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Young Adult Book Review – THROWING SHADE by Karole Cozzo

 

THROWING SHADE by Karole Cozzo

THROWING SHADE by Karole Cozzo

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Karole Cozzo

Author Karole Cozzo

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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USA Today bestselling author Kelly Anne Blount

Author Kelly Anne Blount

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

 

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

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lynn Rush

Author Lynn Rush

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

THE SECRET RECIPE FOR MOVING ON by Karen Bischer

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Debut Author Karen Bischer

Author Karen Bischer

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to Find Karen Bischer
Goodreads | WebsiteTwitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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

 

IN THE PENALTY BOX by Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount

IN THE PENALTY BOX by Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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USA Today bestselling author Kelly Anne Blount

Author Kelly Anne Blount

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

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

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

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lynn Rush

Author Lynn Rush

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

THE KISSING CHALLENGE by Cookie O'Gorman

THE KISSING CHALLENGE by Cookie O’Gorman

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The challenge: Kiss your best friend.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Cookie O'Gorman

Author Cookie O’Gorman

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

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

Book Review + Giveaway – WRITE CHRISTMAS by Thommy Hutson

 

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

WRITE Christmas, a contemporary holiday novel by Thommy Huston

WRITE CHRISTMAS by Thommy Hutson

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

One where Christmas has vanished!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Thommy Hutson

Author Thommy Hutson

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

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

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

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

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

Where to Find Thommy Hutson
Goodreads | WebsiteTwitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New York Times Bestselling Author Sara Wolf

Author Sara Wolf

About the Author
New York Times bestselling author, Sara Wolf is a twenty-something author who adores baking, screaming at her cats, and screaming at herself while she types hilarious things. When she was a kid, she was too busy eating dirt to write her first terrible book. Twenty years later, she picked up a keyboard and started mashing her fists on it and created the monster known as the Lovely Vicious series. She lives in Portland, Oregon where the sun can’t get her anymore and not enough fruit tarts ever.

 

 

 

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

 

Young Adult Book Review – DATING MAKES PERFECT by Pintip Dunn

DATING MAKES PERFECT, a young adult contemporary romantic comedy, by New York Times bestselling author, Pintip Dunn

DATING MAKES PERFECT by Pintip Dunn

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The Tech sisters don’t date in high school. Not because they’re not asked. Not because they’re not interested. Not even because no one can pronounce their long, Thai last name—hence the shortened, awkward moniker. But simply because they’re not allowed.

Until now.

In a move that other Asian American girls know all too well, six months after the older Tech twins got to college, their parents asked, “Why aren’t you engaged yet?” The sisters retaliated by vowing that they won’t marry for ten (maybe even twenty!) years, not until they’ve had lots of the dating practice that they didn’t get in high school.

In a shocking war on the status quo, her parents now insist that their youngest daughter, Orrawin (aka “Winnie”), must practice fake dating in high school. Under their watchful eyes, of course—and organized based on their favorite rom-coms. ’Cause that won’t end in disaster.

The first candidate? The son of their longtime friends, Mat Songsomboon—arrogant, infuriating, and way too good-looking. Winnie’s known him since they were toddlers throwing sticky rice balls at each other. And her parents love him.

If only he weren’t her sworn enemy.

 

 

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My Review
I know I’ve said this before, but this time I really mean it. THIS is my favorite book by Pintip Dunn. Unless I’m allowed to have more than one favorite, in which case I choose them ALL. But seriously, this is just the right lighthearted rom-com for these complicated times. It’s full of warm, engaging characters, swoony moments that are solidly of the PG variety, and so much Thai food that my mouth watered throughout. Winnie is the youngest of three girls and has grown up in the shadow of her beautiful, identical twin sisters. And for the most part, she’s been okay with that. She loves them and they adore her. With them in college now, they’re expected to find suitable spouses, sooner rather than later, as is Thai tradition. But because the Tech girls are not allowed to date in high school, Bunny and Ari use that as an excuse for why they haven’t found anyone yet. After all, one needs to date in order to learn how to date. And they use that  lack of experience as an excuse. Lesson learned, their parents decide that Winnie will practice date, so that she knows what to do when she heads off to college next year. And she will practice date with longtime family friend and arch nemesis, Mat Songsomboon. It’s clear from the beginning these two will end up together, but how they get there is hilarious, heartfelt, and full of humility.

Plot
Winnie and Mat’s relationship drives the plot, but Winnie’s acceptance of her role in her family, the obedient daughter, drives most of the conflict. While Mat and Winnie are now mortal enemies, they share a past that included lazy afternoons, deep friendship, and lots of laughter. That is evident even in their most contentious interactions. The more time they spend together, though, the more Winnie begins to doubt that Mat hates her or that she hates him. In fact, it takes a lot of energy to hate someone, so why put so much effort into someone who doesn’t matter? What I absolutely love about this book is that the author doesn’t take the easy way out and allow unspoken thoughts and rampant misunderstandings to keep her characters apart. Instead, they both share thoughts and feelings, awkwardly, that clears the air far sooner than I expected, and instead the author finds more difficult ways to build conflict. This made the story much less predictable than I anticipated.

The Characters
As always, Dunn creates beautifully deep characters with just enough flaws to make them believable and loveable. Winnie, Mat, and the rest are no exception. Winnie’s sisters, though only secondary characters, are nearly as well-developed as Winnie. Her parents, best friend, Kavya, and the new Thai boy, Taran, round out the main cast perfectly.

Top Five Things I Loved About DATING MAKES PERFECT
1. Mat. He’s annoying at times, self-assured, bordering on arrogant, but he is loyal to the end and earns Winnie’s love the hard way.

2. Winnie. Her desire to be the good and obedient Thai daughter but also be true to herself creates a refreshing internal conflict that makes her easy to love.

3. Thai Food. So much of the story centers around Thai tradition and food is as much a part of that as anything else. From meals to treats, the detailed descriptions left me salivating for a bowl of tom yum koong.

4. Parental Love. Even though Winnie is convinced her parents’ love is conditional, they show her that nothing could be further from the truth in the best way possible.

5. Rom Coms. The subtle weaving of some of the best romantic comedies ever made was a bonus I didn’t even know I wanted.

Bottom Line
The perfect light, fun read for these extraordinary times.

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

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About the Book
Title: DATING MAKES PERFECT
Author: Pintip Dunn
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: August 18, 2020
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance/Romantic Comedy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT |Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Entangled

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Author Pintip Dunn

Author Pintip Dunn

About the Author
Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Pintip’s novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. Her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the Tome Society It list; and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her other titles include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, and the upcoming STAR-CROSSED and MALICE.

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Where to Find Pintip Dunn
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon | Entangled

 

Book Review – THE DIARY OF A LATE BLOOMER by L.M.L. Gil

 

Welcome to the blog tour for THE DIARY OF A LATE BLOOMER, a young adult/new adult coming of age romantic comedy, by debut novelist L.M.L. Gil

 

THE DIARY OF A LATE BLOOMER, a young adult/new adult coming of age romantic comedy, by debut novelist L.M.L. Gil

THE DIARY OF A LATE BLOOMER by L.M.L. Gil

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Every wallflower blooms at their own perfect time, but some like quirky Lo, take longer than others.

Lo is a sheltered 20-year-old who loves baking, manga/anime, and octopi. When she spots her college swim team’s tryout flyer sporting her favorite sea creature, an octopus she knows it’s a sign that she must join the Flying Octopi. The only things standing her way are her social awkward nature and the fact that she just learned to swim.

Will Lo find her place to shine or will her social anxiety DQ her dreams?

