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Review: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Review: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish DollerWhere the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
Published by Bloomsbury, Bloomsbury Children's on September 24th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Goodreads
Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She's never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love--even with someone who seems an improbable choice--is more than just a possibility.

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.

I did enjoy Where the Stars Still Shine, but didn’t think it lived up to expectations. Everyone I’ve heard reviews from loved it–where as I was a bit disappointed. Callie was kidnapped by her mother as child and has been on the run for as long as she can remember. She only has distant, snapshot memories of her past life, but she knows she was kidnapped. Callie’s mother has a mental disability, and has not taken her prescribed tablets in years. Something happens that causes Callie to be re-united with her father and she has to dramatically change her lifestyle quickly and is expected to abide by a certain set of rules that weren’t in place before. This of course, causes issues.

Callie’s father, Greg, was such a sweet guy and I really loved him for it. They’re strangers to each other, Callie is 17 and grew up without a father figure. Callie has also grown up with abuse from her mother’s boyfriend/s. This is really the heart and trauma of the book. It affects Callie’s perception of men, and herself involving men. Callie adapted to this new lifestyle really well, but obviously she makes a lot of mistakes and has the tenancy  to run when things get hard.

Callie annoyed me in a lot of ways, because I felt she never tried to help herself. I could never, ever, understand the torrent of emotions and what she’s going through. However, sometimes she made things harder for herself and that frustrated me. Also, I never got a strong impression of her personality. She felt quite two-dimentional to me, because a lot of the book is obviously focused on her reaction to her situation, she felt a bit plastic. I’m not sure if this is intended though, because Callie’s never really had the opportunity to have a personality. Anyway, the whirlwind of emotions that tore through her was written beautifully and felt spot on–despite never having been in this situation myself. Callie’s torn between her wanting to love Greg, but wanting to be loyal to her mother; and even though she kind of hates her mother, her mother’s all she’s ever known.

There is romance, which I think added to the growth of Callie, because it caused her to overcome a lot of issues. Alex was a lot more sweeter than I thought he would be, but at the same time their relationship annoyed me. I thought they should have taken it slower, right from the beginning to contrast to her other relationships and show that it was different. I felt like she never really learnt anything, even though Alex helped change her perception of men.

Overall, I’ve never read anything like this before and enjoyed it originality the set-up. Even though I didn’t think it was outstanding, it was still a pretty amazing book and I would recommend it!

Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie PerkinsAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #1
Published by Usborne on December 2nd 2010
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 372
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
five-stars
Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming,beautiful, Étienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

Anna and the French Kiss is such a fluffy, warm book that cuddles you when you read it. It’s about an American girl who gets sent to a boarding school in Paris for her last year of school. The boarding school is for Americans, and I loved the Paris aspect of the book. They say Paris is the city of romance, and that added to the magic of the book.

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Anna was such a joy to read. Her voice was hilarious, witty and something I entirely identified with. I just wanted to reach into the book and be her best friend. I read the first page, laughed and knew, just knew  this was going to be a 5 star read. Anna never annoyed me throughout the whole book–which is quite a feat! Her passion for films is like my passion for books, and she has a dream of becoming a film critic and writes on her blog. I could really identify with it, the way she would escape off to different cinema’s in Paris and watch old films. She jumps out of her comfort zone and into an entirely different country with, actually, not much complaining. Which is good, because no one wants to read about a big whiner. She embraces Paris a little later in the book and starts to learn French and grow up a little.

St Clair is so awesome and dreamy, he was the perfect mix of humour and sweet personality. He was also frustrating though! I wanted to hit him on the head sometimes because he didn’t know what he wanted! I loved the way they interacted and how genuine St Clair was…I just…dreamy sigh. Together, St Clair and Anna become close friends and explore Paris together, while the tension crackles between them. They didn’t just explore the usual tourist-y places, but also their secret places that made this book different.

Anna and the French Kiss is hilarious, gut-wrenching and amazing. It’s one of the most perfect YA Romances I’ve ever read. I can’t wait to read the next instalment of Lola and the Boy Next Door.

five-stars

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Review: Origin by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Lux #4)

Review: Origin by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Lux #4)Origin by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: Lux #4
Published by Entangled Teen on August 27th 2013
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 374
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
four-half-stars
Daemon will do anything to get Katy back.

After the successful but disastrous raid on Mount Weather, he’s facing the impossible. Katy is gone. Taken. Everything becomes about finding her. Taking out anyone who stands in his way? Done. Burning down the whole world to save her? Gladly. Exposing his alien race to the world? With pleasure.

All Katy can do is survive.

Surrounded by enemies, the only way she can come out of this is to adapt. After all, there are sides of Daedalus that don’t seem entirely crazy, but the group’s goals are frightening and the truths they speak even more disturbing. Who are the real bad guys? Daedalus? Mankind? Or the Luxen?

Together, they can face anything.

But the most dangerous foe has been there all along, and when the truths are exposed and the lies come crumbling down, which side will Daemon and Katy be standing on?

And will they even be together?

Well, well, well, this series has certainly picked up the pace. As much as I love the Lux series, I always treat it as a bit of a fun and flirty read with some hot aliens. Even after numerous cliff-hangers, where I’m desperate to read the next book, I still felt this way. I could see the cliff-hanger in Opal coming a mile away and while I was impressed, I wasn’t at all surprised. However Origin felt like a completely different book to me, whereas the other books I’ve not written a review for because I feel they merge together slightly.

I have to admit, I liked the arguments in Obsidian between Katy and Daemon, with the witty back and forth but the undeniable attraction. When Katy and Daemon finally got together as a couple, I was happy, but thought some of the romance felt a bit boring at times. I don’t know if it was the complete change of setting or something else, but the romance felt alive and the chemistry was there once again. The setting change was really interesting, because we’ve been in this small town for all three books now, and it felt really good to see what the actual alien world is like, and how our main protagonist would deal with this world. As soon as I was relaxing into the story, Armentrout brought something completely new to the table and captivated me further. This new plot twist is exciting and could literally go anywhere. It kept me on my toes and makes me so excited to see how this is going to end!

Despite the ending of Opal indicating otherwise, we see our most loved characters and their interactions. I was a little worried we wouldn’t see the usual gang that we’ve come to love, what with the new setting, however this was not the case. Armentrout carefully crafted new settings and new characters, but kept our old and most loved characters in for some familiarity.

Of course, there is a huge cliff-hanger, because Armentrout seems to love this plot device. Everything is going to plan and then shit stuff goes down. Seriously, it’s a pretty huge cliff-hanger and one I loved, because it was certainly not something I was expecting.

Rating 4.5 Stars–I really recommend this series as always, but especially this one. Armentrout has really surprised me in such an amazing way and I’m in love with this series more than ever. Once again, I was taken on a whirlwind of intrigue, humour and also morbid realisation about the aliens and the world Armentrout has created. I cannot wait for the next instalment where everyone will finally get some closure!

four-half-stars

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ARC Review: Crash into You by Katie McGarry (Pushing the Limits #3)

ARC Review: Crash into You by Katie McGarry (Pushing the Limits #3)Crash into You by Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits #3
Published by Mira Ink on November 26th 2013
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 474
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars
The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life-that's who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers...and she's just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker-a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can't get him out of her mind.

Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks-no matter how angelic she might look.

But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they'll go to save each other.

I really liked Dare You To, but Katie McGarry was certainly pushing the limits of awesome with Crash into You…geddit? ;)

McGarry is fast becoming one of those authors where I count the days for their next book to come out. She mixes this perfect blend of internal conflict, external conflict and upping the stakes when you’re unprepared. It’s the kind of series I love so much I would go out and buy just to stroke the beautiful cover and look at it on my shelf. Correction: if it was the American cover–I don’t want to get into it, but to say the UK covers are a disappointment is a colossal understatement.

Crash into You is told in dual POV. It really added something to the story to understand how each of the characters were perceived through different eyes, and how that perception changed as they grew to know each other. Rachel was a character many people can relate to. Her family and her have a *lot* of issues, and I won’t delve into them, apart from to say it was written beautifully. Rachel is completely different from Beth in Dare You To, which just shows how McGarry can write different characters and isn’t churning out the same things. I related to Rachel, and though in the past shy characters like her have annoyed me, Rachel didn’t one bit. I really understood her, and her need to be herself–not what everyone else wanted her to be. Her family seriously angered me, though. I didn’t understand why they treated Rachel like a fragile ornament that wasn’t allowed to have any friends without someone getting suspicious. Rachel is a teenager, and frankly, if my teenage daughter didn’t have any friends at all, I’d be a little concerned. Rachel was suffocating under this constant need to make everyone happy, when it wasn’t her responsibility or problem. I felt so strongly about her situation, I wanted to jump into the book and shout at her family for being so unbelievably obtuse. Rachel is a character that I think is going to be more popular for readers, because more people can relate to her. Reading about sassy heroines is fun, but not necessarily realistic for us bookish types to relate to.

I was especially interested about the cars aspect of Crash into You. Never have I read a novel about drag racing or a YA heroine who’s in love with cars. It was really adorable the way Isaiah and Rachel bonded over their love for cars. It was like they had their own special language that drew them closer, and a common passion about something.

I wasn’t sure about Isaiah before, but I really grew to love his character and empathize for the situation he is in. At the beginning of Crash into You, it feels like he doesn’t have a person he can properly talk to. Despite having a couple of reliable friends, he’s kind of lonely, and so is Rachel. More is revealed about Isaiah’s home life, and his desperate situation. Both characters were becoming more layered as the book went on.

I am now incredibly excited for the next installment in this series, where we have Rachel’s brother West as one of the main protagonists. I love it when the characters link together, and I feel like Katie McGarry can just keep on going with these books, as she has shown she knows how to keep them interesting and engaging.

If you haven’t picked up the Pushing the Limits series, and you enjoy YA Romance, why haven’t you? Although it’s nice to read from the beginning and understand references to previous books, Crash into You can be read as a standalone. You will be missing a couple of things that happened, but if you have a chance to read Crash into You. Do it. Do it now.

Rating: 5 Stars BABY!

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Review: Popping the Cherry by Aurelia B Rowl

Review: Popping the Cherry by Aurelia B RowlPopping the Cherry by Aurelia B Rowl
Published by Carina on September 19th 2013
Genres: New Adult, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 250
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
two-half-stars
From driving tests to relationships, Valentina Bell thinks she’s a failure, with a big fat capital F. At this rate, she’s certain she’ll be a virgin for ever. So Lena’s friends plan Operation: Popping the Cherry to help her find the perfect man first time.

Yet somehow disastrous dates with bad-boy musicians and fabulous evenings with secretly in-the-closet guys aren’t quite working out how Lena planned.

Soon Lena’s avoiding Operation: Popping the Cherry to spend time with comforting, aloof Jake, her best friend’s older brother, who doesn’t make her feel self-conscious about still clinging to her V card. But could Jake show Lena that sometimes what you’re looking for most is right by your side?

A FOREVER for the twenty-first century
Buy the Book from Amazon UK

I enjoyed Popping the Cherry as a cute romance, but it frustrated me in so many ways. Our main character, Lena (or Tink, as the romantic interest calls her) is at school one day when her friends stage an Intervention to get her cherry popped. Or in other words, to lose her virginity. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with how this happened, as Lena then spent most of the novel on the quest to lose her virginity–or rather as I saw it–to fit in with her friends. Suddenly the premise didn’t look nearly as amusing, but kind of sad for Lena, who’s friends wrote a list titled Operation: Popping the Cherry.

Another thing that annoyed me was her best friend, Gemma. Said best friend does not approve of the actual person she is falling in love with, which is her older brother, Jake. She makes every snide comment and gives no support to Lena but instead pushes her toward disgusting guys who take advantage of her. Gemma came across as superficial and selfish, not once did she even have a reason for Lena and Jake not to be together, and was effectively stopping them both from being happy. The reason I feel so strongly over this is, because of Gemma (and admittedly other reasons), it takes them the entire novel to get together. Which unfortunately, is not my thing.  I like it when the characters realise they like each other and, you know, act like adults and just ask the other out. Then maybe have some complications in the relationship later. Sometimes it felt like they were in primary school playground, writing notes and thinking: does he like me? I won’t bother asking, I will sit on my hands and wait for something to happen for the ENTIRE novel.

Honestly, I have never known anyone so inept at reading signals. Sorry for that slight rant there, it was the main annoying aspect of the book, and otherwise it was an enjoyable romance. It wasn’t particularly complicated, but at times it was adorable, and I really liked the way Lena handled some of the situations maturely, unlike other books I’ve read with characters in the same situation. I love forbidden love, and that’s kind of what was in Popping the Cherry, except, I feel like I should’ve been given more reason as to why Jake and Lena couldn’t be together.

Also, there was a huge cliché with the main antagonist, Alice (or Malice, as Lena and her friends call her), was so predictable and boring. She was the Queen Bee that wasn’t satisfied until everyone is bowing before her. Yada-yada-yada. I just find this plot line to be so uninteresting and average. Rowl could have done so much better in that aspect.

I really liked Jake and Lena, it’s a shame everyone around them was so annoying. They should’ve just ignored everyone from the start and done what they wanted. Together, they had a really sweet romance–that may have dragged on slightly–but was adorable all the same.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

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ARC Review: Stir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins

ARC Review: Stir Me Up by Sabrina ElkinsStir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins
Published by Harlequin Teen on December 1st 2013
Genres: Romance, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 268
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars
Cami Broussard has her future all figured out. She'll finish her senior year of high school, then go to work full-time as an apprentice chef in her father's French restaurant, alongside her boyfriend, Luke. But then twenty-year-old ex-Marine Julian Wyatt comes to live with Cami's family while recovering from serious injuries. And suddenly Cami finds herself questioning everything she thought she wanted.

Julian's all attitude, challenges and intense green-brown eyes. But beneath that abrasive exterior is a man who just might be as lost as Cami's starting to feel. And Cami can't stop thinking about him. Talking to him. Wanting to kiss him. He's got her seriously stirred up. Her senior year has just gotten a lot more complicated….

This was such a *sigh* worthy romance. I read it in two sittings and I loved it. Julian, has been given an honourable discharge from the Marines when he was wounded in an IED explosion. He was trying to pull three other people to safety when there was a second explosion, and he was the only one who survived. One of his legs has to amputated, and he sustained many other injuries and obvious emotional scarring. He’s not in a good place and when our main heroine Cami meets him for the first time in his hospital bed, he angrily shouts at her to leave the room. Except, Julian is Cami’s stepmother’s nephew and soon Julian moves out of hospital and into Cami’s room, and consequently, they are forced to see each other every day.

Poor Cami was put out by not having her own private space, but Julian desperately needs the care Cami’s stepmother, Estella, is willing to give. Cami is attending her last year of school and works at her French father’s restaurant–Etoile. She loves cooking mostly French food, and bakes some muffins for Julian in goodwill–he throws it at her head. Commence the angry insults that are thrown at each other. I enjoyed Cami’s love for cooking food, it added to the storyline, and gave her more depth. She was an enjoyable character to read about, because she was so relatable. She goes to school, she has a best friend, she studies, she flirts with a hot Marine…wait, what? Where’s my hot Marine? *Ahem*, anyway, she had a feistiness and friendliness that made me want to be there baking muffins and laughing with her.

Stir Me Up explores the after-math of war in individuals, and the effects of loss. Julian and Cami warm to each other in a slow-burning way, that is believable and sweet. This book is wholly satisfying for Romance-lovers, and prefect for those cold days to snuggle under the covers and get caught up in a highly amusing and adorable romance.

Julian is one sexy marine *swoon*, and Elkins made the connection between him and Cami feel tangible. Cami has no idea what she wants to do other than that she wants to be a chef, and Julian and her share that uncertainty towards their future. I had such a good time reading this, I urge you to read it.

Rating: 5 Stars

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Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry (Pushing The Limits #2)

Dare You To by Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing The Limits #1
Published by Mira Ink on 22nd May 2013
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 470
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
four-half-stars

Dare You To was such an enjoyable read! It had it all: internal conflict and external conflict, with really well done character development considering it’s only over one book. It’s written in both Ryan’s and Beth’s POV, which made it easier to empathise with Ryan and see the story from a bigger perspective.

Beth has issues. Not that that’s surprising considering her home situation. She has trouble with trust,  abandonment, love, relationships in general, and the list goes on. Ryan’s life looks perfect to Beth, but as she looks closer she can see the cracks.

There are so many plot lines going on that keeps this book well-paced, yet not too taxing to read. It’s a fantastic, well written story with brilliantly complex and tortured characters. Beth was on the precipice of annoying me because of her trust issues, but if she’d trusted Ryan any quicker, it would be unrealistic. It’s not a light-hearted, fluffy book, it gets really quite gritty considering it’s a YA romance and contemporary.

Dare You To has got the malicious ex-girlfriend, muscley jocks, humour, and every kind of relationship strains. So many messed up relationships: Beth and her Uncle, Beth and her mother, Beth and her best friend, Beth and Ryan. Ryan and his brother, Ryan and his mother and father. All of these relationships were tested and brought to the fore-front at least once in Dare You To, really exploring their dynamics. I probably liked it so much because of of the complex characters and relationships—which I’m a sucker for.

I didn’t particularly like Beth or relate to her much, but I appreciated her character. That rarely happens to me, if I can’t relate to the character, I’ll probably stop reading. If  can’t find an emotional connection, I simply won’t bother. I empathised for Beth, and enjoyed her character, but I’m not sure I would want to be her best friend or anything. She was very tough and goth-girl, she had to put on this persona because of her terrible upbringing. I liked Ryan a lot more, because he was more simple, yet still had deep problems. I could relate to him more for some reason.

I could go on more about this book because there is so much that goes on and so much to discuss, but I won’t!

Rating: 4.5 Stars I would like to give this an A, but I don’t feel like it’s affected me enough, or been one of the best books I’ve ever read. Otherwise, hiiighly enjoyable and tense read. With shockingly true events and oh-so complex characters. Can’t wait to read the next in the series!

four-half-stars

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Review: Other Side Of Forever by Shannon Eckrich

Other Side of Forever by Shannon Eckrich
Published by Self-Published on 24th January 2012
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 236
Format: eBook
Source: Given From Author
three-stars

Other Side of Forever

Seventeen-year-old Allie Anderson’s telekinetic powers are anything but useful-she can’t bring her father back, can’t stop her mother’s downward spiral into alcohol, and can’t keep her from falling in love with Ethan Bradley. Loving Ethan is easy, but it comes with a hefty price: Ethan is prohibited by his people from interacting with mortals–because he isn’t mortal himself. When Allie and Ethan’s love is discovered, there’s someone who will do anything to keep them apart. If Allie can’t learn to control her powers and fight to save Ethan, this dark entity will make every attempt to stop her beating heart. And if that happens, not even the energy of an immortal can bring her back.

I’d like to start by saying thank you Shannon for giving me this book to review. The Other Side Of Forever had a very original  premise and if you’re sick of the constant vampire/werewolf books being churned out, I recommend this one. The concept of mortals and immortals was refreshing.
The telekinetic powers attracted me because it was unique; Allie hates her powers and can’t manipulate them easily, she has kept this secret hidden and whenever she gets emotional, her powers get out-of-control. I liked the idea of energy and how she could control certain objects, this made for a more entertaining read. Allie’s problems at home gave her a believable background and many teenagers could relate to this. It also gave another layer to her character and made her more complex. She had a hard time loving Ethan, because she’d gotten hurt before, so at the beginning she pushes him away. This angst was great and I thought the build-up to their first kiss was nicely paced. Sadly, as the book progresses, I thought they fell in love too quickly to be believable as I felt they barely knew each other. This ruined the romance slightly for me, as their professing love for each other seemed a little silly.
The bad guy’s bravado was poor, he didn’t infuse me with fear for the characters, no matter how powerful he supposedly was. The climax at the end was good, especially because I always like a bad guy that has a past and reasons for his actions, but it was a bit of an information dump at the end, and he sounded like a bad cartoon character. 
I had problems with Allie being saved a lot- she was saved by Ethan on numerous occasions. All of those times she didn’t even try to save herself and that bothered me. I realise she is a character a lot of teenage girls would like though, because she is very passive and could be easily related-to, but she was too passive for me. I think this might be deliberate to make her stronger throughout the series, at least I hope so because I liked the twist at the end and it seemed to be the beginning of her character development.
Ethan was a great male character, I can see a lot of girls fangirling over him. He grabbed me from the moment when he simply sat down and read a book- guys reading books are hot. He had a certain type of mystery surrounding him that made him more alluring and his past was an interesting back story.
There was also a strong balance between plot and romance, with puzzling occurrences in the beginning that lead to hair-raising conclusions in the end.
Overall, it was a great debut novel and even though I had some problems, it had characters that were easily related-to, an original premise, and I’m looking forward to the next in the series.

I give this a 3 Stars

three-stars