Books of the Month: November 2013

I read so many great books this month, but these three stood out for me.  All three books were five-star reads.

Fifty Million Reasons by Heather Wardell.  Angela wins the lottery and her life suddenly gets very complicated.  As always with Heather Wardell's books, I loved this one.  And, my review will be quoted on the back cover when the book is released in December!!


Broken by CJ Lyons.  Oh, this book was so thrilling, exciting, and scary (a thrilling type of scary).  I absolutely loved it!  I'm new to CJ Lyons, and plan to read more of her books soon.



Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson.  This book was a deviation from my usual reads but I loved the action, premise and world-building.  I can't wait for the next book in the series!


What were your favorite November reads?





Book Review: Starring in the Movie of My Life by Laurel Osterkamp

Summary: 
Thirty-five-year-old Samantha acts without thinking. Her heart is huge while her sense of purpose is small; she's willing to fight for those she loves, but she's never learned to fight for herself. 
Eighteen-year-old Melody is cold and calculating, and she's driven by the desire to better herself. As these compelling yet deeply flawed women battle for the affections of twenty-five-year-old Nathan, he becomes increasingly confused and torn between them. Nathan is Melody's English teacher, and after he saves her from being raped, she becomes attached. Melody longs for the affection she's never felt, so she involves people in her self-invented drama, making sure she is at once the star and the director. 
Meanwhile, Samantha is newly married to Nathan. But Samantha has hang-ups about motherhood and lingering feelings for her ex. To make sense of the world, Sam relates her life to the themes of her favorite movies, while she independently makes a documentary to jump-start her non-existent film career. 
Stylistically influenced by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, Starring in the Movie of my Life is told alternately from both Samantha's and Melody's points-of-view and relates two complete yet combined stories about love, acceptance, and redemption. It speaks to our universal desire to be saved by the ones we love, and the monumental effort required to save ourselves. 

Release Date: February 1, 2011
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli

Review:
This is my second time reading Laurel Osterkamp.  I read her latest novel, The Holdout, earlier this year and I really enjoyed it (Read my review of The Holdout here).  Laurel kindly offered me the chance to review any of her previous novels and I'm so happy that I chose Starring in the Movie of My Life.  This book was great and I could not put it down!

I liked Samantha from the very first pages of the book.  Melody, well, that was a different story.  While I felt badly for Melody's difficult home life, I had a hard time identifying with her.  She was so cold, calculating, and practically unfeeling.  At times I thought she might actually be a sociopath!  

Samantha and Melody find themselves connected by their relationships with Nathan.  Samantha and Nathan are married and Nathan is Melody's high school English teacher.  Melody devises this plan to make Nathan fall in love with her, and starts to manipulate him and those around her.  Meanwhile, Samantha is trying to find her way as an adult and make peace with her past.  

This book was so engaging.  The characters were very well-developed and the plot was full of emotional drama.  I started and finished Starring in the Movie of My Life in a day.  There was no way I was going to wait to see how the story ended.

Osterkamp uses the alternating points-of-view narration style and it worked perfectly for this story.  I almost wish Nathan would have had his own chapters, but adding a third perspective can slow a book down, in my opinion.  

Besides the love story and the drama Melody loves to create, another theme of this book was surrogate motherhood.  I loved that element of the story! It added another layer of depth to the plot and made me fall even more in love with Samantha's character.

I was so happy with how the story ended.  It wasn't the perfect ending I had envisioned, but it was so appropriate for this book, and realistic without being depressing.  I really enjoyed Starring in the Movie of My Life and look forward to reading more from Laurel Osterkamp!


 

 

What I'm Thankful for this Thanksgiving...


Heather Wardell is one of my favorite authors.  I've read and loved all 14 of her books, loving her emotional writing, gripping plots and characters that I can always relate to.  A few weeks ago, Heather emailed me and asked if I could read and review her upcoming novel, Fifty Million Reasons, in a week.  I don't usually accept requests for such a quick turnaround---the pressure inevitably gets to me and I get reviewer's block---but for Heather, I said yes.  

I wrote my review knowing that it would probably be used as part of the book's promotional material, and could be included in the front pages of the book.  What I didn't expect is that my blurb (which was really difficult to write, by the way!) would make the cover!!  

