Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

Blurb:

31375784An unforgettable story about autism, sisterhood, and first love that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han, Sophie Kinsella, and Sarah Dessen. New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things Julie Buxbaum raved: “I couldn’t put it down.”

Meet Chloe Mitchell, a popular Los Angeles girl who’s decided that her older sister, Ivy, who’s on the autism spectrum, could use a boyfriend. Chloe already has someone in mind: Ethan Fields, a sweet, movie-obsessed boy from Ivy’s special needs class.

Chloe would like to ignore Ethan’s brother, David, but she can’t—Ivy and Ethan aren’t comfortable going out on their own so Chloe and David have to tag along.  Soon Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and wholly lovable circle. And as the group bonds over frozen yogurt dates and movie nights, Chloe is forced to confront her own romantic choices—and the realization that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

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My Review:
4 stars —  I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

OK confession time!  I got this one a few months ago, and when I decided to start reading it, I kind of forgot exactly what it was going to be about.  So in essence, I kind of went into the book a bit blind.  Like so blind that I forgot her sister was on the autism spectrum, and then I was like “oh yeah!!”  So it took me a bit to really get into the story, but once I did I was seriously sucked in.

At the beginning, Chloe isn’t necessarily that endearing, and it takes a bit to really get a feel for who she really is…and part of that is that you start off seeing the facade that she shows to her peers, and not necessarily all of who she is inside.  And she’s not the only one I was unimpressed with, I really didn’t fall in love with many characters at the beginning, from her family to her friends and boyfriend.  In fact, I felt more antagonistic towards many of them, particularly her stepfather.  But I’ll get back to that.

As the story progresses you get to see why Chloe chooses to put on the persona and maintain her status in the popular crowd, with the “hot” boyfriend.  I actually think this is one of the best depictions I’ve ever read of a teenager going along and trying to fit in.  With all that she struggles with at home, I could see how she would want to be liked and how much easier it would be for her to just keep her opinions to herself.  You could see a bit of that internal struggle for her, but ultimately she didn’t want to make waves, and she kind of just wanted to feel what she perceived to be “normal”.  It’s always disappointing, for sure, but I *got* it.  Not sure if that makes sense.  But it also makes her development as a character that much more satisfying.  Seeing her start to feel like “enough is enough” and that perhaps other qualities are more important in friends and boyfriends than what she was initially seeking just really felt natural and believable.  That it’s OK to have different priorities, and to stand up for yourself against the norm.  Seriously, I really ended up loving Chloe by the end of the book.  It’s actually kind of nice to see a main character who is popular not because she’s secretly a nerd and tired of being bullied, but because she just likes being liked.

David, Ivy and Ethan were the other stars of this show.  If you’re looking for a book with a grand romance, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one.  The romance with David is very slow building, and while I adored it, it’s really not the primary focus of the story.  It kind of gets shuffled to the background.  In the end I appreciated their developing friendship and banter more than the romance, which kind of felt rushed and tacked on in the end.  But seriously people, the developing relationship was SOLID.  I enjoyed that David wasn’t all sunshine and roses, that he was kind of a difficult character to love, but you could understand him as well, and how he came to be the way he was.  And he didn’t lose all those antagonistic qualities at the end, he was still kind of a dick to people, but you love him anyways.

And Ivy and Ethan were depicted so well.  I mean, I haven’t really had many encounters with folks on the autism spectrum, but I really thought that this was a fantastic representation of some of the unique attributes that can make them up…particularly because they were even different from each other.  And I really enjoyed the conversations that Chloe and David had, and the representations of the encounters they had with different types of people when out with their siblings.  It was heartbreaking, but unfortunately realistic.  And I loved that the story was from the siblings perspective, and showed the different challenges that they can face.  They’re not perfect, but you could really feel their love for their siblings.

Chloe’s mother and stepfather were challenging characters.  I really hated so many things about her stepfather.  He’s not evil, he’s got many shades of gray…in that way he’s really realistic.  And I know we’re seeing him from Chloe’s perspective, but damn he made me mad sometimes.  I’m up in the air with how his role played out in the story…I guess because he really is realistic in that he’s still got these really bad qualities, but he’s not all bad, and he can have some good moments too.  Sometimes I can’t deal with so much real, you know?  It’s so much easier when people are black and white.  In fact, many of the characters in this book are that real…from James and Sarah, to David’s parents, to Chloe’s parents.  I admire it as much as it vexes me as a reader.

