Her mom was extremely understanding about Morgan’s condition and her little brother was adorable.  Evan was also very close to his mom and aunt.  There wasn’t a ton of interaction shown between them but it was easy to see how they cared for each other and helped each other out.

Overall, Underwater is a fantastic debut that I can’t help but recommend.  I look forward to seeing what Marisa Reichardt does next.

What others are saying about Underwater:

My Friends Are Fiction’s review: “What a beautifully developed and executed debut Underwater was.”

bookstacked’s review: “Everything about this story was amazing: the writing, the theme, the dialogue, but one of my favorite things about this story was the underlying message. The message that having hope is one of the best things in the world.”

Monday, August 15, 2016

With Every Breath (Wanderlust #1) by Lia Riley | Review

With Every Breath (Wanderlust #1) by Lia Riley | ReviewWith Every Breath (Wanderlust #1) by Lia Riley
Published by Forever on December 29th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
3 Stars

BREATHE DEEP . . . AND JUMP IN

At the ends of the earth, Patagonia is a land where ambition trumps reason and the savage summit of La Aguja lures the most determined climbers. It's also the last spot a "play-it-safe girl" like Auden Woods expects to find herself. But she'll lace up her brand-new hiking boots and do whatever it takes to secure a dream job at an adventure magazine . . . even if it kills her. And it just might. When disaster strikes, her only chance at survival comes in the form of the surliest, sexiest mountaineer ever to come out of Scotland.

After a climbing accident cost him his brother, professional mountaineer Rhys MacAskill is at the end of his rope. Redemption is not in his future. That is, until a terrifying storm blows a budding journalist into his tent and it's up to him to make sure they both survive until morning. Despite the demons weighing on him, Rhys can't resist the temptation of the charming American and one wild night just isn't enough.

Auden and Rhys soon learn there are no shortcuts as they navigate their way between life, death, and atonement, and discover something they never expected—love.

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Oh new adult novels, you can be so cheesy.  With Every Breath fits in that category but I must say that I found myself enjoying my first foray into Lia Riley’s works.  It’s a fast-paced read that you can probably read in one sitting if you really want to.  It’s cute and will definitely leave you with a smile on your face.

Pros:

  • Story: I loved both Auden and Rhys’ stories.  Auden is an aspiring journalist who doesn’t have much to show so far in life.  She’s lived in the shadow of her twin sister and she feels that it’s finally time to get out there and create some stories of her own.  Rhys has lived more than most people.  He’s a professional mountaineer who is looking for redemption at the top of La Aguja.  Both Auden and Rhys are looking for something at La Aguja.  What they find isn’t exactly what they set out for but it proves to be exactly what they need.  There were some surprising twists in each of their stories and I liked that I could be kept guessing.
  • Characters: Auden is probably one of my favorite new adult protagonists.  Her life hasn’t been easy but she’s not a depressed or pessimistic person.  She’s funny and quirky and a lot of fun.  From the moment I was first introduced to her, I knew I’d be able to relate.  She’s not very outspoken and she’s afraid to ask for help.  All that changes when she meets Rhys.  He’s someone who doesn’t know her and she can be whoever she wants to be around him.  She was looking for the chance to change and he was the perfect opportunity.  As for Rhys, what can I say, I have a thing for the brooding ones.  It doesn’t hurt that he’s Scottish.  Even in my head I could hear that accent.  He was very closed off and that didn’t change the second he met Auden.  He didn’t really have a choice but to help her out.  His past was much darker than Auden’s and I could see that he thought his future was going to be too.  He had to work hard to open up to her and trust did not come easy from him.

Cons:

  • Ending: The ending felt really rushed to me.  I remember looking down at the page count on my ereader and wondering how everything could be wrapped up in so few pages.  I felt that once Auden and Rhys reached the camp at La Aguja everything just sped up and came tumbling out.  Things were revealed and resolved in just a few pages.  I didn’t see how that fit with either character.  I also felt that the biggest thing that happened in the whole book just got glanced over.  It’s a huge thing that impacted both Auden and Rhys and it was barely mentioned.  I don’t know if the next book in the series will address it at all but I really hope so.
  • Dialogue:  Dialogue is what usually gets me in new adult novels and that was the case with this one too.  Rhys is this brooding mountaineer who supposedly uses women for his own purposes but when he meets Auden he acts like this lovestruck teenager.  Sure he sometimes acts rather rude but most of the time he’s super romantic and sweet, even in his head.  I just couldn’t put that with my idea of Rhys as he had been described previously.

Overall, With Every Breath is an enjoyable read if you are just looking for something fun and mindless.  It’s not the best new adult but it’s definitely not the worst either.  I have a feeling I’ll continue with this series and check out more of Lia Riley’s books.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about With Every Breath:

Romancing the Book’s review: “Emotions are high throughout and I shed some tears along with a few laughs.”

Harlequin Junkie’s review: “With Every Breath is a fun, enjoyable, slightly angsty read that I highly recommend especially if you’re interested in an at-home trip to South America.”

Stories Unfolded’s review: “Every new book I read of Lia’s makes me more of a fan and she’s getting another thumbs up from me on this one.”

Friday, August 12, 2016

Vial Things (Resurrectionist #1) by Leah Clifford | Review

Vial Things (Resurrectionist #1) by Leah Clifford | ReviewVial Things by Leah Clifford
Series: Resurrectionist #1
on August 9, 2016
Genres: Horror
Format: ebook
Source: Author
Buy on Amazon
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5 Stars

When the resurrectionists of Fissure's Whipp begin disappearing, eighteen-year-old Allie knows someone is after their blood—or, more accurately, the genetic mutation that allows their blood to heal wounds, save lives and even bring back the recently deceased.

Raised by her aunt after her parents' deaths, Allie knows staying vigilant means staying alive. She's trained her whole life to protect herself by any means necessary, from self defense classes to extensive weapons training in knives. Now, she’s gone so far as to befriend a homeless boy named Ploy who unknowingly trades a few nights a week on her couch in exchange for being a human tripwire to those hunting her.

But as Allie and Ploy's feelings for each other grow, Allie realizes this time, she'll need more than fighting skills and a sharp blade to beat a villain literally out for blood.

Protecting a girl he shouldn’t love, from a threat he understands too well, Ploy must face his past to save his future in Allie’s world—a world where bringing back the dead can cost you your life.

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It’s been quite some time since I’ve read a book from Leah Clifford but it didn’t take long for me to remember why I loved her first series.  Vial Things is the start of her new Resurrectionist series and while it definitely gave me the same vibe as her Touch trilogy, it really captured my attention with it’s unique new story.

Vial Things is the story of Allie, a teen resurrectionist trying to escape her gift.  She doesn’t mind the whole bringing people back to life thing but she doesn’t like that her family uses it as a way to make money.  She decided that the easiest way to deal with it was to leave it all behind.  That plan is a good one until resurrectionists start turning up dead.  Allie knows that someone is hunting them and she isn’t safe just because she doesn’t use her gift.  She teams up with a homeless boy named Ploy and together they set out to make things safe for the resurrectionists again.

Pros:

  • Characters: I knew I was going to like Allie from the start.  Yes she was closed off but that wasn’t really by her choice.  The only people in her life who knew what she was capable of wouldn’t accept her once she stopped using her ability.  She found it hard to trust others and she didn’t exactly have an easy time of making friends.  I found her to be really likable, even if she didn’t show a whole lot of emotion.  She was lonely and that was something that is so easy to relate to.  That loneliness didn’t stop her from being a total bad-ass though.  She was strong and fierce and willing to do what it took to survive.  Ploy was similar to Allie in a lot of ways.  He was homeless and not exactly fit for the streets.  It was easy to see that no matter how he acted, he wasn’t always as brave as he seemed.  Allie was a friend to him; one of the only ones he had.  He had secrets from her, that’s for sure but so did she.  They were both using each other for different reasons but as they used each other they got to know each other and started to genuinely like one another.  Neither of them were completely trustworthy and there were times when I questioned what exactly one or the other was going to do but that’s one of the things that kept me hooked and on the edge of my seat.
  • Backstory: The science behind the resurrectionists did confuse me at times but it was really interesting.  The ability isn’t something that everyone gets and it’s not something that just comes out of nowhere.  It’s a genetic thing that manifests in some children but not all.  As this is the start of a series, I understand that I probably didn’t get everything there is to know about the resurrectionists but I look forward to finding out more.  There was so much about the family dynamics that I feel like I didn’t get and I hope to find out more about that as Allie learns more about being part of a group of resurrectionists.
  • Pacing: The story moves along at a rather quick pace.  There isn’t ever really a time when you’ll want to step away from the story.  Things are constantly happening and new information is being learned at all times.  I had a hard time stepping away from Vial Things once I was really able to sit down and start reading.  It’s one of those books that hooks you early on and doesn’t let you go until the last page has been read.

Overall, Vial Things needs to be on your radar, if it’s not already.  Leah Clifford has a way with the dark and morbid and scary and I love it.  I look forward to reading more in this series.

