YA

Review: #PRETTYBOY MUST DIE by Kimberly Reid

#Prettyboy Must Die

by Kimberly Reid

Published by Tor Teen
277 pages
Genre: YA
3 / 5

My Review:

The thing about this book is that it’s pretty fun to read. Jake, aka Peter, aka #Prettyboy, is fun to get to know. He’s scrappy and he’s a survivor. He’s also whip-smart (although perhaps the story behind that is a little too mysterious), and he’s the type of guy you’d want to hang out with if you were in high school. Or even college. He’s FUN.

But ….. well ….. there is a teensy problem with Kimberly Reid’s story: it is completely implausible.

Could something like this happen in real life? Yeah, sure. I guess it could. It probably has, for all I know. But it doesn’t read like it could. The book reads as if Reid writes with a wink and a smile, nudging you with a raised eyebrow to strap in and enjoy the ride. You get the feeling that she doesn’t want you to take this all that seriously.

And that’s a problem sometimes because of where she takes the plot. You kind of have to buy into Jake’s ability to do what he does in order to keep reading. Fortunately, the way Reid draws Jake, you want to spend time with him and see where his paths take him.

The ending feels a little open. You get the feeling that Reid (and her publisher) wants to see how we receive Jake before she commits to a follow-up book. I can’t say I’m counting the hours till I am reunited with him, though. I liked this book, but I was okay when it was over.

 

Blurb:

A CIA prodigy’s cover is blown when he accidentally becomes an internet sensation in #Prettyboy Must Die, Kimberly Reid’s fun, fast thriller inspired by the #Alexfromtarget story and perfect for fans of Alex Rider.

When Peter Smith’s classmate snaps a picture of him during a late night run at the track, Peter thinks he might be in trouble. When she posts that photo—along with the caption, “See the Pretty Boy Run,”—Peter knows he’s in trouble. But when hostiles drop through the ceiling of his 6th period Chem Class, Peter’s pretty sure his trouble just became a national emergency.

Because he’s not really Peter Smith. He’s Jake Morrow, former foster-kid turned CIA operative. After a massive screw-up on his first mission, he’s on a pity assignment, a dozen hit lists and now, social media, apparently. As #Prettyboy, of all freaking things.

His cover’s blown, his school’s under siege, and if he screws up now, #Prettyboy will become #Deadboy faster than you can say, ‘fifteen minutes of fame.’ Trapped in a high school with rabid killers and rabid fans, he’ll need all his training and then some to save his job, his school and, oh yeah, his life.

About the Author:

Kimberly Reid is the author of thrillers and mysteries for young adults, including Perfect Liars as well as the Langdon Prep mystery series. Writing as Kim Reid, she won the Colorado Book Award for creative nonfiction for her memoir, No Place Safe, which has been optioned for television by ABC Signature Studios and Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years a Slave).

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Review: FLIGHT SEASON by Marie Marquardt

Flight Season

by Marie Marquardt

Published by St. Martin’s Press
329 pages
Genre: YA
3 / 5

My Review:

There are so many times while reading this book when you wish you could wrap your arms around Vivi and tell her that everything will be okay. Not in the Pollyanna way that her mother would, but in a “everything sucks right now but I promise you that it will not suck forever” kind of way.

I loved how much Marie Marquardt made me care about Vivi. I loved how much she made me care about TJ. And I loved that she didn’t make this all about the two of them becoming — or not becoming — a couple. The emphasis here isn’t on romance. It’s on Vivi finding her strength and her path, and it’s on TJ realizing that you can’t judge someone until you know their story.

As YA books go, this one is enjoyable and even educational. You learn a lot about birds because Vivi is obsessed with them. Marquardt uses them as a sort of symbol for Vivi: birds may think they know their destination, but sometimes even they get lost. When they do, they have a choice: stay where they are or find a new course.

Adaptation is a necessity, and it’s something Vivi — and her mother — need to learn how to do. Fortunately, TJ might just provide some guidance.

Blurb:

From Marie Marquardt, the author of Dream Things True and The Radius of Us, comes a story of two teenagers learning what to hold on to, what to let go of, and that sometimes love gets in the way of our plans.

Back when they were still strangers, TJ Carvalho witnessed the only moment in Vivi Flannigan’s life when she lost control entirely. Now, TJ can’t seem to erase that moment from his mind, no matter how hard he tries. Vivi doesn’t remember any of it, but she’s determined to leave it far behind. And she will.

But when Vivi returns home from her first year away at college, her big plans and TJ’s ambition to become a nurse land them both on the heart ward of a university hospital, facing them with a long and painful summer together – three months of glorified babysitting for Ángel, the problem patient on the hall. Sure, Ángel may be suffering from a life-threatening heart infection, but that doesn’t make him any less of a pain.

As it turns out, though, Ángel Solís has a thing or two to teach them about all those big plans, and the incredible moments when love gets in their way.

Written in alternating first person from the perspectives of all three characters, Flight Season is a story about discovering what’s really worth holding onto, learning how to let go of the rest, and that one crazy summer that changes your life forever.

About the Author:

I am an author of young adult novels, a college professor, and an immigration advocate.

How are these all connected? After many years as a researcher, service provider, and – most importantly – friend with immigrants to Georgia, I felt frustrated. I often spoke to groups about immigration and the need for immigration reform. I offered clear, rational explanations and data on why our immigration system needs to be repaired. And then I realized something: people only begin to care when they meet and get to know someone who is living inside this broken system. It’s been my great honor to have those very relationships over decades.

So, I decided to try my hand at writing a fictional (but very real) stories based on my own experiences. I hope these stories will bring readers into intimate, personal contact with messy, complicated, political situations. I care about these issues deeply, because I care about the people wo are affected by them. I believe that, through story, we can connect to others in a deep, meaningful way – which can be a powerful tool against the hate, fear, and misunderstanding that plague our society.

And now, the formal bits: I am a Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. In addition to Dream Things True, Radius of Us, and Flight Season, I have co-authored two non-fiction books and written many articles on immigration. I have been interviewed about immigration on National Public Radio, Public Radio International, Voice of America, NBC, and BBC America, among many other media outlets. I am proud and honored to be the chair of El Refugio, a Georgia non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families.

I live in the book-lover’s-mecca of Decatur, Georgia with my spouse, four children, a dog, and a bearded dragon.

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Review: Adam & Evie by Marisa Concetta

Adam & Evie

by Marisa Concetta

318 pages
Genre: YA
3.5 / 5

My Review:

Adam and Evie are proof that everything is a matter of perspective. You view what happens through your lens, and rarely do you ever take the time to try and see it through someone else’s.

You may not always agree with Evie and Adam, and you may not always like what they do, but Marisa Concetta makes sure that you care deeply about them. I loved how Adam, a star athlete, sometimes sort of passively lets others call the game for him (so to speak), yet he knows when it is necessary for him to stand up for himself. Evie, meanwhile, occasionally appears to be the tougher of the two (perhaps because of her singing stardom), but in many ways, she is the more fragile. She loved Adam, and before she left their hometown for Hollywood, she had to watch him (appear to) choose her former best friend.

Concetta understands her audience, and she writes a sweet, angsty story of love and friendship. The lesson – to realize that your version of the story is not the only version – is particularly important for today’s teens given the way social media skewers just about everything. Find out the facts before you decide to judge, Concetta says.

Teens will love this book. Its occasional predictability doesn’t feel intrusive or distracting, and its occasional lapses in pacing don’t feel too bothersome. I just loved Adam. Not all the time – he is a teen boy, after all, so he does the occasional dumb thing, even if he does it for the right reasons. And I liked that Evie, who in many ways is living every teen girl’s dream, is still relatable.

Blurb:

What could happen when the nerd of Roosevelt High becomes Hollywood’s next superstar? Answer: Anything.

Before she became Evie Chase, Hollywood’s Golden Girl, Evie was a nobody at the bottom of the high school food chain with only a handful of friends. Her best friend – Adam Fields – was a popular jock who always had her back. Until one day, he stopped, and they never spoke again. Fast forward three years, and everything has changed. Evie is out in LA living the dream as a seventeen year old popstar, Adam’s at home finishing off high school, and they are both trying their best to forget the past. They are living separate lives and everything is running smoothly. Until…Evie’s back.

To avoid paparazzi, the young starlet returns to school in disguise. As the teenagers get to know each other again, Adam unaware that the new girl is his former best friend, they are both left wondering – did the past actually happen the way they remember it? And could their revived friendship turn out to be something more?

