Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Release date: January 5th 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

*Publisher approved request via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

After reading the blurb, I became intrigued and wanted to understand why Mercedes was doing what she considered a good thing for the virgins. I knew there was something deeper than that and I was curious about what led to her being that way. But I couldn't stop the frustration I felt towards her for sleeping with these guys who were in relationships, and I found those guys just as terrible for doing that when their girlfriends were saving themselves for them. It's such a double standard when girls are expected to be virgins but guys aren't. And there was nothing Mercedes could say or do to justify that sleeping with them was helping out their girlfriends' first time. I found her reason rather ridiculous and I actually couldn't wait for everything to come out so she'd get a wake up call. 

Mercedes clearly had a lot of problems in her home life and past. She had a horrific first time with a moron, and that affected her seriously where sex was involved. I also believe that if her family structure wasn't so messed up and if her mother could just be a mother to Mercedes, then she wouldn't need to be using sex as a substitute or a way to fill that emptiness in her heart, because to me that's what she was doing. And I was happy when she started to understand that sleeping around with other girls' boyfriends was wrong, and it's a good thing that she seemed to want to change and address her emotional issues.

I didn't really care for her best friend, Angela. I found her character too prim and proper and she was so easy to judge everyone else when she herself was with a douchebag. I guess when you're young and think you're in love, you tend to get caught up in the lies and live in denial. I had no problem with her religion because I have my beliefs too, but Angela was just so...I don't even know how to put it in words. I just didn't care for the girl. 

Even though Zach was also hooking up with Mercedes, he truly wanted more with her, but she was so focused on what she was carrying on with in her bedroom that she couldn't see that Zach was a nice enough guy that liked her. I mean, I didn't like what he and the new girl did to help deter everyone from Mercedes' sex tape, but all in all, he continued being there for her in spite of what she did and in spite of how much it hurt him. 

There wasn't a lot else that went on in the story, it mainly surrounded Mercedes' bedroom activities, her "relationship" with her mother and friends, and that past encounter that affected her perception of sex. It was also about her figuring stuff out and learning to trust, whether it was trusting her parents or opening up her heart to Zach. Not a bad story, but I definitely had some issues with Mercedes.

About the Author
Laurie Elizabeth FlynnLaurie Elizabeth Flynn writes contemporary fiction for young adults. Her debut, FIRSTS, will be published by Thomas Dunne Books/St Martin’s Press in 2016.
Laurie went to school for Journalism, where the most important thing she learned was that she would rather write made-up stories than report the news. She also worked as a model, a job that took her overseas to Tokyo, Athens, and Paris.
Laurie now lives in London, Ontario with her husband Steve, who is very understanding when she would rather spend time with the people in her head. Laurie can mostly be found writing happily at her desk, with the world’s most spoiled Chihuahua on her lap. Laurie drinks way too much coffee, snorts when she laughs, and times herself when she does crossword puzzles.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: He Will Be My Ruin by K.A. Tucker

Release date: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Atria Books
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
Twenty-eight-year-old Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what's left of her best friend's belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a bottle of Xanax and a handle of vodka, and never woke up. 

But when Maggie discovers secrets in the childhood lock box hidden in Celine's apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man who Celine herself claimed would be her ruin. 

On the hunt for answers that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine's private life--and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.

*Received a physical copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

He Will Be My Ruin is by far my favorite suspense novel by  K.A. Tucker. The story sucked me in from start with that chilling prologue, which had me wondering who the hell had Maggie captive and how did she end up in that predicament after her friend supposedly killed herself? 

I really thought I had it figured out when Maggie came in contact with one person in particular, and this guy seemed like the perfect fit because of the kind of access he had in Celine's life, but then another came into the picture and my mind started going back and forth between them. I would snap at Maggie when she couldn't see something that was so clear to me, but then I'd retract because once the story progressed and got deeper, I realized that it truly could be anyone close to Celine from the life she was secretly living. And if you're easily turned off by a certain lifestyle in books and the not so sweet or perfect acts carried out by characters, then you might be quick to judge Celine because of what she did to get by. I liked her, in spite of the decisions she made. Celine's the perfect representation of someone having financial difficulties who resort to unfavorable choices when desperate for a better life. Her mother was ill and she relied on her daughter's help. I mean, I got mad at Celine several times for not accepting help from Maggie, but I understood why and I got that she just didn't want her bestfriend's handouts. Perhaps Celine didn't want to seem like that needy person and wanted to earn her own, no matter the methods. Or you could say it was pride. Either way, she was a desperate young woman who fell into a life she shouldn't have and had some emotional issues no one should suffer through. 

