Friday Raves & Giveaway: Dumplin’ is now on Netflix!

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Title: Dumplin’
Author:  Julie Murphy
Publisher: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen 
Release Date: November 27, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

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Synopsis:

NOW a Netflix film–featuring Jennifer Aniston, Danielle Macdonald, and Dove Cameron, as well as a soundtrack from Dolly Parton!

The movie tie-in edition of the #1 New York Times bestseller and feel-good YA of the year—about Willowdean Dickson, the fearless, funny, and totally unforgettable heroine who takes on her small town’s beauty pageant.

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body.

With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does.

Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

Julie Murphy is the leading voice in body positivity for teens in the YA space. Willowdean is a heroine rarely seen in teen books and movies—she is confident and unafraid.  Her struggle with body image issues is a subject every teen can relate to. But Will doesn’t have to lose weight to be happy at the end of this book—or to fall in love.


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You guys! One of my favorite books of 2015 is now a NETFLIX movie! AHHHHH!!!

I teamed up with the amazing Wunderkind-PR and we are giving away a free copy of the paperback movie tie-in book.  

Dumplin’ was previously released in 2015 and is a New York Times #1 bestseller. With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

giveaway

Please note that Wunderkind-PR is kindly giving away a movie tie-in edition of Dumplin’. Open to all US residents. All you need to do is Retweet my tweet, and I will pick a winner Friday, December 14. And if you win, the book will be sent by Wunderkind-PR straight to your mailbox. How awesome is that, Y’ALL?!

TWEET TO RETWEET:

CHECK OUT THE TRAILER HERE:


Praise for Dumplin’

 “Murphy (Side Effects May Vary) successfully makes every piece of the story—Dolly Parton superfans, first love, best-friend problems, an unlikely group of pageant entrants, female solidarity, self-acceptance, and Willowdean’s complicated relationship with the mother who nicknamed her “Dumplin’ “—count, weaving them together to create a harmonious, humorous, and thought-provoking whole.”
   — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 “Will’s singular voice compels readers to think about all that goes into building-and destroying-self-esteem…Splendid”

 Booklist (starred review)

“DUMPLIN’ should be required reading for anyone who has ever felt even slightly uncomfortable in his or her skin. Julie Murphy’s star continues to shine with this groundbreaking, poignant story that will surely change lives.”
   — John Corey Whaley, award-winning author of Noggin and Where Things Come Back

“I’m obsessed with this book. Wickedly funny, heartbreakingly real, full of characters to love and cheer for. DUMPLIN’ is such a star.”
   — Katie Cotugno, author of How to Love and 99 Days

Awards and Other Acclaim

  • ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults
  • An ALA Top Ten Pick for Reluctant Readers 
  • An Indies Choice Best Young Adult Honor Book
  • Best Book of the Year & Best Young Adult Contemporary Novel by Romantic Times
  • New York Public Library Best Book of the Year 
  • Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year 
  • Tumblr Reblog Book Club Pick
  • Amazon Best Book of the Year
  • B&N Best Book of the Year
  • Booklist Editor’s choice
  • Spirt of Texas High School Reading List
  • Tayshas (Texas Teen) Reading List
  • Indigo Best Book of the Year

ABOUT JULIE MURPHY…THE QUEEN

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Julie Murphy lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cats who tolerate her. After several wonderful years in the library world, Julie now writes full-time. When she’s not writing or reliving her reference desk glory days, she can be found watching made-for-TV movies, hunting for the perfect slice of cheese pizza, and planning her next great travel adventure. She is also the author of Puddin’ and Side Effects May Vary. You can visit Julie at www.juliemurphywrites.com.

 

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Book Blitz & Giveaway: The Fever King by Victoria Lee

Title: The Fever King
Author: Victoria Lee
Published by: Skyscape
Publication date: March 1st 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Synopsis:
In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.

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READ CHAPTER 1:

Outbreaks of magic started all kinds of ways. Maybe a tank coming in from the quarantined zone didn’t get hosed down properly. Maybe, like some people said, the refugees brought it up with them from Atlantia, the virus hiding out in someone’s blood or in a juicy peach pie.

But when magic infected the slums of west Durham, in the proud sovereign nation of Carolinia, it didn’t matter how it got there.

Everybody still died.

Noam was ringing up Mrs. Ellis’s snuff tins when he nearly toppled into the cash register.

He all but had to fight her off as she tried to force him down into a folding chair—swore he’d just got a touch dizzy, but he’d be fine, really. Go on home. She left eventually, and he went to stand in front of the window fan for a while, holding his shirt off his sweat-sticky back and trying not to pass out.

He spent the rest of his shift reading Bulgakov under the counter. He felt just fine.

That evening he locked the doors, pulled chicken wire over the windows, and took a new route to the Migrant Center. In this neighborhood, you had to if you didn’t want to get robbed. Once upon a time, or so Noam had heard, there’d been a textile mill here. The street would’ve been full of workers heading home, empty lunch pails in hand. Then the mill had gone down and apartments went up, and by the 1960s, Ninth Street had been repopulated by rich university students with their leather satchels and clove cigarettes. All that was before the city got bombed halfway to hell in the catastrophe, of course.

Noam’s ex used to call it “the Ninth Circle.” She meant it in Dante’s sense.

The catastrophe was last century, though. Now the university campus blocked the area in from the east, elegant stone walls keeping out the riffraff while Ninth and Broad crumbled under the weight of five-person refugee families crammed into one-room apartments, black markets buried in basements, laundry lines strung between windows like market lights. Sure, maybe you shouldn’t wander around the neighborhood at night draped in diamonds, but Noam liked it anyway.

“Someone’s famous,” Linda said when he reached the back offices of the Migrant Center, a sly smile curving her lips as she passed him the morning’s Herald.

Noam grinned back and looked.

Massive Cyberattack Disables Central News Bureau

Authorities link hack to Atlantian cyberterrorist affiliates.

“Haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about. Say, have you got any scissors?”

“What for?”

“I’m gonna frame this.”

Linda snorted and swatted him on the arm. “Get on, you. Brennan has some task he wants finished this week, and I don’t think you, him, and your ego can all fit in that office.”

Which, fair: the office was pretty small. Tucked into the back corner of the building, with Brennan’s name and Director printed on the door in copperplate, it was pretty much an unofficial storage closet for all the files and paperwork Linda couldn’t cram anywhere else. Brennan’s desk was dwarfed by boxes stacked precariously around it, the man himself leaning close to his holoreader monitor with reading glasses perched on the end of a long nose and a pen behind one ear.

“Noam,” he said, glancing up when the door opened. “You made it.”

“Sorry I missed yesterday. I had to cover someone’s shift at the computer store after I got off the clock at Larry’s.”

Brennan waved a dismissive hand. “Don’t apologize. If you have to work, you have to work.”

“Still.”

It wasn’t guilt, per se, that coiled up in Noam’s stomach. Or maybe it was. That was his father’s photograph on the wall, after all, though his face was hidden by a bandanna tied over his nose and mouth. His father’s hands holding up that sign—Refugee rights are human rights. That was in June 2118, during the revolt over the new, more stringent citizenship tests. It had been the largest protest in Carolinian history.

“Linda said you had something for me to work on?” Noam said, tilting his head toward the holoreader.

“It’s just database management, I’m afraid, nothing very interesting.”

“I love databases.” Noam smiled, and Brennan smiled back. The expression lifted the exhaustion from Brennan’s face like a curtain rising from a window, sunlight streaming through.

Brennan oriented him to the task, then gave up his desk chair for Noam to get to work. He squeezed Noam’s shoulder before he left to help Linda with dinner, and a warm beat of familiarity took root in the pit of Noam’s stomach. Brennan might try to put up boundaries, clear delineations between professional life and how close Brennan had been to Noam’s family, but the cracks were always visible.

