A special thank you to author Adi Alsaid for today’s guest post. To find out more about Adi and his book, Let’s Get Lost, see below.
Guest Post: Adi’s First Trip Alone
My sister likes to say that before I came back from my trip to Israel, she’d never heard me speak. That’s probably an exaggeration, but not an extreme one. When I boarded the plane to Israel on the eve of my eighteenth birthday, I was a shy kid, reserved, talkative only with my closest friends.
My brother puts it a different way: “Before, you couldn’t decide if you cared or not. Then you decided you didn’t.” He said this when we shared an apartment in college, when I was doing things like taking spontaneous road trips to Baker, California just to have lunch, or founding a student organization at UNLV called Students for the Advancement of Silliness. I brought my first girlfriend to the top floor of a library and rained down thirty notecards with book quotations on them. I wrote editorials in the school newspaper about choosing to be happier.
Let me be clear about this: I didn’t notice it happening. In Israel, I read a lot. I walked around a lot. Though fluent in Hebrew, I didn’t speak a lot, because outside of my grandmother and some cousins, I didn’t know anyone. I could have made friends on the basketball courts where I played, or the bar full of American expats and travelers from all over the world, but I didn’t. By the end I was having more and more conversations with people there, because I’d learned that if I didn’t I could go days without saying a word. But that didn’t feel like growth; it just felt like loneliness, which wasn’t anything new. I had fun in Israel, and though I’d imagined something life-changing (I brought a notebook, thinking that maybe I’d write a book while there), I left thinking it hadn’t happened. The first day I returned to Mexico and had coffee with a friend, within twenty minutes, she said, “You’ve changed.”
It’s not like I went to Israel and came back a new person. I was simply more myself. The layer of shyness that usually hid parts of me from the world was washed away by the Mediterranean, or burned away from my skin from the suntan I gained on the beaches of Tel Aviv. I broke out of my proverbial shell, deciding, as my brother pointed out, that I no longer cared to reside within it.
Here’s what I’m trying to get at, and why Leila’s travels in Let’s Get Lost serve as the perfect backdrop to five coming-of-age stories: Travel leads to self-discovery. You grow, even if you don’t notice it happening. Especially if you do it at the age I did, the age the characters in the book are, the world seeps into your cracks and pulls you further out.
Synopsis Five strangers. Countless adventures. One epic way to get lost.
Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most.
There’s HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love.
Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila’s own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you’re looking for is to get lost along the way.
About the Author Adi Alsaid was born and raised in Mexico City, then studied at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While in class, he mostly read fiction and continuously failed to fill out crossword puzzles, so it’s no surprise that after graduating, he did not go into business world but rather packed up his apartment into his car and escaped to the California coastline to become a writer.
He’s now back in his hometown, where he writes, coaches high school and elementary basketball, and has perfected the art of making every dish he eats or cooks as spicy as possible. In addition to Mexico, he’s lived in Tel Aviv, Las Vegas, and Monterey, California. A tingly feeling in his feet tells him more places will eventually be added to the list. Let’s Get Lost is his YA debut.
REVELATION (The Revelation #1) by Randi Cooley Wilson
Synopsis A DIVINE SECRET,
A LOYAL PROTECTOR,
A FORBIDDEN LOVE.
Eve Collins starts her freshman year at college blissfully unaware that one revelation will challenge everything she’s believed to be true about her family, life, and future, and right in the midst of it all is Asher St. Michael.
Mysterious and aloof, Asher is appointed to protect Eve at all costs. Bound by his oath of loyalty to mankind, loving her is forbidden. Dark and enigmatic, Gage Gallagher may be even more dangerous to Eve than the demonic army that hunts her.
Caught in the middle of a centuries old war, Eve must choose sides knowing that the wrong choice will cost more than just her life. Can Asher and Eve fulfill their destinies or will their love destroy everything? Revelation is a journey of self-discovery, love, and sacrifice.
This is volume one of a series.
My Review I love stories of forbidden love, particularly when they involve hot bad boys. Revelation includes both. The extensive world building Randi Cooley Wilson includes is like whipped cream and a cherry on top.
Eve is a typical college freshman, balancing school, life, and the tense interpersonal relationships that accompany living in close quarter with three relative strangers. Enter two different, but equally hot boys who each have a strange fascination with her, and her life is about to get really complicated. And that’s all before she finds out who she really is and what destiny has in store for her.
The sexual tension between her and forbidden love, Asher, is palpable. Her reluctance to embrace her fate is understandable. And the battle for good and evil? Oh, it’s only just begun!
Eve discovers she’s more than she ever imagined and that the world she lives is far more than anyone ever knew. She battles with her true identity, the role of Asher in her life, and her destiny. Much of the early plot is devoted to Eve learning who and what she is. It’s a pretty substantial info dump, but it’s done through dialogue, and Eve’s interwoven reactions help keep things moving. The subplot of her relationship with Asher is easily the most intense storyline. The push and pull, the clashing of personalities, the sexual tension, all drive it in delicious fashion.
The author does a masterful job of doling out information slowly, on a need-to-know basis. Most of the time, those with the information feel Eve doesn’t need to know, which means the reader doesn’t get to know it either, hooking us in all the right places.
While Eve struggles to come to grips with her new reality, there are times she seems to accept some of it a little too easily. And her relationship with Asher seems to turn on a dime early on, before returning to a more realistic pace. But I was able to overlook those issues as I got deeper into the meat of the story.
Characters Revelation’s characters are deep and rich, snarky and fun. The dialogue is witty and may be the best part of the character interaction. Eve is complex. Part innocent, part bitch on wheels, getting in everyone’s face and never backing down. It’s fun to watch her process her ever-changing understanding of what’s going on.
Asher…intense, hot, loyal. This excerpt pretty much sums it up: I turn around. The minute I glance at him, my heart skips a beat. He’s wearing nothing but jeans, hanging low on his hips. No shirt, black dragon tattoo on display along with every single one of his firm muscles. I think I actually hear Aria purr. Yep, I kind of want to purr, too.
Eve is off limits, but that doesn’t stop him from teasing her or throwing out sexual innuendo like candy from a circus clown. It almost seems cruel and yet still adorable at the same time.
Aria, Kenna, Abby, Callan and Keegan each have their own distinct personalities that shine through their words and actions. Even Gage, who is the most enigmatic of the supporting cast, is darkly fascinating.
Bottom Line Revelation is a new take on the paranormal genre. This has some of the most detailed world-building I’ve read in awhile. The characters are fun and the romance is both heartbreakingly sweet and achingly tragic.
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: Revelation (Revelation Series #1) Author: Randi Cooley Wilson Release Date: April 23, 2014 Pages: 314 Genre: New Adult Paranormal Romance Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes
About the Author Randi was born and raised in Massachusetts where she attended Bridgewater State University and graduated with a degree in Communication Studies. After graduation she moved to California where she lived happily bathed in sunshine and warm weather for fifteen years.
Randi and her husband recently moved back to Massachusetts with their daughter where she was encouraged to begin writing again.
Revelation is her first novel and The Revelations Series is her first New Adult Paranormal Romance book series.
“I’ve had a love affair with books, writing and storytelling since childhood. It has been a dream of mine to introduce this world and these characters to you. I hope I’ve done them justice.”
Randi loves to hear from readers, you can reach out to her via Twitter: R_CooleyWilson and/or Facebook: authorrandicooleywilson
Synopsis I knew from the moment I first saw her she was the one. The only girl I could ever want. The only girl I could ever love.
She is light.
I am darkness.
She is innocent.
I’ve done too much.
She is good.
I am bad.
She is my every dream. I should be her every nightmare.
We come from different worlds. She’s…perfect. And I’m…
Somehow she wants me anyway. So we’ll grasp at what we can. We’re going to make this summer count. She’s my secret. And I’m hers. The problem with secrets is they never last for long. And when others discover we’re together, they’ll do whatever it takes to keep us apart. All I know is: I won’t let them.
Because Reverie Hale? She’s mine.
My Review This is the first book I’ve read by Monica Murphy and I have just one question — where have you been all my life? His Reverie is an intense upper young adult romance that breaks the mold in a number of ways. For one, it’s told almost exclusively from the male point of view. When we hear from Reverie, it’s through her diary entries in past tense, but the rest is told in first person present tense from Nick’s point of view. I’ve heard that YA romance from the male perspective won’t work. Well, after reading His Reverie, I beg to differ. All of the angst, the drama, the heartache is just as powerful from Nick’s viewpoint.
