DNF Review: Gated by Amy Christine Parker

Publication Date: August 2, 2013
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 352
Source: ARCycling
Do the gates keep the unchosen out or the chosen in?

In Mandrodage Meadows, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban community have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives. Lyla Hamilton and her parents are original members of the flock. They moved here following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:

Pioneer is her leader.

Will is her Intended.

The end of the world is near.

Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound's underground fortress--the Silo.

Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she'd rather think about a certain boy outside the compound than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But with the end of days drawing near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I absolutely adore psychological themes in books, specifically a book that attempts to understand the mind of a cult. While I strongly despise legitimate cults, their mentality is something that fascinates me. It shows how preying on the weak really helps you come out on top. It's horrible yet intriguing. So, naturally, I really wanted to read this book.

However, it became increasingly obvious to me that this book was not only going to be creepy, but intense. This book is all about the mindset. You can't read it unless you're ready for it. And, if you want the truth, I just wasn't ready for it. As a college student I barely get any time to read. If I find myself struggling in the beginning of a book, I can't push my way through it. It'll put me into a huge reading funk that I can't afford because I have so little time to read to begin with. And, well, this is one of those cases.

I had to DNF in a mere twenty-five pages. The main reason for this is because of our heroine. I'm not a big fan of her. She's meek, and it's not something I'm currently in the mood for heroine-wise. While I support her ways wholeheartedly, I just wasn't in the mood. This girl was at target practice and decided to take out someone's legs instead of shooting them for the kill. Good for you, girl, but even I could sense everyone's disappointment and annoyance with you. You're in a world fighting to survive. When the zombies come, you're going to be the first to go.

And when Pioneer, the leader of the cult, showed up ready to critique them and check up on his future soldiers, I just got this sick feeling in my stomach and then had no desire to continue because I was oddly uncomfortable. Perhaps this is an amazing aspect of the book because it's already coming across strong, but it's not something I'm mentally or emotionally prepared for at this time.

If you have the chance, I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to think. Clearly, this is a psychological book that will take you on a journey and get you thinking.


15 Day Book Blogging Challenge: Day 8

The 15 day Book Blogger Challenge can be found here.

Christina from A Reader of Fictions, Mickey from I'm a Book Snark, Jessie from Ageless Page Reviews, and myself have decided to do this over the course of 15 weeks. One post will go up every Friday in order to teach you a little about ourselves.

Today's topic...Quick! Write 15 bullet points of things that appeal to you on blogs! In no particular order:

1. Clean, simple designs. I don't like blogs that are in your face bright or their designs are so busy I am easily distracted. I just like something simple and sophisticated. It's why I changed my design, y'know?

2. Proper grammar. I really hate it when I try to comment back on some reviews and I just cringe repeatedly. I can't make it through. If I have any desire whatsoever to break out a red pen and go to town on your blog, I'm sorry, but I can't follow you.

3. Interaction with followers. I love blogs where the owner's personality really bleeds through because they interact with their followers so much. It gives me the vibe that they care about each and every one of their followers. It's why I created my Discussion area and my Reader's Choice Reviews and I hope everyone appreciates them like intended!

4. No onslaught of memes and/or cover reveals. I enjoy memes. I often participate in TTT and STS. Occasionally, I do WoW, but I stopped doing that after a lot of people would comment "oh, I have that one!" It's like a slap in the face because you're openly pining for it and they're shoving it in your face. Either way, if a blog is overpowered by memes, I just can't handle it.

5. Unique content. Instead of just reviews and memes, I love surprising content that relates to books. Interviews, events, giveaways, discussions, cool facebook fun. Anything, really, that goes above and beyond the general expectations floating around the blogosphere.

6. Long reviews. I write long reviews, so I'm automatically drawn to others with long reviews. I can't stand when a review is the length of a synopsis of a book, if not shorter. When they write two sentences about the characters, two about the plot, etc. That's not well thought out and it frustrates me so much. I spend time formulating my opinions to really get them to make sense to others. I can't stand when a "review" doesn't achieve the overall concept of reviewing.

7. Giveaways. I've stopped entering giveaways, but I like it when I find a blog who hosts the occasional giveaway the way I do. I think it's important to reward our followers somehow! Show them their loved!

8. A plethora of genres. I tend to try to avoid blogs that focus on a specific genre of books. Some of those I enjoy because I can name a few paranormal only blogs that cover all creates at least twice a month, but others bug me. Their reviews tend to slip together and become repetitive because there's such a small variation in their reading material. I review fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, paranormal, mystery, historical fiction, psychological thrillers, middle-grades, young adult, LGBT, the occasional adult cross-over, new adult, and I'm trying to force myself into reviewing a horror novel even though I am the biggest Marshmallow in the world. I try to bring an array of reviews to you, and I like to see an array of reviews in return.

