Synopsis Selected as one of The New York Times Book Review’s Best Books of the Year and honored worldwide, Lisa, Bright and Dark was an immediate sensation when it was first published.
Detailing how mental illness affects friends and family of the ill, Lisa, Bright and Dark has been in print for more than forty years.
Its value has not diminished over time, and readers throughout the world contact the author regularly to discuss their reactions to it. A straight-through read, it is full of romance, excitement, suspense, and finally triumph.
My Review I first read this novel in middle school as a young teen and found it riveting. Now as a parent with my own teens, I was interested in rereading some of my childhood favorites. The story still holds up, but some of the dialogue left me wondering if my parents’ generation really talked like that. I don’t recall it standing out to me as a teen, but that was also a long time ago. I’m not sure today’s teens will find the dialogue youthful, and many of the cultural references will be very dated. In fact, I had to Google Joanne Woodward’s famous smile, because I didn’t get that reference at all. However, the overall themes of mental illness, adults not being able to clearly see what it so obvious to peers, and the desire and willingness to do whatever it takes to help a friend will resonate strongly with today’s generation.
Narrated by Betsy, the book is about Lisa, a mutual friend, who is crying out for help, fearing she’s losing her mind, and how no one is willing to help her. Times were likely a lot different back then, with teachers unwilling to step in and advocate on behalf of their students, but I think most of the rest of is still relevant today. Lisa goes out of her way to get someone, anyone to listen. Though Betsy is more of a peripheral friend, Lisa seems to trust her and Betsy and her other friends, Mary Nell and Elizabeth, do everything they can to get Lisa the help she needs.
Plot The plot centers around Lisa as seen through Betsy’s eyes. The girls struggle to get Lisa the care she needs despite dismissals and outright denials from the adults in the situation. There’s not much subplotting going on, but considering the subject matter, I’m not sure that’s necessary. The plot itself moves fairly well with short chapters and emotional punches.
Characters Lisa, though not the narrator, comes off as the most well-developed character in the story, followed by Betsy, the narrator, then Mary Nell and Elizabeth. But Elizabeth, I suspect, was deliberately an enigma, at least until the end. While I mentioned above that as an adult now, I didn’t find their dialogue to be particularly youthful, their thought processes definitely were. This made their actions and motivations exceedingly believable. And while the teens were well-rounded, the adults came off looking like idiots, at least in the eyes of the narrator.
What I Enjoyed About LISA, BRIGHT AND DARK 1. Commitment. The way Lisa’s friends are devoted to getting her the help she needs was heartwarming.
2. Lisa. She was a complex character who knew something was wrong with her and terrified.
3. Betsy. She came off as annoying at times, but she always had her heart in the right place.
4. M.N. Mary Nell was an interesting character that was both trying and dedicated, which made her fascinating.
5. Honesty. The book was an honest tale of mental illness and how it can rob someone of everything.
Bottom Line A gripping YA tale of friendship and mental illness.
THE RUMOR GAME by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra
Synopsis “A juicy, elegant, absolutely flawless thriller with a twist. It’s the diverse Gossip Girl we’ve been waiting for!” —Tiffany D. Jackson, New York Times best-selling author of Grown and White Smoke
“Explosive.” —Entertainment Weekly
All it takes is one spark to start a blaze.
At Foxham Prep, a posh private school for the children of DC’s elite, a single rumor has the power to ruin a life.
Nobody knows that better than Bryn. She used to have it all—the perfect boyfriend, a bright future in politics, and even popularity thanks to her best friend, cheer captain Cora. Then one mistake sparked a scandal that burned it all to the ground.
Now it’s the start of a new school year and the spotlight has shifted: It’s geeky Georgie, newly hot after a summer makeover, whose name is on everyone’s lips. When a rumor ignites, Georgie rockets up the school’s social hierarchy, pitting her and Cora against each other. It grants her Foxham stardom . . . but it also makes her a target.
As the rumors grow and morph, blazing like wildfire through the school’s social media, all three girls’ lives begin to unravel. But one person close to the drama has the power to stop the gossip in its tracks. The question is—do they even want to?
From Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra, authors of the Tiny Pretty Things duology (now a Netflix series), comes another edge-of-your-seat social thriller perfect for fans of We Were Liars and Cruel Summer.
My Review High school drama has never been so dramatic. When a scandal hits an elite DC private school, no one is safe. Three daughters of some of the most powerful people in Washington become embroiled in a dangerous game of rumors and online bullying that goes beyond just out of control into a careening disaster with victims well beyond the prep schoolers. Senior Bryn has a shattered reputation after she let her anger at her cheating boyfriend take control of her actions, even unintentionally. Now, trying to reclaim her spot as the queen bee, she elicits the help of her shy, Desi neighbor, Georgie. But Georgie has massive issues of her own, so when the rumors start swirling around her, she turns to Bryn’s ex-BFF, super popular, Cora, to out the perps and regain control of her life. With so many behind-the-scenes maneuvering and games being played with peoples lives at stake, the fallout will be wide and detrimental.
Plot The plot was interesting with several unexpected twists. It centers on the rumors swirling around campus and online. The comments are brutal and they impact all three girls’ lives. The whispers, stares, and snide comments in the hallways at school means the online rumors don’t stay online. So even if they wanted to delete their social apps to escape the bullying, they really can’t. It’s a well-written story of how cyberbullying can take a toll on even the strongest individuals and tear their lives apart.
Characters The characters were absolutely the best part of this story. All three main characters are really well developed, deeply flawed, and worthy of the way we come to care about them.
What I Enjoyed About THE RUMOR GAME 1. Own Voices. The authors helped bring their diverse characters to vivid life the way only #ownvoices authors can.
2. Fighting Back. I love stories where victims turn the tables on their bullies, but this had a twist that made it more realistic than just a feel good kind of story. Because even when you fight back with good intentions, you can leave unintended damage in your wake.
3. Consequences. The consequences for all were the natural fallout of bad behavior and I felt like everyone more or less got what they deserved.
4. Indian Food. Georgie has an interesting relationship with her food, but the way she described it all in detail left me salivating for some samosas and biryani.
5. Baez. Cora’s long-term childhood friend turned boyfriend was as loyal as they come. I hated that he got caught up in all the drama, but he remained so devoted to Cora, it was heartwarming.
Bottom Line An intense look at the devastation wrought by online bullying among teens, told with heart and grace.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About Dhonielle Clayton Born and raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Dhonielle spent much of her childhood hiding beneath her grandmother’s dining table with a stack of books. As an English teacher at a ballet academy, Clayton rediscovered her passion for children’s and young adult literature. To ground herself in the canon, she pursued her Masters in Children’s Literature from Hollins University before receiving her MFA in Writing for Children at the New School. She is a former middle school librarian, where she pestered children to read and curated a diverse collection. An avid traveler, Dhonielle’s lived in several foreign countries, but she’s now settled in Harlem, where you’ll find her writing late into the night, lurking in libraries, and hunting for the best slice of New York pizza. She is the COO of We Need Diverse Books and the co-founder of Cake Literary. The co-author of the dance dramas Tiny Pretty Things and Shiny Broken Pieces, as well as the upcoming Rumor Game, Dhonielle is the author of the New York Times bestselling YA fantasy series The Belles. Find her on the web at DhonielleClayton.com or on Twitter @brownbookworm..
About Sona Charaipotra The author of the YA doc dramedy Symptoms of a Heartbreak, SONA CHARAIPOTRA is not a doctor — much to her pediatrician parents’ chagrin. They were really hoping she’d grow up to take over their practice one day.
Instead, she became a writer, working first as a celebrity reporter at People and (the dearly departed) TeenPeople magazines, and more recently contributing to publications from the New York Times to TeenVogue. She was also the editor of the Barnes & Noble Teen blog. These days, she uses her Masters in screenwriting from NYU and her MFA in creative writing from the New School to poke plot holes in her favorite teen TV shows — for work of course. She’s the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book packaging company with a decidedly diverse bent, and the co-author of the YA dance dramas Tiny Pretty Things and Shiny Broken Pieces (now a Netflix original series!), as well as the upcoming psychological thriller Rumor Game. Her follow-up to Symptoms will be the YA contemporary romp How Maya Got Fierce, which draws on her magazine world experience and is pitched as the Bold Type meets Younger. She’s a former We Need Diverse Books board member. Find her sharing pictures of her kids and her chai on Instagram @sonesone2, talking writing and books on Twitter @sona_c, or pinning gorgeous lenghas and her favorite Indian food on Pinterest...
An embattled actress becomes entangled in a dark conspiracy at a spiritual retreat—and starts a true crime podcast to try to break the case—in this chilling novel about fame, violence, and our morbid fascination with murder, from the acclaimed author of Dead Letters.
Olivia Reed needs a break. She doesn’t want to think about her name plastered on tabloids or be reminded of her recent meltdown on a Manhattan street. Her micromanaging publicist has just the thing in mind: a remote retreat in upstate New York—the House of Light. It’s not rehab; it’s a Spiritual Center, a site for seeking realignment and personal growth. There will be yoga and morning meditation, soft bamboo-blend fabrics and no shortage of crystals to cleanse her energy.
But Liv will soon find that the House of Light is filled with darkness. A prickly local, Ava, informs her that something twisted is lurking behind the Light’s veneer. There have been a series of mysterious suicides committed by women caught in the Light’s web, and no matter who Ava talks to, no one believes the Center is involved. To find out what’s really happened and put her celebrity to good use, Liv starts a podcast, seeking to connect the dots and expose the Light’s true intentions. Because beneath the glowing skin of the Light’s inhabitants lie rotten souls, and Liv starts to wonder if anything—even her own life—is how it appears.
Caite Dolan-Leach brings her tantalizing voice, her gift for atmosphere, and a cast of delightfully devious and absorbing characters to this riveting novel of suspense.
My Review This was an intriguing read. It starts off with troubled actress, Olivia Reed, being taken to a rehab facility, known as the House of Light, and spirals from there into a mystery within a mystery and peppered with several interesting surprises. While there was lots of mystery and intrigue, there wasn’t enough action to make this a full five stars from me. Plus, Olivia, or Liv, is a less than likable character without enough growth to change my opinion of her. After some very new-age spiritual orientation, she more or less reluctantly settles into her time there, going with the flow with leaders with names like Dawn, and Rain, and Mud Puddle. Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the picture. These people are crystal-channeling, Birkenstock-wearing, robe-clad cult leaders and Liv has too many street smarts to be fooled by their promises of “finding the light.”
It’s only when she meets her wacky neighbor, Ava, that she begins to suspect there may be something more sinister going on. She manages to get herself kicked out, but Ava has ignited a desire in her to uncover the truth. This leads her to conducting her own investigation and launching a true-crime podcast surrounding the deaths of a number of women once associated with the House of Light. Liv has made more than her fair share of mistakes in the past, but that doesn’t stop her from having inappropriate contact with Ava’s husband. That particular storyline was very much in character with who Liv is, but it made her very difficult to connect with. Her rate of self-absorption never really resolves, unfortunately, as the mystery unfolds.
The closer she gets to uncovering the truth, the more she feels like she’s in danger. But what she uncovers will rock her world and leave her questioning nearly everything about her own life.
Plot As I mentioned above, I didn’t find enough action in the plot to keep me riveted to the pages. But it’s not boring and it didn’t drag; it’s just not a page-turner. The author did a good job of foreshadowing, but enough that I figured out some of it before the big reveal. Some other elements of the overarching mystery were surprising enough to make up for that, though.
Characters While the characters were all really well developed, I never liked Liv. I would have liked to have seen a positive change character arc for her, but I also understand that not everyone needs that. But we spend so much time inside her head, it would’ve been nice. While she does acknowledge some of the stuff she did was wrong, she’s still doing dumb stuff right up to the very end.
What I Enjoyed About DARK CIRCLES 1. Mysteries. A love that there were a series of mysteries rather than just a single one. The missing and dead women, Olivia’s missing mother, her father’s true motives, and more, were expertly woven throughout.
2. Setting. The fall setting in the northeast U.S. set a great tone for a dark and twisted tale.
3. Writing. I really enjoyed the author’s voice and how she interwove the podcast narration into the the narrator’s tale.
4. Olivia’s Lack of a Driver’s License. Yes, her reason was she lived in New York, and didn’t really need to know how to drive, but a lot of Gen Z and Millennials aren’t bothering to learn how to drive, and that felt really authentic to me.
5. Surprises. There were enough interesting surprises to make of for the lack of overt action, making this a satisfying read.
Bottom Line A dark tale with intrigue and fully-fleshed out characters.
About the Author Caite Dolan-Leach is the author of Dead Letters and a literary translator. She was born in the Finger Lakes and is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and the American University in Paris..
1,000 STRONG VERBS FOR FICTION WRITERS (Indie Author Resources Series #2) by Valerie Howard
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 by Fenyx Blue
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.
ROMANCING THE BEAT (How to Write Kissing Books Series #1) by Gwen Hayes
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.
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.
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?
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.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.
WELCOME TO HICKVILLE HIGH (Hickville High Series #1) by Mary Karlik
Synopsis The Universe has completely dumped on High School senior Kelsey Quinn’s life. Credit card at Nordstrom’s? Deactivated. Honda Accord? Sold. Life in the burbs of Chicago? Gone. And it’s all her sister’s fault. Yep. Drugs, alcohol, and getting caught with the boss’s son was all it took. Dad loses job, family loses money, and the next thing she knows she’s crammed in a cell on wheels for the next two days as they make their way to a dilapidated farmhouse in Texas. But Kelsey doesn’t just leave the good life in Chicago. She leaves the boy who-has-it-all, Drew Montgomery.
Hillside senior, quarterback, Austin McCoy works for Kelsey’s dad at the feed store and helps with the farm chores in the morning. He sees through Kelsey’s surly attitude to the girl whose eyes light up when she’s with the animals. He is determined to help Kelsey see that not only does she love the Farmville life, but that the guy she really wants is him.
Will Austin convince Kelsey he’s the guy she wants? Will Kelsey embrace the simple life and find forgiveness for her sister?
My Review Kelsey Quinn is the epitome of a spoiled, rich teen from the upper midwest moving to smalltown Texas. She hates everything from the weather to the twang in their voices. Her initial observations on her new home, she nicknames Hickville, are judgmental and snobby. About the only thing she thinks might make running the family farm even mildly tolerable is Austin McCoy, local hottie and her new high school’s starting quarterback. But even Austin’s chiseled abs and sculpted biceps will only go so far when she has to get up at the crack of dawn to feed chickens, even before she’s allowed to enjoy a cup of coffee. All Kelsey wants is to survive her senior year in Hillside and return to Chicago and her perfect boyfriend, Drew. Her ideal life is gone, she knows that. No more designer clothes, her own car, or lavish lifestyle. Instead she shares the family pickup truck, wears second-hand store duds, and spends her time doing farm work. But she has her sights set on a big event in Chicago, an annual affair with ballgowns and a semblance of normalcy. Except that costs money her family no longer has. If she wants to go, she’ll need to earn the money herself between schoolwork, farm work, and time in the family’s feed store. Her only option is the diner, the same one where Austin’s mom works that she mocked when she first arrived in town.
The more time Kelsey spends with Austin, the more she begins to question whether she even wants her old life back. Being around him ignites feelings she never experienced with Drew. But Drew is her boyfriend and she doubles down on their long-distance relationship, until she doesn’t. As she’s torn between two worlds and two boys, she learns a lot about herself and does some much needed growing up.
Plot The plot is relatively predictable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. The personalities of the characters and playful banter shake things up. And even though I may have had a pretty good idea how the story would end, I didn’t know how we’d get there. While there weren’t any real plot twists or shocking revelations, the story moves at a good pace and the world building is well done, bringing me into the heart of rural Texas.
The Characters The characters were all really well developed and fully fleshed out. I’m used to first person POV for young adult, but even though this is third-person, I still felt really connected to both Austin and Kelsey. The rest of the characters also felt real and unique. Kelsey’s sisters are very different from Kelsey and from each other, so I’m not surprised to find they each have their own books, and I’m looking forward to reading all of them. Kelsey’s parents came across as some of the most authentic in the genre. They’re more than props or impediments to Kelsey getting what she wants and I loved that they even have their own issues to deal with as well as a minor relationship arc.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About WELCOME TO HICKVILLE HIGH 1. Forced Change. The complete upheaval of Kelsey’s life provides for so much conflict, the story was fun to read.
2. Humor. The author weaves a lot of humor through some pretty serious topics, bringing lighthearted moments in what might otherwise be a darker tale.
3. Homecoming. Hillside’s take on the homecoming tradition is something to behold.
4. Personal Growth. Kelsey has a lot of growing up to do and she does it with humility.
5. Austin. He’s one of the really good guys out there. Even though Kelsey is a handful, he realizes there’s more to her than just a spoiled rich girl lashing out after being dumped into the Middle of Nowhere, Texas.
Bottom Line A sweet contemporary romance with great characters.
About the Author Mary Karlik has always been a dreamer. When she was a teen, she read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and then sat in every wardrobe in her Nanna’s home, trying to open the door to Narnia. She didn’t find it, but she did discover her voice as an author: one filled with her young adult self, and grounded in her roots as a Texan and her Scottish heritage, nourished by obscure Scottish folklore.
You can find her Texas roots in her YA contemporary romance Hickville series , which has been described as “100% solid storytelling,” and begins with Welcome to Hickville High, a “lovely story about growing up.”
She digs deep into her Scottish roots – there is magic there, she just knows it – for the forthcoming YA epic fantasy Fairy Trafficking series, beginning with Magic Harvest.
She makes her home in the beautiful Sangre de Cristo mountains of Northern New Mexico where she is a certified professional ski instructor, but she also loves visiting Scotland where she is currently studying Scottish Gaelic at the University of Highlands and Islands in Skye. Mary also earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, has a B.S. degree from Texas A&M University, and is a Registered Nurse.
Mary currently serves as the President of the Young Adult Chapter of Romance Writers of America and looks forward to raising a glass or two of gin and tonic with her fellow writers every year at RWA’s national convention.
Synopsis A boy recently released from jail and the daughter of a prosecutor fall for each other against the odds in this YA novel.
Corey has just been released from jail, and all he wants is a new beginning. But when his former gang comes knocking, Corey agrees to vandalize the home of Kent Hopper, the prosecutor who put him away.
To erase the guilt she carries from getting away with a crime, Tessa spends most of her nights riding her motorcycle. When she catches Corey destroying her father’s car, she doesn’t see a criminal: She sees a way to finally right her own wrongs. So instead of turning Corey over to the police, she convinces her father to give Corey a second chance.
As Tessa and Corey spend more time with each other, it becomes difficult to ignore the pull between them. But they’re both keeping secrets, and when those secrets come to light, they’ll each have to face their demons in order to have a future together.
My Review This story strongly reminds me of Katie McGarry’s books, so if you’re a fan of hers, this is right up your alley. Both main characters are troubled with secrets and dark pasts. Corey is a reluctant gang member, willing to do whatever it takes to keep his family safe, including doing a year in prison. Tessa is the daughter of the D.A. who put Corey in jail. So when the gang decides to take it out on the D.A.’s home and car, they drag Corey into the mayhem. Unable to deal with the guilt of what he did to the man who recommended the lightest sentence possible for his crimes, he goes to the man’s house and admits what he did, shielding the other members from blame to keep his family from the harm they would surely be subjected to if he ratted out the others. Tessa sees something in Corey and asks her dad to give him a second chance. This kicks off a tenuous friendship that evolves into so much more as Corey makes amends by repairing the damage his “friends” did to Tessa’s home. Tessa is hiding her own dark past that is only hinted at through much of the book. While she desperately wishes to confess whatever it is, she keeps finding reasons not to. But this ugly secret compels her to view Corey in a different light than most people do.
I love the characters and the romance. It’s angsty and emotionally deep. The only thing keeping me from giving this five stars is that it takes a long time to really get going. I was a good 30% into it before I was fully invested in the story and the characters. It was easier for me to engage with Corey early on, but I was slow to warm up to Tessa. She almost has too much hidden from the reader to empathize with her. But once I was able to start seeing her through Corey’s eyes, I eventually got on board with her as well.
Plot The primary plot is the relationship between the two main characters, but there are strong subplots involving Tessa’s secret and Corey’s future. Both of these influence their relationship, making them integral to the main plot. There is also minor subplots regarding Corey’s mom’s career, an ex-boyfriend of Tessa’s and Tessa’s dad’s health and her concerns about him.
The Characters I loved Corey instantly, but was slower to embrace Tessa. Both characters are incredibly complex and conflicted, making them intriguing. Tessa’s dad and Corey’s family are warm and provide a nice contrast to the two tortured protagonists. Told in dual first-person POV, we get deep inside both of their heads, allowing us to understand what makes them tick. Rounding out the cast is Tessa’s uncle and her cousin, who also happens to be her BFF, a vengeful ex-boyfriend, and Corey’s crew. The character development is one of the best parts of this book.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About IF YOU ONLY KNEW 1. A sympathetic gang member. Corey isn’t really an anti-hero since his heart is always in the right place and he never devolves into something darker, but it was still good to see this side of gang activity, to see how good kids get drawn into that life.
2. Corey’s mom. She is so proud of her son despite his time in jail, and she never stops being his biggest fan.
3. Tessa’s dad. Much like Corey, Tessa’s dad grounds her in just the way she needs. Even though he’s a prosecutor, he still manages to see the best in people.
4. Redemption. Both characters have a redemption arc, and that’s one of my favorites.
5. Angsty romance. Another favorite of mine. These two have so much keeping them apart, that the intensity of their love is palpable.
Bottom Line A solid young adult contemporary romance with complex characters.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis Two sworn enemies start to fall in love through anonymous notes in How to Speak Boy, a fun and charming YA novel from Tiana Smith.
Quinn and Grayson have been fierce speech and debate rivals for years. They can’t stand one another, either in competition or in real life.
But when their AP Government teacher returns their school assignments to the wrong cubbies, they begin exchanging anonymous notes without knowing who the other one is.
Despite their differences, the two come together through their letters and find themselves unknowingly falling for the competition. Before the state tournament, the two of them need to figure out what they want out of life, or risk their own future happiness. After all, what’s the point of speech and debate if you can’t say what’s in your heart?
My Review Quinn is serious, hardworking, and in desperate need of a little fun, but she’s vying for President of the Speech and Debate Club against her arch nemesis, the utterly swoon-worthy Grayson, so fun isn’t on the agenda. She’s as competitive as she is smart, but unfortunately, nothing comes easy to Quinn. She has to work twice as hard as Grayson to be successful, or so she believes. That makes it hard for her to let her guard down around him. Even though he’s adorably perfect. Quinn’s two closest friends, Naomi and Carter, have their own ideas about Grayson. Naomi is pro-romance and Carter is dead-set against it. Apparently Grayson has a reputation of sorts and wants to protect Quinn. But the more time that passes, the more it becomes clear that Carter has an ulterior motive in keeping Quinn and Grayson apart. Underlying it all is a mysterious student who Quinn corresponds with the old fashioned way — pen to paper. With three boys vying for her interests, she’s not sure where to turn or who she can really trust.
