Book Review – New Blue (Blue Series) by Jules Barnard

New Blue (Blue Series #5) by Jules Barnard

New Blue (Blue Series #5) by Jules Barnard

4 Stars

Synopsis
The survivor of a high school sabotage that made her flee her hometown at sixteen, Hayden Tate is no stranger to bullying. Now she has returned to Lake Tahoe to take on her dream job with a degree and a backbone. But her newfound strength is pushed to the limit as she fights to hold her own against the old boys club of Blue Casino.

Adam Cade is the prince of Lake Tahoe, born into one of the wealthiest families in the area. He’s used to doing what he wants when he wants. So when his powerful father threatens to cut him off without a dime unless he uses his Ivy League degree for a job his father got him at Blue Casino, Adam capitulates.

Hayden, the head of HR, hates Adam on the spot, finding every way possible to put him in his place—and suddenly the lackey job his father found him gets interesting. Adam’s life of leisure lacks substance, and even though he’s not willing to give it up, he wouldn’t mind the distraction Hayden presents. But when the casino’s sinister inner workings begin to reveal themselves and Adam is caught between the powerful executives he works for and the lovely Hayden, his loyalties are divided.

Blue Casino offers Adam a lucrative career where he wouldn’t need his father’s money for the lifestyle he’s accustomed to, but at what cost? Hayden’s silly side shines through when Adam least expects it, charming his jaded heart, and forcing him to face a morality he never knew he had. For the first time in Adam’s life he finds himself yearning for something real, but will he risk losing everything to have it?.

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My Review
I’m a huge fan of Jules and her Blue Series, but for whatever reason, New Blue didn’t click with me like the rest of the series. Not that I didn’t like it, because I did, I just didn’t love it. After finishing and decompressing for a few days, I think my issues have to do with the characters themselves. They’re not the same dynamic, intense characters I’ve come to know and love in the Blue series. And it wasn’t that they weren’t interesting and dynamic, it’s that I didn’t feel like they were that way TOGETHER. God, I hate myself for saying that (Jules don’t hate me, too), but for me, something, some spark, was missing with these two that I felt immediately with Cali and Jaeg, Mira and Tyler (especially), and Gen and Lewis. Even Nessa and Zach in their novella had that instant spark. Okay, now that I’ve gone on and on about what I don’t like, let me tell you all the things I loved about it.

Plot
The plot was outstanding. The push and pull of the romance was well done (even without the chemistry), and the mystery of the Bliss suites was incredibly fun to watch unfold. Just when I thought the whole thing couldn’t get any more repugnant, it did, making Blue’s CEO among the worst villains since maybe President Snow himself.

Characters
Once again, the characters all have fascinating backstories that make them well rounded and intriguing. I love that we got to spend so much time with the crew from Lake Tahoe again, since this is the last in that series. I’m still hoping for cameos in the next series. Everyone from Hayden and Adam to Adam’s smarmy co-workers and their stupid blue rings added tension and intrigue to the story.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About New Blue
1. Hayden’s house. It sounds exactly like the kind of place I’d like to live.
2. Shoe closets. Who doesn’t secretly (or not so secretly) want one?
3. Lake Tahoe. The setting remains one of my favorite places in California and it was nice to visit in warm weather for a change.
4. Karma. What goes around comes around!
5. The ending. Perfect. Blue fans will know what I’m talking about 🙂

Bottom Line
New Blue is a new adult romance that has many of Blue’s recurring cast, along with a couple of newbies who shake things up at the office and at home.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: New Blue
Series: Blue Series #5
Author: Jules Barnard
Pages: 303
Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Jules Barnard

Author Jules Barnard

About the Author
Before turning to storytelling, Jules earned a master’s degree in public health and spent many an hour running statistical analysis–until she realized her favorite part of the job was writing reports. She decided to cut out the math and add in some hot guys, and so began her career as a novelist.

Jules is a Northern California native living on the coast with her husband and two children. She has no impulse control around cupcakes and credits herself with the ability to read while running on the treadmill or burning dinner.

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Where to Find Jules Barnard
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter | Pinterest
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Love Me Never (The Lovely Vicious) by Sara Wolf

Love Me Never Blog Tour

Love Me Never (Lovely Vicious #1) by Sara Wolf

Love Me Never (Lovely Vicious #1) by Sara Wolf

4.0 Stars

Synopsis
Previously published as Lovely Vicious, this fully revised and updated edition is full of romance, intrigue, and laugh-out-loud moments.

Don’t love your enemy. Declare war on him.

Seventeen-year-old Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, nine weeks, and five days, and after what happened last time, she intends to keep it that way. Since then she’s lost eighty-five pounds, gotten four streaks of purple in her hair, and moved to Buttcrack-of-Nowhere, Ohio, to help her mom escape a bad relationship.

All the girls in her new school want one thing—Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Hot as an Armani ad, smart enough to get into Yale, and colder than the Arctic, Jack Hunter’s never gone out with anyone. Sure, people have seen him downtown with beautiful women, but he’s never given high school girls the time of day. Until Isis punches him in the face.

Jack’s met his match. Suddenly everything is a game.

The goal: Make the other beg for mercy.
The game board: East Summit High.
The reward: Something neither of them expected.

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Love Me Never Teaser 1

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My Review
This young adult romance was anything but lighthearted, flirty fun, but it’s one heck of a story. What makes this work is fully-developed, deep, flawed characters with rich backstories, even as repugnant as they might be. Isis Blake has recently relocated to East Summit High to escape her past and a vicious bully who scarred her in more ways than one. Jack Hunter is an enigma, although Isis is pretty sure she has his pretty-boy self all figured out in the first five minutes. Jack seems to enjoy putting people down and making girls cry, particularly Wren, the only girl who’s even been even a little nice to Isis at East Summit High.

Plot
Wren is deeply in love with Jack and has been for most of her life. Jack is a total tool and Isis declares war on him until he apologizes to Wren for his behavior. What ensues is a snarky, witty, back-and-forth with more than a few laugh-out-loud moments as Jack and Isis give their battle their all. Both have deep, dark secrets, and how they come to light provide some of the best moments in the book.

Love Me Never Teaser 2

Characters
It’s all about the characters. All of them. Jack and Isis are so completely three-dimensional, it’d be okay if some of the supporting cast wasn’t so in-depth, but they all are, and that brings a different level of investment to the story. Because the characters come across as living, breathing human beings, it’s really hard not to root for them at the same time you’d like to bitch slap them for a) being total douchebags, b) doing something idiotic, again, and c) cutting to the bone just because they can.

Love Me Never Teaser 3

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The principal. Even after his motivations were revealed, he still came across as a cardboard Scooby-Doo villain who would have gotten away with it if not for those meddling kids.
2. The ending. And I’m not talking about the cliffhanger. The implausibility of how things went down at the end ripped me out of the story and made me scratch my head until the very last page.
3. The cliffhanger. Not a huge fan unless done well. In this case, I still can’t wrap my head around it.

Love Me Never Teaser 4

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Love me Never
1. The dialogue. It flows, is natural, witty, and just plain fun.
2. Loyalty. I love how loyal Isis is to Wren, though she barely knows her, simply because she’s the first person to be nice to Isis.
3. Loyalty. Isis’s loyalty to her mother continues that theme in the way only a needy mother and strong daughter can, further developing Isis’s complex character.
4. Friendship. This is more a book about friendship than romance. There is definitely romance, but it buds from a blossoming friendship that neither Jack nor Isis saw coming.
5. Angst. Oh how I love angsty teens and Love Me Never overflows with them, like a bathtub with the plug in someone forgot about.

Bottom Line
Love Me Never is an engaging read with deeply developed, yet flawed characters, page-turning angst, and some of the best dialogue I’ve read this year.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Love Me Never
Series: The Lovely Vicious #1
Author: Sara Wolf
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 304
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Entangled

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Author Sara Wolf

Author Sara Wolf

About the Author
Sara Wolf is a twenty-something author who adores baking, screaming at her cats, and screaming at herself while she types hilarious things.

When she was a kid, she was too busy eating dirt to write her first terrible book. Twenty years later, she picked up a keyboard and started mashing her fists on it and created the monster known as the Lovely Vicious series.

She lives in San Diego with two cats, a crippling-yet-refreshing sense of self-doubt, and not enough fruit tarts ever.

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Where to Find Sara Wolf
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – Playing Defense (Corrigan Falls Raiders) by Cate Cameron

Playing Defense Blog Tour

Playing Defense (Corrigan Falls Raiders #2) by Cate Cameron

Playing Defense (Corrigan Falls Raiders #2) by Cate Cameron

4.0 Stars

Synopsis
Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains adult language, swoon-worthy kisses, and sexy hockey players. It may cause you to watch a hockey game…or ten.

Sixteen-year-old Claudia Waring has never kissed a boy. Never been popular. Never been to a hockey game. All that’s about to change. Assigned to tutor Chris Winslow, a prank-loving, gorgeous hockey player, Claudia’s perfectly planned life immediately veers off course. And she kind of likes it. But as fun as Chris is, she knows she’ll never fit in his world.

After his latest prank lands him in hot water, Chris has to get serious about school or lose hockey. Not an easy thing for someone as carefree as the defenseman. The biggest problem, though, is how much he wants to help his cute, buttoned-up tutor loosen up a little. But while confidence has never been a problem for him, around Claudia, Chris is all nerves. Why would a girl as smart as her ever fall for a jock like him?

Corrigan Falls Raiders Book 1: Center Ice (Can be read out of order)

Corrigan Falls Raiders Book 2: Playing Defense (Can be read out of order)

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My Review
Claudia is shy, reserved, and doesn’t have time for rowdy hockey teams and their obnoxious groupies. Loud prankster, Chris, doesn’t have time for school. It only gets in the way of hockey, and in this small Canadian town, everyone knows hockey is Chris’s future. Or is it? With his grades struggling, he doesn’t really have a plan B and doesn’t give his all to the game the way he knows he should. He flounders until his counselor suggests tutoring, something Chris sees as a waste of his time, but feels he owes it to his mother to at least try.

Chris and his new tutor, Claudia, embark on a fragile friendship that soon blossoms into something more. When Claudia’s poetry teachers suggests that poems are more than just words on a page, Claudia and a few friends take that suggestion to heart and create a secret sisterhood of awesomeness where each member encourages the others to do random acts of awesome. For Claudia, it’s attending her first ever hockey game and attempting to enjoy herself. For Chris, it’s studying for himself rather than for others. But when tragedy strikes, Claudia and Chris will have to find a way forward in the manner that means the most to them.

Plot
This is essentially a teenage romance, but I love the awesome challenges that are woven through it, making it feel like something a little bit more than just a standard romance. The push-and-pull of the two romantic leads’ very different backgrounds provides the conflict necessary to drive the love story, but it’s the secret club that brings them and other unlikely characters together, giving them a purpose bigger than themselves.

Characters
I found both Chris and Claudia to be likeable and I rooted for them, but the rest of the characters fell flat for me, with the exception of the teacher. Both Claudia’s and Chris’s friends, other students, even parents were mostly props, Claudia’s mom was a bit stereotypical, but she served a purpose to drive conflict, which she did quite well.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Playing Defense
1. The hockey. I thoroughly enjoy sports romances and the hockey was a nice change from the football and baseball I’ve been reading lately.
2. The characters. Claudia and Chris came across as real, flawed, and easy to relate to.
3. The sisterhood. I loved the idea the kids (both boys and girls) came up with to challenge and support one another.
4. The romance. It was refreshing to read a sweet romance with an alpha male.
5. The lessons. It might not be cool to say it, but hard work pays off!

Bottom Line
A fun teen romance wrapped in hockey, with complex contemporary characters.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Playing Defense
Series: Corrigan Falls Raiders #2
Author: Cate Cameron
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Pages: 178
Category: Young Adult Contemporary/Sports Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Barnes & NobleiBooks | Kobo | Entangled

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About the Author
Cate Cameron grew up in the city but moved to the country in her mid-twenties and isn’t looking back. Most of her writing deals with people living and loving in small towns or right out in the sticks—when there aren’t entertainment options on every corner, other people get a lot more  interesting!

She likes to write stories about real people struggling with real issues. YA, NA, or contemporary  romance, her books are connected by their emphasis on subtle humor and characters who are trying to do the right thing, even when it would be a lot easier to do something wrong.

Where to find Cate Cameron
Goodreads | Website | BlogFacebook Twitter
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Bryce (Scandalous Boys Series) by Natalie Decker

Bryce Blog Tour

Bryce (Scandalous Boys #1) by Natalie Decker

Bryce (Scandalous Boys #1) by Natalie Decker

4 Stars

Synopsis
Bryce Matthews doesn’t do the whole nice boyfriend thing. Chocolates and flowers—girls can forget all that. And he certainly doesn’t care about the gossip and rumors that follow him at school and around town. If anything, the talk amuses him. Bryce isn’t lacking in confidence. He knows himself and he knows his limits.

One of those hard limits is Madison Issac. Bryce can never have her, and he’s perfectly fine with that. Sometimes the fantasy is better than the reality anyway.

Madison Issac thought she was a pretty good judge of character. But she’s surprised at how gentle and comforting resident bad-boy and next-door neighbor Bryce Matthews is when we finds her crying in the park.

Maybe there’s more to Bryce than people think? So Madison begins to wonder. Can a guy like Bryce ever change his ways? Can a girl like Madison really be into a guy like Bryce?

With hearts and reputations on the line, this kind of love can be scandalous.

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My Review
On the surface this is a bad boy redeemed story, which is right up my alley, but deeper down, it’s more than that. Bryce isn’t your typical bad boy. He attracts trouble like nobody else, but he’s not the usual manwhore with the swagger and devil-may-care attitude. Bryce has lived next to Madison since they were kids and he despises her uptightness. Madison thinks Bryce is a little full of himself, but otherwise, has eyes only for his best friend, Graham. When Madison’s cousin comes to live with her after some family drama, Madison’s life gets turned upside down, and Bryce is the only one who seems to be able to see Sarah for who she really is.

Plot
For the most part, this is a straight-up teen romance, but there are a few fun subplots involving cousin Sarah, a love-triangle with Graham, and the inevitable trouble Bryce seems to keep getting into. The book is a fast read, with moments of humor and charm.

Characters
Madison and Bryce are great. They’re both easy to like with well-rounded backstories. I didn’t get much of a sense of any of the other characters though. Some were two-dimensional and others just weren’t fully fleshed out. But the story is about Madison and Bryce and they are both well done.

What Didn’t Work for Me:
1. Inconsistencies. There were a few that I found more annoying than unable to overlook. Because we get dual points of view, we know what both main characters are thinking. In particular, Bryce makes one particular revelation that doesn’t sync with his earlier thoughts.

2. Emotional avoidance. There’s a pretty big twist in the middle that I didn’t see coming, but rather than show us the events as they unfolded, allowed us to feel the reaction of the affected character, it’s glossed over the event in retrospect. I felt it was a huge squandered opportunity.

3. Weak secondary characters. While the story is really about Madison and Bryce, the supporting characters weren’t fully developed. It wasn’t a huge problem for me, but I’ve read more books lately with really well-developed supporting roles that made the story more vivid.

What I Really Liked:
1. Chemistry. The chemistry between Bryce and Madison is evident pretty early on. They have a love/hate relationship, but the book is titled, Bryce, so you know these two will end up together. I love my teen romances with lots of angst and these two had that to balance out all that lovely chemistry.

2. Madison. I love strong female leads and she is fantastic. She’s witty, smart, and doesn’t put up with anyone’s crap.

3. Bryce. He’s got a bad reputation and a big heart. It’s a fantastic combination. The dreamy eyes don’t hurt either.

4. Angst. There’s a boatload of angst in here, from the way Sarah is treated by Madison’s parents and even Graham, to the whole dramatic build up to the end. I love me some angst!

5. Family drama. Natalie Decker excels at weaving stories that involve good old fashioned family drama, and Bryce is no exception!

Bottom Line
Bryce is a light, fast read filled with teen drama, quirky moments, and delightful lead characters.

Disclaimer
I was provided by a copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Bryce
Series: Scandalous Boys #1
Author: Natalie Decker
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Release Date: February 23, 2016
Pages: 235
Genre:
 Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Natalie Decker

Author Natalie Decker

About the Author
Natalie Decker is the Author of Rival Love. She loves oceans, sunsets, sand between her toes, and carefree days. Her imagination is always going, which some find odd. But she believes in seeing the world in a different light at all times. Her first passion for writing started at age twelve when she had to write a poem for English class. However, seventh grade wasn’t her favorite time and books were her source of comfort.

She took all college prep classes in High school, and attended the University of Akron. Although she studied Mathematics she never lost her passion for writing or her comfort in books. She’s a mean cook in the kitchen, loves her family and friends and her awesome dog infinity times infinity.

If she’s not writing, reading, traveling, hanging out with her family and friends, then she’s off having an adventure. Because Natalie believes in a saying: Your life is your own journey, so make it amazing!

Where to find Natalie Decker
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter

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Giveaway
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Book Review + Giveaway – Call Me, Maybe by Ellie Cahill

Call Me, Maybe By Ellie Cahill

Call Me, Maybe By Ellie Cahill

4 Stars

Synopsis
“Ellie Cahill is definitely one to watch!” raves bestselling author Cora Carmack, and this steamy, upbeat modern romance about connecting in all the best ways proves it once again.

Clementine Daly knows she’s the black sheep. Her wealthy, powerful family has watched her very closely since she almost got caught in an embarrassing scandal a few years ago. So when Clementine’s sent on a mission to live up to the Daly name, politely declining isn’t an option. Of course, the last thing she does before boarding the plane is to grab a stranger’s phone by mistake—leaving the hunky journalist with her phone. Soon his sexy voice is on the line, but he doesn’t know her real name, or her famous pedigree—which is just the way Clementine likes it.

Despite all the hassles, Justin Mueller is intrigued to realize that the beautiful brown-eyed girl he met at the airport is suddenly at his fingertips. They agree to exchange phones when they’re both back in town, but after a week of flirty texts and wonderfully intimate conversations, Justin doesn’t want to let her go. The only problem? It turns out that Clementine has been lying to him about, well, everything. Except for the one thing two people can’t fake, the only thing that matters: The heat between them is for real.

My Review
This was a sweet, adorable new adult romance. When Clementine, the black sheep of the Daly family (think Rockefellers) accidentally switches phones at the airport with the hottest guy she’s ever seen, the two begin a long-distance flirtation until they can meet back up and return their respective phones to their rightful owners. When they meet, sparks fly, but Clementine is hiding more than her true identity from Justin and things go off-course when those secrets come to light.

Plot
Things start off a little slow and I took awhile to get sucked in, but Clementine is delightfully flustered making her instantly likeable. Justin comes off as refined and charming, so these two are the perfect match. Other than the early pacing, the story moves well, but is devoid of almost any real conflict until the end. When the conflict comes, though, it’s angsty and well done.

Characters
Only Clementine and Justin were really all that fleshed out, although Clem’s younger brother, Honor, had a little more weight to him. Still Clementine is so incredibly fun, that I didn’t really care about the lack of character development with the others.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Pacing.
 It started off slow and took awhile to build, but the last half moved well enough that I can overlook it..
2. Lack of conflict. There isn’t a lot of conflict until the end. Clementine and Justin hit it off right away. There is minimal conflict between Clementine and her grandparents, but that’s about it until the big blow up toward the end.

What I Enjoyed About Call Me, Maybe
1. Clementine.
 She was spirited, quirky and just plain adorable. She’s exactly the kind of girl I’d love to hang out with.
2. Justin. He’s as sweet as he is good looking — a great combination.
3. The big blowup. It took awhile to reach the conflict, but once I got there, I was engrossed. It was a natural occurrence of the events and I could feel so much for both of them.
4. Finding your calling. I think a lot of young/new adults can relate to Clementine’s lack of direction in life. I love that she didn’t let anyone push her into doing something she didn’t feel passionate about.
5. Happily ever afters. The ones you have to fight the hardest for are the most treasured.

Bottom Line
Call Me, Maybe is a fun, quirky contemporary romance with characters you can’t help rooting for.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: 
Call Me, Maybe
Author: Ellie Cahill
Publisher: Loveswept
Release Date: February 9, 2016
Pages: 242
Genre: 
New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & NobleiBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Ellie Cahill

Author Ellie Cahill

About the Author
Ellie Cahill is a freelance writer and also writes books for young adults under the name Liz Czukas.

She lives outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her husband, son, and the world’s loudest cat.

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Where to Find Ellie Cahill
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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Review + Giveaway – To The Stars (Thatch) by Molly McAdams

To The Stars (Thatch Series #2) by Molly McAdams

To The Stars (Thatch Series #2) by Molly McAdams

4 Stars

Synopsis
In the second standalone book in New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Molly McAdams’ Thatch series, Knox Alexander must convince his long-time love Harlow Evans that they’re meant to be together.

He promised to wait for her. She told him he was wasting his time. Not waiting for him ended up being the biggest mistake of her life.

When they were younger, Knox Alexander swore to Harlow Evans that he would wait for her to turn eighteen so they could be together. But that was two and a half years away, and Harlow couldn’t ask him to give up all the fun and thrills of going away to college for her. As the years passed, Knox remained a constant in her life but when her eighteenth birthday came around, Harlow’s heart belonged to someone else.

Every day for the last four years, Harlow has been haunted by that fateful choice. And though he may appear unaffected by what happened in their past, Knox has always tried to fill the void Harlow left. But when he comes stumbling back into her life and refuses to leave, will Harlow finally let him into her heart…?

My Review
To the Stars is intense, romantic, and nearly impossible to put down. Harlow and Knox meet when Harlow is far too young — jailbait young — but Knox swears he’ll wait. Harlow counts down the days until she turns 18 and can be with Knox forever. But three years is a long time for teens to wait, and life sometimes intervenes unexpected and unintended ways. Harlow ends up married to a man she thought was perfect, but turns out he’s a perfect monster. The physical and emotional abuse is hard to read at times, but it is such a driving force in the story, and Molly McAdams never sugar coats it.

Plot
The pacing is fantastic, never dragging. I’m usually not a big fan of flashbacks, but they worked in this case. The author introduces us to the characters, then shows us how they became the people they are. The backstories unfold slowly, piecing their puzzles together until we can see it clearly. There were some unexpected twists and the climax was a thrill-ride.

Characters
The characters are exceedingly well-developed. Not all of them are likeable, even Harlow had her moments, but they are incredibly whole and believable. Through the story, both Knox and Harlow grew in organic ways that fit the story and their characters.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The abuse.
 It’s not that it didn’t work for me, but it was just really, really hard to read. It was necessary for the story, though.

What I Enjoyed About To the Stars
1. The pacing.
 The story moved at a solid pace, never slowing down.
2. The character development. The characters were deep and fascinating, even the unlikeable ones.
3. Devotion. Harlow’s and Knox’s devotion to one another was sweet, but Knox’s friends devotion to him was a bromance worth reading.
4. Enduring love. Knox and Harlow may have taken different routes in life, but their love for one another was the tether connecting them across seven years.
5. Grey. As the sister of Knox’s roommate, she has her own story, which is book 1 of the series, and I can’t wait to dive into it.

Bottom Line
To the Stars is an honest portrayal of abuse, love, and breaking free.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: To the Stars
Series: Thatch #2
Author: Mollyl McAdams
Publisher: WilliamMorrow
Release Date: February 10, 2016
Pages: 387
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Molly McAdams

Author Molly McAdams

About the Author
Molly grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband, daughter, and fur babies.

