When Josie Jensen, an awkward 13-year-old musical prodigy crashes headlong into new-comer Samuel Yazzie, an 18-year-old Navajo boy full of anger and confusion, an unlikely friendship blooms. Josie teaches Samuel about words, music and friendship, and along the way finds a kindred spirit. Upon graduation, Samuel abandons the sleepy, small town in search of a future and a life, leaving his young friend behind. Many years go by and Samuel returns, finding Josie in need of the very things she offered him years before. Their roles reversed, Samuel teaches Josie about life, love, and letting go. Deeply romantic and poignant, Running Barefoot is the story of a small town girl and a Native American boy, the ties that bind them to their homes and families, and the love that gives them wings.

When I heard that this book was loosely connected to the upcoming The Law of Moses and featured an unusual couple pairing, I was immediately on board with reading it as I love interconnected stories with a dose of cultural references and quirky, unique characters. But as I have learned the hard way many times, no matter how wonderful a book idea may be, if I cannot get used to the author’s writing style than that glorious premise might as well be nothing to me. And sadly, this is the case with every Amy Harmon book I have read. It is very clear that she has a way with words and that her books appeal to a certain audience, but her overly rich writing style is just not one that I can identify with. And with this being the 3rd book of hers I have read (or tried to read and then later put down) and didn’t particularly enjoy, I think it may be time for me to just part ways with this author and move on indefinitely, even though a part of me still really wants to try out The Law of Moses because I genuinely like the premise.

This book tells the love and life story of two kindred souls Josie Jensen and Samuel Yazzie. At the tender age of thirteen, Josie is far more mature and possesses an intellect that surpasses most of her peers. Harboring a deep love for books and music, the kindhearted Josie strikes up a tentative acquaintanceship with the edgy but misunderstood Samuel, a half-white, half-Navajo eighteen year old whose ethnicity is judged upon by others and isn’t fully accepted in either world. Through her eyes and ears, Samuel comes to appreciate literary arts more and they form a bond over their mutual love for Shakespeare and Beethoven.
After months roll by, Samuel leaves for the Marines while Josie remains in the small town of Levan and so they part ways. The story then starts alternating between some time gaps for a few chapters until finally, seven whole years have gone by. Josie and Samuel haven’t seen or spoken to each other during this time and the years haven’t been kind to Josie. Tragedy after tragedy occurs and so she’s stuck in the same town caring for her family when Samuel returns to Levan and their paths cross again.
I want to preface that I am a huge second chance romance fan. The idea that two people have such intertwined fates that they’re given a second chance for a relationship feeds my inner romantic. But I also have to be upfront by saying that the second chance romance here was poorly executed. Not going in specifics as it’ll spoil part of the plot, but basically Josie goes through tragedy after tragedy and when Samuel conveniently is on leave, they see each other again and their romance is instantly rekindled. This was so hard for me to believe…because here’s the truth: while they were young, there wasn’t a romance. Their relationship was more of a friendship and both knew if Samuel had stayed instead of going off to the Marines, it would soon turn into something more. And when he was gone, they only interacted once before leading their own lives for the next 7 years. So my bewilderment comes from not understanding the romantic connection in the first place. I think the author should’ve spaced more time in between, especially with a certain tragedy that happened which made it even harder for me to believe in their romance.
But the main reason that left me feeling underwhelmed? It’s the author’s writing. And I don’t say this to be extra mean. I say it like someone who doesn’t like a vegetable or prefers the color green. It’s really my personal preference and I know tons of readers who love her writing style so I’m in the minority. The overly rich and descriptive writing combined with too many life anecdotes and Navajo history honestly smothered me. It got to the point where something would happen plot-wise, and then Samuel would say “another Navajo legend…” and I wanted to hurl myself off a cliff. It’s overkill.
That’s not to say that there weren’t good quotes or that there weren’t any scenes I liked because there was. The first 40% of the book I loved and thought that this’d be 4.5 stars at the very least but after that the difficult writing style that I couldn’t adjust to along with the weak and unconvincing second chance romance crippled the story.
Perhaps staunch fans of the author and those familiar with her writing style will enjoy this one, but for me it further solidifies that me and her books are like oil and water. We simply don’t mix.
Running Barefoot is a second chance romance with heavy emphasis on Native American history and religion. It is loosely connected to The Law of Moses in terms of the setting and a brief cameo but both can be read as complete standalones.
Rating: 2.5 stars!

Love is selfish…My name is Blaire. I’m the bad girl. The other woman. The one who never gets the guy in the end. I’m the gold digger. The bitch. The one no one roots for. The one you love to hate. I hate myself too… Everyone has a story. Are you ready for mine?

