Monday, March 31, 2014

ARC Review: Torn (Connections #2) by Kim Karr

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: NAL Trade
352 Pages

Rock star River Wilde brought Dahlia London back from the brink of hopelessness with his unwavering love and devotion. But their entangled history is about to test the strength of their relationship…

Dahlia was certain she had found true love and met her "Once in a Lifetime’ when she reconnected with River. But Dahlia’s world comes crashing down when someone from her past resurfaces, and all of River’s carefully hidden secrets are exposed.
                                                                                                  River wants to show Dahlia that life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass—it’s about dancing in the rain. But how many times can one broken heart be mended?  Will River and Dahlia be able to stay together or will they be torn apart?

Warning: Contains spoilers from the first book.

Why does the model on the cover have black hair when your MC has blonde??? Ugh, anyway…

Well, we’re slowly getting better. Part 2 of the Connections series picks up right where the first left off, River and Dahlia are about to head to Vegas to get married when Dahlia gets a phone call that changes everything: Ben’s alive. So of course the wedding’s put on hold, emotions are thrown out of whack, everything is drama drama drama, but unlike the first book, there’s at least a reason for the drama. 

The book is told from mostly Dahlia’s POV’s, with entries from Ben’s journals. It was an interesting way to introduce the character of Ben. The ending of the first book was a journal entry of Ben’s explaining why he faked his death and here we are told of his journey back into his life through his diary. First off, he keeps a diary – wait sorry, journal? And also, what did Dahlia ever see in him? He’s a grade A asshole. Everything that came out of his mouth just made me want to cringe. His main goal is to get Dahlia back just to get her back. I don’t honestly believe that he loves her, she’s just a possession to him. It’s sick. 

River and Dahlia’s relationship is also explored more here. We finally move from just sex to angry sex, make up sex, sex instead of talking, and of course sex for the sake of sex. Dahlia spends the whole time running from any type of serious conversation with River about Ben because she’s scared of what will happen. When she does try to talk to him, it turns into a sex scene. Then when River tries to leave the conversation, she gets pissed that he’s constantly running away. Umm, excuse me? What have you been doing this entire time? Oh yeah, running. 

The mystery of how Ben knows River’s family is finally explained (called it in the first book). The music references still drown out the actually scenes they’re in. Dahlia finally makes a decision between the two and life goes on. Slightly better than the first and I’m glad to see the author progressing, but still not one I would recommend. 
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

Best Series Blog Hop

I am so happy to join the lovely ladies at Cuddlebuggery in their Best Series Blog Hop.

One of my favorite YA series is up for grabs here today. It's one of the few that I consistently flail over because omg. Plus Leigh is an absolute gem. Plus plus look at the pretty covers. (I can't be the only one drooling.) Plus plus plus The Darkling--mmm.

*RUIN AND RISING will be a pre-order. SHADOW AND BONE, and SIEGE AND STORM will be shipped from The Book Depository after the winner has responded.

Giveaway Details:
- One (1) winner will receive The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo 
- Open Internationally (as long as The Book Depository ships to you)
- One entrant per household
- Cheating results in immediate disqualification (We will check!)
- Winners have 48 hours to respond to notification or a new winner will be chosen (That means check your spam folder!)
- We are not responsible for lost/damaged packages
- Ends 04/06/2014

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Best of luck, and happy reading!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

ARC Review: Third Degree by Julie Cross

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Flirt
240 Pages

Fans of Monica Murphy and Tammara Webber will savor this New Adult novel—a story about coming of age in the heat of the moment—from Julie Cross, the internationally bestselling author of the Tempest trilogy.

I used to be “Isabel Jenkins, child prodigy.” As lame as that sounds, at least it was an identity. But now I’m not sure what I am. I just failed the most important exam of my life—the emotional readiness test required to get into a medical residency program—and it turns out my parents can’t stand each other. Now I’m trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of my life, and that means re-enrolling as a college freshman, but this time I’m shutting the books and majoring in being eighteen.

