YA Book Review – Lost in Starlight (Starlight Saga #1) by Sherry Soule

Synopsis
Star reporter Sloane Masterson knows she has one helluva story when she witnesses hottie Hayden Lancaster bending forks with his mind.

Like any good journalist, Sloane sets out to uncover the truth, even if it includes a little stalking. When the superhuman feats start to pile up and the undeniable heat rises between them, Hayden has no choice but to reveal his secret: he’s an alien hybrid.

They’re as different as night and day—she’s a curvy, purple-haired, horror junkie and he’s a smoking hot, antisocial, brainiac—yet the intense fascination between them refuses to go away. Even at Hayden’s insistence that dating each other is “off limits” and dangerous, their fiery attraction threatens to go supernova. 

Now Sloane’s dealing with creepy government agents, über snobby extraterrestrials, and a psycho alien ex-girlfriend out for revenge. After a crash course on the rules of interstellar dating, Sloane must decide if their star-crossed romance is worth risking her own life.

My Review
I thoroughly enjoyed Lost in Starlight by Sherry Soule. Her youthful voice, fun and quirky characters, and intriguing plot hooked me from the first chapter. There were a lot of similarities to Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Obsidian — the main character runs a review blog, but in this case horror films and not books, there’s a hot alien with unusual eye color, an equally hot alien ex-girlfriend, a secret alien society, and oppressive government involvement. But there were also enough differences that I found myself lost in the story and stopped trying to compare the two.

Plot
The plot moves along, the dialogue is witty, and I’m ready to read the rest of the series whenever it’s available. To me, that’s solid storytelling. There were a few things that kept it from being a full five-star review. For one, I felt like there were a few gratuitous kissing scenes. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE kissing scenes, they are among my favorite types of scenes. But they tend to lose their effect when there are so many of them, and nothing really develops. I’m not saying that things needed to escalate, but if there is no escalation, we don’t need the play-by-play for every kiss. If it’s just more of the same, it’s okay to gloss over it to keep the plot moving forward.

Another issue I had was that Sloane seemed to overthink things to the point that I didn’t feel like she was developing as much as I’d hoped. She seemed stuck, and given her situation, that’s understandable, but the reader doesn’t need to revisit the same points with her over and over again.

Characters
Sloane is fantastic. She’s strong, smart-mouthed, funny, and confident. I love that she’s not super skinny and that she’s mostly content with her size 12/14 body. That really sets her apart from so many other young adult protagonists. I love her crazy purple hair. In fact, my daughter just had her hair colored and chose purple, so when I read about Sloane, she was already somewhat endeared to me just because of that. And I can personally relate to having big boobs in high school and the utter obsession boys have at that age of talking to your chest.

I adore her two best friends. Both of them are interesting, non-stereotypical, loyal, and exactly the kind of girls I’d want to have for my besties. Hayden is pretty cool, too, although I’m still trying to piece him together. In some ways, he’s a selfish teenage boy who just happened to fall in love with the wrong girl, but manages to do the right thing at times. In other ways, he seems far older than 18 and he talks way more than any teenage boy I’ve ever met. But all things considered, he’s not your average teenage boy, which makes him interesting and unpredictable.

About the only characters I found lacking to the point of distraction were Tama and Darion. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say I had a hard time believing their actions. It’s possible we’ll get a little more insight into them in the next book in the series, but for this story, I had to suspend a lot of disbelief to get through their scenes.

Bottom Line
Lost in Starlight is a fast-paced, fun read that left me wanting to read more.

Disclaimer
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Lost in Starlight (Starlight Saga #1)
Author: Sherry Soule
Publisher: Moonlight Publishing
Pages: 293
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Kobo

About the Author
Sherry Soule lives with her family and one very spoiled black cat in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the bestselling author of the adult novel, “Immortal Eclipse” and the popular YA series: Spellbound. Sherry writes thrilling tales of romance and suspense, often mingled with a dash of the mystical and a splash of trendy fashion. Her love of literature began when she was a young girl and it has continued throughout her life.

Her published novels do not include any graphic sex scenes or explicit violence, nor excessive profanity, so that all of her novels can be read and enjoyed by both teens and adults.

Sherry’s debut novel, “Beautifully Broken” was nominated for Best Paranormal Romance in the 2011 Wizard and Witch/Sorcery category by The Romance Reviews (TRR). Her adult novel, “Immortal Eclipse” is a *TOP PICK* by Night Owl Reviews.

Where to Find Sherry Soule
Goodreads | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Since When is Soccer UnAmerican?

soccer-ball-paintingI interrupt my regularly-scheduled posts of all-things-book-related to discuss something that confuses me. Soccer and the World Cup. Books and reading are topics I love. I could go on for days about them and usually do. Soccer, not so much. But I didn’t suddenly come to be ambivalent toward soccer. I’ve never been interested in it, because, well, it’s boring. There I said it. Watching sailboat racing might actually be more interesting. And if you grew up watching sailboat racing like I did, you know how deep you have to go into the barrel of fun to find something less interesting than that.

But this week I’ve seen posts on Facebook and Twitter and OpEd pieces around the internet about how soccer is ruining America. Seriously? All because it’s not an American sport. Big deal. I don’t remember anyone talking about how unAmerican hockey was during the 1984 Winter Olympics.

I say, hate on Soccer because it’s boring, but not because it’s too European. I’m not watching the World Cup, but I can’t help getting sucked into the excitement because it’s a “thing.” And I like “things.” They’re fun. I don’t read comic books, but I go to Comic-Con every year to just hang outside the convention center and bask in the “thing” that’s going on in my town. Because it’s fun and I like being part of a big “thing.” And this sweet-sixteen version of the World Cup taking place right now? That’s apparently a very big “thing.”

Let’s face it, it’s just a reason for Americans to get together with their friends and drink beer. It doesn’t get any more American than that. Millions of Americans who hate football gather together the second Sunday in February to drink beer and watch commercials. We celebrate Mexico’s independence day so we can get together with friends and drink beer and eat guacamole. And even those of us who aren’t Catholic or Irish set aside March 17 to get together with our friends and drink green beer.

So I say gather with your friends on Tuesday and drink beer while pretending to watch World Cup. It doesn’t get any more American than that.

Why I Read and Write Young Adult Fiction

Why I REad and Write Young Adult Fiction

There has been an onslaught of posts lately responding to this article by Ruth Graham at Slate on why adults should be embarrassed to read books written for children. The article focuses exclusively on books written for young adults, those in the 12-18 age range. Glaringly missing is any mention of books written for younger ages. Harry Potter anyone? Something tells me Ms. Graham has probably read all seven books and seen all eight movies.

So I’m here to tell you why you shouldn’t be embarrassed to read any damn thing you want. Reading transports us to another place and time, full of vivid imagery, allowing our brains to take a magical vacation. Does it really matter if that trip is to 18th century England or to a small town in Oregon with a hidden enclave of vampires?

Sure, Twilight is not the best written series, nor does it have a stellar female protagonist to serve as a role model. But it might be responsible for launching the writing careers of countless authors who discovered you don’t need to be the best writer to tell an engaging story. And how many teen girls turned off the television to curl up on the couch and spend hours engrossed in a story where their imaginations conjured up the images instead of the pixels on a screen.

No one should feel belittled for what they choose to read. It only matters that they read. These are the words that have been drummed into the heads of all three of my children since kindergarten. It was a struggle to get them to read for many years. And with the boys, it can still be challenging to get them to disengage from Minecraft and pick up a book. But we stopped caring what they read last year when their fourth grade teachers explained graphic novels were in fact real books and counted toward their reading requirement.

I read the books my kids read so we can discuss them. As an adult, I’ve read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, all seven Harry Potter books, the Charlie Bone books by Jenny Nimmo, and yes, countless young adult novels, including almost every one listed in Ruth Graham’s piece. And it doesn’t embarrass me in the least. I’ve also read all of Jane Austen’s novels, War and Peace, Lolita, A Confederacy of Dunces, and dozens more on Amazon’s list of the Top 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime. I enjoy reading. Everything.

But when I chose to write my first novel, I spent a lot of time selecting the setting and my character’s ages. And I chose young adults. Yes, on purpose. Young adults are fantastic and every adult has one thing in common: we all used to be young adults. In fact, there are times I’m sure I’m perpetually 14 years old. And secretly a boy. Because I find bodily functions hilarious and I think Adam Sandler is a comedic genius. My 11 year old sons love that I’m the first to make inappropriate fart jokes. My 14-year old daughter is horrified by this same trait.

What I love about young adults is that everything is just so…SO. Huge. Every thought and feeling is amplified a thousand times and everything that happens to them is either the best or worst thing in their entire lives because their lives aren’t all that long yet. So yeah, your first kiss IS the most romantic thing, or the most awful thing, because it’s the first. The first love, first time driving, first beer, everything is just so…SO. Intense. And that’s fun to write about. It gives characters license to think and behave in ways that would be incredibly inappropriate for adults. It offers far more opportunities for growth, predicaments, and scenarios that would never fly with older characters.

And yes, there is the adult in me who realizes my inner teenager’s first thought would be inappropriate to verbalize, but that doesn’t mean my characters can’t.

Review + Giveaway – Mad Love by Colet Abedi

Synopsis
23-year-old aspiring artist Sophie Walker can think of no better place than the exotic paradise of the Maldives Islands to escape the wrath of her controlling parents, the monotony of her boring legal work and her passionless boyfriend. With her two best friends along for the ride and to help her find herself again, Sophie is not prepared for the enigmatic Clayton Sinclair.

Clayton comes from another world of privilege that seems like a fantasy to Sophie.  Can this man introduce her to the passion & seduction she never realized she was desperately searching for? Sophie quickly becomes ensnared in Clayton’s seductive web until a shocking treachery makes her question her judgment and actions

My Review
I don’t quite know where to start –I have so many thoughts running around in my head after finishing this book. Conflicting thoughts. The story starts off like a typical contemporary romance. Sophie is beautiful but doesn’t see it as her gay best friend tries to convince her how gorgeous she is. After heading off on a tropical vacation so she can “find herself,” she immediately meets uber-hot rich guy, and they can’t keep their eyes off each other. Sound familiar?

But just past about the one-third mark, it takes an interesting twist, one I wasn’t sure I liked at first. Clayton is controlling, possessive, bordering on abusive. Sophie knows this isn’t normal, but she’s powerless to resist him. So many times I wanted Sophie to get a backbone and tell this guy where to go. But then it wouldn’t be a romance novel if that happened. The funny thing is, just as I reached the point where Clayton needed to take a long walk off a short pier, he’d do something so endearing, I’d begin to second guess my opinion of him. Like Sophie, I bounced back and forth between liking and loathing Clayton Astor Sinclair.

And that, I realize, is the brilliance of Colet Abedi’s novel. She drags the reader into the push and pull of Sophie and Clayton’s relationship. Makes us hate and then want him right along with Sophie. The author conducts a symphony of emotions like a master puppeteer pulling our strings. I greatly dislike needy female protagonists and rich, controlling, albeit generous love interests, and yet Colet Abedi has done something no other author has been able to do — make me want to read more about that which I claim not to like. Well played, Abedi, well played.

Plot
The plot isn’t all that intricate. It’s a pretty straightforward romance with almost no subplotting, but the romance is a triple E-ticket ride, so I didn’t have the stomach for much more anyway. We’re pushed up big hills, and then sent rushing back down, careening around corners, never allowed to catch our breaths before we’re climbing the next hill. The ending was so unexpected, I found myself smiling. When an author can completely throw me like that, I have to give her props.

Characters
Sophie can be extremely annoying with her insecure pretty girl, “I’m not good enough for him,” attitude. But she has a backbone and she’s not afraid to let it show when she’s pushed far enough. She can be a downright snarky bitch when she wants to. Her two best friends, Erik and Orie are somewhat stereotypical, but I think it works well here. They are the yin to her yang. Her parents and ex-boyfriend are little more than shell characters, but that doesn’t hurt in this instance. And Clayton…well, let’s just say the jury is still out on him. I’m not sure what I think of him yet. The guy has some SERIOUS emotional issues and seems to have more than a few skeletons in his closet, but he’s far from a stereotype. There is more to this guy than we’ve seen and I can’t wait to find out what that is.

Bottom Line
Initially, I thought the book was good, worthy of a three-star review. But as I continued reading, I began to see this story as more than that. It soon became very good and climbed up to four stars. But here I am days later, still thinking about it, about the characters and the plot, and wondering when the next book in the series comes out. To me, that’s the hallmark of a five-star story.

Title: Mad Love
Author: Colet ABedi
Publisher: Bird Street Books
Pages: 258
Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer
I was provided a copy of this book by InkSlinger PR in exchange for an honest review.

Colet AbediAbout the Author
Colet Abedi has been an entertainment industry executive for over ten years. In addition to working on many television programs for NBC, ABC, FOX, and most cable networks, she is best known for her work as head writer for the telenovela serials American Heiress and Fashion House, the latter of which starred Bo Derek and Morgan Fairchild, on the FOX-owned MyNetworkTV. Abedi currently has one television series in syndication, Unsealed: Alien Files, and has completed Five Souls, her first feature film. She is also the co-author of young adult fiction novel, FAE. Book one was released July 2013 by Diversion Publishing Group and was an instant online bestseller. The Dark King, the second in the planned FAE trilogy, was released May 2014. FAE was recently optioned by Ridley Scott. Colet is a native of California, graduated with a B.A. in English literature from the University of California at Irvine, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three dogs.

Where to Find Colet Abedi
Goodreads | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Giveaway
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Book Review – The Veiled (The Shilund Saga) by Jennifer Osborn

Synopsis
The dark woods surrounding Presque Isle Maine obscures many secrets. Hushed utterances about mysterious deaths and human like creatures in the woods were passed down from generation to generation until they became legends, and eventually, dismissed and doubted. Could there be a reality buried in the folklore?

Jack thought his life would never be any different than it was living in a small town. Until the unthinkable happens, leaving two of his friends killed and him imprisoned by a mysterious girl named Serena. Her strange eyes and stories of others of her kind intrigue him, leaving him defenseless to her.

He discovers that his small town was nothing like he thought and that his life and those around him would be better than he could ever imagine if he would only believe.

My Review
I enjoyed The Veiled. It’s well written and has a few surprises I never saw coming. Jennifer Osborn does a great job foreshadowing and creating interesting characters. The story starts off strong with a horrific attack in the woods leaving two firefighters dead and a third fighting for his life. When the surviving firefighter, Jack, is rescued and nursed back to health by a mysterious, yet beautiful girl named Serena, things go from strange to truly weird for Jack.

In the days that Serena cares for Jack, the two develop strong feelings for each other, but they come from different worlds and a relationship isn’t possible. This story of forbidden loveismorethanjusta romance. There is danger, intrigue, and some pretty intense scenes of violence, but they are not gratuitous – they’re necessary to the plot, which builds to a solid climax, albeit a little predictable, but still engaging.

Plot
The story started off strong, but I found it stalling in the middle before building to an intense climax. Jack and Serena’s love story is the area I have the biggest issue with. It’s clearly love at first sight for both of them. I generally don’t believeinloveatfirst sight, but will accept lust atfirst sight isa real thing. One I’ve personally experienced. I’m not against instant love stories if the author makes me feel it, but I found it lacking with Jack and Serena. Clearly they find each other physically attractive, but their relationship isn’t a physical one. It goes much deeper than that, and I like aspect of their story. But I never felt like I understood why it evolves so intensely so quickly between them. I would have liked to have seen that more fleshed out more.

The rest of the plot is well done, from the incredible world building Jennifer Osborn has done, to the myriad of subplots that build up the main plot instead of distracting us from it.

Characters
The strongest characters in the story weren’t the main characters, but the supporting cast. From Jack’s best friend and the town’s deputy, Henry, to Serena’s friend, Vivienne, the reporter looking for his “bigfoot” moment, to Rahfey, Serena’s supposed intended. While Jack and Serena are the main characters, they shine the most brightly when surrounded by the other characters.

Bottom Line
The Veiled is an entertaining story, well written and delivers more than a few surprises. With a strong supporting cast and an intricate plot, it’s an entertaining read and leaves the door open for a sequel.

Title: The Veiled (The Shilund Saga)
Author: Jennifer Osborn
PublisherIndescrible Publishing
Pages: 170
Category: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer
I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What Does it Mean if I Don’t Suffer from Writer’s Block?

Writers BlockI’ve been seeing a plethora of articles lately on writer’s block and how to overcome it. Sometimes I’ll skim them, but more often than not, I’ll move on without reading them. Because I don’t suffer from writer’s block.

Merriam-Webster defines writer’s block as: a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.

Just yesterday, Publisher’s Weekly posted this piece on seven steps to overcoming writer’s block. I didn’t even bother to click the link in my email. My problem is that I have too many words and ideas in my head. My first draft of my first novel was nearly 120K words. It’s now down to a much more manageable 90K, but could still use some trimming. The problem is, with every draft and every cut I make, I think of more things that would be fun to include.

In fact, I googled “What does it mean if I don’t suffer from writer’s block” and the first five pages of hits were all about getting rid of writer’s block. I realize this isn’t really a problem. And I’m probably lucky, except what I DO suffer from is a lack of focus. I could easily spend ten hours a day writing or editing. But instead, I spend my time on Twitter, Facebook, googling, emailing with my friends, or just generally screwing off.

Luckily there are pages and pages of articles on how to be a more disciplined writer. I wonder how long it will take me to read them all.

Come to think it, that sounds exactly like Merriam-Webster’s definition of writer’s block — my distraction is preventing me from proceeding with my writing. Maybe I’ll go google some more definitions.

The Hardest Part of Writing

file0001269229027For me, the hardest part of the writing is not the planning, the drafting, or even the editing (which I secretly loathe). No, it’s the waiting. All the waiting.

When you finish a first draft, you’re supposed to put your manuscript in a drawer and do something else for a week or two. Really? Does anyone actually do this? But it’s true. Writers need to edit with a little distance between drafts. So what do you do with your downtime? That’s the hard part.

Sometimes I’ll begin planning the next book. But usually I’ll stew for a few days and decide that maybe four days is enough distance and get down to my next round of edits. I’m not good at the waiting.

But waiting between rounds of revisions isn’t even the worst part of waiting. After all of the edits, it’s finally time to query. Which involves…more waiting. From days to weeks. I’m back to the dilemma of what to do with all of my free time. Do I go back and tweak the manuscript again? Because once I queried, I suddenly see all the flaws I missed on the first 30 passes.

And then, miraculously an agent asks to see sample chapters, or in my case, a full. After shipping it off, all of those flaws are now magnified 1000 times and my fingers ache from not going in to fix them.

And it begins again. The waiting.

I wait.

And I wait.

And the waiting is killing me.

If by some chance the agent offers to represent me, then I’m sure there will be edits and I can get back to work. But then the real waiting starts as the agent submits to publishers. And I’m guessing this will be the most difficult waiting of all.

Tom Petty was right. The waiting really is the hardest part.

Happy Father’s Day

CreateHappy Father’s Day to the two best fathers I know — my dad and my husband. My dad made me this paperweight from a rock out of his garden and a some gold paint, to remind me every day that what I do matters. I may not be published yet, but he believes in me.

My dad set a pretty high bar, but I still managed to get knocked up by a pretty awesome guy who has been the best father to my children I could have asked for. He’s patient, kind, playful, generous, and on top of all that, he’s my best friend. In fact, he was my best friend years before he was ever anything more.

What does any of this have to do with writing? Nothing and everything. Both of these fantastic fathers support and encourage me, each in their own ways, but they also provide me with a solid foundation of what fathers and love interests should be in the stories I write.

YA Book Review – Shadows (Lux 0.5) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Synopsis
The last thing Dawson Black expected was Bethany Williams. As a Luxen, an alien life form on Earth, human girls are…well, fun. But since the Luxen have to keep their true identities a secret, falling for one would be insane.

Dangerous. Tempting. Undeniable.

Bethany can’t deny the immediate connection between her and Dawson. And even though boys aren’t a complication she wants, she can’t stay away from him. Still, whenever they lock eyes, she’s drawn in.

Captivated. Lured. Loved.

Dawson is keeping a secret that will change her existence…and put her life in jeopardy. But even he can’t stop risking everything for one human girl. Or from a fate that is as unavoidable as love itself.

My Review
While this is technically a prequel, I read it after I completed the other four books in the series while I not so patiently wait for the final book. I wasn’t expecting much because I frankly didn’t care that much about Dawson and Bethany beyond the cursory “he’s Damon’s twin” thing. Told in third person from dual points of view, it was a departure from the other books in the series, but I think that actually helped me get into it. It wasn’t trying to be Obsidian 2.0. It is a story of two people who aren’t Daemon and Katy but have an awful lot in common with them. For one, Dawson is Daemon’s identical twin brother, and for another, Bethany is also a human girl in love with an alien.

The story of how Dawson and Bethany fell in love, and what happened to them prior to Katy moving in next door to Daemon and Dee, is as compelling as Katy and Daemon’s story, and in some ways more so. Their feelings are just as deep and intense and their story is far more tragic. Before long, I was as invested in their story as I was Daemon’s and Katy’s.

Plot
Because I essentially knew their story from reading the other books, this book was more about their relationship. As much as it helps the reader understand why Dawson risked everything for Bethany and why he was covered in blood the day they went hiking, it also does just as much to help us understand why Daemon is the way he is. I suppose it’s possible Daemon had some serious character issues before his brother went missing, but we now understand why he reacted to Katy the way he did the first time he met her. Mostly because we get to see how deeply affected he was by Dawson’s disappearance.

Characters
This is mostly about Bethany and Dawson and getting to know them is fun. But it also gives us another perspective on Daemon from the boy who knows him best. We get to see the playful side from his twin’s point of view. We also get to see how different these two identical brothers are from one another. As the mother of identical twin boys, I really enjoyed this aspect, because while my sons are a lot alike, they are also very different. The fact that the author showed true differences in personality made them all the more real to me. Well, as far as fictional made up aliens can be.

Bottom Line
Shadows is a solid prequel to the series that introduces us more fully to Dawson and Bethany and helps the reader understand in far more detail the backstory that brought us to Obsidian.

Title: Shadows
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 165
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

NA Book Review – Her Dark Places (Sutton Files #1) by Kelly Killarney

HER DARK PLACES (The Sutton Files #1) by Kelly Killarney

HER DARK PLACES (The Sutton Files #1) by Kelly Killarney

Synopsis
‘Veronica Mars’ meets ‘Felicity’ in this sexy, snarky, New Adult Romantic Suspense novel.

Jasmine “Jazz” Holloway gets more than she bargained for when she heads to Sutton College for her freshman year. A long-distance relationship with her high-school boyfriend is tough to maintain. Especially when Brennan, the cute boy down the hall, keeps flirting. And after someone starts threatening her roommate, Jazz enlists the help of Sean, a smokin’ hot upperclassman who runs a P.I. agency out of a darkened corner of the library. 

Jazz has to fight her attraction to both guys as she works to uncover the stalker. But as the stakes rise and tension heightens, the hardest part for Jazz will be keeping her own secret…what she’s really doing at Sutton College. And that’s something no one can know.

My Review
I didn’t want this book to end. Not after it kept me up, reading long after I should’ve turned off my iPad and gone to sleep. I solely blame the book and its author for the dark circles under my eyes. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting this book to be what it was based on the title. But I learned a good lesson — not only should you not judge a book by its cover, but don’t even think about judging it by its title.

There is so much to love about this story. The characters, the plot, the phrasing, the way author strings those witty phrases together to keep me turning pages after I promised myself I’d put it down and do something else as soon as I got to the end of the chapter. Yeah, that never happened. About the only thing I can say that I didn’t like was the wrap-up. It jumped ahead too far. I would have liked to have experienced it more immediate, rather than through flashback, but it’s a minor complaint to an otherwise flawless story.

Plot
Her Dark Places is a mystery, wrapped in a thriller, tied up with a messy romance that left me wanting more. I’m thrilled that this is only the first book in the Sutton Files, but promise me, Kelly Killarney, that there will be dozens more! So much is happening in this story from the main plot of who is stalking Jazz’s roommate, Audrey, to the dark secret that Jazz is hiding (I did figure this secret out pretty early on), to the potential love triangle, but it never felt like too much. It was the perfect blending of plot and subplots to keep me hooked in the most delightful sense of the word.

Characters
Kelly Killarney’s characters shine. The main character, Jazz, is my kind of protagonist. She’s in your face, snarky, loyal, and often acts first without thinking. I adore her. Audrey is the roommate everyone would love to have. She’ s sweet, funny, pretty, and likes to party. Private investigator, Sean, is hotness personified with the attitude to match, and yet he’s got enough baggage that find yourself liking him in spit of yourself. And what can I say about Brennan? Except that he is the swooniest of swoonworthy boys. He is definitely in the top ten of my book boyfriends and might even be in the top five. If only real life generated such perfect boys.

Bottom Line
If you like a page-turner with colorful, witty characters that you can’t help rooting for, a spine-tingling plot, and a heart-fluttering romance, pick up Her Dark Places today. TODAY people, today!

Title: Her Dark Places (The Sutton Files #1)
Author: Kelly Killarney
Pages: 175
Category: New Adult Romantic Suspense
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

YA Book Review – City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare

Synopsis
When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know… 

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

My Review
I’ll admit I’m late to the Mortal Instruments party. My daughter carries the books around and reads them whenever she has a spare moment. I finally got around to picking up the first one and began reading. It probably took until the third chapter for me to reach the point that I wanted to sneak read a page or two whenever I had a spare moment. But once I was immersed into the story, I was there. Completely.

Clary Fray lives a relatively normal life in New York City with her mom and her best friend Simon. When she witnesses a crime and is thrown into a hidden world she didn’t know existed, she’s suddenly hanging out with Shadowhunters, vampires, and werewolves. Nothing in her life will ever be normal again.

