Friday, October 12, 2018

Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1)

This is a book that I picked up at a book convention several years ago.  I was actually pretty excited because I had heard great things about it, so I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to read it.  It probably has something to do with the 400+ books that are constantly on my TBR list.  Deciding what to read next is always a challenge.

Pushing the Limits is told from both Echo and Noah's points of view.  Echo was involved in a traumatic event involving her bipolar mother, but she doesn't remember what happened.  The only evidence she has are the scars on her arms and the constant nightmares that have been plaguing her ever since.  Noah is equally as troubled.  His parents were killed in a house fire and he has bounced around the foster care system.  His younger brothers are living with another family and he wants nothing more than to be involved in their daily lives. 

Noah was once a star basketball player with excellent grades who was on track for a college scholarship.  Since the fire, he hasn't had the resources or the motivation to continue...until the new guidance counselor convinces him that improving his grades and getting into college may be his only shot at eventually being able to take care of his brothers the way he wants to.  The same guidance counselor is working with Echo to help her remember her past and hopefully get her past the nightmares.  Echo needs money, so the counselor suggests she tutor Noah, which is how the two of them connect.  

While they may appear to be complete opposites based upon their social circles, they actually had far more in common than you could imagine.  Their study sessions quickly turn into plotting sessions to get information about their cases from the counselor and their relationship slowly begins to develop.

This was a highly engaging story with great characters that you couldn't help but root for.  They have already lost so much in their young lives that you want them to finally come out on top.  They hit a few rough patches along the way, but I really enjoyed the story and how it ended.  I know Katie has several additional books in this series, so I sincerely hope we will get a glimpse into their future post graduation.  I know they aren't the main characters in the additional books, but a cameo would certainly be nice.  If you have read any of the companion novels...please leave a comment to let me know if I can expect to see Echo and Noah again :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Review: See How They Run by Ally Carter

See How They Run (Embassy Row, #2)

Goodreads Overview:

Inside every secret, there's a world of trouble. Get ready for the second book in this new series of global proportions--from master of intrigue, New York Times bestselling author Ally Carter. 

Grace's past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down. 

The twists get twistier and the turns get even more shocking in the second thrilling installment of Embassy Row.


In this installment Grace is already aware of what really happened to her mother, but she doesn't know why.  She discovers there is a secret society of women who have guarded Adria's secrets and has been influencing its history for at least 1000 years.  While the history books show that men have been ruling Adria for centuries, it is their sisters, wives, mothers, and grandmothers who are really in control.

When violence breaks out on the small island, Grace will do anything to solve the murder and clear the name of her brother's best friend, Alexei.  Grace has always thought of Alexei as another brother, but perhaps there is more to their relationship? When the violence continues to escalate and the targets become her closest friends and family she begins to unravel the truth.  She is not safe in Adria and she must continue running.  When presented with the choice of fight or flight, she always chooses to run, but she may not be able to outrun whoever is after her this time.

This was another page turner that contained a ton of action and even more secrets to unravel.  The majority of the book took place during a large festival on the island, which added a chaotic atmosphere to an already stressful situation.  Grace and her friends don't know who they can trust and the one man who she perceived as her enemy for the past three years turns out to be the one person she can trust with their lives.

I simply couldn't wait to see how this series concludes. I downloaded the final book in the series while I was still reading the last few chapters of See How They Run.  I started reading Take the Key and Lock Her Up yesterday and it is off to a great start.  We are a long way from a happily ever after, but hopefully Ally is moving us in that direction.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Bookish Goals Status Update: July 2018

In an effort to help keep myself on track, I am going to post monthly status updates showing where I stand for each of my 2018 Goals.

Anything highlighted in gray is currently in progress, but not yet completed.

  • Read and review at least 36 books 
    1. Crossed by Ally Condie
    2. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin
    3. Onyx by Jennifer Armentrout
    4. Love Show by Audrey Bell
    5. Invaded by Melissa Landers
    6. The Grift of the Magi by Ally Carter
    7. Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade
    8. Reached by Ally Condie
    9. United by Melissa Landers
    10. White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig
    11. Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray
    12. A Painted House by John Grisham
    13. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
    14. The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
    15. Cress by Marissa Meyer
    16. Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
    17. The Emperor's Code (39 Clues 8)  by Gordon Korman
    18. Twelve by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
    19. See How They Run by Ally Carter
    20. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
  • I am participating in the Try Something New challenge hosted by The Herd Presents.  I'm going to aim for level 2 with 11-20 books. Any book over 80 pages qualifies as long as it is new to you.  New author, new genre, new series, etc.
    1. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin (Shaw Confessions #1) - New Series
    2. Love Show by Audrey Bell - New Author
    3. Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray (New Series)
    4. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry - New Author
  • Read at least 10 New Adult books (My definition of NA = protagonists are post high school, but under 30)
    1. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin
    2. Love Show by Audrey Bell
    3. Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade
    4. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
    5. The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
    6. Twelve by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
    7. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
    • Read three of the books that had been on my TBR list the longest.  I now have 45 books that were all added on September 7, 2010 that would qualify.  
      1. A Painted House by John Grisham

    • Finish reading at least 5 series I have already started.  (I have several trilogies with final books I still need to read. 
      1. Reached by Ally Condie - Book 3 in the Matched Series
      2. United by Melissa Landers - Book 3 in the Alienated Series
      3. Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - Book 4 in The Naturals Series
    • TBR Challenge.  For this challenge I want to read at least 20 books that were on my TBR list AND were published prior to January 1, 2018. 
      1. Crossed by Ally Condie
      2. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin
      3. Onyx by Jennifer Armentrout
      4. Love Show by Audrey Bell
      5. Invaded by Melissa Landers
      6. The Grift of the Magi by Ally Carter
      7. Reached by Ally Condie
      8. United by Melissa Landers
      9. Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray
      10. A Painted House by John Grisham
      11. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
      12. The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
      13. Cress by Marissa Meyer
      14. Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
      15. See How They Run by Ally Carter
      16. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
    • I joined the New Release Challenge hosted by Unconventional Book Views and Books, Movies, Reviews Oh My! My goal is to reach New Release Newbie level with 12 new releases read/reviewed during 2017.  The minimum length for a book to qualify is 100 pages. 
      1. Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade - Released 3/20/18
      2. White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig - Released 4/24/18

    Thursday, July 26, 2018

    Review: Twelve by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

    Twelve (The Naturals, #4.5)

    Goodreads Overview:

    Cassie Hobbes has been working with the FBI since she was a teenager. Now twenty-three years old, she and her fellow Naturals have taken over running the program that taught them everything they know. As a unit, they're responsible for identifying new Naturals--and solving particularly impossible cases. When their latest case brings back a ghost from their past, Cassie and the other Naturals find themselves racing against the clock--and reliving their own childhood traumas.In a small, coastal town in Maine, there has been a rash of teen suicides--or at least, that's what the police believe. Mackenzie McBride, age twelve, thinks differently. Desperate to make herself heard, she stands at the top of a lighthouse, threatening to jump... unless the FBI agents who rescued her from a kidnapper at age six come to hear her out. Enter the Naturals. It doesn't take Cassie long to realize that Mackenzie isn't bluffing: she truly is convinced that the suicides are murder, and she really will jump if she can't get the FBI to believe her. To the outside world, Mackenzie is nothing more than a traumatized child. But so was Cassie, once upon a time. So were Michael, Dean, Sloane, Lia, and Celine. With a storm rolling in off the ocean and Mackenzie's position becoming more precarious by the moment, the Naturals have very little time to get to the truth about the deaths--and about twelve-year-old Mackenzie McBride.


    I originally thought Bad Blood, book 4 in this series, was supposed to be the last.  This novella was a pleasant surprise that I jumped right into after finishing Bad Blood.  Our favorite Naturals are now 5 years older and a few of them are currently at the FBI academy becoming agents.  Celine is already an agent, so they can now work cases with a badge in the group without the aid of their mentors Agents Briggs and Sterling.  Briggs is now the director of the FBI and continues to provide the Naturals with the support they need, but is far more hands off than he used to be.

    Being a novella, this story was short and sweet and provided a great introduction to a possible new Natural with a unique new ability.  There was also a hint towards the fact that Cassie's half sister may also be a Natural in the making.  She certainly had a traumatic childhood, which is a contributing factor, so the potential is there.

    I loved seeing the team working together again and sincerely hope there are more cases in their future.  I would love to see this series turn into a King and Maxwell type of series where the Naturals continue working cases without always being in the direct line of fire.  These young adults have a lot of potential and I would hate to see their talents brought to a close so soon.

    Wednesday, July 25, 2018

    Review: The Emperor's Code (39 Clues #8)

    The Emperor's Code (The 39 Clues, #8)

    Goodreads Overview:

    As the race to find the 39 Clues builds to its explosive finish, Amy and Dan must explore an ancient culture and steal a Clue guarded by thousands of the world's best-trained soldiers. It's the most dangerous Clue search yet. As their enemies crowd in, Amy and Dan find themselves separated for the first time ever. The choice lies before them - find the next Clue, or find their way back to each other.


    My son and I have been reading this series together and we are both thoroughly enjoying it.  He isn't a big fan of reading, but the action and adventure coupled with the real life history is keeping him engaged.  In fact, he finished almost this entire book during a long car ride yesterday.  

    This portion of the race focuses on China.  We learned about the last Emperor, Mt. Everest, and Chinese martial arts.  We also get a glimpse into the life of Jonah Wizard, one of the Cahill cousins competing in the race for the 39 clues. He is an entertainment superstar and part of the Janus branch.  He has made appearances throughout the series, but this is the first time that I can remember him being an integral character.  

    When Dan gets separated from Amy he decides to join forces with Jonah until he can find his sister.  He doesn't have any money and with their cell phones not working in China, his options are limited.  He begins to realize the Janus's can't be trusted and he breaks off on his own again.  Amy and Dan continue to follow the clues independently until they are reunited, thanks to something Grace told them about years ago.

    Amy and Dan struggle to come to terms with what "Branch" they belong to, but they realize they are not defined by their family history.  They aren't like their evil family members and they can see that they have made the right decisions when presented with moral dilemmas.   Their combined resources allow them to decipher a clue the others probably think is lost forever.  In addition, Dan's discovery provides them with a lead towards another clue the rest of the family is most likely unaware of.  If they can manage to leave town without a tale, they may be able to get a jump on the competition. 

    Get out your flip flops and sunscreen because it sounds like the Cahill kids are on their way to the Caribbean!  I can only imagine what we will learn about from that are....Pirates????

    Monday, July 23, 2018

    Review: Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

    Bad Blood (The Naturals, #4)

    Goodreads Overview:

    When Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI's Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother's murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful—and dangerous—than anything the Naturals have faced so far. As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock. New victims. New betrayals. New secrets. When the bodies begin piling up, it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren't just hunting serial killers. They're being hunted.


    Bad Blood is the fourth book in the Naturals series.  While some series can be read as stand alone novels, this certainly is not one of them.  In fact, it has been a while since I read All In, book three in this series, and it took me several chapters before things started falling in place again.  If you are new to this series, DEFINITELY read them in order.

    I absolutely love the characters and their abilities and hope Jennifer will someday write a spin off series with the teens a little older solving crimes that do not hit so close to home.  I am always up for a good murder mystery and it would be a lot of fun reading some independent stories similar to the King and Maxwell series or even the Stephanie Plum books where we have a core group of characters solving a different case each book.

    We were introduced to a new character with a different "natural ability." This provided a new dimension to the story and would be a great addition to Michael, Dean, Cassie, Lia and Sloan's abilities.  I have enjoyed seeing how the Naturals have formed a family and become closer throughout this series.  Dean and Michael in particular were always at odds, but even they provided readers with some warm and fuzzy moments in addition to their witty jabs at one another.

    I was shocked at how everything unfolded at the end of this book.  Bad Blood definitely has new meaning and was not what I anticipated from the title.  Cassie is faced with an unthinkable decision after years of tracking down the people she thought were responsible for her mother's murder.  In addition, we discover characters from prior books who were far more than they seemed at the time. 

    While writing this review I discovered there is a novella, which is 4.5 in the series.  I thought this was the end of the series, but now I can look forward to another 128 pages.   They alluded to certain things at the end of Bad Blood that were so open ended, that I couldn't believe this was the absolute end.  I am ecstatic to see that it is not.  I am heading to my library app to request Twelve while the story is still fresh in my mind. 

    If you enjoy YA and murder mysteries, this is a highly entertaining series with some amazingly talented characters.  

    Friday, July 20, 2018

    Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

    Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)

    Goodreads Overview:

    In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they're plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

    Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she's just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

    When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.


    This was another action packed adventure as Cinder and her team of accomplices work to overthrow Queen Levana.  Cinder is scared of who she may become if Princess Selene takes her rightful place on the Lunar throne.  She doesn't want to turn into Levana, but she can already see how she is justifying her actions of manipulation because of a perceived greater good.  Her supporters are being targeted by Levana and her friends are being injured at an alarming rate to achieve their objectives.

    Cinder tells Kai about her plan at the end of this book and hopefully their combined power and resources will be enough to restore peace on both of their planets.  It appears that a relationship may develop between these two, which I am really hoping will materialize in the next book.

    Scarlet was MIA from Cinder and Wolf the majority of this book, but the readers do get to see what she is experiencing.  Wolf is distraught and Cinder can only hope they will be able to find her in time.  

    We learn considerably more about Captain Thorne in this story while he and Cress are separated from the group.  They need to rely on each other to escape insurmountable odds.  Cress already had a crush on Thorne from all of her research while on the satellite.  All of his heroic qualities from the past may not have been as remarkable as she thought, but he proves himself to be a hero throughout their adventure.  

    If only Cinder can rescue Scarlet, we could have three happy couples with a happily ever after at the end of this fairy tale series.  Do you think there could be a different royal wedding to unite their planets?  One that is actually a celebration instead of a prison sentence.  I can hardly wait to finish reading this series to find out the answers to these and so many other questions that are left unanswered at the end of Cress.