Contemporary Romance Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Published by: InterMix

Format: mobi

Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance

Order at: Amazon | B&N | Publisher

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: It’s Santino Hassell. What do you think you’re gonna get? You’re going to get hot, snarky, sarcastic dudes making you wish your AC went up to eleven. Or, maybe fifteen. So what’s different? This is the series that could have the tagline: Tight End Seeks Same.

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Playing with the Boys (A PrettyTOUGH Novel)

Playing with the Boys (A PrettyTOUGH Novel)

Author Note: There’s something odd about this one. It seems like the paperback edition is listed as written by Liz Tigelaar (like this photo) but the Kindle edition has Nicole Leigh Shepherd. They’re the same book, I just don’t know which to list as the author.              

Publisher: Razorbill (April 10, 2008)

Format: Kindle

Reviewed By: Ellen

Football, hot guys, a girl playing a “boy” sport – what’s not to love?! Happy Super Bowl Day!

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Chasing Nikki by Lacey Weatherford

Chasing Nikki by Lacey Weatherford

Publisher: Moonstruck Media (2012)

Format: Kindle

In the second edition of my Olympics-inspired sport reviews I’ve chosen a book that ended up completely shocking me. There are so many football books that I’m going to try to spread them out, this is just the first new one I stumbled upon.

Plot: About 6 months before the start of the book Chase Walden’s dad died in a plane crash. Unable to afford their current lifestyle, Chase and his mom move to a new community where Chase falls in with a rather “fast” crowd and spends all his time drinking and doing drugs in order to try to forget how much he misses his dad. After one too many bad choices Chase’s mom decides that the two of them will move in with her parents who run a ranch on the outskirts of a small Arizona town. Chase is instantly intrigued with good girl Nikki – despite the fact that she thinks Chase is a total punk and wants nothing to do with him. Gradually Chase wears Nikki down, they start to date, he stops drinking and smoking pot, joins the football team, and becomes an all-around awesome guy. But then tragedy strikes and Chase has to figure out how to remain the person he’s become, rather than sliding back into his bad-boy ways.

Sport: This one actually had me worried because while there was tons of talk about Chase’s football career before his father’s death, it wasn’t until about 70% of the book had passed that the first action scene occurred. But there are a few practices and one game which are written about in some detail. Yay!

Review: I’m not going to lie, I thought this was going to be your normal “guy with issues meets the perfect girl who makes him turn his life around and they live happily ever after (until they go to college, at least)” story but it was so much more than that. First off I liked that we got enough glimpses of the kind of guy Chase had been before his dad passed away to understand his fairly sudden transformation. He was a great guy who experienced something awful, met a girl who also lost a parent and understood what he was feeling, and decided to be the type of guy she would fall for. Hell, I fell for him and he’s a fictional character way younger than I am.

What I did not expect at all was the end of the book. Holy crap. I’m not going to spoil anything and tell you what happens but I was literally bawling my eyes out for the last 15% of my book (no clue what that is in actual pages). I mean, this is a football story! There’s no crying in football! (Except, as Judith pointed out, we do love our FNL and obviously the town of Dillon, TX gets my tear ducts working overtime.) I kept hoping I’d turn the page and it would all have been some awful dream sequence but it wasn’t! While part of me wants a sequel so I can see what will happen with these characters, another part of me can’t stand the idea of reading about that same future.

Oh and please don’t judge the book based on this cover. I almost said “hell no” when I saw the cover but went for it anyway. So glad I did!

In the end I’m going to give this one a 10 out of 10.   