That was pretty much the only reason Noam didn’t tell him up front: database management was mind-numbingly boring. After you figured out how to script your way past the problem, it was just a matter of waiting around. He’d have once maybe emailed Carly or someone while the program executed. But they were all dead now, and between the Migrant Center and two jobs, Noam didn’t have time to meet new people. So he sat and watched text stream down the command console, letters blurring into numbers until the screen was wavering light.

A dull ache bored into Noam’s skull.

Maybe he was more tired than he thought, because he didn’t remember what happened between hitting “Execute” and Brennan shaking him awake. Noam lurched upright.

“You all right?” Brennan asked.

“What? Oh—fine, sorry. I must have . . . dozed off.” Noam seized the holoreader, tapping at the screen until it lit up again. The script was finished, anyway, and no run-time errors. Thankfully. “It’s all done.”

The thin line between Brennan’s brows deepened. “Are you feeling okay? You look . . .”

“Fine. I’m fine. Just tired.” Noam attempted a wan smile. He really hoped he wasn’t coming down with whatever it was Elliott from the computer store had. Only, he and Elliott had kissed in the back room on their lunch break yesterday, so yeah, he probably had exactly what Elliott had.

“Maybe you should go on home,” Brennan said, using that grip on Noam’s shoulder to ease him back from the computer. “I can help Linda finish up dinner.”

“I can—”

“It wasn’t a request.”

Noam made a face, and Brennan sighed.

“For me, Noam. Please. I’ll drop by later on if I have time.”

There was no arguing with Brennan when he got all protective. So Noam just exhaled and said, “Yeah, all right. Fine.”

Brennan’s hand lingered a beat longer than usual on Noam’s shoulder, squeezing slightly, then let go. When Noam looked over, Brennan’s expression gave nothing away as he said, “Tell your dad hi for me.”

Noam had arrived at the Migrant Center in the early evening. Now it was night, the deep-blue world illuminated by pale streetlight pooling on the sidewalk. It was unusually silent. When Noam turned onto Broad, he found out why: a checkpoint was stationed up at the intersection by the railroad tracks—floodlights and vans, police, even a few government witchings in military uniform.

Right. No one without a Carolinian passport would be on the street tonight, not with Immigration on the prowl.

Noam’s papers were tucked into his back pocket, but yeah, he didn’t need to deal with Chancellor Sacha’s anti-Atlantian bullshit right now. Not with this headache. He cut through the alley between the liquor store and the barbecue joint to skirt the police perimeter. It was a longer walk home from there, but Noam didn’t mind.

He liked the way tonight smelled, like smoked ribs and gasoline. Like oncoming snow.

When he got to his building, he managed to get the door open—the front latch was ancient enough it probably counted as precatastrophe. Fucking thing always got stuck, always, and Noam had written to the super fifty times, for what little difference that’d made. It was November, but the back of Noam’s neck was sweat-damp by the time he finally shouldered his way into the building and trudged into his apartment.

Once upon a time, this building was a bookstore. It’d long since been converted to tenements, all plywood walls and hung-up sheets for doors. The books were still there, though, yellowing and mildewed. They made him sneeze, but he read a new one every day all the same, curled up in a corner and out of the way of the other tenants. It was old and worn out, but it was home.

Noam touched the mezuzah on the doorframe as he went in, a habit he hadn’t picked up till after his mother died but felt right somehow. Not that being extra Jewish would bring her back to life.

Noam’s father had been moved from the TV to the window.

“What’s up, Dad?”

No answer. That was nothing new. Noam was pretty sure his father hadn’t said three words in a row since 2120. Still, Noam draped his arms over his father’s lax shoulders and kissed his cheek.

“I hope you want pasta for dinner,” Noam said, “’cause that’s what we’ve got.”

