Book Review/Blog Tour – Stanley & Hazel

Happy book birthday to Stanley & Hazel, a fun mystery set in the 1930s! Today I will be sharing my review–thank you Chapter by Chapter, Month9Books, and Jo Schaffer for my eARC of the book. You can follow the rest of the tour by clicking the banner below!

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Follow the tour HERE

Title: Stanley and Hazel
Author: Jo Schaffer
Published: May 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Goodreads

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

Stanley and Hazel Cover

Synopsis:

A great depression has gripped the city of St. Louis in 1934. Stanley, an orphaned newsy, lives in a poor part of town hit especially hard by the economic downturn. One night, Stanley runs into Hazel, a restless debutante in waiting who has begun to question her posh lifestyle in the midst of the suffering she sees. She’s out and about without an escort and against her father’s wishes.

When they discover the body of a girl with her head bashed in by a baseball bat, the very different and separate realities of the two teens inform their decision. Together they will figure out what happened to her and bring those responsible to justice.

But getting involved with each other and digging into the secrets behind this murder earns them some powerful enemies, including a secret group seeking to rid society of all they deem “undesirable.” They’ve put into motion “The Winnowing,” a plan seeking to take over the city and enforce their will.

As Stanley and Hazel’s forbidden feelings for one another grow, their investigation turns deadly. Now, it is up to Stanley and his gang of street kids to stop Hazel from becoming the next victim.

“Somehow, some way, even though they were from different worlds, they were on the same page. Stanley saw it in Hazel’s eyes.” (chapter 10)

Honestly, when I started to read this, it didn’t seem like something that would grab my interest. However, it didn’t take long for this opinion to change. As I continued to read, even only a fourth of the way in, I was hooked. What was going on and who were all these shady people? I had to know.

Hazel comes from a very high class society with rules and expectations. When she accidentally steps out of these rules by attending a movie unescorted, she quickly learns that things aren’t quite as black and white as she always assumed. Suddenly all these hungry, poor people from the lower class had faces and personalities and their struggles became real to her. What does this mean for the privileged life she has led up until now? Will she ever be able to go back to the way things were, and with her newfound friendship with Stanley, does she even want to?

Stanley is a fighter, not just physically, but he is also fighting for his dreams and his future. He refuses to let the hand he’s been dealt define how he lives the rest of his life. And gosh, he’s got such a heart of gold. While he fights for the truth and for his dreams, he’s also fighting for everyone else, protecting them and giving them a better future. He’s definitely not what Hazel expected, and he sure won me over pretty fast.

The rawness of classism and discovering privilege is so refreshing, even taking place at a time where it looked different than it does today. It’s still happening, it’s still relevant, we still innately judge what we do not know or understand. Books that commentate on classism are still so important in this day, and Schaffer creates that bridge, making a book about the 30’s relatable.

The gritty mystery and the stirring questions about privilege were what got me hooked, but the developing of Hazel and Stanley’s characters, their growth, and let’s be real, their blatant attraction to each other kept me going! I didn’t want to put this down!

About the Author

Jo Schaffer

Jo Schaffer was born and raised in the California Bay Area in a huge, creative family. She is a YA novelist, speaker, writer at Patheos.com, works in film production and is a Taekwondo black belt.

She’s a founding member of Writers Cubed and co-founder of the Teen Author Boot Camp, one of the largest conferences in the nation for youth ages 13-19. She and a crew of local and international bestselling authors present writing workshops to hundreds of attendees at the Utah-based conference as well as hundreds of others worldwide who view the conference online.

Jo loves being involved in anything that promotes literacy and family. She is passionate about community, travel, books, music, healthy eating, classic films and martial arts. Her brain is always spinning new ideas for books and sometimes she even gets around to blogging.

Jo is a mom of 3 strapping sons living in the beautiful mountains of Utah with a neurotic cat named Hero.

Website| Twitter| Facebook| Tumbler| InstagramGoodreads

Giveaway

 One (1) winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a digital copy of Stanley and Hazel by Jo Schaffer (INT)

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Book Review – The Big F

Title: The Big F
Author: Maggie Ann Martin
Published: August 2017
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult

Rating: 3 stars
Cover: It’s Okay

TBF

Synopsis:

Danielle effed up. Big time.

Danielle’s plans for the future were pretty easy to figure out… until she failed senior English and her single college application was denied. Suddenly she’s in hot water with very few options, because honestly who applies to a safety school when their mom is a semi-famous “college psychic”?!

