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YA Book Review – Because You Exist by Tiffany Truitt

Because You Exist (Light in the Dark #1) by Tiffany Truitt

Because You Exist (Light in the Dark #1) by Tiffany Truitt

Synopsis
Life is good for LOGAN MIDDLETON. He’s quarterback of the Shepherd High football team, nephew of the town’s most successful lawyer, and boyfriend of Jenna Maples, a girl who has finally agreed to take their relationship to the next level. But nothing good lasts forever.

With only a few minutes of last period English left between him and a weekend alone with Jenna, Logan blacks out. When he awakens, he finds himself in a future where Shepherd High lies in ruins, nothing is what it seems, and everyone he loves is dead. Logan is a shifter. Chosen to travel through time, it’s up to him to figure out how to stop the terrible events that claimed his once perfect life.

Of course, all of this might be easier if he wasn’t paired with the one girl who’d rather see him dead than help him, JOSEPHINE. A girl he tormented during childhood. Strong-willed with biting wit, who lives in the shadows. Tough and dark, Jo is Shepherd High’s most notorious outcast and Logan’s opposite in every way. Together the two must overcome their many differences to figure out why they’ve been selected for such an overwhelming task, and who selected them in the first place.

Before it’s too late…

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My Review
Holy freaking awesome! This book is a recipe for everything I love in a story. Time travel – check, angsty teen drama – check, a flawed protagonist that is hard to like, but you pull for anyway – check and check. Logan Middleton discovers he’s a shifter, someone who can time travel, but with no control over any of it. And to make matters worse, he’s teamed with fellow shifter, Scary Carrie, the worst girl in all of Shepherd High. She’s so awful, he’s spent a great deal of his childhood tormenting her, including her horrible nickname. Now he has to rely on her to survive.

Logan’s the big man on campus, quarterback of the football team, poised to take the team to the state championship. Except he keeps shifting into the future, where a plague has wiped out most of mankind unless he and Scary Carrie, aka Josephine, can find a way to stop it. His teammates think his newfound interest in Jo is sexual. Even his uncle has a weird obsession with his relationship with Jo. Only Logan’s perfect, cheerleader girlfriend seems to understand that Logan’s relationship with Jo goes deeper.

Plot
The plot is complex and fascinating. On the surface, it’s about Logan and Jo finding a way to save the world, but it’s more than that. There’s the mystery over what happens in the future and how they can possibly stop it. There’s the questions over why they were chosen to be shifters, and how shifting occurs. Plus there are other shifters as well as a handful of future survivors who want to kill and eat the shifters. And it’s about two damaged kids who develop a true friendship based on a common goal as well as genuine affection for each other.

There is so much going on in this story, but it’s never confusing. Tiffany Truitt weaves in the subplots so expertly, everything is seamless. Tension run high throughout the story, and I found it incredibly hard to put down. While it’s the first book in a series, the ending is well done, wrapping up enough of the story goal to satisfy me, but also leaving me dying for more. This is the first book in awhile that I’ve been this anxious to get my hands on the sequel.

World Building
The world building is intense and thorough with shifting and guides, light and dark shifters, and conductors. And all of it is really well developed. The future as well as the past are just as three-dimensional as the present world Logan and Jo inhabit most of the time, I’m impressed with the level of detail woven in. At no time does the world building feel like anything other than an extension of the plot.

Characters
I love how beautifully crafted the characters are. Jo and Logan, especially, are deep, layered, and intense. Both of them grow and develop so much over the story in natural, believable ways. In fact Because You Exist at times feels like its equal parts character-driven and plot-driven. What it is, is exceptionally well balanced.

Logan is utterly heartbreaking as the kid who leads a charmed life, popular, in love with the girl of his dreams. He tears everything apart trying to be who he thinks he should, only to to finally admit he’s a complete asshole. And he is. At times. And yet, I still want him to do the right thing. I still believe he will.

Jo is damaged beyond what anyone should be. Her story unfolds slowly throughout the novel. With every new piece of information I learn about her, the more I love her. And it only makes me want Logan to do the right thing by her even more. Oh, Logan…please, please pull your shit together in book 2!

Top Five Things I Loved About Because You Exist
1. Time Travel. It is my number one favorite genre, whether it’s books or movies.

2. The Ending. It ripped my heart out and left me craving more.

3. Logan and Jo. Because they are just so cute together, even though they aren’t “together” together.

4. Randall and Ben. Best bromance I’ve read in a long time.

5. 1996. Because it was a very good year and because did I mention I love time travel?

Bottom Line
Because you Exist is a phenomenal time-travelling young adult romance that raises the bar for the genre.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Because You Exist
Series: Light in the Dark #1
Author: Tiffany Truitt
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Pages: 294
Genre: Young Adult SciFi/Paranormal
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleLimitless Publishing

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Author Tiffany Truitt

Author Tiffany Truitt

About the Author
Tiffany Truitt received her MA in literature from Old Dominion University.

Her debut Chosen Ones, first in the Lost Souls trilogy, is a searing look at what it means to be other and how we define humanity, as well as a celebration of the dangerously wonderful feeling of falling in love.

Where to Find Tiffany Truitt
Goodreads │ Website | Twitter │ Facebook

#1LineWed – Color

1LineWedToday’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is color. Here is another line from The Ruins, the upcoming second book in The Union Series.

Dappled sunlight filters through colorful leaves, trimmed in vermillion, gold, and crimson, clinging to branches, not yet ready to give up their tenuous grasp on life.

You can see previous week’s themes and lines here.

Top Ten Tuesday – Favorite Heroines

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature created by The Broke and the Bookish because as they fully admit, they love lists. I’ve finally jumped on this fun bandwagon because I’m also rather fond of listy type things, including my list of Top Five Things I Enjoyed that I include in each review.

Each week, The Broke and the Bookish posts a new theme. This week’s theme is your top ten heroines, and it was hard. Not hard to come up with ten, but hard to limit it to just ten. There are so many great heroines in fiction. But here is my list.

10. Emma Wrangton from A Game Worth Watching by Samantha Gudger. I love how tough Emma is, and while she’s not a hero in the traditional physical ass-kicking sense, she fights hard for what she believes in, even when it would be easier to give up. Especially when it would be easier to just give up.

9. Nicola Hart from the Titan Series by Cristin Harber. I first met the spunky CIA agent turned Titan in Sweet Girl. I loved her when she was forced to make the ultimate sacrifice for her loved ones. And that love only grew when I got to see how tough she became in Garrison’s Creed.

8. Clary Fray from the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I’ve barely started the series, and already I love her. She makes mistakes, royally screws up, gets everyone pissed off at her, and yet she never gives up. Not on her friends or herself. She never stops trying to do the right thing.

7. Sara Linton from Grant County series by Karin Slaughter. As the town pediatrician and medical examiner, she has her hands full with contrasting roles of ensuring the lives of the town’s smallest inhabitants and helping investigate the darkest events. She’s tough but vulnerable in a way many other female leads in crime thrillers aren’t.

6. Six from The Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore. She’s as tough and hardcore as they come, swooping in and saving John in I Am Number Four. And that’s just the beginning. Able to turn invisible, she has one of the coolest legacies. She’s not afraid to fight alone, but will do anything to protect her friends.

5. Claire Randall-Fraser from the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon. This time-travelling nurse from the mid-20th century travels back in time two hundred years and falls for a Scottsman. She lives through some of the most brutal fighting in history, choosing a life of hardship and violence for the man she loves over women’s rights and financial security. And she doesn’t just mind the homestead as an 18th century wife, letting her husband do all the fighting. Nope, Claire is right there in the thick of the things with husband, Jamie, often saving his ass.