This is a young adult romance, although it’s in the upper age range. And as such, it has a solid romantic plot, filled with all of the angst we expect from teens in love. There is some strong language and sexual situations, but it’s appropriate for those 16 and older. Nick is balancing a lot, reeling from the loss of his mother, coping with life outside of prison after being released for a crime he didn’t commit, and falling for the unattainable girl. This is a classic tale of forbidden love with a very modern twist and I loved it. Sure, some of it was predictable, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable.
The characters are what really makes this story so great. Nick’s voice is fresh and unique. I’ve heard people say that this will never work. Teen romance needs a female protagonist. Well, it really doesn’t. His Reverie is proof of that. Watching Nick twist in the wind with his inner emotions while only uttering short response is so fun to watch, because he’s such a guy. He can’t possibly put it all out there and be cool, but because we’re inside his head, we get to see it all, and it’s delicious.
The rest of the characters are equally well drawn. Reverie transcends the stereotype of the preacher’s daughter and Nick’s ex-girlfriend, Krista, is more than just the jilted ex. The rest of the supporting cast rounds out the book well with issues of their own, so that they’re more than just window dressing.
Bottom Line His Reverie is a gripping tale and intensely emotional, without being melodramatic. I reached a point about two-thirds of the way in where it was literally impossible to put down. I’m anxiously awaiting the August release of the follow up book to see what happens next.
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: His Reverie Author: Monica Murphy Release Date: July 28, 2014 Pages: 249 Genre: Upper Young Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo
I jump at the sound of a soft female voice, my hand jerking so the hose splashes me right in the face. Muttering a curse, I drop the hose and reach out blindly, wrenching the faucet off with one hand as I swipe at my eyes with the back of the other. I hear the girl laugh and I whirl around, fully prepared to find some bratty preteen Hale daughter mocking me.
But she’s not a preteen. Not even close. More like around my age. She’s tall and slender, her long blonde hair falling far past bared tan shoulders. She’s wearing some sort of sundress or whatever you call it and she’s pretty much covered since it hits just above her knees though her arms are exposed since the dress is sleeveless. The sun catches her just right though, shining through the thin fabric of her skirt so I can see through it.
My gaze drops and all I can see is long, long legs through the shadowy fabric. Damn. Those sexy legs are endless. She clears her throat, like she knows exactly where I’m looking and what I’m thinking and I jerk my gaze up guiltily to meet hers, feeling like a jackass.
That’s when I notice her eyes are blue. As blue as the sky above us, and she’s so damn pretty, with delicate features and pink, pink lips, that I can’t seem to form words.
“Who are you?” she asks curiously. Her voice washes over me, sweet and melodic and now it’s my turn to clear my throat to get the lump out so I can freaking speak.
“Who are you?” I ask back like an idiot.
She smiles shyly and my entire body reacts, a bolt of electricity seeming to go through me. “I asked first.”
“Are you Hale’s daughter?” If she is, that sucks because holy hell she’s hot but yeah.
She’s completely untouchable if she’s a Hale.
About the Author New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Monica Murphy is a native Californian who lives in the foothills below Yosemite. A wife and mother of three, she writes New Adult and contemporary romance for Bantam and Avon. She is the author of One Week Girlfriend and Second Chance Boyfriend.
After spending the past two days immersed in the nerdiness that is Comic-Con, I noticed a few things. This was the third year in a row we took the trolley downtown to just walk amongst the craziness. We don’t have passes. I tried this year, but newbie that I am, didn’t realize that after spending time hanging out in the virtual lobby, when (and if) my number was called and I was lucky enough to buy passes, I could only buy four. We are a family of five, and while the MMA beatdown over who was going would have been entertaining as hell to watch, probably it wouldn’t be worth it in the end.
There is plenty for non-pass holders to do outside the venue. We were there for five hours on Saturday and another couple on Sunday. Lines were long at the popular events, but even without waiting in line for two hours to go through the Assassin’s Creed obstacle course, we were never bored. Hot, tired, sore feet? Check. Boredom? Not a chance. And after all of this, I noticed a few things with my writer’s hat on:
1) Zombies are Huge
The only zombie-themed thing I’m aware of was The Walking Dead Escape. For $70, you could immerse yourself in the world of zombies, navigating a course among the zombies, or for $90, you could join the horde of the undead. Even though the event didn’t begin until 6:00 PM, I saw more zombies during the day than any other character type. Sure, there were plenty of superheroes, a plethora of Doctor Whos, women walking around in TARDIS dresses, a smattering of video game characters, but zombies ruled the day (and night).
While vampires seem to be all over the place from books and movies to a multitude of shows like True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, and My Babysitter is a Vampire, the zombies are striking back with The Walking Dead and now iZombie. A quick search on Goodreads shows that when it comes to books, zombies are very popular – over 13,000 titles!
2) Marketing Genius
One local author was handing out slick cards with information about his new fantasy novel. Over 130,000 people attend Comic-Con and countless more locals, like us, just go down to absorb the weirdness. We were handed buttons, fliers, posters, cards, and bags (although what I really wanted was the foam chainsaw from the Sharknado 2 movie, but they were out). Likely most of these author cards will end up in the trash, but some people will look at them, maybe even visit the author’s site, and no doubt, he’ll sell more than a few books as a result. But as any author knows, name recognition is a huge part of the game. Getting hits, having someone bookmark your site, it all helps. I’m sure the cost was minimal, and if you’re going to be down there anyway, why not join in the marketing freeforall.
3) Girls Want Female Heroes
I saw plenty of little girls dressed as Disney princesses, but I saw many more dressed as Spiderman, Batman, Superman, and even a little Hulk-ette. There were a handful of Princess Leia’s, my own daughter dressed as Katniss Everdeen on Sunday, but when you think about it, there aren’t a lot of good female heroes. Especially in the comic genre. Marvel gets this which is why they announced the next Thor will be female. There were easily as many females as males wandering around outside the convention center. I don’t know the makeup of attendees, but based on the crowd outside, I’d be surprised if it leans too heavily male.
So while I saw this pretty little pink Vader, if you’re looking at the Star Wars franchise, there are only a handful of female leads (I’m include Ahsoka Tano and the Duchess Satine from Clone Wars just to get to an even four) who are heroes. Even looking at Marvel, there’s Wonder Woman, Bat Girl, Natasha Romanov, and that’s kind of it for the well-known characters. And the most annoying thing about the Marvel world is that all of their female heroes feel the need to wear revealing or skin tight outfits, sending the message that in order to be a strong female hero, you must also be sexy. No wonder girls were drawn to The Hunger Games. Katniss proved you can be badass without being overtly sexual.
4) Sharknado 2 is Really Happening
Sharknado 2 was everywhere. They had people following them trying to get their hands on all of that sharky swag. By far the coolest thing they were giving away were the aforementioned red foam Sharknado chainsaws, which sadly, I did not score. But they were working the buzz like crazy, generating long lines at their mobile carts as a parade of hangers on tried to get whatever was being handed out.
What does this mean? Campy is cool. There was nothing good about Sharknado and yet millions tuned into watch it last year, so much so, that a second movie was not just economically feasible, but likely will be highly profitable. And apparently cool enough that there are a whole host of celebrity cameos in Sharknado 2.
5) History is Cool
History is cool. Who knew? The first thing we saw when we got off the trolley was The History Channel’s attraction. I have to admit, just knowing they were there intrigued me, so we wandered over to see what history had to do with Comic-Con.
They had whole block set up for their Vikings show. A show I didn’t even know about before yesterday. So well done, History Channel, well done. I’m now interested enough to check it out. And if an entire downtown block devoted to fun and games wasn’t enough, they also had this giant mural plastered across the entrance to NerdHQ.
I don’t know if Game of Thrones made history cool or not, but historic shows of epic proportions were well represented in San Diego. Speaking of GOT, they were all over the place. On buses, sides of buildings, even the pedicabs were decorated up all Game of Thrones style. And the GOT experience had a line that wrapped around three quarters of the block. Both days.
So, if you’re a writer and you want to know what the masses are interested in, here is just a partial list from one of the nerdiest and yet coolest, pop cultural events of the year.
Synopsis Fallen Navy SEAL and Titan Group’s Delta recruit Trace Reeves wants nothing more than a one-night stand to forget that his twin brother was killed-in-action. But when his one-time fling becomes his high value target, the lines blur between her rescue mission and saving himself.
My Review Delta: Retribution starts with a one-night stand between Trace and Mallory. A super-hot, intense, one-night stand. Trace is broken and Mallory is more than she appears, so we’re not surprised when Mallory is the high value target or, HVT, that Trace and his team are sent in to rescue. What happens after is pure Cristin Harber.
