Review: Pneuma-Serena Kearney

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Estelle Caldwell caused a war with her birth.
She didn’t find out until her eighteenth birthday. She was normal, or so she thought. She had regular, divorced parents that she still kept in touch, and a trio of best friends that had a bond so strong, they gave her a meaning to existence.

When her life started to unravel the truth, it started with her grandfather, Larry, giving her a special necklace the night before her birthday. Not only did it start changing her, but it showed her the truth of her past in her dreams that she couldn’t quite grasp, or accept.

pneu·ma
ˈn(y)o͞omə/
noun
the vital spirit, soul, or creative force of a person.

Do you know what it feels like to hold fate in your hand?
Was it fate that my whole life got turned upside down?

He was the reason I had to leave.

Making the sacrifice caused my heart to rip in two.
I wanted normalcy. I wanted my life to be my own.
But it’s nothing without the people I love, and it’s for
the people I love that I have to leave.

Fate. Please be kind.

Will he still remember me?
Will our first and last kiss be one and the same?
Please remember.
Please be with me.

Family is tested.
Memories are everywhere.
Love is one of the biggest reliefs and hurts you can have at the same time.

teaserpneuma 1pneumareview

3/5 Stars

+++This book is currently #FREE

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You’re into love triangles
  • You’re all about sassy, strong minded heroines with tons of courage
  • You’ve been searching for an alien story that’s NOT centered around invasion

PROS:

  • Estelle is a feisty little thing. She’s fierce and strong and sticks up for the weak. She’s no afraid to throw several punches and get in trouble for what she believes is right. Estelle thinks fast and makes rash decisions that place her in precarious situations but always, always to save those she loves. Estelle has a big heart, lots of love, a nice group of friends and a serious handle on her rapidly chaotic and terrible situation. She’s likable and will make you root for her. 
  • The world building, when it gets to that point, is fantastic. The 3 planets, the ancestral magic, the rivalry, and threats. It’s an epic interplanetary battle of wills. 
  • Friendship is a major theme. How to be friends with a bunch of guys when feelings get involved. The bonds that are formed in childhood. Those that are made through trauma. All the ways that these special relationships are built and the feelings of comfort and trust that come with them. Estelle’s feelings towards her friends are never in question. Kent is like this big, cuddly teddy bear who happens to be pretty hot. Aiden is that sarcastic jokester that has a bunch of ridiculous lines, and Reed is the something more. Estelle turns to them for everything and that warm feeling she gets when she knows they’ll always be there for her is extremely powerful.

CONS:

  • Some parts are slow and full of telling. Pacing.
  • There’s not enough build up of the relationships. You know they’ve been friends forever but there aren’t enough scenes to establish the emotional connection as powerfully as it could have been. Because of that, scenes that should have been emotionally crippling were only slightly sad. 
  • Some parts were far-fetched (yes, I know this is an alien story). Reactions to situations were unbelievable. Reed, I mean, the guy is thrown into this crazy world with a bunch of strangers, basically teleported and he barely blinks an eye? He’s way too laid back. I was searching for a freak out or something but it made Reed seem robotic. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Happy reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: After the Woods-Kim Savage

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Would you risk your life to save your best friend?

Julia did. When a paroled predator attacked Liv in the woods, Julia fought back and got caught. Liv ran, leaving Julia in the woods for a terrifying 48 hours that she remembers only in flashbacks. One year later, Liv seems bent on self-destruction, starving herself, doing drugs, and hooking up with a violent new boyfriend. A dead girl turns up in those same woods, and Julia’s memories resurface alongside clues unearthed by an ambitious reporter that link the girl to Julia’s abductor. As the devastating truth becomes clear, Julia realizes that after the woods was just the beginning.

review3.5/5 Stars

+++I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Farrar, Straus and Giroux

***Contains triggers: abuse, violence, abduction, assault

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You’re interested in recovery after trauma
  • You enjoy mysteries that are complex and thought-provoking
  • You like puzzles

PROS:

  • After the Woods examines trauma at the roots and asks questions. Looking at the girl that got away and the one who sacrificed herself for her best friend, Kim Savage peers into the recovery process post-abduction. Everyone deals with trauma differently. 
  • After the Woods also looks at the damaging effects of emotional abuse. The scenes between Liv and her mother are disquieting and heartbreaking, that someone could treat their daughter as if they were imperfect and never one deign to compliment her. Every time Liv’s face fell or she replied with a sarcastic comment, it struck a chord. 
  • The flashbacks to the abduction are terrifying and sickening. The foreboding will set you on edge. Even though you know she makes it out of that situation, what actually happened during the time is a bit of a mystery. As the clues come out, the anxiety increases to a dangerous level. 
  • Julia is a selfless person. She puts her friendship with Liv up on a pedestal, refusing to believe anything but the strength of their bond. All others are second to Liv. Best friends for life and then some. Julia needs to learn how to cope. She’s sarcastic, brash, and haunted by the events in the woods. She clings to statistics and facts as a way to understand her abduction. The odds are low but they comfort her. Julia is fascinating. Seeing the way her mind works, how she analyzes and keeps meticulous lists helped me better understand the many ways people deal with trauma. 
  • The cover is gorgeous. 

CONS:

  • The big reveal was kind of a letdown. There are so many signs pointing to the ending that I figured it out before the halfway point. 
  • Julia is constantly making decisions that make you want to shake some sense into her. Her delusions about the media, the deals she makes, how she dismisses Liv’s wacked out behavior for most of the book, it all is so frustrating. 
  • If you’re looking for a romance, After the Woods is more about friendship than swoon. While there are a few moments, it’s secondary to everything else. The romance itself felt a bit like instalove. Suddenly, it was there. Not much build up. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: You’re Still the One-Rachel Harris

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Love is one dare neither of them can take…

Arabella Stone, Nashville’s darling, is eager to shuck her prim-and-proper rep, and a few wild months spent checking items off her ” summer bucket list” is the way to do it. First up: kiss the man she’s crushed on since she wore a training bra, the bad boy of country himself, Blue bassist Charlie Tucker.

