Wednesday, April 6, 2016

[Blog Tour] Review + Excerpt: The Natural History of Us by Rachel Harris & Giveaway

The Natural History of Us (The Fine Art of Pretending #2)

by Rachel Harris
Release date: April 5th 2016
Published by: Spencer Hill Press
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | IndieBound | Order Personalized Copy until April 8th Here

One class assignment. One second chance at love. The school player is all in. Now he needs to win back the sweet commitment girl who's forever owned his heart.

Justin Carter has a secret. He's not the total player Fairfield Academy believes him to be. Not really. In fact, he used to be a one-woman guy...and his feelings for her never went away. Too bad he broke her heart three years ago and made sure to ruin any chance she'd ever forgive him.

Peyton Williams is a liar. She pretends to be whole, counting down the days until graduation and helping her parents at the family ranch. But the truth is, she's done everything she can to get over Justin, and salvation is just around the corner. With graduation one short month away, she'll soon break free from the painful memories and start her life fresh. Of course, she has to get through working with him on one last assignment first.

For Justin, nothing ever felt as right as being with Peyton, and now that fate's given him a shot at redemption, he's determined to make the most of it. And for Peyton...well, Justin Carter has always been her kryptonite.


“It’s not hate or anger pooling in my gut – God, I wish it were. More like humiliation, hurt, and intense regret. Also a dash of loneliness and stupid longing.”

Oh, this book. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t hooked by the first chapter! I tend to avoid second-chance romances because I can’t bear to see the characters relive the past that hurt them. I sympathize too much, not to mention my heart is seriously weak against fictional heartaches. I mean, no matter how light the book is supposed to be, there’s still always that tinge of heartache that gets to me. But Rachel Harris is one of those authors whose books have yet to fail me. As well, I liked Justin from The Fine Art of Pretending a lot so reading The Natural History of Us is just simply inevitable.

But as expected, The Natural History of Us was a little difficult to read for me. Not because it’s a horrible book but because of the emotions! It’s told from dual POV’s of Justin and Peyton in two alternating timelines: (1) freshman year before the “disaster” and; (2) senior year before graduation. That said, I got to really relive the time when Peyton got her heart broken by Justin. I was so nervous while reading the past because their freshman year romance was so cute, so sweet, and so natural—it was the kind that gave even me, as a reader, butterflies in the stomach—and I kept dreading the moment where everything would turn upside down. And lo, because when it did, it almost gave me a heart attack. I didn’t expect *that* to be in this book. Really, why did you do that, Rachel Harris?? These poor kids! And my poor heart!

If you’ve read The Fine Art of Pretending, chances are you already love Justin Carter. He is the catcher of the school’s baseball team and also the resident player, but we’ve all guessed from the first book that there’s more to him than just a guy who hooked up with random women. Justin grew up with his father, stepmother, and a younger half-brother. Not really feeling what it means to be part of a family nor how to be loved by a parent. They even leave him in their huge house when the three of them go on vacations. His brother is the only person in the family who seemed to actually love him, but he’s too young to catch on with the family’s issues. This truly broke my heart and I felt so much for Justin. Even when Peyton’s parents treated Justin as their son it wasn’t the same because they weren’t real family.

Peyton Williams, however, is the quiet girl who lives on a ranch and loves baseball and rodeo. She has Guillian Barre Syndrome but this never stopped her from chasing her dreams. Even if Peyton was only mentioned a couple of times in the first book, it was enough to make me curious about her and my curiosity has been well paid because I love her as a character. Her family is struggling to make the ends meet because of her illness that forced her to stay in a hospital for a long time. Peyton may be quiet but she’s bold, headstrong, and doesn’t back down from any challenge.

Harris’ The Natural History of Us perfectly captured the sweetness and the troubles of a teenage romance. It’s honest and it doesn’t hold back from telling events that are usually taboo in the usual light YA because such things do happen in real life even at a young age. Justin and Peyton are genuine characters. They aren’t flawless. At 15, they were reckless and confused but it doesn’t mean they will stay like that forever. The experience they gained helped in order to fix their mistakes from the past. I know I said that I tend to avoid second-chance romance books but after reading this book, I’m really craving for more of its kind!

Further, the format of the storytelling also brought out the best of the plot. It’s like reading two different stories at once because both have the kind of beginning that will set off your curiosity, a middle whose secrets will keep you second guessing, and an end which ultimately connect the two stories together. I don’t consider this book a light read–semi-light, maybe, but it doesn’t change the fact that The Natural History of Us is one enthralling read that demands to be finished in one sit.

The Natural History of Us maybe a sequel to The Fine Art of Pretending but it can also be read as a standalone.

A review copy was received for a blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars!


Planting my feet on the floor, I grab the assignment packet. I thumb through the long list of group dates, taking note of all the partner-time required (a lot), and a rush of endorphins floods my bloodstream. My heart pounds just like it did when I tagged out Jefferson to win last night’s game, and when a relieved exhale parts my lips, I hear Carlos say, “Uh oh.”

“What?” I ask distractedly.

“You’ve got that psycho look in your eyes.” I raise my eyes and he waves a finger back and forth in front of my face. “The same one you had before we egged Crestmont High last week. You’re planning something.”

Adrenaline bounces my knee. “Maybe I am.”

My hand beats out a rhythm on my thigh as I realize that this is exactly what I’d been waiting for. The answer to the itch under my skin. My extreme restlessness. It’s not a new feeling—if I were honest, it’s been on a low simmer for years. Being with Aly just brought it to a boil. I’ve been numb ever since I lost Peyton, and this… this insane marriage project is my chance to finally make things right.

