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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – MEDALLION OF MURDER (Nefertari Hughes Mysteries) by B.R. Myers

MEDALLION OF MURDER Blog Tour

MEDALLION OF MURDER (Nefertari Hughes Mysteries) by B.R. Myers

MEDALLION OF MURDER (Nefertari Hughes Mysteries) by B.R. Myers

Synopsis
Still struggling with nightmares from the past summer, Terry tries to bury her secret guilt and enjoy her family’s first Christmas in Devonshire. But when a murdered man is found with a postcard addressed to her, Terry fears the repercussions from that fateful night in Egypt are becoming a reality.

After she receives a coded message from Awad, Terry and her best friend Maude are thrown into the hunt for a lost medallion, an artifact that possesses a great power—and a gruesome destiny. As each clue leads to more disturbing truths (and bodies), Terry begins to suspect she’s the real target of the search. When Awad goes missing, she becomes certain the Illuminati are involved, and has no choice but to risk losing the thing she cherishes the most to get him back.

But Terry will soon discover the secrets of the tomb cannot be erased by distance or power, because the ghosts of her past are closing in quickly… and this time, they refuse to stay buried.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
While I realized this was the third book in a series, its a mystery and in most cases, you can pick up any book in a mystery series and read it as a stand-alone. That is not the case with MEDALLION OF MURDER. This book builds on the events of the previous two books in the series. While it’s easy enough to follow the plot, a lot of the surprises and twists would no doubt have more impact if I’d read the other books first. With that said, I enjoyed this one enough that I will go back and read the other two books. I recommend reading them in order.

Nefertari (Terry) Hughes is the daughter of a noted archeologist who wants her to follow in his footsteps, but her recent adventures have her longing for a future in law enforcement. She’s haunted by past events and struggling with her role in them. On Christmas Eve, out with her best friend Maude, they run into a situation tied to what happened in Egypt, that launches Terry and her friends into their latest mystery. With a coded message from her friend Awad and a mystery gift, they spend their winter holidays attempting to solve another puzzle with dangerous consequences.

Plot
The plot centers around the mystery, but with several subplots involving Terry’s life choices and her relationships with her friends. The events that unfold are masterfully crafted to keep the story moving at the perfect pace. The clues gave me just enough information to make me think I knew what was going on. With the history of the other two books, I may have figured things out sooner, but I love that I didn’t; it was more of a true mystery this way. There is some paranormal/urban fantasy elements, but otherwise feels more like a contemporary mystery. But those elements add interest and surprising ways for events to unfold. Lots of action and adventure, puzzles to solve, and a bit of romance round out a really nice young adult mystery.

The Characters
Told in third-person, single-point-of-view, I felt at a distance from the characters. I got a better sense of who Terry was, but for the most part, the rest of them didn’t resonate deeply with me. They’re all likable enough, but this is a plot-driven story rather than character-driven so the characters aren’t crucial to me being able to enjoy the tale.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About MEDALLION OF MURDER
1. Imperfections. I loved the diversity of the cast. With Terry’s prosthesis and Jackson’s blindness, the characters’ imperfections made them easier to root for.

2. Mystery. I love a good mystery and this had all of the elements to keep me invested to the very end.

3. History. The way the author weaves in historical figures and events into the story brought a young Indiana Jones feel.

4. Action. Plenty of action and adventure kept the plot from stalling.

5. Zach. As the love interest, Zach was the perfect romantic partner for Terry, making me want to read the first two books in the series so I can see how their romance evolved.

Bottom Line
A young adult whodunit with paranormal and historical elements making this not your average mystery.

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 – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: MEDALLION OF MURDER
Series: Nefertari Hughes Mysteries #3
Author: B.R. Myers
Publisher: Blue Moon Publishers
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Pages: 282
Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Paranormal
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU 

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Author B.R. Myers

Author B.R. Myers

About the Author
Always in the mood for a good scare, B.R. Myers spent most of her teen years behind the covers of Lois Duncan, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King. Her YA contemporary coming of age novel, GIRL ON THE RUN, was chosen by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre as a BEST BOOK for TEENS for 2016.

When she’s not putting her characters in awkward situations, she works as a registered nurse. A member of the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia, she lives in Halifax with her husband and two children—and there is still a stack of books on her bedside table..

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Where to Find B.R. Myers
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebookTwitter

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Giveaway
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Blog Tour – Book Review + Giveaway – REALITY GOLD (Shifting Reality Collection) by Tiffany Brooks

REALITY GOLD Blog Tour

REALITY GOLD (Shifting Reality Collection #1) by Tiffany Brooks

REALITY GOLD (Shifting Reality Collection #1) by Tiffany Brooks

Synopsis
High school senior Riley Ozaki is desperate to change her reality after an avalanche of Internet shaming ruined her life. With her reputation and self-esteem at rock bottom thanks to cyberbullying, Riley needs to do something drastic to repair her social standing—which is why she decided to try out for a reality TV show. Suddenly, she’s dropping onto a deserted tropical island with nineteen other teens for a Survivor-style competition that she hopes will be her redemption.

With a cast of vivid characters who will stop at nothing to win the show, a cursed island setting, and a priceless treasure waiting to be discovered, Reality Gold pitches readers right into scheming web of lies, love, and betrayal. This novel is a fast-paced journey where allies may not be who they say they are, and legends abound. Riley must embrace all of life’s realities, including loss and deceit, in order to discover who she truly is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Wow, wow, wow! What a ride!! REALITY GOLD is a non-stop young adult adventure with fascinating characters, intrigue, secrets, lies, and plot twist after plot twist that made it impossible to put down. Riley Ozaki is a down-on-her-luck teen, whose misfortune is of her own making. When she has the opportunity to rebrand herself after internet infamy, she jumps at it. The opportunity is in the form of a reality TV show, called Reality Gold — a Survivor-style teen-centered show set on a South American island that just happens to be the rumored home to a long-ago buried treasure. Riley has roots on the island; her own godfather, Miles, was killed while searching for the treasure recently and Riley herself accompanied him on one of his expeditions just two years prior.

But being one of twenty kids on an island, surrounded by cameras, may not be what Riley needs. Forging friendships under constant surveillance is tough for a girl who currently has no friends. With everyone competing for the same prize and the chance to maybe hunt for the treasure while they’re there, trust is a valuable commodity that is as hard to come by as the elusive buried gold. When one mishap follows another, cast and crew alike begin to wonder if the rumored island curse is true.

Plot
Outstandingly plotted, this story moves. I loved the attention to detail throughout the story and not just with settings; everything from their surroundings, to the clothes they wear, to micro expressions bring the reader deep into the story. But they also serve as expert foreshadowing of every devious twist and turn the author throws at us.

The Characters
LOVE the characters. I was up and down on Riley throughout. She’d win my loyalty, then do something stupid and make me wonder about her. At least up until the end when she redeems herself as only Riley can. The rest of the cast is wonderful. Perfect. Seen from Riley’s perspective, the reader doesn’t know who to trust either. I had all of my ideas about what was really going on turned upside down so many times, I gave up trying to figure it all out.

Top Five Things I Loved About REALITY GOLD
1. Reality TV. While not one of my favorite things to watch, although I did watch several seasons of Survivor when it first came out, it may be one of my favorite things to read. The behind-the-scenes wrangling is so much more interesting that what shows up on screen.

2. Riley. She was both annoyingly inconsistent and lovably confused about who she was and who she wanted to be.

3. Treasure hunting. Maps, and ciphers, and markers, oh my!

4. Plot twists. So many twists I nearly got dizzy, but each one was perfectly timed, completely unpredictable, and hella fun!

5. Maren. Riley’s teammate and frenemy was one of the most complex characters and I still don’t know enough about her. I hope we get more of her in the next book in the trilogy.

Bottom Line
A rollercoaster ride of action with a mystery tied up with a simple romantic bow. Highly recommend!

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: REALITY GOLD
Series: Shifting Reality Collection #1
Author: Tiffany Brooks
Publisher: Dunemere Books
Release Date: May 22, 2018
Pages: 391
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Adventure
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Tiffany Brooks

Author Tiffany Brooks

About the Author
Tiffany Brooks lives in San Francisco with her family and a bunch of pets, who luckily don’t object to being featured on her Instagram. The best thing about living on the west coast is she can find out what happens on Game of Thrones three hours ahead of air time. That, plus not having winter weather, means she’ll never move back east, although that doesn’t stop her New England family from asking when she’ll be moving “back home” to NYC or Connecticut. Reality Gold, her debut novel, kicks off the Shifting Reality Collection, a YA trilogy..

