Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Blog Tour: Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey | Review

Blog Tour: Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey | Review

Blog Tour: Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey | ReviewLove and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey
Published by The Studio on November 10th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

In this heartwarming debut by HelloGiggles blogger Kerry Winfrey, a young agoraphobe begins a journey of first love that leads her to the true meaning of home—just by taking one small step outside of her house.

My name is Mallory Sullivan.

My therapist says I have an anxiety disorder.

My brother says I’m an “optimistic recluse.”

Everybody else says I'm a freak.

And they kind of have a point, because I haven't left the house in 67 days and only attend class via the webcam on my laptop. The person I talk to the most other than my mom and brother is the completely obnoxious BeamMeUp, and all we do is argue on New Mexico’s premiere alien message board.

But after yesterday, I have something: a chance. If I can win the homecoming crown by convincing resident hot popular guy and Friday Night Lights spawn Brad Kirkpatrick to go as my date, then maybe #stayathome will never appear next to the name @Mallory_Sullivan ever again.

First, I have to leave my room.

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Kerry Winfrey’s debut novel tackles the mental illness of agoraphobia with fun, flair, and facts.  Love and Other Alien Experiences is a strong debut that took me by surprise.  I can’t say what I expected but I think it would have exceeded those expectations that I might have had.

I don’t know what it is lately but this is the third book I’ve read recently about a girl who couldn’t or wouldn’t leave her house.  Agoraphobia is not something I’m familiar with but it is something that fascinates me and that was a big part of my draw to Love and Other Alien Experiences.  Kerry Winfrey chose a more lighthearted way to showcase this illness and I really enjoyed that take on it.  Mallory knows that there is something wrong with her and she knows she should do something about it.  She finally sees that chance to do something about it when she is nominated for homecoming court.  She could win some serious prize money if she actually won and that would be the perfect chance for her to set out to find her father.

Mallory’s life consists of classes taken via webcam and interactions on message boards about aliens.  Hence the title.  She has these crazy interactions with someone online named BeamMeUp and that’s pretty much her only socialization.  Her mom and brother play a key role in her life but they can’t possibly provide all the social interaction that a person needs.  That’s where Mallory’s love interest comes in.  It’s a bit of a reveal so I won’t say anything about who it is but I will say that they work perfectly with Mallory.  Mallory’s illness is something she’s always been made to feel bad about and that’s not what he does to her.  Mallory herself is a great character with a wonderful personality.  She’s sarcastic and open about her illness.  I kinda loved her.

Overall, Love and Other Alien Experiences has me eager to see what Kerry Winfrey writes next.  If you’re looking for a quick, fun read that doesn’t gloss over the details of having a mental illness, this one is for you.

What others are saying about Love and Other Alien Experiences:

Sleepsontables’ review: “If you were a fan of Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone or Made You Up by Francesca Zappia I recommend Love and Other Alien Experiences.”

Welcome to Ladyville’s review: “Love and Other Alien Experiences is a cheeky little tale about a teenage agoraphobe, who by a surprise to everyone gets nominated for prom queen, and decides to win.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens | Review

The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens | ReviewThe Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens
Published by HarperTeen on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

Sadie Kingston, is a girl living in the aftermath. A year after surviving a car accident that killed her friend Trent and left her body and face scarred, she can’t move forward. The only person who seems to understand her is Trent’s brother, Max.

As Sadie begins to fall for Max, she's unsure if she is truly healed enough to be with him — even if Max is able to look at her scars and not shy away. But when the truth about the accident and subsequent events comes to light, Sadie has to decide if she can embrace the future or if she'll always be trapped in the past.

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The Lies About Truth is the first book I’ve read from Courtney C. Stevens and let me just tell you, I’m impressed.  The Lies About Truth is a gorgeous story about loss, love, and learning to move on.  It made me laugh, it made me cry, and in the end, it made me smile.

The Lies About Truth takes place almost a year after a car accident that takes the life of Sadie’s best friend, Trent, and leaves her permanently scarred.  Trent’s brother, Max, as well as Sadie’s boyfriend, Gray, and best friend, Gina, were also involved in the car accident but they walked away with less visible wounds.  Max’s vocal cords were seriously injured but it was more losing his brother that caused him to leave town with his family for most of the next year.  Through emails and letters, Max and Sadie start to become close.  Everything comes to a head when Max finally returns for the year anniversary of Trent’s death, finally forcing Sadie to face what happened and her part in it.

