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Review for The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend - Kody Keplinger
This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

Bianca Piper is smart, snarky, and about as cynical as a 17 year old girl can be. She will be the absolute last person to fall for Wesley Rush’s womanizing charms. He’s a pig who nicknames her Duffy and she hates him. But when home life gets complicated and she needs an escape, kissing Wesley (and later doing much more) doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. The boy may be a jackass, but he is a talented jackass. The more time she spends with him, the more she notices that his life isn’t exactly perfect and he happens to be a damn good listener. She can’t possibly be falling for the guy she’s hated for so long, right?

I have been dying to read this since the moment I step out of the movie theater. The film was just my level of awesome. I’m a sucker for those high school rom-coms about finding yourself, so it’s no surprise I loved the film. I deliberately didn’t read this before seeing the movie. I’ve found that reading the books first can severely impair my ability to enjoy their film counterparts. Once I’ve read it, I want the film to be exactly like the book, word for word. I’m one of those people that would be deliriously happy if the film adaptation of all books were 4 hour long experiences identical to the books. I think most bookworms feel that way, but I can’t let go of the details. There are some things I can understand why it gets changed, but a lot of times there seems to be no logical reason behind changes and those anger me. It was harder to avoid this book before the movie than I thought it would be. The movie tie in edition of the novel is everywhere. It’s available in bookstores, WalMart, Target, even the tiny grocery story book section! It stalked me, but I resisted the urge to crack it open. I highly recommend anyone who has not read the book already to wait until after the film to read it. Though I adore the film, the changed a great deal of things and, if you are anything like me, it will make you angry if you read the book first. But this is supposed to be a book review, right? So let’s get back to the book!

I loved Bianca immediately. She reminded me a great deal of Katarina Stratford from 10 Things I Hate About You and that is a high compliment because Kat was my role model throughout my entire high school career. She’s intelligent and sarcastic and opinionated. She has no qualms about sharing those opinions with everyone around her and she doesn’t care about what they think of her. I went in thinking she’d be somewhat insecure, but she really isn’t. I’d say she has more self-esteem than the average teenage girl. She truly doesn’t give a fuck about how other’s see her. She knows she isn’t very pretty, but she has made peace with that fact and she plays to her strengths. I do think she was a bit harsh sometimes, but that also what I loved. She wasn’t afraid to say exactly what she was thinking, no sugar coating required. She has no qualms about throwing a drink all over Wesley when he tells her she is the DUFF and she has no problem consistently telling him what she thinks of him (hint: it’s not usually pretty).

Wesley….what do I say about Wesley? The start of the story portrays him as a cocky jackass, but since I was already half in love with him because of the slightly altered film version of him, I couldn’t help but be amused by his shenanigans. He is a dick, but I think he’s a loveable dick and he makes no promises. He may be a man-whore, but he’s completely honest about that fact. He makes no promises for more than meaningless sex and he doesn’t string unsuspecting girls along. But once you start really seeing him, how he tries to comfort Bianca (and that scene where he defends her?)…well, let’s just say I swooned. I was a Wesley fan from page one. Even when he was being a jackass, I loved him. I couldn’t help it.

Jessica and Casey were both very interesting. They are loyal friends, sticking by Bianca when she needs it and getting angry with her when she starts avoiding them. They are probably the only people on the planet whose opinions Bianca actually cares about. They aren’t perfect. Casey is a little pushy and Jess is a little ditzy, but they are both very lovable and it’s easy to see why Bianca has stuck with them.

What I really loved about this was how realistic it felt. There was no censoring to dumb things down to a “high school” level. Bianca swears and has sex and is a normal teenager. This doesn’t try to hide that side of her. I also liked that there weren’t a bunch of cliches all over the place. Maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention to the other students in my high school or maybe I just went to an abnormal school, but I don’t remember a set of “popular” people from my high school or the jocks and the geeks and whatnot. I liked this Bianca’s main goal in life wasn’t to climb a social ladder. She was just biding her time until high school was over and she could get on with her life. Plus, I loved how Keplinger played the whole love triangle aspect. Toby isn’t a bad guy. Toby is actually the perfect guy. Toby is the one Bianca wants, but sometimes what we want and what we need aren’t the same thing.

I don’t know what took me so long to find this novel and read it. Though I’m very happy that I waited until after the film to read it, I’m also sad that I went years without this awesomeness in my life. This novel is perfect. There is not a single thing about it I would change. It smart and funny and heartfelt. It has the perfect level of teen angst. And it has that I hate you until I love you thing going on that we all secretly crave. Seriously, it’s perfect.

****Thank you to Hodder Children’s Books for providing me with an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review****
 
 

 

Review for Halfway Perfect by Julie Cross & Mark Perini

Halfway Perfect - Mark Perini, Julie Cross

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

Eve Nowakowski left the modeling world behind many years ago. Now, as she pursues a career behind the camera, she is thrown back into the world she avoided for so long. But she doesn’t have a choice if she wants to impress a world-class photographer and if she happens to see people she’d rather not, so be it. Enter model Alex Evans, who is gaining recognition and climbing the ranks. For that to continue, he must maintain a fake relationship with his co-star Elena. A co-star who just happens to be underage. All the while Alex finds himself more and more attracted to Eve. As things slowly heat between the two of them, Eve’s past comes a-knockin’ and Alex’s future career is riding on the line. Will they fight to stay together or will they let outside forces tear them apart?

From moment one, all I wanted was to see Eve succeed. On the outside, it seems she has been dealt a pretty awesome hand. She was a successful model in her teens and she’s smart and (obviously) pretty. But that modelling success costs her so much more than most people realize. The fact that she made so much money means it’s impossible for her to receive financial aide for school, despite the fact that her parents spent all her money and she’s now completely broke. Plus, there was a very real reason she left that life behind and a hatred for the art of modeling is not it. This girl is so smart and funny and determined to make a life for herself that I envy her drive. If I went through everything she had and then still had to fight like hell to get the high level college education she was going for, I can’t say I would have even made the effort.

Then we have Alex. Hot, cocky, and extremely photogenic, I wasn’t sure I’d like him initially. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I was more than a little nervous to read from his perspective. It didn’t take him long to win me over, though, especially with his high moral standards. He’s desire to protect Elena had me awww with he rest of the female population. It’s clear that he is a flawed character. He loves this job, even though he can’t get his family to understand. I love his family, by the way. You get to meet them about halfway through and I adore every single member. The parents, the brothers, the sister, the whole set. We should all be so lucky. What really won me over, beside the determination to make things as comfortable as possible for Elena, is how he pursues Eve. He’s thoughtful and sweet and doesn’t simply rely on his gorgeous face to win her over.

When I first heard about this novel, I immediately wanted to read it. First because I adored Julie’s NA novel Third Degree and I knew this would be just as good. Second because it was about modeling and it was co-written by a male model. Even though writing is often seen as a male profession, we don’t have nearly as many male YA writers as we do female and I’m always excited to see through their eyes. Despite the fact that I’m happily married to a very sweet man and have read dozen’s of male perspectives and seen dozen’s of movies portrayed through men’s eyes, I’m still fascinated by seeing through that perspective. This is probably going to sound extremely naive of me, so I apologize in advance, but I always wonder it men think the same way women do. It’s a stupid notion, but really, from the point we girls hit teenage years, we are told to believe that guys only think about sex and that’s all that matters. Despite aging much beyond those years, some of those lectures still stick in my mind. So, some forever teenager stuck in my brain is always screaming with glee when I come across a well written story about a teenage boy that is thoughtful and sweet. Is it a bit stupid? Absolutely, but my brain does it anyway and I cannot be the only one out there who feels this way.

I read this novel very quickly. I was sitting at home on a Friday, thinking about the books I was supposed to be reading and thinking that I wanted to read something else that just grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. I consulted my For Review list (yes, I have an actual spreadsheet list with all the books I have requested/received for review) and Halfway Perfect jumped to the top of the list. I started reading it that night and read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Then I got up the following morning and finished it. It was addicting. I had to know what happened next. Did Eve get that scholarship thing? Did Alex finally realize what an asshat his agent was? Will Eve and Alex find a way to make it work?

