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

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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

Review: Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Everyone knows Abby Turner is in love with her best friend, Cooper Wells. Including Cooper Wells. But despite what people tell her, it doesn’t affect their friendship. And she’s practically over it, anyway. What she really can’t get over is when her boss at the local museum tells her that her paintings lack heart.

Art is Abby’s passion and she hopes her future as well. She is determined to change his mind and earn her way into the upcoming exhibit at the gallery. So along with her family’s help, she compiles “The Heart List,” a series of soulstretching experiences that are sure to make her a deeper person and better artist in six weeks or less. When Cooper decides to complete the list along with her, she realizes this list is expanding her heart in more ways than one. Maybe she needs to start another project.

Love, Life, and the List is about a girl who, in an effort to bring more emotional depth to her art, compiles a list of soul-stretching experiences to complete with her best friend—a boy she also happens to be in love with.

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

I’m very stingy when it comes to spending my money on books, but if there’s one author I don’t hesitate to buy a book from it’s Kasie West. I know her books will always be super cute and make me happy and Love, Life, and the List did not let me down.

I loved how sarcastic Abby was. I loved the banter she had with pretty much every character in the book, but especially her equally sarcastic grandfather. I also found her mother to be a pretty empathetic character. She’s overly anxious and has some agoraphobic tendencies that I relate to all too well. I liked that the book didn’t just include Abby’s growth, but her family’s as well.

I loved the friendship between Abby and Cooper. There was a little while there when I was actually rooting for them to just stay friends and for no romance to really be involved. But, I don’t feel like it’s a spoiler to say there is a romantic Happily Ever After involved and that it was cute and a little bit cheesy and I loved it. I also liked how Abby made a few more friends in the book with Elliot and Lacey.

I wasn’t really sure what I would think of the list plotline. To be honest, it didn’t seem real interesting to me when I read the synopsis, but I ended up liking it. When she gets turned down for an art show because her paintings lack heart, her boss tells her that some more life experience will get her there eventually. She decides to try and speed up the life experience process by making the list. She also includes tasks inspired by people who have qualities she admires. I actually thought this was a really productive way to try and enrich one’s life. I think a lot of us say we want to try to be a better person, but don’t actually come up with ways to do that. I felt like this was a perfect book to read at the end of the year when we all try to come up with resolutions to do better in the future.

Overall, I really enjoyed Love, Life, and the List. It was so cute and I loved the friendship and the banter. It was everything I expect out of a Kasie West book and I definitely recommend it to fans of hers and Contemporary YA.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

I wasn’t a huge fan of Open Road Summer so I wasn’t expecting much from The Start of Me and You. I am quite pleased to say that it definitely surpassed my expectations and I really enjoyed it!

Paige was dating Aaron for about two months when he tragically drowned on a camping trip. While she mourns his loss and has suffered from some PTSD related nightmares, what she really has trouble coping with is The Look. The way people give her pitying looks and identify her only as the girlfriend of the boy who drowned. She’s ready to really start moving on and being happy again. She makes up a list of things she thinks will help her do this and embarks on the new school year determined to make it happen.

My problem with Open Road Summer is that I felt it tried too hard to be deep and meaningful, while still being a cute contemporary. I think that The Start of Me and You does much better at balancing the cute with the Message. The characters were relatable and likable. The problems were never too melodramatic. The romance, as well as the growing friendships, were a slow burn.

One thing this book does really well is the friendships. Paige has a core group of friends – Tessa, Morgan, and Kayleigh – who are all pretty different, but are always there for each other. That doesn’t mean they don’t ever fight, but they always make up. While there was opportunity for great girl drama (my crush has a crush on my best friend, you’re spending more time with your boyfriend than you are with me, etc.), it never went there and I was really grateful it. There were no frenemies here! While the friendship between Ryan and Max isn’t as explored, we know that they are really close, as well. I also liked how Paige’s and Max’s group of friends converged throughout the book.

I also liked that there was an “adult presence” in the book. So many YA books have completely absent or oblivious parents and that always gets on my nerves. Paige has present parents and she has a realistic relationship with them. I also really liked their English teacher, Ms. Pepper. She provided several humorous moments throughout the book.

The relationship between Paige and Max was very cute, as well. They start out a bit uncomfortable, but slowly become friends. It’s several months before Paige even begins to realize that she may like him as more than a friend. I loved their banter and inside jokes. His nickname for her reminded me of Gansey and Blue from The Raven Boys so while they have nothing to do with each other, I think it endeared them to me more.

The underlining message of it all was about overcoming tragedy to live your life and the journey it takes to get there. I think Lord does a good job of weaving this into the other storylines about Paige’s friends and Max and her grandmother. While there were a few times it almost got a little “preachy” about it, I didn’t feel as brow beaten with it as with Lord’s former book. It seemed much more organic and less forced.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Start of Me and You. The characters were likable and the romance was sweet. The writing was often humorous and I found myself smiling a lot while I was reading. I would definitely recommend this to fans of YA Contemporary.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars

Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I never wanted it to end!

Kasie West is really one of my favorite YA authors. Her characters are relatable, her male leads are sweet, and they act like high school students.

As like most of West’s leading ladies, Gia comes off a little unlikable at first. She’s pretty and popular and kind of shallow. We meet her as she’s being dumped in the parking lot of her senior prom by her college-aged boyfriend. She’s afraid to go into prom alone because her frenemy, Jules, has been trying to convince her other friends that Bradley never existed and Gia was just making him up. (This sounds kind of silly, but I did have a friend in high school who actually used to make up guys and then tell real elaborate stories about how she met them that I later felt stupid for believing.) Though she is upset over being dumped by Bradley, she’s more upset about having to face the possibility that her friends will dump her, so when she sees a guy sitting in his car, she convinces him to pretend to be Bradley and go to prom with her.

Luckily for Gia, Fill-in Bradley (FIB) is an actor and he plays the part well. So well that Gia can’t stop thinking about him. However, he leaves without her ever getting his real name and his sister, Bec, is not a Gia fan and won’t help her get in contact with him again – until she finds out he’s going to his cheating ex-girlfriend’s party and then she enlists Gia to return the fake relationship favor. From there a real friendship forms, not just between Gia and FIB, but Gia and Bec, as well. Adorableness ensues.

If there’s one relationship cliché trope I love, it’s the Fake Relationship. While this book didn’t have quite as much of the fake relationship scenarios I like to read, it still fit the bill. It actually focused way more on the actual relationship between Gia and FIB when they weren’t pretending to be anything else and that’s what really made this book so sweet. FIB isn’t perfect, but I loved him. He was very sweet and caring and funny. I loved the bantery fun between him and Gia. I also liked his relationship with his sister and his mom. Though his dad is mentioned several times as being a good guy, we never actually get to meet him, which disappointed mea little.

As I said above, Gia was a little unlikable at first, but she grows a lot throughout the story and becomes  a lot more likable. I felt her fears of not being good enough for her friends was a relatable and I liked how that part of the storyline played out. Her parents were present, but not great. I wish they would’ve been a little more developed and acted a little more like parents.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Fill-in Boyfriend. It definitely packed the cute that I expect from a Kasie West novel, but it also had some relatable themes on growing up and friendship that were well done. I would recommend it to fans of contemporary YA (especially those that appreciate more “clean” contemporary) and fans of West’s other books.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars

Review: The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Kate Quinn’s mom died last year, leaving Kate parentless and reeling. So when the unexpected shows up in her living room, Kate must confront another reality she never thought possible—or thought of at all. Kate does have a father. He’s a powerful politician. And he’s running for U.S. President. Suddenly, Kate’s moving in with a family she never knew she had, joining a campaign in support of a man she hardly knows, and falling for a rebellious boy who may not have the purest motives. This is Kate’s new life. But who is Kate? When what she truly believes flies in the face of the campaign’s talking points, she must decide. Does she turn to the family she barely knows, the boy she knows but doesn’t necessarily trust, or face a third, even scarier option?

Set against a backdrop of politics, family, and first love, this is a story of personal responsibility, complicated romance, and trying to discover who you are even as everyone tells you who you should be.

To be completely honest, I hated this book for about the first quarter of it. I almost DNF-ed it, but because of all the completely glowing reviews I’ve read on it I decided to keep going. I’m glad I did, as it did definitely get better. However, I still found it a far cry from the perfection I’ve seen it reviewed as.

So why did I dislike it so much to start? There’s mention of Kate’s backstory briefly before diving right in to her finding out who her father is. I didn’t like the way it was handled at all. Kate’s aunt and uncle just completely give over their home to the senator’s campaign staff and aren’t really there for Kate at all. They stay out of the way and leave her to deal with it. Kate also completely drove me nuts. She asked no questions, didn’t stand up for herself, and did exactly as she was told by people she had no reason to trust. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m also very annoyed with how impulsive and whiney and stupid YA heroines can be and Kate steered clear of that, which I like. But it was almost like she had no emotions about it for most of the book. She was excited about the idea of having a family and that was it. She didn’t really deal with the fact that her mother had lied to her her whole life or that her father obviously only wanted her around to redeem his image for the campaign. His wife and his friend kept telling Kate to give him time and that he was “worth it”, but the guy was a complete douche until the final chapters. Kate finally shows some real emotion and he finally stops being such a politician.

Ok, so rant over. Kate eventually became less annoying as the story went on. I liked how her relationship with her step-mother evolved and her relationship with her half brother and sister, though I thought they could have been a little more developed. I loved Andy. He was sweet and understanding and funny. My only complaint with him was there wasn’t enough of him. While I definitely appreciate that this story was based on family and not romance, he really brought humor and a lightness to the story that I missed when he wasn’t around.

The behind-the-scenes look at the campaign was interesting. I thought most of it was pretty well done and I appreciated the new spin on YA. There was lots of opportunities for the story to get really political, but it mostly stayed away from hot-button topics. There’s mention of the senator being pro-choice and pro-gay-rights, to which Kate responds, “but he’s Republican!” and then they don’t bring it up again. The big topic, and the one closest to Kate’s heart, is immigration. This also had the potential to get pretty “preachy”, but I liked that multiple perspectives were given and it was used to help develop Kate’s relationship with her father a little.

Overall, The Wrong Side of Right was an ok read. It was interesting take on YA contemporary that I haven’t read before. While it started out pretty bad for me, it definitely got better. I’m glad that I finished it, but I’m also glad I waited for it to come to the library instead of buying it!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

3 stars

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