Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review: All Played Out

All Played Out
Author: Cora Carmack
Published:May 12th, 2015
Paperback, 320 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

First person in her family to go to college? CHECK.
Straight A's? CHECK.
On track to graduate early? CHECK.
Social life? yeah, about that...

With just a few weeks until she graduates, Antonella DeLuca's beginning to worry that maybe she hasn't had the full college experience. (Okay... Scratch that. she knows she hasn't had the full college experience).

So Nell does what a smart, dedicated girl like herself does best. She makes a "to do" list of normal college activities.

Item #1? Hook up with a jock.

Rusk University wide receiver Mateo Torres practically wrote the playbook for normal college living. When he's not on the field, he excels at partying, girls, and more partying. As long as he keeps things light and easy, it's impossible to get hurt... again. But something about thr quiet, shy, sexy-as-hell Nell gets under his skin, and when he learns about her list, he makes it his mission to help her complete it.

Torres is the definition of confident (And sexy. And wild), and he opens up a side of Nell that she's never known. But as they begin to check off each crazy, exciting, normal item, Nell finds that her frivolous list leads to something more serious than she bargained for. And while Torres is used to taking risks on the field, he has to decide if he's willing to take the chance when it's more than just a game.

Together they will have to decide if what they have is just part of the experiment or a chance at something real.

As if this series couldn't get any better! Cora has once again made me fall in love with two characters who by all means shouldn't be able to work, but work perfectly and beautifully! We met Nell and Torres briefly in the earlier books, Nell is Dylan's roommate and Torres is the wide receiver for the Rusk University football team. She's a study-aholic who just wants to graduate early so she can go to grad school and he is hoping Rusk will set him in the right direction for a career in the NFL. They both have big dreams but neither expect the other to play a part in them. After watching Dyland and Silas being super adorable, Nell realizes she's missing out on her college experience, so she makes a to do list of normal college things she wants to experience. She follows Dylan's advice and goes out with her group of friends, catching the attention of resident playboy Mateo Torres. She decides he'd be perfect for her hooking up with a jock item and he thinks she's perfect period. Together they begin to check off items from her list, their sexual tension and feelings for each other growing every step of the way.

Leave it to Cora to make me fall for a playboy jock who seems to hook up with everyone he knows. She finds a way to get us inside his head without cringing. We find out that he was hurt badly by the one woman he loved and that's why he won't get close to anyone else. But Nell brings out something in him and the way he treats her, respects her, loves her, is everything a girl could hope for in a guy. And Nell, who's so used to controlling everything and being in control finds that she's able to let herself go around Torres and he brings out this great side of her without risking her dreams. There are great moments between these two characters, some awkward times and some hilarious antics as they move around campus completing the list. They're sweet moments are swoon-worthy and Torres certainly knows how to make a girl feel good. Cora is the queen of New Adult, I've said it before and I'll say it again. This is exactly what I look for in NA. Drama, love, heated moments and realizing what you want by making mistakes, taking things for granted, and falling in love.

This is the kind of book I just want to talk about. I want all my friends to read it, I want to hand sell to my customers at work, and I just want to pick it up and read it again, falling back into Rusk and my friends there. This makes me want to make my own to-do list of things I haven't experienced yet and go on crazy adventures with my love. It's never too late, even though I've long graduated from college? Right?

"Don't worry about whether you might be wrong someday. Worry about whether you're right now. Tomorrow can wait."

Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: Vanishing Girls

Vanishing Girls
Author: Lauren Oliver
Published: March 10th, 2015
Hardcover, 357 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late. 

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other. 

Lauren Oliver has a way with words. I would read her grocery list and she forever keeps me guessing. Since the beginning, I haven't been able to predict the endings of her books. They are never easy, they are never an escape and they rarely have the kind of happily ever after I strive for. She has a thing for ghosts and unhappy families, and Vanishing Girls took everything I've learned about her writing and pulled me into so many opposite directions that there was no way for me to know how it would end. Sisters Dara and Nick were the best of friends until an accident scarred Dara's face. Dara hides out in her room now as Nick tries to continue on with life, getting a summer job at the local amusement park. But when a young girl goes missing in town and suddenly Dara is gone on her birthday, Nick knows there must be a connection between the two and she won't stop until she finds her sister.

