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

 

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

 

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

DAGGER HILL by Devon Taylor

5 out of 5 stars

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

Magic always leaves its mark.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Devon Taylor

Author Devon Taylor

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Beth Merlin

Author Beth Merlin

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

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

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

 

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Beth Merlin

Author Beth Merlin

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

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Where to find Beth Merlin
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter

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

 

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

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

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Beth Merlin

Author Beth Merlin

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

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Where to find Beth Merlin
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter

Book Review – THE SWALLOWS by Lisa Lutz

 

THE SWALLOWS by Lisa Lutz

THE SWALLOWS by Lisa Lutz

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New York Times bestselling Author Lisa Lutz

Author Lisa Lutz

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

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

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

Young Adult Book Review – THROWING SHADE by Karole Cozzo

 

THROWING SHADE by Karole Cozzo

THROWING SHADE by Karole Cozzo

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Karole Cozzo

Author Karole Cozzo

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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USA Today bestselling author Kelly Anne Blount

Author Kelly Anne Blount

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

 

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

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lynn Rush

Author Lynn Rush

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

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

 

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

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

 

IN THE PENALTY BOX by Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount

IN THE PENALTY BOX by Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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USA Today bestselling author Kelly Anne Blount

Author Kelly Anne Blount

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

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

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

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lynn Rush

Author Lynn Rush

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
LIST OF 1,000 VERBS

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

Aren’t we all?

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get started!

Indie Author Resources Book 2

 

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

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

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

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Author Valerie Howard

Author Valerie Howard

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

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

Book Review + Giveaway – PLAYING WITH FIRE by April Henry

 

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

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

PLAYING WITH FIRE by April Henry

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New York Times Bestselling Author April Henry

Author April Henry

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

 

 

 

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

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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

 

THE KISSING CHALLENGE by Cookie O'Gorman

THE KISSING CHALLENGE by Cookie O’Gorman

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The challenge: Kiss your best friend.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Cookie O'Gorman

Author Cookie O’Gorman

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

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

Book Review + Giveaway – WRITE CHRISTMAS by Thommy Hutson

 

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

WRITE Christmas, a contemporary holiday novel by Thommy Huston

WRITE CHRISTMAS by Thommy Hutson

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

One where Christmas has vanished!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Thommy Hutson

Author Thommy Hutson

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

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

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

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

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

Where to Find Thommy Hutson
Goodreads | WebsiteTwitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Book Review – A HEART LIFE by Patricia Yager Delagrange

 

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

A HEART LIFE by Patricia Yager Delagrange

3 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Patricia Yager Delagrange

Author Patricia Yager Delagrange

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New York Times Bestselling Author Sara Wolf

Author Sara Wolf

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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Author Gwen Hayes

Author Gwen Hayes

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

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

Gwen also edits kissing books.

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Where to find Gwen Hayes
Goodreads | Website | Facebook

Young Adult Book Review – 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 – WELCOME TO HICKVILLE HIGH (Hickville High Series) by Mary Karlik

 

WELCOME TO HICKVILLE HIGH, the first book in the young adult contemporary romance series, Hickville High, by Mary Karlik

WELCOME TO HICKVILLE HIGH (Hickville High Series #1) by Mary Karlik

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The Universe has completely dumped on High School senior Kelsey Quinn’s life. Credit card at Nordstrom’s? Deactivated. Honda Accord? Sold. Life in the burbs of Chicago? Gone. And it’s all her sister’s fault. Yep. Drugs, alcohol, and getting caught with the boss’s son was all it took. Dad loses job, family loses money, and the next thing she knows she’s crammed in a cell on wheels for the next two days as they make their way to a dilapidated farmhouse in Texas. But Kelsey doesn’t just leave the good life in Chicago. She leaves the boy who-has-it-all, Drew Montgomery.

Hillside senior, quarterback, Austin McCoy works for Kelsey’s dad at the feed store and helps with the farm chores in the morning. He sees through Kelsey’s surly attitude to the girl whose eyes light up when she’s with the animals. He is determined to help Kelsey see that not only does she love the Farmville life, but that the guy she really wants is him.

Will Austin convince Kelsey he’s the guy she wants? Will Kelsey embrace the simple life and find forgiveness for her sister?

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Kelsey Quinn is the epitome of a spoiled, rich teen from the upper midwest moving to smalltown Texas. She hates everything from the weather to the twang in their voices. Her initial observations on her new home, she nicknames Hickville, are judgmental and snobby. About the only thing she thinks might make running the family farm even mildly tolerable is Austin McCoy, local hottie and her new high school’s starting quarterback. But even Austin’s chiseled abs and sculpted biceps will only go so far when she has to get up at the crack of dawn to feed chickens, even before she’s allowed to enjoy a cup of coffee. All Kelsey wants is to survive her senior year in Hillside and return to Chicago and her perfect boyfriend, Drew. Her ideal life is gone, she knows that. No more designer clothes, her own car, or lavish lifestyle. Instead she shares the family pickup truck, wears second-hand store duds, and spends her time doing farm work. But she has her sights set on a big event in Chicago, an annual affair with ballgowns and a semblance of normalcy. Except that costs money her family no longer has. If she wants to go, she’ll need to earn the money herself between schoolwork, farm work, and time in the family’s feed store. Her only option is the diner, the same one where Austin’s mom works that she mocked when she first arrived in town.

The more time Kelsey spends with Austin, the more she begins to question whether she even wants her old life back. Being around him ignites feelings she never experienced with Drew. But Drew is her boyfriend and she doubles down on their long-distance relationship, until she doesn’t. As she’s torn between two worlds and two boys, she learns a lot about herself and does some much needed growing up.

Plot
The plot is relatively predictable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. The personalities of the characters and playful banter shake things up. And even though I may have had a pretty good idea how the story would end, I didn’t know how we’d get there. While there weren’t any real plot twists or shocking revelations, the story moves at a good pace and the world building is well done, bringing me into the heart of rural Texas.

The Characters
The characters were all really well developed and fully fleshed out. I’m used to first person POV for young adult, but even though this is third-person, I still felt really connected to both Austin and Kelsey. The rest of the characters also felt real and unique. Kelsey’s sisters are very different from Kelsey and from each other, so I’m not surprised to find they each have their own books, and I’m looking forward to reading all of them. Kelsey’s parents came across as some of the most authentic in the genre. They’re more than props or impediments to Kelsey getting what she wants and I loved that they even have their own issues to deal with as well as a minor relationship arc.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About WELCOME TO HICKVILLE HIGH
1. Forced Change. The complete upheaval of Kelsey’s life provides for so much conflict, the story was fun to read.

2. Humor. The author weaves a lot of humor through some pretty serious topics, bringing lighthearted moments in what might otherwise be a darker tale.

3. Homecoming. Hillside’s take on the homecoming tradition is something to behold.

4. Personal Growth. Kelsey has a lot of growing up to do and she does it with humility.

5. Austin. He’s one of the really good guys out there. Even though Kelsey is a handful, he realizes there’s more to her than just a spoiled rich girl lashing out after being dumped into the Middle of Nowhere, Texas.

Bottom Line
A sweet contemporary romance with great characters.

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About the Book
Title:
WELCOME TO HICKVILLE HIGH
Author:
Mary Karlik
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Release Date:
March 24, 2015
Pages: 293
Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

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Author Mary Karlik

Author Mary Karlik

About the Author
Mary Karlik has always been a dreamer. When she was a teen, she read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and then sat in every wardrobe in her Nanna’s home, trying to open the door to Narnia. She didn’t find it, but she did discover her voice as an author: one filled with her young adult self, and grounded in her roots as a Texan and her Scottish heritage, nourished by obscure Scottish folklore.

You can find her Texas roots in her YA contemporary romance Hickville series , which has been described as “100% solid storytelling,” and begins with Welcome to Hickville High, a “lovely story about growing up.”

She digs deep into her Scottish roots – there is magic there, she just knows it – for the forthcoming YA epic fantasy Fairy Trafficking series, beginning with Magic Harvest.

She makes her home in the beautiful Sangre de Cristo mountains of Northern New Mexico where she is a certified professional ski instructor, but she also loves visiting Scotland where she is currently studying Scottish Gaelic at the University of Highlands and Islands in Skye. Mary also earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, has a B.S. degree from Texas A&M University, and is a Registered Nurse.

Mary currently serves as the President of the Young Adult Chapter of Romance Writers of America and looks forward to raising a glass or two of gin and tonic with her fellow writers every year at RWA’s national convention.

Where to find Mary Karlik
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Book Review + Giveaway – LAST CHANCE SUMMER by Shannon Klare

 

Welcome to the blog tour for LAST CHANCE SUMMER, a standalone young adult contemporary romance by Shannon Klare

 

LAST CHANCE SUMMER, a standalone young adult contemporary romance by Shannon Klare

LAST CHANCE SUMMER by Shannon Klare

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
In Shannon Klare’s fun and sexy YA novel Last Chance Summer, a teen is shipped off to work as a counselor at a summer camp―only to butt heads with her co-counselor.

