Not If I Save You First is filled with Girl Power

35238072The last several years I have listened to audiobooks in the car, while working around the house and even at work.  For some books, the narrator brings the characters to life so much that I don’t want to let them go.  Sometimes the narrator is so blah that it ruins the book.  A lot of times the characters live with me for years to come, because I have heard their voices.

Entertaining, humorous, suspenseful and just a whole lot of fun.  This is what comes to mind while listening to Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter.  Main character Maddie, is strong, silly, girlie yet knows how to survive and take down dangerous Russian men.  Narrator Brittany Pressley, Earphones Award Winner, gives Maddie a voice that is very typical of a teenage girl.  Sing songy yet full of confidence.

The book starts out with Maddie’s Secret Service father being shot while trying to protect the first lady from an abduction by Russians.  Maddie and the President’s 10-year-old son, Logan, witness the attempted kidnapping and the shooting.  Maddie and her father move to Alaska so her father can recover from his injuries and to keep Maddie safe and out of danger.

Fast forward 6 years and now Logan is sent to spend time in Alaska with Maddie and her father.  Maddie is not happy about Logan visiting because he has been radio silence the entire time they have been apart and not once did he respond to one of her letters.  In fact, Maddie is so hurt and mad, she wants to kill him.

As a storm starts to roll in, Maddie’s Dad leaves to fly supplies to another part of Alaska leaving the two “friends” alone.  Of course with the parent away, there has to be danger.  Logan is snatched and taken into the woods.  Maddie is the only one who can save Logan.

Maddie has not been sitting around the cabin in Alaska painting her nails and writing in her diary.  Her father has been keeping her busy with wilderness training and teaching her survivor skills.  Skills that help Maddie in case something happens like a kidnapping.

This is a short book so it’s really easy to finish it in a day.  The pace is fast and will keep you involved with these unusual teens.  This is a great book for teenagers who like a book with danger, relationships, laughs and a strong female character.  All girls should have mad skills like Maddie and know how to protect themselves.

Book Description:

Maddie thought she and Logan would be friends forever.  But when your dad is a Secret Service agent and your best friend is the president’s son, sometimes life has other plans.  Before she knows it, Maddie’s dad is dragging her to a cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.  No phone.  No Internet.  And not a single word from Logan.  Maddie tells herself it’s okay.  After all, she’s the most popular girl for twenty miles in any direction.  (She’s also the only girl for twenty miles in any direction.)  She has wood to cut and weapons to bedazzle.  Her life is full. Until Logan shows up six years later . . . And Maddie wants to kill him.  But before that can happen, an assailant appears out of nowhere, knocking Maddie off a cliff and dragging Logan to some unknown fate.  Maddie knows she could turn back- and get help.  But the weather is turning and the terrain will only get more treacherous, the animals more deadly.  Maddie still really wants to kill Logan.  But she has to save him first.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

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Parallel lives are real in Shift

Shift Cover - Final Front OnlyI recently read a book that talked about how our past lives can begin before our current birth date and end after our current lives end.  Or in other words we can live multiple parallel lives.  Over the years I have been places for the first time but feel like I’ve lived there for years.  It’s starting to happen more and more, especially in the United Kingdom, where my ancestors are from.

Lately I have had that experience with books.  Books that won’t be published for months.  Books I could predict where the characters would stand a room next, what they will do and what they will say.  These are books I know I have never read before and the concepts are new.

I attribute this weird experience with unpublished books to the fact we are living a parallel life.  A parallel life where I am also a reader, because of course in every parallel life I love books.

M.A. George must think the same way I do.  In her latest book Shift, High School Senior Peregrine (Perry) experiences vivid dreams that feel real and leave her exhausted.  Perry is an artist and she fills her bedroom walls with drawing of her dreams.  Perry lives with her Aunt Jessamine (Jess) and her brother Ezra, who she says is her best friend, is off at college.

In the first chapter, Perry is in a medieval land where a knight with ice-blue eyes looks very familiar.  Her brother Ezra is also in the dream fighting along with Perry.  This dream made me laugh out loud as Perry tries to decide if she is in a dream because it feels so real and she is trying to understand why she thinks it’s a dream while in the dream.  Make sense?

Then one weekend Perry and Aunt Jess visit Ezra in college where she meets Ezra’s best friend, Max, who looks super familiar to Perry.  In fact, he looks just like the guy who is all over her bedroom wall that she keeps drawing from her dreams.  Max is a geeky, smart science guy with funny T-shirts, not the typical jock-type hero.  But alas, a hero he is.

After experiencing a few more dreams that take Perry all over the place, including space, Ezra drops a bombshell that Perry has a hard time wrapping her brain around.  Perry and her brother can “shift” to different scapes.  Not different planets or time travel, but different varieties of reality.  Once Perry becomes aware that her dreams aren’t really dreams, that is when the story takes off on a rollercoaster of a ride.

