Friday, September 30, 2016

Review: Looking Inside by Beth Kery

Looking Inside by Beth Kery
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

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

Summary (from Goodreads):

Are you just going to stand there and watch?

Eleanor Briggs just can’t help herself. Every night, the sight of the man in the high-rise across the street is driving her wild. She longs to feel his touch up close and personal. To win him over, she’ll need to shake off her wallflower sensibilities and become the seductress she never imagined she could be. The only trouble will be finding the perfect way to meet him…

Or are you going to join in?

Sex is easy for millionaire entrepreneur Trey Riordan. Finding something of substance, however, seems impossible. That is until a simple night of reading at a local coffee shop becomes something far steamier when a beautiful brunette comes by and leaves a note telling him to look out his bedroom window at midnight. But when the time comes, neither of them will be truly ready for what follows…

What I Liked:

This book was simply stunning, and took me by surprise. I decided to read it on a whim - I wanted to read something really steamy, but new and fresh. I've not read any of this author's books, and none of my blogger and reader friends have read this book, so I figured this would be the perfect one to read. Thank you, Berkley, for the opportunity!

For about a year, Eleanor has watched the man living in the high-rise across the street. She's seen him having sex six of seven times, and each time, it's like he's right there doing those things to her. But he has no idea that she's seen him. One day, she decides to take matters into her own hands and go for it. When she sees his name on a list for a local coffee shop reading, what's a girl got to do but dress like she's doing to a club, and bring a sexy BDSM novel with her? She's got his attention now... and there is nothing stopping the blazing inferno of chemistry between them.

I had no expectations and I knew very little about this book, before reading it. There are so few reviews on Goodreads at the moment (as of September 29th, 2016), which was great! I went in blind and sometimes I absolutely love that feeling. I wanted to read a super hot romance novel that didn't have a lot of buzz behind it (yet), and I found one (and loved it).

Eleanor works at a museum, as a special collections person. She loves books and has a relatively boring life... until four months ago, when her sister died. Eleanor has been living in her sister's condo for over a year; ever since her sister died four months ago, Eleanor has been trying to fulfill her sister's dying wish - live more. Eleanor is the bookish type of girl, but she wants to be more confident and sexy. Seducing Trey Riordan, the man in the high rise across the street, is exactly what she wants to do. I like that Eleanor is terrified of making such a big move, but she does it. She isn't fearless and bold, but she does a bold thing (and then another, and another) to get Trey's attention, and she doesn't regret it because it makes her feel powerful. Eleanor and her parents are still grieving over her sister's death, but Eleanor is a strong woman. 

Trey... Trey is so swoony. He likes women and he likes sex, but his last couple of relationships have gone terribly. His last girlfriend poked holes in his condoms! Trey can't stand lies or dishonesty, and he tells Eleanor upfront that this can only be sex. Trey wants honesty first, and no deception. He's a sweet guy, very intelligent and very successful (I'm thinking he's a millionaire, with the company he has, but money is not mentioned as much in this book - good!). Another thing - Trey is a dominant, and he's confident, and he has alpha traits (with being a d**k).

The chemistry between these two... holy guacamole. The steam started coming off the page from the first encounter. Who knew simply reading across from each other in a coffee shop could be so hot? The sex scenes in this book are off the charts. A fair warning - Trey is kinky, but the BDSM is mild. There is spanking, handcuffs, dildo action, vibrators, and I guess you could say that Eleanor is a voyeur (she's been watching Trey have sex with a different woman for a year). But there is nothing "extreme" (menages, or other voyeurs, etc.). I don't really like that kind of stuff, and I'm not into BDSM, but this kind of steamy stuff was really really steaming but not overwhelming in terms of the BDSM. Trey is a clear dom and Eleanor is an obvious sub (she's never been in a BDSM type of partnership but she quickly discovers what she likes). 

The development of the relationship was really well-written too. Yes, the steamy stuff was off the charts, and the pair has great chemistry. Insta-lust is totally cool with me. But I thought the author did a wonderful job of gradually having these two fall in love. It was sweet!

And then there are the "heavy" issues of the book, like Eleanor's sister's death. Honestly the heavy stuff really didn't weigh down the story. I liked seeing Trey and Eleanor get closer over some of those issues. It took Eleanor quite some time to tell Trey about her sister, but I like how understanding Trey is. Trey never leaves Eleanor's side despite Eleanor jumping to some crazy conclusions (more than once), or her not being totally honest with him (about her job, her sister, etc.). 

