Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock

Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Rating: 1 star
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

A new spin on the classic smart-girl-and-bad-boy setup, this witty contemporary romance shows how easily a friendship – even one built on an elaborate lie – can become so much more.

Jenny meets Chance for the very first time when she is assigned as his partner in their Junior Oral Communications class. But after they rescue a doomed assignment with one clever lie, the whole school is suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heartbreaker in school have been best friends forever. It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow―especially when you really, really want it to be the truth.

With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that TV shows and movies have always promised. Through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are “just friends.” But that might be the biggest lie of all.

Debut author Tiffany Pitcock delivers a spot-on depiction of first love and the high school rumor mill in Just Friends, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads.

What I Liked:

This is one of those times in which I feel so bad for giving the book a poor rating. I am not a YA contemporary fan but I thought for sure that I would enjoy this book. I love the bad boy/good girl trope, and I love the friends-to-lovers trope. You all know me and romance - I adore romance - and with those two romance tropes in this book, I thought this would be a great book for me. This was not the case.

The book started off just fine though. Jenny and Chance were never friends or acquaintances, but they are classmates. On the first day of the new school year, Jenny and Chance are paired in an icebreaker assignment, to interview each other about one thing they did over the summer and share the interviews to the class. Chance comes up with the brilliant idea to pretend that he and Jenny have been childhood friends since they were little. It works! Suddenly everyone thinks they have been best friends (even though they never acted like they even knew each other before that day). It almost makes sense - the most charming, popular, wanted boy in cool, friends with the quiet, innocent, nerdy, unpopular girl. But both Jenny and Chance start to develop feelings for each other - and they hide those feelings, because they each think the other doesn't feel the same way. What follows is a story of heartbreak and comfort, with humor and a little bit of swoon.

I liked Chance, though I wasn't really understanding how he is classified as a "bad boy" (I'll explore that thought below). He is going through a lot at home, and my heart hurt for him. The adults in his life are terrible people. It's no wonder he held on to his and Jenny's fake (turned real) best friends status. He needed comfort in his lonely world, despite being such a popular and well-liked guy. He has a reputation for being popular with the ladies, but he is honest and upfront about things. Except telling Jenny how he feels about her.

Jenny... I liked her at first, but grew to dislike her a little. Which then made me feel conflicted because she didn't technically do anything "wrong". More on that below. I liked Jenny when she was sweet and naive - not when she was trying to fool herself of this or that.

The ending was a happily-ever-after for Chance and Jenny, which I loved.

What I Did Not Like:

Honestly I think most people who enjoy YA contemporary will love this book (maybe). I didn't, and that's fine, but I don't think my dislike of the book will be a general thing. 

My biggest issue was the romance, and Jenny (well, that's two issues). I hated the romance. Jenny and Chance are literally "just friends" or the entire book (until the very last few pages). Now, this wouldn't be so bad except for two things: (1) they fall for each other early on (and want to be with the other), and (2) Jenny starts dating someone else.

You're probably like, whaaaaaat????

Let me explain (and be aware, you might consider these spoilers). Jenny realizes that she has a crush on her new best friend fairly early on. They actually kiss - Jenny has never kissed anyone, and Chance dared her to kiss him. After the kiss, the next day, Jenny starts dating someone else. But even just before the kiss, Jenny knows she likes Chance a lot. After the kiss, she really wants to be with him. For Chance, after the kiss, he realizes that he wants to ask Jenny out and be together. And yet, the next day, Jenny blows a thing out of proportion, and agrees to go on a date with this other guy. A guy that she doesn't really like.

This is when I started to hate Jenny. She has never kissed a boy (until that dare with Chance), or went on a date, or had sex, etc. So when Drake asks her on a date, she says yes. And she goes on more dates with him. And eventually has sex with him (it seems like multiple times - they are boyfriend/girlfriend and very serious, for much of the second half of the book). Nothing is particularly wrong with this EXCEPT that Jenny is deluding herself. She is so stuck on trying to have the perfect relationship, be the perfect girlfriend, and check all of these boxes to say that she has done them. She thinks she cares about Drake but she doesn't. She's with him but thinking of Chance. She is Drake's girlfriend but she wants Chance, leans on Chance, thinks about Chance.

Do you see why I hated this book, the romance, and Jenny? I hate people who fool themselves. I hate people who want this one thing so badly, they don't care who they hurt in the process (in this case, both Chance and Drake). It's not like Jenny is trying to hurt anyone on purpose - she is too naive to realize that (1) Chance is in love with her, and (2) she is fooling herself into thinking that she must be in a relationship with Drake.

It's so fake. And I couldn't stand it.

I hated seeing Chance pine from a distance. And yet he was always there for Jenny, every step of the way. Jenny is an awful girlfriend and an even worse friend. Chance has so many negativity going on at home, and Jenny often puts his problems last. Again, she is so focused on checking off this box and that box. She is a terrible friend to Chance. And a terrible girlfriend, for constantly thinking about another boy, and for (unknowingly) stringing Drake along.

Also? I don't condone Jenny hitting Chance. Violence (whether girl-on-guy, guy-on-girl, guy-on-guy, girl-on-girl) really isn't something to promote. Chance gets into a legit fight with Drake and seriously? That was so cliche and disgusting. Can we not. I went through four years of high school and a grand total of fourteen years of public school, and I never saw any two people fighting over a girl (or guy). Can. We. Not.

So. Love triangle, emotional cheating (on Jenny's part), messy drama (when Drake and Jenny break up). Don't misunderstand - Jenny never cheats on Drake with Chance. Chance never cheats on anybody because he never dates Jenny or anyone in this book (he goes out with a lot of girls, but he never dates, until the very end with Jenny). Jenny likes to judge Chance for all of his "relationships" with all of the girls, but she has no right. If she had wanted to be with him so badly, she should have spoken up. She should have asked him out. She should have told him how she felt. Instead, she misunderstood one thing, ran away like a coward, and wasted months of time with a boy she didn't like, and felt pressured to have sex with. That part drove me crazy! She was so stingy about her virginity in the beginning of the book, and then when she and Drake have a big argument, she throws her virginity out of the window in order to convince him that she wants him. Spoiler alert: she wants the idea of him (a boyfriend). What a waste.

Look, y'all. I don't really care if the heroine has sex with 5453454 guys. (Well, I would care if she is having sex with them WHILE dating the hero.) Sex positivity is a good thing, in YA and in general. I'm not a fan of heroines who throw away their virginity or have sex for a stupid reason or use sex to manipulate someone. I'm not a fan of the fact that Jenny deliberately started (seriously) dating someone when she was totally in love with Chance and thought about being with him, while she was with the other guy. That's wrong.

I mentioned how I wasn't really sure how Chance fit the "bad boy" trope -- I mean, I guess the "bad" aspect of him is that he sleeps around a lot? Is that really a "bad" thing? I'm not saying we should give him a medal or something, but when I think of a "bad boy" in YA, I think of smoking, drinking, tattoos, motorcycles, gangs, maybe even drugs and petty theft. (Don't get me wrong; tattoos aren't really a bad thing. But they are definitely illegal for anyone under eighteen.)

The more I think about this book, the less I like it.

Would I Recommend It:

I don't recommend this book. I started off with a 2-star rating, and then bumped it down to 1 star. This isn't a contemporary novel for me and even though I am not a huge fan of YA contemporary, I could list you at least a dozen better YA contemporary novels with solid, healthy, good romances worth reading. This book was not one in which I could root for the heroine. The hero, yes, I couldn't blame him for very much. (I know there may be people coming after me to say, "boys are never blamed for anything!". Trust me. This one's on Jenny.)


1 star. Too many issues with the romance for me. And I started to dislike Jenny and her ridiculous decisions. Yes, I know, Jenny is a teenager and teenagers make stupid decision. Y'all, I'm 22, and even if I had read this book three, or four, or five years ago, my opinion wouldn't have changed. I so wanted to love this book, and I feel bad for rating it as low as I am, but it is what it is.

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Review: The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones

The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

When Dee Moreno makes a deal with a demon—her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life—she finds the trade may have been more than she bargained for. And becoming “heartless” is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger, far more monstrous than anything she could have ever imagined.

With reality turned on its head, Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something grows between them amid an otherworldy ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give someone her heart when it’s no longer hers to give?

What I Liked:

Truth be told, I didn't know much about The Hearts We Sold before picking up the book to read it. I've read Illusive and Deceptive by this author and enjoyed both books, so when I saw that she had a new book publishing in 2017, I didn't need to read the synopsis to decide if I wanted to read the book. Fast-forward over a year later and I've now discovered what this book is about - after having read it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a fantasy/sci-fi type of novel, dealing with angels and demons (well, demons). I wasn't surprised that I loved the book!

Dee Moreno has known about demons existing among humans for most of her life. People trade an a body part (arm, leg, hand, mouth, etc.) for something they desperately want. In Dee's case, she wants money, to pay for boarding school, since budget cuts have taken away her merit-based scholarship. She wants to stay in the boarding school because her home life is terrible, and she is desperate to stay away from home and at the boarding school - desperate enough to make a deal with a demon. Her heart and two years of service to the demon, in exchange for money. She gets a lot of money, but as it would turn out, the demon has her and several other "heartless" teens doing some seriously dangerous work. They are tasked with closing voids, like holes in the framework of the universe, from one world to another. One thing is for certain, when it comes to the demon and his bargains: you get what you ask for. 

I picked up this book, with absolutely no expectations and no knowledge of the story, and I then proceeded to read the entire thing in one sitting, stopping only to rearrange myself in my bed because I knew I wasn't going anywhere until I finished reading the book. It was that engrossing! It's one of those books that you simply cannot stop reading. There are many books from which you have to take a break, or you can leave it for days and come back. This was not one of those books. This demanded my attention and I wasn't saying no.

The author sets the scene incrementally, bit by bit, slowly revealing the setting, the characters, the conflict. I liked how she did this; at first you're confused because you don't know anything about anything and yet you are thrown into the story with no backstory or paragraphs of world-building. But the more you read, the more intrigued you are, and the more you want to know. 

This book had a magical realism feel to it, even though I think it is being marketed as something else (fantasy/paranormal, maybe). The existence of demons is so normal and everyone knows about them. Making deals with demons is nothing new, and Dee isn't The Chosen One who is able to see them or something. The unreal is part of the real - demons, disappearance of limbs, and the other ends of the bargains made. I love magical realism so I was all about this type of story. The world-building is well-written and so unique; like I said before, I love how Lloyd-Jones incrementally reveals and sets things up. 

Dee is such an easy character to like and root for. She seems like a lonely, detached teen, but as the story goes on, we see that she is so strong and brave. She is full of fear, yet she faces anything. She makes the deal with the demon knowing the dangers of doing so. She knew nothing about having to work with other heartless teens to close voids, yet she faced the danger every time. Dee is a smart, determined, strong girl who needed to give herself more credit. 

It broke my heart, to see her interact with her awful parents. They were never physically abusive, but both were pretty neglectful and not nice to her. Her father especially - and her mother was too weak-willed to really challenge him. Dee's terrible home life made her seem like an even stronger person - she worked hard to get into that elite boarding school, so she could have a better life away from her toxic parents.

The supernatural aspect of this story is really cool. I personally have never read anything quite like this story. The Faustian demon bargaining thing was neat - exchanging body parts for a wish/request. In Dee's case (and James's and Cora's and Cal's and Riley's), it was the heart. All of them are still functioning humans, but their bodies aren't as alive anymore. Two years without their heart, two years serving the demon, and then they get their heart back. But why are they closing voids? What are the creatures in the voids? What is the demon not telling them about the voids?

The secondary characters of the story are very likable and well-rounded. James, Cora, and Cal make up the original trio of the demon's troop. James is a charming, talented artist who dresses like a hobo but has incredible artistic talent. Cora is the no-nonsense "mom" of the group, whose bargain is almost up. Cal is the genius of the group. I adored James the most - he is sweet and compassionate and always trying to lighten the mood and make everyone laugh. Riley joins the team after the halfway point - she is tough and very kickbutt. I liked Gremma, Dee's roommate at the boarding school. She is a little strange but a whole lot of awesome - very blunt and tough and someone you'd want on your side of a fight.

There is a romance and it is so sweet! James and Dee fall for each other fairly naturally, and it's cute to watch. They end up spending a lot of time together outside of the heartless group, and James sees parts of Dee's life that she'd never shown anyone. The gradual progression of trust and then romance is so important, and very sweet. They are lots of tender and swoony moments between these two!

Worth noting is wealth of diversity in this story. Dee is half Latina; Gremma is gay; Riley is trans; Cora is African-American. There was a lot of great representation in this book, and it didn't feel like the author was forcing diversity in my face.

The big conflict is revealed towards the climax, and it does end up being a save-the-world type of climax. I won't say too much about it, but I will say that the ending was a little bittersweet. It was a very uplifting and wrapped-up ending, but there was an aspect of the ending that made me unbearably sad. And yet, I also felt somewhat content about it. I know that probably doesn't make sense, but the ending was good, in a bittersweet way.

The Hearts We Sold was thrilling, intriguing, and impossible to put down. I've not read anything like it and I'm glad, because this book was unique and fantastic. A wonderful standalone novel by an excellent and talented author!

What I Did Not Like:

The only reason this book isn't getting five stars is because of that one part of the ending that made me sad. It's a good sad because the ending makes sense and part of me expected something similar to happen. But it's still a bit sad. The ending overall is good though.

Would I Recommend It:

I mentioned above that this story had a magical realism feel to it. If you like magical realism, or fantasy/paranormal stories (I guess this could also be considered fantasy/sci-fi), this is one to try. Also, it's a standalone so there is low commitment (i.e. no waiting for additional sequels)! Trust me when I say that love it or hate it, you won't want to stop reading this book. (Hopefully you love it though.)


4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars only because (insert spoilers about the ending here). I loved this story, the characters, the swoony romance between James and Dee, and I'll be rereading this one when I need a good book to pull me out of a slump. Or simply because I want to reread a good book. Clear some shelf space, friends!

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Stacking the Shelves (#239)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!

So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, July 16th to Saturday, July 22nd?

(all links to Goodreads are provided!)

In the mail:

A bunch of swag and goods from trades

I've been doing some trades recently to get rid of things! Some very awesome people have traded with me and I've gotten some good stuff. In the picture -- an ARC of More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer; Flame in the Mist poster, bookmark, buttons; The Forgetting postcard; Grisha "Proper Thief" button; The Dark Days Club bookmarks and buttons; The Book of Grisha notebook. 

Thank you, Nikole, Ari, and Polly!

Thank you, Zoey! She is so sweet and offered me her ARC of Ally. I didn't absolutely love Nemesis but I am very interested in seeing how the series will end. 

Thank you, Macmillan/First Second! Unsolicited but very welcome. =)

Isn't this package amazing? How cool is this swag! Thank you, Fierce Reads!

Bookplate, nail art, pink bow note

This was the preorder swag for Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han! I think I actually got this two weeks ago and forgot to post it. I especially love the bookplate!

From NetGalley:

YAY! I've been waiting for the next book in this series! I'm very excited to read it - especially since it is Arden's story! (I adored her in Compromising Her Position).

I finally requested this one, since I'm trying to make progress in my September TBR. I can't wait to see how this series plays out!

That's that! Another week gone by. Earlier in the week there was some pretty bad flooding in my area, which was crazy because my town never experiences flooding. It is supposed to storm on Saturday night into Sunday, which I can't say I'm excited about. But in any case, I had a really good week. I did a lot of social things with my co-workers, and saw from high school friends that I haven't spent time with in forever. I'm still getting used to my schedule of things, but I'm liking how things are going. Five weeks into my new job/career already!

Friday, July 21, 2017

2017 RITA Finalists Spotlight Tour: Historical Romance, Short

Welcome to the 2017 RITA Finalists Spotlight tour! Today, I'm showcasing the Historical Romance, Short category. Learn more about the RITA Awards and these titles!

What is the RITA Award? 

The purpose of the RITA award is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding published romance novels and novellas.

The award itself is a golden statuette named after RWA's first president, Rita Clay Estrada, and has become the symbol for excellence in published romance fiction.

For more about the RITA Award, click HERE

Finalists: Historical Romance, Short

Left at the Altar by Margaret Brownley
Book One of the Two-Time Texas series
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: November 1, 2015

Official Summary:

In the wild and untamed West, time is set by the local jeweler…but Two-Time Texas has two: two feuding jewelers and two wildly conflicting time zones. Meg Lockwood’s marriage was supposed to unite the families and finally bring peace. But when she’s left at the altar by her no-good fiancĂ©, Meg’s dreams of dragging her quarrelsome neighbors into a ceasefire are dashed.

Hired to defend the groom against a breach of promise lawsuit, Grant Garrison quickly realizes that the only thing worse than small-town trouble is falling for the jilted bride. But there’s something about Meg’s sweet smile and determined grit that draws him in…even as the whole crazy town seems set on keeping them apart.

The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries
Book Two of the Sinful Suitors series
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: March 22, 2016

Official Summary: 

When Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to help his best friend’s impetuous ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, in her time of need, he knows he’s in for trouble. He’s been hunting for someone to wed, and she’ll just get in the way. Although captivated by the witty, free-spirited beauty, he fears she’d be all wrong as a wife...if she would even take such a gruff cynic for her husband. Yet he wants nothing more than to have her for his own.

Clarissa has no intention of marrying anyone—not Edwin, whom she’s sure would be an overbearing husband, and certainly not the powerful French diplomat stalking her. But when matters escalate with the diplomat, she chooses Edwin’s gallant offer of a marriage between friends in hopes that it will deter her stalker. She expects nothing more than an amiable union, but their increasingly tempestuous kisses prove more than she bargained for. When her stalker’s vow to expose the lovers’ deepest secrets threatens to destroy their blossoming attraction, will their tenuous bond withstand public ruin, or will Edwin lose all that’s important to him to protect his bride?

Taming the Highlander by May McGoldrick
Book Two of the Scottish Relic Trilogy #2
Publisher: Swerve
Publication Date: September 6, 2016

Official Summary:

Innes Munro has the ability to "read" a person’s past simply by touching them, but her gift comes with a heavy price: her freedom. Forced to stay at desolate Castle Girnigoe, Innes never expects to be drawn to the wounded warrior who haunts its dark passages and challenges her at every turn.

Conall Sinclair, the earl of Caithness, carries the scars of battles with the English and the lash marks of their dungeons, but the wounds that fester within give him even greater pain. Isolating himself from his clan and the rest of the world in a tower perched on the wild Scottish coast, Conall is reluctant to let the spirited Innes close to him, however neither can deny the growing passion that ignites with every look, every touch.

But can Conall ever love a woman who can read his darkest secrets and feel the pain he hides... and can love really tame all fears? As dangerous forces close in, Conall and Innes must take the ultimate leap of faith and forge a bond of trust that will save them both...or lose each other forever.

About the Authors:

BEST-SELLING AUTHOR MARGARET BROWNLEY has penned more than forty novels and novellas. Her books have won numerous awards, including Readers’ Choice and Award of Excellence. She’s a former Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist and has written for a TV soap.  She is currently working on a new series.  Not bad for someone who flunked eighth grade English.  Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.

Happily married to her real-life hero, Margaret and her husband live in Southern California.

Sabrina Jeffries is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of several Regency-set historical romance series, including the Royal Brotherhood, the School for Heiresses, the Hellions of Halstead Hall, the Duke’s Men, and the Sinful Suitors. When she’s not writing in a coffee-fueled haze, she’s traveling with her husband, caring for her adult autistic son, or indulging in one of her passions: jigsaw puzzles, chocolate, music, and costume parties. With more than nine million books in print in twenty languages, the North Carolina author never regrets tossing aside a budding career in academics for the sheer joy of writing fun fiction and hopes that one day a book of hers will end up saving the world. She always dreams big.

Authors Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick (writing as May McGoldrick) weave emotionally satisfying tales of love and danger. Publishing under the names of May McGoldrick and Jan Coffey, these authors have written several novels and works of nonfiction for Penguin Putnam, Mira, HarperCollins, Entangled, and Heinemann. Nikoo, an engineer, also conducts frequent workshops on writing and publishing and serves as a Resident Author. Jim holds a Ph.D. in Medieval and Renaissance literature and teaches English in northwestern Connecticut. They are the authors of Much ado about Highlanders, Taming the Highlander, and Tempest in the Highlands with SMP Swerve.

For a full list of RITA finalists, readers can go to THIS page. More Historical Romance, Short finalists can be found HERE.

The RITA Award Ceremony will be held July 27, 7 p.m. at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort during the Romance Writers of America National Conference. Readers can watch it streaming live at or follow RWA on the following social media platforms for winner announcements: 

Review: Trust by Kylie Scott

Trust by Kylie Scott
Publication Date: July 18, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Being young is all about the experiences: the first time you skip school, the first time you fall in love…the first time someone holds a gun to your head.

After being held hostage during a robbery at the local convenience store, seventeen-year-old Edie finds her attitude about life shattered. Unwilling to put up with the snobbery and bullying at her private school, she enrolls at the local public high school, crossing paths with John. The boy who risked his life to save hers.

While Edie’s beginning to run wild, however, John’s just starting to settle down. After years of partying and dealing drugs with his older brother, he’s going straight—getting to class on time, and thinking about the future.

An unlikely bond grows between the two as John keeps Edie out of trouble and helps her broaden her horizons. But when he helps her out with another first—losing her virginity—their friendship gets complicated.

Meanwhile, Edie and John are pulled back into the dangerous world they narrowly escaped. They were lucky to survive the first time, but this time they have more to lose—each other.

What I liked:

This is the first Kylie Scott book I've read, despite wanting to read one of her books for a long time. She has a lot of interesting-looking adult romance books published, and several are on my TBR. This book, Trust, is a Young Adult contemporary romance novel. Usually I don't go after YA contemporary, but this one came recommended by Nick @ Nick & Nereyda's Infinite Booklist. I really enjoyed the book!

The story starts with the terrifying scene of Edie being held hostage at gunpoint in a convenience store by a man who was on drugs and definitely off his rocker. She is saved by a young man named John, who was also at the store. As it would turn out, John is a senior at the high school to which Edie has transferred. Edie and John form a strange but strong bond, trusting each other with their experiences and feelings, becoming friends over the terrible event. John is not someone Edie would take home to her home - he used to sell weed, he used to sleep through his classes, he still has a bad-boy reputation. But John becomes an important part of Edie's life, and she needs him as her friend. But things get complicated when Edie decides she wants to punch in her V card, and John offers to help her with this first. This story is about two teens going through a life-changing event, coming back from the trauma, and discovering life after it. 

This book had a Katie McGarry vibe to it and I love that. If you've not read any of McGarry's books (Pushing the Limits, Dare You To, etc., I highly recommend you do so). Or Kami Garcia's The Lovely Reckless. This book is right up there with those amazing YA contemporary romance novels. 

Edie is one of the most interesting and unique YA heroines I've coming across. She is full of spunk and confidence, though she has her insecurities and vulnerabilities. She is somewhat fat and she is just fine with her size, but she gets bullied a lot for her weight. People say things to her, pick on her, judge her, and it hurts her. But she is such a strong and confident girl and she stands up for herself. Edie has a toughness and a likable nature that made it hard not to adore her.

John has the cool, calm, and collected thing going on. He is a quiet brooder, a guy of few words, a smart student who just needs a chance. He used to deal marijuana, and he has a player's reputation among the ladies, and the teachers in school don't give him a chance. But he cleans up his act after the robbery incident, and he starts to do better. John has a bad-boy vibe that I loved, but he is also so much more. I like that he is has that tall, dark, and handsome persona, but he also has insecurities and weaknesses. He isn't a perfect guy and that makes him more likable. I love how protective he is, how he would do anything to help and protect Edie and make her happy. He is a closet sweetie!

I'm going to be honest - I love the good-girl/bad-boy romance trope. I am sucker for the trope - it's probably second only to hate-to-love romances. Edie used to go to a private all-girls school and she got excellent grades. Now she goes to the public school. John has that bad-boy vibe, and he really is a little "bad" (dealing marijuana when you're underage is illegal, no matter which state you're in). It's opposites attracting, and in this case, a good, sweet girl and a bad, brooding boy.

The romance is sweet and subtle and swoony! Edie develops a crush on John fairly quickly after meeting him in the high school (after the robbery incident), but she wants to be friends with him because she needs the friendship (it is good for her). When they have sex (for Edie to lose her virginity - John offered because he wanted her first time to be with someone she liked and trusted, not with a random guy from school), things change. The romance was fun and sweet and tender, and the chemistry (especially once lose-my-virginity thing comes up) gets pretty hot. These two are a great couple, in terms of chemistry and emotional bond. They have a strong friendship but they also have a good physical connection.

This story is so much more than a romance, though the romance is very important. I love that it deals with certain tough issues, like Edie dealing with the bullies, body positivity, second chances, drugs, family, trust, good friendships. Edie has several great girl friends, and John has a really great guy friend, and all of these friendships are strong and healthy.

I didn't expect to pick up this book because I'd barely even heard of it, but I'm glad I decided to take a chance on it. The story was so wonderful and uplifting, even in the slightly dark moments. I love how there was so little drama in the romance (and the story in general), and how communication was done well (i.e. there was no miscommunication drama). This was a wonderful YA contemporary romance story, one I may come back to in the future!

What I Did Not Like:

I can't think of anything specific! I liked this book a lot and I'm going back and forth between 4 stars and 5 stars.

Would I Recommend It:

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes YA contemporary romance, or tough-issue YA contemporary. I don't typically enjoy YA contemporary but when there is a strong, swoony romance, I'm in. This book was very well-written, very engrossing, and so worth the read. It was funny, it was sad, it was heart-warming, it was swoony. 

Also, like I said, this is Young Adult! Not New Adult or Adult. The sex scenes aren't super explicit (but they exist). So readers of many ages can try this one, no need to worry about well-detailed sex scenes or anything like that. (I love adult romance, so I'm not knocking well-detailed sex scenes!)


4.5 stars. I'm rounding down to 4 stars as per my usual policy but I may change my rating and round up in the future - perhaps if/after I reread the book. I will definitely be rereading it! This is a YA contemporary romance novel that you do not want to miss, especially if you're a fan of Katie McGarry or Kami Garcia, or even Huntley Fitzpatrick.

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Swoon Thursday (#234): Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting

This week, my swoon is from Buried Heart by Kate Elliott!

(Y'all, I'm sharing a slightly swoonier-than-usual swoon this week. I hope no one minds! Besides the swoony nature of the scene, I liked the mood of it - and the last two lines.)

He sweeps me up int this arms and carries me through the open doors into the bedchamber. The bed stands in the center, the only object left in the room. He pushes aside the draped netting. His manner is as solemn and desperate as my own, none of the laughter and wrestling and endearing awkwardness of our other times. Because the lamp has been left on the balcony, we are left in the shadow of each other, communicating by sighs, by the tough of lips and the pressure of hands.

The heart has its own speech. That is the only language and light that we need.

- Hardcover, page 157

I loved this series and I'm very happy with the conclusion. It's a great series to binge-read!

Promo and Giveaway: The Hunting Grounds by Katee Robert

Welcome to the pre-order blast for The Hunting Grounds by Katee Robert! This is the companion sequel to The Devil's Daughter, which published earlier this year in January. I loved The Devil's Daughter and highly recommend it. Check out The Hunting Grounds!

About the Book:

The Hunting Grounds by Katee Robert
Book Two of the Hidden Sins series
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication Date: July 25, 2017

Official Summary:

For two FBI agents with a past, love becomes a matter of life and death in the new Hidden Sins novel from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Katee Robert.

Maggie Gaines used to be an FBI agent—top of her class and one of the bright, up-and-coming stars—until she spectacularly fell apart during her first high-profile case. That was eight years ago. Now she’s a ranger at Glacier National Park, and she’s found some measure of peace. But when the body of a murdered woman is discovered, she must finally put the past behind her and work with the one man she thought she’d never see again.

For months, Vic Sutherland has been hunting a killer who’s been targeting unsuspecting hikers in national parks—and now the predator has come to Glacier. Vic knows the case will bring him face-to-face with his former partner, yet nothing can prepare him for seeing Maggie again after all these years, or for the memories of passion it stirs in both of them.

As the investigation brings them closer together—and closer to the killer—Maggie and Vic fear they have only each other to trust. But even that might not be enough to make it out of Glacier alive.

Praise for The Hidden Sins Series:

“…a captivating read, made all the more rewarding when good triumphs.” Washington Post 

“Robert shows off her impressive versatility in this fast-paced and inventive new Hidden Sins series. The small-town setting is a masterful blend of quaint and oppressive, which ratchets the menace and thrill factor. The protagonists carry the full weight of their pasts with them, making their growing relationship as compelling as the mystery element in The Devil’s Daughter. With plenty of twists and betrayals, this is a book that is sure to earn Robert a wealth of new fans.” RT Book Reviews

About the Author:

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell her stories at her grandpa’s knee. Her 2015 title, The Marriage Contract, was a RITA finalist, and RT Book Reviews named it 'a compulsively readable book with just the right amount of suspense and tension." When not writing sexy contemporary and romantic suspense, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her children, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

The Excerpt:

Vic thought he was prepared. He wasn’t the type of man to spend too much effort worrying about what could possibly happen—it made more sense to deal with what did happen. He knew seeing Maggie again after all this time would be a shock, but they’d been partners for twelve months at best. There was no reason to think he couldn’t roll with this development the same way he rolled with every other. 

Then he arrived at Goat Haunt ranger station. He followed Wyatt out of the chopper, using a hand to shield his face from the wind the blades created. The ranger station was set against Upper Waterton Lake, and with the mountains in the background, it could have been a scene out of a painting. 

All of that paled in comparison to Maggie. 

She looked good. Better than good. During her time as his partner, she’d been too thin, running on too little sleep and too much coffee, and her health had suffered as a result. Obviously being a park ranger agreed with her. The unfortunate uniform did nothing to hide how her curves had filled out, her body honed from the many hours of hauling around a pack similar to the one he now carried. Her hair was longer, too, the dark locks pulled back into a braid that hit just past her shoulders. 

But she was still Maggie. 

Even in the bright sunlight, he could see the way her dark eyes flashed as her shock wore off. And her nose, the only feature of hers that could never be termed pretty, was the same—long and slightly crooked from where it’d been broken in the FBI academy. 

Maggie shook off her paralysis faster than he did. She frowned. “What are you doing here, Vic?” 

“Agent Sutherland’s here for the murder.” Wyatt stepped forward, breaking what remained of the spell cast between them. 

Rationally, Vic knew it had lasted seconds at most, but it felt like a small eternity. He struggled to put the past in the appropriate box to deal with when they weren’t on a case. When we aren’t on a case, I’ll leave . . . He shut the thought down. He had a duty to the victims, and letting himself get distracted by Maggie wasn’t going to find the unsub. 

Even if Maggie was a bright, shining star in the midst of darkness. 

He moved closer and slid off his pack. “Where’s the best place to talk?” 

For a second, it looked like Maggie would pepper him with more questions, but she finally nodded. “This way.”

Copyright © 2017 Katee Robert

The Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway