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

 

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

 

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

DAGGER HILL by Devon Taylor

5 out of 5 stars

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

Magic always leaves its mark.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Devon Taylor

Author Devon Taylor

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

MARK OF THE WICKED by Georgia Bowers

5 out of 5 stars

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

Magic always leaves its mark.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Georgia Bowers

Author Georgia Bowers

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Get Caught Up on the Series

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

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

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International Bestselling Author Carissa Andrews

Author Carissa Andrews

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

THE SECRET RECIPE FOR MOVING ON by Karen Bischer

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Debut Author Karen Bischer

Author Karen Bischer

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to Find Karen Bischer
Goodreads | WebsiteTwitter | Instagram

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

 

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

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

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

BATTLE OF THE BULLIES by Fenyx Blue

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Fenyx Blue

Author Fenyx Blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

THE CON CODE by Shana Silver

4 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Shana Silver

Author Shana Silver

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

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

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Book Review + Giveaway – THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER by Samantha Hastings

 

Welcome to the blog tour for THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER, a young adult historical romance by Samantha Hastings

 

THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER, a young adult historical romance by Samantha Hastings

THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER by Samantha Hastings

4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Identical twin sisters take turns swapping places over the course of a summer in order to pursue their secret ambitions in Samantha Hastings’ Victorian YA romance.

1851. Bounced from one begrudging relative to another their whole lives, orphaned identical twins Sophie and Mariah Carter have always relied on each other for love and support, even though the sisters couldn’t be more different.

Brash Sophie wants to be an inventor, and demure Mariah wants to be an artist. Both long to visit London for the summer—Sophie to see the Queen’s Great Exhibition and Mariah to study the world’s finest collection of paintings. But when their cantankerous aunt answers their letter pleading for a place to stay, she insists she only has time and room to spare for one of them.

So, Mariah and Sophie hatch a clever scheme: They will travel to London together and take turns playing the part of “Sophie”.

At first the plan runs like clockwork. But as the girls avoid getting caught by increasingly narrow margins and two handsome gentlemen—both of whom think they’re falling in love with the real Sophie Carter—enter the equation, the sisters find they don’t have the situation quite as under control as they thought.

With all sorts of delightful Parent Trap-style identical twin hijinks, The Invention of Sophie Carter is the perfect light-and-sweet palate cleanser.

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My Review
Set against the backdrop of the London Exhibition in 1851, THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER is the story of two identical twins sharing a single identity in London society. Sophie seeks an apprenticeship, something unheard of for women at the time, and her twin, Mariah, seeks a husband. With only one of them interested in romance, what could possibly go wrong? Enter Ethan, the wealthy son of factory owners who captures Sophie’s heart. But since things aren’t going to go smoothly, Mariah’s heart belongs to her aunt’s ward, Charles, though her aunt has warned her to not engage his interests. As the two pursue their individual goals, entanglements get messy until things come to an inevitable head. This lighthearted historical romance is full of humor, heart, and cutting edge technology, Victorian style.

Plot
The plot is forked with each sister having her own goal and her own arc. We get dual third-person point of view getting deep into both Mariah’s and Sophie’s heads. As each sister chases her own goal, the are also deeply affected by the events that impact the other. Though they are unique individuals, they are tied together by more than just blood and identical DNA, since they are pretending to be the same person. This is my second novel by Samantha Hastings and she is excellent at plotting and brings her historical world to life both accurately and in a way that makes even nearly 200 years ago feel fresh and familiar.

The Characters
All of the characters are amazing. From the selfish, vile adults who treated the girls so poorly as children, to the rich cast in London, from the super wealthy to the average citizens, fro, eccentric artists to snooty aunts. The story is inhabited by amazing, three-dimensional personalities that made this an easy, engaging read.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER
1. Mariah. She’s the softer of the two sisters and loves art. She’s a talented self-trained artist with dreams of her own beyond just finding a husband.

2. Sophie. She’s tenacious, driven, and stubborn to the core. She is me if I would have been born in Victorian times.

3. Charles. He’s hot and cold, but there is so much more underlying his aloof facade.

4. Ethan. It’s evident from the beginning that he is the perfect match for Sophie. I love that he never gives up.

5. Victorian London. The setting is as much a character in this story as its human counterparts.

Bottom Line
A wonderful historic romance with breathtaking characters against a colorful backdrop.

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About the Book
Title:
THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER
Author:
Samantha Hastings
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Historical Romance
Release Date:
July 14, 2020
Pages: 310
Rating:
4.5 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 Samantha Hastings

Author Samantha Hastings

About the Author
Samantha Hastings has degrees from Brigham Young University, the University of Reading (Berkshire, England), and the University of North Texas. She met her husband in a turkey sandwich line. They live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she spends most of her time reading, eating popcorn, and chasing her kids. She is the author of THE LAST WORD, THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER, and A ROYAL CHRISTMAS QUANDARY.

 

 

 

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Where to find Samantha Hastings
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter 

 

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Book Review – RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES by Robb Ryerse

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pastor and Author Robb Ryerse

Author Robb Ryerse

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

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

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

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

Where to find Robb Ryerse
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

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

THE GAME CHANGER Blog Tour

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Jennifer Brown

Author Jennifer Brown

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

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

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

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

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – HOW TO SPEAK BOY by Tiana Smith

HOW TO SPEAK BOY Blog Tour

HOW TO SPEAK BOY by Tiana Smith

HOW TO SPEAK BOY by Tiana Smith

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Two sworn enemies start to fall in love through anonymous notes in How to Speak Boy, a fun and charming YA novel from Tiana Smith.

Quinn and Grayson have been fierce speech and debate rivals for years. They can’t stand one another, either in competition or in real life.

But when their AP Government teacher returns their school assignments to the wrong cubbies, they begin exchanging anonymous notes without knowing who the other one is.

Despite their differences, the two come together through their letters and find themselves unknowingly falling for the competition. Before the state tournament, the two of them need to figure out what they want out of life, or risk their own future happiness. After all, what’s the point of speech and debate if you can’t say what’s in your heart?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Quinn is serious, hardworking, and in desperate need of a little fun, but she’s vying for President of the Speech and Debate Club against her arch nemesis, the utterly swoon-worthy Grayson, so fun isn’t on the agenda. She’s as competitive as she is smart, but unfortunately, nothing comes easy to Quinn. She has to work twice as hard as Grayson to be successful, or so she believes. That makes it hard for her to let her guard down around him. Even though he’s adorably perfect. Quinn’s two closest friends, Naomi and Carter, have their own ideas about Grayson. Naomi is pro-romance and Carter is dead-set against it. Apparently Grayson has a reputation of sorts and wants to protect Quinn. But the more time that passes, the more it becomes clear that Carter has an ulterior motive in keeping Quinn and Grayson apart. Underlying it all is a mysterious student who Quinn corresponds with the old fashioned way — pen to paper. With three boys vying for her interests, she’s not sure where to turn or who she can really trust.

