In the Zone

In the ZoneTitle: In the Zone
Author: Catherine Gayle
Series: Portland Storm #5
Also in this series: Breakaway, On the Fly, Light the Lamp, Delay of Game, Taking a Shot
Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction, Love & Romance, Sports Fiction
Pages: 105
Published by Night Shift Publishing on 2014-11-20
ISBN: 978-1942177029
ASIN: B00NNDXSWI
Format: eARC
Source: author

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

It was supposed to be a single night of fake names, half-truths, and anonymous sex. Neither of them was prepared for it to become more. Keith Burns, star defenseman for the NHL’s Portland Storm, was just looking for a way to pass the time and ease the loneliness of his lavish lifestyle. Brianna Hayden wanted to find herself—and maybe learn to love herself again—after health issues changed everything. Anonymity is the name of their game; the rules were laid down at the outset. But when a chance encounter brings them back together long after the game should have ended, all their initial rules get thrown out the window.

It isn’t long before partial truths and dancing around the pain of the past gets complicated. Their physical chemistry is off the charts, but it isn’t enough. They both want a future, but Keith has an unspeakable history involving his two brothers that he just can’t share with anyone, not even Brie. She needs the truth if they are going to have any chance at moving forward. If he can’t give it to her, it might land him a permanent spot in her penalty box. If Keith can get In the Zone, he’ll be on the forecheck—but Brie’s heart is the goal he’s seeking. (

My Review

I have been a big fan of this series since the very beginning!   I am not usually a big reader of too much contemporary romance, but this series has me hooked.  The entire series is based around the fictional NHL team, the Portland Storm.  There is no denying my love of hockey, but my love for these books extends far beyond that.  Not only does Catherine Gayle write great hockey, she writes about real people with real issues and she doesn’t sugar coat them.

One of my favorite things about this series is that, once a book is finished, we don’t just say goodbye to the characters.  In the Zone is Keith Burns’ story, a defenseman that we met earlier in the series.  It is also Brie’s story, who I think just might be my favorite leading lady yet in this series.

Kudos to Catherine Gayle for creating a leading lady that is representative of so many of us that are a bit on the fluffy side.  She was a character I truly understood.  Brie is a professional dancer whose career path abruptly changed when she began to suffer from thyroid issues.  She gained quite a bit of weight and, with it, a whole peck of self-esteem issues.  I am a former soldier who was always fit, right until a slew of medical issues led to a weight gain.  I could have been that character… except for the whole relationship with an NHL player, of course.

Keith Burns.  He is right up there at the top of the Book Boyfriend list.  His ability to see beauty in Brie when she didn’t even see it in herself was so refreshing.  His obsession with getting her to see herself as he saw her was touching and sweet.  But more than that, he had his own story of pain and loss and shame.  I love that the author creates such amazing male characters.  As pro hockey players, all of them could be straight up alpha males and fit the somewhat chauvinist stereotype.  But none of them are.  Yes, they are strong and powerful, but they are also kind and sweet and deep.  Keith’s shame and pain were so powerful and heart wrenching.  There was so much regret and neverending angst because there are some things you can never fix, no matter how much you want to.  His story was so emotional and so raw and very real/

One of the other things I enjoyed was that she touched on an issue that you don’t see in a lot of hypermasculine sports fiction.   I’m not going to say too much for fear of spoilers, but I am hoping that we see more of these characters in future books.

Things to love…

  • Keith.  His story was a powerful one that touched me.
  • Brie.  I loved her character and completely related to her.
  • The chemistry.  There was some serious chemistry between these two!
  • The issues.  There were some heavy issues in this book and they were presented so well.

My Recommendation

Definitely read the earlier books in this series before this one!  Great romance, great hockey, great characters, great story lines!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 5

About Catherine Gayle

Catherine Gayle is a bestselling author of Regency-set historical romance and contemporary hockey romance with a New Adult feel. She’s a transplanted Texan living in North Carolina with two extremely spoiled felines. In her spare time, she watches way too much hockey and reality TV, plans fun things to do for the Nephew Monster’s next visit, and performs experiments in the kitchen which are rarely toxic.

