Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











17977051 From Goodreads: For months, Jesse has been envious of her twin sister Bryn and even has a crush on Bryn’s gorgeous, popular boyfriend, Quinton. When Jesse awakens from a coma to learn that everyone thinks she IS Bryn, the option of actually taking over her sister’s life is beyond tempting, but there’s a downside. She’d have to give up Ethan, her best friend and the only person she trusts. Could she actually live as Bryn for the rest of her life? And if her family and friends found out, would they ever forgive her?

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a twin? I have. Whenever I see twins, I’m always wishing that I had one, too. Sisterly love, someone just like me to confide it. Someone with which to share my secrets, dreams, and ambitions… the glamorization of twins has always made me jealous of those with that special bond. But glamorization is just that. The grass always seems greener on the other side, and truth be told, I can do all the above with a good friend or sibling, if I wanted to. What I can’t do, however, is switch places with them. But Jesse and Bryn can…

Carling’s novel, Becoming Bryn, follows the lives of Jesse and Bryn, identical twins, as they battle the drama that is high school. Told from differing viewpoints, readers get an in-depth look into the hearts and minds of both girls, which was an ingenious idea as it allowed me to connect with both on a deeper level than had the story been completely from Jesse’s point-of-view, which is what I expected. Through this process, we learn about Jesse’s jealousy and Bryn’s heartache, casting a differing light on the twins as they live their lives. However, it doesn’t end there. As you know from the synopsis, Bryn dies, and it is here that the inevitable twist occurs.

Thought to be the popular twin, Jesse is mistaken for Bryn, and when her feeble attempt to explain the truth to her mother falls flat and Bryn’s beautiful boyfriend Quinton comes to visit, the idea of becoming Bryn takes hold. But one can’t just become another overnight, twin or not. What I loved about this transition is that, even though Bryn is dead, we still get her point of view from the afterlife. She has yet to cross over, and we struggle with Jesse’s decision to take over Bryn’s life right alongside Bryn. We also learn that Bryn’s life wasn’t as perfect as Jesse thought it to be, and that Jesse’s life wasn’t as dull as she herself thought her own life to be, and it’s a wonderful portrayal of growing up, making life-altering choices, and having to deal with the lies and deceits we’ve spun. Though Jesse seemed a little like a whiner and many of her choices made me angry with her, I get it. And so does Bryn as she thinks over her interactions with her sister in the months leading up to her death. Being a twin doesn’t mean you know everything about one another, and maybe it’s better that way.

This is a story of love, healing, and redemption, and I really enjoyed it. I recommend a box of tissues as you read, because the ending will leave you a little bit raw. I listened to the last fifth of the novel on my Kindle as I drove down the highway on my way home from a conference because I couldn’t wait another moment to find out what happened, and let me tell you, I had to pull over and get myself together because the tears and overwhelming sense of joy and sadness made it impossible for me to function, so don’t follow my example there, don’t read and drive–the ending will leave you a happy mess. But do read it, because it’s great. Four stars.

4 stars

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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And now for the giveaway!

We have one SIGNED paperback copy to give away!

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15752340From Goodreads: Do the gates keep the unchosen out or the chosen in?

In Mandrodage Meadows, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban community have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives. Lyla Hamilton and her parents are original members of the flock. They moved here following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:

Pioneer is her leader.

Will is her Intended.

The end of the world is near.

Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound’s underground fortress–the Silo.

Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she’d rather think about a certain boy outside the compound than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But with the end of days drawing near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands.

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This was a very well-written fictionalized story that takes a look into world of cult life. Lyla Hamilton was only a kid when her family moved to Mandrodage Meadows, and growing up in a faction like the one Pioneer has organized doesn’t phase her because it’s really all she’s known. The world is an evil place; after all, her older sister was kidnapped from in front of her house right before the terrorist attacks on 9/11. No one in safe. But there are a few chosen, and the Brethren have spoken to Pioneer to tell them who they are, bringing them all to Mandrodage Meadows to wait out the storm. They are the new Noah, and the Brethren will soon be unleashing Armageddon on the rest of the world, at which time the families in Mandrodage Meadows will move deep into the earth, into the Silo, where they’ll live for five years before coming back topside to begin the world of man again.

Sound familiar? It should, especially if you’ve read about Charles Manson or Jim Jones and their flocks that followed them. This novel crosses the two infamous cults to create a story that, though slow to start, increasingly becomes more intense as the story unfolds. The novel opens with target practice: Lyla, her intended, Will, her best friend, Maria, and her intended, Brian, are in the fields practicing with their rifles because, in just a few months, the end will come, and when it does, evildoers will come knocking on their doorstep, so they have to be ready. Or, at least that’s what Pioneer has told them ever since they were young, mold-able children. While Will, Marie, and Brian have no qualms about being the chosen and fighting for their loved ones, Lyla is different. She can’t stop imagining the wood cutouts are real people, and she doesn’t want to hurt anyone. From the very beginning, it’s easy for an outsider like me to see that Lyla and her family are part of a cult, even though they don’t believe it. And though Pioneer seems kind and caring in the beginning, it doesn’t take long for him to begin to show his sinister side.

One aspect that I really loved about this novel is that the characters were completely fleshed out and real. Even though the novel started very slowly and it took a while for me to really get into it, Parker takes this time to create vivid characters. The hate I harbor for Pioneer as he exacts punishments and cons the adults and teens around him–there are no children anymore as Pioneer selected very carefully when choosing his families so all the children would be roughly the same age to make marriage easier–is palpable, and though I’m no longer immersed in the pages, my blood-pressure still rises when I think of him. Thankfully, Pioneer has no interest in sexual relations with anyone in this story, so that aspect of cult life is not included in this novel, but his version of “intendeds,” matching up teens for marriage at 18, shows just how much hold he plans to exact in the next generation after emerging from the Silo in five years time.

Lyla was a complicated character. At 17, she knows what she’s supposed to do according to Pioneer’s teachings and her family’s insistence, but after meeting a young outsider her thoughts begin to probe the validity of it all. In the midst of all the sheep blindly following Pioneer, Lyla begins to struggle with herself as she knows her doubt will bring down evil among her people. She wants to follow and be good, but her conscience won’t allow it. And, While I really wanted to reach through the pages and shake her, at the same time, I completely understand her inability to choose what’s right because her teachings have taught her to trust no outsider and obey Pioneer unconditionally. It’s intense.

As the plot thickens and events bring Lyla closer to the truth, she has a huge decision to make, and I don’t envy her at all. While the choice may seem relatively easy on the outside, the consequences will be earth-shattering for everyone, and it is here that the novel really begins to pick up speed.

While much of the novel is predictable based on our knowledge of cult beliefs and brainwashing, Pioneer never ceased to amaze me and I feared very much for not only Lyla, but also the people within the faction as new evidence came to light. It ended with a bang and I really enjoyed it overall, so, should you have any curiosity about cults, this is definitely the novel for you. Four stars.

4 stars

Random House Children’s Books has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on August 6, 2013.



11228432From Goodreads: “In the new decade, the world gathers in Stockholm for a controversial climate forum. The stakes are high, as violent and unpredictable storms increasingly plague the earth and sea levels encroach on coastal shorelines. Nicole Hunter, head of the richly endowed Everson Foundation, leads the charge to invest in promising research that will hopefully impede environmental devastation. But her contentious stance has been questioned by others, and now her career and her life are both in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, unseen forces assemble to sabotage any breakthrough that could challenge existing global energy markets. Oliver Odin, a mysterious international agent, is sent by the Security Alliance to investigate ominous threats intercepted by intelligence sources. The evidence leads him to the beautiful, strong-willed Nicole and the brainy scientists attending the forum. But when scientists on the verge of a promising discovery are gunned down at a reception held by a United States senator, it becomes apparent that powerful forces will stop at nothing to prevent the world from being saved.

