Book Review: Until Friday Night – Abbi Glines

22522202Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Published Date: August 25, 2015

Buy Link: https://amzn.com/1481438840

Blurb: To everyone who knows him, West Ashby has always been that guy: the cocky, popular, way-too-handsome-for-his-own-good football god who led Lawton High to the state championships. But while West may be Big Man on Campus on the outside, on the inside he’s battling the grief that comes with watching his father slowly die of cancer.

Two years ago, Maggie Carleton’s life fell apart when her father murdered her mother. And after she told the police what happened, she stopped speaking and hasn’t spoken since. Even the move to Lawton, Alabama, couldn’t draw Maggie back out. So she stayed quiet, keeping her sorrow and her fractured heart hidden away.

As West’s pain becomes too much to handle, he knows he needs to talk to someone about his father—so in the dark shadows of a post-game party, he opens up to the one girl who he knows won’t tell anyone else.

West expected that talking about his dad would bring some relief, or at least a flood of emotions he couldn’t control. But he never expected the quiet new girl to reply, to reveal a pain even deeper than his own—or for them to form a connection so strong that he couldn’t ever let her go…

My Review:
Two teenagers dealing with more baggage than any typical teenager would carry, both dealing with their hardships in their own way – finding each other in the process. Add football, mean girls and good friends, and you’ve got a pretty decent YA.

What I Loved: The chemistry between West and Maggie was off the charts hot. And I knew it would be from the moment I hit play. West is an intense character, a bit more so than I am used to finding in a YA book. He’s a bit broody, and in some way a bit stereo-typical too (but he makes up for that eventually). I do love how much he loves and respects his family though, that sort of helped me through the first few chapters at least.

Maggie isn’t complicated at all, she is very much a typical teenage girl, she just doesn’t really talk. She is very caring and understanding of people around her, even toward her cousin and Aunt and Uncle. Mostly, I love how she is there for West and helps him deal.

I kind of fell in love with West, and Brady (Maggie’s cousin) and the rest of their circle of friends. Sometimes it’s the friend dynamic that really makes a book a little extra special to me.

Not So Much: This book started to feel long toward the end. Typically when you read a book there is a pretty clear arc in the story line, you reach a climax and things start to come back down. This book seemed to be more of a linear progression. There was progress made, for sure. The characters had issues they all worked through and there was a resolution, however there never seemed to be this grand moment/turning point in the book. I don’t think this is “wrong” but I do think that it might be why it felt a bit long after a while. More than once I thought things were getting ready to wrap up in the story (I was listening via Audio, and I don’t exactly watch the progress on where I am in the book) but then something more would start happening, and I would be like, ‘oh, we’re going to do this now…’

I already mentioned Maggie was caring and understanding and just had a good personality in general, however sometimes she came off as a pushover, while other times she stood her ground, then the next minute she was cowering. I get she’s a complicated person with a very, very complicated recent past, however I kind of felt like her character was a little inconsistent.

So the biggest issue in this book for me is a spoiler. I’m going to go ahead and …spoil…if you will, but you must scroll past the rest of the review to read it.

The Verdict: I don’t even remember what made me pick up this book. I think I saw a promotion for the next book in the series – and decided to check the books out. I really did enjoy most of the story, I enjoyed the characters a lot. This book, however, is not clean. There is sex, and while it’s not overly descriptive, it is descriptive enough. There is a lot of foul language as well. So, not my typical read – but I did enjoy it otherwise.

WARNING, SPOILER AHEAD…

(view spoiler)

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Book Review: Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up – Ella Martin

Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up? by Ella Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Published Date: June 30, 2014
Publisher: Astraea Press Publishing, LLC
Buy Link: https://amzn.com/B00LF5W9I0

There is just something that draws me to these ‘brother’s best friend’ novels, I love the kind of taboo, ‘I’m not supposed to like you,’ scenario, and usually it’s mixed with having known said best friend for many years. They are always pretty sweet. The cover of Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up? is also eye catching – so it’s no wonder I decided it was a good use of an Audible credit.

What I Loved: Honestly, I really loved the relationship between Bianca, and her brother. They were the perfect mix of that annoying relationship most siblings have, and family who love and support one another. Even though there were hints of it, there wasn’t really a lot of “I’m big brother, stay away from sister” kind of thing going on, until it became apparently necessary. Bianca’s friends were pretty awesome too, they were a great group of friends who knew each other inside and out, the kind of friends I dreamed of having when I was in High School myself.

Bianca was actually a solid character, with the normal flaws you would find with a typical 15 year old High Schooler. She had her own mind, and knew what things in her life were important. As she was dating Dante, she would often say things like, “you expect me to choose you over my friends of xx years?” Though she was trapped in the idea of having her first boyfriend, someone whom girls fell over themselves to date – she did have some reasoning skills. I do think that this book did a good job of showing how just a few words or actions can open you up to manipulation, and worse, how easily girls can be manipulated. Especially when it comes to things like self esteem, just a few words can cause many girls to doubt themselves. I think this is real, and the book does serve as a good warning against that.

Not So Much: I really didn’t care for the narrator of this story. Bianca and her friends were typical high schoolers, and used slang that is popular now, however while I was listening to the book, they (Bianca especially) came off as extremely whiney. As I think back on the book, I’m really not sure that this was the author’s intention…and as a mother, I CAN.NOT.STAND the whining voice! It took me an extra long time to listen to this book, and I nearly gave up on it because of the narration. That would have been unfortunate, because I did love how this story wrapped up.

The Verdict: I do not recommend the Audiobook of Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up, however I do recommend reading it. This is very age appropriate, and can actually help empower girls who might find themselves stuck in a manipulative relationship see things from a different perspective. Maybe. The book is clean.

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Book Review: Defending Taylor – Miranda Kenneally

Title: Defending Taylor
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Genre: YA – Coming of Age, Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Published Date: July 5, 2016

Buy Link:  https://amzn.com/B01BX1PIPQ

Blurb (from Goodreads):
Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

My Review:
Defending Taylor was one of those books that was difficult for me to put down. This was another one of those Netgalley books I picked up as a summer read, and while it wasn’t exactly about summer at all, it fit the bill rather nicely.

What I Loved: All of the characters were interesting and fun. Taylor is pretty typical as far as ‘near adults’ go, she is unsure of her place and of her future destination in life; couple that with an epic mistake on her part, and you’ve got enough drama to fill an entire lifetime. She deals with it though. I really could see her perspective on why she made some of the choices she did, even though in my head I was screaming “noooooooo…..”. I cannot, however, say I would have done anything any differently. Beyond that, Taylor’s character was honorable. I loved how she worked through problems, relied on her friends and family when she didn’t have a solution – but in the end she came up with good solid solutions, and went after what she wanted.

The relationship between her and Ezra (well, first off..who doesn’t love a MC named Ezra?! I think that if he were the antagonist, I would have fallen for him just for the name! 😉 ) was hot! I love the pre-existing condition of their feelings for each other before the book starts, it made their quick moving relationship easier to take that way.

Not So Much:
I will forever list sex in a YA novel in this spot…and I apologize, but I’m just not a fan. I also felt kind of weird about Taylor’s parent’s personalities. At times they are over-bearing, a bit uppity (which makes sense considering their position), and completely detached from all things concerning their kids; and then other times they seem like a completely normal family where talking isn’t so hard, and understanding and forgiveness isn’t such a huge deal. I don’t think that this was a growth progression throughout the book as much as it was an irregularity. Specifically in Taylor’s dad; he is so understanding and willing to let things go as soon as Taylor decides to really have a conversation regarding college, however most of the evidence leading up to that point indicated that the conversation should have gone way differently.

The Verdict:  

      

I did enjoy this book. I feel like Taylor as a person is a character that I will always admire. She really stands out to me in the YA world as someone who has her head on straight, she knows when she needs help, but she also makes good decisions (most of the time). I’ve already mentioned that this book isn’t exactly clean – it’s not overly descriptive (unless you count talk of using condoms), but there’s no denying it’s there, so my recommendation is that this book isn’t really a good one for any younger teens.

Book Review: One Paris Summer – Denise Grover Swank

Title: One Paris Summer
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Genre: Young Adult – Romance, Coming of Age
Publisher: Zonderkids Books/Blink
Date Date: June 7, 2016

Buy Link: https://amzn.com/0310755166

Blurb (from Goodreads):
Most teens dream of visiting the City of Lights, but it feels more like a nightmare for Sophie Brooks. She and her brother are sent to Paris to spend the summer with their father, who left home a year ago without any explanation. As if his sudden abandonment weren’t betrayal enough, he’s about to remarry, and they’re expected to play nice with his soon-to-be wife and stepdaughter. The stepdaughter, Camille, agrees to show them around the city, but she makes it clear that she will do everything in her power to make Sophie miserable.

Sophie could deal with all the pain and humiliation if only she could practice piano. Her dream is to become a pianist, and she was supposed to spend the summer preparing for a scholarship competition. Even though her father moved to Paris to pursue his own dream, he clearly doesn’t support hers. His promise to provide her with a piano goes unfulfilled.

Still, no one is immune to Paris’s charm. After a few encounters with a gorgeous French boy, Sophie finds herself warming to the city, particularly when she discovers that he can help her practice piano. There’s just one hitch—he’s a friend of Camille’s, and Camille hates Sophie. While the summer Sophie dreaded promises to become best summer of her life, one person could ruin it all.

My Review:
I recently went to NetGalley looking specifically for fun summer reads to take one. I came across two I felt I would like and would be fairly easy to commit to. One Paris Summer stuck out to me specifically because I’m an Anna and the French Kiss freak. I’ve read that book nearly 20 times (I really wish I were lying). It is my go-to book when I’m in a slump, or just want to reconnect with old ‘friends.’ One Paris Summer sounded perfect when I read the blurb, and I was even more excited when I was approved.

What I Loved: The setting and the language for sure top this list. It is one of the things I loved about Anna, I felt like I really could put myself there. I’ve never actually been to France, but I’m willing to bet based on Anna and now One Paris Summer, I’d be able to recognize a couple of places that aren’t actual landmarks (assuming they are real…). One Paris Summer was especially nice in the language area, I did take French in school, and since there were some French phrases, some well known while others weren’t, I was happy to know I could recognize what was being said before the book gave away the translation.

I also connected with the music side of this story. Sophie was a pianist, and she would ramble off pieces of music that most people don’t even care to recognize, but I on the other hand did know some of them – and probably all of them if I took the time to listen to the piece, since I don’t know every piece of music by name.

I did get caught up in this story line of this book (and not just the setting). The dynamic between Sophie and Camille and Camille’s friends was great. I loved the growth of Sophie and Eric’s characters throughout the book as well. In the opening chapter I thought that we were going to encounter the brother/sister cat fighting pretty much throughout the entire novel, but I loved that wasn’t the case. Some of my favorite moments were when Sophie and Eric were spending time alone. Of course, the blooming relationship between Sophie and Mathieu was front and center, and totally gush-worthy.

Not So Much: So I hope I don’t sound too hypocritical in my next statement, since I picked up this book because it reminded me of Anna and the French Kiss, but the similarities of a few of the scenes in One Paris Summer to Anna almost had me putting the book away. They happened in the very first few chapters and thankfully, once they had passed, the similarities ended rather quickly and One Paris Summer became its own. But still, if it were me I probably would have avoided that as much as possible (and if it was a coincidence…then that is super crazy, and sorry for calling it out!)

Camille played the perfect antagonist, however she might have ended up being a tad bit over the top at some points. Not the climax, mind you…but in some of her tantrums. And I kind of wish we got to “experience” more of her reformation in this book.

The Verdict:  

      

This really was exactly what I was looking for. I think it is very likely that I will add this to my “re-read” books…but first that means I have to buy my own copy rather than the NetGalley version!  The book is clean, and perfectly suitable for Young Adults.

(Note: I added the link to my review of Anna and the French Kiss, which I wrote right after reading it the first time in 2011 – first: this is one of my favorites and I rated it a 4 at the time…and over the years, my opinion of this novel is a bit different now..AND I’m a little better at writing reviews!)

Book Review: The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson

Title: The Unexpected Everything

Author: Morgan Matson
Genre: YA – Coming of Age, Romance
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Buy Link: https://amzn.com/B015WNZ1KIBlurb (from Goodreads): Andie had it all planned out. 

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. 

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check. 

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks). 

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. 

Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. 

And where’s the fun in that?

My Review:

I’m on a roll, deciding to read books because of other bloggers’ reviews. I an Audible Credit I needed to spend and had recently run across another blogger’s review of The Unexpected Everything. Her raving review peeked my interest, plus this cover just screams summer fun!

What I Loved: Our flawed main character, Andie, to start off with. I loved her because she was so real about dealing – or NOT dealing – with her life by keeping everything at surface level. I would say that the exceptions might be her 3 best friends, Palmer, Bri, and Toby, but even then there were topics she just didn’t discuss. Her growth is the key element here, without it I would have hated this book, because at first I really just didn’t care for Andie at all. In fact, in the first few chapters I was kind of annoyed at her standoffish-ness, and strange obsession with kissing. It probably wasn’t until about half way through that I really started to like her.

I also love the progression of Andie and Clark’s relationship. It was not this all-encompassing passion to start off with, it was something that started with blushes and awkwardness and then formed into something wonderful. I read a lot of YA books, especially in the YA coming of age/romance type, and I really feel that this book is among the few that has a realistic view on relationship growth as opposed to the lust at first sight, in love the next week we get a lot of the times. There was gushing about how hot Clark was, but that wasn’t the entire basis of why Andie liked him – her feelings for him grew as she got to know him.

Speaking of relationships, I love the entire cast of characters in this book. The foursome (and their boys) were such a dynamic bunch, you can’t help but want to be included in their group. Then there is the relationship between Andie and her father; there is so much to love here simply because both sides make mistakes and learn from them. You start off the book thinking that you’re going to hate Andie’s dad, but you can’t help but love and respect him in the end.

Not So Much:
Because this book is about growth, becoming a better person, and discovering who you really are; it’s hard to come up with something that I didn’t like about it. It is very well written, and I feel like all of the emotions that I felt were exactly the reaction that Morgan Matson was going for.

The Verdict:        

This is the perfect YA summer read! It’s not too heavy, nor is it too light of a read. It has just enough meat to dig into, good characters that you want to know in real life. This book is clean, there is talk of sex, but none actually in the book – though there IS lots of kissing.

Book Review: Dead Girl – Tessa Marie

Title: Dead Girl
Author: Tessa Marie
Genre: YA – Coming of Age, Bullying, Romance

Buy Link:

Blurb:  If her mother wasn’t watching, Kylie Presby would punch Queen Bee, Natalie Silvers, in the face -again. But as Kylie wipes her tears away with the layers of toilet paper encasing her car, she knows she can’t retaliate like she did last time. Her dead mother wouldn’t approve. Kylie no longer cares about popularity. Invisible would work just fine.

Then the new kid, Braydon, mysterious, good looking and too clever for his own good, shows up and sacrifices his social status, becoming Kylie’s shield from the front line assault. After enough chocolate ice cream and movies it’s as if they’re best friends. Crazy, since Kylie knows so little about him.

As Natalie continues her relentless attacks on Kylie another person deals with his own line of bullies. Jack Stine was popular until his deepest secret was revealed and his friends abandoned him. Kylie and Jack bond over their tormentors and form an unbreakable friendship.

Three lost souls each with a story that binds them together, but will it be enough when the bullying goes too far and secrets are revealed?

My Review:
I’m on a roll here.  It is completely unintentional that I keep picking up these books that have to do with school bullying, self-esteem issues and the like.  Maybe I should start paying more attention to blurbs, but when we’re talking about already loved and trusted authors – I rarely find the need to do so.

What I Loved:  I will never get tired of authors writing about things that matter.  I’ve already said it, but books speak volumes, and change lives.  If only we could get the books that matter into the hands of as many people as possible.  I love sparkly vampires as much as the next person, but I also love books that compel me to be a better person, to love others more and to not give in to mainstream.  And that is what Tessa Marie does in Dead Girl.

I really liked the fact that Kylie is not a flawless person.  She makes mistakes, and there were times I wasn’t very found of her as a person.  Every character in this book had lessons to learn and character development, and at some point, they all said or did things that made me think, ‘what the heck, man?’  But I felt like this contributed to the story and made it more realistic.

If I am completely honest, I feel like this is the best book (that I’ve read) by Tessa Marie to date.  I was engrossed from the start and I had to know what happened to Kylie, Braydon, and Jack.  I was intrigued by their secrets.

Not So Much:  I really would have liked to have seen some additional consequences for the biggest culprits of bullying.  I know that there are some ‘natural consequences’ at play, but gosh – expulsion from school or something.  Or I might have been happier if the school started a campaign or something proactively against bullying.

The Verdict:          

Even if I did want more at the end, I do feel like this story was perfectly executed.  I loved it!  I look forward to whatever is next from Tessa!  This is another book perfect for younger and older teenagers.

Book Review: You Can’t Catch Me – Becca Ann

Title: You Can’t Catch Me
Author: Cassie Mae writing as Becca Ann
Genre: YA – Romance, Coming of Age, Self Image, Bullying

Buy Link:  http://amzn.com/B01C0SEWDA

Blurb (From Goodreads):
My body suuuucks. After lounging around on my butt all summer (okay, so maybe that was my bad), this body decided to become something completely foreign. So now I’m trying to make the track team and I feel like I’m a baby learning to walk again.

A couple pounds wouldn’t have been so bad. Work those off, run like a mad woman, no problem, yeah? But no. I’ve also developed a couple of things that I definitely didn’t have before. And now my guy friends are all sitting in a pool of drool as they not-so-subtly stare at my chest.

Combine all that drama with the fact that the new track coach is getting major flack for being a little chunky, and all I’m trying to do is convince the team that I’m not running slower because of her coaching style.

Oh, and did I mention that I’m totally falling face-first in “like” with some guy I met in a cemetery? And no one understands it just because he’s also a little chunky. But he’s also adorable and wonderfully weird and I don’t care what they say, his look sure does it for me.

But… I don’t know… how can I be in “like” with someone, when I have no clue how to like myself anymore?


My Review:
Cassie Mae (Becca Ann) is on my exceptions list for 2016, so naturally I couldn’t wait for You Can’t Catch me to be released.  I even pre-bought the book, but then was also given a ARC copy for review!  Part of the excitement I felt for this book was Cassie’s own excitement for it’s release.  Obviously, she’s excited about all of her releases, but the purpose behind this book, I think, made it just a bit more exciting, or at least that was my perception.

What I Loved:  A theme that seems to be reoccurring in the books that I’m reading this year is that they seem to have a bit to do with self image and bullying.  It’s not purposeful, but it just seems to be happening, and honestly I love it, because it means authors are starting to write about these things a bit more. I am one of those people who can be ‘spoken to’ via books, they become so real to me and there are times when the message shatters me as much as my own life experiences do.  That is why I love this growing trend, and hope that it continues and we see more and more books dealing with the hard things in life and that empower our youth and even adults to take action, or make a change.

I always love Cassie’s writing.  She is a pro at writing characters that I want to know in real life.  I especially loved both Ginger and Oliver because of their awkwardness.  The rambling while nervous, and goofiness of these characters is so perfect.  Ginger is so positive, even though this book deals with her own self-image issues, even in all of that she is positive.  She sees good in people that others can’t see.  She is an inspiration to be a better person.  She’s also real; there is nothing more real than someone who has trouble accepting things about themselves – even if they can easily accept those same traits in someone else without a second thought.  Ginger did what I did as a teenager, and probably most teenagers still do; she looked at others and wondered if they are going through the same things, if they are having the same self conscious thoughts.  (To any teenager who happens by this review – yes.  They are.  Yes.  They do.  If there’s anything I’ve learned as an adult, it’s that no matter how alone you feel in your skin – it’s so very likely that someone close to you is struggling with the same things.  Maybe not in the same exact way since we are all different, but they are.  I promise!)
Oliver, I could picture Oliver immediately from his dark hair to his freckles and tall robust build.  He was a bit self-deprecating and a Momma’s boy – and I loved him.  He was sweet and, yes, awkward.  But I loved his role in this book, and that was to provide Ginger with a place where she felt like herself, and not judged by her body or her abilities, or the expectations she felt she had to live up to.  
Not So Much:  Ginger had some friends, specifically boy friends, who took notice of the physical changes in her and reacted like…boys.  In the end, I kind of would have liked to have seen them realize how their behavior might have hurt Ginger.  I think it was eluded to, but maybe it just wasn’t as fleshed out as much as I would have liked.
The Verdict:         
Yet another book I implore you to get into the hands of all the teenagers around you.  I feel like this message on self image, and learning to love yourself for who you are is beautifully done.  The story is not bogged down with too much sadness, but there are parts that make you really hurt for the characters in this book, not just Ginger.  Mostly though you’ll be smiling and giggling at the antics and rooting for Ginger to win this race.  You Can’t Catch Me is a clean book – and appropriate for younger teens as well as older.