Book Review: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

Summary: There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.




Release Date: July 2018
Age Group: YA, Dark Thriller
Source: Review Copy from NetGalley
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
I read The Cheerleaders about a month ago and I 've been sitting on the review because I was left uneasy. With that said, it was a good YA thriller filled with mystery and murder but there were two reoccurring issues that were pretty heavy-- suicide & abortion. I wasn't sure how I felt about it when it all ended but now I do and I hated it.
I am a victim, whether or not I feel like one.
It's not that I don't think these two topics are appropriate for YA literature, as a matter of fact, I've read a few that addressed hard issues beautifully: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe, The Girl Next Door or Ryan's Bed.

I do believe if you are going to bring the tough stuff in you better take the time to work through each and every detail, really dive into the characters' emotional processes and specifically identify instances that are wrong... DO NOT LEAVE GREY AREA for teens to read and walk away doubting they were victimized.

I never felt any closer, yes the mystery and sleuthing was original and clever but again, there was this whole situation that just kept getting but on the back burner. The continued thoughts of the victim constantly blaming herself for what should have been identified as statutory rape was just sad. Only to be followed by zero parental involvement in the decision of an abortion and not because the mom wasn't present.

It was basically a girl (with a lot of baggage🚨) telling her mom she was pregnant (by someone other than her boyfriend 🚨) and that her mom didn't need to know or worry about "him" 🚨. Followed by said teen making a "quick" decision before she could "think" about it 🚨. WHAT!?!?! Red flags for dayyysssss. 🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨 #redALERT

In all honesty, this story would have been better if the abortion was left out, yes it stung hard but it wasn't the real punch to the gut in the overall story arch and it actually caused more harm than awareness. The phrase "less is more" comes to mind.

As far as a dark thriller goes, the mystery was great and unpredictable. There were several plot twists that kept me going and it definitely flowed like an episode of Riverdale. I hung in there until the end but it did feel a bit flat at the conclusion, very anticlimactic. I really wanted it to be so much more.




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Book Review: Courting Carlyn by Melissa Chambers

Summary: Vaughn Yarborough is ready to trade the fame and glory of the international junior pro tennis circuit for college and a more settled life. First stop: spearhead a summer camp for underprivileged kids. The girl who’s agreed to run it with him has Vaughn more intrigued by the minute, but with the strict no-fraternizing rules, he’s got to figure out how not to fall for her.

When the boy Carlyn Sadowski has crushed on for years asks her to work with him for the summer, she has to pinch herself. When his world-famed coach offers her training for free, she can’t believe her luck. He could actually help her follow in her mother’s footsteps by playing college tennis. But when she finds out the catch is she’s got to convince Vaughn to go pro, Carlyn will have to decide between her dreams and the boy currently stealing her heart.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book features a super-hot sports star, the shy girl looking to grow her confidence on and off the court, and late-night shenanigans that would make your camp counselor blush.


Release Date: August 2018
Age Group: YA, Contemporary, Sports
Source: NetGalley

Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
What can I say, I'm a sucker for contemporary YA sports fiction, who knew! I wish I had this niche of fiction when I was in high school. Maybe it would have made all the broody athletes more tolerable... probably not but I would have enjoyed looking at them a bit more. Ah nostalgia. You seriously couldn't pay me to repeat high school but I do love reading a good coming of age story and Entangled Crush book always deliver! 💯

I was a little hesitant with this one because I have absolutely no interest in tennis. None. Although, I do think the outfits a freaking adorable and I have serious leg envy. But Courting Carlyn was an adorable, sweet romance without being cliche, plus who doesn't love a summer camp romance?

The alternating POV's between Vaughn and Carlyn were entertaining and humorous. I think high school girls will really enjoy the flirtatious banter between the two. Carlyn and Vaughn were really relatable for a teen audience but especially for senior athletes who have to make big choices that will begin to shape their future paths.

I also enjoyed exploring the history that drove each one toward their goals. And of course one of my favorite plot points to fall upon, neither one gave up a dream for love! 🎉🎉🎉 Points for both love & life goals!

Basically, this is a total swoon worthy YA read and it doesn't matter if you know anything about tennis or not. If you need a sweet coming of age romance with a little teen angst and a tennis ball, then grab Courting Carlyn!


X🎾X🎾X🎾X🎾

Book Review: Uncharted by Erin Cashman

Summary: 
Seventeen-year-old Annabeth prefers the fantasy of her books and paintings to reality—because in reality, her mom is dead, and it was all her fault. When she accompanies her father to the funeral of some family friends who drowned, she’s surprised to find her grief reflected in the face of Griffin Bradford, the son of the couple who died. Griffin is nothing like the carefree boy she once knew. Now he’s irritable, removed, and he’s under police investigation for his parents’ deaths.

