Always, Forever, Maybe by Anna Mrose Ricci

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Originally published in School Library Journal, March 2018.

Gr. 9 & Up: High school senior, Bee, has been living in the shadow of her best friends, popular twins Jo and Eric, counting the days until she can move away from her demanding parents. When Bee begins dating Aiden, her relationship with Jo becomes strained, which further increases as she starts keeping secrets involving Aiden from Jo. The tone starts off lightheartedly, but quickly turns serious as Aiden’s true character is revealed. Bee is convinced that Aiden is the one, and she remains in the relationship as he becomes jealous, irrational, and violent. Her parents forbid the relationship, causing her to want Aiden even more. Readers will sense Bee’s fear, and the pressure of trying to please everyone but herself. When sudden tragedy strikes, Bee finally realizes she must leave Aiden before it’s too late. Rissi’s first YA novel gives an accurate, but heartbreaking picture of teenage relationships. Recommended for additional purchase, the story has mature language and sexual scenes, as well as real-life situations which teen readers will appreciate. VERDICT: Fans of Colleen Hoover will enjoy this modern day realistic fiction story, full of diverse characters and the important message that abusive relationships are never acceptable.

 

 

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Sweet Sixteen by Brenda Rothert

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It is my pleasure to be a tour stop for the blog tour of Sweet Sixteen by Brenda Rothert.

Sweet Sixteen by Brenda Rothert is a young adult contemporary romance novel with very mature themes and language. I would not recommend it for readers under the age of 18. I would place it in the New Adult Romance genre, even though the main characters are high school seniors.

Gin (unfortunately named Ginger for her fiery red locks) prefers to lessen the constant taunting from classmates, so she dyes her hair black and keeps to herself. For this, she gets called a lesbian and has only two real friends that she can count on to help her get through her senior year. Her only goal is to graduate and get as far away from Roper, Missouri as humanly possible, hopefully to New York to study art. In her free time, she swims, designs sets for the drama club, and volunteers to teach swimming lessons to kids. Though she has always harbored a crush for star football quarterback and town golden boy, Chase Matthews, Gin doesn’t act on it,  knowing she doesn’t even have a chance because he is way out of her league. And even if he would pay any attention to her, it would not be the kind of attention she needed to help her graduate and leave Roper as soon as possible. Gin knows all about Chase and the horrifying, disgusting “elite Sweet Sixteen” parties held by the football team after each game. In Roper, football is and always has been everything to the town, and Gin doesn’t want any part of it. When Gin sees an underclassman about to get beat up by bad girl, Ronnie, she steps in to defend her and gets beat up in her place. It’s just her luck that the girl she defended is one of Chase’s little sisters, bringing Chase closer to Gin than he’s ever been before. How can someone who looks at her so kindly and speaks to her as an equal be the same monster who lures young girls to parties to be victimized by the football team?

Chase Matthews could have any girl he wants. He has a choice of several full-ride scholarships to play football after graduation. But he is anything but happy, walking on eggshells at home around his abusive father. When he is thrown into close quarters with Gin Fielding after she bravely stands up for his little sister, Chase realizes that she isn’t the girl he thought she was. Thinking he is doing her a favor, he convinces the team to give her the next rose, allowing her to join the Sweet Sixteen. Little does he know, this is the worst decision he would possibly make, one that will ultimately lead to misery for both of them. How can Chase stop his bad behavior and prove to Gin that is he is sorry before its too late?

Sweet Sixteen is a quick read full of real characters and sweet moments. I would recommend it for fans of YA and NA contemporary romance. Again, it is very mature in nature and is recommended for readers age 18 and over.

 

BLURB:
They say roses are the most beautiful…

Gin Fielding is counting the days until she escapes the small-town life of Roper, Missouri for college at NYU. She prefers to blend in, though she’s far from invisible. But when she protects a younger student from a bully, the spotlight turns on her in ways she never imagined.

I say that every rose has its thorn…

The Friday night lights shine bright on Chase Matthews. Roper’s golden boy, Chase can do no wrong, enjoying the small-town celebrity being the star quarterback brings. When Gin defends his little sister against a bully, he decides to lend her his star power and change her senior year in ways she never imagined.

But maybe the thorns are part of their beauty.

When Gin declines Chase’s invitation to be part of the elite Sweet Sixteen, the repercussions turn both their lives upside down. But amidst the chaos, Gin and Chase find solace in one another. Together, they confront the ugly truth– that sometimes glory has a dark side.

***Warning–Sweet Sixteen is an upper YA book with mature themes and is intended for readers 18+.

 

About Brenda
Brenda Rothert is an Illinois native who was a print journalist for nine years. She made the jump from fact to fiction in 2013 and never looked back. From new adult to steamy contemporary romance, Brenda creates fresh characters in every story she tells. She’s a lover of Diet Coke, chocolate, lazy weekends and happily ever afters.

These days Brenda writes New Adult Romance in the Contemporary and Dystopian genres. She loves to hear from readers by email at bjrothert@sbcglobal.net. Her website is http://brendarothert.com/.

Thank you to InkSlinger PR for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Wrong in All the Right Ways by Tiffany Brownlee

Title: Wrong in All the Right Ways
Author: Tiffany Brownlee
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Henry Holt BYR/Macmillan
Pub. Date: July 17, 2018
Summary/Blurb:
An attraction between foster siblings sets fire to forbidden love in this contemporary reimagining of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Emma’s life has always gone according to her very careful plans. But things take a turn toward the unexpected when she falls in love for the first time with the one person in the world who’s off-limits: her new foster brother, the gorgeous and tormented Dylan McAndrews. Meanwhile, Emma’s AP English class is reading Wuthering Heights, and she’s been assigned to echo Emily Bronte’s style in an epistolary format. With irrepressible feelings and no one to confide in, she’s got a lot to write about. Distraught by the escalating intensity of their mutual attraction, Emma and Dylan try to constrain their romance to the page―for fear of threatening Dylan’s chances at being adopted into a loving home. But the strength of first love is all-consuming, and they soon get enveloped in a passionate, secretive relationship with a very uncertain outcome.
Wrong in All the Right Ways marks the exciting debut of a fresh voice in contemporary teen fiction.
Pages: 341
About the Author
Tiffany Brownlee was born in San Diego, California, but currently lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she works as a 7th Grade English Teacher. Her debut novel, Wrong in All the Right Ways—a YA remix of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights—is set for publication in Summer 2018.

 

 

Librarian Laura’s Review 

Brownlee’s debut novel, a modern-day re-imagining of Bronte’s classic, Wuthering Heights, will have readers swooning over the forbidden romance and the tension between main characters Emma and Dylan.

Skipping two grades in high school, exceptionally smart 16 year old Emma is in her senior year at the top of her class. Emma is pretty much a loner, focusing all of her time and energy on studying, with the hope of getting away from Cedar Pointe to pursue a career in the publishing industry. An added bonus for going away to college in less than a year is that she’ll be out from under the roof of her overbearing, controlling father, a former baseball star who makes everything Emma does into a fiercely competitive endeavor.

Thrown for a loop by her parents, Emma is told that she is getting a foster sibling. Her little brother, Matthew, age 8, is excited, hoping to have a playmate. Emma, on the other hand, is concerned about losing more attention from her parents the last year she will be under their roof. Thinking she’ll get another kid brother or sister like Matthew, Emma is surprised to get Dylan, a very handsome, mysterious boy her age as the new foster sibling. Dylan is an artist and very talented, but his painful past has taken its toll on him, as he tries to keep things hidden and puts on a happy face around Emma’s parents and people at school.

In the midst of receiving a new foster sibling into her family, things start looking up a bit for Emma when Karmin, the hot, popular girl encourages her to join the dance team and befriends her.

Emma and Dylan first try to deny their immediate attraction to one another, but it soon becomes impossible. Knowing they are breaking a cardinal rule of foster care, even though they are in no way blood-related, they have to keep their attraction a secret, causing them to long for the small bits of alone time they get with one another.

As with all forbidden romance, there are some bumps in the road, the first being star baseball player, Keegan, Karmin’s twin brother, who is attracted to Emma. Keegan is undeniably cute, kind, and everything Emma’s parents want her to have in a boyfriend. Plus, the baseball thing is a major hit with her father. However, Emma only wants what she really can’t have – Dylan.

As Emma and Dylan fall harder for each other, the stress and worry of trying to hide and uncertainty of the future with Emma going away to college proves to be too much. When tragedy strikes, Emma is forced to reveal her secrets to try to heal the sudden loss of so many firsts – her first kiss, first relationship, and first love. The ending is hopeful, with just enough uncertainty to keep readers guessing what will be in store next for Emma and Dylan. You’ll have to read it to find out for yourselves. I’m not in the business of spoiling endings!

Wrong in All the Right Ways is well-written with many connections to the well-known love triangle of Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar of Wuthering Heights. I can’t wait to read Tiffany’s next novel because I loved this one! I would recommend it for teens and also adults who enjoy quality YA literature.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

 

Where I Live by Brenda Rufener

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Originally published in School Library Journal, November 2017.

Grade 9 & Up – Secretly living in Hinderwood High, teenager Linden is homeless and working two jobs to afford living essentials. After her mother was killed, she ended up in Oregon at her grandmother’s nursing home, before she died too. Linden, white and homeless, and her best friends, Korean American Seung, and gay, fun-loving Ham make up the Triangle. Linden’s goal is to graduate and go to college with the Triangle, her only family and support. While reporting for the school blog and trying to keep her homelessness a secret, Linden uncovers perfect, mean-girl Bea’s secret – an abusive boyfriend. Not wanting to draw attention to herself, Linden worries for Bea, but does not expose her secret. When Seung becomes more than a best friend, Linden inadvertently lets her guard down, starting a new chapter in her life. When the truth is revealed, reactions of her friends and community prove that family is where your heart is, regardless of blood relation. Rufener’s cast of diverse characters and genuine dialogue helps balance the unlikely premise that a teenager could be living in a high school undetected. Readers will empathize with Linden, because her matter-of-fact attitude and bravery, never wallowing in self-pity. VERDICT: Recommended for strictly additional purchase for older teens due to mature language. Fans of Jennifer Niven and Nicola Yoon will enjoy this debut realistic fiction novel which brings to light heavy topics of homelessness and abuse.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

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This is such a cool book. It’s like a modern-day Breakfast Club with a twist – a murder investigation! Five students from Bayview High go into to detention and only four students make it out. There’s Bronwyn, the brainiac who only has time to be successful, Addy, the beauty queen who prefers to be treated as a princess, Nate, the criminal who sells pills and tries to fly under the radar, and Cooper, the star baseball player who is being scouted by the pros, but isn’t quite telling the truth about his stellar performance on the field. After a strange fender-bender outside the school draws their teacher out of the room for a moment, Simon ends up dead. Simon, the social outcast who runs a gossip blog, and as such, he is known but not necessarily liked by many. The other four students, who are as different as can be, are targets in Simon’s blog post set to be released the day after his death, exposing their deepest, darkest secrets and making them all murder suspects. What looked like an accidental death due to a severe peanut allergy at first turns out to be a murder with serious planning and consequences.

As the investigation unfolds, the story pacing gets quicker and quicker, each chapter switching point-of-view between Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, and Cooper. Readers will try to figure out which of the four students is lying and who really knows what happened to Simon. This is an addictive, can’t-put-down-until-it’s-over kind of thriller which will appeal to both adults and teens. I highly recommend it. Can you figure out which one is lying?

Broken Beautiful Hearts by Kami Garcia

Holy Romance Novel, B9781250079206_b9a41atman! This one is going to the top of my YA romance favorites list! This is the first of Kami Garcia’s novels that I have read, but I am now kicking myself for not reading her other ones already! You probably hear this a lot, but I literally couldn’t put this book down. I started it at 7:30 PM after the kids went to bed and finished the last page at 11:45 PM. It was THAT GOOD! It reminded me a little bit of the Abbi Glines Field Party series because of the small town where football is life. (That is also a really good series, by the way.) Garcia’s characters are beautifully crafted, but also very real – readers will be able to identify them to people in their own lives.

Here’s the rundown: Things are going well for high school senior Peyton Rios, a star soccer player who just received admittance and a starting soccer position at her college of choice, UNC. About a year prior to the story, Peyon’s father was killed in Iraq. She has had a tough road, but she is not alone. She has a best friend named Tess and a boyfriend of 7 months, Tess’s older brother, Reed. Reed is an MMA fighter who has been there for Peyton, but lately he seems a little distant and moody.

During a typical weekend house party, Peyton discovers a secret about Reed the she doesn’t want to believe, but knows she has to distance herself from his lies. When she confronts him, he gets violent and pushes her down the stairs, shattering her knee and her heart at the same time. After extensive surgery, Peyton worries she will lose her spot on the team at UNC, and wonders if she will ever be able to play soccer again? An even bigger problem is that Reed claims she fell and no one (other than her own mother) believes her, not even her best friend Tess. Soon she begins getting threats and Reed will no stop calling her, trying to see her as if nothing bad has happened.

Needing a change of scenery so that she can focus on rehab for the next few months, Peyton moves to a small town in Tennessee to live with her Uncle Hawk and the Twins, Christian and Cameron. Hawk was the only survivor of the military attack which killed her father, but having to dredge up painful memories even seems better than her current situation of constant fear and threats. She learns quickly that football is life in her Uncle’s family, her new school, and the whole town. Still reeling from the heartbreak of her last relationship, Peyton makes it clear to everyone that she is not interested in dating. Her muscle-head, tender-hearted, football star cousins, the Twins, watch her every move, determined to keep her safe, even from their own teammates. At first endearing and sweet, Peyton appreciates them, but really she just wants to be left alone and treated like everyone else. Until she (literally) runs into Owen Law, a mysterious, sexy guy who she instantly feels attracted to for some reason. Even so, she refuses to be swayed by his charm.

When she shows up for her first therapy session, however, she is forced into even closer contact with Owen. He is interning with the therapist and Peyton is his new patient. Side note: If I were her, I would be milking that knee injury for a very long time. The longer it hurts, the more therapy you need, right? But, I digress…

To complicate matters, it turns out that Owen is an MMA fighter, and he is GOOD. Though she knows of the risks of getting involved with another fighter, Peyton can’t help thinking that Owen is different. He’s nothing like Reed, and she is finding it hard to think about anything but Owen. But then she finds out Owen is hiding something. Something too big to ignore. And even though Peyton claims they are just friends, the something could shatter her heart all over again. Both Peyton and Owen must ask themselves how far they are willing to go for themselves and for each other. Is love worth really fighting for?

The story moves along rather quickly with just the right amount of romance, mystery, and humor. And fighting, lots of fighting. And not always in the ring. Hallways, parking lots, abandoned buildings, you name it. These small town Tennessee boys are quick to throw punches and protect their own. I loved this book and the characters. I can’t wait for her next book!

 

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

15797848Stephanie Perkins’ YA horror/thriller novel, There’s Someone Inside Your House, will have adults and teens alike reeling until the very last page. Think Scream, but much more original and clever! Try to go right to sleep after finishing this book and let me know how that works out for you. It certainly didn’t work for me!

Makani left Hawaii and is now in her senior year at a small school in rural Nebraska, in the farming town of Osborne. She lives with her aging, and somewhat senile grandmother, sent to help her by her soon-to-be-divorced and non-present parents, who stayed behind in Hawaii. Her two best friends are Alex and Darby, and though she sometimes feels like the third-wheel of the group, she is going through the motions of surviving high school, all the while trying to keep a low profile so that no one finds out the true reason she left Hawaii and changed her last name to Young. Makani starts to take a renewed interest in Ollie Larssen, one of her classmates who is sexy and mysterious, but doesn’t care what others think about him, or his recent hot pink hair color. Ollie lives with his slightly older brother, Chris, a town police officer, because their parents were killed by a drunk driver a few years ago.

As Makani and Ollie get to know each other better (nothing like a good steamy romance!), random high school students are being brutally murdered one-by-one.  Makani fearfully begins to wonder who will be next. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to how the students are being chosen at random, but Makani can’t help but wonder if her past and the incident in Hawaii is finally catching up with her in Nebraska. The murders start to increase at an alarming rate, but the killer manages to escape capture, leaving a gruesome setup at each murder scene.

The book is packed with both fear and romance, a killer combination that will keep readers fascinated. I couldn’t put the book down! It was a very fast read, but the scenes and grisly details stayed with me well after I had read the last page. The murder scenes were bizarre and original, causing Perkins’ first horror novel to be a stand-out from other books of this genre.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the book is that the killer is revealed about three-quarters of the way through the book, and readers don’t have to wait until the final page to know who it is. However, even after the killer is revealed (in a most unsettling & painful way for Makani and Ollie, by the way), he/she keeps on killing, right under everyone’s noses. It’s crazy! The plot is original, wildly entertaining, and filled with creepy moments. When you start a young adult novel and one of the characters is murdered savagely in the first chapter, you know it’s going to be a game-changer for young adult horror. Fans of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer will absolutely love this book!

To quote of my high school student readers, “It was a real slasher!” (She gave it a 10 of 10.)