Synopsis In a world fueled by greed and corruption, where airships rule the skies and coal mines have been turned into prisons, Scarlett Moon has one goal: Survive. Being tough and looking out for herself is the only way to stay alive, but when her best friend, Rory, is arrested and returned to the mines, all of Scarlett’s carefully built walls threaten to crumble.
After being rescued by an airship full of pirates, led by the sexy and irresistible Asher Kimura, Scarlett finds herself surrounded by cons and fugitives, and thrust into the middle of a coal-smuggling business. When they take her to Columbus, the one place she never wanted to set foot in again, she wants nothing more than to get away. And her discomfort only grows as she becomes increasingly drawn to Asher.
But everything changes when she discovers there may be a way to rescue Rory. Enlisting the pirates’ help, Scarlett sets out on a mission to save her friend, praying that her overwhelming attraction to Asher doesn’t mean the end to her freedom—in more ways than one.
My Review One of my favorite books of 2016. This is one of those that will stick with me weeks or months after I’m done. It took me about a third of the book to warm up to Scarlett, but once I did, I loved her immensely. I was worried at first that in order to create a strong female character, the author felt she needed to make her heroine more like a male character. Scarlett is always wanting to hit someone or something. She’s aggressive, uses sex as a diversion, and has a hard time expressing any emotion other than anger. But as we learn more about her backstory, her personality begins to make sense. I still think strong female characters don’t need to be written as guys with skirts, but in this case it works.
When Scarlett’s best friend, Rory, is taken to the mines, Scarlett gives up any hope of ever seeing her again. She and her friends barely escape capture themselves, only being rescued at the last moment by a group of ragtag pirates, including extremely hot Asher. When Asher explains what happens to pretty, innocent girls in the mines — they’re auctioned off as sex slaves to the highest bidder — Scarlett enlists the help of her friends to rescue Rory. This is the main plot and it unfolds at a rapid pace as they seek information on Rory’s whereabouts and come up with a rescue plan. Underlying it all is a simmering sexual tension between Scarlett and Asher. The back and forth is worthy of an eye roll or two, but the rest of the story more than makes up for it.
Plot The plot is fantastic. Set on rescuing her best friend, Scarlett embarks on a dangerous mission, risking everything for the only person she considers family. The pacing is perfect, unfolding at a clipped rate,without overpowering us with action. There’s enough romance to keep the story from being just an action/adventure and more than adequate character development to make this a well-balanced novel.
Characters Scarlett is fascinating. As I mentioned above, it took me awhile to warm up to her, but once I did, I was committed. She’s deeply wounded and yet realizes others have had it far worse than she has. That self-awareness is what keeps her from becoming too jaded or wallowing in a pit of self pity that would doom her character in my mind. Asher is the hot, witty pirate with the disarming smile and a past of his own that shapes everything he does. The rest of the characters have their own stories in this dystopian world that Kate L. Mary has created.
World Building This is where the story really shines in my eyes. The attention to detail in the author’s vision of a future where technology is taboo and coal-fired steam power is where it’s at. This steampunk world is dark, yet vividly rich, full of airships and pirates and victorian-era costumes that come alive as much as any of the characters that inhabit it.
What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The editing. The book could have benefitted from tighter editing. There were more than a few missing/extra words than were easily overlooked. There was also some repetition that was distracting that should have been picked up by a good editor.
2. The cover. There’s nothing really wrong with it except there is nothing really right about it. This is a totally kick-ass steampunk dystopian sci-fi adventure and the cover, along with the title, made me think it was going to be a paranormal romance. I wouldn’t have bothered picking up this book if I’d only seen the cover. Luckily I read the blurb first!
3. The ending. This is the only reason I’m giving the book 4.5 stars instead of 5. I can overlook a crappy cover, because that can be fixed. So can lackluster editing, but the ending is the last thing I have, the thing that sticks with me long after I turn off my Kindle. It feels unfinished, as if this is the first in a series, but there’s no indication it’s only book 1 of anything. I do hope the author decides to write more about these characters and this world. She’s done an incredible job creating everything and there is so much potential for more of Scarlett’s story.