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the hero: 10. Since the story is told from Chase’s POV I’m putting him here. Chase is a really great guy who experienced one of the worst things anyone can experience. Yes he makes some really REALLY bad decisions but I think we can all understand where he’s coming from. When he meets and is immediately drawn to Nikki he doesn’t mock her for her fairly straight-laced ways but understands that if he wants this girl – and everyone else – to judge him for who he really is then he needs to stop acting out. I loved the little scenes with the two of them and reading about the growth of their relationship. He even carries her books!! SQUEE! (My heart literally grows three sizes every time a guy carries a girl’s books. I think the character could then skin bunnies and I’d still say he’s an awesome character because of the book carrying. [Note: There were NO skinned bunnies in this book!]) While it did all happen pretty sudden none of it seemed rushed our out-of-place, just perfect.

How much did I like the love interest: 10. This girl is definitely too good to be true. She’s smart, a cheerleader, volunteers with an addiction counselor, a wonderful daughter and older sister, and has an amazing sense of who she is and what she wants to do with her life. When she finally agrees to go out with Chase she doesn’t expect him to be some bad boy but makes him realize that he needs to change his behavior for his own good, not just in order to be with her. I loved that she had experience with grief and could empathize and help Chase handle everything he was feeling. The faith she has in Chase and belief that he really is an amazing person were so touching to read about. I’m getting choked up here!

How believable is the plot:  10. As upsetting as some of this stuff was it’s not hard to imagine any of it happening. When it was good it was amazing and when it was sad it was SO sad.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 9. The book could have used some more editing. There was a major over-usage of commas and some incorrect words.

How much did I want to keep reading: 10. Literally couldn’t put it down.

Glasses of wine I drank while reading: 2. Mostly to get me through my tears and over the shock of the last bit of the book.

Final Score: 10/10. Take my advice and read this book – but make sure you have a tissue close by.  

 

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An Interview with That Boy and That Wedding author, Jillian Dodd

An I Love YA Fiction Exclusive!

Hi all! It’s me, Judith. Now it’ll come off as hard

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to swallow, but even though Ellen and I are two different people, we pretty much share the same opinions about books. Honest. I’m going to call it bookapathy (not to be confused by a combination of book + apathy because that would give it a whole other meaning that doesn’t work at all here). Our eerily similar opinions are part of what make running this blog together that much easier–my counterpart isn’t bitching and moaning all the time that I gave some random book a 3 when it actually deserved a 10. I’m so glad that we have bookapathy because when I read Jillian Dodd’s That Boy, all I could think was, Ellen is gonna flip! This is so good and she will adore it! And let me tell you, folks, she did. A lot. And to top it off she wrote a kick ass review of That Boy that put us on great terms with the lovely author herself.

When That Wedding came out, we were beside ourselves. The squeeing could be heard clear into Manhattan and all I could think was, we gotta pump Jillian Dodd for information because if we want to know it, you better believe the rest of her fans do too.

Without further ado, for your reading pleasure, a Q&A with Jillian Dodd:

Hi Jillian. Thanks for answering some questions for us. We’ve been dying to pick your brain ever since we finished That Boy. I swear I remember the day it ended so clearly–the book stopped and the first thing I did was hop on my computer to send Ellen an email about getting herself a copy stat. She told me that Amazon had been pushing it on her for months but she had resisted mainly because the life of a grad student is lacking in money and she valued eating over reading (marginally of course). Well finally she got it and after a two day reading binge was just as hooked.

So first things first. The question that is on everyone’s mind: Where can we find your real life inspiration for Phillip? Address? Phone number? Whatever you want to give, you can tell us. We won’t publish it anywhere. Honest.

I think everyone has their own image of the perfect guy. I know when you reviewed That Boy, you scoured the book looking for physical descriptions of him. Did you notice that there aren’t many? Did you notice that Danny is mostly described as a sixth grader? I give very minimal physical descriptions to my characters. I want you to picture your perfect guy. What I do try to give them is very distinct personalities.
The series is completely written from Jadyn’s point of view, so what makes Phillip so dreamy is her reactions to him. How she lays her head on his shoulder and everything seems right in the world. How his neck always smells good. How he’s always warm. How he’s a gentleman. How she feels stronger when he holds her hand.
Lots of readers think Phillip was a saint for putting up with some of what Jadyn goes through in That Wedding, but hopefully when you read the part where they are at the swings, you will understand that some of the things he did caused her to behave that way. He’s not perfect either. He was pushing her. He was distracting her with sex. He didn’t want to face her issues because he was afraid he might lose her. She was also having a hard time making the switch from bff to love. One thing that really affected them is that they used to talk about everything. All of a sudden, the boy she needs to talk to Phillip about is him. She feels lost. She is afraid to tell him what’s going on in her mind because she doesn’t want to lose him.
Much of the way Jadyn’s reacts to Phillip are reactions I have to my husband. His neck always smells good. He’s always warm. I won’t gush on about him. If you want to read the pros list I made about him, you can click here.
I also did a post on what makes a guy swoonworthy. You will see lots of both Phillip and Danny in that as well. The link to that is here.

Seriously though, are your books based on actual events or is
everything fiction? Where did you get your inspiration for the three main characters: Danny, Phillip, and JJ?

Everything is fiction. I first started writing the book based off some very vivid dreams I had. And I kept having dreams with these three characters in them.
The book started with four major scenes. The college visit. The party in the cornfield. The engagement party. When Danny moved in.
I didn’t plan the characters. They just were who they were. I always knew Phillip and Jadyn would end up together, but Danny was hot. They were friends, of course there were going to be feeling there too. It was easy to come up with Lori because I knew she had to be similar to Phillip.
I would say the inspiration for how Danny and Jadyn are so alike, and how Phillip and Lori are so alike comes from a longtime friendship my husband and I have with another couple.
Actual events or similarities to my life:
-I did grow up in a small town in Nebraska very much like Westown, but I lived on a farm next door to a bunch of girl cousins, not two cute boys.
-I did sorta date a Trifecta (hot guy, hot bod, hot car) in high school. And he did actually tell me, “When you least expect it, expect it.” I’d just give up hope of ever hearing from him again, he’d call, I’d swoon, break up with my boyfriend. I knew he was a jerk, but he was so cute, I didn’t care.
-I did have a guy shake my hand at a party and not let go. It made an impression.
-I was in a sorority, but unlike Jadyn, I did get to pass my candle.
That’s pretty much it. The rest of it was driven by the characters and my vivid imagination.

It’s clear from your blog that you lead a busy life, where do you find the time to write?

I’m very lucky that I am able to basically write full-time. My family is very supportive.

I can imagine that having a mom who writes about teenage life might be embarrassing for teens. Do your kids support your writing? Have they both read your book? How about your husband?

My kids are pretty amazing. When they were little, I would tell them how special they were and how they could do anything they put their mind to. Apparently they listened because they both have big dreams. My 15-year old son, who is already 6’2”, has wanted to be a race car driver since he was two. My husband spends a lot of money and time to help him fulfill his dream. He’s currently the 9th ranked semi-professional kart driver in the nation. My daughter is 17 and loves to travel. We took her on her first plane ride at three, and she has been hooked ever since. She wants to see the world, and then probably rule it. She’s very much a girl who likes to be in charge. She is extremely social and also excellent with social media, works about 20 hours a week for me, and has taken over my blog one day a week.
Neither one of them seem to find anything I do embarrassing. My daughter reads everything I write. She’s been especially helpful with the new series I’m working on. The main character is seventeen and sexually active. There are sex scenes in the book, and unlike Jadyn, Keatyn is not embarrassed to talk about them. Her and a friend read the books and gave me lots of feedback.
My whole family is super supportive. My husband has heard so much about the books, but I don’t think he’s read a complete version. But if it weren’t for him, the book would have never been published. Then there’s my mom. My gosh, my poor mother has read so many versions of both books. She was a big help to me in That Wedding. Poor Jadyn almost got a vase from Phillip for a wedding gift. And my original break up was lame and “unbelievable” per my mother. It turned out much better than what I first wrote.

Who’s your favorite author? Favorite book?

I have too many to name. I love to read. Have devoured books my whole life. I like funny romance like Sophie Kinsella. Can you Keep a Secret is one of my favorites. I love spy thrillers and older YA book series.

What are you currently reading?

Vince Flynn’s Kill Shot. I didn’t want to be an author when I grew up. I wanted to be a spy.

Have any publishing houses contacted you about That Boy and That Wedding?

I’ve been contacted by a couple publishers interested in foreign rights for the series, but nothing has come of that as of yet. Publishing is going through a huge shift. Authors are becoming entrepreneurs and running their own business. I’m very happy to be doing it this way.

What words of wisdom would you give to an aspiring author? How did you go about having your books self-published?

I wrote That Boy over a period of six years. I’d work on it, put it aside, think it was finished. Send out a couple queries, get a thanks but no, and put it away for awhile longer. My family pushed me to get it published, and I really decided that if I wanted to prove to my kids that you can do anything you put your mind to, that I should probably try doing it myself. I sent out more queries, tried to get an agent, gave up again. Wasn’t sure what to do next. I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money and have a vanity press print my book. I wanted something bigger. My husband saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about ebooks and how the market was changing. He told me I should just do it myself. So basically, I did. Technically there is a lot more involved than that, but I won’t bore you with the details.
My words of advice would be to write. To keep writing.

And last but not least, if you were caught in a 12 hour layover in
Boise, Idaho, what three things would you definitely have to have with you?

My Iphone and charger so I could read, write, or tweet. And my credit card, so I could buy whatever else I wanted. Probably a cocktail and a sweater.
—–

And never fear! There is a bonus question that I didn’t even have to ask but that Jillian threw out there since she’d never been asked it:

One question that no one has asked me yet that I find interesting is how the party in the cornfield/parent’s death combination was pivotal in her life. If just the party in the cornfield would have happened. She would be a different person. She would have dated Danny, probably lost her virginity to him. They would have had a fun but volatile relationship. They would have fought, broken up, made up, fought. You know couple’s like that. Just following their relationship is exhausting. They also both think they are always right, so they would have drug their friends into their fights. It would have ruined Danny and Phillip’s relationship because you know he would have taken JJ’s side. Remember that Phillip hated every guy she dated. I also think she would have ended up with Phillip faster. I think they would have dated very early in college and been happy. She wouldn’t have dated jerks. She wouldn’t have been so determined to “smell the roses”. She wouldn’t have partied as much. She would have been more mature.
It’s also a very good thing that Mr. Diamond got her to buy the townhouse and made her live with Danny and Phillip. She jokes that it was like living with two dads, but that’s what she needed. In her state of mind, she desperately needed the stability and accountability that they provided her.

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Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Shut Out, by Kody Keplinger

Publisher: Poppy; 1 edition (September 5, 2011)

Format: Kindle Edition

Giiiiiirl, what are we gonna do? Our boyfriends are feuding, they’re leaving us stranded buck naked in the front seats of cars to go beat up one another, and we can’t have one conversation that doesn’t include the words “football-soccer-feud”. We need a plan, stat.

Two words for you: sex strike.

No joke.

Plot:

Lissa is tired of her footballer boyfriend, Randy, running out on her during some pretty heavy makeout sessions in his car. Problem is, Randy and all the other boys on the football team think it’s normal to leave their girlfriends naked and frustrated in motor vehicles just to satisfy some deep seated male craving for revenge. See, the football and soccer teams are feuding and it ain’t pretty. Both sides have been fighting for so long that they don’t even realize what they’re fighting about. Lissa has had enough and calls an emergency meeting of the girlfriends of the football and soccer players. Their goal: operation stop the feud. The only way they can devise to stop it is to withhold sex. For reals. The ensuing battle of the sexes is spurred on by Lissa herself and soccer stud, Cash Sterling, a boy Lissa has unresolved feelings for and the defacto leader of the boys. As these two egg each other on, and the sex strike lingers far too long for either side, we learn about how skewed society’s perception of male/female sexuality is and how relationships based on sex will easily crumble. The sex strike becomes a battle of wills between Lissa and Cash who are each letting their past interactions with one another dictate the present. In the end, their antagonism blossoms into genuine feeling and Lissa ditches Randy the dud and finally declares her true feelings for (and wish for sexy time with) Cash.

Review:

It’s no secret that Kody Keplinger borrows heavily from Aristophanes’ Lysistrata for this book. Heck, Cash Sterling is constantly pushing the play on Lissa in a misguided attempt to woo her so you know from

the get go that there will be no surprises. And to be honest, there aren’t. But it works all the same. This is a book about women using a sex strike to get what they want and their men doing their hardest to make the women as frustrated as they are. Shut Out very obviously aims to point out the discrepancies between societal views of male/female sexuality but it’s done in a heavy handed way. For example, Keplinger plays on those views by portraying the one sexually liberated character (Lissa’s bf, Chloe) as the product of a broken home and cheating father. Why are girls from broken homes always portrayed as sexually promiscuous? Keplinger’s just playing into stereotypes of good girls vs bad girls with this. What would have been more interesting would be using a sexually liberated product of a good home to prove that girls who sleep around are not byproducts of their environment and that sexually is dictated by a person not by outside forces. But I digress…Shut Out is most notably a love story set against the backdrop of a sex strike. The two main characters act as protagonist and antagonist for one another as their personal battle of wills ratchets the sexual tension higher and higher. It makes for squeal inducing moments, especially when Lissa decides to push Cash to his limit by finally making out with him and then leaving. What I find most interesting is that through the sex strike, we see the true personalities of the characters emerge–some, like Randy, Lissa’s boyfriend, are true to character: shallow football players who fool around because their girlfriends aren’t putting out; others, like Cash, are shown as the sensitive, brooding types who treat women with the utmost respect and actually care about feelings vs sexy time; the girls seem easily led and wishy washy while Lissa comes off as vindictive yet earnest at the same time. All in all, the love story set against the backdrop of a sex strike is an interesting plot device and it kept me wanting more as I was forced to wait to the very end to see if Lissa sticks with douchebag Randy or chooses the hunky Cash. We all know who the better man was of course (come on, Randy left her naked in his car! No self respecting YA fiction heroine would ever pick him)

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 7. Lissa was pretty spunky and I find a certain amount of spunkiness endearing. It’s pretty impressive that she spearheaded a sex strike in order to get her man to fall in line but too bad we don’t find out til much later that she’s actually a virgin and not really giving anything up at all. On the plus side, she gets to fool around with a swoonworthy soccer stud named Cash. I guess I just wish I could have been her in high school.

How much did I like the love interest: 10. Cash! Swoon! He was sensitive, worked at the library (squee!!!), played soccer and probably had delicious soccer legs…

How believable is the plot: 7. Obviously pretty believable if Aristophanes was writing about the same scenario 2000 years ago. The modern updating makes the idea fresh but seriously, how long could a bunch of horny high schoolers hold off? Especially when the majority of them were dating soccer players (have I mentioned I have a thing for hot soccer player legs?)

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 7. For being a writer of only 19 or 20, Kody Keplinger has an amazing grasp of pacing and does a fantastic job with her dialogue. She gets bonus points for plagiarizing an ancient greek playwright (props!) and her ability to deal delicately with an overtly sexual theme make this a great read.

How much did I want to keep reading: 10. Mainly I wanted to hear more about Cash and since we don’t see as much I’d have liked until the end, well, I was left panting! Would they or wouldn’t they get together?

Final Score: 8 / 10. Solid read for anyone who likes sex pushed in the face for an entire book. I admit it: I’m someone who likes it.

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