9. Themes. I tend to find a re-occurring theme throughout the blog and design to be interesting. One that's simple and not overpowering. It makes me smile to see a cute little rating like robots or flowers or something as opposed to...huge fairies or dogs or something.

10. Subdued coloring. I can't stand when I open a blog and the background is so bright my eyes water. Simple, lighter or darker colors are what I enjoy seeing.

11. Comment replies. I love knowing that you care that I commented, so you reply! Makes me feel appreciated!

12. Humor. If you can make me laugh whether it is in your reviews or in your discussions or however, really, I'll love you. I love it when you can make me laugh and be entertaining.

13. No noises. That Bane Chronicles thing? If I see it I will leave your blog. I can't stand opening a blog to be assaulted by music or some random noise from an advertisement. Youtube videos are fine, I have to choose if I want them on or not. But, gah! I do not want random noise interruption my musical blogging mojo.

14. No Captcha. If I am writing a comment and I notice you have captcha, I will leave. Captcha and I have this eternal battle of hating each other. He gives me unreadable letters, I give him wrong codes. It just won't work out. We're never, ever getting back together, Captcha and I.

15. Proper use of GIFs. I really love it when I find a blog that can use GIFs in a proper way. Not an "in your face I'm going to shove 40 into this review" way, but a way that emphasizes points and can make you laugh.

Discussion: Author Events Problems

So, on Tuesday I went with my friend Sam to see an author event at Books of Wonder. It was initially set up for only Ally Carter, but Amy Christine Parker, Kass Morgan, and Elizabeth Keim eventually joined in on the fun. I've come to accept the fact that as a college student I won't always be able to attend events, but I want to do so when I find the time, so I was stoked to meet Ally for the first time. The more disappointing part in this was the fact that I own every Book Ms. Carter has ever published, on top of Kass Morgan's debut and Amy Christine Parker's latest novel, GATED. If I still lived at home I would have been on that signing line like white on rice. Who doesn't want to meet the Queen of spy novels and the author of one of my most anticipated television shows? I mean, really!

I love this bookstore. So much.
But something stuck out to me at this event. Hell, I'm guilty of it. Most people were there primarily for Ally Carter, if not only Ally Carter. Initially this was her event alone and for some reason the other authors were added in.

While the camaraderie during the Q&A section was downright hilarious and easily made me love hot boys with Australian accents kissing in the woods even more, there was something partially lacking in regards to the other authors at signing time.

It's almost as if some readers shunned them. Books of Wonder had this entire trail of a line leading around the store primarily for Ms. Carter and they just let people trying to get to the other authors cut right down the middle because there were so few of them. To add insult to injury, part of the line actually ended right beside the part of the table that the other authors were sitting at. It's like they nearly got author-shunned come signing time and the stock was almost immediately placed beside them. Most of the questions were geared toward Ally as well. While I welcomed the Ally-dominated event, I can't even begin to say how bad I felt for the other authors. Seriously, these feels are going to be mentioned a lot.

I seriously think this went through some reader's minds
This made me flash back to another signing I attended in the past. Two huge name authors were there with one moderately popular one and then a not-so popular one. My heart went out to the author who was surrounded by lines and had no line of her own. It was not a fun thing to witness, and I'm sure it's not the best thing to experience, which makes me wonder why this happens. Author events are supposed to be fun and uplifting, you're not supposed to walk out twenty or thirty minutes after the signing starts while the line for the New York Times best seller keeps growing.

I went to this event to see all the authors, not just Ally. And my heart went out for all of them once again. Their attempt at exposure almost seemed to potentially backfire because so many reader's were solely focused on a single author instead of wanting to broaden their horizons. I found myself fascinated simply by the discussion, but I suppose this happened because I went into the event open to possibilities instead of having a one-track mind.

Elizabeth Keim is an extremely interesting individual. Her obsession and love of Russia, especially when it was experiencing its Soviet era, was both quirky and entertaining. She easily held my interest.

Because of the premise of this book, I was curious to see her speak, and she definitely made e curious to pick up her book when I find the time. I think it may be one of those hidden gems.

Kass Morgan has this really gorgeous look about her. I loved her hair, her outfit, her makeup, her everything. She's very well-spoken and downright hilarious. I mean, hello! Hot Australian boys kissing in space and in the woods. Who doesn't want that?

I was excited to see her speak because I was curious about her thoughts on the future television series stemming from her debut. While I only gave it three stars, I'm anticipating this series. This is mainly because while the premise and plot of the book was outstanding, I felt as if the book lacked detail that made it read more like a scripted plot and television show instead of a legitimate book. Nevertheless, I'm curious about book two.

Amy Christine Parker was highly entertaining. She was sitting beside Ally, so their banter got everyone laughing.

