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Standalone: a novel with no sequels

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Spin-off Saturdays: Rise by Piper Lawson

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:

Rise is a spin-off of Play and NSFW

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author, Canadian Author
Series: Connected to the novels Play and NSFW
Author: Piper Lawson
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Second Chance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Single **Male POV**
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thanks so much Piper Lawson!

thoughts

My Expectations?

I’m always excited to return to the lives of characters I’ve already met so I was really excited to get Riley’s story after his cameos in Play and NSFW.

What I Liked?

–Only Told Through Riley’s POV–

One of the highlights of this story is getting it only in Riley’s POV. It’s hard to find a solo male POV in romance; even harder to find one where the lead is a genuinely nice guy. Riley isn’t some player out to get as many girls as he can. He wants a serious relationship, he’s just can’t seem to find one…probably because the right girl got away 10 years ago.

–Riley’s Character Development–

For me, this story is all about Riley discovering what he truly wants in life. His career is in a critical place, his best friend and business partner just had a baby, the girl he left behind years ago is back: life is starting to change. And I really enjoyed watching him go through all those hurdles and become a stronger character.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–Slightly Off Pacing for Me–

I did struggle a little with that pacing at times because I felt like we got too invested in Riley’s work and that caused the romance to take a backseat sometimes.

–It Took Me a Bit to Warm Up to Sam–

We don’t get Sam’s POV and so we don’t know her thoughts or feelings unless she says something. But, the flashbacks we get of their shared past did help solidify why these two deserve a second chance and those scenes helped me to fall in love with their story.

Series Rating: 4/5

overall

If you enjoy well-rounded romances that have a dash of humour, can tug at your heartstrings and feature strong characters, you’ll truly enjoy this novel!

Read if You Like: second chance romances, male POV, strong characters
Avoid if You: want erotica

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Rise (from Goodreads):

Falling is easy. Getting up is a b*tch.

When we met, we were lost.
Most seventeen year olds are.
We lifted each other up off the ground each time we fell. Until the day I let her down.
Now I have everything. A Bentley, a profile in GQ, a movie option and the company my best friend and I co-founded after school.
Until our paths cross ten years later at a gallery. The backdrop might be the same but we’ve both changed. I know it the second I see Sam standing in front of the canvas my best friend bought.
She’s more than the girl who used to draw comic book characters on my arm after class. The one I had inside jokes with. The one who taught me to be a rock when someone you love is being thrown around by the waves.
She’s beautiful. Confident. Edgy.
Sam should’ve been my first everything. God knows we both wanted it.
Now I have a second chance.
This time I won’t let her down.
This time, we’ll rise together.

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Blog Tour: Let Me Love You by Jessica Jayne

Synopsis for Let Me Love You (from Goodreads):

Twenty-three year old Ren Haynes returns home after graduating college with two goals–start his engineering career and claim the heart of his parents’ thirty-one year old divorced neighbor, Stacey Williams.

Stacey is nursing her broken heart and shattered ego. Not only did her ex-husband have an affair, he got the woman pregnant. Picking up the pieces of her life isn’t easy, so when Ren taps into her need to feel desired again, she finds herself in a position she never imagined.

Can Ren help to rebuild her confidence and convince her that age is just a number?

breakdown

Author: Jessica Jayne
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: December 18, 2017
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

In romances, age difference can play a huge factor in the relationship and so I always enjoy books that explore this situation because it can cause some tension. I was particularly drawn to this novel because it is an older woman/younger man relationship–one that we don’t often see in novels (as it always seems to be the reverse). So I couldn’t wait to explore this scenario and get some great sexual tension along the way.

The Plot:

I really enjoyed the fact that this story was all about the romance. We don’t get any unnecessary drama along the way. It’s focus is all on Ren seducing Stacey and showing her that he is serious about her and in turn, Stacey reacting to his feelings and deciding if she wants to pursue a relationship with him. I found that this singular plot helped to develop the characters a little more and focus on their hopes and fears about the relationship. It made the story more character focused–which is what you want in a romance.