When she’s not diving into the world of her characters, some of her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling, and long walks on the beach … which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes.

She has a weakness for crude-humored movies and fried pickles, and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm … or under one in a bathtub if there are tornadoes. That way she can pretend they aren’t really happening.

Where to Find Molly McAdams
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr

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Giveaway
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Book Review + Giveaway – Dog Collar Knockoff (Lucie Rizzo Mystery) by Adrienne Giordano

Dog Collar Knockoff (Lucie Rizzo Mystery #2) by Adrienne Giordano

Dog Collar Knockoff (Lucie Rizzo Mystery #2) by Adrienne Giordano

4 Stars

Synopsis
Catering to the pampered paws set took Lucie Rizzo from unemployed to entrepreneur. With her dog walking/chic pet accessory business on the verge of success, Lucie’s ready to make a name for herself. One not tarnished by her dad’s mobster rep.

When an art deal she brokered between clients turns suspicious, it’s up to Lucie to sniff out the truth. She might not know the difference between Monet and Manet, but Rizzos are no strangers to jail time—and Lucie refuses to be someone’s prison bitch.

Unless that someone is a tall, blond and Irish cop. Detective Tim O’Brien certainly knows how to get Lucie hot under the rhinestone collar. And with her on-again-off-again relationship with Frankie Falcone currently off, O’Brien isn’t shy about making her feel wanted, mafia ties and all. Even joining her crack—or crackpot—team on the trail of two paintings with equally shady origins.

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My Review
The second book in the Lucie Rizzo mystery series picks up not long after the end of the first one, but a lot has happened in that time. Lucie and Frankie are broken up, this time at Frankie’s insistence. Lucie’s budding business of dog walking and high-end pet accessories is taking off, so much so, she’s hired an assistant. Her young apprentice is an art major and notices some famous paintings hanging in the homes of Lucie’s clients, raising concerns about their authenticity. Most of the book centers around this mystery, especially with her on-again-off-again relationship with Frankie in the off position. But the young, hot detective who helped her out in the first book is still hanging around, and his interest in Lucie might not be one-sided.

Plot
The mystery is the main plot and it moves much faster than in the first novel. And while the author lets on pretty early what’s going on, there were a couple of really good unexpected twists. Lucie’s love triangle is a strong subplot and particularly well done. I neither love nor hate love triangles as a whole, but I do loathe poorly executed ones. Luckily that’s not the case here. Both guys have merit and both are easy to love. Lucie’s conundrum is wholly believable.

Characters
I love that both Lucie and Frankie went through some character development in this book. In a lot of mystery series’ the characters are stagnant, but not with this series. The cast is still a lovable bunch of colorful goofballs, but they’re more meaty than stereotypical. Lucie is introspective and knows she has a bunch of stuff to figure out, and it’s great that she doesn’t take the easy way out. Of anything.

Ending
I didn’t seen the ending coming and I’m happy with the way this chapter of Lucie’s life is wrapped up. I’m fully onboard with the Lucie Rizzo Mysteries now and looking forward to the next one.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Lack of grippiness.
 If that’s even a word. I never really felt like Lucie was ever in any danger. It’s a fun read, but a little more edge-of-your-seat moments would have made this a real page-turner.

What I Enjoyed About Dog Collar Knockoff
1. The pacing.
 This second book in the series moved at a faster clip than the first, which made it a fun, fast read.
2. Chemistry. As much as I loved the Lucie/Frankie chemistry in the first book, I can’t deny she and Tim have their own sizzle. Adrienne Giordano writes a really believable love triangle.
3. The dogs. In the first book, I almost thought there were too many dogs. I mean, she’s a dog walker, but I still felt like I spent an inordinate amount of time reading about dogs taking a dump. This time, I actually looked forward to Lucie’s time with them. They’ve grown on me the way my own four-legged friend has. The one we got for the kids who has decided I’m his person and I’ve reluctantly accepted that.
4. Ro and Joey. These two will either kill each other or wind up together. If Joey was taking bets on his own life, the odds would be 50/50.
5. The mystery. The mystery was very different than the first one, and was well executed, which isn’t always easy to do.

Bottom Line
The second book in the series is even better than the first and I’m looking forward to the release of the third.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Dog Collar Knockoff
Series: Lucie Rizzo Mystery #2
Author: Adrienne Giordano
Publisher: SilverHart Publishing
Release Date: February 9, 2016
Pages: 221
Genre: Cozy Mystery/New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooksKobo

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Author Adrienne Giordano

Author Adrienne Giordano

About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery. 

She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier).

She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction. 

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Where to Find Adrienne Giordano
Goodreads | Website | Newsletter | Street TeamFacebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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Audiobook Review – The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Story: 4 Stars
Audiobook: 5 Stars

Synopsis
An enchanting first novel about love, madness, and Kenny G.

The Silver Linings Playbook is the riotous and poignant story of how one man regains his memory and comes to terms with the magnitude of his wife’s betrayal.

During the years he spends in a neural health facility, Pat Peoples formulates a theory about silver linings: he believes his life is a movie produced by God, his mission is to become physically fit and emotionally supportive, and his happy ending will be the return of his estranged wife, Nikki.

When Pat goes to live with his parents, everything seems changed: no one will talk to him about Nikki; his old friends are saddled with families; the Philadelphia Eagles keep losing, making his father moody; and his new therapist seems to be recommending adultery as a form of therapy.

When Pat meets the tragically widowed and clinically depressed Tiffany, she offers to act as a liaison between him and his wife, if only he will give up watching football, agree to perform in this year’s Dance Away Depression competition, and promise not to tell anyone about their “contract.” All the while, Pat keeps searching for his silver lining.

In this brilliantly written debut novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat’s mind, deftly showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. The result is a touching and funny story that helps us look at both depression and love in a wonderfully refreshing way.

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My Review
After the movie got such rave reviews, I knew I needed to read, or in this case listen to, the book before seeing the movie. I’ll admit, I had a tough time picture Bradley Cooper in the role of Pat Peoples, but I’m anxious to see him portray the troubled character. I had no trouble at all picturing Jennifer Lawrence as the dark and foul-mouthed Tiffany though. I didn’t want to have an expectations going into this story, so I never read the synopsis. I had no idea what the story was about. From the opening lines, I was sucked into Pat’s story. I had no idea what happened to him, why he was in “the bad place”, or even who Nikki was at first.

I never doubted that narrator, Ray Porter, was Pat. He so thoroughly became the character, realistically portraying emotions, doing amazing accents and voicing other characters, I became lost in the story and forgot I was listening to someone read a book rather than watching a movie. Matthew Quick’s debut novel is impressive, filled with well-developed characters, rich descriptions, and intense emotions that kept me riveted.

Plot
This is primarily a story about a man struggling with mental health. His overarching goal is to end “apart time” with his wife, Nikki, and show her how he’s become a better man. He knows she likes strong men, so he works out to the extreme, running, weight lifting, and doing sit-ups until he’s massively bulked-up and fit. It’s clear from the beginning that in addition to emotional issues, he’s got some mental problems. After being released from “the bad place”, he moves in with his parents and slowly pieces his life back together. He resumes relationships with his brother, his best childhood friend, and his mother, although his father is aloof. Through his friend, Ronny, he meets Tiffany, Ronny’s sister-in-law, and the two strike up an odd relationship that transforms both of them in unexpected ways. All of this unfolds against the backdrop of the Philadelphia Eagles football season, with the events ebbing and flowing with the wins and losses of the Eagles.

Characters
The characters are simply amazing. Every single character, no matter how unimportant their role, comes across as three-dimensional, nuanced, and deep. Pat is exceptionally well done as is Tiffany. Pat’s parents, his therapist, even his friends. This is primarily a character-driven story, which is great, because the characters are living, breathing entities.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The pacing. At times, the pacing was too slow. Many events seemed to happen over and over and didn’t feel as if they were moving the story forward, but I was engaged enough, I was easily able to overlook them.

2. The ending. It felt rushed and almost incomplete. Although it wrapped up all the loose ends, I wanted just a little more.

What I Enjoyed About The Silver Linings Playbook
1. The characters. They are so thoroughly well developed, they easily carried the story through some of the slower sections.

2. Tiffany. I instantly loved her. Maybe it’s because she and I share the same vocabulary, but something about her just really struck a chord with me, and I was rooting for her right along with Pat.

3. Football. As an 18-year season ticket holder with the San Diego Chargers, I could really relate so much to the excitement of the games, rooting for your team, having a favorite player, and how a good or bad game can make or break your mood for days.

4. The narration. Narrator, Ray Porter, was phenomenal, bringing the characters to life. I’d listen to anything he narrates.

5. The themes. I love the idea of finding your own silver lining in any situation. Recently diagnosed with breast cancer, I’m constantly looking for silver linings every day. And finding them.

Bottom Line
The Silver Linings Playbook is the story of mental illness, but also about hope and finding your own silver linings.

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About the Audiobook
Title:
 The Silver Linings Playbook
Author: Matthew Quick
Release Date: October 9th 2008
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Narrators: Ray Porter
Length: 7 Hours 22 Minutes
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Mental Health
Story Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Audio Production Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AudibleAmazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Matthew Quick

Author Matthew Quick

About the Author
Matthew Quick is the New York Times bestselling author of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, which was made into an Oscar-winning film; THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW; LOVE MAY FAIL; and three young adult novels: SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR; BOY21; and FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages, received a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention, was an LA Times Book Prize finalist, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a #1 bestseller in Brazil, and selected by Nancy Pearl as one of Summer’s Best Books for NPR. EVERY EXQUISITE THING will be published in 2016. All of his books have been optioned for film.

Matthew spent the first few years of his life in Philadelphia before being raised just across the Delaware River in Oaklyn, New Jersey. He graduated from Collingswood High School (class of 1992) and La Salle University (class of 1996), where he double-majored in English and secondary education. He taught high school literature and film in southern New Jersey for several years, during which he coached soccer and basketball, chaperoned trips to Peru and Ecuador, initiated a pen-pal exchange with students in Namibia, and counseled troubled teens.

In 2004 Matthew made the difficult decision to leave teaching and write full time. He received his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College in 2007 and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from La Salle University in 2013. He lives with his wife, novelist/pianist Alicia Bessette, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Where to Find Matthew Quick
GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter

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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project) by Karri Thompson

Ascendency Blog Tour

Welcome to the blog tour for Ascendancy, the second book in the young adult science fiction/dystopian romance series, The Van Winkle Project, by Karri Thompson. See below for my review of Mirror X, the first book in the series as well as details on her giveaway, and be sure to check back later in the week for my review of Ascendancy.

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

4 Stars

Synopsis
I was born more than a thousand years ago. Put into a cryogenic tube at age seventeen, forgotten during a holocaust that decimated the world, I’ve finally been awakened to a more serene and peaceful future.

But things at the hospital are new and strange. And it’s starting to scare me.

Everyone is young. Everyone is banded and tracked. And everyone is keeping secrets.

The cute geneticist Michael Bennett might be the only good thing in this crazy new world where “life is precious” but no one seems free to live it. The problem is, I don’t think he’s being totally honest with me, either.

When I’m told only I can save the human race from extinction, it’s clear my freeze didn’t avoid a dreadful fate. It only delayed the horror…

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My Review
Fellow young adult dystopian and San Diego author, Karri Thompson’s, novel intrigued me. The concept of a young woman frozen for more than 1,000 years, waking to a new world order is such a fascinating idea, I couldn’t wait to dig into it. The story weaves, bends, and twists through more than 350 pages of surprises, danger, and righteous indignation.

