Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review: Concealed

Concealed (Hiding From Love, #2)Concealed by Selena Laurence
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Concealed is the second books in the Hidden From Love series, though I read it as a stand-alone novel. I was given the novel in PDF format by the author!

Alexis and Gabe spent a few passionate and raw months together in Afghanistan but now Alexis is doing her best to forget their time together and return to reality; leaving the fantasies of Gabe as far behind her as she can manage.

Gabe, however, can't forget Alexis, the time they spent together, and the promise she made to him. And when she doesn't meet him as she had said she would, he finds her.

This story is great, even as a series book, it truly does stand alone. You're caught up enough on the backstory so as not to be confused or feel as if you've missed something. I didn't even realize it was a series at first! For that fact alone, in my book, this novel gets mad props! ;)

The writing is also effortless, witty, and real. I enjoy the dialogue between characters and the alternate points of view. It really does give the reader a great 360 perspective on everything going on.

The love story is both sweet and sexy. Though not for a lack of complications! This couple has survived far worse together than trying to navigate the ins and outs of a relationship, yet it seems they may both be more comfortable with fighting for their lives than their love at times. And who could blame them?! They face many obstacles in pursuit of their happily ever after.

Gabe is a bit rough around the edges but he's certainly no less desirable for it. He knows what he wants and he's not afraid to go after it. Alexis, on the other hand, is afraid to admit what she really wants. Only when Gabe is transplanted inconveniently into her well planned life, is she able to throw caution to the wind once more and let her heart lead the way.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blog Tour: Natalie Palmer Interview


Things change. People change. Jess and I weren’t above it.”

Gemma’s first year of high school isn’t starting out the way she hoped. Jess is back from California and before she can memorize her class schedule their summer romance comes to a screeching halt. To add to her misery the gorgeous new girl in school also has eyes for Jess and despite Gemma’s unfailing attempts to win him back she keeps finding herself alone.

But when a late night car crash lands her a three month grounding and twenty hours of community service she discovers that there’s more to life than just romance and boyfriends.

Unpredictable and heart wrenching, Second to No One is the perfect continuation to the magical beginning of the Gemma and Jess romance.

Shawn: I happened to marry my high school sweetheart, so I'm pretty familiar with a lot of the statistics that stack up against young love lasting, but I'm curious, what inspired YOU to tackle this kind of love story?

Natalie: Perplexing question, Shawn. I had to think about this one for a minute. I think it’s because I’ve always felt sad that I missed out on my husband’s teenage years. We met in our twenties and I’ve always been kind of jealous of his high school female friends who knew what he was like back then and got to hang out with him and laugh with him and flirt with him (grrr). So I created a story about what I like to think we would have been like back then had he always lived across the street. And as stupid as Gemma can be sometimes… well, this book isn’t entirely autobiographical but it’s freakishly close.

Shawn: Lauren is a...shall we say, interesting character? What inspired you to throw her into the mix?

Natalie: Again, the inspiration came from my husband. (Isn’t it nice to know that you can still be obsessed with a guy after being married to him for seven years??) My husband is a psychiatrist and his stories have opened my eyes to the world of mental health. Depression and suicide are all around us… in our friends, family, school and often in ourselves. I wanted my readers to be surprised by Lauren. I wanted her to appear as any other chick that might be trying to steal the boy we love and just when you think you can’t hate her anymore… you find out the truth.   

Shawn: All of your characters are SO well rounded and whole, what's your process for character creating? How in-depth do you really go into making each and every character so real?

Natalie: That is a huge compliment. I work extremely hard to not have shallow characters. One of my pet peeves in any book or movie is fluffy characters. For my personal writing technique I like to form characters through dialogue. For me, dialogue is the meat and potatoes of a great story. I like to show how my characters react to anything from meaningless teasing to the most frustrating, agonizing and heart breaking fight they’ve ever had in their entire lives.

Shawn: What was YOUR high school experience like? Any impacting crushes you care to share with us?
Natalie: Oh geez. I was totally boy crazy. I juggled at least three to four crushes at the same time throughout most of grade school. Trace is the combination of a few of those crushes and Jess is the combination of a few thousand different fantasies. Anyone who knew me well, though, knew that I did have one eternal crush on “that guy”. (He will remain nameless as I’m sure he has found out about my books and is stalking me on this blog tour as we speak…not.) In hind-site that crush was so stupid. But for so many years he was what got me excited to get out of bed for school in the morning. I guess we all need those guys to get us through the toughest years of our lives (aka high school). So yes, I’m the master of crushes and unrequited love. Until now. And I’m SO relieved that I got the boy that I did!

Shawn: There aren't many contemporary YA series out there, what made you decide to write a series vs. a stand-alone novel?
Natalie: Are you kidding me? Fit Gemma and Jesse’s entire story into one book? That’s crazy talk. Seriously though, I want my readers to be able to see Gemma grow up. I want them to feel the tension between her and Jess… to taste the tears on her cheek, to smell the scent of his shoulder against her hair and feel the ache in the pit of their stomachs when those two just can’t seem to figure it out. I want my readers to really get to know Gemma’s family and to see how their lives change when their dad is no longer in the world. So many of my readers hate Gemma because she’s full of flaws, inadequacies and idiotic decision that make you want to scream. But she’s going to change. She’s going to learn and blossom and become amazing and I really couldn’t accomplish all of this in just one book, nor did I want to. 

Thanks for the questions, Shawn. It’s always a party to be able to talk about myself to a sea of people I’ve never met before. And thanks to Shawn’s followers for reading this far. I’ll be hanging out on the blog all day so please feel free to ask more questions or even better… tell me about your past, present and future crushes, fantasies and unrequited loves.
Shawn: Since we're all hashing out embarrassing crush stories I guess it's only fair that I add my two cents! I did start dating my husband half-way through my freshman year of high school but I had plenty of crushes before then! I had quite the selection of guys who ignored me promptly after I made my feelings known, as well as those trying to take advantage of a naïve freshman, and those who had their eye on multiple girls at a time, trying to see which one would "give in" first. Needless to say, having been a HUGE prude in high school (thank the heavens) I never gave any of the other guys so much as the satisfaction of stealing my first kiss (mostly because I think a good majority of them thought I was crazy and did their damndest to steer clear...their loss!). And, as an added piece of info, my husband and I didn't actually know each other at all, he was two grades ahead of me. I just saw him one day and knew that he was it for me, so I approached him and he took a chance on me, and here we are!

Okay, ya'll! Now's the time to kiss and tell! Share your stories and be sure to check out Natalie's series and the rest of her stops on the blog tour!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book Review: The Guardian

The GuardianThe Guardian by Nicholas Sparks
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm really torn on how I want to rate this book. It's not really a 2 star book, maybe 2.5??? I don't know. It just wasn't for me and it came highly recommended by both my mom and sister! So I was doubly disappointed to come away just not feeling it.

First of all, I started LISTENING to this book before switching over to paperback to finish off the last few chapters. Being that it was my first audio book I didn't quite know what to expect. And in the end I'm not sure if it was the story that fell short for me or the narrating. Maybe a bit of both. The reader, a woman--I forget here name--, didn't put the inflection on the words or in the way that I would have in my mind. The characters I WANTED to like ended up sounding whinny and Eor-like. Once I was reading the book vs. listening, I felt like I liked the characters a little more. But the story still felt lacking.

I was never really ever all that surprised by what was happening or what was to come and because I don't like this type of story to begin with--where there's some obsessed stalker guy who is a complete nut job-- I was left with very little else to like.

Mike isn't the kind of male lead I'm head-over-heals for either, which he would have to be for me to have really gotten into this story. He was kind of minimalistic most of the time. He wasn't romantic or heroic. He was bland and ordinary. He fit in a comfortable spot in Julie's life and that was enough. I'm not asking for a super hero who's a real Tom Cat in bed. But something. Some kind of spark that can be felt in the pages. Because frankly, I wasn't taking Julie's word for it.

As a main character, Julie wasn't horrible but she was pretty plain too. Relatable stories are great. I'm not trying to complain that the story just wasn't exciting enough (because it certainly had its share of suspense) but I guess when it comes to love stories--personally--I want to be swept away. I want to feel and see the fireworks and I want to feel satisfied. Like after eating a great holiday meal. Instead, I'm left with a feeling more closely resembling the slight stomach ache after finishing a burger at your local diner. I'm full, yes. But I don't feel too hot and I might benefit from lying down for a while...

