Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (#144): Riders by Veronica Rossi

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm featuring:

Riders by Veronica Rossi
Book One of the Riders series
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: February 16, 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

For eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake, nothing but death can keep him from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.

Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen—Conquest, Famine and Death—are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.

They fail.

Now—bound, bloodied, and drugged—Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for—not to mention all of humankind—he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.

But will anyone believe him? 

Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

I loved Rossi's Under the Never Sky series! I can't wait to read something new from her.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Banned Books Blog Tour: The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar

Welcome to the Random House Children's Banned Books blog tour! I am so excited to be celebrating Banned Books Week with Random House and The Boy Who Lost His Face! Check out my shortened review below, and a discussion of the banning of this particular book.

The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
Publisher: Yearling
Publication Date: April 15, 1997
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Copy sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

David is only trying to be cool when he helps some of the popular kids steal Old Lady Bayfield’s cane. But when the plan backfires, he’s the one the “old witch” curses. Now David can’t seem to do anything right. The cool kids taunt him and his only friends are freaks. He even walks into Spanish class with his fly unzipped! And when he finally gets up the nerve to ask out a cute girl, his pants fall down in midsentence. Is it the Bayfield curse at work? Or is David simply turning into a total loser?

What I Liked:

This review is going to be very abridged! Like a mini-review. David is a young boy in middle school, who is friends with Scott. Except Scott wants to hang out with the cool kids (Randy and Roger), and David isn't quite cool enough to hang out with them. The boys decide to steal an old lady's cane from her, and the old lady places a curse on David! Suddenly everything is going wrong - David breaks his parents' bedroom window, his fly is never zipped, his pants fall down, he spills flour everywhere. Meanwhile, his "friends" make fun of him and completely push him out of their circles, and David makes two new friends. But will the curse ever be lifted?

This is Middle Grade, if you couldn't tell or didn't know! I haven't read a Middle Grade book in a long time, but I've enjoyed them in the past. I read Holes at least ten years ago, and loved it! This book was great as well.

I loved that the author hit so many issues that a kid in middle school would experience: fitting in, liking a girl, being awkward, dealing with younger siblings, growing up, learning good things and bad things. So many great topics Sachar hit in this book, which is pretty great. It takes me back to when I was in middle school! 

I was surprised to see that this was on the banned list, but as I was reading, I had to constantly remind myself that this book is Middle Grade! Not Young Adult or New Adult or Adult. See my discussion of why this book was banned at the bottom of this post! 

Overall, I liked following David's story. It was cute, funny, and all too real.  I know I haven't said much specifically about the characters or plot, but just know that this is definitely a great book to give new teens!

What I Did Not Like:

This book was adorable! I don't think I have any dislikes at the moment.

Would I Recommend It:

For new teens, I'd recommend this book! It's very real, yet very humorous. It's also short, less than 200 pages! It was banned (for reasons we shall ignore), but it's definitely something younger teens will enjoy and relate to!


4 stars. Louis Sachar is such a well-known and talented children's author, so it doesn't surprise me that I liked this book! I wish I had read it as a kid, it was published a few years after I was born! I did read Holes as a kid, and I liked that book a lot.

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

Banned Books Discussion:

Why in the world was this cute book banned? I did a little research. It seems like the reasons are specific to the age level of this book. In YA books, you'll see witches and profanity and bullying left and right. In Middle Grade? Maybe not as common. Here are reasons why this book was banned:

- Mentions of witchery, the occult: the woman the boys still the cane from? She's a witch, according to the boys, and she put a spell on David. Or did she...

- Profanity: David learns what "flipping the bird" is, as well as he learns and uses some heavy duty swear and curse words, like bulls***. All part of growing up!

- Romance/sexuality: David really liked Tori Williams. Maybe middle schoolers aren't allowed to like each other. The thing is, we all have middle school crushes. So this reason is bogus (just like the rest of them, honestly.)