Plot The main plot is the romance between Quinn and Grayson, but there are a number of subplots that involve Quinn’s college future, the mysterious letter writer, her speech performance at the state finals, and her relationship with Carter. All expertly weave into the main plot to drive conflict and up the stakes. Although the reader knows who the letter writer is, well, if they read the synopsis, it’s fun watching Quinn try to figure it out. But it also adds an element of wanting to see if they’re just going to tell each other, that made turning the page to see what would happen compelling. While it did take me a good few chapters to really get into this story, because I’ll admit, speech and debate didn’t interest me in the least, once I was invested int he characters, I was all in to the story. So don’t let this aspect of the plot detract you from picking up this really awesome book.
Characters The characters are what I loved most about the book. Quinn is so relatable as an awkward teen who strives to do her best in everything, but keeps coming up short. Her growth comes across as authentic and organic. Her BFF, Naomi is the everything Quinn’s not but wishes she was, making her the perfect sidekick. Carter was a little annoying, but necessary. Not every character needs to be likable, and who doesn’t know at least on Carter? Grayson was adorable as the self-assured son of the the Governor who seems to have everything he’s ever wanted, but underlying it all is a vulnerability that only adds to his attractiveness.
What I Enjoyed About HOW TO SPEAK BOY 1. Quinn. She’s adorkably awkward and utterly endearing. I couldn’t help rooting for her.
2. Grayson. He’s sweet, smart, and hot. The perfect BBF.
3. Quinn’s Mom. I love their relationship. She’s the proper blend of confidant and authoritarian, just what Quinn needs, when she needs her to be.
4. Letter Writing. In a digital world, it was a refreshing throwback to my own high school days.
5. Speech and Debate. Okay, so I’m still not sure I’d ever join this club or find going to these events interesting, but the way the author wrote about these moments, definitely piqued my interest.
What Didn’t Quite Work for Me The story and characters were amazing and I loved the speech angle. But the ending fell flat for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a HFN ending, but I didn’t have quite the bang I was hoping for, what I felt it was building up to. That said, the author wraps everything up in a satisfying conclusion.
Bottom Line A cute contemporary romance with adorable characters you can’t help pulling for.
About the Author Tiana Smith is a copywriter turned novelist who grew up in the Rocky Mountains. When she isn’t writing, she’s chasing after her ninja boy, reading, or binging the Disney Channel. She’d love to be fluent in sign language, but for now she gets by with awkward hand gestures and even more awkward French. She has double degrees in Honors and English from Westminster College but wants to go back to school to be a lion tamer.
THE PRINCESS PROBLEM (Unexpectedly Royal #1) by Christi Barth
Synopsis What girl doesn’t want to wear a tiara? Me. The one who lives in yoga pants and knows she’s not special enough to be a princess.
One minute I’m starting my dream life in NYC, and the next, a man too hot for his own good is banging on my door, telling me that I’m a long lost princess of a country on the other side of the Atlantic.
Not exactly your typical Friday night in the Big Apple.
Suddenly, all of my plans for the future are yanked away. I’m trapped in a life filled with social obligations—and stilettos!—and an uptight royal family I didn’t know existed. They, and the whole rest of the freaking country, have lofty expectations I’m not sure I can meet.
At least the aforementioned sexalicious man, Elias, is my constant shadow, protecting me with his life. The whole situation is overwhelming. So I’ve secretly put him in charge of my happiness, too…and he’s taking my orders very, very seriously.
So seriously, I’m falling for him even harder than the new country I’m coming to…maybe…love.
And that’s a major problem, because he’s crazy about me, too. I may not know all the zillion rules about being royal, but I know one for sure: No way can a princess date her bodyguard…
Each book in the Unexpectedly Royal series is STANDALONE: * The Princess Problem * Ruling the Princess
My Review Kelsey and her big sister Mallory have just moved to the Big Apple, NYC, Manhattan, and are ready to live the dream they’ve been planning and saving up for for nearly a decade. After finally moving into their tiny apartment, they begin to unpack and dive into life in the big city at full steam when a knock on the door changes everything. Kelsey’s world is upended when she’s told she’s the long-lost daughter of the king of a small country nestled near the Italian coastline. A country she’s never heard of. They tell her she was kidnapped as an infant, something that makes no sense to Kelsey, who grew up in a very decidedly middle class family that was perfectly average in every way. She never had even a hint that she was a) adopted or b) kidnapped. None of it makes any sense to her or Mallory. And the fact that she can’t reach her parents, only makes matters worse when government officials from Moncriano want her to return to her home country. Elias, her self-described body guard is as hot as he is foreign, only muddying the waters further.
Kelsey not only needs to navigate royal life, bond with a family she’s never known, come to terms with her past, but also decide in two weeks if she’s ready to embrace her true identity and give up the only way of life she’s ever known. Yeah, no pressure there.
Kelsey must embrace her true roots or not. That’s the heart of the story. But the romance with Elias is a strong subplot. Her journey throws a lot of obstacles in her way, not the least of which is getting to know her royal family. With her birth mother having already died, her father, the king, is struggling with embracing the daughter he believed gone forever. She has a brother for the first time ever, but also an older sister who seems to hate her. The fact that Elias is her subject as well as her employee makes any relationship completely off limits. Which of course only makes the sparks fly hotter.
My biggest problem with this book is that Kelsey seems to take it all in stride. The fact that she’s willing to just go with the hot stranger without verifying anything for herself, that she’s not more distraught over her past and secrets withheld from her, ate away at me at a low level as she meets her “real” family. She mentions a few times in passing that her parents weren’t kidnappers, but this should have been driving some serious low-level angst in everything she does. Instead, less than 20% in, she’s snogging her security detail in the garden instead of having an identity crisis of epic proportions. But if you can overlook this for the sake of convenience, it’s a lighthearted take on what it’s like to be unexpectedly thrust into royal life, like a grown-up THE PRINCESS DIARIES. It’s definitely a fun, fast read.
The characters aren’t terribly deep, but they are fun, and not stereotypical. Kelsey is delightful as the reluctant royal and her sister, Mallory, is hysterical as her partner in crime. I love Kelsey’s loyalty to Mallory as well as her sense of duty to both her families. Elias is honor-bound and full of principle. Princess Genevieve is so relatable as the older sister whose entire life has been shaped by Kelsey’s kidnapping and is struggling with yet the latest upheaval in her relatively short life. Prince Christian is adorable as the loving older brother who has no idea how to interact with his youngest sister. I was totally pulling for a Christian/Mallory side romance. The rest of the characters are there to provide humor and conflict and do their jobs well. There really isn’t a whole lot for any of them to overcome on a deep level, leaving this more plot-based than character-based and that’s perfect for a romantic comedy.
What I Enjoyed About THE PRINCESS PROBLEM 1. Royalty. Sure, Americans don’t have our own royalty, in fact if anything we’re anti-royal since our whole country was founded on bucking the monarchy, but it’s still fun to get a behind-the-scenes reminder of why being a princess would suck on almost every level.
2. Elias. Not only is he yummy to look at, but his sense of duty and honor makes him nearly irresistible.
3. Christian. He walks a fine line between the duties of heir to the throne and that of an adoring older brother with class, humor, and intense hotness.
4. Mallory. Kelsey is her sister. She always has been and she always will be, regardless of Kelsey’s royal status. I love how nothing changes for her when it comes to her little sister.
5. Politics. I’ll admit, I didn’t really expect that in this story, but it plays into everything, although with a light touch by the author. It adds intrigue that would otherwise be missing.
Bottom Line A super fun, lighthearted royal romance.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author USA TODAY bestseller Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes award-winning contemporary romance.
Christi can always be found either whipping up gourmet meals (for fun, honest!) or with her nose in a book. She lives in Maryland with the best husband in the world.
Synopsis It was never easy for Cassie and her mother, struggling to make ends meet in their tiny apartment in The Bronx, but they had each other and that was enough. When her mother dies suddenly from an aggressive form of cancer, Cassie is forced to finish high school in California while living with the wealthy family of her mother’s closest friend—a women she never knew existed.