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Perfected

PerfectedTitle: Perfected
Author: Kate Jarvik Birch
Genre(s): Dystopian Fiction, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Published by Entangled Publishing, LLC on 2014-07-01
ISBN: 978-1622662685
ASIN: B00H0V0534
Format: eBook
Source: personal purchase

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Perfection comes at a price.

As soon as the government passed legislation allowing humans to be genetically engineered and sold as pets, the rich and powerful rushed to own beautiful girls like Ella. Trained from birth to be graceful, demure, and above all, perfect, these “family companions” enter their masters’ homes prepared to live a life of idle luxury.

Ella is happy with her new role as playmate for a congressman’s bubbly young daughter, but she doesn’t expect Penn, the congressman’s handsome and rebellious son. He’s the only person who sees beyond the perfect exterior to the girl within. Falling for him goes against every rule she knows…and the freedom she finds with him is intoxicating.

But when Ella is kidnapped and thrust into the dark underworld lurking beneath her pampered life, she’s faced with an unthinkable choice. Because the only thing more dangerous than staying with Penn’s family is leaving…and if she’s unsuccessful, she’ll face a fate far worse than death.

For fans of Kiera Cass’ Selection series and Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden series, Perfected is a chilling look at what it means to be human, and a stunning celebration of the power of love to set us free, wrapped in a glamorous—and dangerous—bow.

My Review

Wow.  Sometimes a single word can sum it up and “wow” does that.  Perfected is chilling, emotionally horrifying, and the implications are disturbing.  And I loved everything about it!

Ella has been genetically engineered to become the perfect showcase piece for the very wealthy.  She has been trained her entire life for this moment, the moment that some member of the elite would choose her to be theirs.  She is beautiful, trained in poise and grooming and subservience.  Her special gifts have been highly developed so that she may please her owners.  She is the perfect pet.

Perfected is set in a dystopian United States, although the the wealthy would argue that the world is their own utopia.  The wealthy live on gorgeous estates, while the rest of the world lives in poverty.  And this is where it gets scary.  In this world, it is entirely legal to own human pets, girls that are genetically engineered and trained to live their lives as the pampered pets of the very elite.

The vocabulary used to describe the world of these girls is dehumanizing, using terms that we normally reserve for animals.  The girls are raised in kennels all across the country.  The best kennel, the most sought after, is the Greenich kennel… Ella’s kennel.  The pets are raised in the kennels, spending their lives in training centers learning to be perfect showpieces.  They are raised to know that they are never going to be on the same level as their owners, nothing more than pretty pets whose only purpose is to please their owners.  When the time comes, they are sold by lottery to the very wealthy.  It is expected that their lives will be that of a pampered pet, sheltered and cared for… as long as they act as they should.  And if they don’t, there is always the red door at the kennel.  Once a pet goes through that door, they are never seen again.

When Ella is purchased, she is swept away to live in the home of a prominent congressman, his wife, and his son and daughter.  She is given a beautiful room and closet full of gowns.  On the surface, it is a beautiful life, an easy life.  But her life is not her own.  She is at the beck and call of her owners, with no right to thoughts and expectations of her own.  She is given a necklace with a beautiful diamond pendant and on the back was the engraved address and phone number of the congressman.  A dog tag, albeit a beautiful one.  At meals, she is never allowed at the same table, but at a table apart from the family.  It is assumed that she is unintelligent and it is perfectly accceptable to talk about her and treat her as if she were not a sentient being.

Ella was purchased to be the pet of Ruby, the congressman’s daughter who is a bit of an outcast, and it is fairly obvious that the congressman’s wife and son are not thrilled about her presence.  The two have different reasons for this, some of which have to do with a previous pet that apparently had something wrong with her and had been returned.  But despite the fact that she is intended to be Ruby’s, it is the congressman that has a creepy obsession with her.  It is that obsession that makes her realize that being a pet is not all that it is cracked up to be, that she is trapped.