Overall reaction:

 

What others are saying about Vial Things:

Insane About Books’ review: “The words disappeared as I read this story, and I found the building of this story  with anticipation and mystery completely brilliant.”

Novelknight’s review: “This is going on my recommendations list for the September newsletter (a little late for August unfortunately).”

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation (How to Ruin #1) by Simone Elkeles | Review

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation (How to Ruin #1) by Simone Elkeles | ReviewHow to Ruin a Summer Vacation (How to Ruin, #1) by Simone Elkeles
Series: How to Ruin #1
Published by Llewellyn Publications on October 8th 2006
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 234
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
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3 Stars

Moshav? What’s a moshav? Is it “shopping mall” in Hebrew? I mean, from what Jessica was telling me, Israeli stores have the latest fashions from Europe. That black dress Jessica has is really awesome. I know I’d be selling out if I go with the Sperm Donor to a mall, but I keep thinking about all the great stuff I could bring back home. 

Unfortunately for 16-year-old Amy Nelson, “moshav” is not Hebrew for “shopping mall.” Not even close. Think goats, not Gucci. 

Going to Israel with her estranged Israeli father is the last thing Amy wants to do this summer. She’s got a serious grudge against her dad, a.k.a. “Sperm Donor,” for showing up so rarely in her life. Now he’s dragging her to a war zone to meet a family she’s never known, where she’ll probably be drafted into the army. At the very least, she’ll be stuck in a house with no AC and only one bathroom for seven people all summer—no best friend, no boyfriend, no shopping, no cell phone… 

Goodbye pride—hello Israel.

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I was looking for a fun summer read and I figured this couldn’t be more perfect. I’m a huge fan of Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry series so I had really high hopes for this one. While I did find it a fun read for the summer, I was disappointed by many things about it.

Pros:

  • Setting: To be completely honest, I’ve never been all that interested in Israel as a setting. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a cool place, I’ve just never seen many books set there and I never set out to find a book set in Israel. I’m glad How to Ruin a Summer Vacation was set in Israel though. It’s a unique setting and Simone Elkeles did a wonderful job including not just the atmosphere but the history as well. I may have to see about finding more YA books set in Israel.
  • Romance: I love the romances where the characters start out disliking each other. I feel like characters who argue quite a bit sometimes have the best chemistry and that was the case with Amy and Avi. I could see their romance coming from a mile away but I wasn’t sure how they were actually going to get together. They had their ups and downs but I thought they were really good for each other. They balanced each other out.

Cons:

  • Amy: Amy was one of the most immature characters I have ever read about. She was so self-absorbed. Her dad wanted to take her to Israel to see her grandmother because she was sick. All Amy could see was that her dad was trying to ruin her life. Then she met her family and she treated them like crap. Yes, her cousin was a bitch. However, so was Amy. She didn’t even try to make things work between her and Osnat. I was really let down by that. And honestly, I don’t know what Avi saw in her because she was such a bitch to him most of the time. Really, she was a bitch to everyone.
  • Story: There really wasn’t much going on for the story. This was really just mostly a romance. I was okay with that since the book was so short but if there were more pages to the book, I would have gotten bored. I was hoping there would be more to the story as far as Amy’s relationship with her father and that didn’t happen. I know it could still happen in the next two books but for now, there wasn’t much to that relationship and what there was happened rather quickly.

Overall, How to Ruin a Summer Vacation is not Simone Elkeles’ best book, that’s for sure. I will continue with this trilogy since it is a fun read but I’d definitely recommend the Perfect Chemistry books over this trilogy.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about How to Ruin a Summer Vacation:

Stuck in Books’ review: “If you like contemporary YA then this is good one to choose.”

The Page Sage’s review: “The insight into Israeli culture is fantastic.”

Friday, June 10, 2016

Deeper We Fall (Fall & Rise #1) by Chelsea M. Cameron | Review

Deeper We Fall (Fall & Rise #1) by Chelsea M. Cameron | ReviewDeeper We Fall by Chelsea M. Cameron
Series: Fall and Rise #1
Published by DRC Publishing on January 24th 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 453
Format: ebook
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
1 Stars

Two years after her best friend was involved in a car accident that caused a traumatic brain injury, Lottie Anders is ready to start her freshman year of college. Ready to move on. Ready to start forgetting the night that ripped her life apart.

Her plans come to a screeching halt when not one, but both brothers responsible for the accident end up back in her life again.

Zack is cruel, selfish and constantly rubbing what happened to her friend in Lottie's face.

Zan is different. He listens to her awkward ramblings. He loves To Kill a Mockingbird as much as she does, and his dark eyes are irresistible. His words are few and far between, but when he does speak, she can't help but listen.