“Tell Abuelita I’ll be there,” I say, returning my gaze to the back of Peyton’s head. “And that I’ll be bringing a girl even she can’t complain about.” From the corner of my eye, I see him stare at me in confusion. “I’m bringing my wife.”

Carlos’s mouth opens in a mix of shock and doubt and I don’t blame him. I saw Peyton’s reaction, too. But I have three whole weeks between now and then, and a plan taking shape in my mind.
Peyton may think she hates me, but that’s only because she doesn’t know the total truth. Soon, that’ll change—but I can’t rush it. I have to start small. Ease into it. Use these dates and outings to show her how much I’ve changed since I was fifteen and screwed everything up.

But I will do it.

“Mark my words, Carlos,” I say, feeling excited about a girl for the first time in a very long time. But then, that’s because it’s not just any girl; it’s my girl. She just doesn’t know it yet. “I’m gonna be the best damn husband in this entire class.”

He looks at me uncertainly, but that doesn’t faze me. I won’t let it. I know I don’t deserve it. Hell, I never deserved her. But I’m not letting anything stop me. Not this time. Thanks to Coach Stasi, I’m going to remind Peyton of all the reasons she fell for me in the first place.

And then I’m going to make her do it again.


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About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Harris writes humorous love stories about sassy girls-next-door and the hot guys that make them swoon. Vibrant settings, witty banter, and strong relationships are a staple in each of her books…and kissing. Lots of kissing.

An admitted Diet Mountain Dew addict and homeschool mom, she gets through each day by laughing at herself, hugging her kids, and watching way too much Food Network with her husband. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romances, and LOVES talking with readers!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Book Review: The Winner's Curse & The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy, #1 & #2) by Marie Rutkoski + The Winner's Kiss Giveaway

by Marie Rutkoski
Release date: March 4th 2014 | March 3rd 2015
Published by: Farrar Straus Giroux

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love...

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.


Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement... if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.


I cannot even begin to describe just how good The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime are. Both were such fantastic reads and both left me completely speechless. The Winner’s Curse has been on my TBR list for so long now, but I’m so lucky to have only picked it up now when The Winner’s Crime has already been released and with The Winner’s Kiss being just around the corner, I don’t have to wait for a year to read it (but still, March 29th, please come sooner!!).

I clamored to get a copy of Crime after reading Curse because the ending broke me! Little did I know that Crime would’ve full-on destroyed me. The emotions I got from reading these two were all over the place intense—sorrow, joy, disgust, hope, distress, frustration, longing, anger. Sometimes either, sometimes mix, and sometimes all of them at the same time. It was maddening! And it felt so, so, so good to know that these events and characters could illicit such a number of emotions from me regardless whether it’s a positive or a negative emotion. I loved feeling all of it! And the fact I could connect so well with the characters thrilled me.

Kestrel was quite the interesting character. Actually, her trope is one of my most favourites. Kestrel may not be physically talented in a battle, but she is a genius schemer and that’s about as dangerous if not more. The book already had me transfixed to it from the beginning till end but I always find myself even more enthralled whenever Kestrel is in one of her mind games. Seeing the cogs turn in her head was a joy to read!

I find it interesting that Kestrel’s father would rather she join the army than to marry. The lack of discrimination against women was a breath of fresh air. I mean, in most stories the parents worry a lot about their daughters but in The Winner’s Curse, Kestrel’s father is willing to pitch his daughter in a war because he has so much conviction in her even though she’s not an exceptional fighter because he knows his daughter has a good head between her shoulders. I find it even more interesting though that Kestrel wants neither to join the army nor to marry. She loved playing the piano, but music is frowned upon in her society and is regarded as lowly—something only slaves do. It’s why she bought Arin, albeit on impulse, because he sings though he refuses to.

I really liked the master x slave relationship here. It’s another breath of fresh air that the master is a girl and the slave is a guy because mostly, in other books, the slave always tends to be a girl and the master, a guy with the slave being an impulsive sarc and the master, an overprotective rake. In The Winner’s Crime, Marie’s approach to the master x slave dynamic is different. Kestrel is brilliant and cautious, and Arin is quite and full of hatred. There were no funny banters involved. These books mean serious business. Kestrel and Arin genuinely didn’t want anything to do with each other and at first I was skeptic at the notion of these two being in a romantic relationship. But while I think Rutkoski handled this development quite well, I also think that the romance could have been reduced in some parts in Curse and maybe transferred to the second book because gods I craved it so much In The Winner’s Crime! That said, The Winner’s Trilogy doesn’t focus much on the romance. It’s more about war and politics and I love that it doesn’t shy away from character deaths.

The Winner’s Crime, though, was consistently a frustrating read from start to finish. There were moments when the frustration was too much to bear that I would just cry abruptly. It was torture but in the bestest way possible and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

It already goes without saying that I loved The Winner’s Curse but The Winner’s Crime is just WOW. Everything I loved about Curse all levelled up in Crime with the addition of some more awesome. The political mind games were set to an all-time high and the emotions, ohmyword, so genuine and so palpable. It was so difficult not to feel for these characters especially Kestrel because she suffers the most. And for Arin because he suffers too.

I know I’m lucky for just reading these two close to the final book’s release date but dang, if only I had a time machine!

The Winner's Curse: 4.5/5 stars!
The Winner's Crime: 5/5 stars!


My sister has just pointed out that March is my anniversary month. I keep forgetting that I have an anniversary so I've never done an anniversary giveaway but I'm doing one now so yay! 

Up for grabs is a copy of The Winner's Kiss, the third book in the The Winner's Trilogy, either from Amazon or Book Depository so yes, this is International.

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You can also read a sneak peek of The Winner's Kiss here:
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