Friday, March 27, 2015

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

"Floating there I held onto faith. Because you can't know who might cross your path or who will take your breath away. You can't know what friends might actually become sisters because they stayed by your side. You can't know when there'll be an unexpected detour that'll take you to the place where you were always meant to be."
-- Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, Amanda Pressner, The Lost Girls

Genre: Non-Fiction Travel Memoir
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 542
Publication Date: May 11th, 2010
Source: Bought
Previous Books in Series: Standalone
Goodreads Description

Jen, Holly, and Amanda are at a crossroads. They're feeling the pressure to hit certain milestones—scoring a big promotion, finding a soul mate, having 2.2 kids—before they reach their early thirties. When personal challenges force them to reevaluate their lives, they decide it's now or never to do something daring. Unable to gain perspective in fast-paced Manhattan, the three twentysomethings quit their coveted media jobs and leave behind their friends, boyfriends, and everything familiar to travel the globe. Dubbing themselves the Lost Girls, they embark on an epic yearlong search for inspiration and direction.

As they journey 60,000 miles across four continents and more than a dozen countries, Jen, Holly, and Amanda step far outside of their comfort zones, embracing every adventure and experience the world has to offer—shooting blowguns with Yagua elders in the Amazon, learning capoeira on the beaches of Brazil, volunteering with preteen girls at a school in rural Kenya, hiking with Hmong villagers in Vietnam, and driving through Australia in a psychedelic camper van. Along the way, the Lost Girls find not only themselves but also a lifelong friendship. Ultimately, theirs is a story of true sisterhood—a bond forged by sharing beds and backpacks, enduring exotic illnesses, fending off aggressive street vendors, trekking across rivers and over mountains, and standing by one another through heartaches, whirlwind romances, and everything in the world in between.

This candid and compelling memoir will speak to anyone who has ever felt the desire to spread her wings and discover the world with her best friends by her side.
The Friendship
The story follows Amanda, Holly, and Jen as they leave behind their grown-up lives and jet off into the unknown of travel. OBVIOUSLY this story rings close to home for me and after Hannah recommended it to me, I had to give it a try. The story is told in alternating chapters with each girl getting their turn to tell their story through their eyes. I loved this. We get an unbiased and basically objective look into their life abroad. I liked getting to know each girl's inner voice and what they valued and what they were looking for in this year of traveling. I found myself connecting with Holly the most as she truly looked for and saw the beauty in simplicity in the world around her. I loved that she talked about faith and feeling a higher power with her when she saw sunrises in beautiful places. Not that I didn't love the other girls as well but Amanda seemed to have the most in common with me and I really looked forward to her voice and narration.

Overall, the three girls' personalities complemented each other perfectly. It is a theme throughout the book that the trip would never have worked out as it did had they not all been there. They balanced each other, they challenged each other, they were there for each other. I love this feeling of female camaraderie and it reeeeeeally made me wish I could kidnap two friends and make them travel with me for a year. YOLO!

The Adventures
The chronicles of their adventures (and misadventures) were amazing. What I loved, personally, was that they started off in South America (where I'm going or by the time this post goes live have been) and then Kenya where I've been. I felt a connection to these places already and reading about other peoples' experiences there made me fall more in love with the designations. I was yearning for my little tent in Africa and actually wishing I was back to being dirty and taking cold showers out in the bush. Le sigh. Who knew? While I would have loved more stories about their hangups and things that went wrong (because duh, it always happens) I loved reading about the good things they saw and people they met. It was a pretty good mix of good and bad with the positive outweighing the negative.

The Clarity
I love reading about different cultures and seeing different places through their eyes made me ache with wanting to go to the places they went, especially Southeast Asia. Vietname, even though their experience was negative, has been a place I've been wanting to go for a while, and now I've officially added a yoga retreat in Bali to my bucket list. They did theirs in India, but I digress. The best part of this book for me was how open-minded they were in regards to other cultures and their differences. I find it easy for Americans to judge the primitive ways of some cultures without appreciated a different way of life and the way these girls just jumped in and 'went native' for the most part was extremely enlightening to read about. Anybody wanna take a year off with me?

The Pacing
Like I said above, I loved the beginning of this book but I found the pacing towards the end to be really dragged out. The episodes in Southeast Asia were interesting in regards to culture but I felt like that entire section and their time in Australia really slowed down. I wasn't as inspired while reading and I just wanted to see where they all ended up after their trip. The books is long, over 500 pages, and some editing in the ending sections could have really helped this book become a favorite.

