Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – NEXIS (Tricksters #1) by A.L. Devore

NEXIS (Tricksters #1) by A.L. Davroe

NEXIS (Tricksters #1) by A.L. Davroe

4 Stars

Synopsis
In the domed city of Evanescence, appearance is everything. A Natural Born amongst genetically-altered Aristocrats, all Ella ever wanted was to be like everyone else. Augmented, sparkling, and perfect. Then…the crash. Devastated by her father’s death and struggling with her new physical limitations, Ella is terrified to learn she is not just alone, but little more than a prisoner.

Her only escape is to lose herself in Nexis, the hugely popular virtual reality game her father created. In Nexis she meets Guster, a senior player who guides Ella through the strange and compelling new world she now inhabits. He offers Ella guidance, friendship…and something more. Something that allows her to forget about the “real” world, and makes her feel whole again.

But Nexis isn’t quite the game everyone thinks it is.

And it’s been waiting for Ella.

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My Review
NEXIS is a rollercoaster ride in only the best of amusement parks. A soup pot of adventure, virtual reality, science fiction, romance, in a utopian/dystopian setting, it’s a delicious read. Ella is the daughter of the creator of Nexis, a virtual reality game that is taking her world by storm. After a tragic accident leaves Ella with a life she barely recognizes, she escapes into Nexis. Inside the game, she meets Gus and his merry band of friends and gets sucked into their quest. In Nexis, nothing is as it appears, setting up a fantastic adventure full of action, drama, and intrigue.

Plot
The plot centers around the quest, but there’s more to it, including Ella’s budding romance with Gus and a number of mysteries that I won’t spoil. Some I had figured out from the beginning, others not so much. I think that’s what makes this so much fun to read. It’s part story, part game, part story within a story.

Characters
Ella is annoying at times, but given how she was raised, I could overlook most of it. Gus is an enigma who becomes less so through the story. The rest of the characters play minor roles for the most part. This is probably one of the areas that I least liked about the story. The characters seem to only be there to support the plot, so it’s a good thing the plot is so amazing.

World Building
This is where the story shines like the midday summer sun. Author, A.L. Davroe has created a fascinating world that is layered, detailed, and full of rules that drive everything. What makes this world building so interesting is that there are multiple worlds, each just as detailed as the previous. At times it can be tough to keep it all straight, but the author does most of the hard work for you.

What I Enjoyed About NEXIS
1. World building.
 Absolutely top notch. Complex, detailed, and vibrant.

2. Plot. The plot is layered and brilliant. I love the whole concept behind this and can’t wait to dig into the second book in the series.

3. Gus. He’s the one character I felt had the most development. Guster is infinitely captivating, and while I was pretty sure I figured out who he was from the beginning, his character unfolded through the pages like a flower blooming in spring.

4. Nexis. Why is this not a real thing? If it was, I’d have a hard time not going into Nexis every day.

5. Technology. The author’s imagination comes alive, creating technology that would make Steve Jobs salivate.

Bottom Line
Nexis is a plot-driven story that delivers with plenty of action and lots of twists.

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

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About the Book
Title: NEXIS
Series: Tricksters #1
Author: A.L. Davroe
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: December 1, 2015
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | Entangled

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Author A.L. Davroe

About the Author
I write both YA and adult speculative fiction. I prefer revisionist tales in paranormal, romance, Steampunk, and fantasy. I’m the author of Salvation Station (adult psych horror), The City Steam Collection (adult psych horror), For Your Heart (YA Paranormal Romance) and my YA Sci-Fi novel, Nexis, is coming out with Entangled Publishing in 2015!

By day, I live in Connecticut with my two feline hench-creatures.  I’m a terrible blusher, have a weak spot for cuddly animals, love Laffy Taffy and Cadbury MiniEggs, and I’m a huge advocate of alternative healing methods.  I also wear Vibram five-finger toe shoes and corsets…Though not always in the same ensemble.  I’m a Capricorn, a Hufflepuff, and a few nuggets short of a Happy Meal.  I also suffer from Resting Bitchface Syndrome (RBS), so even though I might look like I’ll tie you in a knot if you come near me, I’m more afraid of you than you are of me (see blushing problem above).

Where to Find A.L. Davroe
GoodreadsWebsite | NewsletterFacebookTwitter

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Giveaway
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – TRAVELER by L.E. DeLano

TRAVELER Blog Tour

TRAVELER by L.E. DeLano

TRAVELER by L.E. DeLano

4 Stars

Synopsis
A teen writer discovers that every mirror is a portal into an alternate version of her life in this romantic YA fantasy by author L.E. DeLano.

