Review: Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

A thrilling, sexy coming-of-age story exploring toxic love, ruthless ambition, and shocking betrayal, Tell Me Lies is about that one person who still haunts you—the other one. The wrong one. The one you couldn’t let go of. The one you’ll never forget.

Lucy Albright is far from her Long Island upbringing when she arrives on the campus of her small California college, and happy to be hundreds of miles from her mother, whom she’s never forgiven for an act of betrayal in her early teen years. Quickly grasping at her fresh start, Lucy embraces college life and all it has to offer—new friends, wild parties, stimulating classes. And then she meets Stephen DeMarco. Charming. Attractive. Complicated. Devastating.

Confident and cocksure, Stephen sees something in Lucy that no one else has, and she’s quickly seduced by this vision of herself, and the sense of possibility that his attention brings her. Meanwhile, Stephen is determined to forget an incident buried in his past that, if exposed, could ruin him, and his single-minded drive for success extends to winning, and keeping, Lucy’s heart.

Alternating between Lucy’s and Stephen’s voices, Tell Me Lies follows their connection through college and post-college life in New York City. Deep down, Lucy knows she has to acknowledge the truth about Stephen. But before she can free herself from this addicting entanglement, she must confront and heal her relationship with her mother—or risk losing herself in a delusion about what it truly means to love.

With the psychological insight and biting wit of Luckiest Girl Alive, and the yearning ambitions and desires of Sweetbitter, this keenly intelligent and staggeringly resonant novel chronicles the exhilaration and dilemmas of young adulthood, and the difficulty of letting go, even when you know you should.

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

Tell Me Lies will be available June 12, 2018.

Tell Me Lies is an addicting tale of a toxic relationship and the dysfunctional people involved in it.

I really liked that the story was told in alternating 1st person POV. It helped keep a good pace throughout the story and I really feel like I got to know both Lucy and Stephen. They were both awful people (though Lucy was more troubled than truly awful), but I found myself unable to put the book down because I wanted to see what happened with them next. There was one plotline that I didn’t really feel fit with the rest of the story, though. It’s something that affected both Lucy and Stephen’s youth that Lucy figures out at the end of the book kind of randomly and then nothing happens with. I thought it could have just been something from Stephen’s past without having to relate to Lucy at all and would have been a little cleaner.

Stephen was a straight up sociopath. He was manipulative and uncaring about anything but his own wants and needs. He had a total lack of empathy for others. I think what I appreciated most about this story is that he wasn’t some serial killer or something. It felt like a very real, eye-opening picture of what an average person with an antisocial personality disorder is like and how they can so casually hurt and betray the people who care about them without a bit of guilt.

Though I was invested in Lucy’s story, she was hard for me to like. I couldn’t really relate to her. Though she did witness something kind of traumatizing as a young teenager and then never discussed it with anyone for a long time, I didn’t feel like it really justified her behavior. From the outside is was also very easy to see how toxic her relationship with Stephen was and how easy it seemed to me to just remove herself from the situation, so I felt frustrated with her, even though I know things are never that simple when it’s actually happening to you.

Overall, I found Tell Me Lies to be very addictive. The dual 1st person POVs were very well done and Stephen’s portrayal as a sociopath felt realistic and informative. I think this would definitely be a good book to read if you or someone you know has been in a toxic relationship. I look forward to reading more from Lovering in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Nearlyweds by Beth Kendrick

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Everyone says the first year of marriage is the hardest . . . but what would you do if you found out that you were never really married in the first place?

In this irresistible romantic comedy from award-winning author Beth Kendrick, three wildly different women form an unlikely friendship as they try to decide whether they’d do it all again.

They’ve had the white dresses and the fancy receptions. But now that the honeymoon’s over, Stella, Casey, and Erin have each had to face some hard truths about the men they’ve married and the lives they’ve chosen. So when the news breaks that the pastor who presided over their weddings failed to file a few critical pieces of paper, none of these newlyweds are rushing down to the courthouse to legalize their vows. Instead, the brides share their hopes, disappointments, and secrets while grappling with that pivotal question: Should they stay or should they go?

I loved this book! It was made into a Hallmark movie several years ago that I liked and I’ve wanted to read the book ever since I realized it was written by Beth Kendrick, who has written several other books I’ve really enjoyed. While I don’t remember enough about the movie to say how similar it actually was to the book, I think it’s safe to say that the book was even better than the movie.

The book is told through the POVs of Stella, Casey, and Erin. These young women have all recently been married over the same weekend, but maybe they shouldn’t have been. Stella wants nothing more than to be a mom, but finds out on her wedding night to her much older husband that that isn’t going to be possible. Casey had to all but drag her groom to the wedding. And Erin’s mother-in-law just might be trying to kill her (with peanuts). When they find out that they’re not legally married, instead of rectifying the mistake immediately, they begin to wonder if they really want to be married.

The girls were all hard to like sometimes, but I was still rooting for them. At various times I wanted them each to get re-married and to remain single. There were really cute and really frustrating moments that each had with their significant others. Some of the funniest (and most frustrating) were with Erin, David, and David’s mother. David’s mother, Renee, is one of the most overbearing Mother-in-laws I’ve ever read about and it was just ridiculous to see how easily she manipulated her son. In the end, not all the women get the happily-ever-after you expect, but I really liked how each of their stories went. I would have even liked an epilogue to see how everything was going a year down the road.

Overall, I really enjoyed Nearlyweds. It was cute and addictive and I enjoyed every moment of it. This book reminded me how much I enjoy Beth Kendrick books and I’m going to look into reading more from her.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Talking to other people isn’t Kate Bailey’s favorite activity. She’d much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she’ll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.

But to Kate’s surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend … until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

Kasie West’s adorable story of secrets, love, and friendship is sure to win over hearts everywhere.

I always look forward to new books by Kasie West. They just make me happy and Listen to Your Heart was no exception.

I liked all the characters in this. I found Kate funny and relatable. I loved her and Alana’s friendship. I liked Kate’s relationship with her family, especially her cousin Liza. Her home situation was a little unusual and I wish it would have been a little more explored than it was, though. I felt like there was a lot of potential there that wasn’t really explored, but I did like what we got to see of it. I really liked Diego and even Frank grew on me as the story went on.

I wasn’t sure what I would think of the podcast plotline, since I don’t generally care about podcasts. However, I thought it was really interesting. It wasn’t an overwhelming amount of information, but I felt like I got a good idea of how producing one would work. I wish there were cool classes like that when I was in high school. (Though, I don’t think podcasts were a thing when I was in high school. Dial-up internet was what everyone had back then – if you were lucky enough to have the internet at home at all. I know, I’m ancient.) I liked how it brought Kate out of her shell a bit and gave her more confidence.

As with every Kasie West book, I thought the romance was adorable. It was definitely a slow burn and it made the end result just that much sweeter. I wish there wasn’t so much miscommunication between the characters, but there were still a lot of cute moments, so I can forgive it.

Overall, I really enjoyed Listen to Your Heart. I liked the character and the relationships and the romance. It was a fast read that I finished in a day. I definitely recommend to fans of Kasie West and Contemporary YA.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Just One of the Royals (The Chicago Falcons #2) by Leah & Kate Rooper

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Star hockey player Daniel Sacachelli wants only two things: 1) for the Falcons to win next season, and 2) for his secret — the fact he’s actually the prince of Eldonia — to never make its way to Chicago. But if Daniel keeps avoiding his crown, their family will lose their kingdom forever.

Madison Myong can’t believe that her will-they-or-won’t-they best friend Daniel is really a prince! He’s always seemed more rebel than royal. But now, he needs to clean up his image, fast. Posing as his long-time girlfriend, Madison accompanies him back to Eldonia, intending to give Daniel a makeover fit for a king.

Only, the more royal Daniel becomes, the more Madison misses her best friend. And if she does her job right, she’ll lose him forever…

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

Just One of the Royals will be available June 4, 2018.

Just One of the Royals is the second book in a series about members of a junior hockey team. I haven’t read the first book in the series yet (from what I gather it sounds very similar to the move She’s the Man, but with hockey instead of soccer), but found this could be read easily as a standalone.

I really liked the friendships in the book. The guys on the hockey team, plus Madison (the trainer) were all pretty close and they looked out for each other. I liked that there weren’t any frenemies or mean girls. I also enjoyed Daniel’s relationship with his half-sister and with his mother. He was super sweet with both of them and I loved it.

The fake-relationship trope is one of my favorites and was the main reason for me wanting to read this book. However, I didn’t really think that aspect of the book was very well done. The reason for them trying to fake a relationship was pretty flimsy to start with and then there were none of the fun moments where they had to try to prove to people they were together. They just like held hands a couple times? Kissed for the cameras once. No one in Eldonia really cared about their “relationship” at all and it just didn’t make a lot of sense to me. It felt a lot more like Friends-To-More than Fake Relationship.

Overall, Just One of the Royals, was a cute read and I liked that it was written by two sisters, but it’s probably not a book I would want to pick up again. I liked Daniel and how all the relationships were portrayed, but was disappointed in the lack of Fake Relationship drama and also that I didn’t find Madison to be very likable. If you enjoy sports romances and are trying to feed your Royal Wedding hangover, you might enjoy this one.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Let’s Get Textual by Teagan Hunter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

From Teagan Hunter, author of the Here’s To series, comes a fun, witty STANDALONE romcom!

A wrong number is supposed to be just that–a wrong number.

Delete. Done.

Do not continue to text. Do not flirt.

A wrong number shouldn’t be the first person on your mind in the morning, or the last at night…and you’re definitely not supposed to talk them into buying a baby goat.

Because that would be weird.

When Zach Hastings and I get into a wrong-number mix-up, we don’t follow the rules. We keep texting and flirting, because he’s wicked funny and perfectly nerdy and a wonderful distraction.

I’m not looking for love, and Zach definitely had the wrong number.

But maybe…

Maybe he’s the right guy.

So I know what you’re thinking. The innuendo book title. The cover picture. You must have stumbled upon the wrong blog. This could not be a “Stephanie” book, right? Well, while I do hate that cover, I loved this book! I read it in one evening (staying up way past my bedtime) because I could not put it down.

This book was so funny! With a title like Let’s Get Textual you know it either has to be funny or stupid and I’m so glad it was the former. The banter between Delia and Zach had me smiling throughout the whole book. Yes, there was some definite innuendo – and a couple of scenes that were a little more than I generally appreciate reading about – but for the most part, their oddball sense of humor really resonated with me.

I’m a sucker for the mystery texter/pen-pal trope and I loved it here. Delia and Zach text for quite awhile before they decide to meet and even after they begin a relationship the texting is still a large part of the book. I loved how their relationship progressed and shipped them pretty hard. I didn’t love the requisite Big Misunderstanding toward the end of the book, though.  I thought the situation itself was kind of stupid, but also Delia did not handle it well At All. It seemed a little out of character for her because with Zach she was painfully honest all the rest of the time.

Overall, I really enjoyed Let’s Get Textual. I loved the main characters (and their goat) and could not get enough of their fun banter. This is definitely a book I’m glad I didn’t judge by it’s cover.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Starry Eyes by Jen Bennett

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In this romantic dramedy from the author of Alex, Approximately, a teen girl’s way-too-ordinary life is driven off the beaten path when she’s abandoned in the wilderness with her worst adversary—the boy who broke her heart.

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

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

Starry Eyes will be available April 3, 2018. 

This is my second book by Jenn Bennett and I found it just as addicting as I did Alex, Approximately. It was a quick, easy read that kept me glued to the pages.

Ok, so let me get the things that didn’t sit great with me out of the way. There was some mocking of religion, which I never appreciate. There was much more adult content than I appreciate in a young adult novel. I found Zorie and Lennon to both be a little more on the immature side, so the adult stuff made me feel just that much more uncomfortable. BUT, there wasn’t really anything graphic, so there’s that. Lennon is described as kind of a goth, but other than wearing some black and being into some horror stuff he didn’t really fit the bill. It almost felt like Bennett was trying a little hard to make the characters “diverse” in a way that didn’t really impact the character or story that much.

I did end up really liking Zorie and Lennon. Their miscommunication for a good portion of the book drove me insane, but they finally got over that and I shipped it. They had some good banter, which I enjoyed – Lennon, especially. I identified with Zorie’s anxiety and her need to plan things and appreciated her growth throughout the story. Another thing I related to were the things Zorie finds out about her father. Whether you’re a teenager or in your 30s, finding out those things about a parent has many of the same emotions and thoughts. Several books I’ve read lately have had this particular theme and I am finding them so cathartic right now.

The events in the synopsis do not happen until almost half-way through the book. Usually that really annoys me, but I found I didn’t mind it here. I thought the character development leading up to that was really well done and was essential for what would happen next. I also really enjoyed the setting, which is another unusual thing for me. I normally don’t care much about description or anything outdoors, but I really enjoyed the imagery of the wilderness and the stars. It never felt over the top or too much. It really set the scene well and I enjoyed it.

Overall, I really enjoyed Starry Eyes. I loved the setting, the character growth, and how relatable I found many things about Zorie to be. I found the writing to be really addicting, too. Even though it wasn’t really fast paced at all, I didn’t want to put it down. I definitely recommend this one to YA Contemporary fans. I know it’s one that I will re-read in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

*While this book exists in the same universe as Letters to the Lost, it is a standalone title.*

Rev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay…until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.

Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.

When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling.

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

More Than We Can Tell will be available March 6, 2018. 

My favorite thing about Letters to the Lost was the friendship between Declan and Rev and I was very excited to hear that Rev was going to get his own book. I’m happy to report that I enjoyed More Than We Can Tell even more than I did Letters to the Lost.

As I said, I love Rev and Declan’s friendship. No matter what happens they are always there for each other. Even when they don’t agree or have an argument, they work through it and I love it. While I would’ve really liked for the whole book to be filled with the two of them, I was satisfied with the amount of page time we got. I liked that there was some follow up with some of the things Declan dealt with in his book, as well.

This book was Drama, Drama, Drama right from the start. Sexual harassment, divorcing parents, abuse, feeling alone, bullying. I thought it was dealt with very well for the most part, but there was just so much. I felt like Emma especially made a lot of small things much more dramatic than she had to. She was hard to like at times because she was such a little brat to her parents and her best friend and even to Rev at times and the things she said were so uncalled for. She did show some growth by the end of the book, but I feel like she still has a ways to go.

While I adore Rev, he did frustrate me several times in the book. If he would’ve just talked to his parents or to Declan sooner then he would’ve had a little less turmoil. However, I tried to remember that he is just a teenager and he was doing the best he could and he did eventually talk to them. (Plus, I’m not really one who can judge somebody for their lack of ability to communicate.) I loved the relationship between Rev and his parents, as well. So often in YA the parents are either missing or awful (and there was some of that in this book, too), but Rev’s adoptive parents were wonderful.

Though I thought the immediate intensity of Rev and Emma’s relationship was a little unrealistic, I did like them together. There were several super cute moments between them that I enjoyed, but I also really enjoyed how they helped each other emotionally. Their romance didn’t “fix” each other, but offered support to each other and I liked that.

Overall, I enjoyed More Than We Can Tell. I’m a fan of Kemmerer’s writing and I flew through this book. I loved getting to see Rev and Declan again. Even though I thought the drama was a little over the top at times, I thought there were some good, relatable lessons. I think fans of Letters to the Lost will not want to miss this one, though you don’t have to have read it to enjoy this.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars