Month in Review: Janauary 2015

Kelli's Reviews:
Madi's Reviews:
Books Read:
Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne
A Beauty So Rare (Belmont Mansion #2) by Tamera Alexander
Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5) by Gayle Forman
Seeker (Seeker #1) by Arwen Elys Dayton
The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant (The V Trilogy #2) by Joanna Wiebe
A Promised Fate (A Beautiful Fate #3) by Cat Mann
A Lasting Impression (Belmont Mansion #1) by Tamera Alexander
The Four Year Career by Richard Bliss Brooke
Bridge To Destiny by April Marie Libs
Afraid of Everything by Karen Jones
Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers
How was your January?

Book Review: Bridge to Destiny by April Marie Libs

Avery Lawson’s life, once so perfect, spins out of control, not once, but twice in twelve months. Not only does she lose the only man she has ever loved, fate threatens to take her next greatest treasure, her four-year-old daughter, Hannah.

BRIDGE TO DESTINY is a heartwarming story that chronicles the struggles a single mom has to endure with her tenacious, headstrong daughter who is fighting to regain all of her motor skills from a head injury. During her daughter’s recovery, Avery stumbles into an unforeseen relationship with her neurologist, Nathan Banst, first professionally, and then personally, when she sends him an inappropriate text message after a night out drinking. Although mortified, this pushes Avery into a more personal relationship with Nathan, but is it too soon after her husband's death?
Release Date: November 10, 2014
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli
Bridge to Destiny was such a compelling and emotional story.  I loved it from the first page to the last.

Avery and her husband Mitchel are deeply in love.  They have a four year-old daughter, Hannah, who completes their family.  The story starts with Avery getting ready for her husband's annual work Christmas party.  Within just a few pages, I could feel the love between the family members.  And that deep love made what happens next all the more difficult to read.  Avery and Mitchel are in a car accident, and Mitchel doesn't survive (I'm not spoiling the story---this is in the summary!). 

Avery is left to pick up the pieces of her heart and her family.  She has to pull herself together for Hannah's sake, and just as she starts to adjust to life without Mitchel, another tragedy occurs.  This time, Hannah is hurt.  Avery's world spins out of control as she faces losing her precious daughter.  As a wife and mother, Bridge to Destiny hit really close to home for me.  I too, have one child, a daughter who's almost four.  The thought of what happens to Avery happening to me was sobering to say the least.  So, it was with bated breath that I read Avery's story, desperately hoping for a good outcome for her.

Besides identifying with Avery because of our common circumstances in life, I truly liked her.  She was full of spunk, strength, and wit.  I loved her quick comebacks, her loyalty, and her open, honest disposition. 

Despite Avery losing Mitchel, there is a love story in Bridge to Destiny.  In fact, the crux of the book is the question of if Avery can let herself love another man again.  I was on pins and needles waiting to find out the answer to that question.  One thing I will say, though, was that I really liked the slow build to the relationship between Avery and Nathan. 

April Marie Libs portrayed life with a small child perfectly.  It's a pet peeve of mine when authors write a character's family life as saccharine-sweet.  Hannah threw tantrums, got mad, and acted just like a kid should.  I loved that that part of the story was true to real life. 

I was so pleased with how Bridge to Destiny ended.  It was an emotional ending, and so fitting for the story.  I really loved this book and look forward to reading more from April Marie Libs!


Audio Book Spotlight: The Iron Traitor (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten #2) by Julie Kagawa

Do you love audio books?  Nat has been a long-time fan of them, and we are happy to partner with Audible to bring you audio clips of popular novels. 
We're starting with The Iron Traitor, one of Julie Kagawa's great installments in the Iron Fey series.  I loved The Iron Traitor---read my review here



In the real world, when you vanish into thin air for a week, people tend to notice.
After his unexpected journey into the lands of the fey, Ethan Chase just wants to get back to normal. Well, as "normal" as you can be when you see faeries every day of your life. Suddenly the former loner with the bad reputation has someone to try for-his girlfriend, Kenzie. Never mind that he's forbidden to see her again.
But when your name is Ethan Chase and your sister is one of the most powerful faeries in the Nevernever, "normal" simply isn't to be. For Ethan's nephew, Keirran, is missing, and may be on the verge of doing something unthinkable in the name of saving his own love. Something that will fracture the human and faery worlds forever, and give rise to the dangerous fey known as the Forgotten. As Ethan's and Keirran's fates entwine and Keirran slips further into darkness, Ethan's next choice may decide the fate of them all.