The Travel Breaks
So...I'm being a little judge-y about this but the girls, Amanda in particular, took breaks to go back home while traveling and this just kind of rubbed me the wrong way. One..why? I didn't see any reason for them to be gone for 8 weeks only to go back to New York for two weeks. I feel like that would break up my good vibes and mojo while being away. It felt like cheating in a way. I know I'm being unsympathetic about this but I can't help how I feel. And Holly actually went home twice. She was the most concerned about money and um, if you're that concerned about money I don't see how spending an extra approximately $1200 on an international flight home to and from Asia doesn't seem like the wisest investment. She had to borrow money from one of the friends to fund her flight home and just irritated me to blow money on a flight home when the point of traveling for that long, to me, is to really get away from it all. That's just me though.

General Admission
If you love travel memoirs, books about friendships, and have an incessant case of wanderlust...this book is for you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rule 37: Be the Thing Men and Women Fear

"Oh and by the way,
Icarus burned because he flew during the day.
He wanted the world to see.
We fly in darkness, where people are afraid to look."
--JJ McAvoy, American Savages

Genre: Adult Contemporary
Publisher: NYLA
Pages: 388
Publication Date: March 19th, 2015
Source: eARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review
Previous Books in Series: Ruthless People & The Untouchables
Goodreads Description

“Villains by Choice."

Betrayed. Melody is nowhere to be found, Liam is in jail, and the Callahan family is cracking, just as Avian Doers, the FBI Director and puppet master behind their downfall, planned.

But just because they’re down doesn't mean they’re out. To fight back, Liam and Melody will have to put everything on the line. The kid gloves are coming off, and no one is getting out alive. Nothing will compare to the reign of terror that is about to envelope the entire country. First they were Ruthless, now they are pure Savages. The end is here, and no one is safe…

18+ Adults Only for violence and sex.
The end is here...and I mean that in more than one way. Ya know, the last book of the series...and death for many characters. I relished in quite a few of these. I cried over others. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
The Story
I love how the story plays out. There are a lot of twists. A lot of revelations. And quite a few shockers. No loose ends are left because...well do you think Liam and Mel would leave any loose ends? The plot deepens when Mel and Liam actively go after Ivan and it is a pas de deux of violence and power plays and I loved every second. Every time I got worried they were going to lose, they never cease to amaze me in their brilliance and resourcefulness. They are a team. They work together They love together. They hate together. And I love their relationship so hard. Their relationship is not easy and it is something they both have to work for especially after the last book. I think the pacing of this book and how the story unfolds is perfect. Especially after re-reading, it becomes more apparent how well the story is told. Love love love.

The Relationships
I know I gushed about Mel and Liam above but it is so true. Their banter, their wit, their sarcasm, their SEX! OMG, hot hot hot. I love how they explored their sexual relationship even further...wowza. I just...yeah. Hot. BUT more than that I absolutely fell in love with our other characters relationships even more. Declan and Coraline and kickass and I love that she gives him the business in what she can and can't do. My favorite thought is Sedric and Evelyn. The "old folks" are so in love and I love hearing the stories they tell and about raising those three hellions they call sons. It is just incredible how much they love each other and their children. I would love to sit around their dinner table and hear their stories.

The Reckoning
Many people have gone out of their way to fuck over the Callahan family. Those people...will pay...dearly. I loved seeing how these people were caught and how they suffer. I was so nervous certain people would never be implicated and then I laughed at myself thinking, please how dare you doubt Liam and Mel. They ALWAYS find out and they always pay back. Love love love this.

The Ending
The conclusion to this series is everything I hoped for and so much more. It is not all butterflies and rainbows. Casualties occur and not only the ones we want to see die. I found myself crying and tearing up because I've come to love these characters so much. I relate a lot to the love of family, the rage you feel when somebody fucks you over, and I get to indulge and live vicariously through Liam and Mel who actually get to act out their violent tendencies. I am so sad to see these characters go but hey, there's always the re-read.

If you love amoral characters, lots of familial love, revenge, and violence...this book and series is for you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rule 44: Family is Family, Even When You Wish They Weren't Round 2

Genre: Adult Contemporary
Publisher: NYLA
Pages: 356
Publication Date: January 22nd, 2015
Source: eARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Goodreads Description

"One Secret. Multiple Casualties.”

Everything Melody Callahan has ever been told about her past is a lie. Her father lied. Her husband lied. But like all secrets…they come out. Not only is her mother, Aviela, alive but she won’t stop until she tears down everything Liam and Melody have spent the past year building.