I'm so incredibly thrilled, honored, and excited to be on the cover of Heather's book.  It's really made my month; actually, my year.  Having a review quoted on the back cover of a book has been a long-time dream of mine, and it's so thrilling and humbling to have that dream become reality!  Thank you, Heather!!


Are you new to Heather Wardell's writing?  Check out her website HERE and download her first book, Life, Love and a Polar Bear Tatoo for free! 

PS: Of course I'm thankful for many other things (my family, my many blessings) but being quoted is what I'm most thankful for that's book related.  :)   




Book Review: Where My Heart Breaks by Ivy Sinclair

Summary: 
If there were a course in screwing up your life, Kate Spivey would get an A+.

Trust is in short supply for Kate at the start of the summer before her senior year of college. Her parents sentenced her to spend it under the watchful eye of her aunt at the famous Willoughby Inn. It was further proof that she was a prisoner in, and not the decision maker of, her life. Nothing she does is good enough to prove that she learned from the mistakes of her past.

Almost immediately, Kate finds that her new summer home holds another person who understands the unfairness of her situation better than most. Reed Black has had his own share of tragedy and regrets, but instead of trying to fight his reputation, he embraced it.

Sparks fly between Kate and Reed, but his mixed signals remind Kate that she needs to watch her step. He is one temptation she can't afford to indulge in, no matter how strong her attraction to him. If she isn't careful, she'll lose more than her heart.

Release Date: August 29, 2013
Age Group: New Adult
Source: NetGalley

Review:
Where My Heart Breaks was a good read.  I enjoyed the love story and especially the book's setting.  

I had a little bit of trouble identifying with Kate.  She was basically everything that I'm not, and I didn't like her entitled, spoiled attitude at the beginning of the book.  But, as Kate grew and changed, my respect for her grew.  I admired Kate's work ethic and her concern for others.  

There was great chemistry between Kate and Reed.  Their interactions were my favorite part of the story.  I liked how Kate stands up for herself and owns her feelings.  I enjoyed the mystery of Reed's past and how it shaped who he is today.

I love it when authors provide their main characters with loyal best friends, and Sinclair does that with aplomb in Where My Heart Breaks.  I really enjoy reading about positive healthy relationships between two young women.

I found Where My Heart Breaks to be somewhat predictable, but still a good read.  It wasn't a deep book, but it was a nice escape for me.  I'll definitely read the next book in the series.  


Book Review: Crash Into You (Pushing the Limits #3) by Katie McGarry

Summary: 
From acclaimed author Katie McGarry comes an explosive new tale of a good girl with a reckless streak, a street-smart guy with nothing to lose, and a romance forged in the fast lane 

The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life-that's who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers...and she's just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker-a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can't get him out of her mind. 

Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks-no matter how angelic she might look. 

But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they'll go to save each other.

Release Date: November 26, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli

Review:
Katie McGarry is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, and Crash Into You cements her status as an author whose books are not to be missed.  This kind of writing is why I love contemporary YA!

Crash Into You is just as good as its predecessors in the Pushing the Limits series.  It's my second favorite book in the series, after Pushing the Limits.  I love how each book focuses on two characters, and the fact that previous characters have little cameos in subsequent novels.  I love getting a glimpse of favorite characters living out their happily ever afters.  I also love that there is plenty of closure between books in this series.  I find myself happily anticipating the next release, but I'm not torn up with a cliffhanger ending between installments. 

McGarry's writing draws the reader in and her books are nearly impossible to put down. Even when I may not particularly like a character or agree with their behavior, I still care about them.  This is a trademark of a great author: compelling the reader to care about characters by delving so deep into their psyches that the reader completely understands why the characters act the way they do. 

I never thought I'd be interested in street racing, but I found myself really enjoying that aspect of the story.  I also really enjoyed the development of Rachel's home life and her interactions with her brothers.  I liked that Rachel finally stands up for herself and effects positive change within her family. McGarry's books always have a great amount of character growth and I love that.

Crash Into You is excellent contemporary fiction and a perfect example of why I love this genre.  I can't wait for McGarry's next release!


Book Review: Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

Summary:
On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist's leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.

When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula's desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind.

Release Date: February 25, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed by: Madi B

Review: 
To be honest, when I read the back of the book I wasn’t super excited. I was excited, but not super excited. This was mainly because it was sci-fi sounding. I’m not attracted to inter-galactic battles, alien captures, and the ka-pows of the guns. No thanks! But I really liked Tin Star. I liked Tula, I liked the storyline, and I even liked the setting. 

