Synopsis After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.
This year, it is my turn.
My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.
But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.
Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…
My Review The book started off slow for me. In fact, it took a good 100 pages for me to become thoroughly engrossed. But once I did, it had me by the throat until the last page. There are a lot of similarities to other dystopian stories. There’s a fenced city (Divergent), government pairings (Matched), an oppressive government (Hunger Games, Matched), banishing people from society as punishment (Matched), but there are enough new elements to keep the story from being predictable.
Ivy and her family feel as if they are the rightful ruling family of Westfall, a post currently held by the Lattimer’s. But Ivy’s family has a plan to get control. It just involves Ivy marrying and then killing the president’s son, Bishop. It’s a chilling premise that took a while to develop, but it was easy to see as the days passed that Ivy wasn’t going to have an easy time killing her husband. Because he’s none of the things she was raised to believe. He’s compassionate, fair, considerate, and doesn’t agree with everything his father says and does.
While I had a pretty good idea how things were going to end up, I didn’t know how they would play out, and didn’t see the ending coming. I’m just glad I don’t have to wait a year for the second book since I didn’t get my copy of The Book of Ivy until ALA in June.
Other than slow pacing, the plot was intriguing. There isn’t a lot of action, but this is more of a psychological tale than an action adventure. Ivy’s journey takes her from dutiful daughter to scheming wife, to confused and conflicted teen, to terrified girl, back to dutiful daughter in the course of a few months. As her relationship with Bishop develops, it’s easy to see that she’s going to struggle with carrying out her task. What keeps this story moving is wondering how she’s going to get out of an impossible situation.
Bishop and Ivy are intriguing and complex, while the rest of the characters are more nebulous. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, though. Ivy spends an incredible amount of time inside her head, closing herself off from everyone around her. She’s introverted, lonely, and it’s easy to see that other people don’t factor in heavily in her world. They exist, but she doesn’t truly interact with them on more than a superficial basis, so they come across as superficial. But in a way that shows them to us only through Ivy’s prism. Except for Bishop. And as she allows herself to get closer to him, we get to see his layers and depth blossoming from black and white to full technicolor.
Ending The ending was unexpected, so in my opinion, that makes it strong. If you don’t like cliffhangers, be forewarned, but it’s a satisfying enough ending to tide you over the few days until book 2 comes out.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed about The Book of Ivy: 1. Ivy’s sacrifice. I don’t want to give anything away, so that’s all I’ll say.
2. Bishop Lattimer. The president’s son is swoonworthy in a completely different way than a lot of teen love interests.
3. The plot to bring down the president. It’s surprisingly simple, yet brilliant.
4. Falling in love. The way Bishop and Ivy, virtual strangers on their wedding day, evolve their relationship from stiff and awkward, to friendship, and then something more is beautiful.
5. The ending. I love when I can’t anticipate how everything is going to play out. I didn’t believe Ivy would be able to kill Bishop, but I had no idea how that was all going to resolve, and I was way off base in my prediction.
Bottom Line The Book of Ivy is a familiar dystopian tale with enough of its own uniqueness to set it apart from the rest.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher at ALA in San Francisco. This in no way influences my review.
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.
Synopsis In How Fiction Works, Oakley Hall expands upon and broadens the instruction that made The Art and Craft of Novel Writing so successful.
This new book covers all forms and lengths of fiction, probes deeper into every topic, offers new examples and includes exercises and the end of every chapter. He explains the basic and finer points of the fiction-writing process from word choice and imagery to authority and viewpoint.
The book is divided into three sections, beginning with “The Basics.” In this section, Hall explores the micro elements of storytelling, such as details, word choice, images, symbol and metaphor. He then moves on! to “The Elements,” which covers the primary elements of fiction: point of view, characterization and plot. Citing numerous examples from classic and contemporary work, he shows readers how these elements function separately and in concert. Finally, the focus shifts to the specific types of fiction – short shorts, short stories, novellas, and novels – also known as “The Forms.” Each form presents a unique challenge to the writer, and Hall explains how to meet those challenges.
Beginning, as well as more advanced writers, will find much to like about this book.
My Review I originally borrowed this book from the library and ended up purchasing it because it had some really solid information. Oakley Hall uses examples, good and bad, to illustrate his point. The first third of the book I found outstandingly useful, particularly the section on scene setting and choosing descriptive details. I also found the center section about symbolism and indirection to be an area where my writing is weak, and it gave me some good ideas. The section on characterization didn’t come across as quite as strong for me. I’m not sure why I found it lacking, I just know that I struggled to get through it and ended up skimming portions. I completely glossed over the short story section as well since I don’t have much interest in that topic. However, the parts I found useful more than justified the price I paid for the book.
