Blog Tour – Review – RIGHT KISS WRONG GUY (Offsides) by Natalie Decker

RIGHT KISS WRONG GUY Blog Tour

RIGHT KISS WRONG GUY (Offsides #2) by Natalie Decker

RIGHT KISS WRONG GUY (Offsides #2) by Natalie Decker

Synopsis
You’d think a girl with the most romantic name in the world would have her pick of boyfriends.

But Valentine’s Day sucks when you’re single. Just ask Juliet Valentine, whose last name happens to also be the name of the most dreaded made-up holiday ever.

A romantic at heart, this year is especially hard on Juliet. Her sister, Layla, is in a new relationship, her mom’s match-making business is doing great, and her school’s new fundraiser is “Love-Grams.”

Juliet’s miserable, a little jealous, and lonely.

Quarterback Jared Black is the most popular guy in school. A star athlete, Jared tops the most-eligible bachelor list year after year. But to Juliet Valentine, he’s all but invisible. She isn’t impressed.

Jared’s never had to work hard to get the attention of a girl before. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and he’s determined to ask Juliet out. After all, if Tyler can win over Layla, Jared ought to have a shot with Layla’s sister.

Unlike Tyler and Layla, charm, flattery and good looks won’t work on Juliet. So with the V-Day dance coming up, Jared uses the school’s Love-Grams to let Juliet know how he feels. Should be simple enough, right?

Wrong. Each attempt ends up either in the trash or thrown in someone’s face. Juliet won’t play his game.

Now, without a date to the dance Jared realizes it’s going to take a Hail Mary to win the girl of his dreams..

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My Review
Layla’s twin sister Juliet had her heart broken by boyfriend Mark at the end of RIGHT TEXT WRONG GUY, and now we get her story. Jared Black has been pining after Juliet for as long as he can remember, but he’s too afraid of rejection to ask her out. The fact that he and Mark are football teammates only makes it worse because Juliet has sworn she’ll never date a football player again. Add to that Jared’s overbearing father and high school football coach, and Jared doesn’t really have much time for dating anyway. That doesn’t stop him from doing everything he can to get on Juliet’ good side, though.

Juliet is angry at all boys. And love. And Valentine’s day. So when a bunch of love grams suddenly begin showing up for her, she assumes it’s Mark, still trying to apologize and win her back. Watching the push and pull of these two is cute and fun, but Juliet’s anger is palpable and there were times I honestly wondered why Jared didn’t give up. He goes all-in though, upping his game with each day that passes, until Juliet’s icy exterior begins to melt.

Plot
This is your basic teen romance. There’s not a heck of a lot more going on. It’s about Jared winning Juliet’s heart and Juliet doing everything she can to keep that from happening with Jared or anyone else. Some of it is predictable, but Natalie Decker’s style of writing is always entertaining. There were more than a few laugh-out-loud moments

The Characters
Jared definitely has a lot going on at home with his dad insisting he run drills in the backyard every night, lift weights three nights a week, and never, ever, stop working toward an NFL career, even though that’s the last thing Jared wants. Even though Juliet’s home life is a bit more settled, she actually goes through more growth than Jared does, coming to terms with the fact that she doesn’t really hate all boys and that Mark is not the poster child for the gender.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About RIGHT KISS WRONG GUY
1. Chase. I love straight guy best friends and Chase is a great one, with his eyes and heart set on Adeline.

2. Perseverance. In this world of #metoo, there is a fine line between determination and stalking, but Jared goes right up to that line without stepping over. His dedication to winning Juliet’s heart is sweet rather than creepy.

3. Jared. He’s a good guy, which is a refreshing change from most romantic alpha males.

4. Juliet. I loved her in the first book, but it took me a while to warm up to her in her own story. Her anger was over the top at times. Not that it wasn’t understandable, I mean anyone who had their heart ripped out during the teen years knows how all-consuming that can be, but I hated that she took it out on everyone around her. It was hard to sympathize with her at first. However, by about the 33% mark, I remembered what I loved about her.

5. Love. As much as Juliet claims to hate love (often broadcasting it with her choice of wardrobe), it wins out in the end.

Bottom Line
This is a sweet young adult romance with plenty of laughs.

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

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RIGHT KISS WRONG GUY Teaser 2

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About the Book
Title: RIGHT KISS WRONG GUY
Series: Offsides #2
Author: Natalie Decker
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Release Date: January 23, 2018
Pages: 313
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Natalie Decker

Author Natalie Decker

About the Author
Natalie Decker is the author of the bestselling YA series RIVAL LOVE and NA Scandalous Boys Series. She loves oceans, sunsets, sand between her toes, and carefree days. Her imagination is always going, which some find odd. But she believes in seeing the world in a different light at all times. Avid reader of everything. She’s a huge Denver Broncos fan, loves football, and fuzzy blankets. She’s a mean cook in the kitchen, loves her family and friends and misses her awesome dog infinity times infinity. If she’s not writing, reading, traveling, hanging out with her family and friends, then she’s off having an adventure. Because Natalie believes in a saying: Your life is your own journey, so make it amazing!.

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Where to find Natalie Decker
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – SAY YOU’LL REMEMBER ME by Katie McGarry

SAY YOU’LL REMEMBER ME Blog Tour

SAY YOU’LL REMEMBER ME by Katie McGarry

SAY YOU’LL REMEMBER ME by Katie McGarry

Synopsis
“Doesn’t matter who did it. Not anymore. I did the time. It’s over.”

When Drix was convicted of a crime–one he didn’t commit–he thought his life was over. But opportunity came with the Second Chance Program, the governor’s newest pet project to get delinquents off the streets, rehabilitated and back into society. Drix knows this is his chance to get his life back on track, even if it means being paraded in front of reporters for a while.

Elle knows she lives a life of privilege. As the governor’s daughter, she can open doors with her name alone. But the expectations and pressure to be someone she isn’t may be too much to handle. She wants to follow her own path, whatever that means.

When Drix and Elle meet, their connection is immediate, but so are their problems. Drix is not the type of boy Elle’s parents have in mind for her, and Elle is not the kind of girl who can understand Drix’s messy life.

But sometimes love can breach all barriers.

Fighting against a society that can’t imagine them together, Drix and Elle must push themselves–Drix to confront the truth of the robbery, and Elle to assert her independence–and each other to finally get what they deserve..

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My Review
This was an intense rush, eliciting so many emotions. Drix is a troubled teen who was given a second chance by the Governor’s program. Although he was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, he knows he was on the wrong path, chasing girls and drugs. Elle is the Governor’s daughter. But this isn’t your typical good girl drawn to bad boy story. Nothing is as it seems on the surface. Drix has a rough past, none of his doing. Elle’s life as the first daughter of Kentucky is anything but the glamorous life the media portrays. Sparks fly at first sight, but it’s not instalove. Instead, the two build a friendship based on mutual respect while battling against everyone who wants to keep them apart. There’s a lot at stake for both of them and nothing comes easy. Drix’s suspicions on who really committed the crime drive deep wedges in his closest relationships and Elle’s relationship with her parents becomes strained as they attempt to mold her into someone she has no interest in being.

Plot
The main plot is Elle’s and Drix’s forbidden relationship. But they mystery behind who really robbed the convenience store and whether or not Elle will push back against her parents’ wishes are both strong subplots. There’s a lot of personal growth and character development throughout that drives the story forward. There aren’t many romances that I find difficult to put down, but this was definitely one of them. Katie McGarry tells a compelling story and I was hooked from the first chapter.

Characters
The characters are everything. Elle and Drix are deep, complete, with rich back stories. While Drix has more baggage than Elle, her life isn’t as perfect as it seems, and that shapes who she is in so many ways. Drix’s family and Elle’s family are just as well developed, adding so much to the conflict in the story. This is only the second book I’ve read by this author, but I’ll be reading more just for her ability to craft such amazing characters.

