Review for Brown-Eyed Girl (Travis Family #4) by Lisa Kleypas

Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas

TITLE: Brown-Eyed Girl
SERIES: Travis Family #4
AUTHOR: Lisa Kleypas
PUBLICATION DATE: August 11, 2015
PUBLISHER: Piatkus
PAGES: 340 pages
FORMAT: Paperback
SOURCE: Publisher
RATING: 4 bows

Summary from GoodReads:

Wedding planner Avery Crosslin may be a rising star in Houston society, but she doesn’t believe in love–at least not for herself. When she meets wealthy bachelor Joe Travis and mistakes him for a wedding photographer, she has no intention of letting him sweep her off her feet. But Joe is a man who goes after what he wants, and Avery can’t resist the temptation of a sexy southern charmer and a hot summer evening.

After a one night stand, however, Avery is determined to keep it from happening again. A man like Joe can only mean trouble for a woman like her, and she can’t afford distractions. She’s been hired to plan the wedding of the year–a make-or-break event.

But complications start piling up fast, putting the wedding in jeopardy, especially when shocking secrets of the bride come to light. And as Joe makes it clear that he’s not going to give up easily, Avery is forced to confront the insecurities and beliefs that stem from a past she would do anything to forget.

The situation reaches a breaking point, and Avery faces the toughest choice of her life. Only by putting her career on the line and risking everything–including her well-guarded heart–will she find out what matters most.

Avery Crosslin was a character I could sympathize with immediately. She is overworked by choice and very hesitant to ever love again. She’s taken the once burned twice shy motto a bit too far. She won’t even contemplate the idea of dating again, much less more. She is also a curvy girl instead of a stick which had me rooting for her from moment one. She is smart and has a level head on her shoulders, which is a refreshing change from all the empty-headed idiots I’ve been reading about in YA.

Joe wasn’t my favorite male character, but he seems right for Avery. He’s smart and funny and goes out of his way to encourage Avery to follow her dreams. On my part, there was just nothing about him that stood out to make me swoon over him. He’s devoted to his family and he’s attractive, but there was no extra umph for me. Maybe he was a bit too cocky? I mean, I’m fine with swagger, but it just felt like he had nothing backing it up.

The rest of the cast was fairly interesting. I really enjoyed Avery’s sister and all of Joe’s family. The villain role was appropriately played. I knew something was up early on, but I didn’t see the full extent until it was revealed at the end. This novel opened my eyes, in a way, to some opinions of wealthy people. Bethany, one the brides for Avery’s wedding planning business, just absolutely floored me. The amount of money they can spend on extravagant things while many of us are left to live paycheck to paycheck is completely astounding. But that is a rant for another day.

Plot and writing-wise, this is everything you’d expect from Lisa Kleypas. Though her contemporaries aren’t quite as magical as her historicals, it’s still very easy to get swept away in her world. She has this fabulous way of writing that just ropes you in. My only really complaint was that the ending felt a bit forced. Once you get the big reveal, everything just flies by. You don’t get any falling action. You get a resolution, but I felt like it didn’t give you enough time to really absorb it before the novel ended.

Although, every time I read a novel about a girl who isn’t confident about her looks and her homosexual/metrosexual bestie gives her a make-over that makes her see herself in a different light always ruffles my feathers a bit. Seriously, when is Jack McFarland going to show up at my door with Karen’s credit card and declare that I’m fabulous and he won’t rest until I see it too? That would be nice. I love a good make-over as much as the next girl, but they always make me incredibly envious. Leaving out the whole shopping spree, it just fascinates me that someone can change their opinion of themselves that drastically in one afternoon. Please, someone, explain this sorcery to me because I’d really like to buy in.

If you are in the mood for a fun contemporary romance that shows you what you’ve been dreaming of all along may not be what you really need, then this is the novel for you. It’s smart and sexy and everything you could really want in a romance!

