Blacksouls by Nicole Castroman (Blackhearts #2)

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“Blacksouls” by Nicole Castroman

5 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“Nicole Castroman brings the dangerous pirate ports of the Caribbean to life in this vibrant sequel to Blackhearts—the reimagined origin story of history’s most infamous pirate, Blackbeard.

Edward “Teach” Drummond is setting sail to the Caribbean as first mate on the most celebrated merchant ship in the British fleet—until he rebels against his captain. Mutiny is a capital offense and Teach knows it could cost him his life, but he believes it worth the risk in order to save his crew from the attacking Spanish ships.

Sailing on the same blue waters, Anne barely avoids the Spanish attack, making it safely to Nassau. But lawless criminals, corrupt politics, and dangerous intentions fill the crowded streets of this Caribbean port. Soon, Anne discovers that the man entrusted to keep the peace is quite possibly the most treacherous of them all—and he just happens to hold Teach’s fate in his terrifying hands.

Life and death hang in the balance when Teach and Anne are given a dangerous mission. It’s a mission that will test their love, loyalty and devotion, forcing them down a path neither one could have ever imagined.”

“Blacksouls” is one of those books that the more time you spend thinking about it, the more you come to love and appreciate the story and its characters. I honestly think that this is in my top three favorite books of the year, and I cannot believe that it took me this long to write a review for it! I guess reading a bunch of duds this spring kind of took up the free time that I use to write reviews… 😦

Last year, “Blackhearts” was one of the best books of 2016, and I completely fell in love with Nicole’s characters and her storytelling style. I loved the fact that “Blackhearts” was a historical novel rather than an high-octane adventure story, and that it was centered on developing the characters and the dynamics between them, rather than the drama that was about the ensue. I love historical fiction and learning about times and new places that I do not know much about, and I love the feeling of taking away some new piece of knowledge or developing a new perspective due to something that I have learned while reading. That sensation of discovery and enjoyment was one of the reasons why I loved “Blackhearts” so much, because it was more than a pyro maniac’s dream; it was about relationships and the invisible cords that linked them all together, and how people and many of their choices were dictated by the time that they live in. That aspect of “Blackhearts” was depicted with such accuracy that I instantly became a fan of Nicole Castroman, and I so admire her skill as a writer and the accuracy of her research. With all that being said about “Blackhearts,” I do have to say that as dear to my heart as Castroman’s debut is to my heart, “Blacksouls” definitely showed how much Nicole has grown as an author over the past year, and let me tell you, this book was one killer of a ride.

After hearing the announcement that there would be a second book in Nicole’s retelling of Blackbeard’s life, I was, to be honest, a bit wary. I had loved the bitter sweet, tormenting ending of “Blackhearts” so much that I did not want a second book to ruin how I felt about the first. Seriously, readers, I should not have wasted my time worrying, because “Blacksouls” was so amazing and it exceeded all of my expectations!

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The second book of Ann and Teach’s story was dynamic, full of the perfect amount of drama and heartache, as well as tension and romance. “Blacksouls” was so well-balanced and wonderfully layered that it kind of blew me away; it was grittier and a bit more wild than “Blackhearts,” but I personally feel like that was the perfect match for how Ann and Teach’s story was unfolding. It was a truly magical experience to read a book that I instantly connected with, especially after a fairly disappointing spring for books!

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Nicole’s research skills were once again put to good use in “Blacksouls,” and I felt utterly transported to the time and place where Teach and Ann lived, fully experiencing the beauties and horrors of that era as their story unfolded before me. Nicole Castroman’s writing made the past come vividly back to life, and since I already have a weakness for well-written and well-researched historical fiction, it is no shocker that I fell more in love with this series and its characters because of how well-executed the historical aspects were!

Teach was (and is) the best pirate character that a reader and fangirl could ever ask for! (sorry, Jack!)

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He was equal parts swoony, wild, and determined, as well as good-hearted. Teach had been amazing in “Blackhearts” and I had completely fallen for him as a character, but underneath his strength, charm, and determination, Teach had felt like a boy during parts of the first book. In “Blacksouls,” however, Teach came in to his own, becoming a more quietly bold and strong young man. I loved seeing the character development that he experienced over the course of “Blacksouls,” especially since he and Ann were apart for half of this book. He was clever, charming, and intelligent in how determined he was to find Anne, which was pretty attractive, let me tell you. As much as I loved Ann and Teach together, though, I did like the fact that I could get to know each of them separately, and I liked seeing the friendship between Teach and John in action as they set sail together again.

I adored pretty much all of the characters in “Blacksouls”; I loved Teach and his fellow sailors, the young brother and sister that Ann sailed to Nassau with, and I loved to hate the villains of Ann and Teach’s story. Unfortunately, the only person I was not a huge fan of in this book was Ann herself, which surprised me because of how much I had liked her in “Blackhearts.” In “Blacksouls,” I had a hard time connecting with Ann, and I found her boldness and ferocity in certain situations to be a little unrealistic, feeling that her actions were sometimes foolish rather than brave, especially when the lives of others were at stake. I still liked Ann and Teach together when they had their reunion moment and they began to make plans together once more, but I really feel that Teach’s character development completely eclipsed that of Ann’s, which I am actually okay with. I would have loved to feel a bit more connected and attached to Ann like I had in “Blackhearts,” but me not being wholly on Ann’s side did not at all detract from my love for this book.

Ahhh, the romance. I still loved Ann and Teach as a couple, even if I was a bit more of a fan of him than her. It was wonderful seeing and experiencing the personalities of these two wonderful characters while they were apart, because I feel like I got to know both of them so much better that way. Them being separated for so long in this book also built the tension and made me more invested in their story and their situation as a whole. Nicole Castroman did such an amazing job of giving me as a reader just enough of their interactions to keep me reading and to be invested in their relationship, but not so much that it detracted from the rest of her book’s plot. I feel like the quote, “[his] parting was my pain,” basically describes this book and what it made me feel, especially when it came to the open ended ending!

Nicole was cruel once again with her ending, but I totally respect her because I AM HOOKED!

I do not want to spoil anything about “Blacksouls” for you, so I will just say that Nicole Castroman did an amazing job of creating another magical and well-developed book. I was held in suspense of what might happen to Teach, Ann, and the other characters in this book, and there was loads of adventure and drama, and piracy to boot! I adored seeing the characters grow and develop apart as well as together, and it was wonderful to see how complex and dynamic Nicole’s story and characters have become. I loved the adventure and intrigue that was woven throughout “Blacksouls,” and I appreciate the fact that this book did not wander away from the heart of this series’ story: the second installment to Nicole’s series still had the tug of war between the romance and relationships like the first book, but it was also more. More complex, more dynamic, and I honestly just wanted to read more. Here’s to hoping that there’s a third book coming out next year, because that cliffhanger will haunt me until I get another book!

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“Blacksouls” was a wonderful, adventurous, and refreshing read, and if you have any fondness for historical fiction, “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and/or “Poldark,” I think that you would absolutely adore this fantastic series!

Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer

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  “Off the Page” by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van leer

4 out of 5 stars.

Delilah is the luckiest girl in the world. After having fallen in love with a character from the fairy tale book, “Between the Lines,” Delilah is granted her wish and Prince Oliver is brought to life and into her world. Pulled straight from a fairy tale means that adjusting will be difficult, but both Delilah and Oliver are excited to start their new adventure together beyond the pages of a book.

As wonderful as the thought of a beloved character coming to life is, the truths of reality are much more difficult to accept. Adapting to his new life is challenging, and to make matters worse, the book Oliver was taken out of is trying to correct itself, which means that it wants him back. Fighting against the book, maybe even fate itself, Delilah, Oliver, and their fictional and not-so-fictional friends try to make one last go of getting their happily ever afters. But then tragedy strikes, and each of them wonders whether anyone can ever truly have a happy ending in reality, or if they must accept the bitter truth that such things can only happen in fiction?

