Friday, November 21, 2014

Review: Talon by Julie Kagawa

Title: Talon        
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Publication Date: 10.28.2014
Pages: 461
Genre: Young Adult, Dragons, Fantasy
Series: Talon #1
Source: ARC from BEA

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they're positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.

Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon's newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember's bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.


Who doesn't love dragons? I know I do. Whether they're good or bad, they always add an extra level of awesome to a story. So I was already excited about this when I first heard about it. And not to mention it's from Julie, so I know this ought to be amazing.

Ember. What a girl. I immediately loved her in this opening scene. I could tell she was fiery. She seemed to have that air about her that she just wasn't a follower, that she wanted more. She quickly became a favorite. She has such a strong love of life that is hard to imagine she is just trying to fit in, that it's just a mission, a test to survive. Even for me it was hard to remember what she really was at times. It's not hard to believe that she can convince you that she is nothing more than normal.

Garret and Riley. At first they are both quite mysterious, at least to Ember. And I love how she reacts to them. Garret is like Ember. Here only for a mission, until things get complicated. Riley is too, but for a completely different reason. I love how things get complicated and Ember is in the mix trying to decide what to do. It's all just so exciting!

I couldn't put this down. It was a suspenseful and exciting ride to find out that what you thought is really wrong and everything you are told is only a half truth. Garret, Riley, and Ember all have my attention. I CANNOT wait for the next one. Something happened, I thought it was unexpected, that has you holding your breath. Talon definitely has my attention.

Buy: Talon by Julie Kagawa

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holiday Book Buys on a Budget

I am a huge holiday fan - I love seeing my family and friends and yes, I love gifting people things I know they'll love. And sometimes gifting myself (hey, I worked hard all year!), But it seems like this year I'm on a bit more of a budget due to a few unforeseen financial obstacles. Who knew you needed to get new brakes and tires for your car? Are those really essential?

That being said, I've been looking for ways to help out a bit with my holiday spending and I've found a few awesome deals for bookish gift giving.

Book Outlet is a new resource to me, but one I cannot wait to utilize. They have hundreds of deeply discounted books (think $6 for hardbacks and $3 for paperbacks). It is a fantastic way to buy books for friends and family (and you) without breaking the bank. Buying 3 books for the price of one is definitely making my wallet happy. They have everything from picture books to cookbooks and a massive YA section to boot so you can get books for anyone on your shopping list. 

I especially recommend checking it out on Black Friday because all their prices will be an extra 30% off and you can score a $10 off coupon. FREE BOOK MONEY, PEOPLE.

My cart is loaded and ready to go so next Friday all I have to do is log in and check out with my discounts. 

Swagbucks has been around for quite awhile now and I had honestly forgotten about it until recently. It's an online rewards system that gives you virutal bucks you can redeem for real prizes. Like gift cards. I've earned $65 in Amazon gift cards just for doing things like completing surveys and using my search engine. 

Right now I almost have enough for a $50 Amazon GC. That's definitely going to help out this holiday season. But it's not just Amazon - you can also redeem bucks for gift cards to Barnes and Noble, Sephora, Walmart, Target, Fandango, iTunes and a bunch of other. Or, if you'd rather get a prize, they have those, too - everything from electronics to travel vouchers. 

The amount of ways you can earn with Swagbucks is astounding - from buying on Groupon and tons of other websites to daily polls. In a month I've earned $4K in swagbucks.

3. Thrift Stores/Goodwill
I remember the year my brother finally got into reading. He was in his early 20's and discovered Tom Clancy. And me, being the good big sister I am, knew he needed books for Christmas. 

I was out shopping with my mom one day and we ran into Goodwill for something and I discovered their book section. THEIR BOOK SECTION. It was absolutely overflowing with discards and castoffs and I was able to buy my brother close to 20 Tom Clancy books (in really good condition - this is crucial because I'm a fanatic about the condition of books), and I only spent $7. I literally filled a large clothing box with books and he was comical trying to guess what was in that wrapped box (along with other presents I could afford to get him because I didn't blow that budget on books). 

Check out your local thrift stores and Goodwill locations for their books. You might have to spend a little time rummaging through the shelves (I know - the horror of spending a day immersed in book shelves), but you can find some absolute gems.

Around the holidays there are always giveaway hops going on. I've signed up to participate in several and I'll be making the rounds to enter myself. Not only does it help me find new blogs to check out, but it also gives another blogger a page hit and I can win a prize.

So take the time to check out some giveaway hops this season and win a prize for you.

5. Bookish-themed Ideas
Check out these other amazing ideas from The Book Addict's Guide:

Review: Compulsion by Martina Boone

Title: Compulsion
Author: Martina Boone
Publisher: Simon Teen
Publication Date: 10.28.2014
Pages: 448
Genre: Young Adult, Southern, Gothic, Magic
Series: Heirs of Watson Island #1
Source: ARC from BEA

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead--a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family's twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

This is one of those books that you love so much you don't know where to start. It's intriguing, suspenseful and touching all at the same time.

I immediately loved Barrie. She is one of those girls that you feel like you can connect with. She is shy but determined and wants nothing more then to make everyone happy and do the right thing by helping everyone else before herself.

Cue Mr. Hottie Eight. He has that sexy mysterious vibe to him. Which, personally makes him all the more yummy. He tries to help Barrie but ends up helping himself while making his life a confused mess at the same time.

You can really feel with Barrie. The sense of loss, betrayal, and hard to find love all seem to jump out at you. And that but of mystery magic that just pulls you in and keeps you on your toes.

I cannot wait for the next book in this series. I never put much thought into the contemporary fantasy genre, until now. And I love it.

Buy: Compulsion (Heirs of Watson Island)

Waiting On Wednesday: The Pretty App

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly waiting to get into our hands.

This week I'm waiting on....

By: Katie Sise

Poor Blake Dawkins! She's rich, she's gorgeous, and she's the queen bee of Harrison High. The girls want to be her; the boys want to—okay, enough said. But it turns out Blake’s life is not so perfect—just talk to her dad, who constantly reminds her that she's not up to par, or to her ex-bff, Audrey, who doesn't even look her in the eye.

Then Harrison—and every other high school in America—becomes obsessed with posting selfies on the ubiquitous Pretty App. Next: Leo, an adorable transfer student, arrives at Harrison and begins to show Blake that maybe being a queen bee doesn't mean being a queen bitch. And though Audrey suspects somebody’s playing foul, Blake finds herself catapulted to internet fame after being voted one of the prettiest girls in the country. She's whisked away to star in a reality show—in Hollywood, on live TV. But she doesn’t know who to trust. Because everybody on the show wants to win. 

And nobody is there to make friends.

The Boyfriend App author Katie Sise spins another irresistible tale of technology, secrets, and big-time romance in this story of what it takes to be #trulybeautiful.

Why I Want It:
Last year's The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise was a surprise hit for me. Full of laughs and lessons, it became one of my favorite books of 2013 and Kate became an author I loved interacting with. I can't wait to see what she has planned next!

The Boyfriend App will be released April 12, 2015 by Balzer + Bray

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review: Wild by Sophie Jordan

Title: Wild
Author: Sophie Jordan
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 11.18.2014
Pages: 320
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Series: Ivy Chronicles #3
Source: eARC from publisher

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
A good girl goes fabulously bad in the final book in New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan’s sexy New Adult romance series, in which three Ivy League suite-mates seek higher knowledge of just how far they can go.

Months after her boyfriend dumped her, Georgia can still hear the insults he hurled at her. Boring. Predictable. Tame. Tired of feeling bad, she’s ready to change her image, and go a little wild. What better way to prove her ex wrong than a hot night of sexual adventure at the secret campus kink club?

In the shadowy den of the kink club, she unexpectedly runs into Logan Mulvaney, her friend’s little brother. A player extraordinaire too hot for his own good, he may be younger, but the guy is light years ahead when it comes to sexual experience. Now he’s telling her to go home—“good girls” don’t belong here!

Georgia is tired of having others define her. She’s going to teach Logan a lesson he won’t forget—one white hot, mind-wrecking kiss . . . that leads to another . . . and another . . . and. . . . Realizing she’s way in over her head, Georgia runs.

Only Logan won’t let her go. Everywhere she goes he’s there, making her want every inch of him. Making her forget who she is. Who he is. And just how wrong they are for each other.

I'm so sorry - this is the last book? Excuse me?

Sophie Jordan is a powerhouse writer and she clearly saved the best for last when writing WILD. While I am beyond bummed to say goodbye to the Ivy Chronicles series, she handled this book flawlessly.

I loved Georgia since Foreplay, and I have been anxiously awaiting her book. I was so excited that she got her own story and how wonderfully it was done. Georgia's sweet nature was both endearing and amusing - it's easy to see why Logan fell for her.

Logan is just ... WOW. Remind me I owe Jay Crownover a hug for nudging Jordan into writing him as a hottie high school fledgling dom. I loved that while Logan pursued a relationship with Georgia, he also refused to be a doormat. I love when a guy (or girl) will walk away - briefly, mind you because I do need my HEA - so they don't compromise themselves. It sends such a positive message to the audience.

I am heartbroken that this series has come to a close, but I have no doubt that I'll be ravenously reading whatever Jordan puts out next! 

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

KGI Celebration: Day 2

Welcome to Day 2 of the KGI Celebration here at The Irish Banana Review! Let's talk about some more heroes, shall we?

Ahh, the first novella of the KGI series. We go back to visit Rachel and Ethan, whose marriage has improved leaps and bounds, but it still a process. I loved checking back in where it all started and seeing how far this couple has come both as individuals and as a team.

This is a sweet glimpse into the KGI behind the scenes life (with some suspense and drama thrown in for good measure). Fans of this series have been craving this kind of reconnect with past favorites and I hope to see more in the future.

PJ has long been a favorite of mine. She and Cole are a pair of dynamite sharpshooters on one of the team and there has been an undercurrent of sexual tension between the two of them in every book that explodes here. As the only female on the team, PJ has always been in a league of her own, but this book demonstrates that even kickass females can be felled.

This book rocks because you get not one but two KGI operatives in a relationship. Savor it.

Steele, another team leader, has always been a stoic enigma for fans, but in this book we get a great look at the man behind the scowl. Maren is another favorite female of mine in this series. I love how deftly she is able to care for these guys as the unofficial team doctor.

Maren and Steele bring a calming balance to each other and I loved seeing their relationship play out. Definitely one of the better romances in the series.

After several books of team members, we finally get a new Kelly brother story. Van has always had a soft spot for women and kids that totally melts me. It is epically showcased in this book as he comes to the aid of a local family.

While I love Van, the highlight of the book was the chemistry explosion (FINALLY!!!!) between Sean and Rusty. Rusty entered the series in book one as a troubled runaway the Kelly's adopted into their fold and she has grown from a teen to a college student, but she and Sean have always had this antagonistic relationship that you just know is going to be it's own story. Hopefully soon.

Oh, Swanny. You broke my heart earlier on as a POW with Nathan who endured possibly more pain, but I've loved watching you thrive in your KGI role. And leave it to you, the guy with the scars, to fall for a stunning model. But thankfully this model is a breath of fresh air who is sweet and fun and a joy to read.

But this means that we're at book 9 and there are no more KGI novels left to read. Well, not yet anyway.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

KGI Celebration: Day 1

Several years ago I started this blog, which started out as a way for me to share my love of Young Adult, but while I love YA, I also love some more grown up reads. Especially those of the military hero variety. I stumbled onto Maya Banks' KGI series and fell hard and fast for these hot heroes with equally strong and resilient females. After 9 books and 1 novella, this series is still going strong and 2015 will bring book #10 to shelves near you.

This week I am going to share my love of this series and highlight what drew me into each book. There's also going to be a giveaway running along with these posts courtesy of my friends at Berkley for the first 5 books in the series, and trust me: you want this series in your life.

Here we go, book #1. This series starts off on a somber note with Ethan Kelly bitterly mourning the loss of his wife, Rachel, who died a year earlier. When Ethan is giving intel that his dead wife might not be as dead as he was led to believe, he enlists the help of his brothers' Kelly Group International organization (which they've been trying to get him to join) to save Rachel.

Saving Rachel is the easiest obstacle they have to overcome - Rachel has endured hell, but even before that her marriage with Ethan was anything but smooth sailing. I love how this book truly highlights the highs and lows of a marriage. It's not all happily ever after and love takes work.

This book brilliantly introduces KGI and the Kelly brothers to readers in a way that is not overwhelming despite there being 6 Kelly brothers. 

Oh, Sam. This is one of my favorite books in the series and not just because it starts of with a seriously hot scene. Sam is the oldest brother and leader of KGI and his relationship with Sophie is anything but simple. Both have secrets which get exposed. 

This book gives readers a better insight into the leadership and camaraderie of KGI. It's full of suspense and twists and moments to make your knees weak.

Garret Kelly played a key role in book #1, so when it was his story to tell in book #3, I was more than ready. This story was a little different because of the isolated locations Garrett was sans his KGI brothers. But it introduced Sarah, one of my favorite females of this series. 

Sarah, who has a brutal background that makes her so hesitant to trust. I loved watching her open up around Garrett and the way they bonded. Their relationship throughout the entire series is a major high point for me - especially since Sarah adorably tries to cure Garrett of his potty mouth (spoiler alert: it doesn't go so well).


It took me a little while to be OK with  because it deviates from this being a contemporary military romance series by adding a paranormal twist.

This is the book when Shea and Grace Peterson are introduced and both possess some telepathic skills that I wasn't sure fit into this world at first. In fact, sometimes I still wonder why this was made part of the series, but I love the series so I'm rolling with it.

Nathan Kelly (one half of the Kelly twins) is captured and tortured while on tour overseas and while his brothers scramble to find a way to locate and save him, he is saved by Shea who establishes a mental link with him and helps ease his suffering while in captivity.

Shea is another one of my female faves of this series. She has a great wit and determination, and her bond with Nathan is one of my favorite relationships.

Another deviation from the KGI formula (way to change it up, Maya Banks). Once again we meet up with Grace Peterson, but this time our hero is Rio, one of the KGI team leaders but not a Kelly brother. 

Rio has been a stoic background character for five books, but he truly comes to life in this book. He and Grace have what, to me, feels like one of the more mature relationships in the series. Both of them have lied through and survived so much, their being together feels more concrete than a lot of the other relationships.

So there you have it. The first 5 books of the KGI series. Make sure you come back tomorrow for some more KGI goodness, and check out the giveaway!

*Winner must have a US mailing address and be over the age of 16. The Irish Banana Review is not responsible for lost/stolen/damaged/unsent prizes by a third party.*

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