Genre: Young Adult

Review: Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West

Posted February 11, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie WestReviewer: Rowena
Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West
Publisher: Harper Collins, Harper Teen
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Point-of-View: First Person
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 384
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Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
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three-stars

Lacey Barnes has dreamt of being in a movie for as long as she can remember. However, while her dream did include working alongside the hottest actor in Hollywood, it didn’t involve having to finish up her senior year of high school at the same time she was getting her big break. Although that is nothing compared to Donavan, the straight-laced student her father hires to tutor her, who is a full-on nightmare.

As Lacey struggles to juggle her burgeoning career, some on-set sabotage, and an off-screen romance with the unlikeliest of leading men, she quickly learns that sometimes the best stories happen when you go off script.

If you read Love, Life, and the List, then you’ll remember Lacey because Lacey and Abby were friends. In this book, Kasie West revisits these characters with a story that features Lacey front and center. I was really looking forward to reading this book because I adored Love, Life, and the List and was looking for more of that kind of action and I’m not sure if it was a mood or what but there were quite a few times when I thought this book dragged and in the end, that messed with my enjoyment of the overall story being told.

So Lacey is an actress who is about to get her big break on a zombie movie. She should be over the moon about that but she’s not connecting with her heartthrob co-star and she’s having to finish her senior year with a tutor that her father hired to help her pass her classes. She’d be able to handle all of that if her tutor wasn’t a nightmare named Donovan. She’s dealing with a bunch of stuff and having to juggle it all is low key getting to her.

I did like Lacey’s personality and thought she was super adorable but I didn’t completely connect with her and Donovan, the way that I did with Abby and Cooper. I can’t completely tell you guys why because on the surface, they were fine. Their bickering was cute and seeing them grow together was fine but for some reason, it was really easy for me to put the book down and do something, really anything else.

This was a light, really fluffy read and most of the time, that works for me. I’m all about the light and fluffy. So while I was happy that Lacey gets her guy in the end, the repetitiveness of her days on set, and the obvious on set drama didn’t spark my usual joy for Kasie West books and that surprised me so this one gets a 3 out of 5 stars from me.

Grade: 3 out of 5

three-stars


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Review: Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

Posted January 10, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Famous in a Small Town by Emma MillsReviewer: Rowena
Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co
Publication Date: January 15, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: First
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 320
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four-stars

For Sophie, small town life has never felt small. With her four best friends—loving, infuriating, and all she could ever ask for—she can weather any storm. But when Sophie’s beloved Acadia High School marching band is selected to march in the upcoming Rose Parade, it’s her job to get them all the way to LA. Her plan? To persuade country singer Megan Pleasant, their Midwestern town’s only claim to fame, to come back to Acadia to headline a fundraising festival.

The only problem is that Megan has very publicly sworn never to return.

What ensues is a journey filled with long-kept secrets, hidden heartbreaks, and revelations that could change everything—along with a possible fifth best friend: a new guy with a magnetic smile and secrets of his own.

I used to read a lot of YA but in the last couple of years, my interest in them cooled off some but it seems to be back because this is the second YA book that I read in the last few weeks and I have another on my TBR pile. I tried to read Emma Mills when my interest in YA books was dimming and because of that, I wasn’t in the mood to read the book. I feel like I should go back and give that book another go because I really enjoyed this one.

Sophie is in her high school band and she’s in charge of the fundraising for the next school year. Her band won a slot in a huge competition at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California so it’s going to be expensive to try to raise money to send all 100+ band members to California from their small town in Illinois. Sophie gets the idea of trying to locate and procure one of the country’s biggest country stars who just so happens to be from her same hometown to come back home to do a concert that will help their band raise the necessary funds they need for their trip. It’s not going to be easy because Sophie has no idea where to start to try to lock down Megan Pleasant but she turns to her friends for help and grudgingly, they help.

Sophie is a very busy young woman. She has multiple jobs, one of them being a babysitter and she babysits for Kyle and Heather once a week. When Kyle’s younger brother comes to live with him, Sophie reaches out to him and invites him along with her and her friends so that he knows people when they start their senior year together in the fall. Sophie is attracted to Kyle’s brother, August, but he keeps putting out that this stay in town is temporary and he’s not trying to form any close attachments so anything developing between him and Sophie needs to stop. But the heart wants what it wants and Sophie and August burst onto the scene and Sophie hopes for the best.

I think fans of Sarah Dessen, Kasie West, and Meg Cabot will enjoy this book because it’s such a sweetly written book about a young woman who loves big time and wants to help everyone that she could. Sophie was the kind of young adult protagonist that I adore. She was kind, honest, and strong. She lived her life with heart and my heart hurt for her with everything that she had working against her. From her issues with trying to locate Megan Pleasant, to her text messages with her mystery friend and then all of the stuff she went through with August, I just loved her more and more with each turn of the page. She really shined in this book and I’m glad that I read this one.

I’m definitely going to read more by Emma Mills. She won me over with this one.

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby

Posted September 13, 2018 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: The Other Side of Lost by Jessi KirbyReviewer: Rowena
The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Point-of-View: First
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 320
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four-stars

Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media.

Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.

With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.

I got this book for review ages ago and Jessi Kirby is good enough that I got the book for the sole reason that she wrote it. I didn’t have to read the blurb or read other reviews on the book, I just wanted to read it because Jessi Kirby has not let me down yet and her streak is still alive because this book was good.

The Other Side of Lost follows our protagonist, Mari Turner, as she goes from being a popular internet influencer to finding out and learning all about who she wants to be, in an effort to honor the death of her cousin Bri.

When we first meet Mari, her life was plastic and completely fake. She knows all of the tricks to taking the perfect picture to showcase a life that is picture perfect, even if it’s completely false. She’s even got a fake boyfriend who is in love when the camera is on but once it’s off, so is he. Mari is trying to keep up with the demands of being perfect, even if it’s only for her fans and when she turns 18, it hits her really hard because it’s the first birthday that she will be celebrating without her cousin Bri in the world.

Mari and Bri were the best of friends. They were born on the same day and they grew up together. They did everything together but as they got older, they started growing apart, mostly on Mari’s part because she was much more interested in building her audience and Bri was all about the adventure. She lived her life to the fullest and was still planning on the big adventure her and Mari were supposed to do together when they turned 18. When an accident kills Bri before she could go on their epic hike, leaving Mari behind to deal with loads of regret and a huge heaping of guilt that she didn’t make things right before Bri died.

Mari’s journey starts when she gives up her IG account, her sponsors and all of the perks that come from being an internet personality for Bri’s hiking pack and goes on their epic hike on her own. She learns a great deal about herself, becomes reacquainted with Bri through her travel journal and really comes into her own while completing the biggest hike she ever did.

This book made me laugh, made me cry, and it put me back together again and though Mari frustrated me continuously throughout the book, I still really enjoyed the adventure we were able to go on with Mari. Jessi Kirby does a fantastic job of making us (the readers) a part of Mari’s journey and not simply a bystander. I was right in the thick of things with Mari and I felt my feet hurt when hers did and I was giddy right along with her as she was getting to know Josh and I felt her exhaustion at the end of each day. So even though I thought it was pretty unbelievable that with absolutely NO training, she finished hiking the John Muir trail, I still really enjoyed this book. If you’re looking for a satisfying personal journey of a story, this will definitely fit the bill. Kudos to Jessi Kirby on another fabulously written book.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

four-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: The Accidentals by Sarina Bowen

Posted July 29, 2018 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight

Sunday Spotlight: The Accidentals by Sarina BowenThe Accidentals by Sarina Bowen
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 320
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A YA novel from USA Today bestselling author Sarina Bowen.

Never ask a question unless you’re sure you want the truth.

I’ve been listening to my father sing for my whole life. I carry him in my pocket on my mp3 player. It’s just that we’ve never met face to face.

My mother would never tell me how I came to be, or why my rock star father and I have never met. I thought it was her only secret. I was wrong.

When she dies, he finally appears. Suddenly I have a first class ticket into my father’s exclusive world. A world I don’t want any part of – not at this cost. 

Only three things keep me going: my a cappella singing group, a swoony blue-eyed boy named Jake, and the burning questions in my soul.


There’s a secret shame that comes from being an unwanted child. It drags me down, and puts distance between me and the boy I love.

My father is the only one alive who knows my history. I need the truth, even if it scares me.

Order the Book:

AMAZON | AUDIO | PAPERBACK | IBOOKS | KOBO | NOOK

Excerpt

After the last course—chocolate mousse—the three of us go tripping back across the cold lawn in the dark, Aurora in the lead. I’m the tiniest bit tipsy and wearing heels. So naturally I stumble on a frozen clod of snow and nearly fall. But Jake catches my hand to steady me. “Thanks,” I breathe.

Curiously, his warm fingers remain curled around mine until we reached the door of Habernacker.

I try not to feel ridiculously excited about it.

He lets go when we all reach the third floor. When Aurora opens the door, he follows us inside until we all collapse on the S.L.O., with me in the center.

“Oh! I forgot to steal my plate,” I realize.

“Me too.” Aurora sighs.

Jake reaches into his jacket and pulls out a plate.

“Well done, Mr. Jake!” Aurora laughs. “The party in the annex starts in fifteen minutes.” She heaves herself off the squishy couch. “I have time to redo my makeup.”

I watch her walk over to the stereo, where my phone is already ensconced, and turn on our Christmas playlist. Then she grabs her makeup bag off her desk and leaves the room.

When the door clicks shut, neither Jake nor I speak for a moment. The low chords of a Straight No Chaser song play through our little speakers.

Suddenly, it’s awkward. We’ve been circling each other for a while now—since the night he was trying to be nice and I wrecked it.
“You’re probably sick of a cappella by now,” I say, just to find something to talk about.

But Jake turns slowly toward me and says something unexpected. “Rachel, I need to ask you a question.”

My stomach does a little flip flop, and I turn to face those blue eyes I love so much. “What?” I whisper.

“Well…” He clears his throat. There is a very long pause, during which I hold my breath. “Will you come skiing some time?”

I exhale. “I guess so?” Another beat of silence passes. “That was your big question?” I ask, feeling like I’ve missed something.
His color deepens. “Well, no. I just…” His brow furrows, as if he’s trying to explain some point of astronomy. I love his look of concentration. I’ve missed it.

Jake’s blue eyes lock on mine, and I see how our own orbits might finally collide. This time, I will not send the moment winging back into space. Instead, I lean an almost imperceptible degree in his direction.

And that’s all it takes.

Reaching up, Jake cups his hand to the side of my face. I’m still processing the sweet touch of his fingers when he leans in farther, his lips brushing the sensitive corner of my mouth. His eyes are tentative, seeking permission. My heart thuds with expectation.

And then—finally—Jake kisses me for real. We come together the way a well-timed drummer kicks into the chorus of a song—swiftly, and without hesitation.

We broke apart a moment later, eyeing each other while I try not to smile. “Can I do that again?” he asks, his voice rough. “That was my real question.”

“Well, since you asked so nicely…”

Jake makes a low noise of approval, then draws me closer. I reach up for the back of his neck, my fingers grazing that golden patch of skin I’ve always wanted to touch. He kisses me again, his arm finding the velvet waist of my dress and encircling me.

My heart flutters, but not from fear. Warm lips tease mine gently apart. And when his tongue tangles with mine, I lose myself.

He tastes like champagne. Everything is wild and sweet, until the moment Aurora’s voice rings out. “Ay, caramba!”

I feel an unwelcome rush of cool air between us as Jake retreats.

“I did say I was going into the bathroom, right? And not on a trip to Fiji?”

Neither of us says a word; we only look sheepishly at Aurora.

“Just to be clear, now I’m ducking into the bedroom for my coat, which only takes a second.” She steps into the bedroom, and I hear the rustling of fabric. Then she peers dramatically around the door frame. “Good listening! Now I’m going to the party. Will I see you both there? Don’t answer that. We’ll speak later.”

Jake laughs. “Sorry, Aurora.”

“I’ve seen worse.” She departs, the door closing behind her.

And now I’m self-conscious. Rising, I decide to fiddle with the music playlist. “Do you want to go to the party?”

“I’ll go. But I’m not great at parties. It’s all shouting over the music, drinking warm beer out of a plastic cup.”

“Then let’s not.” My fingers shake as I adjust the volume. I go back over to the sofa and sit down.

“So.” He clears his throat. “Where are you going for break?” As he asks, he takes one of my hands in his, massaging my palm with his thumb.

His light touch is so distracting that I almost forget to answer. “Kansas City,” I manage. “To meet my grandfather for the very first time.”

“Um, what?” He squeezes my hand.

So I tell Jake the embarrassing highlights of my weird story—that I hadn’t met Frederick until this past summer.
“Wow. I’m sorry,” he says.

“Don’t be.”

“I guess I’m not that offended now that you wouldn’t introduce me. If the normal waiting period is seventeen years.”

My laugh begins with an unladylike snort. Ah, well. “With me it’s just all soap opera, all the time. Believe it or not, a year ago I was really a boring person.”

“I don’t see how.” He regards me with darting eyes. “You look beautiful tonight.”

“It’s Aurora’s dress,” I whisper.

But Jake doesn’t seem to care. He slips his arms around my waist. Scooting closer, he slides his lips from my forehead, down my nose and onto my mouth. And we begin again.

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: July 2018

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About the Author

Sarina Bowen

WEBSITE | GOODREADS | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | PINTEREST | INSTAGRAM

Sarina Bowen is the RITA® Award winning author of over two dozen contemporary and LGTB romance novels. She most recently hit the USA Today bestseller’s list in February, with Brooklynaire. Formerly a derivatives trader on Wall Street, Sarina holds a BA in economics from Yale University.

Sarina Bowen is a New Englander whose Vermont ancestors cut timber and farmed the north country since the 1760s. Sarina is grateful for the invention of indoor plumbing and wi-fi during the intervening 250 years. On a few wooded acres, she lives with her husband, two boys, and an ungodly amount of ski and hockey gear.

Sarina’s books are published in a dozen languages on four continents. In 2016, The Romance Writers of America honored HIM by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy with a RITA award for Best Contemporary Romance, Mid-Length.


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Review: One Small Thing by Erin Watt

Posted July 17, 2018 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: One Small Thing by Erin WattReviewer: Rowena
One Small Thing by Erin Watt
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
Point-of-View: First
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 384
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four-stars

Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Her parents try to lock her down, believing they can keep her safe by monitoring her every move. When Beth sneaks out to a party one night and meets the new guy in town, Chase, she’s thrilled to make a secret friend. It seems a small thing, just for her.

Only Beth doesn’t know how big her secret really is…

Fresh out of juvie and determined to start his life over, Chase has demons to face and much to atone for, including his part in the night Beth’s sister died. Beth, who has more reason than anyone to despise him, is willing to give him a second chance. A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for senior year, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings get.

Now Beth has a choice to make—follow the rules, or risk tearing everything apart…again.

One Small Thing is the newest standalone book from Erin Watt and I didn’t know what to expect when opening it up. I was hoping for more When it’s Real and less Twisted Palace and I’m happy to report that I got more of what I wanted from an Erin Watt. This book was more like a romance novel with young characters and I’m a fan of that because at the end of the book, there’s no guessing what happens, there’s just a proper ending.

So this book follows a young woman named Beth who is starting her senior year under the very heavy watchful gaze of her parents. After her sister was killed in a car accident, the shackles are locked around Beth’s wrists by her parents. They’re so bent on keeping her safe that they have no idea how much their protective instincts is choking the life out of her. The harder they hold on to her, the more she wants out. I was really appalled at the heavy-handedness that her parents raised her. The whole college application thing was hella extra and then the door thing?? The more that I read from them, the more I wanted to smack some ever living sense into both of them. They were so focused on not losing Beth that they didn’t see that she was already halfway out the door, never to return.

To make matters even more complicated, the first boy to interest Beth is the one boy that she shouldn’t have anything to do with. The boy responsible for taking her sister’s life. Getting to know the boy that changed his name to Chase after he got out of prison made for an interesting read. There’s a lot of angst and a lot of things going off in this book and I was invested in everything going on.

This wasn’t an easy read, there was plenty of frustrations on my part but I’m super glad that I finished the book because all of the angst and the frustrations pay off in a huge way for me and I was glad with the way that this story ended, with the way that the story was told. Elle Kennedy and Jen Frederick are a fantastic writing duo and they won me over again with this book.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

four-stars


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