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Book Review – THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS (A Writer's Guide to Character Attributes) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Character creation can be hard, but it’s about to get a lot easier. Inside The Positive Trait Thesaurus, you’ll find:

* A large selection of attributes to choose from when building a personality profile. Each entry lists possible causes for why a trait might emerge, along with associated attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions
* Real character examples from literature, film, or television to show how an attribute drives actions and decisions, influences goals, and steers relationships
* Advice on using positive traits to immediately hook readers while avoiding common personality pitfalls
* Insight on human needs and morality, and how each determines the strengths that emerge in heroes and villains alike
* Information on the key role positive attributes play within the character arc, and how they’re vital to overcoming fatal flaws and achieving success
* Downloadable tools for organizing a character’s attributes and providing a deeper understanding of his past, his needs, and the emotional wounds he must overcome

If you find character creation difficult or worry that your cast members all seem the same, The Positive Trait Thesaurus is brimming with ideas to help you develop one-of-a-kind, dynamic characters that readers will love. Extensively indexed, with entries written in a user-friendly list format, this brainstorming resource is perfect for any character creation project.

“In these brilliantly conceived, superbly organized and astonishingly thorough volumes, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have created an invaluable resource for writers and storytellers. Whether you are searching for new and unique ways to add and define characters, or brainstorming methods for revealing those characters without resorting to clichés, it is hard to imagine two more powerful tools for adding depth and dimension to your screenplays, novels or plays.”

– Michael Hauge, Hollywood script consultant and story expert, author of Writing Screenplays That Sell and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read

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My Review
As soon as I finished THE EMOTION THESAURUS, I rushed out to pick up this book, and it’s just as informative and useful as I hoped it would be. An introduction details how positive traits help to build not only protagonists, but also villains. It explains the importance of having antagonists that are as fully developed as our heroes. Once we get a primer on WHY we need positive traits, the book dives into a huge variety of these traits with a brief description and possible influences that brought it about. Each entry dives deeper with similar attributes, associated behaviors and thoughts, possible emotional responses, and what traits in supporting characters may cause conflict. Also included are example characters from literature to really drive the point home.

If you’re looking to develop in-depth characters who come across as authentic, this is the definitive guide.

Bottom Line
Another outstanding guidebook from Ackerman and Puglisi. A must-read for all novelists.

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About the Book
Title
: THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes
Authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Publisher: JADD Publishing
Publication Date: October 21, 2013
Pages: 241
Category: Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

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

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

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

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

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Young Adult Book Review – ISAN (International Sensory Assassin Network) by Mary Ting

ISAN (International Sensory Assassin Network #1) by Mary Ting

ISAN (International Sensory Assassin Network #1) by Mary Ting

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The world has changed.

Scientists warned it would happen.

Meteors devastated the Earth. World Governments developed plans to help surviving citizens. The United States disbanded and salvageable land was divided into four quadrants—North, South, East, and West—governed by The Remnant Council.

Struggling to survive, seventeen-year-old Ava ends up in juvenile detention, until she is selected for a new life—with a catch. She must be injected with an experimental serum. The results will be life changing. The serum will make her better. To receive the serum Ava agrees to join a program controlled by ISAN, the International Sensory Assassin Network.

While on a mission, she is abducted by a rebel group led by Rhett and told that not only does she have a history with him, but her entire past is a lie perpetuated by ISAN to ensure her compliance. Unsure of who to trust, Ava must decide if her strangely familiar and handsome captor is her enemy or her savior—and time is running out.

 

 

 

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My Review
Mary Ting’s dystopian world envisions a planet pummeled by meteors, destroying life as we know it. Two generations later and science has surpassed anything their ancestors could have imagined thanks to resources those meteors brought to the earth. Fragile governments have sprung up and a power struggle is firmly in place. Enter ISAN, the International Sensory Assassin Network. With a secret formula known as Helix, teenage assassins are sent out to eliminate any threats to peace before they become a problem. Pulling girls from foster homes and juvenile detention system, ISAN promises a better life for troubled youth, but they soon realize they’ve traded one hell for another. Ava is an orphan with a rough past, but she takes to the Helix serum especially well, giving her abilities the other girls don’t have, propelling her into a leadership position, one she doesn’t feel she’s earned. Still, she does her best to nurture and support her team on their missions. This is her life, training, eating, killing. At least until she starts receiving mysterious messages from someone on her computer. When she’s kidnapped while on a mission, not only is her world turned upside down, but her entire identity as she learns painful details about a past she can’t remember.

Plot
The plot is amazing. I couldn’t put this book down. It moves from the opening page through to the end. There were so many unexpected plot twists that kept me needing to find out what happened next. The primary plot isn’t really Ava’s, it’s Rhett’s. His goal is to get Ava back. But because it’s told through Ava’s point of view, the goal wasn’t completely clear until at least halfway through. By using this technique, the author keeps us in the dark, along with Ava, so we truly experience the backstory as it unfolds for Ava. This was a brilliant technique that kept me on my toes!

Characters
Ava is tough, but not to the point of being hard to like. From the opening pages, I loved her loyalty and her moral center. Even as an assassin, she has a conscious that tears at her. Her team is a blend of friends and adversaries that must form a cohesive unit during missions, which makes for some really great conflict. The leadership is intriguing and mysterious, meaning anything is possible at this point. As Ava learns the secrets of her past, readers are left to wonder who we can trust. Rhett, as the forgotten love interest, is everything you’d want for Ava. He’ll do anything to get her back, except put her at risk.

What I Loved About ISAN
1. World Building.
 The dystopian future Ting creates is a joy to behold. Rich details bring it vividly to life.

2. Kendrick. His toys for the assassins are a thing of beauty and straight out of the best spy movies.

3. Ava. She kicks butt and takes names, but she is loyal and has a strong moral code — everything I want in my teenage assassins.

4. Rhett. He’s tough and badass but his tender feelings toward Ava makes him swoonworthy.

5. Surprises. There were a lot of surprises throughout the book that kept me on the edge of my seat.

Bottom Line
A fantastic young adult dystopian with cool tech and swoony romantic subplot.

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About the Book
Title: ISAN
Series: ISAN #1
Author: Mary Ting
Publisher: Vesuvian Books
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Pages: 330
Genre: Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound | BAM!

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Author Mary Ting

Author Mary Ting

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

Becoming an author happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she had in high school. After realizing she wanted to become a full-time author, Mary retired from teaching after twenty years. She also had the privilege of touring with the Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book: No Bullies Allowed.

Mary resides in Southern California with her husband, two children, and two little dogs, Mochi and Mocha. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry..

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Where to find Mary Ting
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

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

HELIX Blog Tour

HELIX (ISAN #2) by Mary Ting

HELIX (ISAN #2) by Mary Ting

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
HELIX picks up where ISAN left off, but this time we get both Ava’s and Rhett’s points of view. Rhett is reeling from having to let Ava go, again, and Ava is still frustrated and confused from her three days with Rhett and his friends. Back at ISAN, she’s once again a reluctant assassin, doing what she’s been trained to do while seeking the truth, her memories, her father, and a twin she didn’t even know she had. With ISAN pursuing Rhett and the other rebels, life outside ISAN is no safer than it is inside for Ava. Although he let her go, Rhett is determined to get Ava back, and this time for good. With a perfected Helix serum, ISAN is now made up of both males and females, creating a more complex dynamic as Ava begins to untangle an intricate conspiracy. When her memories begin to return, emotions flood her, threatening to drown her and keep her from achieving her objectives.

