ARC Review: Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin

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Release Date: June 27, 2017

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“Troubled.” That’s seventeen-year-old Genesis according to her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything.

As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, she must also confront her most painful memories. Through the lens of an ongoing four act play within the novel, the fantasy of their undying love unravels line by line, scene by scene. Digging deeper into her past while exploring the underground theater world of New York City, she rediscovers a long-forgotten dream. But it’s when Gen lets go of her history, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s finally able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life, and take center stage.

This powerfully immersive and format-crushing debut follows Gen from dorm rooms to diners to house parties to auditions—and ultimately, right into readers’ hearts.

review

3/5 Stars 

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

+++Triggers for abortion, suicide, death

This is the first YA book I’ve read that has dealt with the sensitive and extremely relevant topics of teenage pregnancy and choosing abortion. We definitely need more of these heavy-hitting subjects because despite the tendency for society to pretend sex doesn’t happen in high school, it does and a lot. Kids make mistakes, especially when it comes to mixing alcohol and unprotected sex (which is not even the case in this story, the condom actually breaks). This is 100% a story that needed to be written, explored, and experienced. Okay, let me get off of my soapbox about this and talk about the book.

The story centers around a girl who is very much in love with her boyfriend, they have sex, and unfortunately the condom breaks and she ends up pregnant. He comes from a very traditional, upper class, church-going family, and has been raised to believe abortion is the highest form of sin, much worse than the pre-martial sex he indulged in. Gen comes from a broken family. Her father OD’d, her mother is dangerously depressed, and she is left to pick up the pieces after their tragic loss. Their home situations are vastly different and yet, he adores her quirkiness and her big heart. He is compassionate and understands her home life is less than ideal and he’s there for her when some truly devastating and horrific stuff happens. So what’s the problem?

This dynamic is not explored. I loved that they came from families that are basically opposites. That despite everything working against them socially, they inherently understood each other. And yet, the story structure…doesn’t work well with the plot. It’s a series of flashbacks to how they fell in love and the current heartbroken times post-abortion. It’s nostalgic and dreamy and rose-tinted, despite the hospital visits and everything else. The very problematic issue of Peter’s personal, religious beliefs are pretty much glossed over and the catty former friend who wants to sink her claws into Peter is front and center. Why? I don’t understand. Maybe the author wanted to take another route or didn’t want to get too political or preachy or something? I’m not sure. But these extremely important details were not talked about except in minor passing and at the end. I feel like the drama was displaced. I would have liked a little more exploration of these conflicts and it’s just lots of reflection.

The abortion scene itself. There are no words. The emotions, the confusion, the heartbreak, there’s also a weird need to “punish” herself and so that she feels the loss. It’s powerful and hits hard. And what’s worse, what really, truly broke my heart was the betrayal. You need someone to hold your hand. To be there. And for someone to desert you during such a critical time. How can you ever forgive that? 

The plot is all over the place. It’s sporadic and random and then add in the flashback scenes and it felt like the story didn’t know what it wanted to be. I totally understand being confusion, reckless, and the emotional chaos that can cause someone to make bizarre choices but I guess the pieces didn’t fit well together. This book deals with so many heavy themes and it felt…lighter than expected? I mean abortion, drug overdosing, suicide…it’s as hard as it gets. 

However, the story was enjoyable. I liked the weird romance that sprung up out of Gen’s heartbreak. It was uplifting and adorable, and he definitely brightens her life. 

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

Keep reading, 

Jordan

Review, Excerpt, Q + A, & Giveaway: Freeks by Amanda Hocking

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Welcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…

Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.

When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.

But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.

Excerpt

5. Carnival

Unlike many of the other members of the sideshow, I didn’t have a specific job. My mom was a fortune- teller, Gideon did a magic show, Zeke had his tigers, Brendon and his family did acrobatics, Seth was a strongman. My best friend Roxie Smith was in two acts— she helped out Zeke, and did a peepshow revue with two other girls.

I had no talent. No special ability, making me essentially a roadie. I did what was needed of me, which usually involved helping set up and take down, and various menial tasks. I cleaned the tiger cages and emptied out latrines when I had to. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but it was crucial to our way of life.

Since Roxie worked with the tigers, Mahilā actually tolerated her. Roxie was helping me clean out the tiger cage they traveled in. The cage was open to a fenced-in enclosure Seth had built, so the tigers could roam as they pleased.

Safēda lounged in the grass, the sun shining brightly on her white fur. Whenever we stopped, Safēda seemed content to just lay in the sun, sleeping the entire time, but as the older tiger, it made sense.

Mahilā paced along the fence, occasionally emitting an irritated guttural noise in between casting furtive glances back toward Roxie and me. Her golden fur was mottled with scars from her past life in the abusive circus, including a nasty one that ran across her nose.

“So where did you go last night?” Roxie asked, her voice lilting in a sing song playful way. She was out in the run, using a hose to fill up a blue plastic kiddie pool so the tigers could play in it, while I was on my hands and knees scrubbing dung off the cage floor.

Her bleached blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and the sleeves of her white T- shirt were rolled up, revealing her well-toned arms. The cut- off jean shorts she wore barely covered her bum, and her old cowboy boots went up to her knees— her chosen footwear anytime she was at risk of stepping in tiger poop.

With fair skin, full lips, large blue eyes, and a dainty nose, Roxie was pretty and deceptively tough. Being a beautiful carnie was not an easy job, and dancing in the revue under the stage name “Foxy Roxie” didn’t help that. But she made decent money doing it, and Roxie never put up with anybody’s crap. I’d seen her deck guys much bigger than her and lay them out flat on their backs.

“I was just at a party,” I said as I rinsed the brush off in a bucket of bleach and warm water.

“A party?” Roxie looked over at me with a hand on her hip.

 “How’d you get invited to a party so fast?”

I shrugged. “I was just exploring town, and I saw some people hanging outside of this big house party, and they invited me in.”

“So what are the people like here? Are they nice?”

