Tag Archives: YA novels

How to Be a Goldfish by Jane Baird Warren Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Two kids discover the meaning behind found families and friendship as they search for a way to save a neighbor’s farm in author Jane Baird Warren’s “How to Be a Goldfish”. 

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The Synopsis

When her class is assigned a family tree project, Lizzie knows hers will become fodder for Scotch Gully’s town gossips. It’s 1981, and she’s the only one with an unmarried mom. So she turns to her neighbour Harry for advice, but he has problems of his own. A stranger has turned up, claiming to own his farm, and Harry is being forced out.

For David, the new owner’s son, everything is riding on this. The farm is his chance to escape the city and his bullies at school. And maybe even get his mom away from her horrible new fiancé. But he wasn’t expecting to find someone else living there.

Lizzie and David become surprising allies, and as their family stories crack wide open, they uncover the keys that could save Harry and his farm. But sharing long-buried secrets has a cost too. Can they trust themselves — and each other — to find the way forward together?

How to Be a Goldfish is a gripping story about lost and found family, fierce friendship, warm griddle cakes, and finding the courage to be who you were always meant to be. 

The Review

This was such a fun and unique read. The author did a great job of crafting a narrative that felt vibrant and alive on the page, while also infusing elements of nostalgia with the unique setting of the 80s. The thing that immediately stood out to me was how the author managed to incorporate several different styles of genres into the book, ranging from children’s books to Middle School age and even some YA elements as well. This made the story feel relevant to all types of readers and gave some heart to the larger themes of the story.

The balance between the author’s character development and the larger themes mentioned previously was so well done in this book. The relatable and reliable protagonists Lizzie and David made the story feel more engaging as the narrative kept turning, and the complex stories woven into the fabric of the novel kept all the characters interesting, even the narrow-minded and hateful Bethany. Yet it was the emotional way the story lent itself to the themes of family that is found rather than already had, and the importance of friendship and acceptance of oneself that made the whole book really come together.

The Verdict

Stunningly relatable, entertaining, and empowering, author Jane Baird Warren’s “How to Be a Goldfish” is a must-read novel of 2022 for children, middle-aged kids, and YA fans alike! The book moved at a quick pace, and yet held so much character composition and impactful themes that helped the narrative shine brightly through. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy on October 4th, 2022! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

A first-generation Canadian, Jane is a writer with an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. Her writing has been featured on CBC radio and in more than a dozen literary magazines in North America and the UK. She is represented by Elizabeth Bennett at Transatlantic Literary Agency. elizabeth@transatlanticagency.com 

Jane also works freelance as an editorial consultant and volunteers as a developmental editor for emerging writers. 

https://www.janebairdwarren.com/

The Signs and Wonders of Tuna Rashad by Natasha Deen Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young woman fully immersed in her Caribbean ancestor’s traditions seeks to find love for herself while also dealing with an overbearing older brother who has just become a widower in author Natasha Deen’s “The Signs and Wonders of Tuna Rashad”.

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The Synopsis

From award-winning, #OwnVoices author Natasha Deen comes a new funny, honest, YA novel following one girl as she tries to win over her crush before she leaves for college.

Let’s be clear. No matter what her older brother, Robby, says, aspiring screenwriter Tuna Rashad is not “stupidstitious.” She is, however, cool with her Caribbean heritage, which means she is always on the lookout for messages from loved ones who have passed on. But ever since Robby became a widower, all he does is hang out at the house, mock Tuna for following in their ancestors’ traditions, and meddle in her life. 

Tuna needs to break free from her brother’s loving but over-bearing ways and get him a life (or at least, get him out of hers!). Based on the signs, her ancestors are on board. They also seem to be on board with helping Tuna win over her crush, Tristan Dangerfield. The only hiccup? She has to do it before leaving for college in the fall. A ticking clock, a grief-stricken brother, and a crush who doesn’t believe in signs. What could possibly go wrong? 

The Review

This was a heartwarming and emotional YA read. The balance of drama and contemporary romance that makes its way into this YA novel was great to see, as the narrative left plenty of room for both humorous dialogues between the cast of characters and profound, meaningful moments that defined the themes of grief, respect for one’s ancestors and culture, and romance and love in all its forms. Including LGBTQ-driven romance in the narrative with one of the characters added another level of depth to the emotional backstory and journey one character underwent. 

The novel was definitely a character-driven narrative. The heart and unique character traits that protagonist Tuna gave the reader were fun to read, as she infused her unique brand of humor and wit into her relationships, showcasing her desire to define her own life while respecting and caring for those around her. The importance that her Caribbean culture had on her character development was so interesting and made for such a memorable reading experience.

The Verdict

Heartfelt, thoughtful, and entertaining, author Natasha Deen’s “The Signs and Wonders of Tuna Rashad” is a must-read YA contemporary romance of 2022. With a diverse cast of characters and truly emotional narrative beats that will keep the reader invested throughout this narrative, readers are going to both love and care for the protagonist and this cast of characters deeply, making this one book you won’t want to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

NATASHA DEEN writes for kids, teens, and adults, and believes the world is changed one story at a time. As a Guyanese-Canadian and a child of immigrants, she’s seen first-hand how stories have the power to shape the world. When she’s not writing, Natasha enjoys visiting schools, libraries and other organizations to help people to find and tell the stories that live inside of them. She also spends an inordinate amount of time trying to convince her pets that she’s the boss of the house. Natasha is the author of the Lark Ba series, the Guardian series, and In the Key of Nira Ghani. Visit Natasha at www.natashadeen.com.