I’m a sucker for a strong female character. Anytime I read a book with a quiet, sensitive, sniffling, pushover that folds at the slightest bit of pressure I can be found repeatedly hitting my head against a wall.  All I’m thinking is “PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!!!” (If you did not realize I was quoting The Incredibles then get away from the monitor, and go watch it. Shame on you).

Tula is the queen of strong. If you thought Katniss was as tough as nails, then Tula was as tough as bricks, or solid steel or diamonds!!! (You get the point) IT WAS AWESOME! Brother Blue tried to kill her, didn’t work.  Don’t let the name fool you, Brother Blue’s just as nasty as a jealous teenage girl. And that wasn’t a spoiler, it’s in the summary.

Left on a remote space station with no hope, no problem. SHE’S A FREAKIN BEAST! (In teenager language that means AWESOME!) But sadly the romance didn’t kick in until a little bit later. And even then the romance was just a tad too realistic. I realize that most teen relationships deep down mean very little, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to read about relationships like that! (If you didn’t understand that last sentence just read the book) I really liked watching Tula’s character go from tough as diamonds to tough as steel. That’s right Kelli, you heard me! CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT!!!!

So if you didn’t read that last paragraph, just know I really like Tula. The romance comes slow, like really slow. And even then she’s not in love with him!!! GAHHHHHH!!! I think it should have come a litttttttle faster.  And by a little I mean a lot. The plot felt a little cold and distant at the beginning, which may have been purposeful because that’s how Tula is feeling. (In that case, well-played). But that’s when I realized…the book needed romance. And I didn’t think the author really provided that until the very end, like the very very end.

Overall I liked Tin Star. The characters were awesome and even though the good stuff came a little later, I felt like it was worth the wait.

 




Book Review: The Temptation of Lila and Ethan (The Secret #3) by Jessica Sorenson

Summary: 
On the surface, Lila Summers is flawless: good looks, expensive clothes, and a big, beautiful smile. But a dark past and even darker secrets are threatening to bubble over her perfect fa├žade. She'll do anything to keep the emptiness inside hidden-which leads her into situations that always end badly. Whenever she hits bottom, there's only one person who's there to pull her out: Ethan Gregory.

Ethan set the rules a long time ago: he and Lila are just friends. He doesn't do relationships. Although his tattooed, bad boy exterior is a far cry from Lila's pretty princess image, Ethan can't deny they have a deeper connection than he's used to. If he's not careful, he could be in serious danger of becoming attached-and he's learned the hard way that attachment only leads to heartbreak.

When Lila falls farther than she ever has before, can Ethan continue to help as a friend? Or is he also getting close to falling . . . for her?

Release Date: October 22, 2013
Age Group: NA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli

Review:
The Temptation of Lila and Ethan was one of those books that I almost stopped reading (due to a slow start and the fact that I wasn't identifying with either main character), then I decided to push through it, and then I ended up really liking the story.  I found myself unable to put this book down for the last third of the book.

The premise of opposites attracting is tried-and-true, but it works.  I liked the mystery of both Lila and Ethan's pasts.  I especially liked how both characters were much deeper and more nuanced than meets the eye.  Their interactions were fun and flirty, and I enjoyed seeing them together.  I really like it when characters are friends first, as it gives them a solid foundation for a later love story.

There were a few surprises throughout the story, especially how much both Lila and Ethan change.  I loved that.  The alternating first-person POVs worked great for this book, letting the reader in to both main characters' inner thoughts.  

I've read Jessica Sorensen before (the Callie and Kayden series) but this was my favorite book of hers to date.  I wish I had read the other two books in her Secret series first, because now I know how things end up with Ella and Micha, but I will plan on reading The Secret #4.  

I recommend The Temptation of Lila and Ethan for readers who love a good, romantic contemporary new adult story. 

 
 


Book Review: I Heart My Little A-Holes by Karen Alpert of Baby Sideburns

Summary: 
When your son wakes you up at 3:00 A.M. because he wants to watch Caillou, he’s an a-hole. When your daughter outlines every corner of your living room with a purple crayon, she’s an a-hole. When your rug rats purposely decorate the kitchen ceiling with their smoothies, they’re a-holes. So it’s only natural to want to kill them sometimes. Of course you can’t because you’d go to prison, and then you’d really never get to poop alone again. Plus, there’s that whole loving them more than anything in the whole world thing. 
Karen Alpert is the writer of the popular blog Baby Sideburns. You may have seen some of her more viral posts like “Ten Things I Really F’ing Want for Mother’s Day,” "Daddy Sticker Chart" and “What NOT to F’ing Buy My Kids this Holiday.” Or you may know her from her Facebook page that has over 130,000 followers. I Heart My Little A-Holes is full of hilarious stories, lists, thoughts and pictures that will make you laugh so hard you’ll wish you were wearing a diaper. 

Release Date: October 22, 2013
Age Group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli

Review:
I've been following Karen's blog, Baby Sideburns, for a few months now and love her witty humor.  She never fails to make me laugh!  I bought her book the day it was released and it was even better than reading her blog.  

There was little repetition from her blog; by that I mean the book was almost all new material.  I've read a couple of books written by bloggers and I'm always disappointed when their books contain a lot of old blog posts.  

There are some funny illustrations, but my favorite addition were the short paragraphs included before each chapter. These vignettes could have been Facebook status updates, texts to friends, or just random hilarious thoughts.  They were all so funny and added even more character to the book (not that more character was needed because Karen is plenty funny enough on her own).  

Karen is hilarious and I love the way she thinks.  Her thinking mirrors my own a lot of the time, and it's so nice to know I'm not alone in the way I look at things.  This is a great book for moms--and dads too--and I'm so glad I bought it. 



Book Review: Torn by KA Robinson

Summary: 
Chloe hasn't had the best life. With a mother who is gone more often than not, she has had to raise herself. After graduating high school, she leaves to start a new life away at West Virginia University with her best friends Amber and Logan, determined to leave her demons in the past.

On her first day, she meets a stranger who takes her breath away at first sight. Until she met Drake, no one had ever sparked her interest. Now this tattooed and pierced bad boy is all she can think about, no matter how hard she fights it.

Falling for Drake was never part of her plans, but when it happens, things seem to do anything but fall into place.

Dealing with a tragic past, Drake has never cared about anyone else but himself and his band. But when Chloe takes the empty seat next to him in class, things start to change. Instantly drawn to her, he begins to wonder if one girl can take a cold hearted womanizer and change every part of him?

Long hidden feelings are revealed and friendships tested to the brink.

Release Date: May 7, 2013
Age Group: NA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli

Review:
I love the New Adult genre, especially contemporary NA fiction.  These kinds of books are the perfect easy read.  I don't have to remember the "rules" of a paranormal or fantasy book, and I get to escape within the pages, often imagining myself as the main character.  I love reading about people falling in love, often for the first time, and NA fiction always leaves me happy in that regard.

Torn was reliably good.  I liked it, but didn't love it.  It was a good read, employing the tried-but-true formula of good girl with a sad past falling for the bad boy, with the requisite best friend and best guy friend.  I liked Chloe from the start, and wanted her to find happiness.  I knew who she would end up choosing, but the journey was enjoyable nonetheless.  

One thing I don't like in love stories are games between the characters.  I don't like lying and I don't like it when the girl goes back and forth between two guys.  All of that happened in Torn and I didn't like that about this book.

Robinson does a good job with the characters' pasts and with the character growth.  I enjoyed Torn and would read the next book in the series, if I could get my hands on a library or NetGalley copy.


Book Review: Sia by Josh Grayson

Summary: 
When seventeen-year-old Sia wakes up on a park bench, she has no idea who or where she is. Yet after a week of being homeless, she’s reunited with her family. At school, she’s powerful and popular. At home, she’s wealthy beyond her dreams. But she quickly realizes her perfect life is a lie. Her family is falling apart and her friends are snobby, cruel and plastic. Worse yet, she discovers she was the cruelest one. Mortified by her past, she embarks on a journey of redemption and falls for Kyle, the “geek” she once tormented. Yet all the time she wonders if, when her memories return, she’ll become the bully she was before…and if she’ll lose Kyle.

Release Date:  November 20, 2013
Age Group:  YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli

Review:
I love a good contemporary young adult novel, and Sia certainly fit the bill.  There's something to be said for the satisfaction of reading a stand-alone novel.  It's just really gratifying to have the ending set in stone at the end of the book, as opposed to waiting months to years to find out how the story will end.

The premise of Sia was captivating to me: waking up somewhere, and not knowing who or where you are.  I don't know about you, but that's always been a fear of mine: me or my loved ones getting amnesia.  So, I connected with Sia right away.  I felt for her, and was scared for her.  I admired her inner strength, living on the streets the way she did.  

But when I really started to fall for Sia was when she returned home to her life of luxury and discovered who she used to be: the cruelest of the mean girls at her high school.  She rebukes her old ways and starts to change; however, her change is not accepted well by anyone at school.  Her old friends want the old Sia back, and the people she's trying to befriend don't trust her.

Sia decides she needs to prove herself, prove that she really has changed, and gets involved in a fundraiser for victims of a recent earthquake.  That's when the story really took off, and that's when she displayed the most character growth.  

I really liked the writing style---it flowed well---and loved Sia's inner voice.  Watching her change for the better throughout the story was my favorite aspect of this book.  The love story was not a huge focus of the book, but it was well-developed and very sweet.  The ending was perfect, and I finished the book happy that I read it.  I'd recommend Sia for fans of contemporary YA literature.  I'm looking forward to reading more from Josh Grayson. 



Mini Reviews: Prodigy, Champion, The Edge of Always

Prodigy was just as good as Legend, if not even better.  I love Marie Lu's writing style.  Her pacing is perfect, and her plots are full of nuanced twists that continually surprise me.  I thought that there was a lot of positive character growth in this novel, more than in book one.  I liked that the love story was very much present, but not the focus of the entire novel.  The alternating POVs really let the reader into both June and Day's thoughts, and serve to better acquaint the reader with both characters.  There wasn't anything I didn't like about this book!  Rating: 5/5 stars

Champion (Legend #3) by Marie Lu
I have been a fan of the Legend series from the very beginning and was thrilled to read the conclusion to the trilogy, Champion.  Lu once again employs the alternating first-person narrative, and I loved it just as much in the third book as I did in the first and second installtions.  This series is full of action, loyalty, love, and hard decisions.  I loved the character growth, conflict resolution, and especially the ending.  Nothing thrills me more than a good epilogue and Lu's epilogue at the end of Champion was perfection.  My one complaint is that I wish the ending weren't quite so open.  Other than that, Champion was an awesome read and the perfect conclusion to the series.  Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Edge of Always (The Edge of Never #2) by J.A. Redmerski
I really enjoyed The Edge of Never and I've been looking forward to its sequel for a while now.  I love Redmerski's writing style and emotion.  But, this book was not as good as book one for me.  I thought the plot was slow-moving and predictable.  The huge loss, which was the main point of conflict of the book, was given away in the summary.  The ending felt rushed and rote.  I will definitely read J.A. Redmerski again, but I wish I had read these two books back-to-back; because I built book two up in my mind and it fell short of my expectations.  Rating: 3/5 stars.




Book Review: Wilde's Fire (Darkness Falls #1) by Krystal Wade

Summary:
“There is no pain in this death, only peace, knowing I am going to die with the one I love the most." -- Katriona Wilde

Katriona Wilde has never wondered what it would feel like to have everything she's ever known and loved ripped away, but she is about to find out. When she inadvertently leads her sister and best friend through a portal into a world she's dreamed of for six years, she finds herself faced with more than just the frightening creatures in front of her. She's forced to accept a new truth: her entire life has been a lie, and those closest to her have betrayed her. What's worse, she has no control over her new future, and it's full of magic and horrors from which nightmares are made.

Will she discover and learn to control who she really is in time to save the ones she loves, or will all be lost?

Wilde's Fire is the thrilling first instalment of debut author Krystal Wade's urban fantasy Darkness Falls trilogy, already exciting critics with its intensity and immersive, unique world and concept.

Release Date: May 12,2012
Age Group: YA, I think… (I say this because Google did not confirm it…and that makes me skeptical)
Source: Kelli
Reviewed by: Madi B

Review:
I was excited to read this mainly because of the cover. I know, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover. But it felt like velvet!!!! How can you not be excited?

The book opens up to Katriona waking up from a sleepover (if that’s what you call it) with her best friend…who’s a dude!!! I was like wait what??? Then I re-read it and guess who was right…THIS GIRL!!! I guess I don’t completely understand because I don’t have guy friends that I’m THAT close with. I just kind of shrugged it off and moved on. Then BOOM her-best-friend-who-is-a-guy-whose-name-is-also-Brad turns out to be a total crazy psychopath!

And then we meet Galen, (Am I the only one who finds his name ridiculous? And I apologize if I offended any Galen’s. I don’t hate you, just your name.) who is perfect. Tan, tall, completely gorgeous, single, and has NOT ONE FLAW! NOT A ONE!  Come one authors! I thought we got over that one once the last Twilight movie came out! Then I forced myself to keep calm and carry on. Then her and Galen started flirting and such (didn’t see that one coming) then she was all “Come sleep with me” and he was all “Ok” and I was all “Are they serious? GET SOME MORALS WHY DON’T-CHA!” (Not like “sleeping together” sleeping together, but sleeping-in-the-same-bed sleeping together.) Where are her parents? Oh yeah just over there in the corner ENCOURAGING IT! She said “I’ll give y’all some space” like WHAT? (excuse my teenager but the “like” was necessary) Then they were taking baths together. (Oh don’t worry they had clothes on, but not very much at that!) Excuse me while I go gag. Is this behavior normal? If it is, I’m sure glad I’m not!

But the book was not completely composed of bad parts. The characters Flanna and Kate’s sister were awesome and funny. Frankly I wanted the book to be from their perspective, not Kate’s. But I wished we saw more of the cool fictional world the author created and less of Kate, Galen, and Brad’s love triangle. Overall, I thought the book was okay.






Book Review: Broken by C.J. Lyons

Summary: 
The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now... or never. Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does.

Release Date: November 5, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed by: Kelli

Review:
Wow, this book was good!  I started Broken thinking it was going to go in a predictable direction, and Lyons blew my expectations out of the water.  Broken is contemporary YA, but it's also a thriller, and a great one at that!  My heart was racing for the last 45 minutes or so of the story....not such a good idea for reading right before bed, because I was very revved up by the time I finished reading (and of course I had to finish before I could go to sleep!).  

Scarlet has been sick for her whole life.  As a fellow "sick kid," I really identified with her. I don't have a heart condition, but my illness does require me to stay home much of the time, like Scarlet.  Scarlet wants nothing more than a normal high school experience, and she finally convinces her parents to let her attend high school for a week on a trial basis. 

Broken spans one week in time, but it's an action-packed week, and with the revelations throughout the story, it's the most life-changing week Scarlet has ever had.  I'm not usually a fan of books that take place over very short time periods, but the short time span really worked for Broken.  Plus, there was an epilogue----love those----so there was plenty of closure and an added layer of depth to the story.

It's hard to write this review without giving away the huge surprise at the end of Broken. Suffice it to say, I was shocked beyond belief.  Lyons' pacing was perfect, and had me on the edge of my seat for much of the story.  The characters were well-developed, interesting, and varied from the typical high school students.  I loved that Scarlet's flashbacks served such an important role in the conflict resolution.  It was easy for me to mentally brush them off, thinking, oh, that's just another dream...but at the end, when everything came together, the crazy dreams made perfect sense. 

I'm new to C.J. Lyons but I'm very impressed with her work.  I'll definitely be reading her work again.  I highly recommend Broken for fans of contemporary YA and fans of thrillers. 




Book Review: Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Summary: 
There are no heroes.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

Release Date: September 24, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Kelli

Review:
Steelheart was different from my usual YA reads but I loved it.  The action started on the very first page and didn't let up for the entire book.  It made for a very fast-paced and exciting read! 

The premise of the Epics: ordinary people who developed superpowers after Calamity (I'm still not sure but I think Calamity was a star), was really interesting.  I liked how there were lots of Epics, all different kinds, and not just one person with a superpower.  The idea of the Epics ruling America was terrifying.  Sanderson's world-building was perfect: he wove the history of the Epics into the story, so there were no slow parts at the beginning of the book.

David wants to kill Newcago's (previously Chicago) ruling Epic: Steelheart.  Steelheart's name depicts his powers: he is strong, invincible, and can turn things to steel.  He turned all of Chicago to steel in what's called the Transfersion.  The imagery describing the cold, dark, gray Newcago was exceptional.  Not only is Chicago now made of steel, another Epic called Nightwielder has turned Newcago into a state of permanent darkness.  What a bleak, scary place to live!  Anyone who offends the Epics (there are several ruling under Steelheart) in any way is killed.  The Epics are in complete control of the city's resources and people.  

David has devoted his life to studying the Epics and devising plans to kill them.  Steelheart killed David's father and David wants revenge.  He learns of the Reckoners, a group devoted to killing Epics, and wants to join them.  The Reckoners come to Newcago and David devises a plan to meet up with them.  I enjoyed the camaraderie of David and the Reckoners.  They were a devoted, loyal team and I liked that they joined together and David found his purpose in that way.


But what made Steelheart so great were the plot twists throughout the story.  Every time I thought I knew where Sanderson was taking the plot, things would change and I was continually surprised.  I love that!  The characters were very well-developed, and I grew to care about the Reckoners, more than I expected to.  I often find character development lacking in sci-fi, but not so in Steelheart.  

My one complaint about Steelheart was that there was more fighting than I personally like, but it did fit the story.  The fight scenes were long yet well-depicted.  I think they would appeal more to the male readership than they did to me.  

Overall, I loved Steelheart and look forward to the next book in the series.  Sanderson ended the book with a big surprise and I'm really excited to see what happens next in book two!  

 


Great Sale on Only For You by Genna Rulon

I'm not big on promoting sales or promoting much of anything, really, but I do love to share great books.  

Genna Rulon's Only For You was one of my favorite 2013 reads, and it's on sale for $2.99 from November 15-17.  

This book was one of my September books of the month (here's the post) and a five-star book for me (here's my review).

Don't miss out on this great contemporary new adult fiction novel!  Buy Only For You on Amazon.



Book Review: Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson

Summary: 
A deeply moving, beautifully-written picture of how the smallest crack in a relationship slowly, over decades, becomes a canyon too wide to bridge.

When Lucy meets Matt on a blind date, Matt is instantly hooked; he sees Lucy as the fun, sexy, and wickedly smart girl of his dreams. Although she’s still getting over an old lover, Lucy is won over by Matt’s sweet, thoughtful nature. But 20 years later, alone in an empty house trying to imagine the lives of her two young children, Lucy comes to realize that the little lies you tell can create more damage than the truth you’re hiding.

Release Date: November 5, 2013
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Kelli

Review:
It's been months since I read Lies You Wanted to Hear and I am still thinking about this book.  I loved this book, and still can't believe how good it was.

As a parent, I was enraptured by the premise of Lies You Wanted to Hear.  The idea of losing my daughter is unthinkable.  I was ready to completely side with Lucy when I started the book.  What I found so incredible, though, was that the way Thomson writes both Lucy and Matt made me understand and empathize with both of them.  I really couldn't say whose side I was on because I felt like both of them were right in what they did.  I think that's the mark of a great author: to make readers picture themselves as the characters and have a hard time separating their own beliefs from the characters'.

Thomson's characters felt so real.  I felt like I was reading about people I knew in real life.  Lucy and Matt could have been anyone: neighbors, church members, fellow grocery store shoppers.  At some point during the novel, they ceased being characters from a book and became real people to me.  Their actions, thoughts, and emotions just jumped off the page and into my heart.  Lucy and Matt were both achingly human and flawed, but that just made me love them more.  

Speaking of characters, Thomson provided a great amount of character growth.  I loved that Lies You Wanted to Hear spans decades in time, because everyone in the book did a lot of growing up throughout the story, both physically and emotionally.

I keep going over the sequence of events that led to the abduction of the children.  I still can't say who was really at fault.  There was no clear-cut 'bad guy'; instead, there was a series of irrevocable , life-altering decisions made by both parents.  So many seemingly small events snowballed into one huge decision and that made the book so enthralling.

I think that ultimately what was so entirely captivating about Lies You Wanted to Hear was its plausibility and the thought that something like this could truly happen to anyone.  I really loved the slightly open ending for its realism.  It made the book feel even more authentic.

I still can't believe that Lies You Wanted to Hear is a debut novel.  Thomson writes like a seasoned author, and all I can think was that he hit a home run right out of the box.  Once I started this book, there was no stopping until I found out how the story would end.  I ended up staying up late into the night (with a sick toddler, which is usually unthinkable) and did not regret one second of lost sleep.  Lies You Wanted to Hear is soaring and simply outstanding, and I can't wait to read Thomson's next novel (I really hope there will be another one!).