Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Top Ten" Tuesday: Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2015

Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Each week, The Broke and Bookish host the Top Ten Tuesday discussion. They provide a bookish prompt and  other bloggers are welcome to share their "Top Ten" in the specific topic!

Today is a Tuesday, which means it's time for a Top Ten! Today's topic is "Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015."

I've also thrown in some excerpts from my reviews of the books--this way you can get a taste of why they're in my top ten! In no particular order, here they are:

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
"Boecker honestly captivates with her interpretation of 15th century politics. I loved the interaction between magic and politics. From the Thirteenth Tablet (which made magic illegal) to their young king (whose parents died of a plague started by magic), magic was deeply rooted in the entire story."

Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry
"As always, Katie McGarry flawlessly constructs her characters. The people in her novels have as much depth as the Mariana Trench. Every character has so many layers; it's amazing. There are no simple stock characters in McGarry's books. They're all complex, as are their relationships."

Confess by Colleen Hoover
"Overall, this book was a fantastic story of healing and redemption. With traces of addiction, guilt, and family, Confess was one of the most moving books I've read all year. I would recommend this book to absolutely anyone and everyone, with no reservations."

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
"I loved everything about this book. From the characters to the setting to the world Aveyard created to the fierce politics. I loved Mare. No matter her flaws, I was rooting for her. And I still am. The characters reached a new level of complexity."

Take Me On by Katie McGarry
"There is no spineless damsel in distress that the boy saves. It's never one-sided. The couples always save each other. There's always an amazing sense of balance."

All Played Out by Cora Carmack
"I think that one of the greatest things about the Rusk novels is that no couple is the same. Carson and Dallas, Silas and Dylan, Mateo and Nell: they're all different people with different dynamics. I love that. Each book is a new adventure, a new story."

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
"The plot, setting, and lore behind the events was exquisitely presented. The story was completely original and kept me at the edge of my seat. Very interesting."

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
"I'm not sure that I've ever read a book that had as much of an impact on me as All the Bright Places did. The writing was absolutely flawless. I felt the characters in my bones."

Alienated by Melissa Landers
"Alienated has everything you could ever think to ask for in an alien romance. It has a spunky, intelligent, compassionate, and independent heroine. It has a swoon worthy, coarse-but-then-sweet, cocky, and evolving love interest. It has an absolutely captivating conflict, in which the author combines politics, science fiction, and teen angst."

The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong
"It was so amazing to read something so spot-on. Armstrong dealt with the mental illnesses in the novel in the most real and open way, starting such a serious discussion about such an important topic."

And those are the top ten books I've read so far in 2015!

What are your top ten books you've read in 2015 so far?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Stacking the Shelves #1

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! It is hosted every week (typically on Saturday) by Tynga's Reviews.

I have to take a break from my BEA books since I won't have access to physical books for a couple of weeks. This means that I have to get lots of books on my Kindle so that I have brain food while I'm stuck on real-book hiatus. The lists below are the results of this!

I apologize in the advance for the lack of links in this post. There were just too many books to link all of their Goodreads pages!

Borrowed from Overdrive (aka the Library):
Pivot Point by Kasie West
Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
How To Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines
Unbreakable by Kami Garcia
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Bought on Kindle (aka Amazon):
Where the Road Takes Me by Jay McLean
Abby Road by Ophelia London
The Problem With Crazy by Lauren K. McKellar
Lost & Found by Nicole Williams
Entangled by Nikki Jefford
Ultraviolet by Jessica Sorensen
Chasing Nikki by Lacey Weatherford
Breaking Rules by Tracie Puckett
Released by Mia Fox
Ten by Gretchen McNeil
At First Sight by Patrice Wilton
Royal Date by Sariah Wilson
Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski
Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
Existence by Abbi Glines

Have you read any of these books? Which ones do you recommend?

What do you think about using a Kindle?
I personally love using the Kindle. It's super convenient and allows me to bring books anywhere and everywhere!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Confess by Colleen Hoover

Title: Confess
Author: Colleen Hoover
Format I Read: Paperback
Pages: 306
Genres: Romance, Realistic Fiction, New Adult
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Stars: 5
Goodreads Link

Wow. That is honestly the only word I have for this book. Wow. Last night (when I was finishing this book at 1am, since I couldn't put it down) was the first time that I actually left tear stains in a book. Colleen Hoover is truly an artist when it comes to plot twists and plot connections. I was completely amazed by the last page.

For those who are unfamiliar with the story, here's the synopsis:

Auburn Reed has her entire life mapped out. Her goals are in sight and there’s no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry.

For once, Auburn takes a risk and puts her heart in control, only to discover Owen is keeping major secrets from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it.

The last thing Owen wants is to lose Auburn, but he can’t seem to convince her that truth is sometimes as subjective as art. All he would have to do to save their relationship is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin…

I'll be completely honest: I was thinking of giving this book 3 stars, 4 stars if I was feeling generous. The romance was just too fast-paced. Since the moment Owen and Auburn met, they've been completely entranced with each other. They've barely spent any real time together, yet they're so invested in each other. Auburn even thinks that they've only seen each other for four days. Yet they're practically in love?! I just couldn't jump on this instantaneous love train.

"How many days have we actually seen each other since we met?" he asks.
I want to laugh at his randomness, because I think it's my favorite part of him. I shrug. "I don't know. Four? Five?"
He slowly shakes his head. "If you count today, it's seven," he says, sliding a hand through my hair. "So tell me, Auburn. How is it possible that I"m already falling in love with you?" (273)

But by the last page, I was singing praise for this book. I don't want to go in depth because then this review would be riddled with spoilers. But wow. This novel came completely full circle. The last chapter is a flashback that explains so much (including the instant connection that Owen feels with Auburn). It made me sob.

The great thing about Colleen Hoover is she somehow makes a romance into a mystery. She really plays on the fact that the reader only knows what she allows them to know. She then fills the book with little reveals and epiphanies. It takes true talent to write a book in this way. I was honestly amazed.

In the prologue, the reader is introduced to Adam, who was Auburn's boyfriend when she was fifteen. Unfortunately, Adam is sick and only has a few weeks left to leave. The reader meets the two characters as Auburn says goodbye for the last time. Adam, though a minor character, is truly amazing. He's the one who really made me cry. He's just such a fantastic character, filled with such pure love and peace. Another great thing about Adam: the entire book wasn't about Auburn's struggle over his loss. Auburn wasn't crying over the fact that she can't be with Owen because she doesn't want to let Adam go. She already healed after his death--that isn't the conflict, which was totally refreshing. Instead, the characters face countless other conflicts: like Owen's network of lies that lead to unfortunate consequences for Auburn and Owen's relationship. Fortunately, with the alternating points of view, we see the motivation behind these lies. There are many other conflicts, but I literally cannot say them without spoiling so I'll stop there.

A few other cool things about this book: the confessions and the art. Hoover's dedication is to her readers because they submitted the confessions in the novel. Owen runs an art studio, but his art is based on anonymous confessions submitted by anyone who passes by the studio. Not only is this form of art such an amazing concept and idea, but the confessions are real. Real people submitted them to the author, which makes it all the more striking. Additionally, Hoover included pictures of the art pieces described in the novel. That was so fantastic to see as a reader. It gave the art such a greater impact and really showed the reader what was so moving about these pieces.

Overall, this book was a fantastic story of healing and redemption. With traces of addiction, guilt, and family, Confess was one of the most moving books I've read all year. I would recommend this book to absolutely anyone and everyone, with no reservations. While I would technically give it 4.5 stars, simply because of the fast-paced romance, I label this novel as a 5 star masterpiece.

Congratulations to Ms. Hoover for making me sob and writing a true work of art!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fall With Me by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Fall With Me
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Format I Read: Paperback
Pages: 389
Genres: Romance, Realistic Fiction, New Adult
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Stars: 3
Goodreads Link

Let me preface this review with this: I have not read the rest of the Wait for You novels. I do own a few of them, but I haven't read them. Fall With Me is the fourth in the string of relatively standalone novels. This book was similar to When I'm Gone by Abbi Glines, as both can be read as a standalone but are more satisfying if you've read the prior books. The rest of the cast in the novel has been featured in the previous books; being more aware of who they are (and who is dating who) would make the book much more enjoyable! So though Fall With Me can be read as a standalone, I recommend reading the rest of the series first.

However, in general, this novel was pretty satisfying! For those who don't know what it's about:

Eleven months ago, bartender and weird-shirt-wearing extraordinaire Roxy and Officer Reece Anders had a one night stand. Well, kind of. She’s been in love with him since she was fifteen, and he wishes that night they shared never happened. She’s sworn him off forever, but the past and future collide, forcing her to rely on the one man who broke her heart not once, but twice.

Her best friend since birth has been in a long-term care facility since he became a victim of a hate crime years ago, and the person who put him in there is out of prison and wanting to make amends with him and Roxy. She’s not sure she has room for forgiveness in her and when she begins to receive frightening messages and is on the receiving end of escalating violence, she thinks she knows who is to blame. The man who already destroyed one life already.

But Reece isn’t convinced. The threats are too personal, and even if Roxy doesn’t believe him, he’s not willing to let anyone hurt her. Including himself. He’s already messed up more than once when it comes to Roxy and he’s not going to let history repeat itself.

I liked the book. It was interesting. I love how Armentrout tackles issues. It was so cool to see a novel that straight-up said, "You don't have to go to college to be successful." The messages in Fall With Me were just so fantastic. There was an air of forgiveness in the Charlie plot line (Charlie is relatively brain dead after an incident that Roxy takes the blame for). There was the reminder that the most important thing in life is to be happy, not focus on others' expectations of you. You have to live for yourself. And then there was also the theme of falling. Yes, falling for someone and putting your faith in another person is risky and scary. But it's so worth it. You need to let yourself go in order to enjoy life. Honestly, I love the deep, reassuring messages that Armentrout always threads into her novels.

