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eBook Available for Pre-Order – The Union by T.H. Hernandez

The Union, Book 1 in the Union Series releases on November 18, 2014 but can be pre-ordered through Amazon now. The pre-order price is $2.99, but will rise to $3.99 after release.

The Union (The Union Series #1) by T.H.Hernandez

The Union (The Union Series #1) by T.H.Hernandez

About the Book
Title:
 The Union
Series: The Union Series #1
Author: T.H. Hernandez
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Adventure/Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
After global warming and a second civil war devastated the former United States, two different societies rose from the ashes – the Union, a towering high-tech utopia, hugging the perimeter of the continent, and the devastated, untamed midsection known as the Ruins.

Seventeen-year-old Evan Taylor has an easy, privileged life in the Union. What she doesn’t have is any idea what to do with the rest of her life. She only knows she wants to do something meaningful, to make a difference in the lives of others.

When she’s kidnapped and taken into the Ruins as a pawn in a dispute involving her boyfriend, Bryce, her ideal world is turned upside down. What she learns while in the Ruins shakes her faith in everything she’s ever known, from Bryce, to her family, and even the Union itself.

Now Evan must choose whether to stay with Cyrus, the sexy, resourceful survivor who believes she’s in the Ruins for a reason, or return to the only life she’s ever known. But when she stumbles upon a dangerous plot that threatens both worlds, her decision could tear her apart.

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Author T.H. Hernandez

Author T.H. Hernandez

About the Author
When not visiting the imaginary worlds inside my head, I live in San Diego, California, with one husband, three children, two cats, and one dog. In addition to my day job as a technical writer and editor, I write young adult fiction and blog about books, movies about books, and anything else that moves me. I particularly love the young adult genre with the intensity of teen emotions and the way they’re still figuring out life.

When I’m not writing, you can find me with my nose in a book, hanging out with family and friends, hiking, or knitting. I’m obsessed with pumpkin spice lattes, social media, binge watching TV shows on Netflix, microbrewed beers, bad lip reading videos, and my San Diego Chargers.

Where to Find T.H. Hernandez
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram

YA Book Review + Giveaway – Two Blue Lines (Crossing the Line) by S.C. Montgomery

Two Blue Lines Blog Tour

Two Blue Lines (Crossing the Lines #1) by S.C. Montgomery

Two Blue Lines (Crossing the Lines #1) by S.C. Montgomery

Synopsis
His fear . . . Her secrets . . . Their choice.

What if the only girl you’ve ever loved lied to you?

Lied to everyone?

Those two blue lines changed everything for Reed Young and Melissa Summers. In more ways than one.

And now, he must decide for himself . . .

Man up or walk away?

SC Montgomery has created an emotional tale of first love, difficult choices, and impossible secrets. A deliciously angsty debut you need to read for yourself.

***Reader Warning*** Two Blue Lines is the emotional, honest story of two teenagers whose lives are about to change forever. While not glorified, or portrayed in detail, there are themes of sexual assault and teen pregnancy, as well as allusions to teenage drinking and some foul language. It is all meant to create an honest, relevant novel, but please be aware and read only if you’re comfortable.

***Note, while this novel is a standalone that deals with mature subject matter, it may be helpful to read Lines in the Sand first to understand what makes Reed Young tick and hear about the summer that changed his life forever. Well, before this one.

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My Review
Two Blue Lines picks up four years after Lines in the Sand. Reed is with Melissa, the only girl he’s ever loved, and the girl he was crushing on in Lines in the Sand. Melissa is pregnant and everything in Reed’s life is about to change. Adopted herself and never feeling like she’s a full member of her family, giving the baby up is not an option. But Reed isn’t prepared to be a father. He’s too young and has big plans for his future. He refuses to allow one mistake in the back seat of his car to ruin everything. But he loves Melissa and will do anything for her. At least Melissa hopes so. Especially when she tells him her darkest secret.

I love that S.C. Montgomery never let her characters off the hook, absolved them from the consequences of their actions. They struggle in realistic fashion with the changes in their lives, fighting, loving, living, terrified and joyously from moment to moment.

The relationship between Reed and Melissa is angsty and authentic. Their love is intense, as it is with most teenagers, but the enduring quality of it sets them apart and drives the story.

Plot
The story moves at a solid pace, taking many twists and turns, breaking my heart and putting it back together again. The main plot and various subplots are woven together and kept me guessing. Just when I was sure I had it figured out, S.C. Montgomery threw me completely and left me with my mouth hanging open along with the characters in her story.

World Building
In a contemporary romance, it’s less about world building than establishing the setting, and that’s precisely what the author does. I can envision that south Texas beach perfectly, feel the salty breezes, the heaviness of the air from the humidity. But it’s also about creating the events leading up to the story that make the events believable. What might be acceptable in a large city would be completely inappropriate in a small town in the south. The time and place chosen as the backdrop for Reed and Melissa’s heart wrenching story is perfect.

Characters
The story unfolds from Reed’s point of view and he comes across completely authentic. Never did I question that the writer was anything other than a teenaged boy. His fears, doubts, even his tendency toward self-centeredness were completely believable.

