Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

Shady BayFrom Goodreads: Sometimes the hardest thing for a proud person to do is lean on others.

Since her father went to prison, Mercy Taylor’s life has been crap. With forty dollars in her pocket, and a determined look on her face, Mercy decides to do something about it. She hitch-hikes her way to Myrtle Beach to start fresh.

Never say it can’t get worse, because for Mercy, it does. For her, rock bottom consists of eating out of a trash can. But, once you’ve hit bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Jaxon Harrison left Devil Creek, West Virginia for a new start. He’d fallen in love and had given his heart to a woman who had chewed it up and spit it out. He doesn’t need that kind of heartache again. The problem is, there’s a sweet, stubborn girl who refuses to get out of his head.

The moment when you get your feet firmly set on the ground, life tends to throw something else your way. What will the future hold for Mercy and Jaxon?


Casey L. Bond’s spring release, Shady Bay, is a sweet summer read that I really enjoyed. Full of shocking twists, tender heartaches, and a swoon-worthy romance, Mercy and Jaxon’s story is sure to captivate readers as it unfolds.

Mercy is an absolutely amazing character, strong willed in nature and set on taking care of herself. As the story progresses and her bad experiences are offset by good, readers can’t help but root for Mercy, a heroine who’s circumstances continue to undermine her, both in wealth and health. She must deal with a lot, from a drug crazed mother to a health concern that will have readers biting their nails, but Mercy does not give up; the kindness of others keeps her going, and I admire her will to survive, even when survival seems dim at best.

And Jaxon? Wow! He is a heartthrob, and I absolutely loved his adoration of Mercy. He is forced to make hard choices, many of which are selfless, and his persona was expertly crafted. I am sure that readers will love him just as much as I did, especially as we learn the lengths he’s willing to go to protect the people he loves.

This novel is full of passion; passion for life, love, happiness… and while Mercy and Jaxon definitely have a bumpy ride along the way, I really enjoyed this sweet NA novel, and I think lovers of NA novels will definitely share the sentiment. Four lovely stars.

4 stars

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

Amazon | Kindle $1.99 | Barnes and Noble


FrenzyFrom Goodreads: 14-year-old Heath Lambert is spending his summer at Camp Harmony in the picturesque Cascade Mountain Valley. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the soothing calm of nature as he weighs a heavy decision. The camp offers distractions: his friends, Cricket and Dunbar, always up for trouble; his reluctant crush on Emily, one half of the beautiful Em & Em Twins; and hulking bullies Thumper and Floaties, who are determined to make him their punching bag for the summer. But no one rattles Heath like his creepy cabin mate, Will Stringer. Brilliant, cold and calculating, Will views the world as one big chess game, and he’s always three moves ahead of everyone else.

Heath soon learns there’s a much bigger threat to contend with. Something’s wrong with the animals in the surrounding forest. A darkness is spreading, driving them mad with rage. Wolves, bears, mountain lions-even the chipmunks are infected, spurred on in droves by one horrific goal: hunt and kill every human they find.

Heath and a ragtag band of campers are faced with a choice: follow Will’s lead and possibly survive, or follow the camp staff and die. But how do you trust a leader when you suspect he’s more dangerous than the animals you’re running from?

Heath came to Camp Harmony to be surrounded by nature. He’s about to get his wish.

What would happen if the land-dwelling animals of the world suddenly lost their fear/love of humans and began outright attacking us? It would be like a zombie apocalypse, but with animals, which in my opinion, is even more scary… and that’s exactly what Lettrick pens in his exciting novel, Frenzy. With an airborne virus that spreads an altered version of rabies, animals of all shapes and sizes are infected, shedding their fears and lusting for blood–mainly, the blood of humans.

Enter Heath, a young man who’s already staring death in the face due to a resurgence of cancer, and the prospects don’t look good. But at least he has this last summer pretending everything is okay. That is, until a brood of animals begins slaughtering his campmates.

With the river as their only respite from the hoards of animals intent on obliterating their existence, Heath and his “friends,” Cricket, the Ems, Will, Dunbar, Miles, and a handful of others find themselves trapped and running out of options fast.

This is a fast paced read that I highly enjoyed, and I think most MG and YA readers will feel the same. There is a lot of death within the novel–animals are quick, as it is, but even so, it’s a believable and enticing enough read–and thankfully it’s not too graphic.

While there are a lot of characters, Lettrick makes it easy to tell them apart and their plights are believable. It’s awesome. Four stars.

4 stars

In exchange for an honest review, Disney-Hyperion has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on April 8, 2014.

Side Effects May VaryFrom Goodreads: What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.


This was an interesting read, though I’m sorry to say that I really disliked the main character, Alice–she’s a user and, as she was told many times in the novel, she’s just plain mean. Although Alice tries to blame many of her actions on cancer, it’s more that she’s a jerk who wants to make sure she gets back at everyone she feels hurt her in some way before she found out she was dying. But, lo and behold, she’s now in remission. Unable to deal with what this means—she can’t continue to lead on her best friend Harvey, she has to go back to school and face the people she tormented (granted, they tormented her too, but come on now… that’s your dying wish?), she can’t waste away in her room all “woe is me,” and she can’t avoid the world anymore—her life begins to spiral out of control.  While I understand that it’s a shock for her when she hears she’s in remission, that she had resigned herself to death, while everyone else celebrates, she hates every minute of it, and that’s hard for me to swallow. And so were her actions throughout much of the novel. She’s just mean–and karma always comes back with a vengeance. The fact that she doesn’t seem to learn from any of her mistakes also drove me crazy–and I ran out of sympathy for her fairly quickly as the novel unfolded.  Now, I’ve never ever been in Alice’s shoes, so I’m on the outside looking in, but I just couldn’t connect with her.

Harvey, on the other hand, I get! He’s a bit gullible and allows Alice to treat him like dirt time and time again, but he’s such a sweetie and… he reminds me of myself as a teen, a long time ago, when I used to pine for people who weren’t worth my time; I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment.  And I’m so glad he finally takes a stand for himself, even though it hurts him to do it.  He’s what made the book for me.  Three stars.

3 starsHarperCollins Childrens has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Edelweiss, prior to its release on March 18, 2014.

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My Name is JoeFrom Goodreads: When Joe’s doctor advises him to get his affairs in order, he faces two choices: leave this world full of regrets, or seek forgiveness for a life unlived.

An unexpected thing happens on Joe’s path to redemption. He meets Rebecca, a young, single mother struggling with guilt over the death of her own mother. They soon come to realize that the other may hold the key to forgiveness and salvation — if they can muster the courage to trust one another.


This relatively short read takes an in-depth look at one man’s life once an end date is unceremoniously stamped upon it.  Like Queen Latifah in Last Holiday, Joe has just learned that he is going to die.  But unlike the comedic movie, Joe does not have a happy ending—there is no mistake made here.  Suffering from pancreatic cancer, he is instructed to get his affairs in order, sending him on a spiraling journey that surveys his contributions to the world, or lack thereof.  Compelled to reminisce about his past as he looks bleakly at his short future, Joe begins to assess his life and make amends, learning to finally live in a world he has for so long allowed to pass him by.

While this is a somewhat depressing look at the end of one man’s life, it is also an inspirational one—powerful in that it lays his soul bare and allows him to finally experience all that he never knew he missed.  With the help of a good-hearted, young, single mother, Joe learns what truly matters in life and no longer has to face death alone.  And while readers already know what the end of this tale will hold, it’s a touching look at the human spirit that, though tears are shed, will leave readers feeling triumphant.  Four stars.

4 stars

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

Amazon | Kindle | Barnes and Noble

12970552From Goodreads: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.


My friends told me I had to read this book.  That it was one of the best they’d ever read, that I’d fall in love with the characters, that it’d leave me feeling broken and sad, but that I’d love it just the same.  And so, I put it off for quite some time because I don’t really enjoy being sad.  I also don’t like to physically borrow books from the library because they aren’t mine, and the ebook of this one was just too much money, in my opinion (at no point do I think ebook prices should be comparable to the paperback price).  But then there was a sale and the ebook dropped down to only $3.99 on Amazon (and it’s still this price), so I scooped it up and, one Friday evening not too long ago, started reading it.

Initially, it didn’t pull me in.  I wasn’t in love with the characters, the plot was like so many I’ve read before, and I just didn’t see what everyone was talking about (and I do mean everyone).  Hazel didn’t tug on my heart strings—in fact, she was presented in a way that made me dislike her.  Catty and unforgiving, she jerks her parents around and has all but given up, even though she has a second chance at life.  I couldn’t understand her.  Augustus was interesting, but he seemed unreal, almost forced to me, and I sighed and thought this was going to be one of those instances where I just didn’t feel the same as the whole world around me.

And then, at some point while I was reading (and I honestly can’t pinpoint it), I became irrevocably attached to the characters.  Augustus seems to bring out the best in everyone around him, and Hazel’s snark stopped getting on my nerves and I began to love her, and all those around her.  They jumped off the page and became real.  And then, as John Green has a tendency to do, he ripped out my heart and left me blubbering for hours into the night, blowing my nose, soaking my shirt in tears, hiccupping for breath.  The Fault in Our Stars is just that touching, and it truly left me breathless.  And while I didn’t fall in love with the story right away, I definitely did fall in love with it.  My friends were right, as they usually are.  This is an amazing novel and I highly suggest you read it if you haven’t.  I just hope the movie rendition does it justice, because this is a very powerful piece.  Five amazing stars.

5 stars

I purchased this novel from Amazon.

et cetera
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