Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sins & Needles by Karina Halle

Title: Sins & Needles
Author: Karina Halle
Ellie Watt is used to starting over. The daughter of a grifting team, Ellie spent her childhood being used as a pawn in her parents' latest scam. Now she’s much older, wiser and ready to give her con artist life a rest. But returning to the dry desert town of Palm Valley, California means one more temptation than she bargained for – Camden McQueen. Once known as the high school weirdo, Camden is bigger and badder than the boy he used to be and a talented tattoo artist with his own thriving business. Ellie’s counting on Camden still being in love with her but what she’s not counting on is how easily unrequited love can turn into obsession over time. When Camden discovers Ellie’s plan to con him, he makes her a deal she doesn’t dare refuse, but her freedom comes with a price and it’s one that takes both Ellie and Camden down a dangerous road.

**The Artists Trilogy is a dark and sexy contemporary ride about three flawed individuals caught in a world where it's so easy to justify the bad things we do. This is a pure adult read (Not YA or NA).**

Sins & Needles on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

I went in to this book with zero expectations. I had never heard of Karina Halle before and the cover/title wasn't something that would usually draw me in. Not that it's a bad cover, it's nice, but lately I've been on more of a YA Contemporary kick and I've been in to the fluffy pretty covers. However, I saw this book floating around GR and noticed some of my GR friends buying it and talking about reading it. At $2.99, I'll generally give a new (to me) author a try and WOWZA I am SO GLAD I DID!

Ellie Watt is a con artist and a grifter and she's on the run from some pretty bad people. In fact, she's been on the run for most of her life, except for a brief stint during high school where she stayed with her uncle. It was during that time she met and befriended Camden McQueen - whose description made me think Marilyn Manson.

Most of the book is about adult Ellie, who I believe is around 26. She's on the run and has returned to her uncle's to seek refuge for awhile. While trying to find a job, she runs in to Camden, who has turned from lanky/skinny goth freak in to a muscled tattoo-covered hottie with a septum ring and nerd glasses. What happens next... well... I want to talk about it, but I can't, because it would ruin everything.

I will say this.

It's not easy to surprise me in novels. I often find myself guessing what happens next and I almost always guess who the killer is in mystery/thriller novels.

Karina Halle, you totally got me here.

What happens in the middle was a complete and total surprise to me that I did not see coming from a mile away! Perhaps I was too engrossed in the story.  Perhaps I wasn't paying enough attention. Maybe all the red flags were there and I missed them. Maybe, but I don't care. I freaking LOVED IT.

The twists and turns after that point...let's just say I started reading this book around 11pm at night and planned to put it down around midnight and go to sleep. I hit the 40% mark around 12:30 and that's where the shit hit the fan and from there, I HAD TO FINISH IT. I couldn't stop.

Action, romance, surprises, twists...

“I hate you Ellie Watt,” he whispered, lips coming closer to mine, “because I still love you after all these years.”

That about sums it up.

This book is amazing. It's a wild ride and BELIEVE me, once you get on you will not want to get off! And Karina Halle, you evil EVIL EVIL woman! That cliffhanger ending.


I don't rate things 5-stars very often, as there just aren't that many books that blow me away. This one did. I've already started buying everything else I can buy this author and I can't wait to dig in to more of her stuff while I wait until MAY for the sequel to this book.


Buy this book! Buy it! Read it! You won't regret it!
5 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Luck of the Draw by Kelley Vitollo

Title: Luck of the Draw
Author: Kelley Vitollo
Rowan McKinley isn’t looking for one wild night while vacationing in Vegas, but she gets it anyway when she meets professional poker player—and professional ladies’ man—Breck Wilder. Breck’s easygoing charm and lighthearted banter draw in the reserved Rowan, and though she’s always dreamed of the kind of forever love her best friends Sidney and Kade share, she’ll settle for one night with the charismatic player.

After their crazy one-night stand, Breck never expected to see the mysterious redhead again. So when he shows up at a Shamrock Falls B&B looking to get away for a few weeks and Rowan answers the door, he’s floored. Breck’s rolling-stone lifestyle and ill-fated history with women means he’s not interested in anything long-term. But the longer he stays at the B&B, the more he considers dropping the poker face and putting all his cards on the table…for Rowan.

Luck of the Draw on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

*I received a free copy of this book via in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!*

I got this book from Netgalley last week and finished it up a few days ago. Luck of the Draw is one of those fluffy romance novels that I hear a lot of people referring to as a beach read or a plane read. I'd have to agree in this case. Luck of the Draw is cute and fun, but lacks much substance. There's nothing wrong with that - I enjoy fluff - but I was surprised when I later found out that Kelley Vitollo is another name for one of my favorite YA/NA authors, Nyrae Dawn.

Nyrae Dawn's books tend to have these awesome flawed, but likable, characters. While I got a hint of that here, especially with Breck's baggage from his former relationships, the characters in Luck of the Draw just weren't as compelling as I've come to expect from Dawn.

Mild spoiler after this point!

The plot is fairly stereotypical of something you might find in a Harlequin category romance. Rowan has a one-night-stand with Breck, but of course it's something she wouldn't normally do. Of course circumstances have them running in to each other again a month or so later and surprise! Rowan's pregnant!

Overall, cute story, but the stuff Vitollo has written under the Nyrae Dawn name is MUCH MUCH better. Check it out if you haven't already!
3 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher

Title: The S-Word
Author: Chelsea Pitcher
First it was SLUT scribbled all over Lizzie Hart’s locker.

But one week after Lizzie kills herself, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie's looping scrawl.

