Synopsis Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations.
Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of the dome. Now Nat wants answers. Is there life outside the dome and if so, what has the Order been hiding from everyone?
My Review I love the concept of this book — young adult dystopian meets The Walking Dead with a twist of Stephen King’s Under the Dome and a dash of Wall-E — and it delivers. After a virus turns people into flesh-eating monsters, the earth’s population builds protective domes and nukes the outside to kill the zombies and the virus. They live inside their protective bubbles until the outside is safe enough to inhabit again. Four generations later, a new breed of pioneers search the great outdoors for evidence of sustainability outside the dome. When Natalia is just nine, her parents are killed on an expedition due to radiation exposure and the expeditions cease. Orphaned Nat is sent to live with her grandparents until she is eighteen.
After graduating from the Institute, Nat needs to figure out what to do with her life, but she’s uninspired until she sees two people outside the dome — alive and well. Suddenly Nat wants answers and her reckless pursuit of those answers lands her in trouble with her dome’s leadership, her grandparents, and even her best friend, Jak, who has also been harboring romantic feelings for Nat for a long time. When Nat is forced to work with Evan, one of the Outsiders she saw, she discovers the dome is hiding a lot from its citizens. Evan and Nat work together to expose the secrets and seek the freedom the both so desperately want.
The plot was interesting. There was definitely a lot of intrigue over what the Dome government was hiding. The pacing was perfect. Never once did I feel as if anything stalled, although there was some repetitiveness, but it was easy to overlook. I didn’t much care for the love triangle, though. Nat was too back and forth with her feelings. And I don’t mean over the span of days or weeks, I mean in the span of minutes. One minute she’s pushing a guy away, the next minute she’s mad that he’s ignoring her. Once or twice would have been just flakey teenage behavior, but it happened too many times and far too often to not roll my eyes.
Characters Most of the characters were interesting and developed, but this is a plot-driven story so there isn’t a lot of growth in any of the characters during the story with the exception of maybe Jak. Some of the more villainous characters were cliche, but I think that works in a story like this. Sometimes you just need your bad guys to be bad, and their sad backstory isn’t necessary.
What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Nat’s waffling on her feelings. It was too much too often.
2. Lack of character growth. Even though the story was plot-driven, I would have liked a little more growth to really suck me into the story.
3. The writing. It was a little clunky at times which pulled me out of the story. It may just have been my version, since it was an ARC and those sentences might be smoothed over and refined in the final, released version.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About There Once Were Stars 1. The world building. The author did a fantastic job of creating a believable dystopian future, with enough backstory without going overboard.
2. Evan. The moody/brooding Outsider was just the right amount of light and dark to carry one third of the romance.
3. The ending. There were a few really good twists and all loose ends were wrapped up nicely.
4. The pacing. The story pacing was superbly done.
5. The characters. Sometimes authors include too many characters or they’re not utilized enough, but McFarlane created only those necessary to tell the story, and incorporated them throughout, so we never forget who they were or why they were in the story.
Bottom Line There Once Were Stars is a great plot-driven young adult dystopian with a nice balance of action and romance.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author Whether it’s uncovering the corruption of the future, or traveling to other worlds to save the universe, Melanie McFarlane jumps in with both hands on her keyboard. Though she can be found obsessing over zombies and orcs from time to time, Melanie has focused her powers on her upcoming YA trilogy: THERE ONCE WERE STARS and her YA urban fantasy series: SUMMONER RISING..
Synopsis The survivor of a high school sabotage that made her flee her hometown at sixteen, Hayden Tate is no stranger to bullying. Now she has returned to Lake Tahoe to take on her dream job with a degree and a backbone. But her newfound strength is pushed to the limit as she fights to hold her own against the old boys club of Blue Casino.
Adam Cade is the prince of Lake Tahoe, born into one of the wealthiest families in the area. He’s used to doing what he wants when he wants. So when his powerful father threatens to cut him off without a dime unless he uses his Ivy League degree for a job his father got him at Blue Casino, Adam capitulates.
Hayden, the head of HR, hates Adam on the spot, finding every way possible to put him in his place—and suddenly the lackey job his father found him gets interesting. Adam’s life of leisure lacks substance, and even though he’s not willing to give it up, he wouldn’t mind the distraction Hayden presents. But when the casino’s sinister inner workings begin to reveal themselves and Adam is caught between the powerful executives he works for and the lovely Hayden, his loyalties are divided.
