Book Review: Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarry

Title: Breaking the Rules
Author: Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits
Rating: ★★★★

Breaking the Rules

After finishing Pushing the Limits, I felt satisfied with the ending. It wasn’t a happily ever after ending, but it still felt right for Echo and Noah. So I wasn’t really sure I wanted to read Breaking the Rules. I didn’t want to read more of their story and end up feeling let down by whatever came next for them. The little glimpses into their lives from the other novels in the series were good enough for me.

Thankfully, McGarry created a fantastic continuation of Echo and Noah’s story. It felt authentic to the characters, even if that authenticity meant they annoyed me at times. So many of their issues could be fixed, even avoided, if they just talked to each other. However, I do realize that it’s not entirely how their characters would act. They aren’t really talkative characters, at least about things that are difficult to talk about.

Echo is still trying to separate herself from her mother. She’s trying to make it on her own as an artist, relying only on her talent and not her name. She and Noah took a road trip to try and get her art into galleries and shows across the United States. She’s trying to become a better person, one that doesn’t let her past haunt her as much.

Noah is being the supportive boyfriend. He finds work where he can, and is just enjoying his time with Echo. When he learns just how close one of their stops brings him to his family, he has to decide if he wants to face the family his mother left behind, or continue moving forward in life, trusting his mother’s judgment in ignoring them.

Through all of this, their insecurities are working against them. Echo still feels like the girl who isn’t worthy of real love. She still feels like the “leftovers,” her father has a new family and she’s what left from his old one. Her mom’s focus is her art, and Echo gets whatever she attention her mother might have leftover. Noah knows he isn’t the person he wants to be for Echo. He wants to give her more than he can at the moment, and he’s worried that Echo will leave him before he can become the man he wants to be.

Like I said, a lot of their issues would have been solved if they could really talk to each other. Sure, they have meaningful conversations, but it’s rarely about their insecurities. If it does, it only grazes the surface.

In the end, I was happy McGarry added a little more to Echo and Noah’s story. Even though I was content with the ending of Pushing the Limits, the resolution of some open questions was nice to have. It also provided a little more information on how they went form the Echo and Noah of the first book, to the Echo and Noah found in the other novels.

If you enjoyed Pushing the Limits, I highly suggest reading Breaking the Rules. The look into their relationship is wonderful, and really wraps up their story well.

If you’d like to read Breaking the Rules, you can purchase a copy here:
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Book Review: Take Me On by Katie McGarry

Title: Take Me On
Author: Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits
Rating:★★★★★

Take Me On

I really didn’t think the books in this series could top Pushing the Limits. Not because they wouldn’t be as good, but because there’s something about that first book that has some sort of magic. It’s the first book, the first introduction to the world, and it’s hard to beat that first bit of magic.

It’s almost like eating a pizza. All slices of the pizza are delicious, but it’s that very first slice that melts in your mouth and reminds you just how delicious pizza is.

Take Me On is my favorite book of the series. It beat Pushing the Limits for that honor. It has characters that don’t need each other for completeness. They make mistakes, yes, but in the end, they make decisions based on what they need, not what the relationship needs. Haley has an amazing concept of wanting to be yellow. She’s yellow, West is blue. She’s not ready to be green yet. She wants to figure out how to be yellow before mixing and making green. I think that’s the perfect way to describe this novel. These characters need to figure out how to be yellow and blue before they can create other colors.

Haley has some trouble in her history. She was a fighter, but one incident took that away from her. She sees weakness in a moment of strength, and it costs her the thing that made her happiest. When she’s thrown back into that world, she resists. She doesn’t want to feel that weakness again. She fights against it with everything she has. West is there to challenge her, but he can’t bring her back to fighting. She has to decide to do that on her own, and the moment she makes her decision is perfect. I had a huge smile when she faced her demons and moved on.

West should have everything. We met him in Crash Into You. He has a rich family that looked happy on the outside. Then his sister met Isaiah and found herself in trouble. West blames himself for her accident and her injuries. He remembers clearly his actions that led to his sister being in a car crash. He can’t bring himself to face her. It was tough to read those emotions. It’s clear that he misses her, but to him, he doesn’t see how she could miss him. He doesn’t feel like he fits in with his family, and the accident was the final nail in the coffin. He acts before he thinks, and that’s how he ended up training with Haley.

The colors metaphor is probably one of the best I’ve read in a novel. Both characters have to figure out how to be their own person before they can work on relationships. Haley has to figure out how to be yellow before she can try to make green with West, or any other colors with the members of her family. She’s been belittled and lost sight of who she is because of her family’s circumstances. She’s a muddled grey at the beginning of the novel from trying to be everything to everyone else before owning who she is. West is trying so hard to be his family’s color that he forgot he’s supposed to be blue. The fact that the color metaphor can be applied to every single relationship in this book is perfect.

Take Me On is my favorite book of this series. The characters and perfectly imperfect, and their growth is amazing. The story was tense with some wonderful sweet moments. Mostly, I love that this book focused on finding out who you are before you try to add more pieces to your whole. You can’t be a whole person if you don’t know what makes you, you. I loved it.

If you’d like to read Take Me On, you can purchase it here:
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Book Review: Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

Title: Crash Into You
Author:Katie McGarry
Series:Pushing the Limits
Rating:★★★★

Crash Into You

I need good characters to like a book. A good setting is fine; a good story is nice to read. But for me to really love a book, I need good characters. They need to grow. They need to shed their tie to the book and become actual people. If I read a story with characters that I see as people, chances are, I’ll love it.

McGarry created wonderful people in this book.

Rachel looks like she has everything a person could want. From the outside, it looks like her family is perfect and happy. But her family is hiding secrets. Her mother wants her to be the daughter she lost. Her brothers and father want her to make her mother happy. They want her to be perfect, making up for the daughter gone too soon. But Rachel doesn’t want to be that girl. She wants to work on and drive her car. She doesn’t want to play the part of perfect daughter. She wants to make her family happy, but she doesn’t know when it’s okay to stop making others happy at the expense of her health.

On the other hand, Isaiah doesn’t have a family to make happy. He has Noah and Echo. He had Beth, but their friendship has been messed up. His mother wants back in his life, but he has years of pain in her way. He tries not to need anyone because he feels like no one needs him. He’s not completely lost, though. Cars provide his escape and hope for a better future than his present circumstances. It’s fast cars that bring him and Rachel together.

I really enjoyed this story, even though cars aren’t really my thing. I know how to change a tire, oil, and car battery. That’s pretty much the extent of my car knowledge. Even though some of the car talk in the book was above my head, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the whole story. Rachel’s panic attacks really tugged at me. I’ve never had panic attacks like hers, but I have had panic attacks. The out of control feeling, of knowing that the panic makes no sense and that it doesn’t help anything, isn’t a feeling easily written. McGarry does a great job at writing those moments.

McGarry, once again, has a fantastic book on her hands. She creates characters that are the quintessential “more than their looks” characters. They appear on the outside to be one character, but there’s so much to them that the outside barely shows a piece of who they are. They aren’t characters; they’re people. I’ll keep reading and recommending McGarry because she does an amazing job of capturing people and weaving a story around them.

If you’d like to read Crash Into You for yourself, you can purchase it here:
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Book Review: Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Title:Breathe, Annie, Breathe
Author:Miranda Kenneally
Series:Hundred Oaks
Rating:★★★★★

Breathe, Annie, Breathe

It should really be no surprise that I’d probably read anything Kenneally wrote and published. This is the fifth book I’ve read from her, and with each book, I fall a little more in love with her writing, her settings, and her characters. Breathe, Annie, Breathe is no different.

Annie is training to run a marathon in honor of her boyfriend, Kyle. She blames herself for Kyle’s death, and the marathon is her way to staying connected to him, and completing the things he will never get to complete. She’s never been a runner, so she begins a training program that will get her in marathon shape. It’s hard and painful, but she is determined to do this for Kyle.

What she does not expect is for the brother of her trainer to show up. Jeremiah is an adrenaline junkie, and running provides him with a little thrill, but he’s always looking for more. He’s gotten into trouble for it, and is not working for his brother as a way to stay on a safe path.

I think what I loved most about this book was reading Annie comes to terms with her loss, and find a way to move on, while still preserving her memories. Annie is hurting. She blames herself for Kyle dying. She can’t help but think about all the “what ifs” that might have kept him alive. She’s determined to run the marathon to honor him, and she has people cheering her on. Kyle’s family is there for her. Her family is there for her. Jeremiah is there for her. As much as I loved the romance in this book, Annie’s growth is what made this book amazing for me.

I love the world Kenneally has created, and only love it more with each book. I love that she ties every book back to the previous ones in the series. It makes it feel like an entire world exists beyond the pages of the novels. These aren’t characters you read in a book and then never see again. They’re always woven into each other. It’s wonderful. Breathe, Annie, Breathe is another must-read book from a must-read series, written by a must-read author.

If you’d like to read Breathe, Annie, Breathe, you can purchase a copy here:
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Book Review: Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

Title:Racing Savannah
Author:Miranda Kenneally
Series:Hundred Oaks
Rating:★★★★★

Racing Savannah

It’s not rare for me to forego sleep to finish a book. I tend to lose any sense of time when I read and then, somehow, it’s 2am and I’ve finished a book. It is rare for me to purposely give up sleep because I know I’ll be annoyed with myself for closing my eyes when there’s an amazing book right in front of me.

That’s what coffee is for, right? To make a semi-functional human after ignoring sleep to stay up reading.

Racing Savannah is one of those books. I clearly knew I would be finishing it around 3am, but I did not care. I’d drink some coffee, maybe take a nap. Sleep was not as important as finishing this book.

I loved Savannah. She knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to fight for it, yet she’s also got insecurities just like anyone. She doesn’t let those insecurities hold her back, though. She knows what she’s good at and focuses on that, rather than wallowing in what she’s not as comfortable in. Working with horses at a ranch dominated by males, I think it would have been understandable if she felt like she wasn’t a right fit. However, I’m so happy that she not only stepped right in like she belonged, but was determined to prove that she was better than the boys.

Jack is a sweet guy, and even though he’s not my favorite guy Kenneally has written, he still got to me. It’s clear he’s trying to figure out how to handle expectations from his family against his own personal desires. He’s trying to find the balance between making everyone else happy and making himself happy.

I loved the horse racing in this novel. I’ve always had a great respect for horses, and reading about the racing world was really intriguing. I also enjoyed the growth Savannah’s family went through in the novel. Savannah’s struggle to find a place in her new family unit was interesting to read. I’ve never been through something like she has, but I can understand the feelings she was having.

Kenneally has another wonderful book to add to her name. The world of horse racing draws you in, but it’s Savannah that makes this story amazing. She’s a powerful character, and one of my favorites in contemporary literature recently. I’m really happy that there is more coming from Kenneally, as I’m not ready to let this world go.

If you’d like to read Racing Savannah for yourself, you can purchase a copy here:
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Book Review: Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Things I Can’t Forget
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks Companion series
Rating: ★★★★★

Things I Can't Forget

It only took one book for me to fall in love with Kenneally’s writing. I read Catching Jordan because it was a Kindle Daily Deal, and I haven’t looked back. Kenneally writes the teen experience really well, and each of her characters has a different personality. She doesn’t take the same characters and put them in new situations. Each book has something new and Things I Can’t Forget is no different.

Kate is a good girl who goes to church and loves the Lord. She has let the Bible and her faith guide her in growing up, which have good and bad consequences. She’s full of guilt, though, over what she helped her best friend do. It makes her question herself and her faith. So when she gets the chance to be a camp counselor for the summer, she wants to get away from her secret. She ends up learning a lot about herself and how faith fits into her life.

I didn’t like Kate right away, but I sympathized with her. I grew up going to church every weekend and have a religious family. I can understand why Kate holds onto her faith so tight. It’s how she is able to face the good and bad of each day and find peace with it. Until she does something that goes against her faith, and she’s left questioning everything. She was judgmental in the beginning of the book, but not just toward others. She also judged herself. The growth her character goes through as the novel progresses is fantastic. She comes to accept that faith is not the same for everyone, and she can find a way of practicing her faith that works for her.

Matt was such a sweetheart in this novel. It was wonderful reading how he slowly helped Kate find comfort in her faith. He showed her that faith comes in many forms and that one way is no better than another. He also helped her find confidence in herself and her faith. Matt was the perfect person for Kate to find, at the time in her life when she needed it most.

I also loved how Parker played a role in this novel. She was also a counselor at the camp, and slowly she and Kate became friends. I wasn’t expecting this friendship to form, but I’m really glad it did. Parker was another person that showed Kate that it is okay to adapt faith in a more personal way.

Things I Can’t Forget is an amazing novel that kept me up until the early hours of the morning to finish. I loved it from beginning to end, even if Kate wasn’t always my favorite character. I think this is a must read book for any fans of contemporary romance, and ever ones who aren’t.

If you’d like to read Things I Can’t Forget, you can purchase it here:
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Book Review: A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd

Title: A Cold Legacy
Author: Megan Shepherd
Series: Madman’s Daughter trilogy
Rating: ★★★★

A Cold Legacy

I didn’t realize how much I liked dark retellings until this series. The Madman’s Daughter was not a book I would have usually picked up. And then I loved it and had to read Her Dark Curiosity. And then I was even more in love and couldn’t wait to read A Cold Legacy.

Juliet is engaged to Montgomery. She’s finally admitted that while she cares for Edward and the Beast, she truly loves Montgomery. She’s also a little horrified by the actions she took at the end of Her Dark Curiosity. She’s afraid she’s turning into a madwoman, taking after her father. She doesn’t want to go down that road, but she feels a pull towards it anyway.

Juliet, Montgomery, Edward, and Lucy travel to Ballentyne to escape from police after the events of Her Dark Curiosity. There, they find a new mix of people and questions. Juliet discovers a secret that would push her beyond her father’s legacy and she must decide what her road will be.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot, as I think everything is best discovered as you read, but I will say I could not put the story down. I read page after page, and didn’t even want to stop to sleep. The Scottish moors location provides the perfect backdrop for the dark tale. I only really had one issue with the book, and it happens at the end of the story. I felt like a storyline was left just a little too open and unresolved.

I am happy Juliet decided to be with Montgomery. Even if she can’t see it, when she chooses Montgomery, she also choses the kind of scientist she wants to be. Edward and the Beast represent the mad desire she wants to run from so badly, and Montgomery represents the other curious, but respectful side. I think, in making her choice between the two, she unknowing decides the type of scientist she will be. She might question herself and keep secrets, but I just think she doesn’t really understand herself until the very end.

My only issue with the book is how much emphasis is put on which parent she will take after. It was a little frustrating to read, over and over, how Juliet didn’t want to end up like her father, but she also didn’t want to end up like her mother. It seemed like Juliet, as well as her friends, never really voiced the opinion that Juliet is Juliet; she doesn’t have to end up like either of her parents. Just because she was their daughter does not mean those are the only two paths she has.

A Cold Legacy was an almost perfect end to a wonderful series. I would still recommend it, though. It’s definitely not a book series for everyone, as it’s dark and a little gruesome at times, but it still is completely fantastic. If you’re up for a little darkness, the entire Madman’s Daughter series is perfect.

If you’d like to read A Cold Legacy, you can purchase it here:
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Thank you to Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.