The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen has this unique ability to make everything feel fresh again. Her New Adult The Ivy Years series is so refreshing. Her characters have depth, face real issues and respond to the world in believable ways. Her characters have real personalities; I feel like I know them personally. They have quirks, flaws and inside jokes. They have damaged pasts and look forward to the future while just trying to get by in the present.

23346876The girl who’s had everyone meets the boy who has no one.

For Bella, the sweet-talking, free-loving, hip-checking student manager of the Harkness men’s hockey team, sex is a second language. She’s used to being fluent where others stutter, and the things people say behind her back don’t (often) bother her. So she can’t understand why her smoking hot downstairs neighbor has so much trouble staying friends after their spontaneous night together. She knows better than to worry about it, but there’s something in those espresso eyes that makes her second guess herself.

Rafe is appalled with himself for losing his virginity in a drunken hookup. His strict Catholic upbringing always emphasized loving thy neighbor—but not with a bottle of wine and a box of condoms. The result is an Ivy League bout of awkwardness. But when Bella is leveled by a little bad luck and a downright sinister fraternity stunt, it’s Rafe who is there to pick up the pieces.

Bella doesn’t want Rafe’s help, and she’s through with men. Too bad the undeniable spark that crackles between the two of them just can’t be extinguished.

Her books are so much fun to read. The Shameless Hour has two unbelievably fun characters with strong personalities. Bella likes sex and she’s not afraid to say what she’s thinking. Rafe is sturdy and really sweet and considerate. When they get together, it is like a wildfire. The pages were burning in my hands, and Bowen knows how to string the reader along as we root for them with the delicate hope that it’ll all work out in the end. The combination of Bella’s brazen attitude and Rafe’s Spanish curses had me fanning myself while reading.

There is some tough subject matter in this story. Bella goes through a horrible experience that could have been worse and is all too common on college campuses across the nation. I was just as frustrated as Rafe that she didn’t tell anybody and I was just as broken as Bella as she tried to deal with her new situation. I liked how Bowen offered both perspectives, because it’s easy for someone to say “Why didn’t you tell anyone?” when it’ll only heap more damage on the victim. Still, if it happens to you, TELL SOMEBODY!

I listened to the audiobook and the narrators did an amazing job at portraying the different accents throughout the books, whether it was Rafe’s Dominican accent or Bickley’s English accent. I really enjoyed this book. It had me laughing out loud, grinning like an idiot, and gripping my chest as my heart squeezed in pain.

I definitely recommend The Shameless Hour to anyone who enjoys New Adult, stories with a message and/or just a story with two intriguing characters with a hell of a lot of sizzling chemistry.

STARS: 4.5 out of 5

The Year We Hid Away by Sarina Bowen

I loved the first book in the Ivy Years series by Sarina Bowen, so I’m not sure why it took me so long to read the second book, The Year We Hid Away, because it was fantastic.

21798646She’s hiding something big. He’s hiding someone small.

Scarlet Crowley’s life was torn apart the day father was arrested for unspeakable crimes. Now the shock has worn off, but not the horror.

It’s a safe bet that Scarlet is the only first year at Harkness College who had to sneak past TV news trucks parked on her front lawn just to leave town. But college will be Scarlet’s fresh start. Clutching a shiny new student ID — with a newly minted name on it — she leaves it all behind. Even if it means lying to the boy she’s falling for.

Bridger McCaulley is a varsity hockey star known for being a player both on and off the ice. But a sobering family crisis takes that all away. Protecting his sister means a precarious living arrangement and constant deception. The only bright spot in his week is the few stolen hours he spends with Scarlet.

The two form a tentative relationship based on the understanding that some things must always be held back. But when grim developments threaten them both, going it alone just won’t work anymore. And if they can’t learn to trust one another now, the families who let them down will take everything they’ve struggled to keep.

I love Bowen’s stories because they have this depth, with plots about real life situations. With The Year We Hid Away, Bowen captures the college experience with characters who face unusual life challenges. My heart simultaneously broke and mended reading this wonderful story as two people struggle to get by and find solace in each other, only to have life rip that solace from them again.

Bowen’s novels are always well paced. They are never rushed or slow. The romance between the protagonists was even-keeled, no insta-love or unrealistic passion. The obstacles each character faced was real, and portrayed in a realistic fashion. That alone keeps me reading her novels because it’s refreshing and raw. It makes the struggles within the story authentic, and as a reader, I relate to it more.

This particular “sports romance” was different because it’s two people running from the sport they love. I did miss the hockey element in this story but I’m looking forward to more of that in the next book. Also, I listened to the audiobook version, and I enjoyed the narrators. I thought they both did a wonderful job portraying the emotions using their voice.

I highly recommend The Year We Hid Away to anyone who enjoys realistic New Adult novels based in a college setting.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Releases and Recommendations: The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins

It’s Tuesday! The wonderful day that books are released to the world.

Today, I’m anticipating the release of The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins, which will be released on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.

28370779Lochlanach has traded the great beast for something far more terrible, a Lashed enemy veiled in beauty, deception, and a vengeance passed down through generations: Rozaria Rocato. And she’s offering the hunter Paxton Seabolt power and acceptance he could never receive in his homeland. Pax must decide how far he’s willing to go under her tutelage, knowing she is the opponent of Princess Aerity Lochson.

In a land where traditionalists dread change, the Lochlan throne must contend with mysterious foes and traitors, while attempting to keep revolt at bay. As dire circumstances strike the royal family, matters of the castle are left in Aerity’s hands. It’s time to put aside her fears and grasp the reign, taking actions that have the potential to save or destroy her people.

