Friday, December 20, 2013

Top 13 Books I Enjoyed in 2013

Just a fun little list of my top 13 reads from 2013!

Crown of Midnight by Sarah Maas - I continue to just love this series!
Champion by Marie Lu - a perfect ending to the trilogy where everyone's story isn't tied up neatly into a bow
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare - I loved the conclusion to this trilogy and love the set up for City of Heavenly Fire.
Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi - Team Warner and wow what a cliffhanger!
Crash Into You by Katie McGarry - Hope to see more out of Isaiah Walker in future books
Unbreakable by Kami Garcia - a perfect paranormal read
The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - I need more Noah Shaw
Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers - Loved Sybella and Beast
The Elite by Kiera Cass - Team Maxon, May 2014 is too far away!
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead - Adrian and Sydney
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill - Time travel + love story
Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta - A fitting end to a great fantasy series.

Looking Forward to in 2014

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi
Cress by Marissa Meyer
The One by Kiera Cass
Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater
The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi
The Lady Thief by A. C. Gaughin
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Take Me On by Katie McGarry
Opposition by Jennifer Armentrout
Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally (Hundred Oaks book 4)

"They're from two different worlds."

Seventeen year old Savannah Barrow had to leave her home in Charles Town, West Virginia two days before the start of her senior year of high school. Her father got the job as head groom at Cedar Hill Farms in Franklin, Tennessee. The farm has trained horses that have raced in the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup. She will be starting school at Hundred Oaks High but hopes to get a job as an exercise trainer at the farm. Walking back to the staff quarters, Savannah hears an alarm and sees a runaway horse barreling towards her with two guys on horseback chasing him. She runs to the horse as it heads her way and yells "Stop!" He runs past and she goes in pursuit. The horse circles back to see her and she holds up her hand. He charges her but she is able to grab his bridle and soon has him under control. Savannah has a way with horses, almost like a horse whisperer. She sees that the horse is named Tennessee Star and seems to have thrown his rider. The horse is a beautiful thoroughbred and she soon sees the owner's son riding towards them. Savannah has been warned that the Goodwin family is extremely private and the owner's son Jack, whom she hasn't met yet, is her age. He also has a reputation. The staff has told her that his bedroom has a revolving door. They will be attending the same school. She notices that Jack is cover model beautiful. He thanks her for catching his horse. He is impressed by her and comments on her ability and knowledge of horses.

Jack wrongly assumes that Savannah is there to tour the farm. No but then he assumes she is a guest of the family. She tells him that they haven't met. He introduces himself but she tells him she needs to get back to the house. He offers to escort her but ends up chasing after her. They begin to talk about why Star bolted. Jack is a bit conceited and Savannah calls him on it before she can stop herself. He asks again who she is and why she is there. Before she can tell him the truth, Mr. Goodwin comes up to ask why Jack is avoiding talking to Abby Winchester. She won't quit calling the house. He sees Savannah and asks if she is Danny Barrow's kid. Yes I am and Jack is surprised that he has been trying to hit on the new groom's daughter. Mr. Goodwin drags Jack away. He doesn’t seem happy.

Savannah goes to Gael, the lead trainer, to see about getting an interview as an exercise rider. After talking a bit, Gael quickly realizes that Savannah knows horses but unfortunately he doesn't make the hiring decisions. She is surprised when Jack Goodwin walks up and says that it is his job to decide who gets hired. Gael tells the Barrows that Mr. Goodwin is letting Jack run the farm during his senior year of high school. It is his way of preparing him for the future. Savannah asks for a chance to prove herself and Jack asks for her qualifications. She has been riding since the age of four, exercised horses in Charles Town and caught Star for him earlier. If she really wants the job, he wants to see her ride Star. Gael and her father object. The horse throws all of his riders. Jack says that she can ride a horse named Minerva instead but he reserves the right to see her ride Star before he makes his decision.

Savannah proves her stuff on the track with Minerva. Gael is ready to hire her to start on Monday, but Jack says no. She is disappointed until Jack says that he wants her to go with him to Cincinnati the next day to warm Star up before his race. Her father isn't happy but Jack thinks she is just what the horse needs. Mr. Goodwin comes along to check on what is happening. Jack fills him in on the situation and his father also objects. Jack states his case for Savannah and his father relents. It is obvious he doesn't like the interest his son is showing in the hired help.

At the race the next day, Savannah gives Star his best warm-up ever. Jack and his father are excited about his chances. As soon as the jockey mounts Star and heads for the starting gate, the horse gets spooked. He starts last but does make up time during the race but not enough to place. Jack is deeply disappointed. Abby Winchester comes running up to give Jack a hug. This time he cannot ignore her like he wants to. Savannah vows to figure out what is spooking the horse. That night at the farm, she is down at the field watching Star graze. She is continuing to build her relationship with the horse. Suddenly, Star gets spooked as Jack and his dogs come up to the fence. Savannah would hate to have to tell Jack that his horse doesn't like him. They secure the horses for the night and discuss Star. Savannah finally asks him if she got the job. He replies yes, wasn't it obvious? Excited, she throws her arms around his neck. Realizing what she has done, she steps back but Jack gently pushes her up against the fence. She stops him before he can kiss her. She cannot get involved with the owner. He understands and asks that she not tell his father.

Savannah has made friends with one of the stable boys, Rory Whitfield. Rory is Will's (from Stealing Parker) little brother and also a senior at Hundred Oaks. He has taken Savannah on a tour of the town and to a field party. He has told her that he wants to be a screenwriter and doesn't want to be stuck on the family farm which continues to lose money. Neither are interested in each other. Rory jokes with Savannah's short stature; he would break his neck trying to kiss her. The two quickly become friends. Rory even drives her to school the first day and briefly shows her around. She goes to her first class and sees Vanessa; a friend of Rory's that she met at the party. They are talking when Jack Goodwin walks in. Every girl is trying to get his attention but he heads straight for Savannah and sits down. He tells her what a great job she is doing with Star. Then he asks her when she and Whitfield got together. He saw that he drove her to school this morning. Rory walks into to class just then and Savannah tells him what Jack just said. He laughs and says that she fell asleep Saturday night and snored like a troll. Jack slides closer and starts to turn on the charm.

Can Savannah figure out why Star gets spooked? Will the horse ever do well in a race? Can Jack prove to his father that he has what it takes to run the farm? Will Savannah be able to keep from falling under Jack's spell and becoming another notch on his bedpost or is Jack really not the player everyone believes him to be? What happens when Savannah breaks all of her rules and plays with fire?

Once again, fans of the Hundred Oaks series get another glimpse into the future lives of some of their favorite characters.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally (Hundred Oaks book 3)

Kate Kelly has a couple of brief mentions in Stealing Parker. She attends the same church as Parker Shelton. Kate has a huge crush on Will Whitfield. Parker and Will are camp counselors with Kate. Jordan Woods also makes an important appearance.

"Sometimes you need to make your own trail."

Kate Kelly, 18, is a recent high school graduate. She is going to be a camp counselor at Cumberland Creek Camp for the summer although she feels like she has no business being one. She only signed up to be working with her best friend, Emily Mansfield. That was before Emily found out that she was pregnant and her parents kicked her out of the house when they found out that she had had an abortion. Now it is too late for Kate to look for another job to make some money before college starts. She is having a difficult time dealing with her role in supporting her friend's decision to end her pregnancy. She feels as if she has committed a sin and Emily doesn't understand that. She hasn't spoken to her friend in weeks.

On her first day at the camp, Kate notices a beautiful boy starring at her. He is carrying his clothes in a laundry basket and has a guitar case. He looks familiar but Kate cannot place him. During the group introductions, he tells everyone that his name is Matt and he keeps looking at Kate. Afterwards, she goes to her car to check her messages but her phone doesn't have a strong signal. Sitting in the driver's seat while sketching, Kate begins to question once again who she is without Emily, without soccer; she tore her ACL in the fall and without her relationship with God, which she felt she lost by helping Emily. She prays for a sign that she might be forgiven and can eventually forgive herself. Just then, something hits her car window and Kate hits her head in surprise. Getting out of her car, she sees Matt picking up his basketball. He apologizes and asks if she is alright. Fine, Kate says and Matt comments that she looks familiar. He asks if she has ever been to the camp as a camper. Suddenly, they recognize one another and begin to catch up. Turns out Matt gave Kate her one and only kiss when she was eleven years old.

The counselors spend the next couple of days getting ready for the campers. Kate and Parker have words when all of the counselors decide to share a cabin together, boys and girls. Kate believes it would be a sin to sleep in the same cabin as the boys and she has sinned enough already. Parker is tired of being judged by others. Alone in her cabin for the night, Kate cries herself to sleep over the loss of her only friend and how alone she is. She has done everything the church has told her to do. She is a good girl but somehow she doesn't fit in. Will has a talk with Kate to let her know how hurt Parker was when her mother left and everyone at their church turned on her. Kate didn't know. Over the next several days, she tries to apologize to her. Parker is not quick to accept Kate. Matt does try to get her to do things and seems to be flirting with her. Another counselor, Andrea, is trying to get Matt's attention. Kate overhears her tell her friend Carlie that she fell for him and wishes she knew how to work things out with him. Carlie tells her that she was a good friend when he needed one. Carlie tells Kate when she catches her eavesdropping to mind her own business. Kate takes a walk and sees the boys playing basketball. Matt makes a score and waves at Kate as she walks by. She waves back and wonders what exactly Andrea was talking about and what Matt meant when he told her earlier that she had saved him all of those years ago.

