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:
Barnes and Noble

Book Review: Take Me On by Katie McGarry

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

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:
Barnes and Noble

Book Review: Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

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

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:
Barnes and Noble

Review: Arcana by Jessica Leake

Title: Arcana
Author: Jessica Leake
Rating: ★★★★

ArcanaArcana started off a little shaky for me. It wasn’t that it was bad, but it didn’t hook me right away. I continued reading, though, mostly because I’m a history nut and this book has some history in it. After the rocky start, things really started to pick up, and I found myself unable to put the book down until I had finished.

Katherine Sinclair is different from most people in more than a few ways. As a girl, she’s completely uninterested in going to London for her debut. She doesn’t really think she needs a husband, and she finds the social rules smothering. She also has the power of the sun inside her. She can call upon this power for magic, and even though she keeps it hidden most of the time, sometimes she can’t help but let her magic flow. On top of this, she is forced to London where the handsome Earl of Thornewood is her companion. She must figure out who is part of the Order whose only goal is to harness the power of Arcana through destructive means, while trying to maneuver London society.

Katherine didn’t connect with me right away. Her character felt a little out of reach. Once she made it to London, where she struggles with keeping her true character hidden behind the picture society paints, I started to like her more. She has a quick wit, and sometimes her mouth runs without thinking. She thinks of her family first, and cares deeply for anyone who she considers close to her. She also knows that she can’t depend on anyone else for her safety. She may not always be ready to fight, but she’ll try to find a way to keep herself from harm.

The two male characters in this novel were interesting. I would have liked maybe a little more mystery about who was good and who was bad, but I’ll take what I can get. It was pretty clear from the moment both characters were introduced how they would be divided. While there’s really nothing wrong with this, sometimes I like to guess.

The plot itself was interesting. I would have liked a little more weaving of the arcana into the story. I think the novel could have easily read as a good book without the magical element. I wanted the magic there, though. Near the end, it became more of the storyline, but I would have liked more throughout the entire novel.

Arcana started off slow, but soon I was completely drawn into the world Leake created. She has a beautiful writing style and she really made me interested in the characters’ lives. It’s a good book, although you’ll have to like historical fiction and debutante politics.

If you’d like to read Arcana, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher, Talos, for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Edge of Always by J.A. Redmerski

Title: The Edge of Always
Author: J.A. Redmerski
Series: The Edge of Never series
Rating: ★★

I really enjoyed The Edge of Never. Not only did it have a fascinating story, but Redmerski made me feel for the characters. I was pulled right in. If I’m being honest, I didn’t think it needed a sequel. The ending was wonderful, closing the story up while leaving the future open. So when I saw there was a sequel, I was a little hesitant to read it. Unfortunately, the magic of the first novel wasn’t quite here.

Camryn and Andrew suffer a great loss and tragedy. Andrew seems to be handling things okay, but Camryn spirals down to a dark place. After Andrew catches her taking care of her pain in a dangerous way, he decides something has to be done. Wanting to capture the hope and happiness of their lives when they first met, he takes Camryn on a road trip across the country.

I had a few issues with this novel. First was Andrew’s seemingly lack of grief. He’s upset about it, yes, but for some reason it felt like he just didn’t care as much as Camryn. Camryn’s grief is palpable. She’s devastated. We don’t see that from Andrew and I would have really liked to see his feelings about the loss. He talks about Camryn pushing feelings under the rug, but it felt like that’s what he did.

There was a lot of time jumping in the novel. Sometimes this works. This was not one of those times. I would have like more of their road trip. That’s what I fell in love with the first time and those are the parts of the novel I liked this time around. Camryn and Andrew finding themselves while on the road is what made me love the first novel so much. This time around, it felt like Redmerski was trying to get so much done in a condense package. I didn’t need to see all the future stuff. That actually detracted from the novel for me. I would have been completely happy with Cam and Andrew finding their happiness while driving across the country.

I will say that the promises they make to each other throughout the novel really tugged at my heart. Those were there moments where their relationship shined. They were sweet and touching, demonstrating the kind of relationship they both wanted going forward.

Overall, The Edge of Always just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t connect with this novel like I did the first and while there are moments of sweetness; there was a lot that I didn’t find necessary or enjoyable. I’ll probably still reread The Edge of Never, but I’ll pass on rereading this one. I know what happens in their story and I’ll just add those thoughts to the end of The Edge of Never.

If The Edge of Always sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to NetGalley and Forever for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Title: Roomies
Author: Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

I didn’t get to have the roommate experience in college. I had a single room for my three semesters for health reasons. If I could have had my way, though, I definitely would have given the roommate a try, at least the first year. Roomies takes that experience and weaves an interesting tale of friendship, family, and moving on.

Elizabeth is anxious and ready to get her college years started. Things at home are fine, but she wants a change. So she sends an email to her future roommate, starting what she hopes to be a friendship. Lauren wanted a room of her own after sharing a room and a house with her ever-growing family. She begrudgingly replies to Elizabeth’s email and the relationship between them begins.

Each girl has drama and complications at home. The emails become their way of venting and working through their problems. Having an impartial listener gives each girl the chance to get an opinion not clouded by years of knowing each other. Of course, not being able to hear tone via email leads to problems within the growing friendship as well. The love interests are just a little too perfectly nice and sweet for me, but that’s a personal preference.

Elizabeth knows she is moving away from her friends, but it’s more than the physical distance that worries her. She doesn’t feel like she fits in with the group as well. She doesn’t really feel anything special for her boyfriend, her best friend is spending more time with the others in the group, and Elizabeth knows things will change even more when she finally leaves. So when new people enter her life and shake things up, she’s not sure anymore how she feels about leaving town.

Lauren has five younger siblings and has always felt like more of the third parent than a teenager. She builds her schedule around when her parents need her to watch the younger ones and she hasn’t had a room to herself in years. She has a possible new romance forming with the guy she works with and her parents finally cut the parenting ties with her, giving her the summer to be who she wants to be and do what she wants. All her newfound freedom has her questioning herself and what she wants going forward.

Roomies is a wonderful book for anyone about to enter college. It handles the transition time wonderfully, with just the right about of drama. That time is already stressful and crazy enough, and Zarr and Altebrando don’t add more than necessary. There are many teen books that just seem to pile on the drama to make the book tense, but it fails and they end up eye-roll inducing. Not this book. If you’re looking for a book for anyone about to go from high school to college, consider picking this one up.

If Roomies sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Reader for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Sneaking Candy by Lisa Burstein

Title: Sneaking Candy
Author: Lisa Burstein

I wasn’t sure if Sneaking Candy would be my cup of tea. I love a good plot and Sneaking Candy could have gone either way. There were parts that I skimmed over a bit, but for the most part, I enjoyed this novel. There was a good story and the characters are well written.

Candice is trying to make a name for herself as a writer at the University of Miami. She’s working hard to be what Professor Dylan thinks a legitimate writer is. She’s already made a name for herself writing as Candy Sloane, self-publishing erotic novels in her spare time. If the university found out about her secret writing life, her scholarship would be placed in jeopardy and she’d lose the respect of Professor Dylan.

James is the guy that threatens everything Candice has worked for. He’s a student in one of her discussion classes and a favorite of Professor Dylan. That doesn’t stop Candice from trying to find a relationship balance with him, though. She’s unsure of how to move forward with him while not risking what she’s worked for.

The main plot of the story was wonderful. There’s drama and tense moments, interwoven with moments of humor and sweetness. It was interesting to read as Candice and Candy started to collide in the real world and I wanted to know how Candice would handle everything. She places a lot of pressure on herself, both academically and as a self-published writer, holding herself to a high standard. Amanda, the best friend, works hard to make sure Candice still has fun when she can.

James was sweet and made me laugh. He had a sense of humor that is hard to pull off. There’s a dry and sarcastic wit to him that I loved. He’s not afraid of the rules, choosing to look at life as the big picture and find ways around the rules that are only temporary.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. There were parts that weren’t really my cup of tea, but they don’t overwhelm or overpower the rest of the novel. This isn’t a deep, make you examine your life kind of book, but it’s a book you’ll want to pick up when you just want something light and fun to read.

If Sneaking Candy sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to NetGalley and Entangled publishers for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Wait for You by J. Lynn

Title: Wait for You
Author: J. Lynn
Rating: ★★★★

Wait for You is a book about confronting the past and moving on. It’s a little bit cheesy, but mostly sweet.

Avery Morgansten is trying to move away from her past and start fresh in a place where no one knows hers story. She soon finds herself a couple of good friends as well as the attention of the guy with the ladies-man reputation, Cam. Avery knows she can’t do normal, her past has made sure of that, but Cm is determined to break those walls down.

This is where the cheese comes in. I’m not sure why there has to be a “reformed man-whore” in so many New Adult and Young Adult novels, because it is wholly unnecessary to me. I do not understand why this is a common thread uniting so many of the genres’ books, but in most situations, the novel would not lose a bit of impact if that detail was done away with.

Other than that, the characters and story are well-written and enjoyable. Brittany and Jacob are great friends the push Avery just enough. They know when they need to keep pushing and when to back away. They are exactly what Avery needs to make her fresh start.

Cam, ignoring his reputation, is a great love interest. He starts as her friend, even though he wants more, because he knows that’s what Avery needs. He pushes, but waits until Avery is ready before going to the next step. I honestly believe that he would have been a perfect character had he not had a ladies-man reputation. It was completely unnecessary and only made me feel annoyed with the novel.

Wait for You is a good New Adult novel that could have been great. It didn’t need the man-whore ploy and for me, that character point really takes away from the novel. That being said, it is still a good book that is a nice summer read.

If Wait for You sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Review: Torn by K.A. Robinson

Title: Torn
Author: K.A. Robinson
Series: Torn series
Rating: ★★★

This is a hard review for me to write. I wanted to like Torn, I really did. It sounded like the kind of book that would pull at my heart and make me emotional. There’s nothing really wrong with the novel (aside from one mistake I caught), it’s just that I was almost bored while reading. And I hate saying that, because I don’t like being bored while I read. I never want a book to be like that.

Chloe hasn’t had the easiest time growing up, but now it’s her first year of college and her two best friends are right there with her, ready to start fresh. That new beginning, however, doesn’t include falling for the resident bad boy.

There’s a love triangle in this book and I spent the greater part of the novel wishing it wasn’t so. There doesn’t really feel like there’s anything between Chloe and the two guys. One she ended up with because it felt easy and the other because of lust. I’m not saying either of those are bad things, but I don’t like when those situations are written as though it means immediate love. There was a moment when I admired Chloe’s character, but then the ending came and that moment had passed.

Drake is the bad boy of the novel. He’s a womanizer, in a band, and has a cocky attitude. Both boys are a little too possessive and neither one really give Chloe a relationship that makes her stronger. It was a little disappointing, to say the least.

I think the reason I wasn’t able to enjoy this novel as much as I wanted to was because I just didn’t feel that connection with Chloe. I didn’t understand her motivations or her actions. I felt like an outside reading a novel instead of a fly on the wall.

The one mistake that blatantly stood out was that of Drake’s car. The first time we read about it, it’s a 1969 Mustang. The next time we see it, it’s suddenly a 1983 Mustang. Normally I’d let something like that go, but since I wasn’t completely drawn into the novel, it stood out at me.

I went into Torn with high hopes. I wanted to enjoy it, but something just didn’t click for me. I’m sure there are people out there who will devour this book; I’m just not one of them. I will be reading the next book, if only because I hope a book with a little less teen relationship drama might draw me in more.

If Torn sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble
(Please note, the ebook edition has been released, with the paperback edition to follow in September of this year.)

Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Losing Hope by Colleen Hoover

Title: Losing Hope
Author: Colleen Hoover
Series: Hopeless series
Rating: ★★★★★

Companion novels make me hesitate. As much as I love the original story, I always worry a companion will be a rehashing of the original and won’t be its own book. Even if the original is one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever read, if the companion novel doesn’t have its own story, I’m not going to love it.

Losing Hope is what a companion novel should be. Yes, it retells Hopeless from Holder’s point of view, but it also tells Holder’s story. Not only do we get to see him fall in love with Sky, we see him dealing with the suicide of his sister. It may be a companion novel, but it can stand on its own.

Holder is the one who finds his sister after she overdoses. He feels as though he let her down by not being what she needed. He second guesses his choices when it comes to her, trying to figure out where he could have done something different to save her. His guilt eats away at him slowly.

When he moves back home with his mother, he runs into a girl who reminds him of the first girl he let down, Hope. Her name is Sky, though, and he tries to convince himself that who he sees is false and that he needs to let go of Hope and focus on Sky. From reading Hopeless, I knew this part of the story, but I still enjoyed reading it from Holder’s point of view.

I think what made this novel so amazing was Hoover’s split focus. Part of the novel is spent telling Holder’s point of view of Hopeless, but the other half, the half that really made me love this book, is about Holder coming to terms with his sister’s suicide. He writes her letters and through those letters, he works through his emotions. It’s easy to see how much her death has affected him, but how he’s able to work through his grief and find a way to move beyond seeing her death every time he looks at her room.

Companion novels are just that…companions. They still need to have their own story. Simply retelling the original doesn’t give you well developed characters or plot. It doesn’t give you a book you can sink into. Losing Hope is everything a companion novel should be. It makes the series stronger, the story more meaningful. It is a heartfelt, touching story that enhances Hopeless, but stands on its own.

This is a definite must read book, and a must read series as well.

If Losing Hope sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.