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Where to find Tiffany Brooks
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
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Book Review – NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN by Peter Golden

NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN by Peter Golden

NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN by Peter Golden

Synopsis
From the beloved author of Comeback Love and Wherever There Is Light, comes a novel about the life-changing journey of a young man who travels from New Jersey to Khrushchev’s Russia and the beaches of Southern France as he finds love and discovers the long-hidden secrets about his heritage.

In 1950s New Jersey, Michael Daniels launches a radio show in the storage room of his Russian-Jewish grandmother’s candy store. Not only does the show become a local hit because of his running satires of USSR leader Nikita Khrushchev, but half a world away, it picks up listeners in a small Soviet city.

There, with rock and roll leaking in through bootlegged airwaves, Yulianna Kosoy—a war orphan in her mid-twenties—is sneaking American goods into the country with her boss, Der Schmuggler.

But just as Michael’s radio show is taking off, his grandmother is murdered in the candy store. Why anyone would commit such an atrocity against such a warm, affable woman is anyone’s guess. But she had always been secretive about her past and, as Michael discovers, guarded a shadowy ancestral history. In order to solve the mystery of who killed her, Michael sets out to Europe to learn where he—and his grandmother—really came from.

Featuring Peter Golden’s signature “vivid characters and strong storytelling” (The Washington Post), Nothing Is Forgotten changes our understanding of the impact of World War II on its survivors and their descendants, and will appeal to fans of novels by Anita Diamant and Kristin Hannah..

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My Review
NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN is currently in my top five favorite books of all time, joining A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, SHE’S COME UNDONE, GONE WITH THE WIND, and MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. At times, the book is a thriller, others a mystery, and still others, a romance, but at all times, it’s captivating, emotional, and incredibly well told. The story opens in Michael’s childhood and reads like a memoir until his grandmother is killed, and then it takes off like a thriller wrapped in a mystery as Michael tries to figure out who killed his grandmother and why. His search for the truth takes him to Europe and Russia where he meets and falls for Yuli, a smuggler and defacto spy. Together they seek clues about the death of Emma, which only raises more questions and puts them both in danger.

Plot
Impeccably  researched, there is as much history as there is storytelling going on between the pages. The story is expertly plotted and moves along at a steady rate. The pace picks up speed at the climax and keeps it up until the very end. And that ending…wow. For me, it’s perfect. Yes, I want to know what happens next, but I don’t need to know. It’s such a satisfying conclusion with just the right amount of uncertainty to allow me to imagine what comes after without feeling frustrated.

The Characters
The characters are a masterpiece. Michael, Yuli, Der Schmuggler…they’re deep, nuanced, and intriguing. Throughout the story, Emma goes from being an enigma to someone fully fleshed out as the reader learns through Micheal’s research who Emma really was. The characters seem so much a part of the era (late 1950s to 1960s), that I never once questioned the setting.

Top Five Things I Loved About NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN
1. Yuli. She was by far my favorite character. She’s so complex, strong and vulnerable, proud with fits of guilt, having lived through the horrors of the second World War, she’s hard to identify with, but so easy to root for.

2. Michael. His optimistic Americanism is the polar opposite of Yuli’s Eastern European post-war hopelessness. His quest to uncover the truth is both reckless and admirable, making him an absolutely fascinating protagonist.

3. History. I love history, but even more when it serves as a backdrop to a compelling story. The author’s meticulous attention to detail made history come alive, leaving me wanting to learn more about the events of that time.

4. The ending. One of the best endings ever.

5. Storytelling. The way the story unfolds kept me glued to the pages, but the characters made me care about what happened.

Bottom Line
One of my all-time favorite novels. I will be reading more by Peter Golden.

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: NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN
Author: Peter Golden
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Pages: 352
Genre: New Adult Historical Mystery/Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon  | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | !ndigo | BAM! | Book Depository

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Author Peter Golden

Author Peter Golden

About the Author
Peter Golden is an award-winning journalist, historian, and novelist who has written nine books and interviewed Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush (41); Secretaries of State Kissinger, Haig, Shultz, and Eagleburger; Israeli Prime Ministers Rabin, Peres, and Shamir; and Soviet President Gorbachev. His first novel, Comeback Love, was praised by the novelist and reviewer Caroline Leavitt as an “extraordinary debut.” Wherever There Is Light, his second novel, was featured in New York Magazine’s Fall Preview issue, widely reviewed, and selected by the New Jersey Star-Ledger as one of the best books of 2016. His third novel, Nothing Is Forgotten, which explores the connection between the Holocaust and the Cold War, will be published on April 10, 2018.

 

Where to Find Peter Golden
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

YA Book Review – SUGAR LUMP by Megan Gaudino

SUGAR LUMP by Megan Gaudino

SUGAR LUMP by Megan Gaudino

Synopsis
Seventeen-year-old travel blogger CC is stuck on a never-ending road trip with her wanderlust-addicted father. When her dad lands the job of his dreams in Sugar Lump—wedding capital of the world—CC finally finds a place to call home. Complete with two quirky best friends and a quixotic guy to crush on, Sugar Lump is more shades of perfect than she can possibly count.

But when CC accidentally overhears the mayor complaining that she has to “take out” a rogue employee for not fulfilling the terms of his contract, the idyllic town’s facade crumbles. Devastated by the possibility of having to move yet again, CC discovers everyone has been keeping a massive secret from her—including her own father.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
CC, a successful teenage travel blogger with a desire to put down roots, is delighted when her father, a renowned pastry chef, takes a job in Sugar Lump, the self-appointed wedding capital of the world. Everything about this magical midwestern town feels like a fairytale, right down to the gingerbread trim on the homes, lushly manicured lawns, and perfect marriage record. No one living in Sugar Lump gets a divorce. Since CC’s mom left them before CC’s first memory set like frosting on a cake, Sugar Lump seems the perfect place to settle down and never leave. So she doesn’t understand why her normally wanderlust father is determined to live in Sugar Lump the rest of his life, while trying to convince CC to go away to college when she graduates at the end of the school year.

The town’s perfection extends beyond the buildings and marital status of its residents. The other “bakery kids” welcome CC with open arms, making her one of their posse from the moment they meet. While CC has experiences to rival almost anyone her age, what she hasn’t had are a group of good friends. Because they move so frequently, she found it difficult to establish close relationships with anyone; never knowing when they’d be moving yet again. And not only are the locals welcoming and kind, but magazine-cover attractive, including super-hot Thorn, who dyes the tips of his jet-black hair grey, just to annoy his mother, who also happens to be the town’s mayor.

But the more time CC spends in Sugar Lump, the more she realizes things aren’t necessarily as they seem. When she overhears something she shouldn’t, she’s determined to get at the truth, no matter the price.

Plot
This was such a great story. The unique plot was fun and fresh, and moved at a perfect pace. The author throws in several twists that send the story racing in a new direction. More than once she caught me off guard, surprising me in the best possible ways, making this one of my favorite books of 2018.

The Characters
CC is delightful as the traveling teen with her heart set on finding a place to call home. Her father is just mysterious enough to keep us guessing, but it’s CC’s friends who steal the show. From the enigmatic Thorn, to gender-fluid best friend Henry, and the picture-perfect Luna, the people CC meets in Sugar Lump are as beautiful and perplexing as the town they inhabit.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About SUGAR LUMP
1. Premise. The concept of a perfect town, even if it might not be as perfect as first believed, is a nice change from all the dystopian I’ve read over the years.

2. CC. Her eternal optimism is such a refreshing quality that I’d like to find more of in young adult protagonists.

3. Sugar Lump. Everything about this town makes me wish it were real so I could visit.

4. Thorn. Jaded with a streak of vulnerability, Thorn is a quintessential teen love interest, but his quirky nature gives him that little bit of extra that sets him apart.

5. Twists. Excellent plotting and unexpected twists, kept this story from being anything but typical.

Bottom Line
One of my favorite young adult books of 2018 and easily my favorite new author discovery.

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

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Excerpt
He moved a little closer, his jeans gliding easily over the leather, and put his right arm on the back of the seat too. Despite looking like he rolled out of a dumpster, he didn’t smell like it. He smelled like Irish Spring soap.

“When did you move to town?”He wasn’t looking at me, or anything in particular for that matter, but I could only assume the question was for me.

“Yesterday.”

“Will you be at school Monday?”

“Yeah.” I wasn’t playing his game. If he wanted to have a conversation with me, he was going to have to look in my eyes and address me like a human being.

“Are you a senior?”

“Junior.” I flashed him a fake smile he didn’t see.

Thorn raked his hands through his thick, gray-tipped hair, then clasped them behind his head. That position only lasted for a few seconds then he lurched forward, resting his elbows on his knees. I couldn’t tell if he didn’t want to be near me or if he just couldn’t keep still. I slid away from him either way.

“Is she always like this? Really, Henry. I know you haven’t known her long but she can speak in sentences, right?”

“Clearly CC has good taste and knows not to even bother talking to you.” Luna’s dislike for him made me think my snap judgement was sound. He was probably some kind of hot, crazy-haired womanizer.

The easy balance of our trio had turned into a volatile quartet. I pulled a curl though my fingers to keep my hands busy.

“Thorn, don’t. Be nice.” Henry said it in a genial way, but Thorn seemed to take it as law. He sat back, flung his knee up, rested his left elbow on the back of the seat, and unleashed the full force of his wide-set, honey-brown eyes on me. They were so clear and so deep it made me wonder if he hadn’t been looking at me on purpose to save me from how cosmic they were.

“CC, it’s nice to meet you. I’m sorry if I scared you or made a bad first impression, but as I’m sure you could sense, my situation was dire. My situation is dire.” His tone changed from confident and clipped to languid and loose, but I couldn’t tell if it was sincere.

“I accept your apology.”

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About the Book
Title: SUGAR LUMP
Author: Megan Gaudino
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Release Date: January 10, 2018
Pages: 226
Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Author Megan Gaudino

Author Megan Gaudino

About the Author
Megan Gaudino works in a high school library by day and on her own books by night. She’s made up of a mixture of black clothing, iced coffee, and a desire to go adventuring. Those things sort of come together naturally to form a writer. She lives in Pittsburgh where you can find her reading, writing, and Instagraming.

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Where to Find Megan Gaudino
Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

 

Blog Tour + Review and Giveaway – TELL ME A STORY (Claire Goodnight) by Jennifer Rebecca

TELL ME A STORY Blog Tour

Welcome to the blog tour for DATING IN THE DARK, the first book in the adult romantic suspense/crime thriller series, Claire Goodnight, by Jennifer Rebecca. See below for information on the book, buy links, and my review. Be sure to scroll all the way down for details on her giveaway.

TELL ME A STORY (Claire Goodnight #1) by Jennifer Rebecca

TELL ME A STORY (Claire Goodnight #1) by Jennifer Rebecca

Synopsis
George Washington Township, New Jersey has seen its fair share of crime and tragedy. Most recently, a young boy is missing from his home and the tenacious Detective Claire Goodnite is eager to find him.

But the case is stirring up old memories best left forgotten. When a blast from her own past, FBI Special Agent Wesley O’Connell, turns up, Claire finds it hard to keep old ghosts at rest. And even harder to keep the sexy SAIC out of her case and her bed.

Claire Goodnite is the best damn detective in the state of New Jersey and you better believe she’s coming for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Equal parts romance and crime thriller, TELL ME A STORY is a fast-paced, steamy read with deep characters. Twenty-nine-year-old Claire Goodnight is a police detective, whose captain just happens to be her big brother. When she catches a case of a missing six-year-old-boy, we discover Claire has a haunting past that has her brother, and FBI agent, Wes O’Connell, questioning her ability to handle it. In addition to a horrific event in her young life, she also has a long history with Wes, which threatens to derail their investigation and her heart. Nothing about the case feels right to Claire, but the deeper in she gets, the more her own nightmares return.

Plot
The plotting is well done. I had my suspicions about the guilty party, of an on, but never completely figured it out. The author does a great job of shaking things up by throwing in twists and turns. There were a couple of things that seemed off to me in a crime thriller, but they may not bother readers who don’t work with the law enforcement community. The pacing was spot on, moving from one event to the next at just the right speed.

The Characters
Claire’s backstory was unique and set up some of the best scenes in the book. While her flashbacks were hard to read at times, they were necessary to fully understand her character. Wes was equally interesting and because of their history, Claire’s demons are Wes’s demons, which made these two a couple that was easy to root for.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About TELL ME A STORY
1. Claire. She’s one part straight-laced cop, one part insecure female, and one part snark, making her unpredictable in the best way.

2. Claire’s backstory. Unnerving and dark, the events that took place in her youth helped shape the detective and woman she’s become.

3. Wes. He’s got a good heart, brains, and Chris Hemsworth biceps. Enough said.

4. Liam. Claire’s older brother struggles with being a brother and a boss and his internal conflict makes him one of the best characters in the book

5. Plot twists. Several events took the story in directions I didn’t expect, which made it all the more difficult to put down.

Bottom Line
A steamy romantic crime thriller with unique characters.

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

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TELL ME A STORY Teaser 3

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About the Book
Title: TELL ME A STORY
Series:  Claire Goodnight #1
Author: Jennifer Rebecca
Release Date: March 13, 2018
Pages: 243
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance/Mystery/Crime Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Jennifer Rebecca

Author Jennifer Rebecca

About the Author
Jennifer is a thirty something lover of words, all words: the written, the spoken, the sung (even poorly), the sweet, the funny, and even the four letter variety. She is a native of San Diego, California where she grew up reading the Brownings and Rebecca with her mother and Clifford and the Dog who Glowed in the Dark with her dad, much to her mother’s dismay.

Jennifer is a graduate of California State University San Marcos where she studied Criminology and Justice Studies. She is also an Alpha Xi Delta.

10 years ago, she was swept off her feet by her very own sailor. Today, they are happily married and the parents of a 8 year old and 6 year old twins. She can often be found in East Texas on the soccer fields, drawing with her children, or reading. Jennifer is convinced that if she puts her fitbit on one of the dogs, she might finally make her step goals. She loves a great romance, an alpha hero, and lots and lots of laughter.

Where to Find Jennifer Rebecca
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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Giveaway
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Blog Tour – Review – YOU WILL BE MINE by Natasha Preston

YOU WILL BE MINE Blog Tour

YOU WILL BE MINE by Natasha Preston

YOU WILL BE MINE by Natasha Preston

Synopsis
Love turns deadly in a new, heart-pounding thriller from Natasha Preston, author of the runaway bestsellers The Cellar and The Cabin.

ROSES ARE RED
VIOLETS ARE BLUE
WATCH YOUR BACK
I’M COMING FOR YOU

Lylah and her friends can’t wait to spend a night out together. Partying is the perfect way to let loose from the stress of life and school, and Lylah hopes that hitting the dance floor with Chase, her best friend, will bring them closer together. She’s been crushing on him since they met. If only he thought of her the same way…

The girls are touching up their makeup and the guys are sliding on their coats when the doorbell rings. No one is there. An envelope sits on the doormat. It’s an anonymous note addressed to their friend Sonny. A secret admirer? Maybe. They all laugh it off.

Except Sonny never comes home. And a new note arrives:

YOUR TURN

 

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My Review
YOU WILL BE MINE is a new adult psychological thriller that challenges everything the characters thought they knew. College sophomore, Lylah, shares an off-campus home with five other students. After the sudden, unexpected death of her parents on Valentine’s Day two years earlier, they’re as close to family as she has, with the exception of her brother, Riley. So when Lylah and her housemates are targeted one-by-one by a serial killer, who may or may not have a history with each of them, life becomes a terror-fueled nightmare to catch the killer before he strikes again.

Plot
The plotting is magnificent. The story unfolds with one terrifying note from the killer after another. Unexpected twists and turns keep the story moving forward, although not at a breakneck pace. Pacing is one of my two complaints with this book. Lylah spends a lot of time inside her head thinking about the same things over and over again, which drags the pace down. And we’re constantly told what she’s feeling instead of allowing us to feel it through her actions. The ending is pulse-pounding, though, and I never saw it coming.

The Characters
This is my second complaint with the story. I couldn’t stand Lylah. She was often reckless and almost always annoying. However, I loved the rest of the characters and that was enough to keep me turning the pages to find out what happened to them. Chace, the love interest, came across as too good to be true at points, but a typical college guy at others, making him a bit of an enigma throughout, which I enjoyed. Isaac, Charlotte, and Sienna were equally intriguing characters and I was rooting for this gang from the opening pages.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About YOU WILL BE MINE
1. The thriller aspects. Nathasha Preston keeps the reader guessing, terrifying us, and ending chapters on a phrase that only makes you want to keep reading.

2. The ending. The author does a masterful job of keeping the truth hidden from the reader, just sprinkling in enough breadcrumbs to never make it feel contrived. I adore a good surprise.

3. Terror. The killings are suitably gruesome to provide shock and horror, without being over the top.

4. Sienna. She was easily my favorite character. Her spunkiness and quiet confidence made her a great foil to Lylah’s dark insecurity.

5. Campus life. I feel as if the author captured college life fairly accurately, contributing to the atmosphere of the story.

Bottom Line
A decent thriller with a surprise twist.

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

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YOU WILL BE MINE Teaser

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About the Book
Title:
YOU WILL BE MINE
Author: 
Natasha Preston
Publisher:
Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: 
February 6, 2018
Pages: 304
Genre:
 New Adult Mystery/Psychological Suspense
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Natasha Preston

Author Natasha Preston

About the Author
My name is Natasha, but most people call me Tash or Tasha. I don’t mind either. I was born in England and have lived in small towns and villages out in the countryside ever since.

My husband, Joseph, is the most supportive person in my life. Without his love, help and patience I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m a proud mummy to two amazing little boys who are my whole world.

At school I drifted through, achieving average grades. I fell into administration and receptionist jobs, thinking that I couldn’t really do anything else.

In 2010 I stumbled into writing completely by accident. I was searching the ‘app store’ and came across Wattpad – an amateur writing site. For the first few months I just read, but then I decided to type out some of the ideas swirling around in my head. I’m so glad I did because I love creating new stories.

Writing gave me an escape and Wattpad gave me the confidence I lacked..

Where to find Natasha Preston
Goodreads Website | Newsletter | Facebook Twitter | Instagram

 

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Forever Blue by Abby Wilder

Forever Blue Blog Tour

Forever Blue by Abby Wilder

Forever Blue by Abby Wilder

Synopsis
I never thought it would end like this.
I never thought it would end at all.
But not all stories get a happy ending.

When Lennon Donnelly moves back to the quiet town of Puruwai, she never dreams that a chance meeting with a boy sitting at the cemetery will change her life. Her best friend warns her about Judah Mitchell. There are rumours that he killed his brother. But as Lennon is drawn deeper into the mysterious boy’s life, the events of his past unravel until she finds herself driving over the edge of a cliff and into the depths of the lake below.

Spanning over two years and starting at the end, this compelling novel tells of the intertwining relationships of Lennon, Ruben, Judah, and Cara. Told from the different perspectives of before and after, the story unfolds like a puzzle and reveals secrets that will haunt you long after you turn the final page.

“Devourable” – YA Books Central

“An unforgettable experience” – Readers’ Favorite

This story contains mild use of strong language and references to underage drinking and smoking..

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My Review
A week after finishing Forever Blue I’m still not sure how I feel about it, and that’s the hallmark of good storytelling. I knew going in that there would be no happy endings. I can tell you that without spoiling anything because that’s right there on the very first page. Readers know from the get-go it’s not going to be a happily ever after kind of tale, but I still don’t think I was fully prepared for the way it ended. Forever Blue is the story of Lennon, new to town after her parents split. She hangs out with her cousin who is completely opposite of Lennon. Lennon is wallflower material, her cousin is the life of the party, the girl everyone wants to be around. No one really notices Lennon or pays much attention to her until Judah. Somehow this tortured boy with a tragic past really sees her. The two begin a strange romance that only gets stranger as the past and the present collide.

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Plot
The plot centers around the romance between Lennon and Judah and the mystery of what happened the year before. Judah knows what happened, but no one believes him, except Lennon. But as she learns more of the truth, she’s shocked in a way she never dreamed possible and everything she thought she knew is turned upside down.

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The author slowly reveals the backstory through multiple points of view, finally giving us what we want to know in the closing chapters. The pacing is a little slow at first, but it picks up in the middle and kept me guessing until the very end.

Characters
The characters are interesting, but one thing they lacked was a lot of differentiation. They were all dark, angry, tortured. It makes sense, they all lost someone, but with so many varying first-person POVs, it would have been nice to really delve deeper into each character and find those pieces that set them apart from the others. They all sounded a little too much alike.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The ending.
 I’m still not sure what to make of it. Not everything was resolved and I’m left with just as many new questions as I am answers.

2. Multiple points of view. I understand why the author took this route and the concept works, but as I mentioned above, I would have liked more differentiation of the characters.

What I Enjoyed About Forever Blue
1. The ending.
 Yeah, I know, I loved it and I hated it. What can I say? It’s an enigma which leaves me conflicted.the-row-gif-3

2. Lennon. She’s loyal and generous, two outstanding qualities in a protagonist.

3. The plot. I loved the unusual twists on both the mystery and the romance plot lines.

4. Twins. As the mother of identical twin teenage boys, I found this part of the story particularly intriguing. Especially since the brothers in the story were so different and mine are so alike.

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5. Symbolism. The author uses symbolism throughout in sometimes unique ways that really tied the story together with the themes so well.

Bottom Line
Forever Blue is a dark young adult romance with a paranormal twist, wrapped in a mystery.

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: Forever Blue
Author: Abby Wilder
Release Date: June 17, 2016
Pages: 372
Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Paranormal Romance
Rating:
 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Abby Wilder

About the Author
Abby Wilder is an author from the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand. She loves stories in all forms; film, photography, music, but it’s the simplicity of written words that she loves the most . . . well, written words and binge watching television series.

Since a love of reading has remained constant in her life, she couldn’t imagine anything better than being a writer so she set out to achieve just that. Abby has one husband, two children, three cats and a dog called Joss.

Girl Behind Glass is her debut novel. Boy in Uniform is a short companion story and Girl Beneath Stars is the final in the Behind Glass Series to follow Willow Stanton..

Where to find Abby Wilder
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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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

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

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 – The Departed by Kristy Cooper

The Departed by Kristy Cooper

The Departed by Kristy Cooper

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

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 – Holding Court by K.C. Held

Holding Court Blog Tour

Holding Court by K.C. Held

Holding Court by K.C. Held

Synopsis
Sixteen-year-old Jules Verity knows exactly what’s in store at her new job at castle-turned-dinner-theater Tudor Times. Some extra cash, wearing a fancy-pants dress, and plenty of time to secretly drool over the ever-so-tasty–and completely unavailable–Grayson Chandler. Except that it’s not quite what she imagined.

For one, the costume Jules has to wear is awful. Then there’s the dead body she finds that just kind of…well, disappears. Oh, and there’s the small issue of Jules and her episodes of what her best friend calls “Psychic Tourette’s Syndrome”–spontaneous and uncontrollable outbursts of seemingly absurd prophecies.

The only bright side? This whole dead body thing seems to have gotten Grayson’s attention. Except that the more Jules investigates, the more she discovers that Grayson’s interest might not be as courtly as she thought. In fact, it’s starting to look suspicious…

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My Review
Reading Holding Court was an absolute blast. The characters are quirky and adorable, the story is hysterical, and the mystery is just good plain fun. Jules has a strange gift that her best friend calls psychic Tourette’s syndrome or PTS. She blurts out things that seem to not make any sense, labeling her the weird kid at school. But her ability makes her perfect to play the Mad Maid of Kent in the Tudor Times dinner theater where she pretends to be a psychic and her blurting disorder is just right for the part.

Her long-term crush and his perfect-in-every-way girlfriend also work there, forcing her to spend more time than she’d like with the happy couple. And she can’t even hate the girlfriend because she’s one of the few people at school who hasn’t ostracised Jules for her PTS. But when bodies begin to pile up in the castle, Jules doesn’t know who to trust and the race is on to find out who’s offing the staff.

Plot
The plot centers around the mysterious disappearing body in the castle, but there is a romantic subplot involving Jules pining for Grayson who has a flawless girlfriend, Bree. The mystery definitely takes center stage, but the romance is cute and sweet and definitely adds to the story.

Characters
The characters are easily the best part of the book. They’re so entertaining. Jules is particularly likeable as the insecure blurting psychic with the crush on the unattainable boy. Her whole family is just as unusual and adorable, as is her best friend, Cami, the only person outside her family who seems to really get her. The colorful characters at Tudor Times rounds out the cast in delightful fashion, making it nearly impossible to figure out whodunit, because they’re all a bit wacky.

Writing
The writing is a blast. Debut novelist, K.C. Held, has a way of storytelling that is engaging and hysterical. Her main character is witty and charming, whether she’s blurting or trying to process the latest calamity to befall her.

Ending
There were a few surprising twists, one that I never saw coming!

What I Loved About Holding Court
1. The humor. There were many laugh out loud moments.
2. The characters. They were all unique and amusing, even the seedy ones.
3. The mystery. The disappearing body added a fun twist to this teen murder mystery.
4. The romance. While subtle, it was threaded throughout the story and kept me wanting to know what would happen.
5. Gran. She was a breath of fresh air as Jules’ temporary guardian while Jules’ mother is overseas on business.

Bottom Line
A delightful teen murder/mystery, filled with zany characters and laced with a sweet romance.

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: Holding Court
Author: K.C. Held
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 352
Category: Young Adult Mystery/Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Barnes & NobleiBooks | Kobo | Entangled

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Author K.C. Held

Author K.C. Held

About the Author
K.C. HELD was born and raised in California with stopovers in Honduras, Mexico, and France. Married to her high school sweetheart, and mom to two avid bookworms, she holds an MFA in costume design and is an accomplished seamstress with a background in opera, theater, film, and television. Although she once spent a summer working in a castle, there were no dead bodies involved.

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Where to find K.C. Held
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Tumblr

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Giveaway
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Book Review + Giveaway – Dog Collar Knockoff (Lucie Rizzo Mystery) by Adrienne Giordano

Dog Collar Knockoff (Lucie Rizzo Mystery #2) by Adrienne Giordano

Dog Collar Knockoff (Lucie Rizzo Mystery #2) by Adrienne Giordano

Synopsis
Catering to the pampered paws set took Lucie Rizzo from unemployed to entrepreneur. With her dog walking/chic pet accessory business on the verge of success, Lucie’s ready to make a name for herself. One not tarnished by her dad’s mobster rep.

When an art deal she brokered between clients turns suspicious, it’s up to Lucie to sniff out the truth. She might not know the difference between Monet and Manet, but Rizzos are no strangers to jail time—and Lucie refuses to be someone’s prison bitch.

Unless that someone is a tall, blond and Irish cop. Detective Tim O’Brien certainly knows how to get Lucie hot under the rhinestone collar. And with her on-again-off-again relationship with Frankie Falcone currently off, O’Brien isn’t shy about making her feel wanted, mafia ties and all. Even joining her crack—or crackpot—team on the trail of two paintings with equally shady origins.

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My Review
The second book in the Lucie Rizzo mystery series picks up not long after the end of the first one, but a lot has happened in that time. Lucie and Frankie are broken up, this time at Frankie’s insistence. Lucie’s budding business of dog walking and high-end pet accessories is taking off, so much so, she’s hired an assistant. Her young apprentice is an art major and notices some famous paintings hanging in the homes of Lucie’s clients, raising concerns about their authenticity. Most of the book centers around this mystery, especially with her on-again-off-again relationship with Frankie in the off position. But the young, hot detective who helped her out in the first book is still hanging around, and his interest in Lucie might not be one-sided.

Plot
The mystery is the main plot and it moves much faster than in the first novel. And while the author lets on pretty early what’s going on, there were a couple of really good unexpected twists. Lucie’s love triangle is a strong subplot and particularly well done. I neither love nor hate love triangles as a whole, but I do loathe poorly executed ones. Luckily that’s not the case here. Both guys have merit and both are easy to love. Lucie’s conundrum is wholly believable.

Characters
I love that both Lucie and Frankie went through some character development in this book. In a lot of mystery series’ the characters are stagnant, but not with this series. The cast is still a lovable bunch of colorful goofballs, but they’re more meaty than stereotypical. Lucie is introspective and knows she has a bunch of stuff to figure out, and it’s great that she doesn’t take the easy way out. Of anything.

Ending
I didn’t seen the ending coming and I’m happy with the way this chapter of Lucie’s life is wrapped up. I’m fully onboard with the Lucie Rizzo Mysteries now and looking forward to the next one.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Lack of grippiness.
 If that’s even a word. I never really felt like Lucie was ever in any danger. It’s a fun read, but a little more edge-of-your-seat moments would have made this a real page-turner.

What I Enjoyed About Dog Collar Knockoff
1. The pacing.
 This second book in the series moved at a faster clip than the first, which made it a fun, fast read.
2. Chemistry. As much as I loved the Lucie/Frankie chemistry in the first book, I can’t deny she and Tim have their own sizzle. Adrienne Giordano writes a really believable love triangle.
3. The dogs. In the first book, I almost thought there were too many dogs. I mean, she’s a dog walker, but I still felt like I spent an inordinate amount of time reading about dogs taking a dump. This time, I actually looked forward to Lucie’s time with them. They’ve grown on me the way my own four-legged friend has. The one we got for the kids who has decided I’m his person and I’ve reluctantly accepted that.
4. Ro and Joey. These two will either kill each other or wind up together. If Joey was taking bets on his own life, the odds would be 50/50.
5. The mystery. The mystery was very different than the first one, and was well executed, which isn’t always easy to do.

Bottom Line
The second book in the series is even better than the first and I’m looking forward to the release of the third.

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: Dog Collar Knockoff
Series: Lucie Rizzo Mystery #2
Author: Adrienne Giordano
Publisher: SilverHart Publishing
Release Date: February 9, 2016
Pages: 221
Genre: Cozy Mystery/New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooksKobo

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Author Adrienne Giordano

Author Adrienne Giordano

About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery. 

She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier).

She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction. 

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Where to Find Adrienne Giordano
Goodreads | Website | Newsletter | Street TeamFacebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Month in Review – December 2015

Two weeks late, but you know, the holidays… Also, some front yard landscaping, and Aussie exchange student for eleven days, and final edits and publishing of The Uprising (which comes out on Tuesday!). Better late than never. Here are the books I read and reviewed in December, 2015.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Story: 4 Stars
Audiobook: 5 Stars

Title: Gone Girl
Author: 
Gillian Flynn
Release Date: 
May 24, 2012
Publisher:
Random House Audible
Narrators:
Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne
Length:
19 Hours 11 Minutes
Genre:
 Contemporary Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
Story Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Audio Production Rating:
 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AudibleAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.

Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Bottom Line
Gone Girl is a disturbing tale, beautifully written, and the audiobook version is one of the best produced I’ve ever listened to.

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Bad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

4 Stars

Title: Bad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel
Author: 
Jen McLauchlin
Publisher: 
Loveswept
Release Date: 
September 15, 2015
Pages:
242
Genre: 
New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Synopsis
In this explosive novel from New York Times bestselling author Jen McLaughlin, a good girl falls for the ultimate bad boy: her stepbrother. Perfect for fans of Sabrina Paige, Caitlin Daire, and Krista Lakes, Bad Romance proves that passion can be so wrong it’s right.

Seven years in the army will change a guy. But after a shoulder wound ends his career as a sniper, Jackson Worthington finds himself back home, fighting a battle that’s all too familiar: keeping his hands off Lily Hastings. She’s still her rich daddy’s little angel, innocent, impossibly lovely, as squeaky-clean as Jackson is dirty. And she’s still his stepsister—forbidden but not forgotten, not after the soul-melting kiss that got him kicked out of the house at eighteen. He couldn’t resist her then. How the hell can he resist her now?

Lily is about to marry a man she doesn’t love, and commit to a high-stress job she hates, all to please the father who controls every waking moment of her life. On top of everything, her teenage crush is back, with a sleek, chiseled body and a trace of the rebellious boy whose lips sealed her fate. Jackson’s timing couldn’t be worse . . . or better. Because Lily’s all grown up, too. She’s aching for another taste. And for the first time, she’s ready to be a bad girl.

Bottom Line
Bad Romance is a page-turning romance about forbidden love and learning to live your own life.

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Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

4.5 Stars

Title: Royal Marriage Market
Author: Heather Lyons
Publisher: Cerulean Books
Release Date: December 15, 2015
Pages: 335
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
Every decade, the world’s monarchs and their heirs secretly convene to discuss global politics and social issues—and arrange marriages between kingdoms. Elsa may be the Hereditary Princess of Vattenguldia, but she finds the entire situation archaic and unsavory. While she wants what’s best for her country, she isn’t about to jump into an unwanted relationship—let alone a marriage—with a virtual stranger. Of course, her feelings matter little to her parents, whose wheeling and dealings over trade pacts and alliances achieved at her expense begin the moment they set foot in California for the Summit. So when a blindingly handsome royal runs into her, she doesn’t hesitate to tell him there’s no way she’s marrying him.

Christian is all too happy to agree: no marriage. As the Hereditary Grand Duke of Aiboland, his main goal is to get through the summit without a bride being foisted on him. Which is why he suggests they help each other field potential intendeds. As Christian slowly gets to know Elsa, though, he realizes they have a lot more in common than just their feelings about the Royal Marriage Market. Only he can’t fall for her, because royal or not, they’re not meant for each other. Elsa and Christian will have to evaluate matters of the heart verses those of state and crown, and decide whether or not tradition trumps love.

Bottom Line
Royal Marriage Market is a fun twist on the contemporary romance genre with plenty of chemistry and more than a few laughs.

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The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer's Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

3.5 Stars

Title: The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus: An Interactive Guide for Developing Ideas for Novels and Short Stories
Author: Fred White
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Pages: 320
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Endless ideas at your fingertips, and at the turn of a page…

Need an idea for a short story or novel? Look no further than The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus. It’s far more than a collection of simple writing prompts. You’ll find a vast treasury of story ideas inside, organized by subject, theme, and situation categories, and listed alphabetically for easy reference. Author and award-winning writing instructor Fred White shows you how to build out and customize these ideas to create unique plots that reflect your personal storytelling sensibilities, making The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus an invaluable tool for generating creative ideas and vanquishing writer’s block—for good.

Inside you’ll find:
•2,000 unique and dynamic story ideas perfect for novels and short stories of any genre or writing style
•Twenty major idea categories, such as The Invasion of X, The Transformation of X into Y, Escape from X, The Curse of X, and more
•Multiple situations that further refine the major categories, such as The Creation of Artificial Life, The Descent Into Madness, Love in the Workplace, The Journey to a Forgotten Realm, and more
•Invaluable advice on how to customize each idea.

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus is an interactive story generator that opens the door to thousands of new story arcs and plotlines.

 Bottom Line
The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus lives up to its name as a unique reference guide to aid writers in developing story ideas.

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Next Door to a Star (Star Series) by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

Next Door to a Star by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

Next Door to a Star by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

4 Stars

Title: Next Door to a Star
Series: Star Series #1
Author:
Krysten Lindsay Hagar
Publisher: Limitless Publishing, LLC
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 185
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon InternationalBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | BAM!

Synopsis
Hadley Daniels is tired of feeling invisible. After Hadley’s best friend moves away and she gets on the bad side of some girls at school, she goes to spend the summer with her grandparents in the Lake Michigan resort town of Grand Haven. Her next door neighbor is none other than teen TV star Simone Hendrickson, who is everything Hadley longs to be—pretty, popular, and famous—and she’s thrilled when Simone treats her like a friend. Being popular is a lot harder than it looks.

It’s fun and flattering when Simone includes her in her circle, though Hadley is puzzled about why her new friend refuses to discuss her former Hollywood life. Caught up with Simone, Hadley finds herself ignoring her quiet, steadfast friend, Charlotte. To make things even more complicated, along comes Nick Jenkins… He’s sweet, good-looking, and Hadley can be herself around him without all the fake drama. However, the mean girls have other ideas and they fill Nick’s head with lies about Hadley, sending him running back to his ex-girlfriend and leaving Hadley heartbroken.

So when her parents decide to relocate to Grand Haven, Hadley hopes things will change when school starts…only to be disappointed once again. Cliques. Back-stabbing. Love gone bad. Is this really what it’s like to live…Next Door To A Star?

Bottom Line
While Next Door to a Star moves slow at times, it’s filled with a colorful cast of young teens who think and act like the kids on the cusp of adulthood they are.
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Book Review – Dog Collar Crime (Lucie Rizzo Mystery) by Adrienne Giordano

Dog Collar Crime (Lucie Rizzo Mystery #1) by Adrienne Giordano

Dog Collar Crime (Lucie Rizzo Mystery #1) by Adrienne Giordano

Synopsis
Out of work and down on her luck, Lucie Rizzo is forced to do the one thing she’s long avoided—move home to her nutty, mob-infested family. A move that brings her back into the tempting arms of Frankie Falcone, the ex that never fails to make her heart sit up and beg.

When Lucie parlays her temporary dog-walking gig into a career making fancy dog accessories, Frankie becomes her number one supporter. Life starts to look like a walk in the park…until three of her bling-wearing clients are dogjacked.

Despite help from the on-again, off-again Mr. Fix-It in her life, Lucie is thrown into an investigation that’s more Goodfellas than good doggie. One that could shatter her new life and her second chance at love.

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My Review
There was much to love about Dog Collar Crime. In many ways, it reminded me of a Stephanie Plum novel minus the incompetent protagonist and unrealistically stupid criminals. Lucie Rizzo is out of work and forced to move back home with her mom and brother. Born and raised a mob princess, Lucie longs to break free of her family chains and make her own way in the world. But after getting laid off, she’s right back in the middle of the family drama, including a father in prison. Her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Frankie, would do anything for her, except leave behind his own mob-connected family.

Lucie makes ends meet by walking dogs and making high-end pet accessories, while she waits and hopes a job in banking comes her way. But when the dogs she walks start being targeted by someone, Lucie begins to wonder if she’ll ever be able to escape that world.

Plot
The plot is a mystery with a strong dose of romance. Finding out who is targeting her dogs and why is the main plot, but her relationship with Frankie plays a larger role than in most other books of this genre. The pacing was slow more than a few times. There seemed to be a lot of time spent walking the dogs, which granted is Lucie’s job, but not much else happened. There also seemed to be some repeated elements. Instead of escalating early, the dognappings stayed sort of the same and the back-and-forth with Frankie felt too repetitive at times. But there’s light humor, plenty of chemistry between the characters, and a couple of twists that redeem the story.

Characters
The characters are by far the best part of the story. They’re fun, quirky, well-rounded, and believable. Lucie Rizzo’s desire to be anything but the daughter of a mobster is tangible and relatable, even if your dad isn’t a made man. Frankie is also sympathetic as the loyal son who has managed to break away from the crime family and flourish in a legitimate job. Even the gangster family members transcend stereotype and are well-developed and three-dimensional.

Ending
I was expecting more from the ending. Although a mystery and not a thriller, overall the story lacked a real sense of peril for the characters. I never felt like any of their lives were truly in danger. The climax left me wondering what would happen to the characters’ relationships rather than if they would survive. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because I did care about all of them and wanted them to wind up happy.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The pacing.
 The story moved too slow for me at times.
2. Repetition. There were times I felt like we revisited the same issues over and over again, particularly when it came to Lucie’s feelings for, and issues with, Frankie.

What I Enjoyed About Dog Collar Crime
1. The characters.
 All of the characters were well developed, interesting, and avoided stereotypes.
2. Chemistry. There was instant chemistry between Lucie and Frankie, but also a great bromance between Frankie and Lucie’s brother, Joey, between Lucie and her brother, and between Lucie and her mom. These relationships all came across as lovingly authentic.
3. The mystery. The mystery of who was behind the dognappings was well plotted, and kept me guessing.
4. Ro. Best BFF ever.
5. Lucie’s mom. She was so beautifully flawed and yet I never doubted her love for her children.

Bottom Line
Dog Collar Crime is a lighthearted mystery with compelling characters and a touch of humor.

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: Dog Collar Crime
Series: Lucie Rizzo Mystery #1
Author: Adrienne Giordano
Release Date: August 4, 2013
Pages: 256
Genre: Cozy Mystery/New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Author Adrienne Giordano

Author Adrienne Giordano

About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery. 

She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier).

She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction. 

Where to Find Adrienne Giordano
Goodreads | Website | Newsletter | Street TeamFacebook | Twitter

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Audiobook Review – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Story:
Audiobook: 

Synopsis
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary.

Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.

Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior.

Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

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My Review
I got the unabridged version of this book from Audible. All 19 hours and 11 minutes worth. At times, I loved the story and took the long way to and from my destination, or lapped the block one more time to continue listening. Other times, I hated it, chose music over audiobooks for months at a time. It took me nearly ten months to finish it. What I can’t deny is that Gillian Flynn is a hell of a writer. The story is intriguing, captivating, unnerving. The audiobook production is among the best I’ve ever listened to, and I listen to a lot of audiobooks. The narrators are talented and brought the characters to life. And what characters they are. Complex, deep, fully three-dimensional, and unfortunately, utterly loathsome.

I absolutely salivated over the brilliant writing of Gillian Flynn, took notes, wished I could write like that. The story was engaging at times, difficult to read at others. The pacing was slow in spots, and those were the times I felt myself less inclined to listen for awhile. At other times, it was fast, riveting. At no point did I figure out what was going to happen next. The plot twists are inspired. So with all of this going for it, why couldn’t I give it five stars? The book left me unsettled, and not in the way a good thriller does. It left me feeling ambivalent toward all the characters, as in I don’t really care what happens to them. In some ways, I wish I’d never read about them. And the ending was flat, not living up to the expectations the author set with her amazing plotting throughout.

Plot
The plotting was fantastic. There were so many twists and turns and unexpected surprises. Gillian Flynn is a master of pre-shadowing. Everything that happens has a purpose that may not become clear until a long time later, but her method of storytelling ensures even the smallest detail is memorable.

Characters
The characters are well developed, believable, stunningly crafted. Even the smallest character was thoroughly developed. I just didn’t care for any of them. Didn’t care what happened to them, and still don’t. But they will not soon be forgotten.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The ending. I absolutely despised how it just ended in a way that felt unfinished. Sometimes, I wonder if maybe it went on longer than necessary, other times, I think it stopped too soon. I just know it feels unfinished and not in a “sequel is coming” kind of way.

2. The characters. Man, I hate them all, with the exception of maybe Margo and Boney. I can’t deny the characters are three-dimensional and wholly realistic. The world is full of people who are difficult or impossible to like. But in the end, I had no one to root for in Gone Girl.

What I Enjoyed About Gone Girl
1. The writing. Flawless, beautiful prose underlies a dark mystery with contemptible characters.

2. The plot twists. There were so many of them and they were so perfectly woven in, they were nearly seamless.

3. The narration. Both voice actors were amazing. This is one of the best audiobook productions I’ve ever listened to.

4. The character development. Yes, I loathe them, but they are so well crafted, I have to remind myself they’re fictional.

5. Attention to detail. The vivid writing made the scenes come alive in my mind as I listened. In some ways, I feel as if I watched a movie.

Bottom Line
Gone Girl is a disturbing tale, beautifully written, and the audiobook version is one of the best produced I’ve ever listened to.

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About the Audiobook
Title:
 Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Release Date: May 24, 2012
Publisher: Random House Audible
Narrators: Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne
Length: 19 Hours 11 Minutes
Genre: Contemporary Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
Story Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Audio Production Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AudibleAmazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Gillian Flynn

Author Gillian Flynn

About the Author
Gillian Flynn is an American author and television critic for Entertainment Weekly. She has so far written three novels, Sharp Objects, for which she won the 2007 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller; Dark Places; and her best-selling third novel Gone Girl.

Her book has received wide praise, including from authors such as Stephen King. The dark plot revolves around a serial killer in a Missouri town, and the reporter who has returned from Chicago to cover the event. Themes include dysfunctional families,violence and self-harm.

In 2007 the novel was shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best First Novel by an American Writer, Crime Writers’ Association Duncan Lawrie, CWA New Blood and Ian Fleming Steel Daggers, winning in the last two categories.

Flynn, who lives in Chicago, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. She graduated at the University of Kansas, and qualified for a Master’s degree from Northwestern University.

Where to Find Gillian Flynn
GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook

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Month in Review – October 2015

October is by far my favorite month of the year. I love when the temperatures, sort of, sometimes, get cooler in San Diego, plus Halloween. But mostly it’s all about the pumpkin. Pumpkin spice lattes, This Pumpkin Walked into a Bar, pumpkin pasta, muffins, pie, and more. I also managed to do a little more reading this month than I did earlier in the summer. These are the books I reviewed in October:

Mad Love 2 by Colet Abedi

Mad Love 2 (Mad Love Series #2) by Colete Abedi

4 Stars

Title: Mad Love 2
Series: Mad Love #2
Author: Colet ABedi
Publisher: Bird Street Books
Pages: 262
Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Heartbroken by the handsome and enigmatic Clayton Astor Sinclair, Sophie Walker has put her whirlwind romance with him in the Maldives behind her and is determined to focus on her career as an artist.

But when her new job in the south of France turns out to be too good to be true, she can’t help but wonder if she is making a mistake. Their passion cannot be denied, but when Clayton shuts her out after a family tragedy, Sophie is determined to fight for what is right. She must defy all odds to find her own happily ever after. 

This book is intended for mature audiences.

Bottom Line
A worthy follow-up to Mad Love, it’s intense, emotional, and delves deeper into the characters we’ve come to know. The jury is still out on whether or not I love them.

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Pepped Up Forever (Pepper Jones Series) by Ali Dean

Pepped Up Forever (Pepper Jones #5) by Ali Dean

4.5 Stars

Title: Pepped Up Forever
Series:  Pepper Jones #5
Author: Ali Dean
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Pages: 180
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
This is the fifth and final book in the Pepper Jones series, and it’s one you don’t want to miss.

Pepper Jones is ready to start breaking some records. She’ll be a junior in college, and if she wants to run professionally when she graduates, it’s time to step things up a notch. This time around, she knows it won’t be accomplished by ramping up her training. While Pepper’s hoping for a race day breakthrough, she wonders if there’s a mental barrier holding her back, and if so, how is she supposed to confront it?

Meanwhile, Jace Wilder wants Pepper back any way he can have her, but he’s reluctant to bulldoze his way into her life having already crushed her once (okay, probably a few more times than that) before. More scenes from Jace’s point of view in the book shed a new perspective into the character Pepper fans love to hate, and hate to love, delving into those layers he’s only given glimpses of in the past.

The Brockton crew is growing up. Zoe and Wes. Jenny and Rollie. Lexi and Brax. Bunny and Wallace. Pepper and ??? It’s time to find out what Pepper’s happily ever after will be.

Bottom Line
A worthy ending to a great series.

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The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

4 Stars

Title: The Rebel
Author: Adrienne Giordano
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Pages: 234
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | GooglePlay | Harlequin

Synopsis
Bad to the bone…in all the right ways

A brilliant civil lawyer, David Hennings has always been the outsider—at odds with his wealthy family, shunning relationships, defying convention as a sexy leather-jacketed biker. Which is why sculptor Amanda LeBlanc agrees to his request to reconstruct a skull from a cold case murder. The instant heat between them is scorching.

But once Amanda takes the job and gets too close to the rebellious attorney, her carefully balanced life is upended by a series of methodical attacks. Someone doesn’t want her to finish the job. Now David will risk everything not to lose the woman he unknowingly put in jeopardy.

Bottom Line
The Rebel is a mystery wrapped in a romantic suspense with a big dose of fully-developed characters.

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How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo

How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo

5 Stars

Title: How to Say I Love You Out Loud
Author: Karole Cozzo
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Pages: 240
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
When Jordyn Michaelson’s autistic brother joins her at her elite school, she’s determined not to let anyone know they’re related. Even if that means closing herself off to all her closest friends, including charming football stud Alex Colby.

But despite her best intentions, she just can’t shake the memory of kissing Alex last summer, and the desire to do it again.

Can Jordyn find the courage to tell Alex how she really feels—and the truth about her family—before he slips away forever?

 Bottom Line
How to Say I Love You Out Loud is an emotional look at finding your own words and the strength to say them out loud.

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How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

3.5 Stars

Title: How Fiction Works
Author: Oakley Hall
Publisher: Story Press
Publication Date: January 5, 2001
Pages: 240
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
In How Fiction Works, Oakley Hall expands upon and broadens the instruction that made The Art and Craft of Novel Writing so successful.

This new book covers all forms and lengths of fiction, probes deeper into every topic, offers new examples and includes exercises and the end of every chapter. He explains the basic and finer points of the fiction-writing process from word choice and imagery to authority and viewpoint.

The book is divided into three sections, beginning with “The Basics.” In this section, Hall explores the micro elements of storytelling, such as details, word choice, images, symbol and metaphor. He then moves on! to “The Elements,” which covers the primary elements of fiction: point of view, characterization and plot. Citing numerous examples from classic and contemporary work, he shows readers how these elements function separately and in concert. Finally, the focus shifts to the specific types of fiction – short shorts, short stories, novellas, and novels – also known as “The Forms.” Each form presents a unique challenge to the writer, and Hall explains how to meet those challenges.

Beginning, as well as more advanced writers, will find much to like about this book.

Bottom Line
How Fiction Works includes sound advice for fiction writers with illustrative examples. It’s definitely worth a read.

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The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy Series) by Amy Engel

The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy #1) by Amy Engel

4 Stars

Title: The Book of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #1
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo BooksiTunesGoogle Books

Bottom Line
The Book of Ivy is a familiar dystopian tale with enough of its own uniqueness to set it apart from the rest.

Synopsis
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

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Review + Giveaway – The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

Synopsis

Bad to the bone…in all the right ways 

A brilliant civil lawyer, David Hennings has always been the outsider—at odds with his wealthy family, shunning relationships, defying convention as a sexy leather-jacketed biker. Which is why sculptor Amanda LeBlanc agrees to his request to reconstruct a skull from a cold case murder. The instant heat between them is scorching. 

But once Amanda takes the job and gets too close to the rebellious attorney, her carefully balanced life is upended by a series of methodical attacks. Someone doesn’t want her to finish the job. Now David will risk everything not to lose the woman he unknowingly put in jeopardy.

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My Review
I love a good mystery. Add romance and instant heat and I’m there. The Rebel pairs pragmatic artist, Amanda, with edgy civil lawyer, David. David comes from a family of lawyers, but he’s the only one to shy away from criminal law, so it’s ironic he’s the one his mother enlists to convince Amanda to reconstruct the identity of a woman only from her skull. Sparks fly upon their first meeting, but they dance around their attraction for more than half the book before anything happens. There was more than enough intrigue, and good juicy mystery, and lots of unresolved sexual tension to keep me invested.

The timeframe is short, so a lot is packed into several fast-paced days, including a red hot romance. Despite that, the pacing of the writing itself is steady rather than intense. It moves, but for me, never reached the I-can’t-put-it-down stage. Not to say that I didn’t find that I wasn’t interested in finishing it, only that I was okay to wait until morning to finish reading. It was a good solid story, though, with interesting characters and an intriguing plot.

Plot
On the surface, it seems the plot is the mystery of the skull found in the prologue, but it’s really the story of David and Amanda’s romance. They’re thrown together because of the mystery, and danger follows them as a result, driving conflict. The romance moves almost too quickly based on the compressed timeframe of only a few days, but in the span of the story itself, it unfolds slowly. But at no time did I doubt these two would end up together.

Characters
The characters are where this story really shines. Adrienne Giordano creates deep, layered characters who are exceedingly likeable as they spew witty banter. The family dynamics of David, his siblings, and his mother are as real as it gets and were at the root of some of the best scenes in the book.

Writing
The author does a great job of setting the scene, getting us inside her character’s heads, and developing those characters. There were a few pacing issues, but nothing major. There was also a pretty good twist I didn’t see coming, even though it was excellently foreshadowed.

Ending
Things wrapped up pretty much the way I expected in a satisfying conclusion.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Rebel:
1. The mystery. When a skull is found, the hunt is on for the identity it belongs to, putting everyone in danger.

2. The flirty banter between David and Amanda. Their attraction is instant and it shows.

3. Family dynamics. The sibling rivalry and revelry between David and his brother and sister is palpable.

4. The twist. I won’t give it away, but it was fun to not figure it out ahead of time.

5. Jenna. The smart, tough investigator is a solid supporting character and I’d love to read a whole book from her point of view. Think Kalinda from The Good Wife.

Bottom Line
The Rebel is a mystery wrapped in a romantic suspense with a big dose of fully-developed characters.

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 Rebel
Author: Adrienne Giordano
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Pages: 234
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | GooglePlay | Harlequin

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Author Adrienne Giordano

Author Adrienne Giordano

About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery. 

She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier).

She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction. 

Where to Find Adrienne Giordano
Goodreads | Website | Newsletter | Street TeamFacebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
There is a tour-wide giveaway of a $25.00 eGift Card to an online book retailer of winner’s choice and three swag packs.

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YA Book Review + Giveaway – The Weight of Guilt by Jon Ripslinger

The Weight of Guilt by John Ripslinger

The Weight of Guilt by John Ripslinger

Synopsis
Driving home from a bonfire party, eighteen-year-old John Hawk crashes, killing his girlfriend, Riley. Bullied and tormented at school, and crushed by his guilty conscience, John transfers to a school on the banks of the Mississippi River, where he attracts the eye of the principal’s daughter, Megan.

Though he’s reluctant, she convinces him to be her prom date. The morning after prom, Principal Jones reports Megan missing. Four days later, her body is recovered from the river, and John becomes the prime suspect in her death.

Charley Cotton, Megan’s best friend, knows that Megan had a secret, but she doesn’t trust John because of his past. John is desperate to avoid adding to the shame he carries for Riley’s death, though—it’s destroying his life.

With Charley’s help, he learns that others in Megan’s life had a motive to keep her quiet. But every effort they make to uncover the truth edges them closer to a desperate murderer with everything to lose.

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My Review
After reading my first young adult mystery a few months ago, I’ve been hooked on the genre, trying to channel a little Veronica Mars, novel-style. The Weight of Guilt delivers. Told from dual points of view, Jon Ripslinger creates believable teen characters who are dealing with a lot. None of his characters have easy, carefree lives. John, one of his main characters, has had more crap in his short life than any kid should have to deal with. Even Charley, who has a decent home life, has to deal with the murder of her best, and really only true, friend.

When John moves to a small Mississippi River town after the death of his girlfriend, Megan, the daughter of the school principal, has her sights set on him. He’s good looking, mysterious, and will piss off her boyfriend, Cole, who she’s pretty much done with. Refusing to take no for an answer, she convinces John to escort her to prom. But when Megan disappears and her body is found four days later, John becomes the prime suspect. He and Charley team up to find out who really killed her, and friendship and maybe something a little more begins to blossom between them. But whoever killed Megan wants John dead, too, putting both of them in danger.

World Building
Small town America comes alive in Jon Ripslinger’s tale. The small tight-knit community, secrets, gossip, and lies all take a starring role.

Plot
The main plot is who killed Megan and it’s a solid teen mystery. Several subplots wind through, all of which include the potential other suspects, and a subtle romance between John and Charley, which is really well done.

Characters
The strongest aspect is the character development. Each character is deep, layered, and complex, adding to the mystery. Even secondary and tertiary characters have depth and in some cases their own story arcs.

The Writing
It took me a little bit to get into the story. It didn’t always read like young adult, but that isn’t a bad thing. There’s very little strong language, and a cast of young characters, but otherwise reads far more like an adult thriller or mystery. And I think that sets it apart from other books in the category. In a good way.

The Ending
Although I kind of figured out who it was before the big reveal, the ending was still well done, and not predictable by any stretch.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Weight of Guilt
1. John Hawk. He’s a fascinating character that I could totally get behind from the opening pages.

2. Anne. John’s sister takes him in and worries about him the way a sister should.

3. Charley Cotton. She’s the plain girl, always in the shadow of her bright and shiny best friend, and yet she has no jealousy. She’s fiercely loyal, strong, independent, stubborn, and a complex, fascinating character.

4. The Police. All the detectives and police officers are well-developed. Although stereotypical at times, not in an over-the-top manner, more in a believable, gumshoe kind of way.

5. Megan. There was so much to like about our victim, I was sorry we didn’t get more time with her.

Bottom Line
The Weight of Guilt is a strong young adult mystery with a side of romance that moves from the opening pages.

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 Weight of Guilt
Author: Jon Ripslinger
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing, LLC
Release Date: February 27, 2015
Pages: 242
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooksKobo | GooglePlay

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Author Jon Ripslinger

Author Jon Ripslinger

About the Author
After Jon Ripslinger retired as a public high school English teacher, he began a career as an author. He has published many young adult novels and truly enjoys writing books for teens. He has also published numerous short stories in Woman’s World magazine.

Jon and his wife, Collette live in Iowa. They are the proud grandparents of thirteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

When not working writing, Jon enjoys the outdoors, especially fishing. He waits patiently for the next “big one” to strike.

Where to Find Jon Ripslinger
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | RAP

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

Never Gonna Tell by Sarah M. Ross

Never Gonna Tell by Sarah M. Ross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Sarah M. Ross

Author Sarah M. Ross

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

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

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

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

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Giveaway
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