Book Review/Blog Tour

Title: Risking It All
Author: S.M. Koz
Published: June 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Goodreads

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like It

Risking

Synopsis:

A high-achieving teen who’s determined to become a fighter jet pilot is matched up with an accused criminal at an elite military boarding school in SM Koz’s YA novel, Risking It All.

Paige knows exactly what she wants—to graduate from Wallingford Academy and become a pilot in the US Air Force. She’s inherited her father’s no-nonsense attitude and whip-smart intelligence, all of which have made her the perfect Wallingford cadet.

Wallingford Academy is the last place in the world Logan wants to be. But after his girlfriend borrows his car and commits a crime, Logan takes the fall and ends up there with hopes of striking a decent plea bargain. For him, graduation can’t come soon enough.

When Paige is asked to mentor Logan, it’s the perfect opportunity to prove her leadership skills—but she doesn’t account for the feelings that start to develop or the baggage from Logan’s past which could threaten both of their futures.

A very happy book birthday to Risking It All by SM Koz! Thank you to Koz, Swoon Reads, and Xpresso Book Tours for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review. You can click the banner above to follow the tour for more reviews and excerpts.

Paige has had her whole life planned out for as long as she can remember. All she wants in life is to follow her fathers footsteps…well, almost. Being a student and cadet at Wallingford Academy is everything she could ask for to help her achieve her dreams. While Logan doesn’t have his whole life mapped out, or really any of it, Wallingford is the exact opposite of what he wants. His bad attitude could really hurt his chances in court, but how else is he supposed to respond to this torture?

Paige and Logan are as opposite as can be, but that’s the best part. The more time they’re forced to spend together, the more those differences help round out each other’s personalities. They are able to learn things from each other that neither expects. The character growth in this story is absolutely captivating to watch–and it really feels like you’re right there in the sidelines, watching. As each hurtle comes, Paige and Logan find themselves learning more and more how to loosen their closed hands and open themselves up to new perspectives.

I’ve read one other book by Koz, so I was not surprised how engaging the writing was. The military aspect of this story was a very cool addition; I haven’t read any books about this career area, but it was quite the enjoyable premise. It allowed for situations that really helped flesh out the characters and helped me connect with them. I was on board from chapter one. There were moments where I would get frustrated at Logan for not coming clean, and therefore digging himself in a hole more and more. But if he had come clean, we wouldn’t have this beautiful story between him and Paige. This hate-to-love is a win for me.

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About the Author

SM Koz was born in Michigan, but moved to North Carolina for college and never left. She enjoys traveling, camping, hiking, photography, reading, spending time with foster kids who call her house home, and learning new things. When she’s not creating online training for pharmaceutical companies (her day job) or writing, Koz can be found at the local community college taking courses on various topics ranging from digital art to HTML to desktop publishing. SM Koz has written six novels. Although her stories differ by genre, ranging from contemporary realism to sci-fi to fanfiction, two things they all have in common are a young or new adult focus and romance. If you’d like to learn more about SM Koz, check her out on social media.

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Giveaway

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Blog Tour/Review – Watching You

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Follow the rest of the tour HERE!

Title: Watching You
Author: Shannon Greenland
Published: July 2nd 2018
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult
Rating: 3 stars
Cover: Like it
WY
Synopsis:

Viola’s always been that girl from that family, so a scholarship to a prestigious private school in Florida was supposed to be her ticket out of poverty and into a brand-new life. But Viola’s secrets have followed her. Her relationship with the intelligent and gorgeous Riel should have been the salvation she needed—he understands her troubled past better than anyone. But then weird things start to happen.

Frightening messages.

Missing personal items.

The unsettling feeling that she’s being watched.

Viola’s never been one to give her trust easily, but she’ll need to trust in Riel if she’s going to survive her stalker. Because she’s not fighting for a new life anymore—she’s fighting to stay alive.

“I’ve been watching you…” (chapter 36)
Happy book birthday to Watching You by Shannon Greenland! Thank you Greenland, Entangled Teen, and Xpresso Book Tours for giving me an eARC in exchange for an honest review. This thriller/romance was a honestly more romance than thriller,  but I still found myself seeing things out of the corner of my eye and jumping as a result.
Viola finally made it out. She’s going to be the first person in her family to graduate high school, to go to college. After all her hard work, and maybe a little fib or two, she got into her dream private school for her senior year of high school, all on a full-ride scholarship. All she needs to do is keep her head down and her grades up and she could have a real shot at getting into MIT and away from her life of poverty. Only, by taking the scholarship, she learns that she forced Riel, the scholarship student of the past three years, to pay the ridiculous tuition out of pocket, while juggling raising his sister and working every chance he can get. Honestly, the fact that he’s so nice about it just makes Viola feel more guilty.
Riel is such a dream boat. He was born in Spain and Greenland’s descriptions of him will make your heart patter. He’s kind, thoughtful, calculated, and competitive. Does he get any better? While he and Viola get off to a rough start, he ends up being the anchor to Viola’s life when strange things start happening–like that weird feeling that someone is watching her.
Viola’s struggle with trying to be friends with people who have never had a problem with money is refreshing. Her drive and hard work to build a future for herself, to help her family is inspiring. And the friendship and romance that builds between her and Riel is captivating!
Some of the dialogue, particularly in the beginning, felt very unnatural and it was harder to get lost in the book until the initial background stories were built. I also wish that the stalker “chapters” weren’t included at all–they were not necessary to build the tension, didn’t actually add anything, and the writing specifically for those chapters was very awkward. I almost wanted to skip them, but was worried I’d miss some important information. Now that I’ve read them, I can tell you with confidence to just skip the stalker chapters for a better flow to the story. Otherwise, this was a fun read that draws your heartstrings, while keeping you very much on your toes!

Purchase Links:

 Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

About the Author
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Shannon Greenland is the award winning author of several novels including the teen spy series, THE SPECIALISTS, and the YA romances, THE SUMMER MY LIFE BEGAN and SHADOW OF A GIRL. She also writes thrillers under S. E. Green and lives off the coast of Florida with her very grouchy dog.

 

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Book Review/Blog Tour – The Game Can’t Love You Back

Happy book birthday to The Game Can’t Love You Back by Karole Cozzo! I LOVED this baseball romance and it’s spunky characters! Click the banner below to follow the rest of the tour. Read on to hear my review–thank you Xpresso Book Tours, Swoon Reads, and Karole Cozzo for my eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.


 

 

Title: The Game Can’t Love You Back
Author: Karole Cozzo
Published: May 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: It’s okay

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Synopsis:

Eve is used to being the odd woman out. As the only girl on her school’s baseball team, she knows exactly how to put sweaty, macho baseball players in their place, and she’s focused on one thing and one thing only—being the best pitcher she can be.

But when a freak accident forces her high school to be absorbed by the neighboring town, Eve has to contend with a new group of guys who aren’t used to having a woman on their team. And the new team’s star pitcher, Jamie, has no interest in being ousted from his throne. He can’t afford to give up his starting slot to a new pitcher—even worse, to a girl.

As the competition between Jamie and Eve starts to heat up, so does their attraction to each other. Can they keep their heads in the game, or will they end up getting played?

“And maybe if you’d pull your head out of your ass and stop feeling so personally offended by everything I do, you’d see that. You’d see that I love the game every bit as much as you do and deserve to be out there, too.” (chapter 9)

Why haven’t I been reading more sports romances? I think this every time I pick one up. I am a big fan of baseball, especially going to see games in person. However, not growing up in a sports-sleeping-eating-breathing family, I’m actually still learning every time I go to a game. I was THRILLED to discover that I understood every single term and phrase in this book aside from one, which I obviously looked up so NOW I know it–haha. Knowing the game made me feel way more immersed into the book, however, the terms and phrases weren’t overly confusing, so someone who isn’t as familiar with the game could still enjoy this story just as much!

