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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – DAGGER HILL by Devon Taylor

 

Welcome to the blog tour for DAGGER HILL, a standalone young adult scifi thriller, by Devon Taylor

 

DAGGER HILL, a young adult scifi thriller, by Devon Taylor

DAGGER HILL by Devon Taylor

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
A young witch tries to unravel the mystery of who is framing her for dark magic in Georgia Bowers’ creepy YA debut fantasy, Mark of the Wicked.

Magic always leaves its mark.

All her life, Matilda has been told one thing about her magic: You use only when necessary. But Matilda isn’t interested in being a good witch. She wants revenge and popularity, and to live her life free of consequences, free of the scars that dark magic leaves on her face as a reminder of her misdeeds.

When a spell goes awry and the new boy at school catches her in the act, Matilda thinks her secret might be out. But far from being afraid, Oliver already knows about her magic – and he wants to learn more. As Oliver and Matilda grow closer, bizarre things begin to happen: Animals show up with their throats slashed and odd markings carved into their bodies, a young girl dies mysteriously, and everyone blames Matilda. But she isn’t responsible — at least, not that she can remember. As her magic begins to spin out of control, Matilda must decide for herself what makes a good witch, and discover the truth…before anyone else turns up dead.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
I was in the mood for something different, and DAGGER HILL delivered! Set in 1989, before everyone had a smartphone, four friends hang out during their summer before senior year, each dealing with different issues associated with coming of age, when the world as they know it comes crashing down around them in the form of a military plane. Before the plane crashes into Dagger Hill, the kids see someone parachuting out of it. And Gabe sees someone in a gas mask pick up and carry their injured friend, Kimberly, to safety. At least that’s what he thinks. Until the army begins to interview them and they realize something more is going on, and no one knows where Kimberly is. Or the man in the “bug” mask.

Plot
The story is gripping from early on and never lets go. The author uses a fun method for his storytelling — a combination of first person, newspaper articles, third-person, and interviews to bring his tale to life. It makes each chapter different from the last and helps reveal the information to the reader in a unique way. The plot unfolds at a steady pace with lots of twists and turns.

The Characters
The characters are awesome. Each of the main characters, Gabe, Sonya, Charlie, and Kimberly, are complex, with secrets, worries, and problems of their own as they try to hold onto childhood for one more summer. The adults, from Gabe’s police chief dad to Sonya’s scientist dad, to the army officials and doctors, are just as varied and complex as the main characters, making this more than just a plot driven tale.

Top Five Things I Loved About DAGGER HILL
1. Pacing. The story MOVES. But at the right pace. I stayed up late devouring the story but without becoming overwhelmed. It was perfect.

2. Setting. I love both the small town and the era it was set in. It feels modern, but without all the high-tech stuff that can interfere with a good thriller. Plus the music and movie references were a fun blast from the past.

3. Characters. While this is primarily a plot-driven tale, the character development is off-the-charts good and will stay with me for a long time.

4. Twists. So many good twists that left my jaw hanging open.

5. Storytelling. I love the way the author unfolds his tale using different techniques for a unique approach to a really unique story.

Bottom Line
Fabulous, fun, un-put-downable read!

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: DAGGAR HILL
Author: Devon Taylor
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: August 17, 2021
Pages: 287
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

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Author Devon Taylor

Author Devon Taylor

About the Author
Devon Taylor was born in Las Vegas, Nevada and currently lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and two daughters. His day job consists of sneaking around the house with ninja-like stealth to avoid waking up his kids. When not writing, reading, or tediously typing out text messages with all the correct spelling and punctuation, he spends his time with his family. THE SOUL KEEPERS is his debut novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to Find Devon Taylor
Goodreads | WebsiteTwitter | Facebook | Instagram

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Giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – MARK OF THE WICKED by Georgia Bowers

 

Welcome to the blog tour for MARK OF THE WICKED, a standalone young adult fantasy by Georgia Bowers

 

MARK OF THE WICKED, a standalone young adult fantasy, by Georgia Bowers

MARK OF THE WICKED by Georgia Bowers

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
A young witch tries to unravel the mystery of who is framing her for dark magic in Georgia Bowers’ creepy YA debut fantasy, Mark of the Wicked.

Magic always leaves its mark.

All her life, Matilda has been told one thing about her magic: You use only when necessary. But Matilda isn’t interested in being a good witch. She wants revenge and popularity, and to live her life free of consequences, free of the scars that dark magic leaves on her face as a reminder of her misdeeds.

When a spell goes awry and the new boy at school catches her in the act, Matilda thinks her secret might be out. But far from being afraid, Oliver already knows about her magic – and he wants to learn more. As Oliver and Matilda grow closer, bizarre things begin to happen: Animals show up with their throats slashed and odd markings carved into their bodies, a young girl dies mysteriously, and everyone blames Matilda. But she isn’t responsible — at least, not that she can remember. As her magic begins to spin out of control, Matilda must decide for herself what makes a good witch, and discover the truth…before anyone else turns up dead.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
I had no idea what I was getting into with this book, but I’m so glad I requested a review copy! MARK OF THE WICKED is enthralling, impossible to put down, and filled with the types of characters that are so complex, you don’t know whether to love them or hate them. I started off not much liking Matilda. She uses her magic to harm those she considers her enemies. The only problem is, if she harms someone with magic, she is scarred for life; their name carved into her face. But Matilda has learned how to hide her scars from everyone, so at the outset, it seems like she suffers no consequences for her actions. She’s angry, spiteful, and nearly impossible to sympathize with. At first.

When she meets Oliver, though, we get to see a side to Matilda that was missing — the reasons for the things she does. She reveals her deeper fears and her darker pain that she resorts to magic to help her cope, the way an alcoholic turns to booze to numb the pain. But there is something more sinister than Matilda afoot, with grisly animal deaths that somehow keep pointing to Matilda. But with her mother acting suspicious, her grandmother not having spoken in three years, and Matilda’s blackouts, anything is possible.

Plot
MARK OF THE WICKED is superbly plotted, with intertwining plots. Debut author, Georgia Bowers, creates intrigue with her storytelling. The pacing is perfection. Set in a small town in England, with a dark history, similar to that of Salem, Massachusetts in the states, her backdrop comes alive, becoming a part of the story as much as the characters.

The Characters
Speaking of characters, for me anyway, the ability to create an antihero like Matilda, and make us root for her the way we rooted for Walter White in the first few season of Breaking Bad, is a rare talent and Bowers does it masterfully. Supporting characters, like Matilda’s classmates, Erin, Oliver, her mother, and grandmother, are more than just cardboard cutouts and stereotypes. It would have been easy for the author to make someone like Ashley a less than sympathetic character, but even she has more depth than just the class queen bee.

Top Five Things I Loved About MARK OF THE WICKED
1. Magic. The magical world building is amazing and really adds to the plot and character development.

2. Characters. Their depth and complexity made this a book I couldn’t put down.

3. Plot. The story is unforgettable, with a number of twists and turns that made this a book I couldn’t put down.

4. Redemption. Matilda’s character arc is the opposite of Breaking Bad as she learns some brutal, valuable lessons about life, love, and what it means to be a good citizen.

5. Storytelling. The author does an amazing job of weaving in threads that stick with you, gnawing in your brain, that keeps you reading to find out what they mean.

Bottom Line
A stellar debut novel by an author I cannot wait to read more from.

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: MARK OF THE WICKED
Author: Georgia Bowers
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: August 10, 2021
Pages: 287
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

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Author Georgia Bowers

Author Georgia Bowers

About the Author
Georgia Bowers lives in Bedford, a small market town in England. When it was time to decide what to do with her life, she was obsessed with two things: books and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It seemed sensible to follow in the brogued footsteps of Rupert Giles, so she became a librarian, though sadly not the demon fighting kind. But there’s still time.

Ever since her mum told her that witches used to meet in the woods near their village, she’s been obsessed with witchcraft and the paranormal. When she was a teenager, a weekly habit of Point Horrors satisfied her thirst for chilling tales before she moved on to reading Stephen King. These days she likes to give her nerves a break every now and then with a good YA romance.

After completing a course in writing YA fiction she was a winner in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Undiscovered Voices. Since then she has dabbled with stories of chosen ones and ghostly best friends until she conjured up the magical ingredients for her debut novel, Mark Of The Wicked.

Where to Find Georgia Bowers
Goodreads | WebsiteTwitter | Facebook | Instagram

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Giveaway
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Book Review + Giveaway – AMENDS (Diana Hawthorne Supernatural Mysteries) by Carissa Andrews

 

Welcome to the blog tour for AMENDS, the second book in the adult urban fantasy/mystery series, Diana Hawthorne Supernatural Mysteries, by Carissa Andrews

Welcome to the blog tour for AMENDS, the second book in the adult urban fantasy/mystery series, Diana Hawthorne Supernatural Mysteries, by Carissa Andrews. See below for information on the book and series, buy links, my review, and details on her giveaway.

AMENDS, the second book in the adult urban fantasy/mystery series, Diana Hawthorne Supernatural Mysteries, by Carissa Andrews

AMENDS (Diana Hawthorne Supernatural Mysteries #2) by Carissa Andrews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
For as psychic as she is, shit goes sideways far too often around Diana Hawthorne.

Diana now has everything she ever wanted–her memories, and the soul mate she didn’t realize she was missing. There’s just one problem… the old gods expect her to make amends for her absence. And her work starts now.

But time lost at the oracle isn’t the only thing she has to atone for. Her friend Demetri was stripped of his powers–and it was all her fault. If she could just set things right, she’d feel a whole lot better about moving forward. Unfortunately, Demetri wants nothing to do with her and knows exactly how to keep her out of his head.

To make matters worse, in the age of social media, Diana’s abilities have gone viral. People from all over the world are clambering to get on her books. One case, in particular, hits her radar and despite herself, she can’t shake it. A 14-year-old boy is wrapped up with a deadly governmental agency and he’s scared to death. And he should be–they want to weaponize his power.

Torn between what was and what is, Diana struggles to fully embrace who she’s becoming. Will she be able to help Demitri and make things right? Or will her new role mean leaving the past behind?

Calling fans of KF Breene, Shannon Mayer, and Shayne Silvers! If you like snarky-fun humor, gripping supernatural scenes, and twists that leave you spellbound — then you will LOVE Carissa Andrews’ world built especially for Diana Hawthorne.

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My Review
She’s baaaack! Diana Hawthorne from ORACLE returns with a whole new host of problems. If you haven’t read ORACLE yet, be aware there are mild spoilers head for book 1. Our favorite psychic/goddess is back, along with the rest of the cast, with a new mission — fix the problem she created for Demitri, and oh yeah, make amends for her past. Now that Diana finally knows who she is (the big question in book 1), with Blake by her side again, just as annoying and steamy as before, she has her work cut out for her. While Diana attempted to live in the past before, she’s now thrust into the twenty-first century with a vengeance she cannot ignore, which only complicates what she needs to do.

AMENDS picks up right after where the first one ends. This time, Diana will be forced to choose between her two worlds or find a better way to straddle them, all while still carrying a heavy dose of guilt over Demetri’s loss of powers she fully blames herself for.

