Special Announcement From Cora Cormack

HERE’S THE SCOOP!

Fans of Cora Carmack’s Rusk University, we have a SUPER exciting announcement:

  ALL CLOSED OFF Coming 2016

ALL CLOSED OFF, Book 4 in the Rusk University Series, is coming!!!

 

Check out this message from Cora!

*WARNING: This letter contains spoilers for All Broke Down. If you haven’t yet read that book, read at your own peril. SECOND WARNING: this letter talks about fictional characters as if they are real people. Sorry I’m not sorry. THIRD WARNING: The letter below broaches a serious topic that could be a trigger for some people*

  Hello beloved readers! The first person who read one of my Rusk University books was my older sister. I gave her All Lined Up when I finished, and her first question was “Are Ryan and Stella going to be together?” At the time, I told her no. I had plans for both of them that included their own storylines. I thought they were too much alike. They’d make great friends. They might even hook-up, but in the end… I couldn’t envision anything serious for them. So I actually rewrote some of their scenes trying to make that aspect of their connection more obvious. And still, when All Lined Up released, amidst the chatter about sweet Carson and sassy Dallas, I had people asking if Stella and Ryan were next. I denied it again (and again and again). But sometimes in writing, the stars align and a character will become bigger and more real than you could have possibly imagined. It’s a wonderful experience, but in Stella’s case it was also incredibly heartbreaking.

While I was writing All Broke Down, the news was inundated with information about the Steubenville rape trial and other tragedies and injustices like it. Tragedies where women have been violated first by an attacker, then by judgmental and hateful people, and finally by a justice system that repeatedly fails survivors of sexual assault. Having grown up in Texas, where too often football stars are treated like gods and can get away with just about anything, it hit particularly close to home. And since All Broke Down featured a passionate activist heroine, I felt compelled to reference this chronic dark underbelly of elite sports. I can remember vividly sitting on my couch, brainstorming how I would incorporate such an event into the book. I had thought the assault would happen to an unknown character, and maybe I would focus on the way it divided the team and the school and the town. But like I said… Sometimes a character will become bigger and more human than I anticipated. And it sounds crazy, but in my mind, I felt Stella push her way forward and say, “Mine. This is my story.” I immediately began to cry. Sob, really. Because I loved her as a character.

She was hilarious and strong and didn’t take crap from anyone. She was everything I always hope to be. And I didn’t want her to go through that. Even as I cried, my brain began to tell me that it made sense. Stella was vibrant and enjoyed a wild party. She was not afraid of her sexuality, and she had no problem with casual sex. She was the kind of girl that probably had a reputation. The kind of girl who could be heinously and violently taken advantage of, and people would STILL blame her. Because she was in the wrong place, wearing the wrong clothes, behaving in the wrong way. But just because it COULD happen to her, didn’t mean I wanted it to.

But once again, Stella was there in my head saying, “Someone needs to tell this story. And I’m strong enough to do it. Let me.” And when Stella chose her story, she also chose the man I’d been adamant wasn’t right for her. Because as it turns out… Those two characters who I thought were too alike aren’t so alike anymore. And Stella needs Ryan to help her hold on to that vibrant and strong girl she was before. So I let go of all the plans I had for her, and allowed her to tell me her story, which is about more than just sexual assault.

It’s about the aftermath. Depression. Shame. Guilt. Anger. Injustice. Victim-blaming. Slut-shaming. It’s about the way that kind of event can change everything– how you relate to people, how you think, how you dream, how you love. It’s about the way the rest of the world moves on to the next big tragedy, and you’re still left holding the broken pieces of who you used to be, with no idea how to put them together again or even if you want to. It will be the most difficult story I ever tell. And the most important. Because it’s a story that belongs not just to Stella, but to millions of people around the world. It’s a story that belongs to a new person every 107 seconds*. And that’s just in the United States.

Think about that for a moment. 107 seconds. Stella’s story won’t be any easier to read than it will be to write. But I hope you’ll help me drag this story into the light. So now I’ll step off my soapbox and just tell you about the book…

ALL CLOSED OFF: Stella Santos is fine. Maybe something terrible happened to her that she can’t even remember. And maybe it drives her crazy when her friends treat her like she’s on the verge of breaking because of it. Maybe it feels even worse when they do what she asks and pretend that it never happened at all. And maybe she’s been getting harassing emails and messages for months from people who don’t even know her, but hate her all the same. But none of that matters because she’s just fine.

