Book Reviews: The Knowing by Sharon Cameron and Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

The Knowing
Sharon Cameron
Scholastic Press, October 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-94524-0
Hardcover

Hundreds of years ago, a select group—the brightest, some would say “the best”—humans exited Earth to populate a new planet in pursuit of a better life, for the people and even their habitat, this time. Regression would be the new progression, technology would be eliminated, to a certain extent, of course and mankind and mother nature would blissfully coexist. The socio-economic experiment was a success, but eventually the folks of the Canaan Project stopped responding to their counterparts on Earth. The fate of the colony became a constant scientific conundrum.

Both of Beckett’s parents worked tirelessly towards answers. For as long as he could remember his dad spoke passionately of the Canaan Project, ruminating possibilities and fantasizing of finding ruins. Being a curious and intelligent young man, Beckett also studied all available information and developed his own theories and hopes for the lost civilization. So, when their ship (finally) landed, actual exploration imminent, Beckett felt that his father was free to search for artifacts, but he believed in bigger discoveries. Beckett expected a close encounter of the evolved-human kind.

His field-trip-partner/friend-for-years, Jillian, accompanies him to map their routes while he gathers information. As data is submitted and instructions are received, Beckett begins to question the goal of this mission. Certain information has been deliberately withheld as a manipulation maneuver. Beckett does not know who to trust, but he’s sure that he’ll need help to get himself and anyone else that comes along, to safety.

Sometimes, even in fiction, there are lessons to be learned. When an absolutely fantastical tale illuminates misunderstandings and malintent while highlighting characters filled with only good intentions, that is the true magic of phenomenal sci-fi and Ms. Cameron is quite the conjurer. The Knowing is a companion to Ms. Cameron’s The Forgetting; you can pick it up today and dive right in without feeling lost…but you really should check out The Forgetting, too.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2017.

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Honestly Ben
Bill Konigsberg
Arthur A. Levine Books, April 2017
ISBN 978-0545858267
Hardcover

Ben is considerate, thoughtful and enviably introspective beyond his years.  He is also an adorably awkward, adolescent farm-boy attending an all-boys boarding school, on scholarship.  As the first Junior to be captain of the baseball team, the recipient of a prestigious award (the acceptance of which requires a speech) and a student struggling with calculus and sexual identity, Ben’s mind is full.  No time to contemplate how a straight guy could have crushed so hard on a gay dude.

The charismatic, somewhat quirky, and undeniably adorable, Hannah, is the perfect girlfriend, after all.  Confident in his heterosexuality, Ben is ready to spend time with his best friend, Rafe, again.  Once every single thing is in its respective, proper place, nothing is quite right.  As Ben realizes that there can be more than one right answer and certainly more than two options, he begins to speak out instead of turning away.  His confidence is inspiring and contagious with unexpected results.

Mr. Konigsberg deftly demonstrates the challenges and misconceptions that so many homosexual, bisexual, and gender-fluid teenagers are forced to face.  Honestly Ben is a spot-on, spectacular Young Adult read.  I will be donating my copy to my favorite HS classroom, of course.  This is too important for a limited audience; I’m hopeful that there will be many adult readers.  I can’t be the only one capable of being captivated and compelled by Ben Carver.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2017.

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Book Reviews: The Final Vow by Amanda Flower and Sip by Brian Allen Carr

The Final Vow
A Living History Museum Mystery #3
Amanda Flower
Midnight Ink, May 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-4592-3
Trade Paperback

A hugely important wedding is taking place at the Barton Farm Living History Museum. Museum director Kelsey Cambridge is in charge of corroborating with the wedding planner to make sure everything goes smoothly. Tough times. Not only are they contending with a supreme bridezilla, but the wedding planner gets thrown from the church steeple.

Turns out Vianna Pine was not only rather unpleasant, but was almost as demanding as her clients. Not only that, she’d just found out she was the real heiress to the Barton Farm property and people are running scared. Plenty motive for murder.

Meanwhile, Kelsey is under time restraints to have the murder solved before the wedding and so, predictably, she takes a hand in the investigation. The catch? Her ex-husband is the bridezilla’s groom.

I admit I found myself annoyed with Kelsey. For a character supposedly in charge of a project like the living history museum, I thought she lacked backbone. I’d like to have seen her much stronger and more decisive. A great many of her employees, to whom she was so loyal, were thoroughly unpleasant. And the motive for the murder seemed too light. The chemistry between Kelsey and her boyfriend Chase was almost non-existent, seemingly thrown in because she needs a romantic interest.

Even so, the book moves along at a lively pace, and is clean fun read for a summer evening.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

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Sip
Brian Allen Carr
Soho Press, August 2017
ISBN 978-1-61695-827-5
Hardcover

What a premise! Mr. Carr has an extraordinarily creative mind to have come up with the idea of people who get high by drinking their own shadow. A sort of disease afflicting one child quickly took over the world, with only small pockets of non-addicted people. Soon, certain factions moved into domes and shut the addicts out. Trains began running in circles⏤I’ve got to admit I never did figure out the purpose of this⏤and folks began cutting off limbs and drinking the shadows these arms and legs made. Violence, destruction, and death became commonplace. And apparently nobody cared.

Except Mira, whose shadow has been stolen, and is friends with Murk, who is an addict, and they are joined by Bale, a “domer” who was thrown off a train to die because he wasn’t murderous enough. Together, they go on a quest to discover a cure to the shadow addiction, but there’s a time problem. They have to find it before the return of Halley’s Comet in just a few days.

What did I think of this story? To tell the truth, I’m not quite sure. I keep asking myself why? Why would anybody do the things they do, or think the things they think. But then I turn on the news or read a paper and it all becomes almost logical.

The characters in this story are strong personalities, each and every one. The dialogue is sharp, the frequent obscenities seeming normal in context. There are twists and turns and puzzles at every point, so you don’t dare miss a word. And the end makes sense. Don’t expect this novel to give you the warm fuzzies, by any means. But be assured this is a book that will make you think, and that you won’t forget⏤ever.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Reviews: Exo by Fonda Lee, R.I.P. Eliza Hart by Alyssa Sheinmel and The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

Exo
Fonda Lee
Scholastic Press, February 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-93343-8
Hardcover

Peace Day may be quickly approaching, but a battle is about to go down while something more sinister, bigger, bubbles beneath. Tension between the Global Security & Pacification Forces (SecPac) and humans is palpable; the humans’ hatred, disgust and raw fury with the zhree is tangible, yet they plan to celebrate a century of coexistence.  Coexistence applies to the fifteen percent of mankind approved to exist among the zhree.  The remaining eighty-five percent faded into shadows of themselves or morphed into fierce, determined resistance fighters.

Having survived the Hardening process that transforms a zhree-approved human child into an exo, the only son of the Prime Liaison appears as a firmly committed SecPac soldier.  Donovan is confident and unquestioning in his fight against human rebels; until a raid goes wrong.  Held hostage where humans are the apex species, his perspective shifts.  It becomes impossible to see the individuals around him as the cohesive, carbon-copy-collection he has been fighting against.  What he fought for blurs out of focus.  Who he really is becomes crystal clear: not human enough for mankind, “nothing but human” to the zhree. Although it feels as if everything is different now, one thing is very much the same: the entire planet is in danger and Donovan is helpless as a hostage.

Exo is a brilliant example of Science-Fiction feeling oh-so-real.  Ms. Lee packs powerful punches in action scenes, soothes with sympathy in some situations, but bites with wit and humor in others.  Entertaining, empathy evoking, surprisingly relatable and utterly thought provoking, this is a book for everyone; not just Science-Fiction fans.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2017.

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R.I.P Eliza Hart
Alyssa Sheinmel
Scholastic Press, December 2017
ISBN 978-0-338-08762-8
Hardcover

The appeal of the convenient, all-access “…narrow streets on the narrow island of Manhattan” is almost irrelevant for someone uncomfortable (at best) in enclosed spaces. Hopeful that her home state would help her open doors that claustrophobia kept firmly closed, Ellie accepts a scholarship to attend a tiny boarding school buffered by redwoods, opening wide above the Pacific Ocean.

Alone, Ellie explores the other dorms. A parental accompaniment would have been cool, but her issues have taken up too much of their time anyway. She will make friends here, none of these students know of her problems. Actually, she even sees a name she knows and suddenly, Ellie has something to look forward to: reconnecting with Eliza Hart.

Awkwardness should be the worse-case-scenario. Eliza may not have fond memories of her former childhood friend, she may not even remember Ellie at all. Appearing angry and almost personally offended that Ellie dare approach her, Eliza obviously loathes Ellie. In fact, she’s already told everyone on campus that Ellie is a vicious, pathological liar and students should simply steer clear.

Stunned, shattered, struggling with her sanity, Ellie has to know why. Even as Eliza’s body is recovered from the cliffside and speculations swirl around campus, Ellie cannot stop searching for answers. As she uncovers Eliza’s best kept secret, Ellie’s own repression is revealed, changing her perspective on absolutely everything.

R.I.P. Eliza Hart is an outstanding YA novel because, as narrators of their own stories, Eliza and Ellie explain actualities of mental illness in a way that everyone can understand and empathize with. Misconceptions, such as medicine plus therapy equal a cure, are corrected…without sounding like a somber after-school-special. And the awesome element of something decidedly different, redwood burl poachers.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2017.

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The Forgetting
Sharon Cameron
Scholastic Press, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-94521-9
Hardcover

Imagine awaking with no knowledge of who you are. You don’t know your name, or age.  None of your surroundings are familiar. The distraught children barricaded inside with you are strangers, but the look of terror covering each little face reflects how you feel. They, too, have Forgotten.

In the white-walled world of Canaan, you carry your life story with you in the most literal way: hand-written in a journal kept close (if not tethered) at all times.  Every moment lived will be written down accurately and truthfully.  When one journal is filled, it is maintained in the Archives. Histories—both individual and collective—are compiled and preserved here; a necessity based on an inexplicable, yet infallible, occurrence that robs the residents of their memories every twelve years.

Every rule has an exception and here, it is Nadia.  Having been a child during her first Forgetting, she still realized how different she was.  She did not Forget.  Admirably altruistic, cunning and courageous, this character could carry the story.  A grudging acceptance to partner with Gray, the Glassblower’s Son, subtly shows her softer side and adds a bit more urgency and suspense to an already captivating caper.

The real scoop is revealed like ripples in a pond. The grab-your-attention-splash of the impending Forgetting expands into a more complex mystery.  Perhaps it is the limited memory, or maybe life without modern conveniences keeps people too busy to ponder, but; no one seems to question the wall around the city.  Again, except for Nadia.  She’s been over the wall and noted differences.  In her city, stone is jagged—as if freshly broken or cut.  The other side of wall has stone that has been worn smooth.  She wonders, “…does the wall protect us, or keep us in?”

Already intrigued by the idea of a periodic, mass-memory-erase, I became completely captivated considering circumstances that could have resulted in the walled city.  My wildest imagination is not even comparable to Ms. Cameron’s creative genius; I was astounded.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2017.

Book Review: Revolutions by Carissa Andrews

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Title: Revolutions
Series: Pendomus Chronicles Book 3
Author: Carissa Andrews
Publication date: November 21, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:

         

    

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Revolutions
Pendomus Chronicles Book Three
Carissa Andrews
Carissa Andrews, November 2017
ISBN 978-0991055845
Trade Paperback

From the author—

As the timelines of Pendomus fray, one girl born with power has the ability to set things right….

Forcing her way into Videus’ vassalage may be the last thing Runa will ever do, but she knows she has to try. Not only are there others like her—others with powers—but they’re directly tied to her by blood. With Trae’s mental stability in question, and Kani missing, Runa can only rely on herself and the aid of her brother to fulfill her destiny. If she can embrace her role as the Daughter of Five, hopefully she can set things right and free Trae from whatever madness is taking over his mind.

There’s more than meets the eye to Videus’ obsession with Runa and her bloodlines. The only problem is, unraveling the mystery could unleash catastrophe on everything she holds dear, if she’s not careful. Can Runa stop Videus once and for all—or will the fate of Pendomus be locked forever by one man’s madness?

Step into Pendomus – a world that meshes mystery, magical creatures, and destiny with science fiction and technology.

You’re one click away from having all the answers to the Pendomus Chronicles secrets.

Sometimes, a series (or, as in this case, a trilogy) leaves me thinking that there’s been a lot of filler and there could have been fewer books. I don’t feel that way about the Pendomus Chronicles; instead, I think each succeeding book has built on the preceding as it should until the third and final episode is clearly where the author was heading all along.

Revolutions is full of adventure and excitement, just the way a book with such a title should be. We’ve had a really good journey through the first two books, getting to know the characters and the very uncomfortable world they live in, and now we learn who Runa was meant to be all along and how important she and her band of young companions are to each other and to the future of their world.

In the meantime, Trae has to deal with his personal demons and that in itself is a distraction for Runa. In a shattering yet very satisfying ending filled with the past, the present and the future, it finally all comes together in a breakneck race through the timeline, leading us to, well, I won’t give anything away but, suffice it to say, I’m a happy reader 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

About the Author

“An author emerges from the depths of Minnesotan waters. Sci-fi/Fantasy is my pen of choice.”

Carissa Andrews is a Minnesota-based genre bending author who writes a combination of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia. When not writing her own books, she’s busy reading them.

Her first novel, Pendomus, was the first of a three-part series and was published in 2013. Now, four years later, Polarities (Book 2) of the Pendomus Chronicles, and Revolutions (Book 3) have recently been released.

For more information on their release, visit Carissa Andrews’ author website: www.carissaandrews.com and sign up for her newsletter notifications.

Carissa is also a freelance graphic designer, writer and content creator, social media manager, and marketing professional. She writes consistently on topics of science, technology, art, writing, photography, graphic design, health, self improvement, and more. Her articles can be found published across the interwebs. Carissa is also a Top Rated Freelancer on Upwork, and can be contacted for freelancing opportunities: https://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~011fb5962824326eaa/

Other author links:

Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // Pinterest
Google // YouTube // BookBub // Goodreads

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Follow the tour:

11/22 – Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile – Review
11/23 – Escaping Reality with Books – Review
11/25 – Carissa’s Website – Exclusive Look at Revolutions
11/27 – Buried Under Books – Review

Book Review: November Rain by Shannon A. Thompson

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Title: November Rain
Series: Bad Bloods, Book 1
Author: Shannon A. Thompson
Narrator: Jonathan Johns
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication Date: September 12, 2017

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Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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November Rain
Bad Bloods, Book 1
Shannon A. Thompson
Narrated by Jonathan Johns
Clean Teen Publishing, September 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Seventeen-year-old Serena isn’t human. She is a bad blood, and in the city of Vendona, bad bloods are executed. In the last moments before she faces imminent death, a prison guard aids her escape and sparks a revolt. Back on the streets determined to destroy her kind, Serena is spared by a fellow bad blood named Daniel. His past tragedies are as equally mysterious as her connection to them. Unbeknownst to the two, this connection is the key to winning the election for bad bloods’ rights to be seen as human again. But Serena is the only one who can secure Vendona’s vote. Now, Daniel must unite with her before all hope is lost and bad bloods are eradicated, even if it means exposing secrets worse than death itself. United or not, a city will fight, rain will fall, and all will be threatened by star-crossed love and political corruption.

It’s not always easy for an author to come up with a fresh idea for a dystopian story but Ms. Thompson’s concept of Flocks for these unwanted—and, in some cases, criminal—kids is brilliant because it’s so reminiscent of today’s gangs, such as the Crips and the Bloods. In both cases, the organization is intended to provide family and protection for its members while they have deep seated hatred for each other.

I did find the story a little hard to follow because worldbuilding is weak and there’s just not enough information available to help the reader understand this world and how it came to be that certain children would be so disregarded and feared to the point of executions. While I enjoyed November Rain,  I hope things will become clearer in the next book.

Narrator Jonathan Johns has a very pleasing voice and his individual voices are good but I was happy to have chapter headings identifying the speaker as I didn’t think Mr. Johns differentiated as well as he might have. His enunciation is especially good, though, and that’s a boon for listeners.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

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About the Author

Shannon A. Thompson is a young adult author, avid reader, and a habitual chatterbox.

As a novelist, poet, and blogger, Thompson spends her free time writing and sharing ideas with her black cat, Bogart, named after her favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart. Her other two cats bring her coffee. Between writing and befriending cats, Thompson graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing, and her work has appeared in numerous poetry collections and anthologies. Represented by Clean Teen Publishing, Thompson is the best-selling author of the Timely Death trilogy and the Bad Bloods series. When she is not writing, she is climbing rooftops, baking cookies, or watching KDramas in the middle of the night, often done with her cats by her side.

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram

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About the Narrator

Jonathan Johns is a professional audio book narrator, voice actor and family man.

As an audio book narrator he spends most of his time in front of a microphone spouting written words into Audacity. In his spare time he looks after his daughter Aria. He is currently recording all his audio books in Aria’s bedroom! Jonathan is known for his character work and spends far too much of his time using other characters voices in daily life. He currently has over 20 audio books to his name and has voiced hundreds of characters in them (all with varying degrees of success!). Be it Male, Female, American, British, Elderly, Youthful or anything in between, Jonathan has a voice for you.

Facebook // Twitter // SoundCloud

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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GIVEAWAY
The giveaway is for a Clean Teen Publishing Mystery Box.
Open Internationally.
Enter here.

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Book Review: Not Dead Yet by Samie Sands

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Title: Not Dead Yet
Series: AM13 Outbreak Series Book #4
Author: Samie Sands
Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Post-Apocalyptic

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Purchase Links:

    

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Not Dead Yet
AM13 Outbreak Series Book #4
Samie Sands
CreateSpace, June 2017
ISBN 978-1548162498
Trade Paperback

From the author—

The AM13 Outbreak has affected everywhere, the entire world has experienced infection.

Victims of the virus are no longer human, they’ve changed, become something scientifically impossible. With their loss of human function and their new lust for flesh, there’s only one word to describe them…

Zombies.

The world is divided as everyone tries to work out how to survive. Many have already lost their lives 
in the fight, but there are still a few who are not dead…

Yet!

This book is a little different from many because each chapter brings us a new scenario with new characters. In some ways, that’s good since we get to see how people around the world cope with what has become a full-scale zombie apocalypse. On the other hand, it means I couldn’t make any real connection with any of them.

In another departure from the norm, each protagonist reacts in different ways, some of which really got my attention, like the one who’s actually devolving into a zombie after being bitten. One character has a perhaps hopeless belief that she can find her way back to a loved one through hundreds of miles of devastation and zombies; another is a bit of a warrior who’s flummoxed when he comes across a pregnant woman.

A lot of the author’s attention is on other things going on with the characters besides the virus and I did appreciate that but, when all is said and done, this book left me a little dissatisfied because each chapter ends with no resolution and I really wanted to know what happened to each person. The ending, though, came in proper zombie fashion so, all in all, I enjoyed Not Dead Yet with some reservations.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

About the Author

Samie Sands is a 28 year old freelance graphic designer who has recently decided to follow her lifelong dream and use her creativity in a new way by writing.

She has a degree in Media Studies and PR and has already had articles published in a number of e-zines, including one of the most popular pieces at Zombie Guide Magazine. She has also had short stories included in a number of successful projects.

She lives in a small seaside town in the UK, but loves to travel to gain inspiration from new places and different cultures.

Author Links:

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Wattpad * Amazon * Goodreads

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Flashtide by Jenny Moyer

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Title: Flashtide
Series: Flashfall #2
Author: Jenny Moyer
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Genre:  Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:

         

         

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Flashtide
Flashfall #2
Jenny Moyer
Henry Holt and Company, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-6277-9483-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Orion has survived the tunnels of Outpost Five, filled with mutant creatures and dangers around every bend. She has traversed the cordons, exposed to the radiation of the flash curtain and hunted by forces that want her stopped, dead or alive. Now, with Dram by her side, she has made it to the safety of the mountain provinces, where free Conjurors live and practice their craft of manipulating matter.

But Orion’s story is far from over.

With the effects of the flashfall spreading and the might of the protected city of Alara looming, Orion must travel into the hands of her enemies once again.

When I read Flashfall, the first book in this duology, a year ago. I was especially impressed by the relationship between Orion and Dram. That was largely because these teens both had to grow up all too quickly but they didn’t let their dire circumstances influence the way they felt about and depended upon each other. They truly trusted each other and that lent an air of maturity to their alliance.

I’m glad to say that, even though they’re no longer in the mines and now have to deal with other very difficult issues, they haven’t lost that trust. Even when these two aren’t together, they take comfort in knowing everything is just a little bit easier because they have each other. The other thing I particularly like about this sequel is the way Orion and Dram have evolved into two people who can deal with things such as a severely oppressive society and the resistance that wants to change things. At the same time, they are teens and, naturally, they make mistakes. That’s a given and it leads to a great deal of tension and suspense.

The author made a really good decision in making this a duology. Between the two books, there’s plenty of room for character and plot development but not so much that it begins to feel tired. I wonder what we can expect from her next but I’m quite sure I’ll want to read it 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

About the Author

Jenny is the author of the YA sci-fi/fantasy FLASHFALL, and its sequel, FLASHTIDE. (Holt/Macmillan 11-14-17) She lives with her filmmaker husband and their three boys in Iowa. Watch the epic, live action book trailer for the novel that Booklist calls “A cinematic page-turner.”

Find out more at http://www.jennymoyer.com and connect with Jenny on Twitter and Facebook.

Instagram // Pinterest // Tumblr // YouTube

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Follow the tour:

November 13th
Pink Polka Dot Books– Welcome Post

November 14th
Wishful Endings – Interview
Library of a Book Witch – Review + Playlist

November 15th
The Eater of Books! – Guest Post
It Starts at Midnight – Review + Favourite Quotes

November 16th
A Thousand Words A Million Books – Interview
Don’t Judge, Read – Review

November 17th
biscotto’s books – Review + Favourite Quotes
Buried Under Books – Review

November 18th
A Bookish Abode – Guest Post
Sophie Reads Books – Review

November 19th
YA Obsessed – Review
Literary Meanderings – Promotional Post

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Giveaway

Win a FLASHTIDE pack: signed copies
of Flashtide & Flashfall,
a $50 Gift Card
from Amazon.com and swag (INT)

Enter here.

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