As a few brave souls attempt to rescue the planet from environmental calamity, they soon realize that their mission comes with a price—and some will pay with their lives.”

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This was an extremely fun thriller, full of mystery and intrigue.  Beginning with an introduction to our characters and environment, setting the stage for the events to come, the novel really starts to take off as Nicole’s life is threatened at a party where the two scientists she is talking to are shot in cold blood.  Together with Oliver, an intense international agent, Nicole must figure out who is out to stop the green fuel initiative, and it is here that the fast-paced nature of the story begins.

Though a little more scientific than my brain is capable of processing, Hilleren does a great job keeping the reader up to speed with the scientist and environmental jargon as events progress.  And, with its high speed chases, gun battles, and explosions, this novel unfolds quite cleverly as Hilleren intertwines terrorism, espionage, and the very real threat of climactic devastation to create her intense novel.

The characterization was great, and while I wouldn’t necessarily be friends with either Nicole or Oliver in real life, we’re just much too different, I felt like I really got to know them as the novel developed.  Hilleren fleshed them out well and kept the romance to a minimum, which I was extremely happy about because I was much more wrapped up in the thrill of it all than the romantic aspects of the story.  Likewise, I just don’t think the chapter layout would have allowed it.

The chapters are set up to show as many different sides as possible using the third-person narrative, with extremely short chapters that quickly jump from person to persona and event to event to spur the novel on.  Each chapter has its own title, allowing the reader to easily focus on the new segment, which might be about Nicole, a senator, a terrorist, etc., and I really enjoyed this sporadic nature once I began to wrap my head around it.  Though there were many small side stories, Hilleren does bring them all to a point as the story unfolds, which was really fun as I began to piece things together.  Overall, this is a fun and engaging read that I think a majority of adult readers will enjoy.  Four stars.

4 stars

I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.



9780698137141_p0_v2_s260x420From Barnes and Noble: When twenty-three-year-old dot-com millionaire Owen Sparks walked away from his charmed life, he had one goal in mind: get as far away as possible from the people who resented his success, or had their hand out for a piece of it. A remote uncharted island halfway around the world seemed like a perfectly logical place to get away from it all.

Calia Reed wasn’t part of Owen’s plans. The beautiful British girl—on holiday in the Maldives with her brother, James—made Owen wonder if getting away from it all might be a lot more enjoyable with a carefree girl who didn’t know anything about the life he left behind.

But Owen had no idea how much his carefully detailed plans would go awry. Nor did he realize that a decision he made would have such a catastrophic effect on two passengers who boarded a plane in Chicago.

And when Owen shows up at Anna and T.J.’s door with an incredible story to tell, everyone involved will learn just how much their lives are intertwined.

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If you haven’t yet read On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves, then you’re truly missing out.  It is the most stunning, captivating story; one of those that keeps you up all night because it’s impossible to put down.  And just earlier this month, Garvis-Graves released her companion novella, Uncharted, taking readers back to the island in the Maldives that started it all.

If you’ve read On the Island, then you’ve wondered right alongside Anna and T.J. about the skeleton in the cave and the cabin on the beach, and Uncharted, following the life of Owen Sparks, finally gives readers exactly what they’ve been waiting for, the truth behind the mystery.

In this short novella, we again meet up with Anna and T.J. and their children, and we learn just how many “what ifs” occurred that left Anna and T.J. stranded for so long. I was immediately wrapped up in Owen’s story, and while I really wanted more Anna and T.J., this was exactly what readers needed to understand all the events surrounding their time on the island. It’s impossible not to connect with Owen, Calia, and James, and though heartbreaking, it’s a beautiful story that brings hope to the reader, just as On The Island does.  Four stars.

