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YA Book Review – Orenda (Orenda Series) by Ruth Silver

Orenda (Orenda #1) by Ruth Silver

Orenda (Orenda #1) by Ruth Silver

Synopsis
Join forces with a parallel universe.

Dark forces, magical creatures, and the world Lil thought she knew collide when a dream transports her to the strange world of Orenda. Stunned and terrified, Lil comes face to face with her doppelganger, Willow, who possesses the ability to travel between the two worlds.

Everything Lil knows logically says that Orenda can’t exist, but a small clue may be proof that it was more than an ordinary dream. With the threat of her sister in danger, Lil crosses dimensions but it may cost her even more than she bargained for.

A sword wielding girl, the eternal suit, and a parallel universe come together in this action- packed Young Adult fantasy adventure that will keep readers of all ages turning the pages. Orenda is the first novel in the Orenda series.

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My Review
Lil discovers an alternate world similar to her own, including Willow, Lil’s very own doppelganger. In Orenda, Willow has a younger brother, Jamie, the same age as Lil’s younger sister, Jamey. But that’s not where the weirdness ends. When Lil accidentally ends up in Orenda, and her best friend, Bray, comes looking for her, her life becomes a nightmare. She’s forced to rescue Willow and Bray from an evil sorceress who brought about the Scourge to Orenda and plans on doing the same in Lil’s world.

She meets Willow’s boyfriend, Rawlie and his good looking cousin, Hudson, who may or may not have a thing for Lil. They go to the Fae for help, and everything culminates in a pretty intense climax, with the door wide open for a sequel and a return visit to Orenda.

Plot
The story opens with a bang, but then takes its time getting back there. The plot moves, but also sort of meanders in that movement. All Lil initially wants is to go home, but she can’t do that without Willow’s help, nor can she leave her best friend, Bray, behind. There were several really good plot twists I never saw coming.

The book is pretty short, particularly for the fantasy genre. Many events are told to us rather than being shown. I think this could have been a really engaging read, where I was completely immersed in the world of Orenda, with a little deeper point of view and drawing out some of the pivotal moments a little more.  But the story is definitely interesting and I will definitely read Elfinland, book 2 in the series, when it comes out.

World Building
The world building is good. Orenda is fascinating place, and I would have loved for the author to have spent more time drawing me into it, showing me more of this world. Most fantasy is really heavy on world building, and I felt Orenda could have used a bit more. It’s an intriguing place, but I feel like we’ve only really scratched the surface instead of being immersed in it.

Characters
Because Ruth Silver uses third-person point of view, it’s difficult to get very deep into any one character and the random head-hopping can be distracting. But the characters are interesting and not stereotypical. It would have been nice to get a little deeper inside their heads, though.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About  Orenda
1. The Lil/Willow dynamic. These two doppelgangers are not the same and their love/hate relationship with each other is snappy.

2. The Lil/Jamey and Willow/Jamie relationships. I love the sibling love between these kids.

3. Hudson. He’s probably the most interesting character in the story. I can’t wait to see more of him in the next book.

4. Orenda. Although I feel like I need to know more about it, the pink skies alone have me itching to go back.

5. The infinity suit. Because who doesn’t want clothes that can save your life?

Bottom Line
Orenda is a decent first book in a fantasy series that lacks some depth, but is a fun, fast read.

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

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About the Book
Title:
 Orenda
Series: Orenda #1
Author: Ruth Silver
Publisher: Patchwork Press
Pages: 143
Release Date: April 13, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Ruth Silver

Author Ruth Silver

About the Author
Ruth Silver first began writing poetry as a teenager and reading heaps of fan fiction in her free time. She has written under three unique pseudo names and penned well over a hundred stories.

She attended Northern Illinois University in 2001 and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Communication. While in college she spent much of her free time writing with friends she met online and penning her first novel, “Deuces are Wild”, which she self-published in 2004. Her favorite class was Creative Writing senior year where she often handed in assignments longer than the professor required because she loved to write and always wanted to finish her stories.

Her love of writing, led her on an adventure in 2007 to Melbourne, Australia. Silver enjoys reading YA novels and sharing her favorite books with other readers. She runs her own book blog and also enjoys photography and traveling.

Her favorite YA genre is a mix of Dystopian & Fantasy which is evident in the upcoming release of her latest book, Aberrant. Slated for release April 2013 by Lazy Day Publishing, it is the first in a trilogy.

Where to Find Ruth Silver
Goodreads │ Website │ Twitter │ Facebook

YA Book Review – Before You (Before and After) by Amber Hart

Before You (Before & After #1) by Amber Hart

Before You (Before & After #1) by Amber Hart

Synopsis
Some say love is deadly. Some say love is beautiful. I say it is both.

Faith Watters spent her junior year traveling the world, studying in exquisite places, before returning to Oviedo High School. From the outside her life is picture-perfect. Captain of the dance team. Popular. Happy. Too bad it’s all a lie.

It will haunt me. It will claim me. It will shatter me. And I don’t care.

Eighteen-year-old Diego Alvarez hates his new life in the States, but staying in Cuba is not an option. Covered in tattoos and scars, Diego doesn’t stand a chance of fitting in. Nor does he want to. His only concern is staying hidden from his past—a past, which if it were to surface, would cost him everything. Including his life.

At Oviedo High School, it seems that Faith Watters and Diego Alvarez do not belong together. But fate is as tricky as it is lovely. Freedom with no restraint is what they long for. What they get is something different entirely.

Love—it will ruin you and save you, both.

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My Review
I enjoyed Before You. It’s full of teen angst, romance, love and friendship. It’s darker than many in the contemporary category, but I personally liked the edgier nature of this story. Faith is struggling with her inner demons, a dark past, and trying to live up to the expectations of being the preacher’s daughter. It’s a role she doesn’t relish, nor feels comfortable with. As captain of her the dance team, dating Jason, captain of the football team, she’s half of the school’s “it” couple. But she doesn’t love Jason. So when Diego shows up with his beautiful face and scarred and tattooed body, he’s everything she shouldn’t want, so of course she does. Their story is more than just teenage rebellion. Diego has a tortured past as well, so the two really get each other. The white girl and the Cuban refugee are not easily accepted in their south Florida school, so lots of things are going to go wrong.

It’s a great concept for a story and is pretty well done. It’s told from both Diego’s and Faith’s point of view, but often times their voices are indistinguishable from one other. They both have the same odd way of thinking, by repeating things in their heads three times. It’s a strange enough thing that it really sticks out and became annoying after awhile when they both do it. Most of Faith’s issues stem from her inability to communicate with her father about deep wounds in their past. So when they finally do clear the air, I would have loved it if the author had showed this to us as it unfolded instead of summarizing it in retrospect.

Plot
As a young adult romance, the plot mostly follows the typical formula. Where it really shines and sets itself apart from other teen contemporary romances is Diego’s past. The past he thought he left behind only to discover it followed him from Cuba where it continues to threaten him and those he loves. Including Faith. The ending is anything but formulaic and surprised me. More than once.

