Sick by Tom Leveen

Title: Sick
Author: Tom Leveen
Source: ARC from the Publisher
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Amazon | The Book Depository
Brian and his friends are not part of the cool crowd. They’re the misfits and the troublemakers—the ones who jump their high school’s fence to skip class regularly. So when a deadly virus breaks out, they’re the only ones with a chance of surviving.

The virus turns Brian’s classmates and teachers into bloodthirsty attackers who don’t die easily. The whole school goes on lockdown, but Brian and his best friend, Chad, are safe (and stuck) in the theater department—far from Brian’s sister, Kenzie, and his ex-girlfriend with a panic attack problem, Laura. Brian and Chad, along with some of the theater kids Brian had never given the time of day before, decide to find the girls and bring them to the safety of the theater. But it won’t be easy, and it will test everything they thought they knew about themselves and their classmates.

As happy as I am that I've started reading other sub-genres of YA again (it took a while, yes, but reading nothing but contemporaries did take its toll), I've been craving for something different. Something out of the box. Something not like any other YA book I've read. When I first chanced upon the blurb of Sick, I instantly knew that this was the book that I've been looking for... and make no mistake, I had to have it. (And that I did!) This is my first foray into reading YA zombie books, but, wow, Sick surely didn't disappoint. While I did have my fair share of misgivings with the novel, all in all, I ended up liking it a whole lot.

A lot of reviews of Sick I've seen voiced their displeasure on how Brian was fixated in saving only the people he knew, or more accurately, the people he wanted to save, as opposed to wanting to save the entire world. Honestly though, this aspect of the novel is as realistic as it may come. As horribly selfish as this may sound - if it were me in that zombie-infested school, I would prioritize saving myself and the people I loved. I would also try my damn hardest to save the others, sure - and that is what Brian did, make no mistake about it - but they wouldn't exactly be a priority. A bit callous, sure, but that's how I feel. Survival of the fittest, simply put. Sometimes, I'd rather read about someone I can actually relate to - someone who feels the same way I do - as opposed to reading about a hero who feels nothing but a caricature of a character.

One of my biggest qualms about Sick is that I feel that not enough attention and detail were given to the development of the characters. It's as if the growth of the characters was shunted in lieu of the rapid pace of the story, as well as the overall plot development. The blurb of this book referenced The Breakfast Club, and I expected something similar - I expected to read about different kids from different backgrounds with all sorts of different attitudes revealing who they truly are to each other. What I instead got was the main character's perception of who his peers were. See the difference? I think that it would have been much better if Sick was told in several perspectives as opposed to one.

However, make no mistake about it - I did  like the pacing of this novel. I liked how I was on the edge of my seat with every turn of a page. The fact that every chapter began with a time stamp really set the tone of the novel as well - one can't help but marvel how lives could permanently change at such a a short time! Furthermore, I liked how Leveen was able to adequately portray the helplessness - as well as the young age- of these teens who were suddenly thrust into this sordid mess. On the flipside, I was also impressed at how Leveen was able to showcase that maturity is not necessarily positively correlated with age. Brian and his friends truly amazed me with the calmness they showed in such adversity - I don't think I would have been able to think of a sound escape plan in the face of zombies!

I was a huge fan of the supporting characters and Brian's relationships with some of them as well. You rarely get YA novels exploring sibling dynamics, but this one did. Leveen successfully demonstrated just how much Brian loved his sister Kenzie - heck, Brian was pretty much safe and sound from the zombies and yet he decided to go ahead and risk his life to make sure that she was okay! I like how Brian and and Chad's friendship was depicted as well. With no hesitation whatsoever, Chad agreed to help out Brian find Kenzie.. at the possible expense of his own life! Moments wherein it was shown that only Brian could successfully calm down Chad were some of my favorite parts of the book as well.

I'm clearly in the minority when it comes to the ending, but I happen to think that Leveen did a great job with it? How else was it supposed to end - with all loose ends tied up in a pretty bow and a happily-ever-after? That simply isn't possible given the plot, and it wouldn't be realistic either. For what it's worth though - the last chapter is brilliantly written, and it honest to goodness stayed with me. Also, make no mistake about it - you do get your answers before you reach that final page. All in all, I enjoyed Sick and my introduction to the world of zombies. I recommend it to any YA book lovers out there who are in dire need of something fresh to read!

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Broken by CJ Lyons

Title: Broken
Author: CJ Lyons
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Source: Ecopy for Review
Amazon | The Book Depository
New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons makes her YA debut with a fast-paced thriller sure to keep readers guessing to the very last page

The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now... or never. Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does.


While I was reading the first few chapters, to be perfectly honest, I thought I knew what to expect from this novel. I even thought that the entire story was a little bit cliche - here we have your average, ordinary girl (except this one has a life-threatening disease) attending high school for the first time, makes both great friends and awful enemies on her first day alone, and finds herself smack in the middle of a love triangle. I was rolling my eyes good-naturedly, thinking that there was nothing special about this book other than how on point the MC's voice was. Heck, I was even mentally writing the first two paragraphs of my review after the first few pages or so!

So you can just imagine my shock when Broken went into completely uncharted territory and left me floundering and stuttering while reading its latter half. This book was NOT what I expected... AT ALL! (And once again, a book teaches me a lesson - sometimes, it's simply impossible to predict where a plot is going!) Gone are all the thoughts of Broken being the least bit cliche, because I'm pretty sure that I have yet to read a book even remotely similar to this one. So props to you, CJ Lyons - I can barely string a coherent interview together because your book blew my mind (in a good way)!

Okay, let me try to pull myself together...

I really liked Scarlet. Here you have a girl who's about to die (and she knows it), but she doesn't let that affect her disposition in life. She's being bullied left and right by her classmates who chose to label her a freak simply because of her disease, but she soldiers on and fights back against these people. Her sheer determination to actually live life as long as she can was just so refreshing to read through. Enough of those MCs who just hate absolutely everything and want to go sulk in a corner - here's someone who's actually fighting tooth and nail to live. Scarlet's voice is so raw, so gritty - with every word, you understand how she feels, even if she doesn't say it point blank. You get to know all her fears and all her dreams. Lyons did such an amazing job writing this character - by the end of the book, without a doubt, you know who Scarlet is.

The supporting characters made for an interesting read as well. Despite having their own problems, I love how Nessa, Celina, Jordan, Tony, and Scarlet herself helped each other out wholeheartedly. There was nothing of the 'my problem is worse than yours' scenario or anything like that. None of these characters felt sorry for themselves - instead, they chose to support each other with all their might. Oh, I'd also like to note that I couldn't be more wrong about the whole love triangle thing. Lyons went into a completely unexpected direction, and I really loved this book a lot more because of her doing so.

The story, the story... How do I even talk about it without spoiling anything? Initially, I pegged the novel as a contemporary read, but I was sorely mistaken. While Broken does indeed have aspects that fall under the contemporary genre, the second part of the novel dealt with Scarlet delving into the subtle holes of her medical history... and things got awry pretty fast, let me tell you.

All in all, I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. All the characters were compelling; the MC had such an engaging voice; and do not get me started on the awesomeness that is the storyline. Suffice to say I'll definitely be on the lookout for CJ Lyons' books from now on!

Rating: 4 Stars

Stacking the Shelves [12] - At the NBS Warehouse Sale

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's a great way to show other people the books that you've bought or received for the past week.

So... hi there, folks! I'm back! I know I haven't been posting a lot for the past few weeks or so, but don't fret, I actually have some reviews scheduled to go up next week! And moving forward, I'm back to having StS posts weekly on the blog as well. Screw having no time to read and blog - from this moment on, I'm MAKING time. 

Oh, and I've already picked out the winners for my birthday giveaway. I'm off to send out the emails to all the winners!

Anyway, for all you Filipino readers out there, how many went to the NBS Warehouse Sale? I did, and I bought a lot! I bought ALL the books pictured below at AT LEAST 70% off (yes, you read that right!) - how amazing is that, right!? Oh NBS - you continue to spoil us readers!

