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

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

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

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

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

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

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

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

 YOU ONLY KNEW by Prerna Pickett

YOU ONLY KNEW by Prerna Pickett

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Prerna Pickett

Author Prerna Pickett

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

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Where to Find Prerna Pickett
Goodreads | Website Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Young Adult Book Review – MALICE by Pintip Dunn

MALICE by Pintip Dunn

MALICE by Pintip Dunn

5 out of 5 stars

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

What I don’t know: who he is.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Pintip Dunn

Author Pintip Dunn

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

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

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

 

Book Review – THREE STAR ISLAND by Kat Caulberg

THREE STAR ISLAND by Kat Caulberg

THREE STAR ISLAND by Kat Caulberg

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited

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

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Author Kat Caulberg

Author Kat Caulberg

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

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

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

 

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

 

Young Adult Book Review – FIND ME THEIR BONES (Bring Me Their Hearts) by Sara Wolf

FIND ME THEIR BONES (Bring Me Their Hearts #2) by Sara Wolf

FIND ME THEIR BONES (Bring Me Their Hearts #2) by Sara Wolf

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
No one can save her.

In order to protect Prince Lucien d’Malvane’s heart, Zera had to betray him. Now, he hates the sight of her. Trapped in Cavanos as a prisoner of the king, she awaits the inevitable moment her witch severs their magical connection and finally ends her life.

But fate isn’t ready to give her up just yet.

With freedom coming from the most unlikely of sources, Zera is given a second chance at life as a Heartless. But it comes with a terrible price. As the king mobilizes his army to march against the witches, Zera must tame an elusive and deadly valkerax trapped in the tunnels underneath the city if she wants to regain her humanity.

Winning over a bloodthirsty valkerax? Hard. Winning back her friends before war breaks out? A little harder.

But a Heartless winning back Prince Lucien’s heart?

The hardest thing she’s ever done.

 

 

 

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My Review
WARNING: Spoilers for book 1!
I enjoyed this book more than the first one. The angsty romance tugged at my heart, but what really grabbed me was Zera’s growth. Sure, she continued to struggle with trust, and there were times I was frustrated with her backsliding, but she was still in a two steps forward one step back mode, making steady, albeit slow progress. Having accidentally said the name of her witch at the end of the first book, Princess Varia has become Zera’s new witch and has a new goal for her if Zera wants her heart back. A task that seems nearly impossible — she must teach the valkerax below the city to weep, the way she did. A beast so huge, dangerous, and angrily delusional, she can barely understand it, much less teach it anything. But she will do anything to get her heart back, even die over and over again.

Lucien hates her, Fione is terrified of her, and the only people she considers family are in the wind. Zera has no choice but to do Varia’s bidding. She’s singly-focused on her task, but as she so often laments, her unheart betrays her with feelings for Lucien. The thing is, as much as he wants her to believe otherwise, it’s so clear he still has feelings for her, too. There doesn’t seem to be any happy endings for this pair, but finding out what happens to them kept me turning the pages.

Plot
Similar to book one, the plot revolves around Zera completing the necessary task to get her heart back. What’s different this time is who has her heart, the task she’s been ordered to complete, and the reasons behind it. Varia believes if she gets what she wants, she’ll be able to stop the impending war. While similar to her original goals, this one comes with a lot of caveats and new dangers. Numerous subplots are expertly woven throughout, and we learn more about the world that the characters inhabit. Just as vivid as the first book, FIND ME THEIR BONES builds upon what we already know, bringing new scenes to life and divulging new secrets that underpin the world Sara Wolf has crafted.

Characters
I love everyone’s growth in this installment. Zera’s feels the most drastic, but Lucien, Malachite, and even Fione have significant growth as the come to terms with Zera’s heartlessness. Varia on the other hand seems to devolve through the book, becoming less stable and more maniacal as things come to a head at the end. But with all of Sara Wolf’s books, the characters are just as fascinating, developed, and enduring as ever.

