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Book Review – THE BEST MISTAKE (Southern U O’Brien Brothers Series) by Cookie O’Gorman

Cover to THE BEST MISTAKE, the first book in her new adult contemporary romance series, Southern U O'Brien Brothers, by Cookie O'Gorman, releasing April, 2020

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Honor Tierney just wants one night with the playboy.

One hot, steamy, meaningless hookup, and then she’ll happily go back to reading her favorite books, studying to be an accountant and writing for the campus-paper-nobody-reads. Too bad she ends up in the wrong bed, with the wrong brother…who gives her the hottest night of her life.

Archer O’Brien just wants to play ball.

Well that, and for his brothers to stop acting out, so he won’t have to worry 24/7. As the oldest O’Brien and team captain, it’s his duty to make sure they don’t drink too much, party too much, or get in too much trouble. But when she walks into his bedroom—mistaking him for his brother—life throws him a curveball.

She’s determined to guard her heart. He’s not giving up.

And when Honor gets assigned to cover the Wolves baseball team, it’s game on.

This new adult sports romance features one hot (and hilarious) case of mistaken identity and a sexy set of brothers guaranteed to make you swoon.

Sometimes, the best mistakes are worth making.

 

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My Review
This is the first new adult novel I’ve read by Cookie O’Gorman, and I’m hooked. She took everything I love about her young adult books: quirky, fun characters and angsty romance, and mixed them up with older characters with more independence, but still trying to figure out life. The combination is both heart-warming and hysterical. Honor Tierney is about to finish up college, still a virgin. Baylor O’Brien has the reputation as a ladies man who leaves his partners satisfied. Who better to give her a night she’ll never forget? Unless she accidentally mistakes one O’Brien brother for another, with hilarious results. What follows is two college seniors trying to make sense of one mixed-up night that might be anything but a failed one-night stand. Add a plethora of O’Brien siblings, Honor’s diverse roommates, and more than a few sparks to ignite a series of events that are at times laugh-out-loud funny and gut-punching. While this is Honor’s and Archer’s story, I can’t wait to find out what happens with the rest of this crew! I’m so happy this is the first book in a new series.

Plot
This is a straight up romance without any real sub-plotting, but the romance drives the story so well, not much else is needed. The back and forth between what Archer wants and what Honor wants along with misconceptions and assumptions on both their parts drives the bulk of the conflict, with Archer’s siblings contributing the rest. When you put that many alpha males together, all from the same family, sparks are bound to fly. The best dialogue is between the O’Brien siblings.

Characters
O’Gorman excels at characters. Honor is equal parts smart, socially awkward, and adorable. The only thing I didn’t really like about her was how little self-esteem she has. And that didn’t really change over the course of the story the way I hoped it would. But her best friend and roommate, Charlie, more than makes up for it with an over-abundance of self-assuredness. She’s the yin to Honor’s yang. Guys fall all over themselves to be with her, except for Archer’s brother, Chase. These two need their own story, stat. Then there’s Rose, the third roommate, who I still haven’t figured out yet, and the O’Brien sister, now a freshman, who rounds out the apartment. Her best friend, June, has it bad for bad boy Baylor, and I’m convinced their story will be the best of the bunch. And above them all is the baseball coach and Mama O’Brien herself, who keeps them all in line while coaching the winningest team in college baseball.

What I Loved About THE BEST MISTAKE
1. Honor.
Delightfully awkward and funny.

2. Archer. As the oldest O’Brien, he has a sense of responsibility that keeps him on the straight and narrow as his brothers devolve into drinking, brawling, and general debauchery.

3. Baseball. I miss sports of all kinds during this pandemic life we’re in now, but since it’s baseball season, I really enjoyed the ballpark scenes.

4. The O’Brien Brothers. Each is very different from the other, making for a colorful cast of characters.

5. Charlie. She was my favorite character in the book and I can’t wait for her story.

Bottom Line
A fun, fast-paced contemporary romance with plenty of laugh-out loud moments.

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

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: THE BEST MISTAKE
Series: Southern U O’Brien Brothers Series #1
Author: Cookie O’Gorman
Release Date: April 23, 202-
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Sports Romance
Pages: 219
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

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Author Cookie O'Gorman

Author Cookie O’Gorman

About the Author
Cookie O’Gorman writes YA & NA romance to give readers a taste of happily-ever-after. Small towns, quirky characters, and the awkward yet beautiful moments in life make up her books. Cookie also has a soft spot for nerds and ninjas. Her novels ADORKABLE, NINJA GIRL, The Unbelievable, Inconceivable, Unforeseeable Truth About Ethan Wilder, and The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad are out now!  She is also the author of NA sports romance, The Best Mistake.

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

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Young Adult Book Review – HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH by Amy Fellner Dominy

Welcome to the blog tour for HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH, a stand-alone young adult contemporary romance by Amy Fellner Dominy

 

Cover for HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH, a stand-alone young adult contemporary romance by Amy Fellner Dominy

HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH by Amy Fellner Dominy

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Mai Senn knows Anthony Adams is no good for her – no matter how hard she might crush on him. She’s valedictorian; he’s a surf bum. She’s got plans, he’s got his art. Complete opposites in every way. Vinegar and baking soda, they once joked. A chemical reaction that bubbled.

Yeah, they bubbled. Maybe still do.

Good thing Anthony’s got the perfect plan: two weeks to prove just how not good they are together. Whoever can come up with the worst date—something the other will seriously hate, proving how incompatible they truly are—wins.

Like taking a snake-phobe to the Reptile House at the zoo (his idea).

Or a cooking class where they don’t even get to eat the food (her idea).

It’s all about the competition, and it’s meant to help them finally crush their crushes. But it wasn’t supposed to be so hot. Or so fun. And when Mai’s future becomes at stake, will she be able to do the right thing and quit Anthony forever?

 

 

 

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My Review
I love this book so much. I love the characters, the flirty banter, and just the whole story. It’s an enemies to “lovers” story with a little something extra. Mai is driven. And that’s an understatement. She has a plan for everything, knows what she will do with her life down to the most minute detail, and absolutely doesn’t take risks. There are reasons for this, reasons that make Mai so much more than a one-dimensional character. Anthony is the complete opposite. For his own reasons, he is an inherent risk taker, he has no plan for his future, and lives life in the moment, never knowing what tomorrow may bring. What these two do have in common is an inexplicable attraction to one another that is one part chemistry and one part something neither of them truly understands. With Mai leaving for college soon and Anthony heading out on a quest with no particular plans beyond this, these two need to get each other out of their systems. They agree to a two-week immersion to really prove to themselves and each other why they’re so wrong together. Each plans alternating dates they absolutely know the other will hate, resulting in truly hilarious moments. But instead of pushing them further away, it appears to have the opposite effect. These two couldn’t be more different, but you know what they say — opposites attract!

Plot
The author does a great job of plotting the story so it never drags. The “hate” dates add comedy throughout and keep the story from even devolving into a sagging middle section. Instead, the pacing is spot on, and the character development and sprinkling of moments that help us understand the characters’ backstories is never tedious.

The Characters
The characters are the best part, and that’s saying something. Mai was hard for me to really identify with it first, but it didn’t take long for me to really get her on a much deeper level. As the only adopted child in her family, she not only looks different than her parents and brother, she feels different. She knows she was chosen, but she also knows she was abandoned by her birth parents. Her need for roots is so understandable, I just wanted to reach out and hug her so many times. Anthony recently lost his father to a short battle with cancer, proving that nothing in life is permanent. He believes in never looking to the future when you can live in the now, because the future isn’t guaranteed. While I’m more like Anthony naturally, rather than through circumstance, I found myself really empathizing with Mai. I was rooting for these two so hard from nearly the first chapter.

Top Five Things I Loved About HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH
1. Mai. She’s so uptight she’s practically a statue, and yet there is so much underlying all of that which makes her easy to love.

2. Anthony. He’s my “live in the moment” soul mate, and I was pulling for him to unwind Mai the whole time.

3. Hiking. I live in Southern California, so hiking is pretty much a way of life here, too, although not nearly as hot as in Phoenix! I loved the trail scenes the most.

4. Chemistry. Mai and Anthony have it in spades and it was raw and refreshing.

5. Witty banter. The dialogue was among the best I’ve read in a long time.

Bottom Line
An adorable romance with amazing characters and many laugh-out-loud moments. One of my top reads of 2020 so far.

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: HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH
Author: Amy Fellner Dominy
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: May 4, 2020
Pages: 270
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Young adult author, Amy Fellner Dominy

Author Amy Fellner Dominy

About the Author
Amy grew up loving to read and figured out at an early age that books were magical and necessary. She started submitting her own stories to be published when she was thirteen. Amy is now the award-winning author of nine books spanning young adult, middle grade, and picture books. Titles for Entangled include Announcing Trouble and the companion novel, How to Quit Your Crush. Amy lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and a puppy who is training them. Visit Amy online at www.amydominy.com or follow her on Instagram or Twitter at @amydominy..

 

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Where to Find Amy Fellner Dominy
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter | Instagram

 

Book Review – RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES by Robb Ryerse

Cover to RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES, A Story of Faith, Politics, and the Common Good by Robb Ryerse

RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES, A Story of Faith, Politics, and the Common Good by Robb Ryerse

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Empowered by the Brand New Congress initiative in 2018, evangelical pastor and progressive Republican Robb Ryerse embarked on a long-shot, grassroots congressional campaign against Steve Womack, one of the most powerful Republican incumbents in Washington, DC. After he ultimately lost his race, Ryerse worked with the Vote Common Good campaign, traveling across the United States to help turn Congress blue.

Throughout his political journey, Ryerse gained new insights on the relationship between religion and politics in America today, the dynamics of our deep partisan divide, and the power of faithful people working for the common good. Running for Our Lives is the honest and authentic story of how one pastor tried to make a difference. Through all the joys and struggles of daring to make a stand, Ryerse shares what he’s learned about how our political identities shape us, what the role of government has in helping to meet peoples needs, and how others can get involved in politics as an expression of progressive faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
When I saw this title on NetGalley, I was sure it was something I wanted to read. What I didn’t know was if it would infuriate me, give me hope, or change my views. But after finally deciding to request it, I’m happy to report that it did all three. I’m a strong believer in a solid wall between church and state. The state shouldn’t be telling religious institutions how to worship and religious institutions shouldn’t be trying to tell the American people how to live. I didn’t know anything about author, Robb Ryerse, before starting this book, but I soon learned he’s a pastor in Arkansas who ran to unseat the incumbent congressman from his district. I wasn’t sure if he was going to try to convert me to his way of thinking regarding the intersection of politics and faith, but I went into it with an open mind. No one is going to convert me to their religious beliefs at this point in my life, but I was willing to entertain different ideas on how elected officials and the faithful can best serve their country without sacrificing their beliefs.

RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES is about a lot of things. It’s about how politics work in America (hint, it’s seriously broken), how many of the American faithful have embraced an immoral president in the name of Jesus, and how people of faith can put their beliefs in action without trampling on the rights of others to believe something differently. I found this book refreshing. Having been raised Catholic, Robb and I have had very different religious upbringings, and yet we oddly have similar ideas when it comes to the teachings of Jesus. Nowhere does Jesus say that we should blame the poor for their circumstances. Nor did he ever say to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others if it mean less financial security for you. Yet I see these ideas being shared by Christians. That, “If only those people would do what I did, they wouldn’t be poor.” Or “We can’t help everyone.” I get it. We can’t necessarily help everyone, but we also shouldn’t, as a nation, make life harder for people in their own countries with our policies. But that is exactly what happens when our president rails about trade deficits with countries like Mexico. Mexico has a population of less than half of the United States and a GDP per capita of just $9,670 vs. our $62,794. It is unconscionable to expect a nation of impoverished citizens to buy the same amount of US products as we do from them. It is also very unchristian. Nowhere will you find Jesus demanding the poor buy more of your products in order for you to buy more of theirs. That is not how Christianity works.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Robb is my kind of Christian. Someone who really gets that Christianity is not about getting rich, or even ensuring your are comfortable enough before you help the less fortunate. I also completely understand the argument that Jesus wasn’t talking about government. He was talking about people. But people have let down the poor over and over and over again. When that happens, governments have the duty to ensure no one falls through the cracks as part of ensuring the common good. If people would step up and do what’s right, government wouldn’t need to. To ignore the crisis at our southern border because they aren’t Americans is a grievous sin in my opinion.

Once I realized Robb saw human suffering the same way I did, I was even more willing to really hear what he had to say. I highlighted more passages in his book than any other I’ve ever read. The following are some of my favorites:

Could we as potential candidates for Congress demonstrate that people are more important than party?

I’m so tired of both major political parties putting their party loyalty above their duty to their constituents, those who elected them to office in the first place. But we see it time and time again. It’s one of the biggest reasons people hate government. We feel as if government works for itself, but not for us. What is surprising about this is that most people think their own particular elected officials are generally doing a good job, but it’s those “other” guys who are messing it up. Which is why incumbents have such a high rate of reelection. I loved that Robb really got it and that he was determined to do whatever little part he could to right that enormous wrong.

Those who are cynical about American politics are convinced that the tribalism of the two-party system can’t be overcome. They frequently complain that their elected officials won’t cross the aisle to compromise. But how can we expect our leaders to put people ahead of party if we’re unwilling to do it first?

This is another paragraph that really stuck with me. I’ve been guilty as much of anyone of believing that I’m right. Because if I didn’t think I was right about an issue, I would be searching for what WAS right. And even if I think I’m right, I also know that nothing good ever comes from forcing my opinions onto others. We ping pong back and forth between liberal and conservative policies, depending on who is in the White House, giving the country whiplash. But if we stopped trying to make everyone bend to our will and realize that compromise is a beautiful word, not a curse, everyone could get a little of what they wanted, but no one would get everything they want. It means our country will change gradually, even if a big overhaul is what many of us believe is needed. But these gradual changes are more likely to be lasting changes that can be built upon over time.