As the director of writing programs at U.C. Irvine for 22 years as well as the author of 21 novels, Oakley Hall knows a thing or two about writing fiction. I love that he uses examples of both good writing that illustrates his point using those that seem to break the rules, explaining why in his opinion, it doesn’t work.
Bottom Line How Fiction Works includes sound advice for fiction writers with illustrative examples. It’s definitely worth a read.
Title: How Fiction Works Author: Oakley Hall Publisher: Story Press Publication Date: January 5, 2001 Pages: 240 Category: Writing Fiction Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon |Barnes & Noble
How Forever Feels (Friends First #4) by Laura Drewry
Synopsis From USA Today bestselling author Laura Drewry comes a warm and witty new Friends First novel—perfect for readers of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery. How Forever Feels is a sweet tale about the one that got away . . . and the one that came back.
Maya McKay’s heart is as big as Jack Rhodes’s shoulders are broad. Their chemistry is out of control, but it could never work between them because Jack is more than just best friends with her cheating ex-husband—they’re like brothers. Maya, the sensitive, practical florist, has given up on love and is ready to settle for like. But now that Jack’s around again, he’s stirring up old feelings—and turning Maya’s fantasies into irresistible reality.
Jack blew his chance with Maya years ago when he stepped aside for his best friend, Will, and he’s still kicking himself about it. Maya was promised forever once before, and she got burned. But when Jack realizes that second chances aren’t going to fall out of the sky, he seizes the moment—and the woman he’s always loved—to show her how forever truly feels.
My Review How Forever Feels is a sweet contemporary romance with well-developed characters and a sexually-charged couple that are clearly perfect for each other if they could only get past their issues. When Maya’s ex-husband’s best friend shows up in town, the two rekindle a friendship that evaporated with Maya’s divorce.
When Jack admits he’s always had a thing for Maya, their friendship becomes muddled with feelings neither one wants to give into for various reasons. Watching these two dance around each other is refreshing. Their friendship is at the core of the relationship, but both want more, and in this twist, both know the other wants more, and they even know what’s holding them back, but that doesn’t make it any less angsty.
The plot is pretty straightforward romance without any major twists or surprises, but it works well without ever becoming predictable. Which sounds impossible, but trust me, it isn’t. There are a lot of balls in the air with Maya’s antagonistic relationship with her ex and his fiance, who also happens to be the woman Maya caught him with. There’s also Jack’s relationship with the ex and his family who took Jack in as a homeless teen. There’s a hot guy in the wings waiting for Maya, a secret Maya’s keeping from Jack, and a secret Jack’s keeping from Maya.
The character depth is amazing and a real treat to read. When I first started the book, I didn’t realize it was the fourth in a series, but as the other characters were so well-developed, it didn’t surprise me to find out each couple has their own story. Author Laura Drewry has created a cast of characters that are alive and colorful in a way that makes it difficult to believe they’re not real.
Writing The story is told in alternating third-person, but is deep enough that it feels like first-person at times. Drewry pays attention to detail with her scene setting, drawing us in with vivid imagery, something often missing from contemporary romance.
Ending The ending was well done, and provided a small surprise that wrapped things up neatly in a happy bow of love and promise.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About How Forever Feels: 1. The cast. I loved all the characters. Yes it was Maya and Jack’s story, but the supporting cast is so well-developed, even though I haven’t read the first three books in the series, I didn’t need to in order to appreciate everyone in the book as well-rounded and full.
2. The dialogue. It all came across as so natural and real and helped define the characters more fully.
3. Good guys. They don’t always finish last, and Jack is among the best of the good guys.
4. Canadian Thanksgiving. It’s on a Monday. How cool is that?
5. Maya and Jack. Their friendship is solid and really is the foundation for everything else. I love this about them.
Bottom Line How Forever Feels has its sweet moment, and just enough romantic angst to keep it interesting without feeling overdone.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: How Forever Feels
Series: Friends First #4 Author: Laura Drewry Publisher: Loveswept Release Date: October 13, 2015 Pages: 300 Genre: Contemporary Romance Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks
Author Laura Drewry
About the Author USA Today bestselling author, Laura Drewry had been scribbling things for years before she decided to seriously sit down and write.
After spending eight years in the Canadian north, Laura now lives back home in southwestern British Columbia with her husband, three sons, a turtle named Sheldon, and an extremely energetic German shepherd.
She loves old tattered books, good movies, country music, and the New York Yankees.
A special thank you to author, Marie Powell, for today’s guest post on travelling and world building. To find out more about Marie and her book, Hawk, including buy links and details on their giveaway, please see below.
Travelling and World Building
Hawk really started for me on a family trip to Wales with my two kids (then 11 and 16). On that trip, I began what would be eight years of research into 1282-83 Wales, during the time of the invasion by Edward I (Longshanks). I was interested in how people might survive an invasion like that, and keep their language and humanity intact. I had always been interested in Wales, since I knew my grandfather was a Welsh speaker (although he died before I was born.)
So we drove the narrow mountain roads, and by some luck or fate, we stumbled onto the details that set the stage for Hawk. We went castle-hopping through the big castles like Caernarvon and Beaumaris, and quickly realized these were actually created to subjugate the Welsh, after the invasion. We learned there was a Prince of Wales who wasn’t connected to the English monarchy; in fact, the English considered him an arch enemy. A villain. Llywelyn’s title was stolen along with his crown (or coronet) and his royal seal — and his head, which hung on the Tower of London for about 10 years.
Then we discovered Llywelyn’s castles, and through books and websites I began to learn about his history. For example, we explored the sites of Dolwyddelan, Criccieth, and Castell-y-Bere. Walking around the huge, empty ruin of Castell-y-Bere was a revelation for us. It was also humbling to see yourself against that mass of stone, and listen to the eerie wind through the mountain of the legendary giant, Idris. We were also visiting Pen-y-Bryn, the 15th Century manor house in Aber, on the day an archeological dig started there to determine whether it’s the site of Llywelyn’s lost castle, Garth Celyn (although that hasn’t been decided to date).
It’s possible to write a historical novel without travel, and many writers have proven that. But for me, it’s another lens to bring to bear on the world of my characters. It gives me the chance to say, “What would Hyw have done?” or “How might Cat react to that?” Travel is a way into their world, and the more sense of atmosphere and detail I can have in my mind before I write, the better I like it. Also, it sends me on an adventure along with my characters. Nothing can beat that feeling.
Hawk by Marie Powell
About the Book
Title: Hawk Authors: Marie Powell Publisher: Five Rivers Publishing Release Date: August 1, 2015 Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon CA | Kobo | !ndigo
Synopsis Hyw yearns to join his father in serving the charismatic Llywelyn, Prince of Wales. If only Hyw dared tell anyone of his ability to scout through the eyes of a hawk, it might help secure his place in the royal guard.
Cat, his sister, longs to inherit the magical ability that runs through her mother’s line. If only she could see her future, now that she is 13 and promised to a boy she barely remembers.
When a messenger summons the prince to a secret meeting, Cat and Hwy find themselves in the middle of a war that threatens to destroy all of Wales. Can they master their special abilities in time to save the royal family—and themselves?
Set among the actual events and personages of late 13th century Wales, Marie Powell has constructed a fantasy novel that recreates what life might have been like for two teenagers coming of age..
Author Marie Powell
About the Author Marie Powell is the author of 30 published books, including the young adult historical fantasy Hawk (Five Rivers, 2015) and Hawk and Crown (Five Rivers, 2016).
She holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, and her award-winning short stories and poetry appear in such literary magazines as subTerrain, Room, and Transition.
She lives in Saskatchewan, and her writing workshops are popular across the province.
I’m delighted to spotlight young adult/new adult crossover author, Kayla Howarth today. I met Kayla on Goodreads when we were both looking for critique partners for our young adult dystopian series. What started out as a critique swap has turned into a nearly year-long friendship, online of course since she lives “down under”. Recently she agreed to let me pick her brain in a fun little interview. I hope you enjoy learning a little bit more about this talented author.
Q: When did you get the first spark of an idea behind The Institute and what fanned those flames? A: I used to be one of THOSE people. I’d read a book, roll my eyes, and say “I could so write a book.” So, on my 29th birthday, my friend encouraged me to make a 30 before 30 list; 30 things to do in the year before I turn 30. Write a book was #1 on that list. I’ll be the first to admit that I had NO clue how much work went into a book, and it was a little overwhelming. I had a newfound respect for authors and suddenly felt bad about ripping apart books in my reviews on Goodreads.
The idea behind the story of The Institute came about from working as a courier. Being on the road a lot, my mind would always wander. The story changed numerous times and there were about a billion drafts. From Shilah being a lot younger, to Allira wielding lightning, there were many ideas that didn’t make it to the final product.
Q: Did you always set out to write a trilogy? A: When I first had the idea for The Institute, it was meant to be a single book with the possibility of a sequel. I got about halfway through book #1 when I realised it would definitely have to be two parts. I finished writing them both with no intention of making it into a trilogy until my best friend (who encouraged me to start writing in the first place) told me there is no way I could wrap the story up in an epilogue after the events of Resistance (book #2). So that’s when book #3 started to come into fruition.
Q: Did you know how the last book was going to end before you wrote the first? A: I didn’t even know there was going to be a third, so it’s pretty safe to say I had no idea how it would end. A recent review of Defective (#3) said they loved how the third book was basically an epilogue to the whole series. I hadn’t actually looked at it that way before, but I think it sums it up perfectly. The main conflict is settled by the end of book #2, and rarely do books go into the “Well, what happens now?” portion of stories or how solving their problem affects the characters’ lives many months/years later.
