Book Review + Book Playlist: Left Drowning by Jessica Park

Left Drowning

Title: Left Drowning

Author: Jessica Park

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Source: I received this book from BEA in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review.

What does it take to rise from life’s depths, swim against the current, and breathe?

Weighted down by the loss of her parents, Blythe McGuire struggles to keep her head above water as she trudges through her last year at Matthews College. Then a chance meeting sends Blythe crashing into something she doesn’t expect—an undeniable attraction to a dark-haired senior named Chris Shepherd, whose past may be even more complicated than her own. As their relationship deepens, Chris pulls Blythe out of the stupor she’s been in since the night a fire took half her family. She begins to heal, and even, haltingly, to love this guy who helps her find new paths to pleasure and self-discovery. But as Blythe moves into calmer waters, she realizes Chris is the one still strangled by his family’s traumatic history. As dark currents threaten to pull him under, Blythe may be the only person who can keep him from drowning.

Holy frick you guys. I was not expecting the pure brilliance that is this book. I was expecting a little sadness, a little character growth, and a little romance. What I didn’t think I was going to get was two main characters who totally and completely captured my heart with their pain, their pasts, and their love. I was not expecting a purely exceptional cast of side characters who were so awesome and dynamic and just awesome (did I mention that they are awesome?) that I felt like I had made the world’s greatest group of friends by the end of the book. And most importantly, I was not expecting to have my heart practically ripped out only to have Jessica piece it back together again with such a beautiful story of friendship, heartbreak, and love. Basically, Left Drowning exceeded all of my wildest expectations and left me thinking about the story and the characters days after reading the book.

After her parent’s death four years ago, Blythe McGuire is drowning in pain, loneliness, guilt, and sorrow. At a loss with how to cope with such a tragic event, Blythe turns into a loner. She goes to classes, gets drunk at the occasional party, makes drunken phone calls to her estranged younger brother, and alienates herself from those people who care for her. Blythe’s pain was nearly palpable throughout this whole story, most importantly at the beginning. I felt that just by reading the book, that I was experiencing all of those feelings with her. I wanted so bad to console her, help her, take the pain from her, just something to make it at least a little better for her. But since this was a book (i.e. not real) I had to leave the saving up to some other people. Luckily they were freaking amazeballs.

Blythe is saved by a group of people known as the Shepherd siblings. They are all the absolute best. They are all unique and quirky and downright loveable and now I am going to tell you why…

Sabin Shepherd invades Blythe’s life one early morning. It starts off when he waltzes in, steals her coffee, causes a scene, acts like a crazy person, and makes Blythe feel something for the first time in a long time and I am not talking anger over the stolen coffee here people. I am talking about something akin to friendship. Just being around Sabin makes Blythe feel just a sliver of normalcy and she knows from the very beginning that she’s found herself a forever-friend.

After her weird encounter with Sabin, Blythe finds herself at the beach. While there, pondering life’s greater mysteries and tragedies, Blythe spots a boy and as we all know, spotting a boy on the beach is where all of the ooey gooey feelings begin. Christopher Shepherd is a beautiful boy, hiding a terrible past, and Blythe soon feels an instant connection to. Just a forewarning to all of you: Christopher = ALL OF THE SA-WOON! Anyways… Blythe spends the day with Christopher, enjoying his easy company, the way he makes her feel all of the feelings (good and bad), how he seems so familiar, the way that he is oh so easy on the eyes, and how she feels comfortable enough to open up to him about her parents. Before long, Blythe is thrust into the Shepherd family, finding herself surrounded by friends for the first time since her parent’s death.

Christopher and Blythe form a unique relationship. There is an obvious attraction and connection between these two from the very beginning and being comfortable with one another in a way that neither person has experienced before only adds to it. But with Blythe’s not-so-secret past and the fact that Christopher is hiding something dark about his, these two start off sort of together without really being together. Lines defining their relationship are blurred and crossed and downright ignored more than a few times but regardless of where they stand romantically, Christopher saves Blythe in nearly every way. He is there for her when she breaks down. He holds her when she needs to cry, is there for her when she gets her life back on track, helps her to form a relationship with her brother again, and smiles with her when she experiences happiness again. He’s just there and for Blythe, that’s what she really needs. Didn’t I tell you he was worth all of the sa-woon? But wait, because it gets better…or worse, depending on how you look at it.

Christopher is what I like to call beautifully broken. He is so strong, put together, sweet, unbelievably steady, loyal to a fault, full of love and passion that it’s almost hard to detect that there’s something not quite right going on with him. Behind that perfect exterior, Chris is hiding pain, tragic memories, guilt, and a weight on his shoulders that is nearly dragging him down. It is because of this that I love Christopher even more. He feels like he is unworthy of the happiness and love that Blythe offers him but his story proves otherwise. This boy deserves all of the love and all of the happiness in the world.

The rest of the characters prove to be just as complex and vital to this story as Blythe and Christopher are. The Shepherd siblings are there for Blythe during her time of need. The numbness wears off and it’s like she’s experiencing her parent’s death all over again. Being around these people makes her feel alive again and with truly being alive comes ALL of the feelings. Sabin’s crazy, wacky, hilarious personality and never-ending friendship helps her get through a lot of the tough times. Eric’s quiet, steady, easy-going personality gives Blythe a sense of calm whenever she is around him. Hanging around tough-girl Estelle gives Blythe a little bit of sass and quite the potty mouth. Christopher, along with all of his siblings help save Blythe. She was drowning and then this family swooped in and saved her with their closeness, quirkiness, and friendship.

However, these characters share, at least a little bit, of the darkness that lingers in Christopher’s past. It started out with Blythe being the one who was drowning in a world of pain but the Shepherd family find themselves going under too and Blythe has to step up and save them. Learning about what all of these characters went through, Christopher in particular, absolutely broke my heart. I first saw them as this happy, loving family and when I saw the pain they were masking, I just wanted to hug it all away from them.

No one wants to see characters they love go through crippling, tough times. And the things is, I truly love all of these characters, but this story wouldn’t be the same without all of the pain that each and every one of them go through. I was able to see how strong, brilliant, and capable of happiness that Blythe was. I saw her go from this shell of a girl to a girl so full of love for her family and friends. I was able to watch as Christopher stood behind Blythe in her time of need, ran away when his pain became too much, and then finally learn to accept the love that Blythe had for him. As for the other Shepherd siblings, seeing them change from this vibrant group of people to broken and lost individuals shattered my heart. But experiencing situations like what these characters went through, and surviving the pain that comes along with it, shows just how strong and resilient all of them characters were.

I guess what I am trying to say with this mess of a review, is that Jessica Park will crush your freaking spirits with Left Drowning. You will feel absolutely torn through most of this book. She will make you bawl like baby, want to throw the book across the room and then maybe stomp on it, you will probably resort to eating 5 spoonfuls of cookie dough to make the pain go away, and it’s likely that you will use an entire box tissues but in the end none of that will even matter. Every heart-shattering, crushing, breaking minute will all be worth it because the end result is just so freaking perfectly imperfect, beautiful, and just right that none of that other stuff will even matter.

BOOK PLAYLIST:

Jessica has her own Spotify playlist for this book and it is remarkable (you can find it here) but as I’ve stated in my review, I had such strong feelings about this book days and days after reading it, that I needed to focus those feelings elsewhere. I decided I would put together a playlist of songs that I felt fit the book as a whole, certain characters, and even specific moments in the book. You can check out the Spotify playlist down below. If you’ve had a chance to read Left Drowning, be sure to let me know what you think of the playlist! I’d love to hear what songs you would pair with the book!

PURCHASE THE BOOK:

Pre-Order on Amazon

Blog Tour + Book Review + Author Interview: This Love by Nazarea Andrews

This Love Button

This Love

Title: This Love (University of Branton #1)

Author: Nazarea Andrews

My Rating: 3.5-4/5 Stars

Source: I received this book in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review

She wants a summer job and a ride to a wedding.

He wants an assistant and a distraction from the mess his life had become.

