I am so excited to be part of the blog tour for the print release of "Sideswiped"! As you probably know, this is one of my fave New Adult series - it is soooooo good! In celebration of this release, I also have a fantastic excerpt, my original review, and an extra print copy to gift to a lucky commenter!!!
SIDESWIPED by Lia Riley (June 30, 2015; Forever Trade Paperback; Off the Map #2)
It was only meant to last the summer . . .
Talia Stolfi has seen more than her share of loss in her twenty-one years. But then fate brought her Bran Lockhart, and her dark world was suddenly and spectacularly illuminated. So if being with Bran means leaving her colorless SoCal life for rugged and wild Australia, then that's what she'll do. But as much as Talia longs to give herself over completely to a new beginning, the fears of her past are still lurking in the shadows.
Bran Lockhart knows that living without the beautiful girl who stole his heart will be torment, so he'll take whatever time with her he can. But even though she has packed up her life in California and is back in his arms for the time being, she can't stay forever. And the remaining time they have together is ticking by way too fast. Though fate seems determined to tear them apart, they won't give up without a fight-because while time may have limits, their love is infinite . . .
And because it's Canada Day, I'm also throwing in a little something extra: a top ten list of the reasons why I think the "Off the Map" series "Rox" (see what I did there?):
- Talia - She has issues up the ying yang, but that makes me love her all the more! I find her 100% relatable, and I think she would make a fabulous bestie!
- Bran - He is, how do the kids say it these days, "hawt"! Even though he can be a grumpy bastard, that is just one side to his personality. He is also super passionate about anything he decides to do, and that includes loving Talia.
- Settings - Gah, now I'm wishing I traveled more in my twenties! This series will definitely make you connect with your inner nomad.
- Absence of cheese - All that fromage that is so prevalent in today's New Adult genre is conspicuously missing from this series, and you won't miss it one bit!
- Parental relationships - Real life is hard, and dealing with even the best of parents is difficult, so I appreciate that Riley was able to portray these relationships in such a realistic way in this series.
- True friendships - Mainly I'm talking about Talia's girlfriends. These are the people who have got Talia's back, no matter what, and I loved them for it.
- Real issues - I won't dish the deets, you'll want to read to find out, but just know that there are many facets to the ongoing plot, from both Talia and Bran's points of view, and they are all dealt with in an extremely realistic way.
- Adventure - something that is missing from a lot of my contemporary reads lately, and something this series has in abundance - phenomenal!
- Respect - Talia and Bran can throw down with the best of them, but throughout their fights, arguments, and misunderstandings, there is never any doubt about their mutual respect.
- A love I want to see through to the end! 'Nuff said!!!
There, if my list doesn't make you want to pick up this series and read it right now, maybe this little snippet will!
An hour later I’m zipping the back of Talia’s wet suit at the edge of the tide line. Moonlight glimmers on the black water. The waves line up perfectly, peeling clean. I breathe deep, savoring the air’s briny tang and the musty smell of decomposing kelp. My awareness is sharpened by anticipation, the five senses amplified by the dark.
Talia shuffles at my side, getting antsy.
“You sure about this?”
“Yes. Well, sure enough.”
Another set breaks. The conditions are choice. If she changes her mind, I might need to have a ride—a quick one.
Maybe two, tops.
“What’s that noise?” She stills. “There it is again. Can you hear it?”
I concentrate and smile when a sound like a wheezing donkey drifts from beyond the breakers. “Fairy penguin.”
“Shut up! There are penguins around here?”
“Sure. In the summer they build burrows in the scrub along the coast. If you stand outside a colony right after sunset, things get pretty noisy.”
“Penguins.” She almost whispers the word. “That’s so cool.”
The wash races over the sand and breaks across our toes. I figure out a plan of attack. “We’ll paddle to the left shoulder where the wave’s less steep. Stick with me, okay?” No one else is out and my voice feels extra loud even though I’m speaking quiet.
“Have you ever been to Rome?” She takes my hand.
“No, not yet.”
“Me neither. But I can’t imagine the Sistine Chapel being more amazing than this.”
Besides the moon, there’s zero light pollution. The Milky Way arches in a dazzling band across the sky’s apex. Individual stars are indistinguishable in the brilliant haze.
She squeezes my hand in reply.
We paddle out.
“Whoa!” She pushes her chest up to better peer over her board’s tip. Around us the water casts a luminous green-blue light.
“Phosphorescence. Cool, eh? It’s blooming phytoplankton, caused by this marine species of dinoflagellates releasing enzymes that—”
“That’s enough, Sid the Science Kid. Let me retain this fairy kingdom illusion a little while longer.”
“Science is cool, Captain.”
“I never said— Oh, crap!”
Instead of duck-diving under the incoming wave, the water wall pounds her in the face. She breaks through the other side, coughing out a lung.
“We can head back to shore, don’t have to—”
“I’m fine. Please. There’s a wave coming. I can feel the pull. Can you?”
“You want it?”
“It’s all yours.”
I take off on a left break and fly down the smooth face. For a few perfect seconds, I’m right here in the moment. Rational thought is eclipsed and with it the aggravating confusion of having everything: Talia, Tasmania, honors, and still hungering for more like a greedy bastard. I paddle back to her.
“You looked great.”
“That was good.”
She sits, bobbing lightly. “It’s not as freaky out here as I imagined.”
“Fucking hell, Captain. You said you weren’t scared.”
“No, I never did. I’m scared by everything. But I want to do this.”
We’re quiet. A few more waves come but I let them go, happy to be with my girl, the stars, and the radiant water.
Hard not to believe in magic on such a night.
She clears her throat. “About what happened back at the house…if this is going to work, you can’t shut me out. You’re not just a you anymore; we’re an us. We have to be there for each other.”
I bob on my board and drag my fingers through the water. The phosphorescence lights from my touch. Finally I speak. “Karma’s got this mate; he’s on the crew of a Sea Alliance vessel. There’s an opening for a gig, with voyages to Japan and Antarctica.”
“You want to go for it?” I can’t decipher her expression.
I almost say no, but honesty’s easier in the anonymous dark. “Yeah, kinda. But I want to be with you more.”
“Oh, Bran, that’s way too much pressure.”
“What do you mean?”
“Imagine coming home in a few months and I’m all vegged on the couch, watching awful reality television. Will you think to yourself, ‘I could be gallantly defending the high seas but instead I’m attached to this boring anchor’?”
“Life with you is bound to be a lot of things, but boring isn’t the first depiction that springs to mind.”
“But life isn’t always night surfing. I…I can’t compete against a fantasy.”
“I never said you had to.”
“Isn’t supporting the other’s goals a fundamental part of the good girlfriend/boyfriend job description? I mean, say I always wanted to volunteer in Africa? Join the Peace Corps.”
“I used to toy around with the idea. Now? I’m not sure but I don’t want to close myself off to opportunities.”
“We can travel through Africa someday.”
“Peace Corps is one of my dreams, not yours. I want you to have the freedom to pursue your own happiness.”
“You make me happy.” I strike my words like flint before sucking in a rough breath. “Look, I’m not a guy cut out for the long-distance thing. I hated every second we were apart the last two months.”
“Bran…” She reaches out her hand and I take hold. “I won’t let go.”
“Me neither.” I scrutinize the sky, heart clanging. Everything appears so deceptively still. In reality, the Earth careens through space. Talia and I, we’re little specks of cosmic dust in the grand scheme. It wouldn’t take much to blow away from each other.
“But in the future—”
“I hear what you’re saying and I appreciate the support. But the only future I’m willing to discuss is the one where it’s me and you—together.”
Better to orbit far away from black holes.
Bran loves Talia. Talia loves Bran. And so they lived happily ever after, right? Right?! Wouldn't be much of a book if that's how it went down, and I think it would have been easy for "Sideswiped" to fall victim to the sophomore slump if that's how Lia Riley decided to write it. Fortunately, this series continues on with the same great writing and realistic characters that I came to love in "Upside Down".
Talia is fortunate to be able to finish her degree in Hobart while Bran works on his research project, and they are also able to play house together. While the relationship is still new and there are a few bumps, they quickly get into a rhythm that works for them. Lurking in the background, however, is the knowledge that Talia's visa will soon run out, and then what? Not only that, but Talia also realizes that Bran is not completely happy with being stuck in a lab all day - she doesn't want to stifle his passionate spirit. And not only that, but Talia has the need to go off on her own and spread her wings, too - she needs to see what she can accomplish herself, without riding Bran's coattails. Bran, meanwhile, comes up with a desperate plan to keep them together, but by holding on so hard, he's inadvertently pushing Talia away.
Ugh, the angst! I could feel the tension with every page! Talia and Bran's situation hit quite close to home as I recalled the early stages of my relationship with my husband - newly graduated with no real clue of what I wanted to do with my future, career-wise, but sure that I'd found "the one" I wanted to be with, and knowing somehow that things would work out.
Talia finally gets to meet Bran's family in "Sideswiped" during the Melbourne Cup, and what a bunch of pompous jerks they are! No wonder Bran wants nothing to do with them! At least Talia gets an insider's view of what makes Bran tick, and I think it makes her appreciate him all the more.
My one complaint would have to be that there was not much said about Talia's OCD. It seems like she's been handling her disorder quite well, and while her struggles were mentioned a few times, I thought there would have been more of a focus on that subject.
I'm not sure what else to say except that this, the "Off the Map" series by Lia Riley, is probably my favourite New Adult series of the year, so if you like New Adult and you haven't picked this one up yet, definitely give it a go!
Buy the book!
About the author:
After studying at the University of Montana-Missoula, Lia Riley scoured the world armed only with a backpack, overconfidence and a terrible sense of direction. When not torturing heroes (because c'mon, who doesn't love a good tortured hero?), Lia herds unruly chickens, camps, beach combs, daydreams about as-of-yet unwritten books, wades through a mile-high TBR pile and schemes yet another trip. She and her family live mostly in Northern California.
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So now, just leave me a comment and you'll have a chance to win an extra print copy that I am giving away (open only in Canada and US).