April 30, 2015

Shelley Loved It: Rook by Sharon Cameron

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Book, 464 pages
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: YA | Science Fiction
History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

Set 800 years into the future in a place known as the Sunken City, ROOK is a young adult dystopian novel that blends together a mix of the Dark Ages, without any of the technology that we enjoy today; with the French Revolution under Maximilien Robespierre and his ideas of banning religion, using the working class in an attempt to bring down the aristocracy, and putting people to the death by way of the Razor (Guillotine) who disagree with his revolution.

ROOK is Cameron's own flattering re-imaging of The Scarlet Pimpernel where a mysterious character rescues those who are scheduled to face the Guillotine. 18 year old Sophia Bellamy is the person behind the "Le Corbeau Rouge" or Red Rook mask. She is daring and courageous in her mission of rescuing the wrongly accused of being traitors under Premier Allemande. She also leaves a red-tipped rook feather behind in order to let Allemande know she doesn't agree with HIS or Albert LeBlanc's revolution.

Sophia is by far one of the most entertaining characters that I've read about in recent memory. She's a strong character who doesn't desire her father's help in guiding her life or her attempts to do good for those who are suffering under Allemande's rule. Sophia isn't a foolish character, nor does she run around every 30 seconds whining about how hard her life is. Sophia lives in the Commonwealth, which is basically England. The citizens are Luddite's who truly believe that technology destroyed the world during the Great Death. 

History repeats itself in ROOK with 18th century fashions, hairstyles, makeup, and the idea of sending off your daughters to marry wealthy men in order to save your property from being taken away. When you think about Allemende's attempt at class warfare, and killing those that don't agree with him or his politics, well, we see the same ideas raising their ugly heads today, haven't we? 

The romance was actually entertaining, which, yes, surprised me since I was prepared for an all-out twisted love triangle which infests the Young Adult genre. Sophia meets her match in Parisian Rene Hasard who she ends up betrothed to in an attempt to save her family's land, her father's life, and stopping the Commonwealth from taking the property away. Like Sophia, Rene has a few secrets of his own, and his family is definitely one of the most entertaining that you will read about, especially Emile and Maman. The romance isn't love at first sight. It is painful at times, and grinds up pages before Sophia and Rene find common ground. But, in the end, it works like a charm. 

I'll say this about ROOK, it has so many different twists and turns and surprises that you will need to take notes to remember what happened and to whom. ROOK is an entertaining story, with a not so original idea of using a polar shift to destroy mankind and the resulting refusal of future generations to fall back on the technology they blame for the world's destruction. Although polar shifts are extremely rare occurrences, they have happened. Pole's reverse themselves about every 200,000 to 300,000 years. Add to the mix subsequent holes in the ozone and the resulting fall of technology, and here's hoping that we don't have a polar shift any time in OUR lifetimes!

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April 28, 2015

Liked It: Hunted Warrior by Lindsey Piper + Series 101

Series: Dragon Kings 3
Format: ARC
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Pocket Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Sci-Fi | Fantasy | Romance
When the head of the Five Clans of the Dragon Kings wants something, he gets it. Raised among the most privileged of his dying race, Malnefoley conceals a devastating tragedy from his youth. Now, many call him the Usurper because of his unconventional rise to power. His influence is waning while the Dragon Kings must solve the puzzle of their slow extinction. So when a particularly important captive escapes his compound in the Greek mountains, Malnefoley leaves nothing to chance. She is his prisoner to retrieve.

The woman is known as the Pet, a former associate of a sadistic doctor from the Asters, a human crime cartel. Her loyalties cannot be trusted, even when she claims to hold the secret to conception—an invaluable secret for a race unable to procreate. Neither can her unique gift from the Great Dragon be believed. She’s a soothsayer, able to see glimpses of the future. Her quest is to find and save a Cage warrior on the verge of her first match—a young woman whose destiny is bound to a timeless prophecy.