I'll admit that I did not finish her book, but I still wanted to see her. And that's not to say her book was bad, I didn't finish it because her heroine is not the type of heroine I was in the mood to read when I picked up the book. I think her book requires a certain mind-set because of the creepiness in this cult dominated post-apocalyptic world. 

It was beyond interesting to learn what inspired her to write this book, and I do plan on picking it up in the future when I find myself in the proper mindset. This book is definitely all about the mindset, that belief was confirmed at the signing.

Ally Carter is a New York Times best-selling author. She's an author that millions of kids have grown up with. She's nearly untouchable.

If you ask me, I prefer her HEIST SOCIETY series, but both of her series are my go-to reads for awesome spy novels that get me giggling.

I can also honestly say that she is so awesome you wonder how in the hell she is still single. True. Facts.

I was waiting in the signing line for Ally with my friend primarily because I wanted to meet the author that was heavily responsible for making me the reader I am today. I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU was one of the first books I ever read and adored. I don't even talk to my friend Fay anymore, but to this day I'm thankful that she introduced me to this series. Without this book, I probably would have never found my way to the blogosphere. 

After about 40 numbers (less than half of the people there) were called, Morgan, Parker, and Keim notified the beloved owner and his adorable service dog that they wanted to leave. Why? Because they had nobody else waiting on line for them and had finished signing stock. And, really, this just got me thinking. Those three authors are relatively new and on a completely different level then Ally. A debut author simply can't compare to a New York Times Best-Seller. They're like three chicks trying to march alongside a chicken. Her experience and large fan-base clearly overpowered and overshadowed this event and instead of being given a chance, they were roughly ignored or completely forgotten about.

Which got me thinking...why are they not given a chance? If someone is put alongside your favorite author, aren't you curious about why they are there? What got them there? Don't you want to know about their writing? I do. I went to the event for all four of them, even if I had one of them primarily in mind, and I learned a lot of new things. Hell, new interest for me was generated and a new understanding for some was created as well.

I understand that there's nearly blinding sensation when you're in the presence of a favorite author. Everyone experiences that. Who doesn't fangirl? But just take a deep breath and step back next time. Do you really want to ignore the possibility of finding a new potential favorite? Put yourselves in their shoes...everyone should be given a chance.

Top Ten Best Sequels Ever

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

Clearly, if a book made it onto this list for me, then I highly recommend you read it. In no particular order...

1. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas, book two in the Throne of Glass series

2. Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter, book three in the Heist Society series

This is my favorite book in the series by far.

3. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, book two in The Lunar Chronicles series

4. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss

It's technically a sequel, so it's  not cheating!

5. The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson, book three in the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy

This is the way to end a series.

6. Rogue by Gina Damico, book three in the Croak series

If you haven't learned the proper way to end a series after reading THE BITTER KINGDOM, then you should read this one.

7. Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi, book two in the Shatter Me trilogy

8. A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard, book two in the Something Strange and Deadly series

9. Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood, book two in the Cahill Witch Chronicles

 10. Faking It by Cora Carmack, book two in the Losing It series

11. Dare You To by Katie McGarry, book two in the Pushing The Limits series

Always have to have one for good luck!

And, of course, Harry Potter has some of the best sequels ever.

Once I read it, I'm sure SIEGE AND STORM will get a spot on this list as well.

Link me to your lists!

Review: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Reading Level: Young Adult, 13+
Pages: 352 (eARC)
Source: Netgalley
Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She's never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love--even with someone who seems an improbable choice--is more than just a possibility.

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

It's hard going into a book with high expectations. I've loved Doller's previous novel so much that my hopes were set high with this one. And, unfortunately, I think that's what made this book slightly disappointing to me. Now, that's not to say I didn't greatly enjoy it. I did. But, in the end, I can't say this was her best work, in my opinion.

The story she paints in regards to Callie's struggles is strong. This girl doesn't understand relationships since all she has was her mother. She doesn't understand normality and friendship, proper food and money. Unfortunately, she does understand what it's like to be taken advantage of by a man. I think one of the most powerful plot points in this book for me was Callie's struggle with her past sexual abuse. Nobody would believe her and nobody was willing to understand, so she held everything inside until she burst. She dealt with it her own way and it led her down this path of destruction.

One of my biggest struggles with the book was her coping mechanism, which was to have a lot of sex. She got into the habit of being a sexual hit and run and relied too much on her sex drive for certain things. She internalized her problems and, at times, they'd appear when she found herself in sexual situations and she'd panic a little. I just didn't like this about her, at all. Especially because of how she met Alex. They ran into each other and there was this huge sexual charge between them after exchanging less then 10 sentences between the two of them. Then, the next time they run into each other it's completely unspoken yet entirely agreed upon that the first thing they do is have sex. This is not healthy, it's not a good way to start a relationship, and even with her past in mind the way they met bugged me. While I support the believability of lust at first sight over love at first sight, I did not like how Doller went about getting them together. At all. I found her commitment issues and constant questioning of things to be frustrating, though this could be attributed to Callie's lack of psychological help after enduring such a strange childhood.

