Monday, December 16, 2013

Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth


What if your whole world was a lie?

What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?

What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth's #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.


**SPOILER Warning** While I try my hardest not to include spoilers in my reviews, this is the third book in the series & it would be hard to discuss this book without referencing events from the first two books. If you haven't yet read Divergent or Insurgent, then you might not want to read further.

As much as I tried to avoid spoilers before starting to read Allegiant, I couldn't help but hear the uproar that hit the internet within 24 hours of the books release (though I did manage to avoid hearing what exactly set everyone off!).  With that in mind, I started reading almost immediately after finishing Insurgent.  I'm not sure if it was due to lowered expectations or the fact that there was finally a resolution, but I'm in what seems to be the minority of readers who was actually satisfied with the conclusion.

Over the past few years, I have read quite a few dystopian series.  Some I have loved & others hated.  This one falls somewhere in between.  I have come to expect a few things out of the final book.  The conflict that has been building will come to a head...which often means war.  War means casualties...which nobody wants or likes, but the best authors will make it somebody that matters because it creates a stronger emotional impact.  Finally, the war will end & a resolution of sorts will be achieved...but rarely does everyone live happily ever after...and I think I would feel somewhat cheated if they did.  This is where the author can't win. The honest reality is that life goes on but is forever altered.  Happiness can come but isn't easily achieved. So, the best we can hope for is hope itself.  

In Allegiant, Veronica Roth finally takes us outside the fence and for the first time, into Tobias's head.  It is finally fully explained who they are & what it means to be divergent.  The information received makes Tris & Tobias question everything they have ever known. What is family?  What does it mean to love?  What is bravery?  What is true sacrifice?  I am not one to highlight books, but the way these questions were answered made me want to. There were several passages that were beautifully written.  I would put some of the quotes in my review, but I believe part of their beauty is discovering them within the story.  

In the end, I didn't love the Divergent trilogy like I have some of the other dystopian series that I have read, but I don't regret reading it & would recommend it.  It was an interesting (if disturbing) concept & some of the situations & issues addressed made me think..and I count that a success!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth


One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.


**SPOILER Warning** While I try my hardest not to include spoilers in my reviews, this is the second book in the series & it would be hard to discuss this book without referencing events from the first book. If you haven't yet read Divergent, then you might not want to read further.

Like Divergent, I listened to the audiobook for Insurgent about a year ago.  When starting the re-read, I found that I remembered very little of the story.  I'm not really sure what that says about the story since I typically remember at least the main plot points of a book I've read.  While reading it, I found that it wasn't as gripping as Divergent.  I kept finding excuses NOT to read...which is not like me.  I wasn't as invested in the characters as I wanted to be.  

Like the first book, we spend our time in this world inside of Tris' head...which is a very unhappy place.  She has lost her family, several friends & most of all, her faith in herself.  In Divergent, we got to see Tris embrace her new Dauntless life.  She became strong & brave.  While this kept her alive through the attack on her city, she has taken it to a point of recklessness in Insurgent.  Because of this, I found her harder to relate to and more difficult to want to spend time with...which resulted in me avoiding reading for days. However, I count it a good thing that I struggle with relating to a character who has lost all hope & reason to live.  

While this sounds like a mediocre review.  I think it might be to Ms. Roth's credit that her words & her world had such an effect on me.  Where I didn't relate to Tris, I was right there with Tobias.  I couldn't abandon matter what bravely stupid thing she did.  Where I would disappear for a day or two, I would always come back.  I needed to know that she was okay.  I couldn't move on.  Even when I did finally finish...I didn't even consider taking a break & reading something on to Allegiant.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth


In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.


I finished reading Divergent about a week ago, but I have been avoiding writing the review for several reasons. Mainly the fact that I have no idea what I really think about the story or how to talk about it without spoilers. I first encountered this book by audio a couple of years ago. I'm not sure why I picked it up initially other than the fact that I was going through audiobooks faster than I could find ones that I was interested in at the library & I was going through a bit of a YA-Dystopia phase. When I finished it, my initial reaction was that I wasn't sure that I liked it, but that it was going to be big.  Now, on the heels of the release of the final book & the movie just months away, I decided to re-read the first two books before trying to read the third one.

Divergent, like most dystopian novels, takes us a to a world we know that has been altered by time & an effort for a better society. The setting is a future Chicago where everyone has been split into five factions based on one's greatest virtue....honesty, selflessness, intelligence, peacefulness, & bravery. It asks you to imagine a world where you are only your greatest strength...which is determined by placing you into a computer operated simulation that monitors your reactions to several scenarios during that all-important YA Novel year surrounding your 16th birthday. Based on your aptitude test results, you are asked to choose your fate...remain with your family & all you know, or leave everything behind and transfer to a faction that is more fitting for your personality. If you are in the minority of people who might actually not fit into one of the categories of sheeple that the government has created, then you are considered Divergent...and not to be trusted.

My general reaction upon finishing the book was that it was gripping...and disturbing. I still struggle with whether or not I like it...but I definitely enjoyed reading it. Now, as I work my way through Insurgent, I am still caught up in the fate of these characters & the life-altering choices they are continually forced to make. Refreshingly, this is a story about life & survival...and not a story about which boy to choose while the world around you is going to hell. There is a hint of romance, but it's more in the direction of love being a part of life rather than the point of it.

All that said, my recommendation is to not believe the hype. It isn't the best book ever written, but it's a fun ride & and interesting (if disturbing) concept. If you like dystopia, give it a chance. I'm glad I did!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Release Day!! Edge of Always by J. A. Redmerski (Excerpt from Book!)

Camryn Bennett has never been happier. Five months after meeting on a Greyhound bus, she and her soul mate Andrew Parrish are engaged-and a wedding isn't the only special event in their future. Nervous but excited, Camryn can't wait to begin the rest of her life with Andrew, a man she knows in her heart will love her always. They have so much to look forward to-until tragedy blindsides them.

Andrew doesn't understand how this could happen to them. He's trying to move on, and thought Camryn was doing the same. But when Andrew discovers Camryn is secretly harboring a mountain of pain and attempting to numb it in damaging ways, there is nothing he won't do to bring her back to life. Determined to prove that their love can survive anything, Andrew decides to take Camryn on a new journey filled with hope and passion. If only he can convince her to come along for the ride...

Bonus Excerpt:
I turn to Andrew again, waiting for him to spit it out. A cold breeze rushes through my knitted sweater, and I hide my hands inside the sleeves.  

“You have five minutes to throw all of your stuff in your bag,” he says, and my heart is beating erratically before he finishes the sentence. He taps his wrist where there is no watch. “Not a second more.”


“This isn’t up for debate,” he says. “Go get your stuff.”
I just look at him, face blank.  My theory was right, but I didn’t want it to be. I don’t want to go on the road…I mean, I do…but it’s not right. It’s just not right.

“You have four minutes now.”

“But we can’t just leave like this,” I argue. “It would be rude.” I point at Asher. “And
Asher just got here. Don’t you want to visit with—”

“I can visit my big brother anytime,” Asher counters. “Right now, I think you better do
what he says or you might end up on the road wearing the same panties for a week.”

A few more seconds pass and I still haven’t moved. I’m in a state of mild shock, I guess.

“Three minutes, babe,” Andrew says and is looking at me with a serious face. “I’m not
kidding. Get up there, throw our shit in our bags, and get in the damn car.”

Oh hell, he’s back to his old self again…

When I start to argue again, Andrew’s eyes get all feral-looking, and he says, “Hurry up.
Time’s running out!” and he points to the house.

Finally, letting down my guard and going with the moment as much as I can allow myself, I glare at him and say, “Fine.” I’m only agreeing to it because I know he’s trying make things better. But I feel guilty as hell.
Disregarding his playful five-minute demand, I turn on my heels and walk very slowly back toward the house, purposely taking my time, partly my way of silently arguing the situation.  I push open the bedroom door, set my bag on the bed, and start stuffing everything inside of it. Then I go into the bathroom and grab our toothbrushes and various bathroom necessities. I yank our phone chargers from the wall and then my phone from the nightstand and chuck it all into my purse. I make my way around the room, hoping that I’m not missing anything. Looks like Andrew already packed his stuff at some point and I never noticed.  Then I just stand here, scanning every inch of the place around me but not really seeing any of it. I don’t want to do this, but maybe it’s the right thing.  I hear the horn honk three times, and it snaps me out of my thoughts. Grabbing my bag, I swing it over my shoulder and grab my purse from the bed.