They didn’t know they needed each other.

Avery Emili needs two grand. Two grand and a plane ticket–her sister is counting on her to get to Jamaica for her wedding. But the semester is over, and tutoring college freshman and high school students has dried up until the fall.

Atticus Grimes needs help–the messy split with his wife left the twenty-eight year old professor scrambling to keep things together as the semester winds down. Now he’s got a research grant he has to actually do research for and all he wants to do is drown himself in a tall bottle of bourbon.

When Avery sees his ad for an assistant, all she’s thinking is a summer job. But as they spend time together, in the office and out, both of them begin to realize something is there. Something that can’t happen–he’s a professor and she’s a student. And both of them have histories, pasts that won’t let go. Can two broken people pulled apart by expectations find a way to be whole?

This Love by Nazarea Andrews is one of those books that made me giggle, made me swoon, made me blush, and made me root for two characters who I so desperately wanted to be together. Told in alternating point of views, This Love gets us in the heads of both Avery and Atticus, making us fall in love with the both of them.

When we first meet Avery, she is this determined and smart college student. She always does the right thing, follows the rules, and stays out of trouble, boy trouble in particular. Even though Avery’s strives for success was something to admire, there seemed to be something a bit off about her; there was this distance to her. However, once the story progressed and I learned more about Avery’s past, that distance made more sense. Watching her come out of her shell, learning to be around someone again, to allow herself to feel all of those feelings again, the good and the bad, was one of my favorite parts of this book.

Atticus, another character with a broken past that dictates a lot of his actions in the beginning of this story, also showed a lot of growth. Atticus is a lot more up front with his problems and he deals with them in a completely different way than Avery. He started off heartbroken and a hot mess in pretty much every aspect of his life but I was able to see just how much he grew as a person throughout the book. With the help of Avery he was able to get his life together and learn to love again.

All of these life changes were not easy for the two. Their relationship starts off with a few huge problems, one being that their romance is forbidden, and another being that there is a limit on their time together. These two major issues coupled along with all of the other minor problems, make it hard to believe they could ever turn out together in the end.

Despite the obvious hazard signs flashing all over Atticus and Avery’s relationship, there were still parts of it that I loved to absolute pieces. First and foremost was how they helped each other to be better versions of themselves. Atticus taught Avery how to trust and love again while Avery taught Atticus much of the same. Secondly is their utter nerdiness towards everything history. While this never really appealed to me in high school, I loved that these two were able to connect over something like that. Lastly is the oh la la moments! There is this obvious chemistry between them from the very beginning of the story but neither one really wants to be the first person to make a move. What makes it so much more enjoyable is the fact that it is forbidden and they both try to fight it so hard in the beginning. There’s just something about a forbidden romance that makes this girl oh so happy!

Overall, This Love proved to be a really enjoyable romance. Atticus and Avery were two characters that I could easily picture. Their relationship had its fair share of problems, some of them minor, most of them HUGE, but despite everything they had to work through to be together, their feelings for one another proved to be strong. This Love is the perfect book for a good day out by the beach, or snuggled up on the couch, or you know…basically whenever!

AUTHOR INTERVIEW:

Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired Avery & Atticus’ story?

Forbidden romance is a favorite trope of mine, and nothing is much more forbidden than student/teacher relationships. But I wanted it to be natural and not gross—I promise it’s not. And Atticus—he showed up more fully formed than Avery did, which isn’t surprising considering Avery’s got a lot she’s hiding—was pretty insistent that his story be told. Avery would describe him as a frat boy, all grown up—and it’s the perfect description.

What was your favorite part about writing This Love?

Lol, the sexy scenes. I’ll own that—I LOVE writing kissing scenes, and I got to go a bit farther than that, so it was a lot of fun.

This Love is a New Adult book; what is it about the New Adult genre that pulled you in?

There’s a lot of freedom in the genre that isn’t offered in YA, so that’s a plus. But I think that a lot of it is, even though I’m 28, married with three kids, a lot of times I’ll stop and panic—HOW AM I DOING THIS? Am I doing this adult thing right? Cuz a lot of time, I feel like no.

And college was some of the best memories I have. So there’s that.

I understand that you also write Fantasy; what was it like switching it up and writing a Contemporary Fiction?

It was a lot of fun!! I love writing fantasy, but it was nice to have just a simple story, without worrying about worldbuilding elements and all the other stuff. It was almost relaxing. :)

This Love is one book that I was so excited to put on my summer reading list. Are there any books you are excited to pick up this summer?

YES!!! I have Storm and Siege, which I’m really excited to read, and Tuesday Subject to Change (another NA contemporary) came out that I can’t wait to read at the beach this weekend!!

A big thank you goes out to Nazarea for answering all of my questions! I absolutely LOVED having her on the blog today! Make sure you all take a second to check out all of the important linkys at the bottom and of course, thank you for stopping by!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nazarea Andrews

Nazarea Andrews is an avid reader and tends to write the stories she wants to read. She loves chocolate and coffee almost as much as she loves books, but not quite as much as she loves her kids. She lives in south Georgia with her husband, daughters, and overgrown dog.

You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

WHERE TO FIND THE BOOK:

Goodreads

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Tune In Tuesday (110)

Tune In Tuesday Summertime Edition

Tune In Tuesday is a weekly feature in which bloggers get to showcase another one of their loves, music! This feature was originally created by Ginger over at GReads! but you can now find it here at Kate’s Tales of Books and Bands. If you would like to participate in this weekly feature, make a blog post showcasing a song (or a few!) and link up at the bottom of this post by clicking the cute blue guy! While you’re here make sure to check out all the other awesome blogs that have decided to participate!

We’ve made it to the last Tuesday of Summertime Edition. I hope you have all had as much fun with this as I did. For this week’s post, I went a little overboard with the summerish songs but I just couldn’t decide (shocking, I know). I have my final list of random (but awesome) songs that get me in the summer mood and you can also find the complete playlist of ALL of my Summertime Edition songs at the very bottom. Hope you like!

Cosmic Love by Florence + The Machine

This song is so sway-y. Sway-yness reminds me of summertime in a weird sort of way.

Feathers by Jack and White

Every time I hear this song, I automatically think summer. Everything from the lyrics to the feel of it make me want to lounge around in the sunshine.

Kids by MGMT

MGMT has such fun music. I think this song is perfect for those summer nights spent with your friends getting into crazy shenanigans.

Drunk On You by Luke Bryan

It doesn’t have to be summertime for me to enjoy some Luke Bryan but there is just something about his music that fits in so well with summer.

I’m Yours by Jason Mraz

The song and music video make this one a pretty obvious choice. Even after hearing it a million times, it brings a smile to my face.

Dancing In The Moonlight by Toploader

This is such a fun song! I don’t anticipate myself dancing in the moonlight any time soon but shall the urge appear, I can almost guarantee it would be in summer!

Here (In Your Arms) by Hellogoodbye

Back when I was in high school, this was THE song one summer. I still love it and the video still rocks my socks off!

Friday Is Forever by We The Kings

We The Kings have a lot of songs that could easily fit in any of my summertime playlists but there is just something about this particular one that shouts FUN & SUN!

Sneak Peek: Keeping Her by Cora Carmack

Keeping Her

Title: Keeping Her (Losing It #1.5)

Author: Cora Carmack

Expected Publication: August 13th 2013

Garrick Taylor and Bliss Edwards managed to find their happily-ever-after despite a rather . . . ahem . . . complicated start. By comparison, meeting the parents should be an absolute breeze, right?

But from the moment the pair lands in London, new snags just keep cropping up: a disapproving mother-in-law-to-be, more than one (mostly) minor mishap, and the realization that perhaps they aren’t quite as ready for their future as they thought.

As it turns out, the only thing harder than finding love is keeping it.