Malnefoley has no respect for the ancient superstitions that brought about his childhood trauma. His only goal is to return the Pet to his compound and use her knowledge for the betterment of their people. Yet her restless energy and raw sensuality are as intriguing as her predictions about the rise of the Great Dragon. He dares not trust the crafty fugitive’s loyalties, but as their treacherous chase turns passionate, can he even trust himself?

Hi Lindsey! Congrats on the release of HUNTED WARRIOR! I'm a fan of Dragon Kings, but let's take this back a little bit for those who are new to the series. What is or are these Dragon Kings (myth, powers, the clans, etc.)?

Hi! Thanks for having me here! 

The Dragon Kings are an ancient race of gifted creatures. Though they were long ago worshipped as gods and are the origins of many human myths, they’ve long fallen into disrepair. They’ve gone nearly sterile and babies are increasingly rare among them. Many voluntarily fight for shady human cartels and gangs for scientific help with fertility. 

I find the world you created really gritty, it's like like Mad Max, Spartacus, and The Godfather had a baby. Can you expound on the world building aspect of this series?

I love Mad Max, so that’s a huge compliment to me! I took everything as dark as I could, over and over again. In Caged Warrior, Nynn and Leto come to a crux that involved a human guard and Nynn on her knees in front of him. Let’s just say I was convinced that I had gone too far—but my editor trusted the moment! I was really into Spartacus and Game of Thrones when I started designing the Dragon King’s world, so I wanted to make sure I went as deep and dark as I could manage. 

I see that GoT inspo with all the clans in conflict. Is there a series arc? What is the main conflict here?

The series arc is absolutely the Dragon King’s will to survive. There’s something wrong with their race and a prophecy that needs to be fulfilled and fixed before they have a chance of making it. 

And who can resist a prophecy when it comes to fantasy?? Let's move on to HUNTED WARRIOR, what are we getting ourselves into here? 

Malnefoley is the leader of the Dragon Kings, but the ceremony surrounding his appointment was incomplete and tainted in a way. He’s fighting an uphill battle in trying to get his people to follow him. He’s relentless though, as he tries to figure out how to save his Dragon Kings. He’s driven.

The last thing he needs is the Pet, a broken and strange Dragon King who has lived as an evil human doctor’s slave for years. Now that she’s free, she’s trying to figure out who she is and why she’s haunted by visions of the future that make no sense. 

How are Pet and Mal different from the previous ones? 

Pet is unlike anyone I’ve written before. She’s a little bit off, more than a little quirky, and has lived apart from the world all her life. Mal is a leader in the classic alpha kind of way. He can wear a suit, but he’ll kill anyone who hurts one of his own. 

Blood Warrior was truly fantastic! Is HUNTED WARRIOR sort of a continuation of book 2?

Absolutely! The five clans need their story. 

I see book 3.5, Fire Warrior, already on Goodreads, is there a book 4? 

Oops, actually Fire Warrior is supposed to be taken down. It was an idea I had when I was halfway through HUNTED WARRIOR, before I knew I could actually make it to the finale that I wanted. There’s a lot of characters that I got to draw together for the conclusion, and a lot to make happen. I managed it though, and it turned out amazingly, if I do say so myself. So exciting. 

Ha! You have to add Amazon to that list, Fire Warrior is already up for pre-order with a tentative release date of 12.1.2020!

I’m not sure if the Dragon Kings are going to continue. If I don’t get that chance, I’m happy with how I’ve wrapped things up in HUNTED WARRIOR. If I get to go on, I have more avenues to explore, but I’m happy to know the five clans will be safe otherwise. 

In Twitter fashion, why is HUNTED WARRIOR a must read?

One proud leader wields his power to unlock dark mysteries in the third book in this fierce, sensual new paranormal romance series.