Sadie was extremely messed up from the accident.  She had physical scars but she also had mental scars.  She was afraid to get behind the wheel of a car, afraid to show off her scars, and afraid to tell anyone the secrets she was keeping for her best friend.  She basically shut herself away from everyone but Max and she really only kept herself open to him because he couldn’t see her.  She could be the old Sadie behind the screen of a computer and when she didn’t want to be the old Sadie, Max was willing to take anything she would give him.  They were completely honest with each other because they didn’t have to face each other every day.  When Max finally came home, that all changed.  Sadie had already showed him the dark parts of her on the inside so it was just time to show him those parts on the outside.  As for Max, he didn’t care about Sadie’s scars, he just cared about her.  He had his own scars (less visible but still obvious) and as long as she could accept his, he was willing to accept hers.

The other two people involved in the accident, Gray and Gina, weren’t left physically scarred but they were mentally messed up from that day.  Gray and Trent were best friends.  Gina and Trent had been dating for a long time.  Everyone involved in the accident was somehow closely linked to Trent and they were all grieving him but it seemed like they didn’t know how to grieve him together.  They were all keeping secrets from each other and it tore them apart.  Honestly the secrets and secret-keeping were a bit overdramatic to me.  Gray had secrets from Sadie, Sadie had secrets from everyone, Max wanted to be in on all the secrets about his brother, and Gina was tearing herself apart by keeping Gray’s secrets.  They may have been friends at first but all their secrets were keeping them apart and they couldn’t seem to move past them or to share them.  The anniversary of the accident is what finally brought everything out and started the real healing process for everyone.

One of my favorite things about The Lies About Truth was Sadie’s relationship with Trent.  Obviously you only get to see flashbacks but those flashbacks were great.  It was so obvious how much they cared for each other and it truly was a friendship thing.   Trent and Sadie loved each other like family.  They accepted each other no matter what.  I think Trent would have approved of Sadie’s relationship with Max because Max was like Trent in that he accepted Sadie just how she was.  Neither of the brothers ever wanted to change Sadie.

Overall, The Lies About Truth is one novel that everyone should have on their TBR.  It’s just the right amount of cute, funny, sad, and moving.  Courtney C. Stevens is an author I’m definitely going to be reading more from.

What others are saying about The Lies About Truth:

The Book Bratz’ review: “The Lies About Truth is a beautiful story that I recommend anyone looking for a fairly quick contemporary read.”

Reading Lark’s review: “The universality of Stevens’ novels is what keeps me coming back, and why I keep recommending them to other readers.”

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mayhem (Mayhem #1) by Jamie Shaw | Review

Mayhem (Mayhem #1) by Jamie Shaw | ReviewMayhem (Mayhem, #1) by Jamie Shaw
Series: Mayhem #1
Published by Avon on January 20th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 258
Format: ebook
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
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4 Stars

When college freshman Rowan Michaels meets gorgeous, up-and-coming rock star Adam Everest, she knows a player like him is the last thing she needs after her ex-boyfriend shattered her heart. But she can't stop thinking about the kiss they shared on his tour bus.

On the first day of school, Rowan is stunned when Adam saunters into her French class. He's soon failing miserably, and, on a whim, she offers to tutor him. But Adam doesn't recognize her as a makeup-free, glasses-clad college student—a far cry from the beautiful, mysterious "Peach" he met at his concert.

During a wild weekend on tour with the band, Rowan can't help falling for the sweet guy buried beneath Adam's rocker persona. Yet she knows she could never compete with the girls constantly throwing themselves at his feet. She'd just end up hurt … again.

Peach is all Adam thinks about, though, and when Rowan realizes this, she has a decision to make: stay just friends to protect her fragile heart … or reveal the truth about the night they met and admit she's fallen completely, hopelessly in love with him.

picadillyblueI saw someone talking this series up on Twitter one day and I had the urge to read a new adult book so I decided to give Mayhem a shot. Boy am I glad I did. Jamie Shaw is a new author to me but she impressed me with Mayhem and continued to do so with the following books.

Admittedly, the story wasn’t anything new or all that unique but I found myself hooked from the start. Rowan and Adam meet, hook up, and then go their separate ways. Rowan didn’t expect to see Adam in her French class on the first day of school, however. That throws her for a loop, especially since she is still extremely attracted to him and he doesn’t even recognize her. Rowan can’t avoid him though, especially when she volunteers to tutor him so he doesn’t flunk out of their French class. During a weekend on tour with the band, she starts to get to know Adam and the attraction becomes more than just physical.

Adam and Rowan were extremely cute together. Their banter and bickering were adorable. Adam was so full of himself and Rowan put him in his place more than once. She didn’t let the fame go to his head. She brought out the normal guy in him and I could definitely understand why she fell for that guy. As for Rowan, she was smart, levelheaded, confident, and kind. I would have slapped Adam if he didn’t fall for her. They kept pushing each other away, though. (Nothing can ever be easy in new adult books.) It was fun watching them try to figure each other out and decide what exactly they could mean to each other.

