Review: Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2) by Katie McGarry

Katie McGarry
Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: May 28, 2013

From the back cover:

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all…

I expected to like this book more than I did. I really WANTED to like it more than I did.  Katie McGarry’s debut, PUSHING THE LIMITS, while enjoyable, dragged heavily for me in the middle, and unfortunately, I had the same trouble with her second book, DARE YOU TO. Ms. McGarry’s books always seem to start out with an emotional bang, but halfway through, I find myself losing interest, waiting and waiting for something to happen to get the story moving.

In DARE TO  YOU’s case, the book spends so long setting up back story upon back story that when I finally got to the reveal of Beth’s big, emotional scar that she’d carried since she was a child, well, I admit to feeling a bit gypped by it all. The secret involving her dad just didn’t feel believable to me, and there was so much back-and-forth between Beth and EVERYONE else in the book, that it got a little exhausting to deal with, even for the reader.

However, I appreciated Katie McGarry taking on an atypical heroine. Beth is extremely rough around the edges and yet she has a good heart and the desire to do the right thing. Her vulnerability was, in truth, the main thing that kept me reading. In the end, I liked it and found it enjoyable, but I didn’t love it.

DARE TO YOU will appeal to fans of edgy contemporary YA romance who like their stories filled with lots of angst.


Review: Golden by Jessi Kirby


Jessi Kirby
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 14, 2013

From the back cover:

Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

GOLDEN is, in a word, AMAZING. I have never read a Jessi Kirby book prior to this one, but the synopsis intrigued me enough to enter Simon & Schuster’s giveaway via Goodreads. I am so glad I won! Not only does this book have an awesome premise–a secret journal, an unsolved mystery, and a protagonist who’s searching for answers and herself–but the writing is breathtakingly beautiful, the story is perfectly told, and the ending will leave readers with a knot in their heart.

GOLDEN is all about destiny and choices and living life without regrets. It’s a theme we all can relate to, regardless of age, and from the moment I read the quote at the beginning of Julianna Farnetti’s journal – “Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.” – I was hooked. This is the kind of book I love to read, one that challenges you and makes you think and leaves you changed at the end.

I have become an instant Jessi Kirby fan and cannot wait to check out her other books. GOLDEN earns a space on my keeper shelf. It is one of my favorite reads of 2013 so far, and a book I will return to and re-read often.

Review: No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig


NO SAFE HARBOR (Edge of Freedom Book #1)
Elizabeth Ludwig
Bethany House Publishers
Publication Date: October 1, 2012

From back cover:

New York City, 1897

She came to America searching for her brother. Instead all she’s found is a web of danger.

Cara Hamilton had thought her brother to be dead. Now, clutching his letter, she leaves Ireland for America, desperate to find him. Her search leads her to a houseful of curious strangers, and one man who claims to be a friend–Rourke Walsh. Despite her brother’s warning, Cara trusts Rourke, revealing her purpose in coming to New York.

She’s then thrust into a world of subterfuge, veiled threats, and attempted murder, including political revolutionaries from the homeland out for revenge. Her questions guide her ever nearer to locating her brother–but they also bring her closer to destruction as those who want to kill him track her footsteps.

With her faith in tatters, all hope flees. Will her brother finally surface? Can he save Cara from the truth about Rourke… a man she’s grown to love?

The gorgeous cover for NO SAFE HARBOR was what initially drew me to this book. It has that atmospheric, period piece feel to it that hooked me immediately, and after I read the blurb — danger, intrigue, Ellis Island immigrants — I knew it would be just the kind of book I’d enjoy. I love suspense mixed with romance, especially when tied to interesting time periods and rich historical detail.

NO SAFE HARBOR has all that and more! The plot is rife with lies, deception, betrayal and a secret political faction that is working hard to secure Ireland’s independence. As Cara searches for her brother in the unfamiliar streets of New York City, she is completely alone. Not knowing who to trust, she tries to unravel her brother’s mysterious disappearance and cryptic correspondence on her own. But the closer she gets to answers, the more dangerous the search becomes.

With a charming romance between Cara and Rourke and great secondary characters that bring the story to life, NO SAFE HARBOR is a worthwhile inspirational romantic suspense. Although there were times when I felt the pacing of the book was too slow and information took too long to be revealed, for any one who loves history with a healthy dose of political intrigue, NO SAFE HARBOR is a great read.


Review: Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund


Jody Hedlund
Bethany House Publishers
Publication Date: September 1, 2012

From the back cover:

Michigan, 1883
In Her Darkest Hours, Is He the Man She Needs?

Lily Young longs to find her lost sister or will die trying. Heedless of any danger, she searches logging camps and towns, posing as a photographer’s assistant. And then she arrives in Harrison, Michigan–and the sights of Connell McCormick.

Connell is determined to increase the fortune of his lumber-baron father and figures as long as he’s living an upright life, that’s what matters. But when Lily arrives in town she upends his world, forcing him to confront the truth that dangerous men have gained too much power while good men turn a blind eye.

Vexing but persuasive, Lily soon secures Connell’s help, drawing them ever closer to each other. Will standing for what’s right cost them both everything?

With intricate historical detail, sweeping drama, and the perfect dash of romance, UNENDING DEVOTION is a captivating read from beginning to end. Jody Hedlund does not shy away from difficult subjects, tackling the seedy side of logging camps, forced prostitution, and the apathy that exists when corruption becomes too big to fight against.

In Lily, Jody Hedlund has written a heroine with an unconditional love for her sister, and that love, that unending devotion toward Daisy is woven into a beautiful story that becomes a fantastic representation of God’s love for us. Lily’s strength and determination to do what is right, even in the face of powerful opposition, is an important reminder to all of us to stand up for what we believe in–to fight for good even when it seems easier to let evil prevail.

I really enjoyed how Connell grows and changes throughout the course of the book, starting out as someone who is determined not to get involved, and through falling for Lily, understanding the importance of standing up for what is right, no matter the danger or the consequences. Their love story is enchanting and wonderfully written and adds such a great layer to the story.

I highly recommend UNENDING DEVOTION and will be on the lookout for more books from Jody Hedlund!