Playing the Player by Lisa Brown Roberts | ARC Book Review (Blog Tour + Giveaway)

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Playing the PlayerPlaying the Player by Lisa Brown Roberts

4 stars =Really Good

Publication Date: September 14th 2015
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Young-Adult
Series Status: N/A—Stand Alone
Page Count: 295
Source & Format: Publisher via Netgalley, ebook
Purchase: kindle | nook | ibooks | kobo

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Good Girl Vs. The Player
Round one begins…

Trina Clemons needed the money. Why else would she – the most organized, prepared student in school – spend the summer as a nanny and partner with the biggest slacker ever? Now she’s ready to tackle nannyhood with her big binder of research and schedules. Just don’t ask her about the secret job of “fixing” the bad habits of a certain high school player…

Slade Edmunds prefers easy hook-ups, and Trina is definitely not his type. She’s all structure and rules, while Slade wants to just have fun. Fortunately, Trina has no idea about the bet Slade made with his best friend that he can totally get her to unwind by the end of summer…

Then the weirdest thing happens. There’s chemistry. A lot of it.
But nothing gets between a boy and a girl like a big, fat secret…

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Hello! Today I have a review on Playing the Player by Lisa Brown Roberts, as part of a blog tour hosted by YA Bound Book Tours (You can check out the rest of the schedule here). Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy!

The first thing I’m going to say about this book is that simply put, I really enjoyed it! It’s a very fun read that will satisfy romance and contemporary lovers out there with the wonderful chemistry between the characters, and the well-done cliches, which, you have to admit, doesn’t always happen and can be pretty fun to read about! You can’t even deny it. 😉 I haven’t ever read anything else by Lisa Brown Roberts, but after this I definitely will!

Quick Summary

In Playing the Player we follow the story of Trina and Slade, both complete opposites. While Trina is about control and discipline, Slade is a easy-going player who treats life as a party. When they’re paired together to work as partners, neither of them know about the secrets the other is keeping. And it soon seems to be, that although both Trina and Slade are way out of their league, they both have lots of chemistry. But is it for the good? Or will it just blow up in their faces?

Plot

I will not deny it; this plot is pretty cliché, with the whole “Good girl falls for the bad-boy player” scheme and all. I’m sure most of you have seen that trope, since it’s almost everywhere. But one of things I loved about this book was the fact that the author took this trope and gave it a twist that fully worked for the story and really made it interesting to read about. Trina didn’t just help Slade, Slade helped Trina to grow as a person and loosen up. And I loved seeing that happen. The plot may have been cliched, but really, that only adds to an overall great story, since it was still enjoyable to read and artfully done.

Another thing I loved about the plot was the overall feel-good vibe to it. The story was perfectly executed to suit its audience with the right of amount of cuteness that made it the perfect summer read. Though the plot was pretty predictable, I still loved every minute of it!

Characters

Another thing I loved about this novel was the fact it was character-driven. I loved the characters, even with the little things I did have some problems with.

Take Trina, for example. I mostly loved her character, especially seeing her character develop throughout the novel. At the start, she’s very rigid about things, as well as vulnerable behind her armor, but by the end she’s much stronger and more relaxed. The chemistry between her and Slade is great, and I really liked watching her fall for Slade—slowly.

“I didn’t know what we were doing or what any of this meant. But I intended to follow it all the way through, because for the first time in forever, I felt fully alive.”

She’s also different than most characters I’ve read about, and I praise the author for creating a character like her. Not only did that make Trina stand out, it also made me more interested in her. I mean, it’s not often that I come across a character who handles things the way Trina does, and there was some wonderful characterization I saw in her that made her more than just a 2-dimensional figure.

“I hated it when I lost control, because I hardly ever did. My whole life was built on discipline and schedules and never making mistakes. I dreaded what would happen if I let down my guard, even for a day.”

I will admit though, that I would’ve liked it a bit more had there been a stronger reason behind Trina’s rigid attitude. I found out about the big reason behind her worrying tendencies and all that and I was kind of like, “Is that it?” But nonetheless, I loved Trina’s character.

Which brings me to Slade Edmunds, who I really liked (although he’s not without his faults). Of course, he is like one of those typical jock guys you see in contemporaries; the player who’s all for the long-legged Barbie-like ladies. You know what I mean. And despite the fact that I know I’ve seen it before, his character was still interesting. As we get his POV, we see more into how he thinks and that insight definitely proved to be useful since it helped get a deeper perspective into him. He was a really sweet guy and I loved seeing the banter between him and Trina, as well as the way he handled things with the kids.

One thing that wasn’t my favorite about him, was his tendency to comment on how attractive Trina is; noticing her cherry-red lips, her short hair, etc. I mean, this wasn’t a big deal, and I didn’t even notice or care at first, but after a few repetitions of him noticing something and then going like, “Wait, I’m not supposed to be thinking that,” it kind of lost its effect. But again, like my little issue with Trina, this wasn’t a huge deal for me.

And last but not least, I have to mention a few of the secondary characters I really liked! Gillian and Max, the kids Trina and Slade had to watch over, were hilarious and were lots of fun to read about. They were troublemakers for sure! I wasn’t a huge fan of the role the adults played in this, but that didn’t bother me that much since I was more focused on the story.

Writing Style

Lisa Brown Roberts was really able to nail writing in dual-perspective! There were hardly any moments I remember stumbling between chapters, trying to place who’s speaking, thank goodness! It just ruins the flow of reading, you know, when that happens. Both characters’ POVs were written in first person, and it was very well-done. The writing added just the right amount of fluffiness to the novel and really got the characters’ personalities through as well. It had a very conversational tone to it, which went well with the overall warm-fuzzies-and-cuteness feel to the story.

Overall…

This book is a solid 4 stars read that I definitely did not regret! A perfect summer read, this book will give you a  great combination of drama, chemistry between realistic characters, a romance to root for and a story that will have you smiling and turning the pages consistently. Trina and Slade are both characters you can’t help but end up loving despite their flaws-–and that’s what we all look for, right? The plot is pretty cliched and predictable, but if you’re looking for a cute and fluffy read, I recommend picking this one up asap! Seeing the banter between the characters, the development of both Slade and Trina, as well as Gillian and Max amping things up in the humour department, this book is perfect for the summer, or anytime you’re feeling down and need a little fluffy romance!

Have you read this book? Do you want to read this book? And while we’re at it, what are your thoughts on cliches-done-good? Let me know in the comments—and don’t forget to enter the giveaway below!

*I’d also love to know what you think of the slightly new set-up of my review; like it or do you prefer the other style? Feedback greatly appreciated! <3*

Mm, this one was good. Gobble it up!

Analee 4


lisa brown robertsAbout the Author

Lisa Brown Roberts still hasn’t recovered from the teenage trauma of nearly tweezing off both eyebrows and having to pencil them in for an entire school year. This and other angst-filled memories inspire her to write YA books about navigating life’s painful and funny dramas, and falling in love along the way. Her almost forever home is Colorado, though she occasionally pines for the days when she lived within walking distance of the Pacific Ocean. Her house is full of books, boys, several four-legged prima donnas, and lots of laughter.

Author Links
Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook


Giveaway – “Nanny Survival Kit” open to U.S. which will also include a signed copy of the book. If the winner is international, a $20 Amazon gift card will be substituted in place of the prize pack.
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Pepped Up by Ali Dean | Book Review (Blog Tour + Giveaway)

(Pepper Jones #1)

Published: August 25th 2013

Synopsis:

Pepper Jones is ready for an epic cross country season. She wants to qualify for Nationals, and she’s willing to do anything it takes to make it happen. She can handle long miles and hill sprints, but boys? That’s an entirely different challenge.

Pepper’s never considered revealing her deeper feelings for her longtime friend, Jace Wilder. After all, he’s got the personal magnetism and good looks to hook just about any girl in town — and he has. Their friendship stands apart from high school social circles, and they’re both just fine with that (or at least they pretend to be).

That is, until running star Ryan Harding moves to town.

When it comes to running, Pepper’s goals are clear. But when it comes to Jace and Ryan, it’s nowhere near as simple.


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My Rating: 3 stars 3/5 (Decent)

Book Information

Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Page Count: 238

Format: ebook

Purchase: Amazon


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Welcome to my review stop of the first book in the Pepper Jones series, Pepped Up by Ali Dean!

Note: I received a free digital copy thanks to Xpresso Book Tours for review purposes. This doesn’t affect my review in any way.

Pepped Up is a fun, light-hearted contemporary novel that I liked. I wasn’t particularly attached to the main character and the pace was a bit slow for my taste, but overall it’s a good book that will keep you entertained.

Plot

Before anything, I have to say that this book is not at all for readers who dislike love triangles. I tend to be wary of them myself, but I don’t avoid them (not like I can even if I wanted to, seeing how basically all books these days have love triangles). I mean, there are love triangles that turn out to be entertaining, you know? Sadly, this one wasn’t one of them. I feel as if the book was dominated by the love triangle, and instead of being entertaining, in the first half of the novel, I found myself being annoyed at the lack of substance. However, once I took the plot a bit less seriously and just focused on what it’s like in terms of reading about it, I did like the story. It was a relatively light read and it ended up being an entertaining read. That being said, there was one thing that kind of had me a bit iffy about, which was the fact that there were more mature themes in this book than I was expecting. Not necessarily in a bad way, but I suppose since I wasn’t at all expecting such themes in this book, it threw me off.

What I liked most about the plot was the sports theme in this book. It’s not often that I find YA books about sports or with sport-related themes that turn out to be entertaining, and I really liked that aspect of the book. Most of the sports themes had to do with running, and although I’m a terrible runner, it was interesting reading from the perspective of a characters who loved to run and was great at it too.

“This right here is what I live for. The steady rhythm of my feet landing softly on dirt.”

Characters

I have a love-hate thing going on with Pepper. On one hand I like her attitude towards running, the fact that she’s willing to push herself and hold back when needed so she can do the best she can. She’s relatively disciplined and I liked her character, for the most part. On the other hand, what got on my nerves was her tendency to pine after Jace (who’s a complete jerk) and the fact that despite being smart, she couldn’t see the obvious (like so many other YA characters out there). I just couldn’t understand it and it ended up being annoying.

The main love interest, Jace, is who really bugged me. Sure, he had some nice moments, but overall I couldn’t see why Pepper was so into him and there was no depth to him much. I felt as if the only reason people were into him was because he was attractive, which is a bummer because he had the potential to be a real great character. Ryan, the other love interest, was better, there seemed to actually be more to him compared to Jace.

Writing Style

The writing style is one of the best parts of the novel. I would’ve hardly have guessed that this was a debut novel, because the writing had a lot of skill behind it that you wouldn’t expect to see in debuts. I did find the pace to be a bit slow, but that is considering my own taste, I would say for the majority the pace is completely adequate. One thing I was not a big fan of was the ending, because although it’s not technically a cliffhanger, it does leave something missing and felt rushed to me. I’m assuming more will be answered in the next books though.

“I want to capture the exhilaration and peace flowing through my veins, pulsing through my soul. Who needs a vice when you can attain an utter sense of being alive with such simple ingredients?”

-Pepper, about running

Overall…

This contemporary romance debut is more of a hit-or-miss. It wasn’t completely my cup of tea, but it was an entertaining read all the same, despite the more negative side of this book. The plot could’ve been handled better and the characters could’ve had more depth, but if you like love triangles and contemporary romance, this isn’t a bad book to try out. The writing is great, and I really enjoyed the running descriptions. All in all, a decent YA (with mature themes) contemporary romance with sport themes and a love triangle, Pepped Up is the first in a trilogy I have a good chance of continuing. (If only to get a better ending.)

An adequate meal! What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! 

Analee 10


Ali_AUTHOR BIO:

Ali Dean lives in Colorado with her husband and two children. In addition to reading and writing, she loves the outdoors- everything from marathon training and biking to snowboarding and skiing.

Author links: Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook


INT Giveaway – $10 Amazon gift card + a signed copy of any book in the Pepper Jones series (ends August 27th)

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Before Vengeance by Louisa Lo | Blog Tour + Giveaway

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Title: Before Vengeance

Author: Louisa Lo

Series Status: Cosmic Balance #0.5

Publication date: TBA 2015

Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy


Synopsis (from Goodreads):

What if everything you’ve ever known, down to what you are, was a lie?

Growing up in the enchanted kingdom of Dualsing, seventeen-year-old Lady Serafina has always known she’s different. Her fae power never manifested itself during puberty, and her parents treated her like a tolerated houseguest rather than family. Even her childhood sweetheart, Crown Prince Eldon, distanced himself the moment he was old enough to know the secret about Serafina that everyone in their world seems to know—except her.

Now her upcoming birthday is being treated as a national holiday by the very people who’d neglected her, Eldon is in for a political battle of his life that she’s somehow being dragged into, and Serafina is developing abilities that feel terrifyingly right, but aren’t fae power at all.

As she starts to investigate her origin, Serafina has no idea she would be setting in motion events that would have far-reaching consequences not just for herself, but for all the planes.

Note: BEFORE VENGEANCE is a prequel of VENGEANCE BE MINE.

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Purchase: Will be found here come release day


Excerpt

Under the fading sun, I hurried past the palace square, keeping my shoulders slumped and my eyes downcast. To the conversing noble in the vicinity, all they saw was a misfit. Someone looking to avoid trouble and attention.

The truth was, I was trying to avoid bringing attention to the trouble I might cause.

“Lady Serafina,” Alston, the royal butler, called from behind me.

I whirled around on the smooth, white marble floor. Alston balanced a jug of honey in each hand. The lower grade honey was intended as payments to the brownies for their housekeeping service.

I tried to concentrate on Alston’s words, and not the fact that the honey had been skimmed off the top by the butler.

Damn my keen sense of right and wrong, so utterly opposed to what everyone else on this plane considered normal.

“M’lady,” the imposing butler seemed disgusted with himself for having to address me. He didn’t even bother with a bow. “I’m to inform you that on the day of the Crossover, you’re to come to the South Tower before dawn.”

I nodded and started walking, hoping that would be all.

“One more thing,” Alston blocked my path, his eyes dropped to my neck with deep disapproval. “May I remind you to wear the Eye of Sebille at all times. I cannot stress enough the importance of it.”

A couple of noble ladies close by snickered at me, their laughter rang across the square like bells. Their pixies, taking cue from their mistresses, zoomed right by my braid rather than keeping a respectable distance.

I swallowed, my fingers brushed against my bare neck of their own accord. The Eye of Sebille was a long necklace with a bejeweled, egg-sized pendant. I hated wearing it. Not just because of its dead weight and sharp surface, but because of the mystery it represented.

In all my seventeen summers, I had never laid eyes on the Sebille family heirloom. Now, I was suddenly expected to wear it all the time. Why? Did it have something to do with my birthday?

When Alston passed by me, one of the honey jugs brushed against my arm. As the glass made contact with my exposed skin, sensations exploded though my system. It was as though in that moment, I could feel the hardship of the brownies, thankless servants little better than slaves. I felt their every yawn, every sore muscle, and every blister.

A brownie would have to work all year long just to get a single jug of cheap honey. To have over a third of it taken away by someone in a position of power…

It wasn’t right.

The injustices they suffered crashed through me like a tidal wave, stealing my breath and making my fists clench. But when the torrent of indignation passed, what was left in its place was a dead calm.

As I watched Alston’s retreating back, a song rose in me like a long-forgotten nursery rhyme:

Honey, they say you never go bad.

Make an exception,

For he who made the brownies sad.

Before Alston reached the corner of the palace square, he doubled over with pain. He dropped the jugs and collapsed on the floor, curling into a fetal position. He groaned, his arrogant and formidable demeanor gone.

The jugs bounced off the marble floor and landed on a small wooden patio table nearby, without a crack to the glass or a single drop of honey spilling.

Somehow, I knew Alston was in for a long night of food poisoning, just like I knew the brownies, to whom the jugs belonged, would find the honey tasted twice as sweet as it normally would. I had no idea how I knew. I just did.


AUTHOR BIO:

“Louisa Lo has an exciting new voice to bring to urban fantasy and a fun and breezy writing style that kept the pages quickly turning well into the night! I need more!” –Michelle Rowen, National Bestselling Author

LouisaLouisa Lo lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband, an aristocratic cat, and more cardboard boxes than she cares to unpack. She decided to write about vigilantes, because it seems like a better life choice than trying to become one and landing herself in jail. She just has that kind of luck. Visit www.louisalo.com to learn more about Louisa and her books.

Author links:

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Like Candy by Debra Doxer | ARC Book Review (Blog Tour + Giveaway)

(Candy #1)

Published: July 28th 2015

Synopsis:

Revenge is sweet, just like candy.

Candy Seaborne knows she’s badass. She takes after her father, an assassin and possibly a spy, although he won’t admit to either. She idolizes him. Her dream is to follow in his footsteps. But first, she has to finish high school.

Biding her time, waiting for real life to begin, Candy craves drama and isn’t above manufacturing some. If you’re a classmate who wronged her or a boyfriend who cheated, watch your back. She’s no pushover, and revenge may be her favorite pastime.

Jonah Bryson is the senior class heartthrob who breaks all the stereotypes. He’s a jock, but he isn’t the typical player. He’s moody and antisocial. No girl has gotten anywhere with him since his last girlfriend broke his heart.

Candy sees Jonah as a challenge and the perfect distraction. But she may be in over her head because unlike everyone else, Jonah isn’t buying her tough act. He sees the lost, lonely girl inside. He sees too much. When he looks at her that way, she wants to let her guard down and be vulnerable. But that’s the last thing she should do because her father’s world is spilling over into hers, and life is about to get real much sooner than Candy expected.


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My Rating: 3.5 stars 3.5/5 (Liked it)

Book Information

Genre(s): Romance, Mystery, Young Adult

Page Count: 258

Format: ebook

Purchase: Amazon


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Welcome to my review tour stop of Like Candy by Debra Doxer, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours.

Note: I received a free digital eARC of this book thanks to Xpresso Book Tours for review purposes. This does not affect my review.

Like Candy was an entertaining romance and mystery (mostly romance)! I know the genres include ‘mystery’ but really the majority of the book was romance, or that’s how it felt like. It wasn’t ’till I reached near the end of the book where my heart was really beating because of the mystery, my toes curled in anticipation to see what will happen next. Although this was misleading and kind of threw me off, I really enjoyed this book nonetheless.

Plot

The plot was kind of a surprise to me, mostly because from the blurb, I was expecting some kick-butt action from the main character, Candy, but instead got a girl with no skills other than to be able to manipulate and pull pranks on people who’ve wronged her. I also think it could’ve been better executed, it had the potential to be both a contemporary romance as well as a mystery and spy novel, and sometimes that clashed. That being said, the plot was still very entertaining. Despite what I just said about the two genres clashing, I really enjoyed the fact that while we were led to believe the book was all romance by the first part, there were little twists and turns here and there that made the storyline more engaging and unexpected. A lot of the book did focus on the romance between Candy and Jonah, though, so beware of that. Although the plot wasn’t exactly what I expected, I liked the way things turned out, even though the expected cliffhanger at the end has me cursing that I can’t yet read the next book. 🙂

Characters

Candy herself was an interesting character, one for which I have conflicted feelings toward. On one hand, her manipulative attitude, and actions, instead of coming off as badass, as she says herself, at times felt plain mean and petty,and rude for no reasonNot to mention throughout the book she hardly showed any assassin or badass skills at all, which was kind of disappointing. On the other hand, I did understand why she acted the way she did, and found it intriguing, as twisted that may sound. All she really wanted was her father’s approval, the one thing she never seems to be able to get. Her father is often cold and distant, which frustrated me because Candy deserved more, from her father, at least. She was, no matter how much of a strong, assassin kind of character she claimed to be, still really innocent and with no mother and a pretty bad childhood, she wanted, no, needed her father to be proud of her. I understood that, it really made her character, although sometimes hard to like, easier to sympathize with, because a parent’s approval is something we’ve all wanted some time or another, am I right?

As for the other characters, they shined less brightly than Candy, obviously, except for Jonah and Candy’s father. But starting with Jonah, the love interest. I can’t exactly say what I liked most about him, but I did like his character.

“I wish I was the first guy you fell for. Then maybe the shadows in your eyes wouldn’t be there, and when I told you how beautiful you are, you’d believe me. You make me want to erase those shadows and chase away the memories that put them there, because every day that you don’t realize how amazing you are is a tragedy in my book.”

He was definitely swoon-worthy! And hidden inside him there are a bunch of mysteries and secrets which added both depth to his character and more uncertainty that kept me engaged in the story.

As for Candy’s father, I was quite frustrated with him in the way he treated Candy, both hot and cold moods (generally cold) but his character really intrigued me. By the end of the novel we hardly knew anything more about him than when we started (which was kind of irksome, to be honest) and he was in a cloud of mystery. He has a lot of potential to be a crucial part in the story, and I’m really interested in seeing how he will turn out to be.

Writing Style

The writing style was great! I couldn’t stop reading, everything flowed seamlessly, and there were often parts of the book where it was like reading poetry without actually reading poetry, if that makes any sense.

“As I watched my mother fade and my father grieve, my inability to do anythings sat like a weight on my chest, growing heavier each day until something as simple as breathing hurt. All I could do was stand by while everything fell apart, and no matter how much I wished for things to get better, they never did.”

Although novels written in first person is sometimes a hit or miss kind of thing, in this book, I really felt Candy’s emotions, her feelings, really clearly and the writing was executed very well for the story. It was steamy in some places, mysterious in others, cute in several places. All arranged nicely to really show Candy’s feelings.

Overall…

This book felt more like a ‘hit or miss’ to me. You either like it or you don’t. The plot was an interesting combination of both mystery and romance, while most of the book focuses on the romance, there is more to it that keeps you engaged in the story. I’ll be looking forward to the second book, especially after the cliffhanger in this book! I’m also interested in seeing more of Candy’s development. She was fine in this book, however there are several things about her that I think I was supposed to enjoy, but instead I found came off as shallow and unmoral, and which might be delved into more in the sequel. I did really sympathize with her and understood her though, which is a plus in the reading experience. The secondary characters weren’t the greatest, but both Jonah and Candy’s father had a lot of depth to them and have the potential to be great characters in the sequel. The writing was easy to read, seamlessly flowing and really helping to get the readers acquainted with the way Candy thought. All in all, this book was quite enjoyable and I liked it!

This book will have you gobbling it up like candy! Eat it quickly!

Analee 10


Debra

AUTHOR BIO:
Debra Doxer was born in Boston, and other than a few lost years in the California sunshine, she has always resided in the Boston area. She writes fiction, technical software documents, illegible scribbles on sticky notes, and texts that get mangled by AutoCorrect. She writes for a living, and she writes for fun. When her daughter asks when she’ll run out of words, her response always is, “When I run out of time.”
Connect with Debra. She loves hearing from readers.
Author links: Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter


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What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi | Blog Tour + Giveaway

What You Left Behind_bookcoverWhat You Left Behind
By Jessica Verdi

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: August 4th 2015

Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult Fiction

Hardcover ISBN: 9781492614401
$16.99 Hardcover

Trade Paperback ISBN: 9781492608745
$9.99 Trade Paperback


Synopsis

Jessica Verdi, the author of My Life After Now and The Summer I Wasn’t Me, returns with a heartbreaking and poignant novel of grief and guilt that reads like Nicholas Sparks for teens.

It’s all Ryden’s fault. If he hadn’t gotten Meg pregnant, she would have never stopped her chemo treatments and would still be alive. Instead he’s failing fatherhood one dirty diaper at a time. And it’s not like he’s had time to grieve while struggling to care for their infant daughter, start his senior year, and earn the soccer scholarship he needs to go to college.

The one person who makes Ryden feel like his old self is Joni. She’s fun and energetic—and doesn’t know he has a baby. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep his two worlds separate. Finding one of Meg’s journals only stirs up old emotions. Ryden’s convinced Meg left other notebooks for him to find, some message to help his new life make sense. But how is he going to have a future if he can’t let go of the past?

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Praise for What You Left Behind

 “A powerful indictment of reparative therapy–a sweet love story–and an unforgettable main character!” –Nancy Garden, author of Annie on My Mind

 “Ryden’s story is a moving illustration of how sometimes you have to let go of the life you planned to embrace the life you’ve been given. A strong, character-driven story that teen readers will love.”

–Carrie Arcos, National Book Award Finalist for Out of Reach

“His [Ryden’s] candid voice is endearing, and although his present-tense narration at first seems like every other teen novel on the shelf, the granulated iteration of baby details helps to illuminate the crushing burden he feels. Other characters are also well-drawn, and the plot moves along tidily to a satisfying conclusion. Verdi balances her plot elements deftly.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Verdi holds nothing back, shedding a realistic light on Ryden’s situation, his decisions, and their very real consequences. His voice is spot-on and doesn’t sugarcoat the harsh realities that he faces. It isn’t often that a book nails the male teen voice as well as Verdi does in this work. An excellent addition to YA collections.” — School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Teens will be hooked by the premise but will stick with Ryden and his friends in this all-too-real portrait of a modern family.” — Booklist

You can find my review here!


Excerpt from What You Left Behind

Chapter 1

If there’s a more brain-piercing sound than a teething baby crying, I can’t tell you what it is.

I fall back on my bed, drop Meg’s journal, and rake my hands through my hair. It’s kinda funny—in an ironic way, not an LOL way—that I even notice how greasy my hair is with the wailing filling my room and ringing in my head. But I do. It’s gross. When was the last time I washed it? Three days ago? Four? I haven’t had time for anything more than a quick soap and rinse in days.

And here I used to purposely go a day or two without washing it. Girls have always liked my chin-length hair that falls in my face when I’m hunched over a test in school and that I have to pull back with a rubber band during soccer practice. But now it’s gone past sexy-straggly and straight into flat-out dirty.

God, I would kill for a long, hot, silent shower. I would lather, rinse, repeat like it was my fucking job.

Tears squeeze between Hope’s closed eyelids and her little chubby feet wiggle every which way. Her pink, gummy mouth is open wide, and you can just begin to see specks of white where her teeth are coming in.

Her crib is littered with evidence of my attempts to get her to please stop crying—a discarded teething ring, a mostly-full bottle, and this freakish, neon green, stuffed monster with huge eyes that my mom swore Hope liked when she first gave it to her, though I have no idea how she could tell that.

I pick up Hope and try massaging her gums with a damp washcloth like they say to do on all the baby websites. I bounce her on my hip and walk her around my room, trying to murmur soothing, shhhh-ing sounds. I even rub her head, as gently as my clunky, goal-blocking hands can manage. But nothing works. The screams work their way inside me, rattling my blood cells.

Yes, I changed her diaper. I even brought her to the doctor last week to make sure nothing’s actually wrong with her, some leftover sickness from Meg or something. There’s not.

Ever since Hope was born six months ago, I’ve been learning on the fly, getting used to the diapers and bottles and sleeping when she sleeps. I spend all of my free time reading mommy-ing websites, finding out which stores have the right kind of wipes, and shopping at the secondhand store for baby clothes, because they’re basically just as good as new and Hope grows out of everything so fast anyway.

Hope’s never fully warmed to me. She always cries more when I hold her than when my mom does—but it’s never been this bad. This teething stuff is no joke. According to the Internet, anyway. It’s not like Hope’s giving me a dissertation on what she’s feeling. Whenever I get anywhere near her, she screams her head off. Which means no matter how hard I try or how many books I read or websites I scour, I’m still doing something wrong. But what else is new?

Lately I’ve had this idea that I can’t seem to shake.

What if I’m missing some crucial dad-gene because I never had one of my own? What if I’m literally incapable of being a father to this baby because I have zero concept of what a father really is? Like beyond a definition or what you see of your friends’ families and on TV.

I have no idea what that relationship’s supposed to be like. I’ve never lived it.

And inevitably that thought leads to this one:

Maybe finding my dad, Michael, is the key to all of this making some sense. Maybe if I tracked him down, I’d finally be clued in to what I’ve been missing. The real stuff. How you’re supposed to talk to each other. What the, I don’t know, energy is like between a father and a son. Not that I’m into cosmic energy bullshit or anything.

If I could be the son in that interaction, even once, for a single conversation, that could jumpstart my being a father. Right? At least I’d have some frame of reference, some experience.

But that would require getting more info about Michael from my mom. And I’ve already thrown enough curveballs her way to last a lifetime.

The music blasting from Mom’s home office shuts off. Five o’clock exactly, like always nowadays. She loves her job making custom, handmade wedding invitations for rich people. Before Hope, Mom would work all hours of the day and night. But it turns out babies costa shitload of money, and despite how well Mom’s business is doing, it’s not enough. So the new arrangement is that during the day Mom gets to turn her music on and her grandma duties off while I take care of Hope. Then Mom takes over when I leave for work at 5:30.

In a few days that schedule’s going to change, and I don’t know what the hell we’re going to do. That’s another topic I haven’t brought up with Mom. She keeps saying we need to talk about our plan for “when school starts up again,” like she’s forgotten that soccer practice starts sooner than that. Like it doesn’t matter anymore or something.

But I can’t not play. Soccer is the one thing I kick ass at. It’s the whole reason I’m going back to school this fall instead of sticking with homeschooling, which I did for the last few months of last year after Hope was born. Fall is soccer season. I need to go to school in order to play on the team. And I need to play on the team because I’m going to UCLA on an athletic scholarship next year. It’s pretty much a done deal. I’ve even spoken to their head coach a few times this summer. He called me on July first, the first day he was allowed to contact me according to NCAA rules. He’s seen my game film, tracked my stats, and is sending a recruiter to watch one of my games in person. He wants me on his team. This is what I’ve been working toward my whole life. So Mom’s delusional if she thinks I’m giving it up.

I wipe the tears from Hope’s face and the drool from around her mouth. Her soft, unruly, dark hair tickles my hand as I set her down in her crib. She’s still crying. She grasps onto my finger, holding on extra tight, like she’s saying, “Do something, man. This shit is painful!”

“I’m trying,” I mumble.

I meet Mom in her office, where she’s sitting on the floor, attempting to organize her materials. Stacks of paper and calligraphy pens are scattered among plastic bags filled with real leaves from the trees in our yard. Three hot glue guns are plugged into the wall, and photos of the Happy Couple glide across Mom’s laptop screen.

“Hippie wedding in California?” I guess, nodding at the leaves. The people who hire Mom to make one-of-a-kind invitations always want a design that relates who they are. Mom and I started this game years ago. She tells me what materials she’s using, and I try to guess what kind of people the Happy Couple are. I’m usually pretty good.

Mom shakes her head. “Hikers in Boulder.”

Or I was pretty good. Now everything is so turned around that I can barely think.

“That was my next guess,” I say.

Mom smiles. She’s been so great about everything. She’s not even pissed about me making her a thirty-five-year-old grandmother. She says that she, better than anyone, gets how these things happen. But this is not your typical “oops, got pregnant in high school, what do we do now?” scenario, like what happened to her. This is the much more rare “oops, I killed the love of my life by getting her pregnant in high school, and ruined my life and the lives of all her family and friends in the process” situation.

And deep down, I know Mom knows that. Mom’s green eyes used to sparkle. They don’t anymore. It’s not because of the baby—she loves that kid to an almost ridiculous level. It’s because of me. She’s sad for me. Even though the name “Meg” is strictly off-limits in our house, I can almost see the M and E and G floating around in my mom’s eyes like alphabet soup, like she’s been bottling up everything she’s wanted to say for the past six months and it is about to overflow. I need to get out of here.

“So, I’m out,” I say quickly, clipping my Whole Foods nametag to my hoodie. “Be home at ten-fifteen.”

Mom sighs. “Okay, Ry. Have fun. Love you.”

“Love you too,” I call back as I head to the front door.

She always says that when I leave to go somewhere. Have fun. She’s been saying it for years. Doesn’t matter if I’m going to school or work or soccer practice or a freaking pediatrician’s appointment with Hope. Have fun. Like having fun is the most important thing you can do. Like you can possibly have fun when you’re such a fucking mess.


About the Author

Jessica VerdiJessica Verdi lives in Brooklyn, NY and received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. Her favorite pastimes include singing show tunes at the top of her lungs (much to her husband’s chagrin), watching cheesy TV, and scoring awesome non-leather shoes in a size 5. She’s still trying to figure out a way to put her uncanny ability to remember both song lyrics and the intricacies of vampire lore to good use. Follow Jess on Twitter @jessverdi.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


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Sourcebooks

Twisted by Holly Hook | Book Review (Blog Tour + Giveaway)

(Deathwind Trilogy #1)

Published: December 15th 2013

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Allie’s going on the vacation of her life: tornado chasing. What can possibly go wrong with that?

But a terrifying, magical experience leaves Allie shocked and confused, and she learns that she now bears an awful curse.

Every time there’s a storm, she turns into a tornado. Literally.

Allie has no choice but to flee her hometown–if she stays, her new powers could harm or even kill everyone she loves.

She must return to the plains and find those who made her this way. But this journey is only the beginning of her adventure.

Twisted is the first book of the Deathwind Trilogy, a new young adult and teen paranormal romance series. The second book, Torn, is also available. Book Three of the Deathwind Trilogy, Unleashed, will be released in Summer of 2015.


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My Rating: 3 stars 3/5 (Decent)

Book Information

Genre(s): Paranormal, Young-Adult

Page Count: 202

Format: ebook

Purchase: Amazon


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Hello! Welcome to my review blog tour stop of Twisted by Holly Hook, a YA paranormal novel.

Note: I received a free digital copy of this book thanks to Xpresso Book Tours for review purposes. This does not affect my review.

Twisted is an interesting YA paranormal story that is full of twists and turns! I really enjoyed the fresh fantasy and paranormal aspect introduced in this book—people who turn into tornadoes? Totally a cool idea. The characters were not as likeable as I wish they were, but they were still alright, which made this book interesting to read. The writing was fun to read and was simultaneously mysterious and somehow had a very ‘light’ feel to it. Overall, I really liked the book, although I think this book would’ve been even more enjoyable for a bit younger age. But all in all, a good start to an interesting new YA fantasy/paranormal series!

Plot

I really enjoyed the concept of Twisted, I’d say it’s one of the brightest points of the story. It was fresh and unique, something I haven’t ever seen before in the YA genres. I do think there were several parts that could’ve been explained better, but as it is, the story was very intriguing and explained enough to keep me from being too confused as to become bored and uninterested. There was almost constant action, which was a bit disarming at first, but as I got used to the fast-paced storyline, I really liked it. Although I have to admit that this caused some of the supposed climax scenes to be a bit anti-climactic and basically ‘normal’ since the rest of the book went by so fast. The plot had me interested to know more and was wrapped up very well.

 

Characters

This is the part where things get a bit more icky and hard to explain. I liked the characters, but not as much as I could’ve. I found Allie to be an average protagonist, one that I feel like I’ve seen before, one that didn’t shine that bright for me, unfortunately. I didn’t really have any major problems with her, I even sympathized with her at times, but I guess I just didn’t find her to be that interesting to me. Her role in the story did come off as a bit stereotypical, as the girl who is in the spot to be the saviour or destroyer, inhuman and rebellious, etc etc. but that didn’t bother me that much, to be honest. I kind of just let that fly over my head. Bottom line is, I didn’t particularly connect with Allie as a protagonist, but I didn’t dislike her.

I did like some of other characters in this book as well. I didn’t particularly care for the two love interests (yes, there is the dreaded love triangle. Although I think the choice is pretty obvious.) Tommy and Dorian. I felt like the romance between Allie and Tommy progressed way to fast for me to get into it, and the supposed sparks between Allie and Dorian seemed to fake and didn’t hold my attention—or my heart. So I guess I didn’t care for these two males that much. But I did like how Holly Hook constructed the other characters, like Allie’s uncle, and the villain(s) in the story, I feel like there’s a lot to them that we have yet to see and I like that aura of mystery and uncertainty.

Writing Style 

“Wind blasts. I’m breaking apart. Flying. The field tilts under me and disappears into the rain.
The rain clears. Fields stretch out below. The earth’s a brown and green checkerboard. It’s lined with trees. It’s amazing. The view makes my transformation almost worth it.
Then the roar explodes. I twist and turn, plowing forward. The crops bow down. The fields wave in terror.
I am destruction.
And this time I’m not alone.”

The writing style was great, it was mysterious and interesting to read about. It really suited the story, and occasionally had a very light and airy feel to it while still being suspenseful. It was really fast-paced but didn’t make me lose sense of the story. Instead it was intriguing and kept me flipping the pages to know more. The story was described really well, I could picture the scenes I was reading very clearly, which was great.

Overall…

This is an interesting book that I liked reading! The plot is very unique and quite the new idea, and it was fun to read about. The characters weren’t the best part for me, as they fell short of my hopes, but they were still enjoyable. The writing, was really good, it was mysterious but still had a very airy feel to it which was nice. Being the first book in the Deathwind trilogy, I’m curious but not too compelled to read the second book, Torn, which is already released, and the third book, Unleashed, releasing in summer 2015. The world Holly Hook created, this idea with storms and tornadoes is hooking and I’d enjoy reading more about it. All in all, I recommend this book if you’re looking for a new kind of paranormal story, one with a refreshing & fast-paced plot and a pleasant writing style.

Tasty? Not tasty? Find out for yourself by eating it up!

Analee 10


Holly

AUTHOR BIO:
Holly Hook is the author of the Destroyers Series, which consists of five young adult books about teens who are walking disasters…literally. She is also the author of the Rita Morse series, a young adult fantasy series still in progress, and After These Messages, a short ya comedy. Currently she is writing Twisted, a spin-off of the Destroyers Series due out in December. When not writing, she enjoys reading books for teens, especially ya fantasy and paranormal series with a unique twist.

Author links: 
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Giveaway – Signed copy of Twisted by Holly Hook, ends August 13
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Pretty Dark Sacrifice by Heather L. Reid | ARC Book Review (Blog Tour + Giveaway)

(Pretty Dark Nothing #2)

Published: July 28th 2015

Synopsis:

It’s been five weeks, two days, and eight hours since the demons forced Quinn to throw herself into the raging river, since Aaron sacrificed himself to save her, since his body disappeared without a trace.

Everyone wants Quinn to move on, but she can’t, not after a spirit appears to her at Aaron’s memorial, convincing her he’s still alive.

When a mysterious box materializes on the very spot Aaron disappeared, Quinn finds she’s at the center of an ancient prophesy of betrayal, revenge, and sacrifice that takes her to the depths of the underworld to face Lilith—Adam’s first wife.

If Quinn can stop Lilith from unleashing the demon horde Eve, trapped inside the box during the Battle of Eden millennia ago, she will save the human realm and free Aaron from an eternity in torment.

All it will cost is her blood.


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My Rating: 3.5 stars 3.5/5 (Liked it)

Book Information

Publisher: Month9books, LLC.

Genre(s): Paranormal Romance, Young-Adult

Page Count: 230

Format: ebook

Purchase LinksBAM | Chapters | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks


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Welcome to my review stop of Pretty Dark Sacrifice by Heather L. Reid, a haunting YA paranormal romance!

Note: I received a free digital eARC of this book for review purposes thanks to Chapter by Chapter and the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book.

The sequel to Pretty Dark Nothing was just as gripping, unique and full of twists as its predecessor Pretty Dark Nothing [review]. Unfortunately I did find the main character to be annoying at the start of the book, unlike in Pretty Dark Nothing,where I was able to sympathize and understand the protagonist. However, I did come to accept her by the end of the book, and that’s one of the main reasons I rated this book closer to 4 stars than 3. The plot and writing were also great!

Quick Summary

It’s been over a month since Aaron sacrificed himself to save Quinn. Everyone has pretty much moved on, except for Quinn, who refuses to believe Aaron was dead despite the fact the search was called off becuase there were no results. She soon finds that he is held captive by a dangerous threat; Lilith, who plans to create an army of demons to destroy the human race. Quinn is desperate to get Aaron back, and would do anything to save him. Question is, will she be able to do it without getting humanity destroyed in the process?

Plot

I really liked the plot, it was relatively unique and I would say I liked it even more than that of Pretty Dark Nothing. By just a little bit, though. One of the things I liked, that I usually like in all sequels, is the fact that I was already introduced to the characters and the book was able to start off immediately in the middle of action. There was no need to start off slowly, after all. But what I liked most about the plot was the storyline. The whole thing with Lilith and the demons. I’ve read several books with demons in them, but both this and Pretty Dark Nothing provided me with a more different take on them, which I enjoyed reading in this book. These demons, they fed on negativity, and the way this was portrayed was so interesting!

“Where she went, the demons followed. Already, they invaded the ever-widening cracks in her mental barrier. She could feel their insidious claws digging into her memories, searching out her pain.”

(Pretty Dark Sacrifice ARC, Chapter 1)

Characters

I will say right off the bat that Quinn was more difficult to enjoy in this book. In the first book, she made a lot of mistakes, but for the most part I was able to understand why and sympathize, which was the main reason I was okay with her. But in this one, it was different, because while I understood why she did the things she did, I couldn’t exactly sympathize or approve. Okay, so she’s in love with Aaron and feels guilty because he sacrificed himself for her, but that doesn’t mean it’s fine to be reckless and risk everything to save him, when it meant that the whole human race was at stake. I did understand why though; she was desperate and guilty, and I guess when you’re in love, that’s what happens? I don’t know, but I was annoyed with her attitude for most of the first part of the book. However, I did come to like her soon enough. I did admire her bravery and determination, not to mention strength when facing Lilith and her demons. I also really liked the lack of love triangle in this one, if there had been one it wouldn’t have made sense and it would’ve just been bothersome. Quinn came off as annoying and weak at the start, but by the end I actually did come to really care about her.

Aaron, the love interest, we don’t get to see much of in this book, but I did like him. Probably even more than I liked Quinn. I really liked his dedication and love for Quinn, (although I would say he deserves better). He was also very determined, and never gave up on finding a way to escape and defeat Lilith.
As for the other characters, I think they kind of fell flat, but they were still good nonetheless. I liked Marcus, Aaron’s best friend, he was a comic relief and very sweet. Reese, Quinn’s best friend, I wasn’t that impressed, but she was alright. There was a good cast of characters that were essential to the story and relatively interesting to read about.

Writing Style

The writing style was great, I really liked the mood Heather L. Reid was able to create with her writing; dark and mysterious. There were also a lot of descriptive passages, which were great because they weren’t overdone and were useful in visualizing the world. It kept me interested in the book, and as a result, I flew through the pages!

Overall…

I liked this book! I would say I liked it around the same as the first book, although I would say I liked the plot for this one a bit better. I found the main character to be a bit annoying in the first part of the book, but I did warm up to her as I continued the story, and by the end of the story, although I didn’t love her, she was a good character. The other characters were interesting too. What I liked most about this book was its storyline, I definitely recommend giving this series a try if you’re looking for a refreshing take on demons or like paranormal romance. From what I read in the ending, it seems like this will be a trilogy, and I’ll be looking forward to reading the last book! 

Hungry? Not hungry? Either way, I definitely say you should gobble it up if you like paranormal romance meals!

Analee 10


Heather L. ReidABOUT HEATHER L. REID:

Heather L. Reid is both American and British and has called six different cities in three different countries, home. Her strong sense of wanderlust and craving for a new adventure mean you might find her wandering the moors of her beloved Scotland, exploring haunted castles, or hiking through a magical forest in search of fairies and sprites. When she’s not venturing into the unknown in her real life, she loves getting lost in the worlds of video games or curling up by the fire with good story. For now, this native Texan is back in the Lone Star State, settling down with her Scottish husband and writing new tales of fantasy and horror.

Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr | Pinterest | Instagram


INT Giveaway – Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Pretty Dark Sacrifice (Pretty Dark Nothing #2) by Heather L. Reid, ends August 21st 2o15

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