Blog Tour – Review – My Friends Are All Strange by M.C. Lesh

My Friends Are All Strange Blog Tour

My Friends Are All Strange by M.C. Lesh

My Friends Are All Strange by M.C. Lesh

4 Stars

Synopsis
My friends are all strange.

Right now I’m living at Brookside, a place for people like me. I’ve met a kitty girl, a brooding beautiful boy, one who can’t be touched, and others. My new friends. Strange people. People like me.

I’ve always been different, but lately, more so. My hands sometimes don’t seem to be attached to the rest of me. I cut up all of my clothes. I’m hot, so hot, all of the time. If I sleep, a wizard haunts every dream. I don’t sleep. Sometimes I want to run, but where do you run to when you’re trying to escape your own mind? I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same. I’m smart. I’m nice, sometimes. I just want to be normal(ish). But, right now, my friends are all strange… Like me.

Dark, funny, snarky, seventeen-year-old Becca struggles to cope with mental illness in My Friends Are All Strange, the gripping contemporary young adult companion novel to Normalish.

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My Review
This book is quite different from most young adult novels I’ve read recently. While there is a bit of a romance that plays out, it’s not the primary plot nor even a major subplot. Instead, My Friends Are All Strange is about a teen girl dealing with mental illness. When seventeen-year-old Becca has a mental break in the school cafeteria, she’s whisked off to Brookside, a juvenile mental health facility. As she struggles to deal with her own sanity, she meets other kids like her, dealing with their own personal hells. At first, Becca resists interacting with the other residents, but before long, she’s drawn into their worlds, making friends, and realizing that mental illness isn’t a one-size-fits-all disease. She’s forced to not only face her own demons, but realize that she can’t fix anyone except herself.

Plot
The plot centers around Becca’s struggle with her sanity. M.C. Lesh did an outstanding job of showing us the inner workings of mental illness. We feel Becca’s fear, anxiety, frustration, and even her tenuous grasp on reality at times. The subject matter is handled with both gentle, loving care and a huge dose of reality. Nothing is glossed over or treated in a light-hearted manner.

Characters
Becca is exceptionally well developed as is her Brookside friend, Kat. Roman, Becca’s boyfriend, is well rounded, too, but the rest of the cast is a bit sketchy. I never got a complete sense of Bobby or any members of Becca’s family.

World Building
This is where the book really shines. The author has created the world of Brookside with nurturing staff and realistic inhabitants that deal with their issues in believable ways.

Ending
The ending is a satisfying conclusion, but fell a little flat. This isn’t a book that’s going to stick with me for months or even weeks after I finish it.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Lack of a traditional climax. There’s a big build-up to something between Bobby and Becca’s sister that doesn’t materialize in the manner promised, and there’s no real rising conflict or dark moment.

Top Things I Enjoyed About  My Friends Are All Strange
1. Roman. One of the best book boyfriends ever. I love how his devotion to Becca never wavered. He’s always there for her.

2. Dante. Becca’s dreadlocked therapist is the perfect foil, forcing her to view her demons in a different light.

3. Mental illness. The author handles this touchy subject with heart and just the right amount of humor.

Bottom Line
A wonderful story of teenage mental illness and one girl’s struggles with her own mind.

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

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About the Book
Title:
 My Friends Are All Strange
Author: M.C. Lesh
Publisher:  StoryRhyme.com Publishing
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Pages: 230
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author M.C. Lesh

Author M.C. Lesh

About the Author
California native Margaret Lesh lives in a narrow canyon populated by herds of wild burro and packs of coyote. The canyon is also populated with her creative, handsome husband, her feisty mother-in-law, her not-brave-at-all Border Collie, Echo, and sometimes her son (who is away at college. And she is not quite sure how that all happened so fast).

She writes books to entertain young and not-so-young readers as well as herself. She believes tacos are magic.

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Where to Find M.C. Lesh
Goodreads | Website Facebook | Twitter
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – Fates Entwined (Halven Rising) by Jules Barnard

Fates Entwined (Halven Rising #3) by Jules Barnard

Fates Entwined (Halven Rising #3) by Jules Barnard

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
They can never be together. The notion is laughable. Humans are inferior, a scourge on the Fae and on the magic passed down to them by angels millennia ago. And if Keen finds himself drawn to the tiny human female, he keeps it to himself. He won’t add to the half-breed problem that threatens his people’s existence.

Reese can’t stand Keen. He criticizes her clothing, won’t answer a straight question, and is too handsome for her peace of mind.

Her entire life, people have pegged Reese for a shallow, ditzy blond. She won’t accept the stereotype from the large, arrogant Fae too. But after Keen saves her life, she begins to question what truly lies beneath his stoic demeanor.

Forced together, Keen and Reese fight to survive among enemies, and Keen makes choices Reese couldn’t have predicted. She glimpses a side of him that is protective and dangerously seductive.

But Keen refuses to acknowledge their connection.

Until he’s faced with the decision to betray his people, or lose Reese forever.

*This mature YA series is intended for readers 17 years and older.

**Each Halven Rising novel features a different couple and may be read as a standalone, but an overreaching story arc connects the series, so it’s fun to read them in order.**

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My Review
Fates Entwined picks up where Fates Divided left off, only this time we get Elena’s roommate, Reese’s, point of view along with Keen’s, Elena’s fae body guard. There is more angst this time around, which is my not so secret passion. The whole forbidden love thing is a favorite of mine and it works really well here. When Reese is kidnapped at a frat party and taken into the fae realm, Keen lives up to his promise to Elena to find her and bring her back. The problem is, the evil fae queen is using her as a bargaining chip. With the war of the fae worlds about to erupt, there’s more action this time around, and Reese is a little spitfire caught in the midst of it all.

Plot
The main plot is really the battle between the old and new world faes with the romance as a strong subplot rather than the main plot. However the romance drives Keen’s and Reese’s actions for much of the story. The pacing is well-done, and I never got bored. I loved the way the author teased us throughout with the whole “will they or won’t they” trope.

Characters
We get both Reese’s and Keen’s points of view, but Reese is the narrator for well more than half. She’s spunky, smart, and brave, but she also experiences growth throughout the story. It was fun watching her evolve from the opening pages through the nail-biting ending. Keen has his own character arc and his is more full than Reese’s as he’s forced to acknowledge his Halven bigotry in order to get what he wants — Reese.

World Building
Once again, Jules Barnard delivers an imaginative world in vivid detail. Everything from the landscape and castle to the clothing is richly detailed. The rules of the fae world are as intricate as many of Reese’s formal gowns.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About  Fates Entwined
1. Reese. She’s so awesome. I love her attitude, her strength and courage. Really everything about her! She was my favorite character in Fates Divided, so I was thrilled to read her point of view.

2. Keen. Still love him just as much as I did in the first book, and maybe more now that I’ve been inside his head.

3. Fae politics. Come on, what’s not to love about that?

4. The action. I loved all the battles in this installment.

5. The angst. The best kind of romance.

Bottom Line
My favorite book in the series so far. I can’t wait to read the next one!

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

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About the Book
Title:
 Fates Entwined
Series: Halvan Rising #3
Author: Jules Barnard
Release Date: November 14, 2016
Pages: 270
Genre: New Adult Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UKBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

Author Jules Barnard

Author Jules Barnard

About the Author

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

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

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

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Young Adult Book Review – Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits (Purshing the Limits #1) by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1) by Katie McGarry

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
“I won’t tell anyone, Echo. I promise.” Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. “You didn’t do that-did you? It was done to you?” No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other…and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

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My Review
Pushing the Limits is intense. It covers dark elements, including mental illness, loss of family, the foster care system, and the high school microcosm. Echo is scarred with no memories of how she got that way. Her mother is bi-polar and is no longer allowed to see Echo. Echo’s beloved older brother died serving the country and her one goal (besides getting her memory back) is to get his classic muscle car running again. Living with her father and pregnant step-mother, Echo’s former babysitter, piles insult on to injury. Noah’s no better off. After losing both his parents in a car accident, he and his two younger brothers were put into the foster care system. After one particularly bad home, they were separated and Noah has only supervised visitation with his brothers. All he wants is to get his brothers back. There’s no way these two messed up kids should be together, and yet that’s exactly what happens with more angst and drama than any young adult book I’ve read in quite a while.

Plot
There are really three plots, though the romance is the main plot, with the other two as strong subplots.The main plot is the romance between Noah and Echo. There’s a lot standing between these two finding happiness together, not the least of which is Noah’s brothers (subplot #1) and Echo’s memories (subplot #2). All three are expertly woven together.

Characters
We get dual first-person point of view, and Echo and Noah are both well developed and well differentiated. Each has true growth that is in line with the characters the author has created. They’re both likeable and sympathetic, while still being far from perfect.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The pacing.
 The pacing was off in a few places, particularly the ending. I felt like once we had the climax, it took too many chapters to wrap up the loose ends. And there were places throughout the book where things slowed down too much for me. I found myself setting the book down and walking away from it, sometimes for days.

What I Enjoyed About Pushing the Limits
1. Echo.
 Everything from her name to her artistic nature makes her a heroine I can root for.
2. Noah. He’s everything a book boyfriend should be, from the way he cares about Echo to the way he’d sacrifice everything for his younger brothers.
3. The angst. Yeah, it’s my favorite kind of romance.
4. The ending. I love the way the story wrapped up. It’s not a perfect happily ever after, but it’s real and satisfying in all the best ways.
5. Family. Echo’s and Noah’s family situations couldn’t be more different and yet both were beautifully complex in their own ways, showing us that family comes in all shapes and sizes.

Bottom Line
Pushing the Limits is a dark young adult romance with complex characters you can’t help rooting for.

