Review: Sea of Stars by Amy A. Barton

Fair warning: I might fangirl a little bit during this review. Proceed with caution.

I love, love, love Amy A. Bartol’s writing (in general) and this series in particular. It’s truly impressive how captivating she managed to keep this second-book-in-the-series (which I typically find the least interesting). A couple of weeks ago after I finished reading the first book in the series – Under Different Stars – I was left with the impression that I loved it so much it couldn’t quite be real. It couldn’t be quite as good as I remembered it. So now reading the second novel it’s amazing to realize how your first impressions were right.

I found Sea of Stars strikingly different from Under Different Stars. It’s a lot more action packed and we have come to know most of the characters well enough that we can focus on what’s happening to them rather than on their motivations. Reading it at one point became so intense I could almost visualize the things that were happening on Ethar (it made me wonder if someone might pick up the movie rights in more than one occasion).

“You made me love you!” he says harshly. “You’re not allowed to give up, do you understand? No surrender to death. Whatever happens, you have to survive it.”

“But what if things get really, really bad?” I ask.

“Then you fight, like you always do, and we’ll pick up the pieces of us later.”

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥+

Recommended for: Anyone.

Goodreads / Amazon

An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

Go out and read it. You won’t regret it (but don’t forget to start with Under Different Stars). I can’t wait to get started with Darken the Stars.

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Review: Exposure by Annie Jocoby

  • Title: Exposure
  • Author: Annie Jocoby
  • Genre: Romance
  • Release date: Feb 11, 2015

Blurb: Photographer CJ Parker is a woman who has literally not gone outside for the past six months. She’s been hiding from the world, and from life, ever since an unimaginable tragedy forced her into seclusion.  

On the one day where she decides to finally venture outside, she meets the mysterious billionaire, Asher Sloane. Dark-headed, magnetic, and gorgeous, Asher drips sex and animal magnetism. He draws CJ out of her shell and into the world, while showing her things that she never knew existed.  

What CJ doesn’t know is that Asher has a dangerous past. Behind his beautiful blue eyes and confident demeanor lies dark secrets that, if they are brought to light, could mean the end of CJ and Asher’s relationship.  

Will the exposure of Asher’s past destroy them?

Review: Sadly this was one of those stories where nothing was working for me. And I do mean nothing. I found CJ annoying and Asher cringe-worthy at times. Part of their scenes actually made me feel uncomfortable reading (and not because they are a bit hardcore, which they are). I would definitely not recommend this book, even in spite of the cringe-worthy scenes, to people who don’t enjoy erotica.

I hope to read another book by Annie Jocoby soon books to be able to really judge her writing ability – I really think this book simply didn’t connect with me.

Rating: ♥

Goodreads / Amazon / Author

An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

Review: Escaping Reality by Lisa Renee Jones

  • Title: Escaping Reality
  • Author: Lisa Renee Jones
  • Genre: Romance
  • Release date: May 5, 2015

Blurb: At the young age of eighteen, tragedy and a dark secret force Lara to flee all she has known and loved to start a new life. Now years later, with a new identity as Amy, she’s finally dared to believe she is forgotten—even if she cannot forget. But just when she lets her guard down, the ghosts of her past are quick to punish her, forcing her back on the run.

On a plane, struggling to face the devastation of losing everything again and starting over, Amy meets Liam Stone, a darkly entrancing billionaire recluse, who is also a brilliant, and famous, prodigy architect. A man who knows what he wants and goes after it. And what he wants is Amy. Refusing to take “no” as an answer, he sweeps her into a passionate affair, pushing her to her erotic limits. He wants to possess her. He makes her want to be possessed. Liam demands everything from her, accepting nothing less. But what if she is too devastated by tragedy to know when he wants more than she should give?

What I thought: It’s a bit strange to admit this in a review, but I don’t know how I feel about this book. I found the story confusing at times and then over simplistic, and then over the top again in the span of a couple of chapters. I guess my biggest problem was that I couldn’t quite sympathize with Amy’s problems (probably because I couldn’t quite understand what her actual problem was) and Liam felt hot and cold, and not always in the good way .

