The Perfectly Imperfect Match by Kendra C. Highley

Blurb:
35496084Pitcher Dylan Dennings has his future all mapped out: make the minors straight out of high school, work his way up the farm system, and get called up to the majors by the time he’s twenty-three. The Plan has been his sole focus for years, and if making his dreams come true means instituting a strict ” no girls” policy, so be it.

Lucy Foster, needlepoint ninja, big sister to an aspiring pitcher, and chicken advocate, likes a little mayhem. So what if she gets lost taking her brother to baseball camp…at her own high school? The pitching coach, some hotshot high school player, obviously thinks she’s a hot mess. Too bad he’s cute, because he’s so not her type.

Problem is, they keep running into each other, and every interaction sparks hotter than the last. But with Dylan’s future on the line, he has to decide whether some rules are made to be broken…

Disclaimer: This book contains a crazy night of moonlit skinny-dipping, a combustible crush, and kisses swoony enough to unwind even the most Type A athlete.

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My Review:
4 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

Before I get into the meat, as an aside: Covers don’t make or break a book for me, but can I just say that this cover is absolutely perfect for this book?  I love it when a scene from the book is represented, it always makes me auto-smile and squeal when I get to it!!

Ahem.  Anyways.  I am falling in love with Ms. Highley.  She writes just my kind of cute YA books.  I’ve said it in previous reviews of the other books in this series, I’m NOT a baseball fan.  But Ms. Highley makes me want to be a baseball fan (until I watch it on TV and remember that I don’t have the attention span).  And she did it again in this book.  It’s not that there’s an overwhelming amount of baseball in the book, but it’s prominent enough that it makes me feel like I understand the passion Dylan has.  I actually prefer when my sports romance books ACTUALLY have some of the sport in it (and not just have it be a small aspect of the character).

Dylan was such an intriguing hero!!  I can’t help but wonder how he came to be so rigid and structured and goal-focused.  But while sometimes a lack of “past incident explanation” can kill a book for me, the way it was done in this book I really felt like I could see how someone could just have that be an aspect of their personality.  Like being shy, or extroverted, or a daydreamer…sometimes you’re just born a certain way.  And I kind of loved how he’d allowed this one aspect of his personality to take over his WHOLE LIFE, and that was the cause of his stress.  It was so gratifying to see Lucy open him up, make him relax, show him there’s more to life.  I also loved the conflict with his parents.  Again, Ms. Highley writes great families too — not evil ones, or uninvolved, but ones that have their own set of problems even though you can feel the love.  I loved how that all resolved too, how blinded Dylan had become in his focus.

And he was SO CUTE!!  I love the heroes in these books.  They have a healthy set of hormones, but none of them are dogs (though far from perfect either).  They are all very 3 dimensional, and I love how shy and awkward Dylan could be in relationships!  SWOON!! (a unicorn just got his wings!)

And I LOVED how different Lucy was from the other heroines in this series!  She was kind of a rebel rouser, and just marched to the beat of her own drum, but with lots of confidence.  I loved how seriously she followed her passion, and how some might see her as flighty, but if you paid attention she was really focused as well.  She just knew better how to have some fun.  And I loved her family dynamics as well, and how the pressures of stepping up and being responsible in her family were really wearing on her.  Her relationship with both her Mom and her brother felt very real, full of love but also struggles.  And I loved the military Dad aspect as well.  How it didn’t overtake the story, but was an underlying heartache.

And these two together were YA gold.  So many tummy butterflies, they really had great chemistry.  And I really could see how they sort of brought the best of each other.

So yeah, another YA success!!  And a PERFECT read for the summer, I just got all those summertime vibes!!

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Paper Cranes by Jordan Ford

Blurb:
35151232Tristan Parker is lost.
After living through his parent’s bitter divorce, Tristan surprises everyone when he decides to uproot his life and move across the country with his dad. Disenchanted, Tristan deals with his pain by shutting out the world… until one day, when trying to retrieve a lost baseball, he climbs a tower and meets a girl.

Helena Thompson is like no one Tristan has ever encountered. She’s quirky, weird, and lives in an imaginary world—her only way of coping with the bizarre life her paranoid mother forces her to lead. Drawn by Helena’s magical view on life, Tristan finds himself returning often to the unique girl with the long golden hair. But spending time with her is not an easy task, especially because their relationship must be kept a secret.

When Helena’s mother discovers the truth, can Tristan find the strength to fight for the girl who has awakened his heart? Or will the paranoid woman who keeps her daughter under lock and key stop their dreams from coming true?

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

So, as with all my reads this week, I was very distracted while reading this book, and had a hard time getting sucked in.  But somewhere after the halfway point, this book took hold of my heart and didn’t let me go, making me stay up until 4:30 am to finish it.  To say this book finished in an amazing fashion is a bit of an understatement.  I arrived at the end with tears on my cheeks and my heart full to bursting.  I can’t even begin to describe how happy this book made me.