- Bullying: David gets bullied in this book, as does one of his new friends, Mo. Mo is bullied by Roger, Randy, and Scott, who ask her if she is a boy or a girl, or if she is a dog. Kids are rude. Kids are cruel. There is one scene in this book that is terrifying - David and some of his friends get into this crazy bad fight with Randy and Roger and Scott. The violence was shocking, for this book!

In my personal opinion, these reasons are silly. Youths today are learning about sexuality and profanity at a very young age. As for bullying, that is also something that can be experienced at a young age. And the occult - well, Harry Potter is probably worse, right?

Banning books would make me want to read the book even more! There was a great discussion about banning books at the Baltimore Book Festival this past weekend, with Kami Garcia, Melissa Marr, Jennifer L. Armentrout Martina Boone, and a few others. With this book, there are so many reasons to hand it to new teens and young adolescents! So I clearly don't think this book should have been banned. Bring on Sachar!

Release Day Blitz and Giveaway: The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long

Welcome to the release day blast for The Legend of Lyon Redmond, book eleven of the Pennroyal Green series! I've only read It Started With A Scandal, but I absolutely LOVED the book, and I have the rest of the series waiting to be read. I can't wait to continue with more books! Check out more about this new publication, and enter to win fabulous prizes!

About the Book:

The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long
Book Eleven of the Pennroyal Green series
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: September 29, 2015

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

Official Summary:

Bound by centuries of bad blood, England’s two most powerful families maintain a veneer of civility...until the heir to the staggering Redmond fortune disappears, reviving rumors of an ancient curse: a Redmond and an Eversea are destined to fall disastrously in love once per generation.

An enduring legend

Rumor has it she broke Lyon Redmond’s heart. But while many a man has since wooed the dazzling Olivia Eversea, none has ever won her—which is why jaws drop when she suddenly accepts a viscount’s proposal. Now London waits with bated breath for the wedding of a decade…and wagers on the return of an heir.

An eternal love

It was instant and irresistible, forbidden...and unforgettable. And Lyon—now a driven, dangerous, infinitely devastating man—decides it’s time for a reckoning. As the day of her wedding races toward them, Lyon and Olivia will decide whether their love is a curse destined to tear their families apart...or the stuff of which legends are made.

Check out the rest of the series!

About the Author:

Julie Anne Long originally set out to be a rock star when she grew up, and she has the guitars and the questionable wardrobe stuffed in the back of her closet to prove it. When playing to indifferent crowds at midnight in dank clubs lost its, ahem, charm, she realized she could incorporate all of the best things about being in a band—namely, drama, passion and men with unruly hair—into novels, while at the same time indulging her love of history and research. So she made the move from guitar to keyboard (the computer variety) and embarked on a considerably more civilized, if not much more peaceful, career as a novelist.

Julie lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with a fat orange cat. (Little known fact: they issue you a cat the minute you become a romance novelist.)

She was the last of the Eversea children to be married, and she was going to be the wife of a viscount. Her brothers had all married unusual women, not one of whom possessed a title. Genevieve had married a duke—to the quietly gleeful satisfaction of her father, for they had trumped the Redmonds, who acquired a mere earl by marriage—but she and Falconbridge had wed by special license. Olivia was the family’s last chance for pomp.

And she knew everyone who loved her would exhale only when she was waving merrily good-bye from Landsdowne’s carriage as they went off on their wedding journey.

No one had said as much, of course.

And this was the unspoken source of all the tension.

They had nothing to worry about. Olivia was definitely going to marry him.

The betting books at White’s, of course, had it otherwise.

God, but she was infinitely weary of being a sport for the wager-happy wastrels at White’s. She did not want to be an event.

But if she’d learned anything over the years, wanting something and getting it were not always sequential events. Even for Everseas.

She pressed her head back against the plump seat, which smelled vaguely and soothingly of her father’s tobacco, then gave a start and fished about in her reticule.

“Blast!” Only two shillings were in there, along with her hussif, her tortoiseshell card case, and, of course, a square of linen folded in sixteenths that she always pretended not to see but that traveled with her everywhere.

