Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley

Title: Pretty Girl-13
Author: Liz Coley
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Source: ARC from blogger meet up
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
Reminiscent of the Elizabeth Smart case, Pretty Girl-13 is a disturbing and powerful psychological mystery about a girl who must piece together the story of her kidnapping and captivity.

Angie Chapman was thirteen years old when she ventured into the woods along on a Girl Scouts camping trip. Now she's returned home…only to find that it's three years later and she's sixteen--or at least that's what everyone tells her.

What happened to the past three years of her life?

Angie doesn't know.

But there are people who do--people who could tell Angie every detail of her forgotten time, if only they weren't locked inside her mind. With a tremendous amount of courage, Angie embarks on a journey to discover the fragments of her personality, otherwise known as her "alters." As she unearths more and more about her past, she discovers a terrifying secret and must decide: When you remember things you wish you could forget, do you destroy the parts of yourself that are responsible?

Liz Coley's alarming and fascinating psychological mystery is a disturbing--and ultimately empowering page-turner about accepting our whole selves, and the healing power of courage, hope and love.

I love a good psychological thriller as much as the next person and that's exactly what I got with Liz Coley's Petty Girl-13. The story was completely different than what I thought it was going to be, but that it was different is probably what made it so I enjoyed it as much as I did. 

The last thing Angie remembers is leaving her tent to go to the bathroom when she was 13 on a girl scout camping trip. Now, 16 years olds, she finally finds her way home after having been missing for three years. Except she doesn't remember how she got there or what happened during the last three years of her life. Despite being 16, Angie still thinks she is 13 years old, same as she was when she went missing. While trying to piece together what happened during those years, Angie discovers more than she bargained for. Will she be able to handle it all? Or is she simply better not knowing what happened?

As much as I love happy and fun stories with happy endings when I read, my TV viewing habits tend to line up more with what I got in Liz Coley's Pretty Girl-13. When it comes to TV I am a sucker for anything involving a mystery, all the best if there's a psychological aspect to it all. So Pretty Girl-13 was perfect for me in that sense. I will admit, however, that I was a little hesitant to read it. As much as I love this stuff on a screen, when it's in a book my overactive brain tends to take things entirely too far so I started worrying what this book would do to my own mental wellness. But I shouldn't have worried, because Pretty Girl-13 was more about the aftermath of the kidnapping and return than it was about the time in captivity. And based on the flashbacks I saw, I don't think I would have been able to handle the whole book that way. The story that Liz Coley wrote ended up fascinating me completely. I absolutely loved the psychological aspect of the story, the way that the story was basically built around Angie's trauma and how it affected her mentally just fascinated me…though I'm not too sure what that actually says about me.

The story was basically around Angie. Sure there were other people around, but at this point, half of those people are actually different versions of Angie, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Angie was an interesting character. I can't even begin to imagine what she's gone through and what she had to do to cope with it all. And I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to come back after having been missing for three years, not remembering a single thing of that time. So that made her interesting. But what interested me even more than Angie, was the different identities she had created for dealing with her trauma. As much as what some of these identities revealed was traumatizing, I sort of wish I could have seen more of them, what they experienced (again, not sure what that says about me). What did surprise me about the story was that despite all this trauma, there was still some romance. But it was a romance that worked in the context of the story. It was about Angie finding someone who really cared about her and wouldn't push to do anything she didn't want to do. And I appreciated that considering everything Angie went through.

Liz Coley's Pretty Girl-13 was more than I could have asked for. It's a dark story, but it's also a story that is fascinating and will mess with your mind. It might even traumatize you at times. If you think you can handle it, then I would strongly recommend giving Pretty Girl-13 a chance.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Juvie by Steve Watkins

Title: Juvie
Author: Steve Watkins
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Source: ARC from publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
Heart-wrenching and real, Juvie tells the story of two sisters grappling with accountability, sacrifice--and who will be there to help you after you take the fall.

Sade Windas has always been the responsible one--she's the start player on her AAU basketball team, she gets good grades, she dates a cute soccer player, and she tries to help out at home. Not like her older sister, Carla, who leaves her three-year-old daughter, Lulu, with Aunt Sadie while she parties and gets high. But when both sisters are caught up in a drug deal--wrong place, wrong time--it falls to Sadie to confess to a crime she didn't commit to keep Carla out of jail and Lulu out of foster care. Sadie is supposed to get off with a slap on the wrist, but somehow, impossibly, gets sentenced to six months in juvie. As life as Sadie knew it disappears beyond the stark bars of her cell, her anger--at her ex-boyfriend, at Carla, at herself--fills the empty space left behind. Can Sadie forgive Carla for getting her mixed up in this mess? Can Carla straighten herself out to make a better life for Lulu, and for all of them? Can Sadie survive her time in juvie with her spirit intact?