Jessa has spent her life dreaming of other worlds and writing down stories more interesting than her own, until the day her favorite character, Finn, suddenly shows up and invites her out for coffee. After the requisite nervous breakdown, Jessa learns that she and Finn are Travelers, born with the ability to slide through reflections and dreams into alternate realities. But it’s not all teacakes, pirates and fantasy lifestyles…Jessa is dying over and over again, in every reality, and Finn is determined that this time, he’s going to stop it… this Jessa is going to live.

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My Review
This was a fresh take on the urban fantasy genre. Jessa discovers she’s a Traveler, someone who can move between parallel universes. The purpose of the Traveler is to keep all the universes orderly, fixing things that can become catastrophic if left unchecked. Together with fellow Traveler, Finn, Jessa reluctantly accepts her fate until she discovers someone is trying to kill her, one universe at a time.The tale is magical with incredible world-building and complex characters. Because each character is slightly different in each universe, the author crafted a wonderfully deep cast. As Finn and Jessa race through portals, they develop a deep bond, but Jessa’s best friend, Ben, has strong feelings for her, setting up one of the most unique love triangles I’ve come across. The teen angst is palpable without being overly dramatic.

Plot
The plot centers around Finn and Jessa’s search for whoever is trying to kill her. There’s a solid mystery component to it with some exciting moments. The romance almost takes a back seat, though. I was hoping for more romance earlier in the book. It takes a good three-quarters of the story to fully develop. Even so, it is well done and I feel as conflicted as Jessa does about the two boys in her life.

Characters
While this is definitely a plot-driven story, the character development really shines. I loved seeing all the slight ripples in personality from Jessa’s viewpoint as she traveled. It’s clear the author spent a lot of time getting to know her characters.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Pacing.
 The story took too long to really get ramped up. At least for me. I had to plod through the first third waiting for it to grab me, and some sections I ended up skimming.

2. World Building. Don’t get me wrong, I love the world the author created, but I found some of the rules confusing and hard to follow.

What I Enjoyed About TRAVELER
1. Ben.
 I liked him immediately and I love how much he cares for Jessa.

2. Danny. Jessa’s brother takes different shape throughout the story as she travels to different dimensions, but her love for Danny, and seeing him the way he is in other realities and the way it affected her, was one of my favorite aspects of the story.

3. The ending. Even though it took awhile to build, once the story reached its pinnacle, it was a non-stop ride to the finish.

4. Alternate Universes. Or AUs as my teen likes to call them. This is almost as fascinating as time travel.

5. Finn. He’s such a tormented, complex hero. Strong, resilient, and so easy to love.

6. The cover. Seriously, this is absolutely gorgeous!! I’d totally frame it and hang it on my wall!

Bottom Line
TRAVELER is everything I hoped it would be, a fascinating plot with plenty of twists.

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

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About the Book
Title: TRAVELER
Author: L.E. DeLano
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Pages: 351
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author L.E. DeLano

Author L.E. DeLano

About the Author
L.E. DeLano is a YA novelist rep’d by Barry Goldblatt Literary agency, author of the upcoming “Traveler” (Swoon Reads/MacMillan 2017) and lifelong writer. Her work has been featured on various online outlets and she lives in Pennsylvania with two very adventurous kids and two very ridiculous cats. In her spare time, she writes (of course) and binge-watches way too much Netflix.

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Where to Find L.E. DeLano
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – Liberation (Moonchild) by Kate L. Mary

Liberation (Moonchild #2) by Kate L. Mary

Liberation (Moonchild #2) by Kate L. Mary

5 Stars

Synopsis
From two-time award-winning author, Kate L. Mary, comes the sequel to MOONCHILD, “a much needed breath of fresh air in the world of YA fantasy.” After surviving the auction and a near death experience at the hands of Asher’s father, Scarlett Moon is more than ready for life to settle down, and with each passing day she starts to feel more at home in Columbus. Even with Asher ready for more than Scarlett can give, she manages to fall into a routine that almost feels like a normal life.

But one distress call is all it takes to destroy the serenity the group has managed to build.

As far as anyone knew, Paget had moved on with her life after storming out months ago, but the fear in her voice when she calls the warehouse tells a different story. Even though Scarlett never liked Asher’s ex to begin with, she can’t help feeling a little bit responsible for Paget’s situation.

Searching in the seediest part of the city, the group picks up clues as they try to piece together what might have happened. The more Scarlett learns about what the other woman has been through over the last few months, the more concerned she becomes. Even worse: there’s no sign of Paget anywhere in Columbus.