It was appalling to read about the world of Ella, the dehumanizing ways in which she was treated.  It was horrifying to know that this was socially acceptable and legal.  The complete lack of humanity that was attributed to these girls was scary.  Even those that were against the practice didn’t always seem to understand just how unequipped these girls were to live any other way.  Every aspect of their lives had been about training to be the perfect pet.  No life skills, not even the basics of education.  I treat my dog Noelani with more respect than that which was afforded to these girls.

But there was beauty, too, in the romance between Penn (the son) and Ella.  He was the only own that saw her as anything more than a beautiful pet.  Even Ruby, who was sweet and kind, was young enough to not know any better and tended to see her only as a plaything.  But Penn saw her as a person with her own thoughts and feelings and dreams.  I have to wonder if Ella’s character is modeled a bit after Cinderella.

This is a book that makes you think about what it means to be human.  It makes you think about the line between morality and legality.  Just because something was socially acceptable doesn’t mean that it is right and that message is clear in this story.  It is also a story that makes you step back and look at effect of materialism on morality.  How important have material things become in this world that it is okay to create and own human beings as a measure of prestige?

Things to love…

  • The use of animalesque vocabulary.  It sets the tone for the appalling society that the story is set in.
  • The romance.  It was sweet and epic in that Penn would sacrifice anything to help Ella, even himself.
  • The mystery.  There are some interesting bits about the previous pets, intimated things that are not fully explained, but left you wondering.

Things I wanted more/less of…

  • More explanation about how the world came to be as it is.
  • More explanation about why all of the pets seem to be female.
  • More Perfected!

My Recommendation

I am a sucker for good, creepy dystopia that is a believable possibility.  This was one of those books and I thoroughly hope that there will be more to the story in the future!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 5

About Kate Jarvik Birch

Kate Jarvik Birch is a visual artist, author, playwright, daydreamer, and professional procrastinator. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be either a unicorn or mermaid. Luckily, being a writer turned out to be just as magical. Her essays and short stories have been published in literary journals including Indiana Review and Saint Ann’s Review. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and three kids.

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The Red Bishop

The Red BishopTitle: The Red Bishop
Author: Greg Boose
Genre(s): Fantasy & Magic, Historical Fiction, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 216
Published by Full Fathom Five Digital on 2014-11-12
ISBN: 978-1633700154
ASIN: B00OTYN17C
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Lake Price isn’t your average teenage girl.

Sure, she and her friends are doing what many other high school kids do on Cape Cod: heading to Chatham Manor—nicknamed “Hell”—for a good scare. But for Lake, it's more than just a thrill-seeking game. It’s what keeps her alive.

Ever since her brother, Kimball, disappeared four years ago, Lake has needed the danger and the fear to feel anything but numb.

But on this night, “Hell” has more in store for Lake than she ever anticipated: A handsome stranger from the 17th century, a modern love triangle, a coven of witches, a hint that Kimball may still be alive… and the start to something that only she can finish.

My Review

The Red Bishop was such an interesting read.  Lake Price is the epitome of a slightly out of control teenage girl, and rightfully so.  Four years ago, her older brother was kidnapped from his bedroom and never seen again.  It has left Lake on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.  On one hand, she is consumed with grief and sadness and fear for her brother Kimball, not quite able to admit that he may be dead.  On the other hand, she is numb, just completely emotionally numb to anything else.  As a result, she has become a thrillseeker, always overly intense and extreme.  She will essentially do anything to just feel.  She seeks out the scariest things she can, just trying to feel anything other than pain.  It is that need that leads Lake and her friends to a purportedly haunted house.  That one decision literally changes her entire life.

The mythology of this story is great, different from anything I have read before.  The story takes place in Massachusetts, bringing the rich, witchy history of the area into the story.  The witches in this story are positively frightening.  Their method of survival is disturbing and creepy at best.  There is definitely a bit more gore than the average YA novel, but not so much to be overdone.  Just enough to make it deliciously scary!!

There is time travel, magic, romance, mystery, betrayal, and a bit of an epic quest.  The cast of characters is just as diverse.  There was a twist with one of Lake’s friends that was rather unexpected, the twist completely not what I thought it was going to be.  There was even a love triangle, and I am not at all sure how I feel about it!