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m stuck on things with a contemporary romance side. I can’t help it. I devour them quickly and this was no exception to that. From the first moment I picked it up, I was enraptured. This novels takes turns that I wasn’t expecting and pushes the story in a direction that I didn’t see coming. There is one specific turning point where the novel went in the exact opposite direction I thought that it would, so I have to applaud Cross & Perini for not following the expected path in the best way possible. Things turned out better that way. All you really need to know is that this novel is better than halfway perfect. It’s completely prefect and I recommend it to everyone!

****Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review****

Review for Letters To Nowhere by Julie Cross

Letters to Nowhere - Julie Cross

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

All Karen has ever wanted was to be an elite gymnast, but that’s not the path she is on. To please her parents, she compromises and instead trains towards the goal of competing in college gymnastic. Then, after a horrible car accident, Karen is left orphaned and all their plans go to hell. She ends up living with her coach and his oh-so-attractive son. So, on top of trying to decide which path in life to take and grieving the loss of her parents, she also has the added bonus of fighting an unwanted attraction to her new housemate and just dealing with boys in general. When you are in an all girls gymnast group and do school online instead of in a traditional classroom, you don’t get many encounters with the opposite sex. Despite the fact that she knows a relationship with Jordan is out of bounds, she can’t help the desire to spend time with him. Jordan makes her feel normal and he understands what she is going through. What is more important: staying in the lines of normal or being able to finally breath again?

I have to applaud Karen’s dedication to her sport. I don’t know that I have ever been as dedication to one thing enough to spend so much time perfecting it. Okay, maybe I’m that dedicated to reading, but that’s not really the same, is it? This girls spends hours at the gym every single day conditioning and training and practicing just to make sure every single move is perfect. If you didn’t see inside her head and watch her go through emotions like a normal human, I’d think she was a machine. Beyond being driven to be the best gymnast she can be, she is also pretty damn smart and driven to do well with her school work. How anyone can manage to succeed in online school and really take the information in is something else that is beyond me. I’m not a self-teaching person. I cannot learn on my own. I need a real person to explain things to me. Even if it’s just reading straight from the text book, that’s what I need. So maybe I’m fascinated by Karen because she is so different from me. That, plus the enormous grief that I cannot even really begin to comprehend. How she manages to get up in the morning astounds me, much less practicing for meets and doing schoolwork without turning into a ball of helplessness and tears on the floor. This is all my rambling way of saying that I admire Karen a great deal. She has a strength that I envy.

Jordan….oh Jordan. What is there to say about Jordan? I love him? A bunch? The way he connects with Karen is adorable. The way he goes out of his way to help her is swoon-worthy. Want to know what else I love? He’s not perfect. He is flawed and has secrets and problems all of his own. He’s smart and sweet and just a touch cocky. Also. there is a reason why he is in such good physical shape. I hate novel’s where the boys are overly buff with no logical reason to be that way beyond the fact that they are trying to play to every girl’s fantasy. Newsflash! Washboard abs don’t just magically appear out of nowhere! Trust me, if you could wish you’re body into shape, I would look A LOT different right now. Regardless, Jordan is just the type of character I love to read about.

I have wanted to read this for well over a year now. Early last year I was awarded a eARC of Third Degree, Cross’s NA romance and I feel in love with that novel. It was absolutely perfect and I immediately wanted to read everything else Cross had written. I didn’t even make the connection that this was the same Julie Cross that wrote the Tempest series until I was adding her books to my GoodReads TBR pile. Since then, I have vowed to read all of her work and I’m happy to say that I’m over halfway there. I just need to read the rest of this series and Whatever Life Throws At You and I’ll all caught up…..until she finishes whatever she is working next comes out. I don’t mean Halfway Perfect. I’ve read that. You should read that as soon as it comes out. That novel has me trying to come up with legitimate excuses to miss work work on May 8th and make the crazy 10 hour drive it would take me to get to New York City to attend it’s launch. You can read more about that here….and if you are in NYC and able to attend, well I kinda hate you because I would love to go. My point is that I had high expectations for this. Julie was nice enough to gift me a copy and I planned on reading it the old fashion way until I saw that there was an audio copy available on audible and I immediately bought that. I’m happy to report that this exceeded those expectations.

I really found this world utterly fascinating. Not only is Karen 100% committed to her sport, but so are the other girls on the team and all the things they go through to succeed in a sport that has a very limited number of spots that can be attained. The chances of actually making it big in gymnastics is slim and even knowing that, they give it their all. The spend the vast majority of their waking hours training and when they aren’t training, they still do things in a specific way to better their gymnastic abilities. They are all on crazy diets and have regular meetings with nutritionists and it just astounding me. Cross has intimate knowledge of this world and it really shows through. I don’t think anyone outside this community would really understand the trials and tribulations of it well enough to portray it to an outside.

Normally, I worry a little when starting a novel that has a heavy focus on anything athletic. I have never been a fan of any sport and, despite my efforts to be more active now, that has not changed. I always worry that the focus will be so heavy on the sporting aspect that I lose the parts that I like or that I won’t understand the rules of the sport and simply can’t follow the plot because of that. It doesn’t make sense when I put it like that, but it’s like me watching a football game. I literally know nothing about football. I know that a touchdown is a score but that is the end of my knowledge on that subject. So when someone starts throwing around terms (ie punting or gaining fields or whatever) that are widely understand without explaining it, I’m immediately lost. I need it explained in the simplest terms possible and it’s hard for an author to do that successfully. I knew that probably would be an issue here because Cross is great at putting things in terms I can understand, but the apprehension was still there. I worried for naught though because that wasn’t an issue. The sports aspect was beautifully interwoven with the other issues Karen was facing.

Basically, this novel is the same level of perfection I have come to expect from Julie Cross. It’s smart, it’s emotional, and it has those perfectly flawed characters that we can all relate to. No one here is perfect, not even the coach who should have all the answers and that quality grounds the novel in a way that nothing else can. I have already bought the next novella in this series and I look forward to seeing Karen and Jordan’s journey continue.

Audio Notes:
This is my first Erin Spencer and I’m definitely satisfied with her. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like her. I didn’t immediately love the sound of her voice, but the more I listened, the more I felt like it suited Karen. She has great pacing and pronunciation. There was nothing about her narration that irritated me. Conversely, there was nothing about her narration that made me go super fangirl-y about. I’d give her 4 out of 5 stars for her performance. She’s great and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for her work in the future.

Review by Vortex by Julie Cross

Vortex - Julie Cross

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

Jackson Meyer dedicated himself to the role of Tempest agent. Sometimes training is a pain in the ass, but at least it keeps him busy so his mind doesn't wander to Holly. Once he gets out in the field, things go well...until he accidentally runs into Holly at a bookstore, making his heartbreak over her impossible to ignore. Then Eyewall, another division of the CIA, starts poking around and suddenly Jackson and his fellow agents are in trouble. Jackson is in even more trouble because it appears that someone knows about his alternate timeline relationship with Holly. Someone out there knows how much she means to him and has put her in danger all over again. With the fighting between the two divisions becoming more common, can Jackson pull it together enough to save Holly again?

I liked Jackson just as much here as I did in Tempest. He's still smart and charming and totally head over heels for Holly. Even though I'm not a fan of the whole star-crossed romances (because those don't tend to end happily), I can't help but respect Jackson for manning up enough to let Holly go because it's the only way to save her. He's trying so hard to do the right thing that I just wanted to hug the poor guy. Adam and Holly are here as well, though in smaller amounts. Adam is exactly the same, but that's not necessarily true for Holly. I won't spoil it for you, but she's changed just a little. We get more of Jenny Stewart (Stuart? Listening to audios really makes spelling things properly difficult!), as well as a few new characters. Kendrick is probably my favorite new addition.

Real talk for a moment here, if you don't mind.

I have spent the last few days trying to write this review. I honestly don't know what to say. I enjoyed listening to this book. It was smart and entertaining and just a little heartbreaking, but when I try to come up with eloquent ways to say that and other things to comment on, my brain just refuses to compute.