Ms. George just keeps getting better and better and so far I think this is my favorite story and characters to come from her imagination.   She has presented a reality that some of us could be living parallel lives and it makes total sense to me.

What a fantastic job giving life to these characters.  Perry is spunky, strong, quick witted yet vulnerable.  I literally burst out laughing a few times.  I was totally sucked into this book and the lives of the characters.  I could not put this book down and leave the characters, and I stayed up WAY past my bedtime.

Well done Ms. George.  I know this is a stand-alone, but I feel there is more we need to learn from Perry and the other characters.  I don’t know if I’m ready to let them go quite yet.  If you like this type of genre, do not miss this book.

Book Description:

Seventeen-year-old Perry Teasdale is a dreamer.

She’s not the kind of dreamer who waltzes through fields of wildflowers, twirling her skirts in a starry-eyed daze; or the kind who aspires to be the biggest rock star the world has ever known (not that she’d complain, if that accidentally happened). She’s the kind of dreamer who can’t get a decent night’s rest, because her sleep is flooded with scenes from other worlds—ones that seem as real as life itself.

Mind-blowing dreams may sound like loads of fun, but when they start to bleed into Perry’s waking hours—confusing the line between dream and reality, and keeping her in a sleep-deprived fog no amount of caffeine can cure—Perry’s not exactly thrilled.

Try as she might to shake the dreams from her mind, they keep gaining speed, growing ever more vivid and intense…until that hazy boundary between real and imaginary fades away, and Perry is forced to consider the impossible: Her dreams seem real, because they are.

When disaster strikes, sending Perry’s newfound normalcy into a tailspin, she takes the only logical path left: a whirlwind tour of the multiverse, scouring an ever-growing assortment of alternate realities for the missing piece—the missing person—to put her life together again.

Along the way, Perry enlists the help of an ancient wise woman (who may be a tad homicidal); a nerdy-in-all-the-right-ways mathematician (who knows all of Perry’s secrets, even before introducing himself); and a sword (because you can never go wrong with a sword).

At times hilarious—at times heartbreaking—Shift is sure to be, well, one of those two things.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Choices matter in All We Ever Wanted

36344555All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin tells the story about a stupid teenager who decides to take an explicit photo of someone, send it to his friends and doesn’t care about the consequences.  In this world of smart phones, social media and the internet, it’s very easy to share photos and videos that will be out there forever in the ‘Google’ world.  If you delete the item immediately off your accounts, it’s already too late.  The item has already been downloaded or a screen shot taken.

Lyla and her Dad are a middle income family and she attends Windsor, a private expensive school where she is a sophomore.  Lyla has a huge crush on Finch, a popular senior who comes from a very wealthy family.  One night at a party, Lyla drinks too much and falls asleep in a bedroom.  Finch takes a photo of Lyla with her boob exposed then sends it to a few friends through Snapchat with a racial slur.  It soon goes viral.

Emily Giffin does a great job showing how people react differently.  Lyla wants to forget about it and do nothing because she thinks it’s no big deal, kids do things like this all the time.  Finch says he is sorry and will take whatever punishment comes his way but really doesn’t seem like he thinks he did anything wrong.

Then there are the parents who each react differently.  Finch’s Mom, Nina, is worried about Lyla and expects Finch to step up and take responsibility even if it ruins his acceptance into Princeton.  Finch’s Dad, Kirk, wants to handle everything himself and brush it under the rug.  Lyla’s Dad, Tom, wants Finch to pay and pay big.  Tom wants to ruin Finch because he believes Finch has ruined Lyla.

So many different things are happening in this story and there are so many different ways this story could go.  Most kids have an “it can’t happen to me” attitude or “this is no big deal; it won’t affect me at all” when really the incident could ruin their future or could be considered a crime.  Emily takes the reader on a journey that will make the reader stop and reflect on what they have done in their past and what they would go back in time to change.  I know it made me reflect on a few things I did as a teenager and even into my 20’s that weren’t so smart.

There are several twists and turns and revelations that are shocking.  The way some of the characters reacted to the situation did not surprise me.  Another great story from Emily.  I did not want to put this down.

Book Description:
In the riveting new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of First Comes Love and Something Borrowed, three very different people must choose between their family and their values.

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Jump back in time to a magical place

22840421I enjoy quirky books and My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows was a fun, entertaining and very quirky book.  In the 1500’s, there are two types of people: Verities, what we know as non-magical, and E∂ians (pronounced eth-y-un), shape-shifters, or people who can change into animal form.

Sixteen-year-old King Edward is dying and he needs to figure out who is going to succeed him after his death when all he really wants to think about is his first kiss.  His cousin Jane is more interested in books than romance.  Edward decides to marry Jane off in order to secure the line of succession, skipping over his two sisters.  There is something weird about her intended, Gifford who prefers to be called G.  Gifford is an E∂ian and involuntarily shape shifts into a horse.  He spends his days galloping around a s a noble steed and then turns back into a human at dusk.

Edward is close to dying when he overhears a plot to kill him.  Soon Edward, Jane and G are running for their lives and trying to stop a conspiracy that could doom the King and the Kingdom.  They will need to rely on a gang to help them take back the Kingdom and save the E∂ians from death.

This book was so much fun.  The characters were quirky, sharp witted and at times a little frustrating.  What an interesting twist on history where people can turn into animals. There were times I was laughing out loud and other times trying not to cry.  I highly recommend this fun young adult romp through the 1500’s and make sure to put the entire series on your to be read list.  Next up, My Plain Jane.

Book Description:
Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Choices have serious consequences in Lies You Never Told Me

38213804Lies You Never Told Me is the first book by Jennifer Donaldson and what a page turner.  The story is about Elyse in Portland and Gabe in Austin with the chapters going back and forth between their lives.  These two high school students have never met.

Elyse is a shy 16-year-old who goes out of her comfort zone and auditions for the school play.  She is surprised after winning the lead role in Romeo and Juliet, the role she thought her best friend Brynn should have landed.   Elyse lives with her junkie Mom, who can’t keep a job and can’t keep off the stuff, so Elyse has had to grow up fast at a young age.  She pays the bills and keeps the apartment clean.

Then there is Gabe who lives in Austin.  Gabe’s girlfriend, Sasha, is very popular and knows it.  She is a total beatch and tries to control him.  Sasha is very jealous when Gabe spends time with his family, even gets upset when he attends his down syndrome sister Vivi’s dance recital.  Sasha thinks Gabe should be with her all the time.  She isn’t nice to any of her friends and they let her get away with it.  Sasha is the true queen bee of the school.

One night, Gabe leaves Sasha’s house on his skateboard and is hit by a car.  A girl stops and calls the police but doesn’t stick around.  He soon sees the girl, Catherine, at school and is attracted to this quiet girl who sticks to herself.  Gabe breaks up with Sasha and her crazy side comes out.

While all this drama is happening with Gabe, Elyse shares an accidental kiss with someone at drama practice and she steadily falls in love.  As Gabe and Elyse make choices that change their lives, the story ramps up even more, pushing the reader on a journey where you are scared for one character and want to reach in and slap sense into the other.  As the story begins to wrap up, Gabe and Elyse head towards dangerous situations that could ruin both their lives.

I don’t want to give anything away about the choices they both make because it will give too much away and I would rather people find out themselves, trust me, they are big.  This was such a fantastic story.  I hope other people enjoy Lies You Never Told Me as much as I did.

Book Description:
“A compulsive page-turner with a shocking twist–get ready to stay up all night!” –Sara Shepard, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars 

Gabe and Elyse have never met. But they both have something to hide.

Quiet, shy Elyse can’t believe it when she’s cast as the lead in her Portland high school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Her best friend, Brynn, is usually the star, and Elyse isn’t sure she’s up to the task. But when someone at rehearsals starts to catch her eye–someone she knows she absolutely shouldn’t be with–she can’t help but be pulled into the spotlight.

Austin native Gabe is contemplating the unthinkable–breaking up with Sasha, his headstrong, popular girlfriend. She’s not going to let him slip through her fingers, though, and when rumors start to circulate around school, he knows she has the power to change his life forever.

Gabe and Elyse both make the mistake of falling for the wrong person, and falling hard. Told in parallel narratives, this twisty, shocking story shows how one bad choice can lead to a spiral of unforeseen consequences that not everyone will survive.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Hemingway and Gillhorn are all about Love and Ruin

36529552Growing up I was a huge Hemingway fan and read several of his books.  Now that I’m an adult, I’m not sure why I was slightly obsessed with him.  It was probably the stories instead of the actual man. Then I read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain about Hemingway and his first wife Hadley.  This book exposed me to the young Hemingway’s private life.  Recently I read Love and Ruin by McLain about Hemingway and his third wife Martha (Marty) Gillhorn, one of the great war correspondents of the 20th century.

The book opens with Marty as a teenager on vacation with her mom and brother in Key West.  They meet Hemingway at a restaurant/bar where they strike up a conversation.  Marty is intrigued and impressed with Hemingway and starts to correspond, sharing her writing, asking for his advice.  He encourages Marty to join him in Europe where she can get experience reporting about what is happening as World War II approaches.  In order to travel, she must secure the backing by a magazine.

