April 29, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Without You by Julie Prestater Review

Without You by Julie Prestsater
Publication Date: February 14th, 2014
Genre: NA/adult contemporary romance
Source: Author
Rating: 4/5 stars
Get it: Amazon | B&N
When two people connect, they can make beautiful music together. But what happens when music is the thing that tears them apart?

Evan James had it all. Drop-dead sexy, brilliantly talented musician, a skyrocketing career and his high school sweetheart by his side. When he’s offered a golden opportunity to go on tour, he never imagined she wouldn’t go with him. Without her, he found his dream meant nothing. Three years later, bereft and alone, Evan stops at an open mic night and spots someone sitting in the audience, the beautiful face of a woman he’d never forget...Maddy, his one true love.

Madison Grey had only ever loved one man. When Evan broke her heart she had no choice but to move on with her life, start a career of her own, and she even finds a new love. Still, thoughts of Evan were never put to rest. And on one fateful night, she unexpectedly hears him pour his heart out into a new song. A song about broken hearts, lost love, and second chances. A song about her.

With the help of their scheming friends, Maddy and Evan are thrown into each other’s lives once more. While learning to love and trust again, there is only one thing left on both of their minds... Is life better with or without you?

My Review
Without You by Julie Prestsater was half part second chance romance and half part love for music. 

In three words it was simple, lovely and heart-warming.

For Evan and Madison, fate has given them a second chance at true love. Evan comes back to his hometown hoping to redeem himself in Madison’s eyes and heart. He’s a famous musician, but ready to trade it all for Madison because he felt incomplete without her. I found Evan to be romantic and swoon worthy. He cared deeply about Madison. Evan finally understood what was more important than fame and it was to love and be with Madison. I adored Evan because he did all these little things for Madison to win her back.

Madison tried to forget Evan, but continued to ache for him even when she tried to move one with another. When he comes back to town, she didn’t know what to think or feel. She obviously still loved Evan and was very wary of trusting her heart again when it came to him. Madison was a sweet girl who loved teaching kids and appreciated music. She was silly and care free and a really good friend. I liked her just as much as I liked Evan, even though she was a tad bit dramatic during some parts. 

This book was pretty short. I certainly enjoyed it and felt the feels when Madison and Evan got their sweet moments on, but I did wish that there was a little more tension in the beginning. The way they got back together was pretty quick for me. However, these two were just perfect together. They had this natural vibe and connection. I believed and felt their love because it was right there in their emotions and actions. 

Prestsater didn't just add in tension and angst, but also the sweetest of moments. I also liked that this story was centrally focused on Madison and Evan and a very strong support system to back them both up. It was nice to see a very strong connection between two people and among friends. And although this book had some steamy parts and sexual innuendoes here and there, I really found Without You to be wholesome and uplifting. 

All in all, Without You really captured the importance and meaning of true love. Evan and Madison’s story left me completely content.


About the Author
I'm a mom, a wife, a teacher, a reader, and a writer. I'm also an lunatic when it comes to the NFL and playing Fantasy football, especially if I don't get my first pick quarterback: Tony Romo. When I'm not at home or work, you can probably catch me on the 15 freeway singing my heart out and dancing away in my car.  


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April 25, 2014

REVIEW: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Dare You To by Katie McGarry (Pushing the Limits #2)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Source: Netgalley*
Rating: 5/5 stars
Get it: Amazon | B&N
Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. "Dance with me, Beth."

"No." I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again....

"I dare you..."

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

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

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

My Review
Katie McGarry gave me another amazing hit with Dare You To. I’m banging my head against the fall for taking so long to pick up and read this book because it blew me away. There was more humor, darkness and sexiness and I love how different yet familiar this book was to me.

Like PTL, Dare You To has dual perspectives split between two main characters, Ryan and Beth. I got a glimpse of Beth in the previous book, but I didn’t fully understand or begin to like her until I got to know her. Beth was described in the book as rough around the edges and I completely agree. Beth showed this front of being tough, didn't care what you think type of bad attitude. But deep down, she was broken and missing the girl who she once was. She showed this vulnerability and softness I failed to see in PTL. Ryan was new altogether and he had me from the moment he described his love for baseball. On the outside his family seemed picture perfect, but they were falling a part from within. Ryan struggled with this, a family secret he still harbored, and his own independence from his father on his own life. Ryan had this endearing arrogance, hated to lose and loved dares, but what I loved most about him was his respect for people and for women. 

I say that Dare You To was darker because of Beth’s past and the life she continued to live and her inability to break free from a mother who obviously did not care about her. I loved the topics covered here because Beth dealt with real life issues: abuse, drugs, trust, moving, love and so much more. I appreciated McGarry giving Beth a new start even though she had a hard time accepting it. Beth really showed her fears of trust and love when it came to family, friends and romance and it really broke my heart to see how much she tried to deal with it all. I loved seeing someone from her past come back and finally take care and love her the way she deserved. Their relationship and how much he impacted her life touched my heart. Their interactions were my favorite because it was rough, it was tender, but it was also humorous. 

Ryan’s part of the story was just as prominent as Beth. He definitely changed and grew throughout the book. He had realizations about his future with baseball and he even found something he loved and excelled in besides the sport. With the help of a teacher and Beth, but mostly Ryan’s way of not backing down from a competition, he ended up standing up for himself and making his own decisions no matter what his parents or other people thought. Ryan was a great character because he had the best of intentions, he was always as respectful as can be, and he saw through Beth and gave her the benefit of the doubt despite her past. 

Beth and Ryan’s relationship was rough in the beginning because of the trust issues and the dares, but it blossomed beautifully. There was attraction which both characters tried to fight off, but their dare lead up to something more. To see both of their walls slowly crumbly down does wonders for their romantic development because I got to see and feel how they were affected by the each other. I loved how hard it was for them to open up, but once they did they still had to keep trying to work things out. It wasn’t perfect or easy. When one wanted to give up, the other kept on going and this helped make their relationship stronger, the trust to build up more solidly and easier for them to finally show how they truly felt. Together, Ryan and Beth were better.

Overall, Katie McGarry allowed me to fall for Beth and Ryan just as strongly as I did for Echo and Noah in PTL. Dare You To does not fail to evoke emotion and keep you engaged. 

*Copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

April 24, 2014

REVIEW: If Only by A.J. Pine

If Only by A.J. Pine
Publisher: Entangled Embrace
Publication Date: March 24, 2014
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 4/5
Get it: Amazon | B&N
Sometimes it takes crossing an ocean to figure out where you belong.

It's been two years since twenty-year-old Jordan had a boyfriend—which means it's been forever since she, well, you know. But now she’s off to spend her junior year in Aberdeen, Scotland, the perfect place to stop waiting for Mr. Right and just enjoy Mr. Right Now.

Sexy, sweet (and possible player) Griffin may be her perfect, no-strings-attached match. He’s fun, gorgeous, and makes her laugh. So why can’t she stop thinking about Noah who, minutes after being trapped together outside the train’s loo, kisses Jordan like she’s never been kissed before? Never mind his impossible blue eyes, his weathered, annotated copy of The Great Gatsby (total English-major porn)…oh, and his girlfriend.

Jordan knows everything this year has an expiration date. Aberdeen is supposed to be about fun rather than waiting for life to happen. But E. M. Forster, Shakespeare, and mistletoe on Valentine’s Day make her reconsider what love is and how far she’s willing to go for the right guy.

3 reasons why I enjoyed If Only by A.J. Pine

Main character Jordan-

I must admit that there is nothing that extraordinary when it comes to Jordan, but I liked her because she had the courage to spend her year of school in Scotland without knowing anyone there. She stepped out of her comfort zone and she was determined to be a new Jordan, to reinvent herself. She ended up finding really good friends and going after love. She wasn’t perfect by any stretch and made some bad choices, but she learned from them rather than dwelling on them.

Love triangle Griffin vs. Noah-

I love both these boys, maybe one more than the other. Griffin was the sweetest, most flirtatious, fun guy. He showed Jordan that he wasn’t the man-whore she first thought him to be. There was so much potential and a connection I was rooting for from the very start. Griffin cared for Jordan so much, he was willing to try and I adored him for being so down to earth. Noah was just like Jordan because they had so much in common from the beginning. He was different altogether because he was sort of cute and shy and just lovely. I didn’t feel their connection as much as I did with Griffin, but I loved how passionate Noah and Jordan were for the same things. 

Romance development-

I have to admit that I was turned off by Jordan’s reaction in the very beginning because it felt unrealistic. However, the romance between these two characters span months. There was some serious intense whiplash type of ups and downs which drove me crazy, but I liked it because it kept me on my toes. There was a lot of tension, angst and jealousy that really kept me entertained. I also liked that though there was a third party issue, there wasn’t any cheating going on. 

My one issue with the whole book was the lack of setting. I knew If Only was set in Scotland, but I didn’t get much of the culture. I wanted more of Scotland since it was the place that changed and shaped Jordan, but it was brushed over for the romance. It wasn’t bad, but it was something I wished was more touched upon. 

Other than that, If Only was a great love story set internationally. 

*Thanks to Entangled for sending a copy in exchange for an honest review

April 22, 2014

REVIEW: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Publisher: HarperCollins/ Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Source: Edelweiss via publisher
Rating: 3/5 stars
Get it: Amazon | B&N
What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s Side Effects May Vary is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

My Review
I had high hopes for Side Effects May Vary because it had such a promising synopsis. I was expecting something poignant and moving, but I just felt drained and let down. However, it was not without some good points. 

The Bad

Probably anything that had to do with Alice was a bad for me. I could not sympathize or even remotely connect or feel for this girl. Alice tried to be diabolical in her revenge and in her pay back, but she just ended up being mean. I couldn’t like her at all, especially with the way she treated her family and Harvey. Alice wasn’t nice. She had a moment here and there that gave her heart, but her attitude, the way she used Harvey and just how she acted was horrible. She annoyed, angered, and exhausted me to no end. I know that her life was turned upside down when she got diagnosed and she accepted death and then again when she went in remission, but she became careless, heartless, and kind of unhinged. I was mostly tired of the way she reeled in, dropped, used and abused Harvey so easily.

The overall storyline was just meh to me. So much of this book was about Alice it was hard to push aside my dislike for her. The main focus was on her struggle with accepting the fact that she was better after accepting that she was sick and dying. I get it that the transition was hard, especially when Alice had kept secrets and done some pretty bad things to people whether or not they deserved it, was still questionable. Her behavior was eccentric and erratic and she just all over the place. She loved Harvey, but couldn’t tell him or begin to fathom how they could be together. Alice just couldn’t seem to piece her life then to her life now and she rebelled and acted out. When she finally realized her mistakes and wrong doings, for me it was just too little too late. 

The Good

While Alice was the bad for me, Harvey was all the good. He had such a big heart and he loved Alice despite the way she treated him. He saw the goodness in her where even I failed to see it. Harvey was way too forgiving and understanding, but he was more of a person than Alice could have been. I hated that Harvey let Alice use him and walk all over him because he deserved so much more than her. He still let her in when she abandoned him the first time and again the second time. He loved Alice so much that I sometimes hated him for it because he wouldn’t say no to her like he should have. But really, Harvey was so loyal and dependable. He was the one character that showed the most emotion and made me ache and break for him. He made me really proud when he finally stood his ground. Between Harvey and Alice, Harvey will always win out as the better person hands down. 

I actually liked the way Julie Murphy wrote and set this book up. This book was far from being The Fault in Our Stars or my recent favorite cancer book, Maybe One Day and I mean this in a good way because it stood out on its own. Instead of reading about someone dealing with cancer and death, we get the other side of the spectrum of dealing with remission and living. It was rough and I didn’t like Alice, but I thought her story had to be told. I also liked how Alice and Harvey’s perspectives were split from their past to when Alice first got diagnosed and then to the present when she went into remission. I thought it worked really well because I got to see how Harvey was back into Alice’s life and what led Alice to be the way she turned out to be. 

Overall, Side Effects May Vary did manage to grasp my attention and make me fall in love with at least one character. It wasn’t entirely bad and for that I was grateful.

*Thanks to HarperCollins/ Balzer + Bray for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review