Book Review Backlist: Paper Princess (Royals #1) by Erin Watt

I feel like this is one of those books that I shouldn’t like (see the negative reviews for reasons why), but yet it was recommended to me so much that I had to try it. If you’ve read any of the online reviews, you will know what I mean about the points of negativity, but I felt that SOME  of the negativity is a little blown out of proportion. Is this something I would recommend to a young teen? Absolutely not. But for a mature older teen? With discretion, yes.

28678119Paper Princess revolves around 17-year-old Ella Harper. We enter her world while she is living on her own, having lost her mother the year prior, and determined to keep up the charade that her mother is still alive until she can finish high school and turn 18. She affords this by being a stripper and living in a not so great apartment. She’s not into drugs, she’s not into sex, she just strips for cash. And apparently she is talented at it as we learn that dancing is in her blood (dancing in general, not just strip club dancing).

Enter Callum Royal. Callum is her father’s best friend and former business partner. Her father Steve O’Halloran, whom she has never known, passed away and Callum was tapped to be her guardian in his will. Callum has gone through a lot of effort to ascertain her identity, confirm her lineage, and locate her. To put it plainly, Ella is not trusting of strangers, and tries to escape. But Callum only finds her again, and sweeps her away, making a deal with her that she can’t say no to. He offers her a future, the chance to study at a private school and be cared for, and money (including substantial bonuses for completing high school and college). It’s all she wants… a chance to move forward. She decides to risk it, knowing that if she has to run away as she’s done so many times before, at least she will have a little more financial security to take with her.

But living with Callum and his sons may be more than she originally bargained for. She is soon deep into their world, fighting off bullies at their elite prep school, and trying to find her way to balance and some semblance of fitting in to get through her junior and senior year. Reed and all of the boys despise her, and make it known to everyone that she is not to be socialized with. All the while, she finds herself in a tension-filled attraction with Reed Royal, the second oldest son, and the leader of the Royal boys. Is he just putting up a facade, and can she figure out why all of the Royal boys have a hard time trusting her and their father?

So why did I like this book so much?

I’m not really into some of the language. It was a bit crass at first. A bit vulgar. But it was also a bit unexpected. I wondered why people recommended it to me. Did they know me at all? There were moments that, as others have cited, show that consent in certain displays (crotch grabbing for example), are not high on the minds of teenage boys. There are tougher moments, too, which I feel that are important to discuss for a teen with a parent. (I am a not a teen, so I didn’t need a parent talk, but just saying… there is some interesting subject matter.) There were moments when I thought this is nothing I would have ever picked for myself. But at the same time, I couldn’t put it down, and towards the second half of the book, I really started liking many of the characters.

To answer the question though, of why I liked it:

I liked Ella. I liked Easton. I liked Callum. I liked Valerie. I loved Reed. I liked the plot pace — it was quick, and though some of it was predictable (read as: the Ella / Steve story has to play out as she didn’t know her father and he’s dead, but also she needs deal with the legal aftermath of his death and wishes) — many parts were NOT predictable. It was fun to see Ella gain her confidence and see how her decisions shift and propel her forward. She is street savvy and a fighter, and she also makes some colossal mistakes which humanize her as a teen.

And the ending… THE ENDING… really? Because it was 3 in the morning when I finished, because my husband was asleep… I couldn’t yell out WHAT????!!! But in my brain, that’s exactly what I was screaming. So if you do give this book a chance, please be sure to know where to get the next book so you aren’t left hanging (at least, not too long!). This is a book that will not be on my top list of recommendations, unless someone is specifically asking for a slightly-scandalous-romance-“YA”-nearly-“NA” book, but it turned out to be an entertaining read. We’ll see how the rest of the trilogy goes!

Paper Princess (The Royals, #1)


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Book Review: Who We Are Instead by Kyla Stone

“Some pain is good pain.”

So says Lux, who by hiding from pain, finds even more pain along the way. This is one of those really good books with incredibly hard subject matter. It had me saying ‘I’m not crying, you’re crying’ so much.

33865650Let’s start at the beginning. We join this book as Lena, a 20-year-old photography student in Florida, is in a darkroom preparing prints. She receives news that her father has had a heart attack, and has to travel back home to Michigan. Lena has avoided going home in general for a few years, we are told, but she packs up and heads home to take care of her father. She goes straight to the hospital to be with her father and find out just how bad the diagnosis is. Her dad has already had multiple heart attacks over the past couple of years, treatment options have failed and have run out, and the doctors say he is in the final stages of congestive heart failure. Having no other options, Lena says she will be the caretaker for her parent.

Lux is the 17-year-old younger sister with a severe avoidance complex when it comes to dealing with dying parents. Outwardly she is fun, exciting, bold, brazen, charismatic, beautiful, and yet to her family she is flighty and wild and unreliable at best. Lux’s coping strategies are incredibly harmful emotionally and physically. The author does not glorify her behavior as she dallies into drinking, drugs, boys–but it is told in such a real, natural manner of speaking that you can see all of the dangers she is headed towards if you’ve had any friends or family in similar situations.

I love that this book sheds light on mental health and the dangers and manifestations it can have on physical well-being. I love that it has two sisters that have criticized each other so fiercely, categorized each other the way only sisters can, but yet that sibling bond is still there, shining brightly in the gray, harsh days–giving them a chance to find a way back to each other if only they will hear each other out. I love that Lena, who was trying to stay as far away from home as possible, will drop everything to be there for her family. And I love that Lux represents a type of person that we easily dismiss as flighty or selfish or wild or aloof, when really they are doing their best to conceal anguish.

Kyla’s writing is well-crafted, poignant, and rings very true for her Lux and Lena. These sister are incredibly real and relatable. There were a couple of paragraphs here and there which were a little “tell” instead of “show”. They took me out of the story, but only for a moment before I was entrenched in it again. I’ll be interested to see what her next novel may be.

Who We Are Instead by Kyla Stone was released on February 15, 2017 by Paper Moon Press. 

Note: Thank you to Paper Moon Press and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Book blurb from Goodreads:

When her father has a massive heart attack, 20-year-old photography major Lena McKenna leaves college to provide hospice care for him after her rebellious younger sister, Lux, disappears. At home in her basement darkroom, Lena develops old family photographs, increasingly haunted by the memories of her mother, an intensely unhappy woman who committed suicide eight years before.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Lux, always wild and reckless, descends into desperate self-destruction. She can’t face the guilt eating away at her. She’ll do anything to escape it. Anything. Drugs, alcohol, boys. It doesn’t matter, as long as she forgets the memories that won’t let her go.

When her car breaks down, Lena runs into Eli, a former classmate and popular jock. While he’s as cocky as ever, he’s also full of surprises—including a two-year-old daughter he’s raising as a single father. In spite of herself, Lena falls hard for this newer, kinder version of Eli. But how can she believe in love when everything’s falling apart around her?

As their father’s condition worsens, old memories rise to the surface. Lux’s out-of-control behavior leaves a trail of devastation in her wake. Lena must make a choice. Escape her past and leave her sister behind, or turn and face the demons that may destroy them both.

Who We Are Instead explores the dynamics of familial responsibility, the volatile relationship between sisters—the memories that bind them together and the rivalries and resentments that tear them apart—and the way we blur the lines between loyalty and obligation, truth and deception, honor and betrayal.

#FridayFeels Book Review: The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

I first read this book over winter break. It is one of those books that I wasn’t sure of at first, mostly because I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA. I picked it up on a whim in an attempt to break my fantasy/sci-fi cycle.

The Problem with Forever hooked me the moment the two main characters, Rider and Mallory, recognized each other. They have a past that many of us cannot imagine, having been passed through the foster care system, and for a time were together in an abusive home. Rider, though only a little older than Mallory, was very brave and protective of her, trying to keep their abuser away.

When we enter the story, we find out that Mallory has been home-schooled for years now thanks to her new foster parents. She is in a stable home, no other foster kids, with great opportunities to grow and learn but is still held back by the fears that once surrounded her. She has decided to go to public school, which terrifies her but she wants to go. If you’ve read the book synopsis (I’ll put it at the bottom of the page), you will know that she runs into Rider on the very first day of school. This sets off problems in many directions, but in a great way.

At first what I liked about this story is that it was two childhood friends who are reunited for their senior year. I thought to myself… this will work out really well because they are friends. They have both changed, but they will be able to get through things now.

Ultimately though, what I loved about this book, is that it is a comeback story within a coming-of-age story. Mallory has intense psychological setbacks because of her history but she is a fighter and very little actually scares her (aside from public speaking). Her trained response may be to remain silent and hide, but she has moments of strength that are just heart-wrenching and beautiful.

Rider, too, has a journey of his own and at times I was mad at him, and at times I thought he was the greatest person alive. Actually that goes for Mallory too, sometimes I was incredibly frustrated with her, but then she would have a breakthrough or something. I really felt her intensity and anxiety and excitement along with her.

This felt like one of the quickest reads I’ve ever had, but it is nearly 500 pages long. So if you are like me, prepare to be absorbed and feel LOTS of feelings. Happy, sad, horror, depression, anxiety, relief, hallelujah (which is it’s own feeling, no matter what anyone says), love, fear, triumph–the whole gang is here. It’s inspiring. Not only for what the characters have been through, or what they have to overcome, but for their outlook on the world.

