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.

Crossing the Barrier Teaser 3

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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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – All The Feels by Danika Stone

All The Feels Blog Tour

All The Feels by Danika Stone

All The Feels by Danika Stone

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
College freshman Liv is more than just a fangirl: The Starveil movies are her life… So, when her favorite character, Captain Matt Spartan, is killed off at the end of the last movie, Liv Just. Can’t. Deal.

Tired of sitting in her room sobbing, Liv decides to launch an online campaign to bring her beloved hero back to life. With the help of her best friend, Xander, actor and steampunk cosplayer extraordinaire, she creates #SpartanSurvived, a campaign to ignite the fandom. But as her online life succeeds beyond her wildest dreams, Liv is forced to balance that with the pressures of school, her mother’s disapproval, and her (mostly nonexistent and entirely traumatic) romantic life. A trip to DragonCon with Xander might be exactly what she needs to figure out what she really wants.

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My Review
All the Feels is the adorable story of socially awkward Liv and her love of the scifi franchise, Starveil. I had a hard time understanding her devotion to this movie and the death of the main character until I put myself squarely in her shoes and imagined Starveil as Star Wars and Spartan as Han Solo. But even that didn’t quite do it. I had to go to television, something that I watch weekly, or in the case of Netflix, daily, and the death of a major character, and then I got it. My teen daughter is really into her fandoms and the death of a popular character on The 100 made the internet implode, not to mention all the hype surrounding nearly every death on Game of Thrones. Just say the words Red Wedding and you’re bound to bring one of your friends to tears. And any fan of Doctor Who can be eviscerated with the simple word, Doomsday.

All the Feels is about one of these super fans who is devoted to her franchise and it’s star. So when his character is killed off in the latest movie, she’s initially in shock, then in mourning. As she travels through the stages of grief, she reaches anger and decides to do something about it. With her best friend, a steampunk cosplayer named Xander, she stages a campaign to bring Spartan back by pretending he was never killed in the first place. Liv’s crusade garners both fans and detractors and complicates her relationship with Xander, but when they head off to Dragon-Con in Atlanta, anything is possible.

Plot
The plot was two-fold — saving Spartan and an underlying romance between Liv and Xander. It’s obvious from the start these two belong together, but Xander has a perfect girlfriend and confidence in spades while Liv has difficulty expressing her emotions, seemingly happier communicating online than in person. The story started off slower than I’d hoped, and it took me at least half of the book to really get into it. I think part of it is I wasn’t invested in her goal of saving Starveil until I could empathize with her. The other reason is the relationship between Liv and Xander doesn’t really heat up until late in the book.

Characters
As an extrovert to the nth degree, I had a hard time warming up to introvert Liv, but once I did, I absolutely adored her. Xander took me a bit longer. He’s an odd duck and not your usual romance hero. But once I figured out what he was all about, I appreciated his quirkiness and his undying loyalty to his friend, Liv. Liv is pretty well fleshed out, but I never got a complete sense of why Xander is the way he is. He’s confident, socially skilled, but he lives in a world of cosplay rather than escaping to it, which didn’t seem to fit the typical cosplayer. But then again, Xander seems to defy all stereotypes. The rest of the characters are there to serve a purpose, but there isn’t much to them.

Writing
The writing is fantastic. I love the author’s voice. Her metaphors and similes were fresh and unique, and the dialogue is witty and age-appropriate.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The pacing was slow in the beginning.
2. The other characters lacked depth to help me really understand why they were the way they were, particularly Liv’s mom’s boyfriend and Joe, the middle-aged Starveil superfan.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About All the Feels
1. Xander’s bisexuality. This is an underrepresented demographic in all fiction, but particularly in young adult, and he’s anything but stereotypical.
2. The writing. I found the author’s voice to be fresh, young, and lively.
3. Con. As a big Comic-Con fan, I loved this whole aspect of the story. Even though I live like twenty minutes from the convention center in San Diego, I have never been able to score passes, although I try every year. It doesn’t stop me from going downtown and participating in activities and panels outside the convention center itself, but I adored the insiders look at the actual Con experience.
4. Fandoms. My daughter is big into the whole fandom thing, so I wasn’t surprised to see the devotion, the online hysteria, and nearly obsessive nature of that kind of devotion, even if I had a hard time understanding it at first.
5. Liv and Xander. They are adorable together.