With all the clues pointing in one direction, the group leaves the city and heads for Hocking Hills. Only it seems the danger may have followed them, leaving nothing but death and destruction in its wake and putting Paget in more danger than ever before. As Scarlett learns more about the woman who used to hold Asher’s heart, she suddenly finds herself unable to deny how she really feels about him. Only, with Paget in trouble, Scarlett can’t help wondering if Asher might still have feelings for his ex.

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My Review
I freaking love this series! I was delighted to find out that Moonchild was the first book in the series and bought the sequel the day it came out. Book 2 picks up a few months after the end of Moonchild. Scarlett is still convinced she’s bad for Asher and Asher is still convinced she’s wrong. Things have settled into a new normal until Asher’s ex, Paget, sends a distress call. With no idea where she is or where the call came from, the pirates set out to find her and bring her home. While there is no love-loss between Scarlett and Paget, Scarlett knows she must be part of the rescue effort. These are the moments I absolutely adore her. Her sense of duty and right and wrong is so much a part of who she is.

Plot
The plot centers around the search and rescue of Paget, but the romance is still a very strong subplot and incredibly well done! I love the angst and drama surrounding Scarlett and Asher’s relationship. There is so much action in the plot, the story moves at a clipped pace, only pausing long enough to allow us to catch our breath. Once again the story is well-plotted and expertly executed.

Characters
All the characters I fell in love with in the first book are back and a few new ones are added. Scarlett and Asher both undergo a decent amount of development, more so than before. The good news is, there’s still plenty of room for growth, so hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of these two. The author creates so much depth in her characters that there are still many unexplored depths to discover in this installment. We not only learn more about Scarlett and Asher, but Paget really comes into her own.

World Building
The world building continues to be one of the most impressive I’ve read in the past few years. Kate L. Mary’s attention to detail makes her settings come alive in very vibrant and realistic fashion.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The editing.
 Once again, both the content and copy editing disappointed me, pulling me out of the story more than a few times.

2. The cover. The cover still doesn’t grab my attention, but I’m so invested in the series now, it could be a plain brown wrapper and I’d still pick up the next book.

What I Loved About Liberation
1. The setting.
 Again the world the author has created just shines. I love everything from the settings to the costumes to the technology.

2. Scarlett. While I was slow to warm to her in the first book, I had no such issues this time around. I was already a big fan. It was great to see some true growth in her. While she’s still a teen and has plenty of angst, she’s starting to mature.

3. The plot. Another perfectly plotted and executed story!

4. Asher. If possible, I love him even more now. We get to see a new side to him, a softer, more vulnerable side and it made him more human.

5. Paget. She’s still the same romantic foil and no fan of Scarlett’s, but she has her own growth in this installment and seeing more of her, hearing more of her story, endeared her to me in a way she hadn’t before.

Bottom Line
Liberation is my favorite book of 2016 and with tighter editing, it would have been damn near perfect!

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About the Book
Title: Liberation
Series: Moonchild #2
Author: Kate L. Mary
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Pages: 280
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/SciFi/Steampunk Romance
Rating:
 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Kate L. Mary

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.

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Where to find Kate L. Mary
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Young Adult Book Review – Moonchild by Kate L. Mary

Moonchild by Kate L. Mary

4.5 Stars

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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Author Kate L. Mary

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.

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Where to find Kate L. Mary
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Book Review + Giveaway – Delta Revenge (Delta Series) by Cristin Harber

Delta Revenge Blog Tour

Revenge (Delta Series #2) by Cristin Harber

Revenge (Delta Series #2) by Cristin Harber

4.0 Stars

Synopsis
A Tortured Hero with a Heart of Gold

Growing up on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Javier Almeida has only his older sister to protect him. When she’s sold to a human-trafficker, he vows to hunt down those responsible. Years later, Titan Group’s Delta team finds him, tattooed and brawling, a vigilante protector with information they want. They take him in and train him, working him harder than a man should be driven, until he’s a soldier harboring an obsession. Ready for revenge, Javier ghosts his way across the globe, tracking the men who took his sister and working elite private security jobs.

Meets Sweet and Sassy

Jilted at the altar, Sophia Cole turns the reception into a one-woman party. She’s intent on devouring all the cake and champagne, so she can bask in the calories she’s been avoiding. In the midst of the revelry, he walks in, the one man she can never ignore. Javier is her older brother’s black ops teammate—an automatic Do Not Go There. But if there’s one thing better than fondant and a buzz to ease the wounds of a cheating fiancé, it might be a one-night stand with a South American military man.

Game Changer

Javier didn’t expect to see Sophia again. He never thought he would even want to see her again. He shouldn’t have touched her, but his mind won’t stay away from her. Now, Sophia Cole is thousands of miles away from the safety of her parents’ lavish estate and working alongside him in hell. She’s a staffer at an Embassy, and he’s there to keep them alive. There are bombs and bullets and blood-hungry enemies. And then she’s taken. Gone. Just like his sister. But so much worse.