3-3.5 stars!
I think it’s a true testament to this author’s writing when her stories feature highly unlikeable characters and boundary-pushing plotlines, yet I still crave more of her words and dive right in to her books. Either that or I’m a masochist. Probably both LOL! Anyways, after almost having a heart attack from reading the angsty Arsen, I was both nervous and excited to start this one as I knew Mia would bring her A-game. And boy, did she ever! Her books are not stories you just read. Nope. Doesn’t matter if you’re hating or loving the book, you feel, you experience, you rage or cry, and that my friends is not something any author can do. So in terms of engaging her readers, I say Mia Asher is an expert in this field. And while reading this particular book made me fall in love with her writing all over again, I still did have a couple of issues with the story that hindered me from completely loving it.
All her life, Blaire White has lacked for nothing except love. Her parents are distant and only care about their individual problems and with Blaire being chubby at a young age and bullied by others, having a beautiful, flawless body and savoring the attention that comes with it become her number one priority. As such, she locks away her emotions, hardens her heart, and in just a few years time lives a grand lifestyle while being a gold-digging bimbo catering to wealthy men’s sexual needs. But when she meets the kindhearted photographer Ronan she’s smitten and he with her, and for the first time in her life, Blaire feels loved and treasured, desired for her, not just for her body.
But at the same time, she can’t let go of her old routine that makes her feel secure and so she struggles between her feelings for Ronan and returning to her gold-digging ways.
I have to say that Blaire is one of the most unlikable characters I’ve ever read. Kudos to the author for tackling a story that centers around her but part of the reason why I can’t give this book a higher rating is because there’s a huge disconnect between me as the reader and her character. I honestly didn’t care what happened to her because she made several bad choices – fully knowing that the end result would be destructive – plus her character was inconsistent throughout the story. I was led to believe that this is a girl who’s the bitch (which she is by the way), the one no one roots for but enjoying every moment of it. However, that’s not really the case. She secretly desires to be loved and treasured not just for her looks but for her true self and when that does happens, she runs away from the guy. But then when she’s with a guy who just wants her for sex, these are her thoughts:
“They all want me; my body, my face, my mouth, but none of them want me.
 
“But what about love? … Don’t you want my love too?”
Get yourself together woman. But do you see? This kind of inconsistency scattered throughout the book really gave me whiplash. I did, however, love Ronan’s character and he definitely had a positive impact in Blaire’s life.
The overall story was compelling though, and the book itself is a fast-paced, quick read that’s a guaranteed page turner. I was a bit disappointed with the short book length so I wasn’t too surprised that the story ended on a cliffhanger. Just another reason why I couldn’t give a higher rating because I truly felt like this book wasn’t a complete story. With some books I can tell that a cliffhanger/abrupt ending is necessary as it’s part of the natural book flow but sadly in this story, it felt more like it was strategically inserted.
Easy Virtue is the first book in a 2-book series and isn’t a standalone. The story will be continued and concluded in the second book. Compared to Arsen the angst level is much lower but the steam level much higher and while there is no love triangle for most of the story, there is a hint at a possible one towards the end and perhaps in the second book.
ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
 
Rating: 3-3.5 stars!

I get my book recommendations from a variety of places: friend, follower, & author recs, Amazon’s lists, Goodreads lists (especially this one), and a dozen other venues. But one thing I’m starting to notice more and more is that as movie adaptations of books become more popular, I tend to watch the movie first, then tackle the book because the movie struck a chord with me and made me want to know more. I know there’s a saying of don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but the one that I say more often now is ‘don’t judge a movie by its book.’ And I mean when it really comes down to movie adaptations, I get it. I understand it’s sad and frustrating to not see your favorite scene in the book or a scene that’s completely butchered. For me, that’s ok though. I’ve come to view movies and books as separate entities, and even though the source is the book, I also love that the movie takes that source and spins their own unique take that’ll take me by complete surprise. I love that thrill, I love that surprise, and I love the excitement it stirs in me. So it really got me thinking…what are some books where it’s the movie that motivated me to read it? I came up with these 8.

Listed in no particular order of favoritism. Some are romance, some aren’t. Bottom line is I loved them all, both the book and the movie.
1. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. Ahhhh the feels. If it weren’t for this movie, I never would’ve been interested in reading the book, then the whole series, then the Infernal Devices trilogy. I would’ve completely missed out on the breathtaking Shadowhunter world and when I think that, I want to break down and sob. Not knowing these one-in-a-million characters? Miss out on one of the most epic love stories I’ve ever read? To entertain that possibility literally scares me. I’m so attached to this book, this series, their world I wish I could crawl in there and never have to come back out.
2. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. This is probably one of the most underrated movies of this decade to be honest. I know most fans of the book didn’t like it and after I read the book, I can certainly see why since there’s a lot of deviations but when taken in on its own, this movie was outstanding. There’s this one scene (you will know which one if you watch it) that left me breathless. I was full-on swooning and tears were threatening to leak out of my eyes…just jeezus! The feels!! Both the book and the movie are worth checking out.

“Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures.”

3. Divergent by Veronica Roth. I think it’s a truth universally acknowledged that both this movie and the book are a smashing success. I mean, Theo James as the dark & deadly Four?? *THUD* <– that was me passing out from excessive swooning by the way. His performance (along with all the other talented actors) was so well-done and compelling I had to give the book a shot. And I’m so glad I did

“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.” 

4. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. Okay, kinda corny choice if I say so myself but the 4 times I’ve watched this movie, I cried every time. And a movie that could evoke so much emotion I had to check out the actual book. It was one of the very first romance books I read from a male author and while I admit it’s much more sappy than the movie, there is just something magical when you read a book that details all the highs and lows, the very beginning to the very end of a couple who has been through so much to be together…plus the quote at the bottom? Gets me every. single. time.

“I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough…”

5. Beastly by Alex Flinn. One of my favorite classics is Beauty and the Beast so I was excited to watch a movie and read a book that’s a modern retelling. The target audience is for a younger crowd and the writing is more simplistic but there’s a certain beauty to simplicity. Alex Pettyfer plays the ‘Beast’ and learns that attractive appearances are not the only thing that’s to be valued, and finds love with a girl who sees past his face.

“Maybe we judge people too much by their looks because it’s easier than seeing what’s really important.”

6. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. This movie (and book) is one of my all-time favorite YA sci-fi/fantasy stories and the other 2 books in this series are just as fabulous. Follow the epic adventure of the female protagonist Lyra Belacqua as she discovers her true self and uncovers a heinous plot so devious it threatens the stability of the human/daemon world. The movie effects were pretty spot-on and congruent with the book’s descriptions. It’s a story that’s suitable for all ages.

“We are all subject to the fates. But we must all act as if we are not, or die of despair…death will sweep through all the worlds; it will be the triumph of despair, forever. The universes will all become nothing more than interlocking machines, blind and empty of thought, feeling, life…” 

7. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. Both the movie and the book made me ugly cry. It’s a very bittersweet experience and follows the story of the Tuck family that drank from a magical spring and are granted eternal life, never growing old. So what happens when one of them falls in love with an ordinary girl? It’s a story that explores deep meanings of living, true sacrifice, and stays with you long after you’re through…

“Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.” 

8. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. I am a huge fan of historical drama and for a period of time was extremely fascinated and obsessed with the time where Henry VIII ruled in England. I mean, this is a king who broke law after law for his multiple wives and the most notorious is his second wife and queen for a short time, Anne Boleyn. The movie adaptation was just as riveting and haunting as the actual book, which shines a light on the ‘other Boleyn girl’ most don’t know about: Anne’s younger sister Mary, and her role in this dangerous world full of political intrigue and greed. I want to stress that the book is more of a romance than the movie was and provides a detailed, partially fictional account of Mary’s story during the time period when Anne was queen.

“I shall be dark and French and fashionable and difficult. And you shall be sweet and open and English and fair. What a pair we shall be! What man can resist us?”

TEN fun, romantic holiday novellas by ten New York Times & USA Today bestselling authors 
An all-star gathering of some of today’s most popular NYT and USA Today bestselling romance authors together in a fun-filled collection…holiday style! With the overwhelming response to the bestselling, chart-topping summer boxed set, we’ve brought together even MORE of your favorite authors for a winter compilation, and this time, we’ve giftwrapped TEN stories for your e-reading pleasure. From the funny & sweet, to the steamy & heartfelt, each novella is packed with a whole lot of romance, and hand-picked to infuse perfectly-portioned holiday cheer into your busy days this season…along with hot bursts of holiday steam for those winter nights.
If I Return — by USA Today bestselling author Sawyer Bennett
Wild Irish Christmas — by New York Times bestselling author Mari Carr
Seducing Santa — by New York Times bestselling author Janelle Denison (aka Erika Wilde)
Decking Drew — by New York Times bestselling author Violet Duke
Fairies & Wishes — by USA Today bestselling author Karen Erickson (aka Monica Murphy)
Twelve Dates of Christmas — by New York Times bestselling author Jessie Evans
Holiday Spirit — by New York Times bestselling author Cathryn Fox
Unwrapped — by New York Times bestselling author Melody Grace
A Christmas Heat Wave — by New York Times bestselling author Alannah Lynne
His Christmas Wish — by New York Times bestselling author Marquita Valentine

