High Contrast: Evolution Ink Book 1

High Contrast (Evolution Ink, #1)High Contrast by Tess Bowery
ebook, 226 pages                                                   Publication: May 3rd 2016 by  Samhain Publishing   My rating: 💎💎💎

Blurb:  The deepest scars aren’t the ones that show.
Jacob Shain is your average member of Generation Screwed. He has a boring internship, no cash flow, and a tiny NYC apartment he has to share with Ethan, his much-cooler, tattoo-artist twin brother. Not to mention his love life is DOA. At least, until his brother’s shop hires on a new piercer, and Jacob’s humdrum life takes a turn for the weird.

Cody Turner is gorgeous, funny and kind—everything Jacob wants in a boyfriend. Except for the way he refuses to talk about his past, or where he lives, or anything about his personal life.

When Ethan is arrested while on a mission of mercy, the reason Cody is so tight lipped comes to light. And while Jacob and Cody fight to understand the depth of their feelings for one another, the police dogs catch their scent. So does the local mob.

Now Jacob has to make the hardest choice of his life: stay safe like a good boy, or dive headfirst into a world he barely understands…and hope Cody is there to break his fall.

Warning: Contains a good boy who wants to be bad, a bad boy who longs to be good, bodies that are canvases for living art and high-speed chases with police dogs.

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This was not at all what I expected. From the looks of the cover I expected something a little darker or grittier maybe? More of a serious read at the very least. However I found that High Contrast was more of a mixture of humor, romance and a touch of drama and angst.

High Contrast was not just a story of straight laced Jacob, a self confessed nerd and Cody the reformed badboy tattooed piercer. There is an entire cast of great characters from Jacob’s twin brother Ethan, his bestfriend and Ethan’s girlfriend Andi, Ethans business partners Travis and Val and sweet young Priya the tattoo shops counter girl. They are a great group of friends, a pseudo-family and best of all a Scoobyesque gang of wannabe slueths.

I loved the banter even if at times it felt a little immature, especially between Jacob and Ethan who at times I felt might have stolen the spotlight. I was a little disappointed with the “criminal/mob” element, mainly because it fell short. There was a lot of potential there but didn’t get enough page time.

I think this was a good setup for a series and I will definitely be on the lookout for the next book.

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📖ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for honest review!

View all my reviews

Ruin by Rachel Van Dyken

Ruin

Ruin

By Rachel Van Dyken

★★★★★

I’m not your typical girl. I’ve been running away from the memories that haunt me for so long that depression has become my only comfort. I was content in the darkness…until Wes Michels offered to be my light.

I didn’t know that time wasn’t my ally — that every second that ticked past was one step closer to the end of something that was beginning to mean the end of myself. He tried to warn me. He promised me all he was able to offer–each moment as it came–but it would never be enough.

Sometimes when you think it’s the end, it’s only the beginning. Wes thought he could save me, but in giving me everything, he ruined me. Because after one kiss, one touch, I couldn’t–I wouldn’t ever be the same.

And from that moment on, his heartbeat became my own.

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Kiersten Rowe has convinced her Uncle JoBob that she can make it on her own away at college.  The past two years she has been barely living.  Depressed and plagued by night terrors after the death of her parents, Kiersten wants to try to start living again.  Now at the University of Washington she is about to find out how to live, how to face her fears and most importantly what it means to fall in love.

Weston Michels may be rich and hot, not to mention the star quarterback but life is definitely all sunshine and rainbows. No one knows how he became  an RA his senior year, especially after rumors of an alleged rape or why he seems to travel in an entourage.  Weston seems to be keeping secrets

Absolutely one of the best books I have read all year.  I have to admit I was started to feel a little disappointed as I searched for a book to add to the short Favorites of 2013 list I have going.  2012 seemed to be a year full of so many good books I wasn’t even able to narrow down my top 10 without a lot of deliberation and quite a few tears.  2013 has not been the same, while there have been a few books I have loved very few have actually jumped out and made me think about them long after I have finished them.

Ruin is that book.  It is an emotional book that had me not wanting it to end.  I loved the fact that unlike so many New Adult books that are out right now this book did not follow the same formula of the twenty-something guy who has vowed that he will never fall in love.  He will live a long happy life as a womanizer even though at the ripe old age of 23 or 24 I am not quite sure if he really has the maturity to decide that love is not in the cards for him.  Wait til your thirties or hell even your forties before you make the decision to live without True Love.

Ruin is not like that.  I hate to say too much because I do not want to give anything away, even if you can pretty much guess what it’s all about.  I absolutely loved Wes from the very beginning and my favorite parts of the story were definitely the parts from his POV.  This is romantic, sweet and at times bittersweet.  I laughed and I cried and at one point almost thought I wasn’t going to be able to finish it because it was so sad.

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Ruin

I am glad I finished the book and I loved it, even the sad parts.  It is definitely a story I recommend highly.  This is the second book this year by Rachel Van Dyken that I have read and loved, so she is an author I will keep coming back to.

 

SEMPRE Forever By J.M. Darhower

teardropsOnly 15% into this book and I found myself sobbing, having to put the book down and walk out of the room.  Emotionally charged doesn’t even begin to describe this story.  

Sempre Forever

SEMPRE forever

By J.M. Darhower

★★★★★

The Definition of Freedom: 1. The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint: He won his freedom after a retrial. 2. Exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc. 3. The power to determine action without restraint. 4. Political or national independence. 5. Personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery”
– Dictionary.com

Born into slavery Haven Antonelli has never known anything other than horror and pain.  Living on a desert ranch with her mother, taking care of her “Master” and his family, unsure if she’ll live another day hard work, abuse and fear are part of her everyday life.  At seventeen she has seen a world that most can’t even imagine and the last thing she ever expects to find is hope.

Carmine DeMarco is Mafia royalty.  While overcoming a tragic past that almost tore his family apart Carmine struggles to find someone to understand him and continues to let his pain and anger fuel his actions.  He knows his future will most likely be in following in his father’s footsteps when he turns 18, moving back to Chicago to join “La Famiglia”.

But then she happened. The girl who had never been able to call her life her own taught a boy who had the world at his fingertips exactly what it meant to live. He wasn’t alone anymore.” 

Haven and Carmine may have grew up under vastly different circumstances, both yearning to break free,  but now a twist of fate causes their worlds to collide.  Entangled in a web of secrets and lies, they learn that while different on the surface, they have more in common than anyone would think.  While falling in love with each other may be easy a string of events that began before either of them were born threatens to destroy them.

Murder and betrayal are a way of life, and nothing comes without a price—especially not freedom. But how much will they have to sacrifice? Can they escape their pasts? And, most of all, what does it mean to be free?

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Wow this book rally surprised me, I wasn’t prepared for it to throw me on the emotional rollercoaster I found myself on while reading it.  While a story of love there is so much more here.

Colpo di fulmine. The thunderbolt, as Italians call it. When love strikes someone like lightning, so powerful and intense it can’t be denied. It’s beautiful and messy,
cracking a chest open and spilling their soul out for the world to see. It turns a person inside out, and there’s no going back from it. Once the thunderbolt hits, your life is
irrevocably changed.”

Sempre is a complex story that in my opinion has the right balance of  “Character Emotional Development” plotlines or “Dramatic Action” plotlines. It isn’t a feel good romance or a fluffy mobster story.  This book is dark and at times disturbing.  There were characters in the book that I had a very hard time liking and finding redeeming qualities in, even when the motivation for their actions became clearer.

Carmine and Haven are both heartbreaking characters and I found myself questioning whether or not I would have been able to survive in their world.  Haven has a strength and a way of looking at life that I admired.  Carmine is willing to risk it all for Haven and in the end he does without hesitation.

“Ti amo, mia bella ragazza. Per sempre.”
“Sempre?” she asked.
Cracking a smile, he brushed his pointer finger softly across her lips. “Always and forever.”

 With such a complicated group of characters I felt an authenticity to the story that I appreciated.  While sad and upsetting this is still a must read.  If you love books with a modern take on Romeo and Juliet, if you loved The Godfather or Boardwalk Empire this is a story I am sure you will enjoy. Fair warning though, it is a longer book, over 500 pages so be prepared to spend some time on it.

