Review: Fire Color One by Jenny Valentine

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A father and daughter reconnect after a life spent apart to find their mutual love of art isn’t the only thing they share.

Sixteen-year-old Iris itches constantly for the strike of a match. But when she’s caught setting one too many fires, she’s whisked away to London before she can get arrested—at least that’s the story her mother tells. Mounting debt actually drove them out of LA, and it’s greed that brings them to a home Iris doesn’t recognize, where her millionaire father—a man she’s never met—lives. Though not for much longer.

Iris’s father is dying, and her mother is determined to claim his life’s fortune, including his priceless art collection. Forced to live with him as part of an exploitive scheme, Iris soon realizes her father is far different than the man she’s been schooled to hate, and everything she thought she knew—about her father and herself—is suddenly unclear. There may be hidden beauty in Iris’s uncertain past, and future, if only she can see beyond the flames.

review

3/5 Stars 

Fire Color One is a kind of Vonnegut meets Palahniuk brand of bizarre and insightful. The kind of book that’s blunt, raw, and challenges perceptions by showing people as they are in all their horrible glory. 

PROS:

  • Insightful, honest looks at the hard truths. Sometimes people are flawed and corrupt and greedy and sometimes those people are your family. Not everyone is redeemable, not everything is sunshine and roses and crystal clear. The shades of gray are vast in each individual. Fire Color One explores the complexity of human nature and the relationships that manifest between the most unlikely of people. Characters are nuanced.You love to hate them and enjoy their randomness. 
  • The story is creative. Pyromania, getting into Iris’ head and how the fire makes her feel was beautifully written and thoughtful. There are some serious epiphanies in this book that read like concise and thought-provoking life advice. The way art functions in the story is equally as magnetic. The twist is epic and a long-game revenge that will make you feel gleeful and satisfied. 
  • Hannah and Lowell are these laughable caricatures of truly despicable people who are so real it’s unsettling. Greedy, selfish, verbally abusive, Iris is seen as a burden and a mistake. Their characters were the most developed. Some of their personality traits and actions and laugh out loud funny because they are so ridiculous and occasionally sickening. Absolutely pathetic, money-hungry people. 

CONS:

  • As flawed and compelling as these characters are, they’re mere glimpses into their personalities. It felt like the author was just scratching the surface. She laid the foundation, but she could have taken many characters much further and it would have made for not only a better story but stronger connections to each character, whether good or bad. Characters that were inherently interesting were foisted for the main character. For all of the influence Thurston has on Iris, he’s only seen in snaps that fade away. There’s hardly any interaction or even voice. It’s stuff you hear secondhand and don’t entirely experience. The same with Iris’ father. The emphasis was always off. 
  • The book was super short and would have benefited from more development in terms of exploring characters and how they related to Iris, her pyromania, and how she perceives the world, i.e. Thurston and her father. Instead, the story seems packed into the last handful of chapters, rushed after a very slow pace, and while it did help to magnify the twist, it was jarring and offset the whole book. 50+ more pages would have fleshed out the story, but what was actually presented felt a little like a summary.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Pleasant reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz: The Pepper Jones Series by Ali Dean

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This series includes all five books in the coming of age series that has readers of all ages hooked. If you haven’t already fallen in love with Pepper Jones and the cast of characters in Brockton, Colorado, now’s your chance to follow Pepper through her high school and college years while she tries to balance books, boys, and being a track and field star.
author
Ali Dean lives in Colorado with her husband, twin toddlers, and golden retriever. In addition to reading and writing, she loves the outdoors- everything from marathon training and biking to snowboarding and skiing.
Dramatic reading, 
Jordan

Release Blitz, Review, & Giveaway: Chalk Houses by Tracy Clark

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Everyone has a secret. Now Secret is talking.

 

Talon Alvarado has one goal – to be nothing like her mother who’s blown it in about every way. But sometimes you focus so hard on what you don’t want that you find yourself careening toward it. Bombarded with history, hurts, and secrets, Talon is struggling to be the person she yearns to be and to live a bigger life than girls like her are supposed to wish for. To climb out, she must dig for strength in the most unlikely place; the rubble of her bruised heart. 

The misty presence of Secret reveals its role in Talon’s life, showing how the secrets we keep tell our stories. 

 

Chalk Houses is a gritty, achingly hopeful story about love being in the places you forgot to look, and about starting over. Even at the end. 

review4/5 Stars 

***I received this ebook as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author 

+++Contain triggers for abuse, assault, loss

Chalk Houses is an exploration and evolution of the secrets we keep and the havoc they can wreak despite the purest of intentions. Full of authentic characters, achingly real situations, and painful truths, Chalk Houses will make you question your assumptions and look beneath the masks we wear.

I always love Tracy Clark’s books. I’ve read every release. This is no exception. Chalk Houses is a change from Clark’s typical subject matter, but as engaging and raw as her other reads. 

Talon is abrasive, confrontational, and throws verbal punches that have a crippling power. Her sarcasm and jaded view of her mother are sometimes so dark and acerbic that you kind of feel bad for her mother. At first, I didn’t like Talon as a person. She’s constantly taking jabs at her mother and is so wounded by her past that she’s blinded to the changes and attempts her mom is making to build their relationship. What I loved about Talon was how much she changed. Assumptions are dangerous and after a pattern of neglect from her mother with no explanation-secrets kept-Talon holds almost no sympathy for her mess up of a mother. But when the secrets come out, Talon’s world is thrown off its axis. Everything she assumed about her mother is reversed with such force and shock that it will make you dizzy and hurt for how much was lost between Talon and her mother. The more lies that turn truth, the more Talon opens her mind and her heart. She’d always been stubborn and thought she knew everything about her mother, responsibility, and what it takes to raise a child, but man, is she put in her place. It’s like a harsh awakening, but so real. Tracy Clark never shies away from those hard truths that bite.

There are several harrowing, but prevalent and triggering situations that happen in this book, such as all shades of abuse, verbal, sexual, physical, and substance, and attempted assault, as well as tragic loss. These scenes are raw, sometimes graphic, other times blunt and brutal, and occasionally told in pieces that let you fill in the blank. The emotions vary from distanced to terrifying and poignant. Trust me, you’re going to be hit right in the feels for most of this book. 

There were some things that drove me nuts. Besides Talon’s initial attitude, all of the signs that are ignored or forgotten about as life got in the way. It’s frustrating and you’ll want to scream at the pages, but THIS happens all the time. 

Talon’s “relationship” with Jay made zero sense to me. For someone with such strong ideas, that she puts up with him was baffling. Now, Bones. He’s incredibly real, honest, calls Talon out on her unfair perceptions, and makes her look closer, even when she doesn’t want to. His life hasn’t been easy. They share secrets and he gets her in a way that no one else does and most importantly, he doesn’t give up on their friendship. 

Secret is personified here. It’s a living, breathing entity that makes snide comments one minute and surprisingly heartfelt ones the next. I loved those little pieces of Secret’s mind. They were truths that people are scared to face and so they blanket themselves in the false warmth of lies. She (I read it as she, though I assume Secret has no gender) warns of the dangers keeping so many secrets have on every aspect of life. 

The mystery of Aunt T was pretty predictable for me. 

Excerpt


I come to you only when invited.

You decide if you want to share your life with me. But a warning…

Once I’ve entered your door, you’ll find it very hard to sweep me out.

SECRETS take up space.

1

Empty houses hold their breath, waiting for life to blow back in.

I bet you didn’t know this.

It doesn’t mean a house is lifeless when no one’s home. A house can be lifeless with every chair filled. I’m not lying when I say there’s never been a house, hovel, tent, or cave that I haven’t occupied, if only for a moment.

I am there in drawers and journals, closets and emails.

I am there in hearts.

Oh, the hearts are my best hiding place.

This house was nearly empty but for the girl with her dull hair and crackling eyes.

Holding her breath.

Waiting.

 

Talon Alvarado, party of one.

The sunset was her cue to get the celebration started. She told herself she’d wait until dark but even that was a stupid deadline. She’d been waiting for her mother her whole damn life.

What’d she expect? Better to resist expectations, really. Expectations were flimsy balloons inside her chest, inflated with hope. And when they popped, they saturated her soul with disappointment. Every time.

There would be no balloons for her sixteenth birthday.

There would be music, however, and Talon told herself: if you don’t play that birthday song by The Beatles on your birthday and hop around the living room like a fool for two minutes and forty-two seconds, then you just don’t have adequate mojo.

As the sun set, the light in the house faded to darkness like it was on one gigantic dimmer switch. Talon hurried to flick on both the living room lamps and the kitchen light and peered out the window at the black moonless night – the exact shade of loneliness. Morbid thoughts had no business attending her birthday party, but life felt so dark sometimes that Talon struggled to see tomorrow.

Unable to find any birthday candles, she went to the dresser in her mom’s room to get the bumpy remnant of a melted votive, which she lit with matches from her mom’s favorite Basque bar. She carried the candle back to the kitchen and placed it in the middle of the table, then moved to the cupboard to find a saucer. The only clean one was chipped and reminded her of the flaked front tooth of one of her mother’s ex-boyfriend’s. The Hostess Cupcake she bought fit neatly in the saucer’s middle like they were made to go together.

The candle flame spat and fizzled, daring her to put it out. I’m seriously not gonna sing to myself, she thought stubbornly. But Talon did close her eyes before blowing the candle out with a hurricane force of a wish.

Someday.

After nibbling off the seven squiggles of white icing, Talon ate the waxy chocolate top of her cupcake. The rest flew in the trash but not before she tongued out the crème-filling, duh. While the cupcake served its purpose, her mouth still held the aftertaste of bitterness.

As she made a couple of sandwiches, one for dinner and one for school lunch the next day, headlights tracked across the kitchen. She peeked through the dusty, dented aluminum blinds, surprised to see her mom getting out of the car, cradling a big bucket of fried chicken on her hip like a toddler. DB-18, otherwise known as Frank, carried a grocery bag in each hand. No doubt, one bag had beer in it.

“Talon! We brought dinner!” her mom, Lisa, yelled from the living room.

Talon stepped into the doorway of the kitchen, turkey sandwich in hand. “I hunted and gathered for myself.”

Lisa’s smile broke, sliding like loose soil on a hillside.

“Mom, seriously…you’ve been…gone. Why would I think you’d bring home dinner?” They stared, glared, glowered; a familiar language in which they’d both become fluent. “But I can use the leftovers for dinner tomorrow. Thanks,” Talon quickly added, then wondered why she’d thrown her mom a flotation device, especially when she’d obviously forgotten her birthday.

“It’s the thought that counts, right?” said Frank as he put the beer in the fridge. He had that same shaggy-mutt look that came standard in all her mother’s boyfriends. Talon turned her back to him. Can’t I ever have mom to myself?

Since birth, Talon had felt like one of the satellite moons in Lisa’s planetary orbit. Her childhood was an unreal and treacherous place where the yellow brick road was full of trap doors. She wanted to believe there was a home for her on the other side of the rainbow, where she had a family that really knew her and loved her anyway. She knew what she’d ask the wizard for: Love.

But then “love” was just another four-letter word.

Under the harsh fluorescent kitchen light, her mom’s eyes were fogged and rimmed with red, as if she’d been crying, or smoking weed—probably both. “Sure you don’t want some?” Lisa asked as she and DB-18 seated themselves at the small flea-market table now crowded with unpaid bills, empty glasses, chicken, bland cobs of corn, doughy biscuits, and beer. Talon reached for a drumstick, knowing it was a greasy peace offering after their fight about how there was never enough food in the house.

A fly landed on the table next to the chicken and Frank deftly flipped a mason jar over it.

“Swift, grasshopper,” Lisa joked, and they giggled all stupid like the kids at school.

That fly had to be frustrated, banging itself against the glass. Talon flipped the jar and freed the fly because she couldn’t stand the sound. Its droning and tapping was too close to the noise in her own head.

Frank shrugged and bit into his extra crispy as Talon hopped onto the counter, mulling over a casual way to ask her mother something important. She had one thing on the brain: the essay contest at school. The theme was Family, which was seriously ironic.

“Soooo, there’s this writing assignment at school about, um, family…” No one looked up. She swallowed a salty chunk of chicken and forged ahead. “…and since I know nothing about ours, I thought maybe you could help me out?” Talon pinched her knees to stop her jumpy legs from bouncing against the cabinet.

Pausing mid-bite, Lisa glanced at Frank, their eyes holding for a split second. The silent, intimate conversation between them made jealousy nip at Talon’s heart. When her mom finally looked at her, Talon hoped a miracle was about to occur, that Lisa was actually going to share something. Usually when she tried to pry info from her mom, the “Great Wall of Lisa” rose up, impenetrable.

“Just make something up. I’m sure it’ll be more interesting than anything I could tell you. As long as it’s written well, they’ll never know the difference.”

Yup, the Great Wall was as sturdy as ever.

The genealogy of Secret: Evasion, a close relative of mine. Also related: Lie. Ours is a mad, mad family. We’d invite you to dinner but chances are, you’re already seated at the table with napkins under your chins.

Something sparked inside Talon, as though she had a lighter wedged in her chest, ready to ignite with the slightest friction. “I’m not asking for your entire life story here. Just give me something, anything. In the interest of scholastic achievement?” She wasn’t going to give up that easily.

Lisa slowly wiped her hands on the stinky moist-towelette and sighed. “Okay. When I was little, I had a pet bunny that I adored.”

DB-18 smiled and touched her arm. “You did? I had a lizard named Private Property.”

“What? Who names their lizard Private Property?” Mom asked, laughing.

“Someone who doesn’t want his four brothers to touch it.”

The two stoners tittered and ate, oblivious to Talon still waiting for a real answer.

“Seriously? That’s it?”

“But I—”

“A bunny? It astounds me how you opened up. Let me just go and get started on my in-depth, revealing essay about my mom’s pet rabbit!”

“Trust me, Talon, you do not want to hear about your relatives.”

Talon’s nostrils flared, bullish. “Here’s what’s wrong with that statement: A) The words trust me, and B) you don’t know what I want!”

“I am not going to do this with you right now,” Lisa said, scooting from the table.

“Yeah, cause clearly it’s on your agenda to do this with me some other time!”

“Ladies—” Frank began, holding up a beer and a chicken wing, like he’d been caught in a white-trash stickup.

“Shut right up, boyfriend.”

“Hey! That’s enough of your mouth!” Lisa’s cheeks were the color of a tomato, her eyes apologetic to Frank.

Tossing her half-eaten drumstick into the trash, Talon jumped off the counter and flew to her room, slamming the door with a satisfying thud. Don’t I have the right to ask questions? Don’t I have the right to answers? Restless, frustrated, a fly in a jar, she flopped herself into the metal fold-up chair at her desk. The computer droned to life and she stared at the blank essay document where she was supposed to *insert brilliance here. Naturally, she decided that writing her best friend an email to bitch about her mom was a better use of her time, only this is what she saw when she opened her email:

Dear Talon,

You don’t know me. I’m a stranger to you, but that’s my fault. Family can be like that, hiding from each other as a way to hide from ourselves. Stupid, I know. I’m done with that. I want us to know each other.

I call this a “Circle Journal.” The idea is that it circulates between us while we have a long, overdue conversation. I like the idea of that, don’t you?

Your mom and I haven’t spoken for years. I’m sure if she knew about this, she’d try to stop it. But I’m willing to chance it if it means I’ll get to know you after all this time. I can’t believe how much of your life I’ve missed.

If you want to write back, and I hope you do, then here are the rules…THERE ARE NO RULES. You can tell me or ask me anything you want. I promise to do the same. I’m sure we both have so many questions we want answered.

It’s probably best to keep these emails between us. I figure you’re old enough, you can decide for yourself. Just think about it. I’d like to know you before it’s too late.

Sincerely,

Aunt T

Who in Hell’s half-acre was Aunt T? And why was she sending some weird, cryptic email? Talon didn’t get random e-mails from people she didn’t know. She hardly got random emails from people she did know.

Aunt T was right, Talon had never heard of her. Not surprising. Mom liked to keep those little nuggets of information to herself—like who Talon’s real father was or why they seemed to have no family whatsoever—so it didn’t surprise her that her mom never mentioned a sister. She wondered what her mom did to screw up that relationship, too.

The lady said she wanted their communiqué to be private, which stoked Talon’s healthy suspicion. Come to think of it, how did she even know Aunt T was who she said she was? The email could’ve been from anybody. Talon took a deep breath to unclench her stomach.

She didn’t do vulnerable.

As she exhaled, she had to admit, it gave her a rush to think of corresponding with her mom’s sister on the sly. Spilling her secrets to a total stranger was not an option, mostly because she didn’t spill her secrets.

Spill, jab, fling, dangle, or hide. I’m a multi-functional tool.

Mom had secrets, too.

Well, who doesn’t?

If the lady really was her aunt, then maybe she’d reveal something, anything. In Talon’s quest to be as different from her mother as humanly possible, it would help to have some details – the worst potholes were the ones you didn’t see coming.

Suddenly the idea of talking with this Aunt T person seemed pretty appealing.

But first, verification.

Talon’s fingers hovered over the keyboard for a moment before plunging down.

Dear Aunt T,

Pardon my suspicious nature, but I’ve learned over the years to be wary of pretty much everybody. How do I know this isn’t some prank by a punk at school with no life and nothing better to do than to try and infiltrate mine? How do I know you aren’t a nutball stalker with bad intentions? How did you get my email address?

I need some kind of proof.


Talon

author
Tracy Clark is a young-adult writer because she believes teens deserve to know how much they matter and that regardless of what they’re going through, they aren’t alone. In other words, she writes books for her teen self.
 
She grew up a “Valley Girl” in Southern California but now lives in her home state of Nevada, in a small town at the base of the Sierra Foothills. Her two children teach her the art of distraction and are a continuous source of great dialogue.
 
 
Tracy was the recipient of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Work in Progress Grant. A two-time participant in the prestigious Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program. Tracy is a private pilot, an irredeemable dreamer, and a spicy-chocolate connoisseur.
giveaway
(1) Winner will receive a $20 Amazon Gift Card, US Only.
(1) Winner will receive an eBook of CHALK HOUSES
Ends on February 9th at Midnight EST!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Insightful reading, 

Jordan

Review: Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo

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She had a plan. It went south.
 
Harper is a dancer. She and her best friend, Kate, have one goal: becoming professional ballerinas. And Harper won’t let anything—or anyone—get in the way of The Plan, not even the boy she and Kate are both drawn to.
 
Harper is a Scott. She’s related to Robert Falcon Scott, the explorer who died racing to the South Pole. So when Harper’s life takes an unexpected turn, she finagles (read: lies) her way to the icy dark of McMurdo Station . . . in Antarctica. Extreme, but somehow fitting—apparently she has always been in the dark, dancing on ice this whole time. And no one warned her. Not her family, not her best friend, not even the boy who has somehow found a way into her heart.

review

3.5/5 Stars 

+++Using this for the Antarctica portion of my 2016 YA Reading Challenge 

Up to this Pointe was a different sort of YA contemporary and something that is severely missing in the genre. This is not something I’d typically read. It’s very hard for me to get swept up into contemporary because that are so many overused and abused tropes that they’ve become too predictable (many, not all). So when a realistic YA really hits home, I’m always pleasantly surprised and it takes me a while to gather my thoughts, hence the lateness of this review. 

Up to this Pointe is a story of self actualization and realization that goes beyond the typical coming of age story. The plot explores what happens when your dreams are crushed. What happens when the thing that you place all your hopes and future plans on falls through. And further, when the person that you made these plans with succeeds where you fail. Rejection can be a soul crushing, horrible experience for anyone and Up to this Pointe takes it a step further, when everything you’ve ever desired is taken from you no matter how hard you fight, the years of work you put in, and when your body betrays you.Every shade of emotion wars within Harper. The anger, the jealousy, the hopelessness, the rallying, the determination. It’s beautiful and dark, honest and so raw. She fights her way back to the foundation of who she used to be and comes back as better, with a greater understanding of herself. 

Harper is super focused. Everything in her life is planned, precise, and on a road map to this life that she knows will not be a fantasy but is everything to her. Her determination is remarkable. She’s far from perfect. Her emotions consume her. She gets lost, she crumbles, and she does some questionable things in her grief, but this makes her story so easy to identify with, even if the plot is so out of the park. 

I loved that this WAS NOT a love story in the romantic sense. Yes, there is romance, there is a guy, there’s another guy distraction, etc., but that is NOT the main arc. If anything, the romance was with her passion-ballet and later, the magic of the Antarctic. 

There’s an odd bunch of secondary characters in here who are weird but likable. They each have their flaws and hangups. Occasionally their role in the plot was flighty or their story seemed ramped up for drama. 

The Antarctic ❤ Do you have any idea how hard it is to find YA set in the Antarctic? It’s extremely limited. And one that has so many historical references? I adored the blend of history and science. The imagery is haunting and fantastic. The landscape is to die for. There’s a scene with the baby penguins ❤ ❤ ❤ All the feels!!!

The ending felt rushed and slammed with info. I wasn’t sure if she accomplished what she said or it was dreams that she planned on making happen when she got state side again. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Enchanting reading, 

Jordan

Review: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

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John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again.

Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.
 
Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.

review

3.5/5 Stars 

Our Chemical Hearts is about the kind of love many people don’t experience until their much older, falling in love in the face of a great loss. Our Chemicals Hearts is quirky, romantic, and full of profound meaning. 

Love comes in all shapes and forms. Most of the time in YA, we’re faced with instalove, lust, friends to lovers, and shy guy/girl gets the popular. What makes Our Chemical Hearts so compelling is that it’s a romance built on loss. The main love interest suffered a terrible tragedy that robbed her of what she dreamed of as her happily ever after. Their love was a great love, the kind that you never get over. Our Chemical Hearts examines the fight to love someone who is in love with a ghost. We think of love as an all or nothing, not something measured in minutes or even seconds; Our Chemical Hearts challenges that idea. 

I lost count of how many times I highlighted and shared quotes from this book. The perspectives on life, love, and dealing with grief are beautifully written and hit hard with their bold simplicity. 

The cover is amazing. It’s unlike any other YA I’ve read. A little whimsical, a little mysterious, a lot gorgeous. 

Henry Page is unique in that he seems like an awkward nerd, but he’s funny, loud, and says the most outrageous things. His sarcasm game is on point. He’s 100%, completely himself and that is incredibly rare. Henry has no problem celebrating his weird collections, making Fight Club and Doctor Who references, and the pop culture references are insane. Henry is conflicted, confused, and drunk on the idea of love. His emotions are hazy, but powerful. The falling is slow and hits suddenly. It’s not pretty, it’s nowhere near easy, and yet, Henry knows what he wants and that dreamy feeling he gets with Grace, despite all the bad is enough to make him fight for her through her sadness.

Secondary characters are memorable and hilarious. From Henry’s parents, to his enigma of a sister, to his best friends-a pervy Australian named Murray and a feisty lesbian with mad design skills named Lola. They all have their own stories and bring a lightness to the plot. I loved each and every one of them. 

Grace Town is a contradiction. She’s nothing like she looks. She’s flighty, strange, and hides herself in her loss. At times she’s stunning, mesmerizing, and full of life, others she’s listless. Her grief consumes her and changes her-breaks her. It’s heartbreaking how this loss has changed her into something so lost, so beaten. And yet, she is, like the story references, a manic pixie dream girl. 

The chemistry is there. Grace and Henry just fit. Their interactions are a mix of bizarre, fun, and so awkward, but their conversations whip back and forth with an easy that mirrors a friendship build over years. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Thought provoking reading,

Jordan

ARC Review: Intermission by Serena Chase

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We are starlight on snow. The reflection of something already beautiful—absorbed, reflected, and remade into something . . . more.

And this kiss . . .

This kiss is everything I’ve needed to say . . . and longed to hear.

Sixteen-year-old Faith Prescott eagerly awaits the day she will exchange her small Iowa hometown for the bright lights of Broadway, but her success-driven parents want her to pursue a more practical career, labeling “artsy” people—including their daughter—as foolish dreamers worthy of little more than disdain.

When Faith meets nineteen-year-old Noah Spencer she discovers someone who understands her musical theatre dreams . . . because he shares them.

Faith’s mother despises everything about Noah—his age, his upbringing . . . even his religious beliefs—and she grasps at every opportunity to belittle his plans to study theatre and pursue a stage career. When those criticisms shift further toward hostility, resulting in unjust suspicions and baseless accusations, an increasingly fearful stage is set for Faith at home, where severe restrictions and harsh penalties are put in place to remove Noah Spencer from her life.

But Faith has never connected with anyone like she has with Noah, and no matter how tight a stranglehold her mother enforces to keep them apart, Faith will not give him up. Behind the curtain, Faith’s love for Noah continues to grow . . . as does her determination to hold on to her dreams—and him—no matter how high the cost.

review

2.5-3/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Candent Gate

Intermission made me rage. It made me angry, and sad, and full of righteous indignation for Faith. The most powerful and compelling aspect of this story is the subtle and systematic way that we dismiss and accept emotional abuse, especially if it is by a parent. Faith’s mother projects her fears and insecurities and worse, her disrespect and hatred for her sister on her daughter just because she isn’t a mirror image of her perfect, blonde, athletic ideal. What she subjects Faith to because she refuses to believe her daughter despite literal proof is disgusting and mortifying. I mean, the emotions are strong in this story. It totally consumed my thoughts. And that no one even tries to step in. It drove me insane. 

As a former musical theater kid, the references to both popular and obscure songs made me obscenely happy. Get ready to open Spotify and belt out some tunes. 

I had a rough time wading through the story. Apart from the general mother-daughter drama and the soft romance between Faith and Noah, the pacing was extremely slow and the plot lagged. Many scenes blurred together, I skimmed sections, not much happened. 

Secondary characters shifted in and out of focus, but they were more like sketches than anyone who could tug on your heart-strings or get you to invest. Their personalities were there, but there wasn’t enough time with them to build a connection or even like them. Faith’s so-called best friend had a handful of scenes and they weren’t particularly flattering or long. 

Faith and Noah’s relationship is a friendship built on purity, trust, and absolute understanding. There’s no real fire there, only utter compassion and adoration. That being said, their moments are so fast, so short, and lack romance even when they were “allowed” to be romantic. 

Intermission is a clean, Christian story. There are a lot of Bible references, prayers, and trust in God. Perseverance and putting absolute faith in God plays a heavy and important hand in how these characters grow, react, and respect each other. 

Lovely reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: More Than Friends by Monica Murphy

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He’s not perfect, but he’s all I want…

I’m your average girl at your average high school, trying to figure out my place in life. After catching my now ex-boyfriend messing around with my now ex-best friend, I’ve made some big changes. No more band, no more backstabbing friends and no more boring old life. Now I have new friends, a new job and new interests.

But there’s a certain someone who’s interested in me, and I don’t get it. Jordan Tuttle could have anyone he wants. He’s the most popular boy in school. Rich, gorgeous, smart and the star quarterback, he’s perfect. Yet he acts like he wants no one else but…me.

So despite my fears and doubt, I let him get close. Probably too close. I discover that he’s not so perfect after all, but it doesn’t matter. I’m falling for him, even though he runs so hot and cold. I know someday he’s going to break my heart.

And I’m going to let him.

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review

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review

+++Some subjects are for a MATURE YA audience

More Than Friends is an angst-filled joyride. Full of drama, jealousy, and steam, More Than Friends is the kind of YA that sucks you in with its easy readability, relatable characters, and all that heat. 

More Than Friends picks up where Just Friends left off, but through the alternating POVs of Amanda and Tuttle. The same petty high school rivalries, drama, and rumors that flooded book 1 are there, but much softer and way less frequent. If you like shows like One Tree Hill or Pretty Little Liars, you’ll definitely get swept up in this. 

Amanda and Tuttle are great for each other. She gives him a place to feel comfortable, to finally be himself, and open up about his home life. Tuttle may seem like your average playboy jock, but he’s so much more complicated than that. Tuttle is terrified that he’s going to open his heart and get betrayed. He’s vulnerable and flirty and oh so sexy in that confident, space-crowding way. Tuttle is in awe of Amanda. She invigorates and enchants him, she’s this perfect creature that he can’t believe he’s lucky enough to be with. Those emotions are charged and pure and full of honesty. His sections, though way fewer than Amanda’s sections, are incredibly real and open, he admits all of his insecurities and it makes him more than swoonworthy, he’s a broken prince that you’ll feel genuine compassion for. 

Amanda has trust issues and rightly so after the stuff she went through in book 1 (though you don’t need to read book 1 to get the scope of Amanda and Tuttle’s relationship, there’s great summary). She’s scared of the extent and depth of her emotions for Tuttle and it’s so easy to step into her shoes. Falling in love can be terrifying. The ways you give yourself away and the power the other person has to crush you, it’s the stuff of nightmares. Amanda’s fears are justified and raw confessions. Amanda has the biggest heart and you’ll be rooting for her happy ending. 

Resistance has never been more futile. Amanda and Tuttle are made for each other, but the push and pull makes for great entertainment. The heat builds and bursts into some seriously sexy scenes that may be too mature for some YA readers. 

I wasn’t sold on Liv in book 1 and now I’m even more certain of my dislike for her. She’s unforgiving and cold and selfish and sometimes 10x worse than Em. She can be flighty and completely self-absorbed. No matter how much Amanda tries to help her, she just shrugs it off. It’s pretty frustrating. 

Some sections seemed unnecessary and took away from the plot.

That cliffhanger ending!!! 😦

author

Monica Murphy is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is both self-published and published by Random House/Bantam and Harper Collins/Avon. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance.

She is a wife and a mother of three who lives in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA.

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If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Romantic reading,

Jordan