Book Review: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo


Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Release Date: May 7, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Purchased
Reviewed by: Madi B
Wow. Just wow. This book was amazing. AMAZING!!! I’m just blown away!! I haven’t read a book this good in a while! It was the type that consumes your life and makes you feel like you just can’t go another moment without reading more! And did I mention that this was the author’s first book?!?!?!? Wow. The characters, the concepts, the plot, the world the author created, everything was just wow. I absolutely loved the whole Russian feel of the setting. It put me off at first (the first sentence has the word malenchki in it… MALENCHKI!) but I got used to all the names and the setting!! I really loved the whole Grisha concept. The whole people having powers thing is not a new concept, but Bardugo made me feel like it was one.
I absolutely LOVED the characters! Alina was perfect. I loved how relatable her character felt and how she dealt with her struggles. The Darkling was awesome. He was this dark and lonely character that you can’t help but root for. Mal was Alina’s best friend that gave me mixed feelings at first because he was totally oblivious to Alina’s feelings for him!!! Not cool!!! But then he grew on me with all his loyalness etc.
At a glance, this book may seem like a typical YA. Love triangle, magic powers, etcetera etcetera but let me tell you, Shadow and Bone puts the stereotype to shame. Filled with fantasy, adventure, and plot twists galore, it’s sure to keep you on your toes, and far from your responsibilities.


Book Review: Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Is it possible to outrun your past? Fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser and her mother, Sydney, have been trying to do just that for five years. Now, things have gone from bad to worse. Not only has Edie had to move to another new school, she's in a different country. 

Sydney promises her that this is their chance at a fresh start, and Edie does her best to adjust to life in London, England, despite being targeted by the school bully. But when Sydney goes out to work the night shift and doesn't come home, Edie is terrified that the past has finally caught up with them. 

Alone in a strange country, Edie is afraid to call the police for fear that she'll be sent back to her abusive father. Determined to find her mother, but with no idea where to start, she must now face the most difficult decision of her life.
Release Date: February 17, 2015
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli
I really liked the premise of Since You've Been Gone.  I think that Payne had a lot of potential to make this a really great story.  And it was a good read, but I think it could have been better as a longer novel.

I liked Edie from the start, and felt so much sympathy for her and her mother's struggles.  They are constantly on the run from Edie's abusive father, and Edie keeps having to change schools as they keep moving.  The story is told from Edie's perspective, and I liked that I got to really know her through her thoughts and memories.

What I didn't like about Since You've Been Gone was that the story felt choppy and rushed.  I think that there were several plot points that could have been fleshed out to make for a longer, more intensive look into Edie's life.  As it was, I felt like I got only a glimpse of Edie, and would have liked to know her better.  Lastly, the conflict resolution was rushed and I would have loved an epilogue to really see Edie happy and settled after the big conflict was over.

Overall, I did enjoy Since You've Been Gone and would recommend it.  I look forward to reading more from Mary Jennifer Payne.


Book Review: To My Hero: A Blog of Our Journey Together by Danielle Sibarium

It would’ve been different if I had courage, even an ounce of it. But I was a coward from the day I met you, Ryan Crowley. I still am. In the end it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is the same. It’s my fault.

When the unthinkable happens Carly Cavanough is left beaten, betrayed, and devastated. Her best friend doesn’t understand. Her parents won’t listen. Everyone in her life turns against her. She’s alone. Completely alone, except for Ryan Crowley, the boy she’s been crushing on for years. She won’t admit to him what she can’t admit to herself. But he understands without words. He knows more about what she’s going through than she can possibly imagine and he knows what it will take to start the healing.

With Ryan’s help Carly begins to piece together the fragments of her once perfect life and embarks on a journey of love and healing, just long enough for the rug to be pulled out from under her again. Can she find the strength and will to pull herself together to save Ryan and herself when their lives are on the line?
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli
To My Hero was an emotional, powerful book that I really enjoyed.  Carly is a high school student in an abusive relationship.  She is the victim of an assault, and no one in her life will support her.  Her parents don't believe her side of the story, her friends take the attacker's side, and she's all alone.  Except for Ryan.  Ryan has liked Carly for forever---unbeknownst to Carly---and she's liked him too.  Ryan is Carly's rock as she recovers from her attack, and their friendship is her saving grace as her world falls apart around her.