Even though this is a novella, there’s a lot going on. There’s Trace’s backstory and his determination to find his fallen brother’s missing dog tags in the Afghan desert, there’s Mallory/Marlana”s secret government project that everyone wants, and then there’s the romance. Cristin Harber accomplishes a lot in just 100 or so pages, and she does it well. But what’s missing is that special…umph…for lack of a better word, that builds tension and sexual longing in her stories. There’s only so much you can do in something of this length, and she did what she does best, tells a steamy, action-packed story. Hopefully this story will do what it’s intended to do, whet the appetite of readers who aren’t familiar with her writing. Because as good as Delta: Retribution is, her full-length novels are so much more.
Mallory/Marlana is one of my favorite kick-ass Titan female. I love that she’s smart, sweet, and tough, in a very different way than any of the other characters in the series. As the mother of twin boys, Trace’s loss strikes me at my core. I think every mother feels the loss of a child is the worst thing imaginable, but the loss of one of my twins would somehow kill me a little more because of what it would do to his brother. I like Trace well enough, but he’s missing something, and I’m not sure exactly what it is. He’s no Cash, maybe I’ll just leave it at that.
Bottom Line This is a good, quick read that entertains in a very steamy, Cristin Harber way. I would love to see their characters continue somehow, or even further developed at some point. If you’re not familiar with the Titan Series, for $0.99, you can pick up the Hot Alpha SEALS Military Romance Megaset and sample Critsin Harber as well as 11 other award-winning authors.
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: Delta: Retribution Author: Cristin Harber Release Date: July 22, 2014 Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
DELTA: RETRIBUTION is part of the Hot Alpha SEALs: Military Romance Megaset – get it on Amazon and add it to your Goodreads list here!
About Cristin Harber Cristin Harber is a USA Today bestselling romantic suspense and military romance author. Fans voted her onto Amazon’s Top Picks for Debut Romance Authors in 2013, and her debut Titan series was #1 romantic suspense, #1 military romance, and a USA Today Top 100 bestseller.
She lives outside Washington, DC with her family and English Bulldog.
Hard-edged rocker Graham Allen has it all. He’s flush with cash from playing bass in a band by night and restoring classic cars by day. And there are plenty of women willing to share his bed for a night, complication-free. Perfect, because if there’s anything he learned from his past, it was to never get attached—to anything. So when bartender Carly Sullivan flashes her innocent smile, Graham isn’t prepared for what happens next.
Never fall in love
Two rules, that’s all Graham has—never apologize and never fall in love. He knows Carly is everything he should avoid. Cheerful and sweet, she has “relationship” written all over her. But Graham can’t stay away from her probing questions and concerned blue eyes.
When Graham discovers Carly is hiding a crushing secret, he’s prepared to risk it all. Until in one single moment, everything changes and Graham’s past threatens to collide with his future. His life is crumbling down around him, and soon no apology in the world can save him.
He should’ve known to walk away.
My Review I was blown away by No Apologies — in so many ways. For one, author Sybil Bartel has created a stunningly authentic male character. I’m often told it’s difficult for female writers, but she makes it look easy. For another, the story is difficult to read, but compelling as hell. Just when I was sure I was going to hate Graham, and nothing he could do or say was ever going to redeem him in my eyes, I was proven wrong.
Graham Allen is an ass. A giant, self-loathing, misogynist, without-an-ounce-of-likeability, ass. The way he blames all women for his mother’s mistreatment of him as a child is nearly intolerable, but the author tells a story that’s impossible to look away from. While I couldn’t stand Graham and really hoped he wouldn’t end up with Carly because he didn’t deserve her, I couldn’t put the book down. Like a bad accident, I was sucked into the gruesome world that is Graham’s mind as he uses women, treating them like dirt, and pretty much abuses every person who sees any value in him.
And yet, just below the surface, there was…something. Sure, there’s the wounded boy who endured something no one should have to, but he had a choice in how to respond to that abuse, and he chose the wrong way every.single.time. Still, I kept reading, needed to know what would happen. Carly gets under his skin, worms her way in, and he knows he’s going to hurt her, but still refuses to do the right thing.
This is no story of a good girl saving a bad boy. It’s about a damaged, broken guy finally recognizing his part in his own personal hell and deciding whether or not to do something about it. He ultimately needs to either take responsibility for his choices in life, or spiral out of control. The reader is left guessing which way he’s going to go until a pivotal event — a twist I never saw coming.
Graham and Carly, the only two characters who are fully developed, are absolutely brilliant. The supporting cast are only included to serve a purpose and they do so in believable style. The amount of character development Sybil Bartel has done with her two main characters blows me away. Yes, it’s a romance, but it’s the most intense, powerful romance I’ve read in a long time.
I loved No Apologies, much to my surprise. I mean, I LOVED it. It kept me up late, I took my iPad everywhere I went so that I could read just a few more pages. About the only negative thing I can say is that I would’ve loved for Graham’s views on women overall to be more transformed. The double standard that men who sleep around are studs but women are skanks is rampant throughout the book, and there’s enough slut shaming in our society. Women love sex as much as men and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, because this is Graham’s story, his views color the story. Sadly, its the view of far too many people in the world.
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Title: No Apologies Author: Sybil Bartel Publisher: Carina Press Pages: 275 Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo
About the Author Sybil grew up in Northern California with her head in a book and her feet in the sand. She used to dream of becoming a painter but the heady scent of libraries with their shelves full of books about wistful summer days and first loves drew her into the world of storytelling. Her true literary love is the New Adult genre but really, any story about a love so desperately wrong and impossibly beautiful, makes her swoon.
Sybil now resides in Southern Florida and while she doesn’t get to read as much as she likes, she still buries her toes in the sand. If she’s not writing or fighting to contain the banana plantation in her backyard, you can find her spending time with her handsomely tattooed husband, her brilliantly practical son and a mischievous miniature boxer who stole her heart.
Being destined to become some kind of supernatural electrical outlet isn’t exactly awesome–especially when Alexandria’s other half is everywhere she goes. Seth’s in her training room, outside her classes, and keeps showing up in her bedroom–so not cool. Their connection does have some benefits, like staving off her nightmares of the tragic showdown with her mother, but it has no effect on what Alex feels for the forbidden, pure-blooded Aiden. Or what he will do–and sacrifice–for her.
When daimons infiltrate the Covenants and attack students, the gods send furies–lesser gods determined to eradicate any threat to the Covenants and to the gods, and that includes the Apollyon–and Alex. And if that and hordes of aether-sucking monsters didn’t blow bad enough, a mysterious threat seems willing to do anything to neutralize Seth, even if that means forcing Alex into servitude–or killing her. When the gods are involved, some decisions can never, ever be undone.
My Review This book was even better than the first, more action, more emotion, more intensity, heart anguish. The story builds solidly on the first, further exploring the world the author has created and developing the characters who inhabit it. I had an idea of where this story was going, but I was dead wrong. And that was so fun! Nothing bores me like predictability and the fact that the author kept surprising me kept any boredom at bay.
Lots of twists and turns in this story. The plot is intriguing and I never knew where we were going, because this fantasy world created by JLA is based on Greek mythology, but is still a world of her own making. Which means she makes the rules and anything goes. There was more action in this book and definitely more Alex snark, which is always a good thing. The fact that we get to know Seth a little more is a bonus.
Jennifer L. Armentrout does snarky characters like no one else, and Pure doesn’t disappoint. Alex is Alex, but she’s growing although she’s still making mistakes. She wouldn’t be Alex if she didn’t. Aiden is still perfect and he’s still my book boyfriend for life (BBFL), but there’s something about Seth. The way he’s so cocky, yet just below the surface, there is something…damaged. It makes me want him to be one of the good guys, but the jury is still out on that. What isn’t unclear is that he’s a thoroughly fascinating character.
Bottom Line Pure is exciting, twisty, full of action, and really hard to put down.
Title: Pure Series: Covenant Series #2 Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout Publisher: Spencer Hill Press Pages: 363 Category: Young Adult Paranormal Romance Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
I’m delighted to spotlight young adult author, Elena Dillon today. Elena lives and writes in a suburb North of Los Angeles. She has never lived anywhere besides California which is probably a good thing since she hates being cold and is terrified to drive in the snow. She loves being a wife and a mother to her three kids and three dogs, although really the bulldog is the fourth child who has never matured beyond the toddler stage.
A self-proclaimed nerd, she has been writing since she was a child. She has only recently, however, come out of the closet about this to her family and friends. They now understand better, but not completely, why she talks about characters in stories as if they are real people.
Synopsis Jasmine’s life wasn’t normal for a 16 year old girl. It hadn’t been normal since the murder of her older sister, Daisy, two years ago. Her life had been changed forever. The monster that murdered Daisy was never caught. That was the reason her family decided to move away from their hometown in Southern California, to start over. Hopefully in a place where the last name Rourke wouldn’t bring on staring or judgment or morbid curiosity.
In Lafayette, Louisiana things are quite a bit different but in a good way. Good manners, Cajun accents and a whole lot of Southern Hospitality all make her think things are going in the right direction. On top of that the most gorgeous boy she has ever met is interested in her. Her new friends are better than she could have hoped for even if she is worried about what they might think when they find out who she is.
Life would be perfect if odd things didn’t keep happening. Creepy phone calls, texts, and flowers in her locker start adding up quickly to something terrifying. Could the Monster have followed them to Lafayette? Was he coming after her this time? Maybe she was just worrying unnecessarily…or not.
Synopsis As a pampered and adored daughter of a wealthy Southern family Rory’s life was seemingly perfect until her troubled childhood crush moves back in across the street forcing her to choose between him and the life that has been chosen for her.
As if that isn’t enough, her quiet island town has turned dangerous. A good friend has gone missing, lending truth to the rumors of a serial kidnapper. In her quest to help she becomes a target and will have to make choices about love, friendship and the inevitable sacrifice that they both require.
Never Been Kissed (Boys of Bishop Series #2) by Molly O’Keefe
Synopsis Perfect for readers of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Rachel Gibson, Molly O’Keefe’s second novel in her exciting new series—The Boys of Bishop—features an irresistible romance and unforgettable characters in a page-turning story that delivers equal parts emotion and humor . . . with a little edge to boot.
As the daughter of a wealthy politician, Ashley Montgomery has had enough of her parents’ expectations for her future and is going her own way, volunteering to work at a refugee camp in Africa. But her act of charity turns dangerous when she takes a boat trip and is abducted by Somali pirates. Enter Brody Baxter, who was a bodyguard for the Montgomery family ten years ago and doesn’t think twice about coming to Ashley’s rescue. Handsome and tough, Brody has always done what needed to be done. So he swoops in, saves Ashley, and brings her to a place where she can rest and recuperate without the glare of the press and her demanding family: Brody’s small hometown of Bishop, Arkansas. But Ashley soon realizes that she’s not the only one in need of healing.
Holed up with Ashley in a tiny apartment over his brother’s bar in Bishop, Brody is tempted and torn in ways he never anticipated. Beautiful Ashley, vibrant despite her ordeal, fearless enough to love him beyond his wall of self-punishment, is now determined to save him. But with a little faith and a lot of love, they just may find happiness in each others’ arms.
“Molly O’Keefe is a unique, not-to-be-missed voice in romantic fiction.”—New York Times bestselling author Susan Andersen
My Review I’m a sucker for the wounded bad boy so I was drawn to Brody’s story. The fact that I also adored Ashley was a bonus. She’s the spoiled little rich girl who bucks her political juggernaut family to spend a year in Africa helping the poorest of the poor. She’s sassy, smart, and has a wicked sense of humor. And anyone who’s ever done something really stupid at at the age of 17 can totally relate to her.
This is my first novel by Molly O’Keefe and I love her style. She has a way building unresolved sexual tension to new heights. Her characters are believable and deep, no two-dimensional characters here, not even with the supporting cast.
The overall plot worked well, but there were a lot of subplots that I thought distracted from the main plot. I loved the story of Brody and Ashley and even their various subplots. Brody’s relationships with his brother and father, his personal issues cultivated from tragic events in his childhood, Ashley’s kidnapping by pirates, her family drama, and trying to stay under the radar would have been enough. I don’t know that the romance between Brody’s brother, Sean and the cafe owner, Cora, were necessary. At least not from their points of view. I would have preferred a tighter narration from just Brody’s and Ashley’s viewpoints. But that’s about the only thing I can find wrong with this well-structured plot.
Characters All of the characters were really strong. I was impressed with the development work Molly O’Keefe did with each one. Solid backstories, deep wounds, and fantastic arcs all worked together flawlessly. Brody easily had the most transformational storyline, but Ashley did some growing of her own. She came across as more of that shy 17-year old early on, but rapidly grew to the confident 27-year old she was. Although I don’t even know if it was so much growth, as it was an awakening.
Cora and Sean were fun to watch, and I love that both of them had their own backstories, even if I didn’t feel they were fundamental to the plot. But it made them more alive. Finally, Sean and Brody’s dad came across as so authentic, I felt like I really got him, especially when he had his big heart-to-heart with Brody.
Bottom Line Never Been Kissed is a well-written, solid romance that reads more like steamy literary fiction in some places. Molly O’Keefe tells a great story, keeping the reader engaged, and has a gift for creating genuine characters that suck you into their stories.
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: Never Been Kissed (Boys of Bishop Series #2) Author: Molly O’Keefe Pages: Publisher: Bantam Genre: Contemporary Romance Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Release Date: July 1, 2014 Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
About the Author Molly O’Keefe is the RITA Award winning author of over 25 books and novellas. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband, two kids and the largest heap of dirty laundry in North America.
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate… until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.
The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.
My Review This is a different twist on the young adult dystopian adventure. In Ally Condie’s futuristic tale, the world isn’t as dark and bleak, at least not for those born to the proper families who uphold Society’s expectations. While it starts off slow, the first third of the book easily is devoted to world building, it picks up steam in the middle and builds to a decent climax.
Cassia’s world has everything predetermined, from whom she will marry to what her career will be. She doesn’t even get to decide how to spend her time or what she’ll eat, but she doesn’t seem to mind, especially when she discovers she’s been matched to her best friend, Xander, the boy all the girls want. Her neat and orderly life is thrown into chaos when she’s temporarily shown that her match as someone else, a strange boy she barely knows, named Ky.
Plot The plot moved a little slow for me, especially in the beginning, although it did pick up. It’s not particularly heavy on action for dystopian and even the romance was sort of understated. What worked well was the world building, and there’s a lot of it. Seeing how Ally Condie’s perceived future unfolds was both fascinating and frightening. When Cassia uncovers a horrible truth, it’s not entirely shocking because of the way Condie has laid the Society out before us.
Characters Xander is the character I ended up liking the most. I don’t trust Ky, and Cassia is weaker than I usually prefer my female protagonists, but she does grow and I like her more by the time I got to the end. The most fascinating character isn’t really a person, it’s the Society. Ally Condie creates a world that is almost a personality all its own and it drives the story more than the characters or the plot. While the morals of the Society are in question, it’s definitely well crafted and intriguing.
Bottom Line Matched is pretty mild by futuristic dystopian standards, but it has incredible world building and an interesting twist on the future that is worth a read.
About the Book Title: Matched (Matched #1) Author: Ally Condie Publisher: Dutton Juvenile Pages: 400 Genre: Young Adult Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars Release Date: September 20, 2011 Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Synopsis She has a destiny so great that even the gods fear her.
Constant hallucinations and the frequent conversations with the voices in her head, have earned eighteen-year-old Chloe Clever the not-so-coveted title of “Whack Job” in her home town of Adel, Georgia. Fed up with prescription meds and therapists, she wishes for a life where she is destined to be more than the butt of everyone’s jokes and mockery.
Be careful what you wish for has never rung more true.
After a vicious attack and learning that her favorite rockstar is an Olympian god, she is thrust into her new life as the Oracle of Delphi, the prophesier of the future. Setting out to fulfill the prophecy she has been given, Chloe learns of how great she is to become, all the while fighting mythical monsters and trying to outwit the ever-cunning Greek gods who harbor secrets of their own. While on a mission to discover the Most Beautiful, she strives to uncover the mysteries of the demigod Prince who has sworn to protect her with his life…and threatens to win her heart in the process.
My Review I love Greek mythology so I jumped at the chance to read this young adult book by Diantha Jones. It started off slower than I would have liked, but once it got moving, it took off. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to make of Chloe Clever. Her use of the word “retard” repeatedly early on, turned me off to her immediately. For one, that word is loathsome, for another, her fear of being lumped in with kids in special education classes showed her ignorance. But her character growth was more profound as a result. She becomes someone completely different after learning her destiny. I had to let go of the girl who held such disdain for children with learning difficulties, which is easier said than done. But she is a teen, so I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.
The two aspects in this book that worked the best for me were the action and the romance. The sexual tension between Chloe and Strafford was palpable, and the action scenes were dramatic, intense, and never rushed. What didn’t work as well were the long winding descriptions, and the sheer number of characters introduced, making it nearly impossible for me to keep them all straight.
Overall, the plot worked well. It was an interesting take on the gods and mythology and it moved along for the most part, although there were a few places where I found it dragging. The author does a good job of doling out just the information we need when we need it, so that we understand what’s happening without burning her hook. Despite a good flow, there are places where it gets very busy and it becomes difficult to follow the plot.
The main plot is really well done — discovering what the Prophecy of the Most Beautiful means. The romantic subplot also works really well, teasing us, making us wait, and then delivering a strong, emotional reward, like a carefully wrapped gift. I also particularly enjoyed the creative license Diantha Jones took with Greek mythology to fit her story. It was fun to see the worlds blending, bending, and diverging from what’s real, what’s myth, and what is pure author imagination.
Characters As I said above, Chloe is initially unsympathetic. She was surly, rude, selfish, and damn hard to like. But it was more satisfying to watch her grow because of that s she began to put the needs of others above her own. Strafford Law was divinely delicious as the hot demigod love interest and his younger brother, Ace, is perfect in his role as cohort and foil. The dialogue is mostly well done, but there are far too many pages without any. I tend to like dialogue-heavy stories.
Some of the characters felt flat to me, which made it difficult for me to form an opinion about them. There are a lot of characters so it’s hard to really delve into so many. Maybe it would have read better with fewer, but more fully-developed characters.
Bottom Line I enjoyed Prophecy of the Most Beautiful and recommend it to anyone who likes a well-researched modern Greek mythology story lots of romance and action.
I was provided a copy of this book by YA Bound Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: Prophecy of the Most Beautiful (Oracle of Delphi #1) Author: Diantha Jones Pages: 331 Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Romance Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Release Date: February 28, 2012 Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
About the Author Diantha Jones was born the day thousands of turkeys sacrificed their lives to fill millions of American bellies on November 22 which also happened to be Thanksgiving Day (Her mother says she owes her a turkey). She is a Journalism graduate who wants to be a career novelist (of books, not Facebook posts). When not writing or working, she is reading on her Nook, being hypnotized by Netflix or on a mission to procure french fries.
The Oracle of Delphi fantasy series is her first series. She is also the author of Mythos: Stories from Olympus, a companion series, and there is another fantasy series in the works. She also writes (new) adult fantasy/paranormal romance under the name A. Star.
John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars meets Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park in this beautifully written, incredibly honest, and emotionally poignant novel. Cammie McGovern’s insightful young adult debut is a heartfelt and heartbreaking story about how we can all feel lost until we find someone who loves us because of our faults, not in spite of them.
Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can’t walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.
When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other’s lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.
My Review Words are not adequate to express how I feel after finishing Say What You Will. But, as a writer, I feel like I should at least try. Just saying I loved it feels inadequate.
I savored this book, taking my time. Not because it was difficult to get through, but because I didn’t want it to end. I haven’t done that with a book since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
The book is billed as The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park, but it’s so much more than that. It’s both of those and it’s neither. Cammie McGovern’s voice is unique, and beautiful, and her writing makes me feel. I both laughed and cried, something I rarely do while reading.
The storyline is utterly unique and almost as quirky as the characters that fill the pages. It is a surprisingly realistic, emotional, stunning tale of love, friendship, and the rewards and consequences of taking control of your own life. A true coming of age story with an extraordinary twist.
Plot The plot is amazing, ebbing and flowing, never losing touch with where it’s going or why. Told from alternating points of view, we follow Amy and Matthew from the beginning of their senior year of high school through their first year post graduation. We watch them grow, change, make mistakes, learn from them, and make so many more, but we never stop rooting for them.
As both Amy and Matthew struggle to not be defined by their limitations – Amy’s physical and Matthew’s emotional – they realize that together they’re something more than who they’ve always believed themselves to be. Both better and worse.
There were surprises, things I never saw coming, some delighted me, some were difficult to read, but everything felt like it belonged, like it was all a part of this amazing journey.
Characters I know they’re not real, but I feel like I’m a better person for knowing Amy and Matthew and that’s saying a lot about fictional characters. I’ll never look at another physically or emotionally challenged person the same way again. The author has crafted such authentic characters that I had to constantly remind myself they only exist in the minds of the author and her readers.
Cammie McGovern has sculpted beautifully flawed individuals who are only more beautiful because of their imperfections. And I’m not talking about Amy’s cerebral palsy or Matthew’s OCD, but the very human aspects that pull them off the page and turn them into three dimensional, thinking, feeling, less than perfect humans that we want to spend time with, laugh with, just be with.
Bottom Line This story has something for everyone. It is a young adult/new adult story, but it has so much more to offer that I want to tell everyone I know to read it. I feel like I need more than five stars. Five stars is exceptional. What is above that? Quite simply, Say What You Will is the best book of any genre I’ve read in a long time.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: Say What You Will Author: Cammie McGovern Publisher: Harper Teen Pages: 342 Genre: Young Adult Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars Release Date: June 3, 2014 Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo
About the Author Cammie McGovern was born in Evanston, Illinois, but moved to Los Angeles when she was seven years old. She is the author of three adult novels, The Art of Seeing, Eye Contact, and Neighborhood Watch. Say What You Will will be published by HarperTeen in June, 2014. She currently lives in Amherst, MA, with her husband and three sons, the oldest of whom is autistic.
Nicola Hart grew up under the heels of her older brother and his sexy best friend, Cash Garrison. Years of ignoring her spark with Cash has transformed their friendship into a slow burning sizzle. One night with him could ruin everything. Or it could be more than she ever dreamed. They play. They flirt. But they haven’t crossed the line because too much is at stake. Family. Friendship. And the deepest kind of love that she’d have to be crazy to walk away from.
HE CAN’T STAY AWAY FROM
She’s his best friend’s little sister. The definition of hands off. Cash has tried to ignore her for years. Those innocent eyes and her smile that screams kiss-me-if-you-dare… Instead, he’s looked at every pretty little thing who’s crossed his path, all to ignore the girl he seems destined to want. But when his hard partying ways get old and everyone at school is interested in Nicola, it’s time to stake a claim. To make Nicola his girl, no matter the risks, and hold the hand of the one he really loves.
Sweet Girl is the novel length prequel to USA Today best-selling Garrison’s Creed. Before Cash and Nicola can fall in love forever, they have to suffer through their first love.
My Review I didn’t know the story of Nicola and Cash before I read Sweet Girl. I knew of them from Savage Secrets, the only other Titan novel I’d read, but they were only mentioned briefly in a handful of places. So as I started reading Sweet Girl, I temporarily forgot who I was reading about and got lost in a college romance between two childhood friends. Cristin Harber’s style of creating super steamy action-packed romances worked in this instance as well. There was far less action, but she still packed an emotional punch of conflict that was fun to watch unfold.
Plot Sweet Girl is well written with a believable storyline that never drags. Even though there are no Titan missions, there’s enough going on that I kept turning page after page. While I assumed there was a reason I was reading this backstory, I had no idea what was going to happen to them, so the ending took me by surprise. If you’ve read the rest of the Titan novels, particularly Garrison’s Creed, I’m sure you know what’s coming, but I almost think it was better to read Sweet Girl first.
Characters I love the characters in this story. I wasn’t sure what to make of a cocky cowboy named Cash. He sounded like a stereotype, but I found myself soon rooting for him and Nicola. Nicola is sweet, befitting the nickname Cash gives to her. She’s so believable as the college co-ed in love with the boy next door who also happens to be her brother, Roman’s, best friend. Yet the events that transpire, forever changing the course of her life seem to fit with who she is. Roman is authentic as is the college quarterback with his eye on Nicola. Her fun and supportive roommates round out the cast of characters.
Bottom Line I loved their story, even the heartbreaking ending. So much so, that I bought The Titan Series Boxed Set as soon as I finished Sweet Girl so I can find out what happens to them.
I was provided a copy of this book by InkSlinger in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: Sweet Girl (Titan Prequel) Author: Cristin Harber Pages: 200 Publisher: Mill Creek Press Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars Release Date: July 7, 2014 Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo
Excerpt Right. And now she was alone on the deck again, avoiding the alcohol-brave stares of freshmen boys. She glanced back into the house, wishing—
The familiar slide of Cash’s arm and the smell of soap paralyzed her thoughts.