Safēda had gotten up and climbed into the pool, and then she flopped down in it, splashing Roxie as she did. Roxie took a step back, but kept looking at me.

“I don’t know. The people I met last night seemed nice, and they were superrich, so that bodes well for the town, I guess.”

“Like how rich?” Roxie asked.

“Like their house is practically a mansion.” I dropped the brush in the water and sat back on my knees, taking a break to talk to her. “It was the nicest house I’ve ever been in, hands down.”

“Is that why you spent the night there?”

Roxie understood my fascination with houses. Well, “understood” wasn’t the right word. It was more like she knew of it, but didn’t understand it all. She’d grown up in an upper- middleclass family, in nice houses with basements, and thought they were about as boring and lame as she could imagine.

“Partly.” I nodded. “It was a really amazing house. There were pillars out front, and the front hall was bigger than my trailer.”

“It’s just a house, Mara.” Roxie shook her head.

“I know but . . .” I trailed off, trying to think of how to explain it to her. “You know how you felt when you first joined the sideshow two years ago? How everything seemed so exciting and fun, and I was like, ‘We live in cramped trailers. It kinda sucks.’”

Roxie nodded. “Yeah. But I still think this life is a million times better than my old life. I get to see everything. I get to decide things for myself. I can leave whenever I want. There’s nothing to hold me back or tie me down.”

She’d finished filling up the pool, so she twisted the nozzle on the hose to shut it off. Stepping carefully over an old tire and a large branch that the tigers used as toys, she went to the edge of the run and tossed the hose over the fence, before Mahilā decided to play with it and tore it up.

She walked over to the cage and scraped her boots on the edge, to be sure she didn’t track any poop inside, before climbing up inside it.

“So what was the other reason?” Roxie asked.

I kept scrubbing for a moment and didn’t look up at her when I said, “Gabe.”

Gabe?” Roxie asked. “That sounds like a boy’s name.”

“That’s because it is.”

“Did you have sex with him?”

“No.” I shot her a look. “We just made out a little.”

“What what what?” Luka Zajiček happened to be walking by just in time to hear that, and he changed his course to walk over to the tiger cage. “Is that what you were up to last night?”

“That’s what sucks about living in a community so small. Whenever anything happens, everybody knows about it right away,” I muttered.

Luka put his arms through the cage bars and leaned against it, in the area I’d cleaned already. Since he was rather short, the floor came up to his chest, and his black hair fell into his eyes.

His eyes were the same shade of gray as mine, but his olive skin was slightly lighter than mine. We first met him when he joined the carnival four years ago, and the first thing my mom said was that she was certain that we were related somehow.

Unfortunately, Mom knew next to nothing about our family tree to be able to prove it. All she could really tell me was that we were a mixture of Egyptian, Turkish, and Filipino, with a bit of German thrown in for good measure.

Luka had been born in Czechoslovakia, but he’d moved here with his family when he was young, so he’d lost his accent.

He had recently roped me into helping him with a trick. He’d stand with his back against a wall, while I fired a crossbow around him. Originally, Blossom had been the one to help him, but she kept missing and shooting him in the leg or arm, so he’d asked me to do it because I had a steadier hand.

“So you made out with some local guy last night?” Luka asked, smirking at me. “Are you gonna see him again?”

“He’s a local guy. What do you think?” I asked, and gave him a hard look.

Luka shrugged. “Sometimes you bump into them again.”

“And that goes so well when they find out that I work and live with a traveling sideshow,” I said.

The floor was spotless, or at least as spotless as tiger cages can get, and I tossed my brush in the bucket and took off my yellow rubber gloves.

“We can’t all meet our boyfriends in the sideshow,” I reminded Luka as I stood up, and it only made him grin wider. He’d been dating Tim— one of the Flying Phoenixes— for the past three months.

“But you didn’t see Blossom anywhere in town last night?” Roxie asked, and Luka’s smile instantly fell away.

A sour feeling stirred in my stomach, and I looked out around camp through the bars of the cage, as if Blossom would suddenly appear standing beside a trailer. As I’d been doing my chores all morning, I kept scanning the campsite for her, expecting her to return at any moment with a funny story about how she’d gotten lost in town.

But so far, she hadn’t. And the longer she went without coming back, the worse the feeling in my stomach got. I shook my head. “No. I didn’t see her at all last night.”

“She’s gotta turn up, though, right?” Luka asked. “I mean, it’s not like there are really that many places she could’ve gone considering she has no money or car and she’s in a small town.”

The tigers were still down in the run, so I opened the side gate and hopped down out of the cage. Roxie got out behind me, then we closed the door.

“I should talk to Gideon,” I decided as Roxie locked the cage up behind me. “It’s not like Blossom to do this.”

“It’s not totally unlike her, though,” Roxie pointed out.

“When we were in Toledo six months ago, she dis appeared for a few days with that weird commune, and came back just before we were leaving, totally baked out of her mind.”

Blossom had grown up with parents who pretended to be hippies but were really just a couple of drug addicts. That— along with her unexplainable telekinesis— led to her dabbling with drugs and alcohol at a young age, before the state intervened and shipped her off to a group home.

My mom tried to keep her clean of her bad habits, but sometimes Blossom just liked to run off and do her own thing. That wasn’t that unusual for people who lived in the carnival.

“But if you’re worried, you should talk to Gideon,” Roxie suggested. “Luka’s right in that Blossom really couldn’t have gone far. Maybe you can scope out Caudry.”

“Since that sounds like a mission that may take a bit of time, can you help me and Hutch with the museum before you talk to Gideon?” Luka asked. “The exit door is jammed, and we can’t get it open, and Seth is busy helping set up the tents.”

“Sure. Between me and Mara, I’m sure the two of us can get the door unstuck,” Roxie said.

I dropped off the bucket with the other tiger supplies, and then followed Roxie and Luka away from our campsite to the fairgrounds on the other side of a chain- link fence. We always stayed close to the rides, the midway, and the circus tent, but we didn’t actually sleep there. It was much better for every one if we kept our private lives separate from the crowds.

Many of the games were already set up, and the Ferris wheel was in the process of being erected as we passed. Near the end of the midway was a long black trailer painted with all kinds of frightening images of werewolves and specters, along with happier pictures of mermaids and unicorns, and the sign was written in bloodred:

Beneath that were several smaller signs warning “Enter at your own risk. The creatures inside can be DISTURBING and cause NIGHTMARES.”

The entrance to the left was open, but the exit door at the other end was still shut. Wearing a pair of workman’s gloves, Hutch was pulling at the door with all his might. His neon green tank showed that his muscles were flexed and straining in effort. The bandana kept his dark brown hair off his face, but sweat was dripping down his brow.

“Let me have a try, Hutch,” Roxie said.

“What?” He turned to look back at her. “Door’s stuck.”

“I can see that. That’s why I said let me have a try.”

“Okay.” Hutch shrugged and stepped back.

Hutch’s real name was Donald Hutchence, but nobody ever called him anything but Hutch. He didn’t have any special powers, unless you considered being really agreeable and easygoing a super power, so, like me, he was left doing whatever else needed to be done.

Roxie grabbed the door and started pulling on it, and when it didn’t budge, I joined her.

“Luka, go and push from the inside,” Roxie commanded through gritted teeth.

Both Luka and Hutch went inside, pushing as Roxie and I pulled. And then all at once, the door gave way, and we all fell back on the gravel. I landed on my back, scraping my elbow on the rocks.

Roxie made it out unscathed, and Hutch fell painfully on top of me, so he’d avoided injury. Luka crashed right on the gravel, though, and the rocks tore through his jeans and ripped up his knees and the palms of his hands pretty badly.

“Do you need me to get a Band- Aid or anything?” Hutch asked as he helped me to my feet.

“No, I’ll be okay.” I glanced over at Luka and the blood dripping down his knees. “What about you? Do you want anything?”

“Nah. Just give it a few minutes.” Luka waved it off and sat down on the steps leading up to the museum door.

No matter how many times I saw it, I couldn’t help but watch. His knee was shredded, with bits of gravel sticking in the skin. Right before my eyes, the bleeding stopped, and the rocks started falling out, as if pushed by his flesh, and the skin grew back, reattaching itself where it had been little mangled flaps.

Within a few minutes, Luka’s knee was healed completely.

Copyright © 2017 by Amanda Hocking and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.

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  1.     Your characters are sent into the Hunger Games. Who wins?

If it’s just the characters from FREEKS, and only one could win, I would put my money on Luka or maybe Roxie. Luka because he can heal from injuries, which gives him a crazy advantage, but Roxie is smart and she’s a survivor. Plus, she has the power of pyrokinesis, which I think I would come in handy in a battle to the death.

  1.     What do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer silence?

I almost always listen to music when I write, unless I’m writing a really difficult scene. Sometimes the silence helps me focus, but most of the time, I prefer music. For FREEKS, I got to make a really fun 80s playlist, so I especially enjoyed working to that.

  1. What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think the government has maybe flagged you for?

There are sooo many things. For FREEKS, I had to do fun stuff like, “What does a dead body smell like?” and “How much blood can a human lose?” And then after those macabre questions, I did a bunch of googling on fireflies and tarot cards. My search history when I’m working can be pretty exciting like that.

  1. What was your favorite part of writing FREEKS?

I love Southern Gothics and I love pulpy 80s horror movies, so I was excited to be able incorporate those things in FREEKS. But my favorite part was actually Mara and Gabe. I think they complement each other well, and it was fun writing their banter and flirtations.

  1. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from FREEKS?

For Mara, I envisioned Cassie Steele from the start. I used to be a hardcore Degrassi fan, and I loved Cassie Steele on that. For Gabe, I like Ryan Guzman. I saw him in a Jennifer Lopez movie, and I was like, “Yep. That could be Gabe.”

  1.  Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

I usually write between 11 am and 7 pm. I’ve tried to write earlier in the day and have more of a 8-5 type schedule, but I am not a morning person. My brain just doesn’t want to work much before noon.

  1.   Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I usually have a goal in mind before I start writing, but it varies. Some days, it’s slow going and I hope to get at least 500 words out. Other days, I fly through with thousands of words. So it depends on where I’m at in the book, when it’s due, and how I’m feeling about the whole thing.

  1. When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are before you write or do you let them develop as you go?

With all my main characters, I have a really good idea of who they are, and it’s just a matter of showing that to the readers. With the side characters, they tend to be rather one-dimensional, and they grow into the story as they’re needed.

  1. How did writing Freeks differ from your writing your previous novels?

FREEKS was the first thing I had written in awhile that was started out just for me. For most of the past ten years, I have been writing my books with the intention of publishing them, with the audience and readers and trends in mind. I think I had gotten a little burnt out on trying to make everyone happy (mostly because it is impossible to please all readers all the time), and I just wanted to write something that for the sake of writing it.

And that turned out to be a gothic love story about a teenage girl travelling with a band of misfits in the 1980s. It was a very cathartic writing experience for me, and it reminded me of exactly why I loved writing in the first place – I love getting lost in the world, with the characters.

  1. If Freeks had a theme song what would it be?

Either “Hush” by Limousines or “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears.

  1.   Can you please tell us a little bit about Freeks and where you got the inspiration to write it?

I was going through a rough patch, creatively speaking, and so I just sat back and tried to think of my favorite and what I loved most that I would want to write about.

When I was a kid, I used to get old books at garage sales all the time, and I distinctly remember getting Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King and a few old V. C. Andrews novels, which are pulpy Southern Gothic-esque novels. I also watched The Lost Boys and Pretty in Pink over and over again (I think I literally ruined the old VHS of The Lost Boys from watching it too much).

So I basically threw all those things together in a soup, and I picked apart the things I liked and wanted to explore more. That became a travelling sideshow in the 80s stopping Louisiana, where a supernatural monster is afoot, and a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who is smith with a local boy with secrets of his own.

