What Are You Reading This January?

Here we are, almost a month into the new year and I have yet to ask what you’re all reading! Pardon my bad manners folks. This month’s reading schedule is chock full of new releases. January seems to be the month when a lot of my favorite authors release new novels. So without further ado, here’s what I’m reading!

wayrjanuary

Julie Klassen has become one of my favorite historical fiction writers over the last year or so. Her latest release, The Dancing Master, is high up on the list of books I MUST read this year. Continuing on my binge of historical fiction books for January will be new author (to me) Anne O’Brien and her latest release The Forbidden Queen. I love the rich history of the English monarchy, so any chance to read more about it I’ll take. And finally, Tessa Dare’s historical romance Romancing the Duke. It’s the first in her new Castles Ever After series and features a blind hero!!! The first 50 pages were released online this past week (click here) and after reading them…..I was hooked.

Other books releasing this month that I’m excited about: A Match Made in Texas is a compilation of short stories by several authors, Karen Witemeyer being one of them. I’m also pumped about The Destiny of Violet and Luke by Jessica Sorensen, Believe by Erin McCarthy, Live by Mary Ann Rivers, and Seeking Her by Cora Carmack.

Over to you readers! What’s currently on your nightstand? Any new releases you’re excited about this month?

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Kim’s Review of Lila and Ethan: Forever and Always (The Secret #4.5) by Jessica Sorensen

laefaajsWhen I found out that Jessica Sorensen had written one more novella to add to her Secret series I’ll admit, I was nervous. I was already really happy with the outcome of the events of the previous four novels (my reviews of those novels can be found here, here, here, and here!)  I was nervous as I thought Sorensen would potentially create another conflict only in the interest of extending the series, and didn’t think much more could be added to the story.  How wrong I was!

From Goodreads:

Lila Summers just wants to know one thing for certain: that Ethan Gregory will be with her always. Once her friend, he’s become so much more, melting the pain of her past away with each kiss. Now Lila is on a road trip with Ethan, in the wilderness under the stars, and she can’t imagine her life without him. But when she talks about the future, something in Ethan changes . . .

Ethan has no doubts about his feelings for Lila. His life with her gets better every day-and that’s the scary part. How can he walk into a future where he has everything to lose? With Lila, his whole heart is on the line for the very first time. But if Ethan can’t give her the promise she needs, his greatest fear might come true: he’ll lose Lila for good.

Lila and Ethan: Forever and Always was a perfect “final act” to The Secret series.  As I said earlier, I was afraid that the main conflict contained within the story-line would be contrived and unnatural.  Fortunately, this was not the case, as the discord between Lila and Ethan seemed to stem from the natural growing pains any relationship would experience.  As these concerns were dealt with and worked through, I was happy to follow along as Lila and Ethan learned even more about each other as they dealt with these problems.  In a way, these differences made their relationship seem even more real and relatable.  I know we as readers are sometimes conditioned to look for the “happy ending” in most stories, but I believe that Sorensen has accurately reproduced the problems that most couples face once the honeymoon period is over, and I was happy to follow Lila and Ethan along for one last adventure.  If you’ve been a fan of the series thus far, you owe it to yourself to finish this final chapter.

5 out of 5 Stars

Lila and Ethan: Forever and Always by Jessica Sorensen
Forever (Grand Central Publishing) (2014)
eBook: 128 pages
ISBN: 9781455584659

Special thanks to Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for my review copy via Netgalley!

2013 – A Year In Review

fireworksIt’s totally cliché, but where the hell has this year gone? With today being the very last day of 2013 I figured I’d do a quick “Year in Review” post to talk about my progress with reading challenges and also to discuss my favorite books of the year!

Quick rundown on how I did with my reading challenges: I successfully read 120 books this year. In fact, as of the time of writing this post I am at 199 books for the year! (WOOT!) You can see all the books I’ve read with links to their reviews here. Now, a bit of bad news. I utterly failed (for the second year in a row) the audio book challenge. I didn’t listen to 1 audio book this year (read: pathetic.) I also didn’t do so great with the Book to Movie challenge either, with only 2 out of 12 read. Now, to the good news: I completed 78% of the Color Coded Challenge, or 7 out of 9 reads. I actually had a blast doing this challenge. You don’t realize how many books use colors in their titles until you do a challenge like this! Additionally, I unsurprisingly completed the Historical Fiction Challenge as well as the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary challenge with no trouble at all.

And now for the difficult part: Picking my favorite reads of 2013.

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  2. The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley (look for my review next week!!!)
  3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  4. The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers/Making It Last by Ruthie Knox
  5. Beauty and the Billionaire by Jessica Clare
  6. Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson
  7. Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander/Easy by Tammara Webber
  8. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
  9. Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost
  10. The Secret of Ella and Micha/The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen

Having read almost 200 books this year, choosing 10 (really 12) of my favorites almost killed me. So, in the effort of easing my conscience I’m giving you some of my runners-up (in no particular order)!

  1. Pride, Prejudice, and the Perfect Match by Marilyn Brant
  2. The Edelstein Trilogie by Kersin Gier (Book one, two, & three)
  3. The Westfield Wolves/Regency Vampyre Series by Lydia Dare
  4. Return to Longbourn by Shannon Winslow
  5. The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
  6. Losing It by Cora Carmack
  7. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  8. Bittersweet by Noelle Adams

This was hands down the hardest year yet to pick my favorite books. When you read almost 200 books in a year I guess that should be expected, no?

Ok, the burden is being passed to you. What did you love reading this year?!? Please let us know below. And finally, enjoy the rest of your New Year’s Day, hopefully with a great book. See you in 2014!

Kim’s Review of The Ever After of Ella and Micha (The Secret #4) by Jessica Sorensen

teaoeamjsI am a big fan of authors who write imperfect characters who learn to find the beauty in their flaws. Ella and Micha from Jessica Sorensen’s The Secret series are two of my very favorite flawed characters. In The Ever After of Ella and Micha we finally get to see them achieve their happy ending.

From Goodreads:

The day Ella has waited for is just around the corner. It’s the day she’ll marry Micha, the love of her life, the light that guided her out of the darkness. It looks like it will be the perfect Christmas-until an unexpected package arrives with a harsh reminder of Ella’s past. Suddenly Ella doesn’t feel as confident about her future. Can she really have a “happily-ever-after” if she’s never even seen one?

Micha will stand by Ella no matter what she’s going through-though he worries that she might leave him standing at the altar again. When he’s offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to tour with his favorite bands for three months, Micha knows he can’t leave Ella behind. But can he ask her to uproot her life to join him on the road?

Now Ella and Micha must find a way to balance their fears, their dreams, and their love . . . if they ever want to hear wedding bells.

As much as I love this series and its characters, I hope this is the last book focusing on Ella and Micha. I think we’ve reached the end of their story arc in a perfect manner. The growth these characters have displayed over the past three books (reviews of book one, two, & three) has been conducive and organic to the story. Their problems weren’t ones that could have been believably solved over the course of one book. I respect Sorensen as a storyteller immensely for not compromising the integrity of her characters with a quick finish. She let Ella and Micha grow naturally as individuals and as a couple, allowing readers time to grow with them. Their journey has been one wrought with difficulties and misunderstandings, but it is one that teaches us the beauty in flaws, the beauty of true love.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Ever After of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen
Grand Central Publishing (2013)
eBook: 272 pages
ISBN: 9781455582679

Special thanks to Grand Central Publishing for my review copy via Netgalley!

Kim’s Review of The Temptation of Lila and Ethan (The Secret #3) by Jessica Sorensen

ttolaejsIt’s not a secret that the new adult genre has found a fan in me this year. It’s a genre that catches a lot of flack (unfortunately.)  That makes me sad because I truly think there are great reads to be found within it.  Your late teens/early 20’s are an extremely difficult time to navigate.  Most people are in college at that time, which leads to navigating those years with people new to your life that may or may not know you as well as the people you left at home.  It’s a time that you experiment. A time filled with peer pressure. A time to question the things you’ve been taught your whole life. But above all, it’s a time to experience life.

This is why I’ve found the new adult genre so important and awesome.  It’s filled with books that truly speak to the fears, issues, and experiences that occur during that time of your life.  I’ve found books like Tammara Webber’s Easy to help promote knowledge of rape culture and sexual assault.   Cora Carmack’s Losing It is all about the pressure in today’s society to lose your virginity.  The Temptation of Lila and Ethan by Jessica Sorensen is being added to this list of new adult must-rec’s for tackling of drug abuse, specifically prescription drugs.

From Goodreads:

On the surface, Lila Summers is flawless: good looks, expensive clothes, and a big, beautiful smile. But a dark past and even darker secrets are threatening to bubble over her perfect façade. She’ll do anything to keep the emptiness inside hidden-which leads her into situations that always end badly. Whenever she hits bottom, there’s only one person who’s there to pull her out: Ethan Gregory.

Ethan set the rules a long time ago: he and Lila are just friends. He doesn’t do relationships. Although his tattooed, bad boy exterior is a far cry from Lila’s pretty princess image, Ethan can’t deny they have a deeper connection than he’s used to. If he’s not careful, he could be in serious danger of becoming attached-and he’s learned the hard way that attachment only leads to heartbreak.

When Lila falls farther than she ever has before, can Ethan continue to help as a friend? Or is he also getting close to falling . . . for her?

Jessica Sorensen is an author you need to add to your must-read list.  She tackles this difficult subject matter with hope and beauty.  I’ve loved this series from the beginning (see my reviews of book one and two); it is filled with characters that have realistic flaws and the strength and courage to view those flaws as beautiful.  In The Temptation of Lila and Ethan Sorensen is preaching to her readers that it’s ok to be flawed.  Striving for perfection will kill you because perfection is unattainable.  Our flaws are what make us “us.”

She shows us the dangers of drug addiction, and what such an addiction can do to a person’s life.  I applaud her emphasis on prescription drug abuse, which is becoming more rampant in younger generations, and it gives hope to those who think they are powerless over these substances.  Speaking to the young adult target audience directly about these issues, Sorensen is most likely saving lives.  That is extremely important, and more proactive writing like this is needed to show young adults that they are not alone and can fight drug addiction just as the characters in Temptation do.

Therefore, I heartily encourage any fans of the new adult genre to give The Temptation of Lila and Ethan a try.  It’s a powerful read with a serious message that is worth spreading.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Temptation of Lila and Ethan by Jessica Sorensen
Grand Central Publishing (2013)
eBook: 336 pages
ISBN: 9781455574902

Special thanks to Grand Central Publishing for my review copy via Netgalley!

What Are You Reading This November?

With Thanksgiving approaching in a little over a week, I figured I’d publish a quick “What Are You Reading?” post! I’ll be traveling with Todd out to Ohio to spend the holidays with his mom’s side of the family.  We have a 12 hour drive out, so you can be sure I’ll be getting my read on.

So what’s on the agenda to read during the trip? First up is book three in Jessica Sorensen’s The Secret series (my reviews on the first two books, The Secret of Ella and Micha & The Forever of Ella and Micha, can be found by clicking on their titles.)  Also on the list is Jane Odiwe’s newest release, Project Darcy.  I’ve been a fan of Odiwe’s Austenesque novels for a while now, so I’m looking forward to adding this title to my completed reads list for the Pride and Prejudice reading challenge I’ve been taking part in.  My most recent of her reads was Searching for Captain Wentworth).  And last, but certainly not least, is Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon.  Drums of Autumn is the fourth book in her Outlander series (see reviews for book one, two, & three.)  My goal of reading one a month didn’t exactly pan out so well, huh…..

wayrnAnyway, I’m sure I’ll read more than just these three over the holiday, but they have my top priority.  How about the rest of you? Any special Thanksgiving plans/books you’re planning on reading?  Share them in the comments below!

The May Roundup!

20130512_115645May was a month of big accomplishments here in the Ryder household.  Staffer Todd (also known as my darling husband) received his Master’s degree in molecular and cell biology from Quinnipiac University (our undergraduate alma mater).  Not only did he earn that, but he defended his thesis which delved into how carbon dioxide affects cells (that’s the super simple explanation).  Todd’s graduation wasn’t the only one our family witnessed this month.  My sister-in-law Ellen also received her Master’s degree from Lehigh University in secondary education, specializing in math.  And thirdly my brother-in-law Jason completed his MD/Ph.D. program at NYU!  (So many smarties!)

IMG_20130520_181607Besides graduations, we also had a month filled with other fun trips and events.  As you may or may not know, I’m OBSESSED with the Fast and the Furious franchise.  After reading about an opportunity to see the newest installment, Fast and Furious 6, at an advance screening, I immediately signed up.  It was awesome, as well as free!  The following weekend, Todd and I traveled down to Staten Island to visit my Aunt Judy.  After many many days and weeks of cleaning and various workers coming to her basement to rebuild it after Hurricane Sandy, we were able to put on the finishing touches!  We helped install a few small items, as well as two in-ceiling speakers (I learned how to wield a drywall saw!)

20130525_153055Finally, we took a trip into the city to visit Todd’s aunt, uncle, and little cousin Sarah at the Natural History Museum!  We had a great time exploring all the exhibits with Sarah and checking out the new additions to the museum since our last visit a couple of years ago.  After this, we found a great little Mexican restaurant near the museum, and sat down for some dinner and margaritas (and lemonade for Sarah).  In all, it was a ton of fun and something we can’t wait to do more often as we don’t get to see Todd’s extended family too often.

On the reading front I read another 23 books, bringing my year-to-date total to 93.  It’s difficult to pick my favorite book of the month (since I read so many good ones), but if I had to pick I’d nominate The Secret of Ella and Micha and The Forever of Ella and Micha both written by Jessica Sorensen.

On the radar for June are some more new adult books I’ve been reading, as well as some historical fiction, paranormal, and action books.  June should be a diverse reviewing month!  Todd’s got a few fun things up his sleeve too, so keep an eye out!

So, there you have it, another exciting month behind the scenes here at Reflections.  What did you do during May?

As always, happy reading!

Kim’s Review of The Forever of Ella and Micha (The Secret #2) by Jessica Sorensen

tfoeamjsDark and angst-filled characters struggling to face their demons are like my kryptonite (well, that and rakish men).  Something about the act of redemption and making it against all odds just gives me the warm and fuzzies.  With that being said it’s not a surprise that Jessica Sorensen is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  I loved loved loved loved loved her book The Secret of Ella and Micha when I read it last month, and couldn’t wait to jump into book two in the series, The Forever of Ella and Micha.

Now that they have survived the events of the first book in the series, both Ella and Micha have settled into a long distance relationship.  Ella has gone back to college, and is attempting to get away from her family problems, as her father is battling with alcohol addiction and has been in and out of rehab for the past few months.  Micha, on the other hand, is traveling across the country performing with his band.  He is finding it much more difficult than he originally thought to be away from Ella, and Ella is missing the safety and security that she feels with Micha.  Nonetheless, she knows that Micha is perusing his dreams, and she refuses to stand in the way of his accomplishments, no matter how much she misses him.  Fortunately they do get to spend brief interludes together, but these moments only serve to highlight how hard it is to let each other go.  Will they be able to keep up their relationship with the distance mounting between them?

Gahhhhh I am in so love with this book and with Sorensen’s writing and with this series in general.  After all the hell that Ella and Micha went through in the last book you’d expect a bit of a reprieve, right? Wrong!  I’m actually glad that Sorensen didn’t just take the easy way out and write them a completely normal happy ever after.  It’s unrealistic to imagine that suddenly all the problems they have with themselves, their families, and each other would magically disappear the minute they admitted to loving each other.  That sugar-coating you find in a lot of romance novels doesn’t exist here.  Ella and Micha are raw, emotional, passionate people.  In other words, they’re real.  At one point in the book Micha tells Ella that since they know all of each other’s flaws, their relationship is stronger than most.

“It will, and you want to know why?” I ask and she nods. “Because most people go into this blind.  They don’t know the bad side of the person they’re with.  But we know each other’s flaws and cracks- we know what we’re getting into and that makes us stronger.”

SO TRUE.  How many people dream of a fantastical relationship where everything is gumdrops and roses? A perfect partner who knows your every thought, dream, wish, etc.  A person who will never disagree with you and will never have any problems dealing with anything life throws at them.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t happen that way.  Nervous breakdowns happen. People lose their jobs, money, homes, family members, etc.  Grief happens. So does depression.  All of these problems can change a person.  Going in to a relationship with your eyes open, knowing the emotional susceptibility your partner could have because of any of these things is the best possible “relationship strengthener” there is.  There will be times when you need to be the strong one while your partner is weak.  This is exactly what happens in The Forever of Ella and Micha, and it’s because of this that I love this book so much.  It’s an incredibly realistic love story that has tons of parallels to real life.  It doesn’t make any false promises, but at the same time is spontaneous and fun.  In short, it is as varied and unpredictable as life is, and because of that it makes a great read.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen
Grand Central Publishing (2013)
eBook: 336 pages
ISBN: 9781455574872

Special thanks to Grand Central Publishing for my review copy via Netgalley!

Kim’s Review of The Secret of Ella and Micha (The Secret #1) by Jessica Sorensen

tsoeamjsAs most of you know, I’m the newest convert to the world of “new adult”.  I can’t get enough of it.  Couple this new genre with a good dose of angst in a novel and you know that you have a perfect storm that is sure to please my bookish needs.  So, when I found out that the first book in Jessica Sorensen’s The Secret series, The Secret of Ella and Micha, fulfilled both of these needs, I had to read it.

Best friends since childhood, Ella and Micha know everything there is to know about one another.  They coexist in a comfort that comes from years of friendship, yet this protection is shattered one night in a way which changes everything.  Ella leaves for college, and changes completely.  Once a fearless and bold girl, she became straight-laced and conforms to the rules completely.  Now that she is back for the summer, Ella fears that all her work to hide her old self will be undone when she sees Micha again.  Micha on the other hand is desperate to bring back the old Ella, and uses every trick he can think of to coax her out of her self-imposed exile to return to her former personality.  Ella knows that Micha has a special ability to get in her head like no one else, but will she let him get close enough to her, the girl whom he loves and would do anything for?

I absolutely love books that take characters with dark pasts and who are severely scarred emotionally and help them break through their “darkness.”  Redemption (self or other) is in my opinion a difficult path for an author to walk when developing characters.  I’ve read a lot of books where authors try to redeem their characters, and the plots end up being so simple and unrealistic.  Sorensen has instead given a true depiction of what darkness can do to a person: dangerous behavior, drinking, and drugs.  It’s all there.  Even at the end of this book the characters aren’t perfect.  Their problems haven’t gone away, and rainbows and unicorns haven’t fallen from the skies.  There are still things that have to be worked on and sifted through, and the only thing that will ever truly heal them is time and acceptance.  Sorensen has definitely found a fan in me for life.  Ella and Micha are just so real and raw that they’re unlike anything else I’ve read recently.  If I had to describe this book using pop culture references, I’d definitely say that it’s like a dark version of Fast and the Furious.  The Secret of Ella and Micha will definitely take you on one hell of a ride that will make you feel like you’ve been simultaneously sucker punched in the gut, and engulfed in the biggest, warmest hug of your life.  I’m pumped that book two, The Forever of Ella and Micha, is slated for release next week.  I’ve already read it and can happily say that it was awesome!  Definitely add this to your to-read piles now!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Secret of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen
Grand Central Publishing (2013)
eBook: 368 pages
ISBN: 9781455574865

The April Roundup!

I can’t believe it!  At the end of April I had 70 books under my belt; this is the fastest reading pace I’ve done yet!  That’s 30 books ahead of schedule!  You can see a list of all the books I’ve read so far here.  With all of the reading I’ve done recently, you’d think I didn’t have enough time for anything else.  Well, that was not the case.  We had a month packed with all sorts of family/friend events that kept me running around!

Beautiful RuinsTo start the month off right, Todd, Jess, and I attended a book signing by Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins.  What an amazing author!  Jess was full of energy and a great all around guy.  I was fortunate enough to get my book signed by him and chat with him afterwards.  Overall, it was yet another wonderful event put on by R.J. Julia.  If you haven’t been there yet, get to it!  The following weekend, we attended a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society in our town put on by the local Knights of Columbus.  It is a huge beer and food festival, with tons of local and regional breweries on hand with plenty of samples and a ton of food too.  Delicious!

Next, it was on to watch the Quinnipiac Men’s Ice Hockey team as they played in the national championship games!  We originally went to New Haven to get together with fellow alums to watch Quinnipiac take on St. Cloud in the Frozen Four semifinal game.  After winning that game, the Bobcats stayed in Pittsburgh to play Yale in the national championship.  We attended a game watch at a local bar and cheered on the Bobcats, but sadly they lost.  There’s always next year though!

IMG_20130509_085129Finally, I have to end this roundup on a slightly sad note.  Recently we had been noting that Sebastian (one of our two cats) had been coughing a lot.  Todd was able to take a day off of work and took him to the vet, where he had an x-ray (he had to be sedated as he can be slightly grumpy at times).  It turns out that he may have slight asthma, and the pills we got are doing the trick, so he is feeling much better!  Look at this cute face!

So on the reading front, the 27 books I read in April were primarily all new adult books.  This is seriously my new favorite genre.  I’ve already posted reviews on two of my favorites: Easy by Tammara Webber and Losing It by Cora Carmack.  AHH this genre is the bomb. I have many more recommendations for this genre, so keep an eye on my upcoming reviews.

Speaking of reviews, here is what’s on the schedule for the rest of May.  Sam’s going to be reviewing a new YA novel entitled The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison.  Todd’s working on Resurrection Express by Stephen Romano and A Year in Beer and Food by Emily Baime and Darin Michaels.  Christine will be reviewing Over the Rainbow by Paul Pickering and I’m working on Eyes Wide Open by Raine Miller, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Stranded with a Billionaire by Jessica Clare, and The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen among others.  It promises to be a full month as always.

I hope your April was as fun-filled and bookish as ours was!

Until next time, happy reading!