Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – OFF THE ICE (Juniper Falls) by Julie Cross

OFF THE ICE Blog Tour

OFF THE ICE (Juniper Falls #1) by Julie Cross

OFF THE ICE (Juniper Falls #1) by Julie Cross

4 Stars

Synopsis
The NY Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Whatever Life Throws at You kicks off a brand-new series perfect for fans of Miranda Kennealy and Abbi Glines.

All is fair in love and hockey…

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

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 But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie.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

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

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

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My Review
Tate Tanley is the starting goalie on his high school hockey team in Minnesota, where hockey is a religion. Claire O’Connor is back in town from Northwestern University after her father is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. When she sees Tate for the first time in over a year, she realizes her best friend’s little brother isn’t so little anymore. Tate has had a massive crush on Claire most of his life, but he’s always been the kid brother. Not anymore. These two dance around attraction mixed-up with a lifelong friendship set against Claire’s dreams for her future and Tate’s goals on and off the ice. It’s a super sweet romance with deeply developed characters.

Plot
The romance is the primary plot, but it’s missing that teen angst that I’ve grown to love in Julie Cross’s stories. What it lacks in that department, it more than makes up for in the supporting plots. Tate’s hockey career, college recruiting, and his relationship with his town-legend father. Claire has her issues with her dad’s health and what she wants to do with her college career, saving her family’s business, and more. Told from dual-points-of-view, there’s a lot of territory covered.

The Characters
No one does characters like Julie Cross. Tate is complex, fascinating, and completely loveable. The author takes usdeep inside his head and I never doubt it’s a guy’s point of view. Unfortunately, Claire fell a little flat for me. I struggled to like her her. I felt for her, I mean, who wouldn’t with everything she was dealing with, but I just didn’t love her the way I do so many of Ms. Cross’s characters (Ellie from Chasing Truth, for example). This was a pretty character-heavy story and I had a tough time keeping some of the hockey players straight in my head, but Tate’s and Claire’s families came across in vivid color.

World Building
There’s a lot of hockey here, something I didn’t know that much about before reading Off the Ice. I feel as if I understand it better now. To me, it’s always been “soccer played on ice with sticks.” And maybe there’s a little bit of that to it still, but it sounds a lot more interesting. I may even try to take in a San Diego Gulls game and watch it live.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The romance. It wasn’t that it didn’t work so much as there wasn’t ever a doubt they might not end up together. The romance lacked much in the way of overt conflict. It’s almost as if these two teens were wise beyond their years when it came to relationships.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About OFF THE ICE
1. The realness. I love that nothing was glossed over. The emotions, and feelings, and events were all written with such intensity, they grabbed me and pulled me into the story.

2. Tate. He’s so deeply drawn, it’s hard not to get such a sense of who he is and I love him all the more for his flaws.

3. Hockey. And not just the games. The practice and politics surrounding high school hockey was fascinating.

4. Cancer. No, I don’t like cancer, but I love that the author didn’t gloss over the ugly effects of this heinous disease.

5. Roger. Tate’s stepfather grows more important in Tate’s life throughout the story, so we catch glimpses of him early on, that grow more frequent as the book progresses until we get to see him for who he really is. Hint: he’s one of the really good guys.

Bottom Line
OFF THE ICE is a sweet small-town high school romance. A Friday Night Lights for the hockey crowd.

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: OFF THE ICE
Series: Juniper Falls #1
Author: Julie Cross
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Pages: 370
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Sports Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | !ndigo | BAM! | Book Depository

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Author Julie Cross

Author Julie Cross

About the Author
Julie Cross is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press). She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, and many more to come!

Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA. She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres.

Outside of her reading and writing credibility’s, Julie Cross is a committed–but not talented–long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.

Where to Find Julie Cross
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS by Casey Griffin

SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS Blog Tour

SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS by Casey Griffin

SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS by Casey Griffin

4 Stars

Synopsis
At Beverly Hills High, you have to be ruthless to survive…

Adrianna Bottom always wanted to be liked. But this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Now, she’s in the spotlight…and out of her geeky comfort zone. She’ll do whatever it takes to turn the rumor mill in her favor—even if it means keeping secrets. So far, it’s working.

Wear the right clothes. Say the right things. Be seen with the right people.

Kevin, the adorable sketch artist who shares her love of all things nerd, isn’t exactly the right people. But that doesn’t stop Adrianna from crushing on him. The only way she can spend time with him is in disguise, as Princess Andy, the masked girl he’s been LARPing with. If he found out who she really was, though, he’d hate her.

The rules have been set. The teams have their players. Game on.

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My Review
This book had it’s moments. Both really cute and funny, and a few that went on a bit too long. I loved Adrianna “Andy” Bottom, heir to the Bottoms Bathroom dynasty. She’s funny, quirky, and a little unsure of herself, but she’s also got a solid backbone that I loved. When her family moves from the Pacific Northwest down to Beverly Hills, subject of a new reality show based on their bathroom products, she becomes the Porcelain Princess. The victim of ridicule in her old school, she has a chance to reinvent herself in Southern California. But things go unexpectedly, hilariously wrong when on the first day of school, her new pencil skirt splits right down the back, revealing her Wonder Woman underwear for the entire world to see, literally, since the cameras are always there.

While she quickly makes friends, she sets her sights on cute, but nerdy, Kevin. Her new friend tells her that would be social suicide, so Adrianna finds a way to dodge the cameras and become someone else, someone Kevin might be interested in. The world of live-action role playing (LARPing) takes center stage as Adrianna attempts a Hannah Montana life of having the best of both worlds.

The romance is sweet and the life of a reality-TV star makes for some hysterical moments, but the LARPing was almost a distraction. I loved that side of the story, but a lot of attention was paid to the LARPing events. The first one was great. I loved seeing how their world worked, sort of like living Dungeons & Dragons. But by the third event, I found myself skimming those sections. I knew Adrianna and her friends weren’t in real danger, so the sword battles and treasure hunting didn’t hold my attention. I flipped past those, looking for the nuggets that moved the main plot along.

Plot
The plot centers around Adrianna’s relationship with Kevin with strong subplots involving LARPing and her family’s business. Themes include being true to yourself and loyalty to friends. The main plot was good. There isn’t much heat in the relationship, but it’s definitely cute and I was pulling for these two the whole way.

Characters
I liked all of the characters. Even the antagonist, the show’s camera guy, is more than a stereotype. Some seemed cardboard on the surface, but by the end of the story, it was clear what everyone’s motivations were.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Long LARPing Expeditions.
 These distracted me from the main plot too much.

2. Southern California Life. Some of it didn’t come across as authentic. Beverly Hills teens don’t take the bus. In fact public transportation in LA is pretty much a joke. I also have a hard time believing a small plumbing store could afford the rents on Rodeo Drive. And there are few empty lots anywhere in town that resemble a forest, but I could overlook most of this for the sake of the story.

What I Enjoyed About SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS
1. Adrianna.
 She was really complex. Part nerd, part cool kid, tough yet vulnerable, there was much to like about our heroine.

2. Kevin. Sometimes I wanted to shake him, other times I felt bad for him, but I always pulled for him to get the girl.

3. Comedy. The author does a fabulous job of weaving wit and humor throughout the story.

4. LARPing. While I didn’t need to read all the details of their quests, I absolutely love this idea of dressing up and becoming another character. Like Comic-Con on steroids.

5. Reality TV. I don’t actually watch any reality TV aside from competitions on the Food Network, but I loved the behind-the-scenes look at life in front of the camera.

Bottom Line
SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS is a cute, funny romance with lovable 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: SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS
Author: Casey Griffin
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Pages: 354
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | KoboGooglePlay | BAM! | !ndigo | IndieBound | Book Depository

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Author Casey Griffin

Author Casey Griffin

About the Author
Casey Griffin can often be found at comic conventions on her days off from her day job, driving 400 ton dump trucks in Northern Alberta, Canada. As a jack of all trades with a resume boasting registered nurse, English teacher, and photographer, books are her true passion. Casey is a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel finalist, and is currently busy writing every moment she can.

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Where to Find Casey Griffin
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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Book Review + Giveaway – GOLD RUSH by Jennifer Comeaux

GOLD RUSH by Jennifer Comeaux

GOLD RUSH by Jennifer Comeaux

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
Liza Petrov’s entire life has been about skating and winning her sport’s top prize – Olympic gold. She’s stayed sheltered inside her bubble, not daring to stray from her destined path.

Until she meets Braden Patrick.

He makes her heart flutter with possibility, and for the first time she gets a taste of a normal teenage life. She longs to have both the boy and the gold, but stepping outside her bubble comes with a price. As Liza begins to question both her future and her past, can she stay focused on the present and realize her ultimate dream?

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My Review
Liza, daughter of Sergei and stepdaughter of Em from LIFE ON THE EDGE, gets her own story. At 18, she’s preparing for the Winter Olympics, her life resembling anything but a typical teen one. Until she meets Braden, a dreamy college freshman from UMass. It took me nearly half of the book to really get into it. The first half is almost completely devoid of any serious conflict, and I couldn’t even really identify the antagonist. But once the skating portion really got going at about the 50% point, the story took off.

Liza decides she can’t risk her Olympic dreams by giving into her feelings for a boy, so she keeps him at arm’s length. That doesn’t keep her from being possessive and jealous, though, when other girls pay attention to him. Braden decides to wait for Liza as she focuses on skating, ignoring the attention from may attractive girls, including his childhood BFF, Sam. Liza attempts to paint Sam as the bad guy, but I just never could see her that way. I found her quite sympathetic. So while the romance didn’t have me swooning, the skating sure did. The story hits the mark when Liza takes the ice in Detroit. Tensions ramp up between Liza and Kathy, one of her coaches.

Plot
While I think the main plot is the romance, the skating is probably a stronger plot. Liza’s grit and determination, her discipline and professionalism are front and center as she works her way through the competitions leading up to the Olympics. There is plenty of drama, conflict, and feels when it comes to this part of the story. The romance doesn’t fall flat by any means, it just wasn’t my favorite part of the story.

Characters
While I needed time to warm up to Liza, once I did, I rooted for her fully. She still had moments where she got on my nerves, but when it came to reaching her skating goals, I was behind her one hundred percent. Braden is definitely likeable enough, but he wasn’t developed to the point that I fully got a sense of him. There were times he came across as flat. The characters that I enjoyed the most, even though I didn’t particularly like them, were Kathy and Liza’s mom. Both were controlling in different ways, but I really felt as if I had a sense of who they were and why they did the things they did.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Lack of Conflict.
The lack of conflict in the first half of the book made it difficult for me to stick with at times.

2. Braden. I never got a good sense of his character.

3. Liza’s Angst. While pushing Braden away with one hand, she hated on every girl who paid attention to him. It seemed childish for someone of her age and with her level of maturity.

What I Enjoyed About GOLD RUSH
1. Skating.
 I love the competitive skating part of the story. The descriptions are detailed and draw me in.

2. Competitive Liza. When she’s not pining away for a boy she can’t even decide if she wants, she’s a fierce competitive with drive, who knows what she wants and goes after it full bore.

3. Kathy. This was more of a love-hate relationship, but she’s the true antagonist in the story, so I needed her. I would have liked more of her though.

4. Sam. I liked Sam a lot. No, I didn’t want her to end up with Braden, but I didn’t see her as a romantic rival, either. I saw her as a girl who was in love with a boy not in love with her. That’s a sympathetic character no matter which way you look at it.

5. The ending. No spoilers 🙂

Bottom Line
GOLD RUSH has a solid sports storyline that carries the weaker romance across the finish line.

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About the Book
Title: GOLD RUSH
Author: Jennifer Comeaux
Release Date: January 9, 2017
Pages: 338
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Sports Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords

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Author Jennifer Comeaux

Author Jennifer Comeaux

About the Author
Jennifer Comeaux is a tax accountant by day, writer by night. There aren’t any ice rinks near her home in south Louisiana, but she’s a diehard figure skating fan and loves to write stories of romance set in the world of competitive skating. One of her favorite pastimes is travelling to competitions, where she can experience all the glitz and drama that inspire her writing. Jennifer loves to hear from readers! Visit jennifercomeaux.blogspot.com for contact information and to learn more about her books.

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Where to Find Jennifer Comeaux
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – The Tattered Gloves by J.L. Berg

The Tattered Gloves by J.L. Berg

The Tattered Gloves by J.L. Berg

5 Stars

Synopsis
Head down.
Don’t look up.
Never make eye contact.

Those were the words I lived by growing up, the words that protected me in an unsafe home. But words are only letters and eventually even they couldn’t keep his hands off me.

Hoping to leave behind the shattered life of my past, I find myself in a boring, small town, with an aunt I’ve never met and at a school I loathe.

But soon I learn, not everything in this world is as black and white as I’ve determined. Sometimes those we are so quick to judge often need a second, third or even fourth time to make a first impression.

And often, there are friendships and even love waiting just around the corner, if we are brave enough to take the first step.

Am I brave? Or will I hide behind these tattered gloves of mine forever?..

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My Review
I realized as I sat down to write this review, it’s been a little while since I last gave a book five stars, but The Tattered Gloves pleasantly surprised me. This is the first book I’ve read by J.L. Berg, who traditionally writes adult romances, but if this is any indication of what she’s capable of, it won’t be the last. Willow is the daughter of a prostitute with no idea who her father is. After a horrific event involving Willow and one of her mother’s “clients”, her mother packs her up and sends her off to live with an aunt Willow didn’t even know existed. Constantly wearing a ratty old pair of red gloves, Willow avoids touching and being touched by others, something she can no longer tolerate.

Willow’s Aunt Addy is everything Willow’s mother was not. Through her aunt, Willow learns her own family history, along with some valuable lessons about humanity. Willow may not have won the parent lottery, but family is so much more than just who gave birth to you. In addition, Willow is befriended by Allison, a popular girl with a heart of gold, and Sam, a swoonworthy boy who both infuriates and intrigues Willow.

Plot
The primary plot revolves around Willow coming to terms with her wounds, and she has a lot of them. Not only was she physically abused, but her mother neglected her, resulting in solid, well-founded trust issues. Subplots involve her relationship with Sam, the struggling bookstore Sam runs with his family where Willow works part time, and to a lesser degree, her relationship with her aunt. Nothing is glossed over and there is no easy path. About the only thing I found lacking was the involvement of a therapist in Willow’s journey. The fact that she had to figure it out all on her own was fine, but it felt too fast without someone there helping guide her through some of the tougher issues. Her epiphany was also out of the blue in a way that didn’t feel organic. Those are small criticisms though in an otherwise well plotted and executed story.

Characters
This is more a character-driven tale than a plot-driven one and the characters are outstanding. Willow is believable as the broken girl with the scars no one can see. Her aunt is perfect as the woman thrown unexpectedly into a role she never prepared for. Addy’s unease and fear at doing everything wrong is palpable. At times I found BFF, Allison, to be almost too good to be true, except everyone has had that one friend who doesn’t take no for an answer. Thank God for friends like that! And Sam…there’s so much to love about this broken boy with his own sad story who still manages to see so much more in Willow than she can see in herself.

World Building
Author, J.L. Berg expertly captures small-town life with all it’s good and bad aspects. The tiny Virginia town came to life in a way that allowed it to be the perfect backdrop for Willow’s story.

What I Loved About The Tattered Gloves
1. Willow.
 She’s complex, deep, and incredibly well developed. She’s the sort of girl I’d like to have been friends with as a teen.

2. Sam. He is sweet, loyal, persistent, and yet guarded and wounded. He’s the perfect foil and boyfriend for Willow.

3. Allison. She’s perky and pushy, but in all the right ways.

4. Addy. She takes on her new role with grit and determination and allows Willow to set the boundaries.

5. The ending. I love the way the story wrapped up. It wasn’t this nice, neat little package, but it left me satisfied.

Bottom Line
The Tattered Gloves is a moving young adult read with phenomenal characters.

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About the Book
Title: The Tattered Gloves
Author: J.L. Berg
Release Date: January 24, 2017
Pages: 268
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating:
 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazoniBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author J.L. Berg

Author J.L. Berg

About the Author
J.L. Berg is the USA Today bestselling author of the Ready Series, The Walls Duet, and the Lost & Found Duet. She is a California native living in the beautiful state of historic Virginia. Married to her high school sweetheart, they have two beautiful girls that drive them batty on a daily basis. When she’s not writing, you will find her with her nose stuck in a romance novel, in a yoga studio or devouring anything chocolate. J.L. Berg is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.
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Where to find J.L. Berg
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter | Instagram
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Book Review – Wait for Me by J. Lynn

Wait for You (Wait for You #1) by J. Lynn

Wait for You (Wait for You #1) by J. Lynn

4 Stars

Synopsis
Some things are worth waiting for…

Traveling thousands of miles from home to enter college is the only way nineteen-year-old Avery Morgansten can escape what happened at the Halloween party five years ago—an event that forever changed her life. All she needs to do is make it to her classes on time, make sure the bracelet on her left wrist stays in place, not draw any attention to herself, and maybe—please God—make a few friends, because surely that would be a nice change of pace. The one thing she didn’t need and never planned on was capturing the attention of the one guy who could shatter the precarious future she’s building for herself.

Some things are worth experiencing…

Cameron Hamilton is six feet and three inches of swoon-worthy hotness, complete with a pair of striking blue eyes and a remarkable ability to make her want things she believed were irrevocably stolen from her. She knows she needs to stay away from him, but Cam is freaking everywhere, with his charm, his witty banter, and that damn dimple that’s just so… so lickable. Getting involved with him is dangerous, but when ignoring the simmering tension that sparks whenever they are around each other becomes impossible, he brings out a side of her she never knew existed.

Some things should never be kept quiet…

But when Avery starts receiving threatening emails and phone calls forcing her to face a past she wants silenced, she’s has no other choice but to acknowledge that someone is refusing to allow her to let go of that night when everything changed. When the devastating truth comes out, will she resurface this time with one less scar? And can Cam be there to help her or will he be dragged down with her?

And some things are worth fighting for…..

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My Review
I’m a huge fan of Jennifer L. Armentrout, but this was my first book by her in the new adult genre. Once again she creates memorable characters, particularly swoonworthy guys, but Avery was lacking that special something that made Katy from the Lux series and Alex from the Covenant series so easy to root for. Avery is a college freshman who moved halfway across the country to escape her past, including her family. She meets Cam in the most awkward way possible, but he’s inexplicably smitten with her. Avery keeps to herself, clearly has a secret, and is haunted by her past, but because Cam is so swoony, she is understandably drawn to him. They begin an unlikely friendship that morphs into more before Avery’s secrets drive a wedge between them.

Plot
Pretty much a straight up romance. Girl meets boy, insta-attraction, boy pursues girl, girl pushes boy away, boy finally wins her over, only for girl to push him away again until she changes and wins him back. There are some underlying themes that are a little different, but nothing groundbreaking. What J. Lynn does well, though, is create amazing chemistry between her characters, and that is definitely in play here between Avery and Cam. There were no real twists or surprises, but as a romance, it’s very enjoyable.

Characters
Both the main characters are well-crafted with solid backstories that shape who they are. My problem was that Avery was too much of a victim for me to really be able to identify with her. I was hoping she’d grow on me through the story, but she never really did. Cam is definitely likeable, but he had some cliched moments, including the fact that he’s a bad boy except when it comes to Avery.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Avery.
 I just couldn’t identify with her. I realize her reaction to what happened to her is probably pretty authentic, but I would have liked to see a little more anger and Queen Mary (from Reign) than victimhood from her.

2. Editing. This really surprised me. The book was riddled with the wrong words, bad grammar (“between him and I” instead of “between him and me”) and missing words. So many that it was distracting.

What I Enjoyed About Wait for Me
1. The chemistry.
 This is a JLA hallmark and she does it really well here. The playful banter and the way she draws readers deep into the feelings of her characters is everything I love about her books.

2. Cam. He might be cookie-cutter JLA book boyfriend material, but why mess with perfection?

3. Ollie. He’s adorable and I’ve already peeked to make sure he’s getting his own story!

4. Romantic Valentines Gifts. I wasn’t sure about Cam’s V-day gift to Avery at first. It seemed awfully presumptuous, but it’s grown on me and now seems absolutely perfect.

5. Tough subject matter. J. Lynn deals with two very difficult topics with compassion and heart.

Bottom Line
Wait for Me is a decent new adult romance with boatloads of chemistry and a swoonworthy BBF.

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About the Book
Title: wait for You
Series: Wait for You #1
Author: J. Lynn (Jennifer L. Armentrout)
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Pages: 386
Genre: New Adult Contemporary 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 Jennifer L. Armentrout

Author Jennifer L. Armentrout

About the Author
# 1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki.

Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV.

She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.
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Find Jennifer L. Armentrout
Goodreads | Website | Series WebsiteFacebook Twitter

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Book Review – Full Tilt by Emma Scott

Full Tilt (Full Tilt #1) by Emma Scott

Full Tilt (Full Tilt #1) by Emma Scott

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
“I would love you forever, if I only had the chance…”

Kacey Dawson has always lived life on the edge–impulsively, sometimes recklessly. And now, as lead guitarist for a hot up-and-coming band, she is poised at the brink of fame and fortune. But she is torn between wanting to be a serious musician, and the demons that lure her down the glittering, but alcohol-soaked path of rock stardom. A wrecked concert in Las Vegas threatens to ruin her career entirely. She wakes up with the hangover from hell and no memory of the night before, or how she ended up on her limo driver’s couch…

Jonah Fletcher is running out of time. He knows his situation is hopeless, and he’s vowed to make the most of the handful of months he has left to him. His plans include seeing the opening of his glass installation at a prestigious art gallery…they do not include falling in love with a wild, tempestuous rock musician who wound up passed out on his couch.

Jonah sees that Kacey is on a path to self-destruction. He lets her crash with him for a few days to dry out and get her head on straight. But neither of them expected the deep connection they felt, or how that connection could grow so fast from friendship into something more. Something deep and pure and life-changing…something as fragile as glass, that they both know will shatter in the end no matter how hard they try to hold on to it.

Full Tilt is a story about what it means to love with your whole heart, to sacrifice, to experience terrible grief and soaring joy. To live life with all its beauty, and all its pain, and in the end to be able to smile through tears and know you wouldn’t have changed a thing.

***FIRST BOOK IN A TWO PART DUET***

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My Review
Going into this, I knew there would be no HEA. It’s pretty much stated in the prologue, but I still wasn’t ready for the ending, and it gutted me in the most bittersweet of ways. Jonah and Kacey are soulmates, that becomes evident as the story unfolds. After Jonah rescues Kacey from her partying ways, their friendship is easy and natural. Stronger feelings develop, but because of Jonah’s health issues, he keeps her at arm’s length, but only for so long. Kacey knows what she’s getting into, but like the reader, she’s still not prepared for the ending.

Plot
As a romance, the main plot is the relationship between Jonah and Kacey. But Kacey’s relationship with her band, her life choices, and Jonah’s art installation are all solid subplots that help drive the main plot. There were times where I felt the pacing slowed down too much for my preference, but not long enough that I set the book aside to read something else. The romance is incredibly well done and heart wrenching. There’s so much emotion that is deep and raw, I was pulled deep into the story.

Characters
All the characters are really well developed, particularly Kacey, Jonah, and Jonah’s brother, Theo. Their backstories are complete and relevant and they lead to some of the most wonderfully complex characters I’ve read recently. Kacey, particularly, has her flaws as a result of deep family wounds. Jonah and Theo respond based on the illness the wrecked Jonah’s heart. There’s so much believable growth through the story, that I only come to love the characters more. So even though I knew how the story would end before the first chapter, it wasn’t any easier to read.

World Building
I love all the settings. Emma Scott makes the unbearable dry heat of Las Vegas come alive in a way that feels as alive as the real deal. And as a San Diegan, I loved the scenes set in my hometown. I loved the references to places I’ve been. And either she’s got some experience with glass blowing or she did her homework. I found myself googling images to see the beauty she crafted in my mind with my own eyes.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The pacing.
 There were a few places where things slowed down too much for me, but that’s really my only complaint.

What I Loved About Full Tilt
1. The ending.
 Not really, but I did love that the author warned us ahead of time. I was mentally prepared even if I wasn’t emotionally prepared. But oh what a gut-rippingly beautiful, horrible, amazing ending it was.

2. Theo. I love dark and twisty characters and he’s definitely that, wrapped up in some serious tattooed hotness.

3. The art. I’m now fascinated by Dale Chihuly and his amazing glass art.

4. Jonah. It’s ironic that the man with the biggest heart is also the one with the failing heart.

5. Kacey. She’s a wonderfully complex character that was easy to root for.

Bottom Line
Full Tilt is an emotional new adult romance that will pull at your heartstrings in the best ways.

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About the Book
Title: Full Tilt
Series: Full Tilt #1
Author: Emma Scott
Publisher: Trillian
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Pages: 292
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating:
 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author
Emma Scott is a writer, marathon runner, and caffeine addict, who lives and writes in the California Bay Area. She has two smart, feisty little girls, a super-supportive husband, and is a demonstrated fan of the Oxford comma. She is also an unabashed Star Wars geek and comic book enthusiast who fell into romance novels when a writing contest prompt turned a 1000-word romantic story into a full-blown novel. She also writes epic fantasy that suffers an epic word count.

She hopes you enjoy her work, encourages readers to leave feedback, and thinks it’s amusing to write about herself in the third person. And if she has a driving force that fuels her work, it’s that love always wins.

Where to find Emma Scott
Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter
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Book Review – Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

4 Stars

Synopsis
Minerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey. Cal knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. Even if she does wear great shoes and keeps him on his toes. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.

But Fate has other plans, and it’s not long before Min and Cal meet again. Soon, they’re dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme donuts, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of. Including the biggest gamble of all—true love.

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My Review
One of my favorite Jennifer Crusie novels so far. The characters are the best! Min is wonderful and I love the fact that she isn’t beautiful, and that she doesn’t go through some makeover to become more attractive. I love that Cal isn’t shallow and sees the best in Min. The underlying bet is a fun thread that starts the story and is pulled through the plot to the very end. When Min’s boyfriend, David, dumps her, she’s not so much sad as she is distraught by what her mother’s reaction will be. Min has spent her entire life trying to please a woman who will never be pleased, but her mom loves David. Now with her sister’s wedding looming, she needs a date, fast.

Enter Cal. He likes to bet. So when David bets him ten dollars he can’t get “cold fish” Min to go to dinner with him, Cal takes that bet. But David takes it a step further, betting Cal he can’t get her into bed within thirty days. Thus begins a hilarious tale of two people who everyone can see belong together except the two themselves.

Plot
The plot centers around Min’s and Cal’s relationship, the push and pull of desire and the belief that the other person is wrong for them. Min believes Cal is only trying to win the bet. Cal believes Min hates him, and considering her biting wit, it’s easy to see why. But fate throws them together over and over again and it’s cute to watch what happens. The chemistry is palpable and the situations the author puts them in are deliciously fun. The cast is large, as most Cruise novels are, and there are several solid subplots involving Min’s friends, Cal’s family, and Min’s sister’s wedding. Each subplot supports the main plot and development of the main characters.

Characters
Once again, Cruise delivers quirky, outrageous, yet infinitely loveable characters. Min is outspoken and yet has an edge of self-doubt, thanks to her mother’s constant criticisms. Cal has his own issues, although they’re more subtle. Min’s friends are all unique, as are Cal’s and no one came across as stereotypical. I adored the interaction between Cal and Min’s friends. There was just enough development in the main characters to keep the story from being too comedic, bringing a sense of authenticity to them. Even Min’s sister gets her own arc, and her parents have a small one.

Ending
At first, I felt like the ending went on way too long, but in retrospect, it was perfect. Even though the romance was resolved, there is a hilarious scene at the end that really summed up all the themes in the book. And the epilogue was a cherry on top of this yummy story.

Bottom Line
Bet Me is my favorite Jennifer Crusie book to date, with adorable characters and witty dialogue.

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Title: Bet Me
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Release Date: April 1, 2007
Pages: 432
Category: Romantic Comedy
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | BAM! | IndieBound

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Author Jennifer Crusie

Author Jennifer Crusie

About the Author
Jennifer Crusie was researching her dissertation on the differences in the way men and women tell stories when she got sidetracked into writing romance novels.

Her first book was published in 1993 (which pretty much finished off any hope of her getting that PhD) and her twenty-second book, Maybe This Time, came out in August of 2010, all of which she considers a minor miracle, especially since she is also a New York Times, USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller and a two-time Rita award winner.

Jenny is currently working on her new Liz Danger mystery series. She is a very happy woman..

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Where to Find Jennifer Crusie
Goodreads | Website Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

Young Adult Book Review – My Junior Year of Loathing (School Dayz) by Jennifer DiGiovanni

My Junior Year of Loathing (School Dayz #2) by Jennifer DiGiovanni

My Junior Year of Loathing (School Dayz #2) by Jennifer DiGiovanni

5 Stars

Synopsis
Junior year is supposed to be tough. Exams, term papers, homework, college tours, and participation in extra-curricular activities can all add up to non-stop stress. But Melinda Banner has goals to achieve and dreams to make real. This year, she’ll be unstoppable. But even over achievers need a break.

While walking in the woods to take a break from the stress of it all, Melinda meets a boy named Connor. After a few more run-ins, the two settle into an uneasy friendship, if you can even call it that.

But Connor’s closed and mysterious. Whenever Melinda asks too many questions, he suddenly has to go or is no longer interested in talking. When they’re together, she’s torn between wanting him to open up and running away as fast as she can. Still she can’t seem to shake her budding interest in him.

Connor has his own way of looking at the world, and his views often conflict with Melinda’s practical nature. Can you like someone and loathe them at the same time? Is he even worth the emotional tug on her heartstrings or distraction from all things Junior year?

And, as if she needs another project right now, Melinda starts to obsess over the abandoned estate she passes on the way to school each day. Between Connor and the old estate, Melinda’s beginning to think she’s taking on too much.

But Melinda’s smart. She finds a way to indulge her interest in the estate and fulfill her obligations. She will uncover the truth behind the aging edifice for an epic article in the school newspaper.

But when her investigation reveals a connection between Connor and a tragedy long-since forgotten, Melinda has a choice: put off her junior year achievements to save a local landmark and a boy who constantly pushes her away or put them both out of her mind for good and focus on making the grade.

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My Review
The second book in the School Dayz series, this is my favorite so far. Melinda, Sadie’s romantic rival from book one, is a smart, serious girl with goals. When her mom remarries, she moves into a virtual mansion where she’s forced to adjust to a different way of life. Her relocation also puts her squarely in the path of mysterious Connor of the Woods, a boy she meets lurking in the forested area behind her stepfather’s estate. Her best friend, Becca, begins dating Will, who pushes her to double-date his buddy, Ty. Ty is tall, cute, normal. Connor is anything but normal, but Melinda is inescapably drawn to him, setting up a showdown with her emotions. Will she choose Ty and security, or Connor and all the drama that surrounds him?

Plot
There is a bit of a mystery woven into the plot. Well, a couple of mysteries, actually. One being the secret Connor is hiding and the other is what happened behind the big wall of the old Westerly Estate. Some people say the old house is haunted, and Melinda is determined to find out what really happened. But the primary plot is the romance between Melinda, Ty, and Connor. It’s not a traditional love triangle, so if those turn you off, don’t discount this book just yet. It’s a great story, with Jennifer DiGiovanni’s signature quirky, funny characters, and lots of super sweet moments.

Characters
Once again, the author creates a cast of unique characters that are easy to love. Melinda is serious and driven with an incredible soft spot in her heart. Connor is an enigma until we find out his whole story, but he never comes across as anything other than fully developed. Will, Ty, Becca, the estate’s caretaker, Jack, and Melinda’s family all support the story. Jack in particular is an intriguing character who adds a lot to the story.

Top things I LOVED About My Junior Year of Loathing
1. The mystery. It was incorporated really well into the main plot.

2. Jack. The gruff landscaper provides some great moments with both Melinda and Connor.

3. Melinda. I love seeing more of her in this installment. She wasn’t my favorite person in My Senior Year of Awesome, but after getting her story and her point of view, I adore her.

4. Connor. The boy from the woods is strong, mysterious, caring, and more than a little hot.

5. Will. As the arrogant football player dating Melinda’s best friend, he provides some of the best comic moments.

Bottom Line
My favorite book in the series so far, includes great romance, a mystery, and fantastic characters.

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About the Book
Title: My Junior Year of Loathing
Series: School Dayz #2
Author: Jennifer DiGiovanni
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Pages: 186
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

About the Author
Jennifer DiGiovanni is the author of the School Dayz Series. When she’s not writing or reading, she likes to try new sports and activities from archery to ballroom dancing, with varying degrees of success.

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Where to find Jennifer DiGiovanni
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Pinterest
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Book Review – Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie

Welcome to Temptation (Dempseys #1) by Jennifer Crusie

Welcome to Temptation (Dempseys #1) by Jennifer Crusie

4 Stars

Synopsis
Sophie Dempsey is content living a quiet life filming wedding videos until an assignment brings her to Temptation, Ohio. From the moment she drive into town, she gets a bad feeling; Sophie is from the wrong side of the tracks and everything in Temptation is a little too right. And when she has a run-in with the town’s unnervingly sexy mayor, Phineas Tucker, making a little movie turns out to be more than a little dangerous.

Yield to oncoming desire…

All Sophie wants to do is film the video and head home. All Phin wants to do is play pool with the police chief and keep things peaceful. They both get more than they bargained for when Sophie’s video causes an uproar and the proper citizens of Temptation set out to shut them down.

Welcome to temptation…

As events spiral out of control, Sophie and Phin find themselves caught in a web of gossip, blackmail, adultery, murder, and really excellent sex. All hell breaks loose in Temptation as Sophie and Phin fall deeper and deeper in trouble…and in love.

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My Review
This is a fun, fast read with quirky characters and a laugh-out-loud plot. When Sophie Dempsey and her sister head to Temptation, Ohio to help a b-list actress film a comeback, things go hysterically wrong. Everything from a phallic water tower to possible porn erupts. Throw in a mangy stray dog, the hot town mayor, and a dead body, and things go from interesting to downright complicated. Jennifer Crusie creates a place that is as screwed up as it is quaint, filled with equally messed up people, all with something to gain and something to hide.

Mayor Phin Tucker sees an uptight woman in Sophie that he can’t help but be attracted to, which means he should stay far, far away from her. Of course he doesn’t, igniting a tumultuous relationship that should remain physical, but turns into much more for both parties, despite their efforts to avoid it. There are so many great and funny twists and turns, I stayed up way too late to find out what would happen next.

Plot
This is essentially a romance, so the main plot is whether or not Phin and Sophie will end up together, but there are strong subplots involving a possible murder, the complicated relationship of Phin and his mother, the complex inner workings of the City of Temptation itself, and whether or not Sophie is making porn. All the plots are woven together expertly, resulting in a madcap story that just happens to be a romance.

Characters
The characters are the best. They are what make Jennifer Crusie’s books shine. Sophie is smart, funny, caring, and stubborn. Phin is complex, arrogant, and frustrated. The story is rounded out by a supporting cast that are a fascinating character study in small-town life.

Writing
Jennifer Crusie has a way with dialogue and character development, but her writing style took me a little bit to get used to. There’s a lot of combined dialogue and dialogue tags that I had to read more than once to figure out who was saying what. But overall, her writing is witty and engaging.

Bottom Line
Welcome to Temptation is classic Jennifer Crusie, a delightful romp with characters you can’t help falling in love with.

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Title: Welcome to Temptation
Series: The Dempsys #1
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Release Date: July 11, 2004
Pages: 416
Category: Romantic Comedy
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | BAM! | IndieBound

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Author Jennifer Crusie

Author Jennifer Crusie

About the Author
Jennifer Crusie was researching her dissertation on the differences in the way men and women tell stories when she got sidetracked into writing romance novels.

Her first book was published in 1993 (which pretty much finished off any hope of her getting that PhD) and her twenty-second book, Maybe This Time, came out in August of 2010, all of which she considers a minor miracle, especially since she is also a New York Times, USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller and a two-time Rita award winner.

Jenny is currently working on her new Liz Danger mystery series. She is a very happy woman..

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Where to Find Jennifer Crusie
Goodreads | Website Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

Blog Tour – Review – My Friends Are All Strange by M.C. Lesh

My Friends Are All Strange Blog Tour

My Friends Are All Strange by M.C. Lesh

My Friends Are All Strange by M.C. Lesh

4 Stars

Synopsis
My friends are all strange.

Right now I’m living at Brookside, a place for people like me. I’ve met a kitty girl, a brooding beautiful boy, one who can’t be touched, and others. My new friends. Strange people. People like me.

I’ve always been different, but lately, more so. My hands sometimes don’t seem to be attached to the rest of me. I cut up all of my clothes. I’m hot, so hot, all of the time. If I sleep, a wizard haunts every dream. I don’t sleep. Sometimes I want to run, but where do you run to when you’re trying to escape your own mind? I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same. I’m smart. I’m nice, sometimes. I just want to be normal(ish). But, right now, my friends are all strange… Like me.

Dark, funny, snarky, seventeen-year-old Becca struggles to cope with mental illness in My Friends Are All Strange, the gripping contemporary young adult companion novel to Normalish.

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My Review
This book is quite different from most young adult novels I’ve read recently. While there is a bit of a romance that plays out, it’s not the primary plot nor even a major subplot. Instead, My Friends Are All Strange is about a teen girl dealing with mental illness. When seventeen-year-old Becca has a mental break in the school cafeteria, she’s whisked off to Brookside, a juvenile mental health facility. As she struggles to deal with her own sanity, she meets other kids like her, dealing with their own personal hells. At first, Becca resists interacting with the other residents, but before long, she’s drawn into their worlds, making friends, and realizing that mental illness isn’t a one-size-fits-all disease. She’s forced to not only face her own demons, but realize that she can’t fix anyone except herself.

Plot
The plot centers around Becca’s struggle with her sanity. M.C. Lesh did an outstanding job of showing us the inner workings of mental illness. We feel Becca’s fear, anxiety, frustration, and even her tenuous grasp on reality at times. The subject matter is handled with both gentle, loving care and a huge dose of reality. Nothing is glossed over or treated in a light-hearted manner.

Characters
Becca is exceptionally well developed as is her Brookside friend, Kat. Roman, Becca’s boyfriend, is well rounded, too, but the rest of the cast is a bit sketchy. I never got a complete sense of Bobby or any members of Becca’s family.

World Building
This is where the book really shines. The author has created the world of Brookside with nurturing staff and realistic inhabitants that deal with their issues in believable ways.

Ending
The ending is a satisfying conclusion, but fell a little flat. This isn’t a book that’s going to stick with me for months or even weeks after I finish it.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Lack of a traditional climax. There’s a big build-up to something between Bobby and Becca’s sister that doesn’t materialize in the manner promised, and there’s no real rising conflict or dark moment.

Top Things I Enjoyed About  My Friends Are All Strange
1. Roman. One of the best book boyfriends ever. I love how his devotion to Becca never wavered. He’s always there for her.

2. Dante. Becca’s dreadlocked therapist is the perfect foil, forcing her to view her demons in a different light.

3. Mental illness. The author handles this touchy subject with heart and just the right amount of humor.

Bottom Line
A wonderful story of teenage mental illness and one girl’s struggles with her own mind.

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

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About the Book
Title:
 My Friends Are All Strange
Author: M.C. Lesh
Publisher:  StoryRhyme.com Publishing
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Pages: 230
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author M.C. Lesh

Author M.C. Lesh

About the Author
California native Margaret Lesh lives in a narrow canyon populated by herds of wild burro and packs of coyote. The canyon is also populated with her creative, handsome husband, her feisty mother-in-law, her not-brave-at-all Border Collie, Echo, and sometimes her son (who is away at college. And she is not quite sure how that all happened so fast).

She writes books to entertain young and not-so-young readers as well as herself. She believes tacos are magic.

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Where to Find M.C. Lesh
Goodreads | Website Facebook | Twitter
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Young Adult Book Review – Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits (Purshing the Limits #1) by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1) by Katie McGarry

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
“I won’t tell anyone, Echo. I promise.” Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. “You didn’t do that-did you? It was done to you?” No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other…and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

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My Review
Pushing the Limits is intense. It covers dark elements, including mental illness, loss of family, the foster care system, and the high school microcosm. Echo is scarred with no memories of how she got that way. Her mother is bi-polar and is no longer allowed to see Echo. Echo’s beloved older brother died serving the country and her one goal (besides getting her memory back) is to get his classic muscle car running again. Living with her father and pregnant step-mother, Echo’s former babysitter, piles insult on to injury. Noah’s no better off. After losing both his parents in a car accident, he and his two younger brothers were put into the foster care system. After one particularly bad home, they were separated and Noah has only supervised visitation with his brothers. All he wants is to get his brothers back. There’s no way these two messed up kids should be together, and yet that’s exactly what happens with more angst and drama than any young adult book I’ve read in quite a while.

Plot
There are really three plots, though the romance is the main plot, with the other two as strong subplots.The main plot is the romance between Noah and Echo. There’s a lot standing between these two finding happiness together, not the least of which is Noah’s brothers (subplot #1) and Echo’s memories (subplot #2). All three are expertly woven together.

Characters
We get dual first-person point of view, and Echo and Noah are both well developed and well differentiated. Each has true growth that is in line with the characters the author has created. They’re both likeable and sympathetic, while still being far from perfect.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The pacing.
 The pacing was off in a few places, particularly the ending. I felt like once we had the climax, it took too many chapters to wrap up the loose ends. And there were places throughout the book where things slowed down too much for me. I found myself setting the book down and walking away from it, sometimes for days.

What I Enjoyed About Pushing the Limits
1. Echo.
 Everything from her name to her artistic nature makes her a heroine I can root for.
2. Noah. He’s everything a book boyfriend should be, from the way he cares about Echo to the way he’d sacrifice everything for his younger brothers.
3. The angst. Yeah, it’s my favorite kind of romance.
4. The ending. I love the way the story wrapped up. It’s not a perfect happily ever after, but it’s real and satisfying in all the best ways.
5. Family. Echo’s and Noah’s family situations couldn’t be more different and yet both were beautifully complex in their own ways, showing us that family comes in all shapes and sizes.

Bottom Line
Pushing the Limits is a dark young adult romance with complex characters you can’t help rooting for.

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About the Book
Title: Pushing the Limits
Series: Pushing the Limits #1
Author: Katie McGarry
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Pages: 406
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating:
 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | !ndigo | Book Depository | Powell’s

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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.

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Where to Find Katie McGarry
Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Tumblr | Instagram
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Young Adult Book Review – Chasing Truth (Eleanor Ames) by Julie Cross

Chasing Truth Blog Tour

Chasing Truth (Eleanor Ames #1) by Julie Cross

Chasing Truth (Eleanor Ames #1) by Julie Cross

5 Stars

Synopsis
At Holden Prep, the rich and powerful rule the school—and they’ll do just about anything to keep their dirty little secrets hidden.

When former con artist Eleanor Ames’s homecoming date commits suicide, she’s positive there’s something more going on. The more questions she asks, though, the more she crosses paths with Miles Beckett. He’s sexy, mysterious, arrogant…and he’s asking all the same questions.

Eleanor might not trust him—she doesn’t even like him—but they can’t keep their hands off of each other. Fighting the infuriating attraction is almost as hard as ignoring the fact that Miles isn’t telling her the truth…and that there’s a good chance he thinks she’s the killer.

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My Review
Ellie is a girl with a checkered past. Raised by her con-artist parents, she now lives with her older sister and her sister’s boyfriend who just happens to be a member of the Secret Service. When the sister’s boyfriend pulls some strings, getting Ellie into an exclusive prep school, she only manages to make one good friend who kills himself shortly after dropping Ellie off at home. Devastated, Ellie believes there’s more to the story than a simple suicide. Her friend, Simon, the son of the California Senator, wasn’t depressed.

When hot newbie, Miles, moves in across from Ellie, she fights a physical attraction and an emotional hatred of him. Miles is full of his own secrets and the two torment each other both consciously and subconsciously. Chasing Truth is pure Julie Cross — lots of angst, beautiful character development, and this time around a fun mystery.

Plot
The story centers on Ellie’s pursuit of the truth — what really happened to Simon. With her background, she’s able to follow the clues with relative ease, using her ability to con people to gain information. The only thing really complicating her efforts is Miles. I had Miles pegged from early on, even though the author managed to make me second-guess my conclusion more than a few times. Even so, the back and forth between Ellie and Miles is great — lots of that unresolved sexual tension Julie Cross is famous for.

The Characters
Ellie is fascinating. She had the potential to become annoying, but she never fell into that trap. Her background made her unique, resourceful, loveable. Miles was equally interesting, always one step ahead of Ellie, or so it seems. The rest of the characters are well-rounded and enhance the story. Ellie’s sister, Harper, is great as the nanny to a set of toddler twins of a wealthy couple, and her boyfriend, Aiden, is as sympathetic as he is hot. Some of Ellie’s classmates crossed the line into spoiled rich teen territory, but they all had more depth to them than the stereotype.

Top Five Things I Loved About Chasing Truth
1. The mystery. I love when I spend an entire book trying to figure out what really happened right along with the protagonist.

2. Ellie. She’s feisty, confident, and smart. Three things that make an excellent young adult protagonist.

3. Angst. I loved the romance aspect in this story. She had such control over almost every other aspect of her life, it was fun to watch Ellie squirm.

4. The writing. The pacing is perfect and the writing is tight, making this a fun, fast read.

5. The ending. It wrapped up giving me enough satisfaction while leaving me wanting more of Eleanor Ames and crew!

Bottom Line
Chasing Truth is a fast-paced teen mystery wrapped up in a romance that is hard to put down.

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: Chasing Truth
Series: Eleanor Ames #1
Author: Julie Cross
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | !ndigo | BAM! | Book Depository

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Author Julie Cross

Author Julie Cross

About the Author
Julie Cross is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press). She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, and many more to come!

Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA. She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres.

Outside of her reading and writing credibility’s, Julie Cross is a committed–but not talented–long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.

Where to Find Julie Cross
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

Young Adult Book Review – The Row by J.R. Johansson

The Row Blog Tour

The Row by J.R. Johansson

The Row by J.R. Johansson

4.0 Stars

Synopsis
A death sentence. A family torn apart. One girl’s hunt for the truth.

Seventeen-year-old Riley Beckett is no stranger to prison. Her father is a convicted serial killer on death row who has always maintained that he was falsely accused. Riley has never missed a single visit with her father. She wholeheartedly believes that he is innocent.

Then, a month before the execution date, Riley’s world is rocked when, in an attempt to help her move on, her father secretly confesses to her that he actually did carry out the murders. He takes it back almost immediately, but she cannot forget what he’s told her. Determined to uncover the truth for her own sake, she discovers something that will forever change everything she’s believed about the family she loves.

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My Review
This was very different from any other young adult book I’ve read. Ever. Seventeen-year-old Riley’s father has been on death row since she was seven for crimes he claims he didn’t commit. Riley’s close relationship with her father is shown through weekly visits where the two hug and play chess. When the last of her father’s appeals run out, Riley must accept that she’s going to lose her father, something she can’t quite bring herself to accept. At least until her father confesses he’s guilty, telling Riley to move on with her life. Riley is devastated and confused, which gets worse when he immediately recants his confession. With the help of her only friend, adorable dark-haired Jordan, Riley decides she needs the truth, whatever that may be.

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Plot
The main plot centers around Riley’s search for the truth and unfolds like a mystery. A secondary plot is the romance between Riley and Jordan. Riley’s family has many secrets and the more Riley learns, the more she begins to question everything, not just her father’s sudden confession and retraction. At times the pacing was slow, but the author throws in a number of twists to keep things interesting.

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Characters
Riley is intriguing. Having essentially grown up with only her mother and a relationship with her father who is behind bars, her life is anything but normal. The story takes place over summer, so there is little interaction with other kids her age, with the exception of Jordan, whom she meets at a mall an hour away — a place she goes so she won’t be recognized. Being the daughter of a convicted serial killer can’t be easy and I would have loved to explore a little more of this aspect of her life. Riley’s father was an enigma throughout and her mother was complex. Jordan is likeable as the friend and love interest, but he isn’t as deeply developed as he could have been. This is Riley’s story though, and she’s pretty well fleshed out. On the other hand, Mr. Masters, the defense attorney for Riley’s dad, is well developed and a great foil for Riley.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Parts of the plot.
 I don’t want to give anything away, because there are some great twists, but not all of it works. There were a few things that happened that I thought needed more fleshing out for me to fully embrace them.

2. The cover. I don’t think the cover does the story justice.

3. Jordan. He’s interesting right off the bat, but I never really understood why he was so devoted to Riley from the beginning. They don’t spend all that much time together before he’s dropping everything to help her out, pledging his enduring loyalty.

What I Enjoyed About The Row
1. The chess.
 I love how the author weaves in the game of chess throughout, drawing parallels between the game and the plot.

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2. Riley. She’s sympathetic, smart, determined, and tough. She’s not perfect by any means. There are many times she makes huge mistakes, but it’s easy to forgive her because so much of how she reacts is based on her unorthodox upbringing.

3. The plot. I love both the mystery aspect and the young adult romance. Both are well done and tie together nicely.

4. The law. I love legal thrillers and this almost reads like one from a teen’s point of view.

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5. Mr. Masters. Riley’s dad’s law partner, defense attorney, and Riley’s surrogate father figure is fantastic, driving some of the best parts of the story.

Bottom Line
The Row is a dark tale of a girl seeking truth and justice about and for the father she adores.

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 Row
Author: J.R. Johansson
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Romance
Rating:
 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author J.R. Johansson

Author J.R. Johansson

About the Author
J.R. Johansson’s books have been published in a dozen languages and more than twenty countries worldwide. She has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She credits her abnormal psychology minor with inspiring many of her characters. She lives inUtah with two sons, a wonderful husband, three cats, and a hot tub named Valentino.

She is represented by the stellar Kathleen Rushall of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

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Where to find J.R. Johansson
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Young Adult Book Review – Daring the Bad Boy by Monica Murphy

Daring the Bad Boy Blog Tour

Daring the Bad Boy by Monica Murphy

Daring the Bad Boy by Monica Murphy

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
Truth or Dare was never this much fun…

Annie McFarland is sick of being a shy nobody. A session at summer camp seems like the perfect opportunity to reinvent herself—gain some confidence, kiss a boy, be whoever she wants to be. A few days in, she’s already set her sights on über-hottie Kyle. Too bad her fear of water keeps her away from the lake, where Kyle is always hanging out. 

Jacob Fazio is at Camp Pine Ridge after one too many screw-ups. Junior counseling seems like punishment enough, but the rigid no-fraternizing-with-campers rules harsh his chill. When a night of Truth or Dare gets him roped into teaching Annie how to swim, she begs him to also teach her how to snag Kyle. 

Late-night swim sessions turn into late-night kissing sessions…but there’s more on the line than just their hearts. If they get caught, Jake’s headed straight to juvie, but Annie’s more than ready to dare him to reveal the truth.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains references to drinking, sexual situations, adult language, and an intense bad boy hero who will melt your heart..

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My Review
This book was absolutely adorable! Annie goes to summer camp in hopes of reinventing herself. Jake agrees to work at his uncle’s summer camp in hopes of staying out of juvie. When this good girl and bad boy meet, sparks fly, and their romance is beyond cute. Annie is a shy, awkward teen who wants to be something else before starting her junior year of high school. She talks her parents in allowing her to go to summer camp for a chance to experience something new and come back as someone different. Jake has been in and out of trouble since his mother died and his father sends him to his uncle’s camp to help straighten him out, making a deal with the judge. Jake is given one rule he cannot break — do not get involved with any of the campers. So of course this forbidden love is meant to blossom.

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Plot
The story is a sweet romance between an awkwardly shy girl trying to break free and a bad boy looking for redemption, and yet it transcends this cliche. Most likely due to the depth of the characters created by author, Monica Murphy. As with everything she writes, her characters are intriguing with realistic backstories that shape who they are in believable ways. Neither are overly damaged, just teens with a history, struggling to find the coping skills they need.

Annie and Jake dance around an obvious attraction, although Annie initially has eyes only for the hottest guy in camp, Kyle, a guy who’s already made the rounds with all the other camp regulars and sees Annie as fresh meat. After a game of Truth or Dare gone bad, Annie lands in the lake and Jake jumps in to save her as we discover Annie can’t swim. She blackmails Jake into teaching her and they end up spending half-naked time together, alone.

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Their first kiss is sweet and romantic, all the things a first kiss should be, but confuses Annie who still believes she’s interested in Kyle. Or maybe not. It’s a time of self-reflection for Annie and frustration for Jake.

Characters
Told from dual first-person points of view, we get inside the heads of both Annie and Jake and learn a lot about them.  Annie has a secret from her past that haunts her, and rather than make her timid, it merely makes her cautious, so she’s not your typical shy wallflower. Jake is more stereotypical as the bad boy with the tortured soul, but he’s still got more to him than a lot of characters I’ve read in this trope. I liked them both immediately and rooted for them all the way.

What I Enjoyed About Daring the Bad Boy
1. Summer Camp.
 This was a fun blast from the past. Maybe not the most original setting, but it worked here and I loved it.

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2. Swimming. While I didn’t have the same emotional reasons as Annie, I connected with her fear of swimming. I came close to sucking in a lungful of pool water when I was a kid and after that, I avoided water deeper enough to cover my head. Her feelings rang true to me and I love that she dares Jake to teach her to swim. Their moments at the pool provide some of the steamier moments.

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3. The friendships. Annie makes good friends at camp and while there was the opportunity for a full-blown mean girl evolution, the author never went down that route. Althought it would have resulted in some awesome angst, the endearing friendships more than made up for it.

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4. The romance. I loved Annie and Jake’s story. The attraction was obvious from the beginning, but it wasn’t a love at first sight story and that made it all the more authentic.

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5. The ending. Both the end of the story and the epilogue wrapped up this story beautifully, leaving me satisfied.

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Bottom Line
Daring the Bad Boy is a sweet teen romance between a shy girl and a bad boy that defies stereotypes.

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About the Book
Title: Daring the Bad Boy
Author: Monica Murphy
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: August 22, 2016
Pages: 230
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating:
 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Monica Murphy

Author Monica Murphy

About the Author
Monica Murphy is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is a traditionally published author with Bantam/Random House and HarperCollins/Avon, as well as an independently published author. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance. She is also USA Today bestselling romance author Karen Erickson. 

She is a wife and a mother of three who lives with her family in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere, along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through many angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA..

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Where to Find Monica Murphy
Website | Blog | 
Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram
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Young Adult Book Review – Black Ice (Stark Springs Academy) by Ali Dean

Black Ice (Stark Springs Academy #3) by Ali Dean

Black Ice (Stark Springs Academy #3) by Ali Dean

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
When your enemy dies under strange circumstances? Don’t stop looking over your shoulder.

When secrets of a past scandal are plopped into your lap? Solve a mystery.

And when you’re a member of the National ski team? Don’t get distracted.

Roxie’s senior year at Stark Springs Academy is not what she envisioned. She never intended to be privy to Stark’s biggest secrets, but she’s thrown right into the middle of it, whether she wants to carry that burden or not. As Ryker Black’s girlfriend, nothing is simple or straightforward. A ski racer first and foremost, Roxie can’t let the ghosts of Stark Springs Academy distract her from the race course. Will she be able to pull it off?

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My Review
Ali Dean wraps up Roxie’s story, tying up all loose ends in a satisfying conclusion, but it still lacks that angsty romance angle that she is so famous for. With Roxie and Ryker on solid ground, there wasn’t much in the way of romance. No, “will they or won’t they,” so instead we’re given a nice little mystery that only becomes more mysterious as the story unfolds. There’s a lot more skiing this time around, which makes me happy.

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Plot
TRoxie and Ryker are busy trying to solve a mystery surrounding the death of a major character at the end of book 2, and someone is placing Ryker’s mother’s journals in Roxie’s possession for unknown reasons, although she begins to wonder if all of the crazy behavior is somehow linked. In addition, she has some big career choices to make as graduation looms and her skiing is only getting better.. A lot of information introduced in the first two books finally plays out to conclusion. Ali Dean does a great job with plotting her books, dangling information that seems unimportant at first glance, but never is.

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Because Ryker and Roxie’s relationship is pretty well wrapped up in the first two books, this one focuses little on that aspect, but they do finally seal the deal in a romantic scene that is only the beginning to many more that take place off-page.

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Characters
Both Ryker and Roxie experienced serious character growth, as do several secondary characters. The one thing that really bothered me throughout the book was the way Roxie spoke for both Ryker and herself when it came to thoughts and feelings, as if she was inside his head as well as her own.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Lack of angst.
 Yeah, it’s my favorite teen romantic trope, and one of the things I usually love best about Ali Dean’s books, but was completely missing this time around.
2. The Roxie/Ryker dynamic. Throughout the book, Roxie talks about “we” when it comes to feeling confused or wondering something, as if she and Ryker are a single entity. Because she knew what he was thinking all the time, there wouldn’t have been any angst anyway.

What I Enjoyed About Black Ice
1. The skiing.
 So excited for this aspect of the series to be front and center in the final book. Ali Dean delivers scene after scene that are intense and realistic.

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2. The mystery. There are actually several mysterious elements threaded throughout the book and all were well done with a couple of real surprises.

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3. The ending. A thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the series.

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4. Ryker and Roxie. They are super cute and sweet and I’m thrilled to see them get their HEA.

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5. Redemption. A couple of characters we’d come to love to hate have their own transformation, turning them into people I could actually like.

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Bottom Line
Double Ice is a satisfying conclusion of the Stark Springs Academy series, although it lacks some of that famous Ali Dean angst I’ve come to love.

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About the Book
Title: Black Ice
Series: Stark Springs Academy #3
Author: Ali Dean
Release Date: August 31, 2016
Pages: 185
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Sports Romance
Rating:
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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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 – The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

5 Stars

Synopsis
True love can’t be strategized.

Romance book blogger Vivian Galdi is a girl with a plan: the Replacement Crush mission. After her longtime crush pretends their secret summer kissing sessions never happened, Vivian creates a list of safe targets, determined to protect her heart and avoid anyone who pings her zing meter. But nerd-hot Dallas, the new guy in town, sends the mission and Vivian’s zing meter into chaos. While designing software for the bookstore where Vivian works, Dallas wages a counter-mission, analyzing his target and taking advantage of the tactical errors in her strategy.

Does Dallas just like a good game of Replacement Crush Battlefield, or is he on his own mission to prove to Vivian that true love isn’t a matter of strategy? And how much collateral damage can they both sustain during the heat of battle?

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My Review
I’m a huge, huge fan of Lisa Brown Roberts and I might have gotten a little swoony when I met her at the RWA conference here in San Diego last month. Obviously I jumped at the chance to read and review The Replacement Crush and I was not disappointed. Vivian Galdi is broken hearted after a hot couple of weeks at the end of summer making out with her long-term crush, Jake, on the beach. But when school starts, popular Jake has already moved on to new surfer girl, Claire leaving Vivian not only devastated, but vowing to never allow that to happen again. How? By only dating boys that she could never have strong feelings for. Along comes hot, yet nerdy, Dallas, a recent transplant to Southern California from Wisconsin. When Viv’s mom hires Dallas to help them take their sleepy seaside bookstore into the 21st century, Vivian and Dallas are forced to work together and the zing cannot be ignored. Which means Dalls is completely undateable.

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I love the book blogging angle so much, it inspired me to use gifs for the first time in a book review. I might be hooked, although it takes longer to find just the right ones.

Plot
The plot centers around the romance between Vivian and Dallas and Vivian’s refusal to even give Dallas a chance because she knows they have serious zing. Something she’s not willing to indulge in again. It’s clear from the beginning the Dallas feels it, too, and he’s determined to get Vivian to change her mind, although his methods are subtle. These two fight a lot, about ridiculous things. Dallas tries to rile her up and Viv fights to keep Dallas at arms’ length, but that only increases the electricity between them.

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There are some cute subplots involving Vivian’s relationship with the son of her mother’s boyfriend, a guy she’s known since kindergarten, a crush by one of her closest friends, and a mysterious visitor in town who may or may not be a famous rock star hiding out from the paparazzi.

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Setting
I loved the sleepy seaside community north of Los Angeles. At times, it felt very much like Encinitas, a town only ten miles north of me. Particularly with the the crunchy, granola, hippy liberal vibe I got while reading about surfing competitions, yoga, smoothies, and more. The author created a town that was as much a character in the story as any of her human characters.

Characters
Speaking of characters, they’re all wonderful. Even Jake the snake, as the bad guy. He never comes off as stereotypical, although the author could have easily gone there without ruining the story. Dallas has depth that I haven’t seen in a love interest in awhile, even though the story is told completely from Viv’s point of view. There are times I wanted to shake some sense into Vivian for being “that girl” but the author even acknowledges that, taking away my ability to roll my eyes are her antics.

Ending
The ending is perfect. I love Viv and Dallas and the big romantic gesture was the perfect way to wind up this tale.

Top Five Things I Loved about The Replacement Crush:
1. Hot nerds. What’s not to love about a gorgeous, smart guy that loves all the geeky things you do?

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2. Toff. Viv’s surfing, sorta brother, is loyal, adorable, and a full of himself, and yet I can’t help loving him. I hope we get a book from his point of view soon.

3. First kisses. Viv and Dallas’s first kiss is one of the hottest teen kisses I’ve ever read, without crossing a line.

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4. Bookstores. Viv’s mom owns a bookstore and many scenes take place there, making me feel as if I’m in my home away from home.

5. The ending. Well done, sweet, funny, and hot. A hard trifecta to achieve.

Bottom Line
The Replacement Crush is full of fun, quirky characters, witty banter, and obvious teen sexual tension that is a delight to read.

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 Replacement Crush
Author: Lisa Brown Roberts
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonAmazon UKAmazon CABarnes & NobleiTunesKoboThe BookDepositoryBooks a Million

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Author Lisa Brown Roberts

Author Lisa Brown Roberts

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

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

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

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Where to find Lisa Brown Roberts
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter
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Young Adult Book Review – The Departed by Kristy Cooper

The Departed by Kristy Cooper

The Departed by Kristy Cooper

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
What if someone tried to fake the rapture?

When hundreds of thousands of people disappear in the middle of the night, including sixteen-year-old Gwen’s best friend Lana, no one knows why. Some believe they were taken in the rapture, while others are convinced that it can’t be true. Doomsday prophecies abound that involve horrifying tales of plague, famine, earthquakes, and more.

At first, Gwen doesn’t know what to think. While she is busy mourning Lana, many people around her are getting taken in by the cultish True Believers Temple, including Gwen’s dad and her friend Mindy. It is clear that more and more people are going to be pressured to join this church, as it starts taking over the media and the government, gaining zealous followers all over the world.

Then Gwen starts receiving emails from Lana. She claims to have been forced into hiding with thousands of others in an underground compound. Gwen is convinced the emails are real and the only other person who also believes her is Isaiah, her moody crush. Together they resolve to find out where everyone is hiding and help set Lana free..

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My Review
I love the whole concept behind The Departed. When 300 thousand people disappear overnight without a trace, the world’s Christians believe the Rapture has occurred and they missed the bus. Panic drives people to search for answers, including both religious and scientific. High school sophomore, Gwen, lost her best friend, Lana, in the disappearance. She’s caught between the boy she likes, who’s an atheist, and her other close friend Mindy, who’s trying to convert her to become a True Believer. At home, she’s caught in the middle of a similar battle between her parents.

Plot
The plot is intriguing. The idea of a faked Rapture has so much potential for conflict and author, Kristy Cooper, delivers. The pacing is good and I never found myself skimming. There were a couple of interesting twists to keep the reader hooked.

The Writing
The writing disappointed me. There are paragraphs of exposition that are difficult to get through and far too much telling rather than showing. It’s a good story but could have benefited from the services of a decent editor.

The Characters
I love Gwen. She’s a sweet main character with a healthy dose of skepticism, probably as a result of being raised by a scientist. Isaiah is the potential love interest and self-professed atheist. He comes across as very authentic. And Gwen’s other friend, Mindy, is believable as the teen who turns to religion to find meaning in what’s happened.

The Ending
So the ending didn’t really work for me. It just sort of stopped, nothing really resolved. It’s not exactly a cliffhanger either. In fact, the author includes the first page or two from the next book in the series, and I think it would have been better to end the first book either a few pages earlier, or included the first part of the next book in this story as a cliffhanger ending. I realize that can upset readers, but I think I’d rather be upset than left feeling “meh” after the ending.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Departed
1.The story. It’s a great premise and a good plot.

2. Gwen. I love her perseverance when it comes to finding out the truth.

3. Isaiah. He’s one of the truly good guys in young adult fiction.

4. The cultish religion. The author does a great job of creating a plausible reality with power-hungry crazy religious types as well as logical, honorable believers, who truly believe they’ve been chosen by God for their adventure.

5. The plotting. It was really well done and the main plot points were wrapped up by the end.

Bottom Line
The Departed is a great premise with decent plotting and likeable characters.

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

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About the Book
Title: The Departed
Author: Kristy Cooper
Publisher: Oliver
Release Date: July 6, 2016
Pages: 137
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Kristy Cooper

Author Kristy Cooper

About the Author
Kristy Cooper found herself often contemplating unusual what-if scenarios and knew it was time to start writing them down. She worked as a librarian for years and is now busy raising small children and writing YA novels. Stay up to date with her books at kristycooper.com.
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Where to find Kristy Cooper
Goodreads | Website | Facebook Twitter
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Young Adult Book Review – Valley of the Moon by Bronwyn Archer

Valley of the Moon by Bronwyn Archer

Valley of the Moon by Bronwyn Archer

4 Stars

Synopsis
There’s just one semester left at the Briar School for Girls in Sonoma, CA. But it will take more than straight As for Lana Goodwin to survive . . .

Senior year is not going well for 17-year-old Lana Goodwin. Her father’s vintage car business is about to crash and burn, the nicest (and cutest) teacher at school was fired under a cloud of scandal, and her hot sort-of boyfriend may or may not have something big to hide.

She’s also totally over being the class pauper. It’s bad enough her dad was briefly married to the head of the board—the rich, cruel, impeccably groomed Ramona Crawford. What’s worse is going to school with her vindictive ex-stepsister, who never misses an opportunity to make her life hell. Not ever.

It also happens to be the tenth anniversary of her mother’s suicide. No one knows why Annie Goodwin jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge the day after Christmas. She didn’t leave a note. She wasn’t sick. Even Lana’s father can’t explain it. Ten years later, someone—or something—starts sending her clues about her mother’s past.

Before Lana can escape to college, she finds herself in a life-or-death race to uncover her mother’s long-buried secrets.

Can she claim her birthright before her future and her life are snatched away?

Valley of the Moon is a modern-day fairy tale with some intense themes.

A contemporary YA romantic mystery for ages 16 and up.

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My Review
Valley of the Moon is a young adult page-turning thriller/mystery with a healthy dose of romance and a huge twist I never saw coming. Author Bronwyn Archer creates a stunning tale of a girl caught in the middle of the Russian mafia and a mystery surrounding her mother. There is a thread of the supernatural, but it may not be supernatural at all, that’s part of the mystery. Lana lives with her father, the owner of an exotic car dealership with financial difficulties. She meets and begins dating a hot guy who seems almost too perfect to be true. When her ex-stepmother starts meddling in her life, Lana is sure she’s up to something, but even she couldn’t anticipate how bad that something is.

Plot
The story is well-plotted with lots of suspense. There’s a particularly dark event I never saw coming and couldn’t believe at first, but the more I examined the story in retrospect, the more I realize it’s part of the longer plot, as this is the first book in the series. The author weaves an intricate tale of loss, fear, longing, and revenge with fascinating characters and mind-numbing twists.

The Writing
The writing is fluid and poetic at times. The author does a great job of building tension and interspersing it with lighter moments, allowing the reader to breathe, before building back up again to a breathless conclusion.

The Characters
Lana is one of my favorite young adult heroines. She’s brash, tough, smart, but is still vulnerable enough to make her sympathetic. She’s got a smart mouth and sometimes overuses it, but that’s one of my favorite things about her. The other characters are equally interesting, especially because we never get to really know them except through Lana’s eyes, making them all enigmas that I can’t wait to find out more about in the next book.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. There’s only one thing that rubbed me the wrong way and that’s the ending. It wasn’t a cliffhanger, it just…ended. It was odd and it left me unsettled rather than satisfied or dying to read more. This was the only thing that kept this from being a perfect five stars for me.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Valley of the Moon
1. Lana. She’s an amazing heroine with just enough grit and softness to make her kickass and belivable.

2. Lana’s dad. He’s troubled, but I like him. He puts his daughter’s safety and interests first.

3. The mystery. Trying to figure out what’s going on is half the fun with this gripping tale.

4. The twists. So many things I didn’t see coming kept me turning the page to find out what the heck happened.

5. The cars. Lana has an amazing collection of awesome cars at her disposal. If only the Russian mafia weren’t trying to kill her, she could have really enjoyed them.

Bottom Line
Valley of the Moon is a fast-paced young adult mystery thriller with enough romance and suspense to please nearly any audience.

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

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About the Book
Title: Valley of the Moon
Author: Bronwyn Archer
Publisher: Bronarch Books
Release Date: April 13, 2016
Pages: 285
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Bronwyn Archer

Author Bronwyn Archer

About the Author
Bronwyn Archer is a young-adult author, digital media copywriter, and mother to several children, last time she counted.

At her all-girls high school, Bronwyn discovered a love of writing and the importance of a good fake ID. The only sport she was good at was boogie-boarding, but she decided to hang up her board after a terrifying close encounter with a seven-foot blue shark in the Santa Monica Bay.

She still gets nervous in black-bottomed swimming pools.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in English and Art History, she moved to Paris, where she edited a magazine for expatriates. After failing to become the next Hemingway—despite putting in many hours at the Ritz Hotel’s Hemingway Bar—she moved back to the States, where she developed a semi-successful career in New York and Los Angeles as a copywriter for ad agencies and companies like HBO and Disney.

Now Bronwyn writes fiction and raises children. She’s up to two rescue mutts and four kids, which makes her a semi-freak in this neck of the woods, but she’s learned that once you decide to live your life your way, everything else gets a little easier.

Besides writing and expertly avoiding baskets of laundry that need folding, Bronwyn loves movies from the 80s, comedy, Disneyland (sorry WDW), the paintings of Winslow Homer and Maxfield Parrish, coffee, Paris, Oscar Wilde, hot sauce, the Christmas season, Thai street food, making things with felt, and the smell of freshly printed books.

She is still searching for her own “signature fragrance,” which she’ll know when she finds it. .

Where to Find Bronwyn Archer
Goodreads | Website  | Twitter
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – How to Keep Rolling After the Fall by Karole Cozzo

How to Keep Rolling After the Fall Blog Tour

How to Keep Rolling After the Fall by Karole Cozzo

How to Keep Rolling After the Fall by Karole Cozzo

5 Stars

Synopsis
After a cyber bullying incident turns her life upside down, a handsome wheelchair rugby player shows a former mean girl that everyone deserves a second chance in this swoonworthy new novel from the author of How to Say I Love You Out Loud.

The party was at her house. The photos were posted to her Facebook account. That’s all the evidence anyone needed to condemn Nikki Baylor for a cyberbullying incident that humiliated a classmate and nearly resulted in the girl’s suicide. Now Nikki’s been expelled from her old school, her friends have abandoned her, and even her own parents can’t look her in the eye. With her plans for the future all but destroyed, Nikki resigns herself to being the girl everyone hates – almost as much as she hates herself. But then Nikki meets Pax, a spirited wheelchair rugby player who knows what it’s like when one mistake completely shatters your life. Refusing to judge her because of her past, he shows her that everyone deserves a second chance… and everyone deserves to be loved.

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My Review
This is such a sweet, moving story. Nikki made one bad choice that seriously damaged the life of another girl, and she’s paying the price. It’s hard to feel sorry for her at first. Until you find out she didn’t act alone, but she’s the only one who’s life has been turned upside down. Nikki accepts her punishment but feels it’s unfair that her co-conspirators basically got off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. She spends a short amount of time feeling sorry for herself before she picks herself up and tries to make the best of her situation.

Part of her sentence includes volunteering at a community rehabilitation center where she meets hot, but wheelchair bound Pax. The two strike up an unlikely friendship that turns into something more. But both have big issues to deal with and a romantic relationship will test them both in different ways. These two teens have a lot to offer each other and the world, so when the going gets tough, the tough find a way to do the right thing.

Plot
Once again, author Karole Cozzo brings us a romance wrapped in deeper issues of cyber bullying, teen driving, life changing moments, and discovering who you are underneath it all. Nikki needs to examine her part in what happened and Pax needs to learn how to let someone into what he views as his personal nightmare of being a paraplegic. Neither has an easy path and Cozzo doesn’t gloss over any of it, giving neither character an easy out.

Characters
I love the characters. Nikki goes from difficult to like to someone I root for, even eliciting a few tears from me, and I’m not much of a crier. Pax is stubborn, loyal, and thoughtful, but he’s got his own baggage that he’s forced to overcome, which he does in an authentic way.

Writing
I love Cozzo’s writing. It’s fresh and youthful, and her characters are vivid and real.

Ending
The ending was well done. It’s not an easy path, but a natural culmination of the events and the characters’ journeys, and left me completely satisfied.

Top Five Things I Loved about How to Keep Rolling After the Fall
1. Nikki’s acceptance of her role in everything. She doesn’t try to deflect the guilt onto others, but owns her part in what happened.
2. Pax’s loyalty. His acceptance of Nikki even after she confesses what she’s done is inspiring.
3. Cyberbullying. Shown both through the eyes of the bully and the bullied (separate incidents), the author brings this issue to center stage in a way that make it impossible to ignore.
4. Natural consequences. Both Nikki and Pax must face the natural consequences of their actions. Both of their lives are forever changed in very different ways.
5. The epilogue. Super cute and sweet.

Bottom Line
How to Keep Rolling After the Fall is a story of self-reflection and redemption.

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

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About the Book
Title: How to Keep Rolling After the Fall
Author: Karole Cozzo
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Pages: 272
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Karole Cozzo

Author Karole Cozzo

About the Author
KAROLE COZZO is a school psychologist by day, a wife and mother of two by night, and a writer of YA romance in the wee hours of the morning. She loves camping out at Starbucks, breakfast cereal at all hours, and watching every movie made from her favorite YA books. How to Say I Love You Out Loud is her debut novel.

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Where to find Karole Cozzo
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Book Review –Live Wire (Titan Series) by Cristin Harber

Live Wire Blog Tour

Live Wire (Titan #7.5) by Cristin Harber

Live Wire (Titan #7.5) by Cristin Harber

4.0 Stars

Synopsis
Where Are They Now? on iBooks!

Titan Group is expanding! New recruits mean Jared Westin has potential new hires to scrutinize. What he didn’t expect was his very pregnant wife Sugar to finagle her way onto the surveillance team as the prospects were assessed.

Her involvement in the simple observation goes dangerously wrong. She and best friend Lexi Black stumble into a problem with Russian mobsters. Sugar is forced to draw on her old ATF tricks, but weeks from her due date, she has no choice but to team up with Bishop O’Kane, a potential-new recruit and Parker Black, Lexi’s hacker husband, who must go undercover.

This is special ops novella is packed with high-stakes crime and intrigue, a baby story for Boss Man, and two steamy romances for two of Titan’s favorite couples!

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My Review
As a dedicated member of #TeamTitan, I was excited to get my hands on the latest book in the series. My only disappointment is that it’s only a novella, which means I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time with my favorite badass characters as I wanted to. This installment brings us a very (very) pregnant Sugar, a nervous Jared, Lexie in her first field assignment, and an unsure Parker, who’s none too thrilled his wife is doing field work.

It was fun to see these four characters in a different situation than we’re used to. There’s plenty of suspense and romance, and because it’s a Titan novel, there’s some action. And if I have any complaints at all it’s that the action didn’t last long enough. The situation Sugar and Lexie get themselves into is over too fast for me and was wrapped up without enough butt kicking, shooting, and other action I’ve come to expect from a Cristin Harber novel. But, as I said, it’s a novella, so with limited pages, the author needed to reserve some room for the interpersonal stuff and boy does she deliver!

Plot
As her due date looms, Sugar is antsy to get out and do something and decides some reconnaissance of a potential new hire is something she can get Jared to agree to. She takes new BFF Lexie along for company and backup. Because they’re just doing surveillance. What could possible go wrong? But this is Titan, so of course it goes wrong in the worst possible way, showing us a side of Sugar we rarely see and a side of Jared we’ve never seen.

Characters
I love seeing Sugar and Jared out of their element. They stay true to character, but it’s more that we get to see some serious growth within both of them as they become parents for the second time and the first time to a newborn. Once again, Cristin Harber creates strong female characters that are easy to admire and tough male characters with a soft underbelly when it comes to the women they love.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Live Wire
1. Jared and Sugar. They’re one of the more intriguing couples in Titan, but we got to see a different side to them this time around, and I loved it.
2. Parker and Lexie. The two computer nerds are as cute as ever.
3. Bishop O’Kane. He’s awesome. I can’t wait to read his story next!
4. The romance. There were some pretty hot as well as sweet moments.
5. Pink camo. Because how is that not the cutest thing ever?

Bottom Line
Live Wire is fast-paced with lots of heat, action, and romance.

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: Live Wire
Series: Titan #7.5
Author: Cristin Harber
Publisher: Mill Creek Press
Pages: 107
Category: Contemporary Romantic Suspense/Military Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | iBooks

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Author Cristin Harber

Author Cristin Harber

About the Author
Cristin Harber is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling romance author. She writes sexy, steamy romantic suspense and military romance. Readers voted her onto Amazon’s Top Picks for Debut Romance Authors in 2013, and her debut Titan series was both a #1 romantic suspense and #1 military romance bestseller.

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Where to Find Cristin Harber
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter | Titan Team
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