Monday, July 6, 2015



Mass Market: 368 pages
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: June 30, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
Cedar Ridge, Colorado, is famous for crisp mountain air, clear blue skies, and pine-scented breezes. And it's the last place Lily Danville wants to be. But she needs a job, and there's an opening at the hottest resort in her hometown. What has her concerned is the other hot property in Cedar Ridge: Aidan Kincaid-firefighter, rescue worker, and heartbreaker. She never could resist that devastating smile...

The Kincaid brothers are as rough and rugged as the Rocky Mountains they call home. Aidan has always done things his own way, by his own rules. And never has he regretted anything more than letting Lily walk out of his life ten years ago. If anyone has ever been in need of rescuing, she has. What she needs more than anything are long hikes, slow dances, and sizzling kisses. But that can only happen if he can get her to give Cedar Ridge-and this bad boy-a second chance...



I'm a big Jill Shalvis fan. Her Lucky Harbor series was one of my favorites and when it ended I was very excited to read her new Cedar Ridge series. I was not disappointed. I enjoyed Second Chance Summer and I cannot wait for more books in the series.

Jill Shalvis follows a formula, but it's a formula that keeps me coming back for more. Jill Shalvis's books, especially if they're part of a series, are like potato chips--you cannot read just one. Just like in her Lucky Harbor series, this new series was set in a small town inhabited by eccentric townspeople, sexy alpha men and intelligent women. But unlike Lucky Harbor, which was a small town near the ocean, Cedar Ridge is located up in the mountains of Colorado. 

Our hero Aidan Kincaid is a fire fighter, a search and rescue worker and he also co-owns the Cedar Ridge Resort with his siblings. Our heroine Lily Danville found her way back in Cedar Ridge after she got fired from her job in LA, but she promised herself that it's only temporary. Meanwhile, she needed a job, and the only opening was at the resort. The last thing Lily wanted though was to see Aidan. Ten years ago, they did not part on good terms when Lily left after her family fell apart and Aidan didn't stop her. Now, Aidan hopes to convince Lily to give him and Cedar Ridge a second chance...

Both Lily and Aidan were likable characters. Besides being a sexy fire fighter, Aidan works hard, is responsible, loyal and loves his mom and siblings. He rescues people for a living, puts others before himself, and you can count on him. He had his brooding and alpha moments, but I love how open he was about his feelings for Lily. As for Lily, she's independent and hard-working, but she struggled with her guilt over her sister and father's deaths. She didn't have family around like Aidan does so she's alone. She's hesitant when it comes to starting a relationship with Aidan, and I understood why she felt the way she did. She was carrying a lot of weight on her shoulders and she needed to let go of some of that before she can start anything. But Lily and Aidan could not ignore each other and the obvious attraction between them. It was fun and entertaining to watch them find their way to each other again, hiccups and all.

Lily and Aidan were great, but my favorite part was meeting all quirky secondary characters. My favorites were Aidan's brother Gray and his wife Penny. They were a hoot with their TMI. If you read Kristan Higgins's Blue Heron series, they kind of reminded me of Pru and Carl. Others were Aidan's mom Char, Lily's friend Jonathan, and Aidan's friend Mitch--they all brought humor to the story and I love all the scenes they were in. I also love the family dynamics between the Kincaids. They prank and annoy each other, argue and get in each other's business, but at the end of the day they are a unit and they are there for each other no matter what and I just love that. Jill Shalvis writes the best sibling relationships in contemporary romance, no question.

The plot Second Chance Summer in was familiar and nothing really surprised me, but add in the setting, the quirky secondary characters, the humorous moments and the witty banter, and what you get is a very delightful, entertaining read. I am looking forward to reading the next books in the series. If you enjoyed (or, like me, miss reading) the Lucky Harbor series, definitely pick up Second Chance Summer. You'll find everything you loved there in this new series. If you want to start a small-town romance series, give Cedar Ridge a chance. You really cannot go wrong when picking up a Jill Shalvis novel. 



“Come here,” he said.

“I’m right here.”

“Closer.”

She walked into his arms. He pulled her in and kissed her. He kissed her until he knew he’d taken it as far as he could without tearing off that pretty sundress right then and there, and only then did he lift his head.

“Oh,” she breathed, staggering back a step, clearly trying to play it cool—which might have worked if her eyes weren’t dilated and the pulse at the base of her throat wasn’t going apeshit crazy.

He gave a slow smile and pulled her back in, not hard for him to do, since she already had a grip on his shirt like he was her lifeline and she was going down for the count.

She cleared her throat. “So you showed up all Captain America to save the day, and now what? I jump into bed with you? Was that your plan?”

“Yeah,” he said, “but in my version we didn’t talk this much.”

“A full-service rescue then,” she said evenly.

He tried a cajoling smile. “I’m really good at full service.”

“Do you really think this is a good idea?”

He laughed softly and let his mouth brush over her temple and then her ear, which caused her to shiver. “Of course it’s not a good idea. Or we’d have gone for it already.

But sometimes the bad ideas turn out to be the best ideas of all.”

“Yeah?” she asked. “Name one.”

“Bringing out your keys from the convenience store after the postcard display demolition.”

She let out a soft laugh and fisted her hands in his hair.

“So what now? We really going to try this out?”

Were they? He’d promised himself he wouldn’t give her a chance to devastate him again. But somehow over the past few weeks he’d lost sight of keeping his heart safe and moved onto wanting to heal her heart. “I’m game.”

She hesitated so long he took a step back from her and prepared himself to leave. But her hand came out and gripped his. “You’re wearing too many clothes,” she said softly.

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

ARC: 328 pages
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: none
Synopsis
Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy. But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul.

Devoted was my first book about a cult, and after reading my sister's review and hearing from her her experience reading her first cult-themed book (see her review of Seed), I had some expectations for it. As I picked it up, I readied myself for a twisted plot featuring equally twisted characters and a foreign world that I could delve myself into every time I read. I was so excited to read something refreshingly different and out of my comfort zone that I had a lot of anticipation going into Devoted. However, when I was some chapters in, I quickly realized that it is no such book.

Devoted was not the dark and riveting read I was expecting. Its plot was slow and predictable, albeit somewhat interesting and eye-opening, and its characters were not particularly twisted or nefarious. This finding both disappointed me and relieved me, so I'm giving Devoted


I'll be honest, I was being unfair when I began to read Devoted with the expectation that it was going to be so dramatically appalling. My assumption that all books about cults are shocking and horrific cast Devoted in an unjustified light, hindering my reading enjoyment of the novel alone. So when I read Devoted and quickly realized my mistake, I tried to disregard my expectations completely and enjoy the book for what it is. 

The story is of a girl named Rachel Walker who had been raised all her life in attending services and following the practices and beliefs of a church called Calvary Christian Church. When her desire for knowledge and education leads her to learning about the faults and flaws of what she has always assumed to be the perfect and right way of life, she begins to question the church's and the brethrens' ways. Her revelations and utter feelings of loneliness and confusion move her to abandon all that she knew and seek truth outside of the church, although it may mean leaving her own family behind.

The plot had a slow and predictable pace, although not so slow that I constantly felt I was plodding along. But with my former expectations not completely forgotten, I felt bored at times with the story line because I could already tell what Rachel's wonderings were going to lead her to do and then I was frustrated when it took a few chapters for Rachel to get to where I already knew she was going to go. Still, I kept reading, figuring that that was actually a good thing, for me, especially, as the subject matter of Devoted was something new to me. As I got to understand Rachel more, I wanted to learn more about her life, family, friends, and peers. Her world was slowly explained and built around me, and with every new detail, my interest in it grew. There were no mysteries or crazy secrets that kept me on the edge of my seat in Devoted and, at times, its pace made me feel restless, but I eventually came to like how simply eye-opening its story came to be.

Contrary to what I expected at first, the characters in Devoted were not overly complex characters, each just having their own unique history that understandably made them who they were in the book, although they were not very easily relatable. Along with Rachel, whom I only related to over our shared enthusiasm for books, I was riveted with each piece of information I discovered about each character, their personalities becoming more and more clear in my mind's eye. I wish, however, that there was less telling and more showing in Devoted because there were many characters who were key to Rachel's development, and so, their traits had to be set straight for the story to make sense. For the other characters, though, I felt that, even though they were secondary, they had motives too that should have been explained. For example, I still wonder if the pastor of Calvary Christian Church had something against those under his care or was just plain naive of what was going on when he always resulted to the form of correction he did to help the brethren. While those important characters were clearly focused on and delineated, explanation of the others' traits was disregarded, making holes that made me feel disconnected to the characters and their interactions with each other. Coupled with the predicability of the plot, I cannot really say I rooted for Rachel in her search for truth than say I was happy she did when she did. I couldn't connect well with the characters, although I wish I had because they seemed like they had more to them than what I was given and told.

Overall, Devoted was an okay read. I expected some dramatic plot going in, but I'm glad for its untheatrical, non-tragic-ness just the same. Even though I thought the plot was slow and predictable and the characters were not easily relatable or fully fleshed out, I found Devoted to be an interesting read with its topical themes of knowledge, truth, and the meaning or purpose of life. I'd recommend this to anyone whose never read any contemporary YA about cults because Devoted is a good book to start with--no crazy Jim Jones kind of cult leader with a mass suicide in the end here. I'd also recommend this to anyone wanting an uplifting read because Devoted reminds us that the world is too large and too complex to be explained by utter truths and the key to living in its expansiveness is embracing it wholly. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Blog Most Likely To...

Thursday, June 25, 2015 with
Hello everyone,
Five days from returning from the Philippines, I will be again traveling to San Francisco to attend the annual ALA conference. I went last year and I had a lot of fun and I am super excited to attend again this year.

One of the books I am hoping to get at ALA is Huntley Fitzpatrick's The Boy Most Likely To. But if not, the wait won't be very long (although I've been impatiently waiting for it since 2013) because it's coming out on August 18th.

Huntley Fitzpatrick is one of my all-time favorite contemporary YA authors. I absolutely loved her previous novels My Life Next Door (my review) and What I Thought Was True (my review) and I am particularly excited for The Boy Most Likely To because it's a companion novel to My Life Next Door--meaning we're going to see/get an update on Jase Garrett and Samatha Reed again, one of my favorite YA couples of all time.


To celebrate the release of The Boy Most Likely To PenguinTeen invited our blog to participate in posting some The Boy Most Likely To-related posts and the first one is coming up with a "blog most likely to" superlative and our blog is...

Except for middle grade books, it is a requirement that books have a romance in it for me to pick it up or add it on my ever-growing list of books-to-get.

Here are three of my all-time favorite YA books with a romance in them that exemplify what I think are the best YA romances out there. My Life Next Door and is not included here because, come on, it's a total given.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Set in Paris, the City of Love, where an unsuspecting American girl inexplicably meets a charming, English-accented, handsome guy all together made for a fantastic romance that I had me laughing, smiling, swooning, and sighing all throughout the read. These words alone do not give this YA romance justice--it is sooooo good and an absolute MUST READ (and re-read).


Something Real  by Heather Demetrios
I just love Chloe and Patrick's relationship. Patrick was the calm in the craziness that was Chloe's reality TV life. He's the best nice-guy love interest I've ever read.


Prodigy by Marie Lu (Legend #2)
I'm a sucker for those romances where the hero and heroine first start out hating each other and then slowly develop feelings for each other; Day and June from Marie Lu's Legend series is one of my favorite YA couples that had a romance just like that. In the first book Legend, they hated each other for the most part, but by the end of that book and thereafter in Prodigy and in Champion, I rooted for and sighed at how those two came ever more closer.












Do you share in my love and need for romance in novels? What do you say about these YA couples and romances? Let me know what you think!

Happy reading,
Michelle

Monday, June 22, 2015

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Ink & Chrome #1
Synopsis
The men of the Twisted Steel custom motorcycle shop are great with their hands... and they're not afraid to get dirty.

PJ is exactly the kind of woman Twisted Steel owner Asa Barrons doesn't need. The last thing he wants to do is mix business with pleasure, and PJ has some of the best custom detailing he's ever seen. But the chemistry between them won't be denied, and soon he's introducing her to a whole new world in the bedroom, pushing her far beyond anything she's ever experienced. PJ finds she can't get enough, but how far is too far before he consumes her completely?



I read Opening Up in a couple of days. It was a pretty fast read, but it was one of those books that I liked but didn't love. 

Anyway, like I said, I did like Opening Up and my favorite thing about it was PJ's character. She did have her daddy issues (her dad was a huge asshole), but she's a strong, independent woman who goes after what she wanted. I really admired her. She didn't take any shit from Asa and when he did something she disagreed with or he stepped out of line, she called him out on it. She communicated her feelings right away and she didn't let things fester and I really, really appreciated that about her and found it very refreshing.

As for Asa, I didn't connect with him as much as I did with PJ. He's 37 years old (PJ is 25) and co-owner of a custom auto shop called Twisted Steel. Like PJ, he has tattoos and piercings (they both have piercings in some very interesting places) and lives and breathes fast cars and motorcycles. He has great relationships with is mom and two younger sisters. He's basically the total sexy package--he's a good guy and he did some very sweet things to PJ and he defended her against assholes (her dad included), but... I don't know... I personally wasn't attracted to him. Maybe it's because I'm not a big fan of piercings or his brand of kink (riding crops, floggers, etc.--but this is not a BDSM novel).

PJ and Asa got together pretty quickly--I want to say within the first 100 pages or so--but it wasn't an insta-love kind of deal. Many months passed within those 100 pages as Asa worked through his misgivings (like, their age difference, mixing business with pleasure, etc.) about starting something with PJ. After that, they had a pretty solid relationship. Outside forces brought on problems but they were a pretty solid couple. If you're looking for that will-they-won't-they all the way to the end romance plot, you might be disappointed. If you are looking for a steamy, turn-the-AC-up kind of read, Opening Up is a good one to pick up. The sex scenes were extra steamy and frequent without being repetitive. 

I think my biggest issue with Opening Up was the writing. I have read many books (romance novels and other genres) where I could just breeze through reading the sentences and paragraphs. It wasn't the case here. More than once I had to reread a sentence or two to really get what was being said. I thought the writing was bit clunky and some of the dialogue didn't quite flow well. Admittedly, I did read another book by Lauren Dane previously and I had the same issue with the writing there, so maybe I just don't gel with Ms. Dane's writing.

If you're in the mood for a quick, very steamy read, Opening Up is a good one to pick up. The heroine is awesome; the hero, while he wasn't for me, is great; and the sex is hot. I recommend you keep it under your radar.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Hello everyone,
School is finally out, my classroom is in order for the summer, and I was looking forward to a lazy summer of reading and blogging. But by the time you read this, I'll be halfway across the Pacific Ocean. There was an unexpected family emergency and I found myself traveling to the Philippines and staying there for about two weeks. Due to the unexpectedness of this trip, I don't have time to plan, write, and schedule any blog posts while I am gone. Sadly, I'll be internet-less the whole time I'm there so, this will be my last post for a little while.

Anyway, since it's June and we're in the the half-way mark for the year, this is the perfect time to list my top 5 favorite books of the year--so far.

#5
Soulbound (book 6) started my love for the Darkest London series. I was only halfway done with it and I was already hunting for all the books in the series and ordering them on Amazon. I realized I cannot start at book 6. The world Kristen Callihan build is so fascinating and vast. I wanted to start at the beginning and know more about the secondary characters I met in Soulbound and learn more about the world. My review here.





#4
The Storyspinner is my favorite 2015 debut novel. It was such a well-written fantasy that kept me engaged the whole time. It has a large cast of characters, but I was invested in every single one of them and I am dying to know what's going to happen next. Read my review here.






#3
The Winner's Crime drove me crazy and broke my heart, but in a very, very good way. I love Marie Rutkoski's writing style and where she's taking Arin and Kestrel's story. I cannot wait for The Winner's Kiss. I am going to be totally pissed if Arin and Kestrel are not together by the end of Kiss. Read my review here.







#2
Yep, another one by Kristen Callihan. I love, love, love The Hook Up. Drew Baylor is the ultimate book boyfriend. I've never swooned over a NA hero as much as I did for Drew.








#1
I absolutely LOVE The Deal. It's one of my favorite new adult reads of all time. I can even confidently say that it's my #1 favorite NA read of all time. I gushed more about it here (along with The Hook Up).






I highly recommend all of these books. If you haven't checked them out yet, I hope you do. If you've read any of them, did you love any of these as much as I did? Or maybe they didn't quite work out for you? I'd love to know your thoughts.

Happy reading,
Michelle

Monday, June 1, 2015

Hello everyone,
I hope you all had a great weekend! I have a really fun Would you rather...? author Q&A with Margaret Fortune today, because tomorrow Nova, one of my most anticipated releases this month, is being released into the world.

*36:00:00*

The clock activates so suddenly in my mind, my head involuntarily jerks a bit to the side. The fog vanishes, dissipated in an instant as though it never was. Memories come slotting into place, their edges sharp enough to leave furrows, and suddenly I know. I know exactly who I am.

My name is Lia Johansen, and I was named for a prisoner of war. She lived in the Tiersten Internment Colony for two years, and when they negotiated the return of the prisoners, I was given her memories and sent back in her place.

And I am a genetically engineered human bomb.


Lia Johansen was created for only one purpose: to slip onto the strategically placed New Sol Space Station and explode. But her mission goes to hell when her clock malfunctions, freezing her countdown with just two minutes to go. With no Plan B, no memories of her past, and no identity besides a name stolen from a dead POW, Lia has no idea what to do next. Her life gets even more complicated when she meets Michael Sorenson, the real Lia’s childhood best friend.

Drawn to Michael and his family against her better judgment, Lia starts learning what it means to live and love, and to be human. It is only when her countdown clock begins sporadically losing time that she realizes even duds can still blow up. If she wants any chance at a future, she must find a way to unlock the secrets of her past and stop her clock. But as Lia digs into her origins, she begins to suspect there’s far more to her mission and to this war, than meets the eye. With the fate of not just a space station but an entire empire hanging in the balance, Lia races to find the truth before her time—literally—runs out.

I am soooo excited for Nova! It sounds unlike anything I've read before. Reading the synopsis, it sounds like a really action-packed, roller coaster kind of read and hints of a romance between two old friends (my favorite kind!).

I asked author Margaret Fortune a series of would you rather...? questions and to briefly explain her answers.

Author Margaret Fortune
Spend a year alone in a deep sea submarine OR Spend a year alone in a space station

Space station! I’d love to spend some time in the stars I so often write about.

Be the last human on Earth OR Be the first human on Mars

Let’s see: Be the last member of dead race, doomed to live my final years alone, or be the bold adventurer who goes down in history for exploring a new and amazing world. Mars, definitely! Um…I do get to come back once I’m done exploring Mars, right? Right…?

Be a famous leader OR Be a famous inventor

Famous leader. I like to think that if ever evil aliens came and conquered the Earth, I’d rise up as a great revolutionary leader, making inspiring speeches and leading my ragtag band of survivors into victory over our alien overlords. But then, who doesn’t fantasize about that?

Watch Star Wars OR Watch 2001: A Space Odyssey

Star Wars! Lightsabers. Jawas. Harrison Ford. Need I go on?

Time travel in the future to learn about future technology OR Time travel in the past to solve a mystery (i.e., Jack the Ripper, Roanoke Colony, etc.)

The future! Let’s face it: Traveling to the future may be my one and only chance to finally get a jetpack…

Go on a spacecraft so cheap that it may be faulty and unreliable OR Go on a spacecraft so advanced that the computer may turn against you

My undergraduate degree is in psychology, not engineering. So I’m going to go with the advanced spacecraft, as I have more faith in my ability to reason with a pissy AI than to fix a broken engine.

*****
A huge thank you to Margaret for answering my questions and also to PenguinRandom House/DAW and Alexis for the opportunity to interview Margaret.

For more info on Nova and to chat with Margaret, stop by her website and chat with her on Twitter.

Don't forget to pick up Nova at your favorite book store or request it at your local public library tomorrow. Look for my review of Nova, which will be posted at a later date because the book is still making its way to Hawaii.

Happy reading,
Michelle