Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Book Series: Pushing the Limits, Book #2
Author: Katie McGarry
Genres: Contemporary Romance, New Adult, YA
Format: Audiobook (Audible)
Narrator: Christopher Gebauer & Brittany Pressley
Length: 12 hrs and 18 mins

My Ranking:

Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. "Dance with me, Beth."

"No." I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again....

"I dare you..."

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....
Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all...

I LOVE THIS SERIES!!! Usually, I am not a fan of  dual narrations. Two much like a yo-yo, bouncing between two sets of personalities, two different takes on a story and so on. But, not so with this book. I feel like both Beth and Ryan are honest narrators. They react how they react and talk about there regrets and vulnerabilities openly and honestly, no matter what they are. And even through they're not that alike, it didn't feel like I was going up and down on a string. As a matter of fact, it never has with this series and that's what I  love most about McGarry's writing style. Her characters are unique and different, their accounts of how life plays out feels amazingly authentic and real. All of her characters become even better the more their flaws are exposed and that's a truly beautiful thing. What's surprising is that if I had to pick a character that I liked more, in either book, I would have gone for the male lead in both. Noah and Ryan are amazing. Nothing against Echo or Beth, but i prefer them.

What I most appreciate about McGarry's works is that she has a special talent for capturing the essence of the pressures of family, and exploring the dynamics in brutally honest and often devastating ways. No matter what, we are damaged by our families. Okay, maybe damaged is too strong of a word. Rather it's like your family leaves a sticky residue on your skin that exists always. Whether it's failed expectations, abandon hopes, disappointments, physical pain or hurt feelings they've given you, it's something you can never shake - it's always there. And no matter how hard you try to change yourself to shed it, it never really goes away. On the flip side, you give what you get. You hurt them too, leave your residue on them. Family is who you love and hurt the most... sucks.

While reading this book, I felt that Beth's residue was anger. It was her very special friend. Something she can whip out and use against the world. And it's a sad thing. Because when there's no one left to unleash that hurt and anger onto it turns inward. Corroding your happiness, or "lightness" as she called it. But I can understand where all the anger and resentment comes from because the accounts on the relationship between Beth and her mother are heartbreaking. And for Ryan, it was the pressure to be the perfect son. Exactly who is parents wanted him to be and to hell with his own wishes.

Also, After reading Book #1 and realizing that Beth had a deep secret in her past like Echo's, I prepared for the worse. Because Echo's was 10 kinds of f***ed up. Well, this one delivered again and ... damn. Just damn. It's heartbreaking.

One last comment is that, as a sports fan, I loved Ryan's reflections on baseball. So perfect!

Will I be progressing to the next book? Most definitely! This is definitely a favorite series, no doubt.

I think that both of the narrators did fantastic jobs. I preferred Christopher's narration a bit more. Could have been because I liked Ryan more as a character. But - I think both narrators connected with the characters and performed flawlessly. I will now be stalking both on Audible....

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Waiting on" Wednesday: Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases. Click the link to participate.

MY PICK THIS WEEK (and it's a looooooong wait):

Book Title: Shield of Winter
AuthorNalini Singh
Book Series: Psy-Changeling, Book 13
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: June 4, 2014

Assassin. Soldier. Arrow. That is who Vasic is, who he will always be. His soul drenched in blood, his conscience heavy with the weight of all he’s done, he exists in the shadows, far from the hope his people can almost touch—if only they do not first drown in the murderous insanity of a lethal contagion. To stop the wave of death, Vasic must complete the simplest and most difficult mission of his life.

For if the Psy race is to survive, the empaths must wake…

Having rebuilt her life after medical “treatment” that violated her mind and sought to stifle her abilities, Ivy should have run from the black-clad Arrow with eyes of winter frost. But Ivy Jane has never done what she should. Now, she'll fight for her people, and for this Arrow who stands as her living shield, yet believes he is beyond redemption. But as the world turns to screaming crimson, even Ivy’s fierce will may not be enough to save Vasic from the cold darkness…

This series was the first Urban Fantasy series that I read, and it continues to be much beloved. Nalini Singh is beyond talented. This world is so rich, full of amazing characters and a unique, bad-ass plot. I could go on and on about how great it and she is, but check it out for yourself. Slave to Sensation is the first book.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Book Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Book Series: The Testing, Book #1
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Genres: Dystopian, YA
Format: eBook
Length: 336 Pages

My Ranking:

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

I completely devoured this book. I had been hearing the good reviews for weeks, so I thought I'd try it out. Richly deserved; this book is stellar!

After reading the first chapter, I knew I was going to love this book. The suspense starts immediately as Cia is chosen for The Testing. The intrigue builds as her father reveals some disturbing memories of his experience and warns her to "trust no one." I was hooked!

Then, of course, there is Cia and my first impression of her is strong, capable, observant and adaptable. Perfect for a heroine in this type of dystopian society. It would be easy to assume she's a Katniss Everdeen character and this is a nod to The Hunger Games, but there is something different about this story. It felt more sinister. The feeling of "there is something creepy beneath the surface" immediately clenches in your gut and never eases - it just continues to grow as Cia learns more and more about what she's been thrown into.

The more I read the more intense and sinister the book got. It was like there was this scary monster that you could just see over your shoulder that got bigger and bigger with every flip of the page. It made for an amazing read.

It wouldn't be right for me to go into too much detail about this book. It's something you have to experience for yourself. It's just freaking amazing. I am lying here at 4 a.m. having just finished and also, yes, having to go to work in a few hours but it just grabbed me and wouldn't let me go.

I don't think this is the authors first book or series, so I will definitely be checking out more from her. I already downloaded the novella, so expect a review from that as well before the week is over. This book was a fantastic first for a series and had all the elements that I love: well-developed characters; a strong female lead with a conscious; a unique voice; a gripping plot; and fantastic pacing from start to finish!

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book Review: White Trash Zombie Apocalypse by Diana Rowland

Book Series: White Trash Zombie, Book #3
Author: Diana Rowland
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: Audiobook (Amazon)
Narrator: Allison McLemore
Length: 09 hrs and 30 mins

My Ranking:

Our favorite white trash zombie, Angel Crawford, has enough problems of her own, what with dealing with her alcoholic, deadbeat dad, issues with her not-quite boyfriend, the zombie mafia, industrial espionage and evil corporations. Oh, and it’s raining, and won’t let up.

But things get even crazier when a zombie movie starts filming in town, and Angel begins to suspect that it’s not just the plot of the movie that's rotten. Soon she's fighting her way through mud, blood, bullets and intrigue, even as zombies, both real and fake, prowl the streets.

Angel’s been through more than her share of crap, but this time she’s in way over her head. She’ll need plenty of brainpower to fit all the pieces—and body parts—together in order to save herself, her town, and quite possibly the human race.

I enjoy this series a lot. I think that Rowland's take on Zombies is genius and love her interpretation so much more than the typical rotting, shuffling, brainless variety of zombie. I tend to stay away from those types of books. I think this is part of why I appreciate this series so much. There's a real explanation for Rowland's zombies and I find the scientific tidbits that delve into the nature and nurture of the zombie parasite very interesting.

That said, I wasn't too sure of this book when I first started it because there was a lot going on ... .almost too much. So much so that through the first half of the book, I found the plot to be a jumbled mess. There's the Zombie Apocalypse movie, Angel's job at the coroners office, her looming GED test, Angel's "zombie mama" drama, the zombie mafia and corporate espionage, and  even more ... it was a lot to experience. I often found myself wondering where this story was going to end up.

But, by the end, it felt like Rowland had build a stable enough bridge - dragging across that big-ass plot - and tied up all loose ends satisfactorily. Overall, I felt that the book started with us seeing the last of Angel's super white trash past and ended with us seeing Angel take her first steps into her future as the better zombie version of her self. i really appreciated her journey, and also that Rowland took the whole book to jump forward into the future with Angel and the gang instead of just smacking me in the face with "6 months have past and this is what happened" opening chapter.

Speaking of her gang - I really love all of the supporting characters in this book. I think that is part of what makes this story so interesting. All of the characters are pretty well developed - I really like Brian. I think in this book, Angel finds her place among new and old friends and her new zombified life. I dug it.

Also, I enjoyed how this book delved deeper into Pietro's operation and the "zombie corporate rivalry" was in full force. I found all of those bits and pieces most interesting, and think that this will definitely help the story move along leaps and bounds as Angel gets further entangled in that web.

I will definitely be carrying on with this series.

I think Allison does an amazing job with this series. She brings so much energy, life and enthusiasm to Angel; I was surprised that her "typical narration" voice sounds more like the more serious characters in the story. If I had to single someone out, I'd say she sounds most like her portrayal of Brian. That said, I think she brings just the right amount of spunk and sass to Angel and it makes for a very enjoyable read every time!

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Avalon by Mindee Arnett

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases. Click the link to participate.


Book Title: Avalon
AuthorMindee Arnett
Book Series: Avalon, Book 1
Genres: YA, Science Fiction
Release Date: January 21, 2014

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon's cult hit show Firefly.

Kudos to whoever was wise enough to compare this book to a much beloved television series of mine, Firefly. Now, I HAVE to read it. That ridiculous cancellation left a hole in my heart that has never been filled.

However, the cover alone would have enticed me to give it a go. Very badass. Also, story sounds amazing. It's close enough to Dystopian to pique my interest but far away for me to really get excited because the genre is starting to get a bit repetitive. Also, I like the name Jeth. Overall, I'm definitely intrigued.

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