Blue Casino offers Adam a lucrative career where he wouldn’t need his father’s money for the lifestyle he’s accustomed to, but at what cost? Hayden’s silly side shines through when Adam least expects it, charming his jaded heart, and forcing him to face a morality he never knew he had. For the first time in Adam’s life he finds himself yearning for something real, but will he risk losing everything to have it?.
My Review I’m a huge fan of Jules and her Blue Series, but for whatever reason, New Blue didn’t click with me like the rest of the series. Not that I didn’t like it, because I did, I just didn’t love it. After finishing and decompressing for a few days, I think my issues have to do with the characters themselves. They’re not the same dynamic, intense characters I’ve come to know and love in the Blue series. And it wasn’t that they weren’t interesting and dynamic, it’s that I didn’t feel like they were that way TOGETHER. God, I hate myself for saying that (Jules don’t hate me, too), but for me, something, some spark, was missing with these two that I felt immediately with Cali and Jaeg, Mira and Tyler (especially), and Gen and Lewis. Even Nessa and Zach in their novella had that instant spark. Okay, now that I’ve gone on and on about what I don’t like, let me tell you all the things I loved about it.
The plot was outstanding. The push and pull of the romance was well done (even without the chemistry), and the mystery of the Bliss suites was incredibly fun to watch unfold. Just when I thought the whole thing couldn’t get any more repugnant, it did, making Blue’s CEO among the worst villains since maybe President Snow himself.
Characters Once again, the characters all have fascinating backstories that make them well rounded and intriguing. I love that we got to spend so much time with the crew from Lake Tahoe again, since this is the last in that series. I’m still hoping for cameos in the next series. Everyone from Hayden and Adam to Adam’s smarmy co-workers and their stupid blue rings added tension and intrigue to the story.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About New Blue 1. Hayden’s house. It sounds exactly like the kind of place I’d like to live.
2. Shoe closets. Who doesn’t secretly (or not so secretly) want one?
3. Lake Tahoe. The setting remains one of my favorite places in California and it was nice to visit in warm weather for a change.
4. Karma. What goes around comes around!
5. The ending. Perfect. Blue fans will know what I’m talking about 🙂
Bottom Line New Blue is a new adult romance that has many of Blue’s recurring cast, along with a couple of newbies who shake things up at the office and at home.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author Before turning to storytelling, Jules earned a master’s degree in public health 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.
Every book requires research, some more than others. Part of the fun of setting The Union Series in the future was the ability to make up my story world according to my own rules. This is true of science fiction, fantasy and a number of other genres. Authors get to define the political structure and the rule of law. While this can reduce the amount of research required over historical fiction or a contemporary thriller, it doesn’t eliminate the need altogether.
Even though The Union Series is set in a fictional future, I still wanted as much authenticity as possible, meaning I needed to do my homework. Not only did I need to investigate current technology, but where this technology is likely heading, and how much the collapse of the world’s largest economy might impact its advancement.
Those were the safe searches I conducted, the ones unlikely to raise any red flags if the NSA is monitoring my internet usage. But The Uprising is about a counter-revolution, war, hand-to-hand combat, shootings, blowing stuff up. In order to make sure my plot remained plausible, I had to Google where someone could get their hands on black-market weapons, how to set explosives, and a few other things I won’t mention to avoid spoiling anything, but you get the idea.
My editor posted the above image on my Facebook page, saying we both needed a coffee mug or T-shirt with this printed on it. I know why I need it, but wasn’t sure why she did, until she explained that she always does her own research to make sure what I’ve written is accurate.
I had no idea she went to such lengths. It’s one thing to put your own future freedom on the line for the sake of craft, but it’s above and beyond the call of duty to take that risk for a client, even if said client is also family. At least if they come for me, I’ll have someone I know to hang out with. Plus, we both know a few cool new skills thanks to some scary internet searches.
I’ve never considered myself to be particularly strong. I’m average. Average height, average intelligence, averagely overweight, average hair color, I’m even the average age most women are when they are diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m the very definition of average. But being average doesn’t prepare you for the fight of a lifetime. Suddenly, just muddling through isn’t good enough any more. Millions of average women around the globe learn this message the instant their doctor gives them the devastating news.
Someone asked me one time if I asked myself, “Why me?” My honest answer was, “No.” Because why not me? I’m average. Average women get diagnosed with breast cancer every single day. Getting diagnosed is average, but fighting it is anything but average. Battling cancer is hard — it’s not for the weak. Average men and women don capes and become Above Average Man/Woman. Because the average cancer patient has a family, friends, a job, bills, and responsibilities along with a bed we can’t seem to get out of for days on end if chemo is involved. The list of side-effects from the drugs we’re on is longer than the list of drugs themselves (which really is something impressive in and of itself).