4. Stephanie Plum from the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. Stephanie bumbles her way through mystery after mystery, usually solving by luck rather than skill, but she never gives up. She’s loyal and her positive attitude makes it impossible not to root for her.

3. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. While she’s not particularly likeable, she is strong, brave, and willing to do whatever it takes to protect those she loves. While you may never want to be friends with her, you always want her to win.

2. Ellie Linton from the Tomorrow series by John Marsden. Ellie is a typical teen thrown into an unbelievable situation when war comes to the Australian continent. Fighting and killing don’t come naturally to her, and she struggles with the things she’s done in order to survive. But she never gives up on her friends or her family, risking everything to protect them.

1. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Hermione is smart, funny, kind, witty, clever, and as loyal a friend as there is. She never leaves Harry’s side as he battles to the very end, always risking her own life, while yelling at Harry for doing the same, in order to save the world. She’s everyone’s favorite Muggle-born witch

Guest Post – Alicia McCalla, Origins of an African Elemental

Origins of an African Elemental Blog Tour

A special thank you to author, Alicia McCalla, for today’s guest post. To find out more about Alicia and her book, Origins of an African Elemental, see below.

Guest Post: Why Diversity Matters

Why Diversity Matters in SFF?

As an avid reader, I always enjoyed those outlandish stories by great Science Fiction authors like Ray Bradbury or Isaac Asimov.  In fact, my love for the unusual and strange developed at a young age.  I was fascinated by Alfred Hitchcock.  But, there has always been a part of me that felt disconnected from these worlds.  I would find myself asking the question, “Where are the black folks in the future?”  or “Why do black people always have to die?”

Are Black people being exterminated from the future?

I know, I embellish, push, and get dramatic.  But sometimes, it feels as if there’s an evil plot or plan to eradicate “people of color” from science fiction, fantasy, and the paranormal in TV, movies, and literature. On my blog, www.aliciamccalla.com, I spend time raking over these issues.  I oftentimes find both connections with others who have the same views as well as derision from those who don’t think this is that serious.  It’s an odd place to live but I enjoy it.

The silent demographic

So, I used the word, exterminate, on purpose. It is my goal to change the pervasive attitude that science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal are only for young white males. Whenever I talk to the “powers that be”, it seems that they have that same mantra.

The demographic evidence shows that white males between the ages of 18-30 are the strongest purchasers of this genre.

The research librarian in me wants to pull out statistics, anecdotal evidence, and the like to prove how insane this idea is… especially, from people who seek to make money.  After all, this is America and capitalism is alive and well. For a business person to say that they have no desire to cross over and bring in new viewers, readers etc. is preposterous and I might add, racist. Did I also mention, really, a bad business strategy?

There is a silent and growing demographic in the science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal world. It is comprised of people who are the antithesis of the young white male. People who look like me. Guess what, it’s ok to market or sell stories that I would be interested in reading. It’s ok to put a protagonist on the cover that looks like me. It’s ok, really…

So, here I am, a Black girl from the inner city of Detroit, Michigan affirming my love of science fiction, fantasy, and the paranormal. In fact, I’m taking this another step further. I’m taking this to a higher realm. My mama always said that deep in my heart, I was truly a social activist. With that said, I’m calling on my elders and ancestors for help in stopping the extermination of darker skinned people from the future.

This is me sitting in my meditation pose

In true Africana spirit and tradition, I humbly ask that Fannie Lou Hammer, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglas, Octavia Butler and Malcolm X help me tear down the walls of segregation and racism in an industry that inspires imagination, creativity, and futuristic thought. I want it to be understood that there will be darker skinned people in the future and with the legacy and fortitude of my ancestors, I use my powers of creation and imagination to “make it so.”

What was that? 

Alicia bending the spoon to her will. Did I mention that “I am the one…”

I write stories featuring protagonists of color, in particular, black women heroines. Not sidekicks or best friends with white main characters but as the center or object of the story.  Diversity in science fiction, fantasy, and futuristic stories has become my mission.  Join me in breaking down the barriers in this field #diversityinsff #blackscifi.

May the force be with you!

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Origins of an African Elemental by Alicia McCalla

Origins of an African Elemental by Alicia McCalla

About the Book
Title:
 Origins of an African Elemental
Series: Soul Eater #1
Author: Alicia McCalla
Release Date: January 17, 2015
Publisher: FFP In Color, LLC
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy Thriller
Links: GoodreadsAmazon

Synopsis
This prequel boxed set is the first and second installment in the Soul Eater series. Mawu, Iniko, and Shania grow into their strength as mothers and warriors. These women wield the elements and war swords to save this universe from an ancient evil.

Mawu
An insidious demonic force infects the West African pantheon and a modest Earth goddess goes on a quest to save her people from destruction. She finds strength in the arms of a Norse god who believes in justice. But when Mawu returns to the African pantheon, she must take an oath that threatens the life of her unborn child.

Iniko
Iniko, daughter of a West African goddess and a Norse god, struggles with her estranged husband, who abducted their child and is intent on murdering the girl in a blood-soaked ritual to gain power for his ancient demonic master. Iniko travels to a West African castle during the slave trade to battle possessed vampire-like beasts with her sword and dagger to rescue her child. Can she find the strength to kill the man who once held her heart and the key to her magic?

Flee: A Short Story
After the death of her grandmother, Shania Moore, a 27-year old African-American woman, is tormented by her ex-boyfriend and a paranormal serial killer. When Shania falls into a dream realm and connects with an ancient African goddess, her earth magic awakens. Shania realizes that in order to save her daughter’s magical soul, she must run into the arms of the white man whom she lied to about having an abortion and stood up at the altar ten years before.

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Author Alicia McCalla

Author Alicia McCalla

About the Author
It took thirty years for Alicia to accept her calling as a writer of “unusual stories.” Always writing edgy tales that pushed the envelope. She learned to hide her violent, controversial, heart-pumping,and tragically romantic stories from family and friends.

It wasn’t until she joined a local writer’s group that she began to share her stories openly and take the plunge. Alicia writes for both new adults and adults with her brand of multicultural supernatural thrillers, urban fantasy, paranormal, and horror. Her stories always include strong women heroines who fight back, sometimes to the death.

Alicia’s influences are Octavia Butler, LA Banks, Faith Hunter, Patricia Briggs, and Laurell K. Hamilton.

Alicia is an activist in the movement towards diversifying Science fiction and Fantasy (#diversityinsff). She created the first “State of Black Science Fiction 2012” blog tour, is an active member in the State of Black Science Fiction FaceBook group and has a ScoopIt page where she actively curates topics related to Afrofuturism, Black Science Fiction, and Black Speculative fiction.

Alicia is a native Detroiter who currently resides in metro Atlanta. She works as a media specialist or school librarian in a local school district. Alicia enjoys spending time with her husband and son.

Alicia’s adult series mixes African-American women’s fiction with dark urban fantasy. Check out the Soul Eater series. Sign-up on www.aliciamccalla.com for free downloads, e-updates, sneak peeks, and coupons.

Where to Find Alicia McCalla
GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter

YA Book Review + Giveaway – How to Unbreakup by Rebekah L. Purdy

How to Unbreakup by Rebekah L. Purdy

How to Unbreakup by Rebekah L. Purdy

Synopsis
First rule of breakups: There’s no going back.

For three years, seventeen-year-old Grace Evers has regretted breaking up with Sage Castle.

That day, she lost her boyfriend and best friend. And let’s be honest, it’s impossible to just be friends with the one person who gets you, faults and all, and loved you anyway. It’s impossible not to think about how it felt to be held by him, or the way he looked right before he was about to kiss you with the most perfectly yummy kiss goodnight.

And now that things are over between them, they’ve become strangers to one another. Sage won’t even look at Grace, let alone talk to her!

