Review: Lost and Found (Lost and Found, #1), by Nicole Williams

Lost and Found (Lost and Found, #1)Lost and Found by Nicole Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘Lost and Found’ was a sweet, heartwarming story that ended up being a pretty good way to pass some time. This book tells the story of Rowen Sterling, a troubled teenage girl that has spent years acting out. She has used drugs, alcohol and sex to try and get her deadbeat mother’s attention to no avail.

When Rowen’s mother has finally had enough of Rowen’s antics, she sends her to the home of an old friend in Montana. Rowen has never met the Walker family before, but she will be spending the summer on their ranch. It is about as far from Rowen’s normal life in the city as possible, but she begrudgingly agrees to go or else her mother will not pay for her to attend art school in the fall.

Right from the start, I noticed that there was a contradiction between who Rowen was supposed to be and who she actually was. From the moment that she arrived on the ranch, she was considerate and respectful. She immediately fell into the routines of the Walker family and pulled her own weight. She was a far cry from the rebellious hell-raiser that she was supposed to be.

In very little time, Rowen and the Walker’s son, Jesse, have caught each others’ attention. While Rowen was supposedly the “bad girl”, Jesse was a total sweetheart. He was hardworking, good looking and the type of guy that parents want their daughter to date. It was hard not to love Jesse.

As Rowen and Jesse’s summer romance takes off, Jesse’s past comes back to haunt them. His ex-best friend and his ex-girlfriend add a little drama to this story. Both Jesse and Rowen have to fight their insecurities at every turn.

When Rowen’s mother shows up on the scene, all hell breaks loose. To say that her mother is nurturing is putting it mildly. Rowen’s mother has spent years selfishly placing the needs of her revolving door of boyfriends above the needs of her own daughter. She is selfish and shallow. Suddenly, it becomes very apparent why Rowen had been acting out at home.

Overall, this was a nice, sweet story. If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming, YA type of romance, this is a pretty good choice. This can easily be read as a standalone, although it is part of a series. You won’t be left hanging. It will leave you with warm fuzzies.

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Review: Defy (Sinners of Saint, #0.5), by L. J. Shen

Defy (Sinners of Saint, #0.5)Defy by L.J. Shen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since reading ‘Vicious’, I have been looking forward to reading the story of Jaime and Melody. I love a forbidden love story and says “taboo” like a student-teacher romance. ‘Defy’ was everything that I had hoped for. I devoured this quick read and all of it’s naughty goodness!

After her dream career as a dancer comes to a tragic end, she is forced to pursue a lackluster job as a high school Literature teacher. With no real interest in teaching, she is less than enthused to face the spoiled rich kids than run the elite school where she’s been hired on a whim. It is no mystery to her that she doesn’t belong there and that the Principal intends to fire her at the first opportunity that she gets. With her job on the rocks, Melody Greene does the unthinkable – she has an affair with her high school student.

Of course, Jaime isn’t just any student. He’s the Principal’s out of control son. It seems that both teacher and son have an axe to grind with the Principal. What better way than by having an illicit affair right under her nose?

While this novella was steamy and sordid, with a dose of forbidden, it was also surprisingly sweet. L. J. Shen did a good job of showing the softer side of Jaime, while staying true to the privileged, above-the-law young man that we were introduced to as one of the four Hotholes in ‘Vicious’. There were really two sides to Jaime that were in stark contrast to one another.

Melody also proved to be a character that I really liked. She was so very human and flawed that she was easy to sympathize with. She was not blind to her faults or Jaime’s, but she loved him anyway. I loved that she chose to embrace her forbidden desires, pursuing a relationship with Jaime, knowing the controversy that would result. Similarly, I love that Jaime had the spine to stand up to his parents, even though it meant losing the wealth he’d always known.

Overall, I thought that this was a fantastic novella. It was a steamy, short read and highly entertaining. If you enjoyed ‘Vicious’, or even if you didn’t, this is a great choice if you’re looking for a taboo, forbidden love story.

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Review: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1), by Amie Kaufman

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! This book certainly took me by surprise. I’m still digesting exactly what transpired in this book.

‘Illuminae’ was unlike anything that I’ve read before. For starters, I’m not a big Science Fiction fan. However, this story had a strong romance element and so it managed to draw me in and hold my attention. That being said, I was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone with this book.

