Book Review – How to Write Dazzling Dialogue by James Scott Bell

How to Write Dazzling Dialogue by James Scott Bell

How to Write Dazzling Dialogue by James Scott Bell

4 Stars

Synopsis
There is one sure-fire way of improving your novel fast. . .

You may know the fundamentals of how to write fiction. You may be more than competent in plot, structure and characters. But if your dialogue is dull it will drag the whole story down.

On the other hand, if your dialogue is crisp and full of tension it immediately grabs the reader. And if that reader is an agent or editor, sharp dialogue will give them instant assurance that you know what you’re doing as a writer.

Writing a bestseller or hot screenplay is no easy task, but dazzling dialogue is an absolute essential if you want to get there.

The best part is, the skills of the dialogue craft are easy to understand and put into practice. #1 bestselling writing coach James Scott Bell has put together and expanded upon the dialogue lectures from his popular writing seminars. In How to Write Dazzling Dialogue you’ll learn:

What fictional dialogue is … and isn’t
The 11 secrets of crafting memorable dialogue
The 5 essential tasks of dialogue
5 ways to improve your dialogue ear
4 can’t-miss methods to increase conflict and tension in any dialogue exchange
The top 10 dialogue issues, and how to resolve them

You’ll also see dazzling dialogue in action with examples from hit novels and screenplays.

Don’t sabotage your chances of selling your work to readers or publishers because the dialogue is unexceptional. Dazzle them with what the characters say. How to Write Dazzling Dialogue will give you the tools to do it. .

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My Review
I had this on my wish list and was given it as a Christmas gift. I cracked it shortly after breakfast Christmas morning and found it quite an easy read. There’s a little bit of something for everyone between the covers. Both those new to writing fiction as well as more seasoned writers should find something useful. The new writer will benefit greatly from Chapter 7 which discusses the proper way to format and punctuate dialogue. A number of unique exercises will help experienced authors stretch outside their comfort zone. The book is filled with helpful examples of both good and bad dialogue to really drive the author’s point.

Bottom Line
A useful book on the craft of writing dialogue that will help both new and experienced fiction writers.

Title: How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript
Author: James Scott Bell
Publisher: Compendium Press
Publication Date: May 28, 2014
Pages: 135
Category: Fiction Writing
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author James Scott Bell

Author James Scott Bell

About the Author
Jim is a former trial lawyer who now writes and speaks full time. He is the bestselling author of Try Dying, No Legal Grounds, Presumed Guilty, Glimpses of Paradise, Breach of Promise and several other thrillers. He is a winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Inspirational Fiction, and was a fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine. He has written two books in the Writers’ Digest series, Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure and Revision & Self-Editing.

Jim has taught writing at Pepperdine University and numerous writers conferences. He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he studied writing with Raymond Carver.

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Where to find James Scott Bell
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter
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Book Review – Wait for Me by J. Lynn

Wait for You (Wait for You #1) by J. Lynn

Wait for You (Wait for You #1) by J. Lynn

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
Some things are worth waiting for…

Traveling thousands of miles from home to enter college is the only way nineteen-year-old Avery Morgansten can escape what happened at the Halloween party five years ago—an event that forever changed her life. All she needs to do is make it to her classes on time, make sure the bracelet on her left wrist stays in place, not draw any attention to herself, and maybe—please God—make a few friends, because surely that would be a nice change of pace. The one thing she didn’t need and never planned on was capturing the attention of the one guy who could shatter the precarious future she’s building for herself.

Some things are worth experiencing…

Cameron Hamilton is six feet and three inches of swoon-worthy hotness, complete with a pair of striking blue eyes and a remarkable ability to make her want things she believed were irrevocably stolen from her. She knows she needs to stay away from him, but Cam is freaking everywhere, with his charm, his witty banter, and that damn dimple that’s just so… so lickable. Getting involved with him is dangerous, but when ignoring the simmering tension that sparks whenever they are around each other becomes impossible, he brings out a side of her she never knew existed.

Some things should never be kept quiet…

But when Avery starts receiving threatening emails and phone calls forcing her to face a past she wants silenced, she’s has no other choice but to acknowledge that someone is refusing to allow her to let go of that night when everything changed. When the devastating truth comes out, will she resurface this time with one less scar? And can Cam be there to help her or will he be dragged down with her?

And some things are worth fighting for…..

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My Review
I’m a huge fan of Jennifer L. Armentrout, but this was my first book by her in the new adult genre. Once again she creates memorable characters, particularly swoonworthy guys, but Avery was lacking that special something that made Katy from the Lux series and Alex from the Covenant series so easy to root for. Avery is a college freshman who moved halfway across the country to escape her past, including her family. She meets Cam in the most awkward way possible, but he’s inexplicably smitten with her. Avery keeps to herself, clearly has a secret, and is haunted by her past, but because Cam is so swoony, she is understandably drawn to him. They begin an unlikely friendship that morphs into more before Avery’s secrets drive a wedge between them.

Plot
Pretty much a straight up romance. Girl meets boy, insta-attraction, boy pursues girl, girl pushes boy away, boy finally wins her over, only for girl to push him away again until she changes and wins him back. There are some underlying themes that are a little different, but nothing groundbreaking. What J. Lynn does well, though, is create amazing chemistry between her characters, and that is definitely in play here between Avery and Cam. There were no real twists or surprises, but as a romance, it’s very enjoyable.

Characters
Both the main characters are well-crafted with solid backstories that shape who they are. My problem was that Avery was too much of a victim for me to really be able to identify with her. I was hoping she’d grow on me through the story, but she never really did. Cam is definitely likeable, but he had some cliched moments, including the fact that he’s a bad boy except when it comes to Avery.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Avery.
 I just couldn’t identify with her. I realize her reaction to what happened to her is probably pretty authentic, but I would have liked to see a little more anger and Queen Mary (from Reign) than victimhood from her.

2. Editing. This really surprised me. The book was riddled with the wrong words, bad grammar (“between him and I” instead of “between him and me”) and missing words. So many that it was distracting.

What I Enjoyed About Wait for Me
1. The chemistry.
 This is a JLA hallmark and she does it really well here. The playful banter and the way she draws readers deep into the feelings of her characters is everything I love about her books.

2. Cam. He might be cookie-cutter JLA book boyfriend material, but why mess with perfection?

3. Ollie. He’s adorable and I’ve already peeked to make sure he’s getting his own story!

4. Romantic Valentines Gifts. I wasn’t sure about Cam’s V-day gift to Avery at first. It seemed awfully presumptuous, but it’s grown on me and now seems absolutely perfect.

5. Tough subject matter. J. Lynn deals with two very difficult topics with compassion and heart.

Bottom Line
Wait for Me is a decent new adult romance with boatloads of chemistry and a swoonworthy BBF.

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About the Book
Title: wait for You
Series: Wait for You #1
Author: J. Lynn (Jennifer L. Armentrout)
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Pages: 386
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating:
 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Jennifer L. Armentrout

Author Jennifer L. Armentrout

About the Author
# 1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki.

Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV.

She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.
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Find Jennifer L. Armentrout
Goodreads | Website | Series WebsiteFacebook Twitter

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Book Review – Full Tilt by Emma Scott

Full Tilt (Full Tilt #1) by Emma Scott

Full Tilt (Full Tilt #1) by Emma Scott

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
“I would love you forever, if I only had the chance…”

Kacey Dawson has always lived life on the edge–impulsively, sometimes recklessly. And now, as lead guitarist for a hot up-and-coming band, she is poised at the brink of fame and fortune. But she is torn between wanting to be a serious musician, and the demons that lure her down the glittering, but alcohol-soaked path of rock stardom. A wrecked concert in Las Vegas threatens to ruin her career entirely. She wakes up with the hangover from hell and no memory of the night before, or how she ended up on her limo driver’s couch…

Jonah Fletcher is running out of time. He knows his situation is hopeless, and he’s vowed to make the most of the handful of months he has left to him. His plans include seeing the opening of his glass installation at a prestigious art gallery…they do not include falling in love with a wild, tempestuous rock musician who wound up passed out on his couch.

Jonah sees that Kacey is on a path to self-destruction. He lets her crash with him for a few days to dry out and get her head on straight. But neither of them expected the deep connection they felt, or how that connection could grow so fast from friendship into something more. Something deep and pure and life-changing…something as fragile as glass, that they both know will shatter in the end no matter how hard they try to hold on to it.

Full Tilt is a story about what it means to love with your whole heart, to sacrifice, to experience terrible grief and soaring joy. To live life with all its beauty, and all its pain, and in the end to be able to smile through tears and know you wouldn’t have changed a thing.

***FIRST BOOK IN A TWO PART DUET***

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My Review
Going into this, I knew there would be no HEA. It’s pretty much stated in the prologue, but I still wasn’t ready for the ending, and it gutted me in the most bittersweet of ways. Jonah and Kacey are soulmates, that becomes evident as the story unfolds. After Jonah rescues Kacey from her partying ways, their friendship is easy and natural. Stronger feelings develop, but because of Jonah’s health issues, he keeps her at arm’s length, but only for so long. Kacey knows what she’s getting into, but like the reader, she’s still not prepared for the ending.

Plot
As a romance, the main plot is the relationship between Jonah and Kacey. But Kacey’s relationship with her band, her life choices, and Jonah’s art installation are all solid subplots that help drive the main plot. There were times where I felt the pacing slowed down too much for my preference, but not long enough that I set the book aside to read something else. The romance is incredibly well done and heart wrenching. There’s so much emotion that is deep and raw, I was pulled deep into the story.

Characters
All the characters are really well developed, particularly Kacey, Jonah, and Jonah’s brother, Theo. Their backstories are complete and relevant and they lead to some of the most wonderfully complex characters I’ve read recently. Kacey, particularly, has her flaws as a result of deep family wounds. Jonah and Theo respond based on the illness the wrecked Jonah’s heart. There’s so much believable growth through the story, that I only come to love the characters more. So even though I knew how the story would end before the first chapter, it wasn’t any easier to read.

World Building
I love all the settings. Emma Scott makes the unbearable dry heat of Las Vegas come alive in a way that feels as alive as the real deal. And as a San Diegan, I loved the scenes set in my hometown. I loved the references to places I’ve been. And either she’s got some experience with glass blowing or she did her homework. I found myself googling images to see the beauty she crafted in my mind with my own eyes.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The pacing.
 There were a few places where things slowed down too much for me, but that’s really my only complaint.

What I Loved About Full Tilt
1. The ending.
 Not really, but I did love that the author warned us ahead of time. I was mentally prepared even if I wasn’t emotionally prepared. But oh what a gut-rippingly beautiful, horrible, amazing ending it was.

2. Theo. I love dark and twisty characters and he’s definitely that, wrapped up in some serious tattooed hotness.

3. The art. I’m now fascinated by Dale Chihuly and his amazing glass art.

4. Jonah. It’s ironic that the man with the biggest heart is also the one with the failing heart.

5. Kacey. She’s a wonderfully complex character that was easy to root for.

Bottom Line
Full Tilt is an emotional new adult romance that will pull at your heartstrings in the best ways.

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About the Book
Title: Full Tilt
Series: Full Tilt #1
Author: Emma Scott
Publisher: Trillian
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Pages: 292
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating:
 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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

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

Where to find Emma Scott
Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter
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Book Review – Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

4 Stars

Synopsis
Minerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey. Cal knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. Even if she does wear great shoes and keeps him on his toes. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.

But Fate has other plans, and it’s not long before Min and Cal meet again. Soon, they’re dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme donuts, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of. Including the biggest gamble of all—true love.

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My Review
One of my favorite Jennifer Crusie novels so far. The characters are the best! Min is wonderful and I love the fact that she isn’t beautiful, and that she doesn’t go through some makeover to become more attractive. I love that Cal isn’t shallow and sees the best in Min. The underlying bet is a fun thread that starts the story and is pulled through the plot to the very end. When Min’s boyfriend, David, dumps her, she’s not so much sad as she is distraught by what her mother’s reaction will be. Min has spent her entire life trying to please a woman who will never be pleased, but her mom loves David. Now with her sister’s wedding looming, she needs a date, fast.

Enter Cal. He likes to bet. So when David bets him ten dollars he can’t get “cold fish” Min to go to dinner with him, Cal takes that bet. But David takes it a step further, betting Cal he can’t get her into bed within thirty days. Thus begins a hilarious tale of two people who everyone can see belong together except the two themselves.

Plot
The plot centers around Min’s and Cal’s relationship, the push and pull of desire and the belief that the other person is wrong for them. Min believes Cal is only trying to win the bet. Cal believes Min hates him, and considering her biting wit, it’s easy to see why. But fate throws them together over and over again and it’s cute to watch what happens. The chemistry is palpable and the situations the author puts them in are deliciously fun. The cast is large, as most Cruise novels are, and there are several solid subplots involving Min’s friends, Cal’s family, and Min’s sister’s wedding. Each subplot supports the main plot and development of the main characters.

Characters
Once again, Cruise delivers quirky, outrageous, yet infinitely loveable characters. Min is outspoken and yet has an edge of self-doubt, thanks to her mother’s constant criticisms. Cal has his own issues, although they’re more subtle. Min’s friends are all unique, as are Cal’s and no one came across as stereotypical. I adored the interaction between Cal and Min’s friends. There was just enough development in the main characters to keep the story from being too comedic, bringing a sense of authenticity to them. Even Min’s sister gets her own arc, and her parents have a small one.

Ending
At first, I felt like the ending went on way too long, but in retrospect, it was perfect. Even though the romance was resolved, there is a hilarious scene at the end that really summed up all the themes in the book. And the epilogue was a cherry on top of this yummy story.

Bottom Line
Bet Me is my favorite Jennifer Crusie book to date, with adorable characters and witty dialogue.

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Title: Bet Me
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Release Date: April 1, 2007
Pages: 432
Category: Romantic Comedy
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | BAM! | IndieBound

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Author Jennifer Crusie

Author Jennifer Crusie

About the Author
Jennifer Crusie was researching her dissertation on the differences in the way men and women tell stories when she got sidetracked into writing romance novels.

Her first book was published in 1993 (which pretty much finished off any hope of her getting that PhD) and her twenty-second book, Maybe This Time, came out in August of 2010, all of which she considers a minor miracle, especially since she is also a New York Times, USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller and a two-time Rita award winner.

Jenny is currently working on her new Liz Danger mystery series. She is a very happy woman..

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Where to Find Jennifer Crusie
Goodreads | Website Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

Young Adult Book Review – Liberation (Moonchild) by Kate L. Mary

Liberation (Moonchild #2) by Kate L. Mary

Liberation (Moonchild #2) by Kate L. Mary

5 Stars

Synopsis
From two-time award-winning author, Kate L. Mary, comes the sequel to MOONCHILD, “a much needed breath of fresh air in the world of YA fantasy.” After surviving the auction and a near death experience at the hands of Asher’s father, Scarlett Moon is more than ready for life to settle down, and with each passing day she starts to feel more at home in Columbus. Even with Asher ready for more than Scarlett can give, she manages to fall into a routine that almost feels like a normal life.

But one distress call is all it takes to destroy the serenity the group has managed to build.

As far as anyone knew, Paget had moved on with her life after storming out months ago, but the fear in her voice when she calls the warehouse tells a different story. Even though Scarlett never liked Asher’s ex to begin with, she can’t help feeling a little bit responsible for Paget’s situation.

Searching in the seediest part of the city, the group picks up clues as they try to piece together what might have happened. The more Scarlett learns about what the other woman has been through over the last few months, the more concerned she becomes. Even worse: there’s no sign of Paget anywhere in Columbus.

With all the clues pointing in one direction, the group leaves the city and heads for Hocking Hills. Only it seems the danger may have followed them, leaving nothing but death and destruction in its wake and putting Paget in more danger than ever before. As Scarlett learns more about the woman who used to hold Asher’s heart, she suddenly finds herself unable to deny how she really feels about him. Only, with Paget in trouble, Scarlett can’t help wondering if Asher might still have feelings for his ex.

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My Review
I freaking love this series! I was delighted to find out that Moonchild was the first book in the series and bought the sequel the day it came out. Book 2 picks up a few months after the end of Moonchild. Scarlett is still convinced she’s bad for Asher and Asher is still convinced she’s wrong. Things have settled into a new normal until Asher’s ex, Paget, sends a distress call. With no idea where she is or where the call came from, the pirates set out to find her and bring her home. While there is no love-loss between Scarlett and Paget, Scarlett knows she must be part of the rescue effort. These are the moments I absolutely adore her. Her sense of duty and right and wrong is so much a part of who she is.

Plot
The plot centers around the search and rescue of Paget, but the romance is still a very strong subplot and incredibly well done! I love the angst and drama surrounding Scarlett and Asher’s relationship. There is so much action in the plot, the story moves at a clipped pace, only pausing long enough to allow us to catch our breath. Once again the story is well-plotted and expertly executed.

Characters
All the characters I fell in love with in the first book are back and a few new ones are added. Scarlett and Asher both undergo a decent amount of development, more so than before. The good news is, there’s still plenty of room for growth, so hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of these two. The author creates so much depth in her characters that there are still many unexplored depths to discover in this installment. We not only learn more about Scarlett and Asher, but Paget really comes into her own.

World Building
The world building continues to be one of the most impressive I’ve read in the past few years. Kate L. Mary’s attention to detail makes her settings come alive in very vibrant and realistic fashion.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The editing.
 Once again, both the content and copy editing disappointed me, pulling me out of the story more than a few times.

2. The cover. The cover still doesn’t grab my attention, but I’m so invested in the series now, it could be a plain brown wrapper and I’d still pick up the next book.

What I Loved About Liberation
1. The setting.
 Again the world the author has created just shines. I love everything from the settings to the costumes to the technology.

2. Scarlett. While I was slow to warm to her in the first book, I had no such issues this time around. I was already a big fan. It was great to see some true growth in her. While she’s still a teen and has plenty of angst, she’s starting to mature.

3. The plot. Another perfectly plotted and executed story!

4. Asher. If possible, I love him even more now. We get to see a new side to him, a softer, more vulnerable side and it made him more human.

5. Paget. She’s still the same romantic foil and no fan of Scarlett’s, but she has her own growth in this installment and seeing more of her, hearing more of her story, endeared her to me in a way she hadn’t before.

Bottom Line
Liberation is my favorite book of 2016 and with tighter editing, it would have been damn near perfect!

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About the Book
Title: Liberation
Series: Moonchild #2
Author: Kate L. Mary
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Pages: 280
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/SciFi/Steampunk Romance
Rating:
 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 – My Junior Year of Loathing (School Dayz) by Jennifer DiGiovanni

My Junior Year of Loathing (School Dayz #2) by Jennifer DiGiovanni

My Junior Year of Loathing (School Dayz #2) by Jennifer DiGiovanni

5 Stars

Synopsis
Junior year is supposed to be tough. Exams, term papers, homework, college tours, and participation in extra-curricular activities can all add up to non-stop stress. But Melinda Banner has goals to achieve and dreams to make real. This year, she’ll be unstoppable. But even over achievers need a break.

While walking in the woods to take a break from the stress of it all, Melinda meets a boy named Connor. After a few more run-ins, the two settle into an uneasy friendship, if you can even call it that.

But Connor’s closed and mysterious. Whenever Melinda asks too many questions, he suddenly has to go or is no longer interested in talking. When they’re together, she’s torn between wanting him to open up and running away as fast as she can. Still she can’t seem to shake her budding interest in him.

Connor has his own way of looking at the world, and his views often conflict with Melinda’s practical nature. Can you like someone and loathe them at the same time? Is he even worth the emotional tug on her heartstrings or distraction from all things Junior year?

And, as if she needs another project right now, Melinda starts to obsess over the abandoned estate she passes on the way to school each day. Between Connor and the old estate, Melinda’s beginning to think she’s taking on too much.

But Melinda’s smart. She finds a way to indulge her interest in the estate and fulfill her obligations. She will uncover the truth behind the aging edifice for an epic article in the school newspaper.

But when her investigation reveals a connection between Connor and a tragedy long-since forgotten, Melinda has a choice: put off her junior year achievements to save a local landmark and a boy who constantly pushes her away or put them both out of her mind for good and focus on making the grade.

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My Review
The second book in the School Dayz series, this is my favorite so far. Melinda, Sadie’s romantic rival from book one, is a smart, serious girl with goals. When her mom remarries, she moves into a virtual mansion where she’s forced to adjust to a different way of life. Her relocation also puts her squarely in the path of mysterious Connor of the Woods, a boy she meets lurking in the forested area behind her stepfather’s estate. Her best friend, Becca, begins dating Will, who pushes her to double-date his buddy, Ty. Ty is tall, cute, normal. Connor is anything but normal, but Melinda is inescapably drawn to him, setting up a showdown with her emotions. Will she choose Ty and security, or Connor and all the drama that surrounds him?

Plot
There is a bit of a mystery woven into the plot. Well, a couple of mysteries, actually. One being the secret Connor is hiding and the other is what happened behind the big wall of the old Westerly Estate. Some people say the old house is haunted, and Melinda is determined to find out what really happened. But the primary plot is the romance between Melinda, Ty, and Connor. It’s not a traditional love triangle, so if those turn you off, don’t discount this book just yet. It’s a great story, with Jennifer DiGiovanni’s signature quirky, funny characters, and lots of super sweet moments.

Characters
Once again, the author creates a cast of unique characters that are easy to love. Melinda is serious and driven with an incredible soft spot in her heart. Connor is an enigma until we find out his whole story, but he never comes across as anything other than fully developed. Will, Ty, Becca, the estate’s caretaker, Jack, and Melinda’s family all support the story. Jack in particular is an intriguing character who adds a lot to the story.

Top things I LOVED About My Junior Year of Loathing
1. The mystery. It was incorporated really well into the main plot.

2. Jack. The gruff landscaper provides some great moments with both Melinda and Connor.

3. Melinda. I love seeing more of her in this installment. She wasn’t my favorite person in My Senior Year of Awesome, but after getting her story and her point of view, I adore her.

4. Connor. The boy from the woods is strong, mysterious, caring, and more than a little hot.

5. Will. As the arrogant football player dating Melinda’s best friend, he provides some of the best comic moments.

Bottom Line
My favorite book in the series so far, includes great romance, a mystery, and fantastic characters.

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About the Book
Title: My Junior Year of Loathing
Series: School Dayz #2
Author: Jennifer DiGiovanni
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Pages: 186
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

Author Jennifer DiGiovanni

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

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Where to find Jennifer DiGiovanni
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Pinterest
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Book Review – Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie

Welcome to Temptation (Dempseys #1) by Jennifer Crusie

Welcome to Temptation (Dempseys #1) by Jennifer Crusie

4 Stars

Synopsis
Sophie Dempsey is content living a quiet life filming wedding videos until an assignment brings her to Temptation, Ohio. From the moment she drive into town, she gets a bad feeling; Sophie is from the wrong side of the tracks and everything in Temptation is a little too right. And when she has a run-in with the town’s unnervingly sexy mayor, Phineas Tucker, making a little movie turns out to be more than a little dangerous.

Yield to oncoming desire…

All Sophie wants to do is film the video and head home. All Phin wants to do is play pool with the police chief and keep things peaceful. They both get more than they bargained for when Sophie’s video causes an uproar and the proper citizens of Temptation set out to shut them down.

Welcome to temptation…

As events spiral out of control, Sophie and Phin find themselves caught in a web of gossip, blackmail, adultery, murder, and really excellent sex. All hell breaks loose in Temptation as Sophie and Phin fall deeper and deeper in trouble…and in love.

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My Review
This is a fun, fast read with quirky characters and a laugh-out-loud plot. When Sophie Dempsey and her sister head to Temptation, Ohio to help a b-list actress film a comeback, things go hysterically wrong. Everything from a phallic water tower to possible porn erupts. Throw in a mangy stray dog, the hot town mayor, and a dead body, and things go from interesting to downright complicated. Jennifer Crusie creates a place that is as screwed up as it is quaint, filled with equally messed up people, all with something to gain and something to hide.

Mayor Phin Tucker sees an uptight woman in Sophie that he can’t help but be attracted to, which means he should stay far, far away from her. Of course he doesn’t, igniting a tumultuous relationship that should remain physical, but turns into much more for both parties, despite their efforts to avoid it. There are so many great and funny twists and turns, I stayed up way too late to find out what would happen next.

Plot
This is essentially a romance, so the main plot is whether or not Phin and Sophie will end up together, but there are strong subplots involving a possible murder, the complicated relationship of Phin and his mother, the complex inner workings of the City of Temptation itself, and whether or not Sophie is making porn. All the plots are woven together expertly, resulting in a madcap story that just happens to be a romance.

Characters
The characters are the best. They are what make Jennifer Crusie’s books shine. Sophie is smart, funny, caring, and stubborn. Phin is complex, arrogant, and frustrated. The story is rounded out by a supporting cast that are a fascinating character study in small-town life.

Writing
Jennifer Crusie has a way with dialogue and character development, but her writing style took me a little bit to get used to. There’s a lot of combined dialogue and dialogue tags that I had to read more than once to figure out who was saying what. But overall, her writing is witty and engaging.

Bottom Line
Welcome to Temptation is classic Jennifer Crusie, a delightful romp with characters you can’t help falling in love with.

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Title: Welcome to Temptation
Series: The Dempsys #1
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Release Date: July 11, 2004
Pages: 416
Category: Romantic Comedy
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | BAM! | IndieBound

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Author Jennifer Crusie

Author Jennifer Crusie

About the Author
Jennifer Crusie was researching her dissertation on the differences in the way men and women tell stories when she got sidetracked into writing romance novels.

Her first book was published in 1993 (which pretty much finished off any hope of her getting that PhD) and her twenty-second book, Maybe This Time, came out in August of 2010, all of which she considers a minor miracle, especially since she is also a New York Times, USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller and a two-time Rita award winner.

Jenny is currently working on her new Liz Danger mystery series. She is a very happy woman..

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Where to Find Jennifer Crusie
Goodreads | Website Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

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

My Friends Are All Strange Blog Tour

My Friends Are All Strange by M.C. Lesh

My Friends Are All Strange by M.C. Lesh

4 Stars

Synopsis
My friends are all strange.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author M.C. Lesh

Author M.C. Lesh

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

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

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

Fates Entwined (Halven Rising #3) by Jules Barnard

Fates Entwined (Halven Rising #3) by Jules Barnard

4.5 Stars

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

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

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

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

But Keen refuses to acknowledge their connection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. The angst. The best kind of romance.

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

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

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

Author Jules Barnard

Author Jules Barnard

About the Author

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

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

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

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Young Adult Book Review – Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

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

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

4.5 Stars

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

So wrong for each other…and yet so right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Katie McGarry

Author Katie McGarry

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

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

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

Forget Me Always Blog Tour

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

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

4.0 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her past.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Sara Wolf

Author Sara Wolf

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

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

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

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Where to Find Sara Wolf
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

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

Forever Blue Blog Tour

Forever Blue by Abby Wilder

Forever Blue by Abby Wilder

4.0 Stars

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

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

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

“Devourable” – YA Books Central

“An unforgettable experience” – Readers’ Favorite

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

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

Forever Blue GIF 1

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

Forever Blue GIF 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forever Blue GIF 3

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

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

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

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

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Author Abby Wilder

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

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

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

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

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

Chasing Truth Blog Tour

Chasing Truth (Eleanor Ames #1) by Julie Cross

Chasing Truth (Eleanor Ames #1) by Julie Cross

5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Julie Cross

Author Julie Cross

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

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

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

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

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

The Row Blog Tour

The Row by J.R. Johansson

The Row by J.R. Johansson

4.0 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author J.R. Johansson

Author J.R. Johansson

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

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

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

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Young Adult Book Review – Moonchild by Kate L. Mary

Moonchild by Kate L. Mary

4.5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Kate L. Mary

Author Kate L. Mary

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

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

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

Daring the Bad Boy Blog Tour

Daring the Bad Boy by Monica Murphy

Daring the Bad Boy by Monica Murphy

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
Truth or Dare was never this much fun…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Monica Murphy

Author Monica Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

3.5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Ali Dean

Author Ali Dean

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

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

Crossing the Barrier Blog Tour

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

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

3 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Crossing the Barrier

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Author Martine Lewis

Author Martine Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Departed by Kristy Cooper

The Departed by Kristy Cooper

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
What if someone tried to fake the rapture?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Kristy Cooper

Author Kristy Cooper

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

Valley of the Moon by Bronwyn Archer

Valley of the Moon by Bronwyn Archer

4 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A contemporary YA romantic mystery for ages 16 and up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Bronwyn Archer

Author Bronwyn Archer

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

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

She still gets nervous in black-bottomed swimming pools.

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

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

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

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

Where to Find Bronwyn Archer
Goodreads | Website  | Twitter
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