Friday, July 31, 2015

The Heartbreakers by Ali Novak

Title: The Heartbreakers
Author: Ali Novak
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
“When I met Oliver Perry, I had no clue he was the lead singer for The Heartbreakers. Unbeknownst to him, I was the only girl in the world who hated his music.”

Stella will do anything for her sister—even stand in line for an autographed Heartbreakers CD…for three hours. At least she met a cute boy at the Starbucks beforehand. A blue-eyed boy who looks an awful lot like…

Oliver Perry. Of course Starbucks guy is the lead singer for her least favorite band. Thanks, universe. But there may be more to Oliver than his world-famous charm, because even after she insults his music—to his face—he still gives her his number. Seriously, what is her life?

But how can Stella even think about being with Oliver—dating and laughing and pulling pranks with the band—when her sister could be dying of cancer?

Light and fun contemporaries make for the best summer reads. They provide the perfect escape for a few hours and I’m always on the look out for more. With Ali Novak’s The Heartbreakers, that’s exactly what I got.

Stella Samuel is the last person who would ever go to a signing for The Heartbreakers, the hottest boy band around. But for her sister, Stella is ready to do anything, even wait in line for hours just to get a CD signed. The one upside to a day spent in boy band hell is the cute guy she met at Starbucks that morning, even though the chances of seeing him again are pretty slim. But when she finally gets to the front of the signing line, Stella is shocked to see that the boy from that morning is none other than Oliver Perry, front man of The Heartbreakers.  Before she knows what’s happening, Stella is hanging out with Oliver and the rest of the band. And at the end of the night, he gives her his number. But as much as Stella would like to think about being with Oliver, she can’t help but think that she should be spending time with her sister instead, because who knows how much time she has left with her?

Last year, I read Ali Novak’s debut My Life With the Walter Boys and really enjoyed the story. It was light, it was fun and it sucked me in. When I heard about her sophomore novel, The Heartbreakers, I knew right away that I wanted to read it. Not only was it from an author who’s previous work I had enjoyed, but it was also about a girl and a boy band and I would have been sold on the book for that reason alone. And The Heartbreakers was just as fun as I had hoped it would be. And it was also just adorable as I expected it to be. And it was addicting. When I was reading, I couldn’t put the book down. I was drawn into the story, wanting to see what would happen with Stella and Oliver, what the deal was with the Heartbreakers and what would happen to Stella’s sister. But as fun and adorable as the story was, it was also surprisingly emotional. The Heartbreakers was about more than just Stella falling in love with Oliver, who happened to be in a boy band. It was also about a family affected by cancer, about the fear of losing someone you care about, the fear of missing out on opportunities, and it was about finding yourself and your place in the world. So all that to say that in many respects, The Heartbreakers took me by surprise by how much it played with my emotions. But all in a very good way.

I loved reading this story from Stella’s perspectives because there was so much more to her than I thought there was going to be. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect her to be a flat character, but I didn’t necessarily expect her to be as layered as she was. Stella was someone who cared deeply about her family, who was passionate about what she believed in, and who wasn’t afraid to share her opinion. And it made for some hilarious moments, especially when she first meets all of the Heartbreakers and insults them. And caring about her family made for some rally touching moments between her and her siblings. Because I absolutely loved the sibling relationship in this story. There were plenty of touching moments between Stella, Cara and Drew, and I would have been happy to read an entire book about the dynamics between the triplets. And then there were the Heartbreakers. And they were hilarious. I was pretty much laughing anytime they were all together doing something ridiculous. Of course most of the focus was on Oliver and much like Stella, it didn’t take long at all for me to be charmed by him. But I still loved reading about the other boys in the band. They were all so charming in their own way and I’m seriously hoping I get to read more stories about these boys.

Ali Novak’s The Heartbreakers was an undeniably fun read. It completely sucked me in and I enjoyed every moment of this story. But don’t let the yourself be fooled by how adorable the story sounds, it also packs a bit of an emotional punch. 

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fair Game by Monica Murphy

Title: Fair Game (The Rules #1)
Author: Monica Murphy
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Indigo
Bad enough Jade Frost’s boyfriend drags her to a boring poker game. Even worse that he actually threw her into the betting pot during an intense round…and lost. Talk about the perfect excuse for Jade to make him her ex-boyfriend.

Now she supposedly belongs to the ultra rich, extremely gorgeous Shep Prescott. He could have anything he wants yet he seems to be in hot pursuit of her. No matter how rude, how snarky, how impossible she acts, it doesn’t stop him. More like her horrible behavior seems to make him want her more.

When she finds herself starting to fall for him, Jade’s confused. There’s more to Shep than the carefree rich charmer he portrays. Now way could he want a serious relationship with her…or could he?

So far 2015 has been a fantastic year for New Adult reads for me, especially when it comes to self-published New Adult. Having let go of a lot of my prejudices against self-published books has allowed me to find a whole lot of new stories to love. And that includes Monica Murphy’s Fair Game.

Jade didn’t want to go to the poker game that night. But her boyfriend dragged her and so she went. At least her best friend is there so she has someone to complain to. But then the night takes a turn for the worse when her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend decides to bet her when he runs out of money. And he loses. And it that wasn’t bad enough, the person she now “belong” to is Shep Prescott, the most gorgeous guy on campus…who also happens to be a complete asshole. But no matter how much Jade tries to get rid of him, Shep just keeps coming back, determined to win her over. And Shep’s persistence is working. Much to her surprise, Jade finds herself starting to fall for Shep and that confuses her more than anything else.

Until not so long ago, I was full of prejudice when it came to self-published books. I had had bad experiences with them in the past and it had made me write off pretty much any and all self-published books. But in the last year or so, I started getting over those prejudices, reading books by authors I knew or that were recommended to me by people whose opinions I trust. And that allows me to discover all these new stories that I love, especially New Adult ones. So that was my long-winded way of saying that I’m glad I got over my hang-ups with self-published books because otherwise I never would have read Monica Murphy’s Fair Game and that would have been a shame. Despite being a little thrown by the premise at first—I mean, a girl gets put up as a bet in a high stakes poker game, which is not exactly okay—I found myself getting all caught up in this story. The way Jade being offered up as a bet in the poker game was handled is what first sold me on the story when I was reading. From the moment it happens, it’s made clear that this is far from an okay thing to do and Jade is going to do everything she can to fight it. Which leads to rest of the story which was all kinds of fun. I loved the slow development of the romance between Jade and Shep, and how that relatively slow build led to some of the best banter I have read in a while. Needless to say, I loved reading Fair Game.