Late Bloomer is a new adult novel that is a cross between Bridget Jones’s Diary, Baywatch and Kuragehime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
This novel was a breath of fresh air. I love everything about it, from the cover, to the devices the author uses to tell Lo’s story, to the characters that populate the pages. At twenty, Lo is socially awkward on steroids and as inexperienced as an adult as she was in middle school. After a near-drowning experience as a child, she promised her mother she would never go into a pool again. But Lo, being Lo, figured the best way to protect herself was to learn how to swim. So through reading books and researching online, she taught herself how to swim. Now she wants to swim on her college’s swim team. She’s awful, but because she’s determined, the coach gives her a chance. When Lo isn’t studying, swimming, or taking care of her little brother, she’s listening to 90s grunge music. Set in 2003, there’s a lot of great music and movie references to take me back nearly two decades.

Lo balances her life the best way she can, by trying to please everyone. Her family is full-on passive-aggressive, giving her the silent treatment if she displeases them. No wonder she has so many issues with developing normal, healthy interpersonal relationships. But she always manages to regain a positive attitude every time she’s knocked down. Along her journey, she falls for moody Martin, and fellow music lover, but he’s got a girlfriend. Still, she can’t stop the way she feels and when Martin and his girlfriend break up, Lo blurts our her feelings in the most Lo-like way, taking their friendship into awkward territory as only she can.

I fell in love with this character as she deals with helping her brother with his problems at school, with her parents’ financial troubles, her own failing grades, and her up and down relationship/friendship with Martin. I enjoyed watching her crawl into her own person. Author L.M.L. Gil has shot to the top of my list of favorite debut authors. I can’t wait to read more by her.

Plot
The plot is sort of a wandering tale of Lo’s personal growth, with strong romantic elements, and themes of friendship and being there for others. Lo is quirky, and one of her friends, Nick, calls her weirdo, but she takes it all in stride, knowing she’s always been different from other people. She knows she’s socially awkward, and while she would like to be more like her friends, I love her just the way she is. Lo is endearing and sweet, without ever being annoying. Even her friend Britney says, “If you weren’t so cute, you would be annoying,” and that’s the best description of Lo I can think of. I did find her constant need to apologize somewhat disheartening, but when you understand her family, it makes so much sense for who she is. While the book tends to run long at 525 pages, it’s actually a fast read, told over short chapters.

The Characters
We see the characters only through Lo’s innocent eyes. She is such a caring soul, non-judgmental soul, it’s hard to get a true grasp of them, but over time, they all slowly come into focus. They’re all well-developed with rich back stories, even Britney, who at first comes off a bit shallow, but we eventually find out there is even more to her than meets the eye. But Lo steals the show, and one of the things I love most about her, is she is absolutely the last person to see what everyone else knows.

Top Five Things I Loved About THE DIARY OF A LATE BLOOMER
1. Lo. She’s so naive and trusting and wonderful. Her heart is enormous and she loves with everything she is.

2. Swimming. I loved reading about Lo’s time in the pool. I’m not much of a swimmer, but I almost feel as if I could be after reading her story.

3. Nick. It took me a full two-thirds of the book to warm up to him, but once I did, I adored him. He’s an enigma for sure, and I didn’t like the way he treated Lo at first, but the more I got to know him, the more I understood why he is the way he is.

4. Music. Lo spends a great deal of time going to concerts in small venues and if I hadn’t had a couple of newborn twins in 2003, I would have loved to have joined her. That was totally my scene!

5. Ending. So much is wrapped up in the last twenty percent of the book. I cried, I laughed, and I finished feeling completely satisfied.

Bottom Line
An adorably fun and unique romance with some of the best characters in the genre! One of my favorite reads of 2020.

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About the Book
Title:
THE DIARY OF A LATE BLOOMER
Author:
L.M.L Gil
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Contemporary Romantic Comedy/Sports Romance
Release Date:
June 29, 2020
Pages: 525
Rating:
5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Trailer

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Debut author, L.M.L. Gil

Author L.M.L. Gil

About the Author
L.M.L. Gil is a writer, a reader, and a dreamer. When she is not writing, editing, or thinking about her next story, she is either in the kitchen testing out a new recipe or snuggling with her fur munchkins reading.

As a glutton, she equates a good novel to a scrumptious dessert, which leaves your heart a little lighter and a smile on your face. She hopes her novels provide a sweet treat without the calories

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Where to Find L.M.L. Gil
Goodreads | Website | YouTube | Pinterest | Wattpad

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – GENES (ISAN Series) by Mary Ting

 

Welcome to the blog tour for GENES, the third book in the young adult sci-fi/dystopian adventure series, ISAN, by Mary Ting

 

GENES, the third book in the young adult sci-fi/dystopian adventure series, ISAN, by Mary Ting

GENES (ISAN Series #3) by Mary Ting

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Alliances are forming. The resistance is growing. Everything is about to change.

With her memory still fragmented, Ava returns to the International Sensory Assassin Network (ISAN) to find the twin sister she never knew she had.

But as Ava hunts for information, she finds herself tangled in a web of yet more lies and conspiracy. The Helix serum may not be required to access her superpowers, and the number of male assassins—previously considered too volatile to tolerate Helix—is growing in every territory.

The more Ava uncovers, the more of a threat she becomes to ISAN. Her only salvation may be to join the rebels—if she isn’t killed first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
WARNING: Spoilers for books 1 and 2.

The third book in the International Sensory Assassin Network (ISAN) series, GENES is a rollercoaster ride that never lets up. It picks up in the immediate aftermath of HELIX. We once again find Rhett, Ava and their renegade friends struggling for survival while trying to find a way to bring down ISAN. Except this time, they have the help of some super-powered little friends. At the end of HELIX, we learn a plethora of heinous acts ISAN has been up to. Armed with this knowledge, Ava is more determined than ever to end them and Mr. Novak, the leader of ISAN, once and for all. Ava now knows the identity of her twin, but they are not who she expected. As the rebels fight to save the lives of everyone they love, they willingly risk their own. There’s not much I can say without giving too much away, but this installment is action-packed with more romance, more love, and more loss than in the previous two books. It’s the very definition of a page-turner.

Plot
The story is well-plotted and moves almost constantly. The author does a good job of planting the seeds we need at just the right time for everything to fall inevitably into place. Ting is an expert at white-knuckle suspense and GENES is no different. The stakes are higher than ever and Ava and Rhett have so much more to lose.

Characters
Not only do we hear from Ava and Rhett again, but we get some new points of view. Rhett’s goes from first person to third and it was a little jarring at first, but I got used to it quickly. Ava continues her growth arc, learning that she is not responsible for everyone and everything. In addition to the new characters we met at the end of HELIX, there are more new characters, both good and evil. Some of the bad dudes aren’t as well developed as they could be, but that’s a small complaint in an otherwise stellar read.

What I Loved About GENES
1. Twists.
There are more twists and turns, starting in chapter 1, that kept me on the edge of my seat.

2. Rhett. Once again, he is swoon-worthy and nearly perfect.

3. Mr. Novak. He is the type of villain I relish hating.

4. Ava. She has her moments when I want to slap some sense into her, but the more I learn about her backstory, the more I’ve come to understand her.

5. Momo. A new character, she’s spunk on steroids and may be my new favorite character. Watch out Rhett, you have some adorable competition for best character in the ISAN series.

Bottom Line
Another pulse-pounding edition in this high-tech, sci-fi dystopian romantic adventure.

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

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About the Book
Title: GENES
Series: ISAN Series #3
Author: Mary Ting
Publisher: Vesuvian Books
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Pages: 347
Genre: Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FRBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound | BAM!

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Author Mary Ting

Author Mary Ting

About the Author
International Bestselling, Award-Winning Author Mary Ting writes soulful, spellbinding stories that excite the imagination and captivate readers all over the world. Her books run a wide range of genres: science fiction, fantasy, and swoon worthy stories. Her storytelling talents have won her a devoted legion of fans and garnered critical praise.

