No Exit (Taylor Adams)

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Buy link: https://amzn.to/2RHlq89

On her way to Utah to see her dying mother, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a fierce blizzard in the mountains of Colorado. With the roads impassable, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a remote highway rest stop. Inside, are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and four complete strangers.

Desperate to find a signal to call home, Darby goes back out into the storm . . . and makes a horrifying discovery. In the back of the van parked next to her car, a little girl is locked in an animal crate.

Who is the child? Why has she been taken? And how can Darby save her?

There is no cell phone reception, no telephone, and no way out. One of her fellow travelers is a kidnapper. But which one?

Trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation, with a child’s life and her own on the line, Darby must find a way to break the girl out of the van and escape.

But who can she trust?


“We’re the cats on the clock.
I’m Garfield. You’re my Arlene.
And hold on tight, because this is our whirling, dark dance.”

I had zero intentions of picking this book up and straight up devouring it. I thought I was marking yet another book off of my TBR and my PopSugar Challenge but No Exit surprised me and snuck up on me in a way I never anticipated. With the great pacing, suspenseful setting and story-line, and random characters all thrown together, I found myself wanting to keep the pages turning and never wanting the book to end.

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With me saying that, I don’t think that this book is as full of as many twists as it implies- but it was heart-stopping none-the-less. You will probably guess some of the things that happen, you may guess all of the things that are going to happen. But I feel like even if you do, you will appreciate the imaginative writing and invigorating story line. Every time you turn the page it’s endless, exhilarating fun. I don’t think I can use that word enough to express just how EXHILARATING it really is. Tense, anxiety filled, however you want to describe it- for me it was impossible to put down.

Darby’s character was stunning. Flawed but still able to do what needed to be done. I love how we got to see how self-centered she was but when push came to shove, she knew who she was and what she needed to do. The endless fight within her left me in complete awe. Not many female leads leave me that way, but nevertheless, Darby climbed my bad-ass female list. I would have copped out the second I was given the chance. Bye.

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These are the type of thrillers I am interested in. The type that keep me coming back to this genre looking for more and more. The author did a wonderful job controlling the pacing of this book and took extra special care in making sure his holes were all filled (plot wise), and nothing was excessively drawn out.  I think that if you are looking for that next “binge read”, No Exit is what you need. Especially is you like to venture out of the romance/indie genre from time to time.

I won’t ramble much longer but I will end with this: No Exit would make an incredible movie. The kind that would have you holding your breath waiting for every next move and gasping out loud. If you are looking for a book that keeps your mind going, pages turning, and impossible to put down- this is the book for you.

If you got this in your Book of the Month box, do not let it sit on your shelf and collect dust. Pick it up and read it!

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Magnolia Road (J Lynn Bailey)

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Pre-order link: https://amzn.to/2Cegj5m

On the outside, Bryce Hayes is satisfied with the structure of her life, her demanding career, and a series of no-strings-attached relationships, but her brother bounces in and out of rehab, her mother thinks she can beat her son’s addiction, and her father is simply doing what he can to keep a semblance of “normal”. When Bryce’s father, Congressman Hayes, orders her to Granite Harbor, Maine, due to a string of threats to their family coming from an unidentifiable source, she doesn’t expect Ethan Casey, the sexy soldier who slept with her, then walked out, without so much as a goodbye, to be her landlord.

Ethan’s past is riddled with chaos, bullets, and loud noise. After returning to his small town after the war, he’s determined to get back to his roots. Peace, quiet, and working as a game warden for the Maine Warden Service sounds right as rain. But with Bryce in Granite Harbor, staying in his house on Magnolia Road, Ethan can’t stop thinking about his future—and that includes Bryce. But to make things right with the love of his life, he’ll have to open old wounds…and risk losing her forever.


“Maybe,” I whisper, “maybe faith wins.”

I just cannot say enough good things about J. Lynn Bailey. Every time I try, they are never good enough to adequately explain how well she has perfected her craft. So here goes nothing…

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The slow burn in this story was just how I like it. Consistent, well put together, and not overly dramatic. Although these two characters have met before- for us it feels like their first time with everything they go through. I really loved the author’s approach and delicate care with these both Bryce and Ethan. Taking her time with them and not rushing them into something that I, as a reader, would find unbelievable really made all of this story work for me. Which brings me to the next thing that I really adored about Magnolia Road.

“I kiss her and see today, tomorrow, and the rest of our days together. I kiss her and see how perfect two imperfect people are together. I kiss her and see vivid images of color. The truth is, I am at my best when I’m with Bryce. She is love. My love.”

I love that her characters have believable and real issues separating their love from each other. As I state above- it wasn’t over dramatic. It was real life, pressing issues that make these people act and do these things that they do. It wasn’t added to create this overly-drawn out story and I didn’t roll my eyes a single time (I call that win). She was delicate with it, and for that I was thankful. The characters within this story all showed growth and closure. When I am reading a book this is one of the MAIN and most important things that I look for. J Lynn Bailey nailed it.

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The mystery and suspense that these books have held has blown me away each time. J Lynn Bailey’s balance of romance/suspense cannot be bragged about enough. Magnolia Road didn’t lack in that department either. You can tell that J Lynn Bailey took extra special care of her plotting in this story and that pays off tremendously.

“And this makes my heart shatter into a million tiny pieces that fall to the cement walkway like feathers. If I’m responsible for the storm, I’m also the maker of the wind that moves the storm. Until he rights himself, we can’t work, and I’ll just have to accept that.”

The more books I read by this author, the better they get. I can’t get enough of this small town series that we have so graciously been gifted. Who am I kidding- I can’t get enough of J Lynn Bailey period.

 

Cinder (Marissa Meyer)

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Buy link: https://amzn.to/2VKymt4

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


This is one of the many reasons I am thankful to FINALLY have the time to do the PopSugar Reading Challenge. I would have never picked this book up. The things that are involved are just not typically the things that I tend to enjoy to read. So knowing I wanted to read it for my challenge pushed me to check it out from my library and I am so thankful that I did!

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I really enjoyed Cinder because of the consistent ups and downs. There was never any type of ‘settling’ in the novel and to me that kept the pace moving and the action packed. When novels aren’t dragging and being bogged down by unnecessary events it makes it hard for me to trudge through but Cinder was quick paced and so much fun!

Character wise- Cinder was such a three dimensional character, I adored her. I loved the futuristic twist that the author placed on this Cyborg Cinderella. I didn’t think that I would- but she really worked for me. Not to mention when you throw in Iko with her, I was loving it. The dialogue and their setting just really worked for me.

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What I didn’t like about this book was the (non-existent) growth of Kai. I feel as if the author could have really built him into something completely great and she just…meh, didn’t feel like doing that. With me saying that, I just wasn’t drawn to Cinder and Kai’s ‘romance’ or whatever you might prefer to call it. They had great chemistry but their romance didn’t have enough depth for me. Well, not deep enough for me to be able to understand it, I guess. What made Cinder so different for the Prince?  I was really looking forward to fall in love with them while they fall in love but I was disappointed. You just don’t see any of that within this story. Not that I was expecting some fairy tale romance but I know that the author tried to really push this ‘forbidden’ relationship to us.

I didn’t think that I would want to read Scarlet by the time that I finished Cinder but at this point- I am extremely excited to start it. Just waiting for my hold from the library now.

Bird Box (Josh Malerman)

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Buy link: https://amzn.to/2RpqOg3

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.


“It talked about irreconcilable life-forms. Two worlds whose compounds were entirely foreign might cause damage to one another if they were to cross paths.”

I didn’t necessarily hate the book and when I finished it I was still satisfied that I had took the time and read it. But although it very rarely happens- I thoroughly enjoyed the movie a whole lot more than the book. In my opinion, it was much more detailed (in some aspects) and more anxiety filled, which really grabbed my attention.

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The thing that I really enjoyed about the book over the movie was the fact that in the book there was more explanation on how they survived years prior. What they did to eat and drink and how they trained themselves. How they survived in a world that was not surviving around them. I was really interested in the past chapters and seeing how the kids were adapting and what Malorie went through to get them trained to their highest capabilities.

I still don’t like the lingering questions I am left with after finishing the book. I think every one wants to know the same thing and ultimately- we just never find out. Sometimes that really works for me, but most of the time if you as an author leave things unsaid, I’ll just guess you didn’t know how you wanted it to end. Which sucks. Because some things shouldn’t be left unsettled. Sometimes we deserve to know and we deserve the satisfaction of knowing.