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My Review
I’m a huge fan of Cristin Harber (I think I say this every time I review one of her books) and an enormous fan of her characters. She writes the ultimate alpha male and tough as nails female protagonists that are easy to root for. This time is no exception, with a small caveat that Sophia grated on my nerves more often than she should have. I love that she works for the State Department and puts her life on the line for a cause she believes in. It’s a cause I believe in, too, so I immediately liked her. The way she handled her failed wedding was pure perfection. But she lost me when she wanted a white knight to save her. She didn’t seem the type. It was so out of character that I had to really stop and think about the circumstances she was in that made her suddenly feel this way. She’s still tough, and I still love her, but a little bit less than I wanted to.

Plot
Overall the plot is good, but it got repetitive when Sophia was put in danger not once, not twice, but three times. I would have liked to see more plot devices than the the same damsel in distress over and over again. There is a lot going on in the story, and it’s very edge-of-your-seat stuff as you expect from Ms. Harber, so there are any number of other nail-biting scenes she could have chosen for the first two plot points and save the big rescue for the climax. However, there’s a great little plot-twist at the end that saves it all for me.

Characters
Aside from the things I complained about above for Sophia, the characters are rock-solid Titan quality. Javier is fully developed, flawed, and easy to love. Sophia is also complex and interesting, I just wanted her to be tougher. And the rest of the Delta team is exactly as I want them to be.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The three rescues of Sophia – just felt like one too many.
2. Sophia’s need for a knight in shining armour. In my opinion, it made her come across weaker than she needed to be.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Delta: Revenge
1. Team Delta. They’re as hot and tough as ever.
2. Sophia’s mission. I love that she works helping women and children around the world.
3. Javier’s obsession. Needing to avenge his sister who was a victim of human trafficking is a great motivation that drives so much conflict within him.
4. The pacing. Excellent, as always! The story moves and never slows down.
5. Sophia’s botched wedding. The way she handles it made me instantly love her.

Bottom Line
Delta: Revenge is fast paced, steamy and #TeamTitan all the way!

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: Delta: Revenge
Series: Delta #2
Author: Cristin Harber
Publisher: Mill Creek Press
Pages: 250
Category: Contemporary Romantic Suspense/Military Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & NobleiBooks | Kobo

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Author Cristin Harber

Author Cristin Harber

About the Author
Cristin Harber is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling romance author. She writes sexy, steamy romantic suspense and military romance. Readers voted her onto Amazon’s Top Picks for Debut Romance Authors in 2013, and her debut Titan series was both a #1 romantic suspense and #1 military romance bestseller.

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

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Giveaway
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – Ascendancy (The Van Winkle Project) by Karri Thompson

Ascendency Blog Tour

Welcome to the blog tour for Ascendancy, the second book in the young adult science fiction/dystopian romance series, The Van Winkle Project, by Karri Thompson. See below for my review as well as details on her giveaway, and be sure to check out my review of Mirror X, book one in the series.

Ascendancy (The Van Winkle Project #2) by Karri Thompson

Ascendancy (The Van Winkle Project #2) by Karri Thompson

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
I’ve been lied to, deceived, and manipulated—again. You’d think I’d be treated with dignity and respect. I’m the one who’s supposed to save humanity, right? I’m the one with the power to re-populate this dying world. But the clones want to control me, force me to give birth over and over again. And my daughters will face the same fate—unless I change it.

My awakening into this future should have been a chance for a new life, but it just promises a living death. With Michael on my side, though, maybe I can save us. He’s the only person I can trust.

I hear rumors of others… A secret society is growing. Tension is building.

A rebellion is imminent.

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My Review
This review includes spoilers for Mirror X. Please don’t continue if you haven’t read the first book in the series.

Ascendancy picks up right where Mirror X leaves off. Cassie and Michael are on their way to Tasmania to hopefully be reunited with their twin daughters and run The Van Winkle Project under their own terms. Almost immediately, Cassie senses something is off, and she’s not wrong. Where the first book took some time to build, Ascendancy starts off with a bang that launches Cassie and Michael on a rollercoaster ride through hell. There is a lot more action this time around, but Michael, as the love interest, still rubs me the wrong way. He’s whiney, needy, and though he’ll do whatever it takes to save Cassie, that’s his only saving grace in my view. He gets frustrated and pouts when Cassie won’t sleep with him, which is something I’d expect from a fourteen year old, not a man in his twenties.

Plot
The plot is a lot more action-packed than in Mirror X as Cassie and Michael are almost constantly fighting to stay one step ahead of their pursuers and remain alive. While it was fun, there wasn’t nearly as much character growth as last time, and far fewer plot twists,

Characters
I dislike Michael even more than before, and even Cassie started to get on my nerves, although it may have just been the fact that she likes Michael that bugged me about her. A few new characters were introduced, but I never got a deep sense of who they were. As I mentioned above, there isn’t much character development because the action overshadows nearly everything else.

Ending
The ending was more of a cliffhanger than I was expecting, and I’m definitely anxious to find out what happens next!

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The romance.
 Michael is still all wrong for Cassie. I’m really hoping she doesn’t end up with him.
2. Cassie’s attitude. She came across as far more angry this time around. Understandably so as everyone continues to lie to her, wants to use her, and attempts to manipulate her, but I found myself liking her less because of this.

What I Enjoyed about Ascendancy
1. The twists.
There were two pretty unexpected twists that were perfectly foreshadowed in retrospect.
2. A mother’s devotion. Where Cassie really shines is when she’s fighting for her daughters. Not just for their lives, but for their futures and their freedom. Sometimes I had to remind myself she’s only a teenager, though.
3. The action. There was a lot of action, which kept the story moving from start to finish.
4. Magnum. Still my favorite character in the series. He’s smart, funny, and loyal.

Bottom Line
Ascendancy moves fast, combing danger and intrigue, culminating in a cliffhanger leaving me wanting more.

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About the Book
Title: 
Ascendancy
Series: 
The Van Winkle Project #2
Author: 
Kerri Thompson
Publisher:
Entangled Teen
Release Date: 
November 30, 2015
Pages:
216
Genre: 
Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | !ndigo | Entangled Teen

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Author Karri Thompson

Author Karri Thompson

About the Author
Growing up in San Diego, California, Karri Thompson spent much of her years at the beach, reading novels, tanning, and listening to music.

At SDSU, she earned a BA in English, MA in education, and her teaching credential. As a wife, mother, and high-school English teacher, she began writing novels, giving all of the compelling plots and unique characters in her head a home.

Victorian literature rocks her socks, and when she’s not writing, jogging, going to concerts, or watching her son play football, she’s reading Dickens.

Where to find Karri Thompson
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Tumblr | Pinterest

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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project) by Karri Thompson

Ascendency Blog Tour

Welcome to the blog tour for Ascendancy, the second book in the young adult science fiction/dystopian romance series, The Van Winkle Project, by Karri Thompson. See below for my review of Mirror X, the first book in the series as well as details on her giveaway, and be sure to check back later in the week for my review of Ascendancy.

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

4 Stars

Synopsis
I was born more than a thousand years ago. Put into a cryogenic tube at age seventeen, forgotten during a holocaust that decimated the world, I’ve finally been awakened to a more serene and peaceful future.

But things at the hospital are new and strange. And it’s starting to scare me.

Everyone is young. Everyone is banded and tracked. And everyone is keeping secrets.

The cute geneticist Michael Bennett might be the only good thing in this crazy new world where “life is precious” but no one seems free to live it. The problem is, I don’t think he’s being totally honest with me, either.

When I’m told only I can save the human race from extinction, it’s clear my freeze didn’t avoid a dreadful fate. It only delayed the horror…

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My Review
Fellow young adult dystopian and San Diego author, Karri Thompson’s, novel intrigued me. The concept of a young woman frozen for more than 1,000 years, waking to a new world order is such a fascinating idea, I couldn’t wait to dig into it. The story weaves, bends, and twists through more than 350 pages of surprises, danger, and righteous indignation.

I thought it took a little long to really get going, but there are a lot of changes in the world Cassie wakes up in. Cassie, along with the reader, are slowly introduced to these changes, each new piece of information building upon the previous pieces. Just when we think we finally have a grasp of the situation, the author gives us a little more information, challenging everything we thought we knew. One of my favorite parts of the writing is the way Karri Thompson continually changes the playing field, keeping her characters and readers guessing.

Plot
The plot revolves around Cassie’s unique role in the world, and whether she’ll willingly embrace it, or succumb to it kicking and screaming. She vacillates a lot on exactly how she feels about what’s going on. Sometimes, I feel as if she’s too quick to give these people a pass and reason away their behavior. Other times, she’s the scared seventeen-year-old I expect her to be. There’s also a strong romantic plot that weaves through the story and drives many of her decisions.

Characters
I straight up didn’t care at all for Michael, the young doctor Cassie is instantly attracted to. He rubbed me the wrong way from the start and never redeemed himself in my eyes. Cassie is pretty believable as the conflicted teen in a Buck Rogers situation, but there were times I thought she didn’t seem as overwhelmed by her situation as I thought she should have been. The supporting characters are really my favorites. They’re all fascinating and easy to love or hate, depending on their role in the story.