For Ryan Blake, Stella was always that girl. Vibrant and hilarious and beautiful. He wanted her as his best friend. His more than friends. His everything and anything that she would give him. Which these days is a whole lot of nothing. She gets angry when he’s there. Angry when he’s not there. Angry when he tries to talk and when he doesn’t. When Stella devises an unconventional art project for one of her classes all about exploring intimacy—between both friends and strangers—Ryan finds himself stepping in as guinea pig after one of her subjects bails.

What was supposed to be an objective and artistic look at emotion and secrets and sex suddenly becomes much more personal. When he hits it off with another girl from the project, Stella will have to decide if she’s willing to do more than make art about intimacy. To keep him, she’ll have to open up and let herself be the one thing she swore she’d never be again. Vulnerable.

 ***** ALL CLOSED OFF will be releasing sometime in early 2016. I don’t have a date yet for several reasons. The first and most important, is that I want to do this story justice. And as such, I have no intentions of rushing the process. Secondly, I’ll be returning to indie publishing for the remainder of the Rusk series. As you can probably tell, this story means a great deal to me. And by having the ultimate control over everything from timing to editing to price, I’ll be able to ensure that I’m able to create exactly the story I envision.

Unfortunately, that means you won’t be seeing the paperback of ALL CLOSED OFF on the shelves in most stores. Nor is it currently available for pre-order. But I hope you’ll add the book on goodreads, follow me on social media, and/or join my newsletter. I promise to shout it all over the place when I have a set release date or pre-order links. Thank you for listening as I told you the evolution of Stella’s story. When it’s finished, I hope you will feel as passionately about it as I do. All my best, Cora Carmack   *Statistic from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network)   #WhenitHappened banner

And an opportunity to add your voice to Stella’s…

Stella’s experience is only one story of many. She was with someone she trusted when it happened, and the only memories she has are pieced together from her own blurred recollections and the things people have told her. Not everyone’s experience with sexual assault is the same. Each person reacts, copes, and overcomes differently. And while this book is about one specific character’s journey, I would like to tell as many sides of this story as possible. As Stella grapples with her thoughts and emotions she’ll be searching for advice, for comfort, for a place where people understand her and can identify with what she’s experiencing.

There will be room for truth within the fiction, and if you’d like that truth to be yours, this is your chance. 

If you have a story like Stella’s, and you want your voice to be heard…. If there’s something you wish more people understood about what you’ve gone through…. If there’s something you’d like to tell people struggling with a story like yours… I’d like to give you the opportunity to add your voice to Stella’s. Use the hashtag #WhenItHappened and let your voice be heard on your own by posting on your own social media, or if you’d rather I share your words fill out this google document and tell me your story. You can fill out this form anonymously or not. I’d like to begin this discussion now because April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. But my hope is to include as many stories as possible within the book itself. So many have stories of #WhenItHappened. Your voice and your story deserve to be heard. I’m listening. #WhenItHappened 

Google Formhttp://goo.gl/forms/4VRjWgZYSW   

Headshot
ABOUT Cora Carmack: Cora Carmack is a twenty-something New York Times bestselling author who likes to write about twenty-something characters. She’s done a multitude of things in her life– boring jobs (like working retail), Fun jobs (like working in a theatre), stressful jobs (like teaching), and dream jobs (like writing). She now splits her time between Austin, TX and New York City and spends her days writing, traveling, and spending way too much time on the internet. In her books, you can expect to find humor, heart, and a whole lot of awkward. Because let’s face it . . . awkward people need love, too.      

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Review: NIL Unlocked (NIL #2) by Lynne Matson

Book Title: NIL Unlocked
Author: Lynne Matson
Published Date: May 12th, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Genre: YA/Science Fiction
Series: Book 2 in NIL trilogy
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
On the island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days to escape—or you die. Rives is now the undisputed Leader of Nil City, but keeping the City united is tougher than ever.

Raiders have grown bolder, supplies are dwindling, and non-human inhabitants have taken a turn toward the deadly. New arrivals cause rifts within the City, putting the Search system at risk, and calling everything Rives knows into question. Desperate for answers, he teams up with the only other person searching for them: Skye, a new arrival with a mysterious past of her own. Soon the duo find themselves locked in a desperate race to save all the residents of Nil—and possibly destroy the island forever. But at what cost? And who will pay the price?

