Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary

ContempConvos: Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally

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Goodreads Summary:

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

Review:

Sigh

Absolutely adorable. I feel like Kenneally’s books are only getting better and better as time passes by. They are like fine wine. You feel good on the inside after you’ve read one.

Jesse’s Girl is about Maya and Jesse. Maya goes to Hundreds Oaks just like the rest of the characters in the Hundred Oaks series. Maya is Sam Henry’s little sister, Jordan’s boyfriend. We saw their story in Catching Jordan, the first book in the Hundred’s Oak series. I love that I get to see how my beloved characters are doing as time passes by. It makes my heart happy.

Anyways back to the main characters. Maya is the spunky girl who is on love with music of the eighties. She loves her Madonna and Prince. She dreams of making it in the music business so when shadow day comes up as Hundred Oaks High, she is paired with none other than Jesse Scott, the famous country artist that has taken over America’s teenage hearts, and also happens to be the principal’s nephew. You can only imagine how cocky Jesse is being used to getting all the attention, fame, and glory. But we all know deep inside he is a kinda southern gentleman.

Their story unfolds differently than other YA romance novels. No insta-love. Their relationship moves steadily forward throughout the course of the entire novel. We get to see the entire story from beginning to end.

Jesse’s Girl is like an ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day, a sweet melody that you unconsciously hum when you’re having a good day. I have all the praises for this book and I cannot recommend it enough.

Review: 5 out of 5

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Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

ContempConvos: Under The Spotlight (The Jamieson Brothers #3) by Angie Stanton

Goodreads Summary:

After an embarrassing stint on a reality-TV music competition years ago, Riley vowed never to sing again. Now she’s behind the scenes, working at the prestigious Sound Sync recording studio, and life is looking up. But then Garrett Jamieson, the oldest brother in the famous Jamieson brothers band, crashes into her world.

Garrett has hit rock bottom, and he is desperate to reinvent himself. After calling in a few favors, he ends up working at Sound Sync to learn the ropes of record producing from the industry’s best. And he can’t believe his luck when he discovers that Riley has been keeping a secret—she is an amazing singer. By producing her album, he’s sure to top the record charts again. But Garrett is forced to use every trick in his arsenal to persuade the sassy girl to record.

Riley refuses to sing—or even entertain the thought of it—and sparks fly as Garrett finally meets his match. But in the heat of the moment, one stolen kiss changes everything. Will Riley be the first person to finally rein Garrett in, or will Garrett succeed in getting Riley back under the spotlight?

Review:

I picked this up on a wing. I didn’t even know that it was the third book in a companion series until I was halfway through. I loved that I could pick up any book in the series and I would not be lost whatsoever. (Great writing Ms. Stanton!!)

Alright, let’s get down to business.

I really really liked Riley. She is a great character. I was worried she would act a little too mature because of her life experiences, but nope. She was just a little bit more mature than a normal 18 year old and it was believable. Riley was the perfect person to pair with Garrett. Where he was fire, she was ice. They complimented each other and when Garrett needed to be put in his place, Riley was there to do the job and gladly.

And Garrett. Gosh that hunk of a man. Anybody know a Garrett they would like to introduce me to?  No. Okay. Fine. Anyways, I know that he is not perfect, but what makes a cocky, controlling, know-it-all hunk of a man attractive is that he sees he is wrong and chooses to CHANGE. A+ for that Ms. Stanton.

I wasn’t really expecting much to come from this book. I had set my expectations low as to not be disappointed, and let me tell you I was not. Now I want to pick up the first two books in the companion series to get more of Garrett. Can’t get enough of that man.

PSA: For those of you that stay away from insta-love, you can rest in peace. No insta-love in this book. Read Away.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

ARC Review: Playing Defense (Corrigan Falls Raiders #2) by Cate Cameron

Playing Defense (Corrigan Falls Raiders, #2)

GoodReads Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Claudia Waring has never kissed a boy. Never been popular. Never been to a hockey game. All that’s about to change. Assigned to tutor Chris Winslow, a prank-loving, gorgeous hockey player, Claudia’s perfectly planned life immediately veers off course. And she kind of likes it. But as fun as Chris is, she knows she’ll never fit in his world.

After his latest prank lands him in hot water, Chris has to get serious about school or lose hockey. Not an easy thing for someone as carefree as the defenseman. The biggest problem, though, is how much he wants to help his cute, buttoned-up tutor loosen up a little. But while confidence has never been a problem for him, around Claudia, Chris is all nerves. Why would a girl as smart as her ever fall for a jock like him?

My Review:

Cate Cameron’s Playing Defense is an adorable novel about life, love, and deciding to be your true self- despite other people’s opinions.

Claudia is a bookish, nose to the grind, math girl. She has worked very hard over the course of her high school career to get into the University of Waterloo. However, while she has the grades to be accepted, she doesn’t have the extra curriculars. Her guidance counselor assigns her to be a tutor for Chris Winslow, a star hockey player. As a result of tutoring, Claudia gains new friends, and new experiences through the Sisterhood, a club set up to challenge each other to be better people and breakdown their own barriers.

Claudia is quirky and weird. She faces a lot of trials in Playing Defense. She learns to over come her own shyness. She has to decide if she wants to be the quiet, bookish girl she’s always been, or, become the outgoing girl she wants to be. Part of this challenge, and the coming of age theme, is facing her parents. While she is changing from a caterpillar to the beautiful butterfly, Claudia’s parents believe it is the influence of Chris and her new friends, not of her own decisions. Her parents have a difficult time handling her interest in Chris as a possible boyfriend and believe he is no good for her. Eventually, they do get to her, but she is able to face them and be the “Dia” she wants to be.

And while yes Chris is quite lazy, and the reason he needs a tutor, Claudia and Chris help each other grow and realize they can accomplish, and be, so much more if they just try. Trying is the key to this story. Trying new experiences. Putting effort into your work, whether it’s school or sports. Being your true self.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to review with ARC. Receiving this ARC for free in no way influenced my review.

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Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary

ContempConvos: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Firsts

GoodReads Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

My Review:

Flynn’s Firsts is gritty, blunt, and truthful. She takes the topics of sex and high school from conventional to out of the box direction.

Mercedes uses sex as a control factor for her, otherwise, out of control life. Her mother is completely negligent, telling Mercedes, from an early age, she has to be skinny and pretty, and treating her like a best friend rather than a daughter. Her father basically abandoned her at the age of eight. Mercedes believes she is helping these guys, by taking their virginity, and giving them direction for their first time with their girlfriends. It isn’t until everything blows up that she has to re-evaluate her life, who her friends are, and what she really wants. This is a true coming-of-age story, one where Mercedes believes she is an adult, making adult decisions, but in reality she is lost, alone, and confused… and still a child in some ways.

When I first read the synopsis for Firsts I was intrigued. The topic of sex, high school students, and virginity is something Americans have a difficult time talking about. Especially when it comes to the pressures put on both guys and girls. Most high school sex-ed programs focus on abstinence only in a society where, more often than not, students are having sex earlier and earlier. I think this book portrays high school sex in the most accurate way possible.

Reading this book really took me back to high school, the pressure of sex from my boyfriend, my first time (and those subsequent times after), and what it all really meant. Everyone has a first time story and it really hit home. Guys are expected, by society, to know how to have sex, and how to make their girlfriend feel good. But in reality, it’s a learning curve, one that lasts for a very long time. And, as a society, we put too much stock into virginity and pureness, so girls believe that they have this precious thing  that has to be protected; that they can only give away at the right moment, right time.  It’s absurd.

“They have the hard part, physically and emotionally. Virginity is supposed to be something a girl gives up only when she is ready and feels comfortable, something a girl discusses at length with her friends and flip-flops over a million times in her mind before actually doing it. A guy is expected to be born ready.”

Above is the perfect description of society’s expectations. This topic is near and dear to my heart and Firsts really captures the truth of sex for teens today.

Rating: 5 out 5

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Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary

ContempConvos: I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Red, vintage, neon motel sign on blue sky; Shutterstock ID 95002717

Goodreads Summary:

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

Review:

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That’s exactly how I feel right now after just finishing I’ll Meet You There. I am floating in the stars happy. Gahhhhhhh I can’t seem to form coherent thoughts, but I shall try!

Skylar and Josh. They are both the perfect match for each other if there is such a thing. When Josh needed someone to put him in his place, Skylar was able to do it, when Skylar needed someone to be her friend, Josh was there. The other was always what the other needed. It is amazing to see such a perfect balance. Of course there were some issues Josh had to work through and Skylar as well, but at the end of the day, I really loved their relationship from friendship to something more.

What I really appreciated was the fact that a YA novel was able to marry a coming of age story with the aftermath of war for the soldiers that are lucky enough to come home. The difficulty to be a civilian again after seeing horrendous things. Reading stories like this make you appreciate even more the freedom that we experience in our day-to-day lives and the sacrifice the brave men and women who serve our country have done so we can be safe and sane. Please read the Author’s note at the end. You won’t regret it.

I will leave you with this quote which summarizes Skylar and Josh’s relationship.

“I had to tell him we were like a collage. Pieces that could be put back together in a new way, a better way. If I didn’t say it now, I never would.”

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary

ComtempConvos: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything

GoodReads Summary:

Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

Liz’s Review:

This was my first book by Sarah Dessen and I really enjoyed it. It is a classic of what I always assumed high school novels should be- uncomfortable interactions, personal growth, loss of innocence (not sexually), betrayal, tragic vanity, illusion vs. reality. These play out in the different relationships Sydney has- with her parents, brother, friends, love interest.

Dessen does an exceptional job at asking, and answering, questions that as teens we all have at some point. What meaning does my life have? Am I significant? Can I handle the events taking place? Do I have my best interest at heart? Are these people truly my friends? What do I want for my future? And even the simple questions- do I like this boy? Am I comfortable?

We are taken through the story by Sydney, who asks these questions, and has to evaluate what would be best for her, given the situation with her brother, and the lack of anything significant from her parents- emotionally and physically. Through out the book, she grows as a person- from a girl who just went along with her parents and didn’t ask anything of, because her parents have made her brother the center of their universe to a person who finally does what is best for herself, standing up to her parents, taking control back from her mother. Sydney is a complex character. Her friends are perfectly written as well, but are not without their own flaws and tragic backstory.

Side note about the mom- I really hated her. Once Peyton went to jail, it was all she thought about. Basically forgetting she had another child who needed her. And because she refused to acknowledge that what her son had done was wrong, Sydney was forced to take on that guilt. And when she finally did notice her daughter, she was a helicopter parent, afraid Sydney would make the same mistakes as Peyton.

This is a wonderful coming of age story.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Reviews, ya contemporary, YA Mystery

ARC Review: Sing Sweet Nightingale by Erica Cameron

Sing Sweet Nightingale (The Dream War Saga, #1)

GoodReads Summary:

Mariella Teagen hasn’t spoken a word in four years.

She pledged her voice to Orane, the man she loves—someone she only sees in her dreams. Each night, she escapes to Paradise, the world Orane created for her, and she sings for him. Mariella never believed she could stay in Paradise longer than a night, but two weeks before her eighteenth birthday, Orane hints that she may be able to stay forever.

Hudson Vincent made a pledge to never fight again.

Calease, the creature who created his dream world, swore that giving up violence would protect Hudson. But when his vow caused the death of his little brother, Hudson turned his grief on Calease and destroyed the dream world. The battle left him with new abilities and disturbing visions of a silent girl in grave danger—Mariella.

Now, Hudson is fighting to save Mariella’s life while she fights to give it away. And he must find a way to show her Orane’s true intentions before she is lost to Paradise forever.

My Review:

I had such a hard time with this book. I feel like that has been the trend recently with the ARCs I’ve read. I though the idea behind the story was interesting, but it turns out, it wasn’t written well.

The book opens with Hudson taking a walk with his little brother. It then jumps to a fight scene, and his little brother dies. This sets the whole book in motion. He is part of this dream world where a beautiful women has made him promise to never fight again… but he breaks that promise. Then he finds out she is a demon controlling him. He breaks from her and gets some weird “powers”. (Is this trying to be a twist on X-Men, on how they received their powers?) Then he has a dream about a girl, Mariella, who he has to save.

It is super confusing. I didn’t understand how Hudson broke from Calease, or where these powers came from. And why did his dream choose Mariella? Why is she so significant?

Mariella is a stubborn character who was frustrating the whole time. She is naive, but not in an innocent kind of way. She doesn’t speak, so you hear her thoughts… and they are so freaking repetitive I couldn’t stand it.

I think the idea- demons presenting themselves as angels in dreams to trap your soul and suck the life out of you- could be a good book… if it was written well, had better climaxes linking the characters to each other, and less repetitive moments. I think the author should have outlined more and fleshed out the characters more. In the end, I didn’t care if anyone lived or died. I just wanted to book to end.

Rating: 2 out 5

I would like to thank NetGalley and Spencer Hill Press for the opportunity to read this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free in no way influences my review.

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Reviews, ya contemporary, YA Mystery

ContempConvos: This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

This Is Where It Ends

GoodReads Summary:

10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03
The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05
Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

My Review:

This Is Where It Ends is a thought provoking novel. We see a school shooting take place through the point of view of four different student. Each student has some type of relationship with the shooter. Over the course of the book you witness these relationships, how they intertwine, and how the characters think that if they had some said something or reacted differently they could’ve prevented the shooting and the deaths.

Nijkamp shines light on something that is happening all too often recently. Her words are powerful and self-reflective. It was chilling moving through the book minute by minute, knowing where these characters were while the shooting was happening. And it was gut-wrenching watching people die because of one person and the choices they made. While characters believe they are each at fault for something, the only guilt should be in the shooter.

I work for a university and this is something that is constantly in the back of my mind. If a shooting were to happen on-campus, where would I go? How would I react? Would I be brave enough to try and help the students in the way of the shooter? Nijkamp does a terrific job answering these questions through the different characters and gives an honest, and very realistic, account of something we hope we never have to face.

“We are not better because we survived. We are not brighter or more deserving. We not stronger. But we are here. We are here, and this day will never leave us. Nor should it. We will remember the wounded. We will remember the lost.”

Rating: 4 out of 5

Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary

ComtempConvos: We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean

We'll Never Be Apart

GoodReads Summary:

Murder.

Fire.

Revenge.

That’s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister Cellie set. But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths.

Is the one person she trusts only telling her half of the story? Nothing is as it seems in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the debut author Emiko Jean.

My Review:

We’ll Never Be Apart is quite an interesting book and the twist and turns I definitely didn’t see coming. Emiko Jean’s writing is on point and satisfying.

Jean addresses the serious issue of mental illness and how a person copes with traumatic experiences. She does it through the lens of twin sisters and the death of a loved one.  Alice has taken her experiences and tried to see the good in them. Celia (Cellie) is more the rebel and only causes destruction. When they end up at Savage Isle, Alice meets Chase, a boy who has his own troubling background. Through Alice’s writings in her journal and the help of Chase, we come to understand the traumatic experiences that put Alice in the mental institution.

I found this book quite intriguing. Mental illness is something that we look down upon. If people aren’t able to get their stuff together, then, as a society, we believe they aren’t capable of anything. And looking at mental illness through the lens of a thriller novel is even more exquisite. You watch the story unravel to this big ending that I definitely did not see coming. This book made me realize what your brain is capable of doing when coping with traumatic experiences.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Reviews, ya contemporary

ARC Review: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

Goodreads Summary:

Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks—even though her best friend Mel says she’s the pretty one. She starts dating guys online, but she’s afraid to send pictures, even when her skinny friend China does her makeup: she knows no one would want her if they could really see her. So she starts to lose. With punishing drive, she counts almonds consumed, miles logged, pounds dropped. She fights her way into coveted dresses. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?

In her brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, Mona Awad simultaneously skewers the body image-obsessed culture that tells women they have no value outside their physical appearance, and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovably difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform. As caustically funny as it is heartbreaking, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl introduces a vital new voice in fiction.

Review:

I really enjoyed reading 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl because I empathized with Lizzie. Struggling with weight in a society that won’t accept you if you aren’t skinny is difficult. It affects you mentally and physically. The book is an eye opener- you need to be comfortable in whatever body type you have. And if you are heavier and lose weight, your thought mentality won’t change just because you lost that weight; you’ll always be worried about getting fat again… like Lizzie does. Reading through this I definitely understood the thoughts Lizzie has- trying on clothes is the worst experience, nothing fits right, she has a difficult time looking at and talking about her body, and she has a lot of insecurities with guys because of her weight.

The ending wasn’t my favorite, but it makes sense. As a women, I believe we need to accept our bodies and while Lizzie may not ever accept her body, she understands that this is only body she has, therefore she needs to take care of it.

Mona Awad takes a deep look at the character’s flaws and insecurities, and should be a must read for all women whether you are skinny, fat, short, tall, etc. It is reflective of our current society and something we need to change.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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This book will be released on February 26, 2016. And is available at Amazon and B&N.

Disclaimer: Thank you First to Read and Penguin Random House for providing the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this book for free does not influence my opinion.