Q: Your characters are deep, nuanced, and far from perfect, but incredibly relatable. How do you go about character development? A: When I started writing about Allira’s story, I wanted her as real as possible (even if she lived in a world with supernatural abilities). I tried to remember back to when I was a teenager and all those emotions I felt. A lot of these emotions ended up being deleted during editing because it felt like I was trying to make Allira like me, when she was her own person – someone I wished I could’ve been as a teen. I was shy, awkward (okay, some of that made it into Allira’s story), and never stood up for myself, let alone someone I cared about.
Most of my characters write themselves, I just have to give them a little push and provide a bit of back story, but sometimes they have a mind of their own. In a current WIP (the Litmus Series – a spin off to The Institute Series), there was a character who was meant to stay in the background and not play a major part. He ended up pushing his way to the front and stealing the show, becoming a main character.
Q: Your story is set in Australia, but it could really be set anywhere. How did you go about your world building for The Institute series? A: I thought about what the world would be like if the majority of the population was wiped out by disease. TV and movies would suggest the government would fall, chaos would ensue, and everything would go to hell. Which may have happened in Allira’s world in the beginning, but her story is set 60 years after the pandemic. The government is functioning as it would in today’s society, there’s structure and rules, but not run by a dictatorship.
Being set in Australia, I wondered what it would be like to be cut off from the rest of the world – something that could very well happen being an island far away from anywhere. As a country, we may be advanced in medical innovation, but we rely on others for things like technological advances. So I assumed technology would suffer, perhaps taking a step back. I kind of focused on advancing the essentials for surviving, like food and medicine, leaving out luxuries like TV and Internet, cell phones and cars. The city and surrounding areas featured in The Institute Series were loosely based on the area I live in in South East QLD, just so I had a reference of how long it would take to travel between Allira’s home/the city/the Institute.
Q: What other genres do you see yourself dabbling in beyond young adult/new adult dystopian/scifi? Any contemporary in your future? A: I do have plans for a contemporary YA book that addresses bullying in high school. The story revolves around a nineteen-year-old girl trying to make it in the music industry, but has a lot of setbacks and self-esteem issues about her weight, stemming from years of teasing in high school – which she never finished, having left before her senior year because of the bullying. I also have plans for a husband/wife thriller where the wife is convinced her husband is trying to kill her. The idea may or may not have stemmed from a running joke I have with my husband that he is trying to kill me.
Q: Can you send me a snapshot of your writing space? What is the one thing in your space (beyond the laptop) you’d have to have if you went on a writing retreat?
A: The only thing I need to write is my laptop and access to coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
Q: If you went on a worldwide book tour, which five cities would you HAVE to hit?
A: San Francisco because it’s my favourite city in the world (editor’s note – mine too!) – I’ll always find an excuse to go back there. New York because the only time I’ve ever been there was during a snow storm (and not the exciting snow, but the type that just basically creates black ice on the pathways and roads) so it wasn’t exactly fun for me the first time. Budapest, because of random reasons – I’ve just always wanted to go there. (And okay, singing George Ezra’s song repeatedly has some appeal.) Copenhagen, because it’s on my list of places I want to go (and I’ve actually sold a whole of six books there. Lol). And Paris, because I loved Paris.
Q: Who is your biggest writing influence? A: When I started writing, I aspired to be like Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games is one of those books that I’d read and wished I could write like that (unlike those other books where I thought I could do better). I can’t even tell you why I love The Hunger Games so much, or why I haven’t found another book or series I love just as much. Perhaps it’s because THG was the first time I really got into reading since high school, so it will always be my first love.
Q: Pretend you’re writing fan fiction — pick two characters by two different authors in two wildly different genres and give us a brief overview of your setting and plot. A: Janine from Divergent meets Amy from Gone girl for a cup of coffee to brainstorm how to be successful in their manipulative ways. Janine suggests Amy use mind control to make her husband obey her, and Amy tells Janine she really has to let the mind control thing go. They have words and end up turning on each other. That’d be a pretty cool showdown to see. Janine has minions, but Amy is psycho. I wonder who would win …
The Institute (The Institute #1) by Kayla Howarth
About Book 1 Title: The Institute Series: The Institute #1 Author: Kayla Howarth Release Date: January 7, 2015 Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Synopsis Allira Daniels will do anything to keep her family safe from the Institute.
They claim to protect the Defectives, but really the Defectives are trapped and segregated.
Allira’s brother Shilah is not dangerous like everyone assumes all Defectives are.
He just sees things before they happen, and Allira knows that if anyone finds out, they will turn on the entire Daniels family. So they live by one simple rule: be invisible.
They try to blend in at school, try not to draw unnecessary attention to themselves.
But when Allira witnesses a car accident that critically injures two of her classmates, her family’s rule and her dad’s warnings are tossed aside.
Allira is quick to discover that saving Drew’s life could just be the best and worst thing she’s ever done.
The Resistance (The Institute #2) by Kayla Howarth
About Book 2 Title: Resistance Series: The Institute #2 Author: Kayla Howarth Release Date: May 14, 2015 Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Synopsis It’s what every Defective person wants – freedom, liberation from the Institute.
Allira had her chance. Then why is she still working for them?
It has been three months since she first started working as an agent for the Institute.
She’s good at her job. She has to be. There’s too much at stake.
After an arrest goes awry, she’s faced with the possibility of escaping again, and an offer too good to refuse.
Things are meant to be different at the Resistance, everything is meant to be better.
But when life is about survival, sacrifices must be made. What will Allira sacrifice for her freedom?
Defective (The Institute #3) by Kayla Howarth
About Book 3 Title: Defective Series: The Institute #3 Author: Kayla Howarth Release Date: September 1, 2015 Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Dystopian Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Synopsis Eighteen months has passed since the Institute was liberated.
For Allira Daniels, she’s still trying to live with the consequences of her actions.
The Defective are free, but are their lives truly any better?
Attacks on Defectives are on the rise, and Allira has to wonder if she’s directly responsible.
Keeping busy to escape her guilt, Allira is trying to move on, but how can she when her past is always haunting her?
Author Kayla Howarth
About the Author Kayla was born and raised on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. She still resides there with her husband and son, working part time for a medical pathology lab while working on her writing.
Her love of reading and movies inspired her to start something she never dreamed possible: Writing her first novel.
When she’s not working, looking after her son, or writing, you’ll most likely find her hosting her own dance party in the kitchen while she does the dishes. (Where her husband will argue that more dancing is achieved than clean plates.)
Synopsis When Jordyn Michaelson’s autistic brother joins her at her elite 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?
My Review I read an earlier version of this manuscript over on the Swoon Reads website and fell in love with Jordyn and Alex, so when the final published version was available, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It’s as good as I remembered and then some. Jordyn’s story is one I think a lot of teens can relate to, particularly teens with a special-needs sibling. It’s not always easy to like Jordyn, but it’s easy to understand her. Being the new girl in high school is hard enough without being the new girl with the “weird” brother.
Jordyn struggles with her friendship with Alex, keeping her relationship to Phillip a secret, and just trying to get through the next sixty days until Phillip is moved to a different school and life can return to normal. But of course things don’t go according to play and how Jordyn steps up and becomes the girl we all know she can be is really what this story is about.
On the surface, it seems to be just a story about a girl who loves a boy she can’t have, but it soon becomes clear it’s so much more than that. Jordyn struggles with a loving a younger brother who doesn’t seem to be able to reciprocate. Being the older sister of an autistic sibling is challenging enough, but when his attendance at her school threatens Jordyn’s social status, she’ll need to decide where her loyalties really lie. And it’s in this subtext where the plot really unfolds.
Yes, Jordyn is selfish at times, worried about what others think of her, terrified of being bullied, or worse, excluded, but show me a teenager who isn’t. She’s incredibly authentic and her growth through the story is honest, painfully so at times. This is Jordyn’s story and she’s well-crafted, deep, and yes, flawed. I get why people might not love her, but I love her for her faults, for being who she is, warts and all. Watching her development over the course of the story was incredibly rewarding. Alex, the love interest, is adorable, and Leighton, the antagonist, is just bitchy enough without succumbing to a stereotype. None of the other characters have anywhere near Jordyn’s depth, though. This is a character-driven story, and it’s all about Jordyn. We spend a lot of time in her head, so it’s a good thing she’s got so much going on in there!
Writing Author, Karole Cozzo, has done her homework, bringing to vivid life what it’s like to live with an autistic family member — the lows, the highs, and everything in between — with heart and more than a few tears.
Ending Jordyn completes her journey as she should, showing us that life isn’t black and white, and sometimes it’s hard to say what you need to out loud, but so rewarding when you finally do.
Top Five Things I Loved about How to Say I Love You Out Loud: 1. Jordyn’s speech. It comes at about the 75% mark, but everything that happens before, leads up to this emotional moment that brought tears to my eyes every time I read it.
2. Jordyn’s surprise for Alex. This sweet moment between the two of them signals a shift in their friendship.
3. Alex Colby. What’s not to love about a boy scout who uses his spare time to build a playground for handicapped kids? Seriously, he may be the perfect book boyfriend.
4. Autism awareness. This book does such a great job of helping readers understand not only what life is like for family members of kids with autism, but what life is like for an autistic child.
5. Closets. Seriously, some of the best moments in the book take place in closets.
Bottom Line How to Say I Love You Out Loud is an emotional look at finding your own words and the strength to say them out loud.