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All in all it wasn’t awful. I was just very underwhelmed with the book. I think if I would have read the book first- I would have still enjoyed the movie more for the simple fact that it was more action packed than the book was. More crowd pleasing and tension filled. I like that in my books just as much as I like it in my movies.

So don’t worry! You still don’t get the answer to your burning question. For that, I am sorry.

 

What the Wind Knows (Amy Harmon)

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Pre-order link: https://amzn.to/2VpFrz2

Anne Gallagher grew up enchanted by her grandfather’s stories of Ireland. Heartbroken at his death, she travels to his childhood home to spread his ashes. There, overcome with memories of the man she adored and consumed by a history she never knew, she is pulled into another time.

The Ireland of 1921, teetering on the edge of war, is a dangerous place in which to awaken. But there Anne finds herself, hurt, disoriented, and under the care of Dr. Thomas Smith, guardian to a young boy who is oddly familiar. Mistaken for the boy’s long-missing mother, Anne adopts her identity, convinced the woman’s disappearance is connected to her own.

As tensions rise, Thomas joins the struggle for Ireland’s independence and Anne is drawn into the conflict beside him. Caught between history and her heart, she must decide whether she’s willing to let go of the life she knew for a love she never thought she’d find. But in the end, is the choice actually hers to make?


“I told you. You told me. Only the wind knows which truly comes first.”

Mystery. History. Time travel. Romance. Heart ache. Want.

Those are all of the words that come to my mind when I sit back and think of this beautiful story. When it comes to Amy Harmon though, many more words come to mind. Sunshine. Artistic. Talented. Soul-filled. Understanding. But should I really expect anything less? No. At this point, I should not. I know that and I know that you know that.

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Touching base on Amy and her writing inside of What the Wind Knows first, it’s enchanting. Whether she is writing historical romance or contemporary romance, I can feel her feelings that she evokes in her writing and to me as a reader, that is the type of thing I look for in a book. When I feel like I can connect to not only a story and the characters but also the author, I call it a huge win. What the Wind Knows was different though. I felt something different. I felt longing for two people that I haven’t felt in quite some time. I felt a sense of comfort that these two people found within each other that hasn’t been seen by me in months.

“Thomas Smith, as ordinary as his name, and yet…not ordinary at all. I could have written stories about him.”

I think it will be so hard for me to put into words what I loved most about this book though. The characters were filled with multiple dimensions, the writing was stunning and flowing off the pages, and the heart ache was something that most authors can’t pull off. But to put it lightly, I loved the way Amy painted the vivid imagery for us. From the clothes to the setting to the locations- I was hooked. I think I loved that the most. The fact that she was considerate enough to take the time and make sure we, as readers, felt so connected with the story we had to pry ourselves out of it once we finished.

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I fully believe that Amy Harmon has a gift that most authors do not hold. That makes her so special in this book world. The way she carefully writes the characters she writes makes me always feel so confident that even if one of her story lines don’t necessarily hook me, her incredible writing and relate-able characters will.

If (Randi Cooley Wilson)

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Buy link: https://amzn.to/2SvFtmV

If you knew love would hurt you, would you fall? If you knew love would leave you, would you let it go? If you knew love could never be, would you try? From bestselling author Randi Cooley Wilson comes a love story about heartbreak, second chances, and letting go. The ifs that linger between the pages of this novel will break your heart and stay with you long after the final chapter.

Emerson Shaw thought she’d left her old life behind her, but when she returns home for her best friend’s wedding, she has no idea her past is waiting to reclaim her.

Lincoln Daniels never wanted to find love. But when he met straight-laced Emerson, he fell. Hard. The only thing they seemed to have in common was an undeniable mutual attraction, but from the moment he laid eyes on her, there was something about her that called to him. Until he lost her.

Just when Emerson is finally ready to let go and stop existing in a past full of pain and regret, Lincoln returns, turning her life upside down. What begins as a tentative friendship quickly escalates, and the two soon realize that all the ifs lingering between them no longer matter.

What happens when two broken people meet, fall in love, and realize they can never be? What happens when all the what ifs no longer make sense? If you knew your heart would break, would you still fall? This book is intended for mature audiences.


“I was so worried about protecting your heart, I didn’t realize mine was in danger.”