World Building
Author, Amber Hart, brings to life the Cuban culture in south Florida so vividly. I married into the Hispanic culture and I found much of it to be authentic, particularly the bonds of family and the importance food plays in the culture.

Characters
Aside from Diego and Faith having the same voice through much of the story, I thought the characters were really well developed. Both Diego and Faith had deep backstories that were revealed over time. The character growth of both of them was believable and unfolded at a natural pace. And I cared about the characters, rooted for them.

Top Five Things I Love About  Before Us
1. The setting. The south Florida setting came alive in vivid, sweltering fashion.

2. Faith’s loyalty. I love how loyal Faith is to her family, even though the choices she makes are so uncomfortable and unnatural for her.

3. The relationship between Faith and her younger sister. It’s so sweet. Having a sister ten years younger than me, I can relate to the dynamic they share.

4. The relationship between Diego and his father. This was so well written, I could feel the love between them.

5. Diego and Faith. The chemistry between these two was palpable.

Bottom Line
Before You is a darkly intense young adult romance with a dash of Westside Story.

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

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Title: Before You
Series: Before and After #1
Author: Amber Hart
Publisher: Kensington Books
Release Date: July 29, 2014
Pages: 321
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Amber Hart

Author Amber Hart

About the Author
Amber Hart grew up in Orlando, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. She now resides on the Florida coastline with family. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand.

She’s the author of BEFORE YOU, AFTER US, UNTIL YOU FIND ME, and sequel to UNTIL YOU FIND ME (untitled as of yet). Represented by Beth Miller of Writers House.

Where to Find Amber Hart
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

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

Sentinel (Covenant #5) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Sentinel (Covenant #5) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Synopsis
It’s a beautiful day for a war.

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

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

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

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My Review
I want to give this book more than five stars. Because I gave Apollyon five stars and this is even better. Because this is how you end a young adult series. Not a happily ever after, but it’s satisfying and leaves us with hope instead of despair. Because it didn’t ruin the entire series for me for a change.

This final book in the series is almost non-stop action, but not to the point that it becomes exhausting. The author slows it down enough to allow us to catch our breath before ramping it back up again. I’m not someone who is easily moved to tears. Just ask my husband. He cries during movies before I do. But a few really moving, bittersweet, and heartwarming moments managed to wet my Sahara-dry eyes.

Plot
Sentinel is almost entire plot-driven, although there are still a few moments of character development that are like the most delicious cherry on top of the perfect sundae. With everything in the previous books leading to war, war has finally come and Alex and her friends must fight for everything they know, love, and believe in.

And because it’s war, people get hurt and people die, but there are no senseless deaths. Each death serves a purpose, to move the plot, to further the story. And as painful as it is to lose characters we love, when well-done, they make the story richer.

World Building
If possible, the world building is even more complete this time around. It was already incredibly well developed, but the more the world unfolds, the more there seems to be to still learn. Like the TARDIS, it’s bigger on the inside.

Characters
The characters in Sentinel are still fascinating, still fully developed, but they had room to grow, and that’s exactly what they do. Seth is the boy I always knew he would be and that was beautiful to see. Watching Alex accept her fate with grace and dignity was worth the wait. And Aiden…what can I say, he is the ultimate book boyfriend to the very end.

Top Five Things I Love About  Sentinel
1. The action. There’s a lot of it and it’s all really well done.

2. Alex and Aiden. Still the cutest young adult couple in all of Greek mythology.

3. Seth. Seth is back and better than ever.

4. Apollo and Alex. There is a really bittersweet scene between the two of them that just really works.

5. The end. A completely satisfying conclusion to a fun series.

Bottom Line
The perfect example of how to wrap up a young adult series in a satisfying way.

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Title: Sentinel
Series: Covenant Series #5
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Pages: 316
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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

Daimon (Covenant #0.5) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Daimon (Covenant #0.5) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Synopsis
“Love in my world usually ended up with someone hearing ‘I smite thee!’ as she was cursed to be some lame flower for the rest of her life.”

For three years, Alexandria has lived among mortals–pretending to be like them and trying to forget the duty she’d been trained to fulfill as a child of a mortal and a demigod. At seventeen, she’s pretty much accepted that she’s a freak by mortal standards… and that she’ll never be prepared for that duty.

According to her mother, that’s a good thing.

But as every descendant of the gods knows, Fate has a way of rearing her ugly head. A horrifying attack forces Alex to flee Miami and try to find her way back to the very place her mother had warned her she should never return-the Covenant. Every step that brings her closer to safety is one more step toward death… because she’s being hunted by the very creatures she’d once trained to kill.

The daimons have found her.

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My Review
This prequel to the Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, introduces us to headstrong Alex, swoony Aiden, Alex’s mom, and the world of Greek Mythology that these characters inhabit. In flashbacks, we see a young Alex stand up to her elders and her mom abandoning their world to protect her daughter. As a half blood (half demigod, half human) Alex is stronger than mere mortals, and that strength and her strong will, keep getting her into trouble in the mortal world.

They live a life on the run, never staying in one place too long. Until the daimons, evil creatures driven to drink the blood of demigods,  find them, then all bets are off.

This short prequel does a really good job of establishing the world and Alex’s character, but it fell short of really engaging me. If I wasn’t already a devoted JLA fan, I’m not sure I would have bothered reading the first book in the series. It isn’t necessary to read this prequel to enjoy the series, but after you’ve read the first book, it might be good to go back and read the prequel to help understand how things got to be the way they are. In fact, I think if you read in that order, Book 1, Prequel, Book 2, then Daimon is actually a pretty good story.

Plot
The plot is somewhat lacking since the purpose of the prequel is to set up the series, which is why this isn’t necessarily a compelling read. Even so, there were some surprises that set everything in motion for book 1, Half-Blood.

World Building
This is where Daimon really shines. Introducing us to modern-day Greek Gods, their hidden world, and the mortal world they sometimes interact with, sets the stage for the series really well.

Characters
We mostly get a look at Alex and her character, as well as the evil of the daimons. It’s obvious from the first chapter that Alex is complex, unconventional, and completely unpredictable. We also get to see how much Alex’s mom loves her and what she was willing to sacrifice for her daughter.

Bottom Line
As a prequel, it’s not really necessary and not all that compelling. But if you read Half-Blood first, it fills in some blanks.

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Title: Daimon
Series: Covenant Series #0.5
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Pages: 62
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

YA Book Review – Sky on Fire (Monument 14) by Emmy Laybourne

Sky on Fire (Monument 14 #2) by Emmy Laybourne

Sky on Fire (Monument 14 #2) by Emmy Laybourne

Synopsis
Trapped in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, including a monster hailstorm and terrifying chemical weapons spill, brothers Dean and Alex learned how to survive and worked together with twelve other kids to build a refuge from the chaos. But then strangers appeared, destroying their fragile peace, and bringing both fresh disaster and a glimmer of hope. 