OK, I’m getting seriously verbose here.  And I haven’t even talked about everything.  I enjoyed the Ivy twist in the middle of the book…I kind of saw it coming, but I thought it was another piece of diversity that was handled really well.

My only real complaint with the story is that the ending was odd to me.  It just kind of ended.  I didn’t feel that normal story flow, with a solid and clear ending.  And I guess my one other niggle is that occasionally we would encounter scenes that seemed meaningless in the overall scheme of the plot (like a moment in Camp’s class would just happen, and then we’d be onto lunch, and I didn’t really understand the point of it being included).

So basically if you’re looking for a diverse read with a fantastic look at life with someone on the autism spectrum, you NEED this book.  If you just love good YA coming of age tales, I would really recommend it as well.  Despite the few things that niggled me, I really really enjoyed this book and highlighted so many of Chloe and David’s interactions.

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Swinging at Love by Kendra C. Highley

Blurb:
34387362Outfielder Tristan Murrell has a problem. As the number two slugger for the Suttonville Sentinels, his team is counting on him to make their very first run at the state championship. But he has a secret—his swing has totally deserted him. As in, he can’t hit anything. He needs to fix the issue, and fast, but how?

Ballerina Alyssa Kaplan has a problem, too. The shiny new sports complex in town has left her family’s batting cage business on the verge of going under. Nailing her audition for a prestigious dance company is everything, but there’s no way she’s letting her some shiny big-box company destroy her family’s livelihood.

Tristan needs a miracle. So does Alyssa. And maybe, just maybe, Tristan’s secret weapon might be the girl of his dreams…

Disclaimer: This book contains hot, shirtless baseball players, kisses that bring a ballerina to her knees, and a lot of baseball smack-talk.

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My Review:
4 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

OK, this was a solid next book in the series that I didn’t know was going to be a series!!  And while I’m a little disappointed Faith and Kyle’s BFFs weren’t the focus of this story, Tristan and Alyssa were a pretty freaking spectacular consolation prize.  😉  And no, you don’t have to read book 1, but honestly, why wouldn’t you?  Shoot, I’m not even a baseball fan, or really a big muscular arms on a guy girl, but DAMN.  Ms. Highley knows how to make me swoon.  This is exactly what I love from a young adult romance…a fun quick read, lots of lightness and sweetness and swooning, but with just enough depth to give me more.

I think the thing I love most about both this book and the previous one is the sweetness of the heroes.  Tristan was just adorable!  He didn’t have the same background that Kyle did, but he was just really down to earth, and he knew what attracted him.  He had his own struggles coming from a family with completely different interests to him, and I could really appreciate that aspect to his story.  I liked that while he did feel like the odd man out in his family, his family was still good peeps…just lost in the world of baseball.  It’s an interesting facet that I don’t necessarily read a lot, where you have that dichotomy, but still have the love you know?  Not that that makes it any easier.  It was nice that he had Keller too.

And Alyssa was just awesomesauce.  I loved her sass, her insecurities, her straight talking, her confidence in certain things.  If I swung that way, I would totally be intrigued by her.  And I loved her own family dynamic.  I loved how close she was, how much her family influenced her, and it was nice to see a story where it wasn’t rich guy with poor girl (or vice versa), but there was a money/lifestyle disparity. But it wasn’t really the focus.  It was about how her family was struggling with their local business in an economy that’s hurting everyone.  I loved how important Swing Away was to her, and what she was willing to sacrifice for it.

And oh wow, Tristan and Alyssa’s chemistry was fantastic.  Right from their first interaction, you could just feel it.  I enjoyed that.  I was SERIOUSLY concerned with the way things would play out with Dylan and Lauren, and I was kind of disappointed in how it went initially, but it didn’t drag on like I thought it would, and it resolved better than I expected.  So phew.

And now, this girl who has no interest in baseball whatsoever, is seriously hoping for more from this series.  I love book baseball.  It’s way more exciting.  And I want more swoony guys from Ms. Highley, she seriously excels.

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Operation Prom Date by Cindi Madsen

Blurb:

33224662Kate ships tons of fictional couples, but IRL her OTP is her and Mick, the hot quarterback she’s crushed on since, like, forever. With only one semester left of senior year, it’s now or never if she wants to land him in time for prom. Since she’s flirtationally challenged, she enlists Cooper Callihan, the guy who turned popular seemingly overnight but who used to be a good friend.

Cooper lives and breathes rowing, but his partner just broke his wrist. When he remembers Kate’s good with a set of oars, he strikes a deal: help him train, and he’ll make sure her crush notices her. Only he didn’t know how addicting spending time with her would be. Or how the more successful the Operation is, the more jealousy he experiences.
The mission has been set. The troops have their marching orders. But what if the target is the wrong guy all along?

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains stargazing, accidental swimming, and poker swindling. This kissing practice will melt your ereader…and give you a new couple to ship.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I am shipping Kaper so freaking hard, I can’t even tell you.  Like seriously, this book was just everything my little YA-loving heart was looking for.  It was fairly light, with just enough depth to give it interest.  And while I don’t think you have to be a fandom lover to enjoy this book, if you are, I think you will definitely fall in love with Kate.  I’m not even a major fandom lover, but I totally get shipping couples, and wanting them to be together, and being angry at the writers for drawing it out.  And in some ways Ms. Madsen kind of fulfilled that longing and irritation and GAHness with Kate and Cooper.  You could just tell that they were perfect for each other, but of course she had to put them through the wringer on the way to HEA.  I’m not always a fan of misunderstandings and all that jazz, but it really fit in this storyline and worked for the story that was being told (if that makes any sense at all)…or at least it did for me.

And you know how my favourite part of any story is the characters?  Well Kate and Cooper were amazeballs.  Not without flaws for sure, and not without feeling like authentic teenagers, but I just really loved them both.  My heart broke for Kate and how she came to be the person she was.  Not just with her father, but also the circumstances with her friends.  I’ve been that girl with no friends b/c I wasn’t willing to change myself to fit in.  It’s all well and good to be solid with who you are and to put that above other things, but it can be very lonely.  And she was just so freaking quirky and adorable!!  She made me laugh so much.  Seriously though, she really reminded me a lot of myself (right down to the lost father).  And I enjoyed that what really drew her to Mick was her perception that he was more sweet than he seemed, based on his moments of kindness.  It was a bit of a bummer that she didn’t catch on as quickly to how changing herself wasn’t the way to go, and that maybe he wasn’t worth it, but sometimes we see what we want to see and we want things so badly that we don’t make the connections until later.

And then there was Cooper.  OMG, book boyfriend city man.  He was just so sweet and thoughtful, and dealing with his own set of struggles, and just trying to survive in a way.  I loved being in his head and reading about his thoughts.  He was an interesting guy b/c he had this popularity in some ways, but didn’t seem to realize it.  And I adored his little bit of nerdiness, talk about swoon!!  My only real complaint with his story was the resolution with his father.  It didn’t feel authentic, b/c his father really felt borderline mentally abusive to me…or just too toxic anyways.

Honestly though, the star of this book was Kate and Cooper together.  Seeing them experience the tummy tingles for each other, and those breathless moments, and the friendship that developed…GAH!  It was just perfect.  My romance loving heart was so freaking satisfied, I had tingles just reading about them.  And the climax was perfection.  It just read exactly as I wanted it to.  And then we even got some delicious epilogueness!!  I love epilogueness.  It was so satisfying.

So basically this story was just tailor made for me.  Love.  Adore.  So much shipping.

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Lucid (Brightest Kind of Darkness #2) by P.T. Michelle


51nxggdxa4l-_sy346_Blurb: 
 Once Nara combines her prophetic ability with Ethan’s power to outsmart Fate at his own deadly cat-and-mouse game, she’s more determined than ever to help Ethan learn the meaning behind the raven sword tattoo that suddenly appeared on his back after their confrontation with Fate.

During her quest to uncover the tattoo’s secrets, Nara enlists the help of some new friends and discovers her own surprising connection to Ethan.

While Nara digs deeper into the mystery, her desire for answers leads her down a dangerous path full of powerful and ruthless enemies. Swept into an age-old battle, Nara quickly learns that keeping one’s enemies close can be a necessary evil, making an intangible enemy she can control far more preferable to the human enemies she can’t.

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5 stars

This one is my favorite book in the series so far in my re-read.  I didn’t realize I’d forgotten so much.  The cover has been changed which is a shame because I really liked the original one better.

This is a great follow-up to the first one and not at all where you would expect the story to go.  I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve followed this series for so long.  I really liked how her powers evolve. In fact, her whole character evolves.  One of the things that stuck out for me in this YA is the fact the fact that her life didn’t become so entwined with the romance she had with Ethan to the exclusion of most else.  It was nice to see her deal with everything without him in the picture for most of the story.

Don’t get me wrong, he may be gone, but he certainly isn’t forgotten.  It was just nice to see it really focus on the main plot with very little romance.  Most paranormal’s that I read have a very strong romance sub-plot.  In exchange of that, we see the MC evolve and get a better sense of depth.  This story is very intense so it was easier to follow without the added romance and the added drama that it brings.

And her family is not one-dimensional in this.  Again, in the YA’s that I read, parents have very little presence in the story but in this one her bond with her family is strong and consistent throughout.  Not just her parents but her aunts too,  it brings another layer to her and the story.  I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

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There’s Something About Nik by Sara Hantz

Blurb:
34261193Nik Gustafsson has a secret: He’s not really Nik Gustafsson.

He’s not a spy. He’s not crazy.

He’s just the son and heir to one of the most important families in Europe—one where duty always comes first. And his posh, too-public life is suffocating him. So when he gets the chance to attend boarding school in America, pretending to be an average exchange student is too big of a temptation to pass up.

Then he literally runs into Amber on campus. And she hates him at first sight.

It’s kind of exhilarating to be hated for who he is, not for his family name or his wealth. Maybe if he turns up the charm and turns down the aloof mask he habitually wears, he can win her over. Even though a bad past experience has made her swear off dating this year.

But the more he gets to know her, the more uncomfortable he is keeping things from her. Because Nik Gustafsson has a secret. And it’s a big one.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a hot boy who’s the strong and silent type, a studious girl who refuses to believe in fairy-tale romance, and one epic secret that could be disastrous if it comes to light.

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My Review:
3 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I’m usually a sucker for royalty undercover stories, but this one fell a little flat for me.  It had all the makings of a great book, but the characters weren’t endearing enough for me to fall in love with them.  Amber has this incredible backstory, but it really didn’t play that much of a part and so seemed superfluous.  And she was kind of mean sometimes to Nik…like it was supposed to be teasing, but I just found it kind of rude.  Like I got what was supposed to be happening, but it just went too far and lacked empathy.  (Her BFF Lauren was kind of rude too quite frankly, and gave some really bad advice at times)

And Nik was so back and forth, I kind of had a hard time figuring him out.  He honestly was kind of arrogant and cold.  And he didn’t just appear that way, it came across in his inner thoughts sometimes too.  Which is not a horrible thing, it can make sense with his upbringing.  But then there would be these quick moments of vulnerability, and I felt them, but they were both so extreme, I just wished there was more in between Nik.  Not sure if I’m making sense.  It just became hard to imagine him as a person because his reactions were so…well, extreme.

Part of this could be just me being out of touch with teenagers and their hormones. There is definitely a bit of that going on.  But I did feel like there could have been more subtlety for both of these characters.

And then, quite frankly, the story just happened really fast.  It was like, no Amber didn’t like him, to all of a sudden she did, to oh look they’re kissing.  I missed the transitions.  And it even ended rather quickly.  And I can’t help but wonder where in the world their relationship is going to go.

So while that all sounds bad, it wasn’t…it was just ok.  It had some cute moments, but I just inevitably wanted more.  And on a strange sidenote, the blurb says he literally runs into her.  He doesn’t.  I hate it when people use literally wrong.  Maybe he did in a previous version?

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Brightest Kind of Darkness (Brightest Kind of Darkness #1) by P.T. Michelle

bkodBlurb: Nara Collins is an average sixteen-year-old, with one exception: every night she dreams the events of the following day. Due to an incident in her past, Nara avoids using her special gift to change fate…until she dreams a future she can’t ignore.

After Nara prevents a bombing at Blue Ridge High, her ability to see the future starts to fade, while people at school are suddenly being injured at an unusually high rate.

Grappling with her diminishing powers and the need to prevent another disaster, Nara meets Ethan Harris, a mysterious loner who seems to understand her better than anyone. Ethan and Nara forge an irresistible connection, but as their relationship heats up, so do her questions about his dark past.

 

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5 stars

I have been meaning to finish this series for ages but the last book just came out last month and then I figured its been so long I should probably reread them.  So this is my second turn with this book. And I gotta say, it was even better this time around.

First off, the cover, I’m not really a cover kind of gal but this cover is beautiful right? This is the first series I am finishing in the new year.  My goal is to finish ten series this year.  I think I’ll hit that goal.

This story is unlike any that I have read before.  With her dreaming and his emotion stealing its very original.  I really love how their relationship evolves so effortlessly.  The first time I read this I didn’t really think it played a huge role in the plot but reading it a second time I noticed that Ms PTM can right emotions so fricking well.  Their emotions flow so easily in tandem with the main plot its easy to overlook them at first.

And I liked how her family wasn’t just a passing thought.  Too often in YA novels the parents and/or other family only play in the background.  This is not the case with this book.  She weaves them into the story and gives them dimension and depth.  And that’s one of the reasons I have kept tabs on this series since its inception in 2011.  I am excited to finish it and at the same time weary of the end.

Highly recommended to all YA lovers.

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A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe

Blurb:

30376044Sora’s life was full of magic–until she discovered it was all a lie.

Heir to Mt. Fuji’s spirit kingdom, Sora yearns to finally take on the sacred kami duties. But just as she confronts her parents to make a plea, a ghostly army invades the mountain. Barely escaping with her life, Sora follows her mother’s last instructions to a heart-wrenching discovery: she is a human changeling, raised as a decoy while her parents’ true daughter remained safe but unaware in modern-day Tokyo. Her powers were only borrowed, never her own. Now, with the world’s natural cycles falling into chaos and the ghosts plotting an even more deadly assault, it falls on her to train the unprepared kami princess.

As Sora struggles with her emerging human weaknesses and the draw of an unanticipated ally with secrets of his own, she vows to keep fighting for her loved ones and the world they once protected. But for one mortal girl to make a difference in this desperate war between the spirits, she may have to give up the only home she’s ever known.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I’m a day late, but I started reading this book to fulfill the January theme for one of my Diversity challenges, which was “Stories based on/ inspired by diverse folktales/culture/mythology.”  This book fit that theme PERFECTLY and I’m so glad I picked it up with this challenge in mind, b/c I was thoroughly entertained by Sora’s story!  This is not a book that typically piques my interest, as I tend to go for either contemporary or more modern paranormal/sci-fi.  But after reading a review from Lillian @Mom With a Reading Problem, it sort of just stuck with me.  So when I saw it go on sale, and noticed it matched the diversity theme, I snatched it up.

So after that long-winded explanation…ahem.  I really loved that this one introduced me to some mythology from Japan.  It was all so enchanting, and I loved the blending of the world of the Kami with the modern world in Japan.  I’m not really a huge fantasy reader b/c I enjoy the linking back to the real world, so I loved that this was both…I guess kind of urban fantasy then, eh?  If you couldn’t tell, I’m really not that familiar with the genre.

I loved the uniqueness of Sora’s journey.  So often we read about a seemingly ordinary girl who actually has extraordinary powers and saves everyone.  In some ways Sora’s story was kind of opposite.  She grew up thinking she was a being of extraordinary powers, but in the end she was a normal human.  But it was her normal humanness that helped save everyone (sort of).  I really LOVED that.  I loved seeing her struggle with the lies she had been told, and how she would deal with her new reality, eventually coming to embrace what it meant.  I enjoyed Sora as a narrator, I thought her struggles were relatable and she grew in a reasonable way.

And the plot kept me hooked!!  I enjoyed the journey the whole group went on to fulfill the prophecy and defeat the bad guys.  There was exciting fight scenes and intriguing plot twists.  I was up til 3am reading this bad boy, before I had to finally put it down.

I’m not a fan of love triangles, but this one only bugged me a little since it was pretty shallow, though I will admit that I fell for the first boy and didn’t give the second boy nearly enough of a chance, so I didn’t really get totally on board with the romance.  It’s funny, b/c I tend to require romance in the books I read, but I wasn’t super invested in this one.  It had some great butterfly moments, but I wasn’t always convinced of the feelings involved.  Perhaps I didn’t get what was drawing them together outside of attraction.

As for the side characters, I really enjoyed them and loved that they all had some depth, with both admirable qualities and flaws.  I thought Chiyo would annoy me, but I actually came to enjoy her and root for her (and I loved her romance with Haru).  I felt similarly about Haru, but he really surprised me, and I kind of loved that.  I almost wished I knew more about Takeo, b/c I really enjoyed him, and I felt like there could be more there.  And then there’s Keiji.  I had a harder time forgiving his flaws, but I also enjoyed his redeeming moments (and they made me bawl).  I also really liked that he was a bit of a nerd and beta boy.  I even kind of enjoyed the bad guy and the story surrounding him.

One of the things that has me rounding down instead of up is that I found I guessed a few major plot twists, and how to defeat the bad guy, quite early on, and so it was frustrating to wait around while Sora (or the others) figured it out.  Sometimes I get giddy when I figure things out, but this was just quite obvious so it wasn’t quite as fun.

Regardless of all that, I was fully invested in this story, and I LOVED that this was a standalone novel, and I felt like the story got everything it deserved in just one book.  And Sora is definitely one of my favourite YA characters, she deals with so much and I admire how she navigated her journey.

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Thomas’ Heart (Judgement of the Six Companion Series #4) by Melissa Haag


33010788Blurb:
 Thomas’ race is dying. To protect those left, the Elders create a safe haven. However, the safety of their sanctuary is threatened by the cause of their kind’s decline. A human. But, she’s not like the rest; and despite his hatred of humans, Thomas wants her for his own.

When females start dying while trying to reach safety, Thomas realizes it’s no longer just humans who pose a threat, but desperate males. Thomas must secure his place at Charlene’s side as leader of sanctuary, or everything they’ve worked together to build will crumble, and any hope of a future for Thomas’s race will die.

 

 

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5 stars

I was surprised at my interest in this book.  Although I suppose I shouldn’t be, it seems if I don’t like the girls story, I love the guys.

This story was different due to the fact that this is the beginning of the cycle.  (You would understand if you read them all) We get to see how some of the elders came to be.  Along with some insights into the enemies camp and the extent of their influence to the shifters and the damage they have done.  Not to mention how far they will go for control and power.  These bad guys are INSANE!

Since no one knows who Charlene is, she gets a very different welcome than the other judgments.  It was nice to see a different POV.  Thomas may be one of my favorite out all the guy novels so far.  I feel like his character had the most growth because of the difficulty they went through striving to bring order to a pretty lawless and violent species.  He didn’t want her there at first, even though she was clearly his mate.  This was telling for me in several ways. His pride in the old ways conflicted with the fact that he knew his race would die out if they didn’t change.  The parts where he started to realize this and was opposed by his own species was very intense to read.

Grey was my favorite and reminded me of Jim.  And they hint of Jim’s future in this pack at the end of this book guys so keep your peepers peeled.  Wini is in this one again – she has a pretty prominent role in this book.  We see the progression of Mary and Gregory – in fact, a whole lot of holes are filled in this book.

I was never a fan of Charlene and I gotta say this book didn’t change my opinion of her in the least.  She came off as over-aggressive and even a bit condescending at times.  Thomas was no angel either. He constantly used every advantage available to him to get his way. I’m just glad he was called on it.

The ending brings us back to current timeline. I’m very interested in reading the rest of this series.

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Kissed (The Thorn Chronicles #1) by Kimberly Loth

kissedBlurb: Trapped in a dark cult, sixteen-year-old Naomi Aren has lived a quiet, albeit unhappy, life nestled deep in the hills of the Ozarks. With uncut hair, denim skirts, and only roses for friends, Naomi seldom questions why her life is different from other kids at school. Until the day her abusive father, who is also the cult’s leader, announces her wedding. Naomi must marry Dwayne Yerdin, a bully who reeks of sweat and manure and is the only one person who scares her worse than her father.

Then she meets Kai, the mysterious boy who brings her exotic new roses and stolen midnight kisses. Kisses that bring her a supernatural strength she never knew she had. As the big day approaches, Naomi unearths more secrets of about her father’s cult. She learns she has power of her own and while Kai may have awakened that power, Naomi must find a way to use it to escape Dwayne and her father—without destroying herself.

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3 stars

This book started out so odd.  The roses and the kisses were intriguing but I think the author lost me after that.  I mean, I finished the book so it wasn’t terrible but so many things could have been tightened up.  It was a bit all over the place.

First off, the kissing.  I didn’t get it.  The reasoning behind it didn’t make sense to me. Too me it seemed like the author wanted her to kiss a bunch of guys to show her interest but it could have been done in a more subtle way.

Second, there was soooo much telling in this book.  I didn’t really connect with any of the characters because of it.  Things happened ‘to’ them but we didn’t really get a chance to ‘see’ them if that makes sense.  I felt like I was listening to someone tell me what they did last weekend.  No connection.

Third, there was so much going on that the main plot got kinda lost.  It seems that the story has potential, otherwise I would have never finished it, but there was a lot of ‘fluff’ added to the story and its seemed it was for shock value.  A lot could have been taken out and it still would have made sense.  And if a little more depth would have been added to some main scenes, I probably would have identified with the characters more and cared more about what happened to them.

I feel this book could have benefited from some really good beta’s readers and a developmental editor. But I’m no expert.  I may read the next one but I’m leary.

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The Bad Boy Bargain by Kendra C. Highley

Blurb:
30415027Baseball player Kyle Sawyer has many labels: bad boy, delinquent, ladies’ man, fearless outfielder… Only one of them is actually true. But then sweet ballet dancer Faith Gladwell asks him to help wreck her reputation, and everything goes sideways.

Faith knows a thing or two about love, and what she had with her cheating jerk of an ex wasn’t it. When he starts spreading rumors about her being an Ice Queen, Faith decides it’s time to let a little bad into her life.

Lucky for her, Kyle Sawyer—dark, dangerous, totally swoonworthy Kyle Sawyer—is landscaping her backyard over Spring Break. Shirtless. And if she can convince him to play along, “dating” Kyle will silence the rumors.

But Faith’s plan threatens to expose Sawyer’s biggest secret of all…and that’s a risk he’s not willing to take.

Disclaimer: This book contains drop-the-book-and-fan-yourself kisses…and touches. Fall in love with a bad boy at your own risk.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

OMG, this one sucked me in so much at the beginning!  I was reading and just grinning from ear to ear!  Kyle is SOOOO my kind of book boy — a beautiful beta boy!!  AAHHHH!!!  I honestly didn’t know how his story was going to play out, but I really felt for him and all the background we got to see how his reputation was shaped, and why he let it happen.  It was so sad though b/c he really ended up being a loner, with only his Dad and Grandpa to rely on for love and guidance.  It was really a heartbreaking tale, and yet one I could so easily imagine happening to a sensitive guy like him.  Seriously though, SWOON!  Give me a shy nervous guy any day of the week, and I will be swooning.  And a gentleman to boot!!

Faith was a seriously solid heroine too!  I loved that she was kind of hard to pinpoint — she had so many strong points, and she was such a hard worker and so focused on her dreams, but she was also really vulnerable.  And I didn’t blame her one bit for being so confused with Kyle’s hot and cold moments.  I’m not sure what I would have done with the conflicting signals he was giving off.

It actually went in a bit of a different direction than I was expecting after Spring break ended.  I still really enjoyed it though, and it had a very satisfying “big moment”.

One of the things that really added to the story was both friends, Violet and Cade.  I wouldn’t mind a story for each of them!!  And the parents were actually pretty great too — I love it when the families aren’t completely buggered up, you know?  Like Faith’s parents were pretty solid, and I loved their reactions to Kyle.  And while Kyle’s Dad was pretty absent, Kyle’s Grandpa was a great influence for Kyle, even if he didn’t always get it exactly right.

All in all LOVED this one!  It was just what my heart needed!!

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