Friday, May 18, 2018

Cover Reveal: If

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Title: If
Author: Randi Cooley Wilson
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: Summer, 2018
Cover Designer: Hang Le by Hang Le

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IF FOR WEB 

  If you knew love would hurt you, would you fall? If you knew love would leave you, would you let it go? If you knew love could never be, would you try? From bestselling author Randi Cooley Wilson comes a gut-wrenching love story about heartbreak, second chances, and letting go. The ifs that linger between the pages of this novel will break your heart and stay with you long after the final chapter. Emerson Shaw thought she’d left her old life behind her, but when she returns home for her best friend’s wedding, she has no idea her past is waiting to reclaim her. Dark and broken, Lincoln Daniels never wanted to find love. But when he met straight-laced Emerson, he fell. Hard. The only thing they seemed to have in common was an undeniable mutual attraction, but from the moment he laid eyes on her, there was something about her that called to him. Until he lost her. Tormented by demons and consumed by dark desires, it took years to slowly glue together the shattered pieces of their what ifs. Just when Emerson is finally ready to let go and stop existing in a past full of pain and regret, Lincoln returns, turning her life upside down. What begins as a tentative friendship quickly escalates, and the two soon realize that all the ifs lingering between them no longer matter. If is a love story about two damaged people whose future depends on promises made in the past. What happens when two broken people meet, fall in love, and realize they can never be? What happens when all the what ifs no longer make sense? If you knew your heart would break, would you still fall? This book is intended for mature audiences.

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Randi Cooley Wilson is a best selling author of paranormal, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance books. Born and raised in Massachusetts, she attended Bridgewater State University and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies. After graduation, she moved to California and worked in Marketing, Public Relations and Advertising on Luxury and Global Lifestyle Brands. In 2014, Randi published the bestselling and award nominated Revelation Series, the Royal Protector Academy Series, and the Dark Soul Series. Randi makes stuff up, devours romance books, drinks lots of coffee—though she prefers champagne—and has a slight addiction to bracelets. She currently resides in Massachusetts with her daughter, fur baby, and husband.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

ARC Review: Always Forever Maybe

About The Book:

  Title:  Always Forever Maybe 
  Author: Anica Mrose Rissi
  Pub. Date: June 5th, 2018 
  Publisher: HarperTeen 
  Pages: 256
  Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary 
  Rate: 3.5/5 stars 




Synopsis :

When Betts meets Aiden at the candy store where she works, their connection is like a sugar rush to the heart. Betts already knows the two of them are infinite. Inevitable. Destined to become an us.

Betts has only ever kept one secret from her best friend, Jo, but suddenly there’s a long list of things she won’t tell her, things Jo wouldn’t understand. Because Jo doesn’t see how good Aiden is for Betts. She finds him needy. Possessive. Controlling.

She’s wrong. With a love like this, nothing else matters.

Review:

"I didn't even know this boy, but I knew I would let him take me anywhere." 

Always Forever Maybe is a contemporary YA that explores abusive high school relationships. I was hesitant to start this because the last few YA novels I read regarding this topic were very similar and kind of just varied with the main characters' backgrounds and personalities.

I was very surprised that not only was Always Forever Maybe different in terms of characters, it was also a bit in different regarding plot and context. For the first half of the book, I honestly was thinking that this is just another variation of abusive high school relationships that I've read numerous times already. However, when I got to  the second half of the book, I realized it was different and didn't take the path I was expecting it to take. Yes, you can tell from the beginning that Betts is not going down a good path with Aiden and that this is going to end badly for her and you just want to shake her and say "STOP MAKING EXCUSES"! 

Another thing I really liked about this novel was the characters. I loved the relationship between Betts and Jo. This was a big part of the novel and I think their friendship helped you to better understand their motivations and characters. I also really liked Eric, Jo's brother. I thought the romantic interest, Aiden, was kind of plain. He was not really that different from any characters like him. He could have been replaced by any character in a novel similar to this and it wouldn't have made a difference. He was abusive and used his sad past as an excuse to act like a jerk, which is pretty typical for characters like him.  

"Even the very worst version of you deserves nothing but love." 