Lizzie’s reputation is destroyed when she's caught in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend on prom night. With the whole school turned against her, and Angie not speaking to her, Lizzie takes her own life. But someone isn’t letting her go quietly. As graffiti and photocopies of Lizzie’s diary plaster the school, Angie begins a relentless investigation into who, exactly, made Lizzie feel she didn’t deserve to keep living. And while she claims she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, Angie's own anguish over abandoning her best friend will drive her deep into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.

Debut author Chelsea Pitcher daringly depicts the harsh reality of modern high schools, where one bad decision can ruin a reputation, and one cruel word can ruin a life. Angie’s quest for the truth behind Lizzie’s suicide is addictive and thrilling, and her razor-sharp wit and fierce sleuthing skills makes her impossible not to root for—even when it becomes clear that both avenging Lizzie and avoiding self-destruction might not be possible.

The S-Word on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

*I received a free copy of this book via in exchange for an honest review - thank you!*

I've made it halfway through and I just can't continue. This book is bad. Really bad.

Teenage suicide is a big deal. It's a huge problem in the United States that doesn't get the attention it deserves. There are some REALLY good books out there that address the issue (Saving June!) and there are some really bad ones (THIS BOOK).

The S-Word is supposed to be about two best friends, Angie and Lizzie. Angie catches Lizzie having sex with her boyfriend and the two have a falling out (for obvious reasons). Lizzie also becomes somewhat of a social pariah in the school because of sleeping with Angie's boyfriend. Shortly after, Lizzie commits suicide.

After Lizzie's death, someone writes "Suicide Slut" on a locker in Lizzie's handwriting and starts passing out Lizzie's journal pages.

The novel could have been about Angie trying to figure out what went wrong in her friendship, what happened to make Lizzie destroy it, and what went so terribly bad that Lizzie had to kill herself.

But it isn't.

Instead, it tries to be funny and amusing as Angie plays "detective" in the most bizarre ways, interviewing classmates in her quest to find out who wrote "Suicide Slut" on the locker. Angie suddenly turns in to an awful parody of Joe Friday from Dragnet and the book just went completely down hill.

One example - Lizzie was apparently in to acting. She had recently gotten the lead part in a play. Angie believes that the drama queen goddess Shelby McQueen who got ousted from her position when Lizzie got the part, might be behind it. She she goes to interview her. Apparently this girl is 'in character' and Angie decides to get 'in character' to talk to her too. Here's an excerpt (all typos, formatting errors, and mangled capitalization straight from the book):

so i think, but shelby's in rare form today, smoking an imaginary cigarette and lounging on the piana like she's preparing for her solo. (...) shelby greets me with a husky "hello, sugar. What's your poison?"

"reality," i quip, and climb onto the piano beside her. "that's what they all say." shelby bats her pretty brown eyes. so she wants to play hide Behind the Character. so what?

Drama class is a veritable free-for-all at the end of the year and i've got nothing but time. she can play the dame. i'll play the old-timey detective. Whatever gets the canary to sing.

"Nice to see ya, sweet cheeks," i say, tipping an imaginary hat. shelby's smile spreads across her face. she's wearing a purple
1950's style cocktail dress. the hem dances just past her knees, all propriety. But her attitude says floor-length, slit-up-the-thigh red satin.

"What can i do for ya, daddy-o?" she asks.

It continues from there in the awful Dragnet-wannabe style as Angie interviews more kids and pretends to be a hardcore detective.

Later on Angie and DRAKE (the boyfriend that Lizzie slept with), go to Lizzie's house to help pack up belongings. Angie is mildly upset, but mostly because of wondering "Did he use those eyes on Lizzie? Did he use that voice?". Drake, who apparently doesn't give a lick that he's in the bedroom of a girl he just banged who is now dead, uses the time to try and snuggle up on Angie and make out. I'll give Angie credit, she kicks him out, but still. Would this happen in real life?

The thing that annoys me most is that from what I've read so far, this isn't about Angie coming to terms with her best friend's suicide. In fact, Angie barely seems affected. It's about Angie playing Joe Friday to find out who is writing things on the wall in Lizzie's handwriting.


Seriously. It's not like Lizzie was murdered (unless there's a twist at the end where she was, but I'll never know).

There's also some rambling journal entries of Lizzie's where she gets emo about being called a slut and how no one really knows the meaning of the word slut and blah blah blah.

For the record: Slut or slattern is a term applied to an individual who is considered to have loose sexual morals or who is sexually promiscuous.

A girl who betrayed her best friend by sleeping with her best friend's boyfriend could definitely meet the criteria of having "loose sexual morals." I don't think the definition of slut is really in question here.

If this book was trying to show us the difference between men and women, and how a woman who has sex can be labeled a slut while a man is a stud.... IT FAILED. Lizzie had sex with her best friend's boyfriend. In general, when you do that, you'll earn the slut label.

Perhaps this author's style just wasn't for me. Actually, I'm positive this author's style wasn't for me. I don't like the lackadaisical approach to suicide that it took. It could have gotten better towards the end, but if it takes me over a week to struggle through the first half, I'm not going to continue in hopes that it will get better. Because to be honest, I can't think of one example where it has.

I also hate to harp on formatting issues in a galley because I know they are not completely edited yet, but this galley was the absolute worst I've ever seen. The majority of the sentences are not capitalized. The majority of the names are not capitalized. There are constant cases of words in the middle of sentences that have random capitalization mid word. While the formatting wasn't the reason for the 1-star rating (that's all the terrible writing and plot), it did make it jarring and even more awkward to read.
1 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Me & My Invisible Guy by Sarah Jeffrey

Title: Me & My Invisible Guy
Author: Sarah Jeffrey
The cheerleader who has everything . . . ? Mallory Dane has a great family (at least on the surface), is popular at school (as long as she doesn’t make waves), and dates an amazing boyfriend, Todd (who happens to be completely made up). Boys—and sex—are something Mallory just can’t deal with, so she created her “invisible guy” to avoid it all. But when Liam Crawford comes along—a real guy, flesh and bones and strumming his guitar—Mallory starts questioning her fictional relationship. Is she really willing to give up Todd for Liam? And can she make amends for the lies she’s told—even to her best friend, Tess? What if your biggest, most embarrassing secret was broadcast to the whole world? Letting go of her secret will be easier said than done, and Mallory will risk everything—her family, Tess, cheerleading, her reputation, and most of all, her heart.