Determined to get her life back on track, Danielle enrolls in her hometown community college with a plan: pass her English class and get back into Ohio State and her mother’s good graces. Romance isn’t on her radar… until she reconnects with her childhood crush and golden-boy-next-door, Luke.

Between family drama, first love and finding her own way, Danielle can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. Thankfully she has her friendship with the snarky and frustratingly attractive Porter, her coworker at the campus bookstore, to push her to experience new things and help keep her afloat.

One thing’s for sure: This time, failure’s not an option.

“Sometimes your heart makes a shit show out of what you think you want” (Chapter 19)

I am extremely grateful to Xpresso Book ToursMaggie Ann Martin, and Swoon Reads for a free advanced reader’s copy in return for an honest review. Head over here to follow the rest of the tour.

The Big F starts off with Danielle and her parent’s plan for her life being completely derailed because of an F she got in a class she “had no business taking.” Her dream college aspirations went clear out the window and she was left with the pieces of her life, trying to figure out how to put them together again. Her mom, being a “college psychic,” did not take this failure well, causing she and Danielle to spend most of the book trying to avoid the wall of tension that gets taller every day. Much of the plot takes a look at how one person’s life can be affected by a single failure–not even just a failure. The themes look at how one little change in someone’s plan can provide a whole world of opportunities unavailable before. Danielle decides to take an english class at her local community college in order to be readmitted into her dream 4-year school. Because of this simple detour in her life plan, she was able to be reconnected with her old crush, Luke, she got a job at the campus bookstore and became close friends with her coworker and Luke’s roommate, Porter, and she learned more about who she is and what she is passionate about.

Danielle and Luke’s relationship is quick and cute. She already knows everything about him and is friends with his family. It’s easy. There are things that frustrate her like the fact that his football takes up so much time–a conflict that is only briefly mentioned and never resolved. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It doesn’t feel real. But the little times they do get to spend together are sweet and easy.

I loved how much Danielle grows. She struggles a lot with learning what she actually wants and how she’s going to go after them. She struggles with her relationship with her mom and the weird thing that happened with her and Porter. She’s a college freshman–she makes mistakes and sometimes doesn’t think about consequences. But I really appreciate how much she grows. One little mistake changed her whole life for the better.

Some things that bothered me: I felt like the only characters that got flushed out well were Danielle and Porter, especially when the plot focused on their friendship. Luke is so so flat. He brings up a little internal conflict later in the story, but really, I still feel like I know nothing about him. All the characters in Danielle’s life seem to come in just to teach her something–which is wonderful–but adds no depth to the characters. I also was annoyed that the book starts off talking about how Danielle’s mom is a psychic who is able to determine what schools are a good fit for prospective college students. But after the first mention, her psychic abilities are nonexistent. It seems more like she is just a good college advisor. That’s it. Her being psychic was absolutely useless.

The Big F is a cute, fluffy contemporary about a girl discovering who she can be after one F messes up her whole future. I empathized with both Danielle and Porter quite a bit and was rooting for them through the end. I just wish I felt that way about everyone else.

Purchase Links

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

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Maggie Ann Martin hails from Des Moines, Iowa but moonlights as a New Yorker. She has a shiny new BA in English and Journalism from the University of Iowa, the most welcoming literary community in the world. When she is not writing, you can find her binge watching TV shows or passionately fangirling over fictional characters on the Internet. The Big F is her debut novel.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Tour-wide giveaway (US/CAN)
Print copy of The Big F

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Book Review – Counting Wolves

Title: Counting Wolves
Author: Michael F. Stewart
Published: August 2017
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

CW

Synopsis:

The Breakfast Club meets Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the lair of an adolescent psych ward.

Milly’s evil stepmother commits her to a pediatric psych ward. That’s just what the wolf wants. With bunk mates like Red, who’s spiraling out of control; Pig, a fire-bug who claims Milly as her own—but just wants extra dessert—Vanet, a manic teen masquerading as a fairy godmother with wish-granting powers as likely to kill as to help; and the mysterious Wolfgang, rumored to roam for blood at night; it doesn’t take long for Milly to realize that only her dead mother’s book of tales can save her.

But Milly’s spells of protection weaken as her wolf stalks the hospital corridors. The ward’s a Dark Wood, and she’s not alone. As her power crumbles, she must let go of her magic and discover new weapons if she is to transform from hunted to hunter.

“It reminds me that these people may all be crazy, but they’re still people. With dreams and fears. (Chapter 11)

I am extremely grateful to Xpresso Book ToursMichael F. Stewart, and The Publishing House for a free advanced reader’s copy in return for an honest review. Head over here to follow the rest of the tour.

Milly doesn’t think she needs help. She’s counting to save the world from the big bad wolf by maintaining her magic spell. Honestly, her evil stepmother just doesn’t want anything to do with her, which is why she’s locked her up in this psych ward, right?

When admitted into the ward, Milly meets a strange cast of characters that resemble those from the fairytales her mother used to read her before she died. All of them are stuck in this place until the doctors figure out how to fix them. All of the patients are quirky and angsty—I would definitely say the Breakfast Club vibes are there. But as Milly spends more time with them, she begins to care for each of them and seek ways to give them confidence that she doesn’t have. Though her meddling isn’t always helpful, it’s as if these desires to help her new friends are loosening the chains to her counting spell.

All of the characters have struggles and traumatizing events that just pull at your heartstrings until you can’t bare it anymore. Each of their quirks and mental illnesses seem to stem out of these experiences and chain them to those memories. If that doesn’t make your empathy for each character go through the roof, I’m not sure what will.

The more time Milly spends at the ward, the more the wolf seems to take shape and she sees what she’s really running from, what she’s trying to save the world from. Will she be able to stand face to face and banish him, or will she have to cast her spell until it kills her?

Michael F. Stewart writes a quirky, dark, engaging story about how fear manifests itself. This book was original, heartbreaking, and funny—I can’t wait until you get into the heads of this ragtag group of teens and watch as your heart melts for them. Stewart’s characters have layers of depth and their struggles end up bringing each other closer in support. If you pick up this book, you won’t want to put it down.

Purchase Links

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

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Michael F. Stewart is winner of both the 2015 Claymore Award and the 2014 inaugural Creation of Stories Award for best YA novel at the Toronto International Book Fair.

He likes to combine storytelling with technology and pioneered interactive storytelling with Scholastic Canada, Australia, and New Zealand’s, anti-cyberbullying program Bully For You. In addition to his award winning Assured Destruction series, he has authored four graphic novels with Oxford University Press Canada’s Boldprint series. Publications of nonfiction titles on Corruption and Children’s Rights are published by Scholastic and early readers are out with Pearson Education.

For adults, Michael has written THE SAND DRAGON a horror about a revenant prehistoric vampire set in the tar sands, HURAKAN a Mayan themed thriller which pits the Maya against the MS-13 with a New York family stuck in the middle, 24 BONES an urban fantasy which draws from Egyptian myth, and THE TERMINALS–a covert government unit which solves crimes in this realm by investigating them in the next.

Herder of four daughters, Michael lives to write in Ottawa where he was the Ottawa Public Library’s first Writer in Residence. To learn more about Michael and his next projects visit his website at http://www.michaelfstewart.com or connect via Twitter @MichaelFStewart.

Michael is represented by Talcott Notch.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

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Tour-wide giveaway (INTL)

25x ebook copies of Counting Wolves

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Book Review – Just Friends

Title: Just Friends
Author: Tiffany Pitcock
Published: August 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: It’s okay

Synopsis:

A new spin on the classic smart-girl-and-bad-boy setup, this witty contemporary romance shows how easily a friendship – even one built on an elaborate lie – can become so much more.

Jenny meets Chance for the very first time when she is assigned as his partner in their Junior Oral Communications class. But after they rescue a doomed assignment with one clever lie, the whole school is suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heartbreaker in school have been best friends forever. It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow―especially when you really, really want it to be the truth.

With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that TV shows and movies have always promised. Through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are “just friends.” But that might be the biggest lie of all.

Debut author Tiffany Pitcock delivers a spot-on depiction of first love and the high school rumor mill in Just Friends, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads.

“If life were a teen movie, then this would’ve been just another Tuesday.” (chapter 1)

I am extremely grateful to Xpresso Book ToursTiffany Pitcock, and Swoon Reads for a free advanced reader’s copy in return for an honest review. Head over here to follow the rest of the tour.

Just Friends was such a fun read. I got sucked in pretty easily and grasped onto every lie as it weaved into the story of Jenny and Chance. The cool thing about this scenario is that it takes two COMPLETELY different social circles, and brings them together through a string of made up stories about a friendship years old instead of hours. It was captivating and each story left me wondering what the next would be.

