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First off, this cover is fantastic yeah? It’s what initially convinced me to stop and read the blurb. And the title was the second thing that pulled me in, it’s mysterious, no?

However, this story was pretty average as far a YA paranormal romances go.

I mean, I liked the book. It sucked me in right away; even with the typical love triangle. The twist with regards to the love triangle was refreshing. And I thought it was done tastefully.

One thing that stood out for me was the fact that Jase isn’t a blood brother and the author made it clear to the reader many times. It seemed a bit of overkill to me with that bit of foreshadowing. But, hey, I can overlook it. I was almost hoping they had some chemistry but in the end the love interest did end up making sense. The writing was solid, clear and concise. It was a quick read.

I’m looking forward to the next one.
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on November 22, 2011
STORY BRIEF:
This is told in first person by Scout, a high school senior, valedictorian. She considers herself odd looking. Alex and his older brother move to town. Alex is a senior and gorgeous. He stares at Scout. Scout's stepbrother Jase hates Alex for some unknown reason and tells Scout to avoid him. She tries to avoid him, but it's hard because they have classes and school activities together.

Scout has loved Charlie all her life, although they never turned it into a boyfriend-girlfriend thing. Now Scout finds herself also falling for Alex. She learns that Alex is a wolf shape shifter, and she begins learning more about that world.

REVIEWER'S OPINION:
Refreshing dialogue! This is rare! Many, many times I was chuckling out loud. Read this for the author's conversation style, her voice, whatever you want to call it. It's not that she's being an obvious comedian. The humor is more about the unexpected or subtle. Below are three examples.

"I wanted to go lie down next to him. I wanted to feel his arms wrapped around me and discover what his lips taste like. I wanted to tell him I had been secretly in love with him since I was two years old. So, I did the only thing I could do. I hit him in the head with Guido, my sock monkey."

She was lost in the woods during a storm and thought she might die. She heard her name being called and felt her body being lifted off the ground. She is thinking it must be the Angel of Death lifting her. "Apparently, he decided if I wasn't going to get up and follow him to Heaven, he would just carry me through the Pearly Gates. Of course, that was assuming I was going to Heaven. According to what Reverend Jessup taught from the pulpit every Sunday, I was good to go, but what if God wasn't Southern Baptist?"

"Charlie attempted to engage James in conversation, but that went over about as well as a Joan Crawford parenting manual."

As to plot, this is typical young adult high school teens, first loves, and shape shifters (wolves and coyotes). The parents exist but the story doesn't show interaction with them. Plot was fine but nothing we haven't heard before.

Characters are good. They include the different types of kids that we all remember from high school, the jocks, the weirds, the beauties, the smart ones, etc. They were well done.

This is the first in a trilogy. Sadly the author used a cliffhanger ending which bothered me. But it wasn't horribly bad-sad. The reader knows good things are coming. She ended the book with questions about a stranger and Liam's whereabouts was which I thought provided enough motivation to buy the sequel. What I did not like was what she did with Alex to create the cliffhanger. Still, I plan to get the sequel as soon as it's out. According to her Facebook page, the sequel is called "Time Mends," but I don't know when it's coming.

Minor problem. The author needs a grammar editor. Several times she used the word "that" instead of "who." For example "Mrs. Sole was the only one that talked about him." There were a few other blunders for example using "he had went" instead of "he had gone."

DATA:
Story length: 223 pages. Swearing language: moderate, including religious swear words. Sexual language: none. Number of sex scenes: none. Setting: current day Timber, Kentucky. Copyright: 2011. Genre: young adult paranormal romance.
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on December 13, 2011
(cross-posted from Wading Through Electronic Ink blog)

The Plot

Scout Donovan has an ordinary life in Timber, Kentucky until Alex Cole moves to town. Her step-brother and his family instantly hate Alex and insist that Scout stay away from him. But Scout, being the heroine of a YA paranormal novel, finds herself inexplicably drawn to him anyway. She soon discovers that not only is Alex a werewolf, but that her closest friends and family have been keeping their true natures a secret from her for her entire life.

The Good

I began this project with the intention of finding self-published books that were as good as published books. (By which I mean good published books. We've all read one or two... or many... that may not have deserved that honor.) By the time I started reading this, my fifth book, I was starting to doubt whether there were any self-published books that would merit a 5 - or even a 4 - star rating. Maybe, I thought, a book really does need to be edited by a team of experienced professionals in order to warrant large-scale reading.

I am pleased to say that Destiny Binds has laid my concerns to rest. Here is a book that I could have picked up off the shelf at Barnes & Noble without asking, "Why can this get published when I can't?". The characters were likeable and interesting, and I laughed aloud in a few places. And I'm not even a huge fan of werewolves. So, please, people who have qualms about buying self-published books, download this book with my assurance that you will not regret the dollar you spent on it.

It even has a Laurell K. Hamilton joke. Oh, Laurel K. Hamilton. I remember reading you back before your books turned into porn.

The Bad

I could nitpick this or any other book to death, but I don't think Destiny Binds warrants it, and I'm sure you don't want to read it. So I will just mention the couple of things that bothered me most.

First off, at one point, Scout says that the topic of socialized medicine is boring. She does a lot of research on it and still finds it uninteresting. Maybe it's my years of working in public health, but I just don't see how anyone could think that. Pandemic flu? Yeah, that gets boring. But the question of whether to socialize healthcare is one of the most important facing our society today, and to describe it as boring is just incomprehensible to me.

Okay, my other comment, which is actually about the book, is that the ending doesn't feel very done to me. When I first read the book, I thought it was going to be a stand-alone novel (for reasons that I cannot tell you without massive spoilers), and I was quite frustrated with the way the book just stopped. After some internet research, I have discovered that the book is the first in a trilogy, and the lack of closure bothered me less. But I still feel as if the author just ran out of story to tell and stopped writing. I like to see a little denouement.

The Romance

Like just about everything else in Destiny Binds, the romantic set-up was far above average. The overall set-up was a love triangle, but it was not of the two-opposite-boys how-can-I-choose variety. Scout has always been in love with her brother's cousin Charlie, but she does not think that he feels the same way. (And that is not as creepy as it sounds. He's really her step-brother, but they've been siblings for so long that... You know what? It'd be faster for you to just read the book than for me to explain.) Then she meets Alex, who is very much interested in her, and she comes to return his feelings. Over the course of the novel, Scout learns that there is no such thing as "one true love," which just makes the romantic journey in the book all the more satisfying.

Will I Read More?

NEEDS MOAR NAO!!

I mean, yes. Yes, I will be reading more. I very much want to know what happens next. But I shall be patient in waiting for the next installment in hopes that it will be of equally high quality as Destiny Binds.
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on August 17, 2013
Scout Donovan's world has just been turned upside down. Her calm Kentucky life is no more, and she's been thrust into the world of Shifters and Seers without warning. And it started with a boy.

Scout is entering her Senior year when Alex Cole saunters into her AP Calculus class at Lake County High School. Having run across Alex and his older brother the day before, Scout isn't in any mood to deal with the cute new guy.

When Alex tries to get closer to Scout, she does her best to push him away. And that works...temporarily.

A few months later, Alex and Scout are teamed together on a writing assignment, much to the chagrin of her bother Jase and lifelong friend Charlie. The more time they spend together, the more she likes him, and the less her brother and Charlie seem to resemble to easy-going guys they used to be. Scout asks questions,for which she never receives answers.

And then, on a school trip, Scout gets an answer that she wasn't expecting. The class gets stuck in Nashville during a trip to watch The Taming of the Shrew. It's that night that changes everything, because Alex changes...into a wolf.

As their relationship deepens, Scout begins to learn more and more about shifter dynamics and surprises are around every corner.

As the story continues, Tammy Blackwell takes you deeper and deeper into the world of The Timberwolves. You learn about their culture and their hierarchies in a story that builds their world without the drudgery that exists in the debut novels for some writers.

Blackwell's writing is amazing. It is apparent that she has experience with the age group about whom she is writing. Scout is witty and snarky, exactly what you'd expect from a girl her age. She is in turn experienced and naive, never sounding like she's just a vehicle for an adult voice.

Blackwell is also adept at building the environment in her story as well. Even if you aren't a Kentucky native (as I am), she easily transports you to the state. You feel as though you are an active particpant in her story, not just an observer.

Strong characters and a strong story leave the reader wanting more; luckily, this is the start of a series that has been written and for which there will be further installments. This novel lands solidly on the repeat read list.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This was not provided as a review copy: I purchased and reviewed the book. READ IT!
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on June 2, 2012
4.5 stars, really.
I picked up Destiny Binds on the strength of a 5 star review from Wadingthrougheink.com. And boy was it worth the 99 cents- a bargain, really. I went into the book expecting a regular, old, YA paranormal romance with all the common tropes: girl likes mysterious new boy in town, girl realizes supernatural beings exist. Love triangle occurs.

And basically that's what happens in the small town of Timber, Kentucky to Scout (Her real name is Harper Lee). She and her stepbrother, Jase, (who acts like a twin) are enjoying their senior year of high school. Jase is popular and athletic. Scout is a fringe dweller. But a new boy comes to their school who can't stop staring at Scout. Jase gets all weird and aggressive, basically forbidding Scout any contact with the boy. But when a teacher assigns them to write articles together; Scout begins to enjoy the new boy's company against her will.

I dithered over my rating for this book. I can't, in good conscience, give this book only 4 stars. The writing is tight, there was no place in the action where I was waiting for something to happen or tempted to skip over scenes. Scout is deliciously snarky and vulnerable at the same time. Her conversations with Jase and best friend Talley are a hoot and half. Pop references (Kim Possible! Buffy! Laurell K Hamilton!) and modern slang pepper their banter in a realistic, not-trying-too-hard way. (Author turns out to be a YA Librarian, and her command of high school culture clearly shows) .

I stayed up all night reading to find out how Scout would reconcile her relationship with Alex (new boy) and her stepbrother's aggression with her own deep-seated crush on Jase's cousin. I was tempted to 5 star this book just on the basis of Scout's slow, self-realized, non-dithering relationship growth with Alex. She doesn't leave two boys dangling like so many other YA heroines. She makes a choice.

But there was one, little issue that keeps this from being a full-hearted 5. One, I give 5's usually to books that immerse me so fully in the story that I am in love with the world and characters. This one comes close, but there are a few places where the story resorts to summarizing, instead of showing, Scout's actions or the growth of Scout/Alex's feelings, and those few times I remember looking up, blinking, feel cheated out of delicious YA romance.

The ending cliffhanger was okay with me. I have no problem with the courageous and irrevocable (I hope irrevocable) choice the author makes with Alex's character. I can't wait to see how all the ramifications play out over the next book (which I have already bought.)

Really, this is a great book (safe to be accidentally read by my fourth grader) and a total steal at 99 cents.

This Book's Snack Rating: Like a whole bag of Sour cream and onion kettle chips for the terrific, edgy flavor of the banter and the addictive crunch of Scout's POV
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on April 9, 2012
If I were to rate the first three-quarters of this book, I'd give it a two star rating. The last quarter however would get four stars, so I'm going to compromise and give the book 3 stars.

I had such a hard time getting into this novel. It had a lot going for it - likeable characters, hints of mystery, and interesting world building.

The protagonist, Scout, is sarcastic, and fun and I thoroughly enjoyed her relationship with her brother, cousin, best friend, and little sister. The romantic lead of the story, Alex, is also admirable. He has an interesting back story, only hinted at in this story that leaves us wanting to know more about him and his enigmatic older brother, Liam.

What I did not enjoy was Alex and Scout's relationship. I felt the author took every cheesy high school romantic fantasy cherished by girls everywhere and crammed them into her story. We have the different, somewhat geeky, social outcast girl, and the new transfer student who is oh-so-incredibly-hot-and-dreamy that for some unknown reason is utterly obsessed with her. Through a series of very fortunate and unrealistic events, they end up coming together and falling madly in love. Their secret torrid romantic affair can only be described as utterly sappy and gag inducing. I lost count of how many times I groaned and rolled my eyes throughout this story. I even read certain particularly cheesy passages out loud to my husband so he could laugh at my pain.

This love story is Twilight 2.0 but not as well executed. In addition to the sappiness, another thing that made this romance fail where other equally cheesy love stories succeeded is the fact that both of the people involved seem utterly perfect as characters and perfect for each other from the very beginning. There was no character-driven friction (just outside friction from family members), no realistic build-up of romance, no suspense. In the absence of flaws and friction, characters end up feeling wooden and the romance between them comes off as utterly unrealistic. These aren't characters I cheered for, I didn't bite my nails hoping they'd end up together, or swoon when they kissed the first time, because I just didn't care.

With such an inauspicious beginning, I almost quit reading the book numerous times, but in the end, I was glad I persevered. There are some rather huge, and fairly traumatic things that happen at the end of the story. I'm assuming these changes caused some readers no end of sadness, however I thought the end was fantastic, and it actually gave me hope for the series.

Having read both this book, and the second novel, I think Destiny Binds suffers from first-book syndrome. The author's writing style, and skills improve greatly through the series. The awkwardness of her prose, and formulaic approach to romance are completely gone in Time Mends. That story is markedly more complex, and interesting. I think it just took Ms. Blackwell a bit to find her stride as a writer. So, if you are an adult, that enjoys YA fiction, this series might be worth a shot. Just skim through the first 75% of the first book and you'll be in for a treat with book 2.
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on February 23, 2012
I am glad this is 'book one' because that means there must be more to the story. And I'm glad book two is available because I had to know that there was something more intriguing to this tale. Needless to say, Destiny Binds was Ok in that I was able to finish it and at times during the book I was entertained. There were also times when I was bored and wondering "where is this story going because I'm almost at the end and nothing that great is happening".
The characters are kind of cute but there were parts that I didn't think were very believable (even for a fantasy type book about people shifting into canine type species) and it didn't have as much detail as I like. With all that said I wasn't totally turned off because I ordered the second book right away - I really needed to know if this saga was going somewhere deeper than where first book took me.
So I've started Time Mends and I have to say that I am not disappointed. There is definitely more to this tale and I've finally become intrigued. Apparently book one sets the ground work for the twist coming in the next installment. I'm actually finding it hard to put down, so the moral of my story is that I think this book is worth reading if only to get to the good parts in the second book.
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on December 2, 2012
So I actually first read this book back before I wrote reviews, but I loved it (and the second book too) so much, that now that the 3rd book is out, I knew I should reread them both before starting the 3rd book and actually write up a review for them.

So... here goes: Scout is a normal senior, living a pretty good life. She has a step brother (her mother and his father married after they were already born and their spouses both died) who is just a few months older than she, and a half sister that their parents had together.

She also has a best friend- Talley, who is pretty awesome, and Jace's cousin (Jace is her step brother) Charlie, who she has basically had a crush on forever but she thinks he only thinks of her as a little sister.
That's the start up... then everything changes when Alex (and his older, creepy brother, Liam) move into town. Alex and Scout start up a relationship, though Jace and Charlie are vehemently against it (and wont tell her why) until one night she discovers their deep dark secret!

They are ALL shifters! (BTW in this book werewolves and shifters cannot be made by being bitten, its only in the blood when you are born. ) Alex and Liam are werewolves and Jace and Charlie are were-coyotes (though only called shifters) and apparently they are feuding.

Then you find out more secrets about the lovely Talley. And all hell breaks loose. AND- something terrible happens... And there is a killer cliffhanger.

All the characters are so real and fleshed out and its hard to believe that this is a self published, debut novel! The writing flows perfectly! In fact, other than the killer cliffhanger, there is NOTHING wrong with this book. There is no annoying character that makes dumb choices. There is no annoying teenager drama. There is nothing annoying at all! I love this book!!!!
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on May 29, 2012
This is a really good novel. I originally read it last year and it is permanently etched onto my brain. The author has done a fantastic job of blending supernatural with reality. The protag's quirkiness is largely what makes this book so likable; it's not overly done...which can be said about pretty much everything in Destiny Binds. The details laced throughout the story are incredible. Sometimes an author either goes overboard with details or doesn't give quite enough. In this book past memories, descriptions, etc. are integrated into the story perfectly. Not once did I forget what was going on in the middle of a conversation because the MC went off on a too lengthy history lesson.

The author actually gives us specifics of the school assignments, not just a vague comment about a project or homework. It's these tiny aspects that are often overlooked in YA novels.
The teenage POV is well done all throughout the story, too. Scout is an extremely likable character; she's not spoiled or overly girly and she's funny as heck - and intelligent. Really, I could go on and on about how much I love her character, but I'll spare you. The secondary characters are well-written also. This book is set in Kentucky and, again, the author pulled it off perfectly - not too southern, but just enough.

So, at this point, I am sure you are wondering why I didn't rate this book a perfect five, considering I'm obviously in love with it. I wanted to. Believe me, I wish I could. But, there are some things that hold this story back a teeny little bit.

The biggest complaint I have is that it needs a good edit. It's not full of errors, but there are enough that it drew my attention. It also bothered me a little that Scout accepted her introduction into the supernatural too easily. Although, she does extensively research it later, and is momentarily in disbelief when she finds out about some other Shifters. Most of the story is written so believable that when she just instantly figures out one of the character's is a Shifter, it doesn't fit with the realistic qualities of the rest of the book. Don't get me wrong, I definitely didn't want her to be clueless about it for an excessively long time, but it's just - Bam! - that person's a werewolf.

Also, the author used underline instead of italics in a few parts. Minor, but it bugged me a bit. There are a few Twilight similarities, but the story is completely different.
The majority of the novel is light - even the drama is not completely depressing. But, the end of the book is extremely emotional. Even though I've read it before, I still cried so much the words blurred and I had to blow my nose a couple times.

Overall, Destiny Binds is a really good book and I cannot wait to read the second.
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on October 10, 2011
I stumbled across this book as a part of my 'Recommended For You', and I can honestly say that at first, I had absolutely no desire to read it. While reading the description though, I thought, "Oh, not again. Here we go.", but something told me that I should go ahead and take a peek. It's only .99 cents, what could it hurt. So, I went with that instinct, bought it and was more than pleasantly surprised by what I found inside.

I was pulled into this book in a way I haven't been pulled into a book in a while. I was extremely thrilled by it, and I read the entire thing in one sitting. It was unreal. I laughed and I laughed, I fell in love with the characters, I got angry and emotional and then I cried and cried because it didn't go the way I'd been hoping it was going to go. I can honestly say that I felt everything that the main character (Scout) was feeling and I couldn't get enough. I'm so ready for the second book in the series, because I want some answers.

Scout Donovan is anything but average. She stands out in a way that makes her uncomfortable. People are constantly staring at her and she doesn't like it. She's witty and sarcastic and all around great! Her brother, Jase, is the all around American boy. He's an athlete and popular and he loves her, but he's hiding something from her and she knows it, but he's not talking. His cousin, Charlie, has been the love of Scout's life for most of her life, but she's never told him that and doesn't plan to. But, he's hiding something from her as well, and every time she asks, she gets the typical 'It's complicated.' response. Then, Alex Cole shows up and his arrival turns Scout's world upside down. She finds herself questioning every thing about every one she knows.

All in all, this is a fabulous piece of work. As I previously stated, I haven't been pulled into a book like I was pulled into this one in a while. If you're doubting that you'd want to read it, please don't. You won't be disappointed and I can assure you that you'll be just as anxious as I am to get to the next part of the story.

Good work, Tammy Blackwell! I'm looking forward to more from this series!
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