Knowing that the chemical weapons saturating the air outside will turn him into a bloodthirsty rage monster, Dean decides to stay in the safety of the store with Astrid and some of the younger kids. But their sanctuary has already been breached once. . . .

Meanwhile, Alex, determined to find their parents, heads out into the darkness and devastation with Niko and some others in a recently repaired school bus. If they can get to Denver International Airport, they might be evacuated to safety. But the outside world is even worse than they expected.

My Review
The synopsis caught my attention and propelled me through the first couple of chapters of this book. The author, Emmy Laybourne in her debut novel, managed to build an intricate plot with layer upon layer of natural and manmade disasters that leave the small town of Monument, Colorado, utterly devastated.

The events take place in the not so distant future as a busload of students are on their way to school. Fourteen of the kids survive when their bus driver, taking a page out of the zombie apocalypse survival guide, goes to the nearest superstore and unloads the Monument 14 where they have access to drinking water, food, clothing, and shelter.

The story unfolds as the refugees, ranging from preteen up through seniors in high school, struggle with survival, pecking order, and rampant fear as they attempt to find out the fate of their families and loved ones with little to no access to information from the outside world. This is not Lord of the Flies, but there is enough conflict that the story moves and keeps the reader engaged.

Plot
The plot mostly works. Some of it is a little too far fetched, but then so are a lot of Hollywood disaster movies that still make millions of dollars. Sometimes you have to take things a few steps beyond plausible to get a story really ripping. And the plot does move at a pretty good pace for the  most part, but I did find it stalling in a few points.

Characters
The characters are varied, layered, and real, providing a good cross-section of student bodies everywhere. Readers will find someone to connect with, from Jake the jock, to Astrid the pretty popular girl, to our lovable nerd and protagonist, Dean. Ms. Labourne does an excellent job of capturing the voice of a teenage boy who never comes off sounding like an adult or a female, and we find ourselves rooting for him and his unrequited love for Astrid and we can identify with the sense of responsibility he feels for his younger brother, Alex.

Bottom Line
The tension is well done, the dialogue natural, and the relationships are realistic. I think I would have liked a little more action and a little more, something, I don’t know what, to take it to the next level for me. Still a solid four out of five stars.

Title: Monument 14
Author: Emmy Labourne
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 352
Category: Young Adult, Adventure, SciFi
Rating: Four out of Five Stars
Links to PurchaseAmazonBarnes & Noble

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

Return to Us (Letter to Nowhere #4) by Julie Cross

Return to Us (Letter to Nowhere #4) by Julie Cross

Synopsis
30,000 word novella and part 4 in the 2014 RITA Finalist Letters to Nowhere series

Summer is definitely heating up…

So yeah, that really happened. Karen’s fist connecting with TJ’s face.

Not only is TJ dealing with a decent sized bruise on his face where Karen gave her best attempt at a knock-out match, now he’s got some explaining to do after Jordan finds out what happened.

Karen’s not ready to forgive TJ for his tough-love tactics to help get her bar routine back in full swing, but she is ready to figure out how to get through to Jordan. He’s being a complete idiot, not dealing with his health issues, forcing her to keep things a secret from Coach Bentley.

With her teammate, Stevie’s, help Karen comes up with a plan to steer Jordan in the right direction—all she needs is a night alone with him and the hiking and camping expedition he promised her weeks ago might be the perfect opportunity.

Or her plan could backfire and he could slip further away from her.

While Karen and Jordan are out playing lumberjack couple in the Pocono Mountains, TJ is dealing with a stranger trying to give him advice on his tumbling, some pretty overt advances from one of Nina Jones’ gymnasts (aka: off limits), and a random hook-up that will most likely end up being a big mistake.

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My Review
This is my favorite installment in the Letters to Nowhere sequel so far.  This time around, we get to hear from TJ, get inside his head and roll around, see some of the things that make him tick. I wasn’t so sure at first about this added point of view. I initially felt like it halted the momentum of what was happening with Jordan and Karen, but ultimately, I think it worked really well. TJ is a fascinating character, so spending more time with him can only be a good thing.

Things between Jordan and Karen continue to take two steps forward and one step back, but they both remain true to who they are, proving that even the seemingly perfect couples aren’t actually perfect. But neither Karen nor Jordan becomes someone else in order to drive conflict. Instead, forces outside of them test their relationship as well as their friendship in an organic way.

Plot
The plot picks up where Return to You left off, furthering the conflict between Karen and TJ, between Karen and Jordan, and between TJ and Stevie. Although the conflict between TJ and Stevie is the highly-charged sexual kind. Karen hates that Jordan is forcing her to keep things from his father, her coach. Jordan hates that Karen is pressuring him. Karen hates TJ for pushing her, even though it seems to have worked. And Stevie and TJ have some serious underlying chemistry, making his meaningless hookups somehow seem even more trivial.

I don’t know if this is the last installment in the series or not, but a lot of things are left hanging. I will be waiting less than patiently for whatever is next in this wonderful series.

Characters
Getting inside TJ’s head for the first time was a little unnerving, but the more time I spent there, the more I liked it. The more I’ve come to like him. I’ve always found him fascinating and loved the fact that the author added him. But now that I get to spend more time with him, hear his thoughts, I like him even more. I can’t wait to see what happens with him next.

Karen and Jordan remain true to themselves as they wrestle with things outside their control. There is some character development on both of their parts this time around which was nice to see.

Top Five Things I Love About  Return to Us
1. TJ and Stevie. Still love these two tough-talking characters. Love them even more when they are sparring with each other. It’s just fun to watch.

2. TJ and the Stranger. I knew who the stranger was after about the second directive he uttered, but reading TJ process it gave me more insight into him than almost anything else.

3. Karen’s Awakening Sexuality. Man, she is so uncomfortable with her own body sometimes. It’s both cringingly awkward and innocently delightful to watch. There were several laugh-out-loud moments involving this.

4. Karen’s Plea to Jordan. Without giving anything away, when Karen confronts Jordan about his health, it’s a raw emotional scene that packs a punch.

5. The Three-Word Challenge. It’s funny and cute and so Jaren.

Bottom Line
Return to Us is a fresh addition to this fantastic series, allowing the characters to grow, and introducing us to TJ’s thoughts.

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About the Book
Title:
 Return to Us
Series: Letters to Nowhere #4
Author: Julie Cross
Publisher: Long Walk Press
Release Date: June 16, 2014
Pages: 100
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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

Book Review – The Again Series by Theresa Paolo

Again Series Blog Tour

I was lucky enough to be able to read and review both of these wonderful new adult contemporary romance novels by author Theresa Paolo. What I love about the series is that both of these books are so different from one another. I look forward to see what else this author has in store for us.

(Never) Again (Again Series #1) by Theresa Paolo

(Never) Again (Again Series #1) by Theresa Paolo

Synopsis
Just when she had finally moved on… …He moved back.

When college freshman Liz Wagner hears her ex’s voice for the first time since he moved clear across the freaking country, she does what any respectable girl would do: Dive into the girls’ bathroom.

