Review- Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

dont look back

Title: Don’t Look Back
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Genre: Young Adult/ Romance
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 384
Reviewer: Kelly

BLURB:

Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it’s one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took “mean girl” to a whole new level, and it’s clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She’s getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she’s falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn’t just buried deep inside of Sam’s memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

OPINION:

The moment I opened the first page of this book, and read the opening lines I was hooked- line and sinker! I didn’t know where this story would take me. Having read a lot of Armentrout’s previous novels I knew she could have taken me to a universe full of mythical creatures, or included an alien invasion, instead she kept it really simple and let this story play out in the ‘real world’. It was relatable as the situation that Samantha found herself in could happen to anyone, anywhere or at anytime.

The story was written in the first person point of view, through the eyes of Samantha, the main protagonist. She begins the story with her memories and her best friend missing. As a reader we are learning all about her life at the same time that she is! Then as her memories begin to come back in dreamlike, flashbacks and visions you start to wonder, just like Samantha, where is Cassie? The plot thickens when mysterious hand written notes begin to appear, sending very cryptic messages, turning this novel into a real “who done it?”

The foreshadowing techniques used throughout the story really kept you guessing until the very last page. Armentrout was very clever to give out little hints and clues throughout the book, but never enough to give the ending away. This created a gripping and enthralling read that was refreshing and different to any other novel I have ever read!

SUMMARY:
Wow! Armentrout can do no wrong! This book was an intriguing, heart-stopping, page turner. I finished it in a day. I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN!

lips grey 5

Review: S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

S.

Title: S.
Author: J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 456
Reviewer: Debby

A literary adventure!!!

Blurb:

One book. Two readers. A world of mystery, menace and desire
A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown.

THE BOOK: Ship of Theseus, the final novel by a prolific but enigmatic writer named V. M. Straka, in which a man with no past is shanghaied onto a strange ship with a monstrous crew and launched on a disorienting and perilous journey.

THE WRITER: Straka, the incendiary and secretive subject of one of the world’s greatest mysteries, a revolutionary about whom the world knows nothing apart from the words he wrote and the rumours that swirl around him.

THE READERS: Jennifer and Eric, a college senior and a disgraced grad student, both facing crucial decisions about who they are, who they might become, and how much they’re willing to trust another person with their passions, hurts and fears.

S., conceived by filmmaker J.J. Abrams and written by award-winning novelist Doug Dorst, is the chronicle of two readers finding each other in the margins of a book and enmeshing themselves in a deadly struggle between forces they don’t understand. It is also Abrams and Dorst’s love letter to the written word.

Review:

I am a huge fan of Abrams so I am not at all surprised at how impressed I am at this exhilarating, innovative and all around impressive contribution to the literary landscape.  How incredible to get absorbed in two stories simultaneously!  Leave it to Abrams to find a way to introduce something so unique and captivating to the world of fiction.

While I think writing a review after reading S. only once may be a little premature, perhaps my remarks on first impression will be easier for me to express as I have a sense that the more times this book is absorbed, the more levels of it’s mystery stand to be uncovered.  So it goes without saying, this is a heavy read.  My technique for reading the book was a concurrent one.  I read each page, first “Ship of Theseus” and then the margin notes by Jen and Eric.  I did find my first read to take quite some time as that reading technique did feel quite disjointed and unfamiliar.  While that comment seems like a negative one, I did actually appreciate the monkey wrench it threw into my usual reading habits.  This book certainly forces you to be more present in the state of reading.  S. is a book you read without other disruptions and only with a clear mind!

I will not pretend to have cracked the codes inside the book, nor will I pretend to understand the complexity of the story occurring in the margin notes after the first read.  I think I may aim to read through the entire “Ship of Theseus” to fully grasp that story, and then go through the book again reading only the margin notes so as to fully understand all the characters that were somehow jammed into the space on the outside of the central story.  Brilliant work by Doug Dorst!  I am hugely impressed at the level of character development he was able to give to characters who only express themselves through short margin notes, with the occasional letter thrown into the mix!

While I would normally comment on the plot, whether or not I like the characters, or the end, or the beginning; I feel that I would rather give readers of this post the ability to form their own opinions.  I, hypocritically enough, did not read any reviews prior to my read of the book for that very reason!  All I will say is that if you truly love to read, you must experience this book!  It is full of so many surprises!!

lips grey 5

Review- Carnelian (The Chalcedony Chronicles # 1) by B.Kristin McMichael

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Clever, clever, clever!

Title: Carnelian (Chalcedony Chronicles # 1)
Author: B Kristin McMichael
Genre: Young Adult/ Science Fiction (Time Travel)
Publication:
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 209
Reviewer: Kelly

Synopsis:
Everyone has a past, but for most it isn’t so far in the past as Seth Sangre. His past is literally from thousands of years ago. Seth’s past led him to the present seeking something that might help him save his country from destruction. He has been in the present for over three years now, and he just found exactly what he has been looking for.

Mari had dreams of college being a fresh start, one where she would start over and not fall for the good looking player like high school. Unfortunately for her, that’s exactly what ends up falling into her lap on the first day she moves into the dorms. Now she has to hold to her promise to herself not fall for the handsome Seth Sangre. But he doesn’t plan to make it easy for her. Seth has already marked her as his next conquest. As the semester progresses Mari learns that Seth might just have a past of his own that’s literally in the past.
Suddenly, Mari finds her future along with her past put into question. She’s connected to Seth far more than she ever wanted to be, and maybe he isn’t the player who she thought he was. If Mari can trust her heart enough to follow him, Seth will lead Mari on an adventure of a lifetime-and reveal family secrets she never knew existed.

Opinion:
Carnelian is a refreshing take on a modern college tale. McMichael has created characters that are not your “run of the mill” college students. There is no bleach blonde cheerleader or wealthy sorority boy. Granted there is still the super hot football star, but he is not the usual stereotype. He is soulful, insightful and exotic looking. His female counterpart is a tall red haired beauty, with an Indian best friend. I loved this more realistic and multicultural look at college life.

Then there is the storyline. It is not about fallen angels, vampires, dystopian societies or mythical creatures. For a dynamic change, it’s a mysterious adventure about time travel and ancient societies. It felt like a cross between ‘The time traveller’s wife’, a college romance novel and a history book. Well done McMichael! It kept me engaged from the beginning to end.

The romance between the two main characters is teased out in the opening chapters, keeping the reader wanting more. Mari is a strong, intelligent character who is cautious and calculating about beginning any new romances. Seth is aloof and persistent, with witty charm and charisma that makes you swoon! The combination of these two characters creates a perfect balance for the story, and maintains the momentum of the plot.

My only small criticism was that the middle was a little lack lustre there for a few chapters . The reader was left wondering what was going to happen next as the main characters romance had already been explored. The rapid pace of the last few chapters, however, made up for this lull in the middle. I was turning the pages faster than I could read properly, in order to get to the end. And what an end it was! It left me wanting more, but unfortunately I will have to wait patiently for the next instalment.

Summary:
B Kristin Mc Michael has created something punchy, refreshing and dynamic. Cannot wait to read the next book in the series!

lips grey 4

Review – Brand Like a Rock Star by Steve Jones

brand like a rock star

Learn to tap your Rock Star potential!

Title: Brand Like a Rock Star
Author: Steve Jones
Genre: Marketing
Pages: 242
Reviewer: Debby

Blurb:
Brand Like a Rock Star takes you beyond the hype to reveal the core marketing strategies behind the success of the world’s greatest bands.

Author Steve Jones has earned his street cred as a savvy marketer in an outrageous business. He combines insider stories from AC/DC, The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, KISS, and many other legendary bands with sound business advice, to deliver a rockin’ guide to building a breakthrough brand. Brand Like a Rock Star puts a new spin on the branding process.

From merchandising, to establishing a resonant core message, to developing an iconic logo, Steve Jones illustrates abstract concepts with actionable practices. How is Led Zeppelin like Nintendo’s Wii? How does U2 resemble Proctor & Gamble? What do Johnny Cash and Old Spice have in common? The answers may have a profound impact on your business.

Marketers in any business will pump their fists and boost their bottom line with Brand Like a Rock Star.

Review:
I admire nothing more than a book that makes you think without noticing and this is exactly what author Steve Jones has accomplished with Brand Like a Rock Star. Not only is this a fun and informative read, I think it is also transformational. Over and over again, Jones highlights bands, brands, groups and individuals who have discovered that some of the greatest successes come not only to those who work hard, but to those who work different. All it may take is that one switch in your mindset or one nudge to your perception and you can discover, uncover and smash through any obstacle in the way of your Rock Star path.

