Signal Boost by Alyssa Cole

Signal Boost (Off the Grid, #2)Signal Boost by Alyssa Cole
Published by Carina Press

After something happened to make all technology stop working, John and his family have survived the apocalypse in their safe cabin with plenty of food and water, at least for a while. When a random guy, Mikhail, is caught raiding their garden, John’s parents offer him food and shelter in their home, while John finds himself rapidly developing a crush on this mysterious stranger. Mikhail reveals he’s on his way to a nearby university to find a professor he knows who may have some answers about why the world seems to be ending, and John decides to take up the adventure and accompany him on his journey. As they walk, they get to know each other, and their secrets come out in ways that bring them closer but have the scary consequence of showing their true colors, amidst the terror that is the new world in which they are living.

Signal Boost is the second book in Cole’s Off the Grid series, the first being Radio Silence, which I REALLY liked. The series is post-apocalyptic romance, which each book focusing on a different character and his/her romantic life. The first book featured John’s best friend, Arden, as she falls in love with John’s older brother, Gabriel, as the world is ending all around them. Signal Boost was unfortunately less successful for me than the first book. It provided enough entertainment, but it wasn’t as fun or sexy as the first book and I didn’t even get all that excited or into the explanations the author began to provide for how and why the apocalypse was happening.

I think the issue for me was that the book felt very meandering and sort of boring, although I hate to say that. John and Mikhail’s relationship started off with a spark and developed from there, so that part I liked and it felt authentic to me. But it was kind of boring, to be honest. It took so long for them to really get to know each other and so much of the book just felt like a waiting game for that to happen. I also didn’t love John as a character and Mikhail was honestly kind of clueless – when they got to the university and they started dealing with Mikhail’s former professor, without getting into any spoilers, I have to say that the story really went off the rails for me at that point.

What did I like? The science stuff and the reasons for the apocalypse was a welcome addition to the book, even though by the time it got going I was sort of annoyed and wasn’t as excited about these explanations as I wanted to be. I loved the fact that within the same series, there is so far a hetero romance and a LGBT romance (not sure what the third book entails). I like Cole’s writing and the way that she writes sex scenes I think is fantastic. Overall, this was not a bad romance at all just not what I was expecting since I liked the first book so much. I may or may not read the third one at this point.

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Confess by Colleen Hoover

ConfessConfess by Colleen Hoover
Published by Atria Books

From the publisher:

Auburn Reed has her entire life mapped out. Her goals are in sight and there’s no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry.

For once, Auburn takes a risk and puts her heart in control, only to discover Owen is keeping major secrets from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it.

The last thing Owen wants is to lose Auburn, but he can’t seem to convince her that truth is sometimes as subjective as art. All he would have to do to save their relationship is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin…

You know what, this was an enjoyable novel that was an extremely quick read. I loved Hoover’s Maybe Someday, so I was anxious to pick up another one of her novels, and Confess did not disappoint. It didn’t quite have the edge that Maybe Someday had, but this was still a fun read.

I liked Auburn and I liked Owen and they were great together, too. I do have to say that the whole “girl gets confidence because a guy tells her to be confident” thing is annoying, and I didn’t love that Auburn only felt that she could stand up for herself once Owen told her she should, but I’m choosing to pretend that is not the central theme of the book (it’s not. Well maybe it kind of is. Whatever. I liked it anyway, okay?!) The relationship with them was a bit of the instalove variety, but they shared so much about themselves in a short period of time that it wasn’t JUST a physical thing, which I appreciated.

I’m not going to pretend that important things in the novel weren’t wrapped up in unrealistic, tidy little bows, because they definitely were, but I liked it anyway. I think that what Hoover chose to do with her characters was slightly out of the norm and I was happy with how everyone’s stories ended up. Yes it was too pretty of an ending, but so what? I had fun reading it.

After just two of Hoover’s novels, I can see that she has a distinct style that I both love and could possibly get annoyed with very quickly. For that reason, I’m going to shy away from her books for a bit so that the annoyed part doesn’t happen. For contemporary YA bordering on new adult, I do really like her and would recommend picking up her books.

Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole

Radio Silence (Off the Grid, #1)Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole
Published by Carina Press

From the publisher:

Arden Highmore was living your average postgrad life in Rochester, New York, when someone flipped the “off” switch on the world. No cell phones, no power, no running water—and no one knows why. All she and her roommate, John, know for sure is that they have to get out, stat. His family’s cabin near the Canadian border seemed like the safest choice.