On a positive note, I really loved Callie's family. Her father's a bit too lenient, but it's because he's adjusting to having his daughter back too. You can tell her truly loves her from the bottom of his heart. And Callie's step-mother isn't that bad either. Her worries about Callie being around her children are reasonable, and she, too, has a huge adjustment to make. Callie's little brothers were absolutely adorable and her grandmother was pretty kick-ass. But her best friend and cousin, Kat, was an entirely different story. This girl is so overemotional she reminds me of a hyperactive kindergartener that knows about sex. She got hurt over the stupidest of things and was a jealous individual. She has a huge heart, but she's so immature. Reign your emotions in, girl! I get the impression that she'd cry if a bug died on her windshield.

Alex is an interesting love interest. He genuinely cares about Callie and he's got demons of his own, but I can't say I entirely understand his demons. I'm still slightly confused about them. I know that he grew from them somewhat in the end, but the confusion was not at all enjoyable for me, despite how enjoyable he was. He has dreams and aspirations and he was a nice little touch to the story. I also adore the fact that he can admit when he's wrong. But I feel as if he is prone to overexaggeration at times, especially when he and Callie fight, and he forgives in unbelievable ways. After everything they've been through, I didn't enjoy the place where their relationship was left off at the end of the book, though it made the romance lover in me happy. It was too open and under-clarified. 

Watching Callie change and begin to understand the twisted relationship that she had with her mother was amazing as well. Her growth was superb, and I applaud Doller for being able to write such a realistic, heart-wrenching story. The disorders that Callie's mother suffered from were spot on, and that's what made aspects of the story so disturbing. Her mother alternated between two extremes and that's reflected greatly in the writing. Some scenes literally scared me because of this, but again, this is just a testament to Doller's writing.

In the end, I think that many people will enjoy this book because it is certainly powerful. I, however, did not love it as much as I initially hoped I would. I still adore Doller and her ability to tell a powerful story, but this is simply one of those relationships that wasn't meant to be. I'm still anxious to see what else she has in store for us. 

3.5 stars


Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation in exchange for this honest review. 

Stacking the Shelves #44

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

I've literally only read a single book in the three weeks I've been at college and part of this pains me greatly. Ah!


Thank you for the trade, Kierra!

Alienated by Melissa Landers

Gifted (funny story)
My parents sent me a care package because they're awesome like that, and they included a book in it knowing it was one of my favorites but I didn't own a physical copy. That book was THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US by Kasie West. So they ordered it off Amazon and when it came they stuck it inside the box with the reciept for me to do as I please.
I called them up upon the box's arrival to thank them and then ask why they got me a Mexican memoir. Turns out even though the receipt was sent in for the proper book, Amazon shipped me the wrong one. So I am now stuck with this book with a free copy of the other book en route to me as we speak.

The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande

Gifted (Part 2)
Christina is just outright awesome and she got me a signed copy of my favorite contemporary of 2013. And it's a hardcover. And the message is awesome. And I'm still freaking out. Yes. <3 Thank you, Christina!

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Review: Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles

Series: Wild Cards #1
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Reading Level: 14+
Pages: 288 (ARC)
Source: BEA 2013
After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

Simone Elkeles is among the authors that made me the prolific reader than I am today. I loved her PERFECT CHEMISTRY series and ate up nearly every other book she's written, so I was beyond eager when I found out that she was writing a new series. This book had sizzling chemistry and even had me laughing out loud a few times. Elkeles never fails to deliver. But, with that in mind, this book can't live up to her others.

I suppose my biggest issue was that I got a huge CATCHING JORDAN vibe from this. Female football player dates awesome QB, they break up because the QB sucks, best friends are these awesomely hilarious guys from the team. Sure, that's the extent that the plots were similar, but I couldn't shake the similarities. While I know this was nowhere near intentional and I think Elkeles' execution was beyond amazing and more complex than the aforementioned book, it was hard to shake the familiarity of some scenes. I suppose Elkeles was just a little late to the scene in this case. But when you're drawing parallels in your mind, even inadvertently, it tends to take away from the book.

