Book Review/Blog Tour – The Weight of the Sky

Title: The Weight of the Sky
Author: Caroline Schley
Published: May 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Don’t like it

Ebook_TheWeightoftheSkyCover_Final

Synopsis:

Speak meets Gossip Girl in this searing contemporary Young Adult novel where the most courageous three words a teenage girl will ever have to say are, “I need help.”

But fifteen-year-old Chris Miller is far from courageous. She does nothing when her best friend is sent to juvenile detention for a crime Chris knows she didn’t commit. She stays quiet as her mother steamrolls her into a scholarship program at St. Catherine’s Prep for her sophomore year. She acquiesces when her new friends introduce ‘drinkstagram’ at their sleepovers. Chris understands that quiet insecurity isn’t the most valiant approach to life, but it gets her through the day unscathed. Until she’s sexually assaulted.

In the aftermath, Chris’s fragile coping mechanisms crumble, alongside her grades and her tenuous happiness. When Chris is forced to volunteer at an afterschool program to maintain her scholarship, she finds herself catapulted back to the very neighborhood she has been struggling to escape. When her family is thrust into the crosshairs of a gang war, she discovers just how much damage her silence can cause. Ultimately, she must decide if she will continue to stay quiet as others call the shots and remain a victim, or if she can forge the strength to stand up, declare the truth and call herself a survivor.

Trigger Warning: This story contains content that may be sensitive for some readers including sexual assault and drug/alcohol consumption

Thank you Caroline Schley and Xpresso Tours for an eARC of The Weight of the Sky in exchange for an honest review.

Chris feels like her life isn’t hers to live out, but she is pressured to pursue a life her mom felt cheated out of. Even when Chris tries to find some sense of identity by trying to find out about her nonexistent dad, her mom shuts down the topic every time. Her mom refuses to let their income status pave the way for Chris’s life, so she constantly drills into her daughter’s head a drive to work hard and look for opportunities. When one such opportunity presents itself, Chris is plucked from her public school characterized by drugs and gangs and enrolled in an elite private school on a full scholarship. While Chris feels like the only reason she’s there is to help her on her way to her mom’s dream of her being a doctor, she does quickly find herself welcomed into a group of girls, going to sleepovers, parties, talking about boys, etc. She struggles with feeling like an outsider because of their stark differences in socioeconomic classes, but the girls don’t seem to see this as a problem. Even though Chris feels like she has to lie to her mom frequently, she finally feels included and happy.

Until the unthinkable happens.

Suddenly Chris feels like she doesn’t have anyone. Her days are filled with swirling emotions from trauma, the people she called her friends don’t believe her, and she quickly finds herself failing her classes do to a lack of desire.

Schley writes a raw story about sexual assault and trauma. There is no way you can read Chris’s story without feeling your heart pulling for her in a puddle of empathy. As you find yourself immersed in Schley’s writing, you will feel a part of the story, mourning with Chris, chiding every lie, cheering for her as she rebuilds confidence, feeling her emotional rollercoaster as she learns about who she is.

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About the Author

I am a writer, teacher and outdoor enthusiast, always looking for a new adventure.

Originally from New York City, I have also lived in China, New Zealand and Spain. I’m on a constant quest for the best food and views in the world. Some of my favorite places are the GR 221 in Mallorca, the top floor of the Musee D’Orsay in Paris and the window seat on a Fifth Avenue bus in Manhattan.

I’m have received comprehensive work training in a large variety of fields including political street canvassing, freelance writing, white water rafting, latte making, childcare and secondary science education.

I have an undergraduate Magna Cum Laude degree in Environmental Science with a focus in Hydrology from CU-Boulder and a graduate degree in Secondary Science Education from NYU. I’ve served as an NSTA New Teacher Fellow, a Jhumpki Basu Fellow and participated in the Jane Goodall Roots and Shoots Training program.

I’ve just completed my first YA contemporary manuscript and I’m seeking agent and publisher representation.

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Book Review/Blog Tour – A Night Twice as Long

Title: A Night Twice as Long
Author: Andrew Simonet
Published: June 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Night

Synopsis:

What do you call the difference between what you should feel and what you do feel? Life?

The blackout has been going on for three weeks. But Alex feels like she’s been living in the dark for a year, ever since her brother, who has autism, was removed from the house, something Alex blames herself for. So when her best friend, Anthony, asks her to trek to another town to figure out the truth about the blackout, Alex says yes.

On a journey that ultimately takes all day and night, Alex’s relationships with Anthony, her brother, and herself will transform in ways that change them all forever.

In this honest and gripping young adult novel, Andrew Simonet spins a propulsive tale about what it means to turn on the lights and look at what’s real.

