Book Review: Defending Taylor - Miranda Kenneally

Title: Defending Taylor
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Genre: YA - Coming of Age, Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Published Date: July 5, 2016

Buy Link:  https://amzn.com/B01BX1PIPQ

Blurb (from Goodreads):
Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

My Review:
Defending Taylor was one of those books that was difficult for me to put down. This was another one of those Netgalley books I picked up as a summer read, and while it wasn’t exactly about summer at all, it fit the bill rather nicely.

What I Loved: All of the characters were interesting and fun. Taylor is pretty typical as far as ‘near adults’ go, she is unsure of her place and of her future destination in life; couple that with an epic mistake on her part, and you’ve got enough drama to fill an entire lifetime. She deals with it though. I really could see her perspective on why she made some of the choices she did, even though in my head I was screaming “noooooooo…..”. I cannot, however, say I would have done anything any differently. Beyond that, Taylor’s character was honorable. I loved how she worked through problems, relied on her friends and family when she didn’t have a solution – but in the end she came up with good solid solutions, and went after what she wanted.

The relationship between her and Ezra (well, first off..who doesn’t love a MC named Ezra?! I think that if he were the antagonist, I would have fallen for him just for the name! ;) ) was hot! I love the pre-existing condition of their feelings for each other before the book starts, it made their quick moving relationship easier to take that way.

Not So Much:
I will forever list sex in a YA novel in this spot…and I apologize, but I’m just not a fan. I also felt kind of weird about Taylor’s parent’s personalities. At times they are over-bearing, a bit uppity (which makes sense considering their position), and completely detached from all things concerning their kids; and then other times they seem like a completely normal family where talking isn’t so hard, and understanding and forgiveness isn’t such a huge deal. I don’t think that this was a growth progression throughout the book as much as it was an irregularity. Specifically in Taylor’s dad; he is so understanding and willing to let things go as soon as Taylor decides to really have a conversation regarding college, however most of the evidence leading up to that point indicated that the conversation should have gone way differently.

The Verdict:  

I did enjoy this book. I feel like Taylor as a person is a character that I will always admire. She really stands out to me in the YA world as someone who has her head on straight, she knows when she needs help, but she also makes good decisions (most of the time). I’ve already mentioned that this book isn’t exactly clean – it’s not overly descriptive (unless you count talk of using condoms), but there’s no denying it’s there, so my recommendation is that this book isn’t really a good one for any younger teens.


Book Review: Vengeance Road - Erin Bowman

Title: Vengeance Road
Author: Erin Bowman
Genre: YA - Historical, Western, Romance
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Published Date: September 1, 2015
Audiobook Narrator: Amy Rubinate

Buy Link: https://amzn.com/B00QPIM66M

Blurb (from Goodreads:
Revenge is worth its weight in gold.

When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.

My Review:
This book was sort of a break from my norm. It’s not a fairy tale retell, it’s not straight up fiction, or even dystopian/fantasy. This can best be described as a YA-Western, complete with guns, small down salons, horses and Stetsons. Although I’m wondering…were the hats actually called Stetsons back then? Because I’m pretty sure that’s a name brand, right? I could be wrong.

What I Loved: It was just ever so different, yet the same. The setting is one that I’m not used to, and the southerny/western accent too. This was more a book about redemption than anything, but first comes vengeance. I think the thing that I liked most was Kate’s character, she was complicated. She was after the men who killed her father, but at the same time was able to be compassionate and understanding toward the Apache Indians, the race that everyone hated/feared/mistreated. However, even in that area, she was tainted by society norms and while she was trying to maintain a friendship and understanding, she continued to have disregard for their ways and was borderline offensive for a good portion of the book. There were events that helped her to gain more understanding and respect for the Indians as the story went on, and this growth was the most significant throughout the book, in my opinion.

I also enjoyed the relationship between Kate and Jessie. I felt like it was this low simmer sort of thing between them, rather than drama that extended throughout the book. This wasn’t just Kate’s story either, Jessie had his own redemption to find as well.

Not So Much: Despite any kind of redemption she found while on the hunt for her father’s killers, Kate really never did leave the thought of vengeance behind. For a small portion of the book I thought that she was going to find healing elsewhere, and I do feel like she kind of did – however she was still pretty set on her path. I would have liked to have had more of an emotional resolution for both Kate and Jessie. While there was character growth throughout the book, I feel like we stopped just shy of anything remarkable.

The Verdict:  

I enjoyed listening to this book. Again, it is nice to break free from the mold just a bit and read something a little different. I can’t say it was my favorite book of the summer, but I certainly do not regret reading it. This is a YA driven novel, though there is some stronger cussing in it..just so you all know.

ADDED:  So I went and did a little google...Stetsons were created in 1865, and this book took place in 1877...so I guess it works! ;)


Book Review: One Paris Summer - Denise Grover Swank

Title: One Paris Summer
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Genre: Young Adult - Romance, Coming of Age
Publisher: Zonderkids Books/Blink
Date Date: June 7, 2016

Buy Link: https://amzn.com/0310755166

Blurb (from Goodreads):
Most teens dream of visiting the City of Lights, but it feels more like a nightmare for Sophie Brooks. She and her brother are sent to Paris to spend the summer with their father, who left home a year ago without any explanation. As if his sudden abandonment weren't betrayal enough, he's about to remarry, and they’re expected to play nice with his soon-to-be wife and stepdaughter. The stepdaughter, Camille, agrees to show them around the city, but she makes it clear that she will do everything in her power to make Sophie miserable.

Sophie could deal with all the pain and humiliation if only she could practice piano. Her dream is to become a pianist, and she was supposed to spend the summer preparing for a scholarship competition. Even though her father moved to Paris to pursue his own dream, he clearly doesn't support hers. His promise to provide her with a piano goes unfulfilled.

Still, no one is immune to Paris’s charm. After a few encounters with a gorgeous French boy, Sophie finds herself warming to the city, particularly when she discovers that he can help her practice piano. There’s just one hitch—he’s a friend of Camille’s, and Camille hates Sophie. While the summer Sophie dreaded promises to become best summer of her life, one person could ruin it all.

My Review:
I recently went to NetGalley looking specifically for fun summer reads to take one. I came across two I felt I would like and would be fairly easy to commit to. One Paris Summer stuck out to me specifically because I’m an Anna and the French Kiss freak. I’ve read that book nearly 20 times (I really wish I were lying). It is my go-to book when I’m in a slump, or just want to reconnect with old ‘friends.’ One Paris Summer sounded perfect when I read the blurb, and I was even more excited when I was approved.

What I Loved: The setting and the language for sure top this list. It is one of the things I loved about Anna, I felt like I really could put myself there. I’ve never actually been to France, but I’m willing to bet based on Anna and now One Paris Summer, I’d be able to recognize a couple of places that aren’t actual landmarks (assuming they are real…). One Paris Summer was especially nice in the language area, I did take French in school, and since there were some French phrases, some well known while others weren’t, I was happy to know I could recognize what was being said before the book gave away the translation.

I also connected with the music side of this story. Sophie was a pianist, and she would ramble off pieces of music that most people don’t even care to recognize, but I on the other hand did know some of them – and probably all of them if I took the time to listen to the piece, since I don’t know every piece of music by name.

I did get caught up in this story line of this book (and not just the setting). The dynamic between Sophie and Camille and Camille’s friends was great. I loved the growth of Sophie and Eric’s characters throughout the book as well. In the opening chapter I thought that we were going to encounter the brother/sister cat fighting pretty much throughout the entire novel, but I loved that wasn’t the case. Some of my favorite moments were when Sophie and Eric were spending time alone. Of course, the blooming relationship between Sophie and Mathieu was front and center, and totally gush-worthy.

Not So Much: So I hope I don’t sound too hypocritical in my next statement, since I picked up this book because it reminded me of Anna and the French Kiss, but the similarities of a few of the scenes in One Paris Summer to Anna almost had me putting the book away. They happened in the very first few chapters and thankfully, once they had passed, the similarities ended rather quickly and One Paris Summer became its own. But still, if it were me I probably would have avoided that as much as possible (and if it was a coincidence...then that is super crazy, and sorry for calling it out!)

Camille played the perfect antagonist, however she might have ended up being a tad bit over the top at some points. Not the climax, mind you…but in some of her tantrums. And I kind of wish we got to “experience” more of her reformation in this book.

The Verdict:  

This really was exactly what I was looking for. I think it is very likely that I will add this to my “re-read” books…but first that means I have to buy my own copy rather than the NetGalley version!  The book is clean, and perfectly suitable for Young Adults.

(Note: I added the link to my review of Anna and the French Kiss, which I wrote right after reading it the first time in 2011 - first: this is one of my favorites and I rated it a 4 at the time...and over the years, my opinion of this novel is a bit different now..AND I'm a little better at writing reviews!)


Book Review: Dalysian Hope - Jamie Summer

Title: Dalysian Hope
Author: Jamie Summer
Genre: YA - Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance
Publisher: Self-Published
Pub Date: March 23, 2016
Buy Link: http://smile.amazon.com/dp/1530803020
Blurb (From Goodreads):One night that changed everything.
Sophie Evans is sure about one thing: she’s a normal teenage girl. Until one night her life is turned upside down. 
Attacked in her own apartment and saved by two handsome strangers, she’s thrown into a whole new world. Suddenly dealing with powers she knows nothing about and having half-truths thrown at her from every direction, she realizes that the definition of normal might not fit her after all. 
When Sophie is told that she has to fight in a matter of life and death, she’s left wondering what chance does she really have? And how can she be the only hope of a race she never even knew existed? 
Can Sophie fight the odds stacked against her, or will she lose herself in the process?
My Review:
Dalysian Hope was a review request sent to me. I’ve slowed way down on accepting requests, just because the time I used to spend on reading/blogging/promoting just isn’t available anymore. But since I was interested in the blurb I was given, and the cover of this book was beautiful, so I decided to give it a shot.

What I Loved: This story is very unique in many ways, and yet still falls into what is popular in YA-Fantasy/Dystopian type novels. I enjoyed Sophie’s character. She was witty and strong, yet at the same time took things in stride and didn’t have a tendency for the dramatic ‘this is not fair’ attitude that sometimes comes with these novels. This book was not too forthcoming with information, but there were some elements that of foreshadowing I was able to pick up on, and I love when I’m able to do that.

The chemistry between Sophie and Ash….and Sophie and Ren was pretty decent. Yes, unfortunately we have the makings (not exactly there yet…) for a love triangle here. I have my ‘side’ but I will keep that to myself for now.

Not So Much:
As previously mentioned, this book is not too forthcoming with the information. I was just as frustrated as Sophie about this, but mostly because it caused some of the story to just not make sense, or even flow very well. Keeping information so far under wraps that nearly the entire book is us discovering Sophie’s abilities, her training, and her internally swooning – it really just could have used a little more movement. There were things happening, lies that were being told (though not very well at times) and plots forming; however we never really figured out the reasons behind some of these things. I have my suspicions on a few of them…but no confirmation. That is not to say the book wasn’t without its action, and once there was some information starting to get shared, the book picked up pace considerably. It was just that I had to wait until the final 3/4ths of the novel for that to really happen.

The Verdict:  

I did enjoy the concept of this story, it was a unique idea with a lot of potential. I will be interested to see what more can be made of it as the series progresses. This book is clean, very YA appropriate.


Book Review: The Unexpected Everything - Morgan Matson

Title: The Unexpected Everything
Author: Morgan Matson
Genre: YA - Coming of Age, Romance
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Buy Link: https://amzn.com/B015WNZ1KIBlurb (from Goodreads): Andie had it all planned out. 
When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. 
Important internship? Check.
Amazing friends? Check. 
Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks). 
But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. 
Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. 
And where’s the fun in that?
My Review:
I’m on a roll, deciding to read books because of other bloggers' reviews. I an Audible Credit I needed to spend and had recently run across another blogger’s review of The Unexpected Everything. Her raving review peeked my interest, plus this cover just screams summer fun!

What I Loved: Our flawed main character, Andie, to start off with. I loved her because she was so real about dealing – or NOT dealing – with her life by keeping everything at surface level. I would say that the exceptions might be her 3 best friends, Palmer, Bri, and Toby, but even then there were topics she just didn’t discuss. Her growth is the key element here, without it I would have hated this book, because at first I really just didn’t care for Andie at all. In fact, in the first few chapters I was kind of annoyed at her standoffish-ness, and strange obsession with kissing. It probably wasn’t until about half way through that I really started to like her.

I also love the progression of Andie and Clark’s relationship. It was not this all-encompassing passion to start off with, it was something that started with blushes and awkwardness and then formed into something wonderful. I read a lot of YA books, especially in the YA coming of age/romance type, and I really feel that this book is among the few that has a realistic view on relationship growth as opposed to the lust at first sight, in love the next week we get a lot of the times. There was gushing about how hot Clark was, but that wasn’t the entire basis of why Andie liked him – her feelings for him grew as she got to know him.

Speaking of relationships, I love the entire cast of characters in this book. The foursome (and their boys) were such a dynamic bunch, you can’t help but want to be included in their group. Then there is the relationship between Andie and her father; there is so much to love here simply because both sides make mistakes and learn from them. You start off the book thinking that you’re going to hate Andie's dad, but you can’t help but love and respect him in the end.

Not So Much:
Because this book is about growth, becoming a better person, and discovering who you really are; it’s hard to come up with something that I didn’t like about it. It is very well written, and I feel like all of the emotions that I felt were exactly the reaction that Morgan Matson was going for.

The Verdict:        

This is the perfect YA summer read! It’s not too heavy, nor is it too light of a read. It has just enough meat to dig into, good characters that you want to know in real life. This book is clean, there is talk of sex, but none actually in the book – though there IS lots of kissing.


Book Review: Creatura - Nely Cab

Title: Creatura
Author: Nely Cab
Genre: Young Adult - Fantasy, Romance

Buy Link:  https://amzn.com/B00WQ5YUAS

Blurb (from Goodreads):
When seventeen year-old Isis Martin is having trouble sleeping due to perturbing dreams of a horrific growling beast, she decides to confront her fear. But what Isis discovers is something other than a menacing entity.

The human-like creature offers Isis assurance that he is not a figment of her imagination. Unwilling to accept his avowal, Isis sets his words to contest by asking the entity to prove himself—a dare, he readily welcomes.

It is in her dreams that Isis innocently stumbles upon the silent existence of the divine lineage of those that man has long forgotten.

In a quaint town, deep in south Texas, this story leads Isis onto the path of impermissible love and captivating life-changing truths. Isis Martin's journey is sure to leave any reader ravenous for more.

Blurb 2 (from Amazon):
Isis can control her dreams. Or she could—until recently. The creature in her nightmares has been haunting her for months. As if being dumped wasn't bad enough, now she dreads going to sleep. She decides to confront the creature and win back some of her peace; only, she finds that he's not a monster and he's not a dream. A sacrifice for love, a shocking discovery and a jealous ex-boyfriend blur the lines between reality and dreams, making it hard to tell who the real monsters are.
Who would've known...that sometimes love is lethal?

My Review:
This book is not one I would have picked up on it's own.  Judging from the blurb (I had read the Amazon version) and the cover, it sounded a bit more thriller/horror for my taste.  However, this was voted as the May book of the month in a book group that I belong to, and since it otherwise fit my 'type' of book, I decided to suck it up and give it a chance.

What I Loved:  So, I try and make it a rule to not reveal anything about a book that isn't already in the blurb, in the attempt not to spoil anything, so I'm sorry if I'm vague - I'm working with what I've got! :)

I enjoyed the world building and back story of Creatura, especially when it came to the human/creature. The concept behind these creatures was unique and interesting.

 Isis has great family and friend connections throughout this book, everyone in her life is very supportive, especially considering her months of insomnia, which is having its effect.  While at time I felt Isis' mother behaved a lot more like a friend than a mother during times, and then switched back - I loved the comradery between them.

Not So Much:  I really was expecting something more with this book.  I already mentioned that I felt like it was going to be thriller/horror like, and I feel like the cover indicates this too, however the reality is that this book was closer to a typical young adult, paranormal romance novel.  There is little real action, and a lot of smoldering glances.

I really thought that Isis' dreams would play a much bigger part in this book, but after the beginning the fact that she could control her dream and was able to dream into this place that the creature dwells sort of became a back-burner detail after the first couple chapters. Then there was her jealous ex-boyfriend, who played his part but I really thought he was something more and in the end it felt anti-climatic to me.

The Verdict:     +.5

While the writing was decent and the world building was pretty good, I felt like this story just fell short for me.  My expectation based on the blurbs was that this book was going to be a paranormal version of when the girl falls in love with the boy who isn't what he seems - he's much more dangerous - and it turns into an action filled drama of her attempting to escape.  This book is good for the Young Adult genre, age appropriate.