Saturday, June 30, 2012

 *tap tap* Is this thing on? I have an announcement to make. *clears throat*

It's that time of year again!
Where we take all those book boys we *hearts* so much and toss them into a virtual ring of... what?...mud? jello? frosting? and let them duke it out to see who comes out on top in the...

*crowd goes wild* 
(OK, mainly book nerd girls (like me) but still) *winks*

The advocates have been chosen... *points to self*

And the Crush I get to represent is... *does happy dance*

Patch from the "Hush Hush" series by Becca Fitzpatrick *OMP! OMP! (OhMyPatch!)*

"All this time I've hated myself for it. I thought I'd given it up for nothing. But if I hadn't fallen, I wouldn't have met you." Patch (Hush Hush)

 Show your love for our favorite fallen angel aka Mr. Hotsauce with wings and

VOTE FOR PATCH on July 18th

Use the twitter hashtag #TeamPatch #YACrushTourney to help get the word out.

This tourney can get pretty intense so in case of panic, do this:




Thursday, June 28, 2012

Punching Fear In The Face \m/

I took a flying leap yesterday and punched fear in the face, otherwise known as skydiving.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a fear of heights. I don't "do" Ferris wheels, ski lifts, or climb trees and even the occasional escalator will cause me to freak out. But after reading "Divergent" by Veronica Roth last year, I decided that life is too short to allow fear to keep me from trying new things. 

I've always wanted to skydive but have been afraid. Thanks to my Mom, who paid for me to go as an early birthday present, I had the chance to overcome that fear yesterday.

 Here's my experience in pictures and song titles because that's how I think - either in book characters or song lyrics. So here ya go - ENJOY!...

Photo: :)
I'm here. Got my DAUNTLESS shirt on and am channeling Tris becasue there's no way Four would be doing this. ;) I've also just signed my life away or at least promised not to sue should I plummet to my doom. Awesome. "Again" ~ Flyleaf

Photo: Getting ready.
All harnessed up & can NOT for life of me remember a word the instructor has just told me. I'm thinking that could be bad but we'll see. "Chasm" ~ Flyleaf 
Thumbs up must mean I'm not scared. This is me, not being scared. It did occur to me that once again I'm completely outnumbered being the only female. "Bad Company" ~ Five Finger Death Punch

I think the harness is a good look for me, don't you? *SNORT*  "I'm Sexy and I Know It." ~ LMFAO

Yeah...this plane is NOTHING like the brochure. That one was way bigger and showed several smiling people sitting comfortably in the back. This is the smallest.plane.ever! No seats and I'm facing backward sitting on Don's lap so he can strap me in at any minute which is not awkward...not in the least. 0_0  It's very windy and the plane is pitching left to right and it occurs to me that if something does happen, only 2 of us have actual chutes. Great. I'm also thinking about Leah (a book character) from "Such A Rush" by Jennifer Echols and wondering if this is the same kind of plane she flies.* "Jump Jump" by Kris Kross

There is no photo for what happened next...the door opens, a blast of cold air sweeps in and the first jumper goes out. Don yells in my ear that it's my turn and my brain splits in half. The adventurous side is yelling, "LET'S DO THIS!" while the rational side is yelling, "Nah, I'm good right here, thanks!" 

Don signals it's time for me to put my legs outside of the plane and I freeze. He told me I might have to use my hands to lift my legs and he wasn't joking. So, I'm trying to lift my legs and they too have started yelling, "NO! We are the parts that are supposed to stay INSIDE the plane! Remember?! Please keep arms and legs INSIDE the ride at ALL TIMES!" 

I manage to get my legs out and glance down just in time to see my skin do that rippling thing you see happen to people's faces when they're skydiving. It's really gross and I'm glad I did not have to see my face like that. 

Don rocks us back 2 times and on the third time we fall...and we're falling, and falling and I'm surprised at how LOUD AIR IS and oh yeah, I can't breathe! I literally can NOT take a breathe and panic sets in. My chest hurts and I don't know if it's because of the air pressure, the harness being too tight or what but I am convinced THIS is how I will die. Then Don pulls something and we jerk back and everything goes silent. "Free Fallin" ~ Tom Petty

The chute opens, Don hands me the reigns and starts unhooking stuff. I try not to think about what or why he's unhooking stuff while we're still airborne but focus on the view which is AMAZING! It is a little disconcerting though to look around at everything so small and look down to see your legs just dangling there. "Paradise" ~ Coldplay

 While we're up in the sky doing our thing, Don decides to show me how to do spins. I failed to mention to him that me + spinning in circles = things that end badly so I said, "Hey Don, I'm gonna need you to stop doing that because it will make me puke."  He was cool with that.