I loved Jade. Right from the start, it was almost like I developed a girl crush on her. The way she chewed out both her (ex-)boyfriend and Shep when they throw her in the betting pot during their poker game. She would just not take any crap from either of them. I loved how independent she was and how much she wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself. But I also loved who she was when she was with Shep, if only for the awesome banter thing these two had going. So many times, I wanted to laugh out loud when I reading the back and forth between the two of them. It was just great. And Shep, was so not who I thought he was going to be. The synopsis for the book makes it sound like he’s going to be one way, but that’s not who he was at all. There was so much more to him than I initially thought there was going to be. And, much like Jade ended up being, I was pretty much powerless against him. He totally charmed me and I fell for him a little (okay, a lot) while I was reading. 

I absolutely loved Monica Murphy’s Fair Game. This was a fun story with romance that hit all the right notes for this reader. I can’t wait to read more in this world in In the Dark.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

No Kissing Allowed by Melissa West

Title: No Kissing Allowed
Author: Melissa West
Publisher: Entangled Embrace
Release Date: July 28, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Indigo
No kissing. No touching. And definitely no falling in love…

Armed with her bestie, an embarrassing number roof shots, and her list of 10 Wild Things To Do Before Adulthood, recent grab Cameron Lawson is partying it up before she starts her dream job at New York’s biggest ad agency. Her last task? Hook up with a random guy. And while it’s so not her style, the super-sexy guy sitting next to her is definitely game. No names. No details.

At least, that was the plan.

On her first day of work, Cameron discovers her hook-up is none other than Aidan Truitt—her new boss’s boss. Talk about failing the “no fraternizing with coworkers” policy on an epic level. Especially when Aidan makes it clear their one night was only the beginning. Falling for him could cost her everything, but sometimes the only way to get what you want is by breaking a few rules…

Despite the number of unread NA books I own both physically and digitally, I am always on the hunt for more good NA reads. I just can’t get enough. And that’s how I stumbled upon Melissa West’s No Kissing Allowed and found myself completely devouring it.

Cameron is ready to start her new career in advertising. She’s starting her dream job at the biggest ad agency in the city on Monday morning, but before that she and her friends are going out for one last crazy night. They even have a list of things they want to do and Cameron only has one item left to cross off: hook up with a random guy. Lucky for her, the hot guy sitting next to her at the bar seems just as interested as she is. And the next morning, they both go their separate ways. Until she walks into her brand new job only to come face to face with him again. And to make matters worse, Aidan just so happens to be her boss’s boss and there’s a strict no fraternizing policy at the company. Cameron is determined to just put it all behind her, but Aidan has other things in mind. Things that involve breaking all the rules that have been established.

I love it when my NA reads dig a little deeper than just two people falling in love. I love it when there’s more meat to the story than just straight up romance. But I can’t deny that I also love my fun romances, the ones where two people are falling in love and that’s that. For me, Melissa West’s No Kissing Allowed was the best of both worlds. This story was undeniably fun. As as the romance for that matter. It was about two people falling in love even though they weren’t supposed to, or even didn’t want to in the case of one of them. And it didn’t hurt that the story also featured one of my favourite romance tropes. For that alone I would have been convinced to read the story. But as fun as the story and the romance was, there was also some depth to it. Both characters had some deeper issues they were dealing with and that were touched on throughout the story. Sure, those issues may not have been deeply explored, but they were still there which added another layer to the story. But a lot of why I enjoyed No Kissing Allowed so much had to do with Cameron and Aidan.

I connected with Cameron right away when I started reading No Kissing Allowed. There was just something about her that made it so I recognized so much of myself in her. I just understood her. Both when it came to the way she thought about relationships and the way she thought about her goals and her career. Because of that, I like Cameron a lot. And so I was rooting for her in every aspect of the story. And I loved the relationship she had with Aidan. Despite the whole part about him being her boss, things just seemed easy between them. And it made for a fun relationship. Even if Aidan was dead set against relationships. Which brings me to Aidan. I loved him, but sometimes I just anted to knock some sense into him. He could be so caught up in his head and what he didn’t want to become that he kind of neglected to see what was right in front of him. Even then, though, I loved the back and forth between him and Cameron, and the way they both pushed each other. Basically, I loved their relationship.

In case you hadn’t figure it out, I really enjoyed Melissa West’s No Kissing Allowed. It was the kind of romance that perfectly balanced light and fun with deeper issues. This story took me by surprise and I couldn’t be happier about it.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

The Road to You by Alecia Whitaker

Title: The Road to You (Wildflower #2)
Author: Alecia Whitaker
Publisher: Poppy
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
The second book in the Wildflower series—full of drama, heart, and that country music spirit.

Bright lights…Screaming fans…Cute roadies…Country music sensation Bird Barrett is officially on tour. The months flash by in an exciting whirlwind, due—in no small part—to a certain dreamy lighting tech named Kai.

After the tour wraps up, Bird makes the move to LA, finding herself at the center of a trumped-up rivalry with another country music starlet she barely knows. Meanwhile, Kai’s out on tour again with an indie rock band and growing distant, and Bird has the label breathing down her neck for a new hit song. Finding true love is supposed to be inspiring, so why does penning the next great country pop ballad suddenly feel so hard?

After reading Alecia Whitaker’s Wildlfower last summer, I was surprised to hear that it was the first in a series but I was also curious to see where the story would go. And being the sucker for contemporary stories and country music that I am, I really enjoyed reading The Road to You.

Bird Barrett is getting use to life in the spotlight. After the success of her first album, Bird is getting ready to head out on the road, joining the tour of a country music legend. She couldn’t be any more excited about it. To make things even better, there’s Kai, the cute roadie who seems to want to spend just as much time with her as she does with him. It’s the perfect summer. But once the tour is over, Bird struggles with writing for her next album, constantly fighting writer’s block. And it doesn’t help that Kai is across the country on another tour. What had felt so easy when they were on the road together now becomes a struggle. Falling in love should be inspiring Bird, but she just can’t seem to pour her heart out in a song the way she wants to.

