Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mini Reviews: Hope Ignites + Happily Ever After

Hope #2
Jaci Burton
Adult Contemporary Romance
304 pages
Available now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Logan McCormack likes his isolated life on the ranch, until a movie crew starts filming there. When actress Desiree Jenkins blows into his life, she wrecks it harder than the Oklahoma winds with her brutal honesty and soft touch. Des knows this is a temporary stay, but she loves the open freedom of the land, and for the first time in her life, Des feels like she might have found a place she can call home, with a man she might be falling in love with. But Logan’s heart is tougher than the soil beneath them—can she convince him that they belong together?

Hope Ignites is a fun and sexy reverse-Cinderella story (of sorts) wherein a gruff, set-in-his-ways rancher gets amusingly knocked off-kilter by a no-nonsense Hollywood starlet. Desiree, or Des as she prefers to be called, is initially a bit tricky, her openness with regard to what she wants from Logan coming across as pushy when she continuously tries to goad him into action by making references to them begin naked together, but once they do cross that line she quickly becomes the highlight of the story. She’s nothing if not completely honest with Logan at every turn, game playing something she has very little interest in and even less time for given she’s on location for only a few short months.

Whereas Des lays everything on the table from page one, Logan is much more reserved and so thoroughly convinced that no one could possibly love ranch life as much as he does that he's the one responsible for much of the push and pull in their relationship. Because Des is so anti-games however, she calls Logan on his behavior every single time, bringing a smile to our faces as we long to hug her for being who she is. Logan, to his credit, is not one to stew in his own righteousness, and after his temper quickly flares it dies right back down and he makes sincere, heartfelt apologies. The two of them together are cute and flirty, and their love scenes are as steamy as readers might expect from Ms. Burton, making Hope Ignites a quick and enjoyable escape from reality.

Rating: 4/5

Find Jaci:

Elizabeth Maxwell
Adult Contemporary Romance-ish
336 pages
Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
Available now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
At forty-six, Sadie Fuller’s life isn’t exactly romantic. A divorced, overweight, somewhat sexually frustrated mother of an eleven-year-old, she lives in the suburbs, shops the big box stores, makes small talk with her small-minded neighbors, and generally leads a quiet life. But while her daughter is at school, or when Sadie is up late at night, she writes erotic fiction under the name KT Briggs.

Then, during a routine shopping trip, Sadie runs into someone familiar…too familiar, in fact. She encounters an incredibly handsome man exactly like the one in her imagination—and her latest novel. Is Aidan Hathaway really one of her characters? And if so, what is he doing in Target? As Sadie tries to negotiate this strange new world, her eyes begin to open to romantic possibilities in places she never dreamed of looking... places where Happily Ever After might not be so far-fetched after all

While labeled a contemporary romance, Happily Ever After is more a genre unto itself, beautifully combining romantic and magical elements with a hilariously realistic heroine, and eschewing a traditional, predictable route to its titular end in favor of something a little different. In the beginning we get snippets from Sadie’s latest novel, a book with a more typical sweet and innocent heroine who falls quickly and easily for the commanding presence of an overwhelmingly beautiful businessman. While the length of these snippets is a touch frustrating given we’re instantly charmed by Sadie and want to return to her, they do prove vital in setting up the explanation for how Aidan suddenly finds himself in Sadie’s world.

The contrast between Lily (Sadie’s heroine) and Sadie is glaringly apparent in the opening chapters, Lily’s naivete making Sadie’s smart mouth and straightforward approach to life and love absolutely refreshing. Though we might expect the magical twist surrounding Aidan’s arrival in the “real” world to follow a standard romance novel path once he meets Sadie, we should have known just from our short time with her that she would not be one to get caught up in romantic craziness. She’s honest with herself and those around her, and she stands gorgeously on two feet in this story without anyone of the male persuasion necessary to prop her up. That’s not to say she’s not surrounded by a solid cast of secondary characters–because she is–but Sadie is a true delight in this story and the main reason the pages turn with such speed. I will definitely be on the lookout for more from the witty and entertaining Ms. Maxwell.

Rating: 4/5

Find Elizabeth:

These books were sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Forever Song Blog Tour: Interview + Giveaway

Today I'm thrilled to be a part of the promotional tour for the final book in Julie Kagawa's spectacular Blood of Eden series, The Forever Song. I've always been a fan of vampire stories, but Julie's vampires are truly something special and I simply couldn't love the dark emotional waters she makes us navigate with heroine Allie more. Julie was nice enough to answer a few questions for me, so I hope you all enjoy the interview! Be sure and check the bottom of the post for all the details on an epic giveaway as well as a full list of the participating blogs.

If Allie could call on any character or creature from one of your other novels for help in taking down Sarren, who (or what) would she think might be of the greatest assistance?

Hm, lessee. Well, either Ash or Puck would be pretty helpful against Sarren; both of them have mad sword/dagger skills, and magic to back them up. But I think, if she could call on anyone from any of my other books, it would be Ember the dragon from the upcoming Talon series. Vampires and fire don't mix well. One poof, and Sarren would be ashes.

Let’s say you have the supernatural ability to write yourself out of any situation and transport yourself somewhere else entirely. If you suddenly found yourself in Allie’s world facing down a group of rabids, how might your exit go? (For the sake of argument, let’s also say you have a pen and paper on you at all times and you can write at superhuman speeds given the rabids aren’t overly patient.)

"Suddenly a big red dragon swoops down, blasts the rabids with fire, and lands close to me so I can leap onto its back. With a few powerful beats of its wings, we lift off the ground and soar rapidly to safety." (Hey, I've always wanted to ride a dragon. Might as well take advantage of this new superpower lol.)

Books have always been important to Allie. If she could visit any library throughout history or in today’s world, which library do you think she’s most like to see?

I think she'd love to visit any library, but the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress are both good choices. The New York Public library is huge, and has an old, almost gothic type feel to it, which Allie would appreciate. The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, and I could see her staying there for months, immersing herself in stories and history, occasionally snacking on those people who rip pages out of library books.

Kanin has been there to teach and guide Allie through her transition from human to vampire. What’s one thing he’s taught her that he most hopes will forever stick with her?

That she can always choose what type of monster she is. 

The world of the Blood of Eden series is a terrifyingly fascinating one. What’s one other world from a piece of fiction that’s both scared and mesmerized you?

I might be the odd one out here, but the world of Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass is totally creepy and terrifying to me. I can't even watch the Disney cartoon without getting uncomfortable at certain parts. Just the thought of being stuck in a world where nothing makes sense, ugh. And I might be showing my age here, but there was a short television series in the 80's of Through the Looking Glass, where Alice is trapped on the other side of the mirror and reads a book called The Jabberwocky. And then, of course, the Jabberwocky appears. I can watch it now and laugh at the cheap 80s movie monster, but back then, as a little kid, it scared the bejeezus out of me.

Youtube link to clip in question:

If we were to join Allie in her quest to hunt down Sarren, what are three things (aside from food and water) we better make sure we have with us if we're to have any hope of surviving the journey?

Well, we'd need weapons, obviously. Something sharp and pointy, like a sword, or a stake. Fire wouldn't be a bad idea, either. And definitely a robust first-aid kit, because if we're going to be taking on Sarren, no one is going to come out of it unscathed.

The Forever Song is the final book in the Blood of Eden trilogy; what about Allie’s character will stand out in your memory most even as you move on to new projects?

I've always loved Allie's determination and stubbornness to hold on to her humanity and not become a monster. Also, the way that she refuses to stay down, to always get back up and fight, even if she's very badly hurt. And she's got a bit of a mouth on her, which made her fights with Jackal all the more entertaining. All in all, she was a fierce, flawed, fun character to write about, and I will miss her, even though I know I ended her story in the best place I could.

• • • • • • • • • • • 

Blood of Eden #3

Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster?

With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.


Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the path is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions—her creator, Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal.

The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost— the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie. In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, triumph is short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.

• • • • • • • • • • • 

Blood of Eden #1

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city.

By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Blood of Eden #2

How do you face the end of eternity?

In Allison Sekemoto's world, there is one rule left: Blood calls to blood.

She has done the unthinkable: died so that she might continue to live. Cast out of Eden and separated from the boy she dared to love, Allie will follow the call of blood to save her creator, Kanin, from the psychotic vampire Sarren. But when the trail leads to Allie's birthplace in New Covington, what Allie finds there will change the world forever-and possibly end human and vampire existence.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • 


Julie Kagawa was born in Sacramento, California. But nothing exciting really happened to her there. So, at the age of nine she and her family moved to Hawaii, which she soon discovered was inhabited by large carnivorous insects, colonies of house geckos and frequent hurricanes. She spent much of her time in the ocean, when she wasn’t getting chased out of it  by reef sharks, jellyfish and the odd eel.

To pay the rent, Julie worked in different bookstores over the years, but discovered the managers frowned upon her reading the books she was supposed to be shelving. So she turned to her other passion: training animals. She worked as a professional dog trainer for several years, dodging Chihuahua bites and overly enthusiastic Labradors, until her first book sold and she stopped training to write full-time.

Julie now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where the frequency of shark attacks are at an all-time low. She lives with her husband, two obnoxious cats, one Australian shepherd who is too smart for his own good and the latest addition, a hyperactive Papillon puppy.

• • • • • • • • • • • 


Each tour stop is offering up the winner’s choice of either THE IMMORTAL RULES, THE ETERNITY CURE or THE FOREVER SONG - whichever book in the series you might be missing!

There are also 2 grand prizes:

• 1 winner will get a complete set of Julie Kagawa’s books, including The Iron Fey Saga and The Blood of Eden Saga!

• 1 winner will get a $100 gift card from either iTunes, Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

Please enter via the Rafflecopter form. Giveaway is open to US/Canada and ends May 2nd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure and check out the rest of the blogs on the tour for more reviews, interviews and chances to win!

Monday, April 7th – Harlequin Paranormal Romance Blog
Tuesday, April 8th – fiktshun
Wednesday, April 9th – The Page Turners
Thursday, April 10st – Books and Things
Friday, April 11th – Ticket To Anywhere

Monday, April 14th – Two Chicks on Books
Tuesday, April 15th – Parajunkee
Wednesday, April 16th – Refracted Light Reviews
Thursday, April 17st – Bewitched Bookworms
Friday, April 18th – Mundie Moms

Monday, April 21th – A Book Obsession
Tuesday, April 22nd – The Book Cellar
Wednesday, April 23th – Supernatural Snark
Thursday, April 24st – The Busy Bibliophile
Friday, April 25th  – Tyngas Reviews

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cathy Reviews: Bite-Sized Magic + The Finisher

Along with my mom, my wonderful mother-in-law Cathy is an occasional partner in crime on this blog and I'm thrilled to have her back today to share her thoughts on a couple middle grade titles!

The Bliss Bakery #3
Kathryn Littlewood
Middle Grade Fantasy
432 pages
Katherine Tegen Books
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
This third book in Kathryn Littlewood's acclaimed Bliss trilogy mixes the down-home heart-punch of Ingrid Law's Newbery Honor Book Savvy, the always-on-the-edge-of-chaos comedy of Cheaper by the Dozen, and a humorous magic all its own to create a thoroughly original confection, a delicious guilty pleasure for readers of all ages.

Rose won back her family's magical Cookery Booke in an international baking competition in A Dash of Magic, the second novel in the series. Rose is now world famous—so famous, in fact, that Mr. Butter, head of the Mostess Corporation, has kidnapped her so that she can develop new-and-improved magical recipes for his company's snack cakes. With the magically enhanced Dinkies and Moony Pies, Mr. Butter plans to take over the world.

Together with her brothers, their talking cat and mouse, and an unlikely team of bakers, Rose must overthrow Mr. Butter before he destroys civilization, one magically evil snack cake at a time.

I need to be upfront and tell you that I have an affinity for cozy mysteries. All kinds of them, whether the sleuth knits, reads books, or bakes cookies, I love them all. They are my guilty pleasure! I have enjoyed this genre since I was a child, but way back then the only mysteries around were Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. So when Jenny passed along this book to me, I gladly jumped at the chance to read it.

Bite-Sized Magic by Kathryn Littlewood is just the type of book I would have loved to have had available when I was younger. It combines two of my favorite things, mystery and baking. And some magic is thrown in for good measure. The effect is delightful. This is the third book in the Bliss series but it's also a stand-alone story. There is a plot thread carried through from previous books, but I didn't feel as if I were lost at the start of this book. Ms. Littlewood does a wonderful job of bringing us up to date without oversaturating us with past details. 

Our sleuth/heroine is Rosemary Bliss, a 12 year old magical baker. She is kidnapped by the evil Mr. Butter to work for him and make magically irresistible snack cakes. (I think this must be a true story as I thoroughly enjoy said snack cakes!) He would like the whole world to be eating only his treats. While she's there, she discovers her family's magic recipes have been stolen and used at his factory. Rosemary has to find a way to save the world from sugar overload as well as her family's bakery.

Ms. Littlewood has cleverly named not only the people but the snack treats. I am sure you can picture what every snack looks like just by the names. This book is a middle grade book that has a lot of charm and therefore was fun to read as an adult. I liked how the children were the heroes and had to figure out how to save everyone. There are lots of chaotic scenes that are so well written that you could imagine it as a movie. It's sure to give kids a sense of empowerment when they read this tale. This is a perfect book for parents to read to their younger children or have their middle grader read it to them. It is a story for the whole family to enjoy.

Rating: 4/5
Find Kathryn:

David Baldacci
Middle Grade/Dystopian
512 pages
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Welcome to Wormwood: a place where curiosity is discouraged and no one has ever left.

Until one girl, Vega Jane, discovers a map that suggests a mysterious world beyond the walls. A world with possibilities and creatures beyond her imagining.

But she will be forced to fight for her freedom. And unravelling the truth may cost Vega her life.

When Jenny told me she received a book by David Baldacci and wanted me to review it, I accepted readily. I am a fan of Mr. Baldacci and have read many of his adult mystery novels and even stood in line last year at BEA to get a signed copy of his latest thriller. Then Jenny mentioned that this book is a middle grade dystopian/fantasy. That caught my attention and I wanted to see if this new book held the same appeal as his adult novels.

The Finisher takes place in a place called Wormland that is surrounded by the Quag. The setting is reminiscent of medieval times. The people live their whole lives in this place in fear of the Quag and the knowledge that there is nothing beyond it. The book has a slow start only because things are unfamiliar and have odd names, but once it gets going you become accustomed to the names and it all starts to flow together nicely. Mr. Baldacci does a good job creating this world, remembering that he is writing a story geared toward middle graders. He gives us a heroine, Vega Jane, who dreams beyond the Quag and bucks the rules of her homeland. Vega Jane is a reluctant heroine but she never tries to find the easy way out. She truly has to fight for her life and the lives of those she loves, while still trying to achieve her dreams.

This story is filled with action young readers–and some of us not so young–will enjoy. There is magic, mysterious wild beasts, evil rulers, and great battles. Older readers should keep an open mind however, thinking back to a time when everything was believable and the only goal was to be entertained by strange and amazing things.

Mr. Baldacci has brought so many of the elements I love from his thrillers into this book. A story that keeps your attention and has lots of action. I think the ending leaves an opening for the possibility of more books in this series.

Rating: 4/5

Find David:

These books were sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my (or in this case, Cathy's) honest opinion.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: The Taking

The Taking #1
Kimberly Derting
Paranormal Young Adult
368 pages
Available April 29th
Source: eARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
A flash of white light . . . and then . . . nothing.

When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?

The Taking is a story that piques our curiosity from the very first page, a number of theories about Kyra’s disappearance turning over in our minds before she’s even gone, and as soon as she returns our anxiety ratchets up in anticipation of learning exactly what happened. Though the first quarter of the book flies by as Kyra’s taken and returned years later to find her life entirely different from the one she left behind, the next quarter moves a touch slower, her struggle to come to terms with all the changes taking center stage and pushing the paranormal aspect to the background. Luckily that lull passes fairly quickly and things pick back up when government suits enter the picture, and suddenly we find ourselves sprinting to the finish, absolutely desperate to find out what’s in store for Kyra.

Kyra is an interesting character, impressing us one minute with the poise and maturity with which she handles the massive upheaval of her life only to frustrate us the next when all of that maturity suddenly disappears and a petulant child takes over. There is many a moment where the fact that she doesn’t simply break down into tears and sob “why me” endears Kyra to us and shows just how strong a young woman she truly is, but she also switches gears quickly, taking all her confusion and hurt out on those who don’t deserve it. To her absolute credit however, her childish moments are fleeting and nearly non-existent after the halfway mark, allowing her to become someone we’re rooting for with our whole hearts.

The romance with Tyler, however awkward if given too much thought seeing as she was previously dating his older brother, is sweet and gives those of us who are romantics at heart the butterflies we so enjoy while reading. Kyra is blissfully honest with Tyler, telling him everything she knows or theorizes when certain aspects of her disappearance don’t add up, all the while risking his rejection to ensure there are no secrets between them. Their open communication is a highlight, the lingering fear associated with many a YA relationship that a misunderstanding will blow up in their faces beautifully absent as the two of them attempt to figure things out together.

Overall, The Taking is an intriguing start to a new series by Ms. Derting, romance and mystery combining with a healthy dose of conspiracy theory to keep us turning the pages with increasing speed the closer we get to the end. We are left with a cliffhanger firmly in place, things for Kyra and company way up in the air on the final page and all the theories we’d amassed in the very beginning still yet to be confirmed. This cliffhanger though, however frustrating, does the job it’s meant to, and I will certainly be picking up book two to find out what’s to become of the characters who have held my interest throughout.

Rating: 4/5

Find Kimberly

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my  honest opinion.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Interview: Cassandra Rose Clarke + The Wizard's Promise

Today I'm thrilled to have author Cassandra Rose Clarke stopping by the blog as part of the promotional tour for her upcoming young adult novel, The Wizard's Promise, which releases May 6th from Strange Chemistry. Cassandra was nice enough to answer a few questions for me, so I hope you all enjoy the interview. Welcome to Supernatural Snark Cassandra!

Hanna wants nothing more than to learn how to be a witch. What’s one particular spell or aspect of witchcraft she’s most excited to get a handle on?

Hanna just wants to be able to do magic, rather than spend her days out on a fishing boat. Although she doesn’t think of it this way, it’s almost like she wants witchcraft to be her job, the way people hope to turn their art or writing into jobs. So probably the aspect of witchcraft she’s most excited to learn is one of the more difficult, complicated spells that would prove to people she’s capable of spending her life as a witch rather than a fisherwoman.

To help those of us who have yet to meet Hanna get to know her a little bit better, how might her apprentice master describe her or her dedication to her craft?

If he was speaking where Hanna couldn’t overhear, he’d say she was hardworking and skilled—not just at magic, but at fishing too, since fishing is what she’s currently apprenticed for. Of course, he’d also complain that she doesn’t take her fishing duties seriously, and that she needs to be more practical.

Now, if Hanna could overhear, he’d probably leave off the parts about her being hardworking and skillful. He doesn’t want to be too generous with the compliments.

If Hanna could live in another fictional world (book, movie or TV show) dominated by witches, which one would top her list?

I think Hanna would appreciate living in the world of Once Upon a Time, in particular the parts set in the Enchanted Forest. There would be adventure galore for her, and she’d have plenty of opportunities to test out her powers.

There’s mention of a beautiful non-human boy in the synopsis, and lover of romance that I am, his presence has me absurdly excited to dive into this story. What are three characteristics you think make a love interest swoon-worthy?

Pretty big doses of mystery and broodiness, both tempered by a generous splash of kindness. I love tortured, angsty love interests, but not when their angstiness goes too far and they become jerks!

Let’s say you wake up tomorrow in an unfamiliar world. Which character from any of your books would you call on for help in facing whatever this world might throw at you?

Definitely Ananna, from The Assassin’s Curse. She’s got the street smarts that I sorely lack, plus she knows how to fight and use a sword. I’m pretty sure the two of us could take on anything.

What’s one question you wish you would be asked in an interview and how would you answer?

Okay, technically I have been asked about this, but not since I moved to a new house! The question is about where you write and what your writing set-up looks like. Since my laptop broke, I’ve been chained to a desktop, so no more writing in a Starbucks or in the park for me. However, I have set up an entire writing room in my new house, and I just love it. I re-acquired my childhood desk and set my computer up on that, and I even put in a daybed—which I used to beg my parents for when I was kid. Finally got one! I’ve installed shelves to keep all my papers and things organized. Oh, and the walls are mint green! I just need to add some artwork and the room will be sweet writing perfection.

If you could promote The Wizard’s Promise using only a single quote from the book to entice readers, which one would you choose to share?

“I don’t make a habit of trusting boys who can swim in ice water,” I said.

Isolfr gave me one perfect, dazzling smiling. “I’m not a normal boy.”

• • • • • • • • • • • 


All Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch – but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before.

As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.

• • • • • • • • • • • 


 Photo: Brittany at Flashbox Shop

Cassandra Rose Clarke grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a local college. She graduated in 2006 from The University of St. Thomas with a B.A. in English, and two years later she completed her master’s degree in creative writing at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2010 she attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle, where she was a recipient of the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund.

Cassandra’s first adult novel, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award, and her YA novel, The Assassin’s Curse, was nominated for YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons and Daily Science Fiction.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: Don't Look Back

Jennifer L. Armentrout
Young Adult/Mystery
384 pages
Disney Hyperion
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

Don't Look Back has a premise that's always fascinating no matter how many times we may have run across it previously, the loss of memory automatically connecting us to our heroine given we want her questions answered as much as we want our own. The totality of Sam's amnesia makes her unreliable as a narrator, so each clue she uncovers we can't help but want to analyze from every possible angle, looking for something Sam simply doesn't see or that she misinterprets. As a result, the tension in this story is at an all-time high, theories swirling in our minds and emotions a jumbled mess as we attempt to sort through what we knew of Sam before the night she disappeared and compare her to the girl she appears to be now, the distance between the two an enormous gaping chasm we can't wait bridge.

Sam is easy to like from the beginning, her horror at the type of person she used to be matching our own, uniting us in our shared distaste for someone who treated others so abominably for her own amusement. The post-accident Sam is a young woman we can fully support, someone who, while understandably confused as friends, family and a boyfriend all try to remind her of the girl who disappeared on them days prior, doesn't use that confusion to fall back on bad habits. She doesn't let her friends or her boyfriend convince her to be that stereotypical mean girl once again, instead she stands up to them repeatedly and apologizes for their behavior to those on the receiving end of their mockery. She's also fairly upfront (with one or two exceptions) with both the few people she trusts and the police when she remembers bits and pieces of that night, choosing to step forward with what she knows even when those around try to tell her the things she's seeing in her mind aren't important.

Ms. Armentrout is well-known for her ability to write romances with varying levels of heat, and while there is romance in this story, it's one of her more quiet ones, Sam's amnesia remaining the focus throughout. Her relationship with Carson–one previously strained by by cruel words and near constant put-downs–evolves slowly as Sam attempts to remedy the mistakes of a girl she can't imagine herself being, but as it grows and changes we also have the distinct displeasure of dealing with Sam's actual boyfriend Del. It takes Sam a bit longer than we'd like to finally break things off with him despite the unease she feels the moment she sees him after the accident, and while it's easy to understand her hesitancy to make too many changes when so many things around her have already shifted, we can't help but wish she cut him loose far earlier. There's no true love triangle though as Del is more villainous than anything else, and Carson is one of those beautiful good guys who refuses to move forward with Sam until she's free and clear of Del's entanglement, moving him up the ladder of our attraction with impressive speed.

Overall, Don't Look Back is an entertaining read with a well-executed mystery and a sweet romance, and though it's not necessarily one that dazzles with its uniqueness, it still takes us on a ride we don't want to be over even once we reach the last page.

Rating: 4/5

Find Jennifer:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my  honest opinion.