With a new target on their back and the media now focused on their family as the Presidential election approaches, Liam and Melody must fight on two battlefronts. Melody is torn between being in love with Liam and wanting to kill him for lying to her. Being in love and showing love are two different things in her world. Liam wants to do anything to protect his family even if that means hurting the people he loves.

Family is everything… but what happens when they’re out for your blood? Everything they have been through is nothing compared to what is coming...

***Warning: This book contains adult language and subject matter including graphic violence and explict sex that may be disturbing for some readers. This book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.***
WHEN I First Read
December 2014

WHAT I Remember
Not as much as the first one surprisingly. I remember the ending and small points of the plot and HATING a character with the fire of a thousand suns. I oddly remembered more about the first book's plot than the second so I was looking forward to remembering the little things.
WHY I Wanted to Re-Read
Because Liam and Mel...'nuff said.
HOW I Felt After Re-Reading
I think I gave this book a Backstage Pass rating the first time around and I am promptly upgrading that to VIP status. This book is on point with the first book in regards to pacing, plot development and characterization. The love continues to grow and I loved this even more the second time around although it gave me ANXIETY about the final book because STUFF happens at the end and OMG if certain people don't pay with their lives I am gonna rage on Mel's level.
WOULD You Re-Read Again?
Yep, yep, yep. I already look forward to re-living this series again next year.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Rule 1: Family Comes First...Round 2

Genre: Adult Contemporary
Publisher: NYLA
Pages: 342
Publication Date: July 15th, 2014
Source: eARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Goodreads Description

"One Secret. Multiple Casualties.”

Everything Melody Callahan has ever been told about her past is a lie. Her father lied. Her husband lied. But like all secrets…they come out. Not only is her mother, Aviela, alive but she won’t stop until she tears down everything Liam and Melody have spent the past year building.

With a new target on their back and the media now focused on their family as the Presidential election approaches, Liam and Melody must fight on two battlefronts. Melody is torn between being in love with Liam and wanting to kill him for lying to her. Being in love and showing love are two different things in her world. Liam wants to do anything to protect his family even if that means hurting the people he loves.

Family is everything… but what happens when they’re out for your blood? Everything they have been through is nothing compared to what is coming...

***Warning: This book contains adult language and subject matter including graphic violence and explict sex that may be disturbing for some readers. This book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.***
WHEN I First Read
July 2014

WHAT I Remember
I remember being utterly obsessed with this violent and vicious world our characters run. I love the importance of family, the Callahan's are a family I definitely would love to be a part of. Liam and Mel are the epitome of badass and sexy and ruthless. I remember a lot of drama (in a good way) and a lot of feels. For people who are ruthless, they have a lot of heart...but only when it comes to family.

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read
Because Liam and Mel...'nuff said. And I wanted to treat myself to immersing myself in the world again before the final book.
HOW I Felt After Re-Reading
I loved it even more!! I had a good recollection of what happened but it still didn't diminish my feelings about it. I love love LOVED reading about Liam and Mel meeting and how they worked out their feelings for one another. Their banter, their wit, their digs at one another had me laughing out loud. I forgot, but didn't really, how FUNNY they are! Oh, my gosh. Liam is solidified as a top ten book boyfriend, I swear. Oh and that sexy Irish vibe going on...rawr. And Mel is so totally my spirit animal. She gets to act out all her violent tendencies when I only wish I could.

WOULD You Re-Read Again?
Without a doubt. I would love to be able to re-read this series every year. It's epic. It's ruthless. It's fucking fantastic.

Friday, March 20, 2015

I'll Take Love for A Thousand, Alex

"She believes in personal freedom, God, and true love.
In that order."
--Emery Lord, The Start of Me and You

Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 384
Publication Date: March 31st, 2015
Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Previous Books in Series: Standalone
Previous Books by This AuthorOpen Road Summer
Goodreads Description

Following her pitch-perfect debut Open Road Summer, Emery Lord pens another gorgeous story of best friends, new love, & second chances.

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

If there was an award for Best Books on Positive Female Relationships, Emery Lord would win hands down. From Open Road Summer to The Start of Me and You, she has, in my opinion, set the standard for friendships in young adult literature. I said this in my review of ORS that there are NOT enough books out there that glorify the beauty of having a best friend. There is too much slut-shaming going around and not enough love for our fellow females. I love men, don’t me wrong, but shouldn’t we be banning together against the misogynistic stereotypes that demean women’s sexuality and put them down? Whoa, sorry. Tangent. I wrote down slut-shaming and that’s what followed. But seriously! How many books have you read where girls put other girls down. It needs to stop. Emery Lord might as well be a huge flashing red light because she’s not taking that shit.