Me & My Invisible Guy on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

*I received a free copy of this book via in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!*

I don't usually dislike 'issue' books (ie: books that bring up a buzz worthy issue, like pre-marital sex, homosexuality, underage drinking, suicide, etc), but I REALLY dislike when books get preachy with me and this book got very preachy. I am also not a fan of faith-based books and this book came across very much like a faith-based book that's been toned down somewhat to try and appeal to the mainstream.

Me & My Invisible Guy is about a popular cheerleader named Mallory. All of her friends have had sex with their boyfriends at some point and Mallory is too embarrassed to admit she is a virgin and doesn't want to have sex, so she created a fake boyfriend (Todd) and has told all of her friends that she and Todd have had sex.

There are reasons why Mallory doesn't want to have sex and I don't really want to get in to them because it will spoil parts of this novel for those who plan to read it. I'll just say that I understand and respect her reasons.

When a new guy, Liam, moves to the area, Mallory is instantly attracted to him and ends up having to dump her fake boyfriend so that she can have a 'real' relationship. This happens early on and Mallory spills the beans about her fake boyfriend to Liam pretty early on, so I don't think it's much of a spoiler to mention that.

Liam is a very religious guy who is also a virgin and doesn't believe in sex before marriage.

One of the girls at his church, Lexi, who is also a classmate of Liam/Mallory, has a crush on him and doesn't approve of Mallory dating him. Mallory is a cheerleader and supposedly had sex with Todd, so she is one of "those" girls that Liam shouldn't be dating. Lexi constantly inserts herself in Mallory and Liam's new relationship and causes problems for them. She keeps trying to steal Liam and even goes so far as to tell Liam how slutty Mallory is so that he won't date her. She also makes snotty comments to Mallory and vaguely threatens her.

Eventually, once Mallory's secret comes out, Lexi apologizes.... but the big issue I had with this is that she apologizes for midjudging Mallory, not for treating her badly to begin with. Basically, what Lexi said is that because Mallory is a virgin, it's okay for them to be friends now. And that Mallory isn't one of "those" girls, so Lexi can be nice to her. I'm fairly certain the Bible talks about not judging others and how that's God's job - so I really would have preferred Lexi actually feel bad for mistreating and judging ANYONE, but instead she just feels bad for mistreating Mallory because Mallory wasn't the slut she originally thought.

As for the faith stuff... it was a bit much. I don't know how to describe it other than it just felt like I was reading something that belongs on a Christian Books for Teens list. While those books often have a purpose of the main character 'finding God' and changing his/her life, which wasn't 100% the case here, we do have a LOT of Christian preachiness going on here which was overwhelming. While I'm not anti-religion, I don't like it this hardcore in my novels.

Another main problem with this book is that I feel it tried to tackle too many issues at once. We have abstinence, bullying, STDs, suicide, abusive alcoholic parents, and overbearing military parents (who disown their kids if they don't follow the chosen path of armed forces). Not to mention tackling the family issues that arose in the aftermath of the suicide thing. While I feel like the author handled these topics respectfully (which is always appreciated), it seemed too much.

Overall though, the book wasn't bad. I liked Mallory a lot. She came across like a very real teenager - something rare in YA these days! I probably will not read anything by this author in the future, mostly because of the religious stuff, but she has some talent and if reading faith-based stuff is your thing you'll probably like her book.
3 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ape House by Sara Gruen

Title: Ape House
Author: Sara Gruen
Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani, and Makena are no ordinary apes. These bonobos, like others of their species, are capable of reason and carrying on deep relationships—but unlike most bonobos, they also know American Sign Language.

Isabel Duncan, a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab, doesn’t understand people, but animals she gets—especially the bonobos. Isabel feels more comfortable in their world than she’s ever felt among humans . . . until she meets John Thigpen, a very married reporter who braves the ever-present animal rights protesters outside the lab to see what’s really going on inside.

When an explosion rocks the lab, severely injuring Isabel and “liberating” the apes, John’s human interest piece turns into the story of a lifetime, one he’ll risk his career and his marriage to follow. Then a reality TV show featuring the missing apes debuts under mysterious circumstances, and it immediately becomes the biggest—and unlikeliest—phenomenon in the history of modern media. Millions of fans are glued to their screens watching the apes order greasy take-out, have generous amounts of sex, and sign for Isabel to come get them. Now, to save her family of apes from this parody of human life, Isabel must connect with her own kind, including John, a green-haired vegan, and a retired porn star with her own agenda.

Ape House delivers great entertainment, but it also opens the animal world to us in ways few novels have done, securing Sara Gruen’s place as a master storyteller who allows us to see ourselves as we never have before.

Ape House on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

I love Sara Gruen's previous three novels, but it took me a long time to even pick this one up at the library and I put off reading it. Something about the summary just didn't hook me and if I wasn't a fan of Sara, I probably would never have read it.

The book wasn't awful. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. I don't know if I can really explain why, either.

It started off great. I liked Isabel right away and the apes really steal the show with their distinct personalities and silly antics. The explosion and aftermath was heartbreaking and I found myself turning pages quickly.

Then Ape House started, and the book fell apart for me. I didn't find John nearly as compelling as Isabel and the apes. Amanda was totally unlikable and at this point the book seemed more focused on John and Amanda instead of Isabel and the apes, and that's where it lost me. John is bland and Amanda is so freaking emo I wanted to bitchslap her.

Based on the summary, I was expecting some sort of attraction between John and Isabel threatening his marriage, but that was really a non factor throughout the majority of the novel. Instead we get to read page after page about Amanda's emo depressiveness because her book didn't get published. John and Amanda were so hot and cold (and not in an interesting way), I felt like I was getting whiplash with the amount of times they were jerks to each other then apologizing to each other.

The ending of the book was okay, but it seemed too perfect and happy - a la Breaking Dawn where everyone gets everything they ever wanted and they all lived happily ever after. Don't get me wrong, I love a happily ever after - in fact I HATE books that don't have some kind of happy ending - but this one just seemed like overkill.

Like I said, I didn't hate the book, but I didn't love it either. I still am a big fan of Sara and will read whatever she publishes next, but I am hoping it's more along the lines of Water for Elephants instead of Ape House.
2 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Confessions of an Angry Girl

Title: Confessions of an Angry Girl
Author: Louise Rozett
Pretty in Pink meets Anna and the French Kiss in this charming romantic comedy

Rose Zarelli, self-proclaimed word geek and angry girl, has some confessions to make…

1. I'm livid all the time. Why? My dad died. My mom barely talks. My brother abandoned us. I think I'm allowed to be irate, don't you?

2. I make people furious regularly. Want an example? I kissed Jamie Forta, a badass guy who might be dating a cheerleader. She is now enraged and out for blood. Mine.

3. High school might as well be Mars. My best friend has been replaced by an alien, and I see red all the time. (Mars is red and "seeing red" means being angry—get it?)

Here are some other vocab words that describe my life: Inadequate. Insufferable. Intolerable.

(Don't know what they mean? Look them up yourself.)

(Sorry. That was rude.)

Confessions of an Angry Girl on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

*I was provided a free copy of this book from (thank you!!) in exchange for an honest review*

This is another I have mixed feelings on. I think my hesitation on liking it is based on the fact that when I got to the end, it didn't feel like a complete story. At the end, I felt unsatisfied. :(

The author did a lot of telling instead of showing. A main example, which drove me nuts, is that Rose is constantly telling us how she uses big words all the time in dialogue. I can't even think of one example where Rose used big words in dialogue. Most of Rose's dialogue consists of "um" and stammering.

Jamie was another odd character. I couldn't like him, and I tried. I kept hoping that he would redeem himself. That the whole relationship between him and the mean girl was a fallacy. But it kind of wasn't. He pretty much was dating her and leading Rose on on the side. While the mean girl was stereotypically mean and probably deserved all the bad stuff, but what does it say about his character when he's playing two girls like that?

I did appreciate that Rose was willing to stand up to the mean kids and do the right thing, especially like at the party where the girl was passed out, possibly not breathing, and she called 911, knowing that she would be ostracized for it later.

I couldn't stand Rose's best friend. She was an awful person who treated Rose terribly all for the sake of being popular. I could see this happening in real life, though, so I can't really mark down for it. I just thought she was a horrible person and I wanted Rose to kick her to the curb and find a real friend. I did like that Rose tried her best, despite risking her own reputation, to help her friend do the right thing (which she never really did).


The ending was what really left a bad taste in my mouth. Jamie 'kind of' redeems himself by telling off the mean girl, but does that excuse his behavior the rest of the book? I don't think so.

I don't want to spoil the end for anyone who plans on reading this, but the end is just... unsatisfying. I can't think of another way to say it. There's no resolution to the Jamie/Rose storyline at all. I guess there are going to be more books, but I feel like even books in a series should feel complete.

I'm not sure I will continue reading this series. It wasn't the most awful book ever, but it just wasn't that good either.
3 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen

Title: The Fine Art of Truth or Dare
Author: Melissa Jensen
Pretty in Pink meets Anna and the French Kiss in this charming romantic comedy

Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that's just fine by her. She's got her friends - the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She's got her art - and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Still, it's hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before. But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they're dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl?

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

The blurb for this book is misleading. This book is not a romantic comedy at all. I can't recall a single moment that made me laugh. It's more like a typical YA romance novel.

Ella, the main character, is not too bad. She's shy and damaged and very self conscious about a scar she got as a child. Her best friends and her family are even better - Frankie and Sadie and her grandma are all awesome. Ella and her friends attend a private school and are the outcasts. She's had a crush on popular boy Alex Bainbridge for a long time.

Eventually (not until about 30% of the way through) Alex becomes Ella's tutor. I enjoyed most of the Alex/Ella interaction, but they were too few and far between. I think Ella spent more time interacting with a picture of a dead painter (who TALKED BACK). This is where the novel got so boring. I couldn't stand Ella's infatuation with "Edward Willing." She had long in depth conversations with him and spent pages and pages and pages researching him. I got so bored I ended up skipping most of it.

The ending was also kind of abrupt. I think Ella had a valid point about Alex hiding their relationship. He had excuse after excuse about why and the way it's written, we're made to believe that his hiding her is okay.

I enjoyed the parts of this book where Ella was with her friends/family/Alex. Hated the parts where she was obsessing over the painter. Because of that, I wasn't overly impressed by it, but I would read something else by this author.
3 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wake by Amanda Hocking

Title: Wake
Author: Amanda Hocking
Fall under the spell of Wake—the first book in an achingly beautiful new series by celebrated author Amanda Hocking—and lose yourself to the Watersong.