The writing style was also very unique. The story is told through the transcripts of recordings, e-mails and other communications between various characters. Admittedly, this style took me quite a while to get used to. Yet, once I adjusted to this unique perspective, I was completely hooked on this story.

‘Illuminae’ tells the story of battling mega-corporations in the future. They are fighting over a speck of a planet at the edge of the universe, with little regard for the lives of the people that are caught in the crosshairs.

Kady Grant and Ezra Mason are two of those people. High school sweethearts, the two had just broken up the morning that their worlds would be turned upside down. They find themselves under attack and fighting for survival.

In the wake of the attack, the world that they knew is changed irrevocably. A virus has broken out amongst the survivors, turning friends and neighbors into murdering zombies. Kady and Ezra are separated, but work together to try and save everyone.

As the story progressed, there were plenty of twists and turns. Every time that I thought I had everything figured out, the story would turn in a completely different direction. It definitely kept me on the edge of my seat.

It did take me a little longer to get into this story, but once I did, it had me completely focused. I even found myself liking AIDAN, the ship’s artificial intelligence that was arguably a “bad guy” for much of the book. This book ended up being surprisingly good for me.

I listened to the Audible edition and I have to give kudos to the narrators. They did a fantastic job of keeping this story engaging and keeping the multiple characters straight. This was a great audiobook selection.

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Review: And I Darken (The Conquerers Series, #1), by Kiersten White

And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)And I Darken by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘And I Darken’ was the first book that I’ve ever read by Ms. Kiersten White, but it certainly won’t be the last. The first book in ‘The Conquerers’ series, it managed to completely captivate me. I am both intrigued, enamored, and at times appalled, by these characters and the turbulent world that they occupy.

Lada Dragwlya is an unlikely heroine. She’s unattractive, uncouth and at times, downright mean. She’s everything her father had hoped for in a son, but got in his daughter. Her only redeeming qualities are her love for her homeland, Wallachia, and her love for her younger brother, Radu.

By comparison, Radu is everything that Lada is not. He is soft-spoken and gentle, an utter disappointment to their father, the Prince of Wallachia. Immediately, Radu claimed a piece of my heart.

When their father trades Lada and Radu to the Sultan of Ottoman as pawns to guarantee his loyalty, they are left to fend for themselves in a hostile new world. Lada is determined to be strong and to plan for her eventual revenge on the Sultan and his countrymen. She refuses to show any weakness that might be used against her and Radu.

Unlike his sister, Radu soon takes to the ways of this new world. He never felt that he fit in in Wallachia and finds comfort in this new country. He is not resistant to the new teachings or the new religion, as Lada is.

After months living in the Ottoman Empire, Radu and Lada make an unlikely friend. Mehmed is the illegitimate son of the sultan. Before long, the three are inseparable. The line between friend and enemy blurs and loyalties are called into question.

From start to finish, I was completely captivated by this story. It has a little of everything. There’s plenty of action and battle scenes. There’s romance and angst. Kingdoms rise and are overthrown. The incredible highs are off-set by bitter betrayals.

I am completely and totally hooked on this story. It is the first book, in what I’m sue will prove to be an epic saga. The characters were certainly flawed, but that only made me love them more. As soon as the next book is released, I’ll be diving in again. I was left with a lot of questions and I’ll have to wait for the next book to get my answers.

I listened to the Audible version of this book and I thought that the narration was well done. I could easily distinguish between the characters and I thought the narrator did a great job of conveying the emotions and intensity. It was a fantastic audiobook choice for me.

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Review: Bright Side (Bright Side, #1), by Kim Holden

Bright Side (Bright Side, #1)Bright Side by Kim Holden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book wrecked me! It was incredibly touching and heartfelt. Despite dealing with some rather depressing subject matter, it was handled with care. I can’t say that I didn’t cry big fat tears, but I can say that I smiled far more than I cried while reading this book. It was beautiful.

The heroine, Kate, moves from San Diego to Grant, Minnesota for college. Right off the bat, I loved her. It is easy to understand why her best friend, Gus, gave her the nickname “Bright Side”. She is the type of person that just lights up a room. Kudos to the narrator for being able to capture the essence of Kate’s character so well.

