Review: Comeback by Lyn Ashwood and Rachel Rose

Title: Comeback: A K-Pop Novel
Authors: Lyn Ashwood & Rachel Rose
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Emery Jung is living his dream. Known by his stage name M, he is loved by millions of fans around the world as a member of the rising K-pop group NEON, but all fame comes with a cost, especially when one slip up can have viral consequences.

Alana Kim is trying to forget. After a tragic loss sends her spiraling, she escapes to her family in Korea, abandoning her love of music along the way. However, her plans are derailed when she literally runs into M, the famous K-pop idol.

When their paths collide, Emery and Alana must work together to prevent a scandal from ruining NEON’s success, sparking a journey of friendship, love, and healing. Unfortunately, fame and love aren’t easily compatible, especially in the world of K-pop.

Review:

This was the book I needed when I was a teenager. Filled with wonderful K-Pop goodness, Comeback is heartbreaking and heartwarming with just a dash of K-Drama cheesiness.

Right from the beginning, readers are pulled into the insanity that is the K-Pop industry. Ashwood & Rose do a phenomenal job of introducing Korean terms to readers who are less familiar with the industry. For me, it was like being welcomed home – the music shows, the live streaming, these authors knew the industry through and through and were sharing their love for idols and fans alike with this book!

NEON, GLO, HI5, Cocoa Pop, LilyRed, Music Now, I Can Cook – the groups, the shows, and the idols created for this book were so realistic. Honestly, it was impossible to tell the difference between this and real life. Group dynamics were fleshed out, relationships and mannerisms were spot on, and I loved every moment of it. The dialogue and reactions even added to the world building. I don’t know how to describe it, but I knew exactly what tone and manner some of the lines were delivered in based on past K-Pop variety shows and behind-the-scenes that I’ve watched in the past. Everything was spot on! I also loved that we got to see the world from an idol’s POV (Emery), and a fan/coordinators’ POV (Alana).

Character wise, I adored Emery and Alana – they both had their flaws and their issues and their suffering honestly broke my heart. I cried for this one, the feels just hit me, but I also smiled and laughed a lot at NEON’s antics and how cute Emery and Alana were. The book addresses the issue of mental health from multiple perspectives and brings together these two characters who can help each other work through them. Note “work through them”. I appreciate that their friendship with one another, and relationships with others help them open up about their issues, but didn’t necessarily present an immediate fix. Mental health isn’t something that can be fixed with an “We love you” and a “We’ll be there for you” mentality – it’s something that takes hard work and the will to change, and the authors put a lot of care into their journey towards being better.

Overall, the writing was great – the characters, the world building, the development of the story was so well done, and I enjoyed every second of it. I’ll admit, there is a bit of cheesiness in the dialogue and internal narrative that made me both cringe a bit and smile, but it wouldn’t be a book about K-Pop without it! Comeback was a super cute book that addressed a lot of heavy topics very well, and I would definitely recommend it for everyone, even if you’re not a K-Pop fan!

Also, I love that the authors came up with this idea on the way to a KARD concert – KARD is amazing, live and in general, and if you’re just jumping into K-Pop, definitely would recommend them.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.13/5

eARC obtained through Reedsy Discovery in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: My Life As Kelsey by Victoria Anders

Title: My Life As Kelsey
Author: Victoria Anders
Publication Date: May 1, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Work, rinse, repeat. That’s my summer in three words. Nothing amusing about working at an amusement park—until Stone Maverick Avery walks in with his designer sunglasses and rock star attitude. He’s totally out of my league. Oh, did I forget to mention, I’m not allowed to date?

My mom, who’s afraid I’ll end up an unwed, single teen mom like her, keeps me on lockdown from friends and boys. She insists my priorities be SATs and finishing top of my class.

As summer ends and 11th grade begins, I must say goodbye to my little bit of freedom. And goodbye to any chance of seeing Stone again.

But then it happens. That tragic event that redefines my life and turns it from monotonous existence to roller coaster journey: finding first love, learning the truth about my father, and discovering a different side of my mother. Twists and turns that teach me about all the facets of love.

In the end, will these lessons allow me to live a life of no regret or will I let my past pull me under?

My name is Kelsey. And this is my life.

Review:

My Life as Kelsey is very much a teen book. At the heart of it, Kelsey is trying to live her life. There aren’t any fantastical creatures, no harrowing adventures, just a girl doing her best.

Right from the start, you could tell Kelsey was a good person. She had her hangups (particularly her mother’s restrictions on her life), but she was kind, caring, and generally a nice person to spend time with. Throughout the book, she reacted in ways that were so realistic, it was hard to find anything that truly bothered me about her. She was a genuine character who had genuine reactions and I appreciated that immensely.