Breaking Time by Sasha Alsberg Review 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman finds her world turned upside down when a handsome stranger enters her life from another time, and together they discover fate’s plans for them when a rogue threat targets her for a power she never knew she had in author Sasha Alsberg’s “Breaking Time”.

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The Synopsis

Romance, Celtic mythology, and adventure swirl together in this time travel fantasy by #1 New York Times bestselling author, booktuber, and popular Outlander social media influencer Sasha Alsberg.

Fate brought them together. Time will tear them apart.

When a mysterious Scotsman suddenly appears in the middle of the road, Klara thinks the biggest problem is whether she hit him with her car. But, as impossible as it sounds, Callum has stepped out of another time, and his arrival marks the beginning of a deadly adventure.

Klara soon learns she is the last Pillar of Time—an anchor point in the timeline of the world. After being unable to protect the previous Pillar, Callum believes he’s fated to protect her. But now a dark force is hunting the Pillars—and Klara and Callum are the only two standing in the way. They’ll have to learn to trust each other and work together…but they’ll need to protect their hearts from one another if they’re going to survive

The Review

This was such a powerful and entertaining new read! The author did such an incredible job of world-building in this narrative. Each scene felt vibrant and alive on the page, thanks to the author’s incredible handle on imagery in her writing and the atmosphere she builds as the narrative progresses. The striking balance the author struck between the rich mythology of the world she created and the intimate and emotional character growth was superb. As a huge fan of mythology in general, I was immediately drawn into this narrative, but what was really fun was being introduced to new mythological figures and stories, and the intricacies of Celtic mythology definitely drew me into the story so much that I’ll be researching the mythos myself, really adding to the author’s ability to draw readers in. 

Yet it was the rich character development that really drew me in further and further into the story. The multiple POVs were great to have, as they added depth to both Callum’s and Klara’s stories. Their backstories and the eras from which they hail and the instant chemistry and discoveries they make about themselves along the way were truly inviting to behold on the page. Even the antagonist, who emerges from the shadows and strikes into the heart of these two protagonists, was chilling and haunting to behold and did a great job of becoming the hero’s foil in the narrative. 

The Verdict

Captivating, engaging, and brilliantly written, author Sasha Alsberg’s “Breaking Time” is a must-read YA Historical Fantasy meets Time Travel story and one of my top picks for best reads of 2022. The author does a great job of traversing the influences of other series such as Outlander and The Mortal Instruments, and yet feels so original and authentic on its own at the same time, bringing magic back into the Historical Fantasy meets Highland genre. With a twist ending that left this reader eager to read more, you guys won’t want to miss out on this spectacular story. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Sasha Alsberg is the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Zenith, the first book in The Androma Saga. When Sasha is not writing or obsessing over Scotland, she is galavanting across social media with her two dogs, Fraser & Fiona. Sasha lives in London, England.

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.sashaalsberg.com/ 

Twitter: @sashaalsberg

Instagram: @sashaalsberg

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sasha.alsberg 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15100575.Sasha_Alsberg 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Time-Sasha-Alsberg/dp/1335284893 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/breaking-

time-sasha-alsberg/1140332910 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335284891 

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Breaking-Time/Sasha-Alsberg/9781335284891 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/ch/audiobook/breaking-time/id1591477301 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Sasha_Alsberg_Breaking_Time?id=5TlHEAAAQBAJ 

Please enjoy this excerpt from Author Sasha Alsberg’s “Breaking Time”

Excerpted from BREAKING TIME by Sasha Alsberg, © 2022 by Sasha Alsberg, used with permission from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins.

Callum

1568

“Thomas!” Callum yelled as he left the pub. The wall of crisp night air dizzied him, causing him to stumble over cobblestones that seemed to shift beneath his feet. Drunken laughter muff led as the door slammed shut behind him. 

“Where the hell are ye?” he shouted. His voice echoed through the deserted streets. 

No answer came. 

Lanterns flickered along the main road, setting the heavy fog aglow. In a wee town like Rosemere, the slightest whispers could be heard a mile away. They carried farther than that, Callum knew; the windows around him were shuttered, but candles burned low just inside. How many prying eyes watched from behind the slats? How many would speak of his friend, the disgraced fighter, in hushed voices at tomorrow’s market, over bread bought with the coin they’d won betting on him mere weeks earlier?

Callum clenched his fists. The whole pub had shouted and jeered while Thomas got pummeled that night. Sounds still rang in Callum’s ears: the thud of fist and flesh, the sickening crunch of bone. It was the third time this month that Thomas had lost—only the third time, in two years of fighting.

Brice would be angry.

Master, keeper, devil, father. Brice MacDonald was all of these things to Callum and Thomas. Whatever Brice’s wrath tonight, Callum could not let Thomas face it alone. Not when Thomas had looked after Callum for so long, raised him up from a nipper as well as a real older brother would.

But he would not abandon Thomas like his mother had abandoned him.

The thought sobered Callum. He called again, lowering his voice to a taunt.

“Thomas! You owe me three shillings!” Thomas could usually be drawn out with a jab.

Callum paused, straining his ears for a response but was met with unease instead. An owl watched from its perch atop the baker’s roof, golden eyes unblinking against the dark night sky. The shining orbs fixed on him.

He tore his gaze from the bird and walked on, moving away from the firelight and into shadow.

