Book Review: Fighting for the Edge (Edge #3) by Jennifer Comeaux

Book Review: Fighting for the Edge (Edge #3) by Jennifer ComeauxFighting for the Edge by Jennifer Comeaux
Series: Edge #3
Published by Astraea Press on November 5, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance, Sports
Pages: 305
Format: eBook
Source: Author, Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Two friends. Two dreams. One night that changes everything…

Ice dancer Aubrey London scoffs at romance. She’s focused on winning a medal at the upcoming Olympics and uses that as her excuse to avoid serious relationships. But when she and longtime friend Chris Grayden are thrown together by unforeseen circumstances, Aubrey finds herself questioning everything she's ever known about love, complicating her life both on and off the ice.

Pairs skater Emily Petrov embraces romance. She and her husband Sergei still act like honeymooners two years after their wedding. As Emily’s coach, Sergei provides constant support while she prepares to challenge for gold at the Olympics. But Sergei’s support might not be enough to help Emily overcome the one challenge she never saw coming.

With the Games only weeks away, Emily and Aubrey are on the verge of realizing their dreams. But one snowy, stormy night sets in motion a series of events that will test them in ways they never imagined, giving them more to fight for than Olympic medals.

Today on the blog tour for FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE by Jennifer Comeaux. The tour is hosted by YA Bound Book Tours and you can check out all the stops here. There’s a tour-wide giveaway after my review.

Book Review:

FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE is the third and last book in the Edge trilogy. However, it stands alone quite well, and you don’t have to have read the other two for this one to make sense. It follows figure skaters Emily and Aubrey on their journey to the Olympics. There’s plenty of skating and romance, and I’d say it’s the perfect book to read if you’re looking for more figure skating or Olympic action.

Emily plans to retire after the Olympics, and so this is her and her partner Chris’s last chance for a gold medal in pairs figure skating. Guided by her coach and husband, Sergei, they’re ready to conquer the world … until the unexpected happens. I’m not going to say what happens, but I liked how Emily handled the challenge, refusing to give up something she had worked most of her life for. Her relationship with Sergei was portrayed realistically; it was good to see a couple after marriage without them fighting or ready to break up.

Aubrey also plans to retire from ice dancing after the Olympics. For the majority of her career, she’s sworn off romance, not wanting it to get in the way of her dreams. But when she and Chris end up sharing an apartment, she starts to question herself. Chris is such a great guy: sweet, caring, nerdy, athletic… really, the list goes on and on. I laughed when he asked who would win in a showdown: Tweety Bird or Chewbacca. Aubrey’s dislike of romance and relationships is strongly influenced by her parents’ relationship, and I thought she worked through that realistically. Not always in the most logical way, but that’s real.

The book does switch between Emily’s first person perspective and Aubrey’s third person, which is a tad confusing at the start. I liked Aubrey’s voice, and so I would have also liked her sections to be told from her POV, which would have made the switch between the two girls less jarring. I also would have liked more of Aubrey and her partner’s routines described, so I could have gotten a better feel for ice dancing. But those are my only complaints.

FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE was a feel good book for me. I had fun reading it, and was immersed in the characters and their quest for perfection on the ice. Although I haven’t read the rest of the series, I wasn’t lost at all, and now I want to go back and read Emily and Sergei’s story from the beginning. I felt like the author really knew what she was talking about with figure skating, and I really liked that there was so much of it in the book! Sometimes books that are about sports barely mention the sport, so I was happy to see skating actually have a lot of page time in the book.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest is void where prohibited. Entrants must be 13 or else have parent or guardian’s permission to enter. Winners will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner’s name will be selected. Winning entries will be verified for authenticity.

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

jennifer comeaux authorJennifer Comeaux is a tax accountant by day, writer by night. There aren’t any ice rinks near her home in south Louisiana, but she’s a diehard figure skating fan and loves to write stories of romance set in the world of competitive skating. One of her favorite pastimes is travelling to competitions, where she can experience all the glitz and drama that inspire her writing. Jennifer loves to hear from readers! Visit jennifercomeaux.blogspot.com for contact information and to learn more about her books.
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Goodreads
FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE buy links: Amazon | B&N
LIFE ON THE EDGE: Amazon | Goodreads
EDGE OF THE PAST: Amazon | Goodreads

– leeanna

Book Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Book Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth ClarkFreakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on October 22, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
4 Stars
From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In Freakboy's razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

Book Review:

I’m not a fan of verse novels, because I just can’t read poetry or anything resembling it, but I took a chance with FREAKBOY, and wow, am I glad I did. If you’re considering checking this book out, try to read it in one setting. I think it packs the biggest punch that way, because you’re really immersed in the narratives of Brendan, Vanessa, and Angel.

FREAKBOY is mainly Brendan’s story, showing the confusion and pain he feels at being different, and the struggle of trying to hide those feelings. Brendan’s not sure what wanting to be a girl means … he doesn’t want to wear skirts, but he’s envious of Rapunzel and her long, long hair. He likes sex with his girlfriend, so he’s not gay … right?

Brendan’s passages are accompanied by ones from Vanessa, his girlfriend, and Angel, a transgender girl who volunteers at an LGBTQ center for youth. Vanessa’s narrative gave me the chance to see Brendan’s confusion from the other side, as Vanessa really does love him, and is hurt and confused herself when Brendan starts pulling away from her. Angel was my favorite, though. I loved how confident she is in herself, and how positive she is, even though she’s been through some terrible stuff.

I also want to give the author a shoutout for using World of Warcraft as a way for Brendan to be his true self. Video games also provide a way for Brendan and Angel to bond, and to show Brendan that maybe he isn’t a freak.

“Virtual me has long legs,
blue hair,
a killer body.
It’s as close as I can get
to being a girl.

I’m Larissa.
I’m Larissa and
I can kick ass
and I can lose myself
in the anonymous world
of online gaming (p. 206).”

FREAKBOY doesn’t give a lot of concrete answers, which is usually something that bugs me. I’m the type of reader that wants an answer and conclusion to everything, but here, I didn’t mind the open-endedness. It fit the style of the book, and gives readers something to think about. I think it’s an important book, because while the number gay and lesbian YA books is slowly increasing, there are not as many trans books.

Socialize with the author:

Kristin Elizabeth Clark:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Secret Lies by Amy Dunne

Book Review: Secret Lies by Amy DunneSecret Lies by Amy Dunne
Published by Bold Strokes Books on December 16, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
Would you face your biggest fear, to save the one you love?

Nicola Jackson escapes from her abuser, only to realize she has no one to turn to and nowhere to go. In a twist of fate, she accidentally bumps into Jenny O’Connor, the most popular girl at school. They strike up an unlikely friendship. As their trust in each other develops, they share their darkest secrets, and their relationship blossoms into a secret romance.

Jenny loves Nicola, but she is fearful that if their secret relationship is discovered, she might lose her family, friends, and her seemingly perfect life.

Nicola confronts her abuser and blackmails him to leave for good, but things go terrifyingly wrong. Jenny is left with a life-changing dilemma: should she face her fear and accept who she is, or let Nicola take the blame and pretend their relationship never happened?

Book Review:

I’m really torn on SECRET LIES. On one hand, I liked the relationship between the two main characters, and also liked that their love gave them both the strength to face their demons. But on the other hand, I didn’t believe how quickly that relationship developed, with Jenny bringing Nicola into her house after knowing her for a day, and then “I love you” being said within two weeks.

I did like how the author handled Jenny’s character. Jenny hurts herself so she can feel the pain she can’t express, but has already realized she’s in an unhealthy cycle. At the start of the book, Jenny is in counseling, and I liked that she was proactive and wanted to help herself. I also felt for Nicola, who has endured years and years of vicious abuse at the hands of her step-father. It was nice to see that neither one of them judged the other for their problems, but tried to help and be supportive.

I was also happy to see sex scenes in this book. One of my big peeves with young adult books is they often focus just on kissing and unresolved sexual tension which is unrealistic, so it was awesome to see two girls experimenting and going beyond kissing.

But … the speed of their relationship. Yeah, I know teens can move quickly with relationships, but it was just so awkwardly done between these two that I couldn’t buy how they met and were attracted to each other. Nicola runs into Jenny in the street, Jenny invites Nicola to her house to fix a scraped palm, and after spending the whole day together watching movies, Nicola ends up staying at Jenny’s house for the next few weeks.

Overall, I didn’t feel like SECRET LIES was a YA book. Jenny and Nicola are in their teens, but they talk and sometimes act much older. If the story had been about two girls in their twenties, and spent some more time getting to know each other, it would have felt more authentic to me.

Socialize with the author:

Amy Dunne:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: Gated (Gated #1) by Amy Christine Parker

Book Review: Gated (Gated #1) by Amy Christine ParkerGated by Amy Christine Parker
Series: Gated #1
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on August 6, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Dystopian, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
A fast-paced, nerve-fraying contemporary thriller that questions loyalties and twists truths.

Appearances can be deceiving.

In the Community, life seems perfect. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pioneer invited Lyla’s family to join his group and escape the evil in the world. They were happy to be chosen, happy to move away from New York and start over in such an idyllic gated community. Now seventeen, Lyla knows that Pioneer is more than just their charismatic leader, he is their prophet . . . but his visions have grown dark.

Lyla is a loyal member of the Community, but a chance encounter with an outsider boy has her questioning Pioneer, the Community—everything. And if there’s one thing not allowed in the Community, it’s doubt. Her family and friends are certain in their belief. Lyla wishes she could feel the same. As Pioneer begins to manipulate his flock toward disaster, the question remains: Will Lyla follow them over the edge?

From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand why anyone would join a cult. But Gated tells the story of the Community from the inside looking out, and from behind the gates things are not quite so simple. Amy Christine Parker’s beautiful writing creates a chilling, utterly unique YA story. Perfect for fans of creepy thrillers and contemporary fiction alike.

Book Review:

Lyla lives in Mandrodage Meadows with her family and the Community. They are under the strict but loving control of Pioneer, who has received visions of how and when the world will end. But Mandrodage Meadows is an anagram for Armageddon Meadows, and hidden in the innocent looking settlement is an underground shelter and an armory. Once the end of the world comes, only the Community will survive, safe in their underground refuge.

GATED starts off with Lyla and her friends at the shooting range, practicing for the day they’ll have to defend their Community. Lyla is reluctant to shoot to kill, but her friends and betrothed are not. The beginning sets the tone for the rest of the book, with Lyla starting to question her beliefs while others, including her parents, push her to obedience.

Although Lyla is seventeen, her voice reads a lot younger, which I think goes really well with the way she and her family live, obedient to Pioneer’s wishes. Notice I say obedience — GATED is a look inside the gates of a cult. One of the things I liked most about the book were the quotes at the top of each chapter. The quotes are by Pioneer at the start, but once Lyla starts to question her beliefs, the quotes switch to ones by well-known cult leaders such as Jim Jones and Charles Manson.

GATED is a fast but chilling read. There’s a scene where Pioneer uses footage from Hurricane Katrina and the earthquakes/tsunamis in Japan and Indonesia to manipulate his flock. He claims they all happened at the same time, and are evidence the end of the world is coming even faster than he was told. It’s a great way to show how easy it is to manipulate people who don’t have access to news, and how easily you can twist things to your own ends.

I think GATED is a good book for readers who haven’t read many other cult books. I’ve read a few, so Lyla’s story wasn’t entirely new to me. I do feel like the author did a good job with her character and exploring why a person would follow someone like Pioneer. But I wish more had been explained about Pioneer. What was his motivation? Why did he create the community? Why were the other families there? Etc.

Socialize with the author:

Amy Christine Parker:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1) by Katie McGarry

Book Review: Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1) by Katie McGarryPushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on July 31, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 392
Format: Hardcover
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with freaky scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.

But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Book Review:

PUSHING THE LIMITS is not the type of book I normally read. Contemporary isn’t typically my favorite genre, but I had heard a ton of good things about the book, so I took a chance and read it.

For me, it was a just good book. Not one that knocked my socks off, though, because by the end, there was way too much drama and way too much going on. It was like wading through an Olympic size swimming pool of angst.

PUSHING THE LIMITS is told from the viewpoints of both of the main characters, Echo and Noah. Alternating viewpoints doesn’t always work, but it does here, because we get to see inside both of their heads, as well as see what Echo thinks of Noah, and what Noah thinks of Echo, as their relationship develops.

Echo and Noah are both dealing with LOTS of damage and issues. Formerly a popular girl, Echo’s been on the outs ever since she disappeared for the last month of her sophomore year and returned to school with her arms covered in scars. Noah is a bad boy, the one night stand sort, a foster kid who desperately wants to keep his younger brothers from experiencing the horrors of the system.

Echo and Noah are opposites in pretty much every way, and as the saying goes, opposites attract. Thrown together by their counselor — originally so Echo can tutor Noah — the two are attracted to each other. There were some things I really liked about their relationship as it developed, such as Echo admitting she wasn’t ready for sex, and Noah being absolutely fine with that. And when some painful secrets are revealed about the horrible night that changed Echo’s life forever, Noah is the only one there for her. They have chemistry, and their relationship does remind me of high school ones, with drama and misunderstandings and friends getting in the way. That sort of thing.

However, some of PUSHING THE LIMITS was just too much for me. I like stories that tear at your emotions, and this book certainly does that. But I just couldn’t believe the way some things, such as Echo’s mother’s bipolar disorder, were handled. I also felt like I was reading an epic at times, because the book was long and the hits just kept coming, almost to the point of unbelievability. I didn’t feel the resolution of Echo’s story — I thought she forgave too easily. But I did like how Noah’s tale wrapped up.

Socialize with the author:

Katie McGarry:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Without You (Stripped #1.5) by Brooklyn Skye

Book Review: Without You (Stripped #1.5) by Brooklyn SkyeWithout You by Brooklyn Skye
Series: Stripped #1.5
Published by Self-Published on October 22, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 85
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
She was broken when I met her, shattered from the death of her sister and running from love. Not to sound like an egotistical douche or anything, but I fixed her. Put her back together, filled in the cracks, and made her whole. A true fairytale in her eyes.

But now real life is getting in the way: school, jobs, and the unexpected opportunity to travel the world under a legendary photographer. This internship will open doors not even my father’s influence could. It’s something I’ve been waiting all my life for. But so is Quinn, and accepting this internship will mean leaving her.

And breaking her all over again.

Today on the tour for STRIPPED WITHOUT YOU by Brooklyn Skye, I have a review of the novella, WITHOUT YOU. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books, and you can visit the rest of the stops here.

I reviewed STRIPPED in July, so make sure to check out my book review.

As part of the tour, I also have an interview with the author.

Book Review:

I read STRIPPED back in July, and quite enjoyed it. I thought it was a good New Adult novel, one that showed the messiness of college, real life, and relationships. I liked Quinn and Torrin as a couple, and also thought Torrin was a sweet guy. So when I got the chance to read WITHOUT YOU, a novella from Torrin’s point of view, I went for it.

WITHOUT YOU continues the theme of showing that real life isn’t so easy. Although Quinn and Torrin are still together, Torrin has a difficult decision to make. He’s been offered an amazing photography internship — the opportunity of a lifetime — but he’s not sure he can leave Quinn for five months. When Quinn tells Torrin he’s an idiot for thinking of passing up the internship, angst ensues. Lots of angst, and lots of heat to melt that angst ;) .

I liked two things about this novella: the chance to see Torrin’s perspective, and that Quinn refused to let Torrin pass something up because he didn’t want to leave her alone. I liked getting inside Torrin’s head, because he’s a good guy. He worries and cares about Quinn. He also realizes (eventually) when he makes mistakes, and tries to fix them. It was also cool to see how he felt about Quinn in his own words.

I did want a bit more from the story, but as this is a novella, it’s not going to be a full-fledged book. Overall, WITHOUT YOU is great for readers who enjoyed Quinn and Torrin’s story and want to see more of them.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

brooklyn skyeBrooklyn Skye grew up in a small town where she quickly realized writing was an escape from small town life. Really, she’s just your average awkward girl who’s obsessed with words. STRIPPED is her debut novel.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Burning by Elana K. Arnold

Book Review: Burning by Elana K. ArnoldBurning by Elana K. Arnold
Published by Delacorte Press on June 11, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Ben: Having just graduated from high school, Ben is set to leave Gypsum, Nevada. It's good timing since the gypsum mine that is the lifeblood of the area is closing, shutting the whole town down with it. Ben is lucky: he's headed to San Diego, where he's got a track scholarship at the University of California. But his best friends, Pete and Hog Boy, don't have college to look forward to, so to make them happy, Ben goes with them to check out the hot chick parked on the side of Highway 447.

Lala: She and her Gypsy family earn money by telling fortunes. Some customers choose Tarot cards; others have their palms read. The thousands of people attending the nearby Burning Man festival spend lots of cash--especially as Lala gives uncanny readings. But lately Lala's been questioning whether there might be more to life than her upcoming arranged marriage. And the day she reads Ben's cards is the day that everything changes for her. . . and for him.

My Review:

BURNING is a difficult book for me to review. I enjoyed it while reading, but afterwards, my general impression was, “Okay, that was a good book, but I’m ready to read something else.”

Ben is spending his last summer in his hometown and with his parents before he goes to California for college. It’s literally his last summer in his hometown, because the gypsum mine that owns the town is closing it due to the housing bust. Ben worries about leaving behind his best friends and his parents, feeling a little guilty about his “golden ticket.”

Seventeen-year-old Lala is a Romani, a Gypsy. Her future is spread in front of her, unchangeable: an arranged marriage when she’s 18, and then telling fortunes and bearing children. Lala’s watched her older sister settle into married life, but she’s not so sure it’s *her* future.

Told from the alternating viewpoints of Ben and Lala, BURNING is their fast, intense story. It’s a book that reads very quickly; I finished in maybe 2 hours. Lala’s chapters were my favorite by far, probably because I’m interested in Romani culture, and liked what she shared about her life/traditions. I did have an unanswered question about why a woman’s lower half is unclean. I might have missed the answer to that, but seeing as Lala showing her legs to her father is a momentous act of defiance, I would have liked an answer or reminder as to why it’s so bad.

Lala essentially uses Ben as a way to escape her predestined path. Ben is far more into Lala than she is into him. Their attraction to each other is a strong case of lust at first sight. Usually, that bugs the heck out of me, but here, I accepted why the author was using it. And I felt better about it when I got to the ending, because it’s not the “I’m going to live happily ever after with my first crush” ending you find a lot in YA.

Ben was a good character, too. I really felt his fears that his father wouldn’t find a new job, and that his gay brother would get bullied without Ben around to stop it. But his voice just wasn’t as interesting to me as Lala’s.

I’d say that BURNING almost fits into the New Adult genre, as both Ben and Lala are on the cusp of adulthood and starting to wonder about the rest of their lives.

Let’s talk about it:

Even if a book has a trope you’re not super fond of, such as love/lust at first sight, do you forgive it if the rest of the story grabs you?

Socialize with the author:

Elana K. Arnold:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Made of Stars by Kelley York

Book Review: Made of Stars by Kelley YorkMade of Stars Published by Entangled Publishing on October 1, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
5 Stars
When eighteen-year-old Hunter Jackson and his half sister, Ashlin, return to their dad’s for the first winter in years, they expect everything to be just like the warmer months they’d spent there as kids. And it is—at first. But Chance, the charismatic and adventurous boy who made their summers epic, is harboring deep secrets. Secrets that are quickly spiraling into something else entirely.

The reason they've never met Chance’s parents or seen his home is becoming clearer. And what the siblings used to think of as Chance's quirks—the outrageous stories, his clinginess, his dangerous impulsiveness—are now warning signs that something is seriously off.

Then Chance's mom turns up with a bullet to the head, and all eyes shift to Chance and his dad. Hunter and Ashlin know Chance is innocent...they just have to prove it. But how can they protect the boy they both love when they can’t trust a word Chance says?

My Review:
MADE OF STARS is a book that chewed me up, spit me out, and left me reeling. In the BEST way possible. This is not a YA book where there are happy endings and star-filled, easy love affairs. If you like twisty, dark, heart-breaking stories, this is the book for you.

All I can really say is READ THIS BOOK. NOW. I was lucky enough to read it in one sitting, which I think is the best way to do it, and was consumed by the emotional experience of it. I’ve spent a few days trying to write a better review, but really, I just want to flail about and type gibberish, because I liked this book so much it’s hard to put it into words.

MADE OF STARS is told from the alternating viewpoints of Hunter and Ashlin, half-siblings who spend every summer with their dad. They’ve got a complicated family story, but the most important thing is that they love each other and have a very strong sibling bond. They love their dad, too, because even though he made mistakes with their mothers, he always did the best he could do for them.

They met Chance when they were eight; he was fishing for Barbies out of the creek behind their dad’s house. Even at that first meeting, both knew there was something about Chance, and summers with their dad also mean summers with Chance. Together, they make the sort of memories that stick in your mind forever, having fun doing the craziest and most mundane of things, and reliving the joy of childhood.

This year, things are different. Together after a few years apart, Hunter, Ash, and Chance start off with their usual epic adventures. But soon Hunter and Ash start to figure out some of the secrets of Chance’s past. MADE OF STARS is in Hunter and Ash’s voices, but it’s really the tragic story of Chance. Poor Chance. I’m not always sympathetic to male characters, but here I wanted so badly for him to have good things in his life. I really felt for him, even though he sometimes frustrated me with the secrets he kept. I get why he kept those secrets, but that’s something I’ll let you discover for yourself.

There wasn’t too much distinctiveness between Hunter and Ash, but the benefit of having both of their perspectives showed me how each of them felt about Chance, as well as how others saw those feelings. Ash has a crush on Chance, Hunter thinks Chance is the best friend ever, and Chance loves Hunter. Add in Hunter’s girlfriend, one he’s not too sure about, and you have a tangle of relationships. A messy, realistic, intricate tangle. I couldn’t get enough!

One of my favorite things about MADE OF STARS is that there’s not a big emphasis on sexuality. Hunter and Chase are just two boys who happen to love each other.

When I finished the book, I screamed “THAT’S IT?” at my phone. Seriously. The ending… that ending, yo. I wanted a more complete ending (I’m a greedy reader, I usually do want more from an ending). But after I processed and thought about the book as a whole, I don’t think there can be any other ending. Which makes me sad, but it’s the right fit for the book. I’m happy Kelley York ended MADE OF STARS the way she did, instead of adding on some fairy-tale happily ever after.

I know MADE OF STARS is a book I’m going to reread, and even though I know what happens, it’s still going to sucker punch me. For me, that’s the mark of good writing and incredible storytelling.

Socialize with the author:
Kelley York:
Website
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Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: In Harmony (Fenbrook Academy #2) by Helena Newbury

Book Review: In Harmony (Fenbrook Academy #2) by Helena NewburyIn Harmony by Helena Newbury
Series: Fenbrook Academy #2
Published by Foster & Black New Adult on September 21, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 401
Format: ARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Everyone expects her to succeed...
Karen plays the cello like an angel, and it’s the only thing that makes her truly feel alive. But her father’s dream—for her to join a prestigious orchestra—leaves no time in her life for anything but music...not even love. Trapped on her path, she doesn’t know how to rebel.

Everyone expects him to fail...
Connor plays rock guitar like the devil himself, and his ability has got him all the way from a dead-end life in Belfast to a scholarship at Fenbrook Academy. But beneath his arrogance and charm, he doesn’t believe he has what it takes. He’s spent his time in New York drinking and partying, and the only future he sees is a return to Ireland as soon as he flunks out.

But what no one expects...
When Karen’s duet partner is injured, the bad boy guitarist and the shy, sheltered cellist are forced to team up. Neither likes the idea, but what begins as anger and distrust slowly spirals into love...and lust. If they can face up to their feelings, they might just have a chance together. If Connor will allow Karen to stop his fall, maybe he can show her a life she never thought possible...

Today on the blog tour for IN HARMONY by Helena Newbury, I have a review, an excerpt I picked, and a tour-wide giveaway. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books, and you can visit all the stops here.

My Review:
IN HARMONY, the second book in the Fenbrook Academy series, is one hot and steamy romp through the last months of Karen and Connor’s senior year at the performing arts school. Both are in desperate straits for different reasons, and in fear of not graduating unless they learn to work together.

Right off, let me assure you that you don’t need to have read the first book of the series, DANCE FOR ME, before IN HARMONY. The books are loosely connected, following the same group of friends and focusing on a different couple in each one. I wasn’t lost or confused at all.

Karen, the narrator of IN HARMONY, is a bit of a mouse at first. She’s meek, quiet, and focused on her dream of playing cello with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Since age six, that’s all she’s wanted to do, and every day of her life since then has been spent trying to achieve that goal. Her father, a famous concert pianist, has also helped her, although maybe a little too much. Without any real life experience at 21 — because all of her time has been spent practicing — Karen can’t remember if her dream is really hers, or just something she’s doing because it’s expected of her.

Connor, the bad boy playboy of Fenbrook, is so opposite of Karen in every way. He never shows up for class, never practices, and it’s rumored he’ll be kicked out before graduation. Karen’s not a fan of Connor the way every other girl is — she wants someone safe and responsible. There’s no way Connor would ever make that list, considering he has a different girl on the go every night, starts drinking at 4pm, and oh yeah, he’s a sexy Irishman, and he knows it.

Here’s the list of what Karen’s looking for in a boyfriend: “If I was going to date, they’d need to be reliable, and serious, and…safe. Why did my list of requirements for a guy sound like a Volvo commercial? (Chapter 2)”

So when fate throws Karen and Connor together, she panics. Composing and playing a duet with Connor is the only way she’ll graduate Fenbrook. Literally the only way, because she’s failed every oral presentation in her college career. Karen’s a great performer, but she has a crippling fear of public speaking, or speaking to more than one or two people.

I don’t think there’s a dull moment throughout IN HARMONY. When I saw the length of the book (36 chapters, estimated 401 pages), I admit, I thought it would be too long. But then I started reading, and flew through the book in a matter of hours. IN HARMONY is the story of Karen and Connor’s relationship, full of character growth and steamy, steamy scenes. IN HARMONY‘s an adult book, for sure. The music piece the two work on is the story of their relationship too, and I swore I could hear it while reading. I thought the author did a good job in tying in the musical aspect, and showing how it was a big part of both of the characters’ lives.

There were a couple of times I wanted to hit Karen and/or Connor over the head, usually when they were acting silly or keeping quiet when they shouldn’t have. They both had a lot of growth, and my favorite part was probably near the end, where Karen learned to be angry. It was great to see her stand up for herself and for her friends. Instead of spending too much time in her head, she went out and did things, tackling problem after problem. Connor also grew up, and though I didn’t totally see why he would confide in Karen, it was good that he did, because she cracked his shell as much as he cracked hers.

I have to mention Karen’s friends. Natasha, Clarissa, and Jasmine were just as nicely developed as Karen and Connor. Sometimes I don’t like when a book veers off from the main story and dives into minor plots, but here I didn’t mind at all. I liked them all, and I was concerned about every girl’s problems. I hope Clarissa and Jasmine get their own books, because I’d like to see more of them. Lastly, it was nice to see the girls were relatively open with one another about their sex lives (if not their personal lives).

Sometimes I find New Adult books have a bit too much sex, and that was almost the case with IN HARMONY. I lost track of the times Karen and Connor got it on, and skimmed a few times, but then, it was good to see Karen become confident and open about sex.

If you’re a fan of New Adult, I’d definitely recommend IN HARMONY. I know I’ll be watching to see what else Helena Newbury puts out.

Excerpt:


In the shower, I turned the temperature up to almost scalding and the force up to the “Massage” setting, hoping that it would help unkink my back. I did that a lot, after a hard day playing. I liked to imagine it was a big, blond guy with huge biceps massaging me. In my mind, his name was Sven and we sat in his cabin in Sweden looking out at the pine trees while he worked oil into my back.

It occurred to me that was a lot of detail to get from a shower setting. Maybe I did need a boyfriend.

Connor swam up into my mind and I yelped in shock, turning and catching the spray right in my face. When I’d stopped spluttering and the jet was safely hammering away at my stomach, I carefully allowed myself to go back to the thought.

What was he doing in my brain? I wasn’t interested in Connor — in fact, he was the exact opposite of everything I was interested in. If I was going to date, they’d need to be reliable, and serious, and…safe.

Why did my list of requirements for a guy sound like a Volvo commercial?

–Chapter 2, IN HARMONY


Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
Helena Newbury is a New Adult Romance author with a love of bakingly hot summer days, strawberry gelato, good coffee and interesting people. Unlike the characters in her books, Helena cannot dance, act or play anything (though she is substantially more flexible since she started writing Dance For Me and tried doing dancer’s stretches, so she’s hoping that something will rub off on her from each book).

Helena writes in a very noisy, very busy coffee shop which means she sometimes end up mainlining caffeine to keep her seat. You’ll know when this happens because she’ll still be on Twitter that night at 4am.

She loves meeting and talking with other authors, traveling to new places and discovering new books.
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Buy links: Amazon | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | B&N | Kobo | All Romance

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

Blog Tour Book Review: Unteachable by Leah RaederUnteachable by Leah Raeder
Published by Velvet Pony Press on July 27, 2013
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, New Adult, Realistic, Romance
Pages: 268
Format: eBook
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
I met him at a carnival, of all corny places. The summer I turned eighteen, in that chaos of neon lights and cheap thrills, I met a man so sweet, so beautiful, he seemed to come from another world. We had one night: intense, scary, real. Then I ran, like I always do. Because I didn’t want to be abandoned again.

But I couldn’t run far enough.

I knew him as Evan that night. When I walked into his classroom, he became Mr. Wilke.

My teacher.

I don’t know if what we’re doing is wrong. The rules say one thing; my heart says screw the rules. I can’t let him lose his job. And I can’t lose him.

In the movies, this would have a happy ending. I grow up. I love, I lose, I learn. And I move on. But this is life, and there’s no script. You make it up as you go along.

And you don’t pray for a happy ending. You pray for it to never end.

Today I am one of the stops on the blog tour for UNTEACHABLE by Leah Raeder. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books and you can check out the rest of the stops here. Read on for my review and a tour-wide giveaway.

