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Book Review – 1,000 STRONG VERBS FOR FICTION WRITERS (Indie Author Resources Series) by Valerie Howard

 

1,000 STRONG VERBS FOR FICTION WRITERS (Indie Author Resources Series #2) by Valerie Howard

1,000 STRONG VERBS FOR FICTION WRITERS (Indie Author Resources Series #2) by Valerie Howard

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
LIST OF 1,000 VERBS

Are you searching for stronger verbs for your works of fiction (or non-fiction)?

Aren’t we all?

This handy little reference booklet contains a list of 1,000 strong verbs to help you replace the weaker verbs in your fiction writing as you self-edit your work. Just look up the weak verb you’d like to replace, and choose a stronger verb from the alphabetized lists.

For example:

Weak: Sally walked across the room.
Stronger: Sally scurried across the room.

Weak: Harry lightly touched the edge of the book.
Stronger: Harry trailed his fingers along the edge of the book.

Weak: Karen ran as quickly as she could to her closet.
Stronger: Karen charged her closet in a panic.

Weak: Lucy hit her palm on the desk.
Stronger: Lucy smacked her palm on the desk.

Ready to weed out the weak verbs and not-so-helpful adverbs in your writing and replace them with strong verbs?

Let’s get started!

Indie Author Resources Book 2

 

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My Review
This is a reference book full of useful verbs, like a thesaurus dialed in specifically for the fiction writer. It has easy to find, quick to use suggestions for weak verbs. Because I borrowed this with Kindle Unlimited and will have to return it, I do think I’ll end up purchasing a copy to have at hand when I’m revising. The suggestions are plentiful, and just a single strong verb can spark an entire creative process at the keyboard.

Bottom Line
A thesaurus on steroids, this reference tool is something novelists will find themselves reaching for over and over again.

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About the Book – Read for free with Kindle Unlimited
Title
: 1,000 STRONG VERBS FOR FICTION WRITERS
Series: Indie Author Resources Series #2
Author: Valerie Howard
Publication Date: July 24, 2019
Pages: 111
Category: Writing
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 Valerie Howard

Author Valerie Howard

About the Author
Valerie Howard has been writing stories since she was in second grade when she wrote “The Mystery of the Missing Crayon.” She lives in Maine with her husband and two sons. She graduated from Sacopee Valley High School in Hiram, Maine and Piedmont Baptist College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Where to find Valerie Howard
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Amazon

Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – BATTLE OF THE BULLIES by Fenyx Blue

 

Welcome to the blog tour for BATTLE OF THE BULLIES, a young adult contemporary by Fenyx Blue

Welcome to the blog tour for BATTLE OF THE BULLIES, a young adult contemporary by Fenyx Blue. See below for information on the book, buy links, and my review. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for information on her giveaway.

BATTLE OF THE BULLIES, a young adult contemporary by Fenyx Blue

BATTLE OF THE BULLIES by Fenyx Blue

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Ebony, Eris, and Emani Robertson have been through so much more than most high school freshmen. When they were younger, they survived a school shooting that killed their friend and left their oldest sister unable to speak. After giving homeschooling a try, they enroll in a promising new academy, hoping for the best.The Robertsons soon discover, however, that their new classmates are anything but kind. A mysterious group of bullies known as the Dimes rules the hallways and spreads fear everywhere they go. All three sisters end up being targets of the gang and have to find a way to defend themselves.

The triplets couldn’t be more different, but their loyalty to each other and to their school never fails. Along with diverse group of friends, the Robertsons do everything they can to uncover the identity of the Dimes and restore order to the school.As if their lives weren’t complicated enough, they also get sucked in to a much bigger game—discovering who was responsible for the attack on their old school. Can they bring down the Dimes and bring the murderer to justice, all while trying to make it through ninth grade?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
With a title like BATTLE OF THE BULLIES in the young adult genre, I knew this book offered promise, but I was expecting the powerful emotional punch it delivered. High school freshmen and triplets, Eris, Ebony, and Emani have joined older sister, Alexis at a new school after their old school was targeted for a bombing that killed 100 students. In the wake of the trauma, they try to assimilate in their new school, but are on the radar of the school’s famous, but mysterious group of bullies known as the Dimes. The girls are as different as they are alike and the three of them navigate the problems in their own individual ways. A dancer, an athlete, and a social media influencer, the girls tackle life as it comes at them, working to help the police track down the remaining guilty party of the bombing and ferret out the members of the Dimes. To say they have their work cut out for them would be an understatement. The themes are heavy and dark, but Blue’s writing is light, punctuated by moments of levity which carries the story through the bleaker moments. Her voice is fresh and youthful, but some of the story elements came across as almost over the top for no purpose in the story, that I could tell. For instance, they are a family of seven, including two parents, an older sister, the triplets, and twin brothers. On top of that, their mom has found time to hand make perfect Halloween costumes for all the kids plus herself and her husband every year.

Plot
The plotting is rich and complex, with each girl having her own subplot in addition to the main plot of unmasking the Dimes. The additional subplot of helping law enforcement with their previous school bombing make this both intricate and aggressive. A lot happens and it can be confusing at times with each of the three girls having her own point of view, but once I was able to keep all of them separate in my mind, even with their names all starting with the letter E, it was easier. But also, because so much is happening, the story never slows down. It’s easy to read this through in a single sitting if you have the time. The dialogue is snappy and fun, and though the girls have similar personalities, they’re different enough to make the story unique.

Characters
The cast is huge and diverse. From the triplets and their family, to friends and enemies alike, there are a lot of characters to juggle, some of them come off as flat, but for the most part, they’re fascinating, especially some of the tertiary characters, like Dr. and Mr. Thomas.

What I Enjoyed About BATTLE OF THE BULLIES
1. Detailed Backstories.
The girls have an exciting, yet horrific past that has scarred them, but also made them stronger and more determined than ever. The way their backstory unfolds is well-paced.

2. Alexis. The oldest sister and the most broken of the three, she pulls at your heartstrings in unexpected ways.

3. Sisterhood. Having two sisters of my own, I appreciated the sisterly bond and how it is woven through the plot.

4. Unexpected Twists. I always enjoy a really good twist I never saw coming.

5. Emotional Gut Punch. This story packs a whopper and will keep me thinking about it for a long time.

Bottom Line
A compelling story of the bonds of family and the value of justice.

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About the Book
Title: BATTLE OF THE BULLIES
Author: Fenyx Blue
Release Date: October 27, 2020
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon DE

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Author Fenyx Blue

Author Fenyx Blue

About the Author
If author Fenyx Blue actually had a tattoo, it would be a heart. Ms. Blue has written every book with love. Blue is a teacher, coach, mentor, and motivational speaker focused on women and youth empowerment. She has written a young adult novel about bullying entitled Who Failed Johnny?, a poetry book about purpose named The Blue Ink Movement, and a children’s book about the power of a solid father daughter relationship called Worth the Weight.

Fenyx believes in service to the community. After being chosen as teacher of the year for her school district, she continued to mentor teenagers and facilitate discussions about controversial topics like drugs, sex, violence, cyberbullying and mental health. She has been a guest poet for several women’s retreats and workshops and loves the energy she receives from a live audience.

Throughout her years as an educator and youth ministry leader, Blue created Team Bully-Free Forever, a poetry team for her school, and a mentoring group called D.I.V.A.S to address the needs of young people. She is dedicated to teaching the next generation to follow their dreams and feels it is her mission to equip them for the future. Ms. Fenyx Blue is a proud mother of three beautiful children who inspire her to write each day.

You can follow Ms. Fenyx Blue @FenyxBlueInk on Instagram and Youtube.

Where to find Fenyx Blue
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Instagram | Amazon

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review + Giveaway – PLAYING WITH FIRE by April Henry

 

Welcome to the blog tour for PLAYING WITH FIRE, a stand-alone young adult thriller by April Henry

PLAYING WITH FIRE, a stand-alone young adult thriller by New York Times bestselling author April Henry

PLAYING WITH FIRE by April Henry

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
When a fire cuts off a popular trail in the Oregon forest, a small group trapped by the flames must find another way out―or die―in Playing with Fire, an unrelenting teen-vs-nature YA thriller by New York Times bestselling author April Henry.

Natalia is not the kind of girl who takes risks. Six years ago, she barely survived the house fire that killed her baby brother. Now she is cautious and always plays it safe. For months, her co-worker Wyatt has begged her to come hiking with him, and Natalia finally agrees.

But when a wildfire breaks out, blocking the trail back, a perfect sunny day quickly morphs into a nightmare. With no cell service, few supplies, and no clear way out of the burning forest, a group of strangers will have to become allies if they’re going to survive. Hiking in the dark, they must reach the only way out―a foot bridge over a deep canyon―before the fire catches them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
PLAYING WITH FIRE is a page-turning thriller set against the majestic falls, deep canyons, and lush landscape of the Pacific Northwest. During fire seasons, Natalia and her friends-to-more co-worker, Wyatt, are out for a hike when a new fire breaks out, trapping them and independent groups of strangers as night approaches. Without a phone signal and no way to call for help, they retreat from the punishing flames, hoping to outrun the fire in time to be rescued. At nearly every turn, something impedes their odds of success, from someone missing from their ranks, a blocked bridge, a precarious ledge to cross, and someone within their group working against them.

Plot
This is primarily a survival story, and the action moves at a steady pace. There is a romantic subplot between Wyatt and Natalia, and a very small change arc on Natalia’s part. The story is well plotted and crafted to keep me turning the virtual pages on my Kindle. Even though we know from the opening pages how the fire started, that is the only thing we are sure of. Because this is a standalone and a thriller, there is no way to know if our favorite characters will all make it out alive, which is the hallmark of excellent storytelling.

The Characters
The characters were where I felt the story lacked. Natalia and Wyatt never felt like authentic teens to me. They were far too level-headed, prepared, and unemotional to be like any teens I live with, or happen to have met. But they were likable, and the supporting characters were fascinating, like the cast from an early season of Survivor, making me want to pull for all of them. Natalia is the victim of a home fire when she was younger, and is understandably terrified of the wildfire. The flashbacks to that event are hard to read, but really well done.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About PLAYING WITH FIRE
1. Setting. The wilderness provides so much opportunity to throw curveballs at the characters, and left the reader on edge, never knowing what was coming next.

2. Survival. I love a good survival story and this one really shines.

3. Surprises. Nearly ever chapter ends with a cliffhanger which kept me reading late into the night.

4. Fire. Okay, I don’t love wildfires, having had to evacuate more than once in recent years, but I love the unpredictability of fire as an antagonist.

5. Thriller. Taking this beyond just a story of man vs. nature and adding the bad seed among them was a delicious twist.

Bottom Line
A gripping survival tale of man vs. nature and man vs. man.

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: PLAYING WITH FIRE
Author: April Henry
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date: January 19, 2021
Pages: 233
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

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New York Times Bestselling Author April Henry

Author April Henry

About the Author
April Henry is the New York Times–bestselling author of many acclaimed mysteries for adults and young adults, including the YA novels The Girl in the White Van; Girl, Stolen; The Night She Disappeared; The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die; The Girl I Used to Be, which was nominated for an Edgar Award and won the Anthony Award for Best YA Mystery; Count All Her Bones; The Lonely Dead; Run, Hide, Fight Back; and The Body in the Woods and Blood Will Tell, the first two books in the Point Last Seen series. She lives in Oregon.

 

 

 

Where to Find April Henry
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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

 

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

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

THE PRINCESS PROBLEM Blog Tour

THE PRINCESS PROBLEM (Unexpectedly Royal #) by Christi Barth

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

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

Not exactly your typical Friday night in the Big Apple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line
A super fun, lighthearted royal romance.

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

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

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Author Christi Barth

Author Christi Barth

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE Blog Tour

EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE by Rayna York

EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE by Rayna York

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

3. Cody. Completely swoonworthy.

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

5. Revenge. A dish best served deliciously cold.

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

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

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

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Author Rayna York

Author Rayna York

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

 

 

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

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Young Adult Book Review – CHEROKEE SUMMER by Susan Antony

CHEROKEE SUMMER Blog Tour

CHEROKEE SUMMER by Susan Anthony

CHEROKEE SUMMER by Susan Anthony

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Susan Antony

Author Susan Antony

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

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

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

ALIEN MINDS Blog Tour

ALIEN MINDS (Dimension Drift #1) by Christina Bauer

ALIEN MINDS (Dimension Drift #1) by Christina Bauer

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

So, I’m living the perfect life.

Then why does everything feel all wrong?

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

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

Maybe it’s time to pucker up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Christina Bauer

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

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

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

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

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Book Review + Giveaway – EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN (Extinction of All Children) by L.J. Epps

EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN (Extinction of All Children #1) by L.J. Epps

EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN (Extinction of All Children #1) by L.J. Epps

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
A young adult, fantasy novel about a teenager who is the last eighteen-year-old in her territory. There will never be another child; every baby born after her has been taken away. Everyone wonders why she survived.

Emma Whisperer was born in 2080, in the small futuristic world of Craigluy. President Esther, in charge for the last twenty-two years, has divided their world into three territories, separated by classes—the rich, the working class, and the poor—because she believes the poor should not mingle with the others. And, the poor are no longer allowed to have children, since they do not have the means to take care of them.

Any babies born, accidentally or willfully, are killed. Emma is the last eighteen-year-old in her territory; every baby born after her has died. Somehow, she survived this fate.

During the president’s Monday night speech, she announces a party will be held to honor the last child in the territory, Emma Whisperer. Emma must read a speech, expressing how happy she is to be the last eighteen-year-old.

Emma doesn’t like the rules; she doesn’t believe in them. So, she feels she must rebel against them. Her family doesn’t agree with her rebellion, since they are hiding a big secret.

If this secret gets out, it will be disastrous, and deadly, for her family.

During Emma’s journey, she meets—and becomes friends with—Eric. He is one of the guards for the president. She also befriends Samuel, another guard for the president, who is summoned to watch over her. As Emma meets new people, she doesn’t know who she can trust. Yet, she finds herself falling for a guy, something which has never happened before.

After doing what she feels is right, Emma finds herself in imminent danger.

In the end, she must make one gut-wrenching decision, a decision that may be disastrous for them all.

“Fans of dystopian fantasy will devour this book. L. J. Epps writes a story that, while dealing with heavy subject matter, is still a light, enjoyable read. This dystopian fantasy novel ignites the imagination, and is a must read for fans of The Hunger Games and the Divergent Trilogy.”
—Kristina Gemmell, Beta Reader

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My Review
I’m a sucker for a good dystopian tale, and one involving the extinction of children has such incredible possibilities, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this. Emma Whisperer is the last child born in Territory L (lower class). Someone had to be the last child born when the president decrees that those in the lower class do not have the resources necessary to raise children. But that doesn’t stop those who lost children or younger siblings from hating Emma for something she had no control over. Because if a woman happens to get pregnant even after all the precautions and birth control provided by the government, the woman is forced to carry that baby to term, only to have the baby executed and the woman send to prison. It seems over-the-top cruel at times, until I remember all the horrors I read in THE HUNGER GAMES and THE HANDMAIDS TALE. There are a lot of similarities to both of those stories as well as DIVERGENT. In addition to Territory L, there is Territory M (middle class) and Territory U (upper class) where people aspire to move to, though it’s not rare and not easy to qualify. As time goes by, Emma discovers she was the last child allowed to be born for a reason. As she uncovers even more secrets, she is more determined than ever to change things in her world. For everyone.

Plot
While not action-packed, the plot does move at a steady pace. There were a few intriguing twists that kept me turning the pages despite the lack of action. Even the climax seemed to wrap up too quickly, and that’s one of my only real complaints with the pacing. The main plot centers around Emma and her place in Territory L. Her inability to go with the flow and buck the system at every turn lands her in jail for 30 days where she discovers a lot more than she ever realized about the inner workings of her government. She also meets several young male guards who challenge her in different ways, all of which she is ill-equipped to handle. The first of a trilogy, THE EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN ends with a satisfying conclusion to the book, but with enough anticipation for what comes next, that I’ll be reading the next book in the series for sure.

Characters
The story is more plot driven than character driven and that shows up in the character development. The themes are dark and the characters have a hopelessness about them that carries through the story. No deep flaws are overcome at this stage and no real growth happens yet. But I suspect we’ll get that in the next couple of books in the series.

What I Enjoyed About THE EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN
1. The Concept.
 What a great idea for a story. It has all the elements of the worst dystopian world, including a protagonist I can root for and an antagonist I love to hate.

2. Twists and Turns. More than a few surprises caught me off guard and in several times I was sure I knew what was going to happen, but it turned out I was wrong.

3. Emma. There’s nothing lovable about her, but Emma’s rough edges and harsh exterior are exactly what she needs to survive in her world. She’s part Katniss, part Tris, and part Offred.

4. Theodore. Emma’s brother is both annoying and sweet. The way he respects authority, even an evil regime, is excusable when you realize his family is the most important thing in the world to him.

5. The Settings. The entire Territory L is drab, bleak, grey, and you never lose sight of that through the author’s scene settings.

Bottom Line
A solid start to a dystopian adventure

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN
Series: Extinction of All Children #1
Author: L.J. Epps
Release Date: June 3, 2016
Pages: 250
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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About the Author
L.J. Epps is a lover of all things related to books: fiction and nonfiction novels, as well as biographies and autobiographies. She has also been known to sit and read comic books from cover to cover, several times over.

Over the last few years, L.J. has written several manuscripts; her mission is to publish all of them. She enjoys writing fiction in several genres, including contemporary romance and women’s fiction, as well as young adult dystopian, science fiction and fantasy. She loves to write because it immerses her into another world that is not her own.

Where to Find L.J. Epps
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Book Review – PEPPED UP AND WILDER (Pepper Jones Series) by Ali Dean

PEPPED UP & WILDER (Pepper Jones #6) by Ali Dean

PEPPED UP & WILDER (Pepper Jones #6) by Ali Dean

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Pepper:
The best part of a happy ending… finding out it’s actually just the beginning. Having someone promise to be by your side, to chase dreams with, whisper troubles to, it’s more than I could have imagined.

But after three seasons of Jace playing pro ball in Ohio, three long seasons, with him on the road, and me training all over the world, I’m questioning if we can really have it all. Harsh criticism of our relationship is all too familiar and uncovers old wounds. I only ever wanted to run and to be with Jace, and finding the perfect balance proves to be my greatest trial yet.

We vowed not to let our love deter each other’s athletic goals, but I miss him. I miss us.

Jace:
The demands of our careers have us running in opposite directions, when we should be putting down roots, together. But escalating fame and an overbearing agent have me fumbling everything I hold dear, including Pepper.

After years of dedication and sacrifice, I’m finally in a position to trade to my hometown team. Moving back to Colorado could be the answer to all our problems, but just when I think we’re finally on the right track, we’re sacked with news that turns everything upside down. News that rattles me and sends Pepper into a tailspin. It’s time for me to remind the girl that I fell in love with how to fight.

Until she’s ready, I’ll fight hard enough for the both of us. For better or for worse.

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My Review
I was introduced to Ali Dean’s writing with PEPPED UP, the first book in the Pepper Jones series, and was immediately hooked. I was surprised when a sixth book was released because Pepper and Jace’s story seemed to be over in in book 5, but I was eager to dive into their world once more. Both professional athletes now, Pepper and Jace are early to mid twenties now, and life seems to be going pretty well, other than the fact that they spend a lot of time apart from each other. They’re looking to settle down in their old home town of Brockton, Colorado, with Jace vying for a spot as the quarterback on the local NFL team, the Stallions (Broncos). There’s plenty of shallow people in both the running and NFL world to deal with along with returning favorites, including Bunny, Wes, Zoe and the rest of the Brockton crew. Madeline Briscole, my favorite mean girl (i.e. the girl I love to hate) makes a brief and snarky reappearance, but she doesn’t really rock the boat this time. In fact, not much rocks the boat, and that’s my biggest issue with this last installment. There isn’t as much conflict as I’m used to in Ali Dean’s stories. And the conflict that does arise is quickly doused by our now more mature protagonists. This is what we all wanted for them, but it doesn’t make for a page-turning read. That said, it was a very satisfying final conclusion to the series and the epilogue was especially fulfilling.

Plot
There doesn’t seem to be a main plot, but there are several parallel plots taking place: where will Jace play football, will Pepper make the Olympic marathon team, and where will they settle down. The three are obviously linked. Where Jace plays has a lot to do with where they will ultimately live which in turn impacts Pepper’s running career. As I mentioned above, there isn’t much conflict in any of these and anything that does threaten their happiness, isn’t a long-term issue. But the story unfolds at a steady pace and I didn’t get bored.

Characters
It was so fun being back with Pepper, Jace and the gang! I enjoyed seeing the more mature versions of these two and cameos from some of my favorite characters from the past. I would have liked more of Bunny, but isn’t that always the case?

What I Enjoyed About PEPPED UP & WILDER
1. Pepper and Jace.
 They work so well together, and after watching their trials and failures through five books, I love their HEA.

2. The Running. Pepper has evolved from trail running to marathon running. Having only ever run one half, I read through these scenes with only a superficial appreciation of what is involved, but I felt sucked into the events anyway. This is where Dean’s descriptive elements really shine.

3. Supporting Cast. Both old favorites and newcomers rounded out the characters nicely.

4. NFL Drama. It was my favorite sport to watch before the Chargers up and moved to LA (don’t get me started) but I still enjoyed reading about the behind-the-scenes drama that a bunch of egotistical jocks can drum up. Tween girls ain’t got nothing on this bunch.

5. The Epilogue. A deeply satisfying wrap up to one of my all-time favorite couples.

Bottom Line
A thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the series.

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: PEPPED UP & WILDER
Series: Pepper Jones #6
Author: Ali Dean
Release Date: December 18, 2018
Pages: 185
Genre: New Adult Contemporary/Sports Romance
Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Ali Dean

Author Ali Dean

About the Author
Ali Dean lives in Colorado with her husband, twin babies, and golden retriever. In addition to reading and writing, she loves the outdoors- everything from marathon training and biking to snowboarding and skiing.

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Where to Find Ali Dean
Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – A SOLDIER AND A LIAR by Caitlin Lochner

A SOLDIER AND A LIAR Blog Tour

A SOLDIER AND A LIAR by Caitlin Lochner

A SOLDIER AND A LIAR by Caitlin Lochner

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Caitlin Lochner

Author Caitlin Lochner

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

 

 

 

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Where to Find Caitlin Lochner
Goodreads | Website | TwitterInstagram

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

TRIPLICITY Blog Tour

TRIPLICITY by J. Mercer

TRIPLICITY by J. Mercer

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author J. Mercer

Author J. Mercer

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

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

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

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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – ACROSS THE HORIZON by Aly Martinez

ACROSS THE HORIZON Blog Tour

ACROSS THE HORIZON by Aly Martinez

ACROSS THE HORIZON by Aly Martinez

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
“Sometimes love happens when you least expect it.” That was what my husband’s mistress told me the day I found out about their affair. 

I didn’t believe it until five minutes later when mouth-watering celebrity chef Tanner Reese walked up, tossed his arm around my shoulders, and told my cheating husband to take a hike. 

Tanner and I couldn’t have been more different. He spent his weekends at clubs, rubbing elbows with fellow A-listers. I spent mine in yoga pants with cheese boards and a glass of wine—or six.

Our relationship shouldn’t have worked, but it did. That is until Tanner proved to me that even though love happens when you least expect it… 

So does heartbreak.

 

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ACROSS THE HORIZON Teaser

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My Review
ACROSS THE HORIZON is a fun, flirty, well-written contemporary romance. Tanner Reese is, as Rita calls him, a two-name celebrity. He’s always Tanner Reese and never just Tanner. Rita is just Rita, a woman reeling from her husband of seven years’ affair with a coworker. When celebrity chef, Tanner, and his brother Porter cater a charity event for the medical practice Rita, her husband, and “the other woman” all work for, hilarity ensues in the cutest of meet-cutes. Not recognizing the hot chef, Rita latches onto him in an attempt to make her soon-to-be-ex jealous. It works, but ignites a spark that soon becomes a raging inferno that will not be contained.

Plot
A straight-up romance, the plot is all about Tanner and Rita with excellent subplotting involving Greg, the douchebag husband, and Tanner’s slightly crazy ex-girlfriend. Aly Martinez does a great job of building tension, setting expectations that are then drawn out into excruciating lengths that keeps the anticipation as high for the reader as it is for the characters.

The Characters
Oh my gosh! How MUCH do I love the characters?! They are so much fun. From Tanner’s inappropriate mom to Rita’s BFF, Charlotte, the supporting cast is just as delicious as Tanner and Rita. And what can I say about Tanner and Rita? The self-described mama’s boy and trophy wife are as funny as they are endearing. Tanner is your typical cocky playboy who doesn’t date women who play hard to get. Until he meets Rita. And while I’m not a huge fan of the whole “I was a player until I met the right woman” trope, there is far more to Tanner than just a man needing to be tamed by Ms. Right. He’s profoundly patient, willing to play the long game in order to be with Rita. She is fresh out of her marriage and in no place to be in a relationship when they meet, but she can’t deny the attraction between them, either. Rita is anything but a wallflower who needs a strong man to protect her. I love these two alpha characters dancing around each other.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About ACROSS THE HORIZON
1. Mama Reese. She might be my favorite supporting character in any book I’ve ever read.

2. Strong protagonists. Both Tanner and Rita are strong and independent. Rita could have easily become this injured being that needed saving by a strong man, but I love that she never succumbed to the stereotype.

3. Sweet revenge. They say the best revenge is living a good life and Rita excels at this.

4. Flirtatious dialogue. The dialogue is rich and charming and defines who these characters are.

5. Light romance. Even though there are darker themes, the author keeps the story lighthearted, making it a perfect holiday read.

Bottom Line
A fun and flirty contemporary romance with lots of heart and humor.

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

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ACROSS THE HORIZON Teaser

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: ACROSS THE HORIZON
Author: Aly Martinez
Release Date: December 3, 2018
Pages: 248
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Aly Martinez

Author Aly Martinez

About the Author
Originally from Savannah, Georgia, USA Today bestselling author Aly Martinez now lives in South Carolina with her four young children.

Never one to take herself too seriously, she enjoys cheap wine, mystery leggings, and baked feta. It should be known, however, that she hates pizza and ice cream, almost as much as writing her bio in the third person.

She passes what little free time she has reading anything and everything she can get her hands on, preferably with a super-sized tumbler of wine by her side.

 

 

 

 

Where to Find Aly Martinez
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon

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ACROSS THE HORIZON Teaser

 

Book Review + Giveaway – FRAGMENTS OF ASH (Modern Fairy Tales) by Katy Regnery

FRAGMENTS OF ASH Blog Tour

FRAGMENTS OF ASH (Modern Fairy Tales #7) by Katy Regnery

FRAGMENTS OF ASH (Modern Fairy Tales #7) by Katy Regnery

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
From New York Times bestselling author Katy Regnery comes a dark and twisted retelling of the beloved fairytale, Cinderella!

My name is Ashley Ellis…

I was thirteen years old when my mother – retired supermodel, Tig – married Mosier Răumann, who was twice her age and the head of the Răumann crime family.

When I turned eighteen, my mother mysteriously died. Only then did I discover the dark plans my stepfather had in store for me all along; the debauched “work” he expected me to do.

With the help of my godfather, Gus, I have escaped from Mosier’s clutches, but his twin sons and henchmen have been tasked with hunting me down. And they will stop at nothing to return my virgin body to their father

…dead or alive.

** Contemporary Romance. Due to profanity and very strong sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.**

 

 

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My Review
A modern retelling of Cinderella, Ashley is a pawn in an evil game put into place by her stepfather, Mosier. After her mother’s death, Mosier has plans for Ash of the worst imaginable. With the help of Godfather, Gus,, she manages to disappear to a quiet countryside home where she can grieve for the mother she lost who she never really understood and stay off of Mosier’s radar. She meets damaged glass artist, Julian, with his own secrets and troubled past. Julian wants nothing to do with Ash and is even cruel to her in order to force her to keep her distance. But with the help of Julian’s sister Noelle, each breaks down their own barriers enough for a tentative friendship to form that blossoms into something more.

Plot
This is more than a fairytale romance. There is a thriller element to it as well with Mosier hellbent on getting back what he believes is something he owns–Ash. And while this is loosely based on Cinderella, there is shades of Beauty and the Beast in here, too, as an isolated Julian slowly warms to the sweet nature of a beautiful girl. The story is told in alternating points of view with a glimpse into Ash’s mother’s life through her journal. Ash learns the horrific nature of her stepfather as well as her mother’s own character as the five years they spent with Mosier unfold in her mother’s handwriting. She discovers who her mother was and comes to understand her in a way she never dreamed possible.

The Characters
Both Ash and Julian are well-developed with intriguing backstories. They sort of fall into familiar and stereotypical patterns, though, which given the nature of the story, isn’t horrible, but I would have loved for Ash to have been stronger and less in need of being rescued. Ash and Julian are likeable and easy to root for.

Top Five Things I Loved About FRAGMENTS OF ASH
1. Horror. The evil nature of Mosier brings a level of horror to the underlying plot. I knew from the beginning he’d never just let Ash go, so I was on the edge of my seat the whole time wondering when he’d make a reappearance.

2. Julian. He’s dark, wounded, artistic, and loyal. The perfect alpha male.

3. Tig. Ash’s mother had some serious issues and she’ll never win any mother-of-the-year awards, but she did the right thing when it counted and proved she was worthy.

4. Gus. The fairy godfather had some of the best lines in the book and the way he’d do anything for Ash made him lovable.

5. Ash. While I had my issues with her, I certainly understood why she was the way she was. So many times I wanted to take that young woman into my arms and hug her, tell her everything would be okay.

Bottom Line
An gripping retelling of Cinderella with intensity and heat.

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

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About the Book
Title: FRAGMENTS OF ASH
Series: Modern Fairy Tales #7
Author: Katy Regnery
Release Date: October 1, 2018
Pages: 282
Genre: New Adult Contemporary/Fairytale Retelling
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU 

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Fragments of Ash is part of the ~a modern fairytale~ collection: contemporary, standalone romances inspired by beloved fairy tales.

The Vixen and the Vet (Beauty & the Beast) – available now
Never Let You Go (Hansel & Gretel) – available now
Ginger’s Heart (Little Red Riding Hood) – available now
Dark Sexy Knight (Camelot) – available now
Don’t Speak (The Little Mermaid) – available now
Sheer Heaven (Rapunzel) – available now
Fragments of Ash (Cinderella) – available now
Swan Song (The Ugly Duckling) – coming soon

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Author Katy Regnery

Author Katy Regnery

About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Katy Regnery started her writing career by enrolling in a short story class in January 2012. One year later, she signed her first contract and Katy’s first novel was published in September 2013.

Twenty-five books later, Katy claims authorship of the multi-titled, New York Times and USA Today Blueberry Lane Series, which follows the English, Winslow, Rousseau, Story, and Ambler families of Philadelphia; the six-book, bestselling ~a modern fairytale~ series; and several other standalone novels and novellas.

Katy’s first modern fairytale romance, The Vixen and the Vet, was nominated for a RITA® in 2015 and won the 2015 Kindle Book Award for romance. Katy’s boxed set, The English Brothers Boxed Set, Books #1–4, hit the USA Today bestseller list in 2015, and her Christmas story, Marrying Mr. English, appeared on the list a week later. In May 2016, Katy’s Blueberry Lane collection, The Winslow Brothers Boxed Set, Books #1-4, became a New York Times E-book bestseller.

In 2016, Katy signed a print-only agreement with Spencerhill Press. As a result, her Blueberry Lane paperback books will now be distributed to brick and mortar bookstores all over the United States.

Katy lives in the relative wilds of northern Fairfield County, Connecticut, where her writing room looks out at the woods, and her husband, two young children, two dogs, and one Blue Tonkinese kitten create just enough cheerful chaos to remind her that the very best love stories begin at home..

Where to Find Katy Regnery
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – MEDALLION OF MURDER (Nefertari Hughes Mysteries) by B.R. Myers

MEDALLION OF MURDER Blog Tour

MEDALLION OF MURDER (Nefertari Hughes Mysteries) by B.R. Myers

MEDALLION OF MURDER (Nefertari Hughes Mysteries) by B.R. Myers

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Still struggling with nightmares from the past summer, Terry tries to bury her secret guilt and enjoy her family’s first Christmas in Devonshire. But when a murdered man is found with a postcard addressed to her, Terry fears the repercussions from that fateful night in Egypt are becoming a reality.

After she receives a coded message from Awad, Terry and her best friend Maude are thrown into the hunt for a lost medallion, an artifact that possesses a great power—and a gruesome destiny. As each clue leads to more disturbing truths (and bodies), Terry begins to suspect she’s the real target of the search. When Awad goes missing, she becomes certain the Illuminati are involved, and has no choice but to risk losing the thing she cherishes the most to get him back.

But Terry will soon discover the secrets of the tomb cannot be erased by distance or power, because the ghosts of her past are closing in quickly… and this time, they refuse to stay buried.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
While I realized this was the third book in a series, its a mystery and in most cases, you can pick up any book in a mystery series and read it as a stand-alone. That is not the case with MEDALLION OF MURDER. This book builds on the events of the previous two books in the series. While it’s easy enough to follow the plot, a lot of the surprises and twists would no doubt have more impact if I’d read the other books first. With that said, I enjoyed this one enough that I will go back and read the other two books. I recommend reading them in order.

Nefertari (Terry) Hughes is the daughter of a noted archeologist who wants her to follow in his footsteps, but her recent adventures have her longing for a future in law enforcement. She’s haunted by past events and struggling with her role in them. On Christmas Eve, out with her best friend Maude, they run into a situation tied to what happened in Egypt, that launches Terry and her friends into their latest mystery. With a coded message from her friend Awad and a mystery gift, they spend their winter holidays attempting to solve another puzzle with dangerous consequences.

Plot
The plot centers around the mystery, but with several subplots involving Terry’s life choices and her relationships with her friends. The events that unfold are masterfully crafted to keep the story moving at the perfect pace. The clues gave me just enough information to make me think I knew what was going on. With the history of the other two books, I may have figured things out sooner, but I love that I didn’t; it was more of a true mystery this way. There is some paranormal/urban fantasy elements, but otherwise feels more like a contemporary mystery. But those elements add interest and surprising ways for events to unfold. Lots of action and adventure, puzzles to solve, and a bit of romance round out a really nice young adult mystery.

The Characters
Told in third-person, single-point-of-view, I felt at a distance from the characters. I got a better sense of who Terry was, but for the most part, the rest of them didn’t resonate deeply with me. They’re all likable enough, but this is a plot-driven story rather than character-driven so the characters aren’t crucial to me being able to enjoy the tale.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About MEDALLION OF MURDER
1. Imperfections. I loved the diversity of the cast. With Terry’s prosthesis and Jackson’s blindness, the characters’ imperfections made them easier to root for.

2. Mystery. I love a good mystery and this had all of the elements to keep me invested to the very end.

3. History. The way the author weaves in historical figures and events into the story brought a young Indiana Jones feel.

4. Action. Plenty of action and adventure kept the plot from stalling.

5. Zach. As the love interest, Zach was the perfect romantic partner for Terry, making me want to read the first two books in the series so I can see how their romance evolved.

Bottom Line
A young adult whodunit with paranormal and historical elements making this not your average mystery.

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

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: MEDALLION OF MURDER
Series: Nefertari Hughes Mysteries #3
Author: B.R. Myers
Publisher: Blue Moon Publishers
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Pages: 282
Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Paranormal
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU 

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Author B.R. Myers

Author B.R. Myers

About the Author
Always in the mood for a good scare, B.R. Myers spent most of her teen years behind the covers of Lois Duncan, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King. Her YA contemporary coming of age novel, GIRL ON THE RUN, was chosen by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre as a BEST BOOK for TEENS for 2016.

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 two children—and there is still a stack of books on her bedside table..

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Where to Find B.R. Myers
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebookTwitter

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN by Jessica Redmerski

EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN Blog Tour

EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN by Jessica Redmerski

EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN by Jessica Redmerski

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Thais Fenwick was eleven-years-old when civilization fell, devastated by a virus that killed off the majority of the world’s population. For seven years, Thais and her family lived in a community of survivors deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. But when her town is attacked by raiders, she and her blind sister are taken away to the East-Central Territory where she is destined to live the cruel and unjust kind of life her late mother warned her about.

Atticus Hunt is a troubled soldier in Lexington City who has spent the past seven years trying to conform to the vicious nature of men in a post-apocalyptic society. He knows that in order to survive, he must abandon his morals and his conscience and become like those he is surrounded by. But when he meets Thais, morals and conscience win out over conformity, and he risks his rank and his life to help her. They escape the city and set out together on a long and perilous journey to find safety in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Struggling to survive in a world without electricity, food, shelter, and clean water, Atticus and Thais shed their fear of growing too close, and they fall hopelessly in love. But can love survive in such dark times, or is it fated to die with them?

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My Review
Set after an illness and the events that followed wiped out half the country’s population and civilization as we know it, Thais and her family manage to survive in a rural town in what used to be Kentucky. But lawlessness and greed are everywhere and soon raiders upend an already upended life and send Thais and her sister into the wilderness. They’re soon caught by raiders and taken to Lexington City where women are more prized than gold. They are ranked according to looks and worth and sorted for a life as workers, wives, or whores. There is no equality and no freedom. Thais is desperate to get her sister out, although to where is still huge unknown. But remaining in Lexington City will be a hell all its own.

Atticus is a soldier in Lexington City responsible for sorting Thais and her sister. He’s filled with self-loathing and a desire to change things for the better. His views on the new fallen world are best summed up in his inner thoughts.

But in every good person there is something dark waiting to take the reins. Now here we were, Evelyn and Atticus, a whore and a murderer, succumbing to that dark part of us, because that’s how life was.

Something about Thais sparks a desire in Atticus to battle back against that darkness and maybe redeem his soul. If he can protect her and her sister, maybe he’s not the animal he believes himself to be. When things spiral out of his control, he has no choice but to get Thais out of the city where survival is even more precarious and betrayal is everywhere. Somehow these two find mutual respect in one another that gives way to something more.

Plot
The plot moves at a fast pace from the opening chapter. Scenes are short, and alternating points of view keep suspense high and prevents the story from stalling. However, starting in Chapter 24, the author throws in the alternate point of view in bold parenthesis. This practice is jarring, ripping me from the story each time. These points of view are completely unnecessary to the flow of story, so I began to ignore them when I came across them.

The Characters
While I’m sure this was written as a plot-driven story, the characters steal the show. Atticus is a fascinating, intense character who I felt the author was much more comfortable writing than Thais. Thais is also well-developed, but she comes across as almost two people as the story develops. She’s tough and determined early on, but slowly becomes dependent upon Atticus for her survival, losing some of that grit that made me love her in the beginning.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN
1. Atticus. He’s brilliantly crafted.

2. Dystopian. I do love a good fallen civilization.

3. Unhurried love. I love how the author doesn’t rush anything between Thais and Atticus.

4. Character development. Both Thais and Atticus undergo tremendous development throughout the story that is a direct reflection of the circumstances they’ve been put in, making it very organic.

5. Realism. While this is a young adult novel, the author doesn’t sugar coat the realities of life in a post-apocalyptic world, from rape, cannibalism, violence, and prostitution, a dark world is not made less dark just because the characters are young.

Bottom Line
A character-driven dystopian in the best sense of the word with remarkable characters and a solid plot.

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

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About the Book
Title: EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN
Author: Jessica Redmerski
Release Date: August 28, 2017
Pages: 657
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Jessica Redmerski

Author Jessica Redmerski

About the Author
Jessica Redmerski is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and award winner who juggles several genres of fiction.

She also writes as J.A. Redmerski.

 

 

 

 

 

Where to Find Jessica Redmerski
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter

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