Buy links:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Losing It by Cora Carmack



Bliss Edwards is about to graduate from college and still has hers. Sick of being the only virgin among her friends, she decides the best way to deal with the problem is to lose it as quickly and simply as possible—a one-night stand. But her plan turns out to be anything but simple when she freaks out and leaves a gorgeous guy alone and naked in her bed with an excuse that no one with half a brain would ever believe.
And as if that weren't embarrassing enough, when she arrives for her first class of her last college semester, she recognizes her new theater professor.
She'd left him naked in her bed about eight hours earlier. . . .


You can't always judge a book by it's cover.  For me, the cover & blurb kept me from reading this for a long time, but somehow it kept coming back up & I decided to give it a chance when Amazon ran it for $0.99. I'm really glad I did!  I was pleasantly surprised!

Bliss Edwards is awkward...but charmingly so.  She is about to enter her final semester of college & is still a virgin.  With a little prodding from her friend Kelsey, she decides to go to a bar with the goal of finding a guy & taking him home.  To be honest, this is the part of the plot that kept me from reading the book for so long. It felt like a story that has been told time and time again...though usually from a younger male perspective. However, this was such a minor part of the story that I hate that it kept me away for so long.  The guy Bliss finds is Garrick...who is handsome, charismatic & British.  Everything that occurred between the bar & the apartment had me laughing...partially in horror & partially in recognition (sadly...I relate to the embarrassing, awkwardness).  When she decides that she can't go through with it, she thinks that is it...until the first day of school when Garrick introduces himself to her theatre class as their new professor.  This is the beginning of a whole new level of awkwardness.

As a theatre major myself, I related to & enjoyed the setting.  While the story may have been fairly predictable, it was incredibly fun. Don't go into this story expecting Shakespeare (even though their is a character named Hamlet!), but if you are looking for a light, fun escape, then check this one out.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Out Of Breath (The Breathing Series #3) by Rebecca Donovan


"My insides still burned. I considered what I could do to push the torment back into the dark and return to my numb state. I couldn't do it on my own. I needed help. I was desperate."

Emma Thomas is hiding. From everything and everyone...including herself. But she can't hide forever. Her past will find her, and her secrets won't remain quiet—not if she wants to be forgiven. Emma learns that honesty can hurt worse than betrayal, and the truth may cost her the only love she's ever known.

The highly anticipated conclusion of The Breathing Series will have readers holding their breath until the last page.


**SPOILER Warning** While I try my hardest not to include spoilers in my reviews, this is the third book in the series & it would be hard to discuss this book without referencing events from the first book.  If you are new to The Breathing Series, then you might not want to read further.

I truly came into this book with low expectations.  I was so undecided going into it as to how I felt about this series...which made me sad after how highly it was recommended.  Somehow, I came out feeling...okay...about it.  Now, I know that isn't high praise, but I was so annoyed through most of Barely Breathing that okay is an improvement.  

Two years have passed since the end of Barely Breathing.  Emma is now a sophomore at Stanford and is existing...but not living.  Her time with her mother added to the emotional scars left by her aunt and has made her question the value of her life.  One aspect of this story that I have never related to is the party scene. Emma has always gone reluctantly.  Having seen the effects of alcohol on her mother, she has always avoided it, but something flipped in her when she caught a glimpse of Evan moving on with his life.  Now, she has added drowning her sorrows in alcohol to her repertoire of self-destructive habits.  Where I struggled with this at first since it seemed out of character, I soon accepted it since Emma's actions have rarely made sense to me.