I really loved the cover on this one. The colors and the vulnerability presented really caught my eye. BUT- while the cover was very dark, vulnerable, and depressing (as was the blurb) which is actually something I sometimes look for, the actual story was much lighter than I had expected. And frustrating.

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The main thing that really irked me with If was the way the story was written for the characters and their developing relationship. Meaning this story could have gone a lot of places had the characters had the connection towards each other that they so needed. When you try and force in an angst filled story line with two characters who are lacking in the chemistry department, it all just seems so forced and dull. There really is no point in reading it, in my opinion.

To top that off, the author included this huge time jump in the midst of not connecting these characters to each other. That is super frustrating in the sense that since I am already missing this huge reason as to why I am reading this book (angst and romance), the author is taking me away from a time where deep connections could have taken place to a time where these characters love each other again. I have to feel the love that these characters supposedly feel for each other oozing from the pages. I have to believe it. Because if I don’t, I refuse to believe that after two years apart they can just pick up where they left off at.

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The first two chapters held a lot of potential. Not to mention there were a lot of one liners that were deep and mesmerizing. I felt like they were kind of forced into the story line though. Like, the author really wanted to make cliff hanger chapter endings but just couldn’t pull it off.

“And with one look, I’m gone. Lost in the memories and heartache. The ifs lingering between us.”

Another bust for me, but I did browse through some of this authors others works and some looked intriguing. The writing style of the author was enjoyable so I will have to check out some of her other books and genres.

Maybe in Another Life (Taylor Jenkins Reid)

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Buy link:
https://amzn.to/2EnWfRJ

At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.


“Fate or not, our lives are still the results of our choices. I’m starting to think that when we don’t own them, we don’t own ourselves.”

It pains me to do this. And when I say that I mean it because TJR is a go to author for me. Hands down, one clicking every single time no matter what. I know that when I read her books, I am going to be left feeling some sort of way. But with Maybe in Another Life, it didn’t affect me in that usual TJR way. I think if maybe I had read her books in order (of release date) I might feel differently about it but after reading all of her other fabulous books first, this one just fell super short.

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Firstly, the characters. UGH. None of the characters evoked any type of feeling from me. Well, I shouldn’t say none. Only one did. I didn’t feel for Hannah, Ethan, or Henry but Gabby, she got to me. She had so much depth. And she was even a secondary character! I think that speaks a lot about the characters in this novel. When your secondary character sparks more interest from your reader than the main characters do, I think that becomes an issue.

A lot of times, in TJR’s other books, I attach to the character or even multiple ones. I pick a “team”. I find someone that I love dearly and I root for them the entire time. Even if it’s not a male. I feel like as an author, she does a great job at doing this. But I don’t understand what happened with this one. Maybe it was my book funk or maybe it was my growth in reading, but none of them captivated me or evoked any type of empathy from me.

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Hannah was very dull and flighty. I didn’t like how two dimensional she was in both realities. I would have thought with two different possibilities, one of the Hannah’s would be full of growth and she would bloom into something great but it just didn’t happen. Ethan was a lump on a log. That’s how I viewed him. He left zero mark on me and sparked zero interest. I think had TJR given the reader more of their past relationship, it would have given me something to go on but really we only get a few scenes with him and they’re all redundant. They serve no real purpose to the story at hand. Henry was just…there. The author tried way too hard to force him on me and she didn’t sell it. I feel like he was just a stepping stone for Hannah because of the way he is presented to us. He helps her and then that’s it. What does he really do for her emotionally though? I never really felt anything.

“He still, all these years later, shines brighter to me than other people. Even after I got over him, I was never able to extinguish the fire completely, as if it’s a pilot light that will remain small and controlled but very much alive.”

That is a line we get about Ethan. But, we never see how that spark ignites and stay lit as pilot. We just are supposed to believe these two people have a past and still love each other. Yeah, okay sis.

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I really loved the story line and alternating realities. I think that was the only thing I liked within this entire story. I thought the way TJR presented this book to us was unique in her own way. I just didn’t like how she executed it. The end was a cop out. One that could have been done a million different ways– and it just wasn’t.

Maybe in Another Life was an interesting concept, but unfortunately the characters didn’t resonate with me the same way her other books have. I didn’t hate it but I sadly didn’t love it either.

I also hope I never hear about or see another cinnamon roll again. Jesus.

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