It had become a personal ritual, her way of tithing, to say a few kind words and drop a few coins into the cups of the beggars who had appeared weeks ago and lingered near Madame Marceau’s shop, and who reappeared no matter how often Madame Marceau tried to shoo them away. They were as intrepid as ants. They knew where to find sustenance, and that was from the affluent women who frequented the modiste.

But Olivia, as usual, always wished she had more to give.

At last “Madame Marceau, Modiste,” a gaudy sign gilded swinging on chains, came into view, Olivia sat up alertly. The Strand was even livelier than usual today, apparently: she could hear a choir, of all things.

She didn’t know the tune, but it was certainly infectious, lilting and lively. Her foot was already tapping before the footman pulled open the door of the carriage, and she was smiling when he handed her down.

A half-dozen men were arrayed before Madame Marceau’s, arms slung about each other, swaying rhythmically, their heads tipped back in full-throated song. Another man seemed to be presiding as a conductor, strutting to and fro before them and holding a sheaf of papers in one hand.

He waved one in the air. “Get yer flash ballad here! Two pence! Be the first to teach your friends the song all of London will be singing for centuries to come!”

This was quite a claim, given that one of London’s other favorite songs was all about Olivia’s brother Colin, and it, like Colin, who had survived the gallows, refused to die.

Years of distributing and accepting pamphlets for the causes nearest her heart—the eradication of slavery and the protection of the poor—had Olivia reflexively stretching out her hand for it.

The man hesitated, then saw the outstretched hand was encased in an expensive blue kid glove and decided to let her hold it.

“Two pence, madame, if ye’d like to take it with you.” He beamed persuasively at her.

She didn’t hear him.

She was transfixed in horror by the first words on the page.

The Giveaway:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: Persuasion by Martina Boone

Persuasion by Martina Boone
Book Two of The Heirs of Watson Island series
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: October 27, 2015
Rating: 2 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

Grieving the death of her godfather and haunted by her cousin Cassie’s betrayal, Barrie returns from a trip to San Francisco to find the Watson plantation under siege. Ghost-hunters hope to glimpse the ancient spirit who sets the river on fire each night, and reporters chase rumors of a stolen shipment of Civil War gold that may be hidden at Colesworth Place. The chaos turns dangerous as Cassie hires a team of archeologists to excavate beneath the mansion ruins. Because more is buried there than treasure.

A stranger filled with magic arrives at Watson’s Landing claiming that the key to the Watson and Beaufort gifts—and the Colesworth curse—also lies beneath the mansion. With a mix of threats and promises, the man convinces Barrie and Cassie to cast a spell there at midnight. But what he conjures may have deadly consequences.

While Barrie struggles to make sense of the escalating peril and her growing and forbidden feelings for Eight Beaufort, it’s impossible to know whom to trust and what to fight for—Eight or herself. Millions of dollars and the fate of the founding families is at stake. Now Barrie must choose between what she feels deep in her heart and what will keep Watson’s Landing safe in this stunning addition to a series filled with “decadent settings, mysterious magic, and family histories rife with debauchery” (Kirkus Reviews, on Compulsion).

What I Liked:

Another heavily disappointing novel. Yesterday's review (Scandal Takes the Stage by Eva Leigh) was not impressive, and this book was unfortunately similar in disappointment. It's awkward because I'm a member of Martina's private street team, and I love Martina! I just met her on Saturday (at the Baltimore Book Festival), and she was the sweetest. I love working with her, so I'm extremely disappointed that I didn't like this novel. More mad at myself than the book, I think!

Barrie is still recovering from the crushing grief over Mark's death, as well as the trauma from what her cousin Cassie did to her and Eight. Back at Watson's Landing, Barrie discovers a new magic, through a stranger who doesn't seem human. He wants her to find something that will break the Colesworth curse, or he'll take away her ability. Find it and he'll grant a favor. But Barrie must sneak around behind everyone's back, include Eight's. Will she risk it all, including losing Eight, in order to save everyone?

I'm sitting here completely still, trying to dredge up things that I liked about this book. The cover, for one, though that's completely out of the author's control. The author's handling of PTSD, in one of the secondary characters. I was not expecting PTSD in this particular character, nor did I expect the trauma that the character suffered. The author did an excellent job of setting up this shocking secret. It's not a big secret the changes the plot of the book or series, but it is quite important and is a big part of the climax.

I'm also a huge fan of my cameo in this book! There is an "Alyssa" in this book, specifically because myself and Alyssa H. are part of Martina's street team. Very cool!

Okay, moving on, unfortunately. 

What I Did Not Like:

I'll try to keep this as short as possible, because I know I have a tendency to go on and on, and I don't want to say too many specific things. Things with which I had issues: Barrie & Eight's relationship, Barrie, the story.

Barrie are and Eight fighting literally from the beginning of the story. And then they're kissing all the time. And then back to arguing. It's exhausting. I was sick of their s*** by the end of the first few chapters. Barrie develops a complex in which she feels the need to push Eight away, and then Seven wants her to stay away from Eight too. And yet, Barrie will be arguing with Eight, and in the next page, they'll be kissing.

To me, there is nothing romantic about this. It was a total turn-off, to go from arguing to kissing to arguing and then to kissing. Barrie and Eight's relationship is so messed up. Barrie is hiding just about everything in her life from him. When she meets the weird stranger who seems to be able to disappear into the air, she lies and tells Eight that it's nothing. Everything is "nothing" to Barrie - she doesn't trust anyone.

And she is incredibly selfish, and hypocritical. She expects everyone to be totally up-front and honest with her, and yet, she lies to EVERYONE. Not just Eight - Pru, Seven, herself. Her lies hurt people. Her lies are selfish. She lies and then makes decisions for people without asking or at least telling them. So many lies in this book, especially to Eight. And Eight knows when she is lying (he can tell if she is trying to hide what she wants from him), yet he doesn't want to give up on her.

See, their relationship is so imbalanced. I felt like Eight was saying a lot of "I can't stay mad at you" and "gosh what you do to me" and "you are amazing", "my life is nothing without you", etc. The usual cliche, melodramatic BS (sorry not sorry). Meanwhile, Barrie is lying and sneaking around and being hypocritical and yelling at Eight at every turn. And still expects him to forgive her. This relationship is so one-sided! Eight is the one making all the effort, and Barrie is doing a great of taking advantage of him, whether or not she realizes it (she does).

Not to mention that Barrie makes some ridiculous, dumb decisions. With some of her decisions, if she didn't make a few of them, there would be no book. But... all of her decisions are so incredibly stupid. She's supposed to be smart? It didn't show at any point in this book, unfortunately. 

Basically, I had a ton of issues with Barrie, Barrie and Eight's relationship, and all things related to Barrie. Difficult dislike to have, no?

The story was also boring, disjointed, and very anticlimactic. I can't say much without giving away spoilers, but I was highly disappointed in how the plot moved, as well as the climax. The climax was not nearly as epic and interesting as I'd expected. NOTHING is resolved, especially in terms of history. So disappointing!

Bottom line - Barrie and Eight's relationship was too toxic for me to actually enjoy this story. Eight is so one-dimensional (perhaps it was hard for the author to construct the characters in third person limited?), and Barrie is hard to like (in this book). While I think the author is trying to show character development in Barrie, she has turned Barrie into a highly unlikable character, and it reflects badly on the plot. 

Would I Recommend It:

This is tricky. While I clearly didn't love this novel, I think I might still read Illusion (book three) next year. The ending of this book was good, so I might give book three a chance. So, I don't recommend Persuasion, but I liked Compulsion, and I am curious enough to want to read the next book in the series.


2.5 stars -> rounded down to 2 stars. I am disappointed that I did not like this novel, but glad that I read it. It's unfortunate that so much of the story was just character/relationship drive, and the plot story outside of the romance is in poor shape. If you've read this novel, let me know what you thought of it!

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

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Review: Scandal Takes the Stage by Eva Leigh

Scandal Takes the Stage by Eva Leigh
Book Two of The Wicked Quills of London series
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: October 28, 2015
Rating: 2 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

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

Summary (from Goodreads):

Successful playwright Maggie Delamere has no interest in the flirtations of noblemen like Cameron, Viscount Marwood. She once paid dearly for a moment of weakness . . . and vows to rebuff the wildly persistent—and irritatingly handsome—scoundrel at every turn. But when pressure to deliver a new play hampers her creativity, an invitation to use his country estate as a writer’s retreat is too tempting to resist...

For years, Cam has admired Maggie’s brilliant work, and he can’t pass up the opportunity to discover if the beautiful, mysterious playwright is as passionate and clever as the words that flow from her quill. He’s never offered a lady his bed without being in it, but if it means loosening Maggie’s pen—and her inhibitions—he’ll do exactly that. 

But soon Cam’s plans for seduction become a fight for Maggie’s heart. He’s more than the scandalous, carefree rake society believes him to be . . . and she’s the only woman who has ever noticed.

What I Liked:

Sadly, I was disappointed by this book. I'm not going to sugarcoat my feelings about this one. I just read Forever Your Earl, and liked it. It was smart, hot, and enjoyable. Modern yet totally historical, with a strong female lead and a naughty male lead. A great combination! This book had the same structure, but it felt off, and fell flat.

Maggie doesn't trust the aristocracy. Years ago, a nobleman ruined her life. She is now a successful, notorious writer of burlettas, and doesn't need any aristocrat in her life. But Lord Marwood, Cam, has taken interest in her. When she is in dire need of a favor, he bails her out of a bad situation, and doesn't want anything in return. As Cam and Maggie get to know each other with every encounter, they start to fall for each other. But Maggie can't trust him - can she?

I really liked Lord Marwood. Cameron Chalton, Lord Marwood, is a rake and a scoundrel who likes to party hard and entice women and avoid marriage. He makes no secret of his behavior, but his father hates that his heir is shirking his duty to the family and the name, by not getting married and having heirs. Cam is such an intelligent man, a lover of plays and the theater. But as a nobleman, he can't write his own plays or anything like that. Cam is naughty and wicked, yet thoughtful and clever. He's smarter than people give him credit, and he's a good guy. Easily the best part of this book.

Moving on, shall we?

What I Did Not Like:

Unfortunately, Cam by himself is not the contents of this book, nor is the rest of the book up to his awesomeness. I wasn't the biggest fan of Maggie, the plot was boring, the romance was boring, the chemistry/steaminess of this book was slow and lacking, and something felt like it was missing.

Maggie - she's a strong woman, capable and determined, independent and cautious. In Forever Your Earl, we are introduced to her - she's Eleanor's best friend. She does not like aristocrats, so she is really rude to Cam in the beginning of the story. It's not even witty banter or cold sexy arguments. She's just rude. She apologizes eventually, which was good. 

I just didn't really connect with Maggie. She felt like a flat character, even with her tragic backstory, even with how much Cam seemed to be fascinated by her. She's a playwright, and at the moment, she is struggling to write the sequel to her big success. That's how Cam did her a favor - he became a patron of the Imperial theater, so that she could continue writing while he paid for fees of the theater. I think I wasn't feeling an emotional connection to Maggie. Perhaps she was TOO detached.

The romance was very VERY detached. It seems like Cam is fascinated by her for no reason. She sees her and literally, time stops, stars fall from the sky, and so on. But there is nothing remarkable about her, not even her appearance. Yet he can't stop thinking about her. This bothered me, because it seemed like there was no sexual tension in their first encounter, no intellectual stimulation, nothing telling me that there is attraction of some sort flowing.

So, the relationship and romance fell flat for me. The chemistry was lacking, too. The first kiss is nearly halfway through the book, and the one sex scene is about three-fourths into the book. That, to me, is NOT okay, not in a historical romance novel. In any adult romance novel, there needs to be some serious sexual tension for like, a fourth of the book, and then something physical needs to be happening around a third of the way in? The first sex scene shouldn't be nearly at the end! And there shouldn't be only one?! Right? There are no rules to these things, but these are things I've come to expect in adult romance novels.

