Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally


Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally
Book Seven of the Hundred Oaks series
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

What I Liked:

Hmm. I'm not entirely sure why this book didn't all work for me, but it didn't. Maybe I was expecting so much more from Kenneally - this is my first book of hers that I've read, and I had crazy high expectations. I've seen so many blogging peers rave about her books, so I was hoping to be able to do the same. Overall I enjoyed this book, but I don't think I can give it more than 3.5 stars.

Taylor was kicked out of her fancy private school for having Adderall in her possession - but the pills weren't hers. They were her boyfriend's pills (he's now an ex), but she covered for him because he is a poor scholarship kid who needs a clean sheet, and she's a senator's daughter with a perfect record and model student grades/participation. But St. Andrew's kicks her out, and she is now attending Hundred Oaks. She tries to fit in, but even soccer is not the same. The team blindly follows the captain, Nicole, who goes out of her way to make Taylor miserable. The only person that Taylor connects with is Ezra, her older brother's best friend, a boy whom Taylor used to be in love with, when they were younger. But involvement with a boy isn't what Taylor needs right now - or is it?

Kenneally captures teens really well, in my opinion. Taylor is an overachiever, with perfect grades, a ton of participation in extracurricular activities, a star on the soccer team. She puts a lot of pressure on herself, to graduate from high school, study business in Yale, and join the family firm when she graduates. I could relate to Taylor on academic levels - I'm not stranger to that kind of pressure, though I'm not a rich senator's daughter. Not all of us can hide under daddy's name, and not all of us have parents who can call in favors at universities, and such. Taylor has it made, has a ton of privileges, and she wastes it.

In the next section of my review, you'll see me complain about Taylor's decisions, but I see why Kenneally chose this story. Taylor must learn how to do things without her father's name influencing things. Her father won't put in a good word with Yale (his alma mater) for her. She's no longer at St. Andrew's, so she has to work even harder at a public, easier school, to keep up the high standards she was upholding at St. Andrews. Taylor has to grow up a lot, and do things more on her own. I liked seeing this, because she needed the dose of reality.

I really liked Ezra. He comes from a similar background as Taylor - rich parents, privilege, great schooling. He is a freshman at Cornell, but he's currently back in town, taking a leave of absence from Cornell. He works at a construction company and has his own apartment, much to his parents' disgust. Ezra is taking charge of his life and figuring out what he wants - which isn't an academic life at Cornell, not at the moment. I like how mature Ezra seems, especially compared to Taylor (at first). Ezra is sweet and considerate. 

There is history between Taylor and Ezra. He's her brother's best friend. She's loved him for forever, and we find out that he has loved HER for forever. He missed her Sweet Sixteen party, and Taylor never finds out why for years (until later in this story), so that's why they stopped talking. It was awkward at first, watching these two reconnect. But then they become friends again, and then more.

Cute romance! I do like the romance a lot. I can see why everyone swoons over Kenneally's books, in terms of the romance. Ezra is a sweetie and Taylor goes after what she wants. It doesn't take long for both of these two to realize that they both want each other. I like that Kenneally makes intimacy something very important in this book.

Overall, I do like this book. I had issues with it (which I'll discuss), but I did like it. I'm not sure I want to go back and read any of Kenneally's other books, but I may keep an eye out for books by her in the future.

What I Did Not Like:

The whole premise of this book is ridiculous. I'm sorry, but I couldn't get past it. Taylor covers for Ben (her then-boyfriend) by saying that the Adderall pills were hers, when she is found with them (she was sleeping outside on a blanket at the time, and Ben had gone to the bathroom). Then she covers for Ben, because 1) he's poor and needs the scholarship and can't get kicked out because he needs the opportunity at St. Andrew's and 2) she was hoping her father's name would be enough to bail her out and get her a slap on the wrist at most.

But she covers for Ben, and she gets kicked out, and it's all over the news. See, it's election season, and the good senator is up for reelection. And Taylor's stunt has his numbers in favor dropping. Honestly, this move is both selfless and selfish. Taylor chooses Ben over her family in this moment. She's doing it for somewhat noble reasons, but you can tell that she is being incredibly stupid, by covering for him.

I couldn't get past this. It bothered me throughout the entire book. She could have gone to jail! She's a minor found with possession of drugs. NO ONE is worth covering for, when it comes to drugs. I mean, maybe my perspective is different because my family is incredibly poor, and we've never been able to take anything for granted, so covering for someone so that they won't get in trouble but we might? Nope, that wouldn't happen. It's lying, it's dishonest, and it costs us. 

