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Category Archives: Challenge

Let the Sky Fall – Shannon Messenger

Let The Sky Fall coverLet the Sky Fall
By Shannon Messenger
Let the Sky Fall – Book 1
Available March 2013

Description:
Vane Weston should have died in the category five tornado that killed his parents. Instead, he woke up in a pile of rubble with no memories of his past—except one: a beautiful, dark-haired girl standing in the winds. She’s swept through his dreams ever since, and he clings to the hope that she’s real.

Audra is real, but she isn’t human. She’s a sylph, an air elemental who can walk on the wind, translate its alluring songs, even twist it into a weapon. She’s also a guardian—Vane’s guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect him at all costs.

When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra has just days to help Vane unlock his memories. And as the storm winds gather, they start to realize the greatest danger might not be the warriors coming to destroy them, but the forbidden romance growing between them.

This Blonde’s Review:
He lost his parents as a child and has no memories from before the tornado that took their lives. All he remembers is the face of a girl he doesn’t know, yet he feels he knows her. When Audra shows up in the middle of a date he can’t help but go after her. Life just gets crazier for him after that.

Audra is a sylph, she is part of the air around us and doesn’t require food and water to survive. Food and water are from the earth and will bind her to the earth, something she wants to avoid. She is Vane’s guardian and has been hoping for his breakthrough. When something happens to bring them to the attention of the people who murdered their parents she realizes it’s time to force the issue.

Vane’s discovery that he isn’t quite human isn’t seamless. In his mind he’s a typical lazy teenage boy, so he has a little trouble keeping up with Audra, but he gets used to the idea a lot faster than most would. But he has powerful motivation in knowing that if he doesn’t succeed that Audra will die.

The storm is coming and they’re doing their best to survive the war that’s starting. They’re also trying to fight their feelings for each other. Audra avoids it because she remembers their past and knows the future that has been planned for Vane. Vane only avoids it because it’s clear that Audra wants him to and he won’t make her uncomfortable.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this one when I started it. I started it and almost put it aside a few times with the business of life. I stuck it out and was quickly sucked up in the story.

Audra and Vane’s pasts have shaped their lives and have a bigger impact on their lives than they realize. Audra lives with guilt over what happened thanks to her memories and the blame that has been placed in her lap by her mother, who survived the tornado. Vane lives with the guilt of not remembering his parents, wondering what type of person would forget those who care about them.

I really enjoyed Audra and Vane! They were both such great characters while they were so different. I felt bad for Audra but loved her and enjoyed getting to know her. She’s damaged and strong and cares more than she likes to admit. Vane has the kind of heart and dedication that makes him loving and loyal, even in the face of the hardest circumstances. He’s not at all a bad boy, he’s a great guy with a good heart.

The end of this one gave us a rather open ended feel where I could see if continuing into a second book, but I could also see it ending there and leaving us with the idea of where it could go next. I was happy when I thought it was a stand alone book, but now that I know it’s part of a series I’m already impatient to find out where they got next. I love the way Vane wrapped his part of things up, and I also really loved that it wasn’t the typical ending you’d expect.

If you enjoy the idea of people who have more of a connection to the air than the earth who are the kind of characters you can care about, then you’ll love Vane and Audra’s story.

 

Origin – Jessica Khoury

Origin titleOrigin
By Jessica Khoury
Available 4 Sept 2012

Description:
Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home—and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin—a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

This Blonde’s Review:
Pia is not your typical teenager. She has never met anyone under 30 years old. She has never left the laboratory compound where she was born. And she will live forever.

Pia was engineered to be immortal. Through careful selection and a secret process used through several generations she was born perfect. Her skin can’t be broken, her senses are sharper, and she’s incredibly intelligent. She works hard to gain the respect of the scientists around her and to become one of them. They all know she’ll live forever and work towards the goal of creating more immortals. Pia doesn’t know the secret to the process yet, but she will as soon as she passes the final test.

The story starts with her as the smart girl who does everything that is asked of her. There are things that she sees as normal since she doesn’t know better that throw up serious red flags for us, but we can’t expect her to have our experience. She is very curious about the world outside of the compound, so when a new scientist comes in she isn’t sure what to think. She doesn’t want to like her, but she casually talks about the outside world as though it’s a marvelous place Pia should want to know. When given the chance to explore she finds more than she bargained for in the form of Eio.

I enjoyed watching them get to know each other. I loved that Eio didn’t push Pia to do anything she didn’t want to do and didn’t try to force her to see things his way. He simply cared about her and made sure she knew she was welcome to come back any time. The people in the compound were such a great mix. We don’t want them all to seem great, awful, or forgettable but the author gives us a great mix of both. There are certain people that I had an instant dislike to and others that I liked right away. When it gets down to Pia’s final test and we see what they have to go through to be accepted we can’t help but wonder if anyone of them are worth liking. Despite the small environment and small number of people around her, the author did a great job of giving that mix of characters to explain how Pia could be so sheltered yet have so many normal thoughts and emotions.

When I got this one I wasn’t sure that I was in the right reading mood for it but I actually really enjoyed it. The concept was strange since there was never any conversation or thoughts on why they’d want to create a race of immortals. I also couldn’t see why they were so insistent that Pia not be allowed to know even the basics about the world beyond the compound, except to make her desire to go outside the gate more understandably thrilling for her. I did like Pia, despite her sheltered upbringing, and I liked Eio. An important first step is having characters we can like. But how can they be together if Pia will live forever and Eio can die?

If a story about an immortal girl learning what it means to live and what the price of her immortality really is sounds like a story you’d want to read, then you’ll want to get ahold of Origin in September.

 

Pushing The Limits – Katie McGarry

Pushing The Limits coverPushing the Limits
By Katie McGarry
Available 31 July 2012

Description:
So wrong for each other…and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

This Blonde’s Review:
She always wears long sleeves and hides from everyone. People stare at her and jump to conclusions but are willing to be there for her. Luckily for Echo she has great friends who will stand by her. Echo also has a friend who won’t stand with her publicly since she’s more concerned with her popularity and an ex who claims to want back in her life. Echo is dealing with not remembering the trauma that almost cost her life, the loss of her brother in Afghanistan, and her childhood babysitter turned stepmother getting ready to have a baby. Echo has a lot on her plate and is a perfect candidate for mandatory weekly counseling.

Noah is the bad boy who doesn’t want anything serious with anyone. The system let him down and he has no desire to play along anymore. After being labeled a trouble maker by the foster care system he isn’t allowed to know where his brothers live and can only see them through supervised visitation. He’ll do whatever it takes to have them back in his life, even if that means playing along with the counselor they’re forcing him to go to.

Miss Collins, their counselor, pairs them up for a mutually beneficial arrangement all they do is fight. Echo needs to tutor Noah for the money to restore her brother’s car. Noah needs better grades if he hopes to get his brothers back. Instead of working together Noah says things that hurt Echo, and he’s surprised by the pain he’s able to cause her. When he sees her arms he knows better than to believe that she did it to herself. Soon they decide to work together to get what they really want out of their sessions with Miss Collins. They want answers and they’ll work together to make it happen.

Despite having a chance to gain her popularity back, Echo is still drawn to Noah. He asks questions and listens to the answers instead of flinching away. He is more real to her and more willing to see her than anyone else. Noah doesn’t want to focus on anything other than his brothers or risk letting Echo hurt him when she goes back to her popular life. But something about her draws him in and makes him want to know her more, makes him want to be there for her in ways he never was with anyone else. The more time they spend together the more right it seems to be, yet their problems could be too much for them to be any good for each other.

I loved this book. I can’t even explain why without giving everything away but I’m going to try. I loved that Echo had problems. She wasn’t a one trick pony with one big problem and everything else perfect, yet her problems weren’t so disconnected that it looked like the author was giving Echo more to deal with because she could. Her secrets are revealed a layer at a time, giving Echo time to process each step while we jumped to our own conclusions. Her family life was awful and sad and ultimately not quite what she thought.