About the Author:

Marisa Concetta is a Massachusetts native and graduated from Merrimack College with her Bachelor’s of Science in Biology. Besides continuing to write YA novels, she has goals to become a physician. She began writing her debut novel Adam and Evie when she was only fifteen, and since then, the novel has gained nearly five million readers on both Wattpad and Inkitt where she has nearly nine thousand followers. When Marisa isn’t writing—or studying—she enjoys binge watching shows on Netflix, watching baseball (particularly the Red Sox), running, traveling, and really, anything involving Disney or Disney World. You can follow her on: Wattpad (@xWinterFallzx3), Twitter (@marisaconcetta), Instagram (@marisawrites), or her Facebook page (Marisa Concetta).

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Review: THE LAST TO LET GO by Amber Smith

The Last to Let Go

by Amber Smith

Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
384 pages
Genre: YA
3.5 / 5

My Review:

Amber Smith makes you rethink what a domestic tragedy looks like. She makes you see the tragedy of a father abusing a mother and driving away an eldest child. She makes you see the glimmer of hope when the mother kills that father. And then she makes you see the tragedy of the legal system not quite agreeing that this was a justified homicide.

I liked how Smith showed Brooke’s determination to be independent, even as she desperately needs her brother and sister. Brooke is more than just a confused, conflicted teen. She is someone who cannot, as the title implies, let go.

In Brooke, Smith has a heroine who is intellectually exceptional but emotionally stunted. That Brooke cannot give up her notions of what she thinks she and, particularly, her sister need is not due to any romanticized vision of family but rather a desperation to just feel normal. Normal high school girls don’t live with guardians. They don’t visit their mothers in prison. They don’t bury their fathers because their mothers murdered those fathers. They live at home, with their brothers and sisters.

There are pacing issues in this book, times when the plot lines felt repetitive and slow. This is not a book for people looking to feel happy; the sadness that permeates nearly every page stops that wish in a hurry. Yet Brooke, frustrating though she is on occasion, is someone you dearly hope figures out how to be happy. How to let go.

Blurb:

A twisted tragedy leaves Brooke and her siblings on their own in this provocative new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used To Be.

How do you let go of something you’ve never had?

Junior year for Brooke Winters is supposed to be about change. She’s transferring schools, starting fresh, and making plans for college so she can finally leave her hometown, her family, and her past behind.

But all of her dreams are shattered one hot summer afternoon when her mother is arrested for killing Brooke’s abusive father. No one really knows what happened that day, if it was premeditated or self-defense, whether it was right or wrong. And now Brooke and her siblings are on their own.

In a year of firsts—the first year without parents, first love, first heartbreak, and her first taste of freedom—Brooke must confront the shadow of her family’s violence and dysfunction, as she struggles to embrace her identity, finds her true place in the world, and learns how to let go.

About the Author:

Amber Smith grew up in Buffalo, New York and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her two dogs. Fueled by a lifelong passion for the arts, story, and creative expression, Amber graduated from art school with a BFA in Painting and went on to earn her master’s degree in Art History. When she’s not writing she’s usually reading, but can also be found in her studio making art or freelancing as an art consultant. She has also written on the topics of art history and modern and contemporary art.

Her debut novel, The Way I Used to Be was a New York Timesbestseller. Look out for her next book, The Last to Let Go, which will be released February 6, 2018 from Simon & Schuster’s Margaret K. McElderry Books.

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Blog Tour, Excerpt, & Review: PRETTY DEAD GIRLS by Monica Murphy

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Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy
Release Date: January 2nd, 2018
Genre: Young Adult Romance

My Review:

What makes a good mystery is thinking you know where the author is headed, only to discover that you are delightfully wrong.

What does not make a good mystery is an author throwing out so many obvious red herrings that you figure out who didn’t dunit.

With Pretty Dead Girls, Monica Murphy does a bit of both.

It’s clear, based on how entrenched Penelope is in believing so, that the girl she believes is behind the murders of some of Penelope’s peers is not the true perpetrator. You know this because you also know that Monica Murphy is not dumb. She is, however, writing from the perspective of a teenage girl, and teenage girls are, on occasion, dumb.

Penelope, rightfully so, is freaking out, even as she’s trying to stay in control, both of herself and the Larks, a club whose members are being murdered. She also finds herself forming a surprising (to her) friendship with Cass, a mysterious sort of boy whom she has overlooked throughout high school. Cass has his own theories about the culprit, and the two team up to find out which of them is right.

Murphy drops scant clues as to the identity of her killer, but that didn’t bother me too much. I liked the element of surprise. The only thing I couldn’t reconcile is that it takes someone with a certain amount of intelligence and cunning to do what this person did, and you see absolutely no evidence of that. Maybe that’s the point? It’s always the ones you least suspect? It’s always the better actors?

I liked Cass so much. I liked his backstory, and I liked how he made himself vulnerable. I like how Murphy builds the romance and intrigue between him and Penelope. I also liked Penelope’s relationship with her parents. Unlike many YA books, the parents aren’t caricatures. They aren’t one-dimensional. They love their daughter and support her, even as they also want to protect her.

While this book may lack the emotional punch I’ve come to expect and enjoy from Monica Murphy’s books, it’s nonetheless a solid mystery, sure to please teen girls and YA mystery fans.

PrettyDeadGirls_e-book500 (1)

Beautiful. Perfect. Dead.
In the peaceful seaside town of Cape Bonita, wicked secrets and lies are hidden just beneath the surface. But all it takes is one tragedy for them to be exposed.
The most popular girls in school are turning up dead, and Penelope Malone is terrified she’s next. All the victims so far have been linked to Penelope—and to a boy from her physics class. The one she’s never really noticed before, with the rumored dark past and a brooding stare that cuts right through her.

There’s something he isn’t telling her. But there’s something she’s
not telling him, either.
Everyone has secrets, and theirs might get them killed.

Blog Tour

Excerpt:

“That car is still trailing us.”

Glancing in the side mirror, I see that the car is behind us. Cass chooses that moment to take a curve extra fast, making the tires squeal, and I gasp. “You’re scaring me,” I murmur. It feels like my heart just flew into my throat.

“Just wait. What I really want to do is going to scare you even more,” he says cryptically.
“What do you want to do?”

“You’ll have to trust me on this.”

“Okay.” I clamp my lips shut. I shouldn’t automatically agree, right? I’m still having trust issues, even though I’d never say that out loud. This entire day has been confusing. I don’t know who to believe anymore.

“No demanding we back out once we commit,” he says, his gaze never wavering from the road. “That’s a surefire way to get ourselves hurt.”

His words are ominous. Like a warning. “Fine. I’m all in.”

He eases up on the gas pedal, just the slightest bit. The car slows, the vehicle behind us drawing closer. So close I swear it looks like it’s going to eat the back bumper. “I don’t want you to freak out.”

“Oh my God, Cass.” Why is he slowing down? “Just tell me.”

“You have to promise me one thing first.” His gaze meets mine, lingering a moment too long. He should be watching the road, not staring at me. “Say you’ll promise.”

“I promise,” I readily agree, frowning. “But what am I promising?”

He’s staring straight ahead once more, his fingers sliding over the steering wheel, almost like a caress. “You can’t scream.”

What?

“I mean it. No screaming. No yelling. You must remain quiet. I need you to trust me, Pen.” He hesitates, his voice dropping lower. “Do you trust me?”

Do I? He’s already asked me once and I said yes, but the doubt still creeps in. He scares me a little. He also—God, I am so ridiculous thinking this, but—he turns me on. He does. There’s something about him. He has this edge that other boys don’t have. And when he touches me, kisses me…

I’d probably do just about anything he asks me to.

So how can I doubt him when we’ve already gone this far together?

“I won’t scream,” I tell him quietly. “And I won’t yell. I promise.”

“Okay.” He nods once, then hisses out a breath between his teeth. I chance a glance at him, the way his dark hair falls over his forehead, how he’s squinting his eyes. What he’s about to do, what’s about to happen, feels…dangerous. “Here it goes.”

With a flick of his wrist he turns the car’s headlights off. Like, completely off. The road goes dark. I suck in a breath, hold it until I feel like it’s choking me. He hits the gas pedal hard, the SUV roaring to life as he flies down the road. A dangerous, winding road where multiple car crashes occur every year. The windows are down, the wind blows through my hair, blasts against my face, and I close my eyes.

I’m scared, and I can’t make a sound. Not a peep. I hold onto the handle right above the window, gripping it with both hands as Cass takes the twisty road with ease. My gaze is trained on the side mirror and I watch for the car lights behind us.
They’re still there.

PDG-AN

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Meet Monica:
Monica Murphy is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is both self-published and published by Random House/Bantam and Harper Collins/Avon. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance.

She is a wife and a mother of three who lives in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA.

 

Connect with Monica:
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Website: http://monicamurphyauthor.com
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Blog Tour, Excerpt, & Review: THE SPRING GIRLS by Anna Todd

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The Spring Girls by Anna Todd
A coming of age, new adult romance.
Release Date: January 2nd, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romance

My Review:

Little Women fans, here is the modern-day retelling that you didn’t know you needed.

Anna Todd, whose After series fulfilled every Harry Styles’ fan’s fantasies, takes on the March sisters, here with the surname Spring. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are living in New Orleans with their mother Meredith while their father is stationed in the Middle East. Todd nails the sense of fear, uncertainty, and loneliness that the girls feel in the absence of their father. She also does a solid job of representing the personalities of the sisters.

Meg remains the confident oldest sister. In Anna Todd’s world, this translates into all manner of outward confidence, including a certain sexual freedom. Of course, this masks Meg’s insecurities, caused largely by her uncertainty as to her future. Does she get married young and become the perfect military wife? Or does she figure out what goals and dreams she has of her own?

The headstrong, defiant Jo March is the headstrong, defiant Jo Spring. She is every bit as un-self-conscious as her predecessor. Her friendship with Laurie is a bit different here. Let’s just say that there is a romance with Laurie, but Todd takes it in a different direction. I appreciated that, by the way, although I’m sure Little Women purists will find a reason to complain. Instead of doing that, how about we commend Anna Todd for staying true to the natures of her characters?

We all know what happens to Beth in Louisa May Alcott’s story. As with Laurie, Todd takes the character in a different direction. I liked this, too. Hints are dropped, such that the revelation may not stun, but it’s a worthy way to cast this character in modern times.

Unfortunately, Amy remains every bit as annoying as she did in Alcott’s original. Again, however, this seems fitting. The youngest of four sisters, Amy watches Meg, Jo, and Beth, decides which one she wants to emulate, and does so, not bothering to think about whether that sister deserves such honors.

I really enjoyed this book. I like the spins Anna Todd took on Alcott’s beloved family, and I liked some of the unexpected directions she took.

the spring girls cover

Four sisters desperately seeking the blueprints to life—the modern-day retelling of Louise May Alcott’s Little Women like only Anna Todd (After, Imagines) could do.

The Spring Girls—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—are a force of nature on the New Orleans military base where they live. As different as they are, with their father on tour in Iraq and their mother hiding something, their fears are very much the same. Struggling to build lives they can be proud of and that will lift them out of their humble station in life, one year will determine all that their futures can become.

The oldest, Meg, will be an officer’s wife and enter military society like so many of the women she admires. If her passion—and her reputation—don’t derail her.

Beth, the workhorse of the family, is afraid to leave the house, is afraid she’ll never figure out who she really is.

Jo just wants out. Wishing she could skip to graduation, she dreams of a life in New York City and a career in journalism where she can impact the world. Nothing can stop her—not even love.

And Amy, the youngest, is watching all her sisters, learning from how they handle themselves. For better or worse.

With plenty of sass, romance, and drama, The Spring Girls revisits Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women, and brings its themes of love, war, class, adolescence, and family into the language of the twenty-first century.

Blog Tour (1)

Excerpt:

Meet the Springs

Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,”

Jo declared from her spot on the rug.

She sat at the feet of her oldest sister, Meg. Jo’s long brown

hair was unruly, as it always was. She was my strong girl. She

was the only one of my girls who didn’t hog the bathroom. Her

delicate fingers, the black polish on their nails chipped, picked

at the frayed edges of the Afghan rug under her folded legs.

The hand-woven black-and-red textile had once been bright and

beautiful, and I remembered when my husband had sent it to

our house back in Texas from his former post in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

In my head, Denise’s scratchy voice reminds me to use

proper military lingo: my husband’s FOB in Kandahar. The biggest

forward operating base in Afghanistan, she would also necessarily

add. Denise was always on my case. Come to think of

it, she even had comments about the rug when I got it. She said

he could have sent it to the base and paid no fee.

None of that mattered to my girls. From the moment it arrived,

they loved that rug as much as I did. When I ripped open

the package from their dad, who had been living across the

world for the past eight months, the girls—particularly Jo—

were excited to own such a beautiful, culture-filled treasure

from the other side of the world. Meg loved that we now had

a lavish handcrafted object in our simple home. She was my

most materialistic daughter, but I always knew that if I tried

to teach her right, she would use her love of shiny things to do

something magical and worthwhile with her life. Amy was too

young to really care about the rug, and of course Beth knew

it was coming because her daddy knew that she was the only

Spring Girl who could be trusted to keep the secret. Plus, on

a more practical level, since Beth was basically homeschooled,

Frank knew she could watch out for it. Later, he explained to

me that he wanted to mail the package straight home so that

we could be treated with the rug as a surprise on our doorstep,

rather than as a pickup chore on the base. I’m not sure if I told

Denise that she would understand.

Of late, our beautiful rug wasn’t as beautiful anymore.

Dirty shoes and heavy bodies had worn it down, and the colors

blended into a mud brown that I tried my best to clean, but the

color just wouldn’t come back.

We loved it not one bit less.

TSG-AN2

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Meet Anna Todd:

Anna Todd is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of the After series. Hailed by Cosmopolitan as “the biggest literary phenomenon of her generation,” Anna began her literary career on the social storytelling platform Wattpad. Serialized on Wattpad in 2013, After has over 1.5 billion reads on the site. The print edition, published in 2014 by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, has over 15 million copies in circulation, has been published in over 30 languages and is a #1 bestseller in Italy, Germany, France and Spain.

A native of Ohio, Anna was a voracious reader all her life, citing Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights and Fifty Shades of Grey as some of her favorites. In 2012, after discovering the world of fanfiction for fandoms like Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, The Mortal Instruments, Anna began writing as a way of continuing the stories she so loved from fanfiction community.

Connect with Anna:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorannatodd/
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http://www.annatodd.com

 

Review: BUSTED by Gina Ciocca

Busted

by Gina Ciocca

Published by Sourcebooks Fire
354 pages
Genre: YA
3.5 / 5

My Review:

Thanks to an unforeseen opportunity, Marisa finds herself a private investigator of sorts. She goes from being a regular teenager focused on graduating from high school getting into college to a girl who catches cheating boyfriends.

She didn’t ask for this gig, and she isn’t even sure she wants to see it through. Former friend-turned-frenemy Kendall asks her to find out what’s going on with her boyfriend, and Marisa can’t say no. Not because she cares all that much about Kendall, but more out of guilt.

In fact, guilt turns out to be a mighty motivator for some of the characters in this book.

An interesting guilt that emerges is the one Marisa feels about TJ, Kendall’s erstwhile boyfriend. Marisa is starting to like him In That Way, and this, of course, makes her a tad skittish about the whole “is he a cheater or not” thing.

As a book about high school friendships and dating shenanigans, this one sets a steady pace and tells a good story. Gina Ciocca writes a pretty solid heroine in Marisa. You may not always like what she does, but you always feel as if she’s a real person. Ciocca doesn’t make Marisa too good or too precocious. I just loved her. I loved TJ, too. He’s a steady sort of guy, if not a little bit under-developed. I wanted to know more about him.

This story, however, belongs to Marisa. The title doesn’t refer to her new-found hobby so much as it refers to herself. As she helps friends find out the truth about their boyfriends, she also – unwittingly – investigates herself. No one is more “busted” than Marisa when she faces her truths.

Blurb:

Catching cheaters and liars is a lucrative hobby—until you fall for one of the suspects. Perfect for fans of Veronica Mars, this new novel from the author of Last Year’s Mistake will steal your heart!

Marisa never planned to be a snoop for hire. It wasn’t like she wanted to catch her best friend’s boyfriend making out with another girl. But as her reputation for sniffing out cheaters spreads all over school, Marisa finds herself the reluctant queen of busting two-timing boys.

And her next case? It’s for ex-frenemy Kendall. She’s convinced her boyfriend, TJ, has feelings for someone else and persuades Marissa to start spying on him. But the more Marisa gets to know sincere and artistic TJ, the more she starts to fall for him. Worse yet, the feelings seem to be mutual. Marisa knows she needs to give up her investigation—and the spoken-for guy who may just be the love of her life. Then she uncovers new secrets about Kendall and TJ, secrets that take “cheater” to a whole new level.

About the Author:

Gina Ciocca graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in English. She lives in Georgia with her family. Gina is a member of the writing and blogging group YA Misfits and you can find her online at WritersBlog-Gina.Blogspot.com. She is the author of Last Year’s Mistake and A Kiss in the Dark.

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Review: MEET CUTE anthology

Meet Cute

Anthology

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
323 pages
Genre: YA
3 / 5

My Review:

Reading a short story anthology entails a bit of risk. Going into it, you know that you will like some of the stories and likely not like others.

In the case of Meet Cute, there is one story that stuck out to me so much that I want to find Ibi Zoboi, shake her hand, and be her best friend.

In “Hourglass,” Zoboi introduces you to Cherish, a 6’5″ girl who dreams of getting out of her “small, white town” and into an HBCU (historically black college or univeristy). Her best friend is headed to school halfway across the country, and Cherish fears she’ll be stuck at a local community college. She also yearns to be feminine and wear a pretty dress. But at 6’5″, pretty prom dresses are in short – if not miniscule – supply.

Even though this is a short story, Zoboi includes a heartbreaking subplot involving Cherish’s best friend and a boy Cherish despises. I was as emotionally involved in this tale as I could be because Zoboi put me straight into Cherish’s heart. I dearly hoped that she would find her pretty dress and her college home. I cried at the end.

None of the other stories had such emotional impact on me, although I enjoyed Huntley Fitzpatrick’s story, “Say Everything,” about a boy who always orders iced teas and the waitress who served him. That one, too, grabbed my heartstrings.

There are stories about popular girls and forgotten teens, and in each one, a couple “meets cute.”

You need to get this book for Ibi Zoboi and “Hourglass.” I cannot wait to read more of Zoboi’s books.

Blurb:

Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors.

Readers will experience Nina LaCour’s beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard’s glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon’s imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno’s story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants.

This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

 

Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Debut Authors Bash: Katy Upperman

Debut Authors Bash:
Katy Upperman

Katy Upperman recently published her first novel, Kissing Max Holden, through Swoon Reads.

 

Book Summary:

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

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

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

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, Katy Upperman’s debut novel Kissing Max Holden skillfully navigates the tenuous territory of bad influences, good friends, and complicated families.

Praise for Kissing Max Holden:

Kissing Max Holden is like the perfect slice of pumpkin pie: it’s equal parts sweet and spicy, and you can’t get enough of it! What a treat!” —Jessica Love, author of In Real Life

“A moving book with depth, Kissing Max Holden is perfect for readers wanting a strong female character in a realistic romance. Wonderfully written and swoony.” —Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan

Sarah Dessen fans rejoice—you are going to love Kissing Max Holden!” —Lisa Schroeder, author of Chasing Brooklyn

Full of wit, humor, and spine-tingling smooches, Kissing Max Holden combines the classic themes of contemporary romance with riveting family drama. . . . I literally could not put this book down and would buy a physical copy for my shelf in a heartbeat. I can’t wait to read what Katy writes next.” —Erin Bowman, author of Vengeance Road

 

Buy Links:

Amazon.com US
Barnes & Noble
iBooks
Kobo
Indigo
IndieBound

Guest Post by Katy Upperman:

What inspires you most?

What a great question! The truth is, I find inspiration in many places — art, family, travel, overheard snippets of conversation, history, podcasts, people watching, and my own life experiences. The bulk of my inspiration, though, comes in two forms: music and literature.

Music — particularly my beloved country music — has sparked so many of my story ideas. My debut, Kissing Max Holden, was heavily inspired by Taylor Swift’s “Ours” and “Mary’s Song,” and my current work-in-progress is the result of listening to The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” on loop. I once wrote an entire novel based on the Tim McGraw song “Good Girls” (you should listen to it — it’s so good!).

In a broader sense, the books I read constantly inspire me. I’m in awe of any author who can create characters, or pen turns of phrase, or describe settings in a way that makes me physically feel something. I love getting wrapped up in a fictional relationship, or a twisty plot, or a steep character arc, and I love when a novel becomes almost impossible to put down. Devouring books that are well crafted and beautifully written inspires me to work harder; I want readers to find glimmers of inspiration in my words, just as I’ve done with so many stories over the last many years.

I truly believe that writers and other creators can find inspiration anywhere they look. It’s all about opening up, drinking the world in, and spinning those little influences into something that is affecting and satisfying to you.

About Katy Upperman:

I’m a writer, wife, and mama. I’m a Washington State University alum, an avid reader, a hiker and a yogi, a country music fan, and shopper of Target, Michaels, and any bookstore I happen upon. I love baking, the ocean, pedicures, warm weather, Instagram, Dirty Dancing and Pitch Perfect and Walk the Line and The Princess Bride, Jelly Bellies, paper planning, makeup, and Friday Night Lights.

My debut young adult novel, Kissing Max Holden, was published by Swoon Reads/Macmillan on August 1, 2017. My sophomore novel, The Impossibility of Uswill be out July 31, 2018. I am represented by Victoria Marini of the Irene Goodman Agency.

Reach me via email at katy.upperman@live.com

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Giveaway:

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Review: RUN AWAY WITH ME (Come Back to Me #3) by Mila Gray

Run Away with Me (Come Back to Me #3)

by Mila Gray

Published by Simon Pulse
369 pages
Genre:
3 / 5

My Review:

The day that fourteen-year-old Jake finally gets up the nerve to kiss his best friend Emerson, something horrible happens, and seven years pass before he sees her again.

During that time, Jake has gone across the country to Boston College, where he is a hockey star who signed to play in the NHL. Emerson, meanwhile, has hardened, her dreams withering up like dried leaves. Seeing Jake again when they’re both twenty-one shocks her. For one thing, she can’t believe that he’s back on Bainbridge Island again. And for another, that electric recognition of him remains a powerful force.

Mila Gray treads familiar territory in this friends-to-lovers romance: the damaged girl, a friendship nearly ruined over misunderstandings and miscommunication, and penances paid. There are occasional moments of humor, mostly provided by a rowdy group of bachelor party-goers and a coworker of Emerson’s. One of the subplots is dispensed with rather tidily, whereas another one will tug at your heart. Gray also addresses something somewhat atypical for a YA romance, weaving it well, making you think about some real-life issues.

There are a few spots where the story hits some slow-pacing bumps, but otherwise, this is a pretty decent YA book. Gray includes a couple of scenes with sexual intimacy, but they are quite PG, so most teens shouldn’t feel uncomfortable.

Blurb:

Two friends fall into a passionate romance, but first they must confront a painful past, or else lose out on the one thing they’ve been searching for in this heartrending novel from the author of Come Back to Me and Stay with Me.

Emerson Lowe and popular ice-hockey player Jake McCallister have been best friends since third grade but as their friendship starts to morph into something more a terrible event occurs that heralds the end of innocence for both of them.

Within a week, Jake’s living on the other side of the country and Emerson is left alone to pick up the pieces of her life in a small town determined to paint her as a liar.

Seven years later, Emerson is still living on the beautiful Pacific West island of Bainbridge, helping run her family’s business. The last thing she needs is Jake turning up, bringing with him old memories and opening up old wounds. But Jake—even better looking than Emerson remembers—seems determined to revive their friendship no matter how much Emerson tries to push him away.

Forced to work alongside him for the summer Emerson can’t help but fall for Jake, and soon they’re in the midst of a passionate romance that neither of them wants to end.

But both Emerson and Jake know that if they’re to have any kind of future they must first confront the past—a past that most people want to stay buried.

About the Author:

Mila Gray is the pen name for Sarah Alderson, author of Hunting LilaLosing LilaThe SoundFated and Out of Control.

Originally from London she has lived in Bali for the last four years with her husband and daughter.

As well as writing young adult fiction under the name Sarah Alderson and adult fiction under the name Mila Gray, she also writes screenplays.

You can find out more at www.milagray.com and on facebook: www.facebook.com/sarahjalderson

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.