Landed like a BOSS! And then proceeded to fall over backward, landing flat on my back with my legs up in the air. Lovely. It was actually quite funny and Don told me that in all of his 11,000 jumps, that had NEVER happened before. Leave it to me to be the first. "It's Gonna Be Me" ~ 'NSync

Another thumbs up! "Survivor" ~ Destiny's Child
These guys were waiting for me. "Good Feeling" ~ Flo Rida

This is Don...colorful flight pants and all. "Groove Is In The Heart" Deee Lite

And there you have it. I'm so glad I took the plunge and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  Thanks Mom! 

*A HUGE "Thank You!" also to author Jennifer Echols and her son. She and I were tweeting yesterday and they were kind enough to find out for me what kind of plane Don pushed us out of - a Cessna. You guys ROCK!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SHADE Trilogy by Jeri Smith-Ready

"For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Shine (Shade, #3)Shade (Shade, #1)Shift (Shade, #2)

This is the summary on the back of SHADE (Book 1) (via Goodreads)

Aura can see ghosts. Born after the Shift, a little-understood event that enabled younger generations to communicate with the dead, Aura is relentlessly pursued by these violet-hued spirits. They need help to pass out of this world and into the next. And some are so angry they are on the verge of becoming Shades, dark vortexes of energy. But Aura just wants the ghosts to leave her alone so she can spend time with her boyfriend, Logan. 

When Aura is paired with a new foreign-exchange student to research the Shift for a class project, she is determined to ignore her partner’s sexy Scottish accent and discover the cause of the Shift so she can reverse it. Then Logan dies a most untimely death. Forced to reconsider her relationship with the living and the dead, Aura is caught in a love triangle with her violet-hued boyfriend and her hot research partner... one of whom may hold the key to reversing the Shift.

I am so glad these books were finished when I chose to read them because I don't think my heart could've handled the wait otherwise. (not joking) *clutches chest*

I don't normally like to read books that are considered creepy and my ghost experience has been limited to Haley Joel Osment whispering to Bruce Willis, "I see dead people" and that ghost hunting show on cable whose host has spiky hair and tats. I just don't "do" ghosts. Or owls, clowns or spiders. Shh, does not want to discuss the ghost that appears to be living in my house. 0_0  (Clearly, I would make a very disgruntled "Pre-Shifter".)

However, this series is NOT your average ghost story!  It's hauntingly beautiful, heart-achingly romantic *sighs* and only slightly creepy at times. It was unputdownable! <-- I don't even know if that is a legit word but what-evs. I laughed, I cried, I clutched my chest and I choked sobbed a few times too. I *spider swear* that I only saw one ghost during the reading of these books. It was in my peripheral vision so it probably wasn't real and therefore doesn't count, right?  Unless it was Logan, then it totally counts. Wait...what was I talking about?  Oh right, how awesome these books are... (Sorry, I get distracted easily, especially by hotsauce ghosts shrouded in violet.) 

The writing is fantastic and I loved the witty banter between the characters. The love triangle that emerges is so unique and is more about getting over a first love and all the feels that go into that and less about choosing the perfect boy. (Both book boys would be perfect choices in my opinion but we'll get to them in a minute.) 

The most fun (for me) was discovering that Jeri Smith-Ready lives in MD, because I DO TOO!  With the story set in Baltimore, it means I've been to ALL OF THE PLACES that these characters have!  *earns bonus fan points*  Now, the next time I go to the Inner Harbor, Ocean City or College Park (Fear the turtle!), I will think of Aura, Logan and Zachary. PLUS, my Dad's family is from Ireland so I've not only rocked a kilt but been to Dublin AND Glascow, Scotland. *high fives self*

Moving's what I LOVED about this series and it's characters (especially the boys - LOVED.THEM.SO.HARD!)  I've tried not to be spoilery but honestly, you should just READ IT. LOVE IT. YOUR WELCOME.

Aura - She's a strong female MC with a great sense of humor and sass. She's a sassy lassie. ;) She isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes in or to fight for those she loves.  She also comes to the defense of the underdog or maybe I should say, "underghost?" Aura is loyal, loving and readily looks past a person's shortcomings to see the light that shines within them. She is fanfreakingtastic.

