December 26, 2014

Top Ten of 2014: Speculative YA

In no particular order, here are my favourite Speculative Young Adult books (fantasy, dystopia, etc) I've read this year. . .
  1. Shimmer by Paula Weston (This doesn't come out until June 2015 in North America, so you better believe I imported it from the UK. That's how much I adore this series)
  2. Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers (What an epic end to an amazingggg trilogy. Romantic, fantastic, and hopeful)
  3. Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead (Adrian 4ever!! In all seriousness I have loved every book in this series and they just keep getting more exciting. Must reads!!)
  4. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski (So deliciously written! Epic world building and very complicated relationships abound)
  5. Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau (This series is so freaking good. You can see hints of other dystopian tales, but the author makes the world all her own)
  6. Three by Kristen Simmons (This is a hugely underrated series, and Three is a perfect conclusion to the trilogy)
  7. Lady Thief by A.G. Gaughen (THIS BOOK. This book!!! Talk about underrated. I adore everything about this book, except maybe that gut-wrenchingly painful part)
  8. In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken (This is another fabulous ending to a wonderful trilogy. One of my faves!)
  9. A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (A wonderful start to a series filled with parallel worlds and parallel versions of characters. Exciting and romantic)
  10. The One by Kiera Cass (This series drove me crazy, and yet I ADORED it, too. Even if some things felt convenient, I really loved this conclusion to the trilogy)

December 25, 2014

Top Ten of 2014: Contemporary YA

To those who celebrate, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas! Blessings to you and yours at this crazy, but beautiful, time of year.

In no particular order, here are my favourite Contemporary Young Adult books I've read this year. . .
  1. Whatever Life Throws at You by Julie Cross (Kind of Friday Night Lights-ish, except with baseball. Coach's daughter falling for the new star player)
  2. Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley (This book made my feminist self seethe with how the cadets treated the first females at the school, but it was also SO GOOD)
  3. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (What is there to say?! Sheer perfection, artistic beauty. Must read!!!)
  4. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (Long awaited, highly anticipated, and well worth the wait. Lived up to every dream I had for it)
  5. Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally (Miranda has never disappointed me. Her books are complete must-reads for contemp fans. Smart and romantic)
  6. Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler (I am such a glutton for Hollywood YA type stories, and this one is superb)
  7. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson (Morgan's books are MUST READS. An absolutely charming book about friendship, romance, and family)
  8. Open Road Summer by Emery Lord (What if Taylor Swift was your BFF and you fell in love with her opening act while on tour with her for the summer? That's practically what this book is. EPIC)
  9. Something Real by Heather Demetrios (Chloe has grown up as part of a family reality show, so all she longs for is anonymity. This one has a slow burn romance, complicated family dynamics, and a "unputdownable" quality to it)
  10. After the Storm by Marie Landry (More people need to read this author because she is fabulous. Emotional and swoony)

If you'd like even further recommendations, be sure to check out my Contemporary YA Recs Shelf on Goodreads.

December 24, 2014

Top Ten of 2014: New Adult

In no particular order, here are my favourite New Adult books I've read this year. . .
  1. Swimming to Tokyo by Brenda St. John Brown (Why haven't more people read this?! Travel, discovery, swoon)
  2. Rome by Jay Crownover (I like the whole Marked Men series, but Rome still stands out as a favourite)
  3. Full Measures by Rebecca Yarros (An NA book that captures the whole life of the character, not only the romance. Deeply emotional)
  4. Imaginary Lines by Allison Parr (Another book - and series - I wish more people would read. This friends to lovers romance is swoon times a zillion)
  5. The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen (Thoughtfully portrayed characters, a slow burn romance, and smart writing made this one a fave of mine. Honourable mention to The Year We Hid Away, the second book in the series, and... well, basically everything Sarina has written)
  6. More Than Music by Elizabeth Briggs (Character development alert! This one offers up tropes in the best kind of way)
  7. Amour Amour by Krista & Becca Ritchie (The authors describe it as Cirque du Soleil meets Center Stage, which is completely accurate. Original, epic, and romantic)
  8. Wild by Sophie Jordan (Older good girl + younger bad boy. Somehow, despite surface appearances, these two work so well together. Potentially my fave of the series)
  9. I Want It That Way by Ann Aguirre (Great character journeys, an awesome different type of NA hero [a single dad], and total swoons)
  10. The Hook-Up by Kristen Callihan (Everything about this book's description screams cliche, but everything about the characters and the emotional arc made me fall for it)

If you'd like even further NA recommendations, be sure to check out my NA Recs Shelf on Goodreads.

December 23, 2014

Bad Romeo by Leisa Rayven

Bad Romeo by Leisa Rayven
Release Date: December 23, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Pages: 417
Series: Starcrossed
Review Source: Netgalley

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

While performing the greatest love story of all time, they discovered one of their own...

Cassie Taylor was just another acting student with big dreams at her prestigious performing arts college, then she met Ethan Holt. She was the good girl actress. He was the bad boy on campus. But one fated casting choice for
Romeo and Juliet changed it all. Like the characters they were playing on stage, Cassie and Ethan's epic romance seemed destined. Until it ended in tragedy when he shattered her heart.

Now they've made it to Broadway where they're reunited as romantic leads once again, and their passionate scenes force them to confront the heartbreaking lows and pulse-pounding highs of their intense college affair. For Ethan, losing Cassie was his biggest regret, and he's determined to redeem himself. But for Cassie, even though Ethan was her first and only great love, he hurt her too much to ever be trusted again. The trouble is, working with him reminds her that people who rub each other the wrong way often make the best sparks. And when it comes to love, sometimes it's the things that aren't good for us that are the most irresistible.

Don't miss the intoxicating romance beloved by over two million fans online--a story that will captivate you and hold you breathless until the final page.
My Thoughts:
My first impression of the book: I saw the cover and thought WOW!! My second impression of the book: it sounds interesting, but perhaps a bit cliche, so maybe I’ll wait and read some reviews. My third impression of the book: okay, but look at all those amazing blurbs from authors that I freaking adore. Decision: okay, I definitely have to read this now!!! And oh my GOSH I am so glad I read this one. It was only poor decision making because now I have to wait even longer for the second book.

Bad Romeo tells a story we may have read before, at least on the surface. It features a broken boy with emotional issues who has MAJORLY screwed up (we’re not completely sure how), but now he’s reformed (supposedly) and he wants another chance. It’s the girl-loves-emotionally-unavailable-boy story. Our main character, Cassie, hasn't been able to replace said boy (Ethan) in her bed or in her heart, but she’s understandably leery to trust him again.

This book features two incredible main characters. Cassie from then and Cassie from now are so deliciously the same character and yet so deliciously not. I'm not sure I've ever read a better instance of character growth, where you can see how life experiences and the hurt Cassie has been through has changed her inner monologue. Another thing I loved about Cassie is that college aged Cassie was a virgin who was also very sexual. I don't think we see this type of character enough. So often, even in romance novels (the books which should be celebrating all versions of female sexuality), you've got the simpering virgin with no experience OR the fully sexually empowered woman. There doesn't tend to be many characters in between. Cassie may be lacking in orgasms, but she freely talks about masturbation and watching porn. She's a virgin who (gasp!) has sexual urges and knows what she wants. Cassie is, in fact, the initiator in almost every sexual encounter with Ethan.

Ethan is also a character who changes and evolves. He's a real jerk at the beginning of the book, where in real life it would be like "see you later, jackass" but in the book he has enough charming vulnerability for you to say "get it, girl!". You cling to the good parts of the character and really want him to be the best version of himself, which definitely comes out in present Ethan. Ethan from now is charming and cocky and delicious, minus the crippling emotional issues of Ethan from then.

Basically, I loved (loved loved!) this book, and considering there's very little actual sex going on it's a surprisingly sexy and steamy read. I absolutely loved this story, but I am a bit disappointed that it ended on a cliffhanger. It felt like with another 30 to 50 pages we could have had the whole story, rather than drawing things out into a sequel. Of course since this book was so good in general I’m really hoping that the second book will give us a great full story rather than dragging out the will they/won’t they for another novel. Bad Romeo is an absolutely amazing read, and I can’t wait for more from this author.