He left his father staring out at the empty street and busied himself with the saucepans. He set up the induction plate and hunched over it, steam wafting toward his face as the water simmered. God, it was unbearably hot, but he didn’t trust himself to let go of the counter edge, not with this dizziness rippling through his mind.

Should’ve had more than an apple for lunch. Should’ve gone to bed early last night, not stayed up reading Paradise Lost for the fiftieth time.

If his mother were here, she’d have dragged him off to bed and stuck him with a mug of aguapanela. It was some sugary tea remedy she’d learned from her Colombian mother-in-law that was supposed to cure everything. Noam had never learned how to make it.

Another regret to add to the list.

He dumped dried noodles into the pot. “There’s a checkpoint at the corner of Broad and Main,” he said, not expecting an answer.

None came. Jaime Álvaro didn’t care about anything anymore, not even Atlantia.

Noam turned down the heat on the stove. “Couldn’t tell if they made any arrests. Nobody’s out, so they might start knocking on doors later.”

He turned around. His father’s expression was the same slack-jawed one he’d been wearing when Noam first came in.

“Brennan asked about you,” Noam said. Surely that deserved a blink, at least.

Nothing.

“I killed him.”

Nothing then either.

Noam spun toward the saucepan again, grabbing a fork and stabbing at the noodles, which slipped through the prongs like so many slimy worms. His gut surged up into his throat, and Noam closed his eyes, free hand gripping the edge of the nearest bookshelf.

“You could at least pretend to give a shit,” he said to the blackness on the other side of his eyelids. The pounding in his head was back. “I’m sad about Mom, too, you know.”

His next breath shuddered all the way down into his chest—painful, like inhaling frost.

His father used to sing show tunes while he did the dinner dishes. Used to check the classifieds every morning for job offers even though having no papers meant he’d never get the good ones—he still never gave up. Never ever.

And Noam . . . Noam had to remember who his father really was, even if that version of him belonged to another life, ephemeral as footprints in the snow. Even if it felt like he’d lost both parents the day his mother died.

Noam switched off the heat, spooning the noodles into two bowls. No sauce, so he drizzled canola oil on top and carried one of the bowls over to his father. Noam edged his way between the chair and the window, crouching down in that narrow space. He spun noodles around the fork. “Open up.”

Usually, the prospect of food managed to garner a reaction. Not this time.

Nausea crawled up and down Noam’s breastbone. Or maybe it was regret. “I’m sorry,” he said after a beat and tried for a self-deprecating grin. “I was . . . it’s been a long day. I was a dick. I’m sorry, Dad.”

His father didn’t speak and didn’t open his mouth.

Noam set the pasta bowl on the floor and wrapped his other hand around his father’s bony wrist. “Please,” Noam said. “Just a few bites. I know it’s not Mom’s cooking, but . . . for me. Okay?”

Noam’s mother had made the most amazing food. Noam tried to live up to her standard, but he never could. He’d given up on cooking anything edible, on keeping a kosher kitchen, on speaking Spanish. On making his father smile.

Noam rubbed his thumb against his father’s forearm.

The skin there was paper thin and far, far too hot.

“Dad?”

His father’s eyes stared past Noam, unseeing and glassy, reflecting the lamplight outside. That wasn’t what made Noam lurch back and collide with window, its latch jabbing his spine.

A drop of blood welled in the corner of his father’s eye and—after a single quivering moment—cut down his cheek like a tear.

“Mrs. Brown!”

Noam shoved the chair back from the window, half stumbling across the narrow room to the curtain separating their space from their neighbor’s. He banged a fist against the nearest bookshelf.

“Mrs. Brown, are you in there? I—I’m coming in.”

He ripped the curtain to one side. Mrs. Brown was there but not in her usual spot. She was curled on the bed instead, shoulders jutting against the ratty blanket like bony wings.

Noam hesitated. Was she . . . no. Was she dead?

