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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK by Natalie Williamson

RULES WE'RE MEANT TO BREAK Blog Tour

RULES WE'RE MEANT TO BREAK by Natalie Williamson

RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK by Natalie Williamson

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Honest and full of heart, this clever contemporary romance debut deftly combines utterly relatable family drama with all the sweetness and uncertainy that comes with falling in love.

Rule #1: Don’t get attached.

Amber lives by strict rules to survive her mother’s love life: Always keep your eyes on the horizon and never get close to anyone connected to Mom’s boyfriends.

But after they move in with Kevin, the latest of her mom’s “soul mates,” the rules become increasingly difficult to follow. Kevin’s daughter, Cammie, keeps acting like Amber’s friend, even though she’s definitely not. And Jordan—star basketball player, hottest boy in school, and Cammie’s best friend—keeps showing up at the most inconvenient moments.

Amber has reasons for every one of her rules, and following them is the only way to protect her heart when her mom inevitably moves on. But as she spends more time with Kevin, his daughter, and especially Jordan, she starts to wonder if the rules might be worth breaking this time.

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, Rules We’re Meant to Break is a charming, heartachingly real story of family and young love by debut author Natalie Williamson.

Praise for Rules We’re Meant to Break:

“The last time I devoured a book like this—I can’t even remember. … It was so openhearted and raw.” —Clarissa, reader on SwoonReads.com

“It is such a true true story about a girl finding herself within her first love. I loved it!” —Forever Bookish, reader on SwoonReads.com

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My Review
This is such a cute young adult romance. Everything from the settings to the characters sucked me in. Amber lives with her single mother, her father having left them when she was just five. Her mom bounces from one relationship to another, and after a particularly difficult breakup for Amber, she vows never to get close to anyone her mom dates again. This becomes challenging when they move into her mom’s then boyfriend’s place early in Amber’s senior year of high school. To make matter’s worse, this guy has a teen daughter who goes to Amber’s school. Said daughter, Cammie, is no bigger fan of the situation than Amber is. The only thing that makes the situation mildly tolerable is that hot Jordan Baugh lives down the street from her new house. Much to Amber’s surprise and delight, he seems to be flirting with her! And in a perfect world, that would be awesome, but Amber’s world is anything but perfect. It appears that Cammie has some sort of a history with Jordan and that breaks Rule No. 7 on her list of rules for surviving her mother’s dating life. If only Jordan wasn’t so incredibly adorable and insistent.

Plot
The plot centers around Amber’s relationship with Jordan, but is laced with Amber’s lack of a belief in relationships that can last and a fierce need to protect herself from getting hurt again. With the help of her best friends Hannah and Ryan, she navigates tutoring Jordan while attempting to hold fast to her “rules”. But feelings have a way of getting in the way of the best intentions. Strong subplots include tense relationships with her mother, Cammie, and her mom’s boyfriend, as well as Amber’s plans after graduation. She has her heart set on KU while her mother is dead set against it. All of these subplots weave expertly into the main plot for a compelling story beyond just the romance.

Characters
I love the characters so much. Amber is so relatable as a teen girl hell-bent on protecting her heart. Jordan is beyond adorable and it’s easy to see why Amber is attracted to him against her better judgments. Hannah is the perfect loyal best friend, even when she feels as if her friend isn’t necessarily doing what’s in her own best interests. And Cammie is suitably complex making her a standout character. Everyone comes across as authentic and well developed, creating balanced and nuanced relationships that drive the story.

What I Loved About RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK
1. Buffy.
 The German shepherd adopted by Amber is cute, smart, loyal, and makes Amber a better person.

2. Buffy. The OTHER Buffy. The one Buffy is named for. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer references peppered throughout are lighthearted and actually tie several things together.

3. Jordan. The adorable basketball player with a penchant to capitalize words that excite him is a boy worth swooning over.

4. Angsty Romance. My favorite kind. With Amber’s insecurities and her list of rules, there was no way this romance wasn’t going to come with a health dose of angst. It just has a way of pulling at my heartstrings. I love, love, love it.

5. Realistic Growth. While Amber has some amazing growth, I love that she isn’t totally transformed. Her history is so ingrained in who she is that by the end she’s only tentatively stepping forward into the unknown rather than fully embracing it, giving this a really realistic vibe.

Bottom Line
Fabulous characters in realistic predicaments and a swoony romance to boot.

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: RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK
Author: Natalie Williamson
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Pages: 296
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Natalie Williamson

Author Natalie Williamson

About the Author
Natalie Williamson is an HR person by day and a YA writer by night and nap time. She referenced Harry Potter in her first ever full time job interview, which tells you almost all the things you need to know about her. Other important things to know include: she loves her husband, daughter, dogs, and cat; she has a serious dessert problem; and she frequently Wikipedias movies and TV shows to find out if they have happy endings. RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK is her debut novel..

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Where to find Natalie Williamson
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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Giveaway
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Book Review – AUGUST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET by Danielle K. Roux

AUGUST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET Blog Tour

AUGUST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET by Danielle K. Roux

AUGUST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET by Danielle K. Roux

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Katherine Garnet is a writer who has never cared much about much, making it awfully difficult to create new content. Despite the fact she has the “edge” of being trans (according to her cis male editor) she is not looking to capitalize on her own personal story. Garnet tries to sneak a peek at her rival, August Prather’s, latest fantasy manuscript about a quest for the elixir of life.

While reading, Garnet gets accidentally dragged into a bizarre cross-country road trip that may or may not have a purpose and begins to see parallels in the story of the manuscript and the reality of their journey. Along the way, they encounter a parade of equally troubled individuals, including ghost-hunting priests, a robot magician, a discarded piece of furniture, a runaway teenager, and a Japanese rock star.

As Garnet confronts her past, she begins to understand why someone might want to live forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
I’m not sure exactly what to make of AUGST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET. There’s a quote by one of the protagonists that says a good book is one that leaves the reader to figure out what it’s about, and I kind of feel like the author was letting us know that it’s up to us to decide what her novel is about. To say I was confused for much of the book would be an understatement, but at no point did I want to put it down. I needed to know what the heck was going on. And because the characters are so fascinating, I was hooked on their fates from the beginning. But if I had to tell you what this book is about, I’m not sure I can easily sum it up the way I normally do for a book review. It’s about letting go and finding yourself, it’s about exploring all the sides of yourself, it’s about friendship and camaraderie, doing the right thing for no reason other than it’s the right thing to do, and the quest for immortality, but it’s also none of those things and a thousand things more. And yet the story is riveting as author Kate Garnet sets off on a cross-country trip with fellow author August Prather along with two “priests”, a table, and a dead body in a Prius. And that’s not even the strangest part.

Plot
The plot unfolds haphazardly with as many detours as the group takes on their road trip. Kate gets herself accidentally kidnapped when she sneaks into August’s car to read her latest unpublished manuscript. We alternate between the two stories as Kate reading the book is interspersed with their adventures. August’s manuscript is the story of a two individuals on a quest to find the elixir of immortality, but there are so many parallels between the book Kate’s reading and what’s unfolding in her real life, she soon discovers what she thought might be a lighthearted road trip with a group of free spirits might be something much more deeply personal.

Characters
The characters are, simply put, brilliant. August is a quirky bohemian who befriends anyone and everyone she meets. Kate is complex as a trans woman who is still on a journey of self discover. Mitya and Lyosha, the Russian ghost hunters, posing as priests, are both irreverent and the cutest couple ever. Everyone they meet along their way is somehow larger than life, but in a completely believable way. it’s not that they’re necessarily caricatures, but we view them through Kate’s lens, and she notices the more obscure oddities more than most people would, so that’s how the reader gets to experience them. Even the characters in August’s book have depth. These are the types of people who not only temporarily occupy my mind as I read about them, but take up space in my brain for a long time after I finish the book.

What I Loved About AUGUST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET
1. August.
 If she mentioned a road trip, I’d be strapped into the shotgun seat before the “p” popped on her lips.

2. Quirky Characters. Everyone who populates this story is unique and a delight to read.

3. Witty Banter. The dialogue is among the best I’ve ever read, whether they’re dropping off a dead body at the hospital or discussing a murder that August witnessed, everything uttered is pure gold.

4. Road Trips. Setting off on a cross country trip with no itinerary not only makes for a fantastic story, but it’s a metaphor for what life should be.

5. True Love. Mitya and Lyosha are so freaking adorable. One of my all-time favorite fictional couples.

Bottom Line
An unusual tale with compelling characters that is impossible to put down.

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: AUGUST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET
Author: Danielle K. Roux
Publisher: Parliament House Publishing

Release Date: August 7, 2018
Pages: 368
Genre: Adult LGBTQ+ Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Danielle K. Roux

Author Danielle K. Roux

About the Author
Danielle K. Roux is a writer, teacher, and historian. Her first novel August Prather is Not Dead Yet is currently available in e-book and paperback through Parliament House Press (and soon will be available in hardcover and audio book). Danielle has always loved reading and telling stories – especially stories with adventure, mystery, humor, romance and at least a little bit of spookiness. Not Dead Yet has all this covered, with a story-within-a-story structure and a quest for immortality in the early twentieth century paired with a present-day road trip. There’s a lot of existential crisis and a male/male romance that is sweet and steamy.

Danielle has been writing fiction since she was nine, after getting tired of reading from the perspective of white, straight male characters in fantasy novels. Her first written story involved a group of middle school girls who find necklaces used by a dead witch that give them supernatural powers. It was written in notebooks in purple and green gel pens that are currently housed in a box in her linen closet. She is inspired by travelling to new places and reading about the stories tied to landscapes. She has at least three novels building in her brain (or wherever novels come from) and wishes she was writing them all right now.

Danielle lives with her wife and two orange cats in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has added a lot of young adult fantasy fiction to her bookshelves recently, and regrets nothing. Her dream library would be accessed through a secret door and look something like the library in the animated Disney Beauty and the Beast, although it would also have a cute barista or sentient coffee machine that once was said barista.

When she isn’t writing or thinking about writing, Danielle is building houses in the Sims, listening to podcasts, or taking Buzzfeed quizzes to find out what kind of tree she is based on her hair color. She has recently been watching lots of old BBC period pieces, and some of them are good. She has begun to drink Diet Coke and is worried this might be a real problem. Coffee and tea are still her primary beverages of choice..