The Characters:

I really liked this small cast of characters. Stacey is a great heroine. I found her wants and fears to be believable given her past. I loved watching her self confidence grow as the story progressed.

As for Ren, he’s a good lead. He’s mature and driven but a nice guy. He was really sweet with Stacey so I understand her hardship in trying to resist him.

But what I really liked about all these characters (including the side ones like Ren’s parents) was their honest and upfront conversations. They didn’t beat around the bush so to speak. I enjoyed their candid conversations and how they laid everything out. It created some great dialogue and helped progress the story in a positive way.

The Romance:

While I really liked Ren and Stacey as a couple, I wanted a little more build-up to the revealing of Ren’s intentions. We get told a lot that they had this great connection before the novel started; that they’ve talked and shared a lot over the last few years and consider each other friends. And while I never doubted Ren’s intentions (ie that he wanted Stacey as a forever girl), I think it would have sold me sooner on the romance if I had seen some of that tension build between them. If I got to see them fall in love instead of being told they were in love. Regardless, they did have great chemistry so I enjoyed their scenes together.

My Rating: 3/5

overall
This is a very quick albeit sweet romance about pursuing love and learning to love again after a betrayal.

Read if You Like: “off-limits” romance, romance focused plot
Avoid if You: want a longer read

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Jessica Jayne

Jessica is a born and raised small town Ohio girl, who moved to the Sunshine State after graduating from college. She graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in English. What college major could possibly be better than one that makes you read novels and write about them! Now she is thrilled to be able to share all the hot stories floating around in her head!

Jessica loves to travel and travel often! She shares her love of travel with her husband and children. She’s a huge sports fan, especially football. She ❤ the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Ohio State Buckeyes! She’s a wine-making (and wine-tasting) aficionado. She loves all music. And nothing is better than sunset at the beach!

In the journey of life, she also married a wonderful man and had three beautiful (and sometimes crazy) children. Life is always an adventure!

Author Links: Website  |  Goodreads  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

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Blog Tour: Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey

Synopsis for Suitors and Sabotage (from Goodreads):

Two young people must hide their true feelings for each other while figuring out who means them harm in this cheeky Regency romance from the author of Love, Lies and Spies and Duels & Deception.

Shy aspiring artist Imogene Chively has just had a successful Season in London, complete with a suitor of her father’s approval. Imogene is ambivalent about the young gentleman until he comes to visit her at the Chively estate with his younger brother in tow. When her interest is piqued, however, it is for the wrong brother.

Charming Ben Steeple has a secret: despite being an architectural apprentice, he has no drawing aptitude. When Imogene offers to teach him, Ben is soon smitten by the young lady he considers his brother’s intended.

But hiding their true feelings becomes the least of their problems when, after a series of “accidents,” it becomes apparent that someone means Ben harm. And as their affection for each other grows—despite their efforts to remain just friends—so does the danger. . .

In Suitors and Sabotage, author Cindy Anstey delivers another witty young adult historical fiction novel that is the perfect mix of sweetly romantic and action-packed.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Must Read Author
Author: Cindy Anstey
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC via Netgalley

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s become a bit of a tradition on my blog that every April I take part in the blog tour for Cindy Anstey’s latest novel. She quickly became a must read author of mine when I read her debut novel, Love, Lies and Spies, thanks to is sweet romance and witty dialogue. It doesn’t hurt that she is a fellow Canadian either 😉

I was really excited when I read the synopsis for Suitors and Sabotage! I love historical fiction and Anstey writes fabulous YA stories as her previous novels can attest to. This book sounded like it would be filled with some great character chemistry and no doubt be utterly charming. I couldn’t wait to sit down and devour this!

The Plot:

This book was a lot of fun–and that’s not something that you would immediately think when you read the plot synopsis. I mean, someone is possibly trying to kill Ben and Ben is in love with the girl his brother is pursuing. Things could definitely take a turn for the dark but they never do and I think that’s where Anstey’s talent for writing shines the best. She has this ability to keep things light and captivating all the same.

