Tag Archives: ya contemporary

The Impossibility of Us – Book Review

Title: The Impossibility of Us

Author: Katy Upperman

Pages: 320

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Published: July 31, 2018

Summary:

The last thing Elise wants is to start her senior year in a new town. But after her brother’s death in Afghanistan, she and her mother move from San Francisco to a sleepy coastal village.

When Elise meets Mati, they quickly discover how much they have in common. Mati is new to town too, visiting the U.S. with his family. Over the course of the summer, their relationship begins to blossom, and what starts out as a friendship becomes so much more.

But as Elise and Mati grow closer, her family becomes more and more uncomfortable with their relationship, and their concerns all center on one fact—Mati is Afghan.

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Prince in Disguise – Book Review

Title: Prince in Disguise

Author: Stephanie Kate Strohm

Pages: 320 (hardcover)

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Published: December 19, 2017

Summary:

Someday I want to live in a place where I never hear “You’re Dusty’s sister?” ever again.

Life is real enough for Dylan-especially as the ordinary younger sister of Dusty, former Miss Mississippi and the most perfect, popular girl in Tupelo. But when Dusty wins the hand of the handsome Scottish laird-to-be Ronan on the TRC television network’s crown jewel, Prince in Disguise, Dylan has to face a different kind of reality: reality TV.

As the camera crew whisks them off to Scotland to film the lead-up to the wedding, camera-shy Dylan is front and center as Dusty’s maid of honor. The producers are full of surprises-including old family secrets, long-lost relatives, and a hostile future mother-in-law who thinks Dusty and Dylan’s family isn’t good enough for her only son. At least there’s Jamie, an adorably bookish groomsman who might just be the perfect antidote to all Dylan’s stress . . . if she just can keep TRC from turning her into the next reality show sensation.

Review:

Oh my goodness, I loved this book so much! I need at least a dozen more like it! Prince in Disguise has everything I never knew I wanted in a contemporary. It has travel, sassy Southern belles, and sexy Scots. Dylan and Jamie’s dynamic is so hilarious and cute, and at times it just makes you cringe how awkward and obvious things are between them.

There is also a reality tv element to this book, and I think it really added to the drama and hilarity of the book. I’d like to think that some of the things that the production crew in this book do are so far-fetched that they couldn’t possibly be true, but I majored in broadcast communications and did a lot of reading about reality tv production in school, and I don’t doubt for one second that every thing that’s mentioned in this book has happed on some reality show.

One thing that I absolutely love about books set in foreign countries is that it really makes me want to travel more to see all of the amazing sights our world has. I’ve wanted to go to Scotland for so long now, so reading a book that is set there almost gives me that experience, at least enough to hold me over until I actually can convince someone to go with me. I swear, I don’t just want to go because I love Outlander so much…

Prince in Disguise is a fun, quick read, perfect for getting you out of a reading slump, or when you’re looking for the right book to enjoy on a beautiful rainy day. It’ll definitely make you swoon and wish that you were in Dylan’s situation. I would absolutely love to see a sequel to this book, because I am dying to know what happens to all of the characters! I give it 5/5 stars.

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

Starry Eyes – Book Review

Title: Starry Eyes

Author: Jenn Bennett

Pages: 432 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Published: April 3, 2018

Summary:

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

Review:

I am a big fan of contemporary books taking on tough issues. A lot of times, contemporaries can be just sweet and “fluffy,” for lack of a better term. There’s obviously nothing wrong with this, as I’ve read more than my fair share of these kinds of books. In fact, they’re kind of my guilty pleasure. But when a book can touch on tough topics that are incredibly relevant in today’s world, such as cheating and divorce, I absolutely love it.

Zorie is faced with a lot of tough decisions throughout the course of the book, that really give her a chance to grow and discover who she is outside of a family setting. Zorie is a character who typically plans everything down to the tiniest of details, so when things start going wrong and throwing her plans out the door, she has to decide if she can learn to roll with the punches.

I did not expect this book to make me nostalgic for camping, but it sure did, and now I feel the need to go camping this summer. Starry Eyes has a lot of fun and hilarious moments, and I absolutely devoured it. I felt like the characters were extremely easy to relate to, and they show a lot of growth and character development. I gave Starry Eyes 5/5 stars. It’s a perfect summery read.

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

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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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.

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.*

 

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.

What to Say Next – Book Review

Title: What to Say Next

Author: Julie Buxbaum

Pages: 272 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Published: July 11, 2017

Summary:

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

Review:

 

I was so excited when I got an ARC of this book. If you’ve read my review of Tell Me Three Things, then you know how much I absolutely love Julie Buxbaum’s writing. I went into What to Say Next with pretty high expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed. I flew through this book so quickly, and instantly fell in love with the characters.

The first thing that I fell in love with about this book was the diversity of the characters. Both of the main characters in this novel are diverse: David is on the Autism spectrum, and Kit is half Indian. While each of these characters are unique, their personalities work extremely well together. Seeing their friendship develop throughout the book made me love these two so much. You know those books where you never want to leave the characters behind, even after the story is long over? This is most definitely one of those books. Kit and David’s story sucks you in and leaves you feeling so many emotions.

I also really loved the alternating perspectives in this book. It helps to show the back and forth between Kit and David, as well as what they are both thinking and feeling as things happen between them. Especially in some scenes, it was so great to see both sides of the story and really understand how things can be meant to come off a certain way, but are completely changed by someone else’s perspective on the matter.

I give What to Say Next 5/5 stars. On a side note, I am absolutely LOVING all of the diverse reads that we have been getting lately, and all I can say is “Give me more, please!”