The Cover:


Purchase Links:
Kobo | | | Chapters-Indigo | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

December 9, 2014

Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler

Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: 273
Series: Radleigh University
Review Source: eARC from author for review


Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she's acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she'll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn't exactly Lizzie's biggest fan.

But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you're ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks... and that she'd like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he's not the kind of guy who'd ever reciprocate.

Until he does.

Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.

Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.
My Thoughts:
We’ve grown to expect a certain kind of story in the New Adult category. Romance in itself tells stories with similar endings and certain types of situations, but I think that’s the real beauty of the genre. Tropes can be tiresome in some instances, but they’re also tropes for a reason. Certain types of tropes, when done well, can tell us a good story, and that’s exactly what Dahlia Adler has done here. Last Will and Testament, on the surface, is a story that you’ve probably heard before. It's about the girl with dead parents, who suddenly has to take care of her siblings. It's also the "hot for teacher" story, where the girl falls for her TA. You may have seen these elements before, but the way the author tells the story makes these characters and situations feel real, not just tropes we’ve seen a million times.

While I definitely enjoyed this book, there were a couple parts I had a harder time with. I would have liked a little more of Lizzie dealing with her parents' death. There are definitely a few moments, and of course she has a lot going on, but it felt almost absent in a few parts. Another thing I was skeptical about was the character of Sophie. There must be completely evil mean girls in existence somewhere, or else the stereotype wouldn’t exist, but I had a hard time believing that Sophie’s motivation for acting out was so strong that she would take her actions that far. All that being said, it did make for an interesting subplot, so maybe you can favour the plot over the believability (or maybe it's just me being naive about the nature of people).

Anyway, for the couple things I was so-so on, the rest of the book more than made up for it. One of the best aspects of the book is Lizzie and her brothers. It’s such a tough situation, and Lizzie wasn’t always the perfect authority figure with the perfect responses, but that made it all the more realistic. So often you see a "love conquers all" theme in books or movies, and that's sweet, but not always realistic. Lizzie downright adores her little brothers, but that doesn't mean she goes from college student to super mom-figure in one leap. She makes mistakes and says dumb things. She's human, and her propensity to keep trying in spite of her failures is what makes her such a great character. On the romance end of things, because there is definitely a great romance here, I really liked Lizzie and Connor together. Their chemistry is basically flawless. I really respected Connor for trying to do what he thought was the Right Thing, but I also liked that this made him wishy washy at times. He's an amazing hero, but he's not faultless. He swoops in to help Lizzie with her crazy situation, but he's not a completely perfect knight in shining armour, which makes him more believable.

While I didn't connect with every single part of Last Will and Testament, I did think the characters were very 3D and real feeling. I also found the emotions of the book to be very honest and deep. I mean, I totally cried at one point, which definitely doesn't always happen. I enjoyed this book overall, and I can't wait for the next book in this universe. I love Dahlia Adler's books and I think at this point I'll read anything she writes.

The Cover:


Purchase Links: | | Kobo | Smashwords | B&N | iBooks

I also posted an excerpt from the book, which you can read here.

December 8, 2014

Like? Then Try... Julie Cross Edition

I recently joined Julie Cross' street team and one of the promo things I suggested was to find readalikes for Julie's books. After all, if you see a book compared to something you already like, you'll definitely be more willing to pick it up. Or, to put it another way, when you really enjoy a book you want to find more books like that special one. So, inspired by Epic Read's Like.Try.Why., I created this:

Like Dare You To by Katie McGarry? Try Whatever Life Throws at You.

Like Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park? Try Third Degree.

Like Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally? Try Letters to Nowhere.

More recs coming soon!

December 5, 2014

No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown

No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 368
Series: n/a
Review Source: Edelweiss

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, babysits her nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend Devon’s house. It’s only when Amber goes exploring in the woods near her home, singing camp songs with the hikers she meets on the Appalachian Trail, that she feels free—and when the bigger world feels just a little bit more in reach.

When Amber learns about an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older (and unavailable) brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out for the hypercompetitive arts school. But the more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl, after all.

Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “right” and “wrong,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.
My Thoughts:
I completely loved the idea of this book -- it sounded like a total “me” book -- but unfortunately I failed to really connect with the characters or the story. The voice of the main character is very “rural teen”, a completely different world than I’m used to. I guess that sounds silly, because reading about a warrior or some character in a fantasy world is something outside my reality too, but there was something different about this. I love that books are getting published from different types of characters, ones outside the norm, but in this case it just wasn’t for me.

I definitely didn’t dislike No Place to Fall, but I didn’t find it very memorable either. The main character, Amber, was a very confusing character, I think because she was at a stage where she wanted to test boundaries. She does things that are more than slightly insane, and I had a hard time relating to that. Probably a lot of other people might connect with this type of character, but, again, I just didn’t. On the romance end of things, the supposed love interest was kind of an idiot. I was really hoping there would be someone better for Amber.

What I liked most about this book was Amber’s love of music and how that was presented. I love when there is an aspect of a character which is so clear to them. Amber may have been a mess overall, but when it came to music she absolutely knew who she was.

So, overall, this was a hit and a miss for me. It’s not bad, but it didn’t enthrall me, either. Be sure to check out other reviews, because I’m sure many others connected to it in a way that I didn’t.

The Cover:
Love!! So cute.


Purchase Links:
Kobo | | | Chapters-Indigo | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

December 4, 2014

French Kissed by Chanel Cleeton + Giveaway

French Kissed by Chanel Cleeton
Release Date: December 1, 2014
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: 256
Series: International School
Review Source: eARC from author for review

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

On the surface, Fleur Marceaux has it all. If only the facade matched reality. With one year left at the International School in London, Fleur’s struggling to graduate, her love life is a mess, and she can’t stop thinking about Max, her ex-boyfriend’s best friend. But all that pales compared to the blackmailer determined to destroy her.

There’s a social hierarchy at the International School and Max Tucker is outside the velvet ropes. After watching Fleur break his friend’s heart, Max knows to stay away from trouble, despite the crush he’s had on her since freshman year. But when they’re partnered on a project, Max learns there’s more to Fleur than meets the eye, and she just might be worth the wild ride.

The more time they spend together, the further Max falls. And when a kiss awakens a passion Fleur never imagined, she’s unable to resist Max, who she had thought was all wrong for her but might be the only thing that’s right. But will he stand by her when her secrets are revealed?

Don’t miss the final book in the International School series. This New Adult romance is recommended for readers 17 and up.
My Thoughts:
French Kissed is such a fun and sweet book! If you’re looking for a read with little drama and sweet feels I definitely recommend this one. Our main character, Fleur, is going through some things, dealing with events from her past, but while all of this feels real and true, it’s not the type of book that’s going to drag you down.

Fleur was a secondary character in the first two books in the International School series, so I absolutely adored hearing from Fleur directly and getting to know her fully. She’s a character who has evolved SO MUCH from the start of the series. I really recommend you read Maggie/Samir’s books first, however you can definitely read this is a standalone as well. French Kissed is actually one of very few books I would say works quite well as a standalone. Chanel Cleeton has managed to give a lot of background in a very succinct way. You get a feel for the characters -- who they’ve been and what they’ve done -- without it being total overlap for those who have read the whole series.

French Kissed is a book where not a ton happens, but I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s a book about Fleur and Max and their romance, but there’s not a lot of drama in them getting together. It’s a gradual process between them and it’s a beautiful one to watch. French Kissed is also about the first semester of their senior year and about working toward the future, though I wouldn’t say this is a huge part of the book. The majority of the book does focus on the romance, about Fleur and Max growing together and becoming a strong team.

Sometimes you want a sweet, simple book and this one is BEAUTIFUL in that way. French Kissed is one of the best “taking it slow” romances I’ve read in a long time. Granted, Fleur and Max’s version of slow would be fast for some people, but the way they gradually and yet suddenly fell for each other really works. Basically? If you want a sweet, fun, and lovely book -- a break from all the completely painful, gut wrenching NA out there -- check this one out!

The Cover:
Super cute!


Purchase Links:
Kobo | | | Barnes & Noble

About Chanel:
Originally a Florida girl, CHANEL CLEETON moved to London where she received a bachelor’s degree from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Chanel fell in love with London and planned to stay there forever, until fate intervened on a Caribbean cruise and a fighter pilot with smooth dance moves swept her off her feet. Now, a happily ever after later, Chanel is living her next adventure in Asia.

Law school made Chanel realize she’d rather spend her days writing sexy stories than in a courtroom, and she hasn’t looked back since. An avid reader and hopeless romantic, she’s happiest curled up with a book. She has a weakness for handbags, her three pups, and her fighter pilot husband.

She is the author of I SEE LONDON and LONDON FALLING, published by Harlequin HQN, FRENCH KISSED, and FLIRTING WITH SCANDAL, the first book in a new three-book series to be released by Penguin/Berkley in 2015.

Where to find Chanel:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter

a Rafflecopter giveaway

December 3, 2014

Covers Revealed: Viv Daniels' ISLAND series

Covers created by Vania Stoyanova of VLC Productions

Island Escape (Island Series #0.5)  Releases on January 20th
Add it on Goodreads:

ADAM    Luxury yacht, tropical seas, babes in bikinis…dream job, right? Wrong. The passengers are rich jerks who treat the crew like garbage, when they aren’t pretending we’re their whores. The best day was when that cokehead heiress Kalina tried to fire me just for doing my job. I swore I’d never go back home to my parents and their crazy fundamentalist ranch in the desert, but nothing could be worse than this.
And then the pirates attack.
KALINA    Luxury yacht, tropical seas, billionaire boyfriend…dream trip, right? Wrong. After catching my man getting “extra services” from the maid, I know I’m the laughing stock of passengers and crew. Every time I lay eyes on that quiet, handsome deckhand Adam, I can feel him judging me. I want to die, and when the pirates show up, I think I’m going to.
But Adam… he saves me. Now we’re alone together on a lifeboat in the open ocean. Adam thinks we don’t have a chance, but thanks to him, we’ve made it this far.
And then, in the distance, I spot an island…

Island Born (Island Series #1) Releases on February 23rd
Add it on Goodreads:

Once you come to the island,You’ll never be the same.
    Joshua Truman grew up on a private island in the South Pacific with only his philosophy books and the beauty of his surroundings for company. His billionaire parents raised him to be the perfect man, brilliant of mind and pure of spirit.
    You know what? Purity be damned.
    When tempting grad student Carrie Young arrives on his island with a group of researchers, Joshua makes his move. He wants her, and he’ll utilize every advantage of his gorgeous surroundings and exquisitely thorough education to seduce her.
    Carrie is shocked by the things this supposed innocent is making her feel. But she must resist him, for Carrie is the keeper of dangerous secrets, and her boss has plans more devious than anyone knows…
The first of the 4-book ISLAND series.

Island Affair (Island Series #2) Releases on March 23rd
Add it on Goodreads:

Island Lost (Island Series #3) Releases on April 20th
Add it on Goodreads: 

Island's End (Island Series #4) Releases on May 18th
Add it on Goodreads:

About Viv Daniels

Viv Daniels writes love stories for the young and young at heart. Like many of her characters, she met her husband in college, and knows all the ins and outs of navigating that kind of relationship -- from how to date when you're both flat broke to how to fit two people in narrow dorm room bed.

Her favorite new adult authors include Tammara Weber and Sarina Bowen.

Viv can usually be found on her Facebook page or Twitter feed, chatting with readers about her favorite New Adult fiction, or sharing pictures of cute boys.

Ooooh... thoughts on the covers?? Guy only covers aren't usually my favourite, but I feel like these will represent the stories well. I can't wait to read them!


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