For Charlie, a beautiful woman flirting with him isn’t out of the norm–but a beautiful woman bolting after the hottest kiss of his life sure is. And when he finds out his kiss-and-run Cinderella is none other than Arabella Stone, daughter of his label’s CEO, he knows he’s in trouble. Because not only is she a Stone, she’s also his employee for the next few months at the recording studio he just bought.

Over the course of one thrilling summer, Arabella and Charlie chip away at her bucket list and fight the simmering attraction between them…knowing that once it’s all over, so is their time together.

review3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley and Entangled Bliss

You’re Still the One is a sweet and steamy romance featuring one Nashville country hottie and the boss’ daughter. What happens when your celebrity crush becomes a reality? Off the walls chemistry. 

PROS:

  • Charlie is a sweetheart with a bad boy rep. He loves women, knows he’s sexy, and has charm galore. He gets what he wants and due to seriously horrible bad luck, has a tarnished rep that he can’t seem to come back from. So he goes with it. Underneath the player visage and past the leggy blondes, Charlie has a heart of gold. He’s loyal, compassionate, and an advocate for using music to combat depression and bullying. The way he is with his niece is SWOON for centuries amazing. When he speaks…holy hotness. When he says, “baby girl” SLAYED. Seriously. 
  • Rachel Harris is incredibly skilled at balancing that playful flirting of new romance with sweltering attraction. Charlie and Arabella, that scene in the pool. Get ready to fan yourselves ladies. ALL THAT KISSING. 
  • Arabella feels trapped. She wants to make it on her own in the world but is constantly thwarted because of her famous father. Guys only want to date her to drop off demos for her dad or are too scared to risk his wrath. Anyone in the business would hire her one principle. It’s hard for a girl with a music degree and her daddy’s last name to get hired based on her own merits but she tries. Arabella desperately wants freedom and love. She’s terrible at flirting, to the point where it’s laughable, and discounts her attractiveness because of her gorgeous best friend. Her insecurities are relatable and her clumsy attempts at flirting are spot on for anyone who has ever stumbled to speak in front of their crush. 
  • Life and Lyrics is a beautiful idea. 

CONS:

  • You don’t really get an idea of what the band is actually like. There’s hardly any music making and that time in Nashville is so short that the sort of country star aspect of it fades into the background. This is the between time and that was occasionally a little slow. The pacing felt off. 
  • The plot was fairly predictable but engaging. The bucket list-style goals for the summer were laugh-out-loud wonderful and added spice to the plot. 

authRachel Harris 022 - compressed for webWebsite/Facebook/Twitter/Goodreads/Newsletter

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Harris writes humorous love stories about sassy girls-next-door and the hot guys that make them swoon. Vibrant settings, witty banter, and strong relationships are a staple in each of her books…and kissing. Lots of kissing.

An admitted Diet Mountain Dew addict and homeschool mom,she gets through each day by laughing at herself, hugging her kids, and watching way too much Food Network with her husband. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romances, and LOVES talking with readers!

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Happy reading, 

Jordan

Scavenger Hunt & Giveaway: Seven Black Diamonds-Melissa Marr

Seven Black DiamondsSevenBlackDiamonds cGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

Release Date: March 1, 2016

Publisher: HarperCollins

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This riveting fantasy marks Melissa Marr’s return to the world of faery courts that made her Wicked Lovely series an international phenomenon.

Lilywhite Abernathy is a criminal—she’s half human, half fae, and since the time before she was born, a war has been raging between humans and faeries. The Queen of Blood and Rage, ruler of the fae courts, wants to avenge the tragic death of her heir due to the actions of reckless humans.

Lily’s father has always shielded her, but when she’s sent to the prestigious St. Columba’s school, she’s delivered straight into the arms of a fae sleeper cell—the Black Diamonds. The Diamonds are planted in the human world as the sons and daughters of the most influential families and tasked with destroying it from within. Against her will, Lilywhite’s been chosen to join them…and even the romantic attention of the fae rock singer Creed Morrison isn’t enough to keep Lily from wanting to run back to the familiar world she knows.

Melissa Marr returns to faery in a dramatic story of the precarious space between two worlds and the people who must thrive there. The combination of ethereal fae powers, tumultuous romance, and a bloodthirsty faery queen will have longtime fans and new readers at the edge of their seats.

SCAVENGER HUNT

***The secret word can be found in RED

Chapter 2: LILY

                 “You need to stop hiding and go downstairs.” Shayla stood in the doorway to Lily’s bedroom. Her long greying hair fell neatly over her shoulders instead of being bound into some kind of twist or held captive under one of her innumerable scarves. An elegant dress, no doubt by a runway designer, made her look like the lady of the house rather than Lily’s caretaker, assistant, governess, whatever-her-title-was-now.

“I know. I just don’t want to. Daidí knows I don’t like parties.”

Shayla’s entire attitude switched from sweet to stern. “You’re being honored. Act like it.”

Lily couldn’t meet Shayla’s eyes.

“You will put a smile on that pretty little face of yours and march yourself down there,” Shayla continued. “You’ll go thank your father for the party, and you’ll smile at the guests, and make a point to say hello to that Morris boy that’s going to sing.”

Despite herself, Lily smiled. Creed Morrison was in every tabloid, toured worldwide, and was even in a movie. As if being a rock star wasn’t enough, he had to add acting. He had been her fantasy since she’d seen her first photo of him—and now he was here in her home.

