Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS by Cathrina Constantine

INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS Blog Tour

INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS by Cathrina Constantine

INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS by Cathrina Constantine

Synopsis
Peace demonstrations, sit-ins, and burning the U.S. flag following the escalation of the Vietnam War are leading to a catalyst known to the world as the Sixties. A musical revolution, flower power, hippies, marijuana, and drugs are carrying the generations—young and old—into a new decade. All the while sixteen-year-old Mary Monroe is caught between being an innocent good girl and an autumn of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

When her brother offers a solution to her dilemma in the form of a little pill, Mary ignores the rumba in her brain and takes a walk on the wild side. Plunged into popularity and a life she’s only imagined, she meets Michael Covington, the hot newcomer, and she’s instantly drawn in by his less than flawless exterior and bad boy sex appeal. Caught up in the danger and excitement as they drift from party to party, into underground fight clubs, and through a series of drug and alcohol fueled adventures. Mary follows her new crush into a world where young girls are never truly safe from the predators lurking in the shadows and where young men are hiding from the harsh reality of war.

Feeling buzzed and as if her life is spinning out of control, Mary is assaulted by an unknown man at a party, and she’s left questioning if the enigmatic Michael is truly her hero or if he is the face behind the terrible attack. With every piece of information Mary learns about Michael, her doubts grow deeper, but with every minute she spends in his presence, so does her love.

With the war and her fear threatening to separate Mary and Michael forever, only the death of a friend, a crushing confession, and her own sensibilities can carry her over the threshold between adolescence and adulthood.

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My Review
I didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. The story is a timeless teen romance that could have been set during any decade. So much of it felt contemporary but with a throwback to the days before cellphones and the internet. Sixteen-year-old Mary has it bad for new hottie, Michael, but so does a girl from her social circle who also happens to be the queen bee. To complicate matters, one of her brother’s best friends has a massive crush on Mary, but her feelings are purely platonic. This creates enough angsty drama even without the backdrop of the Vietnam War. But that simmering tension serves the plot well, and again, there is something very current and relatable about it.

As Mary and Michael dance around their mutual attraction, Mary balances her social status by keeping him at arm’s’ length. Underlying it all is a fear for her brother who is willing to risk the draft by not going to college at a time when too many boys are coming home in boxes. I adored the story and the characters, but the writing was a little strange. There was odd phrasing and the misuse of so many words throughout, it was impossible to overlook. I think a pass by a decent editor could make this a 5-star book for me.

Plot
The plotting was fantastic. The author does an amazing job of foreshadowing everything. Nothing happens without reason and while it’s not a thriller or even a suspense novel, the story still moves at a clipped pace. It centers primarily around the relationship between Mary and Michael, but it also involves subplots regarding Mary’s relationship with her dysfunctional family, her former nerd friends, and the higher social circle she now travels in, thanks to her brother’s relationship with one of the “it” girls at school.

Characters
Michael and Mary are extremely well developed. The rest of the characters are there to support them, but they’re developed enough to be more than just fluff. However, this is Mary’s story, and she’s fantastic. The author handles her homelife in such a realistic fashion, I never doubted for a minute that Mary is who she is in large part because of this.

World Building
Everything from the music to the fashion, to the lack of current technology felt so true to the time. The events took place before my time, but growing up the 80s wasn’t all that much different. We had cars with keys instead of remotes, we didn’t have our own phones, and we certainly didn’t have social media. And even with all of these details painting a picture of go-go boots and harvest gold appliances, there was something very modern about the story that made it easy to identify with.

What I Enjoyed About INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS
1. Mary.
 She was so sublimely naive in a way that made her endearing instead of annoying.

2. Michael. He’s far more complex than we’ll ever know, but the glimpses we see of him from Mary’s eyes is enough to tell us he’s got a lot going on under the hood.

3. World Building. The story both brought me deep into another time and still managed to feel current.

4. Angsty Romance. My favorite kind, done sixties style!

5. The Music. So much of the music of the time served as an undercurrent to the story, including the title of the book.

Bottom Line
I absolutely loved this story and with tighter editing, it could be magical!

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: INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS
Author: Cathrina Constantine
Release Date: March 8, 2017
Pages: 245
Genre: Young Adult Historical/Period Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Cathrina Constantine

Author Cathrina Constantine

About the Author
Cathrina Constantine is the Best Selling author of Don’t Forget To Breathe. Her book won Readers’ Favorite International Book Award for 2015 and The Literary Classics Seal of Approval and Literary Classics Gold Award. Her Paranormal Fantasy, Wickedly They Come has been awarded the 5 Star Seal from Reader’s Favorite. Tallas from her dystopian series received Literary Classics Silver Award and Literary Classics Seal of Approval.

