Review: A Different Blue by Amy Harmon

30027408

Synopsis from Good Reads:

The Spencer Hill Press release will have bonus content never before available.

Blue Echohawk doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know her real name or when she was born. Abandoned at two and raised by a drifter, she didn’t attend school until she was ten years old. At nineteen, when most kids her age are attending college or moving on with life, she is just a senior in high school. With no mother, no father, no faith, and no future, Blue Echohawk is a difficult student, to say the least. Tough, hard, and overtly sexy, she is the complete opposite of the young British teacher who decides he is up for the challenge, and takes the troublemaker under his wing.

This is the story of a nobody who becomes somebody. It is the story of an unlikely friendship, where hope fosters healing and redemption becomes love. But falling in love can be hard when you don’t know who you are. Falling in love with someone who knows exactly who they are and exactly why they can’t love you back might be impossible.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

This version of A Different Blue with bonus material will be available May 30, 2017.

This book started out a little rough for me. I found Blue incredibly unlikable and mostly unrelatable. I was super bored with the history lessons and legends. And, most of all, I was uncomfortable with Blue’s growing relationship with her teacher. There were no big lines crossed or anything, but their friendship was still inappropriate for being teacher/student. Even though Wilson is only 22 (only a couple years older than Blue), he just seemed so much older and more mature. Thankfully, the book did become a lot better for me as it went on.

Once Blue graduated, I was much more able to get on board the Wilson-Blue ship. I started to really enjoy their friendship and slow burn romance. Wilson was so smart and sweet and protective. I loved him. He did seem just so much older than his age, though. I also really liked his sister, Tiffa, and her friendship with Blue.

I did really like the overall message of redemption and Blue’s journey. She became so much more likable as the book went on, even though there were still several moments where she frustrated me. I liked how she came to respect herself a little bit more and made conscious decisions to help her become a better person.

Overall, I liked A Different Blue, but I didn’t love it. While the overall message and the relationship between Wilson and Blue were good, it started out really rough for me. It also employed a couple of my least favorite romance tropes (teacher/student relationship and another one that I’m not going to share because it’s too spoilery). I was actually not a big fan of the bonus material – an epilogue featuring Blue and Wilson’s physical relationship and a chapter from Wilson’s POV from the first day of school. I liked getting Wilson’s POV, but hearing his initial reaction to Blue falls under the uncomfortable, inappropriate teacher/student thing. However, I am a fan of Harmon and her writing and am definitely planning on reading more from her.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

31443398

Synopsis from Good Reads:

In the masterful follow-up to the runaway hit All the Missing Girls, a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Perfect Stranger will be available April 11, 2017.

I think I went into The Perfect Stranger with the wrong expectations. I thought it was going to be really suspenseful and have a big twist. I spent my time trying to figure out what the big twist would be and I think in the process the smaller twists and turns of the story were not fully appreciated. This was a good mystery, but I still find myself slightly disappointed at the lack of thrill and suspense.

The book focused a lot on character development and thus the pace seemed a little slow to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well-done character driven story and this definitely fits that description, but again, I wanted suspense and a quicker pace. While I wouldn’t categorize some passages as flashbacks, there is a lot of Leah explaining events from her past and things are revealed to the reader slowly. While I felt this was done effectively, the reveals were never really shocking enough to pull my focus off The Big Twist I was (mistakenly) waiting for. I think if you go into this just expecting what the synopsis tells you, you will find this a well done mystery.

I thought Leah was a pretty compelling character. Though the story is told from her 1st person POV, I never really felt like I could get a handle on her. Is she telling the truth? Is she just super paranoid? Is she secretly a sociopath? Is she in danger. Is she the danger? I still don’t know if I can say she was a likable character, but I don’t think that’s the point. The other characters were interesting, but I don’t feel like we got to know any of them well enough to really care about them one way or the other. I thought the relationship between Leah and Kyle was kind of messed up, but I can also see why it would work.

Overall, The Perfect Stranger was a good mystery, but I was left a little disappointed that it wasn’t as suspenseful or shocking as I was expecting. The mystery of Leah trying to figure out the truth about Emmy and the murders was well done, but there were some other side plots that I felt there were loose ends on. I found the ending a little anti-climactic, as well, and would have appreciated an epilogue. I do think fans of character-driven mysteries would really enjoy it, though, as long as that’s what they are expecting.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

3.5 stars

Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

30312700

Synopsis from Good Reads:

In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Alex Approximately will be available April 4, 2017.

This was a cute, quick contemporary read with likable characters. I thought the secret-identity/online friendship between Baily and “Alex” would make this story similar to books like Tell Me Three Things or P.S. I Like You, but the actual online interactions plays kind of a small role in the overall scheme of things. Yes, Bailey tries to find “Alex” when she moves to California and most chapters in the beginning of the book end with some online chats, but this narrative device mostly peters out as Bailey begins to spend more time with Porter.

I thought Bailey was a pretty likable main character. She has a bit of an avoidant personality and tries to avoid any type of confrontation, which I found relatable since that is how I basically deal with life. However, I thought Porter brought out the confrontational spirit in her way too fast. I think someone who is truly avoidant would not immediately start sparring with a stranger the way she does. Her behavior just wasn’t at all consistent. I appreciate what Bennett was trying to do with the character, but the growth was so random and sporadic that I think it wasn’t nearly as impactful as it could have been.

I did ship Bailey and Porter, though. They had many cute moments and they were able to open up to each other in ways they didn’t with other people, which was good. I really liked Bailey’s relationship with her father and Porter’s relationship with his family. I always appreciate when YA shows a present and loving family, even if they’re not always the ideal.

I thought the book did an admirable job in trying to bring a little more serious subject matter, but most of those plotlines came off a little weak to me. Bailey’s trauma from a couple years prior was not given the level of attention that I think it deserved and I felt it was mostly used as a way to advance her relationship with Porter. There’s a little said of her mother not contacting her once she moved in with her dad, but again it’s just briefly stated a few times. One of Porter’s former friends is a drug addict and does crazy things, but I don’t think his problem was really given enough attention either, he was just the slightly sympathetic villain of the story.

I think my biggest complaint though, which is not the book’s fault, is the synopsis. The synopsis tells you Alex’s identity before you even read a page. While I think readers would quickly figure it out anyways, it took away any sort of tension or mystery there might have been. It was also incredibly annoying that Bailey doesn’t figure it out until the very end of the book, and Porter only shortly before then.

Overall, I did enjoy Alex, Approximately. Even though there wasn’t a lot that was happening, I didn’t really want to put it down. Though I think some of the side plots and character development could have used a little more work, the romance was cute and the characters were likable. I would recommend it to YA Contemporary fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

3.5 stars

Review: Geekerella: A Fangirl Fairytale by Ashley Poston

30724132

Synopsis from Good Reads:

Cinderella 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.”

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Geekerella: A Fangirl Fairytale will be available April 4, 2017.

This is one of the books of 2017 I have been looking forward to the most. I like re-tellings. I like to fangirl on occasion. This book just seemed like it would be such an adorable, fun read. However, I find myself a little disappointed. It might just be my current reading mood. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of mystery and suspense and whenever I reach for something a little lighter I end up being a little underwhelmed.

Let’s start with what I did like. I liked Darien, the up-and-coming actor who wins the main role of Starfield. He had a good sense of humor and though he had a few stupid boy moments, he was just So Nice. I loved seeing a leading man who wasn’t some cocky man-whore. I liked Sage, Elle’s co-worker/friend/fairy godmother, too.

I didn’t really like Elle, though. I know that she’s had a lot of horrible things happen to her, but I found her really whiny and over-dramatic. She was completely oblivious anytime anyone tried to show her any kindness or friendship for much of the book. She had no backbone whatsoever for the whole story and then once she gets to ExcelsiCon she starts acting the exact opposite. It just didn’t work for me.

I also felt the story was too slow and much too long. For most of the book I felt like nothing was happening. You would think being on the set of a movie would be a little more exciting – or at least a little interesting. It was not. And I felt like we just saw Elle live the same day over and over again until it was time to go to the Con. I will say that when we got to about the last quarter or so of the book I started to enjoy it a lot more. I felt like actual plot happened and I was finally able to hop on the Elle-Darien ship.

Overall, Geekerella was just an ok read for me. I think it would have benefited from being a little shorter so it didn’t feel so slow and drawn out. However, I did like Darien’s humor and I enjoyed the story more by the end. I think that there are a lot of people that will enjoy this book, though, especially if you are a fan of YA Contemporary and enjoy participating in fandoms. I’m bumping my original rating up a little since the writing really wasn’t bad and I feel like if I was in a different mood I’d probably feel more favorable towards it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Wedding Date Rescue (Fire and Sparks #1) by Sonya Weiss

33985976

Synopsis from Good Reads:

As a Firefighter, Kent Wakefield has been burned before, and not just by fire. So when Casey Bradford, his best friend’s off-limits, gorgeous little sister, asks him to be her fake boyfriend, he flat out refuses. He doesn’t do relationships, real or otherwise. But when his well-meaning, marriage-pushing mother corners him about his cousin’s wedding, he panics and tells her he has a date.

After being left at the altar, Casey is out of options. She needs a boyfriend ASAP or she can kiss her dreams good-bye. Who better than her brother’s emotionally unavailable best friend, Kent. She may have nursed a childhood crush, but this arrangement will be purely platonic…that is until he kisses her and suddenly it gets a lot harder to remember it’s all pretend.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Wedding Date Rescue will be available February 27, 2017.

After reading a pretty heavy, emotional book I really needed something light and fun and Wedding Date Rescue was exactly that. Casey is a professional matchmaker who was recently left at the altar. Her business is declining and her investors are worried. It’s suggested that she find a new man and quick – even if it’s just for show – so her investors don’t lose faith. She decides her relationship-phobic friend, Kent, is just the guy for the job, but he’s resistant. However, with his ex-girlfriend coming back to town and his mother pushing every eligible woman she find in his direction he decides the fake relationship with Casey could work.

I really liked both Casey and Kent. I liked their friendship and how they could joke with each other. The fake relationship trope is my favorite romance subject and I thought theirs was done pretty well. I enjoyed watching as each fake outing and kiss developed more and more into real feelings. Their relationship was really cute.

I wish we would’ve gotten a little more background information on them, though. We know that Casey was left at the altar and that her ex-fiancé, Dominic, was a friend before they started dating, but we never find out how they got together or why they didn’t work out. We find out Kent had been in an accident while working as a firefighter and the fallout included one of his friends dying and his girlfriend dumping him. But we don’t really get much information about his injuries or what his relationship with his ex was like. The whole thing seemed just kind of thrown in for an added bit of a drama and I thought it could have been a lot more explored.

Overall, though, I enjoyed Wedding Date Rescue. I liked the characters and the romance. It was light and fun and just what I needed right now. I definitely recommend it to fans of fake relationship storylines.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

3.5 stars

Review: RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

28818314

Synopsis from Good Reads:

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

A. G. Howard brings the romantic storytelling that Splintered fans adore to France—and an entirely new world filled with lavish romance and intrigue—in a retelling inspired by a story that has captivated generations. Fans of both the Phantom of the Opera musical and novel, as well as YA retellings such as Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, will devour RoseBlood.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

RoseBlood will be available January 10, 2017

What I Liked

-I enjoy re-tellings and while this was a little more of a spin-off than a re-telling, it still worked for me. I’ve always been a Phantom of the Opera fan (well, except maybe when I was pretty young and my family used to listen to the soundtrack on road trips and it kind of scared the crap out of me at the time…but I definitely grew into it) and it’s definitely a unique topic in the YA market.

-The duel narration completely saved this book for me. We get Rune’s 1st Person POV and Thorn’s 3rd Person POV (I’m not really sure why they didn’t both get 1st Person, but that’s ok). While with Rune we were often stumbling around in the dark trying to figure out what was going on, with Thorn we get background and answers and insight. With him we get to see the actual Phantom of the Opera that I had been hoping for when I picked up this book. As a character I found him so much more interesting than Rune and I was always counting the pages until we got to see him again.

-The romance. Though it appears to be “insta-love”, it does have a good excuse for it. I liked Rune and Thorn together and shipped them.

-That cover. It’s beautiful.

-The Author Note at the end of the book where Howard details a lot of information from her research was almost more interesting than the book. A lot of the historical information in the book was accurate and it made me want to read more about the original book and it’s inspiration.

What Didn’t Quite Work For Me

**MILD SPOILER**   Two words: Psychic Vampires

-Ok, a few more words: This was a lot more supernatural than I was expecting it to be. While it, of course, needed a certain amount of fantasy elements there were a lot more than I expected or wanted. If you go into this knowing that, though, then I think you would probably like it.

-I spent a good portion of this novel confused. I think it took far too long to get to the point. Howard is an extremely detailed writer and I know a lot of readers love that, but for me a ton of description is hard for me to get through. Add that to the long chapter length and I found this book took me a lot longer to get through than a book normally does.

-Rune’s new “friend” Sunny. I HATED her. She did occasionally have redeeming moments, but she spent the whole book sneaking around and spying and crossing all sorts of friendship lines that I found myself kind of hoping she’d be killed off. The fact that Rune viewed her as this great friend kind of enraged me.

Overall

RoseBlood was a very interesting idea that didn’t quite live up to it’s potential for me. Two likable main characters (especially Thorn) and lots of references to the original Phantom of the Opera story were really well done. However, the major fantasy/supernatural elements were unexpected and hampered my enjoyment a bit. I also thought it was a little too long and too descriptive. I do think that fans of Howard’s Splintered series and those who are looking for a different type of re-telling will enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

3 stars

Review: More Than Friends by Jody Holford

32686041

Synopsis from Good Reads:

Owen Burnett planned on a quiet, easygoing Christmas, hanging out with his best friend and neighbor, Gabby Michaelson. So when his mom pressures him to come home for the holidays, he tells a little white lie…that he’s spending the holidays with his new girlfriend. But when his family shows up unexpectedly, Owen pulls the best friend card and asks Gabby to play his fake girlfriend.

Gabby’s been hopelessly in love with her best friend Owen for what feels like forever, but playing his “fake” girlfriend when the entire boisterous Burnett clan visits is easier said than done. The more she tries to deny the attraction between them, the more obvious their chemistry becomes. But even though she’s not the only one feeling it, putting their friendship on the line is a risk she can’t take.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

*What Worked for Me*

-I am a sucker for a fake relationship story and this book did it fairly well.

-I liked Owen a lot. He was sweet and smart. I found his preference for quiet and small groups really relatable. I also enjoyed his family, though they could have been developed just a little more.

-I liked the friendship between Owen and Gabby. I felt like they were really best friends before the romance started.

-There are no graphic love scenes in this book. There is one scene in the epilogue that approaches the threshold, but never really goes there. I like my romance books to stay in the sweet range and this one was definitely sweet.

*What Didn’t Work for Me*

-The thing with fake relationship stories is that the romance is a slow burn. It comes as a surprise to at least one of the characters, if not both (though usually not to the readers). So Gabby already being in love with oblivious Owen worked fine. But where it went off track for me was that in the very first chapter before the fake relationship had even started Owen was starting to notice and become attracted to Gabby. Before they even had to play fake couple in front of his family they were both already having feelings for each other and it was just too fast for me.

-There was something Gabby says early on in the story that really rubbed me the wrong way.

And now she knew he loved her, in the safest way possible. The most platonic, means-nothing way he could. Which, in her book, was the same as not at all.

Owen viewed Gabby as his best friend. He was always there for her. He supported her all the time. He loved her. He might not have been in love with her (or didn’t know that he was), but he loved her and for her to basically say it was worthless is such an awful, selfish, immature thing. I will say, however, that that line isn’t really consistent with her character in the rest of the book, so I could still like her well enough. (Also note the quote above is taken from the ARC )

-There was a plot line involving a sleazy building manager and thefts, and an introduction of lightly developed characters that lived in the building that really didn’t have anything to do with Owen and Gabby’s story. I don’t think it did anything but set up for future books in the series.

-The end was a little over the top mushy for me. Don’t get me wrong, I want the romantic Happily Ever After, but all the proclamations got a little much and I was rolling my eyes a lot.

Overall

Overall, More Than Friends was a cute, holiday romance. While I did have a few issues with the development of the story and characters, it was quick and sweet and pretty much what I wanted it to be. I recommend it to fans of holiday romances.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

3 stars