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

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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

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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.

Book Tour/Review – Hot Pursuit

Title: Hot Pursuit (To Catch a Thief #1)
Author: Kay Marie
Published: August 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Goodreads

Rating: 3 stars
Cover: Don’t Like It

HotPursuit

Synopsis:

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days meets White Collar in this sassy and sweet romantic comedy, new from bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis, writing as Kay Marie.

All Jolene Carter has ever wanted is a bakery of her own. There’s only one problem. Her father, Robert Carter, is a world-renowned art thief and she’s, well, sort of his protégé. But he’s promised her this next job in New York will be their last, and she won’t let anyone get in the way of her dreams…especially not the distractingly delicious FBI agent hot on her tail.

Agent Nate Parker has been on the Robert Carter case for years, and if rumors of the aging criminal’s retirement are true, this might be his last chance to nail him. With the legacy of his late father in the back of his mind, the stakes are more personal than anyone realizes. He won’t let anything stand in the way of justice…especially not the red-headed vixen who keeps giving him the slip.

He’s a cop who’d never bend. She’s a con who’ll never break. But all’s fair in love and larceny…

“But there was a different kind of glory to be found in the shades of gray. A different kind of beauty, if he’d just open his eyes and see, if he’d only let her show him” (p. 216)

Happy book birthday to Hot Pursuit by Kay Marie! Thank you Kay Marie and Xpresso Book Tours for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Jolene and Nate’s story is sassy, sexy, and funny. Jolene has a way of getting under Nate’s skin and screwing up his perfectly organized, black and white world. If only she could stop playing with him for a day, maybe he’ll finally be able to pin all her family’s crimes on them.

Jolene never asked for the criminal life and she’s starting to learn that there’s more at play in this game that she thought. All she wants in life is to be able to create new bakery inventions and open her own bakery, but with everything she’s done for her father, will that dream ever become tangible?

Kay Marie writes a fast-paced, fun story where the lines between good guy and bad guy get blurred, and the only way either can win is by letting go of the things that give them those titles. I enjoyed learning about Jolene and Nate’s individual stories, and how it brought them to where they are today. While the characters were enjoyable, I found the writing lacking. Kay Marie uses short, abrupt, and even repetitive sentences to add to the drama, but they are used so liberally in this book that I started to get annoyed. I found myself reading faster to find out what happened, but also to marinate in the writing as little as possible. The story was fun, I just wish it was better written.

Purchase Link:

Amazon

About the Author

Kaitlyn Davis, a bestselling author with over a quarter of a million books sold, writes young adult fantasy novels under the name Kaitlyn Davis and contemporary romance novels under the name Kay Marie. Publishers Weekly has said, “Davis writes with confidence and poise,” while USA Today has recommended her work as “must-read romance.”

Always blessed with an overactive imagination, Kaitlyn has been writing ever since she picked up her first crayon and is overjoyed to share her work with the world. When she’s not daydreaming, typing stories, or getting lost in fictional worlds, Kaitlyn can be found playing fetch with her puppy, watching a little too much television, or spending time with her family. If you have any questions for her–about her books, about scheduling an event, or just in general–you may contact her at: KaitlynDavisBooks@gmail.com

Sign up for Kaitlyn’s newsletter to stay up-to-date with all of her new releases, to receive exclusive subscriber bonus content, and more!

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

Giveaway

Tour-wide giveaway (INTL)
$25 Amazon gift card

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Book Review/Blog Tour – Stanley & Hazel

Happy book birthday to Stanley & Hazel, a fun mystery set in the 1930s! Today I will be sharing my review–thank you Chapter by Chapter, Month9Books, and Jo Schaffer for my eARC of the book. You can follow the rest of the tour by clicking the banner below!

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Follow the tour HERE

Title: Stanley and Hazel
Author: Jo Schaffer
Published: May 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Goodreads

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

Stanley and Hazel Cover

Synopsis:

A great depression has gripped the city of St. Louis in 1934. Stanley, an orphaned newsy, lives in a poor part of town hit especially hard by the economic downturn. One night, Stanley runs into Hazel, a restless debutante in waiting who has begun to question her posh lifestyle in the midst of the suffering she sees. She’s out and about without an escort and against her father’s wishes.

When they discover the body of a girl with her head bashed in by a baseball bat, the very different and separate realities of the two teens inform their decision. Together they will figure out what happened to her and bring those responsible to justice.

But getting involved with each other and digging into the secrets behind this murder earns them some powerful enemies, including a secret group seeking to rid society of all they deem “undesirable.” They’ve put into motion “The Winnowing,” a plan seeking to take over the city and enforce their will.

As Stanley and Hazel’s forbidden feelings for one another grow, their investigation turns deadly. Now, it is up to Stanley and his gang of street kids to stop Hazel from becoming the next victim.

“Somehow, some way, even though they were from different worlds, they were on the same page. Stanley saw it in Hazel’s eyes.” (chapter 10)

Honestly, when I started to read this, it didn’t seem like something that would grab my interest. However, it didn’t take long for this opinion to change. As I continued to read, even only a fourth of the way in, I was hooked. What was going on and who were all these shady people? I had to know.

Hazel comes from a very high class society with rules and expectations. When she accidentally steps out of these rules by attending a movie unescorted, she quickly learns that things aren’t quite as black and white as she always assumed. Suddenly all these hungry, poor people from the lower class had faces and personalities and their struggles became real to her. What does this mean for the privileged life she has led up until now? Will she ever be able to go back to the way things were, and with her newfound friendship with Stanley, does she even want to?

Stanley is a fighter, not just physically, but he is also fighting for his dreams and his future. He refuses to let the hand he’s been dealt define how he lives the rest of his life. And gosh, he’s got such a heart of gold. While he fights for the truth and for his dreams, he’s also fighting for everyone else, protecting them and giving them a better future. He’s definitely not what Hazel expected, and he sure won me over pretty fast.

The rawness of classism and discovering privilege is so refreshing, even taking place at a time where it looked different than it does today. It’s still happening, it’s still relevant, we still innately judge what we do not know or understand. Books that commentate on classism are still so important in this day, and Schaffer creates that bridge, making a book about the 30’s relatable.

The gritty mystery and the stirring questions about privilege were what got me hooked, but the developing of Hazel and Stanley’s characters, their growth, and let’s be real, their blatant attraction to each other kept me going! I didn’t want to put this down!

About the Author

Jo Schaffer

Jo Schaffer was born and raised in the California Bay Area in a huge, creative family. She is a YA novelist, speaker, writer at Patheos.com, works in film production and is a Taekwondo black belt.

She’s a founding member of Writers Cubed and co-founder of the Teen Author Boot Camp, one of the largest conferences in the nation for youth ages 13-19. She and a crew of local and international bestselling authors present writing workshops to hundreds of attendees at the Utah-based conference as well as hundreds of others worldwide who view the conference online.

Jo loves being involved in anything that promotes literacy and family. She is passionate about community, travel, books, music, healthy eating, classic films and martial arts. Her brain is always spinning new ideas for books and sometimes she even gets around to blogging.

Jo is a mom of 3 strapping sons living in the beautiful mountains of Utah with a neurotic cat named Hero.

Website| Twitter| Facebook| Tumbler| InstagramGoodreads

Giveaway

 One (1) winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a digital copy of Stanley and Hazel by Jo Schaffer (INT)

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Review – Fighting Fate (Joining of Souls #2)

Shaila Patel’s second installation of the Joining of Souls series comes out in FIVE DAYS! Today I’ve got an early review for you to help you get excited. Thank you, Shaila Patel, for my eARC. If you missed my review for the first book, check it out here: Soulmated. I also have an interview with the author after the first book’s release HERE, as well as an excerpt of Fighting Fate HERE!

Title: Fighting Fate (Joining of Souls #2)
Author: Shaila Patel
Published: April 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy
Goodreads 

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: It’s Okay

fightingfate_ebook-amazon

Synopsis:

Empath Liam Whelan is determined to protect Laxshmi “Lucky” Kapadia, the girl he loves, at all costs–even if it means breaking her heart to keep her alive. Stopping the joining cold means Liam’s life is in danger from the Soul Seekers and the ruthless Minister Gagliardi who now has designs on Lucky. Liam has no choice but to find the strength to fight his desires, fight the joining, and fight fate.

After the unthinkable happened, Lucky’s “hallucinations” have been working double-time. Heartbroken and plagued by doubts, she meets a man who gives her a mind-blowing explanation for her predicament. Her apparent savior provides her with an escape from her hell: run away with him or return to her drab existence and watch Liam move on with her heart in his hands. All Lucky ever craved was to be in control of her own fate, but when her only choices fight against her heart, can she find the strength to battle for what she wants?

“Who was the real Lucky?” (chapter 17)

Shaila Patel did it again! The characters were captivating, the connections between Liam and Lucky were descriptive, and my heart was beating out of my chest with ANOTHER cliffhanger! Why do you do this to me, Shaila?

One thing I particularly loved about this second book is the more in depth looks into Liam and Lucky’s individual cultures, as well as that of the empaths. The descriptions of the landscape of Ireland and the foods of Lucky’s Indian heritage created a desire to know more, to understand more. I even went and made myself some penda after reading the mouth-watering descriptions! There is also a bunch more background on the empath history, which sometimes slowed the plot down quite a bit, but it all ties up very nicely by the end of the book.

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As Lucky learns more about what it means to be an empath, her powers and connection with Liam, and the dangers racing toward her, it honestly gave me some Twilight vibes. Let me preface this by saying I do NOT like the Twilight books, I DO like the Joining of Souls books. For starters, I think Patel writes these stories better than Meyers did. But the phenomenon of Lucky turning into this supernatural being and Liam teaching her about this world and her powers made me feel a ton of similarities between the stories. Thankfully, while Liam and Lucky can get pretty obsessive about each other, neither are whiney and selfish like Bella and Edward. In fact, one thing I admire a ton about their love for each other is how much they seek to put the other person before themselves, trying to give them what’s best for them. But, like typical teenagers, that’s not always actually the best thing for them.

There is still the tension of Lucky’s mom’s desires and Lucky being straddled between Indian culture, American culture, and empath culture, which is one of the most interesting conflicts in these books in my opinion. How does Lucky stand up to her mom without dishonoring her? How can she be one person split between so many people and worlds?

Patel does a fantastic job of jumping in right where Soulmated ended, while also slowly reminding you of things from the first book without being completely obnoxious. Yes, that’s a thing. I remember hating it way back when I was a kid reading the Nancy Drew books as a kid. YES I KNOW WHO NANCY IS BY THIS POINT, OKAY? The last fourth of the book had my heart racing. I was reading as fast as I can, devouring the drama. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, Shaila LOVES her cliffhangers, so now I have to wait even MORE impatiently for the next book!