The thing I love most about sports romance novels and sports movies is the passion and drive behind dedicated athletes. The inspiration that builds up seeing the characters work hard for something. It fills me with pride every single time. The thing I love most about hate-to-love romances (which it is very clear that this story is from the beginning) is seeing the characters learn about each other in a way that they wouldn’t have if they didn’t get under each other’s skin, and learning that they actually like these aspects they discover.

A theme throughout the book, which is highlighted in the title, is what love looks like, and how it looks different for different things and people. There is a raw honesty to Eve’s desire to fill her life with her passion and love for the game so that she doesn’t have to explore the confusing and sometimes tricky path of loving a person who may or may not feel the same way. Cozzo does a great job of showing Eve’s internal struggle with where to put her heart and whether it would be worth it to put it somewhere that may hurt.

Eve is perfectly stubborn, driven, and works her ass off. Jamie is the same, which causes tension, especially given that she is a girl on his baseball team. But they both learn to open up and let the other person in–discovering that they can no longer be the person that they once were. The competitive setting for this story is PERFECT for highlighting both character’s strengths and weaknesses, plus it just makes everything way more fun. The sparring and banter between the two will have you smiling like an idiot the whole time. The character growth and inspirational drive will grow your heart three sizes, even if you’re a Grinch. I am looking forward to read Cozzo’s other work.

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About the Author

Author Bio:

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

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Giveaway

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Book Review – No Vain Loss

Title: No Vain Loss (No Ordinary Star #3)
Author: M.C. Frank
Published: November 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia

Rating: 2 stars
Cover: Like it

no vain loss cover

Synopsis:

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do.
A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive.
A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack.
The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.
This is the One World.
The year is 2524.

Inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, this futuristic young adult novel in three parts is set in a world where Christmas—among other things—is obsolete and a Clock is what keeps the fragile balance of peace.

Written in three parts, this is the breathtaking story of how two unlikely people change the world, and each other, one book at a time.

In No Vain Loss, the world is on the brink of the greatest war humanity has ever known. Lives will be lost. New truths will be revealed.

*I received a free eARC of this book from the author in return for an honest review. Check out my reviews for the first two books in the series HERE and HERE.*

 The long awaited finale of the No Ordinary Star series is finally arriving November 25th. I’ve loved following along the journey of Felix and Astra in their dystopian world. This final book answers a lot of questions, while bringing me back to this creative world Frank has dreamt up and the characters I’ve grown to care about. The first two books have built up to this big struggle of powers in the final book, and Frank did a good job of keeping the foreshadowed action exciting.

However, I had quite a few problems with this installment. While the ideas are good and the twists have been built up, the writing itself seems incredibly rushed and spacey in comparison to the other books. I found myself getting frustrated because it felt like Frank was talking in circles, frequently repeating herself several times before moving on to the next thing—and I’m not even talking about the different perspectives. Often times I’d finish a page and wonder why it took so long to say one thing. Everything felt scattered and it was exceedingly hard to stick with it. I even feel like the synopsis shows signs of this, and it doesn’t actually tell you anything about the story.

In the first two books, getting Felix’s perspective AND Astra’s perspective added to the plot immensely, especially because they both came from different backgrounds of knowledge. In the third book, the different perspectives seem pointless because they don’t add anything different to the story. There were also these moments where Felix and Astra would have entire conversations with their eyes: fully fleshed out thoughts being conveyed without a sound. I definitely feel like you can tell someone something with your eyes, but these conversations felt like such a stretch, I had a hard time believing it was anywhere near possible. The suspension of disbelief was just not there.

I was so excited about this final installment and, while I felt like my questions were answered and some of the plot twists were long awaited, I just felt like it missed the mark by a mile. I wanted to love it, but I just ended up confused by the circular writing.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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