Plot
War is coming. That much we know. But figuring out who is on which side and who can be trusted is just one of the many areas author Mary Ting excels at. The plot is expertly woven with backstory, major and minor subplots, and more than a few twists. Just as with ISAN, the story moves at a fast pace and kept me turning pages long into the night. I finished this book in just three days.

Characters
All the characters I fell in love with in book 1 are back with more depth and development as their stories continue. Getting Rhett’s point of view this time was an extra treat that I savored. New characters, including Zen, Chloe, and Payton all add so much to the complex relationship structure, driving conflict as well as contributing to some really great moments. One in particular between Chloe and Rhett early in the story was the perfect scene to show us everything we need to know about Rhett’s honor.

What I Loved About HELIX
1. Ava.
 I love her even more than I did in ISAN. She’s both tougher this time around and softer around the edges in a way she wan’t before.

2. Rhett. Sigh…. His love for and loyalty toward Ava are swoony, but he’s more than just a romantic lead. He’s got his own goals and arc beyond his feelings for Ava.

3. Tech. Kendrick’s Q-worthy tech would make James Bond weak in the knees.

4. Twists. Just as in ISAN, there are plenty of twists that take the story in another direction at the most unexpected moments.

5. Plot. Another page-turning story from Mary Ting that was impossible to put down.

Bottom Line
A pulse-pounding sequel in one of the best dystopian series out there.

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: HELIX
Series: ISAN #2
Author: Mary Ting
Publisher: Vesuvian Books
Release Date: May 12, 2019
Pages: 376
Genre: Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound | BAM!

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Author Mary Ting

Author Mary Ting

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

Becoming an author happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she had in high school. After realizing she wanted to become a full-time author, Mary retired from teaching after twenty years. She also had the privilege of touring with the Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book: No Bullies Allowed.

Mary resides in Southern California with her husband, two children, and two little dogs, Mochi and Mocha. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry..

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Where to find Mary Ting
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Book Review – COCONUT CRUSH (Press Pass Mysteries) by April Anderton

COCONUT CRUSH (Press Pass Mysteries #3) by April Anderton

COCONUT CRUSH (Press Pass Mysteries #3) by April Anderton

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Dinner, drinks, and death.

A honeymoon cruise they won’t forget.

Boston reporter Ali Loukas hasn’t had time to legally change her name, but a week in the middle of the ocean with her shiny new husband should mean time to kick back and relax–with no dead bodies. No such luck. Ali’s reputation and penchant for coming across corpses have preceded her. Trapped on a floating city with a handful of eccentric fans, she finds herself swept up in the lifestyle of the Boston Elite.

When a body turns up on the second day at sea, one fan turns to Ali, expecting her to help the ship’s security team come up with a killer. But Security’s not interested in Ali’s help and they threaten to throw her in the brig if she interferes with their investigation.

Mysterious elderly stalkers, a magic show gone bad, and a killer on board, make Ali wonder if her tropical vacation will bring her closer to her husband as intended or send her overboard.

If you’re a fan of Mary Higgins Clark mysteries, get this book today!

Content Note: PG equivalent – No swearing, no sex, and no graphic violence. Sweet newlywed innuendo.

Other books by April Anderton:
Previous Engagements – Press Pass Mysteries Book One
Drowned at The Rat – Press Pass Mysteries Book Two

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My Review
WARNING: Mild spoilers for Books 1 and 2.
This is my favorite book in the series so far. Anderton has upped the humor, created endearing and developed characters, and once again, kept me guessing. Ali and Ryan are on their honeymoon cruise, organized and paid for by their mothers, which means it’s bound to have issues. What should be the perfect romantic getaway becomes deadly when l one of the guests dies on board. And of course Ali and Ryan have a connection to the deceased — he was sitting at the same table as they were. The ship’s security team doesn’t want Ali poking her journalist nose in their business and do everything they can to keep her at arms’ length from the story. But being Ali, she can’t just let it go. All she’ll commit to is not reporting the story during the cruise. She honestly befriends a couple of her fellow passengers who also happen to be close to the deceased, which provides her with an edge when it comes to solving the mystery.

Plot
The story centers on the mystery surrounding the death of a cruise ship passenger. The search for answers brings Ali closer to several of her fellow passengers and throws her into the path of two mysterious passengers who seem to be following her. As Ally and Ryan sneak in as much quality alone-time as possible, the events aboard and onshore keep them torn between relaxing and solving the crime.

Characters
I love the characters. Ally is only more endearing with each book, as is Ryan. The quirky supporting cast are just as fun and delicious as I’ve come to expect from this author.

Top things I Loved About COCONUT CRUSH
1. The Setting. I’ve never been on a cruise myself, but I’ve seen enough episodes of The Love Boat in my life to appreciate the setting.

2. Backstabbing and Plotting. This story is rife with character’s plotting against one another, bringing a level of hilarity and confusion to the mystery.

3. Ali. She’s more tenacious than ever without losing that sweet, funny side of her.

4. Ryan. He seems to have reluctantly accepted his wife’s job and all of the pitfalls that accompany it.

5. Mystery Guests. They had me laughing out loud!

Bottom Line
A wonderful cozy mystery by an author coming into her own. If you love Stephanie Plum, you’ll adore Ali Loukas.

About the Book
Title: COCONUT CRUSH
Series: Press Pass Mysteries #3
Author: April Anderton
Release Date: August 19, 2019
Pages: 228
Category:
Adult Cozy Mystery
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author April Anderton

Author April Anderton

About the Author
April Anderton is a designer, blogger and author of cozy and young adult mysteries, survival adventures, non-fiction how-to books and articles for blogs and magazines. She lives off-grid in the mountains of North Idaho with her husband and their homeschooled pre-teen son. She doesn’t quite understand why her grown children would rather live in cities in homes with running water, plumbing and electricity, but she loves them anyway. If you ran into April at the grocery store, chances are high that she would not be wearing makeup and may be on the edge of looking presentable. She’d still say hello..

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Where to find April Anderton
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | InstagramAmazon

 

Book Review + Giveaway – THE FIXER UPPER (Echo Springs) by Maggie Mae Gallagher

THE FIXER UPPER Blog Tour

THE FIXER UPPER (Echo Springs #1) by Maggie Mae Gallagher

THE FIXER UPPER (Echo Springs #1) by Maggie Mae Gallagher

3 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Abby Callier is more in love with Shakespearean heroes than any real man, and she’s beginning to wonder if there is life for her outside the pages of a book. It doesn’t help that her esteemed parents tend to view her as they would one of their science experiments gone wrong. On the eve of finishing her dissertation, she escapes her staid existence to live in the house she inherited from her Great Aunt Evie in the small town of Echo Springs, Colorado. Because, let’s face it, when a woman starts comparing her life to horror films, it might be time for a break.

Sheriff Nate Barnes believes in law and order and carefully building the life you want. In his spare time, he has been remodeling his house in the hope that one day it will be filled with the family he makes. But Nate doesn’t like drama or complications and tends to avoid them at all costs. And yet, when Miss Abigail Callier, his newest neighbor, beans him with a nine iron, he can’t help but wonder if she might just be the complication he’s been searching for all along. It doesn’t hurt that he discovers a journal hidden away by the previous tenant and decides to use Old Man Turner’s advice to romance Abby into his life.