Ending
The ending was yet another twist I never saw coming, but wrapped up the main story of Mirror X well, leaving plenty open for a sequel, without being a cliffhanger. That can be tough to do, but I feel as if the author pulled it off well.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The romance.
It felt forced from the very beginning. When Cassie wakes up more than a thousand years in the future, her immediate attraction to her young doctor seems to overshadow what should be grief over the loss of her family, friends, and way of life. Michael’s obsession with Cassie always came across as kind of creepy to me. There wasn’t any chemistry between the two of them. And the way Michael continually lied to her makes him completely unredeemable as boyfriend material in my eyes. I kept hoping for something romantic to develop between Cassie and Magnum, though, but their relationship is more like siblings. Too bad, because they have a truckload of chemistry.
2. 31st century Earth. I never fully was able to wrap my head around what the world looked like, particularly the buildings. All I really know is there’s not much vegetation, but I had a hard time picturing what this world looked like through the descriptions provided.
3. Cassie’s introduction into the new world. As I stated above, she put her attraction to Michael front and center. I would have liked her to struggle more with the new world she’s found herself in. I never got a sense of the utter devastation and hopelessness over her situation I was expecting. She’s experienced something no one can really relate to, so I would have liked the deeper psychological aspects to have been more thoroughly explored.

What I Enjoyed about Mirror X
1. The surprises.
There were so many twists and turns, I never knew what was coming next and that was so much fun to read.
2. The emotions. Where I felt the story was lacking when it came to Cassie’s response to the new world she finds herself in, the writing shines when Cassie is dealing with the emotions surrounding her role in the 31st century. Not only is she unique in that she was born in the early 2000s, but she possess an ability no one else in the future has. This ability drives the plot and her reactions to her expected role are raw and palpable.
3. Technology. There is some fascinating technology in Mirror X and Karri Thompson does a great job of helping us understand the role of this technology in the world she’s created.
4. The secondary characters. Magnum, Travel, and a whole host of other characters are intriguing and colorful and really brought the story to life.
5. Magnum. The technology whiz kid was easily my favorite character in the book. He’s a breath of 31st century fresh air!

Bottom Line
Mirror X is an interesting scifi/dystopian adventure with some unique aspects. I’m interested to see where this series goes.

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About the Book
Title: 
Mirror X
Series: The Van Winkle Project #1
Author: 
Kerri Thompson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 30, 2014
Pages: 360
Genre: 
Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Karri Thompson

Author Karri Thompson

About the Author
Growing up in San Diego, California, Karri Thompson spent much of her years at the beach, reading novels, tanning, and listening to music.

At SDSU, she earned a BA in English, MA in education, and her teaching credential. As a wife, mother, and high-school English teacher, she began writing novels, giving all of the compelling plots and unique characters in her head a home.

Victorian literature rocks her socks, and when she’s not writing, jogging, going to concerts, or watching her son play football, she’s reading Dickens.

Where to find Karri Thompson
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Tumblr | Pinterest

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy Series) by Amy Engel

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

5 Stars

Synopsis
**WARNING: Contains spoilers if you haven’t read book one**

Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty–forced marriages and murder plots–for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall’s borders.

But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy’s life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she’s fought for.

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My Review
The Revolution of Ivy is even better than the first book. It starts off strong and keeps building. Everything in the first book that kept it from being a full five stars for me were non-issues in this one. The action is intense, the characters grow and develop in organic, realistic ways, and the plot twists are unexpected and jarring.

Ivy’s been put outside the fence for conspiring to kill her husband, Bishop, son of the President of Westfall. She has no survival skills, but a strong survival instinct, which keeps her alive until she meets up with other survivors. Ivy befriends two of them and these relationship, tenuous and complex, are one of the best aspects of the book. When Bishop shows up looking for her, Ivy’s conflicted. This is the one part of the story that didn’t seem authentic. I never really understood why she struggled with his presence, but I was able to easily overlook that because the rest of the story moved so quickly.

Plot
The plot is fantastic. Ivy needs to decide what her future holds, and because she’s never had a choice, it’s not as easy as it should be. She tries to make peace with the way her family failed her, with the way they let her take the fall for their failed plot to wrest control of Westfall from President Lattimer, even though her punishment was certain death. But more than that, Ivy needs to figure out who she is when she’s not Bishop’s wife or her father’s daughter or even Callie’s sister. She has secrets that pose a danger to herself and others, and a big decision to make that could destroy everyone she loves.

Characters
Both Ivy and Bishop grow so much over this book. There’s far more character growth than in The Book of Ivy. The addition of of Caleb and Ash bring out different sides of their personalities and give them an opportunity to explore themselves in the context of life outside Westfall. This installment does a masterful job of wrapping up all the loose ends, and most of those have to do with the characters themselves. We finally understand Ivy’s dad and sister as well as Bishop’s father and mother. Every action in both stories finally makes sense in the context of who these complex characters are.

Ending
I loved the ending. I think author, Amy Engel, wraps up the story beautifully, but not in a nice, neat, easy package. There’s gut-wrenching emotion and tough choices, but it’s all so perfect for the characters, the setting, and the story.

Top Five Things I Loved about The Revolution of Ivy:
1. The dystopian aspect. This was far more dystopic and the first book. More action, drama, fear, survival. I loved it!

2. Bishop Lattimer. Once again, Bishop is the perfect guy, without being too perfect.

3. Caleb and Ash. I love these two. I would kill for a book about them!

4. Tough choices. Amy Engle raised the stakes, forcing Ivy into an impossible situation. Watching her wrestle with her decision was pure page-turning delight.

5. Starting over. The ending wraps up the story nicely but the future is wide open for the characters, leaving me completely satisfied with the conclusion, but hopeful for what’s next. The hallmark of a good ending to a dystopian series.

Bottom Line
The Revolution of Ivy moves away from familiar territory, raising the stakes, and finishing the series on a high note.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my review.

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About the Book
Title: The Revolution of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #2
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoogle Books

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Author Amy Engel

Author Amy Engel

About the Author
Amy Engel was born in Kansas and after a childhood spent bouncing between countries (Iran, Taiwan) and states (Kansas; California; Missouri; Washington, D.C.), she settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and two kids.

Before devoting herself full-time to motherhood and writing, she was a criminal defense attorney, which is not quite as exciting as it looks on TV.

When she has a free moment, she can usually be found reading, running, or shoe shopping. The Book of Ivy is her debut YA novel. Find her online at http://amyengel.net/ or @aengelwrites.

Where to Find Amy Engel
GoodreadsWebsite | Twitter

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Review + Giveaway – Fates Divided (Halven Rising) by Jules Barnard

Fates Divided Blog Tour

Fates Divided (Halven Rising #1) by Jules Barnard

Fates Divided (Halven Rising #1) by Jules Barnard

4 Stars

Synopsis
Elena Rosales has busted her ass to get into a good college. She’s the only one in her family ever to attend, and expectations are high. No pressure. But Elena’s got this one in the bag, because she’s as dependable as the molecules she studies, as reliable as the chemical reactions that comfort her in their predictability. Until they don’t.

Elena has always wondered why her mother abandoned her on her first birthday. It’s not until she turns eighteen and her chemistry experiments go berserk that she learns the truth: Her mother wasn’t human, and the Fae are willing to harm those Elena loves if she doesn’t use her power over the elements to cure them of a deadly disease.

Derek, Elena’s brooding neighbor, isn’t the friendliest guy, but he has access to an off-hours lab and is willing to help Elena create the antivirus. He has his own secrets to keep, and this business Elena is mixed up in could blow his cover. But when Elena and Derek get together, more than chemicals spark fire-and they soon discover just how complicated attraction can get when they find themselves on the other side of the portal, fighting for survival. Lives collide, and allegiance and love are tested, in Fates Divided.

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My Review
I loved the Blue series by Jules Barnard, so I was excited to dig into her latest urban fantasy series, Halvan Rising. I’m happy to say it met my expectations! It has all the new adult romance I’ve come to expect from Barnard as well as a healthy dose of danger, adventure, and a brilliantly-created fantasy world situated within a modern-day college campus.

As Elena learns to navigate her new normal, Derek keeps an eye on her, both out of a sense of responsibility as well as attraction, and these two are a combustible combination! Elena and Derek each learn about their own pasts, families, and their newly acquired Fae powers, all while trying to stop a deadly virus poised to wipe out the entire Fae population. But not everyone wants them to succeed, and soon they’re fighting for their own lives as well as the Faes’.

Plot
The plot revolves around finding a cure for the virus, but there is plenty of subplotting, including who’s behind the virus, Elena’s missing roommate, Resse, a reluctant attraction between Reese and Elena’s Fae bodyguard, Keen, and of course the romance between Derek and Elena. About the only thing I felt lacking was the romance between Derek and Elena. I thought it developed too quickly and took a backseat to the main plot.  But that is really my only complaint.

Characters
Told from alternating points of view, Derek and Elena are both well-rounded with decent character arcs. The secondary characters, including Keen and Reese are as fascinating as they are likeable.

World Building
The realm within modern life world-building is really well done. The descriptions are rich and they transported me to another place with vivid detail. The rules surrounding the status and discrimination of Fae versus the half-blooded Halven was believable and drove some of the best conflict in the book. I can’t wait to see how that resolves over the series.

The Ending
The main story was wrapped up well, but left open enough for the series to continue. I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Top Five Things I Love About  Fates Divided
1. The world building. Rich, vivid details brought the story to life in an exciting way.

2. Reese. Elena’s roommate is a hilarious spitfire, and I loved watching her get under Keen’s skin.

3. Keen. The big Fae bodyguard with a superiority complex is a riot. I really hope we get some scenes from his point of view in the future.

4. Magic. Because, come on, who doesn’t love magic?

5. Derek and Elena. They’re good together!

Bottom Line
I don’t read much fantasy, but if Jules Barnard is writing it, I’ll take more, please!

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

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About the Book
Title:
 Fates Divided
Series: Halvan Rising #1
Author: Jules Barnard
Release Date: August 31, 2015
Pages: 430
Genre: New Adult Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

Author Jules Barnard

Author Jules Barnard

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.

Where to Find Jules Barnard
Goodreads | Website Facebook | Twitter

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Review + Giveaway – Black Dawn (Titan Series) by Cristin Harber

Black Dawn Blog Tour

Yay, the Titan boys are back! This time around it’s all about Parker. There is something so wickedly hot about a smart guy. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for information on the book, buy links, and details on Cristin’s giveaway.

Black Dawn (Titan Series #6) by Cristin Harber

Black Dawn (Titan Series #6) by Cristin Harber

5 Stars

Synopsis
What happens when nothing is as it seems?

Lexi Dare is on a one-woman mission to stay alive. Both at home and at work. Because how did she end up with a ring on her finger and an abuser in bed as she readies to hit the high point in her career? Everything should be perfect. Amazing job. Handsome fiancé. It’s all a disaster.

Parker Black is the brains behind Titan Group, an elite security firm. In his world, everything is ordered and controlled, except what he feels for his buddy’s girl. Something in her eye screams for help, but he has no idea what.

When Lexi disappears, Parker realizes what he should have known. The lines blur between friendships and work, and they must find each other to survive a terror attack that only Lexi can stop.

Black Dawn can be read as a standalone and does not have a cliffhanger.

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My Review
The Titan Series is my guilty pleasure. Imagine your favorite thriller with a steamy romance as a co-plot? That’s what you get with the Titan Series, and Black Dawn is no exception. Lexi is an elite hacker, involved in an abusive relationship. She’s created a unique software program and selling it to the highest bidder. Parker Black is Titan, with a head for analysis and an eye for Lexi. When things in Lexi’s private life take a dangerous turn, Parker steps in, and gets caught up in the middle of a potentially international incident, with Lexi’s software at the center.

Plot
There are two solid plots — the romance between Parker and Lexi, and the mystery and intrigue surrounding Monarch, Lexi’s software. Both are exceptionally well done. Cristin Harber builds suspense and heat, weaving them together, like no other single author I can think of.

Characters
Parker’s my second-favorite Titan, Cash still holds that top spot. Parker’s tough, smart, and his inability to explain his feelings makes him endearing. Lexi is about as complex as they come. She was all over the place and at times I felt she was so out of character, but that double-sided, lost-and-found Lexi was such a part of her identity, part of her growth and development as the story unfolded. Some of the Titan cast made cameos but not nearly enough for me. A few new characters that were introduced were interesting, especially Shadow, and even Matt, as much as I loathed him.

World Building
The world building is Titan at it’s best –black ops, high-tech goodies, armored vehicles, and total badassery.

Ending
Harber has a way of building up the suspense, taking us to a pinnacle of danger and action, and Black Dawn is exactly what I was hoping it would be.

Top Five Things I loved about Black Dawn:
1. Bacon Byte. Come on, a little wrinkly snoring pudge of a pug named Bacon is about as cute as it gets.

2. Parker. He’s hot, tough, smart, really the trifecta of male perfection.

3. Hacking. Never has computer hacking been so sexy.

4. Office sex. ‘Nuf said.

5. Shadow. Lexi’s colleague is the father figure every girl should have.

Bottom Line
The latest in the Titan Series delivers danger, adventure, and steamy romance as only Cristin Harber can.

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: Black Dawn
Series: Titan Series #6
Author: Cristin Harber
Publisher: Mill Creek Press
Release Date: June 14, 2015
Pages: 279
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & NobleiBooks | Kobo

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Author Cristin Harber

Author Cristin Harber

About the Author
Cristin Harber is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling romance author. She writes sexy, steamy romantic suspense and military romance.

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

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

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

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