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Review – True Blue (Blue Series) by Jules Barnard

True Blue Release Day

A big apology to author, Jules Barnard, for missing my posting date. I finished the book and typed up the following review while on vacation, but my flakey internet access prevented me from posting.

True Blue (Blue Series #3) by Jules Barnard

True Blue (Blue Series #3) by Jules Barnard

Synopsis
Mira Frasier has worked hard to pull herself out of the darkness of her Tahoe reservation childhood, but rough beginnings shape a person in all the wrong ways. Mira gets mixed up with shady people while trying to bail out her destitute mother—and now Mira’s life is in danger.

Tyler Morgan grew up a star athlete and scholar, but a tragedy he hasn’t dealt with has him regrouping in his home town of South Lake Tahoe. The last person he expects to see is Mira, the girl he lost his virginity to in high school, and the only woman who ever took a piece of his heart. He’d rather live in a tent than do what his sister asks and stay with Mira while they figure out how to keep her safe from the men who attacked her.

To ensure Mira remains in his past where she belongs, Tyler agrees to look out for her temporarily until she’s safe enough to move out on her own. And if he has to push that process along by snooping around and figuring out what she’s hiding, he’ll do that too. Only, Mira is still beautiful, and she’s feisty as hell, and she has all his attention—just like she did six years before.

Mira is driving Tyler crazy, the tension between them off the charts while they’re trapped under the same roof. Something is going to crack. Will it be Mira’s last hold on a haunted life, or Tyler’s self-control around the one girl he’s never been able to get over?

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My Review
I read Blue Crush earlier this year and fell in love with the characters Jules Barnard created and the incredible chemistry she develops between them, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on True Blue. I gotta admit, I was not a fan of Mira’s after reading Blue Crush, so the fact that True Blue was from both her and Tyler’s points of view made this one of my most anticipated sequels of the year. And it delivered!

We get to roll around inside Mira’s head and see why she is the way she is, why she relies so heavily on Lewis, and what her issues with Gen really were. But more importantly, we learn why she’s so damaged and more about the past that continues to haunt her. Man I just love her. We also get to see a lot more of Tyler Morgan, the younger brother of Gen’s roommate, Cali. Mira and Tyler have a history that is hinted at in Blue Crush and we finally get to see what that’s all about, and it’s intense.

Plot
Once again, Jules Barnard balances a solid main plot with a variety of subplots that keep you guessing. The book opens in middle school where we learn the history of Mira and Tyler, then zooms through to high school where we learn about the miscommunication that sets up the animosity between these two. Add to that Mira’s loan shark trouble, a less than stellar mother, and some shady characters at Blue Casino, and True Blue is a page turner.

I really only have two complaints, two things that really keep this from being a full five-star for me. The first is a rushed climax. After building a lot of intrigue and potential danger, I feel like it all culminated too quickly and wrapped up easier than it should have. The second is that after so thoroughly developing the conflict up front that weaves through the remainder of the book, it would have been nice for Mira and Tyler to have addressed what happened in high school. The reader gets an in-depth understanding, but I think if Mira and Tyler had really hashed it out, it could have made a compelling and emotional scene.

World Building
Once again, the story takes place in beautiful Lake Tahoe, one of my personal favorite vacation spots. It’s fun to read about places I know well. I can so vividly picture the setting, that I needed to remind myself a couple of times that the people are fictional even if the town is not.

Characters
I love Mira. She’s flawed and damaged and misunderstood, but this makes her growth that much more satisfying. And Tyler is awesome. Even though he’s deeply wounded, he still  does the right thing. But he’s not perfect. He’s human, makes mistakes, does things that make you want to scream at him, but those are the things that make him so believable, and also what makes him perfect for Mira. We get to see a bit more of Lewis and Gen, too, which is nice. I’m hoping the next book in the series gets us inside Zach’s head because he’s fast becoming my favorite character.

Top Five Things I Love About  True Blue
1. Mira’s boss Hayden Tate. She’s the boss everyone should have.

2. Mira. She’s such a well-developed character, I have to remind myself she’s fictional.

3. Tyler. He’s perfect for Mira, but he’s not perfect. He’s sweet, but a guy. He’s not an alpha male and that’s just so refreshing for a change.

4. The prologue. I’m not usually a fan of prologues, but it’s just so well done and sets the stage so perfectly, it’s hard not to love it.

5. The Lake Tahoe setting. Love, love, love it. It’s beautifully authentic.

Bottom Line
True Blue is full of incredibly real characters coping with real-life problems in authentic ways. It’s full of angst, conflict, and satisfying moments of sweetness.

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

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About the Book
Title:
 True Blue
Series: Blue #3
Author: Jules Barnard
Release Date: November 17, 2014
Pages: 240
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4-1/2 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Author Jules Barnard

Author Jules Barnard

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

Review – Hart Attack (Titan Series) by Cristin Harber

Hart Attack Blog Tour

Hart Attack (Titan Series) by Cristin Harber

Hart Attack (Titan Series) by Cristin Harber

Synopsis
Outside of Titan Group, there are few people that Roman Hart would die for. He’s a soldier, a protector, and he’s haunted that one of the people he should’ve been able to protect didn’t let him. That was years ago, and now a hardened heart and a cocky attitude are his impenetrable shields, until one woman—one challenge—drives him to distraction.

On the outside, Beth Tourne has it all. Luxury car, gorgeous condo, and a job partying with the rich and famous. It’s a plush CIA cover, but she wants more. Anything for an adrenaline rush that can override her guilty numbness and let her forget the tragedy she never saw coming.

Their scars make them perfect operatives. Their mirrored pasts give them deep, wounded reasons to stay alone. But the more they ignore the tension, the more vulnerable they become. Survival means trust. In one another, behind closed doors, and on the job. The only way they’re making it out alive is if they find peace while waging a war.

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My Review
Hart Attack is a solid Cristin Harber novel. It has all of the elements we come to expect: danger and intrigue, a hot guy who doesn’t need to fall in love, a strong woman who is the only one who can change his mind, lots of  steamy sex, and all of the characters we already know and love. Hart Attack opens with Roman and his team returning from a mission, with all but him having someone to go home to. He’s never really wanted that until now. And he realizes the one he wants to go home to is his sister’s best friend, Beth. They’ve been dancing around their mutual attraction for a year, but haven’t done anything about it. Until now.

And as I’ve come to expect from Cristin Harber, it’s not an easy transition. Beth has deep wounds as does Roman. They’re both coming to terms with what those mean to themselves and their ability to let someone into their lives. Their path to happiness is winding, detoured, and messy which only makes it more satisfying when they get there.

Plot
The main plot is good. It’s the ebb and flow of Roman and Beth’s relationship and it works. Well. I love that we get enough sweet moments to offset the darker themes throughout. The CIA subplot is also really strong. But once again, I think the story suffers from one point-of-view too many. I saw what should have been a shocking twist coming because of that POV. I think that pivotal scene would have been jaw-dropping without that additional insight.

World Building
We have more of the special ops for hire in the Titan group, but what really stood out to me is the world of the CIA. We go deeper inside than we did with Garrison’s Creed. Understanding cover stories and how they play into a particular operation and how the persona for the job can hide the person inside was fascinating. We also get a crash course in handlers and how they rotate based on the operation. I don’t know if any of this is how it really works, but Cristin Harber makes it so believable that it doesn’t matter if it’s not even close. Because unless you’ve been a CIA operative, there’s no way to really know the inner workings of the Agency and if you did and revealed it in a novel, they’d probably have to kill you.

Characters
Because we’ve known Roman all along, it’s great to finally get to see his story, understand what makes him tick. He’s long been one of my favorite Titans. I mean, as Nic’s older brother and Cash’s best friend, he already had two checks in the plus column. And I loved Beth coming into this, but she got on my nerves a few times in Hart Attack. I like the fun-loving Beth more than the deeply wounded Beth, but I think that’s how life is. How many people are just the face they put forth for the world to see? The fact that Roman could see through her party-girl exterior to the woman beneath and still cared is part of what makes him so awesome. I don’t dislike Beth, but there were definitely times I wanted to shake some sense into her.

Top Five Things I Love About  Hart Attack
1. Beth’s spunky personality when she’s not brooding or being self-loathing.

2. The world of CIA operatives and their handlers.

3. The moment on the helicopter after a pivotal scene when Beth reveals her deepest feelings.

4. The Cash-Roman-Nic chemistry is still there, strong as ever.

5. Jared and Sugar’s bet.

Bottom Line
Hart Attack is another fantastic installment in the Titan series.

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

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About the Book
Title:
 Hart Attack
Series: Titan #5
Author: Cristin Harber
Publisher: Mill Creek Press
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Pages: 268
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo
UK: Amazon | iBooks

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Author Cristin Harber

Author Cristin Harber

About the Author

Cristin Harber is a USA Today bestselling romantic suspense and military romance author.

Fans voted her onto Amazon’s Top Picks for Debut Romance Authors in 2013, and her debut Titan series was #1 romantic suspense, #1 military romance, and a USA Today Top 100 bestseller.

She lives outside Washington, DC with her family and English Bulldog.

Where to Find Cristin Harber
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter | Titan Team

YA Book Review – Save Me by Jenny Elliott

Save Me by Jenny Elliott

Save Me by Jenny Elliott

Synopsis
Debut-novelist Jenny Elliott’s thrilling romance, chosen by readers, writers, and publishers for the first list in the new Swoon Reads imprint, pours on the tension and danger in an addictive combination that will keep you turning pages!

Something strange is going on in the tiny coastal town of Liberty, Oregon. Cara has never seen a whale swim close enough for her to touch it—let alone knock her into the freezing water. Fortunately, cute newcomer David is there to save her, and the rescue leads to a bond deeper than Cara ever imagined.

But then she learns something about David that changes everything, and Cara is devastated. She turns to her best friend for support, but Rachel has changed. She’s suddenly into witchcraft, and is becoming dangerously obsessed with her new boyfriend….

Cara has lost her best friend, discovered that her soul mate is off limits, and has attracted the attention of a stalker. But she’s not completely alone. Her mysterious, gorgeous new friend Garren is there to support her. But is Garren possibly too perfect?

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My Review
Save Me is not your typical paranormal romance. This is a fresh take on the genre with a supernatural twist. Something dark and sinister is afoot in Liberty, a fictional town on the Oregon coast. Cara, a high school senior with a love of whales, volunteers part time for Liberty Charters, a whale watching tours business. While working a tour, she meets a cute newcomer to town when both are tossed overboard by a transient killer whale. Thus begins an intense romance that is doomed before it starts because David is completely off limits.

A second newcomer, Garren, provides a much-needed, albeit not romantic, distraction as she pines for David and watches her best friend, Rachel, become that girl. The one who ditches her best friend for her new boyfriend, Ethan. But there’s more to Ethan than meets the eye and Cara soon fears for her Rachel. Add to that a jealous girl with her sights set on David, more transient whale sightings, and things become mysteriously eerie.

Save Me takes a traditional, religious look at witchcraft and demon possession that is both creepy with shades of The Exorcist, as well as endearingly sweet. There is no overt horror, no strong language, and no sex, making this a safe choice for younger teens and even middle grade students who like their stories on the darker side.

Plot
The main plot revolves around the witchcraft and there are a lot of balls in the air, making it fun to try to figure out what’s going on. The subplots involving who Garren really is, Cara’s affection for Grayback and Bobbie, the local whales, and the romance with David all add lighter moments to the darker main plot. Author Jenny Elliott doles out the information we need, as we need it, to keep us in the story. She builds to a climax, weaving together all of her subplots into the main plot, and tying up all the loose ends in a satisfying conclusion.

World Building 
World building is where Save Me really shines. I can almost feel the briny ocean air, sense the cool sand beneath my toes, hear the waves crashing to shore through the descriptive settings, tone, and word choices the author makes. Liberty, Oregon comes alive inside the pages. The world of witchcraft, demon possession, and religious symbolism and rituals all have an air of authenticity, but are fueled by Elliott’s imagination. She’s clearly done her research, but allows her own creativity to influence the rules around the world she’s created.