So in general... I'm half in love with Trey (I wish someone like him existed in real life), and I really liked and admired Eleanor. The chemistry was incredible, and the romance was sweet. The climax has a spot of drama, but not enough to be off-putting. The person in the wrong apologized, and the person wronged never gave up on the other. It was a beautiful ending!

What I Did Not Like:

I can't think of anything that would deter me from recommending the book - though I will say that I wanted to see some of Trey's "tough issues", and not just Eleanor's. I think the focus of the tough issues were on Eleanor and her sister's death, but I would have loved to see Trey lean on Eleanor (Eleanor leaned on Trey so many times in this book).

And the climax? As minimal as it was in terms of drama, it felt a tiny bit random. You'll see what I mean if you read the book. Eleanor flips out over this random thing... the thing itself is random, like the author couldn't figure out what to make the straw that breaks the camel's back, and so she just threw something in there... it was weird. No foreshadowing whatsoever. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't think this detracted from the story or quality of the story. But it was weird, and worth mentioning!

Would I Recommend It:

I highly recommend this romance novel. I have been struggling with romance novels in the last few months (some have been good but not great, some have been absolutely awful, the rest have been meh). This one was excellent! I could swoon over Trey all day. Again, even if you avoid BDSM, don't worry, because the kinky stuff/BDSM is very mild (i.e. no menages) but VERY steamy. 


4.5 stars. I hesitate to round down. This book was honestly so good, and I'm glad I picked it up on a whim. I don't see room for a series of companion novels, and I'm hoping that Trey and Eleanor's happily ever after is cemented, so this is a great standalone novel. I recommend it, and I will definitely be looking out for other books by this author in the future!

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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Blog Tour Review: This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

Welcome to the blog tour for This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills! I loved this book, and I highly recommend you give it a chance. Read my review below, and let me convince you!

This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sloane isn't expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that's exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera's twin brother and the most serious person Sloane's ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins' late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins' lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.

What I Liked:

This book was everything I wanted, everything I expected, and then some. I thought I loved First & Then? I adored this novel. The two books are not related (both are standalones, completely different), but they are both amazing. Emma Mills writes such great contemporary novels - and you all know me, I struggle with YA contemporary most of the time. But this book... it was lovely.

Sloane and her family have moved from New York to Florida (for reasons you'll find out in the book). At her new school, Sloane makes friends with Vera, who has thousands of followers on a ton of different social media. As a friend of Vera's, she joins Vera's friend group, which includes Remy, Aubrey, Bree, and Gabe (Vera's twin). Sloane and Vera are good friends; one day, Gabe realizes that one of his mother's paintings are gone... and Sloane decides that she is going to find out who bought, and get it back for the twins. Finding the painting, navigating social circles, and learning about her new friends open Sloane up to new experiences, some of which Sloane never realized she needed.

Sloane has a corny sense of humor, slightly sarcastic and totally honest, but in a corny and funny way. She didn't have a lot of friends in New York, but here in Florida, she makes friends with a group of people. Sloane is used to being alone without being lonely, but she didn't realize how much she liked having people surrounding her until this group did. Vera is an amazing friend, and Sloane is a great friend to her. Sloane is so caring, despite her thinking that she is a little closed-off.

I liked Sloane a lot - you don't see types like her often, anymore. She's not a quiet kickbutt heroine, but rather, a quiet joke-telling one that likes solitude. I loved seeing her grow in this story. I loved seeing her push and pull with her new relationships. 

The cast of characters is so well-written! Vera is a sweet and bubbly girl. Gabe is so serious and quiet, but his humor is similar to Sloane's. Laney (Sloane's nine-year-old sister) is cute and surprisingly not annoying. Sloane's father writes literary romance novels but he's kind of in a slump. Sloane's mom is your typical mom. Vera and Gabe's family is... effed up. Their mom has been dead for several years, and their family is vastly different now. The friend - Remy is such a sweetie. He is the one that helps Sloane track down the Fuller twins' mom's painting. He and Aubrey used to date, but then something happened and they're not together but are still part of the friend group. Bree is Bree, chill as a cucumber.