Soon the youth campers arrive and Kate has her unexpected highs and lows as the first week progresses. At the talent show, she sees how kind Matt is with some of the kids and she decides then and there that she wants Matt. When the camp director calls her in for a meeting, she reprimands her for having difficulties getting her campers' dinner on time and being late getting the talent show started. As she is leaving, Kate asks her who told her about her problems. Andrea had heard from Matt she is told. Leaving, Kate is devastated to hear Matt sold her out.

Does Kate find the forgiveness she is seeking? Can she trust people again? Will Kate be able to repair her friendship with Emily? Does Matt feel the same about Kate as she does him or is Matt interested in Andrea instead? How did Kate save Matt the first time they met? Will Kate rethink her "judgmental" attitude towards others? Can Kate and Parker find friendship?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally (Hundred Oakes book 2)

"She just got thrown a major curveball."

This is book two in the Hundred Oaks series but can be read as a standalone. Fans of Catching Jordan will recognize one of the baseball players as Sam Henry with brief mentions of his girlfriend, Jordan Woods.

A year ago, Parker Shelton's parents divorced after her mother announced that she was a lesbian and moved in with her "friend". Parker gave up her dreams of her playing softball for Thousand Oaks High School. The family was devastated when their mother left and Parker refuses to answer her phone calls. Her mother was a shortstop for the University of Tennessee and baseball was the family past time, but not anymore. Going to church was painful because of all of the stares and whispers, but her father still makes her and her older brother Ryan go. People thought Parker would turn out to be a lesbian as well and needed to protect their daughters from her. Parker began to change when her friends began to turn on her.

Her best friend Drew Bates has signed her up to be the manager of the baseball team. She only agrees because she can meet and hang out with all of the cute boys on the team. She even stays when the coach says that she can't date or mess around with anyone on the team. He had problems out of last year's manager. That was the only reason she agreed. Parker kisses a lot of guys to prove that she isn't like her mother. Everyone at school knows she messes around and is never serious. Will Whitfield, the team captain, warns her not be mess around with Drew. Friends since they were in diapers, Parker has never been interested in Drew that way. Will doesn't need to be worried. She wants a boyfriend but she just hasn't found a guy she is willing to risk her heart over.

All of that changes for Parker when she meets Brian Hoffman, the new assistant coach. Parker is immediately entranced, especially when he remarks over her throwing arm. Acting like she doesn't know a whole lot about baseball, Brian teaches her how to keep stats. They begin talking and she learns that he is six years older than her and will be taking over coaching the team next year when the current coach retires. The two of them quickly develop an easy conversation that leaves Parker wanting to know the new coach more. She is embarrassed when the boys joke about her getting around. All she does is kiss them.

Coach Lynn, the softball coach, is visibly upset to see Parker taking stats for the boys. Brian sees the conversation and comes over. He is shocked to learn that Parker played varsity softball as a freshman until she quit last year. Coach Lynn reminds her that she wanted nothing to do with baseball and now look at her. She tells Parker that there is always a place for her on the team. What Parker hasn't told anyone is how her teammates made fun of her in the locker room, asking if she was a lesbian. Her female friends turned on her but Drew stayed true and by her side, never judging her. When Coach Lynn leaves, Brian asks her if she knew how to take stats. She replies that she did. He lets her know that he doesn't like wasting his time.

Parker starts to obsess over seeing Brian and Drew calls her out on it. She asks him why he didn't tell her that he broke up with his girlfriend. He doesn't want to talk about it. Will tells her later that Drew told him that there was someone he liked better. He believes that someone is her but Parker secretly thinks that Drew might be homosexual. Parker begins to see herself as everyone else at school and church sees her; an easy girl. All she really wants is for her family to go back to the way it was before her mother left.

Will Parker attempt to cross the line with the new baseball coach? Does she clean up her behavior to change her reputation? Is Drew really in love with Parker or with someone else? Will Parker begin to talk to her mother again? Can she find that one boy she is willing to risk her heart for? And will Parker be able to rekindle her love of softball?