“Morrison,” she said. “His name is Creed Morrison, Shayla.”

Shayla waved her hand dismissively. “Whatever. Creed. Morris. Unless he is in one of those musicals your father gets me tickets to see, I don’t care.” She came over to stand in front of Lily and fussed with her hair, pulling at the curls, unpinning and re-pinning it in several places as she spoke. “What matters, Lilywhite, is that Nicolas brought the boy here to sing for you. So go be charming.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Lily leaned in and kissed Shayla’s cheek before heading toward the door. Once she was sure she was out of reach, she teased, “Maybe you ought to come down too and check on Daidí. Make sure he’s not under siege from one of the fripperies.”

“Your father can handle himself just fine with those girls,” Shayla said.

“Come on. For me?”

“Hmph.” Shayla didn’t bother arguing further. She went on in front of Lily, effectively buying her a few minutes of peace.

Shayla was the closest thing to a mother that Lily had. Shayla and Daidí both swore that there was nothing romantic between them, but Lily kept hoping. Her mother had been gone for twelve years, and Shayla had filled her vacant place. They certainly functioned like a family. Shayla raised Lily when Daidí was off on business trips, and she looked after both of them when he was home.

Slowly, Lily walked through the hall, hating that she had to wear shoes, even though the tiny sandals were nothing more than a few strips of leather. She’d learned to tolerate shoes, but heels still made her feel wrong. Feet were meant to touch the earth, the floor, the sea. They weren’t to be locked away in prisons of leather or fabric. Sandals were the closest to normal that Lily had found, and tonight—surrounded by people—she needed the comfort of nearly bare feet.

At the top of the great staircase, just out of sight, Lily paused to smooth down the skirt of the dress she’d been given to wear. It wasn’t as fancy as Shayla would like, but the pale green dress made especially for her was as flattering as any dress could be. An asymmetrical neckline and fitted bodice topped a skirt made up of layers of some sort of delicate material. Tiny stones sewn into the layers caught the light and shimmered as she moved. Lily didn’t have the heart to ask if they were real gems or not. It was easier to avoid an argument if she didn’t know. She’d already lost the fights about her bracelets. Obscenely expensive diamonds and emeralds dangled from her wrists and ears.

The short blade that Lily had sheathed in a hand-sewn leather holster under her ephemeral dress was real too, though. Its weight made her feel secure despite the glittering facade. Lilywhite’s blade was a double-edged dagger that had been handcrafted for her. She wasn’t eager to use it, preferring the tidiness of her longer blades, but she could never be truly unarmed.

For all of her father’s protections, he’d also taught her that she was ultimately responsible for her own safety. The party was at her home, and the guests had all entered through a metal detector and been patted down, but she was the daughter of the head of one of the most successful criminal organizations in the world. That meant that, even here, she was armed.

Lily rounded the corner and started down the stairs. Her father looked up at her, and the pride in his face made her feel guilty for delaying. He smiled at her, and she knew that she’d been wrong to stall. Mingling at the over-the-top birthday party that Daidí insisted on this year was a little bit beyond terrifying, but he wanted to celebrate her birthday, so celebrate they would. These events layered civility and elegance onto their often violent world, and Lily knew well that the layer of softness was important—not just for how others saw the underworld but for how the demimonde saw itself.

As she walked down the stairs, she could hear soft music in the ballroom. Soon, Creed Morrison would sing, but right now, a chamber orchestra played classical music that wove around the spaces between conversations. Servers circulated with finger foods and drinks.   Usually, Lily stayed at her father’s side when she had to attend these sorts of things. Tonight, though, Daidí insisted that she talk to people her own age—other than just her friend Erik.

authMelissaWebsite | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr

Melissa Marr is the author of the bestselling Wicked Lovely series as well as the adult fantasy novels Graveminder and The Arrivals. When not writing, editing, or traveling, Melissa is buried under a plethora of books, dogs, and children in Virginia or online at www.melissa-marr.com.

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6 winners will receive a finished copy of SEVEN BLACK DIAMONDS, US Only.

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Magical reading, 

Jordan

Cover Reveal: Dead Girl-Tessa Marie

DG Final

Goodreads

synIf her mother wasn’t watching, Kylie Presby would punch Queen Bee, Natalie Silvers, in the face -again. But as Kylie wipes her tears away with the layers of toilet paper encasing her car, she knows she can’t retaliate like she did last time. Her dead mother wouldn’t approve. Kylie no longer cares about popularity. Invisible would work just fine.

Then the new kid, Braydon, mysterious, good looking and too clever for his own good, shows up and sacrifices his social status, becoming Kylie’s shield from the front line assault. After enough chocolate ice cream and movies it’s as if they’re best friends. Crazy, since Kylie knows so little about him.

As Natalie continues her relentless attacks on Kylie another person deals with his own line of bullies. Jack Stine was popular until his deepest secret was revealed and his friends abandoned him. Kylie and Jack bond over their tormentors and form an unbreakable friendship.

Three lost souls each with a story that binds them together, but will it be enough when the bullying goes too far and secrets are revealed?

auth

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Tessa Marie aka Theresa Paolo lives on Long Island, NY with her fiancé and their fish. She is the author of NA and YA contemporary romances. Her debut novel (NEVER) AGAIN, released in Fall 2013 with Berkley (Penguin) and the companion novel (ONCE) AGAIN released Summer 2014. Both her books HOME IS WHERE YOU ARE and PROVE ME WRONG are Amazon bestsellers. She is also the coauthor of the Amazon bestselling Beds Series. She has a hard time accepting the fact she’s in her early thirties (very early), and uses her characters to relive the best and worst years of her life. She put her love of writing on hold while she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Dowling College. When she’s not writing, she’s behind a camera, reading, watching Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, or can be found on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.

Happy reading, 

Jordan

Release Blitz: Wickedly They Dream-Cathrina Constantine

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00002]Amazon/Goodreads

synEvil never rests.

Jordan hoped her life would change after the fiery death of the devious sorcerer, Asa Trebane. She was wrong. The Black Order of the Cult is gearing up to select a new Supreme Leader, and Lucifer will be judge and jury.

Seeley, Jordan’s mother, is possessed with a curse, and even the priests can’t find a solution to defeat the evil devouring her. Jordan must dig deeper into the Satanic realm and joins forces with a wicked witch to save her family from the clutches of Hell.

However, when things go awry with her guardian angel, Markus, Jordan is shrouded in her own longing as she faces the darkness without his light.

There’s trouble in paradise and souls are at stake as Jordan fights to hold onto a normal teenage life ~ the angel she loves ~ and a family that hangs in peril.

ExcerptSnippet 1:

Every so often, Jordan’s gaze strayed to the finely built human angel. His jersey spread over his muscled pecs, running the length of his narrowing torso. Her eyes dawdled on the exposed skin where his shirt had ridden up past the waistline of his jeans. Curious, she wondered if he bore a scar from the knife wound inflicted by Asa Trebane a month before. She’d always bear the burden of being a pawn in her angel’s intended demise.

Snippet 2:

While turning, Em’s hand dipped into the pocket of her chenille robe. Out poured a chain of beads, a rosary. She’d looked done in. The proof was in the slope of her shoulders as she hobbled down the hallway, fingering the beads.

Jordan was more than certain that Em hadn’t been fooled. Her grandmother had seen and heard plenty through the years. Also, she was convinced her grandmother was a true warrior in her own right. Her fight consisted of harnessing Satan with a beaded chain of prayers.

Snippet 3:

Breathing shallow, she scanned the thicket. Five yards ahead, she envisaged transparent waves, like shimmering heat on a blacktopped road. Within the airwaves, an image appeared, an exact replica of Father James kneeling, his spirit-like figure fading in and out.

His lips moved. “Join. Spiritually. Time. Running out.”

The words pitched in and out of her ears as if he was speaking through a

dysfunctional megaphone. “Weaken enchantments . . .”

Snippet 4:

With his back to Seeley, Mortimer called over his shoulder, “Asa’s procrastination in annihilating you, body and soul, has made you stronger.” He made a sweeping turn. “Heavenly powers guard the Chase women like hawks. Nevertheless, Jordan’s blood, and may I add, yours—” His red-rimmed eyes locked on her. “—will eventually be ours.”

Missed the first book?WTC Ebook CoverGrab it now on Amazon for only 99 Pennies!

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Jordan

ARC Review: Love Me, Love Me Not-Alyxandra Harvey

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Dating isn’t easy when you’re in the middle of a blood feud.

Anastasia Vila’s family can turn into swans, but just once she’d like them to turn into responsible adults.

After hundreds of years, they still cling to the blood feud with the Renard family. No one remembers how it started in the first place—but foxes and swans just don’t get along.

Vilas can only transform into their swan shape after they have fallen in love for the first time, but between balancing schoolwork, family obligations, and the escalating blood feud, Ana’s got no time for love. The only thing keeping her sane is her best friend, Pierce Kent.

But when Pierce kisses Ana, everything changes.

Is what Pierce feels for her real, or a byproduct of her magic? Can she risk everything for her best friend? And when the family feud spirals out of control, Ana must stop the fight before it takes away everything she loves.

Including, maybe…Pierce.

This Entangled Teen Crave book contains language, violence, and lots of kissing. Warning: it might induce strong feelings of undeniable attraction for your best friend.

review

4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Entangled Crave

Love Me, Love Me Not is an enchanting romance that reads like a fairytale. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped right into a magical Disney story. That fluttery, giddiness that comes with stumbling upon something out of this world is there in full force. Think Practical Magic when the jump off the rooftop at the end. THAT feeling. 

PROS:

  • The concept is fantastic. It’s a play on Romeo and Juliet with a fairytale twist and tons of swoons. The Vila’s are amazing. From their haunting songs and playful ballads that can call up the winds to their fierce bows and arrows, they’re quirky and powerful. Their parkour training and self-defense skills make them all sorts of empowered. Each Vila has a unique voice and personality-from the crazies to the promiscuous ones, they’re memorable. 
  • The story is fueled by love. In order to become a swan, the Vila girls must fall in love to earn their wings. Romance is everything to them and it’s through falling in love that they find themselves and truly understand what it means to be a swan. 
  • Swoon. Sigh. Swoon. Seriously. Smells like books and coffee? Um…is there anything sexier than that? On top of that Pierce is loyal, compassionate, playful, and always there for Ana. Their friendship is strong and feels oh so right. Their wish tree. That’s probably one of the coolest and most romantic things I’ve read in a long time. 
  • There’s some assault violence that is pretty terrifying. The feud between the foxes and swans is crazy intense. The bruises and bloodshed, the taunts, stealing special tokens, pulling pranks, it all adds up to a deadly battle of whims fueled by hundreds of years of hatred. 
  • Twists and turns that will keep you guessing. The clues are subtle. 
  • Gosh, where do I even begin? She’s adorably flustered and clumsy at times, her moments of trying to speak to her crush and failing miserably are not only something anyone can identify with but will make you die laughing. She’s open-minded, independent, and fights for what she believes in. And of course, she’s blind to what’s right in front of her but you can’t blame a girl for being scared to take the leap from friends to more. 

