I find it weird that these books never mention Dylan Thomas once | This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back [ARC] by Estelle Laure

Lucille and Eden have been friends forever. But the summer before their senior year, Lucille’s mom decides to take off on a solo vacation. She promises to come back before school starts, but Lucille and her little sister Wren are left waiting long after that deadline has passed. Meanwhile, Eden is struggling to come to terms with her future in ballet and the new feelings that have arisen between Lucille and her twin brother, Digby.

Just to start off, I really liked This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back was also enjoyable, but I didn’t like it AS MUCH. I just really had so many feelings about Lucille and Wren. Lucille has to be so tough and is put in this impossible situation. I noticed that some reviewers haven’t liked how mean she is to Eden and Digby after a little while, but I feel like I can understand it completely. She has to be so stressed out and she can’t REALLY talk to anyone about her situation. But one thing this book does do is make me believe in the kindness of strangers. So…there’s that.

The relationship between Lucille and Digby is…a little weird. It feels completely one-sided at the beginning of the book and it’s not completely clear what makes Digby have a change of heart. He’s got a girlfriend at the beginning of the book and he cheats on her with Lucille which is NOT OKAY. That being said, I did end up liking their relationship in the end. Mostly, though, the relationship that I really liked was between Lucille and Wren. I LOVE a good sister relationship and I felt that this book definitely delivered in that area. There’s a sizable age difference between the two girls, but they love each other and are there for each other through everything. My heart was seriously just breaking for these girls throughout the whole book.

There wasn’t too much of a plot beyond trying to survive while Lucille’s mom is gone, but I was okay with that. Again, there have been some reviewers that disliked how the first book ends because they felt like there wasn’t a resolution. I can definitely see that, but I finished the first book and immediately went into the second which picks up right where the first one left off so…I didn’t really mind the lack of a resolution.

The title is something that really drew me to this book initially. The poem it’s quoting is great (who doesn’t love it?) and the girls discuss it a little in the book. But then they never mention Dylan Thomas to my recollection. There’s no real reason why the NEED to talk about him, but perhaps it could have added an interesting layer or dimension to the book.

This is the point where I’m going to transition into my review of the second book, so if you don’t want some things spoiled from the first book, do not continue reading.

I didn’t like Eden as a narrator as much as I liked Lucille. There’s just something a little…chippy about her? I felt like she had this undercurrent of anger throughout a lot of her interactions with people. Then because Eden’s just woken up from a coma, there are some weird things that she sees that almost gives this book a magical realism feel to it where that was NOT present in the first book. It almost feels like a different genre.

The new characters that were introduced in the second book are interesting. I was a little confused, though, because apparently Eden has these two really good guy friends who are over all the time but who are never mentioned in the first book. I didn’t like the way that her new guy friends or even her parents and brother reacted to Eden at times. They got really angry with her when she didn’t want to do something–the girl just got out of a coma! I would think she’s allowed to not want to go to a club or party.

This book was interesting because we really get Eden’s point of view in the whole fallout between her and Lucille. Lucille really isn’t painted in the BEST light in this book, which was hard for me since I liked her so much in the first book. At the same time, I thought it was a great way of showing that there are two sides to every story, you know? I understood why Eden felt the way she did and ultimately why she reacted to Lucille how she did in the first book.

Overall, I thought these books were pretty great. I think it would make more sense to read them in order, but you could definitely read them separately and I think the second book would still make sense…mostly.

Overall Rating: 5 (TRL), 4 (BTICB)
Language: Moderate for both
Violence: Moderate (TRL), Mild (BTICB)
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate for both
Sexual Content: Moderate (TRL), Mild (BTICB)

Note: I received But Then I Came Back free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

If I hear the term “swimcest” one more time… | Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally [ARC]

Coming Up for AirFor years, the only things that Maggie has thought about are swimming, school, and food. She doesn’t have time for boys if she wants to get into one of the top swimming colleges–she has to concentrate on shaving seconds off of her race times. After a disastrous college visit, however, Maggie begins to rethink her “no boys” policy. The last thing she wants is to get to college and be completely inexperienced in the boy department. But how is she supposed to make time for boys with her busy swimming schedule?

The premise of this story is so cringe to me. Our main character doesn’t want to go to college inexperienced, so she turns to her best guy friend to help her get some “experience”. I feel so awkward just typing that sentence. And they kept using this term “swimcest” to describe two people on the same swim team dating…so cringe. For the record, it’s not the worst thing in the world to go to college without having kissed someone–I would know. (P.S. I turned out fine. I’m even married now! Funny how that happens). That’s kind of my main issue with this book I guess… I feel like it promotes an incorrect message that everyone going into their freshman year of college has had sex. This is so far from the truth! Do we really want teenage girls reading this book to feel defective if they haven’t had much experience with boys? Or feel pressured to get some kind of experience before college? That’s definitely NOT the message I’d want my daughters to receive. Every girl is on her own time table and that’s OKAY.

With all that in mind, I really think it’s about time that I cut this series loose. Looking at my Goodreads, I’ve realized that I haven’t given any of these books over three stars. Yikes. I think the only reason I keep reading these books is because I like finding the easter eggs–but that’s definitely not a good enough reason to keep reading.

But anyway, on to the actual book. I thought Maggie was completely immature in almost all of her interactions with other people. Perhaps I shouldn’t judge her so harshly since she’s only in high school, but I found myself rolling my eyes at her. A lot. Levi was a weird character who was nice enough, but didn’t have a ton of depth in my opinion. And then I guess there were other characters? But they were seriously so inconsequential that I can’t remember any of them.

The plot was completely predictable and had a ton of manufactured drama. That’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book. I wouldn’t recommend this series. While I appreciate seeing female main characters in prominent sports roles, that doesn’t outweigh all of the negatives that have accumulated from each of the books throughout the years.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Heavy

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: The Bakersville Dozen by Kristina McBride

Bakersville Dozen

The Bakersville Dozen
by Kristina McBride
Release Date: July 4th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller

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SYNOPSIS: You have four days to locate five treasured trophies. Break the rules and you all die. Happy hunting!

Back in September, the town of Bakersville, Ohio made national news when a video went viral featuring thirteen of the high school’s elite in compromising positions. Now it’s May, and every month since the “Bakersville Dozen” made their infamous appearance on the national stage, one girl has gone missing. Officials are no closer to identifying the criminal.

Bailey “Like a Virgin” Holzman is getting really fed up with the scrutiny. She just wants to enjoy the rest of her senior year and have an epic summer before heading off to college. So when she discovers a note in her locker on the last day of school inviting her on a scavenger hunt, she thinks it’s just a sweet surprise from her boyfriend trying to cheer her up.

But following the clue leads her, instead, to the first official casualty. And another sinister envelope. The killer is close, and it could be anyone. Even the people Bailey’s always trusted most—her best friend, her perfect boyfriend, or the boy-next-door she’s always pined for.

With the clock ticking, she faces a terrifying choice: play the game by the killer’s rules—follow the clues, tell no one, and no cops—for a chance to save the rest of the missing girls, or risk becoming the next grisly victim.

REVIEW: I always like reading YA Thrillers because I feel like it’s a genre that isn’t very popular right now. We’re getting a lot of contemporary romances, fantasy, and sci fi, but we’re not getting A TON of thrillers. This book had all of the suspense of a great thriller which was really nice. The author did a really good job of making it seem like anybody could be the bad guy. I feel like sometimes books either make it really obvious who the bad guy is from the start or you have literally no suspects. I also like that the reader was given a good amount of clues to the point where we could potentially solve the mystery ourselves.

At the beginning of the book I got really excited because it really seemed like the characters were going to tell the cops (they never tell the cops). But the book didn’t end up going that route which, I thought, was a shame. It feels like that would be way more original than just having the characters stumble around by themselves, but maybe that’s just me.

The characters were fine, but I didn’t really care about any of them that much. I didn’t feel emotionally connected. The secondary characters were also fine and created some depth to the story. I was going back and forth trying to figure out whether I felt it was demeaning for Bailey to reference all of the Bakersville Dozen girls by their descriptors from the video. In the end, I feel like that’s legitimately how the kids at their school would think about them from then on, so I wasn’t necessarily bothered by it.

The plot was a bit preposterous, to be honest. I’ve read some really good thrillers where I felt the plot was plausible so I know it can be done. In the end, it just didn’t feel like it was thought through to the end. The “scavenger hunt” was well-done, but the ending was just so strange. Like…the logistics just don’t seem plausible.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good. Thrillers is a section of YA that is lacking so I’m excited to see new books coming out in that genre.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate



Kristina McBrideABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Kristina McBride has published three novels for young adults – THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES, ONE MOMENT, and A MILLION TIMES GOODNIGHT. Her fourth novel, THE BAKERSVILLE DOZEN, will be released July 2017.

Kristina is a former high school English teacher and yearbook advisor, as well as an adjunct professor at Antioch University Midwest and Wright State University. Kristina has a thing for music, trees, purses, and chocolate. You might be surprised to learn that Kristina was almost kidnapped when she was a child. She also bookstalks people on a regular basis. Kristina lives in Ohio with her husband and two young children. You can learn more at www.kristinamcbride.com.

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Sex Trafficking Isn’t Just In the Movies | Ruby in the Rough by Emily Shore

Ruby in the RoughRuby has survived in the Ghetto for four years thanks to her friend Ink and her own ingenious survival skills. The Ghetto is a place where women are bought and sold regularly and are solely around for breeding and pleasure purposes. The Ghetto is ruled by gangs, a corrupt police force, and brothels. Ruby must avoid each of those groups if she ever hopes to make it out of the Ghetto alive. But with her face plastered on wanted posters all around town, that’ll be harder than you’d think.

I feel like independently published books are always a bit hit or miss when it comes to the quality of the writing (mostly a miss if I’m being honest), so I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing in this book. It read well, the language flowed, and I didn’t find myself noting errors every couple of pages. In addition to the great writing, I thought the overall message of the novella was great. The author is really trying to bring awareness to sex trafficking and to help readers to understand how people get caught up in it and why they might stay. Even though she’s created a world that is pretty different from the world we live in, I don’t feel like the topics she touches on are foreign.

I thought the characters were alright, but sometimes fell a little flat. The most developed characters were Ruby, Ink, and Angel which makes sense because they were the main characters, but I do wish there had been some kind of development of Big Sister and the other gang boss. Or even Ruby’s brother. I recognize that it’s a novella, so there’s only time for so much, but maybe that just indicates that this shouldn’t have been a novella–it should have been a full-length novel.

Some other areas where I feel like more time would have been beneficial is with world building and the plot. I didn’t really feel like the world was built all that thoroughly. The Ghetto was described to be really dirty and undesirable, but I needed more. I wanted more than just visual descriptions. I just wanted the world to have more depth overall. Then for the plot, there were some things that happened really suddenly–I didn’t feel like I’d gotten enough build-up to the events that happened. There were times when I would have questions regarding the plot. Some of those questions got answered eventually, but I feel like an author should anticipate what questions the reader will have and answer them before the reader even forms them. In this case, it was more like the author’s thoughts were developing at the same time as my own and all of the sudden she’d come up with a question and then answer it. The ending also took me by surprise and I’ve found myself questioning why the author chose to end the book that way, again, instead of just making her book longer.

My main issue, I think, is that I didn’t always feel like Ruby’s actions always made sense given the situation. There were times when she was really rude to the gang bosses and I just wanted to be like, “Girl, SHUT UP. They will KILL you. Aren’t you supposed to be a survivor? This is not surviving!” I also wondered a few times why Ruby didn’t cut her hair short? If it’s so dangerous to be a girl in this city, I’m doing everything that I can to pass for a boy.

Overall, I felt like there were some minor things that didn’t make the most sense to me, and I think the story could have benefited from being about a hundred pages longer. With that being said, I again want to say how important the cause is that this author is bringing awareness to.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking Moderate
Sexual Content: Heavy

Note: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. If you purchase this book, 50% of proceeds go back to Women At Risk, International – www.warinternational.org

I never went to summer camp, but now I wish I had | Trusting You and Other Lies by Nicole Williams [ARC]

Trusting You and Other LiesPhoenix doesn’t trust her parents anymore. Ever since she found the foreclosure notice on her father’s desk, she knows that the only people she can rely on are herself and her little brother Harry. That’s what makes this summer so unbearable. Instead of spending her last summer before senior year at the beach with her friends, Phoenix is going to be in the middle of nowhere Arizona at a family summer camp. Even though she’s trying to look at the silver lining (she won’t run into her cheating ex-boyfriend and working as a counselor will help her to save up for a car) Phoenix is counting down the days before she can get back home and away from her family.

Man, this book seriously packs all the summer feels. Even though our main character is pretty down on it, it makes summer camp seem like the most fun thing. Hiking, river rafting, and rock climbing? Sign me up. For real. Overall, I thought the setting of this book was fantastic though some things didn’t really make sense to me. For example, the campers are supposed to come in and out in 2 or 4 week cycles. But then that’s never mentioned again for the rest of the book. I know that Phoenix and her family are there for the whole summer along with the rest of the camp staff, but shouldn’t there have been a scene or two where new campers are arriving or old campers are leaving? Another thing is that it feels like this book would have made more sense if the characters were a little older, just as far as the summer camp setting goes. Is Ben really just employing teenagers to be camp counselors to adults? It just seems like it would make more sense for the counselors to be in their 20s. But anyway, that’s such a nit-picky thing that it doesn’t matter.

Phoenix was a pretty likable main character. I thought her relationship with Harry was great (I always love the big sister/little brother relationships in YA). Her relationship with her parents was obviously strained and there were times when I really didn’t like how she spoke to them. She doesn’t trust them anymore because they “lied” to her, but that’s not really something that’s majorly explored. The only thing I can figure is that they didn’t tell her that they were having financial trouble. She keeps saying how they haven’t really been parents for the last two years, but what else happened that kept them from acting like parents? Also, at the beginning of the book, Phoenix’s mom gets mad that Phoenix didn’t tell her that she’d been thinking about going to Northwestern. Phoenix protests that it wasn’t a lie, she just didn’t tell her everything. But that’s the entire basis of why Phoenix is mad at her parents in the first place and is why she gets mad at Callum later in the book. So yeah…even though I liked Phoenix, there were several times when she was completely contradictory. Another instance is when she’s telling Harry that once somebody lies to her, they lose her trust forever. But then she turns around and is upset that Callum won’t give her another chance even though she lied to him about the permission slip?

Despite my issues with Phoenix’s character, I still liked her and the book as a whole. Callum was a nice enough love interest and seemed like a real person. I wish we’d gotten to go more in-depth with his character, though. It seems like there was really a lot more there that could have been explored. My favorite character was probably Harry. It was awesome to see him come out of his shell and develop throughout the book.

Overall, I would recommend this book as a fairly light summer read. If you like books set in a summer camp, then this is definitely for you.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate. Two characters talk about sexual history, but nothing explicit is described.

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich [GIVEAWAY]

The Love InterestThe Love Interest
by Cale Dietrich
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Genres: YA, Contemporary, LGBTQ

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SYNOPSIS: There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

REVIEW: This book was a little different from what I was expecting. I knew that both of our main characters were spies, but I still kind of expected this book to be a cute contemporary-ish romance where (basically) everyone finds love in the end. That is not this book. There’s a much bigger conspiracy/fighting the bad corporation aspect that was surprising to me. The plot was pretty slow at the beginning, but then moved a lot quicker after about two-thirds of the way through. However, I felt that there were some plot holes/really unrealistic things (even given the world that they were in). Like, a bunch of celebrities are supposedly in relationships with Love Interests, but celebrities always date other celebrities? And their relationships don’t usually last forever so…what gives? I just don’t understand how Love Interests could realistically be infiltrating our world, that’s all.

I thought the characters were just alright. Caden wasn’t super likable and I didn’t find Dylan super likable either. It was honestly just hard to really get to know the two main characters as they were basically putting on an act the whole time. I thought the fact that they had trainers in their heads the whole time was pretty weird as well. And Caden’s trainer was always like, “Sorry I’m late/missed that, I was on a date”. Cut to me scratching my head and wondering why the heck that detail was necessary. Caden’s relationship with his “parents” also seemed unnecessary. I didn’t see how that added anything to the story or to Caden’s development. I don’t even think they really helped us to learn more about the big bad company. They were just kind of…there.

I will say, that I thought this book did a great job poking some fun at the “bad boy vs guy next door competing for a below-the-radar girl’s heart” trope. There were some classic scenes especially when it came to Dylan: broody bad boy reads poetry, sexy bad boy at the school dance, hardcore bad boy rides a motorcycle, etc. It really reminded me of certain other books and made those things kind of laughable–in a good way. It’s so hard for me to say anything else without spoilers, but without giving anything away, I thought that the way sexuality was represented in this book was a little…manipulative? It seemed like it came into play when it was convenient. Perhaps I just didn’t get it, though?

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good. It was a refreshing take on some common tropes and I really enjoyed that part of it. Other aspects of the book fell flat, but they weren’t necessarily deal-breakers. I think this author has a bright future in YA ahead of him.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate


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Click on the picture above to be taken to the giveaway!



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cale Dietrich

Cale Dietrich is a YA devotee, lifelong gamer, and tragic pop punk enthusiast. He was born in Perth, grew up on the Gold Coast, and now lives in Brisbane, Australia. The Love Interest is his first novel.

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Daybreak is Not Your Normal Summer Camp | The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord [ARC]

The Names They Gave UsLucy is ready for her summer to go exactly according to plan. She’ll be spending the summer at the Christian summer camp that her parents own just like she does every summer. When she gets back, she’ll spend time with her perfect boyfriend Lukas until her senior year starts. Unfortunately, her mom’s cancer is back with a vengeance. Before she knows it, Lukas has paused their relationship and Lucy is headed to be a counselor at Camp Daybreak for the summer at her mother’s request. Lucy is baffled as to why her mom would send her away to a “hippie camp” instead of wanting to spend an entire summer together at their Christian camp. The summer has a lot in store for Lucy and she’ll question her faith while finding that her family’s history isn’t as cut and dry as she once thought.

I keep trying Emery Lord’s books because I hope that something will compare to The Start of Me and You (which I LOVED) but I’m starting to think that it’s never going to happen. Stephanie @Stephanie’s Book Reviews really hit the nail on the head in her review where she talks about feeling like Lord is just trying too hard. For me, I just felt like she was trying to cram in SO MANY ISSUES. First, we have Lucy who’s trying to reconcile her faith with all of the things that are going on in her life. Then we have her mom who has cancer. Then there’s also a transgender character and all of the stuff that comes out about Lucy’s family history…it’s just a little much. I wish that the author had maybe edited some of that stuff out. It was just a little overwhelming as a reader.

Lucy was okay as a protagonist but I had a really hard time with some elements of her character. For example, as I started this book I was super excited because I have been WAITING for an author to give us a portrayal of a normal Christian character outside of Christian Fiction. I really thought Lucy was going to be that character for me, but almost immediately she starts having this crisis of faith which is completely understandable for her situation, but wasn’t what I was hoping for. In addition, I felt like she was just kind of unrealistic? I feel that Christians get a bad rap a lot of the time for being “sheltered” or “naive”. Like, Lucy gets uncomfortable when people around her use Christ’s name in vain, but then she doesn’t blink an eye when a character comes out as transgender. That’s just not consistent! First of all, I don’t think that a normal Christian teenager is going to blink at somebody else saying “Jesus Christ” about something–I know I didn’t. It was just stuff like that…I don’t know. One positive about her, is that in the end I really did like her relationship with her parents.

The secondary characters were pretty good and mostly well developed. Everybody at Daybreak has a past and we get into that a little bit with Jones and Annabelle and others. The one thing I will say is that Jones seemed too good for Lucy and honestly kind of unrealistic. I know he had some stuff in his life that made him more mature than his age, but is any teenage boy really going to act like him? It honestly felt like he was closer to 25 than 17 or 18.

Overall, I thought this book was just okay. I didn’t dislike it as much as When We Collided but it’s nothing compared to The Start of Me and You. Some people have had an issue with the ending, but I’ll go on the record as saying that I didn’t hate it. It was definitely bittersweet, but that’s life, right? Some trigger warnings real quick: this book contains some mention of suicide, physical abuse, and bullying. Probably others too, but sorry those are the ones I can come up with right now.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate. Some underage drinking.
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.