Plot
As with book 1, AMENDS has an intense plot with solid subplots, including ones that span at least two books and definitely a third. Andrews does a stellar job with plotting, weaving the pieces together brilliantly. She ups the stakes this time, which was hard to do, considering we were dealing with a child sex-trafficking ring in book 1, but she manages to pull it off, generating another unputdownable page-turner.

Characters
Once again, the characters are complex and fun. Bringing in new characters, like the curmudgeonly Kyros, who is the oil to Ren’s water, along with favorites from Greek mythology, including Apollo. The “will they or won’t they” between Diana and Blake is only further intensified, making this even more delicious. Especially since they now both have the added insights of who they each other truly is.

What I Enjoyed About AMENDS
1. Greek Mythology.
I absolutely love this part of the book. The author incorporates the mythology with expertise, that only adds to the story.

2. Diana. She really grew on me over the course of ORACLE, so by the time I started AMENDS, I already loved her. She’s more her than ever, now that she has her memories back.

3. Blake. The man with the perfect ass is less of a mystery, making him much more fascinating.

4. Kyros/Ren. The battle of the assistants is worth the price of admission alone!

5. Psychic Powers. I’ve always been fascinated by this particular trope, and the author does a great job of brining the supernatural to the modern world without making things too easy for Diana and crew.

Bottom Line
Better than the first, AMENDS is a wild page turner with a fantastic cast.

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

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: AMENDS
Series: Diana Hawthorne Supernatural Mysteries #2
Authors: Carissa Andrews
Release Date: July 23, 2021
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy/Mystery
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

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Get Caught Up on the Series

Book 0.5: THE FINAL FIVE
Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

Book 1: ORACLE
Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

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International Bestselling Author Carissa Andrews

Author Carissa Andrews

About the Author
“An author emerges from the depths of Minnesotan waters. Sci-fi/Fantasy is my pen of choice.”

Carissa Andrews is a Minnesota-based genre-bending author who writes a combination of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia. When not writing her own books, she’s busy reading them. Carissa’s internationally bestselling trilogy, The Pendomus Chronicles, is now in digital, print, and audiobook formats. She has hit the scene as an up and coming speculative fiction author who uses a mix of scifi and fantasy, twisted in modern mythology and alternative history. Check out The Final Five, Oracle, Awakening, and Love is a Merciless God!

Carissa has big plans for 2020. Check out her upcoming series, The Windhaven Witches. For more information on their release, visit Carissa Andrews’ author website: www.carissaandrews.com and sign up for her newsletter notifications. She lives in central Minnesota with her husband and brood of five kids. Not to mention, her insane husky puppies, Aztec and Pharaoh.

Carissa is also a freelance graphic designer, writer and content creator, social media manager, and marketing professional. She writes consistently on topics of science, technology, art, writing, photography, graphic design, health, self-improvement, and more. Her articles can be found published across the interwebs. Carissa is also a Top-Rated Freelancer on Upwork, and can be contacted for freelancing opportunities: http://bit.ly/UpworkCarissaAndrews.

Where to find Carissa Andrews
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

 

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Giveaway
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Book Review + Giveaway – TELL ME S’MORE (The Campfire Series) by Beth Merlin

 

Welcome to the blog tour for TELL ME S'MORE, the fourth book in the adult contemporary romance series, Campfire, by Beth Merlin.

Welcome to the blog tour for TELL ME S’MORE, the fourth book in the adult contemporary romance series, Campfire, by Beth Merlin. See below for information on the book, buy links, my five-star review, and details on her giveaway.

TELL ME S’MORE, the fourth book in the adult contemporary romance series, The Campfire, by Beth Merlin

TELL ME S’MORE (Campfire Series #4) by Beth Merlin

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
“A beautifully written contemporary romance, with plenty of enjoyable comedy, it challenges us to evaluate our lives and make big decisions on who we want to be and not necessarily what everyone expects us to be.” – Adventures in Lit about The Campfire Series

Camp Chinooka was supposed to be a place of inspiration, the place where Perry Gilman would finally compose his symphonic masterpiece. But four years later, Perry Gillman isn’t any closer to his dream of becoming a world renowned musician. Instead, he fell love in with Gigi Goldstein and he thought that love would be enough. Now, struggling to find the right subject for a new musical while hustling as a piano player at a local jazz bar, he can’t help but measure his own shortcomings to his famous father’s monstrous success. So, when he stumbles onto the idea to write a musical about the life and times of Elizabeth I, everything finally changes. The musical is an international sensation and suddenly, Perry is on the fast track to super stardom.

However, fame and success come at a price. When his relationship with Gigi is thrown into a tailspin, he must decide whether to follow his dream for which he fought for so long or sacrifice it all for true love.

Told from Perry’s perspective, Tell Me S’more shows that there are two sides to every story and a cost to every choice.

 

 

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My Review
While billed as book four in the series, I’d recommend reading it after book two and before book three. It fills in nearly all of the gaps between books one and two, but I’d read it after the second one so it doesn’t spoil any of the best surprises. After Camp Chinooka, Perry and Gigi are making a go of it in New York. Perry plays piano in a nearby jazz club at night while Gigi and Jamie work on getting G. Malone off the ground. But Perry is hitting one creative roadblock after another, and after he suffers a particularly rough setback, he takes stock of the project he’s been working on for the past four years, Frostbite, a retelling of Shakespeare’s, The Winter’s Tale.

When tragedy strikes at home, Perry rethinks everything in his life, and begins to formulate an idea for a musical based on Elizabeth I. In the vein of Hamilton, the work unfolds with the level of detail Merlin is famous for, and I’d go see this right now if it was a real musical. However, as Perry’s successes pile up, his relationship with Gigi begins to crumble, and he will be forced to choose between his two greatest loves.

Plot
I ultimately knew what was going to happen going into it, because it’s essentially the same thing from Perry’s point of view, but since most of it happens between the end of book one and the beginning of book two, it does fill in some gaps. It ends at the conclusion of book two, and nicely sets up the third book. It’s well-told, as all Merlin’s books are, but doesn’t move quite as fast as book two. Still, it’s an engaging read and Perry’s character is so fully developed, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The descriptions of his process for creating Elizabeth was riveting, and his heartache is palpable, endearing him to me forever. I know I was on the fence about Perry vs. Gideon after book two, but now I’m solidly in Perry’s court.

Characters
It’s the same cast I’ve already grown to know and love, but from a different perspective, plus a few new characters thrown in the mix. They’re all very well crafted and believably unique.

What I Loved About TELL ME S’MORE
1. Elizabeth I.
I loved seeing the process for this musical coming to life. I’d buy tickets to go see it tomorrow if it was a real thing!

2. Perry. He has redeemed himself and I’m now rooting for him.

3. Music. I’ve always been in awe of the way musicians write music, and feel like I have a better understanding of the process now.

4. Annabelle. I liked her in book two and love her even more in this one. She and Gideon both got raw deals, but I’m pulling for them both to get their own HEAs.

5. Ending. Gut-wrenching and fitting for this story. Loved it, even though it made me cry.

Bottom Line
Can be read as a standalone, but packs SO much more emotional punch if read after book two.

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

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About the Book
Title: TELL ME S’MORE
Series: The Campfire Series #4
Authors: Beth Merlin
Publisher: Ink Monster, LLC
Release Date: April 27, 2027
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | iBooksKobo

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Author Beth Merlin

Author Beth Merlin

About the Author
Beth Merlin has a BA from The George Washington University where she minored in Creative Writing and a JD from New York Law School. She’s a native New Yorker who loves anything Broadway, rom-coms, her daughter Hadley, and a good maxi dress. She was introduced to her husband through a friend she met at sleepaway camp and considers the eight summers she spent there to be some of the most formative of her life. One S’more Summer is Beth’s debut novel.

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Where to find Beth Merlin
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
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Book Review – S’MORE TO LOSE (The Campfire Series) by Beth Merlin

 

S’MORE TO LOSE (The Campfire Series #2) by Beth Merlin

S’MORE TO LOSE (The Campfire Series #2) by Beth Merlin

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Four years after her life-changing summer at Camp Chinooka, Gigi Goldstein has a second chance at her dream career. As her design house takes the fashion world by storm, it attracts the notice of Victoria Ellicott, the fashionable British socialite who just happens to be engaged to the future king of England. When Gigi is chosen to design the royal wedding dress, she’s forced to confront her ex-fiancé, Perry Gillman, now a successful composer with a hit show on the West End of London.

When Gigi learns Perry’s been dating Victoria’s sister—who rivals her in looks, style and sophistication—Gigi can’t help but feel inadequate. Her world crumbles as she develops a creative block so debilitating she fears a wedding dress of royal proportions is never going to happen. Not even her budding relationship with the handsome and wealthy Viscount of Satterley can make her forget Perry. While the world gears up for the wedding of the century, Gigi is on the brink of buckling under the immense pressure of the uncertainties of her future and the failures of her past.

Can Gigi overcome her creative paralysis and design the dress of Victoria’s dreams? Or will everything slip through her fingers now that she has even s’more to lose?

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
This was a case where the second book in the series was better than the first. The title, S’MORE TO LOSE, is the perfect way to describe how the stakes are higher this time around for Gigi and Perry. Set four years after ONE S’MORE SUMMER, book two finds Gigi and Perry established in their respective careers, but apart. It takes at least half the book for the reader to fully understand what happened between them that set their relationship into a death spiral even as Perry’s musical about Elizabeth I takes the world by storm at the same time that Gigi and Jamie’s new label, G. Malone, is getting the kind of recognition they both dreamed of.

With G. Malone in the running to design the wedding gown for the bride of the next king of England, the spotlight couldn’t be brighter. But when she runs into Perry in London, old feelings and insecurities coming racing back, leaving her no choice but to return to Camp Chinooka to get her groove back. Gigi grows as an individual and as designer in the one place that never ceases to inspire her creativity. But nothing is ever that easy, and Perry’s new love interest could ruin everything for Gigi and Jamie, just as Gigi is finally moving on with Gideon, the charming Viscount of Slatterley.

Plot
I felt like this story moved faster due to the backstory being told in book 1. There were a lot of unexpected twists and turns that made this one much more fun for me to read. I was heartbroken at first to find that Gigi and Perry had broken up, but Gideon grew on me from nearly the beginning. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding a royal wedding, and I felt much more drawn into the world of fashion this time around. I could almost see the pieces in my head, the author’s descriptions were so vivid.

Characters
I loved seeing Gigi’s growth in this book and not repeating the mistakes of her past. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t make new mistakes, because she does, and they come back to bite her in the arse big time. New characters, like the bride-to-be, Victoria, and her sister, Annabelle, and Gideon are welcome additions to the cast.

What I Loved About S’MORE TO LOSE
1. Fashion Design.
While I love looking at beautiful clothes, the whole couture thing has never been something I was interested in. Until now. I loved all the description of the gowns, the clothes, the fabrics, the details.

2. Character Development. Seeing how Gigi has grown since the first book was one of my favorite parts about the sequel. Something many books in a series fall flat on.

3. London. I’ve only been to London once, but I felt as if I was back there again through the author’s descriptions.

4. Camp Chinooka. A nice way to circle back to the s’more theme of the series.

5. Ending. Another perfect happy-for-now ending with the promise of more to come in book three.

Bottom Line
A fun, flirty, heartwarming romance with all the elements of a page-turner.

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

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About the Book
Title: S’MORE TO LOSE
Series: The Campfire Series #2
Authors: Beth Merlin
Publisher: Ink Monster, LLC
Release Date: December 5, 2017
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | iBooksKobo

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Author Beth Merlin

Author Beth Merlin

About the Author
Beth Merlin has a BA from The George Washington University where she minored in Creative Writing and a JD from New York Law School. She’s a native New Yorker who loves anything Broadway, rom-coms, her daughter Hadley, and a good maxi dress. She was introduced to her husband through a friend she met at sleepaway camp and considers the eight summers she spent there to be some of the most formative of her life. One S’more Summer is Beth’s debut novel.

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Where to find Beth Merlin
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter

Book Review – ONE S’MORE SUMMER (The Campfire Series) by Beth Merlin

 

ONE S'MORE SUMMER (The Campfire Series #1) by Beth Merlin

ONE S’MORE SUMMER (The Campfire Series #1) by Beth Merlin

4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
If you love Sophie Kinsella and Emily Giffin, you’ll love this heartwarming debut from a fresh voice in contemporary chick-lit that offers a lighthearted and fun take on friendship, love, and how to recover from past mistakes.

For twenty long years, Gigi Goldstein has been pining away for her best friend’s guy. She knows it’s wrong and it has to stop, but she hasn’t been able to let go ever since they all met on the bus to summer camp back when they were 7 years old. The same week that her best friends finally announce their wedding date, Gigi loses her high-profile design job. With all of her dreams unravelling, she runs to the last place she remembers being happy.

Taking the Head Counselor position at Camp Chinooka, Gigi hopes to reclaim the joy she felt as a camper, but the job isn’t all campfire songs and toasting marshmallows. Gigi’s girls are determined to make her look bad in front of the boys’ Head Counselor—the sexy but infuriating Perry—and every scrap of the campground is laced with memories.

When Gigi finally realizes she can’t escape the present by returning to her past, she’s forced to reexamine her life and find the true meaning of love. But will she be able to mend fences and forgive herself before she loses her one real shot at happiness?

 

 

 

 

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My Review
This was such a blast to read. So much of it was reminiscent of camping as a child, but with adult problems thrown in the mix. Georgica Goldstein (aka Gigi) is a twenty-something fashion designer who was runner up in a reality TV show that launched her career. Now in the midst of a savage creative design block, she is fired from her job and has lost the only man she’s ever loved. Escaping to her childhood sleep-away camp, Camp Chinooka, as senior counselor, she hopes to find some inspiration while mending her broken heart. What she doesn’t count on is meeting fellow counselor, Perry, with his good looks, swoony British accent, and his own secrets and reasons to escape. They begin summer as adversaries, but anything is possible when sultry nights and s’mores by the campfire are involved.

Plot
The plot moves well, taking us from the present back to what drove Gigi to escape to Camp Chinooka in the first place. Much of the relationship stuff with Perry early on is the typical inaccurate assumptions that are common in the trope, but I love that the story breaks from the expected in the middle and forged its own path to the ending. Though this is the first book in a series, it ends with an HFN and a lot of reader satisfaction.

Characters
I loved the characters. Gigi is seriously flawed, but not in a way that makes her unlikeable. Just the opposite. I found her completely relatable as someone who has made my own share of poor relationship choices in the past . Perry is also less than perfect, but also completely redeemable. The young campers, the other counselors, and even the camp’s owner, Gordy, all add charm and conflict to the story.

What I Loved About ONE S’MORE SUMMER
1. Sleep-Away Camp.
Visiting summer camp again through the eyes of an adult who had been there as a child was a real treat, and brought so many memories flooding back.

2. Gigi. She is so easy to relate to as the once chubby girl, now fashion designer, who suffers from a deep bout of imposter syndrome.

3. Perry Gillman. What’s not to love about the swoon-worthy Brit who plays the violin like a god?

4. Campers. The drama surrounding teen girls at summer camp was all too familiar and absolutely fun to read.

5. Ending. A perfect happy-for-now ending.

Bottom Line
A light-hearted summer romance that has “beach read” stamped all over it.

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

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About the Book
Title: ONE S’MORE SUMMER
Series: The Campfire Series #1
Authors: Beth Merlin
Publisher: Ink Monster, LLC
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon DE | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Author Beth Merlin

Author Beth Merlin

About the Author
Beth Merlin has a BA from The George Washington University where she minored in Creative Writing and a JD from New York Law School. She’s a native New Yorker who loves anything Broadway, rom-coms, her daughter Hadley, and a good maxi dress. She was introduced to her husband through a friend she met at sleepaway camp and considers the eight summers she spent there to be some of the most formative of her life. One S’more Summer is Beth’s debut novel.

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Where to find Beth Merlin
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter

Book Review – THE SWALLOWS by Lisa Lutz

 

THE SWALLOWS by Lisa Lutz

THE SWALLOWS by Lisa Lutz

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
A new teacher at a New England prep school ignites a gender war–with deadly consequences.

What do you love? What do you hate? What do you want?

It starts with this simple writing prompt from Alex Witt, Stonebridge Academy’s new creative writing teacher. When the students’ answers raise disturbing questions of their own, Ms. Witt knows there’s more going on the school than the faculty wants to see. She soon learns about The Ten–the students at the top of the school’s social hierarchy–as well as their connection to something called The Darkroom.

Ms. Witt can’t remain a passive observer. She finds the few girls who’ve started to question the school’s “boys will be boys” attitude and incites a resistance that quickly becomes a movement. But just as it gains momentum, she also attracts the attention of an unknown enemy who knows a little too much about her–including what brought her to Stonebridge in the first place.

Meanwhile, Gemma, a defiant senior, has been plotting her attack for years, waiting for the right moment. Shy loner Norman hates his role in the Darkroom, but can’t find the courage to fight back until he makes an unlikely alliance. And then there’s Finn Ford, an English teacher with a shady reputation who keeps one eye on his literary ambitions and one on Ms. Witt.

As the school’s secrets begin to trickle out, a boys-versus-girls skirmish turns into an all-out war, with deeply personal–and potentially fatal–consequences for everyone involved.

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My Review
Told from various third-person points of view, THE SWALLOWS is a deep-dive into the world of privileged boys meets aggrieved girls hellbent on revenge. When new teacher, Alex Witt, assigns a routine paper for students to anonymously tell her something about themselves, she discovers an ugly secret society of misogynistic boys who rate girls on their unique abilities. What she discovers will ignite a fire under the girls to fight back and get even, with tragic consequences. The mystery of what the Darkroom is and means to students at Stonebridge Academy unfolds slowly, leaving the reader turning the pages to find out what happens next. It all builds to an ugly climax that leaves everyone forever changed.

Plot
This is my first novel by Lutz and I’m hooked. She weaves a captivating tale, building suspense, gluing me to the pages, or in the case, my Kindle screen. More than a few hours of sacrificed sleep were involved. Her characters are so complex, damaged, real, and very well distinguished from one another, that I always knew whose point of view I was reading. Though she sets up the tragedy throughout the story, it doesn’t ruin the ending. All we know is something bad is going to happen, but so much builds throughout the preceding chapters, there’s no way to know exactly what it’ll be.

Characters
The cast is full of diverse, well-developed, well-differentiated characters. Because it’s told in so many first-person points of view, this was key, and the author knocked it out of the park. Lutz does an amazing job of crafting compelling characters to tell her story. Even the ones I didn’t like, I still felt like i really understood.

What I Loved About THE SWALLOWS
1. Pacing.
The story is expertly paced to keep me turning the virtual pages.

2. Alex Witt. The primary protagonist and the most damaged of the bunch. She was the perfect blend of jaded teacher and inspirational mentor.

3. Getting Even. The girls fighting back with what they had available was one of my favorite parts of the story.

4. Characters. A thrilling cast brought this story to life in a way that other characters wouldn’t have been able to carry.

5. Ending. Without giving anything away, I love the way the author concludes her tale and the ramifications it has on her characters’ lives.

Bottom Line
A thrilling tale of lust, power trips, and revenge.

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

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About the Book
Title: THE SWALLOWS
Authors: Lisa Lutz
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: August 13, 2019
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon DE | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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New York Times bestselling Author Lisa Lutz

Author Lisa Lutz

About the Author
Lisa Lutz is the New York Times bestselling author of the six books in the Spellman series, How to Start a Fire, Heads you Lose (with David Hayward), and the children’s book, How to Negotiate Everything (illustrated by Jaime Temairik). Her latest book, The Passenger, a psychological thriller, will be published March 2016 by Simon and Schuster. Lutz has won the Alex award and has been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel.

Although she attended UC Santa Cruz, UC Irvine, the University of Leeds in England, and San Francisco State University, she still does not have a bachelor’s degree. Lisa spent most of the 1990s hopping through a string of low-paying odd jobs while writing and rewriting the screenplay Plan B, a mob comedy. After the film was made in 2000, she vowed she would never write another screenplay. Lisa lives in the Hudson Valley, NY..

Where to find Lisa Lutz
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter | Instagram

Young Adult Book Review – THROWING SHADE by Karole Cozzo

 

THROWING SHADE by Karole Cozzo

THROWING SHADE by Karole Cozzo

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
SPF at the ready… someone’s about to get burned.

As a year-round resident of Cape May, New Jersey, Maisie Mundy has grown up loathing the “shoobies” that flood her charming seaside town each summer and treat it like their personal playground. And when it comes to shoobies, there’s none worse than Preston St. James, the arrogant heir to the St. James Development Company, the same company that’s trying to drive Maisie’s grandfather’s beach umbrella company out of town to greenlight their latest downtown project. Maisie is the only person aware of the dire financial situation her grandfather has found himself in, and she’s the only person who can save the shop, peddling rental umbrellas on the beach daily, doing whatever it takes to keep Mundy’s Sundries afloat. When Preston launches a beach delivery app to win a Shark Tank competition at his private school, he gives Maisie a whole new reason to hate him. Immediately, the two become engaged in a battle of rumor-spreading and sabotage that could sink them both.

But as Maisie’s best friend Summer points out, hating someone that much takes a lot of passion, and the more time Maisie spends duking it out with Preston, the more that passion starts looking like something else entirely; the more it starts looking like romance. The closer Maisie and Preston become, the more she trusts him with her heart… and her family’s secrets. When Mrs. St. James uses insider information to deliver the final blow to Mundy’s Sundries, Maisie’s convinced their romance was another one of Preston’s tactics, one meant to hurt her and her family at the same time, despite his denial of belying her trust. Was Maisie a fool for ever trusting a St. James, or will her lack of faith in Preston be the real reason she gets burned this summer?