CONS:

  • There wasn’t enough kissing. No. Seriously. For a romance there wasn’t enough build up but the kisses that were there…you’ll feel like you’re floating. Total out-of-your-mind, butterflies.
  • The villain felt randomly inserted, well, the main villain. The clues were so sparse that when the reveal happened, yes, it was shocking but you also had to scramble to figure out why. There wasn’t enough to lead you to that conclusion.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

 

NOTE: I am using this for the “main character who is not human” on the 2016 YA Reading Challenge

 

Happy reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Rebel Bully Geek Pariah-Erin Jade Lange

rebelGoodreads/Amazon/B&N

syn“The Breakfast Club” gets a modern, high-stakes reboot in this story of four very different teens and a night that changes them forever.

The Rebel: Once popular, Andi is now a dreadlocked, tattooed wild child.

The Bully: York torments everyone who crosses his path, especially his younger brother.

The Geek: Tired of being bullied, Boston is obsessed with getting into an Ivy League college.

The Pariah: Choosing to be invisible has always worked for Sam . . . until tonight.

When Andi, York, Boston, and Sam find themselves hiding in the woods after a party gets busted by the cops, they hop into the nearest car they see and take off—the first decision of many in a night that will change their lives forever. By the light of day, these four would never be caught dead together, but when their getaway takes a dangerously unpredictable turn, sticking together could be the only way to survive.

With cinematic storytelling and compelling emotional depth, critically acclaimed author Erin Jade Lange takes readers on literary thrill ride.

review

3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You enjoy contemporary coming of age stories with a twist
  • Books like Perks of Being a Wallflower, Paper Towns, and anything Kasie West make you giddy
  • Self discovery, coming out of your shell, and friendship with mild romance are something you’ve been searching for
  • And yes, there is something very Breakfast Club about this story

Rebel Bully Geek Pariah is a surprisingly deep and layered story of that desperate search for belonging, for finding your place in the world, and making friends that appreciate your “mad” side. 

PROS:

  • Sam’s voice is rich and emotional. Her feelings towards her mother’s addiction and the horrific accident that forever altered her life are complex and poignant. The disappointment, hurt, and occasional hatred for her chaotic life are the basis for her quest for invisibility (Pariah). The story is told entirely from Sam’s POV despite the synopsis, which makes it seem like it would have several POVs. 
  • The plot picks up quickly and has a steady pace that keeps you on your toes. 
  • Each character has a unique voice. Their personalities are developed and memorable. They each have quirks and depth. Their pasts are interesting and make you want to know more about them. 
  • Laugh out loud funny at times and pensive the next. Get ready to laugh and feel and mourn and hope. Mostly hope. These endearing moments are special and warm. No matter the mistrust and apprehension, these friendships are life changing and important. Each interaction awakens parts of the characters that have been carefully buried and mask them from their peers. 

CONS:

  • The premise is a little farfetched for contemporary. Some parts were just scratch-your-head at the bizarreness. 
  • Some of the characters are more fleshed out than others. Their pasts are like snippets of information that aren’t always explored. Andi and Boston did not feel as alive as York and Sam (but this could have something to do with the slight romantic element). 
  • THAT ENDING. What happened? I want answers.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading,

Jordan

Release Blitz & Giveaway: Cassie Black Sand-M.S. Murray

cassie blackAmazon/B&N/Kobo/Smashwords/Goodreads

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All I’ve ever wanted was a boring life. I’ve grown up with the things that go bump in the night, I’ve witnessed the unexplainable, and I’ve had my fill of excitement for a lifetime.
It sounds crazy but being an accountant or something mundane and regular was my dream… until it wasn’t.

Now I’m neck deep in everything I tried so hard not to be.

They took my sister Jess, I don’t know who ‘they’ are yet, but I’ll find out, and when I do, they’ll wish I’d stuck to my boring life plan.

There’s nothing I won’t do for Jess. I’d even seek the help of Gabriel, Vampire Lord of Florida.

Three words perfectly describe Gabriel:

Handsome
Deadly
Expressionless

He’s not the type of monster anyone would seek out for help, but he’s my only hope if I ever want to see my little sister again.

Excerpt

Driving up the long, narrow road leading to my parent’s mansion, I bob my head and tap my fingers while singing a little too enthusiastically to Sweet Home Alabama. Ok, maybe ‘a little too enthusiastic’ is an understatement. It’s more like I’m in the front row of a rock concert screeching like an out of tune banshee, complete with wild body spasms.

Spring has finally arrived! The birds are tweeting happily in the tall green trees lining the driveway, while the sun glares brightly through my car’s windshield. Thank God for my Ray Bans. The vibrant flowers covering my mother’s award winning garden somehow seem more vivid than the day before, more flamboyant as they bask in the bright rays of light shining upon them. My mother takes great pride in caring for the football field-sized garden. Personally, I think she’s crazy. She spends all year planting new seeds, watching them grow and bloom only to watch them slowly wither and die in the fall. Honestly, I think she may be a little sadistic. Got to love her though—you know with her being my mom and all.

I mean everyone’s got to have a little crazy in their lives. Hey, I can’t talk though. I buy bananas with every intention of eating them only to watch them wither slowly in the kitchen fruit bowl. Maybe sadism runs in the family? The thought makes me grin.

Today is a great day for me, I can feel it, and it’s not just because the sun is out. Today is the day I’m finally free from the hellhole people call college. I’m what my dad calls a late bloomer and graduating a little later than most.

Just after high school graduation and my eighteenth birthday I was in an accident that left me in a coma. I remember being at home, running from something or someone, then my memory’s become fuzzy. There was a huge white flash and then nothing. I woke up four years later with little to no memory of the incident. The only thing we know for sure is that whatever caused the bright light was magical in origin. At the time of the accident I was the only one at home.

My parents had been called out to an emergency council meeting. When they came home they found me, lying prone on the hall floor. There was nothing physically wrong with me, no visible injuries or internal damage that the doctors could find. I was just asleep. They told me they tried everything medical and magical to wake me but nothing worked, then one day I just woke up. It took me a year to recover fully.

For the first year I lived in a sort of haze. It was difficult wakening up and realizing that four years of my life had gone, poof, disappeared, while everyone my around me had continued on living their lives. There I was stuck in a dreamless limbo. When I felt ready I finally decided that college was where I was going. I was done with magic. I can’t lie and say that it wasn’t difficult being out in the world and doing something out of the norm for my family. Don’t get me wrong, it was great studying and learning something that I chose, instead of following in my family’s footsteps and joining the family business, like my parents wanted me to. But becoming a Hunter was not something I ever saw in my future—not to mention the huge reservations I had about the job itself. The high mortality rate of being a Hunter tops the long list I’ve compiled over the years.

The five years of my life wasted, was the final straw for me though. I decided the local college was the best choice so I could stay close to home. I could still live at home instead of having to move out and live in the dorms. Plus, I could stay close to my little sister, Jess. Jess, is more than likely going to pursue a career as a Hunter and continue to follow in the footsteps of a long line of Iron Hunters. She has a tremendously wild spirit and a heck of a lot of sass for someone so small. Nope, ordinary wouldn’t be enough for her. I wish she wouldn’t become a Hunter though. I wish I could wrap her up in cotton wool and keep her safe forever. I could never do that to her though, I couldn’t stifle her spirit. Honestly, I just want her to be happy, and if becoming a Hunter will make her happy then I won’t stand in her way. I’ll worry, but I’ll be happy knowing she’s doing something she’s passionate about.

Me, I think I’ll go with something boring, like accounting. Or maybe I’ll become an insurance broker? I’m good with numbers so I can go with either way. A nice mundane nine to five position where the scariest thing I have to worry about is which one of my co-worker’s keeps stealing my office supplies or worrying about wither the little un-labeled container in the breakroom fridge holds apple juice or someone’s lab sample.

Not only is today the day I graduate from college, but it’s also mine and Jess’ joint birthday. Yes, somehow my mother managed to give birth to two children twenty-two years apart and on the exact same date. Weird, but true.

I’ve spent most of the day moving all of my stuff from my room and out to my parent’s guesthouse. It will be my new home until I decide to take the next step in being an adult, and move off the family property and really live on my own. I’m hoping it won’t be too far off in the future. Plus, it’s not like my parents don’t have the room. Our house has twenty-seven rooms in the mansion alone, and the guesthouse I’m moving into has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a small study and an entertainment room. So it’s not exactly shabby living. My great, great, great, grandfather struck it rich with diamonds or something along those lines. I never really paid attention to that particular history lesson. My bad, I know, but family history was never really my strong point. I’m not ignorant when it comes to my family’s wealth. It’s not like I go around shoving my money down anyone’s throat. I’m just not that type of person, but then again my family isn’t either. I also don’t bathe in hundreds of dollar bills despite popular belief of the rich.

Anyway, today I turn twenty-six and I’m finally moving out. Got my own pad, life is looking pretty great right now. Still, it feels like I’m missing something in my life. It’s like there’s an empty space, just waiting to be filled.

Jess, the sassy little sister I mentioned earlier, turns four today. She was a surprise baby for my parents. It all happened so fast that I can’t even recall my mom ever being pregnant. After delivering the cute little package that was me, my mother had some after birth complications—something to do with a tear in her womb. She never talks about it and I don’t like to pry into something that was obviously very painful for her to go through. Sadly, the doctors said she’d never conceive again. Despite the pain she must have felt, she’d joke and tell me it was a blessing she couldn’t have any more children considering the handful I turned out to be. Don’t get me wrong, I might not aspire to become a Hunter, but I do get into trouble a heck of a lot more than I should.

Anyway, lo and behold twenty-two years later Jess arrives and suddenly I have a sister. Despite our age difference we get along really well. Don’t get me wrong, she can be a pain in the ass at times, but mostly she’s sweet. If and when I have kids of my own, I’d want them to be like Jess.

Since the day she was brought home and we were introduced, we’ve shared a really close bond, and when I’m around her, the feeling that something is missing from my life just disappears. Jess and I, we’re more than sisters. It’s hard to describe how close we are.

When I talked to my parents about moving into the guesthouse I was tempted to have Jess move in with me, but I dismissed it immediately. Mom would have a coronary having her only two children move out on the same day. Instead I decided sleepovers on the weekends are my best options. It’s not like I’m a million miles away either. I’m literally out their back door. If Jess ever needs me I can get to her in two minutes tops. While I’m driving I make a mental list of what’s left for me to move.

This will be my last trip to the house and then that’s me, spreading my wings and all moved out. My mother even cried when I moved my first box. I’m literally a two-minute walk from the main house. I told her that and she started blubbering harder. I’m actually a little scared of how she’ll react when I tell her I’m moving off the property in a few years and plan to live closer to town.

The only reason I’m driving instead of walking is the amount of stuff I have to move over to the guesthouse. It made more sense. Plus, the road that leads to the guesthouse winds around the property from the front gate. There’s no direct road from the front of the house to the back. I have to make my way from the main house, drive as if I’m leaving the property, then at the gate turn right and navigate down the gravel driveway, around the edge of the garden and along the property wall. The road then leads straight to the front door of my little cottage.

My dad offered to pay someone to move my stuff for me, but I refused. I want to make my own way, not live off the back of my family fortune. My parents brought us up to be humble with our money. They taught Jess and I how to make our own way in the world and that’s exactly what I’m doing. The drive is basically a long way for a shortcut, but there was so much to move I decided my best option was the car.

I can’t wait to start this new chapter in my life. Excitement courses through me, causing my heart to beat rapidly within my chest, at the prospect of what’s to come and also the party we’re having later to celebrate our birthday’s. It’s just a small gathering of our family, but they’re the best. Uncle Rick usually retells a story about his younger days as a Hunter, and how he caught the eye of a certain young lady who we all refer to as Aunt Cece. They both get a little too touchy-feely at the end of the story and we will all sit and complain about it in good nature. With jibs like ‘get a room’ and ‘I’m blind, I’m blind too much PDA’, that one usually comes from me.

As I’m driving to the main house a sudden feeling of apprehension slithers up my spine causing the tiny hairs on my body to stand on end. There’s a tension now replacing my prior excitement. I watch through my car’s windshield as a black Lincoln sedan drives slowly towards me from the main house then passes by on the long driveway. I can’t see through the blacked out windows to identify who is inside, but for some reason I get an odd feeling in the pit of my stomach, like something isn’t right. Shaking it off I wriggle my shoulders and adjust my slightly sweaty grip on the steering wheel, trying to dispose of the odd sensation.

It’s more than likely a member of the Council of Hunters here to see my dad. Nothing to worry about. The council are a bunch of stuffy old men and women who spend all day, complaining about anything and everything they can, while not doing any real work at all. They’re a bunch of old farts if you ask me. My dad’s been working toward becoming a member of the council for a few years now. He wants to change a few of the laws that cover our secret society of Hunters. I’m proud of him. He’s actually trying to make changes to insure a better future. He really is a great man and one of the best Hunters out in the field. I think they’d be lucky to have him on their stuffy council.

As the sedan leaves through the main gate I watch in my rear view mirror unable to completely shake the bad feeling that’s settled like lead into the pit of my stomach. I badly want to shake it off, but I’ve been taught to rely on my instincts. Turning my attention back to the road, I drive around the fountain that sits directly in front of the house when the festering feeling in my stomach starts to intensify. Worry makes my entire body clench and I don’t have time to analyze my feelings, because a second later, the main house in front of me explodes.

The blast is so strong, that the force of it causes me to lose control of the wheel and the car to flip several times before landing upside down on its hood. I must lose consciousness for a few seconds because when I come to, the horn of the car blares through the thick fog around me.

Groaning I blink several times to clear my fuzzy vision. When I finally manage to open my eyes fully, I instantly regret it as intense pain radiates through my entire body like little electric currents. Looking out the through the kaleidoscope of my smashed windshield I see fragmented smoke coming from beneath my car’s mangled hood. An urgency takes hold of me. I need to move—I have to get out of this car before the fire spreads and my car blows. I’ve got minutes if I’m lucky. I wiggle my feet, my hands, then my head in a series of small movements up my entire body. To my relief I’m able to move my legs. Good, that means they’re not trapped. It was something I was starting to fear. The next step causes a cold sweat of dread to cover my body—unbuckling. As soon as I undo my seat belt, I’m going to drop straight down onto my already bruised and battered body. Judging by the pain in my right shoulder, I’d say it’s dislocated and is going to hurt like a bitch when I land on it, since I’m going to have to use my good arm to unlock my belt. Ok Cass, on the count of three, one, two, click.

“Ahhh, motherfucking son of a bitch!” I cry out through gritted teeth, then gasp as a new wave of pain radiates through my shoulder. Gritting my teeth, I take a few seconds to allow the pain to dull.

Well that hurt as much as I’d expected. Wriggling my aching body, I manage to maneuver myself out of the open car window without too much pain. Once I’m free I stand and assess the situation before me.. I’ve trained my entire life for situations like this, I just never actually thought I’d have to put it to use. Dad insisted I at least enter Hunter training. There are always monsters or demons trying to bring down the Hunter Order, add in the Iron name and I’d be a sitting duck without some hand-to-hand combat training and knowledge of what might come out of the woodwork. It made sense at the time, now I’m grateful for his foresight. Pulling myself out of my head I limp quickly around the back of my car and using my good arm, I pull out my khaki-green duffel bag from the trunk. It’s my survival kit.

About two years ago my dad helped me put it together. I remember the day he came to my room with the empty bag, shaking it in excitement like it was a bag of gold dust. I’d just graduated from my other after school activities my hunter training We’d gone down into the basement and had filled it with stuff I might need—weapons, special first aid kit, and a spare change of clothes just in case. Dad knew that I never planned on using it, but he convinced me to have it just in case. I didn’t argue. You just never know what life was going to fling at you. It was best to be prepared. Expect the unexpected and all that. Plus, putting it together with my dad was really fun. I think it was his way of saying he worried about me.

My other after school activities weren’t your normal everyday kind. I didn’t take piano or art lessons—instead I got combat and senses training. I was taught how to fire a gun, how to take down my opponent with a staff, and how to defend myself with knives. I was taught so many different forms of martial arts my body ached. My father taught me to rely on my other senses like how to enhance my hearing if I couldn’t see and vice-versa. I spent six hours each night study the monsters and myths regular people believe are mere tales or bedtime stories.

Stories made up to scare children into behaving. The kind of monsters that haunt your darkest nightmares—the preverbal boogieman. Oh he’s real by the way. I killed him when I was eight. Well one of them anyway. There’s more than one boogieman out there that lurks in the shadows and they breed like cockroaches. Boogie was the first monster I ever killed. I could have at any time read up on how my family got their money, but that wasn’t important in the grand scale of things. I needed the other history lessons, the ones that would keep me safe at night. My parents were Hunters. Were. I’m already thinking about them in past tense.

Oh God, Jess too. Agony rips through my chest. My poor, sweet Jess. My Parents were fourth generation Hunters on both sides. From the outside, my father was a run of the mill, lucrative businessman, and CEO of Iron Enterprises. My mother was the doting housewife who loved her children and her garden, but behind their masks laid expert killers. They we’re the kind of parents who could bake cookies or mow the lawn during the day and by night they were out exorcizing demons and monsters, and expertly handling deadly weapons. They were truly amazing parents.

