Friday, October 17, 2014

NERC Review #50: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

*eARC kindly provided by the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you so much, Scholastic!*
*Spoilers from the first two books, so if you haven't read them yet, I'd skim this. But it's spoiler-free for BLLB.

I think I should have done a reread of the first two books before starting this, but I just couldn't wait. I have zero patience, and as soon as I downloaded Blue Lily, Lily Blue I had to read it. I did wait a few days, but that was mostly due to the fact that I wanted to focus my attention solely on this book and nothing else, so I had to finish a few reads first. Anyway, I wish I would have done a binge-read of the first two and this one. Not that it took any enjoyment out of the story, but I think it would have made the experience deeper because it'd been so long since I read The Dream Thieves I had to use Recaptains before starting this book.

Rating: 5 Stars!
I don't know what to say about this series except GO READ IT OR ELSE! Maggie Stiefvater's writing is superb. These characters and their relationships are so wonderfully developed. Blue and Gansey are perfect. <3 Ronan is the most lovable asshole around. Adam is humble and has a brilliant mind. The women at 300 Fox Way have deep bonds and are hilariously in each other's business all the time. And the road to Glendower is filled with complications, revelations, and secrets that will leave your heart in knots by the end. This is so twisted and mysterious and I have absolutely no idea where it's going but I want so badly to find out. But not a year from now. More like right now. Seriously.

There wasn't anything I disliked about this book, and what I loved the most was the character development. These characters are all so wonderfully multifaceted, their relationships with each other so beautifully complex. In the first book, it was very much about Blue and Gansey, as well as introducing the rest of the colorful cast of characters. In the sequel, Ronan took center stage, and we got to understand more about him and why he continually chooses to be a jerk when we know there is charm and sweetness underneath the exterior. But in this one, Adam shined. I may have been biased starting at the beginning, after knowing that Blue was practically destined to be with Gansey (sorry Adam), and after falling hard for Gansey. So, I never really connected with Adam as much. He was always that guy who tried so hard to be more because he never felt good enough. And he's still struggling to move on from his past and that feeling of failure and shame that comes with it. But he's slowly getting over that and realizing that he's more than a backwoods hick; his character development was so good in this book!

I ship these characters and their relationships so hard. The soul-aching longing and banter between Gansey and Blue. The subtle development of more than platonic feelings between Ronan and Adam. But more than that, I ship the five of them together; Gansey, Blue, Adam, Ronan, and Noah. They are a well-oiled machine, a unit. They joke around with each other, tease mercilessly, but when one of them needs help, they show up and offer support, ready to fight battles and lend a shoulder to cry on. This quote sums it up the five of them amazingly:
But what she didn't realize about Blue and her boys was that they were all in love with one another. She was no less obsessed with them than they were of her, or one another, analyzing every conversation and gesture, drawing out every joke into a longer and longer running gag, spending each moment either with one another or thinking about when next they would be with one another. Blue was perfectly aware that it was possible to have a friendship that wasn't all-encompassing, that wasn't blinding, deafening, maddening, quickening. It was just that now that she'd had this kind, she didn't want the other.
Isn't that just gorgeous and beautiful and oh my god, I love these characters so much. <3 I also adored the ladies of 300 Fox Way and was surprisingly sad when something happened to one of them. I'm also a fan of the Gray Man, the hitman who ended up becoming part of the story-line and this colorful cast of characters.

And the plot! This crazy, twisted, puzzling, and downright confusing mess of a story-line. Questions are answered in this book, but even more emerge and we're left wondering what the hell is actually going on. I honestly don't know how Maggie Stiefvater is going to wrap all of this up in only one book (*gasps* Saying that just sent me into a panic. No, no. I need more than one more book with these characters. I don't want to ever stop reading about my Raven boys and Blue). Anyway, the only thing I could consider a dislike after finishing this is that I'm still so freaking confused. I feel like I need to read these books a few more times before I can put all the pieces together and be ready for the finale. There is so much going, so many underlying hints, yet I haven't put all the puzzle pieces together yet. But I know she's going to wrap it up nicely, yet I'm just so worried. I'm terrified of what's going to happen to Noah, I'm petrified that Gansey is going to die, and that he'll never share a real kiss with Blue. And, just, what in the world is going on in this story?

That ending killed me, and I have to know what happens next, though I'm scared to read book four. But I want it like right now. I don't know how I'm going to wait a year to read it. I'm not even sure I'll be ready for it when next October shows up. I don't know what's going to happen, but I know this: it's going to shove all the feels down my throat, have me on the edge of my seat, and break my heart. 

Blue Lily, Lily Blue was another amazing installment in The Raven Cycle series, and all I wanted when I finished was more. More of this crazy story-line. More of the women at 300 Fox Way and the Gray Man. But most importantly, I just wanted more of Blue and my her Raven boys. <3
♥♥

Rating:
5 Paw Prints!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Blitz: Losing Track by Trisha Wolfe


Losing Track (Living Heartwood #2)
Release Date: 10/15/14

Summary from Goodreads:
Sometimes you have to lose your way before finding the right track.

