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Monthly Archives: July 2014

Magnolia – Kristi Cook

Magnolia
By: Kristi Cook
Available August 2014

Description:
In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.

Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.

But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.

This Blonde’s Review:
Jemma and Ryder’s mothers are best friends. Their idea of the perfect life for their children would be a life where they end up together so they do everything they can to maneuver them to make it happen. They are not having anything to do with it though. They put up with each other because they have to but that’s all. Until they find themselves caught in a hurricane together alone and other feelings start to come out.

Watching Jemma and Ryder try to figure out what they feel for each other without letting their parents find out was amusing. Most kids have to sneak around since their parents wouldn’t approve. Jemma and Ryder have the opposite problem. If anything happens between them it would make their parents’ dreams come true and they would never hear the end of it.

Jemma and Ryder have their friends that overlap and their families, so there is no way to stay away from each other. But when they get caught in the hurricane together when both sets of parents are out of town they find themselves seeking comfort in each other. That comfort opens the door for other things they wouldn’t have allowed themselves to feel otherwise.

I liked the way they were able to encourage each other to do what mattered to them, that those things were able to bring them closer together instead of further apart. It was a cute book and one that I breezed through pretty quickly and happily.

If you enjoy reading about a couple whose only thing keeping them apart are the things they think they know about each other then you’ll enjoy reading this one to watch them learn they don’t know each other as well as they think.

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Talon – Julie Kagawa

Talon
By: Julie Kagawa
Talon – Book 1
Available October 2014

Description:
Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they’re positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.

Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon’s newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember’s bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

This Blonde’s Review:
Ember and Dante may look like normal teenagers but they’re actually dragons in hiding. They’ve spent their whole life in training in a compound and are finally being given a summer to try to blend in. Dante is the one who is good and always does the right thing. Ember is the one who finds the idea of freedom exhilarating and can’t wait to see what life is like outside of the compound they grew up in. She has a hard time not turning or flying, but at least she can surf and get something close to it.

Ember and Dante have always been close, but when they are separated for training they find themselves drifting apart. They learn different things at different times as their instructors believe they need to know it. Ember’s trainer puts her through hell, forcing her to fight and trying to make her lose touch with her humanity. Her trainer wants Ember to attack humans without pause. When she finds out what job she’s been assigned to she doesn’t know if she can handle it.

During everything she has met two guys. One, a rogue dragon, who appeals to her dragon side and encourages her to fly and break rules. Another is a human guy who appeals to her human side, who is secretly a member of St George, the group that tracks and kills dragons. She never though a dragon would be attracted to a human but somehow she is attracted to Garret. We also see the guys’ points of view, the way they see Ember and what they want from her. But throughout it all, Ember is primary and her viewpoint is the important one. These guys are going to lead Ember to some important decisions and realizations about herself and the world around her. And at the same time, she’ll help them see the things around them in a different way too.

When I started this one I wasn’t sure that I’d like it. We were supposed to hear the way that Ember thought about dragons and it almost seemed like she thought of herself as part of a larger unit rather than as herself. And it would have been irritating to hear her describe herself in terms of dragons as a group throughout the whole book. But as the book went on that got to be less of an issue. While I was reading it I took it as the author describing things and irritating me with the way she was doing it. But as the book went on and more of Ember’s human side came out less of that descriptive side was present. So it may have also been something to do with the way she thought about herself, in the beginning she was part of this larger unit while later she was simply Ember, dragon and human at once.

The relationships were complicated the way they always are. We don’t want to give up on the people that everyone else can see aren’t capable of being there for us the way we want them to be. At the same time, in some ways they weren’t as bad as it could have been. There was of course attraction and a bit of a love triangle, but nothing so overwhelming that they didn’t come together when needed to fight together on more than one occasion, before and after they knew each other’s true identities.

At first I wasn’t sure I’d care for the writing style, but by the end of the book I was really enjoying Ember’s story. I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series.

 

Perfect Couple – Jennifer Echols

Perfect Couple
By: Jennifer Echols
Superlatives – Book 2
Available January 2015

Description:
Perfect Couple is #2 in the Superlatives series about seniors at a Florida high school who are selected for their class’s superlative categories in the yearbook, and how the labels change the way they view themselves and alter the course of their lives.

Can your heart be put to a popular vote?

As yearbook photographer, Harper is responsible for capturing those candid moments that make high school memorable. But her own life is anything but picture perfect. Her parents’ bitter divorce has left her wondering what a loving relationship would look like. And ever since the senior class voted her and star quarterback Brody the “Perfect Couple That Never Was,” her friends have been on her case to ask Brody out.

Brody doesn’t lack in female admirers, but Harper can’t see herself with him. He seems confused about why they were matched together, too. They’re total opposites—the last people in the world who would ever be compatible, let alone the “perfect couple.” Yet ever since the class paired the two of them, they’ve found themselves drawn together–first by curiosity, then by an undeniable bond.

The trouble is, though they’re very attracted to each other and both of them admit this, they have a hard time getting along or even communicating clearly. If they’re the perfect couple, this shouldn’t be so difficult! Soon it becomes clear their class was wrong, and they throw in the towel. But after they walk away, both of them feel so changed from making the effort that they can’t forget each other. What if that means this match made in hell is the perfect couple after all?

This Blonde’s Review:
Harper and Brody are not a couple you’d normally put together. But apparently their classmates see something that Harper and Brody never did and voted them to “Perfect Couple That Never Was.” Once the idea is in their heads they can’t seem to keep from considering it, despite already being in other relationships.

I really liked Harper. She was smart and creative. She was a kind person who I would have wanted to be friends with in high school. She’s cautious and wants to play it safe ever since her parent’s divorce. Brody is the star quarterback, popular and outgoing. Everyone loves him and all the girls like him. So why would he waste his time with a girl like her?

Yet apparently he’s been looking back her her curiously too. And when one thing leads to another, soon they decide to give a relationship a go. Maybe their friends see something they don’t.

Seeing them try to figure out if this is something they can make work was great. Because we can’t help but like both of them and want them to be together. They’re great together even though it isn’t as easy as they seem to think it should be.

And when they find out some surprising news Harper can’t help but want to run. So it becomes if they can make it work or not.

If you enjoyed the first book in this series then you’ll enjoy this one. You’ll enjoy the chance to get to know more of the characters you got to know in the first book.

I was also looking forward to this one because of my personal history. When I was a senior in high school I was also voted as half of a perfect couple that never was. In our case we just side eyed each other on the meeting where it was announced, I wondered about it a little, and that was the end of it. I was looking forward to a chance to see what Jennifer Echols had her characters do with it.

 

Get Even – Gretchen McNeil

Get Even
By: Gretchen McNeil
Don’t Get Mad – Book 1
Available Sept 2014

Description:
The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars in Gretchen McNeil’s witty and suspenseful novel about four disparate girls who join forces to take revenge on high school bullies and create dangerous enemies for themselves in the process.

Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot have nothing in common—at least that’s what they’d like the students and administrators of their elite private school to think. The girls have different goals, different friends, and different lives, but they share one very big secret: They’re all members of Don’t Get Mad, a secret society that anonymously takes revenge on the school’s bullies, mean girls, and tyrannical teachers.

When their latest target ends up dead with a blood-soaked “DGM” card in his hands, the girls realize that they’re not as anonymous as they thought—and that someone now wants revenge on them. Soon the clues are piling up, the police are closing in . . . and everyone has something to lose.

This Blonde’s Review:
They don’t seem to have anything in common and they don’t talk to each other. Their lives only intersect by attending the same school but in no other ways. At least that’s what they want the rest of the school to know. In reality Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot are part of a group called Don’t Get Mad. They created it to get back at the bullies that no one seems to do anything about, the ones in positions of power.

Those same people in the power positions are the ones who want the group publicly known as DGM stopped. They torment students they think are part of the group, trying to bully and threaten them into confessing their part. The principal of the school has even allowed the formation of a group who mission is to take down DGM, claiming that DGM are the bullies who are causing problems. Again, because the ones DGM goes after are the power players, such as a gym teacher who mistreats the out of shape students.

I did enjoy this book but since we were bouncing between all 4 girls I didn’t feel that I really go to know them very well. I got glimpses of what they’re like and impressions about certain parts of their lives. They were great at working together until something terrible happens and a body turns up. Someone they had planned to target for taking advantage of a drunk student was found dead with one of their cards. Since they had no other connection besides the group it was too easy for them to start doubting each other and wondering if one of their own was doing it.

They were receiving mysterious pictures and packages about each other. We assume from the person who really did the crime. What I think is awesome is the part where it wasn’t just about HEY here’s a threat. Or Hey, here’s what i know. Each envelope contained a clue about another girl in the group. Which gave us more insight but also created so much doubt for the others. Some of them gave us motivation for why they would have joined DGM, while others gave more reason to believe they’d betray each other.

I enjoyed this one. At first I wasn’t so sure, but one they started getting the packages and everything got my mysterious with multiple treasure hunts going on at the same time I got more interested. I didn’t want to step away and try to remember who was doing what and what each thing meant. Then end was a bit of a shock to me though. I was really hoping for more info about what was going on, so that we as a reader could have an idea of who could be doing everything. Instead I felt that I was being given a suspect based on the DGM girls’ opinions of what it could be, but I didn’t really feel that. IT could have been but there were a lot of gaps too. I kind of expected a surprise reveal that Ta Da look who you didn’t expect. Except now I have to wait for the next book to find out more. The downside to reading a book that is not a standalone is that I don’t get all of the answers when I want them.

If you enjoy reading books where your characters get led on a fun chase to figure out who they can trust and if the puzzle pieces they have create a picture or more questions, then you’ll enjoy this one.

 

Famous In Love – Rebecca Serle

Famous In Love
By: Rebecca Serle
Available Sept 2014

Description:
The romantic story of a girl who gets plucked from obscurity to star in the next major feature film franchise based on a book and the ensuing love triangles she gets entangled in on—-and off screen. 

Meet Paige Townsen, Rainer Devon, and Jordan Wilder…

When Paige Townsen, a young unknown, gets cast in the movie adaptation of a blockbuster book series, her life changes practically overnight. Within a month, Paige has traded the quiet streets of her hometown for a crowded movie set on the shores of Maui, and is spending quality time with her co-star Rainer Devon, one of People’s Sexiest Men Alive. But when troubled star Jordan Wilder lands the role of the other point in the movie’s famous love triangle, Paige’s crazy new life gets even crazier.

In this coming-of-age romance inspired by the kind of celeb hookups that get clever nicknames and a million page views, Paige must figure out who she is – and who she wants – while the whole world watches.

This Blonde’s Review:
Paige is the girl next door. She seems to have the perfect life with a great high school experience, great friends, and even a good relationship with her family. Her life is what most people would call perfect. No enemies, no big drama, life is good. But what she really wants is to be an actress. When she auditions for a major movie and somehow gets a lead part she can’t believe it. She expects that at any time they’ll realize they made a mistake and she’ll lose the job.

Instead she keeps the job. She gets yelled at by the director all the time. She’s being mentioned in tabloids. Her friendships with her best friends back home are falling apart. Things aren’t easy as she does not feel like a big time actress.

She’s trying to take her acting career seriously but Rainer isn’t making it easy for her. As much as she wants to lay low and not cause headlines Rainer doesn’t seem to care. He is used to the attention and likes it. When they find out the third main member of their cast is Jordan, someone Rainer has history with. Paige can’t get a good read on Jordan but something draws her even while his attitude pushes her away. Rainer does everything he can to put his claim on Paige even though she isn’t ready for that.

So in this we have a love triangle of course. But it’s one between two guys who used to be friends before one believed betrayal. It’s also one where she hasn’t made a choice yet and still has time to.

I liked the book because I liked Paige and her friends. I didn’t really see the draw for either of the guys though. I got glimpses of their character and what made them tick, but not enough to really want one or the other for her. I liked Rainer’s way of helping her relax and have fun. But I also liked Jordan’s depth. And in the end sometimes we make choices based on other people rather than ourselves.

This is a book where even though I’d have loved to find out more about what could happen or change after the big announcement on who she chose, I also felt that there was no better place to go after that. Once you make a choice you can’t always go back and change it. And like she says about the character she plays. Sometimes you make the wrong one.

I liked the things that came out at the end of the book, but I didn’t like the way they influenced Paige’s decision. It was disappointing. I want to have the girl pick the guy and know it was right, not feel that they’re making a sacrifice for someone who doesn’t see what happened.

So while the whole world watches to see who is chosen, we rarely know what’s going on in another’s heart unless they choose to share it with us. And fame can be the biggest life changer, turning you from an open book who tells all into someone who barely shares anything.

 

Rites of Passage – Joy N Hensley

Rites of Passage
By: Joy N Hensley
Available Sept 2014

Description:
Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences. 

This Blonde’s Review:
Sam is part of the first group of girls to ever be admitted to the Denmark Military Academy. She knows it won’t be easy, but her life hasn’t been great lately anyway. Her brother gave her a dare to attend the school and she doesn’t turn down dares. She’s always been eager to keep up with the boys rathe than playing dressup with her mother. And since this dare was the last one her brother gave her before he committed suicide she knows she’ll do whatever it takes to get through. Life hasn’t been great for her lately anyway. Her brother is gone. She doesn’t have a good relationship with her father, a high ranking military man who seems to put the his military career above his family and doesn’t want her to embarrass the family name. Her mother is barely speaking to her since she hates everything to do with the military and sees Sam attending this school as a betrayal. Her surviving brother barely wants to acknowledge her existence for daring to attend his school and acts as though she’s only doing it to take something from him. Sam’s year isn’t going to be easy.

There are supposed to be 5 girls in the first class, but one doesn’t show and the other girls who mostly make us wonder why they bothered to sign up. The relationships that Sam makes with these girls are tricky and not the kind of strong battle buddy relationships that I would have expected. I started this book thinking the girls would have to band together. It didn’t work out quite that way.

There is a group at DMA that will do whatever it takes to keep girls from being part of the academy. To their mind it isn’t pure if they allow anyone different to join, and females are definitely different. Sam has to deal with this from members of her chain of command. She has people above her attempting to make things difficult for all of the women, but especially so for Sam. Sam refuses to allow it to them to break her. She takes it and doesn’t complain. Her drill sergeant tells her to jump chain of command if needed, but Sam doesn’t do so. She takes it.

Sam’s strength and determination is something to be admired. She knew that asking for help would be seen as more weakness so she accepted way more than she should have. And she didn’t know who to trust. Especially when one of the people she thought was there for her stepped back and left her to figure it out on her own. Luckily she wasn’t entirely alone. Sam has someone who offers to help her with mysterious emails. She also has her advisor who finds her brother’s old combat buddy, who is local and offers her a safe haven. Surprisingly that Army buddy is related to someone Sam already knows, someone who can be a great resource for her and matter very much in her life.

It started to get really ugly for Sam but she soon realized she had more people in her corner than she realized. When they start working together to take down the group trying to take them out there was no way they wouldn’t win. It was just a matter of what the cost would be and if they could take down everyone or just the local small potatoes.

I really enjoyed this one. Sam was a strong character and I love those. The girls who keep going and don’t let the people who will do anything to keep them down win. I also really loved Drill. He was so great. The way this one ended really makes me want a second book. I wanted Sam to get more! It worked out great but not perfect, I want to know how the next year plays out.

 

Dead Zone – Robison Wells

Dead Zone
By: Robison Wells
Blackout – Book 2
Available Sept 2014

Description:
America is at war—and five teens are caught in the crossfire. 

It began with a virus. Then a series of attacks erupted across the nation. Now the true invasion has begun, and a handful of teenagers with impossible powers are America’s only defense.

Robison Wells blew readers away with his first novel, Variant, which Publishers Weekly called “a chilling and masterful debut” in a starred review. In Dead Zone, he delivers his most nail-bitingly tense read yet—and an electrifying conclusion to a two-book series that’s perfect for fans of The Maze Runner and I Am Number Four.

This Blonde’s Review:
In Dead Zone we get to see more of Jack and Aubrey as they continue trying to figure out the right thing to do. They know that Russia is somehow turning off all of their engines and electronics, making their vehicles and weapons useless. Jack, Aubrey, and the rest of their team will be working together to find what is causing it and how to stop it.

We also get to see some of the viewpoint from the teens who were on the terrorist side, but we see it more for the information than from any hope of connecting with them. Their logic is skewed and it makes me feel bad for them. Except in so many ways it seems that there is no good option. In the middle of a war no one can go home and go back to being a kid again.

In this one everyone had to make some hard choices and not everyone made the right choices. In the middle of a war there are always hard choices, so I like that the author was willing to have the characters make some hard choices that would change them. We didn’t see as much of the plotting from the terrorist side of things this time as last time. We don’t see as much of the view and plotting from the other side as we did in the first book. This one focuses more on how things work within the war effort in the military. We see what is happening with Jack and Aubrey’s training and team, as well as the ways things aren’t going as well as they could.

I still really liked Aubrey and Jack but I don’t feel that we got to know them much better than in the first book. This one was good but it was a lot more like we were racing to a finish line to find out what was happening. It was a good book, but I learned a lot more in the first book and there was a lot more to get through. So overall, I liked the first book better.

If you liked the first book you should definitely read this as well to find out what happens. I enjoyed finding out what happened with them and I know you will too.