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SPOILER ALERT!
Finding Eden - Mia Sheridan

My review 5/5 stars.

Before I read Finding Eden I thought the title was about finding the girl. After reading it, I realize it is more about finding the metaphorical Eden.

The story begins where Becoming Calder ends. The cult no longer exists and Eden and Calder must learn to live in the "big society". They are both broken and grieving, going through the motions until they find each other.

While I did like Becoming Calder better, I really liked this book. It was an "in your head" book. Not a lot of action, but a lot of soul-searching and working things out.

The one thing I rolled my eyes about was The Bed of Healing. ******Spoiler******

[spoiler]

A four day sex marathon will not cure the psychological and emotionaltrauma of living in a cult. No, just no. And a piece of advice for Eden: don't answer the door in a towel/short bathrobe. Get dressed first. In fact, if you're Eden, don't answer the door at all. You have a history of being kidnapped--more than once.[/spoiler] ***End Spoiler***But it didn't detract from the story and I'm not deducting stars for it.

The writing is beautiful and I liked how the story unfolded. The author does an excellent job of explaining the reasons why Hector did what he did without casting him as a victim/sympathetic character. Even when we find out what kind of horrific childhood Calder might have had if he hadn't entered the cult, the author doesn't present Hector as his savior.

The conclusion was satisfying and the MCs found peace and closure.

Finding Eden - Mia Sheridan

My review 5/5 stars.

Before I read <em>Finding Eden</em>, I thought the title was about finding the girl. After reading it, I realize it is more about finding the metaphorical Eden.

The story begins where <em>Becoming Calder</em> ends. The cult no longer exists and Eden and Calder must learn to live in the "big society". They are both broken and grieving, going through the motions until they find each other.

While I did like <em>Becoming Calder</em> better, I really liked this book. It was an "in your head" book. Not a lot of action, but a lot of soul-searching and working things out.

The one thing I rolled my eyes about was The Bed of Healing. ******Spoiler******

[spoiler]

A four day sex marathon will not cure the psychological and emotional trauma of living in a cult. No, just no. And a piece of advice for Eden: don't answer the door in a towel/short bathrobe. Get dressed first. In fact, if you're Eden, don't answer the door at all. You have a history of being kidnapped--more than once.[/spoiler] ***End Spoiler***But it didn't detract from the story and I'm not deducting stars for it.

The writing is beautiful and I liked how the story unfolded. The author does an excellent job of explaining the reasons why Hector did what he did without casting him as a victim/sympathetic character. Even when we find out what kind of horrific childhood Calder might have had if he hadn't entered the cult, the author doesn't present Hector as his savior.

The conclusion was satisfying and the MCs found peace and closure.

Becoming Calder - Mia Sheridan

My review 5/5 stars.

What separates a great book from a good book? For me, it's the feels. And I'm not just talking about a smile plastered on my face after I read it. It must have the right feels in the right places.

Calder and Eden have grown together in a cult led by a man known as Hector. He has created a polytheistic, Greek mythology religion, but other than that, he is really no different than Jim Jones of the Guyana Cult or David Koresh leader of the Branch Davidians. Isolation, brainwashing and harsh physical punishment for disobedience being par for the course.

Calder knows nothing else, but Eden is brought in to the cult when she is around seven years old. The flock is told that when she turns eighteen she will marry Hector and shortly thereafter, the end of the world will come. All the faithful will be taken to Elysium Fields--their heaven. She is secluded in the main lodge, away from the flock, only being taught music and reading the Holy Book.

There is no insta love. Their friendship grows as they play together as young children, and when they're older, love blooms as they sneak off to their hidden spring. He teaches her math and other things she is not allowed to learn.

This is where the feels come in.

I was smitten when I read this: And gods help me, the seed of love that had taken root, the seed I had vowed not to nourish, started to grow anyway... She isn't yours... But something inside rebelled against the words as if the thought itself was a virus to my system.

I was annoyed when I read what Hector's mistress tells Eden: But only a loose, impure woman takes pleasure for herself. You should focus on your husband only.

I was scared for Calder when I read this: Something was wrong. Something had been done to the mat to make it cause injury. And yet, Calder endured it,, his back straight and his body unmoving, but I saw the sweat trickle down the side of his face.

I don't want to get into spoilers, but horrible things are done to both Eden and Calder, and just like the Guyana cult, the man who raised Calder is expected to not only allow punishment, but to inflict it himself.

This book was riveting. I recommend it to anyone who loves a good forbidden romance. Review of Finding Eden to come.