There are many wonderful relationships in this book. Vera and Sloane's friendship is so great, well-written and authentic. They get along well, they fight, they forgive each other. I also liked seeing Sloane and Remy interact - they are also great as friends. Sloane and her father have an interesting relationship, mostly revolving around her father's romance books. 

And then there is Gabe and Sloane. I ship them so much and I adore Gabe. Gabe is serious and quiet and intense, definitely the strong silent brooding type. His mother's death hit him hard, and he wanted to keep her paintings, but his father started to sell them. Gabe isn't "broken", but he has his demons, as does Vera. I love seeing Gabe and Sloane interact. Their romance is soooo slow-burn in development, but totally worth the duration of slow-burn. I love the development, the way the romance buds. It's wonderful!

Overall, this book... it was fantastic. Definitely one that I would reread again and again. It's not just a cute contemporary novel with great romance and authentic teenage characters and plenty of humor. It's not a heavy book but there are issues that play important roles in this book. This kind of contemporary, the "real" yet uplifting type, is what I love.

What I Did Not Like:

I said the same thing about First & Then - I wanted more physical interactions and swoons from Sloane and Gabe! The romance is PERFECTLY developed, but I would have loved to see more kisses and swoons, even if it was like, ten of them, all crammed at the end. I would have been okay with this!

Would I Recommend It:

Even if you're like me and are not a fan of YA contemporary, try this one. It's a sweet novel, with humor and relationships and romance and growth and maturation. I highly recommend it! If you liked First & Then, or Kasie West's contemporary novels, then definitely try this one.


4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars. I can't wait to read more by Mills. With only two books, she has definitely become an auto-read author for me. I don't usually go for YA contemporary, but I am on board with whatever Mills writes!

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

Follow the Author:

Swoon Thursday (#192): This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

- 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 This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills!

I kiss him very briefly but with great feeling, and then I pull back an inch and look at him, his eyes wide, lips parted, and when he gives me the most radiant smile, I can't help it - I go back twice as hard, pulling him even closer and kissing him like I mean it, because God, do I mean it. And as he threads one hand through my hair and kisses back with just as much feeling...[]

- ARC, page 302

Gaaahhh, I loved this book so much! Enough to make me say "Gaaahhh." :D I cut off this scene (right in the middle of a sentence) because of spoilers. But it's a beautiful moment of a beautiful book! =)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Blog Tour Review and Giveaway: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Hi friends! Today is my day on the blog tour for Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. I'm excited to share my review of this incredible book, PLUS there is a giveaway sponsored by the publisher. Check it out below!

Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Book Two of the Illuminae Files series
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller
Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy's most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station's wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They've totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics,
Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

What I Liked:

Goodness, this book was amazing. I could not stop reading until I finished! I read it in one sitting because there really was no other option. I thought Illuminae was great, but this book was even better. Even better, I tell you!

On the Heimdall Jump Station, Hanna Donnelly and Niklas Malikov live two very different lives. Hanna is the daughter of the station captain, which makes her very rich space royalty. Nik isn't registered as a resident, because he and the rest of the House of Knives don't officially exist. They are criminals, and they are drug dealers. Nik doesn't want to be a part of that lifestyle, but HoK is family, and family is everything. But things start to go horribly wrong with a BeiTech team invades the station and effectively kills, corrals, or captures everyone. Hanna and Nik hide and run for their lives, causing chaos as they go. Both refuse to turn themselves in, and both refuse to make it easy. As they piece together the invasion and other strange secrets that come to light, they'll work together to keep each other - and the station - alive. But time is running out for the Heimdall, and the approaching Hypatia.

I seriously could not read this book quickly enough. The beginning was a little slow (like, the first one hundred pages or so), but I kept turning pages as the book went on. It's about 650 pages but I got through the story very quickly. Once the invasion occurred, things got crazy. And the "alien" predators business made me want to read faster too. Once the story started coming together and pieces of the story were happening more and more, I couldn't stop reading. One sitting, people. That's pretty difficult for adults with busy lives!

On the surface, one might think Hanna is a stereotypical spoiled princess. She likes clothes and hair and makeup, and she only has to ask her father for money to get it with no questions asked. But Hanna has a very different life; her childhood and teenager life have been spent training in martial arts and other forms of defense. She's intelligent and physically strong, and mentally so as well. 