There were several things that made this book better than the first two.  It felt as if the author finally found her groove with these characters.  They felt a little more fleshed out & the plot flowed a little better for me.  Also, the side characters really enhanced the story.  I loved Cole.  His sweet charm & patience won me over.  I knew that he was a place holder because you can't have a series like this end without reuniting Emma & Evan or risk completely pissing off the romantic readers of the world.  However, I did think Cole deserved better than Emma so I hope he gets his own story some day.  Meg, Serena & Peyton were also fun additions to the story.  Their personalities were distinct & each cared about Emma in their own way (though it did feel a little like they were just the parts of Sara's personality split into three different people). Add to that the fun of Evan's friends at the beach (who were less distinct from each other, but were an entertaining bunch) and you have a much better cast of side-characters than previously.

Now as to recommendations...I'll stand by the fact that each book had me hooked.  I needed to keep reading & know the whole story.  However, I was frustrated & annoyed through large sections.  So, I probably wouldn't bring it up to friends...or if I did, I would recommend it with caveats.  I am glad I read it...and I'll probably check out Jonathan's book when she releases it...but it's not one that I would tell anyone to drop everything for.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Faces & Places Behind The Art...Part 2

As we left Toronto, we wound our way down through upstate New York including a visit to Niagara Falls.  It was a beautiful, peaceful part of the journey which would have been relaxing if we had taken time to enjoy the scenery.  Instead, we watched it through car windows as we worked our way into Massachusetts.

This part of the country is filled with history...literary & otherwise.  Our first stop in Massachusetts was Amherst.  It seems that something about Amherst in particular develops or attracts children's authors.

 In fact, there is an entire museum dedicated to children's books there.  At The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art we got an up close look at a Very Hungry Caterpillar...

And got "Seriously Silly" with Mo Willems and his characters (Knuffle Bunny is my favorite!)

The absolute highlight of this stop was spending an afternoon with Norton Juster & hearing him tell stories from his life & experience as an author.  The Phantom Tollbooth is one of Jacob's all time favorite books. Somehow, I missed this book during my childhood, but reading it as an adult showed me that it has a magical appeal for kids of all ages!  If you haven't read it...I highly recommend that you correct that as soon as possible!

On the way out of Amherst, we took a step away from modern children's literature to get a glimpse into history as we drove by the former home of Emily Dickinson.  It is now a museum that was closed the day we were there.  Robert Frost also had a home in the area, but we had plans to meet up with a friend & ran out of time, so we didn't get to see it.

After Amherst, we spent a week in Plymouth.  It was amazingly old & beautiful...and the first time on the trip that I got to walk on the beach! While in Plymouth, we took a train over to Boston for the day, where we walked through history down the freedom trail, and took a ride on the T (the oldest subway system in America) to Harvard for my literary stop of the day.

On the drive to Plymouth, I had convinced Jacob to put on the audio version of one of my new favorite books,  Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park, which is set in Boston.

Naturally, we had to take a walk through Harvard Square. We tried our first (and probably last!) Dunkin Donuts Coolatta to really feel in the moment.

Unfortunately, our stop fell two weeks before the release party for Jessica's latest book, so we didn't get to meet her. However, I felt a little bit of a connection when she posted this picture to her facebook page not too long after I sent her the one above.

Realizing that we had missed a stop we had planned & that it didn't add much time to our trip, we traveled back across Massachusetts to Springfield to see the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden, and it was absolutely worth the trip!

After our detour to Springfield, we moved on to The Big Apple, where we spent most of our time in Brooklyn with an old college friend of Jacob's.  Then we backtracked a little to visit Sleepy Hollow.  Unfortunately, due to a technological malfunction, we lost our picture of the headless horseman statue, but here are a few examples of the beauty that inspired the legend along with Washington Irving's grave.

Our next destination was one that I had been wanting to visit for several years...Boonsboro, MD.  If you aren't a Nora Roberts fan, you probably have never heard of this tiny town.  She has a couple of different author personas & writes in several different genres, but I'm mainly a fan of her trilogies...especially those with a hint of the paranormal.  Her latest complete series is the Inn Boonsboro Trilogy...set in her actual hometown.  It was the perfect opportunity to step into a story because the series is based fairly closely on the real town.  If you are a fan of Nora's, it's possible you'll recognize these locations!