I thought stepping away from it for a few days would help, but here I am again, staring at a screen, fingers poised to let out a review with no words in my brain. It's not just this book either. I have 3 other drafts to finish and I don't know what to say for them either.

With that being said, here is what I can say. This book is very entertaining. If you enjoyed the first one, you'll like this one. You definitely want to have the third book on hand for when you finish because we get a massive cliffhanger. Be warned, there is character death that will make you sob, so have some tissues. I also wouldn't recommend trying to read this without reading Tempest first. This is not a series where you can just jump in willy nilly. It has a proper order and that needs to be adhered to. Cross does a great job of building the tension on where this whole thing is going and even at keeping me in the dark on how it's going to turn out. I'm pretty good at guessing the outcome of novels, but I didn't have a clue with this. I still don't know where the series is going to end up taking me and that is a great feeling. There is a certain comfort in knowing where things are going, but there is also great fun in being kept guessing. Cross does a great job at straying from a predictable story line. I'm really excited to see how it all wraps up!

Audio Notes:
Matthew Brown has grown on me a bit. I really liked his narration in this one. Naturally, just as I start to really appreciate him, we run out of material. There is no audio version of Timestorm, so I'll be forced to read it the old fashion way with Matthew's voice weaving in and out of my head as I go. It's funny that once you start an audiobook, that is forever how the character sounds to you. Regardless, I definitely recommend listening to these two on audio, even if it does send you into audio withdrawal when it comes time to read Timestorm.

Review for Tempest by Julie Cross

Tempest - Julie Cross
This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

Jackson Meyer is just a normal 19 year old guy in 2009. Well, as normal as you can be when you can travel through time. It’s not like in the movies where you have to be super careful not to change things. Even when Jackson does change things, everything is normal when he comes back. That is until he and Holly are attacked, ending in Holly getting shot. The panic caused by that moment sends him into a jump to 2007 and no matter how hard he tries, he cannot seem to get back to Holly in 2009. After exhausting himself with attempts to get back, Jackson decides to get comfortable in 2007 and see what he can learn about his abilities. The more attention he pays to his surroundings, the more he learns about the Enemies Of Time. It seems they have one goal: recruit him. They are hellbent on achieving that goal, even if it means slaughtering everyone he cares about. Jackson must decide exactly how far he is willing to go to save Holly because her fate rests in his hands.

I’ll be honest, this book has been setting on my shelf for a very long time. I’ve been interested in it since it came out, partly because it sounds good and partly because I love the cover. I’ve also been avoiding it for quite some time because time travel to save a girl sounds like a recipe for a cliffhanger from hell. I’ve been on that whole, I want to read them, but I’m kinda scared of them kick for a while. Then I saw they were doing a read-a-thon for March for the entire series and thought it would be a perfect opportunity to read these. Plus, you know, I’m on Julie’s street team so these really must be read.

It took me a few chapters before I could really get a hold on Jackson’s character. The whole time travel thing seems to be his main focus and, naturally, he hasn’t let his girlfriend in on this ability. That irked me a little. I get that he can’t go running around telling the world about it and that he hasn’t professed his love for Holly (yet), but I felt like he should confide in her anyway. Especially considering that he already told her bestie and is doing time travel experiments with him. Then she gets shot and Jackson does his farthest time jump to two years in the past and I really started to like him. He’s determination to do whatever was necessary to save Holly won me over pretty quickly. Then we start seeing his sister and learn about her heart-breaking death due to cancer and I just wanted to hug the poor guy. What I really loved most about him, though, was how normal he was. He’s an attractive, intelligent college boy who isn’t beating us over the head with his pretty face. He’s also a book nerd and that had me (and every other bookish girl) drooling over him.

Part of what I enjoyed about this was how realistic Jackson felt. Obviously I, a twenty something woman, have never been inside the head of a teenage boy, but Cross did a great job of making Jackson feel male without making it over the top. It is usually pretty difficult for me to really believe I’m inside the mind of a male character unless there is excessive swearing or innuendos running around his mind. That’s a terrible stereotype on my part, but it doesn’t make it any less true. This is one of the few times where the character felt male without descending to that level. Not that there is anything wrong with that level! My brain is forever stuck in “excessive swearing” mode. I also loved Cross’s version of time travel. Jackson can jump without changing anything or creating a paradox or breaking the space time continuum. I generally don’t do many time travel novels because they seem like a recipe for disaster. Not only do you have to keep up with all the characters in the many timelines, but make sure the rules you set for this power stay constant. The rules mean nothing if they are constantly being broken. We don’t have that problem here. This is time travel with a very contemporary feel, for me at least. The main thing here is Holly. Saving Holly, find Holly, spend time with Holly…and I’m a sucker for that. All the while, Cross is weaving in bits of information for later reveals and setting the ground work for twists and turns, while I’m just enjoying the tension between Holly & Jackson.

The mystery was also a pretty compelling reason to continue reading even when I was supposed to be doing other things. Who are these men that shot Holly? What do they want? Why can’t Jackson get back to his own time? What’s up with his dad? Is there anyone else on planet Earth with these abilities? Can someone explain them to me? I needed to know the answers.

The only reason this gets four stars instead of five is because I wasn’t in love with the ending. I know this is the first book in a series and I’m actually pretty far into book 2 already, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want it to end well. Which is does end well. Everyone is alive and happy, but not as happy as I’d like them to be. I think we all knew how this would end, I could certainly feel it going in this direction. I’m pretty sure it will be fixed later, but it still left me with a sad face. I’d probably give it 4.5 stars, if the majority of places I will post this review would allow for half-star ratings, but Amazon and GoodReads have yet to jump on that, so I try to always keep it at even numbers!

Audio Notes:
Matthew Brown does a decent job of bringing all the characters in this world to light. There was nothing about him I didn’t like, but he wasn’t quite as awesome as my favorite narrator ::cough cough:: MacLeod Andrews ::cough cough:: He has good pacing, voice differentiation for different characters, and a generally good presence. I definitely plan on listening to more of his work.
 
 

 

Reivew for Seth & Greyson

Seth & Greyson (The Coincidence Series Book 8) - Jessica Sorensen

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

Seth has been betrayed by everyone he cares about and he can’t hang around after such an event. Early summer semester at college is his best option and so off he goes to college he goes. It really was a great decision for him because he meets Callie and they become fast friends. Bonding over the shitty ways of the world. The fall semester starts and he meets Greyson. Greyson is everything he could want, but after all the betrayal, Seth hesitates to really be with Greyson. With Callie’s encouragement, Seth knows he is going to have to get over his fears and make the commitment leap, if he can just leave his fears behind.

I think I speak for everyone when I say that this is novel I have been waiting for. I love Callie, Kayden, Violet, and Luke a lot, but Seth was a favorite character of mine from the very start. Seth’s character is just what we expect. He’s smart and sweet and so concerned about Callie that it melts my heart even more. He is so scared of the past repeating itself that he has trouble moving on. The decision to be open about his life choices in public is a hard one when he knows it’s not all going to be rainbows and sunshine. There are many stupid and close-minded people in the world, something Seth knows first hand. It’s an infuriating thing because the world has come so far in accepting homosexuality and yet there are so many out there who think they have the right to judge and call it wrong. What’s so hard to understand about love being love? Beyond that, it’s nobody’s business who anyone else decides to be with! Sorry, mini-rant over. It’s just a touchy subject for me.

I loved Greyson already, but it was interesting to get more of him. I loved being about to see inside his head. He’s smart and strong and comes from an incredible family. Greyson has more or less lived the dream for a boy coming out. He’s parents were very supportive and his hometown wasn’t as closed-minded about it. He has no horrors in his past like Seth does. Even so, he is incredibly understanding of Seth’s fears and goes out of his way to try to help assuage them. He’s exactly the type of guy Seth deserves.

What I loved about this was not only finally getting to see through Seth’s eyes, but also getting to see more of the rest of The Coincidence cast. I’m very character driven and Sorensen excels at creating an entire cast of people that I love and want to see more of. I don’t know how she does it, but she never fails to make me care about her perfectly flawed characters…even the ones I despise, like Delilah from the Nova series.

Seth and Greyson’s relationship progresses at a reasonable pace, but was a bit hot and cold. Seth has every right and reason to be cautious, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to shake him a time or two for being so stupid. Even though Greyson wasn’t happy about it, he was understanding and would have been happy to keep things quiet if that was what Seth needed. I know that Seth’s reasons for avoiding a relationship were deeper than normal fear, but it still bugged me…a lot. I’ve never been a fan of that on again off again thing, so it always bugs me even if there is a logical reason for it.

I was a little worried when I started this that it would spoil me for some of the rest of the series. I’ve only read the first three and I was apprehensive about skipping three books to read this one, but I’m happy to report that it spoils nothing. I do recommend that you at least read The Coincidence Of Callie & Kayden before this or it will spoil that storyline, but I don’t think it will have an impact the rest of the series.

This novel is exactly what I was hoping for when I heard about the possibility of a storyline for my favorite side character. It’s smart and sweet and not overly dramatic. It has the romantic moments we were all imagining as we read The Coincidence, but with enough conflict to really feel like a well-rounded story.

****Thank you to Jessica Sorensen for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review****

Review for Unbeautiful by Jessica Sorensen

Unbeautiful by Jessica Sorensen (2014-12-23) - Jessica Sorensen

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

Emery's was raised to be the perfect daughter. Pretty and obedient, she knows better to ever question her parents or act anything less than perfect in public. Now, at 18, she is leaving for college, against her families wishes. She's not going far, a mere hour away, but the freedom is enough to see that the world she has been raised in is drastically different than the outside world. Ryler looks like the typical bad boy. He's tattooed and pierced and plays the strong silent card pretty well. That's pretty easy for a mute guy to do. Society has labeled him as dangerous and he is determined to get away from that label and start over. Step 1? College far from home. And then he bumps into Emery and the connection is immediate. She dumps shredded paper on his head and the few tidbits he read astound him. It's like she is writing directly to him. As the two are drawn together, will their pasts tear them apart or will they fight to stay together?

Emery was entirely astonishing. This girl has been abused for her entire life and she never even realized that there was any other way. There are loving parents out there who don't strap their kid to their beds each night?
Doctor Who Shocked gif
It's a shocking concept, I know. It's hard for someone like me to really imagine a life like that, but Sorensen does her usual amazing job of putting me in Emery's mind. She walks a fine line of raging against the abuse of her life and feeling honor-bound to keep her families secrets. Her fear is completely understandable. Her crazy family is definitely capable of killing her should she spill their secrets, but you just want to see her escape this life. Her attraction to Ryler is immediate. He's her opposite in so many ways, but they have so much in common. Also, the fact that this girl has never listened to music just flabbergasts me. No music? Nothing? No stupid pop phase? No epic moment of realization when you listen to your first great rock song?
Glee Depressed gif
The torture is bad enough. The emotional conditioning and the meds and forcing her to be with someone she really has no interest in, but to deny that simple pleasure? I have no words. I cannot fathom people this cruel and I hope to hell I never meet anyone like them. If I have one aim as a parent, it's to be nothing like them.

Ryler's past isn't much better. Bounced from foster home to foster home until he gets sent to juvie for something that is misconstrued by everyone. But that's in the past and he can't change that. He can look to the future and do whatever necessary to ensure a better one. If that means being an informant and having to do things he doesn't like to get there, then so be it. You have to give the boy props for his dedication to that end. Living with a record, especially one proclaiming you are violent, is far from easy. Even though Emery's past is much worse, you can't help but sympathize with him. He just tries to do what is right and help those he cares for and gets punished in return. He knows getting close to Emery is something he should avoid. The life he leads right now, it's not on he would want her involved in, but those words and the haunted look in her eyes makes it impossible to stay away.

VIOLET AND LUKE!

I totally didn't realize this was The Coincidence adjacent. I kinda felt like a moron because I didn't realize this even after reading scenes containing both Violet & Luke.
The Parent Trap facepalm gif
I know, I'm the lowest form of stupid. It wasn't until Greyson and Seth showed up that the light bulb clicked on. Seth? Greyson? OH! Violet! Luke! I haven't yet finished The Coincidence series, but I'm glad to see you guys will work it out...eventually.

At this point, I wholly believe that it is impossible for Jessica Sorensen to write a story I won't love. She's a master of the contemporary romance/new adult genre. She knows exactly how to reel you in and then hit you where it hurts. Especially with cliffhangers. I am very happy I never tried to read this before I got my grabby hands on the sequel because that ending was not good. In fact, had I not already had book 2, this might have gotten demoted a star. But, I did have the sequel and I recommend you do as well before attempting this story. I finished this on my kindle and immediately pulled up the next book. There was no waiting period or allowing the fact that it was already 1 in the morning to prevent me from finding out what happens next.

This novel is exactly what I've come to expect from Jessica Sorensen, which is awesome. Unbeautiful lives up to it's title. It's raw and ugly and heart-breaking, but beautiful anyway. Ryler & Emery have a lot to overcome before they can really be together, but it's worth it in the end. Trust me, I've already finished the next book and they make it to their happily ever after. What more could you ask for?

Review for Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Fairest: The Lunar Chronicles: Levana's Story - Marissa Meyer

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

***PLEASE EXCUSE ANY SPELLING ERRORS. I LISTENED TO THIS WHOLE THING ON AUDIO, SO I’M NOT SURE HOW EVERYTHING IS SUPPOSED TO BE SPELLED.***

We all know Queen Levana as the evil dictator who is trying to take over Earth, but here is her past. In this novel, we get to back things up and see the teen years that shaped Levana into the Queen we all love to hate. We get to see her overcome her sister’s taunts and rise to power. It’s an interesting journey, to say the least!

From the moment this book was announced, I knew I’d have to read it. I adore the Lunar Chronicles and it’s still quite a few months before Winter finally arrives, so I needed something to tide me over. I was also very apprehensive. I hate Levana. I want the bitch to die and die bloody. I want to watch as they torment her and kill her slowly. I want that, really I do. I was worried that we’d get redeeming charactaristics here, worried that I’d start to sympathize with her, maybe even feel sorry for her and I did not want that to happen. For all of those with the same fear, that will not happen. Yes, Levana has a sad childhood, being tormented by Channary, her elder sister, but that doesn’t really gain her sympathy because she is already well on her way to being a psychopath from page one of this. And her actions get increasingly disturbing as the novel continues. She is obsessed with her guard, Evret, and she takes that obsession to the extreme. She isn’t initially obsessed with ruling the kingdom, but it eventually shows up and once her mind latches onto that idea, nothing will deter her. The woman tries to murder her own niece, a goddamn toddler.

The rest of the cast is really insignificant. We get brief glimpses of Selene and just a few moments with Winter, the only two besides Levana that really play a role in the rest of the series. The only two I really care about. I felt bad for Evret because he is forced into a terrible situation and he has no way out. Levana will never let him leave and have his life with Winter. That is never a possibility, so he soldiers on with his life and tries to make due with what he has.

I think I was doomed to feel mediocre about this from the start. I am very (VERY) character driven and since I just want Levana to die, I wasn’t really invested in her life or what she did. There were a few tense moments with Evret or the moment when she “kills” Selene that I did want to keep going, but for the most part, this wasn’t something that held my attention. Again, this isn’t due to a lack of awesomeness on Meyer’s part, just a lack of interest on mine.

I originally won a copy of this gorgeous hardback from GoodReads and planned to read through it, but then I saw that Rebecca Soler was doing the audio edition and I’d have to listen to it. I’ve been listening to the prior books with my husband anyway, so why not enjoy this together as well? To really show how little of my interest this held, let me just put it this way. This audiobook is tiny, less than 7 hours and it took us 2 months to finish it because we just had no interest in getting through it.

It gets three stars because it isn’t bad. It had it’s interesting moments and I did like learning a bit more of Levana’s backstory, but I just didn’t care enough overall to love it like I have with the rest of the series.

Audio Notes:
Rebecca Soler is now my husband’s favorite narrator. She has done a wonderful job with this series in particular. My lack of enthusiasm here is not due to her performance. Though she doesn’t really get to stretch her vocal muscles as much as I’d like here because it’s mostly Levana’s narration and her voice is the only one needed, I still think she does an excellent job.