The romance was lacking, the chemistry was lacking, the female protagonist was meh. The story was also very meh. It seemed aimless, and solely romance-driven. Sure, there is the problem of Maggie's play needing to be written by a certain time. But the plot seemed lackluster, especially compared to that of Forever Your Earl. There was something missing, a layer of something.

Overall, I was bored, and unimpressed. Mostly bored. Cam is awesome, but him alone is not enough for me to recommend this book to anyone.

Would I Recommend It:

My last sentence sums it up. I wouldn't recommend this one. The first book was great, but this one was not. I've read better historical romance novels, and can totally recommend you others!


1.5 stars -> rounded up to 2 stars. That might be generosity, at this point. I was very excited to read this book, before starting it! Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I *might* read the third book - a vicar and a writer of sexy stories? What an intriguing pair!

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

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Stacking the Shelves (#144)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!

So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, September 20th to Saturday, September 26th?

(all links to Goodreads are provided!)

In the mail:


And this is everything individually:

Penguin Teen tote bag, The Rose Society poster

Thank you so much, Rachel and Penguin! So sweet of her to send this amazing package! I already read The Rose Society, and loved it!

I've never had a bound manuscript before! This is pretty cool. Thank you, Random House!

This one is from Kimberley! She is the sweetest and sent cool things and an ARC - thank you, Kimberley! Such a lovely surprise!

THANK YOU, NEREYDA! I have the ARC set of the trilogy, and I wanted a complete hardcover first edition set of the trilogy too. This completes the trilogy's hardcover set!

Thank you, Berkley! New romance to read!

My sister LOVED the Ranger's Apprentice, when we were younger! So I will pass this to her. I liked the original series's first book, but things got sad at the end of the second book, so I stopped reading. She'll enjoy this new series, I'm sure!

Hannah paired me with Banished, for the Harper Winter '16 blog tour! So that is how I ended up with two of these, without knowing about them! Thank you, Hannah and Stephanie!

Thank you, Disney-Hyperion! I am super excited about this sequel.

Just the spine! I don't think the cover has been officially revealed, so I don't want to ruin any surprises that Macmillan has planned. :) Thank you, Macmillan!

To be honest, I have never heard of this book. Thank you, Roc! My sister's boyfriend might like it. :)

From NetGalley:

Auto-approval is so dangerous! I can't wait to read this book.

From Edelweiss:

Put Maye Rodale's name on it and I am there. 

BALTIMORE BOOK FESTIVAL IS THIS WEEKEND! I'll be attending on Saturday and Sunday. I'll update this post with my mail on Sunday, and do a BBF recap probably on Monday. It will be super fun, I'm sure!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Review: Mine by HelenKay Dimon

Mine by HelenKay Dimon
Book Three of the Holton Woods series
Publisher: Berkley 
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

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

Summary (from Goodreads):

She doesn’t depend on anyone for anything. He intends to make her his completely.

Natalie Udall thought her position at the CIA was secure—until protecting her team earned her an armed escort into certain danger. Natalie can’t stand the idea of being secreted away in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, especially since it means sharing close quarters with the controlling bodyguard enlisted to keep her alive.

Gabe MacIntosh joined the military to support his son, trained as a sniper and dealt with death on a regular basis. Now retired and operating a security firm, his first assignment is to protect a CIA agent on the run. She’s strong willed and difficult—and all Gabe can think about is exerting his domination and stripping her of every expectation she has.

Natalie has no intention of giving in to Gabe’s straightforward demands of dominant sex with no attachments—even though the very idea of giving up control thrills her like nothing ever has…

What I Liked:

That cover. It is super steamy looking. If you don't like the cover, then ignore it. The book is really, really great.

I so enjoyed this book! Steamy, smart, engaging, and heartwarming, this novel had it all. It's definitely on the sexy, more erotic side of romance, which I actually found myself loving. I'm typically not an erotica person (I cannot handle threesomes, voyeurism, things like that). This book is probably mild in terms of erotica, but more steamy than your average romance novel. Definitely one of the hottest romance novels I've ever read! I really enjoyed it - but not just the chemistry and romance. The story was so good too!

Natalie doesn't want a bodyguard. She is forced to leave the CIA, and she is told that she needs protection and to lie low, in case people don't want her spilling any secrets that she has from working with the CIA. Natalie is great at her job, and doesn't like that she had to leave, or that she needs a bodyguard. She and Gabe have been working on the details for quite some time, and the chemistry between them has sizzled. Now that they are actually in hiding, the chemistry explodes. Protecting Natalie is Gabe's job, and he never screws around on a job, but he has been waiting too long for this chance. Gabe is demanding in every way that turns Natalie on. But will Natalie be able to walk away when the danger is over?

Oh this book! It's not just about the sexy times, even though I probably have made it sound like it is, as well as the cover is screaming "sexy times here!", and the synopsis. But there is so much more going on! Natalie and Gabe are in a cabin in Montana, hiding from possible threats to Natalie's life. There are people that want her "silenced", since she is no longer with the CIA but know a lot of intel from working with them. And then there is all the personal problems that both Natalie and Gabe have - especially Gabe. There are a ton of heartbreaking things that are happening to him. I won't get into the specifics because that would be super spoilery, but his personal issues are pretty important, and very deep. I like how Dimon goes into tough realistic issues - not too heavy, but very well written and emotional.

This book opens with Gabe's POV. I so like Gabe! He is very direct, but in the beginning, he is very short with Natalie. He used short phrases and sentences to answer her, and was a bit curt. But he slowly loosened up, let her in, and some of his walls came down. Gabe is actually a nice guy (though he doesn't like it when she tells him that), and he is a good person. 

Natalie is a runner - she knows how it feels when a man who should care about her hurts her. She likes Gabe, and likes having sex with him, but does not want to date him or get serious or committed. But she finds herself worrying about him, getting invested in his personal life and problems. I love how headstrong and independent Natalie is, yet how comfortable she is with her desires and self. Natalie and Gabe are such a great pair because they are two fires, pushing each other, taking no crap from each other. They fight a lot, and it's so indicative of how much passion simmers between the two of them.

Ah! The chemistry is off the charts hot. I think Gabe and Natalie may have met in previous books of the series? This is book three of the series, so I may have missed out on something. We start off this book knowing that Gabe is attracted to Natalie, and that Natalie is attracted to Gabe, but both of them don't know that the other is attracted to them. So when they're holed up in a cabin in the middle of a snowy nowhere? Sparks fly and collide and explode. The two of them are so hot together! I love how every scene is different, and represents something different.

There is a subplot dealing with Gabe's youngest brother Andy. Andy is gay and used to be in love with this guy who worked with Natalie, named Eli. Eli is now with the love of his life, Wade, who hates and does not trust Andy. This subplot was interesting, though very sad for Andy, as we know he has no chance. But I like that Dimon includes this more personal view into a different character's life!

The emotional issues in this book were so incredible. The romance was swoony and beautiful. I loved seeing tough-guy Gabe metaphorically get down on his knees and bare his soul to Natalie. And the chemistry and steamy scenes and "erotica" part of the book was so, so hot. Gabe is brooding and naughty and fiercely protective, Natalie is clever and distrustful and guarded. Basically, this book was excellent on all fronts, and I am so glad that I gave it a shot. Any of HelenKay's books are so good and well-written!

What I Did Not Like:

I can't think of any dislikes, I think! I've actually read and reread some of my favorite scenes in this book so many times. It was/is that good!

Would I Recommend It:

If you're an adult romance novel lover, you will totally enjoy this book. One couple, one steamy romance, one fantastic relationship. Natalie and Gabe overcome many obstacles to be able to trust each other, care about each other, love each other. While this book is hot enough to be classified as erotica, it has such a great story, with wonderful and heartbreaking emotional twists (some of which have nothing to do with the couple's relationship). And it's HelenKay, so you know the ending will be satisfying (and it was)!


4.5 stars. I'm rounding down, though I have no good reason. This book was excellent, scorching hot, and easily an adult romance novel that I see myself rereading over and over.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Blog Tour and Giveaway: First & Then by Emma Mills - Favorite Male Character

Hey lovelies! Welcome to the blog tour for First & Then by Emma Mills! As you may know, I absolutely adored this book! Today, I'm featuring Emma Mills herself, who has prepared for us her top ten swooniest YA protagonists! Check out the post, and enter the giveaway for a copy of First & Then!

Emma's Top Ten Swoonist YA Protagonists!

- Matthew—The Next Together, Lauren James
In Lauren James’s fantastic debut, you get not ONE adorable, smart, loyal, funny Matthew but FOUR different incarnations of adorable, smart, loyal, funny Matthew. 

- Levi – Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell
I love Levi. Love love love love love love.

- Seb – The Year of Secret Assignments, Jaclyn Moriarty
I’m wild about epistolary novels, and I love this cutie at the other end of Lydia’s correspondence in The Year of Secret Assignments.

- Cedric Diggory – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
I know Cedric Diggory is not technically a “protagonist” of the HP world, but my teenage heart still flutters for him and his Hufflepuff kindness.  

- Etienne St. Clair – Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins
I appreciate that this handsome and charming French/American/Englishman is not without his own shortcomings—it humanizes him, and that, to me, adds to the appeal. 

- Kaz Brekker – Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo
Undeniably, Kaz has been through some stuff. Major Stuff. Really Substantial Stuff. But he is smart, quick, ruthless, relentless—a diabolical fave. 

- Augustus Waters – The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
Augustus seems like a typical too-good-to-be-true, charming YA love interest, but really he’s wonderfully complex, and the development and change he undergoes throughout the novel are really something. 

- Peeta – The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins


- Richard Gansey – The Raven Cycle, Maggie Stiefvater 


- Ezra Lynley—First & Then, Emma Mills
Can I throw in my own guy? I’m wild about seemingly-cold-but-actually-super-awkward Mr. Darcy types. 

Alyssa's Top Ten Swooniest YA Protagonists!

- Brigan -- Fire, Kristin Cashore

Brigan is my favorite YA male ever. Everything about him appeals to me. If you haven't read this book, read it just to meet Brigan!

- Titus -- The Elemental series, Sherry Thomas

Prince, Master of the Domain, always has a plan B, C, all the way through Z, need I say more?

- North -- Brightly Woven, Alexandra Bracken

Ahh, North. The perfect combination of intelligent, slightly awkwardly adorable, protective and fierce. 

- Jackson -- The Game series, Eve Silver

Jackson is one of those brooding jerk types that aren't actually jerks. He's a good guy!

- Khalid -- The Wrath and the Dawn, Renee Ahdieh

The illustrious King of Kings. Tortured and haunted by his wrongdoings, but someone who deserves so much better. He's one of my favorite male protagonists.

- Raif -- Exquisite Captive, Heather Demetrios

Raif is such a fun guy! He's a tough guy, but he's easy to swoon over. *fans self*

- Melek -- Of Metal and Wishes, Sarah Fine

Melek is a hard-working, quiet guy. He's also very intelligent and selfless. His role in Of Dreams and Rust is perfect!

- Gharain -- Lark Rising, Sandra Waugh

Gharain is a Guardian, a protector, but he never tries to hold Lark back. He's a quiet, clever, fierce warrior who would do anything for his lady.

- Duval -- Grave Mercy, Robin LaFevers

Gavriel Duval. Quick-minded, witty, clever, scheming, intelligent, loyal, mistrusting. This is one guy you don't want to mess with, on any fronts.

- Sol -- The Dark Light, Sara Walsh

This book is so under-appreciated! Sol is one of my favorites. He's a quiet big guy, and a prince (yaasss, men of power). He's another protector type, and he butts heads with Mia a lot, but they are the perfect couple!

About First & Then:

First & Then by Emma Mills
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: October 13, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

The Giveaway: 

Win a copy of First & Then! USA only (apologies, non-USA lovelies). 

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