Zach Roberts—the Zach Roberts—is back. And he’s everywhere Liz looks—infiltrating her friend group, buddy-buddy with her brother. It’s enough to ruin college altogether. But what choice does she have but to put on a happy face and pretend he didn’t leave her vulnerable and alone in a pile of emotional wreckage?

Pretending works, until tragedy strikes and the only person available for comfort is the one person she wants to stay away from. When Zach turns out not to be the jerk she convinced herself he was, but the boy she used to love, Liz needs to decide whether to open her heart again to the boy who tore it out.

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My Review
(Never) Again is a sweet romance that has some intense, serious moments. When Liz runs into ex-boyfriend, Zach, on her college campus, she panics. After all, he’s the boy who broke her heart. Her first love, the boy who left town and stopped calling. She’s understandably pissed and wants nothing to do with him, except he keeps showing up everywhere. He doesn’t seem to care that she has a boyfriend. A boyfriend she loves. Except her love for Joe is vanilla compared to the double-dutch chocolate goodness that was her love for Zach. Was being the key word. She’s over him, right?

Yeah, not so much. Zach is always there for her when she needs him, annoyingly so. It’s clear these two belong together, but Liz isn’t sure she’s willing to take a chance on Zach again. She isn’t sure she can survive another Zach-induced heartache, and she really, really loves Joe. She thinks.

Plot
I love romances about lost loves and second chances, and (Never) Again has all of the ingredients of a really good one.  Liz was devastated by Zach’s leaving and she doesn’t understand why he just suddenly stopped calling her. Zach tries to pretend nothing is wrong, but Liz isn’t afraid to let him have it every chance she gets. Liz knows she never really got over Zach, but she’s sure he’s over her. Why else did he abandon her? It’s obvious to everyone but Liz that Zach still has it bad for her. I knew these two would end up together, I just wasn’t sure how it was going to happen. I definitely enjoyed the story and it’s a fast read.

World Building
Set on the campus of a small college, I felt the world-building was solid. The characters acted and spoke like college students and the settings were authentic.

Characters
All of the characters were very likeable, even Joe. There was minimal growth by Liz and at times, I thought she was being stubborn for the stake of stubbornness, but overall, all the characters were well developed for the roles they played.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About  (Never) Again
1. Liz’s love of baking. It’s definitely something I can relate to.

2. The bromance between Zach and Liz’s older brother, Josh.

3. The party from hell. It was pretty much every bad party I’ve ever had, rolled into one.

4. The tragic event that brings Zach and Liz together. I won’t spoil anything, but it was really well done and I never saw it coming.

5. Tanya. She could easily have been portrayed as the stereotypical bitchy girl, but I love that she was much more well-rounded.

Bottom Line
(Never) Again is a sweet romance about lost love and second chances.

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

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Never Again Teaser

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Title: (Never) Again
Series: Again #1
Author: Theresa Paolo
Publisher: Berkley Penguin Group
Release Date: October 15, 2013
Pages: 211
Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Never Again Teaser 2

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(Once) Again (Again Series #2) by Theresa Paolo

(Once) Again (Again Series #2) by Theresa Paolo

Synopsis
Josh will have to reconcile his past… In order to make Kat his future.

After surviving a real-life nightmare, Josh Wagner is sent home from his dream college on crutches. Bedridden and tormented by flashbacks, he’s just seen his world shattered and his baseball scholarship go up in smoke. Josh’s family hires a health aide to help take care of him, but when he opens the door, the last person he expects to see is his biggest regret…

Katherine Singleton is the only girl Josh has ever loved. Now, even though she’s only taking care of him because it’s her job, Josh is determined to win her back. But Kat had to move on after their breakup two years ago, and despite her feelings for Josh, a lot has happened since he left…

When Kat’s past comes back to haunt her, Josh decides it’s his turn to take care of her. But protecting her—and redeeming himself—will put Josh in the line of fire again. Will he survive this time?

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My Review *** Warning *** Spoilers for (Never) Again. Do not proceed if you haven’t read (Never) Again ***
(Once) Again picks up where (Never) Again left off. This time, we follow Liz’s older brother, Josh, as he recovers from a gunshot wound to the thigh. He’s lucky to be alive and knows it, but he’s haunted by what he witnessed when a deranged gunman killed six of his classmates and wounded seventeen, including Josh. His baseball scholarship hanging in the balance being the least of his concerns.

He returns home to recuperate and a home nurse is hired to help out. He’s shocked to discover the nurse is Kat, a girl from his past, the only girl he’s ever loved. In some ways, the themes parallel (Never) Again with Josh being the one that moved on, leaving the girl behind. But there are differences, too. He told Kat to ask him to stay, but she didn’t. He tried to move on, but couldn’t. She’s not willing to let him back in, even though that’s all he wants.

Plot
This story is a lot darker than it’s predecessor. Josh is dealing with PTSD big time and author Theresa Paolo does an amazing job of making the reader feel it. We get deep inside Josh’s head and relive the horror of that day over and over again. Kat is dealing with her own issues. Part of the reason she let him go was because her mother was sick, and she was wrapped up in her own family drama. But it’s more than that, she harbors dark secrets of her own that haunt her dreams. These two have a lot to overcome if they’re going to have another chance. It all builds to a pretty intense climax that is very well done.

World Building
The PTSD was incredibly well done. The author did an amazing job of getting me inside Josh’s head and making me feel his panic, anxiety, and overwhelming intensity.

Characters
Aside from Josh being too emotionally feel-y, the characters are solid. Kat comes across as completely believable in her role, and Josh’s parents are spot on as concerned parents. I love the scene where his mom tells him to “keep it in his pants.” Such a great mother-son bonding moment and I laughed out loud.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About  (Once) Again
1. The delicate, but emotionally real way that PTSD is dealt with.

2. The continued bromance between Josh and Liz’s boyfriend, Zach.

3. How much Josh loves Kat from early on, the way he pursues her, and is there for her.

4. Watching Kat come alive and stand up for herself at the frat party.

5. The scene with Mia’s mom. So heartbreaking and beautiful.

Bottom Line
(Once) Again is intense, well-written, and touches on a difficult subject with grace and honesty.

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

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Once Again Teaser2

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Title: (Once) Again
Series: Again #2
Author: Theresa Paolo
Publisher: Berkley Penguin Group
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Pages: 217
Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Author Theresa Paolo

Author Theresa Paolo

About the Author
Theresa Paolo lives in the same town she grew up in on Long Island, NY with her long time boyfriend and their fish. Her debut novel (NEVER) AGAIN, a NA romance, released in Fall 2013 with Berkley (Penguin). (ONCE) AGAIN release in the summer 2014.

She is also the coauthor of the Amazon bestseller KING SIZED BEDS AND HAPPY TRAILS and BEACH SIDE BEDS AND SANDY PATHS, a YA contemporary series, under her pen name Tessa Marie.

She has a hard time accepting the fact she’s thirty, and uses her characters to relive the best and worst years of her life. She put her love of writing on hold while she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Dowling College. When she’s not writing, she’s behind a camera, reading, or online.