She moved, then, a pale hand creeping out to wave vaguely in the air.

“Mrs. Brown, I need help,” Noam said. “It’s my dad—he’s sick. He’s . . . he’s really sick, and I think . . .”

The hand dropped back onto the blanket and went still.

No. No, no—this wasn’t right. This wasn’t happening. He should go downstairs and get another neighbor. He should—no, he should check on his dad. He couldn’t. He . . .

He had to focus.

The blanket covering Mrs. Brown began to ripple like the surface of the sea. Outside, the hazard sirens wailed.

Magic.

Dragging his eyes away from Mrs. Brown, Noam twisted round to face his own apartment and vomited all over the floor.

He stood there for a second, staring woozily at the mess while sirens shrieked in his ears. He was sick. Magic festered in his veins, ready to consume him whole.

An outbreak.

His father, when Noam managed to weave his way back to his side, had fallen unconscious. His head lolled forward, and there was a bloody patch on his lap, yellow electricity flickering over the stain. The world undulated around them both in watery waves.

“It’s okay,” Noam said, knowing his dad couldn’t hear him. He sucked in a sharp breath and hitched his father’s body out of the chair. He shouldn’t—he couldn’t just leave him there like that. Noam had carried him around for three years, but today his father weighed twice as much as before. Noam’s arms quivered. His thoughts were white noise.

It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, a voice kept repeating in Noam’s head.

He dumped his father’s body on the bed, skinny limbs sprawling. Noam tried to nudge him into a more comfortable position, but even that took effort. But this . . . it was more than he’d done for his mother. He’d left her corpse swinging on that rope for hours before Brennan had shown up to take her down.

His father still breathed, for now.

How long did it take to die? God, Noam couldn’t remember.

On shaky legs, Noam made his way back to the chair by the window. He couldn’t manage much more. The television kept turning itself on and off again, images blazing across a field of static snow and vanishing just as quickly. Noam saw it out of the corners of his eyes even when he tried not to look, the same way he saw his father’s unconscious body. That would be Noam soon.

Magic crawled like ivy up the sides of the fire escape next door.

Noam imagined his mother waiting for him with a smile and open arms, the past three years just a blink against eternity.

His hands sparked with something silver-blue and bright. Bolts shot between his fingers and flickered up his arms. The effect would have been beautiful were it not so deadly. And yet . . .

A shiver ricocheted up his spine.

Noam held a storm in his hands, and he couldn’t feel a thing.

 

Author Bio:

Victoria Lee grew up in Durham, North Carolina, where she spent twelve ascetic years as a vegetarian before discovering that spicy chicken wings are, in fact, a delicacy. She’s been a state finalist competitive pianist, a hitchhiker, a pizza connoisseur, an EMT, an expat in China and Sweden, and a science doctoral student. She’s also a bit of a snob about fancy whiskey. Lee writes early in the morning and then spends the rest of the day trying to impress her border collie puppy and make her experiments work. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her partner.

For exclusive updates, excerpts, and giveaways, sign up for Victoria’s newsletter at https://victorialeewrites.com/newsletter/

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Review & Favorite Quotes of Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

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Title:
 Escaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3)

Author:  Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery

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Synopsis:

In this third installment in the #1 bestselling Stalking Jack the Ripper series, a luxurious ocean liner becomes a floating prison of scandal, madness, and horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?


review and quotes

Once again, Kerri Maniscalco has astounded me with her storytelling. I cannot and will never get enough of Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell. I love the chemistry between these two characters, their banter, and how Thomas, truly a Victorian gentleman, always treats Audrey Rose with respect and as an equal. They are my ultimate OTP. Now in Escaping from Houdini, things are shaken up between these two and I’m not going to say I was the hugest fan in riding those waves, but when these two characters are on the same page with each other, their partnership is outstanding. 