The roar of a bike engine. The vibration between her thighs. The feel of cool darkness kissing her skin as she coasts along twisty back roads at night—Melody Lachlan lives for these things. Ever since Mel and her best friend Darla escaped their small, backwoods town, they’ve traveled the countryside in search of fast rides, tatted bikers, and good times.


A self-proclaimed poet and lover of all things free, Mel views her life as one long bike ride—with pit stops along the way to numb the pain. But she never saw herself as a junkie. Party as hard as you ride. That’s her motto…until a tragic night steals her soul. Then she’s forced to delve below the surface, to where her demons rage.


When she meets recovered drug addict Boone Randall, she’s more likely to deck him than kiss his dimple-adorable face. She doesn’t want his help; doesn’t want to own up to her part in that night. She just wants to do her time and keep her promise to her friend. Yet Boone challenges Mel, and soon she doesn’t mind sharing the road. Only when Boone’s own secret demons threaten their newfound, fragile security, Mel’s course becomes rocky, and she must decide if letting her well-worn track marks fade is worth finding a new path. 


Told from Dual point of view from Melody and Boone, this is a New Adult Contemporary Romance intended for readers seventeen years of age and older.


 

Only $.99 for a limited time only!

Companion to:
The Darkest Part (Living Heartwood )
by Trisha Wolfe
Release Date: 08/06/13

Summary from Goodreads:
Pressing the boundaries of both the psyche and the heart, Sam and Holden embark on a dangerous journey that will test the limits of love.

Sam Wintry’s life used to be almost perfect. She was engaged to her childhood best friend and high school sweetheart, Tyler Marks, planning an amazing cross-country honeymoon during her college break. But after a hit-and-run leaves her in ruin, she begins seeing Tyler’s fractured, ghostly presence, and her family believes she’s losing her mind. Not until she completes their journey, stopping along the way to scatter Tyler's remains, will Tyler be able cross over. Only...is Sam ready for him to leave her?

When the black sheep of the Marks' family, Holden Marks, returns to check on Tyler's case, Sam convinces him to give her his brother's ashes. Despite their shaky history, she needs him...plus, he owes it to Sam and his brother. What she doesn’t count on is Holden’s relentlessness to go on the trip.

On the road, Holden realizes just how unhinged Sam has become. Dealing with her psychosis forces him to confront his dark past, making it harder to keep secrets hidden that should remain buried. Especially from Sam, the only woman he’s ever loved. And as Sam starts to unravel the truth, she begins to question if the brother she's unwillingly falling for again is in an even darker place than her.

New Adult Contemporary coming this year.



Only $.99 for a limited time only!

***

Excerpt!
Boone
She sniffs hard and clears her voice. But doesn’t say anything.
            I do. “What’s wrong?”
            There. Two simple words. Could be any two people meeting in a hallway, asking the same thing, and it’d mean absolutely nothing. But for us, those words break through every barrier we’ve assembled.
            Her choice: answer something noncommittal, like “nothing,” and give me the brush off. Securing our casual friendship remains the same. Or, answer honestly…changing everything.
            I’m not sure which I’m rooting for. Just as I wasn’t sure yesterday if I wanted her to accept my rejection—or push past all my barriers and tell me to fuck off, she was taking control. I lied when I told myself I was relieved; I wanted this girl to scare the shit out of me, to make me react.
            Her throaty voice cuts through the suffocating fear creeping over me. “I got a letter. From a friend. He’s just been released from jail.”
            I notice the folded paper in her hand. Her fingertips pinching the paper, holding it away from herself. “That’s good news.” It’s not a statement; it’s a question.
            She nods. “Yeah.”
            Silence thickens between us.
            “Walk?” I offer, hoping I can get her out of whatever funk this friend has caused.
            Nodding again, she picks herself off the floor and folds the letter to make it smaller. She stuffs it into the back pocket of her jean skirt before saying, “So how did you fair with the blue balls yesterday? You seem to be walking all right.”
            A chuckle slips out. I know she’s avoiding. Doesn’t want to talk about the letter or her friend, so I can roll with her punches. “Worst case I ever had.” And that’s no lie. I thought long and hard about jerking my dick to kingdom come, but I settled for blue balls. An extra little dose of punishment for almost fucking up.
            “And that’s the best compliment I’ve ever had. Thanks, Boone.” She nudges me with her shoulder as I shake my head.
            As soon as we step outside, I drop my shades over my eyes and instantly regret my idea. For the seconds I was entranced with Mel’s pain, with her, I forgot about the sky-high heat index. “Shit. If there was ever a month to get the fuck out of Florida,” I say.
            “No shit,” she agrees. Turning to face me, she adds, “You do have a bike. Well, sort of. Not sure I classify your Bonnie bobber as one, really…” she trails off, and I let the slight against my bike slide. I figured her for an all American girl. “But we could Bonnie and Clyde our way to Sturgis. Pun totally intended.” She winks. “There’s always, like, a crazy aftermath of drag races and parties following the rally.”
            I want to think she’s joking. But I have a sure feeling in the pit of my stomach that if I offered her to leave right now, she’d hop on the back of my bike. No questions. And suddenly, there’s a sickness gripping my gut to match that feeling—I want that.
            At some point, whether it was the moment she touched me, the heated look in her eyes, or the second I saw the hopelessness forming around her in the hall…a line was crossed. There’s no walking away now.
            This girl will break me.
            And I’ll beg her to do it.
            We reach the benches near the basketball court and she slides onto the top seatback. I lick my lips, thankful for my shades as my gaze travels up her creamy legs to her thighs. I imagine running my hand up that same course. Under her skirt…
            Fucking hell. At some point, I’m going to have to wear my dick out. I should beat the hell out of it each time before I see her. I’m like a horny teen getting a taste of porn for the first time. It’s embarrassing.
            I’ve gone almost a year with no real temptations. Where the hell did this girl come from? She blindsided me.

***


About the Author
I’m the author of the YA Steampunk DESTINY'S FIRE, ASTARTE'S WRATH NA Historical/Supernatural, and the upcoming YA Utopian FIREBLOOD from Spencer Hill Press, October 2013. My NA Dark Fantasy OF SILVER AND BEASTS available May 2013.
I’m the creator of YA Bound, a promotional site for the Young Adult genre. Also a member of SCWW and The Apocalypsies.
A proud business owner, I'm partnered with my partner, my husband. When I’m not busy doing all of the above, I’m a wife and the mother of a gorgeous teen boy who's the sounding board for my male characters.

Author Links:
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Saturday, October 11, 2014

NERC Review #49: Stitching Snow

*eARC kindly provided by Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley*

When I heard that it was a retelling of Snow White, I knew I had to have it. I love anything to do with the fairytales, so when I was approved for this, I was ecstatic! I couldn't wait to dive in. And this book was just so much fun! 

Rating: 4 Stars!
I don't read many sci-fi books, but like I said above, this was a fairytale retelling, so I had to read it. Even though there were so many technical and mechanical terms being thrown around (which I have no clue if they were real or not), it didn't take away any enjoyment in the story. I didn't understand half of them, but I could get the gist of what was going on.

Essie is basically Ms. Fix-it on planet Thandan. She's made things easier for the people who work in the mines, but she's still not one of them. She fights them in her spare time to make money, but they don't like putting up with her. If not for her friend and the guy who took her in, she would not have made it this long. But Essie is a fighter! She's strong, resilient, and works hard. She's a little bit naive, though that's understandable given how she grew up, and she also could be reckless. But her character was so awesomely developed. I loved her strength, her resilience, and how she didn't wait around for a guy to save her. She's made a life for herself on Thandan, and she's got secrets. She's got a past that she wants to escape. Essie doesn't have time for romance, and she certainly doesn't have time for a nosy "treasure hunter" who makes promises of a better future.

Oh, Dane. What can I say about this handsome, sweet, and protective guy? He was the perfect match for Essie--headstrong, stubborn, and determined. He was so wonderfully developed as a character. There were moments I wasn't sure I could trust him; there were moments that he truly shocked me. But his background and his reasoning made me understand why he did what he did. And Essie understood it, too. He was sometimes protective to the point of overbearing, but all he wanted was for Essie to be safe. 

I loved their romance. Loved. It was a relationship built on a foundation of mistrust, but it developed into a wonderfully sweet and slow-burning romance that was very deep and swoon-worthy. I loved their awesome banter and chemistry. And I adored that ending. 

The secondary characters were all fleshed out well; some were there for help, others were there to hinder the MC from what she needed to do. And oftentimes, you didn't know one from the other. I adored the drones! (I didn't even get the whole number thing until a reviewer on Goodreads pointed it out--they're the seven "dwarves" from the original tale). They each had their own personalities, and there were so many comical moments involving them that gave the story a lightness to counteract the danger.

The plot was predictable, but I didn't mind that at all! It was very straightfoward, with a few twists thrown in that you might not see coming. It was a very fast-paced novel, and the science fiction aspects, the planets and their universe, were well developed. The plot didn't stay in one place and took our characters everywhere. It was filled with details and suspense and kickass characters who didn't hesitate to do what needed to be done.

I loved the writing and how Essie's voice drew me into the story from the beginning. There was a momentum that never slowed down, even when the plot did. I loved the subtle comparisons to Snow White, and I enjoyed the sci-fi aspects of the story. Stitching Snow was a wonderful standalone, though I wouldn't mind if the author wanted to expand on this story-line. :)

RATING:

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Fine Art of Pretending Blog Tour and Review


About THE FINE ART OF PRETENDING: 
According to the guys at Fairfield Academy, there are two types of girls: the kind you hook up with, and the kind you're friends with. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Reed is the second type. And she hates it. With just one year left to change her rank, she devises a plan to become the first type by homecoming, and she sets her sights on the perfect date—Justin Carter, Fairfield Academy’s biggest hottie and most notorious player.

