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
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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

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

Rating: 1 Star
Cover: Like it

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 ever 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 our wisdom and contraception to anyone who seeks her out in the girls’ restroom. But things with Theo become complicated quickly, and Lacey’s soon not just keeping everyone else’s secrets, but hers as well.

“demonizing and stigmatizing sex prevents everyone from getting information on safer sex” (chapter 1).

Thank you Olivia Hinebaugh, Swoon Reads, and Xpresso Book Tours for a free eARC of The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me in exchange for an honest review. You can check out an excerpt of the book here.

As someone completely fascinated by the correlation between literature and culture, I went into this story wanting to love it. After all, a book promoting teenagers fighting for sex education in their school and supporting the LGBTQIA community is something that is very relevant to our current culture. But the story was completely lacking. It felt like a sex education manual with the story in the sidelines only to give practical examples. Plus there was quite a lot of awkwardness and things that didn’t add up.

The parents were very awkward and weirdly obsessed with talking about sex. While I do feel like parents should have open communication about sex so that their kids are aware and feel safe to ask questions, it really felt like sex was the only thing these moms wanted to talk about.

There is no way a teenager would be allowed to be a midwife for a hospital, nor would most people feel comfortable about that. Even with an independent study internship, there’s no way a hospital would allow this. As soon as Lacey starts doing this, I had so much trouble connecting with her because it just wasn’t believable.

Lacey and Theo’s relationship exploded out of nowhere. This girl has never even been kissed or been a noticeable attraction to guys, and she has no hesitations with jumping Theo’s bones and expressing her love for him literally the day he broke up with his ex. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but that’s what it felt like.

The lack of character development in lieu of all the mindless sex education did not make many of the scenarios believable, nor did I develop any attachment to the characters. They actually kind of annoyed me. There wasn’t much depth to them and their actions were sometimes confusing. I wasn’t rooting for the romance, and I didn’t connect with the characters’ overall goals because the development was such a side venture to the real goal of educating the reader about sex.

I wish this book was more enjoyable because I feel some of the themes (more topics than themes, though) are ones that should be explored in YA in this culture. Overall, it felt like an over the top problem novel (the problem being abstinence only sex education in schools) where flat, forgettable characters tripped over their words the whole time to be politically correct.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.

Blog Tour/Review – Watching You

WatchingYouTourBanner

Follow the rest of the tour HERE!

Title: Watching You
Author: Shannon Greenland
Published: July 2nd 2018
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult
Rating: 3 stars
Cover: Like it
WY
Synopsis:

Viola’s always been that girl from that family, so a scholarship to a prestigious private school in Florida was supposed to be her ticket out of poverty and into a brand-new life. But Viola’s secrets have followed her. Her relationship with the intelligent and gorgeous Riel should have been the salvation she needed—he understands her troubled past better than anyone. But then weird things start to happen.

Frightening messages.

Missing personal items.

The unsettling feeling that she’s being watched.

Viola’s never been one to give her trust easily, but she’ll need to trust in Riel if she’s going to survive her stalker. Because she’s not fighting for a new life anymore—she’s fighting to stay alive.

“I’ve been watching you…” (chapter 36)
Happy book birthday to Watching You by Shannon Greenland! Thank you Greenland, Entangled Teen, and Xpresso Book Tours for giving me an eARC in exchange for an honest review. This thriller/romance was a honestly more romance than thriller,  but I still found myself seeing things out of the corner of my eye and jumping as a result.
Viola finally made it out. She’s going to be the first person in her family to graduate high school, to go to college. After all her hard work, and maybe a little fib or two, she got into her dream private school for her senior year of high school, all on a full-ride scholarship. All she needs to do is keep her head down and her grades up and she could have a real shot at getting into MIT and away from her life of poverty. Only, by taking the scholarship, she learns that she forced Riel, the scholarship student of the past three years, to pay the ridiculous tuition out of pocket, while juggling raising his sister and working every chance he can get. Honestly, the fact that he’s so nice about it just makes Viola feel more guilty.
Riel is such a dream boat. He was born in Spain and Greenland’s descriptions of him will make your heart patter. He’s kind, thoughtful, calculated, and competitive. Does he get any better? While he and Viola get off to a rough start, he ends up being the anchor to Viola’s life when strange things start happening–like that weird feeling that someone is watching her.
Viola’s struggle with trying to be friends with people who have never had a problem with money is refreshing. Her drive and hard work to build a future for herself, to help her family is inspiring. And the friendship and romance that builds between her and Riel is captivating!
Some of the dialogue, particularly in the beginning, felt very unnatural and it was harder to get lost in the book until the initial background stories were built. I also wish that the stalker “chapters” weren’t included at all–they were not necessary to build the tension, didn’t actually add anything, and the writing specifically for those chapters was very awkward. I almost wanted to skip them, but was worried I’d miss some important information. Now that I’ve read them, I can tell you with confidence to just skip the stalker chapters for a better flow to the story. Otherwise, this was a fun read that draws your heartstrings, while keeping you very much on your toes!

Purchase Links:

 Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

About the Author
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Shannon Greenland is the award winning author of several novels including the teen spy series, THE SPECIALISTS, and the YA romances, THE SUMMER MY LIFE BEGAN and SHADOW OF A GIRL. She also writes thrillers under S. E. Green and lives off the coast of Florida with her very grouchy dog.

 

Giveaway

Giveaway Details (INTL):

3x $10 Amazon gift cards

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