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Book Review – Caught Up In You by Colee Firman

Caught Up In You by Colee Firman

Caught Up In You by Colee Firman

Synopsis
Life has a way of shaping you into what it wants you to be, regardless of how much you fight it.

Brantley Prescott is damaged. Scarred by a past she can’t forget. Hiding secrets she’s terrified to share. Searching for a future she doesn’t believe she’ll ever find.

Myles Franco is alone. Burdened by mistakes he’ll never live down. Fostering a deep resentment for the opposite sex. Unleashing his wrath on any girl who gets too close.

Brantley has worked behind the bar long enough to recognize Myles for what he is—a douchebag player with nothing on his mind but keeping a steady stream of girls flowing through his bed. With his messy dark hair, sapphire blue eyes, rock-solid body, and endless tattoos he’s impossible to ignore. But that’s exactly what she plans on doing.

After just one run-in with Brantley, Myles is even more determined to stick to the rules he lives by. She’s mouthy, blunt, and doesn’t back down—no matter how hard he pushes her. She could turn out be the one temptation that drags him down the path he’s been trying to avoid. He won’t let that happen.

Both are content living behind the solid walls they’ve built around themselves. Neither is prepared for what happens when their lives collide.

Due to sexual content and graphic language – 17+ recommended.

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My Review
This is one of those cases when you absolutely shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The sweet handholding depicted on the cover doesn’t even come close to capturing the intense, sometimes volatile, emotions between the pages. The tumultuous relationship between Brantley and Myles is anything but sweet, although they do share some very sweet moments. These two clash and collide, battling their way to loving one another.

The passion and fire between them is palpable, as is the angst driven by miscommunication, assumptions, and fear. Author Colee Firman has created a vivid new adult romance filled with well-developed characters. Myles and Brantley struggle to find their place in each other’s lives and the the larger world around them. The premise may not sound groundbreaking, but the storytelling sets it apart from other books in the genre. At least for me.

Plot
The plot is straightforward and really well done. I don’t find many straight romances that are page-turners, but this one was. The main story centers around Brantley and Myles, but there is some strong subplotting with each of their backstories as well as their futures apart from their relationship. My only real complaint is the event that forces Brantley to evaluate her feelings for Myles. I would have loved for that to have come about more organically, but it’s a small complaint in an otherwise strong story.

Characters
Both Myles and Brantley are tough and emotionally damaged. They both have attitudes to spare, and yet they are still extremely likable, which isn’t easy to do. Both hare really well developed and believable characters. The supporting cast are also well enough developed to be more than just cardboard props for the two protagonists to interact with.

Top Five Things I Loved About Caught Up in You
1. The banter. Myles and Brantley trade barbs with some of the most fiery couples in fiction.

2. The pacing. The way the backstory is meted out, kept me on the hook. I wanted to know about Brantley’s scars and the reason Myles left Princeton because of the way they were introduced. My curiosity was piqued and it kept me deep in the story, turning the pages to find out more.

3. Livvy. She’s the epitome of a best friend — fun, loving, and as loyal as they come.

4. Puck. Every boss should be this cool.

5. The Dempsey Boys. This pack of overgrown frat boys, all sharing a house in Baylor Grove, should be a recipe for disaster. Instead, they’re far more level-headed and responsible than you’d expect, and they’re genuinely good guys. I’m excited to see the next book in this series is about Wyatt Dempsey.

Bottom Line
Caught Up in You is one of the best new adult romances I’ve read. I look forward to reading more by this author. Soon!

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

About the Book
Title
: Caught Up in You
Series: Caught Up #1
Author: Colee Firman
Release Date: December 14, 2014
Pages: 299
Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Colee Firman

Author Colee Firman

About the Author
Colee Firman has always been a closet writer. As an only child, there were constantly stories swimming around in her head. In 2012, she finally started unleashing them on the world, beginning with The Unbinding Fate Series.

As a Michigan native, she never passes up a chance to escape the winter weather. When she’s not working at her day job or writing, she’s traveling with her longtime boyfriend, reading with her cat, or binging on Netflix.

Where to Find Colee Firman
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter | Amazon
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#1LineWed – Humor

1LineWedToday’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is humor. There’s not a lot of humor in a dystopian adventure. At least I didn’t think so until I started looking for it. Apparently there are more lighter moments than I remember writing.

“This job is about learning to trust your instincts, and right now your instincts are telling you I like my coffee extra hot with a splash of half and half.”

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

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Exclusive Interview – Angela V. Cook, Author of Into a Million Pieces

Welcome to the next stop on the Into a Million Pieces blog tour. Today, I have an exclusive interview with the author, Angela V. Cook. Make sure to read all the way to the bottom to find information on the book and details on her giveaway.

Exclusive Interview with Author Angela V. Cook

AIW:  Congratulations on publishing your first novel. How did you celebrate Pub Day? Did you put Best Day of My Life by American Authors on replay on your iPod?

AVC: Haha! I wish I had some awesome story about how I celebrated Pub Day, but in all actuality, it was a super-crazy day (note to future published authors: if you work outside the home, take the day off—trust me). I woke up early on release day to get all the online promo going, and then I had to go to work. I came home, did more promo work, and then I went to my mom’s for a celebratory dinner. As crazy as it was, it was a fantastic and amazing day, and one I’ll never forget.

AIW:  It’s a long road from first draft to publishing, what did you feel when you held that paperback copy in your hands for the first time?

AVC: I felt proud. Getting published was something I had worked so hard to accomplish. When I finally got my book proof in the mail, I took it out of the box, fanned the pages, and said to myself, “I wrote all that.” The realization hit me, and I actually started crying. It finally felt real.

AIW:  You have such a unique twist on the young adult paranormal story. Just when everyone says paranormal is over, you breathe new life into the genre with something new and different. How did the story evolve?

AVC: I’ve always loved the YA paranormal genre. I like stories that take place in the real world, but there’s just something a little… off going on in that world. I got the idea for INTO A MILLION PIECES during the summer of 2010. Back then, there was a short-lived TV show called The Gates. It was about a gated community where the residents were of the supernatural persuasion (werewolves, vampires, witches, etc.).  One of the residents was a teenage succubus. Every time this girl kissed her boyfriend, she absorbed some of his life energy, which in turn weakened him. I had never heard of a succubus, but I loved the idea of a teenage girl who was in love, but couldn’t so much as kiss her boyfriend without harming him. Also, I knew a teenage succubus was a premise that hadn’t been done to death in the YA paranormal genre. It was then the wheels of creativity started turning.

AIW:  As the mother of identical twins, I’m intrigued by all things twin. But as mine are as alike as two people can be, I love the idea that Allison and Jade can be so different. How did you approach their twin/sister relationship?

AVC: I have two siblings, and all three of us are complete opposites. Growing up, we probably fought more than we got along; even so, we were always extremely protective of one another. I remember my older brother getting into a couple of fights, because someone was picking on his “little sister.” And even though my younger sister got into some trouble during her teen years, I’d go off on anyone who said anything bad about her. That’s the kind of relationship I strived for with Allison and Jade. I wanted to show two sisters, who were as different as night and day but incredibly loyal to one another.

AIW:  What is one thing you hope readers take away from Into a Million Pieces?

AVC: I’m not the hoity-toity literary type. I don’t write the kind of highbrow literature that gets awards and recognition. My only goal is to entertain. My hope is that I wrote a novel that readers will have a hard time putting down once they start it. I want them to get lost in Allison’s (my main character) world and not think about that test they have coming up or that load of laundry in the dryer. If I can do that, then I’ll feel successful.

AIW:  Without naming names, were any of your characters based on any real people?

AVC: I think all of my characters have personalities that include little pieces of people I’ve encountered in the real world, but on a whole, they are completely fictitious.

AIW:  In addition to writing young adult, I notice you read quite a bit of it, too. Who are your biggest influences?

