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

51vAkq7AOQL

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

51s7TN9LYtL

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

91OhSK86xoL

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
possible-promo
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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review/Blog Tour – The Game Can’t Love You Back

Happy book birthday to The Game Can’t Love You Back by Karole Cozzo! I LOVED this baseball romance and it’s spunky characters! Click the banner below to follow the rest of the tour. Read on to hear my review–thank you Xpresso Book Tours, Swoon Reads, and Karole Cozzo for my eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.


 

 

Title: The Game Can’t Love You Back
Author: Karole Cozzo
Published: May 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: It’s okay

game

Synopsis:

Eve is used to being the odd woman out. As the only girl on her school’s baseball team, she knows exactly how to put sweaty, macho baseball players in their place, and she’s focused on one thing and one thing only—being the best pitcher she can be.

But when a freak accident forces her high school to be absorbed by the neighboring town, Eve has to contend with a new group of guys who aren’t used to having a woman on their team. And the new team’s star pitcher, Jamie, has no interest in being ousted from his throne. He can’t afford to give up his starting slot to a new pitcher—even worse, to a girl.

As the competition between Jamie and Eve starts to heat up, so does their attraction to each other. Can they keep their heads in the game, or will they end up getting played?

“And maybe if you’d pull your head out of your ass and stop feeling so personally offended by everything I do, you’d see that. You’d see that I love the game every bit as much as you do and deserve to be out there, too.” (chapter 9)

Why haven’t I been reading more sports romances? I think this every time I pick one up. I am a big fan of baseball, especially going to see games in person. However, not growing up in a sports-sleeping-eating-breathing family, I’m actually still learning every time I go to a game. I was THRILLED to discover that I understood every single term and phrase in this book aside from one, which I obviously looked up so NOW I know it–haha. Knowing the game made me feel way more immersed into the book, however, the terms and phrases weren’t overly confusing, so someone who isn’t as familiar with the game could still enjoy this story just as much!

The thing I love most about sports romance novels and sports movies is the passion and drive behind dedicated athletes. The inspiration that builds up seeing the characters work hard for something. It fills me with pride every single time. The thing I love most about hate-to-love romances (which it is very clear that this story is from the beginning) is seeing the characters learn about each other in a way that they wouldn’t have if they didn’t get under each other’s skin, and learning that they actually like these aspects they discover.

A theme throughout the book, which is highlighted in the title, is what love looks like, and how it looks different for different things and people. There is a raw honesty to Eve’s desire to fill her life with her passion and love for the game so that she doesn’t have to explore the confusing and sometimes tricky path of loving a person who may or may not feel the same way. Cozzo does a great job of showing Eve’s internal struggle with where to put her heart and whether it would be worth it to put it somewhere that may hurt.

Eve is perfectly stubborn, driven, and works her ass off. Jamie is the same, which causes tension, especially given that she is a girl on his baseball team. But they both learn to open up and let the other person in–discovering that they can no longer be the person that they once were. The competitive setting for this story is PERFECT for highlighting both character’s strengths and weaknesses, plus it just makes everything way more fun. The sparring and banter between the two will have you smiling like an idiot the whole time. The character growth and inspirational drive will grow your heart three sizes, even if you’re a Grinch. I am looking forward to read Cozzo’s other work.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

About the Author

Author Bio:

Karole lives outside of Philadelphia, PA with her loving husband, exuberant little girl, and smiley little boy. She adores YA Romance, because it would be awesome if life in general had a requisite feel-good happy ending rule. Vices include obscene Haribo gummy consumption, addiction to Starbucks NF vanilla lattes, and tendency to hoard Bath and Body Works 3-wick candles.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

Giveaway

GIVEAWAY:
Print copy of The Game Can’t Love You Back

a Rafflecopter giveaway