If I had to note one fault in The Problem with Forever, it would be an odd side story that begins with Mallory’s best friend, Ainsley. Ainsley is great as a safe harbor type friend. You’ll see what I mean about the ‘let’s just add one more thing to the side plot’ bit when you get there. Afterwards, let’s just pretend that didn’t happen.

Book blurb from Goodreads:

26721568For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.

Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.

Book Review: A Stolen Crown (Stolen Royals # 2) by Kelsey Keating

33299061Whew, I made it! This book was really, really cute. It revolves around two girls, Cecily and Rory, and their friendship through many tests (men and magic and secrets included.) This read like a movie, almost like a Disney-esque movie… it is fast-paced and incredibly dialogue heavy, but in a good way. You can really hear their voices and feel what they are feeling.

So much happened in this read that your head can be left spinning, but it is darker where it needs to be a light-hearted through the majority of it. Cece and Rory are both very strong characters, though not without their flaws (which get called out over the course of the book.) At times Cecily shows her age and immaturity, as she should. And Rory for all her wisdom, cunning and confidence as Cece’s bodyguard, is also prone to hurting her friend’s feelings.

While the main tale seems to be that Cecily is on her way to get married, and adventure ensues along the way, the real story is between the girls. And that makes it very likable.

A Stolen Crown is the second book in the Stolen Royals series, by Kelsey Keating, in a planned trilogy. You do not need to have read the first book to be able to enjoy the second. While both books take place in the same world, they can be treated as standalones otherwise. That being said, the first book is worth a read as well. I think this is perfect for mature middle-grade readers or young adults who enjoy classic (and slightly fractured) fairy tales. It is definitely not historical fiction, the dialogue is really modern in places, which lends itself fine to the age. Basically, it’s not to be taken too seriously, it is just a fun fairy tale.

Thank you to the Swanifide Publishing and NetGalley for this reader’s copy in exchange for a review. A Stolen Crown was released on January 17, 2017 and is available now.

From Goodreads:

When Princess Cecily Degalt travels south to wed a prince she’s never met, she’s ushered into a strange new world alongside her best friend and bodyguard, Rory Castille. With an MIA fiancé, his handsome twin brother, and a kidnapping gone wrong, life in Myrzel isn’t quite what Cecily expected. 

Rory will do anything to keep Cecily from harm–but when Rory’s darkest secret comes between her and Cecily, the greatest danger to the princess might be Rory herself.

Torn apart for the first time, each girl will have to think like the other as she faces not only the darkness of Fangralee Forest, but a dangerous enemy closer to home.

Book Review: Pretty Fierce by Kiernan Scott

I was excited to read this book as I love espionage and assassin type movies like the newer James Bond movies, Spy with Melissa McCarthy, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Professional, Collateral… oh how the list goes on and on. They are thrilling and action packed, so to see that genre in a YA offering had me itching to get through the pages as soon as I could.

pfPretty Fierce by Kiernan Scott is quite the ride. It centers around a girl named Kaia, whose parents are professional killers. A year before our story begins, Kaia is playing a game with her mother in a hotel room. Her mother is anxiously watching and listening, but still trying her best to entertain her daughter. It’s clear that something is amiss. A phone call and gunshots shift the story that was clearly on the edge of a blade in the wrong direction, and Kaia ends up living in hiding on her own.

A year later, we find Kaia has been attending school and being cared for by a set of guardians, and even has a boyfriend. But she is now discovered by hitmen who tell her that her mother is alive, and are trying to find out what Kaia knows. In a quick move, Kaia clocks the man over the head with the stock of a shotgun and is threatening his life when her boyfriend, Oliver, walks in on them. Kaia can’t bring herself to kill the man, especially in front of Oliver who has no idea what is going on. She grabs Oliver, packs them into a car, bursts through the garage door and goes on the run with him.

And trust me, that’s just the first few pages, so not much of a spoiler! Kaia has to figure out who is after her and what the truth is about her parents. Is her mom still alive? Is her dad still out there? What happened in the job gone wrong all those months ago? And if they are out there, why didn’t they ever come for her?

I think my favorite part of this story was actually Oliver’s voice and how he was processing things, and his descriptions of Kaia and the actions through his eyes. There were moments that the writing did take me out of the story, or perhaps I am not used to the author’s voice; mostly this is when there were memories explained in the middle of an important moment, rather than waiting to explain it. It was almost like revealing things as you go, instead of saving those moments for the quieter times in between the action.

Overall it was an interesting read, and as I understand it, this is a new genre for the author. I may have to check out some of her other works and see how different her voice is there. It was a fast-paced book with plenty of chase scenes, guns to the forehead type scenes and lots of intrigue to keep readers engaged. The writing style was not exactly for me fit-wise in some places, but I would recommend it to action-seekers.

Pretty Fierce is scheduled to be released on April 4, 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire.

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!