Tag «Coming of Age»

Spin-Off Saturdays: Preston Brothers by Jay McLean

Spin-off Saturdays: On Saturdays, I will review a series that is a spin-off series. It is recommended that you read the original series first in order to get the most out of the spin-off series. Here is this week’s offering:

The Preston Brothers Series is a spin-off of the More Than Series

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Preston Brothers

This is a spinoff of the More Than Series.

Author: Jay McLean
# of Books: 2+ (Lucas, Logan)
Book Order: Connected but Chronological Events
Complete?: Unsure
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Read It and Review It–eARC (Lucas); Kindle Unlimited

*applies only to Lucas (Book #1)

warning
WARNING: If you have not finished the original series, this review may have spoilers!

thoughts

My Expectations?

I was super excited to return to the world of the More Than Series. I loved all the characters in this world, but Lucy’s brothers always stole the show whenever they made an appearance. So to see what would happen to this rambunctious group of boys when they got older was a treat I never expected but was very happy to get.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

One of the things I loved the most about the original series was its ability to transform the story into something you never expected. You read the synopsis and see what the trope will be and you expect the typical generic features. But Jay McLean has this great ability to write new and refreshing romances. Her stories are never straightforward or expected. She isn’t afraid to challenge her characters or make them experience life-altering situations in their stories.

And every aspect benefits from that. The characters become stronger. The romance becomes so much deeper. The plot elicits every emotion from you. It’s just an addicting and rewarding experience for a reader.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

I thought Logan lagged a touch in the middle but I never got bored with it. It was just as addicting as the first book.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really hope we get more sequels–I mean there are more brothers. Yet every book we get in this spin-off series is such a treat so I can be happy with what we’ve had so far.

Series Rating: 5/5

Lucas 5/5 | Logan 4.5/5

overall

Be prepared to feel all the feels! No one writes New Adult novels like Jay McLean!

Read if You Like: drama, emotional reads
Avoid if You: dislike high school based New Adult romances

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Lucas (from Goodreads):

In a sprint, every millisecond counts.
When you’re waiting for love, those milliseconds can feel like eons.

High school senior Lucas Preston has it all: star of the track team, a scholarship waiting for him, an apartment to himself and a revolving door of girlfriends. He also has an older sister, five younger brothers and a father who relies on him to make sure those brothers don’t kill each other.
His saving grace? Lois “Laney” Sanders, a girl he started to fall in like with when he was just eleven.
A girl who became his best friend, his confidant, his courage.

It took only sixteen clicks and eight seconds for Lucas to realize that his like for Laney had turned into love.
Eight life-changing seconds.
It’s also the exact length of time it took to lose her.

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Single Sundays: Ask Me Anything by Molly E Lee

Single Sundays: Ask Me Anything by Molly E Lee

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Ask Me Anything (from Goodreads):

I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

But Wilmont Academy’s been living in the Dark Ages when it comes to sex ed, and someone had to take matters into her own hands. Well, I’m a kick-ass coder, so I created a totally anonymous, totally untraceable blog where teens can come to get real, honest, nothing-is-off-limits sex advice.

And holy hell, the site went viral—and we’re talking way beyond Wilmont—overnight. Who knew this town was so hard up?

Except now the school administration is trying to shut me down, and they’ve forced Dean—my coding crush, aka the hottest guy in school—to try to uncover who I am. If he discovers my secret, I’ll lose him forever. And thousands of teens who need real advice won’t have anyone to turn to.

Ask me anything…except how to make things right.

breakdown

Author: Molly E Lee
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thanks Entangled Teen!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not usually one for YA contemporaries but Molly E Lee is a notable exception. And the premise of the novel? FANTASTIC!

The Concept / The World:

It would have been great if the novel focused more on what the blog was about but I don’t think that was this story’s intended purpose. It’s more a coming of age story in modern times (ie the internet and social media) emphasizing the disconnect between generations when it comes to sexuality and sexual education.

Sexual education in the school curriculum is a hot topic where I live right now and I liked the real world conflict the blog highlighted.

The Plot:

After reading the synopsis, I definitely thought the flow of the plot would be different. I thought we’d have more of a cat and mouse game with Amber and Dean but that isn’t the case. It’s more like her keeping something from him while they evolve their own personal relationship. So once I got over that, I could appreciate the plot here.

I do think the first half was slower. The last quarter was great, lots of development. And we got more into the blog (and what it is trying to accomplish) than the coming of age aspect. (Which is great, don’t get me wrong!).

The Characters:

I liked our leads a lot. Amber is a great heroine. I loved her vulnerability as that allowed for some fabulous character growth. Dean’s a sweetie who says some charming things. His growth wasn’t as strong but he is a solid character. At times, I thought his storyline was a little melodramatic but it grounds itself near the end.

The Romance:

I went in thinking their romance was going to be perhaps more antagonistic than it was but I really did love the sweeter romance that we got. Molly E Lee writes the cutest book boyfriends and Dean is no exception.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

If you’re looking for a YA novel that has drama, a dose of reality, a charming romance and intriguing characters, look no further!

Read if You Like: coming of age, contemporaries
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary
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ARC Review + Giveaway: The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad by Cookie O’Gorman

ARC Review: The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad by Cookie O’Gorman

ARC Reviews: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel!

Synopsis for The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad (from Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Sadie is tired of being a good girl.

Her Career Aptitude Test results say she’s ideally suited for a career in the clergy (aka a nun), and on top of that, she receives yet another rejection. An aspiring dancer/choreographer, Sadie dreams of being featured on Dancer’s Edge—but they say she’s too sweet, needs more life experience. Her BFF, Kyle, and her oldest friend, 79-year-old Betty, agree: Sadie is in desperate need of a life makeover.

But she’ll need a coach.

Sadie doesn’t lie, cheat or steal–heck she doesn’t even curse (part of the reason she hasn’t checked off anything on her “Carpe Diem List”). Sadie doesn’t know the first thing about being bad. But Kyle’s twin brother, Colton, does. And he’s willing to teach Sadie on one condition: she has to do everything he says for the next month.

A dazzling first kiss, two smokin’ hot brothers and a bet that changes everything. In this enemies-to-more YA romance, Sadie learns:

Breaking the rules can be fun—especially when it leads to happily-ever-after.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Cookie O’Gorman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 25, 2019
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Cookie O’Gorman!

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge Cookie O’Gorman fan — which says a lot because YA contemporaries are usually not my thing. But she has a great talent for writing charming, genuine characters and some pretty swoon-worthy romances that I often devour her novels in a few sittings.

The Concept:

I just want to mention how much I love that title — and how it perfectly fits this book! Sadie’s problem isn’t that she is a good girl necessarily; she just needs a little push to challenge herself and try things outside her norm. And her partnership with Colton helps her do that.

The Plot:

This was a slower start for me; it took me a few chapters to get into it. It’s the scenes Colton and Sadie share that are the highlights of this novel for me and those don’t happen right away. Instead, the exposition really focuses on why Sadie needs to complete her list and it’s a little lengthy truthfully, even if it does a good job of establishing her character.

The Characters:

I think girls everywhere will find a little of themselves in Sadie. She’s very endearing as a character and it was great to watch her come out of her shell as she completed the list. It’s simply a great coming of age story and Colton and Kyle are the perfect partners in crime for Sadie.

The Romance:

The romance is great as well! I’ll admit, I was a little worried about the “two brothers” aspect but I found it to be refreshing instead of annoying. It does a good job of highlighting Sadie’s struggles in the romance department. There’s lots of great tension throughout, though I perhaps wanted a little more just to give me all those great butterflies I usually get with Cookie’s work (but it was swoon-worthy without a doubt).

concSLOW

My Rating: 4/5

overall

This read is PERFECT for anyone who likes a charming YA coming of age story that focuses on the lighter side of things. You will be thoroughly entertained by this one!

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, coming of age, lighter reads
Avoid if You: want a darker read, dislike coming of age

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Cookie O’Gorman

Cookie O’Gorman writes stories filled with humor and heart for the nerd in all of us. Fiery first kisses, snappy dialogue, smart girls, swoonworthy boys, and unbreakable friendships are featured in each of her books.

Cookie is a hopeless romantic, a Harry Potter aficionado, and a supporter of all things dork. Chocolate, Chinese food, and Asian dramas are her kryptonite. Above all, she believes that real life has enough sorrow and despair—which is why she always tries to give her characters a happy ending. She is the author of Adorkable, Ninja Girl, The Unbelievable, Inconceivable, Unforeseeable Truth About Ethan Wilder and The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad.

Author Links:

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreads

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Single Sundays: From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for From Twinkle, With Love (from Goodreads):

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Standalone 2018
Author: Sandhya Menon
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had an absolute blast listening to the audio version of When Dimple Met Rishi so I knew that for Menon’s next book, I wanted to listen to the audiobook instead of picking up the regular book.

The Concept:

This story is told through journal entries Twinkle writes to her favourite female film makers which is really neat. In a time where female representation in the entertainment industry is a huge focus, this book seemed timely in that regard. But it’s a great way to tell this story because you get to see the vulnerable side of Twinkle she only feels comfortable to write about in a secret diary.

The Plot:

It’s hard not to compare this story to When Dimple Met Rishi (WDMR) but they do share a lot of common elements. Cue the cute romance, fantastic character development and entertaining plot. To me, WDMR seemed to integrate the Indian culture more into its narrative than FTWL does. The cultural expectations Twinkle feels are definitely present but not to the extent that it was in WDMR.

I also thought the pacing was much better in this novel than in WDMR. I never felt like the plot was lagging or repetitive. It just moved at a solid pace and I honestly couldn’t get enough of it.

The Characters:

One thing that really impressed me about this story though was the realism. I thought Twinkle’s journey and coming of age was realistic and humbling. Yes, she makes some frustrating mistakes along the way but you always knew it was part of her development. She’s an easy heroine to root for because I think we’ve all felt like her at one point in our lives.

The Romance:

I absolutely, positively adored Sahil. Gah, he won me over very quickly. He’s just adorable and the perfect match for Twinkle in every way. I loved watching them fall for each other.

My Audiobook Experience:

You might think that this would be weird to listen to as an audiobook since it is told through letters/journal entries but there were no issues here. Actually, it was a really cool way to listen to the audiobook because you feel (in a weird way) that you are the journal Twinkle is writing to. But the audiobook is fabulous and I would highly recommend it to anyone!

My Rating: 5/5

overall

The perfect feel-good coming of age story that will keep you entertained from start to finish!

Read if You Like: coming of age, diverse reads
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary

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Blog Tour: Between the Sea and Stars (Lena #1) by Chantal Gadoury

Synopsis for Between the Sea and Stars (from Goodreads):

A Legend,
A Magical Shell
A Girl Who Dreamed Of Something More…

Lena, a Merrow girl, lives in the Skagerrak sea with her father, Carrick and her brother, Javelin who tells her of the legend of the Merrow Queen murdered by her human lover when greed takes over. But what’s worth spilling the queen’s blood? Gifted from Poseidon, himself, a magic shell gives any human the ability to control both land and sea.

When Javelin is called to join a clan of Merrow soldiers bent on protecting their waters from human invasion, Lena resists Merrow law and ventures to the shore with no choice but to swim to land.

With newfound legs, Lena is whisked away on a new adventure with new friends and new trouble. Everyone seems to want something from her as intrigue lurks around every corner.

Trying her best to hide who she is and remain safe from the dangers of the human world, will Lena finally find where she belongs, or will she be swept into a strong and stormy current by lust, greed, and jealousy?

Other books in the series:

breakdown

Series: Lena
Author: Chantal Gadoury
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 to be released
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Coming of Age, Romance
Heat Rating: Cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: June 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Audiobookworm–Audiobook via Audible (6hrs & 53mins)

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon / Audible

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I read Chantal’s novel The Songs in Our Hearts a few years ago and really enjoyed it (it was super cute!). So when I saw that there was an opportunity to read a non-contemporary (MERMAIDS!!!!) novel by her, I couldn’t wait to see what she could do in a different genre.

What I Liked:

–The Romance–

This surprised me in a really good way. I thought I had a good idea of where the romance would be going early on but I was so dead wrong. I love when that happens!

It isn’t a huge focus but it’s there enough to keep the story going when it needs too.

–Lena’s Character Growth–

Lena’s character story is literally one of “fish out of the water” but it provides an interesting backdrop to her character growth and development. This is very much a coming of age story for her except she has the added complications of being a mermaid now on land. I enjoyed her evolution from naive mermaid to independent young lady.

What I Didn’t Like:

–More Drama–

Like most coming of age stories, I find you kinda go through the everyday motions of life so it can become a little monotonous. But let me be clear that I never got bored with this story! It has a great flow to it and you get these little inklings of the bigger story to come along the way so it builds as you read. What I’m trying to say is that I wish the “whoa!” moment came a touch earlier so we could get into it a little more…but I guess that’s what sequels are for 😉

My Audiobook Experience:

This was such a fabulous audio listen! Right when it started to play I was fully immersed into the story and the characters. The narrator here is Dollcie Webb and she does a great job of giving all the characters their own voices so it is super easy to follow along. She has the perfect cadence for an audiobook narrator–seriously, it was such a nice read to listen to that I was finished the novel before I knew it!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

This book had a few surprises at that end that has me eager to see what will happen next!

My Rating: 3.5/5

Between the Sea and Stars 3.5/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall
If you love mermaids or want a different twist to your usual coming of age stories, pick this up!

