ARC review: The Perfectly Imperfect Match by Kendra C. Highley

Goodreads   Amazon

Rising high school seniors Dylan and Lucy are polar opposites. Dylan is laser-focused on his future career as a professional baseball player. His plan is to play for a minor league team straight out of high school, and he has no time for college, girls, or his family’s opinions on the matter. Lucy, on the other hand, is a free spirit. Since her dad is deployed and her mom is sick, she does take on a lot of responsibility for her little brother and their family business, but she likes to go with the flow rather than plan out every minute detail of her life.

With no sense of direction, Lucy ends up getting her little brother Otis to his first day of baseball camp a little late. This makes quite the negative impression on ultra-rigid, type-A coach Dylan. Lucy can feel his disdain pouring out at her, and she will not stand for his attitude. The two butt heads when they run into each other at the lake that night, but neither can deny the mutual attraction bubbling beneath their interactions.

So, I’m not really sure how to feel about this one. The premise was fine, and I do love a good “opposites attract” story, but there was just something a little off with the writing. I’m going to set aside the plethora of typos in this ARC (I’m used to this with some publishers, but never Entangled, so I’m not sure what was going on there) and focus on the actual development and behavior of these characters instead.

I’m all for more mature characters in young adult novels. I get so frustrated when kids who are supposed to be seventeen or eighteen years old act like they’re twelve, but there’s gotta be a happy medium here. This book reads more like new adult than young adult, so I had a lot of trouble believing that these kids were supposed to be in high school. Somehow, they’re both very experienced and very smooth when it comes to flirting and dating. (Definitely smoother than me, and I’m in my late 20’s!) They go skinny dipping, they make out in diner parking lots, they text each other about “getting horizontal” – they’re not even seniors yet! When I was their age, I panicked over going to a school dance with a boy! Maybe this is how high school is these days. I think I’m getting old.

Another sign that I’m old is the fact that I constantly rolled my eyes at Dylan throughout this entire book. I mean, don’t get me wrong. He’s a good kid. He’s smart and he’s driven, but his insistence on going straight to the minor leagues out of high school rubbed me the wrong way. He was rude to anybody who mentioned that maybe he might want to have a backup plan, so everybody just entertained his delusional idea that he was some baseball god that could make a career of playing ball straight out of high school. Okay, you’re the best guy on your high school team and you’re coaching a summer baseball camp for nine-year-olds. So are probably hundreds of other kids across the country. Listen to some rational suggestions about your future, please.

I also thought that the author was a little harsh on Lucy. She’s only seventeen years old, so why does she need to have so much responsibility? She takes care of her sick mom, acts like a surrogate mother to her nine-year-old brother, runs a sewing shop, teaches sewing classes, does commission work, helps out at her best friend’s farm, and teaches a really repressed teenage boy to let loose. She never has a minute to herself in this book, and I felt so bad for her. All I wanted was for her to be able to take a breather without something awful happening.

I didn’t love this book as much as I thought I would, but it was still a quick, enjoyable read. I knew that the author’s name sounded familiar when I requested this title, but it only clicked for me a little bit ago that I’ve had The Bad Boy Bargain on my TBR for ages. One of these days, I’ll head over to Amazon to see where it all began.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The Perfectly Imperfect Match releases on July 10, 2017.

Advertisements

Book blitz: Damaged Like Us by Krista & Becca Ritchie

Don’t miss Damaged Like Us (Like Us #1) by Krista & Becca Ritchie! I couldn’t be more excited to jump into the life of Maximoff Hale, son of beloved Addicted characters Lily and Loren Hale.  It feels like I’ve been anticipating this release forever, and the day is finally here!

Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Genres: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Purchase: Amazon | iBooks

Don’t date your bodyguard. It was the one rule he had to break. Maximoff Hale is a force of nature. A ship unwilling to be steered. Headstrong, resilient, and wholly responsible — the twenty-two-year-old alpha billionaire can handle his unconventional life. By noon, lunch can turn into a mob of screaming fans. By two, his face is all over the internet. Born into one of the most famous families in the country, his celebrity status began at birth. He is certified American royalty. When he’s assigned a new 24/7 bodyguard, he comes face-to-face with the worst case scenario: being attached to the tattooed, MMA-trained, Yale graduate who’s known for “going rogue” in the security team — and who fills 1/3 of Maximoff’s sexual fantasies. Twenty-seven-year-old Farrow Keene has one job: protect Maximoff Hale. Flirting, dating, and hot sex falls far, far out of the boundary of his bodyguard duties and into “termination” territory. But when feelings surface, protecting the sexy-as-sin, stubborn celebrity becomes increasingly complicated. Together, boundaries blur, and being exposed could mean catastrophic consequences for both.

About Krista & Becca Ritchie

 

 

Krista & Becca Ritchie are New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors and identical twins—one a science nerd, the other a comic book geek—but with their shared passion for writing, they combined their mental powers as kids and have never stopped telling stories. Now in their early twenties, they write about other twenty-somethings navigating through life, college, and romance. They love superheroes, flawed characters, and soul mate love. They are the New Adult authors of the Addicted series and Calloway Sisters spin-off series, and you can find them on almost every social media, frolicking around like wannabe unicorns.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter

image

Enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card and signed copy of Damaged Like Us!

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten of 2017 (So Far)

I haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday in forever, and today’s Monday, but I have something special lined up for tomorrow and I loved this week’s theme! So here we have it: my top ten books of 2017 (this far).  2017 has been a great year as far as books go.  I gave nine of these five stars and one was a high four. Read on for my top picks for the first half of 2017.

image

Infini // Operation Prom Date

image

Anything You Can Do // Arm Candy // My Lady Jane

image

Madly // Catch and Release

image

The Hate U Give // If I Was Your Girl // We Should All Be Feminists

So far, what are your standout books of 2017?

ARC review: Storming the Castle by Arianna Hart

Goodreads   Amazon

Sam Castleton is one of America’s greatest rock musicians, and he’s completely lost himself in the rockstar lifestyle.  Terrified that he’s well on his way to alcoholism, and in an attempt to get his muse back, he checks himself into an out of the way hunting lodge/bed and breakfast for some peace and quiet.

The bed and breakfast is run by Faith Adams, a young single mother doing the best she can.  Her husband died before she even knew that she was pregnant, so she’s used to doing things on her own.  She’s lonely, but her daughter is her priority and no sexy rock star is going to change that.

Can Sam and Faith put their fears and misgivings aside to give into their mutual attraction?

This book left me feeling very… indifferent.  It’s not that it’s a bad book, it just wasn’t amazing.  It follows the standard contemporary romance plotline and pacing, although there are a couple of twists thrown in to keep us on our toes.  None of this is necessarily bad, but it didn’t make for the most exciting book.

There were some things that threw me off, like the former in-laws suing for custody.  What was the point of it? They’d never wanted anything to do with Piper before, and even during the custody battle, they didn’t seem to care about much aside from just winning.  I had hoped that their motivations might be made clear at the end, but the brief answer we got seemed half-hearted and underdeveloped.  The whole plot line just seemed to be there to prove that Faith was A Good Person™ despite everything that had happened to her.

And, brief spoiler ahead

Can we talk about her dead husband for a second?  Like, yes, it was awful that he cheated on her and I myself could never set that aside and carry on with a relationship.  But, #1, he’s dead, and #2, of all the ways to be cheated on, I feel like the reveal here was kind of weird.  Matthew was quite literally coerced into sleeping with his boss to further his career.  I suppose he consented, but is it really consent if your job is on the line?  It doesn’t matter that he’s male and his boss was female, it’s still disgusting and wrong.  Whatever his boss said about “In my circles, that’s vanilla” doesn’t make it right.  I don’t care what kind of circles you run in.  I don’t care if sexual assault is the most common, most normal thing where you come from.  It is absolutely 100% wrong for someone in a position of power to use that power to garner sexual favors from someone who reports to them.  Even after finding out that Matthew literally wanted no part in these sexual encounters, he’s still vilified.  I feel like I came away from that revelation with a different impression than I was supposed to because honestly, I just felt bad for the guy.

Anyway.  I also thought it was kind of weird that Faith was so adamantly against casual sex and then she was just flinging herself at Sam.  I mean, good for you, Faith, I’m glad that you’re finally getting back out there after five years or whatever of celibacy.  Clearly, I have no problem with reading about sex (I mean, look at my recent reviews), but there was no transition.  It’s just like one minute she’s super anti-sex, and the next she’s like, “Wait, how many condoms do we have left?” The sex scenes were pretty hot, though, so I can’t say it’s really something to complain about.

I also thought that the ending wrapped up a little too neatly and quickly for my liking, but overall, I did like the characters (particularly Sam) and I appreciated the strong female friendships that constantly figured into the plot.  This book was, more than anything else, very readable and I really did fly through it.  Piper was the cutest and I loved how much she loved Sam. He was adorable with her as well, and much like in real life, I like the guys in my books to be good with kids.

If you’re into books about rock stars looking to settle down, you’re sure to enjoy this one.

Final rating: somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC!

ARC review: Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright

Goodreads   Amazon

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

We’ve all heard those words, right?  When my high school English class read Pride & Prejudice, I’m willing to bet that nearly every girl in the room swooned over Mr. Darcy.  It only got worse when we watched the movie – BBC version, of course – that left me and all my friends (and a likely greater chunk of our class) absolutely smitten with Colin Firth.  Unfortunately, my infatuation with Jane Austen’s characters faded away at the end of high school.  In general, I’m not a re-reader.  I don’t go back and revisit former literary loves.

But Emma Pierce is that person. She is absolutely in love with everything about Jane Austen.  The books. The quotes. The men. And despite reading these books countless times, she has trouble finding her own hero.  Though she’s currently dating a very wealthy single man, she finds that Blake Hampton is more interested in getting into her bed than getting into her heart.  After a weekend that she thinks will end in a proposal ends in heartache, Emma is driven home by Lucas, Blake’s brother.

Lucas is a fantastic character. He is everything that Emma’s looking for, and he’s not afraid of commitment.  The problem is his blind devotion to his brother.  Because Emma dated Blake, and because Blake is still not over her, Lucas steps aside and actually pushes Emma and Blake back together. Fate has other plans, though, when Lucas ends up being the new consultant at Emma’s job.

There’s a lot of back-and-forth between the two, with plenty of misunderstandings and avoidable arguments.  This is really my only complaint about this book – a bit less unnecessary angst, and it could have easily been five stars.  I loved Lucas, I loved Emma, and I loved how real their lives seemed.  Julie Wright is definitely an author to watch.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC!

Final rating: ★★★★☆

ARC review: Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Goodreads   Amazon

One snowy night, in their senior year of high school, best friends Shelby and Helene are involved in a terrible car accident. Shelby escapes physically unscathed and emotionally scarred, but Helene’s injuries have put her into a permanent vegetative state.  Helene’s parents keep her in her bedroom and word spreads far and wide of Helene’s supposed “healing” powers. As a line of faithful followers forms outside of Helene’s house every day, Shelby is admitted to an inpatient psychiatric ward where she falls deeper into depression and self-destructive behaviors.

some spoilers below.

I loved Hoffman’s Seventh Heaven and was unimpressed with The Museum of Extraordinary Things, so I was really hoping that I would enjoy this book.  I was so excited to see this available as a “Read Now” on Netgalley, but it’s been more than six months since I downloaded my copy. I’ve finally read it, and I don’t really know what to think. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either. I really just didn’t see the point.

As always, Hoffman’s writing is beautiful.  Unfortunately, beautiful writing doesn’t stand in for the absence of plot. Although this book follows Shelby for a good decade or so of her life, very little actually happens.

At the outset of the book, and I want to mention this because I am quite sure it will turn off some readers, Shelby is regularly raped by one of the orderlies in the inpatient psych ward. This understandably undoes any progress that she might have made while hospitalized, and it carries over to how she views relationships for the next several years.

Out of the program, Shelby shaves her head and wears shapeless black clothes and combat boots that she knows make her look unattractive and scary.  She’s trying to look bad because she doesn’t deserve to look good. Her best friend is in a coma because of her, and why should she be enjoying her life when Helene can’t?

Shelby abandons all hope for a good life.  Although she’d been accepted to NYU, she never moves into her dorm. She moves down to her parents’ basement, where she sleeps on the couch and smokes a lot of weed. Her only semi-meaningful relationship is with her dealer, Ben, who she eventually begins dating.  Shelby doesn’t actually like Ben, but she feels that she doesn’t deserve to be in love because Helene is in a coma. Eventually, Shelby and Ben move to New York City together.

Shelby is awful to Ben.  She feels that he deserves better than her, and maybe if she yells enough, if she’s crazy enough, if she treats him poorly enough, he’ll leave. But Ben loves Shelby, and it’s not until she cheats on him with a handsome, charismatic veterinarian that he snaps. It’s not even the cheating that bothers Ben, it’s the fact that Shelby is going to leave him for this smarmy doctor.  When things don’t work out with the vet, Shelby realizes what a good person Ben was.  At this point, it’s too late.  Ben wants nothing to do with her.

At some point, Shelby realizes that she needs to get a job. She begins stocking shelves at a pet store, a dead-end job she picked so that she wouldn’t have to talk to people. Shelby is quickly promoted to manager for no real reason and becomes best friends with one of her coworkers. Although Shelby is a self-professed child-hater, her coworker tells Shelby that she will be babysitting her three children for several days while she goes out of town. (Why you would leave your three children with someone who doesn’t know the first thing about kids and admittedly hates them is beyond me, but this made for a really good couple chapters.) It turns out that Shelby is amazing with children. She knows exactly what to say to all of them so that they will become better versions of themselves. She calms fears and tames wild teenagers, all while letting them eat forbidden food and stay up past their bedtimes.

While working at the pet store, Shelby also learns that she loves animals. I guess she didn’t know this before. When she sees an animal being mistreated, she liberates it from its current owner and takes it home with her. By the end of the book, she has a motley crew of four dogs, ranging from a teacup poodle to a Great Pyrenees. Shelby is amazing with these dogs and can turn the worst-behaved animal into an angel almost instantly.  I’m glad that she saved these dogs because I, too, have a very big soft spot for animals, but I don’t know how she kept getting away with stealing them!

Shelby also goes to college at some point, where she’s admitted without much effort on her part. I suppose it’s possible that her old SAT scores and high school grades helped, but it seems like it should have taken a bit more work given that she hadn’t been in school for so long.  Of course, Shelby turns out to be absolutely brilliant and she gets great grades without even trying. Shelby is so brilliant that the state of New York actually pays her to go to school. Everything comes naturally to her and she ends up applying to (and being accepted at) UC-Davis for vet school. As the book ends, Shelby moves to California with the love of her life as Ben begs her to take him back.

I guess I didn’t really understand the point to this book. Shelby tries so hard to have a horrible life, but good things just keep happening to her. She tries to have a terrible, low-paying job and is promoted to manager. She tries not to have any friends, but good people insert themselves into her life. She tries to hate children, but ends up playing the part of the cool aunt. She tries not to succeed and ends up with a pretty perfect life.  I was happy for her, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t understand what the reasoning for all of this was.

The book is very emotional, and I often wanted to cry while reading it. But, as I’ve said with other books like this, what’s the point in making me cry? You haven’t made me realize anything new. You haven’t made me see things from a new perspective. You haven’t shed light on any underrepresented topics. You just want me to cry.  Congratulations, chunks of this book felt like punches to the chest. But why?

Now, this book has a fairly high average rating on Goodreads. It’s a book that many thousands of people have absolutely loved. Personally, it didn’t do it for me, but please don’t let that stop you from reading it.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC!

#mmdreading: a book you were excited to buy or borrow but haven’t read yet

Book review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Goodreads   Amazon

In Queens of Geek, three high school seniors from Australia jet off to America for SupaCon.  Charlie is a YouTuber who got her big break in a popular indie film and has been invited to SupaCon for publicity.  She’s accompanied by her two best friends, Taylor and Jamie. Over the course of the con, the three of them find love and learn some important life lessons.

Okay, so here’s the thing. I was super excited about this book ever since I first saw that hair. (Honestly, I wish I had the confidence to pull off hair like that.) I was browsing upcoming 2017 releases on Edelweiss and I just had to have this book. I didn’t get an ARC, but I did convince my library to buy it, which I’d call a win.

Did this book live up to my expectations? Unfortunately, not really.  And I feel like a jerk for thinking it, but this book was really mediocre.

It’s important, that’s for sure. There’s a heavy focus on representation, which is awesome. Charlie is Chinese-Australian and Jamie is Latino. Charlie’s love interest is a black woman, and she’s an out and proud bisexual who is actually shown to have dated both genders. Taylor is overweight, autistic, and suffers from some serious anxiety. There are side characters of various nationalities that all have their own problems to overcome. I don’t think it’s even possible to have a more diverse book than this.

And in addition to the representation, the characters tackle some big issues. Taylor has to deal with body-shaming when she signs up for a costume contest:

“To the girl who hid in the shadows and tried to body-shame me, I’m sorry you thought that was a good use of your time and energy. I hope you find happiness within yourself. You deserve that. We all do.”

She also tackles her anxiety head-on.

My bottom lip starts to quiver, but I keep going. “I fight every day, and too many times it’s just not enough and the fear wins. I’m so fucking weak and everything is so fucking intense and sometimes I really hate it.” I gasp, covering my mouth with my hands as the tears pour out of me. I didn’t mean to say all that.

Charlie and Taylor both deal with sexism, Charlie in the way that she’s presented in the media and Taylor in dealing with society’s expectations for how a girl “should” act:

Besides, there’s no one way to be a girl, Tay. You don’t need to fit yourself into what society tells us a girl should be. Girls can be whoever they want. Whether that’s an ass-kicking, sarcastic, crime-solving FBI Agent or a funny, gorgeous, witty beauty queen–or both at the same time.“ She swings an arm around me and pulls me in.

“Are you happy the way you are? Are you comfortable? Do you feel like yourself?”

Charlie even has to defend her sexuality to her ex-boyfriend, who “doesn’t believe” in bisexuality. This guy – who happen to be her costar – doesn’t understand how she could possibly be attracted to women if she dated him. The studio pushes them to start dating again (the fans loved that their on-screen love turned into an off-screen relationship) and neither Reese or the studio want to take no for an answer. Charlie is consistently pushed to do events with Reese that cross the line of normal publicity, and when she expresses her displeasure, she’s brushed off.  Add to this the fact that Reese is asked reasonable questions about his acting and Charlie is only ever asked about her diet and exercise, and Hollywood’s double standards become very clear.

So, yes, there are a lot of issues tackled, and the representation is great, but aside from that, there isn’t really much plot. I mean, what actually happens over the course of these ~300 pages? A costume contest? A trivia session? Some fluffy romance?  I mean, not a lot.

You might have noticed a distinct lack of mention of Jamie above. He was a great character, but he existed solely as a love interest.  He never does anything for himself. Charlie and Taylor both grow as people, but Jamie’s just sort of quietly there in the background, being perfect and saying the exact right thing at the exact right time. It’s so disappointing.

Also disappointing, and this is probably just me as an adult talking here, is that we have two supposedly lasting relationships develop over the course of about three days. It’s easy to get swept away by somebody you’ve just met. Believe me, I’ve been there. When the mood is just right and you have similar interests and you think that person is just so cool, but then when you meet up with them a few weeks later, you wonder what the heck you were thinking.

I also want to mention the one thing that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief of – the fact that these teenagers are flying across the world to hang out unsupervised at a convention. Who paid for this? Charlie’s studio? How did she convince them to foot the bill for her two best friends? Or are their parents just all very rich? And speaking of the parents, they really allowed these kids to all stay in a hotel room together? I mean, my mom was pretty cool when I was growing up. My male friends could sleep over. She didn’t have any problems with me going out of town with a guy for the day. But I highly doubt that she would have let me fly to another country, unsupervised, and sleep in a hotel room with one of my male friends. Maybe parents in Australia are more relaxed about that sort of thing?

Like I said, I really do appreciate what Wilde was trying to do here, and I feel like a jerk for not loving this book. But I just didn’t. Although it’s not nearly as heavy on the representation, a book about friends at a con that I absolutely loved was Danica Stone’s All the Feels.  If Queens of Geek wasn’t your favorite but you’re into fandom culture, maybe give that one a shot.  On the other hand, you, like hundreds of others, might really love this book!

Final rating: ★★★☆☆