Bottom Line
All the Feels is super sweet for a new adult romance, and for that reason alone, it’s refreshing!

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: All the Feels
Author: Danika Stone
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Pages: 336
Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Danika Stone

Author Danika Stone

About the Author
Danika Stone is an author, artist, and educator who discovered a passion for writing fiction while in the throes of her Masters thesis. A self-declared bibliophile, Danika now writes novels for both adults (The Intaglio Series and Ctrl Z) and teens (Icarus and All the Feels). When not writing, Danika can be found hiking in the Rockies, planning grand adventures, and spending far too much time online. She lives with her husband, three sons, and a houseful of imaginary characters in a windy corner of Alberta, Canada.

The first book in Danika’s upcoming Tathagata series (Edge of Wild) was selected as a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel of the Year Award (2013). Edge of Wild (Stonehouse CA) will be released March 2016. Danika’s YA novel, All the Feels (Macmillan US), will be released June 2016.

Ms. Stone is represented by Morty Mint of Mint Literary Agency.

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Where to find Danika Stone
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
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2016 Debut Author Bash – Top Ten List and Giveaway – Jennifer DiGiovanni

2016 Debut Authors Bash

Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

The 2016 Debut Authors Bash hosted by YA Reads is a fantastic way to discover new authors and their books. I’m hosting the wonderfully funny and talented Jennifer DiGiovanni, author of the delightfully witty young adult romance, My Senior Year of Awesome. You can read my five star review of this debut novel here.

In honor of Sadie’s love of lists, Jen has put together a top ten list of vacation disasters for us today. This ties in nicely with her novella, My Disastrous Summer Vacation, as well book two in the School Dayz series, My Junior Year of Loathing, both coming later this year.

Leave your own funniest vacation disaster in the comments section.

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Top Ten Vacation Disasters

  1. When you bring the hair spray for 10% humidity level, but you encounter a 100% humidity level.
  2. That time your parents decided to showcase their vocal skills at the resort’s family karaoke night.
  3. Any situation that prompts you to say “I’m sure we’ll laugh about this later.”
  4. When you pick up the wrong suitcase at baggage claim and wind up with a week’s worth of clothes fit for your grandmother.
  5. Unintentionally hiking through a skunk crossing.
  6. Packing underwear for only 2 of your 3 children.
  7. “Sorry, the swimming pool is closed for maintenance. But the arcade is open.”
  8. “Didn’t we tell you when you booked this cruise that it’s Star Trek fan club week? Please come to dinner dressed as your favorite Vulcan.”
  9. Making it to the airport with 5 minutes to spare. And finding out that your plane leaves from gate Z-189 when your standing at gate A-1.
  10. Seriously? You need a passport to get into Bermuda?

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My Senior Year of Awesome by Jennifer DiGiovanni

My Senior Year of Awesome by Jennifer DiGiovanni

About the Book
Title: My Senior Year of Awesome
Series: School Dayz #1
Author: Jennifer DiGiovanni
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Genre:
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
A girl desperately tries to avoid the boy she was voted most likely to marry by her senior classmates. To prove senior superlative votes are meaningless, she and her best friend create their own list of awesome high school achievements to be completed by graduation.

It’s the final semester of senior year, and everyone at Harmony High can’t wait to find out the results of the Senior Superlative votes! But the balloon bursts in Sadie’s face when she discovers she’s been voted “Most Likely to Get Married” to Andy – a boy she’s never dated or ever thought of as a potential boyfriend. Completely and utter mortification sets in.

To prove high school means something more than a Senior Superlative award, Sadie and her best friend Jana decide to create their own list of awesome non-academic achievements to be completed before graduation.

Yet, the harder Sadie works to show everyone she’s not the least bit attracted to Andy, the more appealing he becomes. Typical for the girl who can’t seem to achieve anything important, even the completion of one lousy college application.

When senioritis kicks in and the school year dwindles down to mere weeks, Sadie decides to risk her good girl reputation to prove that an Awesome Achievement means much more than any Senior Superlative vote. By the time Sadie realizes her epic screw-up, she just might have lost her chance at the prom date of her dreams.

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About the Author
Jennifer is a freelance writer and YA author. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, working on home design projects, or trying to meet the daily goals on her Fitbit. My Senior Year of Awesome is her first novel.

Where to find Jennifer DiGiovanni
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Pinterest | Tumblr

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Giveaway
One paperback copy of My Senior Year of Awesome. U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review – How to be Cool by Annie Carr

How to be Cool Blog Tour

How to be Cool by Annie Carr

How to be Cool by Annie Carr

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
Ethan will never be as cool as his twin brother Alex. Alex is a star football player and president of the senior class, while Ethan was born with cerebral palsy and needs crutches to walk.

Laura will never be as cool as her perfect older sister Nikki. Nikki is everything Laura isn’t—confident and gorgeous… until one night when Nikki is brutally raped and hospitalized, and Laura finds comfort in her new friend Ethan.

Together, Ethan and Laura realize maybe you don’t need to be cool to be happy. Or to fall in love.

And then a revelation about the attack shatters everything…

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My Review
I’m conflicted over this book. There was so much to love, but so much that didn’t sit well. I ended up giving it three-and-a-half stars because it earned them for the really great stuff. First, the two main characters are different from your average young adult hero and heroine. Ethan has cerebral palsy and limited use of his legs. Laura is chubby and less than perfect. These two were easy to like with all of their insecurities and flaws. Most teen characters are tough on themselves because they can be. But in this case, Laura and Ethan have legitimate issues that shape their self-esteem. And not just because the rest of the student body reminds them of their flaws on pretty much a regular basis. Laura’s older sister is everything Laura isn’t. Pretty, thin, perfect. Ethan’s identical twin brother is everything Ethan isn’t. Popular, athletic, class president.

When Laura’s sister is brutally raped and beaten, Ethan becomes nearly obsessed with Laura and the two of them begin a whirlwind romance that intensifies with time until a secret is revealed about who was with Laura’s sister the night she was attacked that threatens to tear Ethan and Laura apart.

Plot
The plot is slower than I’d hoped and drags in more than a few places. It never reached the point where I just couldn’t put it down. Granted it’s a romance, but it was missing some of that angsty tug that young adult romances can have.

Characters
I definitely loved the main characters. They were three-dimensional, experienced adequate growth, and carried the story. However, the parents were so flat, they might as well have not existed. Alex, Ethan’s twin, and Nikki, Laura’s sister, were stereotypical and a little more than halfway through, we suddenly got Alex’s point of view, which was weird and totally unnecessary.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The pacing. It was slow throughout.
2. Secondary characters. They were flat and underdeveloped.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About How to be Cool
1. Laura and Ethan. They had adorableness in spades and carried the story.
2. Teen angst based on actual rather than perceived issues that made the characters even more endearing.
3. The ending. I love that it wasn’t a happily ever after as much as a realistically ever after.
4. Staying true to the characters. I loved that the author never felt as if she needed to “fix” her main characters. Laura didn’t diet and lose a bunch of weight, Ethan didn’t get eye surgery and suddenly no longer need his glasses. They were who they were, physical flaws and all. Their growth was learning to accept those, rather than trying to change them.
5. Teen love. The author does an amazing job of capturing the intensity of first love with all of its deep feelings and insecurities.

Bottom Line
How to be Cool is a story of first loves and learning to accept yourself.

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: How to be Cool
Author: Annie Carr
Publisher: Cascade Press
Pages: 194
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
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Book Review – Love Target by Heidi Loeb Hegerich

Love Target by Heidi Loeb Hegerich

Love Target by Heidi Loeb Hegerich

3.0 Stars

Synopsis
Teenager Ingrid Liebschreiber is devastated when her parents move the family from their native Munich to Los Angeles in the late 1950s. Homesick, she accepts a neighbor’s offer to get her a job as a showgirl in Las Vegas. Intent on earning enough money to return to Germany, she must grow up quickly in the neon jungle — where she is pursued by high rollers and headliners, including a vacationing Elvis.

Life’s twists and turns land Ingrid in New York in the Swinging 1960s — where she is romanced by Armand: a strong, quiet, handsome businessman in “construction.” Most girls dream of Mr. Right, and Ingrid’s hard-won independence is challenged when she falls in love.

Will she find true romance — a man who can love her as much as she loves him? Or is “happily ever after” just a crazy fairytale?