As Kate makes friends in her new home, she never lets her relationship with Gus weaken. They talk daily on the phone, while he tours with his band, Rook. There is no mistaking the strength of their bond, or the fact that there are feelings shared that extend beyond the bounds of normal friendship.

Despite claiming not to believe in romantic love, Kate finds herself falling in love. Keller Banks is the hot guy that works the counter at the coffee shop that she frequents for her caffeine fix. They flirt tirelessly and find themselves thrown together more often through mutual friends.

Once Kate and Keller begin spending more time together, their attraction is evident. Before long, Keller has let Kate into the private aspects of his life that he doesn’t share with others. The two grow incredibly close in a very short period of time.

Nobody is more surprised by their quick intimacy than Kate herself. She never planned on falling in love. She didn’t even believe it existed. More importantly, she has a big secret that she’s been keeping from everyone she loves, which she knows will ruin everything.

Aside from the romance between Kate and Keller, I found myself drawn to the stories of friendship in this book. Kate’s relationship with Gus was incredible. The support and love between them was so strong it was tangible. Similarly, her relationships with Clayton, Shelley and Pete were inspiring.

This book certainly did not lack for a strong cast of supporting characters. Each of these characters was endearing in their own way. Even the ones that made me mad initially, like Kate’s roommate, won me over eventually. I loved all of them and am looking forward to reading their stories.

In the end, I cried big, fat tears. It was sad, but also very inspiring. This is one of those books that makes you step back and reevaluate how you go through life. It was inspirational and helps keep things in perspective.

This is a must-read! I can’t believe that I put it off for so long, but I am so glad that I finally read it. This book was fabulous!

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Review: Capture (Elements of Chemistry, #3; Hypothesis, #1.3), by Penny Reid

Capture (Elements of Chemistry #3; Hypothesis, #1.3)Capture by Penny Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this conclusion to the ‘Elements of Chemistry’ series, we again find Martin and Kaitlyn separated. However, unlike the beginning of the second book, this time around the damage done to their relationship will not be repaired so easily. Deep hurt and betrayal have overshadowed what once was so good between these two.

Months after their break-up, Kaitlyn still cannot get over her heartache. Her life has changed drastically, as she made the decision to follow her dreams instead of trying to live up to other people’s expectations for her. Despite the positive changes she’s made in her life, Martin still haunts her.

When she runs into him unexpectedly at an event where she is performing, it all comes rushing back to her. Of course, it doesn’t help that he seems to be doing just fine. After that, the encounters become more and more frequent as Martin pushes his way back into her life.

Alternating between present and past, the pain of their break-up slowly comes to light. If you read the earlier books in the series, you knew how things ended between the two at the end of book 2. However, this book showcases the depth of the emotional pain and betrayal that Kaitlyn experienced. I thought that the alternating timeframes worked well for their story.

Just as Martin did what he needed to do to hold it together, so did Kaitlyn. Mainly, she just avoided all things Martin-related. She didn’t read any articles or news stories focused on his swift rise to success. She refused to hear anything about how he was doing or what he was up to. Out of sight, out of mind was her coping strategy.

The more time that the two spend together, the more clear it becomes that Kaitlyn is unaware of everything Martin has been doing while they were separated. Time and time again, hints that Kaitlyn is the one that broke Martin’s heart are dropped by friends and his business partner. Eventually, she’ll have to find out exactly what he’s been up to while they were apart. When she does, everything changes again.

Overall, this was a nice, sweet finale to this series. I enjoyed every minute of Martin and Kaitlyn’s story. It was fun, sweet and kept me smiling. If you’re looking for a light-hearted, humorous series, this is a fantastic choice.

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Review: Attraction (Elements of Chemistry, #1; Hypothesis, #1.1), by Penny Reid

Attraction (Elements of Chemistry #1; Hypothesis, #1.1)Attraction by Penny Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a light-hearted, fun story that had me smiling from start to finish. I enjoyed every minute of this audiobook. I needed something kind of sweet and this was the perfect story.

Kaitlyn Parker is an introvert and a very quirky girl. She’s been matched as a lab partner with Martin Sandeke for 2 years. Despite the fact that they both come from families of extreme wealth and fame, the two couldn’t be more different on the surface. She’s the studious loner and he’s the resident manwhore.