When I first heard about Juvie by Steve Watkins it just sounded like an intriguing story that was grittier than what I would normally choose to read. As much as I love my broken characters, there's usually romance and a happy ending involved. With Juvie, it was different but the good kind of different. 

Sadie has always been the good sister. Unlike her older sister Carla, Sadie didn't start using drugs and get pregnant at seventeen. Instead, Sadie tries to hold her family together, spending as much time as she can with her niece Lulu and helping out wherever possible. But when babysitting Carla at a party gets the two sisters caught up in a drug deal, Sadie isn't sure how she can fix this problem. Taking the fall for Carla lands Sadie in juvie for six months. Will Sadie survive juvie? And more importantly will this scare Carla into getting her act together, if only for Lulu's sake?

Typically, I love my contemporary stories filled with romance, something there was pretty much none of in Steve Watkins' Juvie. But that's okay. I knew going in that Juvie would be different from what I normally read but I wanted it to be different. This story was a little darker and grittier--as you would expect from a story that takes place in juvie. What I liked about the story is that there were sort of two timelines. Every other chapter was about Sadie's first few months in juvie, while the rest of the chapters showed Sadie's life from starting from the party where everything went wrong until the day before she goes to juvie. Having the story told that way allowed me to get a better sense of why Sadie made the decision she did when she chose to take the fall for her sister. Because, ultimately, that's what the story was about: the bond between two sisters. 

The story was very much about the bond between Sadie and Carla. Though that bond appeared to be very strained, it's still there. Sadie is the kind of person who would do whatever she can to help her family, and I respected her for that. Granted the person she was doing this for didn't really seem to appreciate it at first. If I'm being completely honest, Carla didn't really have many redeeming qualities when I first met her. But I was happy to see her pick up the pieces of her life, even if it took one major kick in the butt to do so. More than that though, it was nice to see Sadie accept who her sister was as the story went on. Sure, she was giving her grief and pushing her to get her act together, but she eventually accepted her. Though, really, Lulu is the one who totally stole the show. 

Juvie by Steve Watkins was different. The kind of different I really enjoy and makes me want to recommend a book to others. If you are looking for a book that deals with a grittier subject matter and shows how strong family bonds can be, then Juvie is the book for you.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden by Jessica Sorensen

Title: The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden (The Coincidence #1)
Author: Jessica Sorensen
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: August 6, 2013
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
For Kayden, suffering in silence was the only way to survive. If he was lucky, he could keep his head down, do as he was told, and make it through the day. But one night it seemed like his luck--and his life--might finally end…until an angel named Callie appeared just in time to rescue him.

Callie has never believed in luck. Not since her twelfth birthday when everything was taken from her. After the worst was over, she locked up her feelings and vowed never to tell anyone what happened. Now, six years later, she continues to struggle with the painful secret that threatens to consume her.

When fate lands Kayden and Callie at the same college, Kayden is determined to get to know the beautiful girl who changed his destiny. Quiet and reserved, Callie still fears letting anyone else into her world. But Kayden is certain that Callie has come back into his life for a reason. And the more he tries to be a part of her life, the more he realizes that, this time, it's Callie who needs to be saved...

If you've been reading my posts for the past month or so then you'll know I've been devouring any and all New Adult books I've been able to get my hands on. It was no different with Jessica Sorensen's The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden. I was hooked right from page one and just tore through the book.

Callie Lawrence has wanted to be invisible since everything was taken from her on her twelfth birthday. And she's succeeded to do it all the way through high school. But as she's about to leave doe college, Callie witnesses something, and for once she can't just be invisible. Stepping in to save Kayden's life, Callie couldn't have predicted that she would be saving herself in the process. Letting Kayden into her life goes against everything Callie believes in, but it might be just what she needs. Because no one can understand her desire to be invisible better than Kayden. 

Maybe it's because New Adult is typically contemporary romance and that's my favourite genre, but it just can't seem to get enough of these stories. Jessica Sorensen's The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden just fuelled that hunger more. I got hooked right from the start. I wanted to know more about what had happened to both Kayden and Callie. I wanted to see if they would be able to come out on the other side. This wasn't a happy story and some parts of it were downright painful to read but that's where some of the story's power ultimately comes from. In this story, Jessica Sorensen tackles some tough subjects in a way that feels disturbingly realistic.  The abuse Kayden suffers and how it affects me completely broke my heart. There were times while I was reading where I just wanted to hurt his father for what he was doing and knock some sense into his mother. The way Callie dealt with her own trauma felt just as realistic and, like with Kayden's pain, Callie's pain just made my heart break at times. 

But it wasn't just a dark story about abuse. The romance between Callie and Kayden was, to sound completely cheesy, beautiful. These were two people who understood each other on a level other people wouldn't be able to understand them. I loved seeing them work together to overcome their past, even if at times they struggled. But their struggle is what added that realistic quality to the story. I was rooting for them the whole way. Even though they sometimes didn't see it, I could see that they were good for each other and they made each other better I more than one way. 

It wasn't just Callie and Kayden's story that felt real, it was the characters themselves. I figured what happened to Callie pretty much ten pages into the books that only made me appreciate her character more. Because I knew what had happened to her, I was able to better understand why she was acting the way she was acting. With Kayden, the reader is told in the first chapter that his father is physically abusive, but as I read, I realized that there was a whole lot more going on with him. And that just broke my heart. But what I appreciated the most about Kayden is that the chapters that were written from his perspective really and truly felt like I was I the mind of an 18 year old guy. That just made Kayden feel that much more real to me. My only wish as far as characters are concerned is that I could see more of Seth and Luke. They both have their own story to tell and while I've been able to get bits and pieces from here and there, it has only served to make me want more. 

I love nothing more than a good contemporary romance with characters that are completely broken. I've said it before and I'll say it again, broken characters make for some of the best and most touching stories. This is exactly what Jessica Sorensen's The Coincidence of Callie & Kaden was. If you choose to read this story, be prepared to be hooked and want the sequel immediately after you finish. At least, that's what happened to me.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Faking It by Cora Carmack

Title: Faking It (Losing It #2)
Author: Cora Carmack
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
Mackenzie "Max" Miller has a problem. Her parents have arrived in town for a surprise visit, and if they see her dyed hair, tattoos, and piercings, they just might disown her. Even worse, they're expecting to meet a nice, wholesome boyfriend, not a guy named Mace who has a neck tattoo and plays in a band. All her lies are about to come crashing around her, but then she meets Cade.

Cade moved to Philadelphia to act and to leave his problems behind in Texas. So far though, he's kept the problems and had very little opportunity to take the stage. When Max approaches him in a coffee shop with a crazy request to pretend to be her boyfriend, he agrees to play the part. But when Cade plays the role a little too well, they're forced to keep the ruse going. And the more they fake the relationship, the more real it begins to feel. 

After having read Cora Carmack's Losing It, I was pretty much desperate to read more and so I rushed to my local bookstore in order to get myself a copy of the sequel, Faking It. And Faking It might just be what completely sold me on New Adult. 

Cade thought that by moving to Philadelphia he would be able to leave all his problems and heartache behind and start fresh as an actor. Except when the only person you know in the city also happens to be the one who broke your heart, it can be a little difficult to do. When Max steps into his life asking him to pretend to be her boyfriend, Cade figures it's as good an opportunity to act as any. Max hopes that Cade will be able to fool her parents. If he doesn't and they find out who her real boyfriend is, things might get ugly. But what starts out as a one time thing, quickly becomes a complicated lie. And the more Cade and Max pretend to be in a relationship, the more real it becomes. 

I thought I loved Losing It but that was nothing compared to how I feel about Faking It. It just felt like there was so much more to this story. The fact that I already knew Cade from the previous book may have helped hook me faster but it was more than just that. The story had more depth to it. I knew about the character's background and the way that was woven into the story helped me connect with the story that much more. I wanted to know what had happened to the characters to make the the way they were, Max especially. That curiosity about Max's past definitely factored into how quickly I found myself reading the book. That, and the romance. In Faking It, Cora Carmack definitely amped up the romance in this book. Much like the rest of the story, the romance between Cade and Max felt more real, it felt deeper. Sure everything happened really quickly, but because of what each of them was bringing to the table, it added something more to the story. So I guess what made me love this story as much as I did has to do with Cade and Max themselves. 