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My Review
It’s been far too long since I’ve read anything by Karole Cozzo, but her latest release, THROWING SHADE, does not disappoint. It’s a beach read for young adults and anyone young at heart. Between lighthearted moments are deeper themes about fighting for what you believe in, family bonds, overcoming deep-seated fears, love, and loyalty. And of course, lots of kissing. Her summer before her senior year of high school, Maisie Mundy, works at Mundy’s Sundries at the beach, a business selling sunscreen and renting beach chairs and umbrellas, started by her great grandparents and now run by her grandparents. The business is in trouble, but she’s determined to turn things around. At least until preppy Preston St. James arrives and decides that his summer econ project will involve a competing business to Mundy’s except using cool tech to order items right from the beach. Maisie hates everything about Preston, from the silver spoon he was born with to his attitude as a part-time resident who doesn’t appreciate the tiny seaside New Jersey shore town of Cape May for what it really is.

When Preston’s mom proposes a new shopping center at the heart of town where Mundy’s Sundries is located, Maisie is incensed. How dare these shoobies just show up and try to shove out long-term residents! She decides the best way to fight back is to show Preston all the hidden gems of Cape May that only the true locals know about. Maybe if he can see the charm of quintessential Cape May, he can convince his mom that some things don’t need to be modernized. That small businesses are better than huge chains. What she doesn’t count on is mutual attraction sparking that leads to so much kissing.

Plot
The plot is two-fold. On one side is the romance between Maisie and Preston and on the other is the fate of Mundy’s Sundries. But Maisie’s relationship with Preston is so intertwined with the success or failure of her family’s business, that the conflict practically writes itself. Cozzo handles both sides of this plot deftly, so that we take neither Maisie’s side, nor Preston’s, generating the kind of angsty romance that kept me turning the pages. Excellent sub-plotting involves Maisie’s BFF, Summer, and her need to overcome a phobia in order to take on a rival.

Characters
Characters are what Cozzo does best and these characters are no exception. All have rich backstories who shape them into fully three-dimensional beings that we root for from the opening pages. There’s plenty of humor, lots of warmth, and just the right amount of growth for a satisfying ending.

What I Loved About THROWING SHADE
1. Maisie.
She’s so devoted to her grandparents who helped raise her, and to their business, it’s hard to find fault in almost anything she does to protect them, even when you know she’s in the wrong.

2. Preston. He’s more than just a privileged preppy boy, and seeing Maisie discover these deeper layers is delicious fun.

3. Summer. I absolutely adore Summer, the badass swimmer and devoted teacher of young Black kids so they feel as comfortable in the water as she does.

4. Grannies on Pot. One of the best scenes is when Maisie’s grandma takes too much medical marijuana.

5. Angsty Romance. There’s something so visceral about teen love and their inability to grasp that anyone might really love them for who they are that tugs at my heartstrings. Every.single.time.

Bottom Line
A wonderful teen beach read full of humor, young love, and fighting for what matters most.

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

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About the Book
Title: THROWING SHADE
Authors: Karole Cozzo
Release Date: May 27, 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Beach Read
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon DE | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Karole Cozzo

Author Karole Cozzo

About the Author
Karole lives outside of Philadelphia, PA with her loving husband, exuberant little girl, and smiley little boy. She adores YA Romance, because it would be awesome if life in general had a requisite feel-good happy ending rule. Vices include obscene Haribo gummy consumption, addiction to Starbucks NF vanilla lattes, and tendency to hoard Bath and Body Works 3-wick candles.

 

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

Blog Tour – Review – GUTTER GIRL (Twin River High Series) by Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount

 

Welcome to the blog tour for GUTTER GIRL, the first book in the young adult contemporary romance series, Twin River High, by New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount

GUTTER GIRL, the first book in the young adult contemporary romance series, Twin River High, by New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount

GUTTER GIRL (Twin River High Series #1) by Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Star football player Jace Rovers has a secret. And not just any secret—a shocking secret… He writes romance. The kind with swords. And dresses. And kissing.

Nobody knows. Not the other kids at Twin River High. Not his overbearing parents. And certainly not the millions of fans who’ve read his book on the writing platform Scribbles. And that’s the way he plans to keep it.

Except suddenly one of the other football players grabs his notebook in jest and starts reading a kissing scene out loud…and Jace knows he’s busted.

But then McKenna Storm, resident goth girl who avoids the spotlight like a virus, snatches up the notebook and tells everyone she’s the author. And lucky for Jace, she later agrees to continue the ruse…for a price.

Heck, he’d give her anything not to reveal his secret. But when they start to fall for each other, he knows he’ll have to keep the biggest secret of all—his darkest character is based on her…

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
I loved this book so much, and it easily moved to the top of my favorites for both authors. The characters are deeply drawn and I loved them instantly. McKenna Storm is likable from the opening pages as the goth girl with a bipolar mother. She likes to fly under the radar, just wanting to get through her last year of high school before leaving Twin River and her mom’s drama far behind. So why she agrees to cover for Jace, one of the most popular guys in school, and oh yeah the writer behind one of the hottest fantasy romances in all of teendom, is a mystery even she can’t fully understand. And yet there she is, standing in the hallway, pretending Jace’s writing notebook filled with kissing scenes and sword fighting is hers to protect him from the taunting by his football teammates.

Jace is both horrified and grateful to McKenna. He’s worried that once one person knows something, it’s no longer a secret. McKenna has crushed on Jace since third grade, so she won’t say anything, but when her fake alter ego is revealed, her ability to fly under the radar is obliterated as she’s suddenly the most sought after girl in all of Twin River High. She pushes back, but she’s no match for Jace’s pleading that she continue the ruse, at least for a little while. The secret cover means these two opposites need to spend more time together; something neither of them really wants. At least in the beginning. McKenna, aka Goth Girl, and the star football player are, as McKenna calls them, a cheesy romcom couple. But neither of them is their perceived stereotype and they discover they have much more in common than either of them imagined.

Plot
This is a straight-up romance, but it’s filled with the kind of teen angst that keeps me turning the pages. The slow burn romance turns into so much more with a ton of conflict that drives both passion and pain in delicious ways. Their first kiss is toe-curling in the sweetest sense, but their romance is more than just sweet. The authors have created such complex characters that their actions and reactions felt really authentic. And with any romance, you find yourself yelling at the characters to just be open and honest, and then you remind yourself that they’re teens. Teens and communication are like reverse polarity. But these moments in the second half of the book only make the ending that much more satisfying.

Characters
Both characters have rich backstories that make them interesting, flawed, and relatable. Jace is a sweet older brother who found his love of writing after telling his younger sister bedtime stories. McKenna is the only child of a single mom with bipolar disorder. Jace seems to have it all with two loving parents and a little sister he adores. McKenna seems to be nothing more than a goth girl with a giant chip on her shoulder. But there’s always more to people than what they allow others to see. McKenna’s best friend, Ernie, is beyond adorable, and I hope he gets his own story in the series.

What I Loved About GUTTER GIRL
1. Scribbles.
The Wattpad alternative where Jace writes his Kingdom of Swords was a fun subplot.

2. Jace. A football player who secretly writes fantasy romance. What’s not to love?

3. McKenna. She has her hands full and then some, but she still keeps her head above water while working extra shifts to keep her family afloat.

4. Writing. As a writer, I really enjoyed the scenes where they were discussing plotting, character development, and all the other delights that goes into writing a novel.

5. Angsty Romance. It’s my favorite romance sub-genre, but it’s not over the top here. Just the right amount to add conflict and tug at my heartstrings.

Bottom Line
My favorite book by this author duo with fantastic characters and heartfelt romance.

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About the Book
Title: GUTTER GIRL
Series: Twin River High Series #1
Authors: Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: May 10, 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon DE | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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USA Today bestselling author Kelly Anne Blount

Author Kelly Anne Blount

About Kelly Anne Blount
KELLY ANNE BLOUNT is a USA Today bestselling author of young adult novels. When she’s not writing, she’s probably lost in a book, watching Twilight, snuggling her five furry rescues, or having an adventure with her handsome husband and their darling daughter. After living in a palace in Scotland, across from the Caribbean Sea, and in the snowy land of Wisconsin, Kelly and her family reside in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. Kelly loves connecting with readers on social media! Stop by and say, “Hi!” or ask a question. You can find her everywhere @KellyAnneBlount.

 

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Where to Find Kelly Anne Blount
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter | Instagram

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lynn Rush

Author Lynn Rush

About Lynn Rush
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, Lynn Rush, is a full-time writer, wife, and trail runner living in the Sonoran Desert, despite her fear of rattle snakes. Known as #TheRunningWriter, Lynn can’t resist posting epic sunrise pictures while running in the desert with her trail sisters, even if she has to occasionally hop a scorpion.

When she’s not running or writing, she’s watching movies that fuel her everlasting love of superheroes, vampires, and all things Supernatural. The books she reads usually carry the same theme, but this former college athlete loves reading sweet sports romances as well. She’s madly in love with her Ironman husband of 20+ years who is the inspiration for what true love is. You can find her on social media as @LynnRushWrites

 

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Where to Find Lynn Rush
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Facebook Group | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Tumblr

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – THE SECRET RECIPE FOR MOVING ON by Karen Bischer

 

Welcome to the blog tour for THE SECRET RECIPE FOR MOVING ON, a standalone young adult contemporary romance by Karen Bischer

 

THE SECRET RECIPE FOR MOVING ON, a standalone young adult contemporary romance by Karen Bischer

THE SECRET RECIPE FOR MOVING ON by Karen Bischer

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
When Ellie is dumped by her boyfriend, she’s forced to make new friends (while watching her ex swoon over his new girlfriend) in The Secret Recipe for Moving On, a smart and funny YA debut from Karen Bischer.

Ellie Agresti’s not sure anything could be worse than being dumped by her boyfriend, Hunter, the first day of senior year.

But sharing a “life skills” class with him and his new girlfriend, Brynn? AND getting partnered with a “family” of misfits (A.J., the loudmouth; Isaiah, the horse-racing obsessive; and Luke, the tattooed stunt-biker)?

It’s a recipe for certain disaster…until an in-class competition allows Ellie to channel her angst into beating Hunter and Brynn’s team, and she unexpectedly bonds with her own group–especially Luke–in the process.

But as Ellie soon discovers, it will take more than classroom triumphs to heal her broken heart–and find herself again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
This is exactly the book I needed to read at this moment in my life. It’s delightful, delicious, and devourable. Seventeen-year-old Ellie is a recent transplant after her father lost his restaurant due to the actions of an unscrupulous employee. She arrived mid junior year where she immediately drew the attentions of Hunter and they were immediately smitten. Hunter rolled Ellie into his posse and she gained both a boyfriend and a friend group overnight, easing her transition. But when Hunter reveals himself to be the worst boyfriend ever, dumping her overnight for someone else, Ellie is left both brokenhearted and friendless since Hunter’s friends were hers. To make matters worse, she’s stuck with him and his saccharinely adorable new girlfriend, Brynn, in their life skills class, until the class bad boy, Luke, rescues her from their pod. Now, Ellie is determined to not only prove to Hunter she’s better off without him, but to take down his life skills pod by the end of the year.

