Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 Series Challenge: March Checkpoint

I'm here once again to check in for the series challenge! I again, only read one series this month. I was hoping to read two, but alas, it didn't happen. Although, I'm okay with it. Even if I keep up just that pace, I'll have finished 12 series by the end of the year, which I think is good. I've been binge reading series, checking out all of them from the library and reading them straight, and I've found that I like that a lot better, because everything is fresh in my mind, there's no waiting, and I'm just done. There are actually a lot of series that I just haven't read yet because I decided to wait until they were all out and read them at once.

Legend Series by Marie Lu
Legend was a reread, so everything would be fresh in my mind and I could read it all at once. (For some reason, 2013 was the year of me reading the first in a series/trilogy, and loving it, but just never picking up the second one. Since 2014 is the year of all those series ending, you're probably going to see quite a lot of this happening.) I LOVED this series. Seriously, so good. 

March completed count = 1
Total year completed count = 3

Friday, March 28, 2014

Jellicoe Road {by Melina Marchetta}

Title: Jellicoe Road
Author: Melina Marchetta
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

I'm dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.
Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs - the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.
And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor's only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother - who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

Wow. This book. I had been meaning to read it for a long time now (isn't that what we say about everything?), so thank you Rachel for pushing me to read it as part of Epic Recs! (Yes, a different Rachel. I don't just go around talking to myself. Well...actually...umm...moving on.)

I had been told before I started that it is one of those books that you have to stick with. Although I would have anyway, because I wanted to know what was going on, I am glad I was told that. Because this book does require a little bit of faith. It isn't bad in the beginning, not at all. It's just complex and confusing. But those are my favorite types of stories.

The story is told from the point of view of Taylor, a resident boarder at the Jellicoe School. She was abandoned by her mother on the Jellicoe Road, and taken in by Hannah, who is a bit of a mystery. She is the leader of her House, and is in charge of the territory wars--fought between the boarders, the Townies (the kids who live in the town), and the Cadets (a group of kids who come every year for the summer). But there are also parts of a different story weaved in, a story that will become part of Taylor's story (was that cheesy? sorry).

Taylor as a character wasn't anything special. There was definitely a depth and emotion to her character, even if sometimes I did feel a bit disconnected. I think sometimes the biggest issue I had with the characters is the fact that I wasn't quite sure what was going on. The territory wars were never really explained, her running away with Jonah wasn't quite explained. Of course, all of these things come to light at the end, when everything slowly begins to be revealed, but until then, it was just a lot of confusion.

And that's actually most of the book. There were a lot of events that were mentioned, or alluded to, but never really explained until the end. I don't know about you, but I am impatient with my books. I want to know what's going on now. But, that was part of this book's overall effect. It was a complex, intricate story made up of so many parts, that somehow just worked.

But this is just truly a beautiful book. It definitely is filled with emotion (and y'all know I never get emotional over my books). It is such a carefully weaved story, that at the end will leave you sitting there, thinking "What. What just happened."

So yes, I encourage you to read it. I definitely think you should give this a chance. Yes, you might be confused in the beginning, but it definitely redeems itself. That's the beauty of this book.

This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Melina Marchetta:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Dream Dress {by Janice Thompson}

Title: The Dream Dress
Author: Janice Thompson
Series: Weddings by Design #3
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

A seamstress at a swanky bridal boutique, Gabi Delgado dreams of doing more than ripping out seams and fitting dresses to doe-eyed brides. She wants to see her own dress designs gracing the young women of Texas. When Jordan Spencer, the editor of Texas Bride magazine visits the shop to do a feature, Gabi is devastated to lose her job in his very influential presence. Convinced she'll never get her dreams off the ground now, Gabi needs lots of encouragement--especially from her friend Bella Neeley--to take a chance and start her business. And as she gets to know Jordan, she discovers that she may have to take a chance on love as well. Could it be that she'll have to design her own wedding dress soon?

Guys. I don't know what it is about this series or this author. It started with the Weddings by Bella series. I was absolutely hooked. There wasn't even a reason why I loved it so much, because it wasn't my usual type of read, but I just did. I fell absolutely, completely in love, and that love has continued to her spin-off series, Weddings by Design. While Bella's series was all about, well, Bella, each book in the Design series has a different MC, and I loved that just as much.