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About the Book
Title: Pushing the Limits
Series: Pushing the Limits #1
Author: Katie McGarry
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Pages: 406
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating:
 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | !ndigo | Book Depository | Powell’s

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Author Katie McGarry

Author Katie McGarry

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

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

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Where to Find Katie McGarry
Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Tumblr | Instagram
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Forget Me Always (The Lovely Vicious) by Sara Wolf

Forget Me Always Blog Tour

Forget Me Always (The Lovely Vicious #2) by Sara Wolf

Forget Me Always (The Lovely Vicious #2) by Sara Wolf

4.0 Stars

Synopsis
It’s been three years, twenty-five weeks, and five days since Isis Blake fell in love, and if she has it her way, it’ll stretch into infinity. Since then, she’s punched Jack Hunter—

her nemesis-turned-maybe-something-more—in the face, survived a brutal attack by her mom’s abusive ex thanks to Jack’s heroics, and then promptly forgotten all about him.

The one bright spot for Isis is Sophia, the ephemeral girl who shares Isis’s hospital stay as well as a murky past with Jack. But as Isis’s memories return, she finds it harder and

harder to resist what she felt for Jack, and Jack finds it impossible to stay away from the only girl who’s ever melted the ice around his heart.

As the dark secrets surrounding Sophia emerge, Isis realizes Jack isn’t who she thought he was. He’s dangerous. But when Isis starts receiving terrifying emails from an

anonymous source, that danger might be the only thing protecting her from something far more threatening.

Her past.

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My Review
It was fun to be back with Isis and Jack and the gang. I do love Isis, and even though she’s got some memory issues, she’s as snarky, irreverent, and insecure as ever. I wasn’t sure about this whole amnesia thing at first. It felt too contrived, but as the first third of the story unfolded, the author made a convincing case not only for the brand of amnesia itself, but also why it happened. Isis has a lot of issues and it definitely fits with her character. Once I fully embraced that, I was deep into the story that picks up where Love Me Never leaves off. As Isis struggles to come to terms with her memory loss, she befriends Sophia in the hospital. Jack’s Sophia. That’s so ripe with potential conflict, I knew it would set some great events in motion.

There is a bit of a mystery this time around, too, or maybe elements of a thriller. I don’t want to give anything away, but I was on the edge of my seat more than a few times. A lot of unanswered questions from the first book are resolved, but more are introduced and we’re left with another cliffhanger ending.

Plot
The plot is fantastic. Isis struggles with regaining her memories, Jack is bereft that Isis doesn’t remember him. There’s the trial of Leo, the discovery of more information about what happened that night in middle school, and a side of Jack we never knew. There’s a lot going on, but it never feels overwhelming.

Characters
Isis is incredibly complex and I love her. I love the way she thinks out loud, the way she over-analyzes everything, the way she puts up walls to protect herself. She has some growth in this book, but not as much as she could have. But part of that is because of the amnesia, so much of the struggle is getting back to who she was, not leaving enough time for her to really grow more. So hopefully we’ll see more in the next installment. Jack, on the other hand, is dissected this time around. We see so much more of what makes him tick and he has some great character development.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The principal. Still not sure about this guy. He doesn’t come across as completely believable. But he’s more of a minor character this time,so I’m giving him a pass.
2. The cliffhanger. Not a huge fan. Yes, I want to read the next book, but I would have read it anyway.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Love me Never
1. Isis. I just love everything about her and she is so much more…Isis…this time.
2. Jack. Being inside his head gave me a new appreciation for him. Sure, he’s still a complete jerk, but understanding why goes a long way toward me embracing him.
3. Mystery. I love all the missing pieces falling into place like a beautiful, messed up in a total head-case kinda way, puzzle.
4. Wren. This boy is everything and a bag of chips.
5. Angst. Always, always, always. And when done well, makes me one happy reader.

Bottom Line
Forget me Always is a thrilling teen romance with an edge.

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: Forget Me Always
Series: The Lovely Vicious #2
Author: Sara Wolf
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 250
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Entangled

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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

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Forever Blue by Abby Wilder

Forever Blue Blog Tour

Forever Blue by Abby Wilder

Forever Blue by Abby Wilder

4.0 Stars

Synopsis
I never thought it would end like this.
I never thought it would end at all.
But not all stories get a happy ending.

When Lennon Donnelly moves back to the quiet town of Puruwai, she never dreams that a chance meeting with a boy sitting at the cemetery will change her life. Her best friend warns her about Judah Mitchell. There are rumours that he killed his brother. But as Lennon is drawn deeper into the mysterious boy’s life, the events of his past unravel until she finds herself driving over the edge of a cliff and into the depths of the lake below.

Spanning over two years and starting at the end, this compelling novel tells of the intertwining relationships of Lennon, Ruben, Judah, and Cara. Told from the different perspectives of before and after, the story unfolds like a puzzle and reveals secrets that will haunt you long after you turn the final page.

“Devourable” – YA Books Central

“An unforgettable experience” – Readers’ Favorite

This story contains mild use of strong language and references to underage drinking and smoking..

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My Review
A week after finishing Forever Blue I’m still not sure how I feel about it, and that’s the hallmark of good storytelling. I knew going in that there would be no happy endings. I can tell you that without spoiling anything because that’s right there on the very first page. Readers know from the get-go it’s not going to be a happily ever after kind of tale, but I still don’t think I was fully prepared for the way it ended. Forever Blue is the story of Lennon, new to town after her parents split. She hangs out with her cousin who is completely opposite of Lennon. Lennon is wallflower material, her cousin is the life of the party, the girl everyone wants to be around. No one really notices Lennon or pays much attention to her until Judah. Somehow this tortured boy with a tragic past really sees her. The two begin a strange romance that only gets stranger as the past and the present collide.

Forever Blue GIF 1

Plot
The plot centers around the romance between Lennon and Judah and the mystery of what happened the year before. Judah knows what happened, but no one believes him, except Lennon. But as she learns more of the truth, she’s shocked in a way she never dreamed possible and everything she thought she knew is turned upside down.

Forever Blue GIF 2

The author slowly reveals the backstory through multiple points of view, finally giving us what we want to know in the closing chapters. The pacing is a little slow at first, but it picks up in the middle and kept me guessing until the very end.

Characters
The characters are interesting, but one thing they lacked was a lot of differentiation. They were all dark, angry, tortured. It makes sense, they all lost someone, but with so many varying first-person POVs, it would have been nice to really delve deeper into each character and find those pieces that set them apart from the others. They all sounded a little too much alike.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The ending.
 I’m still not sure what to make of it. Not everything was resolved and I’m left with just as many new questions as I am answers.

2. Multiple points of view. I understand why the author took this route and the concept works, but as I mentioned above, I would have liked more differentiation of the characters.

What I Enjoyed About Forever Blue
1. The ending.
 Yeah, I know, I loved it and I hated it. What can I say? It’s an enigma which leaves me conflicted.the-row-gif-3

2. Lennon. She’s loyal and generous, two outstanding qualities in a protagonist.

3. The plot. I loved the unusual twists on both the mystery and the romance plot lines.

4. Twins. As the mother of identical twin teenage boys, I found this part of the story particularly intriguing. Especially since the brothers in the story were so different and mine are so alike.

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5. Symbolism. The author uses symbolism throughout in sometimes unique ways that really tied the story together with the themes so well.

Bottom Line
Forever Blue is a dark young adult romance with a paranormal twist, wrapped in a mystery.

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

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About the Book
Title: Forever Blue
Author: Abby Wilder
Release Date: June 17, 2016
Pages: 372
Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Paranormal Romance
Rating:
 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Abby Wilder

About the Author
Abby Wilder is an author from the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand. She loves stories in all forms; film, photography, music, but it’s the simplicity of written words that she loves the most . . . well, written words and binge watching television series.

Since a love of reading has remained constant in her life, she couldn’t imagine anything better than being a writer so she set out to achieve just that. Abby has one husband, two children, three cats and a dog called Joss.

Girl Behind Glass is her debut novel. Boy in Uniform is a short companion story and Girl Beneath Stars is the final in the Behind Glass Series to follow Willow Stanton..

Where to find Abby Wilder
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – Chasing Truth (Eleanor Ames) by Julie Cross

Chasing Truth Blog Tour

Chasing Truth (Eleanor Ames #1) by Julie Cross

Chasing Truth (Eleanor Ames #1) by Julie Cross

5 Stars

Synopsis
At Holden Prep, the rich and powerful rule the school—and they’ll do just about anything to keep their dirty little secrets hidden.

When former con artist Eleanor Ames’s homecoming date commits suicide, she’s positive there’s something more going on. The more questions she asks, though, the more she crosses paths with Miles Beckett. He’s sexy, mysterious, arrogant…and he’s asking all the same questions.

Eleanor might not trust him—she doesn’t even like him—but they can’t keep their hands off of each other. Fighting the infuriating attraction is almost as hard as ignoring the fact that Miles isn’t telling her the truth…and that there’s a good chance he thinks she’s the killer.

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My Review
Ellie is a girl with a checkered past. Raised by her con-artist parents, she now lives with her older sister and her sister’s boyfriend who just happens to be a member of the Secret Service. When the sister’s boyfriend pulls some strings, getting Ellie into an exclusive prep school, she only manages to make one good friend who kills himself shortly after dropping Ellie off at home. Devastated, Ellie believes there’s more to the story than a simple suicide. Her friend, Simon, the son of the California Senator, wasn’t depressed.

When hot newbie, Miles, moves in across from Ellie, she fights a physical attraction and an emotional hatred of him. Miles is full of his own secrets and the two torment each other both consciously and subconsciously. Chasing Truth is pure Julie Cross — lots of angst, beautiful character development, and this time around a fun mystery.

Plot
The story centers on Ellie’s pursuit of the truth — what really happened to Simon. With her background, she’s able to follow the clues with relative ease, using her ability to con people to gain information. The only thing really complicating her efforts is Miles. I had Miles pegged from early on, even though the author managed to make me second-guess my conclusion more than a few times. Even so, the back and forth between Ellie and Miles is great — lots of that unresolved sexual tension Julie Cross is famous for.