The trouble is, Zan was the driver in the accident, and now Lottie's discovered he lied to her about what happened that night. Now she must decide if trusting him again will lead to real forgiveness, or deeper heartache.

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Let me just start off by saying that I’m extremely glad I got this book for free on Kindle and didn’t waste my money on it.  Deeper We Fall reminded me why I don’t read self-published books.  There were so many things I absolutely hated about Deeper We Fall.  I’m honestly amazed I even finished it and I’m kind of kicking myself for wasting so much time with it.

Pros:

  • The only good thing this book had going for it was the beginning.  It started off strong, I’ll give it that.  I wanted to know more about what happened after the accident and the secrets surrounding the accident.  It was pretty easy to figure out what the secret about the accident was though so my curiosity didn’t last too long.

Cons:

  • Characters: I didn’t like most of the main characters.  Will and Simon were probably the exceptions.  They were funny and I loved how they treated Charlotte.  Will was a great brother and Simon was basically brother number two.  They were adorable.  Charlotte, however, was whiny and annoying and extremely naive.  She blamed herself for the accident even though she wasn’t even in the car.  She did everything she could to stop her friend from getting in the car, short of dragging her away.  There was nothing she could have done and she constantly beat herself up about it.  Not just herself though.  She treated Zan and Zack Parker like crap for the accident.  Zack was totally to blame but Zan was pretty much an innocent bystander even though he was driving the car.  I could also understand her hostility toward Zack because he was a total douchebag.  Her attitude toward Zan was just mean though.  And for her to then start falling for him just made no sense.  Zan was annoying because he was so obsessed with Charlotte.  I didn’t find his behavior attractive.  In fact, it was a little stalkerish.  He claimed to be in love with her but he never even had a conversation with her before the accident.  That’s not love, that’s obsession.
  • Romance: Okay let’s get into the romance a little more.  Zan and Charlotte obviously have something going on and it was the dumbest thing I have ever read.  First, Charlotte is a giant bitch to Zan.  She was never once nice to him and yet he loved her.  Or at least claimed he did.  Then when they do finally start something, he lets her call all the shots and she’s not willing to let anyone know about them.  And Zan is fine with that.  He doesn’t want to scare her off so he just lets her walk all over him.  I’m all for men and women being equal in relationships and that goes for this situation too.  Zan had no control over what they did or didn’t do.  I hated that.
  • Story: The story dragged for so long.  There was so much unnecessary information.  Nothing even happened with Charlotte and Zan for more than half of the book.  I’m sorry, if there is supposed to be some big important romance in a book, it should happen before I get 70% of the way through the book.  Also, there was pretty much nothing else going on other than this romance that I was pretty sure was never going to happen. There were a few small side stories which I knew were going to be excuses to have more books with these characters but they were pretty much all tied up pretty quickly and didn’t hold my interest.  Everything about this book was predictable.

Overall, I’m just going to stop because if I don’t, I’ll rant for 5 more pages.  I don’t recommend reading this one but it’s free on Kindle if you do decide to pick it up for some reason.  It seems like other readers have really enjoyed it so maybe it’s just that this one was not for me.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about Deeper We Fall:

  • Polished Page Turners’ review: “I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys New Adult, especially those that are heavy on the emotional and not on the sex.”
Monday, June 6, 2016

Blog Tour: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone | Review + GiveawayThe Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone
on June 7th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: PLA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O'Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie's closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie's plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret "death with dignity" cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way - and give the O'Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.

Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

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The Loose Ends List is one of those books that you will either love or hate and I am definitely on the love side.  I knew from the moment I read the synopsis that this was going to be a book for me.  While it had it’s flaws, I truly enjoyed Carrie Firestone’s debut novel.

Pros:

  • Story:  It takes a lot to switch things up with contemporary novels.  I admit that even though it is my favorite genre, I can really get bored with the books because they all seem to be very similar these days.  The Loose Ends List really brings something new to the contemporary genre.  I’ve read tons of books dealing with death in the family but nothing like this.  Maddie’s grandma is a force to be reckoned with and she’s not gonna let cancer bring her down.  She’s going out the way she wants to and that’s on a cruise with her family by her side. While it’s definitely a sad story, there are so many fun and happy moments to balance it out.
  • Romance: I knew from the start that Maddie’s boyfriend wasn’t going to be the one she ended the summer with and I was glad for that.  He was terrible and her reasons for being with him were terrible.  Enzo, on the other hand, was good for her.  They were going through similar situations and they both needed someone.  Their relationship was sweet and fun and I loved watching Maddie cross things off her loose ends list with Enzo.
  • Writing: I really liked Carrie Firestone’s writing style.  The story never drags and a lot of that has to do with the writing.  It’s not overly descriptive or wordy but it’s also not sparse in descriptions.  I think it lends itself well to contemporary stories although I say that without having read any other kind of story from Carrie.  It really helped keep my interest in the book even if I had issues with some other things.
  • Humor: This is not just a sob story.  There is so much humor woven into the story that it’s almost easy to forget that one of the main characters in the story is going to die.  I loved how Carrie Firestone managed to balance the humor and the heartache.  I never expected to laugh as much as I did throughout The Loose Ends List.  That’s not to say I didn’t cry a ton too but it was pretty even.  A lot of that had to do with Maddie’s grandma.  She was a hoot.  I loved her and I could see why Maddie did too.

Cons:

  • Characters: While most of the characters were awesome, I had some issues with a few.  Take Maddie, for instance.  She was so superficial.  I was beyond annoyed with her attitude at the start of the book.  She admits to dating a guy just because he’s popular and the captain of the lacrosse team.  It’s like she’s always trying to prove herself to someone.  I wanted her to grow up and start doing things just for herself.  Her friends were the same way.  It seemed like all they cared about were boys and parties.  All except for Rachel, Maddie’s friend but not really.  They grew apart because Maddie became popular and Rachel cared about comic books and things like that.  What a lame reason to grow apart.  Why can’t you do both?  Yes, Maddie grows up a lot throughout the book but she really annoyed me for a lot of it, as did the people she chose to hang out with.

Overall, The Loose Ends List is a wonderful read that had me laughing, smiling, and crying quite a bit.  I look forward to reading more from Carrie Firestone.  Check this one out and don’t forget your tissues when you do pick it up.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about The Loose Ends List:

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff | Review

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff | ReviewPlaces No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff
Published by Delacorte Press on May 17th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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4 Stars

For fans of Lauren Oliver and E. Lockhart, here is a dreamy love story set in the dark halls of contemporary high school, from New York Times bestselling author Brenna Yovanoff.

Waverly Camdenmar spends her nights running until she can’t even think. Then the sun comes up, life goes on, and Waverly goes back to her perfectly hateful best friend, her perfectly dull classes, and the tiny, nagging suspicion that there’s more to life than student council and GPAs.

Marshall Holt is a loser. He drinks on school nights and gets stoned in the park. He is at risk of not graduating, he does not care, he is no one. He is not even close to being in Waverly’s world.

But then one night Waverly falls asleep and dreams herself into Marshall’s bedroom—and when the sun comes up, nothing in her life can ever be the same. In Waverly’s dreams, the rules have changed. But in her days, she’ll have to decide if it’s worth losing everything for a boy who barely exists.

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Places No One Knows is a step out for Brenna Yovanoff.  I’ve only read one of her other books (The Space Between, which I loved) but I felt like I got a sense of her writing from that one.  Places No One Knows is a completely different story from anything she has done before and anything I have read before.

Pros:

  • Writing: Brenna Yovanoff’s writing is what really grabbed me when I read The Space Between and while Places No One Knows is a completely different story, Brenna’s writing shines through.  Her writing is descriptive and can sometimes come across a little heavy but I have always loved that style and think it really worked well with the story here.  I can see why Brenna Yovanoff is Maggie Stiefvater’s critique partner because their styles of writing are similar.  Even if I had hated the story in Places No One Knows, I would have kept reading for the writing alone.
  • Story: The story had it’s strong points and it’s weak points.  When I started Places No One Knows, I was looking for a contemporary story set in high school.  Places No One Knows fits those criteria but it’s a lot more than that.  Waverly doesn’t sleep and in an attempt to get some sleep, she ends up visiting another classmate, without ever having left her room.  He’s the only one who can see her and he’s the only one she visits this way.  He doesn’t run in her circle at school but she is drawn to him for some reason.  They come from very different walks of life but they have more in common than either of them think.  Brenna Yovanoff doesn’t spend much time detailing exactly what Waverly does to be able to visit him but that’s okay because that’s not what the book is about.  It’s more about what happens when Waverly does spend time with Marshall and how that time together (away from everyone else) brings out the truth of who they are and who they want to be.
  • Characters: Pros and cons here, that’s for sure, especially with Waverly.  It’s odd because the thing I hated about Waverly also made me really like her.  She was very much a high school girl.  She let Maribeth put her down all the time, she cared so much about what everyone else thought of her, and she participated in all the cheesy school functions even if she didn’t care about them.  It may not be the case for everyone but I could relate to Waverly so much about those aspects.  It was almost exactly how I felt in high school.  As for Marshall, he was probably my favorite although Autumn gave him a run for his money.  I could understand why they were friends.  Autumn did what she wanted and didn’t care what anyone thought.  She was genuine and she cared deeply for her friends.  Marshall was the same way.  He had a seriously messed up home life and it showed through in everything he did.  He was a slacker and a bit of a nobody and he didn’t mind that until Waverly came into his life.  They both made each other stronger and brought out new sides of each other.  Waverly was finally willing to just be herself with him and he was willing to want more out of life when he was with her.  I loved that about their relationship.