****Thank you to Piatkus for providing me with a physical in exchange for an honest review****

4 bows
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Mini Review for Nothing Personal (The Kincaids #2) by Rosalind James

Nothing Personal by Rosalind James

TITLE: Nothing Personal
SERIES: The Kincaids #2
AUTHOR: Rosalind James
NARRATOR: Emma Taylor
PUBLICATION DATE: October 18, 2013 / May 19, 2015
PUBLISHER: Independent / Audible Studios
PAGES: 337 pages / 11 hours
FORMAT: Audiobook
SOURCE: Review copy via Audible
RATING: 4 bows

Summary from Audible:

When you wish upon a star… Alec Kincaid has never met the obstacle he couldn’t overcome – or the woman who could resist him. And it’s not going to happen now, not with his star shining more brightly than ever in the high-stakes arena of San Francisco’s software industry. Desiree Harlin doesn’t believe in fairy tales, and she doesn’t waste time wishing. She’s learned the hard way that dreams don’t come true. And with her reputation and hard-won security on the line, succumbing to temptation isn’t an option. But things aren’t always what they seem. And even stars sometimes fall. Note: Despite the fog San Francisco does get hot at times. If you prefer your romance without steam, you may want to visit a different city…er, book.

You guys know I have been having issues writing reviews for a little while now, so I’m giving the mini-review idea a shot. What that means is I’ll be pulling the description directly from Audible (or GoodReads) and then giving you my thoughts in a shorter manner than we are all perhaps accustomed to. I hope this will help get my creative mind back to flowing!

You get a good peek at Alec’s personality in Welcome To Paradise, so I was pretty excited to get to see through his eyes this time. I knew his character would change some because he was portrayed as a bit of a man-whore in WTP and that mind-set doesn’t really work in a romance. The guy has to give up the idea of sleeping with any woman other than the heroine. His change is subtle and believable. I found I liked his perspective quite a bit, but maybe not as much as his twins. The other side of this is Desiree. She’s smart and spunky and very professional. She has really fought her way up to be where she is. She had very low beginnings in life and had to work her way through college, but she did it and she is awesome at her job.

The romance had a very believable feel. Though there is immediate attraction, there is no insta-love or immediate falling into bed together. Ray is very (VERY) attached to the rules and she doesn’t like to break them when her job (and therefore her well-being) is on the line. It’s a slow-build with an excellent payoff.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I only had a few issues with it. The main one was this is has a suspense element, but it was introduced a little too late in the novel for my tastes. You don’t even get a hint of it until over halfway through the book. By that point, I was way too focused on the romantic element to care about someone trying to do bad things to harm Alec’s business. Maybe that was just me, but I just didn’t care and I thought the guilty party was extremely obvious from the first moment it was revealed that there was a foul-play being made.

Audio notes:
Emma Taylor does a good job narrating this. I’m very satisfied with her performance. She doesn’t really go above and beyond, but she does a good job and I would definitely be okay with listening to more of her work.

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

4 bows
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Review for Welcome To Paradise (The Kincaids #1) by Rosalind James

Welcome To Paradise by Rosalind James

TITLE: Welcome To Paradise
SERIES: The Kincaids #1
AUTHOR: Rosalind James
NARRATOR: Emma Taylor
PUBLICATION DATE: August 15, 2013 / May 19, 2015
PUBLISHER: Independent / Audible Studios
PAGES: 340 pages / 12 hours 32 minutes
FORMAT: Audiobook
SOURCE: Review copy via Audible
RATING: 4 bows

Mira Walker and her boyfriend, Scott, have entered a competition to win a million dollars. They are going on a reality show where they have to live like it’s 1885. That means no modern electricity, no modern plumbing, and spending each day working to do things exactly the way they did it then. Mira is hoping this experience will bring her closer to her boyfriend and inspire her to once again be excited about her job. Gabe Kincaid has also entered the competition with his twin brother Alec. He is sure they have a better shot at winning than Mira and Scott because everyone wants to knock Scott’s lights out from moment one. As the competition starts to heat up, all the contestants are thrown many unexpected twists and soon it’s unclear who will win this competition and the money. One thing is certain, the more time Mira spends here, the more sure she is that she doesn’t want to go back to the life she had before entering this competition.