Read if You Like: mermaids, coming of age
Avoid if You: want action

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Chantal Gadoury

Amazon Bestselling Author, Chantal Gadoury, is a 2011 graduate from Susquehanna University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. Since graduation, she has published The Songs in Our Hearts, and The Songs We Remember, with 48Fourteen Publishing. Allerleirauh, Between the Sea and Stars, Blinding Night and WinterDream with the Parliament House Press. Chantal first started writing stories at the age of seven and continues with that love of writing today. For Chantal, writing novels has become a lifelong dream come true! When she’s not typing away at her next project, she enjoys painting, drinking lots of Iced Coffee, and watching Disney Classics. Chantal lives in Muncy, Pennsylvania with her Mom, sister and furry-‘brother’ Taran.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Instagram | Pintrest

 

Dollcie Webb (Narrator)

“Daydreams and whimsy with with a touch of pixie charm.”

A long-time daydreamer, Dollcie Webb has always carried a special fondness for Young Adult Fantasy literature. The poetic imagery and enticing otherworldliness call to her sense of curiosity, satisfying a deep desire to explore the world around her. A graduate of Michigan Technological University with a Bachelor’s in Theatre and Electronic Media Performance, she’s taken her experience in audio and theatrical performance and has melded the two into a career as an audiobook producer and narrator.

Narrator Links: Website | Facebook | Instagram

 

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ARC Review + Blitz: Defensive Play by Jamie Deacon

Synopsis for Defensive Play (from Goodreads):

One glance is all it takes to bring his defences crashing down…

Seventeen-year-old Davey has never made friends easily. Shy, geeky, crippled with social anxiety, he feels isolated from his peers, and only his position as defender for the school football team fills the void of loneliness. On the pitch, his deft footwork has earned him the respect and acceptance of his squad, though at a price. Desperate to hold onto this camaraderie, Davey conceals the truth from everyone, even his own family.

Then, during the annual Brookshire football tournament, his eyes meet those of a rival player across the field and a spark flares between them, one neither boy can deny. Adam is everything Davey longs to be—confident, popular, comfortable with his sexuality. Davey aches to explore their connection, to discover where it might lead, but how can he follow his heart and risk rejection by his teammates, the closest thing to friends he has ever known?

Other books in the series:

breakdown

Series: Boys on the Brink
Author: Jamie Deacon
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order:  Standalone
Complete?: Unsure
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Sports, LGBT, MM Romance, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: November 30, 2018
Source & Format: Author–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon / KoboiBooks

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Over the course of the last year, I’ve had tremendous luck with gay romances; specifically, adult sport ones. So when Jamie asked me to read his newest YA sports novella, it just seemed like an obvious “yes” to me.

The Plot:

I always worry when I pick up a novella that things will seemed rushed or underdeveloped; but I’m happy to say that wasn’t the case here! This was a quick read but one that packs a lot of punch and love into it.

And it is also so genuine! I could easily see this story happening in real life and I think that’s part of the charm of it. The problems and insecurities these characters have could happen to anyone and are likely happening right now. It’s just a beautiful story that doesn’t rely on overdramatic plot devices to be an entertaining read.

The Characters:

I loved watching Davey become confident in himself. I think his story is one many people (boys and girls, regardless of sexual orientation) can relate to–finding the confidence in who you truly are. He transforms before your eyes and I always appreciate that in my stories.

Adam is this great counterpart to Davey’s story in so many ways. He isn’t perfect–he too has had some bumps along the way–but I think that makes this story all that more charming by showing off those all too human qualities. It would have been great to get his POV as well but I learned enough about his through Davey to be satisfied with his character.

The Romance:

Simply put: adorable! I loved the slow burning tension this one had! It starts as a friendship and slowly becomes more. It was the perfect vessel to get the point of the story across.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

This is the only story I’ve read in the series, but it has definitely impressed me so I can’t wait to further explore this series!

My Rating: 4/5

Caught Inside N/A | [Defensive Play 4/5]

overall
A sweet, realistic read that will no doubt charm your heart!

Read if You Like: realistic fiction, LGBT stories
Avoid if You: want a longer story

The rain has stopped. A soft mist hangs in the air, turning the distant streetlights a hazy orange. After the stuffiness of the clubhouse, the night is bitterly cold and I pull on my sweatshirt against the chill. I sit on the steps overlooking the car park, heedless of the damp that seeps through my jeans. Elbows on knees, I rest my chin in my hands and close my eyes, attempting to clear my mind. I don’t want to think anymore. I just want to sit with nothing but the dark and the quiet for company.

I haven’t been hunched there long when the door opens, ejecting a stream of warmth and thumping bass. I glance behind me, although I know who it will be. My body goes still. Adam lets the door swing shut and, just like that, we’re alone.

He doesn’t seem surprised to find me on the steps. Perhaps he saw me leave. Has he followed me? My insides clench. What if Adam thinks I did it deliberately, that I meant to lure him out here. Maybe I had. Maybe, deep down, a part of me hoped Adam might come, even while the rest of me prayed he wouldn’t.

This time, when our gazes connect, there’s no one to see, no football match to act as a buffer. I drink him in. Even in the faint glow filtering through the frosted pane in the door, his eyes are a vivid blue.

“Hey,” Adam says. Such a simple word that expresses so much. There’s recognition there, like we’re childhood friends meeting after years apart, but uncertainty, too. He has a nice voice, I register through my turbulent thoughts—warm and slightly husky.

“Hey.” My reply emerges somewhere between a croak and a squeak. Cringing, I stare down at my feet.

“It’s Davey, right?”

I fling him a startled look. Had this boy—this confident, gorgeous boy—actually gone to the trouble of finding out my name?

One side of Adam’s mouth lifts in a crooked smile. “Well, I had to know who the lunatic was who almost took my leg off.”

“God.” I bury my face in my hands. Of course Adam was going to ask about me after what happened on the pitch. “I’m so sorry.”

He laughs and nudges my thigh with the toe of his trainer. “I’m kidding. Seriously, you did us a favour.”

I dare a peep at him, unable to rid myself of the thought that he has pursued me out here to take the piss. That wouldn’t be anything new, after all.

“It’s true.” Adam crouches on the step beside me, his expression amused but without malice. “Rob warned me about you. He said the rest of your defence was pretty solid, but probably weren’t quick enough to catch me. You were the real threat.”

I grimace. “I’m guessing he wasn’t expecting me to take you out quite so spectacularly, though.”

“Funnily enough, that wasn’t included in the pep talk. Still, I should be thanking you. You made our job a whole lot easier.”

“Don’t remind me. You should’ve heard the guys after the match. I’ll never hear the end of it.”

Adam laughs again, and I can’t hold back a smile. Here I am, having an actual conversation with an amazing-looking boy—a boy who’d caught me checking him out, no less—and I’m not making an ass of myself.

The door behind us bursts open and several guys spill out. I tense, guard raised. Will they think it odd us sitting out here alone? I scan their faces, but none are from Farnstead. A moment later, they barrel down the steps without giving either of us a second look and head for one of the cars parked nearby.

As they pile in and the engine growls to life, I exhale, shoulders slumping. I can feel Adam studying me and keep my gaze lowered.

“You’re not out,” he says, “are you?”

“What?” My entire body goes rigid. He knows. I’d already guessed as much, but suspecting it is one thing; being confronted with the indisputable truth sends me spiralling back into panic mode. Why had he really followed me out here? I’d thought…been sure I’d read something in his eyes when they locked with mine, but what if I’m wrong? Do I truly believe someone like Adam, someone popular and self-assured, would have sought me out? Unless…

I see again the Brookminster players in their huddle, sniggering, moments after Adam caught me staring. I’d reassured myself they weren’t laughing about me, but perhaps my fears had been well founded. The cold certainty settles like a snowball in my gut. I’d given myself away, and now the other lads have sent Adam out here to chat me up, trick me into an admission I won’t be able to take back. For all I know, his mates are somewhere close by as we speak, listening in.

“Hey.” Adam extends his palms in what is probably supposed to be a calming gesture. “It’s all right. I know and it’s all right.”

“You don’t know anything,” I snap. The instinct for self-preservation, to keep my protective wall intact at any cost, propels me to my feet. “You hear me? You don’t know anything about me.”

Before he can respond, I’m down the steps and sprinting into the darkness, phone already out to call my parents. All I want is to go home, crawl into bed, and forget today ever happened.

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Jamie Deacon

Jamie lives in a tranquil spot close to the River Thames in Berkshire, England, and has always been just a little out of place—the only redhead in a family of brunettes; an introvert far more at ease with dogs than with people; a connoisseur of simple pleasures in a society intent on the quest for wealth and fame. Despite an outward cynicism, Jamie is a romantic at heart, and, when not immersed in a book, can mostly be found writing emotional stories where young men from all walks of life are forced to navigate the sometimes painful reality of growing up, coming out, and falling in love.

Author Links: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

To celebrate the release of Defensive Play, Jamie Deacon is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card. For your chance to win, simply enter via the Rafflecopter below. The giveaway is open to entrants world wide, and closes at midnight EST on Friday December 7, 2018.

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Single Sundays: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for American Panda (from Goodreads):

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite YA Contemporary 2018
Author: Gloria Chao
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Romance, Family
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Source & Format: Own–Audiobook via Kobo

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

A lot of the blogs I follow reviewed this book around its release date and had nothing but praise for it.

I will admit I was a little scared to read because of said hype but also because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to relate to our lead, Mei. I’m not of Asian decent (though I’m familiar with some of the cultural aspects thanks to close friends) and we don’t have a similar family background, so I was worried some of the humour and situations might be a little lost on me.

But I’ve been proven wrong before and I’ve had a great track-record with listening to the audiobooks of similar stories so I decided to use one of my Kobo Audiobook credits to get the audio version.

Review Spoiler Alert: One of the best decisions I made all year 😉

The Concept:

As I said above, I wasn’t sure how well I would understand Mei’s various situations. I’m not Asian and my parents aren’t immigrants to my country either; I’m a smorgasbord of cultures so I just identify as Canadian. I’ve never felt torn between two cultures like Mei does. And my parents never were nothing but supportive of my educational and professional goals.

But that being said, I still related to Mei on many levels once I started to listen to her story; in particular with her views on family. Regardless of culture, age and the like, I feel like there is a universal feeling that you never want to disappoint your parents or your family. I know I felt that way when I decided in my final year of university that I didn’t want to pursue my original professional school. And I’ve also found myself in situations where it feels like it’s me and my brother vs our parents. So while I might not have a similar situation to Mei and its extremes, I do understand the heart of her inner conflict and that’s what drew me to her story.

The Plot:

Simply put, this is a coming of age story about a girl deciding what she wants out of life. But I never got bored. So many things happen along the way and there’s this great balance between everything. You get a dash of romance, a dash of friendship and a dash of family—everything that makes up great story.

The Characters:

Mei’s a fabulous lead. I loved watching her transform as the story progressed. She has some great character development and you can’t help but root for her as she finds her way. She’s also hilarious with her somewhat awkward ways and personality quirks. Frankly, she’s nothing but adorable and the type of lead who makes a novel amazing.

Also, special shoutout to Mei’s mom. She was a fantastic character and her voicemails to Mei left me in stitches!

The Romance:

Darren made me want to go back to university just to see if I could find someone like him for myself 😛

In all seriousness, the romance was really cute but also an important aspect to the story. Like a romance should in a great coming of age story, it should enhance the story and never distract from it. And I feel like that was what was done here. Her relationship with Darren is key in highlighting Mei’s struggles but I never felt like it became the main focus of her story and I greatly appreciated that.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m SO SO SO glad I listened to this as an audiobook! Emily Zoo Weller did a great job bringing Mei to life. Her accents were great, all the characters sounded different, and her expressions were awesome. I always consider it a plus when an audiobook can make me cry when a character does and this did that quite a few times. I also laughed hysterically throughout–people driving by probably thought I was crazy as I drove to work.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

One of the best coming of age stories I have read in a long time. I also highly recommend the audiobook!

Read if You Like: coming of age, stories about culture, diverse leads
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike coming of age

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Single Sundays: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for When Dimple Met Rishi (from Goodreads):

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

breakdown

Author: Sandhya Menon
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Source & Format: Own–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I don’t think you could escape this book in 2017. It was praised all over the Twitterverse and so I was more than curious. When the opportunity arose for me to get the audiobook copy, I immediately grabbed it!

The Concept:

On the surface, the synopsis gives the idea that this story is almost all about a possible arranged marriage between Dimple and Rishi. And while it does play a huge role in the plot and development, at the core, this is very much a coming of age story.

This is about 2 teenagers trying to find their mark in the world. Like most recent high school grads, they are feeling the pressure of growing up and deciding what they want for the rest of their lives. They are focused on their future careers and trying to reconcile them with cultural and familial expectations.

For some readers, you might not think you can relate to Rishi and Dimple because of their culture. I know I thought that a bit myself. But trying to please your parents and feeling the pressure to find that partner in life are universal tensions (I think) and you will definitely find part of yourself in these two.

The Plot:

This story reads like your typical coming of age story in terms of plot. You have a pretty basic background plot happening and it’s all about the characters and how they are coping. But there is a lot happening with Dimple and Rishi in terms of character growth and you get rather involved in the secondary character lives.

So it has its moments of fun and its moments of reflection. For me though, the pacing was slightly off. I think it might have been because I was listening to the audiobook (it clocks in at 10 hours which is really long for a contemporary novel of this nature I think) and it just seemed excessively long at times. Not that I didn’t enjoy every moment with these two–I did–I guess it just felt dragged out a touch?

The Characters:

I adored these characters and they truly make the novel for me!

Dimple is such a compelling heroine. She’s strong yet fragile at the same time and I definitely saw part of myself in her when it comes to her views on romantic relationships vs career. She’s also hilarious.

And Rishi is just so charming and I immediately fell in love with him. But what was really appealing about his character was that he was the hopeless romantic, instead of Dimple. He was the one who really wanted the relationship and felt it necessary and I usually find that it is the female characters who are cast in that role. It was a refreshing take on a standard gender role I thought.

The Romance:

Simply adorable! These two were a fantastic match and it was fabulous watching them realize that.

I also liked that it viewed (consensual) arranged marriage as a positive thing. The arranged marriage aspect really only plays a role at the start of the novel but it is a factor at play. As the relationship develops they start to undergo some realistic challenges that many young people face in their relationships so again, I think readers will identify with that.

My Audiobook Experience:

I love humour in audiobooks and this one had it in spades! The sarcastic nature was much more apparent in the audio version.

Again, I do think that the length of the audiobook affected my rating a touch (instead of a 5/5) but I still highly recommend the audiobook version!

My Rating: 4/5

overall

This is a coming of age novel that any reader can relate to in some way. It’s funny, charming and will leave you with a smile on your face.

Read if You Like: coming of age, diverse reads
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary
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Fresh Fridays: The Songs in Our Hearts by Chantal Gadoury

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Songs in Our Hearts (from Goodreads):

High school junior Charlie Blake has never seen anyone quite like Micah Jacobs in her small town of Grand Lakes. With his carefree spirit, rough-around-the-edges personality, and handsome grin, Charlie is transfixed.

But Charlie’s been burned before with her first crush, at the hands of an ex-friend and a cruel joke. Because of those scars, Charlie keeps her guard up when it comes to boys. But a class project – that may or may not involve kissing for the camera! – forces her to not only confront Micah, but her true feelings.

While prepping for the assignment, Charlie finds herself in Micah’s car accompanied by the music of Journey, Elvis, The Cars, and Peter Gabriel. Between slushies, burning rafts, pizza, and great music, Charlie and Micah bond as she learns the importance of letting go of the past and opening herself to new people.

When their project comes to an end, Charlie wonders if she should finally confess everything she’s been denying before she loses the chance. When words fail, will the songs in her heart be enough?

breakdown

Series: Songs
Author: Chantal Gadoury
# of Books: 2 (The Songs in Our Hearts, The Songs We Remember)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, The Songs We Remember is to be released October 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Chantal Gadoury!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge music fan of the 70s and 80s so when I saw Journey and the Cars listed in the synopsis for this book, I was totally on board! I love when books incorporate something else and music especially. After all, most songs are a story of some sorts so they just seem to go hand and hand to me.

But I also love when school partners fall in love and the coming of age vibes in the synopsis had be curious to see what would happen between Charlie and Mica.

What I Liked:

–The Music Soundtrack–

What drew me to this book was the music. I loved the way that music was incorporated in the chapter headings to parallel what was happening within them. You could definitely make this a super interactive experience by listening to each song before the start of the chapter just to get that little bit more from it. (I recognized most of the songs by heart so I immediately got the connections which was awesome)

Truthfully, I thought the bond over them listening to music would play a bigger role than it does but that’s ok. They bond in other ways which works well for the story and strengthens their relationship. The music does play a substantial role though just know that it isn’t only about the music between these two.

–Charlie’s Family–

One of the biggest highlights for me was Charlie’s family. It was so nice to have such a positive, real family in a YA read. She has a super close relationship with her older brother that I found to be charming and realistic. I also liked that her parents were supportive but stern when they needed to be. It was just refreshing to me to see a family actually get along and support the lead.

–I Got The DUFF Vibes When Reading–

The relationship dynamic between Charlie and Micah reminded me of the relationship between Bianca and Wesley in The DUFF. It’s slightly antagonistic and full of banter at the start but evolves into something more as they get to know each other. They take their time getting to know the other on a deeper level just by listening or doing everyday things together and I loved that.

Charlie and Bianca have similar stories too in the sense that they are working on becoming confident in themselves and learning to not care what others think.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Wanted More Development from Micah–

For me, I just wanted a little more character growth. This is a story about the characters since there isn’t too much going on in terms of the dramatic plot as it is a coming of age story. In particular I would have liked Micah’s character to develop a bit more than he does. I know the focus is on Charlie and her getting over her fears but I think it would have added some depth to their relationship if we learned a little more about Micah. We get little tidbits that maybe there is more to his character and I wish those were elaborated on a little more.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

What I’m really looking forward to is the character growth of these two moving forward. Navigating their feelings, friends and everyday with the change in their relationship has me intrigued to see what will happen next.

My Rating: 3/5

The Songs in Our Hearts 3/5 | The Songs We Remember TBP

overall

This is a charming and cute read that YA fans will enjoy. In particular, if you enjoy books that incorporate music or have a soundtrack to them, this is definitely the perfect read for you!

Read if You Like: music, YA contemporary, girls getting their confidence
Avoid if You: want soap-opera like drama

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Series Review: The First Kiss Hypothesis by Christina Mandelski

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

Synopsis for The First Kiss Hypothesis (from Goodreads):

Nora Reid believes scientific laws control everything, even love. With her grandparents’ epic first kiss story cemented in her brain, Nora develops a hypothesis she’s determined to prove:for each person in the world, there is exactly one other person, and at first kiss, they’ll experience an immediate and intense reaction.

But after four years of zero-reaction kisses, she comes up with a new theory: maybe that pesky crush on her stunningly hot best friend Eli Costas is skewing her results.

She needs to get rid of him, and fast.

Eli Costas is an injury-prone lacrosse star with a problem—the one chance he had at winning over the girl next door resulted in the most epically sucktastic first kiss ever. And now she’s…trying to get rid of him? Hell no. It’s time to disprove her theory and show her exactly what she’s missing.
Game. On.

Disclaimer: This book contains a stunningly hot lacrosse player who isn’t above playing dirty to win over the stubborn girl-next-door of his dreams.

breakdown

Series: The First Kiss Hypothesis
Author: Christina Mandelski
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes (?)
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Romance, High School
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Entangled Publishing!

thoughts

**This post was originally published as a standalone review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Thanks to the H.BSc that follows my name and the hopeless romantic in me makes it a requirement that I read any novel that uses a scientific term in its title. I’m a fan of the best friends to more trope, especially in YA, and the promise of a scientific theory to back up why that might not be the case for these two? I was excited to see how this experiment would play out.

The Plot:

This story definitely felt like it was more of a coming of age novel than straight romance–and I really liked that. Eli and Nora have a lot going on in their lives now that they are seniors in high school. They’re beginning to feel the pressures from family and friends when it comes to deciding what’s next. Throw in their long buried crushes on each other and the mutual agreed upon love of pies and you’ve got a bit of a sticky situation.

This book had me at the start. I loved Eli’s goal to make Nora see him as more than a friend and I liked how Nora was unknowingly trying to counteract that. It made from some sweet moments between them. However, it started to lose me in the middle when everything just seemed to repeat itself with nothing completely new to add to the story. It rounds itself out in the end with some solid character growth but my interest did start to wane.

The Characters:

I’m really glad that we got both Nora and Eli’s POV in this story because it does shed some light on why they act like they do. They have their moments of immaturity but I did find that they grew up as the story progressed. I wasn’t blown away by either of them but they worked well for this story.

I do have to give a shout-out to Eli’s autistic brother Ari. He was fabulous and a breath of fresh air in this story. He really grounds the story in a way that benefits everyone.

The Romance:

These two are super cute together, no denying that. I liked that they always had these feelings bubbling up at the surface–I love the type of tension that brings to a story. It’s a touch cliché but these two have enough quirks to keep it interesting.

updates

–September 17, 2018– Book #2: Love and Other Secrets

I had no idea that this book was the sequel of sorts to The First Kiss Hypothesis so it was a welcome surprise when I started reading and notice we were back at Edinburgh High.

This book started off strongly for me. I loved watching Alex moon over Bailey and fight his feelings for her while she explains her film making plan. That’s the sexual tension that keeps me hooked and wanting more. But I can’t help but feel that if I got to see these two interact a little more before the start of this book (ie the start of their friendship), I would have rooted for them a little more than I did. Yes, they are cute together and I can see why they are drawn to each other but I wanted that connection established a little more.

Unfortunately, the last half of the book is plagued by bad communication and assumptions on both characters parts and it’s a little frustrating to endure as it occurs in a slightly repetitive way. I get their fears of rejection but their defensive tactics always seemed premature to me–which in turn made the characters come across as immature.

Which brings me to the character development. I was very disappointed in Alex’s lack of growth as a character. To me, it was almost like he unravelled as the story progressed. I was a huge Alex fan at the start but his angst towards his parents (no matter how justified) never seemed to contribute positively to his coming of age story. I felt like that was a bit of a missed opportunity because the romance overshadows any character growth or resolution.

My Rating: 3/5

The First Kiss Hypothesis 3.5/5 | Love and Other Secrets 3/5

overall

If you enjoy cute coming of age stories where best friends fall in love, this perfect for you!

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, best friends to more, coming of age, teenaged angst
Avoid if You: high school romances

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