However, once I got over that, I really loved this book. Derek's delicious. He's wickedly hilarious and sarcastic, good-looking, and he's just trying to figure it all out. He's got a good heart buried deep and it shines through when he takes the fall for all of his friends at boarding school and when he helps out with his five year old step-brother, Julian. Oh, and he's a health food nut. Ashtyn's a warrior princess that can't live without junk food, there's no other way to put it. The first scene we meet her she's wielding a pitchfork and ready to go to town on intruders. How amazing is that? The side cast of characters wasn't as strong as the main characters. While Ashtyn's football buddies added a lot of comic relief to the story, Landon was just a sucky person. I understand that his characterization was supposed to be that way and he was supposed to switch teams because he was jealous and didn't make captain, but he had the maturity of a two year old since he was constantly trying to ruin Ashtyn every chance he got. It frustrated me. But Derek's long-lost grandmother added much more comic relief to the story and she was able to get Ashtyn's detached father, Gus, and her ditzy older sister in line. All in all, a diverse cast of characters that I enjoyed for the most part.

While the romance was amazing because that's always where Elkeles excels, I often found myself frustrated with the characters. Their tension and fighting was cute at times and flat-out annoying other times since they both made mountains out of mole hills. They would knowingly say something to get under the other's nerves and ruin absolutely everything and make the fighting go on a few more chapters before some kind of reconcilement. It bugged me, the obliviousness of it all. It almost seemed that Elkeles did it this way to further the plot. When they weren't fighting I was truly rooting for them under they just did something stupid. And if you ask me, they did something stupid a lot.

Lastly, I think the synopses is slightly misleading. I was under the impression that Derek was going to saunter in and save the day with his awesome football skills. And while the synopses is true and such a thing eventually happens, it takes nearly 90% of the book for it to happen. The rest of the book was them arguing and fighting about relationships and being snarky with each other. I just felt slightly misled because what I considered to be an integral part of the plot didn't come into play until a time of desperation near the end of the book where there were a few scenes out of a sappy romance movie. Is Elkeles known for ending her books like that? Yes, but sometimes they always make me cringe and put a smile on my face simultaneously. Derek could have made this a lot easier for himself and Ashtyn if he was just honest. I understand that his necessity to keep his past a secret was personal, believable, and complex, but, gah, the frustration!

In the end, I enjoyed this book and I'm eagerly anticipating book two. I'm hoping that book two continues Ashtyn and Derek's story because it's truly only just begun instead of her swapping main character's the way she did in her PERFECT CHEMISTRY series. This is a great read for fans of CATCHING JORDAN and DAIRY QUEEN. Overall, this was a quick read that put a smile on my face as a huge football fan and romance lover, but I can't help feel slight disappointment. I love Elkeles and everything she's written, so it's upsetting to see I was so nit-picky with this one. I wanted to absolutely head-over-heels love it, and I just couldn't bring myself to do so. I greatly enjoyed it, but I didn't love it.

3 stars


Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation in exchange for an honest review of this book picked up at BEA 2013.

Review: All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry

Publication Date: September 26, 2013
Publisher: Viking Children's Books
Reading Level: Young Adult, 12+
Pages: 274 (ARC)
Source: Trade
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

This has been one of the hardest books to rate. The overall twisted tale and unique way of writing easily warrants five stars, but I found several issues throughout the story that hindered me from loving this book to pieces. While I know many people will love it more than life itself, the analytical part of my brain had a few alarm bells ringing throughout the story. 

To begin, this book is written in a second person perspective. Instead of us being spoken to, Judith spends the entire book speaking to Lucas. It's almost as if this is a diary written to him. But, more on him later. It has been so long since I've read a book like this this writing style took a bit of time to adjust to. And, to make the writing style even more intriguing and mind-boggling, the chapters are very short. Some are as small as three lines, others are as long as five pages. The size constantly varies and the timing of these little chapters sporadically switches from the present to Judith's mysterious past. While slightly confusing in the beginning, it was very easy to follow once I adjusted to it and the transitioning between past and present kept me on my toes.

I was thrown for yet another loop by the cover. It's haunting and easily draws you in, no? Who is this scared girl and why is her mouth missing? She clearly cannot speak, but what's her story? It makes you want to pick it up. It looks like an awesome contemporary, but this book is totally not a contemporary. While the cover is admittedly gorgeous, neither the synopsis or cover hints at the fact that this is a historical fiction book. And though I know it's historical because of the descriptions of daily life and clothing, I have no idea where this takes place. I cannot tell you a general location besides near the woods. I can't tell you a general time frame besides the time of women wearing bonnets and punishment by sticking people in stocks. But this was during a time where women were allowed to be educated until they became a housewife. This was made all the more confusing because it was never outright said this was a historical, I had to infer it by drawing out little details throughout the book. And, to this moment, I'm still completely confounded as to when and where this book took place. I didn't understand the personal history that brought on a war near the beginning of the book, and this just frustrated me. The lack of upfront information in regards to this aspect of the book continues to frustrate me as I analyze this book for my review.