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I love that Escaping from Houdini stays true to the first two books and portrays feminism in the best light. As the main female lead, Audrey Rose Wadsworth is witty, sassy, and so intelligent. She defies many characteristics of a stereotypical Victorian woman, and instead is a proto-feminist of the era. I love that she is deep into solving mysteries and murder with science and rational deduction. She wants to know the truth and how things tick, and she is not afraid to dig deeper into danger to find her answers. 
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Overall, the setting of this novel made the mysterious story even more intriguing. I was captivated by the details of Victorian fashion and mannerisms, as well as the illusions and magic of the traveling carnival performers and entertainers on board a ship. Mix in history, quirky banter, the sleuthing of Sherlock Holmes, the atmospheric allurement found in Caraval, and you have Escaping from Houdini delivering on all levels of entertainment, education, fascination, and mystery.
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4 star rating
giveaway

WIN One ARC of Escaping From Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco (USA only)

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about the author

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats.

Her first novel in this series, Stalking Jack the Ripper, debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It incorporates her love of forensic science and unsolved history.

 
Note: Thank you to the The Fantastic Flying Book Club for having me on this blog tour. And a huge thank you to Jimmy Patterson Books for providing me an ARC to read and review for free in exchange for an honest review. All statements and opinions are my own. Please note that all quoted material are not final and may change in the final publication of the book.

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Review of Keeper of the Bees by Meg Kassel

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Title:
Keeper of the Bees
Author: Meg Kassel
Genre: YA Paranormal
Release Date: September 4th 2018
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Summary:

Beauty and the beast like you’ve never imagined!” —New York Times bestselling author Pintip Dunn

KEEPER OF THE BEES is a tale of two teens who are both beautiful and beastly, and whose pasts are entangled in surprising and heartbreaking ways.
Dresden is cursed. His chest houses a hive of bees that he can’t stop from stinging people with psychosis-inducing venom. His face is a shifting montage of all the people who have died because of those stings. And he has been this way for centuries—since he was eighteen and magic flowed through his homeland, corrupting its people.

He follows harbingers of death, so at least his curse only affects those about to die anyway. But when he arrives in a Midwest town marked for death, he encounters Essie, a seventeen-year-old girl who suffers from debilitating delusions and hallucinations. His bees want to sting her on sight. But Essie doesn’t see a monster when she looks at Dresden.

Essie is fascinated and delighted by his changing features. Risking his own life, he holds back his bees and spares her. What starts out as a simple act of mercy ends up unraveling Dresden’s solitary life and Essie’s tormented one. Their impossible romance might even be powerful enough to unravel a centuries-old curse.

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Purchase Links: Entangled Teen

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My Rants and Raves Keeper of the Bees

**please note that this review may contain spoilers**

There’s something dark and eerie about Meg Kassal’s storytelling, and when it comes to her atmospheric companion novel Keeper of the Bees, Kassal does not disappoint in giving her readers the creeps and the chills. Paralleling the the same fantasy world of her first novel Black Birds of the Gallows, Keeper of the Bees focuses on a beekeeper, Dresden, along with other paranormal beings like the harbingers.

At the very beginning of the novel, Dresden’s cursed life is shifted and it is all because of Essie, a human who chews peppercorns to stop hallucinations and delusions. But the sudden burst of pepper, does not halt this teenager from seeing Dresden for what he really is: a creature that wears the many faces of his victims that have gone mad and died due to his venomous stings.

I really enjoyed the banter and conversations that are ping-ponged back and forth between these two unusual characters, Essie and Dresden. While one thinks he is a monster, a beastly being, the other finds him “pretty” but doubts herself because she suffers from a family curse which is treated like a mental illness. There is an instant bond between these two characters. It starts with fascination, turns into friendship, and develops into romance. 

Keeper of the Bees is also a very fascinating read because Kassel creates her own legends and fantastical foundation. This book reflects some similar characteristics of traditional young adult paranormal books, but Kassal also gives a unique take on her own monsters and myths. I honestly love that her beastly characters heighten my sense of wonder but they are also so freaking creepy.  

If you are fond of books with a bit of mystery, myth, romance, paranormal elements, and a hint of horror, Keeper of the Bees is the right book to add to your TBR. The story is well-paced and I liked that the characters are challenged to face their own personal demons and actual monsters of the world.

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About the Author

Meg Kassel is an author of fantasy and speculative books for young adults. A graduate of Parson’s School of Design, she’s been creating stories, whether with visuals or words, since childhood. Meg is a New Jersey native who lives in a log house in the Maine woods with her husband and daughter. As a fan of ’80s cartoons, Netflix series, and ancient mythology, she has always been fascinated and inspired by the fantastic, the creepy, and the futuristic. She is the 2016 RWA Golden Heart® winner in YA and a double 2018 RITA® finalist for her debut novel, Black Bird of the Gallows.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Review of To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin

Title: To Be Honest
Author: Maggie Ann Martin
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: August 21st 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Synopsis:
Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her sister goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she’ll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn’t count on is that her mother’s obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy’s mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom’s diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.

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My Rants and Raves of To Be Honest

To Be Honest is such a feel good read that I could not put down. I wish I could tell my teenage self: “in 2018 there will be books you can relate to. They are fat positive and realistic and swoony as hell.”

In To Be Honest, I adored the main character Savannah. She is fat and healthy and proud of all her successes. Yes, she is apprehensive about big life changes and possibly dating, but this young adult rocks at math, journalism, and being an amazing friend, sister, and daughter. I loved that Savannah is bold and funny; I love that she is determined and 95% of the time says what is on her mind. 

One of my favorite parts of this novel is that the book focuses on Savannah’s internal thoughts and doesn’t sugarcoat her flaws and struggles. Instead, we are there for every verbal fight with her diet-obsessed mom, every tear-stained mascara mark, every sloppy kiss from a handsome poodle, and every laugh between half pepperoni half pineapple pizza-loving friends. I adored this book so much; every page was like a comforting hug of support and love.

If you are fan of realistic high school stories, tulle skirts, and watching young love struggle to ignite, definitely give To Be Honest a read. I loved the story and the characters and of course the white poodle named Fiyero.

4 star rating

to be honest mood board

Swirl break

Author Bio:

Maggie Ann Martin hails from Iowa City, Iowa but moonlights as a New Yorker. She has a shiny new BA in English and Journalism from the University of Iowa, the most welcoming literary community in the world. When she is not writing, you can find her binge watching TV shows or passionately fangirling over fictional characters on the Internet. The Big F is her debut novel.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Review of Airports, Exes, and Other Things I’m Over

Title: Airports, Exes, and Other Things I’m Over
Author: Shani Petroff
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: May 15th 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Synopsis:

A bad storm, two canceled flights, stuck in an airport with a hot stranger and the guy who broke her heart… what could go wrong?

After Sari caught her boyfriend Zev cheating on her, their romantic Florida vacation was ruined. She can’t get back to NYC soon enough. Unfortunately, mother nature may have different plans. A huge storm is brewing in the Northeast, and flights all over the country are getting canceled—including Sari’s. She winds up stuck at the airport for hours. With Zev!

When another stranded passenger (a hot NYU guy) suggests a connecting flight to Boston, Sari jumps at the chance. But when her mom freaks out about her traveling alone, she has no choice—she has to include Zev, and somehow survive being trapped with the guy who broke her heart!

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Wow! I found this book to be a super quick and engaging read. Even though Airports, Exes, and Other Things I’m Over spans over a week, Sari and Zev’s story definitely encompasses so much to unravel. And you know that saying, “when it rains it pours”? Well, when it came to Sari’s spring break and her one shot to sing at a local club, anything and everything seems to go wrong in the span of a few days. 