Where to find Theresa Paolo
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | TwitterPinterest

Exclusive Interview + Giveaway – Randi Cooley Wilson, Author of Redemption (Revelation Series)

Redemption Blog Tour

Welcome to the next stop on the Redemption blog tour. Today, I have an exclusive interview with the one and only Randi Cooley Wilson.

Exclusive Interview with Author Randi Cooley Wilson

AIW:  In writing the series, do you have all five books outlined (in your head at least if not on paper)? Or do you just have a general idea of where the series is going but don’t have a definitive idea of each book until you sit down to write it?

RCW: When I began to write this series, back in 2008, I wrote all the first and last chapters to each book. I knew what the series plotline was going to be, but not each book. When I picked my writing back up in 2013, that is when I plotted out the storyline of each book. Since I was extremely inspired by John Milton’s Paradise Lost, I use a quote from the poem at the beginning of each novel as the reader’s clue as to what to expect out of that particular book’s storyline. I do outlined the books before I sit down to write them, but for some reason the characters end up defining the story and taking over so it’s usually all for not.

AIW:  What is your favorite scene in Redemption you can share without spoiling anything?

RCW: I have a few favorite scenes in Redemption. There is this great dialogue scene between Abby and Callan over ice cream which had me in stitches as I wrote. I adore the scene when Asher returns, it was very emotional for me to write and I think fans will love it .My favorite scene though, is Gage and Eve in The Land of the Leprechauns.That’s all I can say (laughs).

AIW:  I love how you weave the themes of redemption through the book. Do you usually have the book name first, knowing the themes, or does the theme unfold as you write and at some point mid-book, do you say, “Aha! The name of this book shall be __________.”?

RCW: Thank you, and yes, all the titles were decided on way before I wrote the books. Basically, I knew what each ‘theme’ would be and titled the book appropriately, while weaving the meaning throughout each storyline.

AIW:  So you’ve got some steamy scenes in your novels and Redemption raises the stakes again. Does your husband read your books? And if so, do you blush a little when he gets to the good parts?

RCW: (Laughs and Blushes). Yes, I suppose my books are steamy. They are after all, new adult (smirks). There is nothing I hate more as a reader than getting all worked up and teased without a payoff. So, I don’t do that to readers, I like the steam. My husband does read my books and is impressed with my, ah, imagination (laughs). I do blush when my mother-in-law reads them though (winks).

AIW:  How do you come up with all the pithy sayings on Callan’s aprons? They’re hysterical. And do you have an Etsy store where you sell them? Cause if not, you really need to.

RCW: Callan’s aprons are so much fun. His shirts too. They just kinda come to me on off moments. For instance, the ones for Redemption, happened when my husband and I were tailgating at a Jimmy Buffet concert with friends. We might have had a few margaritas as well. I don’t have an Etsy store, but we are setting up a Zazzle store that should be ready early 2015 which will host a lot of products containing his sayings.

AIW:  You paint such a vivid world in your books, they come alive almost as much as the characters. Where do you find your inspiration?

RCW: Thank you, world building is my favorite thing to write. Inspiration comes from all over the place. I have a six year old, so we do a lot of imaginative play.  I try to use things in the worlds that I know she loves such as fairies, horses, butterflies, etc. Actually, in Redemption The Land of Leprechauns was created because my daughter spent two straight months eating Lucky Charms. The only thing was, she would only eat the marshmallows so I would find just the cereal constantly. I got so mad, I wrote that chapter out of frustration.

AIW:  Again, without spoiling anything, what is one thing you hope readers take away from Redemption?

RCW: I hope that readers will fall in love with the characters all over again in Redemption. This book really focuses on the why’s of their behavior and character attributes. As with all my books, I just want readers to enjoy that few hours it takes them to read and get swept away in new worlds. Far away from reality, because I feel like these days, we could all use a break.

AIW:  When can we get our hands on book 4 because you really left us hanging, woman!

RCW: My editor was so mad at the end of Redemption she threatened to send me hate mail (Laughs). Revolution, book 4 releases in Spring 2015, followed by the the last installment Restoration in Summer of 2015.

Thanks so much for having me today, it’s bad a lot of fun.

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Redemption (Revelation #3) by Randi Cooley Wilson

Redemption (Revelation #3) by Randi Cooley Wilson

About the Book
Title:
 Redemption
Series: Revelation #3
Author: Randi Cooley Wilson
Release Date: December 15, 2014
Genre: New Adult Paranormal Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Synopsis
A LOVE RETURNS.

A LOYALTY IS BROKEN.

AND WAR BEGINS.

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 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.

Readers captivated by Revelation and Restraint will become enthralled with Redemption.

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Author Randi Cooley Wilson

Author Randi Cooley Wilson

About the Author
Randi was born and raised in Massachusetts where she attended Bridgewater State University and graduated with a degree in Communication Studies. After graduation she moved to California where she lived happily bathed in sunshine and warm weather for fifteen years.

Randi and her husband recently moved back to Massachusetts with their daughter where she was encouraged to begin writing again.

Revelation is her first novel and The Revelations Series is her first New Adult Paranormal Romance book series.

“I’ve had a love affair with books, writing and storytelling since childhood. It has been a dream of mine to introduce this world and these characters to you. I hope I’ve done them justice.”

Randi loves to hear from readers, you can reach out to her via Twitter: R_CooleyWilson and/or Facebook: authorrandicooleywilson

Where to Find Randi Cooley Wilson
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
$25 GC to B&N or Amazon (winners choice) and a digital copy (Nook or Kindle, winners choice) of: Revelation, Restraint and Redemption by Randi Cooley Wilson

a Rafflecopter giveaway

YA Book Review + Giveaway – Reason and Romance (River Valley Series) by Jenn Young

Reason and Romance Blog Tour

Reason and Romance (River Valley Series) by Jenn Young

Reason and Romance (River Valley Series) by Jenn Young

Synopsis
Being stuck in the godforsaken desert is Adrian Blake’s worst nightmare come true.

Senior year is all about making fun memories. It’s not about starting over at a new school and navigating a new Brady Bunch family.

It’s really not about living with a sexy, arrogant would-be stepbrother who knows how to push her buttons.

Alex Montgomery is the very definition of a player.

The only thing he commits to is a one night stand.

He’s exactly the kind of guy she hates. When she sleeps with him, it’s the biggest mistake of her life.

Now she can’t stop thinking about him. Not at school. Not at home.

Sometimes the best mistakes are the ones that you make over and over again…

mine.

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My Review
This book far exceeded my expectations. The cover did nothing for me and when I began reading and discovered it’s written in third-person, I was worried I’d feel too distanced from the protagonist to really get absorbed in the story. That didn’t happen. In fact, the point of view disappeared into the background as I became engrossed in Adrian’s world.

Adrian’s widowed father falls in love and proposes to a woman Adrian and her sisters have never met. And if that isn’t bad enough, he uproots them from the only home they’ve ever known and carts them off to Arizona, where it’s hot and dry and nothing at all like what they’re used to. Adrian meets her soon to be stepmother and her three sons, realizing her life is about to look a lot like a very modern-day Brady Bunch with her and her uber-hot stepbrother-in-waiting playing the roles of Marcia and Greg.

Adrian has a boyfriend back home, so she ignores Alex’s overt attempts to befriend her. It becomes clear he’s the “it” guy at her new school, but she doesn’t want to play his games. She decides to go it alone, only to find out to snub Alex is to be snubbed by everyone else. Her only friends are the school stoner and the gossip queen. When Adrian’s boyfriend dumps her, she ends up in Alex’s bed and the two of them race to see who can shut it down the fastest. Except neither one seems to be able to quit the other. The power struggle that ensues between these two is like a bad car accident. You want to look away, but you just can’t.

Plot
I found the story riveting even though the plot sort of rambled. Author Jenn Young does such a great job of creating spellbinding conflict that the plot almost takes a backseat. The story is primarily about Adrian’s goal to fit in at her new school, but it evolves into her wanting to best Alex, and then get Alex, and then best him again. And because of that, I never really knew what was going to happen next. Anything was possible.

World Building
The setting is a typical high school in blistering Arizona and it’s well done. Jenn Young seems to have captured the heart and soul of the modern teen world really well.

Characters
I didn’t like most of the characters. Adrian is self-absorbed, arrogant, and just plain mean at times. Alex is cocky, self-assured, and a complete douche. And yet both are incredibly well-crafted, deep, three-dimensional characters. Adrian’s sisters and Alex’s brothers also have issues that make them difficult to sympathize with, but they are absolutely fascinating. About the only characters I found likeable enough to hang out with were twins Justin and Bri and Adrian’s newfound stoner friend, Travis. Travis a bit stereotypical, but in his role as Adrian’s foil, it works.

Top Five Things I Love About  Reason and Romance
1. Travis. He’s just fun and he keeps Adrian honest.

2. The dialogue. It’s fresh, witty, and sharp-tongued.

3. The conflict. There’s a lot of it and it’s just so good!

4. The ending. I’m dying to read the next book, but the ending totally rocked.

5. The characters. Okay, so I don’t love them love them, but I love how complex and riveting they are. They come alive on the page in vivid color.

Bottom Line
Reason and Romance is a compelling debut novel that opens the door to what should be a fantastic young adult series.

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

About the Book
Title: Reason and Romance
Series: River Valley
Author: Jenn Young
Pages: 192
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo Books

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About the Author
Jenn Young writes primarily Young Adult and New Adult. She used to write contemporary teen drama and romance under the pen name Myrika at Fictionpress. She also used to write under the pen name Moreta. Jenn is an unabashed lover of romance, soap operas, and paranormal/supernatural stories.

When Jenn’s not working at her day job, she drinks too much coffee and buys too many books. She loves to hear from readers. Contact her via her website, jennyoung.com, or follow her on Twitter at myrikami. She can be found on Facebook too.

Where to Find Jen Young
Goodreads Website | Twitter | Facebook

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review – Redemption (Revelation Series) by Randi Cooley Wilson

Redemption Blog Tour

Redemption (Revelation #3) by Randi Cooley Wilson

Redemption (Revelation #3) by Randi Cooley Wilson

Synopsis
A LOVE RETURNS.

A LOYALTY IS BROKEN.

AND WAR BEGINS.

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 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.

Readers captivated by Revelation and Restraint will become enthralled with Redemption.

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My Review
This is my favorite book in the series. So much happens that I almost couldn’t catch my breath. Almost. The author skillfully ensures that I could in fact catch my breath. But just barely, before she sent me careening off again.

Eve is adjusting to life without Asher, but not very well. Things go from bad to worse when she finds out who is now in charge of protecting her.  She’s thrust from one crazy adventure to the next with danger around every corner.

There are some bittersweet moments, including her reunion with Asher, but because this is the Revelation series, it’s only the calm before the storm. I love where Eve and Asher are relationship-wise in Redemption. And I love the themes woven throughout. The stakes are higher than ever this time around and Eve learns a devastating secret that changes everything.

Plot
As always, Randi Cooley Wilson plots like a fiend. So much happens, but I never lost sight of the story. The main plot is strong and the subplots wind through like tiny vines, enhancing the main plot rather than detracting from it.

World Building
This is where Redemption really shines. Everything from the world of Gargoyles to heaven and hell and everything in between (leprechauns anyone?) is richly detailed and thoroughly developed.

Characters
The characters are the same ones we know and love, with no new major characters introduced. I see some growth in a few characters, less in others. I’d like to see Eve do a little more growing up in the next book. In fact, I believe that’s exactly where she’s headed based on how things end.

Top Five Things I Love About  Redemption
1. Eve and Asher’s relationship. I love where it’s going.

2. Callan’s aprons. I mean, come on, they’re awesome!

3. The growing tension between Asher and Keegan. This has potential to building into a wicked conflict.

4. The Leprechauns. They’re not what you think.

5. The big revelation. No, I won’t give it away, but I kick myself for not seeing it coming.

Bottom Line
I love Redemption, with all of its twists and turns, passion, danger, and yes, even the cliffhanger ending.

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

About the Book
Title:
 Redemption
Series: Revelation #3
Author: Randi Cooley Wilson
Pages: 246
Release Date: December 15, 2014
Genre: New Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

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Author Randi Cooley Wilson

Author Randi Cooley Wilson

About the Author
Randi was born and raised in Massachusetts where she attended Bridgewater State University and graduated with a degree in Communication Studies. After graduation she moved to California where she lived happily bathed in sunshine and warm weather for fifteen years.

Randi and her husband recently moved back to Massachusetts with their daughter where she was encouraged to begin writing again.

Revelation is her first novel and The Revelations Series is her first New Adult Paranormal Romance book series.

“I’ve had a love affair with books, writing and storytelling since childhood. It has been a dream of mine to introduce this world and these characters to you. I hope I’ve done them justice.”

Randi loves to hear from readers, you can reach out to her via Twitter: R_CooleyWilson and/or Facebook: authorrandicooleywilson

Where to Find Randi Cooley Wilson
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
$25 GC to B&N or Amazon (winners choice) and a digital copy (Nook or Kindle, winners choice) of: Revelation, Restraint and Redemption by Randi Cooley Wilson

a Rafflecopter giveaway

YA Book Review – Life in the No-Dating Zone by Patricia B. Tighe

Life in the No-Dating Zone by Patricia B. Tighe

Life in the No-Dating Zone by Patricia B. Tighe

Life in the No-Dating Zone by Patricia B. Tighe

Synopsis
After surviving her parents’ relationship drama when her older sister elopes, Claire Gardner vows not to date during high school. Now, three years later, Claire is thrust into new relationship drama–her two best friends have boyfriends. Which means Claire is spending more and more time alone. And she’s more than a little peeved.

Enter Gray Langley. His year-long crush on Claire’s friend Lindsey has made him desperate enough to ask Claire for help. Hesitant at first, Claire agrees–anything to get rid of Lindsey’s current evil boyfriend. But as Claire and Gray plot together, an attraction develops, and now she must decide if being with Gray is worth the pain that will come from confronting her parents with the reasons for her vow.

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My Review
My Life in the No-Dating Zone is absolutely adorable. Claire is fun, quirky, bold, and terrified of dating boys while in high school. I’ll admit I never really bought into her vow not to date. I didn’t understand it, not even at the end when she tried to explain it better, but I accepted that she felt strongly about her conviction. When her two best friends, Lindsey and Rose, break the vow they made to always make girl time a higher priority than boys, Claire is understandably hurt. So when Gray (Grayson, which I love since I have a son named is Grayson), who crushes on Lindsey big time, approaches Claire for help with her best friend, she sees it as a way to break up Lindsey and her current boyfriend du jour.

Gray is sweet, unsure of himself, especially where Lindsey is concerned, and determined to be her next boyfriend. He elicits the help of Lindsey’s best friend, Claire, hoping to worm his way into their group so he can pick up the pieces when Lindsey’s latest relationship falls apart. She has a reputation of burning through boyfriends, so he knows he just needs to bide his time.

Things go from complicated to horribly dysfunctional when Claire falls for Gray and Gray falls for Claire, with Claire’s vow and Gray’s supposed crush on Lindsey getting in the way. The story is a fun, refreshing twist on young adult romance. Watching these two fall for each other is a delightful treat. There is no swearing and no sex, making it perfect for teens of all ages.

Plot
Gray wants Lindsey, Claire hates Lindsey’s current boyfriend, and feels betrayed by both Lindsey and Rose who seem to spend more time with their boyfriends than her. Claire comes up with all kinds of hysterical schemes for pushing Gray and Lindsey together. It’s not particularly deep or poignant, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun. There isn’t a lot of subplotting, but the main plot is so endearing, its okay that there isn’t a lot more going on.

Characters
Claire is the kind of girl everyone should have as a friend. Even though she messes up on nearly a daily basis in the friendship department, her heart is in the right place, and when she apologizes, she does it right. Gray is the boy every mother secretly wants their daughter to date. He’s cute, loyal, kind, and loves kids. The story is told through these two points of view and both characters are pretty well rounded. Neither has any major flaw they need to overcome. Claire has her whole vow thing and needs to come to terms with what that means in light of her feelings for Gray, but its enough to drive conflict and keep the story moving.

Top Five Things I Love About  Life in the No-Dating Zone
1. The fact that Claire wears glasses. She never changes to contacts to be more attractive. In fact, her appearance isn’t even important to her, and I love that about her.

2. Gray’s self-doubts. They make him infinitely human. I love that he’s not another cocky athlete that needs to be tamed. He’s just a sweet boy who realizes that he’s crazy about the girl who isn’t the girl he always thought he wanted.

3. The Grand Gesture. Because it’s just such an entertaining concept.

4. Lindsey’s big brother, because everyone should have an older sibling that goes that extra mile to look after his kid sister and her friends.

5. Claire’s parents. They are flawed, but try to do the right thing, with sometimes unintended consequences.

Bottom Line
Life in the No-Dating Zone is a light-hearted romance and one of the sweetest young adult novels I’ve read this year. I highly recommend it.

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

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Title: Life in the No-Dating Zone
Author: Patricia B. Tighe
Release Date: December 2, 2014
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Pages: 243
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon

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Author Patricia B. Tighe

Author Patricia B. Tighe

About the Author
The mother of two grown sons, Patricia B. Tighe lives in El Paso, Texas, with her husband and two dogs.

Her love of the written word caused her to get a journalism degree from Texas A&M University in 1980 and an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in 2008.

When not writing or reading, she can be found walking the dogs or yelling at the TV during an NFL game. She’s also a fan of British TV shows. Top Gear, anyone?

Where to find Patricia B. Tighe
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr

Today is Read Tuesday!

Read Tuesday

Read Tuesday is like Black Friday for book lovers. You can find all of the Kindle Countdown Deals here.

Don’t have an eReader or looking for a physical book to give as a gift? You can check out the book sales here. Many books are available both in print and eBook, and many of those will allow you to purchase a hard copy and get the Kindle version at a discounted rate or even free.

Looking for a great gift for your teen reader? You can pick up a paperback of The Union for $12.84 and you get the Kindle version for yourself for free.

Get all the information on Read Tuesday at readtuesday.com.

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

Apollyon (Covenant #4) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Apollyon (Covenant #4) 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…

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My Review
So far, this is my favorite book in the series. It’s full of action, danger, romance, unconditional love, duty, responsibility, and conflicting emotions. Oh yeah, and lots of Greek Gods. With Alex having awakened as the Apollyon, she and Seth now have a duty to perform, but Seth and Lucien have different goals from the others. We finally learn who on the dark side is helping Seth and Lucien, and why Seth trusts Lucien so emphatically, even when the rest of us can see he’s no good.

I’ve always been a fan of Seth. Even when he seemed something other than ideal. But then I was always able to see in the good in Snape, too. So I’ll be thrilled if I’ve been right about Seth all along. And if my feelings about Ward from Agents of Shield can be proven accurate, I’ll be in a happy, happy place.

Plot
There’s less of a plot in Apollyon than in previous books in the series, because there is a lot more character development. Alex finally, finally begins to grow up and take responsibility for her actions. The relationship between Alex and Aiden intensifies in a positive way. He clearly loves her and that alone makes her more endearing. Because let’s face it, Aiden is perfect.

There are a few action scenes, but it’s more suspense that drives the story. You know something really ugly is about to happen, you just don’t know when or where. The big action scene at the climax is INTENSE, but really well done. And the ending is sweet, but perfectly sets up the last book in the series.

World Building
I love Armentrout’s world building. The way she weaves in Greek mythology with current day life is seamless and just unpredictable enough to keep us on our toes.

Characters
Characters is what JLA does best. She does a good job of creating such diverse personalities and keeping them true to themselves. Apollyon is no exception. As I mentioned above, Alex finally grows up a bit, Aiden is beautifully perfect, and we finally get a better understanding of Seth. One that only makes me root for him more. And without giving anything away, we get to “visit” with Caleb. Because as everyone knows, death is not the same in the world of Greek mythology as it is in reality.

Top Five Things I Love About  Apollyon
1. Alex and Aiden. Seriously, they are just so darn cute together.

2. Seth. Yes, I adore Seth. I know he’s got some sort of God-crazed power trip going on, but I suspect he will redeem himself.

3. The Big Action. Yes, that scene is tough to read, but man it’s just so good.

4. Character Development. I love Alex’s growth. It’s long overdue, but I it’s worth the wait. I think Alex had to go through everything she has in order to get to the point where she was ready to grow up.

5. Caleb. I missed him. I love that we get a glimpse into his afterlife.

Bottom Line
Apollyon is my favorite book in the Covenant series so far. Plenty of action, drama, and steamy Alex/Aiden time.

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Title: Apollyon
Series: Covenant Series #4
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Pages: 363
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

YA Book Review – Twilight (Twilight Series) by Stephenie Meyer

Twilight (Twilight Series) by Stephenie Meyer

Twilight (Twilight Series) by Stephenie Meyer

Synopsis
About three things I was absolutely positive:

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

When Bella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret.

What Bella doesn’t realize is the closer she gets to him, the more she is putting herself and those around her at risk. And it might be too late to turn back…

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My Review
I read Twilight a few years ago and just now getting around to reviewing it. There was a lot of hype surrounding this book and I approached it with cautious optimism. I’d heard all the negativity as well as the over-the-top swoon-worthiness of it, but wanted to read it with an open mind. I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t nearly as bad as all the bashers would have me believe, but I don’t think it came even close to hitting the romantic mark. I never really felt the chemistry between Bella and Edward. These two couldn’t be less perfect for each other. But where Twilight really shines is in the world building and in the action and suspense.

Plot
Clearly the main plot is the forbidden romance. Edward is attracted to Bella’s “special” blood in a way he’s never been before. But he’s sworn to protect humans, not kill them, so he attempts to stay far away from Bella. Bella has never seen a more beautiful boy (or bigger asshole if you ask me) and can’t help falling for him. She ultimately figures out his secret and the two begin a romance that is devoid of any heat, and not just because Edward is a cold-hearted undead vampire. There is zero passion between these two. But the other vampires hellbent on drinking the elixir that is Bella’s blood provide a page-turning subplot that far surpasses the romance, making this a compelling read.

World Building
The world building is one of the strongest aspects of Twilight. Stephenie Meyer has created a world of vampires with its own rules that sets it apart from others I’ve read in the genre. Her vampires don’t die in sunlight, the sparkle, hence their need to live in places like Forks that are perpetually overcast. Her depiction of the small Washington town has more charm than any of the characters who inhabit her story. I can totally picture the town, feel the cool air, almost smell the fresh pine.

Characters
While I didn’t connect with any of the characters, I can’t deny that they are well-developed. Bella might be annoying, but she’s multi-dimensional. I have less of a sense of who Edward is, but I believe that is intentional. He’s supposed to be an enigma. Bella’s relationship with her father develops through the story from awkward to something less than awkward which is believable for a teen daughter who’s lived with her mother before suddenly moving in with her small-town sheriff dad.

Top Five Things I Love About  Twilight
1. The World Building. Stephenie Meyer has her own view of vampires and it’s radically different from the world of Dracula. It’s a fun twist.

2. The Setting. Forks, Washington comes alive between the pages in vivid fashion.

3. The Adventure. The story of the vampires out for Bella’s blood and the events that follow are what kept me turning the pages.

4. Character Development. While I’m not necessarily a fan of the characters, I can appreciate that a lot of work went into developing them.

5. The Baseball Scene. Because it’s just plain fun.

Bottom Line
Twilight is actually pretty good. No, it’s not a good romance, but if you aren’t reading it for romance, it’s not a bad story.

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About the Book
Title:
 Twilight
Series: Twilight #1
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Release Date: September 6, 2006
Pages: 544
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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

Return to You (Letter to Nowhere #3) by Julie Cross

Return to You (Letter to Nowhere #3) 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 YOU (Letters to Nowhere Volume 3)

How many dreams can you chase at once?

Even with bad boy, TJ, disrupting their morning workouts, Karen and Stevie’s daily battles with each other are sure to bring both of them closer to a national title at next month’s championships. It’s the kind of feud that creates winning results.

Until a fall from the uneven bars shakes Karen’s rock-solid confidence. Not only does she balk every time she so much as attempts a routine, she’s also facing all this without much support from Jordan. After receiving some bad news, Jordan’s reluctance to listen to reason causes Karen so much frustration she begins to avoid him, needing space to deal with her own issues. He needs someone to force him to make the right choice, he needs his dad to intervene and Karen knows this, but is torn between her loyalty to Jordan and her concern for her coach’s son. Even though both paths lead to the same person—Jordan—it feels like she’s choosing between two different people.

And then there’s the growing tension between TJ and Stevie. They’re obviously on the verge of either ripping each other’s heads off or ripping each other’s clothes off. It’s hard for either Jordan or Karen to tell where those two are headed. Tension is building from every possible outlet and there’s bound to be an explosion of some kind in the very near future.

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My Review
Return to You is like a return to the Karen and Jordan we got to know in Letters to Nowhere. This installment reminds us what we love about the series — Jordan and Karen, Karen and gymnastics, and Jordan and his shaky relationship with his dad. As things begin to heat up between Jordan and Karen, things implode with Karen and the uneven bars after a particularly cutting remark by TJ. When Jordan doesn’t step up to help Karen, TJ takes it upon himself to get her back on track. There’s a lot more conflict in this than in volume 2, which ups the stakes from all angles. I can’t wait to see what happens in Return to Us.

Plot
The main plot through this volume seems to be Karen’s gymnastics performance and the struggles she faces. But her relationship with Jordan is a serious subplot if not a parallel plot. Now that they’re together again, they take their relationship to the next level, which intensifies things. At least until Jordan get some bad news and doesn’t react well to it, driving a wedge between them. There is also something going on with TJ that I’m not still clear about. The boy harbors deep, dark secrets and I have a feeling there’s a lot there.

World Building
While gymnastics is still the focal point of the world building, the summer camp is vividly woven in, with campers, cabins, and camp activities that makes the story come alive in an exciting new way.

Characters
Watching Karen struggle with gymnastics again after recent successes feels so authentic. It doesn’t matter which sport you participate in, no matter how well you did in the past, there’s always a concern about the next event, the next performance, the next race, so the fact she’s doubting herself again is not at all surprising and rather refreshing. Watching Jordan deal with his issues and pushing Karen away is totally within his character and it gives us a chance to watch both of them continue to grow and develop as characters. We also get a little bit more insight into TJ and Stevie which is fun. Those two are intriguing.

Top Five Things I Love About  Return to Sender
1. Karen’s Loyalty – To both her boyfriend and her coach. Her sense of loyalty is one of the things I’ve always loved about her.

2. Jordan’s Fear – Without going into details, Jordan’s fear, although somewhat irrational, is just another dimension that makes him come across as so real.

3. The Jaren Conflict – I’m not big on conflict for conflict’s sake, but the tension between these two is a key plot point and really well done.

4. The Little Campers – They provide a few moments of some much needed comic relief.

5. The TJ/Stevie Dynamic – I can’t wait to see where this is going.

Bottom Line
Return to You picks up the pace from where Return to Sender left off, raising the stakes and increasing the tension. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

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About the Book
Title:
 Return to You
Series: Letters to Nowhere #3
Author: Julie Cross
Publisher: Long Walk Press
Release Date: December 10, 2013
Pages: 61
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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