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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Stealing Parker – Miranda Kenneally

Stealing Parker coverStealing Parker
By Miranda Kenneally
Available October 2012

Description:
Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty? But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?

This Blonde’s Review:
Her life was ruined when her parents divorced and her mother went to live with her girlfriend. Why did God do that to her if he loves her? She’s a good christian, yet her christian friends judge her and their parents tell them to stay away. Suddenly she’s not welcome at her church. Either she’s like her mother or she can prove she isn’t.

Parker wants to make sure no one can confuse her with her mother. She quits softball, the sport they both loved and excelled at, and she starts making out with guys left and right. They can’t say she’s a lesbian if she kisses boys. Except in the typical way of hurt teenage girls, she doesn’t see what they can say. She doesn’t see that there are many who don’t know her mother’s story and only know what they see her doing.

When her best friend convinces her to assist with the boys’ baseball team Parker finds herself surrounded by guys, including some who tempt her. But when one of those tempting guys is the new assistant coach Parker finds herself heading in a direction she shouldn’t. She also finds herself missing softball and considering rejoining the team.

I really enjoyed this one. Parker is a hurting teenager and sees what she expects to see. There are people who make judgements and betray her, but there are also many people she projects her own interpretations of their thoughts on. I especially loved getting to know her friends. Not the girls who used to be her friends, people I would have loved to give a serious set down, but the guys on the team. They’re rough and inappropriate, but they are loyal and caring.

Parker finds herself in an unlikely love triangle, with the guys involved not knowing about what’s going on with the other. The types of relationships she has makes it easy to keep it quiet. When a friend spills a secret about being interested in one of the guys Parker is getting close to, she finds herself in a more difficult situation. To chose the guy who wants more from her than she wants to give, or to take the guy her friend wants but never has a chance with.

Throughout it all there is a steady stream of religion. It showcases some of the worst parts of churches, parts that are more true than most want to admit. The judgement and manipulation that you’ll find in some of the more rigid churches, but we also see the love and acceptance you can find in other churches. I do love that this book didn’t lift religious people up or put them down, instead we saw them as people. Case by case, some were jerks and some weren’t. We didn’t understand the way some of those people could be and that isn’t something the author sought to fix. It simply was a part of her life.

Parker was a girl dealing with what she felt was her mother’s betrayal and all that comes with refusing to talk to her mother when she needed her most. Her family was falling apart around her and there was little she could do to save it. With all that pressure it was little wonder Parker was starting to crack. When it all comes tumbling down Parker has to decide if she wants to keep shutting her mother out, despite the hypocrisy of her actions, or look for her mother’s guidance.

I can’t say exactly why I loved this one without giving too much away. The ‘villian’ of the piece was clearly not someone to be admired, yet at the same time the author gave us enough reasons to sympathize and understand. He wasn’t evil, but he was wrong. I loved that we may not have had all the answers there, but it wasn’t a clear cut idea of this person is bad that we get with so many books.

I enjoyed Parker’s best friend and the way she was willing to stand with him no matter what. And I loved that the right guy for her did it right by letting their relationship build slowly, so slowly that we almost wouldn’t see it if it wasn’t so obvious. I hated that her friends really were the jerks that they appeared to be, but I loved that she didn’t let that defeat her.

Parker had problems. But they were real mistakes that real people could make, and I loved that they were the kind that anyone could make. I especially loved that she hurt but didn’t let her destroy her.

If you enjoy reading about a girl who makes the wrong choices and has to learn to make the best of what remains, then you’ll enjoy Parker’s story. You’ll find yourself getting caught up in her story and hoping that she turns it around before it’s too late to get her happy ending.

 

Cursed – Jennifer L Armentrout

Cursed coverCursed
By Jennifer L Armentrout
Available September 2012

Description:
Dying sucks–and high school senior Ember McWilliams knows firsthand. After a fatal car accident, her gifted little sister brought her back. Now anything Ember touches dies. And that, well, really blows.