What I Loved About FIND ME THEIR BONES
1. Zera.
 She really grew on me more throughout this book. I liked her in the first book, but by the middle of this one, I LOVED her. She’s determined, loyal, and strong, without ever losing her snarky streak.

2. Valkerax. The giant, white, feathery, scaly wyrm with six eyes won my heart with its overwhelming pain and longing to be free.

3. Lucien. The prince with a heart of gold is just as swoony as ever, but he’s a little extra so this time around.

4.Princess Varia. She’s both an antagonist and a protagonist, in a sense. While it’s Zera’s story, Varia has her own arc and the book wouldn’t be as amazing without her. But her wounds and desires and driving need to prevent war makes her someone to root for.

5. World Building. The author continues to unveil a fantastic fantasy world with rich details and stunning cinematography in written form.

Bottom Line
Teenage angst, a gripping adventure, and phenomenal world building collide with epic results.

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About the Book
Title: FIND ME THEIR BONES
Series: Bring Me Their Hearts #2
Author: Sar Wolf
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound | BAM!

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Author Sara Wolf

Author Sara Wolf

About the Author
Sara Wolf is a twenty-something author who adores baking, screaming at her cats, and screaming at herself while she types hilarious things.

When she was a kid, she was too busy eating dirt to write her first terrible book. Twenty years later, she picked up a keyboard and started mashing her fists on it and created the monster known as the Lovely Vicious series.

She lives in San Diego with two cats, a crippling-yet-refreshing sense of self-doubt, and not enough fruit tarts ever.

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Where to Find Sara Wolf
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Young Adult Book Review – SICK KIDS IN LOVE by Hannah Moskowitz

SICK KIDS IN LOVE by Hannah Moskowitz

SICK KIDS IN LOVE by Hannah Moskowitz

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s easier–
It’s safer–
It’s better–
–for the other person.
She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.
He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s complicated–
It’s dangerous–
It’s never felt better–
–to consider breaking that rule for him.

 

 

 

 

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My Review
There are few young adult contemporary romances that really make me think in a new way, but SICK KIDS IN LOVE did just that. My own three children suffer from an autoimmune disease that is nowhere near as severe as what Ibby and Sasha have, but it does impact their lives, since it affects what they can eat, something they do three times a day. It was refreshing to read about teens who live a life in spite of, as well as under the constant influence of, a chronic illness. Add to that both main characters are Jewish, and this is a story unlike anything else I’ve read. I’ll admit that I was worried at first. I mean the title leaves a lot open-ended. How sick? Will one or both of them die? But I’m pleased to report, without spoiling anything since the author has freely admitted this publicly, NO ONE DIES!

Isabel has rheumatoid arthritis, requiring her to get regular fusions. At one of these visits, she meets Sasha, a charming boy with gaucher disease. The two flirt, but Ibby has a no-dating policy for reasons that become clear about mid-way through the book. Her father is chief physician in the same hospital, so she spends a lot of time there, not only visiting him, but volunteering one day a week. This creates a collision course between Sasha and Ibby, sooner rather than later, and an instant friendship develops. It’s clear Sasha wants more, but Ibby holds firmly to her no-dating rule. But the more time they spend together, the more obvious it is that she feels more than just friendship for this boy. Witty banter and obvious chemistry gets the reader rooting for these two to end up together. But Sasha and Ibby have deep issues they’ll both need to overcome if they can be more than friends.

Plot
The heart of the story is the relationship between Ibby and Sasha. Feelings develop slowly, though the attraction is immediate. The friendship flourishes because they have more in common than just their respective illnesses. But there are also huge differences that drive most of the conflict. Ibby is rigid and deeply wounded. Sasha is easy going and eager to please. This makes things between them seamless at first, but ultimately comes between them. There is a HUGE twist I never saw coming that turns Ibby’s world upside down. It could have become a cliche, but instead the author uses it as a catalyst for Ibby to see her flaws in a new light rather than turning it into a huge angsty situation creating drama for the sake of drama.

Characters
The characters are so deeply drawn and real in every sense. Ibby has deep wounds, the origins of which are revealed slowly. She’s forced to face the reasons she refuses to date as her feelings for Sasha grow, but her transformation isn’t complete for a long time. In fact, like all humans, she continues to be a work in progress through the end. We learn that Sasha is more than just a light-hearted guy who lets everything roll off him. One of the best ways the author lets us inside the minds of her characters in a story told from a single point of view is through Ibby’s high school newspaper column. She asks people around her a variety of questions and we get to learn who they are through their answers.

What I Loved About SICK KIDS IN LOVE
1. New York City.
 Both kids live in the city in small apartments and take the subway to get around. The setting is as much a part of the story as the characters.

2. Sasha. I love his outlook and positive attitude and the way he’s honest, open, and caring.

3. Ibby. She’s had so much to deal with in her short life, and while she lets it get to her at times, she’s determined to rise above it.

4. Reality. The author paints a portrait of the daily lives of those living with a chronic illness, neither romanticizing it in any way, nor making it more depressing than it needs to be. This is life for so many Americans, and it’s an honest portrayal of their normal.

5. Friends. Ibby’s friends, all healthy teens, play various roles in her journey. Their responses to her illness and her relationship with Sasha give readers an opportunity to see how our responses as healthy people impact those with chronic illness without coming across as preachy.

Bottom Line
An honest, heartfelt story of teens who are anything but average, doing their best to live average lives.

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About the Book
Title: SICK KIDS IN LOVE
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Pages: 3o0
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound | BAM!

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Author Hannah Moskowitz

Author Hannah Moskowitz

About the Author
Hannah Moskowitz wrote her first story, about a kitten named Lilly on the run from cat hunters, for a contest when she was seven years old. It was disqualified for violence. Her first book, BREAK, was on the ALA’s 2010 list of Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, and in 2013, GONE, GONE, GONE received a Stonewall Honor. 2015’s NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED was named the YA Bisexual Book of the Year. She’s also the co-author of GENA/FINN with Kat Helgeson and has contributed to several anthologies. She lives in Maryland with several cats, none of whom are violent.

 

 

 

 

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Where to Find Hannah Moskowitz
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Young Adult Book Review – BRING ME THEIR HEARTS by Sara Wolf

BRING ME THEIR HEARTS (Bring Me Their Hearts #1) by Sara Wolf

BRING ME THEIR HEARTS (Bring Me Their Hearts #1) by Sara Wolf

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Zera is a Heartless – the immortal, unageing soldier of a witch. Bound to the witch Nightsinger ever since she saved her from the bandits who murdered her family, Zera longs for freedom from the woods they hide in. With her heart in a jar under Nightsinger’s control, she serves the witch unquestioningly.

Until Nightsinger asks Zera for a Prince’s heart in exchange for her own, with one addendum; if she’s discovered infiltrating the court, Nightsinger will destroy her heart rather than see her tortured by the witch-hating nobles.

Crown Prince Lucien d’Malvane hates the royal court as much as it loves him – every tutor too afraid to correct him and every girl jockeying for a place at his darkly handsome side. No one can challenge him – until the arrival of Lady Zera. She’s inelegant, smart-mouthed, carefree, and out for his blood. The Prince’s honor has him quickly aiming for her throat.

So begins a game of cat and mouse between a girl with nothing to lose and a boy who has it all.

Winner takes the loser’s heart.

Literally.

 

 

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My Review
I loved the heck out of this book. It’s so different from what I usually read, but Sara Wolf. So I gave it a try, and I was hooked from the opening chapter. We’re thrust deep into the action before being throw back a few days to get the backstory. Zera is a heartless. All I knew about heartless was what I learned watching Once Upon a Time, so I had to toss all my preconceived notions and dive into this very different world Wolf has created. As a heartless, Zera has no life of her own; she’s consumed by a hunger that can never be satisfied and is responsible for keeping her witch, Nightsinger, safe. Nightsinger is not a typical witch though, and she seems to have real affection for Zera. Still, she controls Zera by holding her heart. She offers to return her heart and give her her life back in exchange for Zera bringing her the crown prince’s heart. Zera has no love for royalty and quickly agrees, not only securing her freedom, but two younger children who are also Nightsinger’s heartless.

What should be easy is anything but. First, the rules of witches and heartless make it very difficult for Zera to even travel far beyond her witch. She has the insatiable hunger that requires human organs, even though animals will have to do, and eating human food does really awful things to her. And that’s not even getting into all the rules required for attending Court. A noble woman, Lady Y’shennria, agrees to take Zera under her wing and groom her for Court, to woo Prince Lucien, and to ultimately get his heart, stopping an impending war. Lady Y’shennria is an unlikely ally, but she’s teamed up with the witches for her own reasons. Things only go from bad to worse when Zera falls for the prince, who is nothing like she assumed he would be and everything like she wishes she was.

Plot
The plot is riveting as it centers around Zera’s mission to get the prince’s heart. But strong subplots are woven throughout, including her feelings for Lucien, the mystery surrounding Lucien’s sister’s death, a developing closeness between Zera and her “aunt” Y’shennria, and a plot to rid the country of witches by the king’s most trusted advisor. All directly impact the main plot to perfection, resulting in a page-turning adventure with heart and soul.

Characters
Zera is fantastic as the snarky heartless who charms everyone around her with her wit and humor. Lucien is dark and brooding with a warm hidden side that only Zera seems to be able to unmask. Nightsinger and the other heartless are well-developed for minor supporting characters, though they do have a significant impact on everything Zera does. And Lady Y’shennria blossomed into one of my favorite characters.

What I Loved About BRING ME THEIR HEARTS
1. The World Building.
 Wolf creates a complex world, that I had difficulty following at times, but it’s so intricate and detailed, it’s almost the star of the book.

2. Lucien. Who doesn’t love a brooding bad boy with a heart of gold?

3. Zera. She takes snark to a new level, but her emotional journey was heart-wrenching.

4. Lady Y’Shennria. Her transformation is almost as dramatic as Zera’s.

5. Plot. So much goes on in this story that it never slows down.

Bottom Line
An angsty fantasy with stunning world building and emotionally deep characters.

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About the Book
Title: BRING ME THEIR HEARTS
Series: Bring Me Their Hearts #1
Author: Sar Wolf
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Pages: 370
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound | BAM!

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Author Sara Wolf

Author Sara Wolf

About the Author
Sara Wolf is a twenty-something author who adores baking, screaming at her cats, and screaming at herself while she types hilarious things.

When she was a kid, she was too busy eating dirt to write her first terrible book. Twenty years later, she picked up a keyboard and started mashing her fists on it and created the monster known as the Lovely Vicious series.

She lives in San Diego with two cats, a crippling-yet-refreshing sense of self-doubt, and not enough fruit tarts ever.

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Where to Find Sara Wolf
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

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

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Crafting likable, interesting characters is a balancing act, and finding that perfect mix of strengths and weaknesses can be difficult. But the task has become easier thanks to The Negative Trait Thesaurus.

Through its flaw-centric exploration of character arc, motivation, emotional wounds, and basic needs, writers will learn which flaws make the most sense for their heroes, villains, and other members of the story’s cast. This book’s vast collection of flaws will help writers to explore the possible causes, attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and related emotions behind their characters’ weaknesses so they can be written effectively and realistically. Common characterization pitfalls and methods to avoid them are also included, along with invaluable downloadable tools to aid in character creation.

Written in list format and fully indexed, this brainstorming resource is perfect for creating deep, flawed characters that readers will relate to.

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

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

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My Review
As with the rest of the books in this series, THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS is a must-read for all fiction writers. A brief introduction covers how negative traits help develop well-rounded characters. No one has only positive traits, so weaving in negative traits allows us to create lifelike fictional beings that will take shape in believable ways, allowing readers to identify with them. After that, the book again provides a large number of negative traits, including a brief description and possible influences that could be responsible for them within your character. Each entry dives deeper with similar attributes, associated behaviors and thoughts, possible emotional responses, and what traits in supporting characters may cause conflict. Also included are example characters from literature to really drive the point home.

If you’re looking to develop in-depth characters who come across as authentic, add this to your arsenal, along with THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS.

Bottom Line
If you want to create deep, realistic characters, look no further than the Writer’s Guide series.

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About the Book
Title
: THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws
Authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Publisher: JADD Publishing
Publication Date: October 13, 2013
Pages: 263
Category: Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

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

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

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

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

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Young Adult Book Review – THE BOOKWORM CRUSH by Lisa Brown Roberts

THE BOOKWORM CRUSH by Lisa Brown Roberts

THE BOOKWORM CRUSH by Lisa Brown Roberts

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
This spinoff of The Replacement Crush featuring Amy and Toff is sure to melt your heart.

Shy bookworm Amy McIntyre is about to compete for a dream scholarship, and the only way to win is to transform from sidekick to the heroine of her own life. But that level of confidence has never come easy.

The solution? A competition coach. The problem? The best person for the job is the guy she’s secretly crushing on…local surfer celebrity Toff Nichols.

He’s a player. He’s a heartthrob. He makes her forget basic things, like how to breathe. How can she feel any confidence around him?

To her surprise, Toff agrees to help. And he’s an excellent teacher. Amy feels braver—maybe even brave enough to admit her feelings for him. When their late night practices become less about coaching and more about making out, Amy’s newfound confidence wavers.

But does Toff really like her or is this just another lesson?.

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My Review
Another home run by one of my all-time favorite young adult authors, Lisa Brown Roberts. In fact, THE BOOKWORM CRUSH is her best to date. This spinoff of THE REPLACEMENT CRUSH features Dallas’s best friend Toff, aka Flipper, and Viv’s best friend, Amy. Amy is on a mission to win a social media contest and meet her idol, romance author Lucinda Amorrato. Amy totally bombs it, literally and figuratively, on her first challenge, and it’s Toff to the rescue. He helps her escape from the police after her yarn-bombing of a park bench goes wrong. While the two have known each other forever, Toff only sees Amy as Viv’s nerdy book friend, but Amy has crushed on Toff for years. She’s shy and socially awkward, but she’s not a pushover. She reminds me so much of my own teen daughter I instantly loved her. But if she wants to win this contest, she’s going to need some swagger, and no one brings the swagger like Toff. She enlists him to coach her, knowing how dangerous this can be to her heart. Toff has his own demons, though. His father is getting married again. To Viv’s mother. And a much a he loves seeing his father happy again, he isn’t happy about the wedding. He just isn’t sure why.

The more time Toff and Amy spend together, the more Amy realizes her silly crush might just be something more, and the more Toff wonders how he never really noticed Amy before now. She has a fire and a spirit he admires. And when she starts to bring that swagger he so carefully coached, well, he feels things he never felt before. Things that are as exciting as they are confusing.

Plot
The main plot is definitely the romance between Toff and Amy, but the contest is a strong subplot as is Toff’s future on the pro-surfing circuit and his coming to terms with his dad’s upcoming wedding. Told in dual POVs, we get deep inside both character’s. Every subplot supports the main plot, building tension, conflict, and complexity, making this more than just a lighthearted romance, though it is definitely that. But the subtle weaving of the subplots into the main plot makes this a story with depth. Each plot and subplot has enough contention and setbacks to keep the story moving and riveting.

The Characters
The characters are amazing. These may be my all time favorite young adult characters. Toff is adorable a clueless surfer, albeit a bit of a player, but he never leads girls on. Which is why Amy’s reaction stuns him more often than not. And Amy is everything. Not only is she sweet and shy, but also passionate and driven. When she finds her swagger, she also finds strength and determination, never willing to just settle for whatever her longtime crush is willing to offer her. He love of books and devotion to her favorite author is endearing, but watching her come out of her shell made her someone to root for.

Top Five Things I Loved About THE BOOKWORM CRUSH
1. Amy. She’s funny, passionate, strong, brave, and smart — everything I want in my teen heroines.

2. Toff. He’s cute, funny, easy going, and a little clueless, but adorably sweet. And when he makes the big romantic gesture, he goes big instead of going home.

3. Surfing. I’m no surfer, by any stretch of the word, though I’ve tried it more than a few times. But my former roommate was a surfer and the whole surf culture is like a time warp for me. The lingo, the life, all of it brings back some of my favorite memories from that time in my life.

4. Books. As both a reader and a writer, books are life. The book-centric nature of this story wrapped around my heart and hugged it.

5. Growth. I loved watching both Toff and Amy grow through the story. Amy became the fierce competitor she always was, and Toff learned to accept that life and love evolve.

Bottom Line
My favorite LBR novel and the best YA contemporary I’ve read in 2019.

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

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About the Book
Title: THE BOOKWORM CRUSH
Author: Lisa Brown Roberts
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Comedy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonAmazon UKAmazon CAAmazon AUBarnes & NobleiTunesKoboBookDepository

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Author Lisa Brown Roberts

Author Lisa Brown Roberts

About the Author
Lisa Brown Roberts’ award-winning YA romantic comedies have earned praise from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.

Lisa’s teenaged self tweezed off all her eyebrows, crashed a car into a tree while trying to impress a guy, and accidentally went to prom with someone else’s boyfriend. When she couldn’t fix any of this in real life, she made up imaginary happy endings in her diary.

Not much has changed.

Lisa lives in Colorado with her family and many, many books.

 

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Where to find Lisa Brown Roberts
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter | Instagram

 

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

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

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

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

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

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

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

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

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The world has changed.

Scientists warned it would happen.

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Mary Ting

Author Mary Ting

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

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

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

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

 

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

HELIX Blog Tour

HELIX (ISAN #2) by Mary Ting

HELIX (ISAN #2) by Mary Ting

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Mary Ting

Author Mary Ting

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

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

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

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

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Dinner, drinks, and death.

A honeymoon cruise they won’t forget.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author April Anderton

Author April Anderton

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

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

 

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

THE FIXER UPPER Blog Tour

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

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

3 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line
A decent romance with a stellar supporting cast.

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

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

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Maggie Mae Gallagher

Maggie Mae Gallagher

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

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

 

 

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

 

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

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

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author April Anderton

Author April Anderton

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

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

 

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

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

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

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author April Anderton

Author April Anderton

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

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

 

Young Adult Book Review – MIRACLE GIRL by Jennifer DiGiovanni

MIRACLE GIRL by Jennifer DiGiovanni

MIRACLE GIRL by Jennifer DiGiovanni

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

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

 

 

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

 

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

T-MINUS Blog Tour

T-MINUS by Shannon Greenland

T-MINUS by Shannon Greenland

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Shannon Greenland

Author Shannon Greenland

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

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

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

THE LAST WORD Blog Tour

THE LAST WORD by Samantha Hastings

THE LAST WORD by Samantha Hastings

5 out of 5 stars

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

Where one story ends, another begins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Samantha Hastings

Author Samantha Hastings

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

 

 

 

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Where to find Samantha Hastings
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter 

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

DON'T DATE ROSA SANTOS by Nina Moreno

DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS by Nina Moreno

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Nina Moreno

Author Nina Moreno

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

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