Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (47): Again by Lisa Burstein

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Visit Breaking The Spine to see more entries!

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:
 Release Date: September 22nd 2014
 Format: Paperback

 Goodreads Summary:
How far would you go for a second chance?

Eleven years after flunking out of college, Kate has finally hit rock-bottom. Losing her job and boyfriend in one drunken night, she’s determined to fix her life by going back to the moment when she let partying and sex take over. And do things right this time. At twenty-nine, she heads back to freshman year of college, with a catch.

Pretending she's nineteen with a new roommate and full class schedule is easy. When she meets her shy, sexy and seven-years-younger RA, Carter, following her self-imposed sobriety and celibacy rules is proving to be anything but.

A senior enduring years of regret, Carter is more than ready to graduate. He’s anxious to move on from the party his freshman year where he witnessed his frat brothers about to commit a sexual assault. Instead of doing the right thing and stepping in, he looked the other way and left. His guilt has made for a lonely four years.

When he meets the new freshman on his floor, spunky and confident Kate, he wonders if his time as an outcast has finally come to an end.

Kate and Carter’s growing friendship and undeniable attraction make it harder to hide the demons from their respective pasts. But when their secrets are finally revealed, will their chance at starting over together still be there?

 Reasons I want to read & own this book: 
1. A 29 year old woman, pretending to be 19 years old to start over in college - Doesn't that sound interesting already? Why take the 10 years off your age when plenty of older twenty somethings are in college? Why start over? Why face the challenges of being 19 again? I'm curious about Kate's double life. Aren't you?

2. A relationship of an older woman with a younger man. Not that the age difference is huge, just 7 years, both in their twenties, but in the New Adult genre, it doesn't happen too much, so I'm wondering how the dynamic is gonna work.

3. How could I forget to state the obvious, a relationship is going to develop between two people who have a hidden past they want to forget, that seems to me, is going to resurface anyway. I wanna know how Kate and Carter will handle the baggage.

4. This book just sounds awesome and I love a college setting, the place where people are always trying to redefine themselves at no matter what age they come in at to study. Will Kate and Carter put the past behind them? I wanna know!

What do you guys think? :)


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: Birth of the Vampire by Gayla Twist

Birth of the Vampire by Gayla Twist
Release Date: May 25th 2014 
Genre: Young Adult paranormal romance
Source: Author
Format: E-book

Goodreads Summary:
 Dorian is a vampire who doesn’t believe in love. Haley is a human who doesn’t believe in vampires.

At seventeen, Haley Scott’s life is pretty miserable. She lives with her uncle in a small town where she has absolutely no friends and barely any social life. Haley knows for a fact that there are very few people on the planet who care if she lives or dies.

Dorian Vanderlind is a vampire with a past he’s reluctant to face. He visits his cousin as a favor, only to find himself entangled in the enticements of the mortal world.

What happens when these two are thrown together in the most complicated of circumstances? Find out in Birth of the Vampire ~ Book 1 in The Vanderlind Realm. 


My Review:
Yes, the Young Adult genre has a lot of vampire books. You might ask yourself if it's worth taking the chance on YET another vampire book. Well, I am here to tell you that you should take a chance on Birth of the Vampire. It's a fun quick read, and even though it is not the lengthiest book, it has a lot of interesting life observations; hidden nuggets of wisdom, if you will. Oh, and it stays true to it's genre, it does vampires justice. I loved that even though this book takes place in a modern day setting, the vampires in this book have an old school flare and sophistication to them. It added an air of intrigue to the story.

Now on to characterization. This book is told from several point of views, the principal and most prevalent of them being of the protagonists, Hayley and Dorian. Hayley has had a rough life, being bounced from foster home to foster home, a mother who has a mental illness and an abusive half uncle who has taken her in until she graduates high school. This girl is the epitome of loneliness. She has no friends, no stability and a whole lot of abandonment issues that have made her a bit cynical about life, but still a girl who has within her, a hidden goodness. Not to say that she isn't flawed, she definitely has a lot to work on, that is introduced to the reader in this book, but if she goes the right way, I think she has the potential to grow. Dorian on the other hand is a vampire who is quite sophisticated, he is handsome, blonde, with gray eyes and described as looking like a male model. Yes, the immortality in this book makes you good looking. No old school dracula's here. He reminded me a lot of Lucius Vladescu from Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Darkside, one of my all time fave vampires and male leads. Like Lucius, Dorian has that special quality about him, where he starts off as really skeptical on motrals and humans, but still there is a part of him that is fascinated by human nature and knowledgeable about it, despite feeling jaded by having lived so long. Dorian doesn't believe in love, and that just makes him so interesting. You can't help but wonder what's happened to him in his life.

Though this book is labeled as a romance, it's not the biggest focus of the book and I loved it. There was a big focus on being inside the characters heads and I thought that was really cool. Because even if a book is a romance, it doesn't have to focus on that all the time, there has to be insight into each character to further understand the romance going on in the story. There is a lot of heart break in this book, jealousy, betrayal. I loved that this book addressed slut-shamming. This happens a lot with young people, where they are shamed in a wrong way over the decisions that they make in their romantic life, especially for girls. It felt very real, the issues that Hayley confronted with other characters.

The setting of this book is a small town in Ohio and the author did a great job of placing the reader there and also creating a separate vampire world that is intermingled with the real world setting of Ohio.

I really liked how easy it was to get into the writing of this book. Dorian had a distinct voice. You could immediately tell he was a vampire who had his reservations on modern day youth and humans. Hayley definitely was a conflicted young woman and that came through in the writing.

My only complaint is that I got frustrated with Hayley at  times. But it's a good frustration in the sense that I really want her to grow. She is witty and snarky, mature, but at the same time for being a smart young woman, she would be very naive sometimes. I could easily say: "where did that come from, her poor choices?" But the reality is, Hayley has been so starved of love and affection and support, that like most people who struggle with that, she falls into the pitfalls of falling for anyone who whispers sweet nothing's into her ears. I also felt like she also needs to figure out in future books to get over her past and just become a better person for her and not care about her haters and past bullies.

As this book title says, this book is about the birth of a vampire. Someone who goes from being a conflicted human to a newborn vampire who doesn't quite adjust well to being a vamp and has to figure things out. If you want a look into what a human might feel if they became a vampire and didn't know how to understand it in their head, this book is for you!

My Rating: 4/5


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
Release Date: June 11th 2013 by Delacorte Books
Genre: YA Historical fiction
Source: Author
Format: E-book
Goodreads Summary
When Maude Pichon runs away from provincial Brittany to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Desperate for work, she answers an unusual ad. The Durandeau Agency provides its clients with a unique service—the beauty foil. Hire a plain friend and become instantly more attractive.

Monsieur Durandeau has made a fortune from wealthy socialites, and when the Countess Dubern needs a companion for her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, Maude is deemed the perfect foil.

But Isabelle has no idea her new "friend" is the hired help, and Maude's very existence among the aristocracy hinges on her keeping the truth a secret. Yet the more she learns about Isabelle, the more her loyalty is tested. And the longer her deception continues, the more she has to lose.
My Review
For me, Belle Epoque, was quite a special book. What I loved about it the most, was just how emotionally intelligent it was. This book really tries to focus on how every person should pay attention to what they feel, and not pay attention to societal tenets of how a person should be. This book has a very willful and strong heroine, Maude, and an array of really interesting supporting characters; that were for me, really well developed.
The concept behind Belle Epoque was really interesting. In the book, you had an agency that hired young women who were considered unattractive in some form or another. These ladies were called repoussoirs. A word that means repulsive in French. Their sole goal was to make other women stand out when they stood next to them. In Belle Epoque the lead character, Maude, is hired as a repoussoir and through her journey, the reader gets to see how brutal it is on a persons psyche to be constantly undermined, ignored, and compared to others.
The characterization in this book was really good. Maude is an excellent heroine. She is strong of character, willful, and intelligent. And though it is tough on her to be a repoussoir, an ugly girl for hire, she is able to figure out who she is and what she needs to do in order to grow. Isabelle, who is the daughter of a countess who hires Maude, is the opposite of Maude in social status. She is rich, and beautiful, but secretly struggling because she wants to become go to college and study, and not marry. The fellow repoussoirs of Maude were also quite well-developed, each with a distinct personality. Characters like Durandeau who ran the repoussoir agency and the Countess, were excellent villains, who had a total disregard for the feelings of others and were experts at manipulation.
The setting of this book was perfection and interesting to read about. Belle Epoque takes place in Paris, during the Belle Epoque era - late 1800s, early 1900s - where art and literature thrived in Paris. I honestly felt like Paris was a character of its own in this book because the author did a great job at recreating the era. The clothing, the artists, the cafes and famous Parisian spots that were mentioned really make the reader feel like they are in Paris, during the belle epoque era. What also adds to recreating the era in this book is that the author tackles what wealthy people lived like and what very poor people went through in this era, so you get to see both sides of the coin, per se. It was also very interesting to me that the author made sure to include how controversial the making of the Eiffel Tower was during this time. What a surprise to me, that something that is so symbolic of Paris now, was once so rejected in its time.
I don't think it was an accident for the author to place her characters in Paris. For many, Paris seems like a city of dreams, maybe because it possesses so much culture and history, but there is something about the idea of Paris, that has been inspiring for many across the centuries. Especially those who seek academic freedom and who want to pursue art. Maude, the lead heroine in this book, left her really constricted life next to her father, to see if she could find more and not just become somebody's wife. Same with Isabelle, the daughter of her first client, who dreams of leaving debutante life and becoming a woman who studies and can support her own self.
There is also a cute romance that develops unexpectedly between Maude and Paul, a struggling musician, that was quite endearing.
I really liked this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes to read about art, self discovery, Paris, and friendship. 
My Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review: The Language of Souls by Lena Goldfinch

Release Date: November 9th 2012
Genre: YA Fantasy/Romance/Novella
Source: Won @ Tales of Whimsy
Format: E-Book
Goodreads Summary:
A fast-paced tale of adventure and soul-stirring romance that will leave you breathless.

Solena trespasses into hostile territory to search for a rare herb to cure the grandfather she loves. When a young enemy soldier captures her and she's accused of being a spy, she discovers just how much she’s risked.

As a soldier, Rundan struggles to please his father, a ruthless army commander. When his father orders him to take the beautiful trespasser to the royal courts, where she’ll surely be tried and executed, Rundan is plagued by an inconvenient desire to protect her.

The handsome young soldier confuses Solena. First, he cruelly captures her, and then treats her with uncommon kindness. When he risks his life to save hers, she fears she may have risked more than her life on her journey…she may have lost her heart.

