Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (#114): The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent


"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:


The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent
Book One of an untitled series
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: June 9, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Nina Kane should be worrying about her immortal soul, but she's too busy trying to actually survive. Her town's population has been decimated by soul-consuming demons, and souls are in short supply. Watching over her younger sister, Mellie, and scraping together food and money are all that matters. The two of them are a family. They gave up on their deadbeat mom a long time ago.

When Nina discovers that Mellie is keeping a secret that threatens their very existence, she'll do anything to protect her. Because in New Temperance, sins are prosecuted as crimes by the brutal Church and its army of black-robed exorcists. And Mellie's sin has put her in serious trouble.

To keep them both alive, Nina will need to trust Finn, a fugitive with deep green eyes who has already saved her life once and who might just be an exorcist. But what kind of exorcist wears a hoodie?

Wanted by the Church and hunted by dark forces, Nina knows she can't survive on her own. She needs Finn and his group of rogue friends just as much as they need her.

Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble


I've never read anything by this author, but there is a first time for everything! I think this one sounds... interesting. I try to stay away from religion-related novels, but again, this book intrigues me :O

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: Empire of Night by Kelley Armstrong


Empire of Night by Kelley Armstrong
Book Two of the Age of Legends series
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sisters Moria and Ashyn are the Keeper and Seeker of Edgewood. Or at least, they were.

Their village is gone. Their friends have betrayed them. And now, the emperor has sent them on a mission to rescue the children of Edgewood—accompanied by Prince Tyrus and a small band of imperial warriors. But the journey proves more perilous than they could have imagined. With treachery and unrest mounting in the empire, Moria and Ashyn will have to draw on all their influence and power to overcome deadly enemies—not all of them human—and even avert an all-out war.

What I Liked:

Guys, I almost don't want to write this review because LET ME CRY AND SUFFER IN PEACE, OKAY?! This one was soooo good. It was amazing and thrilling and heartbreaking and MY FEELS. They are broken. I hate when people talk about their "feels", but right now, it just fits. Sea of Shadows was excellent, and Empire of Night does its predecessor justice. Yes, Empire of Night didn't get five stars from me (like Sea of Shadows did), but that's mostly because of the cliffhanger ending. It's a great ending, but high on the heartbreak and cliffhangers. I did the same with the rating of The Winner's Crime - darn these heartbreaking-ending-sequel novels! Where is the third book, I need it!

Ashyn and Moria are almost-prisoners in the emperor's palace. They hate court life, but they must stay and gain allies and power if they want to find the children of Edgewood. An opportunity is given by the emperor for Moria and Prince Tyrus to rescue the children, and Ashyn comes too. So does Ronan, who basically told Ashyn that he didn't want anything more from the kiss they shared in Sea of Shadows. We all know this is not true, but Ronan is determined to leave Ashyn alone. And Gavril - Gavril has betrayed the empire (and Moria). Moria and Ashyn must find the children, and battle shadow stalkers and other creatures, and watch their backs in the midst of war.

In Sea of Shadows, I loved both Ashyn and Moria. Usually, when we have two female protagonists, I'll like one and dislike one. Not the case with this book. This book is broken into chunks of each girl's third-person perspectives (the girls aren't together all the time, so it's also like there are two separate plots). I think the author focused a smidge more on Moria in this book, but that might just be my perception of the book. I didn't mind at all.

Moria is the fierce warrior of the pair. She is fearless, and guards her heart. She and Gavril cared about each other, but weren't lovers. I had really hoped that they would be A Thing, but their "romance" in book one wasn't a huge thing... it almost wasn't a thing at all. So when Gavril betrays everyone, including Moria, Moria is hurt and angry, but she isn't heartbroken and devastated. She doesn't like mentioning his name though, so, there's that.

I really like the direction of Moria's story in this book. She actually falls for someone else, and it's a palatable, tangible relationship, not like her relationship with Gavril. This guy - Prince Tyrus - has a good heart and a kind soul. I like him a lot. He's brave yet cautious, determined and loyal, and a courageous warrior. He's a bastard prince, but a prince nonetheless. I might have been all OMG-NO-IS-THIS-A-LOVE-TRIANGLE, except that Gavril and Moria were barely A Thing in Sea of Shadows (I kept mentioning how subtle the romance was in that book), and they never did anything... you can tell that Moria genuinely loves Tyrus and vice versa. It's endearing, because Moria is very hardened.

Not like Ashyn. Ashyn is the softer of the two, the healer to her warrior sister. Both of them are fierce and unafraid and forces to be reckoned with, but Ashyn is an anchor, whereas Moria is a rock. Ronan straight-up tells Ashyn that he didn't want more from her, and he didn't want her to want more from him. This hurts Ashyn deeply, and she carries this hurt with her throughout the book. But it's SO OBVIOUS that it's hurting him too. There is a reason why he shut things down, and I don't believe for a second that it's because he doesn't love her or want her. So, I'm pretty optimistic about that relationship. No love triangle there either.

The story is fast-paced and quite engrossing. The book is a tad bit on the long side for Young Adult literature, but I don't mind "long" books - and this one just flies by. Seriously, you'll reach page 300 and by like, wooaaahhh, I've gotten this far already?! It's about 430 pages, but it doesn't feel that long at all. Armstrong has a way with weaving a beautiful story that is interesting and complex and heartbreaking. There is a lot going, not just the search for the children. The politics, the threat of Kitsune, the shadow stalkers... the romance is by no means the central part of the story. There is too much else going on!

Moria, Ashyn, Tyrus, and Ronan set out together to find the children of Edgewood (Tyrus hires Ronan to be a guard of a sort). The group is split up multiple times, and with each time, my heart grew a little heavier. You could tell that something terrifying was going to happen in the end, and separate the group for quite some time. And it does. And my heart broke a little (a LOT).

Heartbreaking. Oh my gosh, don't even get me started. Throughout the book, I was sad for Ashyn and Ronan, because duh, you two belong together (stupid Ronan). I was happy for Tyrus and Moria, because duh, they belong together (and they know it). But then... sad things happen... and I'm SAD! The ending is cruel! Heartbreaking! Cliffhanger-y! Why, Armstrong, why?! I NEED BOOK THREE!

What I Did Not Like:

I'm giving this one four stars (as opposed to five stars) ONLY because of the cliffhanger ending. I hate cliffhangers, I hate waiting, and I hate feeling heartbroken! I love this book, and it's logical, the way the author ended the book, but gosh. I feel like EVERYONE was hurt in some way, physically or emotionally or mentally or something. There is so much going on! That cliffhanger though...

Would I Recommend It:

YES! I would totally recommend this book! And series! Oh my goodness do yourself a favor and read Sea of Shadows! And Empire of Night! Although, I can't blame anyone who might want to wait until closer to book three's release (I'm assuming there will be a book three, though I haven't seen any information about it). There is NO WAY the author can end the series the way this book ends, so I'm just going to go ahead and assume that a book three is in the works. NEED.

Rating:

4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars (remember, this is only because of the cliffhanger). This series definitely will be a favorite series, because fantasy! Subtle romance! Totally shipping the couples! Except... book three will tell all. Seriously, the ending of this book leaves so much to want. Please don't disappoint, Kelley Armstrong!


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USA residents: win a copy!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Review: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre


The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.

Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn't expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.

But love doesn't mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…

What I Liked:

Gosh, this book was sweet. Sweet in a good way. Sweet in a way that I needed to read, from Young Adult literature. We all know how much of a black-hole-mess my romantic life is at the moment. It's sweet books like these that give me hope - maybe I won't end up forever alone, the crazy book lady (I hate cats, so it's books instead). 

Sage is known as the "Post-It Princess", because she writes nice things on Post-It notes and sticks them on people's lockers, when she sees that someone is having a bad day. Sage is sort of okay with this nickname, because it's better than everyone at her school knowing what she did before she came to the school/town three years ago. Now, it's someone else's turn to be new. Shane Cavendish is quiet and reserved, and doesn't want people to look at him or notice him. He wants to be invisible, play his guitar, go through the motions. But little by little, Sage wears him down with her Green World club promotion and her caring attitude when he doesn't come to school. It's not long before Sage learns about Shane's broken past, and Shane learns about hers. Neither of them expected the other, but both of them need each other more than they realize.

I have a lot of trouble with tough-issue contemporary novels, so I was wary of this one. But I love Aguirre's books, and so I decided to give this one a shot. The "tough issues" didn't overwhelm the story like I expected, but they were present and definitely an important part of the book. Both Shane and Sage have extremely crazy pasts. Both of them had to live in difficult situations (foster homes and whatnot), so it was hard NOT to sympathize. I wanted to hug them both.

I liked Sage. I'm a lot like her, minus the troubled past (okay, that's a HUGE difference, but still). We're both super organized, structured, contained - icy, almost. We both try to do nice things for random people (I don't do the Post-It thing, but I literally go up to people and TELL them nice things, like their shirt is cute or their hair looks nice). We differ in academics - Sage sucks at geometry and chemistry (basically the math/science worlds). We're both super into environmental health and living the green life. I could relate to Sage in many ways, and it made it easy for me to like her, to understand her decisions.

I liked Shane a lot, too. He's quiet and almost innocent, but he's got a fire and a temper. But mostly he's sweet and reserved. He doesn't like handouts or people helping him without him asking for it, which gets Sage into trouble a few times, because she always wants to help him, and sometimes, he gets irritated because he doesn't want her help (pride is a strange thing, people). 

I love the two of them together. They make each other laugh, they understand each other, they have similar temperaments and attitudes. Shane will do just about anything to make Sage happy, and Sage will do just about anything to help Shane and make him happy. It's sweet.

The romance is so sweet. I thought there would be a love triangle, because Sage's best friend Ryan likes her (he didn't realize it at first, but he does). But Sage doesn't like him like that, and is only interested in Shane. So nothing ever happens between her and Ryan. And in the end, Ryan moves on, also in a sweet way. No insta-love for anyone, in my opinion.

The story is kind of sad and uplifting at the same time. Sage defends her new friend Lila, from Lila's ex-boyfriend Dylan. Dylan gets pissed, and he wants to retaliate. Sage is worried that Dylan will shell out her dark past - which he does. It's terrifying, having your life revealed to the whole school. You'll have to read the book to see what happens. I really felt for Sage - and Dylan, too. The ending has a bit of justice for everyone, and I love how this book ends. Aguirre hits on so many plots, and wraps them all together.

Overall, I'm really pleased with this book. The "tough issues" weren't so cliche and obnoxious that I was rolling my eyes or in danger of throwing the book. The romance wasn't insta-love-y or cliche either. I really liked this story. It was, as I said, sweet. I like sweet.

What I Did Not Like:

I don't necessarily have anything negative to say about the book. It's a four-star read though.

Would I Recommend It:

I liked this one a lot, so I would recommend it! In general, any of Aguirre's ten thousand books are good stuff. She writes adult, New Adult, Young Adult - and within those age levels, paranormal, contemporary, romance, etc. She's a very talented writer, and I've loved everything I've read by her!


Rating:

4 stars. An excellent, heart-warming standalone! I don't always enjoy contemporary, but when I do, I usually LOVE them. I'm so glad this one worked for me! Now, I'll take my own guitar-playing cutie, pleaseee!




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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Review: Skandal by Lindsay Smith


Skandal by Lindsay Smith
Book Two of the Sekret series
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Rating: 3 stars

Summary (from Goodreads):

The dramatic sequel to Sekret, this psychic Cold War espionage thriller follows Yulia to Washington, DC, where she fights to discover the truth about her family without losing control of her mind.

My mind is mine alone.

Life in Washington, D.C., is not the safe haven Yulia hoped for when she risked everything to flee communist Russia. Her father is reckless and aloof, and Valentin is distant and haunted by his past. Her mother is being targeted by the CIA and the US government is suspicious of Yulia's allegiance. And when super-psychics start turning up in the US capitol, it seems that even Rostov is still a threat. Ultimately, Yulia must keep control of her own mind to save the people she loves and avoid an international Skandal.

What I Liked:


This series is pretty interesting - different from what I'm used to reading, but interesting nonetheless. I liked Sekret, but I admit, I forgot a lot of what happened in Sekret. So I was really wary of reading this one, because I had very little context! It wasn't so bad though, reading the sequel pretty much from scratch.

In this sequel novel, Yulia is now residing in Washington, D.C. She, Valentin, and her father working with a PsyOps team, looking for Rostov's scrubbers (the super-psychics mentioned in the synopsis). Something strange is going on with the scrubbers, and it seems like Rostov is able to control the situation without even being in D.C. Meanwhile, Yulia wants to protect her mother, but it's not easy when her mother seems to be working with Rostov. Nothing is as it seems and no one is who they are. Yulia must trust and safeguard her mind if she wants to protect and help her loved ones.

This book is historical fiction, which is really cool, because it's set in the 1960s, when the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain and the Red Scare were still super significant things. I don't read too many books set in the 1900s (not a huge fan of the century in general, sorry!), but I really like this series, in terms of the setting (time and place). I love seeing things from Yulia's mind, the mind of a Russian girl who wants to protect herself, and her family. I also really liked the paranormal aspect of this series - it's not necessarily an original idea, but I like the presence of it, in this time period, with the politics of this situation.

I like Yulia. She is smart, she works hard, she never gives up. Yulia has to push her psychic limits over and over in this book, but she never backs down. I really liked watching her struggle to command the English language - that was a small bit of authenticity that was also a bit endearing. Especially since the author did a pretty good job of keeping the anachronisms in the language to a minimum. 

I liked the story, though I was bored at times (see the next section). I couldn't quite get a grasp as to where it was going, but I never stopped reading, so that's a good sign. I wanted more from the romance plot, but in the end, I liked the romance in general. No love triangle, no acts of jealousy or emotional breaking up or any of that mess that authors like to throw into sequels. Overall, the book was interesting to read, and I had to know how things would end. 

What I Did Not Like:


My biggest problem was the boredom. As I said above, I struggled to remember very much of what happened in Sekret. I couldn't even remember Yulia's love interest's name (and I cleverly didn't say the love interest's name in my review of Sekret, lovely). More on the romance later. But I got reoriented with bits and parts of Sekret as I was reading Skandal. I just found that I wasn't really following the story. I didn't really know where the story was leading to, what the climax would involve, what the whole point was.

I feel like there wasn't enough hints, enough foreshadowing, for me. I thought there would be more on Yulia's father, because Yulia's relationship with her father is strained. I thought that Yulia's mother would be more of a villain, but that turned out to be different from what I expected. The mole situation was a bit anticlimactic, and to be honest, I almost missed that entire scene. Also, once the mole is uncovered, he/she disappears from the story altogether. And something involving Sergei - that felt anticlimactic to me too. 

I wanted more from the romance. Yulia and Valentin are sweet together, but I feel like it got to the point where Valentin was asking Yulia to help him, or Yulia was thinking about helping him, and I just thought that whole situation was a turn-off. You have to know what he needs help with to understand... I just didn't really like that whole deal. I don't know if I could do it, if I were Yulia. It seemed too hard on her. 

In general, I was a bit bored, and the plot wasn't very decisive and clear to me. I'm curious as to whether or not there will be a another book in this series. This one ended pretty explosively, but I could see the author adding one. I can't decide if I'd want to read it or not.

Would I Recommend It:


Ehhh. If you read and enjoyed Sekret, then this one is probably worth your time. If you haven't read Sekret, then I'd say maybe. No rush or anything. I can't remember what drew me to Sekret in the first place, but I don't mind that I gave these books a chance! I'd just be wary of reading another one, if there will be another book.

Rating:


3 stars. Not bad, a decent sequel novel. I think I have trouble with paranormal historical novels sometimes, or maybe I just wasn't in the mood to read this one. Either way, I feel positively towards these books, but I can't say I'd be re-reading them.



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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Stacking the Shelves (#114)


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!


So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, February 22nd to Saturday, February 28th?


(all links to Goodreads are provided!)


In the mail:



Thank you, Emma! This completes one trade, a step closer to my Kasie West ARC collection!

An ARC of Forged by Erin Bowman (unsolicited)

I already have Magonia and Forged, and I didn't LOVE The Taking; never heard of Endangered.  Empire of Night was the only one I requested, and I'll be reviewing it on Tuesday! Thank you for all of this, Harper!


From NetGalley:


Mania by J.R. Johansson

I liked Insomnia a lot, and Paranoia was okay... but I definitely want to continue this series!


The Shattered Court by M.J. Scott

Eeee! I have been aching to read this one! Fantasy! Lovely cover! 


From Amazon:




Hey, it was free! Plus, I love Gena's books!


I barely slept at all this week! Seriously, a lot of three- and four-hour nights of sleep this week... but I churned out a ton of work and I feel pretty great about it all (despite feeling even more sleep-deprived than before). I hope everyone is doing well! How was your week? :)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Palace of Lies by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Palace of Lies by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Book Three of The Palace Chronicles
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Rating: 1 star
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

Desmia discovers the reality of royalty is far from a fairy tale in this third adventure set in the Cinderella-esque world of Just Ella and Palace of Mirrors, from New York Times bestselling author Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Desmia and her twelve sister-princesses are ruling Suala together at last, a united front. The kingdom seems to have finally gotten its happily ever after, but Desmia, trained by a lifetime of palace intrigue, is not so sure. She desperately wants to believe all is well, but she can’t help seeing danger around every corner.

And then the unthinkable happens, and Desmia’s worst fears are confirmed. Now, without the support of the sister-princesses she’s grown to rely on or the trappings of royalty that have always convinced people to listen to her, Desmia must find the courage to seek out the truth on her own terms—and to determine the course of two kingdoms.

What I Liked:

SKIP. Sorry not sorry. This book was all kinds of awful. I'm not even going to sit here and write a full review on this one. Not wasting my time.

What I Did Not Like:

First and foremost: Simon & Schuster did an AWFUL job of marketing this book. Let me explain. When I downloaded this book from Edelweiss in June (JUNE. 2014), there wasn't much about this book. No information about a synopsis, no cover, no series information. LOOK at my Stacking the Shelves post - you'll see that I had a placeholder cover up, and I stated, "Not much has been said about this one, but I'm wiling to give it a try!" I had NO idea that this book was a third book in the series. There was NO indication of this on Edelweiss at the time. And on Goodreads, there was barely even a publication year (at the time). You want to know when I realized that this book was a third book? JUST NOW, when I went to input my 1-star rating on Goodreads. I was like, ohh...

I mean, I was giving it 1 star anyway. Regardless of the number in the series, this one wasn't getting more than 1 star. I think this series reads as a companion series - you can read the books in any order, or none at all. The thing is, had I known that this book was part of a series (even if it was a companion series), I wouldn't have picked it up.

Second thing: this is MIDDLE GRADE. Not Young Adult. I've not been able to read Middle Grade in quite some time, and this book is the epitome of why. I couldn't stand the immaturity of the characters in this book. I couldn't wrap my head around the absurdity of the situations of this book. I just could not believe the story, let alone like the story. And I get it - it's fantasy. But something about fourteen- and ten-year-old children taking down grown men doesn't sit well with me. When I say "take down", I mean "outwit". But also, the ten-year-old children are pretty well-versed in killing people. Okay.

I didn't like the protagonist, Desmia. She's fourteen, and gosh does she act her age (or less, really). She's so conceited and selfish, and honestly, her character and personality don't really develop throughout the story. The author likes to TELL us readers that she does, by physically forcing Desmia's thoughts in a certain way, but it's not natural and doesn't flow right at all. I want to be SHOWN that Desmia is maturing. Don't TELL me she is. Don't have HER tell me. 

I didn't like the supporting characters, either. They're all so YOUNG, and so immature, and their roles don't seem right at all, for their age. It's like the author was trying to tell a Young Adult story in a Middle Grade type of book... I could not wrap my head around the characters and their age and the things they were doing. Like, they seemed too stupid to be doing some things, and entirely too smart to be able to do other things. If that makes sense.

The whole plot is absurd. Go find the twelve princesses that were probably killed in the fire - oh, but you're seriously injured, so you have to depend on others to take you. Not to mention that these other people will drop their entire lives and money and home and EVERYTHING for you and your problems. Somehow, I just did not believe this plot arc. I wasn't buying it. I was rolling my eyes the entire time, or had an eyebrow cocked, or was staring incredulously at the pages.

Seriously, if you're going to write a Middle Grade book, age your characters as such, and mature (or immature) them as such. Don't make them super-smart, super-strong, super-witty children sent from heaven or something. Literally the entire time I was thinking to myself, these are CHILDREN?!

But again, the story seemed ridiculous. I'm not even doing it justice by saying it was "ridiculous". It was so trivial and superfluous - this book was one of those books where I was like, what's the point? This story seemed recycled and retold and booooooring, to be honest. Thank goodness the book was semi-short. 

I really wanted almost everyone to end up dead... of course that was not the case. Take that as you may. This book ends so cartoon-like and cookie-cutter perfect. And the villains - literally so cartoon-like! It's like these GROWN men and women are idiots, at the hands of fourteen-year-old children! Really! These children can run a castle better than men and women who have been around a palace for years?! Yes, I believe that, totally...

Overall, I'm not pleased, not amused, and 100% would not recommend. It's Middle Grade, but it's superfluous Middle Grade. It's MIDDLE GRADE - not Young Adult (like it seemed to have been marketed to be). I would never have picked up this one, had I known that it was a book three, as well as Middle Grade. Please, publishers, market your books correctly. I know you like to upload your books super early to Edelweiss, but really, it would help immensely if you had the book's information (like, at the very least, the number in the series). 

Would I Recommend It:

NOOOOOO. Maybe if you've read the other two books in the series. But nooooo. Don't do it. It's not worth it.

Rating:

1 star (really, it would be lower than that if possible. Again, sorry not sorry). This was definitely NOT for me. And now I know better than to be interested in an unknown, supposedly YA, non-series fantasy novel. Sad life.


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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Swoon Thursday (#109): Rebound by Noelle August

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 Rebound by Noelle August!


Her hand brushes along my chest and stills on my neck. "I want this."

That's all I need. I crush my lips to hers, and it's fast - and hot. I can't take it slow. Our tongues are darting, doing an urgent dance as I pick her up and lift her against the wall. She wraps her arms around my neck and I yank her dress up to get her legs around me. Her heavy boots clunk to the ground, one, then the other. Then her ankles lock behind me, and she pulls me in tight. I let out a groan at the feeling, her pressed to me, open for me. 

- eARC, 55%