With that in mind, I loved Judith. She's returned from a kidnapping, but she's been mutilated. Half of her tongue has been cut out, forcing her to be mute. Her small town thinks she is cursed, so she is forced to be quiet and ignored by all. She will never marry, nor learn. She will never have a chance to be respected and her old life will forever be lost. After two years of this type of treatment, even from her own mother, she begins to agree with her town's general thoughts on her: she must be dumb. But, then, the oddest of friendships comes to light and she learns that she's been silenced because she allowed herself to be. And, if she sets her mind to it, she can break her silence. This story is all about her finding her voice, and it's amazing. It's not an easy journey, but it's one that deserves to be told. Because of this, it's very easy to feel for our hero and her plight. I also want to give props to the individual who helped her discover the fact that she can not only have friends, but be a functioning member of society. This person was the last person I expected to do this and it displays how three-dimensional these characters are.

This book also has a solid murder mystery arc that comes to a shocking conclusion at the very end of the novel. This aspect of the book kept me riveted because I had no clue who could have killed Lottie, the girl who disappeared the same summer as Judith did, but never returned. Slowly unraveling all of these frightening details was amazing, and the actual mystery was done well. In the end, there were small details that hinted at the identity of the killer, but nothing obvious. It would take some serious inferring to figure it out before our main character did, but Berry gave us the smallest of chances to do so. I loved this, and while my guess was completely far off, the shock of the killer's identity and the perfect way it fit into the story was great. I love it when a murder mystery is done well...meaning that the murderer truly has motives though their identity is not easy to infer and all aspects of the mystery were neatly tied up.

The romance in this one was sweet and slow going, but not overpowering of the general murder mystery. Judith has some stalking moments in the beginning, but she overcomes these odd tendencies as she finds her voice. Clearly, the love interest is Lucas. There's no secret to his identity in this one. His suffering and his hard journey was interesting as well because I couldn't glean many of his feelings easily. However, I have to say that I felt slightly disconnected from him. Judith's love of his is so powering that it nearly borders on obsession. I mean, the entire book is written as her talking to him. So, while it's great to love when something goes right for them and hate when something goes wrong because of our attachment to Judtih, it's  not really driven by feelings for Lucas. We don't know much about him besides what Judith thinks of him. I'd love to get to know him more, but the styling of the story hindered that and made it hard for me to forge a connection with him.

In the end, I think this is the perfect tale if you're looking for something unique, twisted, and powerful. While the writing style can turn people off, it's easy to adjust to and love if you set your mind to it. Judith is a characters whose story is worth reading, and it's always amazing to find a main character who truly deserves to be rooted for. If you have the time, I'd give this one a chance.

4 stars


Reader's Choice Review #4: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

Publication Date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
Source: ARCycling
Recommended By: Jessie
When all signs point to heartbreak, can love still be a rule of the road? A poignant and romantic novel from the author of Bittersweet and Twenty Boy Summer.

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?

Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

This is my first Sarah Ockler book, but going into it I was well aware of how widely adored she is. And, after reading this book, I can honestly say that I understand why she is so greatly loved. This book had an amazing setting, a true romance, and struggles that broke your heart in two, all sprinkled with enough humor to lighten the mood.

However, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to Simone Elkeles's PERFECT CHEMISTRY. A guy and a girl who are sworn to hate each other for some reason or another. The guy is of some sort of Latin descent and uses his sexy language and amazing facial features to lure all unsuspecting women into his bed. And, as much as I loved Emilio, nobody can compare to Alex. However, while PERFECT CHEMISTRY focused solely on the racial divide between the two main character's neighborhoods, the driving force in this book is Jude's father, Papi, who is experiencing early on-set Alzheimer's at the age of fifty-two. 

This aspect of the story wrenched my gut open. I had watched several documentaries on this illness when I took a psychology class in high school and every single one ended with me tearing up. This rare disease is most often hereditary and every child of someone with it has a 50% chance of saying a long good-bye to themselves. It's scary and hard to stomach as a bystander. I can't even imagine how terrible it is to watch someone you love lose themselves while you stand by helplessly. Ockler really captured this aspect of the plot perfectly and I often found myself hurting alongside Jude and her family.

I also found Jude's familial ties to be great. While there are clearly struggles because of her father's predicament, this is the way a young adult family should be. There are no absentee parents and everyone loves each other. Despite the fact that there is a huge age gap between Jude and her three sisters, there's still this equal and amazing love between them all. All three of Jude's older sisters are strong secondary characters that enhance the plot in some way, especially Mari, nicknamed the Wrecking Ball for reasons you can easily infer for yourself. However, Jude refers to her older sisters as the Holy Trinity, and rightfully so. The three of them do have this bond that Jude isn't part of because of the age gap, so she obviously jumped at the first chance she got to be included in this bond...which just so happened to be the night where the girls swore never to allow a Vargas into their life again. Those Vargas boys, they're bad news. Two of the three elder sisters had their hearts severely broken at their hands while the other suffered by watching her sisters suffer. It's a curse, they declare!