Is this the end? While reading HUNTED WARRIOR by Lindsey Piper, I was kinda hoping for another one. But by book's end and after our interview, I did get a sense of closure even if I'm not quite ready to say bye-bye. Nevertheless, I am satisfied with this installment as a whole, the prophecy was fulfilled, the clans are reunited under one banner, and the Dragon Kings' future is bright and they're most likely to survive multiple millenia. 

I just didn't quite connect with Pet and Mal, despite being introduced to them in the previous books. The tension in the beginning was palpable and intriguing. Pet used to be the pet of the bad guy so naturally, Mal is suspicious of her loyalties. What the Dragon Kings don't know is Pet was tortured and used like the rest of the Kings in captivity. The only difference is Pet is an oracle of sorts, which the evil Dr. Aster thought useful somehow, so Pet's mistreatment was of the limited variety but still psychologically scarring nonetheless.

The progression of their romantic relationship was quick so there's an insta-love feel to it. Normally I don't mind it in fantasy novels, it's expected because these people have a sixth sense when it comes to identifying their mates. I just failed to be in the moment with these two. One minute they're second guessing each other, next they're ripping each other's clothes off like the world is ending in 5 minutes. I wish there was more verbal sparring that would serve as foreplay, or a series of close calls to heighten the situation before the horizontal action. 

The gravy boat was served in the last third of HUNTED WARRIOR. So many delicious revelations tying all the books together with lots of appearances by previous MC's and secondary characters . The climax was well written, it was a constant hard thump-thump of events that led to the realization of Pet's prophecy, and an actual sighting of The Dragon. This is a big deal for series followers, the title of the series is DRAGON Kings after all, it's only natural to expect reptilian sightings. And though LPiper's version is different from the norm, at least her dragon finally made an appearance. It's majestic and worth the hype, I just wish the story doesn't end here. Now that the Dragon Kings' deliverance is here, I'd like to see how their proverbial HEA (as a people) plays out. 

Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Since 2008, two-time RITA-nominated and multiple RT Reviewers’ Choice-winning author Carrie Lofty has over thirty books to her name—or four names, to be precise. Currently with Pocket, her historical romances have been described as “nuanced and superbly realized” (The Chicago Tribune), while her “Dragon Kings” paranormal series, written as Lindsey Piper, is “sexy, brutal and somehow innocent” (All About Romance).

During her junior year abroad, she lured an unsuspecting Englishman to the Midwest, where she’s kept him a happy ex-pat for seventeen years. With two pre-teen daughters and a master’s degree specializing in Old West outlaws, she’s a movie buff, a former ballroom and bellydancer, a connoisseur of music, and a woman in desperate need of a maid service.

Carrie’s 2015 titles include Hunted Warrior, the stunning conclusion to the Dragon Kings Trilogy. In addition, her co-written Katie Porter series “Command Force Alpha” began with Own, and continued with Snap and Bind.

Follow Lindsey
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April 27, 2015

Real Love Stories: Let Me Love You Again by Anna DeSteano

Anna DeStefano
Montlake Romance
April 28, 2015
Contemporary Romance

Selena Rosenthal left behind her high school sweetheart, who was the love of her life, seven years ago.

Now, she and the once-rebellious Oliver Bowman are back in Chandlerville—after his foster father’s heart attack and Selena’s contentious divorce—to deal with her secrets, the recklessness that caused their breakup, and the almost-strangers they’ve become to each other and their families.

As soon as his father is stronger, Oliver must return to the successful career that helps support a new generation of foster kids. But he’s falling for Selena again, her daughter has a hold on his heart, and he can’t imagine leaving behind his brothers and sisters once again.

More attached by the day to their charming hometown and families, Selena and Oliver fall in love for the second time.

Has fate brought Chandlerville’s prodigal children together again…this time forever?

We got a treat today because Anna's here to talk about a real life love story. Read up & go *awwww* with me as she shares how she met and fell in love with her hubby of 24 years.