Unfortunately, the novel itself was a little lackluster for me. Like I said, I liked it. I just didn't really love it. There were so many plot lines going on: the Charlie struggle with his failing health and Roxy's guilt, Roxy's stalker and the investigation of a serial rapist, and Roxy's relationship with Reece. It was a little overwhelming, but still very well done.

I also have something to say about Armentrout's writing style. I usually love how realistic she makes it. It feels like stream of consciousness, in that it feels like Roxy (and Armentrout's other characters) is actually talking to the reader. She includes references to things like Harry Potter and Doctor Who and Game of Thrones in a way that the book doesn't feel very far removed from real life. That's very refreshing in a book! However, it can make the writing style a little juvenile. Roxy said (in her head) that she was going to make some sort of her food "her bitch" at least a handful of times. It was funny at first, but then it just because silly. People rarely actually say that kind of stuff and it feels like the author is just trying a little too hard.

Additionally, I struggled with some of Armentrout's minor characters. Particularly, a random character named Jacob, who was only featured for one scene. He seemed very forced. I also didn't like Katie, just because the way she was treated in the novel was so weird. Katie, Roxy's close friend and a stripper, is very fun and strong-willed and flamboyant. Roxy constantly defends her and I loved how Armentrout drew attention to the fact that the stripper occupation shouldn't have such a stigma. However, I felt like she was just a stock character. She was constantly wearing flamboyant and bizarre clothes; she constantly popped into a scene and then popped back out; she didn't really seem to have any depth. I wished that Armentrout developed her a little more because I felt that she had a lot of potential!

But along with Roxy's defense of Katie, I loved Roxy's take on feminism! Armentrout wonderfully delineated the fact that a woman can be strong and still want a man. Roxy often admitted that, yes, she can do things herself, but that doesn't mean she loves Reece's affections and protections any less. I thought that was a really fantastic statement!

Overall, the novel was good. A nice read that gives you a hefty dose of everything: romance, excitement, and redemption!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Cage by Megan Shepherd

Title: The Cage
Author: Megan Shepherd
Format I Read: Hardcover
Pages: 400
Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, (Romance)
Release Date: May 26, 2015
Stars: 3
Goodreads Link

Ever since I saw the cover for this book, I've been dying to get my hands on it. It sounded fantastically intriguing and I loved Megan Shepherd's ideas--her retellings of classics seem so fascinating. I couldn't wait to see what she'd whipped up for The Cage. Unfortunately, I think this set my expectations up too high. The book was well done, with a captivating concept, but it just fell a little flat.

For those who haven't heard of The Cage, here's the synopsis:

When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn't know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn't alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora's past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren't from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?

The book started off great--Shepherd immediately sucked me in with the intrigue and mystery of the cage. She hinted at Cora's past, which involves eighteen months in a juvenile detention center. She then hinted at Lucky's connection to her past. It sparked an immediate interest in the characters. I became invested in them right away. They were just so likable and captivating at the beginning. Shepherd continues to develop this interest by alternating the chapters' focus, designating certain chapters to certain characters (though she remained in third person the entire time). This created a very interesting effect. Unfortunately, it didn't really resonate with me. I found it a little too confusing and disorienting!

Unfortunately, for me, the book started going downhill around halfway through. The only thing that really kept me reading was my psychology class I took last year. If I hadn't taken psychology, I may have dropped the book, if I'm completely honest. I just started to hate the characters so much. They all turned on each other; all of that likability that I described at the beginning faded away and I wanted to throttle just about everyone. The entire cast of characters grew so petty and delusional. The sole reason I continued was because I justified it all with psychology. It was nice how Shepherd kept referencing lab rats and using the psychological experiment reference; it helped remind me that the degradation of the characters was expected. It wasn't because of Shepherd's bad character development--it was the natural psychological response when stuck in captivity with six other people. This helped me keep going. I just don't deal well with novels like this; other people may love it!

As the book went on, the only solid base that remained was Cora. She was the only one who held strong and the only one who I remained even remotely partial to. But then she had to go and fall for her captor! She just became so flimsy as the book went on. She rants and raves about how she's always treated like a victim, how she's really stronger than anyone else thinks. But she keeps giving in to her attraction to Cassian (one of the aliens, or Kindred, who kidnapped her) and swooning over him?! I just felt like her character traits (both as described by Shepherd and as described by Cora herself) did not match her actions whatsoever. She was strong one second but weak the next. It grated on my nerves a bit. Luckily, my dislike for her only really developed at the very end of the novel. For most of the book, I thoroughly enjoyed her as a main character.