I’ve seen some commentary on how quickly Jenny and Chance become friends, especially seeing as how different they are. They’ve known about each other’s existence for years, but the first time they’re thrown together for an assignment they decide to be best friends. In high school (and even some in college, honestly), I definitely had moments where one conversation with someone would start with us being strangers and end with us deciding to be great friends. Let’s be real, most people crave a connection with people, why would you not take advantage of one? I didn’t find the whirlwind beginning of Jenny and Chance’s friendship to be unbelievable in the least, but fun and pretty accurate. Plus, the lies they told to make others believe in their fake past is definitely something I did in high school. Maybe that’s why I felt so connected.

One of my favorite themes that Pitcock explores in this story is the types of relationships that make us grow as a person. Through Jenny and Chance’s friendship, Jenny learns to live her life in the world outside her books, and Chance learns the value of being a friend and having someone who will be one to him. There are definitely some annoying, crappy characters that frequent high school aged life, but I was very pleased with the loyal friendships that stood out and stayed grounded. For example, Kelsey, Jenny’s “first” best friend, is such a good and supportive friend to her, even when Jenny chases a more exciting life. She provides pretty insightful feedback to both Jenny and Chance, not afraid to say it how it is, but she also was crazy loyal and kind. I got some serious Barb vibes? (Where are my Stranger Things fans at?) Loyalty was the artery to this whole book, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. Sure people screwed up and trusted the wrong people, sure some of the characters have hard family lives or pasts, sure gossip and rumors are a bitch, but through it all, Jenny and Chance learned who to cling to in order to make it through the storms, and they learned how to be there for the other person during their own storm.

Pitcock’s writing was engaging and she was able to really capture the minds of high school students. The plot is so fun and easy to invest in, and the characters are full and consistently growing. I definitely feel like it was an easy and quick read, which is common with YA contemporary romances, but the substance was there and it was good.

Purchase Links

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

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23. Writer. Reader. Sarcastic.

I was born and raised in Arkansas, which isn’t terribly exciting. I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I used to sit in class and write stories in my notebooks, thinking that everyone did. It turns out, everyone didn’t. I love writing because it means I’m putting my thoughts, feelings, and soul out there for someone else to read – for someone else to feel. The fact that someone can read my words, and empathize with my characters – characters that wouldn’t exist with out me, that I created from my mind – is such a wonderful concept to me. I could happily write for the rest of my life as long as there was one person out there who was affected by my words.

Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

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Tour-wide giveaway (US/CAN)

Print copy of Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock

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Looking at the Artists Behind the Book Covers

Who judges books by their covers? *tentatively raises own hand* If you think about it, from a marketing standpoint, it’s totally natural to be drawn to something that is presented better than another. Books that are released with the whole package are way more exciting than ones with disappointing covers. Plus, I grew up in a very artistic-centered family, so a cover that disappoints is significantly less likely to be picked up than one that’s well done. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the correlation between what a cover looks like and the probability that you’d pick it up to read or buy. Are covers important to you?

As I spend more time in the bookstagram community, working with authors and publishers, and writing reviews, I’ve noticed a growing trend of cover revels for upcoming titles. Cover reveals help cultivate more excitement over an upcoming book and the author’s work, but most of the time I’ve noticed that there is no recognition for or mention of the artist who created the cover. To me, that’s just ridiculous. Why create hype over a piece of art without crediting the artists who made it? We credit the author and the publisher, but often times the artist gets completely overlooked for their contribution, unless they’re a big name like Jim Kay. I wanted to take some time today to show you some beautiful covers and let you know who made them. I hope you enjoy! Let me know which are your favorites in the comments.


CLASSICS

catcher-in-the-ryeThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Artist: E. Michael Mitchell

TheGreatGatsby_1925jacketThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Artist: Francis Cugat

61aqO0sPF+L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Artist: J.R.R. Tolkein

LITERARY FICTION

51Ok9FmXxbLExes by Max Winter
Designer: Strick&Williams
Illustrator: Zohar Lazar

The_goldfinch_by_donna_tart.pngThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Designer: Keith Hayes
Artist: Carel Fabritius

22237161The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Designer: Rodrigo Corral
Illustrator: Matt Buck

Wolf_in_White_VanWolf in White Van by John Darnielle
Designer: Abby Kagan

FANTASY

039360909xNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Artist: Sam Weber

SCI-FI/FANTASTY

Annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeerAnnihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
Designer: Abby Kagan

9781101873786The Vorrh by B. Catling
Designer: Jaclyn Whalen

PaperGirls_Vol01-1.pngPaper Girls by Brian Vaughan
Artist: Cliff Chiang & Matt Wilson

9780316261241_p0_v3_s1200x630 by Ben H. Winters
Designer: Oliver Munday

vermilion-cov300.jpgVermilion: The Adventures of Lou Merriwether, Psychopomp by Molly Tanzer
Designer: Osiel Gòmez
Artist: Dalton Rose

THRILLER/HORROR

51fLeSBiAuLGet in Trouble by Kelly Link
Designer: Caroline Cunningham

1501143107.1.zoomMisery by Stephen King
Designer: Will Staehle

Rant_by_Chuck_PalahniukRant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk
Designer: Michael Collica

29939268.jpgUniversal Harvester by John Darnielle
Designer: Abby Kagan

51xmzRflX5LWe Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley
Designer: Maria Carella

NON-FICTION

519sg-ItOaLThe Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
Designer: Matt Dorfman
Art Director: Helen Yentus

NEW ADULT

AnimalThe Animal Under the Fur by E.J. Mellow
Designer: E.J. Mellow
Typography: Dan Covert

YA CONTEMPORARY

28504676Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Designer: Kristin Logsdon

18718848Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Artist: Eileen Savage

28588459Sill Life with Tornado by A.S. King
Designer: Kristin Logsdon

25372971Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin
Artist: Jill De Haan

9780525425892We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Designer: Samira Iravani
Artist: Adams Carvalho

YA HISTORICAL FICTION

23719270Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Artist: Teagan White

YA MYSTERY

Wink_poppy_midnight_book_coverWink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Designer: Nancy R. Leo-Kelly

YA FANTASY

31369411The Graces by Laura Eve
Designer: Maria T. Middleton
Artist: Spencer Charles

9780399538537Tales of Peculiar by Random Riggs
Artist: Andrew Davidson


12180226Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
Designer: Sheila Smallwood
Artist: Evan B. Harris


Thanks to my brother, Dylan, for helping me with this special blog post. Check out his artwork HERE

Book Review – Plains of Sand and Steel

Title: Plains of Sand and Steel (Uncommon World #2)
Author: Alisha Klapheke
Published: June 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Goodreads 

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Don’t like it

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Synopsis:

A ruler’s young bride with a body to conceal, a mercenary bent on revenge, and the Fire magic that will alter their story forever. The Wrath and the Dawn meets Truthwitch in the second standalone, full length novel of the Uncommon World series. When her new royal husband dies at the beginning of an invasion, Seren must hide his body and use the visions the Holy Fire gives her to save the Empire from itself and its enemies. But if the high-ranking general who hates her discovers her secret, he’ll have her put to death.

When invaders slaughter Ona’s family and shatter her artist life, she joins Lucca, an experienced mercenary and her exact opposite, and heads into war. She just knows the “chanting” she can do—imposing one’s will on the world and watching it come to life—will break the invaders and give her sweet vengeance.

Both want to save the Empire but with tangled histories and new passions swirling around them, their divided motivations turn a possible victory into a deadly storm. Join the battle today.

“Ona could smell her own fear and rage like vinegar and blood. Her hands had never vibrated with this kind of power. She was going to kill so many people today.” (Chapter 7)

Happy book birthday to Plains of Sand and Steel by Alisha Klapheke, book two in the Uncommon World series. You can check out my review of the first book Waters of Salt and Sin HERE. I just want to say thanks to the author for giving me an eARC to read. PLUS, she just released the map of the world and goodness, I love book maps, don’t you?

This book goes straight into the action and conflict in the first chapter, resulting in a total emersion into the character’s lives instead of a building up of their stories. We get a chance to hear more about each character’s backgrounds, desires, fears, etc as the story continues. This is different than the first book, but I felt it appropriate for these characters (how many times can I say characters in one paragraph?). Similar to Waters of Salt and Sin, Plains of Sand and Steel deals with some conflict between different classes and roles, however, it was not as much of a focus.

Let’s take a minute to talk about these strong females Klapheke has given us! Seren has found herself in a role she’s completely unfamiliar with after her husband, the Kyros, dies. Her family has been working their way upward in the class system for generations. Seren’s father was hired as the high-ranking general, which brough Seren into the scene to be married to the Seren. After his death, she finds herself in a unique position where she has to decide whether or not to fight for the position of Kyros, a position she believes she deserves but others don’t because of her blood. And fight she does. With encouragement from her friends, she recognizes the unique power she has and the desire she has to lead her people. She not only stands up and demands her title of Kyros, but she stands by her people’s side to fight with them. Of course, it’s a process. She learns to overcome her fear and that nagging voice telling her she’s not good enough, but the journey is inspiring. Just look at this badass line she even gets in chapter 24:

“Never seen a woman with,” he made a flourishing kind of motion with his hands, “these…type ideas.”
“It’s the Holy Fire that gives me these ideas. And perhaps if you asked more women about their thoughts, you’d hear more good ideas.”

On the flip side, we’ve got Ona. Ona is badass from the get-go, she’s already gone through the character development to get her there. But she’s quite different than Seren. Her only goal in life is to kill every last invader because of the wrong they’ve inflicted in her life. She is a passionate fighter and throws herself at everything she does. Ona is ruthless. Her care for the people close to her is the only evidence that her heart isn’t rock solid. And to wrap it all up, she is vulgar and sassy. It’s like night and day, yet both are badass and strong. The only difference is that Seren knows her limits.

Okay, I should probably let you get to know the other characters by actually reading the book, but I just got so excited about these strong females! That being said, there’s some other great characters, like my dear Lucca, but you should just get the book to get to know them yourself.

There were some slower parts that were difficult to get through when life got in the way, but once you got through them, the plot picked up with vengeance. My other disappointment was the cover. I know some people love them, but artistically it’s hard to completely support them.

It was a fun and exciting read. The entire book is basically a battle: a battle with the invaders, a battle for the role of Kyros, a battle with self-discovery, and a battle of secrets. If you like action, what are you doing? Go read it for yourself.

Did you count how many times I said “characters?”

Blog Tour/Review – Girl on the Verge

Title: Girl on the Verge
Author: Pintip Dunn
Published: June 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Goodreads 

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: It’s okay

Synopsis:

From the author of The Darkest Lie comes a compelling, provocative story for fans of I Was Here and Vanishing Girls, about a high school senior straddling two worlds, unsure how she fits in either—and the journey of self-discovery that leads her to surprising truths.

In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.

When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how much it intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong…

“Don’t let someone else determine how you feel about yourself.” (chapter 8)

I am extremely grateful to Xpresso Book Tours, Pintip Dunn, and Kensington Publishing Corp for a free advanced reader’s copy in return for an honest review. Head over here to follow the rest of the tour. 

Girl on the Verge is an own voices young adult thriller about discovering who you are and learning to value what makes you different. Kan is a Thai-American who struggles with what that means for her culture and identity. With one foot in both cultures, she feels she can’t fit in anywhere and that her differences cause too much tension for her to be treated as an equal. To top that off, she frequently has to deal with racism and microagressions from those around her, even her friends.

Through this internal tension, Kan still chooses to see the best in people. She lets slurs roll off her back because she wants to believe that they don’t realize what they said. She welcomes the girl her mom brings home to stay with open arms and attempts to make her feel comfortable and wanted. Kan is crazy loyal and kind, while still going through angsty teenage drama within her family. She’s honestly the friend that everyone needs in high school.

Dunn’s writing is immersive and engaging. The set-up of the story felt natural and not forced at all. I honestly forgot I was reading a thriller and I should expect strange things until I was knee deep in the evidence. Though, I do distinctly remember starting to feel uneasy about Shelly’s manipulative friendship almost a fourth of the way through the book. The pace of the book started to snowball from there, getting more and more intense. I couldn’t put it down—I read the whole thing in less than 24 hours. While the beginning of the book didn’t reveal things too quickly, somewhere in the second half it felt like little facts were being revealed in much too obvious a manner, which allowed me to guess the last major plot twist a while before it arrived. I wonder if we didn’t get the chapters from Shelly’s perspective if that would’ve kept me in the dark enough that the ending would be more of a surprise with a side of “how did I not notice that?”

Of course, there’s a swoon-worthy guy in this book. It’s charming how much he wants to be able to save Kan and keep her from harm, but ultimately, she needed to be strong enough to do it on her own. He is so genuine and adorable, how could you not adore him just as much as Kan does?

Girl on the Verge is intense, relevant, and enjoyable, creating characters that are easy to connect with and a plot that keeps you glued to the page. This is my first read by Dunn, but I will definitely be coming back for more!

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Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL.

Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. Her debut novel, FORGET TOMORROW, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. Her other novels include THE DARKEST LIE, REMEMBER YESTERDAY, and the novella BEFORE TOMORROW.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at http://www.pintipdunn.com

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