  1.   Freeks is full of many amazingly talented characters and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?

Mara and Gabe are my obvious favorites, since they’re the main characters because I was drawn to them and their story the most. Both of them of them have complex feelings about family and personal identity, and their instant chemistry was fun to write.

But I think Gideon – the namesake and head of sideshow – was actually the biggest surprise, which made him fun in a different way. In the original outlines of the story, he was much a different character – very one-note and cruel – but he completely changed and evolved as I was writing.  

  1.   The book is based off of a type of traveling circus that is full of many mysterious acts. If you were to attend a Freekshow, which act would you want to see most?

My favorites are usually the acrobatics, but I think if I attended Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, I would be most excited to see Gideon’s magic act. With his skills and knowledge, I think it would be a really amazing show.

  1.   What do you hope readers will take away from FREEKS after reading it?

With some of my other novels, I deal with heavy themes like life and death, identity, honor, mortality, classism, and family. And while I do definitely touch on those themes in FREEKS, I mostly wrote it as an escape for myself, and that’s what I hope it is for other readers. Life can be hard and frustrating, and I just wanted to write a fun book that readers could get lost in for awhile.

  1. What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Probably how chronically shy I am. Writing is a weird profession, because a good 90% of it is perfect for introverts – you sit alone by yourself and make up imaginary friends to go on adventures. But the last 10% – which involves introducing the whole word to your imaginary friends – is the most exciting and rewarding part, but it’s also the most difficult when you’re as shy as I am.

review3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC via NetGalley, St. Martins, and with participation in this tour in exchange for an honest review 

PROS:

  • Mara is spontaneous, responsible, and terrified to get too close because she knows with her lifestyle love can’t last and once they find out that she lives with a traveling show it’s all over. Mara has grown up fast and loves her eclectic bunch-they’re family. She’s got secrets, she’s completely calm and collected about the supernatural, it’s her life. Mara does more than anyone to find out what’s going on at their camp. She’s likable, thoughtful, and so brave. As a heroine, she’s not particularly special in the typical YA way, she just uses her head, makes connections, and is determined to beat this invisible enemy. 
  • What Amanda Hocking is particularly skilled at is making her secondary characters memorable and unique. You might not like them, but you certainly will not forget them. Each member of the sideshow has a great back story and tons of personality. Roxie is a fiery (she’s has the gift of pyrokinesis), flirty, and sassy little thing. She’s a real minx. I adored her character, I only wish there had been more of her. Her story is made of fierce survival and overcoming her horrific past. Gideon is just as intriguing. From the scars on his back, his past, everything about his is suspect, but at the same time full of a heroic desperation to save his army of misfits. 
  • The concept is AMAZING. I mean super creepy and gory attacks on a sideshow. There’s an abundance of just not right, chilling things that you can’t put your finger on that will keep you on edge about what’s really going on. 
  • I usually loathe instalove, but I didn’t mind this one. Gabe is sexy, sensual, and just the right amount of mysterious/brooding. The chemistry is spot on and you’ll definitely crave more of them, even if they have very few conversations with substance. Lots of hot make out scenes though. 

CONS:

  • The story is set in the 1980s; while there are some randomly inserted references, there weren’t enough of them to feel fully cemented in the time period. The book could have been set in any time range, but maybe because the prevalence of “freak shows” has gone way down since the 1950s. Because there are a limited number of references, they feel like you’re being hit over the head with them whenever they do come up. A more fleshed out setting would have helped with total immersion in the story. 
  • Pacing lagged despite the disappearances, murders, and general supernatural encounters. Some sections were more everyday monotony than working to solve the crimes and harassment against the sideshow members. A ton of focus was placed on the instalove portion of the story, while I didn’t mind the romance, a whole lot of making out some conversation made scenes longer than they actually were. 

authoramanda-hocking-new-credit-mariah-paaverud-with-chimera-photographyAuthor Website/Twitter /Facebook/Author Blog/Pinterest/GoodReads

Amanda Hocking is a lifelong Minnesotan obsessed with Batman and Jim Henson. In between watching cooking shows, taking care of her menagerie of pets, and drinking too much Red Bull Zero, she writes young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Several of her books have made the New York Times Bestsellers list, including the Trylle trilogy and Kanin Chronicles.  Her zombie series, The Hollows, has been adapted into a graphic novel by Dynamite. She has published over fifteen novels, including the Watersong quartet and My Blood Approves series. Frostfire, Ice Kissed, and Crystal Kingdom  – all three books in her latest trilogy, The Kanin Chronicles – are out now.

Her next book will be Swear, the final book in the My Blood Approves series, and it will be out November 9, 2016. After that, her next book is Freeks – a standalone YA paranormal romance novel set in the 1980s that follows a traveling sideshow. It will be out sometime in early 2017, with the St. Martin’s Griffin.

-via Goodreads

giveaway

For your chance to win a hardcover copy of FREEKS comment with your favorite Amanda Hocking book or encounter either on this blog post, via Twitter @jw08k, or on the Facebook blog page 

U.S. ONLY. Ends 11:59 p.m. EST on 12/28 

Fantastic reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Dashing through the Snow by M. Leighton

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synA dash of perfect for the holidays!

Dilyn Hart hates Christmas, so when her boss (and ex-boyfriend) hands her an assignment to interview champion snowboarder and gorgeous playboy extraordinaire, Dash Grainger, on Christmas Eve, she takes it. There are several things she doesn’t plan for—a surly driver, a chalet in the middle of nowhere, a freak snowstorm—but the biggest surprise of all is Dash himself.

Dash Grainger lives for the high, and so far in his twenty-six years, he’s never met anyone or anything he loves more. Nothing has ever thrilled him as much as slick snow, cold air, and breakneck speed.

Until he meets Dilyn.

But one perfect night doesn’t mean clear, blue skies the next day. Some storms can’t be weathered.

Christmas might just be one of them.

review

5/5 Stars 

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

Dashing through the Snow is the perfect dash of seduction and warmth you need on  a snowy night. It’s the marshmallows in your hot chocolate, the bourbon in your cider, the crackling heat of a roaring fire. Dash and Dilyn are Christmas magic at its finest. 

M. Leighton never ceases to impress me with her characters. They’re always, always bursting with life and complexity that make you fall hard for them. Dashing through the Snow is fairly short. Less than 200 pages, but it’s packed with story. Somehow, I don’t know how she does this, but the smallest of details stick and satisfy. 

Dilyn has a tragic past. The kind that lurks under the skin and makes you see everything differently. Her apprehension, her sadness, it’s heartbreaking because she’s got everything going for her. She’s feisty, loud, sarcastic, independent, has a great job, and is gorgeous to boot. But she’s terrified to risk her heart and that backs her into a corner of unsatisfying relationships. Dilyn has some of the most outrageous, laugh out loud lines. She’s blunt, crass, and says exactly what’s on her mind and doesn’t apologize for it. Dilyn is a refreshing, whirlwind of a woman whose presence is exhilarating. She’ll fill you right up with light, laughter, and energy.

Dash is…mouthwatering? Is that a thing? If not, it should be. He’s sexy, beyond sexy. He’s magnetic, compelling, erotic, sensual. I mean the guy is just walking, talking sex-irresistable. On top of that he’s a romantic, with a big heart, and so compassionate. He’s basically girl kryptonite in a very, very hot package. Some of the things he says, with such conviction, sigh. You’ll lose track of how many times you swoon, trust me.  

Chemistry. Sweet mother of god that s’more scene. That tension. The anticipation. Off the charts. Past the charts. What are charts? The air ignites around them. Every interaction from the initial time they see each other to the last, it’s fire and want and a little angst. 

The story itself is a combination of playful, sinful, serious, and raw heat. You won’t be bored for a second. The pacing is fantastic. 

Some scenes are agony. You’ll hold your heart in your hand and hope that Dilyn and Dash get their happy ever after when everything seems to be falling apart.

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authorm.leighton

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New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, M. Leighton, is a native of Ohio. She relocated to the warmer climates of the South, where she can be near the water all summer and miss the snow all winter. Possessed of an overactive imagination from early in her childhood, Michelle finally found an acceptable outlet for her fantastical visions: literary fiction. Having written over a dozen novels, these days Michelle enjoys letting her mind wander to more romantic settings with sexy Southern guys, much like the one she married and the ones you’ll find in her latest books. When her thoughts aren’t roaming in that direction, she’ll be riding wild horses, skiing the slopes of Aspen or scuba diving with a hot rock star, all without leaving the cozy comfort of her office.

Romantic reading, 

Jordan

Lost Review: Paint My Body Red by Heidi R. Kling

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synThe world isn’t just black or white. Sometimes it’s red…

They think I’m next. That I’ll be the seventh kid to step in front of a train and end my life. With the rash of suicides at my school, Mom’s shipped me off to my dad’s Wyoming ranch for “my own safety.” They think I’m just another depressed teenager whose blood will end up on the tracks. They don’t know my secrets…or what I’ve done.

I wasn’t expecting Dad to be so sick, for the ranch I loved to be falling to bits, or for Jake—the cute boy I knew years ago—to have grown into a full-fledged, hot-as-hell cowboy. Suddenly, I don’t want to run anymore, but the secrets from home have found me…even here. And this time, it’s up to me to face them—and myself—if I want to live…

review

3/5 Stars 

***I received this book way back when as a gift in exchange for an honest review

+++Triggers: Mature YA, adult situations, suicide, assault 

Paint My Body Red feels like two separate novels that don’t mesh as seamlessly as they should. While the characters are the same, it’s like an alternate universe that the main character has been carelessly thrown into. As individual books, I might have rated this higher. Each story is interesting and full of atmospheric details. 

The premise is genius and based on fact. A suicide trend that caused city-wide hysteria, paranoia, and fear is a very real threat that could happen anywhere. The amount of pressure, stress, and lack of place for mental health care in schools is a major issue that needs to be talked about more. 

Words have power. What you say to someone can change their whole life, especially if they’re already overwhelmed and doubting their desire to live. This is a strong theme and extremely powerful. The main character goes through a self-destructive period of doubt, self-hatred, and anxiety after she says something that may have pushed another student over the edge. Not only can negative words be harmful to the receiver, but to the person who says them. 

Sometimes bad choices can overwhelm us and make us feel disgusted, worthless, and unworthy. The feelings are profound and sharp. You feel every stabbing ounce of pain as Paige recounts her past in her diary. It’s real, brutal, and consuming.

The sort of Southern romance going on threw me off. Yes, Paige is complex and comes from two worlds. Ranch time is supposed to be a safe place, therapy for her. Throw in the rodeo and flirty cowboys, it becomes something else entirely. The romance is subtle at first, flirty fun that becomes more. Paige’s feelings are complicated and plagued with doubt. Her confidence has vanished after everything she has been through, but it’s through love that she regains that former shine. 

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

Dramatic reading, 

Jordan

Theme Reviews: What We’ll Do For Blood by C.L. Mannarino and Descent by Sloane Murphy

THE THEME IS VAMPIRES. THE FIRST IS A YA SORT OF SUBURBAN FANTASY, THE SECOND IS A YA PARANORMAL DYSTOPIAN. 

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syn

In the sleepy town of Northam, Massachusetts, not everyone is who they seem to be. 



Take Scott Whitney, for example. A struggling high school senior, Scott wants nothing more than to have his much-divided, social-climbing family believe him when he comes to them with something important, no matter how often he disregards their rules. 



One night, Scott catches his father’s beautiful colleague, Maria, drinking his father’s blood in their office parking lot. When his father has no recollection of this event, and gets weaker the more he spends time with Maria, Scott turns to his mother and sister for help. When he realizes that Maria has captured their hearts and minds, as well, Scott has to find a way to believe in himself, and become more than anyone thought he was capable of, in order to stop her.

But what will it cost him?

