Monday, October 23, 2017

Review: Top Ten - Katie Cotugno

Top Ten
Katie Cotugno
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Blazer + Bray
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars
Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?
I really loved this book, and as an homage to Ryan, Gabby, and their lists, I will give my top ten reasons why I loved this book.
  1. Ryan, on the surface, appeared to be this happy-go-lucky jock, who was super popular, could have any girl he wanted, and thought life was a great big party. In reality, he felt alone in crowds and yearned for one-on-one interactions, he felt abandoned by his super-critical father, and he spent most of this book pining for the girl he didn't think he could have. 
  2. Gabby had to struggle every day with her anxiety. She was plagued by panic attacks, and they kept her from letting her true and awesome self shine though. I was beyond elated that she found comfort and solace in Ryan. He was one of the few people, who could talk her through an attack, and he accepted her panic attacks and all. 
  3. Friendship is the heart of this story, and it was a very beautiful friendship. It had it's ups and downs, and I like that the challenges particular to a female/male friendship were addressed, because  they were so realistic. I was just so happy that they found each other, when they really needed that "person" to count on. This friendship may have had a super awkward start, but it blossomed into something really special. 
  4. Family played a huge role in Gabby and Ryan's lives. Gabby's family was beyond wonderful. I loved playing Monopoly with them and couldn't wait to see what appetizer Dad made from his cookbook. They were open about most things, and the love just enveloped me every time we encountered a full family scene. It was no surprise why Ryan opted to spend his Friday nights with the Harts. 
  5. Romance was present throughout the book. Gabby and Ryan both explored serious relationships with other people. I won't lie, I was sort of sad that they were sharing experiences with other people and not each other, but I have to say, Cotugno did such a wonderful job with them. They were very special moments and they felt very special to me. 
  6. So many emotions! I actually have tears streaming down my face as I write this review, because I felt way too much as I read this book. There were so many ups and downs, which happen with long friendships, but there were also a million things that made my heart soar. I am crying, but I am smiling too. 
  7. Four years. We get to be part of Ryan and Gabby's lives for four years, and I go gaga for books that let me watch the characters change and grow over an extended period of time. 
  8. I loved the format of this book. Since this is essentially a list of the top ten moments in Gabby and Ryan's relationship, it skips around chronologically. I liked it, because things would be hinted at, which had not been revealed to us yet. It created a little bit of mystery and made me eager to find out more. The way Cotugno laid out the top ten was not random, they put in an intentional order and each vignette fit logically in its place. It also let me compare and contrast the Gabby and Ryan at different points in time, and I loved making note of all the changes they were experiencing. 
  9. Post graduation struggle. A lot of books hype graduation as the most marvelous thing ever. Everyone is so excited and ready to move on to bigger and better things, but I do not believe that is how every senior/new graduate feels. It's scary and a huge life change. For some, it entails moving away from the safety of their home and they have to start over from in a new place. I liked that Gabby and Ryan had these fears and shared them with us. 
  10. This near-perfect story of friendship, family, and love made me so happy. I was totally invested from the very beginning, and although the ending left me a little wanting, I still will sing its praises, because it delivered an incredible reading experience for me. 
Read these quotes and feel some feels with me:
"Celia called him the Great Equalizer. He was Gabby's social security blanket, her failsafe against miserable, crippling anxiety; she had no idea what she was going to do without him come fall."

"You're just embarrassed that all the most important moments of your adolescence include me."

"Two months. The thought of it gave Ryan that same uneasy feeling from earlier, like everything was about to change whether he wanted it to or not and he couldn't do one single thing to stop it."

"She was a really good question-asker. She remembered all the weird, random stuff he said. She had an opinion about literally everything.."

"literally no one there would notice if I fell of the face of the earth."
"I'd notice," Ryan said immediately.

"He was homesick, he realized. He was homesick for her."

"but the only person he knew for absolute sure he still wanted to be around after graduation was - Well. Gabby, actually."

"He was her most important person, the one she told things to so that they would be real. So that she would be. HIs friendship was the best thing in her life."

"She missed his loud, stupid laugh. She missed his hands and his mouth and the steadiness of his best friendship but worse than ll that's the undeniable fact that some very important, tethered part of her had shut down when they broke up and now she seemed to be hurtling off through space at a million miles per hour, her oxygen tank rapidly emptying out."

"He was scared too, to be honest: of who he might be now that he wasn't who he'd been planning, of the future and whatever it held. But sitting here with Gabby made him feel like he could handle it. Sitting here with Gabby made him feel weirdly brave."

"This is it," she said, swallowing her heart back down into her chest where it belonged. She wanted to reach into her rib cage and hand it to him for safekeeping, wanted him to know he had it no matter what else happened next.

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book.

Do you make top ten lists?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sundays with Sam - The Sunday Post

Sundays with Sam is a combination of Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

My Week in Review

I had a most awesome Sunday last week. We had a little WLABB day (we missed you Amrutha and Marlon!). Me, Kiersten, and Noor all went and had a fabulous brunch together, and then did some shopping. Noor takes really great pictures, so I stole her Instagram of our food.

A post shared by Noor Azeem (@looonylovegood) on

Other than that, I just read and went to work, but here's some stuff I found web surfing.

I cannot lie, I got sort of emotional when I watched this Burger King PSA.

Swoon Reads books and I have a good relationship, so you know I downloaded the app.

And, I just wanted to share one of the many awesome posts from Princess Sassy Pants. I have followed this account on Facebook and Instagram for a quite a while, and am a huge fan.

On the Blog:
**The ARC giveaway for A Short History of the Girl Next Door is still open. 


I showed some self control, and did not buy any new books this week. I was so close about 8 times, but I resisted.


What I Read Last Week

No five star reads this week, but I would say they were all solid reads. My normal complaint popped up a few times (the ending!), but I would say I throughly enjoyed every book.

  • The Final Score by Jaci Burton (audiobook): I am a fan of this series, and was really excited to see Nathan, who was a teen in the first book, make it to the NFL and get his romance. I like friends-to-more stories, and Nathan and Mia had great chemistry and a really wonderful friendship. 
  • Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis: This one was a surprise to me. It delivered a lot more than I expected, and I really liked the direction Davis took with the story. 
  • My Unscripted Life by Lauren Morrill: I thought this was adorable, and I really liked that there was more to the story than just the romance. ★ 1/2
  • Book of Lies by Teri Terry: I really enjoyed this eerie family drama, and was quite pleased with the ending Terry gave us. ★ 1/2
  • Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz: I did NOT judge this as a re-telling, but simply as the fun romance that it was. I totally shipped this couple, and thought de la Cruz gave me a great epilogue. ★ 1/2
  • Slap Shot by Kelly Jamieson: Hockey romances are my weakness, and this one was really good. It was fun, but had depth, and the whole dead wife angle managed to get some tears from me too. 
  • The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace: I have to say, Wallace's writing is exquisite, which really gave this book a magical quality. This book was an interesting tale, where stories from 12 generations of women are interwoven with flashbacks and current time chapters as Sorrow tries to remember her sister's final days. 
What I Am Currently Reading

I am about halfway through The House at 758, and I am slowly starting to put this puzzle together. Each small piece I pick up on seems to bring a few tears to my eyes. I have a feeling I will be sobbing when I get the full story. I really have not listened to much of Crazy Rich Asians, but what I have listened to so far has been pretty hilarious.

What I Plan to Read

I have some high hopes for my TBR this week, as it contains three of my Can't-Wait Wednesday picks. Fingers crossed I am not disappointed. And, obviously, I had to include a hockey romance, because I am utter trash for them.

How was your week?
Let us know in the comments!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Off Topic: You Compare it with a Hallmark Movie Like That's a Bad Thing

Off Topic is WLABBs post for discussing non-bookish things. This week, I am talking about

If there is one thing I look forward to, it's Saturday nights, because that is when the new Hallmark movies air. I will, without shame, aver my love for these movies. Yes, they may be a little cheesy and predictable, but I cannot help by enjoy every second of them.

