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BOOK REVIEW: After Nightfall by A.J. Banner

BOOK REVIEW: After Nightfall by A.J. BannerAfter Nightfall by A.J. Banner
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Synopsis:

Imagine your closest friend utterly betraying you. Years later, when she seeks forgiveness, you invite her to your engagement party as a gesture of reconciliation. But seething hostilities rise to the surface, ruining everyone’s evening. After an awful night, your friend’s battered, lifeless body is found at the bottom of a rocky cliff.

Newly engaged Marissa Parlette is living this nightmare. She should be celebrating her upcoming wedding, but she can’t shake the image of her friend lying dead on the beach. Did she fall? Was she pushed? Or did she take a purposeful step into darkness? Desperate for answers, Marissa digs deep into the events of the party. But what she remembers happening after nightfall now carries sinister implications: the ugly sniping, the clandestine meetings, the drunken flirtations. The more she investigates, the more she questions everything she thought she knew about her friends, the man she once trusted, and even herself.

Bestselling author A. J. Banner keeps readers on a razor-sharp edge in this intricately plotted novel of psychological suspense…in which nothing is as it seems.

Thank you NetGalley, the author (A.J. Banner) and the publisher (Lake Union Publishing) for my free ARC in exchange for my honest review.

I read A.J. Banner’s The Twilight Wife a little more than a year ago and quite enjoyed it.

So when I saw she had a new book and I received a copy of it early, I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped.

After Nightfall is from the perspective of Marissa, who is recently engaged. She is also working on repairing a fragile friendship with Lauren, who she had a falling out in college (reasons explained about halfway through). One morning after an awkward dinner party, Marissa discovers Lauren’s body at the bottom of a cliff, and from there, attempts to find out exactly what happened.

The book is focused on Marissa’s relationship with her fiance and his daughter, as well as her fraught relationship with Lauren. I think many of us can relate to friendships that at one point were everything to use, but later fall apart for various reasons. Sometimes opportunities present themselves to try and fix them, and I think many of us feel the need to try and recapture something that we dearly loved at one point in time. Banner did an excellent job of writing Marissa’s complicated feelings around this very thing.

He lured me in, so how was I to know what he would do?

I was intrigued by this story for sure. However, I found Marissa to be a difficult character to like at times. She made some very poor and confusing choices, but could other times be a great friend and mother-figure for her fiance’s daughter.

I enjoyed the reveal at about the 92% mark, but the last few pages of the book left me frustrated and a bit confused. It’s definitely not a clean ending and makes me wish for more closure to the situation.

 

While I certainly don’t mind unreliable narrators, I don’t enjoy confusing or unfinished endings, which is exactly what happened here. So while I did enjoy various parts of the story, overall, I was disappointed by this book, considering how much I liked the author’s previous novel.

Can a person be good and bad? Even me? Even you?

After Nightfall will be released August 7, 2018.

BOOK REVIEW- Firstlife (Everlife #1) by Gena Showalter

BOOK REVIEW- Firstlife (Everlife #1) by Gena ShowalterFirstlife (Everlife #1)
by Gena Showalter
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

Step one...you die.

ONE CHOICE. TWO REALMS. NO SECOND CHANCE.

Tenley "Ten" Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live — after she dies. There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, long-time enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms that will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she's drawn to isn't where the boy she's falling for lives? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

“What is light, exactly?” What’s she going to be pushing on me?

“Whatever is needed to help someone find a way out of darkness.”

The library that I work at has this great thing where all of our reference team staff members meet once a month to talk about books we’ve been reading recently.  We do this because our tastes are obviously all over the place and by talking about books we love in the genres we love, we can expose other people to books they might not have heard about before.  Mine are ALWAYS YA lol and usually one other woman’s are too.  She brought this series up at our last meeting and it sounded like something I would really like, and probably fly through since we have very similar tastes.  She was right!  I sped through this book and currently have the other two on hold! Fingers crossed I get them ASAP.

Before we parted, the TL assigned to me asked me a question that cracked through a hard outer shell I hadn’t known I’d erected. Are you living your parents’ dream…or your own? I’d scoffed at him then, but that night and every one after, I’d wondered… Why do I believe what I believe? What is truth and what is lie? What is real? What makes me right and so many others wrong? What if I’m wrong?

Now, as a disclaimer, I REALLY did enjoy this book buttttt I feel like talking about the things that grated on me first.  I have never read any other book by Gena Showalter so I don’t know if these things are the norm in the rest of her books but parts of her writing bothered me.  This is small thing that might just bother me because I was an English major but I noticed that there were several words throughout the book that were used COMPLETELY wrong in a sentence.  Like maybe it was just super shitty editing??? Not sure but I just kind of had to stop a few times and wonder what she was trying to actually say.  Shrug.  Then…and this is totally just me…I have really started to notice my age recently (and maybe having a baby now affects me, too).  It might be because more YA seems to be inching closer to NA lately but when I go back and read a contemporary or even certain YA fantay/dystopian/sci fi, I have been having some MAJOR eye roll moments.  Like some of the innuendos that these friggen 16-year-olds use and the sappy moments they have together with situations of expressing their undying love makes me want to gag and/or laugh hysterically (basically things that I would have eaten up a few years ago).  So yeah, there were a few of those moments in here, bahaha.  That was really it for the things I didn’t like though and most seem to just be totally small and personal!

“Living shouldn’t be synonymous with surviving.”

On to what I did like..which was about 90% of it!  Firstly—this super creative storyline!  All humans on Earth are living what is called a Firstlife (so basically just what we’re living right now).  Eventually when they die they will enter one of three realms as their Everlife—Troika which serves the light, Myriad which serves the dark, and then there’s a third in-between kind of place.  You see, to enter the first of the two realms, you have to pledge yourself to one of them before you die.  Those that don’t, end up in the in-between place that has a horrible name for itself.  Spirits called Laborers from Troika and Myriad can also come into the regular human realm in bodies called Shells to basically try to scout people and get them to join their side.  Whichever side has more people basically has the upper hand.

When we meet the main character, Tenley/ Ten, she is locked up in an asylum for young people who refuse to make a decision (mostly by parents who have certain things riding on their children signing to a specific realm).  She gets a roommate, Archer –who is disguised as a girl named Bow (lol), who is her Troika Laborer and eventually runs into bad boy Finn (WHO HAS AN IRISH ACCENT OF COURSE) who is her Myriad Laborer.  She’s a special case because her spirit will either be able to amplify the light or darkness depending on where she ends up in her Everlife.  The two aforementioned eventually help her escape and basically she’s on the run for the rest of the book and spends the entire thing trying to think about what she should end up deciding.  (It’s more interesting and action packed than I just made it sound, too FYI)

This decision was also a part of the book that I LOVED.  It seemed to me that Troika= a version of heaven, Myriad= a version of Hell..but like…a better, more fun version? lol, and I was assuming the in-between place would be like a purgatory.  BUTTTTT here’s the thing.  It wasn’t cut and dry, black and white.  Ten struggled over which to pick because the two main realms have their fill of good and bad points and I loved that.  I can really appreciate when things like this have a little gray area instead of being completely binary.  Makes things niiiiiice and complicated haha.

So yes, overall I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes a strong and sassy female lead, a super interesting premise, and hot, Irish bad boys.  Won’t tell you what Ten decides so you’ll just have to read and find out for youself!

I prepare to take it like a girl. Better than a man.

 

Which would you choose?

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica Spotswood

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica SpotswoodThe Last Summer of the Garrett Girls Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

One summer will challenge everything the Garrett sisters thought they knew about themselves--and each other in this captivating new novel by Jessica Spotswood.

As the oldest, Des shoulders a lot of responsibility for her family and their independent bookstore. Except it's hard to dream big when she's so busy taking care of everyone else.

Vi has a crush on the girl next door. It makes her happy and nervous, but Cece has a boyfriend...so it's not like her feelings could ever be reciprocated, right?

Kat lands the lead in the community theater's summer play, but the drama spills offstage when her ex and his new girlfriend are cast too. Can she get revenge by staging a new romance of her own?

Bea and her boyfriend are heading off to college together in the fall, just like they planned when they started dating. But Bea isn't sure she wants the same things as when she was thirteen...

Told through four alternating points of view, readers will laugh, cry, and fall in love alongside the Garrett girls.

Thank you NetGalley, the author and the publisher for my free ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Maybe this is the way things are now. Forever. Dread washes over her at the thought.

Meet the Garrett girls: Kat, Bea, Vi and Des. The four girls lost their parents to a tragic accident and now live with their grandmother in a Stars Hollow-esque town. The book shifts between the four characters’ POV over the course of a few weeks. The girls range from early high school to early college ages and each of their stories, I felt, were appropriate to their specific age.

TW: eating disorder, drug use, cheating

I enjoyed getting to know each of these four girls as they dealt with their own unique set of challenges, though three of the four really centered around love. There was also a big emphasis on friendships and sisterhood.

Of all the girls, I probably enjoyed Bea’s story the most, as I could relate to her the most. She has a long-term boyfriend and getting ready to graduate high school and head to college, but she’s suddenly feeling like her planned out life isn’t what she wants anymore. I related hard to the idea of having things going well and being planned out, but finding it to be suffocating as well. With that said, I did honestly enjoy getting to know each Garrett girl. There are a lot of really sweet and cute moments throughout the book.

It was clear the author made a point to focus on intersectionality in this small sea-side town, which was great to see. A lot of issues were brought to the fore-front, but never in an after-school special kind of way. There’s a lot of focus on grief, growing up, love and figuring out what you want out of your own life.

If you’re looking for a cute summer read, with a special emphasis on diversity and intersectionality, look no further than this book.

 

“But that’s-it’s not what I want. It hasn’t been since before I met you. I know I haven’t been honest with you. But being here, with you-it’s the only time I don’t feel like I’m falling apart. I am such a damn mess right now. I don’t know how you can like me. I don’t like myself very much, honestly.”

He rubs a hand over his stubbly chin. His shoulders relax a little. “You’re not so bad.”

BOOK REVIEW: In Harmony by Emma Scott

BOOK REVIEW: In Harmony by Emma ScottIn Harmony by Emma Scott
Purchase on: Amazon
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

The root of all madness is an unbearable truth…

At seventeen, Willow Holloway’s life was torn apart. The happy, driven girl is gone, and she is left wracked by post-traumatic stress her body remembers even if she does not. When her father suddenly uproots the family from their posh penthouse in New York City to the tiny town of Harmony, Indiana, Willow becomes more untethered and lost under the weight of her secret. On a whim, she auditions for a part in the community theater’s production of Hamlet and unexpectedly wins the role of Ophelia—the girl who is undone by madness, and her love of Hamlet…

Isaac Pearce is from the ‘wrong side of the tracks.’ The town bad boy. Girls pine for his attention and guys are in awe of him. That he’s an acting prodigy only adds to his charisma. Isaac utterly disappears into his characters; the stage is the only place he feels safe from his own traumatic home life. He wants nothing more than to escape to Broadway or Hollywood and leave Harmony behind for good.

No one can play Hamlet but Isaac, and when the director pairs him with Willow in acting class, they clash again and again—neither willing to open their hearts to anyone. But clashing leads to breaking, breaking leads to the spilling of terrible secrets, and soon Isaac and Willow find Shakespeare’s words mirroring their lives. When they are cruelly torn apart, neither know how this play will end—with madness and heartache? Or healing, love, and the discovery of who they are truly meant to be.

In Harmony is a standalone YOUNG ADULT/NEW ADULT love story, and is intended for readers 18 and up. PLEASE NOTE, this book contains sensitive material such as physical abuse, and the aftermath of sexual assault (off the page). Reader discretion is advised.

Thank you NetGalley, the publisher (Trillian) and the author, Emma Scott, for my free copy in exchange for my honest review.

5/5

I was completely blown away by this book. I had never read Emma Scott before, so I had no idea what to expect. But I’ve been pretty down lately and was looking for something to bring me out of my funk and this seemed like a good one to try. I’m so glad I did, because even with the heavy subject matter, I was so drawn and invested in these characters.

Long review below, because this book deserves it.

I searched book after book of Celtic legend and lore, but I couldn’t find the tale of Little Light. Instead, the dark found me. Two weeks after my seventeenth birthday.

Meet one of our main protagonists, Willow. I adored Willow. Here was this girl, who had something absolutely terrible happen to her and was doing her best to deal with it, especially with fairly absent parents who refuse to acknowledge how seriously their daughter is in turmoil. In the middle of her senior year, her father is moved from NYC to a small town outside of Indianapolis and Willow is the new girl at school. (Side note: Hooray to a small Indiana town not being painted in totally terrible light!) Even in a new location, Willow struggles to understand and deal with the trauma of her ordeal from the year prior.

I tried not to let myself think of him. He didn’t even have a name in my reckoning. He didn’t deserve one. Names are for humans.

On day one in her new school in Harmony, Willow meets two very important characters in this story: Angie, an amazing side character, and other other damaged protagonist, Isaac. I loved Angie. She was quirky but unabashedly herself. She goes out of her way to help Willow, even when Willow does not always return the favor. Their friendship was lovely and I really enjoyed when they were on the pages together.

And Isaac. Dark, dreamy, damaged Isaac. Isaac, who is a phenomenal actor and lives in a broken down trailer with his alcoholic father. Isaac who is determined to use his talents to get out Harmony and help those who he cares about.

After a brief but memorable meeting at the school, Willow decides to audition for the local production of Hamlet, which Isaac will star in. I really liked the author’s emphasis on using art as a way of healing for both Willow and Isaac.

I didn’t care whether I got the part or not. All that mattered was that for the first time, I’d told the truth. Cloaked in other words, but still my truth.

Willow ends up getting the part of Ophelia, opposite of Isaac as Hamlet, and that’s really where their interaction begins. And I was here for it.

He shoved his shoulder against mine playfully, not looking at me, but his Oedipus curtain call smile slipped out, and it put a crack straight across my block of ice.

If you’re looking for a slow-burn YA contemp romance, you have come to the right place. Because there is a lot both Isaac and Willow have to deal with in their personal lives, as well as their feelings for each other. I really appreciated nothing being rushed and the small moments and interactions as they got to know one another. It honestly felt so real and natural, which is exactly what I love.

Take this interaction for example:
I swallowed hard. “It doesn’t matter.” “Matters to me,” he said, his voice gruff. “It fucking matters to me Willow.”

And this one:
“You’re not dead,” I said, crouching down. “You’re not dead, Willow.” I won’t let you die. “Not all of me,” she said, sleepily. “But a part of me is dead and gone. And I’ll never get it back.” And that hit me in the heart a thousand times harder than her screaming rage at the sky.

The scene in the graveyard killed me. It was so good. Definitely one my favorites in this book, and there were a handful I could have picked from as a favorite.

If you’re looking for a book that will make you want to laugh, smile, cry, be heartbroken and then whole again, look no further. There were a lot of important themes to this book and some heavy topics, but I thought they were handled in a good way. Just FYI, TW for: rape, PTSD, physical abuse, verbal abuse, use of slurs (though it is acknowledged it is wrong) and underage drinking. It’s also definitely a mature YA novel, so just be aware.

Overall, I loved this book and I loved these characters. Any little issues I had are completely overwhelmed by everything else. This book was wonderful and if you are even slightly thinking you might be interested in it, you should absolutely do so.

BOOK REVIEW- Addicted to You (Addicted #1) by Krista and Becca Ritchie

BOOK REVIEW- Addicted to You (Addicted #1) by Krista and Becca RitchieAddicted to You (Addicted #1)
by Krista and Becca Ritchie
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

She’s addicted to sex. He’s addicted to booze…the only way out is rock bottom.

No one would suspect shy Lily Calloway’s biggest secret. While everyone is dancing at college bars, Lily stays in the bathroom. To get laid. Her compulsion leads her to one-night stands, steamy hookups and events she shamefully regrets. The only person who knows her secret happens to have one of his own.

Loren Hale’s best friend is his bottle of bourbon. Lily comes at a close second. For three years, they’ve pretended to be in a real relationship, hiding their addictions from their families. They’ve mastered the art of concealing flasks and random guys that filter in and out of their apartment.

But as they sink beneath the weight of their addictions, they cling harder to their destructive relationship and wonder if a life together, for real, is better than a lie. Strangers and family begin to infiltrate their guarded lives, and with new challenges, they realize they may not just be addicted to alcohol and sex.

Their real vice may be each other.

New Adult Romance recommended for readers 18+ for mature content

If you guys can’t tell, I have been on a crazy streak of only reading books by these ladies lolol OH WELL

“I want to love you more than I love this”–he waves his bottle–“and I don’t know how else to do it unless there’s something to lose.”

After reading Alphas Like Us I went a little crazy and decided to re-read the entire OG series because it had been awhile and I missed the core six (parents and uncles/aunts of Moffy and the gang).   I actually ended up changing my original rating from 3 stars to 4 in the process.  Honestly I’d give it 5 stars because it isn’t that the book wasn’t good, it’s that it was so hard to read because of some of the content. Back when I first read all of these books, I started with the Calloway Sisters series. Because of that, I first was introduced to Lo and Lily while they were already working through their alcohol and sex addictions. In these books, actually reading about their struggles and problems before any of their friends/family knew was HORRIBLE. I myself have never had a serious addiction to anything so I had no personal experience to relate what they were really going through. That made it hard for me not to hate both of them at different times for enabling each other instead of truly helping like they should have been doing. It was so hard because they loved each other but just….didn’t quite know how to channel that love without giving up the love they had for their respective addictions. UGH. 

She looks at me with more concern than I thought possible. In the end, it was not a boy who helped me. It was my sister. <—LOVE that quote

For those that want to start in order with this book, here’s a little rundown of what this book and the start of this series is all about…

This and the next book, Ricochet, are the only two in the entire series that have only one (Lily’s) perspective.  Since these books are truly about the Calloway sisters, I think I like that we at first only get her perspective on things.  We learn right away that she is a sex addict but don’t truly come to understand the extent of it until later on.  You might just think “oh Lily, she’s just a slut, how can her wanting to sleep around count as an addiction…” but that is DEFINITELY not the case.  Enter Loren, or Lo, Hale.  He’s Lily’s best friend and fake boyfriend.  You see, for years these two have been covering up their addictions (his is to alcohol) by being together.  They take care of each other to the best of their abilities but honestly like I mentioned above, they do much more harmful enabling than good.  Because of their problems, they basically have shut out Lily’s family, never going to family functions, never picking up their calls…it’s heartbreaking.

Eventually, the two are in a situation on a boat trip with their family were they end up at a crossroad and Lo gives Lily an ultimatum. Yes, her addiction is so bad that she is contemplating sleeping with one of the bartenders on the boat.  She would have given up their secret to satisfy her addiction and Lo ends up telling her that if she does this, they are done for real.  Instead he offers himself up to help curb her needs.  What she finds out is that he’s not just offering himself up because he feels bad, no he truly loves her.  All of the years of teasing and offering to “help” her was really him trying to get her to realize she could have picked him over any other guy any day.  Unfortunately, Lo can kind of be a snarky ass and Lily didn’t pick up on his clues AT ALL.  Because she’s always loved him too, she decides to actually try a real relationship with him.  Their addictions eventually come out (though I won’t say how or who to in case you start with this book) and their lives change a LOT after that.  Like I said, it isn’t an easy read but Lily and Lo are such compelling characters and it was refreshing to read a romance that is entirely different than anything else out there.

What I did love about this book was meeting them all. Seeing how Lily and Lo met Connor and Ryke and how their relationship, and Connor and Rose’s started out. Those relationships are what have become so important to me so reading about them from the very beginning was great. I will definitely read the rest of this series but just know that the Calloway Sisters books are a much better read if you want more hope and happiness!

“Wait for me.” The words come out choked and pained. “I need you to wait for me.”

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