Another complaint - we never get to see some sort of conclusion or resolution in terms of Taylor and the Hundred Oaks captain, Nicole. Nicole is a terrible person, constantly trying to make Taylor's life miserable (probably to get Taylor to quit the team). Nicole isn't even a good soccer player! But anyway, this part of the story kind of just fizzles out after a while. It's there, but Nicole's presence disappears towards the end. Same with the idiot coach. I wanted to see some sort of resolution there, but all we got was Taylor's father swooping in to save the day for Taylor. Hmm...

There was something else but I can't remember and didn't note it, so I will stop here.

Would I Recommend It:

I have a feeling that my complaints are limited to me and me alone, so I think I'd probably recommend this book, for YA contemporary fans. This book is not totally light and fluffy, and deals with some tough issues. I didn't like Taylor covering for the boyfriend to begin with, so it held back my liking of the book. BUT, I think Kenneally fans will be just fine with this one.

Rating:

3.5 stars -> rounded down to 3 stars. I don't mind that I read this book and didn't completely love it - I do like it and I'm glad I read it. I'm just not as in love with Kenneally's books like everyone else? Perhaps I should read a different one to test this hypothesis. Fluff, please!


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Swoon Thursday (#174): Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally

Swoon Thursday is a hot meme hosted by the fabulous ladies at YA Bound!


- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting


This week, my swoon is from Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally!


When I gaze up at him to say thank you again, his eyes are low-lidded and filled with longing. 

Without a word, I set the birthday box down on his coffee table and gently press my lips to his.

When I was younger, I imagined that kissing him would be like an electric shock. But the spark I once dreamed of turns out to be lightning.

I pill away, and we stare at each other for several heartbeats. Then he crushes his mouth to mine.

Our lips are warm, full, and hungry. His hands trail up and down my arms, caressing my skin. My hands are everywhere. I pull him hard against me, leading him to the couch. We land in a tangle of arms and legs. I kick off my boots, ad he lifts me onto his lap so that I'm straddling him. He continues to kiss me as he wraps his arms around my waist.

- eARC, 53%



My first Miranda Kenneally book! There were a lot of swoony moments. ;) Have you read any of her books? Do you have recommendations?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Nil on Fire by Lynne Matson


Welcome to my stop of the Nil on Fire blog tour! This is the conclusion to this LOST-esque series. Today, Lynne Matson is saying good-bye to one of her beloved characters (he's one of my personal favorites!). And there is a giveaway!



A note from Lynne, and her farewell letter to Rives

Okay, Alyssa, before we get to the post, I have to give you some serious love and thanks! You’re part of the original #NILtribe, and I’m truly grateful for every Nil-related post, every review, every tweet, every rec you’ve shared about the Nil series over the past few years. Your time is packed and precious, and I’m so appreciative you chose to give some of your blogging (and reading!) time to my characters and the entire Nil world. So from the bottom of my author heart, THANK YOU for all you’ve done to spread the word about the Nil series! *HUGS*

*sniffs*

Oh, and one more thing! 

A quick note to all my readers: THIS POST GUTTED ME. Oh my land, I had no idea what I was in for when Alyssa asked me to write a farewell letter to Rives. Finishing a trilogy is both bitter and sweet, and saying goodbye to Rives was HARD. I had not idea how emotional I’d get. (So thank you Alyssa for making me teary lol). I wrote this letter to Rives—the Rives you meet at the start of NIL ON FIRE, the Rives who risked his heart and found the love of his life in NIL UNLOCKED, the Rives who already survived Nil and who is desperately worried about Skye. This is the Rives I wrote to. Happy reading! 

P.S. To the #NILtribe: NIL ON FIRE is for you.

Farewell Letter to Rives

Hi Rives!

I thought I’d write you a note to say thank you. Thank you for being Thad’s wingman in NIL, and for becoming such a huge part of the Nil story that you needed not just one more book, but two. Thank you for having Charley’s back as much as you have Thad’s, and thank you for being the strongest and most vulnerable character I’ve ever written. Thank you for daring to risk your heart again in NIL UNLOCKED, and for being the perfect match—an equal—for Skye.

