Category Archives: contemporary

Hope Nation – Blog Tour and Excerpt

Title: Hope Nation

Editor: Dr. Rose Brock

Pages: 304

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Philomel Books

Published: February 27th, 2018

Summary:

We all experience moments when we struggle to understand the state of the world, when we feel powerless and—in some cases—even hopeless. The teens of today are the caretakers of tomorrow, and yet it’s difficult for many to find joy or comfort in such a turbulent society. But in trying times, words are power.

Some of today’s most influential young adult authors come together in this highly personal nonfiction collection of essays, poems, and letters, each a first-hand account that ultimately strives to inspire hope.

Like a modern day Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Teens, Hope Nation acknowledges the pain and shines a light on what comes after.

Authors include: Marie Lu, David Levithan, Gayle Forman, Renee Ahdieh, Alex London, Julie Murphy, James Dashner, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Sarah Mlynowski, Jeff Zentner, Ally Condie, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Romina Garber, Angie Thomas, Howard Bryant, Aisha Saeed, Margaret Stohl, Ally Carter, Nic Stone, I.W.Gregorio, Kate Hart, Atia Abawi, Libba Bray

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Continue on to read an except from Hope Nation

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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

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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.

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.*

 

There’s Someone Inside Your House – Book Review

Title: There’s Someone Inside Your House

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Pages: 289 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Horror, Contemporary

Publisher: Dutton Books

Published: September 26, 2017

Summary:

Over a year after her parents sent her away from Hawaii to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, Makani Young is still adjusting to her new life. She’s made a small group of close friends and even flirted with romance, but her past in Hawaii is still hard to forget. And then . . . one by one the students of her new high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders. Makani doesn’t know who’s next on the list. Between this, and a secret scorching relationship with the school weirdo, this school year may turn out to be one to die for . . . literally.

Review:

 

Oh my goodness. Where do I begin with this book?

I really enjoyed this book. I’m not usually the type who likes scary things. I hate horror for the sake of horror (i.e. movies that make you jump just to scare the pants off of you), and I think of myself as more of a thriller kind of girl. So I’ll admit I was a bit hesitant about reading There’s Someone Inside Your House. But, seeing as though I’ve always loved Stephanie Perkins’ books, I decided that I was going to read this one regardless of my initial thoughts. I’m glad I did.

This book got right into the action in the first chapter, which I loved! There’s nothing worse than a book that drags on with a slow burn. Also, I definitely was not terrified by this book. It has some great horror elements, but it didn’t keep me up at night. That being said, there was one evening where I was reading this book rather late in the night, with all of the lights out (it was an e-ARC), and I heard some noises in my house, which set my heart pounding. I later found out it was my mom doing some weird things in the house, but boy, was I a little nervous. I even got up to double-check the house for anything suspicious.

I think if you go into this book expecting a full-on horror novel, you will be disappointed. But if you keep in mind that Stephanie Perkins is a contemporary writer, I think you will be very happy with this book. There’s plenty of romance within this book to appease those who want more of Perkins’ swoon boys, but it doesn’t feel like it’s too much for the genre. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of intrigue and mystery going on surrounding the killer.

I gave There’s Someone Inside Your House 4/5 stars.

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

 

Nice Try, Jane Sinner – Book Review

Title: Nice Try, Jane Sinner 

Author: Lianne Oelke

Pages: 432

Genre: YA, contemporary

Publisher: Clarion Books

Release Date: January 9, 2018

Summary:

The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

Review:

Jane Sinner is not your typical main character. She is sassy, and a smart ass, and unapologetically herself. She’s been through some tough experiences in her life, but they’ve helped shape her into the person that she is. I think one of the things that I love most about Jane is that she sticks to what she believes in, and she doesn’t let others try to sway her. In the beginning of the book, Jane is faced with the decision of what to do after being kicked out of high school months before graduation. She knows that living at home isn’t the best environment for her, because she doesn’t have the same views as her parents and doesn’t want them to constantly judge her and her actions. So she agrees to go to community college to finish her high school diploma, as long as she can move out of the house. I admire Jane’s strength and tenacity.

Jane’s story is told through the perspective of her diary, which is such a great format for this book. Seeing as though Jane is a contestant on a student-run reality show similar to Big Brother, being able to know Jane’s deepest inner thoughts really allows the reader to get to know her. I’ve never been a huge fan of reality competition shows, but Big Brother has always been my guilty pleasure, and I loved that Jane Sinner took it’s own spin on the show.

Jane’s family is extremely religious, and the irony that their last name is Sinner is not lost on me. Being from a family that has religious values that I don’t agree with, I was able to understand Jane’s struggles with the issue. Jane can’t really figure out a way to let her parents know that she doesn’t believe in God without them thinking that there’s something wrong with her.

Jane is so snarky, and I love it! For most of the novel, I felt like Jane’s thoughts mirrored many of my own internal thoughts that I tend to keep to myself. She, however, has no qualms about speaking her mind and letting her thoughts be known. She is blunt and doesn’t beat around the bush. I really think that more people should be like Jane Sinner, because the world would be so much less confusing.

The supporting cast of characters is so varied and lively. They are all so well developed, and you can tell that they each have their own motivations behind their actions. I really believe that none of the characters in Nice Try, Jane Sinner are like any others that I’ve seen before.

I really don’t think I could have asked for any more in this book. I devoured it so fast, and was immensely satisfied. It surprised me in the best ways, and took turns that were entirely unexpected. Jane Sinner is refreshingly unique, and should be at the top of every YA lover’s 2018 TBR. I give it 5/5 stars.

I received an e-ARC of this from HMH Teen in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Lucky in Love – Book Review

Title: Lucky in Love

Author: Kasie West

Pages: 333 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Scholastic

Published: July 25, 2017

Summary:

Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

With tons of humor and heart, Kasie West delivers a million-dollar tale of winning, losing, and falling in love.

Review:

 

I was so excited for this book when I heard about it. I’ve read a few of Kasie’s books and I absolutely loved them. So when I got a chance to read Lucky in Love, I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, I was not lucky enough to fall in love with this book. I liked it okay, but I have quite a few problems with this book.

Maddie, our main character, is likable. She’s smart. She works hard for what she wants, and has a close group of friends. But once she wins the lottery and has $30+ million at her disposal, she makes a lot of bad decisions. She says she’ll go see a financial advisor as soon as the money comes through, yet she puts it off over and over again. She lets people talk her into giving them money for the stupidest things. The more bad decisions Maddie made, the slower I found myself reading. I have very little patience for stupidity, and Maddie is just so darn trusting and gullible. When I had about 50 pages left, I seriously considered not finishing because I just couldn’t deal with Maddie any more.

The crazy thing is, though Maddie’s instincts when it comes to giving people money absolutely suck, her instincts about people in general are pretty spot on. Which makes it so much more difficult to believe that she’s making such bad choices. I fully believe that she has the best intentions, and that she just needs a little help. Nevertheless, it was still tough to read. A contemporary that’s as long as Lucky in Love takes me less than a day to read usually. This, however, took me three whole days to get through.

There were some redeeming aspects to Maddie. She does give each of her parents and her brother a million dollars apiece, to help with their financial struggles. She thinks that this will fix all of her problems (i.e. her parents’ marital issues and her brother’s depression over not being able to continue college because of money), and while the money makes things better for a while, it’s only a temporary fix.

I did really like the romance in this book, which is probably why I rated this book as high as I did. I loved that Seth and Maddie didn’t have instalove, and their romance developed throughout the course of the entire novel. Their romance is really cute, and gave me all of the feels.

Overall, I didn’t hate this book, but I wanted to smack some sense into Maddie so many times that it made it a bit difficult to get through at times. I give Lucky in Love 3/5 stars. Definitely not my favorite book of Kasie West’s.