The ending left me a little confused.  I’m hoping it is a cliffhanger for another book in the future because I want to know MORE!

Things to love…

  • The scary, creepy factor!
  • The unique (and creepy) mythology.
  • The twists and turns.

Things I wanted more/less of…

  • More Madison and I can’t explain why!  NO SPOILERS!

My Recommendation

If you like a little horror/witchy mystery, this is a great read!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.3

About Greg Boose

The fourth of six kids, Greg Boose grew up on a large produce farm in northeast Ohio. He received his undergraduate degree from Miami University, and then later received his M.F.A. at Minnesota State University Moorhead where he focused on screenwriting and fiction.

Greg is the former Los Angeles and Chicago Editor for BlackBook Magazine, and his work has appeared on/in many magazines and websites including Chicago Public Radio, The Believer, The Huffington Post, BlackBook Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Chicago Reader, NFL.com, McSweeney’s, and Cracked.com. When he’s not writing or reading, he enjoys skateboarding, boxing, tennis, following the Cleveland Browns and Cavaliers, collecting turtle skulls, and testing to see if people read everything closely.

He lives in Santa Monica with his two young daughters.

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One Wish Away

One Wish AwayTitle: One Wish Away
Author: Kelley Lynn
Genre(s): Love & Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 250
Published by Bloomsbury Spark on 2014-11-11
ISBN: 978-1619637764
ASIN: B00OZP5VQ4
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Be careful what you wish for…

Lyra has always been ahead of the curve. Top of her class in school, a budding astronomer, and with a best friend like Darren she barely has time to miss the mother who abandoned her family years ago. She's too busy planning to follow in her father's footsteps, and to become the youngest astronomer at Space Exploration and Discovery.

When a star goes missing Lyra is determined to get to the bottom of it only to discover her braniac dad is the mastermind of a top-secret government experiment. They promise to build a perfect world, one galaxy at a time, but with every tweak of the present, a bit more of the future starts to crumble.

Lyra has to go undercover to reveal the truth and let humanity decide if the consequences are worth more than wishing on a star.

My Review

I have very mixed feelings about this book.  I enjoyed it, but there were some parts that didn’t ring true for me and that colored the rest of the story for me.

What I absolutely loved was a female protagonist that was both crazy brilliant and flawed.  Lyra was more than a little socially awkward, but it wasn’t out of arrogance.  It was, as we learned, her response to feeling so very different from her peers.  Her best friend Darren is the perfect friend, supportive and kind and always on her side.

The premise of the story was definitely unique and completely unlike anything I have ever read.  In a nutshell, the central focus of the story is a highly technical, and very secret, piece of equipment with the potential to do great things.  Or to destroy humanity as we know it.  I love a book that makes you evalute your own perspectives and this definitely does that.  Is it worth any price to eliminate disease, to end wars?  On the surface, I think most of us would say yes.  But the book poses some interesting side effects to those ideals.  The potential for global economic crisis, the unforseen consequences to changes of reality.  There is a definite hint of the Butterfly Effect that makes you question morality and ethics and I found this fascinating.

My only true problem came with some of the circumstances leading into the main thrust of the book.  Our main character is a 16yo girl, the daughter of an astronomer and the niece of the director of a semi-secret space organization.  It is a research facility with a number of highly classified research projects, one of which Lyra stumbled upon.  And it was the circumstances that surrounded this that gave me issues.  It is true that my perspectives may be skewed by the fact that I am a former member of the intelligence community, but it was just too easy for Lyra to find herself in a position to learn more than she should.  It all started with a phone call she overheard at home, discussing classified aspects of her father’s project.  It is highly unlikely that any such conversation would ever take place outside of a secure facility.  Lyra was able to gain access to areas that would never be possible in reality, nor would she ever be read into a project as controversial as the one in this book.

Things to love…

  • Lyra.  Brilliant, flawed and brave… everything I want in a YA heroine.
  • Darren.  He is the perfect best friend/boyfriend, supportive and trusting.

Things I wanted more/less of…

  • More resolution with Lyra’s mother.
  • More believability.