As much as I enjoyed the story when I read Wildflower last year, I couldn’t help but think that parts of the story fell a little flat for me. So I was a little apprehensive going into The Road to You but I was curious to see where the story would go. And I was curious to see how the romance would play out since that was one of my main disappointments with the first book. Where, for me, the romance fell flat in Wildflower, I was satisfied with it in The Road to You. Though I didn’t always think that Bird was in the best relationship, I bought into the romance and it was fully fleshed out. Outside the romance, I loved getting to explore the country music world some more though Bird’s experience. Seeing her figure out the ins and outs of being a celebrity made for a story that was both fun and touching. Of course, that had a lot to do with Bird and everything she went through over the course of the story.

Bird was just as likeable in The Road to You as she was in Wildflower. She was still working on adjusting to her success and fame but she still felt like the same Bird that I met at the beginning of the first book. Granted, there were moments when, much like her parents, I kinda wanted to yell at her because some of her decisions were kind of questionable. But she’s still learning, and she seemed to have it more or less figured out by the end of the book. And then there was Kai, who I wasn’t sure whether or not he would end up being one of those questionable decisions. At first, I was all for Kai and Bird together, but then I wasn’t sure he was the best person for her. It always felt like Bird could never really be herself around him. So even though he wasn’t in this story quite as much, I’m still rooting for Adam if Bird has to be with someone. Everything just seemed easy when she was with him and he seems to really care about her. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that something may happen with them in the next book in the series.

I really enjoyed Alecia Whitaker’s The Road to You, even more so than I did Wildflower. I look forward to seeing what the story will bring in the final book in this series. 

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Friday, July 24, 2015

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery

Title: A Million Miles Away
Author: Lara Avery
Publisher: Poppy
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Perfect for fans of Nicholas Sparks, this breathtaking story of love and loss is guaranteed to break your heart and sweep you off your feet.

When high school Kelsey’s identical twin sister, Michelle, dies in a car crash, Kelsey is left without her other half. The only person who doesn’t know about the tragedy is Michelle’s boyfriend, Peter, recently deployed to Afghanistan. But when Kelsey finally connects with Peter online, she can’t bear to tell him the truth. Active duty has taken its toll, and Peter, thinking that Kelsey is Michelle, says that seeing her is the one thing keeping him alive. Caught up in the moment, Kelsey has no choice: She lets Peter believe that she is her sister.

As Kelsey keeps up the act, she crosses the line from pretend to real. Soon, Kelsey can’t deny that she’s falling, hard, for the one boy she shouldn’t want. 

Sometimes, you read the synopsis for a book and you’re intrigued by the premise. You’re curious about what the story is about, but at the same time you aren’t exactly sure how it’s going to work out or how the author is going to be able to pull it off. That’s exactly how I felt about Lara Avery’s A Million Miles Away, but for me, it totally worked.

Despite being identical twins, Kelsey and Michelle couldn’t be more different. But they have always been two halves of a whole. When Michelle dies in a car accident, Kelsey isn’t sure who she’s supposed to be anymore. The one thing she knows is that she has to tell Peter, her sister’s recently deployed boyfriend, that Michelle is dead. But when she finds herself face to face with Peter on Skype and he mistakes her for Michelle, she can’t bring herself to do it. To tell Peter that Michelle is dead would mean really losing her sister for good. So she pretends to be her sister because she doesn’t know what else to do. Before she knows it, Kelsey is falling for Peter, for the one person she shouldn’t. But she can’t help it. With everything else happening, he’s the one person who can make her feel like herself.

The thing about Lara Avery’s A Million Miles Away is that I wasn’t entirely sure how the story was going to work out. I’m all in favour of stories with cases of mistaken identity, but not when it gets to the point where one person’s feelings are getting seriously hurt or one person is getting duped. All that to say that I was a little curious about how it would all play out in A Million Miles Away. I mean, for much of the book, half of the couple doesn’t know the real identity of the person he’s with. Because that’s not a recipe for disaster. But the thing is, the more I read, the more I bought into the romance, the more I was hoping for Kelsey to find a way to make this work without completely breaking Peter’s heart and have everything fall apart. And that’s because as much as the story was about the romance between Peter and Kelsey, it was also very much about Kelsey finding herself. And for me, while I was reading, that allowed me to better understand Kelsey’s motivations when it came to misleading Peter about her identity. The one part of the story I wasn’t as big a fan of was the ending. Yes, I was happy about the way things turned out as far as the romance went, but it felt kind of precipitated. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s something I can live with.

Kelsey was an interesting character to read about. I say that because when I first met her at the beginning of the story, I kind of made assumptions about her. But then I kept reading and everything happened with Michelle and the car accident and it felt like Kelsey became a whole other person. The more I read though, the more it felt like the person Kelsey was changing into was actually who she really was. Losing her sister, the person who had defined everything she wasn’t her whole life, made it so she had to figure out who she really was. And it was interesting to see that transformation happen, to see Kelsey find herself and come into her own. And a lot of that had to do with Peter. And I loved Peter. I wish I could have seen more of him. Every time he was part of the story, it felt like it was never for long enough. And in a way, that was kind of representative of his situation, of the fact that being deployed and in a war zone meant that he never seemed to get enough time to talk to the people he cared about. But what I saw of him I loved. And I already said it and I’ll say it again, I was so hoping that he and Kelsey would find a way to make everything work out.

I really enjoyed reading Lara Avery’s A Million Miles Away. The story was emotional and hit the right notes to pull at my heartstrings. It’s not your typical romance, but it worked.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mini Reviews - Dirty Thoughts by Megan Erickson & Last First Kiss by Lia Riley

Title: Dirty Thoughts (Mechanics of Love #1)
Author: Megan Erickson
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Some things are sexier the second time around.

Cal Payton has gruff and grumbly down to an art…all the better for keeping people away. And it usually works. Until Jenna MacMillan—his biggest mistake—walks into Payton and Sons mechanic shop all grown up, looking like sunshine, and inspiring more than a few dirty thoughts.

Jenna was sure she was long over the boy she’d once loved with reckless abandon, but one look at the steel-eyed Cal Payton has her falling apart all over again. Ten years may have passed, but the pull is stronger than ever…and this Cal is all man.

Cal may have no intention of letting Janna in, but she’s always been his light, and it’s getting harder to stay all alone in the dark. When a surprise from the past changes everything, Cal and Jenna must decide if their connection should be left alone or if it’s exactly what they need for the future of their dreams.

I absolutely love Megan Erickson’s New Adult books and Make It Right continues to be one of my favourites. One of the reasons for that was the Payton brothers. There seemed to be so much more going on with them than met the eye. So a spin-off series about them? I was all over that. Which led me to read Dirty Thoughts all in one sitting.

When I read Make It Right last year, I was totally charmed by the Payton brothers, so matter how gruff they came across. They just seemed like they had their own story to tell and that that would be a story that I would enjoy reading very much. So when Megan Erickson announced that she was writing a spin-off series about Max’s older brothers I was ecstatic. I was so excited to read Dirty Thoughts and find out more about Cal. And Cal and Jenna made for some fantastic company on the flight I was on at the time. I got drawn in to the story, by the fact that these two people seemed to have a lot of unresolved history. And for a good chunk of the book, wanting to find out what that history was is what kept me reading. I’m a curious person, what can I say? And once that was revealed, I had just grown attached to Cal and Jenna and to the idea of a relationship between them. I was rooting for them so much, but there always seemed to be something that got in their way. But beyond the romance, one of the things I loved about Dirty Thoughts was seeing all the family dynamics that were at play in the story, both for Cal and for Jenna. I’m a sucker for satires with sibling relationships and I definitely got that here and I loved it.

I loved Megan Erickson’s Dirty Thoughts and I can’t wait to read more about the Payton family and their garage. As it is, I needed Brent’s story, Dirty Talk, like yesterday. September can’t come soon enough!

Title: Last First Kiss (Brightwater #1)
Author: Lia Riley
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Source: Purchased 
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
A kiss is only the beginning…

Pinterest Perfect. Or so Annie Carson’s life appears on her popular blog. Reality is…messier. Especially when it lands her back in one-cow town, Brightwater, California, and back in the path of the gorgeous six-foot-four reason she left. Sawyer Kane may fill out those wranglers, but she won’t be distracted from her task. Annie just needs the summer to spruce up and sell her family’s farm so she and her young son can start a new life in the big city. Simple, easy, perfect.

Sawyer has always regretted letting the first girl he loved slip away. He won’t make the same mistake twice, but can he convince beautiful, wary Annie to trust her heart again when she’s been given every reason not to? And as a single kiss turns to so much more, can Annie give up her idea of perfect for a forever that’s blissfully real.

I really enjoyed Lia Riley’s Off the Map NA series so I was looking forward to reading more from her. So even though most of the romance I read tends to be YA or NA, I was still curious about her Brightwater series. I mean, it has cowboys, how could I say no to that? And after reading Last First Kiss, I am completely sold on this series.

As much as I’ve always been hesitant to read contemporary romance that wasn’t YA or NA in the past, I should just stop because I seem to enjoy every traditional contemporary romance I read. Let’s be real, if the story has kissing and adorable romance, I will read it. So since it had both those elements Lia Riley’s Last First Kiss was a great read for me. I loved the fact that Annie and Sawyer had a history and that that history was affecting their present relationship. I loved the way Sawyer treated Annie compared to how everyone else in their small town treated her. And I loved how despite all that, Annie didn’t let other people dictate who she was, well at least she didn’t in person, sometimes she kind of put up a front on her blog. And there was just adorableness all over the place when Annie and Sawyer were together. It should go without saying that I was absolutely rooting for them. As much I loved the romance in Last First Kiss, there person who totally stole the show for me was Atticus, Annie’s five-year-old son. He was absolutely adorable and I loved him. And from what I saw while I was reading, I’m not the only one whose heart he stole. It was just hard to resist him and all his sweet little kid charm. I dare you not to completely love Atticus. Hopefully there are small glimpses of him in future books.

If you hadn’t guessed it, I loved Lia Riley’s Last First Kiss. There was romance, there was an adorable child, there was laughter and there were moments that pulled at my heartstrings. What was there not to love? I can’t wait to reading the next one, Right Wrong Guy.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Armada by Ernest Cline

Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Source: From Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like he countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the different between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

Over the last few years, I’ve heard a lot great things about Ernest Cline and his book Ready Player One but I hadn’t picked it up for myself. When I heard about his latest, Armada, I was intrigued and wanted to know more. As it was, Armada was a story filled with action and pop culture references that made the nerd in me happy.

Zack has spent all his life so far preferring the world of science fiction to the one he lives in. He spends his days dreaming of adventure, of something that will make his life more exciting and more interesting. He knows that it isn’t likely to happen in his small Oregon town, but he can always hope. And now there’s a flying saucer just outside the window of his classroom. Zack thinks he has to be dreaming, especially since the ship looks just like the ones he spends his free time shooting down in his favourite video game. But as unlikely as it seems, what Zack is seeing is real: aliens are preparing to attack Earth and gamers everywhere are needed to help protect the planet. What used to only be real in video games is now reality. But in the middle of it all, Zack can’t help but think that everything seems a little to familiar, it seems a little too much like everything he’s seen in science fiction.

In my reading, just like in my TV and movie viewing habits, I try to be balanced and read a little from every genre. Sure, there are genres that I will gravitate to more than others, but I try to read a bit of everything. But science-fiction tends to be a genre I don’t get to as much. For that reason alone, reading Ernest Cline’s Armada was an interesting experience. I’m not going to lie. For the first part of the book it felt like I was getting sci-fi pop culture whiplash. There were so many references being dropped left, right and centre and as many as I knew and recognized, there was an equal number that went over my head. For a while, I kind of pulled me out of the story, but I was able to quickly move past it and for much of the rest of the book, the references would make me smile. And it made the story that much more fun to read, because both eh author and his characters are as huge geeks as the people who will be reading Armada. 

Beyond the pop culture geekiness, Armada was an engaging story, one that drew me in. And once the action started, I was having trouble putting the book down. I wanted to find out how everything would go down. Would the aliens really attack? Would gamers all over the world be the ones to save earth? Is all our science fiction actually fiction? There were so many questions that I needed answers to. And those questions were more than answered, with me often being able to clearly picture those answers. And that’s because Ernest Cline is a very visual writer. While reading, I could definitely tell that he was a screenwriter before being a novelist. There were so many vivid  descriptions of what was happening that made it really easy to understand everything that was happening in the story. And made me think that Armada will make one hell of a movie.

Zack was a pretty great hero, especially since he didn’t really feel like a hero while I was reading. I mean, yes he was looking for more adventure in his life and was a top notch pilot in the Armada video game, but when things got a little dicey (to put it mildly), he was kind of a reluctant hero. Zack didn’t want his loved ones to die and he wanted to protect them, but it didn’t necessarily feel like he wanted to be responsible for saving all of humanity. So it made Zack a really interesting character, especially since the story was told from his perspectives. As a reader, it sometimes felt more like Zack didn’t want to believe what was happening was actually happening. Or that what was motivating him was getting answers about what really happened to his father. And on that topic there’s so much I want to say, but I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone. So to make a long story short, I really liked Zack. How he wasn’t your “typical” action hero. He was just someone who was REALLY good at one particular video game and that turned out to be what was needed to save humanity. No big deal.

Though Ernest Cline’s Armada isn’t necessarily something I would pick up on my own, I found myself really enjoying the story. The plot and the characters both drew me in and the action kept me on the edge of my seat while I was reading. And now I need to go read Ready Player One.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Truth & Temptation by Riley Edgewood

Title: Truth & Temptation (Summer Love Series #3)
Author: Riley Edgewood
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: July 23, 2015
Source: ARC from Author
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Kobo
She’s a liar. He knows the truth.

Teagan Walker gets around. Ask anyone—hell, ask her. She’ll own it with a smile. But beneath that smile is a girl whose parents didn’t want her. Whose grandparents raised her without affection. Whose struggle with a burning anger threatens to consume her, though she’d rather punch someone in the face than talk about it. With a new job looming, she’s determined to work her way into a better life. When she meets the sexiest guy she’s ever seen, she decides to kick it off with a bang. And she makes her move.

But he’s got moves of his own, and before the night is out, he strips her of way more than she means to reveal—without removing a single piece of clothing. That comes, too, of course. He’s gotten under skin like nobody before him, and what’s the harm in one night with a sexy stranger? Exposed or not, she never has to see him again.

Except she does.

On Monday morning, they come face-to-face. He’s the son of her new CEO—and he threatens to bring her entire world crashing down, making her face every lie she’s ever told.

There are some stories it feels like I’ve waited such a long time to read, even when in reality, it hasn’t actually been that long. That was the case with Teagan’s story in Riley Edgewood’s Truth & Temptation. And after the wait, this story totally delivered.

Teagan has a reputation. Everyone will tell you so, herself included. But just because she has a reputation and she’s not afraid to admit it doesn’t mean that she’s happy with who she is. In fact, Teagan hates how angry she gets, how big of a bitch she can be even when she doesn’t mean to. But she’s determined to do better, especially now that she’s starting a new job. Out celebrating with her friends, Teagan meets the sexiest guy she’s ever seen and decides to just go for it. But the night doesn’t go quite as planned when Teagan starts to spill all her secrets. But it’s okay, it’s not like Teagan is ever going to see him again. Until she walks in to her new job on Monday morning and comes face-to-face with her new boss. Who just happens to be the guy from a few nights earlier. And he’s ready to call her out on everything she told him.

It feels like I had been waiting for Truth & Temptation, or at least Teagan’s story, since I first met her right at the beginning of Riley Edgewood’s debut, Rock & Release. I knew that she had her own story to tell and I couldn’t wait to read it. So to say I was excited about Truth & Temptation would be a bit of an understatement. I was so freaking excited to read this book, and just like with Riley Edgewood’s previous books, it was so completely addicting. I got sucked into the story, wanting to see where the night would take Teagan and her mysterious sexy man. And once that night was over, I wanted to know everything that happened, everything that Teagan had told Alec. And of course, I wanted to see everything that would come after that. Because if nothing else, I have come to expect from pretty fantastic romance from Riley Edgewood. Needless to say that Truth & Temptation delivered on the romance front. Just like it delivered when it comes to emotional punches. Because there were plenty of those too thanks to Teagan.

I knew from the moment I met her two book ago that Teagan had a lot going on. It was clear that she was dealing with a lot of stuff, and I wanted to know what it all was, especially since it kept being alluded to by Teagan herself and by her best friend. Getting to read her story, I now know that there was so much more to Teagan than I ever thought. And so much of it hit a chord with me, because half of it I could relate to and the other half I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Tegan just deserved something good in her life, more than I can even possibly begin to explain. So Teagan completely broke my heart more than once, and so many times I just wanted to give her a hug. And cue Alec. Alec wasn’t who I expected. Kind of like Teagan, I made certain assumptions about him that turned out to be completely wrong. Alec was a good guy, plain and simple. But he was also so much more than that.  Like Teagan, he had his own set of issues he needed to deal with. And while dealing with those, he was the perfect person for Teagan. He was the person who finally showed her that she was worthy and that she wasn’t doomed to become her mother. He loved her and he wanted her and that’s really all Teagan was asking for. So Alec Chambers was pretty freaking incredible. And I may love him.  And I would also like to take this moment to lay claim to Alec Chambers. Because reasons.

Riley Edgewood’s Truth & Temptation was so much more than the story I had hoped it would be. More than being a story about romance, it was a story about finding yourself and accepting yourself for who you are, regardless of who that is or where you come from. And that’s a pretty damn important message.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Focus On Me by Megan Erickson

Title: Focus On Me (In Focus #2)
Author: Megan Erickson
Publisher: InterMix
Release Date: July 21, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Indigo
Colin Hartman can now add college to his list of failures. On the coast-to-coast trek home from California, Colin stops at a gas station in the Nevada desert, and can’t help noticing the guy in tight jeans looking like he just stepped off a catwalk. When he realizes Catwalk is stranded, Colin offers a ride.

Riley only intended to take a short ride in Colin’s Jeep to the Grand Canyon. But one detour leads to another until they finally find themselves tumbling into bed together. However there are shadows in Riley’s eyes that hide a troubled past. And when those shadows threaten to bury the man whom Colin has fallen in love with, he vows to get Riley the help he needs. For once in his life, quitting isn’t an option…

In the last year, Megan Erickson has quickly become one of my favourite authors when it comes to romance books, especially ones that are packed with all the feels. So Focus On Me? It hit me right where it hurts. But it was oh so good.

Colin thought he was going to be spending his drive across the country thinking about his latest failure: college. But his trip has barely begun when he can’t help but noticing the guy who looks like he’s come straight out of the pages of a magazine. And he offers him a ride without a second thought. What starts out as something completely innocent, quickly becomes something a lot bigger for Colin. But Colin isn’t sure Riley feels the same way he does. Until it becomes very clear that both of them want the same thing and it all comes out one night in Dallas. But Colin can’t help but notice those moments where Riley seems to almost be haunted by his past. And Colin is determined to do whatever he can to help Riley, no matter what it takes. Because for once, Colin is determined not to fail.

Despite having only been publishing books for just over a year, it feels like I’ve been reading Megan Erickson’s books for much longer than that. In the year that her books have been out, she’s quickly become one of my favourites when it comes to romance and her books are all auto-buys for me. And earlier this year, I read what I thought was my favourite Megan Erickson book, Trust the Focus. In fact, I couldn’t seem to shut up about the book (seriously, ask my friends, they will confirm it). But Trust the Focus may now have been replaced by Focus On Me, the second book in the In Focus series. I started reading Focus On Me when I was supposed to be reading something else entirely. And then proceeded to stay up until way too late (considering I had to go to work the next day) just because I had to keep reading and know how the story would end. Well, actually, I wanted the story to last forever, but that's not really the point. I knew going in that Focus On Me was going to be an emotional read, one that was likely to hit me right where it hurts (in a good way). And it absolutely delivered on that. More so than I could have ever have predicted. Even though I could tell what was coming, it still didn’t prepare me for how much that emotional punch hit me. There was so much in this story that needs to be said and needs to be seen. Focus On Me touched me in a way that I didn’t think it would. And by the end of the book, I was crying in bed at 3 AM. Because Colin and Riley’s story was an absolutely beautiful one. Emotional, yes, but beautiful all the same.

Having read Trust the Focus, I know that Megan Erickson can write some absolutely beautiful relationships between boys. But the relationship between Riley and Colin in Focus on Me couldn’t have been more different than the relationship between Justin and Landry in the first book. Where there was a lifetime of history between the two boys in the first book, Colin and Riley are complete strangers at the beginning of the story. But the connection between them was instantaneous and I loved seeing the relationship between the two develop the way it did. Colin’s easygoing nature perfectly balanced out Riley’s intensity. And Colin was the caring person that Riley needed in his life, the person who would do whatever it takes to help him, even if he didn’t want the help. If I’m completely honest, there were plenty of times where their story was completely heartbreaking. But I wanted nothing more than to root for Colin and Riley, for them to make it through everything that was standing between them and get to be together the way they deserved to be. But in the end, all the pain was completely worth it because of what it led to. And I have to say that getting to see Justin and Landry again made my heart happy in all kinds of way.

I feel like this review may have been all over the place. But it’s just HARD to articulate all the feelings I have about Megan Erickson’s Focus On Me. This story made me laugh, it made me smile and it made me cry. And I loved every single moment of it.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

All It Takes by Sadie Munroe

Title: All It Takes
Author: Sadie Munroe
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: June 30, 2015
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Kobo
Nineteen-year-old Star Collins never intended to return to her hometown, Avenue. That part of her life ended when she was nine years old, and child services took her away from her hoarder mother. Her mother chose her stuff over her daughter. That part of her life was supposed to be in the past.

But her mother has just passed away and Star finds herself giving up her summer to quietly clean out her old home. She just wants to sell it and move on with her life. However, things aren’t going the way she planned. With her dyed-black hair and tattoos, she’s attracting almost as much attention from the small town residents as Ash Winthrope, the guy who was just released from prison.

All Ash wants is a chance to start over. He screwed up and he knows it, he’s going to have to live with the guilt for the rest of his life. But he’s stuck in Avenue until his parole ends, and no one, not even his own parents, wants anything to do with him. Nearly out of money and completely out of options, Ash takes the only job he can, helping Star haul stuff out of her mother’s house.

Neither of them expects anything to happen between them, or for their lives to change. But sometimes meeting the right person is all it takes.

You know those books that you haven’t heard anything about until someone recommends them to you? Then you read them, not really knowing what you’re getting yourself into, but quickly realize that the book should have been on your radar all along? Sadie Munroe’s All It Takes was totally one of those books.

Star has spent the better part of her life not thinking about her past, about the mother who chose all her stuff over her daughter when child services came to take her away. But now that her mother has died, Star is forced to go back to her hometown of Avenue to empty her hoarder mother’s house. What Star thought was going to be an easy enough task turns out to be a whole lot more than she bargained for. And the only person willing to help her is Ash Winthrope, the only guy in town who is attracting as much attention as she is. Ash doesn’t want the attention he’s getting. All he wants after having spent the last five years in prison is to start over. He screwed up, he knows it and he wants to move past it, even if he will have to live with the guilt for the rest of his life. But Star is willing to take a chance on him. Neither of them expects anything to come out of their summer hauling crap, but sometimes you find the right person in the most unexpected place.

I honestly hadn’t heard of Sadie Munroe’s All It Takes until it was recommended to me by a friend on Goodreads. Usually, I’m pretty well aware of what’s coming in the world of New Adult literature, but this one had completely escaped my notice. But then I saw that the book was on NetGalley and I figured, why not? It sounded like something I would be into and it had been recommended to me, so chances of me liking All It Takes were pretty high. So what was the verdict, you may be wondering? I totally loved All It Takes. It was so interesting to read a story about hoarding, a subject I find you don’t necessarily see that much in books (or at the very least, not the ones I’ve been reading), seeing how it affects everyone in the hoarder’s family. But that was only one aspect of the story. All It Takes was also about acceptance: about accepting yourself and your past and moving past it. About not letting your past define your entire present and future. And that’s because Ash and Star definitely had more to deal with than the average person, and they had a long way to go when it came to a acceptance at the beginning of the story.

I have a lot of admiration and respect for Star. I mean, to go everything she had gone through and come out of it all the way she did takes a lot of strength. And to the outside world, she mostly showed that strength, but she was also incredibly vulnerable. Because underneath the surface, she was afraid of becoming her mother, of ending up alone with only piles and piles of stuff around her. As a reader, it was interesting to see the juxtaposition of that strength and the vulnerability. But she had some people in her life who were there to help her, some of them completely unexpected. And that’s where Ash came in. For so much of the book, I wish Ash could see himself the way Star saw him and the way I saw him. Yes, he was someone who made a mistake and he had to suffer the consequences. But he recognized that he made a mistake and he wanted to move past it. But no one would let him. And i wanted so much for him to be able to get his fresh start, for him to be able to move on with his life even if he still had to live with the guilt of what happened on the night of the accident. And I just loved seeing Ash and Star together, that easy friendship they had before they became anything more. They were just two people who needed that one person that would change their lives and they found that in each other.

Sadie Munroe’s All it Takes was a complete surprise to me. This was a book I knew nothing about but that I will now be recommend to all my fellow New Adult lovers. 

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Anya and the Shy Guy by Suze Winegardner

Title: Anya and the Shy Guy (Backstage Pass #4)
Author: Suze Winegardner
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Indigo
It’s always the quiet ones…

Anya Anderson doesn’t just need a big break, she needs any break. Living on the streets doesn’t leave a girl many options, so when she scores a gig reporting on the Seconds to Juliet tour, she jumps at the chance to earn enough money to sleep somewhere safe. And the paycheck will get bigger—and keep her off the streets for good—if she can dig up dirt on Will Fray, the irritatingly hot “shy guy” of the band.

Problem is, Will Fray isn’t who everyone thinks he is. In fact, he’s not Will at all. Matt, Will’s identical twin, is actually the guy onstage, reluctantly covering for his brother while he’s in rehab. To make matters worse, Matt’s being shadowed by a cute reporter with troubled eyes determined to get the scoop. On him. And he’s having trouble finding the willpower to keep his distance…

But it the secret gets out, it won’t just be his head on a platter—it’ll be the whole band’s.

I’m afraid I might start sounding like a broken record (pun semi-intended?) when it comes to the Backstage Pass series. But what can I really say, boy bands and romance are apparently all I need to keep me happy. So Suze Winegardner’s Anya and the Shy Guy? Totally loved it.

Being sent to cover the Seconds to Juliet tour is just the break that Anya needs. If all goes well, this could be her ticket to moving off the streets and finally getting her life back on track. But when she joins up with the tour, things aren’t exactly how Anya thought they would be. Instead of covering the whole band, Anya gets assigned to Will Fray, the shy one in the band. Her task? Uncovering all of this secrets. It shouldn’t be too hard, right? Especially considering Will is hiding a pretty big one. Because Will isn’t Will at all, he’s actually his identical twin brother, Matt, presenting to be Will while the real Will is in rehab. But no one can find out, especially not Anya. If people were to find out the truth about Will and Matt, it would mean the end for their family. But the more time Matt and Anya spend together, the harder it becomes to deny the attraction between them. So what happens when you have to expose the secrets of the one person you don’t want to hurt?

Since May, I’ve pretty much been devouring the Backstage Pass series. I’ve loved getting to know each of the different members of the band and the girls in their lives. I’ve loved reading all these stories about people falling in love with a huge tour as the backdrop. It’s been all been a fun story to read. And what I’ve liked about the story is that each of the books goes a little deeper than just the happy romance and the boy band shenanigans. And it was never more true than it was with Suze Winegardner’s Anya and the Shy Guy. Sure, this story was about the romance between Matt and Anya but it was also about the realities of homelessness, and how it’s often circumstances completely outside of the person’s hands that lead to them ending up on the streets. In the case of Anya, in the book, she didn’t want to be on the streets but her family circumstances made it so she didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter. All that to say that it was nice to see the story go beyond the romance and tackle some issues that you don’t necessarily see portrayed all that much in YA books. But that’s not to say that the romance wasn’t great because it absolutely was.

As I’ve already said, Anya, besides being a reporter, was also a homeless teen and it made for a very interesting character. And it also made it so my heart broke for her on more than one occasion while I was reading Anya and the Shy Guy. This girl had all the good intentions in the world but she just couldn’t seem to catch a break when she absolutely deserved one. So it was great to see her finally get that break with the Seconds to Juliet tour. But as much as she wanted her big break, she struggled with getting it at the expense of Will. Well, Matt’s expense which is also Will’s expense and that’s where things got a little bit tricky. Where all the other books in the series were about actual members of a boy band, it wasn’t the case here. Matt was reluctantly going on stage every night to cover for his brother. So at times it was really amusing to read about him struggling with choreography or with lyrics the other boys believed he wrote. And it definitely made things complicated for his relationship with Anya. But at the end of the day, it all worked itself out, and Matt and Anya were absolutely adorable together.

I really enjoyed getting to read Matt (though it technically should have been Will’s, I guess) and Anya’s story in Suze Winegardner’s Anya and the Shy Guy. I’ve loved getting to know the boys of Seconds to Juliet and I can’t wait to read all about Nathan in Erin Butler’s Abby and the Cute One.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Letters to Zell by Camille Griep

Title: Letters to Zell
Author: Camille Griep
Publisher: 47North
Release Date: July 1, 2015
Source: From Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Everything is going according to story for CeCi (Cinderella), Bianca (Snow White), and Rory (Sleeping Beauty)—until the day that Zell (Rapunzel) decides to leave Grimmland and pursue her life. Now, Zell’s best friends are left tow wonder whether their own passions are worth risking their predetermined “happily ever afters,” regardless of the consequences. CeCi wonders whether she should become a professional chef, sharp-tongued and quick-witted Bianca wants to escape an engagement to her platonic friend, and Rory will o anything to make her boorish husband love her. But as Bianca’s wedding approaches, can they escape their fates—and is there enough wine in all of the Realm to help them?

In this hilarious modern interpretation of the fairy-tale sorties we all know and love, Letters to Zell explores what happens when women abandon the stories they didn’t write for themselves and go completely off script to follow their dreams.

I am always game for anything to involving fairy tales. I may be in my twenties, but I will never get tired of fairy tales in any form, whether the originals or re-imagined versions. So when I was approached to review Camille Griep’s Letters to Zell I was totally interested. And reading about these new versions of fairy tale princesses I know and love turned out to be a lot of fun.

Bianca was so close to being done her Pages and finally being able to live her life the way she wanted. No more having to do what the Godmothers wanted her to do, all she had to do was marry her best friend and it would all be over. But then Zell had to go and leave Grimmland to follow her dream, throwing everything of course. Now CeCi wants to chase her own dreams of becoming a cook and Rory is determined the make the most of the hand she’s been dealt and finally make her husband fall in love with her. And Bianca, well, she would do anything to avoid her impending wedding. But tempting fate in Grimmland never ends well. 

Letters to Zell was pitched to me as being for fans of Once Upon a Time. As a lover of the show, I was all over that and excited to see what Camille Griep would do with stories that have been retold more than once. And let me just say that this is not the Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty I remembered from when I was a kid. But that was more than okay with me because this was more than a story about fairy tale princesses. Letters to Zell, beyond making me smile, laugh and cry, also made me think a lot about the idea of happy endings. Everyone kind of takes for granted the happy endings that come with fairy tales, and in a way, it’s what we all hope to get in our own lives. But what happens when happy endings aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be. From the outside looking in, they often seem pretty good, but that’s often not how it is when you’re the one getting the supposed happy ending. And that’s exactly what Letters to Zell showed. It showed what it’s like when you don’t like your life but decide to do something about it. That those happy endings don’t come easy and you often really have to work for them. And ultimately, that happy endings are endings so much as they are being happy with the life you are living is. Seeing all of this though fairy tales was even more interesting because they’re stories we’ve all taken for granted and just accepted that they are the way they are, when in reality we should be questioning them. 

Remember when I said that this wasn’t about the Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty that I remembered from when I was a kid? That was true in so many ways and it made Letters to Zell that much more fun to read. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read about a Snow White who curses every other sentence and may or may not be bisexual. Because that was definitely a thing that happened in this book. And that’s just Snow White. Sleeping Beauty was hilariously always tired, constantly needing a nap. Until she discovered coffee and then that changed. And Cinderella just wanted to be a chef but good old Prince Charming just wouldn’t have it because he’d taken her out of a life that would lead to her always serving other people. But she wanted to cook, damn it. So yeah, Bianca, Rory and CeCi were fun. But things weren’t always so fun for them. There were moments when the tory took unexpectedly dark turns but it worked well within the context of the story. And to offset it all, there was a trip to Disneyland and that was just hilarious.

I am so happy to have been told all about Camille Griep’s Letters to Zell. Had I not been offered this book for review, I never would have found out about it and that would have been a shame. Because this story took everything I knew about fairy tales and flipped it on its head. And I loved it.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Title: Every Last Word
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd…until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

For the past few years, I keep meaning to pick up one of Tamara Ireland Stone’s books, but somehow it never seems to happen. I don’t know why because they all sound like books I would genuinely enjoy. Having now read Every Last Word, I can officially say that I was right and I should have been reading her books all along.

Samantha has become really good at faking normal. If you were to meet her on the street, she would seem to be just like any other girl in her junior class. But underneath the surface and the seemingly flawless exterior, Sam is constantly battling her thoughts thanks to Purely-Obsessional OCD. Because of it, Sam finds herself questioning every thought and decision, constantly afraid making the wrong one and everyone finding out her secret. But then Sam meets Caroline, a girl who introduces her to Poet’s Corner, a secret poetry club that meets in a hidden room. There, Sam feels comfortable for the first time in a long time. And there, Sam also meets AJ, a boy who brings out a whole new side of her and who makes her feel “normal” in way she hasn’t in a long time. But just when she thinks she might finally be able to handle her thoughts, Sam realizes that she should have been questioning her sanity all along.

So here’s the thing, I’ve been wanting to read Tamara Ireland Stone’s books since I first heard about her debut, Time Between Us. But have I actually read any of her books? No. Well, I guess that’s not really true anymore now that I’ve read Every Last Word, but you get what I’m trying to say. Long story short, I’ve been wanting to read her books and now I’ve read one. And I’m happy I did because it’s just confirmed that I need to go back and read her other books. Every Last Word was somewhat different than I thought it was going to be. I mean, I had a pretty good idea of the general story just from reading the synopsis and I could make some educated guesses about what might happen based on that, but there are some parts that I never really could have seen coming. But it would be hard to talk about that without potentially spoiling key parts of the story. So instead, I’ll just talk about the Purely-Obsessional OCD aspect of the story. I found it really interesting to read about this type of OCD. It’s not really something I had heard about before picking up Every Last Word, but now I would be interested in learning more about the disorder. And a lot of that ultimately had to do with seeing Sam struggle with it, and seeing how much it impacted her day to day life.

My heart went out to Sam the whole time I was reading. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to have your whole life taken over by thoughts you have no control over. Every little thought had the potential to send her into a spiral she can’t stop. Her struggle with her thoughts was downright painful to read at time, but it made her and her disorder feel that much more real when I was reading. I wanted nothing more for her than to be able to gain some sort of control over her thoughts and when she started getting “better,” I was totally cheering. And I was also cheering for her relationship with AJ because it was adorable. I loved how relaxed she was able to be with him, how she didn’t find herself overthinking every little thing. And AJ himself was adorable. And what I liked best about him was that he himself wasn’t perfect. He had his own issues he had to deal with and because of that he wasn’t trying to change Sam, he was just there to support her in any way that he could. And have I mentioned that they were adorable together?

I loved reading Tamara Ireland Stone’s Every Last Word. It was a story that opened my eyes to a disorder I didn’t really know was out there while still being a story filled with the kind of romance that i love. If this one has been on your radar, definitely read it.

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