<![CDATA[Between the Pages Book Blog - Reviews]]>Mon, 22 Feb 2016 23:45:02 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Beyond What is Given (Flight and Glory #3) by Rebecca Yarros]]>Thu, 25 Feb 2016 04:20:00 GMThttp://between-the-pages.weebly.com/reviews/beyond-what-is-given-flight-and-glory-3-by-rebecca-yarros
There’s just something about military romances that draw me in like a moth to a flame. And of all the military romances I’ve read, Rebecca Yarros’ Flight and Glory Series ranks high up there on my list as some of the most moving books I’ve read in this particular sub-genre. I’ve read both Full Measures and Eyes Turned Skyward but Beyond What is Given, which tells Sam and Grayson’s story, takes the cake!

Synopsis:
Lt. Grayson Masters is focused on graduating the Apache helicopter course, and the last thing he needs is his gorgeous new roommate Samantha Fitzgerald distracting him. While her smart mouth and free spirit are irresistibly irritating, he can’t deny their off-the-charts chemistry, no matter how hard he tries.

Having just been expelled from college, Sam has no business digging for Grayson’s secrets while she’s hiding her own, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to tear down his walls. Each barrier she busts through drops one of her own, though, and she’s not prepared for the truth: another woman laid claim to Grayson’s heart long ago.

Falling in love is something neither Grayson nor Sam can afford, and when that line is crossed and secrets are exposed, they’ll learn that sometimes it’s the answered prayers that will put you through hell.
Okay, let me start by saying that I’ve always had a soft spot for brooding male characters with that quintessential chip on his shoulder. Grayson Masters fit the bill to a T and I felt like a school girl with her first ever crush. From the first time I met Grayson in Eyes Turned Skyward, I knew there was a story there somewhere (or at least I hoped there were), and what a story it was!
 
Beyond What is Given follows Samantha and Grayson’s story, how they found each other and fought all the odds stacked against them. And trust me, in the spirit of not giving anything away, let’s just say that there was a huge and precarious stack of odds that threatened to topple over and crush what they had with every choice these two conflicted characters made.
 
Samantha Fitzgerald is a character many readers can relate to. She’s headstrong, sarcastic, and every bit the solid heroine every good romance novel needs. But what makes her human is that she’s not perfect, not by a long shot. Sam is running from a mistake that is nearly costing her her entire collegiate career. Sam has built a wall around her heart to keep from making the same mistake. She’s ready for a new start but it all goes to shit when she realizes that whatever she does, that one terrible mistake continues to sabotage whatever fresh start she thinks she has made for herself. Lost and unmoored, Sam struggles to piece her life back together but dark, moody, hot-as-sin Grayson Masters (and Sam’s new roommate) makes it difficult for her to concentrate on anything but wondering how those rock hard abs feel.
 
But if Sam had brick walls, Grayson makes hers look like a garden fence compared to his. I guess what drew Sam and Grayson together was the fact that they were both running from their pasts. There’s always something more to the dark, moody, brooding guy of the story and Grayson does not disappoint. Grayson is dead set on topping his class to prove himself but being a serious pilot barely skims what is haunting this man. Grayson is also running from a past he can’t escape, tethered to a tragedy by the guilt that he carries even five years later. When Sam comes into the picture, Grayson was unsure how to deal with the foreign feelings his wild spitfire of a housemate stirs up in him, feelings that he believed died long ago in the same accident that changed him.
 
But when the past they’re desperate to leave behind finally catches up with them, both Sam and Grayson had to find the strength to hold on tight. And just when you thought they finally figured it out, Fate throws a wrench in their plans. A pretty big wrench. One the size of Texas, probably. And man, if I thought trying to deny their feelings was bad enough, it had NOTHING on them trying to actually hold on to those feelings in the face of the only thing that can destroy them. And when the dust settled, both Sam and Grayson had to piece themselves back together before they can find each other.
The best part about these characters is that they are not built on one another like many romance novel characters are. They are distinct, each with their own flavor and persona that does not take away from the chemistry between the two characters. The story is told in alternating perspectives (both Sam and Grayson), which made it even more evident how both characters are, well, a characters of his/her own.  I loved how the story played out in a way that allowed Sam and Grayson to resolve their pasts on their own. It was painful and heartbreaking to read but I appreciated how that spin on their story beautifully showcased how strong both of them are in their own right.

Another thing that is so inherently unique to Rebecca Yarros' Flight and Glory series is that she gives her readers a peek into the world of military families. Written by someone who comes from a military family herself, Beyond What is Given (the entire series, for that matter) depicts an honest and authentic feel of what military families go through. There's no shortage of that as readers also get to experience the family drama between Sam and her mother who, for almost the entirety of the book, is deployed on duty.

Of course, I can't help but mention how flawless the story fit in with the rest of the series and how the characters' lives intertwine with one another. There's Josh and Ember from Full Measures, Jagger, Paisley, Morgan, and Carter from Eyes Turned Skyward... readers feel as if they are immersed in the world of these characters and it provides a sense of continuity between the novels. Even though each book in the series follows a different couple, it doesn't feel chopped up, which, to be honest, often happens in this kind of series format.

 
Rebecca Yarros wrote Beyond What is Given with the fluidity I’ve come to expect from her first two books. Each page flows seamlessly to the next making the experience as immersive as a book can possibly be. I must admit that Beyond What is Given is definitely emotionally heavier than Full Measures and Eyes Turned Skyward and I admire Rebecca Yarros so much for pulling it off, for bringing to life every gamut of emotion that the story demanded. You know a book is good when you’re still up at 3 in the morning, trying to read past the tears in your eyes. Beyond What is Given is an emotionally-loaded story that would take readers up and down and all the way around but still hold you to your seat until the ride is over. 

LINKS

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<![CDATA[A Perfect Ten (Forbidden Men #5) by Linda Kage]]>Sat, 18 Apr 2015 13:34:23 GMThttp://between-the-pages.weebly.com/reviews/a-perfect-ten-forbidden-men-5-by-linda-kage
OREN fucking TENNING has been my favorite Forbidden man right from the very beginning. And A PERFECT TEN is nothing short of a perfect story for the most perfect couple in this series IMHO.

Synopsis:
Let your hair down, Caroline, they said. It'll be fun, they said. 

I know I've closed myself off in a major way over the past year, ever since “the incident” where I messed up my life completely. It's past time I try to live again or just give up altogether. But this is quite possibly the craziest thing I've ever done. In a last ditch effort to invigorate myself, I'm standing outside Oren Tenning's bedroom, I just peeled off the sexiest pair of underwear I own, and my hand is already raised to knock. My brother would disown me for doing anything with his best friend, and he'd probably kill Oren. But if I play my cards right, no one will ever know about this. Not even Ten. 

Maybe after tonight, I’ll finally get over this stupid, irrational crush I hate having on the biggest jerk I’ve ever met. Or maybe I’ll just end up falling for him even harder. Maybe I’ll discover there’s so much more to my crude, carefree hunk than meets the eye.
I finished reading A PERFECT TEN just now. Literally. I usually give myself time to process a book before I start writing my review but I can’t keep myself from gushing how amazing this book is.

Linda Kage just delivered the perfect story. Seeing as how amazing the series has been going, I had no idea how she can get any better than she already is. But she has and it blew me away. A Perfect Ten packs the perfect (I should stop using the word perfect any day now) combination of drama, angst, sexiness, comedy, and romance. With interesting characters, a kick-ass storyline, and some seriously outstanding writing, Linda Kage definitely gives her readers the kind of book that they’d love to read over and over and over again. I mean, just look at me, I just flipped the last page and I’m itchin to read through my favorite scenes already!

Like I said, Ten has always been my favorite character out of the entire gang. Just like Caroline, I always fall for the badboy types and Oren Tenning has the word badboy written all over his hot, sarcastic, vulgar self. And if that doesn’t make me want to fall onto my knees and worship in the temple of Oren Tenning, I don’t know what will.

A Perfect Ten kind of picks up where With Every Heartbeat left off. I mean, the tension between Caroline and Ten has been off-the-charts and they aren’t even the main characters! And now we get to see where their sizzling chemistry would take these two spitfires. Linda Kage did not disappoint as she brought Caroline and Ten together in such an explosive way! I knew they’d get together eventually but MIDNIGHT VISITOR? That was hysterical!

Ten and Caroline’s story basically revolves not on the way they found each other but on how they managed to stay together despite of the odds against them. They have Ten’s manwhoring past to contend with, which was easier said than done given Caroline’s own track record when it comes to relationships. Let’s not forget Caroline’s, as Ten himself put it, “overprotective, homicidal, big brother” who just so happens to be Ten’s bestfriend. So yeah… not a pretty combination; readers would know that it’s going to get really messy when shit hits the fan.

From the previous books, we’ve always seen Ten as this rowdy, foul-mouthed, manwhore. In A Perfect Ten, Linda Kage writes about an almost completely different Ten than we’ve come to love. The best part about it is, what we learn about Ten in this book does not negate what we already know about him. In fact, all it did was make readers understand what circumstances led him to become the Ten we all know and love, which made him an even more loveable character than he already is. I adore how tender and sweet he is when it comes to Caroline. It’s always been there right from the start and it’s was a delight to see behind the pretenses that he erects just to hide his feelings for Caroline in order to save his friendship with Noel. As much of a douchebag we thing Ten is, he is nothing if not loyal… even loyal enough to keep himself away from the only woman who has ever had his heart just to respect his bestfriend’s wishes. But the heart wants what it wants and it was only a matter of time before something gave. It turns out, he can’t keep his hands off Caroline after all. It was painful to read Ten come to terms with his feelings and what he has done. Going behind Noel’s back to date Caroline goes against Ten’s loyal nature but even that is overpowered by addiction he has for Caroline.

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And sweet, sweet Caroline. Readers first meet Caroline Gamble in To Professor, With Love. What happened to her wasn’t something you’d wish on your worst enemy (well, for Cora the Whora, I’d make an exception). In With Every Heartbeat, we got to see her come out of her shell bit by bit as she found her place in the gang together with Zoey. It’s no secret that she has a thing for Oren Tenning. Her own addiction to Oren reaches its boiling point when her decision finally brought them together. Being with Oren was more than she could have ever dreamed possible but being with him also brought its own set of roadblocks. Just like keeping everything a secret and going behind everyone’s backs just to be with the man she loved. This becomes a sore point for the characters as Caroline had been someone’s dirty little secret and it didn’t end well.

Through it all, we see how both Ten and Caroline evolved. We see how they both mature… Ten in the way he really stepped up and changed his life around to prove to everyone, himself especially, that he is someone who is worthy of Caroline. We also see Caroline as she takes control of her life after everything she has been through. We see her come a long way from the meek, quiet, subdued girl that she was and into a strong independent young woman who knows how to make up her mind and won’t take no for an answer when it comes to things that matter. 

Laced through the drama is Linda Kage’s trademark humor, which becomes even more prominent seeing as this is Ten we’re talking about. I enjoyed reading this book from start to finish. There were moments (a lot of them) when I actually laughed out loud, loud enough to get weird glances from people around me. And I honest-to-goodness shed a few tears during the last few pages. Man, that was a totally unexpected punch to the gut. A Perfect Ten takes first place as my favorite book in this series. 

Now that I’ve gotten everything out of my chest, I’m definitely recommending that you go get your copy of A Perfect Ten (purchase links below)! Trust me, you won’t regret it.

LINKS

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of PRICE OF A KISS , Book 1 of Linda Kage's Forbidden Men Series
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<![CDATA[Revved (Revved #1) by Samantha Towle]]>Wed, 15 Apr 2015 11:03:23 GMThttp://between-the-pages.weebly.com/reviews/revved-by-samantha-towle

Ever since I was a kid, I have always been fascinated with cars and Formula1. My father is a big fan of the sport and growing up with boys who can only talk about two things, cars and computer games, kind of cemented my fascination as well. You guys wouldn’t believe how long I’ve been scouring the book world for a romance novel that features Formula1. So imagine my delight when my cousin Ana (of Ana Rabacca Book Blog)  recommended REVVED to me.

SYNOPSIS:
Race car mechanic Andressa "Andi" Amaro has one rule—no dating drivers. With a good reason behind the rule, she has no plans on breaking it.

Carrick Ryan is the bad boy of Formula One. With a face and body that melts panties on sight, and an Irish lilt that leaves women on their knees, begging for more. He races hard and parties harder. The youngest driver to ever sign with F1, he’s still at the top of his game five years later, breaking hearts on and off the tracks.

When Andi is offered her dream job working in the glamorous world of F1, she leaves her home in Brazil, positive she can handle working for Carrick. But she’s not prepared for the off-the-chart sparks that fly the moment they meet.

Now, Andi has a crush on the one man she can’t have, and her resolve is about to be put to the test, because Carrick has decided he wants Andi, and he plans on testing her to the very limit…
I devoured Revved in such a short time. I just could not get enough of the characters, the story, the world that Samantha Towle created. She got the whole Formula1 gig down to a T which made the story believable and honest. That’s one of the best thing I loved about it, actually. Just by reading the story, you’d know that Samantha Towle delved into the inner workings of the Formula1 business. Formula1 is known for the fast cars, the drivers, the sponsors so the way she presented the story was intriguing, exciting, and definitely not something you'd see everyday.

Revved is all about Andi Amaro. I felt an instant connection with Andi. Where I am a mere spectator of the sport, Andi’s whole life revolved around it. Well, what would you expect, her father is the great William Wolfe, one of the greatest Formula1 drivers of all time. All that comes to a screeching halt for 10-year-old Andi when an accident on the tracks of Monaco shattered everything in her world.

After her father’s accident, she tried to distance herself from the life that took her family away. And now, fourteen years later, Andi can no longer run away form what she is meant to do. After all, she is still her father’s daughter. With her degree in Mechanical Engineering and NASCAR experience under her belt, Andi’s back on the Formula1 scene as a mechanic for one of the best drivers in recent history, Carrick Ryan.

As good as Carrick Ryan is behind the wheel, he’s even better with women. And as much as Andi wants to deny the attraction she feels for Carrick, even she can’t escape the pull he has on her. This is the last thing that Andi wants. Carrick’s playboy ways is bad enough but in Andi’s mind, the fact that he’s a driver is an even bigger problem. She’s lost one too many loved ones to Formula1. Is she willing to risk losing her heart all over again to the same fate?

I’m not a big fan of love at first sight but the way Samantha Towle painted Carrick and Andi’s felt just right. Yes, there was instant attraction, which I guess should be expected thanks to Andi’s supermodel genes and Carrick’s all-around hottie vibes. What I love most about this pairing was that it wasn’t entirely based on physical attraction alone. It may have started out that way but the dynamics between these two characters revolved on the genuine companionship they have found in each other.

Both Andi and Carrick are closed off when it comes to romantic relationships. Andi’s fears come from losing her father and watching her mother go through the pain of losing him; Carrick’s from past experiences of being left behind and his ideology to be the one who does the leaving before anybody can ever do it again to him. What’s surprising is how these two characters, who have so many odds stacked against them, found their way to each other and be the happiness they deserve but are too afraid to pursue.
What made Revved an even more amazing book is how her characters are flawed. They’ve each got their fears and weaknesses. They are complex personalities all on their own, something that I’ve come to associate with Samantha Towle’s character building. Her characters have depth which makes them jump out of the page.

I loved how her characters stay true to themselves, especially Carrick! I’ve read so many books before where the male protagonists change their man-whoring ways the instant they meet the girl. Which, unfortunately for hopeless romantics out there (myself, included), isn’t really the case. Carrick breaks away from the fold. Even after he meets Andi, has admitted to being kinda, sorta in-love with her, and gets rejected, he is still the arrogant, self-entitled jerk we meet in the first place. It’s kinda weird to like him for that fact but I guess it makes his character even more believable. He owns up to his flaws and admits to it, even if it means not being the stand-up guy every reader expects him to become. 

As much as I loved these characters, there are still some parts where I thought the author may have overplayed some of the key plot devices. Andi’s fears, for example. Her fear of falling in love with a driver and losing him the way she lost her father defines her character. But  I think the author could have played up Andi some more rather than just focusing on this fatal flaw. Which really was fatal for her relationship with Carrick at some point. It kind of made Andi’s character a bit too bland for me whereas Carrick’s all troubled history with an even more notorious present. 

The dynamics between the other characters in the books was well-formulated, as well. Like I’ve mentioned before, Samatha Towle’s characters are unique persons all on their own and not just mere clones of one another.

All in all, Revved was such a great read for me and not just because I’m a fan of Formula1. It’s well-written which comes with the territory since Samantha Towle wrote it. The story is rich and believable with a refreshing take on a world not many authors (that I know of) seem to have delved into yet. And now I can’t wait to read more! Perhaps something about Ben or Petra after Leandro Silva’s book? *crosses fingers*

LINKS

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<![CDATA[At Any Moment (Gaming the System #3) by Brenna Aubrey]]>Sun, 26 Oct 2014 02:40:47 GMThttp://between-the-pages.weebly.com/reviews/at-any-moment-gaming-the-system-3-by-brenna-aubrey
*A big thanks to the author for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

*Guia has entered the world of Yondareth*

From the very beginning of Adam and Mia’s journey, this series has been a book after my own geeky heart. AT ANY MOMENT brings the story to a conclusion in ways that you would not have expected it. It’s definitely not how envisioned how the series would play out but it does not make the story any less addicting.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Draco the dragon stars (see what I did there? *wink wink*)
It’s Dangerous to Go Alone!

Mia Strong never expected to be deciding the rest of her life at age twenty-two. Is she willing to become a human lab rat? Does she need to write a will? Does she ever want a family--and if so, with whom? She can't dodge the tough questions--not if she plans to live to see twenty-three. With her life hanging in the balance, Mia wants nothing more than to rely on Adam Drake, but he’s hurt her before.

You Must Gather Your Party Before Venturing Forth…

Adam Drake knows that he's made mistakes, but when he discovers what Mia's facing, he realizes how much those mistakes could cost him. Now he has to choose between being the man who can save Mia's life or the man she can love. No matter how much it tears him apart, Adam knows he has to put Mia first...even if it means he's out of the picture entirely.

Will their love survive this epic battle or is it game over?

This novel is the third and final book in Adam and Mia's trilogy, but they will be featured in future Gaming the System novels.
I’m not lying when I said that AAM was a bit of a far cry from the first book. When I first got hooked on this series, I was immediately pulled in by the quirky characters, the funny as hell scenes, the witty writing, and the whole premise of two gamers falling in love in the most unusual circumstances. I was content to have the same type of feel-good story play out for the rest of the book but imagine my surprise (the good kind) when AT ANY TURN became one massive turning point for the whole story.

AT ANY MOMENT starts right where AAT ends. Adam and Mia thought they have everything figured out. They’ve moved in together, they’re working together… but being together is more than just the physical aspect. When all that shit hit the fan, all the secrets and the lies imploded in their faces leading up to the events at the end of AAT. In AAM, we witness as Adam and Mia deals with the aftermath of the disaster that is their relationship. And the stakes just became higher as Mia’s health threatens to take them away from each other… for good.

They’re determined to make it work between them but Adam wants to go one way and Mia wants to another way. They’re both headstrong characters and it becomes messy as they go head to head against each other. But something’s gotta give and when it does, it creates a whole new shitfest of problems that Mia and Adam need to face. This adds an unbelievable strain to their already strained relationship and you just know that this arrangement they’re calling a relationship is a fragile house of cards that’s about to come crashing down sooner or later.

AT ANY MOMENT drives Adam and Mia’s story headlong into the sharp curve the story took in AAT and it was one hell of a ride. It’s just like playing Mario Kart but imagine all your opponents having unlimited ammo. Adam and Mia are hit with choices and decisions left and right, and sometimes a decision that may be right for one of them is the one thing that would break the other one down.

The thing that I absolutely LOVED about it is that Brenna Aubrey shows readers what happens when it’s game over for two people who have tried desperately to make it work at each and every turn. It’s daring, to say the least. It’s not everyday when you read a book and just know that there’s a very real chance that it may not work out for Mia and Adam. I know Brenna Aubrey said on GR that Adam and Mia will get their happily ever after but with every page, I can’t help but doubt how their happily ever after would play out. There was always this niggling though at the back of my mind that their HEA won’t be with each other. And that was one of the things that kept me up late into the night, enduring each heartbreaking page as I raced through the book to see what the author had in store for these two characters that I’ve grown to love.

Brenna Aubrey was not afraid to show her readers how ugly love can get. After everything that these characters already went through, it’s kind of painful to even consider the possibility that this might be the end for them, after all. AAM shows love in it’s darkest light as doubt and mistrust drives a wedge between two characters that were just meant to be together! I’ve been OTP-ing Adam and Mia from the very beginning and I was afraid that it wasn’t meant to be after all. And it sucked because, just as Heath so eloquently put it, 
“I’m pissed. If you two don’t make it then there’s no hope for the rest of us.”
In AAM, readers are faced with the fact that love isn’t always hearts and flowers and butterflies. But despite of the secrets and the lies that threaten to tear them apart, we see all these tender moment between them to remind us that even in the most difficult times, love shines through. 
That sounds sooooo hopeless romantic of me but it’s the one thing that gave me hope for Adam and Mia. I especially adored the Paris part and it took me back to the first book when they’ve just begun to fall for each other. They’ve both been through so much in such a short time and I guess that whole part kind of rounds the story in a way. It’s like they were getting to know each other again after everything that has happened. And that was the moment I knew that everything is going to be fine for these two.

Adam and Mia needed a lot of soul-searching in order to sort through their own messed up selves before they can begin to get to know one another again. But it’s through their journey towards self-discovery, acceptance, and resolution that they find themselves on the same path, after all.

Just when you thought the game was over, you get a respawn. That’s what happens to Adam and Mia in AT ANY MOMENT and it was such a privilege to witness the happy ending they deserved. They’ve battled more than their share of trolls, it’s about time they claim their victory.

There are still some loose ends I would have loved to see tied up more nicely but I guess those are things I would just look forward to in the next books (yes, NEXT BOOKS, I knooooow! *high-pitched fangirl squealing*).

All in all, Brenna Aubrey brings Adam and Mia’s trilogy into an amazing conclusion. Adam and Mia’s journey is not always rainbows and butterflies (thanks, Maroon 5!) but it’s one heck of an adventure all the same. If you haven’t read Brenna Aubrey’s Gaming the System books, then you’re definitely missing out! Go pick up a copy from your nearest bookstore. You won’t regret it. It’s a story that members of the nerd herd would truly appreciate. I know I did.

P.S.
This may be a bit unrelated but, man, aside from the absolute joy of reading, Brenna Aubrey made me wish for those long nights spent playing computer games with my brother and cousins on my rig. Even though AAM was centered on Adam and Mia as they tried to navigate their relationship, a Gaming the System novel won’t be complete without the nerd herd stuff threaded throughout it. I was in geek heaven! Can I just say that I want a real life DE game. Oh, and throw in a real-life Adam Drake for good measure.


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<![CDATA[Shame (Ruin #3) ´╗┐by Rachel van Dyken]]>Sun, 05 Oct 2014 14:43:38 GMThttp://between-the-pages.weebly.com/reviews/shame-by-rachel-van-dyken
*ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review*

I’ve been a die-hard fan of Rachel van Dyken ever since RUIN. It’s one of the very first NA novels I’ve read so it’s no wonder that this series is very close to my heart. RvD captured my heart with RUIN, gripped me tighter with TOXIC, and still kept pulling me under with FEARLESS.

I was afraid to read SHAME because Lisa isn’t really one of my favorite characters in the first two-and-a-half books. I guess, in my mind, the books preceding SHAME set the bars so high that I didn’t know how RvD would top them.

I’m not disappointed with how SHAME turned out but I’m not totally pleased either. I’m still on the fence whether I want to love it or not so let’s just give it…

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis:
Everything done in darkness, will eventually be brought into the light.

I ran, but all it did was keep me one step ahead of my past. I tried to start over; new name, new identity. But you can't change your soul.
A fresh start at college was just what I needed. For a while, it worked. I was the party girl, the one that seemed confident, but it was a lie.
When guys kissed me--I felt only pain. 
When they touched me--Nothing but fear.

Deep inside, every girl wants to be the beauty in the story, to find someone that will see you as their world. 
But the truth? I was the beast. And as much as I wanted redemption, I wasn't fool enough to think I'd ever get it. 
Until he walked into my life.

I wasn't prepared to fall for someone. My scars were too deep, the wounds too raw. But he offered me peace, he offered me security. I should have known it was just another lie--I should have known that falling in love with my professor was a bad idea.
But I was powerless to stop myself from falling. 
And he was powerless to catch me.

Because the darkness finally caught up to me, and as fate would have it, a cruel twist almost bled me dry. But I'm stronger than I knew. I'm stronger than you think.
You think you know my story, but you don't....after all everyone has Shame in their lives-- and I'm no longer afraid to show you mine.
Like I said, I’m not Lisa’s biggest fan at the beginning. I’ve always thought she was just Gabe’s shallow, airheaded groupie. Little did I know how much more complicated she is as a character. That’s the thing with Rachel and her books. She introduces some of her supporting characters so off-handedly that readers wouldn’t really suspect how deep she can delve into her characters to bring out the most emotional and gut wrenching parts of them. For me, that’s what she did with Lisa. Man, was I wrong about what I originally thought of her. If Wes and Gabe had baggage, Lisa had a whole truckload.

Initially, I thought SHAME wasn’t bringing any of RvD’s usual kapow factor. It started out slowly and the scenes seemed a bit like on NA cliché after another. First, we have a heroine that’s hounded by the demons of her past. Lisa is running from all the baggage she thought she’d left behind and like most NA heroines, that’s usually where it starts. Right from the prologue, it was clear as day how fucked up that whole situation is. Mel, as she was previously known, had been in the abusive relationship of all abusive relationships. She was a pawn in game much larger than she is. And the truth of the matter is, she knows just how much damage she’s doing… she just doesn’t care. All she cared about was keeping  Taylor in her life, no matter how fucked up their relationship is (if you can even call it that).

Together, Lisa and Taylor started t website that exploits the shame of people in the most lurid of ways. And as Taylor had always used Lisa as a means to an end, to satisfy his own sadistic desires and relish other people’s shame and humiliation. Then one tragic night turned Lisa’s world upside down and she’d done everything to get away from that life as far as she possibly can.
She thought she’d left her old life behind but she got the shock of a lifetime when she comes across a dead ringer for her dead ex-boyfriend. No pun intended. Turns out, the Taylor look-alike is no other than her new professor. Despite the eerie similarities between Taylor and Tristan, she can’t help but feel this unexplained attraction to the man. He oozes sensuality in everything he does. The fact that he’s a teacher doesn’t even faze Lisa. Much. All she knows is that after one kiss, he’s all she can think about, no matter how much she tried to distance herself from him physically and emotionally. But he makes it difficult for her to do just that when it seems like he’s everywhere.

Even as a reader, it was so easy to feel the sexual tension between these two powerful characters. The scenes become so emotionally charged whenever they’re together and each encounter brims with sexiness. I think Tristan’s alpha-male persona that makes it that way. Like most of her books, RvD creates such multidimensional characters that add depth to her stories.
The dynamics of the characters here in SHAME is so much more fucked up compared to the first two. I swear. Taylor was messed up in all the ways a person can be and it’s heartbreaking how low he pulled Lisa down with him. Right from the very beginning, I’d been wary of Tristan and the instantaneous connection he had with Lisa. I mean, out of all the girls in campus, why her? As each puzzle piece is revealed in each chapter, the more I believed that not everyone is what they appear to be.

SHAME is darker and grittier than both RUIN, TOXIC, and FEARLESS put together. If you’re looking for a light-hearted read, this is not the book for you. It portrays love in the ugliest of lights but shows that there’s salvation in even the most destructive relationships. SHAME truly captured the characters’ shame. It dragged the characters through the mud for all to see and in the end shows how Lisa and Tristan found the strength to face their demons (quite literally, in fact).

The only thing that I didn’t quite like about SHAME is how kind of overkill it was. I mean, I’m all for a good angsty read but it just felt a bit too over-the-top for me. Unlike Toxic and Ruin… both were still angsty but they were tempered down with all the lovey-dovey, cutesy stuff in between. Shame was a no holds barred kind of book and even the romance between Lisa and Tristan felt entirely too intense.  Which isn’t a bad thing, really. I just couldn’t get into it as much as I wanted to.

Although it wasn’t as good as the first three books in the series, SHAME is still a worthwhile book to add to your NA collection. If you’ve fallen in love with the gang from RUIN, TOXIC, and FEARLESS, then you should NOT miss out on this last adventure. This time, witness Lisa’s SHAME! Get your copy now!


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<![CDATA[Puddle Jumping by Amber L. Johnson]]>Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:16:36 GMThttp://between-the-pages.weebly.com/reviews/puddle-jumping-by-amber-l-johnson
A short, sweet read that packs one hell of a gut-wrenching punch! Where are a hundred stars when you need ‘em?

Time and time again, I’ve always said how much I love books about characters with disabilities. And no, I don’t mean that sadistically. As an occupational therapist by profession (well, soon anyway – graduating this June!), these stories already have a place reserved in my bookish heart.

Rating: More than 5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis:
When it comes to love there’s no such thing as conventional.

Everyone thinks Colton Neely is special.

Lilly Evans just thinks he’s fascinating.

Once friends when they were younger, their bond is cut short due to her accident prone nature and they go their separate ways. Years later, they meet again and Lilly learns that there is something special about the boy she once knew, but she has no idea what it all means. And she’s not sure if she’s ready to find out.

When he walks through the corridor of her school the first day of her senior year, she knows that it’s time to get to know the real Colton Neely. The more she learns, the deeper she falls.

Their friendship grows into love, even as Colton does not express it in words. But one decision threatens to break down the world that Lilly has tried so hard to integrate into and she must figure out if the relationship can survive if they are apart.
Puddle Jumping is the first book of Amber L. Johnson’s work that I’ve read and I can honestly say that it immediately became one of my favorite YA novels of all time!

I get to interact with children with developmental disabilities on an almost daily basis and many of our clients are on the spectrum. Before the character’s condition was actually revealed in the story, I’ve already formed my own theories about what the crux of the novel is going to be about.

So then, what is Puddle Jumping about?

Puddle Jumping is told in its entirety from Lilly Evans’ point of view. She was 10 years old when she first met Colton Neely. These two couldn’t have been more different! Here we have the reckless and adventurous Lilly and then there’s quiet and reserved Colton. 10-year-old Lilly was paid to babysit 9-year old Colton and a very unusual friendship develops between the two. It all came to a halt when Lilly’s excessively reckless behavior put her in the hospital twice while on babysitting duty. The Neelys then chose to keep Colton away from Lilly and Lilly was “fired”.

Unlikely romances always ALWAYS get to me.  And Colton and Lilly? If I were in their shoes, a budding romance between the two of them is about as unlikely as it can get. Right from the very start, the stark contrast between their personalities had been glaringly obvious. But love is never cut-and-dry. Not all love stories are the same, and for this love story, their differences become the main thing that drew them to each other.

Colton and Lilly changed each other irrevocably in ways that they never even imagined possible. Their love is like a lightning bolt that struck them and blinded and opened their eyes all at once. They didn’t really expect to play such a huge role in each other’s lives but once they were in, they didn’t–and couldn’t–turn back. Colton and Lilly, despite their differences, made more sense together than they do when they’re apart. As clichéd as it would sound, they completed each other and I guess their journey to that realization is one of the most bittersweet things that I have ever read.

They never thought they needed each other but once they had a taste of what it was like to have each other in that way, they could not bear the thought of ever letting go. And the best part about it is that it did NOT feel like puppy love. Puddle Jumping tells a story of first love in all its complicated glory… made even more complicated by the characters’ unique circumstances.

For Lilly, Colton has become her grounding force. He keeps her in the here and now and as much as it goes against her reckless nature, being with Colton taught Lilly how each word, each action, each thought has its own consequences. And sometimes, one word can either mean the difference between keeping the boy she loves, or pushing him away. She’s a feisty heroine, that’s for sure. And this side of hers drew Colton to her. Her spitfire personality inspired him to come out of his shell and challenged him to jump right into the action of high school social life. At the same time, Lilly’s tenderness towards Colton gives him comfort when everything else becomes too much for him.
And Colton. Sweet, sweet, Colton. My heart swoons with just the thought of him. He’s easily one of the sweetest lead characters I’ve ever met and that’s just the beginning. Colton has a condition that makes it very difficult for him to participate in social settings. He has trouble recognizing even the simplest undertones of social interactions. His brain is wired differently than how neuro-typicals (people not on the spectrum) are wired such that he thinks in VERY literal terms. Imagine a young man like him trying to navigate the complex social waters of high school.

Colton finds a certain familiarity in the presence of Lilly. When he’s with her, he can just be himself and be confident in the knowledge that Lilly understands what he’s going through to an extent. And that’s where the problem comes in…

As much sense as they make by being together, they both feel like they can’t be whatever the other needs in a relationship. When certain choices and decisions threaten to destroy whatever semblance of normal they have found, Colton and Lilly are forced to face the truth that loving someone, in that all-consuming way, sometimes means that you have to know when to let go and let your love push your better half towards what they need most… even if it’s not you.

I swear, Puddle Jumping is gut-wrenching in its honesty. Most of the other novels I’ve read in this genre focus more about how the person with the condition thinks and feels and sees the world. So it was refreshing to see how this love story unfolded from the perspective of another outsider looking into the life of a person on the spectrum. It made me realize how far people would bend over backwards for the sake of their loved ones. The prologue just about sums it all for me:
I can feel Lilly’s pain so clearly. As much as she wished she could bend just a little bit further, she also knows that at one point or another, she’d break. And that would be the day when they both break because, in fact, Colton needs her just as much as she needs him.

When I recommended it to some friends, one of them complained that it felt too bland without much dialogue. I must admit that Puddle Jumping really feels a bit introspective. It’s true that Puddle Jumping has very little dialogue all throughout the novel but I think it only emphasizes Lilly’s own fears of not being able to communicate with Colton in a way that he understands. It kind of gives the reader a first hand experience from Lilly’s point of view how she always has to screen her thoughts and think about every little action so as not to upset Colton's very rigid and particular nature.

But for me, what this book really brings to light is that EVERYONE can get their own happy ending. It may not be in the way that we expected or it may not be at a time we wanted. Puddle Jumping leaves readers with the hope that there’s someone in the world who would understand us and accept us with all our own quirks, someone who would bend over backwards for us... and the fact is, we would not hesitate to do the same for them. 

To all you YA/NA readers out there, please go and pick up this book! Puddle Jumping is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to experience the kind of first love that lasts a lifetime. 


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<![CDATA[Elicit (Eagle Elite #4) by Rachel van Dyken]]>Tue, 12 Aug 2014 08:02:04 GMThttp://between-the-pages.weebly.com/reviews/elicit-eagle-elite-4-by-rachel-van-dyken
*ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review*

Rachel van Dyken is a writing goddess. I mean it. I think she just outdid herself with ELICIT.  Considering how amazing ELICIT was, there is no question that RvD keeps doing better and better with each release. Elicit, in my opinion, is waaaaay up there as one of the best she’s ever written. And now, I’m going to try to write this review without giving anything away, which is going to be difficult because many things will happen in ELICIT that will blow your mind. No kidding.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

Synopsis:
Cursed, numb, rejected, scorned, wicked, sinister, dark, twisted...my name is Tex Campisi and this is my legacy. I killed my father in cold blood and lost my soul right along with him. 
I crave war more than peace, and I'm about to take my place in history as the youngest Capo dei Capi in the Cosa Nostra...that is until someone stops me, saves me from myself. 

But the only person able to do that...is my best friends sister, Mo Abandanato, and she just ripped my heart out and asked me to hold it in my hands while she put bullets through it. 

Im cursed so I did it. 
I'm numb so I held it. 
I'm wicked so I liked it.
I used the pain Mo caused as a catalyst to turn into my biggest nightmare--the five families greatest enemy. It's my turn to take a stand, knowing full well I'm going to lose my mind to the madness that is the American Mafia. I've always been told Blood is thicker than life. I wish I would have listened. Because regardless of who you love? You will betray. You will kill.
Blood Always Wins. 
The only way out is death...yours.

Welcome to the Dark Side of the Family.
When I started Elite, I knew in my bones that this was going to be an epic NA series. And it’s not just because there couldn’t be anything more irresistible than a bunch of hot guys waving their guns and knives around. Literally. The thing about the Eagle Elite series is that it pulls readers in and just takes them deeper with every installment.

Elicit is the fourth in the series and I think it’s the most explosive out of the series so far. This time, it follows Tex Campisi and the choices he has to make after the events of ENTICE. If you haven’t read the first three books, I suggest you stop reading RIGHT NOW.

At the latter part of Entice, Tex did something that would change the course of history for the Family. The blood spilled that day only demanded that more blood be shed. And the thing is, this time, it’s Tex’s blood they’re all calling out for.

To the naked eye, Tex has everything a man could ever want: the money, the power, the prestige of being part of the Elect. But all his life, Tex hasn’t really felt like he belonged anywhere. His own father, the freakin’ godfather, thought he was cursed and wanted nothing to do with him. Tex, the outsider in a family that took him in, always felt like that guy on the outside looking in.

He doesn’t feel like he belonged anywhere. Except, that is, beside Monroe Abandonato. If Mo isn’t a Mafia princess, then I don’t know what is. She grew up surrounded by violence and it no longer strikes fear in her heart. The only thing that elicits that reaction in her is the thought of losing Tex, the only man she has ever loved, to the dark clutches of the Family.
To keep the only girl he has ever loved alive, Tex is forced to make a choice. Her love or her life? After all, this is the Mafia. He can’t have both. Happy endings don’t exist in the Mafia.

For Tex, it’s not even a choice. With the help of some very unlikely alliances, he has to push Mo and every single person who has ever cared about him away to keep them alive. Easier said than done, but nothing ever comes easy for Tex, especially now that he’s about to claim his blood and take his rightful place as the next capo dei capi.
Things take a turn for the worse as stubborn, feisty Mo won’t take Tex shit lying down. She’s determined to fight for him, for them, even if it means leaving her family to be with the man she loves. It’s admirable, really, the lengths that Mo would take just for Tex. At the same time, it’s kind of sad that Tex doesn’t see or realize it. This complication puts all the characters we’ve come to know and love in danger. And in the world of the Mafia, in danger may as well mean dead.

But the drama doesn’t end there. Elicit packs one hell of a swing, lemme tell you. Just when you thought everything is over, Rachel van Dyken hits you with a curveball that you won’t ever see coming. Damn. I was floored. My eyes bugged out literally and I couldn’t help but say WTF at the huge game-changer that Elicit kept between those damn pages.  I was left reeling, that’s for sure.

Elicit is filled to the brim with the heart-pounding action that I’ve come to associate with the Eagle Elite series. It starts running and doesn’t slow down at all. I was breathlessly turning page after page, not knowing if my favorite characters will live to see the next page. Then, in between the tense action, we see these tender moments between Mo and Tex and it was just precious and devastating at the same time. You know you want them to find their way to each other but everything just gets in their way. It’s painful and heartbreaking. Those damn onion ninjas might have even visited my room a time or two. 

The thing about Elicit is that readers are made witnesses as Rachel van Dyken breaks down her characters slowly. She peels off layer after layer exposing their nature, the core of their being. She roughens them up good. And once they’re nothing but a mess of roiling emotions, she builds them back up beautifully and majestically. Yes, majestically. There’s no other word for how monumental these characters rise from the sins they’ve committed and redeem themselves.
The Mafia. Blood in. No out.

Well, the same idea applies when you start reading this series, especially Elicit. This is one of the very few books that I was unable to putdown from start to finish. For real. It just hooked me right from the prologue and didn’t let go. I’m not even sure I’ve escaped its hold on me even though I’ve finished it. I have one massive book hangover because of Elicit.

Rachel van Dyken just writes so fluidly and flawlessly. I can’t help by appreciate how well she is able to present the events. She blows readers away with huge shockers, then the story sort of pulls back and gives the readers enough time to process everything while, at the same time, setting up the next critical moment. There’s this flow and ebb that’s just so tasteful to read. There’s never a lull in the story and that makes it such a breeze to read.

Another thing that I liked about Elicit is how vivid and immersive it is as a book. It didn’t take much effort for me to imagine myself in their world, in their story. It’s like seeing a movie play out in my head. Sometimes, I feel a bit like Alice falling down the rabbit hole into a wonderland of guns and bloodshed. All the research that Rachel van Dyken put into this book paid off bigtime. It felt honest and real all throughout.

Whew, looks like I got through this review without giving anything major away. Good job, me! And you, yes, you! If you want to know what all the fuss is about, go pick up the book when it comes out on August 11th. You won’t regret it. Rachel van Dyken pulls out the big guns with Elicit. You won’t know what you’re missing until you’ve read it to the last page!


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<![CDATA[Room for Just a Little Bit More (Cranberry Inn #2.5) by Beth Ehemann]]>Mon, 11 Aug 2014 12:57:29 GMThttp://between-the-pages.weebly.com/reviews/room-for-just-a-little-bit-more-cranberry-inn-25-by-beth-ehemann
* ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review *
** Spoilers for Book 1 and 2 ahead**


I love novellas. Want to know what I love MORE than novellas? A CRANBERRY INN novella, that’s what! Room for Just a Little Bit More (RFJALBM) is a very worthwhile addition to this addicting series from Beth Ehemann. If you’ve read the first two books (Room for You and Room for More) then you’ll definitely enjoy reading what happens next to Kacie, Brody, and the Twinkies.

Rating: 5 out of 5 twinkie stars!

Synopsis:
Five years ago, my dreams were shattered in an instant.

One year ago, a horrible rainstorm flooded a bridge in town, leaving us with an Inn full of stranded travelers. Turns out one of those travelers would give me a whole new set of dreams, ones I never thought possible. Brody Murphy spent the last year teaching me what it was like to live, and more importantly love, again.


Two days ago, he asked me to marry him, and if I’d said yes any faster, I would have interrupted the most romantic proposal ever offered. I can’t wait to marry him and spend the rest of our lives spoiling our Twinkies.


One year from now I’ll be Mrs. Kacie Murphy, assuming everything goes nice and smooth.
In RFJALBM, we see our favorite Cranberry Inn characters after Brody’s awwwww-inducing proposal. Room for More may not have been intended to be a cliffhanger but it no doubt made me want to read more more more. The ending felt a little open-ended so I was very ecstatic to find out what happens next! And, thankfully, that is exactly what Beth Ehemann gives her readers with Room for Just a Little Bit More.

Some of the other fans I’ve talked to said they wished it was a full-length novel. But in my honest opinion, I think Beth Ehemann made the right choice in writing it as a novella. Why? Kacie and Brody are in a really good place already. Bringing up more issues and problems for them would have just felt a little overkill, I think. Don’t get me wrong. RFJALBM still packs a bit of drama but the best thing about how Beth Ehemann went about it is that it did not really take away from Kacie and Brody’s happily ever after.

From Room for More, we already knew that Kacie and Brody’s happily ever after is finally within reach. And it is; however, another man from Kacie’s past surfaces and stirs up trouble for the whole Cranberry Inn gang.

It was really, really, really heartwarming to see how far Brody would go to protect the people he loves, most especially Kacie and the Twinkies. His macho alpha-male, papa-bear act elevates him into godlike status in the husband/father category. Although it was really cool to see him act that way to protect his girls, I though the way he did it was a bit sketchy. It could spell trouble for him if ever Kacie finds out what he did.

And Kacie, still as willful and feisty as ever… As much as I ADORE the Twinkies, I really enjoyed seeing Kacie-the-fiance instead of Kacie-the-mom. I loved how RFJALBM kind of emphasized Kacie and Brody’s relationship as a couple. It becomes even more evident how perfect they are for each other and how amazing they are as parents.

Speaking of parents, it was also fun to revisit the rest of the Cranberry Inn gang, including Kacie’s mom, Gigi, and her new husband, Fred. We also see Lauren with their young son, not to mention a very pregnant Alexa! They’re a hilarious bunch and a real treat to read about!

RFJALBM really makes a big deal out of the relationships these characters have while still highlighting each character as an individual. It goes beyond the characters’ identifiers, and paints them in a slightly different light bit not any less interesting.

Hockey played a huge part of Brody as a person in the first two books. That was his identifier so it was endearing to see him away from the world of hockey. Brody isn’t so much of a star hockey player; instead, readers get to see him as a regular guy who can’t wait to marry the love of his life. And Kacie, she’s not just a hockey-girlfriend, or a mother-of-two; she also just like any other bride-to-be who stresses over wedding dress shopping, cake tasting, and all the other details of wedding planning.

Oh, I can’t let this review end without saying how absolutely ADORABLE the Twinkies are!

As usual, RFJALBM is written in the lighthearted but no less emotional way that Beth Ehemann has beautifully mastered. It tugs on the heartstrings and makes readers fall deeper in love with Kacie, Brody, and the Twinkies even with half the pages of a full-length novel.

RFJALBM ties up Kacie and Brody’s story wonderfully and at the end of everything, it made me realize that I’ve always got enough room in my heart and my bookshelf for Beth Ehemann’s Cranberry Inn books.

More to come, I hope!Viper novel, anyone? ;)


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