Disclaimer: I won this book in a giveaway.

Review:
Holy crap, I didn’t expect NIL Unlocked to be better than NIL, but it was!
I didn’t mention this in my review of NIL, but my only criticism was that we didn’t get any information on the history of NIL and how it came to be or any other kind of backstory on NIL. Thankfully, in NIL Unlocked, I got some answers. I got answers about NIL and how it worked. In some ways, this was my favorite part of the book.
We wouldn’t have known anything about NIL if it weren’t for Skye. NIL wasn’t a mystery to Skye and although I’d love to say more on that front, I can’t because of how spoilery it would end up being and I really want to avoid spoilers as much as I can. Skye was awesome though and as much as I loved Charley in book one, I loved Skye equally.
As fascinating as Skye was, I was very curious about Rives. I had loved him in NIL and was excited to see what was in store for him. I had loved Thad, but I think I actually loved Rives more. I’m not sure exactly why, but Rives was awesome and he was a leader and he had a whole lot of strength.
Unlike with Charley & Thad, Skye and Rives’ romance didn’t start until the book was nearly over and I think I liked that better. I love slow burn romances and Skye & Rives fit that to a T. Truthfully though, I do wonder if Skye’s NIL knowledge was really what attracted Rives to her. Yeah maybe that’s a bit cynical, but I wonder if Rives would have fallen for her if she didn’t have this “insider information”
The secondary characters were once again, awesome. I loved Jillian and Dex especially and it was because of them, that the ending of this book had me pretty much sobbing into the pages. I wasn’t expecting the feels to be quite as intense in the second book, but in many ways, the feels were more intense. I don’t know how Lynne Matson does it.
I loved this book even more than I loved book one and I will be ordering a finished copy of this book soon. Needless to say, I’m giving it 5 stars and I cannot wait to see where the story leads in the final book.

Stacking the Shelves #69

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This weekly feature is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews

Hi everyone!

This week was full of bookmail. I had books that I had recently purchased as well as books that I had pre-ordered awhile ago, all arrive this week.

I also took a trip to the library to pick up some books. Thankfully, it was a much smaller haul than the last few library trips I’ve taken.

I added only one review book this week.

Bought
The Remedy (The Program #0.5) by Suzanne Young
Behind the Scenes (Daylight Falls #1) by Dahlia Adler
Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

Received for Review

One by Sarah Crossan

Library
Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes
Silent Alarm by Jennifer Barnash
The Wicked Will Rise (Dorothy Must Die #2) by Danielle Paige

I hope you all have an awesome week. Be sure to tell me if you’ve read any of these.

Review: NIL (NIL #1) by Lynne Matson

Book Title: NIL
Author: Lynne Matson
Published Date: March 4th, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Genre: YA/Science Fiction
Series: Book One in NIL trilogy.
Book Link: Goodreads
Purchase Links: AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads:
On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days–to escape, or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.

Disclaimer: I own this book.

Review:
I honestly had no idea what to expect with this book. I had really high hopes for it, but wasn’t sure if it would deliver. And for a little while, I wasn’t sure it would. It was a bit slow in the beginning, which worried me. But by the time I reached page 80, it had picked up and I was captivated by the story. Plus, if it’s going to be compared to my all time favorite TV show, LOST, then the chances are pretty high that I’ll fall in love with it.

I had a hard time trying to figure out what genre I’d put this book in. It was obviously YA, but there were several sub-genres that I could have put it in. There was romance, there were paranormal elements and there was science fiction. In some ways, I find these kind of books the most compelling because there are multiple elements involved and they each do their part to tell the story.

Even though Charley & Thad were considered the main characters, I really loved Natalie. She was so vulnerable, so realistic. I loved how she trusted Thad and Charley despite all of the craziness going on. She cared about all of NIL’s inhabitants. She had a good heart, a caring heart.

NIL itself was interesting. Not only was it an island but it also seemed to be personified. I’d never seen this in a book before, so that was captivating. Was NIL also a person or was she seemingly personified because of the mental health of all the inhabitants.

“To NIL we come, from NIL, some go, and some like me, will stay. The clock winds down, our time runs out, and NIL will have her way.”