The two have never spoken outside of the lab, until Kaitlyn overhears something that she shouldn’t have. When she hears the conniving plan of one of Martin’s supposed friends, she knows that she has to tell Martin what she’s overheard. She might think that Martin is a total “jerkface”, but she can’t stand by silently while somebody plans to drug him and have their way with him. That’s taking it too far.

When Kaitlyn approaches Martin to tell him about what she heard, the dynamics of their relationship changes immediately. Soon the two are engaged in a whirlwind romance. Martin convinces Kaitlyn to go away to his island home with him and some friends for a week. Let the fun begin!

One minute they’re hot. The next they’re cold. Both of them have some definite personality quirks and social hang-ups to contend with. Together, they’re absolutely hilarious. Kaitlyn’s inner monologue was enough to keep me in stitches. That girl was too funny!

Martin had plenty of selfish moments, which made for some tense moments. He was certainly used to getting exactly what he wanted, when he wanted it. Kaitlyn was good for him in that regard. She was the first woman that didn’t just throw herself at his feet.

Of course, this is only the first serial installment in the ‘Elements of Chemistry’ series. Accordingly, you can expect a cliffhanger ending that will leave you wanting the next serial immediately. Luckily, I waited until they were all released. So, I didn’t have to wait before diving into the next one.

This was a great, short, and absolutely adorable audiobook. It was sweet and very funny. The narration was great as well. It was a nice change of pace and I was able to jump right into the next one immediately.

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Review: Caraval (Caraval, #1), by Stephanie Garber

Caraval (Caraval, #1)Caraval by Stephanie Garber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a surprisingly captivating world Stephanie Garber has created in ‘Caraval’! I listened to the Audible version of this book and I was mesmerized by the beautiful and vivid imagery that ‘Caraval’ contained. I was drawn in by the world that Ms. Garber created and it held my attention right to the very end.

Every once in a while, I love a great paranormal romance. I love to leave reality behind and take off on a journey to a place where magic and fairytales exist. This was the perfect story to do just that.

Scarlett, aka “Crimson”, and her sister Tella have lived under the oppressive rule of their father. His cruelty seems to know no bounds and he takes satisfaction in tormenting his daughters. Knowing how close the girls are to one another, he uses their love against them. When one of his daughters breaks a rule, it is the other one that will receive the punishment.

Awaiting her arranged marriage to a Count that she’s never met before, Scarlett is just biding her time until she can get away from her sadistic father. She’s literally counting down the weeks until she will be married and can take her sister with her to her new home. Unlike Scarlett, Tella is skeptical of the mysterious fiancé that seems to say all of the right things but whose identity remains shrouded in mystery.

Before Scarlett can be married off, she receives an invitation from Legend, the famous mastermind behind the Caraval. Despite writing to Legend ever since she was a young child, Scarlett has never received a response before. Now, with the clock counting down to her wedding, it seems like fate that she would receive her first ever response and an invitation to participate in the Caraval.

With the support of her sister, Scarlett sets off for the mysterious island where Legend has indicated that the Caraval is taking place. Along with Tella, she sets sail with Julian, a young sailor, to participate in the forbidden game. Both sisters know that they are risking their lives by sneaking off against their father’s wishes. However, they are willing to take their chances in order to seize a once in a lifetime opportunity.

From that point forward, the girls are caught up in a magical and dangerous world. Appearances are not what they seem and even time moves differently in this new world. Caraval is a game where the stakes are very high and not everyone will come out alive or unscathed.

I don’t want to give anything away or ruin the surprise for others. There were many twists and turns that I didn’t see coming while listening to this story. Just when I thought I had everything figured out, something else would happen that made me question everything again. This story held my attention and kept me guessing right to the very end.

If you like adventure/fantasy/paranormal stories with plenty of twists and turns, this is a great choice. There is some romance, but it took a back seat to the magical world of Caraval. For me, the adventure and mystery of Caraval reigned supreme. Of course, there is a love story weaved into this fantastical story as well. Just, don’t plan on a super-smutty type of story where the focus on the romance is paramount.

All in all, I thought that this was a wonderful story. I was enchanted by the world that Ms. Garber created and cannot wait to read the next installment. This book filled my head with some beautiful and vibrant imagery that will hang with me for quite some time. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a paranormal/fantasy/adventure to read. It was fantastic!