The Characters
Ellie is fascinating. She had the potential to become annoying, but she never fell into that trap. Her background made her unique, resourceful, loveable. Miles was equally interesting, always one step ahead of Ellie, or so it seems. The rest of the characters are well-rounded and enhance the story. Ellie’s sister, Harper, is great as the nanny to a set of toddler twins of a wealthy couple, and her boyfriend, Aiden, is as sympathetic as he is hot. Some of Ellie’s classmates crossed the line into spoiled rich teen territory, but they all had more depth to them than the stereotype.

Top Five Things I Loved About Chasing Truth
1. The mystery. I love when I spend an entire book trying to figure out what really happened right along with the protagonist.

2. Ellie. She’s feisty, confident, and smart. Three things that make an excellent young adult protagonist.

3. Angst. I loved the romance aspect in this story. She had such control over almost every other aspect of her life, it was fun to watch Ellie squirm.

4. The writing. The pacing is perfect and the writing is tight, making this a fun, fast read.

5. The ending. It wrapped up giving me enough satisfaction while leaving me wanting more of Eleanor Ames and crew!

Bottom Line
Chasing Truth is a fast-paced teen mystery wrapped up in a romance that is hard to put down.

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: Chasing Truth
Series: Eleanor Ames #1
Author: Julie Cross
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | !ndigo | BAM! | Book Depository

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Author Julie Cross

Author Julie Cross

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

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

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

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

Young Adult Book Review – The Row by J.R. Johansson

The Row Blog Tour

The Row by J.R. Johansson

The Row by J.R. Johansson

4.0 Stars

Synopsis
A death sentence. A family torn apart. One girl’s hunt for the truth.

Seventeen-year-old Riley Beckett is no stranger to prison. Her father is a convicted serial killer on death row who has always maintained that he was falsely accused. Riley has never missed a single visit with her father. She wholeheartedly believes that he is innocent.

Then, a month before the execution date, Riley’s world is rocked when, in an attempt to help her move on, her father secretly confesses to her that he actually did carry out the murders. He takes it back almost immediately, but she cannot forget what he’s told her. Determined to uncover the truth for her own sake, she discovers something that will forever change everything she’s believed about the family she loves.

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My Review
This was very different from any other young adult book I’ve read. Ever. Seventeen-year-old Riley’s father has been on death row since she was seven for crimes he claims he didn’t commit. Riley’s close relationship with her father is shown through weekly visits where the two hug and play chess. When the last of her father’s appeals run out, Riley must accept that she’s going to lose her father, something she can’t quite bring herself to accept. At least until her father confesses he’s guilty, telling Riley to move on with her life. Riley is devastated and confused, which gets worse when he immediately recants his confession. With the help of her only friend, adorable dark-haired Jordan, Riley decides she needs the truth, whatever that may be.

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Plot
The main plot centers around Riley’s search for the truth and unfolds like a mystery. A secondary plot is the romance between Riley and Jordan. Riley’s family has many secrets and the more Riley learns, the more she begins to question everything, not just her father’s sudden confession and retraction. At times the pacing was slow, but the author throws in a number of twists to keep things interesting.

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Characters
Riley is intriguing. Having essentially grown up with only her mother and a relationship with her father who is behind bars, her life is anything but normal. The story takes place over summer, so there is little interaction with other kids her age, with the exception of Jordan, whom she meets at a mall an hour away — a place she goes so she won’t be recognized. Being the daughter of a convicted serial killer can’t be easy and I would have loved to explore a little more of this aspect of her life. Riley’s father was an enigma throughout and her mother was complex. Jordan is likeable as the friend and love interest, but he isn’t as deeply developed as he could have been. This is Riley’s story though, and she’s pretty well fleshed out. On the other hand, Mr. Masters, the defense attorney for Riley’s dad, is well developed and a great foil for Riley.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Parts of the plot.
 I don’t want to give anything away, because there are some great twists, but not all of it works. There were a few things that happened that I thought needed more fleshing out for me to fully embrace them.

2. The cover. I don’t think the cover does the story justice.

3. Jordan. He’s interesting right off the bat, but I never really understood why he was so devoted to Riley from the beginning. They don’t spend all that much time together before he’s dropping everything to help her out, pledging his enduring loyalty.

What I Enjoyed About The Row
1. The chess.
 I love how the author weaves in the game of chess throughout, drawing parallels between the game and the plot.

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2. Riley. She’s sympathetic, smart, determined, and tough. She’s not perfect by any means. There are many times she makes huge mistakes, but it’s easy to forgive her because so much of how she reacts is based on her unorthodox upbringing.

3. The plot. I love both the mystery aspect and the young adult romance. Both are well done and tie together nicely.

4. The law. I love legal thrillers and this almost reads like one from a teen’s point of view.

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5. Mr. Masters. Riley’s dad’s law partner, defense attorney, and Riley’s surrogate father figure is fantastic, driving some of the best parts of the story.

Bottom Line
The Row is a dark tale of a girl seeking truth and justice about and for the father she adores.

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

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About the Book
Title: The Row
Author: J.R. Johansson
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Romance
Rating:
 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author J.R. Johansson

Author J.R. Johansson

About the Author
J.R. Johansson’s books have been published in a dozen languages and more than twenty countries worldwide. She has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She credits her abnormal psychology minor with inspiring many of her characters. She lives inUtah with two sons, a wonderful husband, three cats, and a hot tub named Valentino.

She is represented by the stellar Kathleen Rushall of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

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Where to find J.R. Johansson
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Young Adult Book Review – Moonchild by Kate L. Mary

Moonchild by Kate L. Mary

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
In a world fueled by greed and corruption, where airships rule the skies and coal mines have been turned into prisons, Scarlett Moon has one goal: Survive. Being tough and looking out for herself is the only way to stay alive, but when her best friend, Rory, is arrested and returned to the mines, all of Scarlett’s carefully built walls threaten to crumble.

After being rescued by an airship full of pirates, led by the sexy and irresistible Asher Kimura, Scarlett finds herself surrounded by cons and fugitives, and thrust into the middle of a coal-smuggling business. When they take her to Columbus, the one place she never wanted to set foot in again, she wants nothing more than to get away. And her discomfort only grows as she becomes increasingly drawn to Asher.

But everything changes when she discovers there may be a way to rescue Rory. Enlisting the pirates’ help, Scarlett sets out on a mission to save her friend, praying that her overwhelming attraction to Asher doesn’t mean the end to her freedom—in more ways than one.

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My Review
One of my favorite books of 2016. This is one of those that will stick with me weeks or months after I’m done. It took me about a third of the book to warm up to Scarlett, but once I did, I loved her immensely. I was worried at first that in order to create a strong female character, the author felt she needed to make her heroine more like a male character. Scarlett is always wanting to hit someone or something. She’s aggressive, uses sex as a diversion, and has a hard time expressing any emotion other than anger. But as we learn more about her backstory, her personality begins to make sense. I still think strong female characters don’t need to be written as guys with skirts, but in this case it works.

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When Scarlett’s best friend, Rory, is taken to the mines, Scarlett gives up any hope of ever seeing her again. She and her friends barely escape capture themselves, only being rescued at the last moment by a group of ragtag pirates, including extremely hot Asher. When Asher explains  what happens to pretty, innocent girls in the mines — they’re auctioned off as sex slaves to the highest bidder — Scarlett enlists the help of her friends to rescue Rory. This is the main plot and it unfolds at a rapid pace as they seek information on Rory’s whereabouts and come up with a rescue plan. Underlying it all is a simmering sexual tension between Scarlett and Asher. The back and forth is worthy of an eye roll or two, but the rest of the story more than makes up for it.

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Plot
The plot is fantastic. Set on rescuing her best friend, Scarlett embarks on a dangerous mission, risking everything for the only person she considers family. The pacing is perfect, unfolding at a clipped rate,without overpowering us with action. There’s enough romance to keep the story from being just an action/adventure and more than adequate character development to make this a well-balanced novel.

Characters
Scarlett is fascinating. As I mentioned above, it took me awhile to warm up to her, but once I did, I was committed. She’s deeply wounded and yet realizes others have had it far worse than she has. That self-awareness is what keeps her from becoming too jaded or wallowing in a pit of self pity that would doom her character in my mind. Asher is the hot, witty pirate with the disarming smile and a past of his own that shapes everything he does. The rest of the characters have their own stories in this dystopian world that Kate L. Mary has created.

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World Building
This is where the story really shines in my eyes. The attention to detail in the author’s vision of a future where technology is taboo and coal-fired steam power is where it’s at. This steampunk world is dark, yet vividly rich, full of airships and pirates and victorian-era costumes that come alive as much as any of the characters that inhabit it.

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What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The editing.
The book could have benefitted from tighter editing. There were more than a few missing/extra words than were easily overlooked. There was also some repetition that was distracting that should have been picked up by a good editor.

2. The cover. There’s nothing really wrong with it except there is nothing really right about it. This is a totally kick-ass steampunk dystopian sci-fi adventure and the cover, along with the title, made me think it was going to be a paranormal romance. I wouldn’t have bothered picking up this book if I’d only seen the cover. Luckily I read the blurb first!

3. The ending. This is the only reason I’m giving the book 4.5 stars instead of 5. I can overlook a crappy cover, because that can be fixed. So can lackluster editing, but the ending is the last thing I have, the thing that sticks with me long after I turn off my Kindle. It feels unfinished, as if this is the first in a series, but there’s no indication it’s only book 1 of anything. I do hope the author decides to write more about these characters and this world. She’s done an incredible job creating everything and there is so much potential for more of Scarlett’s story.

What I Enjoyed About Moonchild
1. The setting.
The author has created this fabulous, futuristic, steampunk world that is vivid and imaginative. Her attention to detail is phenomenal, and yet the world building is subtly worked into the plot.

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2. Scarlett. She’s tough as nails with a heart of gold. Although it took a little bit for me to warm to her, she is everything I want my young adult heroine to be.

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3. The plot. It’s near perfect in it’s development and execution. Only information necessary to move the story forward is provided and is done so in the proper sequence.

4. Asher. The complex pirate with the winning smile won me over at first sight. I’m a sucker for pirates with a heart, think Hook from Once Upon a Time. Asher is all that and a bag of chips!

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5. Loyalty. This is the enduring theme of the story, whether it’s Scarlett’s loyalty to Rory, Dex’s loyalty to Scarlett and Rory, or Asher’s loyalty to everyone he cares about, this works so well in an otherwise dark tale.

Bottom Line
Moonchild is a wonderfully plotted action adventure with deeply developed characters. I will definitely be reading more by this author!

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

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About the Book
Title: Moonchild
Author: Kate L. Mary
Release Date: June 21, 2016
Pages: 295
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/SciFi/Steampunk Romance
Rating:
 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Kate L. Mary

Author Kate L. Mary

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

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Where to find Kate L. Mary
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Young Adult Book Review – Daring the Bad Boy by Monica Murphy

Daring the Bad Boy Blog Tour

Daring the Bad Boy by Monica Murphy

Daring the Bad Boy by Monica Murphy

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
Truth or Dare was never this much fun…

Annie McFarland is sick of being a shy nobody. A session at summer camp seems like the perfect opportunity to reinvent herself—gain some confidence, kiss a boy, be whoever she wants to be. A few days in, she’s already set her sights on über-hottie Kyle. Too bad her fear of water keeps her away from the lake, where Kyle is always hanging out. 

Jacob Fazio is at Camp Pine Ridge after one too many screw-ups. Junior counseling seems like punishment enough, but the rigid no-fraternizing-with-campers rules harsh his chill. When a night of Truth or Dare gets him roped into teaching Annie how to swim, she begs him to also teach her how to snag Kyle. 

Late-night swim sessions turn into late-night kissing sessions…but there’s more on the line than just their hearts. If they get caught, Jake’s headed straight to juvie, but Annie’s more than ready to dare him to reveal the truth.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains references to drinking, sexual situations, adult language, and an intense bad boy hero who will melt your heart..

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My Review
This book was absolutely adorable! Annie goes to summer camp in hopes of reinventing herself. Jake agrees to work at his uncle’s summer camp in hopes of staying out of juvie. When this good girl and bad boy meet, sparks fly, and their romance is beyond cute. Annie is a shy, awkward teen who wants to be something else before starting her junior year of high school. She talks her parents in allowing her to go to summer camp for a chance to experience something new and come back as someone different. Jake has been in and out of trouble since his mother died and his father sends him to his uncle’s camp to help straighten him out, making a deal with the judge. Jake is given one rule he cannot break — do not get involved with any of the campers. So of course this forbidden love is meant to blossom.

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Plot
The story is a sweet romance between an awkwardly shy girl trying to break free and a bad boy looking for redemption, and yet it transcends this cliche. Most likely due to the depth of the characters created by author, Monica Murphy. As with everything she writes, her characters are intriguing with realistic backstories that shape who they are in believable ways. Neither are overly damaged, just teens with a history, struggling to find the coping skills they need.

Annie and Jake dance around an obvious attraction, although Annie initially has eyes only for the hottest guy in camp, Kyle, a guy who’s already made the rounds with all the other camp regulars and sees Annie as fresh meat. After a game of Truth or Dare gone bad, Annie lands in the lake and Jake jumps in to save her as we discover Annie can’t swim. She blackmails Jake into teaching her and they end up spending half-naked time together, alone.

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Their first kiss is sweet and romantic, all the things a first kiss should be, but confuses Annie who still believes she’s interested in Kyle. Or maybe not. It’s a time of self-reflection for Annie and frustration for Jake.

Characters
Told from dual first-person points of view, we get inside the heads of both Annie and Jake and learn a lot about them.  Annie has a secret from her past that haunts her, and rather than make her timid, it merely makes her cautious, so she’s not your typical shy wallflower. Jake is more stereotypical as the bad boy with the tortured soul, but he’s still got more to him than a lot of characters I’ve read in this trope. I liked them both immediately and rooted for them all the way.

What I Enjoyed About Daring the Bad Boy
1. Summer Camp.
 This was a fun blast from the past. Maybe not the most original setting, but it worked here and I loved it.

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2. Swimming. While I didn’t have the same emotional reasons as Annie, I connected with her fear of swimming. I came close to sucking in a lungful of pool water when I was a kid and after that, I avoided water deeper enough to cover my head. Her feelings rang true to me and I love that she dares Jake to teach her to swim. Their moments at the pool provide some of the steamier moments.

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3. The friendships. Annie makes good friends at camp and while there was the opportunity for a full-blown mean girl evolution, the author never went down that route. Althought it would have resulted in some awesome angst, the endearing friendships more than made up for it.

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4. The romance. I loved Annie and Jake’s story. The attraction was obvious from the beginning, but it wasn’t a love at first sight story and that made it all the more authentic.

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5. The ending. Both the end of the story and the epilogue wrapped up this story beautifully, leaving me satisfied.

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Bottom Line
Daring the Bad Boy is a sweet teen romance between a shy girl and a bad boy that defies stereotypes.

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About the Book
Title: Daring the Bad Boy
Author: Monica Murphy
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: August 22, 2016
Pages: 230
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating:
 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Monica Murphy

Author Monica Murphy

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

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

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Where to Find Monica Murphy
Website | Blog | 
Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram
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Young Adult Book Review – Black Ice (Stark Springs Academy) by Ali Dean

Black Ice (Stark Springs Academy #3) by Ali Dean

Black Ice (Stark Springs Academy #3) by Ali Dean

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
When your enemy dies under strange circumstances? Don’t stop looking over your shoulder.

When secrets of a past scandal are plopped into your lap? Solve a mystery.

And when you’re a member of the National ski team? Don’t get distracted.

Roxie’s senior year at Stark Springs Academy is not what she envisioned. She never intended to be privy to Stark’s biggest secrets, but she’s thrown right into the middle of it, whether she wants to carry that burden or not. As Ryker Black’s girlfriend, nothing is simple or straightforward. A ski racer first and foremost, Roxie can’t let the ghosts of Stark Springs Academy distract her from the race course. Will she be able to pull it off?

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My Review
Ali Dean wraps up Roxie’s story, tying up all loose ends in a satisfying conclusion, but it still lacks that angsty romance angle that she is so famous for. With Roxie and Ryker on solid ground, there wasn’t much in the way of romance. No, “will they or won’t they,” so instead we’re given a nice little mystery that only becomes more mysterious as the story unfolds. There’s a lot more skiing this time around, which makes me happy.

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Plot
TRoxie and Ryker are busy trying to solve a mystery surrounding the death of a major character at the end of book 2, and someone is placing Ryker’s mother’s journals in Roxie’s possession for unknown reasons, although she begins to wonder if all of the crazy behavior is somehow linked. In addition, she has some big career choices to make as graduation looms and her skiing is only getting better.. A lot of information introduced in the first two books finally plays out to conclusion. Ali Dean does a great job with plotting her books, dangling information that seems unimportant at first glance, but never is.

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Because Ryker and Roxie’s relationship is pretty well wrapped up in the first two books, this one focuses little on that aspect, but they do finally seal the deal in a romantic scene that is only the beginning to many more that take place off-page.

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Characters
Both Ryker and Roxie experienced serious character growth, as do several secondary characters. The one thing that really bothered me throughout the book was the way Roxie spoke for both Ryker and herself when it came to thoughts and feelings, as if she was inside his head as well as her own.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Lack of angst.
 Yeah, it’s my favorite teen romantic trope, and one of the things I usually love best about Ali Dean’s books, but was completely missing this time around.
2. The Roxie/Ryker dynamic. Throughout the book, Roxie talks about “we” when it comes to feeling confused or wondering something, as if she and Ryker are a single entity. Because she knew what he was thinking all the time, there wouldn’t have been any angst anyway.

What I Enjoyed About Black Ice
1. The skiing.
 So excited for this aspect of the series to be front and center in the final book. Ali Dean delivers scene after scene that are intense and realistic.

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2. The mystery. There are actually several mysterious elements threaded throughout the book and all were well done with a couple of real surprises.

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3. The ending. A thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the series.

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4. Ryker and Roxie. They are super cute and sweet and I’m thrilled to see them get their HEA.

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5. Redemption. A couple of characters we’d come to love to hate have their own transformation, turning them into people I could actually like.

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Bottom Line
Double Ice is a satisfying conclusion of the Stark Springs Academy series, although it lacks some of that famous Ali Dean angst I’ve come to love.

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About the Book
Title: Black Ice
Series: Stark Springs Academy #3
Author: Ali Dean
Release Date: August 31, 2016
Pages: 185
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Sports Romance
Rating:
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Ali Dean

Author Ali Dean

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

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Where to Find Ali Dean
Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Crossing the Barrier by Martine Lewis

Crossing the Barrier Blog Tour

Crossing the Barrier (The Gray Eyes #1) by Martine Lewis

Crossing the Barrier (The Gray Eyes #1) by Martine Lewis

3 Stars

Synopsis
High school student Malakai Thomas, star wide receiver of the varsity team, collides with band member Lily Morgan on his way to football practice. As days go by, Malakai cannot get the petite clarinetist out of his head.

Lily Morgan can feel everyone’s emotions. She loses her ability to shield herself against them the day Malakai runs into her. Now she must try to maintain her sanity in the emotional jungle that is high school, as well as deal with her growing feelings for Malakai.

Can Malakai get over the social stigma and his own internal struggle to be with Lily? Is Lily’s secret too big to accept, even for him?

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My Review
Lily Morgan is an empath. She feels what everyone else feels, but she has the ability to block those feelings. That is until Malakai slams into her in the hallway on his way to football practice. Lily hits her head and loses that ability. In high school, she’s overwhelmed with teenage emotions. Not to mention that Lily’s own mother hates her, which she can no longer shield herself from. Lily’s best friend, Sandra, and her brother, David, are the only two outside her family who know about Lily’s gift and they’re supportive in a way friends should be. Sandra helps her navigate the school hallways as she’s bombarded with everyone’s angst, drama, anger, fear, and every other emotion teens feel in the span of three minutes between classes.

Malakai and Lily have strong feelings for each other from the get go, but forces outside their control threaten to keep them apart. Other than Lily’s inability to block emotions, the paranormal aspect doesn’t really come into play much in the story. Until the very end in a surprise twist I didn’t see coming and absolutely loved!

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Plot
The plot is a young adult romance. Will Lily and Malakai be together? There is a fair amount of angst threaded through this plot as one thing after another forces them to wonder if they are really meant to be. The subplotting of Lily’s relationship with her mother is interesting and a little over the top at first, until more is revealed about their relationship in yet another twist. The pacing was a little slow throughout, but not to the point that it dragged, but for a paranormal, I guess I was expecting more action.

Characters
The third-person point of view made it difficult for me to really connect with either character the way I normally do in young adult. At least at first, but once I got into the story, I almost forgot it wasn’t first person.Lily, despite her ability, is a little naive and a bit of a doormat at times. It made it hard to identify with her. I would have liked to see more backbone in her. She does grow through the story, though, and she’s tougher toward the end. Malakai has his own issues. His mother left him and his father as a child without explanation. Abandonment by your mother is tough on any kid. Add to that a usually absent military father, and Malakai is basically raising himself. I thought Malakai had a lot more depth than Lily and I was glad we got to see Lily through his eyes. I think that made her more sympathetic.

Ending
The ending was my favorite part of the book and left me breathless for the next in the series.

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Top Five Things I Enjoyed about Crossing the Barrier:
1. Transparency. Because Lily could feel everyone’s emotions, nothing was hidden. That was a cool angle for young adult.

2. Sandra and David. Loyal best friends are my favorite young adult trope.

3. Drama. The conflict between Lily and her mom was some of the best in the book and as the reasons became apparent, it only got better.

4. The ending. I won’t spoil anything, but it was one of the best twists I’ve read lately.

5. Football. This is my favorite sport. I thought I was going to be reading a paranormal, so the sports angle was a pleasant surprise.

Bottom Line
Crossing the Barrier is essentially a contemporary young adult romance with a paranormal twist.

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

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About the Book – FREE from Sept. 1 through Sept. 5!!!
Title: Crossing the Barrier
Series: The Gray Eyes #1
Author: Martine Lewis
Publisher: BMJ Chanapi Press
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Pages: 380
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Crossing the Barrier

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Author Martine Lewis

Author Martine Lewis

About the Author
Martine Lewis is a forty something who was born and raised in the French speaking province of Quebec, Canada. She spent her childhood looking forward to her summer vacations at the farm, which were a nice escape from the suburbs where she lived.

Her first written endeavor was a 200-page handwritten Duran Duran bandfiction which she wrote when she was eleven years old. Of all her written work, this is the only one she no longer has.

All throughout high school, Martine wrote more bandfictions and some original work, then she went to write fanfictions in the Star Wars, Buffy and Harry Potter universes. Her fanficiton in the Potterverse are mostly centered on characters of her own creation and can be found on fanfiction.net.

Following her viewing of Roswell on Netflix in 2012, Martine wrote book two and three of the Gray Eyes Series, then went on to create the Gray Eyes Series universe in which she has been playing ever since. She writes contemporary coming-of-age romance fiction (young adult/new adult) with a twist.

Martine is an avid reader and rollerskater. She loves sushi, hot chocolate on a cold day, and the beach. But what she loves above all else is to curl on her chair with her computer and write more stories for her readers.

Martine currently lives in Houston TX with her two cats..

Where to Find Martine Lewis
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon

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Giveaway
Enter the Goodreads Giveaway for a free copy of Crossing the Barrier
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Young Adult Book Review – The Departed by Kristy Cooper

The Departed by Kristy Cooper

The Departed by Kristy Cooper

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
What if someone tried to fake the rapture?

When hundreds of thousands of people disappear in the middle of the night, including sixteen-year-old Gwen’s best friend Lana, no one knows why. Some believe they were taken in the rapture, while others are convinced that it can’t be true. Doomsday prophecies abound that involve horrifying tales of plague, famine, earthquakes, and more.

At first, Gwen doesn’t know what to think. While she is busy mourning Lana, many people around her are getting taken in by the cultish True Believers Temple, including Gwen’s dad and her friend Mindy. It is clear that more and more people are going to be pressured to join this church, as it starts taking over the media and the government, gaining zealous followers all over the world.

Then Gwen starts receiving emails from Lana. She claims to have been forced into hiding with thousands of others in an underground compound. Gwen is convinced the emails are real and the only other person who also believes her is Isaiah, her moody crush. Together they resolve to find out where everyone is hiding and help set Lana free..

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My Review
I love the whole concept behind The Departed. When 300 thousand people disappear overnight without a trace, the world’s Christians believe the Rapture has occurred and they missed the bus. Panic drives people to search for answers, including both religious and scientific. High school sophomore, Gwen, lost her best friend, Lana, in the disappearance. She’s caught between the boy she likes, who’s an atheist, and her other close friend Mindy, who’s trying to convert her to become a True Believer. At home, she’s caught in the middle of a similar battle between her parents.

Plot
The plot is intriguing. The idea of a faked Rapture has so much potential for conflict and author, Kristy Cooper, delivers. The pacing is good and I never found myself skimming. There were a couple of interesting twists to keep the reader hooked.

The Writing
The writing disappointed me. There are paragraphs of exposition that are difficult to get through and far too much telling rather than showing. It’s a good story but could have benefited from the services of a decent editor.

The Characters
I love Gwen. She’s a sweet main character with a healthy dose of skepticism, probably as a result of being raised by a scientist. Isaiah is the potential love interest and self-professed atheist. He comes across as very authentic. And Gwen’s other friend, Mindy, is believable as the teen who turns to religion to find meaning in what’s happened.

The Ending
So the ending didn’t really work for me. It just sort of stopped, nothing really resolved. It’s not exactly a cliffhanger either. In fact, the author includes the first page or two from the next book in the series, and I think it would have been better to end the first book either a few pages earlier, or included the first part of the next book in this story as a cliffhanger ending. I realize that can upset readers, but I think I’d rather be upset than left feeling “meh” after the ending.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Departed
1.The story. It’s a great premise and a good plot.

2. Gwen. I love her perseverance when it comes to finding out the truth.

3. Isaiah. He’s one of the truly good guys in young adult fiction.

4. The cultish religion. The author does a great job of creating a plausible reality with power-hungry crazy religious types as well as logical, honorable believers, who truly believe they’ve been chosen by God for their adventure.

5. The plotting. It was really well done and the main plot points were wrapped up by the end.

Bottom Line
The Departed is a great premise with decent plotting and likeable characters.

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

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About the Book
Title: The Departed
Author: Kristy Cooper
Publisher: Oliver
Release Date: July 6, 2016
Pages: 137
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Kristy Cooper

Author Kristy Cooper

About the Author
Kristy Cooper found herself often contemplating unusual what-if scenarios and knew it was time to start writing them down. She worked as a librarian for years and is now busy raising small children and writing YA novels. Stay up to date with her books at kristycooper.com.
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Where to find Kristy Cooper
Goodreads | Website | Facebook Twitter
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Young Adult Book Review – Valley of the Moon by Bronwyn Archer

Valley of the Moon by Bronwyn Archer

Valley of the Moon by Bronwyn Archer

4 Stars

Synopsis
There’s just one semester left at the Briar School for Girls in Sonoma, CA. But it will take more than straight As for Lana Goodwin to survive . . .

Senior year is not going well for 17-year-old Lana Goodwin. Her father’s vintage car business is about to crash and burn, the nicest (and cutest) teacher at school was fired under a cloud of scandal, and her hot sort-of boyfriend may or may not have something big to hide.

She’s also totally over being the class pauper. It’s bad enough her dad was briefly married to the head of the board—the rich, cruel, impeccably groomed Ramona Crawford. What’s worse is going to school with her vindictive ex-stepsister, who never misses an opportunity to make her life hell. Not ever.

It also happens to be the tenth anniversary of her mother’s suicide. No one knows why Annie Goodwin jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge the day after Christmas. She didn’t leave a note. She wasn’t sick. Even Lana’s father can’t explain it. Ten years later, someone—or something—starts sending her clues about her mother’s past.

Before Lana can escape to college, she finds herself in a life-or-death race to uncover her mother’s long-buried secrets.

Can she claim her birthright before her future and her life are snatched away?

Valley of the Moon is a modern-day fairy tale with some intense themes.

A contemporary YA romantic mystery for ages 16 and up.

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My Review
Valley of the Moon is a young adult page-turning thriller/mystery with a healthy dose of romance and a huge twist I never saw coming. Author Bronwyn Archer creates a stunning tale of a girl caught in the middle of the Russian mafia and a mystery surrounding her mother. There is a thread of the supernatural, but it may not be supernatural at all, that’s part of the mystery. Lana lives with her father, the owner of an exotic car dealership with financial difficulties. She meets and begins dating a hot guy who seems almost too perfect to be true. When her ex-stepmother starts meddling in her life, Lana is sure she’s up to something, but even she couldn’t anticipate how bad that something is.

Plot
The story is well-plotted with lots of suspense. There’s a particularly dark event I never saw coming and couldn’t believe at first, but the more I examined the story in retrospect, the more I realize it’s part of the longer plot, as this is the first book in the series. The author weaves an intricate tale of loss, fear, longing, and revenge with fascinating characters and mind-numbing twists.

The Writing
The writing is fluid and poetic at times. The author does a great job of building tension and interspersing it with lighter moments, allowing the reader to breathe, before building back up again to a breathless conclusion.

The Characters
Lana is one of my favorite young adult heroines. She’s brash, tough, smart, but is still vulnerable enough to make her sympathetic. She’s got a smart mouth and sometimes overuses it, but that’s one of my favorite things about her. The other characters are equally interesting, especially because we never get to really know them except through Lana’s eyes, making them all enigmas that I can’t wait to find out more about in the next book.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. There’s only one thing that rubbed me the wrong way and that’s the ending. It wasn’t a cliffhanger, it just…ended. It was odd and it left me unsettled rather than satisfied or dying to read more. This was the only thing that kept this from being a perfect five stars for me.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Valley of the Moon
1. Lana. She’s an amazing heroine with just enough grit and softness to make her kickass and belivable.

2. Lana’s dad. He’s troubled, but I like him. He puts his daughter’s safety and interests first.

3. The mystery. Trying to figure out what’s going on is half the fun with this gripping tale.

4. The twists. So many things I didn’t see coming kept me turning the page to find out what the heck happened.

5. The cars. Lana has an amazing collection of awesome cars at her disposal. If only the Russian mafia weren’t trying to kill her, she could have really enjoyed them.

Bottom Line
Valley of the Moon is a fast-paced young adult mystery thriller with enough romance and suspense to please nearly any audience.

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

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About the Book
Title: Valley of the Moon
Author: Bronwyn Archer
Publisher: Bronarch Books
Release Date: April 13, 2016
Pages: 285
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Bronwyn Archer

Author Bronwyn Archer

About the Author
Bronwyn Archer is a young-adult author, digital media copywriter, and mother to several children, last time she counted.

At her all-girls high school, Bronwyn discovered a love of writing and the importance of a good fake ID. The only sport she was good at was boogie-boarding, but she decided to hang up her board after a terrifying close encounter with a seven-foot blue shark in the Santa Monica Bay.

She still gets nervous in black-bottomed swimming pools.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in English and Art History, she moved to Paris, where she edited a magazine for expatriates. After failing to become the next Hemingway—despite putting in many hours at the Ritz Hotel’s Hemingway Bar—she moved back to the States, where she developed a semi-successful career in New York and Los Angeles as a copywriter for ad agencies and companies like HBO and Disney.

Now Bronwyn writes fiction and raises children. She’s up to two rescue mutts and four kids, which makes her a semi-freak in this neck of the woods, but she’s learned that once you decide to live your life your way, everything else gets a little easier.

Besides writing and expertly avoiding baskets of laundry that need folding, Bronwyn loves movies from the 80s, comedy, Disneyland (sorry WDW), the paintings of Winslow Homer and Maxfield Parrish, coffee, Paris, Oscar Wilde, hot sauce, the Christmas season, Thai street food, making things with felt, and the smell of freshly printed books.

She is still searching for her own “signature fragrance,” which she’ll know when she finds it. .

Where to Find Bronwyn Archer
Goodreads | Website  | Twitter
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – How to Keep Rolling After the Fall by Karole Cozzo

How to Keep Rolling After the Fall Blog Tour

How to Keep Rolling After the Fall by Karole Cozzo

How to Keep Rolling After the Fall by Karole Cozzo

5 Stars

Synopsis
After a cyber bullying incident turns her life upside down, a handsome wheelchair rugby player shows a former mean girl that everyone deserves a second chance in this swoonworthy new novel from the author of How to Say I Love You Out Loud.

The party was at her house. The photos were posted to her Facebook account. That’s all the evidence anyone needed to condemn Nikki Baylor for a cyberbullying incident that humiliated a classmate and nearly resulted in the girl’s suicide. Now Nikki’s been expelled from her old school, her friends have abandoned her, and even her own parents can’t look her in the eye. With her plans for the future all but destroyed, Nikki resigns herself to being the girl everyone hates – almost as much as she hates herself. But then Nikki meets Pax, a spirited wheelchair rugby player who knows what it’s like when one mistake completely shatters your life. Refusing to judge her because of her past, he shows her that everyone deserves a second chance… and everyone deserves to be loved.

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My Review
This is such a sweet, moving story. Nikki made one bad choice that seriously damaged the life of another girl, and she’s paying the price. It’s hard to feel sorry for her at first. Until you find out she didn’t act alone, but she’s the only one who’s life has been turned upside down. Nikki accepts her punishment but feels it’s unfair that her co-conspirators basically got off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. She spends a short amount of time feeling sorry for herself before she picks herself up and tries to make the best of her situation.

Part of her sentence includes volunteering at a community rehabilitation center where she meets hot, but wheelchair bound Pax. The two strike up an unlikely friendship that turns into something more. But both have big issues to deal with and a romantic relationship will test them both in different ways. These two teens have a lot to offer each other and the world, so when the going gets tough, the tough find a way to do the right thing.

Plot
Once again, author Karole Cozzo brings us a romance wrapped in deeper issues of cyber bullying, teen driving, life changing moments, and discovering who you are underneath it all. Nikki needs to examine her part in what happened and Pax needs to learn how to let someone into what he views as his personal nightmare of being a paraplegic. Neither has an easy path and Cozzo doesn’t gloss over any of it, giving neither character an easy out.

Characters
I love the characters. Nikki goes from difficult to like to someone I root for, even eliciting a few tears from me, and I’m not much of a crier. Pax is stubborn, loyal, and thoughtful, but he’s got his own baggage that he’s forced to overcome, which he does in an authentic way.

Writing
I love Cozzo’s writing. It’s fresh and youthful, and her characters are vivid and real.

Ending
The ending was well done. It’s not an easy path, but a natural culmination of the events and the characters’ journeys, and left me completely satisfied.

Top Five Things I Loved about How to Keep Rolling After the Fall
1. Nikki’s acceptance of her role in everything. She doesn’t try to deflect the guilt onto others, but owns her part in what happened.
2. Pax’s loyalty. His acceptance of Nikki even after she confesses what she’s done is inspiring.
3. Cyberbullying. Shown both through the eyes of the bully and the bullied (separate incidents), the author brings this issue to center stage in a way that make it impossible to ignore.
4. Natural consequences. Both Nikki and Pax must face the natural consequences of their actions. Both of their lives are forever changed in very different ways.
5. The epilogue. Super cute and sweet.

Bottom Line
How to Keep Rolling After the Fall is a story of self-reflection and redemption.

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: How to Keep Rolling After the Fall
Author: Karole Cozzo
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Pages: 272
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Karole Cozzo

Author Karole Cozzo

About the Author
KAROLE COZZO is a school psychologist by day, a wife and mother of two by night, and a writer of YA romance in the wee hours of the morning. She loves camping out at Starbucks, breakfast cereal at all hours, and watching every movie made from her favorite YA books. How to Say I Love You Out Loud is her debut novel.

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Where to find Karole Cozzo
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Rising Tides by Katy Haye

Rising Tides Blog Tour

Rising Tides by Katy Haye

Rising Tides by Katy Haye

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
The truth won’t stay submerged forever

City is the last civilised place left on a drowned Earth, a floating town built from metal and plastic from the Time Before. It’s the only home doctor’s daughter Libby Marchmont has ever known or wanted – until her father helps the wrong patient and she’s forced to flee.

Cosimo came to City for one reason. Then he should have vanished back to his people on the Wastes. But what about his promise to Libby’s father?

Stranded in the middle of the sea, can the two enemies learn to trust each other? And can they survive long enough to uncover the truth: City isn’t the safe haven Libby always believed it to be …

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My Review
Like Waterworld with teens, Rising Tides is a fascinating dystopian tale of life on earth after the rising seas all but obliterate life on earth. A small floating city survives along with an island that grows all of their food. Liberty, daughter of the most respected doctor on all of City, and Cosimo, a reamer and nautilus man, someone with surgically implanted gills, form an unlikely partnership when circumstances force them together.

It takes a little bit to understand the vocabulary of this future world, but once I did, I was as submerged as the houses from the Time Before. After Liberty’s father is killed, she flees with Cosimo, a person of lower class and suspect morals. The two deal with massive trust issues, secrets, and more than a few mysteries. After a storm destroys the boat they’re fleeing in, they wash ashore only to be faced with more distrust and prejudices. But if they’re ever going to find out the truth, they need to trust each other first.

Plot
The plotting is really well done, moving at a consistent pace with lots of action, suspense and drama. It primarily centers around the secrets that City and the others harbor from Liberty. She spends most of the book trying to figure out what’s true and what’s not. But it’s also about seeking a sense of belonging. She never felt as if she fit in at home and now she’s wondering if she can make a life for herself elsewhere, but the more she’s with others, the more she feels like an outcast no matter where she goes.

Characters
Liberty and Cosimo are both well-developed, deep, flawed, and in need of some personal growth, which they both get. Haye does an excellent job of differentiating her characters, and the supporting cast on City, New Eden and elsewhere are more than just background noise and round out the cast of characters nicely.

The Writing
The writing is a little stiff for a first-person teen narrative. The author is Australian, though, and I’ve noticed this is more common in Australian young adult fiction. Still, having taking in two Aussie teens through an exchange program, I know they are just as goofy and full of teen lingo as their American peers, and I would have liked to have seen more of that in the dialogue and interior monologue of the younger characters. What the dialogue lacks, though, the descriptions more than make up for. Katy Haye paints vibrant canvases full details of her bleak future world, drawing me right in.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Rising Tides:
1. World building. Katy Haye’s world building is flawless. It’s easy to understand how her world came to be and the details she feeds us, are always the right thing at the right time.

2. Cosimo. He’s abrasive and arrogant, but loyal and nearly impossible not to love.

3. Libby. She’s abrasive in her own way, and at times grates on my nerves, but I always pulled for her, rooted for her to keep digging and get at the truth.

4. The pacing. It was nearly perfect.

5. Technology. Although technically part of world building, it deserves it’s own shout-out because it was so creative. Everything from the implanted gills of the nautilus men to the technology that allows humans to create and inhabit City were inventive and added to the readability and enjoyability of the story.

Bottom Line
Rising Tides is a fascinating young adult dystopian tale with a dousing of adventure and a splash of romance.

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

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About the Book
Title: Rising Tides
Author: Katy Haye
Publisher: Plumshine Books
Release Date: June 24, 2016
Pages: 264
Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Katy Haye

Author Katy Haye

About the Author
Katy Haye spends as much time as possible in either her own or someone else’s imaginary worlds. She has a fearsome green tea habit, a partiality for dark chocolate brazils and a fascination with the science of storytelling.

When not lost in a good book, Katy may be found on her allotment growing veg and keeping hens in order to maximise her chances of survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse or similar catastrophe (admittedly, this would not help if the entire country flooded…).

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Where to Find Katy Haye
Goodreads | Website  | Facebook Twitter

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Giveaway
Win a book-lover’s survival kit.

Your survival kit is as follows:
1. An Amazon voucher for £10/$15US/$20CAN, AUS, NZ. Load up your Kindle with books to read, while shops remain.
2. A solar charger so when the national grid fails you can still read your books.
3. A mirror. When you are stranded in the open sea you can signal for help by reflecting the sun’s light. Alternatively, if you have no wish to be rescued because you still have reading to do, flip the mirror over to depict the slogan, “Go away I’m reading.”
4. Ribbon bookmark. If all your books have been washed away by the rising seas, this can be rolled up and packed into the neck of a cut-open bottle and will double-up as a water filter. Note: this will not desalinate salt water, sorry.
5. A bag to put the last of your belongings into. DO NOT LEAVE THIS BEHIND.

Check out the ways to win with Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Book Review + Giveaway – Seared on My Soul by Cole Gibsen

Seared on My Soul Blog Tour

Seared on My Soul by Cole Gibsen

Seared on My Soul by Cole Gibsen

4 Stars

Synopsis
She’s so young, so full of life…

I couldn’t let her die…

Even if she made the world’s worst coffee.

Emily Garret never asked to be rescued, let alone by a walking JCrew ad whose idea of fun is probably managing his stock portfolio and watching the nightly news. Then again, she never thought she would wind upside-down in a ditch after a night having a little too much fun.

Reece Montgomery never planned on being anyone’s hero, especially the foul-mouthed, bleach-blonde barista from the local coffee shop. He thinks there’s more to Emily than her tattoos, and lip ring, but getting close means letting her into his past and meeting his ghosts.

And he’s not sure she’s ready for that battlefield.

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My Review
I thoroughly enjoyed Seared on My Soul. This is the story of Emily, the BFF of Ashlyn and sister of Lane, whom we met in Written on My Heart. The things I found lacking in Ashlyn and Lane’s story just weren’t a factor here. I fell in love with Emily in the previous book so there was no need for the author to endear her to me. But Reece was new and he took a little bit for me to warm up to, not much though. Straight-laced Reece clashes with Emily’s free-spiritedness, and should have made these two a match made in hell, but instead opposites attract and sparks fly.

Plot
Emily is a party girl with an attitude. Reece is a teacher with PTSD. Emily is tattoos and bandanas, Reece is elbow patches and button-ups. These two have nothing in common except the coffee shop where Emily works and Reece buys his morning cup of joe. Neither is what the other normally considers date material, but when they fake a date to get Lane off of Emily’s back, they end up with far more than they bargained for. Both have a lot to overcome before they can find their HEA and character development is what Cole Gibsen does best.

Characters
Emily and Reece are both deeply wounded, but by very different events — Reece by war, Emily by the loss of a beloved parent when she was still young. These events have shaped them in ways they’ll need to conquer if they have any hope at happiness, much less a future together. The author excels at this area of her writing, creating complex, well-developed characters who grow and change with the story, and Reece and Emily are no exception.

The Writing
I love Gibsen’s writing and her edgy, compelling voice. She brings a grittiness to both characters that is believable, but also unique to each one of them.

The Ending
The ending was a satisfying conclusion that wrapped things up nicely. I love the way the author set up the ending without needlessly dragging it out.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Seared on My Soul:
1. Emily. I fell in love with her in the first book and love her even more now that I understand her. She’s a well-crafted character with lots of sharp edges, but a surprisingly soft underbelly.

2. Reece. A reluctant hero, he’s everything you want in your male lead.

3. Lane. I still love his devotion to his family.

4. Honesty. Tough issues of substance abuse and PTSD are at play and are neither sugar-coated nor overly-dramatized. They are a part of the story, honestly portrayed, rather than being the story.

5. Baked goods. Who doesn’t love a good bacon bun?

Bottom Line
Seared on my Soul is a dark, edgy romance with lots of heat and heart.

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: Seared on <y Soul
Author: Cole Gibsen
Publisher: Entangled Embrace
Release Date: July 27, 2016
Pages: 230
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CABarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Cole Gibsen

Author Cole Gibsen

About the Author
At seventeen Cole found herself homeless with only a beat-up Volkswagen Jetta and a bag of Goodwill clothing to her name. The only things that got her through the nights she spent parked in truck stops and cornfields were the stacks of books she checked out from the library along with her trusty flashlight. Because of the reprieve these books gave her from her troubles, Cole vowed to become a writer so she could provide the same escape to readers who needed a break the reality of their own lives.

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Where to Find Cole Gibsen
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter.

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Giveaway
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Book Review – The Early To Rise Experience – Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days by Andy Traub

The Early To Rise Experience - Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days by Andy Traub

The Early To Rise Experience – Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days by Andy Traub

2 Stars

Synopsis
love being up early. If you’re willing to take one minute a day to change your life then you can become an early riser. I wrote this book because as a father of three kids under five I needed time to work on myself and my business without neglecting my family. I found that time in the morning and it has changed my life forever.

You need more than a book to build a habit

Inside the book are instructions to sign up for 30 days of emails from me. Each day I’ll email you that day’s passage as well as the audio of the same passage. You need encouragement every day for this challenge and we use multiple ways to help you build your habit.

Daily emails
Facebook group – Search for EarlyToRiseBook
Twitter connection using the hashtag #EarlyToRise
Updated resources at our EarlyToRiseBook website.

You can change your life if you’re willing to change what time you wake up in the morning. This book helps you achieve building that habit.

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My Review
I really hate leaving bad reviews, but this book just didn’t do it for me. That doesn’t mean it’s not the book for you, though. I originally started reading Early to Rise two years ago when I was looking for more time in my day. Getting up at 5:30 a.m. seemed like the perfect solution, and all I needed was the right motivation. Hence, I bought this book. The first portion delves into the various reasons someone wants to rise early. Since I picked up a copy of the book, I already had a good reason and other people’s reasons weren’t really of interest to me so I ended up skimming the beginning.

The next few sections focused on various exercises to help me rise a little earlier each day, such as going to bed 15 minutes earlier the night before and setting my alarm an equal number of minutes earlier for the morning. This progress is then repeated until I was able to get up at my desired hour. This approach was just a little too basic for me. Sure, there’s more to the book than that, but not much I personally found useful.

In the end, it boils down to whether or not getting up earlier in the morning is productive for you. I didn’t find that extra hour productive at all. Mostly I was fuzzy-headed, trying to find two brain cells to rub together. After six months of my new routine, it finally hit me that I’m my most productive in the early afternoon. No matter what time I get up or go to bed, that’s my sweet spot. I’ve adjusted my schedule to make the most of my productive time. This is what I needed, and what I ultimately took from the book, but I think another book would have gotten me to that point a lot faster.

Bottom Line
A lot of people have found this book useful. I’m not one of them, but it might just be exactly what you need.

Title: The Early To Rise Experience: Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days
Author: Andy Traub
Publisher: Take Permission Media Press
Publication Date: January 25, 2013
Pages: 140
Category: Self Help/Productivity
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Andy Traub

Author Andy Traub

About the Author
Andy Traub is a creator. Whether it’s a podcast, book, blog post or speech, his message is the same. You must take permission if you want to live a great life, create great art, and positively impact the world.

In 2010 Seth Godin gave him permission to produce The Unofficial Linchpin Podcast. In that same year he partnered with Cliff Ravenscraft, the world’s most popular podcast consultant, to create a technology show called Business Tech Weekly. He has worked with or been a guest on shows with thought leaders like Michael Hyatt, Todd Henry, Chris LoCurto, Jeff Goins, Jon Acuff, Dan Miller and Andy Andrews.

In early 2013 Andy self-published his first book The Early To Rise Experience: Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days. His book was a tremendous success and in late 2013 he published two follow up books to the Early To Rise Experience, both written by and for moms who want to learn to rise early. In mid-2013 he created The Self-Publishing System to teach other authors how to market and sell more digital copies of their books.

Where to find Andy Traub
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter
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Young Adult Book Review – Double Black (Stark Springs Academy) by Ali Dean

Double Black (Stark Springs Academy #2) by Ali Dean

Double Black (Stark Springs Academy #2) by Ali Dean

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
* This is the second book in the Stark Springs Academy series, which should be read in order. You should read Black Diamond before reading the description below. *

If you don’t like the rules, make new ones. If you want to the best, show no fear. And if Ryker Black is your boyfriend, you better be ready to fight. On and off the slopes.

Overnight, Roxie Slade went from an outsider at Stark Springs Academy, to a ruler at the prestigious boarding school for elite winter athletes. But Roxie doesn’t know if she wants that power, and she definitely isn’t sure about sharing it with Ryker Black, who came from a different world and lives by a different set of morals. Ryker may have decided to trust her, but can she trust him?

