Thursday, April 20, 2017

Review: It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany

Release date: March 28th 2017
Publisher: Atria Books
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
From master storyteller Amy Hatvany—whose writing has been hailed as “gripping and emotionally honest” (Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times betselling author)—comes a provocative and compelling novel about two friends whose lives are changed by a drunken kiss.

I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

In alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time examines the complexity of sexual dynamics between men and women and offers an incisive exploration of gender roles, expectations, and the ever-timely issue of consent.

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

Gripping, indeed. One message that stuck out the most is that it didn't matter if you knew the person and trusted them. Sometimes they were the same ones to turn around and hurt you. It Happens All the Time can attest to that and so much more. 

I loved how the author gave us the chance to look into each character's life and understand who they were as people. A lot happened to both Amber and Tyler, and it was nice seeing how they bonded as children and grew up together as best friends. There were hints every so often that Tyler was nearing the point of doing something horrific. He had a miserable excuse of a father and his mother was a whole nother situation. Coming from such a family and seeing how his father treated women, one could only expect Tyler to do the same. No matter how sweet he came off and did his best to not turn out like his father, the seed was already planted and the fact that he never got counseling was a huge mistake. 

Amber, on the other hand, had image issues throughout her life. And Tyler had helped her deal with that greatly, so when he ended up hurting her in such a way, my heart broke right along with Amber's. Everything they'd shared--years of friendship--had disappeared in one night. And what pissed me off, even more, was the fact that Tyler wouldn't even fess up, and even had the audacity to blame Amber. She literally had to shoot it out of him, which is the reason why I gave the book 4 stars. I hated that Amber took that route and had to hope Tyler would cover for her afterward. That just sucked to me, and I wish he would have talked about his problems sooner and gotten the help he needed so it would never have gotten to that point. 

Still, I'm happy with the way the story ended. Not many assault victims are granted the same sense of justice. I've read that the stats are pretty low in that regard and how victims are often blamed and shamed by society, so it makes coming forward even more difficult. That's really sad. I just hope things will change in the near future and that more and more, boys will be taught from early how to respect women and understand that no means no, no buts about it. Thank you for your wonderful story, Amy.

About the Author
Amy Hatvany
Amy Hatvany is the author of Best Kept SecretOutside the LinesThe Language of SistersHeart Like Mine, and Safe with Me. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her family. Amy graduated with a degree in Sociology only to discover most sociologists are unemployed. Soon followed a variety of jobs – some of which she loved, like decorating wedding cakes; others which she merely tolerated, like receptionist. Her background in sociology inspires and informs much of her writing as she tackles timely and controversial issues in her novels including mental illness, domestic abuse, and alcoholism. When Amy’s not with friends or family, she is most likely reading, cooking, or zoning out on certain reality television shows.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Release date: April 4th 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

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

I've been wanting to read Brigid's Elemental series for a while now, but Letters to the Lost was a wonderful first experience with the author because I absolutely loved this story. So well-written and emotionally driven, I was invested from beginning to end and had to take a breather when I had finished. 

Both characters had a lot to deal with and perhaps would have continued keeping everything inside if they hadn't found each other through one of Juliet's letters to her deceased mother. As a result, they ended up building a deep bond that helped heal their hearts. And even though initially, it came off invasive on Declan's part, I believed it was meant to happen that way because he was given the chance to share his pain and show that there was more to him than what others had presumed. I mean, Juliet's story was without a doubt sad, after all, she'd lost her mother so suddenly and thought it to be her fault somewhat. But Declan's story really pricked at my heart. He'd been let down so much by the people who were supposed to love and care for him. It's a wonder he survived that long with the kind of pain that lived in his heart. But thankfully he had the support of his best friend and towards the end was able to find some closure.  

It's difficult for me to put into words just how much I liked Juliet and Declan and overall story. I felt as if I was in every moment with them, feeling their emotions, crying and smiling, and rooting for their happiness. When they had started communicating through letters, and then soon after through emails, I thought it was just fascinating. But whenever they encountered each other in person, having no clue who the other was, I'd get so frustrated with Juliet judging him like everyone else. And not that I'm justifying Declan's aggressive reactions, but I felt like his anger was due to the way he grew up and because he was always frowned upon. Glad Juliet saw his real side and that both overcame so much by the end. 

I could go on and on about how great a story Letters to the Lost is but I don't want to spoil it too much for you. All I can say is please read it. The writing is wonderful; inviting. It holds your heart captive and you just can't pry away from the characters. Even days after finishing the story, I'm still thinking about it and still feeling the emotions. I'm now eager to read another Brigid Kemmerer novel.

About the Author
BRIGID KEMMERER is author of THICKER THAN WATER, a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance, and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

CAN'T WAIT TO READ: Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows

Series: Fallen Isles #1
Release date: September 12th 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Pre-order: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:


Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.


Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

Photo: Jodi Meadows; Editing: Brian PerryAbout the Author
Jodi Meadows wants to be a ferret when she grows up and she has no self-control when it comes to yarn, ink, or outer space. Still, she manages to write books. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy, the ORPHAN QUEEN Duology, and the FALLEN ISLES Trilogy (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen), and a coauthor of MY LADY JANE (HarperTeen). 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Review: Arena (book #1) by Holly Jennings

Series: Arena #1
Release date: April 5th 2016
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Purchase: Amazon
Genre: Sci-Fi

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV. She s died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier...

The RAGE tournaments the Virtual Gaming League s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a fight to the digital death. Every kill is broadcast to millions. Every player leads a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses. 

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real. 

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world until one of her teammates overdoses. Now she s stuck trying to work with a hostile new teammate who s far more distracting than he should be. 

Between internal tensions and external pressures, Kali is on the brink of breaking. To change her life, she ll need to change the game. And the only way to revolutionize an industry as shadowy as the VGL is to fight from the inside.

*Received finished copy from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I've been wanting to read more sci-fi based novels lately, and Arena has satisfied that craving to an extent. I found the story quite interesting and unique. I loved the world building and the concept of skillful gamers in this virtual reality setting where they are able to compete as teams and fight for victory in battle-to-the-end tournaments. However, I feel I have to caution readers who can't stomach fighting scenes that are like a blood fest (severed heads and all). If you aren't a fan of such themes then this may be tough for you. But also keep in mind that outside of the arena, gamers deal with "real" issues brought on by going virtual so often, succumbing to the darker side of something that's supposed to be "fun". 

Kali Ling is this strong yet imperfect character. In the opening chapter, she falls to a new and what appears to be an unstoppable team in the arena. Kali's team loses their first fight and it seems everything is going downhill after that because they end up losing a team member as well. But before this happens, she receives an incredible opportunity: to be the first ever female to be captain of a team. Following the death of Nathan, it's on Kali to keep the team straight and in perfect condition in order to fight their way to the top of the RAGE tournaments. But the addition of a new team member makes it challenging, especially when he's so closed off to her. To make matters worse, Kali begins to experience the difficulties of what many gamers go through: an addiction to the arena. She's losing sight of what is real and becomes unable to balance the two worlds. 

Honestly, going into this story, I had the expectation it would be mostly about fighting and how advanced the world had gotten in regards to more interactive video gaming, with a lot of cool sci-fi terminology along the way. I had no idea there would be other aspects emphasizing on the far less desirable side of the arena. How it affects the mind and can leave gamers mentally twisted. And I liked that the author went in this direction because it gave me two sides. Yes, the arena is entertaining. After all, it's a new and incredible way of playing video games. I mean you literally train for this and actually put yourself into this world. It's certainly cool. But the effects of the virtual gaming league are pretty scary, and after losing a teammate, I never thought Kali would end up dealing with it too. Many times I wanted to shake her and tell her to get herself together. But like I said before, her character is strong, and with the help of a certain person and her renewed faith in Taoist philosophy, was able to recapture her hold on life and get her mind right and back into it. Still, even after she starts to snap back, I couldn't help but wonder how it's such a shame that even with all the advances made by this time, some things hadn't changed, in particularly, drug abuse.

In regards to the other characters, I liked the team members and the inclusion of diversity in the book. Aside from Hannah, Lily and Derek didn't really stand out to me in such a huge way. But then again, the parts that mainly held my interest are the battle scenes in the arena (cause I love fast-paced action) and the scenes in reality where Kali, and everyone else, are portrayed as individuals and not just as warriors. They're all still young adults dealing with real issues. 

Overall, great story with a fantastic premise. Loved the ending too, not just the final battle in the championship but also how much Kali has evolved since the start. Her growth shines through in the last chapter and now I'm looking forward to her next step and more of the arena.


Holly JenningsAbout the Author
Holly Jennings is a self-proclaimed nerd and lover of all things geeky and weird. As the firstborn to a sports enthusiast, it was soon discovered that the only games she'd ever learn to master involved consoles and controllers. Her childhood was spent crushing virtual foes, racing on simulated tracks, and rescuing digital princesses. As a young adult, she fell in love with English class, speculative novels, and comic books, which inspired her to create stories of her own. Eventually, her passions converged and she started writing about the future of video games.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: The Hartleyville Vampires by D.L. Raven

Release date: February 19th 2017
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
In her small mountain town of Hartleyville, Katelyn Rose has a great life. She and her best friend Jessica are in their junior year of high school and Damion, the mysterious hot new guy at school has his eye on her. She feels like life couldn’t be better—until her detective father discovers the body of a young woman who has been murdered. The woman’s body was completely drained of blood and the authorities think that there’s a sicko on the loose. 

When Katelyn is attacked in the woods while following Damion one night, his true nature is revealed and Katelyn’s world is turned upside down. She soon finds herself caught up in the middle of a long-time battle between a peaceful race of vampires and a rogue group of violent ones. An ancient amulet is the only thing that can help them defeat the evil leader of the rogue vampire clan—if they can find it in time…

*Purchased it on Kindle to read and review.

The Hartleyville Vampires was a short and interesting read for me. Lately I've been in the mood for more paranormal short stories and I found this one oddly entertaining. Even though not much was given in regards to the town and characters and everything happened fast. For instance, the feelings between Katelyn and Damion were instant and rather unbelievable. Still, I liked that the story wasn't really intense or had my emotions in a bundle, and that made it work for me. 

A few scenes had me giggling at how crazy things sounded, and the villain seemed to be dealt with too quickly. But like I said, it's a short read so I understand that not a lot could be covered on a deeper level. Besides, the way it wrapped up left room for one to wonder if there will be a sequel, which I honestly wouldn't mind reading. 

So if you're looking for a quick read give this one a shot. Gorgeous cover too.

D.L. RavenAbout the Author
D.L. Raven is a passionate Horror & Thriller Young Adult Author based in Northern Massachusetts. Hailing from Boston, her passion for writing stories began early on.
Outside of the writing world, D.L. Raven works as a Medical Technologist. During her free time, she loves snowboarding and discovering new places. She is also an avid foodie, comic geek, and bookworm.

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