Plot
Once the story gets going, the plot moves and because Cassandra Clare’s world is of her own making, nothing is guaranteed or predictable. I think that’s what I love most about the story. Even when I thought I had things figured out, Cassandra Clare turned the hourglass and the sand began pouring in the other direction. Once I hit the midway point in the story, things took off and never slowed down until I crossed the finish line, broken and exhausted, and ready to pick up the second book in the series.

Characters
I absolutely love the characters in this story. Clary is awesome — everything from her fierce need to protect her mother to the way she doesn’t let Shadowhunter Jace get under her skin. She’s really complex for a teen girl, which only makes me love her more.

Jace is fascinating and none of that would change if he wasn’t amazingly hot. What I love about him is how damaged he is, but how he doesn’t let that keep him down. Instead he uses it to fuel what he believes is his purpose in life.

But I think it is Simon that I love the most. There is something so incredibly endearing about him. He’s the loyal best friend, the pining love interest, and the bravest of them all.

Bottom Line
City of Bones is a fantastic story that brings together so many delicious elements, it’s hard to classify it as just another young adult paranormal. It has elements of fantasy, it’s a ripping good adventure, a sweet romance, and a story of friendship, love, loss, and family.

Title: City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Pages: 503
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Category: Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Special Announcement – Rachel Van Dyken

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Elicit Synopsis
Cursed, numb, rejected, scorned, wicked, sinister, dark, twisted…my name is Tex Campisi and this is my legacy. I killed my father in cold blood and lost my soul right along with him. 

I crave war more than peace, and I’m about to take my place in history as the youngest Capo dei Capi in the Cosa Nostra…that is until someone stops me, saves me from myself. 

But the only person able to do that…is my best friends sister, Mo Abandanato, and she just ripped my heart out and asked me to hold it in my hands while she put bullets through it. 

Im cursed so I did it. 
I’m numb so I held it. 
I’m wicked so I liked it.

I used the pain Mo caused as a catalyst to turn into my biggest nightmare–the five families greatest enemy. It’s my turn to take a stand, knowing full well I’m going to lose my mind to the madness that is the American Mafia. I’ve always been told Blood is thicker than life. I wish I would have listened. Because regardless of who you love? You will betray. You will kill.

Blood Always Wins. 
The only way out is death…yours.

Welcome to the Dark Side of the Family

Elicit Teaser

About the Author
 Rachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she’s not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.

She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband and their snoring Boxer, Sir Winston Churchill. She loves to hear from readers!

You can email her at rachelvandykenauthor@gmail.com

Where to find Rachel Van Dyken
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter

NA Book Review – Blue Crush by Jules Barnard

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Synopsis
Genevieve Tierney moves to Lake Tahoe after college, determined to go it alone after being betrayed by her boyfriend. Working at a casino and avoiding cheating jerks seems like a good plan, until she meets the one guy tempting enough to drag her back down.

Lewis Sallee is six and a half feet of perfectly sculpted mountain man who threatens her play-it-safe approach and awakens a sex drive she never knew she had. Although Lewis is in a complicated relationship with one of the most beautiful women Gen has ever seen, she can’t seem to control her attraction to him.

To boost her confidence, Gen steps out of her comfort zone and signs up for the Alpine Mudder, a gritty endurance race. But as she prepares for the biggest physical challenge of her life, her emotional strength is pushed to its limits after she accepts Lewis’s help in training. He tests her willpower and has her fighting her body’s response to him—with her mind and heart not far behind

My Review
It took me a couple of chapters to get into Blue Crush, but once I did, I was in all the way. Gen is somewhat annoying at times, but Lewis more than makes up for it. He’s H.O.T. hot — one of the sexiest guys to cross my pages in a long time. The heat is intense without being overt and the relationship develops slowly while achieving a heart-pounding pace. How is that possible? I’m not sure, but I just know that Jules Barnard has managed to pull it off.

Plot
The plot is a little different from other NA books I’ve read. For one, it’s not a straight up romance. Gen is tired of being pushed around, particularly by men. Her mother is a lousy role-model, her ex-boyfriend a total douchebag, and her new job makes her the target of every lecherous man in the greater Lake Tahoe area. It doesn’t help that one of the executives at the casino where waitresses thinks she’s available for anything and everything he wants.

She runs into Lewis who gets her blood pumping in a way no guy ever has. There’s just one little problem — there’s another girl in the way. The nature of his relationship with this other girl is murky at best. When Gen decides to step out of her comfort zone and sign up for the Alpine Mudder Run, Lewis volunteers to help her train and sparks fly. When it comes to whether or not she can control her raging hormones around this delicious slice of man candy, all bets are off.

A series of well-developed subplots are woven into the main plot, making this far more than your average NA romance.

Characters
While Gen can be a bit hard to take at times, she does have her likeable points. She’s a loyal friend, works her ass off, respects herself and others, and wants to do the right thing. Lewis is perfection wrapped up in the prettiest paper on the planet. The supporting cast are not fluff, but remarkably well developed and do far more than just provide attractive background noise.

Bottom Line
I thoroughly enjoyed Blue Crush. It’s steamy, romantic, and at times funny. I may have just found my new favorite NA author in Jules Barnard.

Title: Blue Crush (Blue Series #2)
Author: Jules barnard
Pages:
Publisher: 
Category: Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

About the Author
Jules Barnard is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. She attended UC Davis, whose college landscape often finds its way into her New Adult novels. She has a Master’s degree and spent many an hour running statistical analysis, until she realized her favorite part of the job was writing reports. She decided to cut out the math and add in some hot guys, and so began her career as a novelist.

Jules is a Northern California native living on the coast with her husband and two children. She has no impulse control around cupcakes and credits herself with the ability to read while running on the treadmill or burning dinner.

Where to Find Jules Barnard
Goodreads | Website Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway
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Book Review – Ready for You (Ready #3) by J.L. Berg

Synopsis
Eight years ago, Garrett Finnegan’s world shattered the day Mia vanished from his life. He’s been struggling to pick up the pieces ever since. Haunted by memories and ghosts of the past, he chooses a solitary existence rather than risk his heart again.

Mia Emerson has made one wrong decision after another but none worse than walking away from the boy who stole her heart so long ago. When her new life is turned upside down, she finds herself returning to her roots and the hometown she left behind. Maybe now she can find a way to heal from the devastating mistakes of her past.

When a chance encounter brings these former lovers together, passion reignites in a way neither is prepared for. Can Garrett move beyond his anger and find a way to forgive? Will Mia’s insecurities and fears cause her to once again flee the life she’s destined to live?

Garrett and Mia will soon discover that they must journey into the past to find their way home.

My Review
The book started off strong and drew me in with Mia and Garrett’s heartbreaking tale. The  backstory is doled out slowly, keeping my interest. The story is solid, but I think the ending went on a little longer than it needed to and some elements told in retrospect might have been more powerful if they unfolded within the confines of the main story. There’s a pivotal social issue that I feel the author took the easy way out on. There was an enormous opportunity to address the topic with grace and dignity, even though it could have been controversial. Still, the romance is emotional and well told, and gets a strong four stars from me.

Plot
The main plot is really well done. It’s not groundbreaking, but J.L. Berg elicits a lot of emotion from readers with her style of storytelling. The characters are pulled together and pushed apart at optimum intervals to move the plot along at a healthy pace. And other than dragging out the ending, I think it’s a really well-told tale.

Characters
The main characters, Mia and Garrett, are fully developed, deeply wounded, and each has a terrific arc. They both act according to character and are believable. The supporting cast is equally developed, and thus, bring more realism to the story. In many contemporary romances, sometimes the supporting cast is just sort of there and barely more than two-dimensional, but I didn’t get that sense with these characters.

Bottom Line
Ready for You is a solid contemporary romance with a lot of adult angst that would rival any young adult novel, told well, with a satisfying ending.

Title: Ready for You (Ready #3)
Author: J.L. Berg
Pages: 306
Publisher: CreateSpace
Category: Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads, AmazonBarnes & Noble

JL BergAbout the Author
 J.L. Berg is the USA Today bestselling author of the Ready Series. She is a California native living in the beautiful state of historic Virginia. Married to her high school sweetheart, they have two beautiful girls that drive them batty on a daily basis. When she’s not writing, you will find her with her nose stuck in a romance novel, in a yoga studio or devouring anything chocolate. J.L. Berg is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.

Where to Find J.L. Berg
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway
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NA Book Review – Elsker by S.T. Bende + Giveaway

Synopsis
You don’t win the heart of an immortal assassin without making a few enemies along the way. Kristia Tostenson prefers Earl Grey to Grey Goose and book clubs to nightclubs, but when she transfers from her one-stoplight town to Cardiff University in Wales she falls in love with Ull Myhr. Her new boyfriend isn’t exactly what she was expecting. He’s an honest to goodness Norse God – an immortal assassin fated to die at Ragnarok, the battle destined to destroy Asgard and Earth. Kristia’s crazy visions are the only thing that can save their realms.

Her orderly life just got very messy.

My Review
As an avid fan of the Marvel movies, including both Thors and the Avengers, I love that this story is includes a great deal about Norse mythology. It’s a fresh take on the paranormal genre. When Kristia decides to spend her sophomore year of college abroad, she settles on Cardiff University in Wales where she falls for the hottest guy in school, and quite possibly the planet. He has an unusual name, Ull Myhr. And as it turns out, he is Thor’s stepson and his destiny is not pretty. But, you can’t help who you fall in love with and Kristia has some tough decisions to make.

Plot
Considering the whole God/Asgard/Ragnarok thing, the story has surprisingly little action. It’s more a love story than an action/adventure, but the love story is sweet. There’s a generous helping of heat, particularly for a story that is completely devoid of sex, which just further proves that new adult fiction doesn’t need sex to be steamy. But even without adventure or sex, the plot moves at a good pace.

There are a couple of plot points that felt rushed. For instance, Kristia seems to accept Ull’s true identity pretty easily. She says she doesn’t, but not enough attention is paid to her coming to terms with the reality and fate of the guy she loves. The other is how quickly she seems to fall in love with him. I’m not opposed to stories of love at first sight, but this doesn’t feel like that either. Rather she falls in instant attraction with him, but she seems to go from being intoxicated with him, to making her entire world about him without any additional development. It doesn’t make the story implausible, but I think it would have been more enjoyable to watch it unfold at a slower pace.

Characters
The characters are interesting enough. Ull especially seems well fleshed out. I love the way he talks without using any contractions. He sounds exactly like you would expect the stepson of Thor to speak. The two flatmates Kristia meets in Wales are delightfully British and Ull’s Asgardian friends are equally fun. Kristia is the only character I’m unsure of at this point. She doesn’t come across as especially deep or developed. Since the story is from her point of view, I wanted more from her. I wanted to see the deep wound she must overcome. Sure, her parents checked out a long time ago and she was raised by her grandmother, but it doesn’t seem to really impact her that much. She doesn’t seem damaged as a result. But it does play in nicely with the bigger plot point of the impending implosion of the universe.

Bottom Line
Elsker tells an interesting tale, but feels almost like it’s a prequel to whatever happens in the Elsker Saga #2. The romance is well done and important to the overarching plot. But I do feel like it’s lack action. That said, I will definitely be reading the next book in the saga. I believe that’s when this story is really going to take off.

Title: Elsker (Elsker Saga #1)
Author: S.T. Bende
Pages: 304
Category: New Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links to PurchaseAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

About the Author

About the Author
ST BendeBefore finding domestic bliss in suburbia, ST Bende lived in Manhattan Beach (became overly fond of Peet’s Coffee) and Europe… where she became overly fond of the musical Cats. Her love of Scandinavian culture and a very patient Norwegian teacher inspired the ELSKER series. She hopes her characters make you smile and that one day pastries will be considered a health food.

You can follow ST Bende on Twitter @stbende, or send an e-mail to stbende@gmail.com.

Blog | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Ull Myhr on Twitter

The Giveaway
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Book Review – Forever My Girl (The Beaumont Series #1) by Heidi McLaughlin

Synopsis
I was never supposed to be a rock star. I had my life all planned out for me. Play football in college. Go to the NFL. Marry my high school sweetheart and live happily ever after. 

I broke both our hearts that day when I told her I was leaving. I was young. I made the right decision for me, but the wrong decision for us. I’ve poured my soul into my music, but I’ve never forgotten her. Her smell, her smile. 

And now I’m going back. 

After ten years. 

I hope I can explain that after all this time. 

I still want her to be my forever girl.

My Review
Forever My Girl is an emotional love story told from two points of view. The first is Liam who makes a decision about his future, leaving his small hometown and girl behind. Josie is the girl he left broken and alone, who has spent the past ten years attempting to rebuild her life. Newly engaged, her life seems perfect until Liam arrives back in town for the funeral of their closest friend. When these two see each other again, sparks fly.

Plot
Heidi McLaughlin does a fantastic job of doling out information slowly, keeping us hooked and then carefully reeling us in. I found myself deeply into the story from the first chapter, and this is something that is rare for me with romance novels. It usually takes me several chapters at least to really get into it.

The plot unfolds at the perfect pace through most of the book. About the only thing really lacking is a decent antagonist. There is Liam’s conniving agent, but she’s not developed enough to really be the one you love to hate. And her plans to destroy Liam and Josie’s relationship comes too late in the story and isn’t nearly strong enough. And then there’s Josie’s long suffering fiancee. We get a glimpse at his potential anger early on, but it never escalates and he doesn’t present enough obstacles to really fulfill his potential as an antagonist.

Characters
The main characters are strong, fleshed out, and engaging. Even most of the secondary characters have depth that is often missing in romance novels. My only complaint is the lack of a solid antagonist which would have taken this story from 4-1/2 stars to 5.

Bottom Line
A very well written, engaging story with solid characters that you root for.

Title: Forever My Girl (The Beaumont Series #1)
Author: Heidi McLaughlin
Publisher: Bandit Publishing
Pages: 225
Category: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links to PurchaseAmazon | Barnes and Noble

Versatile Blogger Award & Seven Things About Myself

I was tagged by my friend and fellow blogger, Debi Smith, in the Versatile Blogger Award. I first “met” Debi years ago when we both had gluten-free blogs. She has stuck with her Hunter’s Lyonesse blog year in and year out, while mine, Gluten-Free Comfort Food, has suffered from a serious lack of attention. We bumped into each other again recently when she posted this wonderful article on the current trend of making jokes out of gluten-free eaters, and discovered we’re both now writing young adult novels.

I also need to tag/nominate bloggers for the award. Here are mine: Sally WhiteSarah FaderJenna Peranteau, Monica FumaroloHeather Manning, Stephanie, Maria Medeiros, Susanne Lankin, Kate Priestly, CJS Writing.

And now seven things about myself:

1. I was born without a sense of smell. It is called anosmia. Yes, I can taste. My tastebuds work wonderfully. Maybe even better than yours.

2. Sometimes I have trouble telling my identical twin boys apart.

3. I only speak enough Spanish to get myself into trouble.

4. I’m pretty sure I have attention deficit disorder.

5. The band I listen to when no one else is around is Buckcherry. Their lyrics are a bit (okay, a lot) dirty, but I love them.

6. I have purple streaks in my hair.

7. I named a character in one of my books after a romantic rival from my teens just so I can torture her. I might have trouble letting go.

YA Book Review – Gypsy (The Cavy Files, #1) by Trisha Leigh

Synopsis
In the world of genetic mutation, Gypsy’s talent of knowing a person’s age of death is considered a failure. Her peers, the other Cavies, have powers that range from curdling a blood still in the vein to being able to overhear a conversation taking place three miles away, but when they’re taken from the sanctuary where they grew up and forced into the real world, Gypsy, with her all-but-invisible gift, is the one with the advantage.

The only one who’s safe, if the world finds out what they can do.

When the Cavies are attacked and inoculated with an unidentified virus, that illusion is shattered. Whatever was attached to the virus causes their abilities to change. Grow. In some cases, to escape their control.

Gypsy dreamed of normal high school, normal friends, a normal life, for years. Instead, the Cavies are sucked under a sea of government intrigue, weaponized genetic mutation, and crushing secrets that will reframe everything they’ve ever been told about how their “talents” came to be in the first place.

When they find out one of their own has been appropriated by the government, mistreated and forced to run dangerous missions, their desire for information becomes a pressing need. With only a series of guesses about their origins, the path to the truth becomes quickly littered with friends, enemies, and in the end, the Cavies ability to trust anyone at all.

My Review
This is the first young adult novel in a while that I’m really excited about — the book I tell everyone to read. I didn’t think it was possible to have a truly fresh take on young adult paranormal, but Trisha Leigh has done just that with Gypsy. The characters are original, the plot is completely unpredictable, and the ending left me wanting more. I’m just sad I’m discovering it now and not in a few years when the entire series is already written. That way, I could binge read every book the same way I watched LOST on Netflix. Now I have to wait. I hate waiting.

Plot
I want to say the plot is the best part of this book, but it’s only half the story. It’s a great half, though. There are numerous surprises, plenty of intrigue, and lots of mystery. The story is told from Gypsy’s point of view — the one Cavy that doesn’t have a particularly useful genetic mutation. In fact, it makes it difficult for her to form deep friendships.

When she and the other Cavies are liberated from endless testing and granted a chance at “normal” lives, her gift once again interferes with relationship building. As she tries to fit into the greater world around her, she works to build something solid with the father she never knew, falls for the hot guy at school, and befriends another new student. Along the way, she learns more about herself and her Cavy friends than any of them knew and it changes everything from how they see themselves to what they must do next. They learn the hard way who they can and cannot trust.

Characters
The characters are the other half of this perfect equation. Gypsy, also known as Norah, and her other Cavies are not your typical young adult characters. Not even your typical paranormal characters. They’re beautifully flawed, perfectly imperfect, deep, complex and intense. About the only thing I can say about this book that isn’t utter and complete praise is that between their Cavy names and their real names, I had a tough time keeping them and their genetically mutated abilities straight. I’ll probably make myself a scorecard to keep track before the second book in the series comes out.

Bottom Line
One of the best young adult books I’ve read lately. It’s thoroughly engaging, well written, unique, and impossible to put down.

Title: Gypsy (The Cavy Files, #1)
Author: Trisha Leigh
Pages: 377
Category: Young Adult Paranormal
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Goodreads
Links to PurchaseAmazon | Barnes and Noble

Trisha LeighAbout the Author
Trisha Leigh is a product of the Midwest, which means it’s pop, not soda, garage sales, not tag sales, and you guys as opposed to y’all. Most of the time. She’s been writing seriously for five years now, and has published 4 young adult novels and 4 new adult novels (under her pen name Lyla Payne). Her favorite things, in no particular order, include: reading, Game of Thrones, Hershey’s kisses, reading, her dogs (Yoda and Jilly), summer, movies, reading, Jude Law, coffee, and rewatching WB series from the 90’s-00’s.

Her family is made up of farmers and/or almost rock stars from Iowa, people who numerous, loud, full of love, and the kind of people that make the world better. Trisha tries her best to honor them, and the lessons they’ve taught, through characters and stories—made up, of course, but true enough in their way.

Trisha is the author of THE LAST YEAR series and the WHITMAN UNIVERSITY books. She’s represented by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Where to find Trisha Leigh
Website | Goodreads Facebook Twitter Tumblr Pinterest

The Giveaway
a $20 bookstore gift card and a signed paperback of the book, plus some swag

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Excerpt
The library is one of the bigger rooms in the house, converted from what used to be the upstairs parlor. The Professor looks out a window that overlooks the back lawn. Shelves, sagging with dusty books, cover every inch of the light blue, fifteen-foot walls. The morning sunlight still lingers around the front of the house, making this space dim, but motes of dust twirl and waltz like members of a royal court on the pale, reaching beams.

All at once, happiness floods my bloodstream, as though someone smacks good cheer into my chest cavity through my shoulder blades. The strange desire to burst into song hums along my nerve endings, as though I’m a Disney princess summoning her bird and varmint attendants at the window. It takes serious concentration to bite back the urge.

The abrupt change in mood announces another Cavy’s presence, but as hard as I try to glare at Pollyanna, my mouth refuses to cooperate. Her mutation, a reverse empath alternation that allows her disposition to affect the moods of people in close proximity, is more…invasive than most. Losing control of my own mind never fails to make me feel icky.

And given her insistence on cynicism and anger, she’s not aptly named. Not at all.

“Feeling good, Gyspy?” She shakes out her long, blond hair and pins me with china-blue eyes. The faux-happy shroud crawling from her to me dissolves and my smile finally falls away. Polly nods. “That’s better. You look weird when you smile.”

“Pollyanna, we have spoken at length about the perils of using your gifts on your fellow Cavies.” The Professor’s patient, tired voice reprimands the youngest of his students, if only by several months.

The Philosopher, who runs Darley, took us in before we were three months old, and we all arrived between sixteen and seventeen years ago.

“Sorry, sir.”

She’s not sorry, but his chastisement and her apology are part of our daily routine. Of all the kids here, Pollyanna is my least favorite. She’s everyone’s least favorite, and even though she knows it she doesn’t change. I guess she doesn’t care.

“Sorry for what? Fucking with people again?” The voice bleeds out of thin air before Haint shimmers into view around it, face first. She leans against one of the bookcases once her shoulder appears, examining her nails as she waits for her daily reprimand.

The Professor doesn’t disappoint. “Language, dear.”

He says nothing to me, not even hello, nor does he issue a warning to Haint about using her ability to go invisible. It’s not dangerous. Pollyanna could make any one of us walk straight off a cliff if she felt particularly suicidal that day.

The twins Athena and Goose arrive together, a tornado of rough-housing elbows and flashes of reddish hair, loosing half a shelf of books onto the floor and toppling an end table before getting themselves under control. The Professor ignores them, having long ago resigned himself to their antics.

We’re all here now, at least those who are expected. Mole is still enduring his weekly brain prodding and so is Reaper. They’re our lethal Cavies, and are kept for testing more often and for longer than the rest of us. We’re categorized according to our level of usefulness, the details of our mutations and abilities listed in records the Philosopher hopes might convince the government we could be potential assets as opposed to threats.

Three Operationals, two Substantials, one Developmental, three Unstables, and one Inconsequential. That’s me. The one who will never be an asset to anyone but can’t be locked away and forgotten like an Unstable, either. They don’t know what to do with me, so I shuffle along with the group.

“Everyone sit down, please.”

The Professor’s command sounds more like a genteel request, and we drop into a circle of cross-legged teenagers on the oval Oriental rug that smothers the center of the room. He paces behind us, passing binder-clipped pages into our waiting hands.

I grab mine, excited as the title filters through my eyes and into my brain. It’s a thesis, written by the Scientist back in the 1960s: Genetic Mutation and the Human Brain.

He died before any of us were born but his thoughts and experiments, his studies, help the scientists at Darley Hall figure out what might have caused the mutations that resulted in our “gifts.” Maybe one day they’ll figure out how to switch off those screwy genes and I can touch another person without at least one layer in between us. Without the protection, touching someone means seeing a number in my mind.

The age the other person is going to die.

My “talent” is creepy at best, totally useless at worst, and being able to get rid of it has been a hidden desire for the whole of my life.

 

Book Review – Savage Secrets by Cristin Harber

Synopsis
Savage Secrets is the newest title in the USA Today Bestselling Series!

When the past is impossible to ignore, love may be the only
way to survive.

Caterina Cruz has no home. No loyalties. No objection to exacting torturous revenge. Her life’s mission is to destroy the terrorist who murdered her family. Then she steps into an elaborate game of charades alongside a Titan Group operative posing as an arms dealer—and her newlywed husband. The sexy distraction may be more than she can handle.

Attacked with a psychedelic drug weeks before, Rocco Savage is plagued with hallucinations that threaten his new rank as Titan’s second-in-command. No one knows and he wants to keep it that way. Throwing him further off his game, he now has a wife with her own secrets he can’t crack and an agenda he can’t control.

Their mission—an elaborate deception of heated glances and passionate kisses—spins out of control. With Rocco’s mind already compromised, can he keep his secret and his distance? And with Caterina’s tragic past controlling her every move, can she keep the con up long enough to secure her revenge? Or will both go down in flames?

My Review
Not having read any of the other Titan novels, I didn’t know what to expect with Savage Secrets, but I was hooked from the opening pages. Cristin Harber manages to weave together an action-packed thriller with an insanely hot romance into a steamy page-turner. I didn’t even know that was possible.

Yes, there is a disturbing rape scene and I know some people were turned off by it. But rape happens every day in this country and around the world. Every.single.day. The author neither glorifies nor seeks to gloss over rape. In fact, she’s donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book to a rape and sexaul assault survivors non-profit. One of the resources she mentions is After Silence.

The mission of After Silence is to support, empower, validate, and educate survivors of rape, sexual abuse and all types of sexual violence by providing a safe, extensive, reliable and easy-to-read website where victims can find the answers and support they need to heal and reclaim their lives.

Check them out if you’re in need of help and if you’re not, consider donating to them. They do good work. Important work. Rape is a crime, but talking about it is not.

Plot
The plot is basic — Caterina wants revenge on the man who killed her family when she was ten — but there are enough subplots that it’s almost a relief that the main plot isn’t too complex. First, there’s the romance, then there’s Rocco’s secret, and the terrorist plot they need to stop, and apparently there’s a lot of backstory on the other characters from the three previous books in this series, but not having read them didn’t make this one hard to follow.

Characters
The author does a good job differentiating the characters and Rocco is pretty much a straightforward dude. It’s one of the things I love about him. He swears, he likes to punch things, is more comfortable in jeans than expensive designer duds, and he’s not good at expressing how he feels. By comparison, Caterina is as deep and complex as Rocco is simple. So you know these two are either going to get all hot and heavy or kill each other.

Bottom Line
This is an intense, sometimes violent, thriller with lots of heat. It should appeal to women who love a good romance, but also get a kick out of James Patterson and The A Team reruns. Luckily there are three other novels in the Titan series for me to enjoy in the not too distant future.

Title: Savage Secrets (Titan #4)
Author: Cristin Harber
PublisherMill Creek Press 
Pages: 311
Category: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links to PurchaseAmazonBarnes & Noble