Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bel's UN-Top 10 of 2013

It's been a strange year where I went through some annoying reading funks, read in spurts, couldn't keep up and then didn't know what to read next. That gave me the mistaken impression that I hadn't read much at all. Thank goodness that's not the case! Now the problem is narrowing down the list. Yeah ... not a freaking chance!

My mind drifts back to this one every now and then. It’s surprisingly sweet and funny considering that we’re dealing with young kids with cancer. In this case, Megan is in denial, while Dawson, the enigmatic patient creates memorable moments for everyone at the hospital. It’s precious and one of my early favorites from the year.

Oh. My. God.  I read this book start to finish in the car on the way to Texas for spring break. Quite a few times I had to wipe away tears but nothing prepared me for the waterworks I had by the end. And this wasn’t just a one-off cry. I was seriously affected by this one for days. I don’t care what category a book falls under, when a book makes you feel all the feels that you can’t shake off for days, then that’s some damn good storytelling!

This one just caught me off guard. The premise sounds absurd but then who in college hasn’t done absurd things? This was an unusual love story that was awkward, sweet and hot in one go. Yes, I’ve re-read this one a few times, including a few chapters here and there multiple times. This one is my go-to if I want something to get my pulse moving.

I remember clearly coming across this Nick Burd gem when I had to run my kids to the library. I just love those moments when something is right in front of you and you just go for it. In this case, I noticed the cover, liked the title and grabbed it. I'm so glad I did! It's a brilliant story about searching for something more and wanting to belong that speaks to anyone. So Nick Burd, what else are you working on?

This was the perfect book for me – full of snark, humor and mischief. While the story initially focused on Emmy and Justin, it really turned out to be an ensemble one. Worlds collide when all these misfits in rehab are forced to work as a team. I think this would make a pretty fantastic movie (well, you know, so long as they leave the story as is). Throw in a pig and how can this not be awesome?

The final in the Angel Burn series had me holding my breath all the way through because of all the heart pounding tension. And I thought L.A. Weatherly ended it perfectly.

There are plenty of kick-ass female characters but Celaena has them all beat. She’s intelligent, strong but also damaged. She has done some pretty atrocious things in her past. Her strengths and flaws make her a formidable opponent. Her chemistry with Chaol sizzles. This is one of my favorite series. I was thrilled to meet Sarah J Maas earlier in the year to let her know that I thoroughly enjoyed the broom closet scene. We had a good chuckle about that one ;-)

Ohhh! This is one of the most delightful stories I have ever read. I just ADORE this. Young or old, anyone will enjoy the beginnings of falling in love – the funny feeling in your tummy, the stolen glances, that awkward silence mid-conversation on the phone, the eagerness for the weekend to be over so you can see your crush at school. I have raved and raved about this one to many people and even bought it as a Christmas gift for my colleague who comes from Omaha where this is set. There should be a section on the bookshelf titled “Warm Fuzzies” where this should be at the head of the pack.

This book is simply enchanting – from the setting to the mystical, it cast its magic on me. It has a lovely romantic feel about it despite being set during war time. There is one scene that takes place over the water that is one of the most seductive I have ever read.

Okay, no one really wants to read a story about a teacher involved with a student. This book however flipped the taboo subject on its head by addressing it from the student’s point of view.  It was uneasy reading for sure especially as the outcome drew nearer. I thought Amanda Grace was brilliant with But I LoveHim. With this follow-up she’s proven that she’s a genius.

I know, I know that I'm "cheating" here but I'll take any opportunity to give a shout out to the authors and their books that have won me over.

I am slowly making my way through Jessica Sorensen's catalog. This will take me a while as she has many, many books and apparently never sleeps. The Secret of Ella and Micha was my first intro to her and I was hooked. She also released Breaking Nova this year. Aside from her romances, I've also started her Fallen Star series. I can always rely on her for some intriguing entanglements and also plenty of emotional wreckage to go with it.