Nik is a different kind of strong. He's seen the real world, and he's seen jail. He might not know fancy combat stances, but he is a fighter. He is also a shameless flirt when it comes to Hanna, with hearts in his eyes. He sells drugs to Hanna (she wants them), but he genuinely likes her. Nik isn't a pothead or a criminal - he's a good guy, and a selfless one, at that. I liked Nik more than Hanna, and with good reason.

The romance is between these two! Hanna has a boyfriend in the beginning of the story (they celebrated their six-month anniversary), but she doesn't feel the spark of love. I think a lot of that relationship was very physical but not emotional. Hanna and her boyfriend are separated quickly, and as Hanna really gets to know Nik, she finds that she isn't really thinking of her boyfriend. And then she finds out some things about the boyfriend... let's just say that Nik is the most honorable person in the book.

My second favorite character (behind Nik and ahead of Hanna) is Nik's cousin Ella! Ella is a hacking genius, similar to Kady. But Ella is confined to a chair, after her body was weakened from an infection. Ella is such a bada**, more than Hanna. She's honest and to the point, and saves Nik and Hanna so many times in this book. Ella is a great cousin and wonderful friend.

So many twists and turns in this book! I like how Kaufman and Kristoff set up the twists and turns. There are times when you're like, huh, that's weird, and that EXACT thing pops up again later in the story and you're like ohhhh, that's why. Like the cues are subtle, but they are there, and I love how it all starts to make sense as the story moves to the climax.

Honestly I don't want to say too much more because I'm afraid of spoiling things. So much happened that could be considered spoilers. I know that the books in this series are companion novels, but it's important to read each of the books and in order. The overall series story builds in a fascinating way. As much as I liked Ezra and Kady, I liked seeing the story from Nik and Ella's POV too. The timing worked so that it was like two storylines colliding at the very end of this book.

As with Illuminae, this book is told in transcripts, surveillance video commentary, logs, IM chats, and reports. I didn't think I would enjoy this type of storytelling, because it really removes you from the characters and character development, but the authors did a great job of developing the protagonists and establishing connections for the readers.

The science fiction aspect was great in Illuminae, but it really ramps up in this book! There are some really cool reveals in this book that I can't say specifically (spoilers), but they are cool. The futuristic setting is a Jump Station in space. There is so much technology and advancements, and it's clear that Kaufman and Kristoff did their research well, as well as used their imaginations well.

Overall, I was more than pleased with this book. The ending isn't necessarily a cliffhanger but it definitely leaves me wanting more, so I can't wait for the third book. I'm sure the showdown will be all kinds of epic!

What I Did Not Like:

I just did not like that Hanna had a boyfriend before this story started, and she's still with him when the story starts. Hanna likes him and cares about him but isn't sure that she loves him. They've been together for six months, and they've definitely been doing things in the last six months. There are several reasons why I didn't like her boyfriend... you'll see why. In any case, there is only one OTP, and really there was NO love triangle (trust me -- I don't think Hanna and her boyfriend even kiss in this book). But I didn't like the existence of a current boyfriend, to be honest.

Would I Recommend It:

I highly recommend this book! Whether you like science fiction or not, this is great fiction. The page count is hefty but the book reads very quickly - it won't take you as long as you think it will, to read this book. Plus, the romance is sweet (again, no love triangle), and the protagonists are very likable (especially Nik!). The story is told in a unique way, but that isn't all that makes the story special!


4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars. (This rating isn't just because of the existing boyfriend aspect.) I can't wait to read the next book! I know it's going to be about a third couple, but I hope we get to see more of Ezra/Kady and Nik/Hanna in the final book (and I think we certainly will)!

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

Follow the Authors:

Amie Kaufman: Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

Jay Kristoff: Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

The Giveaway:

Win a finished copy of Gemina! Courtesy of Penguin Random House. USA only, ends 10/12. Good luck!

Waiting on Wednesday (#196): Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

"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:

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves
Book One of an untitled series
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

A debut! I admit, I've been trying to stay away from new series, to try and finish series that I've already started. But I can't resist this one!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Blog Tour Review: Penguin Problems by Jory John & Lane Smith

Hello, lovely readers! Today is a busy day - I have a blog tour post for A Shadow Bright and Burning, and Penguin Problems! Both books were exceptional. Penguin Problems is such a great novel even for adults, because of its content to which people can relate. Check out this sweet book!

About the Book:

Penguin Problems by Jory John & Lane Smith
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 27, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Review copy sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

A penguin levels with human readers about what penguin life is really like—and it isn’t all fun and games.

Have you ever considered running away to Antarctica? Of course you have! Because it’s a land free of worries and responsibilities! All of your problems will surely be blown away by the icy winds of that lawless paradise! . . . Won’t they?

Think again, my friend. This penguin has come to tell you that his life down there is no more a picnic than yours is here. For starters, it is FREEZING. Also, penguins have a ton of natural predators. Plus, can you imagine trying to find your mom in a big ol’ crowd of identical penguins? No, thank you.

Yes, it seems there is no escaping the drudgery of your daily grind, whatever it might be. Or perhaps we’ve just learned that grumps are everywhere. . . .

What I Liked:

Maybe I'm an odd duck (or... penguin?) but I love picture books! They are so cute and funny, and wonderfully uplifting. This book spoke to me, which I thought was amazing. The fact that a message for a small child could also be applicable to a twenty-one-year-old, or adults in general, is amazing. 

In this book, an adorable penguin has so many complaints and problems, and it seems like no one is listening. Life is hard, and it feels like he is shouting into the void. Will things start to look up for the penguin?

This review is going to be fairly short, and hey, the book is only thirty-two pages. I loved the story, as short as it was. It is rather dense if you read between the lines. For a kid, it might seem like a funny story about a penguin who has a lot of complaints (some silly, some exaggerated), but for an adult... it represents the real world, and real life. There are so many things that all of us could complain about, and it seems like no one is listening.

The ending is very interesting. A walrus approaches our grumpy penguin and talks to him. You'll have to read it to know what I mean. But the messages in this book are so powerful, for children and for adults alike. You know Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss, a children's book that has a lot of attention in the adult world? I personally think Penguin Problems should be right up there with Oh, The Places You'll Go!.

One final note - the illustrations are amazing! I love the style. Seriously, there should be a Penguin Problems coloring book with this novel!

What I Did Not Like:

Nothing here! This book was great.

Would I Recommend It:

I highly recommend this book, for little kids or for adults (or both). Sometimes we adults can learn a lot from kids, and from kids' books. I am definitely going to share this one with my little cousins!


4 stars. This book is cute and funny but it is also so meaningful and important. 

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

My Favorite Passages:

All of these passages seem pessimistic, but I think that's why I love them. They so clearly represent this generation, the modern world, the attitude of so many people. Life has gone in a certain direction for the entire world, and the authors have captured this brilliantly in this book. 

"It's way too early." -- this is me EVERY morning.

"What's with all the squawking, you guys?" -- I wish I were brave enough to yell this to my neighbors!

"It's too bright out here." -- But actually! Can the sun see that I'm half asleep still?!

"I'm hungry. I'd like a fish. Where are all the fish?! HEY! FISH! GET OUT HERE!" -- Me trying to fix myself dinner. It can be a struggle!

"I wish I could fly, but I can't." -- Okay this one made me so sad. I wish I could fly too, Mr. Penguin. Literally, but also metaphorically. *hugs Mr. Penguin*

What do you think of this picture book? What are some picture books that you've found really relatable?

Blog Tour: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

Hi friends! Welcome to the publisher-hosted blog tour for A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess. I adored this book, and I'm excited to share an interview with Jessica. 

The Interview:

(Photo from Jessica's website.)

Alyssa: Hi Jessica! Thank you so much for joining me today. Your book has a beautiful cover! Tell me about your reaction, when you first saw it. :)

Jessica: I distinctly remember my jaw dropping. The idea of a rose on fire was such a fantastic concept anyway, but when I saw the colors—the bright orange embers, the teal flame turning a cooler, more electric blue—I knew it was incredibly special. I just think of it as a really great piece of art.

Alyssa: How about the evolution of the title—were you calling the book something else at any point?

Jessica: When I started querying, the book had the very expressive title of Sorcerer’s Flame. Genius, I know. My agent rightly thought it sounded too bland, so we came up with A Cloak of Flame, which Random House bought…and then rightly thought didn’t sound epic enough. So that spurred a two or three week email chain between my agent, my editor, and me, while we tried to figure out what to call the book. It had to relate to fire, it had to sound epic but also Victorian…we were all going nuts by the end of it. Finally, my editor looked at a pile of words we’d been throwing around and came up with the current title. I’m so glad she did, because it ties in so nicely to the book. It is about a girl who sets herself on fire, yes, and she does fight a shadow monster. But it’s also about bringing truth forth from lies—burning away the shadows, as it were.

Alyssa: Will the titles of the rest of the books in the series follow the same pattern?

Jessica: They will! We have books two and three titled already. If you’re paying attention as you read, you might be able to piece them together…

Alyssa: So this is a trilogy! Were you planning on writing that many when you wrote this book?

Jessica: I always knew I wanted this to be a multi book series. For a while I couldn’t figure if I wanted it to be three or four, but I think three is a perfect number. I was so lucky and thankful when Random House bought the entire trilogy.

Alyssa: Can you tell us anything about book two? A little snippet, sneak peek, hint, title, etc?

Jessica: I can’t say much, but I’ll say this: We go outside of London. Some secrets are brought to light. We meet an important new character. There is a lot of kissing and crying.

Alyssa: What is one thing you hope readers will get out of A Shadow Bright and Burning?

Jessica: I hope they enjoy themselves. I honestly write in the hope that someone will read my book and get taken away from their everyday problems, because that’s what books have always been to me: a safe haven. However, if they think about anything after finishing, I hope that they consider how pointless it is to base someone’s worth on how they’re born. That’s a pretty ridiculous thing to do. 

Alyssa: Thank you, Jessica!

About the Author:

Jessica Cluess is a writer, a graduate of Northwestern University, and an unapologetic nerd. After college, she moved to Los Angeles, where she served coffee to the rich and famous while working on her first novel. When she’s not writing books, she’s an instructor at Writopia Lab, helping kids and teens tell their own stories.

About the Book:

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Book One of the Kingdom on Fire series
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 20, 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

I am Henrietta Howel.
The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.
The prophesied one.
Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's shocked when instead of being executed, she's invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers.

Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.

But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one. 
As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

Exhilarating and gripping, Jessica Cluess's spellbinding fantasy introduces a powerful, unforgettably heroine, and a world filled with magic, romance, and betrayal. Hand to fans of Libba Bray, Sarah J. Maas, and Cassandra Clare.

Sweet Talk with the Sweet Sixteens: September 27th

Welcome to Week Thirty-Nine 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 September 27th!

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:

Paula Garner, Author of Phantom Limbs

1. A 16-year-old swimmer's childhood sweetheart reappears, forcing him to face the tragedy that drove them apart.

2. Wonder Years meets Paper Towns.

3. In my next YA contemporary, Relative Strangers, 18-year-old Jules discovers that part of her early childhood was spent in foster care. She sets out to find the family who cared for her, only to fall for her former foster brother. 

Both books are standalones, but those who read Relative Strangers closely will spot a cameo appearance of a character from Phantom Limbs!

Follow Paula Garner: Website | Goodreads | Twitter

The Book:

(Click on the cover to go to Goodreads!)

Other Sweet Sixteens Books Publishing This Week:

Phantom Limbs is the only one!

The Giveaway:

- Finished copy of I am Drums
- Digital copy of soundtrack of I am Drums
- ARC of The Cat King of Havana
- Poppy Mayberry, The Monday swag
- Ripple swag
- Stalking Jack the Ripper swag
- Finished copy of Phantom Limbs

Monday, September 26, 2016

Review: Seducing the Bridesmaid by Katee Robert

Seducing the Bridesmaid by Katee Robert
Book Three of the Wedding Dare series
Publisher: Entangled Brazen
Publication Date: June 9, 2014
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

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

Summary (from Goodreads):

She has a plan. He’s about to change it.

Regan Wakefield is a headhunter in both name and personality: driven, motivated, and unafraid to pursue what—and who—she wants. Naturally, she’s thrilled when her friend's wedding offers her an opportunity to score Logan McCade, the practically perfect best man. Unfortunately, groomsman Brock McNeil keeps getting in her way, riling her up in the most delicious of ways. But Brock’s smooth southern charm isn't part of the how exactly did they end up having searing-hot sex?