I don't know. I typically really enjoy Nicholas Sparks, and others might enjoy this book just as much as I've enjoyed many of his other novels. As for me, I think I'm going to hit up a nice romance novel next, to fill the recently acquired romantic swoon-worthy void in my fictional life.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review: The Perfect Hope

The Perfect Hope (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy #3)The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was definitely my favorite book of the series and I knew from the start that it would be. The number one reason for this fact...and let's face it numbers 2-5 five as well. Ryder Montgomery. He's the most abrasive of his brothers and the hardest to love...but not for lack of yumminess. He's just very shut off and reserved in most aspects of his life. He's still a loving brother and son and respectful to women, though he doesn't make a habit of committing. So I was interested in seeing how he came to be settled. As much as a man like Ryder can settle that is.

The plot of finding out about our friendly ghost's story as well was very sweet and while some of the story was predictable, other parts were pleasantly surprising. In a way not only do you get to experience the love stories of the three brothers and their girls but of the past as well. And it's all tied together so seamlessly.

I haven't read all that many Nora Roberts books, though I do have a handful on my shelves waiting to be read, but after completing this series I definitely plan to read more! Her stories are about so much more than just romance. They're about the people in them. Each and every character has their story told.

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Book Review: The Last Boyfriend

The Last Boyfriend (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy #2)The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to say before reviewing this book that the couple I'm most interested to read about is Ryder and Hope. So while I did enjoy Owen and Avery's story--in equal measure as Claire and Beckett's--it's the final book of the series that has me really excited.

One thing I really liked about this story is that you don't just get Owen and Avery's story as a separate piece to a puzzle that fits based on their shared location and relations. You get a continuation of Claire and Becket's love story as well, though only just enough to keep you satisfied with the direction they'd gone at their end of book one. You even get a taste for Ryder and Hope's romance. Though only just barely. Enough so that their relationship doesn't seem to stem from nowhere by the time you get to book three.

As for the romance between Avery and Owen, groundwork has been set between them in the form of a past--though juvenile--relationship. And through their differences, struggles, and misunderstandings they fall in love with one another. What starts off as a comfortable and practical step up in their intimacy from friendship to something more blossoms into a full-blown relationship that leaves Owen rattled out of his ability to plan everything and forces Avery to face her biggest fears about relationships.

I enjoyed this story a lot. On top of the romance you also get much deeper into the ghost story which really picks up, even packing a very interesting twist. And you also get to watch as the B Boys rebuild this small town through renovations and rebuilds. I mean, I'd seriously live in Boonsboro, happily.

Needless to say, I'm already into book three! I just HAVE to know how Hope manages to soften Ryder up. ;)

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Book Review: Second To No One

Second to No OneSecond to No One by Natalie Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second to No One is the sequel to Natalie Palmer's Second Kiss. It's been a few years since I read Second Kiss so I needed a bit of time to catch up as I read where everyone stood in this story and who was who. But once I became reacquainted, the story flowed easily.

The story felt very real and relatable, which if you read many of my reviews you'll know is a deal breaker for me. While a lot of choices Gemma and Jess make re infuriating at times, at the very least frustrating, I can see how this dangerous slope of misreading and miscommunication can lead them both to very confused places.

There are also quite a few subplots and every character has their own story, their own life that gets explored and explained along the way. Instead of a shallow plot based on only two main characters, the "cast" is very intricately introduced without taking away from the main story or becoming too much to digest.

As a main character, Gemma can be less-than-likeable at times for her selfish behavior but we were all sixteen once, some of us still are, and let's face's a selfish time in all of our lives. And why not? That's when we really truly begin to figured out who we are. We start to see our parents for who they really are. Other than "mom" and "dad" they're people too. Gemma is dealing with all of that in addition to facing heartbreak. As a result, she doesn't always make "the right" choices. And sometimes she comes off as selfish or naïve but in the end that only makes her more real.

To sum things up, I enjoyed this story a lot and I think that it sends nothing but true and valuable messages to its readers.

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