Review: Love or Justice by Rachel Mannino


Love or Justice by Rachel ManninoTitle:
Love or Justice
Author: Rachel Mannino
Series: Protect and Serve (Book #1)
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Limitless Press
Format: eBook
ISBN: 9781680583472
Rating: ★★★★☆
Purchase: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: After stumbling into a deadly kidnapping, Laurie’s life is in grave danger, and it falls to US Marshal Dante Stark to keep her safe until she testifies against Kaimi Quamboa—assuming he can be captured.

Dante knows he’ll lose his job if he becomes romantically involved with a witness…

But when he has to comfort her through constant nightmares, he finds it nearly impossible to fight his attraction to the beautiful, strong young woman he is sworn to protect. Laurie feels it too, but aware she’s in a high-stress situation and that when the danger is past she’ll never see Dante again, she tries to ignore his easygoing smile and the security he offers.

Laurie and Dante are forced to flee again…

When Kaimi’s men descend on their hideaway, they escape to a second safe house, only to be tracked down there as well. Dante now knows there’s a mole inside the US Marshal Service, and the only thing left to do is disappear.
Kaimi will never stop looking for Laurie, and if he’s caught, showing up to testify could be the last thing she ever does.

With each choice as dangerous as the next, Dante and Laurie must confront the boundaries of what they’re willing to sacrifice, and which is more important…

Love or Justice.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to Enchanted Book Promotions for providing me with a copy for reviewing.

Whenever I manage to finish a book in a day, it’s usually a good thing. I couldn’t put this book down. The story jumps off right at the very beginning and sets everything up so I perfectly understood the tone of what I was getting into.

In short, the story is about a young woman named Laurie, a law student who puts herself through school by working at a hotel. She witnesses a crime in one of the rooms one day and is immediately put into witness protection due to the notoriety of the people associated with what she saw. In charge of her case is US Marshal, Dante. Along with Dante’s team, they protect Laurie by moving into a safe house. Throughout their time spent together in such close quarters, something blossoms between Laurie and Dante, even though it really shouldn’t be happening. The consequences for getting involved with his charge are huge, and Dante is one of the best Marshals and has worked hard to get to where he is. But the heart wants what it wants, and throughout the story, the connection becomes undeniable. The story pushes forward as they realize they’re in more danger than they thought. This causes Dante to take extra measures to protect Laurie, no matter what it takes.

Laurie and Dante are both extremely likeable, and their individual personalities complimented each other so nicely. As expected of a US Marshal, Dante is tough, oozes masculinity, and is a leader. But at the same time, he has a soft side. Meanwhile Laurie never plays the role of damsel. She herself is strong and unafraid despite circumstances that keep her life in jeopardy. Their romance is inevitable, but I loved how the author didn’t jump into it right away. The two got to know each other and went through some hard times in order for them to solidify their relationship. And when the calm before the storm came along in the middle of the book, we’re treated to a refreshing approach to their growing emotional connection.

My only real issues were regarding the way some scenes were set up; there were a couple of moments that were just plain unrealistic and had me scratching my head, but I guess they were needed in order to propel the story forward. After that, those little details became unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

To sum it up, the story is ultimately a love story, backed up by some really great action and suspense sequences. It’s definitely a strong debut from Mannino, and I’m looking forward to reading more in this series and any other works she has in the future.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Mannino is a passionate writer who creates characters and settings that allow readers to explore power dynamics in relationships, the empowerment of women, and the ethical and moral dilemmas love can create in our lives. Rachel also uses her writing skills to raise thousands of dollars for entities that enrich our lives and create community change around the world. She has worked for the Peace Corps; the Humanities Council of Washington, DC; Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company; and the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events in Boston, MA. Her first novel, Love or Justice, will be published by Limitless Press in 2016. Rachel has a BA in theatre studies and writing, literature, and publishing from Emerson College, and she has used it every day since graduation. She lives with her husband, author Christopher Mannino, and their adorable dog and cat in College Park, Maryland. (via Limitless Publishing)

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[ARC] Will You Won’t You Want Me? by Nora Zelevansky

Will You Won't You Want Me? by Nora ZelevanskyTitle: Will You Won’t You Want Me?
Author: Nora Zelevansky
Expected Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9781250001276
Rating: ★★★★★
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: Marjorie Plum never meant to peak in high school. She was Queen Bee. Now, 10 years later, she’s lost her sparkle. At her bleakest moment, she’s surprised by renewed interest from a questionable childhood crush, and the bickering with her cranky boss—at a potentially game-changing new job—grows increasingly like flirtatious banter. Suddenly, she’s faced with a choice between the life she always dreamed of and one she never thought to imagine. With the help of a precocious 11-year-old tutee, who unknowingly becomes the Ghost of Marjorie Past, and a musician roommate, who looks like a pixie and talks like the Dalai Lama, Marjorie struggles with the ultimate question: Who does she want to be? Nora Zelevansky’s Will You Won’t You Want Me? is a funny, often surprising, novel about growing up when you are already supposed to be grown.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

I don’t even know where to begin with this book. I loved it. So much. The story is about one Marjorie Plum: former Queen Bee, envied yet adored by all back in her high school heyday. Fast forward ten years, and she’s working at a job she starts to despise more and more each passing day until the next thing she knows, everything goes to absolute s#!*, and she’s just stuck.

If I had to choose one word to describe this book, it would be ‘reflective’. When we’re young, we think we have the world figured out and then some. We look to the future thinking that everything’s going to stay constant. But then things happen and we experience and we learn; life’s not actually that easy. A lot of us are afraid of change, so we avoid facing the reality that we’re not always who we were in the past. When it comes down to it, rarely do things ever go as planned for everyone, and even the ones who seem to have everything can end up with nothing. One little factor can flip your world on its axis and make you feel like the universe is giving you the biggest middle finger ever known to man. Or like it’s giving you a swift kick in the ass and telling you that no one gives a damn about who you were ten years ago. We’re stuck asking ourselves stuff like “Now what?” and “What happened to me?” because life used to be so, so good. Like winning homecoming queen good. But like Miss Plum, sometimes we just have to place the proverbial tiara back into its glass case, stash it away into the memory box of our youth, and move on. I strongly believe there’s a little Marjorie Plum in all of us.

It wasn’t easy for her, though, as we learn throughout this colourful, quirky surprise of a book. She loses everything and walks in a disillusioned haze before realizing that it takes hard work and consideration of other people to truly make it in this world. But it’s also about self-respect and she learns the hard way that even people she thought had her back for life either drag her down, or can be plain toxic and she’s better off without them. It’s also about not dismissing people who might not fit into your usual crowd; the most unassuming people can affect your outlook in the best ways possible.

This was more of a realization of one’s self-worth rather than the whirlwind contemporary romance that I find myself drawn to as of late, though it didn’t come up short in that area in the slightest. It was refreshing to read about a woman’s journey to finding herself without focusing too much on her love life. It was even more refreshing to read a book about a 28-year-old woman who didn’t have her life together yet, because that’s okay. She eventually figures it out; things always work out if you truly want it to. This book perfectly showed that there’s always potential to become the person you want to be, if you’re willing to grow up and realize that the world moves forward whether you’re ready for it or not.

I’m so excited for this book to be published and finally available for everyone to enjoy. Please, please, please. Don’t pass this one up. I loved it so much that I’m already looking forward to getting a physical copy just so I can have it within arms reach whenever I feel like re-reading it. And so that I can hug it. Seriously.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nora Zelevansky is the author of Will You Won’t You Want Me? and Semi-Charmed Life. Her writing has appeared in ELLE, T Magazine (The New York Times), Town & Country, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair, among others. She lives with her husband and daughter in Brooklyn, New York. (via Goodreads)

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[ARC] The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen LoigmanTitle: The Two-Family House
Author: Lynda Cohen Loigman
Expected Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9781250076922
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: Brooklyn, 1947: in the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born minutes apart to two women. They are sisters by marriage with an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic night; but as the years progress, small cracks start to appear and their once deep friendship begins to unravel. No one knows why, and no one can stop it. One misguided choice; one moment of tragedy. Heartbreak wars with happiness and almost but not quite wins. From debut novelist Lynda Cohen Loigman comes The Two-Family House, a moving family saga filled with heart, emotion, longing, love, and mystery.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

Brothers Mort and Abe live in a single two-family brownstone with their wives, Rose and Helen, and their children in 1940s Brooklyn. The men couldn’t be more different from each other; the younger Mort is unsatisfied with his life while his older brother Abe is boisterous and admired by many. The story’s focus shifts when Rose and Helen have simultaneous pregnancies and go through everything together, including the birth of their children.