AVC: I think all writers have their own unique style and voice, but Stephanie Perkins has been a huge influence on me. Her books inspired me to embrace my own style/voice. She’s easily one of my favorite young adult writers (if you enjoy young adult contemporary, you HAVE to check out her books!). When you read her work, you really get the feeling that you’re reading a narrative written by a seventeen-year-old girl falling in love for the first time, not something written by a thirty something year old trying to write like a teenager. She’s one of those writers who seem to have been born to write young adult stories. I don’t think any other author comes even close to capturing the teen experience in their books like she does.

AIW:  What is one non-book (reading/writing/research) related thing you love to do?

AVC: I love to go to the movies—especially if it’s something I’m DYING to see (it’s kinda sad how excited I get when, say, the latest Hunger Games movie is about to come out). I know this makes me sound like a big nerd, and my answer should’ve been “hiking” or “painting” or whatever, but I can’t help it; I love a good story.  ☺

Great questions, Theresa! Thanks so much for having me!

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Into a Million Pieces by Angela V. Cook

Into a Million Pieces by Angela V. Cook

About the Book
Title: Into a Million Pieces
Author: Angela V. Cook
Release Date: January 27, 2015
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing, LLC
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | GooglePlay

Synopsis
Allison McKready is a succubus. So is her twin sister. But while Allison spends her summer break hiding in the library behind her Goth makeup, Jade fools around as often as she can.

Allison can’t believe Jade would ignore their mother’s fatal example so recklessly, but concealing a cursed bloodline and its dangerous effects is far from Allison’s only problem.

Mean girl Julie’s snob mob is determined to ruin her summer, and Aunt Sarah’s Bible thumping is getting louder. Only her new friend, Ren Fisher, offers safe haven from the chaos of her life.

When one of Jade’s risky dates leads to humiliation and sudden tragedy, Allison reels, and Ren catches her. But as her feelings for him grow, so does her fear that she’ll hurt him—or worse—in an unguarded moment.

The choice is coming—love him or save him—but Allison might not live to make it. One way or another, the curse will have its due.

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Author Angela V. Cook

Author Angela V. Cook

About the Author
Angela V. Cook lives a very unexciting, but never boring, life with her husband and two children just outside of Detroit. Like most writers, she’s been making up stories for as long as she can remember and can’t imagine a life that doesn’t involve creating worlds.

Angela loves to write novels for teens because it’s the best outlet for her sarcastic personality, immature sense of humor, and love of romantic firsts. Her idea of the perfect day involves a quiet house, a good book, and a piece of cheesecake. Or two.

Where to Find Angela V. Cook
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | RAP

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Giveaway
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YA Book Review – Never Gonna Tell by Sarah M. Ross

Never Gonna Tell by Sarah M. Ross

Never Gonna Tell by Sarah M. Ross

Synopsis
My name is Reagan Wilcox: high school senior by day, kick-ass investigative journalist by night. I’ve always loved observing people—especially when they think no one is paying attention.I thought I was ready to cover any story. Work any angle.

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened that night. I wasn’t ready for what I saw. And I certainly wasn’t ready for him.

I always knew I’d write the headlines. Now, I just might become one.

My Review
I was expecting a teen mystery when I picked this up, but what I got instead was a teen thriller with some elements of a mystery. It’s an intense, exciting, rollercoaster ride of action and emotion that was difficult to put down.

Reagan Wilcox likes to remain outside the limelight. She’s perfectly happy to sit back and observe unnoticed. Her dream of becoming an investigative reporter has her quietly looking for a story among her classmates. The odd behavior of the school’s star quarterback has her digging deeper. And what she finds just might get her killed.

The writing is strong, the characters interesting, and the story is riveting. While it was a bit slow to start, the story picked up quickly and took off at a manic pace, building to a nailbiting climax. This was a welcome change from the young adult novels I’ve been reading lately, and definitely one I’d recommend.

Plot
This is almost entirely plot driven, and it’s a heck of a plot. Sarah M. Ross keeps the story moving, doling out information to keep us hooked without overloading the story. We get the information we need as we needed it, and never before. If young adult thrillers is going to be a new thing, this is the blueprint for them. In the end, I felt as if there were still some unanswered questions, but the big issues were all wrapped up.

World Building
The world building is subtle and sometimes stereotypical, but the author injects enough humor to poke fun at those stereotypes, that it works. Everything from the small town “everyone knows your business” to mob families is built organically, so it never feels like a caricature.

Characters
None of the characters are particularly layered or deep, but I don’t think it’s necessary here. The characters are definitely fun and interesting, and drive the plot, which is what this story is all about. And the main character, Reagan, and her love interest, Marco, are infinitely likable. That’s all I really need in a book like this.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Never Gonna Tell
1. Reagan. Her tenacity is inspiring. I love how this girl who never walks away from a good story, is willing to risk her own life to save the lives of those she cares about.

2. Marco. He defies his family and risks his life for a girl he barely knows.

3. Charlie. He’s got issues up the wazoo, but the kid is as loyal as they come. Everyone should have a best friend like Charlie.

4. The pacing. After getting off to a bit of a slow start, it takes off and kept me on the edge of my seat for the remainder of the story.

5. The uncertainty. Because this book was anything but formulaic, there were no guarantees. No one was safe, which made the story that much more compelling.

Bottom Line
Never Gonna Tell is a solid young adult thriller with lots of action, danger, and a sweet romance. I’d definitely read more by this author.

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

About the Book
Title: Never Gonna Tell
Author: Sarah M. Ross
Release Date: March 17, 2015
Pages: 202
Category: Young Adult Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Sarah M. Ross

Author Sarah M. Ross

About the Author
Sarah started her obsession with reading at an early age, often sneaking BabySitter Club and Nancy Drew books into math class. She would read any book she could get her hands on. Her love of reading quickly evolved into a love of writing and stories began to pour out of her.

She grew up in Pittsburgh, graduated from The University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English, and taught 8th graders to love reading as much as she does for several years. Sarah will always be a proud member of the Steelers’ Nation, but couldn’t take the cold and moved her frozen tush to Florida where she now lives with her family and two cats. You will find her now with her trusty Kindle in hand and toes in the sand!

Sarah’s debut novel, AWAKEN, released in January, 2012. Other novels include AVENGE, ATONE, ECHO OF AN EARTH ANGEL, and INHALE EXHALE.

Where to Sarah M. Ross
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook

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Giveaway
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YA Book Review – Snark and Stage Fright (Snark and Circumstance) by Stephanie Wardrop

Snark and Stage Fright (Snark and Circumstance #5) by Stephanie Wardrop

Snark and Stage Fright (Snark and Circumstance #5) by Stephanie Wardrop

Synopsis
Happily-ever-after isn’t as happy or forever as Jane Austen makes it look. Just something Georgia Barrett learns when her sharp tongue costs her the only guy she’s ever really cared about: Michael Endicott.

Determined to move on, Georgia lands the lead role in the school’s fall musical. But to survive on stage, she’ll need to learn to express herself without her protective shield of snark. She soon discovers being honest with others means being honest with herself, and the truth is she’s still in love with Michael.

But from the looks of Michael’s new girlfriend, Georgia isn’t the only one who tried to move on. Apparently, some people are just better at it than others. And when Michael and his girlfriend join the cast of the fall musical, Georgia finds out that snark and stage fright are the least of her worries…

My Review
I loved this book. It’s easily my favorite in the series, and not just because the couple on the cover finally resembles what Georgia and Michael look like in my head. In some ways, this story is very different than the rest of the series, and in other ways, it’s familiar. Now that Georgia and Michael are in a relationship, things are anything but smooth sailing. When Michael takes Georgia to his family’s beach house on Cape Code for his cousin’s wedding, Georgia feels more out of place in his world than ever. Add a hot neighbor who also happens to be a model with designs on Michael, a disapproving grandmother, and a lecherous literary giant with a roaming tongue, and the waters go from rough to stormy.

What I love most about this book is the level of angst and the way author, Stephanie Wardrop, keeps it fueling the plot without ever threatening to overpower the story. And also maybe because it’s not from the plot of Pride and Prejudice, I didn’t know what was coming, which kept me turning the pages to find out what happened next.

Plot
The plot is almost entirely about Michael and Georgia’s relationship, with almost no subplotting, but it’s so well done, it doesn’t matter. By now, I adore the characters and I’m invested in their story.

Characters
Georgia is her snarktastic self as she tries to fit into Michael’s world, deal with their eventual breakup, and work hard to get over him. The characters, true to themselves, make everything far more difficult by not communicating, making assumptions, and in true Michael/Georgia fashion, wasting time the could be together, not being together.

Top Five Things I Loved About Snark and Stage Fright
1. Georgia. Her vulnerability and wit mix in hilarious fashion, reminding me why I love her so much.

2. Michael. Yeah, there are times I wanted to throttle him, but after he bears his soul in heartbreakingly sweet fashion, he’s completely redeemed.

3. Diana. The girl you love to hate is completely lovable and impossible to hate. I absolutely love this refreshing take on the romantic rival.

4. The kids. All the little von Trapps that Georgia is hired to watch backstage are beyond cute and bring another layer of comic relief.

5. Dave. Georgia’s friend and potential post-Michael love interest is adorable in his awkwardness, and even though I knew Michael and Georgia belonged together, there was a small part of me pulling for Dave.

Bottom Line
My favorite book in the Snark and Circumstance series, it’s full of witty dialogue, endearing characters, and angsty drama that all build to a perfectly satisfying conclusion.

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

About the Book
Title
: Snark and Stage Fright
Series: Snark and Circumstance #5
Author: Stephanie Wardrop
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Pages: 185
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Stephanie WardropAbout the Author
Stephanie Wardrop grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, a town mostly famous for being a railroad card in Monopoly. After giving up on her childhood goal of becoming a pirate, she decided to become a writer but took a detour through lots of college and grad school and ended up teaching writing and British and American literature.

She’s the author of the Swoon Romance e-novella series Snark and Circumstance, based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and lives in western New England with her husband, kids, cats, and gecko.

Where to Find Stephanie Wardrop
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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YA Scavenger Hunt

scavenger hunt

Team PinkI’m so excited to be a part of the Spring 2015 YA Scavenger Hunt as part of #TeamPink! If you’re not familiar with this fun event, you’re in for a real treat. Twice a year, once in April and again in October, readers scour the blogs of young adult authors, looking for clues and entering to win a boatload of paperbacks. For all the details, you can checkout the official page here.

If you’ve never participated before, be sure to check it out. This blog hop will not only give you a chance to win some great prizes, but it’s also an opportunity to discover new to you young adult authors.

Straight from the YA Scavenger Hunt page:

The YA Scavenger Hunt is a biannual online event that promotes collaboration between YA authors from different publishing houses, offering fans an opportunity to see the latest and greatest in young adult literature. During the hunt, we showcase exclusive bonus material, give readers access to top secret insider information, and offer fabulous prizes and giveaways for zealous YA fans.

So get lace up your virtual running shoes, stretch out those fingers, and get ready to hunt!
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Book Review – The Perfect Game (The Perfect Game) by J. Sterling

The Perfect Game (The Perfect Game #1) by J. Sterling

The Perfect Game (The Perfect Game #1) by J. Sterling

Synopsis
He’s a game she never intended to play. And she’s the game changer he never knew he needed.

The Perfect Game tells the story of college juniors, Cassie Andrews & Jack Carter. When Cassie meets rising baseball hopeful Jack, she is determined to steer clear of him and his typical cocky attitude. But Jack has other things on his mind… like getting Cassie to give him the time of day.

They’re both damaged, filled with mistrust and guarded before they find one another (and themselves) in this emotional journey about love and forgiveness. Strap yourselves for a ride that will not only break your heart, but put it back together.

Sometimes life gets ugly before it gets beautiful…

This is a MATURE YOUNG ADULT/NEW ADULT novel Suitable for ages 17+ Contains strong language, sexual situations and references

My Review
I’m torn on this book. There were parts of it I really loved, including a twist I never saw coming, and I reached a point where I couldn’t put it down. But I also had huge issues with large parts of it. For one, Cassie and Jack, the two main characters, aren’t terribly likable in the beginning. Cassie is a little to into herself and how hot she is, and Jack is too cocky for his own good, so these two belong together, right? In some ways they do, but maybe not for the reasons I originally thought. Both have deep wounds that make them reluctant to commit. At least until they meet one another. And that’s just the first of many cliches.

There’s the hunky player who never sleeps with the same girl twice until he meets “the one.” There’s the girl with the sordid past who won’t let anyone in until she meets the hunky player, who isn’t her type at all, but the wins her over. And there are the mean girls out to sabotage the perfect relationship because if they can’t have Jack, no one can. But for all the cliches, there were some genuinely unique aspects. The sports angle was a nice switch up from the over-the-top romance, and the aforementioned twist. Although once I got to the plot twist, I did accurately predict how it would turn out. Still, it was a bright heaping bowl of angst tossed onto a storyline that was sorely in need of some shaking up. That’s another of my problems with the story, the whole middle was too much happy blissful kissyface, lacking any real conflict.

I also liked that it didn’t immediately wrap up in a nice neat way. I like that the characters had to work at their happily ever after, even beyond when most authors would have tied a bow on it and called it done. So I guess I’m saying if you like messy romances, can deal with some pretty eye-roll-inducing stereotypes, and are willing to slog through some slow sections to get at the good meaty center, you’ll enjoy The Perfect Game.

Plot
The main plot is the romance between Jack and Cassie. Can he get her? Can he keep her? Can he get her back? But where the story really shines, in my opinion, is the sub-plotting of both Jack’s baseball career and Cassie’s photography career.

World Building
The only real world building is that of professional baseball and it’s done really well. But the world of professional photography didn’t really click. I didn’t buy into Cassie landing the perfect internship for a New York magazine with little or no effort on her part and that she was able to afford an apartment in Manhattan. Any budding photographer will tell you that just doesn’t happen.

Characters
I wasn’t a big fan of either Jack or Cassie in the beginning, but both grew on me by the end. And it’s quite possible the author’s intent was to create unlikable characters that become more likable as they grow and develop. Jack’s brother, Dean, and Cassie’s roommate, Melissa, are well rounded supporting characters, but I felt most of the rest of the cast was either stereotypical or flat.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Perfect Game
1. The baseball. For me, this was one of the best aspects of the book.

2. The twist. I didn’t see it coming which is the hallmark of an excelled plot twist.

3. The messy aftermath. The author didn’t make things easy on either character and I appreciate that.

4. Dean and Melissa. These two should really be together. I’d have been more interested in reading about them than Jack and Cassie.

5. The quarters. The quarters lead to some of the sweetest moments in the book.

Bottom Line
The Perfect Game is a mix of unique storytelling and some cliches that make it difficult to read at times, but overall, it’s enjoyable.

About the Book
Title
: The Perfect Game
Series: The Perfect Game #1
Author: J. Sterling
Release Date: October 1, 2012
Pages: 336
Category: New Adult Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon

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Author J. Sterling

Author J. Sterling

 About the Author
I got fired from my last job. It’s true. I know you’re sitting there thinking “Jenn, how could anyone in their right mind fire someone as amazing and awesome as you???” And i’d love to give you a good reason, but the truth is- being this awesome is clearly very scary to other less awesome people.

So I said screw them and started writing my first book. And you know what I realized? Writing books that mean something to me is a million times better than working for my ass off for someone who doesn’t really care about anything other than the bottom line.

My soul feels more satisfied.

My heart, more full.

So thank you for reading, loving and recommending the stories I write. I appreciate it more than you know. 🙂

Where to Find J. Sterling
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook | Twitter | Amazon

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Exclusive Interview – Samantha Gudger, Author of A Game Worth Watching

I loved A Game Worth Watching so much, that as soon as I finished it, I emailed the author to tell her how much I loved her book and asked if I could interview here. Lucky for me she agreed. Here is my exclusive interview with Samantha Gudger, author of the young adult sports novel, A Game Worth Watching.

Exclusive Interview with Author Samantha Gudger

AIW:  As you know, I absolutely loved your book, A Game Worth Watching, and I’m not really a big basketball fan, although I might be now. But what I really loved about your book was the character development. Emma’s home life is so messed up, and her character so perfectly fits that. I’m almost afraid to ask this, but how did you craft her so well? What was your inspiration for her?

SG: Emma’s character is one of those gems that just came to me. The more I wrote about Emma and her story, the more alive and developed she became. I think one thing that inspired her character and home life was that I worked at the Boys & Girls Clubs and heard all kinds of stories about kids in our Clubs who overcame rough family lives to rise above adversity and bless others. I wanted to capture this in my writing, therefore, I knew A Game Worth Watching had to be about more than just a good basketball player who turned the girls’ team around. Her resistance to joining the team, her opposition to girls, her low self-esteem—all of it centered around the kind of home life she had. At the beginning of the writing process for this story, I don’t think I intended her family to be that bad, but they took on a life of their own and, it all just made sense as the story developed.

AIW:  What is one thing you hope readers take from A Game Worth Watching?

SG: That the world has need for each and every one of us. That each of us have talents that the world needs and we can bless those around us if we have the courage to let our light shine.

AIW:  I’ve heard rumors you’re working on a sequel. Can you give us any idea when you might be ready to release it?

SG: Yes, I’m working on a sequel!! I would love to be able to tell you when it’s coming out, but this past year has sent me some curve balls, so I’m really not sure. Hopefully some time later this year. I can tell you that it’s coming along pretty well, and I’m really excited for all of you to read it.

AIW:  You have a pretty busy life and I know writing is just one more thing you need to squeeze in, so where and when do you find that time and how do you get in the writing zone?

SG: Obviously I don’t find as much time as I need/want, otherwise, the sequel would be out already. 🙂 I used to be under the impression that if I didn’t have at least 2+ hours then it wasn’t really worth the time to sit down and try to write, but I’m realizing more and more that I have to take advantage of every five minutes of free time I have. Although I love to write, it seems like I can come up with a million excuses to distract myself and convince myself it’s never a good time to write, but I’m working hard to overcome this and be more disciplined to make time to write every day, whether it’s five minutes or 2+ hours. In terms of getting in the writing zone, sometimes it’s listening to the right music, sometimes it’s reading over one of my favorite scenes and remembering why I love the story and NEED to write it, and sometimes it’s thinking about a scene when I’m away from the computer and writing it in my head so when I sit down at my computer I know exactly what I will be working on. Other times it’s just a matter of sitting down at my computer with the mentality that I WILL write, no excuses.

AIW:  Do you listen to music when you write? And if not, why not? If so, what kind of music inspires you?

SG: It depends on the mood I’m in. Most of the time I do listen to music, but other times music can be a distraction, so I go without it. I listen to all kinds of music, but the kinds of songs that inspire me are the ones that relate to the story I’m writing. For instance, when I write basketball scenes I like to listen to fast-paced songs with a good beat that drive the action forward. When I write scenes that focus on relationships, I listen to songs that encompass the emotions I’m trying to portray (ie. fear, heartbreak, hope, etc.). Given that, I usually develop a sort of soundtrack for each of my stories and compilations range from soft rock to country to alternative. In other words, the kind of music that inspires me is any that reminds me of the story/characters I’m writing about.

AIW:  If you were to write another genre under a pen name and no one would know it was you, what do you think you’d choose and why?

SG: Hmmm, good question. Maybe paranormal or mystery because I like suspense and whodunnit stories, although I’m horrible at figuring out the guilty party. I also have doubts as to whether or not I’d be able to create the perfect world for these types stories, although they are fun to read. I’d love to write picture books too because I think reading for the children is so important and fun that I would love to create stories for this age as well.

AIW:  Switching gears from writing to reading, most authors are also avid readers. What is one of the best books you’ve read in the past year?

SG: I would have to say Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi (the finale to her Shatter Me series).

AIW:  What is your favorite genre? Do you try to read young adult books with a sports theme, or do you find that thrillers are what you reach for to break away from all the angsty drama?

SG: When I find young adult books with a sports theme, I will oftentimes read it if it sounds interesting because it’s fun to actually see these books on the shelf. When I was growing up, books featuring female athletes were far and few between, so I get excited by the fact there are more and more of them nowadays for young people to read. In terms of my favorite genre though, I don’t know if I can pick because I just like good stories with strong female characters. I like paranormal romance, contemporary romance, fairytales, spy stories, mysteries…basically anything with a good story and characters.

AIW:  What is one of your favorite young adult books of all time?

SG: I absolutely LOVE the Harry Potter series. In addition to great stories and characters, I love the good prevailing over evil that is seen throughout the Harry Potter books.

AIW:  And finally, what does your bracket look like for this year’s NCAA tournament? Or do you not have one?

SG: Uh…yeah. I don’t have one (hangs head in shame).

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A Game Worth Watching by Samantha Gudger

A Game Worth Watching by Samantha Gudger

About the Book
Title:
 A Game Worth Watching
Author: Samantha Gudger
Release Date: January 16, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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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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
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YA Book Review – Prom and Prejudice (Snark and Circumstance) by Stephanie Wardrop

Prom and Prejudice (Snark and Circumstance #4) by Stephanie Wardrop

Prom and Prejudice (Snark and Circumstance #4) by Stephanie Wardrop

Synopsis
Georgia Barrett is beginning to realize that her arch-preppie lab partner, Michael Endicott, is not at all the snob-hole she once thought. Too bad Georgia doesn’t see him for who he really is until he starts dating a poised and polished senior.

Georgia knows she should settle for his friendship, especially since telling him how she really feels would mean risking losing him altogether. But her heart tells her a chance at love might just be worth dropping her trusty shield of snark. And Georgia’s determined to find out.

My Review
In the post-date-rejection-phase, Georgia wonders more than once if she misjudged Michael. Sure, he asked her out in a spectacularly cringe-worthy fashion that made even Darcy’s attempts with Lizzie appear polished. But as she replays their relationship from the day they first met, she can’t help realizing that he has more good in him than snobbery. The problem is, it might be too late because Michael appears to have moved on after Georgia’s rejection, spending an awful lot of time with beautiful senior, Darien Drake.

As all of Georgia’s sister prepare for the prom, she tries to be happy for them and their big night. Knowing that Michael is going with Darien doesn’t help, but she’s determined to at least be a friend to him if nothing else. So when he invites her to his house to talk on the evening of prom, she can’t decide if she wants to go, knowing that it will be hard to see him leave to pick up his date, or blow to just him off.

Plot
This book winds up the main plot lines of the original Pride and Prejudice, as Georgia, as our modern-day Lizzie, realizes she misjudged her Darcy and gives him another chance. But it’s not as smooth as the Jane Austen version as Georgia’s mouth gets her into trouble more times than not, and it’s one of the things I love most about her. Other plot lines that are tied up are the fallout surrounding Cassie’s indiscretion, the real reason Jeremy was kicked out of Pemberley, and younger sister, Leigh’s, relationship with Alistair. And once again, in true Georgia fashion, she tries to make things better by doing things all the wrong way.

Characters
I love that while both Georgia and Michael have shown incredible growth through the series, Stephanie Wardrop still keeps them true to who they are, adorably flawed and incredibly real.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Prom and Prejudice
1. The Scarlet Letter. Georgia’s attempt to help her sister backfires in the most hilarious way.

2. Mother/Daughter Bonding. A long-overdue heart-to-heart between Georgia and her mother is sweet and at times, funny, and it explains a lot of why Georgia is the way she is. At least to me.

3. Trey. Tori’s boyfriend is definitely on Team Michael and when he gets involved with all of his guy-ness, it’s a hoot.

4. Michael. In all of his socially awkwardness, he comes through in true Michael form that is as dorky as it is endearing.

5. Georgia. She is who she is and I so love her, smart-mouth and all!

Bottom Line
Prom and Prejudice lived up to my expectations to complete this first part of the series in laugh-out-loud fashion. I can’t wait to start on Snark and Stage Fright.

About the Book
Title
: Prom and Prejudice
Series: Snark and Circumstance #4
Author: Stephanie Wardrop
Release Date: March 23, 2014
Pages: 66
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Stephanie WardropAbout the Author
Stephanie Wardrop grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, a town mostly famous for being a railroad card in Monopoly. After giving up on her childhood goal of becoming a pirate, she decided to become a writer but took a detour through lots of college and grad school and ended up teaching writing and British and American literature.

She’s the author of the Swoon Romance e-novella series Snark and Circumstance, based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and lives in western New England with her husband, kids, cats, and gecko.

Where to Find Stephanie Wardrop
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Guest Post + Giveaway – Cynthia Sax, Author of Sinful Rewards 9

Sinful Rewards 9 Blog Tour

A special thank you to author, Cynthia Sax, for today’s guest post. To find out more about Cynthia, her book, Sinful Rewards 9, and her giveaway, see below.

The Better Choice

“If you knew you weren’t good for someone, someone you cared about, would you walk away from that person?” I ask, not expecting a reply.

This is the question Bee, the heroine of Sinful Rewards, deliberates in Sinful Rewards 9.

In the first eight installments of Sinful Rewards, my sexy contemporary erotic romance serial, Bee has been debating which man is right for her. Is Nicolas, the elusive handsome billionaire, her ideal partner or is Hawke, the bad boy biker, her forever guy?

She finally made her decision in Sinful Rewards 8, only to discover in Sinful Rewards 9 that SHE might not be the best woman for HIM. Yes, yikes! There’s another woman who could better protect the man Bee loves, who could ensure that he lives a long (semi) happy life. This woman is beautiful, intelligent, nice. Bee really likes her.

So does she step aside and allow them the space it takes to fall in love? She doesn’t believe it will take long. She knows how captivating the woman is and how lovable her man is. If she can see how perfect they are for each other, they’ll discover this same truth as quickly.

That she’s asking this question signals how much Bee cares. She’s putting this man’s happiness before her own, thinking of him first and foremost. This willingness to sacrifice, in my humble opinion, is the definition of love. ‘I would die for you’, the ultimate sacrifice, is a common refrain in songs, romances, movies.

I DO love my dear wonderful hubby. I fell in love with him at first sight, and, over two decades later, we’re still very much in love.

I’d like to think I’d step aside if he ever met a woman better suited for him, someone better able to make him happy. But I also know I’m a jealous, possessive person (when it comes to him… and Nutella). I don’t know if I’d be strong enough to let him go. I might, instead, strive to become everything he needs, to be the better choice.

What would you do? If you knew you weren’t good for a person, that there was a better choice for him or her, would you walk away?

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Sinful Rewards 9 by Cynthia Sax

Sinful Rewards 9 by Cynthia Sax

About the Book
Title: Sinful Rewards 9
Series: Billionaires and Bikers #9
Author: Cynthia Sax
Publisher: Avon Red Impulse
Release Date: March 17, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | HarperCollins

Synopsis
No longer torn between the billionaire and the biker, Bee has claimed her man, branding his skin with her scent, his soul with her care.

He’s her ideal choice, building passion within her she didn’t know existed, supporting her dreams, and willing to do anything for her.

But is she the ideal choice for him?

An early-morning surprise attack and the arrival of a beautiful, witty, and regrettably nice rival make Bee question her decision.

Does she step aside, forgoing her forever to ensure her man’s survival, or does she risk his life and her heart on love?

Sinful Rewards 10 will be on-sale from Avon Impulse on April 14th, 2015

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About the Author
CYNTHIA SAX lives in a world filled with magic and romance. Although her heroes may not always say “I love you,” they will do anything for the women they adore. They live passionately. They play hard. They love the same women forever.

Cynthia has loved the same wonderful man forever. Her supportive hubby offers himself up to the joys and pains of research, while they travel the world together, meeting fascinating people and finding inspiration in exotic places such as Istanbul, Bali, and Chicago.

Where to Find Cynthia Sax
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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#1LineWed – Kissing

1LineWedToday’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is kissing. And really it’s not surprising that a chapter of the Romance Writers of America would have this theme. What does surprise me is that it’s taken so long to show up in the mix. Let’s face it, Evan likes to kiss, so I had a few nice moments to choose from, but this is what I settled on.

“His eyes close, shutting me out, but when his lips press against mine, everything I just saw in his eyes is in this kiss. “

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

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YA Book Review – Pride and Prep School (Snark and Circumstance) by Stephanie Wardrop

Pride and Prep School (Snark and Circumstance #3) by Stephanie Wardrop

Pride and Prep School (Snark and Circumstance #3) by Stephanie Wardrop

Synopsis
Georgia can’t figure out why the burden of a Y chromosome seems to make guys so hard to understand. First, there’s the handsome but slippery Jeremy Wrentham. After Georgia shared some pretty devastating kisses with him, she found her way home and he found her sister!

And then there’s Michael Endicott, who never fails to let her know that her family’s quirkiness lies too far outside the pale for this preppie townie. But if he really feels that way, why is he in Georgia’s kitchen, asking her out? And why don’t boys come with instruction manuals?

My Review
I got about a quarter of the way into this third installment in the Snark and Circumstance series before the light bulb in my head clicked on. This is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Yep, it took me that long. I mean, it’s right there in book titles: Snark and Circumstance, Charm and Consequence, Pride and Prep School… But it didn’t sink in at first. Even the name of the towns and schools: Longbourne, Pemberly, Netherfield, should have given it away. I think it was because I wasn’t looking for it. I mean, I saw Clueless twice before I realized it was a modern retelling of Emma.

Now that I know, I can’t stop seeing signs of it everywhere, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Pride and Prejudice. I’ve read it multiple times, seen the BBC miniseries, watched the movie, but the problem is, I know how it’s going to end. Before, I had no idea what would happen next. Now, I know  Georgia and Michael will end up together and I know roughly how it will go down. But at the same time, I can’t wait to see exactly how it unfolds in Stephanie Wardrop’s version of this classic tale.

Plot
On the heels of Michael rescuing Georgia from making a huge mistake at the New Year’s Eve party, the two fall into a bumpy friendship. But when Georgia’s younger sister, Cassie, fails to avoid the same mistake Georgia did, the rumor mill churns out the worst that it has to offer. This leads to an unfortunate encounter in the local pharmacy and an awkward exchange in the Georgia’s kitchen. There is definitely no smooth sailing yet for our modern day Lizzie and Darcy.

World Building
Small town high school and gossip go together like ice cream and hot fudge, and Longbourne is no exception. Inside the walls of the school, the bulk of the messiest action takes place. Once again, Stephanie Wardrop creates a believable setting for her characters to inhabit and we get to sit back and watch.

Characters
Now that I know who the characters are based on, I’m even more impressed at how they are so different from Jane Austen’s characters, and yet it’s easy to see the resemblance (now anyway). At times, Michael does appear to be somewhat stuffy or even overly mature for his age, but he lapses back into his teenagery self just in time to remind me why I love him so.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Pride and Prep School
1. Michael. He’s pompous at times, but his heart is in the right place, and I’m liking him more and more.

2. Cassie. Okay, she’s a head case, but if I’d been in her shoes, I’d have changed schools, or insisted on being homeschooled, or run away. The fact that she finds the courage to go to school at all is a testament to her resilience and I have to respect that.

3. Georgia. I still love her. She doesn’t have quite as much growth this time around, so I’m moving her down on my list, but I’m still pulling for her.

4. The Drugstore Incident. Because it’s so cringe-worthy it’s funny.

5. Vegan Stuffed Shells. They actually sound good.

Bottom Line
Pride and Prep School is a funny, charming, and sweet installment in this Pride and Prejudice retelling.

About the Book
Title
: Pride and Prep School
Series: Snark and Circumstance #3
Author: Stephanie Wardrop
Release Date: December 17, 2013
Pages: 61
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Stephanie WardropAbout the Author
Stephanie Wardrop grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, a town mostly famous for being a railroad card in Monopoly. After giving up on her childhood goal of becoming a pirate, she decided to become a writer but took a detour through lots of college and grad school and ended up teaching writing and British and American literature.

She’s the author of the Swoon Romance e-novella series Snark and Circumstance, based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and lives in western New England with her husband, kids, cats, and gecko.

Where to Find Stephanie Wardrop
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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YA Book Review – Charm and Consequence (Snark and Circumstance) by Stephanie Wardrop

Charm and Consequence (Snark and Circumstance #2) by Stephanie Wardrop

Charm and Consequence (Snark and Circumstance #2) by Stephanie Wardrop

Synopsis
Sixteen-year-old Georgia Barrett is no expert on guys, but her bio-class partner is harder to dissect than anything in their lab tray. He’s smart, almost as sarcastic as she is, and cute in that preppie way.

Things are great . . . until he decides her vegan activism is ridiculous and suddenly can’t refuse a date with her fast enough. So why does he show up at her door, interested in learning how to make tofu ricotta? And why does he seem so upset that a senior hottie has taken an interest in her?

Could he be interested in Georgia after all?

My Review
Charm and Consequence picks up where Snark and Circumstance left us. Georgia’s older sister, Tori, is still cozy with newcomer, Trey, younger sister, Cassie, is still tight with Rick “the Brick” and even uber-conservative, Leigh, is getting her neck bruised by Alistair, the preacher’s son. Georgia is still sadly single, at least until hot and hunky Jeremy begins to show flirtatious interest in her. On top of that, things with Michael Endicott are getting interesting. Instead of fighting every chance they get, they’re actually having interesting, thoughtful discussions.

Plot
The second book in the Snark and Circumstance series is still centered around Georgia’s relationship with Michael. At the end of book 1, they seemed to tame some of their animosity enough to allow an almost friendship to begin to take root. But any good teen romance wouldn’t be complete without a healthy dose of angst as Georgia and Michael go back and forth in twisted seesaw fashion between almost flirting to outright animosity. Things reach the pinnacle of interesting when Georgia attends the Harvest Ball and is invited to dance by both Michael and Jeremy. And they go from interesting to downright fascinating the night of the New Year’s Eve party.

World Building
We get to learn a little more about the world of Longbourne and understand some of the social hierarchy of a small town with it’s own version of royalty. I have to admit, living in a big city, this isn’t something I’m familiar with, but I found it fascinating nonetheless.

Characters
The character development continues, as Stephanie Wardrop fleshes out the characters she introduced in Snark and Circumstance. I’m getting to know Georgia even more, and I really like her. Sure she can be annoying, but her heart is in the right place most of the time. Michael is also growing on me and I think I learned more about him in this book than any of the other characters. I still find Cassie and Leigh, along with their parents to be pretty flat. I’m hoping that changes soon.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Charm and Consequence
1. Georgia I’m still loving Georgia’s quick wit and sense of humor.

2. Tori. She goes through a bit of an emotional upheaval this time around, and we get to see more sides to her, rounding her out nicely.

3. Michael. He’s even more layered than I thought, and though he has many faults, he’s definitely one of the good guys.

4. New Year’s Eve. The party is particularly interesting as it so accurately reflects a teen party and builds to an interesting conclusion.

5. Philosophical Discussions. Because they lead to better understanding of characters across the board.

Bottom Line
I enjoyed Charm and Consequence more than its predecessor. Stephanie Wardrop increases the stakes and draws out the main characters, creating conflict in all the right ways.

About the Book
Title
: Charm and Consequence
Series: Snark and Circumstance #2
Author: Stephanie Wardrop
Release Date: May 24, 2013
Pages: 66
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Stephanie WardropAbout the Author
Stephanie Wardrop grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, a town mostly famous for being a railroad card in Monopoly. After giving up on her childhood goal of becoming a pirate, she decided to become a writer but took a detour through lots of college and grad school and ended up teaching writing and British and American literature.

She’s the author of the Swoon Romance e-novella series Snark and Circumstance, based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and lives in western New England with her husband, kids, cats, and gecko.

Where to Find Stephanie Wardrop
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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YA Book Review – Sudden Secrets by C. Lee McKenzie

Sudden Secrets by C. Lee McKenzie

Sudden Secrets by C. Lee McKenzie

Synopsis
One Secret

Cleo has struggled to heal after her baby sister’s death, but the flashbacks to the accident won’t go away. With the move, she vows to keep her tragedy a secret and avoid pitying looks.

One Mystery

Something’s strange about the abandoned house across the street-flashes of light late at night and small flickers of movement that only someone looking for them would see.

Everyone says the house is deserted, but Cleo is sure it isn’t, and she’s sure whoever is inside is watching her.

Another Secret

In one night, Belleza’s life changes forever. So famous, her only choice is to hide her secret from the world so she can silence small town bigotry.

Then Cleo happens.

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My Review
Sudden Secrets is a well-written, emotional tale of teen, Cleo, whose family has suffered the tragic loss of Aziza, her four-year-old sister. In an attempt to heal, they relocate to a small northern California town that has its own secrets. Cleo’s life is shattered not only by the loss of her sister, but also as the fracturing of her family in the aftermath. Her mom disappears into herself while her father disappears to Afghanistan on an archeological expedition. Even her grandfather withdraws, becoming a shell of his former self. And if that isn’t bad enough, Cleo blames herself for the accident that took her sister’s life.

Cleo’s mom sees the relocation as a chance to heal, Cleo sees it as an opportunity to start over, even if she’s not sure that can happen. Cleo runs to escape her pain and when she runs to the nearby high school and meets super-hot Ethan, things are looking up. At least until she meets Ethan’s equally hot girlfriend, Stacey.

Cleo manages to begin rebuilding her life, making friends with Stacey, Ethan, and eternally boisterous Rudy. When she notices some odd activity in the supposedly vacant house across the street, the four of them embark on solving the  mystery that dates back more than five decades and may or may not involve a local hero.

Plot
The plot is multi-pronged with the main plot centering on pain surrounding Cleo and her family, but a strong subplot is the mystery of Belleza and the house across the street. The romance is a minor subplot, which works fine in this case. My only real complaint with the plot is that the romance seems almost irrelevant to the story. It would have been nice if it was intertwined more, not necessarily a bigger part, just more of a factor.

World Building
What there is, is subtle, but the setting isn’t terribly important. It’s small town Northern California and the author does a good job of evoking that misty, foggy Bay Area atmosphere enough to set the scenes.

Characters
This is almost entirely a character-driven story and that’s where it really shines. Each character is well-developed, even the secondary and tertiary ones. They all have rich and deep back stories that fit the plot and are never extraneous nor feel forced upon us. We learn about the characters at exactly the right time, when the information is crucial to the story.

The character development is really well done, too. Everyone from Cleo to her family and Belleza across the street grow and develop through the story in very believable, authentic, organic ways.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Sudden Secrets
1. The Mystery. I love when an author can pique my interest, keep it, then let that interest bloom and grow by revealing bits and pieces of the secret. C. Lee McKenzie has done a masterful job of this in Sudden Secrets.

2. The Romance. No, it’s not the main plot or even a strong subplot, and I did mention that I wished it’d been more integral to the story, but what I enjoyed about it was that it was anything BUT formulaic.

3. Belleza. She’s complex, complicated, deep, emotional, loyal, mysterious, and one hundred percent awesome!

4. Cleo. She’s extremely likeable, even though she’s flawed. She does things that made me shake my head, but I always knew her heart was in the right place. She was a refreshing change from the typical young adult protagonist.

5. Rudy. There is something so infectious about him, that just reading about him made me smile.

Bottom Line
Sudden Secrets is an intriguing story with complex characters that worm their way into your heart.

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: Sudden Secrets
Author: C. Lee McKenzie
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Release Date: December 19, 2014
Pages: 201
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author C. Lee McKenzie

Author C. Lee McKenzie

About the Author
In my other life–the one before I began writing for teens and younger readers–I was a teacher and administrator at California State University, San Jose. My field of Linguistics and Inter-cultural Communication has carried me to a lot of places in the world to explore different cultures and languages. I can say, “Where’s the toilet?” and “I’m lost!” in at least five languages and two dialects. Go ahead. Pat me on the back.

My idea of a perfect day is one or all of the following: starting a new novel, finishing writing a blockbuster novel, hiking on a misty morning trail in the Santa Cruz Mountains, saying Namaste after a great yoga practice, sipping a cappuccino topped at a bustling café, reading in front of a fire with snow outside, swimming in an ocean someplace.

I’ve just set out my perfect life. Day after day after day.

Where to Find C. Lee McKenzie
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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#1LineWed – Exercise (Run, Jump, etc.)

1LineWedToday’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is exercise, as in running, jumping or some other exercise-type action. The Ruins has a lot more action than The Union, so I had a lot to choose from, but I settled on this sweet moment:

“If I wasn’t already crazy stupid in love, you jumping into a raging creek to save me would have pushed me over the edge. “

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

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YA Book Review – Snark and Circumstance by Stephanie Wardrop

Snark and Circumstance (Snark and Circumstance #1) by Stephanie Wardrop

Snark and Circumstance (Snark and Circumstance #1) by Stephanie Wardrop

Synopsis
One superior smirk from Michael Endicott convinces sixteen-year-old Georgia Barrett that the Devil wears Polo. His family may have founded the postcard-perfect New England town they live in, but Georgia’s not impressed.

Even if he is smart, good looking, and can return Georgia’s barbs as deftly as he returns serves on his family’s tennis courts. After all, if Michael actually thinks she refuses to participate in lab dissections just to mess with his grade, he’s a little too sure that he’s the center of the universe.

Could there be more to Michael Endicott than smirks and sarcasm? If Georgia can cut the snark long enough, she just might find out.

Snark and Circumstance is the first title in the Snark and Circumstance series of young adult romance novellas from Stephanie Wardrop.

My Review
Snark and Circumstance is the first book in a series of novellas, and as such, felt a bit incomplete. I knew this going in though, and didn’t let that influence my enjoyment of the story. Georgia Barrett is a sharp-witted vegan with an aversion to slicing and dicing animals for her high school biology class. Michael Endicott is a member of one of the founding families in their small New England town, recently kicked out of prep school. He’s got an attitude as big as his family’s influence. When these two are paired up in biology, things go from bad to worse for Georgia.

This first installment introduces us to Georgia and her family, the inner workings of the high school hierarchy, and her relationship with Michael. Georgia is fairly new herself, only having moved to town the year before, but she doesn’t have much patience for the sarcastic Michael with a chip on his shoulder.

The story really shines when these two trade sharp-tongued barbs, playing off one another. It’s soon clear that Georgia and Michael will either end up together or killing each other, and I can’t wait to find out which one it is.

Plot
The plot for this first installment centers around the love-hate relationship of Georgia and Michael. When they’re thrown together for not one, but two class projects in two separate classes, they have to find a way to work together. It seems impossible at first, they have absolutely nothing in common, and Michael appears to dislike Georgia for no reason, while she just finds him insufferable and arrogant.

As the story progresses, they discover they have more in common than they first thought. That may be enough to break down the barriers each has erected, but maybe soften them just enough to allow them to work together, even if they aren’t actually friends. Yet.

World Building
Stephanie Wardrop’s high school setting comes across as contemporary and authentic, although a bit stereotypical at times. This is a light-hearted romance though, so the stereotypes work here.

Characters
I’m just getting to know the characters. It’s clear Georgia has an attitude and a witty sense of humor. Michael is also witty and sarcastic, but I don’t have a feel for any of Georgia’s friends, sisters, or her parents really. I’m hoping these other characters will be fleshed out through the series.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Snark and Circumstance
1. Georgia’s quick wit and snark. She’s smart and funny.

2. Georgia’s principles. I may not be a vegan or even interested in becoming one, but I love that she stands by her beliefs, even if it means getting a poor grade.

3. Michael’s complexity. He’s hard to pin down which makes him infinitely intriguing.

4. Willow. She might be a pretty standard stereotypical mean girl, but every story needs one and she fills the role perfectly.

5. Tori. I love the relationship Georgia has with her older sister. This is what sisterly love looks like at its best.

Bottom Line
Snark and Circumstance is a quick, light-hearted read that sets the stage for what I hope is going to be a really good young adult romance series.

About the Book
Title
: Snark and Circumstance
Series: Snark and Circumstance #1
Author: Stephanie Wardrop
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Pages: 45
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Author Stephanie WardropAbout the Author
Stephanie Wardrop grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, a town mostly famous for being a railroad card in Monopoly. After giving up on her childhood goal of becoming a pirate, she decided to become a writer but took a detour through lots of college and grad school and ended up teaching writing and British and American literature.

She’s the author of the Swoon Romance e-novella series Snark and Circumstance, based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and lives in western New England with her husband, kids, cats, and gecko.

Where to Find Stephanie Wardrop
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Book Review – Sammy’s Hill (Samantha Joyce) by Kristin Gore

Sammy's Hill (Samantha Joyce #1) by Kristin Gore

Sammy’s Hill (Samantha Joyce #1) by Kristin Gore

Synopsis
Comedy writer and middle daughter of Al Gore, Kristin Gore has written a funny and moving debut novel about life on Capitol Hill as seen through the eyes of Samantha Joyce, a twenty-six year old health care analyst to Ohio Junior Senator Robert Gary.

Hard working, idealistic, extremely competent as well as neurotic and prone to daydreaming, Sammy, as she’s known to her friends, has little time for anything, much less a relationship. But in the midst of lobbying and late-night dinners at the office, she meets Aaron Driver, who is hot, smart, and sweet, and who, after a night of binge drinking at a bachelor party, proclaims his love for her.

But how will Sammy balance her seventy-plus hour weeks with her budding romance, while keeping her best friend’s slimy boyfriend from hitting on her, and making time for family, who insist her outfits match the centerpiece.

My Review
This debut novel by the middle daughter of former Vice President, Al Gore, is a hilarious, witty, page-turning comedy with a sliver of politics running through it. Twenty-six year old Samantha Joyce is a newly arrived staffer for the junior Senator from Ohio with expertise in health care. Released in 2005, the topic was timely with health care reform front and center, but it’s still as fresh ten years later as it was back when I first read it.

Sammy is idealistic, nervous around members of the opposite sex, a little neurotic, and forever hopeful. As she works on the issues for her boss, she tumbles into a romantic relationship. While billed as chic-lit, this is more than that. It’s equal parts politics, which no doubt Kristin Gore has the experience to accurately portray, and lighthearted romance. I loved the story, the politics, and the characters. I’m looking forward to picking up more by Gore.

Plot
The main plot is Sammy’s goal of getting health care reform passed, but a strong subplot is her romance with Aaron Driver, and both are done really well. It’s definitely a fun, light read that moves quickly. The political process is interesting, even if it’s told in a humorous way. Well, let’s face it, politics is pretty much a joke in this country anyway.

World Building
Set on Capitol Hill, Kristin Gore has a solid handle on the world she’s set her story in. Considering her parentage, it’s understandable. I love her witty take on D.C, the procedures, and the political infighting.

Characters
Sammy is quirky in the best sense of the word. I know a lot of people have compared her to Bridget Jones, but she’s really her own kind of awesome and she comes off adorkably so. The rest of the cast is just as delightful, but much less neurotic.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Sammy’s Hill
1. Sammy’s quirks. She worries about everything and anything, including things that probably would never happen to anyone, but that’s all part of her charm.

2. Capitol Hill. The setting is as fascinating as the characters and often just as colorful and off-balance.

3. Health care. Because even after the Affordable Care Act, it’s still an important topic.

4. Politics. I’m a political junky, so the wonky plotline was pure confection.

5. Aaron Driver. He’s one of the really good guys and it’s nice to see that guys don’t have to be total alpha male types to get the girl.

Bottom Line
Sammy’s Hill is a quirky political romantic comedy with fun characters and a timeless plotline.

About the Book
Title
: Sammy’s Hill
Series: Samantha Joyce #1
Author: Kristin Gore
Release Date: June 15, 2005
Pages: 336
Category: Romance, Mystery, Chick Lit
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Kristin Gore

Author Kristin Gore

 

About the Author
Kristin Gore is an American author and screenwriter. She is the second daughter of Al and Tipper Gore.

Gore has published three novels, Sammy’s Hill (2004), Sammy’s House (2007), and Sweet Jiminy (2011). She co-wrote the screenplay for the 2015 film Accidental Love, and the narration for the 2007 documentary Arctic Tale.

She was also a writer for the animated sitcom Futurama and the long-running sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live.

Where to Find Kristin Gore
Goodreads | Facebook

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Book Review – Two for the Dough (Stephanie Plum) by Janet Evanovich

Two for the Dough (Stephanie Plum #2) by Janet Evanovich

Two for the Dough (Stephanie Plum #2) by Janet Evanovich

Synopsis
Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is still learning the ropes at her cousin Vinnie’s bail bond office, so when she sets out on the trail of Kenny Mancuso–a suspiciously wealthy, working class Trenton boy who has just shot his best friend–the stakes are higher than ever. That Mancuso is distantly related to vice cop Joe Morelli–who is trying to beat Stephanie to the punch–only makes the hunt more thrilling….

Taking pointers from her bounty hunter pal, Ranger, and using her pistol-packing Grandma Mazur as a decoy, Stephanie is soon closing in on her mark. But Morelli and his libido are worthy foes. And a more sinister kind of enemy has made his first move…and his next move might be Stephanie’s last.

My Review
Two for the Dough is even more fun than it’s predecessor. Now that Stephanie has one mystery solved, she feels a little bit more confident about her job as a bounty hunter for her cousin Vinnie. Because the characters and circumstances are already established, this installment focuses more on the adventures surrounding Stephanie’s latest case.

There are more hijinks, goofiness, and laugh-out-loud moments, the best of which occurs when Stephanie invites coworker, Ranger, over for a family dinner and Grandma Mazur opens her mouth. I enjoyed watching Stephanie try and fail over and over, each time with hilarious results. Things are heating up with Joe Morelli, too, but these two still have a long way to go before they approach anything even close to resembling an adult relationship.

Plot
The plot centers around the mystery and finding Kenny Mancuso. But because this is Stephanie Plum, nothing is ever simple. Nothing goes according to plan and everyone and everything, including Stephanie’s own ineptitude, gets in the way. Throw in not one, but two hot guys, and this is a steamy, spirited page-turner that kept me laughing.

World Building
Once again, Evanovich’s depiction of Trenton, New Jersey comes alive with colorful characters and vivid locales in larger than life form. I have no doubt Stephanie’s version of bailbondsmanship isn’t quite the world that Dog the Bounty Hunter inhabits, but there’s just enough realism to keep it from being cartoonish.

Characters
It’s fun to see some actual character development in a light-hearted mystery like this. It’s not a lot. I mean, it’s not like Stephanie suddenly gets responsible and becomes a kick-butt bounty hunter, but there is some growth. Plus we get to see more of some of the more interesting characters, particularly Grandma Mazur. Even Ranger, as tight-lipped as he is, opens up a little this time around more.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Two for the Dough
1. Grandma Mazur. She’s a kick in the pants. You just never know what’s going to come out of her mouth next (and I’m not talking about her dentures.)

2. Stephorelli. Okay, it’s my own “ship” name, but it was either that or Morellanie. Whatever you call them, these two are either perfect for each other or will end up killing one another.

3. Ranger. His one word responses say more than a dozen words strung together. He is the epitome of cool.

4. Trenton, NJ. It might just be a town, but it is somehow also becomes a character in the story.

5. The bad guys. Because even they are about as competent at their badassery as Stephanie is at catching them.

Bottom Line
Two for the Dough is a solid follow up in an entertaining, light-hearted mystery series, and it’s even funnier than its predecessor.

About the Book
Title
: Two for the Dough
Series: Stephanie Plum #2
Author: Janet Evanovich
Release Date: July 15, 1999
Pages: 336
Category: Romance, Mystery, Chic-Lit
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Janet Evanovich

Author Janet Evanovich

About the Author
Janet Evanovich is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series, the Lizzy and Diesel series, twelve romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels and Trouble Maker graphic novel, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, as well as the Fox and O’Hare series with co-author Lee Goldberg.

Where to Find Cindy Ray Hale
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

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Review + Giveaway – The Way We Fall (The Story of Us) by Cassia Leo

The Way We Fall Blog Tour

The Way We Fall (The Story of Us #1) by Cassia Leo

The Way We Fall (The Story of Us #1) by Cassia Leo

Synopsis
From New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo comes a twisted and passionate love story that pushes the boundaries of loyalty.

Maybe we shouldn’t have fallen so fast and so willingly.

Maybe we shouldn’t have moved in together before we went on our first date.

Maybe we should have given our wounds time to heal before we tore each other to shreds.

Maybe we should have never been together.

Houston has kept a devastating secret from Rory since the day he took her into his home. But the tragic circumstances that brought them together left wounds too deep to heal.

Five years after the breakup, Houston and Rory are thrust together by forces beyond their control. And all the resentments and passion return with more intensity than ever.

Once again, Houston is left with a choice between the truth and the only girl he’s ever loved.

The Way We Fall is the first book in The Story of Us series, which follows the tumultuous love story of Rory and Houston. The sequel,The Way We Break, will be released Spring 2015.

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My Review
A week after finishing The Way We Fall, I’m still mulling it over. It left me with a lot of conflicted feelings. Not because the writing wasn’t solid or the story didn’t work, but because I can’t decide how I feel about the ending or about the characters. They’re flawed, so brilliantly flawed, that they’re sometimes hard to take. Kind of like that uncle you love because he’s family, but you still cringe when he’s around your friends.

Rory and Houston are tragically stupid when it comes to each other and there are times I don’t want them to forgive one another and other times I want to smack them both upside the head and yell, “get over yourselves already!” So, here I am, a week later saying I want more of their story, but at the same time asking myself, “are you really sure you want to go through that again?” But I do. Because deep down, despite all the ways they drove me absolutely freaking nuts, Cassia Leo made me care enough about them to find out what happens next.

Plot
The plot centers around Rory and Houston’s storied past. When Hallie, Rory’s best friend and Houston’s younger sister, committed suicide, Rory and Houston found solace in each other’s arms. At least for six months before it all tragically ended in overwhelming heartache. When the two are thrown back together again five years later, old feelings and old hurts are simmering just below the surface. Much of their story plays out in flashbacks interspersed with present day from dual points of view. The devastating secret isn’t revealed until the end and it lives up to the hype.

World Building
The small Portland, Oregon suburb is well developed and comes across as completely authentic. The flashbacks flow nicely with the contemporary scenes and have that college-y feel.

Characters
The characters alternate between being lovable and difficult to stomach, but that only makes them more real. Real people have good and bad sides, moments we adore them and moments we need to distance ourselves from them for a bit. Rory has a temper and Houston can be impossibly selfish, and yet you get the sense that they really do love each other deeply, even if they do everything wrong.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Way We Fall
1. The conflict. One of the things I love most in fiction is conflict and this book is packed with it. Every chapter is overflowing to the point that I had to turn the page to see what happened next.

2. Rory’s dog. He’s such an integral part of her life and the plot.

3. Liam the Lumberjack. He’s a good guy and I was glad to see he was more than just a romantic foil.

4. Barley Legal. The name of Houston’s beer company is awesome.

5. The Secret. I thought I knew what it was, but I never saw it coming and that’s the hallmark good storytelling.

Bottom Line
The Way We Fall is at times difficult to read, but it’s well-written and packs a solid emotional punch.

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: The Way We Fall
Series: The Story of Us #1
Author: Cassia Leo
Release Date: February 20, 2015
Publisher: Gloss Publishing, LLC
Pages: 303
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Google | Smashwords
International: Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Cassia Leo

Author Cassia Leo

About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt.

When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time watching old reruns of Friends and Sex and the City. When she’s not watching reruns, she’s usually enjoying the California sunshine or reading – sometimes both.

Where to find Cassia Leo
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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