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Young Adult Book Review – THE KISSING CHALLENGE by Cookie O’Gorman

 

THE KISSING CHALLENGE by Cookie O'Gorman

THE KISSING CHALLENGE by Cookie O’Gorman

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The challenge: Kiss your best friend.

Sixteen-year-old Anne Elliot is in love with Captain.

He’s been her best friend for years. A rising musician with a special smile he reserves just for her, Captain even lets Anne practice her makeup skills on him—though his bandmates give him flack for it.

When Anne gets an anonymous comment challenging her to kiss her best friend, it threatens to reveal her secret. But how can she resist doing the one thing she’s wanted forever? It’s just one kiss. She and Captain’s relationship can stay the same…right?

The real challenge: Kiss your best friend, and don’t let him know you’re in love.

This YA romance novella is fun, fast-paced, and flirty, the perfect story for anyone who loves best-friends-to-lovers. Inspired by TikTok & Jane Austen, THE KISSING CHALLENGE is sure to make you swoon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Oh my gosh, this is beyond adorable. Cookie O’Gorman has done it once again! Anne is a social media sensation as a makeup artist who can work magic with her brushes and pencils, but when it comes to matters of the heart, she’s more like a fish out of water. And she can’t resist a challenge, even one that fills her with equal parts excitement and horror. Because kissing her best friend means kissing the guy she’s been crushing on forever, and one small kiss could ruin everything. Still, she can’t let it pass when she’s tagged in the “kiss your best friend challenge” and frets and obsesses over how to best carry it out until it practically eats her alive. The chemistry between Anne and her BFF, Captain, is off the charts, so their first kiss is super hot followed by super awkward.

Plot
This is a novella and it’s short and sweet, so the plot is the relationship between Anne and Captain. There’s no sub-plotting and no real character arcs, but the plot is so well done, none of that matters. I read it in a single sitting and had an enormous smile the entire time. This book is 100% what O’Gorman does best.

Characters
I absolutely love Anne and Captain and I hope they show up as extras in a future novel. There were enough supporting characters, and any one of them could get their own story, and I would buy it the second it came out. Captain is in a band, and he has several swoon-worthy band mates in need of a solid growth arc, so if you’re reading this Cookie, I’m here for whatever you do with this cast!

What I Loved About THE KISSING CHALLENGE
1. Internet Challenges.
While this is maybe not my personal thing, I totally love watching other people fool their dogs with a blanket, dump buckets of ice water on each other, throw cheese at babies, and numerous other, non-dangerous challenges. And kissing your best friend is an amazing idea (coming from someone who married her best friend).

2. Anne. She’s sweet, creative, talented, and is completely in love with her BFF who she believes to be out of her league.

3. Captain. His loyalty to Anne as girls everywhere fawn all over him makes him one of the good guys. We need more guys like him!

4. Makeup. I can’t tell you how many Instagram accounts I follow with makeup artists who do amazing things with pencils and powder and brushes. Reading about one of these awe-inspiring artists was so much fun!

5. True Love. Anne and Captain are meant to be and no one will ever convince me otherwise.

Bottom Line
Adorable characters, steamy kisses, and a swoony love story wrapped in a tiny but mighty package.

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About the Book
Title: THE KISSING CHALLENGE
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 | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon DE

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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

Book Review + Giveaway – WRITE CHRISTMAS by Thommy Hutson

 

Welcome to the blog tour for WRITE Christmas, a contemporary holiday novel by Thommy Huston

WRITE Christmas, a contemporary holiday novel by Thommy Huston

WRITE CHRISTMAS by Thommy Hutson

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
“[A] heartwarming fantasy … Christmas enthusiasts will find this hits the spot.” ~Publishers Weekly

A contemporary, holiday fantasy with a new twist on A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life.

Abby Nicholson used to love Christmas. Until she didn’t.

After leaving Winter Glen, the small town famous for its Christmas celebration and her family’s greeting card company, Abby is forced to return to the home she left behind when the unexpected passing of her father thrusts the business into her hands.

Turning her back on the magic of the holiday beloved by her father and the town, she decides to sell the business. Signing the paperwork with the very pen her father used to create it, she is shocked to discover her hometown has become a whole new world.

One where Christmas has vanished!

Now stuck in a place devoid of hope, joy, and the spirit of the season, Abby sees family and friends altered in the most terrible of ways.

Determined to set things right, though unsure how, Abby takes out her father’s pen and begins to draw. When she realizes her art is coming to life, she sets out to recreate the holiday and bring back the most wonderful time of the year.

But some are determined to keep an iron grip on the town and will do anything in their power to stop her..

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My Review
WRITE CHRISTMAS is a Hallmark Christmas movie that lives in my Kindle. It’s a delightful story full of hope, transformation, and charming characters straight out of a Dickens tale. Abby Nicholson is the heir to the Samuel Nicholson Card Company, her beloved late father. The entire town of Winter Glen was built around the bucolic greeting card company. But the bright-eyed hopeful girl who used to help her father hand-sketch his whimsical, heartwarming designs is all grown up with all of that hope drained from her. With a teen daughter of her own and the father of that daughter proposing to her year after year, she’s jaded and ready to move on. In her words, there are no adventures left to be had in Winter Glen and is ready to sell the company to a big chain and leave town for good.

No one thinks this is a good idea, except Abby, so the town will need to come together to convince her that there is so much more to Winter Glen than she can see. But it will take more than that. Abby needs to rediscover the magic of Winter Glen and Christmas itself, the holiday that the town has embraced more than any other place in the country.

Plot
The primary plot centers around Abby, but the story is told like a vivid movie, with a stellar supporting cast who all have their own stories within the story. The author does a brilliant job of creating these fabulous characters that I couldn’t help liking from the first moment they appeared on page. Even Lolo Windberg. Because the story is about growth and second chances, no one thing drives the plot, but rather they all work together to create this magical story of redemption and rediscovering the joy of Christmas, like ingredients in a favorite Christmas cookie recipe. It’s not perfect if you leave even one thing out.

The Characters
The characters are what really makes this story work. The plotting unfolds at a steady, but slow pace, but because the characters are larger than life, it’s okay. I’d spend all day with these people. Huston has a way of developing his cast with a word here and a sentence there that make them come to life. From Darla, the town mayor, to Abby, Abby’s mother Stella, her daughter, Chloe, and the man who wants her love, Cameron, to the people who work for her greeting card company, everyone is the star of their own part of the story even as the contribute to the greater tale, and we feel that on every page.

Top Five Things I Loved About WRITE CHRISTMAS
1. Winter Glen. I’m more of a big city girl, but if I ever moved to a small town, it would so be Winter Glen. The town is its very own character in the story.

