Review

Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl

Have a Little Faith in MeHave a Little Faith in Me
by Sonia Hartl

Published September 3, 2019

Source: I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When CeCe’s born-again ex-boyfriend dumps her after they have sex, she follows him to Jesus camp in order to win him back. Problem: She knows nothing about Jesus. But her best friend Paul does. He accompanies CeCe to camp, and the plan—God’s or CeCe’s—goes immediately awry when her ex shows up with a new girlfriend, a True Believer at that.

Scrambling to save face, CeCe ropes Paul into faking a relationship. But as deceptions stack up, she questions whether her ex is really the nice guy he seemed. And what about her strange new feelings for Paul—is this love, lust, or an illusion born of heartbreak? To figure it out, she’ll have to confront the reasons she chased her ex to camp in the first place, including the truth about the night she lost her virginity. [goodreads]

Several aspects of this story rang true to my own experience growing up as a ‘youth group girl’ who later stepped away from the church (for various reasons). In this story, CeCe experiences a lot of the shaming that goes on in modern churches regarding women’s bodies and sexuality.

I wish I had read this book as a teen, and am so glad that teens today will have the opportunity to do so. I really appreciated the honest and realistic explorations of the church’s expectations of women, the ways those expectations are often sexist double-standards, and the guilt/shame that youth group girls tend to feel about their bodies.

HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME also does a great job of talking about consent in a natural, conversational way. The characters learn, on the page, that there’s a difference between saying yes and meaning it, between saying yes once and continually saying yes, and that when you say yes under pressure it’s not truly a yes.

So many of the scenes brought me straight back to my youth group days, but there were often times that I felt things were taken too far. For example, CeCe tries to wear a bikini to the lake for an afternoon of swimming, but is stopped by a camp leader who tells her “modest is hottest” (totally a thing I used to say. YIKES.) and forced her to cover up in an embarrassing, gross outfit from the lost and found.

CeCe makes a comment about the double-standard that guys are able to go shirtless while girls have to wear modest one-pieces or wear t-shirts over their swimsuits. I enjoyed that she challenged this policy on the page, but didn’t like that the church leaders seemed so vicious and intent on punishing CeCe for wanting to wear a bathing suit she felt confident and comfortable in.

This was basically my biggest/only problem with the book, and what kept it from being a 5-star read for me. Throughout the story, it seemed like the pastors/leaders didn’t care about any of the kids. They had a very legalistic view of Christianity and represented it in a very poor light. In my experience, church camp is a very welcoming and loving place. Although there are boundaries and rules, they are enforced with explanation and empathy, not with punishment and embarrassment. Nothing about the way church camp was portrayed in this story would make me ever want to attend church, that’s for sure.

In addition to the important topics covered in HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME, the characters were extremely well-written and developed, with growth and character arcs that worked really well. The main character, CeCe, was laugh-out-loud funny and had some hilarious one-liners. I found myself actually laughing several times while reading and it added so much to the story. Not enough YA books feature funny characters!

I highly recommend this book to any teen, church-going or not, because of the fantastic explanations about what consent truly means and the candid conversations about the basics of sex. It felt like reading a Judy Blume book for today’s generation.

HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME is out now!
Click here to order your copy.

 

Review

She’s The Worst by Lauren Spieller

She's the WorstShe’s The Worst
by Lauren Spieller

Published September 3, 2019

Source: I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sisters April and Jenn haven’t been close in years. Jenn’s too busy with school, the family antique shop, and her boyfriend, and April would rather play soccer and hang out with the boy next door.

But when April notices her older sister is sad about staying home for college, she decides to do something about it. The girls set off to revive a pact they made as kids: spend an epic day exploring the greatest hits of their childhood and all that Los Angeles has to offer.

Then April learns that Jenn has been keeping a secret that could rip their family—and their feuding parents—apart. With only one day to set things right, the sisters must decide if their relationship is worth saving, or if the truth will tear them apart for good. [goodreads]

As someone with two sisters myself, I love a good sister story. Sister relationships can be some of the most interesting and complicated, and the sisters at the heart of SHE’S THE WORST are no exception.

April and Jenn have a twisted and often-times sad family dynamic going on. Jenn is the oldest sister and is known as the “good one” — she is a great student and spends her spare time helping her parents run their antique store. April is a soccer star and her family views her as self-centered because she doesn’t help at the antique store due to other commitments.

I think a better title for this book would be “They’re the Worst”, because while there’s nothing wrong with either of the girls in this story, their parents are the ACTUAL WORST EVER. They are absolutely horrible to each other and to their daughters, and have zero redeeming qualities. It was tough to read them dismissing April’s talents and goals while also taking advantage of Jenn and not allowing her to choose her own path in life.

Ultimately, this is a story of two very different sisters coming together to support one another’s choices. Although they each want very different things and start out as conflicting characters, they grow to appreciate one another’s dreams in a really lovely way.

I enjoyed seeing April’s and Jenn’s character development throughout the course of this story because it so reminded me of the tumultuous relationship my own sisters and I have had through the years. When we were younger, we were all so different that we frequently butted heads, but as we’ve gotten older we have become very close. I see the same thing in April and Jenn’s relationship.

 

 

SHE’S THE WORST is available September 3rd, 2019!
Click here to order via Amazon.

 

Review

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

wildergirlsWilder Girls
by Rory Power

Published July 9, 2019

Source: I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true. [goodreads]

This book has been described as a feminist retelling of Lord of the Flies and as a sapphic horror novel. Both of those things wildly compelled me to pick up this novel, but I did not feel that either description was accurate.

My main frustration as I read was that I never really understood what the Tox actually was. Throughout the story, we are given descriptions of the Tox’s effects on the girls — disfigured bodies and changes that came out of nowhere, but the way it started was never explained. Because we weren’t given enough backstory and information on the Tox, I became much more invested in what the Tox was than what was going on in the actual plot of the novel.

That being said, I felt more connected to the plot than to any of the characters — they felt paper-thin to me and there was nothing about them that made me care if they lived or died. None of them was memorable to me in the slightest.

I was interested enough in the Tox to continue reading, but was ultimately left more confused than satisfied. The ending happened very abruptly and could have used an additional 100 pages of explanation, in my opinion. While I am glad I read this book, I feel that it would have benefited from additional details and length.

I do want to mention that while this book is technically sapphic, its certainly not a romance. Hype and early reviews led me to believe that there would be more of a focus on a f/f relationship in this book than there actually is.

CONTENT WARNINGS: (from author’s website) Graphic violence and body horror, gore, on-page character death, parental death, and animal death (though the animals are not pets), behavior and descriptive language akin to self-harm, food scarcity and starvation, emesis, a scene depicting chemical gassing, reference to suicide and suicidal ideation, non-consensual medical treatment.

 

WILDER GIRLS is available now!

 

Review

Maurene Goo Mini-Reviews

The Way You Make Me Feel

The Way You Make Me Feel
by Maurene Goo

Published May 8, 2018

Source: Purchased


 

1

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind? With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.


2

I read this book while on vacation earlier this month and am so glad I decided to pick it up! It made me feel like I had been living under a rock when it comes to Maurene Goo’s books because I absolutely LOVED this.

Clara starts off as a bit of a brat, really. She is disrespectful towards her parents and people at school, and doesn’t care how her actions make other people feel. When one of her pranks at prom goes too far, she has to spend the summer working off her debt at her father’s food truck alongside her nemesis Rose.

This story had a lot of depth behind it — Clara is struggling with her mother abandoning her to go be a social media influencer and neither Rose or Clara have any female friendships in their life. Clara has a very friendship-like relationship with her dad when the story starts out and doesn’t seem to see him in a typical parental role.

I loved seeing Clara and Rose work through their issues with each other and start to find common ground as the summer wore on. The food truck setting was so much fun — I wish I was lined up at KoBra for lunch right now! The descriptions of food were amazing and mouth-watering and I can’t believe Korean-Brazilian fusion isn’t really a thing, because it should be.

Clara and Rose both grow so much throughout the course of the book, both individually and into a really lovely friendship. This book made me laugh and smile so many times as I read it, but it was far from being all fluff.

I gave THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL 4 out of 5 stars!

 

Somewhere Only We Know

Somewhere Only We Know
by Maurene Goo

Published May 7, 2018

Source: Purchased


 

1

10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.

11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.

12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.


2

I loved the concept of this book, but unfortunately the execution was a bit lacking for me. I felt that Lucky’s character read extremely young, and while a few deeper topics such as feeling like an outsider within your own culture and fitting into a family were discussed, I didn’t feel that they were given enough time to be impactful. There was a weird power imbalance between Lucky and her love interest for the majority of the story that felt weird to me and made it hard for me to ship Lucky and Jack.

I felt that this story had too much lightheartedness and not enough depth to back it up. It might work for a younger audience, but unfortunately I didn’t love this story.

I gave SOMEWHERE ONLY WE KNOW 2 out of 5 stars.

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Review

Cover Reveal: Hotshot Doc by R.S. Grey

R.S. Grey’s next romantic comedy, HOTSHOT DOC, releases December 6th! Check out the cover and find out more about HOTSHOT DOC below!

 

About HOTSHOT DOC (available December 6th)

Dr. Russell has a bad reputation around our hospital. The scrub techs say he’s cold-blooded, the nurses say he’s too cocky for his own good, and the residents say he’s the best surgeon in the world—really, just a swell guy!—on the off chance he’s within earshot.

I try to avoid him and his temper at all costs. It’s just as easy to admire his sexy, grip-it-while-he’s-ravishing-you hair and chiseled jaw from a healthy distance, preferably from the other end of the hallway…half-hidden behind a plant.

Unfortunately, my plan crumbles when my trusty ol’ boss decides to swap his white coat for a Hawaiian shirt. His retirement leaves me with two terrible options: switch specialties and spend months retraining, or take an open position as Dr. Russell’s surgical assistant.

That means I have to stand near him in the OR for hours on end and anticipate his every need without letting his biting words and bad attitude intimidate me. Oh, and as if that’s not difficult enough, my silly crush on him—the one I’ve tried to stomp on until it disappears—might just be reciprocated.

It’s fine.

I’m fine.

I take my job seriously. There will be no smoldering bedroom eyes across the operating table, no angry almost-kisses in the storage closet. (Well, no more of those.)

What’s the phrase? An apple a day keeps the doctor away?

Maybe I should go for a whole damn bushel.

Add HOTSHOT DOC to your Goodreads list here!

HOTSHOT DOC releases December 6th – you’ll be able to preorder your copy for .99c starting December 3rd!

Keep an eye on R.S. Grey’s Facebook page for the link!

 

 

 

 

About R.S. Grey

R.S. Grey is the USA Today bestselling author of thirteen novels, including THE FOXE & THE HOUND. She lives in Texas with her husband and two dogs, and can be found reading, binge-watching reality TV, or practicing yoga! Visit her at rsgrey.com

Website | Twitter | Facebook | R.S. Grey’s Little Reds Facebook Group | Newsletter | Instagram

Review

Not So Nice Guy by R.S. Grey

R.S. Grey’s newest romantic comedy, NOT SO NICE GUY, is available TODAY! Get your hands on it now!

About NOT SO NICE GUY

“Oh my god. Who is that?”

I get asked this question a lot.

“Oh him?” I reply. “That’s just Ian.”

Just Ian is the biggest understatement of the century. Just the Mona Lisa. Just the Taj Mahal. Just Ian, with his boring ol’ washboard abs and dime-a-dozen dimpled smile.

Just Ian is…just my best friend.

We’re extremely close, stuck so deep inside a Jim-and-Pam-style friendzone everyone at work assumes we’re a couple—that is until one day, word spreads through the teacher’s lounge that he’s single. Fair game. Suddenly, it’s open season on Ian.

He should be reveling in all the newfound attention, but to our mutual surprise, the only attention he seems to want is mine.

He’s turning our formerly innocent nightly chats into X-rated phone calls. Our playful banter sports a new, dangerous edge.

I want to assume he’s playing a prank on me, just pushing my buttons like always—but when Ian lifts me onto the desk in my classroom and slides his hands up my skirt, he doesn’t leave a lot of room for confusion.

I’m a little scared of things going south, of losing my best friend because I can’t keep my hands to myself. So, I’m just going to back away and not return this earth-shattering kiss—oh who am I kidding?!

Goodbye Ian, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal!

Helloooo mister not so nice guy.

Add NOT SO NICE GUY to your Goodreads list here!

Get your hands on NOT SO NICE GUY now! https://amzn.to/2Kzj8QE

About R.S. Grey

R.S. Grey is the USA Today bestselling author of thirteen novels, including THE FOXE & THE HOUND. She lives in Texas with her husband and two dogs, and can be found reading, binge-watching reality TV, or practicing yoga! Visit her at rsgrey.com

Website | Twitter | Facebook | R.S. Grey’s Little Reds Facebook Group | Newsletter | Instagram

Review

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

My Oxford Year
by Julia Whelan

Published April 24, 2018

Source: Purchased

 

Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.

American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.

When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.

Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for. [goodreads]

 

To start, this book had everything I look for in a summer read: romance, adventure, an and a hot guy with a sexy accent.

For the first half of the book, I was all in: quirky American girl arrives in England and has an awkward meet-cute in a fish & chips shop. She is torn between pursuing her degree in England (on a Rhodes Scholarship, of course) and the job offer of her dreams back in the US working on a presidential campaign.

I enjoyed Ella’s ambition and humor but felt that her passion for the political campaign job never shone through the pages. She would tell us that she wanted to work on the campaign, but I never really felt it. The only times that plot was really mentioned were when Ella’s boss would randomly call, presumably to remind us that the plot line even existed. If not for random little reminders, I would have completely forgotten about it.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I was much more interested in the developing romance between Ella and Jamie, but at times it felt unnecessary to the overall story.

About halfway through the book, something is revealed that changes the entire course of the novel. I won’t even hint at what it is because it would be a major spoiler, but I guarantee you will never see it coming. It was so out of the blue that it felt less like a plot twist and more like I suddenly started reading a brand new novel.

As the second half of the novel continued on, I honestly lost interest. The book felt like it had taken such a complete turn that I was no longer interested in the story. This was quite unfortunate as I really enjoyed the first half and would have liked to see a different ending.

It wans’t terrible by any means, but it was just not what I signed up for when I began the book. I think I would have really enjoyed the book more if I had an idea of what would happen in the second half, so that I could decide in advance if that was something I wanted to read about.

All in all, I enjoyed the writing style and the Oxford University setting. I do recommend looking up spoilers before you decide to read this one, as I think the benefit of knowing what you’re getting into outweighs the spoiler aspect in this case.

Have you read MY OXFORD YEAR? If so, what did you think about the total plot twist?

 

MY OXFORD YEAR is available now! Please support Julia Whelan by purchasing a copy at your local book store.