***Thank you to Goodreads and Feiwel & Friends for providing me with a hardcover copy of this in exchange for an honest review.***

Review for Cress by Marissa Meyer

Cress by Marissa Meyer (2014-02-04) - Marissa Meyer
This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

***PLEASE EXCUSE ANY SPELLING ERRORS. I LISTENED TO THIS WHOLE THING ON AUDIO, SO I’M NOT SURE HOW EVERYTHING IS SUPPOSED TO BE SPELLED.***

Cress has spent most of her life orbited Earth in a satellite. She has been alone with only netscreens for company and has become a rather talented hacker. She has mastered anything with net access. She dreams of being rescued and going to Earth. Seeing the beautiful world and all it’s treasures up close. But when Cinder’s band of misfits tries to rescue her, things go horribly wrong and the group gets separated. Now, in addition to trying to save 2 worlds, they must also find their way back to each other. Plus, each character has their own troubles and turmoil to deal with. One thing is certain, they will stop Levana or die trying.

What can I say about Cress? It might possibly be my favorite of the series yet. I loved Cinder and I really enjoyed Scarlet, but Cress may just have topped both of them. It was excited and intense. It was that book that you ignored the world for just one more chapter because you had to know what happened next. Does Cress get Thorne to like her? Can Cinder stop Kai’s impending nuptials? Will she ever tell him that she is Princess Selene? Can they rescue Scarlet? And, most importantly of all, does Iko ever get a real android body?!?!?

Cinder, Kai, Scarlet, Wolf, and Thorne are all present and accounted for, with the new additions of Cress and Jacin. Cress, I must say, is a character I immediately adored. She reminded me a bit of Iko because of her enthusiasm for certain things. She’s smart and sweet and completely obsessed with Thorn in the most adorable way. Thorn, by the way, really shows his swoon-worthy side here. I already loved Thorne he’s smart and cocky and sarcastic, but he’s even better here. We really get to see him fight to protect Cress and that was a sight to behold.

I’m still unsure about Jacin. On one hand, I like him and I know we are setting up to give Winter a love interest for the final book, but I’m not sure I trust him. Though he is loyal to his Princess, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is loyal to Cinder and her cause. I feel like he might just throw a wrench in things and fuck the plans up if it suits his needs or desires. I guess only time will tell. I’m pretty anxious to get my hands on Winter. Why does it have to be so much longer until it releases?

Levana just needs to die. That bitch needs to die bloody and she needs to die now. I’m a little apprehensive to read Fairest because I know it’s going to try to shed a sympathetic light on Levana and I don’t want to have any sympathy for her. I want to continue hating her as I do now. I don’t think Fairest will truly change my opinion of her, but I think it will try.

If I could only use one word to describe this novel, it would be intense. This thing is jam packed with action and adventure and danger and tension. From the moment you start this and get inside Cress’ mind, you just want to continue. As with the rest of this series, I have listened to it with my husband, which means that we have only listened when we were together and neither one of us had anything pressing that needed to be done. We would use any excuse to get into his car and go on a trip, driving slow and going to long way around just to get in a few extra minutes. We would get home and sit in the car trying to find just a minute more time to get more of this compelling story. Because once we go into the house, real life kicks in and I have reviews to write and he has work to do and we can’t just sit and listen anymore. Anyone who has enjoyed the series thus far will fall in love with Cress. Anyone who read Cinder and loved it, but didn’t love Scarlet the same way, will fall back in love with the series here. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Audio Notes:
In Cinder, I was okay with Rebecca Soler. In Scarlet, I liked her a bit more. Here, I almost loved her. The more I listen, the more I like her. She does an excellent job of differentiating voices here, which is quite a feat considering that there are six characters I would describe as main characters and a handful more that are a bit more than minor. Her pacing is just a touch fast at moments. There was more than one time I had to skip 30 seconds back and relisten to discover what I had missed. And she still says Nancy weird. I can’t help but snicker every time she says it. Still, I enjoyed her narration and will be looking to sample more of her work.
 
 

 

Review for Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet - Marissa Meyer

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

 

Cinder is in a bit of a mess. She's in prison awaiting transport to Luna, where Queen Levana will surely execute her. Given that she just learned that she is the lost princess Selene, she cannot allow this to happen and busts out of jail, using another prisoner to help. Now they are on the run and Cinder tries to determine her next move and avoid recapture. Everyone assumes that if they can just discover the identity of the lost princess and find her, all will be saved. Cinder doesn't know how to save everyone, but the worse things get in the kingdom, the more she realizes she will need to find a way. On the other side of the world, Scarlet Benoit is searching for her grandmother. Everyone assumes the old woman ran away, but Scarlet knows she'd never abandon her like that. When she finds Wolf, a fighter with information on her grandmother's whereabouts, she'll stop at nothing to rescue the old woman, even if it costs her life. Meanwhile, Prince Kai is trying to find a way to avoid marrying Queen Levana and that may lead to more problems than any of them are ready to handle.

 

I was a little nervous to start this. I adored Cinder (both the novel and the character) and I wasn't very keen on the idea of changing perspectives. I've read books before where that has went disastrously. Shifts in perspective have caused me to abandon series before or make it very difficult to finish because I hate the new voice. The forth Vampire Diaries book by LJ Smith is the best example of that. I had a very difficult time getting through that because, regardless of how much I loved the characters and the story, Bonnie's voice was dull. Luckily, that is NOT the case here. Scarlet voice is strong and clear and intense. She's a very different character than Cinder, but just as enjoyable.

 

Cinder is the same character we remember from the novel of the same name. She's smart and snarky and determined to stay out of Levana's grasp. Her cyborg/lunar combination makes her a very unique character. She's very interesting to watch and easy sympathize with. How can you not? She's been forced into servitude her entire life and now that she is finally out from underneath her Step-Mom's thumb, she is on the run, and learns that she must find a way to save the planet from her evil aunt. As if having an evil step-mom and step-sister wasn't bad enough, she has to deal with evil blood relatives. And the loss of Peony still weighs heavy on her mind, as does the loss of Iko. Never fear, though, because she finds a new "body" for Iko. Iko, by the way, is probably my favorite character. The "malfunctioning" operating chip has such spunk and personality that you cannot help but love her. Her obsession with Prince Kai is comical all around, as is her desire to be pretty.

 

Kai is another character that I cannot help by feel sorry for. He's caught in a no win situation. If he marries Levana, he knows he'll basically be handing her the Common Wealth on a platter and that she'll assassinate him quickly after her coronation. But the longer he refuses, the angry she gets and that could lead to a slaughter that no one is ready for. Not to mention the fact that she has the antidote to Letimoses (spelling? I listened to this entire thing on audio) and that could say billions of people with the terminal illness. Then he learns that he girl he likes is actually a cyborg? A Lunar cyborg? Was she lying to him the whole time? What, if anything, of their interactions was real? The doubt swirling around his head and her and his own ability to lead this country had me wanting to hug the poor guy.

 

We get quite a few new characters in this installment. My favorite new addition is Carswell Thorne. He is the prisoner Cinder escapes with. He might remind me just a bit of a certain pirate.
Captain Jack Sparrow Gif
He's very cocky and sarcastic and maybe a bit more heroic than he wants to let on. Carswell and Iko are definitely the two comic relief characters and, as such, they both have a special place in my heart. I thought for a moment a love triangle would be set up between him and Cinder and Kai, but Meyer steers clear of that, thank goodness.

 

Then we have Scarlet and Wolf. I was unsure of both characters initially, but they grow on your. Scarlet is so feisty and determined to save her grandma that you cannot help but root for here. Even if you know her cause isn't going to go how she plans, you want her to succeed. Wolf was harder to pin down. It's pretty clear that he is hiding something and I was hoping my gut was wrong on that that was. It wasn't, but things still turn out well enough for them.