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To find out more about Author J.M. Darhower:  www.jmdarhower.com  

 

Bully by Penelope Douglas

Bully

By Penelope Douglas

★★★★

My name is Tate. He doesn’t call me that, though. He would never refer to me so informally, if he referred to me at all.

We’re neighbors, and once, we were best friends. But then, one summer, he turned on me and has made it his mission to screw up my life at every opportunity. I’ve been humiliated, shut out, and gossiped about all through high school. His pranks and rumors got more sadistic as time wore on, and I made myself sick trying to hide from him. I worried about what was around every corner and behind every door.

So I left.

I spent a year studying abroad and bathed in the freedom of life without Jared. Now I’m back to finish up high school and get the hell out of here forever. I’m hoping that after a year of breathing room, he’s moved on and forgotten all about me.

But even if he hasn’t changed, I have. I’m not interested in avoiding him or turning the other cheek anymore. We’re going to go head to head, because neither of us wants to back down.

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I am not sure how I feel about this book.  I have to be honest, I truly enjoyed reading it, it evoked so many different emotions from me I couldn’t put it down.  However I feel like I should not have found it as enjoyable as I did simply for the fact that the love story in this book is essentially between a bully and his victim.

This isn’t just a matter of miscommunication and misunderstandings between the two characters.  This isn’t the story of boy who simply teases  a girl and then they fall in love.  This is the story of a guy who comes home from spending the summer with his estranged father a completely different person.  His best friend, the girl next door has no clue why he now hates her.  They no longer spend time together or talk and if they do it’s him being a jerk to her.  Rumors are started at school, boys treat her like trash and most of the girls whisper behind her back.  She is the victim of pranks and public ridicule and has hardly any friends.

What makes it even worse is the fact that not only is he tormenting her but also his best friend Madoc, who doesn’t even know why he does it.  There are many times that Madoc goes above and beyond simple teasing and pranks and skirts into sexual harassment.  The upside of it is when Madoc does cross that line she seems to grow a backbone and makes it clear it’s not acceptable (between a broken nose and a good swift kick to his manhood) she at least is not a complete pushover.

Tate finally standing up for herself makes her feel as if she is turning into a bully herself, I am sorry but I totally disagreed with her.  I was glad she stood up for herself, even when it got a little physical because frankly it needed to be done.  People needed to see she was not some weak, pitiful, lesser individual.  I actually thought there were times when she should have been even tougher and not backed down.

As for finding out the reasons behind the bullying I am not sure that it was enough to justify or excuse it in my book.  I couldn’t really understand where Jared was coming from in that regard but it didn’t necessarily take away from the book.  I still found myself completely immersed in it and I am definitely anxious to read the next one and see it from Jared’s POV.  I think it will give me a better idea of why Jared chose to Bully Tate in the way he did.  After reading the first chapter on the authors Goodreads page I am anxious for the next book.

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To find out more about author Penelope Douglas check out her Facebook page here.

 

To purchase a copy of Bully at: ➸ Amazon

 

Elite by Rachel Van Dyken

Elite

By Rachel Van Dyken

★★★★★

When I won the annual Eagle Elite College Scholarship lottery, I was thrilled. After all, my grandma had just died and I wanted to take care of my aging grandpa — he couldn’t be a farmer in Wyoming forever. And graduating from Eagle Elite meant opportunity.
But I wasn’t counting on meeting Nixon.

Nor was I counting on the rules of the Elect.

1. Do not touch The Elect.

2. Do not look at The Elect.

3. Do not speak to The Elect.

And worst of all? Don’t discover the secret they hide, because in the end, you may just realize… it’s about you.

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Wow! Wow! Wow!  Holy baby Jeebus that was good.  I am truly surprised at how much I enjoyed Elite and I can not wait for the sequel Elect to come out (I am not sure I will make it to November).   I could not put this book down, I actually told my entire family to leave me alone so that I could read it in peace.  It took me almost two hours to make dinner because I was reading and cooking at the same time.

So the official blurb of the book was pretty cryptic, I had no idea what this book was really about and I have to admit that drove me crazy.  I wasn’t sure if the Elect were going to turn out to be Demons, Vampire’s, Immortals or what (obviously I have been reading a lot of paranormal).  I conjured up scenario after scenario of what I would do had I been in Trace’s shoes which of course had me completely addicted to story, determined to figure it out.

Once I found out what and who the Elect were it just kept getting better and better.

Tracy “Trace” Rook has won the prized Elite lottery, entrance to the most exclusive college in the world Eagle Elite.  Coming from a ranch in Wyoming after being raised by her grandparents following her parents death at the age of six, Tracy has absolutely no idea what to expect.  From the moment she arrives on campus she is thrust into a world unlike anything she could have imagined.

Her first encounter is with what she learns is the Elect, four extremely good-looking, arrogant and mean guys who seem to have nothing better to do than to point out her place at the bottom of the totem pole.  She is not to look at them, speak to them and definitely not touch them.  Her safety depends on whether or not she can follow these rules.  While Trace has no idea what this means she soon finds out that Nixon Abandonato the Elect’s “fearless leader”  controls everything and everyone.

…I tried to jerk away. His face lit up with a smile, and honestly, it was like staring at a fallen angel. Nixon was gorgeous. He was an ass, but he was a gorgeous ass. “You feel this?” His hand continued moving up my arm until he reached my shoulder, and then his hand moved to my neck and his thumb grazed my trembling  lips. “Memorize it now, because as of this moment, you can’t touch us. We are untouchable. If you as much as sneeze in our direction, if you as much breathe the same air in my atmosphere, I will make your life hell. This touch, what you feel against your skin, will be the only time you feel another human being as powerful as me near you. So like I said, feel it, remember it, and maybe one day, your brain will do you the supreme favor of forgetting what it felt like to have someone like me touching you. Then, and only then, will you be able to be happy with some mediocre boyfriend and pathetic life.”

It’s hard to put into words everything I want to say about this book without giving too much away.  I try not to do too many spoilers because most of the time the mystery in these types of stories are what really makes or breaks it.  I honestly believe you have to just sit back and enjoy the ride when it comes to this book because knowing too much would ruin the experience of unraveling the many mysteries and secrets of the book.

I’m thinking the easiest way is to break it down like this:

Plot: Loved it!  ★★★★★ (Can’t say any more than I did above).

Characters: ★★★★★ The story is all from Trace’s POV which worked great because it added to the whole enigma of Nixon, his friends and the school.

Trace (The Heroine): ♥♥♥♥ I could feel her pain and confusion throughout the entire story.  There were times when I wished she could have been a tad bit stronger when faced with the cruelty of the students but I loved how she stood up to Nixon on more than one occasion.  I am looking forward to seeing how she grows and develops in the next book and I really want to see her establish her rightful place at school.

Nixon (Our Hero/Antihero): ♥♥♥♥ As much as I want to hate him for his cruelty to Trace I pretty much got over it 30% in the book.  Learning who he really is and getting an idea of why he does the things he does changed my mind about him.  He’s despicable but I still fell in love with him (what does that say about me?  I’m not quite sure yet) and again I can’t wait for more of him in the next book, from the look of it Elect (Eagle Elite #2) is from Nixon’s POV.

Chase (The Best Friend/Right Hand Man): ♥♥♥♥  Yep the author just had to throw a little love triangle in there for us.  I really loved Chase as well even though I felt one of his reprehensible actions in the beginning of the book never got addressed properly.  I liked that Chase had a sensitivity and sincerity that was evident from the very beginning, it was easier to like his character right away not to mention he’s funny and charming and loyal.  While I love to root for the underdog when it comes to love triangles I don’t think I want to see Chase with Trace, he makes a perfect best friend but I don’t think he’s the one for her.

Monroe (Nixon’s Beautiful Twin Sister): ♥♥♥♥ I wasn’t sure about Monroe at first.  I loved her because she seemed so nice and accepting and seemed to sincerely want to be Trace’s friend right from the beginning but I couldn’t help waiting for her to stab her in the back.

Romance: ★★★ I just wish it had been slightly steamier.  As New Adult I expected a little more in this area (it felt more Young Adult to me) so I am hoping for a bit more in the next book.

So when all is said and done this is definitely a must read for me, I definitely recommend this to those who love New Adult books.  I will be stalking Amazon for the sequel so I can see what happens next.  I will also be checking out more books by this author.

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*Thanks to Forever (Grand Central Publishing) and NetGalley with providing a copy of this book for honest review!

To find out more about author Rachel Van Dyken click here.

To purchase Elite:  ➸Amazon |  ➸Barnes and Noble | ➸ Google Play | ➸ Kobo

For You by Mimi Strong

For You

By Mimi Strong

★★☆☆☆

Aubrey is a tough girl who rarely smiles. She fled her shabby past for a reason, and won’t let anyone close enough to discover her secrets.
Boys with tattoos are on Aubrey’s Stay Away list, but fast-talking Sawyer refuses to take a hint.
Sawyer is a kindred spirit who seems as lost in the world as Aubrey. And he’s cute. Really cute.
She tries to resist, but Sawyer talks his way into one date, and then another. Things get steamy at the beach, and he does say the sweetest things. Aubrey finds herself smiling, and falling in love.
But when the truth comes out about Aubrey’s past, and the police are at the door, will Sawyer stand by her side? Or is she more trouble than she’s worth?

THIS NEW ADULT ROMANCE contains mature content. Ages 17+

FOR YOU is a stand-alone novel with a HEA (Happily Ever After) ending and absolutely no cliffhanger.

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I wanted to love this book, I really did but unfortunately it just did not do it for me.  The story itself had great potential, girl on the run falls for a bad boy no matter how hard she tries not to.  Bad boy might be exactly what she needs but if her past catches up to her she might lose everything, including those she loves the most.

I could not connect with the characters in For You.  Our Heroine, Aubrey is extremely awkward to me.  There are times I feel like she was strong and the in the next paragraph she seemed weak. She’s tough but it’s not consistent or believable to me.  There are so many things that happy to this character throughout the story that I wonder why they are there.  What’s the point?  The entire mystery of why she is on the run?  We finally find out the story and at the end it is cleared up in about 2 paragraphs.

Sawyer was okay but again there was no connection.  We know he’s a tattooed, bass playing, bad boy painter.  He comes from money but lives like a broke college kid in a rundown home with his druggie friend. We never learn why he lives the way he does other than he always chooses the hard way in life.  We needed more.  More character development, more back story.

The great thing about this book is definitely the fact that it is a standalone.  It was wrapped up and we don’t have to wait for a second book to find out if it all works out.  I truly think Mimi Strong can be a great author so I will try out some of her other books in hopes of getting a better idea of her writing.

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Alpha Biker Heroes

Kristen Ashley just continues to make me swoon with her pantie melting, super alpha, hot men she writes about.  A few years ago if you would have told me that I would dream about throwing my leg over the back of a Harley and wrapping my arms tightly around a sexy member of a Motorcycle Club I would have laughed in your face.  Somehow though reading these books I find myself picturing myself as an “Old Lady”.  Between Tack, Shy and now Hop I am firmly ensconced in the world of Chaos Motorcycle Club, jealous of Tyra, Tabby and now Lainie.  Please Ms. Ashley keep bringing us these fabulous stories!

♨Release Date: June 4, 2013!♨

Fir Inside (A Chaos Novel)

Fire Inside

By Kristen Ashley

★★★★1/2

Lanie Heron is absolutely the last person that Hopper Kincaid–Chaos MC Lieutenant–should take to his bed but he can’t resist when she approaches him and asks for “just one night”.  Lanie is all class and sophistication.  She’s also haunted–nearly being killed for standing by your  fiancé will do that to you.   Hop knows he should say no but he can’t.  Soon one night becomes more and Hop realizes that there is a lot more to Lanie than he originally thought.

“Not sure that’s a good idea, Lanie,” he told her, gentling his voice as he gave her the honesty.

“Why?” she asked immediately, and he felt his eyes narrow on her before he answered.

“Maybe ’cause you’re best friends with Tack’s old lady. I respect him, I respect her, and shit like this, babe, it gets complicated. Any complication sucks but a complication like this—” he shook his head “— no one needs that.”

She threw out a hand and declared casually, “It won’t get complicated.”

“I’ve thought on it and decided it’s you.” Her hands at his neck gave him a squeeze and fuck him, fuck him, that moved him even more. “I understand why you don’t want to, but I promise, Hop, I swear, no kidding, seriously, no strings. No expectations. Just us. One night. Tomorrow, it will be like it’s always been. Like it didn’t even happen. I promise, Hop. Swear.”

Lanie is amazed at how much she enjoys being with Hopper Kincaid.  He’s different than what she’s used to.  Hopper has the ability to destroy her and there is no way she can allow that to happen.  She’s broken and scared, not to mention she can’t stop thinking about how she almost died and why.  Lanie has vowed to never put herself through that again and that means not allowing any man in again even if he is a sexy, smooth talking biker she can’t seem to resist.  Being with Hop can’t last, no matter what she has to keep him at a distance.

“You know my story,” she whispered. “You think I want another guy?” She paused then finished with emphasis, “Ever?”

The more Lanie fights it the more Hop has to prove to her that they were made for each other.  He will do anything to show Lanie she is worth it and he can help her heal.  It won’t be easy putting her heart back together and healing in her what threatens to destroy her but Hop is confident he can do it.

“I said just one night,” she reminded him.

“And I said I wasn’t done with you,” he fired back.

Unfortunately Lanie will do everything she can to not allow Hop to steal her heart and give her his at the same time.  There are only so many times she can push him away before he realizes that he’s fighting a losing battle.  Will he ever be able to get Lanie to completely trust him or is she too far gone?

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 To be honest I was not at all impressed with Hop in the previous books he appeared in.  I disliked his character in Motorcycle Man and as for Own the Wind I really didn’t give him much thought at all.  By page 10 in Fire Inside I was completely in love with Hopper Kincaid.  He was redeemed in my eyes and I have to say he gave some serious competition to Shy who has remained my favorite of all the Kristen Ashley men.  I could seriously see myself drooling over Hopper.

What makes me love his character so much?  It’s simple, he is strong, intense, domineering in that way that makes you shiver when reading any of these books.  Hopper is also sweet and sincere and the type of man who shows the woman he is with a side of himself you would never expect but crave.  He’s protective and truly wants to help Lanie not only to open up and let him in but to also trust herself again.  He wants her to let her past go and to live, which also means he wants her to be able to let everyone, not just him back into her life.

“Hop is willing to do anything to make his woman happy. He’d walk a tightrope with no net if she was on the other side, cheering him on. And he just proved what we already knew, and he did that in a big way.”-Shy (From Own the Wind)

Lanie has some hurts that can’t just be healed with a few sweet caring words.  She has demons that need someone who can have an objective outlook to help her conquer them. She is classy and sophisticated with a smidgen of crazy (the good kind) thrown in.  She has drama–most of which Hop finds amusing–but you can’t help but find her funny and endearing.  She may not always see it but she has an innate strength as well.  There are times that Lanie makes me mad and frustrates me but I definitely like her character and won’t mind seeing more of her throughout the series.

“…Lanie is beautiful but she’s a fuckin’ nut. There’s no guarantees with her in the mix, and Hop’s not sayin’ it, but he’s gone for her. I caught sight of them late one night standin’ by his bike and I can’t say I’m an expert at readin’ bitches but, body language, she’s gone for him too. Cherry or Tack get in his face, Cherry butts up against Lanie, there’s gonna be fireworks.”-Shy (From Own the Wind)

If you’re a fan of Kristen Ashley, if you love books about Sexy Bikers and the women that manage to steal their hearts or you just love stories about love and redemption, you will fall in love with this book.  The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the fact that we only got brief glimpses of Shy, I could have used a little more of him *wink*.  Other than that Fire Inside is a definite must read!

To purchase your copy of Fire Inside (Chaos #2) Amazon ◈ Barnes & Noble ◈ Google

*Thank You to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book for honest review.