What We’ll Do for Blood is the first book in a series of young adult supernatural novels. If you like heart-racing action, highly-driven characters, and strong family ties, then you’ll love C.L. Mannarino’s visceral vision of a world where the supernatural is very much alive.

review

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

Let me preface this review by saying that I think someone who is looking for a more adult vampire story minus the hyper sexualization that’s found in many adult vampire urban fantasies would like this a lot. Unfortunately, I was not a fan and DNF’d this at 30% or so. 

What We’ll Do For Blood features a diverse cast of characters of many ethnic groups and social classes. There’s a strongly defined line between the upper suburban and those who are more middle class. The world is thoroughly outlined, though occasionally I questioned the time period. 

The pacing drove me crazy. Some points were unbearably slow and so full of description that I skimmed. Nothing happened for nearly 100 pages. The things that did happen, that caused me to throw up my guard and question Maria, were TOO subtle and really not enough to heighten the anticipation. Had they been amped up a little more, it would have increased the anxiety and foreboding. The story got lost as it lagged. 

Some things made hardly any sense at all. There are references to how nice Maria is from Scott and she’s a terrible person, like a serious jerk to him. There’s one scene that was so repulsive and rude that I have no clue how Scott went from that to Maria is so nice again. Sure, Maria has some sort of hypnotic gaze or something that puts people under a spell, but like I said above, so subtle that comments and reactions like this are frustrating. 

I couldn’t connect with Scott or any of the characters really. I sympathized with Scott because he is under a lot of pressure to conform to a specific image for his family, but he does nothing to help his cause. Like he knows he needs to do certain things and he’s like nope and then wonders why people get annoyed. The references to his weight really bothered me and then I laughed pretty hard because 150 pounds is massive I guess. I just…the development was hindered by the slow pace. There wasn’t much room for growth or really forming a solid connection with any of the characters. Scott’s girlfriend was there in glimpses, you couldn’t really get a solid read on her, but she seems like a nice person. It was like looking at her from far, far away. 

EBOOK

Goodreads/Amazon

syn

Six hundred years after The Outbreak, the human population stand side by side with the Fae & the Vampyrs to stop the Demon King from starting a second Dark War.

Seventeen year old Adelaide Tate is in her last year of the Academy, with her eyes set on becoming part of the Red Guard.

Who cares that no female has ever joined?

When a dark force develops an unhealthy liking for her, Adelaide needs to fight for her life and figure out what makes her so different from the others.

Betrayal. Fear. Anger.

She must overcome it all in order to turn her world the right way around again.
Adelaide has one choice. Accept the help offered to her by Xander Bane, or face the Demon Hoard alone.

One thing is for sure. The descent will be bloody.

review

2.5/5 Stars 

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

Descent is super short. Not novella length, but I’d say about 100 pages less than the average YA paranormal. That being said, I think that had the book been longer, it would have been far more developed. This reads like a rough draft in terms of connecting the different story arcs and relationship building. The first half of the story feels like a wholly different book than the second half. There’s an abundance of telling and leaping from one scene to the next, abruptly cutting off before the scene actually builds. It almost feels like a summary. 

The world building is complex and intriguing. I love the darkness and the role of the academy. The battle scenes are INTENSE. The gore, the weapons, the feels. If the focus, as the blurb suggests, had been more on Adelaide’s quest to join the guard it would have added to this world building, but that kind of fell to the wayside with everything else going on. 

I really wish that first section had been further developed because it would have been so much more special. Don’t get me wrong, the feels are pretty strong, but not sucker punch level. This heartwarming and bittersweet friendship between Adelaide and her best friend was potent and one of the best parts of the story. They’re there for each other to balance and offset, to hold each other when they’re depressed or insecure, to give each other encouragement and soothe old wounds. The friendship is powerful. For me, there wasn’t enough of it. I would have liked more of just the girls hanging out, talking about their past, their love interests, really digging in so that the emotional connection would have been 10x stronger. 

There’s a serious case of instalove on one side, and on the other side is an over a decade long build lusting. That was pretty cool. This offsets the whole instalove aspect and shows something deeper and long-lasting. The chemistry is there and it’s HOT. Switching between two POVs you see the romance develop and grow into something profound. They way he cares for Adelaide is beautiful and oh so sexy. Sometimes it’s a little crude, a little blushworthy, but the sweetness makes up for it. 

Some plot points didn’t make sense. I kept asking myself why certain things were happening, like a specific abduction. What was the point of the whole ordeal with minimal danger only to return the character later, no harm done? It just didn’t add up. 

There are so many clues that the plot twist is expected and when it gets to the reveal, while it may be shocking for Adelaide, it certainly wasn’t for me. 

I adored the bad guys. They were layered, sympathetic, multidimensional, and full of character, life, and just all around great lines. They really livened up the story and made me want to read more…even more so than the good guys. 

Quite a few typos. 

Overall, Descent is an engaging and enjoyable dystopian with all your favorite sorts of paranormal creatures. 

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

Interesting reading, 

Jordan

Interview, Review & Giveaway: Thicker Than Water-Kelly Fiore

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synCecelia Price killed her brother. At least, that’s what the police and the district attorney are saying. And although Cecelia is now locked up and forced into treatment, she knows the real story is much more complicated.

Cyrus wasn’t always the drug-addled monster he’d become. He was a successful athlete, but when an injury forced him off the soccer field and onto pain medication, his life became a blur of anger, addiction, and violence. All CeCe could do was stand by and watch, until she realized one effective way to take away her brother’s drugs while earning the money she needed for college: selling the pills.

Soon, CeCe becomes part drug dealer, part honor student. But even when all she wants is to make things right, she learns that sometimes the best intentions lead to the worst possible outcome.

Thicker than Water is an unforgettable dark, harrowing look into the disturbing truth of drug addiction and the desperate love of a sister watching her brother deteriorate before her eyes. 

intYABM: Thicker Than Water explores the far-reaching effects of drug addiction not only on the addict but everyone around them. Was it hard writing the dark and raw truth of drug addiction? What were some elements that were particularly challenging?

