Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead {Review}

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead {Review}Title: Vampire Academy
Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy #1
Publisher: Razorbill on August 16, 2007
Format: Paperback, 332 pages
Source: Gift
4 Stars
The sum up

Snarky, sexy and fun. A promising start to the series.
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Unhinged by A.G. Howard {Review}

Unhinged by A.G. Howard {Review}Title: Unhinged
Author: A.G. Howard
Series: Splintered #2
Publisher: Amulet on January 7th 2014
Format: Paperback, 387 pages
Source: Traveling ARC
4 Stars
The sum up

This is a solid follow-up to Splintered. I really enjoyed it, and it left me eager for the next book in the series.

Summary

Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the guy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly seductive Morpheus and the vindictive Queen Red. Now all she has to do is graduate high school and make it through prom so she can attend the prestigious art school in London she’s always dreamed of.

That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.

As prom and graduation creep closer, Alyssa juggles Morpheus’s unsettling presence in her real world with trying to tell Jeb the truth about a past he’s forgotten. Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through her art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind.

If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger Jeb, her parents, and everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she’ll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.

My thoughts

Alyssa is glad to be back to her normal life. Her mom is home from the asylum, and even though she’s gone overboard on the mothering thing, Alyssa’s still glad to have her back. She and Jeb are getting along great, and he’s forgotten all about Wonderland and everything that happened there. When Morpheus starts appearing, telling Alyssa she must come back to Wonderland and defeat Queen Red once and for all, it’s annoying at first. But then he gets more insistent, and signs of Queen Red start appearing in the human world.

I liked the growth that Alyssa showed from the previous book, with her mother, Jeb and even Morpheus. She has become stronger and more secure in herself, and what she wants. Jeb was just your average nice guy, but he was ignorant of Wonderland, so it’s hard to hold that against him. He did the best he could with Alyssa, without knowing her whole story. Luckily he had the chance to flex his personality quite a bit in the second half of the story, and I liked seeing that new aspect in him. Morpheus again appeared selfish, but you could see how he really cared for his world. He didn’t want anything to happen to it, or the creatures in it.

There was more romance in this book than the previous one. I struggled to find the chemistry between Jeb and Alyssa, though there was one particular scene near the end that was so fantastic, I might even suggest you read the book just for it. I’ve never been a fan of Morpheus as a romantic interest for Alyssa, but we learned more about him in the book, and some of the reasons behind his motivations. And if you’re a fan of the love triangle, you’ll be pleased with this one.

Howard continues with her gift of making even the craziest scene or setting so realistic, they’re easy to picture. The blood artwork, the spider-like Queen Red, the bony Rabid White, the talking flowers, all of it is rendered so descriptively, it’s amazing. The scary scenes are very scary, and I may have even gasped a time or two.

About the author


A.G. Howard was inspired to write SPLINTERED while working at a school library. Her pastimes are reading, rollerblading, gardening, and family vacations which often include impromptu side trips to 18th century graveyards or condemned schoolhouses to appease her overactive muse.

Her debut YA fantasy, SPLINTERED, a dark Alice in Wonderland spinoff, is now available from Amulet Books. The sequel, UNHINGED, is due to launch January 2014.

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A Little Too Much by Lisa Desrochers {Review + Giveaway}


 
A Little Too Much by Lisa Desrochers {Review + Giveaway}Title: A Little Too Much
Author: Lisa Desrochers
Series: A Little Too Far #2
Publisher: William Morrow Impulse on November 12, 2013
Format: eBook, 416 pages
Source: Mundie Moms Blog Tours
4 Stars

Summary

In the follow-up to Lisa Desrochers’ explosive New Adult novel A Little too Far, Alessandro Moretti must face the life he escaped and the girl he loved and left behind.

Twenty-two year old Hilary McIntyre would like nothing more than to forget her past. As a teenager abandoned to the system, she faced some pretty dark times. But now that’s all behind her. Hilary has her life on track, and there’s no way she’ll head back down that road again.

Until Alessandro Moretti—the one person who can make her remember—shows up on her doorstep. He’s even more devastatingly gorgeous than before, and he’s much too close for comfort. Worse, he sees right through the walls she’s built over these last eight years, right into her heart and the secrets she’s guarding.

As Hilary finds herself falling back into love with the man who, as a boy both saved and destroyed her, she must decide. Past or future? Truth or lies?