I am so absolutely thrilled to be part of the sneak peek of Cora Carmack’s upcoming novella, Keeping Her. For those of you who have been living under a rock, Keeping Her is a continuation of Garrick and Bliss’ story which we first saw in Losing It. Let me be clear about one thing: if you haven’t had the chance to read Losing It yet, you need to make it your new life goal. For serious. I read the book quite some time ago (back before it was picked up by William Morrow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins) and I remember being absolutely enthralled with Bliss & Garrick’s love story. There were moments of laughter, moments of near tears, and lots and lots of SA-WOONING. Anywho, before I get too carried away with professing my love for Cora and her brilliant books, lets move forward with a few awesome announcements (consonance FTW).

First, you can check out ALL of Cora’s books here on Goodreads:

Losing It

Keeping Her

Faking It

Finding It

Second, Cora, along with Jay Crownover (another author who has managed to capture my heart, this time with her book Rule.) will both be participating in a Goodreads chat on June 26th. You can find the link to the chat right here!

Third, there is going to be a Faking It book club on Cora’s Facebook page on June 27th from 3-4 p.m. EDT. Make sure you have all those burning questions ready! You can find the link to Cora’s Facebook page right here!

Fourth, go on and FINALLY check out all of the AWESOME, AMAZING, ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE teaser we have for you down below by clicking the link. We hope you enjoy and please be sure to leave a comment letting us know what you think!

Preview Package: Cora Carmack’s KEEPING HER by AvonBooks

Tune In Tuesday (109)

Tune In Tuesday Summertime Edition

Tune In Tuesday is a weekly feature in which bloggers get to showcase another one of their loves, music! This feature was originally created by Ginger over at GReads! but you can now find it here at Kate’s Tales of Books and Bands. If you would like to participate in this weekly feature, make a blog post showcasing a song (or a few!) and link up at the bottom of this post by clicking the cute blue guy! While you’re here make sure to check out all the other awesome blogs that have decided to participate!

I cannot believe we are already on week 3 of Summertime Edition! I have been loving all of the songs I’ve seen you guys have picked so far and I cannot wait to see what you’ve got planned for today! I have five more songs that remind me of all things summer. Enjoy!

Strawberry Wine by Deana Carter

This song has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It will always remind me of summer!

‘Til Summer Comes Around by Keith Urban

Regardless of how sad the song is, I still love it!

It Ain’t Love by Green River Ordinance

This is a new song off of Green River Ordinance’s new EP releasing TOMORROW!!! Basically everything that these guys sing remind me of summertime!

Be My Baby by Hey Ocean

Any song from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack reminds me of summer, no questions asked. I heard this particular version at work and loved it!

Let My Love Open The Door by Pete Townshend

This song has such a beachy feel to it. It is the perfect song to get me in the mood for a day spent out by the water!

Sneak Peek + Awesome Surprise: Frigid by J. Lynn

Frigid

Title: Frigid

Author: J. Lynn (Jennifer L. Armentrout)

Publisher: Spencer Hill

Expected Publication: July 30th (For details surrounding an early release, please read the post below!)

For twenty-one-year-old Sydney, being in love with Kyler isn’t anything new. They’d been best friends ever since he pushed her down on the playground and she made him eat a mud pie. Somewhere over the years, she fell for him and fell hard. The big problem with that? Kyler puts the ‘man’ in man-whore. He’s never stayed with a girl longer than a few nights, and with it being their last year in college, Syd doesn’t want to risk their friendship by declaring her love.

Kyler has always put Syd on a pedestal that was too high for him to reach. To him, she’s perfect and she’s everything. But the feelings he has for her, he’s always hidden away or focused on any other female. After all, Kyler will always be the poor boy from the wrong side of tracks, and Syd will always be the one girl he can never have.

But when they’re stranded together at a posh ski resort due to a massive Nor’easter, there’s nothing stopping their red-hot feelings for each other from coming to the surface. Can their friendship survive the attraction? Better yet, can they survive at all? Because as the snow falls, someone is stalking them, and this ski trip may be a life-changer in more ways than one.

Today is an exciting day – we have FOUR HUGE SURPRISES for you! Jennifer L. Armentrout’s (writing as J. Lynn) FRIGID is set to release on e-book at the end of July. If you’re anything like us, you’re probably on pins and needles and just cannot wait to get your hands on a copy of this book.

