Publisher: Entangled: Teen

On Thin Ice by Julie Cross

On Thin Ice by Julie CrossOn Thin Ice by Julie Cross
Series: Juniper Falls #3
Published by Entangled: Teen on 26th February 2019
Pages: 340
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Brooke Parker never expected to find herself in the tiny town of Juniper Falls, Minnesota. Of course, she also never expected to lose her dad. Or for her mom to lose herself. Brooke feels like she’s losing it…until she finds Juniper Falls hockey. Juniper Falls girls’ hockey, that is.

Jake Hammond, current prince of Juniper Falls, captain of the hockey team, and player with the best chance of scoring it big, is on top of the world. Until one hazing ritual gone wrong lands him injured, sitting on the sidelines, and―shocking even to him―finding himself enjoying his “punishment” as assistant coach for the girls’ team.

As Jake and Brooke grow closer, he finds the quiet new girl is hiding a persona full of life, ideas, and experiences bigger and broader than anything he’s ever known. But to Jake, hockey’s never just been a game. It’s his whole life. And leveraging the game for a shot at their future might be more than he can give.

I’ve not come back to Julie Cross’s Juniper Falls series in a while and to dive back into high school/college sports is still a change from what I’m used to.

Still, ‘On Thin Ice’ is more than what it reads from the blurb and the more I read, the more I realised that the romance is merely part of a larger storyline dealing with the culture of hazing and the coverup for fear of being called a tattle-tale.

I didn’t like Jake’s unwillingness to do the right thing, even after people got hurt (the point is, does an entire batch of freshmen have to die before something happens?) because of upholding stupid, supposed traditions that deem you either a ‘hero’ or a ‘loser’. But Cross does tackle this issue which does get resolved in the end, along with the slow-blossoming romance that gets tucked neatly into the bigger problems facing sports, making ‘On Thin Ice’ essentially, a story that quite warmly champions young adults as examples who finally choose the straight and narrow path.

I’m guessing this will probably appeal to the younger demographic more—in both characters and plot—and I’ll have to say that my rating really, is one given from my adult perspective that tends to get some eye-rolling in, along with the growing inability to connect with this genre of fiction that I so used to love. As a YA story though (more objectively speaking this time), it’s a pretty decent read.


Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy

Pretty Dead Girls by Monica MurphyPretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy
Published by Entangled: Teen on January 2nd 2018
Pages: 300
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Beautiful. Perfect. Dead.

In the peaceful seaside town of Cape Bonita, wicked secrets and lies are hidden just beneath the surface. But all it takes is one tragedy for them to be exposed.

The most popular girls in school are turning up dead, and Penelope Malone is terrified she's next. All the victims so far have been linked to Penelope—and to a boy from her physics class. The one she's never really noticed before, with the rumored dark past and a brooding stare that cuts right through her.

There's something he isn't telling her. But there's something she's not telling him, either.

Everyone has secrets, and theirs might get them killed.

Imagine a group of privileged girls—all of whom sort of conform to the rich, aloof, snooty and somewhat mean stereotype—suddenly being swamped by a mysterious but vengeful serial killer who throws their ordered but small world into chaos. In the midst of them is the head cheerleader and a quiet, mysterious boy who find themselves in the centre of the maelstrom as the noose tightens around them while they play amateur detectives.

There aren’t too many of these sort of YA-thriller, high-school-centric books that I’ve read (or the kind of movies that I’ve watched) and it takes an adjustment every time I read a book like ‘Pretty Dead Girls’. Jumping into a YA book can be hard at times, not least because it’s a throwback into the mean, teenage girl mindset—where everything is exaggerated, pulled apart and then reacted to in an over-the-top fashion—but also because it’s one which I have the hardest time connecting with as well.

This is sort of a step outside my usual reading habits, but I still did have a good time in a way as a distant spectator would with teenage shenanigans, alternating between cringing at the sensibilities of the self-absorbed and petty girls (and wondering if I was as bad as them or worse?) and trying to do the whodunnit game that I normally do with the adult mystery-thrillers I sometimes read. If anything, Monica Murphy gets those behavioural traits pat down and pitches the story perfectly for teens, though it’s honestly difficult to like the characters you want to yell at to grow up before you realise they’re acting exactly their ages…and can’t be expected to do anything differently.

However, there are some questions that don’t seem to be satisfactorily answered, where secrets that you think are soul-destroying turn up to be mere storms in tea cups. Still, it was kind of a fun ride, given the unholy glee I felt when these girls had their comeuppance and almost wished the body count got higher just to up the thrill factor for my bloodthirsty and mean soul.


Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson

Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid PaulsonWhy I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson
Published by Entangled: Teen on June 6th 2017
Pages: 287
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Per her 537 rules, Harper Campbell keeps her life tidy—academically and socially. But the moment Sterling Lane transfers into her tiny boarding school, her twin brother gets swept up in Sterling’s pranks and schemes and nearly gets expelled. Harper knows it’s Sterling’s fault, and to protect her brother, she vows to take him down. As she exposes his endless school violations, he keeps striking back, framing her for his own infractions. Worst of all, he’s charmed the administration into thinking he’s harmless, and only Harper sees him for the troublemaker he absolutely is.
As she breaks rule after precious rule in her battle of wits against Sterling and tension between them hits a boiling point, she’s horrified to discover that perhaps the two of them aren’t so different. And maybe she doesn't entirely hate him after all. Teaming up with Sterling to save her brother might be the only way to keep from breaking the most important rule—protecting Cole.

This is one of the oddest, most entertaining and weird books I’ve read in a long, long while. There’s the stilted speech of English boarding schools (the kids sound like uptight lawyers-in-training with sticks up their arses) and good ol’ teenage pranks wrapped up in the scheming of Cruel Intentions, the cold malice of mafia movies and the calculative manoeuvrings of some spy shows.

But you know what they say about hate being the other side of the coin of love. At least I think it is, because I couldn’t quite be sure by the time I finished the book when denial and doublespeak hadn’t quite let down yet. Written wholly in Harper’s POV, I couldn’t decide where she was the judgemental, self-righteous, rule-following shrew or whether Sterling was truly the devil’s spawn wrapped up in sheep clothing. And without Sterling’s POV, he never quite appeared more than a shady character whose personality way surpassed his rich-kid stereotype who sort of decided that he could be more serious about his future post-boarding school.

The book really begins with a ‘mortal enemies’ type of situation, where rule-follower (and breaker) Harper is determined to take down the rich, spoiled lazy kid whose schemes actually match hers for deviousness. Attraction only creeps in way, way later and their ‘relationship’ is barely formed when the book finally ends. I had a few good laughs though (the pranks *were* hilarious), despite my bewilderment at the tone, the setup and the characterisation and perhaps, the story’s prominence simply lies in how much it differs from the typical NA/YA books that have sailed by as ships passing in the night.


Pushing the Boundaries by Stacey Trombley

Pushing the Boundaries by Stacey TrombleyPushing the Boundaries by Stacey Trombley
Series: , #1
Published by Entangled: Crush, Entangled: Teen on January 16th 2016
Pages: 169
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Myra goes to Haiti with one goal: take the photograph that will win a scholarship and prove to her uber-traditional family that she has what it takes to be a photographer instead of a doctor. Her camera has always been her shield against getting too close to anyone, but she didn’t expect the hot teen translator who has an ability to see past her walls.

Elias needs his job as a translator to provide for his siblings. He can’t afford to break the rule forbidding him from socializing with a client. Except this girl Myra insists on going outside the city to capture the perfect picture, and he steps in as her guide in order to keep her safe.

The deeper they travel into the country, the harder they fall for each other. Now they’re both taking risks that could cost each other their dreams.

If they get too close—it could ruin both their lives.

A trip to Haiti is just what Myra needs to prove her worth in something else other than being a doctor, but what she doesn’t count on is the Haitian translator who pushes her beyond what she is comfortable with.

Much of the story reads like a positive reinforcement of—or an argument for—cross-cultural exchange and cross-ethnic pairings, as the differences between Elias and Myra are emphasised and celebrated. But there’s also the acknowledgement that with it comes familial disapproval and the ramifications of starting a relationship that can’t possibly have a happy end. Combined with the teenage angst and the rebellion that comes with parent-teenager conflicts, I found myself ready to give up when Myra’s reticence in letting people in crossed the line into ignorance, selfishness and stupidity as the story wore on.

Unfortunately, it’s simply not a story that resonates with me at all despite Stacey Trombley’s very positive attempt at portraying the difficulties in a relationship that defies stereotypes and gender expectations. While I did like the heart-wrenching descriptions of Elias’s family situation and the conditions that the Haitian people face, the happy-for-now ending seemed somewhat implausible, even as it cutely marked the start of something hopeful.


The Summer Before Forever by Melissa Chambers

The Summer Before Forever by Melissa ChambersThe Summer Before Forever by Melissa Chambers
Series: Before Forever, #1
on August 22nd 2016
Pages: 261
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Some boys break your heart. Others teach you how to heal it.
Chloe Stone’s life is a hot mess. Determined to stop being so freaking skittish, she packs up her quasi-famous best friend and heads to Florida. The goal? Complete the summer bucket list to end all bucket lists. The problem? Her hot soon-to-be stepbrother, Landon Jacobs.
Landon’s mom will throttle him if he even looks at his future stepsister the wrong way. Problem is, Chloe is everything he didn’t know he wanted, and that’s...inconvenient. Watching her tear it up on a karaoke stage, stand up to his asshole friend, and rock her first string bikini destroys his sanity.
But there’s more than their future family on the line. Landon is hiding something—something he knows will change how she feels about him—and she’s hiding something from him, too. And when the secrets come out, there’s a good chance neither will look at the other the same way again...

Getting into a frame of mind to read New Adult/Young Adult can be difficult especially after going at very adult books that don’t hold back, well, anything.

But Melissa Chambers makes this transition easy, delivering a coming-of-age book – as the Teen/YA ones typically are – without shying away from the issues of sex, school and identity that these hormonal people live and face. I liked that we got a story that was more than simply a crush or a forbidden relationship or meaningless hook-ups, and that her lead characters do face problems that go beyond whose bikini is skimpier or whose muscles are larger. And it’s a layered interpretation of a summer that changed everything that Chamber writes about so sensitively – which makes me think this is a series to watch out for.


The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown RobertsThe Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts
Published by Entangled: Teen on September 6th 2016
Pages: 400
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True love can’t be strategized.
After book blogger Vivian Galdi’s longtime crush pretends their secret summer kissing sessions never happened, Vivian creates a list of safe crushes, determined to protect her heart.
But nerd-hot Dallas, the sweet new guy in town, sends the mission and Vivian’s zing meter into chaos. While designing software for the bookstore where Vivian works, Dallas wages a counter-mission.
Operation Replacement Crush is in full effect. And Dallas is determined to take her heart off the shelf.

‘The Replacement Crush’ is a series of storms in the bubbling teacup of hormones in high school, as Vivian Galdi – self-confessed bookish, bike-riding nerd – seeks to find a replacement for the callous longtime crush who’d abandoned her straight after a short summer hookup. Yet the one who ticks all the boxes but isn’t on her list is Dallas Lang, the unexpected hire for her mother’s bookshop and the one who unwittingly sweeps every preconceived notion of love and lust off her painstakingly categorised shelves of heroes and hotness.

Not that I claim to understand the odd and sometimes unreasonable way of teenage girls but the hot geek guy always manages to floor me every time, which the story excels in doing really well. If I thought Viv cowardly and irritating in her insistence on facing her issues head on, Dallas is my swoonworthy guilty pleasure, the hot geek who doesn’t say what he really wants enough, thereby contributing to the confusion and the hormonal mess teenagers often find themselves in. Yet made all the more alluring and mysterious because he’s presented through Viv’s POV.

But, why oh why, does Star Trek reigns supreme here? (says the Star Wars fan)

Strangely enough, I liked the story more for that it represented than the predictable storyline itself as it tries to unpack the convoluted world of the romance book business on the side of the reader-blogger and the so-called cultural literacy that it’s built around these days. There’s so much about the story that rides on ‘insider’ knowledge: Hiddles the cat, arm porn on Tumblr, constant words of wisdom from Spock, the blatant but loving tribute to book bloggers (sub-genres!) and book clubs that only reviewers and hardcore romance lovers would be familiar with. And so it impossible not to laugh at the wry self-referentiality of geek, review-speak and the odd strangeness of book clubs (can’t say I’ve ever joined one!). This was a great read overall, written with that panache and turn of phrases that would appeal to this crazy group of people for whom deserve that kind of representation.


Romancing the Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

Romancing the Nerd by Leah Rae MillerRomancing the Nerd by Leah Rae Miller
Series: Nerd, #2
Published by Entangled: Teen on April 5th 2016
Pages: 352
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Dan Garrett has become exactly what he hates—popular. Until recently, he was just another live-action role-playing (LARP) geek on the lowest run of the social ladder. Cue a massive growth spurt and an uncanny skill at taking three-point shots in basketball and voila…Mr. Popular. It’s definitely weird.And the biggest drawback? Going from high school zero to basketball hero cost Dan the secret girl-of-his-dorky dreams.A tuba-playing nerd with an eclectic fashion sense, Zelda Potts’s “Coolness” stat is about minus forty-two. Dan turning his back on her and the rest of nerd-dom was brutal enough, but when he humiliates her at school, Zelda decides it’s time for a little revenge—dork style. Nevermind that she used to have a crush on him. Nevermind that her plan could backfire big time.It’s time to roll the dice…and hope like freakin’ hell she doesn’t lose her heart in the process.

A growth spurt, a sport and purposely being an immature jerk were all the ingredients needed to become popular, much to Dan Garrett’s chagrin. It’s the last thing he wants and with each step up the rung of the popularity ladder, it’s costing him the geek band girl whom he’s always wanted. To Zelda, Dan’s just the nerd she used to know, who one day ‘upped’ and became popular after puberty shook off his nerd-scales – and the sweet boy who has simply forgotten about her in favour of his other popular and shallower friends. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is a stray basketball that flies straight into her nose and from there onwards, it’s all out war for Zelda, who’s now on the offensive.

Dan’s frustration and unhappiness with his newfound popularity was hilarious and unexpected, a fun but welcome twist in the typical popular guy falling for the nerdy girl trope. Dan’s and Zel’s awkward, dorky dance around each other is funnier simply because it’s cleverly told, with the irreverent and snarky humour of teenagers (who really think they know better!) at which I laughed. There’s a lot of nerd-speak and loads of LARPing which I can’t entirely appreciate, but reading about the zany high-school shenanigans in both Zelda’s and Dan’s very distinctive voices was a hoot.