Even more worrisome than Brice was the fact that Thomas had given Callum his most treasured item earlier that night: his notebook, small sheaths of vellum bound in leather. When he first began carrying it around, Thomas claimed to have stolen it from the apothecary when he went in for a poultice. 

He had kept it on him, always, and had never let Callum lay eyes on what was inside. Yet he had pressed it into Callum’s hand, just before the match tonight. He said something to Callum when he did, but his words were inaudible within the roar of the pub. Then after, he disappeared from the pub without even a goodbye.

Now Callum was wandering the streets, alone.

It was unlike Thomas to behave so strangely, to lose so badly. The Thomas he knew—boyish and rowdy, tough as leather but never mean—had fallen away with the autumn leaves these past months. Instead of spending evenings at The Black Hart Inn, weaving stories he’d learned as a child of selkies and sailors for red-cheeked barmaids until the sun rose, Thomas began to disappear for days, weeks at a time—stretches too long for Callum to explain to Brice. He took a beating or two for it, too. When Thomas returned, he was sullen, sometimes violent, and consumed by a strangeness Callum had no words to describe. His eyes stared but did not see, as distant as stars burning in his skull. If he spoke at all, he told tales of the demons that terrified them as children: like the Sluagh, spirits of the dead who wandered in flocks, flying around the sky like soaring reapers and stealing souls, flesh hanging off them like blackened rags. Or the bean-nighe, banshees, messengers from the Otherworld and omens of death, who lingered in lonely streams, washing the clothes of doomed men. Normally Callum heard of such dark creatures within the stories of heroes, but Thomas’s stories didn’t end in life…but death. He fixated on that fact, as if it were coming for him.

I saw her, he’d said of the bean-nighe. I refuse to die. 

It worried Callum, but just as his worry morphed into confrontation, Thomas would come back to himself. This was enough to comfort Callum as he watched Thomas return to tales of ancient heroes and kings. Maybe he accepted his relief too soon since the nights of those stories were fewer these days, and more often Thomas’s speech would turn dark again. He would speak of strange visions, of men who leaped from one world to the next.

They’re coming, Cal, you’ll see. It’s as simple as stepping through a veil.

Who’s coming, Thomas? What veil? Callum asked, and Thomas would laugh.

It was no tale that Callum knew. He’d warned Thomas not to tell it. He didn’t like the wary looks it earned him. It was one thing to be a bard who told these stories for a living, but it was another thing to speak like a madman of evil spirits and fairies as if they were tangible things away from the lyrics of a song or the pages of a book.

Callum reached the end of the main road—the turn for Kelpie’s Close. If you wanted trouble, you found it in Kelpie’s. The narrow backstreet edged Rosemere like a blade pressed against the town’s throat.

A chill clung to his skin. Here, there were no lanterns to light the way, his only guide sparse slivers of moonlight. The wind picked up suddenly, lifting his hair and reaching under his woolen cloak. He tried to shake off visions of the Sluagh hovering above him, raking their cold fingers down his neck.

“It’s as dark as the Earl of Hell’s waistcoat,” he mumbled.

Callum reached for the dirk tucked under his arm and found the carved handle concealed under layers of wool, feeling a sting of guilt. It was Thomas’s knife. Callum had slipped it away from him before the match, worried about what his friend might do in the crowded pub if he got enough drink in him. He tapped it, drawing enough strength to plunge into the darkness.

“Scunner!” he cursed, meaning it. “Where are you?”

A cry pierced the quiet.

Callum’s heart pounded as he followed the sound farther down the alley. He pulled the dirk from under his arm, certain now that he’d need to use it.

“Thomas?”

Unease, cold and metallic, crept up his spine. The alley appeared empty—strange, for this time of night—but the silence was thick, alive with a feeling Callum couldn’t name. He pushed on, deeper into the gloom. “Thomas?”

Another strangled cry, ahead.

Callum broke into a run.

A single lantern flickered a short distance away, casting a wan glow over a lone figure slumped against the wall. A sweep of red hair, bright even in the dim alley.

“Thomas, ye bastard, do ye ken what—”

The insult lodged in his throat. Thomas lay on the ground, his legs splayed at sickening angles. Blood seeped through his shirt, blooming like ink on paper. Callum rushed to his friend and knelt beside him. He dropped the dirk and pressed his hands against the deep slice that marred his friend’s torso. A knife wound.

“Dinnae fash, Thomas, dinnae fash,” Callum repeated, voice tight and panicked. He glanced up, searching for friend or foe, and found no one. “We’ll be back to the pub before Anderson kens we havna paid our tab.” 

Thomas stared up at him with glassy blue eyes. With each shuddering breath, more blood spilled through Callum’s fingers. He ripped the cloth stock from his neck and pressed the fabric onto the wound. It did little to stem the flow of blood. Within a few heartbeats, the cloth was soaked through, red and dripping.

If he pressed any harder, would it be doing more harm than good? Should he call for help, though it might draw the attacker? Callum hadn’t a clue. He wished suddenly, ferociously, that he’d had a proper mother, one whose wisdom he could call upon to calmly guide his hands. However, Thomas was the only family he had.

His only family was dying.

Thomas opened his mouth, but instead of words, a wet cough came out, splattering red across his pale face.

“Dinnae move, Thomas,” Callum shushed him. His uncertainty gave way to desperation, burst from his throat. “Help! Help us!”

His words dissolved into the night air, leaving behind only a tightness at the center of his chest. If he hadn’t taken Thomas’s dirk, he would have been able to defend himself, he wouldn’t be dying in Callum’s arms—

Thomas gasped, but it seemed as if no air reached his lungs.