Going in to Faking It, I already knew Cade from the previous book and I had already grown a little attached to him. And that attachment only grew with this second book. As much as I'm having trouble putting Cade into words, I know for sure that I pretty much fell for him while reading Faking It. Just the way he was with Max, even when he knew next to nothing about her melted my heart. And after what happened to him in Losing It, I wanted something good to happen to him, I wanted him to. Be able to find happiness. And then Max walked into her life and helped with just that. Max was broken. She carried so much pain with her and she deserved someone like Cade to come along and help her and care for her. Ultimately, I just wanted Max to find someone who loved her for who she really was and not who her parents wanted her to be. And that's who Cade was. 

Cora Carmack's Faking It is exactly what I want my contemporary romances to be it. It was a great story with characters that were real and stayed with me after I finished reading. I can say that from now on I won't hesitate to pick up anything Cora Carmack writes. 

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Losing It by Cora Carmack

Title: Losing It (Losing It #1)
Author: Cora Carmack
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: February 15, 2013
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository

Bliss Edwards is about to graduate from college and still has hers. Sick of being the only virgin among her friends, she decides the best way to deal with the problem is to lose it as quickly and simply as possible--a one-night stand. But her plan turns out to be anything but simple when she freaks out and leaves a gores guy alone and naked in her bed with an excuse that no one with a half-a-brain would ever believe. 

And if that wasn't embarrassing enough, when she arrives for her first class of her last college semester, she recognizes her new theatre professor.

She'd left him name in her bed about 8 hours earlier.

Cora Carmack's Losing It was the first New Adult novel I read. When I picked it up, it wasn't because I had this burning need to read NA but rather that everyone seemed to be raving about this book and I wanted to find out what the big deal was. And boy did I find out. I read Losing It in one sitting and proceeded to realize that I could really be into this whole New Adult deal.

With only one semester of college left, Bliss is starting to wonder if she's ever going to lose her virginity. It's not that she's a prude. She just has certain standards. But as the end of her college days near, she decides to do something about it. With the help of her best friend, Bliss sets out to find someone with whom she can have a one-night stand. And everything is going well. Until they're back at her house and she starts to panic. The next thing she knows she is giving the gorgeous guy in her bed a crap excuse and rushes out the door. Ready to put this unfortunate encounter out of her mind, Bliss heads to class the next day only to come face to face with her new theatre professor. Who happens to be none other than the gorgeous guy she abandoned about 8 hours earlier. 

I've already shared my thoughts quite extensively on New Adult and what I like about it, so I'll spare you from that in this review. I will, however, say this: it's really awesome to be able to read about characters who are going through some of the same experiences I am currently going through. I think that's what appealed so much to me with Cora Carmack's Losing It. The fact that the story closely resembled some of my recent experiences made it so I could relate not just to the characters, but also to the story. Just shortly before reading the book, I went through my last semester of university and found myself in many of the same situations as the characters in the story. I don't mean to say that I abandoned a gorgeous boy in my bed one night, but rather that I could relate to the life changes associated with the end of university or college. I know what it feels like to start that last semester not really knowing what comes next and the fears and anxieties that can be associated with that. That aspect of the story definitely felt realistic and helped hook me. That, and, you know, the whole romance side of things wasn't half bad.

Right from the start, I found myself relating to Bliss in a scary number of ways. And that definitely hooked me. There were so many moments in the story where I was thinking to myself "been there, done that" and that's what kept me reading. It made the story feel realistic, to the point where it felt like I was reading something that, in some ways, could totally have been happening to me. And much like Bliss was at times, I'm pretty sure I would be completely tongue-tied if I ever came face to face with someone like Garrick. A British accent and gorgeous looks? I'd be a total goner. But Garrick was also a lot more than those two characteristics. He was also incredibly smart and incredibly sweet when the occasion presented itself. And the chemistry between him and Bliss was obvious and so much fun to read about. More or less the whole time I was reading I had a smile on my face. There are some other characters in this story I really connected with *cough*Cade*cough*, but I'll leave that to future reviews.

Cora Carmack's Losing It was as good as everyone said it was. It was a great contemporary romance story that will appeal to an older audience. And if you're unsure about this whole New Adult thing, books like Losing It might just help sell you on the whole thing.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Blog Tour - A Fool's Errand by Maureen Fergus

Title: A Fool's Errand (The Gypsy King #2)
Author: Maureen Fergus
Publisher: Razorbill Canada
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Chapters Indigo
More action. More romance. More intrigue. Get ready to dive into the exciting follow-up to The Gypsy King!

In the final moments of The Gypsy King, a truth was revealed to Persephone and Azriel--one that could change everything forever. For her. For him. For them. For the entire kingdom.

But trapped in a windowless castle chamber with soldiers battering at the door, it seems impossible to believe that they'll even survive. Indeed, they are a heartbeat from death when Azriel boldly bargains with the Regent Mordecai: release them and they will seek out the mythical healing Pool of Genezing. Mordecai agrees but warns that if they do not return with proof that the pool exists, he'll make those dearest to them suffer--and he'll start with King Finnius.

Persephone has never needed Azriel's teasing warmth as much as she needs it now, but she is finding out there is a price to pay for having broken past promise. Together, they set off on a journey that will take them into the fattest corners of the kingdom. Danger will ever lie ahead and behind them; they will battle men and beasts alike. Will Persephone and Azriel survive these perils? And will this quest see their romance grow cold--or will it burn hotter than ever?

*****Contains spoilers for the first book*****

Ever since I started blogging, I've been finding myself reading more and more fantasy, a genre I had previously stayed away from. It was just never something I enjoyed. But it's books like Maureen Fergus' A Fool's Errand that make me want to keep giving fantasy a try because, every once in a while, I find myself getting completely engrossed in the story.

Having lived her life as a slave and servant, Persephone never expected to discover she was King Finnius' long-lost twin sister. This new revelation changes everything. Not just for Persephone, but for everyone around her. In an effort to save her brother, herself and those she has come to care about, Persephone sets off on a quest to find the mythical Pool of Genezing for the Regent Mordecai. Along the way, things changed between Persephone and Azriel, in a way Persephone can't quite explain. The one thing she is sure of is that she needs Azriel by her side, it's the only way she can make it through this.

So fantasy. Never something I was really into before I started blogging. I know I say this pretty much every time I review a fantasy book, but it's the truth. I'm always worried whenever I pick up a book knowing that it's a full blown fantasy story--worried that I'm not going to enjoy it. But with A Fool's Errand I didn't have any of my regular apprehensions, probably because it's the sequel to a book I've already read and enjoyed. A Fool's Errand picks up right where The Gypsy King left off. Right from page one, I was in the thick of the action and there wasn't something happening. Though it admittedly took me a few pages to get my bearings and remember what exactly had happened at the end of the first book, it made it really easy to get into the story. Like with The Gypsy King, there is a lot happening in A Fool's Errand. There are multiple stories to follow, questions that need answers, mysteries that need to be solved. And that all makes the story that much more interesting. The fact that there was always something happening helped to keep me engrossed in the story. That, and I wanted answers to certain questions as much as some of the characters did. Wanting to see Persephone and Azriel's relationship blossom also helped.

I have to admit that I liked Persephone more in A Fool's Errand more than I did in The Gypsy King. After everything that happened in the first book, she felt more genuine and there was less lying on her part. I loved seeing her struggle with how she felt for Azriel. I obviously knew what it would all lead to, but I still really enjoyed seeing it all come together. And I'll admit that, much like Persephone, I, too, might be a little bit in love with Azriel. There's just something about him. He always seems full of mischief while at the same time being fiercely loyal and willing to do anything to protect Persephone. And in all honesty, compared to some of the other men in the book, Azriel seems like he is a stellar human being. Mordecai on the other hand is a despicable human being. There really isn't any other way to describe him. Every time he does anything all I really want to do is cringe…when I'm not completely creeped out by him. I'm really hoping that he finally will get what's coming for him in the next book.

Maureen Fergus' A Fool's Errand was what I hoped it would be: an action-packed, engrossing story with just the right does of romance. It's books like this one that are slowly convincing me that fantasy might be something I want to be reading more of. Now I just can't wait to see what happens in the next book!

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Golden by Jessi Kirby

Title: Golden
Author: Jessi Kirby
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
Love, tragedy, and mystery converge in this compelling novel from "an author to watch" (Booklist).

Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she's about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap--one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery--she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High--perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna's journal tells a different story--one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane's jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna's journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live--and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

Despite being the contemporary lover than I am, I hadn't read any of Jessi Kirby's books until I decided to pick up Golden after it was recommended to me by a friend. And I loved it. Golden was everything I was told it would be an there wasn't a singly page of it I didn't love.

Parker Frost has always done what was expected of her. She goes to school, gets good grades and is about to be the Valedictorian of her graduating class. But when she finds Julianna Farnetti's senior journal, Parker decides to investigate what really happened 10 years ago, and in the process, start to really live her own life. With the help of Kat, her best friend, and her crush, Trevor, Parker starts to uncover who Julianna Farnetti really was. Turns out her small town may have had it all wrong and Parker isn't sure anymore how everyone sees her is who she really is.

Before reading Golden, I had been a bad contemporary lover in that I had never read any of Jessi Kirby's books. But, thankfully, I have now rectified that situation. Golden was everything I was told it would be. The story had a powerful message that, in a way, almost felt understated. It was a story about living life and doing so the way you want, not the way others think you should be. And with Golden this message was in not one, but two stories. That's what I loved about Golden, I got two stories for the price of one. Not only did I get to read Parker's story, I also got to read Julianna's story through her diary. And even though I saw the end of Julianna's story coming, it didn't stop me from appreciating it and the message it carried. And more than that, I loved seeing how Julianna's story impacted Parker's own story.

In many ways, I could relate to Parker. Just like her, I mostly did what everyone expected me to do without really questioning it. Because of that, I really enjoyed seeing Parker come into her own as the story went on and she found out more about Julianna's story. And I loved that it all led to her standing up for herself and taking a chance on Trevor. Because Trevor wasn't exactly who I expected him to be…he was better. Despite the fact that he came across as a player, I quickly realized that there was more to him than that and he really cared about Parker and what happened to her. And if you want my opinion, Parker and Trevor were a perfect match.

I'm happy to have finally read one of Jessi Kirby's books. Golden was not just what I hoped it would be. It was also a powerful and touching story that stayed with me long after I finished reading.

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles

Title: Wild Cards (Wild Cards #1)
Author: Simone Elkeles
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Source: ARC from BEA
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek's counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs to get involved with someone else's family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek--someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all.

Everything I've read by Simone Elkeles, I've loved. With Wild Cards, I had unbelievably high expectations. Not only was this book by an author I've loved in the past, it was also being compared to Friday Night Lights, one of my favourite TV shows. So yeah, I had high expectations. And though those expectations weren't totally met, Wild Cards was still a book I highly enjoyed.

Derek was perfectly happy going to boarding school in California while his military father was deployed overseas. But when he takes things one step too far and finds himself being expelled, Derek has no choice but to move to Illinois with his young stepmom and his younger step-brother. And his stepmom's father and younger sister. And Ashtyn isn't what Derek expected. The kicker on her high school's football team, Ashtyn doesn't take crap from anyone, Derek included. But unfortunate circumstances throw the two together, and Ashtyn finds herself having to rely on Derek more than she ever thought she would. And Derek isn't sure he's willing to get involved.

Not to start sounding like a broken record, but I had stupidly high expectation for Wild Cards. I have loved Simone Elkeles' Perfect Chemistry trilogy and Paradise books. They are among some of my favourites. Add to that a comparison to Friday Night Lights, and my expectations sky-rocketed. Too the point where I may have been expecting too much from just one book. That doesn't mean I was disappointed by this story, I was actually far from being disappointed. But the whole time I was reading, I just kept wanting the story to go places that it didn't go. I enjoyed the football that was thrown in there, I enjoyed the romance between Derek and Ashtyn, even if at times it drove me a little crazy. But there were moments when I just felt like the story was going around in a circle. But then there would be other moments that would come along and make up for those circles. So I may not have been fully satisfied, but I still loved the story enough to want to read more of it in future books and to read more about some of the characters that I started getting to know in Wild Cards.

The thing about Derek and Ashtyn is that I wasn't completely satisfied with them, which is probably what led to some of dissatisfaction with the book as a whole. The sexual tension between the two of them was fantastic. It just leapt off the page and was often what kept me reading. But at the same time it felt like there wasn't a lot of character growth with them. Sure, they got from point A to point B by the end of the story, but I expected a little more. In a way, what I wanted to happen did happen, but it all happened in the last 20 pages or so of the book. I wanted more from them, and thankfully I did by the end. On the plus side, as much as I wasn't fully satisfied with Derek and Ashtyn, there were other characters that made up for it. Derek's grandmother had me shaking my head while also trying to stifle a laugh. And Derek's step-brother was completely adorable. 

