Just One of the Boys by Leah and Kate Rooper

Blurb:
36224817Alice Bell has one goal: to play for the elite junior hockey team the Chicago Falcons.But when she’s passed over at tryouts for being a girl, she’ll do anything to make her dream a reality…even disguising herself as her twin brother. With her amazing skills on the ice, Alice is sure she’ll fit in easily. That is, until she starts falling for one of her teammates…

Hayden Tremblay, star of the Falcons, can’t keep himself out of the penalty box. Constantly living in the shadow of his older brother, Hayden’s losing his passion for hockey. But when he gets shown up on the ice by the Falcons’ new rookie, Hayden’s determined to teach the kid a thing or two. Little does he guess that “Al’s” surprises on the ice are just the beginning…

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush title proves that wonderful things can happen when you’re brave enough to go after your dream. Dream hockey player, that is! Warning–a few locker room scenes are included.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — Well, I decided to start this one at midnight because I wasn’t quite tired yet…next thing I know it’s 5:30 am and I’m finished.  If that doesn’t tell you something, I don’t know what will.  I was sucked right in, it was very compelling for me.  If you’re a fan of Twelfth Night type retellings (and I just now realized I didn’t know how to spell Twelfth), and particularly if you loved She’s The Man, you’re probably going to love this one.  I saw some reviewers complain that it was exactly the same, but I felt that while it may have started pretty similarly, there was enough development with the characters to stand out from it.

What I find the most interesting about this read is that I wasn’t impressed with either character initially.  Alice seemed like a selfish brat, and, honestly, I could say the same for Hayden…not to mention his almost bully-like behavior.  And while a small part of me wishes they’d seen a bit more consequences for those early behaviors, I really appreciated their growth otherwise and the development of their relationship.  It kind of surprised me.  That growth even took a bit longer than I normally would have liked, but at that point I was enthralled with the hockey, their backstories, and the friendship that was developing between Hayden and Al.  And I guess it was kind of refreshing to have characters that were truly flawed, but whose growth I totally bought into.

I felt Alice’s frustration at being past over because she was a girl.  I was bummed that she was so wrapped up in what she wanted, that she didn’t even acknowledge internally that she wasn’t *really* using the deception for her brother, but for herself…and I kind of wish she’d owned up to that a bit more bluntly in the end.  But she was such an intriguing character in her own right, a true tomboy…more comfortable pretending to be her brother and feeling like she could be herself then.  I loved the struggle she had with her own identity…it really added depth.  And my heart broke for the way she’d closed herself off to emotions because of her father leaving, and how she really didn’t know how to deal with them when they came.

I felt for Hayden too!  I can’t even imagine what he was going through after the loss of his parents, but you could really feel his rage and disillusionment.  I was worried he would be a bully, but I loved how Al just got through his defenses, and then he ended up finding that true friend who he could let in.

Strangely, the romance was only OK for me.  It’s not that I didn’t feel chemistry between them, but I was much more sucked in by their friendship, and we got to see a lot more of that than romance in the end.  That, along with needing a bit more from Xander to explain his extreme attitude (like, I sort of get his motivations, but I could have used a bit more of a resolution since it was such a big looming thing in the background), are the reasons I rounded down instead of up.  That and I will admit, there were a lot of little tiny believability flaws in this story.  But I loved everything else so much it just didn’t affect my enjoyment that much.

For me this book excels in showcasing their friendship.  I REALLY felt that chemistry.  I LOVED the way they could rely on each other and how Al was there for Hayden.

It also excels in the hockey aspect…it really showcased the sport (minus the part where they mentioned an end zone).  And as a fan of hockey, I really appreciated feeling like I was on the team.

Some other little delights: the little hints of Canada, and jokes about it; Madison was awesome; Hayden’s up and down relationship with his brother; the imperfection of Al’s family, but you could still feel the love.

So yeah.  It was a hit for me.  But I really should have known better than to start this one at midnight, especially given how much I was looking forward to it.

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Love in the Friend Zone by Molly E. Lee

Blurb:
35683226The only thing worse than not being able to tell your best friend you’re head over heels in love with him? Having to smile and nod when he enlists your help to ensnare the girl of his dreams.

Braylen didn’t even want to go to Lennon Pryor’s epic graduation-night party, but when Fynn begs her to be his “wingwoman,” she can’t deny him. Talking up her BFF—how he’s magic behind a camera, with a killer sense of humor and eyelashes that frame the most gorgeous blue eyes in the history of forever—is easy. Supporting his efforts to woo someone so completely wrong for him? Not so much.

Fynn knows that grad night is his last shot before leaving for college to find true love. And thanks to Bray, he gets his chance with the beautiful Katy Evans. But over the course of the coolest party of their high school careers, he starts to see that perhaps what he really wants has been in front of him all along. Bray’s been his best friend since kindergarten, though, and he’d rather have her in his life as a friend than not at all.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains one epic party, complete with every high-schoolers-gone-bad shenanigan, and two best friends whose sexual chemistry is off the charts…if only they’d succumb to it.

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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 don’t know what it was about this book, but I just kind of loved it.  Was it flawless?  Nope.  But I loved all the little things that surprised and delighted me along the way.  And despite the times I wanted to smack them both, I really kind of loved both Braylen and Fynn.  They were a bit oblivious, but such is the nature of many a friends-to-lovers story.

All of the characters in this book very much felt their age.  I kind of liked that.  So often you read young adult novels and they’re just not believably 18, you know?  I don’t mind that either, but I do like variety.  And the book takes place over one night (basically), and mostly at a house party that honestly sounded like a fairly realistic house party…not that I’ve ever been to any like that.  But there were reckless decisions made, poor choices, and a lot of immaturity, but it was often in the background.  And while my poor heart hated seeing, for example, the drunk driving stunt, I realize that this happens in real life.  All this to say, this one towed the line between young adult and mature young adult, so be warned on content.

As I said above, I kind of loved both Braylen and Fynn.  I loved how authentic they both felt…towing the nerdy line without being total social outcasts (I can vibe with that).  A bit more on the innocent side of the high school spectrum.  And I loved how their passions really came into play in their personalities…I loved that Braylen’s journalistic tendancies and Fynn’s photographer tendancies weren’t just throwaway characteristics, but you could see their minds spinning in those directions occasionally (either with story ideas for Bray, or seeing shots for Fynn).

And I loved the way they interacted with each other.  You could really feel how well they complemented one another, and how they genuinely cared for the other.  I didn’t once doubt that they were truly best friends, regardless of Bray’s secret love for Fynn and Fynn’s obliviousness.  I know some may have a problem with Fynn’s obliviousness, but sometimes people choose to see what they want to see, you know?  They convince themselves of something SO MUCH that nothing can sway them.

And can I just say that while I had to wait for it, I really did feel their “more than friends” chemistry as well?  Bonus when I actually buy the transition from friends to more.

As with many a friends-to-lovers story, this one did get bogged down in a bit of repetitiveness with the “I should tell him”, “No I shouldn’t”, “The Universe is telling me something”, “Why am I feeling this way about her suddenly?”, etc.  It happens.  It was drawn out a bit longer than I had hoped, so despite all the other things I loved, it accounts for the full star loss in my rating.  I also got a bit tired of the convenient interruptions, but at least the author tried to make them look natural, so it was kind of a wash.

But there were a lot of other little things that I really ended up enjoying.  I loved seeing the other stories weave in and out of this book.  I could totally see the setup for at least 2 other stories, and I’m so happy that it looks like I’m going to get them!  I loved that Katy was a bit more dimensional than I was anticipating.  I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and the stereotypical mean girl crap, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Ms. Lee managed to make her “not the one” without making her completely horrible.  And I LOVED Blondie Bear, aka Randy.  He was such a strange character, but I really loved what he added to the story.  Is it too much to ask for his story as well??

So yeah.  This book was by no means perfect, but I loved it despite its flaws.  Characters I loved (including secondary ones) and who felt realistic will always put it over the top for me.

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The First Kiss Hypothesis by Christina Mandelski

Blurb:
36453287Nora Reid believes scientific laws control everything, even love. With her grandparents’epic first kiss story cemented in her brain, Nora develops a hypothesis she’s determined to prove:for each person in the world, there is exactly one other person, and at first kiss, they’ll experience an immediate and intense reaction.

But after four years of zero-reaction kisses, she comes up with a new theory: maybe that pesky crush on her stunningly hot best friend Eli Costas is skewing her results.

She needs to get rid of him, and fast.

Eli Costas is an injury-prone lacrosse star with a problem—the one chance he had at winning over the girl next door resulted in the most epically sucktastic first kiss ever. And now she’s…trying to get rid of him? Hell no. It’s time to disprove her theory and show her exactly what she’s missing.

Game. On.

Disclaimer: This book contains a stunningly hot lacrosse player who isn’t above playing dirty to win over the stubborn girl-next-door of his dreams.

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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.

Well that was an up and down ride!!  It started off really strong, I absolutely adored the author’s voice in this one.  There was a bit of sassiness and snark that was delightful.  I spent time both loving and hating BOTH characters, but in this case (unlike my previous read), I’m happy to say they redeemed themselves and showed those two words I love in characters: GROWTH AND CHANGE!

Nora was an intriguing, if frustrating, heroine!  It’s funny, b/c at first I thought she was going to be really snarky, but that didn’t really last.  I felt for the damage she sustained from her divorced parents, and their rather toxic relationship.  I also liked that it wasn’t something we saw that much (as we never met the father), but you could see the damage in so many subtle little ways…not the least of which was her ridiculous hypothesis.  As a reader, I found it really hard to watch her hang onto her theory with such a tightfisted grip.  But I guess she really wanted to believe she could avoid her mother’s mistake.  I sometimes think the smartest people can just not see the most obvious things sometimes.  Hence the frustrating part of Nora.  She also had a bit of high school damage.  By holding on to this theory, and testing it out on all the boys, she’d kind of alienated herself from many of her fellow students…and my heart broke for her trying to navigate that.

Eli was just as intriguing, and honest to god, just as frustrating…but in a completely different way.  I had completely different expectations for this story, and particularly for Eli.  I honestly thought he was always in love with her, and figured this was his chance.  But it’s not quite that.  Quite frankly, that confused and frustrated me.  If he just knew he loved her and was finally making his move, I’d have been immediately on board (I love those stories).  But he was so confusing!!  And confused!  He wanted to get another chance with Nora and he wanted to prove her hypothesis wrong using himself as an example, but he kept initially framing it as though that was all he wanted…like for her own good, so she wouldn’t be lonely.  But dude, that’s kind of dickish.  And so I was confused how that was going to go.  And worried.  But I’ll get back to that in a moment.  I was also startled by his personality and attitude sometimes.  I expected a more laidback sweet guy, and he wasn’t quite that.  Honestly, he actually felt like a really realistic depiction of a teenage guy.  He had all this anger bottled up sometimes…which from what I understand from my husband is a common teenage boy problem, testosterone and all.  He didn’t always appreciate his parents.  He wasn’t the most tactful with Nora.  It was odd.  And yet I still liked him.  He still had these great moments.  And I guess I kind of liked that he was a bit oblivious to his own feelings, at least it was different.

I was honestly REALLY concerned when I got to what I thought was the climax.  Eli behaved VERY BADLY.  Like, a total jerky douchebag.  Like, yelling and sneering.  I was ready to wash my hands of the story, I didn’t think it could turn around.  But there was more story left than I had anticipated.  And you know what?  To my GREAT surprise, I actually appreciated how the story played out afterwards.  I’m still not super impressed with how Eli handled that particular moment, but I actually felt like I saw him go through all the emotions after that.  I saw him grow up a bit.  I saw him make realizations.  And Nora too!  I was freaking ecstatic with the final scene!  Like it was actually everything I was wanting!  I was shocked!  I’m not saying everyone will be happy with it…just like I’m not saying everyone will have as big a problem with the climax.  But it worked for ME.

As an aside, can I say that I really liked a lot of the secondary characters??  The parents were actually pretty great.  Flawed, but great.  Eli’s friend, Koviak, was cooler than I was expecting…  And even Tex was an OK character.  Abby was meh though.  BUT the secondary character star for me was Eli’s little brother (who is on the autism spectrum).  Both Eli and Nora showed their best selves with Ari.  And he was just kind of delightful.

So yeah.  I thought this was going to be a 3 star.  But I’m even rounding up!  Just shows how important a great ending is.

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Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

Blurb:
36430566Isabelle Oster has dreamed of being a prima ballerina her entire life, so when the only male dancer backs out of the fall production, she’s devastated. Without a partner, she has no hope of earning a spot with the prestigious Ballet Americana company. Until hot jock Garret practicing stretches in one of the studios gives Izzy an idea, and she whips out her phone. But does she really want this badly enough to resort to blackmail?

All-state tight end Garret Mitchell will do anything to get a college football scholarship. Even taking ballet, which surprisingly isn’t so bad, because it means he gets to be up close and personal with the gorgeous Goth girl Izzy while learning moves to increase his flexibility. But Izzy needs him to perform with her for the Ballet Americana spot, and he draws the line at getting on stage. Especially wearing tights.

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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.

OK, you know exactly why I requested this book if you know anything about me.  The premise was tailor made for me!  I love dance books, and love them even more when the hero dances!!  And the dance stuff was fantastic!  And there was a lot of it!!  You can’t even imagine how happy that made me.  I’m not a dancer, whatsoever, but I appreciate it and envy those with that much dedication, athleticism and grace.  And honestly, the dancing was my favourite part of this book.  Seeing Garret learn about stretching, positions, pirouettes, and then seeing Garret and Izzy tackle lifts just filled my heart with happiness!

As for the rest of the story, and particularly the characters, I thought this book started off really strong!  I was drawn into the challenges of both characters, and I thought they both seemed like good kids struggling to work through what life had handed them.  I felt Izzy’s loneliness and isolation, and her struggle to do things on her own and prove her worth without her father’s influence.  And Garret had a lot to work through with an unsupportive (and possibly alcoholic) dad, and the struggles that come from a low-income family.

And I really enjoyed their initial interplay with each other…like they had their own impressions of the other, but they could see that there was more to the other.  I liked the way they started becoming friends, but you could see them wanting more.  And I liked the way they became more!

But somewhere along the way, the characters seemed to stop growing.  I know they’re teenagers, but I honestly expected them to start showing some empathy towards the other’s situation.  But the selfishness, in general, persisted.  Moreso in Garret than Izzy.  I actually grew annoyed when Izzy would immediately apologize for her assumptions about what Garret would struggle with and downplay her own struggles, and there would be crickets from Garret’s side.  Apparently money really is more valuable than close family, at least according to this book.  As a reader, I thought they both struggled equally, but I don’t think Garret ever really understood the negatives about Izzy’s life.  All he saw was the wealth and material things.  And thus, I became less enamoured with our characters, particularly the hero.

And then we get to the ending…which felt kind of rushed, and left me a bit unsatisfied.

So yeah.  Full marks for the dance component, and a fantastic first half!!  But alas, I need a good closer to make me round up instead of down, which is a bummer.  This one had so much potential.  Perhaps the ending won’t bug others as much as it did me.

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From the Wreckage (From the Wreckage #1) by Michele G. Miller

From the wreckageBlurb: “In a matter of minutes on a Friday night, I lost my school, my identity, the security of my first love, the personality of my sweet fearless brother, my best friend, my town, everything as I knew it. Everything changed.”

“Minutes – that’s all it takes to change your entire life. How do you deal with that?”

For high school senior Jules Blacklin surviving the storm is only the beginning. Faced with the new reality of her life, she must find a way to rise From The Wreckage and answer the question – how do you get back to normal, when everything that was normal is gone?

 

 

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5 stars

I absolutely LOVED this story!  I only wish it was not a series.  Gosh it just made me feel so much!  Talk about intense.  My heart was beating hard throughout the entire book. 

The tornado was a great catalyst for the love story! I mean, wow, totally impressed with the writing.  The way the characters were changed and yet struggled to come back to a new normal was written brilliantly!

I could totally identify with their conflicted emotions.  I liked how mature they were, they realized that nothing is guaranteed and used that in a positive manner.  For instance when they realized their feelings for each other, they didn’t jump right in but both were open and honest with each other about why they felt this way and talked about if it was just because of the trauma they shared.  It added an additional layer to their already deep characters. 

And they didn’t leave the families out in the cold in this book either.  They were three dimensional characters, which I totally dug because most YA’s tend to forget to fully build the parents and siblings, instead choosing to put more into the MC in the book. Something I’m not really a fan of in this genre but I deal with it.  It was just nice to have a well rounded novel that was more than just your typical teenage romance.  

I will definitely be checking out more from this author in the future.  

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Play With Me (Grover Beach Team #1) by Piper Shelly

play with meBlurb: What if you had to do the one thing you hated most to get the guy you loved to notice you?

Ryan Hunter’s parties are legend. And tonight she’s going to be there.

Lisa Matthews anticipates the return of her best friend and only love since kindergarten from soccer camp. But when Tony finally shows up, his mind is more focused on another girl. And worse, she’s a soccer player. Fighting for the attention Lisa craves, she’s just a hairbreadth away from making a very stupid decision. But when extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, she’s prepared to play ball to get her man.

The tryouts are hell, the first match ends bloody, and the morning after the selection party she wakes up in the worst place possible—in the arms of the captain of the soccer team. The hottest guy in school… Ryan Hunter.

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5 stars

This was a great YA story.  I loved how quickly we got to the reasons.  And how there was no long drawn out misunderstandings with regards to their feelings.  I mean, it was a little bit built up but for the most part the unrequited love wasn’t the main focus like I thought it was gonna be.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good unrequited love story but this one went a totally different direction and it was a nice change of pace for this genre.  

Ryan Hunter is seriously a smooth guy.  He didn’t try to pretend he didn’t care while at the same time he wasn’t like over the top about his feelings either.  When I usually read about popular guy’s in school trying to get with the girl they is usually very aggressive.  And Ryan wasn’t like that at all.  It was all just so natural, the way he treated her.  And the way he was there for her, helping her trying to get the guy without putting the moves on her.  It was nice, their chemistry felt real. 

She wasn’t in denial about her feelings either. We get to see her struggle with who she thinks she loves and her growing feelings for Ryan which made it more believable for me.   And the ending!  I did NOT see that coming.  Seriously a great novella. I’ll have to check out the others in this series as well. 

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The Unforgettables by G.L. Tomas

32048502Blurb: Back home in Chicago, Paul Hiroshima had it all.

Popularity, charming looks and a talent for the arts that made him admired by his peers. Moving to Portland, Maine the summer before his senior year was going to change all that. With his city life behind him, there was definitely no reason to make the best out of a bad situation—that is, until he meets the amazing Felicia Abelard.

Over a love of comic books and secret identities, Felicia becomes the sidekick to his hero; there’s just one problem: they weren’t supposed to fall in love.

As the season comes to an end, Paul and Felicia face in-depth challenges to preserve their summer formed bond. With the brink of the new school year at hand, this tale of best friends and first loves will make this year unforgettable.

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5 stars

I Floved this book!  It had all the ingredients for a fantastic YA diverse romantic read.

At first I wasn’t really digging it.  It started off a bit slow and jumped around quite a bit.  And the sex scene was quite awkward for me to read honestly.  But then I realized that that’s exactly how high school was.  So it started to make sense the more I read.

Paul was a pretty easy going character and I could relate to his being the new kid in school. I went to eight different schools growing up so I could totally get his feelings of homesickness.  His background was pretty cool too.  He was a half Japanese/half white Buddhist that could dance like nobodies business.  The author really gave him dimension and layers.  And his family wasn’t a background prop either.  YA’s are notorious for sticking the parents and siblings in the corner but not with this one and for that I am glad.  They even addressed how different they are treated and how they handled it.

While Paul was easy going, Felicia was a bit uptight.  She was what one would call a loner.  Not really something I can relate to but that didn’t take away from how much I ended up loving her.  I liked how she wasn’t afraid to stand up to the people who bullied her, even to her detriment.  And I dug her nerdiness!  Their mutual love of comic books is what initially brings them together.  And the fact they were neighbors.  Felicia was a Haitian american with very strict parents.  And she struggles between wanting to fit in and pretending she doesn’t care.

Their story is fast-paced and turbulent.  And I loved every second of it.  Highly recommended.

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Destiny Binds (Timber Wolves Trilogy #1) by Tammy Blackwell

destiny bindsBlurb: Scout Donovan is a girl who believes in rules, logic, and her lifelong love of Charlie Hagan. Alex Cole believes in destiny, magic, and Scout. When Alex introduces Scout to the world of Shifters, men who change into wolves or coyotes during the full moon and Seers, women who can see your most private thoughts and emotions with a mere touch, the knowledge changes everything and everyone Scout thought she knew.

 

 

 

 

 

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4 stars

First off, this cover is fantastic yeah? It’s what initially convinced me to stop and read the blurb.  And the title was the second thing that pulled me in, it’s mysterious, no?

However, this story was pretty average as far a YA paranormal romances go.

I mean, I liked the book. It sucked me in right away; even with  the typical love triangle. The twist with regards to the love triangle was refreshing. And I thought it was done tastefully.

One thing that stood out for me was the fact that Jase isn’t a blood brother and the author made it clear to the reader many times.  It seemed a bit of overkill to me with that bit of foreshadowing.  But, hey, I can overlook it. I was almost hoping they had some chemistry but in the end the love interest did end up making sense.  The writing was solid, clear and concise. It was a quick read.

I’m looking forward to the next one.

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Her Book Boyfriend (The Awkward Duckling #1) by K.R. Grace

Her book boyfriendBlurb: She believes the secret to love is in the tropes of her favorite romance novels. He’s the best friend prepared to prove her wrong.

Then comes the bet.

If she can’t land a boyfriend for prom by recreating the ten popular tropes in her favorite romance author’s books, she has to go to the prom with her.

The glitch?

They’ve been close their entire lives. He’s the rock god and school legend, while she’s the brainy sidekick who does all his dirty breakups. Thus, finding a guy who doesn’t think they’re already an item is going to be a lot harder than she thinks.

Will she land the book boyfriend of her dreams? Or will she be forced to go to prom with her best friend?

The truth is in the pages.

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5 stars

I loved this book!  Very entertaining.  It was a refreshing spin on the geek and jock romance.  Macey wasn’t meek and she wasn’t bullied.  She stood up for herself and didn’t take crap from her jock guy friend, Cam.  It seemed like a role reversal in the best way.

Cam was super sleazy when it came to girls.  A fact that was made pretty clear early on.  It didn’t bother me as much as I expected it would.  I don’t know why, maybe it was because he was such a good guy to Macey.  At any rate, I enjoyed their chemistry and easy dialogue.  Actually, I floved their dialogue.  It was fantastic.

Macey’s headstrong, smart and funny.  Cam is smart, horny and holds some things close to his chest which I realized early on.  It made him vulnerable and mysterious, two things I find attractive in a male MC.  You should really just go read the book.  I will be looking forward to more by this author.

I got this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest/unbiased opinion.

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Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman

Blurb:
33797128Equal parts swoonworthy romance and deeply affecting family drama, this debut novel about the boy next door turned super hot bad boy will have readers hooked from the very first kiss.

After his father’s stroke, Max Holden isn’t himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge only wants to help, but she doesn’t know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows she shouldn’t let him kiss her. But she can’t resist, and when they’re caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it’ll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea.

With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school suddenly up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart, and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?

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

This book started out as a solid 4 star, and just kept slowly motoring downhill from there.  I honestly was sucked in by the storyline, and I thought Jill was an interesting heroine.  And I was pulled in by the initial chemistry and connection between Jill and Max.  And there were glimmers of goodness, don’t get me wrong.  I did enjoy some aspects, but on the whole I ended the book on a heavy sigh.  This review is probably going to focus on the negative aspects way too much, but I really did enjoy the few cute moments, hence why it’s not lower than 3 stars.

In the end, I didn’t really enjoy either Jill or Max.  They both had good qualities, but they were HEAVILY overshadowed by their bad qualities.  Or rather, I don’t feel like they redeemed themselves.  Jill was definitely better than Max.  I felt like I would start to like her, and then she would disappoint me and annoy me…then I would be impressed by some decision or choice she would make, then she would disappoint me again.  I can chalk up a lot of her annoyance as being a fairly stereotypical teenager, so I guess I gave her more of a pass than Max in the end.  But I still felt like I was shortchanged on her growth.  As an example, I didn’t necessarily buy her change of heart about the money.  I certainly wouldn’t have forgiven so easily, so it didn’t feel authentic.

Max’s journey was more of a deep valley of not good stuff, with a little blip of goodness occasionally.  I get that he was screwed up and acting out badly, and that’s fine.  I mean, it doesn’t leave me too impressed with him, but I get that was his storyline.  But other than occasionally being sweet to Jill, when he dived back down, he REALLY dived back down.  Where was his redemption?  Maybe it’s because we don’t get to see inside his head, so while he says he’s trying to get better, you sort of see it, but as a reader I just didn’t buy it.  I didn’t want to give him a pass.  And he was so hypocritical!  After all the crap he did, he totally jumped down Jill’s throat without giving her much time at all to grow as well!  Not impressed.  Gee, could you tell?

Inherently my problem with this story lies in the presence of a lot of one of my major button issues: cheating.  I’m sorry folks, it’s just not for me.  Maybe if it was just that first kiss.  Maybe if he hadn’t stayed with his girlfriend time and time again, while simultaneously trying to explore a relationship with Jill as well.  I could even forgive a little bit of Jill’s bad judgement, and her having to live with her decisions.  But we’re given hints that there is more to Becky’s story, and then what we’re given just didn’t seem like enough, and as with most YA’s, we’re made to dislike her because she’s a bitch and a mean girl.  It was a shame, it would have been more interesting if there was a hint of depth there.  It definitely doesn’t show Max in a good light then.  And it was like I was told about Jill’s emotional journey over how she feels about participating in cheating, but I didn’t feel it.  AND THEN there’s her Dad.  It was too much.  Too many truly reprehensible characters with no redemption.

There were bright spots.  I LOVED the development of Jill’s relationship with Meredith (and Ally to a degree).  That truly surprised me in a good way.  I enjoyed Jill’s passion for baking, and how she tried to figure out her future.  And I loved the little bits we saw of Marcy and Bill.

Honestly, I could probably pick apart a few more tiny things (like I wish there was more from the friend side of things, Kyle or Leah), but it’s just not that important.  This was a book with a lot of potential that just fell short in the end, and was tainted for me personally by the cheating topic.  I recognize it’s hinted at in the blurb, but if I’d known the degree, I would have steered clear.  Ah well.

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