Cathrina resides in Western New York with her husband, five children, two Labrador Retrievers and her cat, Bones. Author @chbbpublishing. Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly. When not attached to her computer, she likes to take long walks in the woods with her dogs, drink way too much coffee, and is an avid movie watcher. She loves music and doesn’t need a dance floor to shake a leg.

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Where to Find Cathrina Constantine
GoodreadsWebsite | FacebookTwitter | Amazon

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Giveaway
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Book Review – Love Target by Heidi Loeb Hegerich

Love Target by Heidi Loeb Hegerich

Love Target by Heidi Loeb Hegerich

Synopsis
Teenager Ingrid Liebschreiber is devastated when her parents move the family from their native Munich to Los Angeles in the late 1950s. Homesick, she accepts a neighbor’s offer to get her a job as a showgirl in Las Vegas. Intent on earning enough money to return to Germany, she must grow up quickly in the neon jungle — where she is pursued by high rollers and headliners, including a vacationing Elvis.

Life’s twists and turns land Ingrid in New York in the Swinging 1960s — where she is romanced by Armand: a strong, quiet, handsome businessman in “construction.” Most girls dream of Mr. Right, and Ingrid’s hard-won independence is challenged when she falls in love.

Will she find true romance — a man who can love her as much as she loves him? Or is “happily ever after” just a crazy fairytale?

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My Review
The book covers two plus decades of young Ingrid’s life over 400+ pages. From Germany to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Manhattan, and back to LA through Vegas, Ingrid begins as a naive teen, a pawn in scheming men’s games, eventually becoming her own woman. The story is engaging, filled with a lot of intriguing characters and historical events told through the eyes of a German immigrant. But the main character, Ingrid, lacks a moral compass most of the time, making it very difficult for me to like her. She’s loyal, but only to a certain point. She  has no qualms about sleeping with married men, although I do think she’d draw the line at a friend’s husband. And yet she has the nerve to be scorned when the same married men sleep with other women who aren’t their wives. Yeah, no sympathy from me, there.

She serves her own ends first and foremost, although, as I said, she is loyal to those she loves. Her mother, whom she calls Mutti, her close friends, the men she’s sleeping with (all of them I’m pretty sure have wives, but there might have been one or two that didn’t), and ultimately her son. But the way she lies and schemes to get what she wants for her and those she loves makes her unsympathetic. However, as much as I didn’t care for her character, I did find her absolutely fascinating and couldn’t help but read her story. I didn’t hate her, either and never found myself hoping she’d get a taste of her own medicine. But when she finally did, I didn’t feel any kind of satisfaction. I just felt sad for all parties involved.

Maybe because I was too young to appreciate the swinging sixties, barely a toddler at the height of it, I couldn’t fully engage in the world in which Ingrid inhabited. I was too young to understand how the Kennedy assassinations changed everything, or the true ugliness of segregation. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading about it.

Plot
This is almost exclusively a character-driven story. The plot is very loose. The basic story question is whether Ingrid will find lasting love before the final page. But there’s a lot that happens in the intervening 429 pages, none of it dull. The story unfolds like a great American roadtrip from the 1970s. You never know what the next day or adventure will bring, but if you’re open to anything, you might not be disappointed. Ingrid’s life wends and flows around curves, introducing her to new sights, experiences, and lots and lots of risky sex, that wasn’t really considered risky back then.

Characters
The characters are interesting, even if some of them are stereotypical. Most of them are rather self-absorbed and egotistical, but that doesn’t make them boring. They’re well-developed and all serve a purpose. About the only thing I noticed that bothered with me is the way they all sounded exactly the same with the exception of the mobbed-up guys in New York. They all had the same speech patterns. They all sounded like Ingrid. And considering she was telling the story and it comes through a filter of bilingualism, it may have actually been intentional on the author’s part, but I noticed it a lot, and it took me out of the story and made me think about it more than it should have.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The story is long and it took me a while to get into it. I really became engaged once Ingrid got into her backstory in Germany. That might have been a better place to start than with her first Elvis encounter.
2. There wasn’t a lot of character growth. It would have been great in a story that was this character driven to have Ingrid grow more than she did. She was less naive by the end, more determined to get what she wanted, but I didn’t find a lot of likeable growth in her.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Love Target
1. The settings were authentic and fantastic. Either the author did her homework or she grew up in that world. After reading her bio, I’d say she spent a fair amount of time in the locales she writes about and it shows.
2. Behind the scenes experiences. It was cool to be able to see what goes on behind the Vegas shows, beyond the glitz and glamor. Those were probably some of the most fascinating parts of the story for me.
3. The social hierarchy. It was definitely a different time back then and the authenticity the author brought with societal stigmas, racism, women’s rights, and even the Manhattan pecking order was really interesting to read about, although it made me cringe at times.
4. The pacing was solid. Even though this was no nail-biting thriller, the story moved well other than a slow opening.
5. Mutti. I love her devotion to her daughter. She’ll do anything for her, as any good mother would.

Bottom Line
Love Target is an epic story of one German girl’s journey across America, from ingenuine to a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it.

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: Love Target
Author: Heidi Loeb Hegerich
Publisher: Forever Young, LLC
Pages: 439
Category: Young Adult/New Adult Historical Romance/Chick Lit
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Heidi Loeb Hegerich

Author Heidi Loeb Hegerich

About the Author
Heidi Loeb Hegerich — whom friends describe as “a hella bad bitch” — has lived in places as varied as Munich, Las Vegas, Miami Beach, New York, Los Angeles, Squaw Valley and Reno. She has worked variously as a showgirl, business executive, entrepreneur, interior designer and real estate developer. She has traveled to six of the seven continents, and vacationed in spots as different as the French Riviera, the Andes and Afghanistan. She counts among her hobbies weight training, shooting assault rifles, and racing sand rails; she found skydiving entertaining but not as much of a rush as other pursuits. A philanthropist for the arts, among other causes, Hegerich is now embarking on her own artistic quest as an author. Love Target is Heidi’s debut novel..

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Where to find Heidi Loeb Hegerich
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitte
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Return Once More (The Historians) by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More Blog Tour

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

Synopsis
If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.

If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?

Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroy more than just her new romance.

Or would you have the strength to watch him die?

But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

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My Review
I’m a sucker for time travel. Young adult time traveling romances? Yeah, that’s like my trifecta right there, so I eagerly snatched up this gem from talented author, Trisha Leigh. I was sucked into her Cavey Files, and had high hopes for her take on the time travel genre. This is such a unique twist that it really stands apart from any other I’ve read. The book is set in the future, after Earth’s destruction. Kaia is a Historian, someone who travels back through time to study historic events and learn so they can avoid making the mistakes that led to the demise of Earth.

One of the side benefits of their futuristic science and technology is they’ve discovered they can identify everyone’s soul mate. The one person who is your perfect romantic partner, regardless of when and where they were born, even if the soul mates were never destined to meet. It’s mostly just something done for fun, but when Kaia learns of her soul mate, she breaks all the rules to meet him. Just to find out what it would feel like to see the boy who is her perfect match. The love-at-first-sight aspect of this plot point requires a little faith on the part of the reader, but it’s not so over the top given that they’re soul mates.

I really only have two problems with the book that kept it from being a full five stars. The first is that it takes awhile to develop. I picked it up and put it down several times before I got to that point where I was thoroughly engrossed. The second is that it ends in a cliffhanger. I’m not a big fan of those, particularly when there is a long wait for the next book.

Plot
The plot is intricate and layered, with a lot going on. Since this is the first in a series, many questions are left unanswered, but everything does move forward. Some to conclusion, others not. And because of the cliffhanger ending, a huge question is raised in the very last sentence of the book. Other than a slow start, the plotting keeps up a steady pace through the middle until the end.

Characters
Kaia, her soul mate, and Oz, another historian, are well-developed and interesting. I got much less of a sense of the rest of the characters, though. But, because the plot centers on these three, it’s important that they’re fully fleshed out, and they are. I had a hard time connecting with Kaia in the beginning, but as the story unfolded, she becomes more likable and sympathetic and by the end, I was twisted up inside for her. Her choice is heartbreaking and I felt her pain and anguish as she struggled to find the right path.

The Ending
Aside from the cliffhanger aspect, the ending is gut-wrenching, emotional, and wraps up many of the plot lines, leaving more for the next book.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed about Return Once More:
1. Time travel. I never get tired of this genre.

2. Oz. He’s a tough egg to crack and I can’t wait to find out more about him.

3. Scene setting. Trisha Leigh does an incredible job of painting such a vivid picture of the scenes, it’s hard not to believe you’re actually there..

4. Forbidden love. In a unique twist on a common trope, this is one of the most well-done subplots in the book.

5. Impossible choices. Never knowing what was going to happen kept me turning the pages.

Bottom Line
Return Once More is an engaging time travel scifi romance with an intricate plot and intriguing characters.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher. This in no way influences my review.

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About the Book
Title
: Return Once More
Series: The Historians #1
Author: Trisha Leigh
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Pages: 289
Category: Young Adult SciFi/Time Travel/Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes and Noble | Bloomsbury

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Trisha LeighAbout the Author
Trisha Leigh is a product of the Midwest, which means it’s pop, not soda, garage sales, not tag sales, and you guys as opposed to y’all. Most of the time. She’s been writing seriously for five years now, and has published 4 young adult novels and 4 new adult novels (under her pen name Lyla Payne). Her favorite things, in no particular order, include: reading, Game of Thrones, Hershey’s kisses, reading, her dogs (Yoda and Jilly), summer, movies, reading, Jude Law, coffee, and rewatching WB series from the 90’s-00’s.

Her family is made up of farmers and/or almost rock stars from Iowa, people who numerous, loud, full of love, and the kind of people that make the world better. Trisha tries her best to honor them, and the lessons they’ve taught, through characters and stories—made up, of course, but true enough in their way.

Trisha is the author of THE LAST YEAR series and the WHITMAN UNIVERSITY books. She’s represented by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Where to find Trisha Leigh
Website | Goodreads Facebook Twitter Tumblr Pinterest

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Giveaway
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Book Review – The Duke’s Daring Debutante by Ann Lethbridge

The Duke's Daring Debutante by Ann Lethbridge

The Duke’s Daring Debutante by Ann Lethbridge

Synopsis
Disgraced by His Grace!

Frederick, Duke of Falconwood, has vowed never to marry, instead dedicating himself to protecting his country.

But when he’s caught in a very compromising position with a coquettish debutante, Freddy does the only thing that will salvage her reputation—he proposes marriage!

Even though Minette Rideau craves the stoic duke’s touch, she knows she can’t become his wife.

For giving in to her desires will reveal a shameful secret, putting much more than her virtue in jeopardy…

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My Review
Other than the Outlander series, this is my first historical romance, and if this is what the genre is about, sign me up for more! The Duke’s Daring Debutante was equal parts romance and intrigue. When French debutante Minette Rideau has her sights set on retrieving something personal from a man named Moreau, she needs Freddy, the Duke of Falconwood, to help her. With his connections, he can get her into places she can’t go alone.

When they’re discovered in a compromising situation, Freddy’s sense of honor has him proposing to Minette, and her reputation and need to get to Moreau first, have her accepting. But what should be a relationship of convenience becomes something much more, making things more complicated than ever.

Plot
There are two main plots running in parallel, twisting and intertwining, becoming one. The first is the search for Moreau. Both Minette and Freddy are after him for very different reasons. The second plot line is the romance. But the two become one with the staged betrothal. Their common goal forces them to spend time together, and feelings of lust and longing become something more.

World Building
I’m not even sure exactly when the story takes place, although I suppose if I knew my British and French history, it would probably be clear. My best guess would be somewhere in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, but I don’t think the year is all that important. What matters are the details the author brings to the book, the cultural differences between France and England, the political implications, the societal norms for the day, and those are all vividly woven into the story.

Characters
I found all of the characters to be well-developed, and Minette and Freddy, especially so. Their growth over a short time felt rushed at times, but not so much that it didn’t ring true. Minette is bold, clever, loyal, and loving, making her quite complex. Freddy harbors deep wounds from a painful past that have him keeping everyone at arms’ length. Watching these two break down one another’s walls was quite satisfying.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Duke’s Daring Debutante
1. Minette. She’s wild and free, strong, independent, and not afraid to go after what she wants. Minette is a woman who transcends time and genre.

2. Freddy. He’s got a dark side, but watching him twist the dark and light sides together and seeing the light win was fun.

3. Nicky and Gabe. They are the perfect couple. I’d love to read their story some day.

4. Ballroom Dancing. It never gets old, no mater the century.

5. Espionage. I loved this thread in the story and only wish there was more of it.

Bottom Line
The Duke’s Daring Debutante was a thoroughly engaging read, one that has whetted my appetite for more historical fiction.

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: The Duke’s Daring Debutante
Author: Ann Lethbridge
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Pages: 288
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Ann Lethbridge

Author Ann Lethbridge

About the Author
An army brat born in England and now living in Canada, Ann grew up loving history, but majored in business, with history on the side. She has a husband and two lovely daughters and a Maltese Terrier called Teaser, who likes to sit on a chair beside the computer while she works.

Her love of the past and the stories in her imagination led her to write her first novel in 2000, a never-see-the-light-of-day-effort, and after having her first book published in 2006, she knew she’d found her niche.

She loves the Georgian era, and within that, the period known as the long Regency. She also adores happy endings.

You will find her books in bookstores in the month of issue, as well as on line at Mills and Boon or E-harlequin.

Where to Find Ann Lethbridge
Goodreads | Website | Twitter
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