Book Review – Turtles All the Way Down

Title: Turtles All the Way Down
Author: John Green
Published: October 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Goodreads

Rating: 5 stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russle Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

“Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see” (p. 9).

John Green has finally released another book, and one about a girl navigating life with anxiety and OCD no less. In the promotion for his new book, Green revealed that this story is a special one as he deals with these things as well. No wonder it took a while for him to finish—but the wait was well rewarded!

Green has a style of writing in the YA genre that is uniquely his own. His characters deal with tough issues in a very teenager way, but they are also very smart, which is something that isn’t done much in YA. Not that other authors are writing stupid characters, but Green allows his characters to wrestle with things by asking deep and intellectual questions—ones that I don’t see in other books. As Aza struggles with her OCD, she is struggling to understand who she is and if she can possibly be a person apart from the circumstances in her life. She’s constantly researching facts far beyond high school curriculum because she MUST know the answers. And yet, she is still a short sighted, self-centered teenager like the best of them. Somehow Green is able to create characters that are so intellectual without taking away from the fact that they are teenagers with a lot of life and learning ahead of them. Turtles All the Way Down is just another phenomenal example of this.

Aza explains her anxiety in the best way that she can, which is often jumbled and confusing, but captures the feeling so well. I found myself using some of her descriptions to explain to my boyfriend how it feels when I get anxious about something. Another theme throughout this book that I was actually pleasantly surprised to find was that of economical differences. Davis is obviously the son of a billionaire, but Aza and her best friend Daisy have several conversations about financial privilege and what “poor” looks like to them. I personally grew up in a lower economical status than many of my friends in high school, yet I never felt like we had to go without because of money. This theme throughout the book really resonated with me and I feel like Green raised a lot of interesting points by doing this.

Turtles All the Way Down is a book that our society needs. We need books that are open and honest about mental health, that helps people who don’t know understand, and that shows those who do that they are not alone. However, I love that, while Aza’s struggles were a huge part of the plot, it wasn’t the only thing going on in her life. She was also learning, as most teenagers do, about love, loss, how to be a good friend, and that the world is so much bigger than ourselves. She learns so much more in her own way, but I want you to learn along with her—pick up this book as soon as you can!

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 – Just Friends

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

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: It’s okay

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Links

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

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23. Writer. Reader. Sarcastic.

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

Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

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Book Review – The Library of Fates

Title: Library of Fates
Author: Aditi Khorana
Published: July 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
Goodreads

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: Like It

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Synopsis:

A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn.

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

“All I had now were stories, words, and hope” (p. 185)

Thank you Penguin Random House for an eARC of The Library of Fates.

This story is unlike one I’ve ever read before and I absolutely love that fact. Khorana writes an #ownvoice story about Indian folklore that completely dunks you into this awesomely beautiful culture and storytelling. The descriptions are colorful and vivid, evoking a subconscious sense of wanderlust, presenting a world that you will want to reach out to touch, taste, feel, and can’t get enough. Who wouldn’t want to explore a place like this: “Blue and silver minarets rose above the walled city of Shalingar’s capital—Ananta. A layer of marine fog settled over Chanakya Lake, revealing miniature houseboats wearing elaborate gardens on their roofs like soft, mossy hats. They sailed placidly across the flat, misty surface of the basin” (p. 7)?

Amrita is the daughter of an emperor who has kept her primarily contained within the palace walls her whole life. Honestly, the palace has so much for her, it’s not surprising that she doesn’t have huge dreams to leave. She has a great relationship with her father, a best friend from childhood who recently revealed his feelings for her, and a handmaiden-type woman who is basically a mother figure. While she can be a bit of a brat when she doesn’t get what she wants (Can you blame her, though? Everything is generally given to her usually.), she respects her dad and his leadership of their lands.

But everything gets flipped upside down when her father’s old friend comes to visit. Sikander is a sexist, entitled jerk who wants to own and rule over everything. Soon into his visit, he reveals his plan to take over the kingdom and wreak destruction to make it happen. Amrita is encouraged to flee to warn her people. She then is sent on a great journey with her new friend Thala, learning about the world outside her doorstep, about how to take risks and fight for the people she loves, about sacrifice, and that the folklore stories she grew up hearing had more truth than she ever dreamed and she played a big role in them.

