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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
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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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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – THE STAND-IN BOYFRIEND (Grove Valley High) by Emma Doherty

THE STAND-IN BOYFRIEND Blog Tour

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line
A breathtaking young adult romance that left me wanting more.

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

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About the Book
Title: THE STAND-IN BOYFRIEND
Series: Grove Valley High #1
Author: Emma Doherty
Release Date: March 12, 2019
Pages: 260
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Sports Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Link: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon UK

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Author Emma Doherty

Author Emma Doherty

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

A SOLDIER AND A LIAR Blog Tour

A SOLDIER AND A LIAR by Caitlin Lochner

A SOLDIER AND A LIAR by Caitlin Lochner

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Caitlin Lochner

Author Caitlin Lochner

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

 

 

 

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Where to Find Caitlin Lochner
Goodreads | Website | TwitterInstagram

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

TRIPLICITY Blog Tour

TRIPLICITY by J. Mercer

TRIPLICITY by J. Mercer

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author J. Mercer

Author J. Mercer

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

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

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

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

ONLY A BREATH APART Blog Tour

ONLY A BREATH APART by Katie McGarry

ONLY A BREATH APART by Katie McGarry

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ONLY A BREATH APART Teaser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ONLY A BREATH APART Teaser

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

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Author Katie McGarry

Author Katie McGarry

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

But then everything changes.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Olivia Hinebaugh

Author Olivia Hinebaugh

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

 

 

 

 

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

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