October 30, 2014

Scratch by Rhonda Helms

Scratch by Rhonda Helms
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 240
Series: n/a
Review Source: Netgalley

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

The most painful scars are the ones you never see.

In her DJ booth at a Cleveland dance club, Casey feels a sense of connection that's the closest she ever gets to normal. On her college campus, she's reserved, practical-all too aware of the disaster that can result when you trust the wrong person. But inexplicably, Daniel refuses to pay attention to the walls she's put up. Like Casey, he's a senior. In every other way, he's her opposite.

Sexy, open, effortlessly charming, Daniel is willing to take chances and show his feelings. For some reason Casey can't fathom, he's intent on drawing her out of her bubble and back into a world that's messy and unpredictable. He doesn't know about the deep scars that pucker her stomach - or the deeper secret behind them. Since the violent night when everything changed, Casey has never let anyone get close enough to hurt her again. Now, she might be tempted to try.
My Thoughts:
Scratch is a book I enjoyed mostly because of the characters and their journeys. I liked that our main character, Casey, went through a gradual process of opening up to people and changing her mindset. With our hero, Daniel, I liked how he was sweet and patient, but that he didn't let himself get walked all over. Daniel was willing to wait on sexual matters and never ever pressed Casey, but when it came to matters of trust he was willing to stand up for himself and what he was worth.

In terms of plot you get hints of what happened to Casey, and then you can basically figure out what happened to her before it’s all spelled out. I’m not sure it had to be such a secret until that reveal, but it didn’t detract too much from the story. One of my favourite parts of the book was Casey’s relationship with her grandparents and how her understanding of them evolved. Casey has the realization that they’ve also been hurting because of what happened, and that they’ve had to deal with the same situation, just from another perspective.

Overall this is a good read. I love nice guy love interests and strong female friendships, both of which Scratch features in great ways. Not a favourite, but definitely still recommended.

The Cover:
I like it.


Purchase Links:
Kobo | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | Chapters-Indigo | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

October 28, 2014

More Than Exes by Elizabeth Briggs

More Than Exes by Elizabeth Briggs
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: 88
Series: Chasing the Dream
Review Source: eBook for review from author

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

Keyboardist Kyle Cross may look like a bad boy with his tattoos and piercings, but he’s really the good guy who’s always stuck fixing his band’s problems and never gets the girl. His band is competing in a college Battle of the Bands, but when their bassist doesn't show, Kyle must track her down with the help of the person he least expects: his ex-girlfriend Alexis Monroe.

Kyle hasn’t seen Alexis since she dumped him in high school, and she’s dropped her preppy image for fiery red hair and a bold new attitude to match. With only hours before his band goes on stage, Kyle has to be a little bad if he wants to win both the Battle and the girl he's never gotten over. But when their old problems resurface, the good guy might just get his heart broken all over again.
My Thoughts:
I absolutely loved Elizabeth Briggs’ debut, More Than Music, so I jumped at the chance to review its prequel novella, More Than Exes. I was looking forward to reading about Kyle’s romance, and the book did not disappoint. Briggs’ writing style is so addictive! Kyle is this rough looking tattooed rocker with the personality of the sweet boy next door, so it was a lot of fun to hear from his POV.

More Than Exes is a novella, so there's a pretty quick pace to both the general story and the romance, but it’s a pace that fits the situation. Romance wise there's a history between the characters, which automatically makes a fast happening romance more believable. In terms of general pacing I loved how frenetic some parts felt. It really matched the Battle of the Bands scene and the excited crowd atmosphere.

Whether you have or haven’t read More Than Music I definitely recommend you check this one out. If you have read the book it’s a perfect little taste of the characters from a different perspective, and if you haven’t, it’s a perfect introduction. Basically? A very, very cute New Adult novella.

The Cover:


Purchase Links:
Kobo | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

October 27, 2014

The Collectors' Society by Heather Lyons (Tour Review + Giveaway)

The Collectors' Society by Heather Lyons
Release Date: October 23, 2014
Publisher: Cerulean Books/Self-Published
Pages: 355
Series: The Collectors' Society
Review Source: eARC for review through InkSlinger PR

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

From the author of the Fate series and The Deep End of the Sea comes a fantastical romantic adventure that has Alice tumbling down the strangest rabbit hole yet.

After years in Wonderland, Alice has returned to England as an adult, desperate to reclaim sanity and control over her life. An enigmatic gentleman with an intriguing job offer too tempting to resist changes her plans for a calm existence, though. Soon, she’s whisked to New York and initiated into the Collectors’ Society, a secret organization whose members confirm that famous stories are anything but straightforward and that what she knows about the world is only a fraction of the truth.

It’s there she discovers villains are afoot—ones who want to shelve the lives of countless beings. Assigned to work with the mysterious and alluring Finn, Alice and the rest of the Collectors’ Society race against a doomsday clock in order to prevent further destruction . . . but will they make it before all their endings are erased?
My Thoughts:
I have to admit that I had a hard time with the first 20% or so of this book. It has a bit of a slow start and then it becomes very info dumpy. The thing is, it’s an info dump for Alice -- she comes into the Society with no knowledge of it and she wants to be informed. In that way, I can understand why the author wrote it that way, but it still isn’t my favourite way to be introduced to a new world. I also thought Alice was quite accepting of the Society in a little too short a time period, but I can also understand that once you've been in Wonderland perhaps anything that seems impossible is easy to accept.

After the first quarter or so of the book I found myself much more engaged in the story and in the characters. I felt like I had a stake in the story once I met the members of the Collectors' Society, getting to know them and connecting them with their stories in classic literature. There are a lot of fun references, but I think even if you don’t know the original stories the characters come from you’ll enjoy the book, because the author has made the characters her own.

I liked this completely kick butt version of Alice. She was similar to the Alice from the short-lived TV series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. I loved how Heather presented the Alice and the Wonderland we’d expect, but that she also put a very different spin on things. I found the different aspects to be very fun and imaginative.

On the romance end of things (because yes, there’s definitely a romance), I really liked Finn and I really liked Finn/Alice. I don’t think it’s too spoilery to name them as a couple, because there’s a definite chemistry there from the beginning. What happened between Finn and Alice happened quickly, but it felt right at the same time, so I wasn't too bothered by the fast pace.

The Collectors’ Society is a great book because it offers an awesome start to a new series, but it also works well as a standalone. It fulfills some aspects of the plot, giving you resolution, while still leaving some larger things open ended. I enjoyed this book and I definitely can’t wait to read about more of Alice’s adventures.

The Cover:


Purchase Links:
Kobo | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

About Heather:
Heather Lyons has always had a thing for words—she’s been writing stories since she was a kid. In addition to writing, she’s also been an archaeologist and a teacher. Heather is a rabid music fan, as evidenced by her (mostly) music-centric blog, and she’s married to an even larger music snob. They’re happily raising three kids who are mini music fiends who love to read and be read to.

Where to find Heather:
Website | Pinterest | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Be sure to follow along with the rest of the tour HERE.

October 23, 2014

Rowdy by Jay Crownover (Tour Review + Giveaway)

Rowdy by Jay Crownover
Release Date: October 21, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 400
Series: Marked Men
Review Source: Edelweiss

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling Marked Men series continues with this sizzling, sexy story of love, heartbreak, fate, and second chances.

After the only girl he ever loved told him that he would never be enough, Rowdy St. James knocked the Texas dust off his boots and set out to live up to his nickname. A good ol’ boy looking for good times and good friends, Rowdy refuses to take anything too seriously, especially when it comes to the opposite sex. Burned by love once, he isn’t going to let himself trust a woman again. But that’s before his new co-worker arrives, a ghost from the past who’s suddenly making him question every lesson he ever learned.

Salem Cruz grew up in house with too many rules and too little fun—a world of unhappiness she couldn’t wait to forget. But one nice thing from childhood has stayed with her; the memory of the sweet, blue-eyed boy next door who’d been head over heels in love with her little sister.

Now, fate and an old friend have brought her and Rowdy together, and Salem is determined to show him that once upon a time he picked the wrong sister. A mission that is working perfectly—until the one person that ties them together appears, threatening to tear them apart for good.
My Thoughts:
I was highly, highly anticipating this book, which is always a dangerous thing. It may be why I liked this book, but didn’t completely love it. Don't get me wrong, Rowdy is a good book, but I didn't fall into it like I did the other books in the series.

What’s great about this series, and one reason why I loved the past books so much, is that the couples coming together is quite a surprise. Even when there’s a long history between the two characters, or a “working up to it” type of situation, it’s still something fresh and new for those characters to come together and find themselves in love. Here the situation is a bit different, and it didn’t quite click for me. It rubbed me the wrong way a bit for Salem to come sailing back into Rowdy’s life after a decade of absence and just automatically assume she’s going to make him hers.

I think for me to really love a book I have to understand the main characters, and that’s where things got a bit murky. Rowdy has always been the sweet good-time guy on the edge of the stories, so I can understand why the readers might not fully know his character until this point. However, it felt off to me that Salem came sweeping in, revealing that Rowdy is this broken character using happiness as a mask. I can understand the readers not knowing him completely, but what about the characters who he says saved him? They are the ones who presented him as a happy, joyful guy, so is Salem saying that these people, who he calls his family, don’t know him? I had a hard time understanding who the real Rowdy was.

Another thing that bugged me about this book is that there was so much sex. That might sound weird considering all of Jay Crownover’s books are sexy, but hear me out. Usually I find her books sexy in a good way -- in an empowering way, where the couples further their emotional connection through sex. Here the sex scenes felt gratuitous. I mean, seriously, besides maybe going on a picnic and hanging out at a bar once or twice, it honestly felt like all they did was have sex. This will work for a lot of people, but it didn't for me. Where were the "get to know you" chats? Despite what Salem thinks, just because you grew up together for five years does not mean you know each other ten years down the line. I wanted to see them getting to know one another again, seeing how they fit into each other’s worlds, but that didn't really happen.

At this point you probably think I hated this book, but I truly didn’t. I liked it, and I liked some aspects a lot, I just didn’t like it as much as the previous books in the series. I have high expectations for Jay’s books, and they make me feel a lot of things even when I’m not in love with them. Despite some of my problems with this book I’d still recommend it over a lot of other New Adult books, and I’d definitely still label this series as one of my favourites in NA.

What I liked about this book especially was the subplot with Salem’s family. It gets especially crazy at one point, but it still didn't feel over the top. I liked seeing into their background, as it explained a lot about Salem and her sister. I also liked the lawyer character, who can’t really be talked about because of spoilers. Even though the build up for that felt obvious it was still a great subplot, and I liked the way it played out. Since I didn’t absolutely love Rowdy/Salem, I actually found my favourite parts of the book to be the group scenes, seeing what the rest of the gang was up to, and seeing the build up for Royal/Asa.

It's clear that this definitely wasn’t my favourite of the series (Rome is holding on to that spot, with Jet being a close second), but hey, it might be your new fave! I still have a lot of faith in Jay’s writing, and I’m excited for Asa (April 2015) and for the second book in her Welcome to the Point series, Better When He’s Bold (February 2015).

The Cover:
Not my fave of the series, but it definitely works.


Purchase Links:
Kobo | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound

About Jay:
Jay Crownover is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men series. She also introduced the dark and sexy world of The Point in a new series this last summer starting with BETTER WHEN HE's BAD. Like her characters, she is a big fan of tattoos. She loves music and wishes she could be a rock star, but since she has no aptitude for singing or instrument playing, she'll settle for writing stories with interesting characters that make the reader feel something. She lives in Colorado with her three dogs.

Where to find Jay:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to follow along with the rest of the tour HERE.

October 9, 2014

Promise Me This by Christina Lee

Promise Me This by Christina Lee
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Penguin InterMix
Pages: 246
Series: Between Breaths
Review Source: Netgalley

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

A new love will test the boundaries of passion between a privileged boy next door and the tattooed, blue-haired girl who helps him embrace his wild side...

Nate has developed quite a playboy reputation around campus. It's not that he doesn't respect or trust women; he doesn't trust himself. The men in Nate’s family are prone to abusive behavior—a dirty secret that Nate’s been running from his entire life—so Nate doesn't do relationships. But he can’t help himself around one girl…

Jessie is strong, independent, and works at a tattoo parlor. Nate can’t resist getting close to her, even if it’s strictly a friendship. But it doesn't take long for Nate to admit that what he wants with Jessie is more than just friendly.

With Jessie, he can be himself and explore what he’s always felt was a terrifying darkness inside him. Even when Nate begins to crave her in a way that both shocks and horrifies him, Jessie still wants to know every part of him. Testing their boundaries together will take a trust that could render them inseparable… or tear them apart.
My Thoughts:
Promise Me This is another great New Adult novel from Christina Lee. I thought this book was a really beautiful story about self acceptance. What I love about Christina’s books is that they send great messages without being the type of book that knocks you over the head with it.

One thing that stood out for me in Promise Me This, and that I really appreciated, is that it sent a very strong positive recommendation for therapy. I loved how Jessie suggested therapy to Nate, sending him the message that you’re not weak for seeking help. I liked that the characters recognized that talking things out in general is great, but that talking to a professional can help you in even more ways.

Jessie is a tattoo covered girl who’s very emotionally strong, probably because of the strong support system she’s always had. She’s a very sweet girl who is friends with Nate long before any kind of romantic or sexual feelings develop between them. Jessie doesn’t see herself with a preppy guy, but a particular incident makes her start thinking differently about Nate. I loved Jessie’s passion for photography, which was passed down from her recently deceased father, and how she honoured her father by using his camera.

Nate is generally a good guy. He first appears as the typical manwhore character, but he’s definitely a lot more than that. He’s a good guy who doesn’t see himself as that. He’s a very vulnerable character, still suffering from the abuse that his father has targeted on their family, but especially on Nate’s mother. Nate fears becoming like his father, especially because of his sexual predilections.

What’s great about Christina Lee's books is that they feel very realistic. The characters are layered, and the situations seem true to life. In this vein, I liked how there wasn't any easy answers for Nate when it came to his personal life or with his family situation. It was a definite process, both with learning to accept his sexual tastes and in realizing that the only person he can control is himself. It was lovely to see Nate make peace with his situations and to see Jessie encourage Nate while letting him find his own path.

Overall I definitely recommend Promise Me This. It’s a steamy love story with a strong emotional base, and I think all romance fans will find something to enjoy in it.

The Cover:
Not bad.


Purchase Links:
Kobo | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble

October 7, 2014

Whatever Life Throws at You by Julie Cross: Review & Release Day Launch

Whatever Life Throws at You by Julie Cross
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 320
Series: n/a
Review Source: Netgalley

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

Life loves a good curveball…

Seventeen-year-old Annie Lucas's life is completely upended the moment her dad returns to the major leagues as the new pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals. Now she's living in Missouri (too cold), attending an all-girls school (no boys), and navigating the strange world of professional sports. But Annie has dreams of her own—most of which involve placing first at every track meet…and one starring the Royals' super-hot rookie pitcher.

But nineteen-year-old Jason Brody is completely, utterly, and totally off-limits. Besides, her dad would kill them both several times over. Not to mention Brody has something of a past, and his fan club is filled with C-cupped models, not smart-mouthed high school “brats” who can run the pants off every player on the team. Annie has enough on her plate without taking their friendship to the next level. The last thing she should be doing is falling in love.

But baseball isn't just a game. It's life. And sometimes, it can break your heart…
My Thoughts:
When I first heard the concept of Whatever Life Throws at You I was excited to read it. Then I kept hearing more and more good things about this book, with phrases like “must read” attached to it. Even with all that, this book did not at all disappoint. In fact, I was more impressed with it than I even anticipated. Basically, this is a total ME book, and if you’re at all a fan of books that contain swoony sweet romances and a great family dynamic, then I’m sure it will be a YOU type of book as well.

It’s hard to say what I think this book does best, because it does so many things right. What really stands out to me, though, is the great family dynamic. The relationship between Annie and her father is so sweet and caring. There’s also the relationship (or lack thereof) between Annie and her mother, which is dealt with in an interesting way. Annie’s mother is such a poisonous presence, and I was fascinated with how Annie's parents interacted with one another. I think it really shows how you can do dumb things in the name of love whether you’re a teen or completely grown adult.

On the romance end of things, the relationship between Annie and Brody is incredibly sweet as well. You completely understand why she falls for him as they begin as friends, but you’re also leery about how it will work out, considering all the rumours surrounding Brody. Because Brody is pitched as the love interest it’s almost certain that a lot of those rumours are false, but you wonder what part of the picture you’re missing. There’s also a bit of a taboo aspect to their relationship, considering Annie’s dad is Brody’s coach, and Annie is still in high school. There’s less than two years between Annie and Brody, but their situations make the relationship difficult.

I’m not at all a baseball fan, but I think Julie Cross has done a great job of getting readers to dive right into the sport. You don’t have to care about, or even know much about, baseball to find yourself rooting for Brody and his team, the Kansas City Royals. This sports aspect is just another great part of the book, and another reason why Annie and Brody work so well together. Annie is a cross country runner, so she understands the role that baseball plays in Brody’s life. Both of them really value their sports and prioritize them.

To put it simply, Whatever Life Throws at You is a wonderful book. It’s a family story, it’s a romance, it’s a Young Adult novel with some borderline New Adult themes (Brody starting his career, Annie thinking about post-high school plans, etc). I loved this story and how it made me feel. When I was reading it I wanted to keep on reading, and when I was finished I was excited about the prospect of reading it all over again.

The Cover:


Purchase Links:
Kobo | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Chapters-Indigo | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | iBooks | Powell's Books

I'm also really excited to share an excerpt from the book, especially because it's this particular scene. It's such a great example of the humour in the book, and it really shows off the banter between Annie and Brody.

EXCERPT from Whatever Life Throws at You:
He eyes me skeptically. “What kind of article?”

“It’s for Sports Illustrated,” I say without hesitation and then quickly realize that I don’t look nearly old enough to be a real reporter for a huge publication. “I’m an intern,” I add.

The skepticism falls from his face and he looks nervous, which gives me a boost of confidence. I walk closer and pull out the chair in front of the locker beside his, propping my feet up on the bench across from me. “Frank Steadman said you’d be willing to answer a few questions.”

His mouth falls open, and he looks down at his towel and then back at me. Water drips from his hair and off his dark shoulders. “Um…okay,” he says. “Mind if I get dressed first?”

I wave off his concerns, my face heating up, blowing my confident cover. But him getting dressed might allow enough time for Dad to return, and I’d rather not have to deal with that. I duck my head down, letting my hair hide my cheeks and flip open the first page of the notebook. “This will just take a minute… So, you’re nineteen? And you’re from Texas?”

“Chicago,” he corrects.

I had no idea where he was from but figured it sounded better if I pretended to know. I write down this information and then search my brain for some more questions. “Does the wind in Chicago affect your curveball? Do you throw into it or against it?”

He gives me a funny look. “I…well…I just throw toward home plate.”

My face gets even hotter. “Right, kidding. What’s your favorite color?”


I take my time writing orange in really big loopy cursive while I think of my next question. “What are your opinions on sushi?”

His forehead wrinkles like I’ve just asked him to publicly declare a political party. “Raw fish and seaweed? I think it’s best eaten while stranded on a desert island with no other options.”

“Very diplomatic.” I scribble down his answer. “How many strikes have you thrown in your career?”

“Don’t know,” he says. “Do people actually count that stuff? Before the majors?”

“Some of them do,” I say, though I have no idea. “If you could be any magical creature in the Harry Potter series, which would you choose?”

“You said this is for Sports Illustrated, right?”

“Yeees, But it’s the…kids’ edition.”

“Oh, right.” He scratches the back of his head. “I guess maybe one of those elves.”

“A house elf? Seriously? They’re slaves.” I shake my head. “Why would you want to be an enslaved elf? They can’t even wear clothes.”

He grips his towel tighter and releases a frustrated breath. “Fine, I’ll choose an owl. That’s what I’d want to be.”

I snort back a laugh and drop my eyes to the page again.

“What? What the hell’s wrong with being an owl? They’re smart, they know geography and shit like that.”

“Owls in real life are actually pretty stupid. But no big deal, I’ll just relay that message on to the children of America. Jason Brody, temporary Royals pitcher, wants to be an owl when he grows up because they know geography and shit like that.”

Okay, I’m getting way too into this fake reporter role.

“Who says this is temporary?” he snaps.

“Your two-way contract.” Isn’t that how Dad explained it? He plays a few games then goes back to Triple-A, all without signing a real major league contract.

He yanks a pair of jeans from his locker and then grabs a bundled up orange T-shirt. “Well, I plan on kicking some ass on Opening Day and making this a permanent gig.”

“I think you need a reality check,” I say. “One game isn’t going to be enough--”

“Annie, what the hell are you doing?”

I leap off the bench and turn around to face Dad and Frank standing about five feet from me. “Introducing myself to your new pitcher.”

“Brody, what are you doing here, son?” Frank asks. “We’re off today.”

“Just getting in some cardio and weights.” His gaze darts from me to Dad to Frank. “I was just finishing up this interview for Sports Illustrated. The kids’ edition.”

“Well, we won’t keep you from getting your clothes back on, then,” Frank says, like he’s trying not to laugh. “And just for future reference, all interviews will go through the team’s publicity department so no one will be wandering in here, surprising you. Savannah will meet with you tomorrow to discuss publicity.”

Dad moves forward and extends a hand to Jason Brody. “Jim Lucas, nice to meet you, son. I’ve seen your spring training videos. You’ve got some real talent. I’m looking forward to working with you.”

Brody shakes Dad’s hand, his eyes still on me.

“And this is my daughter Annie,” Dad adds.

Brody glares at me. “Let me guess—you don’t work for Sports Illustrated?”

About Julie:
Julie Cross lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast and longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former gymnastics program WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOUctor with the YMCA. She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres. Outside of her reading and writing credentials, Julie is a committed—but not talented—long-distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar-weather survivor, and expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym-shoe addict.

Where to find Julie:
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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