Inner Sparkle Reviews

I want to support any and all writers I can, because, in effect, I am a writer myself. I love to read and will happily devour any and all books at my disposal. Ready? Here we go.

Chandrea: Return of the Avatar Queen by Marlene Wynn

Chandrea - The Return of the Avatar Queen (Volume 1) - Marlene Wynn

I do not normally like the urban fantasy genre (I know Amazon says Epic Fantasy, but this feels like urban fantasy to me, and I tend stick to my guns about genres). And before some of you say, "But you've reviewed and loved urban fantasy before!" I need to clarify that statement. It takes a very strong storyline and amazingly written characters for me to absolutely fall in love with this particular genre. For me, fantasy is a way of getting away from reality, and urban fantasy sometimes bothers me because of the fact that it starts out or is based in reality. Or at least the reality we know of.

 

Now I do have to say that this story does have a very good direction when it comes to what is going to happen throughout the book. The author obviously knows where her characters need to go and whether or not there will be detours along the way. That said, however, this book partially portrayed what I do not like about urban fantasy. Albeit I didn't mind some of the reminders of where Chandrea came from, the mirror thing was actually pretty cool, but when she kept talking about electricity and was freaking out about being in a "back-woods society" without modern medicine and amenities, it kind of annoyed me. I mean, I wasn't thinking at all that she would just immediately accept being in another world -- on the contrary, I am glad she didn't -- but her brooding kind of made me want to stop reading.


However, I am quite glad I did not. Actually it was a little more than halfway through the book when the dragons came into play that I actually started getting into the story more. Dragons fascinate me, so if an urban fantasy author can slip one or two, or even more than that, into their story, that definitely captures my interest.

 

All in all, I love that there are multiple points of view: that of the antagonist Queen Leilah, her "son" Ayden, Chandrea herself, and the various people that are either out to get her or help her in her given quest to save the world she was born in. Even though sometimes the points of view felt a bit muddled to me, or at least their placements in the story, it was a great way to keep track of the various characters and their particular loyalties. I also wish some things had been put in the story, such as Jeida meeting with the Dark Fairy before they began their trek into the wilderness to set the trap of the gold fog. I do wish my attention would have been grabbed from the very beginning, but I did like this first one enough that if given the opportunity to read the second one I probably would. 

Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner

Ice Massacre - Tiana Warner

This book is probably one of the most intense and action-filled books I have read in quite a while. Even during the times where the girls are not fighting mermaids, which by the way are not your average mermaids. They are just as battle-hardened as these girls, with long sharp fangs, blood-red eyes, and the strength of I don't know how many men. This does not count the ability to allure their victims, which really cannot be considered during this Massacre since the girls don't really fall for that. But let us start at the beginning.


Eriana Kwai, which reminds me of Hawaii, has been forced to fight for their livelihood and overall survival over the years due to their waning fish numbers. Why are the fish numbers waning? Because the mermaids which live in the waters are preventing them from actually getting any. They are brutally killing any and all that they can who even attempt to fish in their waters. And because of the people's inability to fish, they are unable to trade with others, thus they are unable to actually get the necessities they need to thrive. So, the Massacres started.


Many lives are lost each year, both mermaid and Eriana Kwai warrior, and for the past five years, the time it takes to train each new batch of warriors, none have returned from the journey. Well, in Meela's time, the people of Eriana Kwai believe these girls have a (pun intended) fighting chance of finally, since Meela's father's time, making a true dent in the mermaid population and returning home.


But it is not going to be so easy. Besides dealing with flesh-eating demons such as the mermaids, the girls will deal with warring factions in their own ranks, the sanity, or insanity mind you, of one of the crew, murder, and mutiny. And the main character, Meela herself, will have an internal battle when her secret from childhood causes her to question if what they are doing, the war they are fighting, is even right? Or can the freedom of the people of Eriana Kwai be found another way?

 

I absolutely positively want the next book to be here tomorrow. I am completely serious. The story itself is heartbreaking and joyful, very rarely but it's there, and breathtaking and just so amazingly written. I am literally on the edge of my seat, or beanbag since they are so cool, waiting for Meela's story to continue. She is just so strong and fights for what she completely believes is right in her heart, even when no one else believes it. She is such an honorable girl and I have to know that she will get the ending she so rightly deserves. Peace between species, and the one she loves.

Legally Undead by Margo Bond Collins

Legally Undead (Vampirarchy Book 1) - Margo Bond Collins

I love writing about vampires. More specifically, vampire hunters. And one of my favorite scenes I have written involves a kickass heroine, a seedy bar, and some snide comments from her band of fellow hunters, a group of men who don't seem to have ever really grown up. I love this character, she has a special place in my heart and always will. So it was really cool to read a book starring a main character that reminded me so much of my own.


The dialogue in this book is so wonderfully written. Elle is just plain sassy. What else can you call a girl from New Orleans? She makes the story worth reading, and her first three vampire kills are almost eye-rollingly funny. I mean, I wanted to yell at her for doing what she did in both, but she's so effective that in the end all I could think was "Hey, it worked, can't fault her for that." And the snark from the rest of the characters throughout the story is entertaining as well.


I thought it was quite ingenious to make blood-sucking leaches kill blood-sucking leaches. Okay, so I really have nothing against lawyers, but I thought the concept was truly hilarious and just couldn't stop laughing every time it came to mind.


All I want to add is that Elle is lucky her fiancé was bitten, then changed, by a vampire, because at least after that she was able to see what a jerk he was. I mean, most people have to marry the person to find out their true personality. Or at least the undiluted version of their personality that they kept dimmed down until the rings were put on. Hey, at least I am finding the whole light in the dark with this whole fiancé eaten by vampire thing, right?

 

There was a sense of surprise when I found out the release date for this book, because I thought I had definitely seen it out before then. I mean, this book has all the makings of the beginning of a bestselling series that you see in bookstores and talked about on daytime or morning talk shows. It is reminiscent to me of Kim Harrison a little bit and just has that special something about it that made me at least instantly love it. It makes me want to read every single book that comes out after this one because it is just that good.

 

Charming by Krystal Wade

Charming - Krystal Wade

From the very beginning of this story, the moment Haley begins talking about her family, her father, his abuse, her mother's death, before she even steps into the house, I completely felt her tension and fear. From the moment her father said his first word to the daughter he completely ignores unless it's convenient or he wants to hurt her, I felt that ball of terror in my own gut. And from the moment Chris Charming said two words to Haley, I knew I was hooked.


You see, Haley once had everything Chris Charming has, the perfect family, the perfect life, her mother's business, until one accident took first her father's loving personality away from her, and a second, her mother's life, leaving her to protect the sister who has no clue what Haley deals with each and every day. She takes punch after punch, be it emotional or physical, just to keep her sister in the dark. Her past life is a mere dream now. And it looks like happiness is far, far away...


But then one night, one magical night, she is allowed to smile, to laugh, to dance and let her guard down...until midnight, that is. Her curfew. Wow, this author was right, it is like Cinderella, if Cinderella came back home and found her father missing and her sister acting weird and then just a couple days later is sent an envelope containing a severed finger. Turned on ya, didn't it? 


Haley will have a dilemma on her hands when a psycho starts threatening the family she has left if she doesn't cooperate. And by cooperate, she must keep Chris Charming away from his own house so that Mr. Charming, his father, will be easy pickings. Should she just tell someone? Or should she just do as this mysterious person says in the hopes that her family, no matter how bad they treat her, is returned safe.


Things will definitely escalate, and Haley will suspect everyone as she attempts to find out who this terrifying person is who seems to know her every move. 

 

I loved that Haley finds her voice in this story. Even though obviously the person who took her family is just a tad crazy, okay, more than a tad, he or she represents the man she is so afraid to stand up to for fear her sister's life will be shattered. A lot of the things both do are similar, from the way they speak to her sometimes when she does something wrong to the way they know everything she does, or at least seem to, and it is nice that throughout the story, Haley finds her fight again. And on top of that, she finds something, someone, worth fighting for. The ending made me laugh and almost cry and, wow, it is just a really good read

The Sacred Vault by Andy McDermott

The Sacred Vault - Andy McDermott

 

So I just finished this book after having to restart it due to time constraints earlier this year forcing me to stop reading it., and like most of the Nina Wilde/Eddie Chase novels I have absolutely loved it. I mean, it has action, adventure, weapons, fast cars, and, most especially, hidden treasure, all the things I love about this series.

 

I love that this book, and a couple of books before this one, have focused on the ramifications of people trying to bring about the end of society in order to create a more perfect world...for them, that is. Whether it be attempting to reincarnate an ancient Eygtian god or, as the Khoils tried to do here, killing the world's leaders in order to create massive chaos, there hasn't been a shortage lately on people using their own beliefs to justify their actions. I think it makes for a wonderful storyline, and it makes for some vicious antagonists.

