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Young Adult Book Review – FIND ME THEIR BONES (Bring Me Their Hearts) by Sara Wolf

FIND ME THEIR BONES (Bring Me Their Hearts #2) by Sara Wolf

FIND ME THEIR BONES (Bring Me Their Hearts #2) by Sara Wolf

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
No one can save her.

In order to protect Prince Lucien d’Malvane’s heart, Zera had to betray him. Now, he hates the sight of her. Trapped in Cavanos as a prisoner of the king, she awaits the inevitable moment her witch severs their magical connection and finally ends her life.

But fate isn’t ready to give her up just yet.

With freedom coming from the most unlikely of sources, Zera is given a second chance at life as a Heartless. But it comes with a terrible price. As the king mobilizes his army to march against the witches, Zera must tame an elusive and deadly valkerax trapped in the tunnels underneath the city if she wants to regain her humanity.

Winning over a bloodthirsty valkerax? Hard. Winning back her friends before war breaks out? A little harder.

But a Heartless winning back Prince Lucien’s heart?

The hardest thing she’s ever done.

 

 

 

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My Review
WARNING: Spoilers for book 1!
I enjoyed this book more than the first one. The angsty romance tugged at my heart, but what really grabbed me was Zera’s growth. Sure, she continued to struggle with trust, and there were times I was frustrated with her backsliding, but she was still in a two steps forward one step back mode, making steady, albeit slow progress. Having accidentally said the name of her witch at the end of the first book, Princess Varia has become Zera’s new witch and has a new goal for her if Zera wants her heart back. A task that seems nearly impossible — she must teach the valkerax below the city to weep, the way she did. A beast so huge, dangerous, and angrily delusional, she can barely understand it, much less teach it anything. But she will do anything to get her heart back, even die over and over again.

Lucien hates her, Fione is terrified of her, and the only people she considers family are in the wind. Zera has no choice but to do Varia’s bidding. She’s singly-focused on her task, but as she so often laments, her unheart betrays her with feelings for Lucien. The thing is, as much as he wants her to believe otherwise, it’s so clear he still has feelings for her, too. There doesn’t seem to be any happy endings for this pair, but finding out what happens to them kept me turning the pages.

Plot
Similar to book one, the plot revolves around Zera completing the necessary task to get her heart back. What’s different this time is who has her heart, the task she’s been ordered to complete, and the reasons behind it. Varia believes if she gets what she wants, she’ll be able to stop the impending war. While similar to her original goals, this one comes with a lot of caveats and new dangers. Numerous subplots are expertly woven throughout, and we learn more about the world that the characters inhabit. Just as vivid as the first book, FIND ME THEIR BONES builds upon what we already know, bringing new scenes to life and divulging new secrets that underpin the world Sara Wolf has crafted.

Characters
I love everyone’s growth in this installment. Zera’s feels the most drastic, but Lucien, Malachite, and even Fione have significant growth as the come to terms with Zera’s heartlessness. Varia on the other hand seems to devolve through the book, becoming less stable and more maniacal as things come to a head at the end. But with all of Sara Wolf’s books, the characters are just as fascinating, developed, and enduring as ever.

What I Loved About FIND ME THEIR BONES
1. Zera.
 She really grew on me more throughout this book. I liked her in the first book, but by the middle of this one, I LOVED her. She’s determined, loyal, and strong, without ever losing her snarky streak.

2. Valkerax. The giant, white, feathery, scaly wyrm with six eyes won my heart with its overwhelming pain and longing to be free.

3. Lucien. The prince with a heart of gold is just as swoony as ever, but he’s a little extra so this time around.

4.Princess Varia. She’s both an antagonist and a protagonist, in a sense. While it’s Zera’s story, Varia has her own arc and the book wouldn’t be as amazing without her. But her wounds and desires and driving need to prevent war makes her someone to root for.

5. World Building. The author continues to unveil a fantastic fantasy world with rich details and stunning cinematography in written form.

Bottom Line
Teenage angst, a gripping adventure, and phenomenal world building collide with epic results.

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About the Book
Title: FIND ME THEIR BONES
Series: Bring Me Their Hearts #2
Author: Sar Wolf
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound | BAM!

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Author Sara Wolf

Author Sara Wolf

About the Author
Sara Wolf is a twenty-something author who adores baking, screaming at her cats, and screaming at herself while she types hilarious things.

When she was a kid, she was too busy eating dirt to write her first terrible book. Twenty years later, she picked up a keyboard and started mashing her fists on it and created the monster known as the Lovely Vicious series.

She lives in San Diego with two cats, a crippling-yet-refreshing sense of self-doubt, and not enough fruit tarts ever.

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Where to Find Sara Wolf
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Book Review + Giveaway – THE PRINCESS PROBLEM (Unexpectedly Royal) by Christi Barth

THE PRINCESS PROBLEM Blog Tour

THE PRINCESS PROBLEM (Unexpectedly Royal #) by Christi Barth

THE PRINCESS PROBLEM (Unexpectedly Royal #1) by Christi Barth

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
What girl doesn’t want to wear a tiara? Me. The one who lives in yoga pants and knows she’s not special enough to be a princess.

One minute I’m starting my dream life in NYC, and the next, a man too hot for his own good is banging on my door, telling me that I’m a long lost princess of a country on the other side of the Atlantic.

Not exactly your typical Friday night in the Big Apple.

Suddenly, all of my plans for the future are yanked away. I’m trapped in a life filled with social obligations—and stilettos!—and an uptight royal family I didn’t know existed. They, and the whole rest of the freaking country, have lofty expectations I’m not sure I can meet.

At least the aforementioned sexalicious man, Elias, is my constant shadow, protecting me with his life. The whole situation is overwhelming. So I’ve secretly put him in charge of my happiness, too…and he’s taking my orders very, very seriously.

So seriously, I’m falling for him even harder than the new country I’m coming to…maybe…love.

And that’s a major problem, because he’s crazy about me, too. I may not know all the zillion rules about being royal, but I know one for sure: No way can a princess date her bodyguard…

Each book in the Unexpectedly Royal series is STANDALONE:
* The Princess Problem
* Ruling the Princess

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My Review
Kelsey and her big sister Mallory have just moved to the Big Apple, NYC, Manhattan, and are ready to live the dream they’ve been planning and saving up for for nearly a decade. After finally moving into their tiny apartment, they begin to unpack and dive into life in the big city at full steam when a knock on the door changes everything. Kelsey’s world is upended when she’s told she’s the long-lost daughter of the king of a small country nestled near the Italian coastline. A country she’s never heard of. They tell her she was kidnapped as an infant, something that makes no sense to Kelsey, who grew up in a very decidedly middle class family that was perfectly average in every way. She never had even a hint that she was a) adopted or b) kidnapped. None of it makes any sense to her or Mallory. And the fact that she can’t reach her parents, only makes matters worse when government officials from Moncriano want her to return to her home country. Elias, her self-described body guard is as hot as he is foreign, only muddying the waters further.

Kelsey not only needs to navigate royal life, bond with a family she’s never known, come to terms with her past, but also decide in two weeks if she’s ready to embrace her true identity and give up the only way of life she’s ever known. Yeah, no pressure there.

Plot
Kelsey must embrace her true roots or not. That’s the heart of the story. But the romance with Elias is a strong subplot. Her journey throws a lot of obstacles in her way, not the least of which is getting to know her royal family. With her birth mother having already died, her father, the king, is struggling with embracing the daughter he believed gone forever. She has a brother for the first time ever, but also an older sister who seems to hate her. The fact that Elias is her subject as well as her employee makes any relationship completely off limits. Which of course only makes the sparks fly hotter.

My biggest problem with this book is that Kelsey seems to take it all in stride. The fact that she’s willing to just go with the hot stranger without verifying anything for herself, that she’s not more distraught over her past and secrets withheld from her, ate away at me at a low level as she meets her “real” family. She mentions a few times in passing that her parents weren’t kidnappers, but this should have been driving some serious low-level angst in everything she does. Instead, less than 20% in, she’s snogging her security detail in the garden instead of having an identity crisis of epic proportions. But if you can overlook this for the sake of convenience, it’s a lighthearted take on what it’s like to be unexpectedly thrust into royal life, like a grown-up THE PRINCESS DIARIES. It’s definitely a fun, fast read.