Swinging my duffel bag up onto my good shoulder I walk in agony with every step I take toward the perimeter wall guarding the grounds of the house. Walking along the wall I locate the secret gate leading to the wooded are on the other side. The need to get out of here before the authorities arrive pushes past everything else. There will be too many questions to things I can’t answer yet. The council will take care of the rest. They’ll make sure our secret society stays secret. My dad told me to be smart, think first and to do whatever I can to avoid the authorities at all cost. So that’s what I’m doing. No matter how much I want to run into that house and see if Jess and my parents are still alive, I can’t. They might not even be inside the house. Even as I think it, the icy hand of foreboding twists around my heart, sending sharp icicles of frigid reality pumping through my veins forcing me to acknowledge what deep down inside I refuse to accept.

As I walk I try to tread lightly on the ground so I don’t leave any footprints, but with my limp it’s hard to keep form leaving a trail, even if it’s only visible if you know what you’re looking for. No doubt whoever blew up my parents’ house assumed I was also inside it at the time of explosion. If I’m discovered alive, then whoever set this up will come after me again. I know how this goes. No loose ends.

Turning one last time before I step through the secret gate I take one last look at the burning house before me. Tears gather on my lashes, it’s completely unsalvageable. Flames engulf the entire house burning through every window and door. Once the flames die down there will be nothing left, but ash and dust. Most of it is already turning to piles of black, sooty sand-like mounds. The home that contained so much love, where I grew up, where most of my childhood memories were made is gone. My home, destroyed. As I make it to the other side of the wall I hear the loud explosion of my car. Now Gabby’s gone too.

authM.S. Murray Author PhotoFacebook/Twitter/Amazon/Goodreads

Hi I’m M.S. Murray, (Michelle) I live in the West of Scotland. I’m a stay at home mum to two crazy children, a dog that thinks he’s a person, a cat that thinks she is Master of the house, and a dwarf hamster that chases the cat. My poor husband has to live with us all in our mad house!!

I started writing in my spare time, as a hobby after I discovered my love for reading a few years ago, (Reading is an addiction I refuse to get help for, Seriously!!). 

I finally decided I wanted to do writing as a full-time gig.

So here I am, taking a leap of faith that you will enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoyed writing them.

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Pleasant reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: From Under the Mountain-Cait Spivey

from underAmazon/B&N/Smashwords/Goodreads

syn

As the second child of the Aridan imperial family, nineteen-year-old Guerline knows exactly what is expected of her: be unobtrusive, be compliant, and do not fall in love with her low-born companion, Eva. She has succeeded at only two of those.

But before her feelings for Eva can become a point of contention for the royal house, Guerline’s calm and narrow life is ripped away from her—in the course of a single night—and she is abruptly cast in the role of empress.

Faced with a council that aggressively fears the four witch clans charged with protecting Arido and believes they are, in fact, waging war against the humans, Guerline struggles to maintain order. As her control over the land crumbles, she learns that the war is rooted in a conflict much older than she realized—one centuries in the making, which is now crawling from under the mountain and into the light. With the fate of Arido hanging in the balance, Guerline must decide who to trust when even her closest councilors seem to have an agenda.

Darkly cinematic, From Under the Mountain pairs the sweeping landscape of epic fantasy with the personal journey of finding one’s voice in the world, posing the question: how do you define evil, when everything society tells you is a lie?

review4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the publisher. 

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You’re looking for an epic fantasy with an abundance of diverse creatures
  • You’re all about the adventure
  • Self discovery is your game, romance is second
  • You’ve been hungering for an LGBT fantasy because let’s face it, they’re like unicorns. Actually, there are probably more unicorns than gay people in fantasy.

PROS:

  • Guerline is an amazing protagonist. After being beat down and told she’s nothing her whole life, second rate to her repulsive brother, her growth is incredible. Throughout the story Guerline struggles to figure out who she is and who she wants to be as a leader. For so long her voice was silenced by others more powerful than her and as she finds her autonomy and confidence, it’s beautiful to experience. She falls in love, she explores, she finds the passion within herself to lead and be a fair. 
  • Magical creatures in abundance. THE WORLD BUILDING. So many layers. A smattering of myth with a fairy tale feeling that heads on into classic fantasy, there’s something for everyone. Shapeshifters, witches, trolls, goblins, gods, warriors, you name it, it’s there. Oh and zombies. What more could you ask for?
  • This is the first time I’ve ever encountered I guess you could say, sexually open people in fantasy. It could be that I haven’t expanded my reading enough but it was a nice change. The characters are about love and the spark, gender doesn’t matter to them, and it’s the outside forces that care. 
  • Multiple POVs provide unique voices for each character. 
  • What is the nature of evil? How do we define it? Who are we to judge and how do we construct it in society? There are so many philosophical questions about humanity but not through humans. 
  • Battle scenes galore. 

CONS:

  • There wasn’t as much development in the feels department as I would have liked. What should have been extremely emotional losses were a little so-so. There is so much going on plotwise that it kind of detracts from the emotional aspect for many of the secondary characters. 
  • The twins and the enemy. They were barely included. I would have liked to see more of their reasoning, the explanation of why they defected, and just how vile the villain was to be imprisoned. That crucial backstory wasn’t fleshed out. 

authCait Spivey Author Photo

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Cait Spivey is a speculative fiction writer, author of high fantasy From Under the Mountain and the horror novella series, “The Web“. Her enduring love of fantasy started young, thanks to authors like Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Diane Duane, Tamora Pierce, and many more. Now, she explores the rules and ramifications of magic in her own works—and as a panromantic asexual, she’s committed to queering her favorite genres.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Magical reading, 

Jordan