I can't believe I'm admitting this publicly, but I didn't read the entire title before starting this book.  Or, if I did, I forgot.  Usually, that wouldn't be a big deal, but it was in this case.  The part of the title that says "A Blog of Our Journey Together" is instrumental to the story.  I didn't actually grasp that the entire book is written as a blog post until the end of the story.  And then, the writing style----Carly is writing to Ryan, recounting events----made perfect sense.  Until that point, I was a little put off by the unusual writing style.  And so I'm telling you so you'll be prepared if you read this book---which I hope you do, because it was great!

The premise of To My Hero is a powerful one.  I liked that Sibarium treated Carly's attack with the proper gravity and depth.  I also liked that Carly behaved somewhat irrationally after her attack: not taking Ryan's advice about going to the hospital or police.  I wanted her to act differently, but I felt like she was acting realistically and that made the book feel even more authentic.  The ending came as a shock but was perfect for this story.   

To My Hero is an emotional and deep story.  I really loved it, and look forward to reading more from Danielle Sibarium.



Book Review: Fates by Lanie Bross

One moment. One foolish desire. One mistake. And Corinthe lost everything.
She fell from her tranquil life in Pyralis Terra and found herself exiled to the human world. Her punishment? To make sure people's fates unfold according to plan. Now, years later, Corinthe has one last assignment: kill Lucas Kaller. His death will be her ticket home.
But for the first time, Corinthe feels a tingle of doubt. It begins as a lump in her throat, then grows toward her heart, and suddenly she feels like she is falling all over again--this time for a boy she knows she can never have. Because it is written: one of them must live, and one of them must die. In a universe where every moment, every second, every fate has already been decided, where does love fit in?

Release Date: February 11, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed by: Madi B

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this one. It’s a paranormal that’s a bit typical. The main character Corinthe (Yeah I know. Corinthe) is an Executer. Does jobs-Executer not kill people-Executer. (Confusing, I know) So she has the job of leading humans to their fates. Cool right? She got exiled to Earth for an amazingly stupid reason and now has to earn her way back to her home planet. Then she has to kill this dude Luc who happens to be her age. (GASP) And hot. (GASP) And whom she has this immediate magnetic attraction to. (GASP!!!!!) Killing him would be her ticket to home but she just can’t seem to do it. This my friends is yet another case of insta-love. Their relationship didn’t really go deeper than appearances and I didn’t really believe their love. Neither of their characters had much personality. Luc was loyal and steadfast in trying to find his sister which was notable but he didn’t have that much of a personality. Corinthe wasn’t full of personality either. She was a “fallen fate” so it makes sense that she’s a bit of a blank slate. I just wish both of them had a bit more...something.

The plot was interesting too.  The first couple chapters it was cool because Corinthe was all “Do I kill him? But he’s cute. But he’s human. But he’s cute. I should kill him” and so forth. But after chapter 9 it just got weird. Luc jumps through a portal and lands in this freakin weird planet with two suns then everything goes south. This scared me off the first time I read it and I didn’t’ pick it up again until recently. Once you got used to the weirdness then it was interesting. (Land of Two Suns? Blood Nymphs? Weird.)

I really liked Luc. He was so devoted to his sister and even though he had so much bad crap happen to him, he was still marching on.

Overall I kinda liked Fates. It had a really cool concept, but there was a lot I didn’t like.


Book Review: A Beauty So Rare (Belmont Mansion #2) by Tamera Alexander

Plain, practical Eleanor Braddock knows she will never marry, but with a dying soldier's last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America--and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path--building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.

Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows' and children's home run contrary to Eleanor's wishes/ AS work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground--and a love neither of them expects. But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor, and even if he were, someone who knows his secrets is about to reveal them all.
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Age Group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli
A Beauty So Rare was one of those books that I simply couldn't put down.  I loved it from the first page to the last, and didn't want it to end.