I want to thank my friend Heather at Harper Collins for sending me this book! I pretty much enjoyed it and I was actually surprised because a lot of abusive relationship YA books tend to be very, very similar in context. I do wish that Aiden was a little bit different than your typical abusive boyfriend character and I wish it would have went into more detail regarding how Betts' mom knew Aiden, but it just kind of left you wondering what situations happened to make her mother dislike him so much. Anyway, I think fans of YA contemporaries will enjoy this. If you think this book sounds interesting, you should definitely give it a try! 
Thank you to Harper Collins for providing
this book in exchange for my honest review
- Jocelyn

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Book Review: We'll Fly Away

About The Book:

  Title:  We'll Fly Away 
  Author: Bryan Bliss 
  Pub. Date: May 8th, 2018 
  Publisher: Greenwillow Books 
  Pages: 416
  Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary 
  Rate: 4/5 stars 




Synopsis :

Uniquely told through letters from death row and third-person narrative, Bryan Bliss’s hard-hitting third novel expertly unravels the string of events that landed a teenager in jail. Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling. Tense and emotional, this heartbreaking novel explores family, abuse, sex, love, friendship, and the lengths a person will go to protect the people they love. For fans of NPR’s Serial podcast, Jason Reynolds, and Matt de la Peña.

Review:

We'll Fly Away is a realistic fiction YA about two best friends who both live extremely hard lives. Luke, the all-star wrestler, takes care of his family and struggles with feeding his younger brothers while his mother has hookups with random guys. Toby, the carefree boy with an alcoholic and abusive father is just looking for someone to accept him. The novel starts with the past of Toby and Luke being as close as ever, while we also get current letters from Luke from death row. As their lives start to get more complicated, causing conflict and them to separate from each other, we get a glimpse inside modern day poverty, child abuse, and what the criminal justice system is like. 

I am definitely picky with the contemporary novels I read, and I'm so glad I read this one. It is jarringly emotional with the multi-dimensional characters and hardships they are going through. As a school psychologist, it is heartbreaking for me to see the kinds of things kids go through on a daily basis, and the fact that they just want semblance of a normal life. I thought that the saddest part of this novel was the relationship Luke has with his younger brothers. He is basically a father figure for them, and the only one they can really rely on. Thinking about what will happen to them while he is in jail was constantly on my mind throughout the entirety of this novel. The voice and characters of this book are so amazing, it could easily be made into an Oscar-worthy film.

Again, a huge thank you to my friend Heather for sending me this book to enjoy! If you enjoy hard-hitting and moving contemporary novels, We'll Fly Away is the book for you. The characters and their situations are heartbreaking. You won't be able to put this book down and it'll definitely be one that sticks with you for years to come. 



- Jocelyn

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Book Review: Devil's Cut (The Bourbon Kings, #3)

About The Book:

  Title:  Devil's Cut (The Bourbon Kings, #3) 
  Author: J.R. Ward 
  Pub. Date: August 1st, 2017  
  Publisher: Ballantine 
  Pages: 418
  Genre: Adult, Fiction, Contemporary, Romance 
  Rate: 5/5 stars 




Synopsis :

At first, the death of William Baldwine, the head of the Bradford family, was ruled a suicide. But then his eldest son and sworn enemy, Edward, came forward and confessed to what was, in fact, a murder. Now in police custody, Edward mourns not the disintegration of his family or his loss of freedom . . . but the woman he left behind. His love, Sutton Smythe, is the only person he has ever truly cared about, but as she is the CEO of the Bradford Bourbon Company’s biggest competitor, any relationship between them is impossible. And then there’s the reality of the jail time that Edward is facing.

Lane Baldwine was supposed to remain in his role of playboy, forever in his big brother Edward’s shadow. Instead he has become the new head of the family and the company. Convinced that Edward is covering for someone else, Lane and his true love, Lizzie King, go on the trail of a killer—only to discover a secret that is as devastating as it is game-changing.

As Lane rushes to discover the truth, and Sutton finds herself irresistibly drawn to Edward in spite of his circumstances, the lives of everyone at Easterly will never be the same again. For some, this is good; for others, it could be a tragedy beyond imagining. Only one thing is for certain: Love survives all things. Even murder.
Review:

The Devil's Cut is the conclusion of J.R. Ward's beautiful southern mystery series involving the Baldwine's - a billionaire family of bourbon distillers who are on the brink of bankruptcy due to some shoddy business decisions from the patriarch of the family. If you haven't read this series yet, check out my spoiler free review of The Bourbon Kings, otherwise you are going to spoil yourself for the wonder than is this series!  The Devil's Cut picks up right where The Angel's Share left off - Aurora in the hospital, Gin stuck in a loveless marriage with Richard while pining for Samuel T., and William murdered. 

"Love survives all things, time marriages, deaths. 
It is more what makes us immortal than even the children we leave in our wake to our graves." 

Beautiful writing and creative story plots don't slow down with this final installment. Ms. Ward is able to masterfully conclude this series, while still involving the Bradfords in new twists and turns.
While the plot is electric, the characters are easily my favorite thing about this series. They are so real I just want to reach right through the pages and steal them away for myself! Each one of them is wonderful. My favorites, Gin and Samuel T. get a TON of page time in this book and I couldn't be more thankful. Each character matured throughout the series, but none more than Gin. I am so happy Ms. Ward gave Gin the ending she deserves. 