The twenty-four hour news cycle means that each and every minute of airtime has to be filled in a way that drives ratings among people who already know the news. For this reason, sensationalized stories that feed the public’s appetite for entertainment and draw the largest audience get more play than substantive stories.

He precedes this statement by mentioning that everyone walks around with a handheld computer in their pocket, pushing news headlines constantly to our attention. So if we read that Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in five different news stories on our phones, when we tune into the news later, we don’t want to see what we already know. So the cable news channels look for that angle, the something different they think will appeal to their viewers. For Fox News it may be how the DNC orchestrated once again, a scenario to allow the establishment candidate to win the nomination. But CNN may start speculating on who Biden’s running mate may be, and MSNBC may run with the ideas that Bernie brought to the table and how they changed the conversation within the Democratic party. All of which leads to Americans, understandably so, believing the cable new stations are biased. I think it’s far less about the stations being biased and more that their viewers are biased and they know it. They want to appeal to their viewers, even if it means slanting a story a certain way. In most cases, the media gets the facts right. Not always, but more often than not. Where bias comes in is how they present those facts, and of course, the salacious punditry, speculating on everything and anything when additional facts are not available.

I started to refer to myself as an “Eisenhower Republican,” because I wanted people to recognize that I was not trying to do something that had never been done. I was trying to stand on the shoulders of other Republican leaders who fought for progressive ideas.

Robb ran as a “progressive” republican. Many people on the campaign trail asked him why he was running as a republican, if he was a progressive, and not as a democrat. He had to explain time and again that his ideas were the same ideas of republican presidents of the past. The party has shifted from what it once was, but that doesn’t mean Robb wants to abandon the party of Eisenhower and Reagan. Rather, he wants to bring the party back to what it once was. I found that refreshing, particularly with so many republicans allowing their party to be hijacked by nationalism and protectionist policies.

Blaming social media and cable news networks for this division is easy, but assigning blame doesn’t help us move beyond it.

He’s so right. We often look at how divided this nation is right now and point to Twitter and Facebook, which have made it easy to spread false information and to attack people for holding views different from ours from the safety of our keyboards. These platforms allow us to shut off our phone if we don’t like the ugliness we started with our harsh words. But saying that the cable news channels who pander to their viewers’ beliefs or the internet for making it easy for us to find our echo chambers, doesn’t help us do anything about it, unless we’re ready to give up cable news and computers. Instead, he offers his own thoughts on how to move ahead as a more civil society. His background as a pastor provides him with a different worldview than mine and gave me a lot to think about.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God and others as we love ourselves. This is not two commandments, but one, a unified vision of love. It is recognizing that when we love others, we love God. When we feed the hungry, visit the incarcerated, welcome the stranger, and care for the sick, we are serving not just other people but Jesus himself. … In fact, maybe the most loving thing I can do when I enter the voting booth is to cast my ballot not for my own interests but for the common good.

This may have be the single most powerful few paragraphs in the book. Here is where he really breaks down his views on how religion and politics should mix. How faith can influence our vote, but not in the way I’ve always assumed. I always thought that Christians voted for other Christians, assuming they would bring about Christian policies. But it goes much deeper than that in Robb’s view and I found myself nodding throughout this chapter.

Until our campaign finance system is revamped, the best–and I believe only–hope we have for significant and needed change in Washington is working Americans supporting grassroots candidates with acupunctural interventions of small-dollar donations.

This is where the book infuriated me. Robb talks about how campaign financing works and how much it costs JUST to get your name on ballot to run. He also explains how, with big money donors, once elected, incumbents are tasked with making fundraising calls by their respective parties, eating up large chunks of their day. Time they are not spending working for the people who elected them. I know money in politics is a problem, but Robb’s inside information on the workings of elected officials in congress was mind-numbingly maddening. This is not what we send them to Washington to do. Also, if they need this money to get re-elected, where do their loyalties lie? Ryerse provides concrete examples of how this plays out, and trust me, none of it is good for average Americans.

This was an incredibly fast and engrossing read and I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in understanding politics in this country. You do not need to be a republican to appreciate it. You do not need to be a progressive of any party to understand what’s at stake. And you do not need to be a Christian to find something deeply satisfying to take away from this book.

Bottom Line
An eye-opening, stunning look at American politics from an outsider’s point of view.

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About the Book
Title
: RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES, A Story of Faith, Politics, and the Common Good
Authors: Robb Ryerse
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Pages: 179
Category: Politics/Religion/American Elections
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links:  Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | Publisher

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Pastor and Author Robb Ryerse

Author Robb Ryerse

About the Author
Robb is the copastor of Vintage Fellowship, a progressive evangelical church in Fayetteville Arkansas. He serves as the Executive Director of Brand New Congress and the Political Director of Vote Common Good. In 2018, Robb ran for United State Congress in the Republican primary in Arkansas’ 3rd Congressional District.

He lives in Northwest Arkansas with his wife Vanessa and four children.

Robb is a graduate of Mission Seminary in Philadelphia PA and Clarks Summit University in Clarks Summit PA.

He is the author of Running For Our Lives: A Story of Faith, Politics and the Common Good and Fundamorphosis: How I Left Fundamentalism But Didn’t Lose My Faith..

Where to find Robb Ryerse
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Book Review – EMOTION AMPLIFIERS (A Companion to the Emotion Thesaurus) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

EMOTION AMPLIFIERS (A Companion to the Emotion Thesaurus) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

EMOTION AMPLIFIERS (A Companion to the Emotion Thesaurus) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
When writing fictional characters, it’s hugely important to convey their emotions effectively so readers will be drawn in and become invested in those characters. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression was written to help writers convey the quality and depth of their characters’ feelings through their thoughts, body language, and visceral reactions. But there are also ways to amplify what a character is feeling, thereby heightening their emotional responses.

In Emotion Amplifiers, a companion guide to The Emotion Thesaurus, we explore 15 common states that naturally galvanize emotion. States like exhaustion, boredom, illness, pain, and extreme hunger can push characters to the limit, compromising their decision-making abilities and decreasing the likelihood of them reaching their goals. Emotion Amplifiers is a great tool for any writer wishing to tighten the screws on their characters and amp up the tension in their stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
This is the perfect companion to The Emotion Thesaurus. The authors expand on some of the most common emotions, providing example scenarios where those emotions will ramp up, giving authors even more ideas for torturing, I mean, challenging our characters in ways we may not have thought of on our own. Once again, the authors provide an introduction on what emotion amplifiers are, how tension can enhance emotions, and how best to use the guidance they provide in your own writing. They provide fifteen amplifiers that may take an ordinary emotion and dial up to a ten, such as pain, addition, and attraction. Within each amplifier are both physical and internal manifestations of a particular emotion based on the amplifier as well as mental responses, cues of long-term exposure and suppression. Additionally, they provide specifics to a particular amplifier as well as tips to help writers utilize this resource to the fullest.

Bottom Line
A must-have resource to take your character development to the next level.

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About the Book
Title
: EMOTION AMPLIFIERS: A Companion to the Emotion Thesaurus, A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression
Authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Publisher: JADD Publishing
Publication Date: December 4, 2014
Pages: 72
Category: Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

About the Author
ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of 7 bestselling books for writers, including The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (now an expanded 2nd Edition). Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers®, as well as One Stop for Writers®, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. A strong believer in writers helping and supporting other writers, she tries to pay-it-forward however she is able to..

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

About the Author
Becca Puglisi is a speaker, international writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via her newest endeavor: One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description and brain-storming tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter..

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – STING by Cindy R. Wilson

Blog Tour for STING, a young adult dystopian adventure, by Cindy R. Wilson

Welcome to the blog tour for STING, a young adult dystopian adventure/romance by Cindy R. Wilson. See below for information on the book, buy links, my five-star review, and details on her giveaway.

Cover for STING, a young adult dystopian adventure, by Cindy R. Wilson

STING by Cindy R. Wilson

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
They call me the Scorpion because they don’t know who I really am. All they know is that someone is stealing from people with excess to help people with nothing survive another day.

But then a trusted friend reveals who I am―“just” Tessa, “just” a girl―and sends me straight into the arms of the law. All those people I helped…couldn’t help me when I needed it.

In prison, I find an unlikely ally in Pike, who would have been my enemy on the outside. He represents everything I’m against. Luxury. Excess. The world immediately falling for his gorgeous smile. How he ended up in the dirty cell next to mine is a mystery, but he wants out as much as I do. Together, we have a real chance at escape.

With the sting of betrayal still fresh, Pike and I will seek revenge on those who wronged us. But uncovering all their secrets might turn deadly…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
This is a fun thrill ride from the opening pages through the pulse-pounding conclusion. Cindy R. Wilson creates fascinating characters and throws them into impossible situations against a rich dystopian backdrop. Scorpion is just a teenage girl who was unfortunately on the wrong side of the bride when the world came tumbling down. Living in a “bunker” in an abandoned gaming center, Tessa, aka the Scorpion, shares her “home” with Cass, a twelve-year-old orphan. The two form a tight family unit, which not only do whatever it takes to survive, but also helping others who live in the Dark District get what they need. This makes her public enemy number one of the Light Sight, which is under the control of Campbell, who also happens to be the father of her best friend, Elle. But when someone betrays her, Tessa is thrown into prison where she meets Pike, a former enforcer in training who wants to take down Campbell almost as much as Tessa does. The two form a friendship that borders on something more as they plan to escape and help the Dark Side and exact revenge on Campbell. But Tessa’s hate for Campbell is powerful and may get in the way of what she needs to do.

There are a lot of similarities between STING and THE HUNGER GAMES. So if you enjoy a good dystopian adventure of the oppressed rising up against their oppressor, a badass heroine with a younger sister figure she’ll do anything for, and a couple of swoony boys fighting over the protagonist, this is right up your alley!

Plot
The main plot centers on Tessa and her quest for revenge against Campbell, the man who has kept the Dark District in the dark. There are strong subplots involving Tessa’s search for Cass, and her relationships with both River, another darksider, and Pike, the lightsider she meets in prison. The story shines in all of these areas. The action is well-spaced ensuring perfect pacing and twists and turns kept me engaged. Some I saw coming, others not so much. Everything is expertly woven together to create a compelling story that is nearly impossible to put down.

Characters
The characters are superb! Scorpion will go down in history as one of my all-time favorite heroines. River, Pike, Cass and the rest are all deep, complex, compelling. Even the antagonists are more than just shallow stereotypes for the most part. Mongo and even Elle at times seemed sort of trope-y, but they served a necessary purpose. I love Tessa so much. She’s tough but vulnerable. Her inexperience with romance makes her stumble over her feelings for those around her, but her fierce loyalty is what endears her to me from the very beginning. Pike is my Peta. He’s also loyal, brave, smart, and he gets Tessa on a deep level. River is my sweet, sweet Gale. He loves Tessa so much, he’d do anything for her. Elle is complex and conflicted as the best friend and daughter of Tessa’s rival, and Campbell, well, he’s easy to believe these days as a greedy bastard who sees the poor people of the world as a drain on his power and wealth.

What I Loved About STING
1. Tessa.
She’s the perfect blend of strength, fearlessness, loyalty, and vulnerability.

2. Pike. He’s wonderfully patient, brave, and would do anything for Tessa.

3. Action. There is a lot of it and it’s pulse-pounding and intense.

4. River. Another great guy who will risk everything for the people he cares about.

5. Twists and Turns. Really well done and caught me by surprise more than once.

What Didn’t Quite Work for Me
Nothing! Though I hope this is the first book in a series. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger and I have no idea what the author would do in a second book, but I love this world and these characters so much, I don’t want to let them go.

Bottom Line
A thrilling dystopian adventure with plenty of romance!

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About the Book
Title: STING
Author: Cindy R. Wilson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: March 3, 2020
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon ITBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Cindy R. Wilson

Author Cindy R. Wilson

About the Author
Cindy lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and loves using Colorado towns and cities as inspiration for settings in her stories. She’s the mother of three girls, who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels. Cindy writes speculative fiction and YA fiction, filled with a healthy dose of romance. You’ll often find her hiking or listening to any number of playlists while she comes up with her next story idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where to Find Cindy R. Wilson
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Book Review – THE EMOTIONAL WOUND THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE EMOTIONAL WOUND THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE EMOTIONAL WOUND THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Readers connect to characters with depth, ones who have experienced life’s ups and downs. To deliver key players that are both realistic and compelling, writers must know them intimately—not only who they are in the present story, but also what made them that way. Of all the formative experiences in a character’s past, none are more destructive than emotional wounds. The aftershocks of trauma can change who they are, alter what they believe, and sabotage their ability to achieve meaningful goals, all of which will affect the trajectory of your story.

Identifying the backstory wound is crucial to understanding how it will shape your character’s behavior, and The Emotional Wound Thesaurus can help. Inside, you’ll find:

• A database of traumatic situations common to the human experience
• An in-depth study on a wound’s impact, including the fears, lies, personality shifts, and dysfunctional behaviors that can arise from different painful events
• An extensive analysis of character arc and how the wound and any resulting unmet needs fit into it
• Techniques on how to show the past experience to readers in a way that is both engaging and revelatory while avoiding the pitfalls of info dumps and telling
• A showcase of popular characters and how their traumatic experiences reshaped them, leading to very specific story goals
• A Backstory Wound Profile tool that will enable you to document your characters’ negative past experiences and the aftereffects

Root your characters in reality by giving them an authentic wound that causes difficulties and prompts them to strive for inner growth to overcome it. With its easy-to-read format and over 100 entries packed with information, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus is a crash course in psychology for creating characters that feel incredibly real to readers.

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My Review
This is my favorite book in the series so far. It’s filled with ideas for deep emotional wounds that shape characters in foundational ways. Each entry describes the various ways this wound can manifest itself, examples of responses to the wound and how it can impact every facet of life as well as ways in which a character can overcome the wound. The book is broken down by types of wounds from violence to emotional turmoil and being a victim versus a perpetrator or merely an observer. Far from a psychology book, rather it’s a guide for developing characters from a skeletal perspective, allowing the author to further research on their own to get deeper into their characters’ backstories.

This is a fabulous resource for planners and pantsers alike as we seek to define what makes our characters tick and ensure they respond to events in believable ways based on their defining wounds.

Bottom Line
Another great resource from Ackerman and Puglisi to assist writers in creating deep characters.

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About the Book
Title
:THE EMOTIONAL WOUND THESAURUS: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma
Authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Publisher: JADD Publishing
Publication Date: October 25, 2017
Pages: 325
Category: Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Barnes & Noble

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

About the Author
ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of 7 bestselling books for writers, including The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (now an expanded 2nd Edition). Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers®, as well as One Stop for Writers®, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. A strong believer in writers helping and supporting other writers, she tries to pay-it-forward however she is able to..

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

About the Author
Becca Puglisi is a speaker, international writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via her newest endeavor: One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description and brain-storming tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter..

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – IF YOU ONLY KNEW by Prerna Pickett

 YOU ONLY KNEW by Prerna Pickett

YOU ONLY KNEW by Prerna Pickett

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
A boy recently released from jail and the daughter of a prosecutor fall for each other against the odds in this YA novel.

Corey has just been released from jail, and all he wants is a new beginning. But when his former gang comes knocking, Corey agrees to vandalize the home of Kent Hopper, the prosecutor who put him away.

To erase the guilt she carries from getting away with a crime, Tessa spends most of her nights riding her motorcycle. When she catches Corey destroying her father’s car, she doesn’t see a criminal: She sees a way to finally right her own wrongs. So instead of turning Corey over to the police, she convinces her father to give Corey a second chance.

As Tessa and Corey spend more time with each other, it becomes difficult to ignore the pull between them. But they’re both keeping secrets, and when those secrets come to light, they’ll each have to face their demons in order to have a future together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
This story strongly reminds me of Katie McGarry’s books, so if you’re a fan of hers, this is right up your alley. Both main characters are troubled with secrets and dark pasts. Corey is a reluctant gang member, willing to do whatever it takes to keep his family safe, including doing a year in prison. Tessa is the daughter of the D.A. who put Corey in jail. So when the gang decides to take it out on the D.A.’s home and car, they drag Corey into the mayhem. Unable to deal with the guilt of what he did to the man who recommended the lightest sentence possible for his crimes, he goes to the man’s house and admits what he did, shielding the other members from blame to keep his family from the harm they would surely be subjected to if he ratted out the others. Tessa sees something in Corey and asks her dad to give him a second chance. This kicks off a tenuous friendship that evolves into so much more as Corey makes amends by repairing the damage his “friends” did to Tessa’s home. Tessa is hiding her own dark past that is only hinted at through much of the book. While she desperately wishes to confess whatever it is, she keeps finding reasons not to. But this ugly secret compels her to view Corey in a different light than most people do.

I love the characters and the romance. It’s angsty and emotionally deep. The only thing keeping me from giving this five stars is that it takes a long time to really get going. I was a good 30% into it before I was fully invested in the story and the characters. It was easier for me to engage with Corey early on, but I was slow to warm up to Tessa. She almost has too much hidden from the reader to empathize with her. But once I was able to start seeing her through Corey’s eyes, I eventually got on board with her as well.

Plot
The primary plot is the relationship between the two main characters, but there are strong subplots involving Tessa’s secret and Corey’s future. Both of these influence their relationship, making them integral to the main plot. There is also minor subplots regarding Corey’s mom’s career, an ex-boyfriend of Tessa’s and Tessa’s dad’s health and her concerns about him.

The Characters
I loved Corey instantly, but was slower to embrace Tessa. Both characters are incredibly complex and conflicted, making them intriguing. Tessa’s dad and Corey’s family are warm and provide a nice contrast to the two tortured protagonists. Told in dual first-person POV, we get deep inside both of their heads, allowing us to understand what makes them tick. Rounding out the cast is Tessa’s uncle and her cousin, who also happens to be her BFF, a vengeful ex-boyfriend, and Corey’s crew. The character development is one of the best parts of this book.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About IF YOU ONLY KNEW
1. A sympathetic gang member. Corey isn’t really an anti-hero since his heart is always in the right place and he never devolves into something darker, but it was still good to see this side of gang activity, to see how good kids get drawn into that life.

2. Corey’s mom. She is so proud of her son despite his time in jail, and she never stops being his biggest fan.

3. Tessa’s dad. Much like Corey, Tessa’s dad grounds her in just the way she needs. Even though he’s a prosecutor, he still manages to see the best in people.

4. Redemption. Both characters have a redemption arc, and that’s one of my favorites.

5. Angsty romance. Another favorite of mine. These two have so much keeping them apart, that the intensity of their love is palpable.

Bottom Line
A solid young adult contemporary romance with complex characters.

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

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About the Book
Title: IF YOU ONLY KNEW
Author: Prerna Pickett
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: February 11, 2020
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Prerna Pickett

Author Prerna Pickett

About the Author
I’m a wife, mom, writer, reader. Lover of foods, beaches, the ocean, shoes, starry nights. Sometimes I pretend like I’m good at drawing..

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Where to Find Prerna Pickett
Goodreads | Website Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Young Adult Book Review – MALICE by Pintip Dunn

MALICE by Pintip Dunn

MALICE by Pintip Dunn

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
What I know: a boy in my class will one day wipe out two-thirds of the population with a virus.

What I don’t know: who he is.

In a race against the clock, I not only have to figure out his identity, but I’ll have to outwit a voice from the future telling me to kill him. Because I’m starting to realize no one is telling the truth. But how can I play chess with someone who already knows the outcome of my every move? Someone so filled with malice they’ve lost all hope in humanity? Well, I’ll just have to find a way—because now they’ve drawn a target on the only boy I’ve ever loved.

What Kirkus Review is saying about Malice:
Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
I know it’s only February, but unless something exceptional lands on my iPad later this year, this will go down as one of my top reads of 2020. Anyone who reads my reviews knows that I love young adult, angsty romance, and time travel. Pintip Dunn is a master storyteller and she weaves these three elements flawlessly in a page-turning tale of impossible choices with the fate of mankind at stake. Yeah, talk about the weight of the world on your shoulders. That is precisely what 16-year-old Alice is facing when a voice from the future tells her she must kill someone in the present in order to save millions of lives in the future. It takes Alice’s older self awhile to convince her she’s communicating from ten years in the future and that she can only give her the very basic information necessary to save the world, but once Alice is on board, she must figure out how far she’s willing to go to prevent the atrocities she witnesses through her more mature eyes.

When her older self shoves her into the path of hot Bandit Skeda, she wonders if maybe there might be a silver lining in all of this, at least until she’s forced to betray someone she dearly loves. Everything comes at a cost, and the price Alice must pay might just be more than she’s willing to bear. Even if everyone’s future depends on her.

Plot
Wow. I don’t know how to accurately portray how amazing the plotting is. Dunn captured my attention in the first chapter and kept me turning pages late into the night. I devoured this story even as I very much wanted to savor it so it would never end. But I just couldn’t stop. I’ve read a couple of reviews where the reader said they knew who the virus maker is from the first chapter, but I only thought I did. Then I was sure it was someone else, and then I was absolutely convinced it was yet another person. The author does an amazing job of keeping the reader guessing. This is more mystery than romance, but not in your typical “whodunnit” sense. Instead, we’re trying to solve a “who will do it” without any evidence to follow, only cryptic clues from the future. The world building is fantastic, from the glimpses into the future to the science behind time travel, I was sucked in for a wild ride that did not disappoint. The twists are friggin’ awesome and left my mouth hanging open more than once.

The Characters
The characters are fantastic. Alice is amazing as our conflicted protagonist with a heart and conscious and intense sense of duty. Bandit is dreamy and sweet and hot and alpha, but did I mention sweet? And then there’s Alice’s family and BFF. Her future self is both the same and yet different. Dunn does a stellar job of connecting the two halves into one believable whole we can love and root for.

Top Five Things I Loved About MALICE
1. Time Travel. My all-time favorite subgenre. Dunn does it justice with intense emotion.

2. Alice. I love her honesty, her devotion to her family, the way she loves the important people in her life. My heart ached for her on so many occasions and I never stopped wanting her to get her HEA with every ounce of my soul.

3. Bandit. He’s so much more than a pretty face and a hot physique. Bandit’s as complex as Alice and I adored him from the moment he was pushed into Alice’s life.

4. Science. I love how much of this is a part of the story and not just to explain the time travel stuff.

5. Foodies. I used to have a gluten free comfort food blog, so I totally get Alice’s devotion to photographing and sharing pictures of food, and I laughed at her failed attempts to cook something photo worthy.

Bottom Line
Another epic read from Pintip Dunn and my favorite book of 2020 so far.

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: MALICE
Author: Pintip Dunn
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: February 5, 2020
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Paranormal Thriller
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT |Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Entangled

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Author Pintip Dunn

Author Pintip Dunn

About the Author
Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Pintip’s novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. Her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the Tome Society It list; and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her other titles include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, and the upcoming STAR-CROSSED and MALICE.

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Where to Find Pintip Dunn
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon | Entangled

 

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – ROGUE PRINCESS by B.R. Myers

ROGUE PRINCESS Blog Tour

ROGUE PRINCESS by B.R. Myers

ROGUE PRINCESS by B.R. Myers

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
A princess fleeing an arranged marriage teams up with a snarky commoner to foil a rebel plot in B. R. Myers’ Rogue Princess, a gender-swapped sci-fi YA retelling of Cinderella.

Princess Delia knows her duty: She must choose a prince to marry in order to secure an alliance and save her failing planet. Yet she secretly dreams of true love, and feels there must be a better way. Determined to chart her own course, she steals a spaceship to avoid the marriage, only to discover a handsome stowaway.

All Aidan wanted was to “borrow” a few palace trinkets to help him get off the planet. Okay, so maybe escaping on a royal ship wasn’t the smartest plan, but he never expected to be kidnapped by a runaway princess!

Sparks fly as this headstrong princess and clever thief battle wits, but everything changes when they inadvertently uncover a rebel conspiracy that could destroy their planet forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
This futuristic, sci-fi, reverse Cinderella retelling is pure gold. B.R. Myers weaves a tale with fascinating characters, stunning world building, and a story that tugs at your heart and makes you care. Princess Delia is due to inherit the crown, but first she must a choose a prince to marry. And love plays no part in that decision. She must choose a mate from a neighboring planet with the resources her planet needs in order to survive. It’s purely a business transaction, and one she feels ill-prepared to make. Because although she’s been raised from the moment of birth to assume the throne and lead her people, no one has prepared her to be anyone’s wife. Aidan is a scavenger, taking what he can from the wealthy inhabitants of the palace to buy his way off the planet, a place that doesn’t hold much for a boy with no status. He lives with his stepfather and two stepbrothers who treat him as nothing more than their servant. When Aidan sees his chance to steal a ship and get off the planet for good, his plans are thwarted when the princess uses the same ship to attempt something similar. Sparks fly as these two, with their own secrets securely intact, must rely on one another to uncover a plot to bring down the monarchy.

Plot
The plot centers on discovering who is out to kill the queen and usurp power so they can be stopped, but there are strong subplots that involve the undeniable attraction between Aidan and Delia all while Delia is supposed to be choosing a prince to marry so she can save her planet. Everything is woven expertly together. The secrets both are carrying provide page-turning moments and the right amount of interpersonal conflict while the external conflict drives the main pulse-pounding plot. A clandestine rebellion, pirates, and amazing tech create a world rife with both danger and excitement.

Characters
Myers has created amazing, intense, likable characters. While Delia, as our main character and all of her conflicting goals and emotions, is intense and moody, her younger sister, Shania, steals the show. Shania is bubbly and effervescent, and finds the whole mating game romantic as she attempts to help her sister find the most swoon-worthy husband. Aidan is the yin to Delia’s yang as a jaded commoner with a sharp tongue and wit to offset her doom and gloom.

What I Loved About ROGUE PRINCESS
1. Shania.
 She’s so sweet, optimistic, and everything Delia needs.

2. Delia. Her sense of honor, despite everything she wants, makes her someone you can’t help rooting for.

3. Tech. Everything from wind-up homing birds to flying gliders makes this a world of both romance and futuristic elegance, with a healthy steampunk vibe.

4. World Building. The author creates vivid scenes, rich with sights, colors, sounds, and smells that bring them to life in even the most stubborn imagination.

5. Retelling with a Twist. I’m always a sucker for a good fairytale retelling, but this futuristic, role-swapping twist made this version a little different for me. The added intrigue meant that I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, even though Cinderella’s ending is as familiar as almost anything.

Bottom Line
A thrilling, romantic space opera retelling of Cinderella.

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About the Book
Title: ROGUE PRINCESS
Author: B.R. Myers
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: January 21, 2020
Pages: 288
Genre: Young Adult SciFi Fantasy Retelling
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author B.R. Myers

Author B.R. Myers

About the Author
B.R. Myers spent most of her teen years behind the covers of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and Lois Duncan. When she’s not putting her characters in awkward situations she works as a registered nurse. A member of the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia, she lives in Halifax with her husband and their two children.

 

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Where to Find B.R. Myers
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebookTwitter | Instagram

 

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Book Review + Giveaway – THE GAME CHANGER (Parkwood Mysteries) by Jennifer Brown

THE GAME CHANGER Blog Tour

THE GAME CHANGER (Parkwood Mysteries #1) by Jennifer Brown

THE GAME CHANGER (Parkwood Mysteries #1) by Jennifer Brown

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Hollis and Daisy love podcasting about murder cases…But can they solve one?

Hollis Bisbee used to be a big-city crime reporter. Now, she’s a small-town journalist, and she’s bored. She and a young mom, talented baker Daisy Mueller, start the Knock ‘Em Dead podcast—”Where murder and muffins meet!” It’s all fun, games, and baking tips until murder comes to Parkwood.

After a brutal homecoming game loss, the coach of the rival football team is the victim of a hit-and-run in the high school parking lot. The entire town is on edge, and the star quarterback—who happens to be the police chief’s son—may just look the guiltiest of all.

With Hollis’s investigative skills and Daisy’s famous muffins…and in spite of the charming rookie police officer tasked with keeping Hollis out of the way…the podcasting duo sets out to solve their first real case.

This cozy mystery includes a killer free recipe for Daisy’s Cherry Chocolate Chunk Muffins.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
OMG! How much do I love this book? Soooooo much! Seriously, this is just the thing I needed to help break up my post-holiday blahs. Hollis Bisbee is a reporter of a tiny newspaper in Parkwood, Missouri. She writes about hotdog rollers and new vacuum stores in the local mall. A former crime reporter in Chicago, to say her job lacks the excitement she’s used to would be a gross understatement. While interviewing the snack bar supervisor at Friday night’s big high school homecoming football game, an altercation occurs on the field between the Parkwood quarterback and the opposing team’s coach. When not long after the game, said coach ends up dead in the Parkwood High parking lot, things get a little sticky for Hollis and her best friend, Daisy, who have a true crime murder podcast that is equal parts macabre and munchies, since Daisy is also the best baker in town and uses the platform to help promote her baking business. And when Hollis discovers the quarterback is also the sheriff’s son, and the death has been ruled natural causes, Hollis has had enough of her feel good pieces and drags Daisy into an investigation that the sheriff, the new local hunky deputy, and her boss, the paper’s editor, can’t catch wind of.

Plot
The primary plot is the murder mystery and it’s exceptional. There were so many red herrings, I got to the point where I suspected it was going to be a MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS ending. There are a few minor subplots including Hollis’s job and a budding romance with Office Blue Eyes, but they were just there to round out the main plot. This was such a fun ride, I’m anxiously awaiting more Parkwood Mysteries!

Characters
The characters are THE best! I would read anything with Hollis and Daisy in it. They’re both hysterical, witty, charming, and definitely the kind of people you’d hang out with in real life if they weren’t just figments of Brown’s imagination. Maybe I just need to hang out with the author in real life! Hollis is amazing as the spirited reporter who refuses to take no for an answer. Her bff and sidekick, Daisy, is a stay-at-home mom to like 32 kids. Entire scenes are devoted to her chewing out one kid after another as she still manages to carry on a coherent conversation with Hollis. She’s quick on her feet and helps Hollis out more than a few tight spaces. The rest of the cast, including Officer Hopkins, with his muscles and impossibly blue eyes, are just as warm and loveably quirky as Hollis and Daisy. If Hallmark makes this into a movie or a TV show, I’m all in.

What I Loved About THE GAME CHANGER
1. Everything.
 Seriously, I can’t find any fault with this book. The story, the characters, the writing, everything is top notch.

2. Hollis. She’s funny, smart, endearing, and tenacious.

3. Daisy. The best BFF ever and the type of person we all want in our lives.

4. The Mystery. Really well done. One of the best I’ve read in the genre in a long time.

5. Podcasting. My co-author and I have been toying with the idea of starting a pod cast in the near future, but nothing we come up with will ever be as good as the Hollis and Daisy show.

Bottom Line
An absolutely adorable cozy mystery with a sweet romance and some of the best damn characters in the book world.

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

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About the Book
Title: THE GAME CHANGER
Series: Parkwood Mysteries
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Hallmark
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Pages: 288
Genre: Adult Cozy Mystery
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon ITBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Walmart

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Author Jennifer Brown

Author Jennifer Brown

About the Author
Jennifer Brown is the author of acclaimed young adult novels, Hate List, Bitter End, Perfect Escape, Thousand Words, Torn Away, and the Shade Me series. Her debut novel, Hate List, received three starred reviews and was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA “Perfect Ten,” and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Bitter End received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

Jennifer also writes middle grade novels — her debut novel, Life on Mars, was the winner of the 2017 William Allen White Children’s Book Award. She also writes women’s fiction under the name Jennifer Scott. Visit her at www.JenniferScottAuthor.com Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.

Jennifer is available for school visits, workshops, classroom and book club Skypes, and speaking engagements. Contact JenniferBrownYA@gmail.com to book her for your next event!

Where to Find Jennifer Brown
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – HOW TO SPEAK BOY by Tiana Smith

HOW TO SPEAK BOY Blog Tour

HOW TO SPEAK BOY by Tiana Smith

HOW TO SPEAK BOY by Tiana Smith

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Two sworn enemies start to fall in love through anonymous notes in How to Speak Boy, a fun and charming YA novel from Tiana Smith.

Quinn and Grayson have been fierce speech and debate rivals for years. They can’t stand one another, either in competition or in real life.

But when their AP Government teacher returns their school assignments to the wrong cubbies, they begin exchanging anonymous notes without knowing who the other one is.

Despite their differences, the two come together through their letters and find themselves unknowingly falling for the competition. Before the state tournament, the two of them need to figure out what they want out of life, or risk their own future happiness. After all, what’s the point of speech and debate if you can’t say what’s in your heart?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Quinn is serious, hardworking, and in desperate need of a little fun, but she’s vying for President of the Speech and Debate Club against her arch nemesis, the utterly swoon-worthy Grayson, so fun isn’t on the agenda. She’s as competitive as she is smart, but unfortunately, nothing comes easy to Quinn. She has to work twice as hard as Grayson to be successful, or so she believes. That makes it hard for her to let her guard down around him. Even though he’s adorably perfect. Quinn’s two closest friends, Naomi and Carter, have their own ideas about Grayson. Naomi is pro-romance and Carter is dead-set against it. Apparently Grayson has a reputation of sorts and wants to protect Quinn. But the more time that passes, the more it becomes clear that Carter has an ulterior motive in keeping Quinn and Grayson apart. Underlying it all is a mysterious student who Quinn corresponds with the old fashioned way — pen to paper. With three boys vying for her interests, she’s not sure where to turn or who she can really trust.

Plot
The main plot is the romance between Quinn and Grayson, but there are a number of subplots that involve Quinn’s college future, the mysterious letter writer, her speech performance at the state finals, and her relationship with Carter. All expertly weave into the main plot to drive conflict and up the stakes. Although the reader knows who the letter writer is, well, if they read the synopsis, it’s fun watching Quinn try to figure it out. But it also adds an element of wanting to see if they’re just going to tell each other, that made turning the page to see what would happen compelling. While it did take me a good few chapters to really get into this story, because I’ll admit, speech and debate didn’t interest me in the least, once I was invested int he characters, I was all in to the story. So don’t let this aspect of the plot detract you from picking up this really awesome book.

Characters
The characters are what I loved most about the book. Quinn is so relatable as an awkward teen who strives to do her best in everything, but keeps coming up short. Her growth comes across as authentic and organic. Her BFF, Naomi is the everything Quinn’s not but wishes she was, making her the perfect sidekick. Carter was a little annoying, but necessary. Not every character needs to be likable, and who doesn’t know at least on Carter? Grayson was adorable as the self-assured son of the the Governor who seems to have everything he’s ever wanted, but underlying it all is a vulnerability that only adds to his attractiveness.

What I Enjoyed About HOW TO SPEAK BOY
1. Quinn.
 She’s adorkably awkward and utterly endearing. I couldn’t help rooting for her.

2. Grayson. He’s sweet, smart, and hot. The perfect BBF.

3. Quinn’s Mom. I love their relationship. She’s the proper blend of confidant and authoritarian, just what Quinn needs, when she needs her to be.

4. Letter Writing. In a digital world, it was a refreshing throwback to my own high school days.

5. Speech and Debate. Okay, so I’m still not sure I’d ever join this club or find going to these events interesting, but the way the author wrote about these moments, definitely piqued my interest.

What Didn’t Quite Work for Me
The story and characters were amazing and I loved the speech angle. But the ending fell flat for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a HFN ending, but I didn’t have quite the bang I was hoping for, what I felt it was building up to. That said, the author wraps everything up in a satisfying conclusion.

Bottom Line
A cute contemporary romance with adorable characters you can’t help pulling for.

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About the Book
Title: HOW TO SPEAK BOY
Author: Tiana Smith
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Pages: 288
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Tiana Smith

Author Tiana Smith

About the Author
Tiana Smith is a copywriter turned novelist who grew up in the Rocky Mountains. When she isn’t writing, she’s chasing after her ninja boy, reading, or binging the Disney Channel. She’d love to be fluent in sign language, but for now she gets by with awkward hand gestures and even more awkward French. She has double degrees in Honors and English from Westminster College but wants to go back to school to be a lion tamer.

 

 

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Where to Find Tiana Smith
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Book Review – THREE STAR ISLAND by Kat Caulberg

THREE STAR ISLAND by Kat Caulberg

THREE STAR ISLAND by Kat Caulberg

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Stepping through a time portal into 1716, historian Penny Saunders didn’t expect to get stranded in the past. Five years later, now a pariah to the townsfolk of Three Star Island, she endures solitude and ridicule until a hurricane tosses a dangerous castaway onto her shores.

William Payne’s history precedes him. Pirate, outlaw, and ruthless captain, he’s a monster among men. . . or so it seems. Desperately seeking redemption for his blood-soaked past, he upends Penny’s world by showing her a passion she’s never experienced.

But time is closing in on them; the governor of the Carolinas has rescinded his pirates’ pardon, the locals are growing suspicious of Penny’s new houseguest, and she can’t keep her secrets from William forever. When everything falls apart, she must use both wits and weapons against lawmen and pirates alike to save the one man who would tear down the world for her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
If you’re a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER, you will fall in love with Kat Caulberg’s THREE STAR ISLAND. Set on a small island off the coast of Carolina in the early 18th century, Penny is literally centuries ahead of her time. An historical researcher, she was understandably drawn to a time gate, having traveled too and from this time period before getting stuck in the past for nearly five years. While she waits for the gate to open once more, desperate to return home, she stumbles upon a victim of the recent hurricane and nurses him back to health. She finds him alluring, sexy even, before realizing he’s the subject of much of her research; a pirate with a wicked reputation. But his renown doesn’t fit with the man she’s getting to know and before long, the two are battling an attraction to one another that is ultimately an unwinnable fight for both of them. Always a bit of an oddity around town, Penny sticks to her island as much as possible, but now that Will is by her side, she ventures into town, unleashing a series of events that will seal both of their fates forever.

Plot
Penny is just biding her time until she can return to her own era. After rescuing a man on the beach, she finds herself drawn to him, until she discovers his true identity. With equal parts fear and attraction, Penny gets to know Will for who is beyond the history books. And the more she learns, the more she fears history has done him wrong. But the secrets she’s keeping are as dangerous to her as they are to any budding romance with the dashing pirate. The author tells a compelling tale of love set in Colonial America between a modern day time traveller and a man with attitudes well ahead of his time. There’s danger, steamy romance, and a hefty dose of historical reality that keeps things anything but easy.

Characters
Penny is fantastic as a woman out of time, trying to survive on her wits and anonymity. But a woman alone in the early eighteenth century makes keeping to herself nearly impossible. Will is swoony as they recovering pirate with a sordid past. The rest of the cast rounds out nicely, within the confines of the era they inhabit.

What I Loved About THREE STAR ISLAND
1. The Romance.
 It’s hot, steamy, burning, but oh so romantic.

2. Time Travel. It’s my favorite sub-genre of all. And while no actual time travel takes place during the book, the fact that she brought a bit of the future to the past with her, adds to the story as well as the world building.

3. History. I’m a fan of historicals, but what I love even more is one that places a modern day hero into a historical setting and watching them navigate this foreign world.

4.Will. He’s no Boy Scout, but he’s got a heart of gold and would do anything for Penny.

5. Penny. She’s fiery and passionate and is anything but a damsel in distress.

Bottom Line
A steamy time-traveling historical romance. Everything I love all bundled in one great story.

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited

Title: THREE STAR ISLAND
Author: Kat Caulberg
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Release Date: April 10, 2019
Pages: 230
Genre:
 Adult Historical Time-Traveling Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT

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Author Kat Caulberg

Author Kat Caulberg

About the Author
For as long as she can remember, Kat Caulberg has been obsessed with history and the paranormal. Somewhat to the dismay of her parents, her interests led her into both museums and graveyards as a child, a trend which has continued into her adulthood. This has influenced her reading tastes and her writing, whether it be a good ghost story, thrilling tales of time-travel, or devouring endless volumes of ancient warfare.

She signed a contract with Soul Mate Publishing in 2018 for her first novel, Three Star Island, a time-travel story set in 1721. She enjoys writing strong, quirky heroines, and has a weakness for cheeky heroes who have as much compassion as they have flaws.

Kat currently lives in North Carolina with her Englishman and a few cats.

 

Where to Find Kat Caulberg
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

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