Living with the Stantons is the complete opposite of what she’s used to—the massive house, a father figure, and Cody, the spoiled, insanely good-looking son with the bedroom across the hall.
Broken with grief and struggling to fit in, Cassie meets Mila, a female powerhouse that helps her cope with a hidden past, the overwhelming present, and a shared experience no one should have to endure—a nightmare they both thought was over.
Warning: Although this book is classified as Young Adult, I recommended it for mature readers due to explicit language.
My Review EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE is a powerful story about finding your inner strength even when everything around you seems to be falling apart. When Cassie’s mom dies of cancer, she moves from New York, the only home she knows, to the west coast to live with a family she barely remembers, a family that is not her own. Barely scraping by in New York, Cassie’s new life in Northern California couldn’t be more different, from the large sprawling homes to the intact nuclear family she comes to live with, including Cody, a boy from her childhood who has blossomed into a serious heartthrob with a room across the hall from hers. As she adjusts to a new life that does not involve wondering how they’re going to pay the bills, she is also thrust into high school drama she is totally unprepared to handle. Her east coast upbringing has given her a hard outer shell and the wit to hold her own, but only on the outside. Inside she’s crumbling from grief and feeling like a fish out of water. With the help of Cody, his parents, and new friends, she tenuously navigates her new world until secrets from her past and a cruel event at a party turn her world upside down once again, leaving her wondering if everything she thought was true is really just one more lie.
Plot The story is about Cassie learning who she is and coming to terms with the truths she discovers about herself, her family, and life itself. But it’s also about friendship, family, revenge and romance. The author weaves everything together in a well-plotted tale with a few surprises.
Characters I love Cassie. She’s snarky thanks to her childhood in the Bronx, strong, but not immune to the crap high school throws at you. Mila is hysterical as the new friend with a verbal stream of consciousness, and Cody is adorable as the quasi step-brother/love interest that creates a lot of the best conflict in the story. Cody’s parents and Cassie’s guardians are everything she needs and what we hope all parents would be. The antagonists are bit more stereotypical, but also different enough that I wasn’t always sure what to expect from them.
What I Enjoyed About EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE 1. Mila. She is the vibrant colorful yin to Cassie’s dark and withdrawn yang
2. Cassie. It took me a little bit to warm up to her, but once I did, I absolutely loved her spunk.
3. Cody. Completely swoonworthy.
4. Surprises. There were a few twists I didn’t see coming that helped keep my interest when I felt the story was slowing down a bit.
5. Revenge. A dish best served deliciously cold.
Bottom Line A sold young adult tale with interesting characters who are easy to root for.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author Rayna York grew up with hippie parents that liked to adventure, so being the new kid was always a challenge. Where change was the norm, books were her constant–a way to escape. As an adult, many careers came and went, but writing has always been her passion. Everything I knew to be true is her first published novel.
Synopsis When Ace leaves home to spend the summer in Cherokee, North Carolina the last thing she expects to find is a boyfriend until she meets Cherokee Tribe member John Spears. As Ace and John’s friendship blossoms, they find their life experiences mirror each other and they fall in love. Despite hurdles thrown by well-meaning family members and jealous frenemies, the star-crossed lovers remain committed to their mutual belief that the universe has drawn them together. However, when Ace sends John a strange text and then suddenly disappears, the two must rely on their trust in each other to save both their lives and their love.
My Review Soul mates and impossible love collide in CHEROKEE SUMMER. Ace and her family spend the summer in Cherokee, North Carolina where John and his family, native Cherokees, live. After a chance meeting that initially gets off on the wrong foot, these two find each other inexplicably drawn to one another, despite cultural differences that threaten to keep them apart. Ace’s family is in shambles. She lives with her alcoholic mother, autistic younger brother, and cheating father. Her father’s inability to keep it in his pants only seems to fuel her mother’s drinking. John has his own issues with an alcoholic mother and a family and community that are determined to keep him on the reservation after graduation, just as he’s determined to leave for college. Ace and John find a refuge from their lives in each other’s company, sharing painful commonalities while exploring their differences. But more than just a jealous ex-girlfriend and family responsibilities stand in the way, and it all comes to a gripping climax.
Plot The story starts off as a basic contemporary romance with our two main characters meeting before their attraction grows, obstacles are thrown in the way, but then the plot goes sideways and ramps up to an action-packed conclusion that sets it apart from other books in the genre. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but it won’t be my last. The storytelling was intriguing, and even with a slow start, I was drawn to the characters, the setting, and the conflict. Since my kids are part Native American on their dad’s side, I was particularly drawn to the way the author portrayed modern Cherokees with the push and pull of tradition in the 21st century.
Characters Told from both Ace’s and John’s points of view, there are solid differentiators between the two, keeping me from ever being confused about whose viewpoint I was reading. Ace’s devotion to her family makes her instantly endearing and I was able to sympathize with her belief that it was up to her to fix her family. John’s heritage and loyalty are in conflict with his life’s goals, making him a fascinating character.The supporting cast were more than caricatures, even the jealous ex-girlfriend had more depth than I was expecting. John’s twin sister, his grandmother, and even his alcoholic mother were more than fluff and helped define him a way that standard methods of characterization never could.
What I Enjoyed About CHEROKEE SUMMER 1. Reality. The author honestly portrays the devastating effects of alcoholism on families.
2. Native Culture. I thought this was particularly well done and an accurate depiction of what teens torn between two worlds struggle with.
3. Family Ties. While Ace lost the parenting lottery, she steps up to protect her younger brother at all cost. John’s loyalty to his family and way of life, even as he’s pulling away, endeared him to me.
4. John. Deep, damaged, sweet, and loyal. He’s a great protagonist and BBF.
5. Ace. From her awesome name to her flaws, she’s complex and intriguing and I loved seeing the world through her eyes.
Bottom Line A sweet young adult contemporary with an action-filled finale.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author Susan Antony is an IT by day, hip-shaker and writer by night, artist whenever possible, and an internet addict. She lives in the sunny south with her teenage son and two Cairn Terriers.
ALIEN MINDS (Dimension Drift #1) by Christina Bauer
Synopsis DIVERGENT meets OCEAN’S EIGHT in this urban fantasy heist!
On my seventeenth birthday, I wake up in the hospital to find I just survived a sketchy but terrible accident. My parents stand by my bedside—both are beautiful, wealthy, and super-nice. They tell me that once I leave the hospital, I’ll attend the prestigious ECHO Academy, where I’ll churn out equations for the government along with my mega-smart peers.
So, I’m living the perfect life.
Then why does everything feel all wrong?
My parents, my house and even ECHO Academy…none of it fits. Plus, what’s up with Thorne, my brooding yet yummy classmate who keeps telling me I need to remember my true past, which seems to have included a lot of us kissing? That’s one thing I’d really like to remember, except for the fact that I’m pretty sure Thorne is hiding a ton of nasty secrets of his own, including the fact that he may not be from this world. But considering how my own past seems alien to me, it’s not like I can judge. Plus, Thorne has dimples. That’s a problem.
And worst of all, why does it feel so yucky to work on these calculations for the government? It’s all supposed to be part of ECHO, but my heart tells me that I’m helping something truly terrible come to pass. Thorne seems to think that kissing him again will release my real memories.
Maybe it’s time to pucker up.
“Appealing and engaging. Love the strong female character!” – Arlene’s Book Reviews
This new series is perfect for: fans of urban fantasy, action & adventure, cool science, evil corporations, forbidden romance and hot new classmates who may or may not be aliens.
My Review I finally dove into Christina Bauer’s sci-fi/fantasy adventure series with ALIEN MINDS. While this is book 1 in the Dimension Drift series, the characters and worlds are well-established from other, connected, series. That is evident from the opening chapter. Though I’m new to this world, Bauer does a great job of balancing the plot with world building so that even a newbie like me can grasp the nuances of the setting without being bogged down by details that detract from the story. When 17-year-old Meimi awakes with no memories, she knows something is off about the story she’s been told. She may not remember who she is or anything about her past, but she’s sure the doctor standing in front of her is evil. Just as she’s sure the tall, brooding guard, Thorne, assigned to her means something to her. She just isn’t sure what. When the doctor slates millions of people for execution for being “undesirable” and demands Meimi help him accomplish his goals, she’s determined to thwart him while pretending to go along with his plan. This sets up a wicked game of deception that rivals some of the best heist movies I’ve seen.
Plot The story revolves around Memi’s plans to prevent the destruction of innocent human lives while remaining alive herself. Told in dual points of view from Memi’s and Thorne’s perspectives, we see flashes of Meimi’s life before her mind wipe through Thorne, and insights into how she thinks through hers. Despite her memory loss, she is who she is, and her spunk and intelligence shine through. Teaming up with people from Meimi’s past, they plan the ultimate act of defiance and bravery to save the world. Strong subplots include Meimi’s battle to regain who she is and Thorne’s battle to win back her feelings for him.
Characters Meimi is a strong protagonist who inherently knows right from wrong and will risk everything to do what is right. Thorne is a tortured soul with a secret – he’s an alien, and oh yeah, son of the ruler of the omniverse. These two shouldn’t work, yet they are linked in a way that is more than just mutual attraction. Meimi is witty, sarcastic, and driven. Thorne is dark and brooding. Both are well-developed and a joy to read. The evil Dr. Godwin is more of a cartoonish character, though. Evil for the sake of evil. While he makes for a good bad guy, he’s not as developed as he could have been. Supporting characters, twins Zoe and Chloe, Fritz, and the others are more complex and nicely round out the cast.
World Building This is where the story really shines. The alien world, dystopian Boston, alternate dimensions, and the technology are extraordinarily well constructed, and the writer’s ability to paint vibrant pictures with her words brings this amazing omniverse to life.
What I Enjoyed About ALIEN MINDS 1. World Building. Some of the best world building I’ve read in a long time.
2. Meimi. Her sarcastic wit is a blast to read.
3. Tech. The technology that populates this world is as engaging as the characters.
4. Sticking it to the Man. Their goal of beating Godwin at his own game is something we all can root for.
5. Thorne. His devotion to Meimi is both sweet and swoony.
Bottom Line A fun, action-packed adventure with amazing world-building and fun characters.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Christina Bauer thinks that fantasy books are like bacon: they just make life better. All of which is why she writes romance novels that feature demons, dragons, wizards, witches, elves, elementals, and a bunch of random stuff that she brainstorms while riding the Boston T. Oh, and she includes lots of humor and kick-ass chicks, too.
Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.
Be the first to know about new releases from Christina by signing up for her newsletter
EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN (Extinction of All Children #1) by L.J. Epps
Synopsis A young adult, fantasy novel about a teenager who is the last eighteen-year-old in her territory. There will never be another child; every baby born after her has been taken away. Everyone wonders why she survived.
Emma Whisperer was born in 2080, in the small futuristic world of Craigluy. President Esther, in charge for the last twenty-two years, has divided their world into three territories, separated by classes—the rich, the working class, and the poor—because she believes the poor should not mingle with the others. And, the poor are no longer allowed to have children, since they do not have the means to take care of them.
Any babies born, accidentally or willfully, are killed. Emma is the last eighteen-year-old in her territory; every baby born after her has died. Somehow, she survived this fate.
During the president’s Monday night speech, she announces a party will be held to honor the last child in the territory, Emma Whisperer. Emma must read a speech, expressing how happy she is to be the last eighteen-year-old.
Emma doesn’t like the rules; she doesn’t believe in them. So, she feels she must rebel against them. Her family doesn’t agree with her rebellion, since they are hiding a big secret.
If this secret gets out, it will be disastrous, and deadly, for her family.
During Emma’s journey, she meets—and becomes friends with—Eric. He is one of the guards for the president. She also befriends Samuel, another guard for the president, who is summoned to watch over her. As Emma meets new people, she doesn’t know who she can trust. Yet, she finds herself falling for a guy, something which has never happened before.
After doing what she feels is right, Emma finds herself in imminent danger.
In the end, she must make one gut-wrenching decision, a decision that may be disastrous for them all.
“Fans of dystopian fantasy will devour this book. L. J. Epps writes a story that, while dealing with heavy subject matter, is still a light, enjoyable read. This dystopian fantasy novel ignites the imagination, and is a must read for fans of The Hunger Games and the Divergent Trilogy.”
—Kristina Gemmell, Beta Reader
My Review I’m a sucker for a good dystopian tale, and one involving the extinction of children has such incredible possibilities, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this. Emma Whisperer is the last child born in Territory L (lower class). Someone had to be the last child born when the president decrees that those in the lower class do not have the resources necessary to raise children. But that doesn’t stop those who lost children or younger siblings from hating Emma for something she had no control over. Because if a woman happens to get pregnant even after all the precautions and birth control provided by the government, the woman is forced to carry that baby to term, only to have the baby executed and the woman send to prison. It seems over-the-top cruel at times, until I remember all the horrors I read in THE HUNGER GAMES and THE HANDMAIDS TALE. There are a lot of similarities to both of those stories as well as DIVERGENT. In addition to Territory L, there is Territory M (middle class) and Territory U (upper class) where people aspire to move to, though it’s not rare and not easy to qualify. As time goes by, Emma discovers she was the last child allowed to be born for a reason. As she uncovers even more secrets, she is more determined than ever to change things in her world. For everyone.
While not action-packed, the plot does move at a steady pace. There were a few intriguing twists that kept me turning the pages despite the lack of action. Even the climax seemed to wrap up too quickly, and that’s one of my only real complaints with the pacing. The main plot centers around Emma and her place in Territory L. Her inability to go with the flow and buck the system at every turn lands her in jail for 30 days where she discovers a lot more than she ever realized about the inner workings of her government. She also meets several young male guards who challenge her in different ways, all of which she is ill-equipped to handle. The first of a trilogy, THE EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN ends with a satisfying conclusion to the book, but with enough anticipation for what comes next, that I’ll be reading the next book in the series for sure.
The story is more plot driven than character driven and that shows up in the character development. The themes are dark and the characters have a hopelessness about them that carries through the story. No deep flaws are overcome at this stage and no real growth happens yet. But I suspect we’ll get that in the next couple of books in the series.
What I Enjoyed About THE EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN 1. The Concept. What a great idea for a story. It has all the elements of the worst dystopian world, including a protagonist I can root for and an antagonist I love to hate.
2. Twists and Turns. More than a few surprises caught me off guard and in several times I was sure I knew what was going to happen, but it turned out I was wrong.
3. Emma. There’s nothing lovable about her, but Emma’s rough edges and harsh exterior are exactly what she needs to survive in her world. She’s part Katniss, part Tris, and part Offred.
4. Theodore. Emma’s brother is both annoying and sweet. The way he respects authority, even an evil regime, is excusable when you realize his family is the most important thing in the world to him.
5. The Settings. The entire Territory L is drab, bleak, grey, and you never lose sight of that through the author’s scene settings.
Bottom Line A solid start to a dystopian adventure
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited Title: EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN Series: Extinction of All Children #1 Author: L.J. Epps Release Date: June 3, 2016 Pages: 250 Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon| Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
About the Author L.J. Epps is a lover of all things related to books: fiction and nonfiction novels, as well as biographies and autobiographies. She has also been known to sit and read comic books from cover to cover, several times over.
Over the last few years, L.J. has written several manuscripts; her mission is to publish all of them. She enjoys writing fiction in several genres, including contemporary romance and women’s fiction, as well as young adult dystopian, science fiction and fantasy. She loves to write because it immerses her into another world that is not her own.
The best part of a happy ending… finding out it’s actually just the beginning. Having someone promise to be by your side, to chase dreams with, whisper troubles to, it’s more than I could have imagined.
But after three seasons of Jace playing pro ball in Ohio, three long seasons, with him on the road, and me training all over the world, I’m questioning if we can really have it all. Harsh criticism of our relationship is all too familiar and uncovers old wounds. I only ever wanted to run and to be with Jace, and finding the perfect balance proves to be my greatest trial yet.
We vowed not to let our love deter each other’s athletic goals, but I miss him. I miss us.
The demands of our careers have us running in opposite directions, when we should be putting down roots, together. But escalating fame and an overbearing agent have me fumbling everything I hold dear, including Pepper.
After years of dedication and sacrifice, I’m finally in a position to trade to my hometown team. Moving back to Colorado could be the answer to all our problems, but just when I think we’re finally on the right track, we’re sacked with news that turns everything upside down. News that rattles me and sends Pepper into a tailspin. It’s time for me to remind the girl that I fell in love with how to fight.
Until she’s ready, I’ll fight hard enough for the both of us. For better or for worse.
My Review I was introduced to Ali Dean’s writing with PEPPED UP, the first book in the Pepper Jones series, and was immediately hooked. I was surprised when a sixth book was released because Pepper and Jace’s story seemed to be over in in book 5, but I was eager to dive into their world once more. Both professional athletes now, Pepper and Jace are early to mid twenties now, and life seems to be going pretty well, other than the fact that they spend a lot of time apart from each other. They’re looking to settle down in their old home town of Brockton, Colorado, with Jace vying for a spot as the quarterback on the local NFL team, the Stallions (Broncos). There’s plenty of shallow people in both the running and NFL world to deal with along with returning favorites, including Bunny, Wes, Zoe and the rest of the Brockton crew. Madeline Briscole, my favorite mean girl (i.e. the girl I love to hate) makes a brief and snarky reappearance, but she doesn’t really rock the boat this time. In fact, not much rocks the boat, and that’s my biggest issue with this last installment. There isn’t as much conflict as I’m used to in Ali Dean’s stories. And the conflict that does arise is quickly doused by our now more mature protagonists. This is what we all wanted for them, but it doesn’t make for a page-turning read. That said, it was a very satisfying final conclusion to the series and the epilogue was especially fulfilling.
There doesn’t seem to be a main plot, but there are several parallel plots taking place: where will Jace play football, will Pepper make the Olympic marathon team, and where will they settle down. The three are obviously linked. Where Jace plays has a lot to do with where they will ultimately live which in turn impacts Pepper’s running career. As I mentioned above, there isn’t much conflict in any of these and anything that does threaten their happiness, isn’t a long-term issue. But the story unfolds at a steady pace and I didn’t get bored.
It was so fun being back with Pepper, Jace and the gang! I enjoyed seeing the more mature versions of these two and cameos from some of my favorite characters from the past. I would have liked more of Bunny, but isn’t that always the case?
What I Enjoyed About PEPPED UP & WILDER 1. Pepper and Jace. They work so well together, and after watching their trials and failures through five books, I love their HEA.
2. The Running. Pepper has evolved from trail running to marathon running. Having only ever run one half, I read through these scenes with only a superficial appreciation of what is involved, but I felt sucked into the events anyway. This is where Dean’s descriptive elements really shine.
3. Supporting Cast. Both old favorites and newcomers rounded out the characters nicely.
4. NFL Drama. It was my favorite sport to watch before the Chargers up and moved to LA (don’t get me started) but I still enjoyed reading about the behind-the-scenes drama that a bunch of egotistical jocks can drum up. Tween girls ain’t got nothing on this bunch.
5. The Epilogue. A deeply satisfying wrap up to one of my all-time favorite couples.
Bottom Line A thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the series.
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited Title: PEPPED UP & WILDER Series: Pepper Jones #6 Author: Ali Dean Release Date: December 18, 2018 Pages: 185 Genre: New Adult Contemporary/Sports Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Author Ali Dean
About the Author Ali Dean lives in Colorado with her husband, twin babies, and golden retriever. In addition to reading and writing, she loves the outdoors- everything from marathon training and biking to snowboarding and skiing.
Synopsis In a world on the brink of war, four superpowered teens must learn to work together for peace in CaitlinLochner’s action-packed debut novel, A Soldier and A Liar.
Lai Cathwell is good at keeping secrets. As a Nyte, a supernaturally gifted teenager who is feared and shunned by the ungifted, this skill is essential to survival. Orchestrating her own imprisonment to escape military duty has only honed her ability to deceive others. But when rebels start attacking the city, Lai is dragged back into the fight with a new team of Nytes.
Thrown together with Jay, a self-conscious perfectionist consumed by the desire to be accepted; Al, a short-tempered fighter lying for the sake of revenge; and Erik, an amnesiac hell-bent on finding his memories and his place in the world, Lai realizes she’s facing an entirely different kind of challenge–one that might just be impossible. But if this team can’t learn to work together, the entire sector will be plunged into war.
My Review I wasn’t sure what to make of A SOLDIER AND A LIAR at first. It starts off slow and the characters are difficult to relate to, but I’m glad I stuck it out. The story and character development really picks up at about the 50% mark and takes off after that. Lai Cathwell is 17-year-old superpowered soldier. She and fellow young adults, Al (Johann), Erik (Mendel), and Jay (Kitahara) form an unlikely team of enhanced humans known as Nytes, on a mission to take out an elite squad of rebel Nytes determined to overthrow the Etiole government. While Nytes have powers, they are shunned for them, treated as second-class citizens at best. Lai wants acceptances and equality for Nytes, while the other three each have their own reasons for accepting the mission. With four different motivators, to say they’re a team would be a massive overstatement. Trust is hard to come by and suspicions run high. As their leader, Jay wants cohesion and solicits Lai’s help to make that happen. The more Lai learns about her teammates, the more she both likes them and distrusts them. But they’ll be forced to work together, whether they like it or not, to prevent all out war.
Plot I think the primary plot is about the mission and stopping the war, but it feels more like it’s abut the relationships between the four Nytes as they get to know each other and grudgingly begin to trust one another. The action scenes are really well done, but they don’t drive the plot as much as the interpersonal scenes do. And it’s those scenes that made me care about the outcome of the action scenes. There’s also a budding romance between Jay and Lai always simmering just below the surface. This relationship came across as forced initially, but as with the rest of the book, it hit its stride about halfway through.
The Characters The characters are my favorite part. Watching shy, socially awkward Jay try to navigate his attraction to Lai, Lai’s heavily armored exterior giving way to friendships, Erik’s selfishness giving way to something more, and Al’s standoffishness meld into someone I could identify with was what made this story really work for me. The author has created deeply authentic characters that are initially tough to get to know, but evolve with time at the same pace for us as they do for Lai. By not trying to force us to care early on, the author does us a favor and allows the reader’s feelings to grow organically as the story progresses. There are a lot of secondary and tertiary characters, who only make sporadic appearances, so I found myself flipping back to reread the scenes where they were first introduced.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About A SOLDIER AND A LIAR 1. Scene setting. The author has a way of bringing her settings to life in this world where people live in underground sectors to protect them for dangers above ground that only Nytes can survive. The descriptions are so vivid, I had no difficulty immersing myself in this world.
2. Friendships. The relationships between the characters develop over the story, so that the reader builds the same relationship at the same time as the narrator.
3. Super powers. This isn’t your typical superhero story, but the powers the Nytes possess are no less fun and shape the story as much as anything else.
4. Equality. Whether it’s Sneetches with stars upon thars, the color of one’s skin, or being a Nyte or Etiole, everyone wants to be seen as equal, and this classic theme is well done.
5. Lai. She’s fierce, independent, and just vulnerable enough to make her a heroine worth rooting for.
Bottom Line A different take on superheroes and dystopian adventures with strong characters.
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About The Author (Um, so, wow bios are hard.) I studied creative writing at the University of South Florida and used my BA in words to become an English teaching assistant in Tokyo. I’m in love with storytelling of any kind, but especially in the form of books, manga, and video games. If you ever want to talk nerdy, I am VERY down.
Synopsis One week on an Alaskan cruise, three teens, and an endless trail of lies.
Enter a series of thefts on board and they all fall under scrutiny. Though Navy acts a proper preacher’s daughter, she did end up with someone else’s purse in her hands, and Jesse knows way more than he should about what’s gone missing. Isaiah, however, is the one with motive—enough money and he could get back to his ranch. Each holds a piece of the truth, but exposing the thief could damn them all. They must navigate through the lies they’ve told, choose between standing together or saving themselves, and decide if innocence is worth facing their ugliest secrets.
My Review A teen cozy mystery at sea. When three strangers meet on an Alaskan cruise, the only thing they have in common is their relative ages. But when passengers’ property begins to disappear, they find themselves caught up in the mystery, first as suspects, then as amateur detectives, trying to figure out who really did it to deflect suspicion from themselves. Each of the main characters have their own goals for the trip: germaphobe Navy wants to experience her first kiss, cowboy Isaiah wants to convince his grandmother he’s NOT gay so he can go back to the ranch he feels completes him, and tattooed Jesse wants to keep himself and his father together after having just been left by his mother. The weaving of lies, truths, and desires creates a complex web that threatens to destroy the tenuous bonds of friendship they forge. Told in three alternating points of view, the chapters are short, which keeps the story moving from start to finish.
Plot Primarily, this is a young adult romance. Navy is torn between Isaiah and Jesse for her first kiss. Both boys are more than interested, but each has withheld important information about themselves, making Navy wary of both. Subplotting is both rich and deep, with each of the main character’s goals driving the main plot and the underlying mystery creating enough conflict to move this story at a decent pace. I’m not opposed to love triangles, but I wasn’t expecting it based on the book’s synopsis. So if this is not your thing, be forewarned. However, the author does a great job and it’s never too much. Because we get all three kids’ points of view, it’s clear how everyone feels throughout the story.
The Characters Each character is so unique and distinct in who they are and what they want, making reading the three points of view interesting. There were times I loved each character and times I couldn’t stand them, but at no time did they seem inauthentic. With revolving first-person narratives, we get to spend a lot of time with each of the three main characters, understand their thoughts and desires, and what makes them tick. And while they did become annoying at times, what teen doesn’t? It didn’t make me care any less for them, it just made them that much more realistic.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About TRIPLICITY 1. The setting. An Alaskan cruise is on my bucket list so I loved the setting. The author’s vivid descriptions of the sites was awe-inspiring.
2. The mystery. The added element of a lighthearted mystery set this apart from other teen romances.
3. The characters. Richly drawn and interesting, the characters made me care about what happened next.
4. Difficult subjects. The book touches on a number of difficult subjects, including drinking, abandonment, parental death, depression, and more. And while those topics could create a darker mood, the author does a good job of keeping the story light without making light of the issues.
5. Jesse. Okay, I said I wasn’t going to pick a favorite, but I did anyway. His outgoing personality endeared him to me. Most young adult fiction is filled with introverted protagonists, so it was a breath of fresh air to get inside an unapologetic extrovert.
Bottom Line A wonderful, fun young adult cozy mystery aboard an Alaskan cruise ship.
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited Title: TRIPLICITY Author: J. Mercer Publisher: Bare Ink Release Date: January 6, 2019 Pages: 301 Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Mystery Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Author J. Mercer
About The Author J Mercer grew up in Wisconsin where she walked home from school with her head in a book, filled notebooks with stories in junior high, then went to UW Madison for accounting and psychology only to open a dog daycare. She wishes she were an expert linguist, is pretty much a professional with regards to competitive dance hair (bunhawk, anyone?), and enjoys exploring with her husband—though as much as she loves to travel, she’s also an accomplished hermit. Perfect days include cancelled plans, rain, and endless hours to do with what she pleases.
For updates and news, you can find her on Facebook, but she’s more often on Instagram, talking about what she’s reading and other bookish things. Go there for book recommendations, reading-inspired writing tips, or even to read along. If you prefer everything delivered directly to your inbox, click here to get on the email list.
Synopsis “Sometimes love happens when you least expect it.” That was what my husband’s mistress told me the day I found out about their affair.
I didn’t believe it until five minutes later when mouth-watering celebrity chef Tanner Reese walked up, tossed his arm around my shoulders, and told my cheating husband to take a hike.
Tanner and I couldn’t have been more different. He spent his weekends at clubs, rubbing elbows with fellow A-listers. I spent mine in yoga pants with cheese boards and a glass of wine—or six.
Our relationship shouldn’t have worked, but it did. That is until Tanner proved to me that even though love happens when you least expect it…
So does heartbreak.
My Review ACROSS THE HORIZON is a fun, flirty, well-written contemporary romance. Tanner Reese is, as Rita calls him, a two-name celebrity. He’s always Tanner Reese and never just Tanner. Rita is just Rita, a woman reeling from her husband of seven years’ affair with a coworker. When celebrity chef, Tanner, and his brother Porter cater a charity event for the medical practice Rita, her husband, and “the other woman” all work for, hilarity ensues in the cutest of meet-cutes. Not recognizing the hot chef, Rita latches onto him in an attempt to make her soon-to-be-ex jealous. It works, but ignites a spark that soon becomes a raging inferno that will not be contained.
Plot A straight-up romance, the plot is all about Tanner and Rita with excellent subplotting involving Greg, the douchebag husband, and Tanner’s slightly crazy ex-girlfriend. Aly Martinez does a great job of building tension, setting expectations that are then drawn out into excruciating lengths that keeps the anticipation as high for the reader as it is for the characters.
The Characters Oh my gosh! How MUCH do I love the characters?! They are so much fun. From Tanner’s inappropriate mom to Rita’s BFF, Charlotte, the supporting cast is just as delicious as Tanner and Rita. And what can I say about Tanner and Rita? The self-described mama’s boy and trophy wife are as funny as they are endearing. Tanner is your typical cocky playboy who doesn’t date women who play hard to get. Until he meets Rita. And while I’m not a huge fan of the whole “I was a player until I met the right woman” trope, there is far more to Tanner than just a man needing to be tamed by Ms. Right. He’s profoundly patient, willing to play the long game in order to be with Rita. She is fresh out of her marriage and in no place to be in a relationship when they meet, but she can’t deny the attraction between them, either. Rita is anything but a wallflower who needs a strong man to protect her. I love these two alpha characters dancing around each other.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About ACROSS THE HORIZON 1. Mama Reese. She might be my favorite supporting character in any book I’ve ever read.
2. Strong protagonists. Both Tanner and Rita are strong and independent. Rita could have easily become this injured being that needed saving by a strong man, but I love that she never succumbed to the stereotype.
3. Sweet revenge. They say the best revenge is living a good life and Rita excels at this.
4. Flirtatious dialogue. The dialogue is rich and charming and defines who these characters are.
5. Light romance. Even though there are darker themes, the author keeps the story lighthearted, making it a perfect holiday read.
Bottom Line A fun and flirty contemporary romance with lots of heart and humor.
I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited Title: ACROSS THE HORIZON Author: Aly Martinez Release Date: December 3, 2018 Pages: 248 Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Author Aly Martinez
About the Author Originally from Savannah, Georgia, USA Today bestselling author Aly Martinez now lives in South Carolina with her four young children.
Never one to take herself too seriously, she enjoys cheap wine, mystery leggings, and baked feta. It should be known, however, that she hates pizza and ice cream, almost as much as writing her bio in the third person.
She passes what little free time she has reading anything and everything she can get her hands on, preferably with a super-sized tumbler of wine by her side.