In Over Her Head: Lights, Camera, Anxiety by Krysten Lindsay Hager

In Over Her Head: Lights, Camera, Anxiety by Krysten Lindsay Hager
Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Poppy

Cecily feels like she has it all: great best friends, the beginnings of a career as a model/actress, and she’s dating her favorite singer, Andrew Holiday. Then Cecily’s best friend Lila begins to ditch her every time Lila’s boyfriend calls. Cecily feels lost, but she and Andrew begin connecting more and she’s never been in a relationship where she felt so understood. Andrew even begins to confide in her about his anxiety. Soon Cecily experiences her own anxiety on a magazine photo shoot, but she manages to impress the magazine staff. Just when it seems like all her dreams are coming true, everything comes crashing down when a photo of Andrew with another girl appears online. He swears nothing happened, but Cecily is crushed. She feels like she’s lost two of the people closest to her.

Was her perfect relationship real or was she in over her head?

Ahhh… all the angst of the teen years.
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I am the mother of teen daughter. I’ve seen how it doesn’t take much to create problems, or to cause the tears to flow, so it shouldn’t have surprised me that our heroine is in tears in the first few pages of this book. As an adult, I honestly rolled my eyes a bit at what seemed to be an overreaction to the situation, but…I do remember being a teen. I wouldn’t go back to those days on a bet!

Cecily is a sweetheart. I really liked her. And I liked Andrew. I didn’t read the book prior to this one, so I didn’t get to see their relationship develop, but for a star, Andrew seems incredibly honest and down-to-earth. I really felt as if Cecily couldn’t have done better in the romance department.

It doesn’t take long, though for the troubles to begin, largely how I’m sure it does IRL. She said this, they saw that, did you see this video, OMG social media said, plus add in cliques and mean girls … and bit by bit it tears down Cecily’s entire support system, from Andrew to her best friend, Lila.

I appreciated the author keeping things clean on the page. My own kid is frequently a little shocked at what she reads in her YA books. Look, we all know kids are having sex, but it’s not necessarily something that needs to be described on the page. This author has my admiration for keeping it real, but clean.

She’s talented in her character creation, too. The book was populated with a cast of well-rounded, unique individuals and I never confused one with the other. The writing itself was also strong and well done. I have no complaints about her skill.

I have to say, I honestly don’t miss the drama of those difficult teen years which made this book a little hard for me to read, but I’m not the target audience, (and honestly, I think being a teen is far more difficult now than when I was a teen) and I feel as if Andrew was a little too good to be true (though I’m betting this book has caused more than one teenaged girl to swoon and dream of having their own Andrew). Otherwise, a solid entry into the contemporary YA field. If this is a genre you love, I’d certainly suggest this book, though maybe start with book one. While I didn’t feel I was missing any information, and I had no trouble following the plot, I’m sure my experience with these characters would have been richer with that background.

King Henry’s Choice by Emily-Jane Hills Orford

King Henry’s Choice by Emily-Jane Hills Orford
Publisher: Clean Reads Publishing
Genre: Historical, Fantasy
Length: Full (227 pgs)
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Rose

There are powers at play that continue to seek amalgamating Scotland to England – powers from the past and powers from the future. It’s the late 1800s and Queen Victoria wants more than mere access to the Scottish retreat at Balmoral Castle. But King Henry I of Scotland, direct descendent of Queen Mary Elizabeth I, the time traveling royal daughter of Mary Queen of Scots, is determined to keep Scotland free and independent and a powerful, progressive nation in its own right. The struggle to protect what is his by birthright becomes a battle that must be fought in the past, the present and the future and in other parts of the world. And, in the midst of each battle, there are choices to be made. Very difficult choices.

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I love time travel stories and, to a lesser extent, alternative history and I was intrigued by the plot and concept of this book as I’m a huge fan of the time period. I did have a little trouble getting into this book. I understand there’s a previous book in the series, and I might have had less trouble if I had read that one first.

There were some inconsistencies that threw me out of the book on occasion, but I think that was more me being an editor in a previous life. I soon was able to get back into the swing of the story, though they did mar my enjoyment a bit.

I enjoyed the characters immensely and was intrigued by the whole concept of Scotland as a free nation. The ending was not what I expected at all. Ms. Orford has a different take on time travel than I’m used to, and I am planning on reading the first book to see if I can pick up more of the background of the story.