Mary was born in Seoul Korea and resides in Southern California with her husband, two children, and two dogs—Mochi and Mocha. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Becoming an author was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother. After realizing she wanted to become a full-time author, she retired from teaching after twenty years.

 

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Where to find Mary Ting
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Facebook GroupTwitter | Instagram | BookBub

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Book Review – THE BEST MISTAKE (Southern U O’Brien Brothers Series) by Cookie O’Gorman

Cover to THE BEST MISTAKE, the first book in her new adult contemporary romance series, Southern U O'Brien Brothers, by Cookie O'Gorman, releasing April, 2020

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Honor Tierney just wants one night with the playboy.

One hot, steamy, meaningless hookup, and then she’ll happily go back to reading her favorite books, studying to be an accountant and writing for the campus-paper-nobody-reads. Too bad she ends up in the wrong bed, with the wrong brother…who gives her the hottest night of her life.

Archer O’Brien just wants to play ball.

Well that, and for his brothers to stop acting out, so he won’t have to worry 24/7. As the oldest O’Brien and team captain, it’s his duty to make sure they don’t drink too much, party too much, or get in too much trouble. But when she walks into his bedroom—mistaking him for his brother—life throws him a curveball.

She’s determined to guard her heart. He’s not giving up.

And when Honor gets assigned to cover the Wolves baseball team, it’s game on.

This new adult sports romance features one hot (and hilarious) case of mistaken identity and a sexy set of brothers guaranteed to make you swoon.

Sometimes, the best mistakes are worth making.

 

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My Review
This is the first new adult novel I’ve read by Cookie O’Gorman, and I’m hooked. She took everything I love about her young adult books: quirky, fun characters and angsty romance, and mixed them up with older characters with more independence, but still trying to figure out life. The combination is both heart-warming and hysterical. Honor Tierney is about to finish up college, still a virgin. Baylor O’Brien has the reputation as a ladies man who leaves his partners satisfied. Who better to give her a night she’ll never forget? Unless she accidentally mistakes one O’Brien brother for another, with hilarious results. What follows is two college seniors trying to make sense of one mixed-up night that might be anything but a failed one-night stand. Add a plethora of O’Brien siblings, Honor’s diverse roommates, and more than a few sparks to ignite a series of events that are at times laugh-out-loud funny and gut-punching. While this is Honor’s and Archer’s story, I can’t wait to find out what happens with the rest of this crew! I’m so happy this is the first book in a new series.

Plot
This is a straight up romance without any real sub-plotting, but the romance drives the story so well, not much else is needed. The back and forth between what Archer wants and what Honor wants along with misconceptions and assumptions on both their parts drives the bulk of the conflict, with Archer’s siblings contributing the rest. When you put that many alpha males together, all from the same family, sparks are bound to fly. The best dialogue is between the O’Brien siblings.

Characters
O’Gorman excels at characters. Honor is equal parts smart, socially awkward, and adorable. The only thing I didn’t really like about her was how little self-esteem she has. And that didn’t really change over the course of the story the way I hoped it would. But her best friend and roommate, Charlie, more than makes up for it with an over-abundance of self-assuredness. She’s the yin to Honor’s yang. Guys fall all over themselves to be with her, except for Archer’s brother, Chase. These two need their own story, stat. Then there’s Rose, the third roommate, who I still haven’t figured out yet, and the O’Brien sister, now a freshman, who rounds out the apartment. Her best friend, June, has it bad for bad boy Baylor, and I’m convinced their story will be the best of the bunch. And above them all is the baseball coach and Mama O’Brien herself, who keeps them all in line while coaching the winningest team in college baseball.

What I Loved About THE BEST MISTAKE
1. Honor.
Delightfully awkward and funny.

2. Archer. As the oldest O’Brien, he has a sense of responsibility that keeps him on the straight and narrow as his brothers devolve into drinking, brawling, and general debauchery.

3. Baseball. I miss sports of all kinds during this pandemic life we’re in now, but since it’s baseball season, I really enjoyed the ballpark scenes.

4. The O’Brien Brothers. Each is very different from the other, making for a colorful cast of characters.

5. Charlie. She was my favorite character in the book and I can’t wait for her story.

Bottom Line
A fun, fast-paced contemporary romance with plenty of laugh-out loud moments.

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

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: THE BEST MISTAKE
Series: Southern U O’Brien Brothers Series #1
Author: Cookie O’Gorman
Release Date: April 23, 202-
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Sports Romance
Pages: 219
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

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Author Cookie O'Gorman

Author Cookie O’Gorman

About the Author
Cookie O’Gorman writes YA & NA romance to give readers a taste of happily-ever-after. Small towns, quirky characters, and the awkward yet beautiful moments in life make up her books. Cookie also has a soft spot for nerds and ninjas. Her novels ADORKABLE, NINJA GIRL, The Unbelievable, Inconceivable, Unforeseeable Truth About Ethan Wilder, and The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad are out now!  She is also the author of NA sports romance, The Best Mistake.

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

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Young Adult Book Review – HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH by Amy Fellner Dominy

Welcome to the blog tour for HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH, a stand-alone young adult contemporary romance by Amy Fellner Dominy

 

Cover for HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH, a stand-alone young adult contemporary romance by Amy Fellner Dominy

HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH by Amy Fellner Dominy

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Mai Senn knows Anthony Adams is no good for her – no matter how hard she might crush on him. She’s valedictorian; he’s a surf bum. She’s got plans, he’s got his art. Complete opposites in every way. Vinegar and baking soda, they once joked. A chemical reaction that bubbled.

Yeah, they bubbled. Maybe still do.

Good thing Anthony’s got the perfect plan: two weeks to prove just how not good they are together. Whoever can come up with the worst date—something the other will seriously hate, proving how incompatible they truly are—wins.

Like taking a snake-phobe to the Reptile House at the zoo (his idea).

Or a cooking class where they don’t even get to eat the food (her idea).

It’s all about the competition, and it’s meant to help them finally crush their crushes. But it wasn’t supposed to be so hot. Or so fun. And when Mai’s future becomes at stake, will she be able to do the right thing and quit Anthony forever?

 

 

 

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My Review
I love this book so much. I love the characters, the flirty banter, and just the whole story. It’s an enemies to “lovers” story with a little something extra. Mai is driven. And that’s an understatement. She has a plan for everything, knows what she will do with her life down to the most minute detail, and absolutely doesn’t take risks. There are reasons for this, reasons that make Mai so much more than a one-dimensional character. Anthony is the complete opposite. For his own reasons, he is an inherent risk taker, he has no plan for his future, and lives life in the moment, never knowing what tomorrow may bring. What these two do have in common is an inexplicable attraction to one another that is one part chemistry and one part something neither of them truly understands. With Mai leaving for college soon and Anthony heading out on a quest with no particular plans beyond this, these two need to get each other out of their systems. They agree to a two-week immersion to really prove to themselves and each other why they’re so wrong together. Each plans alternating dates they absolutely know the other will hate, resulting in truly hilarious moments. But instead of pushing them further away, it appears to have the opposite effect. These two couldn’t be more different, but you know what they say — opposites attract!

Plot
The author does a great job of plotting the story so it never drags. The “hate” dates add comedy throughout and keep the story from even devolving into a sagging middle section. Instead, the pacing is spot on, and the character development and sprinkling of moments that help us understand the characters’ backstories is never tedious.

The Characters
The characters are the best part, and that’s saying something. Mai was hard for me to really identify with it first, but it didn’t take long for me to really get her on a much deeper level. As the only adopted child in her family, she not only looks different than her parents and brother, she feels different. She knows she was chosen, but she also knows she was abandoned by her birth parents. Her need for roots is so understandable, I just wanted to reach out and hug her so many times. Anthony recently lost his father to a short battle with cancer, proving that nothing in life is permanent. He believes in never looking to the future when you can live in the now, because the future isn’t guaranteed. While I’m more like Anthony naturally, rather than through circumstance, I found myself really empathizing with Mai. I was rooting for these two so hard from nearly the first chapter.

