Winner Take All – Blog Tour and Book Review

Welcome to the Winner Take All blog tour!


Summary:

For Nell Becker, life is a competition she needs to win.

For Jackson Hart, everyone is a pawn in his own game.

They both have everything to lose.

Nell wants to succeed at everything—school, sports, life. And victory is sweeter when it means beating Jackson Hart, the rich, privileged, undisputed king of Cedar Woods Prep Academy. Yet no matter how hard she tries, Jackson is somehow one step ahead. They’re a match made in hell, but opposites do attract.

Drawn to each other by their rivalry, Nell and Jackson fall into a whirlwind romance that consumes everything in their lives. But when a devastating secret exposes their relationship as just another game, how far will Nell go to win?

Visceral and whip-smart, Laurie Devore’s Winner Take All paints an unflinching portrait of obsessive love, toxic competition, and the drive for perfection.

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Continue reading to see my review of Winner Take All

Continue reading Winner Take All – Blog Tour and Book Review

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The Chaos of Standing Still – Book Review

Title: The Chaos of Standing Still

Author: Jessica Brody

Pages: 403

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Published: November 28, 2017

Summary:

Ryn has one unread text message on her phone. And it’s been there for almost a year.

She hasn’t tried to read it. She can’t. She won’t. Because that one message is the last thing her best friend ever said to her before she died.

But as Ryn finds herself trapped in the Denver International Airport on New Year’s Eve thanks to a never-ending blizzard on the one-year anniversary of her best friend’s death, fate literally runs into her.

And his name is Xander.

When the two accidentally swap phones, Ryn and Xander are thrust into the chaos of an unforgettable all-night adventure, filled with charming and mysterious strangers, a secret New Year’s Eve bash, and a possible Illuminati conspiracy hidden within the Denver airport. But as the bizarre night continues, all Ryn can think about is that one unread text message. It follows her wherever she goes, because Ryn can’t get her brialliantly wild and free-spirited best friend out of her head.

Ryn can’t move on.

But tonight, for the first time ever, she’s trying. And maybe that’s a start.

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Review:

I have never spent overnight stranded in an airport, but if I had, this book pretty much sums up everything that I imagine happens in situations like that. The Chaos of Standing Still is such a fun story, and while it has a lot of lighthearted moments that come with contemporary novels, it also touches on some tough topics, such as coping with the death of a best friend.

Ryn has a lot of interesting quirks, one of which is that she compulsively Googles things. I thought this was such a unique trait to explore, because I also Google the answers to random questions that pop into my head all the time! Not nearly to the extent that Ryn does, but still, I could relate.

The cast of characters that Ryn meets while stranded in the airport are absolutely hilarious, and they add a lot of comedy to the story. This is great, because it helps to lighten up the story, which could have otherwise been very serious and sad. Ryn manages to get herself into a lot of… interesting situations with her new friends.

I also really loved that Jessica Brody chose some interesting names for her characters! Ryn and Xander are such unique names, and while a name might not seem like the most important part about a character, I think that each of their names really fits with their personality.

I give The Chaos of Standing Still 5/5 stars. It strikes the perfect balance of hitting on hard topics while maintaining that fun feel of a contemporary novel.

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Love, Life and the List – Book Review

Title: Love, Life and the List

Author: Kasie West

Pages: 384

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: HarperTeen

Published: December 26, 2017

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

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Review:

After being rejected from an art show because her work has “no heart,” Abby decides to make a list of things that will help her grow as a person, and thus, grow some “heart” to put into her paintings. While this might sound like an incredibly corny idea, I think that it was executed so well. Abby learns so much about life, and really grows as a character throughout this book. She not only grows emotionally and mentally, but she learns to step outside of her comfort zone and rethink the way that things have always been. I think that a “Heart List” is something that everyone needs, because we can all stand to learn more, no matter our age.

Abby has so much drive and passion for what she does. I love that when she is told her art has no emotion, she doesn’t just give up, she works hard to develop feeling in her work. I love books that have characters who are great role models, and Love, Life and the List is definitely one of them.

The friendships in this book are great, from the longstanding friendship between Abby and Cooper, to the new friendships that Abby forms throughout the book. There’s something to be said about friends that are always there for one another no matter what, and who are so close that they might as well be family.

Love, Life and the List is the first book in a set of three standalones with cross-over characters, and I am SO excited to see what other stories we get with these characters. Based off of who was present in Love, I can imagine who the other two books will focus on. I love books like this, where an author will have cameos from characters in their prior books. Morgan Matson does this with her books and I think it’s so cute. To anyone who picks up the book, it reads perfectly fine as a standalone, but to those who have read prior books, it’s a fun Easter egg.

I was so happy that I loved this book as much as I do, because I was pretty disappointed by Lucky in Love. I gave 5/5 stars to Love, Life and the List, and I can’t wait for the next two books in this crossover series.

The Hazel Wood – Book Review

Title: The Hazel Wood

Author: Melissa Albert

Pages: 368

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Published: January 30, 2018

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away—by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began—and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

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Review:

The Hazel Wood is not the kind of fairytale that you were told as a child. It is a story full of mystery, intrigue and horrors you don’t want to imagine. The Hinterland is nothing like Wonderland, and Alice most definitely does NOT want to fall down the rabbit hole, but if she is to save her mother, that’s exactly what she’ll have to do.

It took me a long time to read this book, and once I finished, I wasn’t all that impressed. I started reading this book a little bit before Halloween, and didn’t finish it until the very end of the year. I never found myself needing to read this book to find out what would happen. In fact, I almost had to force myself to finish it just so that I could enter the new year on a clean slate and not in the middle of any books.

I think that this story will appeal to many readers, but it wasn’t for me. There are a lot of parallels to Alice in Wonderland, and at times it felt like it drew too much influence from other works. Overall the book felt slow, and dragged on forever in the first 2/3 of the book, and then the end felt so rushed and like everything was being tied up hastily without much thought for the story.

I think because this book is so hyped, I had really high expectations going into it, which made me all the more disappointed when I couldn’t get into it. I give The Hazel Wood 2.75/5 stars, and that’s really only because I liked the dark fairytales from Alice’s grandmother’s book, Tales from the Hinterland. It’s a shame the rest of the book couldn’t live up to my expectations.

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

My Top 17 of 2017

How is it already almost time to ring in the new year? I feel like I say this every year, but this year went by insanely fast! Before I knew it, I looked at the calendar and realized that it was time to narrow down my top 17 reads of the year. It was especially hard this year, because I read 218 books this year! Last year I read 82 books, so I thought I was being ambitious by setting my goal at 100. Little did I know I would read more than double that! So without any further ado, here are the books that I enjoyed the most in 2017, in no particular order.

 

I absolutely love cute contemporary books, and Tell Me Three Things was one of the best contemporary books I’ve read! The characters are so lovable, and there is a lot of character development that happens. To see my full review, click here.

 

 

 

Nice Try, Jane Sinner is what happens when Big Brother meets community college. This book is hilarious and real. NTJS goes on sale January 9th, so you’re definitely going to want to check this one out. See my review here.

 

 

The Winner’s Curse was the first book I read in 2017, and I loved it so much that I reread it a couple months ago. Kestrel is such a strong female lead, and I love the world building in this series. Check out my full review here.

 

 

 

 

By Your Side is another cute contemporary book. This one follows the story of Autumn when she accidentally gets locked in the library with a cute boy during a snowstorm. Who doesn’t want to get locked in a library for a weekend?

 

 

I was ecstatic when I heard John Green was releasing another book, and Turtles did not disappoint. I found that this book was a bit challenging to get through when Aza is having thought spirals, but it was so appropriate because anxiety and mental health issues are extremely difficult to live through.

 

 

 

This book was so hyped before it came out, and it was well-deserved hype. I heard a lot of comparisons between AEOR and ACOTAR, and while there are some similarities, An Enchantment of Ravens is very much a unique story and I fell in love with the characters and the setting.

 

 

 

Love & Gelato combines two of my favorite things in contemporary books: travel, and swoony boys! There’s some fun adventure in this book, and I can’t wait for Jenna Evans Welch’s next book!

 

 

 

 

Walk on Earth a Stranger is such an amazing book! It takes place during the California Gold Rush, and features an amazing cast of characters, along with some magic. The series wrapped up this year, so I highly recommend picking this up if you like YA historical fiction with a hint of fantasy.

 

 

I tried SO hard to read ACOMAF last year, but I just couldn’t get into it. I picked it up again this year and LOVED it so much. Sarah J. Maas is one of the best authors there is, and ACOMAF might be my favorite book she’s written so far. She does swoony men so well!

 

 

 

I read my first Marissa Meyer book this year, and loved it so much. Heartless was so magical, and the descriptions of food in this book are amazing. Every time I think of this book, I start craving lemon tarts. You know an author is great when she makes you love a character that you weren’t that interested in to begin with.

 

 

Katie Cotugno was a new author I discovered this year, and she quickly became one of my favorites. Her books are all so real, and deal with real issues that teenagers actually deal with. Her writing is raw, and I love it. I can’t wait for the sequel to this, 9 Days and 9 Nights.

 

 

 

The Belles was a book that I was so excited to snag an ARC of at YALLWEST, and it did not disappoint! The world and story is full of magic, wonder and whimsy, and really immerses the reader into the story. I can’t wait for this book to come out so everyone can share in the amazingness. It hits shelves on February 6th, 2018.

 

 

Another travel book! This was a really fun YA book, because the characters were college-aged, which I appreciate a lot. Sydney and Leela get into some crazy antics on their wild European vacation.

 

 

 

 

Daughter of the Pirate King sat on my TBR for the longest time, but once I picked it up, I flew through it! This was such a well written book, and I loved the pirate theme going for it. I absolutely can’t wait to see what Alosa gets up to in Daughter of the Siren Queen.

 

 

 

I love Krysten Ritter, so when I found out that she was writing a book, I knew I had to read it. Bonfire is a mystery thriller that really kept me wondering what was going to happen next. I hope this isn’t the last that we see of Krysten Ritter’s author career.

 

 

 

This book really surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. It takes place in an airport during a major snowstorm. All flights get cancelled, and Ryn meets some new people in the airport that help her to get through a tough time.

 

 

 

Glitter was one of my favorite books of 2016, so it only makes sense that the sequel, Shatter, made it onto my top list as well. Danica’s story is full of excitement and drama. I’m so curious to see where the final book takes this story. Shatter comes out on February 13th, 2018.

Top Ten – Book Review

Title: Top Ten

Author: Katie Cotugno

Pages: 320 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Published: October 3, 2017

Summary:

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?

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Review:

I feel like I can relate to Gabby a lot, which is probably why I liked this book so much. I’ve read a lot of reviews for this book in which people don’t like Top Ten because they can’t relate to the character, but that wasn’t an issue for me. Gabby has some pretty bad anxiety, and while my anxiety is nowhere near hers, I could still sympathize with a lot of what she feels, because I feel the same things to a lesser extent. I think that a lot of times, people don’t understand how tough it is to have feelings like this, and to see a character with such severe anxiety really helped me to feel like what I feel is more normal than I think it is. (I know anxiety is a huge deal, but it’s always hard to feel like you’re not alone in your symptoms.)

One of my absolute favorite things about Katie Cotugno’s writing is the fact that her books are never your “typical contemporary”. I always find that things never end the way you might expect or want them to in Katie’s novels. Sure, you might want things to end happy, with a neat little bow tied around everything, but that isn’t how life works, and it’s not how Katie’s books work either. And I LOVE it! Her characters are always flawed, and that makes them feel so much more real.

The format that this book was told in made it tough for me to grasp where in the timeline I was at times. It is told in an episodic structure, with each chapter being a different memory/story between Ryan and Gabby, and even though they were in chronological order, I was constantly confused about “has this already happened yet?!” I also think this confusion was slightly due to the fact I read this as an ebook, so it was much more challenging to be able to flip back to the beginning of a chapter and see when in the timeline that particular story was taking place.

I am a Katie Cotugno fan for life, and this book is no exception. I give it 4.25/5 stars.

 

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

 

Neighborhood Girls – Book Review

Title: Neighborhood Girls

Author: Jessie Ann Foley

Pages: 368 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Publisher: Harper Teen

Published: September 12, 2017

Summary:

When Wendy Boychuck’s father, a Chicago cop, was escorted from their property in handcuffs for his shady criminal practices, she knew her life would never be the same. Her father gets a years-long jail sentence, her family falls on hard times, and the whispers around town are impossible to ignore. If that wasn’t bad enough, she gets jumped walking home from a party one night. Wendy quickly realizes that in order to survive her father’s reputation, she’ll have to make one for herself.

Then Wendy meets Kenzie Quintana—a cigarette-smoking, Catholic-school-uniform-skirt-hiking alpha—and she knows that she’s met her savior. Kenzie can provide Wendy with the kind of armor a girl needs when she’s trying to outrun her father’s past. Add two more mean girls to the mix—Sapphire and Emily—and Wendy has found herself in Academy of the Sacred Heart’s most feared and revered clique. Makeover complete.

But complete is far from what Wendy feels. Instead, she faces the highs and lows of a vapid, toxic friendship, the exhaustion that comes with keeping up appearances, and the only loss that could hurt more than losing herself.

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Review:

 

Oftentimes when I start reading a book, I don’t like to read the description because I don’t want to “spoil” myself on what the book is going to be about. So while I did read the description before I requested this book, by the time I actually got around to reading it, I had no clue what it was about. Which is exactly how I like it.

Wendy has had a tough life in recent years, and she hasn’t exactly tried to make it any easier on herself. I think that there is so much character growth throughout this novel, not only with Wendy, but with a lot of the other characters as well.

Perhaps one of my favorite things about this book was the way that Jessie Ann Foley captures the strange ways that teenagers (and people in general, lets be honest) act. Sometimes its as if there is no reasoning behind certain decisions, but to whoever is making the decision, it just “feels” right. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve thought something would be a great idea, only to look back or be told by someone else how stupid it was. It’s just a part of life, but it is a part that Jessie Ann Foley captures in the most realistic way.

I am not a religious person, so the fact that religion plays a big part in the main character’s life had me a little hesitant to read this. I don’t really like it when things feel preachy, and like they are trying to push certain beliefs down your throat. A lot of this book takes place within a Catholic high school, and focuses around religious themes. But religion was handled so tastefully in this book, that I found myself almost forgetting it was even a factor.

Some of the pacing of this book felt a little off to me. At times, random stories or memories would be thrown into the main story arc, and it was a bit jarring, leaving me wondering how or why it fit into the overall arc. But overall, I enjoyed the story a lot, and give it 3.75/5 stars.

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

 

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