I enjoyed Wild Cards, I really did. But I also wanted more from it. The end of the book makes up for all those moments where I wasn't satisfied and I hoped to see more of that in future instalments. Despite my concerns with the book, I am sure there are plenty out there who will simply devour this new boo by Simone Elkeles. 

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Cover Reveal: Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Today I have the pleasure of being able to share with you the cover for Jennifer L. Armentrout's upcoming Don't Look Back. You all know by now how much I love Jennifer and her books and I couldn't be more excited about this one. So just keep scrolling to see the amazing animated cover, find out more about the book and find out more about the author.

About the book:
Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection o who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has alway spooked out for her--even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happen to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory--someone else knows, someone wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

Sounds like something you'd be interested in reading? The bad news is you have to wait until April 15. But the good news is you can already pre-order your copy from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  

About the author:
#1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you've heard about her state aren't true. When she's not hard at work writing, she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki.

Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories…which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture.

She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.

Connect with Jennifer on her website, Twitter and Facebook.
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Stir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins

Title: Stir Me Up
Author: Sabrina Elkins
Publisher: HarlequinTEEN
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Source: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon / Barnes & Noble
Cami Broussard has her future all figured out. She'll finish her senior year of high school, then go to work full-time as an apprentice chef in her father's French restaurant, alongside her boyfriend, Luke. But then twenty-year-old ex-Marine Julian Wyatt comes to live with Cami's family while recovering from serious injuries. And suddenly Cami finds herself questioning everything she thought she wanted.

Julian's all attitude, challenges and intense green-brown eyes. But beneath that abrasive exterior is a man who just might be as lost as Cami's starting to feel. And Cami can't stop thinking about him. Talking to him. Wanting to kiss him. He's got her seriously stirred up. Her senior has just gotten a lot more complicated...

With a lot of stories, all I really need to know is that it's contemporary. Once I know that, I'm almost guaranteed to read it. And that's how I found myself reading Sabrina Elkins' Stir Me Up. And like anyone who knows me could have predicted, I really enjoyed it. Maybe even loved it

Cami grew up in a kitchen. For as long as she can remember, Cami has been hanging around the kitchen at her father's restaurant. And when she was old enough, she started working as a line cook. Now, as she prepares to start her last year of high school, Cami knows exactly what she wants and she knows how to get there. But then Julian, a young and wounded ex-Marine war vet, comes to live with her family and Cami's life is turned upside down. Cami finds herself spending more and more time with Julian, letting her relationship with her boyfriend, Luke, fall by the wayside. Before long, Cami doesn't know what she wants anymore. The only thing she knows is that she can't stop thinking about Julian.

All I knew about Sabrina Elkins' Stir Me Up was that it's a contemporary romance. And that's all I really needed to know. Anyone who knows me well enough knows I'm a sucker for these kinds of stories, so it should come as no surprise that I pretty much loved Stir Me Up. It was exactly what I was in the mood for and exactly what I wanted it to be. I got sucked right into the story and the world of cooking. I got wrapped in the romance between Cami and Julian, even when it didn't really looking like romance at first. This as just a great romance story, and the best part was that the romance wasn't perfect, because Cami and Julian themselves weren't perfect. And because of that, the story, and the characters themselves, felt that much more real to me.

For whatever reason, I liked Cami straight off the bat. Maybe it's because Cami reminded me a lot of myself when I was in high school…minus the chef aspect of things. So I related a lot to Cami and that's in part what made me enjoy the story so much. But as much as I loved Cami, I didn't understand what she saw in Luke. He just seemed too needy and too pushy. Julian, though, I pretty much fell for right from the start. Who wouldn't want a hot ex-Marine in their life? But more than that, Julian was far from perfect and didn't pretend that he was perfect. And he was also hurting and lost and their were moments when I just wanted to hug him and hold him and tell him he would be okay. And Julian and Cami just worked together.

I'm always looking for great contemporary romances and that's exactly what Sabrina Elkins' Stir Me Up was. If you are looking for romance and a swoon-worthy love interest, then Stir Me Up is the book for you.

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