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Review: Kulti, by Mariana Zapata

KultiKulti by Mariana Zapata
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve had this book sitting on my TBR for a long time. I had put off reading it for a few reasons, but the most notable reasons being that: 1) I am not a sports fan – at all- and I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy it since this story was centered on two athletes; and 2) I was worried that I’d be disappointed after reading so many fantastic reviews for this book. Now that I’ve read it, I can say that neither of those concerns ended up coming to fruition.

I listened to the Audible version of this book and I thought that it was fabulous. I loved the humor and the wittiness of the heroine, Sal Casillas. Kulti was a real piece of work at times and I loved that Sal wasn’t afraid to call him out on his assholery. (Yep! I’m making that a word.)

Sal and Kulti were a great pair. I spent a lot of time laughing my butt off at Sal’s inner monologue. She was just so “human” that it was hard not to love her.

On the other hand, Reiner Kulti was an acquired taste. He was the polar opposite of the easy-going Sal. He was wound tight, closed-off and outright rude for most of this book. However, little by little, a softer side of him was revealed.

To say that this book was a slow-burn is putting it mildly. This story seemed to go on forever. I enjoyed it immensely, but I did think that it could have been trimmed down a little.

The only other thing that I would’ve changed was the ending. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the way everything played out. I just wanted more. It took so long for Sal and Kulti to get their HEA and after all the time spent describing every detail of every game, I felt like more time should’ve been dedicated to them as a couple. After all, I waited long enough to get there.

Everything considered, I thought that this was a fantastic story. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that all of my worries had been completely misplaced. I enjoyed every minute of this book. If you’ve been putting it off like I did, don’t.

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Review: My Skylar, by Penelope Ward

My SkylarMy Skylar by Penelope Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once I finished ‘Jake Undone’, I had to start ‘My Skylar’ to get Skylar’s story. This book can be read as a standalone, but reading ‘Jake Undone’ will provide a brief introduction to Skylar and a little insight into her background. Similarly, you’ll have the backstory for Jake and Nina, Skylar’s super-supportive friends, if you’ve read that book first. However, it is not necessary to read ‘Jake Undone’ first to understand and/or enjoy ‘My Skylar’.

Skylar and Mitch meet when they are young children. Mitch’s grandmother lives across the street from Skylar’s family. He comes to stay with his grandmother one summer while his parents split up.

The two find that they have a lot in common, despite their separate upbringings. In no time at all, they become best friends. They spend every waking moment with each other, until Mitch has to return to his home.

When Mitch’s father shows up unexpectedly early to pick him up, he is surprised. He is only more surprised by the news that his parents are getting divorced. As a young boy, the demise of his parent’s marriage has shook his belief in the foundation of marriage. He even questions the permanence of “love”.

Skylar does not hear from Mitch for years. As a teenager, she hears his name at a party and immediately the memories come back. She has never forgotten the boy that walked into her life all those years ago, even if he seemed to have forgotten her.

When Mitch returns as a teenager to live with his mother in his grandmother’s home, Skylar and him pick up their friendship where they left off. It is almost like he never left. Only, now there is a definite sexual attraction brewing between the two.

This was a story that delivered a ton of angst and teenage melodrama. There were several times that I found myself wanting to shake Mitch and Skylar. So much heartache could’ve been avoided if they had only been open and honest with each other. It was incredibly frustrating at times, as they danced around each other ignoring the elephant in the room.

Along the way, the story takes a few unbelievable twists. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the story, but I did think that some of the twists were over-the-top. Skylar and Mitch were dramatic enough without having some of the extra twists in my opinion. I kept thinking “What else?”. It was like the universe was working to keep these two apart.

This story follows Mitch and Skylar’s relationship from childhood into adulthood and there are plenty of angst-filled moments along the way. They are together, then they aren’t. They’re inseparable, then they’re estranged. It was enough to give me whiplash at times.

Despite all of the back and forth, I found myself glued to my headphones while I listened to their story. It was angsty and over-the-top, but I loved it. My heart broke at times, but it worked out perfectly in the end. I recommend this story for anyone that loves a HEA, but isn’t afraid to work for it or cry a few tears along the way.

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