Breakup life sucks and Grace is utterly miserable, doing whatever she can to ease the pain of losing Sage. She’s spent the better part of high school pretending to be something she’s not and hanging out with people who probably wouldn’t notice if she wasn’t there. Crappy dates, backstabbing friends, and Sage’s cold shoulder have taken their toll.

So when her parents propose going away to their house on Lake Michigan for the summer, Grace is thrilled. No more massively bad dates with horrible kissers or lunch with frienemies. Just three months of swimming, hiking, and relaxing before senior year starts.

But when Grace learns Sage and his family will be joining them, she readies herself for a totally awkward family vacation of disastrous proportions. How can it be anything but awful if Sage won’t even acknowledge she exists?

This is it, Grace’s last chance to get Sage back and unbreakup.

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My Review
How to Unbreakup is a sweet, fun, fast read, full of teen angst, witty dialogue, playful bantering, and enough pop cultural references to be terminally adorable. Childhood BFFs, Grace and Sage dip a toe into the dating pool at the tender age of thirteen, only for Grace to end things a year later, for reasons I’m still not sure I fully understand. Except what fourteen year old really gets the whole relationship and dating thing right?

Flash forward to the summer before senior year, and Grace wants Sage back. Big time. So much so, she devises a plan with his siter on how to unbreakup with him. Hot girls, hotter guys, and parents and siblings with the worst timing ever all seem to be conspiring to sabotage her plan with sometimes hilarious results.

Plot
It’s a straightforward plot revolving around Grace’s plan with very little subplotting, but I don’t know that any more is necessary. This isn’t about character development or a difficult subject matter. It’s just a lighthearted teen romance and it does its job extremely well with both humor and tenderness.

World Building
The world building is subtle, set in a small town on the banks of the Great Lakes in Michigan. But where the world building takes off is the environment of friendship that feels as warm and intimate as a summer cottage. Rebekah L. Purdy creates a history between Grace and Sage that is almost a part of the setting and she pulls us into that complex friendship, effectively making us a third party to it.

Characters
The characters are refreshing in their averageness. There are no dark secrets, no special powers, no hidden abilities. Just average teens dealing with average problems with heart and soul. Grace, Sage, Allie, Benji, Lyncee, Logan, and even Lila are infinitely likeable, funny kids that you would love to hang out with.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About How to Unbreakup
1. The Nerdiness. I loved being able to embrace my inner geek right alongside Grace and Sage. The Star Wars references were right up my alley.

2. The Angst. Angst is as much a part of the teen years as zits and gossip, and the author does a great job of pouring it on just enough without taking it over the top.

3. Allie and Benji. Because the younger sibs are just too cute.

4. Lyncee’s Phone Calls. Grace’s BFF, stuck at home babysitting a pair of hellions, are among some of the funniest moments in the book.

5. The Ending. Because I didn’t quite see it playing out that way, and I love when an author can surprise me a little when it comes to formulaic romance.

Bottom Line
A fun, fast read wrapped up in a nerdy romance that made me laugh out loud at times.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: How to Unbreakup
Author: Rebekah L. Purdy
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Pages: 172
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Rebekah L. Purdy

Author Rebekah L. Purdy

About the Author
Rebekah Purdy grew up in Michigan, where she spent many late nights armed with a good book and a flashlight.

When not hiding at her computer and getting lost in her stories, she enjoys reading, singing, soccer, swimming, football, camping, playing video games and hanging out with her kids.

She loves the unexplainable like Bigfoot, the Dogman, and the Loch Ness Monster (lots of good story material)! She admits to still having all the books she bought throughout her childhood and teen years, and she may or may not have an obsession with anything chocolate…

Where to Find Rebekah L. Purdy

Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

YA Book Review – The Institute (The Institute Series) by Kayla Howarth

The Institute (The Institute #1) by Kayla Howarth

The Institute (The Institute #1) by Kayla Howarth

Synopsis
Allira Daniels will do anything to keep her family safe from the Institute. They claim to protect the Defectives, but really the Defectives are trapped and segregated.

Allira’s brother Shilah is not dangerous like everyone assumes all Defectives are. He just sees things before they happen, and Allira knows that if anyone finds out, they will turn on the entire Daniels family. So they live by one simple rule: be invisible. They try to blend in at school, try not to draw unnecessary attention to themselves.

But when Allira witnesses a car accident that critically injures two of her classmates, her family’s rule and her dad’s warnings are tossed aside.

Allira is quick to discover that saving Drew’s life could just be the best and worst thing she’s ever done.

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My Review
Author, Kayla Howarth, paints a terrifying future where a virus wiped out a large percentage of the earth’s population and spawned a genetic mutation, creating a generation of Defective people with superpowers who must be hunted down and contained. Allira’s brother is Defective and she’ll do anything to protect him. But when the Institute sweeps up Kayla and her brother in a massive effort to find all the Defectives, she discovers things are far worse than she ever imagined.

Plot
The main plot centers around the Institute and their role in this dystopian world, how Allira fits into it, and above all else, what she’s willing to do to protect her brother, Shilah. There is a subtle love triangle that seems rushed at first. In fact, it was one of my least favorite aspects of the book. But it all falls into place by the end in an “aha” moment that made me realize how brilliant it was.

World Building
The world building is there, but it’s shallow in some areas, deeper in others. Where it really works, though, is in the development of the Defectives’ abilities and the Institute’s role in pretty much everything. Kayla Howarth does a phenomenal job of foreshadowing. So much so, you don’t necessarily realize that’s what it is at first.

Characters
The story is plot-driven, so the character development is subtle. The characters are interesting enough though, that it doesn’t seem to matter. Allira, particularly, comes across as a typical teen girl, letting her hormones get in the way of what should be her focus a good deal of the time. But her fierce loyalty to her brother always comes first. Chad, one third of the love triangle is an enigma, and I love that about him. I think there’s still a lot to find out about Chad in the rest of the series. The last third is Drew. I’m still on the fence about Drew. Just when I think I’m going to hate him, Howarth draws me back in, reminds me he’s flawed, human, impossible to hate.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Institute
1. The Ending. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the last paragraph of a book with my jaw hanging open.

2. Tate. He’s just awesome. I want to be Tate when I grow up.

3. The Superpowers. Because who doesn’t secretly want a superpower?

4. Allira’s Loyalty. Shilah may not appreciate yet what a great sister he has, but I have no doubt that he will.

5. The Complexity of Drew. The fact that he was developed with endless shades of gray makes him fascinating.

Bottom Line
The Institute is an interesting take on both young adult dystopia and superheros. It melds the two together in a fascinating story that left me wanting more.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: The Institute
Series: The Institute #1
Author: Kayla Howarth
Release Date: January 7, 2015
Pages: 231
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Kayla Howarth

Author Kayla Howarth

About the Author
Kayla was born and raised on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. She still resides there with her husband and son, working part time for a medical pathology lab while working on her writing.

Her love of reading and movies inspired her to start something she never dreamed possible: Writing her first novel.

When she’s not working, looking after her son, or writing, you’ll most likely find her hosting her own dance party in the kitchen while she does the dishes. (Where her husband will argue that more dancing is achieved than clean plates.)

Where to find Kayla Howarth
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter

Book Review – Heartsick by Caitlin Sinead

Heartsick by Caitlin Sinead

Heartsick by Caitlin Sinead

Synopsis
Quinn is looking forward to her senior year at Poe University. She has big plans to hang out with her best friend, flirt with a certain boy genius, party at her favorite dive bar and figure out what she’s going to do after graduation with her not-so-useful art major. But that’s before she meets Luke, a hot townie who’s moved back home to help take care of his dying sister. And it’s before a weird epidemic sweeps across campus, mysteriously turning people’s eyes purple.

Is it an odd side effect from a new party drug?

Is it a rogue virus developed in a campus lab?

Is it the mark of the devil?

Soon the town starts blaming the university and the student religious group becomes frighteningly aggressive in their on-campus accusations. Quinn and Luke are caught in the middle—until a tragic accident forces Luke to reveal the one part of himself he’s kept carefully hidden. That he’s so much more than the happy-go-lucky boy next door Quinn had believed him to be isn’t a surprise…but this truth might be too dangerous for her to handle.

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My Review
Although it starts off pretty slow, it picks up about halfway through and turns into a pretty good page-turning mystery. When Quinn’s roommate, Mandy, begins showing strange symptoms, not the least of which is lavender eyes, she finds herself embroiled in the mystery of the century. As more symptoms and victims pile up, the small town of Allen, Virginia finds itself at the center of a media and panic firestorm. Caitlin is torn between brainy Rashid, fellow student at Poe University, and towie, Luke. Each has something to offer, making her inability to choose somewhat understandable. But I had a hard time with understanding the way she bounced back and forth between them, sometimes hour-to-hour or even minute-to-minute.

Plot
The plot centers around the mysterious illness plaguing Poe University students as it spreads from Caitlin’s roommate, Mandy, patient 0, to the broader Allen community. Numerous theories abound, including it being the work of the devil, a side-effect of a new club drug, or a manufactured virus. When another symptom appears to be miraculous healing in those with purple eyes, sick people from everywhere come to Allen hoping to catch the virus, and with it a cure for whatever ails them. The love-triangle subplot is almost thrown in as an afterthought. If you come for the romance, stay for the  mystery, because that’s what really drives this story.

World Building
The author creates a believable world of small town paranoia and life for both locals and students when an exclusive university is the biggest thing around.

Characters
The cast is pretty large, but Caitlin is the main character. She’s not particularly likeable, but she does have her moments and by the end, I found myself rooting for her. Mandy is the most interesting character, with her tragic backstory and her love for a nerd when she could have almost any hot guy she wanted. Luke, one of Caitlin’s love interests, is more rounded and sympathetic than hot, brainy, Rashid. There’s also a whole host of colorful locals and college students to make a tapestry of characters that drives the plot.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed Heartsick
1. The Mystery. I love a good new adult romance wrapped up in a mystery. It might be my new favorite genre.

2. Luke. He’s totally badass with a nice soft underbelly and a big heart.

3. Danny. What’s not to like about the loveable Freshman?

4. Mandy. She’s feisty, spunky, and as loyal as they come. Sometimes I think she deserves a better BFF than Caitlin.

5. Allen, Virginia. This small town has heart and soul and perfectly encomasses a place where everyone knows your name and your business and aren’t afraid to tell you what they think you should do about your life.

Bottom Line
Heartsick is a surprise hit. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it exceeded my nebulous expectations.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Heartsick
Author: 
Caitlin Sinead
Release Date:
February 16, 2014
Publisher: 
Carina Press
Pages:
224
Genre: 
New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Author Caitlin Sinead

Author Caitlin Sinead

About the Author
Caitlin Sinead is represented by Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger, Inc. and her debut novel, Heartsick, will be published by Carina Press in 2015.

Her writing has earned accolades from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Glimmer Train, and Writers & Artists, and her stories have appeared in multiple publications, including The AlarmistThe BinnacleCrunchableJersey Devil Pressand Northern Virginia Magazine. She earned a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University.

Where to Find Caitlin Sinead
Goodreads Website | NewsletterTwitter | Facebook

Ideal Valentine Gifts for Book Lovers

Buzzfeed put together this great list of 16 perfect Valentine’s Day gifts for book lovers. But 16 just didn’t seem like enough, so I decided to add to it. Here are my top ten ideal book lover gift ideas:

1. I’m rapidly becoming obsessed with TeeFury after discovering them a couple of months ago. This fantastic T-shirt by artist Mike Vasquez is a mashup of Marvel’s Deadpool and the Cat in the Hat. And it’s too awesome for words.

The Merc with the Mouth

The Merc with the Mouth T-Shirt from TeeFury

 

2. This Harry Potter artwork The Snitch Catcher is designed by Nacho Arjona, AKA Naolito, as a tribute to the famous Banksy Balloon Girl mural in London. In addition to posters, you can also get this design on your phone case, and clothing in both children’s and adult sizes.

The Snitch Catcher by Nacho Arjona

The Snitch Catcher by Nacho Arjona

 

3. The writer in me adores this game from UncommonGoods. In the vein of 1,001 Arabian Nights comes The Storymatic, which can help kickstart even the most stubborn imagination. Created by writer, Brian David Mooney, it contains games and prompts and instructions for both games as well as creativity boosters.

The Storymatic Game

The Storymatic Game

 

4. For those who love to read real books, bookmarks are a must, and these fantastic Moby Dick bookmarks from Felix Jud & Company, turn whatever you’re reading into a literary work of art.

Moby Dick bookmarks from Felix Jud & Company

Moby Dick bookmarks from Felix Jud & Company

 

 

 

5. When it comes to bookends, the sky is the limit, but these AT-AT bookends are a must-have for any Star Wars-loving reader.

AT-AT Bookends from Star Wars

AT-AT Bookends from Star Wars

 

6. I love all the recycled book art I see on Pinterest. There are so many options, but these sculptures by British artist Su Blackwell, are jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

Book Sculptures by Su Blackwell

Book Sculptures by Su Blackwell

 

Book Sculptures by Su Blackwell

Book Sculptures by Su Blackwell

 

7. This iPhone case from Twelve South looks like an old leather-bound book and is just plain cool.

iPhone Leather Bound Book Cover by Twelve South

iPhone Leather Bound Book Cover by Twelve South

8. This is a do-it-yourself idea I saw on Pinterest. Paint bricks to look like books for your garden. Adorable, cheap, and super easy.

Paint Old Bricks to Look Like Books

Paint Old Bricks to Look Like Books

 

9. For the female book lover, this green mini-book necklace from Papirell is both beautiful and affordable at just $24.00.

Green Mini-Book Necklace from Papirell

Green Mini-Book Necklace from Papirell

 

10. For the male book lover, these comic-book themed Converse High Tops from Moonlightdecortor are fashionably cool.

Comic-Book Themed Converse High Tops from Moonlightdecortor

Comic-Book Themed Converse High Tops from Moonlightdecortor

 

YA Book Review + Giveaway – How (Not) to Fall in Love by Lisa Brown Roberts

How(not)to-fall-in-love_tour

How (Not) to Fall in Love by Lisa Brown Roberts

How (Not) to Fall in Love by Lisa Brown Roberts

Synopsis
Seventeen-year-old Darcy Covington never had to worry about money or where her next shopping spree was coming from. Even her dog ate gourmet. Then one day, Darcy’s car is repossessed from the parking lot of her elite private school. As her father’s business hit the skids, Dad didn’t just skip town, he bailed on his family.

Fortunately, Darcy’s uncle owns a thrift shop where she can hide out from the world. There’s also Lucas, the wickedly hot fix-it guy she can’t stop crushing on, even if she’s not sure they’ll ever get out of the friend zone.

But it’s here among the colorful characters of her uncle’s world that Darcy begins to see something more in herself…if she has the courage to follow it.

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My Review
Neither the cover nor the book blurb really do this fabulous book justice. It isn’t nearly as dark and brooding as the cover and the story is so much more than the synopsis. The title is what hooked me, but the strong writing is what kept me turning the pages late into the night.

Darcy is the daughter of a successful motivational speaker who takes off on a sabbatical, leaving his business and family behind. Darcy’s world is turned upside down, not just by her father’s departure, but by the fallout, as her dad becomes late night talk show fodder, her car is repossessed, and she finds herself needing a job for the first time in her life. She reconnects with her uncle who owns a thrift shop and befriends his assistant, Lucas. The fact that Lucas is ten kinds of hot and has a girlfriend who looks like a supermodel doesn’t help. Through it all, Darcy discovers more about herself, her family, and what it means to be triumphant.

Plot
The plot centers around Darcy and her crumbling world, with a strong romantic subplot. And while the title is How (Not) to Fall in Love, this isn’t a typical teen romance. It’s so much more than that. Darcy has a lot on her plate and she steps up to it more than once, proving she’s more than just a spoiled rich girl who’s had life easy up until it falls apart.

World Building
The author does a remarkable job of creating such believable settings. Everything from the high-powered world of motivational speaking to the bohemian neighborhood where her Uncle Charlie lives come alive in vivid detail. I love the details of her uncle’s thrift shop and Liz’s coffee house. In both cases, I felt as if they were real places that I’d love to visit.

Characters
The characters were all really well developed. More so than almost anything I’ve read recently. Darcy, Lucas, Charlie, Liz, even Darcy’s parents all had incredible depth. The characters are the best part of the story, but more than just awesome characters. The plot is strong, it’s just that the characters bring it to life in refreshing fashion.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About How (Not) to Fall in Love
1. Darcy. She’s resilient, unspoiled, and full of spunk. I loved watching her grow throughout the story.

2. Charlie. I love his free-spirited nature and how much he cares for Darcy.

3. Lucas. I love how he sees more in Darcy than she does in herself.

4. Pickles. What’s not to love about a pint-sized ball of determination?

5. Liz. Everything about this 40-ish hippy barista is awesome.

Bottom Line
How (Not) to Fall in Love was a surprise hit for me. I love the story, the characters, the settings, really everything. One of my favorite young adult reads of 2015.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: How (Not) to Fall in Love
Author: Lisa Brown Roberts
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 379
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooksKobo

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Author Lisa Brown Roberts

Author Lisa Brown Roberts

About the Author
Lisa Brown Roberts still hasn’t recovered from the teenage trauma of nearly tweezing off both eyebrows and having to pencil them in for an entire school year.

This and other angst-filled memories inspire her to write YA books about navigating life’s painful and funny dramas, and falling in love along the way.

Her almost forever home is Colorado, though she occasionally pines for the days when she lived within walking distance of the Pacific Ocean. Her house is full of books, boys, several fourlegged prima donnas, and lots of laughter.

Where to find Lisa Brown Roberts
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter

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Giveaway
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YA Book Review + Giveaway – Paper or Plastic by Vivi Barnes

Paper or Plastic Blog Tour

Paper or Plastic by Vivi Barnes

Paper or Plastic by Vivi Barnes

Synopsis
Welcome to SmartMart, where crime pays minimum wage…

Busted. Alexis Dubois just got caught shoplifting a cheap tube of lipstick at the local SmartMart. She doesn’t know what’s worse—disappointing her overbearing beauty-pageant-obsessed mother for the zillionth time…or her punishment. Because Lex is forced to spend her summer working at the store, where the only thing stranger than the staff is the customers.

Now Lex is stuck in the bizarro world of big-box retail. Coupon cutters, jerk customers, and learning exactly what a “Code B” really is (ew). And for added awkwardness, her new supervisor is the totally cute—and completely below her social sphere—Noah Grayson. Trying to balance her out-of-control mother, her starting spot on the school softball team, and her secret crush on the school geek makes for one crazy summer. But ultimately, could the worst store in the world be the best thing that ever happened to her?

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My Review
When Alexis is caught shoplifting, her penance is a summer working at SmartMart. She’s popular, pretty, and athletic, with big dreams for her future. So why screw all that up for a lousy tube of lipstick? Mommy issues. Loads of them. After failing to talk her way out of her punishment, she begrudgingly settles into her job, battling with customers, tolerating odd co-workers, and eyeing the hot manager. When it turns out that hot manager is none other than Noah Grayson, her BFF’s arch nemisis, things get complicated.

Plot
The story starts off fairly slow as Alexis learns the ins and outs of SmartMart, from greeter, to register duty, bathroom cleaning, and floor assignments. More than a few colorful characters work in and frequent SmartMart. Things don’t really start to pick up until about midway through the book.

The relationship between Lex and Noah is the main plot, but several subplots are woven in, including Lex’s spot as the starting pitcher on her softball team, her relationship with her mother, her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s, Noah’s family, and Lex’s friendship with Bryce when he discovers what’s going on between his best friend and the kid he loathes.

That’s a lot of plotting, but it never gets confusing. All of it is woven together really well, enriching the story. But with that much going on, it would have been nice for things to start moving a little earlier in the book.

World Building
The bulk of the story takes place inside SmartMart, and author, Vivi Barnes, does an outstanding job of bringing it to life in all it’s technicolor glory. I felt like I was right there inside my nearest big box retailer with Lex, Noah, Ruthie and the others.

Characters
The characters were quirky and well-developed. Both Lex and Noah were layered and deep and went through incredible growth through the book. Lex has a lot to deal with, but she matures so much over the summer, finally finding her voice when it comes to Bryce. And Noah is a complicated boy, but he is one of the more interesting male characters I’ve read in young adult fiction in a while.

The rest of the cast are perfect in their roles, and I love that none of them are stereotypical. Everyone from Lex’s spoiled sister, Rory to Noah’s sweet little sister Belle, Ruthie the SmartMart greeter who likes to play shopping cart coaster, and even Bryce bring out a side to both Noah and Lex than we might not otherwise see.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Paper or Plastic
1. Noah Grayson. I have identical twin sons named Noah and Grayson. There is no way I wasn’t going to love this boy.

2. Child pageants. Because they really are just that awful!

3. Ruthie. Vivi Barnes does a phenomenal job of creating a character that is as endearing as she is annoying. We all know at least one person like this and we can’t help but love them.

4. Lex. She’s smart, loyal, modest, and brave, and when the chips are down, you definitely want her on your side.

5. The ending. I love how the story ended, but the author left me just enough hope that there could be a second book, continuing Lex and Noah’s story.

Bottom Line
Paper or Plastic is both a fun, light-hearted read and something deeper that will stick with me in the coming weeks.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Paper or Plastic
Author: Vivi Barnes
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Author Vivi Barnes

Author Vivi Barnes

About the Author
Vivi Barnes is the author of Olivia Twisted and the upcoming release, Paper or Plastic. She was raised on a farm in East Texas where her theater-loving mom and cowboy dad gave her a unique perspective on life.

Now living in the magic and sunshine of Orlando, Florida, she divides her time writing, working, goofing off with her husband and three kids, and avoiding dirty dishes.

Where to find Vivi Barnes
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter

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Giveaway
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Book Review – Red Lines by T.A. Foster

Red Lines by T.A. Foster

Red Lines by T.A. Foster

Synopsis
Love on remote Perry Island was one thing, but with the flash of a camera everything has changed.

Movie star Evan Carlson has just landed the role of a lifetime, playing the infamous Dexter Red. Fans can’t get enough of the sexiest, most-talked-about guy to ever hit paperback pages.

Haven is in Austin working on her songwriting career, and Evan’s faith and commitment are put to the test. No matter which way he turns, Hollywood keeps getting in the way.

Does realizing their career dreams mean losing their relationship? Can they survive the headlines and media frenzy surrounding Evan’s new role?

When it comes to love, some lines are meant to be blurred.

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My Review
With Haven’s music career and Evan’s ranch drawing both to Austin, Texas, the two end up spending more time together, stitching up their fragile relationship. But when Evan agrees to play the lead in Red Lines, a Fifty Shades of Grey-esque movie alongside ex-girlfriend Emmy Harper, those new seams will be stretched to their limit. And it’s not just kinky, naked movie scenes that pull the couple apart. Family drama, a new talent at Blue Steel Records, and time apart all play guest-starring roles.

Plot
New relationships are hard enough without everything else Haven and Evan have going on in their busy lives. As the two try to find alone-time in a house full of support staff, the paparazzi camp out front, trying to catch a glimpse of the aspiring songwriter who broke up Hollywood “it” couple “Emvy.” The main plot centers around the obstacles that Evan and Haven need to overcome to be together, and there are a lot of them. But there are also good subplots involving Haven’s family back on Perry Island, Evan’s family, and Haven’s career. They’re all woven well together, strengthening the main plot.

World Building
The switch from laid-back Perry Island to the eternally-weird city of Austin is really well done. Between Evan’s ranch and the city life itself, T.A. Foster manages to create both tranquility on the ranch and a hustle and bustle in the city, with her action flowing naturally from the setting. Although I would have loved a little more time on Sixth Street, I get that the gritty, dusty, sprawling ranch is home.

The other aspect of world building that really came alive is the set of Red Lines. Living in southern California, it’s impossible not to know at least one person in “the business.” I know several, so I’m always highly critical of books set in that world when the author hasn’t done his or her homework. But T.A. Foster does a great job of creating an authentic world, including long, boring days of table reads, hot set lights, too much makeup, and huge crews making love scenes feel anything but intimate. Although secretly I would have loved a shout out to the great work that costumers do (right, Meredith?).

Characters
Haven and Evan are still the main characters and even though I already knew them coming into Red Lines, I feel like I know them better now. The addition of singer/songwriter Carly Stone and Evan’s ranch staff provide more conflict and interesting characters for Evan and Haven to interact with in new ways.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Red Lines
1. Haven. She stays true to herself and I love it. It would be so easy for her to get wrapped up in the world Evan lives in, but she’s a Perry Island girl through and through.

2. Emvy. Because, seriously, that’s one the best “ship” names I’ve heard in awhile.

3. Birthday Surprise. I won’t give anything away. and though I saw it coming, it was still really amazing and I could picture the entire thing.

4. The Settings. I loved the island, but it was great to bounce around between the ranch, Austin. and L.A. Having spent time in two out of three of those places, they were easy for me to picture. But the descriptive details the author uses for the ranch,had me right there picturing that, too.

5. Cowboy Steaks. They’re back!

Bottom Line
Red Lines is the story of how a couple in a new relationship struggles with fitting their significant other into their well-established lives. Its easy to relate to their struggles, even for ordinary people who aren’t actors or songwriters.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Red LInes
Series: Finding Haven #2
Author: T.A. Foster
Release Date: May 15th, 2014
Pages: 216
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |  iBooks

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Author T.A. Foster

Author T.A. Foster

About the Author

T.A. Foster is a Southern girl whose heart and spirit are connected to the beach. She grew up catching rays and chasing waves along the North Carolina Outer Banks and now resides in the state with her adventurous pilot husband, two children and two canine kiddos.

Her long love affair with books started at an early age, and as soon as she was able, she transformed imaginative stories into words on paper. Time Spell is T.A.’s debut novel, and the first in a series about a very adventurous, clever, and magical girl named Ivy.

T.A. has an undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a graduate degree in Educational Psychology from Texas A&M University. When she’s not chasing her two-legged and four-legged children or trying to escape for date night, you can find her reading, writing or planning her next beach trip.

Where to Find T.A. Foster
Goodreads Blog Facebook Twitter

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Giveaway
2 Fandango Movie Tickets and a $10 Amazon Gift Card
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Amazon Countdown Deal Going on Now – The Union by T.H. Hernandez

From now through February 11, you can pick up The Union for just $0.99. Beginning on February 12, the price rises to $1.99 through February 15 before it reverts back to $2.99.

The Union (The Union Series #1) by T.H.Hernandez

The Union (The Union Series #1) by T.H.Hernandez

About the Book
Title:
 The Union
Series: The Union Series #1
Author: T.H. Hernandez
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Adventure/Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
After global warming and a second civil war devastated the former United States, two different societies rose from the ashes – the Union, a towering high-tech utopia, hugging the perimeter of the continent, and the devastated, untamed midsection known as the Ruins.

Seventeen-year-old Evan Taylor has an easy, privileged life in the Union. What she doesn’t have is any idea what to do with the rest of her life. She only knows she wants to do something meaningful, to make a difference in the lives of others.

When she’s kidnapped and taken into the Ruins as a pawn in a dispute involving her boyfriend, Bryce, her ideal world is turned upside down. What she learns while in the Ruins shakes her faith in everything she’s ever known, from Bryce, to her family, and even the Union itself.

Now Evan must choose whether to stay with Cyrus, the sexy, resourceful survivor who believes she’s in the Ruins for a reason, or return to the only life she’s ever known. But when she stumbles upon a dangerous plot that threatens both worlds, her decision could tear her apart.

Sign Up for My Newsletter for Exclusive Content

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I just set up a newsletter for readers to subscribe to. I promise I won’t spam your inbox and with the exception of special situations, won’t be sending out more than one per week, if that. Newsletter subscribers will have access to exclusive content not available anywhere else, including:

  • A sneak-peek at the cover to The Uprising, book 3 in The Union series, before it’s released to the public.
  • An advance look at chapter 1 of The Uprising
  • The story of The Union from Cyrus’s point of view
  • The story of The Ruins from Cyrus’s point of view
  • Additional bonus material from other characters’ points of view
  • Subscriber-only giveaways

You can sign up by filling out the fields in the upper right corner of this page, or go to the Newsletter subscription page.

Guest Post + Giveaway – Libby Rice, Author of Art-Crossed Love

A special thank you to author, Libby Rice, for today’s guest post. To find out more about Libby and her book, Art-Crossed Love, see below.

Guest Post: Oh The Allure of the Artist

Art-Crossed Love’s hero and heroine are artists—he’s a photographer, and she’s an abstract painter, each struggling in a very different way. Cole is bound by a grief that seems to have clenched his tendency towards strict representationalism, while Lissa merely skirts true success by refusing to believe in her own wild talents.

I have to admit there is something inordinately appealing about the fictional artist. Under the keys—or at least under mine—these inspired souls tend to be brooding and emotional, yet also sufficiently contemplative as to be changeable. The elusive heart of an artist provides fodder aplenty for pain, both difficult and necessary, and also the sweet, sweet gain that comes from a true character transformation.

Beyond emotionally gratifying, I find writing visual artists especially interesting because these are people who choose to surround themselves with the beauty they create. I find an immense challenge in convincing the reader that the characters’ ideas of beauty, and thus their struggles to create it, are worthy.

And what’s more worthy than love? Especially when that love comes at a high price—braving clashing temperaments and diverging priorities before two unique people can have what they really want: Each other.

They say once you’re done torturing your characters, torture them a little bit more, so with Art-Crossed Love I doubled down. Rather than highlighting a single artistic medium, Lissa and Cole formidably pit two approaches against each other. Each wants to take a different path to the same place, and those diverging roads are tough taskmasters since abstract expressionism and realism are ideological enemies.

While I love looking at art, I paint like a toddler scrawling pudding across the fridge, and my photography skills are limited to the camera on my smartphone. That meant research: museums, galleries, books, interviews. Those steps taught me much about the evolution of various artistic disciplines and, oftentimes, the evolution of many of my favorite artists. I learned that artists often evolve radically over the course of a long career. For example, Clyfford Still’s early works were entirely representational, oftentimes depicting the poverty of rural life in the 1930s. In the 1940s and 50s, he morphed into one of America’s preeminent abstract expressionists, leading the charge for later household names like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Vincent Van Gogh began his painting career with somber earth tones that showed no sign of the vivid coloration and texturing that distinguished his later work.

This type of metamorphosis played out again and again in my research. I learned that artistic inspiration is a living thing. Artists are human, and they change. With that in mind, I loved the chance to let both Lissa and Cole believe they were wholly and unequivocally right, only to be proven wrong after crashing against a mutual refusal to concede. For them, artistic integrity had to be about give and take—growth, not compromise. Once that shell cracked, they revealed the sensitive natures hidden beneath the armor of idealism and the fear holding them back.

And then something wonderful happened—they got a whole lot better at both art and love.

At first I wondered if two artists could rise above the cerebral to the sexy. Could Lissa and Cole burn up the pages in their quest for good art and great love?

Yes, I discovered.

Desire lives in the mind. It’s expressed by the body. And, lucky us, there’s nothing quite like tapping into the heart of an artist.

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Art-Crossed Love (Second Chances #2) by Libby Rice

Art-Crossed Love (Second Chances #2) by Libby Rice

About the Book
Title:
 Art-Crossed Love
Series: Second Chances #2
Author: Libby Rice
Release Date: January 26, 2015
Publisher: Gateway Publishing, Ltd.
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & NobleAll Romance eBooks | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
Can love be more than a four-letter word?

Lissa Blanc is a painter on a mission. She filters the world through a lens of color, line, and form and hides her ambition behind a delicate smirk that lets her critics believe life comes easy. To her, art isn’t what she sees. It’s what she feels. Few know that behind the glitz of a prodigious upbringing, she’s driven to emerge from the shadow of painful memories that insist she’ll never be a renowned talent in her own right.

Cole Rathlen is a photographer on the mend. A crippling grief has stifled his once-rising career and compromised his creative instincts. Knowing he can’t stagnate forever, he seeks a twisted absolution in the form of a woman whose paintings give life to the emotions he won’t let himself imagine, let alone feel.

When the two partner for a prestigious project that will pull them from the mountains of Colorado to the palaces of India, Lissa quickly realizes that more than diverging ideals hinder their search for success and salvation. Was Cole’s life upended by a tragic but unavoidable choice or something more sinister? While Lissa can’t delve into the mystery but not the man, Cole can’t resist a tenacious soul that refuses to leave him chained. As the truth closes in on a project finally sprouting wings, will Lissa sacrifice her chance at success to set Cole free? Or will Cole shrug the chains of lingering regrets to prove that those who love the most, love again.

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Author Libby Rice

Author Libby Rice

About the Author
Before becoming a writer, Libby was first a mechanical engineer in the data acquisition industry (voltmeter anyone?). Preferring writing to technical design, Libby headed to law school and eventually practiced patent law for several enterprising years (patent application covering a voltmeter anyone?). Finally realizing that technology just wasn’t her bag, she traded the voltmeters for alpha heroes and the women who love them.

Today, Libby writes contemporary romances from the foot of the Rocky Mountains, where she lives with her husband, a bona fide rocket scientist (he stuck with the voltmeters!). When not writing, Libby loves good food, even better wine, and traveling the world in search of the next great story.

ibby loves hearing from readers! Join the fun at www.libbyrice.com, where you can sign up for Libby’s new-release e-newsletter, or on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram.

Where to Find Libby Rice
GoodreadsWebsite | Newsletter | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
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Book Review – Finding Haven by T.A. Foster

Finding Haven by T.A.Foster

Finding Haven by T.A.Foster

Synopsis
Power. Money. Control. Love.

He has all but one.

When movie star, Evan Carlson, discovers his girlfriend’s picture with another man splashed on the cover of gossip magazines, he decides he’s had enough of his fishbowl life and attempts to outrun the media frenzy his relationships have become.

Driving until the road stops, he ends up on the remote and quaint Perry Island, where a heartthrob can blend in like the locals and be a beach bum as long as he wants. All that changes when Evan meets Haven Owen, aspiring songwriter and the girl he just can’t get enough of.

A summer romance turns into something much deeper and Evan gets tangled in his own web of lies to keep Haven in his life. But when his ex tracks him down, Evan learns there are some things you just can’t outrun.

Is the cost of love, losing all control?

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My Review
Fresh out of college, Haven Owen is working off her student debt at the family general store on a small North Carolina island. Evan Carlson is the most eligible bachelor in America, driving away from the limelight until he runs out of road and ends up on a ferry to Perry Island. When Haven’s co-worker, Travis, suddenly quits, Evan, posing as reclusive writer, Jay, steps in to take his place. Evan and Haven begin a summer romance that is headed for trouble.

Plot
The plot centers around the romance between Haven and Jay/Evan. Even though they’ve from very different worlds, they click on this remote island where no one seems to know who Evan really is. It’s an idyllic environment for love to blossom and it does, until Evan is discovered and Haven finds out he’s been lying to her all along. There are a couple of good subplots involving Haven’s family and Jay’s ex-girlfriend, Emmy Harper, America’s sweetheart. The only real problem I had with the story, what kept this from being five stars, is that it’s lacking in conflict. There is some, but not nearly enough for my tastes.

World Building
T.A. Foster does an excellent job of creating a small, southern island complete with Airstream campers on the beach and a general store that sells beer and souvenirs while renting kayaks and fishing poles. The world of Perry Island came alive for me, and I could visualize it all. That’s one of the few parts of the country I’ve never been to, but after reading Finding Haven, I feel as if I’ve visited for a short while.

Characters
Haven and Evan are pretty typical for the leads in a contemporary romance, but the supporting characters are as varied as they come. Everyone from Jay’s campground neighbor, Charlotte, to Haven’s family, and Travis the surfer, are interesting and developed enough to not be stereotypical. They exist in the story for a purpose and they do it well, even if it’s just comic relief.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Finding Haven
1. Travis. He’s a good guy with a heart and I like how his relationship with Haven evolved over the summer.

2. Hurricane Harper. Aptly named, it sweeps across the island causing just enough damage to make things challenging without being devastating.

3. Haven’s Family Dynamic. There’s a lot going on in her small family and it is responsible for the bulk of the conflict in the story.

4. Silver Belle. The campground where Evan stays sounds exactly like a place I’d love to vacation.

5. Cowboy Steaks. I had no idea these were a real thing until I Googled them. Now I need to try one.

Bottom Line
Finding Haven is a sweet romance set on a balmy island. It’s a perfect, light summer beach read.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Title: Finding Haven
Author: T.A. Foster
Release Date: May 15th, 2014
Pages: 261
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | iTunes

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Author T.A. Foster

Author T.A. Foster

About the Author

T.A. Foster is a Southern girl whose heart and spirit are connected to the beach. She grew up catching rays and chasing waves along the North Carolina Outer Banks and now resides in the state with her adventurous pilot husband, two children and two canine kiddos.

Her long love affair with books started at an early age, and as soon as she was able, she transformed imaginative stories into words on paper. Time Spell is T.A.’s debut novel, and the first in a series about a very adventurous, clever, and magical girl named Ivy.

T.A. has an undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a graduate degree in Educational Psychology from Texas A&M University. When she’s not chasing her two-legged and four-legged children or trying to escape for date night, you can find her reading, writing or planning her next beach trip.

Where to Find T.A. Foster
Goodreads Blog Facebook Twitter

YA Book Review – A Game Worth Watching by Samantha Gudger

A Game Worth Watching by Samantha Gudger

A Game Worth Watching by Samantha Gudger

Synopsis
All her life, people have told 17-year-old tomboy Emma Wrangton that she’s not good enough, smart enough, or strong enough to succeed in life. Somewhere along the way, she started to believe them.

Without the promise of a respectable future after graduation, all Emma wants is to cherish her senior year by playing basketball with the guys and spending as much time as possible with her best friend before he heads off to some fancy university, leaving her behind.

But when the high school basketball coach recruits her to join the team—the girls’ team—Emma discovers life is anything but a slam dunk. How is she supposed to know how to be one of the girls when all she’s ever been is one of the guys?

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My Review
I absolutely loved this book. Emma Wrangton is one of the most complex young adult characters I’ve read in awhile. She’s dealing with so much, including a sucktastic home life, mean girls at school, and a childhood best friend who she believes will be leaving her behind after graduation. What she doesn’t have, is any faith in herself.

She loves basketball, loves playing it, knows she’s good at it, but doesn’t believe she’s good enough. And that feeling isn’t just about her performance. She doesn’t believe she’s capable of anything. And it’s no wonder, her family is worse than abusive, they just don’t care and it’s heartbreaking.

Plot
The primary plot centers around Emma and the girls’ high school basketball team. When the new coach asks her to join the team, Emma not only says no, but ‘hell no and don’t ask me again’. Emma doesn’t do girls. Doesn’t understand them, can’t stand to be around them. Playing sports with them? Nope, not gonna happen. At least until her best friend, Riley, convinces her it’s an opportunity to be seen by scouts, get a college scholarship. Emma doesn’t believe she’ll go to college, or ever leave the garage she calls home. But Riley sees so much in her, and convinces her to try. Nothing goes smoothly. It’s not an easy transition and the girls don’t want Emma anymore than she wants them. She comes close to giving up more than once, but perseveres, and grows as a character as do her teammates.

There are two solid subplots, one involving a romance with Riley and the other centers around her relationship with her family. Both are exceptionally well done and in neither case does the author take the easy way out.

World Building
I don’t know much (anything) about basketball, but author Samantha Gudger so fully immersed me into this world, I felt like I was right there courtside throughout. I still don’t know a whole lot about the sport, but I might actually want to watch a game now. Shocking, I know. If it doesn’t involve a bat or a pigskin, I’m usually not interested, but A Game Worth Watching makes me want to watch. Go figure.

Characters
Emma is so layered, deep, wounded, and I absolutely adore her. I want to open up my spare room and let her live here, show her what a real family looks like. I loved watching her develop throughout the story, coming to terms with the things she can change and those she can’t. And what can I say about Riley? His unwavering love and support for his best friend makes him one of the best of the good guys in young adult fiction.

The rest of the characters are equally well rounded with none slipping into stereotype. The girls on the team grow and develop right along with Emma. Emma’s family is as messed up as it gets, and I do love that Samantha Gudger didn’t feel compelled to wrap that all up in a pretty bow. Sometimes broken families stay that way. Not everything is a happily ever after, but the author leaves us with enough hope, that it’s okay.

Top Five Things I Loved About A Game Worth Watching
1. The Opening Scene. We learn a heck of a lot about Emma and Riley in one really well written opening scene.

2. Riley. He is everything a best friend should be. He’s loyal, fierce, protective, warm, gentle, aggressive, affectionate, and sweet.

3. Ashley. The freshman who pushes her way into Emma’s face and worms her way into her heart is adorkable in the best possible way.

4. Basketball. Even though I didn’t come into the book as a basketball fan, I couldn’t help getting caught up in the game and rooting for the underdogs.

5. Riley’s Family. The way his mom and dad open their home and their hearts to Emma is authentic. This is what well-adjusted families do. I never questioned anything they did because it always just felt real.

Bottom Line
A Game Worth Watching is a book worth reading. Filled with complex characters, a kick-ass sports plot, and layered with themes of friendship, acceptance, and forgiveness.

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Title: A Game Worth Watching
Author: Samantha Gudger
Release Date: January 16, 2013
Pages: 288
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Sports
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Samantha Gudger

Author Samantha Gudger

About the Author
A former three-sport athlete in high school, Samantha grew up with a ball in one hand and a book in the other. From the moment her first grade teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, Samantha knew she wanted to be an author.

Samantha currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, a ball-obsessed Australian Shepherd, and a cat that can’t get enough cuddle time. Books, writing, sports, music, and marshmallows top her list of favorites.

A Game Worth Watching is her first novel.

Where to Find Samantha Gudger
Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

Audiobook Review – A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

Story:
Audiobook: 

Synopsis
The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places.

Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.  But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.

Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together….

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My Review
A Little Something Different lives up to its name. A romance told from everyone’s point of view EXCEPT the two involved in the romance was different enough for me to give it a try. I don’t know that it necessarily worked for me. The writing is crisp and the characters interesting, but I just never felt invested in Gabe and Lea’s relationship. I couldn’t even figure out why anyone else, other than the best friend and brother, cared either. Maybe it’s because I never got their point of view, that I never really connected with either of them.

And while neither Gabe nor Lea is particularly all that likeable, the rest of the cast, those who narrate the story of Gabe and Lea, were so interesting, I couldn’t help but continue on. I listened to the audiobook and it’s narrated by two different voiceover actors. I thought Will Damron did a great job. He had a wonderful way of inflecting the different personalities into each of his characters. But Amy Rubinate sounded the same with every point of view. To me, they all sounded like Inga.

Plot
The plot isn’t all that complex and there isn’t really a lot of character growth, and yet it’s an enjoyable read/listen. The plot is the love story between Gabe and Lea as told by everyone around them. Gabe is painfully shy and awkward and Lea is odd and reserved. It’s basically a match made to fail, and yet through the help of overly-interested third parties, they manage to get together enough to talk and allow a weird romance to sort of bud, wither on the vine, and slowly eek out an existence.

Characters
The characters are what make this book worth reading. Not Gabe and Lea, but the others. First there is “Call me Inga,” the overly-invested creative writing teacher with an obsession, bordering on psychotic, for getting these two together. She likes to play matchmaker with a different set of students every semester, and this year she’s decided Gabe and Lea are her “it” couple.

Then there’s Victor, the reluctant creative writing classmate. He’s witty, hysterical, and easily my favorite character. Charlotte is the glib Starbucks barista with a chip on her shoulder. I was really pulling for Victor and Charlotte to get together in the end. There’s also Inga’s wife, a bus driver, Gabe’s brother, Sam, who I also adored, Casey, Gabe’s best friend, and Lea’s roommate, Maribelle. There’s also the bench and the squirrel, but neither of those POVs added anything to plot or characterization, so I’m not even sure why they were included.

World Building
There is little to no world building. It’s a generic college campus in a generic town that gets cold and snows in the winter, and there’s very little scene setting. I don’t know that it needs much in the way of world building, but I would have liked a little more environmental descriptions of the various settings.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About A Little Something Different
1. The variety. The various points of view were a riot and made the story more interesting.

2. Victor. Absolutely loved Victor. When he talked about wanting to jab a fork in his eye, I laughed out loud.

3. Charlotte. Her acerbic wit made her one of the more memorable narrators.

4. Sam. He is such a loyal, caring brother, but still a totally cool dude. I would have loved a little Sam/Maribelle romance.

5. Will Damron’s narration. He does a great job differentiating the character voices.

Bottom Line
A Little Something Different is different and an enjoyable read. It’s not deep or thought-provoking, but if you’re looking for some light entertainment, it hits the spot.

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About the Audiobook
Title:
 A Little Something Different
Author: Sandy Hall
Release Date: August 25, 2014
Publisher: SwoonReads
Narrators: Amy Rubinate and Will Damron
Length: 5 Hours 27 Minutes
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Story Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Audio Production Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AudibleAmazon | Barnes & Noble