Abby never expected her next-door neighbor, the newly dubbed Sheriff Stud Muffin, to be just the distraction her world needed.

The problem is she doesn’t know whether she should make Echo Springs her home, or if this town is just a stopover point in her life’s trajectory. And she doesn’t want to tell Nate that she might not be sticking around—even though she should because it’s the right thing to do, the honest thing—because then all the scintillatingly hot kisses with the Sheriff will come to an abrupt halt. Did she mention that he’s a really great kisser?

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My Review
Abby Callier uproots her academic life under academic parents and defies them to write her dissertation on English Literature, instead of something more appropriate, in the small Colorado town outside Denver where her great aunt lived. Tiny Echo Springs is the opposite of everything Abby is used to. She plans on finishing her paper, get her doctorate, and sell her aunt’s house. That’s the plan anyway. But things seldom go according to plan. For one, her aunt’s victorian home is filled with an army of tiny porcelain dolls that leave Abby uneasy. So uneasy, she leaves them in the living room while she sets up camp upstairs, far away from the creepy things. For another, her aunt’s neighbor is beyond hot and also the town’s sheriff. The more time she spends with the man she calls Sheriff Stud Muffin, the more she questions her current objectives and the less sure she is of what her next step will be. She takes a job at the local community college and meets a colorful cast of characters. It’s easy to see where the next books in the Echo Springs series will take us.

Plot
This is a straight-up romance that follows the typical format of meet-cute followed by all the ups and downs you expect in a contemporary romance. There’s a minor subplot involving a series of break-ins in the small town, but the subplot that really shines is Old Man Turner’s journal that tells a romantic tale that started before World War II between Old Man Turner and Abby’s great aunt. It serves as both a parallel tale as well as backstory.

Characters
This was the one part of the story I’m iffy on. Abby’s ovaries “sigh” at the sight of the studly-muffinesque sheriff. And not just once, there is much ovary sighing throughout. And Nate’s declaration that Abby “isn’t like other women” was too cliche. However, the supporting cast saved the story for me. Nate’s bevy of messed-up buddies and punk community college teacher Tessa and her gorgeous, but militant sister, Cybil, drew me in. In fact, if any of these characters are involved in the second book in the series, I’m there!

What I Enjoyed About THE FIXER UPPER
1. Rufus.
 Nate’s big, lovable, slobbering Great Dane provided some great comedic moments.

2. Tessa. She’s tough, acerbic, and funny. I can’t wait to read her story.

3. Cybil. She’s snark and sour wrapped in a pretty package, and her story is going to be epic.

4. Aunt Evie. The story of her romance with Old Man Turner is heartbreaking and bittersweet.

5. Old Homes. I adore old homes and the descriptions of the two Victorian homes made me want to do a few more renovations around here, much to my husband’s dismay.

Bottom Line
A decent romance with a stellar supporting cast.

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

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About the Book
Title: THE FIXER UPPER
Series: Echo Springs #1
Author: Maggie Mae Gallagher
Publisher: Blushing Books Publications
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Pages: 296
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Blushing Books

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Maggie Mae Gallagher

Maggie Mae Gallagher

About the Author
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Maggie grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Maggie never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an M.A. in History.

Maggie is a bestselling and award-winning author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes erotic romance under the name Anya Summers. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the Midwest with her two furry felines.

 

 

Where to find Maggie Mae Gallagher
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review – DROWNED AT THE RAT (Press Pass Mysteries) by April Anderton

DROWNED AT THE RAT (Press Pass Mysteries) by April Anderton

DROWNED AT THE RAT (Press Pass Mysteries) by April Anderton

4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The bass player’s dead and no one’s talking.

When the bass player of a local punk group turns up dead at the infamous night club known as The Rat, it looks like a clear-cut case of band envy. Boston reporter, Ali Loukas, isn’t so sure. Something smells off and with the help of her boyfriend and homicide detective, Ryan McGuire, Ali sets out to sniff out the real killer . . . or killers.

It’s 1997 and The Rat is slowly dying. Underground violence and cutthroat competition have become the norm, but Vinny G.’s death threatens to close the curtains. Can Ali help find the killer and save the club or will she end up six feet under?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
The second book in the Press Pass Mysteries, Ali Loukas has come into her own as a reporter for Channel 7. In the midst of doing a story at The Rathskeller nightclub, she stumbles upon the murder of Vinny G, a member of a band slated to play there. And Ali, being who she is, can’t just walk away from this story, even though her sort of boyfriend, Detective Ryan McGuire, all but begs her to. Their budding romance is hit from all sides as Ali is determined to find out what happened to Vinny at the same time that Ryan is keeping valuable information about the investigation from her. The deeper Ali digs, the more secrets she uncovers, secrets people will kill to keep hidden.

Plot
Once again, Anderton tells a well-plotted tale with plenty of twists and red herrings to throw us off, but in the end, the truth has been staring us in the face the entire time. Where the first book had multiple points of view, this second one in the series is only from Ali’s, which makes it smoother. By not being privy to anything she is not, the mystery unfolds at the perfect pace. The humor is ramped up in this installment without ever veering into silliness. The romance is a solid subplot and believable, adding a nice counterbalance to the murder mystery.

Characters
The characters are where the story really shines. Ali Loukas, once again, is a likable protagonist who is easy to root for. Ryan is both her perfect foil and a swoonworthy book boyfriend. The rest of the cast of characters are ideal for the roles they’re scripted for and are far more than two-dimensional stereotypes.

Top things I Enjoyed About DROWNED AT THE RAT
1. 1997. From the fashion to the music references, this is a fun romp down memory lane.

2. Ali. She’s come into her own with style and wit. I love her even more than I did in the first book.

3. Ryan. He’s still a tough-as-nails cop who plays his cards close to the vest, but watching him soften toward Ali makes him all the more adorable.

4. The Rat. A retro 80s punk-styled nightclub in the late 90s is everything.

5. The Mystery. Once again, the author keeps us guessing.

Bottom Line
A fun fast read with delightful characters and plenty of heart and humor

About the Book
Title: DROWNED AT THE RAT
Series: Press Pass Mysteries #2
Author: April Anderton
Release Date: May 31, 2019
Pages: 238
Category:
Adult Cozy Mystery
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author April Anderton

Author April Anderton

About the Author
April Anderton is a designer, blogger and author of cozy and young adult mysteries, survival adventures, non-fiction how-to books and articles for blogs and magazines. She lives off-grid in the mountains of North Idaho with her husband and their homeschooled pre-teen son. She doesn’t quite understand why her grown children would rather live in cities in homes with running water, plumbing and electricity, but she loves them anyway. If you ran into April at the grocery store, chances are high that she would not be wearing makeup and may be on the edge of looking presentable. She’d still say hello..

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Where to find April Anderton
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | InstagramAmazon

 

Book Review – PREVIOUS ENGAGEMENTS (Press Pass Mysteries) by April Anderton

PREVIOUS ENGAGEMENTS (Press Pass Mysteries #1) by April Anderton

PREVIOUS ENGAGEMENTS (Press Pass Mysteries #1) by April Anderton

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Senator Morgan Maxwell’s fiancée is dead and it’s not the first time.