Nonetheless, I loved the whole concept of the book. The idea that more advanced and intelligent aliens could use humans the same way that we use animals. The idea that humans could be looking out of the zoo (or cage) instead of looking in. It was all such a fascinating idea. I also enjoyed what a puzzle the book was. The reader never really knew what was going on; I felt like every other chapter had a big reveal. It kept me on my toes and made me constantly wonder what was going to happen next. One thing The Cage has going for it: it wasn't predictable!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the concept! The execution was a little rocky and disorienting, though that may simply be because the idea was an ambitious one to tackle. However, the biggest nail in the 3-star-coffin was the devolution of the characters. I understand why it had to happen and I don't fault Shepherd for it at all; it just wasn't the best read for me because I can't handle when characters become so frustrating!

Even so, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books like Alienated by Melissa Landers or anyone who enjoys psychological novels. It was an interesting and innovative read!

Well done on such an ambitious new book, Ms. Shepherd!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Becoming Rain by K.A. Tucker

Title: Becoming Rain
Author: K.A. Tucker
Format I Read: Paperback
Pages: 384
Genres: New Adult, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Suspense
Stars: 4
Goodreads Link

Becoming Rain is the first book I've read by K.A. Tucker. Though this book is technically the second in Tucker's Burying Water series, the books appear to be standalone. I felt only a mild sense of loss because I hadn't read Burying Water. The characters from the previous book were mildly mentioned and featured, but not to an extent that I felt it hindered my experience reading Becoming Rain. So you can definitely read Becoming Rain without reading Burying Water!

For those who don't know what Becoming Rain is about:

Luke Boone doesn't know exactly what his uncle Rust is involved in but he wants in on it-the cars, the money, the women. And it looks like he's finally getting his wish. When Rust hands him the managerial keys to the garage, they come with a second set—one that opens up the door to tons of cash and opportunity. Though it's not exactly legal, Luke's never been one to worry about that sort of thing. Especially when it puts him behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 and onto the radar of gorgeous socialite named Rain.

Clara Bertelli is at the top of her game—at only twenty-six years old, she's one of the most successful undercover officers in the Washington D.C. major crime unit, and she's just been handed a case that could catapult her career and expose one of the west coast's most notorious car theft rings. But, in order to do it, she'll need to go deep undercover as Rain Martines. Her target? The twenty-four-year old nephew of a key player who appears ready to follow in his uncle's footsteps.

As Clara drifts deeper into the luxurious lifestyle of Rain, and further into the arms of her very attractive and charming target, the lines between right and wrong start to blur, making her wonder if she'll be able to leave it all behind. Or if she'll even want to.

This book was a nice change from my past few reads. I've been reading a lot of serious romances that deal with serious topics, such as mental disorders (like Scorched and When I'm Gone). Those have been great, but it was nice to change the pace with Becoming Rain. With its action and suspense, in addition to the romance, it was really interesting and different from other books I've read!

Unfortunately, I found that the crime plot was a little too complex for me--it was a bit too much for a book that I was reading more for the romance. Especially at the end, all the puzzle pieces were a little too overwhelming. However, it was an interesting contrast to the romance. It added an edge to what could've just been a normal "forbidden love."

With the romance, I really fell in love with the relationship in this book. Tucker created two amazing characters that had absolutely amazing chemistry. I loved watching Rain (or Clara) slowly abandon everything for Luke. I loved the gradual progression as she became less Clara and more Rain. And I loved how Luke was more than just a hot guy. From the start, Tucker established that he was more than just a man dealing in illegal activities. He was a genuine, sweet person who was inheriting a mixed up lifestyle. That whole aspect of the story made every other mistake or flaw about the book meaningless. It was captivating!

Thinking back, there were a lot of things that felt off about the book. I really did not like Warner (Rain's handler from the FBI). He was obnoxious and made me very uncomfortable. I hated the scenes that he was in. I also realize, in hindsight, just how dirty the whole book was. Rain/Clara was doing something very, very wrong by tampering with the investigation and leaving behind her wire when interacting with Luke. I probably shouldn't have enjoyed the book as much as I did. Nonetheless, I read it all in one sitting and basically devoured it.

Overall, a very interesting and different read that I'm glad I picked up! I enjoyed the change of pace and loved the romance. For those who love an all-encompassing romance and fantastic chemistry, I definitely recommend it. It was a great introduction to K.A. Tucker's books! 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When I'm Gone by Abbi Glines

Title: When I'm Gone
Author: Abbi Glines
Format I Read: Paperback
Pages: 273
Genres: New Adult, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Stars: 3
Goodreads Link

This is the first book I've read by Abbi Glines. I've like other authors that she's typically compared to, so I figured I'd give her a try. I received a copy of When I'm Gone while I was at BEA, so it was the perfect chance to finally read one of her books. Overall, I wasn't amazed, nor was I disappointed.

When I'm Gone is actually the eleventh book in Glines' Rosemary Beach series. However, as far as I can tell, they're relatively standalone books. Unfortunately, because the book belonged in a series, I felt that I missed out on a lot of the connections and references to previous books. Glines threw a lot of characters at the reader, expecting the reader to be familiar with them. I was sadly unfamiliar with them, making the cast of characters a little overwhelming and confusing. Because of this, I would recommend reading books earlier on in the series before tackling When I'm Gone; I suspect that doing so would make the book (and the journey) much more gratifying.

For those who don't know what When I'm Gone is about:

Mase Colt-Manning has always preferred his humble life as a Texas rancher to his birthright as the son of a legendary rock star. In fact, he rarely visits his father’s rarefied world in Rosemary Beach, especially if it means bunking at his vile half-sister Nan’s house—until one visit leads to a chance encounter with a young, gorgeous house maid who awakens him with her off-key but spirited imitation of a country music star…

Reese Ellis finally has her freedom. After escaping a lifetime of abuse from her parents and classmates for an undiagnosed learning disorder, she seizes the opportunity to be a house maid to some of the richest families in Rosemary Beach. But her job is in jeopardy when she causes an accident at the home of her most important client, Nan Dillon. When a hot, half-naked stranger with a cowboy’s swagger comes to her rescue, she’s intrigued—then afraid once he shows his own interest. Reese has never met a trustworthy man in her life. Will Mase be any different?

I really enjoyed the depth behind the characters. It was very interesting how Reese had a learning disorder and I really admire Glines for tackling such a topic. Despite today's medical advances, some people are still so ignorant about learning disorders, which leads to many children who struggle through school and life. I feel like that's a situation that isn't really discussed very often, though it's such an important one to talk about. It made the book both unique and meaningful!

Beyond her learning disorder, Reese's rocky past--both with a sexually abusive stepfather and an emotionally abusive environment--really added a layer of depth to her character. I also appreciated how Glines approached Reese's situation. I feel that so many books involving victims of abuse feature the main character jumping into the man's arms as soon as she sees his abs. Glines handled the topic in a much more mature and realistic way. Reese's attraction to and relationship with Mase progressed gradually and naturally. She started off fearful of all men, but slowly began to trust Mase (and his gender) as time went on. It all felt very real.

However, though Reese's attraction to Mase seemed believable, Mase's attraction to Reese didn't seem as believable. He fell a little too hard a little too fast for me to be fully invested. I just didn't feel convinced. However, once I got past that, the romance was very enjoyable. It was one of those books that gives you the nice bubbly feeling in your stomach--the butterflies that take flight every time Mase runs to Reese's rescue.

Overall, When I'm Gone was an enjoyable read. I look forward to trying out more of Abbi Glines' books! She's a great writer and storyteller. When I'm Gone just didn't strike the right chord with me to get 5 stars.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Scorched by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Scorched
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Format I Read: ARC
Pages: 320
Genres: Romance, New Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Stars: 3
Goodreads Link

For those of you who don't know, I absolutely adore Jennifer L. Armentrout. She's probably one of the sweetest, most fun, most down to earth authors I've ever met. I've had the pleasure of meeting her three times now: at Bookcon 2014, at Apollycon 2015, and at BEA 2015. She's literally a book machine. She cranks out books like crazy. Yet somehow she doesn't lose quality; she manages to maintain both quality and quantity.

For those who are unaware of what Scorched is about, here's the synopsis:

Sometimes life leaves a mark…

Most days, Andrea doesn’t know whether she wants to kiss Tanner or punch him in the gut. He is seriously hot, with legit bedroom eyes and that firefighter body of his, but he’s a major player, and they can’t get along for more than a handful of minutes. Until now.

Tanner knows he and Andrea have had an epic love/hate relationship for as long as he can remember, but he wants more love than hate from her. He wants her. Now. Tomorrow. But the more he gets to know her, the more it becomes obvious that Andrea has a problem. She’s teetering on the edge and every time he tries to catch her, she slips through his fingers.

Andrea’s life is spiraling out of control, and it doesn’t matter that Tanner wants to save her, because when everything falls apart and she’s speeding toward rock bottom, only she can save herself.

Sometimes life makes you work for that happily ever after…

I originally thought that Scorched was going to mark Armentrout's loss of quality. It started off as a canned, steamy romance. It really didn't have any depth. It was the typical "he's a manwhore, but I'm still attracted to him ugh." After that introduction, there was the cliche, fast-paced "maybe he does have more depth than that." And then there was the expected "let's f*ck like rabbits" when they finally worked out their differences. But after this stereotypical first third of the book, it finally picked up.

I like to think that Scorched has two different plots. There's the romance, as previously described. But then there's the more serious, more important plot. There's the meaningful exploration of undiagnosed mental disorders, anxiety, and self-medicating as a form of coping. The main character, Andrea, binge drinks. Everyone else sees that she has a problem, but she brushes it off. She insists that she's in control. The entire story builds up, with her trying to justify her problems and trying to be the girl that she thinks Tanner deserves.

The end was absolutely amazing. I loved the last fourth of the book. There was such an astounding level of forgiveness and such a fantastic depth to the characters. That last section of the book redefined Armentrout's work. Yes, Armentrout has always been a lovely writer who adds such lovely realism (she includes references like Tumblr and One Direction that make everything feel so close to home). Yes, she has always written incredible romances and relationships. Yes, she writes a great story. But this time, she wrote more than that. She wrote a book that deals with a serious issue that is so rarely talked about--a reassuring novel that shows that redemption is possible. That even when you hit rock bottom, you can get back to the top. It was truly moving and I'm proud to be able to say that I read it.

Yes, I gave it 3 stars, merely because of the first third. I couldn't handle the steamy romance; it wasn't exactly my genre. I love New Adult as much as the next girl, but I felt that this was a bit out of my realm.

But if I could rate the last fourth of the book as a standalone? Definitely 5 stars. Congratulations to Ms. Armentrout for exquisitely handling such an important topic.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker (and Giveaway)

Title: The Witch Hunter
Author: Virginia Boecker
Format I Read: ARC
Pages: 368
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Stars: 5
Goodreads Link

Virginia Boecker makes a stunning debut with her new novel, The Witch Hunter. She expertly creates her 15th century world and effortlessly develops her characters. I truly couldn't put this book down.

I'll be completely honest: I picked this book up on a whim at BEA. I didn't expect to love it. I didn't expect to become completely entranced by Boecker's storytelling. I didn't expect to become completely invested in the political intrigue. But I did.

For those who are unaware of the pure gem that is The Witch Hunter, I've included the synopsis:

Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

From the start, the reader is sucked into the entangled web of magic and betrayal. Though I felt that the first few chapters were a little slow, I was soon sucked right in. Elizabeth starts off as a bit of a lovestruck teenage girl who is merely pretending to be a big bad witch hunter. She grew up around Caleb, a fellow witch hunter, and has followed him around ever since. She acts strong, but she's really just a lovesick puppy. However, her arrest is the catalyst that forces her to grow up and be more independent.  Despite her original loyalties and her history, Elizabeth becomes someone who does what is right. She bypasses the opportunities to protect herself at the expense of others and begins to see the meaning of family. The character development was honestly astounding. I loved everyone and the way that they changed. Even the minor characters were fantastic: Nicholas, John, Fifer, George, Peter, Humbert, Blackwell, Caleb, and so many more. Everyone had depth (which is a huge point for me).

And the world--wow! Boecker honestly captivates with her interpretation of 15th century politics. I loved the interaction between magic and politics. From the Thirteenth Tablet (which made magic illegal) to their young king (whose parents died of a plague started by magic), magic was deeply rooted in the entire story. Even where the reader thought magic wasn't involved, it ended up being intertwined--completely fascinating! I also loved Boecker's descriptions of the different magical creatures and the different wizards/witches. It was absolutely amazing.

Not to mention the crazy ending (and the big reveal that actually occurred in the middle of the book)! The story was like a piece of art. Everything fit together in a huge puzzle at the end. I adored this book. It's such a fantastic read--which is why I want to share the love!


I have an extra ARC of The Witch Hunter. I know it's already been released, so you can get a shiny hardcover (which you should totally do), but I figured I'd spread the love anyway!

Important information
  • This giveaway is US only
  • Must be 18+ or have parental consent to enter
  • This is a giveaway for an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC), which is not for sale. Please don't sell it after you've read it. Pass it on, like I'm doing!

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Monday, June 1, 2015

BEA Recap

Guess who officially survived her first ever Book Expo America? This girl!

I am so glad that I got to attend BEA before it moves to Chicago next year. I only live about two and a half hours from New York City, so it was easy to drive there. The close proximity also meant that I didn't have to worry about shipping books home or carting them on a plane or train. Unfortunately, that will not be the case in Chicago; I'm not sure if I'll be able to attend next year. Which made this year all the more special!

I'll go through it all day by day, for those who were wondering how it went:

Day 1 (Wednesday, May 27)
The first day started at 1pm, which meant it should've been the easier day. Unfortunately, I took some bad advice. Someone on Twitter had said that attendees could do without a suitcase for Wednesday because it was a half day. This meant that my mom and I had to carry all our books around the conference and then to Penn Station, which was not very fun. But we learned our lesson and made sure to bring a suitcase for Thursday and Friday.

We started our day by waking up at 4am. We arrived at Javits at around 9am and then soon discovered that people were already lining up to get into the exhibit hall for tickets for the signing of Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (which would only have 100 galleys). We quickly hopped on line, where we waited until 1pm, when the doors opened. We immediately fast walked to the Macmillan booth, where I got a ticket for the Truthwitch signing! That was my top goal for Wednesday, so the day started off great. From then on, we just basically wandered the floor, picked up some great galleys, and went to a few signings. Wednesday was definitely relaxed besides Truthwitch.

At 3pm, we went to the Truthwitch signing. Susan Dennard is probably the sweetest person I've ever met. I told her about how we woke up at 4am just so we could get tickets for the signing and she almost cried. She's completely adorable. Despite the fact that so many people were gushing about how they couldn't wait for Truthwitch, she was still worried no one would show up. How cute is that?! She's absolutely lovely and I can't wait to devour Truthwitch. Susan is actually the only author that I got a picture with at BEA!

Some books that I'm excited about from Wednesday:

  • Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales
  • Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski
  • The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
  • These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
  • Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
  • Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (it's an absolutely beautiful hardcover ARC--I'm so excited!)

Day 2 (Thursday, May 28)
The next day's big book was Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, which had a signing at 9:30am (with only 200 galleys). We got up at about 5:30am; we were staying in Newark so we had to take the train in every morning. We ended up at Javits at about 8am. We quickly zipped over to the Passenger line at the Disney booth. Alexandra was so sweet, as usual. I met her at Apollycon in February and she's the nicest person ever! I was so excited to get Passenger--the cover is absolutely beautiful and I can't wait to read!

After we finally got Passenger, we headed over to the autograph tables. I got a ton of awesome titles that I'm super excited about. There were a lot of finished copies too, which I heard others saying was a little peculiar for BEA. I also found it interesting that so many titles that were being signed at BEA had just come out on Monday--like The Cage by Megan Shepherd and Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry. But anyway, at the tables I got some great books like Blood Passage by Heather Demetrios, Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, Kissing in America by Margo Rabb, The Cage by Megan Shepherd, and City Love by Susane Colasanti. I also got to Margaret Stohl for her signing of Dangerous Deception--I just gushed about how excited I was for Black Widow: Forever Red on Friday to be completely honest.

After these signings, I quickly ran over to the Harlequin booth because I heard people were already lining up for the HarlequinTeen Signing! I was lucky enough to get a ticket, but I was stuck waiting for more than an hour before the signing started at 1pm. But I had no complaints--I'm so excited about the authors I got to meet. I got to meet the lovely Katie McGarry again (I met her at Apollycon as well), and she signed a hardcover of Nowhere But Here. I'm so excited to have a physical copy of that book because I had just started reading it on my Kindle while waiting in lines! I also got to meet Jennifer Armentrout again (who I've met quite a few times) and she was as fantastic as ever. I then got Legacy of Kings signed by Eleanor Herman. I've only heard great things about this book and I'm so excited to read it! Eleanor was in full costume and was a blast. Then I got to meet Adi Alsaid, who was so sweet! We chatted about my name spelling for a bit before he signed a copy of Never Always Sometimes for me. I'm so insanely excited about that book, one of my most anticipated galleys of Thursday! Finally, I met Dawn Metclaf who was signing Invisible. I haven't read the first book of her series, but I'm looking forward to it.

After the Harlequin signing, I waited in an insanely long line for Libba Bray! She was signing galleys of Lair of Dreams. The wait was well worth it because Libba is probably the most fun person I've ever met. I asked her how she was and she said "Good, how are you?" and I replied, "Fantastic!" She then accused me of trying to one-up her and we arm wrestled. She's absolutely awesome!

I then rushed over to the Marissa Meyer signing for Fairest. It was totally crazy crowded and the line got cut off really early. Luckily, I made some awesome friends in line. I met the lovely ladies of Armchair BEA and also chatted with a librarian named Kim. They were fantastic and made the time pass very quickly! Marissa Meyer was lovely and I'm so excited to read the beautiful Fairest.

After that, we mainly just went to other miscellaneous signings and wandered around for galley drops. Some of my most anticipated galleys from Thursday (other than the ones mentioned already):

  • Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
  • Firewalker by Josephine Angelini
  • I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

Day 3 (Friday, May 29)
Finally, it was the last day of BEA! I was filled with nerves for this day because I had a huge schedule that I wanted to tackle. I had completely overscheduled for all three days, but I actually ended up getting to almost everything I wanted to. First on the list for Friday was Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl, which I've been itching for ever since I heard about it. I tweeted the publisher the night before and found out that there'd be 200 copies for the 9:30am signing. So we got up at about the same time as Thursday and headed to Javits. We zoomed straight to the Disney booth. Margaret Stohl was as fantastic as ever. They even gave out little Black Widow gadget wipes! It was an awesome start to an awesome day.

Oh! On my way to the Black Widow line, I actually stopped by the Penguin booth and snagged an ARC of Soundless by Richelle Mead during their surprise drop! This was an awesome bonus, because I had been stressing about the line for that signing (around 2pm that afternoon). I was so excited to get a copy before the day had even really started!

After that, we headed over to the autograph tables, where we spent most of our day. I got a bunch of awesome titles over there. I got Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio, The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong, and more. I tried to get to the signing of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, but the line was absolutely insane. I tried to get a copy at the galley drop later that day, but the line was already cut off by the time I got there. So no luck for that! But I did manage to get a copy of Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson at a Harper drop, which I'm insanely excited for. That's one of the galleys that I'm most eager to read.

Later, we went back to the autograph tables. I got a galley of Dumplin' by Julie Murphy signed, which I'm super excited for. I also managed to get a copy of Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld signed! That was completely surreal. I did an author project on Scott Westerfeld in 8th grade and it was crazy to meet him in person. He was so awesome. I'm so glad I got to meet him. I also got a copy of What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler signed. He was so cool and sweet. He actually talked to me and asked me about my blog. He was one of the nicest authors I met all week!

