Book Review/Blog Tour

Title: Risking It All
Author: S.M. Koz
Published: June 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Goodreads

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like It

Risking

Synopsis:

A high-achieving teen who’s determined to become a fighter jet pilot is matched up with an accused criminal at an elite military boarding school in SM Koz’s YA novel, Risking It All.

Paige knows exactly what she wants—to graduate from Wallingford Academy and become a pilot in the US Air Force. She’s inherited her father’s no-nonsense attitude and whip-smart intelligence, all of which have made her the perfect Wallingford cadet.

Wallingford Academy is the last place in the world Logan wants to be. But after his girlfriend borrows his car and commits a crime, Logan takes the fall and ends up there with hopes of striking a decent plea bargain. For him, graduation can’t come soon enough.

When Paige is asked to mentor Logan, it’s the perfect opportunity to prove her leadership skills—but she doesn’t account for the feelings that start to develop or the baggage from Logan’s past which could threaten both of their futures.

A very happy book birthday to Risking It All by SM Koz! Thank you to Koz, Swoon Reads, and Xpresso Book Tours for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review. You can click the banner above to follow the tour for more reviews and excerpts.

Paige has had her whole life planned out for as long as she can remember. All she wants in life is to follow her fathers footsteps…well, almost. Being a student and cadet at Wallingford Academy is everything she could ask for to help her achieve her dreams. While Logan doesn’t have his whole life mapped out, or really any of it, Wallingford is the exact opposite of what he wants. His bad attitude could really hurt his chances in court, but how else is he supposed to respond to this torture?

Paige and Logan are as opposite as can be, but that’s the best part. The more time they’re forced to spend together, the more those differences help round out each other’s personalities. They are able to learn things from each other that neither expects. The character growth in this story is absolutely captivating to watch–and it really feels like you’re right there in the sidelines, watching. As each hurtle comes, Paige and Logan find themselves learning more and more how to loosen their closed hands and open themselves up to new perspectives.

I’ve read one other book by Koz, so I was not surprised how engaging the writing was. The military aspect of this story was a very cool addition; I haven’t read any books about this career area, but it was quite the enjoyable premise. It allowed for situations that really helped flesh out the characters and helped me connect with them. I was on board from chapter one. There were moments where I would get frustrated at Logan for not coming clean, and therefore digging himself in a hole more and more. But if he had come clean, we wouldn’t have this beautiful story between him and Paige. This hate-to-love is a win for me.

Purchase Links:
Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play

 

About the Author

SM Koz was born in Michigan, but moved to North Carolina for college and never left. She enjoys traveling, camping, hiking, photography, reading, spending time with foster kids who call her house home, and learning new things. When she’s not creating online training for pharmaceutical companies (her day job) or writing, Koz can be found at the local community college taking courses on various topics ranging from digital art to HTML to desktop publishing. SM Koz has written six novels. Although her stories differ by genre, ranging from contemporary realism to sci-fi to fanfiction, two things they all have in common are a young or new adult focus and romance. If you’d like to learn more about SM Koz, check her out on social media.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

Giveaway

Tour-wide giveaway (US/CAN)
Print copy of Risking It All
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Book Review – Game Plan

Title: Game Plan (Varsity Girlfriends #4)
Author: Kayla Tirrell
Published: May 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Goodreads

Rating: 5 Stars
Cover: It’s okay

Synopsis:

I’ve only got one shot to win his heart.

I’ve had a crush on Preston Royce for as long as I can remember. Only, I’ve never told him, or anyone, because he doesn’t see me that way. (And because his sister, Charlie, happens to be my best friend!)

But when Preston’s girlfriend breaks his heart, Charlie comes up with a plan to get them back together–a plan that involves Preston and me pretending to date.

Yeah, it’s a bad idea cozying up with a guy who’s still in love with his ex, but it may be my only chance to get close to him before we graduate high school. He thinks we’re faking.

Meanwhile, I’m falling more in love with him…

Game Plan is perfect for anyone who likes their sweet romance with a dash of drama. It is the fourth book in the Varsity Girlfriends series.

“Every time I felt like I’d made some progress in turning mine and Preston’s fake relationship into something real, she showed up and reminded me exactly where I stood. I was a placeholder, and my only purpose was to make Beth jealous” (chapter 14)

Happy book birthday to Game Plan, by Kayla Tirrell! Thank you for a free copy in return for an honest review.

My heart is bursting from my chest! The utter sweetness of this story completely oozes off the pages in the best way possible. I’m so happy that we get to revisit the Royce family in a whole separate book, but now with a deeper look into the character of Preston. My heart is SWOONING for Daria’s and Preston’s fake relationship. Have I mentioned before how these types of stories are my favorite? The only sad thing is that basketball season is basically over at the beginning of the book, so there’s not much action on the court for a sports romance.

Daria is struggling to define who she is and what she wants. Her parents have a very clear idea of who they think she is, but all the options outside of their plans is overwhelming. All she knows for sure is that her best friend’s brother stole her heart many years ago and she might die from embarrassment if they found out. Which is probably why she said yes to Charlie’s harebrained idea for Daria to fake date Preston. Nothing can go wrong there, right?

I was rooting for Daria the entire time. It felt so familiar to revisit this town and all the people around them that help shape their every day lives, but I think that’s what makes this story, making a full circle back to book one, all the more sweeter. There’s no one else I wanted to root for in the whole series more than these two.

Book Review – Rebound Boyfriend

Title: Rebound Boyfriend (Varsity Girlfriends #3)
Author: Daphne James Huff
Published: April 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Goodreads

Rating: 2 Stars
Cover: It’s okay

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Synopsis:

I am 100%, completely, totally over Jeremiah.

After all, he’s the one who dumped me.
For my best friend.
Via text message.
Two days before Christmas.

So I did what any self-respecting head cheerleader would do: I started dating his teammate. Who’s great. Really.

But now Jeremiah keeps looking at me like he misses holding me just as much as I miss being in his arms. And we’ve been paired up for the most important history project of my entire life.

Can my heart survive this? Or should I hope for another shot with the only boy I’ve ever loved?

Rebound Boyfriend is a sweet second chance sports romance you’ll swoon over instantly. It’s the third book in the Varsity Girlfriends series.

“Everyone who knew how to make things better had left me. This was all on me to figure out” (chapter 26)

Thank you Kayla Tirrell and the Varsity Girlfriends team for a free copy in return for an honest review.

This story left a bitter taste in my mouth. I didn’t find any of the characters to be engaging or redeeming, except for possibly parts with Jeremiah. I tried not to go into this story with any time of YA cheerleader stereotypes, but this story stuck pretty close to the script. All of the girls were whiny and superficial. Sammi just wasn’t very likable, which made it hard to empathize with her while she’s dealing with heartache.

Things that made me frustrated: Sammi’s best friend was extremely manipulative. There’s a line between trying to help your friend get over their ex and forcing them to do things to make that happen, and Staci for sure crosses that line completely. I also didn’t like Sammi’s relationship with Ryan–or really Ryan at all. He was annoying and I couldn’t make sense of anything he did. Sammi’s decision to train him to be a good boyfriend was a really half-assed plot device and wasn’t fleshed out well at all. And finally, the reveal of why Jeremiah broke up with Sammi, even though he was clearly not over her, was extremely anti-climatic and pretty silly.

I did very much enjoy some of the scenes between Sammi and Jeremiah, specifically when they were working on their history project. The chemistry between them was fun to read.

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 – Sourpuss

Title: Sourpuss
Author: Merricat Mulwray
Published: January 2019
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Comedy

Rating: 1 Star
Cover: Like it

sourpuss_5x8_front

Synopsis:

Sourpuss is a blistering satire of the depraved and entitled culture that pervades college campuses.

Mallory Wahl loathes the campus party scene…

She’s sprinting through her senior year obsessed with winning a spot on the US Olympic track team. But she runs straight into a hurdle in the form of a fraternity president Graham Patterson, an intern assigned to help her recover from an injury – one she blames on him.

Once Graham’s therapies begin to work, Mallory pretends to fall in love but traps herself in her own scheme and tailspins deep into his debauched world. When a scandal erupts which threatens to shatter her Olympic dreams once and for all, Mallory must finally face the dark truth she’s been running from since freshman year.

In the style of a ’90s dark comedy flick, Merricat Mulwray’s debut brings an insightful and humorous perspective to the reckless behavior college students perpetually get away with. Mallory, herself a flawed heroine, is backed by a self-serving cast of athletes, party girls, townies, and fraternity brothers so hilariously dark that they book will leave you wondering if anyone ever gets what they deserve.

“But when she looked around at the thousands of people cheering in the stands, what she felt most was alone” (chapter 25).

Thank you Merricat Mulwray, Haigh 38 Press, and Xpresso Book Tours for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review. You can check out an excerpt of the book here.

There is potential for a story here: one where the cynical girl with big dreams learns that the people she steps on to rise to success are the very people she needs, and one that addresses rape culture on college campuses. But I left this story confused.

It’s very apparent that Mulwray gets inspirations from movies like Heathers, and it’s clear that they are writing in this vein, but it falls short by a long shot. All of the characters are awful, none of them having redeeming qualities. This is intentional. However, the characters aren’t developed or fleshed out enough for the reader to connect with them at all through their horrible personalities. What’s keeping us attached to this book? There is also no dark comedy at play here, which is how the book is advertised. It’s just dark, poorly written, and lacking editing.

The transitions were frequently missing, which caused me to have trouble following the plot. There were many moments where I would stop and say, “But how did we get here?” or “Why is this character randomly different?” The narrative also changes from Mallory’s perspective to literally everyone else’s 14 chapters in: another element to the overall confusion. Why did we even need Wesley’s perspective? He is a side character and his perspective doesn’t add a single thing to the story except continue to make you disgusted at all the characters. If the change of perspective is absolutely necessary,  which I don’t believe it is, two perspectives is all we need. The backstory on characters was just thrown in haphazardly and many times wasn’t needed, or could’ve been introduced better. The “character growth” didn’t make sense nor was it believable. I had a hard time finishing this.

Sourpuss needs a lot of work. I was excited to enter a world modeled after ’90s dark comedy, but left it with a nasty taste in my mouth and feeling very disconnected with the story.

Blog Tour – The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me

Hello, readers! Today is the book birthday if Olivia Hinebaugh’s book, The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me. To celebrate, I’m giving you an inside look and a chance to win a print copy of the book! Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for reviews and author interviews—my review is to come shortly!

Title: The Birds, The Bees, and You and Me
Author: Olivia Hinebaugh
Published: January 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

birdsbees

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Lacey Burke is the last person on the planet who should be doling out sex advice. For starters, she’s never even kissed anyone, and she hates breaking the rules. Up until now, she’s been a straight-A music geek that no one even notices. All she cares about is jamming out with her best friends, Theo and Evita.

But then everything changes.

When Lacey sees first-hand how much damage the abstinence-only sex-ed curriculum of her school can do, she decides to take a stand and starts doling out wisdom and contraception to anyone who seeks her out in the girls’ restroom. But things with Theo become complicated quickly, and Lacey is soon not just keeping everyone else’s secrets, but hers as well.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

Excerpt

“I think I finally have my audition piece,” I say to my best friend Evita. I plop into the chair next to her and start unpacking my lunch.
“Huh?” she asks, pulling out ear buds that I hadn’t noticed under her mane of curls.
“You’re not supposed to listen to anything too loudly,” I remind her. It’s a rule she came up with anyway. She needs to preserve her perfect hearing for when she’s a famous record producer/ singer/DJ. “But if you are going to listen to something . . .” I hold up my phone.
“What’s that?” Theo asks, sitting opposite us.
“Possibly my audition piece,” I tell him.
Evita sits up a little straighter and puts her game face on.
“Hand it over.”
“Why does she get to hear it first?” Theo asks.
“Get over here,” Evita tells him, holding out one of her ear buds.
“It’s obviously just a MIDI file, but, you know, I could do it on viola. With maybe piano, but it’s kind of . . .” I gnaw on the side of my thumb.
Theo shoves between us, balancing precariously across our two chairs. I hand Evita the phone. She hits play. The piece is two and a half minutes.
A long two and a half minutes.
Beyond an occasional bob of her head, Evita makes no show of emotion. Theo, thankfully, is much less opaque. First, he raises his eyebrows at me. Then he mouths “Wow!” He’s probably at that set of arpeggios from the viola that melt under those big chords.
“What are you listening to?” Theo’s girlfriend, Lily Ann, asks as she sits down with her lunch tray.
Theo puts a finger up, telling her to wait.
When it’s over, Evita finally smiles. “Yes, Lacey. Absolutely. We should record it ASAP.”
“It’s great,” Theo says, throwing an arm around me and giving me a squeeze.
I can’t keep the smile from my face. “Awesome.”
“You nailed it,” Theo says as he stands and joins Lily Ann on the other side of the table.
“Can I listen?” Lily Ann asks.
“Of course,” I say with a forced smile.
“So, if we can record this today after school, we can send it in by Wednesday. Or even tomorrow. You know I don’t mind pulling an all-nighter,” Evita says.
“That’s not necessary,” I tell her. “Let’s just do it Saturday. We were going to rehearse other stuff this afternoon anyway, right?”

 

About the Author

 

 

Olivia Hinebaugh loves all stripes of literature for children. When she isn’t writing fiction, she can be found writing freelance, making art, discovering new songs on spotify, texting her writing buddies, or folding laundry. She lives near Washington, D.C. with her spouse, three kids, a dog that looks like a coyote, and a one-eyed cat. The Birds, The Bees, And You And Me is her debut novel.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

Giveaway

Giveaway details (US/CAN):
Print copy of The Birds, The Bees, and You and Me

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Book Review – Toxic

Title: Toxic
Author: Lydia Kang
Published: November 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

Cyclo, the first and largest biological ship of its kind, is dying. A small crew of mercenaries have handed over the rights to their life to document the death of the ship, but the abandoned ship is anything but abandoned―one girl has been left behind.

Hana has known nothing but the isolation of a single room and the secret that has kept her there for seventeen years. When she meets Fennec, the boy assigned to watch her, she realizes that there is a world she has yet to experience but she is doomed to never meet.

When crew members begin mysteriously dying, Hana and Fenn realize that they are racing against the death of the ship to find a way to survive―unless someone kills them even before Hana’s truly had a chance to live.

“Somewhere outside of Cyclo, stars are colliding, black holes are collapsing, and galaxies are being born. People are dying, and people are opening their eyes for the first time in their lives. But right now, Hana is the only thing in my universe” (chapter 20).

Thank you Entangled Teen and Lydia Kang for a free eARC of this book in return for an honest review.

Hana wakes up one day in the room she has never once left and realizes that everything is wrong, there is a world outside her door that is dying and she’s never had a chance to explore it because she was never meant to be. When a group of criminals are assigned to a death mission to document the death of this biological ship, the first of its kind, Hana realizes that all the knowledge she has acquired in her studies are no substitute for actual human interaction.

Fenn (goodness, I love his name!) has been enjoying the thrill of stealing since he was quite young, but this death mission is the push he needs to recognize how his lifestyle affects other people—a little too late. When he learns that the ship isn’t as empty as he was told, he discovers how to live, as he counts down the days until they die.

Young adult sci-fi lovers, get this book in your hands! Kang writes with such urgency, you can feel the emotions radiating off the page. Plus—it’s in space! As Hana and Fenn learn more about their biological ship’s abnormalities, as they learn more about each other, you can’t help but feel drawn to their charming personalities and their desperate search for meaning and fulfillment. Every moment that death looms closer, every secret unearthed, every refocus of perspective, every curve ball thrown into their plans—you’ll be hooked onto every word.