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My Review
The book covers two plus decades of young Ingrid’s life over 400+ pages. From Germany to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Manhattan, and back to LA through Vegas, Ingrid begins as a naive teen, a pawn in scheming men’s games, eventually becoming her own woman. The story is engaging, filled with a lot of intriguing characters and historical events told through the eyes of a German immigrant. But the main character, Ingrid, lacks a moral compass most of the time, making it very difficult for me to like her. She’s loyal, but only to a certain point. She  has no qualms about sleeping with married men, although I do think she’d draw the line at a friend’s husband. And yet she has the nerve to be scorned when the same married men sleep with other women who aren’t their wives. Yeah, no sympathy from me, there.

She serves her own ends first and foremost, although, as I said, she is loyal to those she loves. Her mother, whom she calls Mutti, her close friends, the men she’s sleeping with (all of them I’m pretty sure have wives, but there might have been one or two that didn’t), and ultimately her son. But the way she lies and schemes to get what she wants for her and those she loves makes her unsympathetic. However, as much as I didn’t care for her character, I did find her absolutely fascinating and couldn’t help but read her story. I didn’t hate her, either and never found myself hoping she’d get a taste of her own medicine. But when she finally did, I didn’t feel any kind of satisfaction. I just felt sad for all parties involved.

Maybe because I was too young to appreciate the swinging sixties, barely a toddler at the height of it, I couldn’t fully engage in the world in which Ingrid inhabited. I was too young to understand how the Kennedy assassinations changed everything, or the true ugliness of segregation. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading about it.

Plot
This is almost exclusively a character-driven story. The plot is very loose. The basic story question is whether Ingrid will find lasting love before the final page. But there’s a lot that happens in the intervening 429 pages, none of it dull. The story unfolds like a great American roadtrip from the 1970s. You never know what the next day or adventure will bring, but if you’re open to anything, you might not be disappointed. Ingrid’s life wends and flows around curves, introducing her to new sights, experiences, and lots and lots of risky sex, that wasn’t really considered risky back then.

Characters
The characters are interesting, even if some of them are stereotypical. Most of them are rather self-absorbed and egotistical, but that doesn’t make them boring. They’re well-developed and all serve a purpose. About the only thing I noticed that bothered with me is the way they all sounded exactly the same with the exception of the mobbed-up guys in New York. They all had the same speech patterns. They all sounded like Ingrid. And considering she was telling the story and it comes through a filter of bilingualism, it may have actually been intentional on the author’s part, but I noticed it a lot, and it took me out of the story and made me think about it more than it should have.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The story is long and it took me a while to get into it. I really became engaged once Ingrid got into her backstory in Germany. That might have been a better place to start than with her first Elvis encounter.
2. There wasn’t a lot of character growth. It would have been great in a story that was this character driven to have Ingrid grow more than she did. She was less naive by the end, more determined to get what she wanted, but I didn’t find a lot of likeable growth in her.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Love Target
1. The settings were authentic and fantastic. Either the author did her homework or she grew up in that world. After reading her bio, I’d say she spent a fair amount of time in the locales she writes about and it shows.
2. Behind the scenes experiences. It was cool to be able to see what goes on behind the Vegas shows, beyond the glitz and glamor. Those were probably some of the most fascinating parts of the story for me.
3. The social hierarchy. It was definitely a different time back then and the authenticity the author brought with societal stigmas, racism, women’s rights, and even the Manhattan pecking order was really interesting to read about, although it made me cringe at times.
4. The pacing was solid. Even though this was no nail-biting thriller, the story moved well other than a slow opening.
5. Mutti. I love her devotion to her daughter. She’ll do anything for her, as any good mother would.

Bottom Line
Love Target is an epic story of one German girl’s journey across America, from ingenuine to a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it.

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: Love Target
Author: Heidi Loeb Hegerich
Publisher: Forever Young, LLC
Pages: 439
Category: Young Adult/New Adult Historical Romance/Chick Lit
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Heidi Loeb Hegerich

Author Heidi Loeb Hegerich

About the Author
Heidi Loeb Hegerich — whom friends describe as “a hella bad bitch” — has lived in places as varied as Munich, Las Vegas, Miami Beach, New York, Los Angeles, Squaw Valley and Reno. She has worked variously as a showgirl, business executive, entrepreneur, interior designer and real estate developer. She has traveled to six of the seven continents, and vacationed in spots as different as the French Riviera, the Andes and Afghanistan. She counts among her hobbies weight training, shooting assault rifles, and racing sand rails; she found skydiving entertaining but not as much of a rush as other pursuits. A philanthropist for the arts, among other causes, Hegerich is now embarking on her own artistic quest as an author. Love Target is Heidi’s debut novel..

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Where to find Heidi Loeb Hegerich
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitte
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Book Review – New Blue (Blue Series) by Jules Barnard

New Blue (Blue Series #5) by Jules Barnard

New Blue (Blue Series #5) by Jules Barnard

4 Stars

Synopsis
The survivor of a high school sabotage that made her flee her hometown at sixteen, Hayden Tate is no stranger to bullying. Now she has returned to Lake Tahoe to take on her dream job with a degree and a backbone. But her newfound strength is pushed to the limit as she fights to hold her own against the old boys club of Blue Casino.

Adam Cade is the prince of Lake Tahoe, born into one of the wealthiest families in the area. He’s used to doing what he wants when he wants. So when his powerful father threatens to cut him off without a dime unless he uses his Ivy League degree for a job his father got him at Blue Casino, Adam capitulates.

Hayden, the head of HR, hates Adam on the spot, finding every way possible to put him in his place—and suddenly the lackey job his father found him gets interesting. Adam’s life of leisure lacks substance, and even though he’s not willing to give it up, he wouldn’t mind the distraction Hayden presents. But when the casino’s sinister inner workings begin to reveal themselves and Adam is caught between the powerful executives he works for and the lovely Hayden, his loyalties are divided.

Blue Casino offers Adam a lucrative career where he wouldn’t need his father’s money for the lifestyle he’s accustomed to, but at what cost? Hayden’s silly side shines through when Adam least expects it, charming his jaded heart, and forcing him to face a morality he never knew he had. For the first time in Adam’s life he finds himself yearning for something real, but will he risk losing everything to have it?.

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My Review
I’m a huge fan of Jules and her Blue Series, but for whatever reason, New Blue didn’t click with me like the rest of the series. Not that I didn’t like it, because I did, I just didn’t love it. After finishing and decompressing for a few days, I think my issues have to do with the characters themselves. They’re not the same dynamic, intense characters I’ve come to know and love in the Blue series. And it wasn’t that they weren’t interesting and dynamic, it’s that I didn’t feel like they were that way TOGETHER. God, I hate myself for saying that (Jules don’t hate me, too), but for me, something, some spark, was missing with these two that I felt immediately with Cali and Jaeg, Mira and Tyler (especially), and Gen and Lewis. Even Nessa and Zach in their novella had that instant spark. Okay, now that I’ve gone on and on about what I don’t like, let me tell you all the things I loved about it.

Plot
The plot was outstanding. The push and pull of the romance was well done (even without the chemistry), and the mystery of the Bliss suites was incredibly fun to watch unfold. Just when I thought the whole thing couldn’t get any more repugnant, it did, making Blue’s CEO among the worst villains since maybe President Snow himself.

Characters
Once again, the characters all have fascinating backstories that make them well rounded and intriguing. I love that we got to spend so much time with the crew from Lake Tahoe again, since this is the last in that series. I’m still hoping for cameos in the next series. Everyone from Hayden and Adam to Adam’s smarmy co-workers and their stupid blue rings added tension and intrigue to the story.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About New Blue
1. Hayden’s house. It sounds exactly like the kind of place I’d like to live.
2. Shoe closets. Who doesn’t secretly (or not so secretly) want one?
3. Lake Tahoe. The setting remains one of my favorite places in California and it was nice to visit in warm weather for a change.
4. Karma. What goes around comes around!
5. The ending. Perfect. Blue fans will know what I’m talking about 🙂

Bottom Line
New Blue is a new adult romance that has many of Blue’s recurring cast, along with a couple of newbies who shake things up at the office and at home.

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: New Blue
Series: Blue Series #5
Author: Jules Barnard
Pages: 303
Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Jules Barnard

Author Jules Barnard

About the Author
Before turning to storytelling, Jules earned a master’s degree in public health and spent many an hour running statistical analysis–until she realized her favorite part of the job was writing reports. She decided to cut out the math and add in some hot guys, and so began her career as a novelist.

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

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Where to Find Jules Barnard
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter | Pinterest
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