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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Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Blurb:
33224718Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

 
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

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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 one left me a bit conflicted.  I am a self-professed geek, and really enjoyed all the geek references in this book (whether quotes or nods to real life fandoms, or just the overall feel of BEING in a fandom).  That was honestly the highlight of the book for me, b/c I really do love the whole world of nerd culture (even if I’m not the type to cosplay or go to cons).  And on the whole I was definitely entertained by this book, and don’t regret reading it, I was just a bit disappointed b/c it was missing some magic.

For me, characters are what make or break a story, and I just didn’t end up loving EITHER of our main characters.  Which is not to say I disliked them!!  I just didn’t love them.  And I kind of need to love at least one of them for me to really enjoy a story.  They both felt a bit weak and with less dimension than I would have liked.  I needed more from both of them.

Elle has a rather tragic childhood and current situation (consistent with the Cinderella tale), but I didn’t end up really feeling much empathy for her.  I didn’t really get a feel for her emotions on any of the events that shaped her.  She felt kind of flat.  I can’t even tell you why, what did I need to make it…just…more…  But I didn’t really *feel* her grief.  I didn’t feel her loneliness, or what did she feel after whatever happened the previous summer?  And I couldn’t vibe with how socially inept she was that it took her so long to understand when Sage was reaching out to her.  It felt…forced?  I don’t know, I’m probably mucking this all up.  She just wasn’t that interesting I guess.  Like she had some of the building blocks there, but never went anywhere with them.  She wanted to be a scriptwriter, but she had stopped writing (other than on her blog)?  How was that going to work out?

And Darien.  OK, I am all for a beta boy, but a beta boy still has to have some inner strength, you know?  Some quality that makes you root for him.  His development and backbone took entirely too long to come around.  Why was he so reluctant to take his career into his own hands?  Why did he let Mark boss him around like that?  Was he just apathetic?  I guess I can kind of see it based on things that had happened in his past, but it wasn’t enough to make me really get behind him.  Did he even like acting??

And for goodness sake, what race was he?  Was he Indian?  The only reason I would guess that is because he’s not a white-washed pick for Carmindor, and the previous actor’s last name was Singh.  Why bother having that element and not go into it?  I can’t even call this book diverse, b/c it’s NEVER EXPLORED.  What was it like to be a different race celebrity heartthrob?  Was he half?  ANYTHING!  JUST GIVE ME SOMETHING!  Or don’t make it an element at all!  That, apparently, really annoyed me.

And honestly, the chemistry between Elle and Darien wasn’t really there besides a bit of a friendship.  I didn’t really buy that development.  From the messages we saw, I’m not sure what drew them together.  I could have used a bit more.  Even when they finally interacted in person, they were both so distracted by other things, I didn’t get the magic I was looking for until the ball.  Bummer.

And in the end I was unsatisfied with the evil characters.  They were kind of caricatures.  And Catherine was abusive as heck, so I didn’t get a satisfactory resolution with her.  I guess it was realistic in some ways, but still unsatisfying.  Chloe’s was a bit better, but again, she was a stereotypical mean girl.  No depth there.  And I wasn’t always happy with how things happened along the way to stick with the plot (like bringing the costume back to the house, hiding the tickets in the house).  Not to mention the whole selling the house thing.  If it was left to Elle, then how can Catherine sell it?  Is there no law there?

Sage and Calliope were bright spots in terms of secondary characters.  I felt bad for both of them because Elle really took a long time to give them a chance.  But I liked that they each had more depth to their characters.  On the other side, I enjoyed Gail and Lonny, but felt like there could have been even more from them…I wanted more anyways.

So yeah.  That all reads like a bummer review.  But it’s really just me ruminating on why this book missed the mark between an entertaining read and a life-changing read.  If you enjoy nerd culture though, I think you will love all the nods in this one.  In the end it was a book with a LOT of potential that just failed to live up to it for me.

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Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

Blurb:

31375784An unforgettable story about autism, sisterhood, and first love that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han, Sophie Kinsella, and Sarah Dessen. New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things Julie Buxbaum raved: “I couldn’t put it down.”

Meet Chloe Mitchell, a popular Los Angeles girl who’s decided that her older sister, Ivy, who’s on the autism spectrum, could use a boyfriend. Chloe already has someone in mind: Ethan Fields, a sweet, movie-obsessed boy from Ivy’s special needs class.

Chloe would like to ignore Ethan’s brother, David, but she can’t—Ivy and Ethan aren’t comfortable going out on their own so Chloe and David have to tag along.  Soon Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and wholly lovable circle. And as the group bonds over frozen yogurt dates and movie nights, Chloe is forced to confront her own romantic choices—and the realization that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

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

OK confession time!  I got this one a few months ago, and when I decided to start reading it, I kind of forgot exactly what it was going to be about.  So in essence, I kind of went into the book a bit blind.  Like so blind that I forgot her sister was on the autism spectrum, and then I was like “oh yeah!!”  So it took me a bit to really get into the story, but once I did I was seriously sucked in.

At the beginning, Chloe isn’t necessarily that endearing, and it takes a bit to really get a feel for who she really is…and part of that is that you start off seeing the facade that she shows to her peers, and not necessarily all of who she is inside.  And she’s not the only one I was unimpressed with, I really didn’t fall in love with many characters at the beginning, from her family to her friends and boyfriend.  In fact, I felt more antagonistic towards many of them, particularly her stepfather.  But I’ll get back to that.

As the story progresses you get to see why Chloe chooses to put on the persona and maintain her status in the popular crowd, with the “hot” boyfriend.  I actually think this is one of the best depictions I’ve ever read of a teenager going along and trying to fit in.  With all that she struggles with at home, I could see how she would want to be liked and how much easier it would be for her to just keep her opinions to herself.  You could see a bit of that internal struggle for her, but ultimately she didn’t want to make waves, and she kind of just wanted to feel what she perceived to be “normal”.  It’s always disappointing, for sure, but I *got* it.  Not sure if that makes sense.  But it also makes her development as a character that much more satisfying.  Seeing her start to feel like “enough is enough” and that perhaps other qualities are more important in friends and boyfriends than what she was initially seeking just really felt natural and believable.  That it’s OK to have different priorities, and to stand up for yourself against the norm.  Seriously, I really ended up loving Chloe by the end of the book.  It’s actually kind of nice to see a main character who is popular not because she’s secretly a nerd and tired of being bullied, but because she just likes being liked.

David, Ivy and Ethan were the other stars of this show.  If you’re looking for a book with a grand romance, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one.  The romance with David is very slow building, and while I adored it, it’s really not the primary focus of the story.  It kind of gets shuffled to the background.  In the end I appreciated their developing friendship and banter more than the romance, which kind of felt rushed and tacked on in the end.  But seriously people, the developing relationship was SOLID.  I enjoyed that David wasn’t all sunshine and roses, that he was kind of a difficult character to love, but you could understand him as well, and how he came to be the way he was.  And he didn’t lose all those antagonistic qualities at the end, he was still kind of a dick to people, but you love him anyways.

And Ivy and Ethan were depicted so well.  I mean, I haven’t really had many encounters with folks on the autism spectrum, but I really thought that this was a fantastic representation of some of the unique attributes that can make them up…particularly because they were even different from each other.  And I really enjoyed the conversations that Chloe and David had, and the representations of the encounters they had with different types of people when out with their siblings.  It was heartbreaking, but unfortunately realistic.  And I loved that the story was from the siblings perspective, and showed the different challenges that they can face.  They’re not perfect, but you could really feel their love for their siblings.

Chloe’s mother and stepfather were challenging characters.  I really hated so many things about her stepfather.  He’s not evil, he’s got many shades of gray…in that way he’s really realistic.  And I know we’re seeing him from Chloe’s perspective, but damn he made me mad sometimes.  I’m up in the air with how his role played out in the story…I guess because he really is realistic in that he’s still got these really bad qualities, but he’s not all bad, and he can have some good moments too.  Sometimes I can’t deal with so much real, you know?  It’s so much easier when people are black and white.  In fact, many of the characters in this book are that real…from James and Sarah, to David’s parents, to Chloe’s parents.  I admire it as much as it vexes me as a reader.

OK, I’m getting seriously verbose here.  And I haven’t even talked about everything.  I enjoyed the Ivy twist in the middle of the book…I kind of saw it coming, but I thought it was another piece of diversity that was handled really well.

My only real complaint with the story is that the ending was odd to me.  It just kind of ended.  I didn’t feel that normal story flow, with a solid and clear ending.  And I guess my one other niggle is that occasionally we would encounter scenes that seemed meaningless in the overall scheme of the plot (like a moment in Camp’s class would just happen, and then we’d be onto lunch, and I didn’t really understand the point of it being included).

So basically if you’re looking for a diverse read with a fantastic look at life with someone on the autism spectrum, you NEED this book.  If you just love good YA coming of age tales, I would really recommend it as well.  Despite the few things that niggled me, I really really enjoyed this book and highlighted so many of Chloe and David’s interactions.

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Swinging at Love by Kendra C. Highley

Blurb:
34387362Outfielder Tristan Murrell has a problem. As the number two slugger for the Suttonville Sentinels, his team is counting on him to make their very first run at the state championship. But he has a secret—his swing has totally deserted him. As in, he can’t hit anything. He needs to fix the issue, and fast, but how?

Ballerina Alyssa Kaplan has a problem, too. The shiny new sports complex in town has left her family’s batting cage business on the verge of going under. Nailing her audition for a prestigious dance company is everything, but there’s no way she’s letting her some shiny big-box company destroy her family’s livelihood.

Tristan needs a miracle. So does Alyssa. And maybe, just maybe, Tristan’s secret weapon might be the girl of his dreams…

Disclaimer: This book contains hot, shirtless baseball players, kisses that bring a ballerina to her knees, and a lot of baseball smack-talk.

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

OK, this was a solid next book in the series that I didn’t know was going to be a series!!  And while I’m a little disappointed Faith and Kyle’s BFFs weren’t the focus of this story, Tristan and Alyssa were a pretty freaking spectacular consolation prize.  😉  And no, you don’t have to read book 1, but honestly, why wouldn’t you?  Shoot, I’m not even a baseball fan, or really a big muscular arms on a guy girl, but DAMN.  Ms. Highley knows how to make me swoon.  This is exactly what I love from a young adult romance…a fun quick read, lots of lightness and sweetness and swooning, but with just enough depth to give me more.

I think the thing I love most about both this book and the previous one is the sweetness of the heroes.  Tristan was just adorable!  He didn’t have the same background that Kyle did, but he was just really down to earth, and he knew what attracted him.  He had his own struggles coming from a family with completely different interests to him, and I could really appreciate that aspect to his story.  I liked that while he did feel like the odd man out in his family, his family was still good peeps…just lost in the world of baseball.  It’s an interesting facet that I don’t necessarily read a lot, where you have that dichotomy, but still have the love you know?  Not that that makes it any easier.  It was nice that he had Keller too.

And Alyssa was just awesomesauce.  I loved her sass, her insecurities, her straight talking, her confidence in certain things.  If I swung that way, I would totally be intrigued by her.  And I loved her own family dynamic.  I loved how close she was, how much her family influenced her, and it was nice to see a story where it wasn’t rich guy with poor girl (or vice versa), but there was a money/lifestyle disparity. But it wasn’t really the focus.  It was about how her family was struggling with their local business in an economy that’s hurting everyone.  I loved how important Swing Away was to her, and what she was willing to sacrifice for it.

And oh wow, Tristan and Alyssa’s chemistry was fantastic.  Right from their first interaction, you could just feel it.  I enjoyed that.  I was SERIOUSLY concerned with the way things would play out with Dylan and Lauren, and I was kind of disappointed in how it went initially, but it didn’t drag on like I thought it would, and it resolved better than I expected.  So phew.

And now, this girl who has no interest in baseball whatsoever, is seriously hoping for more from this series.  I love book baseball.  It’s way more exciting.  And I want more swoony guys from Ms. Highley, she seriously excels.

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Operation Prom Date by Cindi Madsen

Blurb:

33224662Kate ships tons of fictional couples, but IRL her OTP is her and Mick, the hot quarterback she’s crushed on since, like, forever. With only one semester left of senior year, it’s now or never if she wants to land him in time for prom. Since she’s flirtationally challenged, she enlists Cooper Callihan, the guy who turned popular seemingly overnight but who used to be a good friend.

Cooper lives and breathes rowing, but his partner just broke his wrist. When he remembers Kate’s good with a set of oars, he strikes a deal: help him train, and he’ll make sure her crush notices her. Only he didn’t know how addicting spending time with her would be. Or how the more successful the Operation is, the more jealousy he experiences.
The mission has been set. The troops have their marching orders. But what if the target is the wrong guy all along?

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains stargazing, accidental swimming, and poker swindling. This kissing practice will melt your ereader…and give you a new couple to ship.

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

I am shipping Kaper so freaking hard, I can’t even tell you.  Like seriously, this book was just everything my little YA-loving heart was looking for.  It was fairly light, with just enough depth to give it interest.  And while I don’t think you have to be a fandom lover to enjoy this book, if you are, I think you will definitely fall in love with Kate.  I’m not even a major fandom lover, but I totally get shipping couples, and wanting them to be together, and being angry at the writers for drawing it out.  And in some ways Ms. Madsen kind of fulfilled that longing and irritation and GAHness with Kate and Cooper.  You could just tell that they were perfect for each other, but of course she had to put them through the wringer on the way to HEA.  I’m not always a fan of misunderstandings and all that jazz, but it really fit in this storyline and worked for the story that was being told (if that makes any sense at all)…or at least it did for me.

And you know how my favourite part of any story is the characters?  Well Kate and Cooper were amazeballs.  Not without flaws for sure, and not without feeling like authentic teenagers, but I just really loved them both.  My heart broke for Kate and how she came to be the person she was.  Not just with her father, but also the circumstances with her friends.  I’ve been that girl with no friends b/c I wasn’t willing to change myself to fit in.  It’s all well and good to be solid with who you are and to put that above other things, but it can be very lonely.  And she was just so freaking quirky and adorable!!  She made me laugh so much.  Seriously though, she really reminded me a lot of myself (right down to the lost father).  And I enjoyed that what really drew her to Mick was her perception that he was more sweet than he seemed, based on his moments of kindness.  It was a bit of a bummer that she didn’t catch on as quickly to how changing herself wasn’t the way to go, and that maybe he wasn’t worth it, but sometimes we see what we want to see and we want things so badly that we don’t make the connections until later.

And then there was Cooper.  OMG, book boyfriend city man.  He was just so sweet and thoughtful, and dealing with his own set of struggles, and just trying to survive in a way.  I loved being in his head and reading about his thoughts.  He was an interesting guy b/c he had this popularity in some ways, but didn’t seem to realize it.  And I adored his little bit of nerdiness, talk about swoon!!  My only real complaint with his story was the resolution with his father.  It didn’t feel authentic, b/c his father really felt borderline mentally abusive to me…or just too toxic anyways.

Honestly though, the star of this book was Kate and Cooper together.  Seeing them experience the tummy tingles for each other, and those breathless moments, and the friendship that developed…GAH!  It was just perfect.  My romance loving heart was so freaking satisfied, I had tingles just reading about them.  And the climax was perfection.  It just read exactly as I wanted it to.  And then we even got some delicious epilogueness!!  I love epilogueness.  It was so satisfying.

So basically this story was just tailor made for me.  Love.  Adore.  So much shipping.

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Lucid (Brightest Kind of Darkness #2) by P.T. Michelle


51nxggdxa4l-_sy346_Blurb: 
 Once Nara combines her prophetic ability with Ethan’s power to outsmart Fate at his own deadly cat-and-mouse game, she’s more determined than ever to help Ethan learn the meaning behind the raven sword tattoo that suddenly appeared on his back after their confrontation with Fate.

During her quest to uncover the tattoo’s secrets, Nara enlists the help of some new friends and discovers her own surprising connection to Ethan.

While Nara digs deeper into the mystery, her desire for answers leads her down a dangerous path full of powerful and ruthless enemies. Swept into an age-old battle, Nara quickly learns that keeping one’s enemies close can be a necessary evil, making an intangible enemy she can control far more preferable to the human enemies she can’t.

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5 stars

This one is my favorite book in the series so far in my re-read.  I didn’t realize I’d forgotten so much.  The cover has been changed which is a shame because I really liked the original one better.

This is a great follow-up to the first one and not at all where you would expect the story to go.  I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve followed this series for so long.  I really liked how her powers evolve. In fact, her whole character evolves.  One of the things that stuck out for me in this YA is the fact the fact that her life didn’t become so entwined with the romance she had with Ethan to the exclusion of most else.  It was nice to see her deal with everything without him in the picture for most of the story.

Don’t get me wrong, he may be gone, but he certainly isn’t forgotten.  It was just nice to see it really focus on the main plot with very little romance.  Most paranormal’s that I read have a very strong romance sub-plot.  In exchange of that, we see the MC evolve and get a better sense of depth.  This story is very intense so it was easier to follow without the added romance and the added drama that it brings.

And her family is not one-dimensional in this.  Again, in the YA’s that I read, parents have very little presence in the story but in this one her bond with her family is strong and consistent throughout.  Not just her parents but her aunts too,  it brings another layer to her and the story.  I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

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There’s Something About Nik by Sara Hantz

Blurb:
34261193Nik Gustafsson has a secret: He’s not really Nik Gustafsson.

He’s not a spy. He’s not crazy.

He’s just the son and heir to one of the most important families in Europe—one where duty always comes first. And his posh, too-public life is suffocating him. So when he gets the chance to attend boarding school in America, pretending to be an average exchange student is too big of a temptation to pass up.

Then he literally runs into Amber on campus. And she hates him at first sight.

It’s kind of exhilarating to be hated for who he is, not for his family name or his wealth. Maybe if he turns up the charm and turns down the aloof mask he habitually wears, he can win her over. Even though a bad past experience has made her swear off dating this year.

But the more he gets to know her, the more uncomfortable he is keeping things from her. Because Nik Gustafsson has a secret. And it’s a big one.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a hot boy who’s the strong and silent type, a studious girl who refuses to believe in fairy-tale romance, and one epic secret that could be disastrous if it comes to light.

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

I’m usually a sucker for royalty undercover stories, but this one fell a little flat for me.  It had all the makings of a great book, but the characters weren’t endearing enough for me to fall in love with them.  Amber has this incredible backstory, but it really didn’t play that much of a part and so seemed superfluous.  And she was kind of mean sometimes to Nik…like it was supposed to be teasing, but I just found it kind of rude.  Like I got what was supposed to be happening, but it just went too far and lacked empathy.  (Her BFF Lauren was kind of rude too quite frankly, and gave some really bad advice at times)

And Nik was so back and forth, I kind of had a hard time figuring him out.  He honestly was kind of arrogant and cold.  And he didn’t just appear that way, it came across in his inner thoughts sometimes too.  Which is not a horrible thing, it can make sense with his upbringing.  But then there would be these quick moments of vulnerability, and I felt them, but they were both so extreme, I just wished there was more in between Nik.  Not sure if I’m making sense.  It just became hard to imagine him as a person because his reactions were so…well, extreme.

Part of this could be just me being out of touch with teenagers and their hormones. There is definitely a bit of that going on.  But I did feel like there could have been more subtlety for both of these characters.

And then, quite frankly, the story just happened really fast.  It was like, no Amber didn’t like him, to all of a sudden she did, to oh look they’re kissing.  I missed the transitions.  And it even ended rather quickly.  And I can’t help but wonder where in the world their relationship is going to go.

So while that all sounds bad, it wasn’t…it was just ok.  It had some cute moments, but I just inevitably wanted more.  And on a strange sidenote, the blurb says he literally runs into her.  He doesn’t.  I hate it when people use literally wrong.  Maybe he did in a previous version?

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