I thought it took a little long to really get going, but there are a lot of changes in the world Cassie wakes up in. Cassie, along with the reader, are slowly introduced to these changes, each new piece of information building upon the previous pieces. Just when we think we finally have a grasp of the situation, the author gives us a little more information, challenging everything we thought we knew. One of my favorite parts of the writing is the way Karri Thompson continually changes the playing field, keeping her characters and readers guessing.

Plot
The plot revolves around Cassie’s unique role in the world, and whether she’ll willingly embrace it, or succumb to it kicking and screaming. She vacillates a lot on exactly how she feels about what’s going on. Sometimes, I feel as if she’s too quick to give these people a pass and reason away their behavior. Other times, she’s the scared seventeen-year-old I expect her to be. There’s also a strong romantic plot that weaves through the story and drives many of her decisions.

Characters
I straight up didn’t care at all for Michael, the young doctor Cassie is instantly attracted to. He rubbed me the wrong way from the start and never redeemed himself in my eyes. Cassie is pretty believable as the conflicted teen in a Buck Rogers situation, but there were times I thought she didn’t seem as overwhelmed by her situation as I thought she should have been. The supporting characters are really my favorites. They’re all fascinating and easy to love or hate, depending on their role in the story.

Ending
The ending was yet another twist I never saw coming, but wrapped up the main story of Mirror X well, leaving plenty open for a sequel, without being a cliffhanger. That can be tough to do, but I feel as if the author pulled it off well.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The romance.
It felt forced from the very beginning. When Cassie wakes up more than a thousand years in the future, her immediate attraction to her young doctor seems to overshadow what should be grief over the loss of her family, friends, and way of life. Michael’s obsession with Cassie always came across as kind of creepy to me. There wasn’t any chemistry between the two of them. And the way Michael continually lied to her makes him completely unredeemable as boyfriend material in my eyes. I kept hoping for something romantic to develop between Cassie and Magnum, though, but their relationship is more like siblings. Too bad, because they have a truckload of chemistry.
2. 31st century Earth. I never fully was able to wrap my head around what the world looked like, particularly the buildings. All I really know is there’s not much vegetation, but I had a hard time picturing what this world looked like through the descriptions provided.
3. Cassie’s introduction into the new world. As I stated above, she put her attraction to Michael front and center. I would have liked her to struggle more with the new world she’s found herself in. I never got a sense of the utter devastation and hopelessness over her situation I was expecting. She’s experienced something no one can really relate to, so I would have liked the deeper psychological aspects to have been more thoroughly explored.

What I Enjoyed about Mirror X
1. The surprises.
There were so many twists and turns, I never knew what was coming next and that was so much fun to read.
2. The emotions. Where I felt the story was lacking when it came to Cassie’s response to the new world she finds herself in, the writing shines when Cassie is dealing with the emotions surrounding her role in the 31st century. Not only is she unique in that she was born in the early 2000s, but she possess an ability no one else in the future has. This ability drives the plot and her reactions to her expected role are raw and palpable.
3. Technology. There is some fascinating technology in Mirror X and Karri Thompson does a great job of helping us understand the role of this technology in the world she’s created.
4. The secondary characters. Magnum, Travel, and a whole host of other characters are intriguing and colorful and really brought the story to life.
5. Magnum. The technology whiz kid was easily my favorite character in the book. He’s a breath of 31st century fresh air!

Bottom Line
Mirror X is an interesting scifi/dystopian adventure with some unique aspects. I’m interested to see where this series goes.

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About the Book
Title: 
Mirror X
Series: The Van Winkle Project #1
Author: 
Kerri Thompson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 30, 2014
Pages: 360
Genre: 
Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Karri Thompson

Author Karri Thompson

About the Author
Growing up in San Diego, California, Karri Thompson spent much of her years at the beach, reading novels, tanning, and listening to music.

At SDSU, she earned a BA in English, MA in education, and her teaching credential. As a wife, mother, and high-school English teacher, she began writing novels, giving all of the compelling plots and unique characters in her head a home.

Victorian literature rocks her socks, and when she’s not writing, jogging, going to concerts, or watching her son play football, she’s reading Dickens.

Where to find Karri Thompson
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Tumblr | Pinterest

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Not Okay Cupid (High School Heartbreakers) by Heidi R. Kling

Not Okay Cupid (High School Heartbreakers #1) by Heidi R. Kling

Not Okay Cupid (High School Heartbreakers #1) by Heidi R. Kling

4 Stars

Synopsis
Her wicked revenge, or his wicked heart…

Hazel McCallister loves her life. Perfect grades. Perfect best friend. Perfect boyfriend. Until her perfect boyfriend cheats on her with her perfect best friend. Now Hazel’s in free fall—until her best friend’s brother, Felix, gives her the perfect idea. Reclaim her power by taking revenge on her cheating ex.

Felix James loves his life. Casual relationships. Loads of surfing. He’s as drama-free as they come. But he can’t stand by when his sister steals her best friend’s boyfriend, and the dude insists it was Hazel’s fault. So Felix vows to help turn Hazel into a girl her ex can’t resist—so then she can break his heart.

With an alliance in place, Hazel’s revenge is all but assured. But with each piece of payback, she feels a stronger attraction to Felix, even though revenge will turn her into a girl Felix could never be with. And soon Hazel has to make an impossible choice: revenge…or Felix, the boy who’s stolen her heart.

WARNING! This book contains betrayal, revenge, and that most tempting vice of all, the bad boy you know you can’t have.

My Review
This had teen angst written all over it, which is right up my alley, and I was not disappointed. Hazel is heartbroken when her boyfriend cheats on her with her best friend, Kimmy. When Kimmy’s older brother, Felix, comes up with a plan to get back at the two cheaters, Hazel’s heartbreak turns to anger and she’s ready for revenge. Things go from zero to awkward in under a minute when Hazel and Felix share a steamy kiss in the cafeteria to prove a point. Lifelong friends with a complicated relationship, each begin to see the other in a new light. But this is teen romance, so there is no easy path to happiness. Hazel thinks Felix is a player, and Felix thinks he’s not good enough for Hazel, regardless of their budding feelings for one another.

Plot
The plot centers around Felix and Hazel’s relationship and their revenge plot. Even though the reader is perfectly aware these two belong together, the assumptions and miscommunication drives conflict. It’s not especially groundbreaking and there’s no real plot twist, but it’s a satisfying fun, fast read.

Characters
I liked Felix and Hazel, and they were both well developed. At times, though, they sounded too much alike. Told from dual points of view, I found them thinking in similar patterns and using the same phrases far too often for such different people. On the other hand, best friend, Kimmy, and ex-boyfriend, Jay, were harder to believe. I know best friends steal boyfriends, but Kimmy never came across as developed enough for me to really understand what drove her to do that. And Jay never made sense to me. I never understood why Hazel would ever date him, much less want him back. He was pretty two-dimensional.

Ending
I liked the way the story wrapped up, that it wasn’t an easy path to get there, and that might have been the only real surprise for me.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Hazel/Jay.
 I don’t see these two being together at all and Hazel seemed to get over him rather quickly.
2. Dueling POVs. As I mentioned above, the two characters sounded too much like each other, I often had to look back to see who it was.
3. Flat Supporting Characters. I never saw Kimmy and Jay as real people. They served a purpose in the story, but they didn’t get any real development.

What I Enjoyed About Not Okay Cupid
1. Felix/Hazel.
 These two had a ton of chemistry from the opening scene, even before the whole cheating thing teamed them up.
2. Angsty romance. My favorite kind and this one had it in spades.
3. Revenge. Although the main plot was about extracting revenge, it didn’t unfold as planned, and that made the ultimate revenge so much sweeter.
4. The locales. Living in So. Cal, even though the seaside town was fictional, I could totally picture as any of the beach communities near here, which added a sense of realism.
5. High school drama. It’s nice to know that some things never change, no matter how long it’s been since I graduated.

Bottom Line
Not Okay Cupid is a sweet romance that manages to contain a fair amount of heat. A fun, fast read.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Not Okay Cupid
Series: High School Heartbreakers #1
Author: Heidi R. Kling
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: January 11, 2016
Pages: 234
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Entangled

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Author Heidi R. Kling

Author Heidi R. Kling

About the Author
Heidi Kling writes fantasy novels set in a contemporary world and contemporary novels about girls in fantastic situations. The bestselling Spellspinners series (Coliloquy/Vook), is nine-book series leading with Witch’s Brew. The Gleaning, Devil’s Frost and Beautiful Monster are out now with more adventures to follow. Her debut contemporary, Sea (Penguin), was an IndieNext Pick, Northern California Book of the Year nominee, Gateway Reader’s Award choice and Scholastic Readers Pick.

Her forthcoming contemporary novel, Paint My Body Red, launches with Entangled Teen Fall, 2015. Told in dual narratives, several more installments are planned in this “Romeo and Juliet with magic” series readers compare to stories by LJ Smith, Cassandra Clare and Melissa de la Cruz.

After earning her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School, she returned to her native California. She lives with her husband, two children and the cutest accidental puppy mix ever, Sailor Lily, just over the coastal mountains from the sea.

Where to Find Heidi R. Kling
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterTwitter | Tumblr

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Giveaway
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Month in Review – December 2015

Two weeks late, but you know, the holidays… Also, some front yard landscaping, and Aussie exchange student for eleven days, and final edits and publishing of The Uprising (which comes out on Tuesday!). Better late than never. Here are the books I read and reviewed in December, 2015.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Story: 4 Stars
Audiobook: 5 Stars

Title: Gone Girl
Author: 
Gillian Flynn
Release Date: 
May 24, 2012
Publisher:
Random House Audible
Narrators:
Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne
Length:
19 Hours 11 Minutes
Genre:
 Contemporary Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
Story Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Audio Production Rating:
 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AudibleAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.

Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Bottom Line
Gone Girl is a disturbing tale, beautifully written, and the audiobook version is one of the best produced I’ve ever listened to.

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Bad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

4 Stars

Title: Bad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel
Author: 
Jen McLauchlin
Publisher: 
Loveswept
Release Date: 
September 15, 2015
Pages:
242
Genre: 
New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Synopsis
In this explosive novel from New York Times bestselling author Jen McLaughlin, a good girl falls for the ultimate bad boy: her stepbrother. Perfect for fans of Sabrina Paige, Caitlin Daire, and Krista Lakes, Bad Romance proves that passion can be so wrong it’s right.

Seven years in the army will change a guy. But after a shoulder wound ends his career as a sniper, Jackson Worthington finds himself back home, fighting a battle that’s all too familiar: keeping his hands off Lily Hastings. She’s still her rich daddy’s little angel, innocent, impossibly lovely, as squeaky-clean as Jackson is dirty. And she’s still his stepsister—forbidden but not forgotten, not after the soul-melting kiss that got him kicked out of the house at eighteen. He couldn’t resist her then. How the hell can he resist her now?

Lily is about to marry a man she doesn’t love, and commit to a high-stress job she hates, all to please the father who controls every waking moment of her life. On top of everything, her teenage crush is back, with a sleek, chiseled body and a trace of the rebellious boy whose lips sealed her fate. Jackson’s timing couldn’t be worse . . . or better. Because Lily’s all grown up, too. She’s aching for another taste. And for the first time, she’s ready to be a bad girl.

Bottom Line
Bad Romance is a page-turning romance about forbidden love and learning to live your own life.

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Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

4.5 Stars

Title: Royal Marriage Market
Author: Heather Lyons
Publisher: Cerulean Books
Release Date: December 15, 2015
Pages: 335
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
Every decade, the world’s monarchs and their heirs secretly convene to discuss global politics and social issues—and arrange marriages between kingdoms. Elsa may be the Hereditary Princess of Vattenguldia, but she finds the entire situation archaic and unsavory. While she wants what’s best for her country, she isn’t about to jump into an unwanted relationship—let alone a marriage—with a virtual stranger. Of course, her feelings matter little to her parents, whose wheeling and dealings over trade pacts and alliances achieved at her expense begin the moment they set foot in California for the Summit. So when a blindingly handsome royal runs into her, she doesn’t hesitate to tell him there’s no way she’s marrying him.

Christian is all too happy to agree: no marriage. As the Hereditary Grand Duke of Aiboland, his main goal is to get through the summit without a bride being foisted on him. Which is why he suggests they help each other field potential intendeds. As Christian slowly gets to know Elsa, though, he realizes they have a lot more in common than just their feelings about the Royal Marriage Market. Only he can’t fall for her, because royal or not, they’re not meant for each other. Elsa and Christian will have to evaluate matters of the heart verses those of state and crown, and decide whether or not tradition trumps love.

Bottom Line
Royal Marriage Market is a fun twist on the contemporary romance genre with plenty of chemistry and more than a few laughs.

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The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer's Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

3.5 Stars

Title: The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus: An Interactive Guide for Developing Ideas for Novels and Short Stories
Author: Fred White
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Pages: 320
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Endless ideas at your fingertips, and at the turn of a page…

Need an idea for a short story or novel? Look no further than The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus. It’s far more than a collection of simple writing prompts. You’ll find a vast treasury of story ideas inside, organized by subject, theme, and situation categories, and listed alphabetically for easy reference. Author and award-winning writing instructor Fred White shows you how to build out and customize these ideas to create unique plots that reflect your personal storytelling sensibilities, making The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus an invaluable tool for generating creative ideas and vanquishing writer’s block—for good.

Inside you’ll find:
•2,000 unique and dynamic story ideas perfect for novels and short stories of any genre or writing style
•Twenty major idea categories, such as The Invasion of X, The Transformation of X into Y, Escape from X, The Curse of X, and more
•Multiple situations that further refine the major categories, such as The Creation of Artificial Life, The Descent Into Madness, Love in the Workplace, The Journey to a Forgotten Realm, and more
•Invaluable advice on how to customize each idea.

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus is an interactive story generator that opens the door to thousands of new story arcs and plotlines.

 Bottom Line
The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus lives up to its name as a unique reference guide to aid writers in developing story ideas.

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Next Door to a Star (Star Series) by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

Next Door to a Star by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

Next Door to a Star by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

4 Stars

Title: Next Door to a Star
Series: Star Series #1
Author:
Krysten Lindsay Hagar
Publisher: Limitless Publishing, LLC
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 185
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon InternationalBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | BAM!

Synopsis
Hadley Daniels is tired of feeling invisible. After Hadley’s best friend moves away and she gets on the bad side of some girls at school, she goes to spend the summer with her grandparents in the Lake Michigan resort town of Grand Haven. Her next door neighbor is none other than teen TV star Simone Hendrickson, who is everything Hadley longs to be—pretty, popular, and famous—and she’s thrilled when Simone treats her like a friend. Being popular is a lot harder than it looks.

It’s fun and flattering when Simone includes her in her circle, though Hadley is puzzled about why her new friend refuses to discuss her former Hollywood life. Caught up with Simone, Hadley finds herself ignoring her quiet, steadfast friend, Charlotte. To make things even more complicated, along comes Nick Jenkins… He’s sweet, good-looking, and Hadley can be herself around him without all the fake drama. However, the mean girls have other ideas and they fill Nick’s head with lies about Hadley, sending him running back to his ex-girlfriend and leaving Hadley heartbroken.

So when her parents decide to relocate to Grand Haven, Hadley hopes things will change when school starts…only to be disappointed once again. Cliques. Back-stabbing. Love gone bad. Is this really what it’s like to live…Next Door To A Star?

Bottom Line
While Next Door to a Star moves slow at times, it’s filled with a colorful cast of young teens who think and act like the kids on the cusp of adulthood they are.
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Book Review – Bad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

4 Stars

Synopsis
In this explosive novel from New York Times bestselling author Jen McLaughlin, a good girl falls for the ultimate bad boy: her stepbrother. Perfect for fans of Sabrina Paige, Caitlin Daire, and Krista Lakes, Bad Romance proves that passion can be so wrong it’s right.

Seven years in the army will change a guy. But after a shoulder wound ends his career as a sniper, Jackson Worthington finds himself back home, fighting a battle that’s all too familiar: keeping his hands off Lily Hastings. She’s still her rich daddy’s little angel, innocent, impossibly lovely, as squeaky-clean as Jackson is dirty. And she’s still his stepsister—forbidden but not forgotten, not after the soul-melting kiss that got him kicked out of the house at eighteen. He couldn’t resist her then. How the hell can he resist her now?

Lily is about to marry a man she doesn’t love, and commit to a high-stress job she hates, all to please the father who controls every waking moment of her life. On top of everything, her teenage crush is back, with a sleek, chiseled body and a trace of the rebellious boy whose lips sealed her fate. Jackson’s timing couldn’t be worse . . . or better. Because Lily’s all grown up, too. She’s aching for another taste. And for the first time, she’s ready to be a bad girl.

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My Review
Anyone who follows my reviews knows I love a good angsty forbidden romance, and what’s more forbidden than a stepbrother? Granted, they don’t meet until they’re teens and aren’t really raised as siblings, but there is still something salacious about it.

Jackson and Lilly are both messed up in very different ways. Jackson was abandoned by his father at a young age and he’s always felt like a burden to his mother. Lilly has been the apple of daddy’s eye her entire life, which he’s scripted for her. Everything from her career to whom she’ll marry is out of her control.

Jackson acts out, and an off-limits Lilly is the perfect act of defiance. Lilly always behaves the way she’s expected, never making her own choices, until Jackson. She wants him. The story is filled with lies, a few surprises, and intense emotions. 

Plot
It’s a straight-up story of forbidden love. With so many things keeping these two apart, it seems at times like they’ll be insurmountable. Although the reader knows Jackson and Lilly belong together, Jackson’s self-loathing and Lilly’s sense of duty at times make us question if they really do. The plot moves at a steady pace and there aren’t a lot of twists, but there are a few surprises that keep it from being just another contemporary romance.

Characters
Jackson and Lilly are well-developed, complex characters. Lilly experiences more growth through the story than Jackson, and I would have liked a little more from him. Their parents, on the other hand, seem a bit cliche at times, which works well for the plot. For a story light on characters, it would have been nice to find out more about why their abominable parents are the way they are, but that didn’t detract in any way from my enjoyment of the romance.

Ending
I thought the ending was almost anticlimactic. There’s a big event that leads up to the end that was unexpectedly awesome. I’m not disappointed, but I thought the actual ending lacked the same punch the climax held. I will say the conclusion was more than satisfying, though, and that’s all I can ask for.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Too much waffling.
 I found Lilly to annoying at times. I totally understood her motivation, but she seemed to waffle on it a lot. Like way more than necessary.
2. Repetition. There were times I felt like we revisited the same issues over and over again.

What I Enjoyed About Bad Romance
1. Loyalty.
 Jackson’s loyalty to his country, to Lilly. Lilly’s loyalty to Jackson, her father, the people who work for her father’s company. Both of them were good people which helped me overlook some of their annoyingness.
2. First loves. There’s a sweetness underlying the sexual chemistry of Jackson and Lilly that took their love story to another level for me.
3. Forbidden love. One of my favorite types of romances.
4. The angst. Another one of my favorite romantic elements.
5. Passion. There was so much passion between Jackson and Lilly it became almost its own character in the story.

Bottom Line
Bad Romance is a page-turning romance about forbidden love and learning to live your own life.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Bad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel
Author: Jen McLauchlin
Publisher: Loveswept
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Pages: 242
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Author Jen McLaughlin

Author Jen McLaughlin

About the Author
Jen McLaughlin is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of sexy books with Penguin Random House. Under her pen name, Diane Alberts, she is also a USA TODAY bestselling author of Contemporary Romance with Entangled Publishing. Her first release as Jen McLaughlin, Out of Line, hit the New York TimesUSA TODAY and Wall Street Journal lists. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestselling lists. She is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.

Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal-clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, and four cats. Her goal is to write so many well-crafted romance books that even a non-romance reader will know her name.

Where to Find Jen McLaughlin
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Next Door to a Star (Star Series) by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

Next Door to a Star Blog Tour

Next Door to a Star (Star Series #1) by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

Next Door to a Star (Star Series #1) by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

4 Stars

Synopsis
Hadley Daniels is tired of feeling invisible.

After Hadley’s best friend moves away and she gets on the bad side of some girls at school, she goes to spend the summer with her grandparents in the Lake Michigan resort town of Grand Haven. Her next door neighbor is none other than teen TV star Simone Hendrickson, who is everything Hadley longs to be—pretty, popular, and famous—and she’s thrilled when Simone treats her like a friend.

Being popular is a lot harder than it looks.

It’s fun and flattering when Simone includes her in her circle, though Hadley is puzzled about why her new friend refuses to discuss her former Hollywood life. Caught up with Simone, Hadley finds herself ignoring her quiet, steadfast friend, Charlotte.

To make things even more complicated, along comes Nick Jenkins…

He’s sweet, good-looking, and Hadley can be herself around him without all the fake drama. However, the mean girls have other ideas and they fill Nick’s head with lies about Hadley, sending him running back to his ex-girlfriend and leaving Hadley heartbroken.

So when her parents decide to relocate to Grand Haven, Hadley hopes things will change when school starts…only to be disappointed once again.

Cliques. Back-stabbing. Love gone bad.

Is this really what it’s like to live…Next Door To A Star?

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My Review
I’ll admit I wasn’t sure about this book at first. I almost gave up on it, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Krysten Lindsay Hagar has created a very convincing young teen. The voice is so youthful, I had to remind myself and adult wrote it. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is solid, but the character comes across as relatively immature, which is normal for a girl her age. My issue was that I didn’t much care for Hadley. She was insecure and shallow. Both of those are also very legitimate trates in a fourteen or fifteen-year-old girl, which made it difficult to really care what happened to Hadley.

I was ambivalent at best over whether or not she made new friends, got to meet her idol, or hang out with the popular girls. But see that’s just the thing, girls that age grow up a lot and change as a result of that growth. Because Hadley was so difficult to like in the beginning, for me, her development was that much more rewarding.

Plot
This is basically the story of a girl trying to fit in. When her best, and really only, friend moves away, Hadley realizes no one else in her small school wants her around. Eager for a fresh start, she spends the summer by the lake with her grandparents who just happen to live next to, Simone, a girl who used to star on a teen soap that sounds a bit of Dawson’s Creek. Simone only reluctantly spends time with Hadley, preferring her popular friends, the story of Hadley’s life. Charlotte, the butt of many jokes by the cool kids, is willing to spend time with Hadley, which means Hadley’s less interested. She blows Charlotte off time and again to be with Simone instead, even though Simone stands her up repeatedly. This is when I really didn’t like Hadley. But Hadley learns a lesson about what matters and her growth is organic, logically flowing from the events in her life.

Characters
Other than disliking most of the characters, they are very believable as the often shallow, messed up young teens they are. In fact, Hadley is one of the most authentic young teen characters I’ve read in awhile. Because of that, I’m really glad I’m not a teen any more. I’d forgotten how mean they can be to one another, how much image matters, and how rude they can be without remorse.

Ending
The ending wasn’t earth shattering, but it was definitely worth sticking through the story for. Watching Hadley, Simone, and some of the other girls really grow and become more self-aware gave me hope for their generation (one my fifteen-year-old daughter is a member of).

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The pacing.
 There were too many times when the story just moved way too slow for me. Hadley would go into town and get ice cream at least a dozen times and nothing much seemed to happen as a result. There seemed to be a lot of events that didn’t advance the plot.
2. Black holes. A couple of things I thought would lead to something else, never did, leaving me scratching my head as to why they were mentioned.
3. The epiphany. Hadley realizes something in a pretty big moment, but the way it unfolds came across as odd to me.

What I Enjoyed About Next Door to a Star
1. The author’s voice.
 Hadley comes across as so authentic, there are times I still can’t believe it was written by an adult.
2. The friendship dynamics. So much of the fighting among teen girls, not being allowed to like a boy because one of your friends liked him first, not being able to talk to someone because someone else is pissed at them, the shifting loyalties and jockeying for position, took me straight back to my own teen years. More middle school than high school, but it definitely went on until graduation in some form or another.
3. First kisses. The romance was super sweet because of the ages of the characters, but I thought the emotions the author brought to it were spot on.
4. The character development. They had a lot of room to grow, and grow they did. Their growth all seemed to be a logical progression of the events in their lives and never felt forced.
5. The entertainment angle. It’s refreshing to read a young adult novel about show business that gives us the less pleasant side of it. Simon’s experiences were realistic and not sugar-coated.

Bottom Line
While Next Door to a Star moves slow at times, it’s filled with a colorful cast of young teens who think and act like the kids on the cusp of adulthood they are.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: 
Next Door to a Star
Series: Star Series #1
Author:
Krysten Lindsay Hagar
Publisher: Limitless Publishing, LLC
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 185
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon InternationalBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | BAM!

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Author Krysten Lindsay Hagar

Author Krysten Lindsay Hagar

About the Author
Krysten Lindsay Hager is a young adult author who writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, celebs, and values. She writes the Landry’s True Colors Series and the new Star Series. Best Friends…Forever? was ranked at #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Teen & Young Adult Values & Virtues Fiction.

Her work has been featured in USA Today and on Living Dayton. Coming soon in early 2016: Landry in Like (Landry’s True Colors Book 3) out on January 12, 2016 and Competition with the Star (The Star Series).

Where to find Krysten Lindsay Hagar
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Pinterest | Google+

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Review – New Subscription Service – Playster (Books, Music, Movies, Games)

Playster Subscription Serivce

4 Stars As someone who has Kindle Unlimited, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Pandora, and makes regular visits to my local RedBox, I was excited to find out about Playster. Playster boasts the world’s most diverse digital catalogue, and considering they provide eBooks, audiobooks, music, movies, and game, that’s probably a fair statement, although it’s unlikely they have the most diverse catalogue in each category. Still, with the temporary account Playster provided me to evaluate their service, I was impressed with the content they have available. Current releases in each category are available along with classics. Playster is still in beta mode, but you can get a free thirty-day subscription to check it out.

Overview
Playster is the world’s first all-inclusive online entertainment service, bringing together music, movies, books and games into a single subscription. The service boasts millions of titles in all genres across every media platform, from timeless classics to the newest blockbusters.

Playster’s extensive media library gives users instant, unrestricted access to a wide variety of relevant and exciting titles from anywhere in the world, with the North American and European markets benefiting from the strongest array of content. As well as providing members with the biggest names in entertainment, Playster also offers a social experience and a powerful platform on which to discover new niches.

Playster works on virtually any web-enabled device, and has a limitless potential for growth. Currently in BETA, the Playster app is set to launch in the summer of 2015, paving the way for the service to become the most complete portable entertainment experience on the market.

Playster Books

What I Liked
1. Extensive library. 
Playster has a lot to choose from, and I’m told new content is being added weekly. Many of the books in their library are not available on Kindle Unlimited. Playster is working with top content providers, including HarperCollins, Simon & Shuster, and Harlequin. They’ve also teamed up with distributor, Digital Entertainment Group, allowing Playster’s subscribers to gain access to DEG’s extensive collection of movies, music, television shows, and video games.

2. Cost. At $25/month, it’s a pretty good value. If you have both Audible and Kindle Unlimited subscriptions, you’re already paying that much without the music, movies, and games. If you only have Kindle Unlimited and Netflix, you’re almost at that without the audiobooks, music, and games. And if you only have a gaming subscription service, you’re likely paying close to $20/month without books, music, or movies. If you sign up for a full year at $25/month, they’ll send you a tablet and a set of headphones for free. And, if you want to add a second household member to your account, it’s only an additional $10/month.

3. Indie authors. One of the best things about Kindle Unlimited is the ability to discover an amazing array of indie authors. Some of my favorite books are written by indies, so I don’t want to give that up. Playster works with indie authors, so readers and writers alike benefit. If you’re an indie author, be sure to check out their page on how to get your books included in the Playster library.

4. Intuitive user interface. The site couldn’t be any easier to use. There is nothing complicated or confusing about it. Click on the desired category and select the book, movie, TV show, song, game, or audiobook you want. It’s as simple as that.

5. Donation to charity. A portion of the proceeds from your subscription is donated to Unicef. So while you get unlimited access to a plethora of entertainment options, you’re helping mothers and babies in some of the poorest countries around the world.

What I Didn’t Like
1. Limited ability to download. 
Currently, you need internet access to use most of the services, with the exception of ebooks which can be downloaded. Unless you have unlimited data, listening to an eBook while you walk the dog can end up being rather expensive. This also means if you want to download a movie to your tablet to watch on the plane or to entertain the kids on the long drive to Grandma’s, you can’t. At least not yet. A representative from Playster told me there’s a possibility that other media types will be available in the future for offline use, but no timeline is currently available for this functionality.

2. Limited mobile support. An Android app is currently available, but I wasn’t able to test it since I don’t have an Android device. An iOS app is currently under review by Apple. I’ll be able to comment on this functionality after I’ve had a chance to try it.

3. Cost. This is both a positive and a negative. It’s a good value for what you get, but if you don’t use all the features, you could end up paying a lot for the services you do access.

Bottom Line
Playster is an intriguing entry into the subscription marketplace, offering a lot of variety, but it’s not quite time to cancel your other services just yet. If and when Playster offers offline capabilities, the marketplace is about to get crazy competitive.

About Playster
Website: Playster.com
Cost: $24.95/month with a free 30-day trial
Services: eBooks, audiobooks, music, games, movies, TV shows
Limitations: Internet access required
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Website | Authors & Publishers | Facebook  | Twitter

Month in Review – November 2015

Since I decided to give NaNoWriMo another go this year, I didn’t get as much reading done as I normally would. Still, sixteen hours in a car, travelling to Northern California and back, provided some much-needed reading time last week. Here are the books I reviewed in November:

Return Once More by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

4 Stars

About the Book
Title
: Return Once More
Series: The Historians #1
Author: Trisha Leigh
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Pages: 289
Category: Young Adult SciFi/Time Travel/Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes and Noble | Bloomsbury

Synopsis
If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.

If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?

Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroymore than just her new romance.

Or would you have the strength to watch him die?

But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

Bottom Line
Return Once More is an engaging time travel scifi romance with an intricate plot and intriguing characters.

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Rival Love (Rival Love Series) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

4 Stars

Title: Rival Love
Series:
Rival Love #1
Author: 
Natalie Decker
Publisher:
 Swoon Romance
Release Date: 
August 26, 2014
Pages:
286
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
Skylar Fletcher is a proud Harris Academy Bulldog! She has everything she’s ever wanted: a perfect boyfriend, great friends, and her dream college waiting for her in the fall. But nothing lasts forever. Skylar’s world shatters when her mom decides it’s time to move and drags Skylar, kicking and screaming, into Bobcat territory.

At Delmont High School, home of the Bobcats, Skylar has no friends and is often bullied. To make matters worse, her home life sucks thanks to all-star quarterback Caleb Morgan, nephew of her mom’s live-in boyfriend.

At first, Skylar and Caleb want nothing to do with one another. But they soon discover they’re not that different after all–and each is harboring a secret attraction to the other. But can a Bulldog and a Bobcat ever really be more than friends? And are Skylar and Caleb willing to risk everything to find out?

Rival Love is a debut young adult contemporary romance from Natalie Decker.

Bottom Line
Rival Love is an contemporary teen romance with themes of bullying, belonging, and finding love and acceptance for who you are.

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Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

3.5 Stars

Title: Never Trust a Happy Song
Author: 
Natalie Bina
Release Date: March 14, 2015
Pages: 180
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
When Cassidy Diamond is admitted to a prestigious summer program at Stanford University, she looks forward to being surrounded by people just like herself: smart, studious, and antisocial.

But when Cassidy is assigned to stay with the Harper family and meets their vivacious and uninhibited daughter Grace, the two girls clash at first sight.

Cassidy is determined to not let Grace distract her from her studies, while Grace wants to show Cassidy that maybe her grades aren’t all she has going for her, and that life might be about more than building the perfect resume.

Bottom Line
Never Trust a Happy Song is a realistic contemporary teen story about learning to let go in order to find yourself.

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The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy Series) by Amy Engel

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

5 Stars

Title: The Revolution of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #2
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoogle Books

Synopsis
**WARNING: Contains spoilers if you haven’t read book one**

Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty–forced marriages and murder plots–for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall’s borders.

But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy’s life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she’s fought for.

 Bottom Line
The Revolution of Ivy moves away from familiar territory, raising the stakes, and finishing the series on a high note.

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Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

2 Stars

Title: Get Yourself Organized for Christmas
Author: Kathi Lipp
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 144
Genre: Organizing/Holidays
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & Noble

Synopsis
Have you lost your Christmas joy? Does the thought of jam-packed malls, maxed-out credit cards, overcrowded supermarkets, and endless to-do lists give you the feeling that maybe Scrooge was on to something?

In Get Yourself Organized for Christmas, Kathi Lipp provides easy-to-follow steps to reduce the stress of the holiday season, including tactics for how to

put together a holiday binder you’ll use year after year determine a budget that won’t break the bank gather your elf supplies get your gift list together (including ideas for various ages and relationships) collect your recipes and prep your kitchen

By putting into practice Kathi’s tricks and tips, you’ll finally be able to fully enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.

Bottom Line
A good book for someone who is really disorganized. If you’re looking for something revolutionary, it’s not here.

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Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

4 Stars

Title: Abby and the Cute One
Series: Backstage Pass #5
Author: Erin Butler
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: November 16, 2015
Pages: 172
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
He’s cute. He’s famous. And he could ruin everything…

Every member of Seconds to Juliet has a girlfriend-except for Nathan Strong. Now the band’s manager is leaning hard on “The Cute One” to play the role of the band’s heartthrob. With the band’s sales in decline, it’s up to Nathan to keep the fans’ fantasy alive.

The plan is to stage a fake relationship and a fake breakup, and then let the fans fight to be the one to mend Nathan’s broken heart. Just one problem. There’s another girl in the picture-one Nathan can’t stay away from. In private, Nathan’s stealing kisses with the band’s new opening act, Abby Curtis.

If they’re caught, no one wins. Abby will be fired, and the band might not recover the success they need to survive. But even with the pressure mounting, Nathan and Abby can’t stop themselves from stealing one more touch, one more kiss. And it’s only a matter of time before it all falls apart.

This Entangled Teen Crush book is as forbidden as the secret romance it contains! It has hot kisses, graphic language, and extreme misbehaving. DO NOT GET CAUGHT WITH THIS BOOK…unless you want everyone to know you believe in true love.

Bottom Line
Abby and the Cute One is a lighthearted contemporary romance that’s as adorable as the characters themselves.

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Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

4 Stars

Title: Mirror X
Series: The Van Winkle Project #1
Author: 
Kerri Thompson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 30, 2014
Pages: 360
Genre: 
Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
I was born more than a thousand years ago. Put into a cryogenic tube at age seventeen, forgotten during a holocaust that decimated the world, I’ve finally been awakened to a more serene and peaceful future.

But things at the hospital are new and strange. And it’s starting to scare me.

Everyone is young. Everyone is banded and tracked. And everyone is keeping secrets.

The cute geneticist Michael Bennett might be the only good thing in this crazy new world where “life is precious” but no one seems free to live it. The problem is, I don’t think he’s being totally honest with me, either.

When I’m told only I can save the human race from extinction, it’s clear my freeze didn’t avoid a dreadful fate. It only delayed the horror…

Bottom Line
Mirror X is an interesting scifi/dystopian adventure with some unique aspects. I’m interested to see where this series goes.

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Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes - Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes – Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

3 Stars

Title: Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme
Authors: Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: October 2, 2015
Pages: 248
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Take a Deep Dive into Plot and Scene and Improve Your Writing

Whether you’re planning your first novel or have already written a first draft, you need to master the concepts of plot and scene to truly realize your story’s potential. “Writing Deep Scenes” teaches you how to write strong, layered, and engaging scenes–the secret to memorable, page-turning plots. It’s filled with practical tools for building layers and nuance into your scenes, employing the right scene types at the right junctures, and developing a profound understanding of how plot and scene intertwine.

Inside you’ll learn: How scenes are comprised of three key layers: action, emotion, and theme.How to recognize each layer and weave them seamlessly into a scene.How to develop an intricate relationship between the action and emotion in every scene.How thematic imagery embedded in scenes increases a story’s tension and contributes to the story’s meaning.Using contemporary examples from a variety of genres, “Writing Deep Scenes” provides an effective method for plotting at the scene level. Use these techniques and enrich your fiction and memoirs with page-turning suspense and pathos, and explore new depths in every story you write.

Bottom Line
Writing Deep Scenes presents solid techniques for developing your plot and creating layered scenes, but the terminology takes a little getting used to.

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Young Adult Book Review – Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

4 Stars

Synopsis
I was born more than a thousand years ago. Put into a cryogenic tube at age seventeen, forgotten during a holocaust that decimated the world, I’ve finally been awakened to a more serene and peaceful future.

But things at the hospital are new and strange. And it’s starting to scare me.

Everyone is young. Everyone is banded and tracked. And everyone is keeping secrets.

The cute geneticist Michael Bennett might be the only good thing in this crazy new world where “life is precious” but no one seems free to live it. The problem is, I don’t think he’s being totally honest with me, either.

When I’m told only I can save the human race from extinction, it’s clear my freeze didn’t avoid a dreadful fate. It only delayed the horror…

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My Review
Fellow young adult dystopian and San Diego author, Karri Thompson’s, novel intrigued me. The concept of a young woman frozen for more than 1,000 years, waking to a new world order is such a fascinating idea, I couldn’t wait to dig into it. The story weaves, bends, and twists through more than 350 pages of surprises, danger, and righteous indignation.

I thought it took a little long to really get going, but there are a lot of changes in the world Cassie wakes up in. Cassie, along with the reader, are slowly introduced to these changes, each new piece of information building upon the previous pieces. Just when we think we finally have a grasp of the situation, the author gives us a little more information, challenging everything we thought we knew. One of my favorite parts of the writing is the way Karri Thompson continually changes the playing field, keeping her characters and readers guessing.

Plot
The plot revolves around Cassie’s unique role in the world, and whether she’ll willingly embrace it, or succumb to it kicking and screaming. She vacillates a lot on exactly how she feels about what’s going on. Sometimes, I feel as if she’s too quick to give these people a pass and reason away their behavior. Other times, she’s the scared seventeen-year-old I expect her to be. There’s also a strong romantic plot that weaves through the story and drives many of her decisions.

Characters
I straight up didn’t care at all for Michael, the young doctor Cassie is instantly attracted to. He rubbed me the wrong way from the start and never redeemed himself in my eyes. Cassie is pretty believable as the conflicted teen in a Buck Rogers situation, but there were times I thought she didn’t seem as overwhelmed by her situation as I thought she should have been. The supporting characters are really my favorites. They’re all fascinating and easy to love or hate, depending on their role in the story.

Ending
The ending was yet another twist I never saw coming, but wrapped up the main story of Mirror X well, leaving plenty open for a sequel, without being a cliffhanger. That can be tough to do, but I feel as if the author pulled it off well.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The romance.
It felt forced from the very beginning. When Cassie wakes up more than a thousand years in the future, her immediate attraction to her young doctor seems to overshadow what should be grief over the loss of her family, friends, and way of life. Michael’s obsession with Cassie always came across as kind of creepy to me. There wasn’t any chemistry between the two of them. And the way Michael continually lied to her makes him completely unredeemable as boyfriend material in my eyes. I kept hoping for something romantic to develop between Cassie and Magnum, though, but their relationship is more like siblings. Too bad, because they have a truckload of chemistry.
2. 31st century Earth. I never fully was able to wrap my head around what the world looked like, particularly the buildings. All I really know is there’s not much vegetation, but I had a hard time picturing what this world looked like through the descriptions provided.
3. Cassie’s introduction into the new world. As I stated above, she put her attraction to Michael front and center. I would have liked her to struggle more with the new world she’s found herself in. I never got a sense of the utter devastation and hopelessness over her situation I was expecting. She’s experienced something no one can really relate to, so I would have liked the deeper psychological aspects to have been more thoroughly explored.

What I Enjoyed about Mirror X
1. The surprises.
There were so many twists and turns, I never knew what was coming next and that was so much fun to read.
2. The emotions. Where I felt the story was lacking when it came to Cassie’s response to the new world she finds herself in, the writing shines when Cassie is dealing with the emotions surrounding her role in the 31st century. Not only is she unique in that she was born in the early 2000s, but she possess an ability no one else in the future has. This ability drives the plot and her reactions to her expected role are raw and palpable.
3. Technology. There is some fascinating technology in Mirror X and Karri Thompson does a great job of helping us understand the role of this technology in the world she’s created.
4. The secondary characters. Magnum, Travel, and a whole host of other characters are intriguing and colorful and really brought the story to life.
5. Magnum. The technology whiz kid was easily my favorite character in the book. He’s a breath of 31st century fresh air!

Bottom Line
Mirror X is an interesting scifi/dystopian adventure with some unique aspects. I’m interested to see where this series goes.

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About the Book
Title: 
Mirror X
Series: The Van Winkle Project #1
Author: 
Kerri Thompson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 30, 2014
Pages: 360
Genre: 
Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Karri Thompson

Author Karri Thompson

About the Author
Growing up in San Diego, California, Karri Thompson spent much of her years at the beach, reading novels, tanning, and listening to music.

At SDSU, she earned a BA in English, MA in education, and her teaching credential. As a wife, mother, and high-school English teacher, she began writing novels, giving all of the compelling plots and unique characters in her head a home.

Victorian literature rocks her socks, and when she’s not writing, jogging, going to concerts, or watching her son play football, she’s reading Dickens.

Where to find Karri Thompson
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Tumblr | Pinterest

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One Blog Tour

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

4 Stars

Synopsis
He’s cute. He’s famous. And he could ruin everything…

Every member of Seconds to Juliet has a girlfriend-except for Nathan Strong. Now the band’s manager is leaning hard on “The Cute One” to play the role of the band’s heartthrob. With the band’s sales in decline, it’s up to Nathan to keep the fans’ fantasy alive.

The plan is to stage a fake relationship and a fake breakup, and then let the fans fight to be the one to mend Nathan’s broken heart. Just one problem. There’s another girl in the picture-one Nathan can’t stay away from. In private, Nathan’s stealing kisses with the band’s new opening act, Abby Curtis.

If they’re caught, no one wins. Abby will be fired, and the band might not recover the success they need to survive. But even with the pressure mounting, Nathan and Abby can’t stop themselves from stealing one more touch, one more kiss. And it’s only a matter of time before it all falls apart.

This Entangled Teen Crush book is as forbidden as the secret romance it contains! It has hot kisses, graphic language, and extreme misbehaving. DO NOT GET CAUGHT WITH THIS BOOK…unless you want everyone to know you believe in true love.

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My Review
Abby and the Cute One is absolutely adorable! The story is a sweet romance with infinitely likeable characters, a healthy dose of stardom and fame, and just enough conflict to keep things interesting. Abby is a sixteen-year-old singing sensation, auditioning to be the opening act for the hot boyband Seconds to Juliet, or S2J. She’s also a huge fan of the group, particularly their youngest member, sixteen year old Nathan, aka “the cute one.” Their meet-cute ends in an amazing kiss — one that can never happen again. Because the band’s manager has big plans for Nathan that involve another girl and solidifying his status as the most eligible of bachelor now that the rest of his bandmates have steady girlfriends.

Plot
The plot is all about Abby and Nathan. They want to be together but can’t. If Nathan acts on his feelings, Abby will be fired as the opening act. Abby wants this chance at her dream almost as much as she wants Nathan. The only thing standing in their way of happiness is the manager and the record label itself. Nathan can’t destroy the band for love. Can he?

Characters
The two main characters are charming, and Erin Butler does an amazing job of letting us get to know the rest of the cast as well, even though I suspect they are all fleshed out in the earlier books in this series. She does such a good with the rest of S2J, as soon as I finished Abby and the Cute One, I rushed out and picked up the other four books in the Backstage Pass series.

There isn’t a lot of character growth, but the cast are all relatively well-rounded. They have their quirks and flaws pretty well established. I’m assuming that the other four guys had their own arcs in the previous books, so that wasn’t a big deal. The character arcs in this book for Abby and Nathan are subtle, but this is a lighthearted romance and what we get is good enough.

Ending
The ending fits the story, it’s equally delightful.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed about Abby and the Cute One:
1. The band angle. It was fun to pretend that S2J is America’s Five Seconds of Summer or One Direction.

2. The bromances. Seeing how the Nathan interacts with the rest of his band is a refreshing break from the Abby/Nathan romance.

3. The realities of fame. I’ve never been one of those people who dreams of being a singer or in a band. In fact, that whole fame thing would never work for me, because there’s no way I could maintain a public persona. I’d open my mouth and something authentically me would pop out and ruin my image. I love how Erin Butler gives us a glimpse of the dark side of fame rather than just the exciting parts. The fact that the guys can’t even go out and buy a hot dog without creating a scene or needing a bodyguard makes the story far more realistic.

4. Sweet romances. It’s rare when any romance involves only mild kissing these days and still maintains some heat.

5. Living the dream. After reading several dystopian stories lately, it’s nice to switch it up with a bright, happy story about teens achieving their dreams.

Bottom Line
Abby and the Cute One is a lighthearted contemporary romance that’s as adorable as the characters themselves.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my review.

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About the Book
Title: Abby and the Cute One
Series: Backstage Pass #5
Author: Erin Butler
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: November 16, 2015
Pages: 172
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Erin Butler

Author Erin Butler

About the Author
Erin Butler is lucky enough to have two jobs she truly loves. As a librarian, she gets to work with books all day long, and as an author, Erin uses her active imagination to write the kinds of books she loves to read. Young Adult and New Adult books are her favorites, but she especially fangirls over a sigh-worthy romance.

She lives in Central New York with her very understanding husband, a stepson, and doggie BFF, Maxie. Preferring to spend her time indoors reading or writing, she’ll only willingly go outside for chocolate and sunshine — in that order.

Where to Find Erin Butler
GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – Rival Love (Rival Love Series) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

4 Stars

Synopsis
Skylar Fletcher is a proud Harris Academy Bulldog! She has everything she’s ever wanted: a perfect boyfriend, great friends, and her dream college waiting for her in the fall. But nothing lasts forever. Skylar’s world shatters when her mom decides it’s time to move and drags Skylar, kicking and screaming, into Bobcat territory.

At Delmont High School, home of the Bobcats, Skylar has no friends and is often bullied. To make matters worse, her home life sucks thanks to all-star quarterback Caleb Morgan, nephew of her mom’s live-in boyfriend.

At first, Skylar and Caleb want nothing to do with one another. But they soon discover they’re not that different after all–and each is harboring a secret attraction to the other. But can a Bulldog and a Bobcat ever really be more than friends? And are Skylar and Caleb willing to risk everything to find out?

Rival Love is a debut young adult contemporary romance from Natalie Decker.

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My Review
A special thanks to fellow YA author, Jennifer DiGiovanni, for suggesting this book to me. She knows I love my teen sports romances and the angstier the drama the better. Rival Love by Natalie Decker is packed with both. Skylar Fletcher is entering her senior year of high school with a plan. A plan that is completely derailed when her mom moves them in with her boyfriend across town, forcing Skyler to attend her school’s arch nemesis. We’re talking a school rivalry that would put Michigan State and OSU to shame. These students hate each other. So much so that when Skylar, who through no fault of her own, becomes a Bobcat, her boyfriend of two years dumps her and her best friend since childhood stops speaking to her.

Skylar struggles with accepting her new life, but she’s’ not going to try and fit in with the enemy, leaving her with no friends. Except her mom’s boyfriend’s teenage nephew, who moved in with his uncle after his parents’ tragic death. The pair are more frenemies than friends because Caleb isn’t about to be caught fraternizing with the enemy. Even if she is really pretty and smells like a goddess.

Plot
This is primarily a romance as Caleb and Skylar realize their mutual loathing is giving way to something more, each convinced the other still holds strong feelings of animosity. Watching their feelings thaw, turn into friendship, and something more is a treat. Strong subplots include Skylar’s relationship with her father, stepmother and half sister, her plans for the future now that she’s not participating in school sports, her survival at school full of kids who hate her, and her relationships with her ex-boyfriend and former best friend. All are woven into the main plot seamlessly.

Characters
Skylar is a bundle of attitude and I love her. The way she won’t back down from a fight, doesn’t cringe away from her bullies, and works to get even makes her a protagonist to root for. Her negative attitude is hard to take at times, but it’s really easy to understand why she has it. Caleb is equally intriguing in his own way. The way he tries to hide Skylar’s identity from his friends is both infuriating and understandable, especially with her attitude.

Ending
The ending was abrupt, surprising, and not entirely organic. I didn’t feel like it was a logical outcome that flowed out of the preceding events. I’m hoping the second book will rectify that, though, because other than the ending, I really loved the book.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed about Rival Love:
1. Skylar. She’s tough, witty, vulnerable, determined, unsure, funny, and guarded all rolled into one. She’s one of the most complex teen characters I’ve read in awhile and I just love her.

2. Caleb. He’s got his own issues, but he’s a lot more straightforward than Skylar and I love that about him.

3. Getting even. The way Skylar and Caleb go tit for tat with pranks provide some of the best moments in the book.

4. Family drama. The dynamic between Skylar and her family drives some great angst-ridden conflict.

5. Forbidden love. Living in the same house makes anything other than friendship between Caleb and Skylar verboten, which only adds to the inevitability that they’ll get together.

Bottom Line
Rival Love is an contemporary teen romance with themes of bullying, belonging, and finding love and acceptance for who you are.

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About the Book
Title: 
Rival Love
Series: Rival Love #1
Author: 
Natalie Decker
Publisher: 
Swoon Romance
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Pages: 286
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Natalie Decker

Author Natalie Decker

About the Author
Natalie Decker is the Author of Rival Love. She loves oceans, sunsets, sand between her toes, and carefree days. Her imagination is always going, which some find odd. But she believes in seeing the world in a different light at all times. Her first passion for writing started at age twelve when she had to write a poem for English class. However, seventh grade wasn’t her favorite time and books were her source of comfort.

She took all college prep classes in High school, and attended the University of Akron. Although she studied Mathematics she never lost her passion for writing or her comfort in books. She’s a mean cook in the kitchen, loves her family and friends and her awesome dog infinity times infinity.

If she’s not writing, reading, traveling, hanging out with her family and friends, then she’s off having an adventure. Because Natalie believes in a saying: Your life is your own journey, so make it amazing!

Where to find Natalie Decker
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Return Once More (The Historians) by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More Blog Tour

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

4 Stars

Synopsis
If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.

If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?

Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroy more than just her new romance.

Or would you have the strength to watch him die?

But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

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My Review
I’m a sucker for time travel. Young adult time traveling romances? Yeah, that’s like my trifecta right there, so I eagerly snatched up this gem from talented author, Trisha Leigh. I was sucked into her Cavey Files, and had high hopes for her take on the time travel genre. This is such a unique twist that it really stands apart from any other I’ve read. The book is set in the future, after Earth’s destruction. Kaia is a Historian, someone who travels back through time to study historic events and learn so they can avoid making the mistakes that led to the demise of Earth.

One of the side benefits of their futuristic science and technology is they’ve discovered they can identify everyone’s soul mate. The one person who is your perfect romantic partner, regardless of when and where they were born, even if the soul mates were never destined to meet. It’s mostly just something done for fun, but when Kaia learns of her soul mate, she breaks all the rules to meet him. Just to find out what it would feel like to see the boy who is her perfect match. The love-at-first-sight aspect of this plot point requires a little faith on the part of the reader, but it’s not so over the top given that they’re soul mates.

I really only have two problems with the book that kept it from being a full five stars. The first is that it takes awhile to develop. I picked it up and put it down several times before I got to that point where I was thoroughly engrossed. The second is that it ends in a cliffhanger. I’m not a big fan of those, particularly when there is a long wait for the next book.

Plot
The plot is intricate and layered, with a lot going on. Since this is the first in a series, many questions are left unanswered, but everything does move forward. Some to conclusion, others not. And because of the cliffhanger ending, a huge question is raised in the very last sentence of the book. Other than a slow start, the plotting keeps up a steady pace through the middle until the end.

Characters
Kaia, her soul mate, and Oz, another historian, are well-developed and interesting. I got much less of a sense of the rest of the characters, though. But, because the plot centers on these three, it’s important that they’re fully fleshed out, and they are. I had a hard time connecting with Kaia in the beginning, but as the story unfolded, she becomes more likable and sympathetic and by the end, I was twisted up inside for her. Her choice is heartbreaking and I felt her pain and anguish as she struggled to find the right path.

The Ending
Aside from the cliffhanger aspect, the ending is gut-wrenching, emotional, and wraps up many of the plot lines, leaving more for the next book.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed about Return Once More:
1. Time travel. I never get tired of this genre.

2. Oz. He’s a tough egg to crack and I can’t wait to find out more about him.

3. Scene setting. Trisha Leigh does an incredible job of painting such a vivid picture of the scenes, it’s hard not to believe you’re actually there..

4. Forbidden love. In a unique twist on a common trope, this is one of the most well-done subplots in the book.

5. Impossible choices. Never knowing what was going to happen kept me turning the pages.

Bottom Line
Return Once More is an engaging time travel scifi romance with an intricate plot and intriguing characters.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher. This in no way influences my review.

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About the Book
Title
: Return Once More
Series: The Historians #1
Author: Trisha Leigh
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Pages: 289
Category: Young Adult SciFi/Time Travel/Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes and Noble | Bloomsbury

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Trisha LeighAbout the Author
Trisha Leigh is a product of the Midwest, which means it’s pop, not soda, garage sales, not tag sales, and you guys as opposed to y’all. Most of the time. She’s been writing seriously for five years now, and has published 4 young adult novels and 4 new adult novels (under her pen name Lyla Payne). Her favorite things, in no particular order, include: reading, Game of Thrones, Hershey’s kisses, reading, her dogs (Yoda and Jilly), summer, movies, reading, Jude Law, coffee, and rewatching WB series from the 90’s-00’s.

Her family is made up of farmers and/or almost rock stars from Iowa, people who numerous, loud, full of love, and the kind of people that make the world better. Trisha tries her best to honor them, and the lessons they’ve taught, through characters and stories—made up, of course, but true enough in their way.

Trisha is the author of THE LAST YEAR series and the WHITMAN UNIVERSITY books. She’s represented by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Where to find Trisha Leigh
Website | Goodreads Facebook Twitter Tumblr Pinterest

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy Series) by Amy Engel

The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy #1) by Amy Engel

The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy #1) by Amy Engel

4 Stars

Synopsis
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

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My Review
The book started off slow for me. In fact, it took a good 100 pages for me to become thoroughly engrossed. But once I did, it had me by the throat until the last page. There are a lot of similarities to other dystopian stories. There’s a fenced city (Divergent), government pairings (Matched), an oppressive government (Hunger Games, Matched), banishing people from society as punishment (Matched), but there are enough new elements to keep the story from being predictable.

Ivy and her family feel as if they are the rightful ruling family of Westfall, a post currently held by the Lattimer’s. But Ivy’s family has a plan to get control. It just involves Ivy marrying and then killing the president’s son, Bishop. It’s a chilling premise that took a while to develop, but it was easy to see as the days passed that Ivy wasn’t going to have an easy time killing her husband. Because he’s none of the things she was raised to believe. He’s compassionate, fair, considerate, and doesn’t agree with everything his father says and does.

While I had a pretty good idea how things were going to end up, I didn’t know how they would play out, and didn’t see the ending coming. I’m just glad I don’t have to wait a year for the second book since I didn’t get my copy of The Book of Ivy until ALA in June.

Plot
Other than slow pacing, the plot was intriguing. There isn’t a lot of action, but this is more of a psychological tale than an action adventure. Ivy’s journey takes her from dutiful daughter to scheming wife, to confused and conflicted teen, to terrified girl, back to dutiful daughter in the course of a few months. As her relationship with Bishop develops, it’s easy to see that she’s going to struggle with carrying out her task. What keeps this story moving is wondering how she’s going to get out of an impossible situation.

Characters
Bishop and Ivy are intriguing and complex, while the rest of the characters are more nebulous. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, though. Ivy spends an incredible amount of time inside her head, closing herself off from everyone around her. She’s introverted, lonely, and it’s easy to see that other people don’t factor in heavily in her world. They exist, but she doesn’t truly interact with them on more than a superficial basis, so they come across as superficial. But in a way that shows them to us only through Ivy’s prism. Except for Bishop. And as she allows herself to get closer to him, we get to see his layers and depth blossoming from black and white to full technicolor.

Ending
The ending was unexpected, so in my opinion, that makes it strong. If you don’t like cliffhangers, be forewarned, but it’s a satisfying enough ending to tide you over the few days until book 2 comes out.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed about The Book of Ivy:
1. Ivy’s sacrifice. I don’t want to give anything away, so that’s all I’ll say.

2. Bishop Lattimer. The president’s son is swoonworthy in a completely different way than a lot of teen love interests.

3. The plot to bring down the president. It’s surprisingly simple, yet brilliant.

4. Falling in love. The way Bishop and Ivy, virtual strangers on their wedding day, evolve their relationship from stiff and awkward, to friendship, and then something more is beautiful.

5. The ending. I love when I can’t anticipate how everything is going to play out. I didn’t believe Ivy would be able to kill Bishop, but I had no idea how that was all going to resolve, and I was way off base in my prediction.

Bottom Line
The Book of Ivy is a familiar dystopian tale with enough of its own uniqueness to set it apart from the rest.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher at ALA in San Francisco. This in no way influences my review.

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About the Book
Title: The Book of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #1
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo BooksiTunesGoogle Books

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Author Amy Engel

Author Amy Engel

About the Author
Amy Engel was born in Kansas and after a childhood spent bouncing between countries (Iran, Taiwan) and states (Kansas; California; Missouri; Washington, D.C.), she settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and two kids.

Before devoting herself full-time to motherhood and writing, she was a criminal defense attorney, which is not quite as exciting as it looks on TV.  When she has a free moment, she can usually be found reading, running, or shoe shopping. The Book of Ivy is her debut YA novel. Find her online at http://amyengel.net/ or @aengelwrites.

Where to Find Amy Engel
GoodreadsWebsite | Twitter

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