Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage ~ #BookReview #NetGalley

~Jennifer~ | 1:52 PM | | 4 Comments so far

July 17, 2018




Title: Baby Teeth
Author: Zoje Stage
Release Date: July 17, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press  
Genre: Thriller  

Source: Copy for review via the publisher 



My Rating: 






Synopsis 


Sweetness can be deceptive. 

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette's husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.



At once horrifying and captivating, Baby Teeth was a story that will stay with me for a long time. It was so compelling, I couldn't look away. I hated having to put it down for reasons such as sleeping. Who needs sleep, right? 

This novel is told in third person alternating between Suzette's and Hanna's points of view and was a roller coaster ride between Suzette's anxiety, Hanna's disdain and hatred for her mother, and Alex's naivety. Their mother-daughter relationship is fraught with tension, exacerbated by Alex's unwillingness to believe their daughter is anything but an angel.   

Alex's character was frustrating. He wanted to stick his head in the sand and pretend everything was perfect rather than believe his daughter needed help. I wanted to yell at him! 

While Suzette isn't the best mother ever, I did feel bad for her. She was dealing with Hanna alone without the support of her husband, and that would drive anyone to the brink of a breakdown. 

Baby Teeth haunted me to my core, and I loved every minute of it. How can a seven-year-old child know how to be so manipulative at her age? I would have liked more mystery as to Hanna's thoughts and plans, but reading from her perspective was super creepy. I appreciate my family so much after reading this book! If you're an adrenaline junkie like me and love thrillers, Baby Teeth is the book for you.    


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Playing Her Secret Crush by Casey Griffin ~ #BookReview #NetGalley

~Jennifer~ | 11:31 AM | | Please comment!

July 7, 2018



Title: Playing Her Secret Crush
Author: Casey Griffin
Release Date: July 2, 2018 
Publisher: Entangled: Crush 
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance   


Source: Copy for review via NetGalley  



My Rating: 
  



Synopsis


All her life, Katie has been chosen last for everything: the last picked on the playground, the last picked by her absent father, and definitely the last picked by boys—even her secret crush, Alex, friend-zoned her. This senior year, Katie is determined to come first.

But then Alex asks her to help him find a date?!

Alex has been living life in the fast lane, but he's ready to slow down—with a girlfriend. The last person on earth he’d consider? The girl his brother developed serious feelings for before he died: Katie. The only way Alex is going to get over Katie is by falling for someone new. And who better to help him find his new crush than the girl he can’t stop thinking about?

What can possibly go wrong?




Playing Her Secret Crush was a cute story with a synopsis I couldn't resist. The fact that Katie and Alex are gamers had a lot to do with my interest in reading this book, I must confess. Plus I just love a good friends-to-lovers story! 

Playing Her Secret Crush is told in third person alternating between both Katie and Alex. I've read some reviews of this book in which it's mentioned that knowing both characters' feelings made the ending of the book too predictable, and I'm afraid I have to agree. 

Katie feels like she comes in last for everything with family, friends and school. She knows her father didn't fight to share custody of her, and that's where much of her insecurity lies; however, not much else is done with this knowledge. I think it could have been explored further because it played a huge role in Katie's unhappiness and her desire to change herself.

Instead of taking time to grieve his brother, Alex is busy living the way he thinks his brother would want him to by taking risks and becoming a player. His risk taking is out of such desperation, however, that it soon begins to spiral out of control, and there were several times when it becomes clear that Alex wasn't truly living life to the fullest like he thought. I hoped for more exploration of his grief and how it affected his decision making.  

When Lexi was introduced, I was so surprised that she and Katie became good friends. It's so easy to write female characters who hate each other, and it was refreshing to see a real friendship between these two. There was a subplot here that I won't spoil but will say I wish it had been delved into. So, would it be too much to ask if Lexi can get her own book??

So as I mentioned earlier, it isn't a spoiler to say we know from the beginning how Alex and Katie feel about each other, but I would've preferred to be kept in some suspense. Nevertheless, Playing Her Secret Crush kept my interest, and I enjoyed the gaming aspect of the story. I believe the characters will stay with me even if the plot may not. 


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My Crunchy Life by Mia Kerick ~ Blog Tour: #BookReview & #Giveaway @MiaKerick

July 2, 2018 


Hey there and welcome to my stop on the My Crunchy Life Blog Tour organized by YA Bound Book Tours. I have a review and giveaway for you today, and if you'd like to follow along with the tour, a link to the schedule can be found at the bottom of this post. 




Title: My Crunchy Life
Author: Mia Kerick
Publication date: June 26th 2018
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press  
Genre: YA Contemporary - LGBTQ
Source: Copy for an honest review

Purchase: Amazon | B&N


My Rating:  





Synopsis 

John Lennon fought for world peace, but sixteen-year-old hippie hopeful Kale Oswald’s only made it as far as tie-dying his T-shirts with organic grape juice. Now he’s ready to cement his new hippie identity by joining a local human rights organization, but he doesn’t fit in as well as he’d hoped.

After landing himself in the hospital by washing down a Ziploc bag of pills with a bottle of Gatorade, Julian Mendez came clean to his mother: he is a girl stuck in a boy’s body. Puberty blockers have stopped the maturing of the body he feels has betrayed him. They’re also supposed to give him time to be sure he wants to make a more permanent decision, but he’s already Julia in his heart. What he’s not sure he’s ready to face is the post-transition name-calling and bathroom wars awaiting him at school.

When Kale and Julian come face-to-face at the human rights organization, attraction, teenage awkwardness, and reluctant empathy collide. They are forced to examine who they are and who they want to become. But until Kale can come to terms with his confusion about his own sexuality and Julian can be honest with Kale, they cannot move forward in friendship, or anything more.
 





My Crunchy Life is the third book I've read by Mia Kerick, and she's quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite authors. She does an amazing job with creating authentic characters you can root for.   

The story centers around Kale and Julian and is told in first-person, alternating between the two. Kale is trying out different identities while figuring out who he is and what he should do. He's gone through a few phases -- preppy, goth, and now hippie. It took me a while to realize he desperately wants to fit himself into one particular category, whatever that may be, and he was going to have to learn the hard way that isn't meant to be. 

Julian, on the other hand, knows who he wants to be -- he was born a girl trapped in a boy's body. (I'll refer to the character as Julian and use the pronoun "he" because that's how he was referred to for the majority of the book.) He didn't feel comfortable telling his mother the way he felt, but after a suicide attempt, she finds out and is incredibly supportive of him. 

I'm sure it didn't happen overnight, but the sacrifices she makes with working long hours to afford the counseling sessions and upcoming medical bills for Julian's transition to Julia made me love her so much. There were a few sweet scenes with Julian and his mother that brought me to tears because the unconditional love she has for her child is amazing. That's how a parent should be.  

Kale is self-absorbed, which is easy to be when you aren't sure who you are or what you should be doing, so I can't totally fault him for that. At the same time, it's difficult not to blame him for being so crappy to his cousin, Hughie, who is living with him and his parents. Hughie's mom is irresponsible and doesn't keep him safe, and it takes Kale SO LONG to realize just how bad his cousin wants stability and love. I still rooted for Kale and liked him because he grew as a character over the course of the story. 

Kale has a great dad, but a not-so-great mom. I tried not to judge her because she was obviously having a hard time adjusting after losing her job, but I wish Kale's dad had stepped in and told her she can't just give up on her responsibilities, especially being there for Kale and Hughie, who was in desperate need of a positive female role model since his mom wasn't taking care of him either.  

Julian seemed more mature than most teens his age. I can't imagine how much courage it would take to transition from one gender to another, especially as a junior in high school where bullying is rampant. He's already bullied considerably before anyone knows he's transgender, yet he's still committed to transitioning. I rooted for him to become Julia all the way! 

As a quick side note, I was happy to see counseling portrayed in a realistic manner. I can't tell you how many YA books present counselors as inept or a negative part of a character's life. In real life I know not every counselor is a good one, but unless it's a plot point, counseling shouldn't be shown as a bad thing. 

My Crunchy Life explores the chaos of adolescence, the possibility that a person can be attracted to another person regardless of gender, bullying, parental issues, and transitioning from one gender to another. I know this was a long review, but I wanted to give as much love to this book as I got from it. The title and cover don't adequately convey what's inside this book -- you get much more than what meets the eye. Kerick does her research and does it well, which shines through her writing. I wasn't prepared for how much I'd end up loving Kale and Julian/Julia's stories. 

I've previously reviewed two of Mia Kerick's books here on the blog -- Clean and Love Spell. Click on the links to read my reviews.   


About the Author



Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.

Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Contact Mia at miakerick@gmail.com.

Author Links



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Kiss of the Royal by Lindsey Duga ~ Blog Tour: #BookReview & #Giveaway

July 1, 2018



Welcome to my stop on the Kiss of the Royal Blog Tour organized by the Fantastic Flying Book Club Tours! I have a review of the book, and there's a giveaway as well.  





Title: Kiss of the Royal
Author: Lindsey Duga
Release Date: July 3, 2018
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
  
Source: Copy for review 



My Rating: 






Synopsis


In the war against the Forces of Darkness, the Royals are losing. Princess Ivy is determined to end this centuries-long conflict once and for all, so her new battle partner must succeed where the others failed. Prince Zach’s unparalleled skill with a sword, enhanced by Ivy’s magic Kiss, should make them an unstoppable pair—but try convincing Zach of that.

Prince Zach has spent his life preparing for battle, but he would rather be branded a heretic than use his lips as nothing more than a way to transfer magic. A kiss is a symbol of love, and love is the most powerful weapon they have—but try convincing Ivy of that.

With the fate of their world on the line, the battlefield has become a testing ground, and only one of them can be right. Falling for each other wasn’t part of the plan—but try convincing their hearts of that.



 

Kiss of the Royal is a sweet and fun fairy tale-ish story with princesses and princes, dragons and danger, and love and loss. The plot was intriguing with the fresh idea of kisses being used to enhance magic and strength to overcome one's enemies. Kisses as weapons? I'm here for it! 

The beginning was slow, and while it's definitely important to be introduced to the background of the characters and the world building, I had difficulty jumping into it. Once the action began, however, I was hooked. 

I admired Princess Ivy's strength and her unwillingness to let the princes be the only ones to put their lives on the line for the kingdom's safety. At times she's stubborn and exasperatingly so, but that made it fun when her personality clashed with Prince Zach's.   

Once Prince Zach shows up, events take an interesting turn, and I couldn't read quickly enough. I also couldn't decide if I liked him or not at first, but he soon became my favorite. His behavior and reputation were full of contradictions - what you see wasn't what you would get, and I loved that about him. 

Zach lives by his convictions just as Ivy lives by hers. Though he's trained to be a soldier and a Royal, he still believes in love though he knows it's heresy to believe in anything other than logic. He refuses Ivy's kiss because he doesn't want to use a kiss as a weapon in battle. I loved the ways in which he challenged Ivy's belief that love doesn't exist. She's steadfast in believing that people mistake love for lust as she's been raised to think. 

You can see when events begin to slowly change Ivy's mind, and she starts to doubt what she's always been taught. Kiss of the Royal tackles the theme of love, asking the question, is living worth it in a world without romantic love? When Zach stumbles his way into her life, his presence changes everything for her, and it was enchanting to see if they'd end up loving each other.    

I'm taking off a star for the slow beginning, but otherwise I recommend this book if you're looking for a fresh, fun take on YA Fantasy with a solid overall theme and delightful characters. Frankly, I couldn't imagine Kiss of the Royal without Zach; he's lively and quirky and easily the most interesting character I've come across in a long time. He's the best part of this story and a character you aren't going to want to miss. 
        

About the Author




Lindsey Duga is a middle grade and young adult writer with a passion for fantasy, science fiction, and basically any genre that takes you away from the real world. She wrote her first novel in college while she was getting her bachelor’s in Mass Communication from Louisiana State University.

Other than writing and cuddling with her morkie puppy, Delphi, Lindsey loves catching up on the latest superhero TV show and practicing yoga.


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Living Out Loud by Staci Hart ~ #BookReview

~Jennifer~ | 3:40 PM | Please comment!

June 18, 2018 




Title: Living Out Loud
Series: Austen #3
Author: Staci Hart
Publication Date: February 1, 2018 
Source: ARC for an honest review 

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N


My Rating:  






Synopsis


Bestselling author Staci Hart brings you another installment of the Austen Series, inspired by the works of Jane Austen, with a heartfelt contemporary retelling of Sense and Sensibility.

When Annie Daschle arrives in New York City, the only thing she can control is her list. 

Not her father’s death or the loss of her home. Not the hole in her heart or the defective valve that’s dictated so much of her life. But she can put pen to paper to make a list of all the ways she can live out loud, just like her dad would have wanted.

See the city from the top of the Empire State Building: Check.
Eat hot dogs on the steps of The Met: Check.
Get a job at Wasted Words: Check.

What wasn’t on her list: Greg Brandon. And just when she thinks she’s figured out where to put him, everything changes. In the span of a few staggering heartbeats, she finds herself her caught in the middle of something she can’t find her way out of, with no clear answers and no rules.

List or no list, she realizes she can’t control anything at all, not even her heart. 

Not the decisions it makes, and not the moment it stops.






Living Out Loud is an emotionally stirring and well written novel. I loved Annie so much! I liked her sisters and the close relationship they have with their mom. They're working through their loss together as a family, and I appreciated that. Also, Annie gets a job at a bookstore, so score! That automatically guarantees I'll read the story.

Greg was amazing!! I couldn't have been happier with his character. He isn't 100% perfect, which makes him authentic, and he just made the book for me. Loved him! 

I wasn't happy 60% into the story with the introduction of Will, which ends up creating a lukewarm love triangle between Greg, Annie and Will. I didn't think his character was needed, and he was an unwelcome addition, hence one of the reasons I took a star away in my rating. The story began to lag. 

Another reason I rated this book four stars rather than five is due to Annie's naivety. I get that New York City would be an overwhelming place for someone her age to navigate and feel at home there, but she seemed to have NO qualms when it came to trusting complete strangers. You still have to have your wits about you to keep yourself safe. While I appreciated her positive outlook, I also thought she needed a small dose of reality. 

I wanted more scenes where Greg and Annie are together. Whenever they were talking or near each other, I wanted more. Greg is truly a great love interest to root for.   

Living Out Loud inspired me to begin to truly live rather than to simply drag myself along to exist. The novel tackles grief, family, love and figuring out how to go on after the death of a loved one. I recommend it!    


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Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke ~ #BookReview @NetGalley

~Jennifer~ | 8:00 AM | | 2 Comments

June 15, 2018



Title: Nice Try, Jane Sinner
Author: Lianne Oelke  
Publisher: Clarion Books 
Publication Date: January 9, 2018 
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Purchase: Amazon | B&N  


My Rating: 






Synopsis


Recently expelled from high school, Jane Sinner grudgingly enrolls in community college, a situation made slightly more bearable when she joins a student-run reality show. House of Orange is her chance to start over—and maybe even win a car (used, but whatever)—and no one there knows what she did in high school. What more could she want?

Okay, maybe a family that gets why she’d rather turn to Freud than to Jesus. But she’ll settle for using HOO’s growing fanbase, and whatever Intro to Psych can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.




Before I get into my review, I want to share a cool thing that happened. For some reason my NetGalley ARC of Nice Try, Jane Sinner wouldn't download. I checked to see if the book was available to borrow through my Overdrive app, but it wasn't! There was an option to recommend they buy it, however, so I clicked the box. A few days later I received an email that the Ohio Digital Library purchased the book and would notify me when I could borrow it. 

Anyway, I wanted to share this experience with you because this is the first time I've received concrete evidence that a library bought a book I recommended, and I'm really happy about it!     

Now on to the review. I loved this book! Nice Try, Jane Sinner takes place in Canada, and it's always a nice change of pace when books are set outside the U.S. 

 After her expulsion from high school, Jane enrolls in community college and finds out a student-run reality show, House of Orange, is going to be filmed there. The show is still looking for participants, so she signs up while fudging a few facts about herself. She doesn't think ahead and by doing this, sets herself up for the possibility that the people around her will find out she lied about her identity. 

I did my best to read Nice Try, Jane Sinner from the POV of a teenager, but here and there my mind would drift to see Jane as I see my own teenage daughter. For instance, Jane has ultra conservative religious parents, and at first it annoyed me that she referred to them as simply "the parents," but I got over it when I remembered that's how I referred to my own parents. 

It was for Jane and her parents to have fundamental misunderstandings of each other. Her parents didn't "get" her intentions and behaviors when, as the reader, I could see where she was coming from thought I didn't always agree with her decisions. They were disappointed she wasn't doing exactly what they expected of her. I was dying to step in and mediate between her and her parents! On the other hand, she has an amazing and close relationship with her younger sister that made me happy to see.    

This is one of the best books I've read tackling teenage depression. As a former teen who suffered from depression, I could relate to Jane and was impressed by how accurately Oelke treated the subject matter. I can't recommend Nice Try, Jane Sinner enough whether you're a teen or an adult.   



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