Monday, April 27, 2015

I Want the Big, Bad Wolf

"A woman in love must follow her heart."
--Elizabeth Moss, Wolf Bride

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction, Romance, Erotica
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablance
Pages: 352
Publication Date: May 5th, 2015
Source: eARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Previous Books in Series: First book in companion series
Goodreads Description

England, 1536. Lord Wolf, hardened soldier and expert lover, has come to King Henry VIII's court to claim his new bride: a girl who has intrigued him since he first saw her riding across the Yorkshire moors. Eloise Tyrell, now lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne Boleyn, has other ideas. She has no desire to submit to a man she barely knows and who - though she is loath to admit it - frightens her not a little. Then comes that first kiss. It awakens in both a fierce desire that bares them to the soul. But as the court erupts into scandal around the ill-fated Queen, Eloise sees first-hand what happens when powerful men tire of their wives. Dare she surrender her body and her heart?
The Setting
Far be it from me to ever complain about a book set in the court of Henry VIII. And it's a sexytimes book?! Sign. Me. Up. I was SO looking forward to reading this and it did not disappoint. This book is about Eloise who is a lady in waiting to Anne Boleyn (YEEEEES!! Hello, friend! Nice to see you!) and who is arranged to be married to Lord Wolf, a neighbor from her youth. Things don't start off innocently and the plot thereafter is a tete a tete between the two...and it is delicious. But I'll get there. I loved reading about court life including my girl, Anne and her disgusting excuse for a husband Henry. I loved reading the Northern Yorkshire setting and making a home there. But court life plays a prominent role and as you would guess, it is dangerous. No spoilers here but I will say I both loved and hated this aspect because it brought on the feels. The lying, the deception that inevitably comes with court life is all present...and all scandalous. Read if you want more details.

The Characters
Eloise and Lord Wolf are two highly likable...and unlikable characters. Loved both aspects of this. Eloise has never been meek or quiet or what would be deemed "acceptable" for a lady. She is outspoken and takes zero shit and only plays submissive to later on get what she wants. Love this girl. Lord Wolf is a war torn solider who has seen more than his share of battle. He walks with a limp (swoon!!) and his manner of speaking is rough to say the least. I loved his gruff manner and his awkward attempts at conversation. I find this extremely endearing. Eloise doesn't trust love. She doesn't believe Wolf can love her and she him. That is the main source of our conflict. Their inability to say what they're really feeling. Le sigh.

The Romance
These two are like fire. One is a spark and the other is oxygen because hot damn these two are an inferno. Their intimate moments are off the charts hot. I was fanning myself and sweating. And it's not instant sex, the build up of tension, it's all so tight and tense. Their first encounter is, it is just so much sexual tension and when it out. It's worth the wait.

The Girl Power
Eloise and her sister Susannah are not the meek and submissive women of this time. I loved that the author highlighted two strong women who refused to bend their will to the men in their lives just because it is what is expected and accepted. They fight against the restraints of the time and keep their fire and mind and make their voices heard. And the men that love them...well that makes me love them more, too.

The Communication
The lack of communication and constant misinterpretation was the only thing that grated on me. I understand this is a common thread in a lot of these historical romances so I'll let it slide and mostly ignore it. And there is just one scene that Eloise, to me, acts opposite of the strong woman we come to know. But on the other hand, I liked seeing an otherwise very strong woman make a mistake in regards to love.
Backstage Pass
If you love the Tudor court setting, HOT scenes, and a hate to love relationship...this book's for you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Battle for True Love

"But I lived in that moment--my life became beautiful again for those few seconds when our hands grazed."
--Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Thorns and Roses

Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 432
Publication Date: May 5th, 2015
Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Previous Books in Series: First in Series
Goodreads Description

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Well, well, well. My format for my reviews has never been so relevant...yeah, but I have no actual Beast critiques because this book...THIS BOOK Y'ALL...this book is everything you would expect from the brilliance that is Sarah J Maas and then some. Be prepared for a "review" steeped in flailing and incoherent thoughts as I try to process the first installment of yet another series that will have your heart defying the laws of science because it will be pounding in your chest, swelling in your throat, and dropping to your've been warned.

Feyre is our heroine and we meet her while hunting in the woods because she is the sole hunter and gatherer for her family after their fall from wealth. Faeries are elusive creatures that once ruled the land but are now confined...kind of...north of the wall. Humans and faeries do not mix. At all. Feeling of hatred and fear run deep within the human race which is why Feyre, when facing down a massive wolf she thinks maybe could be but probably isn't a faery, shoots to kill. This sole action is the catalyst of our entire story and propels Feyre into the world of the Fae, and most importantly, into the world of Tamlin.

This is a Beauty and the Beast inspired story and it makes me grin like an idiot just thinking about how Maas weaves her own version of this timeless tale. I mean. OBVIOUSLY look around my blog to know how much I LOVE Beauty and the Beast. It like, isn't even a question that this story resonates with me on a deeply personal and base level. The way this story unfolds so closely yet so uniquely to the original story is one of pure genius and I applaud Maas in so many ways because she took my all-time favorite story and not only gently reminded me of it's foundation, but gave me something completely new to love. There are absolutely no words to describe the deep love I felt for this story and it's parallels to BatB.