What I Enjoyed About Moonchild 1. The setting. The author has created this fabulous, futuristic, steampunk world that is vivid and imaginative. Her attention to detail is phenomenal, and yet the world building is subtly worked into the plot.
2. Scarlett. She’s tough as nails with a heart of gold. Although it took a little bit for me to warm to her, she is everything I want my young adult heroine to be.
3. The plot. It’s near perfect in it’s development and execution. Only information necessary to move the story forward is provided and is done so in the proper sequence.
4. Asher. The complex pirate with the winning smile won me over at first sight. I’m a sucker for pirates with a heart, think Hook from Once Upon a Time. Asher is all that and a bag of chips!
5. Loyalty. This is the enduring theme of the story, whether it’s Scarlett’s loyalty to Rory, Dex’s loyalty to Scarlett and Rory, or Asher’s loyalty to everyone he cares about, this works so well in an otherwise dark tale.
Bottom Line Moonchild is a wonderfully plotted action adventure with deeply developed characters. I will definitely be reading more by this author!
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: Moonchild Author: Kate L. Mary Release Date: June 21, 2016 Pages: 295 Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/SciFi/Steampunk Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon
Author Kate L. Mary
About the Author Award-winning author of WHEN WE WERE HUMAN and the Amazon best-selling BROKEN WORLD series, Kate L. Mary writes everything from post-apocalyptic tales of the undead to new adult contemporary romance. A mother of four and an Air Force wife, her days are divided between keeping her household in order and creating new worlds for readers to get lost in.
Swoon Romance and author, Jennifer DiGiovanni, are unveiling the cover to My Junior Year of Loathing, the second book in her young adult contemporary romance series, School Dayz, releasing on October 25, 2016. See below for the cover, information on the book and series, and a pre-order link. You can read my five-star review of book 1, My Senior Year of Awesome, here.
My Junior Year of Loathing (School Dayz #2) by Jennifer DiGiovanni
About the Book Title: My Junior Year of Loathing Series: School Dayz #2 Author: Jennifer DiGiovanni Publisher: Swoon Romance Release Date: October 25, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Synopsis Junior year is supposed to be tough. Exams, term papers, homework, college tours, and participation in extra-curricular activities can all add up to non-stop stress. But Melinda Banner has goals to achieve and dreams to make real. This year, she’ll be unstoppable. But even over achievers need a break.
While walking in the woods to take a break from the stress of it all, Melinda meets a boy named Connor. After a few more run-ins, the two settle into an uneasy friendship, if you can even call it that.
But Connor’s closed and mysterious. Whenever Melinda asks too many questions, he suddenly has to go or is no longer interested in talking. When they’re together, she’s torn between wanting him to open up and running away as fast as she can. Still she can’t seem to shake her budding interest in him.
Connor has his own way of looking at the world, and his views often conflict with Melinda’s practical nature. Can you like someone and loathe them at the same time? Is he even worth the emotional tug on her heartstrings or distraction from all things Junior year?
And, as if she needs another project right now, Melinda starts to obsess over the abandoned estate she passes on the way to school each day. Between Connor and the old estate, Melinda’s beginning to think she’s taking on too much.
But Melinda’s smart. She finds a way to indulge her interest in the estate and fulfill her obligations. She will uncover the truth behind the aging edifice for an epic article in the school newspaper.
But when her investigation reveals a connection between Connor and a tragedy long-since forgotten, Melinda has a choice: put off her junior year achievements to save a local landmark and a boy who constantly pushes her away or put them both out of her mind for good and focus on making the grade.
My Senior Year of Awesome by Jennifer DiGiovanni
About Book 1 Title: My Senior Year of Awesome Series: School Dayz #1 Author: Jennifer DiGiovanni Publisher: Swoon Romance Release Date: March 1, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Synopsis A girl desperately tries to avoid the boy she was voted most likely to marry by her senior classmates. To prove senior superlative votes are meaningless, she and her best friend create their own list of awesome high school achievements to be completed by graduation.
It’s the final semester of senior year, and everyone at Harmony High can’t wait to find out the results of the Senior Superlative votes! But the balloon bursts in Sadie’s face when she discovers she’s been voted “Most Likely to Get Married” to Andy – a boy she’s never dated or ever thought of as a potential boyfriend. Completely and utter mortification sets in.
To prove high school means something more than a Senior Superlative award, Sadie and her best friend Jana decide to create their own list of awesome non-academic achievements to be completed before graduation.
Yet, the harder Sadie works to show everyone she’s not the least bit attracted to Andy, the more appealing he becomes. Typical for the girl who can’t seem to achieve anything important, even the completion of one lousy college application.
When senioritis kicks in and the school year dwindles down to mere weeks, Sadie decides to risk her good girl reputation to prove that an Awesome Achievement means much more than any Senior Superlative vote. By the time Sadie realizes her epic screw-up, she just might have lost her chance at the prom date of her dreams.
Author Jennifer DiGiovanni
About the Author Jennifer DiGiovanni is the author of the School Dayz Series. When she’s not writing or reading, she likes to try new sports and activities from archery to ballroom dancing, with varying degrees of success.
Annie McFarland is sick of being a shy nobody. A session at summer camp seems like the perfect opportunity to reinvent herself—gain some confidence, kiss a boy, be whoever she wants to be. A few days in, she’s already set her sights on über-hottie Kyle. Too bad her fear of water keeps her away from the lake, where Kyle is always hanging out.
Jacob Fazio is at Camp Pine Ridge after one too many screw-ups. Junior counseling seems like punishment enough, but the rigid no-fraternizing-with-campers rules harsh his chill. When a night of Truth or Dare gets him roped into teaching Annie how to swim, she begs him to also teach her how to snag Kyle.
Late-night swim sessions turn into late-night kissing sessions…but there’s more on the line than just their hearts. If they get caught, Jake’s headed straight to juvie, but Annie’s more than ready to dare him to reveal the truth.
Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains references to drinking, sexual situations, adult language, and an intense bad boy hero who will melt your heart..
My Review This book was absolutely adorable! Annie goes to summer camp in hopes of reinventing herself. Jake agrees to work at his uncle’s summer camp in hopes of staying out of juvie. When this good girl and bad boy meet, sparks fly, and their romance is beyond cute. Annie is a shy, awkward teen who wants to be something else before starting her junior year of high school. She talks her parents in allowing her to go to summer camp for a chance to experience something new and come back as someone different. Jake has been in and out of trouble since his mother died and his father sends him to his uncle’s camp to help straighten him out, making a deal with the judge. Jake is given one rule he cannot break — do not get involved with any of the campers. So of course this forbidden love is meant to blossom.
The story is a sweet romance between an awkwardly shy girl trying to break free and a bad boy looking for redemption, and yet it transcends this cliche. Most likely due to the depth of the characters created by author, Monica Murphy. As with everything she writes, her characters are intriguing with realistic backstories that shape who they are in believable ways. Neither are overly damaged, just teens with a history, struggling to find the coping skills they need.
Annie and Jake dance around an obvious attraction, although Annie initially has eyes only for the hottest guy in camp, Kyle, a guy who’s already made the rounds with all the other camp regulars and sees Annie as fresh meat. After a game of Truth or Dare gone bad, Annie lands in the lake and Jake jumps in to save her as we discover Annie can’t swim. She blackmails Jake into teaching her and they end up spending half-naked time together, alone.
Their first kiss is sweet and romantic, all the things a first kiss should be, but confuses Annie who still believes she’s interested in Kyle. Or maybe not. It’s a time of self-reflection for Annie and frustration for Jake.
Told from dual first-person points of view, we get inside the heads of both Annie and Jake and learn a lot about them. Annie has a secret from her past that haunts her, and rather than make her timid, it merely makes her cautious, so she’s not your typical shy wallflower. Jake is more stereotypical as the bad boy with the tortured soul, but he’s still got more to him than a lot of characters I’ve read in this trope. I liked them both immediately and rooted for them all the way.
What I Enjoyed About Daring the Bad Boy 1. Summer Camp. This was a fun blast from the past. Maybe not the most original setting, but it worked here and I loved it.