My Recommendation

If you like a good “thinking” book and some serious sci-fi, then this is a good read.  The author clearly knows her stuff when it comes to outer space and there was some fascination science going on!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 3.9

About Kelley Lynn

Eventually the day came when the voices in Kelley Lynn’s head were more insistent then her engineering professor’s. So instead of turning to her Thermodynamics book, Kelley brought up a blank page on her computer screen and wrote. Somewhere along the way she became a Young Adult author.

Kelley was born and raised a Midwestern girl. She’s not afraid to sweat and fills her free time with softball, soccer and volleyball. (Though you probably don’t want her on your volleyball team.) She occasionally makes guest appearances as a female vocalist for area bands. Music plays a large role in her writing process as well as the characters and plot lines within her stories.

You can find Kelley hanging out at her blog, titled in her name, as well as the group blog she shares with her fellow critique partners, Falling for Fiction. Kelley is a member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.

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The Last Changeling

The Last ChangelingTitle: The Last Changeling
Author: Chelsea Pitcher
Series: Faerie Revolutions #1
Genre(s): Fairy Tales, Folklore, Legends & Mythology, Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 360
Published by Flux on 2014-11-08
ISBN: 978-0738740843
ASIN: B00O80NHIA
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

A Kingdom at War . . .

Elora, the young princess of the Dark Faeries, plans to overthrow her tyrannical mother, the Dark Queen, and bring equality to faeriekind. All she has to do is convince her mother’s loathed enemy, the Bright Queen, to join her cause. But the Bright Queen demands an offering first: a human boy who is a “young leader of men.”

A Dark Princess In Disguise . . .

To steal a mortal, Elora must become a mortal—at least, by all appearances. And infiltrating a high school is surprisingly easy. When Elora meets Taylor, the seventeen-year-old who’s plotting to overthrow a ruthless bully, she thinks she’s found her offering . . . until she starts to fall in love.

My Review

The Last Changeling is the first book in the new Faerie Revolutions series and I love the fact that it is so much more than a YA fantasy romance novel.  At its heart, it is a story about equality and standing up for what is right.  It is about fighting prejuice and making the hard choices in order to remain true to what you believe is right.

That being said, it is also not a book that really hits you over the head with those messages.  They may be the driving force behind the story, but they don’t overwhelm it.  There is also magic, romance, danger, friendship, and a whole lot of intrigue woven all around the true messages of the story.

The characters in this book are fantastic.  Elora, our main character, is fighting to change her world… the world of Faery.  She has been brought up in a world of racial prejudice, the light and the dark realms of Faery fighting against one another for centuries.  She has been brought up to believe that humans are yet another enemy, lesser creatures incapable of true compassion and love.  She has come to realize that those racial prejudices within her own world are weakening it for both sides and is trying to change that.  When she moves into the human world and is saved by Taylor (a human guy), she is faced with the realization that perhaps humanity is not what she thought it was.

The destructive prejudices that she has found to be true of the Faery realms are also present in Unity High School, the human school she has “infiltrated” with a name that does not fit its reality.  The prejudices here are manifested in sexuality and the treatment that those who are thought to be anything other than straight is horrendous.  Taylor and Elora team up to change that, along with some unexpected allies.

I really enjoyed the premise behind this story, unlike any others I have read.  I am a sucker for all things faery and I loved that this one came from the perspective of a Dark Faery.  The story was engaging and engrossing and I can’t wait to read the next installment!

Things to love…

  • Elora and Taylor.  The romance was there, but it wasn’t in your face.  Sweet!
  • Kylie and Keegan.  The twins, friends of Elora and Taylor, figure prominently and I love what they represent for the story.
  • The attention paid to real issues and the ways in which they were handled.

My Recommendation

If you love the realm of the faery, this is a great read!  If you love a story that has some depth and some messages to it, this is a great read!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.8

About Chelsea Pitcher

Chelsea Pitcher is a native of Portland, OR where she received her BA in English Literature. Fascinated by all things literary, she began gobbling up stories as soon as she could read, and especially enjoys delving into the darker places to see if she can draw out some light.

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