While the synopsis pegs this as a mystery, the twist actually becomes quite clear about halfway through the story. I was a little disappointed to have figured it out that early on. But that’s not to say it ever deterred my enjoyment of the entire narrative. The writing was exceptionally well-done; there’s emotion and heart at the very center of it all, and that for me personally made the story more enjoyable than the mystery aspect.

I really appreciated the familial aspect of the book, and I found that the most interesting thing in the novel was the relationship between Rose and Helen and the contrast alongside Mort’s changing relationship with Abe. The changes in all of these characters affected their relationships with everyone in the family, and their progression, particularly Mort’s, was fleshed out in such a poignant manner.

While it wasn’t as heavy and complex as I expected gong into it, I found the book very enjoyable in terms of the family dynamics and the breakdown of human relationships. Loigman really knows how to paint a picture with her words and make characters come to life; they’re relatable and real.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lynda Cohen Loigman grew up in Longmeadow, MA. She received a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard College and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. She is now a student of the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and lives with her husband and two children in New York. She is a failure at enforcing reasonable bedtimes. THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE is her first novel. (via Goodreads)

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[ARC] I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable

I'll See You in Paris by Michelle GableTitle: I’ll See You in Paris
Author: Michelle Gable
Expected Publication Date: February 9, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9781250070630
Rating: ★★★★★
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: After losing her fiancé in the Vietnam War, nineteen-year-old Laurel Haley takes a job in England, hoping the distance will mend her shattered heart. Laurel expects the pain might lessen but does not foresee the beguiling man she meets or that they’ll go to Paris, where the city’s magic will take over and alter everything Laurel believes about love.
Thirty years later, Laurel’s daughter Annie is newly engaged and an old question resurfaces: who is Annie’s father and what happened to him? Laurel has always been vague about the details and Annie’s told herself it doesn’t matter. But with her impending marriage, Annie has to know everything. Why won’t Laurel tell her the truth?
The key to unlocking Laurel’s secrets starts with a mysterious book about an infamous woman known as the Duchess of Marlborough. Annie’s quest to understand the Duchess, and therefore her own history, takes her from a charming hamlet in the English countryside, to a decaying estate kept behind barbed wire, and ultimately to Paris where answers will be found at last.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

I’ll admit, it took me forever to get past the first quarter of this book. It’s hefty, as historical fiction tends to be. I guess I just haven’t read one in so long that I forgot how vast books of this genre can get. Personal, time-restricting reasons aside, I wanted to make sure I had time to actually sit down and immerse myself into it, because right from the beginning, I could tell this was going to be something.

I’ll See You in Paris tells the tale of the real-life Duchess of Marlborough, Gladys Spencer-Churchill, who according to history, became recluse after being evicted from Blenheim Palace following her and the Duke’s separation around 1933. I went into this book expecting a recount of her life; what I got was so much more. Weaving into the Duchess’ story is the life of Laurel and Annie Haley, a fictional polar-opposite mother-daughter pair from Virginia who go through their own journey, testing and breaking down their relationship when they travel to England in order for Laurel to settle some business. Annie sneaks a book she found in her mother’s possession written about the Duchess. While overseas, Annie befriends an older man named Gus who helps her piece together the mystery of the missing Duchess.

The women’s stories parallel throughout the novel and Gable executes both of them in a way where there’s no disconnect. At first, I really didn’t understand the correlation between them, but you can just sense right from the beginning that these stories were told together for a reason. I was eager to know how and why, but I didn’t expect the result. It’s filled with twists and turns, and the more I progressed with the text, the more I found myself unable to set it down because I needed to know every single detail.

There’s quite a handful of characters from both timelines, but not one of them unlikable. Even the ones that aren’t featured very prominently play some kind of part in completing the story. Aside from these vivacious and often times troubled, intriguing characters, the settings and locations are described so fluidly and beautifully. You’ll definitely want to see Paris (and England!) after this one.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Gable is the NY Times bestselling author of A PARIS APARTMENT and I’LL SEE YOU IN PARIS. A College of William & Mary graduate, Gable currently resides in Cardiff by the Sea, California with her husband, two daughters, and one lazy cat. (via Goodreads)

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Vince’s Life by Vince O. Teves

20151121Title: Vince’s Life
Author: Vince O. Teves
Series: Vince’s Life (Book #1)
Publication Date: May 2, 2012
Publisher: Summit Media Publishing Inc.
Format: eBook
ISBN: 9719270683
Rating: ★★★★☆
Purchase: Amazon
Summary: From the pages of Seventeen Philippines magazine comes the book that chronicles real college life: making the grade, forming friendships that will last the rest of your lives, charting your future, and falling in love possibly for the first time. For regular guy Vince Teves, every significant experience during the four years that would shape the rest of his life was worth remembering. This is his story.

My Thoughts:
Initially, the material from Vince’s Life was published as a monthly column in ‘Seventeen’ magazine in the Philippines. Judging by the title, it’s quite obvious that the story is based on the real life of the author, Vince O. Teves. I picked up this book because, as I mentioned in another post, I’m so heavily invested in reading as many novels by Filipino authors as I can from this side of the world. I chose Vince’s Life as my first venture into my own little personal reading challenge — and by the end of it, I knew I made a really good choice.

This was a quick read; the Kindle edition came up to just around 150 pages. And as much as I love eBooks, I just wish I had a physical copy of the book. Pretty sure I’ve scoured the entire Internet thrice. It wasn’t just because it was short that I managed to finish this (and the other two books that make up this trilogy) in one day. It was because I couldn’t put it down. It reads like a journal where Vince chronicles his experiences as a teenager transitioning into adulthood. Right by his side are his ever-loyal and ever-entertaining friends to help him navigate and grow as individuals themselves. The core focus of the story, however, is his budding relationship with one of his good friends, Andrea. It’s your typical “friends-into-lovers” storyline, but their journey is complicated with different situations that Teves writes with such sensitivity and sincerity. There was no shortage of cheesy lines and clichés — I watch a lot too, too many Filipino soap operas everyday, I was kind of expecting it — but despite that, the book was a simple and realistic look at the joys and hurdles of growing up.

Overall, what appealed to me most about this book was that it’s categorized as “chick lit” but written from a male’s perspective, and he pulls it off so well. Male or female, anyone can relate to his story and will walk away reminiscing about your own experiences. We all face the emotions and realities that line the pages of this book in one way or another, and that’s a huge reason why I enjoyed this book as much as I did.

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The Air He Breathes by Brittainy C. Cherry

The Air He Breathes by Brittainy C. CherryTitle: The Air He Breathes
Author: Brittainy C. Cherry
Series: Elements (Book #1)
Publication Date: September 25, 2015
Publisher: BCherry Books
Format: eBook
ISBN: 151738799X
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Purchase: Amazon
Summary: I was warned about Tristan Cole. “Stay away from him,” people said. “He’s cruel.” “He’s cold.” “He’s damaged.” It’s easy to judge a man because of his past. To look at Tristan and see a monster. But I couldn’t do that. I had to accept the wreckage that lived inside of him because it also lived inside of me. We were both empty. We were both looking for something else. Something more. We both wanted to put together the shattered pieces of our yesterdays. Then perhaps we could finally remember how to breathe.

My Thoughts:
I’ve read a lot of reviews praising this book, so I wanted to see what the big deal was and check it out for myself. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm by the end of it didn’t compare to the slew of 5-star reviews posted on Goodreads. I liked the book, sure. I actually really, really liked it. But there were a few things that I just couldn’t get into that affected my enjoyment during different parts of the story.

Let’s get the not-so-good out of the way first. This honestly could have been one of the most amazing books in its genre this year. Two extremely broken people getting second chances at love and life after a chance meeting is the perfect formula for a timeless romance. The last quarter of the book, however, just got really over-the-top that I had to go back and check if I was still reading the same book (I exaggerate, of course). And okay, I forgive the predictability early on in the story, but once my suspicions were confirmed, everything just took a downward spiral after that. It turned into one of those soap operas that I used to watch with my grandma when I stayed home from school.

But for what it’s worth, Cherry did an amazing job with her two main characters. She wrote with this fluid and metaphorical tone that cemented how right Tristan and Elizabeth’s relationship could be if they gave their hearts a chance. I don’t want to spoil too much, but there was one point fairly early on that made me stop reading and lay my head down on the table for a few seconds because oh my God above, it was the sweetest thing ever. Feathers. That’s all I can say. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. The way they coped with their pasts together bordered on destructive; I could feel how shattered they both were, but it was so fascinating and heavy and just raw. If you’re a fan of angst, have at this book. It’s chock-full of it.

I wish the book stayed consistent in its entirety. Unfortunately the last bit got really chaotic and rushed that I couldn’t even comprehend what was going on while I was reading it. I might have even skimmed over a few pages just to get to the epilogue (which maybe redeemed another half star, by the way). It’s upsetting for anyone when you have to resort to that. I would’ve rated it 5 stars otherwise, because it really was incredibly good to start off with.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brittainy C. Cherry has been in love with words since the day she took her first breath. She graduated from Carroll University with a Bachelors Degree in Theatre Arts and a minor in Creative Writing. She loves to take part in writing screenplays, acting, and dancing–poorly of course. Coffee, chai tea, and wine are three things that she believes every person should partake in. Brittainy lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her family. When she’s not running a million errands and crafting stories, she’s probably playing with her adorable pets. (via Official Site)

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See Me by Nicholas Sparks

See Me by Nicholas SparksTitle: See Me
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Publication Date: October 13, 2015
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Format: eBook
ISBN: 9781455520596
Rating: ★★★★☆
Purchase: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: Colin Hancock is giving his second chance his best shot. At 28, he’s focused only on walking a straight line — getting his teaching degree, working out at the gym religiously, and avoiding all the places and people that proved so destructive in his earlier life. The last thing he’s looking for is a serious relationship. But when Maria Sanchez crosses paths with him on a rainswept night in North Carolina, his plans are upended in a way that will rattle the foundations of his carefully structured life. As for Maria, the hardworking lawyer and daughter of Mexican immigrants, Colin will challenge every notion she’s ever had about herself and her future, making her question what truly makes her happy. Before the couple has a chance to envision what a life together might look like, however, menacing reminders of events in Maria’s past begin to surface. And as the threat of violence begins to shadow her every step, she and Colin will be tested in increasingly terrifying ways. Will demons from their past destroy the tentative bonds they have forged, or will their love protect them, even in the darkest hour? See Me is a story of obsession, reinvention and a love that defies every expectation, reminding us that destiny often rests in our own hands-even in matters of the heart.

My Thoughts:
The story centers around Maria and Colin, the former a lawyer from a well-to-do family and the daughter of successful Mexican immigrants, the latter a troubled soul who is trying to move on from his dark past. The story fits the typical Sparks formula of two small-town people from opposite ends of the tracks coming together in a journey consisting of obstacles that will likely break your heart into pieces. It’s a formula that works, which is why Sparks is still successful to this day.

The details of their individual backgrounds were established early on in the story, which was interesting as it paved enough room for their relationship to flourish in a way that didn’t make it seem random and unjustified. I could see why Maria fell for Colin, and vice versa. Their individual stories were engrossing and I found myself equally immersed in both. Together, they were better; with their Romeo and Juliet-esque relationship and being exactly what the other was missing in their lives, I found myself rooting for them to please, please make it.

The second half was where things got even more interesting. I was pleasantly surprised at how well Sparks can write suspense/thriller. Some of the plot twists were fairly easy to figure out while other aspects of the story kept me guessing right to the end. I’m sure fans will not be disappointed with the different direction he takes in this story. And yes, like every other Nicholas Sparks book I’ve read, this too made me cry. I sincerely hope the trend of turning his books into movies continues with this one, because it’s definitely something I’d gladly love to see come to life.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicholas Sparks is one of the world’s most beloved storytellers. All of his books have been New York Times bestsellers, with over 100 million copies sold worldwide, in more than 50 languages, including over 65 million copies in the United States alone. (via Amazon)

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