So I’ll start at the beginning and say that Tristan’s character threw me off at first.  I’m not sure why exactly, but his voice was completely unlike what I had been expecting.  He felt a bit younger maybe.  But honestly, I’d just finished a run of adult books, so it could have been the juxtaposition, you know what I mean?  He was also less stereotypical guy-y than what I was used to, and what I was assuming I would get.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about him initially, but as the book went on, these unique traits made me fall in love with him.  He had such a sweetness to him, a sensitive side that I wasn’t expecting.  I really appreciated that he didn’t fit into any boxes.  He could occasionally be very stereotypically teenager-y, a bit whiny at times, a bit overdramatic at others, definitely moody.  But while those traits are hard to read sometimes, I appreciate that it made him more real you know?  And you really felt his growth throughout the book as a result.

I was also completely surprised that this book was entirely from Tristan’s POV.  BUT I LOVED THAT.  I didn’t expect to, I’m a dual POV lover.  But it worked for this book.  Partly because Tristan had such a journey to go on, and I appreciated having a boy coming-of-age type novel.  I appreciated that we got the unexpected, a Rapunzel retelling that wasn’t about Rapunzel so much as her hero.  And I still felt like I knew Helena enough, just through Tristan’s eyes.  I understood her struggle.  I understood how she came to be the beautiful light that she was.  I understood why she made the choices she did.  I fell in love with her sweet soul and her innocence.  And my heart broke for her even if we didn’t get to see what she went through when they were separated…by that point I knew her well enough through Tristan’s eyes to understand what she would be going through.  I loved how well developed she was, that while she had such a beautiful outlook on life, it did not make her immune to the bad things.  She wasn’t perfect.

While this book is a beautiful sweet YA love story, Ms. Ford also delved into some pretty deep topics that really got me thinking.  I thought her portrayal of the impact a divorce and cheating parent can have on a child to be spectacular, especially in the beginning.  I felt for Tristan, and the choices he had to make, the feelings that he couldn’t help, and how that was tearing him apart.  I will admit that I wish we had a bit more resolution with his mother, but I loved the development in his relationship with his father.

And I ADORED the spin she took on Helena’s mother’s character.  It made the situation so believable, and so UNBELIEVABLY heartbreaking.  It wasn’t black and white, and there were no easy answers.  There were only long, HARD solutions.

I know I said above that this was a sweet YA love story, but I really only meant the love part.  This book is full of so many emotions and angst.  I can’t even tell you how many times I cried.  Be prepared.  There were moments where the drama and romance felt a bit over the top, but I honestly didn’t care.  I was all in.

As a side note, I adored what Miss Warren and Mikayla added to the storyline.  I appreciated that Tristan had them in his life, and I loved how they added to his development.

So yeah.  I may have started my reading experience a bit shakier, but by the time I was finished I felt like my heart had been through the wringer, broken and put back together.  I loved it.  End of story.

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All the Stars Left Behind by Ashley Graham

Blurb:
31450972Relocating to Arctic Norway would put a freeze on anyone’s social life. For Leda Lindgren, with her crutches and a chip on her shoulder the size of her former Manhattan home, the frozen tundra is just as boring as it sounds. Until she meets her uncle’s gorgeous employee.

Unfortunately, no matter how smoking hot the guy is, Roar comes with secrets as unnerving as his moving tattoos. And Leda doesn’t trust him.

Roar shouldn’t be drawn to the moody human girl with eyes that leave him weak in the knees. But when Leda gets shot by one of his enemies and survives, Roar finally understands why he’s drawn to her: Leda is exactly what he was sent to Earth to find. A weapon of immense power capable of saving his planet.

She just doesn’t know it yet.

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My Review:
2.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

OK, this was a frustrating read for me.  And I’m having a hard time judging what all comes into play in my final assessment.  There is definitely a component that is a bad match writing style for me I think.  But there’s also bits that were honest to goodness not written as well too.  And this is where it gets complicated: the part that doesn’t match with me style-wise is that things aren’t spelled out for me in a clear manner, and I really really hate that (I’ll explain in a second).  But the problem with disliking that, is that I have a hard time judging what was bad writing versus just not a match, you know??

OK, I’ll attempt to explain…  Well, did anyone else see that movie The Arrival?  My husband loved it, whereas that movie made me SOOOOO angry and annoyed and frustrated and mad.  And while I could enjoy so many aspects of the movie, if I can’t have my theories confirmed on what was happening, then I just don’t like it.  Like, I need things to be closer to black and white, I don’t play well in gray area and subtlety.  I’m probably not making any sense.  *sigh*  Regardless, this book was kind of like that.  I’m left at the end of the book thinking I have a pretty good idea of what happened, but I’m not sure.  And I want to be sure.  I don’t understand what the point is if I’m not sure.  So was it bad writing, or style??  I DON’T KNOW!!

There were definitely parts of this book where I can categorically say that it needed better editing and needed to be cleaned up.  There were quite a few TINY continuity issues (like the showers on the ship were supposed to be ionized air, but then Leda talks about her hair being wet from her shower; or the drug that was supposed to put that guy to sleep for about 40 hours, and less than 24 hours later he’s wide awake; or how did the pain meds work on the tethered cord surgery, but not for the bullet wound?).  See?  Tiny, but I noticed them, and it annoyed me.  But it probably only annoyed me because I was having other problems.  The book just felt…for lack of a better word, fragmented.  From individual sentences that were probably trying to be too pretty, but then I would have to read them over again to understand them; to the overall plot and the way I would feel like I missed something from one section to another.  It was just kind of choppy in places, and didn’t make for a nice read.  And then there was the tiny plot thread that was completely dropped at the end of the book (what Enren said about Toovu and the Woede — purposely being vague to avoid spoilers), which I suppose could have been ok if there was going to be a sequel or something and they’d tackle it there, but I don’t get that impression.

So yeah, frustration.  The book needed a bit more clean up and definitely needed to be smoothed over.  Things happened so fast, I kind of couldn’t follow what people were talking about sometimes, or the conclusions they were coming to.

And then there’s the characters and chemistry.  *sigh*  This review could get so long if I really went into detail on those parts, but I’ll try to keep it brief (*snort* yeah right).  Quite honestly, I didn’t dislike the characters, but I wasn’t totally enamoured with them either.  Like none of them.  And hence I didn’t find my emotions engaged at any of the potentially heartbreaking parts.  It was a little bit insta-lovey between Leda and Roar, which I don’t always mind if I get something else out of it.  But there was so much else going on, I never really did understand why they were in love…  I got the draw and the connection, but not the emotions I guess.

And there were a ton of potentially intriguing side characters with potential little side plots, but we never got to learn about them or dive into them.  They were so many moments where the author could have delved deeper, but chose not to in favour of action I suppose.  Which is not horrible, but I hate getting teased with depth and then not getting it.  We could have learned so much about Aurelite society, how it was, how it affected people, how it shaped them.  From Stein to Petrus to even Roar.  And Nils!!  What about Nils and his mom??  And why tease us with those things and not go into them?  Why say them at all and make them part of the story and not go further?  I think the author tried to do too much with the story, and had to cut back, and didn’t really get the right focus back.  Or not.  Honestly, that’s conjecture, I shouldn’t say I know anything.

*sigh*  So yeah.  It had a lot of potential.  And despite the way this review sounds, there were interesting moments!  I even enjoyed the kisses between Roar and Leda.  I loved the inclusion of some diverse elements, and how Leda always had Spina Bifida, regardless of whether she was some fabled weapon or not.  But she pushed through it.  And there were some really quotable pretty lines!!  When the author hit her mark on those, they were really beautiful!

And that is that.  I’m sad.  Reading books that don’t match me is really taxing on my reader’s brain.  Ah well.  Onward and upward!

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Perfectly Oblivious by Robin Daniels

Blurb:
35276925Cameron Bates (Cam) could have almost any girl at Franklin High School…except for the one he wants. Unfortunately Bebe seems to be immune to his flirty charm and good looks, which means one of two things: a) she’s completely oblivious to how he feels, or b) she’s just not into him. If that’s the case, declaring his love would be disastrous for their friendship.

Bianca Barnes (Bebe) has a huge problem: the universe hates her. Every time she admits feelings for a boy, he ends up falling for her sweet, popular, and beautiful sister Beth. To avoid a broken heart, Bebe has sworn herself to secrecy. Nobody can know how she feels about Cam…Ever!

Neither person wants to confess their feelings, but the universe has its own plan. Out of the blue, Bebe is courted by a secret admirer. Cam has to step up his game and Bebe has to make a choice. Play it safe and accept the affections of her mystery man or challenge fate and take a chance on the boy she loves.

Content Description: This is a stand-alone YA contemporary romance with companion novels to follow. It contains minor language, innuendo, crude humor and steamy tension but is generally very clean. No sex. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

This was a wonderful debut, and a super cute YA.  Honestly, if it hadn’t been for my personal tastes, I would have rated this book higher.  As you can tell from the blurb, the entire premise of this book is based on not communicating…it’s what drives the plot.  Cam is afraid to tell Bianca about his feelings for fear of losing the friendship and being rejected, and Bianca refuses to tell ANYONE about her feelings for Cam b/c of what boils down to self-esteem issues.  Both are super valid feelings for teenagers, and it definitely felt realistic.  But I still have a hard time reading it personally, b/c it can result in a really frustrating book.  As far as books with “near misses” go, this one wasn’t horrible for me.  I think I was OK with it up to about 70%, and then I started to get tired and want more.  What it can provide is some great tension between the characters, and I thought that Cam and Bebe had that.  But if I’m (personally) not given enough growth and development of the characters, then I tend to be left with more frustration than I can handle.  I need something to balance it out, you know?

Now, with all that being said, I was honestly sucked in and hooked for a good portion of the book.  I’m not sure if it was great characters, or just me loving the double unrequited love trope (where they both secretly love each other, but assume the other doesn’t feel the same), but I was invested in seeing how their story would unfold.  I found both characters to be equally ADORABLE, CUTE, QUIRKY on one hand, and FRUSTRATING as all get out on the other.  You have no idea how many times I huffed in annoyance when something would get in the way and delay my gratification.  I know a lot of readers enjoy that, so I know not everyone will feel the same as me.

Bianca had a lot of traits that draw me to a heroine…I find it so easy to empathize with heroines that have self-esteem issues, and don’t see their own worth.  What I enjoyed about her is that it wasn’t all that she was about.  I LOVED how strong and confident she was in her basketball skills, and how sassy she could be with Cam and the other people she hangs out with.  I thought the relationship with her sister, Beth, really added to Bianca’s depth…her feeling conflicted b/c Beth was her best friend, but also the source of her feelings of inferiority in some ways.

Cam could be soooooo freaking cute, and I ADORED what he did to show Bianca his feelings.  Seriously, he gave me total tummy tingles, and I just wanted to hug him so many times!!  I loved seeing what he would do next.  And the pickup basketball game scene??  SWOON!!  BUT.  But.  Sometimes when he was going overboard with his jealousy, I was a bit disappointed in him.  I had to keep reminding myself he was a 16 year old boy…  So he didn’t quite get put in my top book boyfriend lists, but he still made me smile.

There were some great secondary characters as well.  I loved that there weren’t any stereotypical bad characters either, you could see hints of depth in a few of them (I’m intrigued by Michael, and even Angelica surprised me).  So many times authors will cop out and make characters overly evil, so it was refreshing that Ms. Daniels did not go there in this novel.  And of course Brady and Beth were fantastic additions.  It would have been so easy to make both of those characters too good to be true, you know?  But they weren’t.  They had depth as well, they made mistakes (particularly Beth), and they both won me over.  I loved how each of their little stories played out.  Honestly the only characters I could have stood to see more of were parents…they were noticeably absent (both BeBe’s and Cam’s).

All in all a solid debut.  If it hadn’t been for my personal aversion to lack of communication, it would have been an even bigger hit with me.  Will definitely look forward to seeing more from this author.

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Undercover Fan by Jennie Bennett

Blurb:
34025880A Stand-alone Novel from the BESTSELLING Kpop romance series.

Corrine Miller-Hayden has a secret. As captain of the cheer team and a Texas beauty queen, she wouldn’t dare tell anyone about her closet K-pop music obsession.

That is, until she runs into her Minji, her ultimate bias, at a fan gathering. She never dreamed she’d touch Minji, let alone accidentally take his phone.

When they meet again at a pep-rally, it’s not like Corrine imagined. She thought she’d be showing off, but instead she becomes the target of a dye-filled water balloon attack. Abby was supposed to be her best friend, not the girl who openly shamed her in front of the whole school.

Minji saves her, not only from embarrassment, but from her own stuck-up self.

Can she love Minji openly, and keep her fangirling a secret?

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My Review:
4 stars — OK, I’m totally reading these backwards, but I don’t even care.  I just had to dive into another of these K-Pop romances because they’re so cute and fun.  And this one felt really different from Kidnapped Idol too!  Less danger and villains, more of an authentic YA feel with some Korean flare.

Before I go further, can I just say I liked the old cover better?  This one feels…sexier or something.  The old one had a more cute YA feel somehow.

OK, cover aside, I loved this one too.  It was fun, and the romance was freaking on point!!  That was the highlight for me for sure.  I loved Corrine and Minji even more than Woon and Jemica!!  I just really felt their chemistry, and I could feel the way their feelings developed.  How Corrine went from a secret crush/obsession to really falling in love with the real Minji.

I was a bit worried that I wasn’t going to like Corrine.  I mean, I liked her at first, but then a bit of her mean girl came out and I was disappointed, and I had a hard time judging her sincerity, but then I felt like I believed in her growth, you know?  It’s kind of a weird life that she lived.

I will say that the friendship with Abby, and how that all played out didn’t work for me.  I don’t think I really understood why Abby went that far, it was really really mean.  I feel like as a reader I didn’t get enough to figure out how she could go that far in the prank, and so I had a harder time with how that worked out than Corrine did.

BUT, since I was so in love with Corrine and Minji, I didn’t care that much.  If I didn’t have that adorable romance, I probably would have been more bothered by that side plot, but I’ll give it a pass.  Seriously, the whole Galveston Island outing was like romance gold.  LOVED IT!!

If you’re looking for something light and quick to read, that gives you good feelings, I definitely say give these a try.  They’re a tiny bit cheesy, a little hard to believe, but at the same time really satisfying.

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Stage Kissed by Cassie Mae & Kelley Lynn

Blurb:
35223581Sixteen-year-old Kate knows how to juggle. From basketball practices to her shifts at Jamba Juice, Kate flies through her days wondering if she got a decent meal. When she lands a role in the school play, adding yet another task to her already full schedule, Kate starts fumbling through her routine, resorting to desperate measures to get the grades expected of her.

Co-worker and classmate Seth isn’t much of a juggler. Crowds and attention? Not his thing. So witnessing Kate’s ability to handle it all leaves Seth in awe. He could never do it. But then one of the leading actors in the play gets tonsillitis days before opening night, and Kate volunteers Seth to replace him. With his eidetic memory and killer dance moves, Seth’s the obvious choice—if it weren’t for his social anxiety.