What I Loved About SAY YOU’LL REMEMBER ME
1. Elle.
 She’s utterly relatable as a teen struggling to find out who she is versus who she’s supposed to be based on parental expectations.
2. Drix. He’s one of the most authentic male characters in teen fiction I’ve had the pleasure of reading. There’s nothing stereotypical about him.
3. The realism. Nothing is wrapped up too neatly in sitcom fashion. Instead, there is a realistic ending that deals with issues in a way that feels so much more satisfying than if they’d been tied up with a nice neat bow.
4. First love. The author captures the intense emotions and that overwhelming rush that accompanies first love.
5. Social Injustice. The way in which the legal system doesn’t work for everyone the same way is highlighted throughout and is a real issue I’m personally passionate about. I loved seeing the way it was dealt with  with such honesty and heart.

Bottom Line
An intense, moving, passionate portrayal of first love, finding out who you are, and fighting for what matters.

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SAY YOU’LL REMEMBER ME Teaser 4

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About the Book
Title: SAY YOU’LL REMEMBER ME
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Pages: 464
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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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – ON THE FENCE by Kasie West

ON THE FENCE by Kasie West

ON THE FENCE by Kasie West

Synopsis
For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

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My Review
An absolutely adorable tale of friends to more. Charlie is the only girl in a family of boys. Her police officer father and three older brothers have shaped her into a tough-talking athlete who is more comfortable hanging with the guys than with other girls. When Charlie speeds one too many times, her dad forces her to get a job to pay her own ticket, landing her in the unfamiliar world of fashion and makeup  with the free-spirited owner who sees auras. Charlie learns more about herself and those around here through these new experiences, but most of all, her best friend and next door neighbor, Braden. Braden and Charlie often meet by the fence that separates their two properties for middle of the night chats. Charlie is haunted by her mother’s tragic death ten years earlier and Braden by the constant battles that rage within the walls of his home.

Plot
This is more than a basic romance. Charlie and Braden both have a bucketload of baggage. But as their relationship evolves and Charlie realizes her feelings for him run deeper than just friendship, she fears the changes that come with that. At least until Braden lets her know he doesn’t feel the same way about her. Crush, Charlie works through her issues, a complex relationship with her dad and brothers, and her greater place in a world that worships femininity over athletic prowess.

The Characters
I love Charlie so much. She’s complex and deep and wounded. Watching her work through her issues is both painful and emotionally rewarding. Her family dynamics made me smile and laugh more than once. I come from a big family, so I could relate to the interactions she had with her siblings. I loved their competitiveness and the little bets they were always doing. Even Charlie’s dad, as the reluctant single father to a teen girl, is so well-developed, I couldn’t help but sympathize with his attempts to relate to Charlie the best he knew how.

Top Five Things I Loved About ON THE FENCE
1. Deep characters. There is nothing light and fluffy about the characters, even though the story itself is more lighthearted than not.

2. Teen angst. The romance aspect between Charlie and Braden was my favorite part of the story.

3. Brothers. I have a couple of my own and the bond between the boys and their baby sister was beautifully done.

4. Father/daughter dynamics. The relationship between Charlie and her father rang the truest of all. It was both awkward and endearing, pretty much the definition of father/teen daughter interactions.

5. Being true to yourself. Charlie has many lessons to learn along the way, but foremost is figuring out how she fits into the broader world around her without losing who she is. This subplot is particularly well done.

Bottom Line
Sweet, deep, and moving, ON THE FENCE is more than just a teen romance. It’s about finding yourself and learning how to be real.

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About the Book
Title: ON THE FENCE
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: July 1, 2014
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Sports Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & NobleiBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Kasie West

Author Kasie West

About the Author
I write YA. I eat Junior Mints. Sometimes I go crazy and do both at the same time. My novels are: PIVOT POINT and its sequel SPLIT SECOND. And my contemporary novels: THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US, ON THE FENCE, THE FILL-IN BOYFRIEND, PS I LIKE YOU, and BY YOUR SIDE. My agent is the talented and funny Michelle Wolfson.

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Where to find Kasie West
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
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Young Adult Book Review – RIGHT TEXT WRONG NUMBER (Offsides) by Natalie Decker

RIGHT TEXT WRONG NUMBER by Natalie Decker

RIGHT TEXT WRONG NUMBER by Natalie Decker

Synopsis
High school juniors Layla and Tyler are complete opposites. Sure she’s a cheerleader and he’s a football player, but she thinks he’s the biggest jerk in the school and he thinks she is too high on her horse to even be worth of a second glance from him. And when the two of them are near one another, sparks fly in all the wrong directions. They are NOT interested in speaking to one another, let alone date.

But when Layla unknowingly sends Tyler a smack-down text meant for the girl sending naked photos to her then-boyfriend, Adam, Tyler has no idea it’s Layla and decides to play along. After all, Tyler cannot resist messing with the pissed off girl firing off texts about junk pictures, cheating, and girl code.

As the fallout from Adam’s sexting scandal plays out in front of the entire school, Tyler and Layla secretly continue to text one another using fake names. But as days and weeks pass, things take a turn for the serious between them, and suddenly, their texts mean more. They both begin to consider revealing their true identity to the other and taking the relationship from texts to dates, then kissing and maybe more.

They say there’s a thin line between love and hate. Can reality live up to the fantasy, or will Layla and Tyler be forever offsides?.

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My Review
This is a cute story with interesting characters, a fair amount of angst, and a decent romance. With a few exceptions, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were a few questionable actions by the protagonists at the end that left me frustrated at times, but they weren’t bad enough to take away from the things I loved. What did bother me, though is the extreme number of typos in a professionally published book. To the point that they became distracting.

RIGHT TEXT WRONG NUMBER is about two people who seem to be utterly wrong for each other on the surface, but deep down, they have more in common than either realizes. When Layla, a teen with dyslexia, accidentally texts the wrong number, she and the recipient of that text engage in a flirtatious screen-ship with no future. Until both of them realize they want more. The gentle and honest way the author addresses Layla’s learning disability is one of my favorite aspects of the story. Layla’s relationship with her identical twin sister, Juliet, is another favorite. As the mother of identical twins, the complex relationship of such close siblings is something I’d like to read more of in young adult fiction.

Plot
The plot centers around the relationship of Tyler and Layla. In real life, they hate each other. Or at least that’s what we’re led to believe. But things are far from black and white with these two. Their secret texting life is something completely different. Without reality getting in the way, they’re able to communicate on another, deeper, level, and learn more about the other. Except they don’t realize who they’re texting. So many things can potentially go hilariously wrong, that of course they do.

The Characters
Tyler and Layla are complex characters with rich backstories and solid flaws that make them fascinating. Unfortunately, Layla’s ex-boyfriend, Adam and a few of the female characters came across as stereotypical and two-dimensional. The clingy girl in the second half of the story was especially so. Because this is Tyler and Layla’s story, I could ignore those secondary characters to a point, but they influence the actions of the main characters enough that they can’t really be ignored for long.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About RIGHT TEXT WRONG NUMBER
1. Angsty teen romance. My favorite kind of romance. This is a 10 on the angst scale.

2. Learning disabilities. The author handles Layla’s dyslexia with honesty and heart.

3. Twins. As the mother of identical twins, I love the relationship Layla has with her identical twin sister, Juliet. Although mine are far more alike personality wise than these two, their special bond rang completely true to me.

4. Juliet. The loveable nerd is so much like my daughter, I took an instant like to her and can’t wait to read her story next.

5. Texting first. I love the idea of these two getting to know one another through written words before the whole physical attraction bit could get in the way.

Bottom Line
A cute, angsty teen romance.

