Friday, February 28, 2014

Best of the Bunch & Challenge Update - February 2014

Best of the Bunch is a book blog hop hosted over at Always Lost in Stories on the last day of each month, where we can look back over the books we have read over this past month and give a Best of the Bunch award to our favorite book of that month.

February 2014

I've been on a great book streak for the past week or two!!  Read lots of amazing books this month!

This month I reviewed the following:

  • Grimnirs by Ednah Walters | Review | Rating: 4/5
  • Never Let You Go by Michele G. Miller | Review | Rating 4/5
  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare | Review | Rating 4/5
  • My Ex From Hell by Tellulah Darling | Review | Rating 4/5
  • Tethered by Brandi Leigh Hall | Review | Rating 3.5/5
  • My Date From Hell by Tellulah Darling | Review | Rating 5/5
  • Undying by Valerie Grosjean | Review | Rating 3.5/5
  • An Endless Summer by C.J. Duggan | Review | Rating 4.5/5
      • Five - Out of the Dark by Holli Anderson | Review | Rating 3.5/5
      • Masked by Janelle Stalder  | Review | Rating 4/5
      • Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta | Review | Rating: 5/5
      • That One Summer by C.J. Duggan | Review | Rating 5/5
        • American Girl on Saturn by Nikki Godwin | Review | Rating 5/5
        • Defining Destiny by Deanna Chase | Review | Rating 4/5
        • Waterborn by Kimberly James | Review | Rating: 4/5
          And my February 2014 Best of the Bunch winner is . . .

          Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

          I had a tougher time picking this month's winner, since I read a few books I really enjoyed, but I settled on Finnikin of the Rock.  It had been a while since I'd read a really great epic fantasy and this one definitely fit the bill!

          Summary: Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive.

          Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father.

          But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin's faith in her . . . but in himself.
              buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

          Now that you know what I read in January, here's how those books fit into the various challenges I've entered for 2014:

          Hosted by: The Mad Reviewer
          Goal: Mad Reviewer (104 books)
          Read So Far: 29

          Goal: 50 Books
          Read So Far: 22

          Hosted by: Ariel Avalon
          Read So Far: 3

          Goal: Gold (7-11 Series)
          Read So Far: 0 (I don't think I've finished any series yet!)

          Hosted by: Fiktshun and Phantasmic Reads
          Goal: Adept (40+ books)
          Read So Far: 20

          Hosted by: Blog of Erised
          Goal: Leader (19+ books)
          Read So Far: 4

          Hosted by: Bookish
          Goal: Married With Children (50+ books)
          Read So Far: 9

          Hosted by: Falling for YA
          Goal: Bronze (10 books) - though I might try for Silver (25 books)
          Read So Far: 3

          Random Reads Review - Waterborn by Kimberly James

          Title: Waterborn
          Author: Kimberly James
          Release Date: Spetember, 2013
          Pages: 373
          Goodreads Rating: 4.03 stars
          My Rating: 4/5 stars
          My Content Rating: Mature YA (Sex, though not explicit)

          Summary from Goodreads: Charms fade… "You don’t have to choose. You can be both. The girl with the charm, the girl without. They both suit you." 

          Caris Harper lives a charmed life. Literally.

          When her dad offers to take her to the Emerald coast of Florida for summer vacation, Caris jumps at the chance. The chance to get answers to questions she’s always been too afraid to ask. The chance to be normal. Isn’t that what her dreams have been telling her, that here in the place of her birth she can be normal? But from the first moment the wind caresses her face and the sun touches her skin, the charm begins to fade, revealing a girl Caris never knew existed, one that is anything but normal. The long-buried Song that awakens is only the beginning of a transformation that will challenge her ideas about loyalty and family. 

          Noah Jacobs is a waterbreather—a species of human fully adaptable to life in the water. Like his older brother Jamie, Noah wants to prove they can use their abilities and be heroes in service to their country. When a simple mission goes wrong and Jamie goes missing, Noah exiles himself to the Deep in a desperate search. MIA is a classification Noah is not ready to accept. But instinct can’t be ignored. Not when he hears her Song. Caris is not what he expects and Noah is determined to get her out of his head. Instead he finds himself acting as her mentor and the more time they spend together, the more Noah realizes he just wants Caris. 

          When a startling truth threatens their newly formed trust, Noah straddles the line between love and obsession while Caris struggles to find a balance between the girl she thought she was and the young woman she wants to be.

          Waterborn was my February Random Read selection.  As you can see, I'm pushing my review right to the very end of the month as usual!  I won this book awhile back and was looking forward to reading it - glad it was my RR choice!

          I've been eager to read a mermaid book for a while - and while the waterbreathers aren't technically mermaids (no tails and they don't live solely underwater), this book pretty much hit the spot.

          The negatives:
          • Some grammatical errors.  The book could have used a good edit - the errors were not egregious, but they were definitely noticeable.
          • A bit of a slow start.  I felt like the beginning of the book was a little bit slow. There were quite a few mysteries set up - about who Caris' mom really is and what happened to Noah's brother - but it took till about 40% before you got any real answers.  The book was still enjoyable before that, but it occasionally felt a bit slow.
          What I loved:
          • The waterbreathers.  I thought that James did a great job of creating the world of the waterbreathers. It was definitely different from what I was expecting - I thought that they were going to be something along the lines of mermaids, but they really weren't. They're more like people who can breathe underwater and have some other powers - but they live in regular society, not underwater. A lot of the book had to do with the relations between the waterbreathers and the regular humans. Many of the humans knew about the waterbreathers, and not all of them were thrilled about it.
          • Complex family relationships. The family relationships in this book were complicated, to say the least.  Caris grew up without her mother and her father has never told her anything about her. There are so many mysteries surrounding Caris and her family (and it just gets more and more complicated). Then there's Noah's family - his father was dead and his brother was missing - presumed dead. These complex family relationships really added to the book.
          • Caris and Noah.  I was worried at first that the connection between Caris and Noah was going to turn into insta-love, but luckily it didn't work out that way. Instead their romance moved at a very reasonable, slow pace, which I definitely appreciated.  Meanwhile, the connection between them was strong, and I definitely found myself rooting for them. 
          Waterborn was a great paranormal romance. While the book didn't end on a cliffhanger, I think there's plenty more of this story to tell and I hope there will be another book to follow up. I give it 4/5 stars.

          Thursday, February 27, 2014

          Review & Giveaway - Defining Destiny by Deanna Chase

          Author: Deanna Chase
          Release Date: February 16, 2014
          Pages: 300
          Goodreads Rating: 4.18 Stars
          My Rating: 4/5 Stars
          My Content Rating: NA (Explicit sex)

          Summary from Goodreads: When destiny fails…

          Singer-songwriter Lucy Moore thought her life was perfect. At just twenty-one, she’s already met her soul mate and together they’ve landed a recording contract. But when her father dies and the love of her life betrays her in more ways than one, she returns home to pick up the pieces. On the shores of Mendocino, California, Lucy has some decisions to make. Should she start a solo career? Or should she leave it all behind for some semblance of normalcy in the quiet town she grew up in? And what about Seth, the tortured artist who always seems to be there when she needs him?

          Seth Keenan has demons of his own. Eighteen months ago, he was involved in a horrific accident that he never talks about. His career as an accomplished oil-paint artist has been abandoned, replaced by the buzz of his tattoo gun. And women—well, he never sticks around for longer than a few hours of pleasure… until he meets Lucy. After one evening of listening to her seductive voice, he’s pulled under. But what about the vow he made to never get close to anyone again?

          In a world where everyone has one true soul mate, can these two find love in the arms of each other?

          Defining Destiny is almost a contemporary romance - but there's a paranormal twist.  See, in this world each and every person has a true soul mate. Someone who completes them and shares a gift with them.  Lucy and her soul mate make beautiful music together - so beautiful that it literally touches people's souls and brings them a sense of euphoria. There's just one problem - Lucy's soul mate is a jerk.

          The negatives:
          • Insta-love (or at least something more than lust).  Okay - this is a book about soul mates, so you kind of have to assume that love comes easily in this world - except the whole point of the book is that Lucy and Seth are not soul mates. So, I was a bit frustrated that they fell for each other so quickly. Why did Seth instantly feel a connection to Lucy that went beyond anything he'd felt for anyone since his soul mate died?  And even though Lucy and Seth didn't exactly fall in love immediately, I wish Chase hadn't made their connection quite so instantaneous - it would have made her whole "actual love vs. soul mate" angle a little stronger.
          What I loved:
          • Unique and interesting concept.  So, we've all read books about soul mates.  But this one was definitely different!  I loved the concept.  So, in this world everyone has a soul mate - but, here's the thing - just because someone's your soul mate doesn't make them good for you. What happens if your soul mate, the person that you are deeply connected to and pretty much forced to love, is actually a complete jerk? What if he's a liar, or a cheater, or a drunk, or ... the list could go on and on ... ? Or what if your soul mate dies? What if you don't meet your soul mate right away? Is there any sense in dating someone who isn't your soul mate? What if you fall for them and then they meet "the one"? All of these questions fascinated me. Lucy's relationship with her ex actually kind of mirrored anyone in a bad relationship who can't seem to get out - love can't always fix everything.  And sometimes people are tempted to stay with someone who's bad for them because they love that person and hope they can change them. Imagine that compounded by the fact that you know this person is meant for you - at least on some level.  I totally felt for Lucy!
          • Seth and Lucy.  Despite the fact that Seth and Lucy were connected to each other too quickly as far as I was concerned, they were still amazing together. I loved that Lucy made the sexy love-em-and-leave-em Seth come apart at the seams - his vulnerability with her made him that much more swoony!  Neither Seth nor Lucy was looking for a relationship, but their connection was pretty much undeniable. The whole book, I was never quite sure where their relationship was headed - I knew I loved them together, but there was never any guarantee that they were going to stay that way because of the whole "soul mate" connection thing. They both had some pretty major hurdles to overcome in order to be together. Oh, and the chemistry between these two was off the charts!  :-)
          If you appreciate a good NA contemporary romance with a paranormal twist, then Defining Destiny is a fantastic choice!!   I give this book 4/5 stars.

          ***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***

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          About the Author

          Deanna is a native Californian, transplanted to the slower paced lifestyle of southeastern Louisiana. When she isn’t writing, she is often goofing off with her husband in New Orleans, playing with her two shih tzu dogs, making glass beads, or out hocking her wares at various bead shows across the country. For more information and updates on newest releases visit her blog at

          Author Links:
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          Tuesday, February 25, 2014

          5 Star Review - American Girl on Saturn by Nikki Godwin

          Series: Saturn #1
          Author: Nikki Godwin
          Release Date: August 29, 2013
          Pages: 341
          Goodreads Rating: 4.25 stars
          My Rating: 5/5 stars
          My Content Rating: PG (Nothing more than kissing)

          Summary from Goodreads: The summer after graduation is supposed to be that first real taste of freedom - but not for eighteen-year-old Chloe Branson. Just as that breeze of freedom is making its way into her galaxy, her secret-service-agent dad drops a meteor-sized bomb of bad news on her and her sisters. An attempt has been made on the lives of Canadian boyband, Spaceships Around Saturn, during their USA tour, and the guys have to go into hiding ASAP. The only problem? In the midst of the crisis and media frenzy, their dad volunteered to hide the their house.

          Six-year-old Emery is as ecstatic as any self-proclaimed Saturnite would be, but Chloe and her seventeen-year-old sister Aralie watch their summer plans crash and burn like a falling star. The SAS guys aren't happy with the situation, either. Bad boy Jules picks fights with Aralie about everything from his Twitter followers to his laundry, and heart-throb Benji can't escape Emery's fangirlisms for more than three minutes.

          But after the super-cute Milo kisses Chloe during a game of hide-and-seek, she finally understands what Emery means when she talks about SAS being "out of this world." If this is what Saturn feels like, Chloe doesn't want to come back to Earth.

          I featured this book on my blog last year and something about it really captured my attention.  I absolutely LOVE the cover and the story just seemed so sweet - plus it reminded me of a similar book that I read last year called Unmaking Hunter Kennedy, which I loved, so I just had to buy it!  So glad I did because this book was amazing!!

          The synopsis describes the book pretty well, so I'll just jump directly to my review.

          The negatives:
          • Nothing life-changing.  Okay, this isn't the type of book that you read because you want to alter your perspective on life.  You can't go into it expecting to be profoundly moved or anything like that. It's just not that type of book (and it doesn't try to be) - it's about a boy band, for heaven's sake! Is it terribly realistic that the band needs to stay on lockdown with them for security reasons? No, not really - but this is total wish-fulfillment fantasy here, not necessarily realism. Still, what this book does, it does so well that I totally fell in love!
          What I LOVED:
          • Witty and expressive writing.  I swear that I highlighted half of this book!  There were so many lines that made me laugh or smile, and I just LOVED Godwin's writing style.  She found beautiful, fun and interesting ways to describe just about everything and I was completely taken in by her metaphors. Just her descriptions of the (pretty much constant) butterflies in Chloe's stomach were so much fun - by the end it felt like they were a character in the book!  It was pretty much impossible not to fall in love with Chloe, considering the unique ways she described things!
          • The romance.  Everything about this book was pretty much sweep-you-off-your-feet romantic.  I mean, let's face it, what teenager hasn't at some point dreamed that a rock star, or famous actor, or boy band singer would somehow fall in love with them. I loved that Chloe thinks at first that she'll be immune to the boys' charms (after all, her little sister is in love with them, not her!) and then she totally falls for Milo! He's pretty much the perfect book boyfriend - swoony, talented and sweet. Their romance is full of stolen moments and midnight rendezvous where they share their love of music - and fireflies.  :-)
          • Friends. Not only does Chloe find romance when the boys come to stay with her, but she gains an amazing friend too!  I thought that Chloe's friendship with Noah was easily as endearing as her romance with Milo. Can I be his friend too? 
          • Family. Yay!!!!  A YA book that includes a whole family - and the parents aren't completely messed up or uninvolved in their kids' lives. What a refreshing change! Chloe's little sister Emery manages to be sweet and realistically annoying both at the same time, while her other sister Aralie is moody and hot-tempered (but also realistically so - I'm wondering if we'll get to see more of Aralie's story in a future book?).
          If you're looking for a sweet romance, this is definitely the pick for you!  I loved it so much that I immediately went and bought book one of Godwin's other series (Chasing Forever Down, which Godwin says she loves even more than AGoS). Can't wait to read that one and the next book in the Saturn series (which isn't coming till next year). 5/5 Stars

          buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
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