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Friday, February 24, 2017

Release & Review - Off the Ice (Juniper Falls, #1) by Julie Cross

Image and blurb from Goodreads

Title: Off the Ice
(Juniper Falls #1)
Author: Julie Cross
Release Date: February 28th, 2017
Age Category/ Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Entangled (Teen)

All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

Buy Links: Amazon 

3 “Hockey & Family” Stars

ARC via NetGalley

Thank you, Entangled Teen.

First thing I’ll say about this book is, if you love Hockey books, you’ll probably love this one because a lot of the story revolved around this sport. The two themes here were definitely hockey and family.

We started the book in Tate’s POV with a prologue set a year before the story was supposed to start. Tate is attending a farewell party to Claire, his sister’s friend who’s leaving Juniper Falls to go to college and pursue her music/theater dreams. From moment on we already get little hints (and then bigger ones) that Tate had always had a crush on Claire, but she only sees him as her friend’s little brother. Then something big happen with Tate and his father and that gives him the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with Claire, who’d just had her heart broken by some hockey player jerk. In that conversation, Claire asks Tate not to change—she wants him to continue to be this sweet, innocent guy.

Yeah… that’s not gonna happen.

One year later, Claire is back in town to take care of her sick father and help her struggling family with their business. And Tate… well, Tate has managed to change while still staying the same. He’s no longer someone’s little brother. He’s his own person and he’s tall, strong and handsome. Tate is also the new hockey team’s star goalie, and Claire can’t seem to not notice him whatever he goes. That works fine for Tate, who’s single and very much interested, since he’s never gotten over his crush for his sister’s friend.

It seems like the right time for these two to get together, right? Wrong. Claire’s life is a disaster, and Tate’s isn’t that much better.

This is where the two elements I mentioned earlier come into play.

Claire’s biggest arc involves her family and her dreams for her future. With her father sick and her family drowning in debts, Claire has to focus all her attention on helping them and making sure her family doesn’t fall apart. That leaves little time for romance and her own dreams. I really connected with this storyline. Watching Claire feel guilty for wanting to be happy when her parents were struggling made me like her immediately. She came across as a responsible young lady who loved her family very much and was willing to sacrifice a lot for them. And that’s exactly what she needed to show in order to make her arc believable.

Tate, on the other hand, was dealing with his own problems that mostly involved his passion for hockey and his relationship with his father. Let’s just say his father makes it extremely easy to hate him. The man was just obnoxious and evil—maybe a little bit too evil, since I didn’t get why he was acting the way he did. I’m guessing greed and pride had a lot to do with it, besides the alcohol he was a fan of, but I still would’ve liked to know more. Anyway, now that he’s the star goalie, Tate is thrust into the spotlight and he doesn’t really know what to do with it. Tate’s struggle to fit in, do his best and earn his place is interesting to watch, especially when he’s been pressured by his dad to do things that don’t feel right to him.

With both of them so preoccupied with all that was happening in their lives, Claire and Tate’s romance suffered a bit. Despite enjoying how those problems made them complex as characters, I would’ve been a little happier if the story had had more swoon-worthy, sweet moments between them. At times it felt a lot heavier than it needed—or than I expected.

I also think the story could’ve benefited from less side characters. Hailey got a lot of screen time, but her storyline didn’t really go anywhere for me. Maybe she’ll be the star of the next book? I don’t really know, but while I thought she was an interesting character, the whole drama involving her pursue of popularity and her manipulation of Tate felt undeveloped. Same goes for the star goalie before Tate, who also had a promising storyline. As side characters go, I liked Leo and also think he deserves his own story.

Another issue I had was with the voices and POVs. I really couldn’t tell Tate and Claire apart based solely on their voices. There were more than a few opportunities where I had to go back and check the chapter title to see who this was supposed to be. That surprised me a lot since I read another book by Julie Cross last year and thought she’d done a great job with that main character’s voice.

My experience with this book was mostly positive, though. I enjoyed the theme and how well-developed the characters were, and while I wish the romance had been sweeter, it still had some pretty cute moments (and some hot ones, too, since this would fall better in the upper-YA category). If you’re looking for a sports romance with a more serious tone, I think you’ll enjoy this one.
*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.

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