After killing the wolf in the forest, Feyre is forced to pay her life debt to a faery who claims the slain as his friend. From there, we are taken to his manor...and from there we have our story. Feyre is surrounded by Tamlin and Lucien, two high Fae, who she has no reason to trust and every reason to hate. But they just make it so hard. Lucien is sarcastic, moody, and thinks Feyre is a useless waste of space. Tamlin is awkward, quiet, and completely unreadable in his intentions. Feyre proceeds with caution but the walls come down slowly and the ice she has surrounded herself with for survival slowly begins to melt. The relationship between Feyre and Tamlin is hard-won and tenuous and fraught with sexual tension of the best kind and...yeah...that tension is there for a reason, that's all I shall say about that. All the feels guys...ALL THE FEELS. I am convinced that Sarah J Maas sits around in her free time plotting just how kickass she can make her next female character. Celaena is the epitome of badass and Feyre easily joins the ranks of this elite female club. And as I discussed with Alexa, I almost think she reigns Queen of this club. Why? Because she doesn't ask to be a hero. No plot spoilers but I will say that she was not trained to be a warrior. She has no skill beyond that which she taught herself in order to survive. She is a hero in her own right, her own convictions, driven by the love she feels for those around her. She is inspiration incarnate. She does not diminish in the face of adversity nor does she cower at those who could easily rip her to shreds. She stands tall and she is a force to be reckoned with. I really cannot say more except you will fall in love with her character and everything that she stands for.

The history of Prythian and the course of what occurs in our story is epic and haunting and steeped in death and darkness. The war that occurred centuries ago between the Fae and the humans is still an open wound. Hatred is present on both sides and to see it represented in our characters felt raw and honest. The journeys our characters go through, both seen and unseen, is beautiful. There is way more to this but to tell you would be to give away SO MUCH and I just cannot do that. Just know...JUST KNOW that so many emotions and judgements and prejudices are called into questions on so many different fronts and it's just...poignant and epic and so many feels. It is just so good. SO good, you guys. (Do we now see what I mean about flails and incoherent thoughts?...I warned you.)

Gah, ok what else?...Well, the writing never ceases to amaze me in its utter brilliance to creep into my heart, grab the tendrils, and yank...hard. I was tearing up at multiple points because the emotion is so raw. The relationship between Feyre and her sisters is complex and deeply layered. There is so much more to these women than what meets the eye. Their strength may not always be obvious but the way it is shown broke my heart to pieces. There are so many subtle intricacies weaved into this story that when all the pieces fit together at the end it is a huge eye-opening realization. The complexities fit perfectly and it is just a feast of amazingness at the end...

...the it and find out. Yes, yes I did just do that. Pre-order this bad boy and you'll see exactly what I mean.

There is nothing that didn't work for me in this book so I'll just use this Tamlin section, oh I'm sorry, Beast section to state once more how much I love Tamlin...did you know? Have we gotten to that part of the flailing? Because I FLAIL for Tamlin...and Lucien...and maaaaaybe one more who I"m not quite sure what to think of yet but cannot help swooning juuuust a finch for...all hail Sarah J Maas and her army of Fae men...Drool McDrool.

If you love epic fantasy, beautiful words, amazing plots, and characters that kick major ass...this one is for you..this book is for everyone with a's just that good.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Just Be Part II

If you read my review yesterday you can see how much I loved Girl Before a Mirror. This book inspired me. This book made me feel proud to be a woman with confidence and my own mind and my own interests that I don't have to defend to anyone else. While I was reading, I knew I wanted to write an additional post of some kind paying homage to the beauty that is this book and all the glorious female empowerment it brings. It took me a little time but I not only wanted to praise this book but include my fantastic female friends who read the book before me and pushed me to read it. I don't know if you've ever been on the receiving end of book pushing via Cass but it's not a place you want to be if you don't have the book ready.
Source: Pinterest
So what did I come up with? I was thinking a lot about female empowerment, self-worth, confidence, and the like and I did a lot of self-reflection. This thinking brought to the forefront of my mind all the women who helped shape who I am today and all helped me know my self-worth. After thinking about the women who I look up to and helped give me confidence 3 prominent women came to mind and they all happened to fit in their own unique category--Real Life, Historical, and Fiction. From there, I emailed my fabulous female friends who all gave me their answers and ta-da! This post was born. The question I posed to myself and them was this...

What women (in real life, in history and/or in fiction) have inspired you to JUST BE who you are?

For me? My real life inspiration is my Mom. I've looked up to my Mom my whole life and wanted to be just like her when I grew up. She is kind, a saint among mere mortals, funny when she's not trying to be, compassionate, smart, and fierce. My mother is Sicilian and while she is the most selfless and thoughtful person I have ever met, you mess with one of her cubs and you better watch your ass. My Mom was always the person who defended, stuck up for me, and dried my tears when I came home crying from school...which was a lot. While the interactions with my peers throughout my entire adolescence were made to make me feel worthless, my Mom never let me feel that way. I have never settled, I have never not worked for what I wanted, I have never not felt that I don't deserve the good things I have been blessed with. My Mom taught me that feminism is about choice. Whatever that choice may be. Stay at home mom, full-time career, some, all, or none of it in between, true feminism is allowing and respecting a woman's choice in how she decides to live her life. My Mom is an inspiration and if I'm half the wife and mother and person she is...then I'll consider myself lucky.

In history, this will come as no secret that Anne Boleyn is my homegirl. She was the creator of playing hard to get and making a man chase you. HELLO, DUH! It took me longer than I'd like to admit to realize this but it is so true. She was clever, outspoken, opinionated, cunning, and fiercely intelligent in a world where women were meant to be seen and not heard. She broke the mold of what was expected of females and had no shame in using her feminine charms, either. While history doesn't paint her in the best light and her end was tragic, she is still an inspiration to me and always will be.

I went back and forth with my fictional choice but in the end I knew the without a doubt that one fictional character in particular changed the way I thought about myself. Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead was the first female character I read that like her curvy body. Let me tell you how I was smacked with all kinds of shock. Rose is not thin or tiny or small, all euphemisms for skinny. She is fit and active and has breasts and hips and an ass and she loved it! She eats donuts because she wants to and doesn't feel bad about it. This was the first time, in our model-driven anorexic society, that I felt good about have a curvy figure. Today, I love my body, imperfections and all, and wouldn't change it. It took me 25 years to love what I look like and accept that this is the body God gave me and work it is what I do. Richelle Mead and Rose Hathaway give such a positive portrayal of a young woman who loves her body that I couldn't help but be affected by it. And to them I say, thank you.
Source:Glam Slam Blog
Hannah from So Obsessed With
In Real Life? Although there are a number of women who have inspired me throughout my life, my mama has definitely been the biggest influence on the person I am today. Some of my favorite things about myself come from her, and some of the qualities I most wish I had are ones I’ve watched her model all my life! She’s smart, selfless, and totally sassy. She doesn't just inspire me to be who I am– she’s also the kind of person I wantto be!

In History? Jane Austen. I could write you an essay on all the reasons I admire her and am inspired by her! I love her early passion for writing – and that she continued to pursue it for the rest of her life. I adore her clever mind and sharp tongue because it’s what makes her books such a delightful experience. And I can’t help but love the way she knew her own mind and defied convention. Plus, she’s basically taken over the world.

In Fiction? For this answer, I had to go back to the very beginning: Anne Shirley. I don’t think there’s another fictional character that has impacted me the way she did (and still does!). I love that she is an optimist, a dreamer and always sees the good in people. Growing up, she was a reminder for me that being different wasn’t a bad thing. She was fully herself – but she also accepted others just as they were. And I’ve always been inspired by her because of it!
Source: Pinterest
Ellice from Paper Riot
Real Life: My mom. This choice required no thought whatsoever. My mom is an amazing woman. She's so smart, and there's absolutely nothing she can't do when she sets her mind to it. She taught me since Day One what it means to be a strong, independent woman, and she's always encouraging me to follow my dreams. I wouldn't be even half the person I am today without her constant source of inspiration and motivation. Basically, if I'm Rory, then she's my Lorelei.

History: I had a hard time deciding on who to choose for my historical inspiration. I wanted to pick a lady from history who I've actually admired and who I really do think about periodically as a source of inspiration. And though this isn't very far back in history, and may sound crazy, I'm going to say Lucille Ball. Truthfully, I know very little about her personal life, but in terms of her professional life, she was a super successful lady when women were expected to be little more than housewives. I've watched her in I Love Lucy since I was a little bitty girl, and I still start every morning with a couple of episodes of her show. I ADORE HER because even though she has that obnoxious controlling Ricky Ricardo for a husband, she always, ALWAYS does it her way in the end (even if her idea is totally crazy, which it usually is!). I guess it's more her role in her show that I admire, but there's no doubt about it that Lucille Ball was a very successful female in a man's world.

Fiction: Eeep. I hope you didn't want us to choose only ONE fictional lady because if so I'm totally breaking the rules! Haha.
>>Honestly, Liza Palmer's leading ladies are truly the most inspirational fictional women I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Obviously Anna & Sasha from Girl Before a Mirror, but also Queenie & Merry Carole from Nowhere But Home, and then there's Maggie from Conversations with the Fat Girl. They are all examples of what it means to be your own person, independent and intelligent, and yet still maintain healthy relationships with others.
>>One of my other recent favorite fictional females is Jess from One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. She is AMAZING, raising her own daughter plus her ex-husband's son on a very small income. I admire her determination and dedication so much. To hell with societal constraints, Jess just wants what is best for her children, and by God you know she will accomplish it!
>>Then there's Rosetta from I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe who fought in the Civil War disguised as a man so she could be near her husband. What's even more amazing? Rosetta was based on a REAL PERSON.
>>Skeeter from The Help by Kathryn Stockett is another amazing female from historical fiction. She broke quite a few "laws" and lost a lot of friends by mingling with black maids and telling the truth about the horrors that they faced as black women in the South. She never really batted an eye though--she was determined to do the right thing despite the repercussions that she faced.
That's some powerful stuff, y'all! These fictional women took on the world and kicked its butt! haha. These are just a few of the ones who have been a huge source of inspiration for me to "just be" myself, but their stories packed a hard punch and will certainly stay with me for a very long time!
Source: Blog CDN
Alexa from Alexa Loves Books
When I think of the fictional ladies who inspire me, I find myself drawn towards those gals who were on the cusp of growing up in their stories. Witnessing the way they change from start to finish of their tale really left a strong impression on me, and bolstered my courage to stay steady adrift a sea of shifting circumstances in my real life.
--Jo March from Little Women – Jo is, quite simply, a firecracker. She’s clever and strong-willed, determined to pursue a path that’s all her own. I admired her tenacity, her loyalty to her mother and her sisters, and her love for literature and writing.
--Sara Crewe from A Little Princess – I draw constant inspiration from how Sara manages to stay hopeful and optimistic, even when her world comes crashing down around her. Together with her sense of decency and vivid imagination, she is the kind of person I want to be like.
--Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series – It’s not just her brains that I admire, but it’s her fortitude and her loyalty. She always has her heart in the right place, and constantly strives to do her best by the people she loves. In spite of the odds stacked against her, she constantly manages to triumph and sets a shining example of the fact that you can be who you are and succeed.

In real life, there are really only two ladies I can think of who are excellent examples of allowing themselves the freedom to just be who they really are.
--My grandmother, Aida – Oh, my grandmother is the embodiment of the kind of woman I want to be someday. She’s strong, and she’s smart, and she’s also very wise. The way she handles herself, the way she is confident in her values and the things she likes, it sets a great precedent.
--Taylor Swift – If there’s one young woman I don’t know personally but look to constantly for inspiration, it’s Ms. Swift. She owns her sense of self, whether it comes to her fashion choices or her hobby preferences, and I admire that. I also love that she’s such a positive spirit, and one who tirelessly supports her friends and family, and also makes time for her supporters.

I really thought I would find myself stumped by the historical aspect of this question, but I surprised myself when one name came to mind immediately. Even though what I know of her is largely influenced by the Disney-fied version of her tale, I definitely think it’s worth mentioning her:
--Pocahontas – What I love most about her story is how she made an effort to embrace a people different from her own, seemingly without fear or judgment. While I’m sure it must have been terrifying for her to defy what she’d known and what was familiar, she did it anyway. Her biggest impact is the courage to stand up for what she felt was right, at least to me. I love that.
Source: Google Image
Cass from The Casserole
My biggest inspiration from my life is without a shadow of a doubt my mother. That may seem cliche or typical, but it could not be more true. My mom raised me and my brother basically by herself, and she showed me what it is to be independent. Not only did she show me independence but she also showed me how to believe in myself. Years after she started teaching me about life, I realized she is the smartest woman I know, and I am so lucky to have her as a kickass role model!

In fiction, I admire Rosetta from I Shall Be Near to You. This woman is the definition of fierce. She is stubborn and driven and those are two qualities i immensely respect when they are used for the greater good. Rosetta is someone I look up to, and have the upmost respect for. This woman can do ANYTHING and she never let anything stop her. Not a man, not a war, nothing. Now tell me what other female can top THAT?!

Now just in case you still need a little inspiration, in case that wasn't enough, I have to include Emma Watson's speech at the UN this past year. I've watched it no less than half a dozen times and I love it. It is strong, empowering, and beauitful.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Just Be

"Broken people make the best heroes."
--Liza Palmer, Girl Before a Mirror

Genre: Adult Contemporary
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 384
Publication Date: January 27th, 2015
Source: Won from Goodreads
Previous Books by this Author: Nowhere But Home
Goodreads Description

The author of Conversations with a Fat Girl—optioned for HBO—returns with the hilarious and heartfelt story of a woman who must learn how to be the heroine of her own life-a journey that will teach her priceless lessons about love, friendship, family, work, and her own heart

An account executive in a Mad Men world, Anna Wyatt is at a crossroads. Recently divorced, she’s done a lot of emotional housecleaning, including a self-imposed dating sabbatical. But now that she’s turned forty, she’s struggling to figure out what her life needs. Brainstorming to win over an important new client, she discovers a self-help book—Be the Heroine, Find Your Hero—that offers her unexpected insights and leads her to a most unlikely place: a romance writers’ conference. If she can sign the Romance Cover Model of the Year Pageant winner for her campaign—and meet the author who has inspired her to take control of her life—she’ll win the account.

For Anna, taking control means taking chances, including getting to know Sasha, her pretty young colleague on the project, and indulging in a steamy elevator ride with Lincoln Mallory, a dashing financial consultant she meets in the hotel. When the conference ends, Anna and Lincoln must decide if their intense connection is strong enough to survive outside the romantic fantasy they’ve created. Yet Lincoln is only one of Anna’s dilemmas. Now that her campaign is off the ground, others in the office want to steal her success, and her alcoholic brother, Ferdie, is spiraling out of control.

To have the life she wants-to be happy without guilt, to be accepted for herself, to love and to be loved, to just be—she has to put herself first, accept her imperfections, embrace her passions, and finally be the heroine of her own story.

Wow...this is going to be a review of flails and girl power and everything in between. I had read and loved Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer last year and was thoroughly looking forward to Girl Before a Mirror ESPECIALLY after receving a frantic text from Cass immediately after she finished it telling me I have to read this, she'll send it to me, whatever it takes to read. YAY! Well, then I won it on Goodreads so Cass sent it along to another person. ANYWAYS my point with this is becasue I had my own copy, I sat on it. I don't know why. But I waited to read it until the mood struck me, I'm a mood reader and would hate for a book to suffer just because I'm not in the mood for it, ya know. What my long winded pre-reading explanation is telling you is this...I could kick myself in the face repeatedly for waiting to read this book. You...yeah, YOU go read this book! If you have a vagina, go BUY the book, you'll want a copy for your library and for your mom, aunt, sister, niece, daughter, friend, co-worker to read. Spead the love.

Why do I want to kick myself in the face? Because it was that good. THAT amazing. THAT inspiring. I don't use the word inspiring often because when I say it I mean it. Girl Before a Mirror is about Anna, a 40 year old woman commited to landing an ad campaign that allows her to pitch to the big leagues in NYC at Quincy Pharmaceuticals, more specifically Lumineux shower gel. I hope I'm saying that right because I'm a nurse y'all, I don't work in business so this was a bit of a learning curve for me. Anyways, she is determined to make her name known and I loved this about her. While in some aspects of her life Anna was unsure and lacked confidence, when it came to elbowing her way into Lumineux shower gel, she took the reins even if she was terrified while doing so.

Anna's character is someone who a lot of women, if not all, can relate to on some level. She didn't thrive in social settings, second guesses herself in a lot of her decisions, and has a constant feeling of needing fulfillment. Her journey into self-acceptance of all the dents and dark places in her personality is beautiful. Sasha is a new employee, an artist, working with Anna on the campaign. Sasha. is. my. favorite. Beautiful, smart, talented, and zero clue how to handle men. I loved this about her and she is a character I really related to. What I loved most about her was hearing her trials and tribulations with men and Anna comments, 'After everything she's been through with men...she she still believes in love.' That is powerful and so beautiful that she constantly rises up from the ashes of broken hearts and hurt feelings to still believe in the beauty and purity of love. Sasha is my spirit animal. I'm kind of in love with her.

The reason Sasha continues to be such a romantic brings us to our setting. She is an avid reader and lover of romance novels so when Anna finds 'Be Your Own Heroine, Find Your Hero' in her bag, it leads them to the Romance Convention in Phoenix, Arizona. A weekend long event of romance authors, panels, and a Mr RomanceCon pagent for the cover models...hello! The setting and situations Anna and Sasha face are hilarious and really help us know who our charcters are. It is at Anna's hotel that she meets Lincoln Mallory who she shares a connection...and torrid affair with. Their connection is deep and intense and Lincoln Mallory is a hero to swoon for. Wowza. They find themselves being at ease with one another and Anna feels like she is finally letting herself 'just be' who she is. She has always constantly worried and had to put on an act in fear people wouldn't love her for who she really is and Lincoln doens't make her feel that way. And I won't say more about that, you'll just have to read. Just know, the romance is awesome but that's not what stuck out to me.

What stuck out to me was the absolute beauty that is all the female empowerment going on. I love that. That is definitely a ME thing. Women realizing they are worth something, they are beautiful just the way they are, they are worthy of love and adoration is something I am all about. There are way too many ways and too much media influence on how many ways women are made to feel bad about themselves. Personally, it took me way too long to like myself. TO LIKE MYSELF. Why in the fuck are women hardwired to feel inadequate in this world? Why is it so difficult to LIKE ourselves. We are the only person who we can't get away from so why can't we even enjoy our own company? I can honestly say, it wasn't until I was 25 that I really accepted who I was, who I wasn't, who I was never going to be, and loving myself even more. It is a journey I know we have all struggled with and I am not alone in saying that it is a sad, sad world we live in where beautiful, smart, intelligent women have a means to feel bad about themselves.

This book is about tearing down that negativity and belief that we have to always be trying to be the perfect everything. We don't. We can 'Just Be' who we are, flaws and all, cellulite and muscles, wrinkles and imperfections. The way Liza Palmer takes this intricate topic and weaves it into the storyline is flawless. Her writing feels effortless and smooth and bobs and weaves it's way into your heart with her poignant words and honest feelings. The way Anna learns to beileve more in herself and take what she deserves is all kinds of badass and I was cheering for her the whole way. I loved reading how their words inspired so many women and it left me with such a happy feeling while I was reading and for quite a while after.

Ok, so this was my attempt at a review. I'm quite sure you've gained barely anything from the plot and me being a spazz about the characters and the message was all over the place BUT the feels are there. I loved this book. This should be on everybody's short list to read, especially if you are a woman. This is a book made for book clubs and discussion and thought-provoking questions.

Endgame? Read the book.

PS--I should also point out that this book got me excited to read ALL THE ROMANCE NOVELS EVER! HOW I made it through my whole life without reading a historical romance and contemporary romance novel is BEYOND me! Thanks to Alexa for all her amazing recs. Here are a few pics of my current obsession....*The only sad part is I don't have pictures of The Secret or Ransom by Julie Garwood as those are my first ever I read and still my favorites!!

If you love real characters, female empowerment, and seamless writing...this book's for you.

And don't forget to check back tomorrow when I talk to some of MY favorite females in a special tribute to this book's message :)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Cop and the Criminal// Asa Blog Tour

"Our marks defined us, separated us, and made us the men we were today...
We were marked and had been marked in unforgettable and forever ways.
W were all better men for it.
Marked men.
Non of us would have it any other way."
--Jay Crownover, Asa
Genre: NA Contemporary
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 416
Publication Date: April 21st, 2015
Source: eARC provided by pubsliher in exchange for an honest review
Previous Books in Series: Rule & Jet & Rome & Nash & Rowdy
Goodreads Description

Jay Crownover’s New York Times and USA Today bestselling Marked Men series continues with the much anticipated story of southern charmer and certified criminal Asa Cross.

Starting over in Denver with a whole new circle of friends and family, Asa Cross struggles with being the man he knows everyone wants him to be and the man he knows he really is. A leopard doesn’t it change its spots and Asa has always been a predator. He doesn’t want to hurt those who love and rely on him, especially one luscious arresting cop who suddenly seems to be interested in him for far more than his penchant for breaking the law. But letting go of old habits is hard, and it’s easy to hit bottom when it’s the place you know best.

Royal Hastings is quickly learning what the bottom looks like after a tragic situation at work threatens not only her career but her partner’s life. As a woman who has only ever had a few real friends she’s trying to muddle through her confusion and devastation all alone. Except she can’t stop thinking about the sexy southern bartender she locked up. Crushing on Asa is the last thing she needs but his allure is too strong to resist. His long criminal record can only hurt her already shaky career and chasing after a guy who has no respect for the law or himself can only end in heartbreak.

A longtime criminal and a cop together just seems so wrong . . . but for Asa and Royal, being wrong together is the only right choice to make.
Hey y'all! Welcome to my stop on the Asa Blog Tour!! Eep! I am SO excited to share my review with you AND share an exclusive excerpt of the amazing Asa and Royal, coming to you April 21st AND a giveaway! But FIRST, my thoughts on this amazing book and phenomenal conclusion to what is...The Marked Men.

The Story
As you all know, the Marked Men are a big part of my blog here. Whenver somebody talks about a book boyfriend, a character we can relate to, a story that feels like a chapter of our own life, I get brought back to this series. There is something in every book I can connect to, some more than others, and with each book there is something unique and special about the people's story they are telling. Asa is no different. Asa...*sigh*...the unknown, the variable, the criminal brother of Ayden nobody wanted to think about has become a full fledged member on this island of misfit toys. I didn't think after reading Jet that Asa would find a place in my heart but alas, he did. So let's get down to it.

After cheating death a few years ago, Asa is a bad guy trying to live on the straight and narrow. He finally got his sister back after almost losing her and have since been actively trying to turn his life around and live life according to the rules. His biggest enemy is himself because he never gives himself the beneit of the doubt that he has changed and is better than his past. Royal is a cop who is suffering from guilt after her best friend and partner, Dom, gets shot. She is struggling to justify her career and careening down a path of self-destruction that Asa tries to cushion as she falls. Royal has also been trying to seduce Asa since she met him, he resists thinking she is too good for him. From there, they both try and decide how to make what sparks they know they have between them work in real life.

I say this in a good way and that is I like how the story and conflict unfolds. Again, Crownover surpises me in the best way how she turns what could be a tired trope into something incredibly unique and real. The struggle wasn't in just getting together for these two, but staying together. Their issues were real, their pasts unchangeable, and their futures up in the air. I liked how they pushed each other to accept things they previously may not have and neither compromises their morals to do so. And while compromises do occur...they are not without a price. The shit Asa and Royal have to deal with is not vanilla but seeing them struggle through it is all part of the beauty.

The Independence
While this is a trait of all the characters, I continue to love how Crownover shows us the individual people in the relationship rather than just their relationship with each other. We get girl time, work time, alone time, bro time, group time. We see it all. I especially love how much we get to see Royal in her job and how much she loves what she does and how good at her job she is. I love seeing this side of her and on the flip side, I loved seeing Asa be on his own and explain how he got to where he was and how he struggled with getting to the good place he's at. We know and learn and love them as individuals as well as counterparts in a relationship.

The Bromance
Rome and Asa...that's all I have to say.

The Rest of the Gang
I mean, how can I not love any and every glimpse into the happily ever afters of our previous characters. I loved every glimpse I got and seeing them all transform into domestic bliss makes me want to do a happy dance...*does massive happy dance*.
The End
It was a very bittersweet experience reading the final book of the Marked Men series. I have come to know and love these characters like family and there are very few series or books I will say that about and have me thinking about them long after the final page is turned. However, they all had their say, they all got their story, and I know we'll be seeing glimpses of them in the Saints of Denver Series. I'm sad, more than I can say, to see these characters go but in the end...all is well.
Backstage Pass
If you love complex characters, ink, real stories, real love, and real good books...this one's for you

And HERE is an excerpt from Asa...ENJOY!

She puffed out a breath and her bangs fluttered over her winged brows. “He’s a survivor for sure, but there is a difference between merely getting by and living the life you’re supposed to live. I had no idea how love was supposed to look or feel until I met Jet. I wasn’t living a full life until he gave me the strength to let go of everything else."

Her eyes flared hot, gold just like Asa’s did when he was excited about something. I was a tiny bit jealous that just saying her man’s name had that effect on her.

“I want Asa to do more than survive, Royal. I want him to finally be happy for once in his life. I want him to do more than just get by. I want him to have something that is his and his alone that he doesn’t ever feel like he has to fight for.”

I gulped a little bit as emotion started to clog my throat. I set my almost empty beer down on the table in front of me and twisted my fingers together. “He has all of that within his grasp, but his hands are too busy holding on to the past and reaching for the future to grab on to it.”

She opened her mouth and then snapped it closed as she leaned back in her chair. She crossed her arms over her chest, covering up the Valkyrie straddling a flaming guitar and the word enmity as she did so. The shirt with the ripped-off sleeves that showed the sides of her black bra seemed out of place with her pointy red cowboy boots, but it was Ayden, so she rocked it and looked perfect doing so.

She shook her dark head. “I know he is. I was hoping that since he can’t stop staring at you, and keeps looking at me like he wants to drop-kick me across the bar, maybe you had convinced him to let some of that go. We can’t go back in time and we can’t predict the future. He’s living in suspended animation.”

I shifted again as the jukebox switched to an old Christina Aguilera song, which had several middle-aged ladies climbing up from the table they were sharing and doing some serious booty shaking. It made me grin even though the topic of conversation wasn’t exactly cheerful.

“Every once in a while he puts it all away, and every now and again I feel like he’s reaching for a lifeline to stop himself from sinking. It gives me enough hope that I’m willing to stick around and see how it all plays out.”

She ran her finger around the rim of her shot glass and licked the salt off. “What are you going to do if you ever have to lock him up again? He’s a trouble magnet. Even when he’s trying to keep his nose clean.”

I sighed and shoved my hands through the front of my hair. “I keep telling myself I’ll cross that bridge if I ever come to it.” I leaned closer to her when the dancing women moved a little closer and their laughter got loud enough that I had to talk over it. “Did you know he was willing to do time, to sit in jail for a crime he didn’t even commit because he’s so twisted up on the inside about everything that happened before? How can someone even function with that kind of guilt filling them up?”

My voice caught and I let out a shuddering breath. I started a little when Ayden’s hand reached out and landed on top of the fists I hadn’t even been aware I was making. I mean I knew about guilt and the way it could affect a person’s thinking. My own guilt had kept me away from Dom when he needed me most, but I let it go when I realized it was poisoning everything in my life. I would always feel bad for what happened that night in the alley and I would never get over seeing Dom fall, but it couldn’t be the only moment that defined my life or my career. I needed Asa to realize everything he was missing by refusing to let go.

AND don't forget to enter the giveaway!
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Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Mathematical Probability of Finding Infinity

"Maybe I'll stop looking for real, now that I've found Infinity."
--Amy Harmon, Infinity + One

Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: 327
Publication Date: June 8th, 2014
Source: Bought
Previous Books in Series: Standalone
Previous Books by this Author: Making FacesThe Law of Moses
Goodreads Description

When two unlikely allies become two unwitting outlaws, will two unforgettable lovers defy unbeatable odds?

Bonnie Rae Shelby is a superstar. She’s rich. She’s beautiful. She’s impossibly famous. And Bonnie Rae Shelby wants to die.

Finn Clyde is a nobody. He’s broken. He’s brilliant. He’s impossibly cynical. And all he wants is a chance at life.

One girl. One boy. An act of compassion. A bizarre set of circumstances. And a choice – turn your head and walk away, or reach out your hand and risk it all?

With that choice, the clock starts ticking on a man with a past and a girl who can’t face the future, counting down the seconds in an adventure riddled with heartbreak and humor, misunderstanding and revelation. With the world against them, two very different people take a journey that will not only change their lives, but may cost them their lives as well.

Infinity + One is a tale of shooting stars and fame and fortune, of gilded cages and iron bars, of finding a friend behind a stranger’s face, and discovering love in the oddest of places.

I am having a love affair and it is with Amy Harmon. I have read three of her books now and all of them make me feel. SO many feels! I had the opportunity to make the horrible mistake of reading not one but TWO of her books while traveling and while on airplanes. My seatmates looked quite concerned by the crazy American crying in her seat. Le sigh.