It turns out isolation doesn’t necessarily equal safety.

When scavengers attack, it’s John’s ridiculously handsome brother, Gabriel, who comes to the rescue. He saves Arden’s life, so he can’t be all bad…but he’s also a controlling jerk who treats her like an idiot. Now their parents are missing and it seems John, Gabriel, their kid sister, Maggie, and Arden are the only people left alive who aren’t bloodthirsty maniacs.

No one knows when—or if—the lights will come back on and, in the midst of all that, Arden and Gabriel are finding that there’s a fine line indeed between love and hate. How long can they expect to last in this terrifying new world, be it together or apart?

I’ve been wanting to explore romance novels for a while. I read one Sarah MacLean book a few years ago and really liked it, but haven’t known where to go from there. I picked this up on a recommendation from Gin Jenny (who gave me a few great recommendations in the genre, thank you!) and I’m really glad I did. Not only is Radio Silence a romance novel, but it’s almost thriller-like in its post-apocalypticness. Such a great combination.

As I said, I don’t read many romance novels so I can’t really compare the heat between Arden and Gabriel to a “good” sexytimes situation in other romance novels, but I thought they had great chemistry and very well-written, steamy sex scenes. I don’t love the trope where the guy has to act all possessive and controlling of the girl (actually I hate it) but luckily, in this novel that only lasted a short while. Eventually Gabriel came to his senses and realized that, duh, this girl is a smart, kick-ass lady who can be trusted to make her own decisions. Thank goodness for that or I would have been REALLY annoyed with him for the entire book.

One of the main reasons I wanted to read this book is because it sounded like what Gin Jenny has coined as a “process dystopia” – meaning the reader is along for the ride of how and why the planet actually fell apart, seeing the whole process of the apocalypse as it happens, instead of just the post-apocalyptic world. I expected to get that with Radio Silence but it wasn’t there, which was disappointing. We know the electricity is out, we just don’t know why. Hopefully there’s more information as the series goes on.

So I liked this one a lot! It was definitely the right book to jump-start my attempts at finding which romance novels work for me and which do not. I will definitely be continuing with the series.

Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

Maybe Someday (Maybe, #1)Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover
Published by Atria Books

From the publisher:

Sydney is living in an idyllic bubble – she’s a dedicated student with a steady job on the side. She lives with her best friend, has a great boyfriend, and the music coming from the balcony opposite hers is fast becoming the soundtrack to her life. But when Sydney finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, the bubble bursts. The mysterious and attractive man behind the music, Ridge, gives Sydney hope that she can move on and they begin to write songs together. But moving on is harder than she expects, Sydney can only hope…. Maybe someday…

Rhapsody Jill strikes again with another great recommendation! I suppose this would be classified as New Adult – basically YA for late teens and early twenty-somethings. The characters in this particular book are twenty-two, just beginning lives and careers and some getting involved in truly serious relationships. I am not sure if all New Adult novels are mostly romance but this one definitely was and it was AWESOME. I need to read more of these kinds of books because I really, really enjoyed it.

Basically, the story here is that Sydney is living with her best friend when she discovers that her boyfriend has been cheating on her … with said best friend. The person who alerted her to this terrible fact is the guy across the way, Ridge, a guy who she’s been listening to play guitar for a few weeks now and developing a little mini-crush on. With nowhere to go after leaving her apartment and not wanting to move back home with her parents, Sydney moves into the extra bedroom in the apartment Ridge shares with two other roommates. Sydney’s mini-crush on Ridge quickly morphs into a massive one, complete with one huge issue – he has a girlfriend, and Sydney has promised herself she will NEVER EVER get involved with a guy who has a girlfriend, after going through the betrayal of her own best friend and boyfriend.

I loved everything about this book. I loved the incredible chemistry between Sydney and Ridge. I loved the complicated friendships between Sydney, Ridge and their other two roommates (who happen to be sort of dating). I loved the huge part music played in the book. Oh, and Ridge is deaf – which is a huge thing in the book because of how he and Sydney communicate and how he experiences the world, and how he plays music differently from someone who can hear, but it’s also not a huge thing because oh my gosh he is just like everyone else! (insert sarcastic surprised face here.) Have I mentioned the chemistry between Sydney and Ridge? HOT. Yes, he has a girlfriend, and yes that whole issue needs to get sorted out but I’m telling you … super hot.

So much love for this book! Rhapsody Jill … keep the recs coming, please.

When It Happens by Susan Colasanti

When It HappensWhen It Happens by Susan Colasanti
Published by Viking Juvenile

From the publisher:

At the start of her senior year in high school, Sara wants two things: to get into a top college and to find true love. Tobey also wants two things for his senior year: to win Battle of the Bands and to make Sara fall in love with him. However, a popular jock named Dave moves in on Sara first. But Tobey’s quirky wit and big blue eyes are hard for Sara to ignore. Plus, he gets the little things that matter to her. Can a slacker rock-star wannabe win the heart of a pretty class brain like Sara?

Since this year I’m trying to #ReadMyOwnDamn books, I’m getting to a lot of books that have been on my shelves FOREVER, and this is one of them. I figured it’d be a quick and fun read and I was not wrong about that. This is a cute but predictable story about the popular girl who is also smart (why those two things have to be marketed as opposites is annoying, but whatever) and is looking for a guy who she has something in common with, instead of the popular guy she is “supposed” to be with. Enter Tobey – the guy who is in love with the popular, smart Sara and KNOWS they are destined to be together, so he goes to great lengths to get to know her. And it works. Cue happy ending.

I mean, that’s pretty much the whole thing but it isn’t a bad book, and not quite as cliche as I made it sound. There are a few Issues discussed throughout the book – although, I felt the author could have explored some of those a little more to give the book more depth – and the characters are somewhat complex. At least some of them are. Also the book is told from the alternating perspectives of Sara and Tobey, which is something I can’t ever resist, and in this case I thought it worked really well. Although, man, do high school guys think about sex a lot. I suppose that’s accurate and realistic, though, so I can’t complain.

Overall, When It Happens was cute and enjoyable and I can’t say it was a waste of my time. While I didn’t LOVE it, I would certainly read more by this author.

Overseas by Beatriz Williams

OverseasOverseas by Beatriz Williams
Published by Putnam Adult

From the publisher:

When twenty-something Wall Street analyst Kate Wilson attracts the notice of the legendary Julian Laurence at a business meeting, no one’s more surprised than she is. Julian’s relentless energy and his extraordinary intellect electrify her, but she’s baffled by his sudden interest. Why would this handsome British billionaire—Manhattan’s most eligible bachelor—pursue a pretty but bookish young banker who hasn’t had a boyfriend since college?

The answer is beyond imagining . . . at least at first. Kate and Julian’s story may have begun not in the moneyed world of twenty-first-century Manhattan but in France during World War I, when a mysterious American woman emerged from the shadows of the Western Front to save the life of Captain Julian Laurence Ashford, a celebrated war poet and infantry officer.

Now, in modern-day New York, Kate and Julian must protect themselves from the secrets of the past, and trust in a true love that transcends time and space.

This book reminded me of The Time Traveler’s Wife in that it is well-written, with good characters, and features time travel and a romance. It’s definitely a wonderful novel in its own right, and is very different from the book I just mentioned, but I wanted to give you an idea of the feel of this book – because those elements make the two pretty similar.

From the moment I picked up Overseas, I was pulled into the story and didn’t want to leave. I liked Kate quite a bit and was just as skeptical as she when Julian was SO into her from the second they met – he felt so strongly for a perfect stranger, at least that’s how it appeared to her (and the reader). Once the plot moves along, though, it becomes clear that things aren’t exactly what they seem and Julian might have reason to feel so deeply for Kate from the onset.

There is a bit of over-protectiveness on Julian’s part that annoyed me – at one point, he and Kate go away together to an isolated cabin for weeks and weeks and he pretty much insists that she stay inside those four walls while he’s at work during the day – but you later find out that he does have a reason for his concern. Still, I didn’t love that aspect of his personality and I mentally applauded Kate when she decided to go against his wishes and spend a day in the city with an old friend.

But truly, this is a beautiful love story at its core and I did enjoy every moment I spent with Overseas. Kate and Julian are very passionate, and the reader can feel their love through the pages. There is a sense of urgency running through the second half of the novel, once the time travel aspect is brought to the surface and it becomes clear that someone or something is out to destroy their relationship. The very end of the novel had me racing through the pages, desperately hoping that all would work out for the two of them.

Reading Overseas was a highly enjoyable experience! I really appreciate everything about Beatriz Williams – her ability to craft an engaging story with plot twists, the way she constructs likable characters, her beautiful writing, and boy can she write a romantic, sexy book! I am looking forward to seeing what else this truly talented author has in store for me in the future.

