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What We Saw – Aaron Hartzler

What We Saw
By: Aaron Hartzler
Available September 2015

Description:
Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early—the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids.

But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question: Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?

This story—inspired by real events—from debut novelist Aaron Hartzler takes an unflinching look at silence as a form of complicity. It’s a book about the high stakes of speaking up, and the razor thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.

This Blonde’s Review:
Kate doesn’t remember a lot from the party at Doone’s place. She knows that she had too much to drink, that there may have been a moment with her childhood best friend Ben, and that she went home early. As rumors start going around Kate starts to have a few more flashes of the night, including drinking with Stacey, a girl she used to be friends with when they were younger.

Since Stacey has a reputation around school people assume the worst about her when pictures start to circulate. When 4 popular boys are arrested at school for something that happened at the party no one can believe that they would have done anything wrong. The community sees Stacey’s accusations as a betrayal of the community, the school, and the sports team.

Watching the ways the girls deal with the information was so interesting to me. Some of the girls become fiercely loyal to the boys and refuse to hear any murmurs against them. Others believe that ‘boys will be boys’ is an unacceptable excuse to brush off things that shouldn’t be okay. As each new piece of information comes to light and more questions come up I liked seeing the way Kate works through everything. She questions things in way I feel that many people should. She asks what makes it okay for Stacey to be treated that way but not her. That night they were the same, except for the reputation that one had versus the other.

As terrible as this topic was, I liked the way things came together slowly. How sometimes the answer can be right in front of you and there could be so many signs you can’t see. The decisions that Kate had to make regarding what she believes and what she does about the things she discovers was important. It was important to see and important for her to do.

I couldn’t help but hate the way some things turned out, but I know there wasn’t a way to make things into a great happy ending when something so terrible is a key event in the book. I really do think that it turned out the only way it should have and was a book worth reading.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Book Review

 

Play On – Michelle Smith

Play On
By: Michelle Smith
Lewis Creek – Book 1
Available Now

Description:
In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.

Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma’s flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius, she’s also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there’s something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek–he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.

As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa s pain, it forces him to look beyond the facade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn’t everything–maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.

This Blonde’s Review:
I don’t read many book where the main character is a guy, usually we get to see everything from the girl’s point of view. In this one we got to know Austin as he falls for Marisa. He has some baggage from the death of his father and only wants to get out of town.

Austin starts to get to know Marisa and she seems to be perfect for him. She isn’t ready to jump in to a relationship so they build their friendship first. Watching their relationship grow was so great. I enjoyed getting to know them both. Something I really loved is that everything with Austin and Marisa wasn’t as perfect as it seems at first glance. They each had baggage and things to learn from each other.

Marisa’s past was a surprise to me, I was expecting to find out that she had a serious disease like cancer. I’m so happy that it wasn’t that way since so I’ve read multiple books like that. This one tackles a very serious issue, depression. I felt there were several pieces of the book that portrayed depression in ways that I don’t usually see in the books I read. It was refreshing and I appreciated the way the author tried to show that a person can be happy about the things in their life and still suffer from depression, that they can still find themselves slipping.

I really enjoyed this one. I loved Austin and Marisa but I also loved the other characters we got to know. I’m looking forward to reading more about the other characters in the next books.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Book Review

 

Those Girls – Lauren Saft

Those Girls
By: Lauren Saft
Available Now

Description:
Some girls will always have your back, and some girls can’t help but stab you in it.

Junior year, the suburbs of Philadelphia. Alex, Mollie and Veronica are those girls: they’re the best of friends and the party girls of the school. But how well does everybody know them–and really, how well do they know one another? Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door and has joined a band–without telling anyone. Mollie suffers from a popular (and possibly sociopathic) boyfriend, as well as a serious mean streak. And Veronica just wants to be loved–literally, figuratively, physically….she’s not particular. Will this be the year that bonds them forever….or tears them apart for good? 

This Blonde’s Review:
Some books you keep reading hoping it’ll redeem itself. I hoped these ridiculous, unkind, and shallow girls would have a reckoning thar would bring it all around and I could find something to like. Sadly that was not the case and I found myself disappointed.

We aren’t supposed to love the things these girls represent. They’re supposed to be shallow, make bad choices, & not understand what true friendship is. It’s right there in the first line of the description. We can expect that. This was the kind of book where I loved some of the male secondary characters that we didn’t see enough of much more than I cared for any of our main characters. The girls had issues but anytime they got close to redeeming themselves they stepped back. And the big moment learning moment was diluted and turned into yet another bad choice.

In all honesty I’m rather upset with the way this one turned out. The things they did barely got a slap on the wrist, even from the one who was wronged. And the only one who sees how wrong it is and recognizes the need to take some time is one of the few characters I liked and didn’t need to learn that lesson.