Excerpt

I wake at dawn, tangled in a heap of blankets, hugging my pillow. My open window is letting in chilly air and a riot of bird- calls. How’s a recluse supposed to sleep?

I’m dreading telling Anthony I can’t come. I should have done it last night.

I’ll bring him snacks for his journey. I think we still have granola bars.

I shut the window and flip the light switch.
Nope. Day twenty-two.
My mom taught me this trick to figure out if you’re dreaming: Try to change the lighting. Turn a light on or off in a dream, and nothing happens. Our unconscious doesn’t know about electricity, because it’s too recent. Once, I dreamt of a flood, watching from my window as a car floated by, a bewildered kid staring out from the back seat. I pulled the chain on my desk lamp. She was right. Nothing.

I creep along the green hallway carpet, past my mom’s room. Silence. Past my brother’s room. Dangit. My mom’s twitchy breathing. She’s whimpering, maybe half-asleep, in Georgie’s bed. Again.

Jesus, Mom, we talked about this. Georgie’s bed doesn’t help you sleep. It doesn’t help anything.

My breakfast waits on the kitchen counter: two packets of instant oatmeal, not cooked but soaked in water overnight. It’s a gloopy room-temperature treat. Cinnamon & Spice tastes pretty much like Maple & Brown Sugar, gritty and sickly sweet. I’m not hungry.

In the bathroom, the window by the toilet glows gray blue with the first light. I’m getting better at moving around in the dark and near dark. We all are. We moan about the blackout— the inconvenience, the stress—but mostly, we adjust. It’s wild how quickly your animal senses come back. From our yard, I can hear a door close two blocks away.

On the shelf with the hairbrushes and deodorant, our phones are optimistically, pointlessly plugged in. It’s my mom’s old rule: When you brush your teeth before bed, you’re done with your phone. For now, we’re really done with them.

I think of all the messages and stories and pictures that flowed from that cracked dark screen the minute I turned it on in the morning. Every day for the last three weeks, we’ve asked: When is that coming back?

This morning, I think: Maybe it’s not.
Maybe none of it’s coming back.
Maybe these veterans will say it’s time to bury our phones, time to move on.
Georgie’s bed, five feet above my head, creaks and clunks as my mom rolls over.
Maybe the blackout wiped everything clean. Maybe the treadmill we all trudge on, our heads down, has stopped.
In the mirror, I’m a silhouette, a gray outline, my frizzed-out hair making me vague and approximate. My mom coughs out a string of sobs, high-pitched and whiny, like giggles. Our floors are thin, and her whimpers, so soggy and immediate, could be mine. It’s karaoke weeping. My reflection is sobbing. I am the one stranded and stricken.
I bring a hand to my mouth. No, I’m not sobbing. I’m not collapsed in my little brother’s bed. I am standing.
I pull my hair back, and my bangs droop forward. I’ve hid- den under this mud-brown tangle for months, letting it grow. It’s the untended hedge of a deserted house. It’s the frayed screen door Anthony knocks on, trying to coax me outside.

Sweet Anthony, the one person who still shows up, he needs me today. He said so.

All right, shut-in. Time to tear the screen door off. Time to chop the damn hedges down.

I look for scissors. Clippers would be best, but, with the power out, scissors will have to do.

Wait. Georgie’s clippers are rechargeable.

Bottom shelf, behind the cough medicine and the broken hair dryer. I thumb the ridged switch to on. That hard snap as the clippers start, then the soothing hum. The first electricity I’ve touched in days.

Upstairs, my mom blows her nose, the bleat of a party horn.

As dawn turns the white bathroom tilesgold, I run the clip- pers front to back, like I used to for Georgie, the pitch falling as my thick hair clogs the blades. Heavy coils tumble silently. I knock the clippers clean on the counter, building a nest of me in the sink, a soft mound of what I’ve been carrying.

The first rays of sun show my true outline. This is where I begin. This is my edge, my boundary. I look like my brother: My ears stick out, my nose is big, and my eyes droop.

I pull off my shirt, itchy with hair, and see my round belly and my pale scalp, my thick arms and my scrawny boobs. I am uncovered.

I’ve been hiding for a year. I take my hair off and I’m visible. I silently thank Georgie for the clippers.
Georgie. He hates haircuts. You can’t use scissors, cause he

might flinch or grab them. And you can’t take him to the barber. Mom tried.

“You don’t owe me anything, lady, just get your kid out of here!” the barber yelled after Georgie smashed a jar of disinfectant on the floor, bright aqua swallowing clumps of brown hair. Georgie’s half-shaved head bobbed down the side- walk, arms in the air, celebrating his escape.

So we got the clippers. His haircuts last ninety seconds: Put the number one guard on, the shortest, run it front to back. It made him look mean, punchy, like a military kid, his normal I-smell-something cringe turned into a scowl.

I could use a second pass now, but the charge ran out. I’m uneven, patchy. Stubble, not hair.

All right, Anthony, let’s go find some truth.

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About the Author

Andrew Simonet is a choreographer and writer in Philadelphia. His first novel, Wilder, published in 2018. He co-directed Headlong Dance Theater for twenty years and founded Artists U, an incubator for helping artists make sustainable lives. He lives in West Philadelphia with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two sons, Jesse Tiger and Nico Wolf.

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Giveaway

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Book Review/Blog Tour – The Marvelous

Title: The Marvelous
Author: Claire Kann
Published: June 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Young Adult

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

Marvelous

Synopsis:

From the author of Let’s Talk About Love and If It Makes You Happy, this exuberant YA Novel follows six teens locked together in a mansion, contending for a life-changing cash prize in a competition run by a reclusive heiress.

Everyone thinks they know Jewel Van Hanen. Heiress turned actress turned social media darling who created the massively popular video-sharing app, Golden Rule.

After mysteriously disappearing for a year, Jewel makes her dramatic return with an announcement: she has chosen a few lucky Golden Rule users to spend an unforgettable weekend at her private estate. But once they arrive, Jewel ingeniously flips the script: the guests are now players in an elaborate estate-wide game. And she’s tailored every challenge and obstacle to test whether they have what it takes to win–at any cost.

Told from the perspective of three dazzling players–Nicole: the new queen of Golden Rule; Luna: Jewel’s biggest fan; and Stella: a brilliant outsider–this novel will charm its way into your heart and keep you guessing how it all ends because money isn’t the only thing at stake.

“Jewel isn’t the person any of us think she is. That’s not necessarily a bad thing–it’s okay if the Jewel in your head doesn’t match the Jewel in real life–but being loyal to an idealized version of her is.”

Happy release week to Claire Kann’s book, The Marvelous. Thank you to Kann, Swoon Reads, and Xpresso Tours for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

This book is fun and will have you on the edge of your seat! It was a fresh blend of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Clue with a mixture of The Westing Game. Four users of the vlogging social media app Golden Rule are invited to an exclusive weekend at the creator, Jewel’s, mansion. When they arrive, they discover that Jewel has created a game filled with puzzles, challenges, team work, and secrets. With plenty of twists and unreliable narrators, this story will keep you guessing the whole way through.

The story is told from three of the players’ perspectives, which I did feel to be a little too big of a bite to chew, and the amount of characters involved made me wish for a longer book in order to actually get to know all of them. I still feel like I don’t really know Harlow or Francis.

Kann’s writing is engaging and descriptive, giving you just enough of a peak behind the curtain to keep you hooked. As this is my first book by this author, I’m definitely going to have to get my hands on her other books!

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About the Author

Claire Kann is the author of LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE and an award-winning online storyteller. In her other life, she works for a nonprofit that you may have heard of where she daydreams like she’s paid to do it. Find out more by visiting her website: http://www.clairekann.com (and while you’re there, tell her about your cats. She loves cats. A lot.)

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Giveaway

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Print copy of The Marvelous
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Book Review/Blog Tour – Constellations of Scars

Title: Constellations of Scars
Author: Melissa Eskue Ousley
Published: June 2021
Genres: Adult, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy

Rating: 3 stars
Cover: Don’t like it

Constellations

Synopsis:

“An indelible story of loving yourself in a world of dreadful realities.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Not all gifts are a blessing. Some are a curse.

When Amelia turned 12, she began growing pearls. Every month, a crop of beautiful pearls bursts from the skin on her back. Her mother, Denise, believes her daughter is blessed, and sells the pearls to put food on the table. Amelia sees her condition as a curse. As the pearls form, her body aches and her skin grows feverish. The harvest of pearls brings temporary relief from the pain, but leaves her back marred by scars. Denise hides Amelia away from the world, worried that Amelia’s gift will be discovered and she will be abducted for the wealth she can provide. Now a young woman, Amelia realizes she has become her mother’s captive, and plans her escape. When she runs away from home, she finds a new family in a troupe of performers at a museum of human oddities. She soon discovers the world is much more dangerous than her mother feared.

Happy book birthday to Melissa Eskue Ousley’s book, Constellation of Scars. Thank you to Ousley, Midnight Tide Publishing, and Xpresso Tours for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review. Let me tell you: what a unique storyline!

Amelia found out when she was 12-years-old that she was much different than the other kids her age. She was essentially a human oyster. Her mom quickly withdrew her from school and sheltered her at home for her own protection. She warned Amelia of the dangers of letting anyone else know about her gift. As Amelia grows up, never being allowed to leave the house, she realizes that her mom’s motivations seem to stem more from control than from protection, so she starts planning her getaway. Her grand plans are off to a bumpy start when she reaches the city and is immediately turned around and mugged. However, fortune seems to smile on her when she meets a young man who’s willing to buy her pearls–even offering her a job in a quaint beach town at his father’s museum of oddities. Amelia gets swept up into a new-found family and thoroughly is enjoying the life she’s built for herself. Unfortunately, she learns too late that not everyone is trust worthy.

A truly unique story about finding yourself and where you fit in, and about the people we choose as family. I really enjoyed watching Amelia grow into herself as she discovers she’s surrounded by a team of people like her. I was hoping for more romance with a particular character whom Ousley was building a lot of sexual tension with, but was a little disappointed that it didn’t play out how I wanted it to. However, Ousley is definitely skilled at bringing the plot to unexpected places.

This book definitely has a thriller aspect and I didn’t expect it to the extent it played out, even though Ousley is a little in your face with foreshadowing. The ending was rushed, and I felt like there were so many loose ends. I also was a little confused how Amelia doesn’t seem to show any kind of trauma from any of the emotion abuse, etc, she encounters in her life.

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About the Author

Melissa Eskue Ousley is an award-winning author living on the Oregon coast with her family, a neurotic dog, two charming cats, and a piranha. Her suspense novel, Pitcher Plant, is set in Seaside, and won a 2018 Independent Publisher Book Award. Her young adult novel, Sunset Empire, debuted in a bestselling boxed set. Her short stories have been included in Rain Magazine, The North Coast Squid, and various anthologies. When she’s not writing, she can be found volunteering for her local wildlife center, caring for injured owls and hawks.

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Giveaway

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Blog Tour – Kiss and Repeat

Title: Kiss and Repeat
Author: Heather Truett
Published: May 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: 3 stars
Cover:
 Like it

Kiss

Synopsis:

In Heather Truett’s Kiss and Repeat, a teen uses the scientific method drilled into him by his scientist father to begin a kissing experiment. Only the experiment gets messy, and Stephen will have to come clean if he wants to win one girl’s heart in this heartfelt and funny YA debut.

Stephen Luckie isn’t so lucky in love. He’s completely inexperienced when it comes to girls, and wonders if his tics – caused by Tourette’s Syndrome – are the reason.

Then a game at a party reveals that his body goes still while kissing. Using the scientific method drilled into him by his scientist father, Steven begins the best experiment ever–one that involves kissing as many girls as possible. Who knew science could be so fun?

But when the experiment gets underway, Stephen begins to question how he treats girls – and if his tics have been standing in his way at all. With two girls interested in him, he has to figure out what really matters to him and what he’ll risk – and gain – by being his true self.

Excerpt

By ten o’clock, the music was loud and the people around me were louder. Being sober, I remember more of that night than anyone else. Ballard’s reddish-orange hair flared on the back deck and I followed the signal. Mostly I’d stayed with the Call of Duty group, but nervous energy made me restless.

I hadn’t run into Wade since I first arrived, but that couldn’t last. This was a party, and Wade was one of the gods of the Moorhen High football team. He wouldn’t stay on the fringes for long.

“Yo, Stephen!” Ballard hollered from his Adirondack throne, a Solo cup held out like an offering. Wade may have been a football god, but Ballard was still king of this party.

I stepped into the golden glow of a lantern that hung above our heads, hands in my pockets to keep my newest tic from drawing attention. My fingers flexed involuntarily and I gritted my teeth.

“Here.” Ballard pushed the cup toward me and I waved it away.

He knew I wouldn’t drink it, not while on the kind of meds I take. Still, he pushed it at me again, and I shook my head in refusal. He was like that when people were around, less my friend and more the cool class clown.

“He doesn’t want it,” someone said.

I glanced around the group. It was Joan Pearson. I’d

looked right past her earlier, not recognizing her with newly dyed black hair. Her hair used to be a soft brown. She had these piercing dark eyes, and she narrowed them in Ballard’s direction, defending me. She had a bit of a messiah complex going on.

“I can speak for myself,” I said.

A sudden thump of bass from the speakers drowned me out, NF’s quick tongue shooting lyrics like arrows all over the deck. Joan tossed back raven hair and sipped from her own Solo cup. Ballard shrugged and turned his attention back to the others.

Erin and Miles stepped out of the house and made their way to where I was standing. Some friends were there, plus a couple of girls I didn’t recognize, and Joan’s friend Sylvie. Sylvie was showing this guy, Andrew, something on her phone.

“Awesome,” Andrew said, grinning. “Let’s play.”

“Play what?” one of the girls asked. Her hair was curly and damp, like she’d just been for a swim.

“Sylvie found this app like Spin the Bottle.” Andrew waved the phone in our direction, its glittery red case catching the lantern light.

“We put everyone’s name and picture into the app,” Sylvie explained. “Then we spin the virtual bottle and it tells us who to kiss.”

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About the Author

Heather Truett is a novelist and poet. She is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Memphis. She is represented by Hilary Harwell of KT Literary.

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Book Review/Blog Tour – The Secret Recipe for Moving On



Title: The Secret Recipe for Moving On
Author: Karen Bischer
Published: March 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

 Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Don’t like it

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.

“I guess some life skills you don’t learn in home ec” (chapter 18).

Happy release week for Karen Bischer’s book, The Secret Recipe for Moving On! Thank you Entangled Teen, Xpresso Tours, and Bischer for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. What a sweet journey this book is!

The story opens up with Ellie feeling a little insecure in her relationship and with his friends. Cue the first day of school and she gets quite the slap in the face when her boyfriend, Hunter, breaks up with her to be with one of his long time friends. Suddenly Ellie doesn’t belong anywhere as she’s quick to learn her “friends” were more situational than true. To make things worse, she has to sit through home ec with Hunter and his new boo practically breaking the PDA meter. After realizing how torturous being in the same group with her ex and ex-friends would be, she quickly joins the “misfit” group and starts plotting revenge. 

Cue the misfits: the sweetest, quirkiest group of boys you can find. Each of them have their own personality traits that keep them from the popular crowd, but Ellie quickly learns that they’re not quite as odd as first impressions hinted. As Ellie gets to know them, she learns about what it means to be a true friend, how to work together as a team, and who she is apart from the life she felt was taken from her.

While I did find Ellie’s character growth inspiring, Luke was probably my favorite character, even though, *groan,* he has a girlfriend already. Or maybe AJ? Honestly, the boys are all so wonderful, it’s hard to pick. I do feel like Luke was supposed to be intimidating because he has a couple tattoos and he’s into bike stunts, but he never really was for me. I wish Bischer could’ve built up that reputation better in the beginning so that, when Ellie learns about how goofy and sweet he is, it’s a much bigger deal.

Bischer writes such a sweet story about how preconceived assumptions about people don’t tell the whole story. The family Ellie becomes a part of are all flawed, real, and kind. With a team like that in anyone’s corner, there’s no telling what you can do. I’d definitely read this again just to hang out with the characters more.

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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.

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Book Review – Amelia Unabridged

Title: Amelia Unabridged
Author: Ashley Schumacher
Published: February 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Goodreads

Rating: 5 stars
Cover: Love it

53138069

Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Amelia Griffin is obsessed with the famous Orman Chronicles, written by the young and reclusive prodigy N. E. Endsley. They’re the books that brought her and her best friend Jenna together after Amelia’s father left and her family imploded. So when Amelia and Jenna get the opportunity to attend a book festival with Endsley in attendance, Amelia is ecstatic. It’s the perfect way to start off their last summer before college.

In a heartbeat, everything goes horribly wrong. When Jenna gets a chance to meet the author and Amelia doesn’t, the two have a blowout fight like they’ve never experienced. And before Amelia has a chance to mend things, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. Grief-stricken, and without her best friend to guide her, Amelia questions everything she had planned for the future.

When a mysterious, rare edition of the Orman Chronicles arrives, Amelia is convinced that it somehow came from Jenna. Tracking the book to an obscure but enchanting bookstore in Michigan, Amelia is shocked to find herself face-to-face with the enigmatic and handsome N. E. Endsley himself, the reason for Amelia’s and Jenna’s flight and perhaps the clue to what Jenna wanted to tell her all along. Ashley Schumacher’s devastating and beautiful debut, Amelia Unabridged, is about finding hope and strength within yourself, and maybe, just maybe, falling in love while you do it.

“I’m crying, silent tears that don’t leave me gasping for breath or needing to rip books in half but that taste almost sweet in their saltiness. When did emotions start having emotions of their own, and how do I make it stop?” (p. 174).

Thank you Ashley Schumacher and Wednesday Books for a free eARC of Amelia Unabridged in exchange for an honest review. I have been sitting with this story ever since I read it almost in it’s entirety on February 16th. This story filled me to the brim and I’ve been struggling to find the words to capture the experience reading it was for me. As soon as I finished it, I texted my husband that I was utterly enchanted and I so deeply wanted to own a physical copy of it–which he was so kind to tell me to buy it, even though he truly cannot understand why I want to own books I’ve already read. That’s real love, my friends.

The book opens up on Amelia’s less than stellar home life (her father leaving for a younger woman, her mother in complete shock and depression) and ushers her into a friendship that helped her discover her value. Jenna and her family welcome Amelia in as a surrogate family member, and Amelia spends her high school years wanting for nothing and cherishing the worlds found in the pages of her books with a wonderful friend. Suddenly Amelia’s world is shattered when she gets the phone call that Jenna has died in an accident. The last thing they had said to each other was a fight. Jenna had their lives together all mapped out, how was Amelia supposed to do this alone? After a mysterious and rare copy of the girls’ favorite book arrives for her, Amelia goes on a journey to find out if Jenna was behind it. On the way, she discovers a whole new cast of quirky book lovers like her who welcome her in and give her space to discover who she is on her own.

Once Amelia makes it to Michigan, it’s clear that she’s battling so many things internally. She doesn’t know whether she should continue to pursue the life Jenna had planned for her, which means she would have to allow Jenna’s parents to pay for the college she’d otherwise be unable to afford in order to study for a career she’s unsure she wants, all while keeping up appearances as Jenna’s replacement almost in a family that’s not biologically hers. But what is there for her if she doesn’t do this? And how can she possibly let down her best friend and her family by changing the plan after Jenna’s death? How can she continue reading books when the very person who taught her to love them is gone? How can she be a complete person without the person that helped shape her?

There are so many different forms of grief throughout several characters, which I feel like makes everything more relatable and tangible. Amelia’s grief and anxiety throughout the book is attached to images of whales she pictures in her head that bring her peace. I thought this was such a beautiful way of writing Amelia’s thought processes as a creative individual who spent so much of her life in other worlds. After she meets Endsley, she uses these pictures in her head to relate to his anxiety. 

Everything about this story is just so wonderfully done. The cozy acceptance of an environment for book lovers, the sweet and very quirky friendships Amelia discovers in Michigan, and the tragically beautiful relationship she builds with Endsley. There’s even a wonderful dog who’s always in everyone’s space. I truly felt this was such a perfect illustration of true friendship being more than being there for each other in the convenience, but being an unwavering force in the inconvenience and uncertainty.

Schumacher’s writing is poetic and enchanting right from the beginning. Truly one of a kind. It was so difficult to put down or tear myself away for even the smallest thing because I didn’t want to leave this wonderful place she painted for me. I felt like I was there, on this journey of self discovery with Amelia, rooting for her, crying with her, and rejoicing with her. One thing that really stuck out to me about Schumacher’s writing is that she so beautifully crafted a world of book lovers without name dropping and shoving as many references as she could fit in there. All of the book references were so gently entwined into the story that it was more like a treasure hunt to see if I could figure out the reference instead of being pulled out of the story with a name drop. I don’t think I’m explaining it well, but this is something I struggle with in books because I often find name dropping so inorganic. Schumacher mastered this.

After all this rambling, I still feel like I only touched the surface of how wonderful this book is. And to think it’s only Schumacher’s debut? Sign me up for every book she comes out with ever, please and thank you? I will be fervently recommending this book to anyone and everyone possible.

You Have a Match – Book Review

Title: You Have a Match
Author: Emma Lord
Published: January 2021
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Goodreads

Rating: 2 stars
Cover: Love it

img_5508

Synopsis:

A new love, a secret sister, and a summer she’ll never forget.

From the beloved author of Tweet Cute comes Emma Lord’s You Have a Match, a hilarious and heartfelt novel of romance, sisterhood, and friendship…

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer, injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front. But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister. When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents–especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself. The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because somethings, the hardest things can also be the best ones.

“If you learn to capture a feeling, it’ll always be louder than words” (chapter 37)

Thank you Emma Lord and Wednesday Books for an eARC of You Have a Match in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, my feelings really went back and forth on this one. Shortly after I finished it, Reese Witherspoon announced it for her book club and I thought to myself, “Am I missing something?” So I just set it aside for a while because I didn’t really know what I thought. But here I am–I’ve gone through my notes and tried to write up my thoughts in a cohesive way; here’s the good and the bad.

Abby is passionate about photography (I love to see it!) and her friends. She feels a little overlooked by her parents sometimes because of the two rugrats who claim the titles of her little siblings. But the one person who always made her feel seen and helped cultivate her love of photography, her grandfather, “Poppy,” has recently died and she’s trying to cope and grieve while still trying to live her life. Her two best friends are her lifelines, so when one of them, Leo, wants to learn about his biological family with a DNA test, she decides to do one too in solidarity. She was expecting Leo’s test to be the most informative, but somehow her’s took the spotlight when it revealed a fully biological sister that she’s never heard of. Cue Savvy, Instagram star and practically perfect in every way. Instead of just going to their parents about this discovery (why?) Abby and Savvy decided to sign up for camp together as a way to bond and try to figure out the mystery unraveling before them. Oh, and, SURPRISE! Abby’s best friend Leo, who she’s actually desperately in love with and trying to convince herself not to be–he’s going to camp, too!

Some things I loved: Abby learning to craft her love for photography and continue that special bond she shared with her Poppy; Abby and Savvy trying to figure out how to have a relationship with a sister you’ve never met; some of the side characters are sweet and funny, and I really wish we could’ve seen more of them. I believe I said this in another review of Lord’s books, but while I love her quirky, quick voice, I also don’t like when authors try to name drop everything currently popular (brands, celebrities, etc) to stay current because I know this will cause the book not to age well. However, Lord’s writing is also very engaging and sweet.

Here are some things that I had problems with. The Big Embarrassing Incident is what Abby dubbed as the reason she can’t be in love with Leo anymore. However, when it was finally revealed (which was way too long), it is pretty anti-climatic and fell pretty short of being a big deal. Their chemistry was also not expanded on much beyond Abby’s constant “does he like me” stream of consciousness and his pretty clear hints. When they do get together, I did feel that “aww” moment mostly because I also fell in love with my best friend, but if I didn’t relate as much, I might have been asking why they liked each other instead.

Abby’s best friend Connie wasn’t fleshed out very well and it seemed she was mostly used as a plot device to keep Abby and Leo away from each other. I honestly felt like the book would read the same without her. I also felt like Savvy wasn’t easy to connect with (I don’t really like influencers, so that could be it–though Lord doesn’t really paint them in a great light either), but I did like the contrast in her personality and Abby’s, especially as they tried to navigate that.

The explanation of what happened between Abby and Savvy’s parents and their best friends that caused them to give up Savvy, cut ties, and have Abby just over a year later was quite the information dump and I still felt confused. The whole book was working up to this big reveal and it just didn’t feel like something that would happen–or even if it did, why would Savvy’s adoptive parents not move away once they had cut ties? They’re basically setting their daughters up for finding each other and feeling betrayal toward their parents for keeping them in the dark about a pretty life changing event. Even as the book draws to a close, all the lying that has taken place, not only in Abby’s and Savvy’s lives, but also just in this one summer, everything seems to be tied up with a pretty bow with not a believable amount of resolution. Honestly, the reveal and somehow happily-ever-after conclusions were what I had the most problems with in this book. I also feel like it doesn’t have a good adoption rep, which makes me wonder if Lord had any commentary from people on this.

Overall, Lord’s writing is engaging and fun enough to carry you through the book, but you’ll be left scratching your head on how everything was resolved. I’m not sure how it made Reese Witherspoon’s book club, to be honest.

Book Review/Blog Tour – Beautiful Facade

Title: Beautiful Facade
Author: Kathryn S Rose
Published: February 2021
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

Rating: 2 stars
Cover:
 It’s okay

facade

Synopsis:

On the day that 16-year-old Winter Starling had her life and dreams shattered by a sexual assault, she meets Kai, a boy from her high school obsessed with music. They develop a deep friendship, which comes to an abrupt end when Kai unexpectedly has to leave. Winter has no idea why he went or any way to contact him.

Ten years pass, and Winter has constructed a new reality for herself. Now living in Melbourne, she has a successful career in advertising and is engaged to Liam King, a star player in Australian Rules Football. Winter has a perfect life.

During a night out, Winter runs into Kai, now the lead singer of ‘The Stonevilles.’ Winter and Kai rekindle their friendship, and to everyone around them, their attraction is evident. With Kai back in her life, Winter’s past threatens to ruin her relationship with Liam and everything she has worked to achieve. But can she risk losing Kai a second time?

Emotional and edgy, Beautiful Facade is about love, loss, healing, self-discovery, and the messy battle between one’s head and one’s heart.

Happy book birthday to Kathryn S Rose’s Beautiful Facade! Thank you Rose and Xpresso Tours for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Pretty much right from the beginning of this story, you learn that 27-year-old Winter has officially faked it until she made it–working through trauma from a sexual assault in high school and somehow convincing her famous Australian footballer fiancé that she thrives in the spotlight, and working up the ranks in her great job. When a friend from her past shows up and brings back memories from high school–the good, the bad, the ugly–Winter’s mask starts cracking and she can’t seem to cover up the holes in her facade quick enough. Does she even want to anymore?

For me, the idea of this story was great, but the execution fell short. Kai is supposed to be this mysterious enigma who vanished in thin air with no explanation, but for me, he was pushy, unstable, and it’s strange how obsessive he is with Winter. The build up to solving the mystery of Kai ended with a quick, lackluster explanation. Actually, the last part of the book just felt like an information dump with very little satisfaction in discovering answers. The idea of Winter living out this beautiful facade wasn’t developed as well as it could have been, and most of the story was taken up by her conflicting feelings for her returned best friend. And the famous, gorgeous footballer? What a one-dimensional jerk.

While I struggled with the execution of the story, I did enjoy Rose’s writing style. It was fun reading a book about characters my age juggling work, relationships, trauma, healing, and somehow managing a social life. I will be interested to see what Rose comes up with next.

Goodreads / Amazon

About the Author

Kathryn S Rose is a mum, wife, reader, writer, traveller, and food enthusiast. Writing a book was always on her bucket list, and finally, with Beautiful Facade, it has come into fruition.

Kathryn is interested in the study of human behaviour and obtained a Bachelor of Social Science, with a focus on Community studies and Welfare Work.

Since completing her studies, she has worked in several jobs, which have enhanced her understanding of social issues, human development, relationships, and lifestyle. Some of these insights are reflected in her writing and give her inspiration.

Besides books, Kathryn has many other loves. She enjoys listening to live music, relaxing at the beach, embarking on random hiking adventures, and indulging in too much food and wine with family and friends.

When Kathryn and her family aren’t traipsing around the world, they can be found residing in Perth, Western Australia.

Website / Instagram

Giveaway

Tour-wide giveaway (INT):
$25 Amazon gift card

Book Review/Blog Tour – Love Spells and Other Disasters

Title: Love Spells and Other Disasters
Author: Angie Barrett
Published: February 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult, Paranormal
Goodreads

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: It’s Okay

LOVE SPELLS AND OTHER DISASTERS by Angie Barrett

Synopsis:

I didn’t know when I wrote the first love spell that it would actually make things happen. Like, actually make people fall in love with each other…

How could I have known something like that? I mean, magic isn’t real, right?

But here’s the thing—the spell does work and so does the next one and the next one…and suddenly I’m getting a whole lot of attention from everyone at my high school. Me, Blend-into-the-Walls, Please-Let-Me-Introvert-in-Peace Rowan Marshall. And not only that, but I’ve also caught the attention of Luca Russo, a godlike, football-playing hottie who claims he likes me just the way I am. Ummm…

But as I’m about to learn, playing around with things you don’t understand means when things go wrong—like really, very awfully wrong—you don’t know how to fix them.

Happy book birthday to Angie Barrett’s debut, Love Spells and Other Disasters! Thank you Barrett, Entangled Teen, and Chapter by Chapter for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Rowan doesn’t have a normal life–she’s the daughter of the famous Dr. Marshall: Ghost Psychologist. Not that Rowan even believes in that stuff. Honestly, watching her mom try to talk to her dad, who died when Rowan was young, is kind of depressing. Being related to her mom is probably why her partner in her school project wants to build a business plan on writing and selling love spells. But what Rowan doesn’t understand is why the spells seem to be working. Or why a hot football player wants to date her.

Barrett writes a great story arc that takes the reader along for a big bite of character growth. Rowan at the end of the story is almost a different person from the Rowan at the beginning, and we got a front seat look at the weird and amazing journey that took her there. I love stories where everything seems to go wrong and this one did not disappoint. Plus, it has magic! 

I do wish there was more character growth for Rowan’s best friend, Ethan. He basically disappears for half of the book and gets why too distant from Rowan for someone who’s been her only and closest friend for so long. I just wanted better friends for her.

Purchase Links:
Google Play | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

About the Author

Angie Barrett
Author Angie Barrett lives in a small town in Ontario, Canada in an old century home that is also known as the “cat house” because, well, Angie likes cats. A lot. She also likes shopping for books, or for anything really, and spending time RVing in the summer with her family. She has worked for sixteen years as a high school English teacher and Librarian and is currently a Curriculum Consultant for new teachers. Angie has always dreamed of being a published author and strives to create worlds where there are strong, relatable characters who maybe are not always perfect but who understand the meaning of friendship and loyalty and who will use their collective strengths to overcome adversity.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

Giveaway

Tour-wide giveaway:

One (1) winner will receive a $15 Amazon gift card
a Rafflecopter giveaway