Book Review – Counting Wolves

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

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

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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.

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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.

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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!

Purchase Links

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iBooks

 

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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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Book Blitz – Butterfly in Amber

Title: Butterfly in Amber (Spotless #4)
Author: Camilla Monk
Publication date: May 12th 2017
Genre: Adult, Mystery, Romance
Goodreads

Synopsis:

He’s waiting for you…

Under a blanket of snow, surrounded by dark woods and a frozen sea, lies an ogre’s castle. There lives a little princess, trapped in the maze of her own mind.

On a battlefield where the past meets the present stand a fairy godmother and a pirate, an old ice cream man and a knight in shining clean armor…

The clock is ticking fast, and to pierce the ogre’s secrets and defeat him, Island Chaptal will have to fight to remember…and stay alive.

Can the Lions and the Roomba cats be stopped before it’s too late?

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

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I didn’t mean to, but I just dropped my glass again. It still happens—less than it used to. From time to time, my hands will shake uncontrollably, and whatever I’m holding will go crash, splatter, scatter on the floor, for Stiles to pick and clean up, as always.

“I’m sorry,” I say, without looking at him.

As he carefully mops the purple mess of broken glass and grape juice on the tiling, he smiles that sweet, empty smile he always gives me. Faded, like his baby blue eyes. “It’s all right; we’re good. That marble has seen worse.”

I mumble another apology, gazing past him and through the bay window, at the ghostly silhouettes of the snow-covered pines surrounding the castle. You can’t see the Baltic Sea, but it’s there, beyond the trees, encircling the island. My father sent me here to rest because he says it’s quiet; it’ll help me find myself again. “An island for Island,” he said, and it made him chuckle. When I’m depressed though, which is more often than I like to admit, I just think my world has shrunk to a mile-long rock.

“Island, are you still with me?”

I look up at Stiles and nod automatically, but in truth, for a second I didn’t recognize him. I mean, I did, but it’s his voice or, rather, his accent. He told me once he was born in a place called Denton, in Georgia, where time trickled slowly and people squeezed their pennies so hard the eagle screamed. He said he spent sixteen years there, hunting quail, skipping church, and waiting for something to happen—according to him, the rest of the town is probably still waiting. All he kept from his hometown is a soft drawl that will occasionally weigh on his vowels. There’s nothing wrong with that, but every time he opens his mouth, it’s like my brain is expecting something more, someone else, until the feeling is gone, and I remember that it’s just Stiles.

I don’t know; it’s just one of the many things that are wrong with me. I guess I’m still pretty messed up since my accident. I feel slow, confused most of the time. Everybody tells me it’s normal, that eight months is not much to recover from the kind of trauma I went through, that maybe it’ll take years. I hope not. I turned twenty-six in September, and I’d rather not stay a convalescent child for the rest of my life.

Once he’s done wiping the last pinkish smear, Stiles wastes no time crossing the kitchen and opening the fridge to grab the bottle of juice again. He reminds me of a big robot: The man is cut like a Terminator, and he never gives up, never gets distracted. I drop the glass where he put my meds? He’ll fetch another one. I never tried, but I’m pretty sure that if I dropped it ten times, he’d fix it all over again ten times too. Always the same gray dress pants, white shirt, and black tie every day, always the same blond crew cut I suspect never grows. I could complain he also looks forty every day, but that’d be unfair: it’s not like I’ve known him for so long.

My heart skips a beat at the distressing thought. I have. I’ve known him almost all my life, since the day my father hired him to take care of me. Bodyguard, nanny, nurse . . . friend, maybe?

How could I know? I don’t remember any of that.

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Camilla Monk is a French native who grew up in a Franco-American family. After finishing her studies, she taught English and French in Tokyo before returning to France to work in advertising. Today, she builds rickety websites for financial companies and lives in Montreal, where she keeps a close watch on the squirrels and complains on a daily basis about the egregious number of Tim Hortons.

Her writing credits include the English resumes and cover letters of a great many French friends, and some essays as well. She’s also the critically acclaimed author of a few passive-aggressive notes pasted in her building’s elevator.

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Blog Tour/Review – Off the Ice

Title: Off the Ice (Juniper Falls #1)
Author: Julie Cross
Published: February 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary, Romance
Goodreads 

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

Off the Ice CoverSynopsis:

All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

“I’m breathing hard, my pulse pounding. Dad snatches the puck from my glove and stares me down. I can’t tell if he’s pissed that I blocked his shot or surprised. All I know is that I want him to go back to the center ice and do it again. And again.” (chapter 23)

I have the privilege of being on Entangled Teen’s blog tour for Julie Cross’s new book, Off the Ice. When I first heard of this book, I got excited because I love stories that involve hockey. After all, The Mighty Ducks was one of the best movies to grow up on. The boyfriend and I are even planning on going to a hockey game next week – bring it on! The hockey element definitely added some fun and tension to this story, which I loved. Before I get started with my review, I would just like to point out that there are many other stops on this tour! Check the banner below for more reviews, interviews, and guest posts to get you excited about this book.

OffTheIceTour

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR HERE!


I went into this book thinking it would be a fluffy romance with some conflict on the ice, something that was easy to read and made me feel good. That impression was shot down almost immediately. This snow-covered town of Juniper Falls holds so many secrets and the drama they cause can sometimes be dark. I was on the edge of my seat almost the entire day and a half it took me to finish this book. The drama! To reiterate, this isn’t a fluffy romance; the plot includes sex, alcohol abuse, underage drinking, physical abuse, and language.

Juniper Falls is a small, fictional town in Minnesota that lives and breathes hockey. The boys are raised to be hockey players and the girls to cheer them on (ayyye, sexist much? Though, there is mention of a little girl taking hockey classes, so a point for equality.) Tate grew up in the shadow of his hockey star father, whose dream in life is to relive his glory through his son. During the first game of the season, the Otters’ goalie walks out, and Tate suddenly goes from being a benchwarmer second goalie to the star goalie for the season. But can he get out of his head for long enough to catch the pucks? And what is he supposed to do with all these secrets coming out of the woodwork, including his own? The thing about Juniper Falls is that they have this perfect picture of what their town should look like. Anyone who strays from these perfectly functioning idealisms is ostracized and shut out. Tate struggles with keeping his own secrets from coming out, while also figuring out how to respond to those that have had their life and choices put on display.

Claire was chasing her dreams of being an actress at college when her world got flipped upside down and she was called home to help with her father and his bar. She develops this strong, independent will that ultimately puts other’s needs before her own. Whether this means sabotaging her own dreams or pushing people away so that they can find their own, Claire constantly has a battle in her head about what she deserves and what other people need. Like Tate, she also struggles with the secrets she knows and how different people would respond to these.

Chasing dreams, making them your own, discovering the values of friendships, and finding a love worth fighting for, Off the Ice has such beautiful themes, which are diamonds in the darkness of the heavier themes found. The writing feels very much as if in a high schooler’s head, so it wasn’t exceptionally stimulating, but the plot definitely took my by surprise and gripped me until the very end. The climax(es) had my heart pounding, but the fight for love and dreams melted me to a puddle. Tate and Claire’s adventure is a rollercoaster you will need to buckle up your heart for, wrapping up smoothly with hopes for the future.

Purchase Links:

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

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Julie Cross is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, and Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press). She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, and many more to come!

Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA. She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres. Outside of her reading and writing credibilities, Julie Cross is a committed—but not talented—long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.

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