FRIGID has already been given the honor of being named a Romantic Times Top Pick and we’re super excited for you to be able to read it as well!

Well, there’s good news! Are you ready for those four awesome surprises? Here we go!

1. Due to all the excitement surrounding FRIGID, we have decided to run a special e-book pre-order promotion. We have worked out a deal with the distributor to release FRIGID a full two weeks early — on JULY 15th!!! — if we meet our e-book pre-order goal. EEEEP! That’s right, if you are like the rest of us and want to be able to read FRIGID in its entirety before its original release date, all you have to do is PRE-ORDER THE E-BOOK NOW! What are you waiting for? GO! Pre-order it!

Pre-Order Links: Barnes & Noble / Amazon

2. Need something to hold you over until FRIGID releases? Well, starting right now, you can read the first three chapters of FRIGID for free! Just read below!

Frigid Sneak Peek

3. Can’t get enough of the hot FRIGID cover? Want to see some behind the scenes photos that are sure to make you swoon? You’re in luck! Below you can watch a slideshow of all the behind the scenes photos from the photo shoot! Go on and watch it. We’ll wait, because there is still one more great surprise!

4. And last but not least, if you live near Philadelphia, PA, you’re in for a very special treat — Jennifer will be in Philly in November signing not only FRIGID but also the last book in her immensely popular COVENANT series, SENTINEL! But that’s not all, Adam, the super hot cover model from FRIGID will be there as well! So, yes, you’ll get to meet Jennifer and Adam! Plus, there will be other great prizes that you seriously won’t want to miss out on (dinner with the author and model, perhaps?)! Stay tuned for more details to come!

We hope you’re as excited as we are! So now….Go pre-order FRIGID! Go read those chapters! Go watch that slideshow! And Enjoy!

Cover Reveal + Giveaway: The Chalice of Malvron by Elisabeth Wheatley

I am thrilled to be part of the cover reveal for Elisabeth’s newest book! I really enjoyed book #2 in the series and cannot wait to see how the 3rd book turns out! Without further ado, let’s see the book cover!

Title: The Chalice of Malvron ( Argetallam Saga #3)

Author: Elisabeth Wheatley

A princess with no recollection of the past eight years. War on the horizon. Who to trust? Who to save?

Sixteen-year-old Janir Caersynn Argetallam wakes, sore and disoriented in the home city of her people, surrounded by relatives who seem concerned for her well-being. As she tries to recover, the Argetallams’ allies, the Stlavish, prepare to unleash a magical relic of untold power against the Argetallams’ age-old enemies, the Brevians. Janir watches silently from the sidelines until she meets a warrior elf and a strange wizard-boy who claim to know her and make her feel…confused. They claim that everything she’s been told is a lie, that her memories were stolen at the command of her father, the Lord Argetallam. As the eve of Brevia’s destruction draws closer, Janir finds herself with the power to stop the Stlavish. Conflicted and confused, she must decide whether she will allow Brevia to be conquered or if she will betray her father and destroy the relic—the Chalice of Malvron…

The Chalice of Malvron

So what do you guys think of The Chalice of Malvron’s new cover? The first two books in the saga, The Key of Amatahns and The Secrets of the Vanmars have covers that certainly resemble this new cover but they are also very different in their own way! I absolutely love the green and the gorgeous font that can be found on the other two books. Please let us know what you think about the cover in the comments section and of course, check out the giveaway below!

GIVEAWAY:

In honor of her new cover reveal, Elisabeth has put together an awesome giveaway. The first place winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card and 8 other winners will win some books from awesome authors. To enter yourself in the giveaway, please follow this link to fill out the rafflecopter form!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Elisabeth Wheatley

Elisabeth Wheatley is a high school student homeschooled in the Texas Hill Country. When she’s not daydreaming of elves, vampires, or hot guys in armor, she is reading copious amounts of fantasy, playing with her little brothers, studying mythology, and training and showing her Jack Russell Terrier, Schnay.