But so far, my roommate hates me and I’m not into the party scene. The only good thing about school has been getting to know my insanely hot RA. Marshall Collins makes me wonder about everything I missed while I was growing up too fast. Pretty soon we’re hanging out constantly, but for the first time, I find myself wanting more than a no-strings-attached physical relationship. And the lesson I really need is one Marsh definitely can’t teach me: love. Because I’m going to be alone forever if I don’t learn fast.

I love when I’m pleasantly surprised by a book I had never heard of before starting to read it. It’s like I found a gem I didn’t know existed. Third Degree had humor, realism, romance, and heartache. I laughed, I shook my head in frustration, I melted, I literally felt it all. 

Isabel Jenkins is a child prodigy who excelled at everything and failed at nothing – except the emotional readiness test before getting her residency at John Hopkins. Having graduated medical school at 19, she had the smarts, but she struggled with basic human relationships. Basically, she didn’t see the point. This outlook left her cold and emotionless when dealing with patients and their sometimes heartbreaking medical assessments. Having missed normal experiences a girl her age has, she goes back to college to prove to everyone that she is indeed ready to be a doctor. 

This is where Marshall Collins comes in. He’s her RA and is instantly charming. Not gonna lie, I swooned for him multiple times. 

“I was fully prepared to keep this relationship professional, considering my position of authority. Now you’ve gone and made it all NC-17.”

He jokes, he teases, but most of all, he helps. He’s the only one who knows Isabel’s story and he takes it upon himself to show her the ropes of college. However, they both soon find out that it’s not as easy as it seems. Isabel is convinced that everyone around her is the problem, not her. She’s never been told no in her life before, never not gotten what she’s wanted, but she’s thrust into a life where people don’t bend over backward to accommodate her. 

Her story, while at times is frustrating, is emotional and written so believably well. Change isn’t instant and it definitely takes Isabel awhile to let go and just let herself feel. And Marshall was there every step of the way – pushing. I loved their relationship and how they ended up both helping each other. 

Nothing comes easy in life, even when you’re a child prodigy. Having emotions doesn’t make you less of a person, if anything, it makes you better. Those are probably the main points of the book and I enjoyed reading about Isabel’s journey to get there.
I received an e-copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Book Review: Connected (Connections #1) by Kim Karr

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: March 22, 2014
Publisher: NAL
352 Pages

What if a ‘Once in a Lifetime’ could happen twice?

Suffering from a past full of tragedy, Dahlia London's soul has been left completely shattered. Happily ever after is a far cry from reality in her world. But, when she is reconnected with her past, the bonds that form are irrefutable.

When River Wilde, lead singer of The Wilde Ones, comes back into Dahlia’s life, the intensity that fires their relationship combined with underlying feelings that have never died lead her to believe she has met her soulmate.

Struggling with confusion as old connections fade and new ones begin, Dahlia's grief begins to lift--but guilt remains. River wants to be the one to mend all that is torn within her.

But with a past that is never really gone, can their future survive?

There are multiple things that turn me off when reading a book:
1. Drama for the sake of drama
2. Pop culture references that add nothing to the story
3. Sex in place of plot

That’s just a few. And Connected had all of the above. Dahlia London has lost everyone – her parents, her fiancé. She’s given up. For two years she just exists, never leaves her house. Finally, her best friend convinces her to go back to work and on her first assignment, Dahlia meets someone she thought she’d never see again, rock star River Wilde. River hasn’t stopped thinking about Dahlia since he met her that one night years ago. When she stumbles back into his life he’s determined not to let her go. 

What seemed to be a story about heartbreak, loss and the pain of rebuilding your life after everything dies, turned into sex, sex, drama, and more sex. While I felt for Dahlia, I also found her to be extremely naïve and brainless. Her fiancé is acting really strange right before he is killed, her house is ransacked but nothing was taken, she’s attacked after the killer is released from jail – and this is all just coincidence??? How is she so oblivious?

