Sunday, September 4, 2016

Book Review: The Pepper Jones Collection by Ali Dean

The Pepper Jones Collection Cover First three books of a five-book YA/NA series

The Pepper Jones Collection by Ali Dean

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: June 15, 2015
Pages: 665 Kindle pages
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Sixteen-year-old Pepper Jones loves running, and she's fantastic at it, even though she's only been running a little over two years. In fact, she's well on her way to achieving her goal to become a national cross-country champion this year, while still a junior in high school. The only thing complicating her life is her long-term crush on her best friend, seventeen-year-old senior, Jace Wilder. They've been neighbors since they were toddlers. Pepper's parents died in a car accident when she was a baby, and Jace's mother deserted him and his father when he was four. Pepper's grandmother, Bunny, became her guardian, and she became Jace's chidlcare provider, too, when he lost his mother. Pepper regarded Jace in a sisterly light until the summer Pepper was thirteen and Jace was fourteen, and she suddenly became aware of how gorgeous he had become--and the unsettling reality that girls were flocking around him, vying for his attention, many of them physically pawing him in the process.

Unfortunately for Pepper, the odds of her ever being more than a little sister to Jace are slim to none. He's never flirted with her or in any way indicated that he has any romantic interest in her.

I already owned the first book in this series when I purchased this collection. It is a very cost-effective way of obtaining the first three books in the series, which occur while Pepper is still in high school. The final two books are New Adult rather than Young Adult and occur while she is in college.

In the sequels to the first book, I continue to enjoy the portions of Pepper's story relating to her experiences as a runner. I love female-centric, YA sports stories. I am less enthralled by the ongoing soap-opera-ish trials of her main romantic relationship with a classic YA/NA "man whore" hero and the inclusion of a romantic triangle, which I normally do not enjoy. However, I will not grade down these three books for that reason since many fans of YA and NA romance do not find that sort of thing a deterrent to their enjoyment and many mainstream authors offer the same type of romantic interest (see especially Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally).

I rate these three books of the Pepper series as follows:

Heroine: 5

Hero: 3

Sports Plot: 5

Romance Plot: 3

Writing: 4

Overall: 4

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Book Review: Tough Boy's Tender Kiss by Melanie Marks

Tough Boy's Tender Kiss Cover Entertaining, G-Rated YA contemporary romance

The Tough Boy's Tender Kiss (plus: Hot Boy) by Melanie Marks

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: June 27, 2016
Pages: 279 pages
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Ms. Marks has written a series of books about high school hockey players. Walker is one of those hockey boys. This is a novella about him written from the point of view of both the male and female lead characters. It is a G-rated, young-adult story with no swearing, sex, drugs or drinking.

Walker has been interested in Stormy, an innocent teenager, for several years, but they have never dated. Stormy has recently broken up with her handsome boyfriend because he cheated on her. Unable to accept that she would dump him, rather than the other way around, her ex is behaving in a manner very close to being a stalker. In order to convince him, once and for all, that she is through with him for good, she impulsively claims that Walker is her new boyfriend, grabs Walker, and lays on him what she hopes will be a convincing fake kiss. Much to her surprise, Walker doesn't simply pretend to kiss her to do her a favor. Instead, he enthusiastically participates in the kiss as well as firmly and believably backs up her boyfriend lie. Afterwards, Stormy can't stop thinking about him and that scorching kiss. Walker feels the same way, and this is the story of him "wooing" her--his term--in order to convince her to become his girlfriend for real.

This is a cute story, and a nice change from the many dark and often PG- or R-rated YA books flooding the market these days, both from indie authors and mainstream publishers. Walker is a very sympathetic character in the main portion of the story, especially in his relationship with Stormy and her younger brother, in spite of the fact that the author makes it clear in his backstory, some of which is presented on stage, in flashback form, that unlike the heroine, he is anything but a virgin. In fact, the author clearly implies he has had sex with multiple girls, even across a long period of time when he is secretly crushing on Stormy. So there is a bit of an old-fashioned double-standard in the story of a pairing of a quite sexually experienced male with a virginal female.

There isn't a lot of romantic conflict, mainly that Stormy sees Walker as too "tough." It would have been an obvious choice to up the romantic conflict by having Stormy concerned that Walker has been sexually promiscuous in the past, given the fact that her previous boyfriend cheated on her. However, since this is a novella, it was not necessary for there to be a great deal of romantic conflict to sustain the short plot.

Overall, I enjoyed the story because I liked the main characters and I was not craving any increase in the amount of dithering angst the heroine might feel that would keep her from ultimately reaching a HEA with Walker.

This novella recycles the plot of another one of this author's books, His Kiss. I purchased that book three years ago and did not pay close enough attention when I bought this ebook to realize it was very similar to that story. However, I think that the two leads in this story are different enough from the two leads in His Kiss that I felt I got my money's worth with this rendition. In fact, I appreciate very much that this author is always honest with her readers about the fact that she frequently takes a book she has already written and rewrites it again with different characters. As an avid romance fan, I have personally experienced over the past few decades that many mainstream-published romance authors do the same thing, without ever admitting that they are, and they manage to create a very successful, prolific writing career in that manner.

In addition to this novella, this ebook compilation includes information on many other ebooks by Ms. Marks as well as the bonus of a full novel called “Hot Boy.” That book is also a rewritten story. The author states that it is a paranormal version of her previously published book, High School Boys. Teens who enjoy paranormal romance will very likely enjoy that story as well.

I rate Tough Boy's Tender Kiss as follows:

Heroine: 4

Hero: 4

Subcharacters: 3

Romance Plot: 3.5

Writing: 4

Overall: 4

I rate Hot Boy as follows:

Heroine: 4

Hero: 4

Subcharacters: 3

Romance Plot: 3

Writing: 4

Overall: 4