Ads 468x60px

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NICOLE'S REVIEW + Novel Nails #11 : These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Title: These Broken Stars
Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: December 10 2013
Publishing House: Disney Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423171027
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they're worth. But with only each other to rely on, Tarver and Lilac must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other's arms. Without the hope of a future together - would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won't be the same people who landed on it.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


I initially had a lot of misgivings about this book but I bought it anyway because of the gorgeous cover which, after reading the story is very fitting. Confession time guys, I rated this book based on the summary alone and proudly proclaimed that this book would rate 3 rainbows at most. At MOST. I was actually expecting it to go even lower but I was wrong. I was dreadfully wrong and I love These Broken Stars all the more for shoving that those 3 rainbows back in my face.

Think Titanic but set in space. When the ship Lilac was traveling on - ironically named Icarus, nothing good comes from that name, seriously - crash lands on a seemingly terraformed planet leaving only her and the infuriatingly handsome Tarver alive, she's got no choice but to stick to his side in hopes of surviving. Their goal? To stay alive and hope that they get rescued. But they didn't count on the voices that call to Lilac or the secrets that their journey across the terrains seem to uncover. 

Lilac, whom I initially thought I would be annoyed at - because I don't get along well with prissy, spoiled characters - threw me for a loop. She's rich and spoiled and she's basically a prim and proper princess, which we all should expect because she's daughter of the richest man in the universe, but she wasn't annoying. She's smart and pretty like all YA heroines are wont to be but she's got some hidden facets to her personality that I absolutely adored. That scene where she got down on her knees in her gorgeous dress and high heels to tinker with the control panel of an escape pod made me think that well, this chick's pretty cool. She's not only a looker but she's got brains too. (Her ability to walk through a jungle in high heels garners plus point for her. I can't even walk on solid ground in high heels.)

Tarver is an award winning military man. He's handsome and capable and I'm pretty sure I'm in love with him too. He and Lilac are total opposites, which make their interactions highly entertaining. It was amusing to see his confusion, fascination and unbridled interest in Lilac. He's not meant to mingle with the elite upper class but does so and despite being capable of dealing with them expertly, he just doesn't quite fit in and their class standing might have been a point of tension between them.

Panicked crowds, crashing ships and surviving on an unknown planet; these are all situations that Tarver's been trained for and his strength and fierceness and capabilities are all admirable. But while I can say that I liked all of those traits it's their character growth and willingness to change that I approve of best. Lilac's growth was incredible and I found myself adoring her even more for the way she pushed herself to change. The romance was unbearably sweet and real and absolutley swoon-worthy. Tarver and Lilac bickered a lot but once they started to get to know each other that only served to rekindle the attraction they had for each other on the ship. 

I'm not exactly a fan of survival stories but I loved These Broken Stars so much. Excellent characters and wonderful character growth and gorgeous prose? Yes please. While there are a few things questionable about the sci-fi aspect I find that I don't really mind and this book deserves 4 freaking rainbows. 

Also, Starbound #2 (This Shattered World) comes out November 11 2014 which is a LONG, LONG TIME to wait. It's not a continuation of Lilac and Tarver's story - cue ugly cry - but it's totally fine because HAVE YOU READ THAT SUMMARY? It sound so interesting! I can't wait till November and the moment local bookstores stock it I am totes throwing my money at them and grabbing a copy. The fact that it has some Legend by Marie Lu vibes going on is kind of a plus. I just hope the ending doesn't make me bawl like Champion did. Please. No tears. 


"Novel Nails" is a feature of the blog that showcases nail art inspired by books and their covers. Nail art will be created by either Michelle or Nicole and will be featured alongside their reviews.

These Broken Stars has a freaking gorgeous cover. How could I not create nail art for it? Plus, it was the perfect opportunity to try out galaxy nails. Yay!

These nails also served as my graduation nails because they matched the blue of my dress. 

Here's a list of the nail polish I used to create these babies.
Base: NARS Ethno Run RIGHT
Silver: OPI Haven't the Foggiest
Blue: Orly Sweet Peacock
"Stars": Orly White Tips
Shimmer overlay: China Glaze Fairy Dust

Isn't it just gorgeous?

I love how my NARS base coat, which is a dark shade of blue, looks darker than it really is thanks to the application of the lighter shades.

