Sweet Surrendering by Chelsea M. Cameron

I was intiruged with this story about the hot, red-head and a reversed office romance. I had to give it a try.

Artistic image of muscular sexy man bodyShe’s his boss. He doesn’t care. This office isn’t big enough for the two of them…

When Rory Clarke ends up hiring the guy she spent one steamy night with to be her administrative assistant, she’s determined to keep things professional.

Lucas Blaine has other plans for her. He wants Rory, and it’s hard to resist his stunning blue eyes, chin dimple and the way he fills out a suit. Everywhere she looks, there he is, giving her a panty-melting smile and pulling her away for the most amazing (and satisfying) sex she’s ever had in her life.

What starts off as one sexual encounter turns into multiple trysts in and out of the office and the lines she’d tried to draw so carefully are blurring. But the closer they get, the more Rory realizes that there are things about Lucas she doesn’t know, things he’s hiding from her. She’ll have to decide if she can surrender to her feelings or get out while she still can.

I have to be completely honest. This book left me confused; the characters at the beginning of the book and the characters at the end of the book weren’t the same. I know what you’re thinking. But, Kristyna, haven’t you ever heard of character growth? Why, yes, yes I have and this isn’t it. Take the male lead, Lucah, we understand from the beginning that he has something to hide, but once all is revealed in the end, Lucah’s action in the beginning (i.e. super alpha-male, take-me-now office rendezvous) did not match his character (i.e. the nice, sweet guy who keeps his memories locked away). I felt a serious disconnect between the character’s actions and his motives.

The only stable character was Rory. I loved that she was a hard-working, ambitious career woman, who refused to put her career to the side for love. Let’s face it, you CAN have both. I also really liked her best friend/roommate. Their relationship was endearing, two friends that genuinely cared for each other.

As I’m finishing this ramble, I don’t know how I feel about this book. It was entertaining and steamy at times, but I didn’t connect with the characters or buy their motives for a relationship. However, I still wanted them to get a happy ever after and make ginger babies. Perhaps I’m feeling bipolar about this one.

I’m unsure about this story but I’m still going to read more from this author.

STARS: 3 out of 5

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Upside Down by Lia Riley (Off the Map #1)

Upside Down by Lia Riley knocked me over the head, leaving me on the ground looking up at the sky in amazement, mouth gaping like a fish. It was so unexpectedly amazing that I’m unsure how to articulate my feelings.

18733288If You Never Get Lost, You’ll Never Be Found

Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying good-bye to the past-and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she’ll act like a carefree exchange student, not a girl sinking under the weight of painful memories. Everything is going according to plan until she meets a brooding surfer with hypnotic green eyes and the troubling ability to see straight through her act.

Bran Lockhart is having the worst year on record. After the girl of his dreams turned into a nightmare, he moved back home to Melbourne to piece his life together. Yet no amount of disappointment could blind him to the pretty California girl who gets past all his defenses. He’s never wanted anyone the way he wants Talia. But when Bran gets a stark reminder of why he stopped believing in love, he and Talia must decide if what they have is once in a lifetime . . . or if they were meant to live a world apart.

First, I loved the concept and setting of this novel. American girl needs to start over and ends up studying abroad down under in Australia (Side Note: I HATE to travel but I’ve always wanted to go to Australia!), what could be more awesome?

We are introduced to Natalia, who’s drowning in grief and “rituals.” I loved her. She was so relatable. I loved her thought process and how she dealt with her OCD. Riley did an amazing job giving the reader a small window into her struggles. I loved her strained relationship with her Mom and Dad. Her absent father and judgmental, floozy mother only added to the obstacles in her life, which already included the death of her sister. These same struggles made her relatable because we all reach a point where we want to start over or reinvent ourselves, repeating inner mantras flip-flopping between encouragement and self-deprecation. THEN, we meet Bran.

Bran is HOT. Okay, glad I got that out of the way. This brooding surfer-type, not only has a sweet accent, but is a damaged bad boy of sorts. (My favorite type of bad boy!) The give-and-take between Bran and Natalia was mesmerizing, romantic, earth-moving; I didn’t want it to stop. The ticking time bomb of Natalia’s quickly approaching flight back home fuels this crazy intense adventure, both internally and externally, where they each need to face demons and make decisions.

The ending, which I was hopefully expecting, came about in an unexpected way, leaving me worried and anxious for Natalia and Bran’s story. This book was amazing. It hit the spot for me, during a time where every other book seems mediocre. I was pleasantly surprised with this author and this story. The next book in the Off the Map series is Sideswiped, which came out Oct. 7, 2014. I will definitely be reading more from this author, not only because she studied in Montana (I’m from MONTANA!) but because her books are amazing.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Take Me Tomorrow by Shannon A. Thompson

I really enjoyed Shannon A. Thompson’s Timely Death series, so I thought I’d give Take Me Tomorrow a try.

22054027Two years after the massacre, the State enforces stricter rules and harsher punishments on anyone rumored to support tomo – the clairvoyant drug that caused a regional uprising.

But sixteen-year-old Sophia Gray has other problems.

Between her father’s illegal forgery and her friend’s troubling history, the last thing Sophia needs is an unexpected encounter with a boy.

He’s wild, determined, and one step ahead of her. But when his involvement with tomo threatens her friends and family, Sophia has to make a decision: fight for a future she cannot see or sacrifice her loved ones to the world of tomorrow.

Take Me Tomorrow started out really strong. The female heroine, Sophia , is practicing knife throwing in the forest behind her house when she runs into the mysterious and dangerous Noah. I was immediately intrigued. The story continues to build as Sophia’s friend’s secrets are slowly revealed and Noah’s presence starts to impact her life. The story is set in the stark backdrop of a dystopian future, where America is no longer a free country and the drug, Tomo, is widespread, causing unknown havoc to society.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Noah and Sophia. Noah had this gritty sarcasm and who-cares attitude, where Sophia was all at once guarded yet wide-open. I enjoyed the tender scenes between them, where Noah showed vulnerability and Sophia admitted her feelings (at least to herself). Their relationship slowly progresses, but there wasn’t a big romantic payoff. By the end of the novel, their relationship status is convoluted and confusing. I wasn’t sure what either one of them wanted by the end so I didn’t know how to feel about their relationship.

The overall plot was intriguing and exciting, filled with plenty of action running from police and sneaking out at night. The mini-twist regarding Sophia’s father was an interesting plot point and I enjoyed the secondary characters.

I enjoyed reading this book, but as a dystopian, I thought it was missing something. Perhaps it’s because this book is lacking in the romance department, which affected my perception of the novel because it didn’t offer that how-far-would-you-go-for-the-one-you-love theme that I’ve come to expect from a dystopian. I wanted to see more fight and actual involvement in a solution to the tyrannical society. However, the ending was open-ended enough that I’m hoping there is a sequel in the works, which might be able to shed more light on Noah and Sophia’s relationship as well as the world they live in.

STARS: 4 out of 5

Releases and Recommendations: Wolf of Stone by Quinn Loftis

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

Today, I’m anticipating the release of Wolf of Stone by Quinn Loftis, which will be released on October 31, 2014.

22864523Dalton Black, a Canis lupis full of guilt and anger, never expected to find his true mate. Perhaps already slipping into madness, he had resigned himself to the fact that he would walk the earth without the other half of his soul. He was convinced that his sins were enough to keep the Great Luna from giving him such a blessing. He knew it was probably better that way. His past was as dark as his name and after three centuries of running from it, the memories were finally catching up to him. But all of those resignations evaporated when he saw her broken and bloodied body lying on that alter. Though the man didn’t recognize her, the wolf did. Through battle and bloodshed he was able to save her from the evil that held her captive, but now he would need her to save him from himself.

Jewel Stone was wholly unaware of the ancient bloodlines of Gypsy Healers, mates to Canis lupis and protectors of the packs – much less that she carried that blood herself. But when a beautiful but deadly woman showed up in her home and ripped her from her realm, she knew her life would never be the same. Her mother, Gem, a fortune teller, had warned her that something was coming, that her life was about to change dramatically, but like everyone else, Jewel had dismissed her as a crazy person.

Jewel was the laughing stock of her school simply because Gem was her mother. And up until now, her life was one big disappointment after another. Instead of heeding her mother’s warning, she hid in her books, burying herself behind knowledge, both fact and fiction. She escaped into worlds created by others and filled her mind with facts of every kind in an effort to push away the hurtful words that others bombarded her with. Despite all of her knowledge and all of her fantastical stories, she never dreamed her own future would be full of adventure, danger, passion, and the possibility of unconditional love. As she lay unconscious after her first bloody encounter in the fae realm, her only chance of survival lay in the hands of a man scarred by his past, disfigured both emotionally and physically, and beyond the reach of any who had tried to help him.

Can two broken people, who carry the other half of each other’s souls, span the chasm between them and restore the innocence ripped from both their lives? Will they let the promise of healing love overcome the difference in age and experience, and the separation of species and realms? Or will they give in to the fear and doubt that would keep them from one another for eternity?

Okay, that was a really long synopsis, but I still want to read it! I am in love with Quinn Loftis’ Grey Wolves series, so I will pretty much read anything she publishes about her world of wolves and gypsy healers.

ARC: Infinite Harmony (Shifters & Seers #2) by Tammy Blackwell

In the second book of the Shifters & Seers series, Infinite Harmony,  Tammy Blackwell sucks the reader back into the world of shifters, seers and other beloved supernatural creatures. I’ve been a huge fan of Blackwell’s work. Although this book is part of a series, it can be read as a standalone but I recommend that you start with the Timber Wolves trilogy. (You’ll understand what’s going on in the background a bit more.) I was fortunate enough to receive an eARC and I was super excited to dive in. I devoured this book in one sitting, and I absolutely adored it!

20417132Ada Jessup lives for the moment, knowing the promise of tomorrow can be all too easily broken.

Joshua is an Immortal, a heavenly warrior who will still be fighting long after the rest of the Alpha Pack have turned to dust.

When a gunshot wound forces Joshua to tell Ada the truth of what he is, there is more at risk than the safety of the Alphas he’s sworn to protect. For Joshua, the real danger is the way he feels drawn to the human girl. After all, what can the future hold for a girl whose days are numbered and a boy whose life has no end?

I’m continually amazed by Blackwell’s ability to create realistic characters in supernatural settings. She captures the essence of humanity and fills her characters with life. Her books cover contemporary issues in a sensible, grounded way that allows the reader to decide for themselves. The talent it takes to pull that off and write an entertaining, fulfilling novel blows my mind.

This book follows Joshua, the immortal, and Ada, a girl with an illness. I loved the irony of a man who can’t die falling in love with the girl who’s terminally ill. Their story was heart-warming and sweet, funny and passionate. I was in love with these two. I particularly enjoyed how Joshua was such a believable character. I thought the way it was explained that Joshua could be both 80 and 19 years old at the same time was very clever and logical, making the love between Joshua and Ada that much more beautiful.

The underlying theme of life and death was beautifully done. I loved how the more “supernatural” incidents were addressed like reality with the same consequences based on life-changing decisions. In the same way, I appreciated how this book talked about religion and belief, by presenting it as the world knows it, but leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions, just as the character Ada finds her own way. To me, it was inspiring to see. I hope this book inspires others to forge their own path.

Throughout the book, we get glimpses into the life of Scout and Liam, Charlie and Maggie and all the other characters from this series and the Timber Wolves series. I love these characters and their world. I want to live there! The book wrapped up nicely with some major hints towards the direction of the next book. I’m eager to read more. If it’s written by Tammy Blackwell, it’s a given that I’m going to read it, and you should too.

This book will be released October 14, 2014.

Thank you Tammy Blackwell for a copy in exchange for an honest review!

STARS: 5 out of 5

Awry by Chelsea Fine

Awry, the second book in Chelsea Fine’s Archers of Avalon series, is an amazing addition to the trilogy.

13334934Three curses. Two brothers. One love triangle.
Sometimes love is meant to be. But sometimes…love is the death of you.

Seventeen-year-old Scarlet has just died. Only, dying isn’t unusual for a girl under a centuries old curse that left her semi-immortal.

This time, though, she comes back to her current life instead of awaking in a new one, and she realizes her curse is changing. With the help of the immortal Archer brothers, Scarlet tries to piece together her life and break the curse before her impending death comes again.

I was blown away by this book. This series just keeps getting better and better. I thought the writing and pace of the story was better than the first. The reader gets a glimpse into Scarlet and Tristian’s past in this book, with alternating past/present chapters, which I LOVED. These flashbacks allow the reader to understand where Tristian is coming from, even when Scarlet doesn’t remember.

The secondary characters really stood out to me in this book. Gabriel and Scarlet’s best friend, Heather, seem to have something brewing between them. I’m thoroughly anticipating seeing how that’s going to turn out. I also enjoyed Nate as the fun, loving comic relief in the story. He is hilarious.

In a trilogy, the second book is usually stale, not so with Awry. I was fully engaged and enthralled with the adventure to find the fountain of youth. I was caught up in the unexpected, panic-inducing countdown to Scarlet’s death, making the entire story a rush from beginning to end.

I would highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys love triangles and fast-paced thrilling stories with supernatural elements.

STARS: 4 out of 5

MOVIE REVIEW: The Maze Runner

I’m a huge fan of James Dashner’s Young Adult Maze Runner book series, so I was both excited and extremely concerned when I saw it was being made into a movie. However, my fears were unfounded for the most part. Like any movie adaptation, there are a few things that are different from the book, but it didn’t deviate enough to cause alarm (only enough to start righteous book rants in the theater when the lights come up).

MV5BMjUyNTA3MTAyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTEyMTkyMjE@__V1_The Maze Runner film, directed by Wes Ball, was very similar to the book by James Dashner. It was the same group of boys stuck in the glade surrounded by a maze that’s constantly changing and houses deadly creatures in the night.

The cast was a bit hit and miss. Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brien (also on MTV’s Teen Wolf), was phenomenal. He really captured the essence of being both afraid and driven to find a way out of the maze. Kaya Scodelario played Teresa and I wasn’t impressed. She had like ten lines and seemed very insignificant throughout the movie, when she’s a huge player in the book. Other standout characters were Minho and Galley.

The plot of the movie was nearly identical to the book from the way it starts with Thomas coming up in the elevator to the twist at the end. There were a few issues I had from a book-reader-holier-than-movie-watcher way. For example, the way they solve the code to get out of the maze wasn’t the same and the way the doors are locked open at night had slightly different results. The movie made it seem like it was random, where in the book, the Grievers had a very specific task to complete each night. The Grievers were close to how I imagined them, but they weren’t as grotesque. Also, there wasn’t much gore in the movie, which I recall there was more of that in the book. I was also a little disappointed they didn’t stick with the Gladers unique way of cussing. They preserved the curses, but they translated it to boring, real world terms.

Overall, I was thoroughly entertained. This is a fight-for-your-life kind of movie, definitely geared towards boys. However, if you love adventure stories, you’ll love this one. As always, I always recommend the book first, but the movie did it justice.

The one good thing about reading the book is you know what’ll happen next. I was amused at the flabbergasted expressions and remarks of disbelief from people in the theater at the end. All I could do was smile and say, “Wait until you get to book three; that’s when it gets really crazy!”

Great Book. Good Movie. Go see it!

STARS: 5 out of 5