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.

Purchase Links:
Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play

 

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.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

Giveaway

Tour-wide giveaway (US/CAN)
Print copy of Risking It All
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Book Review – Game Plan

Title: Game Plan (Varsity Girlfriends #4)
Author: Kayla Tirrell
Published: May 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Goodreads

Rating: 5 Stars
Cover: It’s okay

cover

Synopsis:

I’ve only got one shot to win his heart.

I’ve had a crush on Preston Royce for as long as I can remember. Only, I’ve never told him, or anyone, because he doesn’t see me that way. (And because his sister, Charlie, happens to be my best friend!)

But when Preston’s girlfriend breaks his heart, Charlie comes up with a plan to get them back together–a plan that involves Preston and me pretending to date.

Yeah, it’s a bad idea cozying up with a guy who’s still in love with his ex, but it may be my only chance to get close to him before we graduate high school. He thinks we’re faking.

Meanwhile, I’m falling more in love with him…

Game Plan is perfect for anyone who likes their sweet romance with a dash of drama. It is the fourth book in the Varsity Girlfriends series.

“Every time I felt like I’d made some progress in turning mine and Preston’s fake relationship into something real, she showed up and reminded me exactly where I stood. I was a placeholder, and my only purpose was to make Beth jealous” (chapter 14)

Happy book birthday to Game Plan, by Kayla Tirrell! Thank you for a free copy in return for an honest review.

My heart is bursting from my chest! The utter sweetness of this story completely oozes off the pages in the best way possible. I’m so happy that we get to revisit the Royce family in a whole separate book, but now with a deeper look into the character of Preston. My heart is SWOONING for Daria’s and Preston’s fake relationship. Have I mentioned before how these types of stories are my favorite? The only sad thing is that basketball season is basically over at the beginning of the book, so there’s not much action on the court for a sports romance.

Daria is struggling to define who she is and what she wants. Her parents have a very clear idea of who they think she is, but all the options outside of their plans is overwhelming. All she knows for sure is that her best friend’s brother stole her heart many years ago and she might die from embarrassment if they found out. Which is probably why she said yes to Charlie’s harebrained idea for Daria to fake date Preston. Nothing can go wrong there, right?

I was rooting for Daria the entire time. It felt so familiar to revisit this town and all the people around them that help shape their every day lives, but I think that’s what makes this story, making a full circle back to book one, all the more sweeter. There’s no one else I wanted to root for in the whole series more than these two.

Book Review – Not Far from the Peach Tree

NotFarFromThePeachTreeTour

Follow the tour HERE!

Title: Not Far from the Peach Tree
Author: Sabrina Falk
Published: February 2019
Genre: Contemporary
Goodreads

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: Like it

PeachTree_HR_Cover

Synopsis:

Anxiety has become the only thing Abigail Hartley can count on. Jobless, dreamless, loveless and stuck living with her parents—this isn’t the 22 she had in mind.

But when tragic news rattles the Hartley household and years of secrecy begin to surface, Abigail can no longer hide behind her fears. She joins forces with her sarcastic, pre-teen sister and heads to the only place that might have the answers she’s looking for. One month in Georgia is all it takes to change everything Abigail knows about, well, everything.

“I wish that were true. I wish I would stop messing things up. I wish–I wish my fairy godmother were here, then all this wishing would be good for something” (chapter 19).

Thank you Sabrina Falk, Peasantry Press, and Chapter by Chapter for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

I genuinely loved this sweet story about a lost city girl who learns about herself by following her history to a small town in Georgia. Welcome to your 20’s, people. I have never related more to a character than I related to the feelings of despair when faced with the realization that you have no idea what you’re doing with your life. It’s like you’re staring at a brick wall with all the possibilities just beyond it, but no energy to climb it. This is where Abigail is in life, and it doesn’t help that she feels like her parents way of supporting her is by trying to push her, and suggesting she move out.

When Abigail’s grandmother dies, she’s faced with a wave of questions. Who was she? Why did her mother have a poor relationship with her? How come she never got the opportunity to get to know her? So Abigail decides to fake an internship that would please her parents, while including a junior program for her spirited sister who just got put on probation at school, so that the both of them can go to Georgia to learn what they can about this mysterious woman. While she and her sister get their late grandmother’s house ready for an estate sale, Abigail uncovers family secrets set in motion before her mother was even born.

Abigail’s character is so kind and unsure of herself. As she learns more about her grandmother, she starts learning more about herself, and it made my heart happy to see her grow in confidence. Her sister, Maddy, was probably my favorite character, though. She is so spunky, sarcastic, and always hungry! Every time she opened her mouth, I looked forward to what she would say. And of course, how can you write a story set in a small town in Georgia without introducing a swoonable country boy love interest? Lemme tell ya, he’s a good one.

Falk writes an engaging, genuine story with humor from start to finish. The town is charming and full of secrets, the people are hospitable and gossipy, and the sun is just plan hot. I would definitely watch this story unfold in a feel-good movie.

Purchase Links:

BAM| Chapters| Indies| Amazon| B&N| iBooks| Kobo | TBD

Sabrina Falk is a Canadian writer from Southern Manitoba. She received an English Language Arts scholarship at NCI in her graduating year. She is also the co-creator of Matt Falk’s Awful Podcast and played Melissa in the World Vision tour of POOF across Manitoba. She loves traveling all over the world with her family, but Southern Manitoba has always been her home.

Not Far from the Peach Tree is Sabrina Falk’s debut novel.

Twitter | Goodreads

 


Giveaway Details:
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Book Review – Valiant

Title: Valiant
Author: Merrie Destefano
Published: December 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Rating: 1 Star
Cover: Like It

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Synopsis:

The Valiant was supposed to save us. Instead, it triggered the end of the world. Earth is in shambles. Everyone, even the poorest among us, invested in the Valiant’s space mining mission in the hope we’d be saved from ourselves. But the second the ship leaves earth’s atmosphere, our fate is sealed. The alien invasion begins. They pour into cities around the world through time portals, possessing humans, forcing us to kill one another. And for whatever reason, my brother is their number one target. Now the fate of the world lies in the hands of me, a seventeen-year-old girl, but with the help of my best friend, Justin–who’s suddenly starting to feel like more–maybe if we save my brother, we can save us all…

 

“We don’t talk about things that break our hearts.
But it doesn’t mean our hearts aren’t broken” (chapter 13)

Thank you Entangled Teen and Merry Destefano for a free eARC of this book in return for an honest review.

I had pretty high hopes for this book. I love seeing more sci-fi books in the YA genre, and the cover is exciting. However, I had issues from the first page, starting with the very short and repetitive sentences. There was nothing about the writing that was engaging.

In the beginning of Valiant, Sara watches the launch of the much anticipated Valiant ship to usher in the future everyone needs. After the celebrations of the coming future, the world is turned upside down with an alien invasion from the very planet the Valiant is headed to. Sara watches everyone in her life die, only to then be confronted by one of the aliens, who tells Sara that she needs to go back in time to save her brother, who will save the world.

I wish Sara didn’t travel through time. Maybe the alien could’ve come earlier to tell her what she needs to know about this horrible day–I’m thinking more along the lines of The Terminator. But there was a lot of inconsistencies and confusion and I’m not really sure why she has to KEEP mentioning that she has done this fifteen times and this timeline is different. It would be better and less repetitive if this wasn’t part of the plot at all–it doesn’t add anything. The Valiant’s launch is constantly regarded as the thing to end the world, but the plot isn’t very clear that it’s because of the mining trip, so I spent most of the book confused what they had to do with each other.

The concept could’ve been great, but it needs a lot of work to get there, tying up all the inconsistencies and focusing more on character development. Sara and Justin’s relationship is so flat, as well as the character development between the crew, that I didn’t feel engaged or really any emotion for them. I wanted so much more than I was given.

Book Tour/Review – The Fear of Falling

Title: The Fear of Falling
Author: Amanda Cowen
Published: October 2018
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Goodreads

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Don’t Like It

FearofFalling

Synopsis:

When Ella Jones’ twenty-first birthday ends with a bang – literally – she never imagined it would be with her best friend since freshman year, Ryan Owen.

A year later, after their so called “mistake”, they’re still best friends and about to rock their Senior year at the University of San Francisco. But when Ryan returns from spending a summer in Australia and brings back a friend, Liam George, who takes an immediate liking to Ella, Ryan starts to question the Aussie’s intentions with his best friend. The trouble is, Ryan has a girlfriend of his own, and Ella and Ryan swore they would never cross that line again – until they do.

They try not to let their second slip up affect their friendship, but when Spring Break forces them to vacation under the same roof; and Ryan’s ex walks back into his life, Ella is shocked by a fierce stab of possessiveness. And when Ella continues to see Liam, Ryan finds himself plagued by unfamiliar jealousy. With their friendship strained for the first time, Ella and Ryan face an alarming truth: Maybe they can’t be just friends. Maybe they are falling faster than expected. And maybe, deep down, they want to.

“Sometimes I hate how he knows me so well” (p. 52).

Thank you Amanda Cowen and Xpresso Tours for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

College has a wonderful way of introducing you to people who become life-long friends. It’s been a topic on my mind for about a month now as I’ve realized that some of my closest friends have been in my life for seven or eight years now, and it’s all because we went to school and lived life on the same campus. I feel like it was perfect timing to pick up this book, which is filled with quirky friendships that stand the test of time. Most importantly, the friendship of Ella and Ryan, who will always be there for each other, who understand each other’s struggles and fears, and who most definitely will never ever be romantically involved…right?

Change is so scary, especially when it involves another person. When Ella and Ryan “accidentally” hook up on the night of her 21st birthday party, they’re forced to stare change right in the face, or run away. Running away sounds easier. Unfortunately, no matter how much they tell themselves that it was a one time thing and a mistake, no matter how many times they remind themselves that they work so well as best friends, things just aren’t the same. When other people start coming into the picture, both friends are forced to deal with surprising jealousy, and are forced to find a new normality between each other. Ryan was cocky as hell and it sometimes drove me crazy, but it all feels right in the end.

Cowen writes the most frustratingly slow of burns and I kept holding my breath to see what would happen next. I’m still pretty new to the NA genre, and some of those sex scenes had me blushing in public, but I’m a sucker for best-friend-to-lover stories because I’m living one. That panicky feeling of, “But this is going to change everything,” is all too familiar to me, and it always makes me smile, because I’ve learned that change can be great. Cowen does a great job of capturing the insecure thoughts and the displays of love for each other. I sometimes felt like yelling at the characters, but was eating up everything at the same time. You’ll definitely be rooting for these two.

Purchase Link:
Amazon

About the Author

Amanda Cowen can be found eating cupcakes, singing off-key, or watching a good RomCom when she isn’t trapped on her computer writing stories. She is an “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” fanatic, a hater of roller-coasters and a country music junkie. She lives in Thunder Bay, ON where the summers are short and the winters are long.

Amanda would love to hear from her readers. Become a fan on Facebook, follow her on Instagram @authoramandacowen, or follow her on Goodreads.

Goodreads / Facebook / Instagram

 

Giveaway

Tour-wide giveaway (INTL)
$25 Amazon gift card

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Book Tour/Review – Hot Pursuit

Title: Hot Pursuit (To Catch a Thief #1)
Author: Kay Marie
Published: August 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Goodreads

Rating: 3 stars
Cover: Don’t Like It

HotPursuit

Synopsis:

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days meets White Collar in this sassy and sweet romantic comedy, new from bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis, writing as Kay Marie.

All Jolene Carter has ever wanted is a bakery of her own. There’s only one problem. Her father, Robert Carter, is a world-renowned art thief and she’s, well, sort of his protégé. But he’s promised her this next job in New York will be their last, and she won’t let anyone get in the way of her dreams…especially not the distractingly delicious FBI agent hot on her tail.

Agent Nate Parker has been on the Robert Carter case for years, and if rumors of the aging criminal’s retirement are true, this might be his last chance to nail him. With the legacy of his late father in the back of his mind, the stakes are more personal than anyone realizes. He won’t let anything stand in the way of justice…especially not the red-headed vixen who keeps giving him the slip.

He’s a cop who’d never bend. She’s a con who’ll never break. But all’s fair in love and larceny…

“But there was a different kind of glory to be found in the shades of gray. A different kind of beauty, if he’d just open his eyes and see, if he’d only let her show him” (p. 216)

Happy book birthday to Hot Pursuit by Kay Marie! Thank you Kay Marie and Xpresso Book Tours for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Jolene and Nate’s story is sassy, sexy, and funny. Jolene has a way of getting under Nate’s skin and screwing up his perfectly organized, black and white world. If only she could stop playing with him for a day, maybe he’ll finally be able to pin all her family’s crimes on them.

Jolene never asked for the criminal life and she’s starting to learn that there’s more at play in this game that she thought. All she wants in life is to be able to create new bakery inventions and open her own bakery, but with everything she’s done for her father, will that dream ever become tangible?

Kay Marie writes a fast-paced, fun story where the lines between good guy and bad guy get blurred, and the only way either can win is by letting go of the things that give them those titles. I enjoyed learning about Jolene and Nate’s individual stories, and how it brought them to where they are today. While the characters were enjoyable, I found the writing lacking. Kay Marie uses short, abrupt, and even repetitive sentences to add to the drama, but they are used so liberally in this book that I started to get annoyed. I found myself reading faster to find out what happened, but also to marinate in the writing as little as possible. The story was fun, I just wish it was better written.

Purchase Link:

Amazon

About the Author

Kaitlyn Davis, a bestselling author with over a quarter of a million books sold, writes young adult fantasy novels under the name Kaitlyn Davis and contemporary romance novels under the name Kay Marie. Publishers Weekly has said, “Davis writes with confidence and poise,” while USA Today has recommended her work as “must-read romance.”

Always blessed with an overactive imagination, Kaitlyn has been writing ever since she picked up her first crayon and is overjoyed to share her work with the world. When she’s not daydreaming, typing stories, or getting lost in fictional worlds, Kaitlyn can be found playing fetch with her puppy, watching a little too much television, or spending time with her family. If you have any questions for her–about her books, about scheduling an event, or just in general–you may contact her at: KaitlynDavisBooks@gmail.com

Sign up for Kaitlyn’s newsletter to stay up-to-date with all of her new releases, to receive exclusive subscriber bonus content, and more!

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

Giveaway

Tour-wide giveaway (INTL)
$25 Amazon gift card

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Blog Tour/Review – Watching You

WatchingYouTourBanner

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
possible-promo
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.

 

Giveaway

Giveaway Details (INTL):

3x $10 Amazon gift cards

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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

game

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.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

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.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

Giveaway

GIVEAWAY:
Print copy of The Game Can’t Love You Back

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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.

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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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Review – Fighting Fate (Joining of Souls #2)

Shaila Patel’s second installation of the Joining of Souls series comes out in FIVE DAYS! Today I’ve got an early review for you to help you get excited. Thank you, Shaila Patel, for my eARC. If you missed my review for the first book, check it out here: Soulmated. I also have an interview with the author after the first book’s release HERE, as well as an excerpt of Fighting Fate HERE!

Title: Fighting Fate (Joining of Souls #2)
Author: Shaila Patel
Published: April 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy
Goodreads 

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: It’s Okay

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Synopsis:

Empath Liam Whelan is determined to protect Laxshmi “Lucky” Kapadia, the girl he loves, at all costs–even if it means breaking her heart to keep her alive. Stopping the joining cold means Liam’s life is in danger from the Soul Seekers and the ruthless Minister Gagliardi who now has designs on Lucky. Liam has no choice but to find the strength to fight his desires, fight the joining, and fight fate.

After the unthinkable happened, Lucky’s “hallucinations” have been working double-time. Heartbroken and plagued by doubts, she meets a man who gives her a mind-blowing explanation for her predicament. Her apparent savior provides her with an escape from her hell: run away with him or return to her drab existence and watch Liam move on with her heart in his hands. All Lucky ever craved was to be in control of her own fate, but when her only choices fight against her heart, can she find the strength to battle for what she wants?

“Who was the real Lucky?” (chapter 17)

Shaila Patel did it again! The characters were captivating, the connections between Liam and Lucky were descriptive, and my heart was beating out of my chest with ANOTHER cliffhanger! Why do you do this to me, Shaila?

One thing I particularly loved about this second book is the more in depth looks into Liam and Lucky’s individual cultures, as well as that of the empaths. The descriptions of the landscape of Ireland and the foods of Lucky’s Indian heritage created a desire to know more, to understand more. I even went and made myself some penda after reading the mouth-watering descriptions! There is also a bunch more background on the empath history, which sometimes slowed the plot down quite a bit, but it all ties up very nicely by the end of the book.

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As Lucky learns more about what it means to be an empath, her powers and connection with Liam, and the dangers racing toward her, it honestly gave me some Twilight vibes. Let me preface this by saying I do NOT like the Twilight books, I DO like the Joining of Souls books. For starters, I think Patel writes these stories better than Meyers did. But the phenomenon of Lucky turning into this supernatural being and Liam teaching her about this world and her powers made me feel a ton of similarities between the stories. Thankfully, while Liam and Lucky can get pretty obsessive about each other, neither are whiney and selfish like Bella and Edward. In fact, one thing I admire a ton about their love for each other is how much they seek to put the other person before themselves, trying to give them what’s best for them. But, like typical teenagers, that’s not always actually the best thing for them.

There is still the tension of Lucky’s mom’s desires and Lucky being straddled between Indian culture, American culture, and empath culture, which is one of the most interesting conflicts in these books in my opinion. How does Lucky stand up to her mom without dishonoring her? How can she be one person split between so many people and worlds?

Patel does a fantastic job of jumping in right where Soulmated ended, while also slowly reminding you of things from the first book without being completely obnoxious. Yes, that’s a thing. I remember hating it way back when I was a kid reading the Nancy Drew books as a kid. YES I KNOW WHO NANCY IS BY THIS POINT, OKAY? The last fourth of the book had my heart racing. I was reading as fast as I can, devouring the drama. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, Shaila LOVES her cliffhangers, so now I have to wait even MORE impatiently for the next book!