My daughter reads a lot and suggested I try this one. I thought, why not, seemed like something I could finish up in a day. Wow, was I in for a surprise! By page 17 I was a mess. I had to put it down every few chapters so I could have a good cry. My daughter apologized profusely for asking me to read a book that set off this deluge of tears. Don’t get me wrong. I love this book about a 5th grade girl with Asperger's who’s trying to understand the world around her after the death of her older brother. I urge anyone to read this – it is written so eloquently and with such compassion. Sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming but honestly is one of the most endearing stories I have ever read.

Oh Amy Lane! She is my and Nat’s BFF. Don’t worry – Ms. Lane is quite aware of this and she still let's us talk to her.  This is my second favorite of the entire series. And I just want to thank Amy for providing me with more wonderful fictional boyfriends in Colin and Jeff.

It’s no secret that I’m in love with this series. I cannot wait until Empower comes out because I just have to know that my Violet and Lincoln will be okay.

Well there you have it, my UN-Top 10 of 2013 as it turns out. In hindsight this has been a very busy but satisfying year and I'm looking forward to 2014!

~ Bel

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Peek In The BiblioBin #82

Welcome to our Stacking the Shelves post! Stacking the Shelves (or as we like to call it, A Peek in the BiblioBin) has been created by the lovely ladies at Tynga's Reviews.

Stacking the Shelves is a way for bloggers to share what books they have won, received for review, bought from the bookstore, borrowed from the library or friend, etc.

It's our last BiblioBin of the year! And now that the holidays are almost over, we're getting back into our reading groove. So here's what we have to keep us company 
as we nurse our New Year's hangover ...

For Review:

A Million Little Snowflakes by Logan Byrne

Ruined (The Eternal Balance #1) by Jus Accardo

Secret (Elemental #4) by Brigid Kemmerer


Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1) by Gail Carriger


Romeo Redeemed (Juliet Immortal #2) by Stacy Jay

Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice - The Graphic Novel

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Top Ten of 2013 - Nat's Picks

I can't believe that another year has passed.  Another year of bookish and non-bookish fun.   Another year of Shel and Bel putting up with my ridiculous obsessions and total nonsense - book related and not.  And another of year of struggling to create a Top Ten post.  It took some time but I did it.  I narrowed down my favorites for 2013.   Here there are.  Other than the first, there is no particular order to this list...

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg - This was by far my FAVORITE book of the year.  I want everyone to read this.  EVERYONE.  Not matter age, orientation or gender, I think everyone will be able to relate to Rafe.  This is a beautifully awkward and funny story about acceptance and celebrating who we are.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman - I loved both books in this duology but Just One Day struck a cord with me.  Growing up as an only child, I really identified with Allyson Healey and her struggles.  Gayle Forman doesn't hold back in telling the story of an insecure girl that travels both figuratively and literally in order to discover who she is and become an independent young woman.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein -  This was an engrossing story about best friends (one a spy; the other a transit pilot) meeting and experiencing the horrors of WWII England and France.  This book had one hell of a climax that still makes my heart stop to think about it.

Glitterland by Alexis Hall -  This is easily one of the best m/m romances I have ever read (review to post the first week of the New Year).  Hall's use of the first person narrative provides the reader with understanding as to how Ash is affected by his depression as well as serves to show the contrast between Ash and Darian's personalities.  And what I loved most was seeing how beautiful and sparkling Darian becomes in Ash's eyes.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater - I have enjoyed both books in this unfinished trilogy but The Dream Thieves left me utterly confused and thoroughly enchanted.  Confused because, as Shel said, I had no idea what was going on yet I couldn't stop reading.  Enchanted because The Gray Man might be one of the most psychotically amusing characters I've ever encountered.  Don't let my comments put you off.  You will learn what's going on before the book is finished.  Stiefvater just does what she does best.  Take you on the most adventurous and entertaining path to the destination she intends.

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane - Out of Amy's many wonderful releases this year,  Christmas Kitsch was the one that grabbed me the most.   Partially because Rusty was so adorably clueless and awkward.  And partially because it was a heartwarming love story about making a home.  This one gave me a nudge (that I desperately needed) right into the holiday spirit.