Logan Keeley - *sighs*  He's Aura's boyfriend and the lead singer of the Keeley Brothers, a kick ars Irish punk rock band. He's super cute, funny, possesses the perfect amount of snark and his musical talent is beyond compare.  He feels most at home onstage with guitar in hand and is destined to be a rock star. (Not gonna lie, I would be front and center with the rest of the groupies sportin' my KBB tee and screaming, "I LOVE YOU LOGAN KEELEY!") He doesn't always make the best choices and unfortunately, his recklessness ends up costing him his life, shattering both Aura's heart and mine. *cries*  But Logan Keeley was meant to leave his mark and he does; just not in the way he planned or in his lifetime. 

Zachary Moore - OhMyZach! *fans face* (Excuse me while I recover from my Zach-attack) He's the uber hot transfer student whose striking green eyes and velvety accent brings all the lasses to the yard and I'm no' talking about Scotland Yard either. *swoons*  He's sweet, hilarious and has the patience of a saint and when he and Aura are paired up for a school project, she's left breathless and seeing stars. (No really, she does see stars because their project has to do with astronomy.) Zach might not be a OO7 but he is definitely an International Man of Mystery and while others will try, Aura might be the only one who can figure him out.

Megan - She's Aura's long time BFF, knows her better than anyone and always has her back no.matter.what.  *fist bumps*

Mickey, Siobhan, Conner (Siobhan's boyfriend) and Dylan aka "The Keeley Clan"  - They.are.made.of.awesome and I would like them to adopt me. (I have no musical talent but I can bake a mean Keeley Brothers band cupcake!)  They're a highly entertaining sarcastic bunch of talented musicians who have a fierce love of family, all things Irish and a special affinity for their brother, Logan. 

Martin - He's Zachary's best "mate" and an all 'round loveable lad. He can be a little hard to understand at times (Gaelic is a beautiful language but makes no sense t'all.) but Martin's the kind of guy you want on your team if you ever find yourself in a dark alley or a pub. 

Death is never easy but this series presents an interesting view of both sides of it. You have the Post-Shifters who can see the ghosts (people who've died yet failed to pass on) and the ghosts themselves who are able to communicate with the living. There's the battle of good versus evil and for some of these characters, that battle is fought within themselves. (selfishness vs. selflessness, bitterness vs. forgiveness).

To me, this story really isn't about ghosts. It's about love and friendship, focusing on the important things and learning when to let go. I liked the idea that by not "passing-on" right away there's a window of opportunity to tie up loose ends, say what you didn't say or make amends but in real life, we don't get that second chance. All we have is the here and now and it too will be gone one day. The only thing that ever truly lasts is love. 

There is a TON of coolsauce on Jeri's website, like bonus scenes and playlists (which I'm a sucker for). The lyrics to Logan's song, FOREVER are there too. *CLUTCHES CHEST* (Keep the tissues close because I totes choke sobbed while reading those).

Click the links below to find Jeri and the guys on twitter and don't forget to show your love for #TeamKilt and the SHADE Boys on tumblr! Aye, boys in plaid skirts are hawt. *wink*

Twitter:  @jsmithready
Logan:    @keeley_logan
Zach:      @moore_zachary
               ShadeBoys on tumblr

Waiting on Wednesday
 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

STORMDANCER (The Lotus War #1) by Jay Kristoff
Publication: September 18, 2012
By: St. Martin's Press

 Look at the pretty covers! *stares*

U.S. Cover
Stormdancer (The Lotus War, #1)
U.K. Cover

From Goodreads:
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

When I first saw this cover (the U.S. one) I was drooling!  I thought it was crazy cool and the fact that the MC is Japanese? SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! I LOVE that! I can't wait to read this.  Check out Jay Kristoff's new website, just make sure your mouth is empty when you're reading his bio because he's hilarious and I literally snorted water outta my nose. :) 

What's your pick this week?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Once (Eve #2) ~ Anna Carey

Once (Eve, #2)
Author: Anna Carey
Publication: July 3, 2012
By: Harper Collins

"As if love were a choice." 

With it's fast paced action, unexpected twists and star crossed lovers, "Once", the riveting sequel to "Eve", had me on the edge of my seat with my heart in my throat the entire time! *gasps*
Eve has made it to Califia, the safe haven for women determined to hold onto their freedom outside the walls of the Sand City, but freedom always has a price and for her, it was leaving an injured Caleb behind.  Her time here hasn't been what she expected and despite her best efforts, Eve eventually finds herself within the Palace walls.  Once there, she finally comes face to face with the King and learns his real intentions for her.  Nothing is what it seems and Eve is dealt one shocking blow after another including the discovery that Caleb is alive and has made it into the Sand City too.

Desperate to get to him, Eve will defy the rules, risking both her safety and her freedom.  She and Caleb are able to find each other but their reunion is bittersweet. In order to stay together they'll have to come up with a plan that involves relying on the help of others, but who can they really trust?  The danger and threat of death is ever present and with so much at stake, is Eve really willing to risk everything again for love?  Does she even have a choice? 

*Potential Spoilers*
Eve continues to evolve into a strong female character as she wrestles with the new information she learns about her past as well as her future and the role she's expected to play.  She also considers others and how the choices she makes will affect not only her but those she cares about as well.  

I didn't think it was possible to love Caleb any more than I did in "Eve" but OH.MY.CALEB! was I wrong?!  *flails*  
When she and Caleb meet again, I really wanted them to ride off into the sunset together where they could live happily ever after, safe and free!  *breathes a sigh of relief*  But, of course, that doesn't happen.  (Maybe in book 3 Anna? Pretty please with sprinkles on top? *bribes*)  

I did enjoy watching their relationship develop in the first book and I thought his patience and sacrifice were uh-mazing. Their love continues to grow in "Once" and even gets a 'lil *ahem* steamy. *fans face* ;D

This book ends with a bit of cliff hanger...we don't really know what's become of Caleb (it's obvious you can't believe everything you read in the paper), Eve could always change her mind and there's still time for someone to, "speak now".  All of it leaves me SO.VERY.ANXIOUS for the third book to find out what happens! *chews nails*

Monday, June 25, 2012

Irony = Having your 11th grade English teacher a) try to convince you that Mythology will be part of your future *rolls eyes*, b) fail you because you don't "get" said Mythology and c) say this to you with regards to your 16 yr old writing skills: "Well, it really doesn't matter because you will never write anything worth reading anyway. Anything worthy of public consumption that is." (Wow..."NEVER?" kinda harsh.)
Only to come home to THIS today...

An ARC of a book you've been eagerly awaiting! *squeals & does weird happy dance*

And find THIS as you thumb through the blurbs/quotes...Oh, wait...

"Jen, YA Books Central" is ME!


(Of course all of the cameras in your house are set to: "how to ruin a moment")


But then *thinks to self* Hmm, pretty sure THIS qualifies as legit "public consumption", never mind the blog and reviews I write. So...
Dear Ms. Leaves Name Out for Privacy, HOW YA LIKE ME NOW?!  Oh yeah, and this series is mythological in nature, so you may have been a little bit right too. BUT STILL - BLURBED! :D

A HUGE Thank You to Spencer Hill Press and Jennifer L. Armentrout for making my DAY!  I can't even tell you what this one sentence blurb means to me.  Truly a blessing!

Friday, June 22, 2012

by Kimberly Ann Miller

Cover design by: Vic Caswell of Sketcher Girl Studios
 Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
ISBN: 978-1-937053-36-9
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Formats: Paper, e-book
 A cruise ship. A beautiful island. Two sexy guys. What could possibly go wrong? 

In the Bermuda Triangle--a lot.

Hoping to leave behind the reminders of her crappy life--her father's death years ago, her mother's medical problems, and the loser who's practically stalking her--seventeen-year-old Autumn Taylor hops on a ship with her sister for a little distraction. When she wakes up in the Bermuda Triangle, she fears she's gone nuts for more than one reason: that loser's suddenly claiming they're a happy couple... a hot guy is wrapping his arms around her and saying "Happy Anniversary"... and suddenly, she's full of bruises, losing her hair, and getting IV medication. Autumn visits the ship's doctor, hoping for a pill or a shot to make the craziness go away. Instead, she's warned that one of these "alternate realities" could become permanent. 
She just has to ask herself one question--how the hell is she going to get out of this mess?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday
 is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

TOXIC (Denazen #2) by Jus Accardo
Publication: September 11, 2012
By: Entangled Teen

 Toxic (Denazen, #2)
 From Goodreads: 

 Sequel to TOUCH.

When a Six saved Kale’s life the night of Sumrun, she warned there would be consequences. A trade-off. Something taken for the life they gained. But Dez never imagined she’d lose the one thing she’d give anything to keep… And as if it’s not enough Dez finds her immunity to Kale fading, the Six brought in to help Kale learn to control his killer touch starts drooling on him the moment they meet. Worse than that? Jade can touch Kale. But bimbo Barbie is the least of Dez's problems.