Plot
The plot is so much fun. Rather than just a straight-up romance, it’s more of a character growth arc with a side of romance. Ellie has a lot of growing to do, too. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I liked her in the first few chapters, but after she and Hunter part ways and she needs to forge her own way in her new high school all on her own, she becomes someone I rooted for every step of the way. Her relationship with the other members of her pod brought some of the best dialogue and moments to the book. And while I predicted early on that Luke would be a love interest before the book ended, I love that it wasn’t THE plot. The main plot is really about Ellie finding herself and discovering who she is without her BFF, Jodie, by her side every day, and without Hunter and his friend group.

The Characters
I loved the characters! Even Brynn and Hunter were the antagonists you love to hate. Luke, AJ, and Isaiah, as Ellie’s life skills cohorts, were all so unique in their personalities and they truly brought out the best in Ellie. Her childhood best friend, Jodie, who only lives an hour away, makes cameo appearances and it’s clear to see why these two have such a solid friendship.

Top Five Things I Loved About THE SECRET RECIPE FOR MOVING ON
1. Ellie. For me, it’s the hallmark of good writing when an author can make me care so much about a character after I initially dismissed them as unlikeable.

2. Luke. I love him. He’s nothing like Ellie’s original assessment, but that’s because he’s complex and complicated and it only makes him more endearing.

3. Isaiah. The horserace loving, sheltered teen is one of the most fascinating characters in the story.

4. Getting Even. Ellie takes the “getting even by living your best life” approach to the limits and it’s sweet revenge.

5. Life Skills. Their “easy A” class is anything but, as all the students learn a lesson on life in a fun, unique class.

Bottom Line
A delightful romance with heart and soul. I love these characters and I love the themes.

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

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About the Book
Title: THE SECRET RECIPE FOR MOVING ON
Author: Karen Bischer
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: March 23, 2021
Pages: 287
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

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Debut Author Karen Bischer

Author Karen Bischer

About the Author
Karen Bischer has written short stories for Girls’ World and Animal Tales magazines and currently works as a copyeditor. She lives in her native New Jersey, where she has never encountered Bruce Springsteen in the wild, but does have a cat named after a member of the E Street Band.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to Find Karen Bischer
Goodreads | WebsiteTwitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Young Adult Book Review – IN THE PENALTY BOX by Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount

 

IN THE PENALTY BOX by Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount

IN THE PENALTY BOX by Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The Cutting Edge meets Friday Night Lights in a sizzling new hockey romance from bestselling authors Kelly Anne Blount and Lynn Rush.

Willow
Figure skating was supposed to be my whole world. But one unlucky injury and now I’m down…but I’m definitely not out. I just need to rehab—a boatload of rehab—and who’d have thought I could do it on the boys’ hockey team?

Of course, the infuriatingly hot captain of the team seems to think I’m nothing but sequins and twirls. What’s a girl to do but put him in his place? Game on.

Brodie
Hockey is my whole world. I’ve worked my tail off getting my team in a position to win the championships—hopefully in front of major college scouts, too—so what’s a guy to do when a figure skater ends up as our new goalie?

Of course, the distractingly sexy skater thinks I’m nothing but a testosterone-laced competitive streak. And surely she’s only biding her time to heal, then she’s gone. Game over.

 

 

 

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My Review
A sweet romance with enough heat to melt any freshly Zambonied ice rink. Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount have written a swoony teen romance with stellar lead characters, a fun supporting cast, and more skating than the Winter Olympics. Willow Covington, a figure skater with her eye on the Olympics, is injured and loses not only her spot on the team, but the host family where she’s lived for years, returning to the small northern town where she grew up. But the Woodhaven she left didn’t have one Brodie “The Wind” Windom. He’s not only easy on the eyes, he’s a monster on the ice. As Willow rehabs in Woodhaven, she’s increasingly frustrated by her lack of progress landing her jumps. When she watches the boys’ hockey team practice, an errant puck flies through the air, nearly hitting her and her friend, Jessa, until she reaches out and grabs the spinning death disk in midair. This gets her a tryout with the team since their goalie is rehabbing himself. Willow isn’t sure if playing hockey will help or hinder her return to figure skating, but spending time with Brodie every day is enough for her to give it a try. Playing hockey turns out to be more than she imagined, and when the figure skating teams come calling, she’ll need to make a choice between the only dream she’s ever had — to skate in the Olympics — and the only boy she’s ever loved.

Plot
With two authors, there’s a lot of plotting going on. The primary plot is the relationship between Willow and Brodie. But both Willow and Brodie have their own growth arcs and lots of subplotting. From Willow’s efforts to regain a spot on a top figure skating team to Brodie’s family matters and his future as a hockey player, there’s a lot happening that should keep these two apart. Not the least of which is the no fraternization between teammates rule. All of this adds delicious conflict and angst.

Characters
Brodie and Willow are both really well developed, but Willow stole my heart. She’s strong, independent, and knows how to hold her own on a boys’ hockey team. Brodie is totally worthy of her amazingness, though. What makes Willow one of the best female characters I’ve read in a long time is the fact that she never once questions why Brodie would be interested in her. She still has some solid insecurities as you’d expect a teen character to have, but it wasn’t ever about whether she was dateable. I found that to be exceedingly refreshing.

What I Loved About IN THE PENALTY BOX
1. Ice Sports.
Whether you love figure skating, hockey, or both, there’s a lot for everyone to enjoy.

2. Willow. She refuses to take any grief from the boys, or the catty girls on the figure skating team. She gives back twice as much as she takes.

3. Brodie. He has a lot of baggage, but he still manages to be this amazing guy who looks after his kid brother, his father, the team, and Willow.

4. Making Your Own Choices. I love that Willow didn’t let anyone influence her. She did what she needed to do for herself.

5. Reality. I love that the authord didn’t wrap everything up with a nice, tidy bow. Life is messy and even though this is a solid HFN ending, not everything was all neat and clean at the end, making it so much more relatable.

Bottom Line
A flirty, sweet figure skater vs. hockey player romance with an adorable twist.

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About the Book
Title: IN THE PENALTY BOX
Authors: Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: January 5, 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Sports Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon DE | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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USA Today bestselling author Kelly Anne Blount

Author Kelly Anne Blount

About Kelly Anne Blount
USA Today bestselling author and Wattpad Star Kelly Anne Blount has more than seventy-three-thousand followers on social media. Her Wattpad stories have been read more than twenty-million times. She’s contributed to Tap, Wattpad’s new app for chat-style stories, where her work has been “tapped” more than fifty-million times. She is a writer and reviewer for SpoilerTV, which has allowed her to develop an incredible network of film and TV stars.

Two of her Wattpad works, including Captured (seventeen-million reads), have been optioned for film by Komixx Entertainment, and she is regularly invited to present seminars about social media at author events.

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Where to Find Kelly Anne Blount
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter | Instagram

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lynn Rush

Author Lynn Rush

About Lynn Rush
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, Lynn Rush, is a full-time writer, wife, and trail runner living in the Sonoran Desert, despite her fear of rattle snakes. Known as #TheRunningWriter, Lynn can’t resist posting epic sunrise pictures while running in the desert with her trail sisters, even if she has to occasionally hop a scorpion.

When she’s not running or writing, she’s watching movies that fuel her everlasting love of superheroes, vampires, and all things Supernatural. The books she reads usually carry the same theme, but this former college athlete loves reading sweet sports romances as well.

She’s madly in love with her Ironman husband of 20+ years who is the inspiration for what true love is.

 

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Where to Find Lynn Rush
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter | Instagram

Book Review – 1,000 STRONG VERBS FOR FICTION WRITERS (Indie Author Resources Series) by Valerie Howard

 

1,000 STRONG VERBS FOR FICTION WRITERS (Indie Author Resources Series #2) by Valerie Howard

1,000 STRONG VERBS FOR FICTION WRITERS (Indie Author Resources Series #2) by Valerie Howard

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
LIST OF 1,000 VERBS

Are you searching for stronger verbs for your works of fiction (or non-fiction)?

Aren’t we all?

This handy little reference booklet contains a list of 1,000 strong verbs to help you replace the weaker verbs in your fiction writing as you self-edit your work. Just look up the weak verb you’d like to replace, and choose a stronger verb from the alphabetized lists.

For example:

Weak: Sally walked across the room.
Stronger: Sally scurried across the room.

Weak: Harry lightly touched the edge of the book.
Stronger: Harry trailed his fingers along the edge of the book.

Weak: Karen ran as quickly as she could to her closet.
Stronger: Karen charged her closet in a panic.

Weak: Lucy hit her palm on the desk.
Stronger: Lucy smacked her palm on the desk.

Ready to weed out the weak verbs and not-so-helpful adverbs in your writing and replace them with strong verbs?

Let’s get started!

Indie Author Resources Book 2

 

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My Review
This is a reference book full of useful verbs, like a thesaurus dialed in specifically for the fiction writer. It has easy to find, quick to use suggestions for weak verbs. Because I borrowed this with Kindle Unlimited and will have to return it, I do think I’ll end up purchasing a copy to have at hand when I’m revising. The suggestions are plentiful, and just a single strong verb can spark an entire creative process at the keyboard.

Bottom Line
A thesaurus on steroids, this reference tool is something novelists will find themselves reaching for over and over again.

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About the Book – Read for free with Kindle Unlimited
Title
: 1,000 STRONG VERBS FOR FICTION WRITERS
Series: Indie Author Resources Series #2
Author: Valerie Howard
Publication Date: July 24, 2019
Pages: 111
Category: Writing
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

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Author Valerie Howard

Author Valerie Howard

About the Author
Valerie Howard has been writing stories since she was in second grade when she wrote “The Mystery of the Missing Crayon.” She lives in Maine with her husband and two sons. She graduated from Sacopee Valley High School in Hiram, Maine and Piedmont Baptist College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Where to find Valerie Howard
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Amazon

Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – BATTLE OF THE BULLIES by Fenyx Blue

 

Welcome to the blog tour for BATTLE OF THE BULLIES, a young adult contemporary by Fenyx Blue

Welcome to the blog tour for BATTLE OF THE BULLIES, a young adult contemporary by Fenyx Blue. See below for information on the book, buy links, and my review. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for information on her giveaway.

BATTLE OF THE BULLIES, a young adult contemporary by Fenyx Blue

BATTLE OF THE BULLIES by Fenyx Blue

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Ebony, Eris, and Emani Robertson have been through so much more than most high school freshmen. When they were younger, they survived a school shooting that killed their friend and left their oldest sister unable to speak. After giving homeschooling a try, they enroll in a promising new academy, hoping for the best.The Robertsons soon discover, however, that their new classmates are anything but kind. A mysterious group of bullies known as the Dimes rules the hallways and spreads fear everywhere they go. All three sisters end up being targets of the gang and have to find a way to defend themselves.

The triplets couldn’t be more different, but their loyalty to each other and to their school never fails. Along with diverse group of friends, the Robertsons do everything they can to uncover the identity of the Dimes and restore order to the school.As if their lives weren’t complicated enough, they also get sucked in to a much bigger game—discovering who was responsible for the attack on their old school. Can they bring down the Dimes and bring the murderer to justice, all while trying to make it through ninth grade?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
With a title like BATTLE OF THE BULLIES in the young adult genre, I knew this book offered promise, but I was expecting the powerful emotional punch it delivered. High school freshmen and triplets, Eris, Ebony, and Emani have joined older sister, Alexis at a new school after their old school was targeted for a bombing that killed 100 students. In the wake of the trauma, they try to assimilate in their new school, but are on the radar of the school’s famous, but mysterious group of bullies known as the Dimes. The girls are as different as they are alike and the three of them navigate the problems in their own individual ways. A dancer, an athlete, and a social media influencer, the girls tackle life as it comes at them, working to help the police track down the remaining guilty party of the bombing and ferret out the members of the Dimes. To say they have their work cut out for them would be an understatement. The themes are heavy and dark, but Blue’s writing is light, punctuated by moments of levity which carries the story through the bleaker moments. Her voice is fresh and youthful, but some of the story elements came across as almost over the top for no purpose in the story, that I could tell. For instance, they are a family of seven, including two parents, an older sister, the triplets, and twin brothers. On top of that, their mom has found time to hand make perfect Halloween costumes for all the kids plus herself and her husband every year.

Plot
The plotting is rich and complex, with each girl having her own subplot in addition to the main plot of unmasking the Dimes. The additional subplot of helping law enforcement with their previous school bombing make this both intricate and aggressive. A lot happens and it can be confusing at times with each of the three girls having her own point of view, but once I was able to keep all of them separate in my mind, even with their names all starting with the letter E, it was easier. But also, because so much is happening, the story never slows down. It’s easy to read this through in a single sitting if you have the time. The dialogue is snappy and fun, and though the girls have similar personalities, they’re different enough to make the story unique.

Characters
The cast is huge and diverse. From the triplets and their family, to friends and enemies alike, there are a lot of characters to juggle, some of them come off as flat, but for the most part, they’re fascinating, especially some of the tertiary characters, like Dr. and Mr. Thomas.

What I Enjoyed About BATTLE OF THE BULLIES
1. Detailed Backstories.
The girls have an exciting, yet horrific past that has scarred them, but also made them stronger and more determined than ever. The way their backstory unfolds is well-paced.

2. Alexis. The oldest sister and the most broken of the three, she pulls at your heartstrings in unexpected ways.

3. Sisterhood. Having two sisters of my own, I appreciated the sisterly bond and how it is woven through the plot.

4. Unexpected Twists. I always enjoy a really good twist I never saw coming.

5. Emotional Gut Punch. This story packs a whopper and will keep me thinking about it for a long time.

Bottom Line
A compelling story of the bonds of family and the value of justice.

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About the Book
Title: BATTLE OF THE BULLIES
Author: Fenyx Blue
Release Date: October 27, 2020
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon DE

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Author Fenyx Blue

Author Fenyx Blue

About the Author
If author Fenyx Blue actually had a tattoo, it would be a heart. Ms. Blue has written every book with love. Blue is a teacher, coach, mentor, and motivational speaker focused on women and youth empowerment. She has written a young adult novel about bullying entitled Who Failed Johnny?, a poetry book about purpose named The Blue Ink Movement, and a children’s book about the power of a solid father daughter relationship called Worth the Weight.

Fenyx believes in service to the community. After being chosen as teacher of the year for her school district, she continued to mentor teenagers and facilitate discussions about controversial topics like drugs, sex, violence, cyberbullying and mental health. She has been a guest poet for several women’s retreats and workshops and loves the energy she receives from a live audience.

Throughout her years as an educator and youth ministry leader, Blue created Team Bully-Free Forever, a poetry team for her school, and a mentoring group called D.I.V.A.S to address the needs of young people. She is dedicated to teaching the next generation to follow their dreams and feels it is her mission to equip them for the future. Ms. Fenyx Blue is a proud mother of three beautiful children who inspire her to write each day.

You can follow Ms. Fenyx Blue @FenyxBlueInk on Instagram and Youtube.

Where to find Fenyx Blue
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Instagram | Amazon

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review + Giveaway – PLAYING WITH FIRE by April Henry

 

Welcome to the blog tour for PLAYING WITH FIRE, a stand-alone young adult thriller by April Henry

PLAYING WITH FIRE, a stand-alone young adult thriller by New York Times bestselling author April Henry

PLAYING WITH FIRE by April Henry

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
When a fire cuts off a popular trail in the Oregon forest, a small group trapped by the flames must find another way out―or die―in Playing with Fire, an unrelenting teen-vs-nature YA thriller by New York Times bestselling author April Henry.

Natalia is not the kind of girl who takes risks. Six years ago, she barely survived the house fire that killed her baby brother. Now she is cautious and always plays it safe. For months, her co-worker Wyatt has begged her to come hiking with him, and Natalia finally agrees.

But when a wildfire breaks out, blocking the trail back, a perfect sunny day quickly morphs into a nightmare. With no cell service, few supplies, and no clear way out of the burning forest, a group of strangers will have to become allies if they’re going to survive. Hiking in the dark, they must reach the only way out―a foot bridge over a deep canyon―before the fire catches them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
PLAYING WITH FIRE is a page-turning thriller set against the majestic falls, deep canyons, and lush landscape of the Pacific Northwest. During fire seasons, Natalia and her friends-to-more co-worker, Wyatt, are out for a hike when a new fire breaks out, trapping them and independent groups of strangers as night approaches. Without a phone signal and no way to call for help, they retreat from the punishing flames, hoping to outrun the fire in time to be rescued. At nearly every turn, something impedes their odds of success, from someone missing from their ranks, a blocked bridge, a precarious ledge to cross, and someone within their group working against them.

Plot
This is primarily a survival story, and the action moves at a steady pace. There is a romantic subplot between Wyatt and Natalia, and a very small change arc on Natalia’s part. The story is well plotted and crafted to keep me turning the virtual pages on my Kindle. Even though we know from the opening pages how the fire started, that is the only thing we are sure of. Because this is a standalone and a thriller, there is no way to know if our favorite characters will all make it out alive, which is the hallmark of excellent storytelling.

The Characters
The characters were where I felt the story lacked. Natalia and Wyatt never felt like authentic teens to me. They were far too level-headed, prepared, and unemotional to be like any teens I live with, or happen to have met. But they were likable, and the supporting characters were fascinating, like the cast from an early season of Survivor, making me want to pull for all of them. Natalia is the victim of a home fire when she was younger, and is understandably terrified of the wildfire. The flashbacks to that event are hard to read, but really well done.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About PLAYING WITH FIRE
1. Setting. The wilderness provides so much opportunity to throw curveballs at the characters, and left the reader on edge, never knowing what was coming next.

2. Survival. I love a good survival story and this one really shines.

3. Surprises. Nearly ever chapter ends with a cliffhanger which kept me reading late into the night.

4. Fire. Okay, I don’t love wildfires, having had to evacuate more than once in recent years, but I love the unpredictability of fire as an antagonist.

5. Thriller. Taking this beyond just a story of man vs. nature and adding the bad seed among them was a delicious twist.

Bottom Line
A gripping survival tale of man vs. nature and man vs. man.

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: PLAYING WITH FIRE
Author: April Henry
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date: January 19, 2021
Pages: 233
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Barnes & Noble

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New York Times Bestselling Author April Henry

Author April Henry

About the Author
April Henry is the New York Times–bestselling author of many acclaimed mysteries for adults and young adults, including the YA novels The Girl in the White Van; Girl, Stolen; The Night She Disappeared; The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die; The Girl I Used to Be, which was nominated for an Edgar Award and won the Anthony Award for Best YA Mystery; Count All Her Bones; The Lonely Dead; Run, Hide, Fight Back; and The Body in the Woods and Blood Will Tell, the first two books in the Point Last Seen series. She lives in Oregon.

 

 

 

Where to Find April Henry
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Young Adult Book Review – THE KISSING CHALLENGE by Cookie O’Gorman

 

THE KISSING CHALLENGE by Cookie O'Gorman

THE KISSING CHALLENGE by Cookie O’Gorman

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The challenge: Kiss your best friend.

Sixteen-year-old Anne Elliot is in love with Captain.

He’s been her best friend for years. A rising musician with a special smile he reserves just for her, Captain even lets Anne practice her makeup skills on him—though his bandmates give him flack for it.

When Anne gets an anonymous comment challenging her to kiss her best friend, it threatens to reveal her secret. But how can she resist doing the one thing she’s wanted forever? It’s just one kiss. She and Captain’s relationship can stay the same…right?

The real challenge: Kiss your best friend, and don’t let him know you’re in love.

This YA romance novella is fun, fast-paced, and flirty, the perfect story for anyone who loves best-friends-to-lovers. Inspired by TikTok & Jane Austen, THE KISSING CHALLENGE is sure to make you swoon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Oh my gosh, this is beyond adorable. Cookie O’Gorman has done it once again! Anne is a social media sensation as a makeup artist who can work magic with her brushes and pencils, but when it comes to matters of the heart, she’s more like a fish out of water. And she can’t resist a challenge, even one that fills her with equal parts excitement and horror. Because kissing her best friend means kissing the guy she’s been crushing on forever, and one small kiss could ruin everything. Still, she can’t let it pass when she’s tagged in the “kiss your best friend challenge” and frets and obsesses over how to best carry it out until it practically eats her alive. The chemistry between Anne and her BFF, Captain, is off the charts, so their first kiss is super hot followed by super awkward.

Plot
This is a novella and it’s short and sweet, so the plot is the relationship between Anne and Captain. There’s no sub-plotting and no real character arcs, but the plot is so well done, none of that matters. I read it in a single sitting and had an enormous smile the entire time. This book is 100% what O’Gorman does best.

Characters
I absolutely love Anne and Captain and I hope they show up as extras in a future novel. There were enough supporting characters, and any one of them could get their own story, and I would buy it the second it came out. Captain is in a band, and he has several swoon-worthy band mates in need of a solid growth arc, so if you’re reading this Cookie, I’m here for whatever you do with this cast!

What I Loved About THE KISSING CHALLENGE
1. Internet Challenges.
While this is maybe not my personal thing, I totally love watching other people fool their dogs with a blanket, dump buckets of ice water on each other, throw cheese at babies, and numerous other, non-dangerous challenges. And kissing your best friend is an amazing idea (coming from someone who married her best friend).

2. Anne. She’s sweet, creative, talented, and is completely in love with her BFF who she believes to be out of her league.

3. Captain. His loyalty to Anne as girls everywhere fawn all over him makes him one of the good guys. We need more guys like him!

4. Makeup. I can’t tell you how many Instagram accounts I follow with makeup artists who do amazing things with pencils and powder and brushes. Reading about one of these awe-inspiring artists was so much fun!

5. True Love. Anne and Captain are meant to be and no one will ever convince me otherwise.

Bottom Line
Adorable characters, steamy kisses, and a swoony love story wrapped in a tiny but mighty package.

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About the Book
Title: THE KISSING CHALLENGE
Author: Cookie O’Gorman
Release Date: March 30, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon DE

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Author Cookie O'Gorman

Author Cookie O’Gorman

About the Author
Cookie O’Gorman writes YA romance to give readers a taste of happily-ever-after. Small towns, quirky characters, and the awkward yet beautiful moments in life make up her books. Cookie also has a soft spot for nerds and ninjas. Her debut novel ADORKABLE will be released in 2016.

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Where to find Cookie O’Gorman
Goodreads | Website | Facebook Twitter

Book Review + Giveaway – WRITE CHRISTMAS by Thommy Hutson

 

Welcome to the blog tour for WRITE Christmas, a contemporary holiday novel by Thommy Huston

WRITE Christmas, a contemporary holiday novel by Thommy Huston

WRITE CHRISTMAS by Thommy Hutson

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
“[A] heartwarming fantasy … Christmas enthusiasts will find this hits the spot.” ~Publishers Weekly

A contemporary, holiday fantasy with a new twist on A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life.

Abby Nicholson used to love Christmas. Until she didn’t.

After leaving Winter Glen, the small town famous for its Christmas celebration and her family’s greeting card company, Abby is forced to return to the home she left behind when the unexpected passing of her father thrusts the business into her hands.

Turning her back on the magic of the holiday beloved by her father and the town, she decides to sell the business. Signing the paperwork with the very pen her father used to create it, she is shocked to discover her hometown has become a whole new world.

One where Christmas has vanished!

Now stuck in a place devoid of hope, joy, and the spirit of the season, Abby sees family and friends altered in the most terrible of ways.

Determined to set things right, though unsure how, Abby takes out her father’s pen and begins to draw. When she realizes her art is coming to life, she sets out to recreate the holiday and bring back the most wonderful time of the year.

But some are determined to keep an iron grip on the town and will do anything in their power to stop her..

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My Review
WRITE CHRISTMAS is a Hallmark Christmas movie that lives in my Kindle. It’s a delightful story full of hope, transformation, and charming characters straight out of a Dickens tale. Abby Nicholson is the heir to the Samuel Nicholson Card Company, her beloved late father. The entire town of Winter Glen was built around the bucolic greeting card company. But the bright-eyed hopeful girl who used to help her father hand-sketch his whimsical, heartwarming designs is all grown up with all of that hope drained from her. With a teen daughter of her own and the father of that daughter proposing to her year after year, she’s jaded and ready to move on. In her words, there are no adventures left to be had in Winter Glen and is ready to sell the company to a big chain and leave town for good.

No one thinks this is a good idea, except Abby, so the town will need to come together to convince her that there is so much more to Winter Glen than she can see. But it will take more than that. Abby needs to rediscover the magic of Winter Glen and Christmas itself, the holiday that the town has embraced more than any other place in the country.

Plot
The primary plot centers around Abby, but the story is told like a vivid movie, with a stellar supporting cast who all have their own stories within the story. The author does a brilliant job of creating these fabulous characters that I couldn’t help liking from the first moment they appeared on page. Even Lolo Windberg. Because the story is about growth and second chances, no one thing drives the plot, but rather they all work together to create this magical story of redemption and rediscovering the joy of Christmas, like ingredients in a favorite Christmas cookie recipe. It’s not perfect if you leave even one thing out.

The Characters
The characters are what really makes this story work. The plotting unfolds at a steady, but slow pace, but because the characters are larger than life, it’s okay. I’d spend all day with these people. Huston has a way of developing his cast with a word here and a sentence there that make them come to life. From Darla, the town mayor, to Abby, Abby’s mother Stella, her daughter, Chloe, and the man who wants her love, Cameron, to the people who work for her greeting card company, everyone is the star of their own part of the story even as the contribute to the greater tale, and we feel that on every page.

Top Five Things I Loved About WRITE CHRISTMAS
1. Winter Glen. I’m more of a big city girl, but if I ever moved to a small town, it would so be Winter Glen. The town is its very own character in the story.

2. Darla. The quintessential mayor is spunky and seems to always have the right thing to say in a given situation, even though she doesn’t think she does.

3. Abby. Though often morose, it’s easy to understand her disillusionment with both her home town and the Christmas season it embodies. She’s all of us at one time or another.

4. Cameron. His persistence is sweet rather than stalkery. Being the father of her daughter only makes his unwillingness to give up on the woman he loves and the family he wants endearing rather than creepy.

5. Christmas. The best holiday of the year gets a fresh new tale.

Bottom Line
A warm pair of socks and a cozy fire wrapped up in an endearing tale.

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: WRITE CHRISTMAS
Author: Thommy Huston
Publisher: Rosewind Books
Release Date: December 1, 2020
Pages: 284
Genre: Adult Contemporary Holiday
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Thommy Hutson

Author Thommy Hutson

About the Author
Thommy Hutson is a bestselling, award-winning author, screenwriter, producer, and director.

A graduate of UCLA, he began his career co-writing the story for the Warner Bros. animated hit SCOOBY-DOO IN WHERE’S MY MUMMY? He followed that with co-writing the concept and additional material for CHILL OUT, SCOOBY-DOO!

As an author, Thommy crafted a limited-edition coffee table book detailing the making and legacy of horror icon Wes Craven’s 1984 classic A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. A trade version followed from Permuted Press/Simon & Schuster. His novel, the teen thriller Jinxed, (Vesuvian Books) is the first in a trilogy that has been called “A must-read for classic horror fans … Hutson could easily take on the mantle as the next Lois Duncan.” Hutson was named on the
7 Essential LGBTQ Horror Authors for Your Summer Reading Lists.

Thommy wrote the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries original film, A CHRISTMAS FOR THE BOOKS, which was the highest-rated scripted program the night it premiered. He co-scripted the teen thriller INSTAFAME (Lifetime), wrote a screenplay for an audio holiday project, and is in development on a family feature film. In addition, Thommy produced the critically acclaimed feature THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH, an insightful relationship drama starring Lea Thompson and John Shea. He also produced DREAMWORLD, a quirky, romantic dramedy. He has also worked as a staff writer on a Hulu web series.

A member of the Producers Guild of America, a Saturn and Home Media Magazine award-winner, and an aficionado of holiday films as well as teen movies from the 80s and 90s, Thommy continues to develop unique, compelling, and provocative projects across multiple genres for film, television, publishing, and home entertainment.

Where to Find Thommy Hutson
Goodreads | WebsiteTwitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Book Review – A HEART LIFE by Patricia Yager Delagrange

 

A HEART LIFE, a contemporary women's fiction, by Patricia Yager Delagrange

A HEART LIFE by Patricia Yager Delagrange

3 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Leena Coughlin is simply eye-candy to her husband Steven’s sky-rocketing career. Steven may be a brilliant cardiac surgeon, but the self-absorbed man is more focused on other people’s hearts—and his own pleasure—than on the emotional heart of his family. He’s a God-like man, after all, saving lives every day. And a man like him has needs. More than Leena can provide.

To fend off the growing loneliness of her marriage, Leena strikes up a relationship with a stranger, Michael Casspi, through a letters-to-prisoners program. Michael was also once a cardiac surgeon. He claimed that assisting his dying wife with suicide was an act of mercy. The state called it murder. Can a man imprisoned behind bars fill Leena’s emotional void?

Focused on their own strained relationship, neither Steven nor Leena has noticed the deteriorating mental health of their college-aged daughter, Joy.

Two men. One woman. And a fragile girl teetering on the knife-edge of depression. But when Michael is unexpectedly released from prison, the precarious balance of all their lives will be dramatically altered forever.

 

 

 

 

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My Review
The story is told in four first-person points of view: Leena, Steven, Michael, and Joy. Leena and Steven’s marriage is far from perfect, which is obvious right away from both POVs. The fact that Leena is writing to Michael out of loneliness as he languishes in prison is not a surprise. The opening chapter is Michael’s and it starts with a bang, hooking me almost instantly. As the story unfolds, we find out more about Steven’s extramarital behavior. He seems to love his wife and daughter, though he never has time for them. At least he sees his wife in bed most nights, where he grabs a quickie before going to sleep. But he barely sees his daughter and hasn’t for years. Steven is a famous cardio-thoracic surgeon, in high demand. He believes the material things he provides for his family should be enough. It’s not enough for him, though, because he has a rather active sex life with women who are not his wife. He claims it’s because he needs to blow of steam and doesn’t want to bring his hospital life home, which he views as a safe harbor. But in reality, he likes to do what he considers dirty and depraved things he believes his wife is too good for.

Leena is the long-suffering wife who we all know deserves better. She clearly loves her husband and adores her daughter, yet she’s completely oblivious to everything going on around her. She has no idea her daughter is suffering form mental illness that pushes her to the brink of suicide, nor that her husband has been unfaithful for probably most of their marriage. Shea assumes because he comes home to bang in her in the night, he’s clearly not getting anything on the side.

So much of the story I found problematic, but the author kept me turning the pages, proving she’s an outstanding storyteller. The book could have been a stronger story for me if the author had gotten certain details correct. For instance, Steven, a renowned surgeon, and even Michael for that matter, keep referring to conjoined twins as Siamese twins. That’s not a medical term at all and is actually quite offensive. I cringed every time it was mentioned, which was a lot. There was also a continuity error that yanked me out of the story when Leena is driving her beloved Karmann Ghia through the streets of San Francisco, only to end up in her black Mercedes, which blends in, without ever going home and swapping out cars. There is nothing about a Karmann Ghia that blends in, so this was jarring. And finally, the biggest problem I had was Joy’s mental illness. Throughout the book, everyone, including Joy, blames her father’s lack of presence in her life as the cause of her depression. But this does a disservice to anyone who suffers from mental illness. It is not caused by someone else. The blame game is very dangerous and hurtful, especially to anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide. The thought that if they’d only done more, been more present, etc., they could have prevented it, is a terrible message to send.

Plot
The plot centers around Michael’s release from prison, his future beyond his time behind bars, and the relationships between all four main characters. There’s a lot of drama and even more at stake, and the author does a good job of keeping the pacing spot on. As I said, I was riveted to the story and wanted, or rather needed, to find out what happened next, regardless of my issues.

The Characters
The characters were all well-developed and deeply flawed. We get deep into each of their points of view, even Steven’s. While it was good to understand what drives a man who has everything to throw it all away for cheap thrills, it didn’t really do much to make me like him, but I think that was never the point. it was an interesting twist I wasn’t expecting, though.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About A HEART LIFE
1. San Francisco. I loved that my favorite city in the world was the backdrop for these characters. The story is as much a love letter to the City by the Bay as it is anything else.

2. Joy. She was my favorite character. Maybe because I have a daughter the same age or maybe because I could see a lot of my nineteen-year-old sister in her, but she was probably the only truly innocent person in the story.

3. Cliffhangers. Each chapter ended strongly, forcing me to read on. I love when an author can do that.

4. Twists. There were only a few twists that really caught me by surprise, but those are always a treat and I enjoyed them immensely.

5. Storytelling. The author knows how to weave a tale that kept me turning the pages.

Bottom Line
A fun, fast read with deeply drawn characters.

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

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title:
A HEART LIFE
Author:
Patricia Yager Delagrange
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date:
November 26, 2020
Pages: 293
Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

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Author Patricia Yager Delagrange

Author Patricia Yager Delagrange

About the Author
Fascinated by broken-hearted couples and atypical families, Patricia writes women’s fiction, weaving engaging tales of men and women who create cohesive families where love reigns supreme. She sprinkles her books with intriguing characters who struggle to find balance in life. Whether an unwed teenager, desperate widow, abandoned father, disconnected sisters, or a troubled couple, her characters form relationships impacted by their desire to create a family.

Patricia lives with her husband and two children on the island of Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, along with three chocolate labs and a rescue terrier mix. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, Patricia enjoys riding her Friesian horse Maximus, who lives in the Oakland hills with a million dollar view.

 

Where to find Patricia Yager Delagrange
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Young Adult Book Review – SEND ME THEIR SOULS (Bring Me Their Hearts Series) by Sara Wolf

SEND ME THEIR SOULS (Bring Me Their Hearts Series) by Sara Wolf

SEND ME THEIR SOULS (Bring Me Their Hearts Series #3) by Sara Wolf

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The finale to the epic Bring Me Their Hearts series reaches its thrilling conclusion, full of intrigue, emotion, and of course romance.

Reunited with Lucien, Malachite, and Fione, Zera finally has the choice of whether or not to regain her humanity and give up her life as a Heartless. But with war raging and an army of valkerax on the loose, she’s never needed immortality more. Will they be able to stop Varia without sacrificing themselves in the process?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
WARNING: Spoilers for books 1 and 2!
Sara Wolf wraps the series up with a bang. SEND ME THEIR SOULS is a rollercoaster ride of emotion, from tears and laughter to angst, heartbreak, and redemption. The third installment in the Bring Me Their Hearts series has everything I was hoping for and more. Picking up where book two ends, the author brings us right back into that world, reminding us of anything we might have forgotten over the past year since it was released. Zera, Fione, Malachite, and Lucien manage to escape with their lives after Varia brings the Bone Tree to life, unleashing a swarm of flying valkyrax. The easy thing to do would be to kill Varia to save the world, but Fione’s love of her as well as Lucien’s means the only solution is to destroy the Bone Tree. And as with any good story, that is always easier said than done.

The group launches on a quest for answers, putting them in danger, testing loyalties, and breaking Zera’s unheart over and over as first she is reunited with loved ones, then Varia’s rage of terror wipes out one civilization after another. But this time Zera has the trust of Fione, Malachite and Lucien, making the treacherous trail they must all follow both easier and much more difficult, because when you love other people, you have so much more to lose.

Plot
As with the other two books, the pacing is perfect, moving from one exciting moment to another, with enough room to catch our breath and witness romantic moments between Zera and Lucien. Finally, finally they are together, in love, the way they should be. But with a twist I won’t reveal. Fighting together as a team this time, the group works to defeat a nebulous enemy and save Lucien’s sister and Fione’s love. We get inside Varia’s head through a weird connection between Zera and Varia that only happens in Zera’s dreams. But it’s enough to show us that love is a two-way street and her passion to Fione is maybe the only thing keeping her sane as the Bone Tree gets a further hold on her mind.

Characters
The characters continue to grow and develop throughout this finale, including Zera. Even though she’s frozen in time, she manages to mature along with her friends. The depth of character the author manages to capture on the page, brings these people and creatures to life in three-dimensional ways that have endeared them to me for long beyond finishing the series.

What I Loved About SEND ME THEIR SOULS
1. Zera.
She’s as snarky as ever, but even without a heart, she’s grown warmer and more loving to those she cares for.

2. Young Love. The romance is on steady ground in this final installment and the sweet moments between Zera and Lucien zing.

3. Fione. She has much to be concerned about with the love of her life being the enemy now, but she uses that quiet determination of hers we’ve come to know in the first two books to keep on keeping on.

4. World Building. From a steampunk inspired zeppelin to a floating island in the sky, the author’s imagination knows no bounds as she creates stunning settings to drop her characters into.

5. Magic. With the prince now a witch, magic is on display in nearly every chapter and it’s as double-sided as everything else. Everything has a price, including using magic.

Bottom Line
The perfect way to wrap up a trilogy — satisfying on every level, but leaving me sad to say goodbye to characters I’ve grown to love.

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About the Book
Title: SEND ME THEIR SOULS
Series: Bring Me Their Hearts Series #3
Author: Sar Wolf
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 3, 2020
Pages: 416
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound

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New York Times Bestselling Author Sara Wolf

Author Sara Wolf

About the Author
New York Times bestselling 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 Portland, Oregon where the sun can’t get her anymore and not enough fruit tarts ever.

 

 

 

Where to Find Sara Wolf
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

 

Book Review – ROMANCING THE BEAT (How to Write Kissing Books Series) by Gwen Hayes

 

ROMANCING THE BEAT, the first book in the writing craft series, How to Write Kissing Books, by Gwen Hayes

ROMANCING THE BEAT (How to Write Kissing Books Series #1) by Gwen Hayes

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
What makes a romance novel a romance? How do you write a kissing book?

Writing a well-structured romance isn’t the same as writing any other genre—something the popular novel and screenwriting guides don’t address. The romance arc is made up of its own story beats, and the external plot and theme need to be braided to the romance arc—not the other way around.

Told in conversational (and often irreverent) prose, Romancing the Beat can be read like you are sitting down to coffee with romance editor and author Gwen Hayes while she explains story structure. The way she does with her clients. Some of whom are regular inhabitants of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

Romancing the Beat is a recipe, not a rigid system. The beats don’t care if you plot or outline before you write, or if you pants your way through the drafts and do a “beat check” when you’re revising. Pantsers and plotters are both welcome. So sit down, grab a cuppa, and let’s talk about kissing books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
One of the panels I virtually attended at RWA this year recommended ROMANCING THE BEAT. I’m a devoted plotter, so I wanted to see how best to weave the romance beats into the greater story beats. Hayes’s book is short and sweet. She lays out the beats, where they fall in the three-act structure, and gives a brief description of what each one needs to accomplish. Because it’s so short, you can read it easily in one sitting and be ready to plot or revise your next romance novel. However, because it’s such a quick read, it’s short on details that would have been nice. Whether you’re new to writing romance or have been at it for awhile, there are some great tidbits in here for every romance writer.

Bottom Line
A solid resource that you’ll find yourself referring to over and over.

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About the Book
Title
: ROMANCING THE BEAT: Story Structure for Romance Novels
Series: How to Write Kissing Books Series #1
Author: Gwen Hayes
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Pages: 100
Category: Writing
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble

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Author Gwen Hayes

Author Gwen Hayes

About the Author
Gwen Hayes (that’s me) lives in the Pacific Northwest with her real life hero and a pack of wild beasts (two of whom she gave birth to).

She is a reader, writer, and lover of pop culture (which, other than yogurt, is the only culture she gets).

Gwen also edits kissing books.

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Where to find Gwen Hayes
Goodreads | Website | Facebook

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – THE CON CODE by Shana Silver

 

Welcome to the blog tour for THE CON CODE, a stand-alone young adult thriller, by Shana Silver

THE CON CODE, a stand-alone young adult thriller, by Shana Silver

THE CON CODE by Shana Silver

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
A teen forger and thief forms a criminal crew from her high school friends (and crush) to perform a series of heists leading to the location of her missing mother in this action-packed contemporary YA novel.

By day, seventeen-year-old Fiona Spangler runs small cons for her ritzy prep-school classmates: getting them out of tests and forging fake hall passes. But by night, Fiona joins her dad on riskier heists: stealing back the clue-filled forgeries her mom scattered across the country before she disappeared. Fiona desperately hopes that her mother will be waiting at the end of the scavenger hunt she left behind.

And they are SO close. Just three more heists remain, but then disaster strikes when Fiona’s dad is captured by the FBI. Desperate to finish the job and save what’s left of her family, Fiona assembles of crew of teen criminals: a master of disguise who can transform into anyone, a talented hacker who only communicates in glares, and a rival con artist with a vendetta against—and possible crush on—Fiona.

All they have to do is perform three nearly impossible heists, solve her mother’s incredibly complex clues, and evade the FBI. Easy, right?

 

 

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My Review
This was a nice diversion from real life, and just what I needed. Seventeen-year-old Fiona is the daughter of con artists. Her entire life has been devoted to learning the craft of the con. A talented artist and impeccable forger, she and her family have been pulling cons as long as she can remember. But when she was ten, her mother disappeared and left clues on how to find her in her forgeries. Fiona and her dad have been working to retrieve the forgeries and the clues so the family can be together again. At least until her father is caught pulling a job. Now Fiona must complete the mission herself. She pulls together a ragtag crew of high school friends, including a tech genius, a former cosplayer turned master of disguise, and her arch nemesis, but charming classmate she may or may not have a thing for,

Plot
The story centers around Fiona finding her mother and the heists she needs to complete to gather all the clues to find her mother. The heists were well-planned and executed, and added such an entertaining thread through the book. There is a subtle romantic element with Colin, the son of the FBI agent who arrested her father and a number of twists; some I saw coming, others I didn’t, making this a well-plotted fun read.

The Characters
The characters are what really makes this story. Fiona is a fully-engaging anti-hero as a con artist. At no point did I not pull for her. She’s a criminal, but she was so lovable and relatable, I wanted her to succeed at every turn. Her dad, while singularly driven, still clearly loves his daughter and puts her needs above his own. Her best friend Natalie and her tech guru, Tig, are both interesting in their own ways. And Colin, as the potential love interest, is just as complex as Fiona.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About THE CON CODE
1. Heists. We’ve been rewatching the Ocean’s Eleven movie franchise and I forgot how fun a well-developed con can be.

2. Fiona. She is so dedicated to finding her mom, but her loyalty to her crew at all costs makes her a hero to root for to the very end.

3. Action. The story moves with a lot of action and edge-of-your-seat suspense.

4. Loyalty. Fiona is loyal to her family and her friends and those loyalties are tested, making her even more relatable.

5. The Ending. I wasn’t sure how things were going to end up, but the author did a great job of wrapping everything up in a satisfying ending that wasn’t predictable.

Bottom Line
A thrilling escapist read with fantastic characters and lots of action.

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

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About the Book
Title: THE CON CODE
Author: Shana Silver
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: August 25, 2020
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT |Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Shana Silver

Author Shana Silver

About the Author
Shana Silver studied creative writing at Syracuse University. She’s been a computer animator, an e-book creator for a major publisher, and now works as a Project Manager in digital and TV advertising where she enjoys telling people what to do. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, young daughter, and the characters she dreams up. MIND GAMES is her debut novel. THE CON CODE comes out in Summer 2020.

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Where to Find Shana Silver
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
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