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Blog Tour: Spider by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Synopsis for Spider (from Goodreads):

He’s a British rock star.
And my stepbrother.
What can go wrong?

He called himself Spider. I just knew him as the sinfully gorgeous guy with eyes of fire that fate sat next to me on the airplane. I didn’t know who he really was…rock star…my stepbrother.

He kissed me because he thought we’d never see each other again. We would.

Everyone warned me about him.
They said he was ruthless and cold and screwed up.
They said he’d leave me with a hole in my heart.

Maybe I should have listened.
Maybe I should have built up a fortress to keep him out.
But I crumbled instead.

Some have said there’s an unbreakable thread that connects those who are destined to meet. If that’s true, then the moment he sat next to me, we were bound together forever.

He just had to figure it out before it’s too late…

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 13, 2017
Source & Format: Social Butterfly PR–eARC

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was first introduced to Ilsa Madden-Mills when I read her English Series last year. She totally won me over with her great blend of character growth and romance and she’s an author I’ve been keeping an eye on ever since.

When I read the synopsis for Spider, I HAD to read it! I love anything dealing with rockstars and the promise of a forbidden romance? Yeah, I’m a sucker! And given my previous experience with her work, I knew I was in for a solidly swoon-worthy romance.

The Plot:

This is simply a well crafted novel. All too often these forbidden romances get lost in the sexiness of the forbidden. You know what I mean: just sexy time after sexy time. But where Ilsa Madden-Mills succeeds in her stories–and this one in particular–is the balance between romance and character development. She devotes enough time to each to give you well rounded stories that you find yourself completely addicted to.

I also enjoyed the allusions to Jane Eyre. It isn’t a huge part of the novel but anyone familiar with the classic will see parallels here and there. The English student in me loves that type of stuff and Madden-Mills just does it all so flawlessly.

The Characters:

I really liked these two. Both are such strong–albeit flawed–characters and I loved watching them grow as the story progressed. I’ve encountered similar characters before but Rose and Spider definitely had a uniqueness to them. They have those rich backgrounds that bring their characters to life in a way I love in my romances.

I also liked that their growth wasn’t totally reliant on their relationship. They each grow in an independent way that I appreciated.

The Romance:

While I loved the chemistry these two had, I thought the spark was a little too “insta” for me. I get that this book is exploring the idea that people can be linked through a simple connection but I don’t like when there’s just “something about them” that makes the person want to change everything to be with the other. And I felt that was the case for Spider when he meets Rose. One look and he’s a goner.

I definitely got the attraction and I from their first encounter I could see how they would bring out the best in each other. But I wanted to see more of that. There isn’t a whole lot of time between them meeting on the plane and deciding to completely upend their lives to be together. As the characters evolved, I began to appreciate the romance more but I wanted that early stage of their relationship to be a little more substantial.

My Rating: 4/5

overall
This is a solid forbidden romance story that has a great focus on character growth instead of sexy times. (Though the sexual tension is brimming in this book!)

Read if You Like: forbidden romance, step-sibling relationships
Avoid if You: want more erotica based romance
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Ilsa Madden-Mills

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills writes about strong heroines and sexy alpha males that sometimes you just want to slap.

She’s addicted to dystopian books and all things fantasy, including unicorns and sword-wielding females. Other fascinations include frothy coffee beverages, dark chocolate, Instagram, Ian Somerhalder (seriously hot), astronomy (she’s a Gemini), and tattoos.

She has a degree in English and a Master’s in Education.

When she’s not pecking away on her computer, she shops for cool magnets and paints old furniture.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon

 

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Series Review: Hazed & Unfazed by Brittany Butler

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

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Synopsis for Hazed (from Goodreads):
When addiction and obsession are confused with love, life becomes hazed.

After Taylor Thompson receives an acceptance letter to a university an hour away, she can taste freedom. Her life is controlled by a small town and a strict father. When Taylor finds a local bar that’s hiring a waitress she applies and gets the position. However, one bartender leaves her questioning the acceptance of her new job.

Hayze Clark, the bartender that keeps customers coming back. His dark eyes pierce through your soul, drawing you near. The tattoos bellowing down his arms and the scar lining his left eyebrow keep you at a safe distance; his carefree attitude lures Taylor in. At first she’s excited for the new, perfect distractions to pull herself from misery.

The closer she gets, the more secrets are revealed, lies are told, and tears are shed. Their relationship falters and Taylor is left unsure if she’s willing to pick up the pieces of this broken guy.

breakdown

Series: Hazed & Unfazed; or Hazed Series
Author: Brittany Butler
# of Books: 4 (Hazed, Unfazed, Ruined, Damaged)
Book Order: Chronological; Companion (Ruined); Connected (Damaged)
Complete?: No, Damaged is to be released.
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Single; Alternating (Unfazed)
Publication Dates: January 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC
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thoughts

**This review is only on Hazed and Unfazed**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

What drew me to this series was the promise of a romance gone bad. While I love a happy ending as much as the next girl, I want to see more romances that explore the potentially unhealthy aspects of new romance. Especially in the New Adult genre where it always seems like the heroine can change the unchangeable hero just by “loving” him (or vice versa).