It’s 1996 and Boston reporter, Ali Loukas, has her sights set on advancing from radio newscaster to TV correspondent, so when the Maxwell story practically drops into her lap, she seizes the opportunity to solve the murder, scoop her competitors, and move up the broadcasting ladder.

But gaining access to evidence and witnesses without stepping on the toes of family friend, Detective Ryan McGuire, could be tricky.

Despite a knife wedged in her front door and opposition from the police, Ali is determined to prove that she can find the answers, solve the crime and earn the dream job…if she can stay alive to make it all happen.

If you love Mary Higgins Clark Mysteries, grab this one today!

Content Notes: PG equivalent – No swearing, sex or graphic violence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Set in the mid 1990s, this is a delightful trip into my pre-kids/marriage youth, with references to some of my favorite music and other pop culture from that time. Ali Loukas moves to Boston as a cub reporter for a radio station, her sights set on working in TV some day, following in the footsteps of her idol. When she dives into the murder of a prominent citizen, she gets to meet her idol, only to discover she’s the exact opposite of what Ali imagined. As a viscous rivalry develops between the two, Ali is determined to solve the mystery first. Her sleuthing sends her directly into the path of dreamy Detective Ryan McGuire, the son of her mother’s best friend, making things doubly complicated, and then triply so when Ali discovers Ryan might just have reciprocal feelings for her. But before long, Ali somehow asks the wrong person the wrong question, putting her directly in the crosshairs.

Plot
The primary focus is the mystery – who killed Senator Maxwell’s fiancee. But there are a couple of solid subplots involving Ali’s career and her budding romance with Detective McGuire. The mystery is well done, with several twists and a culprit, who I did suspect from time-to-time, I never really latched onto as the one. The author expertly foreshadows everything, though, so the big reveal feels inevitable. Because the story takes place more than twenty years ago, there are some fun things the author takes advantage of, including the fact that smart phones weren’t a thing and the internet was still dial-up for a lot of the population.

Characters
The characters were awesome. Ali is instantly likable as a determined reporter, who is maybe a bit naive, but tenacious enough to overcome it. Ryan is swoon-worthy as her foil and potential love interest, and the moms are the absolute best, driving some of the funniest moments in the book.

Top things I Enjoyed About PREVIOUS ENGAGEMENTS
1. Ali. She’s funny, smart, and will stop at nothing to get to the truth.

2. Ryan. He’s all about the rules. At least until he meets Ali.

3. The 1990s. Showing my age here, but the 90s were my favorite decade from the music, to movies, and TV shows. The pop cultural references were a blast from my past.

4. The Mystery. It was well done and kept me guessing.

5. Humor. A lightheartedness to the story kept it from getting too dark and had me laughing throughout.

Bottom Line
A fun cozy mystery with a nostalgic edge and a lighthearted romance.

About the Book
Title: PREVIOUS ENGAGEMENTS
Series: Press Pass Mysteries #1
Author: April Anderton
Release Date: March 1, 2019
Pages: 247
Category:
Adult Cozy Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author April Anderton

Author April Anderton

About the Author
April Anderton is a designer, blogger and author of cozy and young adult mysteries, survival adventures, non-fiction how-to books and articles for blogs and magazines. She lives off-grid in the mountains of North Idaho with her husband and their homeschooled pre-teen son. She doesn’t quite understand why her grown children would rather live in cities in homes with running water, plumbing and electricity, but she loves them anyway. If you ran into April at the grocery store, chances are high that she would not be wearing makeup and may be on the edge of looking presentable. She’d still say hello..

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Where to find April Anderton
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | InstagramAmazon

 

Young Adult Book Review – MIRACLE GIRL by Jennifer DiGiovanni

MIRACLE GIRL by Jennifer DiGiovanni

MIRACLE GIRL by Jennifer DiGiovanni

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Leanne Strong hates June eighth even though it’s supposed to a day for celebration. Fifteen years ago on that date, baby Leanne was purported to be miraculously healed of a spinal cord defect after her mother prayed to a religious mystic who was later elevated to sainthood. Since Leanne’s unexplained cure, thousands of people gather in her small town every year to celebrate her miracle–a miracle she doesn’t remember but still accepts as real–most of the time.

When teen pitching phenom Braeden Dalisay moves into the house across the street from Leanne, he harbors a chip on his shoulder even larger than his athletic talent. Forced to spend the summer in the same law office, he and Leanne carry on a working relationship that vacillates between stormy and silent. After Leanne finds out that Braeden’s sister, Emeline, recently passed away, the reason for his behavior becomes clear. Emeline Dalisay was a girl who didn’t get a miracle.

Time softens Braeden’s anger, and he and Leanne eventually draw closer. But when he and his family are hit with another traumatic event, he pulls away, the unfairness of life a deep wound. Leanne wants to help Braeden and his family heal as much as she wants a relationship with him. More than that, she wants a miracle for Braeden.

 

 

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My Review
Leanne Strong is the recipient of a verified miracle that she has zero recollection of. And while she’s grateful for the life she has, she hates being “Miracle Girl” and all the celebrity that goes with it. For that reason, she’s sworn off dating until she’s in college, far away from where anyone knows who she is or her miracle status. But when the Dalisay’s move in across the street, Braeden and and his sister, Sami, challenge everything Leanne believes about herself and her miracle. She wonders if she’s been ungrateful, even as she struggles to be what everyone expects her to, someone she doesn’t believe she is. Spending the summer working in her dad’s law firm, she spends more time with Braeden, who is also making a few extra bucks between baseball games. What starts off as a tense relationship soon blossoms into more, until Sami gets sick and threatens everything Leanne understands about herself, faith, and what it means to believe in something more than yourself.

Plot
The main plot revolves around Leanne’s relationship with her miracle girl status. She initially wants nothing to do with it. She’s just a regular girl with no recollection of what happened that night 15 years before. In fact, she can’t recall a time when she wasn’t the way she is now. She knows she’s expected to be so much more to others looking for their own miracles, but she feels inadequate when it comes to providing them with the inspiration they feel they so desperately need. With the help of Sami, Braeden, her family, and a priest, she comes to realize that memories aren’t required to appreciate the life she’s been given. There are also strong subplots involving her relationship with Braeden and her own faith.

Characters
Leanne is so relatable as an ordinary girl with extraordinary expectations. She knows that the world wants more from her than she’s able to give and struggles with this burden through much of the book. Braeden is the perfect, somewhat brooding, foil for Leanne’s positivity, but they have more in common than either of them realizes. These two navigate a tenuous romance amidst all the drama, providing some of the most heartwarming moments. The rest of the characters wonderfully round out the cast, particularly Leanne’s dad’s office staff.

Top things I LOVED About MIRACLE GIRL
1. Sami. Even after everything she’s lost, Sami is a perpetually positive force and impossible to ignore.

2. Faith. It’s an underlying theme centered around hope and gratitude, so perfectly incorporated that even those who don’t profess any faith will enjoy this book.

3. Leanne. She’s one of my favorite young adult protagonists of 2019. She’s grounded in a way that is both because of and in conflict with her miracle status.

4. Braeden. The pitching phenom is as sweet as he is hot, but with a brooding undertone that adds to his swooniness.

5. Miracles. Always there, and a main part of the plot, it’s really not about the miracle itself, but how the recipient copes with her worthiness.

Bottom Line
An inspirational story about faith, first love, and refusing to allow others to define you.

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

About the Book
Title: MIRACLE GIRL
Author: Jennifer DiGiovanni
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing
Release Date: November 30, 2019
Pages: 242
Category:
Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Spiritual
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

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Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

About the Author
Jennifer DiGiovanni is the author of contemporary and light fantasy novels for teens. When she’s not reading or writing, she likes to try new sports and activities, from archery to ballroom dancing, all in the name of book research.

 

 

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Where to find Jennifer DiGiovanni
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

 

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – T-MINUS by Shannon Greenland

T-MINUS Blog Tour

T-MINUS by Shannon Greenland

T-MINUS by Shannon Greenland

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
I am the daughter of the first female POTUS, and today is about to become the longest day of my life… 

24 hours—that’s how much time I have to save my mother before terrorists assassinate her. But now my father and brother are missing, too. This goes deeper than anyone thinks. Only someone on the inside would know how to pull this off—how to make the entire First Family disappear. 

I can’t trust anyone, so it’s up to me to uncover the conspiracy and stop these madmen. Because little do they know, they picked the wrong person to terrorize. 

My name is Sophie Washington, and I will not be a victim. No one, I repeat no one, is taking me or my family down. But the clock is ticking…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Chasing Liberty meets 24, as the daughter of the country’s first female president finds herself embroiled in a terrorist plot to take down the administration. On her seventeenth birthday, Sophie Washington is doing anything but having the time of her life. Her brother is missing, her family is separated, and she has been told she cannot trust anyone, not even Frank, her secret service detail who has been with her much of her life. With minimal training in a teen CIA program for the offspring of operatives, she stumbles her way through an ever-changing game. Recruiting her best friends from the program, Jackson, Zeke, and Callie, she attempts to do what she believes no one else will, only to become a pawn in the biggest conspiracy to ever target the United States. Without knowing who is working against her mother, Sophie is isolated and terrified, but finds something within herself to rise to the challenge in this pulse-pounding young adult thriller.

Plot
T-MINUS is a plot-driven tale, and the plotting is near perfect. The pacing provides plenty of page-turning action and just enough breaks to allow us to catch our breath before careening into the next big moment. The author keeps us guessing the entire time, allowing us to feel like Sophie, unable to trust anyone. One twist follows another, and layer upon layer of intrigue is expertly woven to create a story worthy of the big screen. In fact, I’ll be shocked if this isn’t turned into a blockbuster movie at some point.

Characters
The characters are great, but pretty much in line with the story. There is no new ground broken here, but I love Sophie as the somewhat risk-averse teen who is forced to step so far outside her comfort zone, she hardly recognizes herself. The cast surrounding her provide just the right balance, and because I don’t want to give anything away, i won’t say anything more about them.

What I Loved About T-MINUS
1. The Pacing.
 The story unfolds at the perfect pace and I devoured it.

2. Twists. So many twists and turns, I never knew what was going to happen next, but all of it was perfectly foreshadowed.

3. Sophie. The reader gets to see her in a way she never envisions herself, making her both sympathetic and someone to root for and a kick-ass heroine.

4. Intrigue. I’m a political-thriller junkie, and this book has all the same elements that made No Way Out one of my favorite movies of all time.

5. Zeke. Her fellow TIA member and secret crush, he’s completely swoon-worthy.

Bottom Line
A page-turning thriller with a strong female lead who also happens to be utterly relatable.

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

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About the Book
Title: T-MINUS
Author: Shannon Greenland
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: July 31, 2019
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Shannon Greenland

Author Shannon Greenland

About the Author
Shannon Greenland, or S. E. Green, is the award winning author of the teen thriller, Killer Instinct, a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers; the teen spy series, The Specialists, an ALA Popular Paperback and a National Reader’s Choice recipient; and the YA romance, The Summer My Life Began, winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award. Her books have been translated into several languages and are currently on numerous state reading lists. Shadow of a Girl is her latest novel and due out 9.19.16. Shannon has participated in and served as a guest speaker at festivals and conferences around the country to include but not limited to the LA Times Book Festival, American Library Association, Book Expo of America, Bouchercon, Romance Writers of America, RT Book Convention, Young Adult Keller Book Festival, Southern Festival of Books, and many more. Shannon grew up in Tennessee where she dreaded all things reading and writing. She didn’t even read her first book for enjoyment until she was twenty-five. After that she was hooked! When she’s not writing, she works as an adjunct math professor and lives on the coast in Florida with her very grouchy dog. Find her online everywhere @segreenauthor...

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Where to find Shannon Greenland
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – THE LAST WORD by Samantha Hastings

THE LAST WORD Blog Tour

THE LAST WORD by Samantha Hastings

THE LAST WORD by Samantha Hastings

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Set against the smoky, gaslit allure of Victorian London, this sweetly romantic historical debut is full of humor and stars a whip-smart female heroine ahead of her time.

Where one story ends, another begins.

1861. Miss Lucinda Leavitt is shocked when she learns the author of her favorite serialized novel has died before completing the story. Determined to learn how it ends, Lucinda reluctantly enlists the help of her father’s young business partner, Mr. David Randall, to track down the reclusive author’s former whereabouts.

David is a successful young businessman, but is overwhelmed by his workload. He wants to prove himself to his late father, as well as to himself. He doesn’t have the time, nor the interest, for this endeavor, but Lucinda is not the type to take no for an answer.

Their search for the elusive Mrs. Smith and the rightful ending to her novel leads Lucinda and David around the country, but the truths they discover about themselves—and each other—are anything but fictional.

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, The Last Word by debut author Samantha Hastings is a fun yet intellectual romp through Victorian London—the perfect book for book-lovers.

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My Review
Reminiscent of Jane Austen, THE LAST WORD combines neoclassicism and romanticism along with a healthy dose of humor and wit to bring Lucinda’s and David’s story to life. The two are childhood friends who meet again after a four-year separation to find the other both the same and yet infinitely different than the person they remember. Throw in a big misunderstanding and a young woman ahead of her time, constricted by the customs of 19th century England, and sparks fly higher than between Emma and Knightley or Elizabeth and Darcy, but with the underlying warmth of Elinor and Edward. The two dance around a mutual attraction while Lucinda fights against society’s dictates for her. Fresh out of finishing school, she wants nothing to do with being a proper lady, but rather to use the brain that God gave her to work in her father’s counting house. A natural talent with numbers, she helped him when she was younger but now is expected to do needlepoint instead of auditing.

If there’s anything Lucinda hates more than sitting around and waiting for someone to call on her, I don’t know what it is. Not having been born to a high-class family, her social standing comes from the wealth her father has amassed. His goal is to marry her to a man of higher social standing. Lucinda has less than zero interest in that plan. She managed to get through the long boring hours by reading. But her favorite author died before finishing her last novel, leaving Lucinda desperate to find out how it ends, as if her own ending will somehow reveal itself in those final pages. With the help of her father’s business partner and her longtime friend, David, she sets out to find anyone who may know how the story ends. But the more they dig, the more she’s left wondering, before a tragedy forces both of them to reevaluate what really matters. And what doesn’t.

Plot
The main plot focuses on the budding romance between Lucinda and David, but Lucinda’s desires to work in business and find out the ending of her beloved novel are strong subplots that drive most of the action. The conflict derives for the social norms of the time, status and who is allowed to associate with whom. Women’s options and their carefully guarded reputations only further bind Lucinda in a world she finds too restrictive. Her father withdrew into himself after her mother’s death years before and their strained relationship underlies everything. The author does a phenomenal job of keeping the reader in Victorian England through scene setting, language, fashion, and customs. There is both a whimsical and sweeping cinematic feel to the places Hastings sets her characters in, drawing the reader right along with them.

Characters
If you love any of Jane Austen’s characters, you will love these! From the narcoleptic Mrs. Patton to the eccentric woman in the half-built estate they visit in their quest, the characters are a delight. Lucinda is utterly relatable as a young woman who wants so much more from life than the world wishes to allow her and David is a man after my own heart, both seeing Lucinda as an equal, and treating her with that respect. The American girl, Persephone, who befriends Lucinda, is a delightful, although often inappropriate, breath of fresh air.

What I Loved About THE LAST WORD
1. Everything.
 Seriously, the entire book was just amazing. It was a joy to read.

2. Lucinda. I love that she’s independent and strong and refuses to be confined by rules of society.

3. David. He is also a man ahead of his time with his ability to see Lucinda as more than just an accessory.

4. Language. I love the way they speak and the words the author chooses to tell the story as if it were written as a contemporary in 1861.

5. Romance. It isn’t angsty or intense, even though Lucinda and David are both teens, but it’s perfect for the time.

Bottom Line
A stunning coming of age story in a time long gone with amazing characters and beautiful storytelling.

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

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About the Book
Title: THE LAST WORD
Author: Samantha Hastings
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Pages: 261
Genre: Young Adult Historical Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Samantha Hastings

Author Samantha Hastings

About the Author
Samantha Hastings has degrees from Brigham Young University, the University of Reading (Berkshire, England), and the University of North Texas. She met her husband in a turkey sandwich line. They live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she spends most of her time reading, eating popcorn, and chasing her kids. The Last Word is her debut novel.

 

 

 

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Where to find Samantha Hastings
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter 

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Young Adult Book Review – DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS by Nina Moreno

DON'T DATE ROSA SANTOS by Nina Moreno

DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS by Nina Moreno

4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides – literally – with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
a sweeping tale that takes place over a few short weeks in the spring before Rosa Santo’s graduates and needs to determine what to do with her life. She has a complex history. Her grandmother gave birth on a boat fleeing communist Russia and her grandfather died on the same trip. Rosa’s own father was also taken by the sea when his boat didn’t come back one day. To say she has a healthy respect for the ocean would be an understatement. In fact, she’s never really ventured down to the docks. At least until the harbor in her small Florida town is threatened and Rosa and the rest of the town come together with a plan to save it. This plan introduces her to tall, dark and brooding Alex. Not only is he ridiculously attractive, but he bakes. And he owns a boat. So, whatever feelings Rosa is developing for Alex cannot be acted upon. Because a to love a boy with a boat means to lose him to sea. At least according to the family curse. So when life has a way of disrupting the best of plans, Rosa will need to decide if she’s going to live in her family’s past or forge her own future.

Plot
The story centers around Rosa’s quest to find out more about who she is. She wants to study in Cuba, but with the current administration making that all but impossible, she turns to her secretive grandmother, with whom she lives, and her mother, who pops in and out of Rosa’s life, for answers. But her grandmother has roots in the old ways, dabbling in santeria and other Cuban customs that include doling out the information slowly. Rosa becomes frustrated and endangers her relationship with her grandmother just as her relationship with Alex takes an interesting but scary twist. Strong themes include family ties, finding yourself, coming of age, and the value of community.

Characters
Rosa and her family are incredibly detailed. Rosa, her mother, and Mimi, her grandmother, are all complex with rich backstories and fully-developed arcs. The balance of the characters, with the exception of Alex who has is own arc, are merely props to support the main trio. However, they never nosedive into stereotypes. They may have been created to serve a purpose, but they come across as more than just fluff, which is an incredible feat by the author.

What I Loved About DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS!
1. Cuban Culture.
 I’ll admit to not knowing much about this. My in-laws are of Spanish and Native American descent, but hail from the Southwest, which means their Hispanic culture is a mixed bag. It was fascinating to learn more about Cuba and the Florida Cuban culture. Everything from the food, to rituals, and daily life was vivid and exciting.

2. The Viejitos. The gaggle of retired men and their gossip they share via their Instagram account is both endearing and hysterical.

3. Rosa. She is so complex. The things she wants, what she values, and her desire to not rock the family boat create a deep character who was easy to cheer her on.

4. Alex. He has a bohemian spirit trapped in the body of a loyal son. A romantic at heart, I was rooting for Rosa to give him a chance.

5. The Ending. More than a little confusing at times, I liked that the author left much to the interpretation of the reader.

Bottom Line
Fantastic settings, beautiful writing, and amazing character combine for this young adult tale about discovering who you are.

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

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About the Book
Title: DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS
Author: Nina Moreno
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Pages: 335
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | IndieBoundPowell’s

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Author Nina Moreno

Author Nina Moreno

About the Author
Nina Moreno is a YA writer whose writing is somewhere between Southern fiction and a telenovela. She graduated from the University of Florida and writes about Latinas chasing their dreams, falling in love, and navigating life in the hyphen. She lives by a swamp outside of Orlando where she enjoys listening to carefully curated playlists, hunting through thrift stores, drinking too much Cuban coffee, and walking into the sea every chance she gets. DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS is her first novel.

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Where to find Nina Moreno
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

 

Book Review – THE EMOTION THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE EMOTION THESAURUS (A Writer's Guide to Character Expression) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE EMOTION THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The bestselling Emotion Thesaurus, often hailed as “the gold standard for writers” and credited with transforming how writers craft emotion, has now been expanded to include 55 new entries!

One of the biggest struggles for writers is how to convey emotion to readers in a unique and compelling way. When showing our characters’ feelings, we often use the first idea that comes to mind, and they end up smiling, nodding, and frowning too much.

If you need inspiration for creating characters’ emotional responses that are personalized and evocative, this ultimate show-don’t-tell guide for emotion can help. It includes:

Body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for 130 emotions that cover a range of intensity from mild to severe, providing innumerable options for individualizing a character’s reactions A breakdown of the biggest emotion-related writing problems and how to overcome them Advice on what should be done beforedrafting to make sure your characters’ emotions will be realistic and consistent Instruction for how to show hidden feelings and emotional subtext through dialogue and nonverbal cues And much more!

The Emotion Thesaurus, in its easy-to-navigate list format, will inspire you to create stronger, fresher character expressions and engage readers from your first page to your last..

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My Review
I want to scream from the rooftops to every author out there: go get this book! We’re constantly told to “show, don’t tell,” but finding the right way to show can make all the difference in the world between a scene that merely goes through the motions and one that that brings the reader deep into the story and allows them to get lost. THE EMOTION THESAURUS is part how-to, and part reference. After learning how to use the guide, there are 130 entries to help you find the right way to show character emotions. With helpful cross-references it’s easy to find the right way to show escalation from anger to rage or de-escalation to mere annoyance. All the body language, both internal and external, can be used to kickstart the analogies and symbolism necessary to tell a compelling story. Because weak verbs can be the death of good writing, the authors also include power verbs for each entry to further stimulate creative writing. And finally, each entry includes helpful writing tips, such as:

Pay special attention to the events leading up to an emotional response. If the plotting feels contrived, the character’s emotion will feel contrived as well.

Each entry includes physical signals, behaviors, internal sensations, mental responses, long term responses to an emotion, and signs that an emotion has been suppressed rather than dealt with, providing all the pieces to construct dazzling scenes.

Bottom Line
One of the best references for creative writing I’ve ever read.

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About the Book
Title
: THE EMOTION THESAURUS: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression
Authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Publisher: JADD Publishing
Publication Date: February 19, 2019
Pages: 304
Category: Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

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

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

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

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

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – YOU, ME AND LETTING GO by Katie Kaleski

YOU, ME AND LETTING GO Blog Tour

 

YOU, ME AND LETTING GO by Katie Kaleski

YOU, ME AND LETTING GO by Katie Kaleski

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Van Sato’s got labels. Tourettes, ADHD, SPD – words that have defined his existence since the time he was old enough to know what they meant. Now, Van wants to prove he’s more than an acronym, a syndrome, a problem kid. He takes a summer job as a day camp counselor to prove he’s capable of independence and moving on to the next phase in his life. Maybe, he might even make a friend while there. Someone who’s got just as many or even more labels than him. Someone who understands what it’s like.

Tabby Dubanowksi wants to forget about everything, the hospitalization, the judgment, the whispers behind her back. As a camp counselor, she will be admired, looked up to, and able to help people who don’t know anything about her old life. Tabby wants a fresh start and a chance to re-ignite her passion for film-making, if only for one summer.

After running away from their pasts, Van and Tabby collide in a storm cloud of attraction laced with self-doubt, insecurity, shame, and blame. Now, with Van feeling like he might have to quit his job, and Tabby struggling to quell the urge to cut, they will struggle to find themselves in a world designed to keep them apart.

 

 

 

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My Review
Two misfits, who see the humanity in each, find a bond that goes beyond mere attraction. What I loved best about this tale is that it wasn’t like they wound up together because no one else would have them, no one else understood their struggles, or any of the typical tropes with characters who have serious medical or psychological issues. Instead, they two were genuinely attracted to each other despite their issues. Their own challenges kept them from reacting to each other in a way most people would, which only fueled that attraction into something more. The meet cute was anything but cute when Van, who suffers from Tourettes, called Tabby by her hated high school nickname, “Lard Ass” when they run into each other at the same summer camp where they’re both working as counselors. But even after Van apologizes and Tabby decides it’s not enough, he never uses his Tourettes as an excuse for why he blurted it out unbidden. Their friendship develops without that understanding, making it more authentic and deep. Tabby has her own issues stemming from an eating disorder and cutting herself in an attempt to cope. But somehow, Van and Tabby overcome every obstacle to find solace in friendship and maybe just a little bit more.

Plot
The main plot centers on the relationship between Van and Tabby, but because they both have huge obstacles to overcome, there are strong subplots involving these as well. Van hopes for a life of independence even though on top of Tourette’s he has ADHD and SPD. Tabby has a tenuous relationship with food and deep-seated insecurities that drive nearly everything she does. She’s just trying to learn how to live life outside of Hope Springs where she spent time dealing with her anorexia. Romance isn’t on either kid’s radar, but some things just can’t be denied.

Characters
Oh the characters!! They are my favorite thing about the story. Van and his irreverent humor when it comes to his condition. Tabby and her confident insecurities (yes, that is actually a thing). The loving families who just want what’s best for Van and Tabby but still manage to do so much wrong. And best friends, Matt and Maritza are people I’d want to hang out with. The author totally does right by her characters, giving them depth, humanity, and creating such amazingly authentic-feeling three-dimensional beings that I was rooting for them from the opening chapters. Sometimes characters need to grow on me, but not this bunch!

What I Loved About YOU, ME, & LETTING GO!
1. Van.
 The boy with the tics so severe he hits himself and others with uncontrollable arms has a heart of gold. The way he deals with the kids in his care will melt anyone’s heart.

2. Tabby. It can be difficult to identify with and not get annoyed with insecure characters, but Tabby is so much more than that and I loved her from her first chapter.

3. Summer Camp. The kids are hysterical, from a boy who eats everything to a girl who likes to dissect whatever is found, including her food, bring humor and adorableness to the pages.

4. Honesty. The author’s honest portrayal of anorexia, cutting, Tourette, ADHD, and SPD show that people are so much more than the labels we attach to them.

5. Friendship. The bonds of friendship throughout the tale were heartwarming and the threads that tied everything together.

Bottom Line
A wonderful young adult tale about overcoming odds and taking control of your own life with some of the best characters in the genre.

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

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: YOU, ME, & LETTING GO
Author: Katie Kaleski
Release Date: May 14, 2019
Pages: 197
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Katie Kaleski

Author Katie Kaleski

About the Author
Katie Kaleski has started down many career paths and held many jobs—indie craft store clerk, pizza maker, photo developer, shoe salesperson and cashier, dental assistant in the army, daycare teacher, student teacher—but her favorite one by far is being a writer.

She’s originally from Chicago, so she says things like pop, gym shoes, and front room. Her favorite food group is sugar, and she loves writing young adult novels.
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Where to find Katie Kaleski
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Young Adult Book Review – CHEROKEE SUMMER by Susan Antony

CHEROKEE SUMMER Blog Tour

CHEROKEE SUMMER by Susan Anthony

CHEROKEE SUMMER by Susan Anthony

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Susan Antony

Author Susan Antony

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

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

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – THE GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO BEING BAD by Cookie O’Gorman

THE GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO BEING BAD by Cookie O’Gorman

THE GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO BEING BAD by Cookie O’Gorman

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Seventeen-year-old Sadie is tired of being a good girl.

Her Career Aptitude Test results say she’s ideally suited for a career in the clergy (aka a nun), and on top of that, she receives yet another rejection. An aspiring dancer/choreographer, Sadie dreams of being featured on Dancer’s Edge—but they say she’s too sweet, needs more life experience. Her BFF, Kyle, and her oldest friend, 79-year-old Betty, agree: Sadie is in desperate need of a life makeover.

But she’ll need a coach.

Sadie doesn’t lie, cheat or steal–heck she doesn’t even curse (part of the reason she hasn’t checked off anything on her “Carpe Diem List”). Sadie doesn’t know the first thing about being bad. But Kyle’s twin brother, Colton, does. And he’s willing to teach Sadie on one condition: she has to do everything he says for the next month.

A dazzling first kiss, two smokin’ hot brothers and a bet that changes everything. In this enemies-to-more YA romance, Sadie learns:

Breaking the rules can be fun—especially when it leads to happily-ever-after.

 

 

 

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My Review
The latest release from one of my favorite authors does not disappoint! Sadie has been in love with her gay BFF, Kyle, since forever, so her list of naughty things she’s done is so short, it doesn’t even have one thing on it. After taking an aptitude test that showed she’d be awesome at being a nun, Sadie decides to live a little before high school graduation. She makes a carpe diem list that includes things like parties, a piercing, a tattoo, pulling a prank, and lots and lots of kissing. Considering the guy she wants to kiss most in the world is off limits, she reluctantly agrees to let Kyle’s equally hot, but utterly annoying, identical twin brother, Colton, be her bad girl coach. Colton has two rules though – Sadie has to do what he says, no questions asked, and she absolutely, positively cannot fall for him. Since Sadie loathes Colton and always has, this is a slam dunk. Right?

Plot
The main plot is the romance between Colton Freakin’ Bishop and Sister Sadie Day, but completing Sadie’s carpe diem list is nearly an equal subplot. The push and pull of Colton and Sadie is the kind that makes you laugh and want to keep turning the pages, as only O’Gorman can. The pacing is perfect, with lots of humor in the mix. While the reader may understand exactly what Colton is feeling, Sadie’s inability to see it for what it is drives some of the best moments in the story. It’s a sweet, angsty romance with seriously one of the all-time hottest kisses in the history of young adult romance!

Characters
These are among my favorite of O’Gorman’s characters. Sadie is sweet, funny, confident, but with a streak of typical teenage insecurity that makes her easy to identify with. Colton and Kyle couldn’t be more opposite, but they’re both lovable in their own unique ways. Just like Sadie, there were times I wanted to punch Colton moments after I swooned over him. He’s complex and perfect for Sadie. We also get cameos by returning favorite, like Ash and Snow as well as Becks and Sally. And Sadie’s mom is perfect. She is the Lorelei to Sadie’s Rory.

What I Loved About THE GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO BEING BAD
1. Sadie.
 She’s adorable as the girl who doesn’t like to swear, would rather be comfortable than fashionable, loves ballroom dancing, and has a list of bad things to do. I love that she never felt like she needed to change who she was.

2. Colton. He’s a bad boy who is easy to love. He likes to pretend he’s a total player, but I had him figured out pretty early on.

3. Complicated Relationships. Sadie had one of the more interesting parental relationships I’ve read in a long time with her cool mom and serial-cheating father co-owning a dance studio.

4. Betty. As one of Sadie’s older friends, retirement home Betty has some of the best lines.

5. Kyle. He’s the BFF every girl deserves.

Bottom Line
A wonderful young adult contemporary with some of the best characters I’ve read in a long while.

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

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: THE GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO BEING BAD
Author: Cookie O’Gorman
Release Date: April 25, 2019
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Cookie O'Gorman

Author Cookie O’Gorman

About the Author
Cookie O’Gorman writes YA romance to give readers a taste of happily-ever-after. Small towns, quirky characters, and the awkward yet beautiful moments in life make up her books. Cookie also has a soft spot for nerds and ninjas. Her novels ADORKABLE and NINJA GIRL are out now! Her third book, THE UNBELIEVABLE, INCONCEIVABLE, UNFORESEEABLE TRUTH ABOUT ETHAN WILDER, was released April 5, 2018!.

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

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Book Review + Giveaway – THE DEVIL’S OWN (Murphy’s Law) by K.A. Fox

THE DEVIL'S OWN (Murphy's Law #1) by K.A. Fox

THE DEVIL’S OWN (Murphy’s Law #1) by K.A. Fox

3.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Delaney Murphy has always known she’s the Devil’s daughter. And although the title itself is a burden, she never expects to inherit all her father’s infernal abilities. When her newfound magic begins to poison the people closest to her, Laney must make a choice. To protect the world from the worst she can do, she leaves everyone she loves behind and builds a new life for herself, alone, in a place where she can control the urge to give in to the magic living within her.

But when she recognizes a familiar pattern in a string of murders, Laney leaves her peaceful, isolated life behind and goes on the hunt, unleashing a threat she never dreamed possible. Confronting this menacing specter could mean giving in to temptation and becoming the one thing she fears most. Will she use her magic to do the right thing, even if it means hurting the ones she loves?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
THE DEVIL’S own is a different take on the paranormal/urban fantasy genre, with the devil’s offspring as the protagonist. Delaney Murphy grew into her powers at the age of 16 and unleashed a terror so awful, she disappeared from the world for two years before returning. She has no better control of her powers now, so she lives in seclusion, something her father doesn’t approve of. Not  only is he worried for her safety, but her emotional wellbeing, so he sends a couple of companions who help Delaney unravel the growing mysterious deaths of girls who seem to have some connection to her.

Plot
The plot sort of meanders a bit, but is primarily about uncovering who is murdering young women. Delaney feels responsible due to her connection to them as well as some deep-seated guilt over events in her past. The main plot is criss-crossed with a number of subplots, including the slowly unfolding details of what happened when she was 16, her relationship with her devilish father, and a detective she accidentally bonds with when he comes to warn her about the deaths. The story slows down in a few places, especially early on, but it really takes off at the end, ending on a high note.

Characters
The characters are interesting enough. Delaney’s dad is probably my favorite as the former rock star who faked his own death to ensure the safety of his loved ones. Hardly the works of an evil man. Delaney is a little hard to get to know, but that makes her intriguing as the narrator. Torren the detective, Callum and a Hell hound, and a few other minor characters round out the cast.

What I Enjoyed About THE DEVIL’S OWN
1. The Concept.
 It’s an interesting switch up on the genre.

2. Fast Cars. Delaney drives a wicked sportscar that she has way too much fun in. I loved the scenes where she was racing around on the twisty roads in her sexy, fast beast.

3. Callum. He’s a good guy with a tough job – protecting the devil’s daughter. No room for making mistakes and it was a job he could hardly say no to. He handles the situation with humor and heart, though.

4. Angus. As Delaney’s dad and Lucifer himself, Angus Murphy is one of the best characters in the story. I hope he gets more page-time in book 2.

5. The Mystery. Usually I’m not a fan of the whole “murdering girls” trope. It feels way too misogynistic. But with Delaney as the protagonist, I could stomach it more than normal. And the way the author divvied up the clues kept me invested.

Bottom Line
A nice twist on the urban fantasy/paranormal genre.

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About the Book
Title: The Devil’s Own
Series: Murphy’s Law #1
Author: K.A. Fox
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Release Date: April 20, 2019
Pages: 224
Genre: New Adult Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Rating:
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Kobo

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Author K.A. Fox

Author K.A. Fox

About the Author
K.A. Fox is a proud military brat who has lived all over the world but now calls the Midwest home. She uses her psychological training to facilitate successful negotiations at work and to convince her husband and three sons that she’s always right. When not writing, she can usually be found hiding somewhere with a book and a bit of chocolate, or chasing after her own adorable Hell Hound.

 

 

 

 

Where to Find K.A. Fox
Goodreads | Website | Facebook

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Giveaway
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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 – ONLY A BREATH APART by Katie McGarry

ONLY A BREATH APART Blog Tour

ONLY A BREATH APART by Katie McGarry

ONLY A BREATH APART by Katie McGarry

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ONLY A BREATH APART Teaser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ONLY A BREATH APART Teaser

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

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Author Katie McGarry

Author Katie McGarry

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

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

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

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

THE BIRDS, THE BEES, AND YOU AND ME Blog Tour

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

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

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

But then everything changes.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Olivia Hinebaugh

Author Olivia Hinebaugh

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

 

 

 

 

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

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