We get glimpses of Melissa through her diary and I will probably get grief for this, but I didn’t much care for Melissa. I understood her motivations and she acted according to character, I just didn’t like her character. She came across as snively, controlling, insecure, and deceitful. Yes, I know she had her reasons, but I just didn’t like her. But Reed does and that’s all that really matters because it’s really his story. And even though I didn’t like Melissa, she was just as rich and developed a character as Reed.

The supporting cast, from Reed’s best friend Jonah, to both sets of parents and siblings round out the story nicely giving it depth.

Bottom Line
I loved this book. Two Blue Lines is a wonderful coming of age story that takes a genuine look at teen pregnancy and the struggles, tough emotions, and forgiveness that comes with it.

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

About the Book

Title: Two Blue Lines
Series: Crossing the Line #1
Author: S.C. Montgomery
Category: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: October 23, 2014
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Author S.C. Montgomery

Author S.C. Montgomery

About the Author
SC Montgomery is a self-proclaimed nerd and readaholic. She has dabbled in telling stories since she was very young by letting her imagination play out with her Barbie dolls and her bestie many a weekend. She also writes Contemporary adult romance under the pen name Shauna Allen, and it was in one of those novels that the YA bug bit when she wrote in a teenager loosely based on her own son.

Her first story, Lines in the Sand, was penned as a gift for her mother, but was published with her blessing, and it’s just taken off from there.

SC is married with three teenagers of her own, who give her plenty of inspiration and advice, and are a constant source of laughter and new terminology. Besides writing, she loves reading, movies, singing and dancing reality shows and going to the beach.

Where to Find S.C. Montgomery
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | eMail

Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

YA Book Review – Tortured Souls (The Orion Circle) by Kimber Leigh Wheaton

Tortured Souls (The Orion Circle #1) by Kimber Leigh Wheaton

Tortured Souls (The Orion Circle #1) by Kimber Leigh Wheaton

Synopsis
Sometimes Rest in Peace isn’t an option…

Kacie Ramsey sees ghosts—and it’s ruining her life. Her mother left, her father blames her, and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t keep the ghosts away. Now a new power has emerged. Nightly visions of grisly murders and a relentless predator draw her to the brink of insanity.

When the phantom appears at a party, Kacie’s longtime crush, Logan, saves her. He invites her to join the Orion Circle, a group of supernatural hunters with chapters in schools all over the country. Through the Circle, Kacie learns to embrace her spiritual powers, and for the first time in her life she feels in control rather than a victim.

But the Foxblood Demon will not give up so easily. A demented serial killer in life who trapped the souls of the thirteen children he murdered, imprisoning them within the walls of his mansion. Now in death, he plots his return while drawing power from the pure souls of the children. He recognizes something in Kacie he’s never seen before—a medium powerful enough to provide a vessel for his tainted soul.

Kacie can’t ignore the tortured souls of the children crying out to her every night. With Logan at her side, she will fight the Foxblood Demon. But can they banish this powerful phantom, or will Kacie lose not only her body, but her eternal soul to the monster.

My Review
Kacie has an unusual gift that she’s kept hidden for most of her life. When she did try to confide in her family, it didn’t go so well. So when the guy she’s been crushing on not only suddenly shows an interest in her, but invites her to join the Orion Circle, the most exclusive club in school, things are about to get interesting.

Kacie learns that there are others with similar talents to hers and the Orion Circle are just one group of these. They use their abilities to investigate supernatural claims around town. Things go from interesting to dangerous pretty quickly as it appears dark demons are after Kacie.

The story moves, sometimes too quickly, not allowing me to catch a breather, and the relationship between Kacie and Logan is in that category. I felt like they jumped from mutually interested to full-on couplehood rather quickly. Logically, within the context of the story, it makes sense. They have a bond, but as a reader, I would have like to see this develop more naturally and at a slower pace.

Plot
This is a fast-paced story without a lot of subplots. As I mentioned above, there are times it feels like it moves too fast without giving the reader a chance to relax between the action. The plot isn’t necessarily ground-breaking either, but it is a solid paranormal tale with some interesting twists.

World Building
I’ve decided world building is my new favorite aspect of a story. When it’s well done, it transports me to a completely different place, even if the world is contemporary small-town America. But if I can picture the places where scenes take place, understand the social hierarchy of the subculture involved, I’m invested in the story. Tortured Souls has decent world building. Kimber Leigh Wheaton has developed a paranormal world with defined rules for interaction that is logical and flows well within the story.

Characters
Kacie is the only character I really felt like I knew. Even Logan is a bit of an enigma to me. The other members of the Orion Circle are more shallowly defined than I would like. That said, this is a plot-driven story and the plot holds up, even with a less-developed supporting cast.

Bottom Line
I enjoyed Tortured Souls. It’s a good paranormal adventure with enough romance to satisfy teen readers (and adults).

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

About the Book
Title
: Tortured Souls
Series: The Orion Circle #1
Author: Kimber Leigh Wheaton
Publisher: Sea Dragon Press
Pages: 227
Category: Young Adult Paranormal
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Kimber Leigh Wheaton

Author Kimber Leigh Wheaton

About the Author
Kimber Leigh Wheaton is a bestselling YA/NA author with a soft spot for sweet romance.

She is married to her soul mate, has a teenage son, and shares her home with three dogs, four cats, and lots of dragons. No, she doesn’t live on a farm, she just loves animals.

