Giveaway, Review and Playlist: Don't Hate the Player...Hate the Game: Katie Ashley

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For Noah Sullivan being the best friend to a douchebag and player like Jake Nelson has never been easy. It's been a rocky road since kindergarten when Jake duct taped Noah to his chair before recess. With just six weeks to high school graduation, Jake accidentally blows his drunken ass up on his grandfather's tractor, and Noah finds himself immersed not only in a whirlwind of grief, but on a quest to find a mystery girl from Jake's past. 

While cleaning out Jake's room, Noah and Jake's dad make a startling discovery. Instead of the obligatory porn collection or pot stash, they find a ring, but not just any ring. Its half a carat of commitment in a platinum setting-proving even man whores have taste. After Jake's mom pleads with Noah to find the girl who meant so much to Jake, Noah begins a modern day Grail quest to track the girl down.

Since Jake was a notorious player with a legendary collection of trophy panties, Noah finds himself in over his head. There are the usual suspects like Avery, the Ice Princess Jake dated for appearances, or Presley, the school mattress Jake dated for convenience. But the trail begins to point to the most unlikely of suspects: Maddie, the Valedictorian and choir girl who was trying to help the unmotivated jock graduate--the girl who also has surprisingly caught Noah's eye and meddled with his heart. 

Hanging out with Maddie shows Noah a different side of Jake--one that was deeply human and surprisingly douche-free. And the more he tries to solve the mystery of the ring and of Jake, the more Noah starts to discover about himself and of love.

Don't Hate the Player...Hate the Game 

Playlist from Katie Ashley:
Song titles are linked to you tube videos

Katie considers this the perfect theme song for this book:
Who You'd Be Today: Kenny Chesney
"It ain't fair you died too young. Like a story that had just begun. But death tore the pages all away. God knows how I miss you. All the hell that I've been through. Just knowing, no one could take your place. Sometimes I wonder who you'd be today."

and some others mentioned in the book or fitting the story:

Storm : Lifehouse

Beautiful Boy: John Lennon

Free Bird: Lynard Skynard

Don't Cha: Pussy Cat Dolls

Long Time Coming: Oliver James

Needs: Collective Soul

Crash: Dave Matthews

The world I'd known had shattered around me in an instant, and now everything seemed so surreal. People went on doing exactly what they'd done before while I tip-toed through this new reality. 

I was immediately drawn into this story told in Noah's point of view in present time and flash backs. Noah is a typical, popular seventeen year old young man who has good friends and a stable life despite being raised in a single parent home. But in one terrible moment, his life is changed forever.

His best friend, Jake is gone and it not only affects him deeply, but also brings up past hurts and feelings of loss. Noah is trying to navigate through his pain and grief while also trying to find out more about Jake's recent past. We learn about Jake through flashbacks, observations of others, and clues he left behind. One of those clues leads Noah on a search for the girl that Jake had true feelings for. As more information surfaces, Noah begins to question how much he really knew about what was going on in Jake's life in the last few months. I adored Noah. He was struggling with so much and trying to be stoic, but he had such strong feelings and emotions that they were hard to control. It just broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes. 

"Facin' means acknowledgment and acceptance."
"You're not there yet, baby."

Noah meets the Preacher's daughter, Maddie and feels an immediate connection. But he learns she also might have had more of a connection with Jake than he realized.  Noah is torn between emerging feelings for Maddie, Loyalty to Jake, and confusion about what the truth is. Maddie is strong, smart, and holds strong to her ideals. She is sweet and supportive, but does not let people walk over her. 

Maddie and Noah bond over shared grief and are just what each other needs to deal with the pain. They challenge and support each other and have good chemistry. But both are fearful, nervous, and have difficulty sharing their true feelings. I absolutely loved them together. They really were each other's anchor in a sea of grief.

I enjoyed seeing Noah's growth during the course of the story. He faces tragedy, loss, heartache, insecurity, and confusion. But he begins to come to terms with things and make positive changes for himself and others. 

"So it's kinda like 'don't hate the player, hate the game', right?" 
"Like you were a product of what society wanted of you for a long time--even though it wasn't who you really were deep down inside."

This story had many layers and unfolded at a good pace. The characters were complicated and likable. There were serious story lines involving secondary characters  that also added complications to Noah and Maddie's lives. Situations continue to change for Noah and he has no choice but to keep adapting.

Ultimately this book shows how one person can make a difference and how it has a ripple effect. It is about finding your own path, not being afraid to be who you are or becoming who you want to be. I really enjoyed the characters and the message. It was sad, emotional, heart breaking, heart warming, and inspirational. A very enjoyable and beautiful read despite the serious subject matter.  It was not sad all the time, but also had episodes of humor as well. Another fantastic book in my Katie Ashley collection.

The life of one we love is never lost. It's influence goes on through every life it ever touched.

Thanks to Katie Ashley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review

Katie Ashley is the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Best-Selling author of The Proposition. She lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia with her two very spoiled dogs and one outnumbered cat. She has a slight obsession with Pinterest, The Golden Girls, Harry Potter, Shakespeare, Supernatural, Designing Women, and Scooby-Doo.

She spent 11 1/2 years educating the Youth of America aka teaching MS and HS English until she left to write full time in December 2012.

I feel like giving away a copy of the book!
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