4 stars

I purchased this novella from Amazon.com



15027111From Goodreads: Paradise Manor is depressing – the smells are bad and the residents are old. Sunny would much rather be doing her volunteer hours at Salon Teo, but her teacher won’t let her. Who says volunteering at a hair salon doesn’t benefit the community?

But working with the Alzheimer’s patients has a surprising effect on Sunny. Along with Cole, the grandson of one of the residents, she begins to see that the residents don’t have much more choice about their lives than she does: what they eat, how they are treated by staff, even what they watch on television. So Sunny does what she can to make the residents happy – even if she has to sometimes break the rules to do it.

But when tragedy strikes at Paradise, Sunny’s left to make the decision about whether or not to honor a promise that Cole made to his grandmother about her life and her death.

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This novel opens in the beginning stages of our main character’s trial.  You see, Sunny has been accused of manslaughter–the intentional murder of an elderly woman in a nursing home, but she says she didn’t do it.  Sound intriguing?  It is.

Forced to volunteer at Paradise Manner (a name synonymous with irony) for a school project, and keeping a journal every step of the way, readers get to know the real Sunny through her own written words, but also others’ perceptions of her as the trial commences. My favorite aspect of the novel, by far, is that we, as readers, become a part of the jury. The evidence is presented in such a way that we are given the opportunity to weigh all the evidence for and against Sunny, and it’s especially intriguing because we get to see Sunny’s thoughts as she sits in her seat listening to the witnesses.  Yes, we get to see inside Sunny’s head a little more than the jury, and she gets to explain herself, but even way before the end, my mind was made up in terms of her guilt.  Did she or didn’t she do it?  You’ll have to make that judgment call as you read.

And, as the story progresses, the title reverberates in the readers’ minds: Crush. Candy. Corpse.  For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why this was the title, but it’s is perfect.  Sunny has a crush.  There is candy involved.  And a death.  One thing leads to another, but not necessarily in the way you think. Along with the title, I have to say the cover itself it perfect.  Not only striking, it shows the main character exactly as I envision her, even though I didn’t understand the meaning behind the pink hair for quite some time.  I love it.

When I first began this novel, I thought Sunny was going to be a brat.  She begins the novel with her rants about having to work at paradise Manor and she spells out just how much she hated the idea and the people in the very beginning. While her observations and wit are often times quite amusing, it does paint the picture of a bratty little girl.  But, rest assured, she grows on you.  It’s not long before Sunny begins to enjoy volunteering, partly because  he gets to see Cole, and partly because she really does care about the patients, and as the novel progresses, it becomes more and more about the patients.  From start to finish, Sunny morphs into a completely different person, and I loved this, especially as we see the different testaments about her “breaking of rules” and other’s perceptions of her.  It’s true that first impressions are hard to dispel, and in Sunny’s trial, it becomes evident that many people hold vastly to those first impressions.  However, she doesn’t make it easy for them to see past her pink hair and destructive ways, so it makes sense that so many would testify against her.  Her past hasn’t necessarily been a great one.

Overall, this is a great, clean story that makes you think, and I really enjoyed it.  Four stars.

4 stars

James Lorimer & Company have been extremely gracious in allowing me to read this novel via Netgalley.



Found RDL

17202502From Goodreads: Levi might be hot, strong, and have a cool set of wings, but it’s not enough to make up for keeping Allie in the dark.

Allie’s tired of being left with more questions than answers. She’s tired of loving a guy who refuses to level with her. Most of all, she’s tired of her life spinning out of control.

Desperate to save Jess no matter the personal cost, Allie has to face the possibility that the only one she can trust is herself.

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This final installment in the Crescent Chronicles finally finds Allie and Levi at peace, in love, and on the same wave length, well, most of the time.  The fighting is virtually over, and now that all the angst and trickery is out of the way, Allie and Levi are free to live their lives in bliss, except that Allie just learned something that has her questioning Levi’s love for her and her role in the Pteron world.