Mira was someone I sympathized with pretty quickly. It was clearly from the first moment you see her alone with Scott that he was an asshole. It was equally clear that she just doesn’t realize the extent of his dickheadedness. It’s fascinating to realize how few people really see the signs of mental abuse and don’t recognize that backhanded compliments for what they are. Just because Scott has a nice attitude most of the time doesn’t mean he isn’t breaking her down mentally. You hear an insult enough times, you start to believe it. Beyond that, it’s clear that this girl has never been appreciated in her life. Her parents are lackluster, to put it nicely, and she really seems to have no one really in her corner. We don’t hear her talk of her friends back home or siblings. Her parents don’t really care and her boyfriend is a jackass. And yet, she seems to have a relatively positive attitude towards life. I don’t know how she manages it. The one thing I know for sure is that she deserves better than Scott.

Gabe is her opposite in a lot of ways. He is confident and has the love and support of an entire family. He’s a successful doctor with a level head on his shoulders and a knight-in-shining armor complex. I like him immensely more than Scott. He’s smart and sweet and just a little cocky, but not in an obnoxious way. Even though we do get a bit of time in his head, I don’t feel like I know him as well as I know Mira. Beyond his love for his brother and his concern for Mira, I don’t feel like I know very much about him.

What was really fun about this was that it didn’t feel like your typical romance novel. For half of the novel, the focus was more on setting up the living situation and getting used to the way things ran back in the day over pushing Mira & Gabe together as fast as possible. Sure, they were aware of each other and the attraction was there, but it was on a smaller scale than most romance novels use. I rather enjoyed that. I’m more than a little fascinated by how the world worked when things were slower and harder to get. Just the act of lighting the stove and getting food started took hours to accomplish. Washing the cloths? Let’s just say I won’t be complaining about hauling all my stuff to the laundromat anytime soon.

Despite the slow start on the romance end, it does heat up at moments. This novel is definitely not without steam. You know what was awesome about that? There was nary a single comment on the largeness of a certain part of Gabe’s anatomy. Rosalind James, if you ever read this, thank you from the bottom of my heart for that. In face, I’m not sure his size was mentioned at all and I’m very grateful for that. It also didn’t spend pages going on and on about how hot Gabe was. His attractiveness was mentioned on more than one occasion, but I didn’t feel like I was getting beat over the head with that particular observation.

Basically, this is an interesting contemporary romance that doesn’t focus overly much on the romance aspect. That is an odd thing for me to say and mean it as a compliment, but I do. It was a nice change to read listen to a story that wasn’t solely about the characters need to get hot and sweaty with each other. I make it sound like I read only erotica, which is far from the truth. I read mostly YA and romance, but a lot of it seems to put too much focus on the physical aspect of the relationship lately and it was wonderful to see something else. But I think anyone who enjoys contemporary romance will love this!

Audio notes:
Emma Taylor does a pretty great job of narrating this. She has great pacing and voice differentiation. I wouldn’t say she is my favorite female narrator because I refuse to give that rank to anyone who I’ve only listened to one book by, but she does rate pretty high up. I have no complaints at all about her performance.

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

4 bows
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Review for The Chateau On The Lake by Charlotte Betts

The Chateau On The Lake by Charlotte Betts

TITLE: The Chateau On The Lake
AUTHOR: Charlotte Betts
PUBLICATION DATE: November 5, 2014
PUBLISHER: Piatkus
PAGES: 400 pages
FORMAT: Paperback
SOURCE: Publisher
RATING: 4 bows

In 1792, Madeleine Moreau has a great life as a school teacher for her parents Academy For Young Ladies in London. Then tragedy strikes and Madeleine is left completely alone in this world. Determined to find her father’s family, she travels in France, where her father is from. But France is in turmoil and Madeleine soon finds herself taking refuge at Chateau Mirabelle with Comte Etienne d’Aubery. And as the French Revolution gathers momentum, Madeleine discovers that she must become the master of her fate if she ever wants to capture the happiness she dreams of gaining!

It was hard not to sympathize with Madeleine after her parents die. She is left all alone in this world and even her home is being taken away. The more I got to see through her eyes, the more I admired her. She was determined to find her father’s family, despite the bad blood that was evident in her father’s refusal to discuss them. I also really enjoyed her no-nonsense attitude when it came to Sophie and her affair. She is sympathetic, but wants her to see the reality of the situation. Overall, she was a character I enjoyed quite a bit more than I was expecting.