My thoughts

Alessandro is the character I fell in love with in A Little Too Far. I was not happy that Lexie chose her stepbrother over the obvious awesomeness that was Alessandro. Big mistake, Lexie. However, thanks to her stupidity, Hilary gets a chance with the one who got away. Hilary and Alessandro (and his brother Lorenzo) spent time together at a group home many years ago. They connected, but circumstances tore them apart and they lost touch. Now that Alessandro realizes entering the priesthood isn’t the way to atone for his past, he goes to New York to find Hilary and make things right. But she’s not the same girl she was when he last saw her. She’s got big dreams and an even bigger wall around her heart.

As you may have guessed from the above summary, I loved Alessandro. He was pretty much perfect in every way, and I was glad to get a chance to read more about him. He had his troubled past, which only served to make him sexily tortured, and he was kind and gentle and so sweet. He had a great sense of humor and was always willing to try something new or go outside his comfort zone for someone else. And, as an added bonus, he looked amazing. Hilary was an arm girl (as am I) and she admired and described his sexy cut arms many times, which was quite nice.

He was able to look past Hilary’s flaws and appreciate her for who she was. And he never sugar coated that he had been in love with someone else recently (the stupid Lexie). I thought that was nice, how he didn’t try to shy away from the facts. He always told the truth, but in a nice way.

On the other hand, I didn’t like Hilary as a character as much as I did Lexie from A Little Too Far. There was no logical reason, I just didn’t click with her. She was nice enough with her friends, but not overly friendly with others. She was in a relationship of convenience, without emotional attachment, and while I think that works fine for some people, that’s just not my thing.

One thing I had to wonder about was why Hilary refused to see how perfect for her Alessandro was. We find out later why (more on that in a minute), but still, she resisted much longer than I would expect anyone to. It was kind of frustrating, I kept thinking “Just kiss him, already!” and “Why are you still denying how great he is?” I didn’t understand the reluctance.

Hilary’s bestie, Jess, was super cute. She was also an actress and we didn’t spend a lot of time with her, but she was genuinely nice, which I always like to see. The boyfriend was fairly likable, considering he was only with Hilary for the sex. They lived together, though, and he was faithful to her, plus he did what he could to help her career. Of course, he turned out not to be quite so charming in the end.

Hilary had a dirty mouth and the f-word was slung around a lot. And there was a fair amount of graphic sex. The build up before the big moment with Hilary and Alessandro was nice; lots of heavy breathing and lip biting. But it still wasn’t as romantically sexy as it was for Alessandro and Lexie. Maybe I’m always going to compare those two couples…

One of the themes in the book was discovering the New York that nobody else knew about and that was fun. We learned a bit about different New York “attractions” that are under-appreciated by the everyday people who live there. In fact, one or two of them sound interesting enough that I might check them out if I ever go back to the city.

There was a big twist about 2/3 of the way through the book, however, I knew it was coming. I’m not sure if it was a lucky guess, but after reading the preview bit at the end of A Little Too Far, I immediately knew what the big event was going to be, and I was right. It’s a big one, but it’s not easy to figure it out as you read. I’m not sure if I would have felt any differently about the story if I hadn’t known what was going on. I think it would have been a big surprise, and I might have been less frustrated with Hilary’s actions.

At any rate, I enjoyed the book and will definitely be reading the next book in the series.

The sum up

Steamy and dramatic with lots of angst, this is an older “new adult” book perfect for romance and drama fans.

About the author

Lisa Desrochers is the USA Today bestselling author of A LITTLE TOO FAR , courtesy of HarperCollins, and companions, A LITTLE TOO MUCH (Nov 12, 2013), and A LITTLE TOO HOT (Jan 21, 2014). Also in stores is her YA PERSONAL DEMONS trilogy (Macmillan).

She lives in central California with her husband and two very busy daughters. There is never a time that she can be found without a book in her hand, and she adores stories that take her to new places, and then take her by surprise.

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Working It Out by Rachael Anderson {Review}

Working It Out by Rachael Anderson {Review}Title: Working It Out
Author: Rachael Anderson
Publisher: HEA Publishing on July 15th 2013
Format: eARC, 262 pages
Source: I Am a Reader, Not a Writer
4 Stars
Summary

A chance encounter . . .
Grace Warren’s life is safe and predictable—exactly the way she likes it. But when she gets roped into going to an auction to help out a friend, everything changes. She meets Seth Tuttle—a guy who unexpectedly kisses her then disappears, leaving her flustered and upset. If she never sees him again, it will be too soon.

A chance for love . . .
Weeks later, when Seth limps into Grace’s rehab clinic post surgery, he’s every bit as frustrating and annoying as she remembered. Yet there’s something about him that makes her second-guess her carefully placed boundaries even though he’s everything she’s sure she doesn’t want in a man. But maybe Seth is exactly what Grace has needed all along—assuming she’s willing to risk safe and predictable for a chance at love.

