Book Review – The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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TITLE: The Hating Game
AUTHOR: Sally Thorne
PAGES:  384 pages
PUBLISHED: August 9th 2016
PUBLISHER: William Morrow
GENRE: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Enemies to Lovers, Chick-lit, Rom-Com, Humour

MY RATING: 5/5 birds
rating-5-birdnew
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SUMMARY:

The story begins with our heroine Lucy Hutton pestering Joshua Templeman. Her mortal enemy at work. She hates him more than anyone and they constantly play passive aggressive “games” to irritate one another while sitting one desk away. Joshua thinks Lucy is annoying and too quirky with her colourful clothes. Lucy thinks Joshua is an uptight jerk.

When a new promotion at work threatens to unbalance the careful hatred Lucy and Joshua have, they both up the game. But at what cost? Especially when the games become confusing and the hatred changes to something more.

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MY REVIEW:

I really wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book. There are many 5 star reviews but the words “chick-lit” “rom-com” and “cheesy” got to me. It was also a GR Best Romance book finalist. I was caught between expecting a lot and expecting nothing.

What I found was a book that made a laugh out loud, made me crave Josh and Lucy’s interactions (both crazy and sweet), and the amount of “cheese” was just perfect. The author really captured that wild obsessive-like behaviour you get when you first start dating someone and start to fall for them. It really put a big smile on my face and reminded me of those good ol’ days. I loved how much they were all over each other from day one, using “games” as a way to keep their infatuation with one another, whether it be mentally noting the shirt colour choices or staring into each other’s eyes (the “Staring Game”) for long periods of time.

The chemistry between Lucy and Josh was wonderful. Some of the best I have read in a while. When Lucy stands up for him against (view spoiler) I just wanted to cheer. Josh was so endearing and the character development we get from the beginning of the novel was very well written. At first he is just an asshole who most likely has a crush on Lucy. No, the reader’s aren’t fooled. He is like the little boy on the playground who pulls on the girl’s pigtails to show her that he likes her. But then we really get to know him, as Lucy does, and we learn about this shy sweetheart who is sometimes hurt, sometimes lonely, and he becomes so real. Their highly witty hateful banter becomes even better sexual tension that was so much fun to read. I actually really enjoyed their banter in the beginning. I know some other readers saw it as childish, and it was, but it was also so hilarious. I loved all of Lucy’s jabs where she insinuates that Josh is the devil, and lives “close to earth’s core”.

Yes, this is chick-lit. Yes, it is predictable, it is sometimes cheesy and sometimes silly, but I loved it. I had a big smile on my face at the ending.

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Book Review – P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

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TITLE: P.S I Like You
AUTHOR: Kasie West
PAGES:  330 pages
EXPECTED PUBLICATION: July 26th 2016
PUBLISHER: Point
GENRE: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

MY RATING: 4/5 birds
rating-4-birdnew

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SUMMARY:

Our story starts off with Lily, an aspiring songwriter, trying to balance her friends, school, and her chaotic family. She wants to enter a songwriting competition but isn’t completely confident in herself. While in her most hated class, chemistry, she sees a note under her desk and starts writing letters to an unknown student who shares her unique taste in music and they both reveal personal issues in their life. When Lily finds out the writer is male she starts falling for the mysterious student and wonders who it could be.

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MY REVIEW:

This is the second book I have read by Kasie West and I completely understand why she has such a following. This book was super adorable and absolutely perfect for Romance Week on Goodreads.

The guy writing the notes to Lily is very predictable from the beginning which was a bit of a letdown but thankfully the author doesn’t make us “guess” for long and soon Lily must face the real person against the person she imagined writing the letter.

It was a really cute novel and I absolutely loved Lily’s crazy family. I feel like they really made the novel. Her parents were funny with their little competitions, her little brothers were adorable but also realistically written, and their pet rabbit just puts a massively adorable bow on the entire thing.

It had a lot of clichés and wasn’t a unique plot but I like the idea of not judging someone until you really know them. People are complex, and while I don’t condone bullies at all, sometimes people act out for a reason.

The only thing that really made it lose one star was that I did not like the ending. It seemed very abrupt. I wish we could have found out if Lily won the songwriting contest. Her relationship also doesn’t really have a HEA and it felt like a cliffhanger.

Overall it was perfect for Romance Week and definitely a fluffy feel-good read!

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ARC Book Review – Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally

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TITLE: Coming Up For Air
AUTHOR: Miranda Kenneally
PAGES:  320 pages
EXPECTED PUBLICATION: July 1st 2017
PUBLISHER: Sourcebooks Fire
GENRE: Young Adult, Romance, Sports, Contemporary

MY RATING: 5/5 birds
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MY REVIEW & SUMMARY:

Guys, this was so good.

Like really, adorably, amazingly good!

I wasn’t a huge fan of Catching Jordan, Miranda Kenneally’s first novel in the Hundred Oaks series. When I received this from Netgalley I wasn’t sure what to expect. As someone who absolutely loves swimming, I was hoping this would entice more than football does and I just could not put it down! I seriously read this in one sitting! Although the romance was perfect (who else loves the “best friends to something more” trope?), I was absolutely enthralled with Maggie’s competitive swimming world.

Maggie is trying to qualify for the Olympics. Her entire life is eating and swimming. Her only free time involves hanging out at the local burger place on Friday night with her three closest friends, Georgia, Hunter and Levi. Levi is her best friend and the most understanding of her schedule as he is a competitive swimmer as well. As Maggie lives vicariously through her friend’s lives she realises that she may be missing out of the quintessential high school “experience”. After a disastrous hook-up Maggie decides to ask Levi to help her gain some experience before heading off to college. After he hesitantly agrees the line between friendship and something more becomes blurry.

The healthy sex attitude in the novel blew me away. The way the characters, and especially one of the teachers, approached sex was really well done. It wasn’t something to be ashamed of. It wasn’t this crazy secretive thing. No one pretended that teenagers don’t want to experiment and have sex. It was realistic and healthy and just normal. A real breath of fresh air in the YA world and I have to applaud Kenneally for that.

Even if you didn’t love Kenneally’s other novels, I would still recommend this. Kenneally does an amazing job of showing us Maggie’s intense routine and it was hard not to admire Maggie’s passion and determination. It really does amaze me that there are people out there this dedicated to their sport.

Now I am going to have to go back and read the rest of the Hundred Oak series!

*ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review -The Way I Used to Be

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TITLE: The Way I Used To Be
AUTHOR: Amber Smith
PAGES:  367 pages
PUBLISHED: March 22nd 2016
PUBLISHER: Margaret K. McElderry Books
GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary, Sad Topic(s)

MY RATING: 5/5 birds

Rating - 5 Bird

SUMMARY:

This is the debut novel by Amber Smith that explores one young woman’s struggles as one act affected her entire life. Eden’s world is forever changed when her brother’s best friend rapes her. We get to see Eden’s life from freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year and see the profound effects of her trauma.

An immensely complex and thought-provoking novel that demonstrates unbelievable pain, heartbreak, friendship, and the importance of survival.

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MY REVIEW:

Well, this book really hit me hard. Eden reminded me a little too much of myself…the self-destructive behaviour and I don’t want to put too much of myself out there but some of it reminded me of stuff I did when I was younger. I have never been raped but I still related to Eden in so many ways.

The books that really hit you are always the hardest to review! But besides my own personal connection to Eden, one of the things I really liked about the novel was how the author showed how not only the main character Eden was affected, but how that one single action changed the lives of so many other people around her. It makes you step back and think. Everyone is always so quick to judge. Let’s be honest, if you were or are still in high school and heard about all the things about this girl Eden did you probably won’t have a good impression of her right? The author does a great job of exposing slut shaming, not only by her peers but also by her own self-labelling as she struggled to figure herself out. It was wonderful to get to hear Eden’s side of the story, all of her shame, fear, guilt and suddenly we are less judgemental. As a reader, I mostly just wanted to hug Eden and tell her everything was going to be okay. It’s a good reminder to step back and realise that everyone around us is fighting some sort of battle.

I wish the novel had focused a bit more on Eden’s relationship with her parents though. That felt really lacking. I was really curious when Eden started calling her parents by their first name and not Mom and Dad and why/how that all happened. I was also a bit disappointed with the ending, as it felt really abrupt. Eden finally spoke about her rape and we don’t even get to see her go through telling her parents. I think that was critical because her mom was the first person she could have told and didn’t. I was really curious to read her parents reaction and see Eden go through her emotions of coming to terms with the sexual abuse.

This was also by no means a romance in any form but I just wanted to add that I really liked Josh. I thought he was very well written and in the end I was glad that the author didn’t have Eden rely on him too much and she realised that she needed to come to terms with herself on her own. I still hope that in the future, someday they get back together because I love the way Josh treats Eden. He was a complete sweetheart and I could see them being very good together.

Even though there was something a bit lacking in the story it still gets 5 stars from me because it made me cry in the end and it’s fairly rare for me to cry while reading a book. To invoke that strong of an emotion just makes it that much better.

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Book Review – The Girl on the Train

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TITLE: The Girl on the Train
AUTHOR: Paula Hawkins
PAGES: 336
PUBLISHED: January 13th, 2015
PUBLISHER: Riverhead Books
GENRE: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Female-Noir, Suspense

MY RATING: 5/5 birds

Rating - 5 Bird

SUMMARY:

Rachel takes the same train every single morning and night, past suburban homes that make her imagination run wild. She watches a couple every day and starts to pretend that she knows them. She gives them names and feels like their life is perfect. That is until she witnesses something that completely shocks her. She soon becomes entangled in their lives, unable to separate reality from her fantasy. In this psychological thriller, is Rachel’s memory of the event and the fantasy she has created doing more harm than good?

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MY REVIEW:

I have wanted to read this book literally since the moment it came out a year ago, but for some reason I just never purchased it, even after I read reviews and I knew I’d like it. I really loved Gone Girl and Before I Go to Sleep and that style of book that seems to be really popular now, but for whatever reason there was alway something else to read ahead of this.

And then, I was waiting for the train in London to take me back to Edinburgh and I really wanted to pick up the new Harry Potter book. WHS had a sale of “buy one get the second half-off” and after scouring the book section I was torn between this novel and Me Before You. I finally decided on The Girl of the Train (only because it was slightly cheaper) and I am so glad! It was literally the perfect read as I sat on the train, making my way back to Scotland, on a cold and bitter day. I read the entire book on the train in about 3 hours, it was very compelling and kept me at the edge of my seat!

All of the characters were despicable but I couldn’t help but love Rachel as the main character. I think the author’s intent was to make you hate her a little bit (or maybe for some people, a lot). The fat, pathetic, alcoholic unemployed sod with the very unreliable memory. She was utterly terrible but so well-written and such a great exploration of human personality.

I also really enjoyed the secretive aspect of the novel, where it seemed every single character had some deep, dark secret that, as the reader, we were privy to only some of the time.

One thing I did not like, which had nothing to do with the novel, was the review that was printed all over the book that said something along the lines about the main character being unreliable. I don’t know, maybe it would have been glaringly obvious once I started reading but I feel like that one review changed the way I read the book. Knowing off the bat that Rachel is unreliable was irritating to me, we all know she’s unreliable because of her alcoholism and black-outs (that was obvious) but I didn’t like having it pointed out to me before even starting to read and getting to know the characters. I know this probably isn’t a big deal to most people, but I really hate any kind of spoilers, and it makes me wonder if I would have been more surprised about certain situations if I thought differently about Rachel from the beginning? I really went into the book knowing nothing about it.

Anyone who loved Gone Girl or Before I Go to Sleep will enjoy this phycological thriller!

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The Goal (Off-Campus #4)

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TITLE: The Goal (Off-Campus #4)
AUTHOR: Elle Kennedy
PAGES: 350
PUBLISHED: September 26th 2016
PUBLISHER: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
GENRE: Romance, New Adult, Contemporary

MY RATING:

Rating - 5 Bird

SUMMARY:

Sabrina James is a college senior who has everything planned out in her life. Graduate college, go to law school and then land a high-paying job. She doesn’t have time for hockey players, no matter how gorgeous they are. John Tucker is about as gorgeous as they get and when Sabrina gives in to one night of passion her whole planned out future gets pulled out from under her.

Tucker wants to be there for Sabrina, newly pregnant and utterly lost, but she keeps him arm’s length away at all times. Can Tucker convince her that he can take care of her and be everything she needs?

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MY REVIEW:

Oh goodness was anyone else so excited when they finished the book and read the author’s note which said there is a spinoff in the works?!

I really enjoyed this entire Off-Campus series and was pretty sad when I came to the last page but I am glad I took a moment to read the author’s note which is something I very rarely do, I am already looking forward to this spin-off! I wonder if it will be about Sabrina’s friends? I am guessing it will be about Fitzy and Summer though as that was mentioned blatantly in the novel. Yay! Summer seems adorable and I feel like I already love Fitzy…a shy gentleman with tattoos? Swoon.

Anyways…back to this novel. Elle Kennedy just has a way with words and dialogue. She keeps everything so real. She actually has her characters talk the way normal 20-year old college people talk. And she is funny! Tuck was incredibly sweet but I really took to Sabrina. She was amazing. I know Dean hated her in the first novels and that was our only introduction to her but even then, knowing so little about her I got a sense that I would like her, it also seemed pretty fair that she hated Dean for sleeping with the TA and getting an A when she didn’t know the full story. Only lost a star because I wasn’t a big far for how the whole situation with Ray, Nana and Sabrina went. I understand Sabrina had little choice but I felt like that situation was so gross and wasn’t wrapped up for me in any kind of satisfying way, Ray didn’t get any repercussions in my mind for basically trying to rape his step-daughter while she is holding her baby which is seriously fucked up. And then Sabrina just shakes it off and even makes an excuse for Ray, saying he was drunk?!? I feel like that was out of character for her, even though she is terrified of screwing things up with Tuck and her love for him, she is a very strong person and I am really surprised she never stood up to Ray (other than moving out, which she should have done long ago, even before Jamie was born).

Also, I think some readers might dislike this, but I really like how graphic Kennedy was with explaining the whole pregnancy and birthing process. So many romance novels focus on how wonderful life is and they devote maybe two lines about how the female main character feels tired or fat but this was truly realistic. And I find other novels just skim over the birthing process. No, I have no children and don’t plan on it but I can’t stand sugarcoating. Kennedy tell’s it like it is. I can imagine it isn’t just rainbows and sunshine when you get pregnant and have a kid in your 20’s.

Overall, just an amazing series and I am so excited for the spinoff!!

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Book Review – The Taming

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TITLE: The Taming
AUTHOR: Eric Walkers & Teresa Toten
PAGES: 240
PUBLISHED: January 24th 2012
PUBLISHER: DoubleDay Canada
GENRE: Young Adult, and Contemporary.
MY RATING:

Rating - 1 Bird

SUMMARY:

Katie likes to believe she’s invisible. It seems much safer than being exposed as she is–shy, poor, awkward. So getting up on stage in the school production of The Taming of the Shrew should be complete torture. But as Katie tells it, something totally unexpected happened when she stepped on stage: “My head exploded. I loved it. Acting hit me like a sucker punch and I loved, loved, loved it! . . . Invisible Katie became visible Katharina.”

Evan Cooper is, as they say, another story. He knows just what it takes to get noticed, and he uses every one of the skills he’s honed after years of being the new kid. Like tossing the keys to his father’s high-end Audi to a kid he’s never met, first day of school. “I have insurance for car theft,” he explains to a shocked Danny. “And there’s a full tank.” An abuse of the power that comes with privilege and money? Sure.

But more dangerously, is his romance with Katie another version of the same thing? Or is it the real thing?

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MY REVIEW:

I did not like this book at all. When I was a few chapters in I thought it was going to be about a girl overcoming her shyness on stage and learning more about herself through this Evan character, who I did not realize was going to turn out to be so completely evil. Like really, are people that black and white? His character was not complex at all, the author barely skimmed the surface about why he acted the way he did, other than showing his dad acting similar. He was unlikable right from the get go. I mean this guy raped another girl. This is serious stuff and I felt like the author barely touched that and chalked it up to Evan being a jerk. He seemed almost bipolar but that wasn’t discussed either.

And Katie…hoo boy. Way to stand up for yourself girl. She was really pathetic and unfortunately the way she was written I couldn’t stand her or care for her which is really too bad because generally in novels that deal with abuse you want your readers to be on the side of the victim but Katie was just TOO clueless. It was painful to read. And her character kept flip-flopping all over the place! At first she was this completely shy girl with only 2 friends in the whole world and no experience with boys, to suddenly being madly in love with Evan and constantly praising him – “like, wow you know how to cook fajitas! That is so totally amazing, I think I love you! – please gag me. And then suddenly, within one day, she suddenly became this strong, take-no-shit girl and finally told Evan off. As I was reading I was happy she was finally standing up for herself but there was seemingly no cause for it. From what I understand it is really hard to leave an abusive relationship and it took her one night and then she was seemingly fine with everything and left him.

And I don’t even want to get into her mother and Lisa…that could have been developed SO much more! And Lisa was the only real interesting character in the whole novel, I wish they had talked more about her life.

I think this novel could have been a lot better but it just fell really flat, character and plot-wise.