I HEART having the chance to talk about what romance has meant to my life. Romance is so personal to me. It’s not always a fantasy or love at first site or something you know is happening when it’s happening. But for me, it’s always been a very real, very magical thing—in my life and in my books ;o)

I’m very lucky to still be with my husband of 24 years—which means we’ve known each other for going on 30. And, yes, since I met him when I was 18, that makes me O.L.D. I could talk about countless “storybook” romantic moments in our lives together. But did they all feel perfect when they were happening. Um…no. At least, not from the very start.

Because like many of the stories I write, including Let Me Love You Again, some of the best moments in my husband’s and my relationship have been when we cared for each other through something difficult. Something that once we were on the other side of it taught us that this was an amazing person I needed more of in my life.

So… Let’s take a peak at my “cliché” romance checklist:


This one is easy. I met my hunk of burning Italian love when our eyes met across a crowded room (at a fraternity party my daddy told me not to go to). Another guy wouldn’t take the hint and stop hitting on me, and my now husband strolled over and rescued me. Before I knew it, we’d talked all night. And then I’d taken him home at Thanksgiving to meet my daddy. And then…

By the way, a lot of what I just described has made its way, I’ve just realized, into the first meeting of my hero and heroine in His Darling Bride (Echoes of the Heart Book 3, which won’t be out until next year). Minus the frat party, but the rest… Hmmmm. Maybe I should let my husband know?


Except it was also an epic fail for most of the date. Right up until the surprise ending!

My husband (a New Yorker) learned I’d never seen a Broadway play, and he bought tickets for us to see CATS at the historic Fox Theater in Atlanta. Off we went, all dressed up and walking the few blocks from our college campus to the Fox. Holding hands on a warm Fall afternoon, we were in for a magical night… Except somewhere along the way the tickets disappeared along with his wallet, neither to be seen again.

We had to walk all the way back to his place, bummed and him steaming mad at himself and eventually me. Because he was so sure I’d never want to have anything to do with him again. So our first date turned into the warming rumbles of our first fight—until I realized why he was being such a jerk. At which point I let him have it. A kiss that is, as I told him that I wanted to go out with him, period. Whatever we ended up doing.

The play would have been nice, and I was sorry for the money he’d lost (not to mention the things in his wallet). But did he really not know how into him I was, and how amazing he already was to me? The wonder on his face, the magic of that kiss… I’m pretty sure our hearts connected honestly that night, for real, for the very first time.


We’ve had so may. I LIVE for those kinds of moments, looking back at my own love story and at the ones I’ve created for characters in books. The ones when people face conflict or challenge or hard choices together and just know, as a result of how they get through it, that they’ve met a good person whom they want in their lives forever. Not just a hunk or a perfect goddess or a sexy love connection, but also someone they can depend on to be there when they need someone the most.

One of my husband’s and my “for sure” moments was the time when we were still in college, and we were having lunch with my roommate. She was on full scholarship and financial aide, and her checks weren’t there on time. If she didn’t pay her tuition and fees that day, she was going to lose her next semester’s schedule and her housing. And she didn’t have the money. She was in tears, frantic. And this was a girl my husband barely knew.

But what did my hero do? He whipped out his checkbook for the account his parents kept for him and wrote her a check for pretty much all the money he had to live on for the next four months or so. When she said she couldn’t take it, my guy told her he trusted her to pay him back whenever her aid and scholarship money came in. She burst into tears with relief, and so did I. He very nearly did, too.

Did he do it to impress me? Maybe a little, he later confided. But he’s also the kind of guy who can’t watch someone else suffering, and not do whatever he can to help. I realized it that day. He’s proven it to me time and again through our lives together. I’d found someone I could depend on, despite the cost and risk to himself, to put whatever he had to on the line for someone he loved—and someone he barely knew.

Did I find myself a real life hero, or what?!

You definitely did! Thanks for sharing such a lovely story with us, Anna!

Anna DeStefano is the award-winning, nationally bestselling author of more than twenty-five books, including the Mimosa Lane novels and the Atlanta Heroes series. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, she’s lived in the South her entire life. Her background as a care provider and adult educator in the world of crisis and grief recovery lends itself to the deeper psychological themes of every story she writes. A wife and mother, she currently writes in a charming northeast suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, not all that different from her characters’ beloved Chandlerville. She is also a workshop and keynote speaker, a writing coach, and a freelance editor.

Website | Blog | Facebook | @AnnaDeStefano Goodreads | Pinterest | Newsletter

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April 25, 2015

Bought, Borrowed & Bagged #148: On Demand Shows

BB&B (Bought, Borrowed and Bagged) is a weekly meme, inspired my The Story Siren and Pop Culture Junkie, where we share with you the books that we have bought, borrowed or bagged (won or gifted) plus a recap of the previous week's reviews, upcoming reviews, on going events and book movie or television news. 

BB&B is an homage Barron's Books & Baubles from Karen Marie Moning's smash hit series, Fever. 


from publishers & authors

Big & Small

I started watching random shows in between books. Here's what's on my boob tube:

ALLEGIANCE (NBC | On Demand | 11E 43 mins.): It's a spy show, CIA v Russians. Super awesome conflict, the parents used to be Russian spies, they're now back in the game to counter their son who's working for the CIA. 

MANHATTAN LOVE AFFAIR (ABC | On Demand | 11E 25 mins.): A romance sitcom, playboy New Yorker falls for a straight-laced book editor fresh in Manhattan. Lots of feel good moments, great comedy breaks, perfect Summer fling.

Last Week's Reviews

It's a new year and there's a new linky for my humble weekly recap meme. Whether you're a return participant or a new hopper, THANK YOU for joining, your participation is much appreciated. 

Also as this is a laid-back meme, please use your LABEL OR TAG LINKS and not your post links that way you don't have to update your linky every week. 

April 24, 2015

Shelley Loved It: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Series: The Girl at Midnight 1 
Format: E-Book | 368 pages 
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Netgalley
Genre: YA | Urban Fantasy
Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT was one of the most anticipated reads that I had scheduled for the month of April. Set in a real world setting that takes place around the globe and under New York City, Grey tells her story via multiple characters. But, it is with 17-year old runaway thief/pickpocket and very human Echo, that Grey really excels. Echo's very being puts her in direct odds with every other character that makes an appearance in this book. But, she's not one to stand on the sidelines while everyone has all the fun.

"To know the truth, you must first want the truth."

At a young age, Echo was taken in by a race of supernaturals called the Avicen after running away from home. The Avicen (Avian) are a race of people with feathers for hair and magical abilities that live under the streets of New York City. Now, some of you are already saying, HEY, that sounds like Daughter of Smoke and Bone! But, let's move past that for a moment. Especially since there are no angel's or devils in THIS story, and even though Echo was raised by them, she knew who her parents were. 

For centuries, the Avicens under Ala and Drakharin (Dragons) under Casius, have been searching for the mythical Firebird which is said to be able to bring peace between the supernatural enemies. Peace is what both Ala and Casius wants and desires, but not everyone is on the same wavelength. It is with that in mind that Ala sends Echo on a mind blowing journey that is filled with adventure, romance, betrayal, and an awakening of sorts for Echo.

Echo is a character that loves to use bravado (sarcasm & humor) when she gets into tight places. Echo has doesn't have any of her own magic, but she can travel the in-between to get where she's going. She loves reading, and can quote from almost any book that she's read. She hoards her stolen goodies, and has a best friend in Ivy, an Avicen who is also a healer. She does have a "boyfriend" in Rowan, but perhaps her match really belongs with someone else ::wink wink:: Echo is more than determined to prove her worth to the Avicens who have been her only true family. 

THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT's other main characters are Caius, Ala, Ivy, Jasper, and Dorian. Put them together and you have an unlikely team willing to put away their differences in order to find a common cause. Caius's own sister Tanith stands in his way of finding the Firebird, while Ala'a nemesis Altair, stands in hers. Jasper is a peacock, of sorts, who is in the same business as Echo. Dorian has been by Caius's side as his guard since being saved. Ivy, Echo's best friend, really goes through a lot in this story, and I feel kind of like she's the 5th wheel at this point. Hopefully, that will change.

I do believe this is the first time I am saying that multiple character storylines actually work. I don't remember at any point, saying that I had no clue who the author was talking about. The breaks were clear, and almost always, Grey hinted at who she was writing about. Apparently, Multiple POV's can be done efficiently. 

I suck at keeping my promises of not comparing books. But, since the synopsis makes such a glaring and triumphant comparison between this book, City of Bones, & Shadow and Bone, let's go there for a moment. Because the Avicens are a race of supernaturals with feathers for hair, readers will fall back to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I don't quite see where Shadow and Bone comes in, and I do encourage you to read THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT on your own, and see if this comparison is worth its merits. I supposed seeing as the Avicen use magic to hid themselves from humans, there goes the City of Bones likeness. 

THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT is a book that I would recommend to other readers. I am understandably weary of sequels, but in this case, I am definitely eager to see where Grey takes Echo and her crew from here. I won't speak all that much on the romance angle. It kind of is what it is, and you can take it from there how you feel about it after reading the book.

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April 23, 2015

A Shot of YA: Some Kind of Normal by Juliana Stone

Series: Stand-alone(?)
Format: eGalley
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Genre: MYA-Contemporary Romance
What is Normal?

For Trevor normal was fast guitar licks, catching game-winning passes and partying all night. Until a car accident leaves Trevor with no band, no teammates and no chance of graduating. It's kinda hard to ace your finals when you've been in a coma. The last thing he needs is stuck-up Everly Jenkins as his new tutor—those beautiful blue eyes catching every last flaw.

For Everly normal was a perfect family around the dinner table, playing piano at Sunday service and sunning by the pool. Until she discovers her whole life is a lie. Now the perfect pastor's daughter is hiding a life-changing secret, one that is slowly tearing her family apart. And spending the summer with notorious flirt Trevor Lewis means her darkest secret could be exposed.

It was about meeting someone who kind of knocked you on your ass. A girl who wasn't anything like I imagined. A girl who was hiding stuff, and just like me, she was hoping no one would notice.
So maybe we could hide together, or maybe we could fix each other. [Trevor]

Oh my heart! Juliana Stone, why do you always give it such a firm but gentle squeeze?? You guys! SOME KIND OF NORMAL is my first Summer-ish read and it. Was. Wonderful! In case you didn't notice the 5-cauldron rating. And if you haven't tried Juliana Stone's contemporary romances (there's a couple of FREEBIES on Amazon), I suggest you do! Her stories are always relatable, realistic, and heartfelt, you'll come back for more to get the feels! 

So I don't know if SOME KIND OF NORMAL is part of a series or what. A sequel was mentioned in the end of Boys Like You, and Trevor was first introduced there... That said, this novel can be read as stand-alone, although I suggest you still read both... for the feels! Anyway, Trevor had it rough. He just came out of a coma after getting into an drunk driving accident and now things are sorta, kinda, normal with a few kinks that requires a lot of adjustment, positivity, and resilience from our young leading man. 

Trevor Lewis' struggle was very believable to me. I appreciated that he wasn't angry all the time, he didn't dwell on the things he used to have, things he used to and can't do anymore because of the after effects of his accident. I find it normal for him to be frustrated at times, but almost losing his life gave him some perspective, and helped him understand the difference between concern and control. Trevor's a good guy overall, I expected him to pull the "victim" card but instead he surprised me by still maintaining a good vibes attitude. Suffice to say that Trevor wasn't in a dark place that he failed to spot Everly's need for friendship and empathy.

Everly (I love her name!) Jenkins was the pastor's daughter and everyone put her in this "perfect box". What people don't know is her "perfect" family is going through a rough patch. For once, I love a young adult heroine who didn't make every stupid thing about her! Anyway, Everly's issue is about her parents' crumbling marriage and I was astounded with how matured she handled the situation. I think it's expected that Everly had her moments. After all, she's only 17 and is forced to share the burden of her parent's issues. But on those tense confrontational moments, Everly was very mature and even wise for her years. And amidst all of her personal problems, Everly still found it in her to extend the same empathy Trevor gave her in the beginning. And fixing each other is exactly what they did. 

I had a personal connection with SOME KIND OF NORMAL, this story hit so close to home, it set me in a melancholic/contemplatative mood after reading it. These kids are dealt sour lemons and I love how they turned it into a sweet and tangy lemonade. There was just one part that I felt was unneccessary, I don't think the dirty laundry here should've been aired in that manner. But for the sake of dramatic tension, I'll give it a pass. Fans of Katie McGarry will totally get into this series, it's not as angsty as Pushing The Limits, but just as hard hitting. I just love this (series) so much I hope there's another on the way!

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April 22, 2015

Suped Feature: At The Stars by Elisabeth Staab & The New Adult Tropes

At The Stars
Elisabeth Staab
New Adult Contemporary Romance
May 5, 2015

I was a normal teenager who loved music and dancing, until the day I was attacked in my favorite record store. A few years later when my mom succumbed to depression and took her own life, I couldn’t stay in my hometown with all the memories and the curious stares. I decided to get in my car and just go – except my car decided it was done going outside a tiny place called Evergreen Grove. That’s where I found Jake. Or I guess Jake found me.

For the last eight years, all I can think about is the day I ended another man’s life. Then I manage to save Cassie’s, and I feel like maybe I’ve got some kind of second chance. To do what I couldn’t before, or maybe even for something bigger. Something like love. If only I could feel like I deserve her.

All at once she bites her lip and I see her going for the drinks, but I slap my hand over hers. “You shouldn’t be walking home late. It’s dangerous.”
She gives me a look like she’s being patient with me. “It was good enough to get here. I’ll have AJ with me. We’ll be fine.”
She gestures toward the patio door where her buddy is probably waiting for her to return with the drinks. Dante chooses that moment to come inside, and I don’t like how he’s looking at her. Too much like he had a good dinner, and she could be dessert.
The icing on the cake comes when AJ calls through the open door. “Hey birthday girl, you bringing us drinks or what?”
Stupid fucker.
Dante grins at Cassie, veering her way like a homing missile. “Birthday girl, eh?”
She smiles slightly, trying to take the drinks again. “What do I owe you?”
My hand tightens over hers. “On the house.” I lean close, so nobody else can hear me over the din of music and chatter in the bar. “If you let me give you and AJ a ride back tonight.”
I can’t even believe it when she starts to pull away. “I can pay for the drinks.”
I’m still gripping her hand and feeling a surprising unwillingness to let the subject drop. “You’re not walking home in the dark on a night when everybody’s out getting stupid, with nobody but your skinny sidekick for protection.”
She presses her lips together, giving me what I figure is supposed to be a death stare for a few seconds before she caves. “Fine. My feet hurt anyway,” she says with a slight smile.
Cassie turns to go back to her table with her friend, and I turn to deal with Dante. My chest is tight and my heart is skipping around. I don’t take time to wonder why getting what I wanted has me more weirded-out than I was before.

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I love Elisabeth Staab, she had me trying and reading a few things that I won't necessarily gravitate to, but end up liking. So even if New Adult isn't my cuppa, I trust her enough to know that I will at the very least enjoy AT THE STARS. She's here today to talk about NA tropes this genre is notorious for. 

A Tattooed Bad Boy, a Teenage Runaway, and a Wounded Heroine Walk Into a Bar

(Look, Mom, I wrote a new adult novel!)
By Elisabeth Staab

Okay, so first? Thank you to Braine for letting me come on the blog. Second? I honestly don’t think my mom will ever read any of my books, and that’s probably best for everyone involved. ;)

So. New adult. I started reading the genre a little while after it emerged, I guess, and I found I loved it for all the reasons I found it so heartbreaking to read: it took me back to a difficult and confusing time in my life. YA is similar, of course, except the characters in NA are largely on their own and struggling to find their place in the world. The stakes are higher, in theory, with little or no parental safety net.

It’s a genre that tackles many complex issues, and some that I think are particularly important during that early-adult period in a person’s life. Sarina Bowen’s recent release, The Shameless Hour, does an excellent job of casting a light on slut shaming, and Robin York’s Deeper similarly takes on “revenge porn.”

The emotional punch of these kinds of topics are why I thought I’d never want to write NA (not that all NA is angsty). As much as I loved reading these books, my own college-aged years were difficult, and I didn’t want to revisit that time period even in a fictional sense.

Next thing I knew I was writing At the Stars.

Cassie and Jake came to me a little over two years ago, in the middle of the night. I guess that’s fitting, since that’s when they meet. Cassie is stranded by the road in the dark, and Jake saves her.

I resisted writing At the Stars as hard as Jake resisted his attraction to Cassie, which is probably why it took two years to finish.

Is it an “average” new adult novel? I think yes and no.

Some of the things that you might expect to find in an average new adult novel do not appear in At the Stars. There’s not much sex, because Cassie is an assault survivor and Jake spends most of the book trying to convince himself he is not going to sleep with her. Anyone who’s read my adult novels knows I don’t shy away from writing explicit love scenes when the moment calls for it, but for these characters it didn’t fit (it’s character dependent, really. I suspect there will be more on-page sex in the sequel, because those characters have a different story to tell).

There will also be no billionaires in At the Stars, which according to my recent Amazon searches are also common in NA right now (and where are these kids getting all their money? When I was in my 20’s I lived on Ramen and cold pizza). And no step-siblings, which might be a bummer, because apparently those books are selling like hotcakes.

There is plenty of classic angst in At the Stars (one of Jake’s scenes makes me cry whenever I read it, because I’m a sap like that). There’s a wounded heroine—I say wounded rather than damaged, because Cassie is a survivor, and we meet her in At the Stars when she is in the process of picking up a life that recently fell apart. She’s healing, and while she makes some very human mistakes (as all 21 year old girls do), she fights for her happiness, which is what we all want, ultimately.

And then there’s Jake, who I love beyond all reason. He’s probably one of my favorite heroes that I’ve written. He ran away from home as a teenager, and soon after there was a terrible accident where a friend died. He blames himself. He tries so hard to keep the world away, and by the time he meets Cassie he doesn’t even realize how much he’s dying for someone to love.

So as many times as I stopped and put the book aside because it didn’t fit anywhere in my to-do list, Jake pushed me to pick it back up. And then finally I saw the picture that would become the cover for At the Stars, and I was stuck. I had to finish.

And now, here we are. Wounded heroine? Check. Bad boy who ran away from home? Check. Angst? Check. A little humor? Check. Gay sidekick who used to be a male escort? I wasn’t aware, but I read something recently about the prevalence of gay BFFs in new adult. I swear I hadn’t noticed that trend, but anyway, Cassie has one of those too.

Happy ending? I don’t write them any other way.

Happy reading, everyone!

Elisabeth Staab loves passionate stories and happy endings. Her books have been called “emotionally delicious,” “action-packed,” and “gloriously snarky.” When not writing romance, she enjoys date night with her husband, reading Harry Potter with her kids, and marathoning her favorite books or TV series. 

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