SAWYER BENNETT
I’m about to step outside of the proverbial box.
Pushing away from the elevator wall I had been leaning against, I walk up to Jack, bringing my body close into his. Looking into his face, I see his nostrils flare and unbidden desire leap into his eyes. It’s all the encouragement I need before I smooth my hands up over his chest, winding them behind his neck. My fingers graze over the stubble of his short haircut. I’m pleased when his arms wrap around my waist to draw me in closer. I waste no further time before pulling his head down to me, until our lips meet softly.
Despite the fact my inhibitions are lowered, despite the fact I boldly put myself in Jack’s arms, and despite the fact that his eyes were heated as our lips moved toward one another, the kiss is surprisingly sweet. It’s nothing more than a gentle meeting of our lips. Our mouths are slightly parted as we move against one another, tilting our heads first to one side, and then another as we explore.
Even though the kiss is soft and sweet, I still feel a warmth spreading through my body. It causes me to want more… to experience Jack on the next level. Tentatively, my tongue pushes forward into his mouth and at first he stills. I can feel his fingers flex into my lower back, and I push my tongue in just a little farther, taking a swipe at his.
He answers me with a groan and then he’s gripping my head, holding me in place so his tongue can take charge.
And I let him.
Letting go, for once in my life, I let Jack have his way with my mouth. He deepens the kiss and I can’t help the sigh that escapes me. He eats it up, pleading for more by the insistent way his lips move against mine.
Even though we seem to both be drowning in the kiss, I find myself wanting to submerge further into him. Desire floods my senses and my body moves without thinking. I push myself closer to him, our bodies connecting. My breasts mash into chest and I can feel his hardness against my stomach. I push closer yet, wanting—no, needing—the contact.
This kiss… this amazing kiss. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It’s full of passion and fire. I realize that my prior kisses have been lukewarm at best. Energy courses through me at the thought of what else I’ve been missing. The shy introvert is gone and I can feel my inner sex kitten awakening.
And I’m ready… ready to let her prowl because the passion that flows between us has firmly shut boring Hope Camden away.
MELODY GRACE
“What do you say? Ready to get to know each other a little better?” I reach over and take a sip of his drink, slowly licking the moisture off my lips.
“Why not?” he gives me a grin that turns my insides to molten honey. “This should be good.”
I have to catch my breath. All night, I’ve been at war with myself: trying not to flirt with him or make a fool of myself. But now, I’m suddenly reckless. Unleashed. Now I’ve spied a crack in his cool, collected attitude, I’m not going to let this chance slide by, not without a fight.
Daniel blinks once, then lowers himself slowly back on the barstool beside me. I have to catch my breath. All night, I’ve been at war with myself: I just want him, more than I can stand.
“You first,” I announce, slowly crossing my legs.
Daniel looks down at the fabric riding up over my thighs, then back up at me.
Of course. A guy like him is an open book: nothing to hide. “Hmm,” I muse, “That’s easy, truth.”
If I’m going to push him, it needs to be something good. “Where’s thecraziest place you’ve ever had sex?”
“Nowhere. I’ve always just done it the regular way, on a bed.”
I stare in disbelief. “Seriously? Not even in the backseat of a car? The gym locker rooms? The rooftop of the student lounge?” I prompt.
Daniel looks bashful. “I guess I’m just boring like that. Why, where’s yours?”
I think for a moment. “Backstage at a rock show, up against the amps. He lasted like, two seconds flat and I nearly went deaf… and electrocuted,” I shake my head, giving a wry smile at the memory.
“Sounds painful.” Daniel laughs, and I lose myself in his eyes. The tequila is warm in my bloodstream, mingling with desire and recklessness in one heady cocktail that’s impossible to ignore as I sit here, inches away from Daniel, his tanned forearm resting casually on the bar between us, close enough to touch…
I snap back to reality. “What?”
Daniel gives me a patient smile. “I said, why bother nearly killing yourself like that? It doesn’t sound like it was even worth your while.”
I shrug. “It was an experience.”
“Jumping off a cliff is an experience,” Daniel points out. “You going to try that too?”
“No, it’s like…” I try to gather my thoughts, “This is it, my wild adventurous youth. One day, I’m going to be settled down with a kid and a mini­van, and, and, a Costco clubcard. I want to be able to look back and say, I lived. I had adventures. You know?”
“Nope,” Daniel makes a face. “I’ve been on the same path since school, I never did anything crazy.”
My heart catches. I force myself to meet his eyes. “It’s never too late to try.”
EXTRAS: FAVORITE RECIPES
Sawyer’s Favorite Holiday Recipe
This one’s my absolute favorite holiday recipe!
Pumpkin Roll
Ingredients: 3 large eggs, 1 cup granulated sugar, 2/3 cup canned pumpkin, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 3/4 cup all­ purpose flour, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 cup pecans, finely chopped, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for sprinkling. Two 3­ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature1 stick butter (1/2 cup), room temperature1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Instructions
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 17 1/2­ by 12 1/2­inch jellyroll pan.With an electric mixer, beat the eggs, granulated sugar, pumpkin and lemon juice until smooth. Sift together the flour, ginger, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add the sifted ingredients to the egg mixture and blend until fully combined. Spread the batter in the jellyroll pan. Sprinkle the dough with the chopped pecans. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 14 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes.Invert the cake onto a wire rack. Sprinkle some of the confectioner’ sugar on a large tea towel and carefully transfer the warm cake to the towel, folding the sides of the towel over the cake. Roll the cake up in the towel and cool in the refrigerator thoroughly for about 45 minutes.With an electric mixer, combine the confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla and beat until smooth. Carefully unroll the cooled cake and spread the mixture on top of the cake. Gently re­roll the cake up and refrigerate it until you’re ready to slice and serve. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
Melody’s Favorite Holiday Recipe
 
One of my favorite fall/festive recipes is ‘Mom’s Apple Cake’ from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. It’s a delicious, buttery cake that’s perfect for get­togethers: just add whipped cream or ice­cream, or even eat some for breakfast like I do. (recipe courtesy of the Smitten Kitchen)
Mom’s Apple Cake
Ingredients: 6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 5 tablespoons sugar, 2 3/4 cups flour, sifted 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup vegetable oil, 2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup orange juice, 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, 4 eggs, 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before running knife between cake and pan, and unmolding onto a platter.

Lyric Scott has always had a good life. Outgoing, spunky, and musically talented, she’s constantly surrounded by family and friends, yet she still feels there’s something missing.
Then she meets her new next-door neighbor Ayden Gregory. Mysterious, sweet, and sad, Ayden is the exact opposite of Lyric and exactly what she needs to fill the void in her life.
Ayden has been through more than most people and believes his life is always going to be rocky, so when he’s suddenly adopted by the Gregorys, he’s thrown for a turn. But even with a new, loving family, he still finds himself haunted by the memories of his old life. The only true breath of fresh air is when he’s with his best friend, Lyric Scott.
As Lyric and Ayden grow closer, the lines of their friendship start to blur. But when Ayden’s past unexpectedly pushes its way into his new life, their friendship and newfound attraction will be tested.
**A novel about Ella and Micha’s daughter and Lila and Ethan’s son from The Secret Series. However, this series can be read on its own.**

3.5-4 stars!
Whenever I pick up a Jessica Sorensen book, I know to expect the following things: damaged yet inexplicably endearing main characters, depressing storyline, and cliffhangers. That is just her storytelling trademark and nowadays I have come to embrace these aspects that when combined, make for one compelling read. I was especially excited to read this book because as a fan of her Secret series, it’s awesome to revisit those previous characters in this story plus, the hero and heroine are Lila & Ethan’s son and Ella & Micha’s daughter!
Lyric Scott is the beloved and somewhat spoiled daughter of Ella & Micha Scott. In her free time she jams out to music, plays a variety of instruments, and hangs out with Lila & Ethan’s kids next door, all of whom are adopted. Their most recent kid they take in is Ayden Gregory, a deeply troubled teenager with both physical and emotional scars acquired from his rocky childhood time. Upon seeing how bleak and sad Ayden is, Lyric promises herself to be his friend and use her positivity to influence him to live life happily and with no regrets.
Ayden is a damaged boy through and through. His memory of his childhood is foggy but he does know the scars on his body are cruelly inflicted by others. Having been ripped away from his siblings and tossed through the foster care system like a rag doll, Ayden struggles with the concept of love and shies away from intimacy, except when it comes to Lyric. Her bubbly and bright personality is like a ray of sunshine to him and her happiness is contagious. As his acquaintanceship with her goes from friendship and develops into a tender romance, Ayden finds that despite all his fears of rejection and loss, he can’t and doesn’t want to resist Lyric…
For the most part, I really liked this story! It’s a YA book that later turns into a romance between the two main characters so I appreciated that there was no insta-love whatsoever. The character development is obvious and it was a bonus to see past beloved characters become parental figures. My main complaint is the short length of the book. It read more like a big novella than a full length novel and so when the book ended, I felt like the story had just started to pick up momentum and then flat-lined with the ending. The ending is a mild cliffhanger, not one that sends you reeling but one that concludes on a high note and gives you an anticipatory feeling.
Unraveling You is the first book in the Unraveling You series focusing on the children of the characters from the Secret series. It is not a standalone and Lyric and Ayden’s story will be told over the course of three books.
ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

If I tell you right up front, right in the beginning that I lost him, it will be easier for you to bear. You will know it’s coming, and it will hurt. But you’ll be able to prepare.
Someone found him in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death. They called him Baby Moses when they shared his story on the ten o’clock news – the little baby left in a basket at a dingy Laundromat, born to a crack addict and expected to have all sorts of problems. I imagined the crack baby, Moses, having a giant crack that ran down his body, like he’d been broken at birth. I knew that wasn’t what the term meant, but the image stuck in my mind. Maybe the fact that he was broken drew me to him from the start.
It all happened before I was born, and by the time I met Moses and my mom told me all about him, the story was old news and nobody wanted anything to do with him. People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids, and kids grow up to be teenagers. Nobody wants a messed up teenager. And Moses was messed up. Moses was a law unto himself. But he was also strange and exotic and beautiful. To be with him would change my life in ways I could never have imagined. Maybe I should have stayed away. Maybe I should have listened. My mother warned me. Even Moses warned me. But I didn’t stay away. And so begins a story of pain and promise, of heartache and healing, of life and death. A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. But most of all…a love story.

Amy Harmon knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story.Amy Harmon has been a motivational speaker, a grade school teacher, a junior high teacher, a home school mom, and a member of the Grammy Award winning Saints Unified Voices Choir, directed by Gladys Knight. She released a Christian Blues CD in 2007 called “What I Know” – also available on Amazon and wherever digital music is sold. She has written five novels, Running Barefoot, Slow Dance in Purgatory, Prom Night in Purgatory, the New York Times Bestseller, A Different Blue, Making Faces and most recently, Infinity + One. Her newest book, The Law of Moses releases November 27, 2014.

If I tell you right up front, right in the beginning that I lost him, it will be easier for you to bear. You will know it’s coming, and it will hurt. But you’ll be able to prepare.
Someone found him in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death. They called him Baby Moses when they shared his story on the ten o’clock news – the little baby left in a basket at a dingy Laundromat, born to a crack addict and expected to have all sorts of problems. I imagined the crack baby, Moses, having a giant crack that ran down his body, like he’d been broken at birth. I knew that wasn’t what the term meant, but the image stuck in my mind. Maybe the fact that he was broken drew me to him from the start.
It all happened before I was born, and by the time I met Moses and my mom told me all about him, the story was old news and nobody wanted anything to do with him. People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids, and kids grow up to be teenagers. Nobody wants a messed up teenager.
And Moses was messed up. Moses was a law unto himself. But he was also strange and exotic and beautiful. To be with him would change my life in ways I could never have imagined. Maybe I should have stayed away. Maybe I should have listened. My mother warned me. Even Moses warned me. But I didn’t stay away.
And so begins a story of pain and promise, of heartache and healing, of life and death. A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. But most of all…a love story.

Warning: Only read my review if you want a heads up on what to expect. For those that like to be surprised or don’t want a single thing to be spoiled, just go into the book 100% blind.

First, I am a reader who needs to be given a heads up on certain things before I read about them. Call me picky, OCD, or whatever but when it’s my time and money on the line, I don’t have the patience or luxury to go into every book completely blind and expect to be happily surprised by plot twists. And especially when I draw the line at certain things and am not sufficiently warned by the author or most other reviews, that’s when I get annoyed and frustrated.

Had I known beforehand this book contained a heavy paranormal aspect with many biblical references I would’ve liked it a lot more than I actually did. In the author’s own words, I would’ve been able to prepare ahead of time. I definitely would’ve started the book with a different mindset. Instead, I spent the first 25% of the story feeling confused – was Moses insane? Did he have a mental illness? I finally had enough and got a friend to tell me what his deal was: Moses can see the dead. He sees ghosts. He hears their voices. And then he paints them. I mean, just looking from the blurb that aspect is so not obvious! After discussing with a few readers, we all agreed that seeing ghosts + dead people = paranormal. So for those that think this book shouldn’t be categorized under this genre, it’s your prerogative to think what you want, but for other like-minded readers’ reference, I feel it’s imperative to give everyone the option to fully know what to expect, not deliberately omit such a crucial aspect in fear it may ward away potential readers.

Being honest with you, it shouldn’t have to matter what ‘genre’ this book is because loyal fans of this author will still want to read her books regardless. Instead, I felt like the omission was a very subtle but manipulative marketing move, and those leave such a sour taste in my mouth.

Please don’t think I based my 2 star rating entirely on this one issue. It’s a part of the reason for the low rating but I also had major problems with the plot and characters.

Characters: Maybe it’s because both books were set in the same town but the main characters here felt like carbon copies of the characters from Running Barefoot. I had just finished the former a couple days ago in preparation for this book so the similarities are jarring. The hero Moses is a misunderstood loner with parents from different worlds and he doesn’t belong in either, sort of like Samuel Yates. And the heroine Georgia is a sweet girl loved by all who sees the hero and wants to ‘fix’ him, be his friend, and make him smile, no matter what it takes, sort of like Josie Jensen. Quite frankly, Moses was a jerk (once again, like Samuel AND is a jerk in the exact same way). He had his shining moments but when it came down to testing his feelings for Georgia, he turned chicken and used the classic ‘I’m not good enough’ excuse to step back and create conflict. As for Georgia, I do admire her resiliency and for the most part I loved her character, but she was definitely a doormat when it came to Moses and part of me really wanted her to grow a backbone sooner than later in the story.

Plot: With the story being more inspirational fiction than romance, I got bored several times in the book and had to push myself to finish. It was even tougher to stay invested because two plot devices I absolutely cannot stand were present. There is a very big time gap that I felt crippled the second half of the story. It’s tricky with time jumps because I always wonder…why that certain number of years? Why 3 or 5 or 10? The author really has to convince me time jumps serve a purpose rather than be a shortcut to a happy ending and sadly, the very long time gap in this book did nothing but piss me off. And right before the time jump, there is a quick reveal about Georgia that was a huge pet peeve. I do think blurting out what it is can be a spoiler so if you want to know, message me privately.

At times, the writing was evocative and the 5 Greats theme was wonderful. I do know fans of this author will find another winner with this story that oozes positivity. As for me, I’m just going to move on now since I’m starting to feel like the Grinch who stole Christmas…

Pressing the boundaries of both the psyche and the heart, Sam and Holden embark on a dangerous journey that will test the limits of love.
Sam Wintry’s life used to be almost perfect. She was engaged to her childhood best friend and high school sweetheart, Tyler Marks, planning an amazing cross-country honeymoon during her college break. But after a hit-and-run leaves her in ruin, she begins seeing Tyler’s fractured, ghostly presence, and her family believes she’s losing her mind. Not until she completes their journey, stopping along the way to scatter Tyler’s remains, will Tyler be able cross over. Only…is Sam ready for him to leave her?
When the black sheep of the Marks’ family, Holden Marks, returns to check on Tyler’s case, Sam convinces him to give her his brother’s ashes. Despite their shaky history, she needs him…plus, he owes it to Sam and his brother. What she doesn’t count on is Holden’s relentlessness to go on the trip.
On the road, Holden realizes just how unhinged Sam has become. Dealing with her psychosis forces him to confront his dark past, making it harder to keep secrets hidden that should remain buried. Especially from Sam, the only woman he’s ever loved. And as Sam starts to unravel the truth, she begins to question if the brother she’s unwillingly falling for again is in an even darker place than her.

3.5-4 stars!
I’ve been in a book funk lately and since none of the recently released books were appealing to me at the moment, I dug deep into my TBR list and found this little gem. The blurb really grabbed my attention: a mentally disturbed heroine who had not one but two guys in love with her, plus…they’re brothers?! Add in a ghost, a road trip, a mystery, and a lovely second chance romance and I pretty much decided that this would be my next read. Both the plot and writing were compelling and kept my attention from the very beginning to the very end and the sexual tension between the hero and heroine crackled in the air. I did, however, have some issues, like the timeline switching back and forth between past and present I wasn’t too fond of, and the ending along with the suspense aspect was a little anticlimactic but when taken as a whole, this story is a solid NA romance that I’m glad I picked up.
Sam Wintry had the perfect life: she was engaged to her childhood best friend and sweetheart Tyler Marks, settled in college, and getting ready for the road trip of her life with Tyler. All that changed when he’s killed in a hit and run and Sam’s left shattered and barely able to pick up the pieces. All her life she’s relied on Tyler: first as friends, and then when they were together, as a couple and now with him gone, she struggles with self-identity. In fact, her mind is so fragile she believes she can see Tyler’s ghost lingering on Earth and hear his voice. Her parents, friends, and doctor all are convinced she’s mentally unstable and put her on meds to stabilize her, but Sam knows she’s not crazy. She’s not lying. And she can see Tyler. See that her fiancé valued the road trip they were supposed to go on. In an impulsive gesture, Sam decides to go on the road trip and scatter his ashes at major checkpoints Tyler would’ve liked. Her plan goes off without a hitch, except for one thing. Holden Marks is back, and he’s here to stay and go with Sam no matter what.
Holden is Tyler’s older brother and the black sheep of the family. What’s gradually revealed is that Sam and Holden had a past before she was involved with Tyler, a past that includes infatuation, love, and heartbreak. For years, Sam and Holden’s relationship is strained but with Sam going on a road trip with his brother’s ashes, Holden insists on going with her to honor him, to protect her, and to solve the mystery he’s been trying to do for a while now: find the bastard responsible for the hit and run.
There is absolutely NO cheating or a love triangle. The relationship timeline between the three goes in the order of: Sam + Holden, Sam + Tyler, and then Sam + Holden again. Never did I feel like the age gap between Sam and Holden was inappropriate nor did I ever think Tyler was second place. Sam loved both of the Marks boys, but in very, very different ways and at different times of her life. Tyler was a true love. But Holden was her first love. And from early on, it was very obvious to me who she belonged with and who she had the deeper connection to.
The first couple of chapters alternated between past and present and since I’m not a fan of that kind of book setup, I was a little disconnected with the story at that time but it didn’t make me lose interest in the overall plot. There is a secondary suspense element weaved into the story and when it all came to light towards the end I was slightly disappointed with how easily all the ends were wrapped up, considering how hard the protagonists were wanting Tyler’s case to be solved for a while now.
This is a book that kept me on my toes and led me down memory lane with all the aspects of teenage life. It’s both a love after loss romance and a second chance romance, two of my favorite kind of love stories combined in one. With so many NA romances out there, it’s really refreshing to read one that’s slightly different from the norm.
The Darkest Part is the first book in the Living Heartwood series but a standalone. There is a slight paranormal aspect as the heroine ‘sees’ her dead fiance’s ghost but other than that this is very much a contemporary story.
Rating: 3.5-4 stars!