Plot
The main plot is the romance between Quinn and Grayson, but there are a number of subplots that involve Quinn’s college future, the mysterious letter writer, her speech performance at the state finals, and her relationship with Carter. All expertly weave into the main plot to drive conflict and up the stakes. Although the reader knows who the letter writer is, well, if they read the synopsis, it’s fun watching Quinn try to figure it out. But it also adds an element of wanting to see if they’re just going to tell each other, that made turning the page to see what would happen compelling. While it did take me a good few chapters to really get into this story, because I’ll admit, speech and debate didn’t interest me in the least, once I was invested int he characters, I was all in to the story. So don’t let this aspect of the plot detract you from picking up this really awesome book.

Characters
The characters are what I loved most about the book. Quinn is so relatable as an awkward teen who strives to do her best in everything, but keeps coming up short. Her growth comes across as authentic and organic. Her BFF, Naomi is the everything Quinn’s not but wishes she was, making her the perfect sidekick. Carter was a little annoying, but necessary. Not every character needs to be likable, and who doesn’t know at least on Carter? Grayson was adorable as the self-assured son of the the Governor who seems to have everything he’s ever wanted, but underlying it all is a vulnerability that only adds to his attractiveness.

What I Enjoyed About HOW TO SPEAK BOY
1. Quinn.
 She’s adorkably awkward and utterly endearing. I couldn’t help rooting for her.

2. Grayson. He’s sweet, smart, and hot. The perfect BBF.

3. Quinn’s Mom. I love their relationship. She’s the proper blend of confidant and authoritarian, just what Quinn needs, when she needs her to be.

4. Letter Writing. In a digital world, it was a refreshing throwback to my own high school days.

5. Speech and Debate. Okay, so I’m still not sure I’d ever join this club or find going to these events interesting, but the way the author wrote about these moments, definitely piqued my interest.

What Didn’t Quite Work for Me
The story and characters were amazing and I loved the speech angle. But the ending fell flat for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a HFN ending, but I didn’t have quite the bang I was hoping for, what I felt it was building up to. That said, the author wraps everything up in a satisfying conclusion.

Bottom Line
A cute contemporary romance with adorable characters you can’t help pulling for.

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About the Book
Title: HOW TO SPEAK BOY
Author: Tiana Smith
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Pages: 288
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Tiana Smith

Author Tiana Smith

About the Author
Tiana Smith is a copywriter turned novelist who grew up in the Rocky Mountains. When she isn’t writing, she’s chasing after her ninja boy, reading, or binging the Disney Channel. She’d love to be fluent in sign language, but for now she gets by with awkward hand gestures and even more awkward French. She has double degrees in Honors and English from Westminster College but wants to go back to school to be a lion tamer.

 

 

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Where to Find Tiana Smith
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Book Review + Giveaway – THE PRINCESS PROBLEM (Unexpectedly Royal) by Christi Barth

THE PRINCESS PROBLEM Blog Tour

THE PRINCESS PROBLEM (Unexpectedly Royal #) by Christi Barth

THE PRINCESS PROBLEM (Unexpectedly Royal #1) by Christi Barth

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
What girl doesn’t want to wear a tiara? Me. The one who lives in yoga pants and knows she’s not special enough to be a princess.

One minute I’m starting my dream life in NYC, and the next, a man too hot for his own good is banging on my door, telling me that I’m a long lost princess of a country on the other side of the Atlantic.

Not exactly your typical Friday night in the Big Apple.

Suddenly, all of my plans for the future are yanked away. I’m trapped in a life filled with social obligations—and stilettos!—and an uptight royal family I didn’t know existed. They, and the whole rest of the freaking country, have lofty expectations I’m not sure I can meet.

At least the aforementioned sexalicious man, Elias, is my constant shadow, protecting me with his life. The whole situation is overwhelming. So I’ve secretly put him in charge of my happiness, too…and he’s taking my orders very, very seriously.

So seriously, I’m falling for him even harder than the new country I’m coming to…maybe…love.

And that’s a major problem, because he’s crazy about me, too. I may not know all the zillion rules about being royal, but I know one for sure: No way can a princess date her bodyguard…

Each book in the Unexpectedly Royal series is STANDALONE:
* The Princess Problem
* Ruling the Princess

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My Review
Kelsey and her big sister Mallory have just moved to the Big Apple, NYC, Manhattan, and are ready to live the dream they’ve been planning and saving up for for nearly a decade. After finally moving into their tiny apartment, they begin to unpack and dive into life in the big city at full steam when a knock on the door changes everything. Kelsey’s world is upended when she’s told she’s the long-lost daughter of the king of a small country nestled near the Italian coastline. A country she’s never heard of. They tell her she was kidnapped as an infant, something that makes no sense to Kelsey, who grew up in a very decidedly middle class family that was perfectly average in every way. She never had even a hint that she was a) adopted or b) kidnapped. None of it makes any sense to her or Mallory. And the fact that she can’t reach her parents, only makes matters worse when government officials from Moncriano want her to return to her home country. Elias, her self-described body guard is as hot as he is foreign, only muddying the waters further.

Kelsey not only needs to navigate royal life, bond with a family she’s never known, come to terms with her past, but also decide in two weeks if she’s ready to embrace her true identity and give up the only way of life she’s ever known. Yeah, no pressure there.

Plot
Kelsey must embrace her true roots or not. That’s the heart of the story. But the romance with Elias is a strong subplot. Her journey throws a lot of obstacles in her way, not the least of which is getting to know her royal family. With her birth mother having already died, her father, the king, is struggling with embracing the daughter he believed gone forever. She has a brother for the first time ever, but also an older sister who seems to hate her. The fact that Elias is her subject as well as her employee makes any relationship completely off limits. Which of course only makes the sparks fly hotter.

My biggest problem with this book is that Kelsey seems to take it all in stride. The fact that she’s willing to just go with the hot stranger without verifying anything for herself, that she’s not more distraught over her past and secrets withheld from her, ate away at me at a low level as she meets her “real” family. She mentions a few times in passing that her parents weren’t kidnappers, but this should have been driving some serious low-level angst in everything she does. Instead, less than 20% in, she’s snogging her security detail in the garden instead of having an identity crisis of epic proportions. But if you can overlook this for the sake of convenience, it’s a lighthearted take on what it’s like to be unexpectedly thrust into royal life, like a grown-up THE PRINCESS DIARIES. It’s definitely a fun, fast read.

Characters
The characters aren’t terribly deep, but they are fun, and not stereotypical. Kelsey is delightful as the reluctant royal and her sister, Mallory, is hysterical as her partner in crime. I love Kelsey’s loyalty to Mallory as well as her sense of duty to both her families. Elias is honor-bound and full of principle. Princess Genevieve is so relatable as the older sister whose entire life has been shaped by Kelsey’s kidnapping and is struggling with yet the latest upheaval in her relatively short life. Prince Christian is adorable as the loving older brother who has no idea how to interact with his youngest sister. I was totally pulling for a Christian/Mallory side romance. The rest of the characters are there to provide humor and conflict and do their jobs well. There really isn’t a whole lot for any of them to overcome on a deep level, leaving this more plot-based than character-based and that’s perfect for a romantic comedy.

What I Enjoyed About THE PRINCESS PROBLEM
1. Royalty.
 Sure, Americans don’t have our own royalty, in fact if anything we’re anti-royal since our whole country was founded on bucking the monarchy, but it’s still fun to get a behind-the-scenes reminder of why being a princess would suck on almost every level.

2. Elias. Not only is he yummy to look at, but his sense of duty and honor makes him nearly irresistible.

3. Christian. He walks a fine line between the duties of heir to the throne and that of an adoring older brother with class, humor, and intense hotness.

4. Mallory. Kelsey is her sister. She always has been and she always will be, regardless of Kelsey’s royal status. I love how nothing changes for her when it comes to her little sister.

5. Politics. I’ll admit, I didn’t really expect that in this story, but it plays into everything, although with a light touch by the author. It adds intrigue that would otherwise be missing.

Bottom Line
A super fun, lighthearted royal romance.

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

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About the Book
Title:
THE PRINCESS PROBLEM
Series: Unexpectedly Royal #1
Author: Christi Barth
Publisher: Entangled Amara
Release Date: November 18, 2019
Genre:
 Adult Contemporary Romance/Romantic Comedy
Pages: 395
Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUAmazon DE | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Christi Barth

Author Christi Barth

About the Author
USA TODAY bestseller Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes award-winning contemporary romance.

Christi can always be found either whipping up gourmet meals (for fun, honest!) or with her nose in a book. She lives in Maryland with the best husband in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to Find Christi Barth
Goodreads │ Website | NewsletterFacebook │Twitter | Instagram

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Book Review – TRUCE? HATING ELIJAH MONROE by Amelia Kingston

TRUCE? HATING ELIJAH MONROE Blog Tour

TRUCE? HATING ELIJA MONROE by Amelia Kingston

TRUCE? HATING ELIJA MONROE by Amelia Kingston

3.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Harper Delaney is a newly certified elementary school teacher with the mountain of student loan debt to prove it. Moving back to her claustrophobically small hometown is about as tempting as two week old sushi, but the allure of free rent and a guaranteed summer teaching job are undeniable.

On the hunt for her dream job in San Francisco, Harper just needs to survive the summer without murdering Elijah Monroe. He may have grown into a scorchingly hot fireman, but he’s still her nemesis. Harper gave Elijah her heart when she was sixteen, and never forgave the jerk for not wanting it. Probably for the best, since he’s also her stepbrother. 

Elijah still makes Harper’s blood boil and heart race. And he knows it. She’ll wipe that smug smirk off his gorgeous face before leaving town. The only question is if she wants to do it with a kiss or a slap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
I love a good enemies to lovers story, and this was that on steroids. The emotions are intense from the moment Harper meets Eli, the teenage son of her father’s soon to be wife. Sixteen-year-old Harper is uprooted from her beloved San Francisco to a small town in the northern part of the state, where the trees are taller, but the people are more infuriating than what she’s used to. When Harper first lays eyes on Eli, she’s head over heels in love. Before he utters a single word, she determines that he is “the one” for her. Her everything. Until he opens his mouth. The hate/love/hate relationship begins with sparks that fly through the entire story. Eli’s father died before Eli was born and Harper’s mom abandoned her and her father, leaving both teens with massive scars. Harper suffers from serious insecurities to the point that all Eli has to do is smile at her and she’s suddenly in love with him all over again. Eli is brooding and moody, running hot and cold. The relationship is so fraught, that Harper flees back to San Francisco as soon as she graduates. After college, she returns to the small town, and temporarily moves back in with her dad, stepmom and step-brother, albeit reluctantly, to take a short-term teaching job while she waits to hear about her dream job at a private school in San Francisco. Because, let’s face it, you cannot afford to wait out a job in San Fran without a well-paying job. Not even with a roommate. When Harper returns, old wounds are still festering, and sparks fly even higher when a now grown Elijah is hotter than ever.

Plot
The plot is primarily the relationship between Harper and Eli, told both in current times as well as flashbacks to when the two first meet. These two timelines are interspersed, allowing the reader to learn the history of their animosity as the anger and resentment continue to unfold in current day. Underlying the main plot is Harper’s future and whether she’ll stay in nowheresville Weaverton or return to her beloved city by the bay. The romance aspect is very back and forth and became like watching a tennis match after awhile. The conflict is not only driven by intense emotions by both characters, but also the “forbidden” nature of their stepbrother/stepsister relationship.

Characters
Even adult Harper suffers from the same insecurities as teen Harper, although she has a better handle on her emotions. Eli is far less brooding, but he’s still got issues and he knows how to get under Harper’s skin, and it soon becomes clear he has insecurities of his own. The characters are the best part of the book, though. They are well-conceived and well-executed, with depth and complexity. My only real complaint is some mild slut-shaming of a young character in the early part of the book. Harper’s internal comments on Athena made it a lot harder for me to warm up to Harper, although I did get there. Part of her judgment, I’m sure, came from her insecurities and seeing this girl as a romantic rival.

What I Enjoyed About TRUCE? HATING ELIJA MONROE
1. The Flashbacks.
 The history of Eli and Harper’s relationship was key to me understanding who they are now, and why they say and do the things they do. Without those scenes, I wouldn’t have been able to get into either of these characters.

2. Enemies to Lovers. One of my favorite tropes.

3. The Parents. Eli’s mom and Harper’s dad are the sanest people in this story and they are needed to ground their kids and reign in their over-the-top emotions.

4. The Setting. I’m like Harper in that I’m a city girl, but escaping to the small town of Weaverton was a breath of fresh air. The author provides stunning details that makes this fictional town someplace I’d love to visit.

5. Romantic Gestures. I won’t give it away, but there is a scene at the very end that was just so wonderfully romantic it melted my heart. Yay Eli.

Bottom Line
An intense hate-to-love romance with strong emotions and in-depth characters.

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

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About the Book
Title: TRUCE? HATING ELIJA MONROE
Author:
Amelia Kingston
Release Date:
October 1, 2019
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romantic Comedy
Pages: 141
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & NobleKobo

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Author Amelia Kingston

Author Amelia Kingston

About the Author
Amelia Kingston is many things, the most interesting of which are probably California girl, writer, traveler, and dog mom. She survives on chocolate, coffee, wine, and sarcasm. Not necessarily in that order.  

She’s been blessed with a patient husband who’s embraced her nomad ways and traveled with her to over 30 countries across 5 continents (I’m coming for you next, Antarctica!). She’s also been cursed with an impatient (although admittedly adorable) terrier who pouts when her dinner is 5 minutes late. 

She writes about strong, stubborn, flawed women and the men who can’t help but love them. Her irreverent books aim to be silly and fun with the occasional storm cloud to remind us to appreciate the sunny days. As a hopeless romantic, her favorite stories are the ones that remind us all that while love is rarely perfect, it’s always worth chasing. 

Where to Find Amelia Kingston
Goodreads │Website | NewsletterFacebook │Twitter

 

Book Review + Giveaway – JUST IN CASE by Laura McHale Holland

JUST IN CASE Blog Tour

JUST IN CASE by Laura McHale Holland

JUST IN CASE by Laura McHale Holland

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Imagine a world where shadows of enchantment instantly render ordinary experiences eerie, terrifying or sublime, and where the unexpected becomes the norm. The twenty-one micro stories in Laura McHale Holland’s Just in Case comprise such a place: a universe where a wife betrayed relishes her revenge; a couple chugging toward retirement takes a surprising U-turn; a much maligned character finally has his say; a cozy family scene chills the blood; a curious relative cannot leave a half-human baby alone. These, and more, are what you’ll find in this book.

The dark, often revealing themes in this collection marry exquisitely with the precise flash fiction form, offering a full reading experience in few words. If you enjoy engaging, short reads with deliciously poetic prose, plenty of imagery, and context left to the imagination, you’re likely to love the concise gems found herein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
JUST IN CASE was a delightful, fast read, which I finished in just half a day. The stories are short, vivid, and left me wanting more. The author weaves tales using carefully chosen imaginative words that not only set a scene, but get us deep into character point of view. The shortest is just a half a page and the longest was probably less than ten, but the amount of real estate had nothing to do with the reading experience. I devoured each one, then reread it to savor it, to marvel at the author’s ability to use words as if she was wielding magic, making us see and feel with intensity. My favorite was the tale of a mailman and his favorite customer, a man with wolf-dog hybrids, but I don’t have a least favorite. They were all so very good. I will be reading more by Laura McHale Holland!

What I Loved About JUST IN CASE
1. The Writing.
 The author has the ability to draw me deeply into a story that takes no more than five minutes to read.

2. The Length. As someone with ADD, I loved that I could read a story while I was waiting for water to boil or my computer to boot up. I could set it down and not have to remember where I was because that story was over.

3. Reader Interpretation. Due to the nature of the storytelling, so much is left for the reader to interpret, and each one had me thinking about it long after I was done reading.

4. Quirky Characters. Many of the tales had richly drawn characters that were fun and a little different, making them a delight to read.

5. Darker Subject Matter. I loved the darker tones of many of the stories without ever becoming macabre. Perfect for reading during an autumn evening by a warm fire.

Bottom Line
Wonderful short tales of fascinating characters wrapped up in spectacular storytelling.

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

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About the Book
Title: JUST IN CASE
Author: Laura McHale Holland
Release Date: August 17, 2019
Genre: Adult Contemporary Short Stories/Flash Fiction
Pages: 57
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Author Laura McHale Holland

Author Laura McHale Holland

About the Author
In all of her work, Laura McHale Holland strives to stir people’s emotions and find hope hidden in unlikely places. Her novel, The Kiminee Dream, set for release in 2020, introduces a cast of quirky characters in a fictional Illinois river town where unseen forces both help and hinder, and people learn to rise in the face of adversity, accept what can never be and embrace big dreams anew. Laura’s published books include two memoirs, two collections of flash fiction, and an anthology on sisterhood. In addition, three of her plays have been produced in San Francisco’s North Bay region.

 

 

 

 

Where to find Laura McHale Holland
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Book Review + Giveaway – THE FIXER UPPER (Echo Springs) by Maggie Mae Gallagher

THE FIXER UPPER Blog Tour

THE FIXER UPPER (Echo Springs #1) by Maggie Mae Gallagher

THE FIXER UPPER (Echo Springs #1) by Maggie Mae Gallagher

3 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Abby Callier is more in love with Shakespearean heroes than any real man, and she’s beginning to wonder if there is life for her outside the pages of a book. It doesn’t help that her esteemed parents tend to view her as they would one of their science experiments gone wrong. On the eve of finishing her dissertation, she escapes her staid existence to live in the house she inherited from her Great Aunt Evie in the small town of Echo Springs, Colorado. Because, let’s face it, when a woman starts comparing her life to horror films, it might be time for a break.

Sheriff Nate Barnes believes in law and order and carefully building the life you want. In his spare time, he has been remodeling his house in the hope that one day it will be filled with the family he makes. But Nate doesn’t like drama or complications and tends to avoid them at all costs. And yet, when Miss Abigail Callier, his newest neighbor, beans him with a nine iron, he can’t help but wonder if she might just be the complication he’s been searching for all along. It doesn’t hurt that he discovers a journal hidden away by the previous tenant and decides to use Old Man Turner’s advice to romance Abby into his life.

Abby never expected her next-door neighbor, the newly dubbed Sheriff Stud Muffin, to be just the distraction her world needed.

The problem is she doesn’t know whether she should make Echo Springs her home, or if this town is just a stopover point in her life’s trajectory. And she doesn’t want to tell Nate that she might not be sticking around—even though she should because it’s the right thing to do, the honest thing—because then all the scintillatingly hot kisses with the Sheriff will come to an abrupt halt. Did she mention that he’s a really great kisser?

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My Review
Abby Callier uproots her academic life under academic parents and defies them to write her dissertation on English Literature, instead of something more appropriate, in the small Colorado town outside Denver where her great aunt lived. Tiny Echo Springs is the opposite of everything Abby is used to. She plans on finishing her paper, get her doctorate, and sell her aunt’s house. That’s the plan anyway. But things seldom go according to plan. For one, her aunt’s victorian home is filled with an army of tiny porcelain dolls that leave Abby uneasy. So uneasy, she leaves them in the living room while she sets up camp upstairs, far away from the creepy things. For another, her aunt’s neighbor is beyond hot and also the town’s sheriff. The more time she spends with the man she calls Sheriff Stud Muffin, the more she questions her current objectives and the less sure she is of what her next step will be. She takes a job at the local community college and meets a colorful cast of characters. It’s easy to see where the next books in the Echo Springs series will take us.

Plot
This is a straight-up romance that follows the typical format of meet-cute followed by all the ups and downs you expect in a contemporary romance. There’s a minor subplot involving a series of break-ins in the small town, but the subplot that really shines is Old Man Turner’s journal that tells a romantic tale that started before World War II between Old Man Turner and Abby’s great aunt. It serves as both a parallel tale as well as backstory.

Characters
This was the one part of the story I’m iffy on. Abby’s ovaries “sigh” at the sight of the studly-muffinesque sheriff. And not just once, there is much ovary sighing throughout. And Nate’s declaration that Abby “isn’t like other women” was too cliche. However, the supporting cast saved the story for me. Nate’s bevy of messed-up buddies and punk community college teacher Tessa and her gorgeous, but militant sister, Cybil, drew me in. In fact, if any of these characters are involved in the second book in the series, I’m there!

What I Enjoyed About THE FIXER UPPER
1. Rufus.
 Nate’s big, lovable, slobbering Great Dane provided some great comedic moments.

2. Tessa. She’s tough, acerbic, and funny. I can’t wait to read her story.

3. Cybil. She’s snark and sour wrapped in a pretty package, and her story is going to be epic.

4. Aunt Evie. The story of her romance with Old Man Turner is heartbreaking and bittersweet.

5. Old Homes. I adore old homes and the descriptions of the two Victorian homes made me want to do a few more renovations around here, much to my husband’s dismay.

Bottom Line
A decent romance with a stellar supporting cast.

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: THE FIXER UPPER
Series: Echo Springs #1
Author: Maggie Mae Gallagher
Publisher: Blushing Books Publications
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Pages: 296
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Blushing Books

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Maggie Mae Gallagher

Maggie Mae Gallagher

About the Author
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Maggie grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Maggie never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an M.A. in History.

Maggie is a bestselling and award-winning author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes erotic romance under the name Anya Summers. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the Midwest with her two furry felines.

 

 

Where to find Maggie Mae Gallagher
Goodreads Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE by Rayna York

EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE Blog Tour

EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE by Rayna York

EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE by Rayna York

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
It was never easy for Cassie and her mother, struggling to make ends meet in their tiny apartment in The Bronx, but they had each other and that was enough. When her mother dies suddenly from an aggressive form of cancer, Cassie is forced to finish high school in California while living with the wealthy family of her mother’s closest friend—a women she never knew existed.

Living with the Stantons is the complete opposite of what she’s used to—the massive house, a father figure, and Cody, the spoiled, insanely good-looking son with the bedroom across the hall.

Broken with grief and struggling to fit in, Cassie meets Mila, a female powerhouse that helps her cope with a hidden past, the overwhelming present, and a shared experience no one should have to endure—a nightmare they both thought was over.

Warning: Although this book is classified as Young Adult, I recommended it for mature readers due to explicit language.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE is a powerful story about finding your inner strength even when everything around you seems to be falling apart. When Cassie’s mom dies of cancer, she moves from New York, the only home she knows, to the west coast to live with a family she barely remembers, a family that is not her own. Barely scraping by in New York, Cassie’s new life in Northern California couldn’t be more different, from the large sprawling homes to the intact nuclear family she comes to live with, including Cody, a boy from her childhood who has blossomed into a serious heartthrob with a room across the hall from hers. As she adjusts to a new life that does not involve wondering how they’re going to pay the bills, she is also thrust into high school drama she is totally unprepared to handle. Her east coast upbringing has given her a hard outer shell and the wit to hold her own, but only on the outside. Inside she’s crumbling from grief and feeling like a fish out of water. With the help of Cody, his parents, and new friends, she tenuously navigates her new world until secrets from her past and a cruel event at a party turn her world upside down once again, leaving her wondering if everything she thought was true is really just one more lie.

Plot
The story is about Cassie learning who she is and coming to terms with the truths she discovers about herself, her family, and life itself. But it’s also about friendship, family, revenge and romance. The author weaves everything together in a well-plotted tale with a few surprises.

Characters
I love Cassie. She’s snarky thanks to her childhood in the Bronx, strong, but not immune to the crap high school throws at you. Mila is hysterical as the new friend with a verbal stream of consciousness, and Cody is adorable as the quasi step-brother/love interest that creates a lot of the best conflict in the story. Cody’s parents and Cassie’s guardians are everything she needs and what we hope all parents would be. The antagonists are bit more stereotypical, but also different enough that I wasn’t always sure what to expect from them.

What I Enjoyed About EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE
1. Mila.
 She is the vibrant colorful yin to Cassie’s dark and withdrawn yang

2. Cassie. It took me a little bit to warm up to her, but once I did, I absolutely loved her spunk.

3. Cody. Completely swoonworthy.

4. Surprises. There were a few twists I didn’t see coming that helped keep my interest when I felt the story was slowing down a bit.

5. Revenge. A dish best served deliciously cold.

Bottom Line
A sold young adult tale with interesting characters who are easy to root for.

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

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About the Book
Title: EVERYTHING I KNEW TO BE TRUE
Author: Rayna York
Publisher: Toad Tree Press
Release Date: May 12, 2019
Pages: 364
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Rayna York

Author Rayna York

About the Author
Rayna York grew up with hippie parents that liked to adventure, so being the new kid was always a challenge. Where change was the norm, books were her constant–a way to escape. As an adult, many careers came and went, but writing has always been her passion. Everything I knew to be true is her first published novel.

 

 

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Where to find Rayna York
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Instagram

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – T-MINUS by Shannon Greenland

T-MINUS Blog Tour

T-MINUS by Shannon Greenland

T-MINUS by Shannon Greenland

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
I am the daughter of the first female POTUS, and today is about to become the longest day of my life… 

24 hours—that’s how much time I have to save my mother before terrorists assassinate her. But now my father and brother are missing, too. This goes deeper than anyone thinks. Only someone on the inside would know how to pull this off—how to make the entire First Family disappear. 

I can’t trust anyone, so it’s up to me to uncover the conspiracy and stop these madmen. Because little do they know, they picked the wrong person to terrorize. 

My name is Sophie Washington, and I will not be a victim. No one, I repeat no one, is taking me or my family down. But the clock is ticking…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
Chasing Liberty meets 24, as the daughter of the country’s first female president finds herself embroiled in a terrorist plot to take down the administration. On her seventeenth birthday, Sophie Washington is doing anything but having the time of her life. Her brother is missing, her family is separated, and she has been told she cannot trust anyone, not even Frank, her secret service detail who has been with her much of her life. With minimal training in a teen CIA program for the offspring of operatives, she stumbles her way through an ever-changing game. Recruiting her best friends from the program, Jackson, Zeke, and Callie, she attempts to do what she believes no one else will, only to become a pawn in the biggest conspiracy to ever target the United States. Without knowing who is working against her mother, Sophie is isolated and terrified, but finds something within herself to rise to the challenge in this pulse-pounding young adult thriller.

Plot
T-MINUS is a plot-driven tale, and the plotting is near perfect. The pacing provides plenty of page-turning action and just enough breaks to allow us to catch our breath before careening into the next big moment. The author keeps us guessing the entire time, allowing us to feel like Sophie, unable to trust anyone. One twist follows another, and layer upon layer of intrigue is expertly woven to create a story worthy of the big screen. In fact, I’ll be shocked if this isn’t turned into a blockbuster movie at some point.

Characters
The characters are great, but pretty much in line with the story. There is no new ground broken here, but I love Sophie as the somewhat risk-averse teen who is forced to step so far outside her comfort zone, she hardly recognizes herself. The cast surrounding her provide just the right balance, and because I don’t want to give anything away, i won’t say anything more about them.

What I Loved About T-MINUS
1. The Pacing.
 The story unfolds at the perfect pace and I devoured it.

2. Twists. So many twists and turns, I never knew what was going to happen next, but all of it was perfectly foreshadowed.

3. Sophie. The reader gets to see her in a way she never envisions herself, making her both sympathetic and someone to root for and a kick-ass heroine.

4. Intrigue. I’m a political-thriller junkie, and this book has all the same elements that made No Way Out one of my favorite movies of all time.

5. Zeke. Her fellow TIA member and secret crush, he’s completely swoon-worthy.

Bottom Line
A page-turning thriller with a strong female lead who also happens to be utterly relatable.

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: T-MINUS
Author: Shannon Greenland
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: July 31, 2019
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Shannon Greenland

Author Shannon Greenland

About the Author
Shannon Greenland, or S. E. Green, is the award winning author of the teen thriller, Killer Instinct, a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers; the teen spy series, The Specialists, an ALA Popular Paperback and a National Reader’s Choice recipient; and the YA romance, The Summer My Life Began, winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award. Her books have been translated into several languages and are currently on numerous state reading lists. Shadow of a Girl is her latest novel and due out 9.19.16. Shannon has participated in and served as a guest speaker at festivals and conferences around the country to include but not limited to the LA Times Book Festival, American Library Association, Book Expo of America, Bouchercon, Romance Writers of America, RT Book Convention, Young Adult Keller Book Festival, Southern Festival of Books, and many more. Shannon grew up in Tennessee where she dreaded all things reading and writing. She didn’t even read her first book for enjoyment until she was twenty-five. After that she was hooked! When she’s not writing, she works as an adjunct math professor and lives on the coast in Florida with her very grouchy dog. Find her online everywhere @segreenauthor...

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Where to find Shannon Greenland
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – THE LAST WORD by Samantha Hastings

THE LAST WORD Blog Tour

THE LAST WORD by Samantha Hastings

THE LAST WORD by Samantha Hastings

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Set against the smoky, gaslit allure of Victorian London, this sweetly romantic historical debut is full of humor and stars a whip-smart female heroine ahead of her time.

Where one story ends, another begins.

1861. Miss Lucinda Leavitt is shocked when she learns the author of her favorite serialized novel has died before completing the story. Determined to learn how it ends, Lucinda reluctantly enlists the help of her father’s young business partner, Mr. David Randall, to track down the reclusive author’s former whereabouts.

David is a successful young businessman, but is overwhelmed by his workload. He wants to prove himself to his late father, as well as to himself. He doesn’t have the time, nor the interest, for this endeavor, but Lucinda is not the type to take no for an answer.

Their search for the elusive Mrs. Smith and the rightful ending to her novel leads Lucinda and David around the country, but the truths they discover about themselves—and each other—are anything but fictional.

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, The Last Word by debut author Samantha Hastings is a fun yet intellectual romp through Victorian London—the perfect book for book-lovers.

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My Review
Reminiscent of Jane Austen, THE LAST WORD combines neoclassicism and romanticism along with a healthy dose of humor and wit to bring Lucinda’s and David’s story to life. The two are childhood friends who meet again after a four-year separation to find the other both the same and yet infinitely different than the person they remember. Throw in a big misunderstanding and a young woman ahead of her time, constricted by the customs of 19th century England, and sparks fly higher than between Emma and Knightley or Elizabeth and Darcy, but with the underlying warmth of Elinor and Edward. The two dance around a mutual attraction while Lucinda fights against society’s dictates for her. Fresh out of finishing school, she wants nothing to do with being a proper lady, but rather to use the brain that God gave her to work in her father’s counting house. A natural talent with numbers, she helped him when she was younger but now is expected to do needlepoint instead of auditing.

If there’s anything Lucinda hates more than sitting around and waiting for someone to call on her, I don’t know what it is. Not having been born to a high-class family, her social standing comes from the wealth her father has amassed. His goal is to marry her to a man of higher social standing. Lucinda has less than zero interest in that plan. She managed to get through the long boring hours by reading. But her favorite author died before finishing her last novel, leaving Lucinda desperate to find out how it ends, as if her own ending will somehow reveal itself in those final pages. With the help of her father’s business partner and her longtime friend, David, she sets out to find anyone who may know how the story ends. But the more they dig, the more she’s left wondering, before a tragedy forces both of them to reevaluate what really matters. And what doesn’t.

Plot
The main plot focuses on the budding romance between Lucinda and David, but Lucinda’s desires to work in business and find out the ending of her beloved novel are strong subplots that drive most of the action. The conflict derives for the social norms of the time, status and who is allowed to associate with whom. Women’s options and their carefully guarded reputations only further bind Lucinda in a world she finds too restrictive. Her father withdrew into himself after her mother’s death years before and their strained relationship underlies everything. The author does a phenomenal job of keeping the reader in Victorian England through scene setting, language, fashion, and customs. There is both a whimsical and sweeping cinematic feel to the places Hastings sets her characters in, drawing the reader right along with them.

Characters
If you love any of Jane Austen’s characters, you will love these! From the narcoleptic Mrs. Patton to the eccentric woman in the half-built estate they visit in their quest, the characters are a delight. Lucinda is utterly relatable as a young woman who wants so much more from life than the world wishes to allow her and David is a man after my own heart, both seeing Lucinda as an equal, and treating her with that respect. The American girl, Persephone, who befriends Lucinda, is a delightful, although often inappropriate, breath of fresh air.

What I Loved About THE LAST WORD
1. Everything.
 Seriously, the entire book was just amazing. It was a joy to read.

2. Lucinda. I love that she’s independent and strong and refuses to be confined by rules of society.

3. David. He is also a man ahead of his time with his ability to see Lucinda as more than just an accessory.

4. Language. I love the way they speak and the words the author chooses to tell the story as if it were written as a contemporary in 1861.

5. Romance. It isn’t angsty or intense, even though Lucinda and David are both teens, but it’s perfect for the time.

Bottom Line
A stunning coming of age story in a time long gone with amazing characters and beautiful storytelling.

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: THE LAST WORD
Author: Samantha Hastings
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Pages: 261
Genre: Young Adult Historical Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Samantha Hastings

Author Samantha Hastings

About the Author
Samantha Hastings has degrees from Brigham Young University, the University of Reading (Berkshire, England), and the University of North Texas. She met her husband in a turkey sandwich line. They live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she spends most of her time reading, eating popcorn, and chasing her kids. The Last Word is her debut novel.

 

 

 

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Where to find Samantha Hastings
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter 

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK by Natalie Williamson

RULES WE'RE MEANT TO BREAK Blog Tour

RULES WE'RE MEANT TO BREAK by Natalie Williamson

RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK by Natalie Williamson

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Honest and full of heart, this clever contemporary romance debut deftly combines utterly relatable family drama with all the sweetness and uncertainy that comes with falling in love.

Rule #1: Don’t get attached.

Amber lives by strict rules to survive her mother’s love life: Always keep your eyes on the horizon and never get close to anyone connected to Mom’s boyfriends.

But after they move in with Kevin, the latest of her mom’s “soul mates,” the rules become increasingly difficult to follow. Kevin’s daughter, Cammie, keeps acting like Amber’s friend, even though she’s definitely not. And Jordan—star basketball player, hottest boy in school, and Cammie’s best friend—keeps showing up at the most inconvenient moments.

Amber has reasons for every one of her rules, and following them is the only way to protect her heart when her mom inevitably moves on. But as she spends more time with Kevin, his daughter, and especially Jordan, she starts to wonder if the rules might be worth breaking this time.

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, Rules We’re Meant to Break is a charming, heartachingly real story of family and young love by debut author Natalie Williamson.

Praise for Rules We’re Meant to Break:

“The last time I devoured a book like this—I can’t even remember. … It was so openhearted and raw.” —Clarissa, reader on SwoonReads.com

“It is such a true true story about a girl finding herself within her first love. I loved it!” —Forever Bookish, reader on SwoonReads.com

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My Review
This is such a cute young adult romance. Everything from the settings to the characters sucked me in. Amber lives with her single mother, her father having left them when she was just five. Her mom bounces from one relationship to another, and after a particularly difficult breakup for Amber, she vows never to get close to anyone her mom dates again. This becomes challenging when they move into her mom’s then boyfriend’s place early in Amber’s senior year of high school. To make matter’s worse, this guy has a teen daughter who goes to Amber’s school. Said daughter, Cammie, is no bigger fan of the situation than Amber is. The only thing that makes the situation mildly tolerable is that hot Jordan Baugh lives down the street from her new house. Much to Amber’s surprise and delight, he seems to be flirting with her! And in a perfect world, that would be awesome, but Amber’s world is anything but perfect. It appears that Cammie has some sort of a history with Jordan and that breaks Rule No. 7 on her list of rules for surviving her mother’s dating life. If only Jordan wasn’t so incredibly adorable and insistent.

Plot
The plot centers around Amber’s relationship with Jordan, but is laced with Amber’s lack of a belief in relationships that can last and a fierce need to protect herself from getting hurt again. With the help of her best friends Hannah and Ryan, she navigates tutoring Jordan while attempting to hold fast to her “rules”. But feelings have a way of getting in the way of the best intentions. Strong subplots include tense relationships with her mother, Cammie, and her mom’s boyfriend, as well as Amber’s plans after graduation. She has her heart set on KU while her mother is dead set against it. All of these subplots weave expertly into the main plot for a compelling story beyond just the romance.

Characters
I love the characters so much. Amber is so relatable as a teen girl hell-bent on protecting her heart. Jordan is beyond adorable and it’s easy to see why Amber is attracted to him against her better judgments. Hannah is the perfect loyal best friend, even when she feels as if her friend isn’t necessarily doing what’s in her own best interests. And Cammie is suitably complex making her a standout character. Everyone comes across as authentic and well developed, creating balanced and nuanced relationships that drive the story.

What I Loved About RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK
1. Buffy.
 The German shepherd adopted by Amber is cute, smart, loyal, and makes Amber a better person.

2. Buffy. The OTHER Buffy. The one Buffy is named for. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer references peppered throughout are lighthearted and actually tie several things together.

3. Jordan. The adorable basketball player with a penchant to capitalize words that excite him is a boy worth swooning over.

4. Angsty Romance. My favorite kind. With Amber’s insecurities and her list of rules, there was no way this romance wasn’t going to come with a health dose of angst. It just has a way of pulling at my heartstrings. I love, love, love it.

5. Realistic Growth. While Amber has some amazing growth, I love that she isn’t totally transformed. Her history is so ingrained in who she is that by the end she’s only tentatively stepping forward into the unknown rather than fully embracing it, giving this a really realistic vibe.

Bottom Line
Fabulous characters in realistic predicaments and a swoony romance to boot.

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: RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK
Author: Natalie Williamson
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Pages: 296
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Natalie Williamson

Author Natalie Williamson

About the Author
Natalie Williamson is an HR person by day and a YA writer by night and nap time. She referenced Harry Potter in her first ever full time job interview, which tells you almost all the things you need to know about her. Other important things to know include: she loves her husband, daughter, dogs, and cat; she has a serious dessert problem; and she frequently Wikipedias movies and TV shows to find out if they have happy endings. RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK is her debut novel..

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Where to find Natalie Williamson
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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Book Review – AUGUST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET by Danielle K. Roux

AUGUST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET Blog Tour

AUGUST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET by Danielle K. Roux

AUGUST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET by Danielle K. Roux

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Katherine Garnet is a writer who has never cared much about much, making it awfully difficult to create new content. Despite the fact she has the “edge” of being trans (according to her cis male editor) she is not looking to capitalize on her own personal story. Garnet tries to sneak a peek at her rival, August Prather’s, latest fantasy manuscript about a quest for the elixir of life.

While reading, Garnet gets accidentally dragged into a bizarre cross-country road trip that may or may not have a purpose and begins to see parallels in the story of the manuscript and the reality of their journey. Along the way, they encounter a parade of equally troubled individuals, including ghost-hunting priests, a robot magician, a discarded piece of furniture, a runaway teenager, and a Japanese rock star.

As Garnet confronts her past, she begins to understand why someone might want to live forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
I’m not sure exactly what to make of AUGST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET. There’s a quote by one of the protagonists that says a good book is one that leaves the reader to figure out what it’s about, and I kind of feel like the author was letting us know that it’s up to us to decide what her novel is about. To say I was confused for much of the book would be an understatement, but at no point did I want to put it down. I needed to know what the heck was going on. And because the characters are so fascinating, I was hooked on their fates from the beginning. But if I had to tell you what this book is about, I’m not sure I can easily sum it up the way I normally do for a book review. It’s about letting go and finding yourself, it’s about exploring all the sides of yourself, it’s about friendship and camaraderie, doing the right thing for no reason other than it’s the right thing to do, and the quest for immortality, but it’s also none of those things and a thousand things more. And yet the story is riveting as author Kate Garnet sets off on a cross-country trip with fellow author August Prather along with two “priests”, a table, and a dead body in a Prius. And that’s not even the strangest part.

Plot
The plot unfolds haphazardly with as many detours as the group takes on their road trip. Kate gets herself accidentally kidnapped when she sneaks into August’s car to read her latest unpublished manuscript. We alternate between the two stories as Kate reading the book is interspersed with their adventures. August’s manuscript is the story of a two individuals on a quest to find the elixir of immortality, but there are so many parallels between the book Kate’s reading and what’s unfolding in her real life, she soon discovers what she thought might be a lighthearted road trip with a group of free spirits might be something much more deeply personal.

Characters
The characters are, simply put, brilliant. August is a quirky bohemian who befriends anyone and everyone she meets. Kate is complex as a trans woman who is still on a journey of self discover. Mitya and Lyosha, the Russian ghost hunters, posing as priests, are both irreverent and the cutest couple ever. Everyone they meet along their way is somehow larger than life, but in a completely believable way. it’s not that they’re necessarily caricatures, but we view them through Kate’s lens, and she notices the more obscure oddities more than most people would, so that’s how the reader gets to experience them. Even the characters in August’s book have depth. These are the types of people who not only temporarily occupy my mind as I read about them, but take up space in my brain for a long time after I finish the book.

What I Loved About AUGUST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET
1. August.
 If she mentioned a road trip, I’d be strapped into the shotgun seat before the “p” popped on her lips.

2. Quirky Characters. Everyone who populates this story is unique and a delight to read.

3. Witty Banter. The dialogue is among the best I’ve ever read, whether they’re dropping off a dead body at the hospital or discussing a murder that August witnessed, everything uttered is pure gold.

4. Road Trips. Setting off on a cross country trip with no itinerary not only makes for a fantastic story, but it’s a metaphor for what life should be.

5. True Love. Mitya and Lyosha are so freaking adorable. One of my all-time favorite fictional couples.

Bottom Line
An unusual tale with compelling characters that is impossible to put down.

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: AUGUST PRATHER IS NOT DEAD YET
Author: Danielle K. Roux
Publisher: Parliament House Publishing

Release Date: August 7, 2018
Pages: 368
Genre: Adult LGBTQ+ Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Danielle K. Roux

Author Danielle K. Roux

About the Author
Danielle K. Roux is a writer, teacher, and historian. Her first novel August Prather is Not Dead Yet is currently available in e-book and paperback through Parliament House Press (and soon will be available in hardcover and audio book). Danielle has always loved reading and telling stories – especially stories with adventure, mystery, humor, romance and at least a little bit of spookiness. Not Dead Yet has all this covered, with a story-within-a-story structure and a quest for immortality in the early twentieth century paired with a present-day road trip. There’s a lot of existential crisis and a male/male romance that is sweet and steamy.

Danielle has been writing fiction since she was nine, after getting tired of reading from the perspective of white, straight male characters in fantasy novels. Her first written story involved a group of middle school girls who find necklaces used by a dead witch that give them supernatural powers. It was written in notebooks in purple and green gel pens that are currently housed in a box in her linen closet. She is inspired by travelling to new places and reading about the stories tied to landscapes. She has at least three novels building in her brain (or wherever novels come from) and wishes she was writing them all right now.

Danielle lives with her wife and two orange cats in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has added a lot of young adult fantasy fiction to her bookshelves recently, and regrets nothing. Her dream library would be accessed through a secret door and look something like the library in the animated Disney Beauty and the Beast, although it would also have a cute barista or sentient coffee machine that once was said barista.

When she isn’t writing or thinking about writing, Danielle is building houses in the Sims, listening to podcasts, or taking Buzzfeed quizzes to find out what kind of tree she is based on her hair color. She has recently been watching lots of old BBC period pieces, and some of them are good. She has begun to drink Diet Coke and is worried this might be a real problem. Coffee and tea are still her primary beverages of choice..

Where to find Danielle K. Roux
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Instagram

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – ALIEN MINDS (Dimension Drift) by Christina Bauer

ALIEN MINDS Blog Tour

ALIEN MINDS (Dimension Drift #1) by Christina Bauer

ALIEN MINDS (Dimension Drift #1) by Christina Bauer

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
DIVERGENT meets OCEAN’S EIGHT in this urban fantasy heist!

On my seventeenth birthday, I wake up in the hospital to find I just survived a sketchy but terrible accident. My parents stand by my bedside—both are beautiful, wealthy, and super-nice. They tell me that once I leave the hospital, I’ll attend the prestigious ECHO Academy, where I’ll churn out equations for the government along with my mega-smart peers.

So, I’m living the perfect life.

Then why does everything feel all wrong?

My parents, my house and even ECHO Academy…none of it fits. Plus, what’s up with Thorne, my brooding yet yummy classmate who keeps telling me I need to remember my true past, which seems to have included a lot of us kissing? That’s one thing I’d really like to remember, except for the fact that I’m pretty sure Thorne is hiding a ton of nasty secrets of his own, including the fact that he may not be from this world. But considering how my own past seems alien to me, it’s not like I can judge. Plus, Thorne has dimples. That’s a problem.

And worst of all, why does it feel so yucky to work on these calculations for the government? It’s all supposed to be part of ECHO, but my heart tells me that I’m helping something truly terrible come to pass. Thorne seems to think that kissing him again will release my real memories.

Maybe it’s time to pucker up.

“Appealing and engaging. Love the strong female character!” – Arlene’s Book Reviews

This new series is perfect for: fans of urban fantasy, action & adventure, cool science, evil corporations, forbidden romance and hot new classmates who may or may not be aliens.

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My Review
I finally dove into Christina Bauer’s sci-fi/fantasy adventure series with ALIEN MINDS. While this is book 1 in the Dimension Drift series, the characters and worlds are well-established from other, connected, series. That is evident from the opening chapter. Though I’m new to this world, Bauer does a great job of balancing the plot with world building so that even a newbie like me can grasp the nuances of the setting without being bogged down by details that detract from the story. When 17-year-old Meimi awakes with no memories, she knows something is off about the story she’s been told. She may not remember who she is or anything about her past, but she’s sure the doctor standing in front of her is evil. Just as she’s sure the tall, brooding guard, Thorne, assigned to her means something to her. She just isn’t sure what. When the doctor slates millions of people for execution for being “undesirable” and demands Meimi help him accomplish his goals, she’s determined to thwart him while pretending to go along with his plan. This sets up a wicked game of deception that rivals some of the best heist movies I’ve seen.

Plot
The story revolves around Memi’s plans to prevent the destruction of innocent human lives while remaining alive herself. Told in dual points of view from Memi’s and Thorne’s perspectives, we see flashes of Meimi’s life before her mind wipe through Thorne, and insights into how she thinks through hers. Despite her memory loss, she is who she is, and her spunk and intelligence shine through. Teaming up with people from Meimi’s past, they plan the ultimate act of defiance and bravery to save the world. Strong subplots include Meimi’s battle to regain who she is and Thorne’s battle to win back her feelings for him.

Characters
Meimi is a strong protagonist who inherently knows right from wrong and will risk everything to do what is right. Thorne is a tortured soul with a secret – he’s an alien, and oh yeah, son of the ruler of the omniverse. These two shouldn’t work, yet they are linked in a way that is more than just mutual attraction. Meimi is witty, sarcastic, and driven. Thorne is dark and brooding. Both are well-developed and a joy to read. The evil Dr. Godwin is more of a cartoonish character, though. Evil for the sake of evil. While he makes for a good bad guy, he’s not as developed as he could have been. Supporting characters, twins Zoe and Chloe, Fritz, and the others are more complex and nicely round out the cast.

World Building
This is where the story really shines. The alien world, dystopian Boston, alternate dimensions, and the technology are extraordinarily well constructed, and the writer’s ability to paint vibrant pictures with her words brings this amazing omniverse to life.

What I Enjoyed About ALIEN MINDS
1. World Building.
 Some of the best world building I’ve read in a long time.

2. Meimi. Her sarcastic wit is a blast to read.

3. Tech. The technology that populates this world is as engaging as the characters.

4. Sticking it to the Man. Their goal of beating Godwin at his own game is something we all can root for.

5. Thorne. His devotion to Meimi is both sweet and swoony.

Bottom Line
A fun, action-packed adventure with amazing world-building and fun characters.

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

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About the Book
Title: ALIEN MINDS
Series: Dimension Drift #1
Author: Christina Bauer
Publisher: Monster House Books
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Fantasy/SciFi Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Christina Bauer

About the Author
Christina Bauer thinks that fantasy books are like bacon: they just make life better. All of which is why she writes romance novels that feature demons, dragons, wizards, witches, elves, elementals, and a bunch of random stuff that she brainstorms while riding the Boston T. Oh, and she includes lots of humor and kick-ass chicks, too.

Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.

Be the first to know about new releases from Christina by signing up for her newsletter

Where to Find Christina Bauer
Goodreads | Website | Newsletter | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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