The Plot:

Hazed starts like any other NA romance but it quickly takes a darker turn; and I really liked that. It’s not darker in the sense that this romance is taboo but in the sense that it seems normal until you uncover the layers underneath. I liked how it focused on Taylor being insecure about the vitality of their relationship: was this really a good thing for her or was she just repeating the cycle she grew up up?

That made it hard to read because as the reader, you can see what it coming for Taylor a mile away but she justs succumbs to the unhealthiness of her romance again and again. It’s tough and I think if you didn’t know that that is the purpose of the story, you would scratch your head and walk away. But that is the point of the story, no matter how hard it is to read.

Unfortunately, Unfazed doesn’t carry on that momentum too much. Instead, it chooses to focus on how these two cope with dramatic events outside of their control. Which is totally fine and is entertaining to read; it just wasn’t the story I wanted to read.

The Characters:

It’s easy to feel for Taylor once you learn about her circumstances. She definitely hasn’t had it easy. She has some great development in Hazed. In Unfazed, I feel like her growth gets a little stagnant because the focus shifts more to Hayze.

Hayze is a bit of a mystery in Hazed because we only get Taylor’s POV. I know I didn’t have the most positive perception of him because I didn’t like how he acted or treated Taylor. That changes a little in Unfazed and we learn more about his past thanks to his POV being included.

The Romance:

I went into this series not expecting to like the romantic relationship we get and I kept that mentality throughout. But I liked that this story wasn’t padded with unnecessary sex scenes; that it focused on communication with each other; respect for the other person; and trying to see if they really could navigate a relationship with so many obstacles in the way.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I don’t really have an interest in reading Hayze’s story in Ruined (which is Hazed from his POV); I felt like I learned enough about his character and his motivations in Unfazed. BUT, I’m really curious to learn more about Lea’s story in Damaged. I have my own theories but I’m sure I’ll be surprised by what happens.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Hazed 4/5 | Unfazed 3/5 | Ruined N/A | Damaged N/A

overall

I think if you don’t like reading about relationships that are unhealthy, Hazed is a tough one for you to read. But if you like the idea that love has the potential to save someone, this is probably worth your time!

Read if You Like: new adult romance, stories focused solely on romance
Avoid if You: want more spice

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Single Sundays: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Black Iris (from Goodreads):
It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn’t worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She’s not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it’s time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She’s going to show them all.

breakdown

Author: Leah Raeder
Genre: New Adult, Suspense, Romance, Mental Health, LGBT, Dark
Heat Rating: hot
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t remember where I found this book. It was either on someone else’s blog, NetGalley, a “can’t wait for” list or through a book on Goodreads. Regardless, I wanted to try my hand at a New Adult suspense novel. Normally, I go for the more romance focused New Adult reads but this one had a darker spin, a LGBT aspect and a revenge based premise.

I was really intrigued by the synopsis (and the cover) and couldn’t wait to dive into this one when my hold finally came in!

The Concept:

This story is told completely out of order. Each chapter is clearly labelled so it is easy to keep track of the timeline…for the most part. I do recommend trying to read this book in bigger chunks than littler ones so that you can keep everything straight. Because it does move around quite a bit. For example, one chapter could be May 2015, next is Feb 2014, followed by March 2015. It isn’t a simple alternation between the past and the present…and it really works with this story and its unreliable narrator.

Also, the LGBT premise is really fantastic! I kinda forgot about it when I picked it up so it surprised me a bit when I first started. Nevertheless, struggling with one’s sexual identity is the backbone of this book. It’s very heartfelt and real and grounds the story with its very dramatic revenge plot line.

The Plot:

As the reader, you spend most of your time trying to put together what has really happened to Laney that has caused her to go down the path of revenge. Laney is an unreliable narrator and completely knows it (she tells you multiple times throughout the book). So that can make it frustrating to read at times because you know you aren’t getting the full story. But only getting little breadcrumbs at a time also makes it equally exciting and captivating. I had a hard time putting this book down because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. It really reminded me of watching How to Get Away with Murder because we only get fragmented pieces at a time, leading up to the big reveal.

While Laney’s mental health issues as a result of her family life and sexual identity are very realistic and an important part of the plot, don’t think book is meant to be one of those realistic fiction reads about someone who is suffering a sexual identity crisis and has a major epiphany. Because it isn’t. It’s a revenge story about a girl who wants to hurt everyone who ever hurt her. Who those people are and how she is going to do it is the main plot line of this story. It’s dark, it’s gritty and it takes no prisoners and compared to my usual New Adult fodder I found it to be very refreshing.

But I also found it to be detrimental to a certain degree. I don’t mind drug and sex references in my books, I might not like it, particularly the drug usage, but I won’t let it prevent me from reading a story. And while the drug usage and sexual situations worked for this story (ie they moved the plot forward and weren’t in there just for shock factor), I think there was just too much of it earlier on, especially the drug usage, and that dampened the experience for me a bit. It shifted the focus away from the larger issue of the plot for me which is the need for revenge.

The Characters:

This book has quite the cast of characters! They are all deeply flawed and so layered that it definitely keeps things interesting.