Kimber Leigh is addicted to romance, video games, superheroes, villains, and chocolate—not necessarily in that order. (If she has to choose, she’ll take a chocolate covered superhero!)

She currently lives in San Antonio, TX but has been somewhat a rolling stone in life, having resided in several different cities and states.

Where to Find Kimber Leigh Wheaton
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

A Very Special Book for a Very Special Cause – The World of PostSecret by Frank Warren

The World of PostSecret PreOrder

The latest book in the world of PostSecret is releasing on November 4, but you can pre-order it now. All the proceeds from pre-orders on Sunday, October 19 and Monday, October 20, will be donated to IMAlive, the online suicide crisis network and ActiveMinds. Find out more about PostSecret and IMAlive below.

The World of PostSecret (PostSecret #6) by Frank Warren

The World of PostSecret (PostSecret #6) by Frank Warren

About the Book
Title:
 The World of PostSecret
Series: PostSecret #6
Author: Frank Warren
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Genre: Non-Fiction, Arts & Photography, Pop Culture
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
A ton of secrets, one postcard at a time.

What is PostSecret?
If you’re like me and just fell off the turnip truck, PostSecret is an amazing program started by Frank Warren. From his PostSecret website:

“PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.”

Sounds pretty simple, right? But it’s so much more than that. The whole concept came about in 2005 when Frank Warren invited people to anonymously decorate a postcard that portrayed a secret they had never told anyone and mail the cards to him. Since the program’s inception, he’s received more than 500,000 postcards from around the world, sharing secrets ranging from sexual abuse to criminal activities, as well as closely guarded hopes and dreams.

Frank began his site as a Blogger experiment, but it has since turned into a phenomenon with an online forum with more than 80,000 registered users.

You can read the complete history behind PostSecret here.

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PostSecret (PostSecret #1) by Frank Warren

PostSecret (PostSecret #1) by Frank Warren

About the First Book
Title:
 PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives
Series: PostSecret #1
Author: Frank Warren
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: November 29, 2005
Genre: Non-Fiction, Arts & Photography, Pop Culture
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
The project that captured a nation’s imagination.

The instructions were simple, but the results were extraordinary.

“You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything — as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. Be brief. Be legible. Be creative.”

It all began with an idea Frank Warren had for a community art project. He began handing out postcards to strangers and leaving them in public places — asking people to write down a secret they had never told anyone and mail it to him, anonymously.

The response was overwhelming. The secrets were both provocative and profound, and the cards themselves were works of art — carefully and creatively constructed by hand. Addictively compelling, the cards reveal our deepest fears, desires, regrets, and obsessions. Frank calls them “graphic haiku,” beautiful, elegant, and small in structure but powerfully emotional.

As Frank began posting the cards on his website, PostSecret took on a life of its own, becoming much more than a simple art project. It has grown into a global phenomenon, exposing our individual aspirations, fantasies, and frailties — our common humanity.

Every day dozens of postcards still make their way to Frank, with postmarks from around the world, touching on every aspect of human experience. This extraordinary collection brings together the most powerful, personal, and beautifully intimate secrets Frank Warren has received — and brilliantly illuminates that human emotions can be unique and universal at the same time.

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IMAliveAbout IMAlive
IMAlive is the first online network with 100% of its volunteers trained and certified in crisis prevention.

Imagine being in a crisis and not knowing where to turn. 

You are panicked, short of breath, and the pain is so palpable that you cannot feel or think about anything else. The terror of picking up the phone to call a hotline not knowing who will answer prevents you from doing so. Or, even if you have the courage to pick up the phone, the sound of the person’s voice scares you and you hang up. We know this happens because over 30% of all people who call suicide hotlines do just that—they hang up as soon as they hear the human voice.

More importantly, we recognize the technological age we find ourselves in today and we know that millions of people in crisis will never pick up the phone. We believe that IMAlive is part of the solution to the problem. IMAlive is a live online network that uses instant messaging to respond to people in crisis. People need a safe place to go during moments of crisis and intense emotional pain.

Imagine again you’re that person in crisis, and you’ve started a chat on IMAlive. The blinking cursor starts to move.

Delivering The Miracle of Hope and Help

IMAlive is the world’s first virtual crisis center. It is the world’s first crisis center where 100% of the volunteers are trained in crisis intervention. In the first year since the launch IMAlive has helped thousands of people in crisis.

Help us achieve our dream and vision for building the world’s first virtual crisis support network. Learn more about becoming an IMAlive volunteer today.

Where to Find IMAlive
Website | Donate | Volunteer | Twitter | Facebook

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Author Frank Warren

Author Frank Warren

About the Author
Frank Warren is the founder and curator of the PostSecret project, which he started in November 2004, and has now attracted over 100 million viewers.

He has received hundreds of thousands of postcards, and has set up a travelling exhibition of the best cards. He lives in Maryland, USA

Where to Find Frank Warren
Goodreads │ Website │ Twitter │ Facebook | Amazon

Book Review – Voyager (Outlander Series) by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

Synopsis
Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser.

Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her… and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.

Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny.

And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her…the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland… and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite or forever doom her timeless love.