Roxie only cared about her rising position in the ski rankings, but now her status at Stark and within the winter sports community is skyrocketing, whether she asked for it or not. Can she handle both while attempting a real relationship with Ryker Black?

Roxie once believed that her sole purpose was proving herself on the slopes, but she’s done that once, and she’s far from satisfied. She has so much more to prove.

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My Review
After the intense, angsty beginning to this series in Black Diamond, the sequel didn’t quite live up to my expectations. There is some conflict between Ryker and Roxie, but it centered more on the secrets that Ryker is keeping. Secrets that put distance between them, but not a lot of drama. These secrets aren’t revealed until the final chapter, but I never felt like they were building to a boiling point and if they weren’t released, an explosion would occur. There’s also a lack of competitive skiing that really drove more of the first book. There’s time spent traveling to and hanging out at various competitive ski locales, but not nearly as much time training for or competing in these events.

Plot
The plot primarily centers around Ryker and Roxie’s relationship. They’re moving closer, but the secret keeps a wedge between them.There is some competitive skiing, but not as much as I would have liked, and it’s not a major part of the plot.

Characters
The characters are further developed in this second installment. We learn more about what makes Ryker tick, but not until late in the story. It does explain a lot about him, but I felt like maybe we could have had some of the secrets spread out more through the story, to keep the plot moving.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The pacing.
 It was a lot slower than the first book, and therefore, it took me quite a bit longer to get through it.
2. Not enough skiing. I would have liked more of the competitive skiing, had it be more of the main plot similar to the Pepper Jones series.

What I Enjoyed About Double Black
1. The ending.
 Never saw that coming and it was so surprising, it really redeemed the book for me.
2. The settings. The author does a wonderful job of painting colorful pictures of her settings.
3. Ryker and Roxie. Although they need to learn to communicate better, I’m still pulling for them and can’t wait to see what happens in the final book in the series.
4. Twists. There were a couple of twists I didn’t see coming. I always love when an author can really surprise me.
5. Roxie’s family. We finally get to spend some time with Roxie’s family back east and it helps shape her more fully, seeing the well-rounded loving parents she grew up with.

Bottom Line
Double Black is is missing some of the angst-ridden romance of its predecessor, but it’s still a good read.

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About the Book
Title: Double Black
Series: Stark Springs Academy #2
Author: Ali Dean
Release Date: April 4, 2016
Pages: 185
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Sports Romance
Rating:
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Ali Dean

Author Ali Dean

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

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Where to Find Ali Dean
Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon
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Book Review – Plot Perfect – How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene by Paula Munier

Plot Perfect - How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene by Paula Munier

Plot Perfect – How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene by Paula Munier

5 Stars

Synopsis
Build an Exceptional Plot, One Scene at a Time!

Think of your favorite story–the one that kept you turning pages late into the night, the one with a plot so compelling, so multilayered, so perfect that you couldn’t put it down. How can you make your own plots–in your novels, short stories, memoirs, or screenplays–just as irresistible?

“Plot Perfect” provides the answer. This one-of-a-kind plotting primer reveals the secrets of creating a story structure that works–no matter what your genre. It gives you the strategies you need to build a scene-by-scene blueprint that will help elevate your fiction and earn the attention of agents and editors.

Inside, literary agent, editor, and author Paula Munier shows you how to:
Devise powerful plots and subplots and weave them together seamlessly
Organize your scenes for the greatest impact
Develop captivating protagonists, worthy antagonists, and engaging secondary characters
Use dialogue, setting, tone, and voice to enhance your plot
Layer, refine, and polish your storyline
Define your story in terms of its theme

Filled with writing exercises, plotting templates, and expert advice, “Plot Perfect” helps you dive into the intricacies of plot–and write a compelling story that readers won’t be able to resist.

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My Review
This is one of the best books I’ve read on structuring plot, regardless of genre. Packed with examples, checklists, and exercises, this book explains in plain English how to outline your novel to ensure your plot zings, you’ve built in layers of subplot, and your theme is expertly woven. Plot Perfect covers all aspects of writing fiction, albeit at a high level. It contains the building blocks necessary to create a plot that works with developed characters that reflect your story’s theme. It’s an excellent resource for both planners and pantsers. Even writers who don’t outline will benefit from understanding how story works as they hammer out a first draft by the seat of their pants. I had an outline of a book I was working on, and as I was reading Plot Perfect, I revised my outline after noting several problems with it.

Bottom Line
Plot Perfect is a great resource for novelists of all genres at every stage of their careers.

Title: Plot Perfect: How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene
Author: Paula Munier
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: October 17, 2014
Pages: 281
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Powell’s

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Author Paula Munier

Author Paula Munier

About the Author
My professional evolution mirrors that of publishing itself. From my early days as a reporter to my latest incarnation as all-around content queen and bottle washer, I’ve reinvented myself as the publishing industry has changed–and keeps on changing. The only constant: My love of the written word.

Over my 20-plus years in the business, I’ve conceived, created, produced, and marketed exceptional content in all formats across all markets for such media giants as WGBH, Fidelity, Disney, Gannett, F+W Media, Quarto, Greenspun Media Group, among others. I’ve written my own work as well, including Writing With Quiet Hands: How to Shape Your Writing to Resonate with Readers, Plot Perfect: How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene, and the acclaimed memoir Fixing Freddie.

In 2012, I joined Talcott Notch LIterary Services as Senior Agent and Content Strategist. I’m always looking for good crime fiction, women’s fiction, mainstream fiction, high-concept YA and SF/Fantasy fiction, as well as nonfiction.

My mission: To tell great stories and sell great stories. Why? Because the world needs them.

Where to find Paula Munier
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Legacy (Legacy Series) by Ellery A. Kane

Legacy Blog Tour

Legacy (Legacy #1) by Ellery A. Kane

Legacy (Legacy #1) by Ellery A. Kane

4 Stars

Synopsis
How do you want to feel today?

In 2041, the choice is yours.

San Francisco is deserted, the Bay Bridge bombed, and the BART subway trains grounded. The Guardians, members of an elite and mysterious government-appointed military police force, are maintaining order at all costs—thanks to emotion-altering drugs like Emovere that suppress fear and anxiety. Lex Knightley, daughter of a prominent forensic psychiatrist, risks entering the devastated city to partner with the Resistance, a group of rebels intent upon exposing the dangers of Emovere. Lex discovers an ally in Quin McAllister, a magnetic Guardian Force recruit with a haunting past that binds them together. As she uncovers the secrets of the Guardian Force and confronts the truth about her family, Lex begins to realize that even those closest to her are not quite who they seem.

Legacy is the first book in the Legacy trilogy but can also be enjoyed as a standalone..

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My Review
Legacy has all the elements of a good young adult dystopian — a believable premise, an oppressive government, a heart wrenching romance, and lots of action. When sixteen-year-old Lex is sent by her mother into the city of San Francisco to infiltrate the Resistance, she’s not even sure she’ll survive. After she’s forced to kill a member of the Guardian Force, she becomes someone she never wanted to be. Distrustful of everyone and everything, she finds herself reluctantly attracted to Resistance member, Quin, a former member of the Guardian Force. The two begin a fragile friendship that blossoms into more as the foundation crumbles beneath their feet. They flee back to the suburbs to find answers from Lex’s mom and discover the fate of the world as they know it may rest upon them.

Plot
The plot was equal parts action/adventure and romance and both were well done. The chemistry between Lex and Quin is immediate, but the relationship develops slowly. Quin has his secrets which force him to keep Lex at arms’ length at first. But everyone has secrets and they’re revealed one by one, adding twists and turns to the adventure half of the story.

Characters
The characters were really well developed, including secondary and even tertiary characters. They all had a depth that brought them to life. I liked all of the characters well enough, but there was no single character that I loved, and that may be what has kept me from rating this book higher than four stars.

Writing
The writing was great. The author’s voice is fresh and youthful and her writing is fluid. It may have been one of my favorite aspects of the story.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. I couldn’t really embrace a single character. I liked them all and rooted for them, but there was no single character, not even Lex, that I was pulling for over all the others.
2. The early pacing. It got off to a slow start, but once it found it’s footing, it took off.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Legacy
1. The romance. It’s angsty and intense, just the way I like my teen romances.
2. The danger. The author does an excellent job of seamlessly weaving danger into the conflict and romance.
3. The science. Kane’s dystopian future relies heavily on science and she does a good job of presenting a believable future where science is our downfall.
4. The writing. I love the use of metaphors and the fluid writing style that remains youthful as well as dark, appropriate to the subject matter.
5. The ending. The book wraps up the main story questions while leaving the door wide open for a sequel.

Bottom Line
Legacy is a solid young adult dystopian with the right mix of action and romance. I’ve already bought the next two books in the series!

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

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About the Book
Title: Legacy
Series: Legacy #1
Author: Ellery A. Kane
Publisher: Balboa Press
Pages: 258
Category: Young Adult Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Ellery A. Kane

Author Ellery A. Kane

About the Author
Forensic psychologist by day, young-adult novelist by night, Ellery Kane has been writing—professionally and creatively—for as long as she can remember. Just like her main character, Lex, Ellery loves to ask why, which is the reason she became a psychologist in the first place. Real life really is stranger than fiction, and Ellery’s writing is often inspired by her day job. Evaluating violent criminals and treating trauma victims, she has gained a unique perspective on the past and its indelible influence on the individual. An avid short story writer as a teenager, Ellery recently began writing for enjoyment again, and the Legacy series was born.

Ellery’s debut novel, Legacy, has received several awards, including winning the Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, young adult, e-book category. Ellery was recently selected as one of ten semifinalists in the MasterClass James Patterson Co-Author Competition..

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Where to find Ellery A. Kane
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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