Brand Like a Rock Star is a perfect read for anyone in the Marketing field, as Jones reveals simple, yet crucial, ways your brand may be missing out on big opportunities. All the while entertaining his readers by demonstrating how incredibly successful bands and brands have illustrated the merit of his techniques. I also think this is a must read for anyone who admires the perseverance and thoughtfulness that goes into to promoting a product, a brand or even yourself. Furthermore, Brand Like a Rock Star is perfect for the music buff who is curious about their favourite band’s rise to fame.

Jones makes thought provoking connections between rock star bands and key marketing principles which grant the reader back stage access to pivotal moments in music history as well as instances of practical application for the practices he outlines. Any employee of any business can benefit from reading this book.

Really, though, this book is for everyone. In today’s society we are all consumers and as such what better way to get inside our own psychology to understand why we love, and hate, the brands we do, and what those brands have done to earn their valuable place in our overcrowded mental market place. No point is more spot on for me than Jones’ explanation of one of the most “vital” aspects of any brand, “No matter what you sell, it is all about the experience: the emotional reaction that your customers have when they use your brand. Rock star brands realize they don’t sell products or services, they sell experiences.” (pg. 69) I suggest you experience the rest of Jones’ Brand Like a Rock Star to further understand our growingly complicated consumer environment.

I give this book a crying and screaming groupie level of recommendation and if you enjoy reading Brand Like a Rock Star, you will be pleased to know a new release by Steve Jones, Start You Up, can be expected in May 2014 so watch this space!

lips grey 5

Review- Out of the Ashes (The Ashes Series # 1) by Diana Gardin

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FLAMING HOT!

Title: Out of the Ashes (The Ashes Series #1)
Author: Diana Gardin
Genre: Young Adult/ Romance
Release Date: 2013
Pages: 179
Reviewer: Kelly

***Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review***

Blurb:
Out of the frying pan and into the fire…
Paige Hill is discovering who she is again after losing everything she loves in a tragic fire. She’s endured a long road to recovery with the help of her best friend Gillian and is finally beginning her life again: college, a job, and a blossoming love she never even saw coming.
Clay Forbes is the notorious campus playboy. He’s a star athlete, a senior architecture major, and the only son in a family with power and money back in his hometown. When he crashes into Paige, his whole perspective on life shifts, and his world as he knew it becomes nonexistent. He’s wrapped up in her.

They’re both learning how to love, but Clay’s ex-girlfriend Hannah won’t make it easy for them. She puts a target on Paige’s back, and won’t stop until she’s derailed their budding romance once and for all. Who will be left standing after the ashes settle for the second time?

Opinion:
Out of the Ashes grabbed me from the first page. It already had an intriguing premise, with our main protagonist Paige waking up in a hospital bed. From the first moment the reader is absorbed in the story, wanting to know how and why Paige has been injured. As the title suggests Paige’s injuries are resultant from a fire, and from here the story progresses from the aftermath of the fire, to her loss and her ability to rebuild her life.

While rebuilding her life to some sort of normalcy Paige meets Clay, the dreamy love interest. This love story is a little different, as Paige is so damaged, both physically and emotionally. Gardin alternates between Clay and Paige’s perspectives so that the reader was able to garner a true understanding of what each character was thinking and feeling. This technique was also useful in introducing other secondary characters to the reader, such as Paige’s best friend Gillian and Clay’s frat buddies. Through the use of alternating points of view, the reader could appreciate just how important these characters were to both of the main protagonists.

Gardin added depth and variety into the plot line to keep the reader guessing all the way to the end. The ending floored me! It was not what I was expecting at all. Without being to cryptic or giving anything away, it was as if all the things I wish would happen did, but not with the consequences that I wanted! It is going to be very interesting to see how things play out in the sequel, as I have come to expect the unexpected!

Summary:
I read this book in a day so, needless to say, I cannot wait for the release of Book 2 later in 2014! If you love a good romance with a few twists and turns then this is the book for you.

lips grey 4.5

Review- Awakening (The Destined Series # 2) by Ashley Suzanne

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AMAZING AWAKENING!

