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 – Off Center

Title: Off Center (Varsity Girlfriends #2)
Author: M. F. Lorson
Published: March 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Goodreads

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: It’s okay

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Synopsis:

I knew exactly what I wanted out of my senior year.

A full ride to Northwestern University, the title of American High School Journalist of the Year, and a kiss, not just any kiss, but one from the boy I’ve been in love with since the sixth grade.

By October, my plan was fully in motion with liplock by Christmas imminent. Imminent, that was, until Andie Mercantile moved to Marlow Junction, swooping both my beat and my man.

Now, I’m stuck writing the sports column–a subject I know nothing about. My goals aren’t unobtainable, but they will take a lot more work. Just because a sports writer has never won Journalist of the Year before, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. And as for the kissing part, I’m not counting myself out just yet.

After all, maybe learning a bit about competition is just what I need.

Off Center is the second book in the Varsity Girlfriends series.

“It didn’t take a detective to pick up on the fact that I’d spent the entire proactive staring at Mackey like he were the second coming of Zac Efron” (chapter 13)

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

Lane is driven, a hard worker, and a hopeless romantic. It’s easy to get swept up in her goals and she fights to make her senior year everything she dreams it could be. Even when her very specific plans crumble in her hands, she tries to make the most of it by still striving to be the absolute best she can be.

The more we learn about Lane, about her relationship with her dad, the emails she writes to her best friend, the fear of failure, the more I just want to hold her tight and tell her everything will work out. It’s so sweet seeing her learn that on her own as she learns to take the things that come to her instead of holding out for an ideal.

These stories hold a lot more depth than I was expecting going in, and it does not disappoint. Plus, is there anything more sweet than a when a character falls for the opposite of what they think they need? The love interest completely tugs on all your heart strings with his big, but oh so sweet, personality and his desire to see the best in people.

I kind of want to revisit these characters. I love that this series looks at the lives of different people in the same school, and how their lives overlap, but I kind of wish I could keep reading about Lane and Mackey just a little bit longer.

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

LoveMeLoveMeNotTourBanner-1

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
LMN
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
SM
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.

BreakingTheIceTour

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

Julie-Cross_Author-Photo

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.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

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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.

Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

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Blog Tour/Review – Off the Ice

Title: Off the Ice (Juniper Falls #1)
Author: Julie Cross
Published: February 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary, Romance
Goodreads 

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

Off the Ice CoverSynopsis:

All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

“I’m breathing hard, my pulse pounding. Dad snatches the puck from my glove and stares me down. I can’t tell if he’s pissed that I blocked his shot or surprised. All I know is that I want him to go back to the center ice and do it again. And again.” (chapter 23)

I have the privilege of being on Entangled Teen’s blog tour for Julie Cross’s new book, Off the Ice. When I first heard of this book, I got excited because I love stories that involve hockey. After all, The Mighty Ducks was one of the best movies to grow up on. The boyfriend and I are even planning on going to a hockey game next week – bring it on! The hockey element definitely added some fun and tension to this story, which I loved. Before I get started with my review, I would just like to point out that there are many other stops on this tour! Check the banner below for more reviews, interviews, and guest posts to get you excited about this book.

OffTheIceTour

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR HERE!


I went into this book thinking it would be a fluffy romance with some conflict on the ice, something that was easy to read and made me feel good. That impression was shot down almost immediately. This snow-covered town of Juniper Falls holds so many secrets and the drama they cause can sometimes be dark. I was on the edge of my seat almost the entire day and a half it took me to finish this book. The drama! To reiterate, this isn’t a fluffy romance; the plot includes sex, alcohol abuse, underage drinking, physical abuse, and language.

Juniper Falls is a small, fictional town in Minnesota that lives and breathes hockey. The boys are raised to be hockey players and the girls to cheer them on (ayyye, sexist much? Though, there is mention of a little girl taking hockey classes, so a point for equality.) Tate grew up in the shadow of his hockey star father, whose dream in life is to relive his glory through his son. During the first game of the season, the Otters’ goalie walks out, and Tate suddenly goes from being a benchwarmer second goalie to the star goalie for the season. But can he get out of his head for long enough to catch the pucks? And what is he supposed to do with all these secrets coming out of the woodwork, including his own? The thing about Juniper Falls is that they have this perfect picture of what their town should look like. Anyone who strays from these perfectly functioning idealisms is ostracized and shut out. Tate struggles with keeping his own secrets from coming out, while also figuring out how to respond to those that have had their life and choices put on display.

Claire was chasing her dreams of being an actress at college when her world got flipped upside down and she was called home to help with her father and his bar. She develops this strong, independent will that ultimately puts other’s needs before her own. Whether this means sabotaging her own dreams or pushing people away so that they can find their own, Claire constantly has a battle in her head about what she deserves and what other people need. Like Tate, she also struggles with the secrets she knows and how different people would respond to these.

Chasing dreams, making them your own, discovering the values of friendships, and finding a love worth fighting for, Off the Ice has such beautiful themes, which are diamonds in the darkness of the heavier themes found. The writing feels very much as if in a high schooler’s head, so it wasn’t exceptionally stimulating, but the plot definitely took my by surprise and gripped me until the very end. The climax(es) had my heart pounding, but the fight for love and dreams melted me to a puddle. Tate and Claire’s adventure is a rollercoaster you will need to buckle up your heart for, wrapping up smoothly with hopes for the future.

Purchase Links:

Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Amazon | Indies | B&N| Kobo | TBD | iBooks

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Julie-Cross_Author-Photo

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, and Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press). She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, and many more to come!

Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA. She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres. Outside of her reading and writing credibilities, Julie Cross is a committed—but not talented—long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.

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