I used a sponge to apply the silver and blue. I just dabbed the colors onto the opaque base and applied the white dots which are supposedly stars with a dotting tool.

I layered China Glaze Fairy Dust over it. Doesn't it look marvelous? That shimmer is the best.

I'm all matchy with the book now. 

So what do you guys think? Yay or nay?


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Devil in the Corner by Patricia Elliott

Title: Devil in the Corner
Author: Patricia Elliott
Format Acquired: eARC
Publication Date: March 6, 2014
Publishing House: Hachette Children's Books
ISBN: 9780340956786
Source of Copy: Requested from publisher via NetGalley


Penniless, and escaping the horrors of life as a governess to brutal households, Maud seeks refuge with the cousin-by-marriage she never knew. But Juliana quashes Maud's emerging friendships with the staff and locals - especially John, the artist commissioned to restore the sinister Doom in the local church. John, however, is smitten with Maud and makes every effort to woo her.

Maud, isolated and thwarted at every turn, continue to take the laudanum which was her only solace in London. Soon she becomes dependent on the drug - so is this the cause of her fresh anxieties? Or is someone - or something - plotting her demise?

Is the devil in the corner of the Doom a reality, or a figment of her imagination?

(Image, summary and information courtesy of Goodreads)


Maud's life takes a turn for the better when a letter from an estranged relative appears out of the blue to offer her a warm bed at Windward House. Unsurprisingly, Maud finds herself as an companion to Juliana Greenwood, her sometimes overly dramatic, sometimes compassionate relative, who is only a bit more manipulative than Maud at times. Maud can't help that she sees and/or feels that there is something out there that's bent on getting her: the laudanum helps her sleep, helps her cope with her nightmares. But as the devil slowly makes its presence known as it terrorizes Grenville, has she unleashed her nightmare out into reality?

I actually don't like being omniscient when it comes to Maud's thoughts. Instead of being grateful for being offered a place to stay without wandering, entitled grown men passing by for a grope, she also cultivates a dislike for Juliana for inheriting Windward House. It's not Juliana's fault that Maud's father was rather loose with money - which Maud herself constantly turned a blind eye to. And to cap it off, she had laudanum dependency problems, so she was always paranoid and accusing people of the strangest things (like following her, because Maud is pretty self-obsessed) so no matter how John Shawcross described the loveliness of Maud, she was probably the ugliest protagonist - inside and out - I have ever come across. Some trials in life have made people stronger, and maybe a bit bitter; Maud 's tribulations in life only makes her resentful and calculating. I wanted John Shawcross to find himself a lovely girl who was not Maud, or that equally dreadful girl from the pharmacy, because even if he first fell in love with the hauntingly empty beauty of Maud, he did love her wholly, and I didn't think that Maud deserved that.

The thriller was exciting at first, but in the end, it fell flat. I myself couldn't settle for the paltry convenience of what actually happened, but maybe I'm a bit biased because I really didn't like Maud. While Juliana wasn't the easiest patient nor the kindest relative, I hardly think that it was enough justification for Maud to think of the inheritance she would undoubtedly come into even before Juliana has passed. Juliana may be selfish and manipulative, but then she is also unloved. And while this may not be enough to justify her actions, I just wished that Maud would have been more understanding to that. (Which I now realize, is hard because Maud is self-obsessed, so thinking of anyone besides herself would be challenging.)

While the writing of Devil in the Corner is solid, easy to read, and that it may suck you in, I just came away hollow from the whole book. There was no love lost, nor love found, but neither would I say that this is a book that I'd remember or forget.

Devil in the Corner may appeal to fans of Gothic work, if they aren't put off by the heroine's hideousness as a being, and often lack for human empathy.


Monday, March 24, 2014

NICOLE'S REVIEW: Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam

Title: Elusion
Author: Claudia GAbel and Cheryl Klam
Format Acquired: eARC
Publication Date: March 18 2014
Publishing House: Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN: 9780062122414
Source of Copy: Edelweiss


Soon, Elusion will change the world and life as we know it.

A new technology called Elusion is sweeping the country. An app, a visor and wristband will virtually transport you to an exotic destination where adventure can be pursued without the complications - or consequences - of real life.

Regan is an Elusion insider. Or she used to be. Her father invented the program, and her best friend, PAtrick, heir to the tech giant Orexis, is about to release it nationwide. But ever since her father's unexpected death, Regan can't bear to Escape, especially since waking up from the dream means crashing back to her grim reality.