I know J.R. Ward is most known for her Black Dagger Brotherhood series, but this is honestly such an underrated series. I haven't heard much buzz about it in the book world, and it's a shame because it's a hidden gem! And every expectation for this last book was blown away. I loved everything about the series - from the secrets, relationships, and mysteries. I'm sad it's over but it will definitely be going down as one of my favorite book series. If you love dramatic stories laced with romance, this series is for you! Since all of the books are out, this series would be amazing to binge while sipping on lemonade this summer.  You 100% need this in your life. 


- Jocelyn

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

ARC Review: Sweet Black Waves

About The Book:

  Title:  Sweet Black Waves 
  Author: Kristina Perez 
  Pub. Date:  June 5th, 2018 
  Publisher: Macmillan 
  Pages: 448
  Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings 
  Rate: 3.5/5 stars 




Synopsis :

Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what's right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she's ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Iseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.
 

Review:

"Odai Eti Ama - I hate and I love"

Sweet Black Waves is a new YA fantasy inspired by the tale of Tristan and Iseult. I was immediately drawn in by the summary of this book and the power dynamics between her cousin and love interest. This book was such a good fantasy and while I didn't love the romance, the conflicts and situations were so intriguing and the writing was so moving that it didn't matter. 

The world-building was so beautiful in this novel. There were so many places and characters in this novel to remember but not once did it seem overwhelming. When I opened the book there were pages upon pages of names and descriptions and I was thinking "oh gosh what am I getting myself into"? But it wasn't like that at all and I rarely had look at the descriptions of the characters. It was crafted perfectly. I didn't like the insta-love between Branwen and Tristan. I understood why it was necessary to the novel but it just left a sour taste in my mouth. I think their love was actually supposed to drive the novel, but for me it was the magic. 

I loved Branwen and her cousin Essy. Branwen was fierce and loyal, everything you would imagine  the heroine of a fantasy novel would be. Essay was a privileged brat, but her character was so well developed I loved it and it added so much to the story. Branwen's love interest, Tristan, bored the heck out of me. He blew so many compliments up Branwen's ass when they first meet that I thought my eyes were going to be lodged in the back of my head because I was rolling my eyes so much. At the end of the book, he finally got a tad bit more interesting but lets be honest, the familial relationship between Branwen and Essy is the real star of this novel. 

This novel was inspired by Tristan and Iseult, but honestly I've never even heard of that tale. So, I guess if you are familiar with that tale you would be interested in this! The fantasy in this book was rocking and the world-building was phenomenal. Branwen and Essy were beautifully developed characters, but I did not love the romance between Branwen and Tristan. Maybe it was just me but I can't get over instalove like that. I will probably pick up the second book, but I'm hoping the romance either gets better or disappears completely. Have you heard of Tristan and Iseult? Will you be pre-ordering this book? 
Thank you to Macmillan for providing
this book in exchange for my honest review


- Jocelyn

Monday, May 7, 2018

ARC Review: City of Bastards (Royal Bastards, #2)

About The Book:

  Title:  City of Bastards (Royal Bastards, #2) 
  Author: Andrew Shvarts 
  Pub. Date: June 5th, 2018 
  Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 
  Pages: 320 
  Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy 
  Rate: 2.5/5 stars 




Synopsis :

Tilla, bastard of House Kent, has it made. Safe from her murderous father in the dazzling capital of Lightspire, she lives a life of luxury under the protection of the Volaris King, alongside her boyfriend Zell and best friend, Princess Lyriana.

So why isn’t she happy? Maybe it’s the whispers and stares that follow her wherever she goes, as the daughter of the traitor waging war against Lightspire. Or maybe it’s the memories of her beloved brother, Jax, who lies cold in his grave even as she tries to settle into a life in the city's prestigious University.

Then, Tilla stumbles upon the body of a classmate, a friend. The authorities are quick to rule it a suicide and sweep it under the rug, but when Tilla herself is attacked by a mysterious man with terrifying powers, she’s convinced of a conspiracy. Her friends beg her to stay silent; what she's suggesting is impossible... and treasonous.

But Tilla can't, won't, let it go. And the deeper she digs, the more questions she uncovers. How is the West beating the supposedly invincible Lightspire Mages in battle? Is it connected to the shadowy cult wreaking havoc in Lightspire? Nothing is as it seems in the glorious capital, and Tilla’s presence might just be the spark that sets the Kingdom aflame.

Review:

City of Bastards is the second installment in the Royal Bastards series. I initially read Royal Bastards last spring, and I really liked it! I thought it was unique and fun, something a lot different than I'm used to reading. Unfortunately, I thought City of Bastards was just ok compared to its predecessor. 