Characters
The characters aren’t terribly deep, but they are fun, and not stereotypical. Kelsey is delightful as the reluctant royal and her sister, Mallory, is hysterical as her partner in crime. I love Kelsey’s loyalty to Mallory as well as her sense of duty to both her families. Elias is honor-bound and full of principle. Princess Genevieve is so relatable as the older sister whose entire life has been shaped by Kelsey’s kidnapping and is struggling with yet the latest upheaval in her relatively short life. Prince Christian is adorable as the loving older brother who has no idea how to interact with his youngest sister. I was totally pulling for a Christian/Mallory side romance. The rest of the characters are there to provide humor and conflict and do their jobs well. There really isn’t a whole lot for any of them to overcome on a deep level, leaving this more plot-based than character-based and that’s perfect for a romantic comedy.

What I Enjoyed About THE PRINCESS PROBLEM
1. Royalty.
 Sure, Americans don’t have our own royalty, in fact if anything we’re anti-royal since our whole country was founded on bucking the monarchy, but it’s still fun to get a behind-the-scenes reminder of why being a princess would suck on almost every level.

2. Elias. Not only is he yummy to look at, but his sense of duty and honor makes him nearly irresistible.

3. Christian. He walks a fine line between the duties of heir to the throne and that of an adoring older brother with class, humor, and intense hotness.

4. Mallory. Kelsey is her sister. She always has been and she always will be, regardless of Kelsey’s royal status. I love how nothing changes for her when it comes to her little sister.

5. Politics. I’ll admit, I didn’t really expect that in this story, but it plays into everything, although with a light touch by the author. It adds intrigue that would otherwise be missing.

Bottom Line
A super fun, lighthearted royal 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:
THE PRINCESS PROBLEM
Series: Unexpectedly Royal #1
Author: Christi Barth
Publisher: Entangled Amara
Release Date: November 18, 2019
Genre:
 Adult Contemporary Romance/Romantic Comedy
Pages: 395
Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUAmazon DE | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Christi Barth

Author Christi Barth

About the Author
USA TODAY bestseller Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes award-winning contemporary romance.

Christi can always be found either whipping up gourmet meals (for fun, honest!) or with her nose in a book. She lives in Maryland with the best husband in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to Find Christi Barth
Goodreads │ Website | NewsletterFacebook │Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Young Adult Book Review – SICK KIDS IN LOVE by Hannah Moskowitz

SICK KIDS IN LOVE by Hannah Moskowitz

SICK KIDS IN LOVE by Hannah Moskowitz

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s easier–
It’s safer–
It’s better–
–for the other person.
She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.
He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s complicated–
It’s dangerous–
It’s never felt better–
–to consider breaking that rule for him.

 

 

 

 

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My Review
There are few young adult contemporary romances that really make me think in a new way, but SICK KIDS IN LOVE did just that. My own three children suffer from an autoimmune disease that is nowhere near as severe as what Ibby and Sasha have, but it does impact their lives, since it affects what they can eat, something they do three times a day. It was refreshing to read about teens who live a life in spite of, as well as under the constant influence of, a chronic illness. Add to that both main characters are Jewish, and this is a story unlike anything else I’ve read. I’ll admit that I was worried at first. I mean the title leaves a lot open-ended. How sick? Will one or both of them die? But I’m pleased to report, without spoiling anything since the author has freely admitted this publicly, NO ONE DIES!

Isabel has rheumatoid arthritis, requiring her to get regular fusions. At one of these visits, she meets Sasha, a charming boy with gaucher disease. The two flirt, but Ibby has a no-dating policy for reasons that become clear about mid-way through the book. Her father is chief physician in the same hospital, so she spends a lot of time there, not only visiting him, but volunteering one day a week. This creates a collision course between Sasha and Ibby, sooner rather than later, and an instant friendship develops. It’s clear Sasha wants more, but Ibby holds firmly to her no-dating rule. But the more time they spend together, the more obvious it is that she feels more than just friendship for this boy. Witty banter and obvious chemistry gets the reader rooting for these two to end up together. But Sasha and Ibby have deep issues they’ll both need to overcome if they can be more than friends.

Plot
The heart of the story is the relationship between Ibby and Sasha. Feelings develop slowly, though the attraction is immediate. The friendship flourishes because they have more in common than just their respective illnesses. But there are also huge differences that drive most of the conflict. Ibby is rigid and deeply wounded. Sasha is easy going and eager to please. This makes things between them seamless at first, but ultimately comes between them. There is a HUGE twist I never saw coming that turns Ibby’s world upside down. It could have become a cliche, but instead the author uses it as a catalyst for Ibby to see her flaws in a new light rather than turning it into a huge angsty situation creating drama for the sake of drama.

Characters
The characters are so deeply drawn and real in every sense. Ibby has deep wounds, the origins of which are revealed slowly. She’s forced to face the reasons she refuses to date as her feelings for Sasha grow, but her transformation isn’t complete for a long time. In fact, like all humans, she continues to be a work in progress through the end. We learn that Sasha is more than just a light-hearted guy who lets everything roll off him. One of the best ways the author lets us inside the minds of her characters in a story told from a single point of view is through Ibby’s high school newspaper column. She asks people around her a variety of questions and we get to learn who they are through their answers.

What I Loved About SICK KIDS IN LOVE
1. New York City.
 Both kids live in the city in small apartments and take the subway to get around. The setting is as much a part of the story as the characters.

2. Sasha. I love his outlook and positive attitude and the way he’s honest, open, and caring.

3. Ibby. She’s had so much to deal with in her short life, and while she lets it get to her at times, she’s determined to rise above it.

4. Reality. The author paints a portrait of the daily lives of those living with a chronic illness, neither romanticizing it in any way, nor making it more depressing than it needs to be. This is life for so many Americans, and it’s an honest portrayal of their normal.

5. Friends. Ibby’s friends, all healthy teens, play various roles in her journey. Their responses to her illness and her relationship with Sasha give readers an opportunity to see how our responses as healthy people impact those with chronic illness without coming across as preachy.

Bottom Line
An honest, heartfelt story of teens who are anything but average, doing their best to live average lives.

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About the Book
Title: SICK KIDS IN LOVE
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Pages: 3o0
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound | BAM!

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Author Hannah Moskowitz

Author Hannah Moskowitz

About the Author
Hannah Moskowitz wrote her first story, about a kitten named Lilly on the run from cat hunters, for a contest when she was seven years old. It was disqualified for violence. Her first book, BREAK, was on the ALA’s 2010 list of Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, and in 2013, GONE, GONE, GONE received a Stonewall Honor. 2015’s NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED was named the YA Bisexual Book of the Year. She’s also the co-author of GENA/FINN with Kat Helgeson and has contributed to several anthologies. She lives in Maryland with several cats, none of whom are violent.

 

 

 

 

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Where to Find Hannah Moskowitz
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Young Adult Book Review – BRING ME THEIR HEARTS by Sara Wolf

BRING ME THEIR HEARTS (Bring Me Their Hearts #1) by Sara Wolf

BRING ME THEIR HEARTS (Bring Me Their Hearts #1) by Sara Wolf

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Zera is a Heartless – the immortal, unageing soldier of a witch. Bound to the witch Nightsinger ever since she saved her from the bandits who murdered her family, Zera longs for freedom from the woods they hide in. With her heart in a jar under Nightsinger’s control, she serves the witch unquestioningly.

Until Nightsinger asks Zera for a Prince’s heart in exchange for her own, with one addendum; if she’s discovered infiltrating the court, Nightsinger will destroy her heart rather than see her tortured by the witch-hating nobles.

Crown Prince Lucien d’Malvane hates the royal court as much as it loves him – every tutor too afraid to correct him and every girl jockeying for a place at his darkly handsome side. No one can challenge him – until the arrival of Lady Zera. She’s inelegant, smart-mouthed, carefree, and out for his blood. The Prince’s honor has him quickly aiming for her throat.

So begins a game of cat and mouse between a girl with nothing to lose and a boy who has it all.

Winner takes the loser’s heart.

Literally.

 

 

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My Review
I loved the heck out of this book. It’s so different from what I usually read, but Sara Wolf. So I gave it a try, and I was hooked from the opening chapter. We’re thrust deep into the action before being throw back a few days to get the backstory. Zera is a heartless. All I knew about heartless was what I learned watching Once Upon a Time, so I had to toss all my preconceived notions and dive into this very different world Wolf has created. As a heartless, Zera has no life of her own; she’s consumed by a hunger that can never be satisfied and is responsible for keeping her witch, Nightsinger, safe. Nightsinger is not a typical witch though, and she seems to have real affection for Zera. Still, she controls Zera by holding her heart. She offers to return her heart and give her her life back in exchange for Zera bringing her the crown prince’s heart. Zera has no love for royalty and quickly agrees, not only securing her freedom, but two younger children who are also Nightsinger’s heartless.

What should be easy is anything but. First, the rules of witches and heartless make it very difficult for Zera to even travel far beyond her witch. She has the insatiable hunger that requires human organs, even though animals will have to do, and eating human food does really awful things to her. And that’s not even getting into all the rules required for attending Court. A noble woman, Lady Y’shennria, agrees to take Zera under her wing and groom her for Court, to woo Prince Lucien, and to ultimately get his heart, stopping an impending war. Lady Y’shennria is an unlikely ally, but she’s teamed up with the witches for her own reasons. Things only go from bad to worse when Zera falls for the prince, who is nothing like she assumed he would be and everything like she wishes she was.

Plot
The plot is riveting as it centers around Zera’s mission to get the prince’s heart. But strong subplots are woven throughout, including her feelings for Lucien, the mystery surrounding Lucien’s sister’s death, a developing closeness between Zera and her “aunt” Y’shennria, and a plot to rid the country of witches by the king’s most trusted advisor. All directly impact the main plot to perfection, resulting in a page-turning adventure with heart and soul.

Characters
Zera is fantastic as the snarky heartless who charms everyone around her with her wit and humor. Lucien is dark and brooding with a warm hidden side that only Zera seems to be able to unmask. Nightsinger and the other heartless are well-developed for minor supporting characters, though they do have a significant impact on everything Zera does. And Lady Y’shennria blossomed into one of my favorite characters.

What I Loved About BRING ME THEIR HEARTS
1. The World Building.
 Wolf creates a complex world, that I had difficulty following at times, but it’s so intricate and detailed, it’s almost the star of the book.

2. Lucien. Who doesn’t love a brooding bad boy with a heart of gold?

3. Zera. She takes snark to a new level, but her emotional journey was heart-wrenching.

4. Lady Y’Shennria. Her transformation is almost as dramatic as Zera’s.

5. Plot. So much goes on in this story that it never slows down.

Bottom Line
An angsty fantasy with stunning world building and emotionally deep characters.

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About the Book
Title: BRING ME THEIR HEARTS
Series: Bring Me Their Hearts #1
Author: Sar Wolf
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Pages: 370
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound | BAM!

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Author Sara Wolf

Author Sara Wolf

About the Author
Sara Wolf is a twenty-something author who adores baking, screaming at her cats, and screaming at herself while she types hilarious things.

When she was a kid, she was too busy eating dirt to write her first terrible book. Twenty years later, she picked up a keyboard and started mashing her fists on it and created the monster known as the Lovely Vicious series.

She lives in San Diego with two cats, a crippling-yet-refreshing sense of self-doubt, and not enough fruit tarts ever.

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Where to Find Sara Wolf
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Young Adult Book Review – THE BOOKWORM CRUSH by Lisa Brown Roberts

THE BOOKWORM CRUSH by Lisa Brown Roberts

THE BOOKWORM CRUSH by Lisa Brown Roberts

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
This spinoff of The Replacement Crush featuring Amy and Toff is sure to melt your heart.

Shy bookworm Amy McIntyre is about to compete for a dream scholarship, and the only way to win is to transform from sidekick to the heroine of her own life. But that level of confidence has never come easy.

The solution? A competition coach. The problem? The best person for the job is the guy she’s secretly crushing on…local surfer celebrity Toff Nichols.

He’s a player. He’s a heartthrob. He makes her forget basic things, like how to breathe. How can she feel any confidence around him?

To her surprise, Toff agrees to help. And he’s an excellent teacher. Amy feels braver—maybe even brave enough to admit her feelings for him. When their late night practices become less about coaching and more about making out, Amy’s newfound confidence wavers.

But does Toff really like her or is this just another lesson?.

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My Review
Another home run by one of my all-time favorite young adult authors, Lisa Brown Roberts. In fact, THE BOOKWORM CRUSH is her best to date. This spinoff of THE REPLACEMENT CRUSH features Dallas’s best friend Toff, aka Flipper, and Viv’s best friend, Amy. Amy is on a mission to win a social media contest and meet her idol, romance author Lucinda Amorrato. Amy totally bombs it, literally and figuratively, on her first challenge, and it’s Toff to the rescue. He helps her escape from the police after her yarn-bombing of a park bench goes wrong. While the two have known each other forever, Toff only sees Amy as Viv’s nerdy book friend, but Amy has crushed on Toff for years. She’s shy and socially awkward, but she’s not a pushover. She reminds me so much of my own teen daughter I instantly loved her. But if she wants to win this contest, she’s going to need some swagger, and no one brings the swagger like Toff. She enlists him to coach her, knowing how dangerous this can be to her heart. Toff has his own demons, though. His father is getting married again. To Viv’s mother. And a much a he loves seeing his father happy again, he isn’t happy about the wedding. He just isn’t sure why.

The more time Toff and Amy spend together, the more Amy realizes her silly crush might just be something more, and the more Toff wonders how he never really noticed Amy before now. She has a fire and a spirit he admires. And when she starts to bring that swagger he so carefully coached, well, he feels things he never felt before. Things that are as exciting as they are confusing.

Plot
The main plot is definitely the romance between Toff and Amy, but the contest is a strong subplot as is Toff’s future on the pro-surfing circuit and his coming to terms with his dad’s upcoming wedding. Told in dual POVs, we get deep inside both character’s. Every subplot supports the main plot, building tension, conflict, and complexity, making this more than just a lighthearted romance, though it is definitely that. But the subtle weaving of the subplots into the main plot makes this a story with depth. Each plot and subplot has enough contention and setbacks to keep the story moving and riveting.

The Characters
The characters are amazing. These may be my all time favorite young adult characters. Toff is adorable a clueless surfer, albeit a bit of a player, but he never leads girls on. Which is why Amy’s reaction stuns him more often than not. And Amy is everything. Not only is she sweet and shy, but also passionate and driven. When she finds her swagger, she also finds strength and determination, never willing to just settle for whatever her longtime crush is willing to offer her. He love of books and devotion to her favorite author is endearing, but watching her come out of her shell made her someone to root for.

Top Five Things I Loved About THE BOOKWORM CRUSH
1. Amy. She’s funny, passionate, strong, brave, and smart — everything I want in my teen heroines.

2. Toff. He’s cute, funny, easy going, and a little clueless, but adorably sweet. And when he makes the big romantic gesture, he goes big instead of going home.

3. Surfing. I’m no surfer, by any stretch of the word, though I’ve tried it more than a few times. But my former roommate was a surfer and the whole surf culture is like a time warp for me. The lingo, the life, all of it brings back some of my favorite memories from that time in my life.

4. Books. As both a reader and a writer, books are life. The book-centric nature of this story wrapped around my heart and hugged it.

5. Growth. I loved watching both Toff and Amy grow through the story. Amy became the fierce competitor she always was, and Toff learned to accept that life and love evolve.

Bottom Line
My favorite LBR novel and the best YA contemporary I’ve read in 2019.

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 BOOKWORM CRUSH
Author: Lisa Brown Roberts
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Comedy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonAmazon UKAmazon CAAmazon AUBarnes & NobleiTunesKoboBookDepository

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Author Lisa Brown Roberts

Author Lisa Brown Roberts

About the Author
Lisa Brown Roberts’ award-winning YA romantic comedies have earned praise from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.

Lisa’s teenaged self tweezed off all her eyebrows, crashed a car into a tree while trying to impress a guy, and accidentally went to prom with someone else’s boyfriend. When she couldn’t fix any of this in real life, she made up imaginary happy endings in her diary.

Not much has changed.

Lisa lives in Colorado with her family and many, many books.

 

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Where to find Lisa Brown Roberts
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter | Instagram

 

Book Review – TRUCE? HATING ELIJAH MONROE by Amelia Kingston

TRUCE? HATING ELIJAH MONROE Blog Tour

TRUCE? HATING ELIJA MONROE by Amelia Kingston

TRUCE? HATING ELIJA MONROE by Amelia Kingston

3.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Harper Delaney is a newly certified elementary school teacher with the mountain of student loan debt to prove it. Moving back to her claustrophobically small hometown is about as tempting as two week old sushi, but the allure of free rent and a guaranteed summer teaching job are undeniable.

On the hunt for her dream job in San Francisco, Harper just needs to survive the summer without murdering Elijah Monroe. He may have grown into a scorchingly hot fireman, but he’s still her nemesis. Harper gave Elijah her heart when she was sixteen, and never forgave the jerk for not wanting it. Probably for the best, since he’s also her stepbrother. 

Elijah still makes Harper’s blood boil and heart race. And he knows it. She’ll wipe that smug smirk off his gorgeous face before leaving town. The only question is if she wants to do it with a kiss or a slap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
I love a good enemies to lovers story, and this was that on steroids. The emotions are intense from the moment Harper meets Eli, the teenage son of her father’s soon to be wife. Sixteen-year-old Harper is uprooted from her beloved San Francisco to a small town in the northern part of the state, where the trees are taller, but the people are more infuriating than what she’s used to. When Harper first lays eyes on Eli, she’s head over heels in love. Before he utters a single word, she determines that he is “the one” for her. Her everything. Until he opens his mouth. The hate/love/hate relationship begins with sparks that fly through the entire story. Eli’s father died before Eli was born and Harper’s mom abandoned her and her father, leaving both teens with massive scars. Harper suffers from serious insecurities to the point that all Eli has to do is smile at her and she’s suddenly in love with him all over again. Eli is brooding and moody, running hot and cold. The relationship is so fraught, that Harper flees back to San Francisco as soon as she graduates. After college, she returns to the small town, and temporarily moves back in with her dad, stepmom and step-brother, albeit reluctantly, to take a short-term teaching job while she waits to hear about her dream job at a private school in San Francisco. Because, let’s face it, you cannot afford to wait out a job in San Fran without a well-paying job. Not even with a roommate. When Harper returns, old wounds are still festering, and sparks fly even higher when a now grown Elijah is hotter than ever.

Plot
The plot is primarily the relationship between Harper and Eli, told both in current times as well as flashbacks to when the two first meet. These two timelines are interspersed, allowing the reader to learn the history of their animosity as the anger and resentment continue to unfold in current day. Underlying the main plot is Harper’s future and whether she’ll stay in nowheresville Weaverton or return to her beloved city by the bay. The romance aspect is very back and forth and became like watching a tennis match after awhile. The conflict is not only driven by intense emotions by both characters, but also the “forbidden” nature of their stepbrother/stepsister relationship.

Characters
Even adult Harper suffers from the same insecurities as teen Harper, although she has a better handle on her emotions. Eli is far less brooding, but he’s still got issues and he knows how to get under Harper’s skin, and it soon becomes clear he has insecurities of his own. The characters are the best part of the book, though. They are well-conceived and well-executed, with depth and complexity. My only real complaint is some mild slut-shaming of a young character in the early part of the book. Harper’s internal comments on Athena made it a lot harder for me to warm up to Harper, although I did get there. Part of her judgment, I’m sure, came from her insecurities and seeing this girl as a romantic rival.

What I Enjoyed About TRUCE? HATING ELIJA MONROE
1. The Flashbacks.
 The history of Eli and Harper’s relationship was key to me understanding who they are now, and why they say and do the things they do. Without those scenes, I wouldn’t have been able to get into either of these characters.

2. Enemies to Lovers. One of my favorite tropes.

3. The Parents. Eli’s mom and Harper’s dad are the sanest people in this story and they are needed to ground their kids and reign in their over-the-top emotions.

4. The Setting. I’m like Harper in that I’m a city girl, but escaping to the small town of Weaverton was a breath of fresh air. The author provides stunning details that makes this fictional town someplace I’d love to visit.

5. Romantic Gestures. I won’t give it away, but there is a scene at the very end that was just so wonderfully romantic it melted my heart. Yay Eli.

Bottom Line
An intense hate-to-love romance with strong emotions and in-depth characters.

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

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About the Book
Title: TRUCE? HATING ELIJA MONROE
Author:
Amelia Kingston
Release Date:
October 1, 2019
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romantic Comedy
Pages: 141
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & NobleKobo

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Author Amelia Kingston

Author Amelia Kingston

About the Author
Amelia Kingston is many things, the most interesting of which are probably California girl, writer, traveler, and dog mom. She survives on chocolate, coffee, wine, and sarcasm. Not necessarily in that order.  

She’s been blessed with a patient husband who’s embraced her nomad ways and traveled with her to over 30 countries across 5 continents (I’m coming for you next, Antarctica!). She’s also been cursed with an impatient (although admittedly adorable) terrier who pouts when her dinner is 5 minutes late. 

She writes about strong, stubborn, flawed women and the men who can’t help but love them. Her irreverent books aim to be silly and fun with the occasional storm cloud to remind us to appreciate the sunny days. As a hopeless romantic, her favorite stories are the ones that remind us all that while love is rarely perfect, it’s always worth chasing. 

Where to Find Amelia Kingston
Goodreads │Website | NewsletterFacebook │Twitter

 

Young Adult Book Review – ISAN (International Sensory Assassin Network) by Mary Ting

ISAN (International Sensory Assassin Network #1) by Mary Ting

ISAN (International Sensory Assassin Network #1) by Mary Ting

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The world has changed.

Scientists warned it would happen.

Meteors devastated the Earth. World Governments developed plans to help surviving citizens. The United States disbanded and salvageable land was divided into four quadrants—North, South, East, and West—governed by The Remnant Council.

Struggling to survive, seventeen-year-old Ava ends up in juvenile detention, until she is selected for a new life—with a catch. She must be injected with an experimental serum. The results will be life changing. The serum will make her better. To receive the serum Ava agrees to join a program controlled by ISAN, the International Sensory Assassin Network.

While on a mission, she is abducted by a rebel group led by Rhett and told that not only does she have a history with him, but her entire past is a lie perpetuated by ISAN to ensure her compliance. Unsure of who to trust, Ava must decide if her strangely familiar and handsome captor is her enemy or her savior—and time is running out.

 

 

 

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My Review
Mary Ting’s dystopian world envisions a planet pummeled by meteors, destroying life as we know it. Two generations later and science has surpassed anything their ancestors could have imagined thanks to resources those meteors brought to the earth. Fragile governments have sprung up and a power struggle is firmly in place. Enter ISAN, the International Sensory Assassin Network. With a secret formula known as Helix, teenage assassins are sent out to eliminate any threats to peace before they become a problem. Pulling girls from foster homes and juvenile detention system, ISAN promises a better life for troubled youth, but they soon realize they’ve traded one hell for another. Ava is an orphan with a rough past, but she takes to the Helix serum especially well, giving her abilities the other girls don’t have, propelling her into a leadership position, one she doesn’t feel she’s earned. Still, she does her best to nurture and support her team on their missions. This is her life, training, eating, killing. At least until she starts receiving mysterious messages from someone on her computer. When she’s kidnapped while on a mission, not only is her world turned upside down, but her entire identity as she learns painful details about a past she can’t remember.

Plot
The plot is amazing. I couldn’t put this book down. It moves from the opening page through to the end. There were so many unexpected plot twists that kept me needing to find out what happened next. The primary plot isn’t really Ava’s, it’s Rhett’s. His goal is to get Ava back. But because it’s told through Ava’s point of view, the goal wasn’t completely clear until at least halfway through. By using this technique, the author keeps us in the dark, along with Ava, so we truly experience the backstory as it unfolds for Ava. This was a brilliant technique that kept me on my toes!

Characters
Ava is tough, but not to the point of being hard to like. From the opening pages, I loved her loyalty and her moral center. Even as an assassin, she has a conscious that tears at her. Her team is a blend of friends and adversaries that must form a cohesive unit during missions, which makes for some really great conflict. The leadership is intriguing and mysterious, meaning anything is possible at this point. As Ava learns the secrets of her past, readers are left to wonder who we can trust. Rhett, as the forgotten love interest, is everything you’d want for Ava. He’ll do anything to get her back, except put her at risk.

What I Loved About ISAN
1. World Building.
 The dystopian future Ting creates is a joy to behold. Rich details bring it vividly to life.

2. Kendrick. His toys for the assassins are a thing of beauty and straight out of the best spy movies.

3. Ava. She kicks butt and takes names, but she is loyal and has a strong moral code — everything I want in my teenage assassins.

4. Rhett. He’s tough and badass but his tender feelings toward Ava makes him swoonworthy.

5. Surprises. There were a lot of surprises throughout the book that kept me on the edge of my seat.

Bottom Line
A fantastic young adult dystopian with cool tech and swoony romantic subplot.

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About the Book
Title: ISAN
Series: ISAN #1
Author: Mary Ting
Publisher: Vesuvian Books
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Pages: 330
Genre: Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound | BAM!

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Author Mary Ting

Author Mary Ting

About the Author
International Bestselling, Award-Winning Author Mary Ting writes soulful, spellbinding stories that excite the imagination and captivate readers all over the world. Her books run a wide range of genres and her storytelling talents have won her a devoted legion of fans and garnered critical praise.

Becoming an author happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she had in high school. After realizing she wanted to become a full-time author, Mary retired from teaching after twenty years. She also had the privilege of touring with the Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book: No Bullies Allowed.

Mary resides in Southern California with her husband, two children, and two little dogs, Mochi and Mocha. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry..

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Where to find Mary Ting
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Book Review + Giveaway – THE FIXER UPPER (Echo Springs) by Maggie Mae Gallagher

THE FIXER UPPER Blog Tour

THE FIXER UPPER (Echo Springs #1) by Maggie Mae Gallagher

THE FIXER UPPER (Echo Springs #1) by Maggie Mae Gallagher

3 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Abby Callier is more in love with Shakespearean heroes than any real man, and she’s beginning to wonder if there is life for her outside the pages of a book. It doesn’t help that her esteemed parents tend to view her as they would one of their science experiments gone wrong. On the eve of finishing her dissertation, she escapes her staid existence to live in the house she inherited from her Great Aunt Evie in the small town of Echo Springs, Colorado. Because, let’s face it, when a woman starts comparing her life to horror films, it might be time for a break.

Sheriff Nate Barnes believes in law and order and carefully building the life you want. In his spare time, he has been remodeling his house in the hope that one day it will be filled with the family he makes. But Nate doesn’t like drama or complications and tends to avoid them at all costs. And yet, when Miss Abigail Callier, his newest neighbor, beans him with a nine iron, he can’t help but wonder if she might just be the complication he’s been searching for all along. It doesn’t hurt that he discovers a journal hidden away by the previous tenant and decides to use Old Man Turner’s advice to romance Abby into his life.

Abby never expected her next-door neighbor, the newly dubbed Sheriff Stud Muffin, to be just the distraction her world needed.

The problem is she doesn’t know whether she should make Echo Springs her home, or if this town is just a stopover point in her life’s trajectory. And she doesn’t want to tell Nate that she might not be sticking around—even though she should because it’s the right thing to do, the honest thing—because then all the scintillatingly hot kisses with the Sheriff will come to an abrupt halt. Did she mention that he’s a really great kisser?

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My Review
Abby Callier uproots her academic life under academic parents and defies them to write her dissertation on English Literature, instead of something more appropriate, in the small Colorado town outside Denver where her great aunt lived. Tiny Echo Springs is the opposite of everything Abby is used to. She plans on finishing her paper, get her doctorate, and sell her aunt’s house. That’s the plan anyway. But things seldom go according to plan. For one, her aunt’s victorian home is filled with an army of tiny porcelain dolls that leave Abby uneasy. So uneasy, she leaves them in the living room while she sets up camp upstairs, far away from the creepy things. For another, her aunt’s neighbor is beyond hot and also the town’s sheriff. The more time she spends with the man she calls Sheriff Stud Muffin, the more she questions her current objectives and the less sure she is of what her next step will be. She takes a job at the local community college and meets a colorful cast of characters. It’s easy to see where the next books in the Echo Springs series will take us.

Plot
This is a straight-up romance that follows the typical format of meet-cute followed by all the ups and downs you expect in a contemporary romance. There’s a minor subplot involving a series of break-ins in the small town, but the subplot that really shines is Old Man Turner’s journal that tells a romantic tale that started before World War II between Old Man Turner and Abby’s great aunt. It serves as both a parallel tale as well as backstory.

Characters
This was the one part of the story I’m iffy on. Abby’s ovaries “sigh” at the sight of the studly-muffinesque sheriff. And not just once, there is much ovary sighing throughout. And Nate’s declaration that Abby “isn’t like other women” was too cliche. However, the supporting cast saved the story for me. Nate’s bevy of messed-up buddies and punk community college teacher Tessa and her gorgeous, but militant sister, Cybil, drew me in. In fact, if any of these characters are involved in the second book in the series, I’m there!

What I Enjoyed About THE FIXER UPPER
1. Rufus.
 Nate’s big, lovable, slobbering Great Dane provided some great comedic moments.

2. Tessa. She’s tough, acerbic, and funny. I can’t wait to read her story.

3. Cybil. She’s snark and sour wrapped in a pretty package, and her story is going to be epic.

4. Aunt Evie. The story of her romance with Old Man Turner is heartbreaking and bittersweet.

5. Old Homes. I adore old homes and the descriptions of the two Victorian homes made me want to do a few more renovations around here, much to my husband’s dismay.

Bottom Line
A decent romance with a stellar supporting cast.

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

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About the Book
Title: THE FIXER UPPER
Series: Echo Springs #1
Author: Maggie Mae Gallagher
Publisher: Blushing Books Publications
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Pages: 296
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Blushing Books

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Maggie Mae Gallagher

Maggie Mae Gallagher

About the Author
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Maggie grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Maggie never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an M.A. in History.

Maggie is a bestselling and award-winning author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes erotic romance under the name Anya Summers. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the Midwest with her two furry felines.

 

 

Where to find Maggie Mae Gallagher
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review – DROWNED AT THE RAT (Press Pass Mysteries) by April Anderton

DROWNED AT THE RAT (Press Pass Mysteries) by April Anderton

DROWNED AT THE RAT (Press Pass Mysteries) by April Anderton

4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The bass player’s dead and no one’s talking.

When the bass player of a local punk group turns up dead at the infamous night club known as The Rat, it looks like a clear-cut case of band envy. Boston reporter, Ali Loukas, isn’t so sure. Something smells off and with the help of her boyfriend and homicide detective, Ryan McGuire, Ali sets out to sniff out the real killer . . . or killers.

It’s 1997 and The Rat is slowly dying. Underground violence and cutthroat competition have become the norm, but Vinny G.’s death threatens to close the curtains. Can Ali help find the killer and save the club or will she end up six feet under?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
The second book in the Press Pass Mysteries, Ali Loukas has come into her own as a reporter for Channel 7. In the midst of doing a story at The Rathskeller nightclub, she stumbles upon the murder of Vinny G, a member of a band slated to play there. And Ali, being who she is, can’t just walk away from this story, even though her sort of boyfriend, Detective Ryan McGuire, all but begs her to. Their budding romance is hit from all sides as Ali is determined to find out what happened to Vinny at the same time that Ryan is keeping valuable information about the investigation from her. The deeper Ali digs, the more secrets she uncovers, secrets people will kill to keep hidden.

Plot
Once again, Anderton tells a well-plotted tale with plenty of twists and red herrings to throw us off, but in the end, the truth has been staring us in the face the entire time. Where the first book had multiple points of view, this second one in the series is only from Ali’s, which makes it smoother. By not being privy to anything she is not, the mystery unfolds at the perfect pace. The humor is ramped up in this installment without ever veering into silliness. The romance is a solid subplot and believable, adding a nice counterbalance to the murder mystery.

Characters
The characters are where the story really shines. Ali Loukas, once again, is a likable protagonist who is easy to root for. Ryan is both her perfect foil and a swoonworthy book boyfriend. The rest of the cast of characters are ideal for the roles they’re scripted for and are far more than two-dimensional stereotypes.

Top things I Enjoyed About DROWNED AT THE RAT
1. 1997. From the fashion to the music references, this is a fun romp down memory lane.

2. Ali. She’s come into her own with style and wit. I love her even more than I did in the first book.

3. Ryan. He’s still a tough-as-nails cop who plays his cards close to the vest, but watching him soften toward Ali makes him all the more adorable.

4. The Rat. A retro 80s punk-styled nightclub in the late 90s is everything.

5. The Mystery. Once again, the author keeps us guessing.

Bottom Line
A fun fast read with delightful characters and plenty of heart and humor

About the Book
Title: DROWNED AT THE RAT
Series: Press Pass Mysteries #2
Author: April Anderton
Release Date: May 31, 2019
Pages: 238
Category:
Adult Cozy Mystery
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author April Anderton

Author April Anderton

About the Author
April Anderton is a designer, blogger and author of cozy and young adult mysteries, survival adventures, non-fiction how-to books and articles for blogs and magazines. She lives off-grid in the mountains of North Idaho with her husband and their homeschooled pre-teen son. She doesn’t quite understand why her grown children would rather live in cities in homes with running water, plumbing and electricity, but she loves them anyway. If you ran into April at the grocery store, chances are high that she would not be wearing makeup and may be on the edge of looking presentable. She’d still say hello..

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Where to find April Anderton
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | InstagramAmazon

 

Book Review – PREVIOUS ENGAGEMENTS (Press Pass Mysteries) by April Anderton

PREVIOUS ENGAGEMENTS (Press Pass Mysteries #1) by April Anderton

PREVIOUS ENGAGEMENTS (Press Pass Mysteries #1) by April Anderton

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Senator Morgan Maxwell’s fiancée is dead and it’s not the first time.

It’s 1996 and Boston reporter, Ali Loukas, has her sights set on advancing from radio newscaster to TV correspondent, so when the Maxwell story practically drops into her lap, she seizes the opportunity to solve the murder, scoop her competitors, and move up the broadcasting ladder.

But gaining access to evidence and witnesses without stepping on the toes of family friend, Detective Ryan McGuire, could be tricky.

Despite a knife wedged in her front door and opposition from the police, Ali is determined to prove that she can find the answers, solve the crime and earn the dream job…if she can stay alive to make it all happen.

If you love Mary Higgins Clark Mysteries, grab this one today!

Content Notes: PG equivalent – No swearing, sex or graphic violence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Set in the mid 1990s, this is a delightful trip into my pre-kids/marriage youth, with references to some of my favorite music and other pop culture from that time. Ali Loukas moves to Boston as a cub reporter for a radio station, her sights set on working in TV some day, following in the footsteps of her idol. When she dives into the murder of a prominent citizen, she gets to meet her idol, only to discover she’s the exact opposite of what Ali imagined. As a viscous rivalry develops between the two, Ali is determined to solve the mystery first. Her sleuthing sends her directly into the path of dreamy Detective Ryan McGuire, the son of her mother’s best friend, making things doubly complicated, and then triply so when Ali discovers Ryan might just have reciprocal feelings for her. But before long, Ali somehow asks the wrong person the wrong question, putting her directly in the crosshairs.

Plot
The primary focus is the mystery – who killed Senator Maxwell’s fiancee. But there are a couple of solid subplots involving Ali’s career and her budding romance with Detective McGuire. The mystery is well done, with several twists and a culprit, who I did suspect from time-to-time, I never really latched onto as the one. The author expertly foreshadows everything, though, so the big reveal feels inevitable. Because the story takes place more than twenty years ago, there are some fun things the author takes advantage of, including the fact that smart phones weren’t a thing and the internet was still dial-up for a lot of the population.

Characters
The characters were awesome. Ali is instantly likable as a determined reporter, who is maybe a bit naive, but tenacious enough to overcome it. Ryan is swoon-worthy as her foil and potential love interest, and the moms are the absolute best, driving some of the funniest moments in the book.

Top things I Enjoyed About PREVIOUS ENGAGEMENTS
1. Ali. She’s funny, smart, and will stop at nothing to get to the truth.

2. Ryan. He’s all about the rules. At least until he meets Ali.

3. The 1990s. Showing my age here, but the 90s were my favorite decade from the music, to movies, and TV shows. The pop cultural references were a blast from my past.

4. The Mystery. It was well done and kept me guessing.

5. Humor. A lightheartedness to the story kept it from getting too dark and had me laughing throughout.

Bottom Line
A fun cozy mystery with a nostalgic edge and a lighthearted romance.

About the Book
Title: PREVIOUS ENGAGEMENTS
Series: Press Pass Mysteries #1
Author: April Anderton
Release Date: March 1, 2019
Pages: 247
Category:
Adult Cozy Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author April Anderton

Author April Anderton

About the Author
April Anderton is a designer, blogger and author of cozy and young adult mysteries, survival adventures, non-fiction how-to books and articles for blogs and magazines. She lives off-grid in the mountains of North Idaho with her husband and their homeschooled pre-teen son. She doesn’t quite understand why her grown children would rather live in cities in homes with running water, plumbing and electricity, but she loves them anyway. If you ran into April at the grocery store, chances are high that she would not be wearing makeup and may be on the edge of looking presentable. She’d still say hello..

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Where to find April Anderton
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | InstagramAmazon

 

Young Adult Book Review – MIRACLE GIRL by Jennifer DiGiovanni

MIRACLE GIRL by Jennifer DiGiovanni

MIRACLE GIRL by Jennifer DiGiovanni

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Leanne Strong hates June eighth even though it’s supposed to a day for celebration. Fifteen years ago on that date, baby Leanne was purported to be miraculously healed of a spinal cord defect after her mother prayed to a religious mystic who was later elevated to sainthood. Since Leanne’s unexplained cure, thousands of people gather in her small town every year to celebrate her miracle–a miracle she doesn’t remember but still accepts as real–most of the time.

When teen pitching phenom Braeden Dalisay moves into the house across the street from Leanne, he harbors a chip on his shoulder even larger than his athletic talent. Forced to spend the summer in the same law office, he and Leanne carry on a working relationship that vacillates between stormy and silent. After Leanne finds out that Braeden’s sister, Emeline, recently passed away, the reason for his behavior becomes clear. Emeline Dalisay was a girl who didn’t get a miracle.

Time softens Braeden’s anger, and he and Leanne eventually draw closer. But when he and his family are hit with another traumatic event, he pulls away, the unfairness of life a deep wound. Leanne wants to help Braeden and his family heal as much as she wants a relationship with him. More than that, she wants a miracle for Braeden.

 

 

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My Review
Leanne Strong is the recipient of a verified miracle that she has zero recollection of. And while she’s grateful for the life she has, she hates being “Miracle Girl” and all the celebrity that goes with it. For that reason, she’s sworn off dating until she’s in college, far away from where anyone knows who she is or her miracle status. But when the Dalisay’s move in across the street, Braeden and and his sister, Sami, challenge everything Leanne believes about herself and her miracle. She wonders if she’s been ungrateful, even as she struggles to be what everyone expects her to, someone she doesn’t believe she is. Spending the summer working in her dad’s law firm, she spends more time with Braeden, who is also making a few extra bucks between baseball games. What starts off as a tense relationship soon blossoms into more, until Sami gets sick and threatens everything Leanne understands about herself, faith, and what it means to believe in something more than yourself.

Plot
The main plot revolves around Leanne’s relationship with her miracle girl status. She initially wants nothing to do with it. She’s just a regular girl with no recollection of what happened that night 15 years before. In fact, she can’t recall a time when she wasn’t the way she is now. She knows she’s expected to be so much more to others looking for their own miracles, but she feels inadequate when it comes to providing them with the inspiration they feel they so desperately need. With the help of Sami, Braeden, her family, and a priest, she comes to realize that memories aren’t required to appreciate the life she’s been given. There are also strong subplots involving her relationship with Braeden and her own faith.

Characters
Leanne is so relatable as an ordinary girl with extraordinary expectations. She knows that the world wants more from her than she’s able to give and struggles with this burden through much of the book. Braeden is the perfect, somewhat brooding, foil for Leanne’s positivity, but they have more in common than either of them realizes. These two navigate a tenuous romance amidst all the drama, providing some of the most heartwarming moments. The rest of the characters wonderfully round out the cast, particularly Leanne’s dad’s office staff.

Top things I LOVED About MIRACLE GIRL
1. Sami. Even after everything she’s lost, Sami is a perpetually positive force and impossible to ignore.

2. Faith. It’s an underlying theme centered around hope and gratitude, so perfectly incorporated that even those who don’t profess any faith will enjoy this book.

3. Leanne. She’s one of my favorite young adult protagonists of 2019. She’s grounded in a way that is both because of and in conflict with her miracle status.

4. Braeden. The pitching phenom is as sweet as he is hot, but with a brooding undertone that adds to his swooniness.

5. Miracles. Always there, and a main part of the plot, it’s really not about the miracle itself, but how the recipient copes with her worthiness.

Bottom Line
An inspirational story about faith, first love, and refusing to allow others to define you.

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

About the Book
Title: MIRACLE GIRL
Author: Jennifer DiGiovanni
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing
Release Date: November 30, 2019
Pages: 242
Category:
Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Spiritual
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

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Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

About the Author
Jennifer DiGiovanni is the author of contemporary and light fantasy novels for teens. When she’s not reading or writing, she likes to try new sports and activities, from archery to ballroom dancing, all in the name of book research.

 

 

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Where to find Jennifer DiGiovanni
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

 

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE by Rayna York

EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE Blog Tour

EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE by Rayna York

EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE by Rayna York

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
It was never easy for Cassie and her mother, struggling to make ends meet in their tiny apartment in The Bronx, but they had each other and that was enough. When her mother dies suddenly from an aggressive form of cancer, Cassie is forced to finish high school in California while living with the wealthy family of her mother’s closest friend—a women she never knew existed.

Living with the Stantons is the complete opposite of what she’s used to—the massive house, a father figure, and Cody, the spoiled, insanely good-looking son with the bedroom across the hall.

Broken with grief and struggling to fit in, Cassie meets Mila, a female powerhouse that helps her cope with a hidden past, the overwhelming present, and a shared experience no one should have to endure—a nightmare they both thought was over.

Warning: Although this book is classified as Young Adult, I recommended it for mature readers due to explicit language.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE is a powerful story about finding your inner strength even when everything around you seems to be falling apart. When Cassie’s mom dies of cancer, she moves from New York, the only home she knows, to the west coast to live with a family she barely remembers, a family that is not her own. Barely scraping by in New York, Cassie’s new life in Northern California couldn’t be more different, from the large sprawling homes to the intact nuclear family she comes to live with, including Cody, a boy from her childhood who has blossomed into a serious heartthrob with a room across the hall from hers. As she adjusts to a new life that does not involve wondering how they’re going to pay the bills, she is also thrust into high school drama she is totally unprepared to handle. Her east coast upbringing has given her a hard outer shell and the wit to hold her own, but only on the outside. Inside she’s crumbling from grief and feeling like a fish out of water. With the help of Cody, his parents, and new friends, she tenuously navigates her new world until secrets from her past and a cruel event at a party turn her world upside down once again, leaving her wondering if everything she thought was true is really just one more lie.

Plot
The story is about Cassie learning who she is and coming to terms with the truths she discovers about herself, her family, and life itself. But it’s also about friendship, family, revenge and romance. The author weaves everything together in a well-plotted tale with a few surprises.

Characters
I love Cassie. She’s snarky thanks to her childhood in the Bronx, strong, but not immune to the crap high school throws at you. Mila is hysterical as the new friend with a verbal stream of consciousness, and Cody is adorable as the quasi step-brother/love interest that creates a lot of the best conflict in the story. Cody’s parents and Cassie’s guardians are everything she needs and what we hope all parents would be. The antagonists are bit more stereotypical, but also different enough that I wasn’t always sure what to expect from them.

What I Enjoyed About EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE
1. Mila.
 She is the vibrant colorful yin to Cassie’s dark and withdrawn yang

2. Cassie. It took me a little bit to warm up to her, but once I did, I absolutely loved her spunk.

3. Cody. Completely swoonworthy.

4. Surprises. There were a few twists I didn’t see coming that helped keep my interest when I felt the story was slowing down a bit.

5. Revenge. A dish best served deliciously cold.

Bottom Line
A sold young adult tale with interesting characters who are easy to root for.

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: EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE
Author: Rayna York
Publisher: Toad Tree Press
Release Date: May 12, 2019
Pages: 364
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Rayna York

Author Rayna York

About the Author
Rayna York grew up with hippie parents that liked to adventure, so being the new kid was always a challenge. Where change was the norm, books were her constant–a way to escape. As an adult, many careers came and went, but writing has always been her passion. Everything I knew to be true is her first published novel.

 

 

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Where to find Rayna York
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Instagram

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – T-MINUS by Shannon Greenland

T-MINUS Blog Tour

T-MINUS by Shannon Greenland

T-MINUS by Shannon Greenland

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
I am the daughter of the first female POTUS, and today is about to become the longest day of my life… 

24 hours—that’s how much time I have to save my mother before terrorists assassinate her. But now my father and brother are missing, too. This goes deeper than anyone thinks. Only someone on the inside would know how to pull this off—how to make the entire First Family disappear. 

I can’t trust anyone, so it’s up to me to uncover the conspiracy and stop these madmen. Because little do they know, they picked the wrong person to terrorize. 

My name is Sophie Washington, and I will not be a victim. No one, I repeat no one, is taking me or my family down. But the clock is ticking…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Chasing Liberty meets 24, as the daughter of the country’s first female president finds herself embroiled in a terrorist plot to take down the administration. On her seventeenth birthday, Sophie Washington is doing anything but having the time of her life. Her brother is missing, her family is separated, and she has been told she cannot trust anyone, not even Frank, her secret service detail who has been with her much of her life. With minimal training in a teen CIA program for the offspring of operatives, she stumbles her way through an ever-changing game. Recruiting her best friends from the program, Jackson, Zeke, and Callie, she attempts to do what she believes no one else will, only to become a pawn in the biggest conspiracy to ever target the United States. Without knowing who is working against her mother, Sophie is isolated and terrified, but finds something within herself to rise to the challenge in this pulse-pounding young adult thriller.

Plot
T-MINUS is a plot-driven tale, and the plotting is near perfect. The pacing provides plenty of page-turning action and just enough breaks to allow us to catch our breath before careening into the next big moment. The author keeps us guessing the entire time, allowing us to feel like Sophie, unable to trust anyone. One twist follows another, and layer upon layer of intrigue is expertly woven to create a story worthy of the big screen. In fact, I’ll be shocked if this isn’t turned into a blockbuster movie at some point.

Characters
The characters are great, but pretty much in line with the story. There is no new ground broken here, but I love Sophie as the somewhat risk-averse teen who is forced to step so far outside her comfort zone, she hardly recognizes herself. The cast surrounding her provide just the right balance, and because I don’t want to give anything away, i won’t say anything more about them.

What I Loved About T-MINUS
1. The Pacing.
 The story unfolds at the perfect pace and I devoured it.

2. Twists. So many twists and turns, I never knew what was going to happen next, but all of it was perfectly foreshadowed.

3. Sophie. The reader gets to see her in a way she never envisions herself, making her both sympathetic and someone to root for and a kick-ass heroine.

4. Intrigue. I’m a political-thriller junkie, and this book has all the same elements that made No Way Out one of my favorite movies of all time.

5. Zeke. Her fellow TIA member and secret crush, he’s completely swoon-worthy.

Bottom Line
A page-turning thriller with a strong female lead who also happens to be utterly relatable.

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: T-MINUS
Author: Shannon Greenland
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: July 31, 2019
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Shannon Greenland

Author Shannon Greenland

About the Author
Shannon Greenland, or S. E. Green, is the award winning author of the teen thriller, Killer Instinct, a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers; the teen spy series, The Specialists, an ALA Popular Paperback and a National Reader’s Choice recipient; and the YA romance, The Summer My Life Began, winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award. Her books have been translated into several languages and are currently on numerous state reading lists. Shadow of a Girl is her latest novel and due out 9.19.16. Shannon has participated in and served as a guest speaker at festivals and conferences around the country to include but not limited to the LA Times Book Festival, American Library Association, Book Expo of America, Bouchercon, Romance Writers of America, RT Book Convention, Young Adult Keller Book Festival, Southern Festival of Books, and many more. Shannon grew up in Tennessee where she dreaded all things reading and writing. She didn’t even read her first book for enjoyment until she was twenty-five. After that she was hooked! When she’s not writing, she works as an adjunct math professor and lives on the coast in Florida with her very grouchy dog. Find her online everywhere @segreenauthor...

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Where to find Shannon Greenland
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – THE LAST WORD by Samantha Hastings

THE LAST WORD Blog Tour

THE LAST WORD by Samantha Hastings

THE LAST WORD by Samantha Hastings

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Set against the smoky, gaslit allure of Victorian London, this sweetly romantic historical debut is full of humor and stars a whip-smart female heroine ahead of her time.

Where one story ends, another begins.

1861. Miss Lucinda Leavitt is shocked when she learns the author of her favorite serialized novel has died before completing the story. Determined to learn how it ends, Lucinda reluctantly enlists the help of her father’s young business partner, Mr. David Randall, to track down the reclusive author’s former whereabouts.

David is a successful young businessman, but is overwhelmed by his workload. He wants to prove himself to his late father, as well as to himself. He doesn’t have the time, nor the interest, for this endeavor, but Lucinda is not the type to take no for an answer.

Their search for the elusive Mrs. Smith and the rightful ending to her novel leads Lucinda and David around the country, but the truths they discover about themselves—and each other—are anything but fictional.

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, The Last Word by debut author Samantha Hastings is a fun yet intellectual romp through Victorian London—the perfect book for book-lovers.

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My Review
Reminiscent of Jane Austen, THE LAST WORD combines neoclassicism and romanticism along with a healthy dose of humor and wit to bring Lucinda’s and David’s story to life. The two are childhood friends who meet again after a four-year separation to find the other both the same and yet infinitely different than the person they remember. Throw in a big misunderstanding and a young woman ahead of her time, constricted by the customs of 19th century England, and sparks fly higher than between Emma and Knightley or Elizabeth and Darcy, but with the underlying warmth of Elinor and Edward. The two dance around a mutual attraction while Lucinda fights against society’s dictates for her. Fresh out of finishing school, she wants nothing to do with being a proper lady, but rather to use the brain that God gave her to work in her father’s counting house. A natural talent with numbers, she helped him when she was younger but now is expected to do needlepoint instead of auditing.

If there’s anything Lucinda hates more than sitting around and waiting for someone to call on her, I don’t know what it is. Not having been born to a high-class family, her social standing comes from the wealth her father has amassed. His goal is to marry her to a man of higher social standing. Lucinda has less than zero interest in that plan. She managed to get through the long boring hours by reading. But her favorite author died before finishing her last novel, leaving Lucinda desperate to find out how it ends, as if her own ending will somehow reveal itself in those final pages. With the help of her father’s business partner and her longtime friend, David, she sets out to find anyone who may know how the story ends. But the more they dig, the more she’s left wondering, before a tragedy forces both of them to reevaluate what really matters. And what doesn’t.

Plot
The main plot focuses on the budding romance between Lucinda and David, but Lucinda’s desires to work in business and find out the ending of her beloved novel are strong subplots that drive most of the action. The conflict derives for the social norms of the time, status and who is allowed to associate with whom. Women’s options and their carefully guarded reputations only further bind Lucinda in a world she finds too restrictive. Her father withdrew into himself after her mother’s death years before and their strained relationship underlies everything. The author does a phenomenal job of keeping the reader in Victorian England through scene setting, language, fashion, and customs. There is both a whimsical and sweeping cinematic feel to the places Hastings sets her characters in, drawing the reader right along with them.

Characters
If you love any of Jane Austen’s characters, you will love these! From the narcoleptic Mrs. Patton to the eccentric woman in the half-built estate they visit in their quest, the characters are a delight. Lucinda is utterly relatable as a young woman who wants so much more from life than the world wishes to allow her and David is a man after my own heart, both seeing Lucinda as an equal, and treating her with that respect. The American girl, Persephone, who befriends Lucinda, is a delightful, although often inappropriate, breath of fresh air.

What I Loved About THE LAST WORD
1. Everything.
 Seriously, the entire book was just amazing. It was a joy to read.

2. Lucinda. I love that she’s independent and strong and refuses to be confined by rules of society.

3. David. He is also a man ahead of his time with his ability to see Lucinda as more than just an accessory.

4. Language. I love the way they speak and the words the author chooses to tell the story as if it were written as a contemporary in 1861.

5. Romance. It isn’t angsty or intense, even though Lucinda and David are both teens, but it’s perfect for the time.

Bottom Line
A stunning coming of age story in a time long gone with amazing characters and beautiful storytelling.

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

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About the Book
Title: THE LAST WORD
Author: Samantha Hastings
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Pages: 261
Genre: Young Adult Historical Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Samantha Hastings

Author Samantha Hastings

About the Author
Samantha Hastings has degrees from Brigham Young University, the University of Reading (Berkshire, England), and the University of North Texas. She met her husband in a turkey sandwich line. They live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she spends most of her time reading, eating popcorn, and chasing her kids. The Last Word is her debut novel.

 

 

 

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Where to find Samantha Hastings
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter 

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

RULES WE'RE MEANT TO BREAK Blog Tour

RULES WE'RE MEANT TO BREAK by Natalie Williamson

RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK by Natalie Williamson

5 out of 5 stars

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

Rule #1: Don’t get attached.

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

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

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

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

Praise for Rules We’re Meant to Break:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Natalie Williamson

Author Natalie Williamson

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

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

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

DON'T DATE ROSA SANTOS by Nina Moreno

DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS by Nina Moreno

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Book
Title: DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS
Author: Nina Moreno
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

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

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Author Nina Moreno

Author Nina Moreno

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

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

 

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

YOU, ME AND LETTING GO Blog Tour

 

YOU, ME AND LETTING GO by Katie Kaleski

YOU, ME AND LETTING GO by Katie Kaleski

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line
A wonderful young adult tale about overcoming odds and taking control of your own life with some of the best characters in the genre.

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

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: YOU, ME, & LETTING GO
Author: Katie Kaleski
Release Date: May 14, 2019
Pages: 197
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Katie Kaleski

Author Katie Kaleski

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

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

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Young Adult Book Review – CHEROKEE SUMMER by Susan Antony

CHEROKEE SUMMER Blog Tour

CHEROKEE SUMMER by Susan Anthony

CHEROKEE SUMMER by Susan Anthony

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Susan Antony

Author Susan Antony

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

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

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

ALIEN MINDS Blog Tour

ALIEN MINDS (Dimension Drift #1) by Christina Bauer

ALIEN MINDS (Dimension Drift #1) by Christina Bauer

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

So, I’m living the perfect life.

Then why does everything feel all wrong?

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

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

Maybe it’s time to pucker up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Christina Bauer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

But she’ll need a coach.

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Cookie O'Gorman

Author Cookie O’Gorman

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

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

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