Where to find Danielle K. Roux
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS by Nina Moreno

DON'T DATE ROSA SANTOS by Nina Moreno

DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS by Nina Moreno

4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides – literally – with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
a sweeping tale that takes place over a few short weeks in the spring before Rosa Santo’s graduates and needs to determine what to do with her life. She has a complex history. Her grandmother gave birth on a boat fleeing communist Russia and her grandfather died on the same trip. Rosa’s own father was also taken by the sea when his boat didn’t come back one day. To say she has a healthy respect for the ocean would be an understatement. In fact, she’s never really ventured down to the docks. At least until the harbor in her small Florida town is threatened and Rosa and the rest of the town come together with a plan to save it. This plan introduces her to tall, dark and brooding Alex. Not only is he ridiculously attractive, but he bakes. And he owns a boat. So, whatever feelings Rosa is developing for Alex cannot be acted upon. Because a to love a boy with a boat means to lose him to sea. At least according to the family curse. So when life has a way of disrupting the best of plans, Rosa will need to decide if she’s going to live in her family’s past or forge her own future.

Plot
The story centers around Rosa’s quest to find out more about who she is. She wants to study in Cuba, but with the current administration making that all but impossible, she turns to her secretive grandmother, with whom she lives, and her mother, who pops in and out of Rosa’s life, for answers. But her grandmother has roots in the old ways, dabbling in santeria and other Cuban customs that include doling out the information slowly. Rosa becomes frustrated and endangers her relationship with her grandmother just as her relationship with Alex takes an interesting but scary twist. Strong themes include family ties, finding yourself, coming of age, and the value of community.

Characters
Rosa and her family are incredibly detailed. Rosa, her mother, and Mimi, her grandmother, are all complex with rich backstories and fully-developed arcs. The balance of the characters, with the exception of Alex who has is own arc, are merely props to support the main trio. However, they never nosedive into stereotypes. They may have been created to serve a purpose, but they come across as more than just fluff, which is an incredible feat by the author.

What I Loved About DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS!
1. Cuban Culture.
 I’ll admit to not knowing much about this. My in-laws are of Spanish and Native American descent, but hail from the Southwest, which means their Hispanic culture is a mixed bag. It was fascinating to learn more about Cuba and the Florida Cuban culture. Everything from the food, to rituals, and daily life was vivid and exciting.

2. The Viejitos. The gaggle of retired men and their gossip they share via their Instagram account is both endearing and hysterical.

3. Rosa. She is so complex. The things she wants, what she values, and her desire to not rock the family boat create a deep character who was easy to cheer her on.

4. Alex. He has a bohemian spirit trapped in the body of a loyal son. A romantic at heart, I was rooting for Rosa to give him a chance.

5. The Ending. More than a little confusing at times, I liked that the author left much to the interpretation of the reader.

Bottom Line
Fantastic settings, beautiful writing, and amazing character combine for this young adult tale about discovering who you are.

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: DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS
Author: Nina Moreno
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Pages: 335
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | IndieBoundPowell’s

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Author Nina Moreno

Author Nina Moreno

About the Author
Nina Moreno is a YA writer whose writing is somewhere between Southern fiction and a telenovela. She graduated from the University of Florida and writes about Latinas chasing their dreams, falling in love, and navigating life in the hyphen. She lives by a swamp outside of Orlando where she enjoys listening to carefully curated playlists, hunting through thrift stores, drinking too much Cuban coffee, and walking into the sea every chance she gets. DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS is her first novel.

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Where to find Nina Moreno
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

 

Book Review – THE EMOTION THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE EMOTION THESAURUS (A Writer's Guide to Character Expression) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE EMOTION THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The bestselling Emotion Thesaurus, often hailed as “the gold standard for writers” and credited with transforming how writers craft emotion, has now been expanded to include 55 new entries!

One of the biggest struggles for writers is how to convey emotion to readers in a unique and compelling way. When showing our characters’ feelings, we often use the first idea that comes to mind, and they end up smiling, nodding, and frowning too much.

If you need inspiration for creating characters’ emotional responses that are personalized and evocative, this ultimate show-don’t-tell guide for emotion can help. It includes:

Body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for 130 emotions that cover a range of intensity from mild to severe, providing innumerable options for individualizing a character’s reactions A breakdown of the biggest emotion-related writing problems and how to overcome them Advice on what should be done beforedrafting to make sure your characters’ emotions will be realistic and consistent Instruction for how to show hidden feelings and emotional subtext through dialogue and nonverbal cues And much more!

The Emotion Thesaurus, in its easy-to-navigate list format, will inspire you to create stronger, fresher character expressions and engage readers from your first page to your last..

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My Review
I want to scream from the rooftops to every author out there: go get this book! We’re constantly told to “show, don’t tell,” but finding the right way to show can make all the difference in the world between a scene that merely goes through the motions and one that that brings the reader deep into the story and allows them to get lost. THE EMOTION THESAURUS is part how-to, and part reference. After learning how to use the guide, there are 130 entries to help you find the right way to show character emotions. With helpful cross-references it’s easy to find the right way to show escalation from anger to rage or de-escalation to mere annoyance. All the body language, both internal and external, can be used to kickstart the analogies and symbolism necessary to tell a compelling story. Because weak verbs can be the death of good writing, the authors also include power verbs for each entry to further stimulate creative writing. And finally, each entry includes helpful writing tips, such as:

Pay special attention to the events leading up to an emotional response. If the plotting feels contrived, the character’s emotion will feel contrived as well.

Each entry includes physical signals, behaviors, internal sensations, mental responses, long term responses to an emotion, and signs that an emotion has been suppressed rather than dealt with, providing all the pieces to construct dazzling scenes.

Bottom Line
One of the best references for creative writing I’ve ever read.

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About the Book
Title
: THE EMOTION THESAURUS: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression
Authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Publisher: JADD Publishing
Publication Date: February 19, 2019
Pages: 304
Category: Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

About the Author
ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of 7 bestselling books for writers, including The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (now an expanded 2nd Edition). Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers®, as well as One Stop for Writers®, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. A strong believer in writers helping and supporting other writers, she tries to pay-it-forward however she is able to..

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

About the Author
Becca Puglisi is a speaker, international writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via her newest endeavor: One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description and brain-storming tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter..

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – YOU, ME AND LETTING GO by Katie Kaleski

YOU, ME AND LETTING GO Blog Tour

 

YOU, ME AND LETTING GO by Katie Kaleski

YOU, ME AND LETTING GO by Katie Kaleski

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Van Sato’s got labels. Tourettes, ADHD, SPD – words that have defined his existence since the time he was old enough to know what they meant. Now, Van wants to prove he’s more than an acronym, a syndrome, a problem kid. He takes a summer job as a day camp counselor to prove he’s capable of independence and moving on to the next phase in his life. Maybe, he might even make a friend while there. Someone who’s got just as many or even more labels than him. Someone who understands what it’s like.

Tabby Dubanowksi wants to forget about everything, the hospitalization, the judgment, the whispers behind her back. As a camp counselor, she will be admired, looked up to, and able to help people who don’t know anything about her old life. Tabby wants a fresh start and a chance to re-ignite her passion for film-making, if only for one summer.

After running away from their pasts, Van and Tabby collide in a storm cloud of attraction laced with self-doubt, insecurity, shame, and blame. Now, with Van feeling like he might have to quit his job, and Tabby struggling to quell the urge to cut, they will struggle to find themselves in a world designed to keep them apart.

 

 

 

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My Review
Two misfits, who see the humanity in each, find a bond that goes beyond mere attraction. What I loved best about this tale is that it wasn’t like they wound up together because no one else would have them, no one else understood their struggles, or any of the typical tropes with characters who have serious medical or psychological issues. Instead, they two were genuinely attracted to each other despite their issues. Their own challenges kept them from reacting to each other in a way most people would, which only fueled that attraction into something more. The meet cute was anything but cute when Van, who suffers from Tourettes, called Tabby by her hated high school nickname, “Lard Ass” when they run into each other at the same summer camp where they’re both working as counselors. But even after Van apologizes and Tabby decides it’s not enough, he never uses his Tourettes as an excuse for why he blurted it out unbidden. Their friendship develops without that understanding, making it more authentic and deep. Tabby has her own issues stemming from an eating disorder and cutting herself in an attempt to cope. But somehow, Van and Tabby overcome every obstacle to find solace in friendship and maybe just a little bit more.

Plot
The main plot centers on the relationship between Van and Tabby, but because they both have huge obstacles to overcome, there are strong subplots involving these as well. Van hopes for a life of independence even though on top of Tourette’s he has ADHD and SPD. Tabby has a tenuous relationship with food and deep-seated insecurities that drive nearly everything she does. She’s just trying to learn how to live life outside of Hope Springs where she spent time dealing with her anorexia. Romance isn’t on either kid’s radar, but some things just can’t be denied.

Characters
Oh the characters!! They are my favorite thing about the story. Van and his irreverent humor when it comes to his condition. Tabby and her confident insecurities (yes, that is actually a thing). The loving families who just want what’s best for Van and Tabby but still manage to do so much wrong. And best friends, Matt and Maritza are people I’d want to hang out with. The author totally does right by her characters, giving them depth, humanity, and creating such amazingly authentic-feeling three-dimensional beings that I was rooting for them from the opening chapters. Sometimes characters need to grow on me, but not this bunch!

What I Loved About YOU, ME, & LETTING GO!
1. Van.
 The boy with the tics so severe he hits himself and others with uncontrollable arms has a heart of gold. The way he deals with the kids in his care will melt anyone’s heart.

2. Tabby. It can be difficult to identify with and not get annoyed with insecure characters, but Tabby is so much more than that and I loved her from her first chapter.

3. Summer Camp. The kids are hysterical, from a boy who eats everything to a girl who likes to dissect whatever is found, including her food, bring humor and adorableness to the pages.

4. Honesty. The author’s honest portrayal of anorexia, cutting, Tourette, ADHD, and SPD show that people are so much more than the labels we attach to them.

5. Friendship. The bonds of friendship throughout the tale were heartwarming and the threads that tied everything together.

Bottom Line
A wonderful young adult tale about overcoming odds and taking control of your own life with some of the best characters in 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 – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: YOU, ME, & LETTING GO
Author: Katie Kaleski
Release Date: May 14, 2019
Pages: 197
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Katie Kaleski

Author Katie Kaleski

About the Author
Katie Kaleski has started down many career paths and held many jobs—indie craft store clerk, pizza maker, photo developer, shoe salesperson and cashier, dental assistant in the army, daycare teacher, student teacher—but her favorite one by far is being a writer.

She’s originally from Chicago, so she says things like pop, gym shoes, and front room. Her favorite food group is sugar, and she loves writing young adult novels.
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Where to find Katie Kaleski
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – CHEROKEE SUMMER by Susan Antony

CHEROKEE SUMMER Blog Tour

CHEROKEE SUMMER by Susan Anthony

CHEROKEE SUMMER by Susan Anthony

4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
When Ace leaves home to spend the summer in Cherokee, North Carolina the last thing she expects to find is a boyfriend until she meets Cherokee Tribe member John Spears. As Ace and John’s friendship blossoms, they find their life experiences mirror each other and they fall in love. Despite hurdles thrown by well-meaning family members and jealous frenemies, the star-crossed lovers remain committed to their mutual belief that the universe has drawn them together. However, when Ace sends John a strange text and then suddenly disappears, the two must rely on their trust in each other to save both their lives and their love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Soul mates and impossible love collide in CHEROKEE SUMMER. Ace and her family spend the summer in Cherokee, North Carolina where John and his family, native Cherokees, live. After a chance meeting that initially gets off on the wrong foot, these two find each other inexplicably drawn to one another, despite cultural differences that threaten to keep them apart. Ace’s family is in shambles. She lives with her alcoholic mother, autistic younger brother, and cheating father. Her father’s inability to keep it in his pants only seems to fuel her mother’s drinking. John has his own issues with an alcoholic mother and a family and community that are determined to keep him on the reservation after graduation, just as he’s determined to leave for college. Ace and John find a refuge from their lives in each other’s company, sharing painful commonalities while exploring their differences. But more than just a jealous ex-girlfriend and family responsibilities stand in the way, and it all comes to a gripping climax.

Plot
The story starts off as a basic contemporary romance with our two main characters meeting before their attraction grows, obstacles are thrown in the way, but then the plot goes sideways and ramps up to an action-packed conclusion that sets it apart from other books in the genre. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but it won’t be my last. The storytelling was intriguing, and even with a slow start, I was drawn to the characters, the setting, and the conflict. Since my kids are part Native American on their dad’s side, I was particularly drawn to the way the author portrayed modern Cherokees with the push and pull of tradition in the 21st century.

Characters
Told from both Ace’s and John’s points of view, there are solid differentiators between the two, keeping me from ever being confused about whose viewpoint I was reading. Ace’s devotion to her family makes her instantly endearing and I was able to sympathize with her belief that it was up to her to fix her family. John’s heritage and loyalty are in conflict with his life’s goals, making him a fascinating character.The supporting cast were more than caricatures, even the jealous ex-girlfriend had more depth than I was expecting. John’s twin sister, his grandmother, and even his alcoholic mother were more than fluff and helped define him a way that standard methods of characterization never could.

What I Enjoyed About CHEROKEE SUMMER
1. Reality.
 The author honestly portrays the devastating effects of alcoholism on families.

2. Native Culture. I thought this was particularly well done and an accurate depiction of what teens torn between two worlds struggle with.

3. Family Ties. While Ace lost the parenting lottery, she steps up to protect her younger brother at all cost. John’s loyalty to his family and way of life, even as he’s pulling away, endeared him to me.

4. John. Deep, damaged, sweet, and loyal. He’s a great protagonist and BBF.

5. Ace. From her awesome name to her flaws, she’s complex and intriguing and I loved seeing the world through her eyes.

Bottom Line
A sweet young adult contemporary with an action-filled finale.

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: CHEROKEE SUMMER
Author: Susan Antony
Release Date: January 21, 2019
Pages:
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & NobleiBooks | KoboGooglePlayScribdWalmart

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Author Susan Antony

Author Susan Antony

About the Author
Susan Antony is an IT by day, hip-shaker and writer by night, artist whenever possible, and an internet addict. She lives in the sunny south with her teenage son and two Cairn Terriers.

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Where to find Cookie O’Gorman
Goodreads | Website | Facebook Twitter | Amazon | BookBub

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – ALIEN MINDS (Dimension Drift) by Christina Bauer

ALIEN MINDS Blog Tour

ALIEN MINDS (Dimension Drift #1) by Christina Bauer

ALIEN MINDS (Dimension Drift #1) by Christina Bauer

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
DIVERGENT meets OCEAN’S EIGHT in this urban fantasy heist!

On my seventeenth birthday, I wake up in the hospital to find I just survived a sketchy but terrible accident. My parents stand by my bedside—both are beautiful, wealthy, and super-nice. They tell me that once I leave the hospital, I’ll attend the prestigious ECHO Academy, where I’ll churn out equations for the government along with my mega-smart peers.

So, I’m living the perfect life.

Then why does everything feel all wrong?

My parents, my house and even ECHO Academy…none of it fits. Plus, what’s up with Thorne, my brooding yet yummy classmate who keeps telling me I need to remember my true past, which seems to have included a lot of us kissing? That’s one thing I’d really like to remember, except for the fact that I’m pretty sure Thorne is hiding a ton of nasty secrets of his own, including the fact that he may not be from this world. But considering how my own past seems alien to me, it’s not like I can judge. Plus, Thorne has dimples. That’s a problem.

And worst of all, why does it feel so yucky to work on these calculations for the government? It’s all supposed to be part of ECHO, but my heart tells me that I’m helping something truly terrible come to pass. Thorne seems to think that kissing him again will release my real memories.

Maybe it’s time to pucker up.

“Appealing and engaging. Love the strong female character!” – Arlene’s Book Reviews

This new series is perfect for: fans of urban fantasy, action & adventure, cool science, evil corporations, forbidden romance and hot new classmates who may or may not be aliens.

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My Review
I finally dove into Christina Bauer’s sci-fi/fantasy adventure series with ALIEN MINDS. While this is book 1 in the Dimension Drift series, the characters and worlds are well-established from other, connected, series. That is evident from the opening chapter. Though I’m new to this world, Bauer does a great job of balancing the plot with world building so that even a newbie like me can grasp the nuances of the setting without being bogged down by details that detract from the story. When 17-year-old Meimi awakes with no memories, she knows something is off about the story she’s been told. She may not remember who she is or anything about her past, but she’s sure the doctor standing in front of her is evil. Just as she’s sure the tall, brooding guard, Thorne, assigned to her means something to her. She just isn’t sure what. When the doctor slates millions of people for execution for being “undesirable” and demands Meimi help him accomplish his goals, she’s determined to thwart him while pretending to go along with his plan. This sets up a wicked game of deception that rivals some of the best heist movies I’ve seen.

Plot
The story revolves around Memi’s plans to prevent the destruction of innocent human lives while remaining alive herself. Told in dual points of view from Memi’s and Thorne’s perspectives, we see flashes of Meimi’s life before her mind wipe through Thorne, and insights into how she thinks through hers. Despite her memory loss, she is who she is, and her spunk and intelligence shine through. Teaming up with people from Meimi’s past, they plan the ultimate act of defiance and bravery to save the world. Strong subplots include Meimi’s battle to regain who she is and Thorne’s battle to win back her feelings for him.

Characters
Meimi is a strong protagonist who inherently knows right from wrong and will risk everything to do what is right. Thorne is a tortured soul with a secret – he’s an alien, and oh yeah, son of the ruler of the omniverse. These two shouldn’t work, yet they are linked in a way that is more than just mutual attraction. Meimi is witty, sarcastic, and driven. Thorne is dark and brooding. Both are well-developed and a joy to read. The evil Dr. Godwin is more of a cartoonish character, though. Evil for the sake of evil. While he makes for a good bad guy, he’s not as developed as he could have been. Supporting characters, twins Zoe and Chloe, Fritz, and the others are more complex and nicely round out the cast.

World Building
This is where the story really shines. The alien world, dystopian Boston, alternate dimensions, and the technology are extraordinarily well constructed, and the writer’s ability to paint vibrant pictures with her words brings this amazing omniverse to life.

What I Enjoyed About ALIEN MINDS
1. World Building.
 Some of the best world building I’ve read in a long time.

2. Meimi. Her sarcastic wit is a blast to read.

3. Tech. The technology that populates this world is as engaging as the characters.

4. Sticking it to the Man. Their goal of beating Godwin at his own game is something we all can root for.

5. Thorne. His devotion to Meimi is both sweet and swoony.

Bottom Line
A fun, action-packed adventure with amazing world-building and fun characters.

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: ALIEN MINDS
Series: Dimension Drift #1
Author: Christina Bauer
Publisher: Monster House Books
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Fantasy/SciFi Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Christina Bauer

About the Author
Christina Bauer thinks that fantasy books are like bacon: they just make life better. All of which is why she writes romance novels that feature demons, dragons, wizards, witches, elves, elementals, and a bunch of random stuff that she brainstorms while riding the Boston T. Oh, and she includes lots of humor and kick-ass chicks, too.

Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.

Be the first to know about new releases from Christina by signing up for her newsletter

Where to Find Christina Bauer
Goodreads | Website | Newsletter | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – THE GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO BEING BAD by Cookie O’Gorman

THE GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO BEING BAD by Cookie O’Gorman

THE GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO BEING BAD by Cookie O’Gorman

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Seventeen-year-old Sadie is tired of being a good girl.

Her Career Aptitude Test results say she’s ideally suited for a career in the clergy (aka a nun), and on top of that, she receives yet another rejection. An aspiring dancer/choreographer, Sadie dreams of being featured on Dancer’s Edge—but they say she’s too sweet, needs more life experience. Her BFF, Kyle, and her oldest friend, 79-year-old Betty, agree: Sadie is in desperate need of a life makeover.

But she’ll need a coach.

Sadie doesn’t lie, cheat or steal–heck she doesn’t even curse (part of the reason she hasn’t checked off anything on her “Carpe Diem List”). Sadie doesn’t know the first thing about being bad. But Kyle’s twin brother, Colton, does. And he’s willing to teach Sadie on one condition: she has to do everything he says for the next month.

A dazzling first kiss, two smokin’ hot brothers and a bet that changes everything. In this enemies-to-more YA romance, Sadie learns:

Breaking the rules can be fun—especially when it leads to happily-ever-after.

 

 

 

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My Review
The latest release from one of my favorite authors does not disappoint! Sadie has been in love with her gay BFF, Kyle, since forever, so her list of naughty things she’s done is so short, it doesn’t even have one thing on it. After taking an aptitude test that showed she’d be awesome at being a nun, Sadie decides to live a little before high school graduation. She makes a carpe diem list that includes things like parties, a piercing, a tattoo, pulling a prank, and lots and lots of kissing. Considering the guy she wants to kiss most in the world is off limits, she reluctantly agrees to let Kyle’s equally hot, but utterly annoying, identical twin brother, Colton, be her bad girl coach. Colton has two rules though – Sadie has to do what he says, no questions asked, and she absolutely, positively cannot fall for him. Since Sadie loathes Colton and always has, this is a slam dunk. Right?

Plot
The main plot is the romance between Colton Freakin’ Bishop and Sister Sadie Day, but completing Sadie’s carpe diem list is nearly an equal subplot. The push and pull of Colton and Sadie is the kind that makes you laugh and want to keep turning the pages, as only O’Gorman can. The pacing is perfect, with lots of humor in the mix. While the reader may understand exactly what Colton is feeling, Sadie’s inability to see it for what it is drives some of the best moments in the story. It’s a sweet, angsty romance with seriously one of the all-time hottest kisses in the history of young adult romance!

Characters
These are among my favorite of O’Gorman’s characters. Sadie is sweet, funny, confident, but with a streak of typical teenage insecurity that makes her easy to identify with. Colton and Kyle couldn’t be more opposite, but they’re both lovable in their own unique ways. Just like Sadie, there were times I wanted to punch Colton moments after I swooned over him. He’s complex and perfect for Sadie. We also get cameos by returning favorite, like Ash and Snow as well as Becks and Sally. And Sadie’s mom is perfect. She is the Lorelei to Sadie’s Rory.

What I Loved About THE GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO BEING BAD
1. Sadie.
 She’s adorable as the girl who doesn’t like to swear, would rather be comfortable than fashionable, loves ballroom dancing, and has a list of bad things to do. I love that she never felt like she needed to change who she was.

2. Colton. He’s a bad boy who is easy to love. He likes to pretend he’s a total player, but I had him figured out pretty early on.

3. Complicated Relationships. Sadie had one of the more interesting parental relationships I’ve read in a long time with her cool mom and serial-cheating father co-owning a dance studio.

4. Betty. As one of Sadie’s older friends, retirement home Betty has some of the best lines.

5. Kyle. He’s the BFF every girl deserves.

Bottom Line
A wonderful young adult contemporary with some of the best characters I’ve read in a long while.

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 – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: THE GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO BEING BAD
Author: Cookie O’Gorman
Release Date: April 25, 2019
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Cookie O'Gorman

Author Cookie O’Gorman

About the Author
Cookie O’Gorman writes YA romance to give readers a taste of happily-ever-after. Small towns, quirky characters, and the awkward yet beautiful moments in life make up her books. Cookie also has a soft spot for nerds and ninjas. Her novels ADORKABLE and NINJA GIRL are out now! Her third book, THE UNBELIEVABLE, INCONCEIVABLE, UNFORESEEABLE TRUTH ABOUT ETHAN WILDER, was released April 5, 2018!.

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Where to find Cookie O’Gorman
Goodreads | Website | Facebook Twitter

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Book Review + Giveaway – THE DEVIL’S OWN (Murphy’s Law) by K.A. Fox

THE DEVIL'S OWN (Murphy's Law #1) by K.A. Fox

THE DEVIL’S OWN (Murphy’s Law #1) by K.A. Fox

3.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Delaney Murphy has always known she’s the Devil’s daughter. And although the title itself is a burden, she never expects to inherit all her father’s infernal abilities. When her newfound magic begins to poison the people closest to her, Laney must make a choice. To protect the world from the worst she can do, she leaves everyone she loves behind and builds a new life for herself, alone, in a place where she can control the urge to give in to the magic living within her.

But when she recognizes a familiar pattern in a string of murders, Laney leaves her peaceful, isolated life behind and goes on the hunt, unleashing a threat she never dreamed possible. Confronting this menacing specter could mean giving in to temptation and becoming the one thing she fears most. Will she use her magic to do the right thing, even if it means hurting the ones she loves?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
THE DEVIL’S own is a different take on the paranormal/urban fantasy genre, with the devil’s offspring as the protagonist. Delaney Murphy grew into her powers at the age of 16 and unleashed a terror so awful, she disappeared from the world for two years before returning. She has no better control of her powers now, so she lives in seclusion, something her father doesn’t approve of. Not  only is he worried for her safety, but her emotional wellbeing, so he sends a couple of companions who help Delaney unravel the growing mysterious deaths of girls who seem to have some connection to her.

Plot
The plot sort of meanders a bit, but is primarily about uncovering who is murdering young women. Delaney feels responsible due to her connection to them as well as some deep-seated guilt over events in her past. The main plot is criss-crossed with a number of subplots, including the slowly unfolding details of what happened when she was 16, her relationship with her devilish father, and a detective she accidentally bonds with when he comes to warn her about the deaths. The story slows down in a few places, especially early on, but it really takes off at the end, ending on a high note.

Characters
The characters are interesting enough. Delaney’s dad is probably my favorite as the former rock star who faked his own death to ensure the safety of his loved ones. Hardly the works of an evil man. Delaney is a little hard to get to know, but that makes her intriguing as the narrator. Torren the detective, Callum and a Hell hound, and a few other minor characters round out the cast.

What I Enjoyed About THE DEVIL’S OWN
1. The Concept.
 It’s an interesting switch up on the genre.

2. Fast Cars. Delaney drives a wicked sportscar that she has way too much fun in. I loved the scenes where she was racing around on the twisty roads in her sexy, fast beast.

3. Callum. He’s a good guy with a tough job – protecting the devil’s daughter. No room for making mistakes and it was a job he could hardly say no to. He handles the situation with humor and heart, though.

4. Angus. As Delaney’s dad and Lucifer himself, Angus Murphy is one of the best characters in the story. I hope he gets more page-time in book 2.

5. The Mystery. Usually I’m not a fan of the whole “murdering girls” trope. It feels way too misogynistic. But with Delaney as the protagonist, I could stomach it more than normal. And the way the author divvied up the clues kept me invested.

Bottom Line
A nice twist on the urban fantasy/paranormal genre.

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About the Book
Title: The Devil’s Own
Series: Murphy’s Law #1
Author: K.A. Fox
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Release Date: April 20, 2019
Pages: 224
Genre: New Adult Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Rating:
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Kobo

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Author K.A. Fox

Author K.A. Fox

About the Author
K.A. Fox is a proud military brat who has lived all over the world but now calls the Midwest home. She uses her psychological training to facilitate successful negotiations at work and to convince her husband and three sons that she’s always right. When not writing, she can usually be found hiding somewhere with a book and a bit of chocolate, or chasing after her own adorable Hell Hound.

 

 

 

 

Where to Find K.A. Fox
Goodreads | Website | Facebook

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Giveaway
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Book Review – RUSTY NAIL (Jack Daniels Mysteries) by J.A. Konrath

RUSTY NAIL (Jack Daniels Mysteries #3 ) by J.A. Konrath

RUSTY NAIL (Jack Daniels Mysteries #3 ) by J.A. Konrath

4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Lee Child, David Morrell, and M.J. Rose all agree: Jack Daniels is the one to watch! Anthony Award finalist J.A. Konrath’s latest novel featuring the feisty female police detective serves up another thriller

Lt. Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels of the Chicago Police Department is back, and once again she’s up to her Armani in murder. Someone is sending Jack snuff videos. The victims are people she knows, and they share a common trait — all were involved in one of Jack’s previous cases. With her stalwart partner hospitalized and unable to help, Jack follows a trail of death throughout the Midwest, on a collision course with the smartest and deadliest adversary she’s ever known.

During the chase, Jack jeopardizes her career, her love life, and her closest friends. She also comes to a startling realization — serial killers have families, and blood runs thick.

Rusty Nail features more of the laugh-out-loud humor and crazy characters that saturated Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary, without sacrificing the nail-biting thrills.

This is Jack Daniels third, and most exciting, adventure yet!

 

 

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My Review
RUSTY NAIL is my first book by J.A. Konrath, and I now consider myself a fan. This is the third book in a series, and it builds upon characters and events in the first two books, but the author weaves in just enough information that I wasn’t lost without recapping everything. Part thriller, part mystery, Detective Jacqueline (Jack) Daniels is faced with a cruel serial killer who has ties to previous cases of hers. As she attempts to track down this new killer, she must determine if it was an accomplice or a copycat of the original. She works with her partner, Herb, a handful of FBI agents, and a collection of officers in various jurisdictions. Interspersed with this is the marriage of her former partner, Harry, a romance with an ex, and coping with her feelings surrounding her mother who is in a coma in a skilled nursing facility.

Plot
The main plot is the mystery, told in first-person POV from Jack’s perspective, as well as various third-person POVs, including the killer. The story moves at a steady pace, building to a pulse-pounding climax. Humor is woven throughout to keep it from getting too dark, and this really helps an otherwise gruesome story from getting too morbid. I prided myself on figuring out who the killer was only to be floored when I was wrong. But in retrospect, everything I needed to know was skillfully placed throughout the story.

Characters
I had some difficulty connecting with Jack at first. She’s rough, tough, and really hard around the edges, but as the story unfolded, I saw softer sides of her, including her visits with her unconscious mother, the way she cares for her mother’s cat, who clearly can’t stand Jack, and even her broken heart. Herb, Harry, and even Harry’s fiancee, Holly, were all fascinating characters that helped make Jack that much more human when she tried her best to be inhuman.

What I Enjoyed About RUSTY NAIL
1. Plotting.
 Great plot with lots of twists and unexpected surprises.

2. The Ending. I love the way the author wound up the story in a way I didn’t expect.

3. Jack. It took me a bit to warm up to her, but once I did, I loved her more than just about any detective I’ve read in a long time.

4. Harry. Jack’s former partner, Harry McGlade, is a soft, pasty, gross mess of a man, but he has some of the best lines in the book.

5. Evil. The villains on Criminal Minds ain’t got nothin on Konrath’s bad guys.

Bottom Line
Gripping thriller/mystery with great characters and a plot that never lets up.

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: RUSTY NAIL
Series: Jack Daniels Mysteries #3
Author: J.A. Konrath
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Release Date: July 1, 2006
Pages: 288
Genre: Adult Thriller/Mystery
Rating:
4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author J.A. Konrath

Author J.A. Konrath

About the Author
J.A. Konrath is the author of eleven novels in the Jack Daniels thriller series. They do not have to be read in chronologically to be enjoyed, but the order is: Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, Rusty Nail, Dirty Martini, Fuzzy Navel, Cherry Bomb, Shaken, Stirred, Rum Runner, Last Call, and White Russian. More coming soon.

Jack Daniels also appears in the novels Dead On My Feet, Dying Breath, Everybody Dies, Shot of Tequila, Flee, Spree, Three, Timecaster Supersymmetry, Banana Hammock, Lady 52, and Serial Killers Uncut. She’s also in the novellas Floaters, Burners, Planter’s Punch, Babe On Board, Racked, Straight Up, October Dark, Jacked Up!, Beat Down, Cheese Wrestling, Abductions, Watched Too Long, and Babysitting Money, and the collection Jack Daniels Stories.

Wow, that’s a lot of Jack.

Other novels include the thrillers Origin, The List, Disturb, Timecaster, Afraid, Trapped, Endurance, Haunted House, Webcam, Grandma?, Holes In The Ground, and Draculas. Other novellas include Fix, Hit, Naughty, Exposed, Rescue, and Wild Night is Calling.

He also writes the Stop A Murder mystery puzzle series, where you become the sleuth and solve brain teasers to try and catch a killer.

And, finally, he writes erotica under the pen name Melinda DuChamp.

Joe writes a lot. You should probably read everything.

Where to Find J.A. Konrath
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

 

Book Review + Giveaway – EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN (Extinction of All Children) by L.J. Epps

EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN (Extinction of All Children #1) by L.J. Epps

EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN (Extinction of All Children #1) by L.J. Epps

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
A young adult, fantasy novel about a teenager who is the last eighteen-year-old in her territory. There will never be another child; every baby born after her has been taken away. Everyone wonders why she survived.

Emma Whisperer was born in 2080, in the small futuristic world of Craigluy. President Esther, in charge for the last twenty-two years, has divided their world into three territories, separated by classes—the rich, the working class, and the poor—because she believes the poor should not mingle with the others. And, the poor are no longer allowed to have children, since they do not have the means to take care of them.

Any babies born, accidentally or willfully, are killed. Emma is the last eighteen-year-old in her territory; every baby born after her has died. Somehow, she survived this fate.

During the president’s Monday night speech, she announces a party will be held to honor the last child in the territory, Emma Whisperer. Emma must read a speech, expressing how happy she is to be the last eighteen-year-old.

Emma doesn’t like the rules; she doesn’t believe in them. So, she feels she must rebel against them. Her family doesn’t agree with her rebellion, since they are hiding a big secret.

If this secret gets out, it will be disastrous, and deadly, for her family.

During Emma’s journey, she meets—and becomes friends with—Eric. He is one of the guards for the president. She also befriends Samuel, another guard for the president, who is summoned to watch over her. As Emma meets new people, she doesn’t know who she can trust. Yet, she finds herself falling for a guy, something which has never happened before.

After doing what she feels is right, Emma finds herself in imminent danger.

In the end, she must make one gut-wrenching decision, a decision that may be disastrous for them all.

“Fans of dystopian fantasy will devour this book. L. J. Epps writes a story that, while dealing with heavy subject matter, is still a light, enjoyable read. This dystopian fantasy novel ignites the imagination, and is a must read for fans of The Hunger Games and the Divergent Trilogy.”
—Kristina Gemmell, Beta Reader

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My Review
I’m a sucker for a good dystopian tale, and one involving the extinction of children has such incredible possibilities, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this. Emma Whisperer is the last child born in Territory L (lower class). Someone had to be the last child born when the president decrees that those in the lower class do not have the resources necessary to raise children. But that doesn’t stop those who lost children or younger siblings from hating Emma for something she had no control over. Because if a woman happens to get pregnant even after all the precautions and birth control provided by the government, the woman is forced to carry that baby to term, only to have the baby executed and the woman send to prison. It seems over-the-top cruel at times, until I remember all the horrors I read in THE HUNGER GAMES and THE HANDMAIDS TALE. There are a lot of similarities to both of those stories as well as DIVERGENT. In addition to Territory L, there is Territory M (middle class) and Territory U (upper class) where people aspire to move to, though it’s not rare and not easy to qualify. As time goes by, Emma discovers she was the last child allowed to be born for a reason. As she uncovers even more secrets, she is more determined than ever to change things in her world. For everyone.

Plot
While not action-packed, the plot does move at a steady pace. There were a few intriguing twists that kept me turning the pages despite the lack of action. Even the climax seemed to wrap up too quickly, and that’s one of my only real complaints with the pacing. The main plot centers around Emma and her place in Territory L. Her inability to go with the flow and buck the system at every turn lands her in jail for 30 days where she discovers a lot more than she ever realized about the inner workings of her government. She also meets several young male guards who challenge her in different ways, all of which she is ill-equipped to handle. The first of a trilogy, THE EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN ends with a satisfying conclusion to the book, but with enough anticipation for what comes next, that I’ll be reading the next book in the series for sure.

Characters
The story is more plot driven than character driven and that shows up in the character development. The themes are dark and the characters have a hopelessness about them that carries through the story. No deep flaws are overcome at this stage and no real growth happens yet. But I suspect we’ll get that in the next couple of books in the series.

What I Enjoyed About THE EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN
1. The Concept.
 What a great idea for a story. It has all the elements of the worst dystopian world, including a protagonist I can root for and an antagonist I love to hate.

2. Twists and Turns. More than a few surprises caught me off guard and in several times I was sure I knew what was going to happen, but it turned out I was wrong.

3. Emma. There’s nothing lovable about her, but Emma’s rough edges and harsh exterior are exactly what she needs to survive in her world. She’s part Katniss, part Tris, and part Offred.

4. Theodore. Emma’s brother is both annoying and sweet. The way he respects authority, even an evil regime, is excusable when you realize his family is the most important thing in the world to him.

5. The Settings. The entire Territory L is drab, bleak, grey, and you never lose sight of that through the author’s scene settings.

Bottom Line
A solid start to a dystopian adventure

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN
Series: Extinction of All Children #1
Author: L.J. Epps
Release Date: June 3, 2016
Pages: 250
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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About the Author
L.J. Epps is a lover of all things related to books: fiction and nonfiction novels, as well as biographies and autobiographies. She has also been known to sit and read comic books from cover to cover, several times over.

Over the last few years, L.J. has written several manuscripts; her mission is to publish all of them. She enjoys writing fiction in several genres, including contemporary romance and women’s fiction, as well as young adult dystopian, science fiction and fantasy. She loves to write because it immerses her into another world that is not her own.

Where to Find L.J. Epps
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Book Review – PEPPED UP AND WILDER (Pepper Jones Series) by Ali Dean

PEPPED UP & WILDER (Pepper Jones #6) by Ali Dean

PEPPED UP & WILDER (Pepper Jones #6) by Ali Dean

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Pepper:
The best part of a happy ending… finding out it’s actually just the beginning. Having someone promise to be by your side, to chase dreams with, whisper troubles to, it’s more than I could have imagined.

But after three seasons of Jace playing pro ball in Ohio, three long seasons, with him on the road, and me training all over the world, I’m questioning if we can really have it all. Harsh criticism of our relationship is all too familiar and uncovers old wounds. I only ever wanted to run and to be with Jace, and finding the perfect balance proves to be my greatest trial yet.

We vowed not to let our love deter each other’s athletic goals, but I miss him. I miss us.

Jace:
The demands of our careers have us running in opposite directions, when we should be putting down roots, together. But escalating fame and an overbearing agent have me fumbling everything I hold dear, including Pepper.

After years of dedication and sacrifice, I’m finally in a position to trade to my hometown team. Moving back to Colorado could be the answer to all our problems, but just when I think we’re finally on the right track, we’re sacked with news that turns everything upside down. News that rattles me and sends Pepper into a tailspin. It’s time for me to remind the girl that I fell in love with how to fight.

Until she’s ready, I’ll fight hard enough for the both of us. For better or for worse.

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My Review
I was introduced to Ali Dean’s writing with PEPPED UP, the first book in the Pepper Jones series, and was immediately hooked. I was surprised when a sixth book was released because Pepper and Jace’s story seemed to be over in in book 5, but I was eager to dive into their world once more. Both professional athletes now, Pepper and Jace are early to mid twenties now, and life seems to be going pretty well, other than the fact that they spend a lot of time apart from each other. They’re looking to settle down in their old home town of Brockton, Colorado, with Jace vying for a spot as the quarterback on the local NFL team, the Stallions (Broncos). There’s plenty of shallow people in both the running and NFL world to deal with along with returning favorites, including Bunny, Wes, Zoe and the rest of the Brockton crew. Madeline Briscole, my favorite mean girl (i.e. the girl I love to hate) makes a brief and snarky reappearance, but she doesn’t really rock the boat this time. In fact, not much rocks the boat, and that’s my biggest issue with this last installment. There isn’t as much conflict as I’m used to in Ali Dean’s stories. And the conflict that does arise is quickly doused by our now more mature protagonists. This is what we all wanted for them, but it doesn’t make for a page-turning read. That said, it was a very satisfying final conclusion to the series and the epilogue was especially fulfilling.

Plot
There doesn’t seem to be a main plot, but there are several parallel plots taking place: where will Jace play football, will Pepper make the Olympic marathon team, and where will they settle down. The three are obviously linked. Where Jace plays has a lot to do with where they will ultimately live which in turn impacts Pepper’s running career. As I mentioned above, there isn’t much conflict in any of these and anything that does threaten their happiness, isn’t a long-term issue. But the story unfolds at a steady pace and I didn’t get bored.

Characters
It was so fun being back with Pepper, Jace and the gang! I enjoyed seeing the more mature versions of these two and cameos from some of my favorite characters from the past. I would have liked more of Bunny, but isn’t that always the case?

What I Enjoyed About PEPPED UP & WILDER
1. Pepper and Jace.
 They work so well together, and after watching their trials and failures through five books, I love their HEA.

2. The Running. Pepper has evolved from trail running to marathon running. Having only ever run one half, I read through these scenes with only a superficial appreciation of what is involved, but I felt sucked into the events anyway. This is where Dean’s descriptive elements really shine.

3. Supporting Cast. Both old favorites and newcomers rounded out the characters nicely.

4. NFL Drama. It was my favorite sport to watch before the Chargers up and moved to LA (don’t get me started) but I still enjoyed reading about the behind-the-scenes drama that a bunch of egotistical jocks can drum up. Tween girls ain’t got nothing on this bunch.

5. The Epilogue. A deeply satisfying wrap up to one of my all-time favorite couples.

Bottom Line
A thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the series.

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: PEPPED UP & WILDER
Series: Pepper Jones #6
Author: Ali Dean
Release Date: December 18, 2018
Pages: 185
Genre: New Adult Contemporary/Sports Romance
Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Ali Dean

Author Ali Dean

About the Author
Ali Dean lives in Colorado with her husband, twin babies, and golden retriever. In addition to reading and writing, she loves the outdoors- everything from marathon training and biking to snowboarding and skiing.

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Where to Find Ali Dean
Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – THE STAND-IN BOYFRIEND (Grove Valley High) by Emma Doherty

THE STAND-IN BOYFRIEND Blog Tour

THE STAND-IN BOYFRIEND (Grove Valley High #1) by Emma Doherty

THE STAND-IN BOYFRIEND (Grove Valley High #1) by Emma Doherty

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Livy Chapman is in love with Jessie Stephenson. It’s that simple. She has been for years but he only see’s her as his best friend. His best friend who copies her homework, relies on her to bail him out of trouble and who he hooks up with other girls in front of.

Enough is enough and when Chase Mitchell, star of the soccer team, and all round Mr. Popular steps in and convinces her that they can do each other a favour by pretending to date, Livy is just crazy enough over Jessie to agree to it.

I mean, Chase is just her stand-in boyfriend. Nothing could go wrong. Right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Oh wow, words are not sufficient to convey the depth of feelings this book brought out. THE STAND-IN BOYFRIEND is filled with love and longing, insecurities, anxiety, and more. It’s like stepping back into high school. And though I read a lot of young adult, that doesn’t happen very often for me.

Livy Chapman has been in love with her best friend almost from the moment they met. But he doesn’t see her as anything more than a buddy, breaking her heart just a little more every day. When she finally thinks her chance with him might actually happen, he ends up hooking up with his ex, shredding her already damaged heart. In comes Chase Mitchell, hottest guy in school. He offers Livy a proposition: pretend to date to make Jessie notice her and get Chase’s ex-girlfriend, Abigail, off his back. The only problem is, other than soccer, Livy and Chase have nothing in common. Or do they? The more time they spend together, the more Livy realizes that Chase gets her. Even if he’s only pretending they’re a couple, he makes her laugh and feel comfortable in a way almost no one else can. So when she finally gets Jessie’s attention, everything should be smooth sailing, right? Right?

Plot
The plot centers around Livy’s relationships with Jessie and Chase. She and Jessie have been BFFs since seventh grade, but he doesn’t see her the way she sees him. Chase is the “it” guy in school, but Livy sees there’s so much more to him than everyone else does when they spend time alone. Even though their relationship is fake, the budding friendship is real. Livy is so blinded by her undying love for Jessie, she’s unable to see the boy right in front of her. As she’s tugged in two directions, her anxiety ramps up, eliciting genuine emotion from me as I read. Any female who has ever been a teenager will be able to identify with the emotions that are tearing Livy apart.

The Characters
The characters were really well developed. Both Livy and Chase had rich backstories that defined who they were and drove their actions in believable ways. As Livy’s best friends, Jessie and Sophie are vibrant foils to her more serious self. Even Abigail is more than a two-dimensional mean girl.

Top Five Things I Loved About THE STAND-IN BOYFRIEND
1. Angsty romance. My favorite kind, the type that makes me keep turning the page to find out what happens next.

2. Loyalty. Sophie is the best of the best when it comes to BFFs. She has Livy’s back no matter what. Always.

3. Chase Mitchell. He’s genuine, sweet, funny, and thoughtful as well as hot with buns of steel. What’s not to love?

4. Character depth. The author created well-rounded, fully fleshed characters that are easy to root for, flaws and all.

5. Anxiety. I have a teen daughter who suffers from anxiety, and I thought the author handled this perfectly.

Bottom Line
A breathtaking young adult romance 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 STAND-IN BOYFRIEND
Series: Grove Valley High #1
Author: Emma Doherty
Release Date: March 12, 2019
Pages: 260
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Sports Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Link: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon UK

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Author Emma Doherty

Author Emma Doherty

About the Author
Emma Doherty was born in Yorkshire, England. She attended university in Newcastle before moving to London. She loves to travel, write, spend time with friends and family and hear from her readers.

 

 

 

 

 

Where to Find Emma Doherty
Goodreads │ Facebook │Twitter | InstagramAmazon

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – A SOLDIER AND A LIAR by Caitlin Lochner

A SOLDIER AND A LIAR Blog Tour

A SOLDIER AND A LIAR by Caitlin Lochner

A SOLDIER AND A LIAR by Caitlin Lochner

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
In a world on the brink of war, four superpowered teens must learn to work together for peace in Caitlin Lochner’s action-packed debut novel, Soldier and A Liar.

Lai Cathwell is good at keeping secrets. As a Nyte, a supernaturally gifted teenager who is feared and shunned by the ungifted, this skill is essential to survival. Orchestrating her own imprisonment to escape military duty has only honed her ability to deceive others. But when rebels start attacking the city, Lai is dragged back into the fight with a new team of Nytes.

Thrown together with Jay, a self-conscious perfectionist consumed by the desire to be accepted; Al, a short-tempered fighter lying for the sake of revenge; and Erik, an amnesiac hell-bent on finding his memories and his place in the world, Lai realizes she’s facing an entirely different kind of challenge–one that might just be impossible. But if this team can’t learn to work together, the entire sector will be plunged into war.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
I wasn’t sure what to make of A SOLDIER AND A LIAR at first. It starts off slow and the characters are difficult to relate to, but I’m glad I stuck it out. The story and character development really picks up at about the 50% mark and takes off after that. Lai Cathwell is 17-year-old superpowered soldier. She and fellow young adults, Al (Johann), Erik (Mendel), and Jay (Kitahara) form an unlikely team of enhanced humans known as Nytes, on a mission to take out an elite squad of rebel Nytes determined to overthrow the Etiole government. While Nytes have powers, they are shunned for them, treated as second-class citizens at best. Lai wants acceptances and equality for Nytes, while the other three each have their own reasons for accepting the mission. With four different motivators, to say they’re a team would be a massive overstatement. Trust is hard to come by and suspicions run high. As their leader, Jay wants cohesion and solicits Lai’s help to make that happen. The more Lai learns about her teammates, the more she both likes them and distrusts them. But they’ll be forced to work together, whether they like it or not, to prevent all out war.

Plot
I think the primary plot is about the mission and stopping the war, but it feels more like it’s abut the relationships between the four Nytes as they get to know each other and grudgingly begin to trust one another. The action scenes are really well done, but they don’t drive the plot as much as the interpersonal scenes do. And it’s those scenes that made me care about the outcome of the action scenes. There’s also a budding romance between Jay and Lai always simmering just below the surface. This relationship came across as forced initially, but as with the rest of the book, it hit its stride about halfway through.

The Characters
The characters are my favorite part. Watching shy, socially awkward Jay try to navigate his attraction to Lai, Lai’s heavily armored exterior giving way to friendships, Erik’s selfishness giving way to something more, and Al’s standoffishness meld into someone I could identify with was what made this story really work for me. The author has created deeply authentic characters that are initially tough to get to know, but evolve with time at the same pace for us as they do for Lai. By not trying to force us to care early on, the author does us a favor and allows the reader’s feelings to grow organically as the story progresses. There are a lot of secondary and tertiary characters, who only make sporadic appearances, so I found myself flipping back to reread the scenes where they were first introduced.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About A SOLDIER AND A LIAR
1. Scene setting. The author has a way of bringing her settings to life in this world where people live in underground sectors to protect them for dangers above ground that only Nytes can survive. The descriptions are so vivid, I had no difficulty immersing myself in this world.

2. Friendships. The relationships between the characters develop over the story, so that the reader builds the same relationship at the same time as the narrator.

3. Super powers. This isn’t your typical superhero story, but the powers the Nytes possess are no less fun and shape the story as much as anything else.

4. Equality. Whether it’s Sneetches with stars upon thars, the color of one’s skin, or being a Nyte or Etiole, everyone wants to be seen as equal, and this classic theme is well done.

5. Lai. She’s fierce, independent, and just vulnerable enough to make her a heroine worth rooting for.

Bottom Line
A different take on superheroes and dystopian adventures with strong characters.

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: A SOLDIER AND A LIAR
Author: Caitlin Lochner
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: February 19, 2019
Pages: 301
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/SciFi Romance/Adventure
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Caitlin Lochner

Author Caitlin Lochner

About The Author
(Um, so, wow bios are hard.) I studied creative writing at the University of South Florida and used my BA in words to become an English teaching assistant in Tokyo. I’m in love with storytelling of any kind, but especially in the form of books, manga, and video games. If you ever want to talk nerdy, I am VERY down.

 

 

 

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Where to Find Caitlin Lochner
Goodreads | Website | TwitterInstagram

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – TRIPLICITY by J. Mercer

TRIPLICITY Blog Tour

TRIPLICITY by J. Mercer

TRIPLICITY by J. Mercer

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
One week on an Alaskan cruise, three teens, and an endless trail of lies.

Enter a series of thefts on board and they all fall under scrutiny. Though Navy acts a proper preacher’s daughter, she did end up with someone else’s purse in her hands, and Jesse knows way more than he should about what’s gone missing. Isaiah, however, is the one with motive—enough money and he could get back to his ranch. Each holds a piece of the truth, but exposing the thief could damn them all. They must navigate through the lies they’ve told, choose between standing together or saving themselves, and decide if innocence is worth facing their ugliest secrets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
 A teen cozy mystery at sea. When three strangers meet on an Alaskan cruise, the only thing they have in common is their relative ages. But when passengers’ property begins to disappear, they find themselves caught up in the mystery, first as suspects, then as amateur detectives, trying to figure out who really did it to deflect suspicion from themselves. Each of the main characters have their own goals for the trip: germaphobe Navy wants to experience her first kiss, cowboy Isaiah wants to convince his grandmother he’s NOT gay so he can go back to the ranch he feels completes him, and tattooed Jesse wants to keep himself and his father together after having just been left by his mother. The weaving of lies, truths, and desires creates a complex web that threatens to destroy the tenuous bonds of friendship they forge. Told in three alternating points of view, the chapters are short, which keeps the story moving from start to finish.

Plot
Primarily, this is a young adult romance. Navy is torn between Isaiah and Jesse for her first kiss. Both boys are more than interested, but each has withheld important information about themselves, making Navy wary of both. Subplotting is both rich and deep, with each of the main character’s goals driving the main plot and the underlying mystery creating enough conflict to move this story at a decent pace. I’m not opposed to love triangles, but I wasn’t expecting it based on the book’s synopsis. So if this is not your thing, be forewarned. However, the author does a great job and it’s never too much. Because we get all three kids’ points of view, it’s clear how everyone feels throughout the story.

The Characters
Each character is so unique and distinct in who they are and what they want, making reading the three points of view interesting. There were times I loved each character and times I couldn’t stand them, but at no time did they seem inauthentic. With revolving first-person narratives, we get to spend a lot of time with each of the three main characters, understand their thoughts and desires, and what makes them tick. And while they did become annoying at times, what teen doesn’t? It didn’t make me care any less for them, it just made them that much more realistic.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About TRIPLICITY
1. The setting. An Alaskan cruise is on my bucket list so I loved the setting. The author’s vivid descriptions of the sites was awe-inspiring.

2. The mystery. The added element of a lighthearted mystery set this apart from other teen romances.

3. The characters. Richly drawn and interesting, the characters made me care about what happened next.

4. Difficult subjects. The book touches on a number of difficult subjects, including drinking, abandonment, parental death, depression, and more. And while those topics could create a darker mood, the author does a good job of keeping the story light without making light of the issues.

5. Jesse. Okay, I said I wasn’t going to pick a favorite, but I did anyway. His outgoing personality endeared him to me. Most young adult fiction is filled with introverted protagonists, so it was a breath of fresh air to get inside an unapologetic extrovert.

Bottom Line
A wonderful, fun young adult cozy mystery aboard an Alaskan cruise ship.

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 – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: TRIPLICITY
Author: J. Mercer
Publisher: Bare Ink
Release Date: January 6, 2019
Pages: 301
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author J. Mercer

Author J. Mercer

About The Author
J Mercer grew up in Wisconsin where she walked home from school with her head in a book, filled notebooks with stories in junior high, then went to UW Madison for accounting and psychology only to open a dog daycare. She wishes she were an expert linguist, is pretty much a professional with regards to competitive dance hair (bunhawk, anyone?), and enjoys exploring with her husband—though as much as she loves to travel, she’s also an accomplished hermit. Perfect days include cancelled plans, rain, and endless hours to do with what she pleases.

For updates and news, you can find her on Facebook, but she’s more often on Instagram, talking about what she’s reading and other bookish things. Go there for book recommendations, reading-inspired writing tips, or even to read along. If you prefer everything delivered directly to your inbox, click here to get on the email list.

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Where to Find J. Mercer
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Instagram

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – ONLY A BREATH APART by Katie McGarry

ONLY A BREATH APART Blog Tour

ONLY A BREATH APART by Katie McGarry

ONLY A BREATH APART by Katie McGarry

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Jesse dreams of working the land that’s been in his family forever. But he’s cursed to lose everything he loves most.

Scarlett is desperate to escape her “charmed” life. But leaving a small town is easier said than done.

Despite their history of heartbreak, when Jesse sees a way they can work together to each get what they want, Scarlett can’t say no.Each midnight meeting between Jesse and Scarlett will push them to confront their secrets and their feelings for each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ONLY A BREATH APART Teaser

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My Review
A riveting contemporary romance with breathtaking characters and so much angst! Childhood friends Scarlett and Jesse drifted apart their freshman year of high school. Well, Jesse basically drove Scarlett away. She harbors the scars of that betrayal while hiding an ugly secret within the walls of her seemingly perfect home. Jesse is everything Scarlett is not, yet when his Gran dies, the delicate thread that was holding his tenuous world together breaks and Jesse and Scarlett learn they have far more in common than either of them thought. As forces outside their control threaten to rip each of them apart, they find comfort and strength in the renewal of a lifelong friendship.

Plot
The primary story is the relationship between Jesse and Scarlett, but deep subplots drive that relationship. Jesse’s tenuous hold on his family’s farm after his Gran’s death affects everything he does. Scarlett’s home life and her dreams for a future she controls impact every relationship she has. A family curse forces Jesse to keep everyone he loves at arms’ length. While the two struggle with their own goals, an undeniable attraction to one another soon becomes the biggest obstacle either of them could have imagined. The story moves from the opening chapter through the gripping conclusion that kept me turning page after page in true Katie McGarry form. No one does angsty teen romance quite like McGarry and I’m a forever fan.

The Characters
Oh my gosh, how much do I LOVE these characters? They are complex, driven, damaged, and oh so lovable. Even though Scarlett is known around school as the Ice Princess, she’s much more than just a mean girl. She’s got so many issues and the way she protects herself is utterly relatable. Jesse is damaged from an early age and protects people the only way he knows how — by shutting them out. Watching these two grow and develop is satisfying at every level. The additional cast, Jesse’s posse of equally messed-up friends, Scarlett’s popular friends and her dysfunctional family, only add to the depth of the two main characters. But none of these supporting characters come across as two-dimensional. Each is fully fleshed out with their own goals, obstacles, and backstories.

Top Five Things I Loved About ONLY A BREATH APART
1. The angst. Oh how I love me some teen angst, and ONLY A BREATH APART is dripping with it!

2. Complex characters. Every single character involved in the plot or subplot is fully-developed and three-dimensional.

3. Friends to more. As someone who married my BFF, this is my favorite trope.

4. Scarlett. She’s fierce, self-protective, loyal, and scared, there is some much conflict within her, I want to take her home and let her experience family love the way it should be.

5. Jesse. He’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders, yet he still does things for others for all the right reasons.

Bottom Line
A gripping young adult contemporary with realistic characters who are impossible to resist.

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

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ONLY A BREATH APART Teaser

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About the Book
Title: ONLY A BREATH APART
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: January 22, 2019
Pages: 368
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Barnes & Noble | iBooksKobo | GooglePlay | BAM

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Author Katie McGarry

Author Katie McGarry

About the Author
Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Katie is the author of full length YA novels, PUSHING THE LIMITS, DARE YOU TO, CRASH INTO YOU, TAKE ME ON,  BREAKING THE RULES, and NOWHERE BUT HERE and the e-novellas, CROSSING THE LINE and RED AT NIGHT. Her debut YA novel, PUSHING THE LIMITS was a 2012 Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction, a RT Magazine’s 2012 Reviewer’s Choice Awards Nominee for Young Adult Contemporary Novel, a double Rita Finalist, and a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick. DARE YOU TO was also a Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction and won RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Young Adult Contemporary fiction in 2013..

Where to Find Katie McGarry
Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Tumblr | Instagram

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – THE BIRDS, THE BEES, AND YOU AND ME by Olivia Hinebaugh

THE BIRDS, THE BEES, AND YOU AND ME Blog Tour

THE BIRDS, THE BEES, AND YOU AND ME by Olivia Hinebaugh

THE BIRDS, THE BEES, AND YOU AND ME by Olivia Hinebaugh

4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Seventeen-year-old Lacey Burke is the last person on the planet who should be doling out sex advice. For starters, she’s never even kissed anyone, and she hates breaking the rules. Up until now, she’s been a straight-A music geek that no one even notices. All she cares about is jamming out with her best friends, Theo and Evita.

But then everything changes.

When Lacey sees first-hand how much damage the abstinence-only sex-ed curriculum of her school can do, she decides to take a stand and starts doling out wisdom and contraception to anyone who seeks her out in the girls’ restroom. But things with Theo become complicated quickly, and Lacey is soon not just keeping everyone else’s secrets, but hers as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Fiercely feminist main character — check, viola player — check, ace BFF — check! My daughter is a fiercely feminist, viola playing, asexual teen, so really there was almost no chance I wasn’t going to loveTHE BIRDS, THE BEES, AND YOU AND ME, but it still surprised me. I was surprised by how much I loved Lacey, Theo, and Evita. The complex relationships explored and the bonds of friendship stretched were incredibly realistic. The choices that the three of them face as high school seniors are typical, but no less intense because of that. When Lacey pushes back against her school’s archaic and factually inaccurate abstinence-only program that attempts to shame teens into not having sex, things go hilariously wrong. Lacey and her friends appoint themselves the sexperts, even though Lacey has never had sex, herself. They offer advice in the bathroom and provide covert access to condoms, until they get caught and suspended. But Lacey’s no wallflower and she fights the system with her mother’s support.

Plot
This is really a story of standing up for what you believe in and the enduring bonds of friendship more than a romance. There is a romantic subplot involving Lacey and Theo, but Evita’s past relationship with Theo, before she realized she was ace, only complicates this. How the three best friends navigate their life goals, their determination to bring comprehensive sex education to their peers, and balancing loyalty is what drives this story and that’s where it really shines. The romantic elements serve more of a supporting role. The author doesn’t let her characters off without facing the consequences of their actions, making it believable. She weaves humor throughout the story, creating a lighthearted tale that could easily have taken on a darker tone.

The Characters
This is really a character-driven story more than anything else, and the characters are utterly delightful. While this is Lacey’s story, all three have their own arcs and grow over the course of the book. Lacey’s knowledge of sex, without any firsthand experience, is a breath of fresh air. I wish more teen girls were this comfortable with the topic. Evita, as the leader of the trio, is fierce, funny, and loyal — everything you want in a BFF. Theo is a delightful third, the only boy in their close-knit group, who lends a little testosterone to all the estrogen flying around.

Top Five Things I Loved AboutTHE BIRDS, THE BEES, AND YOU AND ME
1. Representation. As the mother of an ace teen, I loved seeing such a strong ace character who was true to herself and didn’t end up in a romantic relationship.

2. Comprehensive sex ed. Another topic near and dear to my heart handled, with a responsible, fact-based approach.

3. Music. A cello, a viola, and rock music. What’s not to love?

4. Friendships. I love that the friendship is the primary focus over the romance. While romance plays a part, the enduring friendship is the glue holding everything together.

5. An honest portrayal of teen pregnancy. Nothing is sugar coated, but it’s not presented as shameful either. Really well done.

Bottom Line
A book about friendship, personal responsibility, and the value of education, wrapped with humor and heart.

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 BIRDS, THE BEES, AND YOU AND ME
Author: Olivia Hinebaugh
Publisher: SwoonReads
Release Date: January 22, 2019
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooksKobo

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Author Olivia Hinebaugh

Author Olivia Hinebaugh

About the Author
Olivia Hinebaugh loves all stripes of literature for children. When she isn’t writing fiction, she can be found writing freelance, making art, discovering new songs on spotify, texting her writing buddies, or folding laundry. She lives near Washington, D.C. with her spouse, three kids, a dog that looks like a coyote, and a one-eyed cat. The Birds, The Bees, And You And Me is her debut novel.

 

 

 

 

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Where to Find Olivia Hinebaugh
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – ACROSS THE HORIZON by Aly Martinez

ACROSS THE HORIZON Blog Tour

ACROSS THE HORIZON by Aly Martinez

ACROSS THE HORIZON by Aly Martinez

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
“Sometimes love happens when you least expect it.” That was what my husband’s mistress told me the day I found out about their affair. 

I didn’t believe it until five minutes later when mouth-watering celebrity chef Tanner Reese walked up, tossed his arm around my shoulders, and told my cheating husband to take a hike. 

Tanner and I couldn’t have been more different. He spent his weekends at clubs, rubbing elbows with fellow A-listers. I spent mine in yoga pants with cheese boards and a glass of wine—or six.

Our relationship shouldn’t have worked, but it did. That is until Tanner proved to me that even though love happens when you least expect it… 

So does heartbreak.

 

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ACROSS THE HORIZON Teaser

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My Review
ACROSS THE HORIZON is a fun, flirty, well-written contemporary romance. Tanner Reese is, as Rita calls him, a two-name celebrity. He’s always Tanner Reese and never just Tanner. Rita is just Rita, a woman reeling from her husband of seven years’ affair with a coworker. When celebrity chef, Tanner, and his brother Porter cater a charity event for the medical practice Rita, her husband, and “the other woman” all work for, hilarity ensues in the cutest of meet-cutes. Not recognizing the hot chef, Rita latches onto him in an attempt to make her soon-to-be-ex jealous. It works, but ignites a spark that soon becomes a raging inferno that will not be contained.

Plot
A straight-up romance, the plot is all about Tanner and Rita with excellent subplotting involving Greg, the douchebag husband, and Tanner’s slightly crazy ex-girlfriend. Aly Martinez does a great job of building tension, setting expectations that are then drawn out into excruciating lengths that keeps the anticipation as high for the reader as it is for the characters.

The Characters
Oh my gosh! How MUCH do I love the characters?! They are so much fun. From Tanner’s inappropriate mom to Rita’s BFF, Charlotte, the supporting cast is just as delicious as Tanner and Rita. And what can I say about Tanner and Rita? The self-described mama’s boy and trophy wife are as funny as they are endearing. Tanner is your typical cocky playboy who doesn’t date women who play hard to get. Until he meets Rita. And while I’m not a huge fan of the whole “I was a player until I met the right woman” trope, there is far more to Tanner than just a man needing to be tamed by Ms. Right. He’s profoundly patient, willing to play the long game in order to be with Rita. She is fresh out of her marriage and in no place to be in a relationship when they meet, but she can’t deny the attraction between them, either. Rita is anything but a wallflower who needs a strong man to protect her. I love these two alpha characters dancing around each other.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About ACROSS THE HORIZON
1. Mama Reese. She might be my favorite supporting character in any book I’ve ever read.

2. Strong protagonists. Both Tanner and Rita are strong and independent. Rita could have easily become this injured being that needed saving by a strong man, but I love that she never succumbed to the stereotype.

3. Sweet revenge. They say the best revenge is living a good life and Rita excels at this.

4. Flirtatious dialogue. The dialogue is rich and charming and defines who these characters are.

5. Light romance. Even though there are darker themes, the author keeps the story lighthearted, making it a perfect holiday read.

Bottom Line
A fun and flirty contemporary romance with lots of heart and humor.

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

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ACROSS THE HORIZON Teaser

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: ACROSS THE HORIZON
Author: Aly Martinez
Release Date: December 3, 2018
Pages: 248
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Aly Martinez

Author Aly Martinez

About the Author
Originally from Savannah, Georgia, USA Today bestselling author Aly Martinez now lives in South Carolina with her four young children.

Never one to take herself too seriously, she enjoys cheap wine, mystery leggings, and baked feta. It should be known, however, that she hates pizza and ice cream, almost as much as writing her bio in the third person.

She passes what little free time she has reading anything and everything she can get her hands on, preferably with a super-sized tumbler of wine by her side.

 

 

 

 

Where to Find Aly Martinez
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon

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ACROSS THE HORIZON Teaser

 

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – WAYPOINT (Waypoint) by Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins

WAYPOINT Blog Tour

WAYPOINT (Waypoint #1) by Deborah Adams and Kimberly Perkins

WAYPOINT (Waypoint #1) by Deborah Adams and Kimberly Perkins

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
How far will they go to restore the power?

It’s been lights-out for three months and society is already falling into chaos.

Teenage tech-genius Simon Harper and his team of fellow gamers have been searching for the cause of the outage since it went down. Simon and his twin brother West are often at odds, but when the key to restoring power drops into their hands, they’ll risk everything and join forces to bring it back.

Descend into an epic, young adult adventure, featuring family and friendship with a heart-skipping side of romance by debut authors Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins.

Mysterious deaths and disappearances are piling up, and unknown enemies are everywhere. As the brothers make their 500-mile journey to Waypoint they’ll have to decide who they can trust, and which secrets can be told.

“Thanks to its tantalizing pace, well-established consequences, and complicated character development, this novel is worth writing home about. I didn’t feel ready for it to end.” -Independent Book Review

 

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My Review
I need to start off by saying this is the first book in a series. It wasn’t obvious from the description, so I wasn’t expecting the ending, but now that I know, I’m anxiously awaiting the next installment. Told from four third-person points of view, this is a little different than most young adult dystopians. Instead of a single protagonist, we have four, although Simon seems to be the main character. Twin brothers Simon and West inhabit a world without power, similar to the TV show Revolution from a few years back. West is a classic player with good looks and swagger to match. Simon is a nerd among nerds, living inside a role-playing game he accesses through power he generates with solar panels, something that must remain a secret. When a mysterious man is killed in front of Simon, he’s given information that may allow him to turn the power back on. He and West embark on a journey to Washington DC, only to be separated almost immediately. While West is at home in the wilderness, Simon is out of his element. Each winds up with a traveling companion, Riya for Simon and Alex for West. Both girls provide a romantic element as well as the foil that each boy needs. Along the way, all four encounter danger and learn a lot about each other and themselves.

Plot
The plot centers around Simon and West meeting up in DC to turn the power back on. Several subplots feed the main plot, but they’re minor. With four points of view, we get a lot of insight into their journeys. The authors throw everything at them, one setback after another, at a pulse-pounding pace that kept me turning the pages long past when I should have been doing something else. While this is primarily a plot-driven tale, the authors do a good job with character development which feeds into the story well.

The Characters
The characters are where this story really shines. All four main characters are deeply-drawn and complex in ways that enhance the plot. I loved all four of them, and even though at times their goals conflicted with one another, I never stopped rooting for all of them. West and Simon couldn’t be more different as twins, and yet that bond is strong, making them realize how important they are to one another. Alex and Riya were as different from one another as Simon and West, but they each bring something to the relationship that the brothers desperately lack, rounding out this foursome to perfection.

Top Five Things I Loved About WAYPOINT
1. The plot. Young adult dystopian is my favorite genre. I love dark worlds that are recognizable, peppered with characters who are still trying to figure out themselves much less the world around them.

2. Angsty love. Not one, but two romances with enough angst to satisfy even me.

3. The characters. I can’t pick a favorite; I love them all. Like two sides of a coin squared, they balance each other out.

4. Action. There’s plenty of action, adventure, and suspense to keep me riveted to the pages.

5. The ending. Normally I’m not a fan of cliffhanger endings, but the authors crafted a satisfying conclusion to this portion of the story while leaving me on the edge of my seat for more

Bottom Line
A wonderful young adult contemporary romance that examines how social anxiety can transform someone from the inside out.

Disclaimer
A pulse-pounding young adult dystopian page-turner!

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About the Book
Title: WAYPOINT
Series: Waypoint #1
Author: Deborah Adams and Kimberly Perkins
Publisher: Rocket City Publishing
Release Date: December 1, 2018
Pages: 296
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | Kobo

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Authors Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins

Authors Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins

About the Author
DEBORAH ADAMS and KIMBERLEY PERKINS are friends and coworkers. They share a love of coffee, literature, and teenagers saving the world. By day, they work for a defense contractor in Huntsville, Alabama as the HR Director and an Excel-wielding Analyst, respectively. By night, they build worlds with words and devour stories. For more information about Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins and their foray into writing, check them out on social media.

 

 

 

 

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Where to Find Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins
Deborah Goodreads | Kimberley GoodreadsWebsite | Kimberley Twitter | Deborah Twitter

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Giveaway

WAYPOINT Giveaway

 

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – PAPER GIRL by Cindy R. Wilson

PAPER GIRL Blog Tour

PAPER GIRL by Cindy R. Wilson

PAPER GIRL by Cindy R. Wilson

4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
I haven’t left my house in over a year. My doctor says it’s social anxiety, but I know the only things that are safe are made of paper. My room is paper. My world is paper. Everything outside is fire. All it would take is one spark for me to burst into flames. So I stay inside. Where nothing can touch me.

Then my mom hires a tutor. Jackson. This boy I had a crush on before the world became too terrifying to live in. Jackson’s life is the complete opposite of mine, and I can tell he’s got secrets of his own. But he makes me feel things. Makes me want to try again. Makes me want to be brave. I can almost taste the outside world. But so many things could go wrong, and all it takes is one spark for everything I love to disappear…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PAPER GIRL Teaser

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My Review
I have a very good friend who suffers from agoraphobia and a daughter with social anxiety. I’ll admit I never really understood these feelings. I’m the opposite, a consummate extrovert who loves the hub of urban life and exploring everything the world has to offer. But PAPER GIRL takes me inside the life of Zoe, an agoraphobic who hasn’t left her home in over a year. Zoe was always more shy and reserved than her outgoing older sister, Mae, but before a series of events pushed her into seclusion, she lived a fairly normal life, attending Mae’s games and flirting with Mae’s friend, Jackson. After retreating into her home, she creates a haven of paper art that soothes her as well as occupies her time. Zoe is determined to return to some sort of a normal life, starting with attending her sister’s high school graduation. With the help of her therapist, she sets small goals for herself, including allowing herself to be tutored by Jackson, who has troubles of his own. Small victories and big steps backward combine to make Zoe’s journey one that is both realistic and relatable.

Plot
Told from dual points of view, there is one main plot, the romance between Zoe and Jackson, and two major subplots involving Zoe’s goal to re-enter life outside her home and Jackson’s relationship with his estranged father. The author throws enough roadblocks into both of their paths to keep things from ever getting too easy. The only thing I really wanted more of was uncertainty in their romance. There wasn’t any angst or doubt, nothing to really keep me turning the pages to make sure these two would end up together.

The Characters
I absolutely loved Zoe. She’s complex, smart, creative, funny, and just neurotic enough to be the perfect character to root for. I could feel her shame and horror when life infringed on her safe space. Watching her stretch the boundaries of that safety zone had me cheering for her every step of the way. Jackson was a little more pulled together, even though he’s homeless. His circumstances are as outside his control as Zoe’s are, but they’re environmental rather than emotional and mental. These two both overcome their own circumstances and situations to grow in believable ways.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About PAPER GIRL
1. Paper art. Colorful origami in three-dimensional space creates a solar system and galaxy that fills Zoe’s room and life. I would love to see it, because I’m not sure my imagination does it justice.

2. Mae. She is sympathetic as the older sister who loves Zoe and struggles with supporting her sister and longing for the life they used to have together outside their home.

3. Zoe’s mom. The Instagram and YouTube star who documents all the craftiness that is her life is both a supportive and understanding parent with some of the best lines in the book.

4. Jackson. He’s sweet, patient, and brilliant. He creates the perfect balance between supporting Zoe without being a crutch.

5. Zoe. She is fascinating, at times sarcastic, terrified, artistic, smart, and more all rolled into a tiny ball of determination.

Bottom Line
A wonderful young adult contemporary romance that examines how social anxiety can transform someone from the inside out.

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

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About the Book
Title: PAPER GIRL
Author: Cindy R. Wilson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: December 4, 2018
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooksKobo

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PAPER GIRL Teaser

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Author Cindy R. Wilson

Author Cindy R. Wilson

About the Author
Cindy lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and loves using Colorado towns and cities as inspiration for settings in her stories. She’s the mother of three girls, who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels. Cindy writes speculative fiction and YA fiction, filled with a healthy dose of romance. You’ll often find her hiking or listening to any number of playlists while she comes up with her next story idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where to Find Cindy R. Wilson
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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