Cons:

  • Waverly: While Waverly did have some pros about her, she also had some very big cons for me.  I almost gave up on this one at one point because I did not like Waverly at all.  She was so shut off from the world that she was kind of impossible to like or sympathize with.  I couldn’t understand her.  I didn’t get why she didn’t sleep and I think that impacted how she acted with people.  I would have liked a little more background about that.  I also would have liked more background about her friendship with Maribeth because it was obvious that she didn’t like Maribeth but she just put up with her, no matter what she said or did.

Overall, Places No One Knows may not be my favorite from Brenna Yovanoff but it’s still a solid addition to her books.  I think it really shows that her talent lends itself to any style story that she chooses to write and I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about Places No One Knows:

  • Wrapped Up In Books’ review: “It’s a complicated and nuanced look at how difficult it can be to inhabit your own skin, especially in high school, and how sometimes, the right person can make it easier to breathe.”
  • BookPage’s review: “Few writers delve as intimately into raw emotion as Brenna Yovanoff as she strips her characters of their practiced self-delusions and faulty coping strategies.”
  • Read.Breathe.Relax’s review: “Places No One Knows offers an intriguing mystery, romantic tension and incredible writing, and if you don’t mind the inclusion of some tough topics then I would definitely recommend it.”
Friday, May 27, 2016

Paper Princess (The Royals #1) by Erin Watt | Review

Paper Princess (The Royals #1) by Erin Watt | ReviewPaper Princess (The Royals, #1) by Erin Watt
Series: The Royals #1
on January 1st 1970
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 370
Format: ebook
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
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4 Stars

From strip clubs and truck stops to southern coast mansions and prep schools, one girl tries to stay true to herself.

These Royals will ruin you…

Ella Harper is a survivor—a pragmatic optimist. She’s spent her whole life moving from town to town with her flighty mother, struggling to make ends meet and believing that someday she’ll climb out of the gutter. After her mother’s death, Ella is truly alone. 

Until Callum Royal appears, plucking Ella out of poverty and tossing her into his posh mansion among his five sons who all hate her. Each Royal boy is more magnetic than the last, but none as captivating as Reed Royal, the boy who is determined to send her back to the slums she came from.

Reed doesn’t want her. He says she doesn’t belong with the Royals.
He might be right.

Wealth. Excess. Deception. It’s like nothing Ella has ever experienced, and if she’s going to survive her time in the Royal palace, she’ll need to learn to issue her own Royal decrees. 

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Paper Princess did not seem like anything I normally read but I thought I’d give it a try.  I was looking for New Adult recommendations and this one was mentioned more than once.  I figured that must be a good sign and it definitely was.  Paper Princess was a little out of my comfort zone but I’m so glad I gave it a chance.

Pros:

  • Characters: Oh where do I even begin with these characters?  Ella is my favorite kind of girl.  She’s sassy and sarcastic, and badass but also extremely lonely and vulnerable.  Erin Watt managed to perfectly capture all these sides to Ella and make me love every single piece of her.  As for the boys, I admit that I’m not typically into the rude, arrogant, completely jackass guys but something about Reed Royal (and the rest of the Royals) appealed to me.  Reed was the alpha male in the Royal household (except when older brother Gideon was around) and he made that very known.  Callum may be the dad but he wasn’t the one in control of the boys.  Reed was a total jerk to Ella for a good portion of the book but I still managed to fall for him.  Don’t get me wrong, I love that Ella put him in his place but I really do think they worked well together.  It also didn’t hurt that the sexual tension between the two of them was off the charts.  My next favorite Royal was Easton, for sure, and I hope to find out more about his story in the coming books.  And then there was Callum.  He was a total sweetheart and really wanted to look out for Ella.
  • Story: I read the synopsis for this one and really didn’t think there would be a whole lot to the story but I was wrong about that.  Ella is taken in by Callum Royal and given some stipulations about her new life.  If she sticks it out, he’ll pay for her college and if she sticks that out, she’ll get even more money when she’s done.  Seems easy peasy, right?  So wrong.  His 5 sons think she’s a gold digger out to get their dad’s money and will not take no for an answer.  They do everything to make her life miserable, both at home and school.  The Royals have endless supplies of money and they pretty much run the school so it’s easy to get everyone to alienate her.  There is more to their hatred for Ella though that stems from what happened with their parents and the role Ella’s dad played in that story.  I was intrigued about the Royals’ backstory and how each one dealt with the grief of losing their mother.
  • Romance: I don’t even know if I can call what Ella and Reed had between them a romance.  For a lot of the book, they hated each other or at least made it seem like they did.  Their relationship was more sexual tension than anything, at least at first.  As they started to get to know each other I could see where things were going.  They tried to fight it but they had some great chemistry and more in common than either would have guessed.  I loved watching them give in to each other and see what they could offer one another.

Cons:

  • Ending: I know I really shouldn’t hate on a book just because I didn’t like the ending but this one seemed to come out of nowhere.  I actually went back and re-read it a couple times just to see how it would make sense and I couldn’t figure it out.  It’s a huge cliffhanger (which has me dying for the next one) but that isn’t what bothered me about it.  I’m not going to spoil it but I just felt like it was rushed and really didn’t fit with what I knew of the characters.  I’m eager to see how it will all play out in the second book and if things will start to make more sense to me then.

Overall, Paper Princess has been added to my list of New Adult recommendations, for sure.  It doesn’t hurt that one half of the writing duo happens to be one of my favorite NA authors (Elle Kennedy!) but don’t think that’s my reasoning behind this recommendation.  I actually didn’t find out she was part of the writing duo until after I finished the book.  Paper Princess stands on it’s own and while it might leave you with the urge to throw it against a wall, it’s one you should definitely try.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about Paper Princess:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14) by J.R. Ward | Review

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14) by J.R. Ward | ReviewThe Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #14) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #14
Published by NAL on April 5th 2016
Pages: 508
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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3 Stars

Nothing is as it used to be for the Black Dagger Brotherhood. After avoiding war with the Shadows, alliances have shifted and lines have been drawn. The slayers of the Lessening Society are stronger than ever, preying on human weakness to acquire more money, more weapons, more power. But as the Brotherhood readies for an all-out attack on them, one of their own fights a battle within himself…

For Rhage, the Brother with the biggest appetites, but also the biggest heart, life was supposed to be perfect—or at the very least, perfectly enjoyable. Mary, his beloved shellan, is by his side and his King and his brothers are thriving. But Rhage can’t understand—or control—the panic and insecurity that plague him…

And that terrifies him—as well as distances him from his mate. After suffering mortal injury in battle, Rhage must reassess his priorities—and the answer, when it comes to him, rocks his world...and Mary’s. But Mary is on a journey of her own, one that will either bring them closer together or cause a split that neither will recover from...

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By book 14, you’d think I’d be over a series but that is so not the case with the Black Dagger Brotherhood books.  J.R. Ward still manages to surprise me with the twists and turns she keeps throwing in her books.

Fair warning: review is spoiler free if you’ve read the first 13 books.  Otherwise, I make no promises.

Pros:

  • Story: Things seem to be moving along with the Lessening Society again.  The Beast starts off with a huge battle and things seem like they are finally back on track with the war between the Black Dagger Brotherhood and the Lessening Society.  I admit, it’s a little frustrating because this war has been going on for 14 books and it doesn’t seem like it’s gone very far so it was good to see such a huge, impactful battle in The Beast.
  • Romance: Rhage and Mary have always been one of my favorite couples (let’s be real, it’s mainly because of Rhage) so I was a little nervous about the story coming back to them and threatening their relationship.  While it definitely puts things up in the air for them, it really shows that they have a strong relationship no matter what they go through and believe me, they go through a lot.  Rhage and Mary don’t have a perfect relationship and they never have.  They went through a lot to get their happy ending and yeah, J.R. Ward kind of throws everything up in the air with The Beast, but she definitely knew what she was doing.
  • Characters: I’m still totally in love with all the original characters and I love that J.R. Ward is revisiting some of their stories but I also really like that she still manages to introduce new ones and tie all their stories together.  There is one particular character that is introduced pretty early on in The Beast who didn’t make sense to the story for quite some time.  When things started to fall into place though, I couldn’t believe where things were going.  It’s hard to believe that I can still be so surprised by J.R. Ward’s books but she manages to throw in some amazing twists that I never see coming.

Cons:

  • Rhage and Mary: I had some serious issues with Rhage and Mary at times throughout The Beast.  Take the very first scene, for instance.  I’m not going to spoil anything but Rhage does something so incredibly stupid and doesn’t even have a very good reason for it.  He acts reckless and it really made me mad.  Then there was Mary.  Mary was so obsessed with Bitty (a child that Rhage and the brothers rescued in a previous book from her abusive father) that she loses sight of so many other things, including Rhage.  Those two had some things they needed to work out and they did not make me happy while they were working them out.  And also, they were pretty cheesy at times which is not something I ever expected from them and I didn’t care much for it.

Overall, The Beast is a solid addition to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series and really sets things up for the next book and the next step in the war with the Lessening Society.  I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in book 15, especially with Xcor and Layla.

What others are saying about The Beast:

  • Smexybooks’ review: “To be honest, I wasn’t that excited for a second Rhage book, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.”
  • Vilma’s Book Blog’s review: “Life and death, marriage and love, sacrifices and surprises—J.R. Ward stirs things up in this intimate, evocative next chapter in the Black Dagger Brotherhood.”
  • Total Book Geek’s review: “Once again The Beast was amazingly written, and I love how well all the story-lines mix together.”
Monday, May 23, 2016

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson | Review

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson | ReviewThe Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 519
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

Andie had it all planned out.

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.
Amazing friends? Check.
Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.
Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.

And where’s the fun in that?

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It’s been a while since I’ve read a Morgan Matson book (I know, I fail at life) and I’d forgotten how much I loved her writing, her characters, and the way she writes romance.  The Unexpected Everything was just what I was looking for in a summer contemporary novel.  I can’t help but smile just thinking about this book!

Pros:

  • The characters: This one is a little odd for me because some of the characters are on my pro and con list.  Take Andie, for instance.  I mostly loved her but she had some moments where I could not stand her.  I’ll get to that part later though.  For most of the book, I loved Andie.  I think the best part about her was the development she went through over the course of the novel.  She was almost a completely different person by the end of The Unexpected Everything and I think a lot of that had to do with her friends, her family, and Clark.  It just goes to show how the people around you help shape who you are.  Speaking of the people around her, I adored her friends and Clark.  Her friends were all really well-rounded and they were all so different but they just worked together.  I never had issues telling them apart because their personalities were so well developed.  As for Clark, he might be my dream guy.  He’s totally shy and nerdy and a little awkward and just so dang cute.
  • Family: Family plays a huge role in The Unexpected Everything and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first because Andie and her dad had a very weird relationship.  I didn’t like how her dad all of a sudden cared so much about what she was doing when he never had before.  He was a total absentee parent and then he decided to take a really active role in Andie’s life and came off a little overbearing at first.  However, once Andie and her dad hashed some things out between the two of them their relationship changed a lot and definitely for the better.  There were some absolutely adorable moments between them (the scavenger hunt!)
  • Friends: Andie and her friends were extremely close.  I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that showcases a friendship like theirs.  These girls interacted with each other daily.  They told each other almost everything and they had these rituals (like talking about love lives at the diner) and their friendship was seriously adorable.  They had issues (boy did they ever) but they were pretty much always there for each other.  Friendship goals right here guys!
  • Romance: I’m just going to gush here.  Clark and Andie were so adorable.  They had probably one of the most awkward first dates ever but I knew that couldn’t be the end for them.  Bertie (the dog that Clark is dog sitting) brings them back together and things really took off from there.  They didn’t have a picture perfect relationship and that is what I loved so much about them.  They had issues and they disagreed on things and they didn’t have to spend every waking moment together.  They were so real and neither of them was perfect.

Cons:

  • The characters: Like I said, a couple of the characters fit on both my pros and cons list.  Andie was one of them.  She was so uptight at first.  She was so unwilling to accept changes and she kept everything bottled up.  So many things could have been solved so easily if she was just willing to say something about it.  Her relationship with her dad was one of those things.  She was never willing to tell him how she felt about her mom’s death or their relationship without her and it finally just all bubbled over and she couldn’t keep it inside anymore.  She was closed off and just unwilling to let people in and it really bothered me.  But like I said earlier, she developed a lot throughout the book and by the end of it, I really did like her. One character that I still didn’t really like at the end of the book was her friend Toby.  I’m not going to spoil anything but Toby did some really crappy things and she was so selfish.  She only ever thought about herself and she made that very clear.  Also, I think I may have liked her even less by the end of the book.  She was a minor issue for me though.

Overall, The Unexpected Everything is another stunner from Morgan Matson.  I couldn’t read it fast enough and I never wanted it to end (and that’s saying something for a 500+ page book!)  If you’re looking for the perfect summer read, this is it!