Infinity + One is one of those books that has a little bit of everything. It has humor—This is probably it’s biggest component, I was laughing at the banter SO MUCH. So picture that. Laughing out loud to myself followed by crying. I bet I looked so totally emotionally stable to the strangers around me. It has sorrow—the book opens with a young woman contemplating suicide only to be saved by a strange young man. It has complexity—the way the plot plays out is fantastic and fits a puzzle at the end that you didn’t even know you were working on. It has faith—Amy Harmon’s ability to weave God and faith and strength into her novels is my favorite aspect of her writing. It’s eloquence is subtle but consistent and it just makes you feel comforted that a higher power does exist. It has romance—Witty banter, unlikely couple, complex issues to work through.

Bonnie Rae Shelby lost her sister not too long ago and has been lost every since. Finn Clyde got dealt a bad hand in life and has been paying for it and trying to make it better ever since. When this unlikely duo meet, it’s Clyde saving Bonnie and inadvertently enter a road trip together…yes, people. We have a Bonnie and Clyde revival and it is just amazing. Clyde is grumpy and wants nothing to do with this crazy runaway girl that looks like more trouble than she’s worth and Bonnie wants nothing more than to get away. Their banter with one another is of hilarious and adorable proportions. There is a lot of crazy drama that takes place during this road trip but the humor is what I take away the most. I loved the dynamic these two had together. Their romance is unconventional and just beautiful! I don’t want to say too much to ruin anything because you JUST have to read it!

More than that, a series of unfortunate events is where our plot takes us. I don’t want to give too much away but I loved how each road block along the way played a bigger part in the overall plot later on. Like I said before, it’s one of those moments at the end of the book where you just grin and sigh and realize you were getting pieces to a puzzle you didn’t even know you were trying to solve. I LOVE this. I love when everything happens for a reason and it all clicks together at the end. Clyde is a math genius so a lot of math is discussed and no, it’s not boring! It’s amazing! The topics and ideas they discuss play such a prominent role in the plot that it was a puzzle piece I was dying to have! Love love love. The idea of faith and trust is consistent throughout the novel and we see Clyde and Bonnie each take steps toward healing. Their paths couldn’t have been more different but where they end up is essentially the same place of hurt and loss. The road to recovery for these two is not easy but oh so worth it.

I absolutely LOVE the writing of Amy Harmon and her books speak to me on an emotional and spiritual level. I love how she ties everything together and I cannot wait to read the remaining two books of hers I have not read yet.

Backstage Pass
If you love hilarious banter, everything happening for a reason, and faith…this book is for you.

Oh, and one more note. I read this book on my flight from Peru to Argentina. The next day I was in an Buenos Aires art museum and found this...If you've read this book, you'll understand this picture below.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jumping For Jojo// One Plus One

If you've been to this blog before you know my deep, deep love for Jojo Moyes and her books. Her writing and her stories gnaw at the deepest part of my soul and her characters burrow their way into my heart and take up residence. There is not a Jojo Moyes book that I have met that I haven't wanted to be BFFs with. I can honestly say I love each and every one of them but in a different way and that is the magic that is Jojo to me. Each book is so uniquely different yet amazing in its own special way.

My stop on the Jump for Jojo week of love highlights One Plus One. While I said above I love all her books, One Plus One struck a chord with me that buzzed pleasantly for a long time after finishing the final page. Jess is such a fantastic character and mother and her children are on another level of love. While I love Jess, and Ed isn't too bad himself, it was Tanzie and Nicki that stole my freaking heart. There is a beautiful message of accepting yourself, finding your tribe, and letting your freak flag fly...and all this is learned on a down and dirty road trip. So to honor my stop on the Jojo Express, I'm talking about road trip necessities. 

Many of you know I'm a travel nurse and have worked in California the last year-ish and because of this I have driven across the country...twice. So here are my Road Trip Must-Haves

1. Epic Playlist
Whether you jam out to Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, Carrie Underwood, or Britney Spears, have your favorite pumped up songs ready to go. The right music makes everything better.
 My road trip to Cali was all about Lorde's album and my journey home was all things 1989 :)

2. Snacks
My personal favorite must-have is Diet Coke, Strawberry Crystal Light packets to mix with water, and Cheetos. I have zero room to eat healthy and sorry not sorry I consider it a free pass to eat like garbage.
Ok fine, I do sometimes supplement with bananas, too.
3. A Map
Now let's say you're driving through Colorado and the ONLY road that travels East--West is closed for 9 hours...a map would be helpful to find an alternative route...or to realize there is no alternative route and to find a cafe to fall asleep in *cough* sit in for the foreseeable future.
I still hate you Colorado highway system.
4. A Companion
Not a must-have but a nice addition. My first cross country excursion I went with my good friend Tre and I would have rather gone by myself. This fucking fool was a series of unfortunate events and I wasn't afraid to tell him. The fact that we are still friends today shows how close we are because anybody else would have dropped me like a bad habit and vice versa. 
The fact that we're still friends is a miracle on its own

5. Indulging in Local Cuisine
Don't forget to take advantage of your surroundings and eat at a small town diner or some dive off the highway. More than likely it's great food...or it's awful and you have a good story to tell. Win-win either way.
Massive waffles in the shape of Texas and In-N-Out immediately after crossing the Cali border
6. An Open Mind
More likely than not, shit will hit the fan. I had better luck on my second cross country excursion than my first but an open mind is your best friend when things don't go as planned. Like when you're travel companion forgets his wallet back in Wisconsin; when the only highway in Colorado shuts down for 9 hours, when your (dumbass) companion books the hotel in Vegas for the wrong night, stuff like that! I am not the best at this and had more than a few rage-worthy meltdowns as I say, not as I do.