This is a novel about moving on. The accident left everything in ruins and neither sister is brave enough to do something to make it better. It starts out slow, like a contemporary novel just about two sisters trying to move on from a terrible accident. Told in both Dara and Nick's point of views, in both the present and the past, we get to see how the sisters used to be and what's going on in each of their heads now that things are different. Dara is the reckless sister, the one that puts on too much makeup and goes out to party late at night. Nick is the older, more responsible sister. She is calm in the face of panic and ready to go after Dara and bring her home. Then there's Parker, the boy who comes between the two sisters. But once Dara disappears, this quickly becomes a mystery book, where the ending is unknown and suddenly all the problems these sisters had didn't matter. Dara has let clues to help Nick find her, and the more digging Nick does, the deeper she gets into what Dara was really involved in. I loved that Nick worked at Fanland, a somewhat normal part of her life that gave her something to focus on instead of Dara. I liked that it brought her closer to Parker, their friendship not quite how it was since he got involved with Dara. And I especially loved that everything I thought was true was wrong and there was no telling how everything would end when or if Nick ever found Dara.

Oliver is a trickster and everything leading up to that ending couldn't have prepared me for it. It was fast, crazy and completely unpredictable and I must say this is the most she's surprised me yet. Her writing still amazes me and the relationship she built between Nick and Dara will stay me long after I've closed this book. I can't wait to see what she'll have in store for us next.

"Funny how things can stay the same forever and then change so quickly."

"Sometimes people stop loving you. And that's the kind of darkness that never gets fixed."

Review: All Broke Down

All Broke Down
Author: Cora Carmack
Published: October 28th, 2014
Paperback, 368 pages
5 Gold Stars

(from Goodreads)

Dylan fights for lost causes. Probably because she used to be one.

Environmental issues, civil rights, corrupt corporations, and politicians you name it, she's probably been involved in a protest. When her latest cause lands her in jail overnight, she meets Silas Moore. He's in for a different kind of fighting. And though he's arrogant and infuriating, she can't help being fascinated with him. Yet another lost cause.

Football and trouble are the only things that have ever come naturally to Silas. And it's trouble that lands him in a cell next to do-gooder Dylan. He's met girls like her before, fixers he calls them, desperate to heal the broken, and he definitely doesn't need a girlfriend trying to change him. Until, that is, his anger issues and rash decisions threaten the only thing he really cares about: his spot on the Rusk University football team. Dylan might just be the perfect girl to help.

Because Silas Moore needs some fixing after all. 

Cora Carmack does New Adult unlike anyone else. She's funny, awkward and captures that spirit and essence of new love in 20-somethings who are still trying to to figure out their lives. Cora introduced us to the lives of Rusk University's students in the first book in this series, All Lined Up, a school focused on football and those who get involved with it. Silas Moore is a great football player and Dylan is a great activist. When they are both put in jail for the night for two completely different reasons, neither can fight the attraction they feel right off the bat. The more time they spend together, the more the attraction builds and damn does Cora know how to build sexual tension between two characters. Like holy hell, is all I'm saying.

At first sight, Silas is your typical bad boy football star: cocky, arrogant and damn good looking. He's not the type to settle down with any girl, especially one who thinks she can fix him. Based on our first impression of Silas from All Lined Up, you'd think he'd be a jerk, a womanizer, but the minute we get into his head we realize all the shit he's had to put up with, all the pressure and stress that football is causing him and the reasons behind why he does what he does. I fell in love with him right away, my kind of boy that's for sure. His dark past and how he's trying to be a better person for Dylan was perfection to me, and even though it didn't seem like these two would work, they meshed so perfectly together that I fell in love with them and their story quickly and without hesitation. Dylan's parents would rather her just sit tight instead of making a fuss in the world and when the two meet they may just be what the other one needs, but is chemistry enough to solve the problems these two have been running from for years.

Rusk University is my new favourite fictional place. I would go there if it were real and in Canada (wishful thinking I suppose) The footballers are good enough to go pro and they are sweet, loving guys beneath all the padding and hitting. I love that Cora doesn't let us see what's beneath the surface until we are in their heads an watching them fall in love. Carson and Dallas are there throughout the book to give advice and encouragement to our new lovers. Series like this make me so happy. When each book has a set of characters, but our favourites come back so that we can see them living happily after their own story ended. We are introduced to the characters that will lead All Played Out and other characters that will help the story along. There is a side story that doesn't really finish, an awful thing happening to a friend of all the characters, but I'm glad to know that she will soon get her own story to tell. I still love these characters long after I've finished the book and I'm not ready to leave Rusk yet. Cora has created such a great group of friends, lots of laughter, some heartbreak, and a whole lot of love, and to me, she is the reigning queen of New Adult.

"Dudes who look dangerous should just be dangerous. Period. The end. They should not be dangerous and beautiful all at the same time. It leaves the universe out of balance, and it makes me do stupid things like stare."

"I will never be able to turn this girl down. Whatever she wants from me, it's hers."

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Review: Liars Inc.

Liars Inc.
Author: Paula Stokes
Published: March 24th, 2015
Hardcover, 368 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn't think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up - terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston's body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

Can Max find the real killer before he foes to prison for a crime he didn't commit? In a story that Kirkus Reviews called "Captivating to the very end," Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.

Wow. Paula has gone in the complete opposite direction from her last book, The Art of Lainey, and man did she do a fantastic job with it! This book was a mystery right to the end and Paula has captured the voice of a high school boy while keeping us on our toes as we try to figure out what exactly happened. From the start you do not know who to trust and who not to. Max's friends give off hints of distrust this way and that and it made for so much subtle tension and mystery. Max is great at lying and he and his friends use it to their advantage by founding Liars Inc., a company helps forge parents notes and fake phone calls. Things are going great for the friends, they are making money and gaining popularity, but when Preston asks Max to cover for him and the next day Preston disappears, suddenly it's all on Max and he's being followed and suspected of murder.

I can't give anything away, because I want you all to go out and read this book. Thrillers and mysteries are still rare in YA so when I find a good one, I devour it. I love not knowing whodunit and the progress of finding out. With so many unreliable characters and so many twists and turns along the way, this book kept me guessing until the very end. Max is a great protagonist I was rooting for him from the start, but kind of hoping he'd learn he didn't need Preston or Parvati to survive high school. Neither of them seemed like the kind of people I'd want to be friends with and Parvati was certainly not the best girlfriend. The more that went wrong in Max's life, the more I hoped he got his happy ending. Paula captured the essence of a teenage boy as well as I can picture (I mean, who really knows what goes through a boy's head besides boys?) His dialogue and inner thinkings were so well written.

The plot wasn't the only great thing about this book. There were diverse characters, something that is still too rare to see. Parvati is half Indian and Max's adopted twin sisters are Korean. Max also comes from a different background from most characters. He grew up in an orphanage and was adopted when he was around 10 years old. He has some family issues as he's still too scared to give himself fully over to his new family and while everything else was going on in his life, his parents were always there for him and wanting to be let in. I love seeing family relationships in books, whether it's a healthy relationship or something that takes some time to be better.

If you'll looking for a quick, fast paced read that will leave you guessing and craving more, this is one to pick up. A great mystery for a younger audience or those who love these kinds of books.

A lot of kids think high school represents the best years of their lives, but others recognize that it's mostly irrelevant bullshit, and that life doesn't even begin until afterward."

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Review: Best Kind of Broken

Best Kind of Broken
Author: Chelsea Fine
Published: March 4th, 2014
Paperback, 272 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Pixie and Levi haven't spoken in nearly a year when they find themselves working - and living - at the same inn in the middle of nowhere. Once upon a time, they were childhood friends. But that was before everything went to hell. And now things are... awkward.

All they want to do is avoid each other, and their past, for as long as possible. But not that they're forced to share a bathroom, and therefore shower, keeping their distance from one another becomes less difficult than keeping their hands off each other. Welcome to the hallway of awkward tension and sexual frustration, folks. Get comfy, it's going to be a long summer.

I love finding new New Adult series that I love. It's tough sometimes, not knowing if you'll like the book or find it too cheesy. but I'm glad this one was great and will be added to my favourites collection. Chelsea has taken what I love to see in New Adult: comedy, sexual tension, sad back stories and lots of good times, and has given me new characters to fall in love with and root for. Right off the bath you know Pixie and Levi have history but something clearly went wrong because now they avoid each other like the plague. But suddenly living together for the summer in Pixie's aunt's inn, they have no choice but to see each other every day, mostly near the bathroom. Can they get past what happened and remember how they felt each other?

The sexual tension was palpable and holy cow was it good! From the first page, I knew I just wanted them to make out and the story leading up to that moment was great and it was well worth the wait. The kissing scenes were hot (understatement) but I loved the story that unfolded around these two even more. They have both been through so much and the deeper we delved into their view points, the more we found out how they got to where they are. It was heartbreaking and I could understand why it would be hard for them to get past it and focus on the future. Every time they mentioned it or remembered it, I teared up a bit. The contrast between the loss and the love was so well written that I just had to keep reading. This was a story about forgiveness, moving on, and figuring out what's really important in life.

The secondary characters were fantastic. Pixie's aunt was like a mother to her and the moments they had together were great and made me think of my own mom. Darren was a great addition, having him in there to set us up for the next book in the series which focuses on him and a girl we briefly meet in this one. I find that the parents are never around in New Adult and the characters rely on their friends a lot, which is so true in real life. Jenna was a great friend to Pixie and I can't wait to read her book as well.

This was the perfect book to read if you're looking for something fast, fun with a bit of emotional trauma. Perfect for fans of Cora Carmack and Ann Aguire!

"And I'm yours. Even when you don't want me, I'm still yours."

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