Ember operates on a no-touch policy with all living things–including boys. When Hayden Cromwell shows up, quoting Oscar Wilde and claiming her curse is a gift, she thinks he’s a crazed cutie. But when he tells her he can help control it, she’s more than interested. There’s just one catch: Ember has to trust Hayden’s adopted father, a man she’s sure has sinister reasons for collecting children whose abilities even weird her out. However, she’s willing to do anything to hold her sister’s hand again. And hell, she’d also like to be able to kiss Hayden. Who wouldn’t?

But when Ember learns the accident that turned her into a freak may not’ve been an accident at all, she’s not sure who to trust. Someone wanted her dead, and the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she is to losing not only her heart, but her life. For real this time.

This Blonde’s Review:
What do you do when your touch can kill a person? When her little sister brought her back after a car accident that’s exactly what happened to Ember. So she chose to start wearing gloves and refuse to let anyone touch her. She had to be especially careful with her little sister, since she was the person responsible for her care since her mother was no longer fully functioning and her father was gone. Until one day when the unthinkable happens and someone touches her without her permission.

Soon Ember finds herself whisked away with her mother and sister and taken to live with a man she doesn’t trust and his children, who she knows don’t want her there. The family of gifted children have chosen to take her sister in as one of their own and look for reasons to get rid of Ember, seeing her abilities as a curse while their own are gifts. The only person who wants her around is Hayden. When someone starts to torment her by leaving disturbing gifts and messages for her she believes it has to be someone in the Cromwell family, even if Hayden refuses to accept it. As the threats escalate she can’t help but think someone is out to force her into a position that will cause her to be sent away from her little sister, something she will never allow to happen.

When Ember finds out that the accident that took her father’s life and her own wasn’t an accident she is determined to find out what really happened. She’s sure that that Cromwells had a hand in it, considering how determined they are to keep her sister in their home. Ember has to decide if she can trust Hayden enough to have his faith in his family or if he’s another one that can’t be trusted.

I enjoyed watching Ember try to piece everything together, whether she could trust the people around her or not and how to handle all of the new information she’d find. She handled life surprisingly well until the Cromwells show up and then she sort of flips out a little. Ember is angry at the world and the Cromwells are in her sights as people to be angry with. She does try her best to behave, not because she wants to stay and be in their good graces, but because she knows she’ll never see her family again if she’s sent away. Luckily she has Hayden to help her.

Hayden was hard for me to know, I wasn’t sure if I should trust him or think something was off with him. His power made him the only person who could touch Ember for any length of time and it also made him the one who could most understand that fear of accidentally killing people.

With so many around her that she’s unsure of Ember will have to learn who to trust. She’ll also have to learn whether she can learn to control her own power and to trust herself. Watching Ember’s path was great because I know that many of us would crumble, while others would react the same as Ember by striking out at those she sees as a threat. I found myself relating to Ember because I’m pretty sure I’d have reacted to some of those things the same way. The love story angle on this one wasn’t really here for me, since I couldn’t understand anything about why they’d have such an attraction for each other. It seems to have come down to she liked that he wasn’t afraid of her and he liked that she didn’t fall to pieces. Mutual respect and fascination can lead a couple far, but I didn’t really feel the connection there.

I enjoyed Ember’s story, so if you think you’ll want to see her figure out who is responsible for the accident that destroyed their lives and learn whether she can trust herself or the people around her, then you’ll want to read Cursed when it’s released in September.

 

Pushing The Limits – Katie McGarry

Pushing The Limits coverPushing the Limits
By Katie McGarry
Available 31 July 2012

Description:
So wrong for each other…and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

This Blonde’s Review:
She always wears long sleeves and hides from everyone. People stare at her and jump to conclusions but are willing to be there for her. Luckily for Echo she has great friends who will stand by her. Echo also has a friend who won’t stand with her publicly since she’s more concerned with her popularity and an ex who claims to want back in her life. Echo is dealing with not remembering the trauma that almost cost her life, the loss of her brother in Afghanistan, and her childhood babysitter turned stepmother getting ready to have a baby. Echo has a lot on her plate and is a perfect candidate for mandatory weekly counseling.