Gabi is an alterations girl by day, closet wedding dress designer by night. She doesn't dare tell her boss, the infamous Demetri *insert pretentious sounding something here*. Until the day she gets humiliatingly fired, in front of a (very cute) reporter, no less. 

One of the reasons I like this series so much is the people. I mentioned how I loved Bella's series, and it was most in part to the absolutely crazy, lovable, mixed-up family she had. So I love how the author brings all those people back in. It might seem a little crazy at times (in fact, I would definitely recommend reading Weddings by Bella before this one because of all the people), but that is just part of the charm. I LOVE culture, especially when talking about food ;). So each new MC bringing in her own culture and differences makes it that much more special, and Gabi is no different. I love the family aspect in each story, and absolutely adored Mimi Carmen.

Gabi herself was such a cute character. She was hard-working and sweet and loyal, and just wanted to do what she loved. And Jordan...okay, actually, I wasn't as impressed with this love interest as I was with some of the others. (You know, I wasn't super impressed with Drew either, although Armando then made up for that.) He wasn't as swoony, and the romance seemed a bit underdeveloped in this one. It seemed to just...happen without any reason or substance. I know that all the romances in this series have seemed to happen really fast since they only got one book instead of three, but this seemed faster than most.

This book had plenty of moments that just made me laugh. Demetri and his "Fab Five", the Splendora Sisters (Lord, help us all), even Guido the parrot has his moment (yes, he's in this book too). I loved Bella, and how she was a part of this one, as well as Scarlet and Hannah from the first two books. 

I realize that some people might have problems with this book, in how cheesy it can come across, how everything works out just perfectly, how Gabi's fascination with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers is overdone, especially considering Scarlet did the same thing with Lucy in The Icing on the Cake. And, even I will admit that this is all true. But I don't care. This book just made me really, really happy. I have no doubts about giving it the rating I did, because when it comes down to it, this book did exactly what a book is supposed to do. It entertained, it made me laugh, it made me swoon, it made me just all-around happy. 

*This novel is Christian fiction

This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Weddings by Bella:

Weddings by Design:
A Bouquet of Love is expected August 2014

Janice Thompson:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Knight Assassin {by Rima Jean}

Title: Knight Assassin
Author: Rima Jean
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Seventeen-year-old Zayn has special powers she cannot control—powers that others fear and covet. Powers that cause the Templar Knights to burn Zayn’s mother at the stake for witchcraft. When a mysterious stranger tempts Zayn to become the first female member of the heretical Assassins, the chance to seek her revenge lures her in. She trains to harness her supernatural strength and agility, and then enters the King of Jerusalem's court in disguise with the assignment to assassinate Guy de Molay, her mother’s condemner. But once there, she discovers Earic Goodwin, the childhood friend who still holds her heart, among the knights—and his ocean-blue eyes don’t miss a thing. Will vengeance be worth the life of the one love she has left?

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this one. It has two of my favorite things just in the title--knights and assassins. So, I knew I had to at least give it a shot. And while there were some things I'm not sure about (Assassin's Creed, anyone?), this was still a very enjoyable read. 

Zayn lives with her mother in a small town, where they mostly keep to themselves. Due to Zayn's powers, that she doesn't really understand or know how to control, the villagers don't trust her, calling her and her mother witches. But one day, the son of the lord whose land they live on, Sir Guy de Molay, comes and does the unthinkable--he accuses Zayn's mother of witchcraft and burns her at the stake. Zayn wants to kill herself, until a mysterious man comes and tries to recruit her to be one of the Muslim Assassins, promising her revenge on de Molay. And so she goes. 

One of the things I liked most about this book was culture. Zayn is a Muslim, in the time of the Crusades. So, there's a lot of culture and history weaved into this book. I definitely enjoy things from this time period, and so this story drew me in with the historical aspect. However, that's also where this book lost me at times. (I realize that doesn't quite make sense.) Some of it, especially when talking about the fictional part, would confuse me, and I wouldn't quite understand what was going on. 

I had my issues with Zayn as well. Now, I am not saying that I could ever imagine going through what she did. I cannot imagine how it would feel, nor can I imagine the feelings I would have as well. However, too much of Zayn was revengeful, making it so that's really the only characteristic I can think of to describe her. I did not feel any connection to her. I'm not saying she was a bad character, but there definitely could have been more to her. In fact, that's almost how I felt about all of these characters. I never really connected with any of them.

The plot was so fueled by Zayn's need for revenge, that at times, I'm not sure I completely understood what this was about. Is it about Zayn becoming an Assassin? Her revenge on de Molay? Or the bigger picture of Saladin and the war? In fact, I'm not quite sure I still know. But, it was still very action-packed and full of suspense.

All in all, this was still a pretty good book. I would definitely recommend it for fans of knights and assassins. It did not take very long to read, but for the most part, held my attention. I would definitely consider reading other works by this author.

I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.
This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Rima Jean:

Website | FacebookTwitterGoodreads

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Better off Friends {by Elizabeth Eulberg}

Title: Better off Friends
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.
Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?
From romantic comedy superstar Elizabeth Eulberg comes a fresh, fun examination of a question for the ages: Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?

I loved this book. It was so cute and fun, and just an all-around feel good book. I didn't want to put it down, I just wanted to keep reading when I first picked it up. It definitely draws you in from the beginning, and keeps you until the very end.

The book starts when Macallan and Levi are in seventh grade, which is one of the things that draws you in. I usually don't read books with characters that young, nor do you really see a lot of books that have that long of a time span. I loved seeing their friendship grow and change as they do in the transition from preteen to teen/middle school to high school (junior high? We call it middle school where I'm from).

I loved the dual perspectives. Sometimes it doesn't work, but this time it really, really did. The best part, though, was the little back-and-forths between Macallan and Levi at the end of each chapter. I feel like that was what really made this book. It was just a lot of fun, and definitely developed the MC's even more. The banter between the two was hilarious, realistic, and cute.

Both of the characters were also developed in their own right. Levi is this calm, collected, California dude. Macallan is strong and independent, even if she can be stubborn. They balance each other out perfectly, and bring even more depth to each other's character. I also love the strong element of family and friends portrayed in the book. I think it's really great that Eulberg showcases really strong family figures for both Levi and Macallan.

There are also going to be times when you want to smack one or both of them upside the head. They make bad decisions, but also figure out the right ones. This book will give you all the feelings as you watch Macallan and Levi grow as characters and in their relationship. But in a good way.

(And also, the Buggy and Floyd thing. LOVED it. I mean, it's exactly how my friends and I act when nerding out about things. Sherlock and Watson, anyone?)

So yes. You need this book. You need these feels. All of them. All the things. Just do it.

I received an eARC through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I also won a copy from the lovely ladies at Fic Fare because everyone is awesome. This does not affect my opinion in any way. Except, of course, to think that everyone is awesome.

This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Elizabeth Eulberg:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Friday, March 14, 2014

{Cover Reveal} Don't Fall by Rachel Shieffelbein

Hey guys! Today, I'm here to help reveal the cover for Don't Fall by Rachel Schieffellbein! This story is pitched as a contemoporary retelling of Rapunzel, so I knew I had to share about it. But, this cover reveal is a little different. That is, there are MULTIPLE covers. And YOU get to help choose which one they pick. So, check out the covers below and vote for your favorite!

Title: Don't Fall
Author: Rachel Schieffelbein
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Release Date: 2014
Add to Goodreads

In which a teenage girl endures the over-protective love of her adoptive mother until she falls for a boy who has her wanting to spread her wings, pitched as a contemporary retelling of RAPUNZEL.
Seventeen-year-old Anya leads a very secluded life in a house on the edge of town with her adopted mother. She doesn't go to school, but instead has a private tutor. Her over-protective mom keeps her so sheltered that she doesn't even have a best friend. 
But Anya doesn't seem to mind. She has her books, her photography, and her daydreams, and would do anything to please her mom. Until one day at the library, the only place she's allowed to go, she takes a picture of a beautiful boy.
Before long she's lying to her mom, and sneaking out late at night to meet Zander. But Zander wants more than a secret romance. If Anya wants to be with the boy of her dreams, she will have to risk her relationship with the only other person she's ever cared about.

Swoon Romance wants YOU to help them decide the cover for Don’t Fall!  They have three lovely cover options for you to choose from.  Please vote below on your favorite cover!

Which cover do you like better?

Option #1
Option #2
Option #3

Poll Maker
Option #1: Designed by, photograph by Beth Mitchell
Option #2: Photographed and designed by Laura Lanning
Option #3: Designed by Anna Zaffke, photo from  Aleshyn_Andrei

Rachel grew up in a tiny town in Minnesota. She still lives there, with her husband and their four kids. She coaches high school speech and theater, rides Arabian horses, reads as much as she can, and writes stories.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Life Support {by Candace Calvert}

Title: Life Support
Author: Candace Calvert
Series: Grace Medical, #3
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Nurse Lauren Barclay put her life on hold to keep a watchful eye on her troubled sister. It's why she's back in Houston. But that means confronting the brooding physician assistant who caused painful turmoil in her family--and left Lauren with memories her heart can't forgive. PA and single parent Elijah Landry is no stranger to stormy relationships, including one with his father, who is threatening him with a restraining order. It won't stop Eli from protecting his disabled brother--or from making peace with Lauren. He wants that and so much more. But as Lauren and Eli draw closer, a powerful hurricane roars toward Houston. Survival instincts take priority and everything changes. Can hope weather the storm?

So I could just feel that this was going to be my favorite in the series. Not sure why, but I just knew. And I was right. I also like how the author takes a secondary character in the previous book and makes them the main character in the next book, because Lauren was one of my favorite secondary characters and I'm glad we got her story as well.

I loved the characters. They definitely seemed real and believable. I think I liked Lauren more because I felt like I could relate to her. She spends so much time worrying about her sister and living up to her parents expectations that she's not really living life. Eli is a single father, fighting against his parents to protect his disabled brother. He is stubborn and yeah, maybe he does rub people the wrong way, but he has a good heart and only cares about taking care of his brother and daughter. And the secondary cast--Fletcher, Jessica, Gayla, Emma, Drew, the parents, everyone else--never seem secondary. They are as real and lovable as any main character.

I also love the different story lines that weave through the story. Calvert makes each story so complex, not in a way that would confuse the reader, but in a way that engages the reader's attention. Although the story is in third person, it shifts between focuses, and I love that we get to see a least some part from everyone's side (except, I realize as I type this, Jessica, which I think is significant). I especially love how she added a few scenes, albeit short, from Drew's perspective, bringing a voice to the mentally disabled.

This isn't just a medical chicklit type of book, or just a romantic fling. It is a deep, emotional book about faith and hope. Yet, it isn't all deep and serious. It is light, fun, and a very enjoyable read. I definitely loved this book (and since I've started working at a hospital since I read the last one, I understand all the things! Yay!). I would definitely recommend this book for someone looking for a fun, enjoyable read but with a more serious undertone.

And can her next series be a police one and start with Fletcher? Yes? Please? How do I make this happen? Who do I talk to about this?

*This novel is Christian fiction

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way. 
This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Candace Calvert:

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

{Cover Reveal} Harvester by Rachel Russell

Hey guys! Today, I am here to help reveal the cover of a YA Fantasy, Harvester by Rachel Russell. So, onward to the cover!

The Book:

Title: Harvester
Author: Rachel Russell
Publisher: Entranced Publishing
Expected Publication: March 17, 2014
Add to Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Catalina has never seen the sky. As a mage, it’s illegal for her to leave the underground city she lives in. The sun and moon are only fantastical stories of a land far away. So when Catalina stumbles upon a tunnel leading to the surface, she can’t resist the temptation to see the surface world.
But instead of enjoying a night beneath the stars for the first time, Catalina emerges upon the scene of a savage murderer harvesting faery body parts. She's nearly his next victim, but is rescued by a grim boy named Will who has a troubling connection to the killer.
Even more disquieting is Catalina’s criminal status upon returning home. Someone with political clout has framed her for the vicious slayings. Now on the run from the law, Catalina must uncover Will’s tie to the serial killing of faeries, as well as stop a bloodthirsty murderer to prove her innocence, or face a death sentence.


The last person caught smuggling medicine had disappeared, never to be heard from again, after Marshals whisked him away for interrogation. It wasn’t a reassuring thought to have as Catalina stood in line and gnawed on the inside of her cheek. With each step she took toward the Arch, the glass vial hidden within the inside pocket of her vest grew heavier. She’d trafficked medicine into the city before, but it always felt like the first time. She supposed there were just some things you never got used to. Knowing the Arch wasn’t designed to detect her precious cargo didn’t stop her palms from sweating or her stomach from flip-flopping.

“Next.” A scowling guard dressed in a black trench coat with a stiff, upturned collar waved her through with an exaggerated wave of his arm, as if she’d been dawdling.

Catalina sucked in a breath and stepped beneath the Arch. It wailed, shrill and loud, like a cat in pain. She startled, her eyes widening.

“Hands in the air!”

Oh no. No, no, no, Catalina thought. She held up shaking hands. My luck cannot be this crappy. She’d passed through the Arch dozens of times with the medicine on her and the alarm had never gone off before. Maybe it was a malfunction.

Another guard stepped over and passed a plain, black rod over her, starting at her head and traveling down. It glowed white when it neared her vest pocket.

Catalina’s stomach bottomed out. They’d updated their equipment. For once, the law was a step ahead of her. The guard flipped open her vest and reached into the inside pocket, plucking out the vial. He held it up before his face, arching an eyebrow. Within the glass vial swirled clear liquid filled with glittering particles. The guard pulled out the stopper and sniffed.

Catalina caught a faint waft of honeysuckle flowers.

“It’s faery elixir, all right.” The guard put the stopper back on. “Take her to the interrogation room. The Marshal will want to speak with her.”

The other guard stepped behind Catalina and twisted her arms behind her back. She needed to get out of there. If she could buck her head back hard enough to break the guard’s nose, maybe—

Then metal pinched the tender skin of her wrists. She tried to wriggle her fingers. Her knuckles hit cool iron. He’d encased her hands in mitten handcuffs, the only sure way to keep a mage from weaving a spell. Catalina sighed. Now it really was too late.

“Come on.” The guard grabbed Catalina by the elbow and led her through a blue door off to the right.

Their booted steps echoed down a hallway with overhead lights so bright they whitewashed the walls and floor. Catalina squinted beneath the harsh glare. The guard led her to the end of the hallway and stopped in front of a dull door with black paint curling at the edges. Again, she was struck with the near-overpowering drive to bolt. She’d heard horror stories of Marshals using magic to strangle hearts near to bursting point till they got what information they wanted. The hinges on the door whined as the guard opened it. An empty room with a table and two chairs lay beyond. A cold chill rushed down Catalina’s spine. Odd how such a sparse room could feel so menacing.

The guard shoved her into the room. “A Marshal will be with you shortly.”

Catalina stumbled into the room and whirled to face the guard, only to be met by the door slamming shut. A click came from the other side of the door as he locked it.

She turned and strode to the table. “Great. What the hell am I supposed to do now?”

The Author:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Rachel is a YA author who likes dirty martinis and pickles on her pizza. Her stories tend to be either horror or fantasy, or a strange amalgamation of both genres. She works at Month9Books, LLC as both the Submissions Coordinator and an Editorial Assistant. When not reading or writing, Rachel is marathoning anime, becoming one with Twitter (@RachelxRussell), or playing make-believe with her two daughters.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Epic Recs: March

What is Epic Recs, you ask? It's basically a book pushing club put together by Judith and Amber. You can pair up with a friend, or have Judith/Amber pair you up with someone. (For more information because I won't be able to explain it well at all, see this post.) I decided to have Judith and Amber pair me up with someone, and I was paired with Tiger Lily Rachel (yay for Rachels)!
For March, Rachel chose Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta for me to read, because I've been trying to read more contemporary. I've heard really good things about this book and have been wanting to check it out for a while, so I'm quite excited to read it. 
For her, I chose Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, because it's different from what she normally reads. You guys know I loved it, but I've also heard very mixed reviews, so I can't wait to see what she thinks. 
Be on the lookout for my review of Jellicoe Road and Rachel's review of Cruel Beauty sometime this month!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

2014 Series Challenge: February Checkpoint

Yep, time to check in again for the 2014 Series Challenge. This one completely snuck up on me, but I've been in denial that February is already over. I am SO not ready for it to already be March. What?? Wasn't it just January? Anyway, this month wasn't much in the way of series because I'm trying to knock out some of these review books piled up (we all know how that is). I actually have quite a lot of books from the series from the challenge checked out from the library, but haven't had a chance to read them yet. 

The Girl of Fire and Thorns Series by Rae Carson
GoFT was actually a reread, since I read that and the first novella, The Shadow Cats, back in October. But I didn't have time to read the rest of the series at that time. I decided to reread GoFT so that I could read them all together, at once, and have everything fresh in my mind. I absolutely loved this series, so if you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend giving it a shot. (I didn't review the series, but Judith over at Paper Riot did an amazing one, so if you still need to be convinced, go read hers.)

February count= 1
Total year count= 2