I enjoyed this novel just as much as the first two, but reader beware, Ivy is no long “fading to black” in her sex scenes, giving the full play by play, and it happens a lot as Allie’s and Levi’s newly reciprocated love has them whisking off for alone time much more often than not.  If you’ve been waiting for our beloved characters to finally make amends and truly be together, then this final novel will give you everything you want.  If you’re like me, then you’ll just gloss over those scenes and continue on with the meat of the story: how Allie is going to save Jess.

I have to say that I missed the constant bickering and banter between Allie and Levi in this novel, but Ivy makes up for it by finally putting the two lovers at ease with one another.  Although Allie learns something about herself that has her questioning Levi’s love, and the admiration of all the Pteron heirs in the country, she remains strong and endeavors to save her best friend and solidify the Pteron.

I enjoyed that this novel is much more laid back than the others, starting off almost floating along as Allie and Levi are finally able to just enjoy themselves and their relationship.  Interspersed here and there with the appearance of Allie’s deranged ex, Toby, and Levi’s callous grandmother, the novel gives readers jolts of anticipation, heeding the warnings as they come.  Thus, readers are given a sense of calm and joy and then are overtaken by a sense of foreboding as the novel unfolds, and I really liked this combination.  I was surprised by Allie’s decisions in the later half of the novel as everything began to heat up—her decisions to make a move for Jess on her own didn’t floor me, per say, because of her strong nature, but her bargaining and interactions with others made me tense.  It’s a beautiful ending, though.  Perfect in every way, but it’s not over.  Not really.  Ivy just announced that she’s not ready to give up the Pteron’s, and a spinoff series will be releasing late this year.  Oh thank heaven.  If you haven’t read the Crescent Chronicles yet, I highly suggest you do in time for the next installment.  Four stars.

4 stars

I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Check out the rest of The Crescent Chronicles:

Flight #1

Focus #2

Found #3

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alyssaroseivyAbout Alyssa Rose Ivy:

Alyssa Rose Ivy is a New Adult and Young Adult author who loves to weave stories with romance and a southern setting. Although raised in the New York area, she fell in love with the South after moving to New Orleans for college.

After years as a perpetual student, she turned back to her creative side and decided to write. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and two young children, and she can usually be found with a cup of coffee in her hand.

Links: 

Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Website | Facebook | FOUND Goodreads

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And now for the giveaway!

Alyssa Rose Ivy is giving away TWO signed paperbacks of FOUND!

Click this Rafflecopter link to go to the entry form!

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15781433From Goodreads: Freshman year of college is hard even when you’re not tied to the future king of a supernatural society.

Allie dives into college head first with Hailey as her roommate and the city of New Orleans as her backyard. As things within The Society heat up, Allie realizes that whether she’s with Levi or not, she’s in far too deep to turn back.

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This second novel picks up virtually where the first one, Flight, ended, making it a sequential novel that will leave readers clueless if they don’t read in order.  I personally really like series novels, and as I picked up Focus just a few minutes after finishing Flight, which was perfect.  While there is a little bit of what’s known as “info dumping” in the beginning chapters of book two, it’s not overbearing and Ivy seamlessly weaves it into the story, allowing those who have had down time between the novels time enough to remember the main plotline before whisking the reader away on a new and awesome adventure.

Allie, a strong-willed female, asserts herself even more in this novel, and though she struggles with her attraction and feelings for Levi, I love that she doesn’t just give in to his constant “charm,” especially after what he did to her in the previous novel (no spoilers, sorry, but if you read Flight, I’m sure you’ll be just as livid as Allie AND I were).  I was exceptionally happy to note that Allie doesn’t let Levi off the hook, even though everyone around her tells her to get over it, and I really enjoyed her strong sense of self of worth.  While she constantly questions her heart, she doesn’t immediately give in to her sexual desires, and she doesn’t let Levi’s treachery slide, either.  Way to go, Allie!

I also loved the strong female bond between Hailey and Allie, which began to develop in the first novel and really solidifies in this second.  There is no rolling-over to the men in their lives, and while there is definitely much sexual tension and relationship woes, Ivy keeps this novel clean as well, just like she did in the first, “fading to black” for all sexual encounters and focusing more on fleshing out the relationships and working through the characters’ issues. I absolutely adore Ivy’s adherence to leaving it to the imagination, and her writing style makes me comfortable as I read, which is a major plus. This novel has real relationship depth and I just loved how everything ended up in the end, especially with the twist.  I’d like to say that I saw it coming, and a part of me did, but even so, I was still shocked and nearly died when I realized it was a cliffhanger, but lucky for us all, Ivy’s final installment in the Crescent Series has just released.  Excited?  You should be.  Four stars.

4 starsI purchased this novel from Amazon.

Check out the rest of The Crescent Chronicles:

Flight #1

Focus #2

Found #3



13570162From Goodreads: Sometimes you just have to take flight.

A summer in New Orleans is exactly what Allie needs before starting college. Accepting her dad’s invitation to work at his hotel offers an escape from her ex-boyfriend and the chance to spend the summer with her best friend. Meeting a guy is the last thing on her mind—until she sees Levi.

Unable to resist the infuriating yet alluring Levi, Allie finds herself at the center of a supernatural society and forced to decide between following the path she has always trusted or saving a city that might just save her.

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Alyssa Rose Ivy has done a phenomenal job creating a paranormal world that really draws the reader in.  Set in New Orleans, Ivy places her fictional characters in a place that exudes otherworldly power, and I loved that Ivy really gave readers a taste of the area and culture, weaving it into the story alongside her interesting plotline.  The paranormal aspect of this novel was extremely unique, and Ivy does a great job whetting readers’ appetites; I can’t wait for more because she’s only just begun to scratch the surface in terms of who the Pteron really are and what power they hold over the entire paranormal world.

Initially, however, I didn’t like Levi.  He is the representation of the cocky male who knows he looks good and won’t take no for an answer, and this persona has never impressed me in real life or fiction.  Levi is arrogant, and he’s always turning the conversation into something sexual, so I was worried that I actually wasn’t going to like the novel since Allie seemed to be giving in to him too easily, which is a big no-no for me as I’m a supporter of the strong female lead.  Yet, as the book progressed, Levi grew on me a little, and I began to enjoy his and Allie’s whirlwind summer romance, especially once I knew more about Levi’s background and noted that Allie was strong in her own right.  My love for Levi was once again suspended, though, when he went ahead and did something that angered me to no end, something I’m not okay with by any means, and neither is Allie, as is evidenced from the last 30% of the novel.  But truth be told, I’m very proud of Allie’s reaction.  I feel exactly the same way Allie does when everything comes to light, but I am also a little worried that her defenses will fall away too easily as Levi attempts to smooth talk his way out of this situation.  Only time will tell.

I really do like Allie, but many times throughout the novel I found her making rash and ill-advised decisions, which turned me off a bit.  However, she has just graduated from high school, she’s 18, has no supervision, and has just ended a long relationship.  I know how it feels to be let loose and trying to turn over a new leaf, so I can’t hold it against her.

I also was very thankful that Ivy keeps her novel clean.  With Levi as the main character and his obsession, it seems, with getting Allie into bed, it was nice that Allie held out and that any and all sexual encounters between the characters were all “fade to black.”  This is turn makes it more YA friendly in that it’s not explicit or overbearing for younger readers whom I think will really enjoy the story and Allie’s strong sense of self-worth.  She doesn’t need a man to make her strong, and I loved that she was so assertive and a good role model in that respect.  Four stars.

4 stars

I purchased this novel from Amazon.

Check out the rest of The Crescent Chronicles:

Flight #1

Focus #2

Found #3



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