(Review) Beneath Northern Lights

Below Northern Lights by Ashlee Cowles
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017
Pages: 368 (kindle)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Goodreads Synopsis:
Nineteen-year-old war veteran Lucas Santiago is grappling with the knowledge that he’ll never walk again when he learns his best friend, Seth, hasn’t returned from his solo trek through Scotland. If Seth doesn’t report back soon, he’s risking an AWOL charge that could end his military career.
Lucas has no desire to leave the house, let alone brave a foreign country in a wheelchair, following bizarre clues Seth left behind. But Lucas’s sister, Gabi—who has feelings for Seth—won’t take no for an answer. The one thing Lucas never expects when he agrees to Gabi’s harebrained scheme is meeting Skye, a young British veteran with a traumatic past of her own. Skye also has unwavering confidence and a thirst for adventure—qualities Lucas sorely lacks as he struggles to adjust to his new life.

The trio sets off on a road trip to search for Seth in the Scottish Highlands, where it becomes clear to Lucas that if he ever hopes to win the heart of an irresistible force like Skye, he’ll need to resurrect the fearless fighter he used to be. He’s falling hard for Skye, but can he again fall in love with life?

My Review: 
When I was contacted by the author about reading the companion to Beneath Wandering Stars I jumped at the chance. I loved Gabi and Seth in BWS and was definitely looking forward to more of their story and learning about Lucas.

Lucas is a a wounded veteran, trying to get his life back together...kind of. He's obviously angry and sad at how things have happened to him and has a lot of issues to work through. 

When Seth's dad calls, worried that Seth has gone AWOL, Gabi immediately formulates a plan to find him. This plan, of course, involves Lucas, a new wheelchair, and a trek to find their lost friend.  Lucas is clearly not excited about the trip. He feels bullied by his whole family and angry at Seth somehow. 

Lucas meets Skye early on in the story. She's damaged, just like him, so he's quickly drawn to her. They agree to give Skye a ride to her starting point, but more it turns out to be more than what any of them bargained for. 

Ready about Lucas' journey and healing is truly heartwarming. I love that they take the same steps, kind of literally, as Gabi and Seth did in the first book. Lucas pushes himself physically and emotionally during the trip, as well as learns some things about himself...and about Skye. The two of them together are fun, but also serious. They both have their own issues to work through and it works well with them. 

Of course, the ending and epilogue left me swooning because of the Gabi and Seth moments. If Ashlee ever writes more of them, I'm definitely in! 

Huge thanks to the author for a copy of this book. 

(Review) Haunting the Deep

Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017
Pages: 368 (kindle)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

Goodreads Synopsis: Samantha Mather knew her family’s connection to the infamous Salem Witch Trials might pose obstacles to an active social life. But having survived one curse, she never thought she’d find herself at the center of a new one.

This time, Sam is having recurring dreams about the Titanic . . . where she’s been walking the deck with first-class passengers, like her aunt and uncle. Meanwhile, in Sam’s waking life, strange missives from the Titanic have been finding their way to her, along with haunting visions of people who went down with the ship.

Ultimately, Sam and the Descendants, along with some help from heartthrob Elijah, must unravel who is behind the spell that is drawing her ever further into the dream ship . . . and closer to sharing the same grim fate as its ghostly passengers.

My Review:
When I requested this one I didn't realize it was a sequel, so I had to request the first book from the library to make sure I was up to speed on things. 

I was pleasantly surprised with both of the books. While the topics are farfetched and a little silly, the magic kind of weird, and the characters annoying at times...I really enjoyed this series. 

Like any YA series, it's got its tropes. There are your mean girls and your brooding boys (ghosts!) but deep down its a decent story. 

I like Samantha a lot as a character. She's kind of a loner, but is trying hard in the second book. She's realizing that things are happening around her and to her that she can't control on her own. Although she's stubborn, she knows that she needs her friends and they need her. It's interesting to read about her realizations and watch how she grows. 

The supernatural and magical part of the story is fun. There's not too much explanation about how it all works, but I didn't really need too much of it. I loved the history of the Titanic mixed in with the storyline. History is the way to my heart and this was a great way to get it all in. 

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what else this series has to offer. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Books for the ARC. 

(Review) Sweet Tea and Sympathy

Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper
Publication Date: November 21st, 2017
Pages: 320 (paperback)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
My Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis:
Beloved author Molly Harper launches a brand-new contemporary romance series, Southern Eclectic, with this story of a big-city party planner who finds true love in a small Georgia town.

Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town's most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?

My Review:
I've never read any of Molly's books and I kind of requested this one on a whim as I was looking for something sweet to read. I'd just had a bad experience with a book and was a little frustrated and wary going into this one. (See previous review of romance novel gone wrong if you want to know how that worked out.) 

But, as you can see from my Goodreads Rating, I loved all parts of this book. As someone from a small southern town (some of us consider Florida the south) I completely fell in love with this town and pretty much every single one of these characters. 

The book's opening scene is hilarious and enough to catch your attention. At first you sense that Margot is a little uptight. She's a big city girl with a big city job so you know right off that she's going to clash with her small-town family. 