Laney was a very complex character and because she is an unreliable narrator, I had a hard time deciphering what was real and what wasn’t in terms of who she was as a person. Part of the problem lies in the fact that she is a character going through an identity crisis, so she doesn’t even really know herself. It was cool to see her evolve into her “true” self. But the execution, at times, makes it hard to get a read on her and her true motivations.

I would say overall, I didn’t really connect with any of these characters despite understanding them. I didn’t find myself rooting for Laney to succeed like I thought. But at the same time, I’m not sure if you are supposed to or not. Laney straight up says she isn’t your typical heroine in your typical story and that is 100% true. So I think it is expected that you aren’t going to root for her but you will understand her character and her motivations. You may not agree with her motivations or methods but you get why she feels like she has to do it that way.

The Romance:

I think this is the first book I have ever read that has a “true” love triangle. What I mean by true love triangle is that all three people involved are in love with each other. Person A is attracted to B + C, Person B is the same with A + C, etc. The only one that comes close is No One Needs to Know but it doesn’t really count because two of the people involved are twin siblings with no incestuous tendencies. It makes for an interesting dynamic and one that I really enjoyed watching unfold.

I find for the most part, the romantic relationships are based on physical attraction. It’s never really elaborated (at to me) why they all shared some inexplicable connection with each other initially. But by the end of the story, it became slightly more apparent to me why these characters were drawn together. I personally just like that little bit more for my characters, especially near the start, when it comes to their romantic relationships. In the end, it doesn’t really matter because the romance is just a tool to drive the plot forward and what we have is more than enough to satisfy that requirement.

My Rating: 4/5

I really struggled to rate this book when I finished it. While reading, I would say it was at a solid 4 and then the big reveal happened and I immediately thought 5 stars! But when it came to picking my rating on Goodreads, I hesitated. I adore books that give you all the clues throughout but prevent you from putting everything together until the big reveal–which is what this book did and that was why I wanted to give it 5 stars. However, I dropped it to a 4 because I did spend a lot of the time reading confused as to what was happening and keeping the plotline straight. And the dramatics (like the drug usage) slightly killed it for me as well, especially near the end. I just felt like it was a little too much when all was said and done, thus a 4 star review.

overall

I think a lot of readers will struggle with the format/execution of this book. The flip-flopping between past and present can be difficult to follow at times. It is also a book that slowly builds up to the big reveal so you may be left scratching your head for quite awhile. But overall, I found it to be enlightening and entertaining and it’s encouraged me to pick up other New Adult suspense novels.

Read if You Like: diverse books, books with GLBT themes, books dealing with mental health
Avoid if You: don’t like unreliable narrators, stories with drug usage

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Series Review: Summer Tour by Diane Matlick

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

Summer Tour by Diane Matlick | Summer Tour Series

 

Synopsis for Summer Tour (from Goodreads):
Take a journey with a group of friends…

Ben has always had it bad for his childhood friend Anna, but after years of unrequited pining, he’s officially done with her. It’s the summer before he and his best friends graduate college and they are about to go on tour, following their favorite band all over the east coast. This group is like a family—extremely close but with their fair share of old wounds and hidden secrets…

Anna figured out at a young age not to rely on anyone and she has always done whatever necessary to get by. She has carefully constructed her life—keeping herself isolated to stay focused and avoid getting hurt. But everyone has vulnerabilities and even the strongest willed have their breaking point…

Ryan is buried in stress at work, so when his friend suggests a night out, he reluctantly agrees. But what starts off as a typical night in a strip club just outside New York City, ends in an encounter that will change everyone’s lives…

breakdown

Series: Summer Tour Series
Author: Diane Matlick
# of Books: 3 (Summer Tour, Winter Break, Book 3)
Book Order: Chronological but connected
Complete?: Yes?
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Drama, Contemporary
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Date: October 2014 – ongoing
Source & Format: Provided by author–eBook

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I recently joined a New Adult review group on Goodreads and they run a Read2Review program where you can sign up to read NA books that have been provided by the author.

I picked Summer Tour because I wanted to read a book with multiple perspectives. I also thought it would be fun to hear about a group of friends following their favourite band when they are on tour.

What Didn’t Work: 

-The Drug Usage-

I’m not a huge fan of having drug references in my novels. I can deal with leads that have a drug addictions and the like but reading about people taking drugs recreationally isn’t my idea of a good time. Call me a prude but I really don’t like the message it promotes—even if it is “just marijuana”.

-The Character’s Pasts-

These characters have intense, drama filled pasts which is what I was expecting, it just seemed way over the top. The drama reminds me a lot of the later Gossip Girl books where friends are sleeping with friends and giving into various substances.  These people are complex but I think they are too complex. They just had so much drama in their lives that it was a little overwhelming. While there was some great character development and growth, I think the impact would have been more apparent if each character only had one or two issues instead of 3+.

-The Romance-

Because the first quarter of the book focuses on Ryan and his role in the story–which is important but went on for far too long when the point could have been proven in one or two chapters–I felt like not enough time was given to develop Ben and Anna’s relationship and discuss their past together. Their relationship didn’t develop enough for me and by introducing the romances of all their friends, it got overwhelming and distracted from Anna’s story.