After Dez and Kale got away at Sumrun, her father lost not only his most powerful weapon but an important piece of the Supremacy project. Forced by Denazen to remedy the situation, he poisons Dez and offers her a choice—surrender to Denazen for the cure…or die. Determined to find a solution that doesn’t involve being bagged and tagged—or losing someone she loves—Dez keeps the poison a secret. But when a rash of Denazen attacks hit a little too close to home, Dez is convinced there’s a traitor among them. Jade.

Sacrifices, broken promises, and secrets. Dez will have to lay it all on the line if there’s any hope of proving Jade’s guilt before they all end up Residents of Denazen. Or worse, dead...

I'm really looking forward to reading this! Why? First, look at that! Second, it means more Kale and not the kind you find in the produce aisle either! ;)  

What's your pick this week?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One Moment ~ Kristina McBride

One MomentAuthor: Kristina McBride 
Publication: June 26, 2012
By: Egmont

Pretty cover.

Thank you Netgalley and Egmont. *gets tissues* Kristina McBride writes a gut-wrenching story of young love, tragic loss and forgiveness as a group of life long friends attempt to navigate their way through grief after an accident that leaves them all wondering if one moment really is all it takes to change a life forever.

After a night of partying, Maggie, Joey and the rest of their friends head into a holiday weekend to kick off what they expect will be a fun filled summer before beginning their Senior Year of High School. The day begins like any other but ends with Joey's death and Maggie's memory loss.  As the days go by, secrets will be revealed and lies uncovered that will have them all questioning if they really know each other at all? 

Maggie, Joey, Adam, Shannon, Tanna and Pete have been friends since kindergarten. They do everything together, always have each others backs,are like extensions of each others families. Adam is the steady one who always makes the others feel safe. Tanna is the friendly one, Pete the laid back, Mr. Feel-Good and Shannon is the resident Witch with a "B". Maggie is the cautious one of the group, the polar opposite of her daredevil boyfriend Joey. If there's a risk to take or a rule to break, Joey's the one to push the limit.  

Maggie and Joey have been dating for almost two years and to her they've got the perfect relationship, well, almost.  She has big plans for their Senior Year, like finally telling him she loves him (which she almost does at the top of the cliff) and she's ready to take the plunge with him (in more ways than one). She's the only in their group whose yet to jump off of the cliff at the gorge, (because she's deathly afraid of heights) but she feels like she's ready now with Joey by her side, holding her hand. So as they prepare to go for it,  he reassures her with a kiss, the countdown begins and then something happens to make her hesitate... When it's over and everyone is peppering her with questions, all she remembers is the screaming, the look on Adam's face when he comes to find her, the blood and Joey's lifeless body at the bottom of the gorge. 

Maggie is haunted by regret and the "what if's".  What if she'd told Joey she loved him as they hiked up the hill, what if she'd made him stay a little longer the night before, after the party, what if, what if, what if?  Would it have made a difference?  Would Joey still be here, safe with her?  But as her memory begins to piece itself back together, Maggie discovers that Joey was keeping secrets from her and he wasn't the only one.  She starts to question everything she ever believed to be true about their relationship and the people she's called friends her entire life.  When the truth of what really happened up on the cliff comes out and why, Maggie will have to decide whether one moment really does change a life forever, or if life is more about the choices we make.

This is one of those books that gives you that "uh-oh", "pit in the stomach" feelings from the get go and stays there until the last chapter.  (That isn't a bad thing necessarily.) My heart broke for Maggie on top of that cliff, in more ways than one and continued to do so throughout the story.  Each time she was betrayed I felt a stab in the chest for her.  At the same time that she seemed to miss the clues with Joey, she also missed the "other" clues. *wink* *wink*.  When she learned the truth about "the others" my heart broke all over again but I was happy with the way it ended. *clutches chest*  

The only thing I felt was missing, and this is just a "Jen" thing, - I would have loved to see Maggie a year or two down the road.  An Epilogue showing how she was doing would've been good for my heart that, yanno, had been broken into a million pieces by the end of the book.  *looks for all the pieces to glue back together* ;)  

Monday, June 18, 2012

On The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

On the Island
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Publication: June 7, 2012
By: Penguin

Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher desperately in need of adventure. Worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a relationship that's going nowhere, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring a sixteen-year-old T.J..

T.J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. His cancer is in remission and he wants to get back to his normal life. But his parents are insisting he spend the summer in the Maldives catching up on all the school he missed last year.

Anna and T.J. board a private plane headed to the Callahan's summer home, and as they fly over the Maldives' twelve hundred islands, the unthinkable happens. Their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover that they're stranded on an uninhabited island.

At first, their only thought is survival. But as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.'s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin for this book. This was an engrossing, epic story that left me feeling a range of emotions. I laughed, I cried and I was uncomfortable at times. I enjoyed the alternating POV's but I did find Anna's to be somewhat stilted in the beginning and again towards the end. T.J.'s point of view was my favorite and his transition from a boy into young manhood was both humorous and heart breaking.

This story definitely tests the, "If you were the only two people stranded on a deserted island..." theory and is not without it's challenges.  I don't see how you could endure what Anna and T.J. do and not fall in love but if I'm honest, their age difference did bother me.  (I'm not sure if it's because I'm the Mom of two boys or what, but it did.)  Their time on the island does seem to blur the years between them but the issues raised at the press conference brings it right back into focus. I definitely think T.J.'s experience with cancer made him wise beyond his years but as was apparent through much of the story, a big age gap does impact a relationship depending on what stage of life you're in. 

I found it interesting how the author used what was such a horrible tragedy for most of world as the catalyst for something positive for Anna and T.J.'s lives.  The reactions from their relatives seemed realistic and understandable and I was happy with the way this book ended.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Easy by Tammara Webber

Easy Author: Tammara Webber
Publication: May 25, 2012
When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she’s single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, stalked by her ex’s frat brother, and failing a class for the first time in her life.

Her econ professor gives her an email address for Landon, the class tutor, who shows her that she’s still the same intelligent girl she’s always been. As Jacqueline becomes interested in more from her tutor than a better grade, his teasing responses make the feeling seem mutual. There’s just one problem—their only interactions are through email.

Meanwhile, a guy in her econ class proves his worth the first night she meets him. Nothing like her popular ex or her brainy tutor, Lucas sits on the back row, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. At a downtown club, he disappears after several dances that leave her on fire. When he asks if he can sketch her, alone in her room, she agrees—hoping for more.

Then Jacqueline discovers a withheld connection between her supportive tutor and her seductive classmate, her ex comes back into the picture, and her stalker escalates his attention by spreading rumors that they’ve hooked up. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.

This book is just, WOW!  EASY was my first book by Tammara Webber and I have to admit, the cover *coughs* guy *coughs* is what caught my attention. Yes, I realize that sounds uber shallow but what-evs, I'm a sucker for fictional guys with cool hair and tats. 

I was completely caught off guard with how it began but it's such a powerful opening and sets the stage for the overall tone, plot and message.

Jacqueline has not only suffered the break-up of her 3 year relationship with her High School boyfriend, Kennedy, but she also has to endure his Frat parties because her BFF and roommate is dating his "brother".  Sure, one could argue that she doesn't have to go with Erin but that's easier said than done. (Been there. Done that.)  Adjusting to life after Kennedy is hard enough but nothing compares to what happens on Halloween and the aftermath. Jacqueline will discover who her real friends are and that the ability to defend yourself goes beyond the physical.  Having the courage to speak up regardless of the social consequences can impact more than just your own circumstances. 

I think my favorite character may have been, Jacqueline's BFF, Erin. I LOVED her!  She made me laugh so hard I cried (on numerous occasions).  She's bold, brazen and fierce. You definitely want her on your team whether it's at a Frat Formal or in a dark alley.  She's the kind of friend who always has your back and takes no prisoners as is evident here -->  "So when do we get to the junk-kicking?" ~ Erin

Kennedy is a self-absorbed prick. Excuse my "French" but there's really no other way to describe him.  He's used to getting what he wants and yeah, everyone makes mistakes, but sometimes apologies come just a little too late.  

Lucas is a knight in shining Starbucks apron strings with his cool hair, and tats. (Don't even get me started on the lip ring.) Wielding his graphite pencil and a 'tude that exudes "coolsauce", he seems the most likely candidate to play "Rebound Guy" to Jacqueline's broken heart but Lucas proves you can't always judge a book by it's cover.  He has secrets of his own and it will take more than a few coffee breaks and make-out sessions *fans face* before Jacqueline uncovers them. Once she does, she'll be lucky if she doesn't end up heartbroken all over again.

This story is one of love, friendship and learning what makes you brave.  (It's also a little about *punching/kicking/stomping fear in the junk*). I think every girl AND guy needs to read this because the message is so very important.  "No" means "No" and it doesn't matter what you're wearing, or not wearing, when you say the word.  We are responsible for our own action or inaction, both of which can have a farther reaching impact than we could ever know.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Saving Grace by J.M. Hill (Interview & Giveaway)

Saving Grace
Author: J.M. Hill
Publication: April 25, 2012
By: Amazon Digital 
4 Stars!

Grace Burke doesn’t need a thing.
She enjoys her quiet life in Fall Rivers, Colorado—running a bookstore and coffee shop with her cousin, Kate. The two have a successful business, a small circle of friends, and each other. What more could she want?
When the Anderson brothers move into the house across the street, it doesn’t take long for her to realize exactly what she’s been missing. At first sight, the youngest brother, Michael, captures Grace’s heart, and her quiet life is disrupted. Then it turns upside down.
Grace isn’t the only one with eyes for Michael. Nina Sandler, one of Michael’s clients, threatens to come between them. When Nina can’t get Michael’s attention, she focuses on Grace—in a very dangerous way.
But love is never easy and if the best things in life are worth fighting for, then Grace must find the courage to fight. Not just for love and happiness but for her very life.

[Thank you to the author, J.M. Hill for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.]  

*Be sure to check out my interview with author, J.M. Hill following my review!*

This was a great read! I was sucked in from the first page and couldn't put it down. It's a well written story about the bonds of family and friendship, love and forgiveness and fighting for what you want without compromising your values.  
All of these characters have strength and integrity but are not without their flaws, making them completely relatable. The romance is heart-achingly tender, builds at a good pace and the suspense had my heart in my throat.
I really enjoyed Grace's voice and she's a great example of true beauty.  While she's outwardly beautiful, her willingness to see the good in people and situations is what I liked most about her.  She also has a great sense of humor and her knowledge of sports makes her the dream girl of every jock that's ever donned a jersey and a foam finger!  Grace is content with her small town life, living and working with her cousin Kate and doesn't seem to fluster easily, until The Anderson guys move in next door.  Life as Grace knows it will be forever changed and her compassion will be tested in ways she never imagined. 

The Anderson guys, consisting of twins, Garrett and Miles and their younger brother, Michael are forces to be reckoned with.  Miles is good looking, intelligent, kind and caring and Michael is, well, he looks like he stepped off the cover of G.Q.  *fans face*  He may be the total package but he's also a real gentleman and it's easy to see why women swoon over him. *swoons* Michael has trouble holding onto things longer than necessary but Grace might be exactly what he needs, even if he doesn't realize it yet.
All of the Andersons are the kind of men you can bring home to meet the parents which was refreshing but my favorite was Garrett!  I *hearts* him!  He's hilarious and vaguely resembles a giant teddy bear who will eat you out of house and home if you aren't careful. *offers him brownies* 

None of these characters are immune to pain or loss and even struggle at times with making the right choices where the heart is concerned. One of my favorite conversations is between Grace and Michael as she's explaining the importance of not "selling out" or compromising what's important and why...

“Well, according to my uncle, most people— girls especially— tend to settle. Settling for the first guy that says she’s beautiful, or the first guy that gives her attention. “She gives pieces of herself away to each guy, searching for that one guy. The one guy who thinks she’s truly beautiful, seeing her inner beauty more than anything else.” 

I watched him carefully, wondering if he thought I was insane. “She gives piece after piece, to guy after guy, until all that’s left are broken pieces that have been used. Used and given back. Then one day, the right guy does come along, but there are so many pieces, she has to be put back together. And even though she can be put back together, the scars from stitching those broken pieces together, are there forever.”  
I really enjoyed reading "Saving Grace" and it just so happened to be my 100th book this year! *crowd goes crazy* (OK, so, maybe just my Mom but still.) 100 books deserves some kind of celebration with food, music, and prizes, right?!  Hang on a second...I think I can hear Garrett voting "YES!" to the food part. *giggles* *hands him the entire plate of brownies* ;)
Click the playlist below for music and you'll have to use your imagination on the food part *hands you cupcakes* but not for the prize, because there are 2 copies of "Saving Grace" up for grabs!  **(It's currently only available for Kindle or Kindle App.) Be sure to enter after the interview. Enjoy!


"Saving Grace" author, J.M. Hill was gracious enough to chat with me about her book. You can find her here...

Here's what she had to say...
Jen: Where did your inspiration for Saving Grace come from?
J.M.: Inspiration struck while reading Twilight.  (Pause for giggles)  My daughter wanted to read it, but I’d heard conflicting reports about the content, ie: Edward’s stalkerish behavior, etc, so I had to give it the mom-approval (that’s just how I roll).  Surprisingly, my favorite aspect of the book was NOT the relationship between Edward/Bella. My favorite aspect was the relationship of the Cullen’s. The way they protected each other no matter the cost.  Yes, they are vampires, and yes, they are fictional.  BUT, what a great picture of how families should be!  So, I came up with the Anderson family.  Grace and Kate only had each other, but when they met the Anderson’s they had a family again.  They were loved, they were protected…no matter the cost.  

Jen: Have you always wanted to write?
J.M.: I wish I could answer this question with a hearty “YES”, but alas, I cannot.  No, I haven’t always wanted to write. However, I’m having way too much fun, so I’ll definitely always want to write from now on!

Jen: What made you decide to go the self-publishing route?
J.M.: When I finished Grace, a handful of people convinced me it was good enough to be published.  Easy right? Uh, no. You don’t just wake up one day and say “Hey, I think I’ll get my book published.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly how I thought it worked.  I learned the hard way.  It was a long, difficult, irritating, frustrating, hurt-my-feelings, process.  Two years of querying agents, coming sooooo close just to be told “sorry” took it’s toll, and Grace was put on a memory-stick and shoved in a drawer.
For Christmas my two oldest boys gave me a Kindle.  One of the books I purchased was self-published for Amazon.  I got curious.  The rest is history.

Jen: I enjoyed Grace's "voice" and while she hasn't had the easiest life, she's still able to see the good in people/situations. Where does that come from?
J.M.: Grace is everything I wish I could be.  Her compassion for others is a character trait I wish EVERYONE possessed.  Sadly, compassion is rarely seen these days.  With all of the terrible things Nina did, Grace’s compassion came through in a powerful way.  Could I ever do what Grace did?  I don’t know, but I’d like to think so.

Jen: All of the Anderson guys are the kind you can bring home but I have to say, I LOVED Garrett! He's hilarious and definitely someone I'd want on my side should I ever get stuck in a dark alley or you know, if I needed to clean out my frig. ;) Do you have any "Garretts" in your life?
J.M.: Yes.  Garrett is modeled after my younger brother, Miles.  He’s over six-three, huge, tattooed, and if you saw him in a dark alley he’d probably scare you a little.  He also has one of the biggest, softest hearts, and he’s HILARIOUS.  I love him to death. It wasn’t my intention to write Garrett like my brother, it just happened.  But I think everyone needs a Garrett in their life, whether it’s to help clean out a fridge, or to you know, move a fridge. (Haha, so true!)
Jen: Michael is almost too good to be true with his model looks, charm and thoughtfulness. *sighs* What do think he would say his biggest weakness is? 

J.M.: I’m not sure how Michael would answer this question, so I’ll just answer for him.  I think his greatest weakness is the inability to let go of guilt.  But, we all tend to do that, don’t we? We all make mistakes, but what do we learn from those mistakes? Do we learn and move on? Or do we wallow in guilt and self-pity?  I think Michael was wallowing a bit until Grace called him out.  Sometimes that’s how we learn.

Jen: When we "chatted" before (via e-mail) you mentioned that you're a fellow homeschooler. *hi fives you* With all the attention homeschooling requires, when do you find time to write?
J.M.: I have no idea! Sheesh! Late nights. Really, really, late nights. 

Jen: What does your writing space look like?
J.M.: Wish I could tell everyone that I have a desk positioned in front of a window, with a picturesque view of mountains or a beach.  Nope.  My writing space consists of the sofa, or my bedroom.  When I want to feel inspired, I just scoot over to my husband’s side of the bed. 

Jen: OK, now some questions just for fun... 

Current read? The Island-Elin Hilderbrand  (adds to my TBR list

Favorite book ever? The Velveteen Rabbit

Chocolate or Vanilla? Vanilla…with chocolate sauce

Football or Basketball? FOOTBALL

Justin Bieber or Journey? Puh-Leeeeeze! Journey! (agreed, although I did have a "fever" once.)

Running or Dancing? Dancing, but should probably consider running every now and then.

Brownies or Cupcakes? Brownies, warm from the oven, with aforementioned vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. 

Thank you so much J.M. for taking time to "chat" with me! :)  
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