“You look…” Breath hot, he whispered one word slower than the next, his lips a fraction away from the shell of her ear. “Gorgeous.”
A full body shiver started at her neck and ran south. “Hey, Cash.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, letting her eyes roam over him. “Bet you’ll break a few hearts tonight.”
He locked her in tighter. His breath was kissed by bourbon, and the scruff on his cheeks rasped against her skin. “Nah. Not in the mood.”
“The female population on campus is both relieved and saddened.”
“Oh yeah?” He pulled back an inch, then spun her into a loose hug, facing him. “Why’s that?”
“’Cause there’s still a chance, but it’s not tonight.”
A lazy smile curled. “Oh, you’re cute, Nic.”
God, he was gorgeous. Would his mouth taste like liquor? Her plan to get buzzed had not inoculated her against his dangerous good looks and charm. Her mind raced. “So I’ve been told.”
“What, by your date?” Cash tilted his head. He stepped back, dragging his arm off her neck, letting his hand smooth down her bare shoulder. His fingers drifted to her elbow. Another step, and he stuck his thumbs in his jeans pockets. His blue gaze smoldered. His button-down shirt, a little wrinkled, untucked and unbuttoned at the collar, was rolled up on his arms.
“I’m sure J’s said something like that tonight. Jaycee and Mira tell you their plans for you tonight?”
“Could not care even a little bit.”
She still felt where his fingers had traveled on her skin. Wanting that feeling again was driving her to distraction. Her eyes raked over his chest, sliding up to his face. He studied her. Intently. In an unnerving way, she could almost feel it. She swallowed and stole her eyes away because it was all in her head.
Cash stepped forward. “Let’s get out of here.”
His voice graveled. It had texture. She felt each word as it coated over her senses. Why did everything out of his mouth seem so much heavier? “I just got here, Cash.”
“I didn’t come by myself.” Jacob was wandering around somewhere. Though she didn’t care.
“Neither did I.”
The air was thick. Tense. So much was unsaid. So much anticipation. She could taste it, feel it. Her heart raced; her pulse pounded. If she could touch him, hold onto his muscled arms, crawl onto his crazy-wide chest, if his arms could wrap around her and she could drown in his scent—
“What are you two so serious over?” Roman startled her.
One second. Two… What to say when she couldn’t think?
“Nic’s not feeling good,” Cash offered. A challenge danced in his eyes.
Roman’s protective gaze sliced to hers. “You’re not? What’s wrong?”
She swallowed at Cash’s lie, and now the ball of sexual-tension-meets-too-many-drinks was in her court. Was she misreading all of this? So much could go wrong. Two decades of friendship down the drain, not to mention Roman would kill Cash. “Car Bombs. I should’ve known better.”
About the Author Cristin Harber is a USA Today bestselling romantic suspense and military romance author. Fans voted her onto Amazon’s Top Picks for Debut Romance Authors in 2013, and her debut Titan series was #1 romantic suspense, #1 military romance, and a USA Today Top 100 bestseller.
She lives outside Washington, DC with her family and English Bulldog.
Synopsis From New York Times bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones, an Inside Out series e-short told from Mark’s point of view, as he battles his all-consuming desire for Crystal.
Devastated by Rebecca’s death, Mark is facing the chaos of the press and the police investigation alone, his reputation, his business, and even his freedom under threat. When a family emergency sends him back east to New York, he puts Crystal—who’s as capable as she is challenging—in charge of his San Francisco art gallery. A Master, all about control, right now he feels that he has none. With his secret sex club and his relationships of the past in the spotlight, Mark finds sanctuary in the one place he promised he would never be again—but cannot seem to resist. Crystal’s arms.
My Review While this is a stand-alone book, there really is a lot of backstory. Even so, the author does an amazing job of weaving it in so that I quickly grasped the events leading up to this novella. I was able to follow the plot and get an understanding of the characters. Because I hadn’t read the rest of the series, I didn’t know to expect from this book, but ended up really enjoying it.
The plot is somewhat thin, likely due to the short length of the story. It seems to be more character-driven than plot-driven and the characters are interesting enough that the loose plot didn’t bother me. However, there are a few plot threads running through it – Mark’s reluctance to be involved with Crystal due to her strong personality, coping with his mother’s illness, and trying to help the police crack Rebecca’s murderer while maintaining what’s left of his reputation. There aren’t enough pages to really delve into each of these in detail, so the bulk of the writing is devoted to the dynamic between Mark and Crystal.
Characters Not knowing any of these characters before starting, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the owner of a gentlemen’s BDSM club where he is the head Master. Submissive women almost always turn me off, so it’s quite possible I wouldn’t have cared for Rebecca at all, but I love Crystal. She’s kick-ass and its deliciously fun to watch her get under Mark’s skin. I loved watching him wrestle with his need for control as it battles with his desire for a strong-headed woman who will never bend to his will.
Bottom Line Even without having read any of the rest of the series, this is a quick, delightful read that fully exceeded my expectations.
I was provided a copy of this book by InkSlinger in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: My Hunger (Inside Out Series eShort) Author: Lisa Renee Jones Pages: 70 Publisher: Pocket Star Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
About the Author New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed INSIDE OUT SERIES, and is now in development by Suzanne Todd (Alice in Wonderland, Austin Powers, Must Love Dogs) for cable TV. In addition, her Tall, Dark and Deadly series and The Secret Life of Amy Bensen series, both spent several months on a combination of the NY Times and USA Today and USA Today lists.
Since beginning her publishing career in 2007, Lisa has published more than 40 books translated around the world. Booklist says that Jones suspense truly sizzles with an energy similar to FBI tales with a paranormal twist by Julie Garwood or Suzanne Brockmann.
Prior to publishing, Lisa owned multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by Dallas Women Magazine. In 1998 LRJ was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine.
Lisa loves to hear from her readers. You can reach her at www.lisareneejones.com and she is active on twitter and facebook daily
I first read this fantastic book as an early draft and absolutely loved it. I was thrilled when the author and my friend, K.A. Cozzo, submitted the manuscript to SwoonReads, a division of MacMillan publishing. Yesterday, it was announced she’d been selected by them for publication. I’m not even a little bit surprised. The story is wonderful, her voice is unique, and the writing is inspiring.
I reviewed this book back in April, but I think it deserves a second posting, along with links so you can find out how to preorder a copy.
Title: How to Say I Love You Out Loud Author: K.A. Cozzo Publisher: SwoonReads Release Date: August 4, 2015 Pages: ~194 Category: Young Adult Contemporary Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars Links: GoodReads | SwoonReads
Synopsis When Jordyn Michaelson’s autistic brother joins her at her elite private school, she’s determined not to let anyone know they’re related. Even if that means closing herself off to all her closest friends, including charming football stud Alex Colby. But despite her best intentions, she just can’t shake the memory of kissing Alex last summer, and the desire to do it again.
Can Jordyn find the courage to tell Alex how she really feels—and the truth about her family—before he slips away forever?
This story hooked me from the first chapter. Jordyn has a secret and I was dying to know what it was. Plus there’s a guy who’s both cute AND hot, which is a nearly irresistible combination, and she can’t be with him because of the secret? Yeah, my interest was piqued.
When I found out Jordyn’s big secret, my feelings about the book blossomed. This was no longer just a teen romance, but was now a deeper story dealing with very real, contemporary issues faced by very real people.
Nearly everyone knows at least one family dealing with autism. In fact, we know three families with autistic children. In the United States, autism impacts one in 88 children — more than two million — and tens of millions worldwide.
The issues Jordyn faces are not unique to her, but her reaction and the ways in which she copes are all her own. It’s hard enough being a teen girl, harder still when you’re the new girl in town, add to that an autistic brother who’s suddenly attending your exclusive high school, and you have a recipe for disaster. Author K.A. Cozzo brings it all to a beautifully crafted climax and satisfying conclusion.
The plot is intelligent, nuanced, and layered. Jordyn struggles to get through 60 days without anyone finding out that Phillip is her brother. In the meantime, she watches Alex’s relationship with Leighton, captain of her field hockey team, unfold in front of her, twisting the knife deeper. And underlying it all is Jordyn’s inability to speak her mind, stand up for what she believes in, and take control of her life.
Jordyn is incredibly likeable despite her faults. You pull for her because you want her to see that life can be so much more than she’s making of it. You can’t help feeling her pain — loving someone who will never be able to express their love back and watching the boy you secretly adore be with someone else. Gosh, I just want to hug her.