Kelly: I think when it comes to the dark and raw stuff, the truth was what was hardest to tell. There’s a line in the book where CeCe thinks about the relief she’d feel if Cyrus just OD’ed and died, then realized that would cause it’s own problems with paying for the burial. I had that thought when my brother was struggling with his addiction and I find it important to admit it now. I know there are other siblings thinking the same thing and feeling wracked with guilt. I want those sisters and brothers of addicts to know they’re not alone.

YABM: What do you want the reader to take away from your CeCe and Cyrus’ story?

Kelly: That addiction has far more victims than one and that it is, like cancer, a crime against humanity that is both involving humans and not entirely the human’s fault. We crucify drug addicts, and all addicts, for their “choices.” Sometimes it isn’t a choice. Especially with opiates.

YABM: Tell me about your inspiration for Thicker Than Water.

Kelly: When my brother was struggling with his Oxy Contin addiction, I found great solace in watching episodes of the A&E series Intervention. I was able to watch other siblings deal with the same issues and problems I was dealing with. At one point, it occurred to me that teens don’t always have a voice in their family when they’re on the periphery of that addiction. I wanted to help give them that voice.

YABM: What would you say are CeCe’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Kelly: Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, CeCe’s greatest weakness is her inability to make a choice. To move forward. She lives inside her own head far more than outside of it and that is a problem when you’re being tried for murder.

Her strength, however, is her ability to transition and grow in the end. This is most evident in her prose and writing, which she starts in jail. She allows art and words to invade her life in a positive way, even though she’d never written for expression before. That’s a brave move in my mind.

YABM: What do you love most about your characters? Do you have a favorite secondary character?

Kelly: I’m a big fan of CeCe’s public defender, Jennifer, actually. Her tenacity and her youth is incredibly admirable. She also slides into a female role model space that CeCe desperately needs.

YABM: If you had to describe your book in the length of a Tweet, what would it say?

Kelly: Death isn’t the worst outcome; the worst outcome is living this life for one more day. WWYD if you had to choose between your brother, the boy, or your brother the addict?

review4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Edelweiss & Harper Teen

Warning: Contains what may be considered triggers for drug abuse/addiction

Thicker Than Water is an emotional minefield. It’s been a while since a book has left me at a loss for words (for a positive reason). Thicker Than Water is beautiful and poignant and written in simple truths that read like profound revelations. A heartbreaking tale of the far-reaching effects of addiction and the emotional and physical wreckage it leaves behind, CeCe and Cyrus’ story brings the hidden side effects of addiction to light.

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You’re looking for a raw and honest glimpse into addiction from a loved one on the periphery.
  • You’re game for sarcasm, tears, and hard truths.
  • You know someone struggling with drug abuse.

PROS:

  • CeCe has one of the strongest voices I’ve read in a long, long time. Her brutal honesty, her avoidance tactics, and her guilt translate into this brilliant prose that comes off as mildly philosophical and ingenious. Feelings are put into clear, precise comparisons that make every, even those most complex and convoluted emotions make sense.
  • One of the compelling aspects of this book is how often people turn a blind eye. How loved ones can see but refuse to believe or feel so helpless that it’s like the ground is ripped from beneath their feet and all hope slowly slips away. Desperation and heartbreak, in words but much more in feeling.
  • The descriptions of addiction are eye-opening. The sighs of relief, the anxiety, the hunger in their eyes, the ease in which addiction escalates and the lies addicts tell themselves. It’s all these in stark and disquieting glory. But it’s not only the false promises addicts make to themselves, it’s the quiet ones that friends and loved ones repeat like a prayer. The yearning to believe in change, in getting better, and hoping that this will pass without intervention is all too real. You can feel the author’s heart in the story and her close connection to its contents.
  • Secondary characters had small, but life-altering influence on CeCe, especially those at the center. The moments are brief but they open CeCe up to forgiveness and understanding of herself and help alleviate her guilt. The scene with her roommate putting on makeup felt almost spiritual.
  • Romance is not central to the story. It’s there but it’s more of an awakening for CeCe than anything else. It helps her discover parts of herself that she locked away, her fears and insecurities. Tucker and CeCe are cute and fall together naturally.

CONS:

  • The mystery didn’t feel like much of one to me. From the get go, there’s enough hint dropping to guess at what happened. The opening scene is an adrenaline-inducing and totally captivating start that will make you want to read but it mark the story as more crime fiction that in truly is.
  • There were many substories worked into the plot that were left unexplored and it was kind of distracting. CeCe’s roommate’s horrible circumstances, Tucker’s emotions, Jason’s fight with addiction, and Cyrus’ story as well were left wanting. There are flashes of Cyrus’ pain and the reasoning behind his path to pills shouted in bursts of anger, however, deeper insight was left at only what CeCe could see on the surface.

authKelly fiorWebsite/Facebook/Tumblr/Goodreads

Kelly Fiore-Stultz has a BA in English from Salisbury University and an MFA in Poetry from West Virginia University. She received an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council in 2005 and 2009. Kelly’s poetry has appeared in Small Spiral Notebook, Samzidada, Mid Atlantic Review, Connotation Press, and the Grolier Annual Review. Her first young adult novel, Taste Test, was released in August 2013 from Bloomsbury USA, and her second, Just Like the Movies, again from Bloomsbury, was releasted in 2014. Forthcoming novels include Thicker Than Water from HarperTeen in 2015.

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Happy reading, 

Jordan

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Tamed-Adria Wade

 
TAMED by Adria Wade
A Huntress Spin-off Novel
Genre: Paranormal Romance
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He had no idea what I did…the hurt that I caused. The pain that tore me to pieces, reminding me of that night. I was the self-destructive, wild child, with a haunted past who ruined lives and pushed people away. I was out of control and no good for him, but he still looked at me as if I was light when all I was, was darkness. His strange, unique, orange eyes lingered on me, as if he could see deep into my soul. There was a calmness that settled in me whenever he was near, taming the wild beast that I had become. Eli wanted me, Paige Jacobs, and there was no escaping him. 
 
Until I met Silas. 
 
There was something about him that drew me to him; something in his eyes that mesmerized me. He was beauty and perfection wrapped up in one, and I was drunk in lust. He was like a magnet, pulling me right in, and I was completely trapped in his gaze, unable to look away. Even though I was warned of the dangers that came with his kind, I found myself getting sucked into his mysterious and seductive world. 
 
I was falling for both supernatural creatures, who would stop at nothing to have me, and in the end, one of us wasn’t making it out alive.

Excerpt     I then saw Andie, frantic and crying, shove the drapes to the side and begin to run out of the booth when Ellis grabbed her by the arm and yanked her back in.

     I gasped as my stomach dropped. “Andie!”
     I shoved past the crowd on the dance floor, trying to get to her as fast as I could. Oh, God. Andie. He was hurting her! I knew there was something off with him. I should have went with my gut feeling and kept Andie away from him.
     No screams came from behind the drapes as I neared the booth. I pulled the drapes back, and a scream soared through my windpipes as I jumped back from fear and total shock. Andie was in his arms, and his lips were enclosed around her shoulder as blood ran down her back. My head was spinning with so many thoughts. My mind couldn’t even begin to comprehend why he was biting her.
     His eyes, so cold and devoid of emotion, bore into mine as he moved his mouth off her shoulder and threw her down in the booth. My mouth fell open and I took a step back, panicked and hyperventilating. He had long, pointy teeth. Fangs that were coated in Andie’s blood, and I knew I was next. I had to get Andie and get the hell out of there.
     As he lunged forward, I screamed and swung my hand, slapping him in the face, but my hit did no good to fend him off. As his hand flew up to strike me, I moved out of harm’s way, ducking and running behind him, just escaping his wrath. My shaking hands grabbed the centerpiece from the table and turned around to strike him. Just as I was about to smash it over his head, his quick reflexes were way faster than my own as he grabbed the vase and with one effortless squeeze of his hand, the vase smashed into pieces. I brought my knee up, aiming for his groin, but he caught my leg. I gasped as he was suddenly knocked into me and I fell back on the table. Silas, with fury on his face, came up behind Ellis, grabbing him by the hair and throwing him back on the floor. As Ellis began to stand, Silas kicked him in the face, his head flying to the side as I heard his neck break.
     My frantic heart slammed against my chest as I took in a breath, trying to calm myself when all I wanted to do was scream and cry. My brain had yet to accept what I had just been through.
     As Silas began to search Ellis’ pockets, I went to Andie. She was lying face down and, as much as I was afraid to touch her, I knew I had to see if she was still alive. I didn’t want to face losing another friend. My eyes flooded with tears as I looked down at my friend, lying there unmoving and helpless. As I hesitantly reached down to feel her pulse, Silas grabbed my arm and spun me around, facing him.
     “You have to leave.” His voice was urgent and demanding.
     He kept his hand clasped around my arm while he pulled me out of the booth, forcing me to walk. He was taking me away from Andie. I couldn’t let him. I had to get her out of here.
     “No!” I tried to pry my arm out of his hold, but his grip was too strong and secure to free myself.
     He paid no attention to me while he continued to drag me through the crowded club. It wasn’t until after we were outside did he let go of me. Furious and upset that he took me away from Andie when she needed me the most, I slapped him, feeling the sting from the contact on my hand.
     “That’s my best friend in there!”
     I turned around to walk back inside when he gripped my arm and pushed me up against the wall, his eyes ablaze with frustration and anger as he scowled.
     “Do you want to die?”
     “I don’t care. I’m not leaving my best friend in there!”
     “Your best friend is dead. I’m not letting you go back in there. The only reason you survived was because he claimed you.” He grabbed the necklace and held it up. “You were his property. Not to be eaten by anyone but him. You were the bait swimming in an ocean filled with sharks.”
     So that was what this club was. A place for vampires to lure their prey to and feed off them.
     I shook my head and looked down as dread poisoned my insides. I knew Ellis wasn’t a good guy and I did nothing to stop us from going with him. I shoved the feeling aside and let her convince me that I was only being paranoid because of what I had been through last night. I went along, thinking that I could protect her if I needed to, and failed her. Now my best friend was dead.
     The knife that was embedded in my heart was slowly twisting, sending waves of pain throughout my body as it slammed me in the pit of my stomach. My gut felt heavy, filled with so much misery that it hurt to even breathe. I wanted to cry. I could feel the pressure to release my sorrows build, so I swallowed the pain, refusing to let myself cry in front of Silas.
     The door to the club swung open and two men, one with sandy blond hair and the other brown with the same blue eyes as Ellis, stormed out of the club.
     “What do you think you’re doing? You know no humans are spared here, so hand her over now!” the brunette said.
     Silas exhaled as he looked behind him then averted his gaze back to me. “Two on one; I better change for this fight.”
     Confused, I shook my head. Change into what? “What?”
     My eyes widened as his eyes turned blood red and a pair of small horns came out of his temples. I jumped, gasping in horror as bat like wings flew out from behind his back. They were black and green. Just like his hair. What in the hell was he? I pressed myself up against the wall even more than I already was, afraid of the creature that stood before me. I had to remind myself that he was the good guy and I wasn’t his target.
– DREAM CAST –
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1. Starset – My Demons
2. Christina Perri – Jar of Hearts
3. Bullet for My Valentine – Waking The Demon
4. In This Moment – Sex Metal Barbie
5. Three Days Grace – Animal I Have Become
6. Asking Alexandria – I Won’t Give In
7. Trivium – Strife
8. Papa Roach – Love Me Till It Hurts
9. Chevelle – Send the Pain Below
10. Chevelle- Letter from a Thief
teaser

auth

Adria Wade has had a passion for writing since she was a kid. Her favorite part about writing is getting lost in the world she created. She lives in Maryland and is the second oldest of eight children. When not writing, she loves to read, listen to her favorite bands, watch way too many eighties movies, and has a fascination with sharks.
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Keep reading, 
Jordan