Anyways. TSoMaY is about Paige, a young woman whose boyfriend drowned about 2 years ago and because this is high school has since been pigeon-holed as ‘Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned.’ Sidenote: I loved that Lord had Paige think in those titles about people because it is so true. You are what happens to you in high school and unfortunately, that’s how the masses tend to always see you. Sad but true. Paige has made it her mission this year to overcome her fears and get out there. She makes a list of 5 things (see summary above) and sets her sights on completing them. Along the way, she makes some mistakes, checks some things off, and also overcomes so much more than she ever gave herself credit for. I loved that this book was all about Paige’s journey to self-discovery and focusing on her and what she needs to do to move on and take control of her own life. Her self-awareness in this sense was a beautiful thing to see in somebody so young. I also think Lord does an AMAZING job of creating young adult characters who are not only intelligent and more than adults give them credit for but also believable. They are not perfect but they are honest and smart and so totally the kind of mature young adults I love to read about.

Now let’s talk more about these friendships. Paige has a solid group of 3 friends with Tessa being her numero uno. These girls…I tell ya, these girls are amazing. They have fights, they get on each other’s nerves, they see each other’s flaws, but at the end of the day when one of them is having a meltdown they drop everything to be there for that person. They go to bat for one another and protect each other and offer shoulders to cry on and privacy to do so. There is something so beautiful about watching these girls be there for one another and it made me long for that kind of unconditional friendship in high school. It then made me daydream a little about what it would have been like if Betty and I had been in high school together and then I laughed at all the mayhem we would have caused. Hell on wheels I think would have been an understatement. Thoughts, Betty? But seriously, this book is about friendship. Yes, there’s a romance, I’ll get to that, but at the core of this book is Paige and her struggles and the friends who are there to help pick her back up when she falls and how she uplifts her friends when they need it.

Ok. The romance. Hello, nerd alert. Paige is so freaking smart and joins the Quiz Bowl team. One of the members is Max, also the cousin of her crush, and she forms a friendship with him…*wink wink*. No, not really. It is a very strong and solid friendship. She finds herself opening up to him and telling him things she wouldn’t normally tell other people. They have a sort of ease with one another that allows them to truly be themselves and seek each other out for advice and somebody to talk to when times get rough. Max is intelligent and witty and can go toe to toe with Paige about literary references. Their banter is steeped in intelligence and I loved every second of it. I won’t give you too much more to go on but know that this romance is of the purest form and the theme of this book…friendship.

Honestly, there is nothing in this book that I did not like. We have friendship dynamic, relationship woes, family drama, and finding out who you are. In addition to the friendships in this book my favorite aspect of the story was Paige accepting who she was. A lot dorky and a little neurotic and that’s okay. I loved that this story was included a theme of finding your tribe. Your people who understand you for who you are and love you because of it and not in spite of it.

Reserved Seating
If you love strong female friendships, a healthy dose of trivia, and honest and believable intelligent young adults…this book is for you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What People See Is Not Who You Are

"'I guess when something's been burned into your brain enough,
it's what you start to believe--it's all you see.'
'Well, it might be all you see, but it's not what you are.'"
--Brighton Walsh, Captive

Genre: Adult Contemporary
Publisher: St Martin's Griffin
Pages: 288
Publication Date: March 24th, 2015
Source: eARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Previous Books in Series: First book in series of companions
Goodreads Description

He’s the most dangerous man she’s ever met…and she’s falling in love with him.

Madison Frost is desperate to escape her life. Daughter of a prominent businessman, she has everything a girl could ask for. Except for a family who’s present in her life, and anyone to talk to outside the four walls of the prison she calls home. Madison dreams of one day leaving her life behind. She never thought being kidnapped is how it would happen.

Now she’s being held captive by a man who’s as frightening as he is sinfully gorgeous. Enormous, muscular, and filled with secrets, the man they call Ghost is an enigmatic mercenary, and Madison is trapped with him. She doesn’t know who hired him or why, but the more time she spends at his mercy, the more she realizes he’s not what he seems. Beneath his rough exterior lies an unexpected gentleness and a heart as broken and battered as her own.

But as Madison lets down her walls, Ghost holds tight to his, hiding secrets that could destroy everything.