My thoughts

Grace is perfectly content being single. She spends her days working hard as a physical therapist and her nights trying to relieve her guilt over her brother’s paralysis. She has no room for anything else. When live-life-to-the-fullest Seth ends up as her patient, they clash immediately. But something about her intrigues him, and he’s not willing to take no for an answer.

I really liked this story. Just like her previous novel, The Reluctant Bachelorette, Working It Out, is a fun, clean read that’s pure entertainment. It tackles some heavy subjects, but it does so without going to a completely dark place.

All of the characters were likeable, except maybe Grace’s kind of creepy coworker. Grace was strong and intelligent. Seth was fun and kind. His “sister” was passionate and loving. Grace’s brother was depressed but he soon figured out the way back. They were all nice, normal people whom you would want to have in your life. They handled their problems realistically and without too much drama.

There were a few things that irked me, like Seth’s inability to consider Grace’s feelings when it came to his daredevil ways, or Lanna’s stubborn refusal of Seth’s help, even if it meant a lot of money for her charity. Just little things, and certainly not enough to make me dislike the book.

The plot is a fun one, it’s easy to see how these two might clash, and the fun comes when they’re stuck working together. The chemistry between them was quite fun. There was a touch of romance, but anything that could be considered “private” was behind closed doors and we didn’t read about it.

Rachael Anderson has a gift for capturing the atmosphere and attitudes of the story and the characters. Her novels are a joy to read and I consider them automatic buys.

The sum up

Fun and sweet, this is a classic contemporary chick-lit novel.

About the author


I love to read, write, and do most anything outdoors, with the exception of rock climbing and sky diving. (I have serious height phobias.) If there’s something I can do within five feet of solid ground, count me in!

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45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson {Review}

45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson {Review}Title: 45 Pounds (More or Less)
Author: K.A. Barson
Publisher: Viking Juvenile on July 11th 2013
Format: Hardcover, 272 pages
Source: Book Divas
4 Stars
Summary

She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in 2 1/2 months.

Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—-and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother.

And there’s one more thing. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin-—no matter how you add it up!

My thoughts

Ann has been overweight for a long time. She’s tried various diets and exercise programs, but none stick. When her aunt asks her to stand up at her wedding, Ann decides now is the time to get serious about losing weight. She sees an informercial for the Next Big Thing and decides that’s the key. As she’s trying to lose the weight, she’s also dealing with new friends, jealous friends, a new crush, her absentee dad, a new job and a very critical mother.

In the beginning, Ann was a bit of a non-character. Thanks to her mother’s constant nagging, and her own self-image, Ann was afraid to be herself, or to have much of a personality. She wanted to blend in and be unnoticed. As the story goes on and she learns to open up and make friends and talk to people, she really blossoms into a person whom I would totally be friends with.

One of her new friends, Raynee, was a great person for Ann to get to know and I liked her character. I also liked Ann’s crush, who was a cutie patootie and so nice (and forgiving!). Ann’s family was your average blended family and they were all believable, though the mom was a bit… off. Her issues weren’t the kind that would go on unnoticed in real life as long as they did in the story.

The plot was entirely (and unfortunately) believable. Who among us hasn’t, at one time or another, decided we needed to lose some weight? Thought that everything would get better if we could drop a few pounds? Imagined that this new diet is the one that will solve our weight problem once and for all? We know better, but Anne still believes, and it was painful to read as she learned the truth.

You know going in what the final lesson will be, but it was never got preachy. There was a lot of humor in the story; I loved Ann’s snarkiness, and her grandmother’s bad attitude. I laughed out loud several times. K.A. Barson not only writes the funny scenes, but she can bring the sad, too, without it being overwhelming. Ann’s inner dialogue was one I think everyone can relate to.

The sum up

I found this to be honest and fun; a perfect story for girls, both the young and the not-so young.

About the author


K.A. Barson graduated from Vermont College of Fine Arts with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She and her husband live in Jackson, Michigan, surrounded by kids, grandkids, unruly dogs, and too many pairs of shoes.

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Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton {Review}

Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton {Review}Title: Some Quiet Place
Author: Kelsey Sutton
Series: Some Quiet Place #1
Publisher: Flux on July 8th 2013
Format: eARC, 350 pages
Source: Publisher
4 Stars
Summary

Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions . . . she sees them. Longing, Shame, and Courage materialize around her classmates. Fury and Resentment appear in her dysfunctional home. They’ve all given up on Elizabeth because she doesn’t succumb to their touch. All, that is, save one—Fear. He’s intrigued by her, as desperate to understand the accident that changed Elizabeth’s life as she is herself.

Elizabeth and Fear both sense that the key to her past is hidden in the dream paintings she hides in the family barn. But a shadowy menace has begun to stalk her, and try as she might, Elizabeth can barely avoid the brutality of her life long enough to uncover the truth about herself. When it matters most, will she be able to rely on Fear to save her?

My thoughts

For as long as Elizabeth can remember, she’s not been able to feel emotions. She doesn’t get shy, embarrassed, happy or sad. She tries hard to act normal, because her home is the only place she knows and she doesn’t want to start over somewhere else. Not only can her classmates tell she’s different, but even her parents are freaked out by her. Her mother barely looks at her, and her father avoids her. Unless he’s drunk. All she wants to do is finish school and not cause any waves.

This was a very unique story, and had a lot of elements I’ve never seen before. It was pretty long, and I picked out several parts that could have been cut without effecting the story. It dragged a bit, especially in the middle. But the final third picked up and I really liked the snappy pace through the end.

It was hard to like Elizabeth as a character since she didn’t have a personality. She had opinions and actions, but no cares or desires. It was easy to feel sorry for her, though. Not only did she want to be normal, but her home situation was a mess. It would have been nice if she’d had a friend to talk to, to tell what was going on at home. But she didn’t have anyone constant in her life except Fear, whom I loved. At first, I thought he was only interested in Elizabeth because she was an enigma – she never felt afraid, even when he brought out the big guns. But he started to show some actual depth and I saw a bit of warmth and caring peeking though.

There was a lot of mystery in the story. Not only the whole “Why can’t Elizabeth feel anything,” but also how did she end up that way? Was it the accident? Why does her mother avoid her? Has her father always treated her so badly? Why doesn’t anyone else in the family have the same problem? Why is Fear so obsessed with finding out why she isn’t affected by the Emotions? Who are the people in her paintings?

The romance was subtle, but it was definitely there. You might even say the book had a touch of swoon. And those who dislike love triangles can rejoice, as there wasn’t one here, though it started off looking like there might be.

Kelsey Sutton has a gift, and I was surprised to learn this was her debut novel. She writes like someone with many books under her belt. She creates a world just like ours, with a slight difference (the visible Emotions), and manages to make it real. The writing is evocative and dynamic.

Originally published as a standalone, a sequel has been announced, but I’m not sure if that’s the right way to go. I really enjoyed this book, and you might think that means I’d automatically welcome another in the series, but you’d be wrong. I’ll probably read it, but unless it’s fantastic, I’ll most likely say it would have worked better as a standalone novel as opposed to a series.

The sum up

Different and unique, I enjoyed this romantic take on emotions. 

About the author


Kelsey Sutton has done everything from training dogs, making cheeseburgers, selling yellow page ads, and cleaning hotel rooms. Now she divides her time between her college classes and her writing, though she can also sometimes be found pounding out horrible renditions of Beethoven on the piano and trying bizarre drinks at her local coffee shop. Kelsey lives in northern Minnesota with her dog and cat, Lewis and Clark.

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Review + Giveaway: Freshman Forty by Christine Duval

Title: Freshman Forty
Author: Christine Duval
Publisher: February 21st 2013 by Amazon
Format: Kindle Edition, 185 pages
Source: XPressos Book Tours
4 owls

Summary

When eighteen-year-old Laurel Harris discovers she’s pregnant four weeks into the start of her freshman year at prestigious Colman College, she has all intentions of telling her father. But being away at school makes it too easy to hide. And while she can’t explain to her friends, or to herself even, the reasons why she doesn’t want the baby’s father to find out about the pregnancy, the rest of her world begins to unravel.

Freshman year is hard enough. Most girls get through by forming close friendships, finding new boys and a phone call from mom or dad on Sunday. Laurel has to navigate all of it while hiding an unplanned pregnancy from a summer fling…

An imperfect heroine plagued by bad choices and haunted by the memory of her deceased mother and grandparents, readers are sure to identify with Laurel as she navigates teen pregnancy, in secret, in a remote college setting.

My thoughts

Laurel had to be self-reliant from an early age because her father had been mentally checked out ever since her mother died. In fact, he was pretty good at pushing Laurel away; he seemed intent on being as dissociated with his daughter as possible.

Laurel was a strange mixture of tough and weak. She was tough to think she could handle the pregnancy all on her own, but too weak to ask for help when she clearly needed it. She knew she could take care of herself and the baby, yet she made stupid decisions concerning the baby. She knew her relationship with her father was difficult, yet she put up with it because she didn’t know how to change things.

I enjoyed the secondary characters, especially Mike. He ended up in an awkward situation and managed to make the most of it. I liked the girls in the pregnancy group, Laurel’s doctor and her friends. She was lucky to be surrounded by kind and loving people.

The plot was interesting and relevant. I bet everyone knows at least 1 person who ended up unexpectedly pregnant. Not only is that sometimes a tricky place to be, but Laurel had to deal with that while making it through her freshman year of college. I felt badly for her as she struggled to know what to do and where to turn. She almost seemed determined to make it as hard for herself as possible, though, and that was a little annoying.

The writing made the book fun to read. Everything was descriptive and honest. Once Laurel finally met some people she could talk to, they were all incredibly honest with each other; about pregnancy, boys and friendship, and I really liked that aspect. The pacing was zippy which made the book even easier to read.

I didn’t like the ending. Throughout the entire story, one question was asked over and over. It was the one question everyone wanted to know. And yet it went unanswered in the end. Very frustrating.

The sum up

An entertaining cautionary tale.

 

About the author

Christine Duval has been writing creatively since the fourth grade when she penned her first short story entitled “London Terror,” about the murder of a cat in London. She grew up on the North Shore of Long Island and lived in Italy twice as a teenager: once when she was sixteen in Bologna and in a small town on the Adriatic Sea called Porto San Giorgio; then in Florence when she was nineteen. Her parents wondered if she’d ever come back.

College was spent in the Finger Lakes: the inspiration for Colman, Milton, and Kashong Lake in Freshman Forty. It really is cold, wet and grey there – OFTEN! But when the sun comes out, boy is it pretty.

Life eventually took her to New York’s Upper West Side, the place she’ll always consider home. Though for now she resides in New Jersey with her family and a very spoiled love bird who can’t decide if he’s a boy or she’s a girl.

Freshman Forty took an Honorable Mention at the New York Book Festival and won an Honorable Mention under General Fiction for the Beach Book Festival.

Freshman Forty was originally self-published, but Christine just signed a deal to have it re-released by a publishing house this fall! Follow Christine on Twitter or her Goodreads author page for updates.

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Review: Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

Title: Nantucket Blue
Author: Leila Howland
Publisher: May 7th 2013 by Disney Hyperion
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Source: Publisher
4 owls

Summary

For Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.

Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.

When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.

But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on–most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits–that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.

A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

My thoughts

Jules and Cricket are besties, so much so that Cricket spends most of her time at Jules’s house. Cricket’s mom is a depressed divorcée, and Jules’ family is so welcoming and warm. Her parents and younger brother all consider Cricket part of the family, and when Jules’ invites Cricket to spend the summer with them in Nantucket, Cricket jumps at the chance to get away from her mom and live her own life.

Cricket was a sweet girl. She tried hard to be a good daughter, and in fact, did a fabulous job of it. Her mother was still depressed after her divorce, even though Cricket’s father had moved on and remarried, and Cricket had pretty much become the mother figure. She took care of her mom, made sure she ate and tried to come up with activities to help get her out of the house. Cricket was mature for her age, mostly thanks to her mom, and though she had every right to be angry, she wasn’t. She was just sad about the situation.

Her bestie Jules seemed like a nice person, but once the devastating tragedy occurred (and it was truly devastating), she almost turned into a completely different person. And not a very nice one. I can understand her sadness and moodiness, but she turned on Cricket in such a mean way, I had trouble forgiving her for it.

Besides the 2 main characters, I loved everyone else: the sassy chambermaid, the kind and observant hotel manager, the harried author… All had their own characteristics and little quirks that made them believable and likable. The dialogue was great, I appreciated how honest Cricket was, even if it was sometimes hard for her. Leila Howland has a gift for saying the most complex things in a simple and understated way; it makes the words seem more powerful.

I enjoyed the setting of Nantucket, Leila Howland did a fabulous job of making me feel like I was there with the girls. The mood and setting were all descriptive and fun. I could picture the beach, the houses and all the little shops. Even the hoity toities who summer there. It was a fun story, as Cricket learned to stand on her own, as she fell in love, as she tried to figure things out with Jules. There was sadness, but there was also funny bits and romance. Speaking of the romance, I really enjoyed it. It was spare, in that there wasn’t a lot of flirting, giggling, and coyness or “Squee, does he like me?!” But it was there and you could feel it and appreciate it for its simplicity.

The novel zips along, and the 3 month summer flies by, then the book’s over before you know it. Although I was happy with the length of the story, and the way it ended, I wanted more! More Cricket and her man, more Liz, more Gavin and more George. Just more.

The sum up

I really liked this book and quite frankly, I’m surprised that this is Howland’s debut novel. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

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