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Today in Jen's Library

I listen to audiobooks while I flip houses. I also read real books which I buy incessantly.

Currently reading

Monsters (The Ashes Trilogy, #3)
Ilsa J. Bick
Time Between Us
Tamara Ireland Stone
The Message: The New Testament, Mass Market Edition
The Returned - Jason Mott Review to come

Dare You To (Pushing the Limits, #2)

Dare You To (Pushing the Limits, #2) - Katie McGarry,  Brittany Presley,  Christopher Gebauer Now here's a refreshing take on the whole teenage romance. He's a baseball star and she's a mess. He's cocky and she's from a trailer park. It's about time the traditional good girl/bad boy roles are reversed.

This is the story of a dare. I loved the way this theme echoed through the book. The title is so appropriate because the whole plot really does hinge on just that - a dare. Ryan is popular, good-looking jock from a nice family. He and his friends have a game where they dare each other to do the typical stupid high school things. But they're ball players and they take winning very seriously, so one of them losing a dare means merciless (albeit good-natured) teasing from the two others. One of the guys dares Ryan to get Beth's phone number while in a Taco Bell one night. What ensues is an interesting journey into their screwed-up lives. He thinks she's a rich girl living with her famous former NY Yankee uncle and she thinks he's the typical jock with the upper-class family (which he actually is). Neither could be more wrong.

I think the thing about this story that I liked the best (and the thing that disturbed me the most) was how realistic it was. We have Beth, who is completely deluded with a saviour complex. I wonder how many kids really are in her situation, with a deadbeat drug-addicted mom and a dad in prison. The thing that's unique about her is that this screwed up family of hers really does just dump all the responsibility for her mother into her lap. Everyone, that is, except the uncle who abandoned her to follow a career in pro baseball. After she gets arrested by covering for her mom, her uncle Scott comes in and really does rescue her from her life. Beth has been coping the way anyone in her situation would cope: she gets high, she skips school, she hangs out with gang members and she fails at life. She expects to fail at life. And who wouldn't, surrounded by a whole host of failures? Scott takes her to his big house in their small hometown, removed from the city slums where she's been living, away from her friends and her mother and her mother's abusive boyfriend. All Beth wants to do is get away from him and his snobby wife - who does he think he is, anyway? She doesn't belong in a normal high school with normal friends, she's on a mission to get her mother away from their excuse for a life.

Scott is patient but firm. What makes the relationship between he and Beth work is their history. Scott was there to take care of her when her mother was damaged, abused and married to a drug dealer. He's a father figure that protected her when she was small, and that works to his favour when he gets custody of her. He's able to remove her from her failure of a life and give her hope, something she sees as weakness. Trust is a big deal for Beth and with good reason. A child whose parents are selfish and place blame on someone so young is both unfair and irresponsible. It is appalling.

Ryan, on the other hand, is the consummate perfect boy with the image-conscious family. Everything looks good from the outside, but there are secrets and impossibly high expectations on the inside. While it could be said that he has what amount to first-world problems, he is completely relatable for many teens. The pressure to perform can be as debilitating as the expectation of worthlessness and failure.

The way these two characters come to break out of the lives in which they are stuck is encouraging and uplifting. It's a slow process, with complicated relationships and trust issues which give the characters depth and definition. The secondary characters are completely necessary to the story and give it angst without being shallow - a pretty good trick to accomplish. The relationship between Beth and Isaiah could have been trite and cliche, but McGarry is able to give it a heart-wrenching perspective. The revelations toward the end of the story are emotional and raw while remaining true to reality.

This book will literally wring out your emotions and leave you exhausted. Talk about drama!

This story is the furthest thing from a light romance. It's a romance, sure. But be prepared to be dragged through slums, backstabbing high school princesses, seriously faithful friendships and equally screwed-up families. It's a pretty girl and a swoon-worthy guy. But boy do they have issues. How McGarry pulls out a happy ending is a real feat considering the big confrontation at the end.

The book is told from two points of view. It is narrated on audio from two points of view on audio as well, by Brittany Pressley and Christopher Gebauer. Pressley's performance tends to sound like she's reading. She gives the characters good voices and has emotion true to the scenes, but I found it difficult to distinguish the character's thoughts from their actual dialogue. Gebauer, on the other hand, was wonderful. His portrayal of Ryan was just that - a portrayal. He really brought Ryan to life. It's so nice to have a true voice actor instead of just a narrator.

Katie McGarry isn't afraid to tackle some big, big issues. She does it with realism while managing to entertain us, which I find pretty amazing. I will be helping myself to her other books - but I'm going to have to prepare myself for an emotional roller coaster. Her stories are not for the faint of heart.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1) - Laini Taylor,  Khristine Hvam I tried to read this a few months ago and just couldn't get into it. I am so glad I picked it up again. Everyone who says that it's fabulous? They're right. It's beyond fabulous. It blew me away.

The setting is Prague. While Prague is a beautiful city, it's not one that I think I would particularly enjoy - I visited St. Petersburg, Russia in February and found it cold and bleak. That impression was probably the thing that was off-putting for me when I first tried to read the story months ago. The main character, Karou, seemed at first to be a tough girl, rebellious and cheeky and not at all endearing. I read blue hair and tattoos and thought 'oh, here we go with the predictable kickass fantasy heroine who's going to slaughter strange creatures, lie to the regular folk (in their best interests of course) and take over some kingdom.' I expected a long adventure completely unrelated to real life. I expected all the things I find tedious in fantasy stories.

But not so, not even close! This time around Karou just seemed to be a regular art student with a strange family. Art students in general tend to be a bit odd, and Karou is no exception. She is the "daughter" of a rather daunting and fantastic creature named Brimstone. Mr. Brimstone and the others who live in his shop are chimaera - monsters who are part animal. Brimstone sends Karou on errands to gather teeth, and he grants her small wishes. Karou is like anyone with an odd family - they're all she knows so they don't seem strange at all. Monsters? Seeing them through her eyes makes us love them as she does. And Karou has a lot of questions about her heritage, all of which are unanswered by the mysterious and gruff Brimstone.

She meets and does battle with an angel, Akiva, in an alley in Marrakesh. There is a mysterious pull between them, and the story then unfolds to answer the questions of the attraction between them and Karou's origins.

Karou is actually pretty tough. I'm not sure I'd call her a badass heroine but she certainly approaches that. As the story unfolds, so does her character. Part of the charm for this book was the way the actual plot is entangled with the person of Karou. She is a mystery not only to us as readers, but to herself. We come to understand who she is as she does. As a protagonist she is complex: conflicted, curious, bold, unafraid and courageous, protective, confident. As the story progresses, a more tender side of her is revealed. She becomes more and more endearing; by the end of the book I was completely taken with her.

Akiva is a wonderful balance to Karou. He knows things, he's tortured by what he knows, and he opts for the honest rather than easy way out. We know him as a merciless, driven soldier, loyal to his cause and believing what he has been taught. But as with Karou, his personality emerges and is equally complex, with a depth that makes him completely amazing. The best thing about him is that the qualities that make him antagonistic at first never change, but simply are a basis for his entire character. The more I saw, the more I liked him. By the end, I was in love.

This book had me speculating all over the place with what would happen next - I was absolutely riveted! I never imagined the true situation revealed at the end. And what a reveal it was, with language so beautiful that I could have listened to it for days. The imagery was astounding. Some authors are just able to put language to a scene that leaves you breathless, and Laini Taylor is one of those authors.

The audio is done by Khristine Hvam and she is nothing short of fabulous. She really made the characters come alive with varying accents and voices. The emotion she gives to the scenes is spot on.

I'm putting this one up there as one of my favourites of 2013. And if it can capture a non-fantasy-fan like me, it will certainly capture fantasy and non-fantasy lovers alike. It is a spectacular start to what I hope will be a spectacular series.


Bittersweet (Audio) - Sarah Ockler, Ariadne Meyers I read the synopsis on this book and thought it would be about cupcakes. Not so. It's really about ice skating, high school, and living in a small town. Who knew?

It's the story of a girl who is doing her best to deal with real life in a practical way. Hudson is one of the most angst-ridden protagonists I've ever encountered. She spends almost the entire story second-guessing herself and cringing at the decisions she's made. She likes Will, doesn't she? Shouldn't she? She likes Josh, but then there's the Will thing . . . she wants to please her Mom. She's desperate to leave her small town while consumed with guilt over not wanting to follow in her mother's footsteps. She makes sacrifices without trashing her dreams or losing sight of her goal. Then she doubts whether she should be sacrificing in the first place.

OK all that aside, Hudson really was likable. Her banter with the hockey team was thoroughly enjoyable. She was committed, faithful, funny at times. She was a terrible friend and yet I never thought she was a jerk. The cupcakes seemed to me to really be a side issue and indeed they were her coping mechanism. I'm conflicted on my feelings for the love triangle; Hudson seemed to take a long time to figure it out when it seemed so obvious to us as readers. But she does get to the bottom of her feelings in the end with a very satisfying conclusion.

I liked Will but I didn't trust him (I knew it!). I had mixed feelings about Dani, the stock gum-cracking funny friend. In the end, Dani's behaviour gave her a bit more depth than the traditional best friend. I really liked Josh, I loved Bug, I even liked Hudson's mom. All the points of view were clearly distinguished, the characters well defined. The story was sort of like a rocky path to a predictable ending. But that was ok because this story is a light read, not trying to tackle any major issues. And let's face it, titling each chapter with a mouth-watering cupcake description didn't hurt.

Ockler does a great job of placing us in a busy diner in a small town. I felt the cold, heard the sounds of skates on ice. I saw the icy lake. She's a good writer.

I do have a bone to pick, though. It seems that a lot of the contemporary YA that I read lately has characters that can't communicate. While this drives the plot along, it gets annoying. They aren't honest when they should be, and that feels a bit contrived. Can't an author move things along without resorting to the traditional measures of insecurity and dishonesty by omission with their characters? Or is this just reflective of real life and the thing that makes the characters interesting? I'm on the fence about this whole plot device because so many of these stories are thoroughly enjoyable.

The book is narrated on audio by Ariadne Meyers. Her voice for Hudson is wonderful - I think it's what makes the story so good. She really did bring the story to life with expression and emotion.

All in all, I gave this 4 stars because I enjoyed it even with its problems. It's a sweet story. Fans of Sarah Dessen will love it.
The Edge of Never - J.A. Redmerski Road trip with hot guy and pretty girl. Sounds like a recipe for a great story, right? Between the synopsis and the reviews I'd read about this book, I had some optimistic expectations. I wasn't disappointed.

Camryn starts out as a sad, depressed character whose friends are insisting she break out of her comfort zone. Her boyfriend was killed in a car accident, and this has left her pretty much emotionally destitute, moving through her life as a sort of zombie. She makes a bold decision and takes a big chance by getting on a bus and just leaving her life behind. She doesn't have a physical destination, but she does have an emotional one - she is determined to get past the heartache and devastation which has held her prisoner.

On the bus, she meets Andrew. Andrew is a guy with his own issues (what is a hunk like him doing on a bus?) He is persistent, she is stubborn. The story predictably follows the thawing of Camryn's refusal to give him the time of day, to their friendship, to their romance, to tragedy, to a happy ending. And the best part is the road trip.

I liked Andrew a lot. He was a nice contrast to Camryn's friends at home - people who tried to fix deep questions with shallow answers. Natalie is the stock best friend trying to pull Camryn out of her funk. Damon, Camryn's friend and Natalie's boyfriend, is a jerk. And Natalie is blind. Although I found their behaviour to be realistic, I didn't like it. They may have added some dimension to Camryn, but in the end they really weren't needed beyond the initial setup of the plot.

One of the reasons I liked Andrew was the way he insisted that Camryn be smart. Honestly, the idea that a 20-year old pretty girl gets on a bus smacks of out-and-out stupidity. Fortunately for Camryn, Andrew addressed that situation with an appropriately protective attitude. He was totally a guy without being obnoxious. He continually drew Camryn out, faithful to their friendship without losing the fact that he was attracted to her. He was also the typical heartthrob which admittedly is unrealistic but who cares? He's good-looking and not afraid of a fight. He's funny and caring. He's irresistible. What's not to love?

The road trip, while immensely entertaining, was a bit unrealistic. Apparently Andrew had unlimited funds with which to drive around the country and just have fun. This was explained later - but the idea that they were just able to drop their lives seemed to be a bit of a stretch. Enviable, though. Seriously, who wouldn't love just leaving their life for awhile?

The love story - which we all knew would end well - really did develop nicely. This wasn't insta-love, but rather a gradual exploration of the issues that plagued both characters. I think that's what made the story good; getting to the bottom of all the problems alongside the relationship made for a great romance. The banter was a lot of fun and the ending came out of nowhere. It carried an emotional punch that gave the book a nice bang with which to go out.

This is decidedly New Adult. This isn't a couple of teenagers mooning over each other. These are young adults behaving like adults, so be warned.

The audio was narrated by Lauren Fortgang. She gave great voices to the characters. Her expression and emotion was great, although she does have a bit of a whiny tone that might be off-putting to some.

I really did like this book a lot. It's one of the better NA contemporaries out there, with characters who have depth. I'm not raving about it, but I am recommending it. Romance lovers will be braiding their long hair and longing for an Andrew Parrish of their own.
The Immortal Rules - Julie Kagawa Vampires are not my thing, even reluctant ones. Having said that, I must admit that I do read some books where they play a part. And in this case, they are the central part.

Allie is a vampire, having seized the option offered to her after having been savagely attacked and left to die. Where her existence previously consisted of scavenging a life from the dregs of society, now she is taken under the wing of a "sire." He teaches her how to defend herself, about the way vampire society works, and how to eat like a proper lady . . . vampire. There comes a point when they have to separate, and Allie finds a ragtag group of survivors in the wilds. They are trying to get to what may be a mythical place while trying to avoid "rabids," vampire-like zombies responsible for Allie's near-death. There has been a plague which decimated the human population and scientists tried to find a cure; the rabids are the result of trying to use vampires to do it. These rabids inhabit the areas around and between vampire cities. Additionally, Allie's sire Kanin struggles to find a cure for the plague while avoiding vampire hierarchy.

This sounds like a complicated plot, but it's really pretty straightforward: vampire girl tries to find her way in dystopia. That about sums it up.

The book is written well, which is what kept me reading. The action and dialogue are cohesive; nothing seems stilted or to come out nowhere. There's really no lag in the movement of the plot either. There is action, battle, running from danger, facing impossible odds. This would make both a wonderful graphic novel and a movie. Our reluctant hero never seems to sit and whine about her situation. Rather, she tends toward self-loathing with a realistic view that things are what they are, and that being a vampire was indeed her choice. She is decidedly not a whiner. Basically, she just gets over herself.

The turning point, of course, is when she decides that she is not the monster she might otherwise be. Then things get a bit dicier along the adventure. Allie's character didn't really change as much at that point as simply expand - part of the appeal of the story is to see Allie grow into herself, accepting her choices and finding her way amidst those who would certainly reject her if they knew what she was. This plays out in a good way and a bad way; good in that she gains maturity and self-acceptance. It is bad in that her ability and choice to communicate are somewhat lacking. I found myself many times wondering why she wouldn't just be honest with those around her and simply take the adventure from there. I realise that it creates a tension in the story that keeps us interested, but I find I am increasingly weary of heroines who refuse to be honest because they are afraid of being rejected.

The other characters - Kanin (Allie's vampire "dad"), Zeke and Jeb, are well-defined. There is a love story between Zeke and Allie, but it is largely incidental within the scope of the story. It provides the basis for some of their choices but is really a minor plot element. Jeb was an interesting guy, a nice contrast to Zeke which is interesting because he is a father figure for Zeke. Kanin is probably my favourite of the characters. He's dark, brooding, wise, and most definitely a big bad vampire.

Also regarding characters, I have to say that I was easily able to see them in my mind. They were real images of people rather than just ideas or vague images. To Kagawa's credit, she is a very good writer on that front. She was unafraid of killing many of the characters off, which I found to be a brave choice.

The book struck me as basically a YA version of [b:The Passage|6690798|The Passage (The Passage, #1)|Justin Cronin|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327874267s/6690798.jpg|2802546] by [a:Justin Cronin|45315|Justin Cronin|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1291156119p2/45315.jpg]. The action is more PG here, which I preferred. The book is relatively dark and gritty, but more in a wild west sort of way. Good people are better able to survive really, really bad stuff. This seemed to lighten the story enough to where the world didn't seem quite so bleak. That said, some of the plot turns were typical and predictable. I was led along a storyline that I have been down enough times to easily navigate and expect.

Regardless of its problems, Kagawa has written a very good story that deserves the acclaim it has received. Although I have not read the [b:The Twilight Collection|690926|The Twilight Collection (Twilight, #1-3)|Stephenie Meyer|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1266618000s/690926.jpg|3187048] by [a:Stephenie Meyer|941441|Stephenie Meyer|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1269985304p2/941441.jpg], I understand from lovers of this sub-genre that Kagawa's story stands head and shoulders above Meyer's series.

I listened to the audio version of this book narrated by Therese Plummer. Although she kept the story riveting, I didn't care for many of her characterizations. Like Justine Eyre, she tends to pause the dialogue in odd places in order to define the characters. This isn't the way I would imagine the characters actually speaking, and it threw it off for me. Perhaps this is one better read in print.

All things considered, this was a good book. To its credit, this Blood of Eden series promises to be outstanding - even for vampire-avoiders like me.
All Our Yesterdays - Cristin Terrill Time travel done right. Finally! Thank you, Cristin Terrill! The cover flap of this book says ""All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice." Having just closed the cover, I couldn't agree more.

Time travel inevitably involves a complicated story that is difficult to follow. That is, unless an author sets simple rules and sticks to them. In this story, Terrill has done it expertly. One of her laws - the idea that time has a sentient quality - fixes many of the mistakes made by many storytellers. I also loved the idea that time is not linear as we understand it. What if it's really not? The way she explains paradoxes is brilliant. The bottom line is simply this: when we as readers know the rules the author has created and she doesn't break those rules, we can finally enjoy a great story that makes sense.

The tale is told from the viewpoints of Em and Marina. By alternating perspectives with each chapter, it is far more easy to keep track of what is present and what is past. Even when it starts to get really complicated - and it does near the end - it is not difficult to understand.

The plot is fairly straightforward. Isn't every time travel story about going back to fix things in the past? The thing that's unique about this particular story is that it's been done 14 times previously by the protagonist. Will she get it right this time? Well, that's the story.

Em is a gritty main character. She's been through torture, she's been on the run from authorities, she's been part of a rebel/terrorist organization and she's both escaped and been caught. She's been betrayed. She is determined and focused, and yet never seems to have lost her true heart or humanity. She is fiercely protective of Marina. She is somewhat of a study in contradiction, and that's what I liked about her. Every time I thought she was tough and heartless, she was overcome by her love and compassion.

Marina, on the other hand, is a spoiled rich girl who is shallow and a bit silly. These negative qualities can be attributed to her insecurity, though. She is at the same time loyal and loving, devoted to James. Mostly she is simply immature. But even at that, she is not unlikable. So much of today's society is full of teenagers just like her. On a list of the best of them, I'd at least put her at the top.

James is a brilliant character, both in his personality and in the way he is written. Finn is charming and funny, practical and humble. The lesser characters (Richter, Nate, the Shaw family, Marina's parents and Finn's mother) are really just highlights. They serve the plot and are each distinct without drawing attention from the main points we really care about.

The action doesn't stop for a minute. The suspense kept me riveted enough to read the book in one sitting. The climax of the story is terrifying, shocking and complicated at the same time. I found myself shaking my head at the end, wondering exactly what happened, having to think it all through again to make sense of the paradoxical aspect of the events.

This book is smart, and I like that. It's also not pretentious. It is heart-wrenching, scary and romantic. It may even be possible, and I think that is what may be, for me, its most attractive quality. I do love a story that just might happen. This isn't just a great story for time-travel lovers. Fans of dystopia and apocalypse will also enjoy those elements that it offers.

And the ultimate irony here is that virtually every novelist goes back and rewrites their book. Isn't that some version of time travel, rewriting the past? Well done, Cristin Terrill. Could you do it again please?

The Darkest Minds - Alexandra Bracken I'll have this up in a bit.
Lucid - Adrienne Stoltz, Ron Bass I loved this book. Loved it. Hands down, no question, loved loved loved it. I am wondering why I took so long to read it. It is also enigmatic, so in order to keep this review spoiler-free I'm basically going to tell you absolutely nothing about it.

While the premise is not the most original I've ever read or seen (in film), it is masterfully handled. The writing is funny, inventive, silly, clever. The truth is revealed inch by inch but not in a way that has you raving at the book to "just tell me already!" The plot does not drag or even lull. The ending is a surprise and not a surprise and a surprise.

The characters make this book:

Sloane, who is reserved, smart, loyal, devoted, wise, somewhat blinded to herself and others around her in terms of physical beauty, focused, sarcastic, generous, thoughtful, loving, introverted, everyone and no one all at once, and aware she is blessed but is not happy.

Maggie, who is fun, outgoing, clever, confident, self-aware but with a healthy dose of realism, perceptive, happy, funny, always in the moment, direct, honest, quick to forgive, wonderful to be around, generous and smart.

Andrew, who is funny, sly, sweet and caring in a I'm-not-letting-on-what-I-really-feel kind of way.

James, who is perfect.

Gordy, who is also perfect but in a way completely different than James.

Thomas, who is calculating and duplicitous.

Jade and Max, who are adorable, which may or may not be what they really are but what they are in this story.

And the parents, who are the people you'd expect in the situations they're in.

This book will pull all your emotions and ends without making you cry. It is a happy book while still being complicated with sad parts. It is one of those stories written by screenwriters which makes a much better book. If they choose to make this into a movie (or if they already have), I'm sure it could never encompass the range of emotion and feeling that the book evokes. It was refreshing and sweet and clever and wonderful.

Just read it. You'll see what I mean.
Hourglass - Myra McEntire Time travel is probably my most favourite of sci-fi themes. So when I saw time travel plus that gorgeous cover, I knew I'd probably love this story. Love it? Not so much. Like it? Yes.

The story is about Emerson, a 17 year old girl who is an orphan being looked after by her brother and his wife. She has recently returned to Tennessee from a boarding school in Arizona. Apparently she has had some emotional and mental problems in dealing with the death of her parents; playing into these problems are the fact that she can see apparitions. Her brother has tried many things in an effort to help her and finally happens upon the Hourglass organization, and he hires a consultant to assist Emerson in dealing with these problems.

I'm not sure if I liked Emerson or not. She was wisecracking, headstrong, reckless and just flat annoying at times. No matter how those around her tried to help her or advise her, she always seemed to think she had a better idea about the way things should be done. She didn't seem to make even one wise decision. I think I could have liked her a lot if she'd either dealt more seriously with her backstory or if she hadn't had the backstory and was just sarcastic. But the marriage of the two made her less than believable for me.

Michael was all over the place for me. I never did seem to grasp his purpose: was he a therapist? Was he a friend? How could he be just a couple of years older than Emerson and yet in a position to advise her counsel her? Did he live in the apartment loft or at the pseudo-frat house at the unnamed college he attended? Was he able to ever give Emerson a straight answer about anything and did was he ever going to tell her anything specific about anything?

The plot started out seeming like a ghost story. But wait, wasn't this supposed to be time travel? The story seemed to take a lot of time laying out details that didn't connect at all. I was lost - and thus bored - for about the first half of the book. And then suddenly things got interesting. All these random facts and situations started to tie together and make sense, and lo and behold there was time traveling happening!

Fortunately, the time travel wasn't excessively complicated and followed some simple rules. But the way it was couched within superheroes with super powers didn't appeal to me at all. Mad scientists? Yes. Empaths? OK, but what does that have to do with time travel?

When the story got to the actual time-traveling and stopped being about all kinds of other paranormal nonsense, it got pretty good. There was mystery, intrigue, really evil villains, and some degree of unpredictability. Emerson seemed to get a brain and Michael got a purpose. The insta-love stopped being stupid and started making some sense. The random happenings at the beginning of the story started to tie in, and the whole story ended up being pretty good.

I liked the secondary characters more than the main characters, which seems odd. But Kaleb and Lily had some depth and great qualities. Apparently Kaleb has a big role in the sequel "Timepiece," which immediately makes me want to read it.

So much of this story seems convenient and cliche. There are definitely books out there that do time travel better. But this one does an adequate job. I can't put a hearty recommendation behind it, but it is a somewhat entertaining and quick read. If my expectations had been lower, I think I would have enjoyed this book more. That said, I will be reading the sequel. Often a series gets better if the first book is less than stellar. And hey, it's time travel. That alone makes me want to keep going.
Ten Tiny Breaths - K.A. Tucker Sometimes a New Adult novel handles a social issue extremely well, and this is one of those novels.

Ten Tiny Breaths is the story of Kacey and her struggle to overcome the trauma of a car accident, of which she was the lone survivor. It's an excellent commentary on the way we handle stress and emotional overload. And it's a nice romance as well.

I appreciated greatly that the plot here is believable. The people that Kacey gets involved with are reasonable folks; they're not the most savoury of characters, but they aren't entirely bad. If there is something that enters into the plausability factor, it is simply that people who generally work in strip clubs and live in furnished, run-down apartment buildings are all really nice people who care for each other. That's probably a stretch. But here, it works.

Kacey is not your general damsel-in-distress. She has a whole host of coping mechanisms. And for someone dealing with her real-life issues there is a real point of connection. Her feelings are conflicted. She's a mess. And she doesn't try to cover that up on any kind of level. This character is honest about her failings and is endearing because of them. She takes positive steps to move away from the bad things in her life, and when she gets tripped up, we are right there with her feeling her pain and anguish.

Trent, although somewhat stereotypical in looks and manner, isn't stereotypical after all. The way KA Tucker weaves him into Kacey's story is just interesting enough to be unpredictable. When an author can keep me guessing he/she gets high marks. And I didn't expect for the story to go where it did.

The secondary characters are just delightful. Storm, Dan, Mia, Livie, Cain, Nate, Bob . . . they're all likeable and entertaining. Somehow Tucker has managed to give them just that slight bit more depth than I would have expected. It's as if they're each a bit of a cliche, but with a twist.

I couldn't put this book down, and it was a relatively quick read. It was engaging and well-paced. Not only did I not get bored, I didn't get easily distracted.

The ending was neatly tied up, which threw the reality factor out the window. But in these sorts of books I don't think we readers really care. We aren't looking for real life, after all. We want a beautiful romance between flawed individuals who are struggling to overcome their own personal issues. We want that happy ending for them. And in this case, the fairytale opens up and takes over the entire ending.

The story did a great job of addressing PTSD and the serious damage it can do to a life. It also handled the issue of drunk driving extremely well. The idea that people do the best they can with the information they have is paramount, and if that isn't reality I don't know what is.

The book is funny at times, certainly entertaining, and the characters are endearing. There are so many books in this genre which try to tackle various social issues; this one does it well. It's an honest peek at engaging people. And I'm looking forward to more from this author.
Origin  - Jennifer L. Armentrout Thank you, Jennifer Armentrout, for not taking the easy way out. This latest installment could have been one big long, drawn out mess concentrating on stuff we could have cared less about.

But instead, you gave us some great stuff! Katy and Daemon! There was action, there was suspense, there was danger. There were new people. Katy and Daemon kept their sass but their relationship deepened and grew. You didn't shortchange us on any kind of level.

Thank you. Thank you for not trying to make the story into something it wasn't, too realistic or too fanciful, nothing like that. You just stayed true to the characters and gave us a great showdown. WELL DONE. Thank you! Thank you!
Survive - Alex Morel Now here is a take on survival that I hadn't ever encountered. What if you wanted to kill yourself, only to be presented with a situation where you are forced to survive in order to save someone else?

This is the story of Jane, who jokes about killing herself. She comes from a family of suicides; her grandparents killed themselves, her father killed himself, and now she decides it's time for her to kill herself. Even after a stint in a rehab facility for those who have unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide, she is undaunted. She has calculated this and she is determined. While on a plane heading back to visit her mother, she goes into the small lavatory armed with pills and cold medicine. But before she can swallow, the plane crashes, and ironically it is the small closet of a bathroom that stays intact. She survives the crash, along with Paul, the passenger who was seated next to her.

After the crash, they have to survive climbing over a mountain to get to safety. It isn't easy, and the book doesn't make it seem easy. But it also doesn't overemphasize the nature of the disaster. They are probably not going to live through the snow and cold and dangers. They need to get lucky, and they need to be smart.

And they are smart, for the most part. The book is much more about the mental game of survival than the physical one. It is much more a journey of how Jane and Paul manage to view the experience through their own past challenges and faults. Some of it may seem unrealistic, but then again, desperate people do desperate things, even silly emotional things. When you're not sure you're going to live through something, I am quite certain that we do things we would not otherwise do.

This story is brief and that's good, because it isn't some sort of black hole of despair, as some accounts of these sorts of journeys are. It is to the point, honest, straightforward. It is what it is and doesn't pretend to be anything else. The aspect of depression is not at the forefront of this story. Rather, it is simply one of, well, survival - in a broad sense. Of course there are more riveting stories of managing to stay alive despite plane crashes on snow-covered mountains, with injuries and starvation and the usual problems. This is not one of those stories. It is simply a study in what it means to want to stay alive. What things are worth living for?

Its title is fitting. It is well-written, well-paced, and overall a very good book.
The Sea of Tranquility: A Novel - This book has rendered me nearly speechless with its raw, honest emotion. It is an arrow to the bullseye of truth.
The Vincent Brothers: Extended and Uncut (The Vincent Boys, #2) - Abbi Glines I've been on an Abbi Glines kick lately - I just finished the whole [b:The Sea Breeze Collection: Breathe; Because of Low; While It Lasts; Just for Now|17383005|The Sea Breeze Collection Breathe; Because of Low; While It Lasts; Just for Now (Sea Breeze, #1-4)|Abbi Glines|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1368431565s/17383005.jpg|24177792] and then [b:The Vincent Boys|12900174|The Vincent Boys (The Vincent Boys, #1)|Abbi Glines|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348781266s/12900174.jpg|17572318]. This was pretty much more of the same.

I have to say, though, this one had a bit of a departure with the plot. Just when I think Glines is getting formulaic and predictable, she turns things a different way and I see it through a different perspective.

In this particular installment, Lana is an idiot and Sawyer is a jerk. She needed to draw some lines and he needed to get a clue. I suppose they finally do both things, but it took awhile. I had to keep in mind that they were just 18.

I didn't care for the epilogue at all. I didn't think it was necessary. And within the scheme of real life, I think it's misleading. Given that most of the readers of this type of book are pretty young, the less fairytale ideas we give them about happy endings, the better. A high school/early college relationship working out is a much different thing than getting engaged at the end of college and getting married 5 years later)

I gave this 4 stars because I couldn't put it down. Abbi Glines is a great writer - I'll pick up pretty much anything she she writes. For some people it's Sarah Dessen, for me it's Abbi Glines. She's a great contemporary author and I do love those Alabama boys --
Darkfever - Karen Marie Moning, Joyce Bean The audio on this book isn't terrible, it's just annoying. I'm putting it aside for now and planning to read it in print. The story is very good.