The gang was finally in Lightspire, home of Princess Lyriana. I loved the idea of them finally staying in one place, since everyone was basically on the run for the entirety of Royal Bastards. Lyriana told everyone how safe and happy they would be in Lightspire, which obviously seemed too good to be true. Everyone there thought Tilla was a traitor and Zell was Zitochi scum. When Tilla's roommate is killed, questions about loyalties start to bubble up. However, with this installment, instead of the focus being on power struggles of the different nations, it seems more focused on religious zealots trying to destroy the Volaris. In this novel, both the Volaris and the Westerners aren't portrayed nicely. They both seem to have no regard to human life other than royalty. With that being said, this book took a lot of the focus off of bastards - the illigetimate royal children, and that was disappointing because that's what this series is based on! 

Tilla is definitely more of a spitfire than your typical YA heroine. She has realistic flaws (so hypocritical and also loves alcohol) and a hardcore personality. I didn't see much character development with her or Zell in this novel, but wow lots of character development with Princess Lyriana. I absolutely love her and Ellarion. They evolved so much from book 1. Both of them surprised me in this novel in regards to their loyalties and originality. Aside from the main characters we already know, there were so many new characters we meet in Lightspire. Unfortunately, a lot of them seemed to blur together. I don't feel like the newer characters were given the attention they deserved, so they fell pretty flat for me. I did really enjoy Markiska's character, though. 

So, City of Bastards didn't quite live up to my expectations after Royal Bastards. It was ok, but I was expecting a bit more after how imaginative the first installment was. I loved the diversity and the characters we already got to know, but I was a bit disappointed in the newer characters. Did you get a chance to read Royal Bastards last year? What did you think of it? Will you be picking up City of Bastards and joining the crew in Lightspire? 

Thank you to Disney-Hyperion for providing
this book in exchange for my honest review.

- Jocelyn

Thursday, May 3, 2018

ARC Review: Bring Me Back

About The Book:

  Title:  Bring Me Back 
  Author: B.A. Paris 
  Pub. Date: June 19th, 2018
  Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  Pages: 304
  Genre: Adult, Thriller, Mystery 
  Rate: 3/5 stars 




Synopsis :

A young British couple are driving through France on holiday when they stop for gas. He runs in to pay, she stays in the car. When he returns her car door has been left open, but she's not inside. No one ever sees her again. 

Ten years later he's engaged to be married; he's happy, and his past is only a tiny part his life now. Until he comes home from work and finds his new wife-to-be is sitting on their sofa. She's turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about because his wife is the sister of his missing first love.

As more and more questions are raised, their marriage becomes strained. Has his first love somehow come back to him after all this time? Or is the person who took her playing games with his mind?

Review:

Bring Me Back is one of the most anticipated psychological thrillers of 2018. B.A. Paris is new to the scene, with hits like Behind Closed Doors and the Breakdown. Bring Me Back visits Finn, after his girlfriend, Layla, disappeared in the middle of the night while he was in the bathroom at a rest station. Almost a decade later, he is healing and engaged to none other than Layla's sister, Ellen. Suddenly, relics of Layla's past start popping up. Has Layla come back after all these years or is somebody playing a cruel joke?

I've been getting more and more into psychological thrillers, so I couldn't wait to dive right in when I found a review copy in the mail. What I love most about them is the need to keep turning the page to find out what is really going on. I definitely had that same feeling with Bring Me Back. My mind was turning and turning and wonder if Layla was truly back or if someone close to Finn is mentally unstable. How the story is told in alternating past-present chapters helped build the tension. While I ultimately found the end surprising, there were some inconsistencies in the story that kept me from giving this a full 5 stars.

With extreme anger issues and not being able to recall what happened the night Layla disappeared, I 100% pinned Finn as a sociopath from chapter 1. I felt bad for Layla and what could have happened to her - her story is what kept me really interested. Ellen was, for the most part, apathetic. I could take her or leave her, but I found her boring for the majority of the story. I couldn't really connect with Finn until the end of the book, when I finally found some underpinnings of an empathetic soul. This book definitely lacked some character development, but it also was only 240 pages. So, considering that fact, it's pretty decent.

While not my favorite psychological thriller, this book was surprisingly dark. With elements of severe delusions and mental instability, Bring Me Back is a creepy read that is perfect for beach reading when you've burnt out all of the summer chick-lit you've been binging. I already have her other hits, Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown on hand - and I'm ready to see what her other thrillers are about. Have you read any of her previous thriller novels? What did you think?

Thank you to St. Martin's Press for providing this book in
exchange for my honest review 

- Jocelyn