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Book Review – Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes - Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes – Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

3 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Take a Deep Dive into Plot and Scene and Improve Your Writing

Whether you’re planning your first novel or have already written a first draft, you need to master the concepts of plot and scene to truly realize your story’s potential. “Writing Deep Scenes” teaches you how to write strong, layered, and engaging scenes–the secret to memorable, page-turning plots. It’s filled with practical tools for building layers and nuance into your scenes, employing the right scene types at the right junctures, and developing a profound understanding of how plot and scene intertwine.

Inside you’ll learn: How scenes are comprised of three key layers: action, emotion, and theme.How to recognize each layer and weave them seamlessly into a scene.How to develop an intricate relationship between the action and emotion in every scene.How thematic imagery embedded in scenes increases a story’s tension and contributes to the story’s meaning.Using contemporary examples from a variety of genres, “Writing Deep Scenes” provides an effective method for plotting at the scene level. Use these techniques and enrich your fiction and memoirs with page-turning suspense and pathos, and explore new depths in every story you write.

My Review
I think I was looking for something different when I picked up this book. My goal was to learn techniques to help me add more depth to my writing, getting deeper into the emotions of my characters. While I don’t think the book delivered on that, I definitely think it has something to offer. The book delves into plotting using themes to drive your scenes, but there’s a lot of new terminology in here that took a little getting used to. The examples from published fiction help drive the points home, but I almost felt as if the examples overshadowed the lessons. Sometimes a page or more was devoted to showing the technique being presented.

Each chapter concludes with a summary of the topics covered, which is a nice refresher. All the pieces of what’s needed to write a compelling story are presented, chapter-by-chapter, but I would have liked a master checklist, or outline, or something, at the end that pulled everything together. That said, anyone can create their own while reading the book.

This book may be better suited toward someone just starting out because the terminology is quite different than other books on writing fiction. I had to keep referring back to remember what the terms meant and cross-referencing them against the terms I’m more familiar with.

Bottom Line
Writing Deep Scenes presents solid techniques for developing your plot and creating layered scenes, but the terminology takes a little getting used to.

Title: Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme
Authors: Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: October 2, 2015
Pages: 248
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

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Young Adult Book Review – Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
I was born more than a thousand years ago. Put into a cryogenic tube at age seventeen, forgotten during a holocaust that decimated the world, I’ve finally been awakened to a more serene and peaceful future.

But things at the hospital are new and strange. And it’s starting to scare me.

Everyone is young. Everyone is banded and tracked. And everyone is keeping secrets.

The cute geneticist Michael Bennett might be the only good thing in this crazy new world where “life is precious” but no one seems free to live it. The problem is, I don’t think he’s being totally honest with me, either.

When I’m told only I can save the human race from extinction, it’s clear my freeze didn’t avoid a dreadful fate. It only delayed the horror…

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My Review
Fellow young adult dystopian and San Diego author, Karri Thompson’s, novel intrigued me. The concept of a young woman frozen for more than 1,000 years, waking to a new world order is such a fascinating idea, I couldn’t wait to dig into it. The story weaves, bends, and twists through more than 350 pages of surprises, danger, and righteous indignation.

I thought it took a little long to really get going, but there are a lot of changes in the world Cassie wakes up in. Cassie, along with the reader, are slowly introduced to these changes, each new piece of information building upon the previous pieces. Just when we think we finally have a grasp of the situation, the author gives us a little more information, challenging everything we thought we knew. One of my favorite parts of the writing is the way Karri Thompson continually changes the playing field, keeping her characters and readers guessing.

Plot
The plot revolves around Cassie’s unique role in the world, and whether she’ll willingly embrace it, or succumb to it kicking and screaming. She vacillates a lot on exactly how she feels about what’s going on. Sometimes, I feel as if she’s too quick to give these people a pass and reason away their behavior. Other times, she’s the scared seventeen-year-old I expect her to be. There’s also a strong romantic plot that weaves through the story and drives many of her decisions.

Characters
I straight up didn’t care at all for Michael, the young doctor Cassie is instantly attracted to. He rubbed me the wrong way from the start and never redeemed himself in my eyes. Cassie is pretty believable as the conflicted teen in a Buck Rogers situation, but there were times I thought she didn’t seem as overwhelmed by her situation as I thought she should have been. The supporting characters are really my favorites. They’re all fascinating and easy to love or hate, depending on their role in the story.

Ending
The ending was yet another twist I never saw coming, but wrapped up the main story of Mirror X well, leaving plenty open for a sequel, without being a cliffhanger. That can be tough to do, but I feel as if the author pulled it off well.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The romance.
It felt forced from the very beginning. When Cassie wakes up more than a thousand years in the future, her immediate attraction to her young doctor seems to overshadow what should be grief over the loss of her family, friends, and way of life. Michael’s obsession with Cassie always came across as kind of creepy to me. There wasn’t any chemistry between the two of them. And the way Michael continually lied to her makes him completely unredeemable as boyfriend material in my eyes. I kept hoping for something romantic to develop between Cassie and Magnum, though, but their relationship is more like siblings. Too bad, because they have a truckload of chemistry.
2. 31st century Earth. I never fully was able to wrap my head around what the world looked like, particularly the buildings. All I really know is there’s not much vegetation, but I had a hard time picturing what this world looked like through the descriptions provided.
3. Cassie’s introduction into the new world. As I stated above, she put her attraction to Michael front and center. I would have liked her to struggle more with the new world she’s found herself in. I never got a sense of the utter devastation and hopelessness over her situation I was expecting. She’s experienced something no one can really relate to, so I would have liked the deeper psychological aspects to have been more thoroughly explored.

What I Enjoyed about Mirror X
1. The surprises.
There were so many twists and turns, I never knew what was coming next and that was so much fun to read.
2. The emotions. Where I felt the story was lacking when it came to Cassie’s response to the new world she finds herself in, the writing shines when Cassie is dealing with the emotions surrounding her role in the 31st century. Not only is she unique in that she was born in the early 2000s, but she possess an ability no one else in the future has. This ability drives the plot and her reactions to her expected role are raw and palpable.
3. Technology. There is some fascinating technology in Mirror X and Karri Thompson does a great job of helping us understand the role of this technology in the world she’s created.
4. The secondary characters. Magnum, Travel, and a whole host of other characters are intriguing and colorful and really brought the story to life.
5. Magnum. The technology whiz kid was easily my favorite character in the book. He’s a breath of 31st century fresh air!

Bottom Line
Mirror X is an interesting scifi/dystopian adventure with some unique aspects. I’m interested to see where this series goes.

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About the Book
Title: 
Mirror X
Series: The Van Winkle Project #1
Author: 
Kerri Thompson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 30, 2014
Pages: 360
Genre: 
Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Karri Thompson

Author Karri Thompson

About the Author
Growing up in San Diego, California, Karri Thompson spent much of her years at the beach, reading novels, tanning, and listening to music.

At SDSU, she earned a BA in English, MA in education, and her teaching credential. As a wife, mother, and high-school English teacher, she began writing novels, giving all of the compelling plots and unique characters in her head a home.

Victorian literature rocks her socks, and when she’s not writing, jogging, going to concerts, or watching her son play football, she’s reading Dickens.

Where to find Karri Thompson
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Tumblr | Pinterest

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One Blog Tour

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
He’s cute. He’s famous. And he could ruin everything…

Every member of Seconds to Juliet has a girlfriend-except for Nathan Strong. Now the band’s manager is leaning hard on “The Cute One” to play the role of the band’s heartthrob. With the band’s sales in decline, it’s up to Nathan to keep the fans’ fantasy alive.

The plan is to stage a fake relationship and a fake breakup, and then let the fans fight to be the one to mend Nathan’s broken heart. Just one problem. There’s another girl in the picture-one Nathan can’t stay away from. In private, Nathan’s stealing kisses with the band’s new opening act, Abby Curtis.

If they’re caught, no one wins. Abby will be fired, and the band might not recover the success they need to survive. But even with the pressure mounting, Nathan and Abby can’t stop themselves from stealing one more touch, one more kiss. And it’s only a matter of time before it all falls apart.

This Entangled Teen Crush book is as forbidden as the secret romance it contains! It has hot kisses, graphic language, and extreme misbehaving. DO NOT GET CAUGHT WITH THIS BOOK…unless you want everyone to know you believe in true love.

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My Review
Abby and the Cute One is absolutely adorable! The story is a sweet romance with infinitely likeable characters, a healthy dose of stardom and fame, and just enough conflict to keep things interesting. Abby is a sixteen-year-old singing sensation, auditioning to be the opening act for the hot boyband Seconds to Juliet, or S2J. She’s also a huge fan of the group, particularly their youngest member, sixteen year old Nathan, aka “the cute one.” Their meet-cute ends in an amazing kiss — one that can never happen again. Because the band’s manager has big plans for Nathan that involve another girl and solidifying his status as the most eligible of bachelor now that the rest of his bandmates have steady girlfriends.

Plot
The plot is all about Abby and Nathan. They want to be together but can’t. If Nathan acts on his feelings, Abby will be fired as the opening act. Abby wants this chance at her dream almost as much as she wants Nathan. The only thing standing in their way of happiness is the manager and the record label itself. Nathan can’t destroy the band for love. Can he?

Characters
The two main characters are charming, and Erin Butler does an amazing job of letting us get to know the rest of the cast as well, even though I suspect they are all fleshed out in the earlier books in this series. She does such a good with the rest of S2J, as soon as I finished Abby and the Cute One, I rushed out and picked up the other four books in the Backstage Pass series.

There isn’t a lot of character growth, but the cast are all relatively well-rounded. They have their quirks and flaws pretty well established. I’m assuming that the other four guys had their own arcs in the previous books, so that wasn’t a big deal. The character arcs in this book for Abby and Nathan are subtle, but this is a lighthearted romance and what we get is good enough.

Ending
The ending fits the story, it’s equally delightful.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed about Abby and the Cute One:
1. The band angle. It was fun to pretend that S2J is America’s Five Seconds of Summer or One Direction.

2. The bromances. Seeing how the Nathan interacts with the rest of his band is a refreshing break from the Abby/Nathan romance.

3. The realities of fame. I’ve never been one of those people who dreams of being a singer or in a band. In fact, that whole fame thing would never work for me, because there’s no way I could maintain a public persona. I’d open my mouth and something authentically me would pop out and ruin my image. I love how Erin Butler gives us a glimpse of the dark side of fame rather than just the exciting parts. The fact that the guys can’t even go out and buy a hot dog without creating a scene or needing a bodyguard makes the story far more realistic.

4. Sweet romances. It’s rare when any romance involves only mild kissing these days and still maintains some heat.

5. Living the dream. After reading several dystopian stories lately, it’s nice to switch it up with a bright, happy story about teens achieving their dreams.

Bottom Line
Abby and the Cute One is a lighthearted contemporary romance that’s as adorable as the characters themselves.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my review.

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About the Book
Title: Abby and the Cute One
Series: Backstage Pass #5
Author: Erin Butler
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: November 16, 2015
Pages: 172
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Erin Butler

Author Erin Butler

About the Author
Erin Butler is lucky enough to have two jobs she truly loves. As a librarian, she gets to work with books all day long, and as an author, Erin uses her active imagination to write the kinds of books she loves to read. Young Adult and New Adult books are her favorites, but she especially fangirls over a sigh-worthy romance.

She lives in Central New York with her very understanding husband, a stepson, and doggie BFF, Maxie. Preferring to spend her time indoors reading or writing, she’ll only willingly go outside for chocolate and sunshine — in that order.

Where to Find Erin Butler
GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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#1LineWed – Hot

1LineWedToday’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is Hot. Here’s a line from my new young adult superhero novel, Superhero High.

“We’re gonna rule the school. You with your hot new boyfriend, me with my hot old boyfriend…”
“He’s 18, not 80!”

You can see previous week’s themes and lines here.

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Exclusive Interview with Deanna Dee, Author of Finish Him (Games of Love Series)

Author Deanna Dee

Author Deanna Dee

I’m delighted to spotlight author, Deanna Dee today. See below to her fascinating answers, plus details on her upcoming release, Finish Him, the third book in the new adult contemporary romance, Games of Love series.

Q: How would you best describe the type of books you write? Beyond the geek romance, I mean.
A: Excellent question. As far as genre goes, the books are new adult age-wise. Beyond that, they’re books about kind of who I was in college. I didn’t drink a whole ton. I didn’t really party. I wasn’t your “typical college student,” I guess, and I wanted to write about the kind of people I was and that I hung out with, the odd balls, if you will. So I guess I’d call them “new adult for the college student who feels like they’re ‘doing it wrong.’” Because you aren’t “doing it wrong.”

Q: What common denominator do all of your protagonists share?
A: They are outcasts. They all had a point where they didn’t feel like they belonged anywhere, which is how they found each other. They also all love to game, but that’s rather self-explanatory by their actions in the books.

Q: How do you approach character development?
A: I start writing. Maybe that isn’t the usual way, but I’ve found out my characters will reveal themselves if left to their own devices. So I let the words flow and let the character voice develop as it will. Somehow, in the end, I wind up with people..

Q: If you could build your ideal writing environment, and the budget was of no concern, what would it look like?
A: There would be figurines of dragons and wizards and any other mythical stuff you could find everywhere. I’d have a throne for an office chair, and I’d have some medieval-looking desk. There would be a huge window overlooking the water, and said window would have thick (possibly velvet) red curtains with gold trim. The ceiling would be vaulted. There would be torches in sconces. There would be a chandelier at the center, and the walls would be dark wood paneling. (No, I haven’t thought about this at all. Lol).

Q: What is the one thing, other than your computer (or pen and paper if you’re old school) you cannot write without?
A: Quiet. I need to be able to concentrate. Occasionally, I can write in a louder environment, but I have to really be in the zone.

Q: Who is your biggest writing influence?
A: That would be my dad. When I was a kid, I’d wander into the den/office he and my mother shared and say “dad, what are you doing?” He’d respond (while typing away on his typewriter), “I’m working on my book.” Somehow, that got planted in my head as a thing to do, and it’s turned into writing books for publication.

Q: If you could have lunch with one of your characters, who would you choose to sit down with and why?
A: ​Probably Craig or Scott. Both are the kind of guys I find it easiest to relate to. Craig is the teddy bear type, and Scott is the “you don’t expect it from him” guy. Either way, that would be one awesome lunch.

Q: What’s your favorite book you’ve read so far in 2015?
A: Can I cheat and say favorite series? (Well, I’m going to anyway.) So the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan, and if I had to pick a favorite from those, it would be The Royal Ranger.

Q: If for some reason you could no longer write romance, what genre would you write instead?
A: Fantasy (which I do as a different name). Fantasy is actually my first love. I came up with the idea of gamer romances, and I couldn’t get rid of it. So now I do both.

Q: And lastly, pretend you’re writing fan fiction — take a character from one book, plop them down in the world of another, and use a plot from a third book – who, where, and what happens.
A: Okay. I’ll take Lydia from my books, put her into Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles world, and give her the elemental powers of some wizards in Derek Landy’s Skullduggery Pleasant series. The result would be Lydia taking out the Lunar people with concentrated gusts of wind, fireballs, and waves of water. To put it shortly, she’d have way too much fun.

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Finish Him (The Games of Love #3) by Deanna Dee

Finish Him (The Games of Love #3) by Deanna Dee

About the Book – On Sale for just $0.99 through November 24!
Title: Finish Him
Series: The Games of Love #3
Author: Deanna Dee
Release Date: November 17, 2015
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Links: GoodreadsAmazon

Synopsis
Round One, FLIRT

Sonya Black never expected a petty sibling quarrel could lead to her sister being drugged. Overcome with guilt, Sonya vows to bring the jerk to justice.

When she dives into her own investigation, she lands belly up in the company of Jaxon Nyles, the security guard who may have all the answers.

But being a detective isn’t as easy as Sonya thinks. On top of that, Jaxon always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Is he a suspect, or is he falling for her? More important, is she falling for him?

The round has begun.

Who will flirt? Who will win?

Will hearts break in the process?

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Author Deanna Dee

Author Deanna Dee

About Deanna Dee
Deanna Dee is strictly human and does not, to her knowledge, own a hyena.

She lives by the sea, which she takes full advantage of in the summer time. Nerd culture and pop culture make up the shameless downtime of her life.

The rest of it is writing, and she’s okay with that.

Where to Find Deanna Dee
Goodreads │ Website │ Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Instagram
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Guest Post + Giveaway – Jillian Dodd, Author of Vegas Love

Vegas Love Blog Tour

A special thank you to USA Today bestselling author, Jillian Dodd, for today’s guest post on her favorite scene to write in Vegas Love. To find out more about Jillian and her book, Vegas Love, a new adult romantic comedy, including buy links and a teaser, please see below.

My favorite scene to Write in Vegas Love

My favorite scene to Write in Vegas Love was when you first are introduced to Cash. He’s in a bar with his buddy and I love how much fun they are having.

“She’s giving me fuck-me eyes. I’m gonna make my move,” Jared says, referring to the hot girl he’s been drooling over since we got to the club.

As he starts to rise, I push his shoulder back down. “Don’t.”

“Why not? She’s hotter than hell.”

“Let her come to you.”

“What if she doesn’t?”

“Trust me on this.”

“Fine. Whatever. So, hey, next weekend, I think we should go to that music festival. Lots of alcohol and free love to be had.”

“Love is never free,” I say, teasing him. “You should know that after dating Prada Pauline.”

“She was certainly willing to let me spend my hard-earned money on her, but I cut her loose when she started going on about the C-word.”

“The C-word?”

“Commitment, dude. I’m not ready for a house and the white picket fence just yet.” He glances in the direction of the big-boomed girl again. “Too much fun to be had. So, should I get us tickets?”

“No, I have a wedding to go to in California.”

“Whose wedding?”

“Family friend. Maddox Harper.”

“The running back? Are you serious? He’s marrying that hot-as-hell supermodel.” He slaps my back. “Can you imagine how hot all the bridesmaids will be? Not to mention the guest list. I’ve always dreamed of being backstage at a Victoria’s Secret fashion show. I bet that’s what the wedding will be like.”

“Except they’ll have their clothes on.”

“Dude, you have to take me. I’ll be your plus one.”

“It’s a small wedding.”

Jared picks up his beer and pouts. “You’re gonna get laid by some gorgeous model, and I’m going to be stuck here.” His eyes wander back toward boob girl.

“Stop looking at her. It makes you look desperate.”

“Did you see the tits on her? Hard not to stare.”

“She looks like a mis-formed Barbie doll. Like someone blew her boobs up just to see how big they could make them without her toppling over.”

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Vegas Love by Jillian Dodd

Vegas Love by Jillian Dodd

About the Book
Title:
 Vegas Love
Authors: Jillian Dodd
Release Date: November 24, 2015
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance/Romantic Comedy
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooksKoboGooglePlay

Synopsis
Hollywood actress, Ashlyn Roberts, just had the worst week of her life. Her ex released a sex tape of them and just when she was convinced her current boyfriend was a keeper for standing by her side, he breaks up with her at a friend’s wedding.

She’s planning to drown her sorrows in booze when she meets a sexy stranger as she’s leaving the wedding and they end up in Vegas, married.

Cash Crawford is offered a dream job working with his brother as a junior talent agent.

He’ll put his shiny new law degree to good use and make a bunch of money in the process. His first task is simple: Keep Ashlyn Roberts out of trouble and don’t sleep with her.

Which might be kind of tough, since they definitely consummated their Vegas wedding.

Will this one night stand end in the quickie divorce they promised each other? Or will they realize they got lucky in love?

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Vegas Love Teaser 1

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Author Jillian Dodd

Author Jillian Dodd

About the Author
Jillian is the USA Today bestselling author of the The Keatyn Chronicles, Captive Films, and the That Boy series.

She grew up on a farm in Nebraska, where she developed a love for Midwestern boys and Nebraska football. She currently lives in Florida.

Her next release, Vegas Love, is a contemporary standalone romance releasing November 24th, 2015.

Where to Find Jillian Dodd
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
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Book Review – Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

2 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Have you lost your Christmas joy? Does the thought of jam-packed malls, maxed-out credit cards, overcrowded supermarkets, and endless to-do lists give you the feeling that maybe Scrooge was on to something?

In Get Yourself Organized for Christmas, Kathi Lipp provides easy-to-follow steps to reduce the stress of the holiday season, including tactics for how to

put together a holiday binder you’ll use year after year determine a budget that won’t break the bank gather your elf supplies get your gift list together (including ideas for various ages and relationships) collect your recipes and prep your kitchen

By putting into practice Kathi’s tricks and tips, you’ll finally be able to fully enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.

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My Review
Based on the title and subtitle I was expecting more. When I spotted this on NetGalley, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and start organizing the heck out of my holiday. I was even happier when I started reading it and realized I was already ahead of the game simply by reading it in October. But my happiness dwindled and fizzled out around the fourth chapter. Author Kathi Lipp has some good ideas, but nothing earth shattering or revolutionary. Her primary tool is a three-ring binder with pockets and sheet protectors for organizing. In today’s digital age, it seemed a little old school, particularly since each chapter contains a section on decluttering. The first step in decluttering is going digital in my opinion. So I decided to keep a digital binder using Microsoft OneNote.

But the more I got into the book, the less I even did that. Things like organizing recipes in the binder seemed silly. I have a Pinterest board for those already. Same for gift ideas. I don’t need to rip out pages of magazines and stuff them in my binder if every catalog has a website now and ideas can easily be pinned to private boards. It’s also nothing I haven’t already been doing for years. I think the subtitle is right — they are simple steps. As in the very basic things most people are probably already doing anyway unless their incredibly disorganized and barely able to get out of the house most mornings.

That said, the part of the book that really spoke to me was the first few chapters where she recommends making a list of what’s really important. Asking your family for the things they cherish the most and doing away with the rest. We implemented that and have our list. We don’t need 76 different types of Christmas cookies. Each member picked one favorite and that’s what we’re going with.

Most of the rest of the book I could do without and ended up skimming some of it. I rarely write bad reviews because normally if I don’t connect with a book, I don’t finish it, and then I don’t feel like I can write a review on a book I didn’t finish. But with this book, I did end up reading the whole thing because I wanted to see what other great ideas I could find. In this case, less than half a book’s worth.

Bottom Line
A good book for someone who is really disorganized. If you’re looking for something revolutionary, it’s not here.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my review.

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About the Book
Title: Get Yourself Organized for Christmas
Author: Kathi Lipp
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 144
Genre: Organizing/Holidays
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & Noble

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Author Kathi Lipp

Author Kathi Lipp

About the Author
Kathi Lipp helps women renovate their life with projects for the soul. She is a national speaker and author who inspires thousands each year to take beneficial action steps in their personal, marital, and spiritual lives. Her wit and wisdom will give you new ways to:
•Avoid settling for less than God’s loving plan for your life.
•Develop new levels of warmth and tenderness with your spouse.
•Return fun and flirting to your marriage.
•Boost your confidence to follow God-given dreams and goals.
•Create an environment of encouragement in your friendships

Kathi is the author of The Husband Project: 21 Days to Loving Your Man on Purpose and with a Plan and The Marriage Project: 21 Days to Bring Back the Love, Bring Back the Laughter, Bring Back the Lingerie (coming December 2009)with two more books under contract . In addition, her articles have appeared in Today’s Christian Woman, Bay Area Parent, Focus on the Family, Discipleship Journal, and Christian Parenting Today.

Church leaders and women’s ministry directors rely on Kathi to help women move from living out of obligation to enjoying godly passion.

Kathi and her husband, Roger, are parents of four kids and live in San Jose, California. They are members of Church on the Hill where Roger is the programming director of the worship arts ministry.

Where to Find Kathi Lipp
GoodreadsWebsite
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy Series) by Amy Engel

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
**WARNING: Contains spoilers if you haven’t read book one**

Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty–forced marriages and murder plots–for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall’s borders.

But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy’s life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she’s fought for.

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My Review
The Revolution of Ivy is even better than the first book. It starts off strong and keeps building. Everything in the first book that kept it from being a full five stars for me were non-issues in this one. The action is intense, the characters grow and develop in organic, realistic ways, and the plot twists are unexpected and jarring.

Ivy’s been put outside the fence for conspiring to kill her husband, Bishop, son of the President of Westfall. She has no survival skills, but a strong survival instinct, which keeps her alive until she meets up with other survivors. Ivy befriends two of them and these relationship, tenuous and complex, are one of the best aspects of the book. When Bishop shows up looking for her, Ivy’s conflicted. This is the one part of the story that didn’t seem authentic. I never really understood why she struggled with his presence, but I was able to easily overlook that because the rest of the story moved so quickly.

Plot
The plot is fantastic. Ivy needs to decide what her future holds, and because she’s never had a choice, it’s not as easy as it should be. She tries to make peace with the way her family failed her, with the way they let her take the fall for their failed plot to wrest control of Westfall from President Lattimer, even though her punishment was certain death. But more than that, Ivy needs to figure out who she is when she’s not Bishop’s wife or her father’s daughter or even Callie’s sister. She has secrets that pose a danger to herself and others, and a big decision to make that could destroy everyone she loves.

Characters
Both Ivy and Bishop grow so much over this book. There’s far more character growth than in The Book of Ivy. The addition of of Caleb and Ash bring out different sides of their personalities and give them an opportunity to explore themselves in the context of life outside Westfall. This installment does a masterful job of wrapping up all the loose ends, and most of those have to do with the characters themselves. We finally understand Ivy’s dad and sister as well as Bishop’s father and mother. Every action in both stories finally makes sense in the context of who these complex characters are.

Ending
I loved the ending. I think author, Amy Engel, wraps up the story beautifully, but not in a nice, neat, easy package. There’s gut-wrenching emotion and tough choices, but it’s all so perfect for the characters, the setting, and the story.

Top Five Things I Loved about The Revolution of Ivy:
1. The dystopian aspect. This was far more dystopic and the first book. More action, drama, fear, survival. I loved it!

2. Bishop Lattimer. Once again, Bishop is the perfect guy, without being too perfect.

3. Caleb and Ash. I love these two. I would kill for a book about them!

4. Tough choices. Amy Engle raised the stakes, forcing Ivy into an impossible situation. Watching her wrestle with her decision was pure page-turning delight.

5. Starting over. The ending wraps up the story nicely but the future is wide open for the characters, leaving me completely satisfied with the conclusion, but hopeful for what’s next. The hallmark of a good ending to a dystopian series.

Bottom Line
The Revolution of Ivy moves away from familiar territory, raising the stakes, and finishing the series on a high note.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my review.

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About the Book
Title: The Revolution of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #2
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoogle Books

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Author Amy Engel

Author Amy Engel

About the Author
Amy Engel was born in Kansas and after a childhood spent bouncing between countries (Iran, Taiwan) and states (Kansas; California; Missouri; Washington, D.C.), she settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and two kids.

Before devoting herself full-time to motherhood and writing, she was a criminal defense attorney, which is not quite as exciting as it looks on TV.

When she has a free moment, she can usually be found reading, running, or shoe shopping. The Book of Ivy is her debut YA novel. Find her online at http://amyengel.net/ or @aengelwrites.

Where to Find Amy Engel
GoodreadsWebsite | Twitter

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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The 10-Days of Gratitude Selfie Challenge – Day 3

Day 3The 10 Days of Gratitude Selfie Challenge.

Day 3 – Grateful for the Little Things

Morning coffee, rainy days, warm fuzzy socks, sleeping in, conversations with three-year-olds, singing at the top of my lungs to my favorite song in my car alone, unexpected package deliveries, fresh-baked bread.

Leaves that change colors, sipping hot cocoa, crackling fires, snuggling under a blanket, cool grass under bare feet on a summer day, vibrant sunsets, a new book, micro brewed beer, wine tasting with friends.

Playing Cards Against Humanity, family gatherings, bocce tournaments, the Chargers actually winning a game, and Doctor Who marathons with my kids.

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The 10-Days of Gratitude Selfie Challenge – Day 2

Day 2The 10 Days of Gratitude Selfie Challenge.

Day 2 – Grateful for Failed Birth Control

I was always going to have kids. Someday. But as my late 20s became my early 30s and someday hadn’t come, I focused on my career. I had just started a new job and gone back to college, when I found myself single and facing a positive pregnancy test. My someday had come.

One shotgun wedding and eight months later, my life changed forever in the best possible way. Maybe my someday didn’t happen the way I always thought it would, but if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Today I challenge my sister, Elizabeth Anne Shulok to take the challenge.

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Teen Super Heroes? Why Yes, I Think I Will!

Teenage Super Heroes

It’s that time of the year again. Pumpkin, turkey, cranberries, and spending every spare minute writing. Yep, NaNoWriMo is here again. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I first attempted the challenge in 2012 and managed to draft 60K words of The Ruins, rounding out the first draft topping over 100K by the end of December. It was still two-and-a-half years before it was published, but getting the first draft down is the first step to publication.

nano-2015-participant-badge-large-squareI skipped 2013 and last year, between launching The Union, I attempted NaNo again. I managed to get maybe a third of Found drafted, the story of The Union from Cyrus’s point of view. I cleaned up and released that, a chapter at a time, to newsletter subscribers, but I still only have about two-thirds of it done at this point.

For me, getting the first draft written is the hardest part. While I love the process of writing, the free flow of text without worrying about grammar, punctuation, or sentence flow (anyone who has been a beta reader for me can attest to the ugliness of my early drafts), I’m always afraid I’m going to stall and plummet to the story’s demise. So by forcing myself to write every day for thirty days, even if I don’t know what I’m going to write when I sit down, I hope to push through the fear and just get words to page (or screen).

With that in mind, I decided to use this month and this year’s challenge to draft a book that’s been rolling around in my head for close to a year. If I can get this thing drafted, maybe I can turn it into something halfway decent over the next couple of years. Tentatively titled, Super Hero High, I have this idea of the teenage offspring of the world’s super heroes trying to cope with hormones while simultaneously being able to melt steel and fly.

After the first week, I have a little more than 14K words drafted, thanks to Thursday night’s write-in at our local Coffee Bean. That night, I wrote over 3K words. Yeah, okay, so it’s mostly crap, but the plot is finally starting to take shape, and I’m getting a feel for my characters. I’m listening to a lot of Five for Fighting, Daughtry, and 3 Doors Down to find my inspiration, but it’s been fun to write something contemporary, even if it has a strong science fiction bend to it.

Super Hero High Word Count

If you’re interested, here’s the blurb I came up with so far, in an attempt to keep me focused:

Super Hero High
Sixteen-year-old Annarenee Stevens is the sole member of her family without a super power. The only time she feels powerful is in the pool. With her sights set on swimming for U.C. Berkeley, she’s ready to win it all at the State championship this year, securing her future.

When the government ends the Genetically Enhanced Asset (GEA) program and relocates all the GEA families to San Diego, life is about to take an unexpected twist. With the end of the program, her hero brother now needs a college education, too, meaning the only way Annarenee is getting into Berkeley is on a scholarship.

Queen of her public school, Annarenee is just another zero at Super Hero High, a school without any sports teams. Her dream is slipping through her fingers, no matter how tightly she clings to it. To make matters worse, super hot super hero, Ren Gonzalez, is paying too much attention to her. The kind of attention that has Ren’s ex-girlfriend intent on making Annarenee’s life even more miserable.

But when heroes begin disappearing, zeroes and heroes will be forced to team up in order to solve the mystery. All they have to do is not kill each other first.

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Young Adult Book Review – Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

3.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
When Cassidy Diamond is admitted to a prestigious summer program at Stanford University, she looks forward to being surrounded by people just like herself: smart, studious, and antisocial.

But when Cassidy is assigned to stay with the Harper family and meets their vivacious and uninhibited daughter Grace, the two girls clash at first sight.

Cassidy is determined to not let Grace distract her from her studies, while Grace wants to show Cassidy that maybe her grades aren’t all she has going for her, and that life might be about more than building the perfect resume.

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My Review
I was excited to read something different in the young adult genre, and Never Trust a Happy Song delivers that. Fifteen-year-old Cassidy is singularly focused on her studies, and her mother is a strong driving force behind this. In the opening scene, we get to see just how much that’s the case. So when Cassidy gets to spend the summer at Stanford, staying with a host family, I’m already hoping this family will help lighten her up a little. Their teen daughter, Grace, seems to be the polar opposite of Cassidy, wild and free, spontaneous and happy. But underlying her free-spirited nature are hints that something isn’t quite right.

The book gets off to a slow start. Almost too slow, because I found myself putting it down for long stretches before picking it up again, but the second half flows better, so I’m glad I stuck with it. The story deals with some heavy issues, including bullying, mental illness, but it’s also the story of friendship.

Plot
This is almost exclusively a character-driven story, but plot plays a role. Cassidy and Grace do not get along. Cassidy is serious, goal-oriented, and Grace is neither of those and tries to get Cassidy to lighten up. This aspect of the story is relatively predictable. You know they’ll end up as fast friends by the end, but how they get there is where the story really takes place.

Characters
There’s a fair amount of character development as the story unfolds, particularly for protagonist, Cassidy. But she didn’t start out fully fleshed out. I never understood her motivations, and we never learn why she has such an academic drive. But she goes from being somewhat judgemental, narrow-minded, and selfish to a more well-rounded character by the end, questioning her priorities. I didn’t care much for her in the beginning and maybe that contributed to my stop-and-start approach to reading the book.

Grace, on the other hand, grabbed me from the start. She was instantly likeable and I wanted to slap Cassidy upside the head a few times for her attitude toward Grace in the beginning. I would have liked to understand Cassidy’s mom more, too. She came across as somewhat two-dimensional and the “Mean Girls” are stereotypical, but I don’t think that harmed the story, I just think it could have been more interesting if there was more to them as well.

Ending
I like how the story ended, although it feels a little unfinished, but then, teens are a work in progress, so that might actually be intentional by the author.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed about Never Trust a Happy Song:
1. Friendship. The friendship that ultimately develops between Cassidy and Grace is worth waiting for.

2. Grace. She’s a fun and funky free-spirit, and by far my favorite character in the story.

3. Personal Growth. The way Cassidy develops through the story felt organic and authentic.

4. The Harpers. The family Cassidy stays with are genuine, something Cassidy doesn’t truly understand or appreciate at first.

5. Finding Balance. I think the lessons Cassidy learns are essential to surviving in life. Not everything needs to be about school and getting perfect grades.

Bottom Line
Never Trust a Happy Song is a realistic contemporary teen story about learning to let go in order to find yourself.

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

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About the Book
Title: 
Never Trust a Happy Song
Author: 
Natalie Bina
Release Date: March 14, 2015
Pages: 180
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Natalie Bina

Author Natalie Bina

About the Author
Natalie Bina is a writer and lover of words who finds daily life incredibly fascinating.

She is intrigued by the joys and trials of adolescent life and plans to continue expressing them in stories.

When not writing, she enjoys singing, dancing, acting, and baking a wide variety of sweet treats.

She is currently attending Wesleyan University.

Where to find Natalie Bina
Goodreads Facebook Twitter | Tumblr

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Young Adult Book Review – Rival Love (Rival Love Series) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Skylar Fletcher is a proud Harris Academy Bulldog! She has everything she’s ever wanted: a perfect boyfriend, great friends, and her dream college waiting for her in the fall. But nothing lasts forever. Skylar’s world shatters when her mom decides it’s time to move and drags Skylar, kicking and screaming, into Bobcat territory.

At Delmont High School, home of the Bobcats, Skylar has no friends and is often bullied. To make matters worse, her home life sucks thanks to all-star quarterback Caleb Morgan, nephew of her mom’s live-in boyfriend.

At first, Skylar and Caleb want nothing to do with one another. But they soon discover they’re not that different after all–and each is harboring a secret attraction to the other. But can a Bulldog and a Bobcat ever really be more than friends? And are Skylar and Caleb willing to risk everything to find out?

Rival Love is a debut young adult contemporary romance from Natalie Decker.

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My Review
A special thanks to fellow YA author, Jennifer DiGiovanni, for suggesting this book to me. She knows I love my teen sports romances and the angstier the drama the better. Rival Love by Natalie Decker is packed with both. Skylar Fletcher is entering her senior year of high school with a plan. A plan that is completely derailed when her mom moves them in with her boyfriend across town, forcing Skyler to attend her school’s arch nemesis. We’re talking a school rivalry that would put Michigan State and OSU to shame. These students hate each other. So much so that when Skylar, who through no fault of her own, becomes a Bobcat, her boyfriend of two years dumps her and her best friend since childhood stops speaking to her.

Skylar struggles with accepting her new life, but she’s’ not going to try and fit in with the enemy, leaving her with no friends. Except her mom’s boyfriend’s teenage nephew, who moved in with his uncle after his parents’ tragic death. The pair are more frenemies than friends because Caleb isn’t about to be caught fraternizing with the enemy. Even if she is really pretty and smells like a goddess.

Plot
This is primarily a romance as Caleb and Skylar realize their mutual loathing is giving way to something more, each convinced the other still holds strong feelings of animosity. Watching their feelings thaw, turn into friendship, and something more is a treat. Strong subplots include Skylar’s relationship with her father, stepmother and half sister, her plans for the future now that she’s not participating in school sports, her survival at school full of kids who hate her, and her relationships with her ex-boyfriend and former best friend. All are woven into the main plot seamlessly.

Characters
Skylar is a bundle of attitude and I love her. The way she won’t back down from a fight, doesn’t cringe away from her bullies, and works to get even makes her a protagonist to root for. Her negative attitude is hard to take at times, but it’s really easy to understand why she has it. Caleb is equally intriguing in his own way. The way he tries to hide Skylar’s identity from his friends is both infuriating and understandable, especially with her attitude.

Ending
The ending was abrupt, surprising, and not entirely organic. I didn’t feel like it was a logical outcome that flowed out of the preceding events. I’m hoping the second book will rectify that, though, because other than the ending, I really loved the book.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed about Rival Love:
1. Skylar. She’s tough, witty, vulnerable, determined, unsure, funny, and guarded all rolled into one. She’s one of the most complex teen characters I’ve read in awhile and I just love her.

2. Caleb. He’s got his own issues, but he’s a lot more straightforward than Skylar and I love that about him.

3. Getting even. The way Skylar and Caleb go tit for tat with pranks provide some of the best moments in the book.

4. Family drama. The dynamic between Skylar and her family drives some great angst-ridden conflict.

5. Forbidden love. Living in the same house makes anything other than friendship between Caleb and Skylar verboten, which only adds to the inevitability that they’ll get together.

Bottom Line
Rival Love is an contemporary teen romance with themes of bullying, belonging, and finding love and acceptance for who you are.

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About the Book
Title: 
Rival Love
Series: Rival Love #1
Author: 
Natalie Decker
Publisher: 
Swoon Romance
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Pages: 286
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Natalie Decker

Author Natalie Decker

About the Author
Natalie Decker is the Author of Rival Love. She loves oceans, sunsets, sand between her toes, and carefree days. Her imagination is always going, which some find odd. But she believes in seeing the world in a different light at all times. Her first passion for writing started at age twelve when she had to write a poem for English class. However, seventh grade wasn’t her favorite time and books were her source of comfort.

She took all college prep classes in High school, and attended the University of Akron. Although she studied Mathematics she never lost her passion for writing or her comfort in books. She’s a mean cook in the kitchen, loves her family and friends and her awesome dog infinity times infinity.

If she’s not writing, reading, traveling, hanging out with her family and friends, then she’s off having an adventure. Because Natalie believes in a saying: Your life is your own journey, so make it amazing!

Where to find Natalie Decker
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Return Once More (The Historians) by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More Blog Tour

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.

If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?

Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroy more than just her new romance.

Or would you have the strength to watch him die?

But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

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My Review
I’m a sucker for time travel. Young adult time traveling romances? Yeah, that’s like my trifecta right there, so I eagerly snatched up this gem from talented author, Trisha Leigh. I was sucked into her Cavey Files, and had high hopes for her take on the time travel genre. This is such a unique twist that it really stands apart from any other I’ve read. The book is set in the future, after Earth’s destruction. Kaia is a Historian, someone who travels back through time to study historic events and learn so they can avoid making the mistakes that led to the demise of Earth.

One of the side benefits of their futuristic science and technology is they’ve discovered they can identify everyone’s soul mate. The one person who is your perfect romantic partner, regardless of when and where they were born, even if the soul mates were never destined to meet. It’s mostly just something done for fun, but when Kaia learns of her soul mate, she breaks all the rules to meet him. Just to find out what it would feel like to see the boy who is her perfect match. The love-at-first-sight aspect of this plot point requires a little faith on the part of the reader, but it’s not so over the top given that they’re soul mates.

I really only have two problems with the book that kept it from being a full five stars. The first is that it takes awhile to develop. I picked it up and put it down several times before I got to that point where I was thoroughly engrossed. The second is that it ends in a cliffhanger. I’m not a big fan of those, particularly when there is a long wait for the next book.

Plot
The plot is intricate and layered, with a lot going on. Since this is the first in a series, many questions are left unanswered, but everything does move forward. Some to conclusion, others not. And because of the cliffhanger ending, a huge question is raised in the very last sentence of the book. Other than a slow start, the plotting keeps up a steady pace through the middle until the end.

Characters
Kaia, her soul mate, and Oz, another historian, are well-developed and interesting. I got much less of a sense of the rest of the characters, though. But, because the plot centers on these three, it’s important that they’re fully fleshed out, and they are. I had a hard time connecting with Kaia in the beginning, but as the story unfolded, she becomes more likable and sympathetic and by the end, I was twisted up inside for her. Her choice is heartbreaking and I felt her pain and anguish as she struggled to find the right path.

The Ending
Aside from the cliffhanger aspect, the ending is gut-wrenching, emotional, and wraps up many of the plot lines, leaving more for the next book.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed about Return Once More:
1. Time travel. I never get tired of this genre.

2. Oz. He’s a tough egg to crack and I can’t wait to find out more about him.

3. Scene setting. Trisha Leigh does an incredible job of painting such a vivid picture of the scenes, it’s hard not to believe you’re actually there..

4. Forbidden love. In a unique twist on a common trope, this is one of the most well-done subplots in the book.

5. Impossible choices. Never knowing what was going to happen kept me turning the pages.

Bottom Line
Return Once More is an engaging time travel scifi romance with an intricate plot and intriguing characters.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher. This in no way influences my review.

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About the Book
Title
: Return Once More
Series: The Historians #1
Author: Trisha Leigh
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Pages: 289
Category: Young Adult SciFi/Time Travel/Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes and Noble | Bloomsbury

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Trisha LeighAbout the Author
Trisha Leigh is a product of the Midwest, which means it’s pop, not soda, garage sales, not tag sales, and you guys as opposed to y’all. Most of the time. She’s been writing seriously for five years now, and has published 4 young adult novels and 4 new adult novels (under her pen name Lyla Payne). Her favorite things, in no particular order, include: reading, Game of Thrones, Hershey’s kisses, reading, her dogs (Yoda and Jilly), summer, movies, reading, Jude Law, coffee, and rewatching WB series from the 90’s-00’s.

Her family is made up of farmers and/or almost rock stars from Iowa, people who numerous, loud, full of love, and the kind of people that make the world better. Trisha tries her best to honor them, and the lessons they’ve taught, through characters and stories—made up, of course, but true enough in their way.

Trisha is the author of THE LAST YEAR series and the WHITMAN UNIVERSITY books. She’s represented by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Where to find Trisha Leigh
Website | Goodreads Facebook Twitter Tumblr Pinterest

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Giveaway
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Month in Review – October 2015

October is by far my favorite month of the year. I love when the temperatures, sort of, sometimes, get cooler in San Diego, plus Halloween. But mostly it’s all about the pumpkin. Pumpkin spice lattes, This Pumpkin Walked into a Bar, pumpkin pasta, muffins, pie, and more. I also managed to do a little more reading this month than I did earlier in the summer. These are the books I reviewed in October:

Mad Love 2 by Colet Abedi

Mad Love 2 (Mad Love Series #2) by Colete Abedi

4 Stars

Title: Mad Love 2
Series: Mad Love #2
Author: Colet ABedi
Publisher: Bird Street Books
Pages: 262
Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Heartbroken by the handsome and enigmatic Clayton Astor Sinclair, Sophie Walker has put her whirlwind romance with him in the Maldives behind her and is determined to focus on her career as an artist.

But when her new job in the south of France turns out to be too good to be true, she can’t help but wonder if she is making a mistake. Their passion cannot be denied, but when Clayton shuts her out after a family tragedy, Sophie is determined to fight for what is right. She must defy all odds to find her own happily ever after. 

This book is intended for mature audiences.

Bottom Line
A worthy follow-up to Mad Love, it’s intense, emotional, and delves deeper into the characters we’ve come to know. The jury is still out on whether or not I love them.

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Pepped Up Forever (Pepper Jones Series) by Ali Dean

Pepped Up Forever (Pepper Jones #5) by Ali Dean

4.5 Stars

Title: Pepped Up Forever
Series:  Pepper Jones #5
Author: Ali Dean
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Pages: 180
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
This is the fifth and final book in the Pepper Jones series, and it’s one you don’t want to miss.

Pepper Jones is ready to start breaking some records. She’ll be a junior in college, and if she wants to run professionally when she graduates, it’s time to step things up a notch. This time around, she knows it won’t be accomplished by ramping up her training. While Pepper’s hoping for a race day breakthrough, she wonders if there’s a mental barrier holding her back, and if so, how is she supposed to confront it?

Meanwhile, Jace Wilder wants Pepper back any way he can have her, but he’s reluctant to bulldoze his way into her life having already crushed her once (okay, probably a few more times than that) before. More scenes from Jace’s point of view in the book shed a new perspective into the character Pepper fans love to hate, and hate to love, delving into those layers he’s only given glimpses of in the past.

The Brockton crew is growing up. Zoe and Wes. Jenny and Rollie. Lexi and Brax. Bunny and Wallace. Pepper and ??? It’s time to find out what Pepper’s happily ever after will be.

Bottom Line
A worthy ending to a great series.

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The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

4 Stars

Title: The Rebel
Author: Adrienne Giordano
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Pages: 234
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | GooglePlay | Harlequin

Synopsis
Bad to the bone…in all the right ways

A brilliant civil lawyer, David Hennings has always been the outsider—at odds with his wealthy family, shunning relationships, defying convention as a sexy leather-jacketed biker. Which is why sculptor Amanda LeBlanc agrees to his request to reconstruct a skull from a cold case murder. The instant heat between them is scorching.

But once Amanda takes the job and gets too close to the rebellious attorney, her carefully balanced life is upended by a series of methodical attacks. Someone doesn’t want her to finish the job. Now David will risk everything not to lose the woman he unknowingly put in jeopardy.

Bottom Line
The Rebel is a mystery wrapped in a romantic suspense with a big dose of fully-developed characters.

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How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo

How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo

5 Stars

Title: How to Say I Love You Out Loud
Author: Karole Cozzo
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Pages: 240
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
When Jordyn Michaelson’s autistic brother joins her at her elite school, she’s determined not to let anyone know they’re related. Even if that means closing herself off to all her closest friends, including charming football stud Alex Colby.

But despite her best intentions, she just can’t shake the memory of kissing Alex last summer, and the desire to do it again.

Can Jordyn find the courage to tell Alex how she really feels—and the truth about her family—before he slips away forever?

 Bottom Line
How to Say I Love You Out Loud is an emotional look at finding your own words and the strength to say them out loud.

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How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

3.5 Stars

Title: How Fiction Works
Author: Oakley Hall
Publisher: Story Press
Publication Date: January 5, 2001
Pages: 240
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
In How Fiction Works, Oakley Hall expands upon and broadens the instruction that made The Art and Craft of Novel Writing so successful.

This new book covers all forms and lengths of fiction, probes deeper into every topic, offers new examples and includes exercises and the end of every chapter. He explains the basic and finer points of the fiction-writing process from word choice and imagery to authority and viewpoint.

The book is divided into three sections, beginning with “The Basics.” In this section, Hall explores the micro elements of storytelling, such as details, word choice, images, symbol and metaphor. He then moves on! to “The Elements,” which covers the primary elements of fiction: point of view, characterization and plot. Citing numerous examples from classic and contemporary work, he shows readers how these elements function separately and in concert. Finally, the focus shifts to the specific types of fiction – short shorts, short stories, novellas, and novels – also known as “The Forms.” Each form presents a unique challenge to the writer, and Hall explains how to meet those challenges.

Beginning, as well as more advanced writers, will find much to like about this book.

Bottom Line
How Fiction Works includes sound advice for fiction writers with illustrative examples. It’s definitely worth a read.

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The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy Series) by Amy Engel

The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy #1) by Amy Engel

4 Stars

Title: The Book of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #1
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo BooksiTunesGoogle Books

Bottom Line
The Book of Ivy is a familiar dystopian tale with enough of its own uniqueness to set it apart from the rest.

Synopsis
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

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