My Review:

“I’ve been pretty honest so far, haven’t I? So I’ll admit: it wasn’t innocent, blind love. His age drew me to him in the first place; now it was being my teacher that gave me a wild, terrified thrill every time we touched, infusing me with adrenaline, making my skin prickle. The danger was an electrode buried in my brain, lighting up my most primal fear and pleasure circuits. There was more to it, of course. Something was unfolding in me that had never opened before. But I wasn’t kidding myself. The forbiddenness was part of it (Chapter 4).”

So, I have to admit — the taboo, forbidden relationship between Maise and her teacher was what initially attracted me to UNTEACHABLE. I always like to see how authors handle a teacher/student relationship, and in what direction they’ll take it. But UNTEACHABLE is so much more than a book about a forbidden relationship.

UNTEACHABLE is the story of Maise’s incredibly turbulent, insane senior year. It’s the rollercoaster ride of her life, an apt comparison considering she first meets Evan on a rollercoaster. UNTEACHABLE is the story of Maise finding herself, of that difficult period between being a young adult and an adult, of knowing you’re more than a kid but still feeling like one when confronted with the unknown.

I couldn’t stop reading. The author’s writing style (quote above a good example) was hands down one of my favorite parts of the book. There are tons of lines I bookmarked to quote, and it was hard to limit myself to a few. Leah Raeder drove a fine balance between using descriptions in a new way and writing purple prose. It was almost alive, and I could imagine Maise writing this way, describing the most incredible, crazy, heartfelt year of her life. If you like the style of the blurb or the quote, chances are you’ll like UNTEACHABLE. Here’s another quote, where main character Maise introduces herself:

“My name’s Maise, by the way. Maise O’Malley. Yeah, I’m Irish as hell. But you probably knew that from the drinking, right? (Chapter 1).”

As main characters go, I really liked Maise. She’s had, in her own words, a fucked up life. Her mother deals drugs, her father’s a deadbeat, and she likes older men. Doing them and leaving them is one of her hobbies. Maise is world-weary and cynical; she knows she’s in a bad situation, and she wants to improve her life. Maise also owns up to her decisions. She doesn’t whine about things, but tries to fix them. Not always in the best ways, of course, but that wouldn’t make for an interesting book if she did everything right.

I also have to say that I’m usually not a fan of books that start off with instant attraction or sex, but the author made it work for me in UNTEACHABLE. From the first words I read, I could understand why Maise would drag a guy she just met to his car. Not because she’s a slut — she’s not — but because that’s how she feels like she’s alive. I think the sex with older guys also makes her feel stronger. A woman using every angle to get what she wants, and hurting them before they hurt her.

UNTEACHABLE is a very adult book. There are lots of steamy scenes between Maise and Evan, and while I thought a lot of the sex scenes were valuable for character development of both of them, I did start skimming after a few. I would have liked maybe a bit less sex. However, I did really like that both Maise and Evan verbalized that the forbidden aspect of their relationship was a big turn on for both of them. Yay for honesty! Plus, it was kinda hot when they flirted about doing it in the classroom. *fans self*

While reading the book, I honestly didn’t know where it was going to go. I was afraid the relationship would end badly, because those types of relationships usually do. Maise and Evan also had a hard time hiding their attraction to each other, and it comes to a point when their chemistry is shown in a surprising although not totally unpredictable way. I’ll give you a hint. Maise’s best friend senior year is Wesley, a fellow film nerd who films everyone, everywhere.

I haven’t really talked about the characters other than Maise, so here are a few of my other favorites. Evan was a nice guy, a looker, sure, but average on the personality scale. He cared about Maise, and that was evident in his actions. I wasn’t entirely sold on the big secret we learn about him, but otherwise, I liked him. It was great to see him considering the impact he had on Maise, and if he would ruin her chance to experience life first-hand.

I also want to mention Wesley’s mom, Siobhan. She’s the type of mom I’d like to see more of in young adult/new adult books; I swear, I almost had a crush on her. Siobhan had a relationship with her professor in college, so she was the perfect person to give Maise advice, but only when Maise wanted it. The interactions between Maise, Wesley, and Siobhan were pretty funny, yet also sad considering Maise never got to experience that with her own mother.

Whew! I feel like I’ve written a book talking about UNTEACHABLE. What can I say? I really enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a well-written new adult book that’s one heck of a ride, check it out.

Let’s talk about it:
Do you like books with some kind of “forbidden” aspect to them?

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
Leah Raeder writes pretentiously lyrical YA and adult fiction of various genres. Loves zombies, velociraptors, and other world-ending things. Copies her bio from Twitter because she’s lazy.
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– leeanna