As for Maggie, she was tough, and I loved that she was so determined to prove that her best friend didn't commit suicide and that someone else was at play. She started her own investigation and got the help of others that over time became just as determined as she was. I liked that Maggie got to see a different side to her friend by reading the diaries. She discovered how Celine really felt about her and the wealth that she came from. And sometimes when you and your friends come from two separate lifestyles, you never really know how one honestly thinks of the other in their hearts. So the diaries were a way for Maggie and the reader to understand Celine more. And even though it was a surprise and a tad too soon that Maggie had such an encounter with one guy, and then hours later she was having another "interesting" experience with another, I didn't let those acts sway me from the story and the mystery of what happened to Celine. And I should mention that it was a great thing that the author gave us some chapters with Celine's POV that coincided with a reveal from Maggie's chapters. It also made some things clearer to me. 

Another thing I enjoyed was the addition of art and Celine's love for art history. It was almost like a learning experience whenever something involving her collection came up and I'd feel so enamored and want to know if these pieces truly existed. I liked her friend, Hans, and how much he added to that aspect of the story. I could honestly feel his love for these artsy finds jump out of the pages. He was quite a likable character who added a bit of entertainment in his scenes when the story became too intense for me. Ruby was also a wonderful inclusion and it was nice to have another person on Maggie's team when no one else believed that her friend didn't kill herself.

Okay, I don't want to continue any further in fear of giving too much away, but I can conclude with how much I loved the story and the overall element of suspense. K.A. is a superb writer and as usual, her storytelling is on point. She had me seriously second-guessing myself with this one. When I was convinced I had solved the mystery of Celine, the author totally switched it up on me towards the end and I loved how it played out. Such a awesome story filled with intrigued and a lot of twists. I highly recommend. 

K.A. TuckerAbout the Author
Born in small-town Ontario, K.A. Tucker published her first book at the age of six with the help of her elementary school librarian and a box of crayons. 
She currently resides in a quaint town outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

CAN'T WAIT TO READ: Nemesis by Anna Banks

Release date: October 4th 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
The princess didn't expect to fall in love--with her nemesis.

Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee from his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king's servitude.

Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.

Sepora's gift could save Tarik's kingdom from the Quiet Plague. But should she trust her growing feelings for her nemesis, or should she hide her gifts at all costs?

A thrilling futuristic fantasy in which the fate of the world's energy source is in the hands of a prince and princess who are rivals, by the New York Times-bestselling author of the Syrena Legacy.

Anna BanksAbout the Author
Anna Banks grew up in a small town called Niceville (yes, really). She now lives in Crestview, Florida, with her husband and their daughter. She is the NYT bestselling author of the Syrena Legacy series.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: The Prophecy of Shadows by Michelle Madow

Series: Elementals #1
Release date: January 26th 2016
Publisher: Dreamscape Publishing
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
Filled with magic, thrilling adventure, and sweet romance, Elementals is the first in a new series that fans of mythology will love!

When Nicole Cassidy moves from sunny Georgia to gloomy New England, the last thing she expects is to learn that her homeroom is a cover for a secret coven of witches. Even more surprisingly ... she's apparently a witch herself. Despite doubts about her newfound abilities, Nicole is welcomed into this ancient circle of witches and is bedazzled by their powers--and, to her dismay, by Blake--the school's notorious bad-boy.

Girls who get close to Blake wind up hurt. His girlfriend Danielle will do anything to keep them away, even if she must resort to using dark magic. But the chemistry between Blake and Nicole is undeniable, and despite wanting to protect Nicole from Danielle's wrath, he finds it impossible to keep his distance.

When the Olympian Comet shoots through the sky for the first time in three thousand years, Nicole, Blake, Danielle, and two others in their homeroom are gifted with mysterious powers over the elements. But the comet has another effect--it opens the portal to the prison world that has contained the Titans for centuries. After an ancient monster escapes and attacks Nicole and Blake, it's up to them and the others to follow the clues from a cryptic prophecy so that they can save their town ... and possibly the world.

*Publisher approved request via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Prophecy of Shadows was quite the quick adventure. The story jumped right into it. There wasn't a lot of time spent on Nicole's character, in regards to setting up a connection for me or unraveling her family life and who she was as a person. I had to take it how it came as the story went on, and things did move quite fast. I usually love fast-paced stories that don't drag or overwhelm with too much detail, but in this case, I wish the author had taken a little more time before bringing on the adventure. I probably would have connected more with Nicole and the other characters had it been like that. It just sort of felt like things were a tad rushed. I mean, Nicole had just moved to this new place and starting a new school, but then she's placed in a homeroom with unique students and a teacher telling her she's a witch and that magic exists. I would think stuff like that would be hard to take in and she'd need a little more time to become convinced, especially when Nicole hadn't experienced any weirdness in her life prior to coming to this place. But seemed like she believed way too soon and too easily. Also, after the whole comet thing, the adventure took off so fast and too much was starting to happen early, in particular Nicole's attraction to Blake. 

I didn't care for Blake at all, and that mostly had to do with the fact that he wouldn't put up a stand against Danielle and not allow her to carry on in that way, hurting people she was jealous of who got too close to him. I mean, clearly Danielle was quite a trip, but had he fought against her nonsense perhaps some people wouldn't have gotten hurt.

Anyway, aside from those things, I still liked the premise and the whole mythological aspect of the story. I liked how a bit of mystery was thrown in the mix when all five went on this scavenger hunt with each clue having to do with one of the abilities. So even though it went by quickly, the adventure was still an enjoyable one and I am curious about the second book after what happened in the caves with Nicole's power, and I am looking forward to seeing how the overall story and characters progress.

Michelle MadowAbout the Author
Michelle Madow grew up in Baltimore, and now lives in Boca Raton, Florida, where she writes books for young adults. Some of her favorite things are: reading, pizza, traveling, shopping, time travel, Broadway musicals, and spending time with friends and family. Michelle has toured across America to promote her books and to encourage high school students to embrace reading and writing. Someday, she hopes to travel the world for a year on a cruise ship.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Behind the Pages #22: Christa Desir on Other Broken Things and Dark Contemporary

Christa Desir
I liked Christa Desir's writing in her debut novel. And I found the story to be quite compelling and realistic. Her books are certainly thought-provoking, so when I saw that she had another release out that dealt with yet a serious issue, I reached out to the talented author in hopes of featuring her in the next Behind the Pages. Christa was kind enough to take some time to not only grant an interview, but she's also contributing a signed copy of her latest novel, Other Broken Things. Check out the interview below and enter for the chance to win.

Where are you from and when did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’m from Chicago and I guess I’ve been dabbling in writing in one way or another since I was five years old. I didn’t start trying to write novels until about five and a half years ago, but prior to that I’ve written poems, zines, essays, short stories, ad copy, etc. 

Who are some of your biggest influences in Literature?

I deeply admire Margaret Atwood, Roxane Gay, Toni Morrison, Sylvia Plath, and Dorothy Allison. And because I was a theatre person, I also love Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neil, Shakespeare, John Patrick Shanley, and Sam Shephard.

Tell us about your latest, Other Broken Things. What inspired the story?

One of my best friends from college OD’d a few years ago and I became very depressed and disheartened about addiction. I started thinking about how that can influence and destroy lives of so many people. So that was really the beginning of that story, though it took a much more circuitous route than that.

How challenging was it to write about someone like Natalie, in regards to making her issues realistic and relatable?

The challenge when it came to Natalie was much more about figuring out what she wanted and why she worked the way she did. It was delving into dysfunctional family systems of alcoholics and doing a lot of research about AA and twelve-step programs. I knew her voice almost immediately, but the rest of it was slower to come. I didn’t add the boxing element, for example, until I was about 50 pages in and then understood a part of her motivation. She was a slow reveal that way. 

Your novels are mostly dark contemporary. Have you ever considered writing lighter stories, like romantic comedy? 

Yes, I have endeavored to do this, but I have this tendency to ruin these stories. I try to lighten things up, but then I keep coming back to the wrecking ball mentality inspired by my own teen years. My life at that time was not a romantic comedy or even a contemporary romance, it was difficult and painful and so my writing roots seem to always want to go there.

What do you do to unwind after finishing a story?

I read voraciously. I tend to only read YA when I’m not writing so my off times in writing is when I devour all the YA I haven’t read during drafting/editing. When I draft, I tend to read literary fiction or romance (for my day job) or nonfiction.

You'll be releasing a novel with Jolene Perry. Could you share a bit about Love Blind

We first drafted that story five years ago. We were such baby writers then. We ended up having to rewrite most of it when it got around to editing because we’ve gotten better and so much had changed about those characters and what our editor wanted for them. I loved the collaboration process and Jolene is an excellent person and friend. The book itself is about a very shy and anxious boy who develops a friendship with a girl with degenerative blindness through the conquering of a fear list. It’s one of my more “quiet” books, though after reading it, you might still think it’s a bit darker. The whole process of this one has been an invaluable learning experience for me as a writer.

Thank you for taking the time, Christa. Where can your readers meet you next, and please leave any tips for aspiring writers.

Readers who want to meet me in real life probably need to come to Chicago’s YA Book Fest on April 23rd. I also will be at SCBWI in LA in August. My advice for aspiring writers is probably don’t listen to advice, but if you want something more specific, I would say that the only difference between a success and a failure is that the success got up from being knocked down one extra time.

Christa Desir writes contemporary fiction for young adults. She’s an avid reader, roller derby enthusiast, Sunday school teacher, romance editor, and podcaster. She lives with her husband, three children, and overly enthusiastic dog outside of Chicago. She has volunteered as a rape victim activist for more than ten years, including providing direct service as an advocate in hospital ERs. She is a founding member of the Voices and Faces Project, a nonprofit organization for rape survivors that conducts an international survivor-based testimonial writing workshop.

Release date: January 12th 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Purchase: Amazon | B&N | Indie Bound

CAN'T WAIT TO READ: Heir to the Sky by Amanda Sun

Release date: April 26th 2016
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
As heir to a kingdom of floating continents, Kali has spent her life bound by limits—by her duties as a member of the royal family; by a forced betrothal to the son of a nobleman; and by the edge of the only world she’s ever known—a small island hovering above a monster-ridden earth, long since uninhabited by humans. She is the Eternal Flame of Hope for what’s left of mankind, the wick and the wax burning in service for her people, and for their revered Phoenix, whose magic keeps them aloft.

When Kali falls off the edge of her kingdom and miraculously survives, she is shocked to discover there are still humans on the earth. Determined to get home, Kali entrusts a rugged monster-hunter named Griffin to guide her across a world overrun by chimera, storm dragons, basilisks, and other terrifying beasts. But the more time she spends on earth, the more dark truths she begins to uncover about her home in the sky, and the more resolute she is to start burning for herself.

About the Author
Amanda is a YA author and proud Nerdfighter. She was born in Deep River, Canada, a very small town without traffic lights or buses, and where stranger safety is comprised of what to do if you see a bear—or skunk. She started reading fantasy novels at 4 and writing as soon as she could hold a pencil. Hopefully her work’s improved since then.
​In university Amanda took English, Linguistics, and Asian History, before settling into Archaeology, because she loved learning about the cultures and stories of ancient people. Of course, she didn’t actually become an archaeologist—Amanda has an intense fear of spiders. She prefers unearthing fascinating stories in the safety of her living room.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Blitz~City of Legends Series by Cheyanne Young [Feb. 2 - 8]

The promo event for all three books in Cheyanne Young's YA superhero series has ended.

Series: City of Legends
Publisher: Alloy Entertainment
Release: February 2016
Purchase series: Amazon
Book One: City of Legends

Maci Knight has grown up in the shadow of legends. Her father and her brother, Max, are Heroes, worshipped by humans and Supers alike for their strength and valor. All she’s ever wanted is to follow in their footsteps, to fight villains and protect humankind. But Maci has a secret—one that could change everything. 

Maci had a twin sister who died the same day they were born. In their world, one twin is always good, while the other always eventually turns evil. There’s no way to tell which twin will go rogue . . . which means no one knows if Maci will suddenly become a villain. 

The closer she gets to her eighteenth birthday, the more she has feelings she can’t control: Violence. Rage. Revenge. Maci wants to be a Hero. But she may not have a choice . . . 