If you want to read this book please know that these are flawed characters, but that these aren’t characters who feel the full brunt of their mistakes. It’s like watching a train wreck and knowing the ones who cause it don’t learn much from their mistakes. Most find that too frustrating to endure, but others like to see what happens anyway. I try hard to find positives but unfortunately my positives were the boys who were essentially collateral damage.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2015 in Book Review

 

The Heartbreakers – Ali Novak

The Heartbreakers
By: Ali Novak
The Heartbreakers Chronicles – Book 1
Available August 2015

Description:
“When I met Oliver Perry, I had no clue he was the lead singer for The Heartbreakers. Unbeknownst to him, I was the only girl in the world who hated his music.”

Since Cara’s health has been deteriorating, all Stella Walter can think about is trying to cheer her sister up. Her life revolves around Cara to the point where Stella drops out of one of the country’s top photography programs so she can spend what little time she has left with her sick sister. 

With Cara’s birthday around the corner, Stella wants to get her the perfect gift. An autographed poster of her sister’s favorite boy band should do the trick. Sounds simple enough, right? But life isn’t always so easy. 

Not only does Stella hate The Heartbreakers because of their terrible music, but when she realizes that the cute boy she met at Starbucks is really Oliver Perry, the lead singer of the band, her life seems to spin out of control… 

Will Stella be able to swallow her pride and get the autograph that she so desperately needs to make Cara happy? And will Oliver be able to show Stella how to live her own life again? 

Meet… The Heartbreakers.

This Blonde’s Review:
Stella is the kind of character I couldn’t help but love. She meets a boy in a Starbucks and doesn’t know who he is. When she finds out he’s one of the members of her sister’s favorite band, a band that she stood in line for hours to see without getting an autograph. When they see each other again she doesn’t treat them like famous people, she treats them like the rude boys she thinks they are. From there surprising friendships form that lead to a photography job for Stella that also gives her the opportunity to spend more time with the guys. I couldn’t help but love her passion for photography and dedication to her family.

I also loved the boys in the band. Each of the guys had something to recommend them. From the fun pranks of some to the quiet support of others, they were all great characters that I lived getting to see. I hope to see these boys again and get to know them better. In this book we get to see Oliver, and we get to see how great he is for Stella.

Stella and Oliver each had things in their lives that seemed insurmountable. The thing they had to learn is something we can all relate to, when we discover our fear is what really holds us back. The things others demand of us & the obligations we commit to in others’ names are second to our own fears of loss of the things we hold as important. Encouraging each other past their fears was exactly what I like to see.

I really enjoyed this book. I loved Stella, her family, Oliver, and the rest of the Heartbreakers. The way every one of them built each other up was so great.

If you enjoy books about girls who fall for boys despite their fame not because of it you’ll enjoy this. If you enjoy boys who overcome their baggage thanks to a girl opening their eyes to all they’re missing, you’ll enjoy this.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2015 in Around The World Tours, Book Review

 

The One Thing – Marci Lyn Curtis

The One Thing
By: Marci Lyn Curtis
Available Sept 2015

Description:

Maggie Sanders might be blind, but she won’t invite anyone to her pity party. Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie’s rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal.

Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn’t interested in rehabilitation, not when she’s still mourning the loss of her professional-soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory.

Then Maggie’s whole world is turned upside down. Somehow, incredibly, she can see again. But only one person: Ben, a precocious ten-year-old unlike anyone she’s ever met.Ben’s life isn’t easy, but he doesn’t see limits, only possibilities. After awhile, Maggie starts to realize that losing her sight doesn’t have to mean losing everything she dreamed of. Even if what she’s currently dreaming of is Mason Milton, the infuriatingly attractive lead singer of Maggie’s new favorite band, who just happens to be Ben’s brother.

But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future…before she loses everything she has grown to love.

This Blonde’s Review:
I should start off by saying I really enjoyed this book, staying up way later than I should have to finish it. Maggie had her life changed forever when she lost her sight. She can no longer do the things that were most important to her so isn’t interested in trying to do any more than she has to. When she finds someone she can see the only thing that matters is trying to extend the sight past this one person.

I can sympathize with Maggie’s struggles and her unwillingness to let anyone else in. She shut her friends out and wasn’t looking for others. Ben didn’t just give her a limited range of sight, he also opened her eyes to other things.

Ben is amazing. He may only be 10, and Maggie may have started hanging out with him for the sake of her limited sight, but he’s the best character in the book. I loved him and admittedly wanted to cry a little over certain parts of the book. His brother Mason is the puzzle to figure out, the kind of guy you might not think was worth it except for how great he is to Ben. Of course he also happens to be the lead singer for Maggie’s favorite band. She has enough pride not to ask him to share anything about their shows, considering the way he acts with her.

We don’t come away from this book with all the answers. We don’t know why things happened the way they did, but I enjoyed the story enough that I don’t need all the answers. We rarely get them all in life, so why not leave a few unanswered. What I loved were the lessons Maggie learned and the ways her life grew when she gave herself the chance to see that there was life beyond sight.

If you enjoy books with characters who are learning how to live their life after something out of their control changes everything then you should give this one a chance.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Around The World Tours, Book Review

 

Lying Out Loud – Kody Keplinger

Lying Out Loud coverLying Out Loud
By: Kody Keplinger
Duff Companion Novel
Available April 2015

Description:
Kody Keplinger returns to the world of The DUFF in this brand-new companion novel!

Sonny Ardmore is an excellent liar. She lies about her dad being in prison. She lies about her mom kicking her out. And she lies about sneaking into her best friend’s house every night because she has nowhere else to go.

Amy Rush might be the only person Sonny shares everything with — secrets, clothes, even a nemesis named Ryder Cross.

Ryder’s the new kid at Hamilton High and everything Sonny and Amy can’t stand — a prep-school snob. But Ryder has a weakness: Amy. So when Ryder emails Amy asking her out, the friends see it as a prank opportunity not to be missed.

But without meaning to, Sonny ends up talking to Ryder all night online. And to her horror, she realizes that she might actually like him. Only there’s one small catch: he thinks he’s been talking to Amy. So Sonny comes up with an elaborate scheme to help Ryder realize that she’s the girl he’s really wanted all along. Can Sonny lie her way to the truth, or will all her lies end up costing her both Ryder and Amy?

This Blonde’s Review:
Sonny is the kind of girl who lies about everything. It is how she gets out of trouble and how she keeps people from looking too closely. She even lies to herself because she can’t accept some of the truths in her life. When she finds herself caught in a lie she didn’t mean to tell things get more complicated, especially since she has other secrets she is trying to find at the same time.

I really enjoyed Sonny, Amy, and Ryder. Amy is the best kind of best friend, kind and caring. She and her family have taken Sonny in as their own, even if Sonny isn’t able to fully trust it. Sonny is a girl with problems and you can’t help but feel for her. So much of what has made her the way she is isn’t her fault. Knowing there is a bigger secret that she doesn’t want to acknowledge makes it clear that her lies are a big defense mechanism. Ryder was a little harder to like at first but we couldn’t help but start to like him as we got to know him better.

Seeing the things that have happened with Sonny’s parents it becomes very clear why she has the defense mechanisms that she does. It also highlights how great Amy, her parents, and her brother Wesley are that they accept her as their own. Sonny has a safe place to be and people who love her no matter what she believes about her home life. It made me love Amy and her family so much more, even while the girls struggled in their friendship.

I enjoyed getting to see a little of Wesley and Bianca. I loved that they were happy together but still bickering. Though since it was a companion novel we don’t hear much about their story since Sonny doesn’t know it. You could easily read this book without having read the Duff. There are hints that there is a story there and it would make you curious to read the other book, but nothing that gives too much away except the part where they are together.

If you enjoyed the Duff you’ll enjoy this one too. There is a similar idea where two people don’t like each other and find themselves able to understand each other and fall for each other. But the stories themselves don’t repeat and you’ll love the glimpses of Wesley and Bianca. If you haven’t read The Duff you’ll still enjoy this if you like the idea of enemies falling for each other, him not knowing who he’s talking to, and her doing the best she can to clean it up without anyone finding out.

 
 

Until the Beginning – Amy Plum

Until the Beginning coverUntil the Beginning
By: Amy Plum
After the End – Book 2
Available May 2015

Don’t miss the first book in this series! After the End on Goodreads.

Description:
When Juneau’s clan disappeared, she lost so much more than her friends and family. She soon discovered everything she thought she knew about her life was a lie. Her people’s gifts were actually secret abilities that others wanted, desperately enough to kidnap an entire village.

Juneau and her new companion Miles’s cross-country journey to find her clan has led them to a game preserve in New Mexico. Now Juneau’s people are finally within reach, and she will stop at nothing to save them. But she has a target on her back too, because unbeknownst to her she is the key to unlocking everything. To rescue her people – and herself – Juneau must discover what she, and her abilities, are truly capable of.

This Blonde’s Review:
Juneau has had to learn a lot in the time since her village disappeared. She’s learned that the world is not what she was taught and that there were many lies told. She has had to come to terms with many things to make it to where she is, but there is still much to learn to accept.

I really enjoyed Juneau and Miles in the first book so I was happy to see the rest of their story. We could figure that Miles would survive the injury from the last book but we had no way of knowing how Juneau’s attempt to save him would work.

I loved Miles and the way he was willing to accept Juneau’s strengths. He doesn’t recognize his own but through the course of this book we’re able to get to know him better and see him grow into a leader in his own right. Juneau’s strength and ability to trust her instincts is something that I loved about her in the first book and continued to enjoy about her in this one. She wasn’t taught to diminish herself and is able to teach Miles not to be ashamed of his strengths as well. They’re a great couple and a great team.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series and I think that the second book did a great job of following up. Our characters learn more about themselves and each other and they continue to grow. They have to make hard choices and trust their instincts.

If you enjoyed the first book in this series you’ll want to find out what happens. If you haven’t read the first one I tried not to give away too many spoilers. If you enjoy reading about strong female leads and the guys who care about them then you’ll enjoy Juneau and Miles.

 
 
 
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