Eleanor was immediately likable, and so easy for me to relate to.  I really felt for her in her struggle to become her own woman and not depend on a man to survive.  Eleanor is honest, hardworking and dependable.  She is considered an old maid at age 29, and has reconciled herself to the fact that she'll never marry.  However, Eleanor's great dream is to own a restaurant and she does everything in her power to make that dream a reality.

Marcus was an enigma from the start.  I liked him too, but Eleanor was my favorite.  I liked the air of mystery surrounding Marcus, and the tension between he and Eleanor was palpable.  I wanted them to fall in love so badly! 

Alexander's books are Christian fiction, however the Christian element is handled with a light hand.  By that I mean that they aren't in-your-face Christian and if someone were not a fan of faith-based reads, I don't think that would stop them from enjoying these novels.  I think of Alexander's novels as clean historical romance.  I love how she conveys emotion and feelings between characters without going into the physical side of a relationship.  She does it perfectly, without feeling too sweet, yet the feelings are so raw they are palpable.

I loved everything about A Beauty So Rare and immediately bought another one of Alexander's books upon finishing it!

Children's Book Review: Peppa Pig and the Muddy Puddles

There’s so much rain! When Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig tuck them into bed, Peppa and her little brother, George, dream of all the puddles there will be to jump in the next day. Little do they know that the rain is turning their house into an island surrounded by water — making for a different kind of adventure for everyone!
Release Date: April 29, 2013
Age Group: Children's
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli
Kaitlyn is a huge Peppa Pig fan, so Peppa Pig and the Muddy Puddles was an instant hit with her.  One of Peppa's favorite things to do is jump in muddy puddles, and Kaitlyn now loves to do the same (oh, joy). 

The story was cute, but the illustrations are what makes this book special.  Peppa and family are all drawn exactly as they appear on the TV series, with stick arms and legs and plain outfits.  As my husband likes to say, they look like a child drew them. 

What Kaitlyn enjoys so much about Peppa Pig and the Muddy Puddles was seeing each of Peppa's friends' houses.  She loves pointing out where each friend lives, as Peppa and Grandpa Pig stop by each friend's house to deliver items they've purchased from Mrs. Rabbit's store. 

The best part of the book, in my opinion, are the last two pages, which feature a two-page spread of all of the characters jumping in a huge muddy puddle.  Kaitlyn immediately wanted to know each character's name (and I didn't know them all right away) so we looked them up on Wikipedia.  Now she likes to quiz me and make sure I have all the characters' names correct. 

Peppa Pig and the Muddy Puddles is a lot of fun for Peppa fans.  There really isn't much educational value to this book, beyond the obvious benefits of reading, which is why it lost 1/2 star.  But overall, it's a very fun read which Peppa fans will surely enjoy.


Book Review: The Shape of My Heart (2B Trilogy #3) by Ann Aguirre

Some people wait decades to meet their soul mate. Courtney Kaufman suspects she met hers in high school only to lose him at seventeen. Since then, Courtney's social life has been a series of meaningless encounters, though she's made a few close friends along the way. Especially her roommate Max Cooper, who oozes damaged bad-boy vibes from every pore.

Max knows about feeling lost and trying to move beyond the pain he's been on his own since he was sixteen. Now it's time to find out if he can ever go home again, and Courtney's the only one he trusts to go with him. But the trip to Providence could change everything because the more time he spends with Courtney, the harder it is to reconcile what he wants and what he thinks he deserves.

It started out so simple. One misfit helping another. Now Max will do anything to show Courtney that for every heart that's ever been broken, there's another that can make it complete.
Release Date: November 25, 2014
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli
I've loved every book in the 2B Trilogy, and The Shape of My Heart was the perfect ending to this steamy series.  (Read my reviews of I Want it That Way here and As Long As You Love Me here).

I didn't expect to like Courtney as much as I did.  She was so honest, so real, that I was drawn to her.  I loved her outlook on life, "take me as I am."  Courtney knows who she is and isn't ashamed of it.  

In that respect, I was surprised at how much I grew to love Max.  I thought I knew who he was from the previous books.  Imagine my surprise when he was totally different from the 'surface' Max I was introduced to in books one and two.  

Ann Aguirre has written this series so well.  The books feel fresh, the pace moves quickly, and the romance is so well-written.  I love the love stories and the conclusions are good but not saccharine.  I am so pleased with this series and look forward to reading more of Aguirre's contemporary fiction!