Still, when there are rumors of trouble in Elusion - accusations that it's addictive and dangerous - Regan is determined to defend it. But the critics of Elusion come from surprising sources, including Josh, the handsome skeptic with his own personal stakes. As Regan investigates the claim, she discovers a disturbing wed of secrets. She will soon have to choose between love and loyalty... a decision that will affect the lives of millions.

Suspense, thrills and romance fuel this near-future story about the seductive nature of a perfect virtual world, and how far one girl will go to uncover the truth behind the illusions.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Regan's father created Elusion - a sort of virtual reality accessible through an app that transports users to a world where everything is perfect. Elusion recreates natural wonders that have been lost and gives users a sense of euphoria helping them momentarily forget about their problems. But ever since her father died, Regan can't seem to bring herself to Escape into Elusion, knowing that when she wakes up it'll all come crashing down on her - the pain, the grief and the loss. But when rumors start to circulate about problems within Elusion, Regan takes it upon herself to verify these rumors and prove them false because she can't have anyone sully her father's invention. 

So, while Elusion does have an interesting premise everything else just falls flat. Regan isn't engaging enough - she's kind of like a petulant child and it's boring how everything's just laid out for her. Everything came so easily for her - figuring out clues and boys and Elusion. Patrick adores her and Josh is obviously attracted to her - love at first sight anyone? And the thing is, both boys aren't even good catches mainly because I can't get a bead on them, Patrick's crazy and Josh's just a good looking military jock. No. Please. Frankly, even Regan isn't that much of a catch herself and I can't believe how fast her friendship with Patrick crumbled so quickly. Don't those years of being friends count for nothing at all?

What's even worse is how Regan is such a wuss and a sucker for Josh. I mean after he blatantly betrayed her she still manages to forgive him? I mean yeah, okay, maybe I'm overreacting but how is it okay for Josh to just give away information that's purely confidential and CLEARLY involves Regan and her father? And come on, she's only met him and she's melting into unseemly puddles around him? Let's just not go there.

Aside from that, I felt like the story was going nowhere. Regan fighting against invisible bad guys, Regan dealing with two boys who have feelings for her (barf), Regan saving the world and a few other plot twists that wanted to be all twisty but ultimately failed. A lot of the things I don't like seeing in YA books appeared here and I couldn't read this book without a few eyerolls here and there.

Sad to say that I was pulled in by the gorgeous cover. The story didn't do anything for me.

I'd like to thank Katherine Tegen for allowing access to an ARC of this book.




Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #11: The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson and This Shattered World by Aimee Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme first initiated by Jill from Breaking the Spine. However, we've added our own twist to it! Not only will we feature books that will be published in the following months, but we will also feature books that are not available yet locally, and are still unavailable to us.

Title: The Kiss of Deception
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Publishing House: Henry Holt


In this timeless new trilogy about love and sacrifice, a princess must find her place in a reborn world.

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia's life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight - but she doesn't - and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom - to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive - and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets - even as she finds herself falling in love.

Michelle: HELLO, THIS SOUNDS WICKED AWESOME! I'm a huge fan of high fantasy mixed with royal families and kingdoms (think Morgan Rhodes' Falling Kingdoms trilogy and Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy!), so this is obviously so up my alley. I actually discovered this on NetGalley and my cursor was hovering above the REQUEST button, despite telling my co-blogger that I am taking a mini-break from requesting for ARCs. (She screamed "LIES!!!" as soon as I said that. She knows me too well.) But due to "territorial rights" *shakes fist at our being international bloggers* my request would have been likely declined, so I have to wait until July to read this awesome-sounding book. *tears*

Title: This Shattered World
Author: Aimee Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Publication Date: November 11 2014
Publishing House: Disney-Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423171034


Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgent.s

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelenting war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

The stunning second novel in the Starbound trilogy is an unforgettable story of love and forgiveness in a world torn apart by war.