With 57 days until the dance, Aly launches Operation Sex Appeal and sheds her tomboy image. The only thing left is for Justin actually to notice her. Enter best friend Brandon Taylor, the school’s second biggest hottie, and now Aly’s pretend boyfriend. With his help, elevating from “funny friend” to “tempting vixen” is only a matter of time.

But when everything goes according to plan, the inevitable “break up” leaves their friendship in shambles, and Aly and Brandon with feelings they can’t explain. And the fake couple discovers pretending can sometimes cost you the one thing you never expected to want.

Buy at 

Barnes & Noble Books-a-million | Amazon | Amazon UK | IndieBound


***

My Review!

I have been longing for this book ever since I heard of it. It's Rachel Harris, so of course, I was going to read it. I waited until I was in the mood for a light and fluffy read, and I couldn't wait to dive into it. But while I really enjoyed it, The Fine Art of Pretending lacked the depth that I so desperately wished for. Don't get me wrong, it was adorable and perfect for the kind of mood I was in. It just wasn't my favorite of her books.

Rating: 3.5 Cute Stars!

Alyssa Reed, on the outside, seems to have her life together. She's a volleyball star, has three amazing best friends, and loves to bake. But she gets this idea in her head that she's not good enough for the boys at her school, so she enlists the help of her friends, Kara and Gabi, to kick-start Operation Sex Appeal. Why? Well, I read a review that made me stop and think more deeply about this book: the reviewer talked about Aly's motivations, why she's decided that she needed to change her appearance to attract guys' attention. Basically Aly just wants to stop being that friend-zoned girl who can joke around with them but is never seen as sexy and attractive. I think her reasoning was realistic, albeit very misguided. Aly never needed to change who she was to get a boyfriend or make them see her as just a hookup. She just had to realize that she was good enough as she is. It took her almost the whole book to realize that. And with Brandon's help and his utter adoration toward Aly, she's able to let go of her goals and understand that being a Commitment is not a bad thing.

Boy, Rachel sure knows how to write swoony boys. Brandon is the epitome of a good guy--sweet, loyal, funny, and kindhearted. He always has Aly's best interests at heart, and all he wants is to convince her that she's perfect the way she is, that she's not a Casual. Brandon's been through a lot, and Aly helped him by just being her. He values her friendship, but when he starts having romantic feelings for her, he panics. He doesn't want love. He doesn't want a relationship. He doesn't want a Commitment. But he's seeing Aly in a different light, and through a dared kiss, he's forced to admit that he's long past friendship.

Their friendship was wonderful, I think I may have loved it more than their jump into romance. Which didn't feel like a jump so as much as a foot race. It was very slow-burning and waiting for the two main characters to stop being so ridiculous and realize that they're perfect for each other. Everyone else had long before they were fake-dating. But they were pretty freaking adorable together.

And the other characters were just as adorable! I loved Aly's two best friends, Kara and Gabi. They are both hilariously different from one another, which balances the dynamic trio. And I adored that they had Aly's back, through everything, even if they didn't agree with her tactics. I also loved Brandon's friends. Carlos, who was funny and sweet and just an all-around great guy (I'm crossing my fingers he gets his own book). Drew, who is levelheaded, perceptive, and understanding. But, I gotta tell ya, Justin Carter was my favorite. Honestly, he had me swooning just a *wee* bit more than Brandon! This heartbreaker is more than his status and good looks, and I can't wait to find out more about him.

The whole concept was different, though I thought it was detrimental to young girls' way of thinking. Basically, there are two types of girls at this school: Casuals (ones who only want hookups) and Commitments (ones who are boyfriend material), which were coined by Brandon and his friends. The premise of the book was centered on the fact that Aly wants a makeover so guys see her as a Casual. It killed me that she believed she wasn't good enough just as she was, a sweet and funny girl who would make some guy incredibly lucky. I know it's realistic because so many girls are insecure about their looks and who they are, especially in middle and high school (I know I was). But I also think it sends the wrong kind of message. However, I loved that Aly found her way through the craziness that is high school and boys and drama and still stayed true to herself.

This review feels a little negative, but in truth, I really did enjoy this story. It was perfect for the mood I was in, and I love Rachel Harris' books. The Fine Art of Pretending was just adorable!

***

About Rachel Harris: 
Award-winning and Bestselling author Rachel Harris writes humorous love stories about sassy girls next door and the hot guys that make them swoon. Emotion, vibrant settings, and strong relationships are a staple in each of her books...and kissing. Lots of kissing. 

An admitted Diet Mountain Dew addict and homeschool mom, she gets through each day by laughing at herself, hugging her kids, and watching way too much Food Network with her husband. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romance, and LOVES talking with readers. 

Links:

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

NERC Review #46: Burying Water

*eARC kindly provided by Atria Books via NetGalley*

I finished this book eight days ago, and I still don't know what to say about it. I'm at a loss for words. If Ten Tiny Breaths hadn't impacted me as much as it did, I'd say that this was K.A. Tucker's best book to date (even without having read the last book in her TTB series). Hell, maybe it is. But nothing will ever compare as much as her first book, not to me at least. Still, Burying Water was freaking amazing!

Rating: 4.5 Stars!
This book was so much different from the TTB series. It was like a romantic suspense novel with heavy contemporary undertones. It wasn't exactly all about the mystery, but it wasn't just about the characters and their relationship. It's almost, simultaneously, about two different journeys, two completely separate lives being played out to bring the readers toward a wonderfully satisfying ending.

I don't know what's happening, but three other books I read in the last two months did the same thing as Burying Water. The stories were told in the past and present, with two different characters each with their own voice. And it's worked. They've all worked out so well. I wasn't sure this one would, given how K.A. set it up. It's so hard to accomplish a timeline like this and bringing together two journeys that are being read at the same time. Only we are aware of everything that is happening in the story and what the two characters have gone through to make it to that ending.

Water doesn't know who she is or how she came to be in this small town. All she knows is that she was in an accident. She doesn't even remember her own name. Her identity is gone, replaced with uncertainty, fear, and even a small bit of joy to be able to start over completely. I loved her strength and her determination, how she tried to move on with her life even after everything she'd been through. It was so easy for me to connect with her character, and I loved how the author gave her such a three-dimensional personality. Her character development was very wonderful. Water was still the same person she was before the accident, yet not. She became more confident and strong and she grabbed onto her life with both hands and didn't let go. Not even when she learned truths that turned her world upside down. Not even when she realized that the boy next door she was falling in love with was lying to her.

Jesse is Ginny's neighbor, the old woman who opened up her home to Water after she got out of the hospital. Water is drawn to Jesse, though she doesn't know why. But I do, because while I'm watching Water try to figure out her identity, I'm also being swept back into the past with Jesse's POV. I loved reading his perspective and watching their relationship develop. It was adorable and sweet and romantic, but full of fear and uncertainty, longing and heartbreak. Jesse was such a good guy, so protective and safe and warm. People liked to talk about him and what he was like in high school. But he's changed. He's not that same troublemaker who made mistakes that no one can seem to let go of. He was so determined to help Water, so sure that he could be the guy she needed. He loved her so much, and all he wanted was a life with her. I thought Jesse's development was a little lacking. There was a lot of focus on Water's growth, which left his behind. I think a lot of that had to do with his not-so-great relationships with his family members. I was hoping they'd start to get better, but they didn't.

Water and Jesse, two very different individuals living two very different lives, should never have met. But they did. They should never have fallen in love. But they did. Life isn't black and white, right and wrong, off or on. Life is messy and complicated and people are full of gray areas, thin lines and muddled emotions. These two knew that better than anyone. I loved their relationship with each other, both in the past and present. It was a slow-burning friendship that morphed into a passionate love affair that consumed them. I know some readers will be disappointed, maybe even a little angry. But I'm not one of them. I didn't care about the circumstances surrounding their relationship, because I just wanted them to be happy. And I could feel their chemistry and love for each other. Maybe it was wrong, maybe they should have done things differently. But everything worked out in the end.

I absolutely adored how Water's story also intertwined with Ginny's, the old woman who took her in. Through their shared connection, they bonded and helped heal each other. Ginny was sweet and abrasive, cold and reserved. But she became Water's family, and with her, they both found peace. She was one of my favorite secondary characters, and so was Meredith, Jesse's mom.

And boy, was that ending worth everything! I was so nervous, constantly wondering how the plot would unravel and what would happen to these characters that I found myself caring for deeply. I was so invested in Water's and Jesse's story, so hooked on their relationship and the two lives unfolding before my eyes. It wasn't hard for me to switch back and forth, wasn't hard to be pulled into the past after witnessing the present. It never became disjointed or confusing. It was just so brilliantly written. And I loved how everything played out. It wasn't full of drama, which I was happy about. I thought there'd be some challenges, but looking back, I don't think they were needed to bring Water's and Jesse's story full circle.

I just don't really know how to tell you about this book without giving anything away. I think you should go in completely blind and open to the story. That's the only way to read Burying Water. The only way.

(17) Top Ten Character Driven Novels

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic: Ten Books For Readers Who Like Character Driven Novels

Be prepared because I'm going to be putting up books that I use for A LOT of TTT topics. #sorrynotsorry. I just can't help it if every topic fits my favorites!

1. Elemental Series
This series has one of my favorite families! The Merricks. <3 Love their relationships and bonds with each other. They're very focused on the characters.

2. Ten Tiny Breaths
Basically, all of KA Tucker's books. She makes sure that her characters are strongly developed. They drive the stories.

3. The Raven Cycle
I'm obsessed, I know. BUT SERIOUSLY THE CHARACTERS IN THIS SERIES ARE THE GREATEST EVER.

4. Between Shades of Gray
This book was all about Lina, her family, and their journey of survival, determination, and hope.

5. Stephanie Perkins' contemporaries
This series had such realistic, genuine, and lovable characters. They had real problems, real stories, and I fell in love with all of them. But mostly Cricket. <3

6. The Infernal Devices
I'm a huge fan of Cassandra Clare, but I'm more in love with this series than her other one. Strong characters, strong bonds, strong personalities.

7. Code Name Verity
This book was solely focused on the characters, Verity and Maddie, and their deep and unshakable friendship with each other.

8. Pushing the Limits + whole series
Katie McGarry is SO GOOD at writing such believable characters and developing them and their relationships with others. Amazing contemporaries.

9. The Kiss of Deception
I thought this would be more plot-driven, but it wasn't! It was very much character-driven! And I so didn't mind that at all. :)

Anything by Colleen Hoover
Her characters always take center stage in the stories; they drive the novel!

What are your top ten favorite character driven novels? As always, leave me a link! :)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: Until You Find Me by Amber Hart

*I received a copy of this from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I really, really enjoyed Before You by Amber Hart, so I was super stoked about reading this! I love that multiracial couples are an integral part of her stories, because you don't find many of them in books (or maybe I'm just reading the wrong ones). I think it's a good thing, indeed. And this was so good!

Rating: 4 Wild Stars!
This book was told in double POVs, which I absolutely love when it comes to my contemporaries. Actually, this is a bit of a romantic suspense book too, as the jungle holds many dangers and secrets. The two characters, a girl from America and a boy from the jungle, are forced to face truths they don't want to hear and left to reexamine what they thought they knew.

There is something unique about Amber Hart's writing style that I love. I enjoyed both of the main character's voices, even though it was a stream of consciousness pattern (sometimes that just doesn't work). But it worked very well, and it wasn't hard to switch back and forth between the two.

Raven Moore hates the jungle. She hates the gorillas at the habitat, and she doesn't like the people who work there. She's bitter, angry, determined to find whatever it is her father wanted her to know. She has a lot of built-up frustration and rage. She hated how the habitat and the gorillas stole her father from her. She didn't get as much time as she wanted with him, and Raven's too late to change anything. But throughout the story, Raven starts to realize that maybe she'd been too quick to hate the gorillas and the habitat. Maybe she'd been too angry to understand why her father wanted to protect them, too bitter because they stole his time and she didn't have nearly enough. I thought Raven was a strong character, and I didn't think she was misguided. I understood her anger and resentment, her determination to solve the mystery her father left her. She had such growth as a character, and I loved that.

Jospin Tondjii was born in the jungle, knows the ins and outs of one of most the dangerous places in the world. He knows its secrets and how to read every sound. He's been brought up in an illegal organization that hunts the gorillas and sells their meat on the black markets. It's a sophisticated organization that is run by the most ruthless businessman in Cameroon, his father. That's all he's known, and he understands that he'll take over the business someday. But he doesn't count on meeting an American girl who trips his world upside down. Through Raven, Jospin starts to question his life and all he's ever known. She interests him, intrigues him, this girl who can make weapons and doesn't fear the jungle. Jospin is a little rough around the edges and secretive, but he's protective with Raven. He also had great character development, as evidenced by his decision in the end.

These two characters came from completely different worlds, yet they formed a bond that was as strong as the jungle. They had such great chemistry! Their relationship was a little bit slow-burning, a little bit steamy, and a whole lot of fun to read about. It was a focus of the book, which I loved, because this is a contemporary romance. They both had preconceived notions about the worlds in which they live, both were keeping secrets from the other. But they developed a strong and genuine relationship even after everything that happened.

There were quite a few secondary characters, but only a couple of them that had developed backgrounds, which was okay! The romance had a lot of the focus, but I didn't mind. I loved Jospin's relationship with brothers, Clovis and Mattius.  You could tell that they were best friends and had known each other a long time. Jospin and his father had a complex relationship, which is left hanging with that ending. There were a few people at the habitat, but only one who routinely talked to Raven (which wasn't for lack of trying). Raven had a great relationship with her parents, as evidenced by the many flashbacks and present-day phone calls she had with her mama.

This plot was really, really interesting. I adored the gorilla scenes, especially the one with Raven and Leahcim. He helped her overcome her anger at the animals and was the reason she could finally understand why her father built the habitat. At first, I wasn't sure how realistic and likely the plot of this story was. I know nothing about Africa, gorillas, and black market hunters. It was a different story-line for sure, but so very good. And it felt authentic. But hello, cliffhanger! I knew that Raven's and Jospin's story wouldn't be finished by the end of this, but what a horrible way to cut off the book! It just makes me want the sequel right now.

Until You Find Me was an intriguing and wild ride, full of danger, romance, and steam. It explored the jungles of Cameroon and brought to light the fight to save gorillas from becoming extinct. But it was also about a passionate love that defies the ordinary, with characters who had to learn that the lines between right and wrong are not so easily identified.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

NERC Review #45: Queen of Someday

*eARC kindly provided by Clean Teen Publishing via NetGalley*

I wanted this one because of that cover. Like, no joke. It's the main reason I requested it on NetGalley even when I'd heard nothing about this book. That cover is seriously so gorgeous, and I was hoping the book would live up to its beauty. But, sadly, this was so disappointing and I don't care about the sequel.

Rating: 2 Stars!
Why couldn't this have been longer? Why couldn't everything slow down? Why couldn't the characters and their relationships actually be developed properly? I know that the first book in a series typically introduces us to the world, and the characters, and the setting. But there has to be something more, something that makes me want to continue the series. There has to be an actual plot and character development. But I didn't really see either of those things.

I liked the main character, Sophie. I thought she was tough without appearing reckless, vulnerable and strong, and very intelligent. I liked the way she told the story, but I was hoping she'd be more involved in what was happening to her and her future. She doesn't want to marry Peter; she doesn't want to be in Russia. She's only doing this because her mother is relentless and her family needs money. But she's also only fifteen years old, which is probably my least favorite quality about her. It gives her a great excuse for some of the things she does. But to me, the way she talked and how she handled what was happening, made her feel older and more mature. I just wish she'd had some character development. It didn't really show until the end, when she made a brave move to ensure her future was safe. And I loved that! However, it took her so long to get there.

And the insta-love ruined the romance for me. This had the potential to be an amazing love story, complete with the insecurity and hesitancy of first love and the sense of desperation and urgency to be together even though it's impossible. It could have been wonderful. And oh, how I wish it had been. There were so many beautifully spoken quotes that I just wanted to highlight ten times over, but all they did was make me roll my eyes. I get that Sophie is fifteen and has never been in love. She's never even been around a bunch of handsome fellas (and she develops crushes on all of them). But there just has to be development, conversations that go deeper than what propriety would allow in that time, and maybe even a bit of danger with the sneaking around thing. I never felt the emotions between them; it was all just too fast. I wanted them to slow down; I wanted them to have an epic love story (star-crossed lovers and all). Sadly, though, the too-quick love ruined it all.

The secondary characters weren't as fleshed out as they could have been, and none of them really helped Sophie progress. There was her mother, bitter and resentful. There was Peter, controlling and possessive and a monster underneath that charming exterior. There was the empress, who was hiding a deadly side beneath the smiles and jewels. There was Sergei, the only one who made Sophie feel safe and not so alone. But none of their relationships with Sophie, maybe aside from Sergei's, were very developed.

The plot was another disappointing aspect of the story. Nothing happened and yet too much happened! I felt like there was no real plot, just random scenes and conversations thrown together to bring us to an ending that felt way too quick. Maybe that was the author's intent, given that this is a series and there is much more to tell. But I wish it would have slowed down. The plot had so much potential, and I felt cheated by the synopsis. It alludes to dangerous politics and murderous people. Yet this didn't have mysterious and suspenseful undertones. It was all very easy to figure out and didn't leave me with a sense that there was something bigger at play (which is what I felt with the synopsis). And I wish it'd been as richly detailed as I like my historical fiction. Speaking of historical, this felt very modern and not at all like the time period it was supposed to be set in.

The only thing I liked about it, really? It was like the quickest read in book history. I did want to see where the story-line headed but was not a fan of that ending. Queen of Someday had the potential to be amazing. But, sadly, it let me down.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Beautiful Oblivion Review: A Huge Disappointment

*SPOILERS! This is more like a rant, not a review, and I'm not being careful. So, please don't read this if you haven't read the book!

There hasn't been a book in a long time that has left me feeling so enraged. So disappointed. Like I wasted six hours of my life when I could have been reading a really amazing story that left me with all the happy feels in the end. But, to my utter regret, Beautiful Oblivion was not that kind of reading experience.

Rating: 2 Unbelievably Disappointing Stars!

Let me start by saying that I LOVED Beautiful Disaster! I even wrote an awesome review about it filled with Lady and the Tramp gifs. (Yes, that happened). And when I heard that Jamie McGuire was going to give the Maddox boys their own books, I was freaking out! I loved Trent so much, and I couldn't wait to get inside his head and figure out what makes this Maddox boy tick.

So imagine my shock and utter disappointment WHEN HE DIDN'T HAVE A GODDAMN POV. I get that an author has to do what they feel is necessary in a story, and that they have all the power. They write for themselves, first and foremost. But Jamie McGuire basically promised me Trent's story. Not Cami's. I wanted to dig deep underneath the quiet and funny guy to who he is and what he wants out of life. So, I was pissed. I think that initial reaction of mine clouded my reading experience, but I just don't care. Why couldn't this have been written in double POVs? Did he just not have a lot to say? Because I know, for a fact, that that is not true. Trent wasn't afraid to speak his mind, and I felt that readers were missing a very vital piece in the story when all they had was Cami's perspective. It left me feeling like the book wasn't whole.

Not to mention, I didn't totally care for Camille's POV (in hindsight, that could be because I was so mad about the one-sided story). I just didn't feel that strongly for her character. She had a lot going on in her life, working at the bar and maintaining good grades in her classes (which have to be online since she never went to the damn school). But she's also been through a lot with her family and is still the black sheep in their eyes. She's spent so long being on her own and with no one to take care of her. I understood her need for independence and control, especially with what her childhood was like. That made a lot of sense. But I also felt that Cami was judgmental, insecure, and sometimes childish. There was a lot of girl hate on all of the single women in the story, all girls who have striking features and could catch Trent's eye so much more than her mousy and plain face could (Honey, you're not ugly, so stop being pitiful). She also didn't try hard enough to change her situation with her family. I get it--she didn't want to rock the boat. But she lacked strong character development, because in the end, after all that she went through, she was still in the same place she was in the beginning of the book. Just with a boyfriend named Trenton Maddox. 

But Trent had the least amount of character development, which just makes me so sad. There was obviously a few things he needed to work through, and on, but he didn't. And I kind of hated how he was portrayed in this book. He was a jealous, insecure, and needy control freak. Like I said, I felt like the story was missing something so vital--his perspective. I just never got to know him underneath all of the layers he tries to hide. He was a lot less serious than Travis and with more control. He could fight, but he didn't like to. He left college after the accident that killed a girl named Mackenzie. Who was Mackenzie and what was his relationship with her? We never find out (you'll have to correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think it was mentioned at all in this series). Cami never outright asked him what happened that night or why he can't let a girl drive for him. The author barely scratched the surface with Trent, which was so disappointing. He never changed by the end of the book, and that is just saddening. Your character has to change, has to be pushed and poked and prodded. Otherwise, what the hell is the point of the book? The love story? *snorts* That was as disappointing as the character development.

Trent and Cami had such great chemistry, and I loved that they were friends first. I enjoyed their banter and how their relationship progressed. But I felt that it wasn't that deep. They didn't really bring out the emotions in me. Their conversations didn't dig deep underneath the surface, but they did go through a lot together, especially with Cami's family. And those kinds of moments bond characters in a way that words can't. But when I'm reading a contemporary, I want most of the focus to be on the romance and relationship between the two main characters. They didn't have as much focus as the drama unfolding around them, which routinely interrupted their time together (and that doesn't make this particular reviewer happy). 

I just wanted to kick most of the secondary characters out of the story completely. And sometimes I wanted to beg the author to give some of them more face-time. I loved Raegan in the beginning, until she decided to play two guys (that's a little harsh, but seriously, it was so disrespectful). And hey, I loved Beautiful Disaster too. But I did not want so much emphasis on Travis and Abby's relationship. The drama that they added to the story had me rolling my eyes and wanting to stab them both because I had already been through it! I didn't need a repeat. And Cami's role in it (which I didn't think about until I read a review on Goodreads) made zero sense. But the saddest part was zero interaction with the Maddox boys! Yeah, there were Travis cameos but those were about what he was going through in BD. He wasn't there as a supportive character to Trent, and neither were his brothers. Maybe the ending was the reason for that, but I was still mad because I wanted more Maddox men face-time.

And let's talk about that ending! I'm sorry, but that was fucking bullshit. The main reason why Cami was so hesitant about jumping into a relationship with Trent was made out to be this huuuuge secret that would ruin any chance she had with him. And that whole secret made everything feel pointless. It was unbelievable and ridiculous how much this looming secret weighed down the characters, only to have it not turn into a big fucking deal (especially since I called half of it without ever reading A Beautiful Wedding). Let's just put aside the mindless drama surrounding the accident and how it was unnecessary to end the book. I want to talk about this whole secret that was alluded to throughout the story. Have I said that word enough? I don't think you guys understand how big a fucking deal this secret was with Cami. If this had been outed sooner, I think I wouldn't have minded so much. And the ending turned into a cliffhanger for the next book THAT ISN'T EVEN ABOUT CAMI AND TRENT! I'm sorry, but if I'm reading a contemporary standalone romance, I want their story to be done and over by the end. I want the ending to be about them. Not something that sets me up for a sequel that I don't even care about anymore. And I just checked Goodreads and found out that Thomas's story is told from the girl's perspective. Again! Sorry, but no.

Maybe I'm not being fair to the author with the whole POV thing, but the book just went downhill from there. I wanted to stop reading numerous times; there were moments I wanted to throw the book at the wall (but then I remembered I borrowed it from the library and that probably wouldn't be a good idea). I feel cheated by that ending and by how this story played out. This makes me not want to read Walking Disaster (did that male POV just not work for her or something?) and Abby's and Travis' wedding. Honestly, I'm wondering if I'd even love Beautiful Disaster if I reread it.

However, I'm only critiquing this book. And what a huge fucking disappointment Beautiful Oblivion turned out to be

*takes deep breaths* Rant is over.