Lowering his head, Callum gripped Thomas’s hands, though his own were shaking. “I will find the man who did this, I swear—”

Then the world flipped sideways. A blow had hit Callum like a runaway carriage, throwing him against the alley wall opposite Thomas.

Pain exploded along his ribs. Grasping the mossy wall for purchase, he struggled to his feet and wiped blood from his eyes, scouring the darkness for his attacker—and found no one.

“Show your face,” he growled.

A cruel whisper cut through the quiet. “Are you certain?”

The man emerged from the shadows as if he had been one with them. He wore a dark black cloak, in stark contrast to his unkempt, pale hair. Deep set in his face, a pair of amber eyes seemed to emit their own light. Callum’s gaze was drawn to a glinting shape in the man’s hand.

A dagger, dripping with blood.

Thomas’s blood.

Callum’s heart pounded like a war drum in his ears.

The man sighed. “Move along. Unless you’d like to meet the same fate as your compani—”

Callum lunged forward, cutting off the man’s speech with a guttural cry, striking with the speed of a viper.

The man ducked. He whirled around as Callum charged again. He overreached with the arc of his knife, and Callum used the moment to surge upward with a punch. His fist took the assailant in the chin—

And the force knocked Callum back.

He stared. A blow like that would have laid out the toughest fighter, yet the man stood and smiled, rubbing his chin with a gloved hand.

“I’m going to have fun with you,” the stranger whispered. “I like a man with a bit of fight in him. It’s more fun to play with your prey, don’t you think?”

Callum didn’t see the blow coming, only felt the pain searing across his temple as he was thrown to the ground again. 

He lifted his head, vision blurring. He blinked it clear, took in his friend’s ashen face. The sight flooded Callum with rage.

Whoever said to never fight with anger fueling your fists was a fool. Thomas’s best fights had been powered by emotion. Callum wasn’t fighting for money now. Or for Brice. He was fighting for Thomas. Because Thomas was—

“Stay down, little man,” the attacker’s voice hissed.

Callum dragged himself to his feet. His body, corded with muscle from a lifetime of training, screamed for him to stop. Instead he stood, swaying.

“I dinnae believe I’m going to Heaven,” Callum said, raising his fists once more, drawing strength from the familiar ache that radiated through his arms. “But I cannae wait to bring you to Hell with me.”

Lunging forward again, Callum poured everything he had into a single strike. He swung, landing the punch more out of luck than skill, half blinded by blood and dirt.

The man merely flinched, then caught Callum easily by the throat. A grin curled over his face.

How could that be possible?

“My, my, you are a feisty one,” he hissed.

The man lashed out, and pain flared along Callum’s torso. He released Callum and stepped back, red-tinged silver shining in his fist.

Callum touched his side, and his fingers came away wet with blood. He watched as crimson spread across his shirt. He tried to take a step, only to crumple to the ground beside Thomas, whose head rested limp against his chest.

Callum had never feared death, but now as he looked into its eyes, terror seized him. 

“Many thanks for the entertainment,” the man said.

To Callum’s horror, he bent low, holding a vial to the spreading pool of Thomas’s blood. He was gathering it.

“If you’ll excuse me, there’s one last Pillar I must find.”

Pillar?

The unearthly amber eyes melted into darkness as his opponent backed away and turned, disappearing into the shadows once more. Softly hissed words echoed in the alley. Àiteachan dìomhair, fosgailte dhomh, Àiteachan dìomhair, fosgailte dhomh…

The words the man spoke were Gaelic, but Callum’s fading mind couldn’t make out their meaning. A dark, mist-like substance rose from the ground and curled around the man’s feet, nearly indistinguishable from the dim of night. Like a sudden fog had rolled in.

Callum sputtered a curse, lacking the strength to spit. He tried to lift himself, but with each breath, pain flared in his side like a web of fire.

“I’m sorry, Thomas,” he croaked. Tears fell freely down his face, mingling with blood and sweat. He pressed his forehead against his friend’s. Grief washed over him at the still-warm press of his skin.

Thomas was gone, and Callum would soon follow.

A shiver raked his body. His eyes drifted shut.

Take me already, he pleaded to the darkness.

And the darkness answered.

No, not the darkness—Thomas’s voice, a memory now, though it was solid as stone.

“Get up, scunner.”

The warmth of the words turned electric, spreading through Callum’s body like wildfire. His eyes shot open and he gasped, breathing in a shock of cold air still sharp with the smell of blood. His fingers found the dirk he’d dropped earlier.

Grief and agony and pain and rage lifted Callum onto his feet, thrumming in him as he charged after Thomas’s murderer, knife raised and eager for flesh. He grabbed blindly, finally grasping a handful of fabric—the man’s cloak. Turning, the man’s eyes widened, making two white rings of surprise in the dark. Callum’s hand grabbed the man’s neck and aimed his dirk at the pale slash of his throat.

Suddenly, they froze. Callum could not move. His hand remained around the man’s neck, the tip of the dirk pressed against his vein. Light flowed around them. It’s not time for sunrise, he thought. Dimly, he noticed markings along the man’s collarbone. Knots carved into his skin.

The man cried out—not in pain, but in anger—but then, the cry was stifled by a rush of silence, so thick Callum thought he might drown in it. His stomach turned violently as the ground seemed to drop out from under him, forcing him to squeeze his eyes shut. He was falling, flying, falling.