Gorgeous. Fearless. Dangerous. They're the kind of girls you envy; the kind of girls you want to hate. Strangers in town for the summer, Penn, Lexi and Thea have caught everyone's attention—but it’s Gemma who’s attracted theirs. She’s the one they’ve chosen to be part of their group.

Gemma seems to have it all—she’s carefree, pretty, and falling in love with Alex, the boy next door. He’s always been just a friend, but this summer they’ve taken their relationship to the next level, and now there’s no going back. Then one night, Gemma’s ordinary life changes forever. She’s taking a late night swim under the stars when she finds Penn, Lexi and Thea partying on the cove. They invite her to join them, and the next morning she wakes up on the beach feeling groggy and sick, knowing something is different.

Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. But her new powers come with a terrifying price. And as she uncovers the truth, she’s is forced to choose between staying with those she loves—or entering a new world brimming with dark hungers and unimaginable secrets.

Wake on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't amazing either. I also thought the writing was a little awkward throughout the book and I had trouble liking the vast majority of the characters.

Gemma is the main female character of this book and she was okay. Beautiful, perfect, Olympic level swimmer, etc etc. She spends the first half of the book doing a whole lot of nothing... wandering around, swimming, kissing Alex a few times, visiting her crazy mother. Eventually the three siren girls force her into partying with them and drinking a potion. She becomes a siren too.

But ... then nothing happens. She is business as usual for a few days until the bodies are found and the sirens start freaking out about having to leave. I don't think it's a spoiler to say the sirens killed people. It's made very obvious throughout the story. That's when the action finally starts, and that's only a few dozen pages from the end.

Gemma and Alex - I just didn't feel the chemistry there. Well, I did in the first chapter when they're kind of flirting in the car, but after that it felt very forced. Alex is the super sexy nerd boy who likes to play video games, but other than that we don't really get to know him at all.

I feel like not enough happened in this book. The last 20-30 pages were decent, but before that everything moves very slowly. There's also very little character development. The only character I felt connected to was Harper and I feel like we really get to understand her and her motivations. The rest of the characters are cardboard and boring.

I'm going to read the rest of the books in the Watersong series, because it really seems like this book is all setup for the rest of the series and I'm still a fan of Hocking despite not being overly excited about this particular book.

3 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Title: Dare You To
Author: Katie McGarry
"I dare you..."

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all...

Dare You To on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

** I received a free copy of this book via THANK YOU! **

Pushing the Limits was one of my top ten favorite books for 2012 and I had absolutely no expectations of Katie McGarry surpassing that with the sequel. She set the bar extremely high, and I am pleasantly surprised to say she hit the mark again.

Dare You To is the story of Beth, a side character we met in Pushing the Limits. Beth is one of Noah's friends and she, along with Isaiah, were some of the most interesting characters in Pushing the Limits. I couldn't wait to read Beth's story and when I first heard about it, I was surprised it wasn't a Beth/Isaiah love story. After reading it, I think McGarry did the right thing (AND now I can't wait to read Isaiah's story next!!).

Beth is a troubled teenager with a drug addicted mother whose boyfriend beats them both. Beth has some options to leave, but chooses to stay because she feels obligated to take care of her mother - who is too high and drunk to even remember to pay bills or buy food. When Beth is arrested for a crime her mother committed, her uncle swoops in and takes custody of her, forcibly yanking Beth away from not just her mother, but Isaiah and Noah too.

Ryan is a high school baseball player with hopes of going pro, whose life seems perfect at first, but it's soon revealed that his picture perfect family is just as screwed up as Beth's, but in an entirely different way.

Both Beth and Ryan are so complex and so real, you can't help but root for them. McGarry really has a talent and a knack for creating these amazingly interesting and compelling characters. They're flawed and likable at the same time, which many authors seem to struggle with. Even the "mean girl" was someone that you could relate to on some level - she wasn't just a stereotypical bitchy popular girl.

For so long I've been reading average MEH books, one after another after another. I've been DYING to read something good and I'm SO SO glad I was approved for this book on Netgalley. This is one of those books that I became so immersed in that I didn't come up for air until it was over, a few hours later, and immediately I wanted to read it (and Pushing the Limits) again.

When this comes out, READ IT!

5 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

Title: Halo
Author: Alexandra Adornetto
An angel is sent to Earth on a mission.

But falling in love is not part of the plan.

Three angels – Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, the youngest and most human – are sent by Heaven to bring good to a world falling under the influence of darkness. They work hard to conceal their luminous glow, superhuman powers, and, most dangerous of all, their wings, all the while avoiding all human attachments.

Then Bethany meets Xavier Woods, and neither of them is able to resist the attraction between them. Gabriel and Ivy do everything in their power to intervene, but the bond between Xavier and Bethany seems too strong.

The angel’s mission is urgent, and dark forces are threatening. Will love ruin Bethany or save her?

Halo by Alexandra Adornetto
 Kala's Review:

This book was so terrible I couldn't finish. I made it through about 200 pages, so I think I gave it a good try! Between the juvenile characters/writing, completely nonsensical plot, and the author constantly breaking her own rules, I just couldn't do it.

Xavier and Bethany are so wooden and terrible and boring. Bethany is supposed to be an ANGEL who has SPOKEN TO GOD. Like, to his face. I'm an atheist, but I don't mind reading about religious type things in novels. There are some great angel novels out there, but this is NOT one of them. I digress. Bethany is awful. She and her angel friends are supposedly on a mission to battle evil forces by doing good deeds. Gabriel tells her she is not to make friends or get too close to humans, but apparently part of Bethany's mission is to go to high school. I have no idea why, because we're told that the evil forces are doing things like killing hundreds of people in the Middle East... and God sends Bethany to high school in what is described by the author as a 'sleepy' small town?