I was wary of the Comte d’Aubery from the first moment we were introduced to him, but he won me over after they traveled into France and he goes out of his way to protect the girls. He could have just let them go on their merry way without a care, but he makes sure they are safe while still being honest about the situation. Before the book was even halfway over, I was an anxious as Maddy to have Etienne confess the feelings we were almost certain he had for her.

I can’t get in depth about any of the other characters without spoilers, but I will say that something always felt a little off to me about the “bad” guy, even before the big twist was revealed.

I’ll admit that I was not overjoyed when this arrived on my doorstep. I love historical romance novels, but this looks (and is) more historical than romance. Historical tends to end badly and we all know how I feel about bad endings. But I endeavor to try to read everything that gets sent to me and so I started it, aiming to read a chapter or two a day. At first, that was all I’d read, sometimes only a single chapter because it was slow to start. The romance is definitely on the light side and even then, it was a very (very) slow boil. It was an interesting tale, but not one that grabbed my full attention immediately. About halfway through, things start to get really interesting and the last 100 or so pages were those amazing ones where you just can’t tear yourself away. You have to know what is going to happen and if Madeleine is even going to make it out alive, much less receive the happily ever after we all want for her.

I really have to thank Clara Diaz at Piatkus because I don’t think I ever would have ever picked this novel up on my own and I really enjoyed reading it. Even though I don’t usually venture into history that goes beyond the pretty ballgowns and the proper way to address a duke (because that is knowledge I will absolutely need in the here and now), I found myself rather fascinated with the historical aspect presented here. French during the revolution is not a place I’d ever want to really be, but through Madeleine’s eyes, I got to explore the beautiful and horrifying reality of that time. It’s also written in a readable way. The few historicals I have tried before this were always written in a stuffy manner that felt like the author was trying to beat me over the head with their abundance of knowledge rather than tell the story and that is blessedly absent here.

What do I want you to take away from this review? Maybe that sometimes stepping out of your reading comfort zone cane lead to good things. Also, that you should give this book a try if you are at all interested in a romance that burns slow but ends in a satisfying manner or have an interest in reading a realistic feeling account of the French Revolution!

****Thank you to Piatkus for providing me with a physical in exchange for an honest review****

4 bows
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Review for Trouble From The Start by Rachel Hawthorne

Trouble From The Start by Rachel Hawthorne

TITLE: Trouble From The Start
AUTHOR: Rachel Hawthorne
PUBLICATION DATE: April 28, 2015
PUBLISHER: Harper Teen
PAGES: 400 pages
FORMAT: eARC
SOURCE: Publisher via Edelweiss
RATING: 4 bows

Avery is your typical good girl. She’s smart, she’s driven, and she’s college bound. She has no business getting involved with the school bad guy. You know, the one with a smart mouth and constant bruises from all the fights? But Fletcher is pushed into her life anyway and soon the two start feeling an unlikely attraction that gets continually harder to fight. The more time Avery spends with Fletcher, the more she realizes that there is more to this guy than the facade he shows the world. But she’s leaving for college in a few months and Fletcher is staying here, so would courting a relationship now just be flirting with disaster or do they have what it takes to go the distance?

Avery is a character I wanted to be annoyed at. She’s a goodie two-shoes and those typically aren’t my type of characters. I like snark and sass and goody-goodies typically don’t display those characteristics. But Avery is strong and smart and she has not problem standing up to Fletcher when he is in the wrong or letting her opinions be known. There is one scene where she dumps her drink on Fletcher’s head and from then on, I was in love with her. Any girl who has the balls to do that is one I like a lot. She’s also much more conflicted about what she wants to do with her life than she lets on. There is the path her parents want her to take and that’s the one she is heading down. It doesn’t matter that her heart lies elsewhere because what she wants most of all is to please her parents.

Fletcher was your typical bad guy hiding a messed up home life. The more you learn about him, the more you see why Avery’s dad takes him on as the “summer project.” I liked him a lot, but nothing particular about him that stands out for me to comment on. He’s smart, but lazy. He’s the bad boy, but he is also surprisingly nice. He’s misunderstood and rides a motorcycle. He was cool and I loved getting in his head, but again, there is nothing specific about him that sets him apart of the rest of YA bad boys.

Writing-wise this was great. It has that readable quality that has you flipping pages as quickly as possible to find out exactly how this all works out. You’d think with the premise of a YA love story you’d know the outcome, but there are always those moments of uncertainty that have me speeding my way through to make sure this is going to make me happy. The only real complaint I have is the strobe-light quality to Avery and Fletcher’s relationship. I completely understand that there are extenuating circumstances, but you either want to be together or you don’t. Fletcher was mostly to blame here and I wanted to run over they guy with his own motorcycle. Be a man and make a choice! Beyond that, nothing particular stuck out that had me irritated. It’s rated four stars because it was pretty good, but there was nothing over the top amazing about it. I completely enjoyed it, but it didn’t have that indefinable spark that gets me swooning with love.

This was my first Rachel Hawthorne novel and it definitely won’t be my last. It was heartfelt and funny and exactly the contemporary YA story that I’ve been devouring like candy. I don’t know what it is about contemporary love stories that have grabbed my attention lately, but that is all I want to read. I used to hate contemporary because they felt boring. With paranormals you had alternate plot lines to follow, with historicals you could get swept away in the language and the manners, but contemporary? PASS! But that has changed and I find myself fascinated by these coming of age stories with realistic characters going through realistic situations with slightly less realistic but completely satisfying happy endings. If that sounds like your thing, then pick this up. You won’t be disappointed.

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

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Review for Seth & Greyson (The Coincidence #7) by Jessica Sorensen

Seth & Greyson by Jessica Sorensen

TITLE: Seth & Greyson
SERIES: The Coincidence #7
AUTHOR: Jessica Sorensen
PUBLICATION DATE: April 3, 2015
PUBLISHER: Independent
PAGES: 300 pages
FORMAT: eARC
SOURCE: Via Author
RATING: 4 bows

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****

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Review for The Replaced (The Taking #2) by Kimberly Derting

The Replaced by Kimberly Derting

TITLE: The Replaced
SERIES: The Taking #2
AUTHOR: Kimberly Derting
PUBLICATION DATE: April 28, 2015
PUBLISHER: HarperTeen
PAGES: 368 pages
FORMAT: eARC
SOURCE: Publisher via Edelweiss
RATING: 4 bows

Kyra’s life was turned upside down when she was abducted by aliens. That 5 year disappearance managed to take everything she cared about away from her and then, just when she starts to make new connections, her new love gets taken away as well. Now, Kyra is on the run from the NSA with the other Returned, Kyra goes to extremes to find Tyler. When they discover an email that implies Tyler is alive and well….in NSA hands, Kyra is willing to risk everything to get him back. Together with a select few of the Returned, they make a plan to bust Tyler out of lockdown and maybe steal some classified info while they are at it. But these things rarely go as planned and Kyra quickly learns that every action has consequences. What kind of trouble does she find herself in? You’ll just have to read to find out!

Kyra is still a character I adore. She’s a bit stronger here than she was in The Taking, but still basically the same character. She’s smart and caring and her devotion to Tyler had me sympathizing with her all the more. If you enjoyed her perspective before, you’ll continue to do so here. I can’t say too much else about the characters without going into spoiler territory, so I’ll leave it at this: you get a decent group of people all with interesting stories and quirks, but all is not as it seems.

I really enjoyed The Taking. It was one of those books that I just could not put down. From page one, I was hooked. I was desperate to learn not only what the hell had happened to Kyra, but also how everyone would react to her return. So I was ecstatic to see the sequel up on Edelweiss and I didn’t hesitate to grab it immediately. This, I thought, would be awesome. This would be a novel that I would burn my way through as I did with the first one. That, however, was not the case. While I did enjoy it and I think it’s a fair continuation of the story, I didn’t love it like I did with the first one. Some of the magic was missing. I think there are several things that contributed to this. The pass was quite a bit slower here and not much gets accomplished. It seemed to have just a little of that middle book syndrome thing going on. We get action and adventure, but it’s pretty clear that nothing is really going to be resolved here.