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[Feature and Follow Friday] I'm this Week's Feature! *throws confetti*

Feature and Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read. This meme is a great way to meet new bloggers, and to likewise know more about them. And.... guess what? I'm today's feature! Follow me and I'll be sure to follow you back - I have added a Bloglovin widget to my blog as well, so feel free to follow me via Bloglovin as well! (Please feel free to check out my birthday giveaway too!)

Q: What are some of your favorite magazines?
I don't usually read magazines that much anymore, but I do like flipping through fashion magazines like Vogue and the like. Also, given that I love reading about celebrities' lives (and salivating over the clothes that they wear), hand me magazines like OK! and I'm guaranteed to not bother you for at least 20 minutes. *winks*

[Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway] After Hello by Lisa Mangum

 After Hello
Title: After Hello
Author: Lisa Mangum
Release Date: August 29, 2013
What if the first day of your relationship was the only day you had?

Seventeen-year-old Sara is a seeker. She’s always on the lookout for the perfect moment to capture with her ever-present, point-and-shoot camera, especially on her first trip to New York City.

Sam is a finder. He has a knack for finding what other people can’t—a first-edition book or the last two tickets to a sold-out Broadway show. In New York, there is always something interesting to find.

When Sam and Sara’s paths cross, neither one of them is prepared for what they will find out about each other—and about themselves when they form an unlikely partnership in search of a seemingly elusive work of art. They have one day to find the impossible. Fate brought their talents together, but what happens when time runs out? Will love be able to overcome fate? This new novel from award-winning author Lisa Mangum explores what happens after hello.

To be honest, I had such a difficult time trudging through the first thirty percent of this book. No matter how hard I tried (and believe me, I did), nothing about the characters and plot made me want to keep on reading. I remember being quite disappointed because I had such high hopes for this novel - a good friend of mine (who has amazing taste in books) is hosting the blog tour after all! Looking back, I have no idea if maybe I was just tired or I simply wasn't in the mood to read when I picked up After Hello, but man, after thirty percent and I still found myself unable to connect to any aspect of the story, I promptly gave up. Life is too short to force yourself to finish reading a book that simply didn't capture your interest, right?

Wrong. Life is never as simple as it seems, ladies and gentlemen. (Check me out - I'm pulling a Sam with this contemplative line of thinking!) I thought I was satisfied with my decision to DNF After Hello, but next thing I know, I see reviews left and right about how this book is such a precious gem. Color me intrigued - surely all these people (and believe me, there were a lot!) were talking about a different book! Anyway, a few days after giving up on After Hello, I found myself ultimately deciding to give it another chance... and wow. Suffice to say that I'm extremely glad I did!

Now that I think about, one thing that made me initially a bit wary towards this book was how improbable the entire setup was. Girl meets boy, boy then enlists her help, girl messes up, and now boy and girl must team up on order to save boy's older brother's job? Yeah, I remember my eyebrow shooting up. I have pretty much mastered suspending my disbelief after reading all sorts of genres, but I vividly recalling not liking this premise. At all. It was just too... out there for me, most especially since this was a contemporary read. After finishing the book however, this aforementioned fact is what makes the book such an amazing read - while seemingly improbable, you would be surprised that similar instances have occrured to so many other people. That's the beauty of life - you can only expect the unexpected. I have no idea why it took me so long to realize this and why it took me so long to appreciate the sheer genius that is this book, but I'm really glad I did. I may have been late to the After Hello party, but at least I made it!

It took a while before I warmed up to the characters, true, but wow, they left their mark on me. I can't help but love how unafraid Sara is - when an adventure makes itself known, she embarks on it with no hesitations whatsoever. That kind of bravery is just plain admirable! I also adore how attuned Sam is to life as a whole - this truly shows that maturity and being wise has nothing to with age. I'm not lying when I say that every single time Sam talks about life, or shares an insightful thought, I had to pause to let what he said sink in... and I had to give myself time to reflect on my actions in the past. I usually read very fast, but I really had to read this book slowly - I wanted to soak in all of Sam's words!

Sometimes, people make themselves a part of your life, make a mark, change who you are forever, and leave. This is something I'm sure everyone is well aware of, but the way Mangum tackled this concept is nothing short of exquisite. Not only did explore the beauty that is the city of New York, she was also fully to explore the lives of her two main characters. Here we have two teenagers, still trying to figure out who they are... and through each other, they're almost there. Never mind that they only had a day - that will never change the fact that their lives have been forever altered by each other. Sam and Sara were able to grow - they finally faced their demons, learned to trust other perople, and look forwards to whatever may face them in the near future.

I don't think it's possible for me to find words beautiful enough to describe this masterpiece of a novel. Everything - every word - was perfect. I love Sam. I love Sara. I love how they got to know each other through the streets of New York. I love how they learned more about themselves through each other. I love Mangum's writing. This is one book that you're going to remember forever - trust me.

Rating: 4 Stars

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[Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway] American Girl on Saturn by Nikki Godwin

American Girl On Saturn (Saturn, #1)
Title: American Girl on Saturn
Author: Nikki Godwin
Release Date: August 29, 2013

The summer after graduation is supposed to be that first real taste of freedom - but not for eighteen-year-old Chloe Branson. Just as that breeze of freedom is making its way into her galaxy, her secret-service-agent dad drops a meteor-sized bomb of bad news on her and her sisters. An attempt has been made on the lives of Canadian boyband, Spaceships Around Saturn, during their USA tour, and the guys have to go into hiding ASAP. The only problem? In the midst of the crisis and media frenzy, their dad volunteered to hide the their house.

Six-year-old Emery is as ecstatic as any self-proclaimed Saturnite would be, but Chloe and her seventeen-year-old sister Aralie watch their summer plans crash and burn like a falling star. The SAS guys aren't happy with the situation, either. Bad boy Jules picks fights with Aralie about everything from his Twitter followers to his laundry, and heart-throb Benji can't escape Emery's fangirlisms for more than three minutes.

But after the super-cute Milo kisses Chloe during a game of hide-and-seek, she finally understands what Emery means when she talks about SAS being "out of this world." If this is what Saturn feels like, Chloe doesn't want to come back to Earth.

Bar none, this is the single most entertaining, giggle-inducing, and to be succint (not that I ever am), most enjoyable YA book I have read this past year. Folks, if you need something light to read make you forget about that unending pile of homework or those long hours at work even for just a little while, this is the perfect book for you. (Last time I checked, it's on sale on Amazon too! *winkwinknudgenudge*) I usually read pretty slow on my kindle, and I always need to take several breaks as well (don't ask me why - I guess I still prefer feeling an actual book on my hands), but for American Girl on Saturn, I had no trouble breezing through this one heck of a fun, amazing read. (Well, I did have to pause for a few times while I was reading because I was trying my damn hardest not to squeal, but that's not really a bad thing, is it?)

In no way would I consider this book realistic, but the fact that it's so improbable is what makes it all the more fun! Come on, not only does the MC have a secret agent for a dad... add in the fact that somehow, when an unknown person makes an attempt on the lives of a famous boyband, the powers that be ultimately decide that YOUR HOUSE is the safest location for these boys to go into hiding! DUDE. I have to admit that the premise kind of made me roll my eyes for a bit, but in no time at all, Spaceships Around Saturn had me wrapped around their fingers. Suspension of disbelief kicked in, and a part of me actually felt like I was in lockdown with the MC Chloe, her sisters Aralie and Emery, and the boys, and I was just all sorts of excited to see what happens next!

The Branson sisters were easy enough to like, and in no part of the book did I want to bash their heads against the wall. (A huge achievement for me, folks!) Also, the story was entertaining from the get go - both Chloe and Aralie are pissed that they would be forced to spend a chunk of their vacation locked inside their house, while little Emery is beside herself with glee at the prospect of spending time with her favorite boyband. The boys aren't that pleased with the sudden turn of events either, and suffice to say we have a recipe for disaster - we have all these huge personalities stuck in a place where they would rather not be... and they're with people they don't even know that well! Dundundun!

I found myself laughing so hard at certain parts of this novel. I love how Emery basically attached herself to Benji, the lead singer, during the lockdown, and I actually wondered whether I would act the same way should something similar happen to me. (I probably would, come to think of it...) Benji's twitter withdrawal was so entertaining, and I found it so funny that Chloe and the girls had to devise a way for Benji to be able to 'tweet' while he wasn't allowed to go online. I really adored the other boys as well - we didn't exactly get a lot of Jules and Tate since they were closer to Aralie than Chloe, but we got a lot of Noah and Milo (especially Milo!) and what I knew I loved!

The writing was smooth, the story flowed, and I found myself enjoying how the relationships of everyone in the house evolved. Chloe and Noah's friendship was just beautiful, and I loved how Noah made sure to always look out for her. And Milo... Milo Milo Milo. Boy... where do I start? The chemistry between Chloe and Milo was just off the charts from the very beginning! Also, it was never about dating someone famous for Chloe - she was truly interested in Milo for Milo, and the scenes where the two snuck out to be alone to get to know each other better were favorites of mine.

I wouldn't say that this is a book about fangirls, or an inside look at how the the rich and the famous and live. Heck, let me point out that this isn't a book about aliens, abduction, or anything paranormal at all. Both the title and the cover are rather deceiving, so hopefully you know what you're getting yourself into. The best advice I can give to anybody about to read American Girl on Saturn is just to enjoy everything the book throws your way, and believe me, stressed out you will no longer be once you finish reading!

Rating: 4 Stars

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Review: Kiss Me in Paris by Dmytry Karpov and Kimberly Kinrade

  Kiss Me in Paris (KIss Me, #1)
Title: Kiss Me in Paris
Author: Dmytry Karpov and Kimberly Kinrade
Release Date: July 2, 2013
No one knows my secret. Ever since high school, ever since I started living in fear, no one has known the true me. But then I met him, and I couldn't hide anymore.

He became my hero, saving me from the villain of my past. He became my friend, his smile a blanket of warmth. And he scared me. Because he, this beautiful man, he might become more. Then he'd see the real me, and I couldn't let that happen.

My name is Winter, and what I desire most I can't have.

Flashes of the night I was drugged rush back to me. His strong arms carrying me through the streets of Paris. The feel of his heart beating as my head rested against his chest. The soft press of his lips against my forehead when he thought I was asleep.

Oh shit. I'm falling for the cowboy. Cade.

But we can't be anything more. He has his own secrets. His own darkness he keeps hidden, like the letter he keeps with him everywhere he goes.

The letter he refuses to open.

Judging from the blurb alone, I expected this book to be one heck of an emotional read. Something about the way the blurb was written hinted that this isn't a book you would want to bring to the beach for a light read, but rather something you would want to read in the midst of a torrential downpour. I was initially a bit apprehensive to give Kiss Me in Paris a shot, simply because I am starting to tire of New Adult as a genre. The stories are getting repetitive, the characters stereotypical, and what annoys me the most is that some of these characters don't even experience personal growth. How on earth can you call your novel 'New Adult' when your characters don't even get to know themselves better, right? In the past two months alone I'm pretty sure I only liked two NA novels of the ten or more than I read!

But I digress. As I was saying...

I can't deny one thing, however - Karpov and Kinrade were able to successfully pique my interest with their cleverly-worded blurb (let's count how many times I mention the word blurb in this review...). Despite my aforementioned trepidation with NA nowadays, everything about the blurb - the tone most especially, intrigued me - and upon being asked, I ignored my initial hesitation and agreed to be part of the blog tour. It took me a while before I gathered enough courage to crack open this book (figuratively, folks - I was using my kindle) because I was never quite in the mood for dark tales these past few weeks, but one day, I finally did it and promptly discovered one thing:

This is not your average, depressing NA read about two main characters who are broken beyond relief. Nuh-uh, folks, not even close.

I honestly loved both main characters, Winter and Cade, because they were so realistically written. I'm not saying that they don't have difficult pasts (but then again, which of us don't?), but what I like is that instead of wallowing in the corner and sobbing pitifully about how unfair life is, they're actually living their lives - they are in no way stuck in the past. They're making something of themselves, and they're looking at the future with such positive (albeit still realistic - and I cannot laud both authors enough for this!) mindsets. I was really impressed with how Karpov and Kinrade managed to emphasize to their readers that while it is important to convince yourself to face your past, that doesn't mean that you have to stop living in the present, and that certainly doesn't mean that you should not think about your future.

I also enjoyed reading about Winter and Cade's adventures in a land far away from their own. Both authors did a fantastic job in making Paris come to life through the pages of a book (or the screen of a kindle.) As a matter of fact, I was soaking in the Paris culture through every part of the book - while Winter and Cade explore the city, or when they eat in the quaint restaurants... and I'm not going to lie, I really found myself vicariously living through these two characters. That's the beauty of reading, right? You get to explore the world without even leaving your room!

I like how Winter and Cade's relationship was developed, and ultimately explored. Nothing was rushed, and at the same time, it wasn't one of those 'true love upon first glance' type of things. Everything started from an undeniable attraction, and feelings grew from there, and I find that really believable because that happens in every nook and cranny of this world. They found out that they understand each other, and that they trust each other enough to talk about their past. And it is because of this trust that they actually plan their future... together.

While I did find the backstories a bit too dramatic and a tinge too unrealistic, that didn't distract me from enjoying the relateable characters, the poignant character growth, the setting, the hauntingly beautiful writing, and the overall plot and story. Ultimately, I never once thought that Kiss Me in Paris was about two characters escaping the incorrigible past- it was always a story about two characters, deadset on finally looking forward as opposed to looking back... and then finding out that the help and support of one another is what they've always needed to finally face the past.

Rating: 4 Stars

[Giveaway] I Don't Know About You But I'm Feeling 22

The title pretty much says it all, folks. It's September 23rd here in my neck of the woods and that means... HAPPY 22nd BIRTHDAY TO ME! *throws confetti* The previous year has been one heck of a ride, and I'm proud to say that not only am I older, I'm also much wiser (well... at least I like to think so!). Things have changed a lot in such a short amount of time - in the span of only 365 days, I launched this little ole blog, met SO MANY amazing fellow bloggers (Kate, Louisse, Kai, Precious, Dianne, Ge, Leslie, Kazhy, Tiff, Chyna, Alyanna, Dani, Michelle, Nicole and everyone else - I love you girlies so much!) as well as incredibly friendly authors... and I also started working, and met some more great people.

This birthday feels a bit more special than my past birthdays, so I thought I'd celebrate with all of you lovely readers. This blog has been up on the net for more or less 14 months now, and I consider that such an incredible feat. Sharing my passion for reading and helping promote books that I love to my peers has never felt like a chore, and quite frankly, I don't think it ever will.

Before I forget, here are the lovely people I'd like to thank for their generosity - Jennifer McGowan, Jennifer Smith, Jennifer Brown, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Monica Murphy, Bryony Pearce, Caroline Lambe, Katie McGarry Jen Doktorski, Kim Carr, Jennifer Comeaux, Faith Sullivan, Kate Evangelista, JA Huss, Jennifer Iacopelli, Lyla Payne, LM Augustine, Jennifer Castle, Amanda Sun, Liz Fichera, Elizabeth Richards, Rachel Harris, Wendy Higgins, Katie Sise and Tammara Webber - these giveaways will not be possible without you!

So here you all go... without further ado... the giveaways! (And yes, only 1 winner per giveaway, so 4 winners all in all!)