Bethany of course, instantly starts making friends, going to parties (WHERE SHE GETS DRUNK), having sleepovers, going to the mall, whatever. Basically acting like a normal teenager. Apparently teenage angels are the same as teenage people. I guess I would expect more from a minion of God who is on Earth to battle evil. Bethany instantly falls in love with Xavier, but I don't really get why. After a couple meetings, she just decides to reveal her big secret. Xavier then is all "OMG MY GIRLFRIEND IS AN ANGEL!"


That's about where I quit, because I just couldn't take it anymore. For an angel supposedly on Earth on a MISSION FROM GOD, Bethany is surprisingly selfish. She also did NOTHING to further her mission. From what I gather, her entire mission is to do good deeds and so far, she hasn't done even one.

I can't remember all the instances of the author breaking her own rules, but the one that sticks out is where she makes sure to mention how angels don't get tired. They could run marathons without breaking a sweat or breathing hard. But Bethany decides to run over to Xavier and starts talking "between breaths" like she's winded. Literally a handful of pages later!

Ugh, absolutely terrible. I'd rather read Breaking Dawn again than read any more of this tripe.
1 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Title: Girl of Nightmares
Author: Kendare Blake
It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor.

Girl of Nightmares on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

I love this series! Girl of Nightmares was a perfect followup to Anna Dressed in Blood. Sequels often fail to match the hype of the original, but I have to say this one came pretty damn close.

While I liked Girl of Nightmares, it didn't hook me nearly as much as the first. I found myself skimming occasionally and I think that's partially because outside of a few quick visions, Anna was mostly absent in this book. The majority of Girl of Nightmares is Cas trying to get to Anna once he finds out she's in Hell (or what she thinks is Hell).

When I started this series, I was a little weirded out by the ghost/human love story, but it totally made sense. I was also nervous about how Blake would end it, but she blew it away. I won't spoil it, but the ending was perfect, absolutely perfect.

Parts of Girl of Nightmares bored me, as Cas spends a lot of time traveling around. A new character (Jestine) was introduced, and I didn't connect with her as much as with the other side characters. Outside of these minor issues, the book was great.

Definitely will be checking out more from this author in the future!
4 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Love's Rhythm by Lexxie Couper

Title: Love's Rhythm
Author: Lexxie Couper
"His music moves the world. Can his love move her heart? "

Nick Blackthorne knows all about words of love. They re the reason he s the world s biggest rock star. The irony? He turned his back on love a long time ago, lured away by the trappings of fame.

An invitation to a friend s wedding is a stark reminder of how meaningless his life has become. When he enters that church, there s only one woman he wants on his arm the one he walked out on a lifetime ago. But first he has to find her, even if all she accepts from him is an apology.

Kindergarten teacher Lauren Robbins once had what every woman on the planet desires. Nick. Their passion was explosive, their romance the stuff of songs and it took fifteen years to get over him. Then out of the blue Nick turns up at her door, and all those years denying her ache for him are shattered with a single, smoldering kiss.

But molten passion can t hide the secret she s kept for all these years. Because it s not just "her" heart on the line anymore and not just her life that ll be rocked by the revelation.

Warning: Remember your first crush on a rock star? Now add smoldering sex, a raw and undeniable passion, soul-shattering orgasms. And secrets.

Love's Rhythm on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

I REALLY wanted to like this book. REALLY bad! I love the rock star bad boy romance/erotica books, but this one just fell short for me.  The cover is absolutely stunning though - LOVE IT!

I liked the main characters, but everything seemed so rushed. The first time Nick and Lauren meet again he starts making out with her. He hasn't seen her in 15 years, he dumped her to become famous and have groupies, and she doesn't really fight it at all. The book is 90% sex, 10% plot and the plot is weak. I guess I just prefer my erotica to be slightly more deep.

If the sex was actually sexy, I could deal with the plot being a little less than stellar... but the sex was kind of weird. Couper uses a lot of weird terms during sex scenes that are jarring and completely ruin it for me. Anytime there is gushing, it kind of destroys the scene.

I probably would have liked this better with toned down and more well written sex scenes, and another 100 pages of character development and plot. For a a short novella, it wasn't terrible... I just think this author's style is not my thing.
2 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Reached by Allie Condie

Title: Reached
Author: Allie Condie
After leaving Society and desperately searching for the Rising—and each other—Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again: Cassia has been assigned to work for the Rising from within Society, while Ky has been stationed outside its borders. But nothing is as predicted, and all too soon the veil lifts and things shift once again.

In this gripping conclusion to the #1 New York Times-bestselling Matched trilogy, Cassia will reconcile the difficulties of challenging a life too confining, seeking a freedom she never dreamed possible, and honoring a love she cannot live without.

Reached on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

I got Reached from the library and it sat here. And sat here. And become overdue by a week. And finally I opened it up and started reading and it was pretty boring.

It starts off with all of the main characters split up, working on their own parts of the upcoming "rising." I never found Cassia to be particularly intriguing, but she was downright yawn inducing here. The entire concept of trading poems like they are some kind of rich commodity is downright ridiculous. The entire time we're in Cassia's head, she's waxing poetic about Ky and trading poems (!!!).

Ky and Xander both are mooning over Cassia, at least until Xander runs in to another female. The love triangle was not much of a triangle. There was never an option of Ky and Cassia not ending up together, it was just a matter of what would Condie do with poor Xander. Would she kill him off? Would she make him end up heartbroken and alone? Or would she do the ultimate love triangle cop-out and find him his own love interest?

I'll give you three guesses and I bet it will only take one!

As far as the "Rising" itself... talk about an uninteresting takeover. We spend pages and pages going OMG THE PILOT! He's COMING! THE RISING IS STARTING! Then boom, flip a page and the Rising has already taken over. There's no war. It's just done. And I sat here going 'what the ****?'

I'll be completely honest, after that point, I ended up skipping huge chunks of the book and I missed absolutely nothing important. If I can skip 50-80 pages in one huge chunk and I'm not completely lost when I start again, something is wrong with your novel!

This series was never that amazing to begin with, but this conclusion is far from epic. I didn't like it at all and I highly doubt I'll read anything further from this author.
1 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Love Story by Jennifer Echols

Title: Love Story
Author: Jennifer Echols
She's writing about him. he's writing about her. And everybody is reading between the lines..

For Erin Blackwell, majoring in creative writing at the New York City college of her dreams is more than a chance to fulfill her ambitions--it's her ticket away from the tragic memories that shadow her family's racehorse farm in Kentucky. But when she refuses to major in business and take over the farm herself someday, her grandmother gives Erin's college tuition and promised inheritance to their maddeningly handsome stable boy, Hunter Allen. Now Erin has to win an internship and work late nights at a coffee shop to make her own dreams a reality. She should despise Hunter . . . so why does he sneak into her thoughts as the hero of her latest writing assignment?

Then, on the day she's sharing that assignment with her class, Hunter walks in. He's joining her class. And after he reads about himself in her story, her private fantasies about him must be painfully clear. She only hopes to persuade him not to reveal her secret to everyone else. But Hunter devises his own creative revenge, writing sexy stories that drive the whole class wild with curiosity and fill Erin's heart with longing. Now she's not just imagining what might have been. She's writing a whole new ending for her romance with Hunter . . . except this story could come true.

Love Story on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

I am debating right now between one and two stars for this and I'm hating that I feel I have to rate a Jennifer Echols book so low. I really enjoyed Such a Rush and Going Too Far, so I was expecting to enjoy Love Story too. What a disappointment this book was! The ONLY reason I have it at two stars instead of one (RIGHT NOW) is because up until the abrupt and terrible ending, I was kind of digging the story and it seemed like things were just about to turn around.

Love Story starts off slowly. The first dozen or so pages of the book are a story written by the main character, Erin. She's written a bodice ripper of a historical romance between a rich girl on a horse farm and a stable boy. The story is mirrored after her real life, where she's had an unrequited thing for the stable boy (Hunter) since she was 12. Somehow, just as she's presenting her story to her college level creative writing class, that stable boy shows up as a sudden transfer. He reads the story and realizes it's about him and then... stuff happens.

After Hunter realizes the story is about him, he then starts writing these really awful and wacky stories that are supposedly all about Erin. His stories are supposedly so sexy (according to all their classmates), but I found them terrible. Hunter basically writes stories about how he's having sex with all these random people (a drunk girl at a party, a fortune teller, etc).


Erin has a tragic past that isn't really even worth getting in to here. Because of this, she has lived with her grandmother on a Kentucky race horse farm. Her grandmother insisted that she major in business to take over the farm. Erin didn't want to. When Erin decides to major in something else, her grandmother basically disowns her in the most fucked up way possible. On the night of Erin's graduation, her grandmother takes her in to her office where Hunter is waiting. Grandma then proceeds to tell Erin that Hunter is getting her inheritance, her college fund, and will be taking over the horse farm. If that's not enough, Grandma also completely cuts off all support from Erin, including health insurance, so that Erin has to work a bunch of hours at a coffee shop to barely make ends meet. Erin is so dirt poor she can't afford to eat anything but ramen noodles and peanut butter/crackers.

Wow, what a nice grandmother!

And the thing is, Erin isn't even upset at Hunter. She makes a few vague comments about him stealing her inheritance, but most of the book is her whining about how much she's in love with him, or being jealous because he's flirting with someone else.

We find out at some point that Hunter is not actually a business major, as he was supposed to be in order to run the horse ranch. In fact, he is pre-med and states he is lying to Erin's grandmother in order to get a free education. Erin doesn't seem upset by this. In fact, she praises him for it.

Erin's classmates tore apart her historical romance, so she begins writing stories about her childhood, which they supposedly like better. Her teacher, Gabe, starts praising her work highly and telling her how talented she is. Erin doesn't want to run the horse ranch. She loves the horses, but she wants to be a romance writer. That's her dream. Supposedly she's pretty good at it.

There is even this whole conversation between Erin and Hunter where they talk about how horses are "in her blood" and she even states that people in novels always use that as an excuse to force characters in to doing stuff they don't want to do. She realizes that, and then Echols uses it to force Erin back to the horse ranch? Seriously?

Hunter lies to Erin, telling her that her dad will be at the farm, in order to get her to go back for a visit. I don't know why this would get Erin to go back. Her dad BEAT her mom and was part of the catalyst that caused her mom's death. Why in the world would she want to go see him?

It ends up not mattering, as it was all a manipulative lie in order to get Erin back to the farm. I don't even know WHY we had to get Erin back to the farm. I was expecting some kind of show down with her grandmother that never comes. Instead, Erin stays with Hunter's dad in Hunter's room (while Hunter stays in Erin's old room in the mansion). It makes no sense.

While on that trip home, Erin overhears a conversation between her grandmother and Hunter. In this conversation, it's revealed that her grandmother knows Hunter is pre-med. She sent Hunter to that college so that he could manipulate Erin in to being a business major again.

Erin is, obviously, upset by this betrayal. So, she does what any normal girl in this situation would do. She doesn't confront Hunter, she has sex with him. Totally normal, right?

Uhhhh, what?

After they have sex, she still doesn't confront him. She snuggles with him and is all 'in love' or something. Then they go to creative writing class where the story she had written before the trip is read and discussed. The story is about Erin losing her virginity to a complete jerk that she and Hunter both knew from back home. Hunter flips his shit and starts screaming at her in front of the whole class. The teacher takes the two of them back to his office where they have it out, sort of.

The teacher then acts like a therapist for them as they discuss all their romantic problems. It's weird. The teacher also tells Erin that she hasn't got a chance in hell at the internship she has been working for and, in a way, tells her she's not cut out to be a writer. How did we go from Erin being the most talented writer in the class to Erin should give up writing and run home with her tail tucked between her legs?

Right after that, Erin wakes up and Hunter is in her room packing her stuff. He tells her she needs to go home and see her grandmother. She simply says okay. Then the book ends.

What the heck? Where is the rest? I feel like this is an unfinished book and that ending infuriated me. I don't demand all loose ends be tied up, but the MAIN CONFLICTS of this story are the Erin/grandmother relationship which is NEVER resolved in any way and the Erin/Hunter relationship which seems like it's on the brink of being resolved, but the book suddenly ends.

From the previous Echols' novels I've read, I've noticed she has a tendency for rushed endings, but at least all her other books HAD an ending. This one leaves every major conflict in the story open. It also implies that Erin has to give up her dream of being a writer and go back to running the horse ranch.

Every character in this book was just so unlikable. Hunter does some pretty manipulative and deplorable stuff to Erin, but we're supposed to like him because he is in love with her? He 'stole' her inheritance, conspired behind her back with her grandmother to manipulate her in to giving up her dream and doing something she doesn't want for the rest of her life, he flat out lies to her on multiple occasions to get her to do things she doesn't want to do... he sounds like a real stand up guy! He also doesn't seem to be able to apologize for all his shit behavior. Instead, he runs around acting like he's in charge of Erin, like he gets to say what she can and can't do. HE is mad at HER because of some stupid shit in high school (omg, people made fun of him for being a stable boy! poor hunter!).

Erin's grandmother has zero redeeming qualities. I think Echols wants us to think grandma is tough as nails on the exterior, but inside is a nice sweet person... but we NEVER MEET HER to find any of this out. We get a few snippets, like Hunter claiming that grandma was really upset when Erin is in the hospital after getting hit by a car. Other than about 2-3 sentences where Hunter claims something nice about the grandmother, we get nothing.

Erin herself is just so off the wall. I don't understand her feelings or motivations. Hunter basically acts like an awful person, has stolen her inheritance, has lied to her, has manipulated her... but because he's so hot and makes her legs turn to jelly when he touches her, all that bad behavior is okay? Because she's in love with him? WHY is she in love with him? Because he wrote a story about making a solar system and watching her ride a horse? Because he writes stories about fucking all sorts of random girls to make her jealous?

Sorry, but this book is a total miss. Maybe I was expecting too much after enjoying several of Echols' other books? I don't know. But this one was terrible. When I finish reading a romance, I like to feel happy at the end, not infuriated or confused. Love Story needed 2-3 more chapters. It needed actual conflict resolution.

2 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Title: Beautiful Disaster
Author: Jamie McGuire
Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.

Beautiful Disaster on Goodreads 

Kala's Review:

For the record: I received this book for free on netgalley.

I will admit that I found this book very engaging and I couldn't put it down once I started. It flowed beautifully and the characters, while heavily flawed, were compelling. I have never read a romantic novel set in the college years - everything these days seems to either be high school or late 20's+. I like the setting, as I feel it opens up a lot more options to address issues that an author may not be able to dig in to in a YA novel.

That said, while this book had some sex and a lot of drinking (definitely brings me back to my college years!) it also features a hugely abusive relationship that is never really redeemed. Travis is an extremely violent and unstable person, and while I see the appeal of the "bad boy" at first, he never changes for the better. Instead, our "good girl" Abby is the one who changes, which made me so sad because she was such a great character.

This book starts off at an underground fight club where Travis is a fighter and Abby is the virginal nice girl. Eventually Travis and Abby become friends and, due to some really unrealistic circumstances, end up living together for awhile and eventually becoming lovers. After the first time they have sex, Abby decides she doesn't want to turn it into a relationship and leaves. When Travis wakes up and finds her gone, he trashes the apartment, breaks windows, blows up her phone, and otherwise acts like an insane violent stalker.

Abby and Travis eventually get back together, break up, get back together, break up, and every time there are violent episodes where Travis loses control and Abby even has to stay at an unknown location, because she is afraid of Travis finding her. During their breakups Travis has sex with other girls, but when Abby goes on a date with another guy he forcibly drags her out of the car and ruins her date. In fact, any time a guy even looks at Abby, or speaks to her, or speaks about her, he goes into a violent rage and beats the crap out of them.


In the end, they supposedly live happier ever after with a Vegas wedding at age 19 and matching tattoos, but that's so unrealistic considering he never got better. Like I said, Abby is the one who decided to change and just accept that her boyfriend is an overprotective violent psychopath.

Abby herself is a very interesting character. I really enjoyed the secret hidden background and I liked how for the first half of the book she didn't put up with any of Travis' shit. She dumped him after the Vegas thing and I thought that was the best thing she could do. But then she took him back. I would have preferred to see Travis grow up some, get some anger management therapy, and work on fixing his issues. Alas, it was not meant to be.

There were a few plot devices that I found a little unrealistic, but the absolute worst was the impromptu "I can't get no satisfaction" sing along in the cafeteria with the football players as backup singers. It was so cheesy and so High School Musical and doesn't belong in a novel. Maybe that kind of thing can work in a movie, but it does not work in a book and I think I eyerolled about 20 times trying to get through it.

Overall, while I did enjoy the book, I hate the romantification of abusive behavior that it promotes and that's why I can't give it more than 2 stars. I would read something else by this author though, because I think she has talent for telling a story and I'd be curious to see what else she can do.

2 of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads: