Review

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett


SStarry Eyestarry Eyes
by Jenn Bennett

Published April 3, 2018

Source: I received an Advance Readers’ Copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way affected my review.


Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars? [goodreads]


Can I give this book ALL THE STARS?

I loved Jenn Bennett’s 2017 novel, ALEX APPROXIMATELY, but after STARRY EYES she has officially cemented her place in my list of favorite authors.

This is a unique take on the ‘survival story’ trope. After being straight up abandoned in the mountains by their (terrible) friends, they have to spend the next several days together hiking through the wilderness to get back to civilization. This is further complicated by the fact that Zorie is still hurt that Lennon ditched her for seemingly no reason when they were starting to get together the year before. Lennon, however, happens to be an expert camper and hiker, and comes up with a plan to get them to where they need to be.

Lennon and Zorie were honestly not my favorite characters at the beginning of the book, but they really grew on me! And not just in a “you’re not so bad, after all” kind of way. They grew on me in a “I LOVE YOU AND I LOVE YOU TOGETHER. NOW KISS!” kind of way.

I love when a book’s setting is so real and perfect that it makes you want to go there. The Northern California Sierra Nevadas are described beautifully throughout the book. As I was reading, I could practically smell that mountain air and hear the pinecones crunching underfoot. 

There are also a few sub-plots surrounding Lennon and Zorie’s families. Jenn Bennett has SUCH a way of melding several fantastic plot lines and expertly tying them together by the end.

I don’t want to say too much because I think it is best to read it without expectations. The family drama was really well-done and added a fantastic layer to the story that will leave you rooting for Lennon and Zorie even more. This book also has quite a bit of diversity, which is always a plus!

I want to read this book over and over again. I want to jump into it and tag along on Zorie’s adventure through the mountains…but maybe at a distance. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one getting in the way of the romance!

STARRY EYES was easily my most anticipated book of 2018, and I’m so pleased to say that it was everything I wanted and more. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys romance with some added depth.

It certainly left me starry eyed.

STARRY EYES is out today! Please support Jenn Bennett by purchasing a copy at your local book store. 

Review

Frat Girl by Kiley Roache

Frat Girl
by Kiley Roache

Published March 27, 2018

Source: I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way affected my review.


For Cassandra Davis, the F-word is fraternity—specifically Delta Tau Chi, a house on probation and on the verge of being banned from campus. Accused of offensive, sexist behavior, they have one year to clean up their act. For the DTC brothers, the F-word is feminist—the type of person who writes articles in the school paper about why they should lose their home.

With one shot at a scholarship to attend the university of her dreams, Cassie pitches a research project: to pledge Delta Tau Chi and provide proof of their misogynistic behavior. They’re frat boys. She knows exactly what to expect once she gets there. Exposing them should be a piece of cake.

But the boys of Delta Tau Chi have their own agenda, and fellow pledge Jordan Louis is certainly more than the tank top wearing “bro” Cassie expected to find. With her heart and her future tangled in the web of her own making, Cassie is forced to realize that the F-word might not be as simple as she thought after all. [goodreads]


 

FRAT GIRL was a very interesting concept, and while it was not 100% right for me, I think there are definitely many teens who will benefit from this book.

FRAT GIRL provides a strong feminist message. While at times main character Cassie can sound a little preachy or public service announcement-y, the information she presents is helpful and important.

At the start of the novel, Cassie was very anti-Greek life and believed that all fraternity or sorority members were mindless, partying, idiots basically. I was quite off-put that this self-proclaimed champion of feminism treated her dorm roommate so poorly for pledging a sorority. If you don’t support your fellow women in whatever path they choose to take, your feminism is worthless.

I was glad to see that this was addressed later in the book but it was still an issue for me that Cassie acted this way to begin with.

Parts of this book flew by and parts of it dragged on. I was really into it for like the first 25%, the middle was a bit blah but not bad, and to be quite honest I skimmed a lot of the ending because I found myself no longer caring what happened.

I realize that I am not exactly the target audience for this book, and I do recommend it to teens. I wish I had read a book with this kind of information in it while I was in high school, because it certainly would have changed my perspective on feminism and would have equipped me with important information.

If you are a teen or someone interested in learning the basics of feminism, I think this book can provide some very valuable insight. If you are older or are well-versed in feminist beliefs, this book may come a cross a bit too on-the-nose for you.

Purchase a copy of FRAT GIRL here!

 

Review

The Beau and the Belle by R.S. Grey

The Beau and the Belle
by R.S. Grey

Published February 1, 2018

Source: I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way affected my review.


Beau Fortier starred in most of my cringe-worthy teenage fantasies. I met him when I was a junior in high school, a time that revolved exclusively around bad hair, failed forays into flirting, and scientific inquiries into which brand of toilet paper worked best for stuffing bras. That is, until Beau moved into the small guest house just beyond my bedroom window.

A 24-year-old law student at Tulane, Beau was as mysterious to me as second base (both in baseball and in the bedroom). He was older. Intimidating. Hot. Boys my age had chicken legs and chubby cheeks. Beau had calloused hands and a jaw cut from steel. Our interactions were scarce—mostly involving slight stalking on my end—and yet deep down, I desperately hoped he saw me as more of a potential lover than a lovesick loser.

Turns out, I was fooling myself. My fragile ego learned that lesson the hard way. Now, ten years later, we’re both back in New Orleans, and guess who suddenly can’t take his eyes off little ol’ me. My old friend, Mr. Fortier. But things have changed. I’m older now—poised and confident. My ego wears a bulletproof vest. The butterflies that once filled my stomach have all perished. When I was a teenager, Beau warned me to guard my heart. Let’s hope he knows how to guard his.

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R.S. Grey, just take my money and continue to hand over these fantastic books! I don’t know how you manage to write such compelling romances and put them out every few months, but please continue to do so.

THE BEAU AND THE BELLE was a compulsively readable rom-com that I devoured on a grey Saturday afternoon. The dreary Austin weather had nothing on me – I was whisked away to the French Quarter of New Orleans, enjoying king cake and hurricanes (of the beverage variety) while two quirky and interesting characters fell in love over a span of a decade.

The story begins in the past, and then later loops back around to the present. It starts in 1997 and Lauren is a self-conscious 17 year old who is unsure of herself, inexperienced in love, and crushing on the most popular boy in school. She’s the daughter of New Orleans socialites and lives in a Garden District mansion. It was so fun to see certain aspects of late-90s life depicted because it brought back so many memories and gave the story an unexpected authenticity.

I could have been Lauren in those moments – meticulously planning my moment to log online to the minute my crush would be there. Watching my buddy list to stare at his username and will the universe to let him message me. The message would obviously say “what’s up” (spelled crazy somehow) and I would respond “nm u” and he would be doing “nm” either. Love would ensue and my young heart would explode.

It was so funny to see those exact thoughts run through Lauren’s head, because it really was the perfect depiction of being a teenager at that point in time. I really enjoyed reading these bits of nostalgia.

Lauren develops a huge crush on Beau but it can’t be realized because she’s in high school and he’s in his 20’s. Approximately 30% of the book is spent in the “past” portion, giving plenty of time for us to get to know Lauren and Beau and watch Lauren’s crush on him grow. This is important because their relationship later on never feels like insta-love even though it does develop pretty quickly.

After a major hurricane hits the city and forces Beau and Lauren apart, they don’t see each other for 10 years. Lauren moves to New England and stays through college, beginning her career in New York City. Beau is transferred to UT Austin after his school closes, and he then creates a venture capital firm that becomes very successful. Ten years later, in the present day, both Lauren and Beau are back in Louisiana and Lauren is no longer unattainable.

Although as a reader you expect them to fall for each other right away, there is a lot of back and forth, will-they-won’t-they that is well-written and never feels forced. Reading the novel I felt like there were real stakes at play for each of them, making it that much more satisfying when they finally got together. I really enjoyed seeing them fall for each other and realize that the chemistry they had 10 years ago is still there. Beau is a kind, hard-working hero who loves his mother and is a good person in general. I rooted for him and Lauren through and through, and it absolutely paid off.

I adored the New Orleans setting as it is one of my favorite cities. Most of the story takes place during Carnival season (the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras) and I loved all of the New Orleans culture that was weaved through the story.

This may be my favorite of R.S. Grey’s books so far. While not quite as steamy as some of her other books, the great story line was more than enough to make up for it. It’s such an affordable e-book that it’s really a must read for anyone who loves contemporary romance. 5 stars!

Review

The Fortunate Ones by R.S. Grey

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The Fortunate Ones
by R.S. Grey

Published November 1, 2017

Source: I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way affected my review. 


 

1

At Twin Oaks Country Club, there are the fortunate ones, and then there are the rest of us: the waiters, the caddies, the valets, and in my case, the cabana girls. Most days, I’m poolside in a pleated skirt, dishing out margaritas to tycoons and titans. It’s not exactly my dream job, but it does come with one perk… James Ashwood. He’s my silver lining in a custom black suit.

Besides being a legacy member at the club, he’s a tech mogul and Austin’s most eligible bachelor. Oh, and those dimples? Yeah, they make my stomach dip too.

On good days, I catch his sleek Porsche winding down the tree-lined drive. On better days, I steal a glimpse of his handsome profile as we pass in the hall. And on the absolute best day, I find him alone at the bar, looking for company.

“Come have a seat.”

Those four little words set me down a path I never could have imagined. Private planes, penthouse suites, and temptations around every corner make it impossible to keep my distance. His world feels decadent and wild—but overindulgence comes with a cost. Every kiss comes with strings. Every erotic encounter is a promise I’m not ready to keep.

When I pump the brakes, he hits the gas. James doesn’t want to go slow—he wants a commitment.

And the thing about the fortunate ones?

They’re used to getting what they want.


2

R.S. Grey has become my go-to author when I’m looking for a light and fun romantic comedy. I’ve read several of her books and there hasn’t been one that I wasn’t thrilled with! I loved her last novel, THE FOXE AND THE HOUND, which I wrote about here. That one was my favorite novel of hers to date, so I was definitely anxious to read THE FORTUNATE ONES and see if it lived up to expectations.

There was so much I really loved about THE FORTUNATE ONES. I really identified with Brooke’s aspirations to travel the world and work as an au pair overseas. As someone who is straight up obsessed with travel and foreign languages, I loved that Brooke was too! I absolutely adored the Austin setting (obviously) and thought that the author did a really great job of incorporating local tidbits in a way that didn’t seem like she just tried to insert famous Austin places via a Google search.

I was into the country club setting, although I never really figured out why two girls who come from A LOT of wealth themselves were working there. The country club definitely seemed like the kind of place Brooke’s dad and stepmom would belong to, seeing as they live in a huge mansion and host actual galas. It seemed like they would not approve of their twenty-something daughters essentially doing nothing with their lives and working as cocktail waitresses? (Not that there is anything wrong with waitressing….AT ALL….it just seemed unrealistic for two super rich girls to be doing, especially with the older one living at home even.)

James Ashwood was….an interesting character. He was definitely my least favorite of all of R.S. Grey’s love interests to date, but I can see how some people would find him appealing. He was super rich and supposedly insanely hot, but I was very turned off by his borderline-abusive tendencies. There were a few scenes that involved him being super rude to Brooke for no reason, ignoring her and playing games, or even grabbing her way to harshly, etc. But then he was supposedly just ‘really sensitive’ and ‘needed to be handled with care’. That’s not hot to me, it’s psycho. BUT HE WAS REALLY RICH AND LIVED IN A MANSION AND WANTED TO GET MARRIED ASAP, so Brooke was all about him for some reason.

I was very disappointed that Brooke considered giving up her DREAMS for this dude, too. I won’t spoil the outcome by saying what her decision works out to be, but when she is offered to move to Spain to work as an au pair, she isn’t sure if she should go or stay in Austin to get ignored by this dude some more. I will say that IN THE END (like….the very end), I was okay with Brooke’s overall outcome but still never felt connected to this romance at all due to the aforementioned issues.

Even though I found myself very frustrated with the characters at times, I was always interested in reading and am still glad I read the book. While not my favorite of R.S. Grey’s work, I give this 3 stars. Definitely check out her books if you are looking for a fun rom-com to read!

Her next book is supposed to be set in New Orleans, my favorite city ever, and I can’t wait to read it!

 

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Review

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

 

The Female of the Species

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Published September 20, 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Purchased

A contemporary YA novel that examines rape culture through alternating perspectives.

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it.

Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence. While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone.

As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever. [summary from Goodreads]

2

 

Alex was a hardcore warrior for justice against rape victims and it was awesome. She was super intense and not the typical ‘likeable’ character, but she was also very real. The story is a very dark look at the long-lasting effects of trauma, rape culture, and sexual assault. Each of the 3 POVs we got to read featured well-developed characters who each added something different to the story.

This book is extremely dark, and that is definitely something to take into consideration before reading. I think you definitely need to be in the right head-space going into it. It’s a great look at rape culture and toxic masculinity and it made me think a lot about the way those things are portrayed in our culture. I appreciated the book for its depth and its character development, and I’m definitely glad I read it.

The one thing I thought was missing: The only thing I would have liked to see in this book that wasn’t there would have been a POV from Branley. I think that would have helped her to become more of a full character rather than being dismissed as the slutty girl, which can certainly be a harmful trope.

Have you read The Female of the Species yet? What about any of the author’s other novels?  What were your thoughts?

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Review

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

 

Tash Hearts Tolstoy

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
Published June 6, 2017 by Simon and Schuster
Source: Purchased

After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do? [summary from Goodreads]

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I finished this book pretty quickly and really enjoyed reading it. The world of creating a web-series was totally new to me, and not something I had ever heard of before. It was an interesting part of the story, and I kind of wish it had been explored a little more in depth. Tell me more about basing the series, “Unhappy Families”, on Anna Karenina and how to tell the same story in a modern day setting! More about coming up with a script and finding actors and making it all happen!

Tash was relateable on so many levels. She deals with unexpected family news, her sister moving out and heading to college out of state, and her best friend’s dad is going through cancer. She practices Buddhism, which is really cool, and I think she is the only Buddhist YA character I know of!

Tash also describes herself as asexual, meaning that while she does form romantic relationships, she is not interested in sexual relationships. This causes a bit of tension between her and another (super horrible, shitty person) character who I won’t spoil for you. This is the first book I have read with on-the-page, very clear asexual representation. It’s obviously super important for more books with ace characters to be published as Tash’s experience won’t match everyone else’s who identifies on the ace spectrum (that’s why it’s a spectrum, y’all), but I thought it was very good representation and have heard the same from other people who do identify in the same ways as Tash.

I really enjoyed reading about Tash’s journey – she grows a lot in this novel and ended up in a really good place. She realizes she hasn’t been a great friend, and then she does better. She is true to herself and knows who she is doesn’t waver from her ideals even when they are met with adversity. I cared about her character and wanted to see her happy, and I’m really glad that the ending delivered that. While I never was very invested in the romance that ends up happening, I did really enjoy the friendship and family dynamics that were explored very well. Overall, I give this book a solid 4 stars! The only thing I would have liked to see more of is L-O-V-E but then again I get that not EVERY story needs a romance angle BUT it’s still my favorite.

Get your copy here!

Have you read Tash Hearts Tolstoy yet? What were your thoughts?

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Review

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

 

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Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Published September 19, 2017 by Roaring Book Press
Source: Purchased

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution. [summary from Goodreads]

2

Oh man, I loved this book. I think it has to be tied for my favorite book of the year (tied with Ramona Blue!). I knew going into it that it was supposed to be a kick-ass feminist novel, but I was still surprised at just how inspired and empowered I felt after reading it. It’s truly the kind of book that I want to pass on to young women everywhere and get into every library across America.

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As you can see from my Tweet-thread, I am seriously obsessed with this book.

Vivian does such a great job of keeping a diverse group of girls close to her, and I loved seeing how she handled each friendship so differently. None of her friends ever felt like a random background character – they were all so unique and offered their own perspectives on feminism and friendship. Lucy was especially great. I loved how she knew she was a feminist from the start, and wasn’t afraid of what it might mean for her to declare that.

I flew through this book in just a few hours and finished it in one sitting. I could not put Vivian’s journey down and was so pleased at how the story ended! I loved how so many different issues that girls really experience were addressed in the story. Especially if I was younger, I would have really learned from each of those situations and would have gotten such a clearer grasp on the problems in our culture (and what I can do about it!).

The best part of MOXIE is that it doesn’t just educate the reader on feminism, it shows you how you can respond to the challenges women face and how to overcome them with fierce moxie power. Everyone needs to read this book – it will change or strengthen your perspective on the meaning of feminism, and will make you laugh and cry along the way too. 5 stars!

#MoxieGirlsFightBack

Get your copy here!

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