The day started like every other day…
Bianca London finds herself kidnapped and locked up in a van with a strange man. Ten hours later, they’re dumped on a deserted island. Bianca has no idea what’s going on and her attraction to this stranger is the only thing keeping her fear at bay.
Jakob Bradley wants only to figure out why they’ve been left on the island and how they can get off. But as the days go by, he can’t ignore his growing fascination with Bianca.
In order to survive, Bianca and Jakob must figure out how they’re connected, but as they grow closer, secrets are revealed that may destroy everything they thought they knew about each other.

I’m not familiar with this author’s work so I had no idea what to expect but judging from the blurb I had hoped it would be good. While the premise itself is an intriguing one, the execution fell below ground zero for me and for most of the book I was so frustrated I made mad cow sounds because of the idiotic heroine and the plot that seemed to run in circles. As for the ending, I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, but it finally made the book much more interesting. The only positive thing I have to say is that the suspense and desire to know the mastermind behind the hero & heroine’s kidnapping is what made this story a page-turner; all the other parts I had to force myself to finish.

The heroine Bianca is convinced her mother’s death wasn’t just an accident and armed with papers her late father left her, seeks out answers that lead her all the way to the elusive owner of one of the most powerful business corporations in the country. But before she can confront him, she gets kidnapped and taken to a remote island with another guy, the hero Jakob. Not knowing who he is, where they are, and why they’re there, Bianca reluctantly teams up with Jakob to get off the island and find the mastermind behind their kidnapping, all the while being ridiculously attracted to him.
Like I said before, this book was a real page turner because the suspense was solid. Other than that, however, everything else fell flat…starting with the awful heroine and her best friend. Literally every other page I could pick on something they did or say that drove me bonkers, whether it was Bianca’s terrible survival skills, her completely unnecessary spouting of random & useless movie facts, or both of their stupid commentary.
Here are but a few examples (spoiler-free quotes):
“It’s so pretty here. Whoever kidnapped us all really chose a beautiful spot.”

Isn’t the kidnapper so considerate? *rolls eyes*

“My dearest Rosie (Bianca’s best friend), you don’t know me yet, but I very much want to know you. Accept this gift as a token of my friendship.
Who’s it from?
Who knows?…Who cares? I just got a bracelet from Tiffany’s.”

………………

“You seem like you’d have a lot of ladies.
Why would you think that?
You’re so handsome. And you’re rich.”

^I need a drink.

“Let me get this straight. You told your ex-boyfriend that your father created multiple products that made his family company one of the largest corporations in the world. And then you told him you were doing research on said company, and you expected that he’d be cool with that?”

^Finally a voice of reason. At this point I just wanted to punch Bianca in the face and call it a day.

Now for the hero. I think he could almost be the saving grace of this book, except he has terrible taste in women. And by women I mean Bianca.
If she really is his match in everything, then good luck and good fortune to them both.
As for the plot, it was pretty obvious what Jakob’s role was in the whole kidnapping scheme. If the blatant clues dropped in the story don’t give it away, then the blurb for this book does (see his last name).
I will rarely rate books 1 star even if it was terrible to the point I wanted to DNF multiple times but my rationale is if the writing was solid I can give 2 stars. Sadly, not even the writing in this book is worth giving it a shot. The quotes I pulled for my graphics are the best of the crop and even that is a little amateur. I’m a reader who fully utilizes the highlight function on my iPad and normally I’d be highlighting quotes – funny, breathtaking, beautiful quotes – from left to right but in this book, I had more quotes that annoyed the crap out of me than ones that stirred any positive emotion. Maybe for longtime fans of this author, this book will be a smashing hit but for likeminded readers, perhaps it is best to skip this one, or at least until the second one releases since this first one ends on a massive cliffhanger.
Illusion is book 1 in the Swept Away series and not a standalone. There is giant cliffy at the end and the story will continue on in book 2 Disillusioned.
ARC provided by Gallery Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.