I’ll get to the characters later but they honestly make this book. It wouldn’t be half as charming if it wasn’t for the cast of people Anstey has assembled to tell this story!

I did find that this book did suffer from a little too much filler at times. Not that I minded too much since I adored the characters and any scene they were in but I did find it dulled the suspense of the sabotage. The sabotage is more subtle than I anticipated it would be though it did bring excitement to the plot.

The Characters:

Honestly, the cast in this story is fabulous! Imogene is sweet and evolves before your eyes (I loved her character growth!). Ben will definitely steal your heart with his longing glances and kind intentions. But their friends and family are just as entertaining and genuine. Everyone contributes to this story in a way that takes it to the next level. They truly make this story!

The Romance:

Despite there being a bit of a love triangle/square situation happening, I couldn’t get enough of the romance! Again, this has to do with the great cast because I seriously loved everyone and hated to see anyone hurt. But you can’t deny the chemistry that lies between certain characters more than others. I love longing glances between characters and when the inner monologue drifts off as the character becomes absolutely smitten with the other. The romance here was simply perfect.

My Rating: 4.5/5

overall
Honestly, Cindy Anstey is the bar when it comes to writing fantastic, entertaining YA historical fiction. She always has a fabulous blend of romance, danger and wit that I’ve yet to come across in another book. This one is definitely another win!

Read if You Like: historical YA fiction, witty banter, subtle suspence
Avoid if You: want more “in your face” romance

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Cindy Anstey

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester. Love, Lies and Spies is her debut novel.

Author Links: Website // Goodreads // Facebook // Twitter

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Blog Tour: Rules of Rebellion by Amity Cross

Synopsis for Rules of Rebellion (from Goodreads):

1. Skinny dip (her idea)
2. Prank someone (his idea)
3. Stargaze (her idea)
4. Kiss someone (his idea)

Leo Zimmerman has had a crush on his curvy best friend Kylie Jenkins since forever, so When he discovers the girl with a flair for baking has a newfound plan to rebel against her overbearing parents, he’s determined to be the one to help her carry it out. Who better than a self-proclaimed rebel like himself to show her the ropes of letting loose?

Sure, taking her to her first high school party, helping her sneak out of the house, or watching a sunset together isn’t exactly a hardship, but much harder is masking his feelings the more time they spend together. And when he suggests adding “kiss a boy” to Kylie’s plan and she accepts…suddenly all his dreams seem to be coming true.

But Leo’s got a secret that could change everything between them, and it’s only a matter of time before it comes to the surface.

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Series?: This is a Spin-Off of The Rules of Persuasion
Author: Amity Cross
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date:  April 2, 2018
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC  |  Thank you Entangled Publishing!

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

For a girl who used to be afraid of the YA contemporary genre, I’ve been hitting all the right notes lately! I couldn’t resist signing myself up for this book when I read the synopsis. I’m a sucker for “secretly in love with” scenario–especially in high school settings–and I loved the idea of Kylie and Leo completing a high school bucket list of sorts. So I couldn’t wait to read this!

The Plot:

I think the synopsis is a touch misleading because it implies that Kylie and Leo are already good friends–or at least that’s how I read it. It’s more like they are within the same friend group but don’t know that much about each other. Which honestly, just makes this story even sweeter because you get to see them form that deeper bond of friendship…and watch it bloom into something else.

The pacing for this novel was fabulous. It simply strikes the right balance between romance, character growth, the “to-do” list plot as well as the “big secret”. I’ll admit, I had totally guessed that secret wrong so I liked the twist that provided as well.

The Characters:

What I love about Kylie and Leo is that they are genuine people. They have big hearts, care about their families and are just nice people. You really want them to succeed in whatever they set out to accomplish in this story.

But they are also human and have their flaws. It was great watching them grow a little more confident in themselves as the story progressed thanks to their relationship. They both have some solid character development throughout the story and I always like to see that in my YA contemporaries.