What Worked:

-The Friendships-

I love reading about groups of friends and all the drama associated with that. Their lives are so woven together that they have so many different layers to their relationships. I think if this had been better executed (for example only give Anna and Ben POV for this book and then do the next book about two other characters) it would have been great!

-Personal Growth-

All of the characters had great growth throughout the novel despite their many issues. So while the romance wasn’t as strong as what I wanted it to be, I appreciated the independent development of the characters.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

While this novel can be read as a standalone, the preview I had at the end of this book indicated that there is more in store for this cast of characters. There was an interesting relationship development (though I wouldn’t have developed it as much as it was–I would have saved it for the sequel) at the end of Summer Tour that has piqued my interest so I will probably check out the second novel but not right away.

updates

–December 3, 2015– Book 2: Winter Break

I have to say that Winter Break was a huge improvement over Summer Tour!

Everything that I didn’t really like in the first book was toned down (ie the drugs and the drama). It’s still there but I didn’t find it to be overwhelming or the only thing the characters seemed to do. The focus moved to each pair working on themselves and their relationship. The result is stronger characters (better rounded and more developed) and great character growth. It was much more enjoyable to read in that respect because I was starting to understand each individual character and not their projected personalities.

I also liked the plot. It was more obvious to me and I liked that there was a set path or course to follow. And I honestly didn’t see how everything linked together until the very end so I really liked that!

I’m curious to see who the spin-off is about but I feel like I have a good idea (or perhaps some hopes).

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This book (Summer Tour) had a great concept but a messy execution. I think if it focused more on a few things (like it’s sequel, Winter Break) and not on introducing so many different elements it would have been a great New Adult read.

Read if You Like: friend drama, complex characters
Avoid if You: don’t like books with drug references, don’t like drama

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Series Review: Firebird by Claudia Gray

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray | Firebird Trilogy

Other books in the series:

SERIESous’ Top Book Series: Must Read Author
Series: Firebird Trilogy
Author: Claudia Gray
# of Books: 3 (A Thousand Pieces of You, Ten Thousand Skies Above You, A Million Worlds with You)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, A Million Worlds With You, will be published in November 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Alternate Dimensions, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: lukewarm
Point of View: First Person, Single

Thoughts:

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

I’ve read two other Claudia Gray series and have enjoyed both very much. I love her writing style, her plot twists and how she creates her worlds. She made me enjoy a witch-based Young Adult series (Spellcaster Trilogy) so that means I’m willing to give anything she writes a shot. So when I saw the premise for this series, I was SUPER excited. It sounded like it was going to be what I thought Alternity by Mari Mancusi was going to be mixed with the Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier so I was sold.

This book was a lot of fun to read and it quickly had me hooked (which was good because I had to return it to the library the next day!). I was worried that the alternate dimensions aspect would be confusing but it was explained perfectly at the start of the novel, making the rest of the novel easy to follow.

Like in most of Gray’s books, there are little twists and turns along the way that keep the plot moving and unpredictable. Part of the charm of a book like this is the mystery aspect that you put together as you read and while I definitely had a good inkling of how things were all connected, I really didn’t know if I was right or not given the little surprises here and there. I liked that it kept my full attention and the last half of the book is really non-stop which was great. I never felt like plot dragged and it easily could have if Marguerite and Theo spent too long in a certain dimension but it was executed perfectly.

Even the love triangle was well done–rare words from me indeed. I think it helps that the focus of this book isn’t really the romance aspect–rather Marguerite spends her time trying to figure out what exactly is at play and I liked that a lot. There was enough romantic moments to keep the romance reader in me satisfied but it really was the plot of this book that I loved so much.

I can’t wait to see where this series is going to go! November can’t be here soon enough!

updates

–December 19, 2015– Book 2: Ten Thousand Skies Above You Later

I was really curious to see what was going to happen next given the ending of the last novel. The plot for this one was interesting for sure and I really like the direction it is going. However, I did feel it lull a bit in the middle. I found Marguerite annoyed me a little in her outlook on things and that frustrated me. At the same time, I can appreciate the situation she is in and I liked how she grew from what happens. I was worried that that love triangle would escalate into a situation that I wouldn’t like but, again, I think it worked for the story and it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

I really like the way the story progressed though. I thought I have everything figured out but those twists again kept me on my toes. Can’t wait to see how this all wraps up!

Series Rating: 4.5/5

A Thousand Pieces of You 5/5 | Ten Thousand Skies Above You 4/5 | Book 3 TBP

overall

I feel like it has been a long time since I read a good YA novel and this novel helped fill in that void. Everything is just well executed and it was so refreshing to read about Alternate Dimensions. I loved how it built and that there were constantly little plot twists along the way. If you plan to read it, make sure you set aside a lot of time because you won’t likely be putting it down anytime soon!

Read if You Like: world-building, alternate dimensions
Avoid if You: dislike parallel universes, don’t want as much romance

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Synopsis for A Thousand Pieces (from Goodreads):
Every Day meets Cloud Atlas in this heart-racing, space- and time-bending, epic new trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray.

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

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Single Sundays: Dangerous to Know and Love by Jane Harvey-Berrick

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Dangerous to Know and Love (from Goodreads):
Silence is only skin deep.

Nineteen year old Daniel Colton is the guy all the girls want to date, and the man all the guys want to be. Moody, with an explosive temper, closed off and sullen, he’s also beautiful, tatted in delicious ways, with a pierced eyebrow and spiky black hair. It’s rumoured he has piercings in other places, too. Is he really mad, bad and dangerous to know?

Daniel lives with his older brother, Zef, and their home is party central. You want drugs, a good time, liquor, no questions asked? Colton’s is the place to go.

When Daniel and good girl Lisanne Maclaine have to work together on an assignment, Lisanne finds there’s a lot more to the college’s bad boy than his reputation. He’s intelligent and funny and good company. And then she discovers his secret, why he’s so closed off to everyone, and determined to keep people at arms’ length. But being his secret-keeper is harder than she ever dreamed.

breakdown

Author: Jane Harvey-Berrick
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 13, 2013
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book had been on my Kindle Wish List for a very long time and one day I randomly decided to check and see if any of the books I “wished” for had dropped in price. Turns out, this one had by quite a bit and I still had a gift card to use so I immediately grabbed it.

The Concept:

This book was really refreshing to read in terms of its concept. Unlike a majority of New Adult reads, this book focused on the current struggles in the protagonists lives–and by that I mean that there isn’t some mysterious event that happened in the past that explains why the character acts like they do. Well, there is…but it’s really hard to explain what exactly is happening (I try to write spoiler free reviews in every sense of the theory!). I guess what I’m trying to say is, I haven’t come across Daniel’s secret in any other book so I really liked that.

The Plot:

I really got sucked into this book; though I think the fact that I should have been studying / reading another slower book at the same time contributed to my slight addiction to this one. But I think the biggest reason was that I wasn’t sure where it was going to go and I wanted to know.

But I felt like it never really went anywhere. It really was a day by day thing with these characters in the sense that it was mostly about them trying to find out where their relationship fit in with their lives. Nothing really exciting happens and it got a little tedious to read; especially when they started acting childish about certain things.

The Romance:

Pair that with the fact that the exposition was wayyyyy to long. It took a good number of pages to get to some character interaction and with romances I really like the sexual tension ASAP. And then when we finally got some sexual tension, it felt like everything accelerated very quickly. I’m not a fan of love at first sight books and in that bracket I include books where the L-word is dropped within two weeks of dating. Just sours what was a nice romance to me–but that is more of a personal preference.

The Narration:

My last comment about the writing is that the third person narration isn’t my favourite. I don’t mind third person, though I prefer alternating first person, but I don’t like when the thoughts of the two characters aren’t separated by page breaks. When I read third person, I like that each character has their own section and for that section you only follow that character from their perspective. With this book, it was jumbled a bit so I really had to focus to make sure that I was getting everything straight.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

I really liked the concept of this book, but not so much its execution. It just needs some polishing and some fine-tuning and it would be a great read. If you want a new adult read with a bit of a different spin on it and don’t mind longer books, this one might be worth your time. However, don’t be expecting a some super dangerous bad boy. Daniel definitely has his bad boy touches but he isn’t super “dangerous” per say.

Read if You Like: unique stories, longer reads
Avoid if You: want a true bad boy
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Series Review: Unbreakable Trilogy by Rebecca Shea

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

Series: Unbreakable Trilogy
Author: Rebecca Shea
# of Books: 3 (Unbreakable, Undone, Unforgiven)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Tragedy, Drama, Contemporary, Mature Subject Matter
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: September 2013 – September 2014
Source & Format: Own–eBook

Thoughts:

I decided to read Unbreakable as a lighter, more upbeat read after reading a particularly dry novel: so you can guess that I was in for a bit of a surprise when I realized that Unbreakable wasn’t that upbeat book I was looking for. I guess I missed that bit about the tragedy or assumed it would be something else when I read the synopsis because this book, while charming and fun at times, is more often than not a sadder, more serious read than I previously assumed.

I think a more plausible explanation is that I expected the book to be more about Gabe and Jessica falling in love and then dealing with a tragedy than what actually happens. The romance between Gabe and Jessica (the path of falling in love) mostly takes place “off-screen”, years before the story begins which was disappointing as I was really looking forward to the sexual tension as they succumbed to their feelings for each other. Instead, we get plunked right into the beginning of their relationship, then the tragedy and the events that unfold afterwards. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.

This story is more about Jessica and Gabe dealing with the tragedy after it happens and trying to navigate their relationship accordingly. It was well done, especially in regards to what the “tragedy” is, so I didn’t mind reading the story. I could have done without a particular character introduced later in the story–I think it was unnecessary to this story (though I won’t lie and say that I am not excited to read about their story in the next book; so I guess it wasn’t the worst thing in the world :P).

While I loved the moments shared between Jessica and Gabe (for a while they were going to get the tag “fav couple”) I found I quickly got tired of them–Jessica in particular. This is one of those books about First Love so it can get a little sugary and “all-consuming” at times. Some of the things Jessica did made me think she was a little dim and I wish she had a bit more independence–I hate couples that are overly “couplely” if you know what I mean and Gabe and Jess were like that to me.

When all was said and done, I did enjoy Unbreakable–I think if I knew exactly I was getting into before I read it, I would have given it a higher rating.

Because I had an idea of what to expected with the second book, Undone, I think I enjoyed it a lot more. This time, I got to watch the couple fall in love and I enjoyed watching them do so because I loved the sexual chemistry between the two of them. They were a great pair that balanced each other out well. At first, I was worried that things were going to happen too fast between them but I was glad when things progressed at a slower pace than I anticipated. I also feel it is important to note that this novel reads more as adult contemporary romance with a New Adult feel to it because the characters are much older than the previous leads.

Although I knew what to expect, there were a few interesting twists along the way that I liked and were interesting to watch unfold. I didn’t feel like I was getting dragged through the motions as much as I did with Unbreakable. I think it’s clear that I much preferred this book to Unbreakable; however, this is one aspect that I felt like Unbreakable did better and that was how they handled the tragedy/secret. It isn’t a huge deal but it was something I personally didn’t particularly like in Undone when I think about it.

I’m really excited to read Unforgiven–I’ve been thinking about this particular pairing since Unbreakable and I’m excited to see where it will go!

updates

–February 11, 2016– Book #3: Unforgiven

*Sigh* This was NOT the story I was expecting when I finally picked up Unforgiven. Like Unbreakable, it’s more of a story about individual character development with a dash (and I mean a small dash) of romance on the side. I wanted to see these two characters fall in love and that really wasn’t what we got. It was very disappointing in that respect.

I did like the plot to a certain degree. I haven’t really read a book that deals with the topics this one does and I really liked the approach it takes. However, I was frustrated with how our male lead handles everything and that really turned me off of this story in the end.

Series Rating: 3/5

Unbreakable 3/5 | Undone 4/5 | Unforgiven 2.5/5

overall

This series has a more serious, darker feel to it than some other New Adult reads. It focuses more on the tragedies than the drama of relationships; instead, it focuses on each lead finding themselves and then finding out where they belong in a relationship. All the novels (so far) deal with mature subject matter that may make some people uncomfortable but for the most part the material is handled well in a realistic and mature manner that readers will respect.

Read if You Like: character development, tragedy, realistic stories
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike love triangles

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Synopsis for Unbreakable (from Goodreads):
Jessica Harper is the epitome of perfection. She’s a good daughter, makes excellent grades, and always strays on the safe side of life. The last thing she thought would ever happen was falling in love with her best friend’s brother. But sometimes fate just has a way of bringing two people together.

Wide receiver for the University of Arizona, Gabe Garcia, seems to have it all. When his feelings for Jessica come to surface, Gabe will give up everything to be with her.

But what happens when a tragedy abruptly changes the course of your life? For Jessica and Gabe, everything they thought they knew about each other will be questioned. Sometimes, there are scars in life that are cut too deep to completely heal.

Will their love prove to be unbreakable, or will it shatter and prove fate is just another lie?

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Series Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

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Synopsis for Pushing the Limits (from Goodreads):
No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.

But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Book Series: Favourite New Adult Series
Series: Pushing the Limits
Author: Katie McGarry
# of Books: 5 (Reading Order Here)

There are one novella that take place after book 1: Crossing the Line

Book Order: Connected* The exception is Breaking the Rules which is a direct sequel to Pushing the Limits
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Romance, Drama, Mental Health, Dark
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating

thoughts

I’m actually slightly embarrassed that it has taken me this long to write a review on this series. I totally thought I already had so I was shocked after I finished reading Crash Into You that I didn’t have to just update a previous blog post, rather I had to create one!

I read Pushing the Limits approximately one year ago. Although it had been out for a while it had just captured my attention one day at the library and I decided to pick it up. It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be but after reading it I’m glad it wasn’t because I enjoyed it way more than I expected and it was so much better than I had hoped.

Young Adult or New Adult?

This series is one of those that straddles the New Adult — Young Adult line. Because they are in high school, I would tend to classify it as Young Adult but the subject mature is very mature and so are the characters so I don’t have a problem calling it New Adult (Katie McGarry classifies it as Young Adult however with Breaking the Rules as more New Adult). There is also a lot of mature subject matter that gives these books a dark edge to them — but it done extremely well and so beautifully.

My Review:

Pushing the Limits was probably one of the darker Young Adult/New Adult reads I had read up until that point in time. It deals a lot more with mental illness than other books but does so in a mature and respectful way. Echo and Noah are a great pair (as are all the characters in the next few books) and I loved watching them fall in love. I also really liked their personal development throughout the story. The rest of the cast of characters was great as well and I was excited to see them in the next few installments.

If you are like me, you will think it is pretty obvious who the next book will be about so I was shocked when I read the synopsis for Dare You To. SO DON’T READ THE SYNOPSIS FOR DARE YOU TO UNTIL YOU FINISH PUSHING THE LIMITS! At first, I wasn’t a fan of the idea but as soon as I read the book, I changed my tune. The female lead was a hard character for me to like but I really grew to like her as I read her story and I loved her match. I enjoyed reading Dare You To way more than Pushing the Limits and I really liked Pushing the Limits so that says something. I think it was because Dare You To wasn’t as emotionally dark as Pushing the Limits was.

Don’t be intimidated by the longer page length. You will see that they are quite long–over 300 pages, but when you read them they don’t feel long enough 😛 No, I joke, they are the perfect length and I find that you get so into the story that the pages just fly by.

Case and point, Crash Into You. I simply devoured the book because it was so much fun to read. I absolutely loved Rachel–she is definitely my favourite heroine yet in the series. She had some great comments early on in the book that made me laugh out loud and I loved her story. Her match is perfect for her and I loved watching them connect. Her family is also an interesting cast of characters and I’m glad to see that the 4th book will feature one of her brothers (and is it so greedy of me that I want another one focused on her brothers before I even read it?). It’s a tough call if I like this book more than Dare You To so I am going to call it a tie.

The Novella–Crossing the Line:

I did read the novella, Crossing the Line before I read Dare You To. You can essentially read Crossing the Line anytime, but probably after Pushing the Limits is the best time. It will be published in print with the Take Me On book when it is released. I wish it was a full blown novel because I loved the story but I felt like I got enough out of the novella so I wasn’t disappointed.

updates

–October 30, 2014– Book #4: Take Me On

Words cannot describe how excited I was to read Take Me On. I checked my hold at the library every week since it became available and impatiently waited for my cue. Of course it never fails that I had a butt load of books to read before I could read it; and then I had to read it in the middle of midterms (sorry midterms, but you had to wait). Take Me On was everything I wanted it to be and more. I had so much fun reading about these characters and I loved their stories. Frankly, I couldn’t get enough so fans of Crash into You will be super happy with this book.

–January 4, 2015– Book #1.5: Breaking the Rules

I originally thought Breaking the Rules was a novella so I was shocked when I got my copy and saw it was a full length novel. In the end, I’m glad it was a novel because I feel like I have more closure with Echo and Noah. Unlike Pushing the Limits, this one seemed a lot more realistic to me. I think a lot of people who had relationships in high school can understand the mindset of these characters as they struggle to define their relationship before they start college. I thought it was really well done and fans will be extremely satisfied, but I wish I had read it right after reading Pushing the Limits just for the sake of continuity.

Recommended Reading Order:

My recommended reading order for the series: Pushing the Limits, Breaking the Rules, Crossing the Line, Dare you To, Crash into Me, Take on Me, Chasing Impossible.

Series Rating: 5/5

overall

If you enjoy stories where the romance is about finding someone who understands you for who you are, you’ll love these books. The romance is blended perfectly with character growth and the plots move quickly despite the book lengths. It’s a mature albeit dark story line so half the time you forget you are reading about high school students.

similarreads
More than This by Jay McLean (More Series #1)
Hooked by Liz Fichera (Hooked #1)

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Book Review: Circle Nine by Anne Heltzel

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):
Who was Abby then? Who is Abby now? An unsettling psychological thriller, seen through a lost girl’s eyes.

She knows only Sam, a mysterious teenage boy. He is her sole companion; her whole life. She was born, already a teenager, lying outside a burning building in soot-stained clothes, remembering nothing, not even her name. He showed her the necklace she had on, the one that named her: Abby. Sam brought her to live in his cavepalace, where he gives her everything she needs. He loves her. He protects her from the world outside, from everyone who wants to hurt them, like the denizens of Circle Nine, Dante’s deepest circle of hell. But even in a charmed, brand-new life like Abby’s, change will come. Sam falls ill. A new girl comes to stay, and Abby begins to question Sam’s devotion. With doubt comes emotional turmoil, changes in perception, and glimpses of her past identity. In this courageous psychological thriller, Abby tells the story of living her new life and discovering her old one, while grappling with an ever-changing reality.

Review:

I went into this book with high expectations. I like psychological books that have a mystery to them so this book seemed like it was right up my alley. I thought this book would make me think about what had happened to Abby–however the only thing it made me think was WTF is going on.

You know when someone tries to be really “deep” about a certain subject and they just can’t get there? Well that’s what happens here.

I have to admit that I have never read Dante’s Inferno (it’s on my list!) but I have studied the general gist of it through my university English classes so I know the ideas and purpose behind it. Perhaps if I knew more about it, I would get more out of this (but I doubt it). From what I can see, it doesn’t play a major role in the story other than providing some context with regards to Hell so if you are looking for a retelling or adaptation of Inferno, you aren’t going to get it!

This book was just a little too out-there for me (read: it was Weird). While I can appreciate the motivation to write this novel and I understand the message the author is trying to convey, I find it falls flat.

I think the worst part is the ending–it just happens so suddenly and I felt that there wasn’t any closure. I really think that the ending of the book is the perfect opportunity to accomplish the message the author set out to give and that she lost her chance to do so by ending it as she did. An epilogue or something would have been great. I can honestly say I don’t remember too much about this novel other than the fact that I HATED the ending.

Conclusion:

Stay clear of this one! There are better amnesia stories out there if that is what you are looking for.

Rating: 2/5

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: Young Adult, Drama, Mystery, Psychological
Recommended for: 16+
Similar Reads: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Series Review: Beautifully Broken by Courtney Cole

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:


Other books in the series:
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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author, Favourite New Adult Series
Series: Beautifully Broken
Author: Courtney Cole
# of Books: 4 (If You Stay, If You Leave, Before We Fall, Until We Fly)

There is a novella: #2.5 Until We Burn

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drugs, Abuse, Tragedy
Heat Rating: hot (Kink: mild [Before We Fall])
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 2013 – July 2014
Source & Format: Own–eBook

Thoughts:

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Wow, I LOVED this book! It was everything I wanted in a New Adult read and it was such a great read!

I will admit, I was skeptical before reading this. I find with New Adult reads, some hit the mark perfectly by blending tragedy+romance+drama+maturity all into one. That is why I enjoy New Adult reads because they are more mature than most young adult books that have characters in high school. I’m in university myself so I find I relate better to characters my own age & their problems than the often petty high school drama. However, not all books hit the maturity level quite so well and I got worried this one wouldn’t.

I’m happy to say I was proven wrong. This book was extremely mature and handled the issues within it perfectly. The characters didn’t run from their past or just jump into bed together. They actively worked on their issues (and did so in the right way) and I found that extremely refreshing. (FYI, I had just finished the first book in Kelly Elliot’s Wanted Series which I found to be an extremely immature series so I might be a little skewed in my opinion when it comes to this one ;))

For some reason, I love the jerk/player character in romance novels. I guess it’s the hopeless romantic in me that likes to think love can heal people. Regardless, I really liked Pax as a character. He is charming, sweet and troubled but willing to make the right changes. Mila is also fantastic. She is strong and mature and I really respect her as a character.

The book is a really quick read–or maybe you just get sucked into it and lose all sense of time. There isn’t too much else to the plot other than their relationship and dealing with their personal problems (score for no unnecessary drama!) but there is enough to keep you interested.

I’m really looking forward to book 2, If You Stay and I refused to read the little 1 chapter preview in my book because I don’t want to get hung up on it 😛

updates

–January 28, 2016– Book #2: If You Leave

It is just a TAD ridiculous that it took me nearly 3 years to read a book I was super excited to read–and I want to be clear that it in no way reflects my opinion on the series. I was faithful and continued to buy each book as they were released–I just never got around to them thanks to the countless other books that fell into my hands.

But let’s just start by saying that this book was worth the wait! I loved this story for so many different reasons! I thought the relationship and characters were extremely realistic, even if things between them happened fast or some of the events were more dramatic than necessary. I felt so many emotions when reading this book–from joy to sadness to anger to frightfulness–you name an emotion and this book probably has it. It was just plain addicting to read and I easily became absorbed in the story.

–February, 2016– BOOK #3: Before WE Fall

I was really curious to see where this book was going to go given the heroine–but it went in a direction I wasn’t expecting nor one that I loved.

I really didn’t enjoy the relationship between these two at the start and even contemplated not finishing the novel. But I really wanted to find out the backstory of our hero and so I stuck around. I do feel like the story and relationship improved as the story progressed but it could have simply been me  becoming accustomed to these characters and their story.

While the tragedy of the past novels is here, the dynamic of this story is so different from the previous books I think. I didn’t love the heroine’s progression, especially given the events of the past book and I felt like the focus was more on our hero. Which is fine, just not what I really expected. I also felt like their romantic relationship was very unhealthy and I didn’t immediately see why they would like each other besides physical attraction. I supposed I just wanted–and expected more from these characters.

Loads of sexual tension (though it did make me uncomfortable at times) and buckets of drama, this book combines elements I’ve read in other books in a way that is unique but I think will be really hit of miss with its readers.

Series Rating: 5/5

If You Stay 5/5 | If You Leave 4.5/5 | Before We Fall 3/5 | Until We Fly TBD

overall

One of the best new adult reads I have read this year. Great story, great characters and it is mature in its delivery. You can’t go wrong!

Read if You Like: mature stories, passionate romance, tragedy filled stories
Avoid if You: dislike tragedy

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Synopsis for If You Stay (from Goodreads):
24-year old Pax Tate is an asshole.
Seriously.

He’s a tattooed, rock-hard bad-boy with a bad attitude to match.

But he’s got his reasons.

His mother died when Pax was seven, leaving a hole in his heart filled with guilt although he doesn’t understand why. What he does know is that he and his dad are left alone and with more issues than they can count.

As Pax grew up, he tried to be the kid his father always wanted; the perfect golden boy, but it didn’t work. His dad couldn’t overcome his grief long enough to notice and Pax couldn’t keep up the impossible perfect façade.
So he slipped far, far from it.

Now, he uses drugs and women to cope with the ugliness, the black void that he doesn’t want to deal with. If he pretends that the emptiness isn’t there, then it isn’t, right?
Wrong.

And it’s never more apparent than when he meets Mila.
Sweet, beautiful Mila Hill is the fresh air to his hardened frown, the beauty to his ugly heart. He doesn’t know how to not hurt her, but he quickly realizes that he’s got to figure it out because he needs her to breathe.

When memories of his mother’s death resurface from where he’s repressed them for so long, Mila is there to catch him when the guilt starts making sense. Mila is the one…the one who can save him from his broken troubled heart; from his issues, from the emptiness.

But only if he can stop being an asshole long enough to allow it.

He knows that. And he’s working on it.

But is that enough to make her stay?

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