Why I enjoy Hallmark movies:

  1. These movies are fun and lighthearted. Sometimes, the world can be scary and cold, but these movies always warm my heart and leave a smile on my face. 
  2. I am a lover and love and will never turn away from a sweet romance. I don't think I have every seen a non-romantic Hallmark movie, and therefore, I know no matter what movie is on, it will appeal to the romance lover in me. 
  3. These movies are good, clean fun, dare I say, wholesome, and sometimes you want to revert to that kinder, gentler kind of entertainment. As a bonus, they can be enjoyed by the whole family. 
  4. I NEED an HEA, and these movies always end happily ever after. I dare to dream that some things can end with joy and happiness, and it's movies like these that help me hold on to that hope. 
  5. They do these seasonal themes, and it's always fun to find the common thread through the group of films. 
  6. I sort of love that they pull from the same pool of actors for these movies. I like seeing a familiar face. It's like coming home. 
  7. When things are tough, I just want something that I can depend on, and I can pretty much tell you where each movie is going early on, and I love it. It is very comforting to know how things will turn out at times. 
  8. There are always people committing acts of kindness in these movies. I need to be reminded of stuff like that, because as I said before, the world can be a cold, scary place. This helps me keep my faith in humanity. 
  9. Each movie ends with a kiss. If you don't believe me, watch a few. 
  10. My favorite time of year is approaching too: Countdown to Christmas! An HEA with holiday magic? What more could I ask for!

Now it's your turn!

Hallmark Movies - Yea or Nay? 
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Teaser: Saving It - Monica Murphy

Saving It, an all-new YA romance from Monica Murphy is coming November 6th!

Eden: Josh Evans and I have been best friends forever. He knows all my secrets, and I know all of his. So when he randomly asks me to help him lose his virginity, I sort of flip out. That’s a question that sends your mind to places you’ve seriously never considered before. Like, you know. Having sex. With your best friend. Except Josh doesn’t want to have sex with me—he wants me to help him find a girl. A nice girl who’s funny and smart and cute. Except he already knows a girl just like that…

Josh: Eden Sumner is my best friend. So of course she’d be the person to help me find my perfect match, so I can drop my V card before I head off to college. Except the more we search, the more I realize that maybe the right girl has been by my side all along. I don’t need Eden’s help in finding me a girl to love. I’m pretty sure I’m already in love with Eden. But now she thinks I’m only after one thing…with anyone but her.

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In a Nutshell Reviews: Girls Lost and Found

In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want the highlights. All three of this week's books are connected by the theme of self discovery.

Everything Must Go
Jenny Fran Davis
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Flora Goldwasser has fallen in love. She won't admit it to anyone, but something about Elijah Huck has pulled her under. When he tells her about the hippie Quaker school he attended in the Hudson Valley called Quare Academy, where he'll be teaching next year, Flora gives up her tony upper east side prep school for a life on a farm, hoping to woo him. A fish out of water, Flora stands out like a sore thumb in her vintage suits among the tattered tunics and ripped jeans of the rest of the student body. When Elijah doesn't show up, Flora must make the most of the situation and will ultimately learn more about herself than she ever thought possible.

Told in a series of letters, emails, journal entries and various ephemera, Flora's dramatic first year is laid out for all to see, embarrassing moments and all.
  • Pro: I love mixed format books, and this one included emails, blog posts, photos, letters, and more. The different formats were used well, and were cleverly used to bring in different perspectives. 
  • Pro: Flora was a star. I loved her voice from page one, and I was so happy to go on this journey with her. 
  • Pro: The colorful cast of characters gave me the gift of laughter over and over again. 
  • Pro: Flora and her sister had a sisterly bond that made me jealous. Lael was an incredible big sister and was still there for Flora even when she went against her advice. 
  • Con: The ending was sweet, but I am not too sure what the intention was. Not disappointing, because I smiled, but still not sure about it. 
  • Pro: As radical as the school was for me, there were a lot of interesting ideas discussed and I like when I am made to look at something in a different way or left with food for thought. 
  • Pro: There are many, many feminists in this book, and therefore. lots of feminists discussions. But what I loved most about this girl-powered group, was how they wanted to support one of their own in her time of need. 

Overall: A fun and quirky coming of age tale filled with wonderful and interesting characters, which left me with a smile on my head and a lot of interesting thoughts in my head.

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book.

My Unscripted Life
Lauren Morill
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Delacorte
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars
Perfect for fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Huntley Fitzpatrick, you'll love this funny and sweet contemporary romance about a Southern girl ready for a ho-hum summer until she meets the boy of her dreams who happens to be an international pop star.

Sometimes love stories go off script.

Another sultry Georgia summer is about to get a lot hotter. Dee Wilkie is still licking her wounds after getting rejected by the precollege fine arts program of her dreams. But if she'd gone away, she wouldn't have been around to say yes to an unbelievable opportunity: working on the set of a movie filming in her small Southern town that just happens to be starring Milo Ritter, the famous pop star Dee (along with the rest of the world) has had a crush since eighth grade.

It's not like Dee will be sharing any screen time with Milo—she's just a lowly PA. And Milo is so disappointingly rude that Dee is eager to stay far away from him. Except after a few chance meetings, she begins to wonder if just maybe there's a reason for his offensive attitude, and if there's more to Milo than his good looks and above-it-all Hollywood pedigree. Can a relationship with a guy like Milo ever work out for a girl like Dee? Never say never. . .
  • Pro: Super-cute summer romance
  • Pro: I really liked getting to know the "real" Milo, and I was glad he found someplace where he could be real. 
  • Pro: Lots of interesting movie making concepts were shared with us, and I really felt like I was on the set with the characters. 
  • Con: Jealousy and miscommunication play a role in this story, and I thought Dee needed to tone it down at time. 
  • Pro: The "crisis of direction" Dee was having was a great aspect of the story. I was really happy with where Morill went with this, and besides, Dee was a great character, who was able to switch gears and use her talent in a different way. 
  • Pro: I have a thing for small town settings, and Wilder was a pretty nice town to visit. 
  • Pro: I liked the family interactions. Dee's history geek dad and romance writer mom added some fun to the story, and they were great parents. 
  • Pro: I am pretty sure we can count what happened near the end as a grand gesture, and I LOVE grand gestures. 
  • Pro: Thank you very much for the epilogue. It was quite the time jump I would have liked, but it was still good. 
But did I mention that there was a grand gesture?

Overall: A cute and fluffy romance, where Dee found love and herself as she found her new direction.

Book of Lies
Teri Terry
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Publisher: Clarion Books
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars
Who lies? Who tells the truth? Death hangs on the answer...

'Highly recommended, especially for those who like their fantasy subtle but chillingly effective, and populated by characters they can believe in' (Starburst Magazine)

Tell a lie and the darkness will find you. Quinn and Piper are twins, but they've never met. A tragic event brings them together, and draws them into a family curse that stretches across centuries. One twin can command the darkness; the other could hold the key to breaking the curse. But when lies become truth and truth looks like lies, who can you believe?

Don't miss this startling new book from Teri Terry, queen of the YA psychological thriller!

They are trapped, frozen. Waiting. Straining against the wood that holds them. The unwary catch a glimpse now and then - feel their desperate hunger, see a glint of red eyes - and scurry out of the shadows of the wood, back to the light. She's coming; it will be soon. They will run free on the moors again. The Hunt will return. And the ground will run with blood.

  • Pro: A Compelling Mystery that is a little dark and creepy. 
  • Pro: Terry did a great job creating an eerie atmosphere in this book, which added to the overall level of tension of this tale. 
  • Pro: A mysterious inheritance, a secret sister, a family curse, and dark dreams held my interest in this story. 
  • Pro: The book had quite a few good twists and turns to keep us from guessing the truth too early. 
  • Con: It takes a while to hit its stride, but if you are patient, you will find the story gets better and better with each page.  
  • Pro: I like the alternating POV format, which employed shorter chapters and clearly showed the contrast between the two twins. 
  • Pro: I found the ending very interesting and though provoking. I wish I could say more, but I don't do spoilers. 
  • Pro: Did I mention witches and magic?

  • Overall: An intriguing atmospheric tale, with some interesting ideas about truth and lies, good and evil, love and family. 

    **I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book.

    Have you read any of these books?
    Let us know in the comments!