While the writing was absolutely gorgeous and the adventure exciting, there were some slower parts that I just wanted to rush through. Plus, there were actually a couple love triangles and I’m not really about that life. However, even with those things, I cannot recommend this book enough!

The Library of Fates is an enchanting story that heavily focuses on love and sacrifice. The amount of sacrifices made throughout this story make you want to be a better person and love your people harder. And while there is quite a lot lost on the journey, the fight is worth it and the end is inspirational. So I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

“And we cried because I think we both understood that there was no life without loss.”
(p. 301)

Looking at the Artists Behind the Book Covers

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

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


CLASSICS

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

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

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

LITERARY FICTION

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

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

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

Wolf_in_White_VanWolf in White Van by John Darnielle
Designer: Abby Kagan

FANTASY

039360909xNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Artist: Sam Weber

SCI-FI/FANTASTY

Annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeerAnnihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
Designer: Abby Kagan

9781101873786The Vorrh by B. Catling
Designer: Jaclyn Whalen

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

9780316261241_p0_v3_s1200x630 by Ben H. Winters
Designer: Oliver Munday

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

THRILLER/HORROR

51fLeSBiAuLGet in Trouble by Kelly Link
Designer: Caroline Cunningham

1501143107.1.zoomMisery by Stephen King
Designer: Will Staehle

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

29939268.jpgUniversal Harvester by John Darnielle
Designer: Abby Kagan

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

NON-FICTION

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

NEW ADULT

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

YA CONTEMPORARY

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

18718848Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Artist: Eileen Savage

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

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

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

YA HISTORICAL FICTION

23719270Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Artist: Teagan White

YA MYSTERY

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

YA FANTASY

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

9780399538537Tales of Peculiar by Random Riggs
Artist: Andrew Davidson


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


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

Book Review – Vinyl

Title: Vinyl (The Vinyl Trilogy #1)
Author: Sophia Elaine Hanson
Published: November 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Steampunk
Goodreads

Rating: 5 Stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

Ronja staggered back and forth across the room half a dozen times, rolling the kinks from her neck and kneading her shoulders. The exercise worked the hitches from her mind. For the first time in her life, her thoughts were bitingly clear. Everything that had happened over the course of the last few days was impossible. A shiny without a Singer. A makeshift hospital underground. A symbol invisible to an entire city that she alone could see. Her Singer, ripped from her skull just before The Quiet Song could drag her under. Ronja halted, her heart writhing in her ribs. The Conductor tried to kill me, she thought dimly. Why?

All citizens within the soaring black walls of Revinia have metal Singers grafted into their skulls at birth. The parasitic machines issue a form of auditory hypnosis called The Music, which keeps their minds malleable and emotions flat. All artistic expression—especially real music—is strictly prohibited. On the edge of the city, nineteen-year-old Ronja struggles to support her cousins and disabled mother. A chance meeting leads to her kidnapping by an underground resistance striving to preserve the human spirit. Violently severed from her Singer by the brash young agent Roark, Ronja revels in her newfound freedom until the consequences of her disappearance begin to unfold.

“Uncaged ideas can be dangerous, even deadly” (p. 56).

An emotionally investing dystopian story set in a steampunk society with characters worth fighting for. Vinyl is immersive, dunking the readers right into this futuristic world.

One theme highlighted heavily in this story is one that is common with dystopian books: class structure. However, Hanson handles this with such grace that it doesn’t feel like we hear this theme over and over in this genre. The vivid writing connects the audience with the disparity those on the outer circle feel, like Ronja and her family. Ronja’s family has been genetically modified in order to serve the Conductor and suppress their emotions better. While they are the ultimate servant and citizens of this repressed society, they are the lowest of the low. No one wants to hire them, talk to them, or associate with them in any way. Ronja has to bust her butt working every job she can get her hands on in order to provide for her alcoholic mother and two young cousins. One of these jobs is how she met Roark and was thus thrust into a secret underground society with little to no choice.

The Anthem is a resistance group that is on the brink of demanding a revolution. As Ronja is introduced to this strange world without The Music controlling your thoughts and actions, and to the slew of dynamic and diverse characters, I couldn’t help feel the excitement she felt. There was this hope that she could’ve never even let herself dream of. There was joy in feeling emotions in a far more tangible way without the demands of the Conductor’s way of living blocking and dulling them. As Ronja encountered real music for the first time, as she encountered dancing and singing and rejoicing in freedom, it made me appreciate the privileges of this life I live so much more. We have freedom over our thoughts, over our emotions, over who we want to be. How amazing is that?

Ronja learns just how powerful ideas and thoughts are. They can change and shape the world. They are the very thing that scares those in power, the very thing that drives the resistance. Individual ideas and thoughts are the tools to create the reality we live in, which is why books like this are so important! I felt a pull in my gut to fight for the characters in the midst of all their dangerous situations, and I couldn’t let go! I can’t wait to see how the characters fight in book two, Radio.

Book Blitz/Review – The Animal Under the Fur

Title: The Animal Under the Fur
Author: E.J. Mellow
Published: March 30th 2017
Genre: Action, Adult, Romance

Rating: 5 stars
Cover: Love it

Synopsis:

From award-winning author E. J. Mellow comes an action romance dripping with vengeful delight.

Orphaned on the streets as a baby, Nashville Brown, a.k.a Kill Operative 3, knows better than to rely on anyone. With heightened senses and superhuman strength to survive, she’s been raised as the perfect assassin.

The trick to her success? Keeping everyone, even her best friend, at arm’s length.

Losing his entire family in the span of a year, Carter Smith left his ability to love buried deep in their graves. His only concerns now are completing his missions and effortlessly charming the next temptress to warm his bed.

The key to his accomplishments? Working alone mixed with a Casanova smile.

But when a deadly weapon needs to be stopped from falling into the wrong hands, the lone wolves find themselves thrown into an explosive partnership. Can Carter and 3 lower their guns aimed at one another long enough to succeed, or will their unwillingness to compromise end up destroying more than their perfect records? Whatever their differences, both agree on one thing—in the game of lies and deceit, the line between friend and foe is often blurred by blood splatter.

The Animal Under The Fur is a hate-to-loath-to-love standalone novel filled with savagery, secrets, and enough angst to wrinkle the pages you’ll find gripped in your hands.

“You know,” he says, “there’s other way to work through issues than with violence.” I cock my head to the side. “But so much less fun” (chapter 35)

Happy Book Birthday to The Animal Under the Fur! I had the privilege of receiving an Advanced Reader Copy from the author to give an honest review. This review is a part of TAUTF Book Blitz.

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How refreshing it is to read something completely badass and action-packed after reading a couple of YA Romance books. This book packs a punch! While being pitched as a hate-to-loath-to-love story makes some of the story arc predictable, there were so many twists that took me by surprise. I had no idea where E.J. Mellow was taking the story and I loved every second. Don’t put this book down; you don’t know what Carter and Nashville will get up to while you’re gone.

Cater Smith and Nashville Brown are assassins working for sister agencies. They both meet when accidentally assigned the same person to kill. Though their immediate hatred for each other causes their mission to go less than smoothly, both agencies decide to attempt to put them together purposefully to tackle a bigger mission as a team.

The characters are introduced with their flaws out on display almost instantly. Cater thinks with his dick always. His language and voice is characterized by phallic imagery and descriptions. He is vulgar and obsessed with sex. Nashville has such a deep sense of independence that she gives herself a superior persona. She distances herself from everyone, which lets her do her job better. Their hatred for each other is captivating, urging you to discover what they’ll do next. As you read, both Carter and Nashville’s strengths come to the surface and it’s charming as hell.

There is a moralistic element to this book that comes up in the second half and gives humanity to every character involved. Mellow consistently hits you in the gut through her imagery, the action-packed tension, the romance, and the humanity of people. The Animal Under the Fur is sexy, raw, and so freaking fun.

“There will be a tomorrow for you after it’s done” (chapter 55).

Purchase Links

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

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E.J. Mellow is the award-winning author of the contemporary fantasy trilogy The Dreamland Series and The Animal Under The Fur. With a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, E.J. Mellow splits her time between her two loves – visual design and writing. Residing in NYC, E.J. is a member of Romance Writers of America and their Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Chapter. She has no animals but loves those who do.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

 

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