 

In this adventurous installment of The Lunar Chronicles, we get everything we feel in love with in Cinder plus much more. I was more than a little irritated when I learned that Scarlet would be told via a new perspective. Can't we just stay with Cinder? WHY CAN'T WE JUST STAY WITH CINDER? And I'll admit that for first 100 pages or so, I was happier when the focus shifted back to Cinder, but Scarlet's journey was just as interesting. Meyer gives us what we didn't know we needed, a fuller, more rounded story that I couldn't help but love as much as the first one.

 

It took me a while to get through this. I forced encouraged my husband to listen with me as I revived my memory of what happened in Cinder. He quickly become addicted and wouldn't let me listen to any of Cinder without his presence. The instant it was over, he demanded we start Scarlet. My normal plan of listening my way through my audiobooks during my lunch hour and occasionally at breakfast went out the window quickly. Every time we were in a car for more than 10 minutes, it was Scarlet. We made excuses to run extra errands or take unnecessary trips just to get a few more minutes of the story. It is as addictive as Cinder was, if not more so, and I cannot wait to get started on Cress!

 

Audio Notes:
Rebecca Soler does a pretty awesome job of narrating this. Though her name sounds familiar, I don't think I've listened to her work before. She does a wonderful job of creating new voices for each characters, even giving Scarlet the proper French accent she should have. Sometimes the male characters can get confusing, but Rebecca does a good job of cluing us in on who is speaking. I only had one issue with her. She says the name Nancy weird. It almost feels like she has a natural southern accent and it shines through on that one word, despite her efforts. Every time she said the name, I couldn't help but snicker.

Review for Losing Hope by Colleen Hoover

Losing Hope - Colleen Hoover

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

 

Dean Holder will never forgive himself for walking away from Hope. That moment alter his life in ways his childhood self couldn’t even imagine. Now, many years later, after facing tragedy and completely giving up on ever finding Hope, he is just making his way through life….until he runs into Sky. Sky looks so much like Hope that he seriously thinks she’s lying when she says otherwise. Then she shows him her license and that’s something you can’t argue with. But he is filled with the desperate need to know her anyway. The more he learns about her, the more he hopes his first impressions were wrong. Please, don’t let this girl be Hope. It will ruin her life and she likes her life. But all of us who have read Hopeless (and you should really read that first), already know where this is going and all we really want is to see how Holder takes it. Just prepare yourself because it’s everything you imagined…and more.

 

What is there to say about Dean Holder? I’m already in love with they guy before this novel started. Holder stole my heart in Hopeless. He’s devotion to Sky was heart-breakingly awesome. That’s the only term to describe this set of novels, heartbreaking. Colleen gives us what we want, we get a couple so in love that gets to have that happily ever after that all girls dream about, but she rips us apart along the way. Holder’s perspective is just as devastating as Sky’s was. The things he learns, especially about his sister just rip you in two. I found myself crying along with him as he learns about Sky’s past and why Karen took her and the whole thing with Les. The whole thing brought on deep, body wracking sobs. But, getting behind his eyes just made me love him more. As much as his love for Sky shines through in Hopeless, here, we get to experience it first hand. We get to see how he felt that day when he saw Sky wearing Les’ bracelet and his emotions over getting back with Sky after that break. He’s perfect, in that amazing imperfect way.

 

Obviously, we get more of Sky, but I don’t have much to say about that. She’s the same as she was in Hopeless, so there is nothing new to say. I will say that I officially love Daniel. That boy is hilariously awesome and I want to see more of him. I was a little sad once we start picking back up on the Hopeless timeline because we didn’t get nearly enough from goofy Daniel. He’s need to give everyone nicknames cracked me up on more than one occasion. I will be finding any possible way to squeeze Finding Cinderella into my reading list soon because I need more of him.

 

I actually really love novels like this, where you get the same story via a different perspective. Actually, what I love is novels told in dual perspectives, but beyond that, this is the next best thing. It might be better because you still get all the mystery in book one with not knowing what the other person is thinking and then everything is laid out in book 2. You get to see your favorite scenes over again in a new light and it’s awesome. I honestly don’t understand people who complain about them because they are “the same book.” Dude, the description tells you that. You know exactly what you are going to get when you go in, so if that’s not your thing, WHY THE HELL ARE YOU READING IT? Sure, new scenes will be added, but it will be the same scenes and dialogue over again. I really love that.

 

I love getting in Holder’s head and understanding his thoughts. I don’t think I loved it more than Hopeless because…well, there is no logical reason, but Hopeless broke me. Hopeless was that novel that just spoke to me and made me fall in love with Colleen Hoover. Sure, I really liked Slammed. I would even go so far as to say that I loved Slammed, but Hopeless was better and it has a special place in my heart. This is a close second to that. I adored it and I’m so glad that I have that pretty hardcover special edition now (::cough:: signed by Colleen and Griffin (if you don’t know who Griffin is, fix that!)).

 

Audio Notes:
I really thought I had listened to something else by Kirby, but I’ve perused his whole list on Audible and the only other thing I’ve read by him was This Girl and I read an e-ARC of that, so I know I didn’t listen to it. He does a pretty amazing job. He’s voice is nice and he has great pacing. He doesn’t hold back on the emotion. This book contains some difficult subject matter and he does a great job letting that emotion shine through. I definitely enjoyed him and I look forward to listening to more of his work.

Review for Frostfire by Amanda Hocking

Frostfire - Amanda Hocking

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

 

Bryn Aven has spent her life training to be a member of the Högdragen (an elite group of royal guards). Right now she’s a successful, if somewhat outcast, tracker who has yet to lose a changeling. She is determined to not let anything stand in the way of her goal, certainly not a starcrossed affair with Ridley Dresden, her hot boss. Her plans get derailed when Konstantin Black, a former Hogdragon member and current outlaw, starts kidnapping changelings. Bryn is assign to a team to help protect the changelings and put a stop to him, by any means necessary. Can she succeed and gain entry into her dream job or will she fail and watch it all collapse?

 

I really enjoyed Hocking’s Trylle series, so when I heard she’s was writing a spin-off series, I knew I’d have to read it. Same world, but different tribe of trolls? Bring it on! Sadly, we don’t get much of Loki, just a small glimpse, but we do get to see Finn and Tove. Tove, oh Tove. Le sigh.

 

I didn’t love Bryn immediately, but she does grow on you…like a fungus. In the first chapter of this, I wanted to slap her. She goes on and on about how in love she is with Konstantin and she’s all dreamy eyed and I really wanted to shake her. Luckily for us, that only lasts for a chapter because Konstantin goes all outlaw and tries to kill her dad. From that point on, Bryn’s only focus is getting on the Hogdagon. It was her goal before and she worked hard as hell towards it, but afterwards, she refuses to even entertain the idea of romance. Sure, she has had boyfriends, but nothing serious. Revenge drives her to be the best tracker she can be. She ignores the growing attraction to her boss, Ridley. They both know nothing could come of a relationship, so she suppresses her feelings and focuses on bringing home changelings and training her body to the brink of exhaustion. When Konstantin reappears, she knows she should kill him. He tried to kill her father and has been evading capture for YEARS. But something about this whole situation feels off and she wonders if Konstantin is really as bad as everyone believes or if someone else is pulling his puppet strings. Her avoidance of emotional relationships both confused and fascinated me. From a very young age, I was obsessed with the concept of love. I spent my high school career with my nose buried in historical romance novels, so reading about someone so adverse to falling in love threw me for a bit of a loop.

 

Ridley…I…he…He’s no Loki, okay? He’s smart and attractive and it’s obvious he has a thing for Bryn. That’s a little on the creepy side because he’s older and he is her boss, but he quickly wipes the creep factor out with his loyalty. He also doesn’t act on his feelings. He makes a conscience effort to avoid that not just because of the threat to his job, but also because he knows Bryn well enough to know how it would affect her. That had me smiling a bit. He’s backstory confuses me because it shows how he despises playboy’s, yet Bryn portrays him as a bit of a playboy. Regardless, he was a character I enjoyed and that tension between him and Bryn is perfect.

 

I will admit that it has been a LONG time since I read the Trylle series. In fact, Kandice is currently plowing through the final book and not particularly enjoying it. It made me wonder if maybe my reading tastes have changed on the past few years. After reading this, I tend to doubt it. This felt a great deal like that, but told from an entirely different perspective. We don’t get the changeling, struggling to understand the truth and learn an entirely new culture. We get an outcast. A half-breed who isn’t really accepted anywhere, but neither can she be cast out. I think anyone who loved the trylle series will enjoy this. It’s a bit slow to start, but it hooks you in pretty quickly and it wholly entertaining. It does end on a horrid cliffhanger, but that’s really to be expected at this point, right?

 

Audio Notes:
This is the third….forth Eileen Stevens book I’ve listened to now. The jury is still out on my opinion of her. In the first two, both novel’s from Krystal Wade’s Darkness Falls series, I wasn’t impressed. That could be contributed to the fact that I just didn’t really like the story, so I don’t hold that against her. Then it was Devil In Denim by Melanie Scott and she was pretty great in that. Here she was okay? Her accent is a little…off? Once you get into the story and Bryn describes how her people talk, it makes a bit more sense, but it was still a bit off-putting in the start. She also says Konstantin different than I imagined it to be said. This isn’t the first time a narrator and I have disagreed on how a name should be pronounced and I have no idea if Hocking was consulted on the proper pronunciation, but it looks like the name Constantine, right? I would think it would be pronounced the same. They just changed the name and dropped the “e,” which doesn’t make much of a difference. But she says it CON-STAN-TEN. Ten, like a ten dollar bill, instead of teen. Now, this could all just be me, but every time she said his name, I cringed. Beyond that, she was a great as I remember from last time. She has good pacing and does a great job with differentiating who is speaking. I would say I enjoyed her overall performance, despite my nit-picky-ness.

 

****Thank you to Esther Bochner at Audible for providing me with an audio copy in exchange for an honest review****

 

Review for Untamed by Jessica Sorensen

Untamed - Jessica Sorensen

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

 

In Unbeautiful, Emery tried to escape her family’s boundaries. She moved out and went away for college. Unfortunately, since she refuses to return home, her family has brought their rules and restrictions to her. The ex-boyfriend reappears with strict family orders that she will date him and the one guy she thought she could trust has betrayed her more than anyone. Ryler is her new bodyguard and the fact that he has been working for her father this entire time just breaks her heart. She was out on her own and her family still manages to control every part of her life. Her father has a creepy way of knowing exactly what is going on in her life and now she knows why. Ryler has been reporting back to him with her every move. But Ryler didn’t betray her as much as she thinks and he has no choice but to follow her father’s orders. The sooner he finds that gold information that the feds are looking for and can get out of this situation, the better. But the more he sees the abuse they put on Emery, the more he knows he needs to find a way to get her out of this life as well. Can they both escape their pasts or will it continue to haunt them?

 

Emery and Ryler are pretty much the same characters we fell in love with in Unbeautiful. We get to see a little more of Emery’s crazy side and a lot more of her worries now that the secrets are out in the open, but she’s still that girl who has been abused by her family in unbelievable ways. Ryler is much more tortured here because he’s new “job” requires him to lie to Emery and the tension between them is killing him. Gone is that easy way they had with each other before the truth was known. Gone were are the days when Emery would confide in him. She sees him as the enemy now and he is desperate to change that.

 

This is definitely not one of those books you can jump into without reading the first one. If you don’t read Unbeautiful first, you’ll be confused beyond belief. This series has quite a bit more mystery and suspense than I’m used to with Sorensen, but she wears it well. Unbeautiful left us with so many unanswered questions and Untamed does it’s best to answer most of them. We finally find out what really happened with Emery’s brother and how her father is so all-knowing when it comes to her new life. We do (eventually) get to see things heat up again between Ryler and Emery. That doesn’t happen for a while. It takes a lot for Emery to trust Ryler again, after what feels like the ultimate betrayal.

I was a little surprised to learn that this was just a duology. I’ve come to expect much longer series from her and I worried a little that she wouldn’t be able to condense everything that needed to be covered into just two books. That worry was stupid of me. I should know by now that Sorensen is capable of writing goal that she sets her mind to and this is no exception. Though I was still left with a question or two, I was completely satisfied with this story. I now genuinely hope that Ryler and Emery don’t get another story because that would mean more turmoil for them and they deserve some peace and quiet.

 

This is one of those series that you spend your weekend hiding in your house to finish reading because you have to know what happens next. I read Untamed in a single day. I stayed super late Saturday night to finish Unbeautiful and get quite a ways into Untamed before collapsing from exhaustion. I got up the next morning and immediately pick it back up to keep going. I am not a fast reader, so for me to finish something in a single day is an accomplishment and that only happens with things I truly cannot put down. I should surprise no one, least of all me, that it happened here because Sorensen knows how to write exactly what I like to read. She’s truly a master of her craft and I bow down to her brillance. Emery and Ryler’s story is heartbreaking, almost to that Nova & Quinton level, and you cannot help but feel for them and hope that they get the best ending possible. And they do get it, so what more could you want? You get suspense, mystery, tension, romance, and an happy ending?

 

****Thank you to Jessica Sorensen for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review****

Review for For Authentication Purposes by Amber L Johnson

For Authentication Purposes - Amber L.  Johnson

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

 

Dawn Sims has been writing romantic fanfiction online for a while. Bolstered by the encouragement of her fans, she strikes out to write a novel...and quickly learns that she sucks at writing smut. Warner Green comes across her very poorly written sex scene and knows that whatever God exists is smiling down on him. He has had a thing for Dawn since the first day he spotted her in middle school. She broke his heart, but he never could forget her, and now is his opportunity to cash in his years of waiting. He offers Dawn string-free smut lessons. After all, she can't write a full range of smut if she hasn't experienced it for herself, right? When Dawn agrees to this, he is beyond happy. But soon, Dawn starts to wonder where all his sexual prowess stems from and is asking questions he'd rather not answer. As the two grow closer, will they make it work or is the relationship doomed to always be for authentication purposes?

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I could relate to Dawn pretty easily. Now, for all of you wondering, I'm not secretly typing away writing smutty fanfics online in my spare time (spare time? Between work and blogging and reading and reviewing, I HAVE NO SPARE TIME. I don't know how people with kids get anything accomplished). I just understand the whole "I was the smart one in high school, but ended up not doing anything academically" thing. Of course, Dawn flunked out of college and I just never finished, so there are some differences, but I still understand her mentality. Her attempt at writing a romance novel was atrocious. I was immediately worried when I started this.

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I really thought the opening scene was the intro and that the novel would progress in that manner. That thought was not appealing. Luckily, that is not the case. Dawn has a long way to go until she is up to my standard for romance novels.

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But she was pretty entertaining to watch.

 

Warner was the character I loved immediately. He was cute and funny and confident and completely annoying. I love that whole I'm going to annoy you into loving me bit. It really amuses me. He just amuses me in general. He's adorable and sweet, a combination I'm a complete sucker for.

 

What I loved about this is that it's exactly what it sounds like. Amusing, smut filled scenes with a deeper story hiding behind. I love books that make me laugh. Actually, it's pretty much a requirement for me to love a novel. I read to escape and escaping should make me happy. Smiles are the physical manifestation of happy. That's the biggest part of this for me. It was amusing smut. How can you not love amusing smut? Warner and Dawn get it on and then Dawn starts to fall for him just a little. He just falls harder (hehehe) for her. This contains that teenage boy humor that we all kinda roll our eyes at, but internally giggle along with.

 

What I didn't love? Well, it feels a bit under-developed. I read an ARC, so it's quite possible that this has been polished up and added to and my problem is irrelevant, but it felt too short. The scene changes were a bit abrupt and all the scenes with Warner's friends had an unfinished feel. Like it was missing a few extra lines of dialogue or action of some kind. Also, I hate the word jizz.



Seriously, there probably is not a euphemism for semen that I care for, but jizz just might be my least favorite. This is a problem for me with all romance novels. I hate the euphemisms. They all suck. I realize that the normal medical terms are determinedly unsexy, but I've yet to read a good alternative!

 

Really, this is exactly what the title implies, amusing smut. Sure, it delves into a deeper level, but I requested it for the smut (and because of the pretty cover) and I wasn't disappointed. If you are looking for something to make you laugh or just not your typical romance novel, this is for you!

