May 28, 2015

RELEASE WEEK REVIEW, EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: Nowhere But Here (Thunder Road #1)

Katie McGarry has made magic once again with Nowhere But Here. I can't wait for you all to read this book. It may be the best one I've read so far in 2015. Read on for my review and an excerpt. And a giveaway!

Nowhere But Here (Thunder Road #1), by Katie McGarry
Publish Date: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Format: ARC, obtained from the publisher
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she's curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn't mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They're the good guys. They protect people. They're…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club's most respected member—is in town, he's gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it's his shot at his dream. What he doesn't count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.

Oh my gosh. This BOOK. I wasn't sure what to expect. I mean, I love the MC books to bits and pieces. But.. this is a YA MC book. I know - right? Seems... weird. So, I admit, I approached my read with a small measure of trepidation. The best thing it had going for it was that it was by Katie McGarry. I've never read anything by her that I didn't like. 

Reading Nowhere But Here reminded me of when I read Pushing the Limits. The characters and the setting were different, but the feelings it invoked were familiar. Katie McGarry has this incredible way of telling a story. She sets up the superficial details early on and slowly - so, so slowly - injects more and more information as the whole picture comes into focus. Meanwhile, this thread of love and sacrifice add color and depth. 

Emily knows one version of her life story - the version she was told by her mother and step-father. She has a biological father who didn't want her, but who still shows up every year to see her. And, now she is being forced to spend a few weeks with him and his family, including family friend Oz, a boy her age who doesn't seem to like her very much. Emily is scared and confused by these people who are so unlike those she's used to. And, she is most scared by the fact that, as time moves on, she feels more alive and in touch with herself in this strange place than she ever has anywhere else.

Emily was amazing. She was sheltered her entire life by her mother for reasons she doesn't understand and doesn't know enough to ever question. Events in her life have caused her to be scared of different things - the dark, woods, dead things - it caused her to live her life with extreme caution. So, when she is thrust into this life of scary-looking men, strange traditions, and loud motorcycles, you would think she would shrink away and hide. But, amazingly, this is when Emily finally comes out of her shell. She learns that there are things to be afraid of. People to be afraid of. And the members of the Reign of Terror are not those people. When Emily is forced to immerse herself in this place and in these peoples' lives, it forces her to see all the wonderful things about them that she would've overlooked.

For Oz's part, the transformation happens in reverse. He's been so focused on becoming a part of the Terrors that he has blocked out all other interests and possible goals for his life. He has a singular direction, and everything else is just a distraction. Emily comes along, and at first, he hates her because she shuns his club, his family and his choices. But, when Oz is assigned to be her babysitter and is forced to spend a lot of time with her, he begins to see that not everything is as black and white as he thought it was. He is allowed to do other things. And he is forced to see that Emily's motivations for doing what she does are born not out of hate, but rather ignorance. And that, he decides, is something he can work with. 

I loved Oz in protective mode. At first, it was all forced, but later it was all completely voluntary. It was then that we got to see what he was really made of, and it turns out, Oz is made of some really awesome stuff. The levels he would go to, and the things he decides he's willing to sacrifice, for her make him absolutely one of the most dreamy book boys ever. 

The big secrets surrounding why Emily and her mother left the Terrors and why Emily is in so much danger now that she's back are very slowly revealed. Emily's grandmother Olivia had a lot to do with the gradual reveal of those secrets. I had this sense throughout the book that the secrets were huge, and yet, I was kept deliciously in the dark about them for nearly the entire time. I loved that I was surprised when the full picture was brought into focus. It was everything I wanted and needed. 

Nowhere But Here has its share of heartbreak. I shed a few tears over the course of the book. I also laughed a lot. Emily is pretty good with the snark, as is her grandmother. And the romance - good golly. Oz and Emily have some wicked awesome chemistry. They were perfect together. Katie McGarry did a great job painting all the side characters with very bold strokes. It has already made me fully anticipate upcoming books in this series. And, knowing that I'll likely catch up with Oz and Emily is icing on the cake. 

If you choose to read only one YA book this year, it should be this one. 

From Emily's Point of View. Set up: Emily is riding a motorcycle for the very first time and she's riding it with Oz.

THE MOTORCYCLE ACCELERATES AND THE FEW inches I had established between me and Oz: gone. My body slides forward, colliding into his, and we click together like two puzzle pieces. Heat rushes up my neck and onto my cheeks. My thighs are too close to his, too tight against his body and this is way more intimate than I have been before with a guy.

Even when the two of us kissed.

Oz veers left, away from Olivia’s, away from the main road, and the entire motorcycle pitches to the side. My heart thun­ders and my fingers clutch not only at Oz’s belt loop, but at the material of his jeans, and his hips.

Oz glances at me over his shoulder as the bike straightens out. “Lean with it, Emily.”

Right. Lean with Oz and the bike. Got it. The narrow road curves ahead and this time when Oz and the bike tilt, I move along with it. Oz releases one of the amazingly high handlebars and massages my knee before returning his hand to the grip. Whether in reassurance or to affirm I mastered the curve I don’t know, but either way, I sit higher.

The wind whips through my hair and onto my face and I shut my eyes for a brief second and pretend that I’m flying. There’s something energizing, something hypnotic, something inside me that begs to burst out of a cage in search of freedom.

The motorcycle kicks forward and our speed increases. Beams of sunlight filter through the towering trees and green foliage blurs together as we fly over the road. From head to toe, my body vibrates with the loud growling of the power­ful machine.

My knee still tingles from where Oz laid his fingers on me and I’ve never been more aware of my hands in my life. I should let go of Oz’s body, but I can’t. Belt loops weren’t enough and my fingers have somehow edged up and onto his sides. Oz is solid. Yes, definitely solid. Every inch of him that I touch is tight muscle.

Oz is a year older than me, but somehow he seems older, wiser and hotter than any other guy I’ve known. Just the way he rides his bike creates this overabundance of confidence.

Warm sensations I’ve never experienced before blossom through me. We enter another curve and I lean with him. I like how in sync I’ve become with Oz and the motorcycle. Like we’ve merged into one.

The purr of the engine deepens and Oz eases the bike to a stop. His feet hit the ground and he turns the machine off. It’s as if all sound in the world ceased, or maybe I’ve gone deaf because there’s no way anything can be this still or silent.

The wind picks up and the silence is frightened away with the roar of the trees bending. Both Oz and I shift with the flow of air and Oz doesn’t move the bike until the breeze gentles.

Oz kicks down the stand and the bike tilts, but not too much. He sets a hand over the fingers that I laced together across his stomach. Oh, hell, I’m plastic wrapped to him. I drop my head onto his shoulder and it places me closer, and closer is not what I need.

I go to unglue myself, but Oz squeezes my fingers, send­ing a jolt of electricity up my arms. “You okay?”

I have to clear my throat to speak and that just sucks. “Yes.”Oz slides his fingers against mine and a fluttering occurs in my stomach. It’s a light fluttering. Ticklish even, and my survival instincts scream at me to get off this motorcycle.

Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Katie is the author of full length YA novels, PUSHING THE LIMITS, DARE YOU TO, CRASH INTO YOU, TAKE ME ON, BREAKING THE RULES, and NOWHERE BUT HERE and the e-novellas, CROSSING THE LINE and RED AT NIGHT. Her debut YA novel, PUSHING THE LIMITS was a 2012 Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction, a RT Magazine's 2012 Reviewer's Choice Awards Nominee for Young Adult Contemporary Novel, a double Rita Finalist, and a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick. DARE YOU TO was also a Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction and won RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Young Adult Contemporary fiction in 2013.

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