I really like the secondary characters too. Adam was super kind and loving, and Kelsey was honestly so lucky to have him. Stone was a super considerate and loving person, aware of his flaws and brokeness in a way that won me over. The characters and the writing honestly made this book so easy to read and settle into – I loved it!

The only reason I took away a star from my rating was the tragic event mentioned in the synopsis. It was indeed tragic, but Kelsey’s reaction and the reaction of those around her didn’t feel fully explored. If you’re looking for a book on “tragedy,” this one didn’t really touch me. As great as everything else was, this was the one thing that felt more like a plot device than a life-changing moment.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely. If you’re looking for characters who are real with themselves, honest about their feelings, and open to love while caring for others, this is the book to read.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4.5/5
World Building: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.11/5

eARC received via Victora Anders via Reedsy Discovery

Review: She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop

Title: She Regrets Nothing
Author: Andrea Dunlop
Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
GoodReads

Synopsis:

In the tradition of The Emperor’s Children and The House of Mirth, the forgotten granddaughter of one of New York’s wealthiest men is reunited with her family just as she comes of age—and once she’s had a glimpse of their glittering world, she refuses to let it go without a fight.

When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.

Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth.

Review:

I don’t think I have ever been so disappointed by a book. I have DNF’d books before, not because they were like this one, but because I knew I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to enjoy them. One day, I’ll get back to a lot of those books and I know they’ll be good.

This one though… Oh man. She Regrets Nothing made me regret requesting it on NetGalley. When I read the synopsis, I was getting a lot of Gossip Girl vibes, and yet I don’t think anyone in Gossip Girl was as entitled, selfish, and hypocritical as Laila. And that’s saying something, because the GG Upper East Side was fierce.

Laila is the perfect example of how wealth, or even aspiring to inherit wealth, can corrupt one’s character. While we begin the book sympathizing with Laila’s situation, that sympathy quickly dissipates as we see how she begins to treat people once she sees money.

There is gold digger and then there is Laila. She hopes to take New York by storm, and ride on the coattail of her rich and famous cousins. She gets into the good clubs, meets billionaires, and betrays basically everyone who is ever nice to her. Her cousins – Liberty, Nora, and Leo – take Laila under their wing. Nora and Leo let Laila live with them for free, Liberty gives Laila a job, and yet Laila remains the most ungrateful ingrate on earth. She continues to claw for more.

However, this is where the hypocrisy comes in – she faults the men that she meets for doing the exact same thing she is – trying to rise above their station and all that, and she looks down upon them from a high seat that no one ever gave her, and no one really thinks she deserves. Now this plot line goes on for about 80% of the book, and all I could do was sit there utterly exasperated by her. I stick by the rule of not quoting ARCs, but I’m fairly sure at least some of the quotes I have saved up are in the final version, and none of them make her look like a good person at all.

Then there’s the family scandal – no only is that plot line a stub as short as the TTC’s Sheppard line, but it’s not even acknowledged by the older people in the book until about 95% through the book. I was waiting for this huge revelation and I got nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Which leads me to the regret. I spent weeks trying to get through this book because I knew that I wasn’t turned off from it because of my mood, but because of Laila and her terrible character. In the end, I only liked Liberty and Reece, but at the same time, they were barely developed as characters and that drove me bonkers.

As a whole, I was left unimpressed by this book, not just for the terrible MC, but for the lack of plot, the poor execution, and the feeling of what-the-hell I was left with when I turned the last page. Definitely not a satisfying read for me.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 1/5
Writing: 2/5
World Building: 4/5
Pacing: 1/5
Overall: 1/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.65/5

eARC obtained via Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: It Started with Goodbye

Title: It Started with Goodbye
Author: Christina June
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Blink
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance Retelling
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

Review:

As a whole, this book was cute, but if you know me, cute doesn’t quite cut it.

Let’s start with the Cinderella idea – I honestly wouldn’t have instantly thought this book was a modern day retelling, but don’t worry! If you forget, the book will beat you with that fact repeatedly.

Tatum isn’t a helpless Cinderella per say. She is absolute piss at defending herself, but she manages to start her own freelance business which helps her make her own money. That’s like the the equivalent of teenage success. However, she was at the wrong place at the wrong time and she gets punished for being in the driver’s seat of a car. And honestly – I get it. When your parents need to pick you up at the police station, you know there’s a punishment at the end of the car ride home. She ends up grounded and her travels are limited to baby sitting, her community service, and her sister’s school events. Colour me surprised…

I get it though – some of the rules that were implemented were a little much, but I’ve heard of those punishments before in other books. Maybe it’s ’cause my parents are more restrictive than most, but I didn’t find the whole thing that weird or restraining. I get why she thought it was unfair, but her defence on the matter sucked. She barely stood up for herself and I wouldn’t have sided with her either if I’d been her parents.

With all that being said, I really liked the idea of Tatum being independent and earning her own money from baby-sitting and freelancing. She took something she excelled at and pursued it. I really like that this part was in the book as it’s the gate to a lot of what comes later, but also because it shows that if you enjoy something you should explore it and see where it leads!

The character development in this book was also pretty great. There are a lot of lessons to be learned here and I really liked how the characters grew with the story and how more and more is revealed about each character as time goes on. It’s so easy to judge people and I enjoyed seeing how the characters grew and changed from the MC’s perspective.

As a whole, this was a cute, light story that is fairly conservative when it comes to the romantic aspects of the novel. With all the more graphic romance books out there for teens, this was a breath of fresh air!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.82/5

 

eARC obtained via Blink via NetGalley.

Review + Book Tour: Internet Famous

Welcome to the Internet Famous Blog Tour, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours!~

Title: Internet Famous
Author: Danika Stone
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: June 6th 2017
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Can an online romance survive in real life?

Internet sensation Madison Nakama has it all! Her pop-culture rewatch site has a massive following, and fans across the world wait on her every post and tweet. Even Madi’s dismal romantic life seems ready to take off as Laurent, a fellow geek (and unfairly HOT French exchange student!) starts flirting with her in the comments section of her blog. But Laurent’s not the only one watching for Madi’s replies.

Internet fame has a price, and their online romance sparks the unwanted attention of a troll. When Madi’s “real life” hits a rough patch, she feels her whole world crumbling. With Laurent’s support, can Madi rally her friends across the globe to beat the troll, or will he succeed in driving her away from everything―and everyone―she loves?

Review:

First off, I loved that this book gave so much time to Madi actually writing her blog, and tweeting out to her followers. It gave a sense of realism to the book – she wasn’t famous just because, she was famous cause she actually put time and effort into her work. As a blogger, I was able to relate to her a lot. That being said, I can’t say that I’m as accustomed to so many (read: any) responses to my work. It was great seeing Madi interact with her fanbase and try to be neutral and kind in her posts.

I have to admit – the troll made me nervous. There’s something about a faceless villain that really gets to you. And the scary thing is that it can happen. This is the world that we live in, where people can ruin your safe space with a few simple clicks of a button. And it sucks. It sucked for Madi more than most <highlight for spoilers> because the troll actually affected her real life – her schooling, her grades – and I think the worst is that the school kept buying into anonymous tips about Madi’s work that never actually panned out.  My stomach kept knotting itself every time the troll struck, and that feeling is what fueled me through the book. I needed to know what the resolution was. I needed to know why this troll was after her.

Madi herself was well developed – I enjoyed her little quips and appreciated her introversion. Her motto was something along the lines of human interaction sucks, and I can definitely relate to that. We really got to see her step outside of her comfort zone and learn to take control of her own life. Madi’s sister, Sarah, added a lot of emotion to the book. I loved her and yet I also understood Madi’s own kind of resentment towards her parents, and kind of her sister. We learn early on that Sarah is someone with special needs, though her condition is never actually named. She is fun and lovable, and my heart hurts for her throughout the novel. Madi tries her best with her and I love the sisterly relationship that is a big part of this novel.

The romance itself is cute – it doesn’t actually steal the spotlight in the book, and I have to give the author credit for that. Some of the ideas lent to the whole long-distance relationship were fun and creative, too, and I enjoyed learning more about Laurent and the other NYC characters.

Random note: I would love to see/own a printed version of the book because some of the details would be cool to see off the screen.

As a whole, this book is probably one of my favourites this year. The resolution of the book was really well done, and I didn’t actually feel like the end was rushed. In fact, the epilogue was just what I needed to finish off the book (it’s something I kind of wanted to see at the end of books like Girl at Sea and other romantic contemporaries). Definitely would recommend!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4.5/5
World Building: 4/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Pacing: 5/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.8

eARC obtained via Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Buy Links:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

About the Author:

Danika Stone is an author, artist, and educator who discovered a passion for writing fiction while in the throes of her Masters thesis. A self-declared bibliophile, Danika now writes novels for both adults (The Intaglio Series and Ctrl Z) and teens (Icarus and All the Feels). When not writing, Danika can be found hiking in the Rockies, planning grand adventures, and spending far too much time online. She lives with her husband, three sons, and a houseful of imaginary characters in a windy corner of Alberta, Canada.

The first book in Danika’s upcoming Tathagata series (Edge of Wild) was selected as a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel of the Year Award (2013). Edge of Wild (Stonehouse CA) will be released March 2016. Danika’s YA novel, All the Feels (Macmillan US), will be released June 2016.

Ms. Stone is represented by Morty Mint of Mint Literary Agency.

Author Links:
Website | GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway:

Tour-wide giveaway | Open US/CAN

Enter to win a print copy of Internet Famous!