Noah is the bad boy who doesn’t want anything serious with anyone. The system let him down and he has no desire to play along anymore. After being labeled a trouble maker by the foster care system he isn’t allowed to know where his brothers live and can only see them through supervised visitation. He’ll do whatever it takes to have them back in his life, even if that means playing along with the counselor they’re forcing him to go to.

Miss Collins, their counselor, pairs them up for a mutually beneficial arrangement all they do is fight. Echo needs to tutor Noah for the money to restore her brother’s car. Noah needs better grades if he hopes to get his brothers back. Instead of working together Noah says things that hurt Echo, and he’s surprised by the pain he’s able to cause her. When he sees her arms he knows better than to believe that she did it to herself. Soon they decide to work together to get what they really want out of their sessions with Miss Collins. They want answers and they’ll work together to make it happen.

Despite having a chance to gain her popularity back, Echo is still drawn to Noah. He asks questions and listens to the answers instead of flinching away. He is more real to her and more willing to see her than anyone else. Noah doesn’t want to focus on anything other than his brothers or risk letting Echo hurt him when she goes back to her popular life. But something about her draws him in and makes him want to know her more, makes him want to be there for her in ways he never was with anyone else. The more time they spend together the more right it seems to be, yet their problems could be too much for them to be any good for each other.

I loved this book. I can’t even explain why without giving everything away but I’m going to try. I loved that Echo had problems. She wasn’t a one trick pony with one big problem and everything else perfect, yet her problems weren’t so disconnected that it looked like the author was giving Echo more to deal with because she could. Her secrets are revealed a layer at a time, giving Echo time to process each step while we jumped to our own conclusions. Her family life was awful and sad and ultimately not quite what she thought.

I adored Noah and think he could be one of my favorite book guys. He’s bad enough to do what he wants to do without worrying about the rules. But he’s a good guy at heart. He is willing to risk his life for his brothers. He doesn’t knowingly hurt people who are weaker than he is. He was always unwilling to keep a girlfriend, but he only played with girls who know the game. He claims his friends as his family and will do whatever is needed to protect them, even if it involves going against crazy odds. He’s not perfect but he’s willing to look below the surface and not let scars matter more than the person inside.

The things that have happened to Echo and Noah are tragic to varying degrees but I loved watching the way they help each other heal. They do what they can to help each other without even thinking about it. I love how well they complement each other.

I would love to get into some of the “bad things” about this book that I’m sure some readers won’t care for, but I have to say that some of those things actually made it better for me. Noah did fall faster than I would have cared for, since I’m not a big fan of the fast fall, but there was a lot going on in this story. I can actually see how that could be totally realistic in that sort of situation. There are other things I could talk about to explain how I think the “bad” actually worked out well but I don’t want to give everything away before you have a chance to read it.

This is a love story since we want Echo and Noah to end up together, but this is also a story about healing and learning to trust despite the reasons not to. I really wish this wasn’t Katie McGarry’s first book because I wanted to go out and find something else of hers as soon as I finished it. I’m going to be keeping an eye on Katie McGarry and can’t wait to see what she has next for us.

 

Speechless – Hannah Harrington

Speechless coverSpeechless
By Hannah Harrington
Available 28 August 2012

Description:
The story of a girl named Chelsea Knot who takes a voluntary oath of silence after her gossip-mongering ways yield unexpected consequences…

Saying she’s sorry isn’t enough.

This Blonde’s Review:
Most people enjoy gossip but have their limits but Chelsea doesn’t stop when she should. She’s known a a girl who loves to gossip and can’t keep her mouth shut. Her friends are the most popular kids in school and she is accepted everywhere. Until the night she tells a secret to the wrong people and someone ends up in the hospital. Chelsea recognizes where she went wrong but takes it even further. If her gossiping can cause such problems then she’ll just stop talking entirely.

Chelsea’s friends turn against her and her vow of silence has everyone else thinking she’s some sort of freak. Most of her teachers aren’t supportive either and Chelsea finds herself in detention for refusing to participate in class. In detention Chelsea meets a girl she never noticed before, someone smart and genuinely kind. Soon she finds herself with a new friend and hanging out with a group of people she never expected to enjoy spending time with. Even stranger is that those people are the ones she thinks should hate her the most.