2. Darla. The quintessential mayor is spunky and seems to always have the right thing to say in a given situation, even though she doesn’t think she does.

3. Abby. Though often morose, it’s easy to understand her disillusionment with both her home town and the Christmas season it embodies. She’s all of us at one time or another.

4. Cameron. His persistence is sweet rather than stalkery. Being the father of her daughter only makes his unwillingness to give up on the woman he loves and the family he wants endearing rather than creepy.

5. Christmas. The best holiday of the year gets a fresh new tale.

Bottom Line
A warm pair of socks and a cozy fire wrapped up in an endearing tale.

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: WRITE CHRISTMAS
Author: Thommy Huston
Publisher: Rosewind Books
Release Date: December 1, 2020
Pages: 284
Genre: Adult Contemporary Holiday
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Thommy Hutson

Author Thommy Hutson

About the Author
Thommy Hutson is a bestselling, award-winning author, screenwriter, producer, and director.

A graduate of UCLA, he began his career co-writing the story for the Warner Bros. animated hit SCOOBY-DOO IN WHERE’S MY MUMMY? He followed that with co-writing the concept and additional material for CHILL OUT, SCOOBY-DOO!

As an author, Thommy crafted a limited-edition coffee table book detailing the making and legacy of horror icon Wes Craven’s 1984 classic A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. A trade version followed from Permuted Press/Simon & Schuster. His novel, the teen thriller Jinxed, (Vesuvian Books) is the first in a trilogy that has been called “A must-read for classic horror fans … Hutson could easily take on the mantle as the next Lois Duncan.” Hutson was named on the
7 Essential LGBTQ Horror Authors for Your Summer Reading Lists.

Thommy wrote the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries original film, A CHRISTMAS FOR THE BOOKS, which was the highest-rated scripted program the night it premiered. He co-scripted the teen thriller INSTAFAME (Lifetime), wrote a screenplay for an audio holiday project, and is in development on a family feature film. In addition, Thommy produced the critically acclaimed feature THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH, an insightful relationship drama starring Lea Thompson and John Shea. He also produced DREAMWORLD, a quirky, romantic dramedy. He has also worked as a staff writer on a Hulu web series.

A member of the Producers Guild of America, a Saturn and Home Media Magazine award-winner, and an aficionado of holiday films as well as teen movies from the 80s and 90s, Thommy continues to develop unique, compelling, and provocative projects across multiple genres for film, television, publishing, and home entertainment.

Where to Find Thommy Hutson
Goodreads | WebsiteTwitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Book Review – A HEART LIFE by Patricia Yager Delagrange

 

A HEART LIFE, a contemporary women's fiction, by Patricia Yager Delagrange

A HEART LIFE by Patricia Yager Delagrange

3 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Leena Coughlin is simply eye-candy to her husband Steven’s sky-rocketing career. Steven may be a brilliant cardiac surgeon, but the self-absorbed man is more focused on other people’s hearts—and his own pleasure—than on the emotional heart of his family. He’s a God-like man, after all, saving lives every day. And a man like him has needs. More than Leena can provide.

To fend off the growing loneliness of her marriage, Leena strikes up a relationship with a stranger, Michael Casspi, through a letters-to-prisoners program. Michael was also once a cardiac surgeon. He claimed that assisting his dying wife with suicide was an act of mercy. The state called it murder. Can a man imprisoned behind bars fill Leena’s emotional void?

Focused on their own strained relationship, neither Steven nor Leena has noticed the deteriorating mental health of their college-aged daughter, Joy.

Two men. One woman. And a fragile girl teetering on the knife-edge of depression. But when Michael is unexpectedly released from prison, the precarious balance of all their lives will be dramatically altered forever.

 

 

 

 

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My Review
The story is told in four first-person points of view: Leena, Steven, Michael, and Joy. Leena and Steven’s marriage is far from perfect, which is obvious right away from both POVs. The fact that Leena is writing to Michael out of loneliness as he languishes in prison is not a surprise. The opening chapter is Michael’s and it starts with a bang, hooking me almost instantly. As the story unfolds, we find out more about Steven’s extramarital behavior. He seems to love his wife and daughter, though he never has time for them. At least he sees his wife in bed most nights, where he grabs a quickie before going to sleep. But he barely sees his daughter and hasn’t for years. Steven is a famous cardio-thoracic surgeon, in high demand. He believes the material things he provides for his family should be enough. It’s not enough for him, though, because he has a rather active sex life with women who are not his wife. He claims it’s because he needs to blow of steam and doesn’t want to bring his hospital life home, which he views as a safe harbor. But in reality, he likes to do what he considers dirty and depraved things he believes his wife is too good for.

Leena is the long-suffering wife who we all know deserves better. She clearly loves her husband and adores her daughter, yet she’s completely oblivious to everything going on around her. She has no idea her daughter is suffering form mental illness that pushes her to the brink of suicide, nor that her husband has been unfaithful for probably most of their marriage. Shea assumes because he comes home to bang in her in the night, he’s clearly not getting anything on the side.

So much of the story I found problematic, but the author kept me turning the pages, proving she’s an outstanding storyteller. The book could have been a stronger story for me if the author had gotten certain details correct. For instance, Steven, a renowned surgeon, and even Michael for that matter, keep referring to conjoined twins as Siamese twins. That’s not a medical term at all and is actually quite offensive. I cringed every time it was mentioned, which was a lot. There was also a continuity error that yanked me out of the story when Leena is driving her beloved Karmann Ghia through the streets of San Francisco, only to end up in her black Mercedes, which blends in, without ever going home and swapping out cars. There is nothing about a Karmann Ghia that blends in, so this was jarring. And finally, the biggest problem I had was Joy’s mental illness. Throughout the book, everyone, including Joy, blames her father’s lack of presence in her life as the cause of her depression. But this does a disservice to anyone who suffers from mental illness. It is not caused by someone else. The blame game is very dangerous and hurtful, especially to anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide. The thought that if they’d only done more, been more present, etc., they could have prevented it, is a terrible message to send.

Plot
The plot centers around Michael’s release from prison, his future beyond his time behind bars, and the relationships between all four main characters. There’s a lot of drama and even more at stake, and the author does a good job of keeping the pacing spot on. As I said, I was riveted to the story and wanted, or rather needed, to find out what happened next, regardless of my issues.

The Characters
The characters were all well-developed and deeply flawed. We get deep into each of their points of view, even Steven’s. While it was good to understand what drives a man who has everything to throw it all away for cheap thrills, it didn’t really do much to make me like him, but I think that was never the point. it was an interesting twist I wasn’t expecting, though.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About A HEART LIFE
1. San Francisco. I loved that my favorite city in the world was the backdrop for these characters. The story is as much a love letter to the City by the Bay as it is anything else.

2. Joy. She was my favorite character. Maybe because I have a daughter the same age or maybe because I could see a lot of my nineteen-year-old sister in her, but she was probably the only truly innocent person in the story.

3. Cliffhangers. Each chapter ended strongly, forcing me to read on. I love when an author can do that.

4. Twists. There were only a few twists that really caught me by surprise, but those are always a treat and I enjoyed them immensely.

5. Storytelling. The author knows how to weave a tale that kept me turning the pages.

Bottom Line
A fun, fast read with deeply drawn characters.

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

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title:
A HEART LIFE
Author:
Patricia Yager Delagrange
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date:
November 26, 2020
Pages: 293
Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

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Author Patricia Yager Delagrange

Author Patricia Yager Delagrange

About the Author
Fascinated by broken-hearted couples and atypical families, Patricia writes women’s fiction, weaving engaging tales of men and women who create cohesive families where love reigns supreme. She sprinkles her books with intriguing characters who struggle to find balance in life. Whether an unwed teenager, desperate widow, abandoned father, disconnected sisters, or a troubled couple, her characters form relationships impacted by their desire to create a family.

Patricia lives with her husband and two children on the island of Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, along with three chocolate labs and a rescue terrier mix. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, Patricia enjoys riding her Friesian horse Maximus, who lives in the Oakland hills with a million dollar view.

 

Where to find Patricia Yager Delagrange
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Young Adult Book Review – SEND ME THEIR SOULS (Bring Me Their Hearts Series) by Sara Wolf

SEND ME THEIR SOULS (Bring Me Their Hearts Series) by Sara Wolf

SEND ME THEIR SOULS (Bring Me Their Hearts Series #3) by Sara Wolf

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The finale to the epic Bring Me Their Hearts series reaches its thrilling conclusion, full of intrigue, emotion, and of course romance.

Reunited with Lucien, Malachite, and Fione, Zera finally has the choice of whether or not to regain her humanity and give up her life as a Heartless. But with war raging and an army of valkerax on the loose, she’s never needed immortality more. Will they be able to stop Varia without sacrificing themselves in the process?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
WARNING: Spoilers for books 1 and 2!
Sara Wolf wraps the series up with a bang. SEND ME THEIR SOULS is a rollercoaster ride of emotion, from tears and laughter to angst, heartbreak, and redemption. The third installment in the Bring Me Their Hearts series has everything I was hoping for and more. Picking up where book two ends, the author brings us right back into that world, reminding us of anything we might have forgotten over the past year since it was released. Zera, Fione, Malachite, and Lucien manage to escape with their lives after Varia brings the Bone Tree to life, unleashing a swarm of flying valkyrax. The easy thing to do would be to kill Varia to save the world, but Fione’s love of her as well as Lucien’s means the only solution is to destroy the Bone Tree. And as with any good story, that is always easier said than done.

The group launches on a quest for answers, putting them in danger, testing loyalties, and breaking Zera’s unheart over and over as first she is reunited with loved ones, then Varia’s rage of terror wipes out one civilization after another. But this time Zera has the trust of Fione, Malachite and Lucien, making the treacherous trail they must all follow both easier and much more difficult, because when you love other people, you have so much more to lose.

Plot
As with the other two books, the pacing is perfect, moving from one exciting moment to another, with enough room to catch our breath and witness romantic moments between Zera and Lucien. Finally, finally they are together, in love, the way they should be. But with a twist I won’t reveal. Fighting together as a team this time, the group works to defeat a nebulous enemy and save Lucien’s sister and Fione’s love. We get inside Varia’s head through a weird connection between Zera and Varia that only happens in Zera’s dreams. But it’s enough to show us that love is a two-way street and her passion to Fione is maybe the only thing keeping her sane as the Bone Tree gets a further hold on her mind.

Characters
The characters continue to grow and develop throughout this finale, including Zera. Even though she’s frozen in time, she manages to mature along with her friends. The depth of character the author manages to capture on the page, brings these people and creatures to life in three-dimensional ways that have endeared them to me for long beyond finishing the series.

What I Loved About SEND ME THEIR SOULS
1. Zera.
She’s as snarky as ever, but even without a heart, she’s grown warmer and more loving to those she cares for.

2. Young Love. The romance is on steady ground in this final installment and the sweet moments between Zera and Lucien zing.

3. Fione. She has much to be concerned about with the love of her life being the enemy now, but she uses that quiet determination of hers we’ve come to know in the first two books to keep on keeping on.

4. World Building. From a steampunk inspired zeppelin to a floating island in the sky, the author’s imagination knows no bounds as she creates stunning settings to drop her characters into.

5. Magic. With the prince now a witch, magic is on display in nearly every chapter and it’s as double-sided as everything else. Everything has a price, including using magic.

Bottom Line
The perfect way to wrap up a trilogy — satisfying on every level, but leaving me sad to say goodbye to characters I’ve grown to love.

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About the Book
Title: SEND ME THEIR SOULS
Series: Bring Me Their Hearts Series #3
Author: Sar Wolf
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 3, 2020
Pages: 416
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound

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New York Times Bestselling Author Sara Wolf

Author Sara Wolf

About the Author
New York Times bestselling 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 Portland, Oregon where the sun can’t get her anymore and not enough fruit tarts ever.

 

 

 

Where to Find Sara Wolf
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

 

Book Review – ROMANCING THE BEAT (How to Write Kissing Books Series) by Gwen Hayes

 

ROMANCING THE BEAT, the first book in the writing craft series, How to Write Kissing Books, by Gwen Hayes

ROMANCING THE BEAT (How to Write Kissing Books Series #1) by Gwen Hayes

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
What makes a romance novel a romance? How do you write a kissing book?

Writing a well-structured romance isn’t the same as writing any other genre—something the popular novel and screenwriting guides don’t address. The romance arc is made up of its own story beats, and the external plot and theme need to be braided to the romance arc—not the other way around.

Told in conversational (and often irreverent) prose, Romancing the Beat can be read like you are sitting down to coffee with romance editor and author Gwen Hayes while she explains story structure. The way she does with her clients. Some of whom are regular inhabitants of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

Romancing the Beat is a recipe, not a rigid system. The beats don’t care if you plot or outline before you write, or if you pants your way through the drafts and do a “beat check” when you’re revising. Pantsers and plotters are both welcome. So sit down, grab a cuppa, and let’s talk about kissing books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
One of the panels I virtually attended at RWA this year recommended ROMANCING THE BEAT. I’m a devoted plotter, so I wanted to see how best to weave the romance beats into the greater story beats. Hayes’s book is short and sweet. She lays out the beats, where they fall in the three-act structure, and gives a brief description of what each one needs to accomplish. Because it’s so short, you can read it easily in one sitting and be ready to plot or revise your next romance novel. However, because it’s such a quick read, it’s short on details that would have been nice. Whether you’re new to writing romance or have been at it for awhile, there are some great tidbits in here for every romance writer.

Bottom Line
A solid resource that you’ll find yourself referring to over and over.

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About the Book
Title
: ROMANCING THE BEAT: Story Structure for Romance Novels
Series: How to Write Kissing Books Series #1
Author: Gwen Hayes
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Pages: 100
Category: Writing
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble

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Author Gwen Hayes

Author Gwen Hayes

About the Author
Gwen Hayes (that’s me) lives in the Pacific Northwest with her real life hero and a pack of wild beasts (two of whom she gave birth to).

She is a reader, writer, and lover of pop culture (which, other than yogurt, is the only culture she gets).

Gwen also edits kissing books.

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Where to find Gwen Hayes
Goodreads | Website | Facebook

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – THE CON CODE by Shana Silver

 

Welcome to the blog tour for THE CON CODE, a stand-alone young adult thriller, by Shana Silver

THE CON CODE, a stand-alone young adult thriller, by Shana Silver

THE CON CODE by Shana Silver

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
A teen forger and thief forms a criminal crew from her high school friends (and crush) to perform a series of heists leading to the location of her missing mother in this action-packed contemporary YA novel.

By day, seventeen-year-old Fiona Spangler runs small cons for her ritzy prep-school classmates: getting them out of tests and forging fake hall passes. But by night, Fiona joins her dad on riskier heists: stealing back the clue-filled forgeries her mom scattered across the country before she disappeared. Fiona desperately hopes that her mother will be waiting at the end of the scavenger hunt she left behind.

And they are SO close. Just three more heists remain, but then disaster strikes when Fiona’s dad is captured by the FBI. Desperate to finish the job and save what’s left of her family, Fiona assembles of crew of teen criminals: a master of disguise who can transform into anyone, a talented hacker who only communicates in glares, and a rival con artist with a vendetta against—and possible crush on—Fiona.

All they have to do is perform three nearly impossible heists, solve her mother’s incredibly complex clues, and evade the FBI. Easy, right?

 

 

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My Review
This was a nice diversion from real life, and just what I needed. Seventeen-year-old Fiona is the daughter of con artists. Her entire life has been devoted to learning the craft of the con. A talented artist and impeccable forger, she and her family have been pulling cons as long as she can remember. But when she was ten, her mother disappeared and left clues on how to find her in her forgeries. Fiona and her dad have been working to retrieve the forgeries and the clues so the family can be together again. At least until her father is caught pulling a job. Now Fiona must complete the mission herself. She pulls together a ragtag crew of high school friends, including a tech genius, a former cosplayer turned master of disguise, and her arch nemesis, but charming classmate she may or may not have a thing for,

Plot
The story centers around Fiona finding her mother and the heists she needs to complete to gather all the clues to find her mother. The heists were well-planned and executed, and added such an entertaining thread through the book. There is a subtle romantic element with Colin, the son of the FBI agent who arrested her father and a number of twists; some I saw coming, others I didn’t, making this a well-plotted fun read.

The Characters
The characters are what really makes this story. Fiona is a fully-engaging anti-hero as a con artist. At no point did I not pull for her. She’s a criminal, but she was so lovable and relatable, I wanted her to succeed at every turn. Her dad, while singularly driven, still clearly loves his daughter and puts her needs above his own. Her best friend Natalie and her tech guru, Tig, are both interesting in their own ways. And Colin, as the potential love interest, is just as complex as Fiona.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About THE CON CODE
1. Heists. We’ve been rewatching the Ocean’s Eleven movie franchise and I forgot how fun a well-developed con can be.

2. Fiona. She is so dedicated to finding her mom, but her loyalty to her crew at all costs makes her a hero to root for to the very end.

3. Action. The story moves with a lot of action and edge-of-your-seat suspense.

4. Loyalty. Fiona is loyal to her family and her friends and those loyalties are tested, making her even more relatable.

5. The Ending. I wasn’t sure how things were going to end up, but the author did a great job of wrapping everything up in a satisfying ending that wasn’t predictable.

Bottom Line
A thrilling escapist read with fantastic characters and lots of action.

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

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About the Book
Title: THE CON CODE
Author: Shana Silver
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: August 25, 2020
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT |Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Shana Silver

Author Shana Silver

About the Author
Shana Silver studied creative writing at Syracuse University. She’s been a computer animator, an e-book creator for a major publisher, and now works as a Project Manager in digital and TV advertising where she enjoys telling people what to do. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, young daughter, and the characters she dreams up. MIND GAMES is her debut novel. THE CON CODE comes out in Summer 2020.

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Where to Find Shana Silver
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Young Adult Book Review – DATING MAKES PERFECT by Pintip Dunn

DATING MAKES PERFECT, a young adult contemporary romantic comedy, by New York Times bestselling author, Pintip Dunn

DATING MAKES PERFECT by Pintip Dunn

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The Tech sisters don’t date in high school. Not because they’re not asked. Not because they’re not interested. Not even because no one can pronounce their long, Thai last name—hence the shortened, awkward moniker. But simply because they’re not allowed.

Until now.

In a move that other Asian American girls know all too well, six months after the older Tech twins got to college, their parents asked, “Why aren’t you engaged yet?” The sisters retaliated by vowing that they won’t marry for ten (maybe even twenty!) years, not until they’ve had lots of the dating practice that they didn’t get in high school.

In a shocking war on the status quo, her parents now insist that their youngest daughter, Orrawin (aka “Winnie”), must practice fake dating in high school. Under their watchful eyes, of course—and organized based on their favorite rom-coms. ’Cause that won’t end in disaster.

The first candidate? The son of their longtime friends, Mat Songsomboon—arrogant, infuriating, and way too good-looking. Winnie’s known him since they were toddlers throwing sticky rice balls at each other. And her parents love him.

If only he weren’t her sworn enemy.

 

 

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My Review
I know I’ve said this before, but this time I really mean it. THIS is my favorite book by Pintip Dunn. Unless I’m allowed to have more than one favorite, in which case I choose them ALL. But seriously, this is just the right lighthearted rom-com for these complicated times. It’s full of warm, engaging characters, swoony moments that are solidly of the PG variety, and so much Thai food that my mouth watered throughout. Winnie is the youngest of three girls and has grown up in the shadow of her beautiful, identical twin sisters. And for the most part, she’s been okay with that. She loves them and they adore her. With them in college now, they’re expected to find suitable spouses, sooner rather than later, as is Thai tradition. But because the Tech girls are not allowed to date in high school, Bunny and Ari use that as an excuse for why they haven’t found anyone yet. After all, one needs to date in order to learn how to date. And they use that  lack of experience as an excuse. Lesson learned, their parents decide that Winnie will practice date, so that she knows what to do when she heads off to college next year. And she will practice date with longtime family friend and arch nemesis, Mat Songsomboon. It’s clear from the beginning these two will end up together, but how they get there is hilarious, heartfelt, and full of humility.

Plot
Winnie and Mat’s relationship drives the plot, but Winnie’s acceptance of her role in her family, the obedient daughter, drives most of the conflict. While Mat and Winnie are now mortal enemies, they share a past that included lazy afternoons, deep friendship, and lots of laughter. That is evident even in their most contentious interactions. The more time they spend together, though, the more Winnie begins to doubt that Mat hates her or that she hates him. In fact, it takes a lot of energy to hate someone, so why put so much effort into someone who doesn’t matter? What I absolutely love about this book is that the author doesn’t take the easy way out and allow unspoken thoughts and rampant misunderstandings to keep her characters apart. Instead, they both share thoughts and feelings, awkwardly, that clears the air far sooner than I expected, and instead the author finds more difficult ways to build conflict. This made the story much less predictable than I anticipated.

The Characters
As always, Dunn creates beautifully deep characters with just enough flaws to make them believable and loveable. Winnie, Mat, and the rest are no exception. Winnie’s sisters, though only secondary characters, are nearly as well-developed as Winnie. Her parents, best friend, Kavya, and the new Thai boy, Taran, round out the main cast perfectly.

Top Five Things I Loved About DATING MAKES PERFECT
1. Mat. He’s annoying at times, self-assured, bordering on arrogant, but he is loyal to the end and earns Winnie’s love the hard way.

2. Winnie. Her desire to be the good and obedient Thai daughter but also be true to herself creates a refreshing internal conflict that makes her easy to love.

3. Thai Food. So much of the story centers around Thai tradition and food is as much a part of that as anything else. From meals to treats, the detailed descriptions left me salivating for a bowl of tom yum koong.

4. Parental Love. Even though Winnie is convinced her parents’ love is conditional, they show her that nothing could be further from the truth in the best way possible.

5. Rom Coms. The subtle weaving of some of the best romantic comedies ever made was a bonus I didn’t even know I wanted.

Bottom Line
The perfect light, fun read for these extraordinary times.

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: DATING MAKES PERFECT
Author: Pintip Dunn
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: August 18, 2020
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Romantic Comedy
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

 

Book Review – WELCOME TO HICKVILLE HIGH (Hickville High Series) by Mary Karlik

 

WELCOME TO HICKVILLE HIGH, the first book in the young adult contemporary romance series, Hickville High, by Mary Karlik

WELCOME TO HICKVILLE HIGH (Hickville High Series #1) by Mary Karlik

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The Universe has completely dumped on High School senior Kelsey Quinn’s life. Credit card at Nordstrom’s? Deactivated. Honda Accord? Sold. Life in the burbs of Chicago? Gone. And it’s all her sister’s fault. Yep. Drugs, alcohol, and getting caught with the boss’s son was all it took. Dad loses job, family loses money, and the next thing she knows she’s crammed in a cell on wheels for the next two days as they make their way to a dilapidated farmhouse in Texas. But Kelsey doesn’t just leave the good life in Chicago. She leaves the boy who-has-it-all, Drew Montgomery.

Hillside senior, quarterback, Austin McCoy works for Kelsey’s dad at the feed store and helps with the farm chores in the morning. He sees through Kelsey’s surly attitude to the girl whose eyes light up when she’s with the animals. He is determined to help Kelsey see that not only does she love the Farmville life, but that the guy she really wants is him.

Will Austin convince Kelsey he’s the guy she wants? Will Kelsey embrace the simple life and find forgiveness for her sister?

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Kelsey Quinn is the epitome of a spoiled, rich teen from the upper midwest moving to smalltown Texas. She hates everything from the weather to the twang in their voices. Her initial observations on her new home, she nicknames Hickville, are judgmental and snobby. About the only thing she thinks might make running the family farm even mildly tolerable is Austin McCoy, local hottie and her new high school’s starting quarterback. But even Austin’s chiseled abs and sculpted biceps will only go so far when she has to get up at the crack of dawn to feed chickens, even before she’s allowed to enjoy a cup of coffee. All Kelsey wants is to survive her senior year in Hillside and return to Chicago and her perfect boyfriend, Drew. Her ideal life is gone, she knows that. No more designer clothes, her own car, or lavish lifestyle. Instead she shares the family pickup truck, wears second-hand store duds, and spends her time doing farm work. But she has her sights set on a big event in Chicago, an annual affair with ballgowns and a semblance of normalcy. Except that costs money her family no longer has. If she wants to go, she’ll need to earn the money herself between schoolwork, farm work, and time in the family’s feed store. Her only option is the diner, the same one where Austin’s mom works that she mocked when she first arrived in town.

The more time Kelsey spends with Austin, the more she begins to question whether she even wants her old life back. Being around him ignites feelings she never experienced with Drew. But Drew is her boyfriend and she doubles down on their long-distance relationship, until she doesn’t. As she’s torn between two worlds and two boys, she learns a lot about herself and does some much needed growing up.

Plot
The plot is relatively predictable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. The personalities of the characters and playful banter shake things up. And even though I may have had a pretty good idea how the story would end, I didn’t know how we’d get there. While there weren’t any real plot twists or shocking revelations, the story moves at a good pace and the world building is well done, bringing me into the heart of rural Texas.

The Characters
The characters were all really well developed and fully fleshed out. I’m used to first person POV for young adult, but even though this is third-person, I still felt really connected to both Austin and Kelsey. The rest of the characters also felt real and unique. Kelsey’s sisters are very different from Kelsey and from each other, so I’m not surprised to find they each have their own books, and I’m looking forward to reading all of them. Kelsey’s parents came across as some of the most authentic in the genre. They’re more than props or impediments to Kelsey getting what she wants and I loved that they even have their own issues to deal with as well as a minor relationship arc.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About WELCOME TO HICKVILLE HIGH
1. Forced Change. The complete upheaval of Kelsey’s life provides for so much conflict, the story was fun to read.

2. Humor. The author weaves a lot of humor through some pretty serious topics, bringing lighthearted moments in what might otherwise be a darker tale.

3. Homecoming. Hillside’s take on the homecoming tradition is something to behold.

4. Personal Growth. Kelsey has a lot of growing up to do and she does it with humility.

5. Austin. He’s one of the really good guys out there. Even though Kelsey is a handful, he realizes there’s more to her than just a spoiled rich girl lashing out after being dumped into the Middle of Nowhere, Texas.

Bottom Line
A sweet contemporary romance with great characters.

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About the Book
Title:
WELCOME TO HICKVILLE HIGH
Author:
Mary Karlik
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Release Date:
March 24, 2015
Pages: 293
Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

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Author Mary Karlik

Author Mary Karlik

About the Author
Mary Karlik has always been a dreamer. When she was a teen, she read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and then sat in every wardrobe in her Nanna’s home, trying to open the door to Narnia. She didn’t find it, but she did discover her voice as an author: one filled with her young adult self, and grounded in her roots as a Texan and her Scottish heritage, nourished by obscure Scottish folklore.

You can find her Texas roots in her YA contemporary romance Hickville series , which has been described as “100% solid storytelling,” and begins with Welcome to Hickville High, a “lovely story about growing up.”

She digs deep into her Scottish roots – there is magic there, she just knows it – for the forthcoming YA epic fantasy Fairy Trafficking series, beginning with Magic Harvest.

She makes her home in the beautiful Sangre de Cristo mountains of Northern New Mexico where she is a certified professional ski instructor, but she also loves visiting Scotland where she is currently studying Scottish Gaelic at the University of Highlands and Islands in Skye. Mary also earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, has a B.S. degree from Texas A&M University, and is a Registered Nurse.

Mary currently serves as the President of the Young Adult Chapter of Romance Writers of America and looks forward to raising a glass or two of gin and tonic with her fellow writers every year at RWA’s national convention.

Where to find Mary Karlik
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Book Review + Giveaway – LAST CHANCE SUMMER by Shannon Klare

 

Welcome to the blog tour for LAST CHANCE SUMMER, a standalone young adult contemporary romance by Shannon Klare

 

LAST CHANCE SUMMER, a standalone young adult contemporary romance by Shannon Klare

LAST CHANCE SUMMER by Shannon Klare

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
In Shannon Klare’s fun and sexy YA novel Last Chance Summer, a teen is shipped off to work as a counselor at a summer camp―only to butt heads with her co-counselor.

Alex is a sheriff’s daughter with a less than pristine reputation. When she’s caught drinking at a party by her dad’s deputy, she’s in deep trouble. With an already incriminating incident in her past, Alex’s parents ship her off to her aunt’s summer camp to work as a counselor.

What’s worse than spending your summer deep in the mosquito-infested woods of Texas?

Being paired with an obnoxious co-counselor who wants nothing to do with you.

Alex is determined to make the best of her summer, even if it means putting up with Grant, who has secrets of his own that he’s determined to protect. Can Alex and Grant put their egos to the side and find the bright side of a summer that neither of them signed up for?

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Eighteen-year-old Alex has an attitude bigger than the sun and entitlement issues to give even the most spoiled child a run for their money. The daughter of the town sheriff, she seems to have spent her life breaking the rules for no other reason than she didn’t like them. The only child of two loving parents, she doesn’t really have much to rebel against, except she discovered being a rebel in her small Louisiana town made her more popular, so rebel she did. Until the fateful night in the autumn of her senior year when she, daughter of a law enforcement officer, got into a car with her best friend, who was drunk, and allowed said girl to drive. She’s forced to live with the tragedy of that night, still suffering PSTD as well as the loss of her BFF, though she doesn’t acknowledge her role in it to the extent I believe she should. After spending most of her senior year in rehab after the accident took a toll on both her body and spirit, she’ll be repeating her final year of high school. But first, she’s shipped off to be camp counselor at a summer camp for troubled youth. This should be the wakeup call she needs to see how good her life was until that night, but she wears a giant chip on her shoulder like a badge of honor.

She gets a crash course in what it’s like to deal with her when she comes face-to-face with five fourteen-year-old girls who give her a run for her money when it comes to attitude. But unlike Alex, their lives and attitudes are shaped by vastly different circumstances. These little rebels have a valid cause for their rebellion. As Alex learns how to wrangle them, she’s kept off her toes by her hot counterpart, Grant. He won’t take any of her crap, but he’s really good at dishing it out. A former camper himself, he has his own secrets and dark past. While the attraction between them is evident from the beginning, Grant isn’t like most guys Alex deals with; he doesn’t find her smart mouth or antics endearing. The more they spar, the more they learn about each other, and Alex finally comes to realize that everyone has issues and hers aren’t any more important than anyone else’s.

Plot
The primary plot is Alex dealing with her issues and growing up, becoming less self-absorbed, but the romance between her and Grant is a strong subplot. The story moves at a steady pace, but where it really shines is the witty dialogue. From the playful banter between Alex and Grant and the snarky dialogue between Alex and her surly campers, the conversations make this otherwise run-of-the-mill summer romance really sparkle.

The Characters
The characters are fascinating, if not all incredibly relatable or even likable. In fact, it took me a good 75% of the book to warm up to Alex. But no one is untouched by trauma of some sort that has shaped their complex natures. From the sassy campers to Grant and Alex, no one is unscathed by their pasts and they all harbor scars that manifest in different ways. But each one is resilient in their own way, and uncovering the secrets that shaped them is what makes this book work.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About LAST CHANCE SUMMER
1. Consequences. I may not like Alex for most of the book, but she’s never given a pass. The consequences for her behavior are harsh, deservedly so. The author doesn’t baby her, which is refreshing.

2. Grant. I love that he won’t take any of Alex’s bull. Sometimes I wonder why he’s attracted to her, but at no point does he allow her to get away with anything simply because he’s attracted to her. He has his own self-preservation motives for much of what he does.

3. Pranks. Summer camp pranks provided some much-needed lighter moments.

4. Redemption Arcs. I do love a good redemption arc and Alex has a great one.

5. Brie. She’s the most difficult of the campers, but her spirit and spunk were inspiring.

Bottom Line
A fun young adult contemporary with stellar dialogue and fascinating characters.

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About the Book
Title:
LAST CHANCE SUMMER
Author:
Shannon Klare
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Release Date:
July 21, 2020
Pages: 256
Rating:
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Shannon Klare

Author Shannon Klare

About the Author
Shannon Klare is a writer, teacher, reality TV fanatic, and movie connoisseur. When she isn’t writing or daydreaming new plots, Shannon can be found frequenting Starbucks or hanging out with her family. SURVIVING ADAM MEADE is her debut novel.

 

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Where to find Shannon Klare
Goodreads | Website Twitter | Instagram

 

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Giveaway
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Book Review + Giveaway – THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER by Samantha Hastings

 

Welcome to the blog tour for THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER, a young adult historical romance by Samantha Hastings

 

THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER, a young adult historical romance by Samantha Hastings

THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER by Samantha Hastings

4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Identical twin sisters take turns swapping places over the course of a summer in order to pursue their secret ambitions in Samantha Hastings’ Victorian YA romance.

1851. Bounced from one begrudging relative to another their whole lives, orphaned identical twins Sophie and Mariah Carter have always relied on each other for love and support, even though the sisters couldn’t be more different.

Brash Sophie wants to be an inventor, and demure Mariah wants to be an artist. Both long to visit London for the summer—Sophie to see the Queen’s Great Exhibition and Mariah to study the world’s finest collection of paintings. But when their cantankerous aunt answers their letter pleading for a place to stay, she insists she only has time and room to spare for one of them.

So, Mariah and Sophie hatch a clever scheme: They will travel to London together and take turns playing the part of “Sophie”.

At first the plan runs like clockwork. But as the girls avoid getting caught by increasingly narrow margins and two handsome gentlemen—both of whom think they’re falling in love with the real Sophie Carter—enter the equation, the sisters find they don’t have the situation quite as under control as they thought.

With all sorts of delightful Parent Trap-style identical twin hijinks, The Invention of Sophie Carter is the perfect light-and-sweet palate cleanser.

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My Review
Set against the backdrop of the London Exhibition in 1851, THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER is the story of two identical twins sharing a single identity in London society. Sophie seeks an apprenticeship, something unheard of for women at the time, and her twin, Mariah, seeks a husband. With only one of them interested in romance, what could possibly go wrong? Enter Ethan, the wealthy son of factory owners who captures Sophie’s heart. But since things aren’t going to go smoothly, Mariah’s heart belongs to her aunt’s ward, Charles, though her aunt has warned her to not engage his interests. As the two pursue their individual goals, entanglements get messy until things come to an inevitable head. This lighthearted historical romance is full of humor, heart, and cutting edge technology, Victorian style.

Plot
The plot is forked with each sister having her own goal and her own arc. We get dual third-person point of view getting deep into both Mariah’s and Sophie’s heads. As each sister chases her own goal, the are also deeply affected by the events that impact the other. Though they are unique individuals, they are tied together by more than just blood and identical DNA, since they are pretending to be the same person. This is my second novel by Samantha Hastings and she is excellent at plotting and brings her historical world to life both accurately and in a way that makes even nearly 200 years ago feel fresh and familiar.

The Characters
All of the characters are amazing. From the selfish, vile adults who treated the girls so poorly as children, to the rich cast in London, from the super wealthy to the average citizens, fro, eccentric artists to snooty aunts. The story is inhabited by amazing, three-dimensional personalities that made this an easy, engaging read.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER
1. Mariah. She’s the softer of the two sisters and loves art. She’s a talented self-trained artist with dreams of her own beyond just finding a husband.

2. Sophie. She’s tenacious, driven, and stubborn to the core. She is me if I would have been born in Victorian times.

3. Charles. He’s hot and cold, but there is so much more underlying his aloof facade.

4. Ethan. It’s evident from the beginning that he is the perfect match for Sophie. I love that he never gives up.

5. Victorian London. The setting is as much a character in this story as its human counterparts.

Bottom Line
A wonderful historic romance with breathtaking characters against a colorful backdrop.

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About the Book
Title:
THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER
Author:
Samantha Hastings
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Historical Romance
Release Date:
July 14, 2020
Pages: 310
Rating:
4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Samantha Hastings

Author Samantha Hastings

About the Author
Samantha Hastings has degrees from Brigham Young University, the University of Reading (Berkshire, England), and the University of North Texas. She met her husband in a turkey sandwich line. They live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she spends most of her time reading, eating popcorn, and chasing her kids. She is the author of THE LAST WORD, THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER, and A ROYAL CHRISTMAS QUANDARY.

 

 

 

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Where to find Samantha Hastings
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter 

 

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Giveaway
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Book Review – THE DIARY OF A LATE BLOOMER by L.M.L. Gil

 

Welcome to the blog tour for THE DIARY OF A LATE BLOOMER, a young adult/new adult coming of age romantic comedy, by debut novelist L.M.L. Gil

 

THE DIARY OF A LATE BLOOMER, a young adult/new adult coming of age romantic comedy, by debut novelist L.M.L. Gil

THE DIARY OF A LATE BLOOMER by L.M.L. Gil

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Every wallflower blooms at their own perfect time, but some like quirky Lo, take longer than others.

Lo is a sheltered 20-year-old who loves baking, manga/anime, and octopi. When she spots her college swim team’s tryout flyer sporting her favorite sea creature, an octopus she knows it’s a sign that she must join the Flying Octopi. The only things standing her way are her social awkward nature and the fact that she just learned to swim.

Will Lo find her place to shine or will her social anxiety DQ her dreams?

Late Bloomer is a new adult novel that is a cross between Bridget Jones’s Diary, Baywatch and Kuragehime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
This novel was a breath of fresh air. I love everything about it, from the cover, to the devices the author uses to tell Lo’s story, to the characters that populate the pages. At twenty, Lo is socially awkward on steroids and as inexperienced as an adult as she was in middle school. After a near-drowning experience as a child, she promised her mother she would never go into a pool again. But Lo, being Lo, figured the best way to protect herself was to learn how to swim. So through reading books and researching online, she taught herself how to swim. Now she wants to swim on her college’s swim team. She’s awful, but because she’s determined, the coach gives her a chance. When Lo isn’t studying, swimming, or taking care of her little brother, she’s listening to 90s grunge music. Set in 2003, there’s a lot of great music and movie references to take me back nearly two decades.

Lo balances her life the best way she can, by trying to please everyone. Her family is full-on passive-aggressive, giving her the silent treatment if she displeases them. No wonder she has so many issues with developing normal, healthy interpersonal relationships. But she always manages to regain a positive attitude every time she’s knocked down. Along her journey, she falls for moody Martin, and fellow music lover, but he’s got a girlfriend. Still, she can’t stop the way she feels and when Martin and his girlfriend break up, Lo blurts our her feelings in the most Lo-like way, taking their friendship into awkward territory as only she can.

I fell in love with this character as she deals with helping her brother with his problems at school, with her parents’ financial troubles, her own failing grades, and her up and down relationship/friendship with Martin. I enjoyed watching her crawl into her own person. Author L.M.L. Gil has shot to the top of my list of favorite debut authors. I can’t wait to read more by her.

Plot
The plot is sort of a wandering tale of Lo’s personal growth, with strong romantic elements, and themes of friendship and being there for others. Lo is quirky, and one of her friends, Nick, calls her weirdo, but she takes it all in stride, knowing she’s always been different from other people. She knows she’s socially awkward, and while she would like to be more like her friends, I love her just the way she is. Lo is endearing and sweet, without ever being annoying. Even her friend Britney says, “If you weren’t so cute, you would be annoying,” and that’s the best description of Lo I can think of. I did find her constant need to apologize somewhat disheartening, but when you understand her family, it makes so much sense for who she is. While the book tends to run long at 525 pages, it’s actually a fast read, told over short chapters.

The Characters
We see the characters only through Lo’s innocent eyes. She is such a caring soul, non-judgmental soul, it’s hard to get a true grasp of them, but over time, they all slowly come into focus. They’re all well-developed with rich back stories, even Britney, who at first comes off a bit shallow, but we eventually find out there is even more to her than meets the eye. But Lo steals the show, and one of the things I love most about her, is she is absolutely the last person to see what everyone else knows.

Top Five Things I Loved About THE DIARY OF A LATE BLOOMER
1. Lo. She’s so naive and trusting and wonderful. Her heart is enormous and she loves with everything she is.

2. Swimming. I loved reading about Lo’s time in the pool. I’m not much of a swimmer, but I almost feel as if I could be after reading her story.

3. Nick. It took me a full two-thirds of the book to warm up to him, but once I did, I adored him. He’s an enigma for sure, and I didn’t like the way he treated Lo at first, but the more I got to know him, the more I understood why he is the way he is.

4. Music. Lo spends a great deal of time going to concerts in small venues and if I hadn’t had a couple of newborn twins in 2003, I would have loved to have joined her. That was totally my scene!

5. Ending. So much is wrapped up in the last twenty percent of the book. I cried, I laughed, and I finished feeling completely satisfied.

Bottom Line
An adorably fun and unique romance with some of the best characters in the genre! One of my favorite reads of 2020.

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About the Book
Title:
THE DIARY OF A LATE BLOOMER
Author:
L.M.L Gil
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Contemporary Romantic Comedy/Sports Romance
Release Date:
June 29, 2020
Pages: 525
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 | Trailer

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Debut author, L.M.L. Gil

Author L.M.L. Gil

About the Author
L.M.L. Gil is a writer, a reader, and a dreamer. When she is not writing, editing, or thinking about her next story, she is either in the kitchen testing out a new recipe or snuggling with her fur munchkins reading.

As a glutton, she equates a good novel to a scrumptious dessert, which leaves your heart a little lighter and a smile on your face. She hopes her novels provide a sweet treat without the calories

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Where to Find L.M.L. Gil
Goodreads | Website | YouTube | Pinterest | Wattpad

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – GENES (ISAN Series) by Mary Ting

 

Welcome to the blog tour for GENES, the third book in the young adult sci-fi/dystopian adventure series, ISAN, by Mary Ting

 

GENES, the third book in the young adult sci-fi/dystopian adventure series, ISAN, by Mary Ting

GENES (ISAN Series #3) by Mary Ting

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Alliances are forming. The resistance is growing. Everything is about to change.

With her memory still fragmented, Ava returns to the International Sensory Assassin Network (ISAN) to find the twin sister she never knew she had.

But as Ava hunts for information, she finds herself tangled in a web of yet more lies and conspiracy. The Helix serum may not be required to access her superpowers, and the number of male assassins—previously considered too volatile to tolerate Helix—is growing in every territory.

The more Ava uncovers, the more of a threat she becomes to ISAN. Her only salvation may be to join the rebels—if she isn’t killed first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
WARNING: Spoilers for books 1 and 2.

The third book in the International Sensory Assassin Network (ISAN) series, GENES is a rollercoaster ride that never lets up. It picks up in the immediate aftermath of HELIX. We once again find Rhett, Ava and their renegade friends struggling for survival while trying to find a way to bring down ISAN. Except this time, they have the help of some super-powered little friends. At the end of HELIX, we learn a plethora of heinous acts ISAN has been up to. Armed with this knowledge, Ava is more determined than ever to end them and Mr. Novak, the leader of ISAN, once and for all. Ava now knows the identity of her twin, but they are not who she expected. As the rebels fight to save the lives of everyone they love, they willingly risk their own. There’s not much I can say without giving too much away, but this installment is action-packed with more romance, more love, and more loss than in the previous two books. It’s the very definition of a page-turner.

Plot
The story is well-plotted and moves almost constantly. The author does a good job of planting the seeds we need at just the right time for everything to fall inevitably into place. Ting is an expert at white-knuckle suspense and GENES is no different. The stakes are higher than ever and Ava and Rhett have so much more to lose.

Characters
Not only do we hear from Ava and Rhett again, but we get some new points of view. Rhett’s goes from first person to third and it was a little jarring at first, but I got used to it quickly. Ava continues her growth arc, learning that she is not responsible for everyone and everything. In addition to the new characters we met at the end of HELIX, there are more new characters, both good and evil. Some of the bad dudes aren’t as well developed as they could be, but that’s a small complaint in an otherwise stellar read.

What I Loved About GENES
1. Twists.
There are more twists and turns, starting in chapter 1, that kept me on the edge of my seat.

2. Rhett. Once again, he is swoon-worthy and nearly perfect.

3. Mr. Novak. He is the type of villain I relish hating.

4. Ava. She has her moments when I want to slap some sense into her, but the more I learn about her backstory, the more I’ve come to understand her.

5. Momo. A new character, she’s spunk on steroids and may be my new favorite character. Watch out Rhett, you have some adorable competition for best character in the ISAN series.

Bottom Line
Another pulse-pounding edition in this high-tech, sci-fi dystopian romantic adventure.

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: GENES
Series: ISAN Series #3
Author: Mary Ting
Publisher: Vesuvian Books
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Pages: 347
Genre: Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FRBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound | BAM!

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Author Mary Ting

Author Mary Ting

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

Mary was born in Seoul Korea and resides in Southern California with her husband, two children, and two dogs—Mochi and Mocha. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Becoming an author was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother. After realizing she wanted to become a full-time author, she retired from teaching after twenty years.

 

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Where to find Mary Ting
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Facebook GroupTwitter | Instagram | BookBub

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