This does happen, but not in the sense that she thinks she's better than any of them. I don't recall any instances of Margot feeling superior to the residents of the town and I loved that about her. If anything she worried about what they thought about her. 

This, to me, is not your typical "love at first sight" romance. Sure, there's definitely chemistry between Margot and Kyle, but it isn't thrown in your face and sexualized throughout the pages. Kyle is a complex character, but in the best way. I love that he puts his family first, doesn't try to control Margot, and is always honest with her. Kyle had me swooning many times with just his words. 

What I loved most about this is how Margot comes to know and love the family she's never met. From her father to her aunts and uncles and cousins. So many of these moments made me smile, almost as much as reading about Margot and Kyle. 

So, five stars from me for making a romance also about family and not making me hate any of the main characters. I'm impressed. 

(Review) Dress Codes for Small Towns

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens
Publication Date: August 22nd, 2017
Pages: 352 (kindle)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Goodreads Synopsis:
As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.
But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

Always considered “one of the guys,” Billie doesn’t want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it’s not just about keeping the peace, it’s about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple.

Readers will be drawn to Billie as she comes to terms with the gray areas of love, gender, and friendship, in this John Hughes-esque exploration of sexual fluidity.

My Review:
This book was precious and pure and I loved it.

I could stop my review there and be done with it, but I won't.

Billie and her friends are very cool characters. They are young and troubled, but you can tell that they truly love each other a lot a lot. (I put two a lots on purpose.) They have been through so much together and, even though they give each other hell, you can tell how much these characters truly feel about each other. 

I loved Billie for her boldness, but also for the parts that she hid from others. Billie wants to be the good daughter that her pastor father needs her to be, but it's hard when it's not who she really is. 

When Janie Lee tells Billie that she's in love with Woods, things change a little. Billie is drawn a little more to Davey and, with Davey, she gets to be herself a little bit. Davey is from the city and Billie has her own thoughts about him, but all he really does it let her be who she wants to be with no questions. 

Honestly, I fell a little in love with Davey's character. I started the book expecting it to be Woods as the one, but it was definitely Davey. The way he cares about Billie and listens to her is so sweet that you can't help but fall for him. 

I truly enjoyed this book and the way that most of the supporting characters were exactly that. They supported Billie no matter what she looked like or who she loved. Mostly this book was about Billie figuring out who she was, but also figure out that she doesn't really need to know just yet. 

(Review) My Image of You

My Image of You by Melanie Moreland
Publication Date: September 19th, 2017
Genre: Romance
My Goodreads Rating: 1 star

Goodreads Synopsis:
She was the first good thing that ever happened to me. The only person who made me want to stay put. Until she disappeared. My name is Adam Kincaid, and I’m the most daring freelance photographer in the world. Or, at least, I used to be. After losing my parents way too young, I hid behind a camera lens—and discovered a talent that took me all over the planet. No assignment was too dangerous, no location too remote, no subject too painful.

Then came the accident, and the hospital, where I met her: Alexandra Robbins. My nurse. My savior. With her fiery red hair and crystal-clear blue eyes, the most striking woman I could’ve imagined—and the kindest too. How could such a big personality fit into such a petite package? But she was running from something too, something I never had: her family. She thought she’d escaped their control. But she was wrong. And now they’ve taken her away from me.

Today is her engagement party. I may not get an explanation, but I’ll be damned if I don’t get a photograph. A picture really is worth a thousand words. And just like love, it never fades away. . . .

My Review:
I jokingly took to Twitter and called this book The Book That Couldn't Keep Me Entertained During Hurricane Irma. Only it wasn't really a joke and I was really in the middle of Hurricane Irma here in Southwest Florida. 

I was looking for a light and fluffy romance to keep my mind off hurricane force winds and possible destruction and quickly discovered this wasn't it. 

The main character and narrator, Adam Kincaid, starts out as a cool and collected photographer. In the first few pages you think he's an okay kind of guy. But when Adam is injured and taken to the hospital, you find out he's kind of a tool. 

First off, Adam knows he's good looking. He uses it to his advantage with Alex as he tries to charm her into believing he isn't really that injured. While this whole thing was meant to be cute and flirty, to me it was just a little ridiculous...and this is within the first few chapters. 

Alex is an okay character, but she absolutely lets Adam just take over her. I didn't feel that it was done in any sort of romantic way. The first thing that bothered me about it was that he insisted calling her Ally, even though she told him repeatedly it wasn't her name. Eventually you learn that her "mother didn't like nicknames", but that just didn't sit well with me. 

Adam, as a character, is significantly older than Alex and is clearly a dominate male. While he spends most of the book telling Alex how brave and strong she is, he spends the rest of it fighting her battles, literally and figuratively. 

I didn't come to care about either of these characters. It felt like it was fight after fight with too many big dramatic events thrown in. (Amnesia? C'mon.) 

Maybe it was Irma, maybe it was me. But this book just didn't cut it for me.

Thanks to Loveswept and NetGalley for the ARC. 

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