Starry Eyed Inside by Rochelle Allison

Starry Eyed Inside by Rochelle Allison

Starry Eyed Inside Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Starry Eyed Inside by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Coming of age is never easy, and it’s especially difficult for Rory Shepherd when she falls for bad boy Skyler Nolan. Starry Eyed Inside takes readers on a journey of exploration through the high school years, following Rory through first love and heartbreak and learning to live for herself. One of my favorite things about this book was the author’s use of voice for Rory and being able to feel her maturity emerging as she goes from love-struck high school freshman to senior year and knowing what she wants out of life. The journey is an emotional roller coaster, and the author has a talent for making readers feel everything her characters feel.

Although the story is told from Rory’s point of view, we get plenty of Skyler growing up as well. He goes from from reckless, indifferent teenager to a young man who has figured out what’s important and isn’t afraid to go after it. His patience and determination showed great character growth, and I enjoyed falling for the bad boy but loving the mature young man.

This is a great story of life and love, but I hesitate to classify it as Young Adult due to the amount of sexual content. It’s definitely geared more toward the older YA crowd. This certainly isn’t a strike against the book for me, but worth noting if that’s not your cup of tea.

A couple things contributed to this being a 4-star book for me as opposed to giving it 5 stars. While I enjoyed the journey of the characters, at times I felt it was too drawn out. The final third of the book could have been condensed and more to the point in my opinion. There were a few secondary characters with not enough follow-through (or perhaps too much inclusion to start), and some editing errors and minor inconsistencies, but nothing that would take me too far out of the story.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would definitely read more by this author.

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Crossing the Barrier by Martine Lewis

Crossing the Barrier by Martine Lewis

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3 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Crossing the Barrier by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Lily Morgan and Malakai Thomas couldn’t be more different as high school students. Lily is a clarinetist in the band, and Malakai is the star wide receiver of the football team. Their worlds don’t fit together. Yet when Malakai bumps into Lily and puts her in the hospital with a head injury, the two can’t get each other out of their minds. Lily has the ability to feel everyone’s emotions around her, and her ability to shield out this talent is lost after her injury. The growing attraction between these coming of age students is tested by the collision of the differences between their social circles, and Lily and Malakai must learn to navigate these potholes and fight to stay together.

Crossing the Barrier is a well-written coming of age story with great lessons for young adult readers. It provides an intense look at social stigmas and diversity. I loved the addition of Malakai’s racial mixture, that it wasn’t one hundred percent apparent but it did play a role in the story. The characters were relatively well-developed, and the attraction was set at a decent pace.

The story moved a little too slowly for me and contained a lot of cliché tropes: neither character having the guts to admit their feelings, getting interrupted when trying to talk about feelings, deciding something for the other character. Perhaps a young adult will relate better to these issues, but as an adult who enjoys reading Young Adult novels, this one just didn’t hit home for me. Some plot points were too over the top to be believable, and although I can set aside certain beliefs for fiction, the extremities of this story made me lose interest at times.

The paranormal aspect was minimal within the story, which made its inclusion somewhat awkward. Lily was able to feel the emotions of those around her, giving her somewhat of a truth barometer. After her collision with Malakai, she lost the ability to shield herself from people’s emotions, resulting in her being overwrought with emotions when in public. But this wasn’t tied to the plot too deeply until the end of the story, mostly as a setup for the next book.

Overall, the book just missed having any type of wow factor for me. The writing was good and it was edited well, which is something that is sorely lacking in many novels these days so that was a plus. It just didn’t have enough holding it together for it to make a positive impression.

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Dirty South Drug Wars by Jae Hood

Dirty South Drug Wars by Jae Hood

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Dirty South Drug Wars by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Rue Monroe is no stranger to law enforcement, having grown up in a family where selling drugs is an everyday occurrence. Her father was killed when she was twelve in the middle of a drug war with their rival, the Montgomerys, so she wants nothing to do with the family business. Rue goes to school, works at her grandmother’s cake shop, and takes care of her sister and the house because her mother can’t be bothered to help.

At age eighteen, Rue meets a boy who makes her feel something for the first time in her life. As it turns out, he’s the boy she’s been dreaming about for the last six years. Unfortunately, he’s also her family’s biggest rival. But Tanner Montgomery won’t give up on his love for Rue. He’s determined to be with Rue regardless of their last names.

What should be a simple relationship between two eighteen-year-olds turns into an all-out war between the families. Lies are uncovered, and Rue questions everything she thought she knew about the rivalry. When secrets come to light, the danger mounts, and not everyone will make it out of this war alive.

Dirty South Drug Wars is the thrilling debut novel from Jae Hood. It is a compelling combination of romance and suspense that will have you ensconced in the lives of the characters and the world they live in. Set in rivaling small towns in the rural South, the book draws you in to the world of drug kingpins and cake decorating. This young adult story includes drugs and violence and is recommended for the older young adult audience.

Told in first person point of view by Rue, we get a first-hand look at the life of a teenager who has had to grow up before her time. Rue’s father was killed when she was twelve and her mother is an absentee parent. This leaves Rue in charge of her younger sister who has an untreated mental illness, not to mention working to pay the bills and take care of the house while still in school.

Rue’s characterization is contrasted nicely with her love interest, Tanner Montgomery. Tanner is reckless and enjoys a good thrill. He deals with the consequences of his actions after they’ve occurred. But both Rue and Tanner have to take on a little of the other’s personality when push comes to shove. Tanner needs to execute carefully laid plans, while Rue needs to put aside her responsibilities and act for her own interests for once.

The story is full of action and excitement within the lives of these teenagers. They’re thrust in the middle of a drug war and need to do what’s necessary for what they believe is right, figuring out who is an ally and who is the enemy along the way. It will keep you on the edge of your seat right to the very end.

Dirty South Drug Wars is a fantastic debut from Ms. Hood, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

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The Sapphire Legend: Part II by E.L. Tenenbaum

The Sapphire Legend: Part II by E.L. Tenenbaum

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of The Sapphire Legend: Part II by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Sapere and the surviving villagers of her tribe have been in the Wild for months, and many of them have adjusted to life there. When Sapere and Venatore find the fifth tribe, they have an obligation to warn them of an impending attack by the Pliz. Their sister tribe also has an obligation to offer asylum to the survivors.

But life in the tribe by The Great Waters is vastly different than what Sapere is used to. Her tribe was just beginning to accept her differences—that she was given her family’s gifts, which are only passed down to males—and her place on council. Now she has to prove herself all over again, and she has to do it while her instincts are telling her they are woefully unprepared for an attack by the Pliz.

The Sapphire Legend: Part II is a young adult fantasy about a young woman who has to prove her worth to the rest of her people while discovering her value for herself. Because of the gifts she was born with, Sapere had to fight for her place among her people in part one. Even after all she did to save her tribe, she is once again an outsider who has to gain respect among the new tribe.

The story drew me in immediately, picking up right where part one left off, with Sapere and Venatore discovering the fifth tribe. They needed to develop allies in order to convince the rest of council to journey to the other tribe by The Great Waters, but once they arrived their quest had only begun. While some settled easily into life with the fifth tribe, others, like Sapere, weren’t comfortable with the differences in the way they lived. These differences made it even more difficult for Sapere to be accepted among council.

The author’s description of Sapere’s gifts was exquisitely written, making me feel like I was picking through sounds and feeling the heartbeat of the earth right along with Sapere. I enjoyed watching how she struggled to grow her gifts and teach others, as well as her indecision when she needed to use them with less-than-honorable intentions.

Sapere’s growth was not limited to her own self-worth. Throughout the story, her relationship with her older sister Onyx also grew and changed. Where Sapere once looked up to Onyx, their roles were suddenly reversed and she came to realize she now had Onyx’s admiration. Once Sapere settled her own personal battle with the Pliz’s attack, she was also able to move on and accept Reo’s feelings for her. The romance in this story was secondary to the main character growth but a well-rounded addition.

The entire story contained a general feeling that something was going to go wrong, that something wasn’t right with the new tribe. There was good buildup to the battle, and good timing of Sapere’s recognition of Reo’s love.

I truly enjoyed this book as the conclusion of what began in book one. Ms. Tenenbaum’s talent for drawing a reader in and holding them captive assures great things in her future.

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Falling From The Sky by Nikki Godwin

Falling From The Sky by Nikki Godwin

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Falling From The Sky by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Sixteen-year-old Ridge McCoy hopes that summer basketball camp will not only improve his jump shot, but his life as well. He’s been in a holding pattern ever since his father’s death in a plane crash, and he doesn’t know how to deal with his mother, his brother, or even his girlfriend. When the carousel operator at the local mall, Micah Youngblood, offers to show Ridge what each of the carousel horses mean to his tribe, Ridge reluctantly accepts. It has to be better than hanging out with the guys at basketball camp, who are only interested in girls and beer.

As the friendship between Ridge and Micah grows, so do deeper feelings, as well as Ridge’s confusion. There’s nothing wrong with a summer fling, but Ridge may be doing some falling of his own and he’ll have to decide if this relationship can stand the distance.

Falling From The Sky is a young adult male/male romance about two high school boys—one who is sure of his sexuality and doesn’t need labels, and one who thought he was sure of his sexuality but begins to have questions. The YA M/M plot was a departure from what I typically read, and I’m glad I took a chance on this book.

When the story started, Ridge was a bit of a mess, beyond typical teenage drama and hormones, and hoping summer camp would be the escape he needed. Ridge’s father had passed away in a plane crash and he didn’t know how to deal with the remaining feelings. He also didn’t want the pity that came along with his father’s death and suspected his girlfriend only stayed with him because of that. His characterization pulled me in right away, and I fell in love with the boy who stopped in the middle of parking lots and prayed for airplanes.

The confusion of his life carried right through the story to when he met a strange new friend, developed feelings and had to deal with those feelings, and right up until he had to make decisions concerning his future. At times I could feel Ridge’s confusion right along with him. In one scene, I was able to feel pain from not only Ridge, but Micah as well.

If there was anything holding this book back, it would be the lack of an epilogue, a few minor inconsistencies, and some editing errors, but truly these were not enough to detract from the wonderful and emotional writing. I absolutely loved this story and look forward to reading more by this author.

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Where We Fell by Amber L. Johnson

Where We Fell by Amber L. Johnson

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5 out of 5 Stars

Eighteen-year-old Oliver Bishop has just received life-changing news, or possibly life-ending news. Numb to his new diagnosis, he tries to process his feelings by being a normal kid. But a visit to his favorite diner becomes anything but normal when he meets quirky Hannah. She just may give him the push he needs to fight, and a reason to live.

Where We Fell is a young adult romance with a backdrop of drama in the form of a cancer diagnosis. It may sound like a sad tale, but this story is truly uplifting even when dealing with such a difficult subject. It certainly has its moments of being heart-wrenching, so keep your tissues handy, but the diagnosis and illness are secondary to the theme of living your life and not just existing in it.

This story was very well written, and I fell in love with both main characters. Hannah’s quirky personality was contagious, and she kept Oliver on his toes. She wasn’t overly sexual, but it was the story of an eighteen-year-old boy so don’t expect him to not be interested. Oliver was confused with his feelings on life in general, then Hannah came along and he found something to fight for. What I really liked was that it wasn’t just Hannah he wanted to live for; he was able to find his happiness in life with a few simple goals.

The novella was simple, sweet, and I absolutely loved it. I look forward to reading more by Amber L. Johnson.

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Breathless (Blue Fire Saga Book 1) by Scott Prussing

Breathless (Blue Fire Saga Book 1) by Scott Prussing

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5 out of 5 Stars

Leesa Nyland has never had what most would call a normal life. Her mother hides in the dark and won’t go outside during the daytime, claiming she was bitten by a one-fanged vampire eighteen years ago while she was pregnant with Leesa. Now Leesa is moving to Connecticut for college to be closer to her aunt and uncle, but also to search for her brother Bradley who disappeared without a trace after sending Leesa an email saying not to look for him.

Not long after starting college, Leesa meets two strange but intriguing men: Rave and Stefan. Rave warns Leesa to stay away from Stefan, claiming he’s a vampire. With Leesa’s family history, she doesn’t immediately dismiss the notion. As her attraction to Rave grows, she finds out he’s keeping some secrets of his own.

With the help of her Vampire Science professor, Rave, and even Stefan, Leesa continues to search for her brother. In the process she stumbles onto information that might cure her mother. But with Rave and Stefan being sworn enemies, Leesa will have to make some tough decisions if she wants to save her brother and help her mother.

Breathless is not just another teenage vampire novel; in fact, the vampire in this story is not even the hero. But it is a story about vampires and other paranormal creatures that had me intrigued right from the start. I loved the different spin the author took in this plot. There are two other creatures that feature prominently—grafhym, which are one-fanged vampires with lesser powers, and volkaanes, which are extremely powerful vampire hunters who have fire within them. Rave, the hero of Breathless, is a volkaane, which adds a different twist to the romantic aspect. He can’t touch Leesa until he’s ready to tell her his secret because she’d immediately feel the heat his body gives off. He also has to be extremely careful while kissing her because the fire inside of him is used through a kiss to kill vampires and could easily kill Leesa if he’s not careful.

This story mixes the romance between Rave and Leesa with Leesa’s search for her brother and information on what might have actually happened to her mother eighteen years ago. The plots are all nicely entwined. While Leesa is adjusting to life in college and making new friends, she’s also exploring her relationship with Rave and hunting down clues to her brother’s disappearance. Her professor agrees to help her, and in the mean time he also happens upon some information related to her mother. I loved watching Leesa go from a shy loner to a somewhat more outgoing friend, all while asserting herself and making life or death decisions regarding her family and herself.

I had very few complaints while reading this book, but in all fairness I’ll share them with you. The story was told in third person point of view, which is good for capturing more than the main character’s thoughts. At times, the points of view were mixed together in the same section, making it slightly difficult to follow. Not a huge deal though. There were a few scenes from a random character’s point of view that I thought could have been removed. For example, not showing us how the young vampire escaped and went on his spree would have left more intrigue while the main characters were trying to figure out what happened to the missing girls.

My only other issue was that at times there was too much description. It wasn’t necessary to detail exactly what each character in a scene was wearing or what they did or didn’t eat. But that information was easy enough to skim over.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and wasn’t able to put it down. Breathless is book one in the Blue Fire Saga, and it wraps up nicely, leaving room for the plot of the next book without leaving the reader on a cliffhanger. I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

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The Unknown Sun (Destiny Series Book 1) by Cheryl S. Mackey

The Unknown Sun (Destiny Series Book 1) by Cheryl S. Mackey

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4 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

With scars on the inside and outside from accidents that took her family’s lives and should have taken hers—twice—seventeen-year-old Moira hides from the world and tries to stay invisible. When a strange boy attacks her, Moira fears the third time will finally be the end of her life. Instead of dying, Moira is saved by twins Airi and Belamar and taken to their world. Moira innately feels she can trust the winged twins, who are heirs to the throne of Skyfall, a world that is dying and that the three will need to save.

The Immortals who once protected Skyfall have been missing for centuries. Bel, Airi, and Moira are sent on a quest to find the twins’ mother’s diary, which provides information on how to find the Immortals and who is behind all the chaos. Once a nobody teenager, Moira now finds herself with powers beyond even the Immortals and courage she didn’t know she was capable of. The three need to journey into dangerous territory to restore the statues that will release the Immortals and then figure out how to restore Skyfall to its former glory.

The Unknown Sun is a young adult fantasy novel that builds on the foundation laid out in the novella The Immortals: Part One: Shadows & Starstone. Although the two works go together, you do not have to read The Immortals in order to understand The Unknown Sun. Enough background information is provided to make the novel feel like a standalone book. That said, the story doesn’t end at the conclusion of The Unknown Sun. The quest Moira, Bel, and Airi are on is not finished. I am not typically a fan of cliffhanger endings, so I was happy to find this story did not end on a cliffhanger. Although the quest will continue in the next book, there was a satisfying ending to The Unknown Sun. The author found a good place to stop one story before the novel moved into the “way too long” category. Are there unresolved issues? Of course. But there was enough resolution to leave me feeling satisfied when I was done.

As for the story, it had me hooked right from the beginning. There is plenty of action and quite a bit of mystery as the plot moves along. The main character goes through a good deal of growth—from a teenage nobody hiding behind her hair to stay invisible to a brave leader standing up for what she believes is right.

There is also a little bit of romance and a lot of friendship. When Moira meets Belamar and Airi, the beautiful winged twins who saved her on Earth, she knows she can trust them. The three develop a close friendship, which is something Moira has never had before. She’d lay down her life for either one of them, and they would do the same for her. Bel and Moira have a draw between them, and Bel’s protectiveness of Moira made me swoon many times. The author accomplished this bond with minimal fuss—little actions like Bel using his wings or body to protect Moira, or making a bed of furs for her so she’d be comfortable, or just a comforting arm around her shoulders. This is definitely a young adult romance. It’s clean and simple, and friendship is the primary focus.

The descriptions of the characters were spot-on, providing a good visual for the different types of people. I could easily picture each scene, to the point where this book read more like a movie going through my head. My only complaint would be that at times it felt overly descriptive and somewhat distracting. Some of it could have been cut down to have a cleaner read.

There were also quite a few grammatical errors, but thankfully not enough to draw me out of the plot. It definitely held my attention from beginning to end.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable story. I look forward to the next book in the series and finishing the quest with Moira, Bel, and Airi.

My review for The Immortals: Part One: Shadows & Starstone can be found here.

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V is for Virgin by Kelly Oram

V is for Virgin by Kelly Oram

V is for Virgin Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

Because her birth mother had her when she was only sixteen and gave her up for adoption, Valerie Jensen made a decision to remain a virgin until marriage, and she’s sticking to it. When her boyfriend breaks up with her because of her decision, she tells him off publicly and the YouTube video goes viral. Val decides to do something positive with all of the publicity. She starts the V is for Virgin campaign, directed at helping others feel confident in their choice.

Virgin Val, as she becomes known, catches the eye of bad boy Kyle Hamilton, lead singer for the band Tralse. Kyle is determined to do everything in his power to get Val to give up her virginity to him, and publicity is off the charts every time the two of them are seen in public together. Val needs to stay true to herself and determine who is really on her side and who isn’t.

V is for Virgin is a mostly enjoyable read in the Young Adult genre. Val is a strong character who stands up for herself even when faced with doubts about whether she’s doing the right thing. She makes an impact on a lot of teenagers and sends a strong message that it’s okay to make your own choice and not be pressured by what everyone else is doing. The only place Val isn’t really confident is within her own love life. She thought she was happy with her ex-boyfriend until he dumps her when she won’t have sex with him. Then she dates popular athlete Isaac, and they’re very comfortable, but that’s about all there is to it. Even though Val and Kyle butt heads all the time, she has some strong feelings for him. I was happy to see that even with all the UST between Kyle and Val, Val didn’t give in on her beliefs.

I would have liked to see Val stand up for herself a little more with Kyle. Some of their interactions left me perplexed. But at the end of the day, behind closed doors she made the right decision for herself.

The end of the story left me in one of those places where I was happy for her but a bit heartbroken at the same time. Thankfully the author gave us a little taste of the future in the epilogue, letting the reader know that full happiness wasn’t totally out of reach for Val. The next book in the series, A is for Abstinence, is from Kyle’s point of view (a few chapters were included at the end of V is for Virgin), and I just might pick that up to see if they get more of a happily ever after.

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Someone Else’s Fairytale (Book 1) by E.M. Tippetts

Someone Else’s Fairytale (Book 1) by E.M. Tippetts

Someone Else's Fairytale Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

Jason Vanderholt is Hollywood’s hottest actor and could have any woman he wants—any woman except Chloe Winters. A twenty-one-year-old focused on her studies, Chloe couldn’t care less about Jason’s good looks or his wealth. Every attempt he makes to get to know her falls flat when he tries to use his Hollywood charm.

When Chloe forces him to be himself—just a regular guy—the pair become good friends. Although Jason wants more, he accepts Chloe’s friendship for a time. He eventually makes his feelings known … and gets rejected. But Chloe, with help from her somewhat estranged mother, realizes her true feelings, and a relationship finally blossoms.

Someone Else’s Fairytale is a sweet story with some heavy sub-plots. I enjoyed the intricacies of the various plots, but sometimes felt there wasn’t enough focus on the main characters’ relationship, leaving me not one hundred percent convinced of their love for each other.

Chloe is a somewhat confused character. She’s not confused about her stance on premarital sex; she sticks to her guns that she’s not interested in it, even when faced with a boyfriend who is older and very experienced, thanks to her own childhood. But when it comes to love and even friendship, she doesn’t have a clue. It’s made clear to the reader that her best friend Matthew is interested in her, yet she doesn’t see it for quite some time. Nor does she see Jason’s interest in her. To add to her confusion, she suddenly decides she’s in love with Matthew out of the blue. Then she pushes Jason away, only to realize she loves him after she watches his movies—which seems even odder coming from a woman who had no interest in his celebrity status and even poked fun at his fake tan.

The story is written in a different style than I’m used to, and it took some time to get into the constant back and forth dialogue. There were many times where it was difficult to determine who said what and I’d have to backtrack to figure it out.

All that said, I read through the story pretty quickly because I didn’t want to put it down. I enjoyed the various plots, especially Chloe’s relationships with her mother and Jason’s niece. I just wish her character had been more definitive about what she wanted in a romantic relationship instead of constantly focusing on what she didn’t want. In the end, I was happy to see both Chloe and Jason’s fairytales come to life.

Happy reading!