Cancer robs us of the big things everyone sees, like our hair, healthy skin, a little extra body fat, nice nails, eyelashes, and eyebrows. But it takes so many more things that are less visible. It takes our ambition, our appetite, our energy, our ability to think clearly, it monkeys with our potassium levels, white blood counts, blood calcium levels, and platelets. It makes our food taste like tin, so even if we wanted to eat something, it all has a metallic tang like an old rusty can of rainwater found on the side of the road.
I’ve met so many amazing people in my treatments. All fighting different forms of this heinous disease. The one thing I’ve noticed about all of us, regardless of age, gender, quantity of hair, or length of our journey, is that cancer has not robbed us of our will to fight. Even when someone is hanging on for the drug trial that might only buy them time, they want that last chance and hold onto hope that it will allow them to live long enough to make it to the next trial which might just be the cure.
No matter how much strength we find within ourselves or our fellow fighters, we need those who matter the most to us. Our friends and families who are there for us, stroking our hair, sending a hot meal, offering to pick up our kids, dropping a card in the mail to ensure we know they’re thinking about us, making us laugh with YouTube videos, these are the real moments that keep us going. And those behind them are the real superheroes. .
Life in the Lucky Zone (The Zone #2) by Patricia B. Tighe
Synopsis Seventeen-year-old Lindsey Taylor has been living a charmed life—always the lead in school plays, possessor of a healthy entourage and a hot boyfriend. But halfway through her junior year, the unthinkable happens. Her boyfriend dumps her. She screws up her audition for the spring play. And to top it all off, her theater teacher wants her to run lines with Trey Berger, a gamer guy who irritates her practically every time he opens his mouth. Lindsey needs to find some better luck and quick.
Trey Berger can barely tolerate Lindsey Taylor. It’s bad enough that their best friends are dating and he has to see Lindsey at group hangouts. Now they have to rehearse together. Berger would rather do just about anything else, even chill with his grandmother, whose dementia has forced her to move in with his family.
But as the semester continues, Berger discovers there’s more to Lindsey than the drama queen persona she puts on for everyone else’s benefit. And the person behind the mask might be someone he cares about. A lot. So what exactly is he going to do about it?
And while Lindsey desperately tries to change her luck and heal from the breakup, she slowly realizes Berger has become her best friend. This video-game-playing boy makes her laugh. And holds her when she cries. Could he possibly become something more?
My Review I was a big fan of Tighe’s Life in the No Dating Zone, so I was anxious to get my hands on the second book in the series. This story picks up the with Gray and Claire’s best friends, Trey Berger and Lindsay Taylor. While I found Lindsay somewhat self-centered and annoying in the first book, she really grew on me this time around. Most young adult contemporary romances are told either from the nerdy girl point of view or the nerdy boy, but this dual POV story gets us inside the head of the popular girl who befriends a gamer from drama club. He’s not king of dorkdom, but he’s not a jock either, so basically, he’s not Lindsay’s type. However, a slow friendship develops and they both realize they have more in common than just a general annoyance of their other drama club members and a teacher with more pencils than hair.
When Lindsay’s charmed life becomes something less than, she blames it on losing her lucky boy, Adam, and sets her sights on regaining her luck. First she stocks up on lucky charms, then on replacing the lucky boy in her life. But Lindsay will need to learn that luck isn’t something you acquire if she wants to be lucky in love.
Characters Patricia B. Tighe has a knack for creating authentic teen characters, with all their drama and overthinking things, and Berger and Lindsay are no exception. Lindsay can’t get outside of her own head long enough to figure out everything she’s doing wrong, and Berger is having trouble with the realization that Lindsay doesn’t annoy him anywhere nearly as much as she used to, and he might actually….like her. These two are just the right amount of messed up without being damaged. They’re normal teens dealing with normal issues that so many kids their age can relate to.
What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The early pacing. I thought it took a while to build, but that’s really my only complaint and it’s a minor one.
Top Five Things I Loved About Life in the Lucky Zone 1. Berger. He’s fun, funny, and rarely remembers to engage his filter. He’s exactly the kind of boy I would have loved hanging around with as a teen.
2. Claire and Gray. I love that we still got to spend so much time with this adorable couple.
3. Lindsay. She grew on me, and she probably had a lot of growing to do. But it was nice to have a protagonist who is the most popular girl in school for a change and not have her be mean.
4. Smoldering. The way Berger’s and Lindsay’s feelings grow for one another can only be described as a slow burn.
5. The ending. I love how the story was wrapped up in a very unpredictable manner.
Bottom Line Life in the Lucky Zone is a story of antagonists to friends to more with an extra twist. The flirting between the main characters comes across as natural and drives some of the best lines.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: Life in the Lucky Zone Series: The Zone #2 Author: Patricia B. Tighe Publisher: Swoon Romance Pages: 245 Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Author Patricia B. Tighe
About the Author The mother of two grown sons, Patricia B. Tighe lives in West 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. Downton Abbey, anyone? .
Synopsis Previously published as Lovely Vicious, this fully revised and updated edition is full of romance, intrigue, and laugh-out-loud moments.
Don’t love your enemy. Declare war on him.
Seventeen-year-old Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, nine weeks, and five days, and after what happened last time, she intends to keep it that way. Since then she’s lost eighty-five pounds, gotten four streaks of purple in her hair, and moved to Buttcrack-of-Nowhere, Ohio, to help her mom escape a bad relationship.
All the girls in her new school want one thing—Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Hot as an Armani ad, smart enough to get into Yale, and colder than the Arctic, Jack Hunter’s never gone out with anyone. Sure, people have seen him downtown with beautiful women, but he’s never given high school girls the time of day. Until Isis punches him in the face.
Jack’s met his match. Suddenly everything is a game.
The goal: Make the other beg for mercy. The game board: East Summit High. The reward: Something neither of them expected.
My Review This young adult romance was anything but lighthearted, flirty fun, but it’s one heck of a story. What makes this work is fully-developed, deep, flawed characters with rich backstories, even as repugnant as they might be. Isis Blake has recently relocated to East Summit High to escape her past and a vicious bully who scarred her in more ways than one. Jack Hunter is an enigma, although Isis is pretty sure she has his pretty-boy self all figured out in the first five minutes. Jack seems to enjoy putting people down and making girls cry, particularly Wren, the only girl who’s even been even a little nice to Isis at East Summit High.
Wren is deeply in love with Jack and has been for most of her life. Jack is a total tool and Isis declares war on him until he apologizes to Wren for his behavior. What ensues is a snarky, witty, back-and-forth with more than a few laugh-out-loud moments as Jack and Isis give their battle their all. Both have deep, dark secrets, and how they come to light provide some of the best moments in the book.
Characters It’s all about the characters. All of them. Jack and Isis are so completely three-dimensional, it’d be okay if some of the supporting cast wasn’t so in-depth, but they all are, and that brings a different level of investment to the story. Because the characters come across as living, breathing human beings, it’s really hard not to root for them at the same time you’d like to bitch slap them for a) being total douchebags, b) doing something idiotic, again, and c) cutting to the bone just because they can.
What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The principal. Even after his motivations were revealed, he still came across as a cardboard Scooby-Doo villain who would have gotten away with it if not for those meddling kids.
2. The ending. And I’m not talking about the cliffhanger. The implausibility of how things went down at the end ripped me out of the story and made me scratch my head until the very last page.
3. The cliffhanger. Not a huge fan unless done well. In this case, I still can’t wrap my head around it.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Love me Never 1. The dialogue. It flows, is natural, witty, and just plain fun.
2. Loyalty. I love how loyal Isis is to Wren, though she barely knows her, simply because she’s the first person to be nice to Isis.
3. Loyalty. Isis’s loyalty to her mother continues that theme in the way only a needy mother and strong daughter can, further developing Isis’s complex character.
4. Friendship. This is more a book about friendship than romance. There is definitely romance, but it buds from a blossoming friendship that neither Jack nor Isis saw coming.
5. Angst. Oh how I love angsty teens and Love Me Never overflows with them, like a bathtub with the plug in someone forgot about.
Bottom Line Love Me Never is an engaging read with deeply developed, yet flawed characters, page-turning angst, and some of the best dialogue I’ve read this year.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author Sara Wolf is a twenty-something author who adores baking, screaming at her cats, and screaming at herself while she types hilarious things.
When she was a kid, she was too busy eating dirt to write her first terrible book. Twenty years later, she picked up a keyboard and started mashing her fists on it and created the monster known as the Lovely Vicious series.
She lives in San Diego with two cats, a crippling-yet-refreshing sense of self-doubt, and not enough fruit tarts ever.
A special thank you to author, Tessa Bailey, for today’s guest post on how Romany Outcasts came about. To find out more about Tessa and her book, Thrown Down, the second book her contemporary romance series, Made in Jersey, including buy links and an exclusive excerpt, please see below.
How Thrown Down Came About
I’ve wanted to write a secret baby book for a long time, which probably will shock anyone who knows me, since I could whine about the hardships of parenting for hours. But still. The idea of a man finding out he has a child—and he has missed important milestones in that child’s life—is a sad concept, but how better to prove a hero’s strength of character than to have him bust his butt to make up for that absence? I knew Vaughn DeMatteo would be the man for the job. His life began the moment he met River and being away from her has wreaked havoc on his soul. When he finds out he left River a single mother, working two jobs to make ends meet, he sets out to win his family back—and he never wavers. I love him for that.
Excerpt Forty-nine months and three days.
That was how long it had been since he’d seen her.
Vaughn swayed to the right, his shoulder slamming up against the wall. Then he kind of just hung there, counting forward and backward from one to ten. Not helping. Not helping. His stomach pitched at the sight of River walking through the drunks, like a nurse walking among the wounded on a battlefield. She could still knock his lights out on sight. Not that he’d doubted it for a second. But God, if it were possible, she’d grown even more beautiful over the last forty-nine months. Her blond hair was tied up in a ponytail, a pencil stuck through the base, in a way he remembered well enough to make his throat go raw. In a short black skirt and fitted white T-shirt, River tried to look the part of indifferent barmaid, but didn’t pull it off.
Not by a stretch.
Eyes Vaughn knew were just a shade darker than cornflower blue flitted to each table, and her fingers tugged on the skirt’s hem self-consciously every time she approached a new one. When she fumbled with the notepad, recovering with a nervous laugh, a choked sound left Vaughn. “Riv,” he whispered.
She looked up so fast, he might as well have shouted. The sudden impact of having River’s focus on him after such an extended period of time without it released a rushing sound between his ears, blocking out the sad lounge act…and apparently someone asking if he needed a table. Because when Vaughn snapped back to reality, a man he towered over by at least a foot was in his face. Snapping his fingers.
“I wouldn’t…” Vaughn shook his head to clear it, experiencing a resurgence of anger, this time for having his attention diverted from where he needed it to be. On River.
“I wouldn’t advise snapping your fingers in my face again.”
“Why’s that, huh?”
A toss of blond hair snagged Vaughn’s gaze as his angelic ex-girlfriend zigzagged through the crowd, drawing more than just his notice. Ah no, quite the opposite. She was putting on an unwitting show for every man in the room, attracting lecherous looks by virtue of being her beautiful self, light in a dark tunnel, same way she’d always been.
Finger snapped in front of his face. Again. “This is my place and I asked you a question.”
“This is your place?” Vaughn asked. God, one hour back in Jersey and already his accent had thickened from water to oil. “You hired River Purcell to clean up tables?”
Vaughn plowed a fist into the underside of the man’s jaw, watching him fall backward onto the sticky concrete floor with detachment that slowly morphed into satisfaction. So much for calm, he thought, shaking out his right hand.
Thrown Down (Made in Jersey #2) by Tessa Bailey
About the Book
Title: Thrown Down Series: Made in Jersey #2 Author: Tessa Bailey Publisher: Entangled Brazen Release Date: April 14, 2106 Genre: Contemporary Romance Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Synopsis He has one last chance to deserve the girl of his dreams…
Overachiever River Purcell was never supposed to be a struggling single mom, working double shifts just to make ends meet. Nor was she supposed to be abandoned by her high school sweetheart, breaking her heart into a thousand jagged pieces. Now Vaughn De Matteo is back in town, his sights set onher…and River is in danger of drowning a second time.
No one believed Hook’s resident bad boy was good enough for River. Not even Vaughn himself. But he’ll fight like hell to win back the woman he never stopped loving, to keep the daughter he never expected, and convince himself he’s worth their love in the process–even if he has to rely on their fierce and undeniable sexual chemistry.
But even as River’s body arches under his hungered touch, the demons of the past lurk in the shadows. Waiting for Vaughn to repeat his mistakes one last time…
Author Tessa Bailey
About the Author Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans and laptop, driving cross-country to New York City in under four days.
Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.
She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband of eight years and four-year-old daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.