I must be dead in the alley. The man must have killed me. This must be death.

A bright glow burned against his lids. He closed his eyes tighter and welcomed whatever might follow, only hoping he’d find Thomas there. A wall of light had formed above, descending as if the sun were pulling him through the sky. His body rose into its searing embrace.

He waited for the long drop to the ground, but it never came.

Callum kept soaring.

Not just through the street.

Not to death’s embrace. 

But somewhere else.

Leaping to another world, like the man in Thomas’s story, Callum thought.

So he leaped. 

Amethyst (Ambrosia Hill Book 1) by Rebecca Henry Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young girl struggling with her identity and her parents impending divorce finds her birthright and power with the help of her aunts in author Rebecca Henry’s “Amethyst”, the first book in the Ambrosia Hill YA series. 

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The Synopsis

She was sent away because of her feelings for another girl. But what she discovered at her aunts’ lake house was a birthright of magic.

Thirteen-year-old Zinnia is about to turn fourteen when her life is flipped upside down. With her parents on the brink of a divorce, Zinnia is sent to spend the summer with her eccentric great-aunts at their lake house away from her home in Manhattan. Zinnia arrives at her aunts’ massive Victorian house with a heavy heart after a recent falling out with her best friend Charlotte, who betrayed her trust by showing the meanest and most popular girl in school a letter Zinnia wrote confessing her feelings for Charlotte. The aunts rely on practical magic, acceptance and old family friends to help heal their great-niece in more ways than one.

What Zinnia discovers on Ambrosia Hill is more than just her birthright to magic—she meets Billie, a girl who conjures feelings inside Zinnia that she can no longer deny.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of homophobia and mild peril.

The Review

I instantly fell in love with this story. The author did such an incredible job of crafting a unique and beautiful world that felt real and yet held incredible magic that kept the paranormal and fantasy elements of this narrative alive. The sheer volume of backstory and narrative the author was able to pour into this fairly quick read was breathtaking to behold, as were the little bits of mystery and suspense that the author peppered throughout the read, especially with a tease of future storylines in the next book in this series.

Yet it was the heartfelt character development that really played well in this story. The magic and wonder of the world the author crafted only elevated the emotional story of these characters, from the backstory and history of Billie, who brings a sense of edge and pain to her meeting with Zinnia. Then there is Zinnia herself, who not only struggles with the pain of her family falling apart due to her parents impending divorce but the struggles to feel accepted for her LGBTQ status. 

What I love about the story is that the author doesn’t portray Zinnia as someone in doubt necessarily of who they are, but struggling because she does know who she is and who she loves, and wants the world and those around her to accept her as she is. I feel there are so many people, especially teens, in this world who feel the same who could use an inspirational protagonist like Zinnia to connect with and follow, and I applaud the author for this amazing story development for the character.

The Verdict

Heartfelt, emotional, and magical, author Rebecca Henry’s “Amethyst” is a must-read novel of 2022 and the perfect first entry into this brilliant paranormal and fantasy YA series. The balance of realism and magic, along with the positive outlook on witchcraft and magic that is often overlooked in the world, made this world stand out, and the positive exploration of LGBTQ themes made this a home run in my book. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy on April 26th, 2022, or preorder your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Rebecca Henry is an American author living abroad in England. She is a devoted vegan who gardens, practices yoga, crafts, travels the world, and bakes. Rebecca’s favorite holiday is Halloween, and she is obsessed with anything and everything witchy! Besides writing fiction, Rebecca is also the author of her vegan holiday cookbook collection and green living lifestyle book. Her love for animals, baking with her family, having a plant-based diet, and cruelty-free, green lifestyle inspired her nonfiction novels. You can find all Rebecca’s books on Amazon.

https://www.rebeccahenryauthor.com/

The Clash Inside Me by John Moondragon & Kelly Alblinger Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young man living with dissociative identity disorder finds himself the witness to a horrific crime, and must determine if one of his alters was responsible in author John Moondragon’s “The Clash Inside Me”. 

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The Synopsis

THE CLASH INSIDE ME opens with a young man perched on a ledge and contemplating an unusual predicament: did he or did he not commit murder? And if he did, which of his alter-personalities will ultimately be held responsible?

The young man, who remains nameless throughout the tale, recounts the story of his life and the diagnosis of his mental illness –dissociative identity disorder – with refreshing candor. Speaking directly to the reader, he describes his personal history in a manner that is both relatable and engaging. Despite the obvious disadvantages of coping with multiple personalities, he is not a victim of his circumstances. He is a survivor with expectations of a bright future, including a tender romance. There are moments of fear and anguish, but his is not a story of despair; rather it is a tale of ongoing courage to define oneself while coping with a serious mental illness.

The Review

The author really found the perfect harmonious balance between entertaining narrative and emotionally-driven character growth under the umbrella of understanding mental health more clearly. The narrative was definitely character-driven, focusing on the protagonist and his alters in vivid and gritty detail. The fast-paced narrative and the imagery that was conjured with the author’s words made the reading experience fun yet thought-provoking.

The theme and message of the narrative surrounding mental health, in general, was a fantastic choice. The discussions and education that the narrative brings about mental health, despite the fictional aspect of the narrative, really do a phenomenal job of furthering our understanding of mental health and DiD in particular. The examination of the protagonists alters and the jarring experience of losing the control you would typically have over your own body was mesmerizing to behold.