Getting through the day without being bullied becomes a challenge for Chelsea and her new friends are exactly what she needs to start to see the world clearer. She even finds a guy who can care about her, even with her vow of silence. The longer she stays silent the harder those first words are. Chelsea doesn’t know what she’s waiting for so how can she know when to start talking?

I loved that Chelsea isn’t a character I can love at first but she’s one I can care about. She was a shallow gossip but she was willing to do the right thing. As she gains perspective we are able to learn right alongside her. Chelsea learns that there can be more to people than she expected. We start learn that there is more to Chelsea than she knew as well. I had an idea of what would motivate Chelsea to speak and I’m happy to say it wasn’t the obvious choice. I actually loved the friends she made more than I loved Chelsea, but I did enjoy watching her grow. The guilt and self-imposed silence helped make Chelsea into the kind of character I didn’t want to say goodbye to.

If a girl taking a vow of silence and learning how to thrive in that silence sounds like a good story to you then I think you’ll love this one.

 

My Life in Black and White – Natasha Friend

My Life in Black and White coverMy Life in Black and White
By Natasha Friend
Available Now

Description:
What if you lost the thing that made you who you are?

Lexi has always been stunning. Her butter-colored hair and perfect features have helped her attract friends, a boyfriend, and the attention of a modeling scout. But everything changes the night Lexi’s face goes through a windshield. Now she’s not sure what’s worse: the scars she’ll have to live with forever, or what she saw going on between her best friend and her boyfriend right before the accident. With the help of her trombone-playing, defiantly uncool older sister and a guy at school recovering from his own recent trauma, Lexi learns she’s much more than just a pretty face.

This Blonde’s Review:
She’s the pretty girl everyone wants to know. Her mother dotes on her, her friends admire her, guys want her. Life is going pretty fabulously for Lexi and her sophomore year is going to be the best yet. Until the night she’s betrayed by her best friend Taylor and her boyfriend Ryan. She barely has time to think her life is over before she finds out it can get worse. Lexi has to learn what it’s like to live without the admiration of the people around her and see that the sister she always dismissed has a lot to teach her about accepting herself. She learns that sometimes people have bigger problems than she does, even if their problems are as visible to the outside world. She’ll also learn what friendship is really about.

The girl who has been taught to define herself by her looks finds herself drawing attention for a new look. Rather than being the pretty girl, she is the girl with the scars. Angry and bitter over what happened to her and the way people have reacted, Lexi acts out. The sweet popular girl who cared about her appearance becomes the one who dresses unfashionably to prove how little she cares, fights with her mother, and eats whatever she wants. When a few chance encounters introduce Lexi to Theo, she isn’t sure what to think. He looks at her instead of her scars and he seems to see her as a person.

I wasn’t sure what I thought about Lexi. She didn’t reach too deep and went through her days miserable and isolating herself. At the same time, that was the life she knew so how could we expect anymore more right away? I really enjoyed seeing Lexi get to know her sister better since it was clear that there was a lot Lexi could learn from her. Despite how shallow Lexi is and how hurt she is, we can still see what a great person she is by the way she treats the people who betrayed her. When she finds Taylor in a bad situation she has to make a choice between allowing it to happen and standing up for the girl she claims to hate.

I think Natasha Friend did a great job with this one. So many things in this book are subtle and aren’t thrown in our face. We don’t get a description of Lexi’s face every time she comes face to face with anyone. Instead we get to see how Lexi feels about herself, since that’s more important than what’s really there. I really loved that just like in real life, sometimes the bad guys aren’t as bad as we think they are. We have to learn when to forgive and when to move on. They made mistakes, but it doesn’t make them bad people. We rarely have a writer show us something admirable about the betrayers after they’ve been put on the negative side. I love that the author gave us something to make us like our characters even while not making Lexi take the expected path afterwards.

If you enjoy reading about a girl who loses everything that matters to her and learns that there could be more to life than she ever recognized, then you’ll enjoy Lexi’s story.