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About the Book
Title: RIGHT TEXT WRONG NUMBER
Series: Offsides #1
Author: Natalie Decker
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Release Date: July 11, 2017
Pages: 306
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Sports Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Natalie Decker

Author Natalie Decker

About the Author
Natalie Decker is the author of the bestselling YA series RIVAL LOVE and NA Scandalous Boys Series. She loves oceans, sunsets, sand between her toes, and carefree days. Her imagination is always going, which some find odd. But she believes in seeing the world in a different light at all times. Avid reader of everything. She’s a huge Denver Broncos fan, loves football, and fuzzy blankets. She’s a mean cook in the kitchen, loves her family and friends and misses her awesome dog infinity times infinity. If she’s not writing, reading, traveling, hanging out with her family and friends, then she’s off having an adventure. Because Natalie believes in a saying: Your life is your own journey, so make it amazing!.

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Where to find Natalie Decker
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
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Book Release + Review – BREAKING THE ICE (Juniper Falls) by Julie Cross

BREAKING THE ICE Release Blitz

 

BREAKING THE ICE (Juniper Falls #2) by Julie Cross

BREAKING THE ICE (Juniper Falls #2) by Julie Cross

Synopsis
The second book in the Juniper Falls series from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Julie Cross, perfect for fans of Miranda Kennealy and Abbi Glines.

Haley Stevenson is pretty, popular, cheer captain, the princess of Juniper Falls, and voted most likely to get things done. Haley might appear to have rock-solid confidence, but her less-than-stellar GPA tells otherwise. Haley’s determined to turn things around this summer by acing the Civics class she’s been forced to repeat. Angsting over ex-boyfriends is a thing of the past—in fact, Haley’s sworn off all dating until college because the options in Juniper Falls are narrowed down to guys she’s known her entire life.

Unlike Haley, Fletcher Scott prefers to keep a low profile around Juniper Falls. In fact, he was fine with his mediocre status on the hockey team. That is, until Coach put him in during the state final last season for a whopping thirty seconds. With the tension on the ice combined with Haley Stevenson’s gorgeous legs visible from the seat in front of him, it’s possible he won’t survive the summer. Not as Fletcher Scott, invisible guy, anyway. Not with Haley constantly talking to him, and making him glittery invitations to join her study group.

If he were a regular guy, maybe Fletch might consider asking her out. But he’s not a regular guy. Even Haley can see that right away. There’s something different about Fletcher Scott. Something that makes her want to work hard to break down all his guarded walls despite her pact to steer clear of local guys.

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My Review
Everything I loved about the first book, OFF THE ICE, and none of the things that bothered me, are included in this second book in the series. I absolutely adore this installment by one of my favorite young adult authors, Julie Cross. To say that Juniper Falls Princess, Haley Stevenson, and nerdy Fletcher Scott are opposites would be the understatement of the century, yet these two mismatched personalities are clearly soul mates. While they have gone to the same school for years, Fletcher avoids the social universe that Haley orbits in, so when they wind up in the same summer school Civics class, things heat up. Fletcher can’t ignore the fact that he’s attracted to Haley, but isn’t willing to change his ways to act on that attraction. Haley is infuriated by Fletcher’s obvious interest and unwillingness to do anything about it.

But Fletch has issues. Big ones that Haley will learn about in the worst way possible. But Fletch also learns that Haley is anything but the self-absorbed, superficial princess he’s always believed her to be. Julie Cross ramps up the angst in this book and it’s as delicious as anything she’s ever written.

Plot
For a romance, there was a fair amount going on. Haley has a personal journey as does Fletcher, but in addition, they both have external goals, including Fletcher’s position on the hockey team and Haley’s need to get a decent grade in Civics over the summer. Each subplot impacts the main storyline, making for a wonderfully plotted teen romance.

The Characters
I absolutely adored both characters. Haley took a good few chapters to grow on me, but Fletcher is total book boyfriend material from page one and only gets hotter through the story. Both have plenty of depth, though Fletcher has a lot more layers, which makes him infinitely intriguing. It was fun to see Tate Tanley, Jamie, Mike, Claire, and the rest of the group from the first book again, and it was especially nice to see Tate and Haley get a little closure on their relationship after it ended so abruptly in the first book.

World Building
Once again, the author drew me into the world of amateur hockey. It may not be a big sport here, but she has a way of making me want to watch it whenever I read one of her books. There’s also a little bit about Fletcher’s secret life that rounds the story out nicely and seems particularly well researched.

Top Five Things I Loved About BREAKING THE ICE
1. Food allergies. As the mother of three children with Celiac disease, it was refreshing to see this addressed in an open, honest, and non-judgmental way.

2. Heat. For a teen romance, there is plenty of heat without ever crossing a line. I love the way Julie Cross is able to consistently bring this in her books without it ever feeling stale.

3. Fletcher. One of the more interesting protagonists I’ve read in a long time. He’s introspective, angry, angsty, and oh yeah, hot.

4. Haley. I wasn’t sure how much I’d like the Princess of Juniper Falls, but she made me care about her more than I thought I would.

5. Fletch’s job. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say that the scenes at his place of employment are among my favorite in the entire book.

Bottom Line
BREAKING THE ICE is a wonderful young adult romance with plenty of heat and with a little something extra, that I won’t spoil, but you’ll know what I mean when you read it.

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

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About the Book
Title: BREAKING THE ICE
Series: Juniper Falls #2
Author: Julie Cross
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: December 26, 2017
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Sports Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | !ndigo | BAM! | Book Depository

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Author Julie Cross

Author Julie Cross

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

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

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

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

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Book Review – AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS (Love Unexpectedly) by Lauren Layne

AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS (Love Unexpectedly #5) by Lauren Layne

AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS (Love Unexpectedly #5) by Lauren Layne

Synopsis
She’s making a list—and checking it twice. But is there a nice guy among all her naughty exes? The New York Times bestselling author of Blurred Lines returns with a charming friends-to-lovers rom-com.

When a psychic tells spunky, superstitious Kelly Byrne that she’s already met her true love, she becomes obsessed with the idea of tracking him down before Christmas. Kelly immediately writes up an “Ex List” and starts contacting old boyfriends to figure out which one is the one. When her college sweetheart rolls into town, Kelly convinces herself that they’re meant to be. The trouble is, sparks are flying with someone she’s never given a chance: her best friend, Mark.

Mark Blakely has watched the guys on Kelly’s list break her heart, and he’s not looking forward to watching them do it all over again. Mark’s always been there for her, but the timing’s never worked out for their relationship to be something more. Now, just as Mark is ready to move on, the sexual tension between them is suddenly off the charts. With Christmas morning around the corner, he just hopes Kelly will wake up and realize that everything she wants has been right in front of her all along.

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My Review
Still on my friends-to-lovers kick, I couldn’t wait to get into this light-hearted romantic comedy. Add Lauren Layne as the author, a little bit of snow, and some holiday magic, and I was all in. Layne is known for her quirky characters and Kelly is no exception. A school teacher in a private New York academy, she lives and dies by the Magic 8 Ball, allowing it to guide her choices. So it’s not surprising that Kelly would take the prophecy of a subway psychic to heart. When Kelly discovers that the love her life is someone she’s already met, she makes a list of all of her exes to figure out which is “the one.” Things go hilariously wrong with each one, only frustrating Kelly. She can’t figure out how the psychic could possibly be wrong, so she works her way through one ex after another, with disastrous results.

Enter Mark. He’s been her best friend for the better part of a decade. Old high school friends who have never risked that friendship with something as temporary as sex. Not to mention the fact that Kelly is so not like any of the super hot girls Mark usually dates. So when she starts to have deeper feelings for Mark, she only amps up her search for the right ex before she acts on those feelings.

Plot
The plot is somewhat predictable, but it’s so adorably told, it doesn’t really matter. Much of the story centers around Kelly’s search for her perfect ex, but her long-term friendship with Mark is a strong subplot until it becomes front and center. Underlying it all is Kelly’s superstitious nature that drives most of the conflict.

Characters
Lauren Layne’s writing shines when it comes to her characters. Kelly is delightful as an elementary school teacher who relies on fate to chart her course in life. While this could easily come off as cartoonish, Kelly has more depth to her than that, making this aspect of her personality realistic. Mark is utterly believable as the long-suffering best friend. A man of few words, he lets his actions speak for him. The supporting characters are light, with Kelly’s exes getting most of the roles.

What I Loved About AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS
1. Friends to Lovers.
 One of my favorite tropes.

2. Kelly. Her smart, spunky brand of quirky is a breath of fresh air.

3. Mark. He takes the strong, silent type to a new level of hot.

4. Christmas. I love all the holiday elements incorporated into this story. Everything from snow to decorations and a Christmas parade make the setting an essential part of the story.

5. Surprise Ending. So while I was pretty sure I knew how things were going to end, I didn’t know how it was going to get there, and the sweet surprise at the end was perfect.

Bottom Line
An adorably fun contemporary romance with the perfect amount of heat and humor.

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

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About the Book
Title: AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS
Series: Love Unexpectedly #5
Author: Lauren Layne
Publisher: Loveswept
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Pages: 204
Genre: Adult Contemporary Holiday Romance
Rating:
 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Author Lauren Layne

Author Lauren Layne

About the Author
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR

Prior to becoming an author, Lauren lived in Seattle with a cushy job in e-commerce/web-marketing. On a whim, she quit her job and moved to NYC to pursue a writing career. A year later, she had an agent and two publishing contracts.

She now lives in midtown Manhattan where she writes full time, although has been known to be lured away from the computer by a well-made cocktail.

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Where to Find Lauren Layne
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | TumblrAmazon

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Young Adult Book Review – SAVING IT by Monica Murphy

SAVING IT by Monica Murphy

SAVING IT by Monica Murphy

Synopsis

Eden: Josh Evans and I have been best friends forever. He knows all my secrets, and I know all of his. So when he randomly asks me to help him lose his virginity, I sort of flip out. That’s a question that sends your mind to places you’ve seriously never considered before. Like, you know. Having sex. With your best friend. Except Josh doesn’t want to have sex with me—he wants me to help him find a girl. A nice girl who’s funny and smart and cute. Except he already knows a girl just like that…

Josh: Eden Sumner is my best friend. So of course she’d be the person to help me find my perfect match, so I can drop my V card before I head off to college. Except the more we search, the more I realize that maybe the right girl has been by my side all along. I don’t need Eden’s help in finding me a girl to love. I’m pretty sure I’m already in love with Eden. But now she thinks I’m only after one thing…with anyone but her.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book is what happens when American Pie meets Friends with Benefits. It contains two best friends, plenty of angst, and lots and lots of sex talk. Reading this might have you looking at your best friend in a different light!

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My Review
I love me a good freinds-to-lovers story, and I’m a huge fan of Monica Murphy, so this was a must-read for me. Eden and Josh are best friends who acknowledge that they find one another attractive, but are terrified of ruining the friendship with a doomed romance. I get it. I’ve been there. I found this part of the story to be so relatable. With senior year well underway, Josh doesn’t want to graduate a virgin, so he solicits the help of best friend, Eden, to help him find a girl willing to help him out in that department. The more time they spend together talking about sex, though, the more they begin to look at each other as more than just friends. The danger of destroying what they have is still there, but each of them starts to entertain more thoughts about what could be.

Plot
The story was cute and well plotted, but it was also pretty predictable, without any twists at all. There was also a fair amount of repetition that started to bog it down after a while. I understood their reasoning for not acting on their feelings, but it was explained over and over and over again. There was also a spot where Eden fights with Josh and it didn’t come across as authentic. The logic, timing, and even the words spoken didn’t seem to flow with the story. I think it was explained well in the end, but at the time, I kept thinking it was too forced.

Characters
Eden and Josh are beyond adorable and obviously perfect for each other. Everyone can see it except them. Their two other best friends, Molly and Abraham, are the only other main characters in the story. Everyone else is background noise, but that’s okay, because it’s about Eden and Josh. Both are believable as average, perfectly normal high school kids without a ton of baggage.

What I Enjoyed About SAVING IT
1. Friends of the Opposite Sex.
 This is so common with today’s teens, I love seeing it being explored more in young adult fiction.

2. Eden. I love her confidence and self-assuredness.

3. Josh. He’s a typical guy without being a player.

4. Oversharing. Some of the best moments were Eden’s thoughts on Josh’s oversharing of personal information. It added a great dynamic to their friendship.

5. The ending. I love how this wrapped up. It was perfect.

Bottom Line
A really sweet young adult contemporary romance from one of my favorite authors.

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

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About the Book
Title: SAVING IT
Author: Monica Murphy
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: November 6, 2017
Pages: 241
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating:
 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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SAVING IT Teaser

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Author Monica Murphy

Author Monica Murphy

About the Author
Monica Murphy is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is a traditionally published author with Bantam/Random House and HarperCollins/Avon, as well as an independently published author. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance. She is also USA Today bestselling romance author Karen Erickson. 

She is a wife and a mother of three who lives with her family in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere, along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through many angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA..

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Where to Find Monica Murphy
Website | Blog | 
Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram
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New Adult Book Review – THE BLOOD WILL DRY by Kate L. Mary

THE BLOOD WILL DRY by Kate L. Mary

THE BLOOD WILL DRY by Kate L. Mary

Synopsis
Five years after an alien invasion, the earth is unrecognizable. The human race has been decimated and the sun completely blotted out by dark clouds that bring constant rain. All indigenous plant life has been killed off and replaced by vegetation that has proven to be as deadly as it is invasive, and the aliens that have taken over the planet are seemingly invincible.

Living in a crowded building with other survivors, Diana Foster wants nothing more than to forget what she lost the day the aliens arrived. But an incoming platoon brings a familiar face, one that not only opens old wounds, but also forces her to deal with the painful memories she’s worked hard to forget. Bryan may not be the same cocky kid he was before the invasion, but his sudden appearance still turns Diana’s world upside down in ways she never expected. When he showed up she knew it would mean finally facing her past, but she never thought she’d find a future that was actually worth living.

After years of struggling to find a weakness in the aliens’ defenses, Diana stumbles upon a solution just as a new and more deadly threat surfaces. Faced with an attraction she never expected and a battle that most believe can’t be won, Diana must work through her painful past as the survivors mount a battle that may determine the fate of mankind. If her plan fails it very well could be the end of humanity, but if works it will mean having a real future, and a chance to allow the blood to dry once and for all.

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My Review
I’m a huge fan of Kate L. Mary’s Moonchild series, but this one didn’t quite live up to my expectations. THE BLOOD WILL DRY is set in a near-future dystopian America after an alien invasion. Think the TNT series Falling Skies. The premise is fantastic with the survivors attempting to live beside the aliens they refer to as bugs. At least until something changes after nearly five years of peaceful co-existence. A ragtag group sets out on a suicide mission to reclaim their planet. At the heart of the story is Diana, who lost everything she loved on the day of the attack. Along with her friends, they discover the bugs’ weaknesses and attempt to use those against them.

Plot
The plot is primarily the story of Diana and taking down the aliens, but there is a strong romantic subplot involving the younger brother of her dead husband. The romance didn’t work for me, since it was nearly a love at first sight kind of thing. There was no build-up, no “will they or won’t they”, the kind of romance I’ve come to expect from Kate L. Mary. The alien plot, on the other hand, is a gripping, intense, rollercoaster ride of action and suspense. While there are no jaw-dropping twists or unexpected turns, the story is well plotted and entertaining.

Characters
The characters are where the book falls short for me. I loved the depth and development of all of her characters in the Moonchild series, so maybe I expected too much here. I found Diana to be exceedingly annoying, to the point that I had a hard time caring what happened to her. The romance between Diana and David was too fast and almost forced. Diana experienced very little growth, unless going from annoying to super annoying is considered growth. However, Diana’s best friend, Daisy, was a breath of fresh air and I think this story could have been a solid 4 stars for me if she’d been the protagonist.

World Building
The world building is where the author shines in everything I’ve ever read of hers and THE BLOOD WILL DRY is no exception. The dark, post-apocalyptic world she creates is both depressingly awful and realistically hopeful. Her alien antagonists are well constructed and suitably evil.

What I Enjoyed About THE BLOOD WILL DRY
1. The setting.
 Having been born in Dayton, Ohio, I absolutely loved reading about so many of the local landmarks and neighborhoods of my childhood. I haven’t been back in more years than I care to think about, but even covered in all those vines, I can still vividly picture many of the locations mentioned.

2. Daisy. Her bubbling optimism was a contrast to Diana’s eternal pessimism. More than that, she’s vulnerable, honest, and has a great arc.

3. The plot. The author does a great job of creating a well-plotted scifi adventure.

4. Aliens. Okay, I didn’t LIKE the aliens, but I enjoyed the horrors the author showed us of their world, bringing an even darker element to an already bleak tale.

5. The strategy. Without giving anything away, I love the strategy the team comes up with to fight back against the aliens and the fact that it’s been right there in front of them the whole time.

Bottom Line
A good scifi/dystopian/post-apocalyptic tale, but with a protagonist I had trouble connecting with or rooting for.

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About the Book – Read for free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: THE BLOOD WILL DRY
Author: Kate L. Mary
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Pages: 322
Genre: New Adult Dystopian/SciFi/Post-Apocalyptic Romance
Rating:
 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Kate L. Mary

Author Kate L. Mary

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

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Where to find Kate L. Mary
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Young Adult Book Review – MY SOPHOMORE YEAR OF RULES (School Dayz) by Jennifer DiGiovanni

MY SOPHOMORE YEAR OF RULES (School Dayz #3) by Jennifer DiGiovanni

MY SOPHOMORE YEAR OF RULES (School Dayz #3) by Jennifer DiGiovanni

Synopsis
Colette always tries to follow the school rules, except when it comes to chemistry.

Colette Rodriguez hates rules. Just ask her perfect, older, gorgeous, rule-following sister, Jana.

But now that Jana’s away at college and Colette’s a sophomore in high school, things are going to change. She’s gotta find a way to get out from under her sister’s shadow.

The problem is, everyone, including the boys, remembers perfectly-hot-Jana and they constantly compare Colette to her.

With Jana finally out of the house, Colette decides that sophomore year is the best time to make her mark on the world. She vows to follow the rules, although rule-following has never been her strong point. When a teacher asks Colette to lead a STEM Mentoring project, working with middle school kids, Colette sees her chance to stand out, though she doubts her ability to take charge.

Enter Will Gamen, junior football star. Looking for a club to boost his chances of a college scholarship, Will signs up for STEM. From the first meeting, when Will inadvertently takes over, Colette wonders if he should really be the person to run the project. And, in an even more confusing turn of events, Will starts to drop by her house for unplanned study dates. After the two spend one fabulous Saturday night together, he suddenly backs off.

But Colette and Will started out as friends and she’s determined not to let one meaningless kiss come between them. Plus, keeping Will on her team is the best thing for the STEM project. And it also gives her more time to convince him that they work better as a couple.

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My Review
This is the third book in Jennifer DiGiovanni’s witty and hilarious young adult contemporary romance series, School Dayz. It lives up to all of my expectations. Colette, the younger sister of Jana, from MY SENIOR YEAR OF AWESOME, tries to navigate her way through sophomore year. As the younger sibling of popular, high-achieving, beautiful Jana, Collette attempts to pave her own high school path by agreeing to take on the STEM club, mentoring middle school kids. She enlists the help of her best friends, Mila, Jake, and Ayden, along with Will, a junior she only knows by reputation, a reputation as one of the most popular guys in school, and on-again-off-again boyfriend of Becca from MY JUNIOR YEAR OF LOATHING and MY CLUELESS BROKEN HEART. With Becca and Will in off mode again, he seems to take an interest in Collette, something she isn’t quite sure how to handle, although she’s pretty sure she wants to.

Plot
The plot centers around Collette’s relationship with Will. She spends a good deal of the story not really understanding how to even define said relationship. They’re friends, but when Will unexpectedly kisses her, she’s thrown into a confusing blend of emotions which only gets more complicated after he acts as if it never happened. The push and pull is done with just the right amount of humor and angst.

Characters
The characters are delightful. Collette is a spitfire and I love everything about her. Will is more complex, and while he drives most of the conflict, he never comes across as a jerk. He may not be as forthcoming with Collette as he should be, but he doesn’t play her. Both suffer from serious communications issues they both resolve by the end. We also get to see snapshots of beloved characters from previous books, which is always fun in a series like this, although newer characters like Mila, Jake and Ayden, hold their own.

Top things I LOVED About MY SOPHOMORE YEAR OF RULES
1. Collette. She’s one of my favorite young adult protagonists. I love that she’s not a completely honest individual, seems hellbent on breaking rules, but she is so authentically teen girl, you can’t help but root for her.

2. Will. He’s the character I knew the best going into this book, and he’s been one of my favorite characters throughout. I love his easy-going style.

3. Collette’s “rules.” She has many, she’s just not very good at following them.

4. Flights. My least favorite part of running track when I was in high school, but somehow DiGiovanni makes them humorous.

5. Light-hearted angst. While angsty romance is my favorite young adult type, the author manages to wrap it up in funny moments that only add to my enjoyment.

Bottom Line
This is now my official favorite School Dayze novel. Will and Collette are absolutely adorable.

About the Book
Title: MY SOPHOMORE YEAR OF RULES
Series: School Dayz #3
Author: Jennifer DiGiovanni
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Pages: 241
Category:
Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Romantic Comedy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Book 1 Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Book 2 Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

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

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Where to find Jennifer DiGiovanni
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest
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Young Adult Book Review – PRESCIENT (The Delphi Chronicles) by Derek Murphy

Prescient (Delphi Chronicles #1) by Derek Murphy

Prescient (Delphi Chronicles #1) by Derek Murphy

Synopsis
A GENETIC EXPERIMENT. AN APOCALYPTIC VISION. A RACE AGAINST TIME.

You’d think time-travel would be a useful gift, for cheating on tests and winning the lottery–stuff like that. I might have enjoyed my ability…if I hadn’t discovered humanity is on the brink of a genetically-engineered apocalypse.

Bodies rotting in the streets.
Wilderness eating away at my hometown.
Monstrous creatures hunting down the few survivors.

No one can save the world… except me.Because for me, it hasn’t even happened yet.For me, it might never happen.

All I need to do is kill the man who will destroy the world. The father of my high-school crush.

The only problem is, the more time I spend in that dystopian wasteland, the less I want to erase it.To save the future, I’ll need to sacrifice the one person I can’t bear to lose.

Prescient (Prophet of Doom) is a young adult science fiction adventure for fans of the Maze Runner and Divergent. Let yourself be captured by this zombie-infested time travel adventure based on Greek mythology. .

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My Review
Young adult time travelling dystopian with a side of romance? Sign me up. This book is every genre I love rolled into one. The premise is fascinating — a teen girl has the ability to travel to the future where she discovers an earth she doesn’t recognize. Something in the very near future brings about devastation of apocalyptic proportions, and Alicia may be the only one who can stop it. While her ability to time travel isn’t fully explained, it has to do with experimental drugs that only affect Alicia in a way that allows her to time jump. At first, she believes she’s dreaming, except it’s far too real and she has lasting physical reminders of her journey. Of course her friends think she’s crazy at first, but soon they’re on board. However, the more time Alicia spends in the future and the people she meets there, she’s less sure disrupting the future and preventing their existence is something she wants to do.

Plot
The story is well-plotted and intriguing. It’s a little slow in a couple of spots early on, but more than makes up for it later. As Alicia navigates her two worlds, more than a few twists are thrown her, and the reader’s, way, adding complexity and intrigue. My only real complaint is that although this is the first book in the series, it just sort of ends. Not on a cliffhanger, but more like in the middle of the story. I kept trying to swipe my Kindle to see if there were more pages, because surely that couldn’t be the end.

Characters
Most of the characters were interesting enough, but this is really a plot-driven story, so they don’t have a lot of depth. I don’t know if that’s all that necessary in this type of book, though. Alicia is well-rounded enough as the protagonist, so I was able to overlook the lack of depth in the supporting characters.

What I Enjoyed About PRESCIENT
1. Premise.
 Time travel is my favorite genre of all time.

2. Alicia. She’s a strong female lead, and although she’s written by a male, she comes off completely female.

3. Zombies. While they’re not called that, it’s what they are and including them in this dystopian adventure was pure genius.

4. World Building. The author does a decent job of setting up the rules for his world. I look forward to exploring more in the next book in the series.

5. Twists. Loved all the twists and turns. Some I saw coming, but most I didn’t.

Bottom Line
A fun, unique time travelling dystopian zombie adventure.

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: PRESCIENT
Series: The Delphi Chronicles #1
Author: Derek Murphy
Publisher: Urban Epics
Release Date: April 1, 2016
Pages: 460
Category: Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian/Time Travel
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Derek Murphy

Author Derek Murphy

About the Author
I wrote my MA thesis on Harry Potter and my PhD thesis on Paradise Lost. Now I write YA fantasy novels and design book covers. I blog about self-publishing, book design and book marketing on www.creativindie.com and am renting a castle for Nanowrimo 2016. I hope you like my writing!

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Where to Find Derek Murphy
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Young Adult Book Review – MY SOUL TO KEEP (Rise of the Fallen) by Sean Hayden

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

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

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

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

“But, Dad, I wasn’t!”

I had one of those moments.

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

The moral of this story?

There are several.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Sean Hayden

Author Sean Hayden

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

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

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

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Where to Find Sean Hayden
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Book Review – THE SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR MINDSET by Joanna Penn

THE SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR MINDSET by Joanna Penn

THE SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR MINDSET by Joanna Penn

Synopsis
Being a writer is not just about typing. It’s also about surviving the roller-coaster of the creative journey.

Self-doubt, fear of failure, the need for validation, perfectionism, writer’s block, comparisonitis, overwhelm, and much more. When you’re going through these things, it can feel like you’re alone. But actually, they are part of the creative process, and every author goes through them too.

This book collects the mindset issues that writers experience, that I have been through myself over the last nine years, and that perhaps you will experience at different times on the creative journey.

Each small chapter tackles a possible issue and then offers an antidote, so that you can dip in and out over time. It includes excerpts from my own personal journals as well as quotes from well-known writers. I hope it helps you on the road to becoming a successful author.

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My Review
This book is full of helpful advice on how to be a writer, everything from handling self-doubt and rejections to finding your tribe. Peppered with quotes from successful authors as well as the author’s own journey, not everything will apply to every writer. I found myself skimming many portions of the book, but I suspect that’s the author’s intent — find the pieces that you can relate to and devour them, but move on if it doesn’t apply to you. I found much that did apply to me though and I highlighted a number of passages, including:

Think long term. Create a body of work.

This one really resonates. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the end of the current work in progress. To only think about the upcoming release day, but writing isn’t a trip with a start and end point, it’s a journey, a career. Even in all the years I worked as a project manager, with one eye on the end-date of my current project, I knew another contract needing my attention was on the horizon.

 

Bottom Line
Lots of good advice on surviving the writing process.

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About the Book
Title
: THE SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR MINDSET: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey
Author: Joanna Penn
Publisher: The Creative Penn, Ltd.
Publication Date: June 29, 2016
Pages: 166
Category: Writing
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Joanna Penn

Author Joanna Penn

About the Author
Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers writing under the name J.F. Penn. She also writes inspirational non-fiction for authors and is an award-winning creative entrepreneur and international professional speaker. Her site, TheCreativePenn.com is regularly voted one of the top 10 sites for writers and self-publishers.

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Where to find Joanna Penn
Goodreads | Website | Twitter
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Book Review – WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS by Regina L. Brooks

WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS by Regina L. Brooks

WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS by Regina L. Brooks

Synopsis
Break into the Bestselling Young Adult Market with this IndispensableGuide!

Whether you’re just getting started or are on the hunt foran agent or publisher, Writing Great Books for Young Adults is your completeinsider source on how to succeed in the flourishing world of YA fiction andnonfiction. In this updated and revised edition, veteran literary agent ReginaL. Brooks offers invaluable advice for YA writers on everything from shapingyour novel to crafting the perfect pitch for your book.

Learn How To:
�Develop an authentic, engaging voice and writing style
�Construct dynamic plots that will resonate with readers
�Avoid common pitfalls related to tone and point of view
�Navigate the emerging genres of YA nonfiction and New Adult
�Create an exceptional query letter and proposal that will grab the attention of agents and publishers

You’ll also discover how successful film adaptations like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games have broadened the market for your book.Filled with tips and advice from agents, editors, and popular YA authors,Writing Great Books for Young Adults is your ticket to an incredible YA career!

“Brooks offers writers who are serious about attracting teen readers solid guidance through the creation process of writing YA fiction.”—LibraryJournal

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My Review
This one has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while, and I think I might have found it more useful if I’d read it when I first bought it a few years ago. There’s certainly useful tidbits throughout, but it’s neither a how-to nor a definitive resource on all things young adult fiction. Instead, it’s an overview of fiction writing with additional information on what makes writing for young adults different from writing for adults. It’s pretty void of details, but the overall concepts the author touches on are critical to success. I found the most useful information in Chapter 9 on theme. Depending on where you find your own writing lacking, you may discover something to help you as well.

Bottom Line
Useful information at a high level, but not much depth.

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About the Book
Title
: WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS: Everything You Need to Know, from Crafting the Idea to Getting Published
Author: Regina L. Brooks
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: October 17, 2014
Pages: 225
Category: Fiction Writing
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Regina Brooks

Author Regina Brooks

About the Author
Regina Brooks is an award-winning author and literary expert with an indefatigable passion for guiding the careers of some of the publishing worlds best and brightest stars. As the founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency LLC., a full-service company based in Brooklyn, NY, which was hailed by Writers Digest Magazine as one of the top 25 literary agencies of 2004, Ms. Brooks continues to break down barriers and shape the literary landscape by signing authors who challenge the written word.

Led by Ms. Brooks, Serendipity Literary Agency LLC., has established a diverse base of award-winning authors in the adult and young adult fiction, non-fiction, and children’s genres; including three-time National Book Award finalist, Newberry and Coretta Scott King award-winning author Marilyn Nelson, and Coretta Scott King Award winner, Sundee Frazier, author of Brendan Buckleys Universe and Everything in it, an Oprah Book Pick and an Al Roker Book Club selection.

With over fifteen years of experience in senior positions at major publishing houses, including John Wiley & Sons Inc (where she was the youngest member of the editorial staff and the first African-American editor in their college division) and the McGraw-Hill companies, Ms. Brooks, a graduate of the Howard University Publishing Institute and faculty member of the Harvard CME publishing course, is also the author of the childrens book, Never Finished! Never Done! (Scholastic, 2004). She is a book blogger for the Huffingtonpost.com

Ms. Brooks is also the founder and executive director of YB Literary Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote the reading of literature as a meaningful, lifelong activity and transformative experience for youth. Much to her delight, this aspect of her charitable work in particular keeps her apprised of the latest teen trends. Through a roster of community-focused programming that draws on popular culture, YBs goal is to expose youth to literature that is relevant to their livesliterature that speaks to their realities, their experiences and to their potential as future leaders. The organization has touched thousands of high school students in the NY/NJ area alone. Under her guidance, the YB Literary Foundation established a partnership with The National Urban League to launch the hiphopreader.com program.

A New York Urban League Rising Star Award winner and a 2004 finalist for the StevieTM Award for Women Entrepreneurs, Regina Brooks is featured in books such as The Guide to Literary Agents and the NAACP nominated Down to Business 10 steps for Women Entrepreneurs. She is also listed in International Who’s Who under the categories of Professional Management, Technology, Entrepreneurs, and Engineering.

Ms. Brooks serves on the board of Soul Mountain Literary Retreat Center and is a member of the Brooklyn Book Festival Committee for Childrens and Young Adult Literature. An active member of the National Association of Female Executives and NY Women in Television and Film and a member of the National Association of Professional Women, she lectures at over a dozen conferences annually, including the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Bologna Book Fair and the American Library Association.

Where to find Regina L. Brooks
Goodreads | Website | Twitter
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – TRAP AND TRACE by Megan Carney

TRAP AND TRACE Blog Tour

TRAP AND TRACE by Megan Carney

TRAP AND TRACE by Megan Carney

Synopsis
A sabotaged CIA operation makes Navy Trent a captive. But surviving the kidnapping is just the beginning of her ordeal. The CIA will kill her if she doesn’t stay quiet. The saboteurs will kill her if she does. Navy is forced into a high-tech, high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse where only her wits – and a little bit of luck – can keep her alive.

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My Review
Navy Trent’s life is turned upside down when she’s mistaken for an influential senator’s niece and is kidnapped by terrorists attempting to get the identities of CIA operatives. Her ability to escape and rescue her friends isn’t the end of her ordeal, it’s only the beginning. She knows more about what happened than she’s supposed to and someone wants to keep her quiet. Maybe permanently. TRAP AND TRACE is a fast-paced, wild ride, part thriller, part suspense, part mystery. I wasn’t sure I was going to like Navy in the beginning, but she won me over.

Plot
The book was expertly plotted. There were so many twists and turns, all of which were perfectly foreshadowed. I loved that I never knew what was going to happen next. Just when I thought I had it figured out, I was proven wrong. My only complaint is that there was a lot of repetitiveness, the same things being told from different points of view, that had me skimming portions.

Characters
I wasn’t sure about Navy at first. She seemed almost too contrived, but as the story unfolded and I learned more about her, it became apparent that everything she did was well within her established character. I loved the entire cast, from Jackson, to Byron, to Erin. Even William came across as the total tool he was for completely plausible reasons.

What I Enjoyed About TRAP AND TRACE
1. Plotting.
The plotting was among the best I’ve ever read!

2. Research. The author did her homework. The world of spies felt authentic and even something as simple as the right way to meditate was accurate.

3. Unexpected Twists. Kept me turning pages long after I should have gone to sleep.

4. Characters. Rich and complex, they drive the story in ways lesser characters couldn’t.

5. The End. No spoilers, here, but it was perfect.

Bottom Line
Expertly plotted suspense with so many unexpected twists. Will be reading more by this author!

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

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About the Book
Title: TRAP AND TRACE
Author: Megan Carney
Pages: 453
Category: Adult Suspense/Thriller/Adventure
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Megan Carney

Author Megan Carney

About the Author
Megan Carney is an author, geek and amateur photographer living in the Twin Cities. She has ten years of experience in the field of computer security. Her previous short story publications include: ‘Flighty Youth’ in the Raritan, ‘Modern Mayhem’ in the Wayfarer, ‘Swing By Close’ in the Wayfarer, ‘Directions’ in the Bell Tower. ‘Swing By Close’ and ‘Directions’ both won first prize in the fiction sections of that issue. The Christian Science Monitor dubbed her self-published photography book, ‘Signs of My Cities’ as having “youthful zest.”

Her non-literary creations include: a robot to clean the bathroom tub, Zim and Gir costumes, No-Dig tomato stakes, StickFriend the bear bag hanger, and a burning coal costume so she could be Katniss for a night.

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Where to Find Megan Carney
Goodreads | Twitter

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

DREAM ME Blog Tour

DREAM ME by Kathryn Berla

DREAM ME by Kathryn Berla

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

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

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

Can a dream become a reality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Kathryn Berla

Author Kathryn Berla

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

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

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Giveaway
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Book Review – ALL IN (Full Tilt) by Emma Scott

ALL IN (Full Tilt #2) by Emma Scott

ALL IN (Full Tilt #2) by Emma Scott

Synopsis
SPOILERS FOR FULL TILT….

Reeling from her loss, Kacey Dawson is grieving and heartbroken, her addictive demons hauling her back into the alcohol-soaked abyss she worked so hard to crawl out of. Kacey teeters on the edge of oblivion, and must fight her way through the pain, to build a new life for herself with her music, and somehow fulfill the promise she made to Jonah…one she feels is impossible to keep.

Theo Fletcher has a secret burning in his heart, one that he holds close, while he struggles to keep strong for his family that is falling apart. His mother’s health is fragile and his father’s disapproval is breaking him down. Theo is afraid if he follows his heart, he’ll fail, and not just himself, but his brother who believed in him when no one else did.

Drawn together by their pain, Theo and Kacey slowly build a friendship, re-forge old ties, help each other to heal, and give one another the courage to reach for their dreams. Together, from the depths of grief and guilt, they learn to laugh again, to trust again, and quite possibly find something beautiful and lasting amid the shattered pieces of their broken hearts.

Part II of the two-part Full Tilt duet, coming Oct 2016

PLEASE NOTE, this novel is NOT a standalone. It is highly recommended one read Full Tilt first to get the entire arc of the story and to avoid spoilers.

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My Review
I needed some time to grieve and regroup after finishing FULL TILT, but then I was finally ready to read the rest of Kacey’s story. This time around, we hear from Jonah’s brother, Theo. It’s no secret to readers that Theo has it bad for Kacey, but it is a secret to her. The first half of the book deals with Kacey’s out-of-control spiral of pain and Theo’s guilt over his feelings for his brother’s love, even though Jonah told him to find happiness with her. The second half is them coming to terms with their feelings for each other. Everyone has an opinion on their relationship, which only drives more conflict. The pacing is great and the emotions are raw and real.

Plot
Primarily, the plot centers around the relationship between Theo and Kacey. It is less of a romance and more of an in-depth, emotional commitment from the get-go. They lean on each other as the cope with the loss of Jonah, and that connection builds into something more. So much of the story is about their internal struggles with loss, love, and letting go as well as acceptance and moving forward.

Characters
The characters are just as deep and wounded and broken as ever, but they get to heal in this installment. Healing leads to growth and some semblance of happiness, although the story has an edge of realness to it, meaning it’s not without the pitfalls that real life brings.

World Building
Once again, Emma Scott brings her settings to life. Everything from Kacey’s shotgun house in New Orleans to Theo’s tattoo studio in Las Vegas feels authentic and draws me deeper into the story.

What I Loved About ALL IN
1. Reality.
The author makes her characters work hard for every ounce of progress they make. Nothing is easy, but it’s rooted in reality, making it that much more satisfying.

2. Kacey. She’s so broken, and yet that fighting spirit is always there, just under the surface, waiting.

3. Tattoos. I don’t have any, but as a recent breast cancer survivor, I have a few in my very near future. The idea of Theo’s unfinished art to cover my scars is something that has had me scouring my local tattoo community for something similar.

4. Redemption. It takes a lot, but both Theo and Kacey get very satisfying endings to their stories. It’s a painful route, but oh so worth it in the end.

5. Theo. I liked him before, but I love him now. He’s complex, loyal, and has an underlying need to do the right thing. Always.

Bottom Line
A utterly emotional and satisfying conclusion to this duet.

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About the Book
Title: ALL IN
Series: Full Tilt #2
Author: Emma Scott
Publisher: Trillian
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Pages: 281
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating:
5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Emma Scott

Author Emma Scott

About the Author
Emma Scott is a writer, marathon runner, and caffeine addict, who lives and writes in the California Bay Area. She has two smart, feisty little girls, a super-supportive husband, and is a demonstrated fan of the Oxford comma. She is also an unabashed Star Wars geek and comic book enthusiast who fell into romance novels when a writing contest prompt turned a 1000-word romantic story into a full-blown novel. She also writes epic fantasy that suffers an epic word count.

She hopes you enjoy her work, encourages readers to leave feedback, and thinks it’s amusing to write about herself in the third person. And if she has a driving force that fuels her work, it’s that love always wins.

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Where to find Emma Scott
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – THE HISTORY OF HILARY HAMBRUSHINA by Marnie Lamb

THE HISTORY OF HILARY HAMBRUSHINA Blog Tour

THE HISTORY OF HILARY HAMBRUSHINA by Marnie Lamb

THE HISTORY OF HILARY HAMBRUSHINA by Marnie Lamb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Marnie Lamb

Author Marnie Lamb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Sherry Soule

Author Sherry Soule

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

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

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

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

Book Review – TEMPTING LEVI (Cade Brothers) by Jules Barnard

TEMPTING LEVI (Cade Brothers #1) by Jules Barnard

TEMPTING LEVI (Cade Brothers #1) by Jules Barnard

Synopsis
Cade men are known for two things: arrogance and competitiveness. I grew up in one of the wealthiest, most dysfunctional families in Lake Tahoe, and all I wanted was to get the hell out. I thought I’d succeeded. Until an accident burned up my firefighter ambitions. Then Dad died and left me in charge of the family’s luxury resort. 

If it were only my inheritance on the line, I’d walk and never look back, but I’ve always taken care of my four younger brothers.

Now I’ve got financially uptight advisors telling me what to do, and I need someone I can trust working at my side. The perfect candidate walks through the door in her pencil skirt, fitted white blouse, and that mass of wavy blond hair she tries to contain.

The only problem? She’s my cheating ex’s younger sister.

Hell no. The last thing I need is another Wright female in my life.

But Emily’s good at the job, and she seems trustworthy. I should ignore the desire I have for her. But after all I’ve lost, I’m tempted by what I can’t have and ready to stoke the flame that smolders between us. As long as this Wright sister doesn’t betray me the way the last one did.

Then again, I always liked playing with fire..

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My Review
This first installment in the new Cade Brothers series, a spinoff of the Blue series, is worthy of it’s heritage. We meet Lisa’s ex-boyfriend Levi, brother of Adam, and Lisa’s half-sister, Emily. After the death of their father, Levi is put in charge of Blue Casino’s rival, Club Tahoe, with the help of recent MBA graduate, Emily. There’s a lot of baggage between the brothers and a reluctance on the part of both Emily and Levi to go where exes should never go, but that only adds a layer of forbidden love to this romance. Part sweet romance with just enough heat, part comedy, this book delivers another Jules Barnard treat.

Plot
The push and pull of Levi and Emily’s budding romance is the heart of the story, but there are solid subplots involving Levi’s relationships with his brothers and various business interests of the resort. All of it plays well together and help drives conflict. There’s also a quasi mystery to be solved, making this a fun, fast page-turning romance.

Characters
Levi and Emily are both complex, although Levi more so. Emily doesn’t have anywhere near as much baggage, which works out fairly well, because Levi has enough for the both of them. I loved reconnecting with some of my favorite characters from the Blue series as well. At times, both Levi and Emily came across as a little more angsty than I would think adults their age would be, but it wasn’t to the point of being distracting. Plus, I love my romance with a little angst.

What I Enjoyed About TEMPTING LEVI
1. Grace.
 What’s not to love about a giant, elderly rescue dog?

2. Boy Drama. There’s so much drama between the Cade brothers, it was refreshing to have that kind of conflict between boys for a change.

3. Levi. I love how he really needed to do the right thing, even when it wasn’t what he wanted.

4. Emily. She’s smart and funny. Maybe a little too straight-laced for me, but she was perfect for Levi.

5. Lisa. She’s the best sister.

Bottom Line
A solid new adult romance with a swoony alpha male and an equally alpha female.

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About the Book
Title: TEMPTING LEVI
Series: Cade Brothers #1
Author: Jules Barnard
Pages: 235
Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance/Romantic Comedy
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Jules Barnard

Author Jules Barnard

About the Author
Before turning to storytelling, Jules earned a master’s degree in public health and spent many an hour running statistical analysis–until she realized her favorite part of the job was writing reports.

She decided to cut out the math and add in some hot guys, and so began her career as a novelist.

Jules is a Northern California native living on the coast with her husband and two children. She has no impulse control around cupcakes and credits herself with the ability to read while running on the treadmill or burning dinner.
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Where to Find Jules Barnard
Goodreads | Website Facebook | Twitter

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Book Review – CHARACTERIZATION AND SENSORY DETAIL (Writing Active Setting) by Mary Buckham

CHARACTERIZATION AND SENSORY DETAIL (Writing Active Setting #1) by Mary Buckham

CHARACTERIZATION AND SENSORY DETAIL (Writing Active Setting #1) by Mary Buckham

Synopsis
Readers usually remember the plot and characters of a story, but setting is every bit as important in creating a memorable world. Discover the difference between Ordinary Setting that bogs down your story, and Active Setting that empowers your story — creating a compelling story world, regardless of what you write.

* See how to spin boring descriptions into engaging prose.
* Learn to deepen the reader’s experience of your story world through sensory details.
* Notice how changing characters’ POV can change your setting.
* Explore ways to maximize the setting possibilities in your story.

WRITING ACTIVE SETTING is a powerful combination of fresh insights, practical examples, and how-to advice on the often overlooked but critical element of Setting … written in a quick-to-read and easy-to-understand style, and packed with useful application exercises. ~~ Kelly L. Stone, author of THINKING WRITE: The Secret to Freeing Your Creative Mind

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My Review
This is my favorite book on the craft of writing so far this year. To say my scene setting needs work would be a massive understatement. This first in a three-book series, is a fast read packed with tons of helpful advice and examples to drive Buckham’s point home. I immediately applied the lessons learned to my latest manuscript and ran to Amazon to buy the next two books in the series. With chapters like, Subtext in Setting, and Revealing Character Through Setting, I was able to quickly grasp where my writing was lacking and make corrections. Every pass I make, I look for ways to incorporate what I learned from this book. The common sense approach and relatable writing style of Mary Buckham makes this an outstanding resource for the writer at any stages of their journey.

Bottom Line
An outstanding resource on writing setting for fiction and nonfiction alike.

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About the Book
Title
:  CHARACTERIZATION AND SENSORY DETAIL
Series: Writing Active Setting #1
Author: Mary Buckham
Publisher: Cantwell Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: October 7, 2013
Pages: 59
Category: Fiction Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Mary Buckham

Author Mary Buckham

About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham credits her years of international travel and curiosity about different cultures that resulted in creating high-concept urban fantasy and romantic suspense stories. Her newest Invisible Recruit series has been touted for the unique voice, high action and rich emotion. A prolific writer, Mary also co-authors the young adult sci-fi/fantasy Red Moon series with NYT bestseller Dianna Love. Mary lives in Washington State with her husband and, when not crafting a new adventure, she travels the country researching settings and teaching other writers. Don’t miss her latest reference book Writing Active Setting.

Currently she is neck-deep into writing an Urban Fantasy series centered around five women drafted to combat preternatural beings agitating for world domination. The INVISIBLE RECRUIT series combines a fantasy/paranormal element with high stakes and the pace of action adventure stories. Mary loves creating thrills, spills and spells as she follows the ups and downs of fascinating characters starting with Alex Noziak, the heroine of INVISIBLE MAGIC, INVISIBLE FATE and INVISIBLE POWER.

Where to find Mary Buckham
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter | Pinterest
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