And, with this in mind, Jude does everything in her power to not allow the hot guy with the sexy dimples that is fixing her father's motorcycle get to her. He's a Vargas, so he's forbidden! But Emilio may just be different. His eyes show through with sincerity and a genuineness that his brothers did not have and his dimples are simply adorable. He wants to understand Jude instead of running from her family issues the way everyone else is. He is, perhaps, one of the most honest and genuine guys I've come across in a while and I really loved that. He has his own way of dealing with his own demons and while some come to light, others don't. I felt like several questions regarding his lack of being forth coming weren't answered by the end of the book and that bugged me because I wanted to know more about this boy I so greatly enjoyed. I learned more about Jude than I did him, and while that is to be expected, I don't think I know enough about his familial past that caused so many issues for him and Jude to begin with.

I also really liked Jude's connection to her heritage as well. Jude's father was re-living his glory days from Argentina, which was magnificent. I felt like I temporarily traveled there when he was re-living his memories of his biker days there. And it showed through with the family's love of food and her mother's amazing cooking. I loved learning about her parents journey to America, how they used The Beatles to teach them English, and all the little things like that. I haven't come across a set of parents I've loved so much in a while. But, with their culture in mind, my one issue with the book was the lack of translating all of the Spanish. Most of the time it was easy to infer what was said, but there were a few instances where I had to pull up a translator because I had absolutely no clue what was going on. I wasn't a fan of those few occassions.

A small shout out to Jude's dog Pancake, who loves bunnies. In all seriousness, I laughed my ass off whenever she was narrating his thoughts in her head. It reminded me of how I used to act with my dog who unfortunately passed away at the end of July due to kidney failure two weeks before her fourteenth birthday. It also added a sprinkle of humor to this story that kept such a serious topic light-hearted.

In the end, this was a great book. The beginning was a little slow, but once I jumped over that hurdle I flew through this book easily. The ending is bittersweet because it's so easy to connect with Jude and Emilio. I will definitely be checking out Ockler's other books and I understand why it's almost a necessity for any contemporary lover to pick up one of her books at some point in their lives.

4 stars

If you have any book that you'd like me to read because you're unsure about it or you think it would be awesome to torture me with a terrible book, submit it below!

Stacking the Shelves #43

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

My first STS as a college student! School's been good to me so far, even though I've barely had any time to read!

The color scheme of the covers below look awesome together, too. Completely coincidental.

Weather Witch by Shannon Delaney (thank you, Alyssa!)
  Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis (thank you, Vivien!)

Waterfell by Amalie Howard (Thank you, Becca!)

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan (Thank you, Gaby!)

Link me to your STS!

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: A Little Too Far by Lisa Desrochers

Check out the full schedule for this tour at Rockstar Book Tours!

Series: A Little Too Far #1
Publication Date: September 17, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow
Reading Level: New Adult, 18+
Pages: 230 (eARC)
Source: Edelweiss for Blog Tour
“More than a ridiculously sexy, HOT read, Desrochers takes you on a wild ride of self-discovery and bittersweet romance.”
— JENNIFER L. ARMENTROUT, #1 New York Times bestselling author of WAIT FOR YOU

Have you ever gone just a little too far?

Lexie Banks has.

Yep. She just had mind-blowing sex with her stepbrother. In her defense, she was on the rebound, and it’s more of a my-dad-happened-to-marry-a-woman-with-a-super-hot-son situation. But still, he’s been her best friend and confidant for the better part of the last few years … and is so off limits. It’s a good thing she’s leaving in two days for a year abroad in Rome.

But even thousands of miles away, Lexie can’t seem to escape trouble. Raised Catholic, she goes to confession in hopes of alleviating some of her guilt … and maybe not burning in hell. Instead, she stumbles out of the confessional and right into Alessandro Moretti, a young and very easy-on-the-eyes deacon … only eight months away from becoming a priest. Lexie and Alessandro grow closer, and when Alessandro’s signals start changing despite his vow of celibacy, she doesn’t know what to think. She’s torn between falling in love with the man she shouldn’t want and the man she can’t have. And she isn’t sure how she can live with herself either way.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

A big topic of concern on my blog lately has been my terrible new adult slump. I love the genre, but I've found that new adult contemporary romance novels are similar in taste, execution, plot, and style. I looked towards A LITTLE TOO FAR hoping it could be my saving grace, and boy, has it renewed my faith in the genre. Not only does it take risks by attacking the dark concept of a forbidden romance between step-siblings, but it's laugh out loud funny and steamy as well.
This book begins with a break-up. Lexie learns that her boyfriend of three and a half years has been cheating her. He wants her back, but she refuses to deal with him again. She goes home to her slightly older step-brother, Trent, who is also her closest confidant. Somewhere between venting her feelings and receiving advice, playing some Warcraft, and knocking back some Scotch, they have sex. And then they realize they both want more. To make matters worse, this is two days before Lexie takes her study abroad trip to Rome, so the immediate separation does not make things easy on either of them. Immediately fearing the consequences of her actions, Lexie goes to Church in Rome to confess her sins because she's unsure if the love she felt was really so unnatural. He is her step brother, after all. There she meets Alessandro who ends up using her as an art tour-guide/teacher for the kids he is helping with. Not only is his unbelievably sexy, but he understands her. Unfortunately, he's a soon-to-be Priest that took a vow of celibacy. You can only imagine how twisted Lexie's world is.

One of the things I loved about this book was its lack of sex scenes. There was about four in here, and I enjoyed that. I could see pretty much everyone of them coming, and a little steamy smut is no problem at all. But there was an overall plot that drove this book instead of a plethora of never-ending sex. So it will not only appeal to readers like myself who don't care about sex but desire a strong, plot-driven book, but the steaminess will make any adult romance lover happy as well. It's a win/win if you ask me.

One of the things that I found fascinating was Lexie's relationship with Trent in comparison to her relationship with Alessandro. There was a definite attraction and camaraderie with Trent that differentiated from Alessandro's philosophical yet deep connection with her through their shared love of art, though his is fueled by his religion, oddly enough. With that in mind, I also want to say that while there's religion in this book it's not at all shoved down your throat or overpowering, so nobody has anything to fear in this regard. It was great to watch Alessandro struggle with what he thought was his life's calling, just as it was interesting to see what Trent would do when faced with the terrible realization that he may not be able to call the girl he loves his girl. Two completely different kinds of struggle and torment in a single story over a single woman, very nicely done. This is the proper way to write a love triangle.

This is also one of those books that easily transports you to the desired location. In this instance, it's Rome. Not only have I visited Rome twice, but I have four years of Italian under my belt. I feel that the descriptions were spot-on and it was amazing for me to be able to recognize some of the art pieces and destinations referenced in the book. It was even greater for me to understand the Italian in the story some of which is very dirty. For those of you who don't speak Italian, it's easy to figure out what is being said, but a translator will help you easily. There's not much Italian, though, just little bits thrown in here and there for purpose and comedy.

In the end, it's hard to pick out things that I can truly nitpick about this book. My biggest issue with it is that I was unhappy with who she chose in the end. While I saw it coming, Ihappened to like the connection with her other guy more than the one she ended up with. Both were strong, but they had different types of strength. And I felt as if one blossomed way more than the other. However, that's a personal issue that made the ending slightly sour to me. I will say this, the reactions of other characters to the news of her relationship was frustrating as well because they lacked realism.

My biggest issue was that while these characters were powerful and their emotions were clear, I couldn't always relate to them. Lexie's this strong girl that's confused with her life. I get that, but it didn't always come through to me. She struggles between guys and bounces back and forth with everything. She can't really make up her mind. But I have noticed that she manages to have somewhat of a daily routine because 1) she is never not wearing a thong and 2) she tends to end up naked a lot and 3) Lady Moses who lives next door seems to think she's a hoodlum. It's sort of sad when I sit here trying to think of how I connect with her and those are the three things that quickly come to mind. I connected with Alessandro ten times more than I did her. And while I enjoyed her story, it's hard to fully love it if you can't connect with your main character.

In the end, I recommend this to anyone looking for a great romance. I'm eager to check out book two since it's told from the perspective of who she does not end up with in book one. And, clearly, I like this person's mind more. Desrochers foray into the new adult genre has been a success that leaves me pining for more and laughing out loud. And while I think that this book can appeal to literally any new adult reader, I don't think this is a good book for anyone under the age of sixteen.

3.5 stars
Disclaimer: I have received no compensation of any kind in return for my honest review. 

This giveaway is hosted by the lovely Lisa Desrochers and it is open to the US and Canada only. There will be five winners for prizes ranging from an iPad mini, swag, and signed copies of BETWEEN THE COVERS, which continues the first few chapters of A LITTLE TOO FAR. Enjoy!
~*~Meet the Rockstar~*~

Lisa Desrochers lives in northern California with her husband, two very busy daughters, and Shini the tarantula. If you'd told her five years ago she'd write a book, she'd have laughed in your face. As it turns out, she'd owe you an apology. Writing has become an addiction for Lisa and A Little Too Far, courtesy of HarperCollins, is her first novel for adults. She is also the author of the young adult Personal Demons trilogy from Macmillan.

When she's not writing, she's reading, and she adores stories that take her to new places, and then take her by surprise. Connect with her online at www.lisadwrites.com, on her blog at lisadesrochers.blogspot.com, on Twitter at @LisaDez, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LisaDesrochersAuthor.