While I enjoyed River, I felt absolutely no connection between the two other than physical. It doesn’t help that on every page there had to be at least one mention of how attractive the other was. Real connections are more than skin deep and I didn’t feel it with them. And the sex, that seemed to be all they did. You can’t substitute plot with sex, it doesn’t work. I skimmed half of the book because of this.

When they weren’t having sex, the author just threw out random plot drama that was so overdone I found myself rolling my eyes. There was also too much focus on materialistic things such as outfits and cars. It made the characters, especially Dahlia seem shallow. And I get that River is a musician, but the constant mentions of songs was a little too much. I felt like I was being drowned in the playlist for no reason. 

The ending was sort of a cliffhanger. I will be reading the next one just to see how that cliffhanger plays out and also to find out if the author is as predictable as I think she is. Hopefully, we get less of the materialistic padding we got here and more focus on actual character development. 
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Blog Tour: Guest Post: The Riverman (The Riverman Trilogy #1) by Aaron Starmer

I am very happy to join the tour for Aaron Starmer's latest novel, The Riverman. He visits Book Jems today with a great guest post! Look below for all the blogs that are participating in this tour!

The Riverman (The Riverman Trilogy #1)
by Aaron Starmer
The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
320 Pages

"To sell a book, you need a description on the back. So here's mine: My name is Fiona Loomis. I was born on August 11, 1977. I am recording this message on the morning of October 13, 1989. Today I am thirteen years old. Not a day older. Not a day younger."

Fiona Loomis is Alice, back from Wonderland. She is Lucy, returned from Narnia. She is Coraline, home from the Other World. She is the girl we read about in storybooks, but here's the difference: She is real.

Twelve-year-old Alistair Cleary is her neighbor in a town where everyone knows each other. One afternoon, Fiona shows up at Alistair's doorstep with a strange proposition. She wants him to write her biography. What begins as an odd vanity project gradually turns into a frightening glimpse into a clearly troubled mind. For Fiona tells Alistair a secret. In her basement there's a gateway and it leads to the magical world of Aquavania, the place where stories are born. In Aquavania, there's a creature called the Riverman and he's stealing the souls of children. Fiona's soul could be next.

Alistair has a choice. He can believe her, or he can believe something else...something even more terrifying.

Follow The Riverman Blog Tour!
Tuesday, March 18: Alice Marvels
Wednesday, March 19: Book Jems
Thursday, March 20: Maria’s Melange
Friday, March 21: Books and Whimsy
Saturday, March 22: Great Imaginations
Sunday, March 23: Nerdy Book Club & Sharp Read
Monday, March 24: Word Spelunking
Tuesday, March 25: Live to Read
Wednesday, March 26: Read, Write, Reflect

A lot of authors are dripping with regret. They weep over the pages they’ve cut from their manuscripts, over those darlings they’ve murdered during revisions. I don’t share such guilt. Mainly because, when it comes to writing, I’m the perpetual bachelor. I never give myself the chance to get attached to anything.
That’s right. Gather up a posse of writing instructors to hunt me down, because I do the unforgivable. I edit as I write. I cut as I go. Constantly. Ruthlessly. It’s something I’ve done for years and I know it doesn’t work for most writers, but it’s what works best for me.
When I was younger, I’d clack away at the keys without pause, spitting stories out as fast as I could, only to find it impossible to cut things when it was time to revise. Even if there were obvious problems (and, believe me, there were always obvious problems), I felt as if my stories would fall apart the moment I started chopping. I was probably right too. In my haste to get to the end, I had built these things on wobbly stilts.
Before long, I realized this strategy was getting me nowhere, so I decided to slow down. I became meticulous. I’d write a few thousand words, then edit. Write a few hundred words, edit. Write a sentence over and over a dozen times. Go back to the beginning before I was even close to the end and make sure the structure was sound before moving on, and by the time I had reached the end, I didn’t really have a first draft, because I had already cut and reworked a ton of that problematic stuff.
So in the case of my latest novel, The Riverman, I actually had to add a lot in the revision phase. I tend to underwrite these days. I want to let readers puzzle through things. My editor, Joy Peskin  (who is wise, wise, wise) never hesitates to call me out when it’s not working. The manuscript was peppered with notes like “show us more,” “unpack this idea,” and “are you nuts, man, no one will understand this vague hogwash!”
Therefore, a number of scenes were created entirely in the revision stage. The two most significant include one where Alistair, the main character, sneaks into the back of a pickup truck and makes some frightening discoveries, and another where a group of kids prepares to confront the Riverman. They were additions, but they are as essential to the story as any other scene.
Now, this is not to say there weren’t any cuts. I sent a whole bunch of adverbs and words like “just” and “very” to pasture. Redundant sentences and paragraphs were given the ax. And I did trim a few pages from the end at Joy’s suggestion (again, wise). That’s a choice I certainly don’t regret, because it gives the end more immediacy. There’s one passage I threw on the scrap pile for pacing reasons that I do kind of miss. I might even use it in a future book. It was a page-long description of what happens when middle school boys have slumber parties. Think sleeping bags on the floor, dares, food eaten in creative ways, scandalous movies that only come on late at night, those sorts of things.