I adored Noah and think he could be one of my favorite book guys. He’s bad enough to do what he wants to do without worrying about the rules. But he’s a good guy at heart. He is willing to risk his life for his brothers. He doesn’t knowingly hurt people who are weaker than he is. He was always unwilling to keep a girlfriend, but he only played with girls who know the game. He claims his friends as his family and will do whatever is needed to protect them, even if it involves going against crazy odds. He’s not perfect but he’s willing to look below the surface and not let scars matter more than the person inside.

The things that have happened to Echo and Noah are tragic to varying degrees but I loved watching the way they help each other heal. They do what they can to help each other without even thinking about it. I love how well they complement each other.

I would love to get into some of the “bad things” about this book that I’m sure some readers won’t care for, but I have to say that some of those things actually made it better for me. Noah did fall faster than I would have cared for, since I’m not a big fan of the fast fall, but there was a lot going on in this story. I can actually see how that could be totally realistic in that sort of situation. There are other things I could talk about to explain how I think the “bad” actually worked out well but I don’t want to give everything away before you have a chance to read it.

This is a love story since we want Echo and Noah to end up together, but this is also a story about healing and learning to trust despite the reasons not to. I really wish this wasn’t Katie McGarry’s first book because I wanted to go out and find something else of hers as soon as I finished it. I’m going to be keeping an eye on Katie McGarry and can’t wait to see what she has next for us.

 

Speechless – Hannah Harrington

Speechless coverSpeechless
By Hannah Harrington
Available 28 August 2012

Description:
The story of a girl named Chelsea Knot who takes a voluntary oath of silence after her gossip-mongering ways yield unexpected consequences…

Saying she’s sorry isn’t enough.

This Blonde’s Review:
Most people enjoy gossip but have their limits but Chelsea doesn’t stop when she should. She’s known a a girl who loves to gossip and can’t keep her mouth shut. Her friends are the most popular kids in school and she is accepted everywhere. Until the night she tells a secret to the wrong people and someone ends up in the hospital. Chelsea recognizes where she went wrong but takes it even further. If her gossiping can cause such problems then she’ll just stop talking entirely.

Chelsea’s friends turn against her and her vow of silence has everyone else thinking she’s some sort of freak. Most of her teachers aren’t supportive either and Chelsea finds herself in detention for refusing to participate in class. In detention Chelsea meets a girl she never noticed before, someone smart and genuinely kind. Soon she finds herself with a new friend and hanging out with a group of people she never expected to enjoy spending time with. Even stranger is that those people are the ones she thinks should hate her the most.

Getting through the day without being bullied becomes a challenge for Chelsea and her new friends are exactly what she needs to start to see the world clearer. She even finds a guy who can care about her, even with her vow of silence. The longer she stays silent the harder those first words are. Chelsea doesn’t know what she’s waiting for so how can she know when to start talking?

I loved that Chelsea isn’t a character I can love at first but she’s one I can care about. She was a shallow gossip but she was willing to do the right thing. As she gains perspective we are able to learn right alongside her. Chelsea learns that there can be more to people than she expected. We start learn that there is more to Chelsea than she knew as well. I had an idea of what would motivate Chelsea to speak and I’m happy to say it wasn’t the obvious choice. I actually loved the friends she made more than I loved Chelsea, but I did enjoy watching her grow. The guilt and self-imposed silence helped make Chelsea into the kind of character I didn’t want to say goodbye to.

If a girl taking a vow of silence and learning how to thrive in that silence sounds like a good story to you then I think you’ll love this one.

 

When You Were Mine – Rebecca Serle

When You Were Mine coverWhen You Were Mine
By Rebecca Serle
Available Now

Description:
In this intensely romantic, modern recounting of the greatest love story ever told, Romeo’s original intended—Juliet’s cousin Rosaline—tells her side of the tale.

What’s in a name, Shakespeare? I’ll tell you: Everything.

Rosaline knows that she and Rob are destined to be together. Rose has been waiting for years for Rob to kiss her—and when he finally does, it’s perfect. But then Juliet moves back to town. Juliet, who used to be Rose’s best friend. Juliet, who now inexplicably hates her. Juliet, who is gorgeous, vindictive, and a little bit crazy… and who has set her sights on Rob. He doesn’t even stand a chance.

Rose is devastated over losing Rob to Juliet. This is not how the story was supposed to go. And when rumors start swirling about Juliet’s instability, her neediness, and her threats of suicide, Rose starts to fear not only for Rob’s heart, but also for his life. Because Shakespeare may have gotten the story wrong, but we all still know how it ends.

This Blonde’s Review:
Romeo and Juliet is a famous love story. Not everyone sees it as a love story though. Rosaline, the girl Romeo was with before Juliet stole him away, certainly doesn’t think so.

Rose never let herself think of being with Rob, so when he finally seems interested in her it’s hard for her to believe. Could he really want to be with her? What if she’s imagining it? What happens if it doesn’t work out? She’s a typical girl who discovers her best friend could become more.

Until her cousin shows up. Without knowing what happened one minute Rob is hers and the next he’s kissing Juliet! When Rob chooses Juliet and says he wants to stay friends Rose isn’t having it. Seeing them together hurts her, but watching the changes in Rob baffles her. What is Juliet doing to him that has made him change so much? The Rob she grew up with & loved wasn’t like that, so it must be Juliet.

When scandal and betrayal rocks their families we start to see the couple come unhinged. We watch the story of Romeo & Juliet play out through the eyes of the girl who wanted to love them both until they betrayed her.

I really enjoyed getting modern Rosaline’s viewpoint on this one. I have never cared for the story of Romeo & Juliet, so it was great to have a book that puts that same story in the current day and Shows us how twisted and unromantic it really is. What I really loved is that despite all of that the story isn’t actually about them. This story is Rose’s.

We see a girl trying to trust her heart and having it broken. Then we watch as she tried to put it back together. Seeing the way she can still care for the ones who hurt her most makes her an endearing character. Not allowing them to trample over her without thinking made her a character I could respect. She may be struggling but that doesn’t mean she should roll over. Rose was a wonderfully typical girl. She had doubts and fears. She wasn’t always strong but didn’t wait for anyone to save her. She’s the kind of girl we’d want to be friends with.

Every girl deserves a chance to get the guy, but Rose’s chance isn’t anything like she imagined. In some ways it’s far fetched, but it’s the kind of far fetched I can live with. I wasn’t sure where the author would go with that one at first, but I think she did wonderfully with it. She may not have chosen the path she was on but she would have to learn what she really wanted so she could make it happen.

If a modern day Romeo and Juliet told from Rosaline’s perspective sounds interesting to you then I’m sure you’ll love this one. You may look at Romeo & Juliet or Rosaline in ways you never have before.

 

Breaking Beautiful – Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Breaking Beautiful coverBreaking Beautiful
By Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Available Now

Description:
Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident—including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship.

When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free? Debut writer Jennifer Shaw Wolf takes readers on an emotional ride through the murky waters of love, shame, and, ultimately, forgiveness.

This Blonde’s Review:
Trip is dead, but Allie can’t remember what happened. She doesn’t want to. All she wants to do is hide from her pain, her memories, and the truth of how Trip’s death makes her feel. She can’t accept the help her brother and childhood friend have to offer. As she slowly starts to return to the world she finds life isn’t any better than she thought it would be. She is still whispered about and speculated over. Her every move is given more weight than it deserves. People suspect her of awful things and hold Trip up as a shining light. Except they didn’t know Trip like she did.

Allie is a hard character to get to know. She doesn’t want to face her past or accept that she could have a future, which makes her hard to know or understand. Lucky for her she has a devoted twin brother, Andrew, who would do anything for her. He may be in a wheelchair and may not be able to speak well, but he’s there for her in ways no one else is able to be. Even when she turns away, he’s still there. She also has Blake, her childhood best friend. Blake knows he’s undesirable and is willing to support Allie even if she is unwilling to acknowledge their friendship. He wants more from her than mere friendship, but he loves her enough to accept what she’ll give him.

Blake and Andrew were my favorite characters. I loved their strength and how much they loved Allie. Allie was damaged and unwilling to face herself, and they were the rocks she could lean on. I loved that Andrew wasn’t a typical brother. His disabilities made everything he was willing to do for her count so much more. I also loved that the author was willing to educate her readers as well as show us that even if he doesn’t seem normal, Andrew was still a normal boy who wanted to care for his sister and find someone to love. Blake was a wonderful combination of strong and sensitive. He didn’t always respond well, but he did all he could. Watching him do what he could to help Allie rejoin the world and becoming caught up in the joy himself was heartwarming.

Watching Allie’s attempts not to remember the night Trip died was heartbreaking. She couldn’t come clean about how Trip treated her, not expecting anyone to believe her. The people who saw it never said anything. When someone starts leaving her notes in his handwriting Allie doesn’t know what to think. Trip’s body wasn’t found, but she tells herself it can’t really be him. As she remembers more of what happened she has to wonder if everyone is right about her guilt. Did she do something? Or did Blake?

This book was heartbreaking. It was hard to understand why Allie put up with Trip, since we didn’t get to see her figure it out for herself. Watching her remember how to stand up for herself and know what she needs in her life was fabulous though. The way things went down was both awful and wonderful. I loved that it wasn’t quite what anyone expected. We could see it and be suspicious over it, but there were plenty of reasons to be uncertain over which outcome it would be. I don’t want to give too much away, but I thought it was perfect.

If you’d like to read about a broken girl who is putting herself back together, even if she doesn’t want to, then you’ll enjoy reading Allie’s story.

 

The Boy Recession – Flynn Meaney

The Boy Recession coverThe Boy Recession
By Flynn Meaney
Available August 2012

Description:
It’s all about supply and demand when a high school deals with the sudden exodus of male students.

The boy recession has hit Julius P. Heil High, and the remaining boys find that their stock is on the rise: With little competition, even the most unlikely guys have a good chance at making the team and getting the girl. Guitar-strumming, class-skipping Hunter Fahrenbach never wanted to be a hot commodity, but the popular girls can’t help but notice his unconventional good looks. With a little work, he might even by boyfriend material.

But for down-to-earth Kelly Robbins, the boy recession is causing all sorts of problems. She has secretly liked her good friend Hunter for a while now, but how can she stand out in a crowd of overzealous Spandexers? As if dating wasn’t hard enough without a four-to-one ratio!

This Blonde’s Review:
Like toppling dominoes, the boys have all left Julius High. Budget cuts and the loss of a football coach have a bigger effect than anyone could have predicted when several families move their sons to places with more options. When school starts there is an unusually high number of girls. With so few options for them, it gives the guys left chances they never would have had before. It will also lead to a whole new kind of boy crazy for the girls fighting for prom date.

Kelly is a nice girl. She is the kind of girl people get along with and guys are comfortable around. Except that they’re so comfortable around her that she doesn’t date. The mass exodus of the male population of her high school doesn’t give her hope of finding a date. Hunter is a slacker. He sleeps in class, doesn’t cut his hair, and doesn’t care for the effort of chasing a girl. He just wants to hang out with his friends, and if a cute girl wants to make out he’ll take it.

When Hunter and Kelly start working on a project together they’re able to get to know each other better. As they know each other better and see the way the girls treat Hunter, they will be able to learn what they really want. This book is written from both points of view, with alternating chapters. It’s interesting seeing the way their minds work. There isn’t a steady obsession for them the way many of those types of books are, instead it feels like we really are watching a girl and guy figure out if they’re interested or not.

The Boy Recession was refreshing since it wasn’t a high love and passion type of love story. There was no destined to be together and fighting for/against it. In most books I read lately the characters have high feelings and it takes up most of their attention. In this one, they’re not sure. They’re interested but they don’t think the other is, so they move on to other things.

This was an adorable story. I enjoyed getting to know Kelly and Hunter. Seeing both of their viewpoints was great, since we should have had an entirely different book if it was only one of them. We’re able to see what life could be like in that sort of situation.

If you enjoy the idea of a real to life romance while seeing what could happen when you take most of the guys out of a school, you’ll enjoy the Boy Recession.