Friday, November 29, 2013

Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards

Title: Six Months Later
Author: Natalie D. Richards
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Source: ARC from publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
Chloe didn't think about it much when she nodded off in study hall on that sleepy summer day. But when she wakes up, snow is on the ground and she can't remember the last six months of her life. Before, she'd been a mediocre student. Now, she's on track for valedictorian and being recruited by Ivy League schools. Before, she never had a chance with super jock Blake. Now, he's her boyfriend. Before, she and Maggie were inseparable. Now, her best friend won't speak to her.

What happened to her?
And why can't she remember?

As we all know by this point, I'm a sucker for anything contemporary, even better if there's an element of mystery or a bit of a twist thrown in. All that considered, Natalie D. Richards' Six Months Later sounded right up my alley. As it turned out, it was a story that hooked me and left me wanting to know exactly what was going on.

Chloe's always been the kind of person who put just enough effort in school to get by. It's not lie she was failing, but she also wasn't a star student. So for Chloe, falling asleep in study hall wasn't anything new. Waking up with six months of her life missing, on the other hand, that was unheard of. Now, Chloe is at the top of her class, dating Blake, the guy she's had a crush on forever, and she even has her pick of colleges. Except something doesn't feel right. She's no longer talking to Maggie, her best friend, and even though she's dating good guy Blake, Chloe feels safer around bad boy Adam. If only she could figure out what happened to her during those six months, Chloe might understand what she's supposed to do now.

Right form the start, the premise of Six Months Later caught my attention. A contemporary YA story with a twist AND a mystery? How could I possibly not want to read this book? And I" happy I did. While Six Months Later was what I hoped it would be, it was also different, and that was one of the best parts of the book. I didn't expect for things to start up so quickly: the first chapter was barely over and already, the six-month jump had happened. And from that moment on, I was completely hooked. I wanted to know what had happened in those six months just as much as Chloe did. I had my theories about it all, but for the most part, those just turned out to be completely wrong. But what truly made the story work was that its as told from Chloe's perspective. Because of that, the reader was in the same boat as Chloe: trying to piece everything together right alongside her. And I'll admit, it took me a while to clue in to what was actually happening.

I really liked Chloe. I loved how snarky she could get, but really that was just a way for her to hide how scared and confused she was about those missing six months. And I totally got that. I'm not sure I would have handled things quite as well as she did in the same circumstances. But in spite of everything, I really admired Chloe's determination and perseverance when it came to figuring out the truth about what had happened to her. And at least she had help, even if at times that help was a little reluctant, as Adam and Maggie tended to be. Even though she bugged me a little at first, I came around to Maggie pretty quickly and she really was a great friend. Adan I took a little longer to warm up to. He was supposed to be the bad boy but he gave off a better vibe than Blake. Because Blake just felt like a creep, while on the other hand Adam fell like he really cared about Chloe, even if had trouble showing it at times. But in the end, it all worked itself out.

Natalie D. Richards' Six Months Later was a fantastic story that kept me guessing the whole way through. Even now, after having finished the book, I'm still not quite sure I completely understand it all. But the story was totally worth the confusion it induced.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

Title: The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: November 19, 2013
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
In The Indigo Spell, Sydney was torn between the Alchemist way of life and what her heart and gut were telling her to do. And in one breathtaking moment that Richelle Mead fans will never forget, she made a decision that shocked even her…

But the struggle isn't over for Sydney. As she navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there's still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps as the threat of exposure--and re-education--looms larger than ever.

Pulses will race throughout this thrilling fourth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where no secret is safe.

I love Richelle Mead. I loved her Vampire Academy series. And I absolutely love her Bloodlines series. So as you can imagine, I have been waiting for The Fiery Heart since the moment I finished The Indigo Spell. But I was kinda scared of what The Fiery Heart would do to my heart. And I was right to be scared, but I also absolutely loved the story.

Sydney Sage always thought that the hardest part of her life as an Alchemist would be living and working with vampires. But the moment she met Adrian Ivashkov, a Moroi prince, that started to chance. Now, Sydney is ready to turn her back on the Alchemist way of life. But first she has to find a way to protect her sister Zoe from being brainwashed by their father and the Alchemists. And she has to find a way to protect her relationship with Adrian. Because if anyone were to fin out, the Alchemists would send Sydney straight to re-education.

Have I mentioned that I was absolutely terrified of The Fiery Heart? As excited as I was to read the book, I was cared of what it would do to my poor heart. Long before the book was released, Richelle Mead has teased that The Fiery Heart would do for this series what Shadow Kiss did for the Vampire Academy series. And you have no idea how much that scared me. The whole time I was reading, I was also waiting for that crucial moment, the moment that would change everything and break my heart in the process. But as much as that moment hurt, I loved everything that came beforehand. I loved finally seeing the romance between Sydney and Adrian. It felt like I had waited for so long for this to happen and it just warmed my heart to read about the two of them together. What was an interesting new addition to the story this time around was the dual perspectives. The story had previously only been told from Sydney's perspective, but this time I was able to also get inside Adrian's head and I loved it. If anything, my love for Adrian only grew as a result of this.

I've always loved Sydney and I love how much she's changed and evolved since I first person. I love the person's she's become. She no longer lets the Alchemist beliefs dictate her life, choosing instead to rely on her own beliefs. And I love the person Sydney becomes when she's with Adrian. It's almost life when she's with Adrian, it's the only time Sydney gets to really be herself. And that's the side of her I really love: the Sydney who gets to let go and be who she wants to be, not who everyone expects her to be. And now here's the thing about Adrian: in the Vampire Academy books, I fully believed that Rose belonged with Dimitri, but I still loved Adrian. And now I pretty much adore Adrian. Getting into his head has only made me love him more. There's so much more to him than people tend to give him credit for. Everything he does for the people he cares about, no matter how crazy that can sometimes be, just warms my heart. If only he could believe in himself as much as Sydney does, he might be able to be a little easier on himself. But I still love Adrian either way.

Richelle Mead's The Fiery Heart was just what I had hoped it would be. This story may have broken my heart at the end, but it also made me beyond happy and warmed my heart. Though I will admit that it has left me absolutely desperate to read Silver Shadows. July 2014 can't come soon enough!

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Monday, November 25, 2013

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Title: The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter #1)
Author: Megan Shepherd
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London--working as a mad, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true. 

Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward--both of whom she is deeply drawn to--Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father's madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island's inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius--and madness--in her own blood. 

Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect. 

By the time I read Megan Shepherd's The Madman's Daughter, I had heard a lot about it, but I didn't really know all that much about what it was actually about. But that may have been a good thing, because it means I went in with a completely open mind.

Ever since the scandal involving her father, Juliet Moreau has gotten by working hard and keeping her head down. Nut she's always wondered if there was any truth to the accusations made against her father. When Juliet runs in to Montgomery, her father's young assistant, she gets the chance to travel to a mysterious island to see her father again. But when she gets there, Juliet quickly realizes that something isn't quite right. ANd how does Edward, the shipwrecked boy they picked up on their way to the island, fit into it all?

Before I started reading, I only had a vague idea what The Madman's Daughter was actually about. With this type of book, though, that may have actually been for the best. I also knew that it was based on The Island of Dr. Moreau, but, again, I only vaguely knew what that was about. All that combined allowed me to start reading The Madman's Daughter with an open mind. And as a result, I think I enjoyed this story a lot more than I would have otherwise. Because this story definitely grabbed my attention and kept me interested the whole way through. But more than that, the story also piqued my curiosity. I just wanted to find out more about everything. I wanted to know more about Juliet's father. I wanted to find out more about the island and its inhabitants. There was just so much happening in The Madman's Daughter and that just made me a happy reader. The only thing I had trouble with is the creatures that Dr. Moreau was creating on the island. I just had seem trouble picturing them as I was reading. I don't know if it had to do with the way they were described or just the concept of them, but I just couldn't picture them. Or maybe I was just over thinking it and trying too hard.

I found Juliet to be a very interesting character. She was very much ahead of her time, and, in a way, her situation is what forced her to be that way. Juliet had to learn to survive on her own and that made her stronger than most of the girls she grew up with. But there were still instances when Juliet acted exactly the way you would expect a girl her age to act. Like with Montgomery and Edward, for example. Each boy had his own appeal: Montgomery was the childhood friend and Edward was the mysterious new boy. Personally, I leaned more towards Montgomery, because something rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning as far as Edward was concerned. And as it turned out, I was right to be concerned about him, but I'll leave it at that for now. It will definitely be interesting to see how things will play out with everyone in the sequel.

Megan Shepherd's The Madman's Daughter was intriguing to say the least. It was the kind of story that kept me interested and engaged, leaving me wanting to know exactly what was going on. If you have yet to give The Madman's Daughter a try, I strongly recommend you do.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Title: In the Shadow of Blackbirds
Author: Cat Winters
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Source: Borrowed
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze make to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and sprit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she's forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love--a boy who died in battle--returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time. 

I'll be honest, if it hadn't been a book club pick, I probably wouldn't have picked up Cat Winters' In the Shadow of Blackbirds on my own. Though that's not to say that I didn't enjoy the book, because I really did, in really unexpected ways.

Being a sixteen-year-old girl in the fall of 1918 isn't easy. Especially for Mary Shelley Black, whose father has been sent to jail for being against the war and whose best friend has enlisted to go fight overseas, all while the Spanish influenza ravages cities across the country. Now in San Diego and surrounded by mourners running to spirit photographers to help with their grief, pragmatic and logical Mary Shelley can't help but shake her head at the idea of ghosts. That is, until she learns the terrible news about Stephen. Now, the only way for Mary Shelley to find peace is to start believing in the one thing she has always been opposed to. 

In the Shadow of Blackbirds isn't a book I would have picked up on my own if I hadn't had to read it for book club. But that would have meant I would have missed out on a great book. This story wasn't what I thought it was going to be. Admittedly I didn't know much about it before I started reading so that's not really saying much. What I liked about this story was that instead of being hyper focused on World War One, as you would expect a book set in 1918 to be, it instead focused on the Spanish influenza, the other big event that year. And as weird as it might be to say this, I really enjoyed that aspect of the story. As much as I know about WWI, I don't really know much about the Spanish flu other than the fact that it killed more people than four years of war did. So in that sense, I learned a lot from In the Shadow of Blackbirds. But what really made this story unexpected was that for 95% of the story the main love interest was a ghost. That definitely made things interesting. But the setting, and everything it entailed, made it feel almost as if the story wasn't a ghost story.

I really enjoyed reading this story from Mary Shelley's point of view. She was definitely ahead of her times and it made her really interesting to read about. For a sixteen-year-old girl in 1918, being interested in logic and science isn't exactly what's expected but she never let that bring her down. What I liked about Mary Shelley most, though, is that it took a while for her to accept the fact that spirits were real and that Stephen was more or less haunting her. And I really didn't expect Stephen to be the way he was. It's not every day you're going to read a story where the main love interest is dead for 95% of it. But at the same time, Stephen was an interesting character to read about, especially when it came to how much he had been affected by the war in such a short period of time. In 1918, people didn't know everything we now do about PTSD so they didn't really know what to do with the boys coming back from the war who were completely traumatized by what they had seen. It definitely added a certain level of depth to who Stephen was and, at times, it seemed like he was two completely different people: the Stephen Mary Shelley remembers from before he went to France, and the Stephen who came home from the war. All of this to say that it made for a really interesting story to read.

Even if Cat Winters' In the Shadow of Blackbirds isn't what you would normally choose to read, I suggest you at least give it a try. I know I wouldn't have normally picked it up on my own, but by the end I found myself to be pleasantly surprised by the story.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

Title: Crash Into You (Pushing the Limits #3)
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: HarlequinTEEN
Release Date: November 26, 2013
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
From acclaimed author Katie McGarry comes an explosive new tale of a good girl with a reckless streak, a street-smart guy with nothing to lose, and a romance forged in the fast lane.

