Book Review – Courtside Crush

Title: Courtside Crush (Varsity Girlfriends #1)
Author: Kayla Tirrell
Published: February 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Goodreads

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: It’s okay

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Synopsis:

So much for senior year being the best part of high school.

It all started when I caught my boyfriend cheating on me.

I did what any girl would do—I got revenge. Of course, it didn’t stop there. Thanks to a condemning video, I also got eight weeks of community service and athletic probation right before basketball season is supposed to start. (There goes my spot as captain!)

Thankfully there’s a guy at Marlowe Junction’s Helping Hands who makes passing the time more enjoyable. He’s gorgeous, funny, and a huge basketball fan.

Too bad he’s also my brother’s biggest enemy…

Courtside Crush is a modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet, perfect for anyone who likes their sweet romance with a dash of drama. It is the first book in the Varsity Girlfriends series.

“There was just something special about drama that brought everyone out from the woodwork. These were people I didn’t talk to on a daily, or even weekly, basis. Why did they think they had special privileges?” (chapter 16)

Happy book birthday to Kayla Tirrell’s Courtside Crush. Thank you, Kayla, for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Charlie is mad. She isn’t always one to stay out of trouble in the first place, but now her potential for athletic scholarships is in jeopardy because she just wanted to teach Anderson a little lesson for making out with girls who are not Charlie. Really, he’s the one at fault here. Even her super protective step-brother agrees. To make things worse, now she has to spend every Saturday volunteering with Marlowe Junction’s Helping Hands or she’ll be expelled! At least there’s a cute guy stuck there, too.

This book has all the feel-good romance of a YA contemporary, mixed with the ever present drama of high school, plus an endearing, supportive family. What I loved the most was that I didn’t feel like I was being told that Charlie’s family was close, or that her best friend was supportive and sassy, or even how sweet of a guy Jackson is, but rather I was shown it by getting a vivid window into their lives. This is captivating writing for me. Charlie’s struggles are so raw and seemed to never end—constantly dealing with bad news after bad news with hard decisions all mixed in. In the end, you’re absolutely rooting for her as she learns about who she is, and how to stand up for herself when the world sends wave after wave to knock her down.

Tirrell’s Courtside Crush is a fun sports romance with a refreshing style of storytelling for the genre. Tirrell’s writing stayed away from cliche, overly descriptive scenes and characters, which helped me emerge in the book completely because I was allowed to use my imagination. The character development was pretty wonderful, and I found myself completely drawn into Charlie’s family dynamic. I will definitely be looking into Tirrell’s other books.

Book Review/Blog Tour – Love Me, Love Me Not

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Follow the rest of the tour HERE!

Title: Love Me, Love Me Not
Author: S.M. Koz
Published:June 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Goodreads
Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it
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Synopsis:
Family, abandonment, and forbidden romance are at the core of SM Koz’s powerful and emotionally charged novel about a teen who falls for her foster brother.
When Hailey Brown is removed from her home and put into foster care, all she wants is a safe, comfortable place where she can finish school and move on with her life. It’s not easy adjusting to a new school and a new life, but Mr. and Mrs. Campbell and their teenage son, Brad, welcome Hailey with open arms.
As Hailey begins to adjust to her new life, she and Brad grow closer. For the first time, Hailey feels like she might have a real shot at a future. Soon, however, Hailey realizes her relationship with Brad has crossed the line from friendship into something more. But being with Brad would mean giving up the perfect life that Hailey has waited so long to have.
Can Hailey and Brad resist the feelings that are developing between them—or will they risk it all to be together?
Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, SM Koz delivers a powerful debut about the ups and downs of being a foster child.
“Maybe, sometimes, you have no choice but to do things before you’re ready” (chapter 3)
Happy book birthday to Love Me, Love Me Not by S.M. Koz! Thank you Koz, Swoon Reads, and Xpresso Book Tours for giving me an eARC in exchange for an honest review. I read this whole book from start to finish in one day and found myself completely enchanted. A heads up, though, you probably shouldn’t start reading it while you’re serving at your church like I did since the book opens up with a sex scene. Oops.
Koz does a wonderful job of giving a raw look into the ups and downs of foster care, which I think is completely necessary for people to grow in empathy. Hailey has had a rough life, living with a mother who is a drug addict who has made choices that have hurt Hailey emotionally and physically. She gets put into the foster care system as a senior in high school, so she has to go through the changes this entails knowing that she will be aging out soon and will have to go through more changes. Not only is this a difficult concept to wrestle with, but Hailey also has trouble trusting the multiple families she gets placed with because she doesn’t want people pitying her or elevating themselves in their views of her. My heart ached to watch Hailey struggle with who she is because of her past and who she could become because of her future.
Brad, Hailey’s foster brother, is honestly a dream. He’s a buff football star with the most empathetic heart. He refuses to let Hailey view herself as someone stuck in her past and choses to help her move forward by remembering the good memories. I could definitely see him being a Hufflepuff with his loyalty, kindness, and dedication. Maybe that’s why I liked him so much.
In the midst of Hailey’s chaotic changes, she discovers that her friendship with Brad is growing beyond appropriate boundaries. Their relationship moves into the forbidden, which is a trope that I’ve learned is popular, but it isn’t so rule breaking that I lost interest. Brad’s care for Hailey in learning about her without pushing her trust too hard is heart melting and I found myself rooting for ways they could make their relationship work without getting Hailey kicked out of the first stable home she’s ever been in. Hailey’s character growth and the Campbell’s demonstrations of their love for her will completely enchant you from start to finish.

Purchase Links:

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About the Author
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S.M. Koz is a medical writer from North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and numerous pets. She has a BS in Biology from Duke University and a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from North Carolina State University. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, photographing nature and her family, gardening, travelling, and attempting, usually unsuccessfully, to decorate birthday cakes. Love Me, Love Me Not is her first traditionally published novel.
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Blog Tour/Review – Breaking the Ice

Title: Breaking the Ice (Juniper Falls #2)
Author: Julie Cross
Published: December 2017
Goodreads

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

Breaking the Ice Cover

Synopsis:

The second book in the Juniper Falls series from NY Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Julie Cross, perfect for fans of Miranda Kenneally and Abbi Glines.

Haley Stevenson seems like she’s got it all together: cheer captain, “Princess” of Juniper Falls, and voted Most Likely to Get Things Done. But below the surface, she’s struggling with a less-than-stellar GPA and still reeling from the loss of her first love. Repeating her Civics class during summer school is her chance to Get Things Done, not angst over boys. In fact, she’s sworn them off completely until college.

Fletcher Scott is happy to keep a low profile around Juniper Falls. He’s always been the invisible guy, warming the bench on the hockey team and moonlighting at a job that would make his grandma blush. Suddenly, though, he’s finding he wants more: more time on the ice, and more time with his infuriatingly perfect summer-school study partner.

But leave it to a girl who requires perfection to shake up a boy who’s ready to break all the rules.

“She leans into my personal space, her eyelids fluttering, all innocent looking. “Are you scared of me, Fletch”” (chapter 13)?

Thank you Entangled Teen, Chapter by Chapter, and Julie Cross for a free ecopy in exchange for an honest review. You can check out the rest of the tour by clicking the banner below. I also reviewed the first book in the Juniper Falls world HERE.

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Follow the rest of the tour HERE.

While it was fun to come back to the secret filled, hockey obsessed small town of Juniper Falls, I almost feel like I enjoyed this installment more than the last.

Fletcher and Haley both have to take Civics in summer school for different reasons: Fletcher to get ahead and get out of this gossip-filled town, Haley to make a better grade since hers have been suffering. There personalities are even wildly different. Fletcher keeps low under the radar, he is focused and driven, aiming to stay invisible except on the ice. Haley is the queen bee of the school, head cheerleader, easily distracted, but equally driven through her obsessive lists. Who knew they would need each other to get through this class?

The stakes in Breaking the Ice feel high, and are so interesting. The struggle to understand their relationship, their feelings, and the person underneath their labels is super believable and I was completely hooked. As Fletcher and Haley get to know each other, they find so much depth beyond their labels, which was fascinating to discover along with them. The tension between the two of them as they try to work as friends, even friends with benefits, but are so obviously crazy about each other, was just delightful.

Cross sends the reader through so many twists and turns throughout this book, it is almost impossible to know what will happen next. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was rooting for the two the whole time, through each of the twists. Cross’s characters have such depth and are incredibly enjoyable, especially the banter between them. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Anyone else begging for a Jamie story?

About the Author

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Julie Cross is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press). She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, Chasing Truth, Off the Ice and many more to come! Julie Cross was a longtime resident of central Illinois but has recently moved her entire family across the country to continue her academic studies at Stanford University.

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Book Review – Just Friends

Title: Just Friends
Author: Tiffany Pitcock
Published: August 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: It’s okay

Synopsis:

A new spin on the classic smart-girl-and-bad-boy setup, this witty contemporary romance shows how easily a friendship – even one built on an elaborate lie – can become so much more.

Jenny meets Chance for the very first time when she is assigned as his partner in their Junior Oral Communications class. But after they rescue a doomed assignment with one clever lie, the whole school is suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heartbreaker in school have been best friends forever. It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow―especially when you really, really want it to be the truth.

With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that TV shows and movies have always promised. Through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are “just friends.” But that might be the biggest lie of all.

Debut author Tiffany Pitcock delivers a spot-on depiction of first love and the high school rumor mill in Just Friends, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads.

“If life were a teen movie, then this would’ve been just another Tuesday.” (chapter 1)

I am extremely grateful to Xpresso Book ToursTiffany Pitcock, and Swoon Reads for a free advanced reader’s copy in return for an honest review. Head over here to follow the rest of the tour.

Just Friends was such a fun read. I got sucked in pretty easily and grasped onto every lie as it weaved into the story of Jenny and Chance. The cool thing about this scenario is that it takes two COMPLETELY different social circles, and brings them together through a string of made up stories about a friendship years old instead of hours. It was captivating and each story left me wondering what the next would be.

I’ve seen some commentary on how quickly Jenny and Chance become friends, especially seeing as how different they are. They’ve known about each other’s existence for years, but the first time they’re thrown together for an assignment they decide to be best friends. In high school (and even some in college, honestly), I definitely had moments where one conversation with someone would start with us being strangers and end with us deciding to be great friends. Let’s be real, most people crave a connection with people, why would you not take advantage of one? I didn’t find the whirlwind beginning of Jenny and Chance’s friendship to be unbelievable in the least, but fun and pretty accurate. Plus, the lies they told to make others believe in their fake past is definitely something I did in high school. Maybe that’s why I felt so connected.

One of my favorite themes that Pitcock explores in this story is the types of relationships that make us grow as a person. Through Jenny and Chance’s friendship, Jenny learns to live her life in the world outside her books, and Chance learns the value of being a friend and having someone who will be one to him. There are definitely some annoying, crappy characters that frequent high school aged life, but I was very pleased with the loyal friendships that stood out and stayed grounded. For example, Kelsey, Jenny’s “first” best friend, is such a good and supportive friend to her, even when Jenny chases a more exciting life. She provides pretty insightful feedback to both Jenny and Chance, not afraid to say it how it is, but she also was crazy loyal and kind. I got some serious Barb vibes? (Where are my Stranger Things fans at?) Loyalty was the artery to this whole book, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. Sure people screwed up and trusted the wrong people, sure some of the characters have hard family lives or pasts, sure gossip and rumors are a bitch, but through it all, Jenny and Chance learned who to cling to in order to make it through the storms, and they learned how to be there for the other person during their own storm.

Pitcock’s writing was engaging and she was able to really capture the minds of high school students. The plot is so fun and easy to invest in, and the characters are full and consistently growing. I definitely feel like it was an easy and quick read, which is common with YA contemporary romances, but the substance was there and it was good.

Purchase Links

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23. Writer. Reader. Sarcastic.

I was born and raised in Arkansas, which isn’t terribly exciting. I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I used to sit in class and write stories in my notebooks, thinking that everyone did. It turns out, everyone didn’t. I love writing because it means I’m putting my thoughts, feelings, and soul out there for someone else to read – for someone else to feel. The fact that someone can read my words, and empathize with my characters – characters that wouldn’t exist with out me, that I created from my mind – is such a wonderful concept to me. I could happily write for the rest of my life as long as there was one person out there who was affected by my words.

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Book Review – The Library of Fates

Title: Library of Fates
Author: Aditi Khorana
Published: July 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
Goodreads

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: Like It

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Synopsis:

A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn.

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

“All I had now were stories, words, and hope” (p. 185)

Thank you Penguin Random House for an eARC of The Library of Fates.

This story is unlike one I’ve ever read before and I absolutely love that fact. Khorana writes an #ownvoice story about Indian folklore that completely dunks you into this awesomely beautiful culture and storytelling. The descriptions are colorful and vivid, evoking a subconscious sense of wanderlust, presenting a world that you will want to reach out to touch, taste, feel, and can’t get enough. Who wouldn’t want to explore a place like this: “Blue and silver minarets rose above the walled city of Shalingar’s capital—Ananta. A layer of marine fog settled over Chanakya Lake, revealing miniature houseboats wearing elaborate gardens on their roofs like soft, mossy hats. They sailed placidly across the flat, misty surface of the basin” (p. 7)?

Amrita is the daughter of an emperor who has kept her primarily contained within the palace walls her whole life. Honestly, the palace has so much for her, it’s not surprising that she doesn’t have huge dreams to leave. She has a great relationship with her father, a best friend from childhood who recently revealed his feelings for her, and a handmaiden-type woman who is basically a mother figure. While she can be a bit of a brat when she doesn’t get what she wants (Can you blame her, though? Everything is generally given to her usually.), she respects her dad and his leadership of their lands.

But everything gets flipped upside down when her father’s old friend comes to visit. Sikander is a sexist, entitled jerk who wants to own and rule over everything. Soon into his visit, he reveals his plan to take over the kingdom and wreak destruction to make it happen. Amrita is encouraged to flee to warn her people. She then is sent on a great journey with her new friend Thala, learning about the world outside her doorstep, about how to take risks and fight for the people she loves, about sacrifice, and that the folklore stories she grew up hearing had more truth than she ever dreamed and she played a big role in them.

While the writing was absolutely gorgeous and the adventure exciting, there were some slower parts that I just wanted to rush through. Plus, there were actually a couple love triangles and I’m not really about that life. However, even with those things, I cannot recommend this book enough!

The Library of Fates is an enchanting story that heavily focuses on love and sacrifice. The amount of sacrifices made throughout this story make you want to be a better person and love your people harder. And while there is quite a lot lost on the journey, the fight is worth it and the end is inspirational. So I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

“And we cried because I think we both understood that there was no life without loss.”
(p. 301)

Blog Tour/Review – Girl on the Verge

Title: Girl on the Verge
Author: Pintip Dunn
Published: June 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Goodreads 

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: It’s okay

Synopsis:

From the author of The Darkest Lie comes a compelling, provocative story for fans of I Was Here and Vanishing Girls, about a high school senior straddling two worlds, unsure how she fits in either—and the journey of self-discovery that leads her to surprising truths.

In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.

When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how much it intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong…

“Don’t let someone else determine how you feel about yourself.” (chapter 8)

I am extremely grateful to Xpresso Book Tours, Pintip Dunn, and Kensington Publishing Corp for a free advanced reader’s copy in return for an honest review. Head over here to follow the rest of the tour. 

Girl on the Verge is an own voices young adult thriller about discovering who you are and learning to value what makes you different. Kan is a Thai-American who struggles with what that means for her culture and identity. With one foot in both cultures, she feels she can’t fit in anywhere and that her differences cause too much tension for her to be treated as an equal. To top that off, she frequently has to deal with racism and microagressions from those around her, even her friends.

Through this internal tension, Kan still chooses to see the best in people. She lets slurs roll off her back because she wants to believe that they don’t realize what they said. She welcomes the girl her mom brings home to stay with open arms and attempts to make her feel comfortable and wanted. Kan is crazy loyal and kind, while still going through angsty teenage drama within her family. She’s honestly the friend that everyone needs in high school.

Dunn’s writing is immersive and engaging. The set-up of the story felt natural and not forced at all. I honestly forgot I was reading a thriller and I should expect strange things until I was knee deep in the evidence. Though, I do distinctly remember starting to feel uneasy about Shelly’s manipulative friendship almost a fourth of the way through the book. The pace of the book started to snowball from there, getting more and more intense. I couldn’t put it down—I read the whole thing in less than 24 hours. While the beginning of the book didn’t reveal things too quickly, somewhere in the second half it felt like little facts were being revealed in much too obvious a manner, which allowed me to guess the last major plot twist a while before it arrived. I wonder if we didn’t get the chapters from Shelly’s perspective if that would’ve kept me in the dark enough that the ending would be more of a surprise with a side of “how did I not notice that?”

Of course, there’s a swoon-worthy guy in this book. It’s charming how much he wants to be able to save Kan and keep her from harm, but ultimately, she needed to be strong enough to do it on her own. He is so genuine and adorable, how could you not adore him just as much as Kan does?

Girl on the Verge is intense, relevant, and enjoyable, creating characters that are easy to connect with and a plot that keeps you glued to the page. This is my first read by Dunn, but I will definitely be coming back for more!

Purchase Links

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Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL.

Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. Her debut novel, FORGET TOMORROW, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. Her other novels include THE DARKEST LIE, REMEMBER YESTERDAY, and the novella BEFORE TOMORROW.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at http://www.pintipdunn.com

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