Title: Awakening (The Destined Series # 2)
Author: Ashley Suzanne
Genre: Young Adult/ Romance
Release Date: 2013
Pages: 206
Reviewer: Kelly

***Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review***

Explanation:
Awakening is the third and final book in The Destined Series. It completes the story of four college friends Mira, Skylar, Danny and Kylee. Awakening begins with Mira waking from a coma in hospital. It explores her recovery, both physically and emotionally, as well as how each of her friends copes with the aftermath of her accident. The love triangle between the main protagonists, Mira, Skylar and Danny is the crux of this story. The use of multiple viewpoints within the novel helps to explain every detail of the story.

Opinion:
After getting over my initial shock that Inception was a prologue to Mirage, which took us back in the story, I finally got my hands on Awakening. I read this book within 24 hours as I was dying to know what happened! Awakening did not disappoint. It finally told the present day story of Mira and her friends, and oh and was it fantastic. It was a little predictable in some parts, but it was so satisfying in other parts that it all but made up for it!

Suzanne delivered Awakening using multiple viewpoints once again, changing between Mira, Skylar and Danny. The reader had access to how Mira was really coping after waking from her coma, as well as where her true feelings lay. The reader was also privy to Skylar and Danny’s thoughts and actions in this very unique situation. Suzanne also used clever dialogue and descriptions to explain each circumstance from every angle.
I loved how this book ended with so much closure. I hate it when books leave things very open ended. Suzanne did a marvellous job in closing up all major storylines without leaving the reader guessing. Every characters storyline was explained with great plotlines.

Summary:
Well done Ashley Suzanne, Awakening was a great conclusion to The Destined Series. If you cannot get enough of these characters Suzanne has created a spin-off series from Mira’s best friend Kylee’s point of view. Facade is out February 17, 2014.

lips grey 4.5

Review- Mirage (The Destined Series # 1) by Ashley Suzanne

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Marvellous Mirage! 

Title: Mirage (The Destined Series # 1)
Author: Ashley Suzanne
Genre: Young Adult/ Romance
Release Date: 2013
Pages: 182
Reviewer: Kelly

*** Copy provided by Author in exchange for an honest review***

Explanation:
Mirage is the story of Mira Adams a newly graduated college student who tragically loses her fiancé to a motorcycle accident. Mira and Danny met on orientation day in their freshman year. They have been inseparable ever since. Danny’s best friend Skylar was always around, as was Mira’s best friend Kylee. Together this foursome navigated their college years, all graduating on the same day. On graduation day they decided to take the boys bikes out for a ride. This is when tragedy arose. The bike Danny and Mira were on wrecked and Danny didn’t make it. Mirage follows the lives of Mira, Skylar and Kylee in the months following Danny’s death and how they survive without him.

Opinion:
The story starts with a bang! Mira has just lost Danny to a motorcycle accident and is left utterly devastated. As a reader you are invested from the very beginning as you want to find out what becomes of Mira, Skylar and Kylee and how they can possibly recover without Danny. The plot line of the story then follows a seemingly predictable path, where you know just how and who Mira is going to seek comfort from. Then WHAM, the predictability ends in Chapter 4 and the path you thought this book was going to take does not go there at all!

The rest of the book has you grappling for answers, wondering what is going to become of the main protagonists and how Ashley Suzanne will end it. The paths you think the characters will go down are completely different now, especially with Danny’s passing. The once inseparable foursome seems to be poles apart. The best part, that leaves you GOBSMACKED, is the ending!

Suzanne wrote this book using dual protagonists Mira and Skylar. It was necessary to have the two characters points of view as they are often in different situations throughout the story. The time jumps within the novel also require this dual point of view so that the reader can catch up to what has been going on in each characters life. This style of writing also allows the reader to see how each character was feeling, how they were coping without Danny and through their inner monologue- if this was the life they thought they would be leading.

My one and only criticism with this novel was the poor editing! There were grammatical and punctuation errors in at least every chapter. Although tiny and sometimes irrelevant it makes it hard to appreciate the story as a polished and published piece of fiction with so many mistakes. My advice would be to have it re-read and edited!

Summary:
Mirage was an unpredictable, romantic and engaging read. The ending made me jump straight into Inception, the next book in The Destined Series.

lips grey 4