Top Five Things I Loved About HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH
1. Mai. She’s so uptight she’s practically a statue, and yet there is so much underlying all of that which makes her easy to love.

2. Anthony. He’s my “live in the moment” soul mate, and I was pulling for him to unwind Mai the whole time.

3. Hiking. I live in Southern California, so hiking is pretty much a way of life here, too, although not nearly as hot as in Phoenix! I loved the trail scenes the most.

4. Chemistry. Mai and Anthony have it in spades and it was raw and refreshing.

5. Witty banter. The dialogue was among the best I’ve read in a long time.

Bottom Line
An adorable romance with amazing characters and many laugh-out-loud moments. One of my top reads of 2020 so far.

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

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About the Book
Title: HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH
Author: Amy Fellner Dominy
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: May 4, 2020
Pages: 270
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Young adult author, Amy Fellner Dominy

Author Amy Fellner Dominy

About the Author
Amy grew up loving to read and figured out at an early age that books were magical and necessary. She started submitting her own stories to be published when she was thirteen. Amy is now the award-winning author of nine books spanning young adult, middle grade, and picture books. Titles for Entangled include Announcing Trouble and the companion novel, How to Quit Your Crush. Amy lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and a puppy who is training them. Visit Amy online at www.amydominy.com or follow her on Instagram or Twitter at @amydominy..

 

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Where to Find Amy Fellner Dominy
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter | Instagram

 

Book Review – RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES by Robb Ryerse

Cover to RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES, A Story of Faith, Politics, and the Common Good by Robb Ryerse

RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES, A Story of Faith, Politics, and the Common Good by Robb Ryerse

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Empowered by the Brand New Congress initiative in 2018, evangelical pastor and progressive Republican Robb Ryerse embarked on a long-shot, grassroots congressional campaign against Steve Womack, one of the most powerful Republican incumbents in Washington, DC. After he ultimately lost his race, Ryerse worked with the Vote Common Good campaign, traveling across the United States to help turn Congress blue.

Throughout his political journey, Ryerse gained new insights on the relationship between religion and politics in America today, the dynamics of our deep partisan divide, and the power of faithful people working for the common good. Running for Our Lives is the honest and authentic story of how one pastor tried to make a difference. Through all the joys and struggles of daring to make a stand, Ryerse shares what he’s learned about how our political identities shape us, what the role of government has in helping to meet peoples needs, and how others can get involved in politics as an expression of progressive faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
When I saw this title on NetGalley, I was sure it was something I wanted to read. What I didn’t know was if it would infuriate me, give me hope, or change my views. But after finally deciding to request it, I’m happy to report that it did all three. I’m a strong believer in a solid wall between church and state. The state shouldn’t be telling religious institutions how to worship and religious institutions shouldn’t be trying to tell the American people how to live. I didn’t know anything about author, Robb Ryerse, before starting this book, but I soon learned he’s a pastor in Arkansas who ran to unseat the incumbent congressman from his district. I wasn’t sure if he was going to try to convert me to his way of thinking regarding the intersection of politics and faith, but I went into it with an open mind. No one is going to convert me to their religious beliefs at this point in my life, but I was willing to entertain different ideas on how elected officials and the faithful can best serve their country without sacrificing their beliefs.

RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES is about a lot of things. It’s about how politics work in America (hint, it’s seriously broken), how many of the American faithful have embraced an immoral president in the name of Jesus, and how people of faith can put their beliefs in action without trampling on the rights of others to believe something differently. I found this book refreshing. Having been raised Catholic, Robb and I have had very different religious upbringings, and yet we oddly have similar ideas when it comes to the teachings of Jesus. Nowhere does Jesus say that we should blame the poor for their circumstances. Nor did he ever say to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others if it mean less financial security for you. Yet I see these ideas being shared by Christians. That, “If only those people would do what I did, they wouldn’t be poor.” Or “We can’t help everyone.” I get it. We can’t necessarily help everyone, but we also shouldn’t, as a nation, make life harder for people in their own countries with our policies. But that is exactly what happens when our president rails about trade deficits with countries like Mexico. Mexico has a population of less than half of the United States and a GDP per capita of just $9,670 vs. our $62,794. It is unconscionable to expect a nation of impoverished citizens to buy the same amount of US products as we do from them. It is also very unchristian. Nowhere will you find Jesus demanding the poor buy more of your products in order for you to buy more of theirs. That is not how Christianity works.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Robb is my kind of Christian. Someone who really gets that Christianity is not about getting rich, or even ensuring your are comfortable enough before you help the less fortunate. I also completely understand the argument that Jesus wasn’t talking about government. He was talking about people. But people have let down the poor over and over and over again. When that happens, governments have the duty to ensure no one falls through the cracks as part of ensuring the common good. If people would step up and do what’s right, government wouldn’t need to. To ignore the crisis at our southern border because they aren’t Americans is a grievous sin in my opinion.

Once I realized Robb saw human suffering the same way I did, I was even more willing to really hear what he had to say. I highlighted more passages in his book than any other I’ve ever read. The following are some of my favorites:

Could we as potential candidates for Congress demonstrate that people are more important than party?

I’m so tired of both major political parties putting their party loyalty above their duty to their constituents, those who elected them to office in the first place. But we see it time and time again. It’s one of the biggest reasons people hate government. We feel as if government works for itself, but not for us. What is surprising about this is that most people think their own particular elected officials are generally doing a good job, but it’s those “other” guys who are messing it up. Which is why incumbents have such a high rate of reelection. I loved that Robb really got it and that he was determined to do whatever little part he could to right that enormous wrong.

Those who are cynical about American politics are convinced that the tribalism of the two-party system can’t be overcome. They frequently complain that their elected officials won’t cross the aisle to compromise. But how can we expect our leaders to put people ahead of party if we’re unwilling to do it first?

This is another paragraph that really stuck with me. I’ve been guilty as much of anyone of believing that I’m right. Because if I didn’t think I was right about an issue, I would be searching for what WAS right. And even if I think I’m right, I also know that nothing good ever comes from forcing my opinions onto others. We ping pong back and forth between liberal and conservative policies, depending on who is in the White House, giving the country whiplash. But if we stopped trying to make everyone bend to our will and realize that compromise is a beautiful word, not a curse, everyone could get a little of what they wanted, but no one would get everything they want. It means our country will change gradually, even if a big overhaul is what many of us believe is needed. But these gradual changes are more likely to be lasting changes that can be built upon over time.

The twenty-four hour news cycle means that each and every minute of airtime has to be filled in a way that drives ratings among people who already know the news. For this reason, sensationalized stories that feed the public’s appetite for entertainment and draw the largest audience get more play than substantive stories.

He precedes this statement by mentioning that everyone walks around with a handheld computer in their pocket, pushing news headlines constantly to our attention. So if we read that Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in five different news stories on our phones, when we tune into the news later, we don’t want to see what we already know. So the cable news channels look for that angle, the something different they think will appeal to their viewers. For Fox News it may be how the DNC orchestrated once again, a scenario to allow the establishment candidate to win the nomination. But CNN may start speculating on who Biden’s running mate may be, and MSNBC may run with the ideas that Bernie brought to the table and how they changed the conversation within the Democratic party. All of which leads to Americans, understandably so, believing the cable new stations are biased. I think it’s far less about the stations being biased and more that their viewers are biased and they know it. They want to appeal to their viewers, even if it means slanting a story a certain way. In most cases, the media gets the facts right. Not always, but more often than not. Where bias comes in is how they present those facts, and of course, the salacious punditry, speculating on everything and anything when additional facts are not available.

I started to refer to myself as an “Eisenhower Republican,” because I wanted people to recognize that I was not trying to do something that had never been done. I was trying to stand on the shoulders of other Republican leaders who fought for progressive ideas.

Robb ran as a “progressive” republican. Many people on the campaign trail asked him why he was running as a republican, if he was a progressive, and not as a democrat. He had to explain time and again that his ideas were the same ideas of republican presidents of the past. The party has shifted from what it once was, but that doesn’t mean Robb wants to abandon the party of Eisenhower and Reagan. Rather, he wants to bring the party back to what it once was. I found that refreshing, particularly with so many republicans allowing their party to be hijacked by nationalism and protectionist policies.

Blaming social media and cable news networks for this division is easy, but assigning blame doesn’t help us move beyond it.

He’s so right. We often look at how divided this nation is right now and point to Twitter and Facebook, which have made it easy to spread false information and to attack people for holding views different from ours from the safety of our keyboards. These platforms allow us to shut off our phone if we don’t like the ugliness we started with our harsh words. But saying that the cable news channels who pander to their viewers’ beliefs or the internet for making it easy for us to find our echo chambers, doesn’t help us do anything about it, unless we’re ready to give up cable news and computers. Instead, he offers his own thoughts on how to move ahead as a more civil society. His background as a pastor provides him with a different worldview than mine and gave me a lot to think about.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God and others as we love ourselves. This is not two commandments, but one, a unified vision of love. It is recognizing that when we love others, we love God. When we feed the hungry, visit the incarcerated, welcome the stranger, and care for the sick, we are serving not just other people but Jesus himself. … In fact, maybe the most loving thing I can do when I enter the voting booth is to cast my ballot not for my own interests but for the common good.

This may have be the single most powerful few paragraphs in the book. Here is where he really breaks down his views on how religion and politics should mix. How faith can influence our vote, but not in the way I’ve always assumed. I always thought that Christians voted for other Christians, assuming they would bring about Christian policies. But it goes much deeper than that in Robb’s view and I found myself nodding throughout this chapter.

Until our campaign finance system is revamped, the best–and I believe only–hope we have for significant and needed change in Washington is working Americans supporting grassroots candidates with acupunctural interventions of small-dollar donations.

This is where the book infuriated me. Robb talks about how campaign financing works and how much it costs JUST to get your name on ballot to run. He also explains how, with big money donors, once elected, incumbents are tasked with making fundraising calls by their respective parties, eating up large chunks of their day. Time they are not spending working for the people who elected them. I know money in politics is a problem, but Robb’s inside information on the workings of elected officials in congress was mind-numbingly maddening. This is not what we send them to Washington to do. Also, if they need this money to get re-elected, where do their loyalties lie? Ryerse provides concrete examples of how this plays out, and trust me, none of it is good for average Americans.

This was an incredibly fast and engrossing read and I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in understanding politics in this country. You do not need to be a republican to appreciate it. You do not need to be a progressive of any party to understand what’s at stake. And you do not need to be a Christian to find something deeply satisfying to take away from this book.

Bottom Line
An eye-opening, stunning look at American politics from an outsider’s point of view.

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About the Book
Title
: RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES, A Story of Faith, Politics, and the Common Good
Authors: Robb Ryerse
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Pages: 179
Category: Politics/Religion/American Elections
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links:  Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | Publisher

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Pastor and Author Robb Ryerse

Author Robb Ryerse

About the Author
Robb is the copastor of Vintage Fellowship, a progressive evangelical church in Fayetteville Arkansas. He serves as the Executive Director of Brand New Congress and the Political Director of Vote Common Good. In 2018, Robb ran for United State Congress in the Republican primary in Arkansas’ 3rd Congressional District.

He lives in Northwest Arkansas with his wife Vanessa and four children.

Robb is a graduate of Mission Seminary in Philadelphia PA and Clarks Summit University in Clarks Summit PA.

He is the author of Running For Our Lives: A Story of Faith, Politics and the Common Good and Fundamorphosis: How I Left Fundamentalism But Didn’t Lose My Faith..

Where to find Robb Ryerse
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Book Review – EMOTION AMPLIFIERS (A Companion to the Emotion Thesaurus) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

EMOTION AMPLIFIERS (A Companion to the Emotion Thesaurus) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

EMOTION AMPLIFIERS (A Companion to the Emotion Thesaurus) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
When writing fictional characters, it’s hugely important to convey their emotions effectively so readers will be drawn in and become invested in those characters. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression was written to help writers convey the quality and depth of their characters’ feelings through their thoughts, body language, and visceral reactions. But there are also ways to amplify what a character is feeling, thereby heightening their emotional responses.

In Emotion Amplifiers, a companion guide to The Emotion Thesaurus, we explore 15 common states that naturally galvanize emotion. States like exhaustion, boredom, illness, pain, and extreme hunger can push characters to the limit, compromising their decision-making abilities and decreasing the likelihood of them reaching their goals. Emotion Amplifiers is a great tool for any writer wishing to tighten the screws on their characters and amp up the tension in their stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
This is the perfect companion to The Emotion Thesaurus. The authors expand on some of the most common emotions, providing example scenarios where those emotions will ramp up, giving authors even more ideas for torturing, I mean, challenging our characters in ways we may not have thought of on our own. Once again, the authors provide an introduction on what emotion amplifiers are, how tension can enhance emotions, and how best to use the guidance they provide in your own writing. They provide fifteen amplifiers that may take an ordinary emotion and dial up to a ten, such as pain, addition, and attraction. Within each amplifier are both physical and internal manifestations of a particular emotion based on the amplifier as well as mental responses, cues of long-term exposure and suppression. Additionally, they provide specifics to a particular amplifier as well as tips to help writers utilize this resource to the fullest.

Bottom Line
A must-have resource to take your character development to the next level.

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About the Book
Title
: EMOTION AMPLIFIERS: A Companion to the Emotion Thesaurus, A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression
Authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Publisher: JADD Publishing
Publication Date: December 4, 2014
Pages: 72
Category: Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

About the Author
ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of 7 bestselling books for writers, including The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (now an expanded 2nd Edition). Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers®, as well as One Stop for Writers®, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. A strong believer in writers helping and supporting other writers, she tries to pay-it-forward however she is able to..

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

About the Author
Becca Puglisi is a speaker, international writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via her newest endeavor: One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description and brain-storming tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter..

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – STING by Cindy R. Wilson

Blog Tour for STING, a young adult dystopian adventure, by Cindy R. Wilson

Welcome to the blog tour for STING, a young adult dystopian adventure/romance by Cindy R. Wilson. See below for information on the book, buy links, my five-star review, and details on her giveaway.

Cover for STING, a young adult dystopian adventure, by Cindy R. Wilson

STING by Cindy R. Wilson

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
They call me the Scorpion because they don’t know who I really am. All they know is that someone is stealing from people with excess to help people with nothing survive another day.

But then a trusted friend reveals who I am―“just” Tessa, “just” a girl―and sends me straight into the arms of the law. All those people I helped…couldn’t help me when I needed it.

In prison, I find an unlikely ally in Pike, who would have been my enemy on the outside. He represents everything I’m against. Luxury. Excess. The world immediately falling for his gorgeous smile. How he ended up in the dirty cell next to mine is a mystery, but he wants out as much as I do. Together, we have a real chance at escape.

With the sting of betrayal still fresh, Pike and I will seek revenge on those who wronged us. But uncovering all their secrets might turn deadly…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
This is a fun thrill ride from the opening pages through the pulse-pounding conclusion. Cindy R. Wilson creates fascinating characters and throws them into impossible situations against a rich dystopian backdrop. Scorpion is just a teenage girl who was unfortunately on the wrong side of the bride when the world came tumbling down. Living in a “bunker” in an abandoned gaming center, Tessa, aka the Scorpion, shares her “home” with Cass, a twelve-year-old orphan. The two form a tight family unit, which not only do whatever it takes to survive, but also helping others who live in the Dark District get what they need. This makes her public enemy number one of the Light Sight, which is under the control of Campbell, who also happens to be the father of her best friend, Elle. But when someone betrays her, Tessa is thrown into prison where she meets Pike, a former enforcer in training who wants to take down Campbell almost as much as Tessa does. The two form a friendship that borders on something more as they plan to escape and help the Dark Side and exact revenge on Campbell. But Tessa’s hate for Campbell is powerful and may get in the way of what she needs to do.

There are a lot of similarities between STING and THE HUNGER GAMES. So if you enjoy a good dystopian adventure of the oppressed rising up against their oppressor, a badass heroine with a younger sister figure she’ll do anything for, and a couple of swoony boys fighting over the protagonist, this is right up your alley!

Plot
The main plot centers on Tessa and her quest for revenge against Campbell, the man who has kept the Dark District in the dark. There are strong subplots involving Tessa’s search for Cass, and her relationships with both River, another darksider, and Pike, the lightsider she meets in prison. The story shines in all of these areas. The action is well-spaced ensuring perfect pacing and twists and turns kept me engaged. Some I saw coming, others not so much. Everything is expertly woven together to create a compelling story that is nearly impossible to put down.

Characters
The characters are superb! Scorpion will go down in history as one of my all-time favorite heroines. River, Pike, Cass and the rest are all deep, complex, compelling. Even the antagonists are more than just shallow stereotypes for the most part. Mongo and even Elle at times seemed sort of trope-y, but they served a necessary purpose. I love Tessa so much. She’s tough but vulnerable. Her inexperience with romance makes her stumble over her feelings for those around her, but her fierce loyalty is what endears her to me from the very beginning. Pike is my Peta. He’s also loyal, brave, smart, and he gets Tessa on a deep level. River is my sweet, sweet Gale. He loves Tessa so much, he’d do anything for her. Elle is complex and conflicted as the best friend and daughter of Tessa’s rival, and Campbell, well, he’s easy to believe these days as a greedy bastard who sees the poor people of the world as a drain on his power and wealth.

What I Loved About STING
1. Tessa.
She’s the perfect blend of strength, fearlessness, loyalty, and vulnerability.

2. Pike. He’s wonderfully patient, brave, and would do anything for Tessa.

3. Action. There is a lot of it and it’s pulse-pounding and intense.

4. River. Another great guy who will risk everything for the people he cares about.

5. Twists and Turns. Really well done and caught me by surprise more than once.

What Didn’t Quite Work for Me
Nothing! Though I hope this is the first book in a series. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger and I have no idea what the author would do in a second book, but I love this world and these characters so much, I don’t want to let them go.

Bottom Line
A thrilling dystopian adventure with plenty of romance!

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About the Book
Title: STING
Author: Cindy R. Wilson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: March 3, 2020
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon ITBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Cindy R. Wilson

Author Cindy R. Wilson

About the Author
Cindy lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and loves using Colorado towns and cities as inspiration for settings in her stories. She’s the mother of three girls, who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels. Cindy writes speculative fiction and YA fiction, filled with a healthy dose of romance. You’ll often find her hiking or listening to any number of playlists while she comes up with her next story idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where to Find Cindy R. Wilson
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Book Review – THE EMOTIONAL WOUND THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE EMOTIONAL WOUND THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE EMOTIONAL WOUND THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Readers connect to characters with depth, ones who have experienced life’s ups and downs. To deliver key players that are both realistic and compelling, writers must know them intimately—not only who they are in the present story, but also what made them that way. Of all the formative experiences in a character’s past, none are more destructive than emotional wounds. The aftershocks of trauma can change who they are, alter what they believe, and sabotage their ability to achieve meaningful goals, all of which will affect the trajectory of your story.

Identifying the backstory wound is crucial to understanding how it will shape your character’s behavior, and The Emotional Wound Thesaurus can help. Inside, you’ll find:

• A database of traumatic situations common to the human experience
• An in-depth study on a wound’s impact, including the fears, lies, personality shifts, and dysfunctional behaviors that can arise from different painful events
• An extensive analysis of character arc and how the wound and any resulting unmet needs fit into it
• Techniques on how to show the past experience to readers in a way that is both engaging and revelatory while avoiding the pitfalls of info dumps and telling
• A showcase of popular characters and how their traumatic experiences reshaped them, leading to very specific story goals
• A Backstory Wound Profile tool that will enable you to document your characters’ negative past experiences and the aftereffects

Root your characters in reality by giving them an authentic wound that causes difficulties and prompts them to strive for inner growth to overcome it. With its easy-to-read format and over 100 entries packed with information, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus is a crash course in psychology for creating characters that feel incredibly real to readers.

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My Review
This is my favorite book in the series so far. It’s filled with ideas for deep emotional wounds that shape characters in foundational ways. Each entry describes the various ways this wound can manifest itself, examples of responses to the wound and how it can impact every facet of life as well as ways in which a character can overcome the wound. The book is broken down by types of wounds from violence to emotional turmoil and being a victim versus a perpetrator or merely an observer. Far from a psychology book, rather it’s a guide for developing characters from a skeletal perspective, allowing the author to further research on their own to get deeper into their characters’ backstories.

This is a fabulous resource for planners and pantsers alike as we seek to define what makes our characters tick and ensure they respond to events in believable ways based on their defining wounds.

Bottom Line
Another great resource from Ackerman and Puglisi to assist writers in creating deep characters.

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About the Book
Title
:THE EMOTIONAL WOUND THESAURUS: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma
Authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Publisher: JADD Publishing
Publication Date: October 25, 2017
Pages: 325
Category: Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Barnes & Noble

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

About the Author
ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of 7 bestselling books for writers, including The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (now an expanded 2nd Edition). Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers®, as well as One Stop for Writers®, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. A strong believer in writers helping and supporting other writers, she tries to pay-it-forward however she is able to..

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

About the Author
Becca Puglisi is a speaker, international writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via her newest endeavor: One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description and brain-storming tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter..

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Young Adult Book Review – MALICE by Pintip Dunn

MALICE by Pintip Dunn

MALICE by Pintip Dunn

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
What I know: a boy in my class will one day wipe out two-thirds of the population with a virus.

What I don’t know: who he is.

In a race against the clock, I not only have to figure out his identity, but I’ll have to outwit a voice from the future telling me to kill him. Because I’m starting to realize no one is telling the truth. But how can I play chess with someone who already knows the outcome of my every move? Someone so filled with malice they’ve lost all hope in humanity? Well, I’ll just have to find a way—because now they’ve drawn a target on the only boy I’ve ever loved.

What Kirkus Review is saying about Malice:
Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
I know it’s only February, but unless something exceptional lands on my iPad later this year, this will go down as one of my top reads of 2020. Anyone who reads my reviews knows that I love young adult, angsty romance, and time travel. Pintip Dunn is a master storyteller and she weaves these three elements flawlessly in a page-turning tale of impossible choices with the fate of mankind at stake. Yeah, talk about the weight of the world on your shoulders. That is precisely what 16-year-old Alice is facing when a voice from the future tells her she must kill someone in the present in order to save millions of lives in the future. It takes Alice’s older self awhile to convince her she’s communicating from ten years in the future and that she can only give her the very basic information necessary to save the world, but once Alice is on board, she must figure out how far she’s willing to go to prevent the atrocities she witnesses through her more mature eyes.

When her older self shoves her into the path of hot Bandit Skeda, she wonders if maybe there might be a silver lining in all of this, at least until she’s forced to betray someone she dearly loves. Everything comes at a cost, and the price Alice must pay might just be more than she’s willing to bear. Even if everyone’s future depends on her.

Plot
Wow. I don’t know how to accurately portray how amazing the plotting is. Dunn captured my attention in the first chapter and kept me turning pages late into the night. I devoured this story even as I very much wanted to savor it so it would never end. But I just couldn’t stop. I’ve read a couple of reviews where the reader said they knew who the virus maker is from the first chapter, but I only thought I did. Then I was sure it was someone else, and then I was absolutely convinced it was yet another person. The author does an amazing job of keeping the reader guessing. This is more mystery than romance, but not in your typical “whodunnit” sense. Instead, we’re trying to solve a “who will do it” without any evidence to follow, only cryptic clues from the future. The world building is fantastic, from the glimpses into the future to the science behind time travel, I was sucked in for a wild ride that did not disappoint. The twists are friggin’ awesome and left my mouth hanging open more than once.

The Characters
The characters are fantastic. Alice is amazing as our conflicted protagonist with a heart and conscious and intense sense of duty. Bandit is dreamy and sweet and hot and alpha, but did I mention sweet? And then there’s Alice’s family and BFF. Her future self is both the same and yet different. Dunn does a stellar job of connecting the two halves into one believable whole we can love and root for.

Top Five Things I Loved About MALICE
1. Time Travel. My all-time favorite subgenre. Dunn does it justice with intense emotion.

2. Alice. I love her honesty, her devotion to her family, the way she loves the important people in her life. My heart ached for her on so many occasions and I never stopped wanting her to get her HEA with every ounce of my soul.

3. Bandit. He’s so much more than a pretty face and a hot physique. Bandit’s as complex as Alice and I adored him from the moment he was pushed into Alice’s life.

4. Science. I love how much of this is a part of the story and not just to explain the time travel stuff.

5. Foodies. I used to have a gluten free comfort food blog, so I totally get Alice’s devotion to photographing and sharing pictures of food, and I laughed at her failed attempts to cook something photo worthy.

Bottom Line
Another epic read from Pintip Dunn and my favorite book of 2020 so far.

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

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About the Book
Title: MALICE
Author: Pintip Dunn
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: February 5, 2020
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Paranormal Thriller
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT |Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Entangled

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Author Pintip Dunn

Author Pintip Dunn

About the Author
Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Pintip’s novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. Her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the Tome Society It list; and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her other titles include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, and the upcoming STAR-CROSSED and MALICE.

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Where to Find Pintip Dunn
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon | Entangled

 

Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – ROGUE PRINCESS by B.R. Myers

ROGUE PRINCESS Blog Tour

ROGUE PRINCESS by B.R. Myers

ROGUE PRINCESS by B.R. Myers

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
A princess fleeing an arranged marriage teams up with a snarky commoner to foil a rebel plot in B. R. Myers’ Rogue Princess, a gender-swapped sci-fi YA retelling of Cinderella.

Princess Delia knows her duty: She must choose a prince to marry in order to secure an alliance and save her failing planet. Yet she secretly dreams of true love, and feels there must be a better way. Determined to chart her own course, she steals a spaceship to avoid the marriage, only to discover a handsome stowaway.

All Aidan wanted was to “borrow” a few palace trinkets to help him get off the planet. Okay, so maybe escaping on a royal ship wasn’t the smartest plan, but he never expected to be kidnapped by a runaway princess!

Sparks fly as this headstrong princess and clever thief battle wits, but everything changes when they inadvertently uncover a rebel conspiracy that could destroy their planet forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
This futuristic, sci-fi, reverse Cinderella retelling is pure gold. B.R. Myers weaves a tale with fascinating characters, stunning world building, and a story that tugs at your heart and makes you care. Princess Delia is due to inherit the crown, but first she must a choose a prince to marry. And love plays no part in that decision. She must choose a mate from a neighboring planet with the resources her planet needs in order to survive. It’s purely a business transaction, and one she feels ill-prepared to make. Because although she’s been raised from the moment of birth to assume the throne and lead her people, no one has prepared her to be anyone’s wife. Aidan is a scavenger, taking what he can from the wealthy inhabitants of the palace to buy his way off the planet, a place that doesn’t hold much for a boy with no status. He lives with his stepfather and two stepbrothers who treat him as nothing more than their servant. When Aidan sees his chance to steal a ship and get off the planet for good, his plans are thwarted when the princess uses the same ship to attempt something similar. Sparks fly as these two, with their own secrets securely intact, must rely on one another to uncover a plot to bring down the monarchy.

Plot
The plot centers on discovering who is out to kill the queen and usurp power so they can be stopped, but there are strong subplots that involve the undeniable attraction between Aidan and Delia all while Delia is supposed to be choosing a prince to marry so she can save her planet. Everything is woven expertly together. The secrets both are carrying provide page-turning moments and the right amount of interpersonal conflict while the external conflict drives the main pulse-pounding plot. A clandestine rebellion, pirates, and amazing tech create a world rife with both danger and excitement.

Characters
Myers has created amazing, intense, likable characters. While Delia, as our main character and all of her conflicting goals and emotions, is intense and moody, her younger sister, Shania, steals the show. Shania is bubbly and effervescent, and finds the whole mating game romantic as she attempts to help her sister find the most swoon-worthy husband. Aidan is the yin to Delia’s yang as a jaded commoner with a sharp tongue and wit to offset her doom and gloom.

What I Loved About ROGUE PRINCESS
1. Shania.
 She’s so sweet, optimistic, and everything Delia needs.

2. Delia. Her sense of honor, despite everything she wants, makes her someone you can’t help rooting for.

3. Tech. Everything from wind-up homing birds to flying gliders makes this a world of both romance and futuristic elegance, with a healthy steampunk vibe.

4. World Building. The author creates vivid scenes, rich with sights, colors, sounds, and smells that bring them to life in even the most stubborn imagination.

5. Retelling with a Twist. I’m always a sucker for a good fairytale retelling, but this futuristic, role-swapping twist made this version a little different for me. The added intrigue meant that I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, even though Cinderella’s ending is as familiar as almost anything.

Bottom Line
A thrilling, romantic space opera retelling of Cinderella.

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About the Book
Title: ROGUE PRINCESS
Author: B.R. Myers
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: January 21, 2020
Pages: 288
Genre: Young Adult SciFi Fantasy Retelling
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author B.R. Myers

Author B.R. Myers

About the Author
B.R. Myers spent most of her teen years behind the covers of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and Lois Duncan. When she’s not putting her characters in awkward situations she works as a registered nurse. A member of the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia, she lives in Halifax with her husband and their two children.

 

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Where to Find B.R. Myers
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebookTwitter | Instagram

 

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Giveaway
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Book Review + Giveaway – THE GAME CHANGER (Parkwood Mysteries) by Jennifer Brown

THE GAME CHANGER Blog Tour

THE GAME CHANGER (Parkwood Mysteries #1) by Jennifer Brown

THE GAME CHANGER (Parkwood Mysteries #1) by Jennifer Brown

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Hollis and Daisy love podcasting about murder cases…But can they solve one?

Hollis Bisbee used to be a big-city crime reporter. Now, she’s a small-town journalist, and she’s bored. She and a young mom, talented baker Daisy Mueller, start the Knock ‘Em Dead podcast—”Where murder and muffins meet!” It’s all fun, games, and baking tips until murder comes to Parkwood.

After a brutal homecoming game loss, the coach of the rival football team is the victim of a hit-and-run in the high school parking lot. The entire town is on edge, and the star quarterback—who happens to be the police chief’s son—may just look the guiltiest of all.

With Hollis’s investigative skills and Daisy’s famous muffins…and in spite of the charming rookie police officer tasked with keeping Hollis out of the way…the podcasting duo sets out to solve their first real case.

This cozy mystery includes a killer free recipe for Daisy’s Cherry Chocolate Chunk Muffins.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
OMG! How much do I love this book? Soooooo much! Seriously, this is just the thing I needed to help break up my post-holiday blahs. Hollis Bisbee is a reporter of a tiny newspaper in Parkwood, Missouri. She writes about hotdog rollers and new vacuum stores in the local mall. A former crime reporter in Chicago, to say her job lacks the excitement she’s used to would be a gross understatement. While interviewing the snack bar supervisor at Friday night’s big high school homecoming football game, an altercation occurs on the field between the Parkwood quarterback and the opposing team’s coach. When not long after the game, said coach ends up dead in the Parkwood High parking lot, things get a little sticky for Hollis and her best friend, Daisy, who have a true crime murder podcast that is equal parts macabre and munchies, since Daisy is also the best baker in town and uses the platform to help promote her baking business. And when Hollis discovers the quarterback is also the sheriff’s son, and the death has been ruled natural causes, Hollis has had enough of her feel good pieces and drags Daisy into an investigation that the sheriff, the new local hunky deputy, and her boss, the paper’s editor, can’t catch wind of.

Plot
The primary plot is the murder mystery and it’s exceptional. There were so many red herrings, I got to the point where I suspected it was going to be a MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS ending. There are a few minor subplots including Hollis’s job and a budding romance with Office Blue Eyes, but they were just there to round out the main plot. This was such a fun ride, I’m anxiously awaiting more Parkwood Mysteries!

Characters
The characters are THE best! I would read anything with Hollis and Daisy in it. They’re both hysterical, witty, charming, and definitely the kind of people you’d hang out with in real life if they weren’t just figments of Brown’s imagination. Maybe I just need to hang out with the author in real life! Hollis is amazing as the spirited reporter who refuses to take no for an answer. Her bff and sidekick, Daisy, is a stay-at-home mom to like 32 kids. Entire scenes are devoted to her chewing out one kid after another as she still manages to carry on a coherent conversation with Hollis. She’s quick on her feet and helps Hollis out more than a few tight spaces. The rest of the cast, including Officer Hopkins, with his muscles and impossibly blue eyes, are just as warm and loveably quirky as Hollis and Daisy. If Hallmark makes this into a movie or a TV show, I’m all in.

What I Loved About THE GAME CHANGER
1. Everything.
 Seriously, I can’t find any fault with this book. The story, the characters, the writing, everything is top notch.

2. Hollis. She’s funny, smart, endearing, and tenacious.

3. Daisy. The best BFF ever and the type of person we all want in our lives.

4. The Mystery. Really well done. One of the best I’ve read in the genre in a long time.

5. Podcasting. My co-author and I have been toying with the idea of starting a pod cast in the near future, but nothing we come up with will ever be as good as the Hollis and Daisy show.

Bottom Line
An absolutely adorable cozy mystery with a sweet romance and some of the best damn characters in the book world.

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

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About the Book
Title: THE GAME CHANGER
Series: Parkwood Mysteries
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Hallmark
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Pages: 288
Genre: Adult Cozy Mystery
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon ITBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Walmart

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Author Jennifer Brown

Author Jennifer Brown

About the Author
Jennifer Brown is the author of acclaimed young adult novels, Hate List, Bitter End, Perfect Escape, Thousand Words, Torn Away, and the Shade Me series. Her debut novel, Hate List, received three starred reviews and was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA “Perfect Ten,” and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Bitter End received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

Jennifer also writes middle grade novels — her debut novel, Life on Mars, was the winner of the 2017 William Allen White Children’s Book Award. She also writes women’s fiction under the name Jennifer Scott. Visit her at www.JenniferScottAuthor.com Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.

Jennifer is available for school visits, workshops, classroom and book club Skypes, and speaking engagements. Contact JenniferBrownYA@gmail.com to book her for your next event!

Where to Find Jennifer Brown
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
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Book Review – THREE STAR ISLAND by Kat Caulberg

THREE STAR ISLAND by Kat Caulberg

THREE STAR ISLAND by Kat Caulberg

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Stepping through a time portal into 1716, historian Penny Saunders didn’t expect to get stranded in the past. Five years later, now a pariah to the townsfolk of Three Star Island, she endures solitude and ridicule until a hurricane tosses a dangerous castaway onto her shores.

William Payne’s history precedes him. Pirate, outlaw, and ruthless captain, he’s a monster among men. . . or so it seems. Desperately seeking redemption for his blood-soaked past, he upends Penny’s world by showing her a passion she’s never experienced.

But time is closing in on them; the governor of the Carolinas has rescinded his pirates’ pardon, the locals are growing suspicious of Penny’s new houseguest, and she can’t keep her secrets from William forever. When everything falls apart, she must use both wits and weapons against lawmen and pirates alike to save the one man who would tear down the world for her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
If you’re a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER, you will fall in love with Kat Caulberg’s THREE STAR ISLAND. Set on a small island off the coast of Carolina in the early 18th century, Penny is literally centuries ahead of her time. An historical researcher, she was understandably drawn to a time gate, having traveled too and from this time period before getting stuck in the past for nearly five years. While she waits for the gate to open once more, desperate to return home, she stumbles upon a victim of the recent hurricane and nurses him back to health. She finds him alluring, sexy even, before realizing he’s the subject of much of her research; a pirate with a wicked reputation. But his renown doesn’t fit with the man she’s getting to know and before long, the two are battling an attraction to one another that is ultimately an unwinnable fight for both of them. Always a bit of an oddity around town, Penny sticks to her island as much as possible, but now that Will is by her side, she ventures into town, unleashing a series of events that will seal both of their fates forever.

Plot
Penny is just biding her time until she can return to her own era. After rescuing a man on the beach, she finds herself drawn to him, until she discovers his true identity. With equal parts fear and attraction, Penny gets to know Will for who is beyond the history books. And the more she learns, the more she fears history has done him wrong. But the secrets she’s keeping are as dangerous to her as they are to any budding romance with the dashing pirate. The author tells a compelling tale of love set in Colonial America between a modern day time traveller and a man with attitudes well ahead of his time. There’s danger, steamy romance, and a hefty dose of historical reality that keeps things anything but easy.

Characters
Penny is fantastic as a woman out of time, trying to survive on her wits and anonymity. But a woman alone in the early eighteenth century makes keeping to herself nearly impossible. Will is swoony as they recovering pirate with a sordid past. The rest of the cast rounds out nicely, within the confines of the era they inhabit.

What I Loved About THREE STAR ISLAND
1. The Romance.
 It’s hot, steamy, burning, but oh so romantic.

2. Time Travel. It’s my favorite sub-genre of all. And while no actual time travel takes place during the book, the fact that she brought a bit of the future to the past with her, adds to the story as well as the world building.

3. History. I’m a fan of historicals, but what I love even more is one that places a modern day hero into a historical setting and watching them navigate this foreign world.

4.Will. He’s no Boy Scout, but he’s got a heart of gold and would do anything for Penny.

5. Penny. She’s fiery and passionate and is anything but a damsel in distress.

Bottom Line
A steamy time-traveling historical romance. Everything I love all bundled in one great story.

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About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited

Title: THREE STAR ISLAND
Author: Kat Caulberg
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Release Date: April 10, 2019
Pages: 230
Genre:
 Adult Historical Time-Traveling Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT

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Author Kat Caulberg

Author Kat Caulberg

About the Author
For as long as she can remember, Kat Caulberg has been obsessed with history and the paranormal. Somewhat to the dismay of her parents, her interests led her into both museums and graveyards as a child, a trend which has continued into her adulthood. This has influenced her reading tastes and her writing, whether it be a good ghost story, thrilling tales of time-travel, or devouring endless volumes of ancient warfare.

She signed a contract with Soul Mate Publishing in 2018 for her first novel, Three Star Island, a time-travel story set in 1721. She enjoys writing strong, quirky heroines, and has a weakness for cheeky heroes who have as much compassion as they have flaws.

Kat currently lives in North Carolina with her Englishman and a few cats.

 

Where to Find Kat Caulberg
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

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