Thursday, July 24, 2014

Before You (Before and After #1) by Amber Hart

Before You
Series: Before and After Series
Author: Amber Hart
Publication: July 29th 2014 
By: Kensington Teen
3 Stars

Some say love is deadly. Some say love is beautiful. I say it is both.

Faith Watters spent her junior year traveling the world, studying in exquisite places, before returning to Oviedo High School. From the outside her life is picture-perfect. Captain of the dance team. Popular. Happy. Too bad it’s all a lie.

It will haunt me. It will claim me. It will shatter me. And I don't care.

Eighteen-year-old Diego Alvarez hates his new life in the States, but staying in Cuba is not an option. Covered in tattoos and scars, Diego doesn’t stand a chance of fitting in. Nor does he want to. His only concern is staying hidden from his past—a past, which if it were to surface, would cost him everything. Including his life.

At Oviedo High School, it seems that Faith Watters and Diego Alvarez do not belong together. But fate is as tricky as it is lovely. Freedom with no restraint is what they long for. What they get is something different entirely.

Love—it will ruin you and save you, both.

 *I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This series is edgier YA that gradually progresses into NA and I like that the covers reflect that. (At least to me they do.) 

Before You is fast paced and engaging with alternating POVs that bring the characters of Faith and Diego to life. The prose has a rhythmic feel to it, almost like poetry, but the author uses a lot of flowery comparisons that, at times, were distracting. 

I liked Diego and Faith, (as well as the supporting cast of Melissa and Javier) and I enjoyed watching them navigate the ins and outs of a forbidden relationship, which was surprisingly clean, and was eager to see where their journey would take them. But then there was a twist thrown in, that for me, felt too over the top and I almost stopped reading. Almost. I finished and was ultimately satisfied with how things worked out though.

This is a good start to a new series and fans of Simone Elkeles' Perfect Chemistry series will definitely want to check it out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

FERAL by Holly Schindler

Publication: August 26, 2014
By: Harper Teen
4 Stars
Amazon | Goodreads | The Book Depository

The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

*I received this eARC in exchange for an honest review*

This book is creepy.

You should read it. 

With the lights on.

Holly Schindler warned me before I started reading FERAL that it wasn't like any of her other books and she was right. It's fast-paced, mind-twisty with engaging story-telling, compelling characters, and descriptions that draw you in and make you feel as if they are happening to you. *shudders*

Like any good mystery, each time I assumed I knew what was going to happen next, something else would happen to throw me off. And there were quite a few moments where I was on the edge of my seat wondering, "WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!"  

Okay, so maybe hiding under the covers is more like it, but whatever. Don't judge.
The ending left me satisfied and the mystery itself was something that could have easily been pulled from today's headlines. 
I generally shy away from books with a high creep factor, they tend to give me nightmares, but I'm glad I gave this one a chance! You should too. 



Monday, July 21, 2014

#ReadISLA Flashback: Lola And The Boy Next Door

Hey guys, today we're going to San Fransisco to hang out with Lola and Cricket!

Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss, #2)
Series: Anna and The French Kiss #2
Publication: September 29, 2011
By: Dutton 
5 Stars! 

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion...she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit--more sparkly, more fun, more wild--the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket--a gifted inventor--steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

*Review originally posted in October 2011*
Lololololo-la! Sorry, can't help but hear the Kinks song in my head each time I hear the name, see the get the picture. I thoroughly enjoyed "Anna and The French Kiss" and was really looking forward to "Lola" and I was not disappointed! The more I read, the more I flipped back to look at it and swooned over the tiniest details that were included. (I heart stars!)

Once again author, Stephanie Perkins has created unique characters full of heart, passion and who are just plain fun to read!
LOLA has all the love and heart pounding romance that ANNA did but with a couple of interesting twists thrown in. There's also a few unexpected guests who had me squealing with delight and I DO NOT squeal. (Really, I don't) Plus, Lola has not one, not two, but three cute boys... T-H-R-E-E! Let's take a peak at them shall we?

If you could take a rainbow, a few rays of sunshine, some shooting stars (for their sparkle factor), and maybe even a snowflake or two, mixed them all together and shook them out, Lola is what would you get. She's bright, colorful, full of life and has a sparkle that's all her own. 

Max is our resident rocker bad-boy. What makes him bad? Well, for starters, he's a "few" years older than Lola. Her two Dads aren't too thrilled with the idea of him but then again they're dads. He's cute, he sings and writes music, has multiple tattoos and engages in less desirable behavior (according to dear old "Dads) which, of course, makes him a total chick magnet.

Cricket is Lola's neighbor and childhood friend. He's not only cute, nice and super intelligent (he invents cool stuff like Barbie elevators) but he's tall - really, really tall. He's also the twin brother of Calliope Bell (aka figure skater extraordinaire/mean girl). Lola's parents like Cricket and there's a bit of history between he and Lola which isn't all happy, happy sunshine but no biggie, because he's the very definition of "Tall drink of water". Thirsty much? Yes.I.Am!

Whose the third cute guy? Well, now, that would just spoil the fun so you'll have to read it for yourself. *wink* *wink*

Lola struggles with making the right choices sometimes as a way to protect herself or those around her from getting hurt. This is familiar territory for her considering she's had her fair share of pain either from her mother's behavior or for being ostracized for her appearance. What she learns is that in order to be true to yourself, you have to "be" yourself, regardless of what others have to live fully and without fear. (You wanna wear a pink wig, a sparkly tutu and combat boots? You go girl!) 

She also discovers that some things are worth the risk if you're willing to give it a chance. Even if it's a second, or a third chance and she finds that when it comes to love, sometimes you have to go back to the start in order to cross the finish line.

COVER REVEAL: Play On by Michelle Smith

Play On
Author: Michelle Smith 
Expected Publication: April 2015
By: Spencer Hill Contemporary
In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.

Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma's flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius; she's also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there's something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek -- he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.

As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa’s pain, it forces him to look beyond the fa├žade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn’t everything—maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.

Author Bio:
Michelle Smith writes books for teens (and adults who aren't ashamed of their love for YA). She's a lover of all things happy, laughs way too much, and is a complete sap. She advocates for mental health awareness, and is a strong supporter of The Trevor Project, Love is Louder, and To Write Love on Her Arms.

Michelle lives in North Carolina with her family.



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Just Call My Name (I'll Be There #2) by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Just Call My Name (I'll Be There #2)Series: I'll Be There #2
Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Publication: August 5, 2014
By: Little Brown Books For Young Readers 
Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads

The happily-ever-after of Holly Goldberg Sloan's acclaimed debut, I'll Be There, is turned on its head in this riveting, emotional sequel about friends, enemies, and how those roles can shift in a matter of moments.

Emily Bell has it all. She's in love with a boy named Sam Border, and his little brother has become part of her family. This summer is destined to be the best time of their lives--until a charismatic new girl in town sets her sights on Sam. Now Emily finds herself questioning the loyalty of the person she thought she could trust most.

But the biggest threat to her happiness is someone she never saw coming. Sam's criminally insane father, whom everyone thought they'd finally left behind, is planning a jailbreak. And he knows exactly where to find Emily and his sons when he escapes...and takes his revenge.

*I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

There was a lot of buzz surrounding this book at ALAMW and I got excited just listening to one of the publicists at Little Brown get excited. At the time, I wasn't aware that it was actually the sequel to book one, I'll Be There, and while it can be read as a stand alone, I think in order to truly understand what these characters have been through, reading the first book is a must. 

Holly Goldberg Sloan's poetic prose drew me in immediately and her ability to tell the story from not just one or two POVs, but from all of the character's POVs left me a little awe-struck. One would think so many different voices would get distracting but it doesn't, and she weaves them together so seamlessly that you don't even realize you've slipped from one character's head into another until you're already there. In both books, she lays out a story that reminded me of a connect-the-dots picture. Up close, it looks like nothing more than a bunch of dots dispersed across a page, but once you finish, you're better able to see how each of those dots is joined together to form a bigger picture.

I was a few pages into Just Call My Name before realizing there was, in fact, a book that came before it, and I wanted to have all the pieces to this story puzzle before continuing. So I found a copy of I'll Be There at my library, read it as fast as I could and loved it. I was fully invested in Emily, Sam and Riddle and when I came to the final page I had tears pooling in my eyes and a smile plastered on my face. I was happy knowing they would all be okay, satisfied with the way it all ended. 

And here's where my feelings get mixed up...

I don't think every story needs a sequel. Doing so means more characters, more strife and sometimes it changes how the reader views the original characters overall. (Okay, so maybe just this reader, but still.) Sam, Emily, Riddle and the rest of the Bell family have already been through hell and back in book one, so why drag them through it all again? I guess maybe some readers wanted closure as far as Sam and Riddle's father goes, but for me, I had that in book one. And yeah, Sam is naive and will come up against some of the things he did in this book, but again, he and Emily were tested enough in book one. The ending for this one felt rushed and even though the romance isn't the main focus, I still wanted to see more happy times for Sam and Emily.

Having said all of that, this is definitely worth the read, it's a great example of sacrifice, forgiveness and love, and the writing is fantastic! 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Audiobook Review: The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Conner

The Things You Kiss Goodbye
Author: Leslie Conner
Narrated by: Lauren Fortgang
Publication: June 24, 2014
By: HarperCollins Audio and Blackstone Audio; Unabridged edition
Amazon | Goodreads

Bettina Vasilis can hardly believe it when basketball star Brady Cullen asks her out, and she just about faints when her strict father actually approves of him. Over the course of the summer, Bettina falls in love with Brady . . . and with the new freedom that comes along with him.

But when school starts up again, Brady changes. What happened to the sweet boy she fell in love with? Then she meets a smoldering guy in his twenties, and this "cowboy" is everything Brady is not—gentle, caring, and interested in getting to know the real Bettina, or "Beta," as he nicknames her.

Bettina knows that breaking up with Brady would mean losing her freedom—and that it would be inappropriate for anything to happen between her and Cowboy. Still, she can't help that her breath catches when he smiles, or that she longs for the scent of his auto shop whenever she's anywhere else.

When tragedy strikes, Bettina must tell her family the truth—and kiss goodbye the things she thought she knew about herself and the men in her life.

Leslie Connor has written a lyrical, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about family, romance, and the immense power of love.

*I received this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review* 

Audio Rating: 3 Stars
Lauren Fortgang does a really good job of portraying each of the characters, capturing their unique accents and bringing the story to life. 

Story Rating: 
This story was much darker and grittier than I was expecting. Don't get me wrong, I usually like dark and gritty YA, but this just wasn't the book for me. Jen Ryland from YA Romantics does a much better job of explaining what goes on in this story than I can. You can find her thoughts HERE.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

COVER REVEAL: Every Time I Think of You by Tracey Garvis-Graves

 We are so excited to share the cover for the upcoming Every Time I Think of You, by New York Times bestselling author Tracey Garvis-Graves. 
 We also have the first chapter available for you to read!

Title: Every Time I Think of You
Author: Tracey Garvis-Graves
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publication Date: 9/16/14

Add on Goodreads

Thirty-year-old Daisy DiStefano has two people she holds dear: the grandmother who raised her, and her three-year-old son, Elliott. But when Daisy’s grandmother is killed in a seemingly random act of violence, Daisy must take steps to protect herself and her child.

Despite a thriving career in San Francisco, thirty-six-year-old Brooks McClain has returned home to spend what little time his mother has left before she succumbs to the deadly disease that is ravaging her. The seasoned investigative reporter has taken a position with the local newspaper and been on the job less than twenty-four hours when he’s summoned to cover the death of Pauline Thorpe.

Brooks is all business, but the more time he spends with Daisy DiStefano, the more invested he becomes; there’s something about a single mother, a defenseless child, and an unsolved crime that has stirred Brooks’s protective instincts like nothing ever has before.

And when the unthinkable happens, Brooks will do whatever it takes to clear the name of the woman he’s fallen for and the child he’ll protect at any cost.

Romantic and suspenseful, Every Time I Think of You shows how far two people will go to fight for the ones they love, and the life they’ve always imagined.

Pre-Order Every Time I Think of You at Amazon

Chapter One

  Three-year-old Elliott DiStefano hid underneath his mother’s bed when the shouting started. He didn’t understand what the raised voices coming from the living room meant, but instinct told him to hide.
  No one ever yelled in his house. Sometimes they used a different tone with him, firmer. “Stop climbing everything, you little monkey,” his mama would say or, “It’s time to pick up your toys and get ready for bed,” Nana would announce. Most of the time he would do what they said, although sometimes they had to ask him twice, especially if what he’d rather do was play a little longer. But they never spoke to him in such a harsh way, and they never told him to shut up like the man in the living room just did to Nana.
  Elliott clutched his favorite green army man tightly in his hand. His nana had given him a bath after their early dinner at five, and asked if he was ready to put on his pajamas. “I can do it myself,” he’d told her, and she’d smiled and walked out of the bedroom he shared with Mama, closing the door behind her. She’d promised they could watch a movie and that Elliott could have one of the cookies they’d baked earlier that day for his bedtime snack. But then someone knocked on the door and now there was yelling and no movie and no cookie.
  The man’s voice was scary and mean. Nana sounded like she was crying and as Elliott’s fear grew he began to tremble. The yelling got a little louder, followed by a crash and a thud. Then nothing. Was the bad man still there? What if he’d left but planned to come back? Elliott could no longer hear Nana’s voice and he wondered where she went. Did she leave? Did she go with the man? He curled himself into a tight ball and began to cry silent tears.
  He had no way of knowing how much time had passed. It was dark under the bed and the crying had tired him out, so he rubbed his stinging eyes and took a little nap. When he woke up he desperately needed to go to the bathroom. His mama and Nana had been so proud of him when he stopped wearing diapers, and he hardly ever had accidents, but he couldn’t risk leaving the safety he’d found under the bed. The minutes ticked by and though he tried his best to hold it, he peed in his pajamas, soaking himself from the waist down. He started to shiver.
  It was quiet for a long time and then someone banged on the door and shouted something, but Elliott didn’t know if that was bad or good. He heard voices in the living room, not yelling, just talking, but he remained hidden. Mama would be home soon and she’d know what to do. Elliott decided to wait for her under the bed.
  More voices, drawing closer. The door to the bedroom opened. Elliott froze, wondering if it was the bad man coming to get him. He didn’t make a sound as a pair of legs wearing dark blue pants, with a stripe down the side, came into view. If he didn’t say a word or make any noise, maybe the person would leave.
  No one would have known he was there if he hadn’t coughed at that very moment. It was a bit dusty underneath the bed, and Elliott already felt a little wheezy, like he might need another dose of his medicine.  The legs bent as someone crouched down to look under the bed and Elliott squeezed his eyes shut, terrified of what he might see.
  “It’s okay.” The man said, speaking softly. “I’m a policeman. I’m here to help. Can you come out from under there?” Heart pounding, Elliott didn’t answer. He couldn’t.
  More footsteps. More dark blue legs. Elliott stayed put. No one was yelling, but Elliott’s heart was still beating fast, and his body felt like Jell-O. A lady wearing a dark blue uniform lay down on the floor next to the bed. “What’s your name?” she asked. She sounded a little like his mama. Her smile was nice like Mama’s, too. He didn’t think a bad person would smile at him, so he answered her. “Ewiott,” he whispered.
  “My name is Officer Ochoa but you can call me Regina, okay?” He nodded. “How old are you, Elliott?” she asked. Using the hand not clutching the army man he held up three fingers.
  “Three, huh? That’s a good age. I want you to know that you’re safe and no one will hurt you. Can you come out from under there? Here, take my hand.” She stretched out her hand to him and he hesitated but finally touched her palm with his fingers. She urged him gently toward her. Once he was close enough she reached in and grabbed him by his pajama top, pulling him the rest of the way out.
  Elliott blinked and let his eyes adjust to the light. One of the officers noticed his wet pajamas, and his shivering, and they wrapped his Thomas the Tank Engine comforter around him, speaking in low, soothing tones.
  “I want Nana and Mama,” he said. They could barely hear him.
“What is your mama’s name?” they asked.
  “Daisy,” he said. He knew this was true because it was the name other people called her when they said hello. And it was easy to remember because it was the name of a flower, and he liked flowers.
  “Do you know your last name?”
  He nodded. He and Mama had practiced saying it. “DiStefano,” Elliott said. Maybe it didn’t come out as clearly as it sounded to him because they repeated it back like a question and he nodded.
  The officers exchanged a glance and one of them said, “Got it.” The officer who spoke scribbled something on a pad of paper and left the room.
  “We’re going to take you to the police station and we’ll call your mom so she can come get you,” Officer Ochoa said. “Okay?”
  He wanted his mama more than anything, so he said okay, and when she bent down and scooped him up, comforter and all, he put his arms around her neck. She hurried down the hallway and just before they got to the door, when he would have tried to look for Nana to make sure she was coming too, Officer Ochoa pulled Elliott’s head down to her chest and all he could see was the dark blue of her uniform.  



About Tracey Garvis-Graves
Tracey Garvis-Graves is the author of On the Island and Covet. She lives in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa with her husband, two children, and hyper dog Chloe. She blogs at using colorful language and a snarky sense of humor to write about pop culture, silly television shows, and her suburban neighborhood. You can e-mail her at She’d love to hear from you.

So what do you all think? Are you as excited to read this as I am?!