Young Adult Book Review – MY SOUL TO KEEP (Rise of the Fallen) by Sean Hayden

MY SOUL TO KEEP (Rise of the Fallen) by Sean Hayden

MY SOUL TO KEEP (Rise of the Fallen) by Sean Hayden

4.0 Stars

Synopsis
Ever have one of those bad ideas just pop into your head? You know the ones. They seem like a great idea at the time, but if you had stopped to think about it a moment…

I’m talking about those ideas where you just seize the moment and do what your heart tells you to. Then, after the dust settles and you get bandaged up, your parents say, “What the hell were you thinking?”

“But, Dad, I wasn’t!”

I had one of those moments.

I guess if you want to be technical, I had a whole chain of those moments leading up to the big bang moment. The problem was I didn’t have anyone standing around saying, “What the hell were you thinking?”

The moral of this story?

There are several.

First, stores don’t sell black candles for a reason. They’re bad news. If you happen to come across one in the mall that sells questionable items…walk away. Trust me on this one. Black candles are bad.

Second, always know what you want out of life. Coasting along, not caring about anything will get you into trouble. Maybe more than you can handle.

Lastly, if someone offers to grant you your fondest wish, wish for something you really, truly want. Wish for something that will make the world a better place or you a better person. Never ever wish to be a monster… .

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My Review
This was a fun, fast read with lots of action and great characters. Connor is a sarcastic teen with a quick wit and a sharp tongue, but he’s got a heart, which is his redeeming quality right out of the gate. When he says a mysterious chant he isn’t sure where he heard, he’s offered the opportunity for immortality. Connor turns it upside and asks for the one thing no one has asked for before, to become one of the Fallen, those with the powers to grant immortality to others. To say Connor doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into is an understatement. Along with and annoying younger sister, clueless parents, and a snarky Fallen to help train him, Connor navigates the waters of his new “life.” What he doesn’t count on is falling in love with a mortal.

Plot
The plotting was solid and there were more than a couple of unexpected twists. The pacing was constant, never dragging. The story mixes equal parts paranormal adventure and romance, with a hint at a love triangle, that’s well enough done to not be annoying. My only complaint is the ending. Even though this is a paranormal where anything goes, I thought it was just a little too neatly resolved.

Characters
Connor is well-developed and a delightfully refreshing protagonist in the genre. The author brings a male perspective to young adult romance that fully illustrates the awkwardness and self-doubt of teen boys. Clarisse, as Connor’s unwilling teacher in all things Fallen, is also fully fleshed out and lends an element of angst that is anything but pathetic. Her feelings for Connor or clear, but she’s tough and determined, with a hint of anger thrown into the mix. By far, she’s my favorite character in the series to date. The remaining characters, including Connor’s sister, friends, and even his love interest, Jessie, fell a little flat for me, though.

What I Enjoyed About MY SOUL TO KEEP
1. Connor.
 His sarcastic wit made him easy to like, but his big heart made him an even better character that I came to love.

2. Clarisse. She’s totally kick-ass, take-no-prisoners, with a streak of vulnerability that easily made her my favorite character.

3. The Fallen. I love this twist on the paranormal genre. Looking forward to reading the second book in the series.

4. World Building. The author did quite a bit of world building, developing nuanced rules to create his own take on this aspect of the paranormal, creating a different stage upon which to set his characters.

5. Twists. There were a fair number of twists that kept the story engaging.

Bottom Line
A fun twist on the paranormal genre with intriguing characters and a fast-paced storyline.

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: MY SOUL TO KEEP
Series: Rise of the Fallen #1
Author: Sean Hayden
Publisher: Untold Press
Release Date: April 4, 2012
Pages: 187
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Sean Hayden

Author Sean Hayden

About the Author
Born the son of a fire chief, Sean naturally developed a love of playing with fire. His family and friends quickly found other outlets for his destructive creativity. Writing is his latest endeavor.

Always a fan of the macabre, mythical, and magical, Sean found a love of urban fantasy and horror. After writing several novels in this genre, he found, fell in love with, and immersed himself in steampunk. He has always wanted to rewrite history and steampunk gave him that opportunity.

Sean currently lives in Florida as a fiber-optic engineer as well as an author. He was blessed with the two most amazing children he could ever hope for, has met the absolute love of his life, who coincidentally is his partner in everything. His hobbies include grand designs on world domination as well as a starring role in his own television sitcom.

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Where to Find Sean Hayden
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – THE SMALLEST THING by Lisa Manterfield

THE SMALLEST THING Blog Tour

THE SMALLEST THING by Lisa Manterfield

THE SMALLEST THING by Lisa Manterfield

4.0 Stars

Synopsis
The very last thing 17-year-old Emmott Syddall wants is to turn out like her dad. She’s descended from ten generations who never left their dull English village, and there’s no way she’s going to waste a perfectly good life that way. She’s moving to London and she swears she is never coming back.

But when the unexplained deaths of her neighbors force the government to quarantine the village, Em learns what it truly means to be trapped. Now, she must choose. Will she pursue her desire for freedom, at all costs, or do what’s best for the people she loves: her dad, her best friend Deb, and, to her surprise, the mysterious man in the HAZMAT suit?

Inspired by the historical story of the plague village of Eyam, this contemporary tale of friendship, community, and impossible love weaves the horrors of recent news headlines with the intimate details of how it feels to become an adult—and fall in love—in the midst of tragedy.

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My Review
Inspired by the actual plague in the 1600s, this contemporary story is filled with heart, fear, and the fighting spirit of a seventeen-year-old girl, anxious to escape her tiny English village. Emmott Syddall wants nothing more than to get away from the small village she fears will smother her, where she’ll be just one more Syddall buried in the village cemetery. Planning a future in London with her boyfriend, Ro, she and her father butt heads, their relationship strained as she prepares to leave. But before she has the opportunity, one-by-one, her neighbors become ill with a mysterious, lethal virus, requiring the town to be quarantined. Emmott’s sense of isolation only grows more powerful as she’s confined to her small village and the streets fill with bio-suit-clad healthcare workers. As more and more people she’s known her entire life succumb to the illness, Emmott begins to evaluate what really matters in life. One young aid worker, Aidan, takes a particular interest in Emmott and suddenly life isn’t quite so dull. But when the people closest to her are stricken, she’s forced to make choices she never imagined.

Plot
The story was well-plotted, but the pacing was slow in several spots. To the point that I ended up skimming some sections. However, the writing is elegant and filled with unique metaphors and similes that paint vibrant pictures and bring imaginary characters to technicolor life. The subject matter is serious and the author treats it with respect, not providing easy outs for anyone. She forces painful situations upon her protagonist and watches to see how the flawed Emmott will respond. The story is believable, at times heart wrenching, but all the more authentic for those difficult scenes.

Characters
The story is really about Emmott’s relationship with her father, and those two characters shine. Emmott is complex and a bit immature, but quickly rises to the challenges, that circumstances beyond her control, have thrust upon her. She may not always make the right choices (okay most of the time), but her mistakes lead to logical consequences that force her to grow up rather quickly. Her dad is amazing. He’s the village cheerleader, risking his own health to check on neighbors. He is true to himself throughout, his character rock solid, but through Emmott’s eyes we see who he’s always been evolve as she finally comes to understand him.

What I Enjoyed About THE SMALLEST THING
1. Emmott.
 She’s a rebel with a heart. I love her growth through the story. She takes two steps forward, and one step back, sometimes two steps, or even three, but she arrives at her destination exactly when she’s supposed to.

2. Setting. The small English village is as charming on the pages as it is on the cover. But it’s more than just the setting, it’s also a starring character in the story.

3. Reality. Nothing is sugar coated. A deadly virus in a small town leaves no one untouched.

4. Characters. The characters are well-developed, fully-dimensional, and are the heart and soul of the story.

Bottom Line
Beautiful writing and a heartfelt tale about a teen girl dealing with tragic events in her small English village.

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 SMALLEST THING
Author: Lisa Manterfield
Publisher: Steel Rose Press
Release Date: July 18, 2017
Pages: 272
Category: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Lisa Manterfield

Author Lisa Manterfield

About the Author
Lisa Manterfield is the award-winning author of I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood. Her work has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Los Angeles Times, and Psychology Today. Originally from northern England, she now lives in Southern California with her husband and over-indulged cat. A Strange Companion is her first novel.

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Where to Find Megan Carney
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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Blog Tour – Book Review + Giveaway – DREAM ME by Kathryn Berla

DREAM ME Blog Tour

DREAM ME by Kathryn Berla

DREAM ME by Kathryn Berla

4 Stars

Synopsis
Zat is a dreamer from the distant future—a time when humans no longer dream and Earth is a desolate wasteland. He dreams of the beautiful Earth of the past, and a fiery-haired beauty named Babe. Against the wisdom of his peers, Zat decides to risk everything to travel back in time and live in Babe’s dreams…

Babe is the perpetual new girl in town. Her father’s job frequently moves the family around the country, and Babe just longs for a place to call home. As she settles into the sleepy town of Sugar Dunes, Florida, Babe begins to have strange dreams of a green-eyed boy named Zat. Night after night, Babe shows Zat her world. But the dreams come at the cost of nearly crippling migraines every morning. Babe’s life outside of her dreams pales in comparison to her growing love for Zat and their time spent together.

But the more time Babe and Zat spend together in her dreams, the more Babe’s pain increases, and Zat begins to question the reality of his existence. How can he live a life with Babe, when all they have is her dreams?

Can a dream become a reality?

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My Review
At times, DREAM ME felt like two different tales, but woven together, they tell the story of Babe and Zat, an unusual couple in an impossible situation. Babe’s father is a golf pro, and she and her family move around for his job. The latest move takes them to the Florida coast where she meets the locals over the summer before her senior year of high school. Included are the queen bee, Mattie Lynn and her minions, LeGrand, the poor little rich boy who only comes on his yacht for the summer with his parents, and Mai, the daughter of the owners of the local fish market who befriends Babe. An avid tennis player, Babe takes a job in the tennis pro shop where she helps Mattie Lynn with her charity program, throwing her in the path of other local kids. The move also triggers vibrant dreams where Babe continually meets with a boy named Zat. She’s inexplicably drawn to Zat and during the day, longs for sleep so she can be with him.

Throughout the summer, Babe navigates the waters of new friendships, unusual dreams, and corporate politics when the chairman of the board of the club where she and her parents work has designs on an underage Babe. The majority of the story takes place during waking hours and reads like a typical contemporary novel. The dream sequences are written as blog posts by Babe.What it’s missing, for me anyway, is more time travel. Billed as a young-adult time-traveling romance, I expected more time traveling. Yes, Zat is from the future, but it’s Babe’s story for the most part. Zat’s point of view is told in third-person and is sparse and too brief in my opinion.

Plot
The plot is two-pronged. The first centers on Babe’s dream world and her relationship with Zat. The other is her relationships with the people in her waking world. Even as Babe grows closer to Zat in her subconscious, her friendships with new friends develop and grow. There isn’t much overlap, which is why it feels like two separate stories sometimes. There are some things I would have liked to see more of, though. For one, with something this sci-fi-y, I would have liked to see a little more world building. I didn’t understand how the time travel worked or what the rules were. This became particularly muddled at the end. The other is that I felt like Babe’s relationship with Zat wasn’t nearly as well developed as her relationships with Mai or LeGrand. Even her relationship with Mattie Lynn seemed to have more depth. As a result, I was a little ambivalent about them being together.

Characters
I loved Babe. She’s spunky, fierce, but still believable as a seventeen-year-old girl. LeGrand, Mai and the rest of Babe’s friends are exactly the kind of friends anyone would wish for. But I never got a strong sense of who Zat is, even though we get bits and pieces of his point of view.

What I Enjoyed About DREAM ME
1. Babe.
She’s a fantastic young adult protagonist with the right balance of burgeoning independence and insecurities to make her completely relateable.

2. Settings. The author has the ability to bring her settings vividly to life. While I’m not all that familiar with Florida, it was easy to visualize the scenes.

3. Friendship. As the new girl in town, Babe’s blossoming relationships were depicted as organic and authentic.

4. The Concept. I really liked the idea behind DREAM ME, but I felt like it left a lot on the table.

5. Twists. There were a few of unexpected twists toward the end that left me smiling.

Bottom Line
A scifi wrapped up in a contemporary with a few of unexpected twists.

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: DREAM ME
Author: Kathryn Berla
Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Pages: 175
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance/SciFi/Time Travel
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble

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Author Kathryn Berla

Author Kathryn Berla

About the Author
Kathryn Berla graduated from the University of California at Berkeley as an English major. She has lived in many different countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Where to Find Kathryn Berla
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – THE HISTORY OF HILARY HAMBRUSHINA by Marnie Lamb

THE HISTORY OF HILARY HAMBRUSHINA Blog Tour

THE HISTORY OF HILARY HAMBRUSHINA by Marnie Lamb

THE HISTORY OF HILARY HAMBRUSHINA by Marnie Lamb

4 Stars

Synopsis
Hilary has one goal for her first year in junior high: to become popular. But her plans are turned upside down when her best friend leaves for the summer and a quirky girl named Kallie moves in next door. Kallie paints constellations on her ceiling, sleeps in a hammock, and enacts fantastical plays in front of cute boys on the beach. Yet despite Kallie’s lack of interest in being -cool, – Hilary and Kallie find themselves becoming friends. That summer friendship, however, is put to the test when school begins, reigniting Hilary’s obsession with climbing the social ladder. As Hilary discovers the dark side to popularity, she must decide who she wants to be before she loses everything.

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My Review
This was a well-told tale of bullying and acceptance in middle school/junior high. Hilary has always wanted to be part of the in crowd, and now that she and her best friend, Lynn, are off to junior high, she feels as if this is her chance to get in with Chanel and the cool kids. But when Lynn takes off on vacation with her family for the summer and a weird girl, Kallie, moves in next door, Hilary’s path to popularity may be in jeopardy. Hilary’s story is one of personal introspection as much as anything else, as she discovers popularity comes with a steep price.

Plot
Hilary has a single goal — to be cool. It’s all she’s ever wanted. The plot centers around her attempts to achieve her goal while balancing the diverse personalities of the people in her life. She’s young at twelve, and even a bit immature at that, so she has a lot of growing up to do. Hilary discovers a lot about human nature, loyalty and the friendships that shapes her. A lot of themes are at play here as Hilary not only navigates the waters of tweenage friendships, but also her evolving relationship with her mother.

Characters
I’d say this is more a character-driven story than a plot-driven one. Hilary grows and evolves throughout the story. She’s rather difficult to like in the beginning, when she’s too focused on being popular and the clothes she wears, and movie stars, but Kallie forces her to think about something other than the superficial, which aids in her development. Most of the characters come across as very authentically young pre-teens. They’re childish one moment and determined to be mature the next.

What I Enjoyed About THE HISTORY OF HILARY HAMBRUSHINA
1. The Style.
 The author uses a diary format to tell the story of the summer before and the first year of Hilary’s junior high experience, several years after the events take place.

2. Kallie. Kallie’s free-spirited nature is a nice counterbalance to Hilary’s single-minded desire to be popular. She forces Hilary to examine her priorities from a different perspective.

3. Art. The inclusion and description of the art is colorful and helps drive some of the overarching themes.

4. Realistic Endings. It would have been easy for the author to show the mean girls getting theirs in the ending in a big “karma bites” kind of way, but without giving anything away, she creates a realistic ending to her story that feels good.

5. Subject Matter. I read a lot of young adult, but usually centered on older teen characters. This was a refreshing look at the younger teen years with all of the drama that comes with the jockeying for position in the social hierarchy of junior high.

Bottom Line
A well-written tale of a girl grasping to find her place in the social structure of junior high school without losing herself.

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 HISTORY OF HILARY HAMBRUSHINA
Author: Marnie Lamb
Publisher: Iguana Books
Pages: 206
Category: Middle Grade/Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Author Marnie Lamb

Author Marnie Lamb

About the Author
A Journey Prize nominee, Marnie Lamb earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Windsor. Her short stories have appeared in various Canadian literary journals. Her first novel, a YA book named The History of Hilary Hambrushina, is forthcoming from Iguana Books. When she is not writing fiction or running her freelance editing business, she can be found cooking recipes with eggplant or scouting out colourful fashions at the One of a Kind Show.
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Where to Find Marnie Lamb
Goodreads | Website | Facebook

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – UNDER SUNLESS SKIES (Starlight Saga) by Sherry Soule

UNDER SUNLESS SKIES (Starlight Saga #2) by Sherry Soule

UNDER SUNLESS SKIES (Starlight Saga #2) by Sherry Soule

4 Stars

Synopsis
True love is hard. And a doomed relationship with epic trust issues and shady secrets? Even harder.

For Sloane Masterson, her forbidden love with Hayden Lancaster has been a series of highs and lows, which is overly complicated by those annoying interstellar dating laws.

But once Sloane discovers a shocking family secret, she won’t let those lame rules get in her way—she’s on a mission to win back her hybrid!

Too bad convincing her stubborn ex that they belong together isn’t Sloane’s only problem. . .

After receiving creeptastic blackmail messages, Sloane’s life becomes a real-life horror movie. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Hayden slimes her with smelly ectoplasm and freaky mutants start tracking her every move. Insert one more major disaster. . .the unexpected arrival of Sector Thirteen.

If she hopes to survive all the crazy with Hayden at her side, Sloane needs to expose the blackmailer and get that potent residue off her skin—fast. Because with Sector Thirteen’s monsters hunting her, Sloane’s not going down without a fight, even if that means trusting the one boy who broke her heart.

*This series is intended for upper-YA readers, has lots of steamy romance and campy humor, and is not considered hardcore science fiction.

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My Review
Book two in the series picks up where the first one ended. Sloane is reeling from being dumped by Hayden, but oh yeah, she’s got a secret, apparently she’s part alien, too. Hoping this will convince Hayden their relationship isn’t doomed after all, she sets her sights on winning him back. This was the first time I disliked her. Her singular focus on getting a boy to like her made her seem very un-Sloane like, the girl I loved in book 1. She spends a fair amount of the book pining over him, but since he’s equally lost without her, it’s mutually pathetic. That said, the angst is well-done, the snarky dialogue is as good as ever, and other than being a lovesick puppy half the time, Sloane is as kick-ass as ever. My biggest problem with this book is that it feels oh so familiar. Anyone who has read the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout will notice many, many similarities. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Armentrout’s own Covenant series borrows heavily from the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. My issue is that too much of it was predictable as a result. However, if you haven’t read the Lux series, you’re in for a real treat with this.

Plot
Primarily a romance, this main plot centers around the Sloane/Hayden will-they-or-won’t they dance. But there are subplots involving Sloane’s alien dad, Sector Thirteen, Hayden’s missing adopted sister, and the mystery surrounding who is blackmailing Sloane. Underlying all of that is Sloane’s obsession with all things horror, including her love of hanging out in her town’s cemetery.

Characters
I still adore Sloane. She’s tough, witty, and so secure in who she is. She’s a great young adult role model except when she obsesses over Hayden. Don’t get me wrong, this is young adult fiction, and teens definitely obsess over the opposite sex. I just felt that in this case, it sas of out of character. With her newfound alien blood, she’s even a little tougher in some respects. Hayden seems to have lost some of his umph from the first book. He had that dark, brooding alpha male thing going on, but he came across as more…I’m not even sure what the right word is. Just less Hayden-esque.  The supporting characters are all there to prop up Sloane and Hayden, but Sloane’s BFF seems to accept her huge secret a little too easily. That didn’t ring true. I think she’d want some proof or something. There was also something about Sloane’s mom that felt off, like she didn’t come across as authentically parental, even a parent married to an alien.

What I Enjoyed About UNDER SUNLESS SKIES
1. Dialogue.
 Once again, the author excels at witty repartee that deliciously moves the story along.

2. Blog Posts. I love how Sloane’s horror film blog posts help the reader grasp what Sloane’s going through without extensive internal monologue or exposition.

3. Sloane. She’s simply one of my favorite young adult protagonists. She embraces her plus-size self and doesn’t fret over her body image at all.

4. Hot Make-Out Sessions. Soule knows how to bring the heat without crossing a line.

5. The Mystery. I have to admit, I was never sure who the blackmailer was. The author does a great job of creating a pool of plausible suspects.

Bottom Line
A fun, fast read that’s light on sci-fi and heavy on teen angst.

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

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About the Book
Title: UNDER SUNLESS SKIES
Series: Starlight Saga #2
Author: Sherry Soule
Pages: 335
Category: Young Adult Paranormal/SciFi Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Sherry Soule

Author Sherry Soule

About the Author
Sherry Soule lives with her family and two black rescue cats in Northern California. She’s always wanted to live in a world where sweatpants are sexy, cupcakes don’t make you fat, and she could adopt every homeless animal.

She writes young adult, new adult, and adult in urban fantasy, romantic comedy, and paranormal romance genres set in fictional places within the SF Bay Area that feature independent females and sexy alpha males.

Many of Sherry’s books have spent time on the Kindle bestseller lists and have been nominated as top picks in the “Best Paranormal Romance” categories.

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Where to Find Sherry Soule
Goodreads | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Young Adult Book Review – A SHOT WORTH TAKING (Worth Series) by Samantha Gudger

A SHOT WORTH TAKING (Worth #2) by Samantha Gudger

A SHOT WORTH TAKING (Worth #2) by Samantha Gudger

5 Stars

Synopsis
Emma Wrangton knows how to play basketball. She knows when to pass, when to drive, when to shoot. She knows how to read the defense, how to adapt when a game takes an unexpected turn, and how to fearlessly face an opponent and fight for the win. Basketball is what she knows; basketball is what she’s good at. What she doesn’t know is how to trust herself when she’s confronted with life-altering decisions off the basketball court. Is it right to turn her back on the only life she’s ever known to face a future of uncertainty? Should she sacrifice her dream to spare herself and others additional heartache? Can she let go of a lifetime of pain to find healing? Afraid to make the wrong decisions, she discovers shots worth taking aren’t always confined by the boundaries of a basketball court.

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My Review
This is the second book in the Worth series by Samantha Gudger. I adored the character and story in the first book, so my expectations were high with this one, but it doesn’t disappoint. There’s so much character development, it’s easy to get sucked into Emma’s world again. We pick back up with Emma, Riley, and the gang as well as a new character, Tyler. He’s a troublemaker living with Riley’s family, his parents hoping their influence will straighten him out. He’s the cause of more than a little conflict between Emma and Riley, but the conflict doesn’t end there. Once again, Emma’s dysfunctional family plays a starring role. We finally learn what happened to her mother and why her father and brothers ignore her. Gudger brings heartfelt emotion to her characters, making us care about them as if we know them.

Plot
The main plot centers around Emma’s familial relationships. They’re fractured, battered, broken shards, so putting the pieces back together is going to take a lot of work. The author never lets the characters take the easy way out. This is a gut-wrenching journey for all of them, and some of the best scenes involve painfully honest moments between Emma and members of her family. Subplots include Emma’s relationship with Riley and her future beyond high school. Both of those subplots strongly support the main plot.

Characters
The author puts her characters through the wringer and the come out the other side forever altered. Not only Emma this time, though, but also Riley, Emma’s dad and brothers, and even newcomer, Tyler. Gudger has a way of finding the grit in every character and bringing it to the surface in a way that makes her characters come alive in full color.

What I Loved About A SHOT WORTH TAKING
1. Riley.
 I didn’t agree with everything he did, but he always puts Emma first.

2. Emma. Her loyalty knows no bounds. She has a bigger heart than I ever gave her credit for and I love her journey in this second installment.

3. Tyler. He wasn’t my favorite character all the time, but he is complex and real and his heart is in the right place.

4. Family Drama. There is boatloads of it here and it’s well done. We finally get some answers about Emma’s mom and the events that tore Emma’s family apart.

5. Basketball. This is a little bit less of a focus this time around, but I still enjoyed how it threads through the story, binding all the fragments together.

Bottom Line
A worthy follow up to one of my favorite young adult sports romances.

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About the Book
Title: A SHOT WORTH TAKING
Series: Worth #2
Author: Samantha Gudger
Pages: 329
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Samantha Gudger

Author Samantha Gudger

About the Author
A former three-sport athlete in high school, Samantha grew up with a ball in one hand and a book in the other. From the moment her first grade teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, Samantha knew she wanted to be an author.

Samantha currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, a ball-obsessed Australian Shepherd, and a cat that can’t get enough cuddle time. Books, writing, sports, music, and marshmallows top her list of favorites.

A Game Worth Watching is her first novel.

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Where to Find Samantha Gudger
Goodreads | WebsiteTwitter | Facebook
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Blog Tour – Book Review + Giveaway – GIRL ON THE VERGE by Pintip Dunn

GIRL ON THE VERGE by Pintip Dunn

GIRL ON THE VERGE by Pintip Dunn

5 Stars

Synopsis
From the author of The Darkest Lie comes a compelling, provocative story for fans of I Was Here and Vanishing Girls, about a high school senior straddling two worlds, unsure how she fits in either—and the journey of self-discovery that leads her to surprising truths.

In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.

When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how much it intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong…

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My Review
Wow! It’s rare when a book exceeds my expectations. I was expecting more of a coming of age story, but this was pure thriller with a slice of romance. I devoured this story. After finishing, I have one thing to say — we need more young adult thrillers! Kan is a girl torn between two worlds. After her father dies, her mother becomes a workaholic, leaving Kan’s grandmother, Khun Yai to be her primary caregiver. Kan struggles to be a good Thai girl to make her grandmother happy, but she secretly wants to be like all the other girls at her American high school. Her life is turned upside down when her mother brings home a teen girl to live with them after the girl’s mother dies, and the boy she’s been crushing on for years finally makes a move. Kan has always wanted a sister, and Shelly seems like she might just be the perfect girl to fill that role. Except something isn’t quite right about Shelly.

Plot
The main plot is the mystery behind Shelly, but the romance between Kan and her crush, Ethan, is a strong subplot. Underlying it all is the Thai culture. So much of what drives the story is Kan’s search for which world she belongs in and living up to the expectations of her Thai grandmother. The author expertly weaves elements of mystery, romance, and straight up thriller into this tale, that includes far more character development than most thrillers. Told from alternating POVs, we get Kan’s in first-person present and the antagonist’s is told in third-person past. This technique is used as expertly as anything I’ve read by James Patterson. I was so impressed with myself for figuring out something early on, only to get to the end to find out I was completely wrong!

Characters
Kan and Shelly are exceptionally well-developed. I got less of a sense of Kan’s mother, grandmother, or even Ethan. The amount of growth Kan experiences more than makes up for the lesser-developed supporting characters.

What I Loved About GIRL ON THE VERGE
1. Everything.
 I’m just going to say that up front. The pacing is perfect, Kan is fascinating and easy to root for. Shelly is so complex, I have a deep need to know more about her.

2. Thai Culture. Other than the delicious food I eat on a regular basis, I admit to not knowing much about their culture. After reading this, I feel like I have a better understanding, to the point I want to learn more, because no doubt this only scratches the surface.

3. Competitive Dancing. Ethan is on the ballroom dance team, and I had no idea this even existed. It was fun to see the moves and dances through Kan’s eyes.

4. Secrets. Some are Kan’s, which the reader knows through her, but others are secrets of those around Kan which are kept from her. There are so many and they are revealed at a deliciously slow pace that only made me want to read on.

5. Young Love. This isn’t a traditional young adult romance, but I think in some ways that makes it more satisfying. There’s so much keeping these two apart, and yet they don’t respond in stereotypical fashion.

Bottom Line
One of my favorite young adult novels of 2017, a thriller, romance, mystery, and coming of age all rolled into one fantastic trope-free delight.

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: GIRL ON THE VERGE
Author: Pintip Dunn
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 256
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Pintip Dunn

Author Pintip Dunn

About the Author
When her first-grade teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, Pintip replied, “An author.” Although she has pursued other interests over the years, this dream has never wavered.

Pintip graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL.

Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. She is a 2012 RWA Golden Heart® finalist and a 2014 double-finalist. She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.
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Where to Find Pintip Dunn
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – REMEMBER ME FOREVER (The Lovely Vicious) by Sara Wolf

REMEMBER ME FOREVER Blog Tour

 

REMEMBER ME FOREVER (The Lovely Vicious #3) by Sara Wolf

REMEMBER ME FOREVER (The Lovely Vicious #3) by Sara Wolf

5 Stars

Synopsis
Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, forty-three weeks, and two days. Or so she thinks.

The boy she maybe-sort-of-definitely loved and sort-of-maybe-definitely hated has dropped off the face of the planet in the face of tragedy, leaving a Jack Hunter–shaped hole. Determined to be happy, Isis fills it in with lies and puts on a brave smile for her new life at Ohio State University.

But the smile lasts only until he shows up. The menace from her past—her darkest secret, Nameless—is attending OSU right alongside her. And he’s whispering that he has something Isis wants—something she needs to see to move forward. To move on.

Isis has always been able to pretend everything is okay. But not anymore.

Isis Blake might be good at putting herself back together.

But Jack Hunter is better.

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My Review
By far my favorite book in the series!!! While some of the plot felt contrived in the second book and it took me a while to warm up to both Jack and Isis in the first book, this one got everything right as far as I’m concerned. Isis was spunkier, which made her witty humor come across as more lovable and less defensive.

Still reeling from Sophia’s suicide, Isis leaves behind her mom and an opportunity at Stanford to got to Ohio State (THE Ohio State in case you’re from that area) University. She feels like a child in an adult world, which is exactly what she needs to grow up. she quickly befriends a couple of quirky characters before running into not one, but two ghosts from her past. Both Nameless and Jack turn her world upside down in different ways — ways that help her on her continued path to healing.

Plot
The main plot is the relationship between Jack and Isis, but Isis deals with her past with Nameless and her future. Jack has subplots involving his own demons as well as his employment with the mysterious Gregory. All of the loose ends from the previous two books are tied up neatly in a satisfying conclusion.

Characters
I love how much growth both characters experienced. They were so much easier to root for in this book. Isis is still snarky and Jack is still, well, Jack, but different. Isis’s self-deprecating humor and penchant for thinking out loud were more lighthearted and endearing than weird and dark. Jack comes into his own, and instead of being more mysterious, his actions make sense. He, too, is less dark and twisty. The new characters, Isis roommate and her girlfriend, contribute to the softer tone of this this installation that is more lovely than vicious.

What I Loved About REMEMBER ME ALWAYS
1. Isis.
 Right out of the blocks, she was hilariously eccentric in that way only Isis can be.

2. Jack. He finally has his sh*t together and has become the boy, or man, Isis deserves.

3. Revenge. Without giving anything away, there is a scene with Unnamed at the end that makes the build up through three books worth it.

4. Gregory. I didn’t know what to make of him in the second book, but his personality is revealed in REMEMBER ME FOREVER in a way that makes all of his actions understandable.

5. The Ending. I love the way the author wrapped up this book and the series. It’s completely satisfying, although I will miss Jack and Isis terribly.

Bottom Line
My favorite book in the series, it has a lighter tone and wraps up all the loose ends with characters I’ve grown to love.

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

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About the Book
Title: REMEMBER ME FOREVER
Series: The Lovely Vicious #3
Author: Sara Wolf
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 320
Category: Young Adult/New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Entangled

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Author Sara Wolf

Author Sara Wolf

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

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

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

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Where to Find Sara Wolf
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – NINJA GIRL by Cookie O’Gorman

NINJA GIRL Blog Tour

NINJA GIRL by Cookie O'Gorman

NINJA GIRL by Cookie O’Gorman

5 Stars

Synopsis
Seventeen-year-old Snow-Soon Lee kicks ass–literally. She teaches at her family-owned martial arts gym, The Academy, and cares more about training to be the next Bruce Lee than hooking up. In fact, Snow’s never even been kissed. But when Girls Night rolls around, Snow decides to prove to her friends (and herself) that she’s not just some boring tomboy. Impulsively, she kisses a hot stranger and even manages to escape his two security guards.

One stolen kiss…

Ash Stryker’s senior year sucks. His politician father pulled him out of Chariot High, separating him from his championship-winning soccer team. Now he’s stuck at a prissy private school with no friends, no team and no chance of being scouted. On top of that, thanks to the death threats his dad’s received, Ash has a security tail aka professional babysitters. When the mystery girl from the movies shows up at his school, rappelling from the rafters, Ash knows one thing: he won’t let her get away again.

One interesting job proposition…

After a seemingly random attack, Ash’s mother surprises everyone. She hires Snow to be Ash’s personal bodyguard until after the election. But can Snow’s kick-ass skills hold up against the rising threats to Ash’s family? More importantly, can Ash convince his ninja girl to screw ethics and kiss him again?

Opposites attract in this YA romance where a smooth talker meets his match in the tough girl who (literally) sweeps him off his feet. Moral of the story:

Sometimes even bad boys need a bodyguard...

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My Review
So much love for this book! I fell in love with Cookie O’Gorman’s writing and characters in ADORKABLE and couldn’t wait to read Ash’s story. Ash is a soccer phenom and the nemesis of the main love interest in ADORKABLE. So of course finding out not only is he in NINJA GIRL but we also get his point of view, and I was beyond excited. NINJA GIRL does not disappoint. Told from alternating points of view, we get to meet Snow-Soon Lee, a total bad-ass at martial arts, but not so much when it comes to romance. And then there’s Ash who is more than just a talented athlete. When Ash’s dad decides to run for congress, someone else decides that’s a bad idea and is threatening the family. Enter Snow, who is hired as Ash’s bodyguard during the school day, where she can blend with the student body. Ash is immediately smitten, but to say Snow is wary would be an understatement. With equal parts romance, humor, and action, the author’s signature style, the story moves at a light-hearted pace with more than a few swoony moments. While I did figure out who was after Ash’s family, I didn’t know the motive, and it all made perfect sense in the end.

Plot
Primarily a young adult romance, there’s a bit of a mystery, some danger, and a fair amount of action, making this a really fun read. The romance is sweet and angsty with a lot of back and forth. While Ash knows what he wants, the conflict is driven from Snow’s reluctance to get involved with her client as well as her wariness of someone like Ash being interested in someone like her and her general lack of experience with romantic relationships. Where Ash is all smooth and buttery, Snow is awkward and unsure, making these two perfectly adorable opposites.

Characters
I love the characters. Not only is Ash everything I hoped for, but Snow is one of my favorite young adult protagonists. Ever. She’s intimidating and unsure all at once and pulls it off in a thoroughly believable way. I adore her loyalty to her mother, her responsibility to her job, and her very vulnerable heart. Her growth through the story is slow and not necessarily dramatic, but enough that she realizes she has more to offer the world, and Ash, than just protection. Ash has less character development. He knows who he is and what he wants from the beginning. But I still loved reading his point of view. Helping us see Snow from a different perspective helped bring her to life in a way a single point of view couldn’t.

What I Loved About NINJA GIRL
1. Snow.
 She’s so interesting; a complete jumble of tough bad-assery mixed with teen insecurities and loads of angst.

2. Ash. Getting inside his head was deliciously good fun — he’s everything I hoped he’d be and more.

3. World Building. I love the diversity of the book, mixing Snow’s Asian culture with Ash’s wealth and privilege.

4. Action. The fight scenes were great. Either the author has a black belt in martial arts or she did extensive homework.

5. Quirky Characters. Cookie O’Gorman has a way of creating lovable characters that are just slightly off-balance. They’re endearing and more real due to their flaws.

Bottom Line
Once again, author Cookie O’Gorman delivers a fun story with adorable characters and a kick-ass plot.

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: NINJA GIRL
Author: Cookie O’Gorman
Release Date: March 30, 2017
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 debut novel ADORKABLE will be released in 2016.

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

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

INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS Blog Tour

INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS by Cathrina Constantine

INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS by Cathrina Constantine

4 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Cathrina Constantine

Author Cathrina Constantine

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

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

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Where to Find Cathrina Constantine
GoodreadsWebsite | FacebookTwitter | Amazon

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – NEXIS (Tricksters #1) by A.L. Devore

NEXIS (Tricksters #1) by A.L. Davroe

NEXIS (Tricksters #1) by A.L. Davroe

4 Stars

Synopsis
In the domed city of Evanescence, appearance is everything. A Natural Born amongst genetically-altered Aristocrats, all Ella ever wanted was to be like everyone else. Augmented, sparkling, and perfect. Then…the crash. Devastated by her father’s death and struggling with her new physical limitations, Ella is terrified to learn she is not just alone, but little more than a prisoner.

Her only escape is to lose herself in Nexis, the hugely popular virtual reality game her father created. In Nexis she meets Guster, a senior player who guides Ella through the strange and compelling new world she now inhabits. He offers Ella guidance, friendship…and something more. Something that allows her to forget about the “real” world, and makes her feel whole again.

But Nexis isn’t quite the game everyone thinks it is.

And it’s been waiting for Ella.

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My Review
NEXIS is a rollercoaster ride in only the best of amusement parks. A soup pot of adventure, virtual reality, science fiction, romance, in a utopian/dystopian setting, it’s a delicious read. Ella is the daughter of the creator of Nexis, a virtual reality game that is taking her world by storm. After a tragic accident leaves Ella with a life she barely recognizes, she escapes into Nexis. Inside the game, she meets Gus and his merry band of friends and gets sucked into their quest. In Nexis, nothing is as it appears, setting up a fantastic adventure full of action, drama, and intrigue.

Plot
The plot centers around the quest, but there’s more to it, including Ella’s budding romance with Gus and a number of mysteries that I won’t spoil. Some I had figured out from the beginning, others not so much. I think that’s what makes this so much fun to read. It’s part story, part game, part story within a story.

Characters
Ella is annoying at times, but given how she was raised, I could overlook most of it. Gus is an enigma who becomes less so through the story. The rest of the characters play minor roles for the most part. This is probably one of the areas that I least liked about the story. The characters seem to only be there to support the plot, so it’s a good thing the plot is so amazing.

World Building
This is where the story shines like the midday summer sun. Author, A.L. Davroe has created a fascinating world that is layered, detailed, and full of rules that drive everything. What makes this world building so interesting is that there are multiple worlds, each just as detailed as the previous. At times it can be tough to keep it all straight, but the author does most of the hard work for you.

What I Enjoyed About NEXIS
1. World building.
 Absolutely top notch. Complex, detailed, and vibrant.

2. Plot. The plot is layered and brilliant. I love the whole concept behind this and can’t wait to dig into the second book in the series.

3. Gus. He’s the one character I felt had the most development. Guster is infinitely captivating, and while I was pretty sure I figured out who he was from the beginning, his character unfolded through the pages like a flower blooming in spring.

4. Nexis. Why is this not a real thing? If it was, I’d have a hard time not going into Nexis every day.

5. Technology. The author’s imagination comes alive, creating technology that would make Steve Jobs salivate.

Bottom Line
Nexis is a plot-driven story that delivers with plenty of action and lots of twists.

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: NEXIS
Series: Tricksters #1
Author: A.L. Davroe
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: December 1, 2015
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | Entangled

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Author A.L. Davroe

About the Author
I write both YA and adult speculative fiction. I prefer revisionist tales in paranormal, romance, Steampunk, and fantasy. I’m the author of Salvation Station (adult psych horror), The City Steam Collection (adult psych horror), For Your Heart (YA Paranormal Romance) and my YA Sci-Fi novel, Nexis, is coming out with Entangled Publishing in 2015!

By day, I live in Connecticut with my two feline hench-creatures.  I’m a terrible blusher, have a weak spot for cuddly animals, love Laffy Taffy and Cadbury MiniEggs, and I’m a huge advocate of alternative healing methods.  I also wear Vibram five-finger toe shoes and corsets…Though not always in the same ensemble.  I’m a Capricorn, a Hufflepuff, and a few nuggets short of a Happy Meal.  I also suffer from Resting Bitchface Syndrome (RBS), so even though I might look like I’ll tie you in a knot if you come near me, I’m more afraid of you than you are of me (see blushing problem above).

Where to Find A.L. Davroe
GoodreadsWebsite | NewsletterFacebookTwitter

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Young Adult Book Review – WHEN PLANETS FALL (Stars Fall Circle) by Abby J. Reed

WHEN PLANETS FALL (Stars Fall Circle #1) by Abby J. Reed

WHEN PLANETS FALL (Stars Fall Circle #1) by Abby J. Reed

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
Breaker’s home is cleaved by blood. The three tribes on the planet Scarlatti, whose only difference is their blood color, each want to exploit Breaker’s valley for themselves. The feudal tension has already claimed red-blood Breaker’s leg and his older brother. Now all this 18-year old wants is to maintain the tenuous peace in order to keep his little ‘stroid of a brother alive. Malani, a red-blood raised blue, is a kidnapped POW and only wants to return to her adoptive home with her dangerous blue secrets. Luka, a red-blood stewing for trouble, wants to right wrongs done to his family and bathe his home in justice.

All three intersect when Breaker discovers a wrecked starship and is given seven days by the green-bloods to fix and hand it over as a weapon. Breaker must decide if aiding his enemies is worth the home he knows and his family’s life. War is coming. And war respects no boundaries. And war leaves no survivors.

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My Review
WHEN PLANETS FALL is unlike any other book I’ve read. Mixing equal parts science fiction, dystopian, and romantic elements, it weaves a tale of complex characters in an even more complex world. Told from three different first-person points-of-view, I initially thought it was one POV too many, but about halfway in, it becomes apparent that third POV is necessary for the story the author wants to tell. Breaker is a fix-it guy, able to make just about anything with the parts at hand. Malani is a red blood, raised by the blue bloods after the green bloods kidnapped and tortured her. To save her life, they infused her with living metal, which creates whatever the person needs most. In Malani’s case, it’s a set of metal wings. Luka is in the militia with dreams of advancement. When the war between the red, green, and blue bloods comes to a head, their three worlds collide in unexpected ways and no one is exactly as they seem. The author has a unique voice that I immediately fell in love with. This is her debut novel, so I’m looking forward to so much more from her. She paints a brilliant picture of her settings and characters. There were several twists I never saw coming, particularly one near the end.

Plot
Breaker stumbles upon a wrecked starship while out scouting, which triggers the green bloods to kidnap him. Their king holds the lives of his red-blooded community over his head unless he fixes starship. While in custody, he meets Malani and the two of them form an unlikely alliance in order to escape. With the safety of his home hanging in the balance, Breaker has no choice but to repair the ship for the green blood s. Between Melani, his family, and a very suspicious Luka, Breaker struggles with where his loyalties lie, but underneath it all, is a driving need to protect those he loves.

Characters
The three main characters were all extremely well developed, with sufficient growth through the first book in the series. Even secondary characters came across fairly well developed. I found Breaker’s parents to be somewhat two-dimensional as well as the red-blooded leader, but overall, I think the character development was great.

What I Loved About WHEN PLANTES FALL
1. World building.
 This is among the best I’ve read in young adult fiction. The author has created a vibrant world with stunning technology that feels both exotic and familiar.Everything from the red trees to the way blue bloods reproduce is not only unique, but contributes to the plot. Even the language was great. It took a bit to pick up the lingo, but now I use “banging” as one of my favorite swear words.

2. Breaker. This tough teen with an artificial leg named Circuit is tough, independent, cunning, and charming. He has a solid moral compass, even if his means are questionable.

3. Malani. The girl who belongs nowhere with the metallic wings is a one-of-a-kind protagonist. Because she’s human and not some paranormal being, everything she does is flawed and imperfect, but she’s so easy to root for.

4. The cover. When I first saw the cover, I was drawn to it, but once I was deep into the story, I kept going back to the cover to look at it. It truly encapsulates the story within.

5. Luka. I’m still on the fence about him, but I cannot deny he’s one of the most complex characters in the story. I can’t wait to see where the journey takes him next.

Bottom Line
I loved this story and all of the characters. Can’t wait for the next book in the series!

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: WHEN PLANETS FALL
Series: Stars Fall Circle #1
Author: Abby J. Reed
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Release Date: May 10, 2017
Pages: 420
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Abby J. Reed

Author Abby J. Reed

About the Author
Abby J. Reed writes young adult science fiction and fantasy novels that ask what if. She has a degree in English Writing and is drawn to characters with physical limitations due to her own neurological disorder called Chronic Migraine. Her debut novel, When Planets Fall, will be published in April 2017 by Soul Mate Publishing.

Abby lives in Colorado with her husband and two fluffy pups. If her hands aren’t on the keyboard, they are stained purple and blue with paint.

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Where to Find Abby J. Reed
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Tumblr
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – OFF THE ICE (Juniper Falls) by Julie Cross

OFF THE ICE Blog Tour

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

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

4 Stars

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

All is fair in love and hockey…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Julie Cross

Author Julie Cross

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

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

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

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

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Giveaway
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – TRAVELER by L.E. DeLano

TRAVELER Blog Tour

TRAVELER by L.E. DeLano

TRAVELER by L.E. DeLano

4 Stars

Synopsis
A teen writer discovers that every mirror is a portal into an alternate version of her life in this romantic YA fantasy by author L.E. DeLano.

Jessa has spent her life dreaming of other worlds and writing down stories more interesting than her own, until the day her favorite character, Finn, suddenly shows up and invites her out for coffee. After the requisite nervous breakdown, Jessa learns that she and Finn are Travelers, born with the ability to slide through reflections and dreams into alternate realities. But it’s not all teacakes, pirates and fantasy lifestyles…Jessa is dying over and over again, in every reality, and Finn is determined that this time, he’s going to stop it… this Jessa is going to live.

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My Review
This was a fresh take on the urban fantasy genre. Jessa discovers she’s a Traveler, someone who can move between parallel universes. The purpose of the Traveler is to keep all the universes orderly, fixing things that can become catastrophic if left unchecked. Together with fellow Traveler, Finn, Jessa reluctantly accepts her fate until she discovers someone is trying to kill her, one universe at a time.The tale is magical with incredible world-building and complex characters. Because each character is slightly different in each universe, the author crafted a wonderfully deep cast. As Finn and Jessa race through portals, they develop a deep bond, but Jessa’s best friend, Ben, has strong feelings for her, setting up one of the most unique love triangles I’ve come across. The teen angst is palpable without being overly dramatic.

Plot
The plot centers around Finn and Jessa’s search for whoever is trying to kill her. There’s a solid mystery component to it with some exciting moments. The romance almost takes a back seat, though. I was hoping for more romance earlier in the book. It takes a good three-quarters of the story to fully develop. Even so, it is well done and I feel as conflicted as Jessa does about the two boys in her life.

Characters
While this is definitely a plot-driven story, the character development really shines. I loved seeing all the slight ripples in personality from Jessa’s viewpoint as she traveled. It’s clear the author spent a lot of time getting to know her characters.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Pacing.
 The story took too long to really get ramped up. At least for me. I had to plod through the first third waiting for it to grab me, and some sections I ended up skimming.

2. World Building. Don’t get me wrong, I love the world the author created, but I found some of the rules confusing and hard to follow.

What I Enjoyed About TRAVELER
1. Ben.
 I liked him immediately and I love how much he cares for Jessa.

2. Danny. Jessa’s brother takes different shape throughout the story as she travels to different dimensions, but her love for Danny, and seeing him the way he is in other realities and the way it affected her, was one of my favorite aspects of the story.

3. The ending. Even though it took awhile to build, once the story reached its pinnacle, it was a non-stop ride to the finish.

4. Alternate Universes. Or AUs as my teen likes to call them. This is almost as fascinating as time travel.

5. Finn. He’s such a tormented, complex hero. Strong, resilient, and so easy to love.

6. The cover. Seriously, this is absolutely gorgeous!! I’d totally frame it and hang it on my wall!

Bottom Line
TRAVELER is everything I hoped it would be, a fascinating plot with plenty of twists.

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: TRAVELER
Author: L.E. DeLano
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Pages: 351
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author L.E. DeLano

Author L.E. DeLano

About the Author
L.E. DeLano is a YA novelist rep’d by Barry Goldblatt Literary agency, author of the upcoming “Traveler” (Swoon Reads/MacMillan 2017) and lifelong writer. Her work has been featured on various online outlets and she lives in Pennsylvania with two very adventurous kids and two very ridiculous cats. In her spare time, she writes (of course) and binge-watches way too much Netflix.

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Where to Find L.E. DeLano
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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

SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS Blog Tour

SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS by Casey Griffin

SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS by Casey Griffin

4 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line
SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS is a cute, funny romance with lovable characters.

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

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About the Book
Title: SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS
Author: Casey Griffin
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Pages: 354
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | KoboGooglePlay | BAM! | !ndigo | IndieBound | Book Depository

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Author Casey Griffin

Author Casey Griffin

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

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

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

The Tattered Gloves by J.L. Berg

The Tattered Gloves by J.L. Berg

5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author J.L. Berg

Author J.L. Berg

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

Liberation (Moonchild #2) by Kate L. Mary

Liberation (Moonchild #2) by Kate L. Mary

5 Stars

Synopsis
From two-time award-winning author, Kate L. Mary, comes the sequel to MOONCHILD, “a much needed breath of fresh air in the world of YA fantasy.” After surviving the auction and a near death experience at the hands of Asher’s father, Scarlett Moon is more than ready for life to settle down, and with each passing day she starts to feel more at home in Columbus. Even with Asher ready for more than Scarlett can give, she manages to fall into a routine that almost feels like a normal life.

But one distress call is all it takes to destroy the serenity the group has managed to build.

As far as anyone knew, Paget had moved on with her life after storming out months ago, but the fear in her voice when she calls the warehouse tells a different story. Even though Scarlett never liked Asher’s ex to begin with, she can’t help feeling a little bit responsible for Paget’s situation.

Searching in the seediest part of the city, the group picks up clues as they try to piece together what might have happened. The more Scarlett learns about what the other woman has been through over the last few months, the more concerned she becomes. Even worse: there’s no sign of Paget anywhere in Columbus.

With all the clues pointing in one direction, the group leaves the city and heads for Hocking Hills. Only it seems the danger may have followed them, leaving nothing but death and destruction in its wake and putting Paget in more danger than ever before. As Scarlett learns more about the woman who used to hold Asher’s heart, she suddenly finds herself unable to deny how she really feels about him. Only, with Paget in trouble, Scarlett can’t help wondering if Asher might still have feelings for his ex.

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My Review
I freaking love this series! I was delighted to find out that Moonchild was the first book in the series and bought the sequel the day it came out. Book 2 picks up a few months after the end of Moonchild. Scarlett is still convinced she’s bad for Asher and Asher is still convinced she’s wrong. Things have settled into a new normal until Asher’s ex, Paget, sends a distress call. With no idea where she is or where the call came from, the pirates set out to find her and bring her home. While there is no love-loss between Scarlett and Paget, Scarlett knows she must be part of the rescue effort. These are the moments I absolutely adore her. Her sense of duty and right and wrong is so much a part of who she is.

Plot
The plot centers around the search and rescue of Paget, but the romance is still a very strong subplot and incredibly well done! I love the angst and drama surrounding Scarlett and Asher’s relationship. There is so much action in the plot, the story moves at a clipped pace, only pausing long enough to allow us to catch our breath. Once again the story is well-plotted and expertly executed.

Characters
All the characters I fell in love with in the first book are back and a few new ones are added. Scarlett and Asher both undergo a decent amount of development, more so than before. The good news is, there’s still plenty of room for growth, so hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of these two. The author creates so much depth in her characters that there are still many unexplored depths to discover in this installment. We not only learn more about Scarlett and Asher, but Paget really comes into her own.

World Building
The world building continues to be one of the most impressive I’ve read in the past few years. Kate L. Mary’s attention to detail makes her settings come alive in very vibrant and realistic fashion.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The editing.
 Once again, both the content and copy editing disappointed me, pulling me out of the story more than a few times.

2. The cover. The cover still doesn’t grab my attention, but I’m so invested in the series now, it could be a plain brown wrapper and I’d still pick up the next book.

What I Loved About Liberation
1. The setting.
 Again the world the author has created just shines. I love everything from the settings to the costumes to the technology.

2. Scarlett. While I was slow to warm to her in the first book, I had no such issues this time around. I was already a big fan. It was great to see some true growth in her. While she’s still a teen and has plenty of angst, she’s starting to mature.

3. The plot. Another perfectly plotted and executed story!

4. Asher. If possible, I love him even more now. We get to see a new side to him, a softer, more vulnerable side and it made him more human.

5. Paget. She’s still the same romantic foil and no fan of Scarlett’s, but she has her own growth in this installment and seeing more of her, hearing more of her story, endeared her to me in a way she hadn’t before.

Bottom Line
Liberation is my favorite book of 2016 and with tighter editing, it would have been damn near perfect!

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About the Book
Title: Liberation
Series: Moonchild #2
Author: Kate L. Mary
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Pages: 280
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/SciFi/Steampunk Romance
Rating:
 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Kate L. Mary

Author Kate L. Mary

About the Author
Award-winning author of WHEN WE WERE HUMAN and the Amazon best-selling BROKEN WORLD series, Kate L. Mary writes everything from post-apocalyptic tales of the undead to new adult contemporary romance. A mother of four and an Air Force wife, her days are divided between keeping her household in order and creating new worlds for readers to get lost in.

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Where to find Kate L. Mary
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Young Adult Book Review – My Junior Year of Loathing (School Dayz) by Jennifer DiGiovanni

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

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

5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

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

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Where to find Jennifer DiGiovanni
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Pinterest
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Blog Tour – Review – My Friends Are All Strange by M.C. Lesh

My Friends Are All Strange Blog Tour

My Friends Are All Strange by M.C. Lesh

My Friends Are All Strange by M.C. Lesh

4 Stars

Synopsis
My friends are all strange.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author M.C. Lesh

Author M.C. Lesh

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 Stars

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

So wrong for each other…and yet so right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Katie McGarry

Author Katie McGarry

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

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

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