My big problem was the missing Tyler. Tyler was the magical ingredient, in my opinion. The first novel had this great contemporary science fiction vibe that I adored. A big part of that was the romance between Kyra and Tyler. Tyler was abducted at the end of The Taking, in order to save his life, and we don’t get him back early on here. We don’t get him back until the novel is half over. Even then, let’s just say the reunion is not everything you have been dreaming of, okay? In Tyler’s absence, Simon tries to put the moves on Kyra, pulling us into that dreaded love triangle territory. It was skirted around in The Taking and I was hoping we could continue to avoid it here, but no such luck. Simon has no qualms telling Kyra how he feels and that she can’t wait for Tyler forever. Which, quite honestly, made me want to slap him. Kyra, for her part, wasn’t much better. I won’t say much because I don’t want to have to label this as a spoilery review, but her reactions to him aren’t always the resounding rejection that it should be.

Basically, this novel is good, but it doesn’t quite live up to the awesomeness that was The Taking. It’s entertaining and has some twists that you don’t see coming, but that gets bogged down in a slow moving plot, love triangle, and yet another cliffhanger. I still recommend it to everyone who enjoyed the first novel and I think highly of it, but I just a little disappointed because it didn’t live up to my expectations. Regardless, it gave me quite a few answers and another peak into this world that Derting has created. That’s enough to satisfy me….for now.

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

4 bows
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Review for Kissing Ted Callahan (& Other Guys) by Amy Spalding

Kissing Ted Callahan (& Other Guys) by Amy Spalding

TITLE: Kissing Ted Callahan (& Other Guys)
AUTHOR: Amy Spalding
PUBLICATION DATE: April 14, 2015
PUBLISHER: Poppy
PAGES: 320 pages
FORMAT: eARC
SOURCE: publisher via NetGalley
RATING: 4 bows

After walking in on their bandmates making out, Riley and Reid are a little freaked out. Everyone knows that relationships between band members are a bad idea. This also points out that they are both lacking in relationship experience. They make a pact and start a journey to help each other find someone to make out with and win over their crushes. Since this is an experiment, it’s best to record it all, right? So they keep a journal of romantic events, as well as tips for each other. While Reid struggles to catch the attention of a girl he likes, Riley is suddenly surrounded by cute guys. Ted Callahan is really the one she wants, but there is no harm in playing the field while your young and that is what she does. But both Riley and Reid may get more than they bargained for with this pact. Can they make it all work out or are their love lives (and the band) doomed to failure?

This novel is pitched as Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist Gif
meets Easy A
Easy A A is for awesome gif
Naturally, I wanted to read it immediately. Those are easily two of my favorite movies. You know those movies that you want so many times that you have memorized all of the dialogue and can speak along with the film? Yeah, that’s me with these films. I’d devour anything even remotely similar to them. Conversely, that is also part of why this gets 4 stars instead of 5. I has super high expectations. You can’t compare something to those films and expect me to go in with low expectations. This was one of those books that I was overjoyed to be approved for. I couldn’t wait to dive into the beautiful pages and dig into the the story. Once I started it, I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it like I expected to.

I was initially on the fence about Riley. On one hand, she is totally dedicated to her band and music in general. On the other, she seemed a bit shallow. Maybe that’s just my take, but I found her to be a bit annoying. The fact that she was freezing out her best friend infuriated me. Yes, she fucked up, but you aren’t perfect either and things are never going to be fixed if you don’t speak. If you just ignore her every she shows up or refuse to tell her anything about what’s going on with you even when that is your first instinct, things will never improve. Her obsession with music was also a bit….unbelievable? Or maybe it was the fact that there seemed to be a gig for a band that she loved every single night. Maybe things are different in Los Angeles, but how is it possible for there to be so many gigs? Some of them are local bands, but seriously, every single night? That seems a bit farfetched. Either you are exaggerating your love for these acts or you love everything. This is probably just a personal issues since I’m particular about my music, but still. Every time a new show was mentioned, it drew me out of the book and back into real world thinking land and that isn’t where I wanted to be.

I think Ted Callahan was actually my favorite character of the novel. It might just have achieved 5 stars if it has been told from his perspective. He’s smart and cute and honest. He has an almost sweet quality to him that I loved immediately. I wanted him to be with Riley because she wanted it so badly, but I almost felt like he deserved a little better. Riley wasn’t necessarily cheating on him, but she was definitely lying to him. He’s so honest and I hated the idea of someone he obviously liked lying to him.

The rest of the cast were all interesting. Riley has a fully functional, normal family. Parents, sibling, all present and accounted for. The parents even pop in here and there to lay down the law and we see Riley actively checking in with them when she is out or won’t be home. I really liked that small detail. The parental units seemed like a nice bunch and they are pretty easy on Riley, letting her go out and be a teen more often than not.

This story was pretty good. It has a good plot, good writing, and it’s populated with a group of entertaining characters. I feel like that is the best word to describe the novel, good. It wasn’t spectacular and I wasn’t blown away by it or grabbed by it in that must keep reading sort of way. It was just good. There is one more thing that influence me, whether I intended to allow it to or not. It’s something I’m hesitant to speak about because it’s a generally agreed about rule that author behavior should never influence your opinion of the book itself. Or rather, you can allow it to influence you, but it’s frowned upon to speak about it. I think that is unfair because no one berates you if your sole reason for reading a book is because you meet the author and they were awesome. No one turns up there nose at anyone who picks up a John Green novel simply because his youtube channel is amazingly entertaining. Either way, I was affected by a certain minor scandal and I’m compelled to mention that here for the sake of honesty. A little while back, the author of this novel posted a self-made bingo card online, poking fun at the reviewers of her work. I won’t go into the whole thing, but you can read more about it here. I tried to not be offended by that. I get that authors need a way to let off steam because people are ripping their work to shreds. Even though they must be aware that negative reviews come with the territory, I’m sure it’s a hard thing to take. However, I still found myself turning that over in my mind. I think my big issue was that she made it a public thing. That was something you should have shared via email with other author friends. That is not something that should have been published on any form of social media. It made me feel she would rather I didn’t read her book at all as opposed to reading it and not loving it. That whole controversy stayed in the back of my head the entire time I was reading this. I felt like she was mocking me and everyone like me. I can’t speak for all reviewers, but for me, this is a hobby. This is not my job. This is something I squeeze into whatever spare time I can find. I don’t have the time or the patience to read over my reviews endless times looking for errors in syntax or grammar. I try to stay grammatical, but I also try to write as I speak and we all know that is never as grammatical as we’d like it to be. I also don’t have a league of copy-editors proofing my work for these and other types of errors. I tried to ignore it. I tried to not think about it and concentrate on the novel and it’s qualities. But every time the story hit a lull, I was brought back to that.

Regardless of all else, this novel was pretty entertaining. It was funny and emotional. It will never be my favorite thing and it doesn’t quite live up to the standard it’s tag line created, but it was still an enjoyable read. I think anyone who enjoys contemporary YA will like it. Just try not to get bogged down in the drama and you’ll be fine!

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

4 bows
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Review for Vortex (Tempest #2) by Julie Cross

Vortex by Julie Cross

TITLE: Vortex
SERIES: Tempest #2
AUTHOR: Julie Cross
NARRATOR: Matthew Brown
PUBLICATION DATE: January 15, 2013 / January 15, 2013
PUBLISHER: St Martin’s Griffin / Macmillan Audio
PAGES: 352 pages / 10 hours 51 minutes
FORMAT: Hardback / Audio
SOURCE: Purchased / Borrowed
RATING: 4 bows

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.
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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.
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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.

4 bows
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Tempest Challenge – Review for Tempest (Tempest #1) by Julie Cross


This month I signed up to do the Tempest Challenge. I have to read all 3 books in the series by March 31st and so far, I’m enjoying them immensely. Below is my review of the first book in the series and check back later this month to see my dream cast for it as well!

The Tempest by Julie Cross

TITLE: Tempest
SERIES: Tempest #1
AUTHOR: Julie Cross
NARRATOR: Matthew Brown
PUBLICATION DATE: January 17, 2012 / January 23, 2012
PUBLISHER: St Martin’s Griffin / Macmillan Audio
PAGES: 352 pages / 10 hours 51 minutes
FORMAT: Hardback / Audio
SOURCE: Won from A Dream Within A Dream / Purchased
RATING: 4 bows

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.

4 bows
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