One night following the memorial service, Annabeth’s dad goes missing in the woods, and she suspects Griffin knows more about the disappearance than he’s letting on. He refuses to answer her questions, particularly those related to the mysterious “expedition” his parents took to Ireland, where they went missing for seven months.

Annabeth fears her father isn’t lost, but rather a victim of something sinister. She launches her own investigation, tracing clues that whisper of myth and legend and death, until she stumbles upon a secret. One that some would die to protect, others would kill to expose—and which twists Annabeth’s fantasy and reality together in deadly new ways.

Release Date: September 2018
Age Group: YA, Mystery, Folklore
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
I loved Uncharted right from the prologue! It was a unique storyline that did a great job of blending several genres, I actually had a hard time deciding where to "shelve" it. 

The Mystery.
Right from the start my mind was coming up with all sorts of theories, all of which were wrong. I've read enough dystopian and paranormal books that it takes all of 5 seconds for me to turn any character suspicious. Sometimes I feel like I'm re-reading a story plot, like running in a circle, but Uncharted was fresh and new. I kept thinking of mystery islands, every TV show I'd ever watched as a kid that had a treasure map and referenced my crime show toolbox too (I'll always have a little Nancy Drew in me)!

Character Development.
It's rare in a standalone book that I feel like I was adequately introduced to all the characters. But Cashman doesn't waste time and lets you know enough about each person to leave you feeling something-- suspicion, regret, loss, sadness, hope. 

Annabeth was raw and real. I felt for her, was sad for her, cheered for her bravery and was hopeful for her. That's a lot of emotions for one character in 400 pages! I really enjoyed her growth and development; she wasn't perfect and she knew it.

Griffin. He will be a book boyfriend of every teen girl that picks up Uncharted. He was good looking, broody with a tender side and tortured. Just how we like them, right girls?! I would love to read a novella of his back story. *cough, cough hint to Cashman*

Love.
You know I need a little love interest, always. I'm happy to report there was no love triangle or instalove. It was subtle and obvious from the outside looking in but it didn't take away from all the mystery or thrill.

Parents.
I LOVE that this book had two sets of parents that loved their children. They weren't absent or totally aloof to what their kids were doing. There was a protectiveness that I related to with almost all the adults attached to Griffin and Annabeth.

More Please.
So the big question... will there be a book two... or three?! I'm intrigued. I'm invested. I hope it gets weird(er). I want to experience the mystery.



Movie Review: Hallmark's A Novel Romance

image source: Hallmark Channel
Summary: Romance novelist Liam Bradley (Dylan Bruce) has already found massive success with three books written under the pen name Gabriel August, but he's mysteriously unknown to his legions of readers. With his first book written as a way to heal after a broken relationship, Liam has slowly become disheartened with writing strictly for romantic fantasy, something evident to a sweet, but honest, journalist who reviews books, Sophie Atkinson (Amy Acker), whom he meets by chance on a plane. The two begin a tentative relationship in Sophie’s home town of Portland, Maine, where Liam has come to find inspiration for his newest entry.

Liam’s agent puts him on the spot with a long-planned reveal of Gabriel August’s true identity, but Sophie doesn’t know of his public persona. The longer Liam avoids telling her the truth, the deeper a hole he digs for himself. Will their romance survive once his true identity comes to light?


Release Date: 2015
Age Group: Family
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
I know you are asking yourself "Is she sponsored by Hallmark?" And the short answer is NOPE. But clearly they should consider it. Could you imagine getting to preview these gems early?! Seriously, I just got the chills. 😂

Now, why is this Hallmark movie one of my favorites? And why should it be one of yours? Isn't it obvious? It's about an author and reader, turned book blogger, which obviously equals all #thefeels.

Listen, they wrote this for us! 🎉🎉🎉 We are loved. We are appreciated. We are readers, (maybe) bloggers, lovers of HEA. And now we have our own movie. We have it all.

The plot is so relatable for any book connoisseur. It was clever and both funny & embarrassing. I couldn't imagine critiquing an authors work straight to their face. I think I'd choose death. Could you imagine looking Tahereh Mafi in the face and telling her that you didn't like how the last Shatter Me book ended? Her freaking stylish outfit and all that talent that oozes off of her would cause me to put my tail between my legs and say "Whatever you say Queen". And I might even bow. Maybe.

and that's why we blog! We get to type our honest (and hopefully tasteful) opinions. We know when an author is struggling. Work reflects like right?

I loved how Sophie evolved into the role of a book blogger. I was cheering for her and secretly coveting how freaking organized she made the whole process look. Seriously, her office assured that I'd never share my "where the magic happens" space. 

Now, does it portray publishing houses correctly? No clue, but I like to think when you walk the halls of my favorite publishing groups that there are butterflies and twinkling lights in the halls with books stacked everywhere and free for the taking.Yea, kind of like the Holy Grail.

A Novel Romance is scheduled to air in a few days so go record it and enjoy!


Visit the Hallmark Channel {HERE} for more moviedetails & times.

Book Review: Surviving Adam Meade by Shannon Klare

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Claire Collins has a plan: get into college and leave North Carolina behind. What she doesn’t have is an idea for how to get rid of the local football star and womanizer extraordinaire—Adam Meade, who she can’t even avoid (despite many efforts), because Claire’s dad is the high school football coach.

Seventeen-year-old Adam Meade never fails. He always gets what he wants… until he meets Claire, the new girl who leaves him unnerved, pissed off, and confused. But there’s something about her that he just can’t resist…

With the bite of lemon meringue pie and the sugar of sweet tea, Surviving Adam Meade is a sexy and compelling young adult novel about two strong-willed people who think they know what they want but have no idea what they need.








Release Date: August 2018
Age Group: YA, Contemporary
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

Biased Texan Clause:
Okay, so this book will be loved by all Texans/Natives simply because it is based on our states mandatory Friday night activity, HS Football or termed FNL= Friday Night Lights.

My kids had 28 tardies at the close of last year. I am chronically late to church each Sunday (which starts at 12:30pm). But this past week I got up at 5am sharp to get in line for our HS football season tickets... I was third in line.

Do I have a kid in HS? No. Can I name anyone on the team? Yes, one. Do I have a child in football? Nope. But I got my tickets (and a few extra because I require extra butt room)! See, we are a strange breed but honest about it.

Review: 
Surviving Adam Meade was a fun, feel good book and a great contribution to YA contemporary but without the standard guarantee of a HEA, which was killer good build-up for book 2. And that is another bonus, a BOOK 2!

Once I started, I read this sucker in one sitting, wanna know why? Because of page 13 and one snarky reply by the MC Claire: "I'd bring him a special water bottle filled with the tears of my enemies."

I loved Claire! I loved her spunk, her fire and her sassy mouth. She is exactly what I'd expect from a football coaches daughter but with the added bonus of teen heartache.

When Adam was introduced he was the typical jerk-jock and I just knew I was going to hate the guy. But the more he and Claire interacted the more I loved the both of them as a pair. I'm not sure I would have liked them apart, they had a certain fire about them. The kind of fire that screams "I will eat your first born but first KISS ME you fool!"

I also really liked how Adam's story unfolded, his character was the most realistic and endearing. He had real life tragedies and the world on his shoulders (sometimes literally).

The Ex:
The only complaint I have is that I didn't know enough about Seth, the Ex, to really spew hate-fire at the guy. I mean I know we hate him but I needed more backstory besides a break-up. Give me the dirt!

Surviving Adam Meade is filled with all the challenges of Senior year, the odd year between adolescence and adulthood. It is a fantastic debut novel and I cannot wait to dive into Finding Claire Collins.


Book Review: All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold & Suzanne Kaufman


Summary: A warm, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids.

Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yamulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other's traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.


Release Date: July 2018
Age Group: Childrens, Picture Book
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

REVIEW
Illustrations
The illustrations of All Are Welcome is top notch. I love when I get an advanced copy of an unbound book and I really hit the jackpot with this one because several of its pages are poster worthy! The illustrations are beautiful and the attention to cultural detail was beautiful.

Storyline
I enjoyed reading this aloud and the rhyming text was fun. You can spend as much or little time as you want on each page, again the illustrations are great.The repetition of All Are Welcome Here was such a kind, beautiful mantra.

Message
To preface, here is the cultural learning environment of my elementary children: we live deep in Southeast Texas, we live in a small town of approximately 14,000, our town is at least 80% Caucasian and there are about 50 churches along our main street.

With that said, my children are well traveled and have experienced a lot of different cultures in their young lives. They live in a small Texas town but they live large. When I first previewed All Are Welcome, I quickly identified several culture specific norms that I was sure would be pointed out and followed-up with "why do they...". And it would have been perfect and encouraged because that's how we learn.

But when I read it aloud to my youngest monster (first grader), what I expected him to point out (i.e. the Jewish child's cap or the little girls hijab) just wasn't the case. He was more interested in what the students science experiments were and where the visually impaired child got his sunglasses because "that would have been my friend'' and are the Chinese dances like the Hawaiians?

My older monster, who is in the 4th grade, was a bit more observant and had more detailed questions.
Why was there a LGBTQ flag displayed like it was a country? 
How was the pregnant mom pregnant if she was married to another woman?
😳😳😳😳😳😳😳😳

Yeah it got real, quick. This is the perfect example of when the phrase "Love is Love" just won't cut it. I honestly wasn't expecting this and it caught me off guard but it made me pause and think a minute.

Alright, I stewed on it for a week. And here were my take-away thoughts:
  1. Prejudices are truly a learned behaviors. Sometimes that's a good thing and sometimes it's not.
  2. Curiosity begins innocently and we need to be there to cultivate it. Whether you are for or against a cultural norm, you've got to be willing to talk about it. 
  3. I think the flag should not have been included and neither should the pregnant lesbian. It took away from the innocence of the message. 
  4. At the end of the day, All Are Welcome.

With that said, the book sleeve is the real gem. It unfolds into a poster that has each cultural different child represented with the phrase "All Are Welcome" at the bottom. This poster should be mass produced and sent to every single school district in the US.

Download HERE










Follow this link to download free bookmarks from the talented Suzanne Kaufman: HERE

Giveaway! Christmas in July, Merry Bookmas!


CHRISTMAS IN JULY! 
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This giveaway is simple, follow on Instagram and 💥BOOM💥 you might win your very own army of minions! Well, sort of... I'm not 🎅🏽 but I know him!

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Book Review: An Occasionally Grim Fairy Tale: Desiderata (Desiderata #1) by Ann M. Noser

Summary: Prince Bane Baronne has baby fever. He is in search of a wife with the proper mystical bloodline to bear him the heir of prophecy. Anna Leon is chosen, but Bane only pretends to be Prince Charming. When Anna questions his intentions, she vanishes from the castle.

Convinced she is to blame for her younger sister's disappearance, Maria Leon is coerced into the royal marriage instead. She is older, wiser, and should know better—but Bane always gets what he wants. And he is not above using trickery or treachery to do so.

Maria attempts to salvage what she can of a "happily ever after" by working hard to be the best mother and wife. Until the day she learns that every woman who has married into the Baronne line disappears soon after they have produced an heir.

And she is next in line.




Release Date:  February 2018
Age Group: YA, Paranormal/Fantasy
Source: Review Copy from Author
Reviewed By:  Nat

Review:
I'll read or watch just about anything with "Grimm" in the title because, by nature of The Brothers Grimm, it's going to be weird. Desiderata is built in a medieval world that is rich in magic, prophesy, wicked kings and "weird".

The tale of the Leon sisters is a roller coaster and I couldn't predict a single thing. Each time I settled on one mystical power, I was introduced to a new dynamic of magic. Noser does a good job of building a very elaborate world where just about anything you dream up can quickly become a reality. The characters and family ties are very important to the story, so remembering who is related to who is important.

The Baronne line of Kings are a vicious, wicked breed. You get a taste of the family history of this blood line but not enough to fully understand what causes such hate and desire for power. I think that these secrets might be revealed in a later book.

An Occasionally Grim Fairy Tale is a neat introduction to a truly twisted mid-century world full of evil kings, mystical beasts and shape-shifting nuns. Fans of fantasy and paranormal YA will enjoy Desiderata!


Series Review: Blind Item & Guilty Pleasure by Kevin Dickson & Jack Ketsoyan

Summary: "Summer’s hottest new beach read, a juicy tome inspired by real-life Hollywood stories and scandals.” ―E! Online on Blind Item

Release Date: 2017/2018
Age Group: New Adult, Hollywood
Source: Purchased (Kindle) Blind Item, Received Guilty Pleasure from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat



Review:
This series can basically be described as the Dummies Guide to Hollywood or How to be Miserable in Hollywood or How to Become a Disney Star & End Up a Drug Addict. You get the idea, it's like the extended release or book version of Perez, E! or Radar online.  Seriously, get the popcorn out because you can't make this stuff up!

Blind Item & Guilty Pleasure center on a fictional relationship of a big Hollywood Star and a Publicist but based on real Hollywood gossip that the authors have either witnessed or reported on. And oh my gosh! Some of these situations are just gross, unbelievable and kind of made me lose a little hope in humanity. LAX is weird y'all!!!!!

Hollywood Glamour is just a cesspool of desire, deceit and a whole lot of scheming. I walked away with the fear that one of my children might either want to be a movie star or  some type of "famous" and it literally made me want to raise them without TV, in a cave in Montana... Almost. #GodBlessTexas

This is seriously a train wreck you can't walk away from! I'll admit that I sat and wondered who some of these people were based on because sometimes I wanted to boycott them in all aspects of life. Other times I wanted to invited characters over for dinner, tell them people suck and find out who I needed to beat up. You know, go all mommy cray-cray and light all the mean peoples cars on fire. 💆🏼 #sorrynotsorry

If you like Hollywood gossip or need one wild ride, then read this series.

*This series is New Adult and has explicit scenes & situations that are not appropriate for young audiences.