Comeback Love by Peter Golden

Comeback LoveComeback Love by Peter Golden
Published by Washington Square Press
Review copy received at SIBA 2012

Gordon Meyers is en route to his sister’s home to deal with a family catastrophe when he decides to detour to see an old flame, Glenna Rising, and surprises her at her Manhattan pediatrics practice. Thirty-five years earlier, in the 1960’s, the two lived the greatest love story of each of their lives, until its shattering conclusion and emotionally charged breakup. As the two meet for a drink, Glenna tries to learn the real reason Gordon came to visit her, and old secrets and hurts are brought to the surface as the two of them rediscover their feelings all over again.

Why did I wait so long to read this book? I’ve had it since September 2012 and it was so good I’m kicking myself for not picking it up sooner. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it definitely wasn’t this beautiful love story, one fraught with challenges and issues and sticky, hard situations but with two people at its center who had the kind of all-consuming love that is undeniable and inescapable.

One thing I loved so much about Comeback Love is that Golden managed to weave so much history into what is, on the surface, a romance novel. Told mostly in the past, the book spends the majority of its time in the 1960’s, and Glenna is active in the movement to legalize abortion, so there is a lot about that in the book. I loved how Golden explores how personal choices can be so far from one’s beliefs, and even when we want them to match up perfectly, we can’t always reconcile what we believe with what we actually do when faced with decisions of our own. The same can be said about the Vietnam War – Gordon struggles with whether to go to war or to keep himself out of the draft with his student deferments, and then when his own son is of age the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are in full swing and he wants to protect his son from the very same choices he made as a young adult. There’s something so wonderful about getting these bits of history inside such a well-written, character-driven novel.

Even though Gordon and Glenna’s relationship is fraught with complications, and they both make bad choices and all of that, I still really liked them each individually and the two of them together as a couple. It’s hard to really know Glenna, because the book is told from Gordon’s point of view, and the reader therefore only sees her as he does – not as she sees herself – but even still, I liked her and wanted the best for her. Gordon is, of course, a character to root for, but his disastrous choices made me want to shake him at times. There was this crazy magnetic pull between the two of them that really drew me into the novel and kept me turning pages, even when their relationship wasn’t going in a direction that I necessarily wanted for them.

I liked this novel so, so much and I’m annoyed with myself for having waited so long to read it. It is beautifully written, with characters and settings that jump off the pages and right into the reader’s heart. Highly recommended.

Collateral by Ellen Hopkins

CollateralCollateral by Ellen Hopkins
Published by Atria
Review copy received at SIBA 2012

Ashley, a student at San Diego State University, always expected that she would grow up and marry someone just like her – an intellectual, bookish type, someone who had a similar background as she and had many of the same interests. So it’s a complete surprise to her when she falls for Cole, a military man who is, on the outside, nothing like her, but she finds a passionate, smart, completely sweet guy beneath his tough exterior. Their relationship lasts five years and four deployments, and just when Cole is ready to marry Ashley, she meets someone new – someone more along the lines of who she’d always pictured herself with – and she begins to question if the military life is one she can actually see herself living for good.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m quite a fan of this author’s work. Her ability to write about incredibly difficult subjects using the most beautiful verse just does something to me. Collateral is her second book for adults (she usually writes YA) and I can definitely say it was successful.

The romance between Ashley and Cole is HOT. There are some steamy scenes in this book. While it gets quite sexy between the two of them, there is a clear element of love there and I felt that Hopkins communicated that quite well using poetry. There was a real connection between these two, one that went far deeper than their physical connection. I could feel the love and admiration they had for one another, and even when things got really hard for them, ultimately they cared about each other so much and that caring was what was so heartbreaking about their situation.

There is a very tense undercurrent running throughout the entire novel, and by the time the conclusion is reached, the tension is at a maximum – I couldn’t stop furiously turning pages until I was done reading. The whole time the reader is getting to know Ashley and Cole, it’s obvious their love is going to face serious challenges, but what exactly challenges them isn’t revealed until the very end. Hopkins did an amazing job making the reader fall in love with their relationship, while at the same time acknowledging that it was far from perfect, making the reader desperate to find out how things would turn out for them. I was shocked by the ending, but looking back it wasn’t shocking at all – Hopkins laid out their fate perfectly throughout the book, you just have to be reading closely to see what’s between the lines.

I really enjoyed Collateral and highly recommend it. I love novels in verse when they are done well, and Hopkins is a master at her craft. Not only is this a story with memorable characters and a real romance at its core, it illuminates at a terrifyingly real level what soldiers go through in their transition from military to civilian life. It’s a scary thing, something that isn’t talked about enough, but an important subject to understand. Highly recommended.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French KissAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Published by Dutton

When Anna Oliphant’s famous author father (think Nicholas Sparks) decides she should go to boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school, instead of her public school in Atlanta, she is horribly upset and terrified of this huge change in her life. Surprisingly, Anna finds herself in a group of friends almost immediately upon arriving in Paris, and even more surprisingly, she becomes BFF’s with one of the guys in the group, the charming, intelligent, and gorgeous St. Clair. While she can’t stop herself from having a crush on him, she knows he has a girlfriend so she remains content with their friendship for most of the year. But when she starts to think he might be interested in her, too, she can’t help but think of how good they would be together …

I’ve been eyeing Anna and the French Kiss probably since it was released in late 2010 and bloggers began raving about it. Now that I’ve read it myself, I’m here to tell you that all that raving was justified – this is such a sweet, fun, charming, well-written and well-characterized young adult romance. It was everything I want my YA to be.

What I loved about this novel is that while the romance is a BIG part of the story, Anna’s own journey towards independence and learning she can grow as a person and do things on her own, can learn new things and experience a new culture, was just as important. She is the kind of character you can’t help but love – she’s smart, resourceful, honest, caring, but isn’t perfect, she makes mistakes, misjudges people, misinterprets situations, all the stuff regular people do on a daily basis. Her internal monologue is hilarious at times but also so very realistic and mirrors what real teens think and feel, how they deal with difficult situations, and how they process their emotions.

But the romance! So sweet. St. Clair is absolutely charming, so smart and so kind to everyone, the kind of guy you want the heroine to fall in love with. The way they were truly great friends for such a big part of the novel really worked for me – the romances that come out of nowhere can be fun, but aren’t very realistic. This one made sense, they fell in love over time, they truly knew each other and could appreciate little things about one another, it was just so sweet and perfect.

Anna and the French Kiss is a fantastic book in the YA romance category. I am kicking myself for waiting so long to read this book and I’m really looking forward to reading more from Stephanie Perkins. Highly recommended!

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Published by Simon & Schuster

This novel is one I wouldn’t have read if not for book club, and thank goodness for book club because what a gem this book is! Don Tillman, a socially awkward professor of genetics, is in his early forties, has never been on a date, and is convinced that although he’d love a relationship, he’s unsuitable for a wife. His one and only true friend disagrees with him and sets him on a quest to find the perfect wife – involving speed dating, internet dating, matchmaking, and most importantly, a questionnaire intended to find the one perfect person for Don. One day he meets Rosie, a younger woman who is his opposite in every way – she’s an independent, spur-of-the-moment, who-cares-what-they-think kind of person, but lucky for Don she’s not looking for romance from him. What she’s looking for is to find her biological father, and Don begins to help her on this quest. Along the way, the two become closer than they ever expected and Don finds himself having feelings for Rosie he never before thought possible.

This novel was just so charming! Don is aware that he is different, but it’s almost like at his core, he feels that it’s everyone else who is different from him – he just doesn’t understand why people behave the way they do sometimes, why they don’t say exactly what’s on their mind, why they use sarcasm and humor and tell white lies. His candor is absolutely hilarious. I loved the irony of the fact that he’s researching Asperger’s and has absolutely no understanding of the fact that he’s probably on the spectrum himself. Everything about him charmed me and he was so quirky in an interesting way.

I loved Rosie too and felt deeply for her as she was really a lost child in an adult’s body. She lost her mother at a young age and was told at that time that the man who raised her is not her biological father. I understood her tough exterior because it was clear that she was in pain underneath. And you wouldn’t think that a man like Don who is completely insensitive and doesn’t understand what a woman needs to hear would be able to get under her skin and into her heart,but you’d be wrong. What I loved about the two of them was that they each made the other better. Rosie made Don have more fun, be more outgoing, and get better at engaging with people and being a part of the world. Don made Rosie understand the value of routine and structure and organization – and they worked together so well. I loved the two of them and their slow journey toward finding one another.

The Rosie Project is a really sweet story and I enjoyed it a lot. These two characters that you would never think could work out together both found their way into my heart. It’s fun, quirky, and like I said before, so utterly charming. I definitely can recommend this one and I’m grateful to my book club for bringing it to my attention!