And then there’s Alex Colby. He is my new book boyfriend. It was Aiden St. Delphi from the Covenant series, and I never believed anyone would be able to knock him off his perfect pedestal, but Alex Colby has done just that. While not perfect, Alex is perfectly flawed in a way that only makes me love him more.
The supporting cast is limited because this is primarily Jordyn’s story, but her mother is well-fleshed out as is Leighton. They are solid, believable characters that add depth and conflict.
Autism is real and the author handles the topic deftly, never whitewashing it, nor making it more than it is. This is a deep story filled with longing, hope, love, acceptance and forgiveness, with undertones of redemption that comes from learning to speak out loud for yourself and for others. The friendship and love between Jordyn and Alex feels authentic, and heartbreaking, and beautiful. This story has something for readers of all ages. Don’t let the category be your guide.
About the Author Karole Cozzo is a school psychologist by day, a wife and mother of two by night, and a writer of YA romance in the wee hours of the morning. She loves camping out at Starbucks, breakfast cereal at all hours, and watching every movie made from her favorite YA books. How to Say I Love You Out Loud is her debut novel.
My beautiful blogger/gluten-free/writer friend, Debi Smith, invited me to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour. The Tour began some time last year, with each participant answering four questions about their work in progress then inviting a few more writers to participate. You can trace it back it its roots if you’re really interested (or bored). You can read Debi’s post and see who invited her on her blog, Chocolate Wasteland.
What are you currently writing?
I’m working on final edits to The Union, the first book in a young adult adventure series. It’s set 100 years after global warming and a second civil war have reshaped the United States into the Union, a green-energy, utopian society that hugs the coastlines of the former U.S.
I’ve been working on it for more than three years, revising it based on feedback from beta readers and my fabulous critique group, and now it’s almost done. I’ve already drafted books 2-4 in the series and will work with my critique group on the second book next.
What makes your work different?
While some have tried to classify it as dystopian, it’s really not. I know there are some elements that fit into that category, but the book isn’t anywhere near as dark and hopeless as almost everything else in that genre. Instead, it’s an optimistic adventure that just happens to be set in the future. It compares and contrasts a semi-socialistic utopian society with a world devoid of law and order, but with complete autonomy.
My characters stretch the upper age limit of young adults, straddling the young adult/new adult line. And while there is a love triangle, it’s very different than almost every other one I’ve read. The two boys are as different as the two worlds they come from and it’s not so much about a choice between two boys as it is a choice between fate and desire, with each boy representing one of those elements.
Why do you write what you do?
I don’t like rules. Sure, there are rules we have to follow. I can’t write a story that wanders aimlessly, without world building or character arcs, but I didn’t want to be constrained to the conventions of the world we live in now. By setting it in the future, I get to make up my own rules, decide which of our technological wonder devices survive and which don’t. I get to create a society that functions the way I want it to and choose what happens when things fall apart.
Once I decided when I wanted my story to take place, I had to think about the logical flow of the world we live in now and what it might take to get us to my imaginary world 150 years from now. That was really fun. It was a chance to take the what-if scenario on climate change to one possible conclusion.
As to why I chose young adults as my characters, well, that’s a post all its own.
How does your writing process work?
It’s an evolving process, but I think after drafting four books, editing three, and running one through my critique group, I have something that works well for me.
I always start with a general idea of what I want to accomplish with the book. I visual the opening and the ending and then decide on at least three major plot points. Once I have that, I do a quick rough outline, draft my character arcs, and begin the detailed outline in Scrivener. Scrivener is easily the best $50 I’ve ever spent.
When my outline is done, I create my writing soundtrack. Every book has a theme song, the music that feeds my soul as I write, and the soundtrack builds on the theme song. I conduct any research I’ve identified during my outlining, scour the internet for photographic inspiration, if needed, and then pop in my ear buds, launch my soundtrack, and begin drafting each scene.
When I realize I need to make some changes in what I’ve already written, I jot down notes of things to fix on the next draft. I always run through the first draft without any revising at all. Then I go through three or four more drafts before seeking feedback through my critique group. After incorporating all of their feedback, I do several more editing rounds and send it off to my copy editor for final cleaning.
SUMMER AT PARADISE RANCH is a great coming of age adventure with young romance and mystery in paradise. Now in eBook, print, and audio.
Synopsis Four months shy of turning sixteen, Lexi Montoya was still trying to come to terms with her parents’ divorce and her mom’s remarriage to a man she met online, relocating to Maui, Hawaii.
Choosing to remain with her dad in Seattle, Lexi had planned to spend her first summer since the divorce hanging out with her boyfriend, Matt, and best friend, Robin. But her dad had other plans, insisting she spend the summer visiting her mom and stepdad at his ranch called Paradise Ranch in Wailuku, in west Maui.
Lexi went there with an attitude. Then she meets a cute Hawaiian guy named Mitsuo, is thrown into a love triangle, become friends with a teen girl living on a ranch next door, April; rides her first horse– an Arabian mare named Poppy– learns to hula dance and surf, and finds herself embroiled in a dangerous rescue mission when Poppy and another horse named Casper go missing from her stepfather’s ranch.
By the time her tropical summer adventure comes to an end, Lexi hates to leave Maui and say goodbye to Mitsuo. But can she stay when Matt is waiting for her back at home to pick up where they left off? Or will he lose her to a summer romance?
My Review Told from four different points of view, Summer at Paradise Ranch has a lot going on, but the author manages to hold it all tightly together. The past-tense, third person point of view is definitely a departure from most young adult fiction I’ve read lately and took a little getting used to, but once I did, I got into the story.
R. Barri Flowers’ style is also a little different from other YA authors. It feels more detached, like I wasn’t necessarily feeling all the angst I normally do when reading about teens. But in this case, it kept the story flowing without bogging the reader down in unnecessary, although quite often typical, adolescent drama.
The plot is busy, from Lexi’s relationship with the mother who abandoned her and her father to run off to Hawaii with a guy she met online, to her conflicted feelings for two very different, but equally hot, boys, her adventures on Maui, and the horsenapping mystery. The story flows well enough, but we never get too deeply involved in any of the plot points because they all seem to be rather easily resolved. Not without conflict, but without the sort of escalating conflict that leaves you breathless. But sometimes a good story doesn’t need to be over-the-top and out of control. This is one of those times.
What I liked most is the relationship between Lexi and Mitsuo. At not quite 16, she realizes a summer romance doesn’t have to mean anything more than that and doesn’t have anything to do with her feelings for her boyfriend, Matt, back home in Seattle. This was so authentic to the way teen romances are at that age. So many books and television shows aimed at teens try to make these early relationships seem more like adult relationships, and they’re not. In this case, it plays out naturally, in a way a lot teens will be able to identify with.
The teen characters come across as credible. They’re self-absorbed, superficial, but contemplative — everything young adults are. But I found the adults more two-dimensional. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, adults often seem that way to teens, and we do see the world of Paradise Ranch through their young eyes. Still, I would have liked a little more, particularly from Lexi’s mom.
Speaking of Lexi’s mom, Lexi is way too quick to forgive her mother and I found that subplot difficult to believe. Most girls her age battle with their mothers in the best situations. Given her mother’s abandonment at very a pivotal time in her life, I thought this was wrapped up too cleanly. It’s in keeping with the overall tone of the book though, so in that sense it works.
The story is enjoyable and the characters authentic, but the writing style took a little getting used to. Once I got into it though, the story moved along to a satisfying conclusion and if there is a second book in the series, I’d definitely be interested in reading it.
I was provided a copy of this book by Young Adult Reads in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author R. Barri Flowers is an award winning criminologist and bestselling author of crime and thriller fiction, crime nonfiction and true crime, relationship novels, and young adult mysteries.
Young adult mystery fiction include OUT FOR BLOOD, TEEN GHOST AT DEAD LAKE, COUNT DRACULA’S TEENAGE DAUGHTER, GHOST GIRL IN SHADOW BAY and DANGER IN TIME.
New crime nonfiction books include THE SEX SLAVE MURDERS 2, MURDER OF A STAR QUARTERBACK, MURDER AT THE PENCIL FACTORY, DEAD AT THE SADDLEWORTH MOOR, MASTERS OF TRUE CRIME, PROSTITUTION IN THE DIGITAL AGE, STREETS KIDS, and COLLEGE CRIME.
The author is a member of the American Crime Writers League, International Thriller Writers, Kiss of Death, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.
Synopsis An apparent student suicide has brought medical examiner Sara Linton to the local college campus, along with her ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver. But a horribly mutilated corpse yields up few answers. And a suspicious rash of subsequent “suicides” suggests that a different kind of terror is stalking the youth of Heartsdale, Georgia — a nightmare that is coming to prey on Sara Linton’s loved ones.