Giveaway 1 [Open to PH Residents]: Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan (signed); This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer Smith (signed); Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown (signed); My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick (signed); One Week Girlfriend by Monica Murphy (signed) and
(1) Bryony Pearce book + Swag Pack
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Giveaway 2 [Open INT]: Two books of your choice from TBD! (And I do mean ANY book of your choice!)
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Giveaway 3 [Open to US/CAN Residents]: Pushing the Limits OR Dare You To by Katie McGarry (signed); Famous Last Words by Jen Doktorski (signed) + 1 book of your choice from TBD + Swag Pack
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Giveaway 4 [Open INT]: (All Ebooks) Connected by Kim Karr; Life on the Edge by Jennifer Comeaux; Heartbeat, Come What May, Take Me Now and Unexpected by Faith Sullivan; Taste; Reaping Me Softly, Unreap My Heart and Romancing the Bookworm by Kate Evangelista; ebook from JA Huss; Game.Set.Match by Jennifer Iacopelli; Broken at Love, By Referral Only and Be My Downfall by Lyla Payne; and Two Roads by LM Augustine
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All Swag Packs contain swag (what else, LOL) from: Jennifer Castle, Jennifer McGowan, Jennifer Smith, Monica Murphy, Bryony Pearce, Amanda Sun, Liz Fichera, Elizabeth Richards, Rachel Harris, Wendy Higgins, Katie Sise, Katie McGarry and Tammara Webber

[Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway] A Little Too Far by Lisa Desrochers

A Little Too Far Blog Tour (1).png 
(Check out the rest of the tour stops HERE!)

 A Little Too Far (A Little Too Far, #1)
Title: A Little Too Far
Author: Lisa Desrochers
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Have you ever gone just a little too far?

Lexie Banks has.

Yep. She just had mind-blowing sex with her stepbrother. In her defense, she was on the rebound, and it’s more of a my-dad-happened-to-marry-a-woman-with-a-super-hot-son situation. But still, he’s been her best friend and confidant for the better part of the last few years … and is so off limits. It’s a good thing she’s leaving in two days for a year abroad in Rome.

But even thousands of miles away, Lexie can’t seem to escape trouble. Raised Catholic, she goes to confession in hopes of alleviating some of her guilt … and maybe not burning in hell. Instead, she stumbles out of the confessional and right into Alessandro Moretti, a young and very easy-on-the-eyes deacon … only eight months away from becoming a priest. Lexie and Alessandro grow closer, and when Alessandro’s signals start changing despite his vow of celibacy, she doesn’t know what to think. She’s torn between falling in love with the man she shouldn’t want and the man she can’t have. And she isn’t sure how she can live with herself either way.

After reading the blurb for the first time, the first thought that came into mind was something about how the female MC probably crossed paths with dozens of black cats during her lifetime. Realizing you have feelings for your stepbrother is bad enough, but come on, having another realization that you just MIGHT love a priest (after you make a decision that you would fight said feelings you have for your stepbrother) is... um... well, I don't really have words for how darn unlucky our poor Lexie is. Talk about the universe dangling two things over your head that you know you shouldn't want (but still want anyway)!

One of the main reasons why I wanted to give this book a shot is because of the plot itself. It's pretty obvious that Desrochers wanted to push the envelope and try something new, and I wanted to see how the story will pan out. No matter which way you look at it, there is just no easy way of tackling this story, and I was interested in how Desrochers will tell it. I'm not going to lie though - I couldn't help but be a little cynical - I was afraid that this book would only be about the shock value (given that two male interests pretty much spell taboo) and I really wanted to see for myself that the fuss (because I've been hearing about this book for a long time now) wasn't just about the forbidden themes, but maybe something else.

This was a pretty easy read - other than the setting (which I'll talk about later), I liked that it was apparent from the get go that there would be no mind-boggling twists (because let's face it - most of these are forced beyond relief). The story is straightforward - Lexie finds herself torn between two guys, both of whom are unattainable. That's it. No crazy parents or siblings, no mysterious past, no whackjob of an ex all set to ruin everything... and I honestly found this aspect to be really refreshing. Hey, you might say, the female MC is engaging in taboo relationships - that's as crazy as you can get! Honestly, I prefer to think of Lexie as a victim of circumstances, simply put. She didn't exactly choose to form close relationships with said guys - they just happened. Like any other couples out there, Lexie didn't get to choose who she fell in love with it. So yes, while A Little Too Far revolved around the forbidden relationships, the story touched on so much more than the taboo topics, and that made for a great read

I wasn't exactly able to connect with our female MC, Lexie, but that didn't distract me from the entire reading experience. While not exactly relateable, her voice is loud, strong, and you can't help but be enraptured with her story. Another thing I like about this story is that it wasn't just about the romance - Lexie also wanted to learn more about herself, and that she did. She was able to discern a path for herself that she wanted to take after college, and I love how Desrochers explored that. Also, I have mentioned earlier, Desrochers did such an amazing job writing about Rome. Only a few chapters occur in the US - most of the book is set in Rome, since Lexie spends a year studying there, and wow, I truly felt like I was there in Rome soaking in the culture with her!

I do have a gripe with this novel though - I felt that Desrochers didn't spend enough time showing exactly how Lexie and Trent, her stepbrother, realized that there was something more to the relationship. Throughout the novel, it was always 'tell' rather than 'show', and I didn't exactly enjoy that. Given that Lexie was in Rome almost all throughout the novel and Trent was in the US, we didn't get that many scenes of them together. What we got were minute flashbacks, text message exchanges... and yeah, that's pretty much it. Suffice to say I never felt like I got to know Trent, and all that I can do is believe Lexie when she talks about how great of a guy he is and how he is the person he trusts most in this world.

I loved how Desrochers explored Lexie and Alessandro's budding relationship. To those gasping in outrage (he's a priest!), I vaguely remember from my years of studying about Catholicism that deacons spend a few months living regular lives - this is essentially the time they can change their mind about their incoming ordination - and we meet Alessandro at this point in his life. We had a lot of scenes with Lexie and Alessandro just getting to know and trust each other. Nothing was rushed, it wasn't lust at first sight oir anything like that. I can say with no qualms whatsoever that the two are friends (and I can't really say the same for Trent and Lexie, even though Lexie tried to tell me so many times.) Also, I just adored that it was through each other's help that Lexie and Alessandro managed to learn more about themselves and about their future. Simply put, I loved Alessandro - LOVED him. There was a bit of religion in this book, given that Alessandro was only a few months away from priesthood, but I never felt like it was getting shoved down my throat, so that's definitely a plus.

Another qualm is the ending - now this was rushed. Everything was wrapped up too quickly, and I was kind of disappointed. A few more chapters would have been great, though a part of me can understand why Desrochers chose to end the story at this point (since Lexie did end up realizing who she really loved). I'd love to talk more about Lexie's choice, but I'm afraid I can't do so because I will end up inevitably posting spoilers. Believe me, I've tried  (And the most frustrating thing about this is I WANT TO TALK ABOUT LEXIE'S CHOICE OKAY. Whoops, sorry for the capslock!)

All in all, A Little Too Far surprised me. I was half expecting a read revolving too much about the taboo aspect of the novel, but that wasn't what I got. Instead, what I got was an engrossing read about a young woman struggling - just like any of us, I might add - with what the universe threw her way, and in the process, she finds out who she really is. After all the talk about this 'out of the box concepts' that her book has, I'm happy to note that this isn't a book which only aims to shock readers. Desrochers has truly impressed me with how she told Lexie's story, and I can't wait to read the next book in this story. (Oh, and PS, no cliffhanger!)

Rating: 4 Stars

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[Guest Post by Jon S. Lewis] Grey Griffins: Night of Dragons (A Kickstarter Project)

Hey folks! Today I have the amazing Jon S. Lewis (author of the Grey Griffins series) on the blog, and he's here to talk about a project very close to his heart, and ultimately, a project that can save so many lives. Without further ado, please take the time to read this post!


Stephenie Meyer, Project Book Babe and Why I Want to Give Back
A couple years ago a friend found out that she had breast cancer. To compound the situation, she couldn’t afford the treatment. So I got mad and then I called and emailed some author friends and we went to work.

Faith happened to be the children’s book buyer at Changing Hands Bookstore and she not only helped launch my career, but she’s been an amazing champion for authors like Stephenie Meyer, Aprilynne Pike, Lisa McMann and quite a few others.

So I went to work with Stephenie, Brandon Mull, Shannon Hale, Laini Taylor and a few other authors to create an event called Project Book Babe. We were able to raise enough money for Faith to pay for her medical care and living expenses while she went through her treatment. And I’m happy to report that she’s alive and well, but there are also thousands of other women who aren’t getting the care they need.
A New Venture to Raise Money for Breast Cancer Research
As I write my next book (Grey Griffins: Night of Dragons), I enlisted some of author friends to write an anthology of short stories set in that same world. I can’t wait to read their stories, but the best part is that 100% of the profits from that anthology will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation ( and Kids Need to Read (
And these aren’t just any authors … they’re some of the biggest names in the industry today:
  • Brandon Mull | NY Times Bestselling Author, Fablehaven
  • Aprilynne Pike | NY Times Bestselling Author, Wings
  • Frank Beddor | NY Times Bestselling Author, Looking Glass Wars
  • Michael Spradlin | NY Times Bestselling Author, Youngest Templar
  • Dean Lorey | Co-Executive Producer, Arrested Development
  • Shannon Messenger | Let the Sky Fall, Keeper of the Lost Cities
  • Tom Leveen | Party, manicpixiedreamgirl, Sick
  • Joseph Nassise | International Bestselling Author, Templar Chronicles
  • Matt Forbeck | Leverage: The Con Job based on the TNT television series
  • Janette Rallison | My Fair Godmother, Slayers

The One Drawback
Each short story in the Grey Griffins anthology will be professionally edited. It will also have its own professional cover painted by Scott Altmann ( But the one drawback when you publish your own book is that you need to come up with the money to cover all the expenses.
It’s why I’m running a Kickstarter campaign ( to help pay for the artwork and the editorial for the anthology as well as Grey Griffins: Night of Dragons.

Crowdsourcing a novel is basically a way for readers to make pre-order so we can invest the money into making the product. We tried to make it so there were pledge levels for every budget, which is why they start at only $1.

There are some fun rewards like custom Grey Griffins short stories, collectible character trading cards and sketches from the cover artist. For the writers out there, we’re even offering the chance for a query letter review, a partial manuscript review, and a Skype brainstorm session where I’ll help you come up with ideas for your story.
You Can Get Your Own Story Published in the Anthology
I love helping new writers break into the industry, so I’m also going to give people a chance to get a short story published in the anthology right alongside all of those New York Times bestselling authors. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in you can find the submission guidelines here:
Thank you
Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your consideration to back the Kickstarter campaign. I’m going to need your help to make this project a reality, and I know that together we can do something incredible!

Replica by Jenna Black

Replica (Replica, #1)
Title: Replica
Author: Jenna Black
Release Date: July 16, 2013
Source: Review copy from publisher
Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake comes from a high-class Executive family in the Corporate States. Her marriage has been arranged with the most powerful family in her state, which means she lives a life of privilege but also of public scrutiny, followed everywhere by photographers, every detail of her private life tabloid fodder. But her future is assured, as long as she can maintain her flawless public image — no easy feat when your betrothed is a notorious playboy.

Nathan Hayes is the heir of Paxco — controller of the former state of New York, and creator of human replication technology, science that every state and every country in the world would kill to have. Though Nadia and Nate aren’t in love, they’ve grown up close, and they (and the world) are happy enough with their match.

Until Nate turns up dead, and as far as everyone knows, Nadia was the last person to see him alive.

When the new Nate wakes up in the replication tanks, he knows he must have died, but with a memory that only reaches to his last memory backup, he doesn’t know what killed him. Together, Nadia and Nate must discover what really happened without revealing the secrets that those who run their world would kill to protect.

So... how on earth am I going to do justice to this book with my review? I honestly have no idea how - and I probably won't be able to do, because you can only add so much 'awesome' and 'amazing' in your reviews before your readers roll their eyes and move on to the next blog, and I want other people to read this review because I want them to know the mind-blowing awesomeness that is Replica! (Oh god just writing this incredibly long sentence masquerading as a paragraph makes me want to groan.)

Replica introduces us to Nate and Nadia, children of very powerful families, and soon to be engaged to be married and the pair that would rule Paxco in the not-so-distant future. From the first chapter alone, a lot of things about this society they live in, as well as Nate and Nadia's relationship was obvious. While very progressive, Paxco still adheres to age-old rules of how people must act in front of those high up in society, as not to tarnish their reputations. Also, it was apparent that all rules and regulations are to be followed, else repercussions (as well as endless gossip) will befall you. In line with this, while Nate and Nadia are in all technicalities engaged, Nadia is still very careful in how they act around other people. (So yes, no PDA or anything like that.)

Black also managed to successfully convey that though Nate and Nadia cared for each other, they didn't exactly love each other per se. As a matter of fact, Nate's taste lies elsewhere, and he's also in love with somebody else. Nadia is resigned to the fact that she will be marrying someone who will never be faithful to her, and she's supportive of Nate's choices. The creeping sadness that she won't be married to someone who loves her is there, of course, but Nadia chooses to ignore this line of thinking for the meantime. (At this point I thought Nadia would be a doormat of a character, but let me talk about that later.) Things get messy when Nate is murdered, and the last people to see him alive are Nadia and his boyfriend, Kurt. Nate is brought back to life through a replica - replica Nate is essentially the same person as murdered Nate... except that his memories only date back to two weeks before the murder. Since Kurt disappeared after the murder, Nadia must face the line of fire alone - only she has a semblance of information of what happened that night. Needless to say I was pulled in pretty early on in the novel.

This is how a dystopian novel is supposed to be written, folks. I'm trying to look back and think if I have any misgivings with the writing, but nope, nothing comes to mind. The world-building was present - I got to learn everything I needed to know, yet nothing was shoved down my throat. There were no pages upon pages of info dump or long winded-explanations. This novel was written in such a way that every aspect of this new world, this Corporate States, is not the least bit difficult to understand. The concept of replicas was easy to grasp as well. My eternal complaint against dystopia as a genre as whole always has to do with the writing - sometimes it feels like I'm reading a very thorough encyclopedia instead of fast-paced Young Adult novel, and I didn't get that feeling while reading Replica. AT ALL.

Black did a great job with her characters - they were quite complex and in no way one-dimensional. Sure, there were a lot of times wherein their actions made me want to bang my head against wall, but hey, it's so much better to feel this way than to just roll my eyes and fervently hope that the characters just go ahead and vanish without warning. I wasn't exactly pleased with Nate in the beginning - I found him selfish and too reckless in his ways. Of course I understood his desire to find Kurt, but I hated how he treated Nadia so callously as a result. He knew how deep in trouble Nadia was after the murder, but Nate only thought of himself and no one else. Nate did win me over with his undying love for Kurt, and when he finally FINALLY realized that the world didn't revolve around him.

I have previously mentioned that I thought that Nadia was a weak character and wow - I couldn't be more wrong! The lengths Nadia went through to protect her family were just immense, and she never ever put her welfare first. Nadia's family meant the world to her and she was willing to do anything to save them... even if that meant betraying the one other person she loves most in the world - Nate. The guilt that Nadia suffers through as a result, as well as her strong character, were enough to make me sympathize with her and all the life-changing decisions she had to make. I also laud how she finally stood up to Nate, who hasn't been treating her like she deserves to be treated. Nadia's character has so much depth, has so many layers and facets, and she just grows a lot in this book - I love how Black wrote about such a strong, calm and level-headed heroine!

No part of the novel bored me - the mystery of Nate's murder intrigued me from start to finish, and the growth of both Nate and Nadia's characters captivated me. Moreover, I usually try to predict plot twists and the like but this book surprised me at every turn, so again, Black was amazing on that front. Also, Replica was written in dual POVs, and this setting allowed the readers to connect with Nate and Nadia and for Black to explore both characters thoroughly as well. I'm serious in saying that I loved every aspect of this novel - the plot, the characters, the writing, and even the fact that this book is first in a series! This is a world that I would love to read more about, and these are characters whom I've grown to care for - all in all, an amazing read!

Rating: 5 Stars

[Author Interview + Giveaway] Chaos by Christine O'Neill

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CHAOS (Kardia Chronicles, #1)
Title: Chaos
Author: Christine O'Neill
Release Date: August 19, 2013
My name is Maggie Raynard. After sixteen years being just plain me, suddenly, when I lose my temper, my fingers become weapons of mass destruction. Turns out I'm a semi-god, descended from Aphrodite. Sounds cool in theory, but when I accidentally put my ex-boyfriend in a coma, things go downhill pretty fast.

Now some new guy named Mac Finnegan has made it his mission in life to continually piss me off. I'm stuck learning how to use my new powers while also dealing with regular high school problems, and with this annoying—and super-hot—guy all up in my business, I'm about to flip out.

But it gets worse. I just learned there's this watchdog council of semis who keeps an eye out for any bad apples. They think I'm the baddest of the bunch and want to take me out before I do any more damage. My nemesis Mac might turn out to be my salvation, only he's got secrets of his own...and they may just kill us both.

Describe CHAOS in 5 words.
Tense. Romantic. Funny. Action-packed. Boy-crush.
Where did you come up the idea for CHAOS?
This book was actually a collaboration between me and my editor and publisher at Entangled, Liz Pelletier. She was looking for someone to write a book based on an idea she had and put out a call to authors, asking them to write and submit a sample chapter in their best YA voice. Then, she planned to pick one of the authors to work with on her story concept. 156 of us sent in writing samples, and a week later, she called me, SUPER excited about the scene I sent her. She loved it so much, she wanted to contract my story immediately. So we took the little kernel of an idea I had written, and sat on the phone until around 2 a.m. brainstorming and world building around that scene. What we ended up was a loose outline for Chaos (and the rest of the Kardia Chronicles series). It was literally one of the most exciting and fun creative experiences of my life!
Tell us more about CHAOS - how is it different from other YA novels that are loosely based on mythology?
Chaos is about a girl who comes to find out that she’s a semi-god (a descendant of Aphrodite, but not a demigod, because she’s a distant descendant rather than the child of a god). She realizes very quickly that she has almost no control over her powers. I think the biggest thing that makes Chaos different is that it’s not steeped in one type of lore or one country’s mythology. Semi-gods can descend from Greek gods, Egyptian gods, Roman gods and on and on. Mac explains it like this: “If you look at the cultures around the world, a lot of the gods are similar. Zeus, Jupiter, Odin, Indra…the details are flat-out wrong sometimes, but at the heart of most mythology is a core truth. No one culture was totally wrong or totally right." So the concept allows me to pull from so many different places, and sort of turn mythology on its ear a little, which is super fun!
Did you have to do a lot of research to write this novel?
I did! Although I re-imagined a lot of the details, I wanted to make sure that I had a good base of knowledge going in.
Maggie seems like such a kickass female heroine - did writing about her come naturally?
It’s so weird, because that’s exactly what happened. It came so naturally, it was scary. I never felt more at home writing than I did when I was writing in Maggie’s voice. It just poured onto the page. 
Say you were related to a god or goddess... who would that god or goddess be?
I think I’d go with Poseidon. I love the ocean and think it would be super badass to be able to control the waves and tides and maybe, like, chill with mermaids or whatever he does during his down time.
Any message to your readers?
YES! THANK YOU for reading my books!!! *blows sloppy kisses* And please, hit me up on Twitter at coneilYA. I love chatting with readers, talking about books, movies, TV shows and music.
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You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

You Look Different in Real Life

Title: You Look Different in Real Life
Author: Jennifer Castle
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Source: ARC from the publisher

For the rest of the world, the movies are entertainment. For Justine, they're real life.

The premise was simple: five kids, just living their lives. There'd be a new movie about them every five years, starting in kindergarten. But no one could have predicted what the cameras would capture. And no one could have predicted that Justine would be the star.

Now sixteen, Justine doesn't feel like a star anymore. In fact, when she hears the crew has gotten the green light to film Five at Sixteen, all she feels is dread. The kids who shared the same table in kindergarten have become teenagers who hardly know one another. And Justine, who was so funny and edgy in the first two movies, feels like a disappointment.

But these teens have a bond that goes deeper than what's on film. They've all shared the painful details of their lives with countless viewers. They all know how it feels to have fans as well as friends. So when this latest movie gives them the chance to reunite, Justine and her costars are going to take it. Because sometimes, the only way to see yourself is through someone else's eyes.

After finishing You Look Different in Real Life, I remember just sitting in my bed (never mind that I had work in a few hours), marveling at how truly enthralling of a read this book was. I don't think I've ever loved a stand-alone so completely! Before this book, I was in a bit of a reading slump (and I remember swearing off anything contemporary for at least a few weeks), and wow - if you're looking for a book to make you rediscover your love for reading, this is it. It took me no time at all to finish reading this book, despite of the fact that I spent the previous weeks struggling to finish any book, and what I read, I loved. Needless to say, I was ultimately satisfied with what I read and what this book had to offer.

The idea behind this You Look Different in Real Life is sheer genius, given the fact that so many shows in our TVs today revolve around reality shows one way or another and a peek into how these shows are shot is sure to pique the interest of so many people. (Come one, it piqued mine, didn't it?) Moreover, the main backdrop of the story - three documentaries in every five years focusing on a group of five - is wholly fascinating and gripping. I don't think I've ever read a book in any age group or genre with a similar plot, and the blurb alone had me transfixed. I've been waiting for this book for quite some time now and I can say with no qualms whatsoever that it didn't disappoint me in any way.

I was particularly impressed with Castle's strong writing - the first chapter in and I already had a grasp on Justine, our narrator, as a character. The words on this novel's pages perfectly reflected all of Justine's misgivings about herself and all those that happened to her on the silver screen, as well as her qualms about shooting a third film now that everyone is sixteen... and not exactly the best of friends. I also found it incredible that here we have a novel of average length spanning the lives five main characters, and despite of the fact that the novel was told mainly from only Justine's POV, Castle was able to showcase growth from all characters through Justine's eyes.

I feel like the novel took place at an important point in the lives of our five main characters, Justine, Nate, Felix, Keira, and Rory. Because of the documentaries, they're unsure of who they are, most especially after they have shared some of the most important moments of their lives to millions of viewers. The most poignant moments of their lives, including the most painful ones, are now considered entertainment by the majority. Also, at this very delicate time in their lives - they're in their teens, searching for their identities, and yet they have to film a new documentary about who they are today. Add in the fact that not everyone is exactly friends with each other and you have a recipe for disaster. Furthermore, I found it incredibly refreshing to read a book that delves into so many blurred lines, but most especially the blurred line between reality and entertainment.

Moreover, this point of their lives depicts perfectly that nothing in life is permanent - nothing is forever - and Castle managed to get this point across to her readers. Appearances change. Fame is fleeting. You may be popular today, and yet the bottom of the social barrel tomorrow. Most importantly, even those relationships and friendships that you assumed to be for forever... some of them aren't. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't fight for those important to you, though. At the same time, Castle was also able to aptly elaborate on the notion that it's impossible for someone to run from his or her past, and that it's better to face whatever it is one's hiding from head on.

Most contemporaries today focus on romance, but this didn't. Instead, it focused on something more vital - identity. I don't think this will be a book that I'll be forgetting anytime soon.

Rating: 5 Stars

National Book Store Cut-Price Sale: Up to 70& off on Books!

Hey, my amazing PH book lovers! It's the weekend (just after a payday too!), and you know what that means... shopping!*throws confetti* So if you have the time, why not stop by at a nearby National Book Store branch? I know I will! I've been frequenting NBS' cut-price sales for the past few years and I always come home with great finds - I'm sure you will too! (Excuse all the exclamation points. I'm obviously ridiculously excited.) 

National Book Store’s biggest book sale of the year is here! Get up to 70% off on your favorite books in National Book Store’s Cut Price Book Sale. Enjoy huge discounts on bestsellers, sequels and new releases from August 30 to September 8, 2013 in all National Book Store and Bestsellers branches. Read more and spend less in the Cut Price Book Sale. See posters for details. Per DTI-NCR Permit No. 8368 Series of 2013. Follow National Book Store on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@nbsalert) for updates on events, promos and contests. 

Keeping Her by Cora Carmack

Keeping Her (Losing It, #1.5)
Title: Keeping Her (Losing It 1.5)
Author: Cora Carmack
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Source: Inkslinger PR and Edelweiss

Garrick Taylor and Bliss Edwards managed to find their happily-ever-after despite a rather . . . ahem . . . complicated start. By comparison, meeting the parents should be an absolute breeze, right?

But from the moment the pair lands in London, new snags just keep cropping up: a disapproving mother-in-law-to-be, more than one (mostly) minor mishap, and the realization that perhaps they aren't quite as ready for their future as they thought.

As it turns out, the only thing harder than finding love is keeping it.

I may be alone in this, but wasn't exactly gaga over Losing It. No, don't get me wrong, it's not that I didn't like it - I did enjoy it - but I didn't really find it that memorable. Other than Bliss and Cade's friendship, there was really nothing else that pulled me in. Losing It was a light read, funny at times, but I never quite connected with the main characters. While I did find Bliss a ridiculously entertaining character, I simply can't relate to her. She was supposed to be this awkward college senior... but she's not. Clumsy, sure, but awkward? Not really. Also, I never did understand just what the fuss was all about with Garrick. I mean, sure, he's British (and let me roll with the stereotype that British guys are the bomb), but honestly? That's all I remember about him. I can't remember anything else! I wasn't exactly sold on the relationship between the two either - there was just no chemistry. I don't doubt that they cared about each other, but everything was... bland. And for all the talk about the relationship being forbidden, that aspect wasn't really explored either.

And now, you may ask... why on earth did I read this novella? Simple. It's in Garrick's POV, and I do want to learn more about him. Also, I wanted to figure out just how Bliss and Garrick fell in love (you know, that forever kind of love, because Garrick did propose to Bliss - and again, I can't help but feel that the proposal came out of nowhere) because I was never convinced that they ever were, and a peek inside Garrick's head just might help me figure this conundrum out. And, again, while I'm not exactly this series' biggest fan, I do enjoy Carmack's writing. Besides, a trip to London to meet the rigid in-laws promises all sorts of fun shenanigans, right?

And.... sigh. Again, I found the entire read just okay. No matter what I do, I just can't seem to make myself invest in the relationship of these two characters. One of the reasons I still somehow liked Losing It was because of Cade, Bliss' best friend, but now that I'm reading a novella that has Bliss and Garrick and no one else, I found it really difficult to keep myself interested. Heck, I read this novella just last week and I can't think of a single scene to include in this review. Yup, that bad. Sadly, I still don't understand all the hype that the relationship between these two characters get, and since Carmack has stated that this is her last novel that would focus on these two as main characters, I might as well give up trying. On a positive note, I did like the next book in the series, Faking It, much better (though I did have my issues with it too)!

Rating: 3 Stars

Letters to Nowhere by Julie Cross

Letters To Nowhere
Title: Letters to Nowhere
Author: Julie Cross
Release Date: August 2, 2013
Seventeen year old Karen Campbell has just lost both her parents in a tragic car accident. Grief stricken and alone, her gymnastics coach opens his home to Karen, providing her a place to live while she continues to train, working toward a spot on the world championship team.

Coach Bentley’s only child, seventeen year old Jordan is good-looking and charming enough to scare away a girl like Karen—someone who has spent ten times more hours on balance beams and uneven bars than talking or even thinking about boys. But the two teens share a special connection almost immediately. It turns out Jordan has a tragic past of his own, grief buried for years.

As Karen’s gymnastics career soars, her nightmares and visions of the horrible accident grow in strength. She can only avoid facing her grief for so long before it begins to surface and ultimately spin out of control in a very dangerous way. Can discovering love and lust (simultaneously) help with the grieving process or will it only provide a temporary distraction while waiting for reality to hit full force?

As a huge fan of gymnastics (and I do mean HUGE - I stay up to watch all sorts of competitions from all over the world and everything, plus I cried like a baby when Alicia Sacramone announced her retirement), this book is something that I simply can't pass up. I adore everything about the sport - from the highly intricate routines and down to the drama that comes with team selections - and I have nothing but respect for what these gymnasts go through just to achieve their goals. When I saw Julie ask for bloggers who would be willing to review an early copy of her new novel set in the elite world of gymnastics, I jumped at the offer. Not only do I follow the sport, I'm also a huge fan of Julie's Tempest series, so it's a win-win right?

Damn right it was!

I was half-expecting a sort of watered-down version of elite gymnastics (hey, Make It or Break It) but Cross surprised me with how accurate everything was. Folks, if you want a deeper look into the world of US Gymnastics, this is it. The skills, the elaborate selection process that comes into making a team, the choices that plague an elite athlete's life, the grueling training and conditioning... Cross didn't skip past ANYTHING. Every single thing that cements the notion that elite gymnasts are among the world's toughest athletes... Yup, all here. Cross was able to paint such a vividly detailed picture of the world of elite gymnastics, and I believe this is possible due to her experiences as a coach and (I'm going to assume here) as a serious fan of the sport.

Cross did such an amazing job writing this novel. Elite gymnastics - the skills, the scoring system - is not exactly an easy sport to fathom (I've been following the sports for a few years now but there are still skills I can't name), but she was somehow able to make the novel as easy to understand as possible. Also, Cross was able to portray how these gymnasts sacrifice so much of their childhood to fulfill their dreams. The way Cross wrote as Karen truly shows that though Karen may be seventeen, she has been sheltered all her life, and there are situations that others teens may perceive as normal that she hasn't encountered yet. I also loved the concept of Karen writing in letters what she can't say to other people face to face - it shows that even the strongest athletes are still human, and that they can still go through what everyday people go through.

Off the bat, I loved Karen, and I couldn't help but root for her every step of the way. Heck, I can almost see her as one of the gymnasts I cheer for at Worlds and the Olympics! I wanted nothing but the best for her - I wanted her to shoot for the stars and continue towards her dream of being an accomplished elite gymnast; I wanted her to face her fears and come to terms with her grief towards her parents' sudden death. I wanted her to get that Amanar on vault and that standing arabian on beam; I wanted her to finally be able to speak her thoughts out loud. I yearned for her to get that self-confidence she badly needed, and most especially, I wanted her to fight for HER dreams. Not her parents', not her coaches', but hers and hers alone.

Nothing about this novel's romance felt forced. Jordan is a great male lead, and I enjoyed reading about him tremendously. I can't help but adore just how easily he understood what Karen was going through, and just how willing he was to help her through her most difficult times. Karen and Jordan started off as friends, and I believe that's what makes the gradual change of their relationship to something more so believable - it wasn't all about lust, but rather more about trust. Both characters were able to understand each other so thoroughly, and their connection was just so palpable!

Julie Cross really impressed me with this novel. The writing, the characters, the plot... everything was perfect. I honestly felt like I was able to connect to every aspect of Letters to Nowhere, and I truly can't wait to find out what else she has Julie has in store for us in the next two books of the series!

Rating: 5 Stars

[Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway] The Guys are Props Club by Ingrid Seymour

(Check out the rest of the tour stops HERE!)

The Guys Are Props Club
Title: The Guys are Props Club
Author: Ingrid Seymour
Release Date: May 13, 2013
During her senior year in high school, Maddie Burch promised herself not to ever fall for a cute guy – or any guy – again. Cute guys are players and not to be trusted, a fact she learned the hard way when her first boyfriend ran her heart through a paper shredder. Two years later, her promise is still intact, and she’s determined to make it through college without falling victim to another creep. She has her job, school and The Guys Are Props Club to keep her mind and hormones in check.

The club was founded by Jessica, Maddie’s best friend. It is a sisterhood of girls who have fallen prey to heartless jerks and who have vowed to turn the tables. Once a semester, Jessica requires members to “do onto others as they’ve done unto you.” Setting the example, Jessica’s next play is Sebastian Capello, a theater major with heartthrob looks and a flair for Latin dance, whose heart she plans to break the way hers was once broken.

What the friends don’t know is that Sebastian is different. Despite his perfect looks and popularity, he’s not a jerk. He doesn’t play games to get his way. Instead, he keeps it real and goes after what he wants with honest intentions. And what he wants is not a bombshell like Jessica, but a down-to-earth girl like Maddie – even if it causes a riff in the girl’s friendship. Even if it means getting Maddie to break her personal vow.

If I were to be completely honest, this is not a type of book that I would usually read. Sure, I still consider the NA genre one of my favorites, but after reading my fair share of NA novels with games, bets, and clubs, paired with no decent plot whatsoever, I can't help but choose to ignore most novels that event mention one of the aforementioned words. I can handle cliche storylines, sure, but they have to make some sense! So yes, I've become akin to judging books by their blurbs and cover even though I advocate to others that they shouldn't. But hey I'm only human, and I feel really bad for initially doing that to this said novel. If it weren't for one of my trusted fellow bloggers (Hey Dianne!) convincing me to give The Guys are Props Club a shot, I probably wouldn't, and I would have missed out on an entertaining read.

I found this novel to be a quick read. While I can't say with a hundred percent conviction that I was able to relate to Maddie's character through and through, I was able to sympathize with how she found it difficult to stand up to Jessica. While it was adamant that Jessica's scheming and plotting to give boys a taste of their own medicine was getting out of hand (and Maddie herself wanted out of the club and all the games), I do understand why Maddie couldn't just leave Jessica to fend for herself. When Maddie was at her lowest, it was Jessica who gave her all the support she needed, and that's not something that Maddie can easily forget. I'm sure that that sense of loyalty is something that most readers can find familiar.

What sets this book apart from others of its kind is that the male OC, Sebastian, is your quintessential nice guy. Confident - even a bit cocky, yes - but he's not event the slightest bit alike the tattooed bad boys that are a dime a dozen in the New Adult genre. I may like my fair share of bad boys (come on.. who doesn't?) but reading about them all the time can get a bit tiring. Characters like Sebastian allow a breathe of fresh air in this genre that is now full of formulaic plots and storylines. I can't help but admire how he never rushed Maddie to do something that she's in no way ready to do, and how he always respected her decisions. I loved how Seymour was able to make Sebastian attractive without resorting to the bad boy prototype!

The plot pacing was pretty good, and it allowed for character development, especially in Maddie's part. (Even Jessica, in hindsight.) After letting Jessica handle the reins of her life for almost a year, we get to see her stand up for herself and fight for what she believed in. Maddie finally stopped judging other people based on baseless preconceived notions, and thanks to Sebastian, she realized that not all stereotypes are true. Simply put, I never found myself bored while reading TGAPC. I really loved how Seymour explored just how complicated some friendships can be, and why it's so difficult to let go of them even when they're not bringing out the best in the both you anymore. Also, despite all my complaints with the concepts of games and clubs in NA novels, Seymour actually made them work!

All in all, if you're looking for a not-so-typical NA read, you've found it. (And yes, I am never judging books based on their blurbs again. Yes I know I already said this before... but I promise!)

Rating: 4 Stars

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[Release Day Launch + Giveaway] Escaping Me by Elizabeth Lee

Escaping Me 

Title: Escaping Me
Author: Elizabeth Lee
Release Date: July 30, 2013
All she wanted to do was forget. Forget the memory of walking in on her boyfriend in the middle of, well, another girl. Forget how she had her entire life planned out. And, forget about being perfect all the time. Unfortunately, she was Whitney Vandaveer and despite the fact that she moved to the middle of nowhere – she couldn't.

He always knew he would never be more than nothing. No job, no money, no future. Cole Pritchett had accepted the fact that he would always be the screw up and he was okay with it. Until he met her.

Here's the thing they quickly found out – sometimes we all need a little help escaping who we think we are.

If you were to ask me point blank what I liked the most about Escaping Me, my answer would be very simple and straightforward - it's realistic, and not far-fetched at the very least. I can actually see some parts of it happening either to me or someone I'm close to, and this is not something I can say about most New Adult Contemporary novels about nowadays. Wait wait, you may say, novels aren't supposed to be realistic - they're supposed to distract you from your real, boring everyday life! Well, you do have a point, but for this particular genre, I prefer realistic situations and relatable characters because I firmly believe that that's what New Adult is all about. Through this genre, new adults in the legal sense should get an idea of what they can come to expect in this new chapter of their lives, and Escaping me did just that for me. This book is what New Adult is all about.

I found it amazing how ridiculously relatable both main characters are. Whitney, after finding out that her long-term boyfriend has been cheating on her, fled to her mother and sister's home in the country to try to forget and to ultimately escape, even just for a little while. A child of divorced parents, this was be the first time Whitney would spend a long stretch of time with both her mother and sister after choosing to live with her father after the divorce. Not only does Whitney have to come to terms with the fact that this boy she thought she was going to marry had no problem screwing other people behind her back, she also has to find out where she stands in this family she never had the chance to know.

Honestly, I found everything about Whitney's situation plausible. Her actions even feel a wee bit familiar, because I can picture myself going through the same motions! More and more children these days are products of divorce, and I'm sure that Whitney's filial situation will surely strike a chord is some reader's hearts. Moreover, I've always reckoned that it's basic instinct to run when you discover that people you love have wronged you so callously, and I can't blame Whitney for choosing to behave that way - I would have done so too! As a matter of fact, I'm sure that a lot of people share the exact same sentiment. I love how Lee explored Whitney's character - here's a privileged girl who has had everything she could ever need, and yet she has no idea what she wants. All her life her actions have been dictated by those around her, and it's only now that she's actually living and doing things just for the heck of it. Lee made Whitney so relatable, and as I have mentioned, familiar. I'm sure every girl has experienced feeling lost at some point in their lives.

The true can be said about Cole. I was a bit apprehensive about his character at first simply because he had those telltale bad boy looks (and we all know how some New Adult novels these days are all about bad boys who sadly don't have enough depth) but he quickly proved me wrong - this is one character that definitely has depth. I found myself relating to him quickly enough too! Everyone - from his brother to Whitney's father - expects so little of him that he just can't get this idea  out of his head that he will never be good enough for Whitney. I'm sure everyone has experienced those feelings of unworthiness like Cole has.

I liked how Lee explored Whitney and Cole's relationship. It's not all about sex - you get to read about them having serious conversations about their past and their future, and that's something that I particularly enjoyed. There were no secrets between these two characters - nothing about their relationship was built on anything resembling a lie. They were honest with each other from the get go. Sure, they had their moments of acting prematurely, or judging each other quickly, but then again, what couple doesn't do that?

Lee really impressed me with this novel. Parts of the novel could have been stronger, and there were scenes that didn't transition well, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. Lee did a great job in exploring her characters, and I don't think I can say this enough but I loved how everything was so realistic!

Rating: 4 Stars

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