Review: The Darkest Corners

Title: The Darkest Corners
Author: Kara Thomas
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Mystery Thriller
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
GoodReads

Synopsis:

There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.

Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.

But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

Review:

This took a me a long time to review. It’s not that it was a bad book – it was quite good in fact. I think it was because I didn’t know what to do with it. At the end, I had so many questions that didn’t have answers. Here I am, a year later, reflecting on it, and I still say that it’s a pretty great book.

I liked Tessa. I enjoyed accompanying her on her hunt for clues, even when her curiosity made my stomach clench in fear for her. In the end, I also ended up liking Callie, despite my initial annoyance with her character. She grows up, I think, a lot throughout the novel.

Admittedly, the pacing was a little slow. There was a lot of history of the characters and of the town itself, and a lot of “why me” thoughts. But I felt like the book as a whole was put together well. Nothing was revealed too quickly, and I liked that there were some dead ends. It helped make the story more intriguing and creepy.

I read this book when I was taking a criminal profiling class in uni and I found it fascinating to learn and read about this whole thing simultaneously. While I found that some things made sense, I felt that there were a couple things that were a bit of a stretch. In the end though, I was too surprised to really care much about the couple of things that didn’t really click for me.

The end itself was quite the surprise for me, but at the same time, it left me wondering so many things. I get that there wouldn’t be a second one, but maybe a little more added to the ending would have been eye opening, or it might have ruined it, I don’t know.

The thing I love about Kara is that her books always surprise me. I really enjoyed her Prep School Confidential series, and I loved this books as well. I look forward to diving into her new book, Little Monsters, when it comes out in July!

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 4.5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.78/5

eARC obtained via Delacorte Press via Random House Children’s via NetGalley.

Book Tour + Review: The Waterfall Traveler

Welcome to the The Waterfall Traveler Book Tour, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours!~

Title: The Waterfall Traveler
Author: S.J. Lem
Publication Date: April 19th 2017
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
GoodReads

Synopsis:

All eighteen-year-old Ri wants is to cure her adoptive father Samuel from his hallucination-inducing illness. Everyone in her village tells her it’s impossible. But when she meets two newcomers in the forest—a gruff rogue with a vendetta against the gods and a charming fugitive who saves her life—she’ll be torn away from Samuel and swept across the sea to an oppressive city governed by a ruthless tyrant. Once there, she’ll not only have to confront Samuel’s unlawful past, but a vicious evil that threatens all mankind.

In this tale of bravery, friendship, and unforeseen love, Ri risks it all to save those she cares for. But if she prevails, she’ll find the one thing she yearns for most—a cure for Samuel.

Buy Links:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Review:

The Waterfall Traveler surprised me. I thought it’d be a little lighter, but this book was intense. There were a lot of dark scenes and a lot of death, and it was definitely an adventure/thrilling sort of read.

The book starts off running. We meet Ri and Samuel in the first few pages, and after the first couple chapters there’s an attack and then we’re off. It was fast-paced and intense, but not so much so that you didn’t have a chance to catch your breath.

I really like the intricacies of the book – a lot of the characters were connected to each other in unexpected ways and I was always surprised as to how. The development of the characters is pretty good too – each character has a chance at telling their story and what happened to them, and we as readers get to understand why they are how they are. I liked Ri’s independent and fighting spirit, even when it got them in trouble, and Bryce’s loyalty, and Carter’s sassiness, Katie’s sweet heart. That being said, I kind of really wanted to kick them all. Despite all their differences, every character was pretty self-sacrificing and overprotective. It was both admirable and irritating.

One thing that bothered me was that at the beginning there were a lot of “we’ll tell you later” sort of things. I get that they didn’t want to do an information dump, but there are less obvious ways to do that. I guess, in part, it was due to Ri’s bullheadedness, but it made the beginning kind of frustrating.

The end, however, was stellar. I was so surprised, I sped through the pages in excitement. There was a lot to digest, but it was worth it. I was really surprised, and kind of heart broken.

My next question would be whether this book has a sequel or not, as the end seems to hint at something of the sort!

Overall, an enjoyable read, but you really have to be willing to push through the first few chapters of the book!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 3.5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.45/5

ebook obtained via Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Buy Links:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

About the Author:

S.J. Lem is a digital art director gone writer in hopes of expanding her creative aspirations. Whether it’s introducing dimensional characters, crafting imaginative worlds, or transporting readers into high-stakes adventures, she strives to deliver an immersive experience.

She lives in Chicago with her husband and son. When not writing, she enjoys pottery, gardening, and volunteering. Connecting with readers and fellow writers is one of her greatest joys.

Author Links:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

Giveaway:

Open internationally! Enter to win:

  • A print copy of The Waterfall Traveler
  • $50 Amazon GC