Finally, I tried to get another of my most anticipated books: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. I had tried to get a copy at a drop that morning, but they ran out five people before me. I got in line, but was unfortunately cut off. This was super sad because that was one of the books I really wanted. I went to the Harper booth that evening and asked about it being at Bookcon and they told me to keep an eye out so I vowed to come back on Saturday!

After being turned away from Patrick Ness's line, I headed over to the table for The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow. I ran into Alice @ Wonderland Novels in that line. That was super fun because I'd been tweeting her all throughout BEA. It was really cool to finally see her in person. I gave her a huge hug across the line (which might have freaked her out, but oh well).

Some other books I was excited about getting on Friday:

  • Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt
  • Reawakened by Colleen Houck
  • This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (I bonded with a lovely girl named Cassie on this line who works for a self help book publisher--she was the sweetest!)

That basically marked the end of my official BEA experience! I was so impressed with how organized everything was and how lovely everyone was. It was an awesome week.

Day 4 (Saturday, May 30) ((Bookcon))
As I said earlier, I decided to go to Bookcon on Saturday just to try to get The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. We had bought tickets for both Saturday and Sunday but weren't sure about going. The lines were crazy and it was far too much like New York Comic Con for my taste. I much preferred BEA. However, my goal was reached. I got The Rest of Us Just Live Here! I was so excited. After that success, we just wandered the floor a bit and left after about an hour. However, before we left, we also got little *book shimmy* EpicReads bags! That was totally awesome.

When we finally headed out, we decided to go to Times Square and see a show. We saw Matilda and then relaxed in the city. We didn't attend on Sunday.

And so that was my BEA experience! I had an absolutely fantastic time and hope that I can go to Chicago next year. If not, maybe 2017. I definitely want to go back. It was an amazing week filled with amazing books and amazing people.

If you also went to BEA, what did you think? What were your favorite parts?

If you didn't go to BEA, which titles do you wish you got or are you excited about?

Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

Title: Nowhere But Here
Author: Katie McGarry
Format I Read: Kindle
Pages: 496
Genres: Realistic Fiction, Romance
Release Date: May 26, 2015
Stars: 5
Goodreads Link

Because I read most of Katie McGarry's books before I started blogging, some of you may not know about my undying love for her work. Well... now you know. I'm mildly obsessed.

Katie McGarry is a master of words. Nowhere But Here is the first book in her new Thunder Road series, which I'm so excited for!

The book revolves around Emily and Oz. Emily lives a sheltered life with her mom and her adoptive father in Florida. However, her biological father lives in Kentucky and belongs to a motorcycle club. When Emily's family gets news that her biological grandmother has died, they head to Kentucky to attend the funeral in Snowflake, Kentucky. Unfortunately, what starts as a misunderstanding quickly spirals out of control. Emily is suddenly threatened by a rival motorcycle club. The rival motorcycle club, the Riot, deals in illegal business, while the Reign of Terror (Emily's father, Eli's club) is completely legit. Emily's initial interpretations of the club are quickly turned on their head. She begins to spend time with Eli, Oz, and the family she never knew she had. Oz is a young man who desperately wants to join the Reign of Terror, to officially join the family he's grown up around. His final assignment before he can become a prospect? Protect Emily. However, he has to avoid telling her the truth about her past--why Emily and her mother fled Snowflake.

As always, Katie McGarry flawlessly constructs her characters. The people in her novels have as much depth as the Mariana Trench. Every character has so many layers; it's amazing. There are no simple stock characters in McGarry's books. They're all complex, as are their relationships.

I loved Emily and Oz's developing relationship. It was so natural how it started as a simple attraction and slowly transformed into a deeper connection. It was completely believable. Everything was believable. I loved Emily and Eli's relationship; how it slowly developed from "I see you once every year, you don't belong in my life" to "wow, you're my father." Emily's struggle between Eli and Jeff (her adoptive father) was also charmingly realistic. Emily wants to connect with Eli, but feels that she's betraying Jeff, the father who raised her. This was precious and completely understandable! I also adored Emily's blossoming relationship with Olivia, her biological grandmother who is dying of cancer. Basically, I loved everything that had to do with the characters in this book. Everything just felt so real.

I don't really know what else to say. Whenever I read McGarry's books, I feel like I'm sitting there with the characters. I feel like I could run into Emily, Oz, Olivia, Eli, Chevy, or Violet on the street. I feel like they're real people. That is no simple feat. Katie McGarry is honestly a magician with characters!

Not to mention, she expertly weaves together an amazing plot twist! I never guessed the truth that everyone was hiding from Emily. I was left with my mouth wide open, whispering "what?!" It was fantastically done--an awesome puzzle!

In summary--another 5 star novel from Katie McGarry, an amazing start to what is sure to be an amazing new series! Congratulations on the great new story, Ms. McGarry!