Regan may pretend the erotic electricity sparking between them is merely a distraction, but Brock knows better. She refuses to see beyond the devil-may-care façade he presents to the world, while he sees straight through hers. Changing her mind—and getting under her skin—is a challenge he can’t resist. And when he wins, Brock will do whatever it takes to convince Regan that the best man for her is him.

What I Liked:

A short, fast read that featured a sweet and charming hero, and a prickly and rude heroine. Katee Robert is one of my favorite adult romance authors, but this was not one of my favorite books by her. It's one of her earlier ones, so perhaps it wasn't her best in general? It was okay, but not great. On a positive note, I like this Wedding Dare series. It's compromised of short Brazen novels, written by a different author, but all part of the same story and characters (different hero/heroine per book). 

This is Regan and Brock's story. Kady and Colton are getting married, and as friends of each, Brock and Regan are there for the wedding. They're part of the wedding, as a groomsmen and a bridesmaid. Regan is a thorny, mean, assertive businesswoman, and Brock is a sweet man who seems like an underachiever - but he isn't. Regan doesn't give Brock the time of day, but the pair has really smoking chemistry. Even though Regan turns him away the first few times, she'll start to realize that maybe she was wrong about Brock.

I liked Brock so much. From the start, you can tell that he is a true Southern gentleman, and he isn't using his Southern charm to get in with the ladies. He's a sweet guy with a hint of arrogance and a lot of confidence. He's used to everyone seeing him as the rich, spoiled, lazy second son, but that's because he doesn't correct anyone and he hides who he really is and what he really does. I loved Brock's complexity, and his internal turmoil. This book is so short and yet we see so much of Brock's thoughts and emotions. He's such a great guy too! Chivalrous and very charming, honest and perceptive.

Regan... is the reason why this book is getting a so-so rating. So I'll talk about her in the next section. I didn't love the romance between these two, but I thought they had really great chemistry. I didn't like Regan in most of the book, but I thought she was pretty okay in the end. SHE came chasing after him and fighting for him, so that definitely won her a ton of points.

This isn't Robert's steamiest book by a long shot - heck, I was a little disappointed - but there were a few sizzling scenes, and like I said, the chemistry was great. 

Overall, not bad, and definitely a good addition to the Wedding Dare series. There was great character growth for both protagonists. But the story could have been better.

What I Did Not Like:

I didn't like Regan. She's mean, so rude, and she could stand to relax a little. In a way, she's portrayed as the stereotypical workaholic businesswoman, in fiction: dominant, bossy, assertive, commanding, rude, lonely, sexless, etc. I didn't like this. I don't think businesswoman are like that at all (some are). Why go straight for the heaviest of stereotypes?

And I really didn't like her anyway. She is a bit cruel to Brock, in the beginning of the book. And she's so hot and cold in the book - honestly, her mood swings were giving me whiplash. One minute she is using Brock to try and meet someone else, the next minute she's running right back to Brock, then she's running far away from him... good grief, woman. Mixed signals much? Way too much drama. I don't know why Brock went to all that trouble.

Regan's attitude at the very end of book won her some points for me - she went chasing after Brock (and not the other way around). Good. Honestly, she was not put in her place NEARLY enough, in this book. She was wrong over and over and no one seemed to want to correct her? I think she should have suffered a bit in terms of her emotions - especially after sending Brock through the entire spectrum of emotions.

This was such a non-steamy book compared to Robert's other books. Don't get me wrong, there is explicit sex in this book. But I know Robert's books, and they are usually much steamier. This book only had one sex scene that I thought was kind of steamy, and the other one fell flat. The chemistry was hot but the sex scenes weren't. I know Robert can do better. And this was one of her older books, so I know she has done better since. But this book could have used a little more steam - especially since it seemed like Robert was trying to work the hate-to-love bickering romance. 

Would I Recommend It:

Of Robert's books that I've read (this is my tenth), I'd not recommend this one. I'd recommend her O'Malley's series, her Out of Uniform series, her Foolproof Love series. But maybe not this one. The heroine was a little too unlikable overall, especially to be paired with such a sweet guy like Brock.


3.5 stars -> rounded down to 3 stars. I liked this one but wouldn't recommend it, and probably won't reread it (it wasn't that memorable). Still, it was worth reading and I'm glad I did. I love Robert's books and will always give them a chance! And this Wedding Dare series is wonderful.

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