2. Swimming. While I didn’t have the same emotional reasons as Annie, I connected with her fear of swimming. I came close to sucking in a lungful of pool water when I was a kid and after that, I avoided water deeper enough to cover my head. Her feelings rang true to me and I love that she dares Jake to teach her to swim. Their moments at the pool provide some of the steamier moments.
3. The friendships. Annie makes good friends at camp and while there was the opportunity for a full-blown mean girl evolution, the author never went down that route. Althought it would have resulted in some awesome angst, the endearing friendships more than made up for it.
4. The romance. I loved Annie and Jake’s story. The attraction was obvious from the beginning, but it wasn’t a love at first sight story and that made it all the more authentic.
5. The ending. Both the end of the story and the epilogue wrapped up this story beautifully, leaving me satisfied.
Bottom Line Daring the Bad Boy is a sweet teen romance between a shy girl and a bad boy that defies stereotypes.
About the Book Title: Daring the Bad Boy Author: Monica Murphy Publisher: Entangled Crush Release Date: August 22, 2016 Pages: 230 Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Author Monica Murphy
About the Author Monica Murphy is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is a traditionally published author with Bantam/Random House and HarperCollins/Avon, as well as an independently published author. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance. She is also USA Today bestselling romance author Karen Erickson.
She is a wife and a mother of three who lives with her family in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere, along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through many angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA..
Welcome to the book blitz for The Reader, a young adult paranormal romance, by M.K. Harkins. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive interview with the author, and details on her giveaway.
The Reader by M.K. Harkins
About the Book Title: The Reader Author: M.K. Harkins Release Date: August 17, 2016 Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo
Synopsis Hunted, shot, and without her memory, eighteen-year-old Ann Baker wakes in shallow water on a deserted Pacific Northwest island. She is soon approached by two young men claiming to be her friends. Something isn’t right, but when gunshots sound, Ann is left with little choice but to allow Devon and Archer to help her escape. Soon she finds herself in their North Bend mountain compound, where the higher evolved humans claim to be mind-readers. While Ann heals, she realizes they believe her to be one of the last and most powerful of all – The Lost One.
She’s welcomed by most with opened arms, but not everyone is happy about her arrival. A jealous adversary has plans for Ann, which spirals the entire Reader community into chaos.
As lies, murder, and betrayal threaten to rip apart the once harmonious mountain dwellers, Ann is thrust into making a decision that could save or devastate not only The Readers, but all of mankind. But there’s just one glitch: by doing so it may require her to make the ultimate sacrifice.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I know the exact date – February 3rd, 2013. I ran out of reading material on my Kindle. I stared at the wall, for what seemed like hours. It was then that I had a light bulb moment. I thought “Well, if I can’t find anything to read, I’ll just write something!” The “something” became my first novel, Intentional.
Do you have a routine that you use to get into the right frame of mind to write? Yes and no. I need uninterrupted time (I’m not one of those authors who can write for an hour per day) Give me four hours, and I’m good to go. I do my best writing in the parking lot waiting for my daughter to finish her basketball practice.
Where did you get the idea or inspiration for The Reader? I have absolutely no idea! When I sat down to write it, the words, plot, dialogue literally flew from my fingers to the keyboard.
What books have most influenced your life? The first book I remember reading was Exodus. I was in the 7th grade and I couldn’t put it down. Although I can’t remember all the details, I’m sure it has made me more compassionate.
The next book would have to be Slammed by Colleen Hoover. I know these two books are polar opposites, but nonetheless they both left their mark. With Slammed, I was introduced to a simple, yet complex love story. It brought out all my dormant feelings of first love. My heart raced, my palms became sweaty – all of those feelings came back in a rush. If it were not for Colleen Hoover, and her wonderful writing, I would not have written my first book. That’s a pretty big influence!
What do you like to do when you are not writing? When I’m not writing, I like to think about writing. When my fingers are not on my keyboard, my brain is batting around dialogue. I think it’s called “Voices in my Head” but for writers, it means creativity, not craziness (I think – lol)
Any future writing news you would like to share? Yes! I am currently working on Famous by Default (another YA book). Also, if I get enough requests, I’ll continue with The Reader Series ☺ (So email me!)
Author M.K. Harkins
About the Author MK has always been a voracious reader. After hitting a dry spell of reading material, she decided to write the kind of book she’d like to read. This resulted in the creation of her debut novel, Intentional. (Award for Best Sweet Romance – eFestival of Words- August 2014)
Unintentional, her second book, is based on the life of one of the characters in Intentional. Unintentional was written as a stand-alone book.
Breaking Braydon and Taking Tiffany have both been released. Available on Amazon.
The Reader is MK’s latest project, due out 2016.
When she’s not writing novels, she likes to spend her free time traveling the world, splashing in mud puddles (She lives in Seattle, what can she say?), watching movies and reading (!)
MK also runs her own business in her current hometown of Mercer Island, Washington.
Synopsis When your enemy dies under strange circumstances? Don’t stop looking over your shoulder.
When secrets of a past scandal are plopped into your lap? Solve a mystery.
And when you’re a member of the National ski team? Don’t get distracted.
Roxie’s senior year at Stark Springs Academy is not what she envisioned. She never intended to be privy to Stark’s biggest secrets, but she’s thrown right into the middle of it, whether she wants to carry that burden or not. As Ryker Black’s girlfriend, nothing is simple or straightforward. A ski racer first and foremost, Roxie can’t let the ghosts of Stark Springs Academy distract her from the race course. Will she be able to pull it off?
My Review Ali Dean wraps up Roxie’s story, tying up all loose ends in a satisfying conclusion, but it still lacks that angsty romance angle that she is so famous for. With Roxie and Ryker on solid ground, there wasn’t much in the way of romance. No, “will they or won’t they,” so instead we’re given a nice little mystery that only becomes more mysterious as the story unfolds. There’s a lot more skiing this time around, which makes me happy.
TRoxie and Ryker are busy trying to solve a mystery surrounding the death of a major character at the end of book 2, and someone is placing Ryker’s mother’s journals in Roxie’s possession for unknown reasons, although she begins to wonder if all of the crazy behavior is somehow linked. In addition, she has some big career choices to make as graduation looms and her skiing is only getting better.. A lot of information introduced in the first two books finally plays out to conclusion. Ali Dean does a great job with plotting her books, dangling information that seems unimportant at first glance, but never is.
Because Ryker and Roxie’s relationship is pretty well wrapped up in the first two books, this one focuses little on that aspect, but they do finally seal the deal in a romantic scene that is only the beginning to many more that take place off-page.
Both Ryker and Roxie experienced serious character growth, as do several secondary characters. The one thing that really bothered me throughout the book was the way Roxie spoke for both Ryker and herself when it came to thoughts and feelings, as if she was inside his head as well as her own.
What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Lack of angst. Yeah, it’s my favorite teen romantic trope, and one of the things I usually love best about Ali Dean’s books, but was completely missing this time around. 2. The Roxie/Ryker dynamic. Throughout the book, Roxie talks about “we” when it comes to feeling confused or wondering something, as if she and Ryker are a single entity. Because she knew what he was thinking all the time, there wouldn’t have been any angst anyway.
What I Enjoyed About Black Ice 1. The skiing. So excited for this aspect of the series to be front and center in the final book. Ali Dean delivers scene after scene that are intense and realistic.
2. The mystery. There are actually several mysterious elements threaded throughout the book and all were well done with a couple of real surprises.
3. The ending. A thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the series.
4. Ryker and Roxie. They are super cute and sweet and I’m thrilled to see them get their HEA.
5. Redemption. A couple of characters we’d come to love to hate have their own transformation, turning them into people I could actually like.
Bottom Line Double Ice is a satisfying conclusion of the Stark Springs Academy series, although it lacks some of that famous Ali Dean angst I’ve come to love.
About the Book Title: Black Ice Series: Stark Springs Academy #3 Author: Ali Dean Release Date: August 31, 2016 Pages: 185 Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Sports Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon
Author Ali Dean
About the Author Ali Dean lives in Colorado with her husband, twin babies, and golden retriever. In addition to reading and writing, she loves the outdoors- everything from marathon training and biking to snowboarding and skiing.