Friday, May 30, 2014

ARC Review: Harder (Caroline & West #2) by Robin York

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Bantam
352 Pages

In Robin York’s provocative new novel, two young ex-lovers find themselves together again in the shadow of tragedy—and an intense, undeniable attraction. 

Caroline still dreams about West. His warm skin, his taut muscles, his hand sliding down her stomach. Then she wakes up and she’s back to reality: West is gone. And before he left, he broke her heart.

Then, out of the blue, West calls in crisis. A tragedy has hit his family—a family that’s already a fractured mess. Caroline knows what she has to do. Without discussion, without stopping to think, she’s on a plane, flying to his side to support him in any way he needs.

They’re together again, but things are totally different. West looks edgy, angry at the world. Caroline doesn’t fit in. She should be back in Iowa, finalizing her civil suit against the ex-boyfriend who posted their explicit pictures on a revenge porn website. But here she is. Deeply into West, wrapped up in him, in love with him. Still

They fought the odds once. Losing each other was hard. But finding their way back to each other couldn’t be harder.

The other day, during my break at work, I was sitting in the break room, iPhone on the table, reading and eating Subway at the same time (because they are equally important, and apparently, I'm multitalented). One of my coworkers saw me reading, laughed (because "that's so typical" of me), and as she sat down she asked me, "Why do you like reading so much?" I was stupefied. Everyone that is around me for more than two minutes knows that reading is pretty much my entire life, but no one had ever asked me that before.

I'm sure I looked like a frog, the way that I kept opening and closing my mouth while trying to come up with an appropriate answer. At this point, I was still in my reading slump (see my last post, if you are unsure what I mean). During the slump, I had read some good books; some were even great, but I was not able to connect with them on a meaningful level. So I wasn't able to say what I can now that I've read Harder.

Because books like Harder are why I read, why I blog about books, and why I believe in the power of storytelling.

Robin York is just as masterful in her writing of new adult fiction, as she is in adult as Ruthie Knox. Her words are powerful. Her stories are brave, and inspiring, and heartfelt, and maddeningly realistic. This author can make you hurt so badly, but she also does so well at bringing her readers joy. I would not hesitate to call York one of my favorite authors, and I recommend her books to anyone who would listen.

It's a formidable thing to be able to make someone cry, to make someone feel to the very core of themselves with a few mere words on a page. York does so effortlessly. This book is emotional on so many levels. Readers will watch as the beloved characters we met in Deeper fall apart, grow, discover themselves, and struggle to find happiness with themselves, and with those they hold most dear. This is not an easy read, though if you read Deeper, I'm sure you can imagine. It will not always inspire the giddy feelings commonly associated with romance novels. In fact, there were several times where I wanted to set the book aside, and calm my sadness and anger, but I honestly could not put the book down. I read it from start to finish in just a couple of hours.

Harder takes place a few months after the finale of Deeper. The relationship between Caroline and West has taken a downward turn filled with drunken phone calls, and sporadic texts as West stays with his family in Silt, and Caroline remains in Putnam. When West tells Caroline of a tragedy in his family, she immediately flies to him as support. What she finds is not what she expected. West is a different man. He's hurt, and angry, and harder than she's ever seen him. It's no longer just them against the world, but they must also finally battle their own personal demons to find happiness together.

The plot moved pretty quickly, in my opinion, but that worked for the story. This spanned over months, and during that time we got great insight into the growth and setbacks of these characters. The plot was magnificent. There were several points where I thought my heart was going to burst through my chest due to grief, but the story was real. This isn't a fantasy. Sadly, much of what occurs in this series is part of modern life. That's horrifying, and heart-wrenching, but true. York did well at creating a relatable story.

I adore these characters, but what really got to me is the relationships between them. Seeing Frankie and Caroline bond was beautiful. It melted my heart, and really made the story for me. Sure, I love Caroline and West, and I want them to be happy-in-love forever, but though the path of their relationship was important to the story, that was not the main focus. Harder was about family and friendship, growth, finding happiness with yourself, and learning how to come to terms with your past so you can create a great future. We watch Caroline grow as she dealt with more betrayal, familial drama, and the continuing civil suit against her ex, Nate, for posting their sex pictures online. We also see West, who is dealing with mistakes and pain from his past, and his own familial drama. It's difficult to read about their struggles and heartache, but it's amazing watching them transform throughout the story.

I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a book as much I enjoyed Harder. It is a phenomenal end to a series that I will reread often. I would recommend it to anyone, and everyone. There is so much to love, and so much to learn from the characters in this story. This is one tale that will linger with me for years, and years, and years. Robin York is a genius, and her fans are waiting with bated breath for her next release!
I received an e-copy of this novel from the publisher for my honest opinion and review via Netgalley.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Book Review: Risky Game (Out of Bounds #3) by Tracy Solheim

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
320 Pages

In the next sizzling sports romance from the author of Foolish Games, Brody is at the top of his game… until Shannon changes the rules.

Baltimore Blaze tight end Brody Janik is a natural-born football star. At twenty-seven, his record-breaking athletic performance and his cover-boy good looks have turned him into a household name. But Brody’s hiding a major secret behind his charming public persona: a health condition that may cut his career short.

PhD candidate Shannon "Shay” Everett works multiple jobs to put herself through school—including an unpaid internship with the Blaze training department.  Strapped for cash, Shay answers the call of an NFL gossip blogger to uncover personal details about the Blaze players. Sneaking into the locker room one night, she gets entangled in Brody’s secret…and swept up by his charm.

Brody isn’t sure what to make of the gawky girl with the whiskey eyes, especially when he discovers she was snooping. His first instinct is to turn her in as a snitch, but she could destroy him by sharing his secret. Instead, he decides to keep her close…perhaps closer than either of them originally intended…

Brody Janik has a secret. A secret that could possibly prevent him from continuing his career of a professional football player. The only person who knows this secret besides his trainer is the one of the teams interns, Shay Everett. Shay makes a deal with Brody to keep his secret if he lets her use him and his illness for her thesis paper. A deal is struck and I’m sure you can guess where this is going.

Both Brody and Shay don’t believe in love. Sure, Shay finds the star football player beautiful and charming, but she never would expect him to even glance her way. Having been overlooked all her life, Shay is more than happy to just melt away. However, once Brody gets more than a glance and actually begins to get to know Shay, he won’t let her just melt away.

I really enjoyed Brody and Shay as characters. I have a weakness for sports books, and even though I’m not a fan of football, I still enjoyed this book. There was just enough sports talk so that it didn't feel weighted down and also easy enough for someone who's never followed football to understand. Brody wasn’t your typical jock meathead. He came from a big family and pushed himself to the limit, always wanting to be the best. His relationship with his sisters and also with Shay’s neighbor were the highlights for me. Shay was feisty and when she finally lets her personality show, she becomes a very determined woman. I also felt the chemistry between him and Shay – even if they themselves didn’t see it. 

This is a steadily good adult series – and just look at those covers *drools*. I don’t know if this is the last one or if the writer is going to continue, but either way, I will check out what comes next from Solheim. 
I received an copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Book Review: Make You Mine (Dumont Bachelors #1) by Macy Beckett

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Signet
352 Pages

For ninety-nine years, every man in the Dumont family has remained a perpetual bachelor. Residents of Cedar Bayou, Louisiana, whisper about a voodoo hex cast upon the family, sabotaging each man’s chance at marriage. In truth, the Dumont men have their own player personalities to blame, and Marc is no exception. As captain of his family’s riverboat, he’s broken hearts up and down the Mississippi. That is, until his high school crush strolls onboard...

Allie Mauvais rocks the boat when she fills in as pastry chef. She hasn’t seen Marc since senior year, when rumors flew that her great-great-grandmother was the one who cursed the Dumonts. After two weeks on the water, neither can deny the attraction that still burns between them. But to truly reach Marc’s heart, Allie must show him that the hex isn’t real, and it’ll take more than her mouthwatering sweets to prove it. Will Allie’s love be enough to finally make Marc hers?

Voodoo charms, baked goods, and UST all aboard a riverboat in the Bayou. Sounds like a good time, right? Well…not really. Allie Mauvias lives in the shadow of her great-great-grandmother’s actions and reputation. The Mauvias name carries weight around as well known Voodoo witches, and it also carries around the base of a curse. A curse that prevents any Dumont men from settling down and getting married. Unfortunately, Allie is in love with a Dumont, she has been since high school. 

Marc Dumont just recently became captain of his family’s riverboat. He’s about to make his first voyage as captain when he finds himself without a pastry chef. Enter Allie, his high school girlfriend, but also the descendent of the one lady who put a curse on his family. Allie joins the crew with one goal in mind – get Marc. 

I liked Allie for the most part – she was sarcastic and witty. But the one thing I didn’t understand was why she kept pursuing Marc. The majority of this book is spent with his family and Marc himself treating Allie like a leper. Everything that goes wrong they immediately blame her or the so-called “curse”. As a woman, I could not actively pursue someone who treated me that way and it made Allie appear weak and desperate. And for Marc, the only vibe I received from him was sex. That’s all he wanted. 

Another thing that really bothered me was how many things went wrong. Every chapter was another catastrophe that everyone could easily blame on the voodoo witch. It just seemed a little overboard with the coincidences to the point that it was ridiculous. 

I don’t know, it was very cutesy at times but I didn’t feel a love connection between the two like I wanted. I was more interested in the side characters actually, such as Beau and Marc’s sister. 
received an copy of this novel from the publisher for my honest opinion and review.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Know When You Are in a Reading Slump: Based on a True Story

So my presence in the blogging world has been quite lax lately. "Why is that?" you may be wondering. Well, it's a combination of things:
1) I had an overwhelming semester, and I was desperately trying to keep up my GPA.
  *SPOILER ALERT* I did. 4.0, baby!
2) My family is going through a difficult time that has me in a funk.
3) I am in a total reading slump, and all the books that I've read lately have left me feeling "blah."

So I present to you:

How to Know When You Are in a Reading Slump: 
Based on a True Story

1) You spend a lot of time perusing the interwebz, often finding books you want to read but not actually reading them.

2) You keep buying books even though you already have full shelves of unread books, and even after you buy new ones, you don't read them.

3) You can name more anime (or movies or television shows) that you've watched lately than books you've read.

4) You spend more time talking/cuddling/snuggling/kissing your cat (or other pets) than a book.

5) You Google Tom Hiddleston reading e.e. cummings rather than pick up a book of poems.*

6) Your friends ask you for a recommendation of a book that you've read recently and you go blank.

7. You get a good night's sleep.

8) You actually spend enough time with your friends and family for them to remember how awkward and asocial you are.

9) Your house, car, body and clothes are super clean.

10) You want to read, but are going absolutely bonkers trying to find a book that sounds good enough to satisfy you.

Sound familiar? I hope I'm not alone! As I try to get my butt outta this slump, I will be around the blog more and more. You'll probably get sick of me. For now, if you have any recommendations, PLEASE SHARE.

*Uhm, I suggest you do this anyway.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Belated Birthday, Jen!

I'm sure many of you know Jen from The Starry-Eyed Revue. Over the past two years, she's become one of my closest blogging buddies. Jen listens to me rant about life, and books, and doesn't tell me to shut up--though I definitely deserve it. She's absolutely lovely, and she sent me the greatest birthday package last year. I'm still reeling from all the awesome! Her own birthday was last week, and due to a stressful school load, I was MIA from not only the blog, but my friends' lives. So I missed it.

Luckily, there was an event yesterday at which I volunteered called Ohioana Book Festival. And after telling the YA authors how horrible of a friend I am, they gracious allowed me to include them in my belated birthday present for Jen! 

So without further ado:

I hope you had a wonderful birthday, friend, and that you continue to have wonderful birthdays forever and ever and ever! (Also expect something in the mail.)

Have a happy Mother's Day, everyone!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

ARC Review: Breakable (Contours of the Heart #2) by Tammara Webber

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Penguin
368 Pages

He was lost and alone. Then he found her.
And the future seemed more fragile than ever.

As a child, Landon Lucas Maxfield believed his life was perfect and looked forward to a future filled with promise — until tragedy tore his family apart and made him doubt everything he ever believed.

All he wanted was to leave the past behind. When he met Jacqueline Wallace, his desire to be everything she needed came so easy…

As easy as it could be for a man who learned that the soul is breakable and that everything you hoped for could be ripped away in a heartbeat.

To say that Tammara Webber is one of my favorite authors is a bit of an understatement. I absolutely adore everything that she produces and was super excited to get my hands on another one of her books. Breakable is the follow up to Easy, the story of how Jaqueline and Lucas met and fell in love. While Easy focused more on Jaqueline’s POV, Breakable shows us what was going on with Lucas. But that’s not all, we also get a look into the early life of Lucas when he went by Landon. 

Basically, this is two stories rolled into one. Each chapter is either a Lucas chapter (present day) or a Landon chapter (past). I tended to lean more toward the Landon chapters as I’m not much of a fan of retellings from a different POV. The Landon chapters were just so heartbreaking and raw. This little boy’s life was altered completely in such a way that the only way he knew how to deal was to not. He lost his mother and his father, although physically present, checked out the same day his mother died. The only good thing about his childhood became his grandfather. His grandfather practically raised him and was the only one who believed him. Had it not been for him, I’m sure we would have met a different Lucas later on. 

But that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the Lucas chapters as well. It was nice to see meeting Jaqueline through his eyes after knowing her part. Although, I have to say that there were times where Lucas came off a little bit stalkerish with how obsessed he became with Jaqueline. He was almost better as the mysterious boy in class. 

Webber’s writing is just brilliant and I love the way she tells a story. She really knows how to make the reader fall in love with her characters and really care what happens to them. While the tales may fall on the side of dramatic, the situations are realistic and things that happen in everyday life. She breaks my heart in every book that she writes and I absolutely adore her for it and will continue to read anything she puts out. Was this book needed? No. But am I glad to have it? Definitely. 
I received an copy of this novel from the publisher for my honest opinion and review.

Friday, May 2, 2014

"Real" Book Challenge April Recap

Real Book Challenge on Swoony Boys Podcast and Fiction Fare

Month 4 and my best month to date! Nice way to start off spring. I foresee many more days ahead with books at the beach. But now, here's a little recap of what I read during the month of April.

So that's 10 for the month of April.

Total So Far: 31
Current Level: Real Book Aficionado

If you're interested in joining us, you can sign up here. See you next month!

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