The surprising part was that about halfway through our trip, Nora announced that she was doing a signing in Boonsboro for the anniversary of Turn The Page, her husband's bookstore...and it just happened to be scheduled for the weekend that we were already planning to go.

And the next day, she was having a brunch for a group of around 50 fans at her son's restaurant. I was one of the lucky ones who was able to get a ticket before they sold out!  So, I got the chance to hang out with her along with a group of fun ladies and chat about books, and Jacob was happy to avoid the Nora mania while enjoying a quiet pizza at Vesta.

Fun Fact:  At the signing, we mentioned to Nora that we were on a journey around the eastern half of the US.  She asked me what I was going to do for my husband since he was patient enough to come to her signing with me.  I told her that we had started the trip at a convention where we met George R. R. Martin.  Her mouth just dropped open in surprise.  We didn't have much time to talk during the signing, but when she came to my table during brunch, she remembered me & took a few minutes to gush Game of Thrones love.  It was a lot of fun to see one author getting giddy & fangirly over another author!

Speaking of being fangirly...I had imagined getting this picture from the moment we decided we were going to Boonsboro.  My wonderfully accommodating husband took direction without actually realizing until after the fact that the door on the front of the book I was holding was the door I was sitting in front of. 

As we worked our way down the east coast, we got to enjoy the beauty & history of Washington DC as well as the beaches of North Carolina. While on the NC Coast, we stopped in for a quick visit at New Bern, the hometown of Nicholas Sparks.  It's a quaint little waterfront town that also happens to be the birthplace of Pepsi!  It turns out, they also decorate their fire hydrants....which was probably my favorite part of the town!

But the beautiful beaches that I had pictured while reading his books were a little further down the coast....

Finally, on our way back west, we were able to sneak in one last signing during my birthday week!  While in Charlotte, NC, we met Aprilynne Pike.  I picked up her book Wings several years ago off of the Target shelf because the cover was pretty & I needed a new book to read, and was pulled into her world of faeries & trolls.  If you like YA stories & haven't heard of her, check out this series.  It's a lot of fun.  She just started a new series with her book Earthbound.

From North Carolina, we worked our way back home to Arkansas.  Even though our journey had officially come to an end, I heard about a signing in Memphis, TN coming up a couple of weeks later...and after three months on the road, a 2 hour road trip seemed like nothing!  So, we took a day trip to meet Tracey Garvis Graves on her Covet release tour.  It was a fairly small event, so I got to chat with Tracey a little more than some of the other authors I met along the way.  She was very sweet & seeing her shout out to me on Facebook that evening completely made my day...and was the perfect ending to my author/book tour of 2013.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lingerie Wars (Invertary #1) by Janet Elizabeth Henderson

Englishman Lake Benson loaned his life savings to his dippy sister so that she could buy a shop. It was a big mistake. His sister has been steadily flushing his money down the drain - and now he wants it back. Years in the special forces taught Lake that if you want a job done, do it yourself. So he steps in to make the shop profitable, sell it and get his money back. The only problem is, the business is an underwear shop. And all Lake knows about underwear can be summed up in how fast he can unsnap a bra. To make matters worse, the tiny highland town already has a lingerie shop. A successful one, run by an ex-lingerie model. A very gorgeous ex-lingerie model, who's distracting him from his mission more than he'd like to admit. If Lake wants to get his savings back, and get out of Scotland, he only has one option - wipe out the competition.

Kirsty Campbell has spent years rebuilding her life after she woke up in hospital in Spain to find her body scarred, and her ex-fiance had run off with all her money. The last thing she needs is a cocky, English soldier-boy trying to ruin all she has left. Her home town is only too happy to help her fight the latest English invasion, although Lake is beginning to sway them with his sex appeal and cut price knickers. With the help of her mother, and the retired ladies of Knit or Die, Kirsty sets about making sure that her shop is the last one standing in Invertary.

It's Scotland versus England as you've never seen it before. It's lingerie war.


***ARC provided by the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**

I requested this book from netgalley based on the recommendation of a friend & fellow blogger, Mia from Wine, Books & Fringe.  Before this, I hadn't heard of Janet Elizabeth Henderson, but I am definitely going to have to check out her other books to see if they are anything like this one.

Lingerie Wars is the story of two failing lingerie stores in a town that is questionably big enough for one and the battle to determine which will survive.  Kirsty Cambell was once a famous lingerie model, but her life was changed drastically when she woke up in the hospital to find that she had been in a car accident & that her body (which at the time was her business) was irreparably damaged.  She also found that the man that she loved had left her to die & disappeared with all of her money.  She returns to her hometown, Invertary, Scotland, with as many scars inside as outside & tries to pull her life back together by opening a lingerie shop.  There is already a lingerie shop in Invertary, but "Betty's Knicker Emporium" is no competition.

Lake Benson is the son of hippie parents.  He grew up in a commune with his parents & his siblings, Rainne (Rainbow), River & Brooke (I will admit that it took me a little bit to get used to reading these names...especially the name Lake for a man...but after a few chapters, I just went with it!).  Opposed to just about everything that his parent believed in, he signed up for the military and moved away as soon as he was old enough.  In an effort to help his sister, Rainne, he bought a lingerie shop in Invertary for her to run.  He hoped it would pull her out of the commune mindset & teach her to stand on her own.  When the shop was continuing to lose money after six months, he decides to go to Invertary to see if he can recoup his losses & sell the shop.  When he gets to town, he finds that there are several reasons that the business is failing.  First, there is the fact that Betty's Knicker Emporium came with a convoluted contract...and Betty...a headstrong old woman with opinions to spare. Then there is the competition...

It took me a few chapters to get into this story, but once I did, I really enjoyed it.  The characters were all flawed in some way...some more than others, but I loved how they supported each other.  Even in the midst of "war", Kirsty & Lake couldn't really avoid helping each other.  The best character, in my opinion, was Betty.  She was ridiculous...which made her fun.  I loved her sassy/spunky comments & how she never really listened to anyone, yet always knew what was going on & didn't think twice about giving her advice.  After Betty, there were the Knit or Die ladies...they were a mess, but equally fun.  I kept picturing Invertary as a town that was full of crazy, old ladies.

I don't really know how to describe this story....the basic plot is fairly predictable & formulaic.  You know what is going to happen when it starts, but what sells it is how it gets there.  It's a fast-paced story that was well-written & funny.  It reminded me a little of books that I have read by Jennifer Crusie.  Even if you know where the story is going, you can't help but enjoy the ride!

If you are looking for a light-hearted, fun story...definitely give this one a try!  I'll be watching for book two, Goody Two Shoes, which is scheduled to be released later this year.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Barely Breathing (The Breathing Series #2) by Rebecca Donovan


"I've spent most of my life trying to make it to a future that still hasn't happened, or avoid a past that won't let me go. I don't remember when I've ever just stopped to live in the present, to hold on to the seconds I'm in."

Emma Thomas’s struggle with an abusive home life came to a heart-pounding conclusion in the final chapters of Reason to Breathe, the first installment of The Breathing Series— Rebecca Donovan’s bestselling romantic-thriller (USA Today). Now her secret life has been exposed, and her tormentor can’t hurt her anymore. Yet some are still haunted by that night. The bruises may have faded, but scars and fears, remain. How will she reclaim her life when she's barely breathing?


**SPOILER Warning** While I try my hardest not to include spoilers in my reviews, this is the second book in the series & it would be hard to discuss this book without referencing events from the first book.  If you are new to The Breathing Series, then you might not want to read further. two down & I'm still not sure what I think of this series.  Barely Breathing takes place a few months after Reason to Breathe.  Carol has gone to prison & Emma has moved in with Sara & her family.  However, in a not fully explained to my satisfaction whim, Emma decides to move in with her estranged mother.  Their relationship has never been good due to the fact that Rachel was an alcoholic.  In the past few months, Rachel has made a bit of an effort to get to know Emma & has sworn that she is sober.  So, Emma decides to move in with her in order to try to reconnect before she leaves for college.

What I discovered in this book is that Emma really is the perfect victim.  She has been trained to be accommodating at all costs...especially if she thinks that the cost is only to her.  She lies to those she loves to cover for the ones who use and abuse her, and puts herself in situations where she is easily taken advantage of.  I found it really hard to root for her in this book as I watched her make the same mistakes time & time again.

Where the overall story was as compelling as the first one was, I had a harder time connecting with any of the characters.  In Reason to Breathe, my heart really went out to Emma because she was in circumstances beyond her control & really felt that the choices she made (as misguided as they may have been) were for the best for her cousins.  I'm not sure what is her driving force in Barely Breathing.  Hurt by Emma choosing to leave her & move in with Rachel, Sara is distant throughout large sections of the book and when we do see her, she is usually in full on party girl mode, and while Emma is dealing with her not-so-sober mother, Evan is off on skiing weekends in Tahoe or Hawaiian vacations with his brother making him not only absent but also unrealistic (at least in the world I live in!).  Then we meet Jonathan, the compelling yet forbidden new man in Emma's life and the story takes several expected as well as unexpected twists & turns.

While this isn't an overly positive review, I have to say that Rebecca Donovan's writing style is enticing.  She draws you into Emma's world of confusion and pain & somehow makes you want to stay there.  It is quite possible that a lot of the negative feelings I walk away from these books with are because they are not happy, feel good stories...and they definitely don't end well!  In my opinion, cliffhangers are evil, manipulative, yet effective tools.  I didn't feel good after finishing either book, but not reading the next one wasn't even an option.  After reading Reason to Breathe and Barely Breathing back to back (with a tiny break to devour Colleen Hoover's fantastic novella Finding Cinderella!), I took a few days away from the angst to read a more light-hearted/fun book, but now, I'm ready to dive into Out of Breath and hope that Emma is finally able to save herself...from herself!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Finding Cinderella (A Hopeless Novella) by Colleen Hoover


A chance encounter in the dark leads eighteen-year-old Daniel and the girl who stumbles across him to profess their love for each other. But this love comes with conditions: they agree it will only last one hour and it will only be make-believe.
When their hour is up and the girl rushes off like Cinderella, Daniel tries to convince himself that what happened between them only seemed perfect because they were pretending it was perfect. Moments like that with girls like her don’t happen outside of fairytales.

One year and one bad relationship later, his disbelief in insta-love is stripped away the day he meets Six: a girl with a strange name and an even stranger personality. Daniel soon realizes the way he pretended to feel about Cinderella and the way he really feels about Six may not be so different after all. Especially when the two loves of his life end up being one in the same.

Unfortunately for Daniel, finding Cinderella doesn’t guarantee their happily ever after…it only further threatens it.


I don't even know where to start...this story was everything I was hoping for & more!  If you haven't read Hopeless & Losing Hope, you can still read and follow this story.  You just won't already know the characters & their back stories.  This is Daniel & Six's story.  You also get to see a glimpse of Sky, Holder & Breckin.  All of these characters were introduced in either Hopeless, or Losing Hope.  Since this was a thank you gift from Colleen Hoover to her fans, she doesn't waste time explaining who the characters are.  She just dives right in letting Daniel tell us the story that he hinted at in the last chapter of Losing Hope.

Daniel has spent the last year thinking about...or trying not to think about a girl he met in a dark closet over a year ago.  He refers to her as his Cinderella because she stumbled into his life & left just as mysteriously.  He has no idea who she is or if he'll ever see her again.  All he knows is that he felt the closest he ever has to love during that one hour of make-believe.

When he meets Six one night at Sky's house, he feels an immediate & unexplainable connection.   This is where the story really takes off.  Daniel & Six are both delightful characters.  I always thought Six got a little cheated in Hopeless because she is introduced at the beginning of the book & then disappears, only to be referred to by text periodically.  I never really felt closure with her story, but this novella gave me exactly that.  We got to see Daniel throughout Losing Hope, but every scene he was in made me want more of him.  He is un-apologetically inappropriate...never calls people by the right name...and charming enough to get away with it.  When Colleen announced that she was writing a novella about the two of them, I was thrilled & she didn't disappoint.  They may be my favorite of her couples so far....(though I do really love Lake & Will!...and Holder & Sky are great too...and we can't forget Eddie & Gavin...)