A small town is being transformed into a killing ground. And the key to a sadistic murderer’s motive and identity may be held in the unsteady hands of a campus security guard — a former police detective driven from the force by the hellish memories that will never leave her.
Lena Adams survived the unthinkable and has paid a devastating price. Now the survival of future victims may depend upon her … when she can barely protect herself.
My Review Although I really liked A Faint Cold Fear, it’s my least favorite book in the Grant County series so far. It doesn’t seem to have that same gripping tension from the first two that kept me reading long after I should have gone to sleep. Don’t get me wrong, no one does the whole creepy thriller quite like Karin Slaughter, but I just felt like something was missing from this one. That little extra something that pushes itself under my skin and keeps me riveted. That said, it is a thoroughly enjoyable story that has some unexpected twists, some really creepy characters, and an ending I never saw coming.
Plot I can seen Karin Slaughter’s progression as an author by this third book in the series. She’s developed a more honed ability to bait the reader and reel us in slowly, which makes reading this one a little more fun. But the plot does lack the unputdownable aspect of her previous two novels in this series.
Characters The characters are as solid as ever and it’s both painful and engrossing to watch them try to come to terms with their inner demons. Karin Slaughter does an amazing job of keeping it real when it comes to the horrific events that have shaped her characters’ lives. And she doesn’t sugar-coat it. She doesn’t care if we like her characters or not. Being likeable isn’t really key to the story, but being real is, and they are authentic. It’s this characterization that really moves A Faint Cold Fear along more than the plot.
Bottom Line Another solid thriller in the Grant County series that keeps the reader guessing. The author draws on the events of the previous books to develop her characters to realistic perfection.
Title: A Faint Cold Fear Author: Karin Slaughter Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Pages: 448 Category: Thriller Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon |Barnes & Noble
Synopsis This guide reveals how writers can utilize cognitive storytelling strategies to craft stories that ignite readers’ brains and captivate them through each plot element.
Imagine knowing what the brain craves from every tale it encounters, what fuels the success of any great story, and what keeps readers transfixed. Wired for Story reveals these cognitive secrets—and it’s a game-changer for anyone who has ever set pen to paper.
The vast majority of writing advice focuses on “writing well” as if it were the same as telling a great story. This is exactly where many aspiring writers fail—they strive for beautiful metaphors, authentic dialogue, and interesting characters, losing sight of the one thing that every engaging story must do: ignite the brain’s hardwired desire to learn what happens next. When writers tap into the evolutionary purpose of story and electrify our curiosity, it triggers a delicious dopamine rush that tells us to pay attention. Without it, even the most perfect prose won’t hold anyone’s interest.
Backed by recent breakthroughs in neuroscience as well as examples from novels, screenplays, and short stories, Wired for Story offers a revolutionary look at story as the brain experiences it. Each chapter zeroes in on an aspect of the brain, its corresponding revelation about story, and the way to apply it to your storytelling right now.
My Review Billed as The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, I have to say it delivers on that promise. Wired for Story presents a scientific argument for why we love a good story, and what makes a story good. Lisa Cron includes the science behind her arguments and examples that demonstrate her point. This isn’t so much a “how to” book so much as a “why” book and understanding why is the first step in figuring out how to.
Just some of the topics she covers are hooking the reader, getting to the heart of your characters’ feelings, and why our brain requires everything to connect. In other words, anything that doesn’t move the plot forward, contribute to characterization, or world building as it directly relates to plot or character, doesn’t belong in the story. That’s something all writers know, but Lisa Cron shows us why, scientifically, anything that doesn’t will quickly kill your story.
Bottom Line Wired for Story is a great book for understanding the evolution of story, and why our brains are wired to read or hear a story in a particular way. It helps us understand why books are formulaic and why some that break the mold work, and others don’t. This is almost the first book any aspiring author should read, before reading about technique.
Title: Wired for Story Author: Lisa Cron Publisher: Random House, LLC Pages: 272 Category: Writing Fiction Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links to Purchase: Goodreads | Amazon |Barnes & Noble
A special thank you to author Sherry Soule for today’s guest post. To find out more about Sherry Soule and her new book, Lost in Starlight, see below.
Why I Love the Young Adult Genre
Hi everybody, I’m author, Sherry Soule—waving from the SF Bay Area. Thanks for letting me visit today, it’s an honor to be a guest here and meet fellow booklovers.
Since I was a child, I recognized that books were a way to travel to other places and have incredible adventures. Even though I am older (you’re NEVER too old to read young adult novels, in my opinion) than the average teen reader, I’ve always loved reading Young Adult literature.
I think I love reading YA Lit because I think that most novels in this genre are fast-paced and thrilling, and the stories are written in a style that is engrossing, with story-driven or character-driven plotlines with lots of first love. I also adore that there are so many books created into a series nowadays, so that you can continue to have additional adventures with your favorite characters.
Could my love of YA Lit be simply because I’m still stuck at age sixteen, just a teenager-at-heart in disguise?
Could be. And like many of you, I’ve read hundreds of YA books and I can actually say that I enjoyed them all. Some I genuinely loved and these books became like good friends that I didn’t want to part with, so they adorn my bookshelves and wait patiently to be reread again one day. Other novels were simply read and then disregarded with a contented smile.
And you know what? I am NEVER embarrassed to buy YA novels (although, I buy most of my books online through Amazon) in bookstores, or carry them around with me. I love the genre and always have and always will.
Of course, I realize that we all have diverse tastes in literature. Most of you will have varied genres that you love to read, and probably some of my favorite books are simply your forgotten reads. That is what makes the world of YA Lit, and reading as a whole, so fascinating. Each one of us will enjoy different types of characters, plots, and of course, a writer’s voice, the way only they can tell a story.
At its core my new novel, LOST IN STARLIGHT is basically a love story about two lonely hearts finding each other and how their star-crossed relationship changes both of their lives. And I don’t know about you, but I need some romance in almost every book I read. Even in YA! And if you’re a hopeless romantic at heart, then you’ll enjoy reading my new book.
Thus, LOST IN STARLIGHT is the first book that I’ve ever written that focuses heavily on romance more than any paranormal baddies trying to kill the heroine or having the plot center around a supernatural mystery to solve. And I think the heroine of my new series, Sloane, is rather unique. To me, she’s not your average “Mary Sue” or flawless hero. She’s chubby and has some self-esteem issues, but she’s also headstrong and gutsy, with an eccentric fashion sense.
Thank you for letting me chat about my love of young adult literature. I hope you enjoyed this post. Now go feed your mind and read a book! Preferably one of mine. 😀
About the Book Title: Lost in Starlight (Starlight Saga #1) Author: Sherry Soule Publisher: Moonlight Publishing Pages: 293 Category: Young Adult Paranormal Romance Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Kobo
Synopsis High school reporter Sloane Masterson knows she has one helluva story when she witnesses hottie Hayden Lancaster bending forks with his mind.
Like any good journalist, Sloane sets out to uncover the truth, even if it includes a little stalking. When the superhuman feats start to pile up and the undeniable heat rises between them, Hayden has no choice but to reveal his secret: he’s an alien hybrid.
They’re as different as night and day—she’s a curvy, purple-haired, horror junkie and he’s a smoking hot, antisocial, brainiac—yet the intense fascination between them refuses to go away. Even at Hayden’s insistence that dating each other is “off limits” and crazy dangerous, their fiery attraction threatens to go supernova.
Now Sloane’s dealing with creepy government agents, über snobby extraterrestrials, and a psycho alien ex-girlfriend out for revenge. After a crash course on the rules of interstellar dating, Sloane must decide if their star-crossed romance is worth risking her own life….
About the Author Sherry Soule lives with her family and one very spoiled black cat in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the bestselling author of the adult novel, “Immortal Eclipse” and the popular YA series: Spellbound. Sherry writes thrilling tales of romance and suspense, often mingled with a dash of the mystical and a splash of trendy fashion. Her love of literature began when she was a young girl and it has continued throughout her life.
Her published novels do not include any graphic sex scenes or explicit violence, nor excessive profanity, so that all of her novels can be read and enjoyed by both teens and adults.
Sherry’s debut novel, “Beautifully Broken” was nominated for Best Paranormal Romance in the 2011 Wizard and Witch/Sorcery category by The Romance Reviews (TRR). Her adult novel, “Immortal Eclipse” is a *TOP PICK* by Night Owl Reviews.