Alex is a sheriff’s daughter with a less than pristine reputation. When she’s caught drinking at a party by her dad’s deputy, she’s in deep trouble. With an already incriminating incident in her past, Alex’s parents ship her off to her aunt’s summer camp to work as a counselor.

What’s worse than spending your summer deep in the mosquito-infested woods of Texas?

Being paired with an obnoxious co-counselor who wants nothing to do with you.

Alex is determined to make the best of her summer, even if it means putting up with Grant, who has secrets of his own that he’s determined to protect. Can Alex and Grant put their egos to the side and find the bright side of a summer that neither of them signed up for?

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Eighteen-year-old Alex has an attitude bigger than the sun and entitlement issues to give even the most spoiled child a run for their money. The daughter of the town sheriff, she seems to have spent her life breaking the rules for no other reason than she didn’t like them. The only child of two loving parents, she doesn’t really have much to rebel against, except she discovered being a rebel in her small Louisiana town made her more popular, so rebel she did. Until the fateful night in the autumn of her senior year when she, daughter of a law enforcement officer, got into a car with her best friend, who was drunk, and allowed said girl to drive. She’s forced to live with the tragedy of that night, still suffering PSTD as well as the loss of her BFF, though she doesn’t acknowledge her role in it to the extent I believe she should. After spending most of her senior year in rehab after the accident took a toll on both her body and spirit, she’ll be repeating her final year of high school. But first, she’s shipped off to be camp counselor at a summer camp for troubled youth. This should be the wakeup call she needs to see how good her life was until that night, but she wears a giant chip on her shoulder like a badge of honor.

She gets a crash course in what it’s like to deal with her when she comes face-to-face with five fourteen-year-old girls who give her a run for her money when it comes to attitude. But unlike Alex, their lives and attitudes are shaped by vastly different circumstances. These little rebels have a valid cause for their rebellion. As Alex learns how to wrangle them, she’s kept off her toes by her hot counterpart, Grant. He won’t take any of her crap, but he’s really good at dishing it out. A former camper himself, he has his own secrets and dark past. While the attraction between them is evident from the beginning, Grant isn’t like most guys Alex deals with; he doesn’t find her smart mouth or antics endearing. The more they spar, the more they learn about each other, and Alex finally comes to realize that everyone has issues and hers aren’t any more important than anyone else’s.

Plot
The primary plot is Alex dealing with her issues and growing up, becoming less self-absorbed, but the romance between her and Grant is a strong subplot. The story moves at a steady pace, but where it really shines is the witty dialogue. From the playful banter between Alex and Grant and the snarky dialogue between Alex and her surly campers, the conversations make this otherwise run-of-the-mill summer romance really sparkle.

The Characters
The characters are fascinating, if not all incredibly relatable or even likable. In fact, it took me a good 75% of the book to warm up to Alex. But no one is untouched by trauma of some sort that has shaped their complex natures. From the sassy campers to Grant and Alex, no one is unscathed by their pasts and they all harbor scars that manifest in different ways. But each one is resilient in their own way, and uncovering the secrets that shaped them is what makes this book work.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About LAST CHANCE SUMMER
1. Consequences. I may not like Alex for most of the book, but she’s never given a pass. The consequences for her behavior are harsh, deservedly so. The author doesn’t baby her, which is refreshing.

2. Grant. I love that he won’t take any of Alex’s bull. Sometimes I wonder why he’s attracted to her, but at no point does he allow her to get away with anything simply because he’s attracted to her. He has his own self-preservation motives for much of what he does.

3. Pranks. Summer camp pranks provided some much-needed lighter moments.

4. Redemption Arcs. I do love a good redemption arc and Alex has a great one.

5. Brie. She’s the most difficult of the campers, but her spirit and spunk were inspiring.

Bottom Line
A fun young adult contemporary with stellar dialogue and fascinating characters.

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About the Book
Title:
LAST CHANCE SUMMER
Author:
Shannon Klare
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Release Date:
July 21, 2020
Pages: 256
Rating:
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Shannon Klare

Author Shannon Klare

About the Author
Shannon Klare is a writer, teacher, reality TV fanatic, and movie connoisseur. When she isn’t writing or daydreaming new plots, Shannon can be found frequenting Starbucks or hanging out with her family. SURVIVING ADAM MEADE is her debut novel.

 

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Where to find Shannon Klare
Goodreads | Website Twitter | Instagram

 

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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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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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