 

****Thank you to The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House for providing me with an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review****

Review for Chlorine & Chaos by Jessalyn Jameson

Chlorine & Chaos (Flawed Heroes) (Volume 1) - Jessalyn Jameson

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

 

Sage Shepard and Brandon Tiggs had their epic high school fling, but that was YEARS ago. Things didn’t really end on a good note and both parties have spent the past seven years trying to get over it. Now, Sage is back in town and unintentionally walks right into Brandon’s life. She takes a job as the school nurse at her old high school only to learn that Brand is the swim coach at that very same school. Brand is in the middle of a divorce. But once he sees Sage, he is determine to win her back and right his post-graduation mistakes. Sage knows they have too much history to really make this work, but that doesn’t stop her from dreaming about being in Brand’s arms and working it out anyway. As their passion burns bright and their minds take the backseat, can Sage and Brand overcome their problems or will the past ruin their future?

 

I couldn’t help sympathizing with Sage from page one of this novel. She has been in such bad situations and you have to applaud her for overcoming that and making it through college. She broke out and did what she needed to do. She has my respect for that. She’s smart and devoted to her brother, making sure she can care for him they way he needs it regardless of her needs or wants. You kinda feel bad for her because she went from doing what her foster families demanded to doing what was required to keep her brother. She never really seemed to get a time when she was just living for what she wanted and needed. The only time she seems to get for herself are the moments she hits the bars looking for her next one night stand. Considering all the vices in the world, this one is not a bad choice. She makes a point always use protection and she’s a grown woman who is making her own choices, so more power to her. I still kinda feel like the poor girl needs a hug….and a lllloooonnnnnggggg vacation.

 

I was (kinda still am) on the fence about Brand. On one hand, he’s smart and sweet and hot and all that jazz. He obviously loves Sage and has made a point to watch out for her brother while she’s been gone, which wins him brownie points. But he’s a cheater and I have big issues with that. Every time I started to swoon over him even a little, that little voice in the back of my head yells “CHEATER! CHEATER!” and I’d lose a bit of that love that was growing. I understand that this was YEARS ago, but it still stayed in my mind. I get that Sage had reasons for wanting to keep their relationship hidden. The repercussions of putting that out in the open for her were unimaginable for teenage Sage, but that doesn’t mean Brand needs to stay with someone else. That doesn’t mean that Brand can’t just be “single” instead of stringing this poor girl along for years and years. That makes me think less of him. I had a hard time respecting him. I’ve been told (on numerous occasions) that I have very high standards and am not very forgiving and this is probably the best example of that. I can’t forgive that sin. Brand and Sage have that all consuming love/passion thing going on that we all dream about as teens, but that doesn’t justify hurting Rosie the way he does. Be a man and be honest. The fact that he goes on to marry Rosie, knowing that he doesn’t love her and probably will never love her? Well, that doesn’t help.

 

So, obviously, the cheating thing was a bit of an issue for me. I also got a bit tired of the strobe light relationship (that term was completely stolen from The DUFF film). There is quite a bit of history between these two and add to that the fact that they keep fucking up in present day, and it’s expected that there will be quite a few problems. These two are champs at avoiding them instead of confronting them head-on. While I can relate to that trait (procrastinators unite….tomorrow), by the third split, I was rolling my eyes a bit. Work it out or let it go! DON’T YOU DARE START SINGING FROZEN! I completely support the whole theory that happy endings don’t come easy, but it doesn’t make it easy for me to accept the on again off again thing. It’s probably because I’m not every forgiving, so I couldn’t see myself ever giving an ex a second chance. There was a reason we split up and that reason is probably still relevant now. Regardless of why, that and the cheating thing did bug me a bit.

 

Enough of what I didn’t like! Let’s have what I enjoy! The writing is amazing. The plot felt very put together and planned. And the chemistry between the characters was perfect. Then there was all the smut. I knew that part would be good Jessalyn (AKA Jessa Russo) wrote some pretty steam-y scenes in the Ever series and I was excited before I ever started this to see what would happen when we took away the limitations of writing for teens. Jameson manages to toe line between too little description and too much perfectly. I don’t know if that makes sense to everyone else. Let me try to say it different. With erotica romances, there are times I feel like things go too far. I want the smut. I wouldn’t have picked up an erotica novel otherwise, but I feel like a lot of them are over the top. Jameson manages to give me the smut I want without having it feel like a bad porn. Make more sense? Also, the heroine isn’t a stick! Sage has curves! I don’t think she was plus sized, but there was nary a mention of a toned tummy. In fact, there was one spot mentioning Sage being soft which made me smile!

 

Despite my minor issues, it was incredibly easy to get swept up in the story. I wanted to know more about Sage’s past and what happened to Brand after high school to lead him to his current career. I need to know what exactly happened when the two split for good. I need to know why Brand kept publicly dating someone else when he was clearly head over heels for Sage. Regardless of the genre she chooses to write in, Jameson’s work has that need to read quality that makes you want to forget the world for just one more chapter. What more could you really ask for? I’ll tell you what, you could ask for book 2! I’m certainly ready for it!

Review for How To Win At High School by Owen Matthews

How to Win at High School - Owen Matthews

This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews

 

Adam Higgins is a loser. He’s a guy from the poor side of town with one friend and a sister who hates him. So when he starts at a new school, he is determined to make a name for himself. Using Scarface as a model, he comes up with a homework business that soon gets him in tight with the popular crowd. When homework isn’t enough, he gets into booze and fake IDs. Soon, Adam is in over his head. And he wonders what happens to his relationship with schools Gods & Goddesses if he can no longer hook them up with the things they need. One thing is for sure, this is not going to end well unless Adam can keep it together. Can he balance his businesses or will his multiple operations be his downfall?

 

Adam was a guy I could instantly sympathize with. Being alone isn’t easy, especially when you aren’t the loner type. I didn’t really understand the want to get in with the popular crowd, but it’s a common enough theme in YA that I can get behind the concept. The more popularity he gains, the less I liked him. If he could have stuck with the homework business, things would probably have turned out fine. He’s own grades would stay high because he has to know the material to write everyone elses’ papers and it wasn’t so much that he got overwhelmed. But adding the fake IDs and booze and then the possibility of drugs is a series problem. Not only are the others ones frowned on in high school, but they are completely illegal which leads to more serious ramifications if he gets caught. Plus, part of why he did this was to get a girlfriend (and get laid) and he succeeds in that area. Once he as the girlfriend and she starts wanting more time with him, you’d think he’d back off some of the businesses to enjoy some of the rewards, but he doesn’t. He just wants to keep climbing the ladder. I kinda wanted to slap him. I liked him a lot at the end. I liked how he mans up. I won’t say more than that.

 

The rest of the cast is interesting. You’ve got the uber selfish popular crowd, all of whom have their heads up their own asses. His sister is a bitch from the start, hating him for no apparent reason. He’s big brother is the only character I liked a lot. He’s smart and a hard worker. I also like his girlfriend for a while, but she seems a bit naive and that bugged me. It took her way too long to pickup on Adam’s businesses than it should have considering her intelligence level.

 

This novel is insanely readable. It’s written in short chapters with plain language. Matthews doesn’t mince words or make things overly flowery. He tells it bluntly like it is and I couldn’t get enough. From chapter one, I needed more. What idiotic thing was Adam going to next? Were the gods & goddesses going to accept Adam into their fold? Were they going to reject him? Exactly how badly is Adam going to crash and burn? I had a burning curiosity to find out.

 

Despite the fact that this doesn’t have a completely happy ending, it does end on a hopeful note. For those of you like me, who want a perfect ending, you won’t find it here. It took me a while to decide what to rate this because it’s not my normal desired ending and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I went with 4 stars because it was so insanely addictive and it is a bit hopeful. Adam learns a valuable lesson or two and the story wraps up in a very believable manner. This novel is like nothing I’ve read before. It does not fit into the normal YA categories. YA mafia drama? I don’t know what to label it. What I do know is that I will be keeping an eye out for what Owen Matthews writes next!

 

****Thank you to Harper Teen for providing me with an eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review****