With Seth’s growing—and unwanted—popularity and Kate spreading herself too thin, they start to wonder if their friendship will even last through the performances. But putting these two into a romance on stage has an effect neither of them could predict.

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My Review:
4 stars — Technically I did receive an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review/opinion, but yet again I was behind so I only read half of the ARC and then switched over to my preordered copy when it showed up on my Kindle.

You guys, this book was just all sorts of young adult goodness.  It contained two very *real* characters dealing with teen problems that really do NOT get addressed that much in young adult books — how to deal with being so busy!!!  Honestly, I don’t know how Seth and Kate did it.  I still don’t, even after finishing the book.  But I guess that’s the point, they *didn’t* deal with it that well.  But seriously folks, when was the last time you read a book that dealt with a seriously relevant and not over the top topic?  I LOVE it!  It was so frustrating to read about too, b/c you just want to shout “SAY NO!” but at the same time both authors made me believe in how hard it was for both Seth and Kate (mostly Kate).

One of the other aspects that I adored about this book is that both main characters were extremely likable but very different.  Kate fascinated me.  She was uber popular because she was super nice and friendly to EVERYONE, but at the same time she avoided deep friendships.  And in some ways, her “niceness” became a bit of her downfall.  Honestly it’s been a long time since I’ve adored a character while simultaneously being ridiculously frustrated with the same character.  She made me want to bang my head on a wall, but I could also honestly see how things in her life spiraled so out of control.  My heart broke for her every time her life got overwhelming and she couldn’t see a way out.  I have no doubt that there are many teenagers who can relate (heck many adults can relate).  And while I hated that she made some of the choices that she did, I kind of got it.  A part of me wanted her to learn and grow faster than she was.  I missed some of that internal enlightenment I think.  I got some of it, but I wanted a bit more from her.  But she made me cry TWO SEPARATE TIMES in this book, she made me feel just so much.

And then there’s sweet Seth.  How can I not love a shorter, shy cutie??  I mean, seriously.  Seth was such an interesting counterpart to Kate, and yet I could see what drew them to each other.  And again, he was such a great guy!!  Not without his own flaws, though he frustrated me a lot less than Kate.  Honestly, the book felt a little less balanced b/c he didn’t seem to have quite the same struggles.  I know he had the social anxiety and shyness to overcome, but I felt like his development got a bit lost in favour of the struggles Kate was going through.  So again, I wanted just a bit more depth from him.  But despite that, I still loved him.  I loved how he took care of Shelby and helped out his family, and how completely oblivious he was to his own attractiveness (both physical and personality-wise).  I loved how he cared for Kate and really paid attention to her and noticed her struggling and tried to be there for her, pushing past her natural barriers.  And it was awesome to see him embrace the role of Will!!  And OMG his kiss made me swoon!!

So yeah, this book is great to put a smile on your face.  I think I wasn’t quite in the mood for a YA book right now, b/c you kind of have to be in the right frame of mind to read about teenagers being typical teenagers.  But it made me smile giddily, giggle, and of course cry big tears, so it was definitely a success.  🙂

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It Had to Be You by Lizzy Charles

Blurb:
34995954James Parson has a problem. His military dad is going to yank him out of his expensive boarding school if James doesn’t prove he’s no longer hooking up, pulling pranks, and charming his way out of consequences. What better way to show he’s now responsible than becoming the committed boyfriend of a U.S. diplomat’s daughter?

Level-headed, book-smart Edelweiss may have traveled the world thanks to her dad’s job, but when it comes to friends and boys, she knows exactly nothing. Newly enrolled in boarding school, Edel is now on a mission to learn it all. James says he’ll help her experience the ultimate high school life—if she’ll be his fake girlfriend. And fake is perfect, because he’s exactly the kind of player she’d never date.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains red-hot romance, all the feels, and a soul-mate bad boy.

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My Review:
4 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I will wholeheartedly admit that there were a few things in this book that on another book would probably have bothered me more, but I just couldn’t help but devour this book and end it with a big smile on my face.  And I think that’s because there were just that many things to love, and that I got enough pleasant surprises that it made me gloss over the things that usually annoy me.

So let’s get the lamesauce stuff out of the way.  The niggles:
a) Lack of communication.  Yeah, there was some of that, but it didn’t bother me quite as much for some reason, maybe because I was getting other stuff from the romance, and it didn’t last like the whole book?  But it did bother me a little…it’s frustrating when assumptions are made on both sides and that’s what prevents the couple from getting together.
b) Over the top evil/witchy with a b girl.  Emma was seriously over the top.  I’m not a fan of that.  I didn’t even see any depth in her to explain why she was that way, she was just a straight up mean girl.  I guess those girls exist in real life, but I’m kind of tired of that.
c) The situation with Emma became a bit implausible, and I’m not sure I enjoyed how that all played out and was handled.
d) A few little things were dropped or not followed up with how I expected.  Like we’d suddenly be a week later, and I kind of wanted to know how things developed in between time (like after the hair, or even right after they agree to fake date).
e) Some of the twists felt a bit convenient, especially since we’d find them out at convenient times as the story went on (Julie, some of the Ainsley stuff including the Foster Mom).

OK!  That’s done!  I know that seems like a lot, but please remember they were little niggles that only slightly detracted from the awesome.  So what was the awesome?  Great characters that surprised me at different turns!  I enjoyed the fact that James wasn’t a horrible bad boy, but more of a guy who made some poor choices, or got pulled into the “need to impress” that many teenagers feel in high school.  He was seriously so much deeper than I had been anticipating.  I LOVED that we got to see how his family life affected him (having a military father, no mother), how his race affected him, how being biracial with a white father affected him.  I appreciated those little touches and that they weren’t glossed over.  I loved that we got to see real emotion in him, particularly wrt his father.  I loved that he made some monumental mistakes, which I know sounds weird, but I loved that he owned up to them and tried to make amends.  I loved that he really was genuinely trying to change.  I LOVED that he was a literature nerd, I would have enjoyed even more from that.  Basically he really impressed me with how much we got from him in just a short novel.

Then there’s Edel.  Not to be left out, Edel was pretty well rounded as well!  I enjoyed her unique situation, and how her life growing up shaped her, and how she desired normal teenager experiences.  I loved that she was pretty naive, it really fit with what I expected from her.  But she was also brave and strong at times too, and I thought she grew as the book went on.  She had typical teenage girl feelings, and they still existed right to the end.  I loved that we got to see bits of her relationship with her parents.  And she also made mistakes, one big one in particular.  I did enjoy how she stepped up and did the right thing eventually, and didn’t shy away from it.

And the two of them together were super adorable.  I LOVED the tummy tingles I got just from the hand holding.  And I loved the way they stuck up for one another, particularly how Edel championed James.

I also really enjoyed the secondary characters, though I wouldn’t have minded a bit more.  But I wonder if we didn’t get more because this is going to be a series and we’ll eventually get their own stories?  I sincerely hope so.

So yeah.  May have had a few pitfalls, but the good just made me so happy that it was a success!!

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Prove Me Wrong by Tessa Marie

Prove me wrongBlurb: With no college ambition—or desire to care—Luke Hannon’s ready to bail on school before senior year even begins. But when he spots the hot new girl reading an upside down map, he changes his mind.

Hailey Saldino desperately wants to start fresh at a school where she’s free of the snide remarks and hurtful stares. A place where no one knows her past…or her son, Brady.

Luke wants a no strings attached, physical relationship, until Hailey becomes more than a cute girl in a skirt. Usually his bad boy reputation hooks the ladies but it won’t be enough to land a girl like Hailey. Needing a lasting approach, Luke decides to be honest. No lies. No BS. As the connection between them deepens, Luke shares all his shameful secrets.

Afraid to lose one of the few people who’s ever looked at her as something other than a slut, Hailey buries herself in compounding lies. And when Hailey’s purposeful deceit blindsides Luke, he must decide if he’ll walk away, or accept Hailey and the little man she already loves.

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Favorite Quote

I’ve spent so much of my life comparing myself to my dad. Almost positive my DNA determined who I would be. The only thing my DNA determines is what I look like. The rest. That’s on me.

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2.5 stars

I could not relate to these characters at all. They attraction was too fast for me. And I felt the characters were missing some dimension to make them more likable. I found myself not caring what happened to them.  The cover is nice though and the title and blurb really are what pulled me in in the first place.

It just felt very predictable to me. So predictable that I almost didn’t finish the book.  I kept at it though hoping that it would change, it has been known to happen.  I like to give the author every chance to pull me back in, but alas, that did not happen with this book. I can’t really say much more than that.

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Waiting on the Sidelines by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
18807015Nolan Lennox had things figured out. Named after a baseball legend, she enjoyed being the Tomboy, her closet filled with her brother’s hand-me-downs, cut-off jeans and soccer shorts. But when her first trip to high school results in a broken heart from the first boy to ever make her heart flutter and cruel words from an older girl she once thought a family friend, Nolan starts to question the very person she thought she was and wonders if her humble upbringing can compete with the afforded luxuries of her privileged peers.

Throughout the next four years, Nolan struggles to maintain herself throughout her path of discovery, learning just how cruel teenagers can be through the pressures of underage drinking, sexuality and class. And despite how life seems to continue to work against her, she still manages to listen to her heart, falling deeper and deeper for the guy the entire town adores, even if he only sees her as a friend. Can Nolan strike a compromise between her own integrity and the boy she loves? And can she make him notice her before it’s too late?

Reed Johnson came to Coolidge High School with a lot of fanfare. The son of a hometown football legend and the brother of a local football hero, Reed wore all the pressures of carrying a town without hope into the spotlight. Thankfully, he had the talent to back it up. But when he meets a girl who makes him think twice about exactly what being a hero means, he starts to wonder if following in his brother’s footsteps might be all wrong.

Nolan Lennox was everything that was opposite of expected. She didn’t flirt, she didn’t drink and she didn’t sleep around. Nothing about her was easy, but something about her made Reed want to try harder. Though she didn’t look the part, she seemed to be spending a lot of time in Reed’s thoughts, and he wondered if she could be the one who made it all worthwhile. But could Reed handle letting her down? And would breaking her heart break him beyond repair?

Waiting on the Sidelines explores young love to its fullest, exposing how real young heartbreak and passion is and how important it is to discover yourself and hold onto your own identity. The story follows two young characters as they deal with mature situations, including the prevalence of bullying and promiscuity in today’s high school setting. Ultimately, Waiting on the Sidelines is a story of hope, honesty and those powerful, first true loves–the ones worth holding onto at any cost.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — Well crap.  I can’t even tell you how bummed I am right now.  This book started off AMAZINGLY.  Like, I stupidly started it at midnight (I know, but I couldn’t get my brain to sleep), and then I proceeded to stay up til 4am reading — THAT kind of amazingly.  Like, amazingly enough that I gushed on Facebook about it.  But little things that bothered me kept building up and building up until I was left with an ending that was so unsatisfying for me.  I’m so sad right now.  😦

OK, so we’re going to sprinkle the good with the bad, b/c each aspect of the story had both for me.

Nolan was initially my kind of girl.  I love reading about insecure heroines (I know, kind of weird, but I can relate).  But she was so strong in other ways as well.  And this was truly a coming of age story.  She made some cringeworthy decisions at times, but it also felt authentic to a teenage experience (even if I don’t want that to be true).  She bowed to peer pressure on occasion, right from the very start…she wasn’t immune to the horrible things other teenagers can say and do.  I actually loved this part.  Because you know what?  Not every teen girl is strong and can brush that stuff off.  Especially early on in high school.  And I did get to see some growth there, she had strong moments and weak moments and vacillated between them in the way that often happens when a person is growing up.  So while I *hated* some of the things she did (mostly wrt her romantic relationships), I initially forgave her because I expected growth and change.  The problem is, I didn’t quite get enough growth and change to satisfy me.  Mostly wrt her relationship with Reed.  So while I actually celebrated the growth we did see — I adored the passion she developed with Nancy, and her memoir was beautiful — it wasn’t enough to make up for what ended up being a very unhealthy relationship that she continually pursued.

And that’s where the major problem lies for me in this book.  I ended up hating the romance.  There were glimmers in the beginning that had me sooooo excited.  I truly felt Nolan’s crush on Reed, and I could even see his feelings for her.  I found it so intriguing to read about Nolan’s high school journey and how her relationship with Reed changed over those years.  I kind of liked that it was initially unrequited, but that there was a strong friendship there.  But at a certain point I wanted to see more of what was keeping them interested in each other.  Again, I wanted growth and change, and I didn’t quite get that.  Reed had these glimmers of goodness, and the summer after sophomore year looked like it was going to be amazeballs!  I had so many tummy tingles, and I had forgiven him for his teenaged choices earlier.  I was just happy.  I knew it wouldn’t last, but I was not expecting what happened.  Or rather, I sort of was, but this time I was disappointed (there had been some other predictable plot choices earlier on, but I was fine with them).  The main reason I was disappointed was lack of communication.  I *hate* when the whole reason things don’t work is a lack of communication.  It’s so unrealistic to me that Reed wouldn’t have yelled out the reason right away.  Or that someone else wouldn’t have told Nolan.

And at that point, the romance spiraled out of control for me.  Not saying there weren’t good moments, but it stopped being enough.  Reed was a dick.  I could forgive earlier moments, but when he continued to make horrible and hurtful choices without learning and changing, his apologies didn’t end up feeling sincere.  I felt like Nolan bent over backwards for him, and that’s just not healthy.  It made Nolan look a bit more doormat-like, and it made Reed more and more unredeemable.

(This paragraph might be a bit spoilerish, so please stop reading if you haven’t read the book and still want to) I still held out hope though.  I sincerely did.  I vacillated between two major desires for an ending.  I WANTED that redemption for Reed, or I wanted it to not be a HEA for Reed and Nolan.  And I got neither.  I actually was leaning more towards the second scenario, and then this book really would have been more of a coming of age.  I wanted Nolan to realize that while she might love Reed, it wasn’t healthy for her and it never would be.  I wanted her to love herself more.  I wanted her to go to College and find a better love, and know that Reed would be her first, but that she deserved better.  BUT, if I couldn’t have that, then I wanted Reed to understand that he needed help.  Because he did.  He was unhealthy.  He had goodness in him, but he wasn’t treating Nolan well.  I at least needed him to truly change and make a grand gesture.  A hat is not a grand gesture.  And he should have been mortified that he had made Nolan believe she was at fault.  I needed to *see* him change before I could give him another chance.

(OK, end spoilers) I enjoyed a lot of the secondary characters though.  I found her best friends to be interesting, and I almost wish she had listened to them more (especially Sienna, she seems to have a good head on her shoulders).  I really loved Sean (and eventually Becky), and that *really* pleasantly surprised me.  And I loved most of the parents in this story.  Nolan’s were actually pretty good people, and pretty tapped into her.  And then there was Buck.  I wanted more from him for *Reed*, but I guess I can’t say what kind of conversations they had since we never had Reed’s POV.  But I LOVED what he was for Nolan.  He was a big pleasant surprise.

So yeah.  A super strong start, but for me it was mired with an unhealthy relationship, an unredeemable hero, and too many problems that boiled down to communication.  So, basically, bummer.  And reading the bad reviews for the next book, it sounds like more miscommunications, so I won’t be continuing on.

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Incriminating Dating by Rebekah L. Purdy

Blurb:
30413700Ayla Hawkins is ready to stand up for change in her high school. But winning the election for class president against popular Jenna Lee will be impossible without a miracle. When she stumbles upon Mr. Perfect Luke Pressler defacing public property and catches it on camera: cue miracle. Ayla’s got the dirt she needs to get Luke on Team Ayla—in the form of her new fake boyfriend.

One mistake. All Luke wanted was a night to goof off, to blow off steam. The pressure of maintaining the perfect facade when his reality was crumbling around him had become too much, and next thing he knew, he was pretending to date Ayla Hawkins. But his little blackmailer turns out to be kind. Honorable. Opinionated. And just the breath of fresh air he didn’t even realize he was suffocating for. But Luke and Ayla come from different worlds, and once the election is over, their fauxmance will be, too.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book features adult language, sexual situations, and plenty of girl power. Reading may result in swooning, laughing, and looking for a Luke of your own.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I’m…not sure…exactly what I thought.  I enjoyed myself thoroughly.  It was what I was looking for, something a bit lighter with swoony moments.  But it did have some other depth that I hadn’t been expecting but still found very intriguing and gut-wrenching.  But at the same time there were a few things that bugged me, and it was a bit more obviously predictable.  I mean, it’s not that I don’t often pick up these books knowing that they will be predictable, because that also means that I get those predictable good feelings.  But there was just something a bit more that didn’t work for me…or maybe it’s that there were a few things that went off book that didn’t necessarily fit for me.  Huh, so did I find it too cliché or not predictable enough?  I don’t even know.

OK, good stuff.  In general I really enjoyed both our MCs.  At the core of Ayla, she was a sassy personality who believes in noble things and desires fairness and opportunities for everyone.  I enjoyed that while she was a curvier girl, she was OK with who she was most of the time…I actually liked that it wasn’t 100% of the time, b/c it’s something I think people have to work at and takes time.  Even I try to accept myself, but it’s not that sometimes things people say can’t still get to me.  So I felt like that was very real, and so she was a good role model.  And I didn’t even mind that what we got with her was the typical nerdy girl who hates judgement, but does a bit of her own judgement about the popular kids/jocks.  It’s a good lesson to learn, to give EVERYONE the benefit of the doubt, not just the ones like you.  And I didn’t even mind that she resorted to blackmail, though I wish I felt the desperation more to justify it.  It seems like she only just decided in one day to run, and suddenly she’s resorting to shady means to win.  It was OK, but could have been fleshed out better.

Luke was even more interesting in some ways.  Because we end up with a guy who is afraid to upset his current status by being himself, and who’s both vandalized and either called people names (according to Ayla’s friends), or at minimum stood by while his friends were dicks.  I felt like these things weren’t given enough time or thought in the book though, and that was kind of a shame.  Did he really never feel bad about Jack being such a dick to other people in school?  What led him to the vandalism?  I mean, we kind of get some of it, but I would have really appreciated a bit more growth there.  It was kind of swept under the rug (except for that one part with Isaac).  It was an opportunity missed in my opinion.  And I get why, there was just so much else going on with him.  But it’s not an excuse you know?  So did he honestly just have so little compassion?  Or was he just not aware?  I don’t know…

But on the other side of the coin, I (like Ayla) really fell for the “real” Luke that we got to see outside of school.  Landon’s big brother.  He was really rather sweet, and it almost seemed like maybe he was just coasting, and needed someone to give him a reason to stand up for something.  And that someone was Ayla.  And he really was dealing with soooo much at home.  The twists were a bit unexpected, and honestly I’m still not sure how happy I am with the realism of them.  Like they live in one town, and he never saw or encountered those people (trying to be vague)?  That’s kind of unrealistic, isn’t it?

As for secondary characters, they were occasionally a mixed bag.  I wanted to see more of the friendships with Brady and Chloe.  Because I think they could have added even more.  I wanted them to, from what I saw of them.  But for Chloe, I wasn’t sure what brought her and Ayla together…what they were like together.  We didn’t really get to see them hang out, she was just kind of ancillary to the plot.  I got a bit more from Brady, but I kind of wanted him to be more involved with Luke.  Like he lived on Mansion Hill, did he not notice those people?

Landon and Ayla’s parents were awesome though.  Awesome awesome awesome.  Added good stuff, made me happy.  Awesome.

I was a bit bummed with the way the whole Jenna thing worked out too.  I saw it coming from a mile away, but it would have been cool to have been surprised, you know?

So yeah, it was a solid cliché YA.  They’re good to have.  I just felt like it could have given me a bit more and I would have been a bit more satisfied.

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