 

Now unlike a few of the other books previous, I felt like this one didn't have enough of the treasure hunting and archaeology to my liking. Mainly, to me, it just seemed as if Nina and Eddie were going through a loop. The Khoils capture them, Pramesh's wife screeches for them to die, they somehow get away, the Khoils capture them, Pramesh's wife screeches...you get it. And when the hunt for the Shiva-Vedas took place, it was merely a race to see who could get there first. There wasn't the pureness of just searching for treasure that has occurred in previous installments, or the all-around wonder I usually feel reading these books at the possibility of finding a lost or even mythical artifact or place.

 

Having said that, though, this book is still special to me. This whole series is special to me, and the characters especially are very close to my heart. I am a lifer when it comes to these books, and I definitely would not have it any other way.

Pricless by Tom Davis

Priceless: A Novel on the Edge of the World - Tom Davis

I am not an emotional person when it comes to books or movies, heck, I'm not even that emotional in public, but this book, by the end of it, caused a few tears to run down my face. The story just got to me. I have known about this world for some time now, albeit to a small degree, but this was my first experience reading it in a fiction novel, and what an impressive experience it was, too.

 

When I picked this book up at my local store, I honestly didn't know what I was getting into. I mean, one of the main reasons I grabbed it was because the cover looked interesting. I had barely skimmed the blurb of it and it was suddenly in my cart. Maybe it was the will of a higher power that made me buy it. Maybe the story covering its pages was meant to fall into my hands at that exact moment. I don't know. What I do know is that now I have read this story, I will do all in my power to help those who are forced into that life. That world is not unlike something a member of my own family has gone through, and seeing her happy with a husband and children drives me to show other girls that happiness and love is possible. That a better life is possible.

 

I already have this author's first book, Scared, ready to read, so I definitely know what is next for me. And I also know that if I find any other works by him, I will pick those up as well. His is not merely a talent, but a passion for words, and it is many a human being who will be helped by this very passion.

Fissure Free by Shari J. Ryan

Fissure Free - Shari J. Ryan

After reading the first book in this series, I was very ecstatic to begin this second installment. And apart from having to refresh my memory of the ending of the last book, it was like I had never stopped reading.


Overall, this book was just as topsy-turvy as the first. With the main focus being that our two main characters are now in the care of Franco, who is keeping them alive just so he can find something he believes Chloe knows all about. Now, in the beginning of this book, we have no clue the two lovebirds are with Franco, since they are happy in their own drift world. But deep down they know they cannot put off the inevitable. They must go back, or at least Chloe, and confront what ails them both in the real world.


Things are going to be a bit more difficult than both realize, because when Chloe travels back to reality, she finds that Franco is forcing them into their drift. I don't know if he finds them easier to deal with that way or if he believes he can find the information he needs while they are in that state, but by the way he reacts when Chloe awakens several times throughout the story, it is as if doesn't want them to come back at all. He is definitely a force to be reckoned with.


Now back to the drift. As the story progresses, it seems that Chloe and Alex's relationship becomes more and more strained with all everything that's happening. This including new relatives being revealed, parts of Alex's past and the reason he cannot respond or does not respond in the real world being revealed, and a strange little boy showing up out of the blue. This book is just as twisted, if not more so, than the last, and that is definitely what makes it worth the read.


Curiouser and curiouser...

 

While throughout about half of this book I was starting to dislike Chloe because of her reactions and attitude toward certain things that happened, there came a point where she finally became again the character that I loved and related so much to in the first book. Alex started out almost the same way with this one as well, but thankfully that changed. I am absolutely stoked to read the third and final book in this series, because I have to know if these two will finally be able to live a normal life, or at least as normal a life as two drifters can have. I also have to know if Alex will finally be able to respond to real life. And Franco is quickly becoming an awesome thorn in my side. He is starting to grow on me. I CANNOT WAIT FOR THE END!

Highland Hunger by Eliza Knight

Highland Hunger (Highland Wars) (Volume 1) - Eliza Knight

Sometimes when reading certain books, usually ones with a fair amount of steamy scenes, I am faced with a sudden crudeness to the story that just doesn't seem to fit with the overall plot. A rawness which just seems out of place and unnecessary. In those cases, the scenes which show this characteristic feel like they could be infinitely more refined and written in a way that flows more easily with the rest of the text. However, while this book does in fact have that same quality to a lot of its scenes, I would not change it for the world.

 

Considering the time and place this story is based in, and also considering the situation in which both our main and secondary characters alike are forced to endure, that very crudeness which makes me usually cringe is wholly welcome. In fact, it makes the story. The rawness of the games and the almost primaless that drives a lot of the characters to kill or be killed is what makes the story so believable and readable. And there is an almost bittersweet sorrow when characters you end up liking in the end die as the games go on.

 

The author put emotion into this story. She made me feel tension and relief and sadness and even a sense of duty. And due to all of that, I will definitely be eagerly awaiting the newest installment. I have to know what is going to happen next, both with the future of the games and the new Prince and Princess of Sitheil.

The Edge of Town by Dorothy Garlock

The Edge of Town - Dorothy Garlock

The concept behind the storyline of this book was so achingly wonderful that it breaks my heart to say that I did not enjoy reading this as much as I would have liked. Seeing as how this is my first book by this particular author, I cannot blame my dislike on my bias for her other works, no matter how much I wish that were true, because the truth is just a bit hard to say...it was the writing itself which I didn't like.

 

To me, this particular work felt like a rough draft, a still-in-progress piece, a piece which, given a bit more time and edits, could become a masterpiece. I have read, or I should say listened, to many a book like this one, and I absolutely adore these types of stories. Ones where love blossoms and the world is a simpler time, that is until a problem or antagonist raises its ugly head to possibly threaten the happiness of our characters. I love getting riled up over something, and with this type of story, I usually do. And in this book Birdie was the one who riled me. She was just so perfectly written personality-wise, as was the rest of the characters. It was just a matter of connecting them flawlessly together in a way that allowed the story to grow naturally.

 

For example, the relationship between Birdie and Julie's father began a bit too early for my taste. I kind of wish there had been an initial introduction between the two before Jethro had gained an interest in her. Maybe the moment he took her hand in greeting Julie could have seen a twinkle in his eye, a subtle one, but one that would begin his entire pursuit of the woman. Another example is the prologue. It confused me. I kind of wish that, because of the molestation part of the story, which is pretty important by the way, seeing as how the molester gets his own occasional point of view, the prologue had started out with the girl who was strangled to death upon knowing her attacker. It would have been a great start and would have made me want to read on just to see what happens. And on top of that, I do not believe the murder was, in fact, needed for the story to progress. I think it would have been more fitting had Walter been accused of almost rape. Maybe someone stumbled across the scene before anything could happen and swore they saw something that puts him in jail. It would have been appropriate since the whole town believes he does that anyway. And that could have been the catalyst for Evan to confront his father and maybe for a possible change on Walter's part. 

 

I know this whole review sounds like I want the entire story to change, but that is entirely not true. I just believe that by taking out the parts that are almost unneeded and developing more of the storyline that works, this book could go from okay to amazing. Suggestions are the catalyst to making a story the best it can be, and I am happy if mine can make even a minute difference in the book world.

The Golden Apple by Michelle Diener

The Golden Apple - Michelle Diener

As soon as I began reading this book, my mind was taken back to the fractured fairy tales of my childhood. Ah, those cartoon adaptations of the stories we all know and love are some of the greatest out there. This one specifically brought me to one particular story, of a woman trying haphazardly to stay atop quite a slippery sloped mountain of glass. I still chuckle at the thought. So it was with wondrous pleasure that I found this book was indeed based on the story that particular fractured tale was founded from.

 

Now, if some of you follow my reviews, you will recall that I have read the second book already, The Silver Pear, so I know what happens as the story progresses. And I must say that, unsurprisingly, I did, in fact, like that book better than this first one. I say unsurprisingly because, to me, first books are a bit awkward. In a series, I always say, the first book is a mere introduction of characters and situations, preparing the reader for what is surely to come. Therefore, unlike some movie series, the first book is not as likely to gain as much favoritism as the following ones. However, that does not mean that it cannot happen. I have encountered a few series where the first book held a special place in my heart, and I will likely encounter more in future. Therefore, I always keep an open mind about any first book, allowing them a chance to prove themselves to me.

 

In The Golden Apple, we are introduced to the characters which will play a leading part in ridding the land of great evil in the second book. We have Kayla, a princess placed on a literal pedestal for her hand in marriage; Rane, a man trying to save his brother from the clutches of a powerful sorcerer; and Soren, though he comes quite a bit later in the story than the other two, Rane's brother, who seeks retribution against all sorcerers for what happened to his father. We are also introduced to the main antagonists of the story: Nuen, the sorcerer who captured Siren; and Eric, the man behind the journey which will ultimately unite Kayla and Rane at first unwillingly, and then gradually closer and closer until they cannot bear harm to happen to each other.

 

While a lot of the scenes were beautifully written, and, I must admit, of even better quality than the second book, marginally so since some of those scenes were just as good, I felt like something was missing. Maybe it was the fact that I did read the second book first, time crunch issues with doing a review for a blog, but I do not understand why a couple of the lesser characters were not revisited in the second book. This series feels a bit incomplete and Just slightly anticlamactic and probably could have done with a bit more "meat" to the story. Other than that, though, and since this is a review for the first book only, I loved it. Especially the fact that I feel a bit of a kinship toward the main character due to our names being similar. It allows me to immerse myself even more into a story when something like that is factored in.

Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Falling Into Place - Amy Zhang

I was ecstatic at the notice that I had won a copy of this book from Epic Reads, a wonderful website for avid readers of YA. The cover itself looked interesting and the story intrigued me. Or at least the blurb for the story intrigued me. So at the receipt of this book in the mail, I could not wait to open the covers and dive right in. Unfortunately I had to wait a bit longer than I wanted to read this, but I finally got the chance.

 

Now as for the tense this particular book was written in, I was a bit thrown off. I re-read the first few lines a few times due to it being different than what I am used to as a reader. But after that, I had no issues whatsoever with the book. It was wonderfully written, and apart from a few grammatical errors here and there, minor mistakes which changed no aspect of the merit of the story whatsoever, there is nothing bad to say about it at all.

 

Each character is connected, from the main character to the narrator to friends and family, even to the students who come visit in the hospital, the ones who do not truly know Liz Emerson but act as if they do. And every action that caused these connections is visited in each chapter. Along with talk of Newton's Laws of Motion, which fits so neatly in the story. 

 

I absolutely loved every minute it took me to read this book. And throughout, all I could think of was how the author's mind worked. This piece was beautifully rendered and could only have come from someone with a soul to match. I am keeping my eye out for future works by this author and cannot wait for what else she has in store.

 

Agony by Kshitij

Agony - Kshitij

After an experience she could never forget years ago involving the deaths/disappearances of three old friends of hers, Kewy has been haunted by nightmares. Nightmares which feel so real that she is afraid to fall asleep for fear of being taken over by them. She knows something is not right. She knows something is calling for her to go back. Back to the town where the horrifying ordeal happened. Back to the place where her life changed forever.

 

But she will not be going alone. A student of hers named Einin and a man who deeply cares for her, Kasper, are going to accompany her on this journey. However, they may not know what they are truly in for until it is too late. For the secret behind the nightmares is a truth that could be too hard to swallow.

 

Now firstly I must say that I loved the concept of this story. It...I don't know...intrigued me. I loved the all around creepiness of the town to which Kewy must go back. The town that seems to call to her. It kind of reminded me of limbo. You know, there but not really there. A ghost town, if you will. I loved that there is a much bigger story to the town, involving a pact with Satan and a sacrifice of certain qualifications. I also loved the people of the town. Just talking about it sends shivers down my spine.

 

With that said, though, I was a bit disappointed by the execution of the story. There were no low points, but there were no high points or climaxes. I want a story to have a big reveal, where the main character has no idea what his or her true fate or destiny is until the end, and then they must choose. I wanted Kewy to be haunted throughout the entire journey back by her past with the town. I wanted the town to reveal small bits and pieces of her role in its survival, but not fully awaken and reveal the big picture until she had begun to realize it herself. I wanted her to fight. Against the town, and its inhabitants, and more importantly her role. And I wanted her to win, to for once and for all stop the nightmares. There was no huge battle. I wanted Kewy, Kasper, and Einin to survive the ordeal and come back stronger than ever. Albeit a bit battered and bruised, but joined together in victory. I just felt like there could have been more in the way of interest and intrigue and horror and excitement. But all in all, it was a good read.

Dream Warrior by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Dream Warrior - Sherrilyn Kenyon

I have been a HUGE fan of Sherrilyn Kenyon's work ever since reading her book Acheron. Her writing amazes me and there is just a quality to it that seems to pull me in every single time. So I always take an opportunity when I can to read something of hers. That is why when I saw this particular book for pretty much nothing at my local store, I grabbed it.

 

I always love how each of her books, or at least most of them, stars a different character from the last. And this one did not disappoint in that regard. This story focuses on a character named Cratus, who was sentenced to exile by Zues after he completely disobeyed orders to kill a child. He has spent his entire exile so far basically being killed and brought back each night and having to endure a mortal life. He has also spent his time plotting his revenge. So when he gets that very chance, after being given a choice to stand with the enemy for a war against those who spurned him and being guaranteed his powers back, he ultimately embraces it.

 

Delphine, the other main character of this story, is sent to sway him and basically sees him agreeing to help the enemy. She immediately goes to tell everyone of this sudden development when suddenly an ambush occurs, pulling her and the man she is supposed to be bringing to their side together in unforeseen circumstances. Things start off a bit rocky between the two, but the more they spend time with one another, the more they will see that they truly want to be together. And their budding relationship will be the deciding factor between whether or not Cratus breaks from his new allies and goes over to help those who did not help him so long ago.

 

There were a couple of times where I became confused with passage or two that I had read, but that is mostly attributed to not being able to read the book all the way through in one go. I was reading this and putting it down and reading other books and picking this one back up, so that is not really the fault of the story itself. Other than that, though, this was a typical Sherrilyn Kenyon story. Old characters came back, the dialogue was funny, and her world just jumped right off the page. This is, for me, yet again a successful read from this wonderful author.

Tell Me A Secret by Ann Everett

Tell Me a Secret - Ann Everett

I consider the whole tutor and student storyline to be a classic in romance. It reminds me of a beauty and the geek concept, where the supposed "nerd", whoever the character may be, gets the pretty boy or pretty girl, and the pretty boy or pretty girl sees the inner beauty and most times hidden outer beauty that the other character possesses, causing him or her to fall in love. And in this story, that was entirely the case.

 

But just because something is considered a classic does not mean that the concept was overused or old in this book. On the contrary, the storyline for this book is actually quite good. My only problem was with the execution. This story has amazing potential to rise even farther than it already has.

 

Considering the character of Jace, I liked him. I liked the fact that he was cocky and, almost uncomfortably, an ass. I mean, that was who he is. A guy so full of himself that when he finds out a girl is not treating him like he is used to be treated by other girls he attempts to change her mind about him. Attempts to get that reaction out of her. But I could tell that under all that was a sweet man who would do anything to protect this girl who makes him question his own self. This girl who is like no other.

 

I also really liked his counterpart, Maggie, who he so endearingly refers to as Magpie. Isn't that cute? Anyway, I can relate to the whole wild red hair thing. So I definitely knew immediately that she was going to hold a place in my heart. I just wish her love for Jace hadn't hit her as hard so early on. Considering her past, I kind of wanted it to be a surprise to her when she finally realized she truly did love him. And then I wanted her to be scared to death of that. She does not want to end up like her mother, and I wanted her to run away from him and then finally give in.

 

As to the two parts of this book, they could easily be two different books. One focusing on how the two characters met and possibly how they became engaged, focusing also primarily on Maggie and the issues from her past, and the second focusing on Jace's accident and Maggie's letters to him and how they helped him cope with both his paralysis and potentially losing her due to his decision for her to leave him.

 

There are some beautifully and funnily written scenes throughout this story. But with some better transitioning and some good old-fashioned editing, this story could be one to truly make an impact in the romance genre.

The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing by C.K. Kelly Martin

The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing - C.K. Kelly Martin

I usually love books that make me feel a range of emotions. If I rage, or almost cry, or laugh, or scream, to me the book is phenomenal. This book, however, didn't make me do any of those things, and when it did, it was to a small degree. However, do not assume that because of this factor, I didn't like it. That is, in fact, not the case. It was actually really good. But my love for this book is quiet, subdued, like how I am in real life. My love for it hit me softly, like a light shower on a spring day, and I believe that sometimes, the quietest books have more impact than the ones that hit you like a freight train.


This book was quite thought-provoking for me. Some points truly hit close to home. I could understand the main character's struggle with her mindset about weight. I mean, once you have experienced the prejudice that so clearly goes along with it, you never want to experience it ever again. So I definitely related to her in that regard. And then when she meets a guy, Gage, after swearing them off for awhile post breakup, all the things she knows about relationships, or at least the one she had with her ex Jacob, go out the window. She is practically thrown for a loop. And while I do think she too overreacted to the outcome of her and Gage's first "date", Gage cannot take all the blame, I think it's good that what happened happened. Because it started a chain of events which taught her things she never knew about herself. It gave her expectations for what she wants in future relationships, because this book's ending does not guarantee the two a happy ending, but it does guarantee that things will get infinitely better, for Serena is finding out what she truly wants from herself and from life itself.


In the beginning of the book, after Serena and Jacob's breakup, Serena feels isolated. The friends she had before getting together with Jacob seem to be doing their own thing, and she's alone. But seeing another girl in desperate need of a friend after having a video basically sent to everyone in school of her doing something she wasn't proud of guarantees Serena two new girl's she can relate to. And their common ground of swearing off boys makes their small group grow even more. Well, maybe not a lot more, but it does grow. And it also helps to make Serena into a better version of herself, because it shows her strength and compassion and an understanding of people's situations, even if they got themselves in the mess, that I believe makes her and Gage's relationship grow even more. In fact, I believe it makes Gage's own situation easier to understand. 


As for her brother Devin, his leaving left a gaping hole in her family. Her parents pretty much stopped once he left and haven't been the same since. And while it is hard too for Serena to get over the fact that he did leave, because they seem so close in her recollections of the early days before he started shutting down, I also think it was good for her that he did this. It gives her a chance to connect with her older brother Morgan, who she mentions consistently, more contemplative than whiny, as being the star child of the family, the perfect one. She begins to see cracks in his facade that she never noticed were there before. And while is does seem naturally perfect, the fact that they were never close almost hurts him. Okay, it DOES hurt him. He truly wants to be there for her, and her animosity toward the fact that he does seem perfect probably kills him inside, because he can't help it. That's who he is, and he is such an amazing person, along with his boyfriend, and I was glad to see Serena find this out.

 

While this story does have an aspect of love in it, there is so much more. It is about finding your true self in a world where people judge you at every turn. About living your life even though bad things may happen along with the good. There is a sunshine at the end of this page-filled rainbow, a subtle sunshine that basically says everything is going to be okay, and you know what, at the end of this book, I could feel it almost warming my face.

All In (Cedar Mountain University Book 2) by Ann Garner

All In (Cedar Mountain University Book 2) - Ann Garner

I absolutely LURV the character Grace in this book. I mean seriously, I think the author may have telepathy, or at least visited the depths of my brain, because she is basically me, but book size. Okay, so I don't have short hair, or any of Grace's physical characteristics, or even a man like Jacob, or two brothers, I think it was two anyway, but I kind of do not have a filter from my brain to my mouth, just like her. I tend to say everything that comes to mind, or at least most things, and sometimes I tend to tell the harsh truth, even though no one wants to hear it, but then I never follow my own advice to others, so that kind of makes me a hypocrite, and I also like pumpkin spice lattes, if they're not scalding hot enough to basically make my tongue go all tingly and numb.


I adore how she and Jacob interact throughout this entire book. They just have this natural rhythm, and I could not get over how amazingly cute some of the dialogue between the two was. They have a true connection, and I absolutely loved how Grace was able to get Jacob to open up about his past and the accident which made him give up football. I also loved how Jacob made Grace feel so loved and makes her want to be better than herself just for his sake. Both of them just complement one another so perfectly, that when they begin to drift apart (over a d-bag like Grant, by the way, okay so maybe it is a tad bit Grace's fault too, and maybe just a small part Jacob's) it just made me ache inside. 


*sniff sniff*


And Del... That poor girl. Her story is told in this one, enough that you know what went on, but not so much that reading the first book, which is her story in its full form, is completely disregardable. She just seems so sweet, and her experience and the aftermath of it influences and is important to Jacob and Grace's relationship. It basically starts the incident that causes the downfall of the couple. And without it, I do not think Grace and Jacob would have truly appreciated the connection they share.

 

Anyway, this story was really good. I laughed, cringed, almost yelled in anger during certain parts involving a certain someone named Grant (sorry, but he frustrated me) and just wanted to encourage the relationship of these two characters so much. It was nice to see Grace's transition from pining over her ex to suddenly falling for this amazing guy who saw her for her. Who even called her a punch of sunshine during a very difficult time in his life. It was very sweet and, ugh, I just completely couldn't keep a smile off my face when it ended.

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