That is probably the creepiest song I’ve ever heard. Legitimate shivers. Not a lot was said about Ramia, but I was so, so curious about her. I actually had some theories about her and her connection to NIL. I probably spent a bit too much time thinking about her and her possible connection to NIL.

Now Charley & Thad. I understand that a lot of people were a bit iffy on how quickly things developed between them, but this wasn’t typical life. They were on an island for goodness sakes. It’s not like they had a million other life things to attend to, Yeah they were off searching for gates and even newcomers, but there was more time to develop a relationship. I liked them together, I rooted for them to get together and that is a great feeling to be able to do.

“You’re right, Charley. NIL does change the way you see things. NIL makes everything more clear. What’s important, what matters. And for me, that’s you.”

This book stressed me out completely. I can’t exactly say why it did, as it could be considered very spoilery, and I really don’t want to ruin it for others. But, I absolutely loved it and highly recommend it. I am giving it 5 stars and I cannot wait to read NIL Unlocked, which I’ll be starting ASAP.

2 Year Blogging Anniversary

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How has it been 2 years since I started book blogging? 
24 months ago I decided to start blogging about books. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know half of the thing I know now.
I don’t make friends easily. Maybe its because of my age, maybe it’s because I can be really blunt & honest to people. Maybe I’m just not the type of person that is able to keep friendships going. Maybe I just don’t have that ability. Yet with blogging, it’s easier. We have different lives, but we all connect through our love of books & reading.
If I could tell my newbie book blogging self something, I’d tell myself not to force things. Either friendships or reading certain books. I’d tell myself not to overthink things. I’d tell myself to be selective in the books I choose to review, and the blog tours I get invitations for.
There are so many amazing book bloggers who I’ve befriended, who’ve been there for me in my darkest times. So many authors who have done the same thing. I usually don’t get overly sentimental, but thank you to those bloggers and those authors who’ve accepted me, cared about me and have believed in me when I didn’t always believe in myself. 
Kat, Bekka, Lyn, Kara, Pixie, Meredith, Kayla & Stacie among so many others have supported me, loved me and cared about me. So many of you offered to chase down my cheating ex with pitchforks, so many of you have listened to me as my heart was breaking over the whole situation. So many of you have been on my side, fighting in my corner as I got rejected for job after job after job. I’d be lost without you all. Thank you for caring about me.
The authors have been equally amazing, kind and generous. Corey Ann, we bonded over our love of cheese and now I think of you whenever I eat cheese. Jessica Verdi, your kindness won’t soon be forgotten. Neither will your gorgeous books. Brandy Colbert, Becky Albertalli, Courtney C. Stevens, I fell in love with your books and have championed the heck out of them. Your kindness made it easy for me to fall in love with your books. There are so many other authors that have invaded my cynical heart. Thank you to each and every one of you.
I’ve made no secret about the fact that I’m working on some WIPs. I’ve had so much support for these as well. Kat, Bekka, Stormy, I’d be lost without your support. I started working on a LGBT NA that Dahlia Adler in particular has been hugely supportive of. A million thank yous to Dahlia for encouraging me to write it. 
Thank you to this awesome community for embracing me 2 years ago. I am incredibly lucky to know so many awesome people.

Review: The Cage (The Cage #1) by Megan Shepherd

The Cage (The Cage, #1)
Book Title: The Cage
Author: Megan Shepherd
Published Date: May 26th, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Series: Book One in The Cage trilogy
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld in this gripping new series about teens held captive in a human zoo by an otherworldly race. From Megan Shepherd, the acclaimed author of The Madman’s Daughter trilogy.

When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn’t know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn’t alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora’s past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren’t from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?

Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from Harper Collins via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.
Review:
I was nervous about this book because I didn’t enjoy The Madman’s Daughter trilogy. I wanted to give Shepherd another chance to impress me. This book looked like something I’d love, so I was also excited.

This book really surprised me in the best way. It was fascinating, and the world building was really well done. I was nervous about the world building because it can either be really awesome and help contribute to the story, or it can be underdeveloped and ruin the story. I could picture the different enclosures and the people well.

Cora, Lucky, Nok, Leon and Rolf are already one member short when the book opens, the sixth member of their little group is dead, and for awhile we don’t know what happened to her. That question is eventually answered as are countless more questions.

There are three rules in this place:
1. Solve the enrichment puzzles
2. Maintain their health by eating the food provided, get enough sleep and cooperate in routine health assessments.
3. Engage in procreative activities to ensure the continuation of the species.
If they do not complete all three steps in 21 days, they will be removed from the enclosure. We don’t find out until much later where they end up if they don’t cooperate.

Cassian was interesting and I’m not 100% sure I trust him at this point in the story. He knows far more than Cora or any of the others do at this point and he’s very reluctant to share what he knows, even with Cora. He does bend the rules at times, so you start to think that he’s caught between a rock and a hard place. He seems to care for Cora by the time the book ends, but like I said, I’m not sure I trust him yet.

Now Mali was so freaking fascinating, I actually liked her the best out of all the characters. She was so mysterious and intriguing. I was never quite sure whose side she was on, if she was really as messed up as she seemed. So getting parts of the story from her point of view was awesome and I actually wished there was more of her in the story.

The writing style was interesting. It had been a long time since I had read something in third person present tense, so I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get invested in the story. Thankfully the story itself was captivating and I had no issues with the way it was written.

I was really impressed by this book. I was hooked from the beginning and I never wanted to put it down. It was such a unique story, and I cannot wait for book 2 to come out. It’s going to be a long wait until then. I am giving this book 4.5 stars. It was nearly perfect and I would recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction.

Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Book Title: The Fill-In Boyfriend
Author: Kasie West
Published Date: May 5th, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Contemporary
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend— two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party — three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

Disclaimer: I won this book in a giveaway.

Review:
Legitimate question: How does Kasie West do this?

I mean, this is her 3rd contemporary novel and she just has this ability to create swoony boys and put them together with imperfect girls. God, her formula is awesome. The Distance Between Us is still my favorite Kasie West contemporary, but The Fill-In Boyfriend is fighting for 2nd place alongside On The Fence.

We meet Gia just as she’s getting dumped on prom night by her boyfriend, Bradley. That was rough to read. High school can be a cruel place, especially if you attend a promo solo. For Gia, the idea of attending prom on her own is not something she wants to face. Not when Jules, her frenemy, has doubted the existence of Bradley since the beginning. The last thing Gia wants is to be seen as a liar.

On a whim, she asks a guy who just dropped his sister off, to be her date to prom. She wants him to pretend to be Bradley, and after a little bit of bantering, he agrees. The night ends a little rocky, and Gia doubts that she’ll ever see Fill-In Bradley again.

Until it’s revealed that she’s been sitting behind his sister in one of her classes all year.

Now it’s time for Fill-In Bradley to pass Gia off as his girlfriend at a party that his ex will be at. Fill-In Bradley is clearly still in love with his ex, and is willing to do whatever he has to do in order to get her to come back to him. His sister is all for this plan although she intensely dislikes her brother’s ex.

More craziness ensues at the party, but my favorite part was seeing the sparks increase between Fill-In Bradley and Gia. I could feel the chemistry between them, I felt like I could root for them as a couple. That, right there is an awesome feeling. 

I loved the romance between Gia & Fill-In Bradley. It worked for me because there were things that balanced each of them out. When things went sour between Fill-In Bradley and his ex, his self-esteem took a nosedive. Gia helped his confidence. Gia started off the book a bit uptight and rigid, but Fill-In Bradley helped relax her.

I loved Gia’s character arc. At the beginning of the book she is so obsessed with doing everything perfect, being friends with the right people, never showing her true emotions, but as the book unfolds, Gia starts to crack, she starts becoming more flawed, she starts expressing her true emotions, especially around her family.

On the surface, her family seems normal, loving and supportive of each other, but as the book continues on, we realize that Gia doesn’t really share anything with her parents, and her mom especially, keeps her emotions bottled up, just like Gia does. I did love her dad though. Her dad was awesome and protective.

“I hate boys.”
“He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“No, well, he just hurt my heart.”
“Oh honey, I’m so sorry.”

This book explored the complexities of sibling relationships as well. I spent most of the book detesting the hell out of Gia’s brother Drew. He just seemed like such a jackass and most of the time, the things he would say would enrage me. Things between Drew & Gia were complicated, but I liked how it ended.

Friendships in your teen years are difficult as well. For Gia, her friendships with Claire, Laney and Jules were difficult. I truly think that Jules was awful, but that she was also the Alpha. Claire & Laney were the Betas. I also feel like Gia was never her true self around these girls. Like she had to behave a certain way for these girls to even tolerate her. The exploration of teenage friendships was truly great.

I really enjoyed this book, and it was everything I’ve come to expect from a Kasie West book. I am giving this book 4.5 stars. I’m not actually sure why I cannot give it the full 5 stars, but I definitely recommend it very highly for contemporary lovers.

“We’re not perfect and we don’t have to be.”

Release Day Blitz: Play On by Michelle Smith

 Title: Play On
Author: Michelle Smith
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Synopsis
In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.
Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma’s flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius, she’s also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there’s something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek–he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.
As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa s pain, it forces him to look beyond the facade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn t everything–maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.”
  
Buy Links and Goodreads Link:
Excerpt
In this excerpt, Marisa surprises Austin on the baseball field…in more ways than one.
I pass the bat to her, watching her face light up like a full moon on a summer night. “Now, it’s a little heavy,” I joke. “Think you can handle it?”
Her eyes widen. “I don’t know,” she says breathlessly. “I may need the help of a big, strong, baseball player. Because we both know that baseball is so superior to softball.”
I shake my head. “That’s not entirely true. Your balls are bigger.”
We stare at each other. Stare. Stare some more. She’s the first one who breaks, bursting out laughing. It’s one of the best sounds I’ve heard in a long time.
“Here,” I say, still laughing. I carefully place my hands on her hips, helping her square up over the plate. “In case, you know, you’re too out of practice.”
She bites back a smile. “Yeah. Because I’ve totally forgotten how to square up for a pitch.”
“Two years is a long time.” Resting my hands on her shoulders, I remind her, “And relax these. You’re too stiff.”
She hangs her head. “You’re killin’ me, Smalls.”
I walked right into that one. She relaxes her shoulders. Slowly, my hands move down her arms until they rest on top of hers. They’re so warm, fit so perfectly in mine that it almost hurts to let them go. But I do, because, you know, friends.
“There,” I say on an exhale. “Ready?”
Her lips curve up. “Let me have it, Floral Prince.”
My mouth drops open. “All right. No mercy, Marlowe.”
I grab the ball and jog out to the mound. I gotta say, she’s the prettiest batter I’ve ever been up against. Taking a deep breath, I wind up and let my fastball fly.
That girl smacks the hell out of the ball.
Holy… I turn, watching it sail all the way back to the fence. When I whirl back around, she grins, pointing the bat at me.
“And that’s how it’s done,” she calls to me, setting the bat in the dirt. She wipes her hands on her jeans.
All I can do is gape. Some of the guys on our team could take a lesson from her. It’s not like I thought she would be bad, but damn. I pull off my cap as I walk toward her. As soon as I tug it onto her head, she laughs.
“Are you going to have any of these left?”
“I have an endless supply.” I nudge the brim of the cap, so I can see her eyes. “And you’ve earned that one.”
She quirks her lips into this little half-smirk that makes me pure weak in the knees. Takes a step closer. Another. And another. I swallow hard. My hands ache to touch her, to pull her to me and kiss the daylights out of her.
But friends, though.

Q&A with Michelle Smith
1. Play On touches on several sensitive topics. What do you hope your readers will take away from reading it?
I hope they come away knowing that illnesses do not define us. That setbacks, mistakes, scars, whatever we’ve done in the past—none of that defines who we are. That yes, you can fall to rock bottom, and you can still thrive after that fall. There’s laughter, and happiness, and hope, and love waiting for you—there’s so much love. And I hope they know that they’re worthy of that love.
It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to reach out. It’s okay to admit that you need help with this crazy life-thing. Because none of us have all the answers—we’re just doing the best we can. And we’re all in it together.

2. What scene do you most regret having to cut?
Not really a scene itself, but one of the lines. In the original draft, Austin had an ex-girlfriend that was, in a word, vengeful. One night, Austin told her to leave, and she came back to slash his truck’s tires. After discovering what happened the next morning, his mom said, “Your breakup really brought out the redneck in that girl.” That line always made me giggle.
(There’s no ex-girlfriend in the final version, by the way. She got the cut in my first round of edits.)

3. On the flip side, what was your favorite scene that got added during edits?
My favorite scene in the entire book was added during edits!  It takes place toward the end and involves stars, hand-holding, and Austin and Marisa talking about what’s to come, rather than the past. It’s a sweet moment that makes me grin like an idiot.

4. Biggest writing quirk?
I have to have something on my feet, whether it’s socks or shoes. Like, I absolutely cannot write with cold feet.

5. Are you working on any new projects?
I am! I can’t say too much at the moment, but I will say that we haven’t seen the last of Lewis Creek. 😉 
Author Bio:
Michelle Smith was born and raised in North Carolina, where she developed a healthy appreciation for college football, sweet tea, front porches, and a well-placed “y’all.” She’s a lover of all things happy, laughs way too much, and fully believes that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.
Michelle lives near the Carolina coast with her family.

Author Social Media Links: 
Giveaway

Review: Revenge, Ice Cream and Other Things Best Served Cold (Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend #2) by Katie Finn

Book Title: Revenge, Ice Cream and Other Things Best Served Cold
Author: Katie Finn
Published Date: May 5th, 2015
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: Book Two in Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend trilogy
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The war rages on between Gemma and Hallie in the second installment of the Broken Hearts and Revenge series.

After the humiliating events on the 4th of July, Gemma’s trying to handle the fact that Hallie knew who she was all along, and she was the one who stole Teddy from her. Gemma vows revenge, but things get more complicated than she planned. Ford, Gemma’s long-time crush, has arrived in the Hamptons cuter than ever. Josh is refusing to speak to her after she lied to him, and Teddy is playing champion to his beloved Marsh Warbler (in Gemma’s backyard, no less).

Gemma and Hallie find themselves locked in an escalating revenge cycle. Just when Gemma thinks she has the upper hand, the biggest bombshell of all is dropped. And it’s one that threatens to change her life forever. This exciting sequel to Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things To Mend will leave you begging for the third installment.

Disclaimer: I borrowed this ARC from a fellow blogger.

Review:
I needed something fluffy and summery after finishing a book full of feels right before this. And fluffy and summery was exactly what I got. I was surprised how much I liked the first book in this trilogy, Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend as it’s not normally my thing. I go for the “dark YA Contemporaries” I don’t usually go for the fluffy ones. Since I enjoyed the first book so much, I was eager to get my hands on the second book. 

Thanks to a fellow book blogger, I got my hands on it!

The second book of a series usually has the sophomore slump issue. It’s hard to write or read a book that has no real beginning or ending. Thankfully, this book did not suffer from that problem. We finally got to meet Ford and Gwynneth. I had been very curious about those two since book one and we finally got to meet them and they both had significant parts in the book. 

I ship Ford & Gemma by the way. You may not remember how much I didn’t like Josh & Gemma together. I mean Josh was a gentleman and he was kind and sweet, but I didn’t feel a true romantic connection between him and Gemma. Now Gemma & Ford on the other hand, they have chemistry and it sizzles. Please make them happen, Finn. Pretty please?

The drama was definitely amped up in this one. From cheese to shoplifting to betrayals, it was all in there. There was romance, there was friendship and there was a lot of scheming. Now did I always agree with what Gemma was doing? Nope, sometimes I just wanted her to stop and think about what she was doing. Then shit would hit the fan again and I would be pulled right back into this crazy ride.

This book was even better than the first book. Maybe because I loved Gemma and Ford together. Maybe because the drama was ramped up a degree. I’m not sure, but I loved this book. It was exactly what I needed to read at this time. 5 stars to this drama filled, summery book with a cliffhanger that you won’t see coming.

Stacking the Shelves #68

This feature is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.
This week was a light week for me. I added three books to my shelves and they were books I won from a giveaway. Super excited about all three of these books and since they are May releases, I hope to have reviews up for them soon. I also added one review book to the pile. Thankfully it’s a July release so I won’t read it for awhile.
I’ve been reading a lot quicker this week, and I think I can safely say that my reading slump is over. Thank goodness!
Check out what I added to my shelves this week.
Received for Review
-NetGalley-

Damage Done by Amanda Panitch
Won

NIL Unlocked (NIL #2) by Lynne Matson
The Fill In Boyfriend by Kasie West
Heat of the Moment (Moment of Truth #1) by Lauren Barnholdt

I hope everyone has an awesome week!