My Review:
So, The Language of Souls, is a little gem of a novella. It's not the full out length of a book, but it is doesn't need to be. This novella has so much to it. It is heart-warming, intense, complex, and a really fast pace read. And overall, despite the setting, which is not light hearted, it was really adorable, because the main characters were such lovely people. It felt like a fairy tale.
The world building in this novella is so impressive. I haven't read too many novella's so I always am concerned with the world building when I do read one, because I worry if the author has enough space to develop their world. As this story was set in a fantasy world, I wondered if I would get enough info on the world, in order to really see it in my mind. Here to inform you that I did. I loved the idea of having these enemy territories, Oden and Toranni, and their respective people not getting along at all, and the friction that is created between their people when they do encounter each other. Each territory had its intricate traditions and rituals and it had like an ancient feel to it. Like you were being taken to an ancient, secret world. And the clothing described on the characters, also kinda gave me that impression of ancient-ness with the characters walking around in armor or flowing tunics. THAT is the vibe in this story. It's very fantasy and fairy-tale-ish.
The main characters, Solena, a healer from Toranni, and Rundan, a young Oden soldier - were SO cute, you guys. Like, I can't. Solena had all the makings of a fairy tale princess with how sweet she was and her undying love for her grandpa. And poor Rundan was so dutiful and just dying to impress his commander/army dad who was a jerk. He was, like, a fairy tale prince. I mean, neither of Solena or Rundan were royalty per se, but they had that prince, princess vibe going on. Solena just has this beautiful soul and willingness to help, a selflessness, that is great. This naturally grabs Rundan's attention, a soldier from enemy territory. While Rundan, on the outside looks like this collected and stern soldier, but really is unlike his other Oden soldiers. He is super humane, intelligent, decent - despite - having a nasty father, who treats him poorly.
Their romance was ADORBS. Yes, I said, adorbs, but I had to, because they were beyond adorable, Solena and Rundan were so cute and sweet. Even amongst dangerous situations.
At it's core, this novella, is all about people finding the courage to be themselves, to go beyond stereotypes and managing to see the true essence of others. Rundan and Solena had a lot of hurdles to get over. They were from enemy territories, they didn't speak the same language, Rundan took Solena captive when she stepped in his territory. As you guys can imagine, the conditions for these two getting along were very bad, but they manage to overcome that and what ensues is really cute.
Now, I do have one complaint: This novella should have been longer. I wanted more. There should be a sequel to this. Something. BUT there is soo much more that can be developed from the Toranni and Oden world. Like, I wanted to see how Rundan and Solena would work together, being that they were from enemy territories. I wanted to see how Rundan would confront his ruthless dad and how Solena would further manage Rundan with her people. And I also wondered how the people  in each territory would react to Rundan and Solena coming together. As I said, there is a lot there, that can be further developed.
Overall, this novella was really good. Loved it!
My rating: 4/5


Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: In Too Deep by Michelle Kemper Brownlow

 In Too Deep by Michelle Kemper Brownlow
Release Date: June 3rd 2013 by Sapphire Star Publishing
Genre: New Adult Contemporary/Realistic fiction
Source: Publisher
Format: E-book

Goodreads Summary:
Gracie has just finished her freshman year of college in Memphis when she takes a job at a local pizza joint in her home town of McKenzie, Tennessee. She is the epitome of innocence when she meets Noah. Noah is unabashedly handsome, intriguingly reckless and just cocky enough to be sexy. Gracie’s instincts tell her to stay far away from him and based on the stories she hears from her co-workers he leaves broken hearts in his wake. But still, she can’t explain her fascination with him.

Noah puts aside his bad boy ways when what he thought was a summer crush has him unexpectedly falling in love. But soon after Gracie transfers to UT Knoxville to be with Noah, their unexpected love becomes riddled with anger, deceit and humiliation.

Jake, Noah’s former roommate and Gracie’s best friend, can no longer be a bystander. Gracie’s world falls out from beneath her and when she breaks she turns to Jake for strength. As Jake talks her through a decision she’s not yet strong enough to make, together they uncover a truth so ugly neither of them is prepared for its fallout. Will Jake pull her to the surface or is Gracie Jordan finally In Too Deep?

My Review:
If you are looking for a feel-good novel. Something light and airy and super romantic. Guess what? This is not it. As the title and cover of this book suggest, this story is about a girl who falls in too deep into the wrong relationship and loses herself. This book is about emotional abuse at its core and the toll it can take on a persons life. A subject - like depression - that is not tackled on enough, in my opinion. No worries, though, for those who love romance, there is a bit of that in the novel. It's not all suffering.

Most people are of the belief that what makes a book good or readable is that the main characters be likeable and relatable. But, to me, that is the wrong way to read. Like in life, not all characters are relatable or likeable. There is a lot of different people out there, with unique personalities and backgrounds. It's because people are so different from one another that makes life complex and the same goes for book characters. We learn the most, when we read, from characters who are different from us. We get to see a new view on things. That is what happens in this novel. Gracie and Noah are not likeable at all. I think Gracie is supposed to be, but I'll tackle more of my views on her, in the latter half of this review.

 What I took from this novel, is that Gracie and Noah (the main characters in this book) are the quintessential example of what not to be or how to act in a relationship. They are the poster children for toxicity and emotional abuse in a relationship. Why might you add? Well, because Noah is the most manipulative, insensitive and rotten male character you can find. He is a bad boy. But, like, a real one. He is just a horrible human being and boyfriend to Gracie, who in this novel is the victim of his emotional abuse. That boy messes with that girls mind like no one's business and it literally takes to the very end of this book for Gracie to dump him once and for all.

Which leads me to world building and the subject of emotional abuse. When it comes to both things, I think the author succeeds tremendously in portraying emotional abuse in a young couple who are in college. The college environment and the actions of the characters in this novel felt authentic to the way people act in college, when they are young. We get a bit of life in a fraternity house, and get to learn through Noah, all of the many ways in which a person can manipulate another until they lose all sense of self. Which Gracie did, thanks to Noah. He gets her to essentially become his puppet. Through what you might add? By making her think that she was too much of a good girl, uptight, controlling and demanding. And naturally in her belief, that she can change him and that he is different with her, she always falls into all of his traps and demands.

Now, as much as I hated Noah, because he was awful and well that was his role, to be awful as the master manipulator of Gracie's emotions. I was equally annoyed with Gracie. I know that if they were real, I would've wanted to smack them both. Kudos to the author, because I think that books should do that, they should provoke strong emotions in the reader and boy did I feel a lot of frustration with these two. Noah was just sick. The things he did to manipulate Gracie, especially when it came to sex. That guy was just sad. He had a girlfriend who loved him, and it didn't matter, he just treated her like dirt.

Gracie. Oh, Gracie. Maybe the reader was meant to sympathize with her. I did on some levels. No doubt, her boyfriend treated her horribly. BUT, I wasn't completely on her side. First off, everyone in the book, to Gracie's mom, to her friends, and especially her best guy friend Jake, and even herself, in her head, kept talking on and on about how she was so special and beautiful and had this light about her soul that was going dim because of this abusive relationship and I'm sorry, I just never saw it. Scratch that, I never felt it. Just because other characters tell me how a character is doesn't mean I'm gonna buy it. The author has to show me, through the characters actions who they are. Not tell me. And that's what I got for Gracie. All this high praise but I never once felt like Gracie was this incredibly special person that everyone claimed she was. Not even in her flashbacks. She did have good feelings and there were several moments where she was gracious and respectful with others. But I honestly, never got a true feel for who she was.

Another thing, all the good girl talk that went in Gracie's mind about how she was not a good girl anymore or how some action she did took her good girl status away, was a bit too much for me. At the beginning, I was like, "yea, I get you girl. You fell for a bad boy and he messed you up." But after a while, that line just didn't make me sympathize with her anymore. Noah did manipulate Gracie through that, through her being a good girl, but there came a point when that was all she would reference to. The "good girl" label. Or she would often talk about Noah being a "bad boy" and that's all she would do. It's like she lived her life within the confines of those two labels. It was a bit too much and fell a little into cliché land for me. Have to be honest.

Oh, and what irritated me the most about Gracie is here she would be, crying her heart out to her best guy friend Jake, and supposedly devastated over another one of her fights or epic break ups with Noah that shattered her soul because he treated her like dirt, but then she would be, like, checking Jake out? Excuse me. I don't care how hot he is, if your boyfriend Noah is your everything and defines you, why are you checking out this guy who has a girlfriend? How is your mind going there in the first place, Gracie? She did it way too much for comfort. I gave her some passes on the excuse that she was young, but it was a bit out of place for me. Thank God, she did respect Jake and his relationship, but I was a bit afraid there for a bit.

Overall, my fave part of this novel was Gracie's best guy friend, Jake. He was gorgeous and a beautiful soul. He treated Gracie with so much gentleness and understanding. He really was just a beautiful character with all the right words to say. Thanks to him, she gets to learn about how to be treated by a guy, in the right way. And their moments were cute because Jake was just so amazing. I can't even. I definitely think that this book would be great for any fan of New Adult fiction, who likes realistic settings. And if you want to learn more about emotional abuse, this book is on target. You definitely can learn all the warning signs of what it is, and definitely learn from Gracie's mistakes on how to avoid it. When she FINALLY dumped Noah once and for all. I almost did a happy dance. Noah was just foul, y'all. Really foul.

My rating: 3/5

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: The Forgotten Ones by Laura Howard

The Forgotten Ones (The Danaan Trilogy #1) by Laura Howard
Release Date: April 28th 2013
Genre: NA or YA Paranormal/Supernatural/Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Format: E-book
Goodreads Summary:
Allison O'Malley's plan is to go to grad school so she can get a good job and take care of her schizophrenic mother. She has carefully closed herself off from everything else, including a relationship with Ethan, who she's been in love with for as long as she can remember.

What is definitely not part of the plan is the return of her long-lost father, who claims he can bring Allison's mother back from the dark place her mind has gone. Allison doesn't trust her father, so why would she believe his stories about a long forgotten Irish people, the Tuatha de Danaan? But truths have a way of revealing themselves. Secrets will eventually surface. And Allison must learn to set aside her plan and work with her father if there is even a small chance it could restore her mother's sanity.
My Review:
If this book was a person, I would so give it a hug. As a book that falls under the New Adult genre since it's main characters are in their very early 20s, this book hits it out of the ball park. First of all, it's a book that has fantasy, something that is still not too common in the New Adult genre that is governed by realistic fiction. What does this book focus on you might ask? I'm here to tell you that it's about Faeries. Another thing that sets The Forgotten Ones apart is that even though the female heroine of this book has a love interest, her life does not revolve around him. I know. It surprised me as well and in such a good way. People in their early 20s struggle with so much more than romance; like finding out who they are, family drama, adjusting to adulthood, money troubles etc.
The thing I liked the most about this novel is the writing. This book is just really easy to get into and though it's subjects are not light, it felt like a light read. There is just this immediate comfort that you get while reading this book because though it has fantasy in it, the fantasy doesn't overwhelm the story, which is something that often happens with books that have a contemporary/realistic setting (which this one does) that later transitions into fantasy (which in this book is the fae world).
The characterization in this novel is really great. I thought Allison was a really great female lead. She felt like a real person. As a girl who has had to take care of her schizophrenic mother her whole life, she is extremely mature and dedicated to not only her family, but to her job and studies as well. Yes, this does present a problem in her life in the sense that she does forget to focus on her personal life (friends, romance) but that's what's great about her. We get to see her struggle with that and learning to balance that out, which rings so very true to what a lot of people her age (early 20s) are struggling with. Her love interest, Ethan, was great. He was a very good guy, so very sweet and understanding of Allison and her troubles, but even though he was sweet, it didn't make him a pushover or a too-good-to-be-true type of guy. He had a charisma to him and a spark to his personality; he too felt like a real person like Allison did.
The fantasy elements in this book were great. My first exposure to faeries. Believe it or not, I had not read a book about them before. I liked the world-building for them. The world seemed so magical, full of mystique and danger. The fae people have quite an interesting hierarchy in this novel. They are beautiful and dangerous and powerful and complex. That queen and king and their kids were something else. My only struggle with the fae mythology in this book were the names. I mean, you do get used to it eventually, and props to the author for creativity because there were some names there that were quite unique, but they are a bit of a challenge in the beginning.
Overall, this book is a really great read and the romance is so sweet that I can see why this book is also classified as a young adult novel because the romance in this book is more focused on the characters emotions and the female lead trying to come to grips that she is in love, amongst so much drama with her ailing mother, her connection to the complex fae world, and her trying to figure out just how to manage her life.
Oh, and there are two major cliffhangers in this book. Plot wise and romantically. At the end of this book, I wanted to know more and BAM it ended. So, YES, a sequel is needed - asap.
My rating: 4/5