Marty jumps at the opportunity to travel to Europe and secures a byline with Collier’s Weekly, hoping to use her friendship with Hemingway to help open doors for her career.  But while in Spain, the couple have an attraction and she soon becomes involved in a romantic relationship with Hemingway while he is still married to his second wife Pauline.  Marty and Hemingway eventually move to Havana as Marty waits for Hemingway to divorce Pauline and marry her.  I feel like this was a pattern for him.

This book is mainly about Marty and her time with Hemingway.  This really exposes how very selfish a man Hemingway was and how he didn’t really care about other people’s feelings.  He always got bored and restless in his marriages and became critical of his wives and a mean bully.   It was sad to see how he treated Marty when she wanted to go back and cover the war.

How insecure and threatened her felt by Marty’s success.  She was someone who couldn’t stay away from the war and became restless, itching to get back to the action.  She took many risks to report what was happening and is the only woman to land at Normandy on D-Day when she hid in a hospital ship bathroom and impersonated a stretcher bearer.

Love and Ruin brought Marty and Hemingway to life.  Some of my favorite times were in Havana.  I was curious to see what the house looked like, which you can see on the internet.  I was disappointed that Marty so freely gave the Havana house away to Hemingway when they broke up.  She was the one that purchased it and she was the one that did all the renovations even though Hemingway thought the house was a bad investment.  I felt like it was more her house and that she should have put her foot down and not allowed him to return with his next mistress/wife.

Book Description:
The bestselling author of The Paris Wife returns to the subject of Ernest Hemingway in a novel about his passionate, stormy marriage to Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious young woman who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century

In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly—and uncontrollably—falling in love with Hemingway, a man already on his way to becoming a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the tumultuous backdrops of Madrid, Finland, China, Key West, and especially Cuba, where Martha and Ernest make their home, their relationship and professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man’s wife or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that will force her to break his heart, and her own.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Alchemy of Night is a must read historical romance with a murder thrown in

36570121I have enjoyed several Nicola Italia books and her writing keeps getting better with each book.  This time around in The Alchemy of Night, we are introduced to Emmeline (Emme) Bell and the Marham brothers – Everett and Nigel.  Everett is next in line to become Lord Marham and run the family estate.  Nigel is in love with Emme and asks her to marry him.  Emme isn’t sure she wants to marry Nigel and asks for time to think about her answer.

In the meantime, Emme starts to bump into Everett at different events and around town setting off sparks between them, which they both try to ignore.  But when they unexpectedly spend several days together at their mutual friend’s house before the winter ball, the attraction can’t be ignored.

As Everett and Emme are falling in love, another woman sets her sights on Everett.  Not because Maude Thomas loves him, but because Everett comes with a title and money.  Who wouldn’t want to be a countess?  But how far will someone go to get said title? And is it worth dying for?

Nicola is a wonderful historical romance author who knows how to draw the reader into the lives of her characters.  I found myself losing track of time as I went back in time to London when women wore big flowing dresses and rode around in carriages.  A time when women were the “property” of the man they were with whether it was a father or a husband.  A time when a woman had money but couldn’t “own” the money because they were too simple minded.

It was also a time when couples had to sneak around and if they got caught together, whether they were doing anything or not, a marriage had to happen to stop any rumors that could ruin the woman’s and the man’s reputation.

I recommend picking up The Alchemy of Night if you are looking for something to read on vacation while relaxing in the sun.  It’s even perfect for those times you want to curl up by the fire with a blanket and a warm drink.  It’s a perfect time to read anytime and anywhere.  Be prepared to be entertained.  Then be prepared to add Nicola’s other books to your TBR list.

Book Description:
Emmeline Bell, the only daughter of a well-known London solicitor, is intelligent, beautiful, and well loved by her family and friends.

Nigel Carey, the second son of Lord Marham, is quiet and reserved yet secretly pines to call Emme his own. When Nigel proposes, Emme accepts it without love knowing the match will give her a comfortable life. She is unaware that Nigel’s dark and mysterious older brother, Everett, heir to the earldom, also holds a deep desire for her.

Arriving a week early to a mutual friend’s annual winter house party, Emme and Everett strike up an unexpected friendship, one that quickly leads to romance. As Everett invokes feelings in her she never thought possible, he urges her to break off her engagement to his brother. However, another young woman who has been scheming to force a marriage with the handsome, wealthy, and titled Everett is found dead in the middle of the winter ball. Suddenly everyone has a motive for murder–even Emme.

As the inspector assigned to the case tries to unravel the plot, the list of suspects narrows, and Everett is arrested. Convinced of his innocence, Emme embarks on admission to clear his name. She uncovers overlooked clues and someone suddenly becomes determined to stop her. Emme and Everett must race to unmask the killer before the killer silences Emme forever.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat