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.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play

 

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.

Website / Goodreads / Twitter / Instagram

Tour-wide giveaway (US/CAN)
Print copy of The Secret Recipe for Moving On
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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

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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

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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

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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
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Escaping Eleven – Book Review

Title: Escaping Eleven 
Author: Jerri Chisholm
Published: December 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia, Sci-Fi
Goodreads

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

In Compound Eleven, the hierarchy of the floors is everything.

My name is Eve Hamilton, and on my floor, we fight.

Which at least is better than the bottom floor, where they toil away in misery. Only the top floor has any ease in this harsh world; they rule from their gilded offices.

Because four generations ago, Earth was rendered uninhabitable–the sun too hot, the land too barren. Those who remained we forced underground. While not a perfect life down here, I’ve learned to survive as a fighter.

Except my last match is different. Instead of someone from the circuit, my opponent is a mysterious boy from the top floor. And the look in his eyes tells me he’s different…maybe even kind.

Right before he kicks my ass.

Still, there’s something about his–something that says he could be my salvation…or my undoing. Because I’m no longer content to just survive in Eleven. Today, I’m ready to fight for more than my next meal: I’m fighting for my freedom. And this boy may just be the edge I’ve been waiting on.

“Maybe it never really made sense to hate an entire society; maybe it never made sense that all of them up there were evil in the first place. The actions of the few should never speak for the many–this is something I already know” (chapter 28).

Happy book birthday to Escaping Eleven by Jerri Chisholm. Thank you to Entangled Teen and Chisholm for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Chisholm writes a dystopian society that mirrors ones found in The Hunger Games and Divergent, but has enough punch in the storyline to stand on it’s own legs. I was completely captivated, letting dishes pile up and my to-do list go untouched just so that I could find out what would happen next.

Eve is a darker, scarred character. Her life has not been a walk in the park, but really, could that describe anyone’s life in the lower floors of Compound Eleven? In order to help forget about the constant oppression they face every day, many people on the lower floors have taken up a hobby or career in fighting. Eve’s father has been training her to go pro since she was a young girl, but when the time draws near to commit to a career after finishing school, she just can’t force herself. The only thing she wants is to escape and taste freedom.

I liked that Eve grew up hard and constantly has to choose to be hard to deal with the horrors in her life. It gave her more depth to explore throughout the story. When Wren, the elite boy from the top floor, enters her life, she really has to wrestle with whether she should close herself off from people or not. And through her constant preparations to seek freedom, she finds out that she might have put her trust in the wrong person.

Some thing I struggled with is that I really wanted more fleshing out of Wren’s story, who was definitely one of my favorite characters. Eve is pretty single minded, which means that Wren learns way more about her than she learns about him. I hope that we get to hear a lot more about Wren in the next book, since this one ended with a lot of open questions. Actually, some of her friends could’ve used some fleshing out, too. I also found the description of the book misleading to the plot–just little things, like the fact that they don’t actually fight for their food, but more for a hobby, career, or survival tactic. The comment about Wren being the edge she needs to find her freedom isn’t quite true either since she really focuses most of the book on trying to figure it out on her own. Finally, the ending was a little predictable, but it did end in such a way that you’re anxious to know what happens next.

Okay, how do I figure out how to fast forward time so that I can read book two?

A Curse of Roses – Book Review

Title: A Curse of Roses
Author: Diana Pinguicha
Published: December 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fantasy, LGBTQ
Goodreads

Rating: 2 stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies.

There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic–her curse–has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain.

If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers…into food.

Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse–if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss.

As the Kind of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death?

With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more.

She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction.

Based on Portuguese legend, this #ownvoices historical fantasy is an epic tale of mystery, magic, and making the impossible choice between love and duty…

Happy book birthday to Diana Pinguicha’s A Curse of Roses! Thank you to Entangled Teen and Pinguicha for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Pinguicha writes a fantasy loosely inspired by Portuguese folklore with an own voices spin. Yzabel not only struggles with a magical curse that’s slowly killing her, she struggles with her faith, her role as future queen, and her sexuality in a time where people are rejected for anything apart from the norm. In her self-discovery journey to understand the blessings in her life, including her magic, she learns she has more people who are willing to support her than she ever could’ve imagined.

I was bothered by the pacing of the story, finding much of the middle dry. I also struggled to connect with the characters because anytime they started to show a flaw, someone swooped in and dismissed it as a flaw but a strength. Flawless characters aren’t very exciting. The most redeeming part of the plot was seeing Yzabel work through her frustrating self-hatred and religion-based self-harm, but it did seem to turn around very suddenly. Everything was fixed in the end because all you need is love. I found myself wishing for more depth to the characters and less of an obvious good guy vs bad guy type of story.

Blog Tour – The Christmas Spirit

Title: The Christmas Spirit
Author: Alexandrea Weis
Published: October 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

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Synopsis:

SOMETIMES IT TAKES ONE BROKEN HEART TO HEAL ANOTHER.

Courtney Winston is a writer on a deadline. Eager to finish her book and get over a recent break-up, she ditches Christmas with her family and retreats to a secluded cabin in the mountains.

Appliances rarely work, and cell service is spotty, but Courtney senses there is more to her rustic rental—something dark and haunting.

Then Peter, the attractive Stone Mountain Lodge owner, and a meddling cook, Mrs. Finn, keep coming around, shattering her peace and offering advice on how to fix her heavy heart.

Courtney grows closer to Peter, but Mrs. Finn warns her of his troubled past. Undaunted, Courtney sets out to win him over. But being with the brooding stranger may end up costing her more than she ever imagined.

Excerpt

She spotted the bridge and decided crossing it would be faster than fighting the ice. Courtney headed toward the arched structure, wishing she had never come with Peter to the magical place.

She stepped over clumps of brush along the shoreline, her boots sinking into thick patches of snow as she hurried to reach the bridge.

The stonework on the steps was like the mantle in the cabin. The same attention to detail reminded her of Peter. Even when he chopped wood, he had to make everything precise.

Her glove brushed the smooth surface of the wooden railing, wondering how many hours the two young men spent building the bridge. That Peter’s beautiful remembrance of his life with his brother should be hidden away in the woods made her sad. If only others could see what they had done.

Then a funny indentation in the railing stopped her cold.

She rubbed the surface, not sure if the imperfection was intentional or just a play of light on the dark wood.

A portion of the railing had been expertly carved away, leaving a name raised in the wood like a bas-relief. The letters were swirled and decorative. This was professional, even, and expertly done. It wasn’t the work of a lovesick schoolboy, but a man who worshipped the woman whose name he’d forever attached to the bridge—Evelyn.

Courtney’s knees became weak as she traced the name she had no doubt Peter etched there. The love he’d borne for the woman became painfully clear.

Her heart grieved, sinking like an anvil in her chest. No one would carve her name into anything, or pine for her after she went off with another. She wasn’t the kind of woman who lived fairy tales. She only read about them in books.

“You found it.”

He was in the middle of the bridge, a few feet away. So caught up in the testament of one man’s love, Courtney had not heard Peter’s heavy boots or felt the bridge tremble under his weight.

“When did you do this?”

He swung his hands behind his back. “What makes you think it was me?”

She glanced at him and tipped her head. “I didn’t realize how much you loved her.”

The thin line was back on his lips. “Neither did she. I carved this right after she married Lawrence.”

She tapped the carving with her hand. “Has she ever seen

this?”

“No. She never came here.”

Goodreads / Amazon

About the Author

Alexandrea Weis, RN-CS, PhD, is a multi-award-winning author, screenwriter, advanced practice registered nurse, and historian who was born and raised in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Having grown up in the motion picture industry as the daughter of a director, she learned to tell stories from a different perspective. Infusing the rich tapestry of her hometown into her novels, she believes that creating vivid characters makes a story moving and memorable.

Weis writes romance, mystery, suspense, thrillers, supernatural, and young adult fiction and has sold approximately one million books. She lives with her husband and pets in New Orleans where she is a permitted/certified wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries and rescues orphaned and injured animals.

She is a member of both the International Thriller Writers Association and the Horror Writers Association. http://www.AlexandreaWeis.com

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Giveaway

Tour-wide giveaway (INT)
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Blog Tour – The Ice in Our Hearts

Title: The Ice in Our Hearts
Author: BC Powell
Published: August 2020
Genres: Romance, Sports, Young Adult

Bryce is a snowboarding sensation, a cocky teenager from California with a giant chip on his shoulder called Type 1 diabetes. He competes because he has something to prove.

Daria is a rising star in figure skating, a withdrawn teen from Russia with a tragic past. She competes to provide her family with a better life.

Primed to overthrow archrivals who dominate their sports, they’re both headed to the Winter Olympics. But soon after arriving at the Games, a flurry of ill-timed setbacks threatens to shatter their dreams.

When two teens from halfway around the world meet, they discover an unlikely but undeniable connection. As they gear up for their final shots at medals, they help each other realize the greatest barrier to the top of the podium might be hiding inside their minds.

Take a breathtaking ride with Bryce and Daria as they find true understanding, try to overcome the bitterness of their pasts, and share a romance more meaningful than winning gold.

Written by the parent of a child with Type 1 diabetes.

After the eleven competitors before Bryce had completed their first jumps, Ryan Jones had logged the highest score. Bryce finalized his trick with Mike and strapped his board to his feet. With one hand on Bryce’s back and the other on his hip, Mike pushed Bryce across the snow to the starting area. As Bryce looked out at the Olympic flags over the massive crowd, he momentarily lost his breath. His heart beat faster and faster until it was like a drum roll inside his chest.

He’d been so focused on how his body was feeling through the practice jumps that he hadn’t thought about where he was. This was the medal round at the Olympics. The big air starting area was much different than the one in slopestyle where you couldn’t see or hear the crowd at the bottom of the run. Trying to keep a sudden onslaught of nerves in check, he bent down and rested his hands on his knees. As he inhaled a few deep breaths, Mike leaned down beside him.

“It’s just you and the jump,” Mike said. “That’s all there is.”

After Bryce nodded his head, Mike stepped back from the starting area. When the official starter told Bryce to drop in, he returned to upright. Focusing his eyes on the lip of the kicker, he tried to blur out the enormous crowd in the background. He visualized his take off in his mind and shook his arms by his side. He’d need a lot of speed for this trick.

He suddenly sprang into the air, twisted his body to the right, and hit the steep slope with his left foot forward. Zooming straight down the center of the ramp, he kept his board as straight as he could to max out his speed.

As he sank low to his board, the crowd disappeared behind the kicker. He sailed through the swoop at the bottom of the slope while the radar gun that showed his speed to the spectators flashed eighty-four kilometers per hour—fifty-two miles per hour. He blocked out every sound and narrowed his vision so that only the top of the kicker was in his sight. The only thought in his mind was his timing off the jump.

He hit the lip, burst straight up from his crouch, and twisted to the left. Throwing his shoulders backwards, he rifled his board over his head. He reached his right hand behind his waist and then back through his legs until he snatched the toe edge of his board. Cramping his body in a tuck, he pulled the center of the board as close to his face as he could while hiding his left hand behind one of his boots.

Flipping backwards, his body fluidly spun through the air. He counted the inversions in his head and marked his height over the slope each time it came into view. As he tumbled for the fourth time, he let go of his board and uncoiled his body.

Wrenching his hips to straighten out his board, he waved his arms by his sides to keep his balance. He knew he’d traveled way down the slope, but he was even farther than he expected. When the tail of his board grazed the snow, it was at the last blue line.

Like firm, controlled springs, his legs absorbed the jolt from the landing. With one hand out in front of him and the other extended to his side, he sped towards the finish zone. On the flat span of snow, he rose from his crouch and swung the tail of his board around so his back was to the crowd. Cascades of snow sprayed out from underneath him while he screeched to a stop. As though a mute button switched off in his mind, bellowing cheers hit his ears.

“A quad underflip nine-hundred!” the loudspeaker announcer shouted.

Goodreads / Amazon

BC Powell is a fantasy author from Los Angeles, CA. Described as “a stunning fantasy adventure,” “incredibly original,” and “a wild ride,” his debut science fiction fantasy novel “Krymzyn” was published in October, 2014. “The Infinite Expanse”, the highly anticipated second book in “The Journals of Krymzyn” series, was released in March, 2015.

Powell has a diverse background, having held several creative positions in the entertainment industry, including an executive role at ABC-TV, but writing fiction has been his lifelong passion. “The Journals of Krymzyn” represents, in his words, “finally finding the amazing story I want to tell with characters who are able to bring the story to life.”

He dual majored in journalism and philosophy at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. When he’s not writing, he can often be found hiking the hills of Southern California, daydreaming on the beach, or ocean kayaking. He credits his three sons, two currently in college and one in high school, as his inspiration for writing in the new adult genre.

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Tour-wide giveaway (INT)
$50 Amazon gift card
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Book Review/Blog Tour – Heart Sister

Title: Heart Sister
Author: Michael F. Stewart
Published: September 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Goodreads

Rating: 5 stars
Cover: Love it

HS.jpg

Synopsis:

After his twin sister, Minnie, dies in an accident, Emmitt’s world goes sideways. He’s lost his best friend and it feels like the family is falling apart without her. But Minnie was an organ donor and Emmitt soon receives an anonymous thank you letter from one of the transplant recipients. Inspiration strikes, and he decides to try and put his sister back together, in spirit. He’s going to track down each organ recipient and film them to show his parents the results of Minnie’s selfless act and help them move on. But when each recipient falls short of his expectations and the star of his film, the girl who received his sister’s heart, refuses to meet him, Emmitt has to turn to extreme measures to find her. What he doesn’t know is that his “heart sister” is hiding an agonizing secret, one that could push Emmitt to the breaking point.

But I also envy people who have courage. I think envy tells us a lot about who we are and what is important to us. I envy the brave. In some ways, I’m still searching for my heart”
(p. 45)

Thank you to Michael F. Stewart, Orca Books, and Xpresso Tours for a free eARC of Heart Sister in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order it now to read it as soon as it releases in September!

I inhaled this book in 24 hours, and can honestly say it’ll stick with me for a long time. Stewart writes an emotional journey where Emmitt learns how a single death can have a life giving ripple effect to many others. Emmitt is essentially forced to move on from his sister’s death to take care of his parents, who are not coping. So he decides to make a movie about his sister and the lives she changed by being an organ donor in hopes to help his parents begin to heal. During his search, he finds an unlikely group of friends, breaks many rules, and has to radically change his expectations about grief. In his journey of healing, he is broken again.

Stewart writes such a captivating story about the fluid nature of grieving, and the amazing selflessness of being an organ donor. You will be in your emotions this whole book, but it’s okay, because those emotions will latch you onto these characters for a full experience of story. After reading about these transplant patients, after feeling the joy and pain they feel in being given a second life at the expense of another, I hope you research becoming an organ donor yourself in order to fill others with life even in death, just like Minnie.

Purchase Links:
Amazon / Barnes & Noble

About the Author


Michael F. Stewart is an award-winning author of many books for young people in various genres, including Ray Vs. the Meaning of Life, which earned a Kirkus Star and won the Publishers Weekly’s Booklife Grand Prize. and Heart Sister (Summer/Fall 2020, Orca Books). Michael lives in Ottawa.

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Giveaway

Tour-wide giveaway (INTL):

1 print copy of Heart Sister
10x ebook copies of Ray Vs the Meaning of Life

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