Monday, August 6, 2018

In a Nutshell Reviews


In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want the highlights.

Courting Carlyn
Melissa Chambers
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Vaughn Yarborough is ready to trade the fame and glory of the international junior pro tennis circuit for college and a more settled life. First stop: spearhead a summer camp for underprivileged kids. The girl who’s agreed to run it with him has Vaughn more intrigued by the minute, but with the strict no-fraternizing rules, he’s got to figure out how not to fall for her.

When the boy Carlyn Sadowski has crushed on for years asks her to work with him for the summer, she has to pinch herself. When his world-famed coach offers her training for free, she can’t believe her luck. He could actually help her follow in her mother’s footsteps by playing college tennis. But when she finds out the catch is she’s got to convince Vaughn to go pro, Carlyn will have to decide between her dreams and the boy currently stealing her heart.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book features a super-hot sports star, the shy girl looking to grow her confidence on and off the court, and late-night shenanigans that would make your camp counselor blush.
He wanted to put down some roots. She wanted to continue her mother's tennis legacy. They needed each other to make it happen.
  • Pro: I am starting with my favorite part - the romance. It was very sweet. Carlyn and Vaughn had been in each other's orbits for years, but circumstances finally forced them to get to know one another. I really liked the way they opened up to one another, and found some support where they least expected it. 
  • Pro: Summer camp is always fun, and so was tennis camp. The setting took Carlyn and Vaughn out of their element, and accelerated their friendship due to proximity and the massive amount of time they had together. There were lots of fun hijinks too. 
  • Pro: Tennis action was actually portrayed in this book, and I am a firm believer that there should be some sports in a sports romance. 
  • Pro: The couple who ran the camp sort of won my heart. They filled a parent shaped void for both Carlyn and Vaughn, and I grew to love them so much. 
  • Pro: The story was light and breezy and perfect for summer. Both characters had some issues they were dealing with, but the story maintained a lighter tone, which is what I have grown to expect and I appreciate, when I pick up an Entangled romance. 
  • Pro: That is how you do an ending! So much closure. So much happy. Chambers made some great decisions with how she constructed the last bit of the book by cutting away at certain points and presenting a small portion from a different POV. I thought it was really well done. 
Overall: A fun and charming story of two people, who found each other while trying to find themselves.

The Last Best Story
Maggie Lehrman
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Blazer + Bray
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Rose Regnero was a star reporter for her high school paper, destined for a career in journalism, when she abruptly quit two months ago, leaving behind her very-nearly-sort-of-boyfriend and editor-in-chief, Grant. Now she is trying to be normal at her senior prom, with a new boy and new interests, and isn’t looking back.

Grant was totally blindsided when Rose walked away from the Gazette. After all, they’d dedicated their lives to it for the past four years, had even planned on majoring in journalism together at Northwestern—which is why Grant is determined to entice Rose back. But whether it’s really to the paper or to him he’s not entirely sure.

When an alarm is set off at prom and the school goes on lockdown, Grant discovers that someone is loose in the building with a gun. But Rose, caught outside of the gym, knows differently. Will her instincts for a good story win out against her resolve to leave Grant and the paper behind?
For almost four years Rose had been Grant's "person", but then she abruptly walked away from the paper, journalism, and Grant too. The search for the truth about the gunman was their last chance to work on a story together, and maybe their last shot at friendship as well.
  • Pro: The parts, which focused on the journalistic aspects were very interesting. I really enjoyed getting to see their whole process. 
  • Pro: I keep seeing a lot of reviewers saying they hated Grant. I didn't hate grant. He was flawed, and his singular focus was sometimes frustrating, but I didn't hate him. As a matter of fact, I was sort of awed by his passion for finding the truth. 
  • Pro: Both Rose and Grant were struggling with things. We get to see some of their hardships via flashbacks and in present time. The issues steering the plot, Grant's reticence to start a relationship or maintain the friendship, as well as Rose's realization that maybe everything she had been hyper-focused on wasn't what she wanted, felt very authentic, and I think many could relate to these quandaries.  
  • Pro: The mystery of the gun kept me quite interested in the present day story, and I liked the searching for the missing pieces of the puzzle. 
  • Pro: Though the book tackled some serious issues - gun violence, divorce, sexual assault, it was not too serious. There were quite a few hilarious moments and some heartfelt ones too. I definitely sensed that end of an era nostalgia as well. 
  • Pro: I thought the ending was really good, and it's always great to end on a high note. 
Overall: An interesting evening spent searching the story, the truth, and one's purpose.

The Looking Glass
Janet McNally
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
GIRLS IN TROUBLE.

That’s what Sylvie Blake’s older sister Julia renamed their favorite fairy tale book, way back when they were just girls themselves. Now, Julia has disappeared—and no one knows if she’s in trouble.

Sylvie is trying to carry on Julia’s impressive legacy at the prestigious National Ballet Theatre Academy, but Julia, ever the star of the show, can’t stay hidden forever. And when she sends Sylvie a copy of their old storybook with a mysterious list inside, Sylvie begins to see signs of her sister everywhere she goes. She may be losing her grip on reality, but Sylvie has to find out if the strange, almost magical things she’s been seeing have anything to do with Julia’s whereabouts.

With the help of her best friend’s enigmatic brother and his beat-up car, Sylvie sets out to the beat of a Fleetwood Mac playlist, determined to return to New York with her sister in tow. But what Sylvie doesn’t expect to learn is that trouble comes in lots of forms—and that the damsel in distress is often the only one who can save herself.
Sylvie described her sister as "a red giant, blazing scarlet". She looked up to her and idolized her, and then, Julie disappeared. When Julie sent Sylvie her childhood book a year later, Sylvie believed it was a sign she wanted to be found. But, sometimes a girl in trouble doesn't need or want saving.
  • Pro: As someone, who has lost a loved one to addiction, I really related to many of the things Sylvie and her family were experiencing. The pain, the anger, the despair -- it was all there. 
  • Pro: I am a former dance mom, and I found myself enamored with all the ballet in this book. Not only did McNally share the beautiful parts of a ballerina's life, she also shed some light on the difficult parts. So when Sylvie's brother says, "ballet dancers are superheroes. They go through some major pain to make something beautiful," I found I could only agree with him. 
  • Pro: Sylvie was struggling with so many things, and this search for her sister gave her the time and space to work through many of those issues - the loss of her sister, her broken family, her doubt about her future. She had many BIG things on her mind, and this journey ended with some good and bad outcomes. 
  • Pro: I love a good road trip, and this one had a lot of really fun moments. Fleetwood Mac, fairy houses, and Wegmans - what more could I ask for. 
  • Pro: I really adored the way McNally told this story. She gave the story a little touch of sort-of-magic, intertwining the fairytale touches brilliantly, and just provided me with such a beautiful and vivid story. 
  • Pro: I wasn't sure about Jack, but that road trip changed my mind. He was complicated, but I loved the way he interacted with Sylvie, and I liked that he was such a rock for her. I also ADORED Tommy. I could have used more of him in this story, because his friendship with Sylvie was really special, and I thought he was really special too. 
Overall:  A bittersweet story of sisterhood and self exploration, which was touching, heartfelt, and beautifully told. 


** ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

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

21 comments:

  1. I think The Last Best Story is the one out of these three that sticks with me. Courting Carlyn does sound *fun* too!

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    1. I had minor issues with Last Best Story. It wasn't what was there, but rather, that I would have liked the author to have gone a little deeper with the things she started, because I thought there was really good stuff there. It was close to 4-stars for me.

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  2. These all look good from summer camp to road trips. Great reviews Sam!

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    1. It was a good mix of books for me. One really light, one heavier, and one in-between, but all with hopeful/happy endings.

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  3. I like the sounds of all of these! I especially love the sounds of The Last Best Story. Great reviews.

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    1. It was good. There were some awesome aspects of the MCs lives touched upon, which I would have like to have seen fleshed out a little, but I did enjoy it.

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  4. Hmm, I am not sure I will read the middle one, but the first and last books sound good to me! The first one I agree with you - I do believe sports romances should actually feature the sport. And tennis camp sounds cool. I love to watch tennis being played. I also think the last one deals with really important themes and it sounds like the representation is done well from your perspective and personal experience. (So sorry to hear about that, as well. Losing a love one to addiction couldn't have been easy...)

    My recent post: https://oliviascatastrophe.com/2018/08/6-mini-movie-reviews/

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    1. They were all good. The middle one was that I actually wanted more of what was there. I really enjoyed Carlyn. It had all those things I love a contemporary romance, and it was really fun. Addiction sucks. The way my cousin died was horrible, but McNally's story is much more hopeful.

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  5. I haven't read any of these but courting Carlyn seems my cup of tea!

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    1. Carlyn was light and fun with just enough drama to give the characters some depth without ruining the vibe. I really enjoyed it. A great summer read.

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  6. The Looking Glass sounds especially appealing to me. I love road trip books!

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    1. I really like McNally's writing, and the fun parts were really fun. I don't know if I could ever listen to Fleetwood Mac again without thinking of this book.

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  7. The Last Best Story sounds really good - I kinda want to know what's going on with the two characters. I like that the author broaches tough subjects but it doesn't weigh the story down.

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    1. I know a lot of people were not big fans of the style. It bounces between the present and points in the past, but I have no problem with that. Those flashbacks were pretty vital to understanding the depth of the relationship, that existed between Rose and Grant. There were minor issues for me, but overall, I thought it was very good.

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  8. Courting Carlyn sounds good, not read a tennis sports romance before. I'm like you, if I'm going to read a book involving sports then I want to actually have the sports involved, I do find some books don't do that. And The Looking Glass sounds amazing, I am a fan of ballet so I am really interested in that element of the story. It just sounds like a charming and original book in itself. I'll look out for that one.

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    1. It was what I expect from Entangled, but maybe a little bit better than the norm. They are always fun and breezy, and I enjoy them. I liked the ballet parts in The Looking Glass a lot, but I LOVED the road trip. It was fabulous!

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  9. I looooooved The Looking Glass, and I feel like it's been severely underhyped! So, I'm really glad to see you also enjoyed it. The road trip, the ballet, the sibling relationships, the fairytale aspects, Fleetwood Mac... all the elements came together perfectly and made such a great whole. This is the first I've seen of The Last Best Story, but it sounds like a book I would really enjoy (plus, THAT COVER). Great reviews, Sam!

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    1. I really enjoyed both of McNally's books. Her characters and storytelling are great

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  10. Entangled Crush books all tend to be light and breezy and fun. They're perfect for when you're in the mood for that sort of thing.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. They really just satisfy a certain need I have. Though I would say I have enjoyed all my entangled books, I would rank this one as one of the really good ones.

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  11. You tackled 2 books I've been eyeing. The Looking Glass and The Last Best Story have been two books that I've been interested in, and you confirmed my interest! Fantastic reviews, Sam! :)

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