Relaxing aka falling asleep at a cafe in the middle of nowhere Colorado

And don't forget to check out my reviews of all of Jojo's other books!

AND don't forget to check out all the other stops on the Jump For Jojo Blog Event!
April 13 - Me Before You - Hello, Chelly
April 14 One Plus One - Belle of the Literati
April 15 - The Girl You Left Behind - So Obsessed With
April 16 - The Last Letter From Your Lover - Paperiot
April 17 - Ship of Brides - The Casserole
April 18 - Silver Bay - Alexa Loves Books

But that's not all!! We also have a giveaway for one lucky winner and their choice of Jojo book!
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Monday, April 13, 2015

Mark of the Raven

"Don't you long for something different to happen, something so exciting and new it carries you along with it like a great tide, 
something that lets your life blaze and burn so the whole world can see it?"
--Juliet Marillier, Son of Shadows

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 607
Publication Date: April 1st, 2010
Source: Gifted by Hannah...thanks, love!
Previous Books in Series: Daughter of the Forest
Goodreads Description

Second of the Sevenwaters trilogy of novels about the last days of heroic Ireland, Son of the Shadows takes up the story of the children of Sorcha, who saved her enchanted brothers, and Hugh, the Briton she married. Sorcha's daughter Liadan is a gifted seer and healer who thinks, in spite of her visions, that she knows what the future has in store for her--caring for her dying mother and then an alliance marriage to Eamonn. A chance meeting on the road carries her off to care for a dying man--one of the mercenaries of the sinister Painted Man, Eamonn's archenemy and a killer for hire. Liadan discovers that she cannot choose whom she loves and that she and the Painted Man are as bound up in destiny as her mother and father were before her.
I fell in love with Daughter of the Forest for many reasons but one of the being the story and the writing. Hannah fell in love with the romance but if I'm being honest, I found it very lacking. Well, let me tell y'all something. Son of Shadows did NOT lack in the romance department. Wowza! I have to lead with this because it was my favorite part of the plot AND it is what set it apart from Daughter of the Forest which was in itself an amazing book. But let's back up.

Son of Shadows is Liadan's story. Sorcha and Red's third child and daughter who follows in her mother's footsteps. She is a healer. The heart of Sevenwaters. She is content with her simple life there. But, of course, life and fate and destiny and prophecies have a different path in store for her. Sevenwaters is under a new threat and that is the band of savage men under a man they call the Painted Man. They are a mystery and kill without thought...or so we are led to believe. Liadan finds herself in the company of these men and, no spoilers, all is not what it it ever? A hate to love but love to hate romance is started against the will of both parties involved. You guys, I loved how this relationship played out. It was snarky and fiery and passionate. Liadan takes no shit and gives no fucks when it comes to her job of healing and doing what she believes is right. This is a tough bitch and the guy that falls for her is even scarier...rawr.

While I'm condensing the fires of passion for plot sake, know this: the love these two have for one another is deep. Soul-deep. Their interactions and chance meetings made my heart race. I couldn't put the book down. I couldn't wait to see what happened next. I was chomping at the bit for these two to see each other again. It drove me nuts in the best way possible. They risk their lives for one another and my favorite love stories always seem to involve some sort of self-sacrifice and fighting for the other person when they are unable to fight for themselves. Cryptic? Yes but I can't give away the best parts of the story.

There are other political events going on in this story that help drive the characters but (see below) what really drove this story for me was the romance. The other political action that happens I really enjoyed though. People are not what they seem. Shady stuff happens. And more than a few murderous thoughts went through my mind. And while I won't give away spoilers I just have to say I loved the ending so freaking much and loved how everything turned out and fit into place. Le sigh

While I LOVED the romance of the story and the political action that takes place, the one aspect of the plot I found lacking was more resolution of the original curse and prophecy. Finbar is talked about and the old magic curse is mentioned but we don't get a lot of forward progress on that front. I'm not complaining really, it's just something I noticed that I wished we would have gotten a little more of.
If you love fantasy, romance, and Daughter of the Forest...this one's for you.

Friday, April 10, 2015

We Got The Beat

"Good…because this is the part where you fall in love."
--Jessi Kirby, Things We Know By Heart

Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 304
Publication Date: April 21st, 2015
Source: eARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Previous Books in Series: Standalone
Previous Books by this Author: Golden
Goodreads Description

When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.

After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn't want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they're connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.

Jessi Kirby’s Golden was an instant favorite of mine, made me look at my life objectively, and made me aware of one of my most favorite quotes of all time. So, when I saw Things We Know By Heart on Edelweiss, I immediately downloaded it and was super excited to read. Unfortunately, it wasn’t everything I was expected. Lemme break this down.

The Good?
The Premise
I loooove the idea of falling in love with the recipient of the donor heart of your previous boyfriend. As tragic as the situation is, it is terribly romantic to me. I’m a friggin’ sap, we all know this.

The Writing
This novel reads effortlessly and you can see yourself in Cali kayaking and watching the sun set and being under the sun. Kirby never disappoints you in making you feel like you are in the setting itself. I loved feeling like I was right on the beach the entire time. It was a quick read and I was interested in knowing what would happen kept me invested the whole time.

The Romance
Like I stated above, the romance aspect was intriguing. This was a ridiculously adorable teenage romance and Colton brings some swoons. I loved his vulnerability and openness with Quinn even if she constantly shut him down.

The Bad?
The Plot
While the idea of this novel is unique and extremely romantic and creative to me, the rest of the novel fell flat. I felt that it was really generic and I knew exactly how it would all play out in the end. It felt very cookie-cutter to me and I wasn’t excited to get to the end, I was basically just waiting for the inevitable climax of the conflict to occur so I wasn’t really able to enjoy the romance fully because I knew the bomb was coming.

General Admission/Standing in Line Outside
If you’re a fan of young adult contemporary, fluffy novels, and an easy read…this book is for you. If you’re looking for something different with more meat, I would skip this one.