The Verdict

Memorable, engaging, and thoughtful in its approach, author John Moondragon and Kelly Alblinger’s “The Clash Inside Me” is a must-read fiction thriller with a mental health focus. The intrigue and suspense of the main plot when combined with the emotional journey of the main character and his struggle with his mental health makes for such an amazing read, so be sure to grab your copy of this amazing story today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

John Mondragon is a self-published author of his first novel “The Clash Inside Me” and a caring father and husband.

He is passionate about helping people understand the importance of mental health matters, and encourages others to speak up and speak out.

Author Website: https://www.subscribepage.com/theclashinsideme

Book Purchase Links: https://books2read.com/theclashinsideme/

Social Media:

https://www.facebook.com/Mondragon.Author

https://www.instagram.com/mondragon.author/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21943524.John_Mondragon

Cheers from Heaven by Mary Elizabeth Jackson and Thornton Clive Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A group of friends must come together to grow and learn from their pasts after a classmate they once mistreated passes away, and sends them on a journey of forgiveness and hope in authors Mary Elizabeth Jackson and Thornton Clive’s “Cheers from Heaven”.

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The Synopsis

Five friends discover they are feeling uneasy emotions about a former classmate, Drew, who suddenly passed away from a dreadful disease. Each of them had mistreated him in their own way and style. Guilt soon overtakes the students, and they are guided by their teacher to visit Drew’s parents and confess their wrongdoings.

During their visit, they are entrusted with Drew’s secret locked box which he left behind. What’s inside sets the students on a life-changing journey. Drew has left these students with some unexpected notes that unites them in a way they never imagined.

They are led to grow in maturity and emotionally, beyond who they once were. The insights gained inspire not only these students to accept others and their differences but leads the whole school to follow. The mysteries continue till the very end with a final message from Drew that leaves everyone wondering can you really send Cheers from Heaven.

The Review

A truly heartfelt and thought-provoking middle-grade read, the authors did such a brilliant job of writing an emotionally-driven narrative while also making the story both entertaining and enlightening at the same time. The exploration of bullying as a theme in our world as well as in literature was the perfect vessel for this story, as this problem has become a huge thing in our public school system, both in school and online. The need to teach our students and children to respect and be kind to one another, and not allow peer pressure to drive us to negative behavior, was perfectly illustrated here in this story.

The characters were so perfectly written and relatable for young readers and did a great job of illustrating this theme to its fullest. Not only did the story and characters showcase the harm and damage that bullying can take, but showed the impact that taking ownership of one’s mistakes and trying to fix our behavior moving forward can bring one onto the path of redemption, and can help hopefully curb any rise in bullying that can occur in schools. 

The Verdict

A truly heartfelt, relatable, and quick yet powerful middle grade and YA drama, authors Mary Elizabeth Jackson and Thornton Cline’s “Cheers from Heaven’’ is a must-read book. The narrative is relatable and emotionally driven, and the exploration of bettering oneself and taking ownership of our own mistakes, as well as teaching students how to treat one another and to let go of peer pressure to fit into some sort of social norm, made this such a passionate and engaging story to get lost in. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Authors

Mary Elizabeth Jackson is an #1 Amazon Best selling author in the collaborative anthologies The Fearless Entrepreneurs and Invisible No More, Invincible Forever More and the 2017 Maxy award-winning author of the children’s book series Perfectly Precious Poohlicious, Poohlicious Look at Me, and Poohlicious Oh the Wonder of Me, (Tuscany Bay Books). Cheers from Heaven, a mid-grade reader releases in 2021, (Tuscany Bay Books), with co-writer Thornton Cline. Jackson focuses on writing empowering books for kids and is working on an eight-book series with Cline for children as well as books for the special need’s community and a motivational book for adults. Jackson is also a ghostwriter, songwriter, book collaborator and the voice for the Sports2gether App.

Jackson is the co- founder and co- hosts of Writers Corner Live TV Show and Special Needs TV Shows on Amazon Live, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Writers Corner Live features author interviews from debut authors to New York Times bestsellers and everything about writing all the way to getting published. Special Needs TV features interviews and resources for parents, families, and caregivers. Jackson is an ambassador advocate for AutismTn.

Mrs. Jackson has been featured and interviewed on national and international radio shows including Sirius XM and iheart radio as well as numerous Podcasts and TV shows.

Jackson is starting a YouTube channel and an Amazon Live show dedicated to children’s book reviews with her son who inspired her series, and an education show for kids of all needs.

Mrs. Jackson is a very busy mom and wife. She loves nature, being creative, anything funny, and inspiring others to believe in themselves. She lives with her hubby, three kids, and dog in the Nashville area. -Cherish every moment of life.

https://www.maryejackson.com/

Thornton Cline is an in-demand author, teacher, speaker, clinician, performer and songwriter

http://www.thorntoncline.com/

The Trouble with Belonging by Magdalena Stanhoff Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Two young kids who meet one another in the city and grow up together as friends find their relationship changing, and the challenges of everyday life changing them as well, in author Magdalena Stanhoff’s “The Trouble With Belonging”. 

The Synopsis

New city, again. New language, new school, new people. Another place where he doesn’t belong. Chen Kehuan is a boy adrift: he has no friends and no family to speak of, and he doesn’t care much for anyone. Until he meets that little girl, and then everything changes.

Niki roams the streets, talking to strangers on a whim and making things out of nothing, and since she has no choice, she fends for herself well enough. But then that older boy starts looking after her, and everything changes.

Years later, teenage Niki still struggles with the fallout of her turbulent childhood. Thankfully, Kehuan is there to help solve each and every problem she may have. Until everything changes again, and he becomes the problem. Now what?

The Review

This was such an intriguing and thoughtful read. The author does a great job of exploring so much about the lives of our younger generations and how the way we raise our children can really have an impact on how they handle situations as they arise in their lives. The author does a great job of covering so many different issues that young people face on a daily basis all around the world through these characters, from racism and alienation from their peers to developing hormones and the impact adult decisions have on still developing teens. 

What was fascinating to read was the examination of different cultures within this YA Romance and Drama. The multi-cultural cast of characters found the perfect balance of highlighting the aspects of each character’s background and culture that makes them unique, and the similarities they all shared in the issues that came across their paths. One thing I noticed that the author highlighted so well was the impact absent parenting and tragedy can have on young children as they grow older, and how moving too fast in any relationship can lead to hardships and struggles as they each look to find their own footing in the world.

The Verdict

A thought-provoking, engaging, and emotional read, author Magdalena Stanhoff’s “The Trouble with Belonging” is a fantastic YA Romance/Drama to read this fall. The story can get quite adult in certain spots, but the emphasis on relationships of all kinds and the way real issues are worked into the narrative along with the main character’s growing relationship and their own development made this such an interesting character study overall in the narrative. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

I’ve always loved books, and I’ve always wanted to see the world.  But while I read compulsively in my childhood and teenage years, traveling used to be just an unrealistic dream. Many years had to pass before I could pack my bag and set off on my first journey abroad, but it happened in the end. Since then, I’ve visited many countries and met many amazing people of different nationalities and cultures. We worked, and learned, and played together, and I’ve gained some wonderful friends this way. My life would’ve been so much duller and paler without them.  Books and travels have made me who I am. And my family, of course, but that goes without saying.

As for my books, I write what I like to read: stories about people overcoming various difficulties, sometimes fighting their inner demons, sometimes struggling to fit in or starting anew from the scratch, and finding love and happiness with a little help from their friends and family. Throw in the motif of clashing cultures and world views, and the mess and growth that can come out of it. And since I’m an incurable dreamer, also the obligatory HEA. 

P.S. As you may have already guessed, Magdalena Stanhoff is a pen name. My real name wouldn’t fit on any book cover, and besides,  most of you wouldn’t be able to pronounce it anyway.

https://www.magdalenastanhoff.com/

https://www.facebook.com/magdalenastanhoff

https://www.instagram.com/magdalena.stanhoff/

This is Why We Lie by Gabriella Lepore Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two students from very different walks of life find themselves working together after they discover the body of a young teen girl floating off the coast of their small town, and discover students from both the local prep school and reform school all have secrets to hide in author Gabriella Lepore’s “This is Why We Lie”. 

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The Synopsis

Riverdale meets One of Us Is Lying in This Is Why We Lie by Gabriella Lepore, a standalone thriller following two teens who discover a body off the coast of their seaside town. As they search for the killer, they will learn the students of both the local prep school and the nearby reform school will do anything to protect their secrets.

Everyone in Gardiners Bay has a secret.

When Jenna Dallas and Adam Cole find Colleen O’Dell’s body floating off the shore of their coastal town, the community of Gardiners Bay is shaken. But even more shocking is the fact that her drowning was no accident.

Once Jenna’s best friend becomes a key suspect, Jenna starts to look for answers on her own. As she uncovers scandals inside Preston Prep School leading back to Rookwood reform school, she knows she needs Adam on her side.

As a student at Rookwood, Adam is used to getting judgmental looks, but now his friends are being investigated by the police. Adam will do whatever he can to keep them safe, even if that means trusting Jenna.

As lies unravel, the truth starts to blur. Only one thing is certain: somebody must take the fall.

The Review

A truly gripping and engaging thriller for YA and murder-mystery fans, author Gabriella Lepore has crafted a mind-bending tale of suspense and secrets that readers will not be able to help to fall into. The twists and turns that this novel takes both for the characters and the narrative itself are truly captivating, and the author does a fantastic job of setting up solid pacing to peel back the layers of this mystery one by one. 

The growth of the characters was what drew me into the narrative, to begin with. The emotional depth that both protagonists have gone through in their pasts, and how these two young people who have had to learn to trust only themselves and have experienced hard family lives make their way to one another in the midst of great tragedy was so enthralling and mesmerizing to see unfold and really tugged at the heartstrings as well. This in turn really balanced out the emotional beats with the suspense and drama of this murder mystery and small-town life. 

The Verdict

Pretty Little Liars meets Riverdale, author Gabriella Lepore’s “This Is Why We Lie” is a must-read YA Mystery of 2021! Perfectly crafted and shocking as the final reveal of the killer is shown, this novel delivers powerful characters that readers might be able to relate to, and a great exploration of both the contrast and similarities people from different walks of life can truly have. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this incredible book today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Gabriella Lepore is a YA author from South Wales in the United Kingdom. She lives in the countryside with her husband James and daughter Sophia. When she isn’t reading or writing, she can usually be found exploring the coastline. She enjoys cups of tea, bookstore coffee shops, stormy beaches, and autumn days.

BUY LINKS:

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/this-is-why-we-lie/9781335418609 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/this-is-why-we-lie-gabriella-lepore/1138317761 

Powells: https://www.powells.com/book/this-is-why-we-lie-9781335418609 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/This-Why-Lie-Gabriella-Lepore/dp/1335418601

Target: https://www.target.com/p/this-is-why-we-lie-by-gabriella-lepore-hardcover/-/A-82007842 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Gabriella_Lepore_This_Is_Why_We_Lie?id=eqsJEAAAQBAJ

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/author/gabriella-lepore/id1153311848

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/this-is-why-we-lie 

SOCIAL LINKS: 

Twitter: @GabriellaBooks 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Gabriella-Lepore-Books-240139339377522/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gabriellalepore_books/?hl=en 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4814169.Gabriella_Lepore 

Here is an Excerpt from “This Is Why We Lie”

JENNA

Gardiners Bay at dawn is my secret. There’s a moment, right before the day starts, when the ocean is bathed in amber light. That first golden breath of morning. Everything is still, apart from the pelicans gathering near the water, their plump bodies shuffling along the shoreline. Sometimes I sit on the promenade for hours with my legs suspended over the pebble beach below, just watching the night turn to day. Watching the darkness turn to light.

It’s often like this, just me and the birds. The only other people I tend to cross paths with at this hour are fishermen wearing heavy-duty gear and hugging their thermoses. They sit on the benches and swig their hot drinks while skimming the daily newspaper. Then they leave. A little while later, their boats drift out onto the water.

Today, though, I’m the only one here.

I raise my camera and adjust the focus, capturing the new light as it spills over the ocean. In the muted daylight, the silver tide is a murky, dull gray and frothing as it slaps against the shore.

“Help! I need help!”

My eyes dart across the shoreline. There’s a boy on the stretch of beach at the foot of Rookwood Cliff. He’s kneedeep in the water, fully dressed.

He shouts again.

I spring to my feet and run along the promenade. Ducking beneath the boardwalk railings, I jump down to the pebbled cove.

The soles of my feet sting at the impact of the stones beneath my Converse. I scramble toward him, my footing slipping on the damp pebbles.

It’s then that I recognize him.

Adam.

His jeans are soaked to the thigh. He’s wading through the shallows, his legs tangled in fishing net and seaweed. And a body lies limp in his arms. A girl. She’s swollen, her skin has turned purple, and one arm is swinging downward with the momentum of Adam’s labored movements.

I press my hand to my mouth.

“Call an ambulance,” he shouts.

But all I can do is stand there, paralyzed by the sight. He lowers the girl onto the sand and begins CPR, breathing into her mouth.

It’s too late, I want to tell him.

She’s already dead.

Excerpted from This is Why We Lie by Gabriella Lepore, Copyright © 2021 by Gabriella Lepore. Published by Inkyard Press. 

Cold Hearted (Villains #8) by Serena Valentino Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

The true origin of one of the most notorious evil stepmothers is revealed in author Serena Valentino’s “Cold Hearted”, the eight book in the VILLAINS series.

The Synopsis

It’s a familiar tale: A kind and beautiful young girl, reeling from loss. A doting father, frantic to bring a mother’s love back into his daughter’s life. And the selfish, cruel woman who insinuates herself into that family―a woman so unfeeling, so cold hearted, that when her new husband dies, she makes the girl a servant in her own home.

But who is that evil stepmother, that icy lady of the house? How did she become so closed off that, in the face of a child’s grief, she thought only to seek wealth and power for herself and her abhorrent daughters? Before that fateful ball, before the glass slipper and the prince, there was another story―a story of love and grief, of hope and of dreams dashed. It is the story of Lady Tremaine.

Even the coldest of villains are sometimes wives and mothers, women who loved and lost and hoped for

something grander for their lives . . . once upon a dream.

The latest novel in Serena Valentino’s deliciously devious Villains series introduces the most famed and hated wicked stepmother of them all―but turns everything you know about her on its head.

The Review

A truly haunting and engaging story, the author has masterfully brought to life the story of Cinderella in a whole new light. Seeing the story through Lady Tremaine’s eyes was amazing, not only showcasing who she was before her marriage to Cinderella’s father, but showcasing how all the girls of the household became victims of his cruel nature. Even Cinderella, beloved by her father, found herself a pawn in his game of control. The pacing of the novel really helped draw readers in, while the setting changes from London to the Many Kingdoms highlighted the change in magic and it’s effect on those not of that world.

The character growth was definitely the highlight of the narrative. The story helped balance the original characters and gave them more dimension. From Cinderella inadvertently giving her father the means to push Lady Tremaine over the edge to the inclusion of the Fairies and their dark counterparts, The Odd Sisters, and even the tumultuous path that put the step sisters in the path of villainy, readers won’t be able to help feeling sympathetic towards the women.

The Verdict

A brilliant, entertaining, and chilling take on a classic fairy tale, author Serena Valentino’s “Cold Hearted” is a must read YA novel of the summer. Capturing the essence of classic fairy tales and elevating the narrative to include much more well rounded characters, the book is one readers won’t be able to put down. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Serena Valentino has been weaving tales that combine mythos and guile for the past decade. She has earned critical acclaim in both the comic and horror domains, where she is known for her unique style of storytelling, bringing her readers into exquisitely frightening worlds filled with terror, beauty, and extraordinary protagonists. The books in her best-selling Villains series are best enjoyed when read in the following order: Fairest of All, The Beast Within, Poor Unfortunate Soul, Mistress of All Evil, Mother Knows Best, Odd Sisters, Evil Thing, and Cold Hearted.

https://www.serenavalentino.com/

https://www.twitter.com/SerenaValentino

https://amzn.to/3qS8knn