At 121 pages, Finding Cinderella is longer than I would have expected for a novella, but still not long enough!  You can't help wanting it to not end!  If you haven't ever read Colleen's work before then this may be the perfect way to start.  It's short & free!  You have nothing to lose!  If you have read her other books, then I have no doubt that you'll want to grab this ASAP.  It isn't officially released until Monday.  So, if you happen to read this in the next day & half...go to to find out how to get it today!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Faces & Places Behind The Art

My husband & I are both book lovers. . .which really helps us understand each other's need to have long, uninterrupted time with our book of the moment.  We have each spent the better part of the past decade working dead-end jobs that paid the bills, but did little to inspire us.  We grabbed what life we could by escaping into books and movies and taking as many vacations as our budget would allow.  This year, we decided to make some serious changes in the direction our life was going.  We quit our jobs & took to the road to see parts of the country that we had previously only heard about.  We knew living on only our savings for a time would be a challenge, but we also knew that it was something we had dreamed about as long as we had known each other & decided it was now or never.

Our love of books became quickly evident as we started planning the direction of our journey.  We were picking places that we had read about, places where we knew authors had lived & drawn inspiration from & best of all, places were authors we loved were actually going to be.  Knowing our budget wouldn't allow for many souvenirs, we decided to save our money for things that couldn't be bought just anywhere and ended up returning home with a collection of new books...most of which were signed by the author. :)

I thought I'd share with you a few of the people & places we were blessed enough to visit along our way.

In January (technically before our journey began, but in anticipation!) we drove to Dallas to meet Tammara Webber, Colleen Hoover & Jamie McGuire.

Pictured (L to R)

Jamie McGuire - author of Beautiful Disaster,  
     Walking Disaster, the Providence series &
     most recently Red Hill (which I haven't read yet!)
Colleen Hoover - author of the Slammed series,
     Hopeless, & Losing Hope
Tammara Webber - author of the Between The 
     Lines series & Easy

Along with the hundreds of fans who joined me in the crowd!

**Most memorable moment....Watching the ABC nightline report that was filmed during the signing &! on TV!  Out of all of the people that posed for pictures with Colleen, I was the one that actually made the cut.  So random!

In May, we got to meet two of my husband's favorite authors....

First...Patrick Rothfuss - author of  The Name of 
          the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear

Second...George R. R. Martin - author of The 
              Song of Ice & Fire series (better
              know as Game Of Thrones)

After that, we moved into June & our adventure truly began.  Our next few stops were to visit friends & family, but as we worked our way through Missouri, we stopped for a quick visit to Hannibal...the boyhood home of Mark Twain...where of course we had to take in a beautiful view of the Mighty Mississippi.

We traveled on through Illinois & the Windy City working our way to Ann Arbor, Michigan where my husband (who is much more athletically ambitious than me!) had signed up to run a marathon.  As we entered town, I started seeing exit signs for Ypsilanti.  The book nerd in me got excited & had to go the couple of extra miles to get this picture....

Our next stop on the literary trail led us to the site of a book turned movie...The Shawshank Redemption.  I haven't actually read the story the film is based on, but I hear this is one of the rare occurrences where the film actually improves the story. 

Either way...the Ohio State Reformatory (where the film was shot) was an awe inspiring, creepy experience that I would recommend if you ever find yourself near Mansfield, Ohio.

After the ghost tour at the Reformatory, we moved on to Chagrin Falls, Ohio...a tiny town in northeast Ohio that is built around the falls which give the town its name.


Chagrin Falls was once the home of Bill Watterson & inspired many of the images in his Calvin & Hobbes comic strips. 

As June was coming to a close, we crossed the border into Canada for a week.

Though I don't know of any authors from Toronto or books set there, I did get the chance to visit with Liis...who I had the privilege of meeting at the signing in Dallas in January.  She is one of the most enthusiastic book lovers that I have ever met, and definitely a champion for independent authors.  We had a great time visiting with her & chatting about some of our favorite books. Check out her blog here...Liis' Bookshelf!

Stay tuned for pictures from the second half of the journey!!  
Coming soon....