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A book blog dedicated to young adult and new adult novels

Blog Tour: Upside Down by Lia Riley {Review, Excerpt,+ Giveaway}

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Welcome to my stop on the Upside Down blog tour hosted by Forever!
Today I am excited to share my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway with you all!

Upside Down (Off the Map #1)
   by: Lia Riley

Publication Date: Aug. 5, 2014
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Group: New Adult
Source: e-ARC received from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Page Count: 384 pages
Order Links: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | BAM! | Google Play
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

If You Never Get Lost, You’ll Never Be Found

Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying good-bye to the past-and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she'll act like a carefree exchange student, not a girl sinking under the weight of painful memories. Everything is going according to plan until she meets a brooding surfer with hypnotic green eyes and the troubling ability to see straight through her act.

Bran Lockhart is having the worst year on record. After the girl of his dreams turned into a nightmare, he moved back home to Melbourne to piece his life together. Yet no amount of disappointment could blind him to the pretty California girl who gets past all his defenses. He's never wanted anyone the way he wants Talia. But when Bran gets a stark reminder of why he stopped believing in love, he and Talia must decide if what they have is once in a lifetime . . . or if they were meant to live a world apart.

Finally! I feel like I've been waiting forever to get my hands on this book! This book was first put on my radar back in February thanks to Momo from Books Over Boys. After reading her author feature with Lia, I couldn't wait to dive into Talia and Bran's story! First of all, I love that it's set in Australia! I have never been before, but after reading this book, I feel as if I have! I love the whole studying abroad storyline and it was just the kind of New Adult romance I have been craving.
Pacing: Overall, I enjoyed the pacing in this one. I felt the storyline moved at a good speed, and I liked how Bran and Talia's relationship developed. The two have this incredible intensity about them, but hold back from one another.
Storyline: Talia Stolfi is embarking on a trip of a lifetime to study in Melbourne, Australia. She does not leave without emotional baggage, however. She is hoping Australia will be the escape she needs from her broken life in California. It is here she meets Bran, who is also a bit broken by his past. Letting Talia into his life comes as quite a surprise to him, as he hasn't wanted that kind of relationship in a long time. They have some heavy baggage from the past to overcome if they want to move forward and have any kind of future...
Characters: I really liked Talia. She has just the right amount of sass and spunk without coming across as too much. She has obsessive compulsive tendencies that play a significant role in her daily life. Most people would brush them off or ignore them, but Bran notices right away. I like that he cares about Talia even when he doesn't realize it. He comes across as a surly jerk in the beginning, but we gradually see him open up and become more carefree with Talia. Bran is definitely a swoon-worthy guy though. He claims he doesn't believe in love anymore, but he is just hurt by the events that transpired in his past and I can't blame him. He is accepting of Talia and sees past the fa├žade she has created to prove to the world that she's ok. She feels an immense amount of guilt over what happened and to add insult to injury, her mother is not the zen, carefree woman she pretends to be. She is not a nurturing influence to Talia and I found myself really resenting the woman and wishing Talia didn't have to deal with her at all.
Final Thoughts: I really loved this one. The Australian setting and culture bring so much to the story and really make it that much more engaging. The romance between Talia and Bran is not an easy one, but I liked seeing them fall for one another and then realize that they both desperately want more together. However, this is book one in a trilogy and I couldn't help but feel a bit unsettled upon finishing. There is no cliffhanger, so don't fret, but Riley definitely leaves you ready to continue their story in Sideswiped!

A half hour later we are suited up, dorked out in snorkels and fins.

I take her hand.

“You ready?”

“How cold is the water again?”

“Warmer than the Arctic.”

“That’s not a glowing recommendation.” She squeezes my hand. “Okay, let’s do this, before I change my mind.”

“One, two, three.” She leaps with me and we plunge off the pier. The water is frigid, creating the perfect habitat for the hundreds of marine species surrounding us. The pier’s not deep, only five or six meters, ideal conditions to get up close and personal with the trevally, blue devils, zebra fish, rays, and there—I tap Talia on the shoulder and point.

A weedy sea dragon swims toward us, flitting through the kelp to keep camouflaged. The long orange-red body resembles a seahorse except for the leaflike appendages and short spikes lining its back.We tread together, paddling only when necessary to maintain our position against the current. Here, in this strange world, time slows, life is diluted to the rhythm of tide and waves. I reach out and take Talia’s hand, wishing for an irrational second to sprout gills and swim with her down to the ocean’s deep, indigo places. Find a mermaid kingdom and hide from the world forever. The sea dragon studies us for a long moment before darting into the shadows.

Talia flicks the snorkel from her mouth. “Oh my God.” Her eyes are almost as wide as her smile.

“That was incredible. Mystical almost.”

“Magic.” I stroke closer to her, closing our distance, unable to resist her happy glow. Talia’s hair plasters to her cheeks; she’s enchanting, a sea witch who’s cast a spell on me. Her back hits one of the pilings, and we’re beneath the pier, shielded from the tourists promenading overhead, with dragons lurking beneath our fins. I kiss her hard, openmouthed, and don’t hold back the groan when her tongue flicks over mine, still a little shy.

I drop my hands below her arms to brace her, keep her well above the low sets gently rolling by to crash onshore. She wiggles closer and I silently curse our wet suits keeping us from true skin-to-skin contact. Talia’s bikini is skimpy and black, exactly how I like a girl’s suit. I’d love to pull the string in the back, watch as the top slowly slides off. Since the three-inch neoprene renders that fantasy impossible, I use my mouth to cover every inch of her exposed neck, her high cheekbones, her brow, each of the six freckles dappling the tip of her nose.

“Am I your girlfriend?” Talia sounds offhand, but her eyes tell me she’s dead serious.

“Girlfriend?” The word sends a jolt down my spine. “Well…you’re a girl and a friend.”

“So, no, then?” Her smile vanishes. “I mean, are we seeing each other, seeing other people?”

“Do you want to see other people?”

And if so, who? Tell me so I can beat the shit out of them if they look at you sideways.

“Do you?” Her downturned lips twitch in the corner. She struggles to smile, and to watch that effort makes me feel helpless. I don’t want to expose myself, but fuck if I’ll hurt her.

“Since I’ve seen you, Talia”—I pause, clearing my throat—“it’s been pretty fucking impossible to see anyone else.”


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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  1. This sounds like a fun read and I like that its set in Australia-- that sounds fun. Loved the excerpt! Awesome review!


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