Characters
Cara is mature for her age which keeps her from making so many of the impulsive teenage mistakes a lot of characters in this genre are famous for, and it’s refreshing. It also makes her relationship with David, who is a bit older, not only believable by understandable. It never seems implausible that a man four years older would be attracted to a teen girl because she’s intelligent, wise beyond her years, and caring.

The conflict between Cara and her mother over her relationship with David is realistic. David was also quite believable in his role as the forbidden love interest who tries so hard to do the right thing, despite his strong feelings for Cara. The romance between Cara and David is so sweet that it is a welcomed offset to the dark themes of witchcraft and demons. It’s like the perfect sweet and sour chicken – just enough of both to make a delicious blend.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About  Save Me
1. The descriptive details of Liberty, Oregon and the way the author makes the setting come alive.

2. The paranormal twist based on religion and witchcraft which is a refreshing departure from what I’ve read in this genre recently.

3. That cover! I mean it’s gorgeous and it fits the mood for the story so perfectly.

4. Cara’s devotion to her best friend, Rachel, and how determined she is to save her.

5. The underlying story of the whales that threads through the story, tying everything together and epitomizing the themes of good versus evil.

Bottom Line
Save Me is a fresh take on the paranormal romance that is both darker and lighter than many others in the genre.

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

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About the Book
Title:
 Save Me
Author: Jenny Elliott
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Jenny Elliott

Author Jenny Elliott

About the Author
Jenny Elliott is a lifelong resident of Washington State and lives in Spokane with her husband and four kids.

Writing fiction is her favorite method for avoiding insanity. Other avoidance techniques include reading, playing Scrabble, and browsing social media sites.

Save Me is her first novel.

Where to Find Jenny Elliott
Goodreads | SwoonReads | Facebook | Twitter

The Taylor Swift Book Tag

The Taylor Swift Book Tag

I found this fun post over on Stephanie’s Book Reviews and it was too fun not to play along. I decided to stick with young adult and new adult books for the most part, because it seems fitting for a Taylor Swift themed post. With a fourteen-year-old girl in the house, I’m far too familiar with TS and her music.

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone

Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone

1. Love Story

Time Between Us/Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone. The ultimate young adult love story. Anna and Bennett’s love  is so epic, it transcends time.

Time Between Us Summary: Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet: she lives in 1995 Chicago and he lives in 2012 San Francisco. But Bennett has the unique ability to travel through time and space, which brings him into Anna’s life, and with him a new world of adventure and possibility.

As their relationship deepens, the two face the reality that time may knock Bennett back to where he belongs, even as a devastating crisis throws everything they believe into question. Against a ticking clock, Anna and Bennett are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate, what consequences they can bear in order to stay together, and whether their love can stand the test of time.

Time After Time Summary: Calling Anna and Bennett’s romance long distance is an understatement: she’s from 1995 Chicago and he’s a time traveler from 2012 San Francisco. The two of them never should have met, but they did. They fell in love, even though they knew they shouldn’t. And they found a way to stay together, against all odds.

It’s not a perfect arrangement, though, with Bennett unable to stay in the past for more than brief visits, skipping out on big chunks of his present in order to be with Anna in hers. They each are confident that they’ll find a way to make things work…until Bennett witnesses a single event he never should have seen (and certainly never expected to). Will the decisions he makes from that point on cement a future he doesn’t want?

Pepped Up by Ali Dean

Pepped Up by Ali Dean

All Pepped Up By Ali Dean

All Pepped Up By Ali Dean

2. Mean

Pepped Up/All Pepped Up by Ali Dean. For this song, I wanted to pick a character who is mean, not someone inherently evil, because stories are filled with evil villains. Instead, I choose Madeline Brescoll from the Pepper Jones series because she’s just plain mean for no other reason than she can be.

Pepped Up Summary: Pepper Jones is ready for an epic cross country season. She wants to qualify for Nationals, and she’s willing to do anything it takes to make it happen. She can handle long miles and hill sprints, but boys? That’s an entirely different challenge.

Pepper’s never considered revealing her deeper feelings for her longtime friend, Jace Wilder. After all, he’s got the personal magnetism and good looks to hook just about any girl in town — and he has. Their friendship stands apart from high school social circles, and they’re both just fine with that (or at least they pretend to be).

That is, until running star Ryan Harding moves to town.

When it comes to running, Pepper’s goals are clear. But when it comes to Jace and Ryan, it’s nowhere near as simple.

All Pepped Up Summary: Pepper Jones knew that being Jace Wilder’s girlfriend wouldn’t be simple. But she didn’t predict just how many complications would arise from his past. Jealous girls? That she expected. Family secrets? Not so much. At least Pepper can always hit the trails to clear her head… except when it comes to racing. The high expectations from her phenomenal cross country season haunt her, and she can’t seem to get psyched up for track season. Pepper’s junior year at Brockton Public is full of challenges on and off the track, but she’s not afraid to face them.

Revelation by Randi Cooley Wilson

Revelation by Randi Cooley Wilson

Restraint by Randi Cooley Wilson

Restraint by Randi Cooley Wilson

Redemption by Randi Cooley Wilson

Redemption by Randi Cooley Wilson

3. I Knew You Were Trouble

Revelation/Restraint/Redemption by Randi Cooley Wilson. Hands-down, Gage Gallagher from the Revelation series. He makes trouble look sexy as hell.

Revelation Summary:  Eve Collins starts her freshman year at college blissfully unaware that one revelation will challenge everything she’s believed to be true about her family, life, and future, and right in the midst of it all is Asher St. Michael.

Mysterious and aloof, Asher is appointed to protect Eve at all costs. Bound by his oath of loyalty to mankind, loving her is forbidden. Dark and enigmatic, Gage Gallagher may be even more dangerous to Eve than the demonic army that hunts her. Caught in the middle of a centuries old war, Eve must choose sides knowing that the wrong choice will cost more than just her life. Can Asher and Eve fulfill their destinies or will their love destroy everything? Revelation is a journey of self-discovery, love, and sacrifice.

Restraint Summary: One revelation changed everything, turning Eve Collin’s world upside down. Now, she’s left to struggle with her identity and allegiance. Haunted by grief and tempted by her increasing attraction to her protector, will she ever truly be safe from enemies that refuse to give up?

Redemption Summary: For Eve Collins, darkness has descended after her love vanished into the night sky. A new protector has been appointed, one who challenges everything she’s believed to be true. In this third installment of The Revelation Series, Eve will become aware of dangers and worlds that exist only in her nightmares, and bloodline secrets that will trigger a centuries old war. You can escape anything, except your destiny.

Always and Forever by Karla J. Nellenbach

Always and Forever by Karla J. Nellenbach

4. You Belong with Me

Always and Forever by Karla J. Nellenbach. This heartbreaking story is the ultimate tale of Mia and Kal, childhood best friends and next door neighbors, who finally realize that the perfect person was right there all along.

Always and Forever Summary: Mia’s first reaction is outright disbelief. Obviously, a mistake has been made. Sixteen-year-old girls don’t die. But, when the diagnosis is confirmed, she dives headlong into anger. If she has to die, why should it be of cancer? In fact, anything would be preferable to cancer. Better for her to say when, where, and especially how.

Determined to meet death on her own terms, Mia devises scheme after scheme to get the job done. A “fall” down the basement stairs, driving her car off a bridge, and even a dance with a train all end in her survival.

And through it all, Mia keeps her family and friends at arms’ length with her destructive and hurtful behavior. With each failed suicide attempt and burned relationship, she slowly realizes that it’s not the dying that she’s afraid of, but the life she’ll be leaving behind. Now, that life is in a shambles.

As time begins to slip through her fingers and death is upon her, Mia fights to rebuild the bridges she has destroyed, but can she do it before the clock runs out?

Fifteen by Beverly Cleary

Fifteen by Beverly Cleary

5. Fifteen

Fifteen by Beverly Cleary. This is a classic story of first love. Jane, a high-school sophomore, has never had a date before. What’s she to do when the most popular boy in school is suddenly looking in her direction? With warmth, perceptiveness, and humor, Beverly Cleary chronicles the joys and worries of a young girl’s first crush. Seems fitting.

Fifteen Summary: It seems too good to be true. The most popular boy in school has asked Jane out — and she’s never even dated before. Stan is tall and good-looking, friendly and hard-working — everything Jane ever dreamed of. But is she ready for this?

Suppose her parents won’t let her go? What if she’s nervous and makes a fool of herself? Maybe he’ll think she’s too young. If only she knew all the clever things to say.

If only she were prettier.

If only she were ready for this…

With her usual warmth, perceptiveness, and humor, Beverly Cleary creates the joys and worries of a young girl’s first crush.

Jake and the Other Girl by Emmy Laybourne

Jake and the Other Girl by Emmy Laybourne

6. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Jake and The Other Girl by Emmy Laybourne. This novella from the Monument 14 series by Emmy Laybourne falls between books 1 and 2. We get to see events from Jake Simonsen’s point of view after he abandons the rest of the Monument 14, including his girlfriend, Astrid. Yeah, she’s never, ever getting back together with him.

Jake and the Other Girl Summary: The apocalypse has hit Monument, Colorado, and Jake Simonsen, captain of the football team, is caught in the middle of it.

A series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a terrible chemical weapons spill that affects people differently depending on blood type, has torn the world as he knows it apart.

Now Jake has to decide how to pick up the pieces.

Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout

7. Shake It Off

Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout. After getting more or less dumped by Katie, Daemon shakes it off and sets his sights on proving to her that what he feels is real. Watching him become prime boyfriend material makes this follow up to Obsidian even better than its predecessor.

Onyx Summary: Being connected to Daemon Black sucks…Thanks to his alien mojo, Daemon’s determined to prove what he feels for me is more than a product of our bizarro connection. So I’ve sworn him off, even though he’s running more hot than cold these days. But we’ve got bigger problems.

Something worse than the Arum has come to town… The Department of Defense are here. If they ever find out what Daemon can do and that we’re linked, I’m a goner. So is he. And there’s this new boy in school who’s got a secret of his own. He knows what’s happened to me and he can help, but to do so, I have to lie to Daemon and stay away from him. Like that’s possible. Against all common sense, I’m falling for Daemon. Hard.

But then everything changes…I’ve seen someone who shouldn’t be alive. And I have to tell Daemon, even though I know he’s never going to stop searching until he gets the truth. What happened to his brother? Who betrayed him? And what does the DOD want from them—from me? No one is who they seem. And not everyone will survive the lies…

The Union by T.H. Hernandez

The Union by T.H. Hernandez

8. Red

The Union by T.H. Hernandez. Sure, this is blatant self-promotion, but the cover is really, really red and it is my release week after all, so yup, I’m really doing this. And this cover by artist Mark Sgarbossa is really, really awesome.

The Union Summary: 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.

His Reverie by Monica Murphy

His Reverie by Monica Murphy

9. Mine

His Reverie by Monica Murphy. Nick is on is own since both of his parents are gone. He has no one. Not even a friend since his best friend is responsible for him going to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. So when he falls for Reverie, she’s the only one he really has and his feelings for her pretty much sums up the theme of the song, Mine.

His Reverie Summary: I knew from the moment I first saw her she was the one. The only girl I could ever want. The only girl I could ever love. She is light. I am darkness. She is innocent. I’ve done too much. She is good. I am bad. She is my every dream. I should be her every nightmare.

We come from different worlds. She’s…perfect. And I’m… Not.

Somehow she wants me anyway. So we’ll grasp at what we can. We’re going to make this summer count. She’s my secret. And I’m hers. The problem with secrets is they never last for long. And when others discover we’re together, they’ll do whatever it takes to keep us apart. All I know is: I won’t let them.

Because Reverie Hale? She’s mine.

How to Say I Love You Out Loud by K.A. Cozzo

How to Say I Love You Out Loud by K.A. Cozzo

10. Fearless

How to Say I Love You Out Loud by K.A. Cozzo. This fabulous young adult novel doesn’t even come out until next summer, but Jordyn’s strenght to say what she needs to say, to stand up to her fears, is the perfect book for Fearless. You’ll just have to wait to find out how great this book is. But it’s really, really great. Just sayin’.

How to Say I Love You Out Loud Summary: For Jordyn Michaelson, having a severely Autistic brother means her wants or needs never come first. It means keeping people at a distance, and settling for friend status with Alex Colby, even though she still clings to the memory of one steamy kiss last summer. Now he’s with Leighton Lyons, field hockey star, someone Jordyn could never go up against.

When her brother’s private school closes and he joins Jordyn at image-conscious V.F. High, she’s desperate to keep her relation to Phillip hidden. But secrets come at a cost, and Jordyn soon realizes she could lose everything if she continues to shut people out. When Alex hints at lingering romantic feelings, will Jordyn take a risk and reveal all? Will she finally take a stand for something, or will one last chance with Alex slip away?

YA Book Review – Return to Sender (Letters to Nowhere) by Julie Cross

Return to Sender (Letters to Nowhere #2) by Julie Cross

Return to Sender (Letters to Nowhere #2) by Julie Cross

Synopsis
Follow up to Letters to Nowhere, an Amazon #1 Bestseller in teen sports fiction!

IMPORTANT! Note from the author—Karen and Jordan’s story will continue in shorter installments with more frequent releases. If you haven’t already, please check out the full length novel, LETTERS TO NOWHERE to read how the story began.

ABOUT RETURN TO SENDER (Letters to Nowhere Volume 2)

If only summer could last forever…

Karen and Jordan might be out in the open with their relationship, but that doesn’t make it any easier for them to face events looming in the future. Like Jordan leaving for college halfway across the country. Or Karen’s win at a big international gymnastics competition setting the bar high for her future and adding pressure like she’s never experienced before.

But when Nina Jones (aka-US Gymnastics Dictator), makes plans for Karen and teammate Stevie to train at a gymnastics camp for a month—the same camp where Jordan coaches—romantic summer interludes replace their fears of being apart. Both Jordan and Karen know that when fall comes, some very tough decisions will have to be made, but for now, it’s stolen kisses, racing hearts, and whispered words.

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My Review
After finishing Letters to Nowhere, I couldn’t wait to continue Karen and Jordan’s story and picked up all three sequels. The first is Return to Sender and is really only a third of the story. The biggest difference in this book is the addition of Jordan’s point of view which we get starting in chapter 2. It’s refreshing to read a teen male POV that is not angry, swearing every other thought, or always trying to get laid. He may be one of the most authentic teen male characters I’ve read. Certainly the most authentic recently. He’s just as unsure about his future as Karen is about hers, even though he’s been accepted to Stanford.

With Jordan heading off to Stanford in the fall and with plans to work at a gymnastics camp over the summer, tension and uncertainty increase. At least until Karen discovers she’ll be spending the summer training at the very same camp where Jordan will be working.

Karen struggles more with gymnastics in this go round, but I think that’s understandable given her recent success. The pressure mounts and she’s having a hard time juggling her ongoing grief, indecision about her future, expectations about her athletic performance, and an increasingly serious relationship with Jordan that is becoming both more emotional as well as more physical.

Plot
Because this is only the first of three parts, it’s hard to really distill the plot in this first third. But there are some decisions made and Karen confronts her grief head on, so I feel like it’s really setting up well for the next two books. The emotional punch that Julie Cross delivers is powerful. I don’t cry much when I read books, but I must admit to wiping a few tears with this installment. They were the good, beautiful, bittersweet tears, though, not the rip my soul out and stomp on it kind.

World Building
The world of gymnastics is still front and center and still solid as a rock.

Characters
Karen and Jordan are both growing and we see some of that growth developing already. Jordan’s camp roommate, TJ, is a welcome addition. I have a feeling he’s really going to shake things up, as is Liberty, Jordan’s girlfriend from the previous summer.

Top Five Things I Love About  Return to Sender
1. Jaren – Still cute as ever.

2. Karen’s Uncertainty – I love that she’s still struggling with her future. Even though things worked out so well at the end of Letters to Nowhere, the fact that she’s still sorting it all out makes her more three-dimensional.

3. Karen and Stevie – The complex nature of their friendship is so real. It’s neither perfectly chummy nor antagonistic. It is a friendship that is forged on a common interest, driven by competition, and sustained by genuine respect.

4. TJ – There is so much more to TJ than meets the eye and I can’t wait to find out what it is.

5. The Big Emotional Scene – I won’t spoil what it is, but it has been building for some time and it was just the release the story and Karen needed.

Bottom Line
Return to Sender is a worthy follow up to Letters to Nowhere. It’s the first of three parts that sets the stage for the remaining two installments, but still manages to provide a satisfying read.

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About the Book
Title:
 Return to Sender
Series: Letters to Nowhere #2
Author: Julie Cross
Publisher: Long Walk Press
Release Date: October 20, 2013
Pages: 110
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

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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

Release Day – The Union by T.H. Hernandez

So today is the big day! Today is release day for The Union, the first book in the young adult romantic adventure series, the Union. Writing, revising, and editing this book has consumed so much of my free time over the past four years, it’s exciting to see it finally in the Amazon store. Also super scary. I’m sure every debut author worries if anyone else will love their story as much as the they do.

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.

Review – Garrison’s Creed (Titan Series) by Cristin Harber

Garrison's Creed (Titan #2) by Cristin Harber

Garrison’s Creed (Titan #2) by Cristin Harber

Synopsis
A SPY RUNNING FOR HER LIFE
Nicola is an injured CIA agent on the run from a failed undercover operation. Her escape plan shatters when she slams into the man who buried her a decade ago. Cash Garrison. Her first and only love. Now, sexier than her best memory and cradling a sniper’s rifle, he has questions she can’t answer. Why was she alive? And armed?

AND THE MAN SHE COULD NEVER SEE AGAIN
Cash is an elite member of a black ops organization, The Titan Group. He thought Nicola died his senior year of college and swore off love to focus on a decade of military missions. But when she shows up behind enemy lines, bleeding out and wielding a weapon, his heart and mind are unsure how to proceed.

BATTLE BETRAYAL TO SAVE THEMSELVES
Titan and the CIA join forces to uncover a mole hidden in a network of international terrorists and homegrown mobsters, teaming Cash and Nicola again. They fight old wounds and re-ignite sparks while closing in on a double agent. When disaster strikes, Nicola’s hidden past makes her the hunted target and Cash’s best kill shot may not be enough to save them.

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My Review
The first Titan novel I read was Savage Secrets. It was good so when Sweet Girl came out, I quickly devoured it and couldn’t wait to see what happened next. I “ran” to the iBookstore and picked up the entire Titan boxed set and decided to read them in order, starting with Winter’s Heat. But the shiny stack of ARCs sitting on my virtual bookshelf kept calling to me and I set it aside until my Hart Attack ARC arrived. Suddenly, I needed to know the rest of Nicola and Cash’s story before I read about Roman.

I know the author wrote Garrison’s Creed first, then followed it up with the prequel, but if you haven’t read either of these books yet, start with Sweet Girl. I think it’s much more bittersweet seeing how they meet up again after knowing their story, watching how losing Nic affected Cash. With that disclaimer, Garrison’s Creed is every bit as good as Sweet Girl and Nic and Cash are my favorite Titans.

After believing Nicola Hart died a decade before in a fiery car crash, Cash and his best friend, Roman, who is also Nic’s older brother, threw themselves first into the military, then into special ops with Titan. The job always came first and any women on the side were just for fun. No one would own Cash’s heart again, at least until he discovers Nic is alive, working for the CIA.

There’s a lot for both of them to deal with. Cash understandably feels both unfathomable relief as well as heart-crushing betrayal. He’s bitterly angry but does try to understand. Nic is dealing with regret and overwhelming guilt. But these two belong together and it’s only a matter of time for them to realize what everyone else already knows.

Plot
The main plot is the romance between Cash and Nic. There’s a lot of conflict there to work with, and the sweeter moments are a nice contrast. The secondary plot involves a potential double agent with the CIA who may or may not want Nic and Cash dead. About the only thing that keeps this from being a full five-stars for me is the addition of a third point of view. Being inside the antagonist’s head gives us glimpses into things Cash and Nicola can’t know and removes some of the tension. I’m not sure that extra POV really adds anything to the story.

World Building
Cristin Harber excels at creating believable worlds of spies and special ops for hire. The added conflict and suspense that her setting brings to her stories makes that ultimate happily ever after much more satisfying. As a CIA operative, Nicola and Cash’s path to happiness is a minefield at best. And just when we get to the point where things seem to be heading in the right direction, the author raises the stakes again, unfolding believably in the world she’s created.

Characters
The Titan characters are always strong. What I love is the way Cristin Harber really differentiates character voice so that I never feel like it’s the same character over and over again. I also love that even though Cash and Nic are a decade older than in Sweet Girl, they are still very much themselves, just more mature. We get to see a bit more of Roman in this, too as he comes to terms with his sister’s reappearance and the fact that his best friend is sleeping with her. And I’m already rooting for Beth and Roman.

Top Five Things I Love About  Garrison’s Creed
1. Cash’s Cowboy Hat. I’m not normally into cowboys, but Cash makes a strong argument for reconsidering that.

2. Nicola’s Love of Fashion. It makes her more human and shows her girly side.

3. Their First Kiss. That kiss on the ground in front of the truck — hot!

4. The Cash-Roman-Nic Chemistry. It’s nice to see this chemistry first introduced in Sweet Girl is still intact, albeit somewhat strained.

5. Jared’s Begrudging Respect for Nic. Jared is gruff, no two ways about it, but seeing the way he respects Nic makes me like him just a little bit more than I already did.

Bottom Line
Garrison’s Creed continues Cash and Nicola’s story with plenty of the action and suspense we expect from Cristin Harber.

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About the Book
Title:
 Garrison’s Creed
Series: Titan #2
Author: Cristin Harber
Publisher: Mandolin Park
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Pages: 233
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooksKobo

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Author Cristin Harber

Author Cristin Harber

About the Author

Cristin Harber is a USA Today bestselling romantic suspense and military romance author.

Fans voted her onto Amazon’s Top Picks for Debut Romance Authors in 2013, and her debut Titan series was #1 romantic suspense, #1 military romance, and a USA Today Top 100 bestseller.

She lives outside Washington, DC with her family and English Bulldog.

Where to Find Cristin Harber
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter | Titan Team

Book Review + Giveaway – Brody (The Bang Shift Series) by Mandy Harbin

Brody Blog Tour

Brody (The Bang Sift Series) by Mandy Harbin

Brody (The Bang Sift Series) by Mandy Harbin

Synopsis
Brody “Brutus” Jackson isn’t your average small-town mechanic. The shop where he spends his days doubles as the headquarters for the mercenary group he works with. They jokingly call themselves the Bang Shift because the government contracts they take are the less savory ones, and they’re all just shady enough to do what’s necessary to get the jobs done.

As far as Brody’s concerned, it’s the perfect arrangement for a man with no memory of his past, and no hope for the future.

Under FBI protection, Alexandria Collins and her son have been in hiding for ten years. When it’s time to move again, her piece of crap car breaks down and the man giving her a tow is the biggest, hottest guy she’s ever seen. She is determined to ignore the need her long-neglected body hungers for.

After all, the last man she showed interest in put a gun to her head.

Brody thinks the skittish Xan is sexy as hell, but it’s not her hot body that has him rocked to his core. He knows her from somewhere, and in his line of work, that’s a dangerous thing.

Following orders have never been this hard, but when he finds out she’s his next assignment, he will protect her at all costs … even if what she needs protection from most is him.

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My Review
The story opens strong and only builds from there. Xan is nearly killed by her husband, Marco Collins, a notorious gangster. But she survives and is placed into witness protection where we catch up with her and her son twelve years later. As the date of her ex-husband’s release from prison approaches, she and her son are relocated to a small town. On her way into her new town, her car breaks down and has to be towed to a garage that just happens to be overrun with hot, hot, hot men. One is Brody and it’s mutual lust at first sight. Thus the setup. The rest of the story is about these two battling their own desires, and losing. Underlying it all is Brody’s secret, and the reappearance of the ex husband we all know is coming.

However, what should be a formulaic romance actually has a few jaw-dropping twists that kept me on the edge of my seat and guessing. And I never once guessed right. That’s pretty hard to do. I can usually figure some of it out along the way, but in this case, I guessed wrong every single time.

Plot
There are two main plots running simultaneously — the romance between Xan and Brody and the safety of Xan and her son, Scott, once Xan’s ex-husband is released from prison. But several smaller subplots run through the story, including Brody’s memory loss and a possible connection he has with Xan from both of their pasts, the identity of a dirty FBI agent who may or may not be working with Xan’s ex-husband, and the hint of something more between Xan’s neighbor, Roxy, and Bear, one of the other Bang Shifters. The romance angle was relatively unsurprising, but nonetheless rewarding, but the plot involving the ex-husband was twisty, riveting and full of surprises.

World Building
The world building was probably the area I found the weakest. Some of the details of being an FBI witness under protection were off. For one, she was under FBI protection and not the U.S. Marshalls. FBI agents typically only protect incarcerated witnesses. Another is when she lets her secret slip to her neighbor and doesn’t call her agent to report this breach. Especially given her fear of her ex-husband and the fact that he’s been recently paroled. There were a few other things that seemed implausible, but it didn’t ruin the story for me.

Characters
The characters were likeable and I rooted for them, although they weren’t especially deep and there was little to no character development through the story. Still I found all of the m to be believable and acting according to their respective characters.

Bottom Line
Brody is a fun, fast read that has edge-of-your-seat suspense, a steamy romance, and a couple of jaw-dropping twists.

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

About the Book
Title:
 Brody
Series: Bang Shift #1
Author: Mandy Harbin
Publisher: Mandolin Park
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Pages: 233
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

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Author Mandy Harbin

Author Mandy Harbin

About the Author
Mandy Harbin is an award-winning, bestselling author of several books across multiple romance genres ranging from contemporary to paranormal erotic romance. She is also the number one bestselling author in teen romance under the pen name M.W. Muse with her popular Goddess Series. She is a Superstar Award recipient, Reader’s Crown and RWA Passionate Plume finalist, and has received Night Owl Reviews Top Pick distinction many times.

She studied writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, earned several degrees, and even pursued an MBA until she realized becoming an author did not have to remain an unfulfilled dream. Mandy is a PAN member of the RWA and lives in a small Arkansas town with her non-traditional family, and although she is a direct descendant of British royalty, they refuse to call her princess. When she’s not penning her latest book, you can find her hanging out online where she loves to connect with fellow readers or stalking Mickey Mouse at Disney World.

Where to Find Jen McLaughlin
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter

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Giveaway

YA Book Review – Letters to Nowhere (Letters to Nowhere No. 1) by Julie Cross

Letters to Nowhere (Letters to Nowhere #1) by Julie Cross

Letters to Nowhere (Letters to Nowhere #1) by Julie Cross

Synopsis
From the International Bestselling Author of the Tempest Series…

Set in the tough world of Elite Gymnastics…

I’ve gotten used to the dead parents face. I’ve gotten used to living with my gymnastics coach. I’ve even adjusted to sharing a bathroom with his way-too-hot son. Dealing with boys is not something that’s made it onto my list of experiences as of yet. But here I am, doing it. And something about Jordan–being around him, talking to him, thinking about him–makes me feel like I can finally breathe again. That’s something I haven’t been able to do lately. He knows what it feels like to be me right now. He knows what it’s like to wonder–what now?

I think about it constantly. I need answers. I need to know how to get through this. In the gym, if you’re struggling, you train harder, you do drills and conditioning. How do I work hard at moving on? At being on my own? And what happens if I might be…maybe…probably falling for Jordan? I mean we live together now. That can’t happen, can it?

But kissing him…well, let’s just say it’s not an easy activity to forget.

——————————————————–

My Review
I discovered Julie Cross when I reviewed Whatever Life Throws At You. I was so taken by her voice, the story, and the characters that I rushed out and picked up Letters to Nowhere. Sometimes it’s a gamble to go back and read an older book by an author you love. This isn’t one of those cases. I loved everything about Letters to Nowhere. Seventeen-year-old Karen Campbell is a spitfire at under five feet and a gymnastic dynamo. When her parents are killed in a car accident, she’s left an orphan, struggling to understand how she’s supposed to go on. Forced to choose between a promising gymnastics career and family, her coach steps in and offers to be her guardian in place of her grandmother, allowing her to continue her training. Gymnastics is the only thing Karen understands and takes him up on the offer.

Things get interesting when she meets her coach’s seventeen-year-old son, Jordan. He gets her in a way no one ever has and she soon discovers why. With shared pain, they bond on a deeper level than either of them has ever known. When friendship turns into something more, things get complicated considering they live in the same house. And oh yeah, his dad is her coach. Karen struggles with how to cope with unimaginable loss, plans for her future, and how to help Jordan cope with his own pain.

Plot
The plot is complex. The main plot is likely the relationship between Karen and Jordan, but there are strong subplots, including Karen’s gymnastics career, her ability to cope with the loss of her parents, the mystery surrounding the accident, the secret Jordan’s best friend Tony is hiding, and Jordan’s relationship with is father. Julie Cross manages to weave all of these together seamlessly, creating a beautiful tapestry of emotion. Letters to Nowhere is definitely a page turner, with increasing tension and heartfelt moments that are worth the wait.

World Building
As a former gymnast, Julie Cross creates an authentic world filled with juniors, worlds, elites, olympics, bars, vaults, floors, and more. I don’t know much (anything) about this world and yet I was so immersed in it, I could easily understand Karen’s drive, her fears, doubts, and goals.

Characters
All the characters are strong. Karen is deep, troubled, sympathetic, and exceedingly believable. Watching her process her grief and anger over her parents’ deaths is sometimes difficult. I love that it wasn’t an easy transition for her, that the author didn’t have her move on too quickly and make the dead parents just a plot vehicle for the romance. It’s more like the romance is there to help drive the grief plot. Everything Karen does is laced with thoughts of her parents. I love that she writes letters, sometimes only in her head, that she never intends to send. She writes letters to Jordan, her parents, and her coach, giving us a glimpse inside her head and allowing us to connect with her on a very deep level.

Jordan is equally fascinating, yet we only see him through Karen’s eyes. He’s sweet, loyal, a total daredevil, and he’s deeply wounded himself. Karen recognizes his pain for what it is and tries to help him through it.

The rest of the cast from Coach Bentley to the other gymnasts, and even Jordan’s best friend Tony, are well-rounded and support deeper plotting and characterization with their presence.

Bottom Line
Letters to Nowhere is a compelling young adult story that is as uplifting as it is tragic. Karen deals with loss, triumph, and first love, with equal parts grit and humor.

About the Book
Title:
 Letters to Nowhere
Series: Letters to Nowhere #1
Author: Julie Cross
Publisher: Long Walk Press
Release Date: August 1, 2013
Pages: 356
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

——————————————————–

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 – Letters to Nowhere (Letters to Nowhere Series) by Julie Cross

Letters to Nowhere (Letters to Nowhere #1) by Julie Cross

Letters to Nowhere (Letters to Nowhere #1) by Julie Cross

Synopsis
From the International Bestselling Author of the Tempest Series…

Set in the tough world of Elite Gymnastics…

I’ve gotten used to the dead parents face. I’ve gotten used to living with my gymnastics coach. I’ve even adjusted to sharing a bathroom with his way-too-hot son. Dealing with boys is not something that’s made it onto my list of experiences as of yet. But here I am, doing it. And something about Jordan–being around him, talking to him, thinking about him–makes me feel like I can finally breathe again. That’s something I haven’t been able to do lately. He knows what it feels like to be me right now. He knows what it’s like to wonder–what now?

I think about it constantly. I need answers. I need to know how to get through this. In the gym, if you’re struggling, you train harder, you do drills and conditioning. How do I work hard at moving on? At being on my own? And what happens if I might be…maybe…probably falling for Jordan? I mean we live together now. That can’t happen, can it?

But kissing him…well, let’s just say it’s not an easy activity to forget.

My Review
I discovered Julie Cross when I reviewed Whatever Life Throws At You. I was so taken by her voice, by the story, by the characters, that I rushed out and picked up Letters to Nowhere. Sometimes it’s a gamble to go back and read an older book by an author I love. This isn’t one of those cases. I loved everything about Letters to Nowhere. Seventeen-year-old Karen Campbell is a spitfire at under five feet and a gymnastic dynamo. When her parents are killed in a car accident, she’s left an orphan, struggling to understand how she’s supposed to go on. Forced to choose between a promising gymnastics career and family, her coach steps in and offers to be her guardian in place of her grandmother, allowing her to continue her training. Gymnastics is the only thing Karen understands and takes him up on the offer.

Things get interesting when she meets her coach’s seventeen-year-old son, Jordan. He gets her in a way no one ever has and soon she discovers why. With shared pain, they bond on a deeper level than either of them has ever known. When friendship becomes something more, things get complicated considering they live in the same house. And oh yeah, his dad is her coach. Karen struggles with how to cope with unimaginable loss, plans for her future, and how to help Jordan cope with his own pain.

Plot
The plot is complex, layered, and deep. The main plot is likely the relationship between Karen and Jordan, but there are strong subplots, including Karen’s gymnastics career, her ability to cope with the loss of her parents, the mystery surrounding their accident, the secret Jordan’s best friend Tony is hiding, and Jordan’s relationship with is father. Julie Cross manages to weave all of these together seamlessly so its impossible to differentiate the plot points as the create a beautiful tapestry of emotion. Letters to Nowhere is definitely a page turner with increasing tension and heartfelt moments that are worth the wait.

World Building
As a former gymnast, Julie Cross creates an authentic and detailed world of international gymnastics. I don’t know enough (anything) about this world, but she so fully immersed me in the language of  juniors, worlds, elites, olympics that I feel like I understood Karen’s drive, her fears, doubts, and goals, as well as the drama and politics that are a part of any elite sport.

Characters
All the characters are strong. Karen is deep, troubled, sympathetic and exceedingly believable. Watching her process grief and anger over her parents’ deaths was intense. I love that Julie Cross doesn’t give her an easy transition. I never got the sense that the tragedy, her parents’ deaths, was just a plot vehicle for the romance. It’s more like the romance is there to help drive the grief plot. Everything Karen does is laced with thoughts of her parents. I love that she writes letters, sometimes only in her head, that she never intends to send. These letters help her process her thoughts and emotions. She writes letters to Jordan, to her parents, and to her coach, giving us glimpses inside her head and allowing us connect with her on a very deep level.

Jordan is equally fascinating, yet we only see him through Karen’s eyes. He’s sweet, loyal, a total daredevil, and he’s deeply wounded himself. I love that Karen recognizes his pain for what it is and tries to help him through it.

The rest of the cast from Coach Bentley to the other gymnasts, and even Jordan’s best friend Tony, are well-rounded and support deeper plotting and characterization with their presence.

Bottom Line
Letters to Nowhere is an intensely beautiful young adult story that is as uplifting as it is tragic. Karen deals with loss, triumph, and first love, with equal parts grit and humor.

About the Book
Title:
 Letters to Nowhere
Series: Letters to Nowhere #1
Author: Julie Cross
Publisher: Long Walk Press
Release Date: August 1, 2013
Pages: 356
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

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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