Having said that, I couldn’t bring myself to give the book one or two stars, because the ending left me wondering what the next book will bring, and all the wonderful possibilities that could be explored now (and I really hope it’s not the romantic, it-was-all-a-misunderstanding solution either).
Rating: ♥♥♥

Goodreads / Amazon / Author

An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

Review: Under Different Stars by Amy A. Bartol

“Why are you important, Trey?”

“I’m important to you because I hold your destiny in my hand”

I have a confession to make.

I am in love with Amy A. Bartol’s writing. Over the past couple of days I have fallen deeply, sickeningly, madly in love with the world Bartol created in Under Different Stars. So much so that I felt that agonizing desire to read more and more and yet wanting to make the story last just so you could enjoy it a bit longer.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Under Different Stars tells the story of Kricket Hollowed, who has spent her seventeen years of life dodging foster care. She isn’t normal by any means – with violet eyes and blonde hair that grows back instantly when you try to cut it, Kricket knows there’s something different about her. But all she truly cares about is that with her eighteenth birthday she will get what she has craved for for so long – her freedom. But before she can get there, otherworldly men (literally!) show up who say they want to take her home. And home isn’t anywhere on Earth.

Overall, Amy A. Bartol built a similar yet in some ways strikingly different world in Ethar (an anagram for Earth, for sure) and it was delicious to discover little bits and pieces from Kricket’s point of view, who, for all intents and purposes, is as clueless as we are because she was raised on Earth. In fact, it’s such a different world that you will find differences in their speech (lurker! knob knocker!), time (a day is a rotation! An hour is a part!) their food, and especially their society and their political system. Having someone raised on Earth who is part Rafe and part Alameeda who ends up having special powers puts the political consequences at the core of the book and the actions of the characters – especially when we discover there is an old prophecy that states that one of the houses will fall after the arrival of someone who sounds a lot like Krickett. On a side note, I really hope there are more details about this prophecy in the next book; it was one of the most interesting things about this story and I felt like it wasn’t duly developed.

“They can’t let the rat escape the lad, can they? It could infect more rats, and then their other rats wouldn’t be so very special now, would they?”

Under Different Stars is a daring, bold novel, and it was easy to make me fall madly in love from the first few chapters. I could’ve easily given it five stars if at one point I didn’t get truly angry with this book – in the way you can only ever be angry when you love everything else about the story – because Kricket, who as an Alameeda priestess has amazing talents, starts being scouted more for her looks than the amazing competitive advantage she could bring to any political disagreement. Really?

But you shouldn’t let these minor flaws keep you from reading this novel. It’s a deeply moving, entrancing story that has built enough story to make you look forward to the next installment.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Recommended for: Anyone who is not opposed in principle to YA (maybe NA?) dystopian novels

Goodreads / Amazon

An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

Review: Wrecked by Priscilla West

There would be no happy ending for us. He was too damaged. I was too broken. Things between us shouldn’t have gone this far in the first place. Then this never would’ve happened.”

I have read some books by Pricilla West that I enjoyed, so I was expecting a light, sexy weekend read with this one. Her books are usually quick delightful reads (not life-changing reads by any means, but we don’t always need to read life-changing books) with sexy male characters and that was exactly what I was expecting from Wrecked.

Unfortunately, I was a bit let down by it. I couldn’t get into the characters – Lorrie has been through an incredibly traumatic event in her life after the death of her parents, and my impression was that her relationship with Hunter is meant to be portrayed as two tortured souls coming together and dealing with their messes to be better as one. Sadly, I never really bought it.

I found Hunter mysterious enough, but Lorrie was immature throughout the entire book – she wants to be just friends and throws a fit because Hunter hooks up with some girls, and he actually puts up with it?! I didn’t find it very realistic.

Another thing I found very unrealistic were the “mean girls/boys” in college, since I don’t think people would/could be quite so cruel to someone because of the way they lost their mom.

Overall I don’t think I will be returning to read Rescued (the continuation of Lorrie and Hunter’s story). Priscilla West is a talented writer though, so I will definitely give other books she writes a try again.

Recommended for: Fans of Priscilla West who can forgive a less-exciting book than her previous work

Rating: ♥½

Goodreads

An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

Review: Gambit (The Prodigy Chronicles #1) by C.L. Denault

Imagine a world that values only people who have special abilities and the rest of the population struggles to survive. Where the unskilled lead a life of poverty and need, away from the few who have a better life at the Core because were born with the ability to develop special skills during their teenage years.