The Romance:

Well, I found myself a new book boyfriend with Leo! Swoon! He was just adorable and immediately stole my heart by the end of his first POV chapter. He is so in love with Kylie and watching him try to win her over was as sweet as it was fun.

The romance here was positively charming and everything I wanted it to be when I picked this novel up.

My Rating: 4/5

overall
This book will definitely melt your heart and put a smile on your face!

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, swoon-worthy heroes
Avoid if You: want a darker story

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Amity Cross

Amity lives in beautiful northern Minnesota with her two sons, two cats and their Rottweiler.

She has a degree in elementary education and worked in that field for ten years before deciding to self-publish.

Her first self-published novel, Twisted, was listed by Amazon as a Top 100 Kids & Teens Kindle Book of 2012. It hit Amazon’s Teen & Young Adult Contemporary Romance Best Sellers List in several countries. Truths and Dares held the #1 position on Amazon’s Best Sellers in Teen & Young Adult Contemporary Romance eBooks in the UK.

If she’s not writing or spending time with her boys, she’s most likely reading.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

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Single Sundays: Savage Love by Ella Miles

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 Savage Love (from Goodreads):

I hate him.

He’s made my life a living hell every day since we were five years old. We’ve been enemies since the day he cut off my pigtails in first grade and I retaliated by drawing on his face with a sharpie.

Our hate of each other grew stronger as we got older. We grew more savage in the way we dealt with each other. We broke bones in fights, sabotaged each other’s dates, and ruined any chance each other had at happiness.

We went our separate ways after college. I never thought I’d have to deal with that asshole again.

But I’m out of a job, so when the opportunity to compete for one of the highest profile PR jobs presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Even if it means I’ll have to compete with Carter for the job. I’ll be more than happy to crush him on the way to my dream job. I’m willing to do anything, savage things, to ensure I win.

There’s just one problem. I forgot how much my body betrays me every time I see Carter. Because despite all the horrible things he’s done, it doesn’t stop me from wanting to do naughty, unthinkable things with him. Will my savage heart be enough to resist his charms?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Ella Miles
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 26th, 2018
Source & Format: Author–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge fan of Ella Miles and her darker contemporary works. So I was really excited to see what she would do in a more contemporary, slightly lighter romance.

I’m a huge fan of the hate to love you trope and when it’s linked to the “in love with brother’s BFF” one? And you add in some pranks? I’m so there!

The Concept:

It definitely lives up to the “Savage” title with some of the ways these two try to out smart each other!

These two go to the extremes in their efforts to out match each other. Being a seasoned Ella Miles reader, I know that she will take things to that next level and that’s the case here. It makes the read entertaining though and keeps you hooked because you have to know what will happen between them.

The Plot:

I loved the back and forth nature of this story–it’s one of my favourite aspects of the hate to love you story. The characters would have these moments where they want to rip each other apart and then they want to rip each other’s clothes off. I love that type of drama and this book had it in spades.

My only complaint was with some of the dramatic elements that came as a result of the job they were competing for. They both are PR “fixers” but their solution to the situations just didn’t seem plausible to me. Plus, it resulted in some drama that I wasn’t a fan of.

The Characters:

I really liked these leads. I loved how driven Victoria was. How she wouldn’t stay down for long because she’d come back fighting.

It helped getting Carter’s POV as well because you start to understand his rational for his actions and thoughts. I’m not sure if I would have liked him as much if his POV was omitted because I really appreciated that insight into his mind. I did think he changed his tune a little too quickly but I enjoyed watching him trying to make things right.

The Romance:

For me, it was so easy to see why these two have been at ends with each other for years: they are too similar and so stubborn that they clash whenever they meet. I always love watching leads who are so perfect for each other fight the obvious and this was no exception. Their romance was definitely a highlight of the story and met my every expectation.

My only complaint was with some of the dramatic elements that came as a result of the job they were competing for. They both are PR “fixers” but their solution to the situations just didn’t seem plausible to me. Plus, it resulted in some drama that I wasn’t a fan of.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

If you love dramatic “hate-to-love-you” stories with plenty of steam, pick this up now!

Read if You Like: hate to love you, rivals, second chances
Avoid if You: dislike steamy scenes, dislike lots of drama

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Blog Tour: The Unbelievable, Inconceivable, Unforeseeable Truth About Ethan Wilder by Cookie O’Gorman

Synopsis for The Unbelievable, Inconceivable, Unforeseeable Truth About Ethan Wilder (from Goodreads):

In the south, everyone has a secret–and murder is served with sweet tea.

The word’s out: Ethan Wilder’s coming back to town, and the people of Bowie, Georgia are in a southern tizzy. Everyone knows the story. He shot and killed his sister four years ago, and people say his father, Jim Wilder, the biggest holy roller this side of the Mississippi, sent him packing for just that reason. Even if her death was unofficially ruled a suicide, Ethan’s return has everybody talking.

Seventeen-year-old Delilah Doherty can’t go anywhere without hearing his name. Born and raised in Bowie, Delilah knows firsthand about the gossipmongers and how they love a good scandal. The daughter of a wild child and niece of the local psychic, she’s also the only one who doubts Ethan’s guilt.

After Ethan saves her life, the two start a slow and steady burn neither can deny. But when Bowie’s spiritual leader is nearly murdered, it rocks the small southern town to its core. Delilah and Ethan are caught in the crossfire, their relationship threatened before it’s even begun. Someone has it out for Ethan’s family. With everyone convinced of Ethan’s guilt, it’s up to Delilah to unravel the mystery before someone else gets hurt or worse…dead.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Cookie O Gorman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 5, 2018
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been a fan of Cookie’s since her first novel, Adorkable and her second novel Ninja Girl made me add her to my “must read” author list soon after. So I was excited to see what she would write next.

I’ll say that a mystery wasn’t what I was totally expecting her to write next (though technically, she wrote this first) but the title and synopsis definitely had me curious. So I couldn’t wait to see what this ridiculous truth about Ethan Wilder really was.

The Plot:

This book has a slower start to it as it sets up the exposition and introduces all the characters. This is a trend I often see when I read books set in the South. We get swept up into the mundane everyday lives of the small towns and the small cast of characters. Cookie has a talent for writing intriguing characters so I didn’t mind as much as I usually would.

We get a bit of a double mystery here. You have the infamous Ethan who has just returned to town and seems to keep to himself–except for a those interactions with Delilah. And then you have the incidences involving his family –which don’t really start until the 30% mark. I thought this would start a little early and become the main focus of the story but it doesn’t really. It’s more of something that runs in the background while Delilah carries on with her everyday life in this small town.

However, the introduction of the mystery does add this tone of suspense to the novel and that suspense carries you through the rest of the novel. As for the mystery itself, I definitely didn’t figure it out so that always gets bonus points in my eye!

The Characters:

As I said before, Cookie has a great talent for creating characters. She has quite the eclectic cast here and they really do work for this story.

I liked Delilah as a lead. She’s got a great heart despite all the stuff people throw her way. Sure, she’s a little oblivious to boys liking her but that’s part of her charm in a way.

What I really liked is that Ethan is kept a total mystery to us. We don’t get his POV, just whatever interactions happen with Delilah or ones she hears secondhand. He’s got that bad boy appeal but also has his swoon-worthy moments as well so I liked whenever he was in a scene.

The Romance:

Well, Ethan became a book boyfriend for me so I think it goes without saying I thought this was totally cute. Again, I just love the romances Cookie creates! This one was really sweet and very subtle. So when you got those cute moments between them, it just made you smile.

concSLOW

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall
This was a slow start for me so it took me a while to get truly invested. But once the pieces of the mystery start to reveal themselves, I found myself spinning various theories and eagerly awaiting the big reveal. Another great novel by Cookie O’Gorman.

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, books set in the South, mystery
Avoid if You: dislike slow starts, need lots of action

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Cookie O’Gorman

Cookie O’Gorman writes YA romance to give readers a taste of happily-ever-after. Small towns, quirky characters, and the awkward yet beautiful moments in life make up her books. Cookie also has a soft spot for nerds and ninjas. Her novels ADORKABLE and NINJA GIRL are out now! Her third book, THE UNBELIEVABLE, INCONCEIVABLE, UNFORESEEABLE TRUTH ABOUT ETHAN WILDER, will be released April 5, 2018!

Author Links:

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Single Sundays: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

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 Tell Me Three Things (from Goodreads):

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.

breakdown

Author: Julie Buxbaum
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Like most titles, I don’t know how this one crossed my radar but I know a lot of my friends on Goodreads have read (and enjoyed) it since its release.

I was really excited to read it though because it sounded a lot like Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda–the idea of a secret pen-pal that helps the lead cope with the current situation. I had heard this book was funny and charming, so I was eager to dive into the audiobook.

The Concept:

I definitely think people can relate to this book–and Jessie–in some way or another. She’s going through a lot of changes in her life and she’s just doing the best she can to adapt. I related to her because I’ve totally been that new kid at school, trying to navigate life in a new place. But meeting her new step-family and grieving the loss of her mother are other aspects readers will gravitate towards as well.

The whole concept of Somebody Nobody (SN) reminded me a lot of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda where the characters interact and bond with someone online. But instead of Jessie dealing with her sexuality like Simon in a place he is familiar with, she’s dealing with grief and living in a whole new city. Both are charming leads that will have you laughing out loud and feeling their pain throughout their respective novels.

The Plot:

I liked that there was a lot going on in this book. You aren’t focused solely on Jessie and her grieving–which is important, don’t get me wrong. I just mean that there are other things happening that add to the overall experience and makes everything that little bit richer. It also gives the book a lighter tone in between those moments of grief.

Also, the mystery of SN was fantastic! It truly keeps you invested and has this addicting quality to it. I couldn’t tell if it was just wishful thinking on my part or if it was obvious who SN was. Either way, it was still an enjoyable aspect of the story.

The Characters:

Like I said before, Jessie is a very relateable character and hilarious. Some of her comments had me laughing out loud for quite a while. I loved her wit and sass–usually I only find that in contemporaries with male leads.

But I also loved her character development. Watching her get that self confidence back was fabulous.

Why this book doesn’t get 5 stars though is because she is also frustrating at times. Her assumptions about who SN was were maddening to listen to. I swear, she would purposely miss things to meet an end. As I noted at the 78% mark:

“Maybe he doesn’t act like he’s SN because he ISN’T SN! I swear, Jessie is a little dense sometimes -.-“

And again at the 97% mark:

“Girl, for the love of all, stop assuming things and just ask or wait for someone to tell you!”

I just wanted to give her a smack and say THINK ABOUT IT! Her biggest fault is her inability to communicate. However, thanks to her character’s story and development, I understood why that would be the case so I cut her some slack. Still didn’t make it easier to listen too at times.

The Romance:

This was super cute and I liked that it wasn’t a huge focus of the book either. I don’t want to give too much away but I think readers will be happy with this.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook and I think that positively impacted my rating. As a reader, I have a better time understanding wit and sarcasm when it’s spoken instead of simply words on a page. But there is also something about listening to someone pour their heart out. You feel so connected to the character as they tell you their story and I definitely felt that with Jessie.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

This is a YA contemporary that hits all the right notes. It’s charming, funny and sweet–readers will love this! Plus, it has heart waffles on the cover! Waffles!

Read if You Like: realistic YA contemporary, witty heroines
Avoid if You: dislike realistic contemporary fiction

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Single Sundays: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

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 Challenger Deep (from Goodreads):

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today’s most admired writers for teens.

breakdown

Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Mental Health
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve never read a Neal Shusterman novel–never even heard of the guy either–but apparently he is “one of today’s most admired writers for teens”. So that both excited and scared me when it came to this novel. Excited me because he is (apparently) known for writing captivating stories; scared me because promotional hype can easily heighten expectations and leave you devastated.

I really had no idea what to expect. I don’t even know how I found out about this book. And when I started listening to the audiobook, I didn’t read the synopsis so I was going in completely blind.

The Concept:

I think if I had read the synopsis before starting the audiobook, I would haven’t felt as lost as I was at the start. See, all I remembered when I started this book was the part about the ship. I missed the rest of the synopsis so I was a little confused as to why were were jumping back and forth between Caden’s life at home and his life on the ship.

This is a book about mental illness and I think it is important to know that going in so you can get into the right mindset. Because honestly, I was confused until I figured that out. That’s when you can start putting things together and figure out what Caden is describing and how he is feeling.

The Plot:

As I said above, the plot shifts a lot at the start and it can be a little overwhelming. But once you start to delve a little deeper, you start to see how everything is working together.

I love stories that have you continuously working it out in your head. Honestly, I would love to study this book in school and dissect every moment of it because it is beautifully crafted. It’s one of those books that you really don’t appreciate until you finish it and see how everything blends together.

The Characters:

I think everyone can relate to Caden’s story in one way or another. Whether you know someone who suffers from a mental health condition or you yourself have one, you’ll connect with this story in some capacity.

This book does a fabulous job of delivering Caden’s thoughts and reasonings in a way readers can understand and experience for themselves. There’s a part where Caden switches to the 2nd person POV and you really get to put yourself in his shoes and see what it feels like to be in his current situation. I’ve never had that connection to a character that I didn’t share some trait with and it was a refreshing experience for me as a reader.

The Romance:

I’ve read a lot of really great YA contemporaries in the last year that focus on mental health but they’ve all been a little hindered by the romance. So I was really happy when this book never took that turn. This story is all about Caden’s journey and it never shies away from that.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m very glad I read this as an audiobook: the production was fabulous! Every character had their own unique voice and that made it such a treat to listen to. It also forced me to pay attention too (not that I don’t normally pay attention to my audiobooks–I just mean I paid particular attention to remembering the story) so that I could make sure I knew what was happening and why that particular chapter was important to remember later on. It was like listening to a mystery that you only get clues to along the way but you can’t look backwards. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book captured my full attention and the audiobook experience was very immersive.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

Easily one of the best books I’ve read about mental health in the YA genre. Ever.

Read if You Like: books about mental health, books with allusions
Avoid if You: want a romance, can’t handle shifting narration
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Single Sundays: If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t) by Betty White

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 If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t) (from Goodreads):
It-girl Betty White delivers a hilarious, slyly profound take on love, life, celebrity, and everything in between.

Drawing from a lifetime of lessons learned, seven-time Emmy winner Betty White’s wit and wisdom take center stage as she tackles topics like friendship, romantic love, aging, television, fans, love for animals, and the brave new world of celebrity. If You Ask Me mixes her thoughtful observations with humorous stories from a seven- decade career in Hollywood. Longtime fans and new fans alike will relish Betty’s candid take on everything from her rumored crush on Robert Redford (true) to her beauty regimen (“I have no idea what color my hair is and I never intend to find out”) to the Facebook campaign that helped persuade her to host Saturday Night Live despite her having declined the hosting job three times already.

Featuring all-new material, with a focus on the past fifteen years of her life, If You Ask Me is funny, sweet, and to the point-just like Betty White.

breakdown

Author: Betty White
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Humour
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I enjoy listening to audiobooks when I run errands or go for a walk. I’m a multitasker at heart and so taking time away to be “fit” is hard for me–it’s time I could be using to read something!

So I found this book randomly when searching what audiobooks were currently available for immediate download from my library when I went for a walk one day. I’m a huge Betty White fan. She’s like the perfect hybrid of my two grandmothers and so I associate her with fond feelings. Plus: she’s such a boss! She does so much!

Image result for betty white gifs

The Concept:

I’m not sure how this compares to other Betty novels but this one is basically Betty sharing her personal philosophy on life. She talks (briefly) about everything from having pets to kids to starting your career to life overall.

I’m not normally one to enjoy celebrity novels that solely focus on their life philosophies–they don’t particularly inspire me and I find them boring to read–but there is something about Betty sharing her wisdoms about life that works for me here. I think it’s because I think of her as a wise grandmother and so it doesn’t seem patronizing to me.

The Writing/Narration:

I think this would have been boring to read if Betty wasn’t narrating this. She’s so expressive in her presentation that it is quite enjoyable to read. And she is so humble about everything too! I don’t think this would come across too well if I was just reading the words.

Did it Impact My Life?

Not particularly–just made me love her a little more…

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

If you don’t enjoy memoirs or celebrities sharing their life philosophies, this is probably a pass for you!

Read if You Like: memoirs, Betty White
Avoid if You: dislike life philosophies, want an autobiography

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Single Sundays: The Rebound by Winter Renshaw

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 The Rebound (from Goodreads):

The last time I saw Nevada Kane, I was seventeen and he was loading his things into the back of his truck, about to embark on a fourteen-hour drive to the only college that offered him a full ride to play basketball.

I told him I’d wait for him. He promised to do the same.

But life happened. I broke my promise long before he ever broke his. And not because I wanted to.

We never saw each other again …

Until ten years later when Nevada unexpectedly returned to our hometown after an abrupt retirement from his professional basketball career.

Suddenly he was everywhere, always staring through me with that brooding gaze, never returning my smiles or “hellos.”

Over the years, I’d heard that he’d changed. And that despite his multi-million dollar contracts and rampant success, life hadn’t been so kind to him.

He was a widower.

And a single father.

And rumor had it, he’d spent his last ten years trying to forget me, refusing to so much as breathe my name … hating me.

But just like a rebound, he’s back.

And I have to believe everything happens for a reason.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Winter Renshaw
Genre: Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Second Chances
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: January 24, 2018
Source & Format: Hidden Gem Books–eARCs

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Winter Renshaw has quickly become a must read author for me. She writes consistently entertaining romances with their great premises and awesome characters. Her books always satisfy the romantic in me.

This one sounded great as soon as I read it. I loved the idea that there was this big secret that kept these two apart for 10 years and I couldn’t wait to find out what it was.

The Concept:

The first half or so of this novel is set in the past. You get to see how Yardley and Nevada fell in love as teenagers all the way up until the point where they break up. I relished this because I often find we don’t see that “first chance” in second chance stories. Seeing their past and how they loved each other had me falling in love with them while simultaneously shedding a tear because I knew it wasn’t going to last for some reason.

Then we jump ahead to the present and we see how the effects the past has had on them. As a result, it has a great flow and a “come-full-circle” feel to it that I sometimes find missing in second chance stories.

The Plot:

There isn’t much to the plot besides these two falling in love and growing as people. It’s a very character driven story in the sense that these two have to overcome the consequences of their earlier actions. They have to become stronger individuals to see their faults and learn how to move forward. And I really enjoyed that aspect.

The Characters:

I really loved these two. I loved that they had a grounded perspective on most things but still had the optimism that their love would last or that things would get better. They are both such nice people that it was hard to watch them suffer.

I will say that they are both stubborn–one of the character flaws that they each work on as the story progresses. It was really frustrating for me as a reader to see them have this conflict between them arise when it could have been easily solved by just listening to the other. Again, that is one of the things these two work on and it does serve as a good tool to show how far their characters have progressed over the years.

The Romance:

It honestly didn’t take much for me to fall in love with these two as a couple. It’s a bit more telling than showing at the start but that didn’t stop me from seeing the love they shared. I liked that the first half of the book focused on them talking and sharing moments instead of just sexy times. You see how strong their bond is and I loved that.

I could have used a little more romance in the second half. There was just something about the pacing of the romance that didn’t match the first half. Regardless, I still loved watching their story and the anticipation of seeing whether or not they would get their happy ending!

My Rating: 4/5

overall

I devoured this story from start to finish! Winter Renshaw just writes super addicting and sweet romances and I can’t get enough!

Read if You Like: second chance romances, past and present chapters
Avoid if You: dislike contemporary romance, want erotica

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