There were three different perspectives in “Off the Page,” and I enjoyed each one of them. Edgar, Oliver, and Delilah were fairly cookie-cutter characters, and at times their voices seemed to blend together a bit. Despite that fact, however, I grew to enjoy their voices for what they were: narrators of a “fairy tale.” Most of the traditional fairy tales tended to have multiple characters who all seemed to have the same voice, and so that aspect of “Off the Page” didn’t really bother me once I had adjusted to the fact that they acted much younger than I am used to characters acting. This was not a survival story where sixteen-year-olds were fighting for their lives, this was a fairy tale with a twist about a couple of kids in high school. Once I had accepted that, I began to enjoy reading from the three different points of view.

Edgar, Oliver, and Delilah were all cute characters despite their sometimes immature actions. Delilah irritated me at times because she seemed to be the most selfish and thoughtless of these three perspectives with her expectations of how things should unfold. Delilah wanted situations to go her way, and I can’t fault her for that because we all do it at times, but I disliked that most of the time she didn’t consider other people’s feelings. Despite that, though, I ended up being okay with this character because she grew a lot as an individual in “Off the Page.” As long as a character turns their attitude around and grows as a person, then I’m fine with them starting out a little bit vain and juvenile; it’s when they don’t learn anything that I’m bothered with attitudes.

Edgar and Oliver were cute, if not a bit juvenile, but I grew to like their perspectives as the book went on and I thought that they were sweet characters. I had a difficult time at first connecting to Oliver and Edgar, but eventually I adjusted to the kind of book “Off the Page” was and could then fully enjoy these two boys. They both had their moments of selfishness and weakness, but they also had times of heroism, bravery, and hope in the face of what looked like insurmountable odds. They were darling and I liked them.

All three characters experienced forms of personal growth, and I liked how each of them learned to be more selfless and sacrifice what meant the most to themselves to help someone else. Hope, selflessness, and creativity were the underling themes of “Off the Page,” and I thought that Jodi and Samantha did a very good job of making their characters, and in turn, their readers think about how far those three items go in the real world. With them, we as individuals could do SO much in the world to improve it. In the end, I liked Edgar, Oliver, and Delilah and how they grew in their awareness of others besides themselves.

I think the hardest part about this book for me was getting through the first hundred and fifty pages. I went in with the understanding that it was going to be a super sweet and completely unrealistic story, but I was prepared. Somehow despite my preparation, I still found myself growing a little nauseous and/or irritated at times because of  the characters’ actions, and that initially made it hard for me to connect or get attached to the different people in “Off the Page.” Maybe it was because I hadn’t read the companion to this book, “Between the Lines,” but I had a hard time getting into this story and characters in the beginning. I was a little worried for the first third of this book, wondering off and on whether I had wasted my money on a pretty cover with a lackluster story, and I just was not invested in the story or characters.

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I kept reading despite this because I honestly did want to love “Off the Page,” and around page one-fifty, I got my wish! Once it got to that point things started to get interesting, the plot and character relationships from the first book started making sense, and I began to enjoy all of the characters perspectives. I was happy how either I or the book shifted a bit, and once I got to that point I started to really like “Off the Page” beyond its stunning map and gorgeous cover design.

Surprising to me in this book were the parts that made me choke up; I didn’t expect to almost cry in this book, but I teared up multiple times before I finished it. There are two very emotional parts that made my heart break for the characters involved in them, and I thought it was interesting how Jodie Picoult and Samantha van Leer decided to approach the topic of death in this book since it was so overly sweet. Bravo on their part for almost making me cry while reading what I had expected to be an excessively happy story.

There’s a plot in the previous book, “Between the Lines,” that involved Edgar’s mother Jessamyn rewriting her fairy tale book so that Oliver could get out and become a real person, and it instantly made me think the show “Once Upon a Time.” Now, let’s remember that “Between the Lines” came out two or three years ago, way before the Author in “Once Upon a Time” was ever mentioned. I’ll be honest, the way “Between the Lines” and “Off the Page” went down, I wondered if the TV show might have jacked that idea without people knowing it. It was just so darn similar in that someone (an author) rewrote a fairy tale to influence reality, and it felt like the show had taken that plot line or been inspired by “Between the Lines.” This was probably me going off of the theorizing deep end, but I just thought that the similarities between the plots of the book and show were kind of interesting!

I know that I am giving “Off the Page” the same number of stars as Sarah J. Maas’s “A Court of Thorns and Roses” even though Sarah’s was epic and it blew my mind; there were a couple of things that I didn’t love in it that kept me from giving it a five star rating. With “Off the Page,” however, I graded it on a different scale. This book was on the cute chick lit scale whereas Sarah J. Mass’s “A Court of Thorns and Roses” was graded on the epic fantasy scale. “Off the Page” accomplished what it was attempting to do for readers, it had an inventive and sweet premise, and it ended up being a well-written and cute story. Personally, that equals a really good, sweet chick lit book to me, and it was a fairy tale story on top of it. One blogger who liked this book said that it was “puke inducing cute,” and that’s exactly what this book was born to do. It was meant to be overly sweet and unrealistic with a few moments that made you cry, and I feel that “Off the Page” deserves a four star grade because it accomplished its goal. Not a lot of authors or book can say that for themselves, so I commend the authors on creating such an adorable fairy tale and picture perfect story.

Overall, “Off the Page” was a really sweet story that was endearing for its humorous moments and its tearful truths. It had moments of true and sincere depth, and I loved those pieces of this book. I think that young readers as well as older ones will fall in love with this book. If you love fairy tales and happily ever afters, then “Off the Page” is the book for you!

Deliverance by C.J. Redwine (Defiance #3): Part 2 The Actual Review Part

There are mild spoilers in this review for “Defiance” and “Deception,” so proceed with caution.

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“Deliverance” by C.J. Redwine

5 out of 5 stars.

Logan is locked in a Lankenshire jail cell with Rowansmark soldiers biding their time until they can clear the chess board. He and his friends have fought for their lives before with great odds against them, but somehow this time is different from the others, and there is the likely chance that no one will make it out of Lankenshire alive. Odds have never frightened Logan, but the stakes are now higher than ever before and he is struggling to come up with a good enough plan to get himself out of the dungeon. He hasn’t given up, though, and he is  determined to protect his friends, his family, from the evils that are the Commander and Rowansmark. Sacrifices must be made to save those he loves, and working with Commander Jason Chase is one of them. Logan has promises to keep and if Baalboden’s ex-leader is the only way to stay alive, so be it; he will swallow his pride and make this plan, his only plan, work to save those who are counting on him. He promised Rachel he would always find her, and that is not a promise Logan is willing to break.

Rachel has endured the unspeakable. Her whole family is gone, killed by the Commander, and her dearest friend was murdered by a maniac. Darkness surrounds her, but Rachel knows that she is not alone. Quinn has been following her since she was taken from Lankenshire, having been kidnapped by her friend’s murderer, and Rachel also knows in her heart that Logan is trying his hardest to find a way to save her. But before then, she must learn to save herself. Rachel is fighting a physical and psychological battle against good and evil, light and dark, hope and anger. The time has come for Rachel to finally chooses which of these forces she will embrace, who she will become, and to discover if that choice will destroy or heal her once and for all.

C.J. Redwine is a goddess divine author. I love her as a writer and a person, and I cannot believe that one of my most loved series has come to a close. I am both happy and sad. Sad because I had to say goodbye to these characters who I loved, but also happy because I got to see their stories come together to create one epic book. It has taken me nearly two months to fully absorb everything that happened in “Deliverance” because SO much was good, yet so many things went wrong for these characters. I mean circumstances, not the characters themselves, mind you. I do have to say, though, that there were a few things that I was kind of sad over because of how they changed the dynamic of this story; I am not the hugest fan of change. Despite these changes, I still really liked “Deliverance.”

Logan, my love, was still a great character. He remained fierce and faithful, but I felt like I had a little hole in my heart because he and Rachel were apart for 90% of “Deliverance.” I missed the Logan and Rachel from “Defiance” who worked together, communicated well, and fought to protect one another; I also missed the sweet, quiet moments between them that were beautiful and rare. I had a hard time getting used to the two of them not being with each other because it changed the dynamic of the book, and it felt different from “Defiance,” which was/is dear to my heart. I know people change over time, but it was still hard to accept. Despite this, Logan remained a great character and he did a lot of sacrificial things that made him an amazing leader. Right from the beginning of “Deliverance” he and Willow are fighting for their lives and I was so stressed out that I would practically zoom over the pages to make sure people were still alive.

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I’m gonna be honest, a LOT of people die in this book, and I was wondering how that was even possible since there were only a couple of characters who had survived the first and second books! Oy, C.J., you don’t mind sacrificing characters, even main ones! Another character that I really liked in “Deliverance” was Quinn.

Good golly! I LOVED Quinn in this book!!! I think he turned out to be my favorite character in “Deliverance”; I love Logan dearly, but Quinn was a pleasant surprise of a character. Quinn wasn’t in this book that much, but somehow he was there the whole time. Every chapter that involved Rachel, I was trying to find out where Quinn was and if he would show up. Most of the time he didn’t, but it was like he was still present in “Deliverance” even when he wasn’t in a scene. Oh, how I wish C.J. had given him more time in this book because I honestly could not get enough of this character. Quinn was such a clever, strong, and good guy that I wonder why C.J. did not have more of him in this book. I am extremely grateful for Quinn’s novella, “Outcast,” because it gave me more time to get to know him and helped me to come to love his character all the more. I miss you, Quinn.

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The character I want to discuss in depth is Rachel.

I was worried about Rachel by the end of “Deception” because of how emotionally tortured she was. I cannot blame the girl, but it made me sad for her, angry at the character(s) who caused her that kind of pain, and also quite worried with where C.J. was taking her as a character. A lot of authors in the past couple of years have tried to write “strong” female leads in their books. Everybody is up in arms over the whole feminism movement, and YA lit is a part of that in some ways. I’m a girl and I absolutely hate inequality between men and women and racism that is still occurring in this country as well as in others. It is not fair and it is not okay. My problem sometimes with the movement within the Young Adult Literature world is that a “strong” female equals a *bleepy* one (my mother reads these posts and she doesn’t like language, so I’ll be using *bleep* as my swear word. Bear with me here); I don’t believe that strength and female rights have anything with being a *bleep* or having a domineering, obstinate personality. Women who truly move the world and who are admired by men and women alike are kind, gracious, intelligent, believe in their own worth, do not objectify themselves to get attention, and stand up for what they believe in without wavering. They also don’t shove their opinions down another persons throat or rip the opposite sex down with their words. I really like Emma Watson’s #HeForShe feminist opinion because it is about both men and women coming together to back one another up. Wow, I just realized how off subject that was.

The point I am trying to get at with all the explaining is that C.J. did a good job of helping Rachel heal and become a truly strong female. Rachel eventually figures out that hatred and her desire for revenge will not ever satisfy her; there is a deeper root to her pain than that. Hatred and revenge were the two things that were keeping her emotional wounds open, and the only way to truly heal was to give up those dark desires and to choose to do what is right. In the end she made the right choice and I was happy that C.J. took her from being a girl with revenge that darkened her outlook on life, to one who wanted to choose to live and see the hope that still existed in her world. She chose hope instead of anger, and because of that she began to heal. Rachel still had a lot of inner healing to do, and she was not perfect, but I was happy to see that she was headed in a good direction. It was nice to see a strong female in the YA lit world who did not end up being a *bleepy* banana (i.e. Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior, Lena Haloway-Tiddle, etc.). Sorry about that novel, but I hope you get my point with all that explaining. Okay, let move on to other subjects.

One of the things that I really love about C.J. Redwine is that she creates back characters who feel just as real and important as the main ones. You care and root for them even though they don’t get as much book time, and it also makes it really hard to let them go when she kills them off! You are sometimes cruel, C.J., but I love you anyway. Conner from Lankenshire was one of those characters for me. He wasn’t necessarily vital to the plot, but I really liked him and I loved the scenes where he was present. I felt like he added a good dynamic and an extra layer to “Deliverance.” Another reason why I liked Connor was that he reminded me a little bit of how Logan was early on in “Defiance.” He was super smart and the some of the other people harassed him for it, but I was rooting for him the whole time to, well, not die. Darn you C.J., one can never tell when a character is expendable. This author’s unpredictability caused me a lot of worry and stress while reading “Deliverance.” Every fight scene I was like,

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don’t DIE!!!!!!! Some characters died, some survived in “Deliverance,” but it was hard to tell who was going to make it until the epilogue. Oops! Did I say that there was an epilogue? I pulled a Burton Guster after I finished that last little bit of this glorious book.

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I think the worst part was when I walked away from the book and sat myself down to go over everything that had happened. It was then that I finally realized this beautiful series was over. Please, please, don’t be over…

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 “Deliverance” was beautiful and well done, but my only thing is that it didn’t quite hit me in the heart like “Defiance” did after I had read it. “Deliverance” was still a gorgeous book and a good end to a fantastic trilogy. Bravo, C.J. Redwine!

P.S. I am looking forward to her new series that is supposed to come out *cringes* in 2016. The title for the first book in the series is “The Shadow Queen,” and it sounds AMAZING. I am feeling joy at its existence, but also sadness because it is such a LONG ways away.

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Take Me On by Katie McGarry (Pushing the Limits #4): Massive Spoilers Ahead!

Beware of this post! Tons of spoilers ahead for this book as well as “Dare You To” and “Crash Into You.”

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“Take Me On” by Katie McGarry

2 1/2-3 out of 5 stars. It’s well written, I just really didn’t like it.

This is a difficult book for me to review because of how much I love Katie McGarry. She has a gift with the written word, and she knows just what to say to tug at my heartstrings. I love how she creates such vivid characters, and as a reader I find myself so torn up when one of the characters gets hurt or when I find out something about their past; Katie writes these broken people who endear themselves to you, and they make you want to scream and cheer when something bad or good happens. Her books are rough and real, and they paint a spectacular image of how broken you can be and still rise from the ashes.

Did I lose you during my fairly long speech about how much I adore Katie as an author? I hope not because I want to explain now why this book review is hard for me to write.

I love Katie McGarry (obviously), but I didn’t like her book, “Take Me On.” I don’t know quite why, but I was confused after I read this story. I still am a little bit, but a long discussion with my sister helped resolve it some, but now I am confused as why Katie did SO MUCH in this one book. Please, allow me to explain.

I love drama, not so much in real life, but in books and movies, it can be quite entertaining. My problem in this book? There was TOO MUCH drama, and it drew away from the characters. I never felt like I got a good feel for who they were; I didn’t have any down time with them because they were thrown into one bad situation after another. This is what I like to call too much situational drama and not enough character development. These characters had infinite potential, but that was cut short because they were always dealing with a new problem. When they did have good character growth, I never got a chance to see it, Katie just had to tell me that they were changing because there wasn’t “time” to show it to her readers. I know that was not Katie McGarry’s intention (she is too good of a writer for that), but there wasn’t enough room for us too see all of that if she was to get the book under six hundred pages. That is what made me really sad after I finished “Take Me On”; I always look forward to seeing Katie’s characters grow and change, and she totally delivered that in “Dare You To” and “Crash Into You,” but mot in this book. I personally saw more character growth in “Red At Night,” which was a hundred page novella, than I did in the four hundred or more pages of “Take Me On.” Again I am going to say, “Take Me On” had infinite potential, but the execution wasn’t the best.

To validate my points above, I am just going to list out all of the things that are in this book. My problem with them is that there were too many for one book, and I personally thought that the quantity of  issues drew away from the characters, especially West. Case and point (these are not in chronological order):

1.West got kicked out of his school for fighting,

2. His dad in turn kicks him out of the house, so he has to live in his car,

3. He gets into a skirmish with some shady characters trying to protect  Haley (the main girl), who he hasn’t really met yet,

4. Haley uses her fighting experience to help him, which gets her into major trouble,

5. West in turn decides to defend her (again) when she gets cornered at school, and is then set up to fight her crazy ex-boyfriend in three months,

6. His sister nearly died in a car crash and she’s been in the hospital for a long time,

7. He ends up finding out he is an illegitimate child,

8. West gets a job for the first time in his life,

9.  He starts up at a new school,

10. Haley’s family lost their home, and now they live with her crazy uncle,

11. She chose her boyfriend over her family, which she now knows was a huge mistake ,

12. She gave up her love of fighting after she and Matthew (her crazy boyfriend) had a fight that turn into a hitting match,

13. And she has to train West so Matthew doesn’t beat him in the ring,

14. And she still has to work, go to school, and be home by curfew or else her family will get kicked out of their temporary home.

Haley’s list of issues makes sense; there are a lot them, but they make a lot of sense. Basically her dad got laid off, they lost their house, they stayed in the homeless shelters but then had to leave, and now she and her family are stuck with her uncle, who is very, very evil. It was kind of like dominos, one thing leading up to the next until there was nothing left to knock over. It’s a lot, but in the fictional realm, it was totally believable. West, however, is a different story.

 I loved West when I read “Crash Into You.” Sure, he was a jerk, but you could tell he loved his sister Rachel and the rest of his family; he was just jacked-up like  the rest of his siblings. I could tell, while reading “Crash Into You,” that he had everything in him that was necessary for a great male lead. He was actually shaping up to be the kind of male character that would steal my heart away completely, like Kaleb from “Timepiece” or Thorne from “Cress.” Cheeky and smart, characters who’ve been through a lot and it’s jaded them, but they still have good hearts underneath it all. Obviously I was looking forward to seeing West after “Crash Into You,” but looking back on “Take Me On,” I feel like I had a better understanding of him in “Crash Into You” than I did in his own book. Again, it was because I never felt like I saw him; I wanted to but there were too many other things going on, and I didn’t the chance to connect with the character. To me that was heartbreaking because I was really looking forward to getting to know who West was, and how he was going to grow as a person.

I was constantly told that West had accomplished all of these things like, he was getting better grades, he loved his job and was good at it, but I never saw him study and he never stayed at work for long while I read his scenes. How did he have time to sleep in his car, find a shower somewhere, study, go to school, work, and then meet Haley to train? That is what frustrated me so much, and I wish that the situational drama had been less so I could have seen West do and accomplish all these things. Katie has always had a good amount of drama in her books, but she balanced it really well with calm or emotionally revealing moments between the characters so you got to know them. Here are some examples from the previous two books.

“Dare You To” endearing moments:

1. When Ryan gave Beth the ribbon,

2. When Ryan gave Beth the bottle of rain,

3. When Ryan taught Beth to swim,

4. And the moment when they are talking in the old barn.

Those are just a few moments between the two of them that broke my heart but also mended. There are so many other good scenes in “Dare You To” between both these characters and their friends/family that really make them come alive as people, and I loved that!

“Crash Into You” endearing moments that won me over forever and always:

1. The moment when Isaiah and Rachel are in the bar hiding,

2. When Isaiah steps in between Eric and Rachel at her school when Eric threatens her,

3. When Isaiah shows Rachel his favorite thinking place that only his friend, Abby, knows about,

4. After Rachel gets in her accident and West builds her a pulley device so she can work on her Mustang,

5. And when Rachel strikes up a friendship with Abby.

Like “Dare You To” there are so many other great moments that make you care for these characters, but these were the ones that came to mind. Sadly, I don’t feel that “Take Me On” had any really good moments that endeared the story to me. West did have good character growth by the end of the book, but I never really got to see it happen. And with Haley, I just didn’t care because I couldn’t connect with her. She was a flat-liner for me, unlike Beth and Rachel.

I hope you can see where I’m coming from. I wanted to love this book, but it didn’t have the magic for me that the other two did. I still love Katie McGarry, but this was a miss for me.

ahhh