The first in a trilogy, City of Legends introduces a new superhero mythology and an unstoppable heroine.

Purchase: Amazon


Crimson throws an arm over my shoulder, the scent of her cherry lip-gloss briefly overriding the stench of fish tanks. “So, Maci Knight . . . think you have what it takes to pass your Hero exam?”
I know she’s not talking about the hours of training I’ve endured over the last decade and this last week of performing skill tests for the examiners to prove I’m ready. Crimson’s question goes deeper than that. She’s talking about the core of being a Hero. Placing my life on the line to save people I don’t even know. Throwing away the idea of a normal life, all to uphold an oath of protecting those who can’t protect themselves.
The Hero Brigade is the most elite group on the planet. I meet her gaze and the corner of my mouth twists into a grin. “Hell yes.”

BOOK TWO: The Valiant

After the most vicious villain attack in centuries, Maci Knight is struggling to put the shattered pieces of her life back together. She survived, but barely, and her family will never be the same. The only good thing to come out of the attack is that the Elders have granted her probationary Hero status. Now she’s desperate to prove that she has what it takes to shine in the field.

Maci gets her first chance when she’s called in to stop an illegal fighting ring where humans are battling to the death. But when she goes toe-to-toe with the fighters, she’s shocked to discover that even she can’t contain them. The humans are strong—supernaturally so. Maci knows that this is the work of the villain underground and is determined to put an end to it. But how do you fight an enemy who won’t show their face?

In the second installment of the City of Legends trilogy, Maci Knight will find out what she’s truly made of.

Purchase: Amazon


“Something strange is going on,” Katia says.
“It’s almost like they have power,” I say.
The two Heroes look at me like I’ve lost my mind. “They’re human, Maci,” Katia says. “They can’t have power.”
“I know,” I say quickly, feeling the sudden need to defend my intelligence. But something about my words rings true. Even with dedicated strength training, humans are weak. If I hadn’t seen firsthand what happens when a Super and human breed, I would have suspected that these humans were some kind of half-Super. But this . . . well this, I don’t have an explanation for. And if we don’t figure it out and put a stop it, it could bring unsurmountable chaos into the human’s worldand ours.

BOOK THREE: Empire Rising

Eighteen years ago, Maci Knight’s family was destroyed when Aurora Falcon killed her mother. Now Aurora’s partner, Felix, has kidnapped Maci’s brother. For five long months, there’s been no sign of Max. His Codex is offline and she can’t feel even the slightest trace of his power. Maci refuses to give up hope, but when a new threat on King City emerges, Maci is ordered to abandon her search. 

Somehow Felix has managed to do the unthinkable: repower all the villains that Central has depowered over the years. Now they’ve banded together to get revenge on the Supers who wronged them. What feels like an arduous mission becomes an opportunity when Maci realizes that if she can stop the villains, she can get them to lead her to Felix—and her brother. 

In the action-packed conclusion of the City of Legends trilogy, Maci vows to save her city and bring her family back together—no matter the cost.

Purchase: Amazon


Evan approaches and slides his hands around my waist. A chill goes through me at the feel of his touch and the familiar tingle of his power so close to mine. Heroes train hard to hone and strengthen their power more than any other Super, so it has a distinct and dominant feeling. Evan spent a few years in Hero training, but his power isn’t like that. It doesn’t burn like Crimson’s power when she’s in a frenzied fight, and it doesn’t intimidate like one of the older Heroes might. It encircles my body the same way his arms do, bringing me closer to him spiritually and physically.

Desire courses through my veins. I grab his shoulders and lift up on my toes. Evan grips my waist and lifts me into the air. I close my eyes and kiss him. His lips taste salty and perfect. My fingers slide up through his dirty blonde hair. He deepens the kiss and I hold onto him as if I need his lips to stay alive. I want this moment to last forever. 

Cheyanne Young is a native Texan with a fear of cold weather and a coffee addiction that probably needs an intervention. She loves books, sarcasm, and collecting nail polish. After nearly a decade of working in engineering, Cheyanne now writes books for young adults and is the author of the City of Legends Trilogy. She doesn’t miss a cubicle one bit.
Cheyanne lives near the beach with her daughter and husband, one spoiled rotten puppy, and a cat that is most likely plotting to take over the world.

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