My Review
This is my second favorite book in the series, after Outlander. There is so much intense passion and drama. The book moves from Claire in the 1960s as she travels with her daughter, Bree, to Scotland, to learn more about what happened to Jamie during the battle at Culloden. When she discovers that Jamie miraculously survived, she has to decide between staying in present day with her daughter or returning to 18th century Scotland to reconnect with the man she loves.

Since this is the third book in a nine (possibly ten or more) book series, I’m not giving anything away by saying she obviously chooses to return to another time. And that’s when things really get interesting. While Claire knows Jamie survived, Jamie is not prepared for Claire’s return and all hell breaks loose.

Plot
The story starts off slower than I’d like, but when it finally picks up, it takes off and never looks back. There’s a lot of ground covered. We see flashbacks of the past twenty years through both the eyes of Claire and Jamie. We also get glimpses inside the heads of Bree and Roger, the nephew of the Reverend that Claire and Frank had met nearly 25 years earlier when Claire first went through the stones. I’ll admit that I didn’t think Roger’s point of view added much to the story, but it didn’t annoy me, either. At more than 1,000 pages, this is really an epic tale that covers several continents and two centuries.

Characters
The characters are as intense and passionate as ever. The addition of an adult Bree is a fresh breath of air as is Roger, although Roger is the character I like the least. The grown up character of Fergus is a delight as is Young Ian, Jamie’s nephew.  The return of Laoghaire ignites fireworks along the lines of the Fourth of July debacle in San Diego in 2012 when they all went off at once. Several other interesting characters include Lord John Grey, Jamie’s fellow Jacobite survivors, and Jamie’s smuggling sidekick, Mr. Whiloughby.

Bottom Line
Voyager is a delightful, intense, and action-packed addition to the Outlander series.

Title: Dragonfly in Amber
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 1072
Category: Historical, Science Fiction, Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

YA Book Review – Elixir (Covenant Series) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Elixir (Covenant #3.5) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Elixir (Covenant #3.5) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Synopsis
Aiden St. Delphi will do anything to save Alex.

Even if it means doing the one thing he will never forgive himself for.

Even if it means making war against the gods..

My Review
This 80-page novella is a bridge between Deity and Apollyon and is told exclusively from Aidan’s point of view.  This is our first trip inside his head and he’s everything I thought he would be and more. I love his devotion to Alex, even if it means starting a war with the gods. While it’s not critical to read Elixir before Apollyon, its fun to see it unfold rather than summarized after the fact.

Alex is being held captive to keep her from Seth and from becoming the Apollyon early. She lashes out at everyone as she and Seth share their freaky mind-melding capabilities. Alex doesn’t know where she’s being held, which is the only reason Seth hasn’t come to her. Aiden will do anything to protect her and prevent the others from putting her on the elixir, the one thing that terrifies her most. But when things go from bad to worse, there may not be anything he can do to prevent Apollo from doing just that.

Plot
Although it is a novella, there is a lot going on with this plot. It is Jennifer L. Armentrout afterall. As with her novel-length books, she tells a compelling story, builds to a pulse-pounding climax, and mixes in some sweet, romantic moments. One of the things I like most about Elixir is that Aiden sounds like Aiden and not a guy’d up version of Alex. That was always my problem with Daemon’s point of view in the Lux series, the inside of his head just sounded too much like a more profane-laced Katy. That’s not the case here. Aiden is his own person, with his own thoughts and his own expressions.

Characters
The character development of Aiden is my favorite part of Elixir. He’s conflicted about so many things, but not his feelings for Alex. Even though their romance is forbidden with a capital F seven font sizes bigger than a regular f, he’ll do anything to save her. Watching Alex transform from a Seth-possessed demon child to an elixir-intoxicated dingbat through Aiden’s eyes is heartbreaking, but incredibly well done.

Bottom Line
Elixir, while a novella, is really well done and worth the read. While you don’t have to read it to finish the series, you’ll be glad you did.

Title: Elixir
Series: Covenant Series #3.5
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Pages: 80
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

YA Book Review – Whatever Life Throws At You by Julie Cross

Whatever Life Throws At You by Julie Cross

Whatever Life Throws At You by Julie Cross

Synopsis
Life loves a good curveball…

Seventeen-year-old Annie Lucas is too young to remember her dad’s glory days as a pitcher for the Yankees. So when her father is offered a coaching position with the Kansas City Royals, Annie is intrigued to see the baseball side of her dad. Of course, knowing he’ll be a mentor to hot young rookie pitcher, Jason Brody, certainly makes it more enticing.

After an awkward first meeting with “Brody” involving very little clothing and a much-too-personal locker room interview, Annie’s convinced she knows Brody’s type: arrogant, self-involved, bossy. As her dad grows closer to the pitching phenom, the friction between Brody and Annie increases. But when opening day arrives and it looks like both her dad and Brody may lose their dream jobs, Annie steps up and offers support.

She and Brody call a truce that grows into friendship—and beyond. Falling for a rising star who’s quickly reaching a level that involves rabid female fans is not what Annie would call smart, except suddenly she’s getting hints that maybe this crush isn’t one-sided after all.

Could someone like Brody actually fall for a girl like her?

My Review
Whatever Life Throws At You is my favorite young adult read since the Pepper Jones series, and Julie Cross is my new favorite YA author. I was immediately hooked, rooting for Annie, her dad, and the sometimes arrogant rookie pitcher, Jason Brody. This was one of those books I had a difficult time putting down and was often reading until mere hours before I needed to get up in the morning. The author does an amazing job of creating authentic teen characters, angst-dripping conflict, and a sweet romance that borders on steamy without ever straying over the line.

Annie Lucas and her father, a former pitching phenom before cancer took his leg, relocate from Arizona to Kansas City where her father will coach young Jason Brody. At only 19, he’s the youngest player on the team, and Annie watches as the rest of the team shuns him. As much as she’d like to tell him and his attitude where to go, she sees the vulnerable Brody beneath the cocky exterior.

Annie starts to fall for Brody, but he’s she’s still in high school and he’s been told in no uncertain terms to stay away from high school girls. Plus he’s got a reputation for taking a different girl to his hotel room every night. When friendship blossoms between them, Annie realizes there is far more to Brody than his public persona. And just maybe some of that reputation wasn’t legitimately earned.

Plot
The main plot is the relationship between Annie and Brody, and Julie Cross has managed to create a page-turning young adult novel without needing to include  action or adventure components. While the main plot kept me reading, the subplots of Annie’s relationship with her flighty mother, Brody’s rookie season, and her dad’s pitching contract, all play beautifully into the main storyline. Everything is expertly balanced and all wind up with a perfectly satisfying conclusions.

Characters
Annie Lucas is infinitely likeable as is Jason Brody. Annie’s relationship with her father is believable and beautifully crafted. Annie’s new BFF, Lenny London, daughter of the team’s star first baseman, is a fantastic foil to straight-laced Annie. In fact, the overwhelming majority of trouble Annie gets into is due to Lenny. Savannah, publicity maven and all around assistant to the Kansas City Royals, is the perfect female role model for Annie who is sorely in need of one.

Bottom Line
Whatever Life Throws At You is one of the ten best young adult romance novels I’ve read this year. It has everything: a strong female protagonist, a swoon-worthy boy, a fun and spirited best friend, family dysfunction, and truckloads of angst.

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

About the Book
Title:
 Whatever Life Throws At You
Author: Julie Cross
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Powells Books | Amazon UK

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Author Julie Cross

Author Julie Cross

About the Author
Julie Cross lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast and longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former gymnastics program director with the YMCA.

She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres.

Outside of her reading and writing credentials, Julie is a committed—but not talented—long-distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar-weather survivor, and expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym-shoe addict.

Where to Find Julie Cross
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

YA Book Review – Lines in the Sand (Crossing the Line) by S.C. Montgomery

Lines in the Sand (Crossing the Line Prequel) by S.C. Montgomery

Lines in the Sand (Crossing the Line Prequel) by S.C. Montgomery

Synopsis
Two best friends. One emotional adventure.

When Reed Young and Jonah King unearth some mysterious remains at their favorite beach hangout, their summer is thrust into an exciting tailspin.

Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, they embark on a heartrending journey to find out the truth . . . and make it right.

But neither of them expected the secrets they would find.

***Reader note***While Lines in the Sand is a standalone novella, appropriate for younger readers, it is intended as a prequel to Two Blue Lines, which continues Reed Young’s story as he’s forced into a situation nobody wants to find themselves in at sixteen. Read and enjoy at your own discretion.

My Review
The summer before high school, Reed and Jonah discover a bone and a strip of leather with the name, Lettie, etched into it on a south Texas beach, thus launching an adventure that changes both of their lives. This novella, a prequel to S.C. Montgomery’s Two Blue Lines which takes place three years after Lines in the Sand, delves into Reed’s character. We learn what makes him tick, how his friendship with Jonah came to be so strong, and are introduced to his attraction to Melissa.

The book is a quick read that stands well enough alone. It’s not particularly deep, nor gripping, but it’s a good story and I learned to love Reed and Jonah in the short 39 pages. I’m rooting for both of them now that I’m well into Two Blue Lines.

Plot
The plot is about the mystery of who Lettie was and what happened to her. I was surprised when I learned the truth about Lettie and never saw the twist at the end coming. While the primary plot is the mystery, the novella does a fabulous job of establishing both Reed’s and Jonah’s characters so that on page one of Two Blue Lines, I knew these two boys and could understand why they react the way they do. The story of Lettie is interesting and gives us even more insight into them, but I almost think that’s secondary to the character development.

Characters
The characters are the strongest aspect of this novella. Both Reed and Jonah are utterly believable as 13-year-old boys trying to figure out where they fit into the world around them, life in general, and girls in particular. As they unravel the mystery of Lettie, they learn more about themselves. The relationship each boy has with his family, and their friendship with each other were well crafted and came across as authentic.

Bottom Line
Lines in the Sand is a solid prequel and sets the stage for Two Blue Lines.

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

About the Book
Title
: Lines in the Sand
Series: Crossing the Line Prequel
Author: S.C. Montgomery
Pages: 39
Category: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon

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Author S.C. Montgomery

Author S.C. Montgomery

About the Author
SC Montgomery is a self-proclaimed nerd and readaholic. She has dabbled in telling stories since she was very young by letting her imagination play out with her Barbie dolls and her bestie many a weekend. She also writes Contemporary adult romance under the pen name Shauna Allen, and it was in one of those novels that the YA bug bit when she wrote in a teenager loosely based on her own son.

Her first story, Lines in the Sand, was penned as a gift for her mother, but was published with her blessing, and it’s just taken off from there.

SC is married with three teenagers of her own, who give her plenty of inspiration and advice, and are a constant source of laughter and new terminology. Besides writing, she loves reading, movies, singing and dancing reality shows and going to the beach.

Where to Find S.C. Montgomery
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

Book Review – One for The Money (Stephanie Plum) by Janet Evanovich

One for the Money (Stephanie Plum #1) by Janet Evanovich

One for the Money (Stephanie Plum #1) by Janet Evanovich

Synopsis
Welcome to Trenton, New Jersey, home to wiseguys, average Joes, and Stephanie Plum, who sports a big attitude and even bigger money problems (since losing her job as a lingerie buyer for a department store). Stephanie needs cash–fast–but times are tough, and soon she’s forced to turn to the last resort of the truly desperate: family.

Stephanie lands a gig at her sleazy cousin Vinnie’s bail bonding company. She’s got no experience. But that doesn’t matter. Neither does the fact that the bail jumper in question is local vice cop Joe Morelli.From the time he first looked up her dress to the time he first got into her pants to the time Steph hit him with her father’s Buick, M-o-r-e-l-l-i has spelled t-r-o-u-b-l-e. And now the hot guy is in hot water–wanted for murder.

Abject poverty is a great motivator for learning new skills, but being trained in the school of hard knocks by people like psycho prizefighter Benito Ramirez isn’t. Still, if Stephanie can nab Morelli in a week, she’ll make a cool ten grand. All she has to do is become an expert bounty hunter overnight–and keep herself from getting killed before she gets her man.

My Review
I borrowed this book from my mom with no expectations and didn’t even know what it was about. I was immediately absorbed into Stephanie Plum’s wacky world and laughed out loud. The fictionalized version of Trenton, New Jersey Janet Evanovich created is full of quirky characters, colorful villains and some of the most bizarre crimes ever to inflict one small town.

Stephanie Plum, recently unemployed and desperate to not have to move home with her parents and grandmother, resorts to working for her cousin, Vinnie, a bail bondsman. After Stephanie basically blackmails him, Vinnie hires her to catch criminals who have skipped bail. She lives in a small apartment with her pet hamster, Rex, and drives a beat-up car, but it’s hers and she doesn’t want to give up her independence. And after meeting her family, I can see why. They’re loveable, but just a little too much to take for more than a few hours at a time.

Things get interesting when the one fugitive who can help her the most is ex-boyfriend and current vice cop, Joe Morelli. If she can bring him in, she’ll be set financially for a little bit anyway. Stephanie is helped along the way by super-hot professional bounty hunter, Ranger, and a smart-mouthed streetwalker named Lula. Although Joe doesn’t want to be found, Stephanie manages to bumble her way around, locating him, and mucking up his own investigation that he hopes will clear his name. Sparks fly between these two in true love-hate fashion.

Plot
There is a lot going on in One for the Money. Primarily, Stephanie needs to bring in Joe Morelli and collect her finder’s fee. But hunting him brings out several interesting subplots, including her hot and cold relationship with Joe, her ineptitude at tracing skips, the evil boxing champion Benito Ramirez who may or may not be involved in all of this, and a potential witness who could clear Joe, if he didn’t want Stephanie dead. Threading through it all is her crazy family and her slightly dysfunctional relationship with them.

Characters
No one writes snarky, quirky, and wacky characters quite like Janet Evanovich. Everyone from Stephanie right through to Grandma Mazur is a hoot. In fact, Grandma Mazur has some of the best lines in the book. There’s not a heck of a lot of character development because this is largely a plot-driven story, but there is some growth and better yet, room for lots more. Since this is just the first book in at least a 20+ book series, Janet Evanovich has left herself quite a bit to work with over the series.

Bottom Line
One for the Money is a quick read, highly entertaining, and includes several really good twists I never saw coming. The laugh-out-loud dialogue will keep me coming back for more.

About the Book
Title
: One for the Money
Series: Stephanie Plum #1
Author: Janet Evanovich
Pages: 334
Category: Romance, Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Janet Evanovich

Author Janet Evanovich

About the Author
Janet Evanovich is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series, the Lizzy and Diesel series, twelve romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels and Trouble Maker graphic novel, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, as well as the Fox and O’Hare series with co-author Lee Goldberg.

Where to Find Cindy Ray Hale
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

YA Book Review – Destiny (Destiny Series) by Cindy Ray Hale

Destiny (Destiny #1) by Cindy Ray Hale

Destiny (Destiny #1) by Cindy Ray Hale

Synopsis
Destiny Clark, a young Mormon girl living in Tennessee, is wildly infatuated with Isaac Robinson, the headmaster’s son at her Baptist high school. When they’re cast together in the school’s production of Les Misérables, Destiny is horrified to find that she has to be publicly humiliated by acting out her true feelings of rejection onstage.

As their rehearsals begin, Destiny realizes the unimaginable: Isaac has developed deep feelings for her despite their religious differences and the fact that he has a girlfriend.

But will they be able to find their place amongst the backbiters of their ultra-conservative world?

Weaving around Destiny and Isaac’s alternating viewpoints, Destiny is the first book in a series inspired by the characters of Les Misérables and explores heartbreak, self-discovery, intolerance, and love.

My Review
This book made me angry. Not because it wasn’t well written (it is) or because I didn’t like the characters (I do), but because Cindy Ray Hale so perfectly captures the hatred and bigotry of religious differences, I wanted to throw my iPad across the room more than once. Although the characters in the story are fictional, the beliefs, that Mormons are a cultish religion, that Baptists won’t have the same blessings in the afterlife as Mormons, are real and they are destroying the relationships of living breathing people every day in this country.

Destiny is a Mormon attending the Bethel Baptist school along with her older brother. Isaac is a Baptist and the head master’s son. Destiny used to be Baptist, but her family converted. They were allowed to continue at the school, but they are outcasts to a large degree. Destiny’s older brother Michael, is popular, but with limitations. The examples set by the adults in this story are anything but Christian, regardless of the religion they belong to. So when Destiny and Isaac begin dating, things go from ugly to sinfully cruel.

I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy a book with such overt religious undertones, but I ended up loving it. The story of these two star-crossed lovers is intense, heartfelt, and so incredibly believable. I loved watching the two main characters evolve their views and understandings of one another over the course of the book. It’s the first in a trilogy, so there is still plenty of ground to cover and nothing so volatile as religious differences can be wrapped up in one novel, just ask Israel and Palestine.

What I really hope doesn’t happen though, is for one of them to convert to the other’s religion in order to be together. Their story will be so much stronger if they can learn to mutually respect one another’s beliefs without needing to believe the same thing in order to be happy together. That is the same hope I have for the world at large. Because if the only way to live in harmony is for everyone to believe the exact same thing, our planet is doomed. And sooner rather than later.

Plot
The plot is a basic young adult romance with a twist. The forbidden love story based on religious differences when both religions are Christian was a new angle for me and I loved it. There was so much angst as a result, because deeply held religious beliefs drive so many of the choices people make in life. And when those people happen to be hormonal teens, things are bound to get complicated. I also love how author, Cindy Ray Hale, wove in Les Miserables so perfectly. The characters had parallel roles in the story as well as the musical which added depth.

Characters
The characters are what really made this story so strong. They’re so authentic. From both sets of parents, to Destiny and Isaac, and even their siblings, everyone came across as believable and acted according to character. And it’s why I reacted so strongly to the story.

Bottom Line
Destiny is a moving story of forbidden teen love with strong characters and deep, meaningful themes that should appeal to people of all faiths.

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

About the Book
Title
: Destiny
Series: Destiny #1
Author: Cindy Ray Hale
Pages: 318
Category: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Cindy Ray Hale

Author Cindy Ray Hale

About the Author
Cindy Ray Hale is a Young Adult author and a book blogger. She lives in a little slice of wooded heaven near Atlanta, Georgia.

She spends way too much time following up-and-coming musicians on YouTube and dreams of joining their ranks one day. She’s a bit of a health food nut and can’t live without her daily green smoothies.

She tries to stay sane as she juggles writing with four kids, staying active on social media, and keeping up her book blog. In addition to writing and self-publishing two Young Adult Contemporary novels, she has also written articles for “New Era” magazine and The American Preppers Network.

Where to Find Cindy Ray Hale
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

YA Book Review – Deity (Covenant Series) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Deity (Covenant #3) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Deity (Covenant #3) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Synopsis
“History is on repeat, and things didn’t go so well the last time. “

Alexandria isn’t sure she’s going to make it to her eighteenth birthday–to her Awakening. A long-forgotten, fanatical order is out to kill her, and if the Council ever discovers what she did in the Catskills, she’s a goner… and so is Aiden.

If that’s not freaky enough, whenever Alex and Seth spend time “training”–which really is just Seth’s code word for some up-close and personal one-on-one time–she ends up with another mark of the Apollyon, which brings her one step closer to Awakening ahead of schedule. Awesome.

But as her birthday draws near, her entire world shatters with a startling revelation and she’s caught between love and Fate. One will do anything to protect her. One has been lying to her since the beginning. Once the gods have revealed themselves, unleashing their wrath, lives will be irrevocably changed… and destroyed.

Those left standing will discover if love is truly greater than Fate…

My Review
Deity picks up the pace in an already faced-paced series. It’s a busy, busy novel! Alex and gang are back home after killing a Pure at the council, which Aiden covered up for her. Major bonus points in Team Aiden’s column. Alex and Seth continue to “train” together and the heat between these two Apollyons nearly reach the boiling point. Bonus points in Seths’ column. But alas, Alex is in love with Aiden even though it is forbidden for them to ever be together. Seth has his good points, first and foremost, a relationship with him is permitted, but love is a fickle thing.

We finally get answers to some of the questions that have been piling up, including exactly why Pures and Halfs are forbidden to be together. And it’s a doozie!

This is my favorite book in the series so far. A lot does happen, but it’s never overwhelming. We get just enough answers to keep us from pulling our hair out in frustration. There are some very satisfying elements to make up for the unbelievably tense cliffhanger ending. Normally I’m not a fan of cliffhangers, but because I’m late to this series, I get to pick up and read the next book the minute I put this one down, and I’m in a forgiving mood.

Plot
It’s a busy, action-packed plot with lots of surprises and more than a few OMG moments. A lot of ground is covered in Deity, from answers and revelations we’ve been waiting for, to relationship development, and most importantly, character development. It was long past time for Alex to grow up and I’m pleased to see her moving in the right direction. She’s got a lot of issues, and she’s entitled to them. Her life has been anything but easy, but if anything, she seemed less mature as a result of things that should have sobered her up. It was great to see her finally accept that her lot in life is what it is, and bucking the system isn’t the answer.

One of the best parts of this installment in the series is the role of the Gods. I’ll admit to not being up on my Greek Mythology, so I had to do a little homework. I found a copy of the Cliff Notes guide to Greek Mythology in the garage and scanned it as I read. The Gods playing a bigger role only raises the stakes to astronomic proportions.

And yeah, there’s the cliffhanger mentioned before, so if you hate cliffhangers, be forewarned.

Characters
As mentioned above, Alex does some much needed growing in Deity and I like her more for it. Seth does a little devolving though, but at the same time, we get a deeper glimpse into who he is and what drives him. I know a lot of people were turned off by Seth after this book, but it only endeared him to me more. I love a tortured bad boy and Seth is pretty badass and ridiculously tortured. Aiden is still perfect, so I don’t have much to complain about.

Bottom Line
Deity is the most explosive book in the series to date. Tons of action, lots of revelations, and an edge-of -your-seat cliffhanger.

Title: Deity
Series: Covenant Series #3
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Pages:
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Cover Reveal – The Union (The Union Series) by T.H. Hernandez

The Union, Book 1 in the Union Series releases on November 18, 2014! Check out this fabulous cover by award-winning graphic artist and fellow San Diegan, Mark Sgarbossa. As always, his work blew me away. Check out his art on Pinterest.

The Union (The Union Series #1) by T.H.Hernandez

The Union (The Union Series #1) by T.H.Hernandez

About the Book
Title:
 The Union
Series: The Union Series #1
Author: T.H. Hernandez
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Adventure
Links: Goodreads

Synopsis
After global warming and a second civil war devastated the former United States, two different societies rose from the ashes – the Union, a towering high-tech utopia, hugging the perimeter of the continent, and the devastated, untamed midsection known as the Ruins.

Seventeen-year-old Evan Taylor has an easy, privileged life in the Union. What she doesn’t have is any idea what to do with the rest of her life. She only knows she wants to do something meaningful, to make a difference in the lives of others.

When she’s kidnapped and taken into the Ruins as a pawn in a dispute involving her boyfriend, Bryce, her ideal world is turned upside down. What she learns while in the Ruins shakes her faith in everything she’s ever known, from Bryce, to her family, and even the Union itself.

Now Evan must choose whether to stay with Cyrus, the sexy, resourceful survivor who believes she’s in the Ruins for a reason, or return to the only life she’s ever known. But when she stumbles upon a dangerous plot that threatens both worlds, her decision could tear her apart.

Excerpt
Once the sun rises, I can make out trees in the distance. Real trees with leaves, which means there must be water nearby. I’m not sure Ruins water is safe to drink, but I do know I’ll die if I don’t drink something.

Even though I’ve been walking for hours, the trees don’t seem to be getting any closer. My legs have taken on a sponge-like quality and I stumble, but manage to stay upright. If I fall, I may never get up again.

I’m almost to the trees. They’re only a little farther now.

There’s no water here. How can there be trees without water?

Despair overtakes me and I drop down, pounding my fists on the barren ground. I stuff a soft green leaf in my mouth, seeking moisture, but my mouth is so dry, I gag on the pieces, tearing my throat like shards of broken glass.

My head spins as I lie on my back and struggle to form coherent thoughts. I take a deep breath and tell myself to think. Think is such a strange word.Think, think, think. It doesn’t even sound English.

Shaking my head to clear my mind, I try to pull myself together, remembering where I am and forcing myself to focus on my immediate situation. What do the Buddhists call it? Being mindful.

My brain works to form rational thoughts, but there’s nothing rational about this. I left home to find my place in the world, is this really where my search was supposed to lead me? It’s more like a cruel joke. If I was on a date with destiny, it just took a bizarre turn into a twisted ending I never saw coming.

God, if only I hadn’t gone to the park that night, none of this would’ve happened. I begin to cry. For my family and friends who will never know what happened to me, and for me. I’m not ready to die, I’m only 17.

I can’t help wondering if I would have spent so much time agonizing over my future if I’d known I’d be dead so soon. If I’d known, maybe I’d have done everything differently. Now I know my future. My life ends here. Alone. In the Ruins.

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Author T.H. Hernandez

Author T.H. Hernandez

About the Author
When not visiting the imaginary worlds inside my head, I live in San Diego, California, with one husband, three children, two cats, and one dog. In addition to my day job as a technical writer and editor, I write young adult fiction. I love the intensity of teen emotions and the way they’re still figuring out life.

When I’m not writing, you can find me with my nose in a book, hanging out with family and friends, hiking, or knitting. I’m obsessed with Facebook, young adult novels, bad lip reading videos, pumpkin spice lattes, microbrewed beers, and the San Diego Chargers.

Where to Find T.H. Hernandez
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram