26 Kisses by Anna Michels [ARC]

26 KissesVee’s boyfriend, Mark, broke up with her five minutes after he graduated from high school. He didn’t want to go to college still dating his “high school girlfriend”. As a way to get over him, Vee’s best friend, Mel, proposes that Vee embark on a 26 kisses challenge. Over the course of the summer Vee is supposed to kiss one boy for every letter of the alphabet. Vee is hesitant at first, but then begins to embrace the challenge as she slowly starts to forget about Mark. When she meets Killian, however, Vee will have to reevaluate whether or not she wants to keep going with the challenge or if she’s okay stopping on “K”.

On its surface this seems like a very shallow book and it kind of is, but there’s a little more to it than that as well. Vee is a pretty sympathetic character and I didn’t find her to be annoying or too angsty necessarily (though she did have a couple moments…). To be honest, the premise of this book is a little ridiculous. I mean, is it really a good idea to try to kiss 26 different guys in your hometown? Do you really think nobody’s going to notice or start talking about it? Regardless, I understand why she decided to undertake this challenge even if I don’t agree with it. For the most part, I enjoyed Vee’s friendships with Mel, Seth, and Killian. I thought everyone seemed pretty balanced as characters and they each had distinctive personalities. I liked that both Vee and Killian were pretty quirky characters with unique interests. The romance itself was nice. Killian seemed like a nice guy and I’m always happy when our protagonist ends up with a genuinely good guy as opposed to the cliche “bad boy”.

Vee also has a lot of family stuff going on which created a nice break and some contrast to everything else that was going on with her social life. I can’t say I completely understand how Vee feels about her father and his new family, but nothing seemed too unbelievable. I also liked how Michels chose to resolve that subplot.

Overall, I think this book would make a great beach read. It’s not a book that will stick with you for a long time, but it’s fun in the moment.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate. Pretty consistent throughout, but nothing too strong.
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy. Quite a few scenes with underage drinking.
Sexual Content: Mild

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


Anything You Want by Geoff Herbach [ARC]

9781402291449_9b451First off, the author admits on Goodreads that the way the book is presented (cover and marketing-wise) is a little misleading to the reader. For anyone looking for a nice contemporary romance kind of book, this is not that book. This is a book about a boy named Taco who has a positive attitude about literally everything. His mom has died, his dad is nowhere to be found, and his older brother is a drunk. Yet, Taco is still determined that every day is going to be the best day and tomorrow will be even better. He also calls the reader dingus. A lot.

I could not relate to Taco at all. He was too optimistic. Too sunny of a person. I just could not understand him or how he thought about things. I also just felt like he was an unrealistic character because I don’t think that ANYONE can be as unfailingly optimistic as he is. I also don’t understand how he can be dumb enough to not understand how he got his girlfriend pregnant, but he’s on the honor roll every year… I just don’t get how that works.

Things I did admire about Taco: the fact that he was so positive, he’s a hard worker, he loves his family even with their flaws, he’s willing to do the right thing even if it’s not what he would prefer. So yes, there are some things that make Taco an admirable character. I really did appreciate his work ethic and that he’s 100% committed to his family and to being a dad.

The other characters in this book are kind of strange. I did not like Maggie at all. She was so erratic and treated Taco like crap. Even if Taco was dumb enough to not understand how people really get pregnant, I feel like Maggie should have known. In the end I just feel like she was this really immature and selfish character who had zero growth and development.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy, one character is an alcoholic.
Sexual Content: Heavy, mentioned a lot but no explicit descriptions.

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

Outspoken by Lora Richardson

Penny always says “yes” even when she wants to say “no” but this summer she’s putting an end to that. She’s moving across the country to take care of her grandfather and she’s finally going to become the person she’s always wanted to be. She’ll have the opportunity to try the new-Penny out on some “practice friends” before revealing herself to her family back in Montana. She doesn’t know exactly what new-Penny will look like, but she does know that it will be a surprise for some people. As the summer progresses, Penny starts to fall in love with her new town and she also starts to realize that maybe she doesn’t want her “practice friends” to be so temporary after all.

51iikoydlll-_sx331_bo1204203200_I thought this book definitely had a lot of things going for it. The pacing was great and I felt like Penny was a pretty relatable character–she just seemed so normal. I liked that she was trying to reinvent herself a bit because I think that’s something that a lot of girls try to do whether it be when they leave for college or some other time. The idea that you’ll finally be able to be who you want to be once you get away from the people who have known you forever is one that I think a lot of people can relate to. In the end, Penny really just wants to find herself–to figure out exactly who she is without her family’s expectations. There is something liberating about being surrounded by people who don’t have any history with you.

The secondary characters were an interesting cast. I liked meeting and learning about the different people that Penny delivers groceries to as well as the new friends that she makes. Overall, the characters come together and really add to the small town feel of the book. I love reading about coastal beach towns, so I was in love with the entire atmosphere.

I also really liked how Penny’s relationship with her grandfather was portrayed. It seems like a tough situation to deal with someone who has Alzheimer’s but doesn’t realize how bad it is yet. There were a couple of scenes especially where my heart just broke for Penny’s poor grandfather. That has to be such a hard thing.

As far as critiques go, I think there was a little too much telling and not enough showing from the author. There were times when the book felt very matter-of-fact and like there wasn’t much for the reader to interpret. Everything was just kind of laid out there. I also felt like the author was trying to do a lot at once. What I mean by that is that she addressed several different issues including, but not limited to: an ailing grandparent, a deceased parent, new motherhood, and rape. I just felt like there were too many balls to juggle and because of that, we didn’t get into some of the issues as much as I would have liked to. I also felt like the author tried to do a little too much with the ending as well. It seemed like almost every character’s story ended with a little bow wrapped around it and I didn’t think that was necessary. Not every character needs to have a resolved ending.

Overall, I thought the book was pretty good. The atmosphere was spot on and I felt like I could relate to the main character. I really did want her to succeed and I think this would be a good book for other people to read when they feel like their life is at a crossroads.

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

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry

Natalie was adopted by a nice white family when she was just days old. For years she’s been communicating with an otherworldly being who would appear in her bedroom at night called Grandmother. Grandmother tells her stories the Natalie rarely understands. But three years ago Grandmother stopped coming and Natalie has felt lost ever since. The week of graduation, Natalie starts seeing things that she shouldn’t. One minute she’s in the hallway at school, but the next she’s seeing rolling hills and grazing buffalo. What’s happening to her and who is the boy that she sometimes sees during her episodes?25467698

This book was kind of interesting…I thought the premise was very unique and I was excited to see where the book would go. Right away I rejoiced that our main character was half Native American. Hooray for diversity in YA! I also really liked that actual Native American legends were woven into this story. In the back of the book I think there was an author’s note listing each of the stories told and what tribes they’re attributed too. I don’t know very much about Native American culture, so I was happy to get a glimpse into some of their stories and the way they might think about things.

The beginning of the book was very slow for me. I had a hard time really getting into it. And then as the story progresses, it doesn’t feel like the pace ever really picks up. We’re in Natalie’s head a lot so even though there’s a time constraint and Natalie is technically “battling against the clock”, the story still progresses at this really unhurried pace. There’s insta-love involved which I usually hate, but it wasn’t the worst in this book. Of all of the insta-love stories that I’ve read, I feel like this one was on the more realistic end of things. Beau seemed like a fairly interesting character (even if we’re not really clear on any of his motivations) but I kept imagining him as being Native American also…which, I don’t think he actually was.

Honestly, I kind of feel like a lot of this book went over my head. Like I said earlier, we’re in Natalie’s head A LOT and there’s quite a bit of internal struggle going on in there. In the end, I’m not really sure if she really did develop as a character. What did she learn about herself? I feel like she definitely learned something, but I’m not picking up on what it was. Then there was the resolution of the plot. It’s like…I kind of get it, but the last couple of chapters seemed super info-dumpy and I don’t think I got all of it. And then there was the ending…which was just okay for me. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either.


I feel like this book is really different from a lot of books that are popular right now. It definitely has a darker overall tone to it. The alternate realities/time travel element was interesting even if it wasn’t necessarily explained that well. There are some religious elements to the story as well that I thought were interestingly tied in. Overall, I don’t think most readers will necessarily hate this book, but I also don’t think you’ll regret passing on it.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate. Some brief, strong language.
Violence: Moderate. Some mention of domestic abuse.
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy. A lot of underage drinking.
Sexual Content: Moderate

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy [ARC]

Jaycee’s brother Jake died the day of his high school graduation and every year since then, Jaycee has revisited Jake’s favorite hang-out for a macabre homage to her brother. This summer, she finds a map left behind by her brother with a list of dares and she decides to complete each of his dares in order to feel closer to him. What Jaycee doesn’t count on is the people who decide to tag along and the truths that she will discover along with the dares.25679559

I was not expecting this book. McCarthy deals with some heavy topics such as death, abusive relationships, and uncertain futures. The characters in this book are much deeper than I usually see in Young Adult fiction because a lot of the time the plot is the main focus. The book switches off between five different perspectives so we really get to know three of the characters very well. Only three because Mik’s chapters are graphic novel-esque and Bishop’s feature a piece of art that he’s created. I just want to say that I LOVE the variation in the chapters. I enjoyed reading the book, but I also felt really eager to reach one of Mik or Bishop’s chapters.

The characters were well thought-out and I liked that nobody and nothing was black and white. There were some “bad” characters, but things also weren’t as simple as they may have seemed on the surface. McCarthy has the reader dive into each of the characters and as the book progresses, each character learns something(s) about themselves. The character development in this book is CRAZY and even the secondary characters have depth. Characters did have a tendency to be a little immature at times, but not necessarily in an unrealistic way.

The settings in this book are excellently described and it makes me want to do a little bit of urban exploring myself. The different places that the group visits match the mood of the overall book and the characters themselves in a haunting way.

Overall, I thought this book was a good read that dealt with some important themes and issues. There was quite a bit of content, however, and because the issues are so heavy I would only recommend this book for older teen readers.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Heavy
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy. Several scenes throughout with teenage drinking.
Sexual Content: Heavy. Nothing too explicit, but a big part of one of the story lines (talked about a lot).

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

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

Remy is just three months from going to Stanford. She has one last summer to spend with her three best girl friends and then she’s out of here. She doesn’t expect to meet Dexter–who happens to be wrong for her in every way possible. He’s unorganized, can’t sit still, and worst of all, he’s a musician.


I’m going to come out and say it. I hate the new Sarah Dessen covers. It’s all about this classic look to me. Anyway. Irrelevant. This was the first Sarah Dessen book that I ever read way back in junior high. I remember how much older than me Remy seemed at the time. It’s crazy to me that I’m now about the same age as Christopher (maybe even older!). How did that even happen??? Despite that, it still feels like Remy’s older than I am. It’s a weird thing. I like this book because I feel like Remy is different when held up against some of Dessen’s other protagonists. She’s feisty and sarcastic. She doesn’t take bull from anyone and would rather shoot you straight than worry about your feelings. Some of the times it feels like Dessen’s main characters are more or less interchangeable (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing). Not with Remy. She is her own person.

Dexter is a sweet guy and I really like how his relationship with Remy developed. It felt natural with who they are as people. Not forced, and not too fast. The reader can see how different they are, but Dessen still makes their relationship seem believable.

One of the things I really love about this book is the secondary cast. Dexter’s band mates all have distinctive personalities as do Remy’s girl friends. They feel like real people who struggle with real problems. As characters, they are used in a way that illustrates who Dexter and Remy are as people without overshadowing them.

Overall, this book is great. I think it really stands out among Dessen’s other books. Who wouldn’t want a friend like Remy?

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate. Some language throughout.
Violence: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy. Smoking and underage drinking throughout–but not cast in a glamorous light.

BLOG TOUR: This Ordinary Life by Jennifer Walkup (GIVEAWAY)

ThisOrdinaryLife_FCThis Ordinary Life
by Jennifer Walkup
Publisher: Luminis Books, Inc.
Release Date: October 1st 2015

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Sometimes Hope is the Most Extraordinary Gift of All.

High-school radio host Jasmine Torres’s life is full of family dysfunction, but if she can score the internship of her dreams with a New York City radio station, she knows she can turn things around.

That is, until her brother Danny’s latest seizure forces her to miss the interview, and she’s back to the endless loop of missing school for his doctor appointments, picking up the pieces of her mother’s booze-soaked life, and stressing about Danny’s future.

Then she meets Wes. He’s the perfect combination of smart, cute, and funny. He also happens to have epilepsy like her brother. Wes is living a normal life despite his medical issues, which gives Jasmine hope for Danny. But memories of her cheating ex-boyfriend keep her from going on a real date with Wes, no matter how many times he asks her.

Jasmine can’t control everything. Not who wins the internship, not her mother’s addiction, not her brother’s health–not even where her heart will lead her. She wishes she could just have an ordinary life, but maybe what she already has is pretty extraordinary after all.

I was really interested in radio when I was in high school, so I was excited to pick up this book where the main character is also interested in radio. Jasmine seems like the kind of girl who really has her head on straight–and for good reason. Her mom has been kind of neglectful, so Jasmine has had to step into the parent role. Even though she’s trying to take care of her family, I liked that she still had time to be sweet with Danny. They seemed to have a really special relationship and it made me think of my own little brother.

Overall, I liked Jasmine quite a bit as a main character, but she had some traits that I disliked. She could be a little vindictive and bratty towards her mom. I understand that her mom isn’t doing what she’s supposed to be doing, but I don’t feel like there’s ever an excuse to be that rude to another human being. Another thing is that I don’t feel that the author showed us why Jasmine is so special. I get that she’s awesome with her brother and is very mature, but if you gave her a different family, what’s special about her? This made it so that I couldn’t quite see what Wes saw in her. It didn’t make sense to me why he was being so persistent with wanting to date her. I will say this about Jasmine though, I’m so glad that she never ONCE thought about taking her ex-boyfriend back. Way to stand up for yourself!

The story line and drama is mostly centered around the radio internship/epilepsy so I was glad that neither Wes nor Frankie added to the drama. There are times when I feel like an author has put too much drama into their book, but in this case I felt that there was a really nice balance. Overall, I liked the ending of the book. It’s not your typical happy ending, but it’s hopeful. Most of all, I love that this book brings attention to a disease that I, personally, did not know a lot about.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: None
Sexual Content: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy (alcoholic adult character).

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


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Jennifer Walkup
Award-winning author Jennifer Walkup is most often found writing, reading, and spending time with her husband and young sons. A member of SCBWI and RWA, Jennifer also works as an editor and creative writing instructor, and is an advocate for Epilepsy awareness. This Ordinary Life is her second novel.

To hear about Jennifer’s upcoming books, sign up for her newsletter here.



Note: I received this book free from the Blog Tour in exchange for an honest review.