The romance was steamy, the characters were hilarious, the story was captivating, and the ending left me with a smile on my face. Mayhem had everything I wanted and definitely left me intrigued about the other members of Adam’s band.

Overall, Mayhem was the perfect place to start with this series and Jamie Shaw definitely has a new fan.

What others are saying about Mayhem:

Cocktails & Books’ review: “Cute, in a Disney sort of way.”

Book Binge’s review: “In the end it was a fun book that didn’t have a whole lot of angst – which was awesome.”

Little Dixie Readers’ review: “Filled with fun sexy times and a great voice in the New Adult genre, Jamie Shaw is a rising star!”

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Drowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley | Review

Drowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley | ReviewDrowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley
Published by Random House on September 8, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Bought
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4 Stars

"A literary knockout with the loudest of beating hearts."
John Corey Whaley, Printz Award winner of Where Things Come Back

Olivia has spent her whole life struggling to escape her dead mother’s shadow. But when her father can’t even look at her because Olivia reminds him of her mother, and her grandmother mistakenly calls her “Lillian,”  shaking a reputation she didn’t ask for is next to impossible. Olivia is used to leaning on her best friend, Jamie; her handsome but hot-tempered boyfriend, Max; and their wild-child friend, Maggie, for the reality check that her small Louisiana town can’t provide. But when a terrible fight between Jamie and his father turns deadly, all Olivia can think to do is grab her friends and run.

In a flash, Olivia, Jamie, Max, and Maggie become fugitives on the back roads of Louisiana. They’re headed to New Orleans, where they hope to find a solution to an unfixable problem. But with their faces displayed on all the news stations, their journey becomes a harrowing game of hide-and-seek from the police—and so-called allies, who just might be the real enemy.

Shalanda Stanley’s breathtaking debut novel explores the deep ties between legacy, loyalty, and love, even as it asks the question: How far would you go to save a friend?

picadillyblueThis is one of those books that’s really hard to review.  It’s not that I didn’t like it or that I loved it, it’s just kinda right there in the middle.  Drowning is Inevitable is definitely a strong debut but it’s one of those books that will appeal to some people but not at all to others.

Shalanda Stanley’s writing is beyond stunning. She’s one of those authors that could write a phone book and make it captivating. I wish I still had my ARC of the book so I could share some quotes but just take my word for this.  Her style of writing is extremely lush and descriptive.  It’s perfect for the setting of a small-town in the south and New Orleans.

Olivia is a hard character to like.  She’s spent her whole life in the shadow of her dead mom and she’s come to accept that she is not her own person.  It takes some extremely drastic measures for her to finally realize that she is an individual who makes choices of her own and has a life ahead of her that is all her own.  Even after she starts living her own life, she doesn’t make the best decisions.  She’s completely loyal, though.  I will give her that.  She loves Jamie with all her heart and can’t, even for a second, see that there might be something bad in him.  Personally, I couldn’t see the bad in him either.  He made a bad decision that affected him, his family, and his friends, but he did it out of love and terror.  As for Max and Maggie, I didn’t have many feelings for them, one way or the other.  Max was not the smartest guy out there and he was extremely jealous of how close Olivia was with Jamie.  That doesn’t mean he wasn’t willing to do whatever it took to see Olivia and Jamie safe.

The story is a lot more slow moving than I expected from the synopsis and the start of the book.  Things take off early but from there they fizzled out a bit.  Jamie, Olivia, Max, and Maggie go on the run and things only get worse for them from there.  They don’t know who they can trust and they don’t always trust the right people.  Family means nothing to these kids’ actual families.  They are more family to each other than any of their parents.  They were pretty much on their own and they did whatever they had to do to protect one another.

As much as I could see things coming, I couldn’t stop reading.  This book is very much like a train wreck.  You know it can’t end happily but you just can’t look away.  Even though they may have been in less trouble if they’d turned themselves in early, you know they can’t completely get away with what they’ve done.  They either take their chances on the run (which they do) or they take their chances with the law.  It was a lose-lose situation from the start.

While the story really does center on these 4 teens while they are on the run, it’s also a story about Olivia and her mom.  Her mom committed suicide shortly after she gave birth to Olivia and that death defined the beginning of Olivia’s life.  Her dad couldn’t stand to look at her because of the similarities to her mom and her grandmother only saw the similarities between Olivia and her mom.  Then there was the fact that everyone in town expected her to follow in her mom’s footsteps.  Olivia’s life wasn’t her own for most of the book and it took this crazy trip for her to finally start to see that maybe she could make her own decisions and her own mistakes.

Overall, Drowning Is Inevitable is a stunning debut novel that will take readers by surprise.  It’s a story full of layers that continued to take me by surprise.

What others are saying about Drowning Is Inevitable:

Emily Reads Everything’s review: “This book was both heartwarming and heartbreaking.”

The Book Hookup’s review: “Drowning is Inevitable perfectly captured life in all its complicated glory.”

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Boy Most Likely To (My Life Next Door #2) by Huntley Fitzpatrick | Review

The Boy Most Likely To (My Life Next Door #2) by Huntley Fitzpatrick | ReviewThe Boy Most Likely To (My Life Next Door, #2) by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Series: My Life Next Door #2
Published by Dial Books on August 18th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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5 Stars

A surprising, utterly romantic companion to My Life Next Door—great for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To find the liquor cabinet blindfolded, need a liver transplant, and drive his car into a houseAlice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To . . . well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard.Then the unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days come back to shock him. He finds himself in a situation that isn’t all it appears to be, that he never could have predicted . . . but maybe should have.And Alice is caught in the middle.Told in Tim’s and Alice’s distinctive, disarming, entirely compelling voices, this novel is for readers of The Spectacular Now, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and Paper Towns.

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Is it any surprise that this book is getting 5 shoes from me? Contemporary is my jam and Huntley Fitzpatrick is amazing. If you thought My Life Next Door was good, you’ll  love this one just as much, if not more.

It took me no time at all to dive right back into the world of the Garretts.  I admit that I re-read My Life Next Door right before starting this one so maybe that had something to do with it but the re-read was not necessary at all.  I’ll say now that I do recommend reading My Life Next Door before you read this one though (I mean, if there is anyone out there who hasn’t read it already.)  The Boy Most Likely To picks up right after the events at the end of My Life Next Door and being able to read from Alice’s point of view shows things in a whole new light.  Alice and Tim each get about equal time narrating and I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about that at first.  I was really looking forward to reading from Tim’s point of view but I didn’t care all that much for Alice in My Life Next Door.  I felt the same way at the beginning of The Boy Most Likely To but she grew on me pretty quickly.  Alice and Tim are both forced to grow up too soon because of their circumstances.  Tim’s circumstances have more to do with his own crappy decisions but that didn’t change how I felt for him.  Alice, on the other hand, didn’t really have much of a choice when it came to her situation.  Because of the accident with her dad, it was on her and her older siblings to take care of the little ones and keep the shop open and attempt to figure out how to pay for everything.  I was exhausted just reading about all she had to put up with because of the accident.  Lucky for her though Tim stepped up his game and was there to help.

The Garrett family takes center stage in The Boy Most Likely To and I only thought I adored them in My Life Next Door.  I only have one sibling and I always thought that was enough for me but if my siblings were anything like the Garretts, I would want a ton of them.  George was just as cute as ever but I think Patsy really won me over in this one.  Her, I guess you could call it relationship, with Tim was so dang cute.  Oh my gosh, she adored him.  Who wouldn’t, right?  That girl may be a baby but she’s already got good taste.  Any time Tim was in the room, she wanted to be with him.  And to make Tim even more perfect, he loved her too.  And I can’t mention the Garretts without mentioning Jase.  Yes he’s back, yes he’s awesome, yes I still love him.  I don’t think that boy could do anything to make me not love him.  I don’t know what I would do if someone told me to choose between Tim or Jase because I love them both for very different reasons.

It’s hard for me to go into detail without giving things away about the story but let’s just say that Tim’s situation wasn’t really surprising to me at all but that doesn’t mean Huntley Fitzpatrick didn’t surprise me more than once in The Boy Most Likely To.  From the very first page of the book I was proud of Tim for taking things into his own hands.  He royally screwed up his life but he realized what happened and he decided it was time to change things.  Sure he continued to do some stupid things but he always found his way back on track.  I think Alice helped a lot with that and of course Jase did too.  Alice was a hard nut to crack.  She was a little cold and standoffish at first but that was just her way of protecting herself and her family.  I came to understand her pretty quickly and her relationship with Tim didn’t make sense but it was perfect for them.  That wasn’t the only relationship of the book though.  Tim and Nan really had to take a look at how they affected each other.  I’ll admit, I’m still not a fan of Nan, but seeing her with Tim really showed how she became that person.

I think one of the things about Huntley Fitzpatrick’s books that just gets me is how they aren’t just romances.  There is always something more going on with the characters and there is always some kind of lesson that can be learned if you look hard enough.  I’m not saying her books are preachy or anything like that but they also aren’t just fluff.  They are the perfect balance between the two.  And yeah, the romance doesn’t hurt either.  If you thought Jase and Samantha had chemistry, just wait until you read about Tim and Alice.  Ooh boy!

Overall, The Boy Most Likely To broke my heart and put it back together again.  If it was up to me I’d just have Huntley Fitzpatrick write books about all the Garretts.  Seriously.  I’d read that series over and over again.  However, since that probably won’t happen, I’ll settle for rereading My Life Next Door and The Boy Most Likely To over and over again.

What others are saying about The Boy Most Likely To:

Christina Reads YA’s review: “Although I liked My Left Next Door more — because I am more like Jase/Sam and I would take Jase over Tim lol any day — I’m pretty sure that fans of MLND will love this sequel and the rising stakes that have been laid.”

The Eater of Books’ review: “Overall, I liked the book – I just did not love it, and felt disappointed by it.”

Universal Longings’ review: “As far as characters go, I think this is Huntley Fitzpatrick’s strongest book yet.”

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli | Review

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli | ReviewSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 7th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 303
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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5 Stars

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

picadillyblueSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of those books that has been getting a lot of buzz lately.  I truly do not think I have read a single bad review for this book and I’ll go ahead and tell you now that my review is going to be just as lovely as the rest.  Becky Albertalli’s debut novel was completely epic.  She is definitely one author I have added to my auto-buy list.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is unlike any book I’ve read.  It’s a romance and a mystery and a drama and so much more.  From the start of the book I was hooked and I probably only put the book down once and that was only because I was forced to at work.  The mystery of who Blue was kept me guessing until the end and while I did figure it out before the big reveal, it didn’t take anything away from my love of the book.  Like seriously, I’m not kidding when I say I squealed and maybe even threw in a fist pump when I discovered who Blue was.  Let’s just say I was pretty invested in the relationship by that time.   The interactions online between Blue and Simon were too cute and too perfect for words.  They built up this amazing relationship without even knowing who they were talking to.  Yes, Simon gave more clues than Blue about his identity but I think there was still a lot of mystery for Blue too.  And let me just say, things did not fizzle when they finally met in person.  No, in fact, things just got better from there.  I have a new favorite couple and it’s Simon and Blue.

The blackmail scheme bothered me so much.  I couldn’t believe anyone would threaten Simon the way Martin did.  I didn’t see Martin as this terrible person but he made some huge mistakes and he was definitely not someone I liked or could ever like.  I also hated that Simon didn’t ever do anything about it.  He went along with Martin’s scheme even though I thought he should have told someone.  I thought it was adorable how he wanted to protect Blue more than anything but Martin didn’t deserve to get away with what he did.

The friendships throughout the story were amazing.  Really all the relationships were fabulous.  Leah, Nick, and Simon had this bond from knowing each other for so long.  Sure there were times when they were at each other’s throats but it was easy to see how much they loved each other.  They had a true friendship without all that backstabbing and jealousy that seems to be present in so many friendships.  And while Abby wasn’t necessarily part of that original group, she was quickly finding her place with them and I thought she was a great addition to the group.  I loved the friendships but my favorite relationships in the book were definitely between Simon and his family.  They were so quirky and funny and they reminded me so much of my own family.  I don’t believe family plays a big enough role in most YA books and that was not the case with this one.  Sure Simon may have found his parents and siblings to be a little nosy but they cared about each other and all they wanted was to be involved.

Now let’s talk one minor thing that may not matter much to some people but that I really loved: Harry Potter.  Simon loved Harry Potter and he wasn’t afraid to show it.  The references to Harry Potter just made me smile.  I adored every little mention, no matter how small.  Simon Spier, will you be my best friend?

Oh and drunk Simon is possibly the cutest thing ever.  And Bieber!  I could go on and on about this book.

Overall, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a new addition to my list of favorite books.  I look forward to reading anything Becky Albertalli ever writes.  This book was just pure perfection.

What others are saying about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda:

Prettybooks’ review: “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a majorly cute LGBT romance with awesome friends, many adorable moments, and a lot of laughs.”

Writability’s review: “5/5 stars to this one for sure, and I can’t wait to see what Albertalli comes up with next.”

The Tales Compendium’s review: “As I said before, I didn’t want Simon to end, I was just so happy being in Simon’s world.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway | Review

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway | ReviewEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Published by HarperTeen on June 23rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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5 Stars

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?Readers who love Sarah Dessen will tear through these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver’s father’s crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.

picadillyblue Ever since I read Audrey, Wait! a few years ago I’ve been wanting to read another of Robin Benway’s books. For some reason I only just now got around to doing that but I’ll go ahead and say that it was worth the wait.  Emmy & Oliver was just what I was looking for.

Emmy, Oliver, Drew, and Caro were best friends growing up and Emmy, Drew, and Caro remained best friends even after Oliver’s disappearance.  While Drew and Caro felt Oliver’s loss, it was nothing compared to how it affected Emmy.  When Oliver returns 10 years later, Drew, Caro, and Emmy don’t exactly know what to do with him.  He’s not the same boy that left them and they aren’t the same people that he used to know and none of them realize exactly how his return is going to affect their lives.

The friendship aspect of this book was by far one of my favorite things.  Emmy, Drew, and Caro were so perfect together.  They really had been best friends since they were extremely young so they knew everything about each other and they went through everything together.  They accepted each others random quirks and they were not afraid to do completely goofy stuff together.  (The Beatles thing cracked me up.)  Having Oliver come back changed everything for them.  At one point it had been the four of them but that was a completely different Oliver.  That’s not to say they didn’t welcome him back though because they did.  There were bumps along the way but even after all those years, he was still their friend and they proved that time and again.

The romance was something that you will see coming from a mile away (I mean, hello, the title says it all) but that didn’t detract from it at all.  In fact, it may have made it even better.  It was so fun to see Emmy and Oliver attempt to come back from everything and really start over.  There were things they remembered from growing up together but a lot of stuff was completely new to them.  It was kind of a conundrum since their relationship seemed to progress rather quickly but it was also something that probably would have grown from friendship to more over the years if Oliver hadn’t been taken.  I have never had a problem with instalove and I don’t think that’s really the case with Emmy and Oliver but at times it does come across that way.

The kidnapping aspect was something that has definitely been done before but I liked Robin Benway’s spin on it.  Oliver never saw his dad as the bad guy.  He was the one who wanted him and he always thought that his mom didn’t.  He comes to find out that that was not the case but it’s been 10 years and it’s hard to change the way you view people overnight.  Being back with his mom, with her new husband and twin daughters, throws him for a loop.  Add to that the fact that everyone wants him to help get his dad arrested and Oliver is a really confused guy.  I felt so bad for him.  His dad never meant to hurt him but he did.  I don’t approve or condone what he did but let’s just say that Oliver wasn’t the only one that I ended up feeling bad for.  His dad loved him and was afraid that he would lose him if he didn’t do something so he took some drastic measures.

Also, the only books I’ve ever read about this subject were told from the point of view of the kidnap victim.  This one was different because it was told from the point of view of someone that was left behind.  Emmy was Oliver’s next door neighbor and best friend before he left.  His parents were also good friends with Emmy’s parents.  That meant that everything that happened to Oliver, Emmy’s parents knew about and it changed how they parented and controlled Emmy’s life.  Emmy became extremely sheltered and anything she wanted to do, she had to take into her own hands.  She had to hide aspects of her life because her parents would be terrified if they knew about them.  I actually really liked that Robin Benway chose to show how the kidnapping would affect not just the family of the victim but also the people around the victim.  It was a fresh take on things.

Overall, Emmy and Oliver was a lot deeper than I expected but also still managed to contain tons of love, laughter, and friendship.  I’m definitely not waiting this long before I read another of Robin Benway’s books.

What others are saying about Emmy & Oliver:

Adventures in Reading’s review: “I’m so glad that I stuck with this book. I ended up really enjoying it.”

The Perpetual Page Turner’s review: “OMG DID I REALLY JUST READ THAT IN 4 HOURS? I DIDN’T MEAN TO. OOPS. OH WELL. SO GOOD.”

YA Midnight Reads’ review: “Sure, there is a hella adorable romance… but at it’s core, Benway’s story is one about friendship, growing up, making your own path in life, and more importantly, family.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Heartbreakers by Ali Novak | Review

The Heartbreakers by Ali Novak | ReviewThe Heartbreakers by Ali Novak
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on August 4, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
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3 Stars

"When I met Oliver Perry, I had no clue he was the lead singer for The Heartbreakers. Unbeknownst to him, I was the only girl in the world who hated his music."

Since Cara's health has been deteriorating, all Stella Walter can think about is trying to cheer her sister up. Her life revolves around Cara to the point where Stella drops out of one of the country's top photography programs so she can spend what little time she has left with her sick sister.

With Cara's birthday around the corner, Stella wants to get her the perfect gift. An autographed poster of her sister's favorite boy band should do the trick. Sounds simple enough, right? But life isn't always so easy.

Not only does Stella hate The Heartbreakers because of their terrible music, but when she realizes that the cute boy she met at Starbucks is really Oliver Perry, the lead singer of the band, her life seems to spin out of control...

Will Stella be able to swallow her pride and get the autograph that she so desperately needs to make Cara happy? And will Oliver be able to show Stella how to live her own life again?

Meet... The Heartbreakers.

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I have a weakness for books involving romance between celebrities and normal people. The Heartbreakers features that and while it was a fun aspect, it just wasn’t enough to make me love the book as a whole.

The Heartbreakers hooked me from the start and kept me entertained to the very end. I read the whole book in a matter of hours. For a contemporary novel, there is enough going on that I never felt bored or that it was just about the romance. There is more going on than just the romance between Stella and Oliver. The Heartbreakers almost could be classified as new adult because Stella and her siblings are at the point where they are trying to discover who they are and what they want to do with their lives. And of course there is also the fact that Stella’s sister has cancer. That plays a big role in the book as well.

The characters were mediocre. Oliver was pretty swoony but he didn’t have a ton else going for him. As for Stella, I found her to be quite scared. She used her sister’s illness to protect herself from possible heartache. She was also quite rude at times. I understood her dislike for The Heartbreakers but they were still just people who didn’t really deserve her anger. Don’t get me wrong though , I liked her feisty temper. I related to it and it made me laugh quite a bit.

The friendships and relationships made The Heartbreakers more than just an okay book. Starting out, I loved the relationship of Stella and her two siblings (triplets). They loved each other quite a bit. They were more like friends with an unbreakable bond. I was disappointed not to see more of this though because it didn’t play a huge role after the first part of the book. The second part focused more on the bond between the members of The Heartbreakers. They were friends that acted more like family. The pranks they played were hilarious. Sure they fought but they loved each other like brothers. They also accepted Stella into this family. Everyone but Oliver treated her like their little sister, teasing her, protecting her, and loving her. They were adorable.

The romance was very back and forth. I felt that Oliver and Stella needed to speak up and just say what they wanted. I know the book would have been a lot shorter that way but they were really immature about things. If they just accepted what they wanted and were willing to ask for them they would have been much happier people and I wouldn’t have felt like slapping them so much. There were quite a few moments where I saw where things were going and just wanted to stop them before everything fell apart.

The celebrity aspect was interesting in The Heartbreakers because Ali Novak portrayed the boys as normal people. There were definitely things that showed their fame but overall they were pretty down-to-Earth guys. Seeing them with each other and with their families just made it sink in that they were normal people deep down.

Overall, The Heartbreakers was a fun, fast read that I completely devoured. It’s a good read for a rainy day but don’t expect anything complex or profound.

What others are saying about The Heartbreakers:

Of Paper and Words’ review: “Overall, The Heartbreakers is a cheesy romance book with an ability to keep me reading.”

Real Rad Reads’ review: “I haven’t lost faith in her completely, but this novel did lower the bar.”

tumbling in books’ review: “If you’re looking for a fluff read, THE HEARTBREAKERS would be the book for you.”

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Bourbon Kings (The Bourbon Kings #1) by J.R. Ward | Review

The Bourbon Kings (The Bourbon Kings #1) by J.R. Ward | ReviewThe Bourbon Kings (The Bourbon Kings, #1) by J.R. Ward
Series: The Bourbon Kings #1
Published by Penguin Publishing Group on July 28th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Black Dagger Brotherhood delivers the first novel in an enthralling new series set amid the shifting dynamics of a Southern family defined by wealth and privilege—and compromised by secrets, deceit, and scandal.... For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet. For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets. As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.

picadillyblueI’ve always been a fan of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series so when I was given the chance to check out The Bourbon Kings, I jumped at it.  It’s extremely different from what I’ve read of hers but I think it will appeal to her fans.

J.R. Ward is a master at weaving together the storylines of many different characters.  While the synopsis makes it seem like The Bourbon Kings is a story of Lizzie and Lane, it’s actually so much more that that.  It’s a story about the Bradford family as a whole, specifically Lane, Edward, and Gin.  They do have another brother, Max, who I’m hoping will pop up in the next book.  Edward was extremely gruff but his circumstances broke my heart.  He and Sutton had such a crazy relationship but I’m rooting for them.  Gin also has some rough times.  I liked her even though she made some stupid choices.  It seemed like she really wanted someone to love her and she was looking in all the wrong places.  As for Lane and Lizzie, I truly adored how they butt heads but still fall for each other.  Lizzie was a strong heroine but she seemed almost a little too perfect.  I wanted more flaws from her.  Lane was very much a typical J.R. Ward love interest but hey, why fix what isn’t broken?  He was rich and cultured but also seriously messed up due to his family.

The story is so much more than a romance.  There is mystery,  intrigue, scandal, and murder.  Yeah there is romance too but it’s not all The Bourbon Kings has going for it.  Clearly J.R. Ward has a type of story that works for her and she sticks with it.  The romance underlies everything going on but it’s not the focal point of the story.  Also, while most things appear tied up at the end of the book, it’s clear that this will be a series.  I had so many unanswered questions at the end of The Bourbon Kings but it just has me even more excited for the sequel.

For a J.R. Ward novel, it was pretty tame as far as sex.  There were actually very few sex scenes and only one was between Lizzie and Lane.  I was surprised but pleased by this.  There was just so much more to this story than sex.  There is one scene that is pretty rough to read.  I don’t want to give anything away but there is one non-consensual scene.  Just be warned about that before starting this one.

As for the whole bourbon making stuff, it was very interesting although not a huge part of the story.  There was a lot more about the actual money side of things and I loved seeing everything to do with the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  Not everything was as perfect as it seemed at first glance.

Overall, The Bourbon Kings is a wonderful start to a new series that I know I’ll be addicted to.  Go into this one with an open mind and I think you’ll enjoy it.  J.R. Ward as a contemporary author definitely works for me.

What others are saying about The Bourbon Kings:

Fresh Fiction’s review: “Not your average Contemporary Romance, THE BOURBON KINGS is rife with scandal, forbidden love and twists and turns no one will see coming!”

My Para Hangover’s review: “This book reads more like a (cough) soap opera but on fast forward.”

Alexa Loves Books’ review: “In spite of my slight reservations towards the romance, I really wound up enjoying The Bourbon Kings.”

Friday, June 19, 2015

Play On by Michelle Smith | Review

Play On by Michelle Smith | ReviewPlay on by Michelle Smith
Published by Spencer Hill Press on April 14th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 296
Format: Paperback
Source: BEA, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.

Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma's flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius, she's also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there's something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek--he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.

As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa's pain, it forces him to look beyond the façade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn't everything--maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.

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I’d heard good things about Michelle Smith’s novel, Play On, so I went in with pretty high expectations.  While it wasn’t all I’d hoped it would be, it definitely grabbed my attention and kept me entertained for the few hours it took me to read it.  This is a quick read that was actually a lot deeper than I thought it would be.

Play On is full of southern charm, boys in baseball pants, romance, and secrets.  It’s a contemporary lovers dream.  I knew from the start that I was going to like it.  Austin Braxton is the star pitcher for his high school baseball team.  He’s also a true southern gentleman.  When he sets his sights on Marisa Marlowe, she has no clue what she’s in for.  Austin was a total sweetheart and he was willing to do whatever it took to get Marisa to fall for him.  He was born and bred in the south and he was all about taking care of his mom, treating a lady right, and playing baseball.  Marisa, on the other hand, was new to all of that.  She was born and raised in Maryland and she did not know what to do with Austin.  They were super cheesy together but adorable at the same time.

The baseball aspect was done well.  It was not overdone and it was easy to understand for anyone who might not be so into baseball.  I love sports books but sometimes it’s just too much for me.  That was not the case with Play On.  It didn’t dominate the story but it was also a very important aspect that couldn’t be ignored.  I was able to appreciate how much baseball mattered to Austin and his small-town but also focus on the romance as well as the deeper stuff going on with Austin and Marisa.

I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m going to be a bit cryptic here but Marisa was definitely hiding some things from Austin.  I had some guesses but I was way off.  Her secrets were dark and heartbreaking.  She was able to present herself as a happy, carefree teenager but that was just a facade.  As Austin and Marisa got closer, her secrets came to the surface and they definitely tore me apart.  It’s hard not to feel for Marisa and everything she is going through.  It helped that Austin was a complete sweetheart through it all.

The romance between Austin and Marisa was a bit too cheesy for my tastes.  I was born and raised in the south and let me just tell you, I never met a guy who talked like Austin.  He was just a bit too perfect!  I really wanted to see more of his flaws, especially since Marisa clearly had some.  I would have been able to appreciate him just a bit more if he ever did something wrong.  Maybe that’s just me though.

Overall, Play On won’t top my list of favorites but it’s certainly worth a read.  Any book that can get me to tear up as many times as this one did definitely deserves to be checked out!

What others are saying about Play On:

Book Rock Betty’s review: “If you like sweet sports romance, give this one a shot!”

A Reader of Fictions’ review: “At the outset, I struggled with the dialect, but ultimately the wonderful messages and adorable romances made Play On a book that I’ll happily endeavor to push on all of you.”

Polished Page Turners’ review: “All of the elements come together nicely to create a great story that is neither too light or too heavy.”