Now this might make me sound crazy but this is not my first captive-captor love story…what?! I know. I’m a fucked up individual and I make no apologies about wanting to read AND loving these types of stories. Why? Because there is something so completely amazing to me that two people in this situation can find love. Brighton Walsh does an incredible job of handling this touchy subject with believability and understanding. So let’s get down to it.

Captive is the story of Maddie, the daughter of a wealthy Chicago businessman and an alcoholic mother. From the outside, all seems perfect. More money than God and what problem doesn’t that much money solve, right? Wrong. A lot. Maddie is struggling to get by and fears waking up every morning. She takes sole responsibility for her sick mother because her father is beyond absent. She’s genius-level smart and more than a little socially awkward. Enter the kidnapping. Maddie is grabbed after class and she wakes up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. From there we meet Ghost, her captor, and more than what meets the eye.

What I loved most about Maddie was how real and believable she was. She was a shy girl who was self-conscious about her body. CURVES, PEOPLE. WE HAVE A REAL WOMAN WITH CURVES! Hips, ass, tits, and a rounded stomach. *gasp* I KNOW! This was so fucking refreshing I cannot even begin to tell you how much I loved this. So. Many. Women deal with body image issues. I loved Maddie’s honesty about her lack of self-confidence and how she grew to feel beautiful, thanks to Ghost. And NO, it wasn’t that she needed male validation to feel good about herself, Ghost helped her see and feel how beautiful she already was. There is a fine line between the distinction of those two concepts but it is there. I love how Brighton took a female character and made her so real, insecurities and all.

Ghost seems to be the antithesis of Maddie…or is he? Their relationship is built on common ground and nobody is more shocked than the two of them. LOVE the juxtaposition of social class revealing common struggles and how family issues can occur at any socioeconomic level and how money really can’t buy you happiness. And on a similar note, no matter the circumstances, you can always make your life better and pursue dreams you think are too far above you to grasp. Maddie’s frank assessment of Ghost’s talents and how he can succeed with them made my heart so happy. This wasn’t a one-way relationship all about Ghost making Maddie feel worthy, it was equally about Maddie making Ghost feel worthy of his dreams. Le sigh.

The elephant in the cabin is the obvious captive-captor situation. I love reading stories like this because the relationship doesn’t start behind the start line…it starts about 10 miles back. Who wants to feel sympathy and emotions for a person holding them captive? On the other hand, how does one develop feelings for a person who is really a ‘job?’ I might be in the minority here but I feel that the beauty of these stories lie in the captor falling for his captive. Why? Because let’s be real here, if you’re kidnapping somebody, chances are your moral compass faces anywhere but north and your overall values system does not include empathy for your fellow man. With that said, if you’re already on the low end of the human suffering totem pole, how amazing is it to dig yourself out of that hole and fall for the person you’re supposed to be intimidating? I love it. I love seeing the humanity come back and going against everything they know to save and love the person they are kidnapping. Call me crazy, but I like stories that are out there and defy the laws of emotion.

My only small criticism is that while I love the captor falling for the captive, it seemed just a little too quick for me but, again, I like pain and suffering so it’s probably just me. Although I can also appreciate the fact that Maddie is the first and only person to tell Ghost that his thoughts do matter and that he can be better than what he does. So, really, I’m on the fence.

Reserved Seating
If you love non-conventional love stories, sexy times, and overcoming your own insecurities…this book is for you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Learning To Love Yourself Round 2

Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 400
Publication Date: April 29th, 2014
Goodreads Description

Will their past determine their future?

Saint Ford has worked hard to achieve her childhood dream of becoming of nurse. Focused on her work and devoted to her patients, there’s no room for love. She doesn’t need a guy making waves in her calm, serene life—especially when he’s the unforgettable hottie who nearly destroyed her in high school. Dark, brooding Nash Donovan might not remember her or the terrible pain he caused. But he turned her world upside down... and now he’s trying to do it again.

Saint has no idea that Nash isn’t the cocky player he once was. Uncovering a devastating family secret has rocked his world, and now he’s struggling to figure out his future. He can’t be distracted by the pretty nurse he seems to meet everywhere. Still, he can’t ignore the sparks that fly between them —or how she seems so desperate to get away from him. But the funny, sweet, and drop-dead gorgeous Saint is far too amazing to give up on—especially since she’s the only thing in his life that seems to make sense.

When Nash discovers the truth about their past, he realizes he may have lost her heart before he could even fight for it. Now, Saint has to decide: is Nash worth risking herself for all over again?