Willow Kent knew she had been adopted, and part of her also knew she wasn’t meant for the simple life she led at her village with her loving family. The fact that she wasn’t just a normal – a simple village girl destined to marry a miner doesn’t surprise her – but at just sixteen years old, a Core military officer – Reece – shows up determined to find her and bring her back to the Core from where she had been supposedly kidnapped as a child.

During her journey, Willow will have to leave her entire life, family and friends behind, and embark on a self-discovering path where she comes to terms with who she is, her amazing new powers and the role she will have to fulfill at the Core.

Gambit is a book that keeps you on your toes. You won’t want to miss a beat, and you definitely won’t want to go to sleep on a weeknight without finishing one (or two, or three) more chapters.

You have strong, complex characters that will keep you guessing and will keep you hoping for a happy ending for Willow and Tem and Reece. Sadly, since this is only book one of the series, don’t expect the book to end in a happily ever after. And since it will be certainly delicious to find out what comes next, you can bet I’ll be the first in line to read the next book.

Recommended for: Readers of YA dystopian novels (Divergent, Hunger Games) – you won’t regret it.

Perfect place to read: Anywhere!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Goodreads

An ARC was provided by the author in exchange of an honest review

Review: Deal Breakers, by Laura Lee

Meet Riley (Rye) McIntyre – a freshman who apparently has led a pretty easy life. He’s popular, smart, and good looking, and used to getting all the girls he wants, until he sets his eyes on the beautiful yet down to earth, girl-next-down Devyn Summers. After a quick ploy to meet her, he realizes that not only she is beautiful, she is also a football fan and he persuades her grew to go on a date (no, not a date – a hangout).

In spite of his clear intentions to seduce her, Devyn is very clear from the beginning that she isn’t interested in a relationship since she has been through a few traumatic years and decides what she really truly needs is a friend. So, much to Riley’s dismay, Devyn friend-zones him right off the bat.

Through college they become inseparable and, in spite of Rye’s monthly conquests hating Devyn and Rye’s clear physical attraction to her,they manage to stay on a mostly friendly base. Until graduation, when Devyn decides it is time for her to find out what all the fuss is about before starting her marketing career and lose her virginity to the one boy she trusts – yeah, you guessed it, Rye! After spending a magical night together (the last one before they graduate and move away), Devyn realizes her feelings for Rye are much stronger than she anticipated, but he gets scared and they end up losing touch. And that’s when things get interesting. After five years apart, Rye is determined to get back together with Devyn, but she has kept a big secret from him that will do a one-eighty on their relationship.

This was my first Laura Lee novel, and I found myself very connected to these characters and truly caring about how their problems and their relationships. I especially loved the writing from Rye’s point of view, since it’s so hard to find an author that really nails a guy’s perspective. It’s not an incredibly original plot, but it is well developed, explored and I felt it had a great ending.

Recommended for: Readers of romance in general (there are some explicit sex scenes too)

Perfect place to read: Sitting in the balcony with a  glass of red wine (or maybe that’s just me)

Goodreads

An ARC was provided by the author in exchange of an honest review

Review: Beautiful Surrender by Priscilla West (Surrender Series Book 3)

I guess I wasn’t kidding when I said I’d be reading the third book in the series very soon, huh? 🙂

I just love the type of books you take on a day out on the beach and you read between going for a swim, suntanning and taking a bite out of your snacks and you never really get tired of the book because it has a such a nice pace. And this is one of those books. Like the first two, I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t like the romance genre or if you’re not into sexy books – the language can be a bit rough – but overall, it was such an easy weekend read that I’d definitely recommend it to a few friends. This is the last book in the Vincent and Kristen series, and it does bring their story to a satisfactory conclusion. I liked how a few bits and pieces from the first book were explained in this last installment.

Recommended for: Women who like hot romance books, and who are drawn to adventurous billionaires

Perfect place to read: At the beach, as long as you don’t have people reading over your shoulder, haha

Rating: ♥♥♥½

Goodreads

Book 1 – Forbidden Surrender Review

Book 2 – Secret Surrender Review

ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review