Dare You To by Katie McGarry -  No surprise I picked this one for my Top Ten.  Although I love McGarry's bad boys (Noah of Pushing the Limits and Isaiah of Crash Into You), my heart will always belong to the forever boys. And Ryan Stone is the perfect forever boy.  He's spontaneously romantic and he's protective while never attempting to take away Beth's independence.  And did I mention he plays baseball?  Yeah.  Forever boy.

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare - I can't say much about this because Shel is saving up most of her TMI and ID books for this coming spring and we don't want to spoil anything for her.  All I can say is OMG. Cassie Clare sure knows how to pull at those heartstrings.  Seriously.  I was sitting at the kitchen table at 2am sobbing my poor little heart out.

The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn - I thought this was Julia Quinn at her finest.  The shockingly rude and smart conversations that Lady Sarah and Lord Hugh have are hilarious.  Lord Hugh might be my favorite Julia Quinn hero yet.  And that's saying a lot considering how much I love Colin Bridgerton.  And Simon Basset.  And Michael Stirling. And Thomas Cavendish. And....oh sod it.  I love them all.  And now I can add Hugh Prentice to my historical romance harem.

Cherish by Tere Michaels - Cherish (a novella) is the 4th book in the Faith, Love and Devotion Series. I enjoyed the entire series immensely but what made Cherish stand out for me was that we got that peek we always crave when wondering about a couples Happy Ever After.  On top of that, it contained the perfect mix of romance and the wicked Tere Michaels' humor Bel and I witnessed at RT.

I did it!  I figured out my favorites of the year.  But there are still 6 more days of the year.  I reserve my right to edit this list on the off chance I find another favorite before 2014 begins.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Left Drowning by Jessica Park

* * * 3/4

Weighted down by the loss of her parents, Blythe McGuire struggles to keep her head above water as she trudges through her last year at Matthews College. Then a chance meeting sends Blythe crashing into something she doesn’t expect—an undeniable attraction to a dark-haired senior named Chris Shepherd, whose past may be even more complicated than her own. As their relationship deepens, Chris pulls Blythe out of the stupor she’s been in since the night a fire took half her family. She begins to heal, and even, haltingly, to love this guy who helps her find new paths to pleasure and self-discovery. But as Blythe moves into calmer waters, she realizes Chris is the one still strangled by his family’s traumatic history. As dark currents threaten to pull him under, Blythe may be the only person who can keep him from drowning.

I have been eagerly awaiting to have this book in my possession. I don’t know if it’s the striking cover or just the premise of the story that got to me. It happened to be a Kindle Daily Deal recently which made my day!

Blythe is in a drunken stupor on our initial encounter with her. She’s a college senior now simply going through the motions until she graduates. She has managed to maintain a safe distance from everyone, avoiding relationships of any sort. She feels that she doesn’t quite deserve happiness or a social life since her parents died in a fire years before. The fire that took them and irrevocably changed her and her brother’s lives, is something that she blames solely on herself.

After a particularly disastrous and awkward drunk-dialing to her brother, she decides that she needs to sober up and develop a different perspective on life.  This is the same day that things change suddenly when one of her peers Sabin, introduces himself to her in the most spectacular of ways. His is a very colourful and animated personality that normally Blythe would run from. But she is charmed by his audacity and over-the-top mannerisms. There you go. She has finally made a friend. Even she is surprised that this is as much human contact as she has had with anyone in the four years she has been at college.

When she meets Chris, Sabin’s brother, it’s an inexplicable, instant attraction. She uncharacteristically introduces herself to him and ends up divulging her personal loss to him. For some reason, she can do this with him and feel safe. Chris quietly lets her grieve. There’s just something about him that allows him to be her safe haven though she finds it hard to understand the connection between them. It’s a series of false starts with them as they figure out what they mean to each other and what they want.

Blythe’s circle does grow and she gains new friends. Coming out of her self-imposed isolation to find herself being happy is almost mystifying to her. This is probably the part of the story I enjoyed the most.

There is about a three-chapter section where things get very hot and heavy where I felt I stepped into "Fifty Shades of Grey Lite". I didn't particularly care for it at the time because it felt distracting to me. Now that I’m done with it I suppose I understand why things were described in such detail. If Blythe has been this numb for the last few years since the tragedy, then it’s valid that when she’s with Chris that everything about them, both physical and emotional, would be a new sensation for her.

As for the rest of the story, as Blythe continues her journey, she realizes Chris and his family will need her strength to help them through the terrors that they had endured as children. The mysterious connection she shares with Chris becomes clearer the deeper they delve into the past that’s haunting them all.

Left Drowning has its emotional highs and lows. Their pasts are so twisted and horrific, it’s understandable they’d all feel demoralized as young adults.  All the characters are pretty awesome but sadly vulnerable, especially Sabin whose larger-than-life personality is just masking his own pain. All of them are stuck in their own hell and it's Blythe who helps to pull them from it.

I mentioned at the beginning that I was eager to read this and I'm glad that I was not disappointed. Jessica Park has written a sweet story that's messy in parts but also full of happy moments too!

~ Bel

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Peek In The BiblioBin #81

Welcome to our Stacking the Shelves post! Stacking the Shelves (or as we like to call it, A Peek in the BiblioBin) has been created by the lovely ladies at Tynga's Reviews.

Stacking the Shelves is a way for bloggers to share what books they have won, received for review, bought from the bookstore, borrowed from the library or friend, etc.

For Review:

Where You'll Find Me by Erin Fletcher


The Shadowhunter's Codex by Cassandra Clare & Joshua Lewis  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane

Christmas Kitsch* * * *

Sometimes the best thing you can get for Christmas is knowing what you really want.

Rusty Baker is a blond, rich, entitled football player in a high school full of them—just the type of oblivious jock all the bullied kids hate. And he might have stayed that way, except he develops a friendship with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. Rusty thinks the friendship is just pity—Oliver is very bright, and Rusty is very not—but then Oliver kisses him goodbye when Rusty leaves for college, and Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.

But even Rusty’s newfound awareness can’t help him survive a semester at Berkeley. He returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver Campbell is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. Oliver may not have much money, but he’s got something Rusty has never known: true family. With their help and Oliver’s love, Rusty comes to realize that he may have failed college, but he’ll pass real life with flying rainbow colors.


Rusty would have never guessed that he would become best friends with Oliver Campbell.  And it may have taken him forever to clue into the fact that Oliver likes him as more than a friend and that Rusty returns his affections.  But, fortunately, Oliver isn’t clueless.  He’s not only willing to take the initial step to clue Rusty in but he’s also willing to be patient while Rusty figures it all out.

Rusty goes off to college with his and Oliver’s first kiss fresh on his mind.  While there he not only struggles with classes but also with accepting the fact that he DOES love Oliver.  Because he knows that no matter how much he loves Oliver, his parents will never approve.  But with the help of Oliver’s continued friendship and patience and also the help of an inappropriate yet lovable and understanding roommate (seriously, I want to strangle and hug Roommate Rex) Rusty makes his decision and heads home to spend  Thanksgiving with his new boyfriend.

Rusty expected his parents’ disapproval.  But not even he was prepared for their reaction.  His parents not only kick him out, they try to take everything away from him.  EVERYTHING.  They pull his college funding, shut off his phone, take away his car and cut off access to his checking account.  They refuse to communicate with him and even try to access his personal savings account.  Their brutal and swift reaction leaves Rusty reeling but not powerless.

Rusty can be more than a little clueless but that doesn’t mean he’s stupid.  He knows enough to head right back to school and work with all his professors to either withdraw from his classes or complete them for credit.  He’s smart enough to ask his roommate to hide his stuff from his parents (because they DO try to take the things from his dorm) until he can come back and get them.  He’s smart enough to look for a job, an apartment, a car, and open a new checking account.  And all though it takes him some time to figure it out he learns a beautiful lesson that I also learned when I moved away from home.

I was lucky.  Even though there was tension between me and my mother, my parents never once took away their support when I moved into my own place.  They MADE me take the bed and dressers because, as they said, they bought it for me and the set was mine. My mom took me to the local JC Penney Outlet and helped me buy basic things I would need for my kitchen and bathroom.  My boyfriend (now my Executive Officer) brought over an old TV and VCR (yeah, that dates me).  But my favorite story of all is when I, the Executive Officer and his mom went to an estate sale.  They had an old couch that was the perfect size for me apartment.  It was hella ugly.  Forest green with some sort of tiny white print.  They wanted $70 for it.  I could afford $45.  They wouldn’t haggle so we left.  A few days later the Executive Officer calls me to say his mom went back the last day of the estate sale and they were willing to give it to her for the $45 since no one had bought it yet.  Score!  I had a couch!  It was an ugly couch but it was MY couch. For MY home.  But the lovely part of this story?  I found out later that my mother in law paid the $70 for that damn ugly couch.  She never wanted me to know.  She just wanted me to have that couch and to make myself a home.  It was then that I truly realized how much more “family” I had around me.  That family isn’t confined to immediate family and blood relatives.  And being an only child?  Let me tell you, that was a freakin’ beautiful revelation!

Rusty may not have been as lucky as me when it came to parental support.  But much like me, he finds a new family willing to give him all their love and support.  That job he got?  That is thanks to Oliver’s dad.  Rusty worked for him the previous summer.  He did a great job.   So Mr. Campbell hired him on permanently.  The car?  Oliver’s uncle swooped in and found him an old but running car that would get him from point A to point B.  Oliver’s aunt sits with him and helps him build a budget then finds him a cheap apartment that he can afford.  When he moves in and is realizing that he didn’t think about food and toilet paper and blankets? Oliver’s cousins magically show up with groceries and blankets.  And I won’t even discuss what Rex brings over, courtesy of his moms.  Rusty finds that although his parents may have disowned him, Oliver and Rex’s families are more than willing to share their love and warmth with him.  

This review might be slightly spoilery.  But only slightly.  Because there is one thing that Rusty is insistent that he have in his tiny apartment before Oliver can move in. One little thing that he feels will make his shabby little apartment a home for Oliver.  And I’m not going to tell you what that is because it’s important and adorable.  And it’s the one thing, other than Oliver, that Rusty holds onto tightly.  So you read Christmas Kitsch and let Rusty tell you what that tiny little thing is.  Because it’s important and it is maybe the key to him figuring out what really makes a home.


P.S.  You should not only buy this because it's a lovely story.  You should also purchase this because Riptide Publishing will be donating 20% of all proceeds from this title to the Ali Forney Center.  This center is based in New York and it's focus "is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood."  To learn more about the Ali Forney Center or to donate to them directly, you can visit http://www.aliforneycenter.org/.  Riptide is also applying the same donation to purchases of their Home for the Holidays collection.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle

* * * 1/2

A tale of love and marriage, society balls and courtship, class and a touch of scandal, Pamela Mingle's The Pursuit of Mary Bennet is a fresh take on one of the most beloved novels of all time, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Growing up with four extraordinary sisters—beautiful and confident Jane and Elizabeth, and flirtatious and lighthearted Lydia and Kitty—wasn't easy for an awkward bookworm like Mary Bennet. But with nearly all of her sisters married and gone from the household, the unrefined Mary has transformed into an attractive and eligible young woman in her own right.

When another scandal involving Lydia and Wickham threatens the Bennet house, Mary and Kitty are packed off to visit Jane and her husband, Charles Bingley, where they meet the dashing Henry Walsh. Eager and na├»ve, Mary is confused by Henry's attentions, even as she finds herself drawing closer to him. Could this really be love—or the notions of a foolish girl unschooled in the art of romance and flirtation?

I’ll make a confession here: I’ve never read Pride & Prejudice all the way through BUT I have seen the series with the charming Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Does that count? Anyway, I mention this because not having read P & P, I wondered if that would hinder me at all when I tackled The Pursuit of Mary Bennet.

If you’re looking for a sequel, this is certainly not it. Instead, Mingle has decided to write a story about the one sister we hardly know anything about. It seems daunting but I think Mingle steps up to the challenge nicely. Rather than mimic Jane Austen’s writing, she has planted Mary as the narrator, giving her her own distinct voice.  What we end up with is a lovely story about a sister once so easily disregarded by her family who steps out into the spotlight.

What surprised me most as I read Pursuit is how funny it is. Mary is essentially a girl after my own heart. She has a wry sense of humor, can be sarcastic and often times a bit too blunt. I love her! Her personality stands in sharp contrast to her sisters and other women of the time. To be honest, she would fit in easily with today’s crowd. And her older two sisters notice this change in her. Both Elizabeth and Jane admit to having ignored her for the most part and acknowledge that she is becoming a very smart and “well-mannered” young woman. They try to protect her from their family's scandals - though she is strong enough to handle them - and also encourage a potential courtship between her and Henry Walsh.

Her meetings with Henry are funny. They obviously like each other though customs of that time period forbid them from coming right out and saying it. That’s annoying. But Mary muddles through because she has plenty other things on her mind such as the mess that her sister Lydia has landed herself in. As with P & P, of course there are hiccups and misunderstandings that lead to a few tears and chaos. But as with P & P, things do turn around for the better.

I enjoyed reading The Pursuit of Mary Bennet very much. I went it to it with an open mind and returned with a particular fondness for Mary and her brand of girl power.

~ Bel

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (87)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that highlights future releases that we are excitedly anticipating.

Uninvited (Uninvited, #1)By Sophie Jordan
Publication Date:  January 28, 2014

The Scarlet Letter meets Minority Report in bestselling author Sophie Jordan's chilling new novel about a teenage girl who is ostracized when her genetic test proves she's destined to become a murderer.

When Davy Hamilton's tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn't feel any different, but genes don't lie. One day she will kill someone.

Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he's not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

The first in a two-book series, Uninvited tackles intriguing questions about free will, identity, and human nature. Steeped in New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan's trademark mix of gripping action and breathless romance, this suspenseful tale is perfect for fans of James Patterson, Michelle Hodkin, and Lisa McMann.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Peek In The BiblioBin #80

Welcome to our Stacking the Shelves post! Stacking the Shelves (or as we like to call it, A Peek in the BiblioBin) has been created by the lovely ladies at Tynga's Reviews.

Stacking the Shelves is a way for bloggers to share what books they have won, received for review, bought from the bookstore, borrowed from the library or friend, etc. 


Left Drowning by Jessica Park

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane

Glitterland (Glitterland #1) by Alexis Hall

Friday, December 13, 2013

Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

Crash into You (Pushing the Limits, #3)* * * *
From acclaimed author Katie McGarry comes an explosive new tale of a good girl with a reckless streak, a street-smart guy with nothing to lose, and a romance forged in the fast lane 

The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life-that's who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers...and she's just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker-a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can't get him out of her mind. 

Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks-no matter how angelic she might look. 

But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they'll go to save each other.


Rachel loves to drive fast.  The best nights of her life are at night when she goes out alone and pushes the speedometer on her Mustang.  When a couple pseudo-strangers invite her to tag along to a street race, she jumps at the chance.  But Rachel is shy and sheltered and nothing can prepare her for the kind of people at this race.  Fortunately, for her, there is one person there that is willing to save her from the shady politics that rule the street racing crowd.

Isaiah’s main goal is to never owe anyone, anything.  So when he has to make quick cash to pay his share of the rent, he is sure to tread carefully.  But all his careful plans are foiled when a rich girl arrives in a fast car.  Isaiah recognizes right away that she does not have the street smarts to get through the night in one piece.  So he lays his freedom on the line in order to protect her.  He manages to do that relatively unscathed.

When the cops show up, Rachel and Isaiah take off for safety.  A few hours hiding out together forms a bond that neither could have ever anticipated.  But once Isaiah sends Rachel off, he learns that the current king of the streets holds her partially responsible for the police raid.  Isaiah will do anything to make sure Rachel isn’t found.  Even if that means never seeing her again.

Isaiah is even cooler than he seemed in Pushing the Limits and Dare You To.   It never occurred to me how little we know about Isaiah until reading Crash Into You.  Just like Noah and Beth, Isaiah deals with serious abandonment issues and the feeling that no one really wants him.  It’s heartbreaking to read as he learns about the opportunities he missed out on due to an absent and misguided mother.  And it’s even more heartbreaking to see those issues manifest as he deals with his feelings for a girl that he thinks is totally out of his league.

Then there is Rachel.  At first glance, she is just a rich girl with access to a great education and a fabulous car.  What you don’t see up front is that Rachel is the poster child for the “Wealth doesn’t buy happiness or functional families,” campaign.   Rachel suffers from severe anxiety.  To the extent of being hospitalized a few years back.  Since then, she has hidden her ongoing anxiety from her parents and because they are selfish idiots, they happily believe everything is alright.   On top of all that, Rachel is also the replacement daughter for another daughter that her parents lost years ago to cancer.  The levels her father and oldest brothers go to ensure Rachel plays her oh so important part in maintaining her mother’s happiness is both disturbing and temper-inducing.   Yes, my heart broke for Isaiah.  But I think, in some ways, it broke for Rachel even more.

By chance, these two find each other and bond over their mutual love of cars and driving fast.  Together they just might have the strength to win an unwarranted fight with the king of the streets; deal with an absent mother that is finally looking for a reunion with her son; and stand up to a family so that their only living daughter can have her own identity.

Katie McGarry really is a master of teen romance. I have yet to read one of her books and not be completely swept up and carried away.  This is yet another one that I will be going back to re-read over and over again.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine

* * * 1/2

Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a
social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.

It was this adorably sweet cover that caught my eye.  There’s just something about it that set it apart. And what followed was an equally adorable story about two confused kids falling in love.

Wren just wants to break out of the rut she’s in. Everyone thinks of her as the safe, rule-follower who doesn’t rock the boat. After a particularly derisive speech from the social worker to the student body about how none of them will get into Harvard, Wren begins to think her options are seriously diminishing. She’s seen her older siblings go off to college and do well. She doesn’t think that college is in her future. Meeting Grayson adds some excitement to her life.

Grayson is even more lost than Wren.  Kicked out of the school where he was the star and ostracized by his so-called friends, he immediately notices Wren.  Well it’s hard not to notice the person who’s administering the Heimlich maneuver on you because you were performing jackass circus tricks with cocktail weenies. Sparks fly instantly and he can’t get her out of his mind. She is so unlike anything in his life at the moment.

They get off to an awkward start where they’re second-guessing their moves and constantly wondering what the other one is thinking. Whenever the point of view switches to Grayson, it becomes clear that there’s stuff from his past that he’d like to distance himself from.  His biggest problem is his former schoolmate, Luke who’s trying to reel him back in to their delinquent past. Let’s just say that it goes beyond the whole “term paper pimp”. Grayson doesn’t want to confess this part of his past to Wren and tries to keep the two separate. So not a good idea and I counted off the multiple ways in which things would swiftly go south between the two as a result of the lies and omissions.

Wren and Grayson are equally likable with their alternating perspectives adding extra substance to their characters. Wren can't resist his charm and Grayson is truly falling for her. Even when his sordid past comes to light it’s hard not to like him because he does sincerely wish to change for the better.  This isn't just about young love. It's about how they affect change in each other and the desire to strive for more than they think they're capable of. They also had plenty of moments that had me chuckling.

I was utterly smitten with The Promise of Amazing. I hope you find it just as wonderful as I did!  

~ Bel

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (86)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that highlights future releases that we are excitedly anticipating.

Shel convinced Bel and I to read the Elementals series and we are all now smitten with the Merrick brothers. Can these poor guys catch a break?  Since there is one more book after this, I somehow doubt it.  But that's okay. I'll keep my hopes up.

Secret (Elemental, #4)

By Brigid Kemmerer
Publication Date:  January 28, 2014

Nowhere is Safe.  Not even home...

Nick Merrick is stretched to the breaking point.

Keep his grades sky-high or he’ll never escape his hometown.
Keep his brother’s business going or the Merricks will be out on the street.
Keep the secret of where he’s going in the evenings from his own twin—-or he’ll lose his family.

Keep his mind off the hot, self-assured dancer who’s supposed to be his “girlfriend’s” partner.

Of course there’s also the homicidal freak Quinn has taken to hanging around, and the Elemental Guide counting the hours until he can try again to kill the Merrick brothers.

There’s a storm coming. From all sides. And then some.

Nick Merrick, can you keep it together?