The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life--that's who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets form her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers…and she's just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker--a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can't get him out of her mind.

Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks--no matter how angelic she might look.

But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they'll go to save each other.

Anyone who knows me knows I love Katie McGarry and her books. The second I got my hands on my copy of Crash Into You, I started reading. There was just no way I was waiting any longer to read Isaiah's story. And I was not disappointed. I ADORED Crash Into You and I just can't say enough good things about this story.

Rachel knows what her role is. She is the replacement daughter, destined to always be living in her dead older sister's shadow. As such, her brothers have always worked to keep her safe, to protect their parents from any more heartbreak. But having four overbearing brothers will drive anyone to seek a thrill. And Rachel finds that thrill on dark country roads, racing strangers in her Mustang GT. And she also finds that thrill with Isaiah Walker, the boy she knows she should stay away from but can't seem to resist. Isaiah knows he shouldn't get involved with Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get involved with a girl who could never understand where he comes from. But when the two get thrown together, there's nothing they can do but find a way to save each other.

So I had no restraint whatsoever when Katie McGarry's Crash Into You showed up in my mailbox. Like none at all. I told myself I would wait until I finished my current read before starting on this one, but that plan went out the window when I tore open the envelope and found myself with the book in my hands. So yeah, I tore through this book. Every time I told myself to slow down to make the story last longer, I only read faster. There was just so much to love in this story. Katie McGarry writes these stories that are just addicting. I start reading and there's nothing else I can do, I'm just completely hooked. With Crash Into You, I wanted to find out more about Rachel's story, I wanted to see if they would finally realize just how much pressure they were putting on her. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to see Rachel and Isaiah's relationship develop. Because first and foremost, that's what this story is about: these two people who really should have never crossed paths but somehow did and it's the most unlikely relationship. But it works, it just does. Because it's Rachel and it's Isaiah and they are perfect together. 

I love Isaiah Walker. There, I said it. I mean, how could I not fall in love with him? After reading Dare You To and seeing what happens to him there, my heart just broke. I knew it had to happen and that it was for the best, but I just couldn't deal with Isaiah not being happy. And then Crash Into You came along and the next thing I know I am completely in love with Isaiah. And it really didn't take long, by page 56 (I wrote it down!) I was done for. There is just so much more to Isaiah than meets the eye. If you just look on the surface, he looks like this tough foster kid who is ready for trouble. But really, that's not who Isaiah is. At this point, he's just trying to survive but can't help but take care of others, even when taking care of himself is hard enough. It's just really hard to explain Isaiah in a way that will do him justice. But the best parts of Isaiah came out when he was with Rachel. Rachel couldn't have been more of an opposite to Isaiah. She was the girl who had everything she could ever really need. But even though she had everything she could possibly need, she didn't have what she wanted: for her family to see her as who she really was. And if you want my honest opinion, they were missing out. Because I loved Rachel. I may have had some serious issues with her family, but I loved her. There was something so sweet and innocent about her that was just what was needed to balance out Isaiah. I will admit, though, that as much as I had some major problems with Rachel's family, I'm looking forward to finding more about West. (Really, though, who I really want to find out more about is Ethan, Rachel's twin bother.)

In case it wasn't glaringly obvious by now, I ADORED Katie McGarry's Crash Into You. Isaiah and Rachel's was at times both heartbreaking and heartwarming and made for one seriously addicting story. The only thing I could possibly have wanted more of is Isaiah. But, really, that's just my major crush on the guy talking. By the time you finish Crash Into You, you'll be in the same boat as me. Trust me.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Title: Allegiant (Divergent #3)
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: October 22, 2013
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered--fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobia will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. 

But Tris's new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths chance the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature--and of herself--while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent


I was away from home when Allegiant was released. I had to wait a week in order to be able to read the book, and as a result, all I saw were people freaking out over the end. And that made me beyond nervous to read Allegiant. But I should have just trusted that Veronica Roth knew what she was doing.

Showing the video was supposed to change things. It was supposed to help get the city back. But Tris soon discovers that she may never get her city back. Now that the Factionless have taken over Chicago, there is very little Tris and Tobias can do to fight back. There only hope is to set foot outside the fence, to discover what really lies outside the city limits. But what Tris and Tobias find outside the fence is even more troubling than what they left behind in the city. Now it's up to Tris and Tobias to make impossible choices, ones that will change everything forever.


There's so much that can be said about Allegiant and I'll try my best not to ramble too much. Here's the thing, there's only so many ways this story could have gone that would have made sense and that would have resulted in a satisfying ending. From the start, I knew that it would be a painful story to read. Not because it would be a bad story or because it was poorly written, but because I knew what had to happen…or at least I had some inkling of it. It didn't help that I had witness all the uproar over the ending for an entire week before I was able to read Allegiant. So I was majorly apprehensive and maybe a little scared when I started reading. But I really shouldn't have been. As much as there were moments when my heart was ripped to pieces, I knew why it was happening, and that it would be for the greater good (not that it made it any less painful). And that brings me to the ending of the story. Veronica Roth knew what she was doing when she wrote Allegiant. In hindsight, the alternating points of view between Tris and Tobias should have been a big tip-off as to what would happen (or that line about Tobias having found someone he was terrified of losing--maybe I was just in denial about what had to happen). But it still hurt when it came down to it and all of a sudden there was only one point of view left. But if you want my honest opinion, I don't think that the story could have ended any other way. Don't get me wrong, I was bawling when Tris was killed. But it wouldn't have worked any other way. Knowing what I knew about Tris, I would have been more frustrated if Tris had let Caleb go and sacrifice himself (not that I've forgiven Caleb for what he's done). In ending the story this way, Veronica Roth was true to her story and true to her characters. Yeah, it was painful (ask my roommate, she found me crying in the kitchen over breakfast while I was reading), but it was a satisfying ending, one that showed me that there was still hope for the characters. And it was finally a story with an epilogue that didn't piss me off.

I've loved Tris from the start. Even when it didn't seem like it, she was the strongest more courageous person in that story. In Allegiant, that strength and that courage shone through. Admittedly, that's especially through in hindsight. And though I love Tris for that courage and strength, there were still moments where I wanted to smack some sense into her. But she wouldn't have been the Tris I knew and loved if she hadn't been that person who was both selfish and selfless, who sometimes could have used someone to talk some sense into her. And that was especially true in the moment when she made the decision to sacrifice herself in Caleb's place (admittedly, I'm still not sure if that was Tris being selfish or selfless, to be honest). What I loved about Allegiant though, was getting to be inside Tobias's head. I found it so interesting to see that more often than not, he wasn't that strong and powerful leader everyone saw him as. I could tell that there were many times when he was still that younger boy being abused by his father. And in those moments, I just wanted to hug Tobias. And reading Tris's death from his perspective simply broke my heart. The way he just shut down. But I was also happy to see that he was able to start to move on, knowing that the pain would never go away but that it could eventually become easier. The person that surprised me the most in Allegiant was actually Peter. Before this book, I always saw him as a sociopath who cared about no one and nothing but himself. But in Allegiant I was able to see a different side of him, and find out that he knew he had a tendency to be a despicable human being and hated himself for it. I just found that aspect of his personality to be so different from what I expected, and it surprised me. And the same can be said about a lot of the other characters in Allegiant.

This is my very long-winded way of saying that, despite what a lot of people have thought, I might actually have loved Allegiant. I loved that Veronica Roth wasn't afraid of making choices for her story and her characters that not everyone would like. Allegiant really couldn't really have gone any other way. It was a powerful story, one that at times broke my heart and left me in tears, but it was also the satisfying ending I was hoping for.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Racing Savannah Blog Tour - Interview with Miranda Kenneally

As part of the blog tour for her upcoming book Racing Savannah, I have the pleasure of having author Miranda Kenneally here on the blog today to answer some questions about her books and her writing process. Without further ado, here is what she had to say!

All of your characters, and what they go through, feels incredibly real. How much is taken out of your own experiences or from the people around you?

Ideas and jokes from all over the place have definitely made their way into my books in some form or another. I can't say that I've ever met a girl football player, but Jordan's feelings for Sam Henry are definitely pulled from crushes I've had in the past.

Real-life experiences inspired Things I Can't Forget. The situation wasn't anywhere near the same, but I did have a friend get an abortion and it affected me more than I thought it would. 

To make my books feel "real," I imagine the scene in my mind as I'm putting words on paper. I've found that helps my book pop.

Except for Things I Can't Forget, your books all have a sports element. Why did you choose to write about female athletes and those specific sports that aren't typically associated with girls.

To show girls they can do anything they want to do as long as they work hard.

What is your writing process like: do you outline and do a lot of research or just start writing and see where the story takes you? Or is it different for each book?

It depends on the book. Before I started writing Racing Savannah, I did research for two months and even took a trip to Kentucky to visit some big farms. With Catching Jordan and Staling Parker, I just started writing and did tons of drafts. For Catching Jordan, I researched football and went to some college and NFL games along the way. With Stealing Parker, I played softball for 8 years, so that made things easier. Things I Can't Forget had an outline, and I actually stuck to it for the most part. I didn't have to research camping at all because I'm foot at that, but I did do research on Planned Parenthood and other family planning issues. I sort of outline each book, but I rarely stick to it. I just go wherever the story takes me. 

Can you tell us anything about what you're currently working on or what we can expect from your future book(s)?

Yes! My July 2014 book, most likely titled BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE, is about a girl training to run a marathon in honor of her boyfriend who died. Before he passed away, he had been training for a marathon, and now Annie is going to attempt to finish on his behalf. But it will be hard because she can barely run two laps around the high school track.

Emilie: I personally CANNOT WAIT to read this!

How would you describe your Hundred Oaks books to someone who has never heard of them before?

My books are teen romances featuring a girl football player, a girl horse jockey, and a slightly naughty, misunderstood former softball player who goes after the school baseball coach.

Can you describe Racing Savannah in five words?

Badass girl horse jockey rocks!

About the Author
Miranda Kenneally is the author of CATCHING JORDAN, STEALING PARKER, THINGS I CAN'T FORGET, and RACING SAVANNAH. Her fifth book, most likely to be titled BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE, is doing out in July 2014. She enjoyed reading and writing young adult literature, and loves Star Trek, music, sports, Mexican food, Twitter, coffee, and her husband.

Find Miranda online on her Twitter or visit her website to find out more about her and her books.

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Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Racing Savannah (Hundred Oaks #4)
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Source: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
They're from two different worlds.

He lives in the estate house, and she spends most of her time in the stables helping her father train horses. In fact, Savannah has always been much more comfortable around horses than boy. Especially boys like Jack Goodwin--cocky, popular and completely out of her league. She knows the rules: no mixing between the staff and the Goodwin family. But Jack has no such boundaries. 

With her dream of becoming a horse jockey, Savannah isn't exactly one to follow the rules either. She's not going to let someone tell her a girl isn't tough enough to race. Sure, it's dangerous. Then again, so is dating Jack...

I absolutely adore Miranda Kenneally and everything she writes. So when Racing Savannah landed in my inbox, I couldn't help myself, I just had to start reading it right away. And unsurprisingly, I tore through the book and loved every single page of it.

Savannah has always loved riding horses and working with them. When her father gets a job as a trainer at one of the most prestigious stables in the country, Savannah is ecstatic. If she's lucky enough, she might even get to ride the horses. As it turns out, the horses are easier to deal with than boys. No sooner has Savannah arrived at Cedar Hills Farms does she run into Jack Goodwin. And Savannah knows better than to get mixed up with the owner's son. But resisting Jack's charm is proving to be more difficult than Savannah thought. 

Have I mentioned that I loved Miranda Kenneally? Because I really, really do. She writes these stories that just completely grab my attention and steal my heart. Racing Savannah quickly had me hooked. The story is set in the Hundred Oaks world but takes place a few years after the first three books. In this sense I was introduced to new characters, but also had the opportunity to get a glimpse at some old ones. And that was reason enough for me to love the book. But beyond that, I loved reading Savannah's story and discovering the world of horse racing through her eyes. Seeing how that world worked and how hard it was to break into just made me admire Savannah that much more. But like with all of Miranda Kenneally's books, it's the romance aspect of the story that completely stole my heart. Seeing the romance between Jack and Savannah develop just warmed my heart, even if at times it wasn't always smooth going. But at the end of the day, I knew that it would all work out for them and that's what I love about Miranda Kenneally's stories. 

Savannah was a character I came to really admire. Miranda Kenneally often writes about girls the are breaking the mould. That's exactly what Savannah was trying to do when it comes to horse racing. All she really wanted was to be able to be a professional jockey, but pretty much the entire world was against her. But I really admired her dedication, her perseverance and her stubbornness when it came to getting to where she wanted to be. And it helped that she eventually had Jack in her corner, even if at times I wanted to slap him and make him come to his senses. But he eventually came around and by the end I no longer had the urge to slap Jack, so that was good. I have to admit I also loved that I got to meet and get to know some of the previous characters' younger siblings. But more than that, I love that I got to see where the characters I already know and love now are. I won't reveal anything but there are some Will/Parker, Kate/Matt and Sam/Jordan moments that will just melt your heart.

Racing Savannah has only serve to solidify my love for anything Miranda Kenneally writes. Her stories are just the perfect mix of fun and romance, but also so much more. If you haven't picked up one of her books yet, you are seriously missing out!

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sentinel by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Sentinel (Covenant #5)
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Release Date: November 2, 2013
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
It's a beautiful day for a war.

As the mortal world slowly slips into chaos of the godly kind, Alexandria Andros must overcome a stunning defeat that has left her shaken and in doubt of their ability to end this war once and for all.

And with all the obstacles between Alex and her happily-ever-after with the swoonworthy Aiden St. Delphi, they must now trust a deadly foe as they travel deep into the Underworld to release one of the most dangerous gods of all time.

In the stunning, action-packed climax to the bestselling Covenant series, Alex must face a terrible choice: the destruction of everything and everyone she holds dear…or the end of herself.

As much as I hate it when series get drawn out, I hate it when my favourite series come to an end. I'm always worried that I'm going to be disappointed by how everything turns out. So I was scared of Sentinel. But I shouldn't have worried, because Jennifer L. Armentrout couldn't have disappointed me even if she tried.

Ares is threatening everything and everyone Alex cares about and there's only one thing she can do to stop it all: kill the god of war. Piece of cake, right? But to do that, Alex needs to become the God Killer by feeding off of Seth's powers, though he might not let her do that. All Alex ever wanted was to protect Aiden and her friends, and she'll do anything to keep them safe. Even if that means having to beat the god of war at his own game.

I am always terrified of the last books in series and that terror was amplified with Sentinel because the Covenant series has become one of my favourites. And I knew what had to happen in this book and that only scared me that much more. But I really didn't have to worry because Jennifer L. Armentrout had it all under control. As I was reading, things that I had previously questioned started falling into place. And all of a sudden, I wasn't so worried anymore. Sure, I knew that there would be moments that would be painful (and there were!), but I had hope that things would work out for the best. And as a result, Sentinel took me on a bit of an emotional roller-coaster. I would go from laughing one minute to tearing up the next. I've become so attached to the people in this story, and I just didn't want anything to happen to them. But in the end, things worked out for the best. It might not have been how I would have wanted things to go, but I can say that I'm happy with how it all worked out.

Oh Alex. I'm really going to miss her. Over the course of the five Covenant novels I've come to really love and care about Alex. In Sentinel, I was so worried something bad would happen to Alex. And I had PLENTY of reasons to be worried. But in the end, Alex was Alex and did what she had to do (even if that terrified me at times). Though the person I was really terrified something would happen to was Aiden. If anything happened to him, my book would have been thrown out the window. Because Aiden is the fiercest, most caring and sweetest person ever, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a little bit in love with him. The person that surprised me, though, was Seth. As much as I had once liked Seth, I had kind of lost all hope for him at this point. But he really came around in Sentinel and redeemed himself, even if he's still not perfect.

I couldn't have asked for a better conclusion to the Covenant series than the one I got in Sentinel. But even though I'm happen with the ending, I'm still going to really miss the story and the characters. Don't let the hype around everything Jennifer L. Armentrout scare you--if you haven't already given the Covenant series a try, you really should. 

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Monday, November 11, 2013

The Vow by Jessica Martinez

Title: The Vow
Author: Jessica Martinez
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: October 15, 2013
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
No one has ever believed that Mo and Annie are just friends. How can a guy and a girl really be best friends?

Then the summer before senior year, Mo's father loses his job, and by extension his work visa. Instantly, life for Annie and Mo crumbles. Although Mo has lived in America for most of his life, he'll be forced to move to Jordan. the prospect of leaving his home is devastating, and returning to a world where he no longer belongs terrifies him.

Desperate to save him, Annie proposes they tell a colossal lie--that they are in love. Mo agrees because marrying Annie is the only way he can stay. Annie just wants to keep her best friend, but what happens when it becomes a choice between saving Mo and her own chance at real love?

I always love a good contemporary story that's a little different and that's exactly what I got from Jessica Martinez's The Vow. This was a story about love, but not in the way that you would think. ANd because of that it was a refreshing and heartwarming story.

Annie and Mo may not have had a lot of friends but they've always been able to count on one another. When you're the dead girl's sister and the only Muslim in a small town, having someone you can always rely on means the world. When Mo's father loses his job and announces that he family is moving back to Jordan, Moa and Annie are willing to do anything to stay together. The only way to do this is to tell one colossal lie and put both their futures at risk. But what happens when that lie--telling the world they are in love--threatens Annie's chance at real love?

In The Vow, Jessica Martinez wrote a story about love, but not the kind of love you would expect. Here, the focus is on the love two best friends have for each other. And I loved reading about Mo and Annie's friendship. It was refreshing to read a story that focused on friendship rather than romance, especially the friendship between a boy and a girl. Too often, I'll read stories where the two friends realize they're in love with each other, but in The Vow, Mo and Annie's relationship is entirely platonic, despite what others around them might believe. It was just interesting to read about their friendship and see how it affected the other aspects of their lives, especially when it came to having an actual chance at love. Both were so willing to sacrifice everything for the other that they almost forgot to think about themselves until it was almost too late. And the ending was bittersweet because of that. I won't go into detail, but I will say that it wasn't how I thought things would go.

I've already said this, but I loved reading about mo and Annie's relationship. So often, it reminded me of the relationship I have with my own best friend. Not that we've ever considered getting married to avoid deportation, but the platonic nature of our relationship has often been questioned in the past. There was so much between Annie and Mo and I could tell just how much they cared about each other. But in a way, that mutual caring was Mo and Annie's downfall. They were loyal to each other to a fault. But at the same time, I respected them because they were will to sacrifice so much for the other. But they would often neglect their own pain, though they saw the other's. Mo saw what Annie's loyalty was doing to her, how it would end up hurting her. And Annie just wanted to do whatever she could help Mo, no matter what the cost to herself and her own happiness. Overall, though, I loved their friendship, even if at times it proved to be quite imperfect.

Jessica Martinez's The Vow was a refreshing and heartwarming read. It was so nice to see a friendship explored, one that was completely platonic. If you're looking for a great story about friendship, then I strongly recommend The Vow.

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