About the Book Title: How to Say I Love You Out Loud Author: Karole Cozzo Publisher: Swoon Reads Release Date: August 4, 2015 Pages: 240 Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo
Author Karole Cozzo
About the Author Karole lives outside of Philadelphia, PA with her loving husband, exuberant little girl, and smiley little boy.
She adores YA Romance, because it would be awesome if life in general had a requisite feel-good happy ending rule.
Vices include obscene Haribo gummy consumption, addiction to Starbucks NF vanilla lattes, and tendency to hoard Bath and Body Works 3-wick candles.
A brilliant civil lawyer, David Hennings has always been the outsider—at odds with his wealthy family, shunning relationships, defying convention as a sexy leather-jacketed biker. Which is why sculptor Amanda LeBlanc agrees to his request to reconstruct a skull from a cold case murder. The instant heat between them is scorching.
But once Amanda takes the job and gets too close to the rebellious attorney, her carefully balanced life is upended by a series of methodical attacks. Someone doesn’t want her to finish the job. Now David will risk everything not to lose the woman he unknowingly put in jeopardy.
My Review I love a good mystery. Add romance and instant heat and I’m there. The Rebel pairs pragmatic artist, Amanda, with edgy civil lawyer, David. David comes from a family of lawyers, but he’s the only one to shy away from criminal law, so it’s ironic he’s the one his mother enlists to convince Amanda to reconstruct the identity of a woman only from her skull. Sparks fly upon their first meeting, but they dance around their attraction for more than half the book before anything happens. There was more than enough intrigue, and good juicy mystery, and lots of unresolved sexual tension to keep me invested.
The timeframe is short, so a lot is packed into several fast-paced days, including a red hot romance. Despite that, the pacing of the writing itself is steady rather than intense. It moves, but for me, never reached the I-can’t-put-it-down stage. Not to say that I didn’t find that I wasn’t interested in finishing it, only that I was okay to wait until morning to finish reading. It was a good solid story, though, with interesting characters and an intriguing plot.
On the surface, it seems the plot is the mystery of the skull found in the prologue, but it’s really the story of David and Amanda’s romance. They’re thrown together because of the mystery, and danger follows them as a result, driving conflict. The romance moves almost too quickly based on the compressed timeframe of only a few days, but in the span of the story itself, it unfolds slowly. But at no time did I doubt these two would end up together.
The characters are where this story really shines. Adrienne Giordano creates deep, layered characters who are exceedingly likeable as they spew witty banter. The family dynamics of David, his siblings, and his mother are as real as it gets and were at the root of some of the best scenes in the book.
Writing The author does a great job of setting the scene, getting us inside her character’s heads, and developing those characters. There were a few pacing issues, but nothing major. There was also a pretty good twist I didn’t see coming, even though it was excellently foreshadowed.
Ending Things wrapped up pretty much the way I expected in a satisfying conclusion.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Rebel: 1. The mystery. When a skull is found, the hunt is on for the identity it belongs to, putting everyone in danger.
2. The flirty banter between David and Amanda. Their attraction is instant and it shows.
3. Family dynamics. The sibling rivalry and revelry between David and his brother and sister is palpable.
4. The twist. I won’t give it away, but it was fun to not figure it out ahead of time.
5. Jenna. The smart, tough investigator is a solid supporting character and I’d love to read a whole book from her point of view. Think Kalinda from The Good Wife.
Bottom Line The Rebel is a mystery wrapped in a romantic suspense with a big dose of fully-developed characters.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This is the fifth and final book in the Pepper Jones series, and it’s one you don’t want to miss.
Pepper Jones is ready to start breaking some records. She’ll be a junior in college, and if she wants to run professionally when she graduates, it’s time to step things up a notch. This time around, she knows it won’t be accomplished by ramping up her training.
While Pepper’s hoping for a race day breakthrough, she wonders if there’s a mental barrier holding her back, and if so, how is she supposed to confront it?
Meanwhile, Jace Wilder wants Pepper back any way he can have her, but he’s reluctant to bulldoze his way into her life having already crushed her once (okay, probably a few more times than that) before. More scenes from Jace’s point of view in the book shed a new perspective into the character Pepper fans love to hate, and hate to love, delving into those layers he’s only given glimpses of in the past.
The Brockton crew is growing up. Zoe and Wes. Jenny and Rollie. Lexi and Brax. Bunny and Wallace. Pepper and ??? It’s time to find out what Pepper’s happily ever after will be.
My Review I had bittersweet feelings diving into this one, knowing it was the last book in Pepper’s saga. The story picks up more than a year after the end of Pep Talks. Pepper and Jace are still apart, but otherwise, life in Brockton has settled into normal, well a new normal. One where Pepper’s friends are in stable relationships while she is still single and focused on running and her future. While she can tell Jace has changed, she’s too afraid of his ability to break her to let him back in. Jace is reeling from the biggest mistake he ever made and at a loss for how to fix things with Pepper.
This book is relatively short at only 180 pages and I would have liked more. The story itself is fine, building to an intense climax and wrapping up loose ends before rolling into a satisfying conclusion. But there are elements that are shared in summary form after they happen and would have been great to have been shown in real time. Other than that, I like the character development, the overall arc, and the emotions this story evoked.
There’s a lot going on in this installment. Primarily, it’s the story of Pepper and Jace and how they navigate the ever changing waters of their lifelong relationship. Both so clearly love the other, but Pepper is understandably gun-shy. Pepper is being pursued by Clayton Dennison and that drives some obvious conflict between Jace and Pepper. It’s also the story of what happens with the rest of their lives. With Jace entering his last year of college, an NFL draft might be in his future, and Pepper needs to determine if her future lies in professional running. All plot points are addressed in a believable manner, but as I said, I did want more for some of them. I would have loved to see more struggles with some of the decisions that are made and more of Pepper’s running.
The characters are still wonderful, fully-developed, and complex. I love the changes that both Pepper and Jace go through as they mature, and I love that Bunny is still Bunny, Pepper’s wild, pot-smoking gran.
Writing Other than including more exposition than I wanted, we get inside Pepper’s head the way we always do, and I still love her thought processes.
Ending I loved the ending. This is a satisfying conclusion to the series. Yes, I’ll miss all the characters, but closure is good, too.
Top Five Things I love about Pepped Up Forever: 1. Buns. Everything about Pepper’s fun-loving crazy grandmother is amped up in this finale.
2. Jace. He’s got his issues, but his love for his family and friends is never in doubt — only how he deals with his issues.
3. Pepper. She’s still tenacious even if a bit unsure, but watching her process everything the way she does is always a treat.
4. Wes and Zoe. They’re incredibly cute. I’d love a series with these two starring in it.
5. The ending. So perfect. And yeah, I still want more, but I’m finally okay with letting go.
Bottom Line A worthy ending to a great series.
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: Pepped Up Forever Series: Pepper Jones #5 Author: Ali Dean Release Date: October 1, 2015 Pages: 180 Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon
About the Author Ali Dean lives in Colorado with her husband, twin babies, and golden retriever. In addition to reading and writing, she loves the outdoors- everything from marathon training and biking to snowboarding and skiing.
Synopsis Heartbroken by the handsome and enigmatic Clayton Astor Sinclair, Sophie Walker has put her whirlwind romance with him in the Maldives behind her and is determined to focus on her career as an artist.
But when her new job in the south of France turns out to be too good to be true, she can’t help but wonder if she is making a mistake.
Their passion cannot be denied, but when Clayton shuts her out after a family tragedy, Sophie is determined to fight for what is right.
She must defy all odds to find her own happily ever after.
This book is intended for mature audiences.
My Review Mad Love 2 picks up with a heartbroken Sophie, back home in Los Angeles, licking her wounds after seeing Clayton with his ex on the cover of a tabloid. Where I found her strong at the end of the first book, albeit injured, she’s more pathetically broken at the beginning of the second book. When Erik and Orie tell her about an opportunity to do what she loves, art, she reluctantly agrees to take the job and accompanies them to France where it turns out, the entire thing was orchestrated by Clayton.
Once again, Clayton and Sophie cannot deny their attraction and sparks fly. This time around, their relationship is slightly more balanced, although Clayton is still a controlling pig and Sophie is too quick to excuse his bad behavior because a) he’s filthy rich and b) he’s too attractive to be real. There are some tender moments between them,which helps offset the things that both of them do that make them less than likeable. When tragedy strikes Clayton’s family, he shuts her out, but Sophie finally locates her missing spine and fights for what she wants.
This installment is more character driven than the last book, with both Sophie and Clayton experiencing growth. The plot is still a romance, though, and it’s still an extremely intense, edge-of-your-seat ride. There is more subplotting going on this time as well, involving secondary characters that adds to the overall enjoyment of the story.
Clayton’s controlling, angry, possessive behavior and Sophie’s shallowness make them both hard to like at times. Both also have their moments when they’re endearing. When Clayton is considerate, sweet, and playful. When Sophie is selfless and caring. The secondary characters, Erik, Orie, and Clayton’s family all come across as well-developed and add to the story. One of the more interesting subplots involves Clayton’s brother and his cousin-in-law.
The ending surprised me. I thought I knew what was going to happen and I was wrong. I love when that happens!
A worthy follow-up to Mad Love, it’s intense, emotional, and delves deeper into the characters we’ve come to know. The jury is still out on whether or not I love them.
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Title: Mad Love 2 Series: Mad Love #2 Author: Colet ABedi Publisher: Bird Street Books Pages: 262 Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Author Colete Abedi
About the Author
Colet Abedi has been an entertainment industry executive for over ten years. In addition to working on many television programs for NBC, ABC, FOX, and most cable networks, she is best known for her work as head writer for the telenovela serials American Heiress and Fashion House, the latter of which starred Bo Derek and Morgan Fairchild, on the FOX-owned MyNetworkTV.
Abedi currently has one television series in syndication, Unsealed: Alien Files, and has completed Five Souls, her first feature film. She is also the co-author of young adult fiction novel, FAE. Book one was released July 2013 by Diversion Publishing Group and was an instant online bestseller. The Dark King, the second in the planned FAE trilogy, was released May 2014. FAE was recently optioned by Ridley Scott. Colet is a native of California, graduated with a B.A. in English literature from the University of California at Irvine, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three dogs.
A special thank you to author, Bella Love-Wins, for today’s entertaining guest post, Shopping List: Three Essentials to Trap Man Candy. To find out more about Bella and her book with Bella Wild, Disguise, buy links, and details on their giveaway, please see below.
Bella Love-Wins’ Shopping List – 3 Essentials to Trap Man Candy (For entertainment only)
It’s sometimes difficult for women to decide on what to look for in a guy when they’re hoping for someone passionate, sexy-looking and romantic. No ladies, I’m not talking about an elusive unicorn. These guys are out there, just waiting for someone like you to turn up so they can claim you.
I won’t cover how or where to find these creatures. We’ll save that for another guest post.
Let’s get to the three things you’ll need to trap him when you do catch sight of him. To help you score, I decided to share my super-secret list that has been passed down to the women in my family for generations. Let’s call them Bella’s Triple-Threat: 3 Man Candy Trap Essentials.
Here it is:
Remember they said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? Well, protein is a must for any scorching hot, muscle-bound man candy out there. Keep a bag of the top brand in your purses, ladies. You really don’t want to be caught without it when you meet him. As soon as he’s within ten feet, pull out one of those beef jerky strips and shake it in front of him. He’s guaranteed to come running right into your arms.
Important Note: Forget the veggie-jerky. It’s a wicked, wicked sham.
Every woman needs a good friend. A bestie would be ideal, but in the absence of that, a wingwoman makes for good company while you’re on the hunt. Also, said wingwoman should be strategically selected to make you look hotter, and smarter in your man candy’s eyes. You can also take turns during your search, to make it worthwhile for you both, and to cover more ground.
Hot Pink Stilettos
No matter where you go, these are a must. The higher, the better. Glitter or sparkle will give you bonus points too. Slip them on when you track down your man candy, and when he’s within reach, just stand there and let the heels do its job. The sparkle and shine will mesmerize him long enough for you to swoop in and catch him while he is in a daze.
Well, that’s it. Beef jerky, a wingwoman, and hot pink stilettos. Simple, but effective to help you trap that man candy when you find him. Did I leave out an essential? Tell me what you would add to the list in the comments below or on my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BellaLoveWins.
Happy man candy hunting, ladies!
Disguise (Billionaire Rock Star #1) by Bella Love-Wins and Bella Wild
About the Book
Title: Disguise Series: Billionaire Rock Star #1 Authors: Bella Love-Wins and Bella Wild Release Date: September 28, 2015 Genre: Contemporary Romance Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Synopsis Can love be ignited under her disguise?
Lexxi Rock is a fiery pop / punk rock singer and guitarist — and billionaire, thanks to her father’s oversight. She’s grown tired of Los Angeles, the limelight, the isolation, her image, and her lackluster romantic life, most recently tarnished by smoking hot country star — and cheating bastard — Wilkes Barracks.
When her father suddenly becomes ill, she decides to temporarily leave it all behind. Anxious about the unwanted paparazzi and media attention that would follow her right back to her home in Tucson, Arizona, Lexxi takes a drastic, unprecedented step to hide from them all.
There’s only one wild card she did not count on. Lexxi has no idea that her father’s neighbor, and scorching hot firefighter, Sebastian “Bash” Sullivan, knows exactly who she is, and plays along with her ruse to get close to her.
Bash is the one reason she’s tempted to blow her cover, but can she trust him? Will her disguise work for long enough to nurse her father back to health? Can Bash save her when disaster strikes? .
About the Authors I live a little north of Toronto and dream of moving to the small town of Grimsby, Ontario one day very soon. Once I move out of the city, I would love to have a Shih Tzu and 2 cats as pets and practice kids. I love writing action-packed, steamy romance stories about new adults and characters in their mid-twenties, sometimes from wealthy families. I love my female characters to be strong, and my men stronger, with a vulnerable, sometimes broody side.
I love to laugh. I think it should be a law to laugh every day. Pink is my strength and my weakness. The color, not the artist.