Nicole: I am so ready for the release of this book. After reading These Broken Stars (review soon!) can I just say that I'm now a huge fan of this series? Loved it! And that fancy schmancy cover might have helped too - I'm a sucker for pretty dresses. I know, I know, this book doesn't have a final cover yet but I'm betting it'll be as wonderful as the first. And that summary! It reminds me a little of Day and June but I don't mind, I'm super excited. (Just don't break my heart like Champion did.) I'm a little disappointed that it's not Lilac and Tarver anymore but I guess their story is over. I can't believe that this is coming out November. I can't. I can't. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Title: Queen of Hearts
Author: Colleen Oakes
Format Acquired: eARC
Publication Date: February 14, 2014
Publishing House: SparkPress
ISBN: 9781940716039
Source of Copy: Requested from publisher via NetGalley


As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah's days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts - and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives as the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she's ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It's up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary courtesy of NetGalley)


Before she was known as the wicked, devious Queen of Hearts who wanted the world's love, she was just a girl. She only dreams of having Wardley as her husband, and of the day her father finally treats her with love and adoration. But as the countdown begins for Dinah's coronation as the Queen of Hearts, when her father will have no choice but to accept her as the rightful queen of Wonderland, an illegitimate sibling shows up and garners the love and attention from her father and the whole of Wonderland, and a series of unfortunate events seem to have it in for the royal family, and now it looks like the next blood to be spilled is hers.

What I love about this retelling of the Queen of Hearts is that it gives her a character that we cannot derive simply from either the Carroll books, or the Disney movie. Oakes writes Dinah in a way that one can't help but want to comfort her when she is feeling down, especially since her own father seems to disdain her. Dinah's brother Charles, who is also known as the brilliant, but dangerously erratic Mad Hatter, is the only one of her family she can turn to for comfort, even when it's hard to watch him when he's having one of his days. Charles is one of the most fascinating characters, and it did sadden me that he was misunderstood, simply because the people did not even bother to understand him. Her illegitimate sibling, Vittoire, is the newest addition to their "family". While Vittoire is only trying to fit in and get along with Dinah, even I couldn't help but dislike her because she almost always ended up showing Dinah up, albeit purely unintentionally. And I do want Dinah to be loved and cherished, because it's something that she's lived without for almost all her life, save for the very kindly Harris, her butler.

Oakes' Queen of Hearts is lovely, lovely, lovely, because it has an interesting and varied slew of characters, and she makes them come alive with their own personalities. I did wonder why it took quite a bit of time to get to the story itself, so impatient readers might not do so well with this one - that is if you aren't almost immediately sucked in to the story, of course! I did shave off half a rainbow, if only because the ending seriously tripped me up. It honestly like the music stopped in the middle of some pretty seriously awesome dancing, and I felt so bad I just had to take off points for that.

Colleen Oakes' Queen of Hearts is highly recommended to anyone and everyone - Alice and Wonderland fan or no. Now all that's left for me is to twiddle my thumbs until the next book is announced and released.


Monday, March 17, 2014

NICOLE'S REVIEW: Legacy of the Clockwork Key by Kristin Bailey

Title: Legacy of the Clockwork Key
Author: Kristin Bailey
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: March 2013
Publishing House: Simon Pulse
ISBN: 9781442440265
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


When a fire consumes Meg's home, killing her parents and destroying both her fortune and her future, all she has left is the tarnished pocket watch rescued from the ashes. But this is no ordinary timepiece. The clock turns out to be a mechanical key - a key only Meg can use - that unlocks a series of deadly secrets and intricate clues that Meg has no choice but to follow. She has uncovered evidence of an elite secret society and a dangerous invention that some will stop at nothing to protect, and that Meg alone can destroy.

Together with the handsome stable hand she barely knows but hopes she can trust, Meg is swept into a hidden world of deception, betrayal and revenge. The clockwork key has unlocked her destiny.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


After a fire ravages Meg's home and kills her parents, she's forced to work as a maid in Lord Rathford's home - she takes that opportunity because it's certainly better than being tossed out onto the streets. Meg takes her grandfather's pocket watch with her only to find out that the pocket watch is actually a key. A key that will unlock truths and lead Meg into the secret society of the Amusementists - brilliant men who invent dangerous and wondrous machines like a game, hidden from the prying eyes of society.

I like steampunk but I'm sad to say that I wasn't really happy with this book. The characters were boring and flat and the romance was totally nonexistent. I couldn't feel Meg's attraction to Will even from the get-go when she would always make it a point to run to him every time she needed help. Will, on the other hand, was slightly better but not really, he's got a better head on his shoulders and isn't as rash as Meg but ultimately he's as boring as she was.

The one thing I actually wasn't indifferent to were the inventions, or Amusements as they're so called, because they were undeniably elaborate and well-crafted. But it would have been interesting to know how the Amusementists managed to hide these inventions, which are all on the huge side, from wandering eyes. I mean large metal structures that rise out of the ground? A battle between a giant metal ship and a man-made Leviathan? How do you hide such huge hulking things from people? Surely someone would have noticed.

Aside from that, the book gets a little repetitive after a while. Meg and Will and their new found allies run off to different Amusements to collect things needed for their final goal - stopping this machine which has the power to destroy life as they know it. While the Amusements are intricate and detailed and interesting, the fact that they go to each and every one and do the same things over and over and over again kind of dragged and bored me to tears. I suppose the fact that a murderer was out to get them would have added some suspense but I found myself uncaring.

That ending wasn't very spectacular either and this book is actually quite forgettable. A book where I had to wonder how in the world this secret society manage to stay a secret at all. It wasn't bad, it's just boring and I don't know if I want to read the next book. I'll think about it.




Thursday, March 13, 2014

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Til Death by Kate Evangelista

Title: Til Death
Author: Kate Evangelista
Format Acquired: eARC
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publishing House: Entangled Teen
ISBN: 9781620612521
Source of Copy: Sent by publisher for review


Sixteen-year-old Selena Fallon is a dreamer. Not a daydreamer, but an I-see-the-future kind of dreamer. Normally, this is not a problem, as she has gotten pretty good at keeping her weird card hidden from everyone in her small town. But when Selena dreams of her own rather bloody death, things get a little too freaky - even for her.

Enter Dillan Sloan. Sloan has seen the new guy in a different dream, and he is even more drool-worthy in person. Beyond the piercing blue eyes and tousled dark hair, there is something else that draws her to him.

Something... electric. Too bad he acts like he hates her.

When Selena learns she's being targeted by a force bigger and darker than anything she ever imagined, she's had enough. Despite her death dream, Selena is not going to give up easily, especially when she discovers that Dillan isn't what he seems... and might not actually hate her after all. Dillan might be the only person who can save her.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


When Selena Fallon meets the new kid in town, sparks fly. Literally. Like it's not freaky enough that she has visions of the future, oh no. Selena has the good fortune to meet snarky Dillan Sloan, who kind of instantly hates her as soon as they've met. Maybe it's the fact that he's been demoted because of a mission gone wrong, or maybe because Selena is the one complication he didn't count on.

Selena can see visions, and they usually come true. And what's freakier is that she has visions of her own death. Dillan is sullen with being demoted, and he's taking it out by being a jerk to almost everybody, most especially to his all-powerful uncle whom he always flips out on (I don't get it.  Just... why, Dillan, WHY?) and to Selena, just because she was the only one in class who had a seat next to her unfortunately unoccupied. The most interesting character was Sebastian the hellhound... because he's a hellhound and he obviously has amazing super powers. Dillan's uncle Rainer, an all-powerful guy, is also pretty interesting, especially when he dislocates Dillan's fingers (because really, he's a huge jerk to his uncle).

Til Death is actually pretty okay. Despite it being forgettable since it doesn't have the most original plot (I have given up counting books touting the words "new kid in school", "instant chemistry", "unknown super powers" etc.) you could do worse than with this one. Actually, I'm having a hard time writing this review because I keep confusing the details with Bree Despain's upcoming novel, The Shadow Prince, which I've also already read. I like the fact that the romance aspect in Til Death wasn't rushed nor did it feel forced, and instead came off with someone slowly turning on the heat, and that the romance didn't overpower the supernatural aspect of this book. While some scenarios may come across as ludicrous - like how other reviewers pointed out what with Selena fighting off zombie-like creatures instead of running from them, and the fact that surprise, surprise, the hellhound has very convenient powers in case anyone should die, just saying - you could do worse than this book. While sometimes predictable and ho-hum, it does have its moments, albeit few and too spaced out for me to fully recall.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Sempre by J.M. Darhower

Title: Sempre
Author: J. M. Darhower
Format Acquired: eGalley
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Publishing House: Galley Books
ISBN: 9781476760759
Source of Copy: Requested from publisher on NetGalley


Seventeen-year-old Haven Antonelli has never known freedom. From the time she was a little girl, she and her mother have been slaves; victims of human trafficking orchestrated by a vast Mafia network. But when Haven manages to escape and is caught, one man gives her a choice: go with him or die. Agreeing to leave with Dr. Vincent DeMarco, Haven arrives at his home and meets the doctor's defiant yet intriguing son, Carmine. Though Carmine's privileged upbringing is a world away from hers, Haven senses the things they share. And soon her tenuous friendship with Carmine blossoms into unexpected love.

Carmine has breezed through life breaking every rule, scorning attachments until he meets this strange, timid girl his father has brought home. Her innocence draws him in a way he cannot understand, and makes him feel in ways he never thought he'd experience. And when he learns the Mafia isn't through with her, he becomes bent on protecting her... no matter the cost.

(Image, summary and information courtesy of Goodreads)


You know that you have to give a book 4 stars when: a.) even on hiatus because of finals, you finish the book in one sitting, b.) you want the second book immediately and are crossing your fingers that the second book makes its way to NetGalley as well (and soon!), c.) you want finger puppets of the main protagonists and make them kiss every chance you get because they are freaking adorable... and hot (It's not as weird as it sounds, guys!), d.) you want to watch The Godfather (if you aren't a loser like me who's never watched it), and e.) you're having a hard time articulating into words what you want to say without sounding redundant.

A second-generation slave, Haven thinks that she is beneath everyone. All her life, the rules have always been to stay out of anyone's way, and to blend in with the furniture if possible. When she meets Carmine DeMarco, a broken, beautiful boy from a prominent Mafia family, the rules she's used to slowly don't seem to matter anymore, not with Carmine slowly opening her up to the world and into his heart. With Carmine, she's just a girl; and with Haven, Carmine is just a boy. But the world they're living in don't play by their rules. If anything, their world only seeks to tear them apart, because Haven's a slave... and Carmine might be the next successor.

I love these two protagonists something fierce. Carmine is all about recklessness, impulsiveness, and a clumsy red-hot fiery temper, but when he's with Haven, he's different. He has the same rough edges, but he approaches her as gentle and as tender as he can. Haven is skittish, jumpy, and does not know the meaning of home. But with Carmine's help, she does. Her world slowly expanding, just as their pure love deepens, and I loved every part of it. While Carmine might have seen it all, but because of Haven's innocence to practically everything, it's as if he's seeing everything again for the first time, and it was both beautiful and glorious at the same time.

While most romance books have me rolling my eyes because every word that seems to roll out of their tongues seem like lines, Sempre had me swooning over and over again, and you guys know how tough I can be when it comes to romance novels. The romance in this one is simply phenomenal, and I must note that this is NOT a fluffy romance. While some parts may be confusing, I was hastily flipping through all 500+ pages on my iPad because even if my heavy school load was practically staring me down, I had to have more, more, MORE of Carmine and Haven. Darhower has a way of making every interaction between them significant and sexy at the same time.

But don't go thinking that this is just a romance book, the Mafia setting plays heavily into this. I have insufficient knowledge of how the Mafia operates, but this gritty, and even sometimes brutal, book makes me want to know more. 

When I find myself in need of a romance book that makes my heart plummet to my stomach and my throat run dry, you can best be sure that I will be rereading this. If you are a romance fan, you simply must read this if you haven't already. Also, you must stay in either an igloo, or in Antartica, with a tall, tall glass of iced tea (heavy on ice) because this book will undoubtedly make you melt.


Monday, March 10, 2014

NICOLE'S REVIEW: Erased by Jennifer Rush

Title: Erased
Author: Jennifer Rush
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: January 7 2014
Publishing House: Little Brown Books
ISBN: 9780316197151
Source of Copy: Purchased from National Book Store


After fleeing the Branch with Sam, Cas, and Nick, Anna is learning how to survive hiding, following Sam's rules:

Don't draw attention to yourself.

Always carry a weapon.

Know your surroundings.

Watch your back.

When memories from Anna's old life begin to resurface - and a figure from her childhood reappears - Anna's loyalties are tested. Is it a Branch setup, or could it be the reunion Anna has hoped for?

Ultimately, the answers hinge on one question. What was the real reason her memories were erased in the first place?

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Erased is the sequel to Altered which I reviewed here.

It's basically a book that ties up all those loose ends in Altered with the addition of a few surprise characters here and there.

Anna and the boys are on the run with the Branch after them. Everything's fine until Anna gets these flashbacks and intense head pains which obviously signify that something's not right. Not when it's obvious that her memories have been taken. Then a figure from her past pops up - someone she never expected - and she's wondering if it's all part of the Branch's plan to set them up.

Now all Anna has to do is figure out why her memories were erased in the first place and try to get them back all the while figuring out how deep her family is in the Branch operations. Sounds easy enough, right? Right. 

In Erased I love how we get to glimpse another side to Nick, yeah he's brash and a little uncouth but I love him all the same. He's got ties to Anna's past and he harbors a whole lot of guilt over what happened. All the boys are still basically the same, seeing as how Erased happens right after Altered. Their group dynamic might be a little off though ever since what happened with Trev. I actually found myself missing him.

Now I can't exactly say much about this book because spoilers right? But I want to say that I wasn't super sold on it's ending. It was too quick, and was wrapped up to nicely that I have a whole lot of doubts about it. I mean, it can't be that easy right? The end to all of Anna's problems was basically handed to her on a silver platter. 

Makes me wonder what Rush is going to write about in Reborn, and don't get me wrong, I am looking forward to it it's just, after the way this ended? Yeah. I'm not sure what to think.



Wednesday, March 5, 2014

NICOLE'S REVIEW + Novel Nails #10: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Title: Of Beast and Beauty
Author: Stacey Jay
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: July 23 2013
Publishing House: Delacorte Press
ISBN: 9780385743204
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city's vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city's Banished people. second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan's enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra's sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Of Beast and Beauty is one of those fairytale retellings that I actually like, next to Unhinged by A.G. Howard. 

Isra is a princess locked in a tower, blinded at birth by a fire and sees herself a freak, a monster; counting down the days till she becomes a willing sacrifice for the roses - can I just say that I totally love what Jay did with the roses? so cool - that provide her city with a dome of protection from the harsh outside world.

Gem is a beast, a Monstrous, with scales and claws supposedly tipped with poison. He needs the roses that Isra's people depend on and sneaks into the city in the dead of the night because his people are dying and desperately need the magic the roses give. But he gets caught and is forced to interact with Isra, a smooth skin, and the more they interact the more their view on each others change making them wonder if the things they were brought up to believe were true.

Stacey Jay's writing is beautiful, it's really lyrical but it didn't come off as pretentious and holier-than-thou. Her characters were wonderful and when they were sad, so was I. Happy? Frustrated? Angry? I was as well. In short, her characters were wonderfully crafted and I loved each and every one of them. 

Of Beauty and Beast starts off a little slow but it picks up along the way and I couldn't help but wish Gem and Isra would just get on with the kissing. It's mainly romance but somehow it just still enough for me. I wanted more, more, more, more. Because Gem and Isra are the bomb and they deserve a happily ever after. 

Since Isra is a princess in a trapped tower doesn't she resemble Rapunzel more? Kept in the dark and all that.

But anyway, Of Beast and Beauty is one retelling you don't want to miss. Action, evil roses with a taste for blood and a love that could change the world? YES PLEASE. Go read it now.


"Novel Nails" is a feature of the blog that showcases nail art inspired by books and their covers. Nail art will be created by either Michelle or Nicole and will be featured alongside their reviews.

Guys, I am so glad to be able to paint my nails again. After slaving over my thesis and everything, this feels so great. So anyway, I have a new nail shape, they're now like tiny claws and I love them.

Nails are obviously inspired by of Beast and Beauty and I hope you guys like them!

As for the colors, here's the list of nail polish I used.
Blue: OPI Incognito in Sausalito
Cream: Zoya Jacqueline
Red: China Glaze Salsa

It's not really obvious but the gradient I made doesn't have an opaque base coat. I just layered them over Zoya Anchor.

I tried to copy the city on my nails, hence the silhouette of buildings.

Shaped them into claws because Gem has claws.

Sorry, I kind of rushed on the clean-up since I was a little busy that day. I made these using red acrylic under China Glaze Salsa to make it seem like fire or orange scales which you guys will get if you've read the book. Hint hint. This pattern is on my thumb and pinkie plus my right hand.

You like? I hope you do.