One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continue. In this sequel to The Great Hunt from New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins, political intrigue and romance intensify in another thrilling fantasy. Princess Aerity embraces a quest for identity and passion before making the ultimate sacrifice for her kingdom.

I loved the first book in the Eurona Duology, The Great Hunt. So I’m salivating at the idea of learning how this story ends. Bring it on!

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab was incredibly original, intriguing, and quite honestly mind blowing.

“Monsters, monsters, big and small, They’re gonna come and eat you all.”

23299512There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

This Savage Song is the first book I’ve read from this author, but I’m going to remedy that as soon as possible. Schwab’s effortless writing style sucks the reader in immediately. The monster v. human dynamic within her bloodthirsty world was a refreshing, yet terrifying, escape for this reader. I’m always down for some bloodletting and Schwab did not disappoint.

Kate Harker, the main female protagonist, was gritty, corrupt and tormented, yet redeemable. August Flynn, the male protagonist, was vulnerable, raw and a deeply genius character. I loved how they were stereotypical opposites (e.g. the kind monster and the evil human). I loved that they were each searching for the same thing (to protect their kind/side) and both unable to condemn the other even though they tried. Their relationship was natural and confusing, unnatural and obvious all at the same time. I loved it!

“It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he felt human after doing something monstrous.”

I particularly enjoyed the different kinds of monsters; ones readers can recognize as pseudo-vampires (Malchai) or pseudo-zombies (Corsai), but my favorite were the Sunai – the soul-stealing, musical, eyes-like-coal monsters. The way Schwab portrayed the way the Sunai feed with music was beautiful. I really enjoyed being inside August’s head.

“He wasn’t made of flesh and bone, or starlight. He was made of darkness.”

Overall, I found myself breathless and mind-blown after reading this amazing novel. It told a unique story with an old-as-time “what makes us human?” undertone. This Savage Song was exciting, bloody and had me sitting on the edge of my oversized, reading chair.

“He could be a monster if it kept others human.”

STARS: 5 out of 5

Releases and Recommendations: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

It’s Tuesday! The wonderful day that books are released to the world.

Today, I’m anticipating the release of Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas, which comes out on Tuesday, September 6, 2016 (which is today! Yeeeeeaah!).

28260587The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

This book is a no-brainer. I love Sarah J. Maas. She’s my favorite author. When she comes out with a new book, it’s a shut-up-and-take-my-money kind of moment. I loved Heir of Fire, and I can’t wait to see what Maas comes up with next.

Monthly Recap and Book of the Month

August was a great month for reading, not so much for blogging.

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 Book of the Month*

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The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins  – 5 star review

I’m still thinking about this book. I can’t wait for the sequel to come out in March 2017.

*based on books reviewed this month

July Reviews (Total-2)

First & Then by Emma Mills

June Anticipated Releases

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

The Wish Granter by C.J. Redwine

Upcoming Reviews

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

 2016 Reading Challenge Progress

2016 Reading Challenge

I have read 83 out of 100 books. (Read 9 books this month.)

Currently Reading

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Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

This book is dark, but good. It’s already haunting me when I’m forced to set it down to participate in reality.

Next on my TBR

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I really like Kasie West and I received it with my monthly Uppercase Box.

What I’m Watching

Harry-potter-films

I’m going to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios in Orlando for the FIRST TIME over labor day weekend. In preparation, I’m binge-watching the entire movie series. It’s amazing how much I’ve forgotten from the movies. I can’t imagine how much I’ve forgotten from the actual HP book series. Someday I’ll reread them, but not today.

What I’m Writing

pusheen-writing-book-animated-gif

I’m prepping for NaNoWriMo in November. This time I’m going to plot my novel, not write by the seat of my pants. Hopefully, this will spare me unnecessary edits in the future.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover is a book that should be read in one-sitting with no interruptions. I literally blocked off a whole day and locked myself in my library so I could read it in peace because it’s such a gripping story.

27362503SOMETIMES THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU IS THE ONE WHO HURTS YOU THE MOST

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.

I’m a huge fan of Colleen Hoover. She has a way with words that’s a delight to the mind, and I give her full permission to name my firstborn child because her character names are always on point. I mean, come on, Atlas? Who thinks of such a perfect name as Atlas?

Everyone says readers should go into this book blind, and I agree. This will be a spoiler-free review but there are many reviews out there that claim to be and give a little too much away. I stopped looking at reviews after the first few because I didn’t want the book to be spoiled for me.

All you need to know is this story has a bottomless depth of pain, emotion and strength. It will have the romantic elements that you expect from Hoover, but it will cover a heavy topic that is as difficult to read as it is moving.

I didn’t cry with this novel, and I wish that I had because it really was a touching story. (It’s kind of like that one time I watched The Passion of the Christ and I didn’t cry. I’m not a bad Christian, I promise!) I think I didn’t get there emotionally because I agreed with the main protagonist’s decision. To me, it wasn’t that hard of a decision. I didn’t hold out hope as I suspect some readers did. Now, that’s not to say that’s what I would actually do if I found myself in the same position, but I hope that I’d make the same choice.

It Ends With Us is a deeply personal, moving story that was very unexpected. I didn’t know what to think of it when I turned the last page, but I found myself finding my husband after a while and giving him a long hug because it reminded me of the blessings I have in my own marriage.

STARS: 4.5 out of 5