One of my favorite characters in the book was Zev. I loved that his goal was to explain any misconstrued situation, so Sari knew the facts and the truth. Sari tended to overthink everything and failed to see that there are several sides to a story. It’s smart for Sari to protect herself first, but I knew there were some holes in her observations. Throughout the story, Zev is always trying to open communication between him and Sari, and it’s so adorable how he always tries to make sure that she is okay and comfortable. I liked that Zev gave Sari room to think and breathe when anything dramatic blew up, but he was also determined to fight for the truth, their friendship, and ultimately love. 

The plot of Airports, Exes, and Other Things I’m Over relies heavily on lack of communication and misunderstood situations. I’m not a huge fan of books that have so much “lack of communication,” but this plot devise definitely keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. If you love A LOT  of drama in your stories, which definitely keeps the story rolling, give Airports, Exes, and Other Things I’m Over a try. This book is such a fast read and the ending is so swoony. 

3 star rating

about the author

Author Bio:

Shani Petroff is a writer living in New York City. She’s the author of the “Bedeviled” series, which includes Daddy’s Little Angel, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Dress, Careful What You Wish For, and Love Struck, and is the co-author of the “Destined” series which includes Ash and Ultraviolet. She also writes for television news programs and several other venues. When she’s not locked in her apartment typing away, she spends a whole lot of time on books, boys, TV, daydreaming, and shopping online.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Review of The Game Can’t Love You Back

Title: The Game Can’t Love You Back
Author: Karole Cozzo
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication date: May 15th 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Synopsis:

Eve is used to being the odd woman out. As the only girl on her school’s baseball team, she knows exactly how to put sweaty, macho baseball players in their place, and she’s focused on one thing and one thing only—being the best pitcher she can be.

But when a freak accident forces her high school to be absorbed by the neighboring town, Eve has to contend with a new group of guys who aren’t used to having a woman on their team. And the new team’s star pitcher, Jamie, has no interest in being ousted from his throne. He can’t afford to give up his starting slot to a new pitcher—even worse, to a girl.

As the competition between Jamie and Eve starts to heat up, so does their attraction to each other. Can they keep their heads in the game, or will they end up getting played?

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my review

I love Karole Cozzo’s writing style and once again her storytelling did not disappoint. I really loved that The Game Can’t Love You Back has very honest and realistic characters. The two main characters, Jamie and Eve, are both competitive, independent, and are dealing with their own personal issues. But what I liked about Jamie and Eve is that they are both so authentic and don’t hold back their emotions. In some young adult novels, the lack of communication always causes the worst and most annoying drama, but when it comes to this book, these characters hold back very little and then burst with the most straightforward answers and opinions.

Additionally, I really enjoyed the romance that unfolds in The Game Can’t Love You Back. The story does have a “hate-to-love” feel, but once Jamie and Eve start connecting and interacting, there is no turning back from the heated chemistry between these two. The novel definitely reads like a teenage movie and I really enjoyed watching all the characters find their own paths. 

However, I do wish there was more focus on family dynamics in the book. We get some brief encounters with both characters’ families, but after the speech that Eve’s mom gives to Eve on Mother’s Day, I was craving more interaction. Plus, Jamie’s sister is shadowed in the background and I would have enjoyed some more scenes between the two siblings. Overall, I think The Game Can’t Love You Back is a hit. If you love baseball, girl power, playful rivalry, swoons, and romantic gestures, definitely give this book a read. 

3 star rating

about the author


Author Bio:

Karole lives outside of Philadelphia, PA with her loving husband, exuberant little girl, and smiley little boy. She adores YA Romance, because it would be awesome if life in general had a requisite feel-good happy ending rule. Vices include obscene Haribo gummy consumption, addiction to Starbucks NF vanilla lattes, and tendency to hoard Bath and Body Works 3-wick candles.

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Note: Thank you to Macmillan and Xpresso Tours for having me on this blog tour and for providing me a review copy to read for free in exchange for an honest review. All statements and opinions are my own.