WHEN I First Read
April 2014

WHAT I Remember
Falling absolutely head over heels in love with Nash and finding a book character so closely aligned with myself it freaked me the fuck out. But ya know, like in a good way. Saint is me...Saint is so creepily me I just can't get over it. Her struggle to self-acceptance and letting somebody love her is heart-wrenching and beautiful. And Nash...NASH?!? Nash became a solid top 10 book boyfriend and when I made lists for book boyfriends after this book, I always came back to him. His relationship with Phil is just...ALL THE FEELS, okay? This book is all the feels. Everything. All of it. All my love.

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read
Because I had such an intense connection with these characters and this book, I really wanted to see if I would feel as strongly about it the second time around...I was nervous...

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading
...and there was no reason to be. Case in point: I started crying when I was on page 1. Pathetic. I just feel so strongly with what Saint is going through that it breaks my heart. High school is awful and people are cruel. It's so difficult to get over those wounds and unless you've been through you just don't understand. That fine line between wanting to believe somebody can love you vs waiting for history to repeat itself again and blow up in your face is a deep, deep wound on your soul. And I said ti in my original review how hurt I am when people don't understand her and her actions. It makes me see red. Like...raging bull at a cape red. I periodically cried on and off throughout this whole book because it is just so beautiful and agonizing and honest and raw and true. Don't even get me STARTED on Phil and how much I love him. So hard it hurts. Nash and Phil's relationship is just so emotional and deep. They love each other so much and how all the guys see Phil and that he saved them could make me cry just thinking about it. This brethren of lost souls wouldn't even exist if it weren't for Phil and his huge heart taking them under his wing. Oh fuck, now I'm crying at the cafe I'm sitting in while typing. Dammit dammit fuck. Ok, you get my point...*sniff*...

WOULD You Re-Read Again?
A thousand times yes. The things I learned after re-reading this book are as follows...
1. This will be an annual re-read for me. 
2. Nash has SOLIDIFIED his position as my number 2 book boyfriend EVER. Y'all know how serious those words are coming from me.
3. This book made it on to my 'All the Stars' shelf on Goodreads...and very few books make it onto that list.
4. Saint will forever remind me of myself and the struggle I went through and still go through because I'm still looking for my Nash.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Love Conquers All

"'I was talking about you,' Elle laughed.
'I'm a vicious little bitch, too.'"
--Tiffany Reisz, The Virgin

Genre: Adult Erotica, Contemporary
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 400
Publication Date: March 31st, 2015
Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Previous Books in Series: The Siren & The Angel The Prince & The Mistress & The Saint & The King
Goodreads Description

The controversial story before the story continues in the critically acclaimed and award-winning series The Original Sinners.

For years, Kingsley Edge warned Eleanor the day would come when she, the mistress of a well-respected Catholic priest, would have to run and hide. She always imagined if that day came she'd be running away with Søren. But instead, she's running from him.

Knowing Søren and Kingsley will their use their influence to bring her back, Eleanor alone, penniless and scared takes refuge at the one place the men in her life cannot follow: the abbey where her mother has taken orders. Behind the cloistered gates of the convent, Eleanor hides from the man she loves and hates in equal measure

She cannot, however, hide from her true nature. When Eleanor befriends a young virginal nun, she faces a startling sexual awakening. But Eleanor can't stay forever, and the lure of her real life beckons beyond the locked gates. But to follow her fate means to leave Kyrie behind, a sacrifice Eleanor refuses to make

The lure of the forbidden. The temptation to sin. The price of passion has never been higher, and Eleanor will have to pay it if she ever wants to go home again.

Le sigh...Where do I begin? The Original Sinners series (just in case you haven't been here before) is one of my all-time favorite series. The characters, the complexity, the plot, the sex, the world, everything about it I just love. I have grown to love these characters over the past 7 books so much so that they feel a part of the family. A damned sexy family if I do say so myself. Wowza. I wanna spend Christmas at Kingsley's...anyways. The Virgin is the 7th book of the series and the 3rd in the prequel series. This installment takes us to 'that year' when Nora left Soren and Kingsley went off to God knows where and now we find out all the dirty details. Nora went to stay with her mother in her convent and Kingsley eventually met Juliette.

I realized while reading that there is a comfortable kind of silence that happens when I read these prequel books. That being I feel completely relaxed and at ease when I'm opening up these books. I truly enjoy being with these characters. There is this effortless quality of the writing Tiffany Reisz puts forth that makes me feel like I'm coming home or spending time with friends. I love reading about these characters and the fact that there is only one more book breaks my heart in half quicker than the most fierce sadist. But back to this book. What I found I loved best was the writing. It is beautiful and poignant and you feel Elle's emotions as acutely as if they were your own. We get the story of what happened in that terrible time in her life and how exactly she left Soren piece by heart-breaking piece. I loved that this novel showed who truly hopeless Elle felt. However, not all is heartbreak and tears. What I didn't expect was for Elle to find Nora. No spoilers on how she got there but the journey to her discovering her love and tale of writing was beautiful and I loved every second of it. I really enjoyed Kyrie's character even if I couldn't fully understand her motives and actions at times and I mean this as a good thing. Read and you'll see what I mean.

The other major component of this book was Kingsley and what he did during 'that year.' Again, I came to fully understand and appreciate Kingsley EVEN MORE. This book really helped me feel and connect to his feelings for Elle. The depth of his love for her is something I didn't begin to comprehend until reading this book. His thoughts about her and what he feels for her is, dare I be redundant, beautiful. I never want to pass up an opportunity to be in Kingsley's head and this was no exception. Love love loved it. Meeting Juliette and reading his thoughts on Soren was like dessert at the beginning of the meal. A little bit sinful but all kinds of amazing. And thank God (pun intended) for foresight because if I didn't know how things turned out, this book would have given me massive anxiety.

I think this book was an amazing addition to the Original Sinners family and fleshed out our complex and intricate characters even further. Each book builds on the last and I can't even tell you how much I love these characters and their lives and their story. I never want it to end and I find myself missing them when I finish the book. Can Tiffany just keep writing their stories?...Pretty please?...Mistress?...

If you love this series, if you love these characters, or if you're even contemplating starting this series...DO IT!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Love Knows No Borders

"Everything is so much the same and yet so different.
It hits me, smacks me, time and time again,
that I"m not in motherfucking Kansas anymore.
I feel high.
It's the jet lag.
It's the lack of sleep.
But the unknown is all around me,
and kilometer by kilometer,
I am falling in love with it."
--Karina Halle, Where Sea Meets Sky

Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 384
Publication Date: March 31st, 2015
Source: eARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Previous Books in Series: Love, in English
Previous Books by this Author: Sins and Needles & On Every Street & Shooting Scars & Bold Tricks & Dirty Angels
Goodreads Description

A new adult novel that perfectly captures the existential angst of your early twenties with raw wit, fresh insight, and true feeling from a critically adored USA TODAY bestselling author.

Joshua Miles has spent his early twenties spinning his wheels. Working dead-end jobs and living at home has left him exhausted and uninspired, with little energy to pursue his passion for graphic art. Until he meets Gemma Henare, a vivacious out-of-towner from New Zealand. What begins as a one-night stand soon becomes a turning point for Josh. He can't get Gemma out of his head, even after she has left for home, and finds himself throwing caution to the wind for the first time in his life.

It's not long before Josh is headed to New Zealand with only a backpack, some cash, and Gemma's name to go on. But when he finally tracks her down, he finds his adventure is only just beginning. Equally infatuated, Gemma leads him on a whirlwind tour across the beautiful country, opening Josh up to life, lust, love, and all the messy heartache in between. Because, when love drags you somewhere, it might never let go even when you know you have to say goodbye.

Ok, um…well this seems to be a common theme when trying to write a review for a Karina Halle book. It is starting to scare me how in tune I feel with her characters. It’s like she has her own private pass into my brain and then I see her characters work out some internal issue I’ve been struggling with or thinking about. It is truly freaky sometimes. But I digress. This is gonna be one big mushy flail of spas so I’m gonna do the best I can here.

Where Sea Meets Sky is about Josh, Vera’s brother, and a girl, Gemma, who he meets a Halloween party. Gemma is from New Zealand and here on holiday and they share an intense first encounter and an even more intense one night stand. After Gemma goes back to NZ, Josh is inspired by all they talked about and books a trip to NZ. Partly because he hopes to see her, mostly because he feels adrift in life and wants to do something for himself. This is where the book first hooked me. I cannot even explain how beautiful it is that Josh finds inspiration to travel and it is because of Gemma and what she has done. I went through something similar before I started traveling so I could definitely related to Josh on this. I loved his ‘if she can do it, so can I’ attitude and just grabbing life by the balls…But I also loved the very realistic moment of panic when he first lands in NZ and has an ‘oh shit, what the fuck have I done’ moment. It is so perfect in its execution and reality that I was giggling and shaking my head ‘YES!’ while reading. I’ve only had one bad panic moment while traveling like that but the struggle is real, people. Get out the world’s tiniest violin but it is a very surreal moment traveling across the world by yourself, standing in the airport after collecting your bags and going ‘now what?’ It is no fucking joke, yo.

But then we get Josh’s epic journey through NZ, complete with Gemma, her cousin Amber and another human I won’t even mention (Dicknugget). The roadtrip they take and the picture Halle paints us is…breathtaking beautiful. I could see the glowworms caves, I could feel the muscle burn on the summit hikes, I could smell the ocean. NZ has always been on my list of places to travel at some point in my life, but this book solidified it in the top 5 and Kelly’s top 5 travel destinations is not an easy list to make. If I’m being honest, for emo personal reasons, NZ was probably the last place on my list of destinations to travel to and this book changed everything for me. I have previously associated NZ with remorse and heartache, but now it is all bright and shiny and I cannot wait to book a ticket and find a month off.

Now, let’s get to the romance. Gemma and Josh’s relationship is not easy. Gemma is not completely available when she meets Josh again and Josh, while determined to change her mind, does not push her and is extremely respectful in the situation. This made me love him even more. It would have been so easy for him to be an asshole or make comments every day to persuade her but he didn’t. He was just himself and let life take its course. And Gemma is not an easy woman to love. She is emotionally closed off, doesn’t believe she deserves love, and is completely her own worst enemy. No spoilers but I will say that the climax of the conflict is perfection. Why would I say something that weird? Because this is the first book I’ve read that I completely agree with and understand the characers’ motivation. I understand that all books need conflict but there’s always a part of me that mentally yells at the characters to relax, stop overreacting, and just love each other. This time, not so much. I felt that what happens at the peak point of conflict was so fucking necessary that I was rooting for a certain character in my head and slow clapping when they finally do what’s needed for themselves and the other person. This is the first time I felt like the characters didn’t overreact and were completely justified in their actions. Actually…The Pact (also obvi by Karina Halle) felt that way to me too but anyways! I loved the ending and how things happened, just know that.

Sigh. Ok, so I loved this book. It is not only a fantastic romance against all geographical odds but the setting is a character in itself…as is Mr. Orange.

Backstage Pass
If you love romance, travel, beating the odds, and finding inspiration everywhere…this book is for you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Solider and A Pixie Round 2

Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 368
Publication Date: January 7th, 2014
Goodreads Description

Cora Lewis is a whole lot of fun, and she knows how to keep her tattooed bad boy friends in line. But all that flash and sass hide the fact that she’s never gotten over the way her first love broke her heart. Now she has a plan to make sure that never happens again: She’s only going to fall in love with someone perfect.

Rome Archer is as far from perfect as a man can be. He’s stubborn and rigid, he’s bossy and has come back from his final tour of duty fundamentally broken. Rome’s used to filling a role: big brother, doting son, super soldier; and now none of these fit anymore. Now he’s just a man trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life while keeping the demons of war and loss at bay. He would have been glad to suffer it alone, until Cora comes sweeping into his life and becomes the only color on his bleak horizon.

Perfect isn’t in the cards for these two, but imperfect might just last forever . . .

WHEN I First Read
January 2014

WHAT I Remember
Loving Rome and his struggle to adapt to civilian life. I remember wanting to wrap him in a huge bear hug and never letting go. And Cora being beyond words annoying...

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read
Besides wanting to re-live the entire Marked Men experience, I really wanted to see if my thoughts about this book changed. I could not stand Cora when I first read this and it was standing as the weak point in the series to me. I was really hoping I changed my mind on the second go around...

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading
...and it did. Oh. My. Gosh. Never did I see this coming. I LOVE Cora. I can relate A LOT to Cora. How far up my ass was my head that I couldn't see this the first time around? I don't want to know. Cora is so vulnerable and beautiful and just wants so badly for somebody to prove to her that real love exists. Le sigh. I just can't. And Rome...ROME!!!! I love this big brother and he is just 15 kinds of sexy. I wanna climb that big man like a tree. Holy fuck. But back to the story, I loved Cora coming to the acceptance that perfection is in the eyes of the beholder and sometimes perfection is seriously overrated. Their journey is beautiful and I am SO HAPPY I re-read this because I not only upped my rating of this book a whole star, but I fell in love with a character I previously disregarded. Foot-firmly in mouth.

WOULD You Re-Read Again?
Yeah, I really would! I loved getting to know Cora more and being encompasses by Rome's sexiness and his struggle and I could see myself wanting to re-live that experience again.