Which brings me to NIL ON FIRE. This is the last time you’ll hear from me before the next chapter of your story unfolds. I know Skye is a blind spot for you—or rather, your feelings for her sometimes obscure the truth; your feeling keep you from seeing things as they actually are. Please don’t forget to see the girl you fell in in love with—the strong, resilient fighter who is as selfless as you are—and as independent. Don’t let her push you away.

I know you’ll ignore my advice, and I know you’ll probably not be happy when you discover I’ve sent you back to Nil. Believe me when I tell you it was the only way. Skye agrees; she told me herself. And you won’t like the ending either, but again—it is how it must be. Keep the faith, and don’t let your blind spot grow so big you lose sight of the person standing in front of you. Skye needs you, even at the end. Especially at the end. And remember: some things aren’t meant to be seen; they are only to be felt.

Take care, Rives. Thank you for the memories, and for your role to come. Be strong. Be brave. And above all, be you. 

I wish you well. *cries*

Godspeed. 

xo
Lynne

*wipes eyes*

Alyssa—thank you for having me today! And to you and all my readers, thank you for sharing Rives and Skye’s journey with me! And the journey of all the characters in the Nil world—including Nil itself. It’s been a fun ride!

You find out the end soon…:)

xo
Lynne


[Edited to add - I love this letter so much. Thank you, Lynne! *hides under tissues*]


Follow the Author:

Blog | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr


About the Book:


Nil on Fire by Lynne Matson
Book Three of the Nil series
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: May 31, 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Despite Rives and Skye's attempt to destroy Nil, the island remains. And back in this world, Nil won't let Skye go. Haunted by a darkness she can't ignore, Skye wrestles with Nil nightmares that worsen by the day and threaten to tear her apart. As Skye fights to keep her mind intact, she realizes that to finally break free of Nil, she must end Nil's vicious cycle once and for all--and she can't do it alone.

Who will return to Nil, and in the end, who will survive? In this thrilling final installment of the Nil series, the stakes have never been higher: everyone's fate hangs in the balance, including Nil's own--and Nil will fight to the death. When the full force of the island is unleashed, Skye faces an impossible choice, a cruel one she'd never imagined she'd have to make. Soon one Nil truth becomes painfully clear: only one side can win.

Losing isn't an option, but winning will cost Skye everything.

Perfect for fans of Lost and survivalist stories, NIL ON FIRE is a stunning conclusion to the Nil trilogy that will leave readers breathless.



Check out the rest of the series!

  

(Click on the covers to go to Goodreads!)


The Giveaway:

Win a finished copy of Nil on Fire! USA only, ends 06/08. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the Tour:

Too Fond of Books - May 17th
Reading Teen - May 18th
Xpresso Reads - May 19th
That Artsy Girl - May 20th
SciFi Chick - May 22nd
A Backwards Story - May 27th
Fierce Reads - May 29th
Wastepaper Prose - May 31st

Waiting on Wednesday (#178): Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.


This week, I'm featuring:


Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley
Book One of the Effigies series
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: November 22, 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Four girls with the power to control the elements and save the world from a terrible evil must come together in the first epic novel in a brand-new series.

When Phantoms—massive beasts made from nightmares and darkness—suddenly appeared and began terrorizing the world, four girls, the Effigies, each gained a unique power to control one of the classical elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Since then, four girls across the world have continually fought against the Phantoms, fulfilling their cosmic duty. And when one Effigy dies, another girl gains her power as a replacement.

But now, with technologies in place to protect the world’s major cities from Phantom attacks, the Effigies have stopped defending humanity and, instead, have become international celebrities, with their heroic feats ranked, televised, and talked about in online fandoms.

Until the day that New York City’s protection against the Phantoms fails, a man seems to be able to control them by sheer force of will, and Maia, a high school student, unexpectedly becomes the Fire Effigy.

Now Maia has been thrown into battle with three girls who want nothing to do with one another. But with the first human villain that the girls have ever faced, and an army of Phantoms preparing for attack, there isn’t much time for the Effigies to learn how to work together.

Can the girls take control of their destinies before the world is destroyed forever?



I'd not heard of this one before! I saw it on someone else's WoW post two weeks ago, and was curious. It sounds awesome to me!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Blog Tour: Too Hot to Handle by Tessa Bailey


Welcome to the Inkslinger blog tour for Too Hot to Handle by Tessa Bailey! You can probably tell by now, but I am a huge fan of Tessa Bailey. Check out her latest book!



About the Book:


Too Hot to Handle by Tessa Bailey
Book One of the Romancing the Clarksons series
Publisher: Forever 
Publication Date: May 17, 2016

***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***

Summary (from Goodreads):

When rescue looks like a whole lot of trouble . . .

The road trip was definitely a bad idea. Having already flambéed her culinary career beyond recognition, Rita Clarkson is now stranded in God-Knows-Where, New Mexico, with a busted-ass car and her three temperamental siblings, who she hasn't seen in years. When rescue shows up---six-feet-plus of hot, charming sex on a motorcycle---Rita's pretty certain she's gone from the frying pan right into the fire . . .

Jasper Ellis has a bad boy reputation in this town, and he loathes it. The moment he sees Rita, though, Jasper knows he's about to be sorely tempted. There's something real between them. Something raw. And Jasper has only a few days to show Rita that he isn't just for tonight---he's forever.



About the Author:


Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans, and laptop, and drove cross-country to New York City in under four days. Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend, and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.

She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband and daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.



Follow Forever Romance:



The Excerpt:

“Believe this, Rita. I think you’re gorgeous as sin and I need your mouth on mine.”

Rita nodded, meshing their wet lips together in the process. “I want to believe that. You might have to help me.”

“Thank Christ.”

Their mouths slanted and somehow—somehow—that feast of lips and tongue and teeth was even more potent than the night before. His knee rammed into the bike—almost as if his leg had tried to buckle—shooting pain up his right thigh, but it vanished under the pleasure. Vanished into vapor. The stroking, hot, abandon of Rita. They were both breathing through their noses so as not to break the voracious mouth-fucking they were engaging in, and that shouldn’t have been so all-out sexy. But it sure as shit was. They were attacking each other with seeking tongues and open lips, playing chicken to see who would give in first.

When her hands slipped under his shirt and pulled down on his belt buckle, putting pressure on Jasper’s cock, he cursed into her mouth, securing his fist in her hair like a goddamn barbarian. And she liked it, too. Why else would she be tugging on his belt, encouraging him to rock into the notch of her pussy? Too far. This was going too far. Any farther and they’d end up somewhere naked.

She’d leave the encounter with no doubt of his experience, because, hell, Jasper knew every button to press, when to change rhythm, when to be forceful or pull back. Knew it all. But Rita wouldn’t look at him the same way afterward. She’d see the local tramp, like everyone else.

She’d leave. And he’d have failed in his one attempt to be more to someone.

Jasper tore his mouth free, releasing a gruff exhale into her neck. “You have me ready to bust in my jeans, beautiful. I was smoother than this in high school.”

“That’s a scary thought,” she breathed out in a rush, her fists still curling in his shirt. “Was that the other half of your apology for last night? B-because I have to say, it was pretty effective.”

“At the risk of sounding arrogant, Rita, I haven’t even moved my hips yet. You’ve barely gotten a preview of how thoroughly I can…apologize.”

“Don’t leave me in suspense,” she whispered, those golden-brown eyes going as big as salad plates.

Don’t do it. You’ll have a hard-on for a decade. “If you agree to go out with me tonight, I’ll rub that wet, aching seam of yours with my own ache.”

Rita’s head fell back on a whimper. “Fine. Yes.”

Sweet Talk with the Sweet Sixteens: May 24th


Welcome to Week Twenty-One of Sweet Talk with the Sweet Sixteens! To see more details about Sweet Talk as well as previous posts, see the introduction post. Thanks to Charlene (Bookish Whimsy), for designing the banner and button for Sweet Talk.


Today, I'm featuring the authors and books publishing during the week of May 24th!


The Questions:

1. Describe your debut novel in sixteen words.
2. Pitch your book! For fans of _____, _____ meets _____, etc.
3. What are you working on now – is it related to your debut novel?


The Authors:

Unfortunately, our lovely May 17th authors were extremely busy with pre-publication and publication day business! And that is quite okay. Happy pub day, folks!


The Books:

  

(Click on the cover to go to Goodreads!)


The Giveaway:

- Summer of Sloane swag
- Swing Sideways swag
- Suffer Love swag
- The Square Root of Summer swag
- Jerkbait swag
- Everland swag
- Even if the Sky Falls swag

Monday, May 23, 2016

Review and Giveaway: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine


Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine
Book Two of The Great Library series
Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Ink and Bone, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine introduced a world where knowledge is power, and power corrupts absolutely. Now, she continues the story of those who dare to defy the Great Library—and rewrite history…

With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good.

Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower and doomed to a life apart.

Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London.

But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, or the Library willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control… 

What I Liked:

I didn't think I could love this series any more than I already do! Last year, Ink and Bone captivated me, and the ending left me up in arms and ready to storm... something, for the sequel. Paper and Fire is nothing I was expecting, and so utterly satisfying. I got everything I was waiting for, and then some! Now I'm hankering for book three!

Jess Brightwell is in training to be a soldier of the High Garda, with Glain as his squad leader. After Thomas's death, and Morgan being sent to the Iron Tower, Glain is the only one Jess trusts. Jess pieces together something incredibly unbelievable, and he rallies the group (Glain, Khalila, Dario, Wolfe, Santi) to try and do the impossible. Nothing is easy; Khalila is a Scholar, as is Dario. Santi is a commanding officer. Wolfe seems unstable. And everyone, including the Archivist, has their eyes on Jess. Nowhere is safe, and no one is trustworthy.

I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I fell back into the story! I remembered the ending of Ink and Bone very well, but most of the details from the book escaped me. Caine makes it very easy to slip back into Jess's head (third person perspective), and I didn't feel lost. In fact, you could probably get away with reading this book without having read Ink and Bone at all - though I don't recommend going that route. Ink and Bone was intricate and complex and SO good!

I swear Jess is Spiderman or something! He isn't a natural soldier (he was training to be a Scholar!), but he gets into shape and follows his duties and his training and excels (in my opinion). He's also retained his intelligence and cleverness, and all of his mastermind criminal ways (from his family business, if you recall). But more than all of these things, Jess has a big heart and a selfless soul. He was never a violent person, but he has matured so much between books, and will do what he has to, to protect his friends. He isn't irrational (he's pretty clever!), but he constantly finds ways to throw himself in danger's way, rather than another person.

We get to see a lot more of Wolfe, and Santi (and Wolfe and Santi), and Glain. I can't remember how I felt about Glain in book one (I remember she was rather cold?), but I really liked her in this book. She comes across as ruthless, a punishing leader, but she is efficient and tough and capable.

The beginning doesn't start with a bang, but the action really picks up quickly and never slows down. This pacing worked for me! It didn't feel too fast, but I couldn't read fast enough, and my heart was constantly pounding. Caine had me guessing about so many things - was ____ trustworthy? Would Jess survive this automaton attack? Would Wolfe be lost to his memories? So many worries!

I loved the high-stakes, high-action plot. I loved Jess and his character growth - he is fearless, and takes challenges and faces them head-on. I love seeing so many secondary characters, and how dynamic and important they were. I was pretty excited to see the reappearance of two key characters.

I feel like this book has several parts to it, and to describe each part would be spoilery. But I liked how Caine kept weaving the story in a different direction than I expected. And how she took us to many different locations (and the associated dangers!).

I'll say a little on the romance. There are multiple ships! We know that Wolfe and Santi are a very solid thing. Jess and Morgan are totally in love with each other; but as Morgan is in the Iron Tower (and Jess is wracked with guilt), their relationship does take a hit for some of the books. But I like how things smoothed out - there was conflict upon reunion, but the pair came to an understanding. I hope they won't be separated again!

No love triangle(s), or anything of the sort. Also, no cliffhanger (not really).

Overall, I'm very pleased with this sequel novel. It is quite possibly one of the most exciting sequels I've read for the year, and one of the best too. I don't know how I'll manage the wait until book three is available!

What I Did Not Like:

I can't think of anything specifically? I'm sure there were things while I was reading the book, that bothered me a little. And I know I'm giving this four stars (as opposed to five stars). But this one is a 4.5-star-read to me, and my picky self is going to round down. STILL, I loved this book!

Would I Recommend It:

I highly recommend reading this book - though I do recommend reading Ink and Bone first. These aren't companion novels, and so much of the first book is the foundation for this book. If you're a fan of books, why wouldn't you like this one? A book about books! *winks*

Rating:

4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars. Again, I'm being picky. There aren't factors against the book that are pushing me to round down. I love this sequel and cannot wait to read the conclusion! Here is hoping Caine doesn't break out hearts.


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!


The Giveaway:

Thanks to the wonderful people at Berkley/NAL, I've got a trade paperback copy of Ink and Bone up for grabs! USA only, ends 06/06. Good luck!