I’m sure if I reread The Riverman now from cover-to-cover there would be countless things I’d want to add back in, but once a book is done, I don’t subject myself to such tortures. I pity any author who does.

Big thanks to Mary from Macmillan for asking me to join the tour, and to Aaron for the fantastic post. And look for my review of this wonderful novel later this week!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book Review: Perfect Together (Serendipity's Finest #3) by Carly Phillps

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
320 Pages

In the picturesque town of Serendipity, New York, three siblings have grown up in the shadow of their proud and respected police chief father. But what do love, fate, and fortune have in store for the next generation of Serendipity’s finest?

Tired of being the easygoing daughter, always ignored in favor of her high-maintenance sister, and no longer interested in being her fiancé’s trophy wife, Nicole Farnsworth calls off her wedding. All she wants is to be herself. And where better to find her destiny than Serendipity? The place where she met the one man who made her heart beat faster, and gave her the courage to reinvent her life—even if he doesn’t know it.

Officer Sam Marsden calls Serendipity home and he loves it there—even though his childhood sweetheart was stolen by his best friend. After such heartbreak, Sam fears he can’t trust his instincts when it comes to love. Yet he’s so tempted by Nicole, a woman he met only briefly but who has starred in his dreams ever since. For Nicole and Sam, opening their hearts one more time could change their lives forever. But who’ll be the first to take that chance?

Goodreads.Amazon.Barnes & Noble.

A contemporary romance with cameos by the mob. After finding out her fiancé’s father has dealings with the mob, Nicole Farnsworth decides she needs to start over: new life, new job, new friends, and no fiancé. She picks up and moves to the small town of Serendipity, NY. Now I haven’t read the previous books, but from what I gather, Serendipity is where Nicole’s twin sister stalked and tried to kill one of its residents. Not normally a place you would want to go back to, especially since it was your TWIN sister. But anyway, Nicole moves and despite some hesitance, the town accepts her.

Officer Sam Marsden remembers Nicole from when she helped the local authorities catch her sister. He felt a connection last time she was there and now that she’s back he feels like he finally has his chance. Only Sam has heartbreak in his past that prevents him from actually having a functional relationship with a person.

Now part of me has always wanted to live in a small town, think Stars Hollow. And I enjoy reading books set in small towns but most of this book felt over dramatic. I really liked the idea of a city girl moving to a small town to start over, because, let’s be honest, that’s very brave. But once the mob was brought up and suddenly Nicole’s life is in danger, the believability and likeability of this book went right out of the window. Aside from the insane plot, the characters were likeable but just not together. I felt no chemistry between the two of them but I blame this on the writer. Their characteristics were so hot and cold, back and forth that it was hard to get a handle on who they actually were. And the side love story with Nicole’s ex-fiancé and her new best friend, Macy was strange and took me out of the book. Why do we care about them exactly?

Predictable,  likeable enough, but not enough to make me want to read the others in this series.

I received an copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
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