Love Me to Death - Marissa Clarke

My review 5/5

This book is a wild ride and it is hard for me to believe the total shift the book takes from a convenience store robbery to the concluding paragraph.

It is hard to write this review without spoiling the story. It is the story of the underveil, a world unseen by humans. In this world, vampires, shifters, slayers, elves, time folders and other creatures co-exist--often not peacefully.

The main characters: Elena Arcos finds herself bound to a slayer through an elven cord. This slayer, Nikolai, is sent to kill her but ends up saving her instead. It seems Elena is the Uniter, the fulfillment of  prophecy, and she must go from a human researcher to immortal game changer in a mere four hundred pages.
Nikolai wants to avenge his father's death by killing Elena, the offspring of his father's assassin. His feelings grow for Elena, and soon he learns that what he knew of her father was false, and that fate has intertwined his destiny with hers.

The plot was riveting and the love scenes were super charged. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and can't wait to read the next book in the series. So, I will leave you with this: Make good choices; read this book.

Rowdy - Jay Crownover

Another great installment of the Marked Men series. Jay Crownover has a knack for creating endearing, tatted up, rough around the edges guys that are loyal to a fault. While I'm deeply in love with all the guys, I also like the fact that the girls aren't catty and envious of each other. They are all strong and close-knit, wishing only the best for each other. Rowdy and Salem have a troubled past and trust issues to get through. Especially Rowdy. Once he lets her in, it's all over. Salem will be his last girl and the only girl to steal his heart. I was rooting for this couple to make it the entire book. Can't wait for Asa and Royal's story.

Seventh Grave and No Body - Darynda Jones

My review: 5/5 stars

What can I say? I love this series. It keeps getting better and better.The characters are well-drawn, likable and have great depth. Ms. Jones manages to create characters that grow and learn while staying true to themselves. She keeps adding layers to the story and I can't wait to see how this whole thing is resolved. Besides the prophecy of the twelve, I want to know what's going on with Mr. Wong. It's going to be hard to wait for book eight.

SPOILER ALERT!
Apolonia - Jamie McGuire

My review: 4/5 stars

Buddy read with my friend, Brandy. This book is a departure from what I usually expect from Jamie McGuire. I almost DNF'd because the MC, Rory, got on my nerves. Brandy convinced me to keep going and I'm glad she did. Although it's totally different than the other Jamie McGuire books I've read, I did like it.

Rory has a horrific past and she is troubled by the deaths of her parents and best friend. She is in college and works as a research assistant for Professor Zorba. He wants her to work with Cy, a strange fellow student, to study a space rock. At first Rory is angry and thinks Dr. Z is trying to replace her as research assistant with Cy. Then she becomes intrigued and captivated by Cy. Meanwhile, Benji, another classmate, follows her around like a puppy dog, begging for any small bit of affection or attention she is willing to offer him. There is jealousy and mistrust. And of course, this:
****Spoiler****

Even after she sleeps with one of them, she doesn't trust him, and starts treating him like dirt. Girl, why are you sleeping with a guy you don't trust? Also, she doesn't seem at all surprised when she learns Cy is an alien. Maybe because he give her so many clues along the way???

(show spoiler)


****End Spoiler****
Overall it was an enjoyable read, but I was left with a few unanswered questions. Number one is what was the inexplicable attraction for Rory to Cy?
Unless there's a sequel in the works, I suppose I'll never know.

Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand

My review: 4/5 stars

I love the concept of this story. The rich, famous, and wealthy have body doubles called Imitations that exist in a world called Twig City. They stay in training, learning everything about their Authentic, until they are summoned for some purpose. It may be organ donation, filling in at one function so the Authentic can go on vacation, being a surrogate, or acting as bait when the Authentic's life is in danger.

Ven is Raven's Imitation. Raven reminds me of Paris Hilton.

She is wealthy, spoiled, and her life is in danger. Enter Ven. Although we never actually meet Raven we get a pretty good idea what she's like from Ven's training and the description of others. She likes clothes shopping and flirts and sleeps with lots of boys. Ven isn't interested in the guys Raven would date. In fact, she is falling in love with her bodyguard, Linc. It poses a problem as she pushes away Daniel, Raven's current fling. The creator, who also happens to be Raven's dad, threatens her repeatedly to act the way Raven would act and do what Raven would do. Ven doesn't trust him and he doesn't trust her. But he has the ability to destroy her.

Ven wants out of this life, and Linc vows to help her. They struggle against the evil Creator, and question who is friend and who is foe.

My thoughts: I was intrigued and engrossed for most of the book. The writing flows well and the chapter endings flow right into the next chapter's beginning. It's not a plot line I've seen before, unless you count the similarities between this book and Congo by Robin Cook. My only peeve was the ending seemed a bit blah and anticlimactic. Some of my questions were not answered and we never meet Ven's Authentic. I realize this is a series and hopefully these issues will be addressed in the next book. I am interested to see where this series goes.

If I Stay - Gayle Forman

My review: 4/5 stars

My views on this book are somewhat conflicted. The notion that we have some choice in whether we live or die is an interesting premise and this book was hard to put down, but I think I loved the <em>idea</em> of the story more than the story itself.
Mia, a gifted cellist, is lying in a coma following a tragic car accident debating whether to stay or go. We find out a lot about her life through her memories. A person from her life will come to visit or is in the waiting room and she is reminded of the important people in her life. She has lost so much, but still, something is holding her here.
I liked Mia, but she is so different than I was at her age. She has her cello; I had my french horn, but that is pretty much where the similarities end. Through her reminiscing we learn about the people in her life and their belief systems. Her best friend, Kim, is Jewish and she goes to the chapel to pray for Mia. Her grandmother believes that animals around her are actually angels in disguise. I know that if I was in a battle for my life, my beliefs would play a large part in what I do or do not do. We never find out what Mia's beliefs are. The closest we get is that maybe she thinks the afterlife is a perpetual sleep, but she's not sure of that either. I think everyone has a belief system, even not believing in God is a belief, but even at the end of the book I am wondering what Mia actually believes happens to a person after she dies.
Mia is some sort of ghost/spirit that is able to leave the ICU and follow her friends to different parts of the hospital. She can hear the nurses speak to her and she can watch her body and what happens to it. There are others in the ICU and I was always wondering why she didn't run into anyone like herself; others on life support, who were struggling with staying or going.
I actually liked her best friend Kim, and her boyfriend more than I liked Mia. Kim is smart, funny and tells you what you need to hear, not what she thinks you want to hear. Her honesty is refreshing.
Adam, a rising rock star, is everything you could want in a book boyfriend. He's not perfect, and through Mia's memories we see their struggles but in the end, you know his love and devotion for Mia are real.
Mia's family was quirky, but great. Her dad was in a rock band and recently gave that up to be a respectable grown up with a respectable teaching job. He was fun and supportive of his daughter. I couldn't be more different than her mother, but yet, I love their close mother/daughter bond. Although her parents were almost unbelievably permissive and they had more of a friend than daughter relationship with Mia, it was still good to see a family that loves each other and gets along. Mia sums up her relationship to her family this way:
<em>It isn't the lure of BookBarn, or the fact that Adam is on tour, or that my best friend, Kim, is busy doing yearbook stuff. It isn't even that my cello is at school or that I could stay home and watch TV or sleep. I'd actually rather go off with my family.</em>
I have heard from several people that book two, from Adam's perspective, is even better. I can't wait to read it.

The Beautiful Ashes - Jeaniene Frost

My review: 5/5 stars

This book is a page-turner that clicks all my like boxes. Ivy has always been different. She sees things that no one else can and over the years has learned to hide her abilities. Everything changes when Ivy's parents are found dead from a supposed car accident and her sister, Jasmine, goes missing. Ivy's search for her sister leads to a bed and breakfast. To most, it appears run-of-the-mill. But Ivy can see another dark side of it, like the outer limits, and she can also see her sister held hostage there. It is a demon realm, and she narrowly escapes being killed by minions of the demons.

Enter book boyfriend, Adrian. He saves Ivy and takes her to Zach, an Archon (Angel dude) who wants her to find an ancient weapon to defeat the demons.
david-goliath Ivy isn't interested in defeating the demons but she does want her sister back so she goes along with it. Neither Adrian nor Zach give her a lot of information, but she does learn that she is the last Davidian, and therefore a descendent of Jesus. Adrian is upset when he learns this and we find out why later on. He tells her she can't trust him, except for his hatred of demons.

I won't give any spoilers, but trust me when I say Ivy and Adrian make for unlikely allies. I loved how the story is chock-full of biblical allusions, but is in no way dogmatic or preachy. The allusions only strengthen the storyline and in my opinion, make the story more believable.

My only small peeve was that, toward the end, Ivy became a bit hypocritical. She betrayed Adrian who forgives her almost immediately, but when he does the same, she is not willing to forgive.

Still, I loved this book and look forward to the next book in the series.

Storm - Brigid Kemmerer

My review: 4/5 stars

This book reminds me a lot of one of my favorite books, The Outsiders. Because I loved The Outsiders so much as a teen, I will write a compare/contrast review of this book to it.


Similarities: This book is about brothers whose parents have died. The oldest brother had the opportunity to go to college on a baseball scholarship, but instead takes up the family landscaping business in order to retain custody of the brothers and pay the bills. The younger brothers don't appreciate his sacrifice and think he's just being a hard-nosed jerk. The brothers have a lot of enemies. They are pure elementals(greasers) and the non-pure elementals(socs) think they should be destroyed. They blame them for killing another girl and
a non-pure's parents. Before the brothers' parents died, they made a deal with the non-pures in town to not call in the Guides. The Guides are apparently elemental law enforcement and will punish the pures by killing them and the non-pures for not turning them in. That is the only motivation for the non-pures to not rat them out. Still, the brothers must keep their elemental powers a secret and cannot retaliate with their powers when they get into fights with the non-pures.

Differences: This book is not as serious in tone as The Outsiders and it's not really about social class differences and being judged by what side of the tracks you live on. The brothers fight all the time in this book, and I mean all the time.



It seemed excessive to me. I have three boys and they fight, but not like these guys. They fight each other, they fight the non-pures, and they fight the guys who tried to gang rape the MC, Becca. Lucky for them, they can use their elemental powers to heal themselves from their injuries.

Book One is about the youngest brother, Chris/Ponyboy. His power is water. The book begins with Becca coming upon him in a parking lot, with a bunch of guys beating the crap out of him. Not knowing his power, she gives him water, which revives him, and gives him the strength to get away from the non-pures. This book covers Chris and Becca's friendship/relationship such as it is. There is a love triangle of sorts with Hunter, the new kid.


I won't give any spoilers, but Hunter has powers too.
I have read one of the other books, Secret, about the air elemental, and in the future I plan to read about the other brothers. Overall, it is an interesting series about brothers with a unique set of powers.

Nightmares at Noon (Dreamwalker Book 2) - Oliver Urban

My review: 5/5 stars


This short story is a continuation of Dreams of You and I. And yes, it is a tease. Mr. Urban leaves us hanging.

It begins with Heather locked up in a small equipment room by some classmates. She falls asleep and is terrorized in her dreams. After noticing how tired Heather is, Katrina worries that the wraith is back and consults with her father.

Unlike a lot of book parents, Katrina's dad is cool. He's not MIA and actually <i>wants</i> her to become proficient with her supernatural gifts. So many book parents want their kids to be "normal" and not use the gifts they have. Like Darrin, wanting his wife Samantha, to not be a witch. Dude, why did you marry a witch then?



But I digress. Anyway, I'm a plot girl, so if you have a great story, I'm all in. But when you give me a writing style I like--not too much or too little description--and realistic dialogue. You're checking all my boxes.
The description of the hospital from the perspective of a freaked out/scared girl was well done and believable.

Can't wait for the next installment!

Because of You - Sam Mariano

My Review  5/5 stars

The plot of this story sounded pretty interesting so I wasn't surprised that I liked it a lot. I was surprised at how quickly I was hooked (the grocery store scene) and how hard it was to put down. The prologue is the backstory of Jamie (Nikki's mother) and Mike's (Derek's dad) tortured relationship. Jamie is so in love, read OBSESSED, with Mike and it is unclear if he feels the same way. At times it appears he does, but there is no follow through on his part, so it is hard to tell. Jamie compares her relationship with Mike to Wuthering Heights.

 

]While I can definitely see her as a Cathy figure, he was no Heathcliff. Maybe only in her eyes. In the prologue I saw a lot more similarities to White Oleander.

 

Jamie's obsession with Mike is sick and selfish in an Ingrid Magnussen kind of way. The only difference between the two as far as I can see is that Jamie isn't quite as narcissistic as Ingrid, and I do believe she does love her daughter, just not more than Mike. After knowing all her mother did and reading her journals which chronicle her obsession, Nikki vows not to be ruled by love and believes falling in love is the great evil that destroyed her mother.

The plot centers around Nikki and Derek trying to stay together amidst all the drama surrounding their mothers' deaths. Soon enough, they find themselves repeating the same mistakes their parents' made and Nikki must make some difficult choices if she wants to escape her mother's fate.

 

***Spoiler***

I didn't always relate to Nikki. How she reacted to being raped as a virgin and blackmailed and forced into having sex to keep the video of her rape a secret was completely foreign to me. There was no way I would do that just to save my reputation. Derek should have gone to jail. Later on, Derek's image is re-habbed by fixing up her father's vandalized car and his wonderful Christmas present to her. But it's hard for me to forget how he treated her at first.

***End Spoiler***

(show spoiler)



The fathers

Alex, Nikki's father, is one of my favorite characters in the book. He is completely consistent throughout the book. He is kind of an absentee father for most of her early life, but after the death of her mother and grandmother, he stepped up and took her in. He was quite lenient, but knowing his history, that was the only kind of father he could possibly be. I love this quote by him:  There is no man on this planet worth that, Nicole. Don't you understand? They are--we are all pieces of shit.

I never connected with Derek's father. Like Alex says, "he's a loser that couldn't make his trailer payment because he was buying too much weed." It is only after his wife died and he collected the insurance money that he was able to get a house and a new car. Mike, who is probably in his mid to late thirties, is still working at the same job he had when he was a teenager, only now he is assistant manager.

I was happy at the end when Nikki woke up and realized she needed a change. I credit Alex for helping her to make the right decision and showing her she is worth so much more than what Derek can give her. For that she deserves this.

 

 

Tortured Souls - Kimber Leigh Wheaton

4.5/5 stars

I thought the author did a great job with a storyline I haven't seen a lot of in YA. I love the whole idea of ghost hunting, and the Orion Circle club at school is a neat concept. I thought Kacie was realistically drawn as a girl just learning the scope of her powers through her friends of the Orion Circle.

The book boyfriend, Logan, was quite charming. He was strong when he needed to be for Kacie, but yet he let her explore her own power and wasn't constantly trying to protect her when he knew she could take care of herself.

The author's incorporation of Kacie's visions, along with other objects (the bracelet, the mask, the athame), created an eerie story and I'll admit I was I kind of creeped out at certain parts. It was interesting to see the members of the group use their different psychic gifts when it was called for. In other words, Kacie wasn't singled out as "the special snowflake" while everyone else sat around thinking "Gosh, I wish I was great like Kacie." They all had a role to play and every member of the team, even the psychic null members, were important.

The only thing that bothered me about the story was Kacie's parents. I could not get my head around a mother who walks out when she realizes her daughter has psychic abilities, files for
divorce the following week, and doesn't speak to her daughter for six years. That is posited as the only reason she left and seems quite drastic to me. Also, Kacie's father seems overprotective at first (not wanting her to go running) then overly lenient (letting Logan stay the night). Kacie admits he blames her for the failure of his marriage, which is weird, and he seemed to fall in love with Dr. Hayes rather quickly after being single for six years.

That being said, I still enjoyed the story very much and can't wait to read the next book in the series.

 

Flawed - J.L. Spelbring

4/5 stars

The book's blurb intrigued me - a future world shaped from an alternate history of events dating back to World War II. Although this is the second book in the series and I haven't read the first, I had no trouble picking up and understanding what was going on. I would like to read the first book so that I can see the evolution of the characters.

At the beginning of book two, we find many of the renegades dead or captured. Ellyssa, Rein, Woody, and a few other friends spend most of Flawed planning a raid on the West Texas concentration camp to free Mathew and the other prisoners.

I like Ellyssa. I like her inner struggle with the cold, austere, soldier instilled in her by der Vater's eugenics and DNA experiments, and the girl who is learning to feel emotions for the first time. Her words are often clipped and robotic and seem very realistic given the circumstances.

There is no love triangle, but there is unrequited love. Bonus points for that. Lots of YA that I have read build tension by allowing for misunderstandings and unclear boundaries in a love triangle or pseudo love triangle. J.L. Spelbring didn't do that. Ellyssa clearly and emphatically states that she loves Rein after Woody tells her he loves her. She is not cruel but she is clear. Her honesty is refreshing.

Ellyssa is unaware that her brother and sister, Xaver and Aalexis are still alive. Their mission is to bring Ellyssa back to continue der Vater's work. They remind me of these two:



Aalexis can even cause pain just by thinking it. With one thought she can make her victim think he is burning alive. Xaver is a shield, but he can also hurt you with his icy touch. Their relationship is strange and squicky. Kind of like this:




The middle dragged a bit for me, but the pace picked up a lot at the end. Chapters forty-six and forty-seven were brutal. I look forward to reading the next book in this original series.

Opposition - Jennifer L. Armentrout

5/5 stars

The end of a book series is bittersweet for me. Especially <em>Lux</em>. I'm going to have a major book hangover from this one for a long time.

In <em>Opposition</em> Ms. Armentrout throws every conceivable obstacle at Kat and Daemon and each time they get through it and seem stronger for it. Just when you don't think things can get worse, they do.

I was glad that Ms. Armentrout brought in things from the previous books to refresh our memories and remind us how far Kat and Daemon have come in this journey.

And for all you lovers of HEA's, she ties up everything with a pretty pink bow.