When Dimple Met Rishi: YA Review

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Genre: YA Romance

Publication: May 30th 2017

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Source: Review Copy via NetGalley -Thank you-

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My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The arranged-marriage YA romcom you didn’t know you wanted or needed…

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Jenny Han and Nicola Yoon, WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI is a frothy, funny contemporary romance set at a coding convention in San Francisco over one exciting summer. Told from the dual perspectives of two Indian American protagonists, Dimple is fighting her family traditions while Rishi couldn’t be happier to follow in the footsteps of his parents. Could sparks fly between this odd couple, or is this matchmaking attempt doomed to fail?


Oh, what awkward wonderfulness this story was. I’m still recovering from the warm and fuzzy overload.

Dimple is quite stubborn and has an intense desire to be free – free of other people’s expectations.

Rishi feels his purpose in life is to please his parents.

Dimple is super excited to be out on her own attending a six-week coding workshop and has no idea her parents have set her up.

Rishi is super excited that he may be potentially meeting his future wife and will be getting the chance to get to know her during the six-week coding workshop they will be attending.

Cue hilarious meet cute that involves Dimple assaulting Rishi with an iced coffee. Wait… I don’t think I can put the words meet cute and assault together in a sentence. Hmm… was it assault… Nar self-defence, she thought he was crazy at the time.

There are bits of humour sprinkled all through this love story about juggling parental expectations, standing up for yourself, following your dreams and arranged marriages. I actually loved the positive examples of arranged marriage, as on my side of the world they can tend to be portrayed in a negative light.

Dimple and Rishi click with each other early on, but Dimple tries and *spoiler* fails to fight it. Yeah so maybe your parents did know what they were doing, hey Dimple!

My inner teenager found Dimple fairly relatable and immediately fell for Rishi. Rishi he is kind, funny, brave, intelligent and talented – it’s impossible not to fall for him, duh.

All in all, it is a cute and quick read that I’d happily read again.


Menon’s Twitter | Website | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Booktopia | Bookdepository 

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe: YA Review

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The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Publication: 7th September 2017
Publisher: Walker Books
Source: Review copy from Walker
Thank you, you wonderful people
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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?

Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.

Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.

But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?

Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .


Wow, what a page turner. The dates across the tops of the pages really push the story along and create a heavy tension. You’ll want to read this in one sitting.

Romy was born on The Infinity, a star ship despatched with the mission to create a human colony on a new planet. Romy has never ever known any other life then that onboard The Infinity and after an incident takes both her parents away from her, she is alone. Romy is further away from earth than any human has ever been, hurtling towards the unknown. The weight of a new human colony, by default, resting on her teenage shoulders. Romy has to grow up fast! to have any hope of completing her parents mission.

Poor mental health due to the toll that guilt and grief cause is a big part of three integral characters storylines and there were some beautiful scenes, like the one where Romy makes peace with her Mother (I cried). But the highlights for me were the sections of the book where Romy is fast thinking and fighting for her life. I was ripping through the pages desperate to see what happened next.

There is so much more I could talk about; Romy’s parents, ‘pen-pals’ and psychological torture, Romy’s cute-as bits of fan-fiction (kind of Rainbow Rowell Fangirl-ish – but it enhanced rather than detracted from the main story). But it’s so much more fun If you find these things out for yourself. Off you go.


Lauren’s Twitter | Website | Goodreads

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe @
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No Limits: YA Review

35298151No Limits by Ellie Marney
Genre: Contemporary
Publication: August 14th 2017
Publisher: Self-Published
Source: Review copy from Author
Thanks Ellie, you wonderful woman
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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Boozer, brawler, ladies’ man – nineteen-year-old Harris Derwent is not a good guy.

His one attempt to play the hero – helping out his old flame, Rachel Watts – has landed him in hospital. Now injured, broke, and unemployed, he’s stuck back in the country, at his father’s mercy. Harris needs to pay off his dad’s debts, and fast. But working as a runner for a drug cartel is a dangerous path – especially if Harris agrees to narc…

Eighteen-year-old Amita Blunt is the perfect police sergeant’s daughter – practical, trustworthy, and oh-so responsible. Getting involved in Harris’s case was never part of the plan. But working at the hospital, she’s invisible – which makes her the ideal contact for a boy feeding information back to the police…

Harris and Amie’s connection is sizzling hot – but if the cartel finds out about them, things could get downright explosive. Backed into a corner, with everything at stake, it’s time for Harris and Amie to find out if love really has no limits…


Woah! What an action-packed adventure ride this book was. I loved it. It was fan-frigging-tastic!

Right from the start I was enjoying reading this book; Ellie’s writing, the characters and the prospect of romance and drama. The story reeled me in, fast, and I was happy to be hooked.

Harris’s dad is an evil arsehole. Had to be said! He has subjected Harris to emotional and physical abuse his whole life, making Harris an emotionally closed off hard arse. We meet Harris at an extreme low point. He has no self-worth and a bit of a death wish. Enter Amie.

Amie’s dad is a good man, a man of the law. And Amie has a loving extended family. After the death of her mother Amie can’t bear being separated from her remaining family. So, she plans on giving up her dreams of studying photography and visiting far off places to stay and be near them. Little help here please Harris (and Nani).

Harris and Amie are two extremely different people, but the chemistry between them is undeniable right from the start. Each helping the other heal, let go and move on to bigger and better things – oh and there is a whole lot of criminal activity, dangerous dudes and wrongs righted in between.

Meth, not even once mate! Methamphetamine, Crystal Meth, Crank, Speed, Ice, Poor Man’s Cocaine etc. whatever the hell you want to call it, it’s poisonous s**t. I really liked how Ellie went into detail with her characters drug use without glorifying it. The message of the damage it can do shines through the story, but she’s not preachy.  She shows the painful truths, the negative side effects and deadly consequences. She also bothers to show how it feels, and why they do it.

The last eight chapters were a full-on adrenalin rush. I was physically anxious, my stomach was churning as I flew through the words, racing to find out how it all ends. Totally worth it! The ending made my heart sing.

I can see myself reading this book again. I really enjoyed getting to know Harris and Amie intimately, and the rush of experiencing their world.

Harris does feature in the last book of Ellie’s Every series, but you in no way need to read it first. Do yourself a favour, go and buy No Limits and fall in love with Ellie’s story telling awesomeness .

Find Ellie and her books here: Amazon AU | Amazon US | BooktopiaAngus & Robertson Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

The Hate You Give: YA Review

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Genre: Contemporary
Publication: February 28th 2017
Publisher: Walker Books
Source: Review copy from publisher – Thank You Walker
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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The Hate U Give is one of the must read books of 2017. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this incredibly powerful debut YA novel from Angie Thomas holds a mirror to what prejudice looks like in the 21st Century. The Hate U Give is a gripping look into one girl’s struggle for justice.

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.


I’m not going to lie, I was apprehensive in reading “T.H.U.G.” and kept putting it off. When the wonderful people at Walker supplied me with a copy to read and review, my second son was only three months old and my new baby emotions were all over the place. I had heard of the book and knew it was a confronting and emotional read. I was expecting my heart to be shattered into a million pieces and was not ready to go there while trying to keep my physically and emotionally exhausted self sane. Hindsight is a marvellous thing and I’m pissed that I waited so long to read it. There was so much love between the pages that I actually came away from the novel more hopeful for the future.

The Hate U Give is a truly captivating and moving tale. My heart reached out to Star. I hated that she had to hide parts of herself to be accepted into white society. I hated that she had to witness the senseless death of loved ones. I hated that she was treated differently because the colour of her skin.

Knowing something happens and experiencing it are two different things. I think this book takes the open minded reader one step closer to understanding what it is really like to be on the receiving end of such hate.

There were some truly moving and powerful scenes between Star and her daddy. Both of Star’s parents were standout characters for me. Both were doing their bit to hold the world around them together, while attempting to make it better. It was a breath of fresh air to see such positive role models. Strong, supportive and loving parental characters tend to be lacking in YA.

The story is faced paced, confronting and beautiful. I cannot fault this book, not only does it highlight important social issues, the writing is immaculate.
Buy this book! I urge you to go buy two copies, one for yourself and one for a teen you know.

Amazon US | Amazon AU | Bookdepository | Booktopia | Goodreads

“Pac said Thug Life stood for ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody’.” The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody – It sure does mate, it sure does.

Stealing Liberty: Blog Tour

Title: Stealing Liberty

Author: Jennifer Froelich

Genre: Young Adult

A heist so monumental, it may cost them everything… When Reed Paine is sent to a secret detention school for teens whose parents are branded enemies of the state, he doesn’t expect to find friendship – especially after coming face to face with Riley Paca, a girl who has every reason to hate him.

 But when Reed, Riley and a few others start reading the old books they find in tunnels under the school, they begin to question what they are taught about the last days of America and the government that has risen in its place.   Then the government decides to sell the Liberty Bell and Reed and his friends risk everything to steal it – to take back their history and the liberty that has been stolen from them (Stealing Liberty/Clean Reads).

Excerpt
My escort pushes me. “Pick up the pace, kid.” I stumble on a sharp rock and cut my toe. It hurts more than it should and I pull up to face him, fists curled at my side. I’ve grown about a foot since my sixteenth birthday, which means I can stare him down, eye to eye. He just smirks.  How about I smash your nose?  For a minute the urge is so powerful, my pulse pounds against my throat and red spots blur my vision. Don’t do anything stupid, Reed. Pick your battles. The voice in my head is my dad’s, so I listen. We climb aboard a rusty hybrid bus parked in front of the bombed-out terminal. “Welcome,” says the autopilot. It’s one of the retro models, formed like a human, with LED eyes and everything. When magnetic tracks were first installed, citizens didn’t trust computers to maneuver vehicles safely along roadways. At least that’s what my grandmother told me. Humanoid pilots were designed to make them feel safer.  Pretty soon, people had more important things to worry about.  My escort takes a seat behind the pilot, but I keep going. Only one other passenger is on the bus — a girl with long blond hair who sits in the fifth row, pressed against the window. Bruises swell on her left cheekbone and along her jaw. Her lip is crusted with blood and her right eyelid is swollen shut. Nausea washes over me, along with fresh anger.  “Sit!” our escort barks.  The girl flinches. I take a seat across from her and shift toward the window. The door squeaks closed and the bus lurches forward. We travel on an old freeway so desolate, we don’t encounter a single other transport. I wish I was calm enough to sleep — so numb to the government’s strong-arm tactics, they no longer get to me. Instead I stare past the landscape and try not to shake. Try not to relive my nightmare or think about how it felt to wake up with a gun to my head. I imagine a different outcome. Fighting back — or breaking out of the state home before they showed up. If only.


About the Author

Jennifer Froelich published her debut novel, Dream of Me, in late 2011, which reviewers praised as “well-orchestrated with outstanding imagery.” Her second novel, A Place Between Breaths, published in 2014, was called “a roller-coaster ride with enough twists and turns to keep everyone interested” and won an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest’s 23rd Annual Self Published Book competition. Jennifer is a frequent contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul.  A graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, Jennifer worked for many years as a freelance editor and writer before publishing her own work. She lives in beautiful Idaho with her husband, two teenage kids, and a rescue cat named Katniss.

Links Website | Tumblr | Twitter | Facebook

The Girl Who Saved Ghosts: COVER REVEAL

The Girl Who Saved Ghosts
K.C. Tansley
(The Unbelievables, #2)
Publication date: October 17th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult

She tried to ignore them. Now she might risk everything to save them.

After a summer spent in a haunted castle—a summer in which she traveled through time to solve a murder mystery—Kat is looking forward to a totally normal senior year at McTernan Academy. Then the ghost of a little girl appears and begs Kat for help, and more unquiet apparitions follow. All of them are terrified by the Dark One, and it soon becomes clear that that this evil force wants Kat dead.

Searching for help, Kat leaves school for the ancestral home she’s only just discovered. Her friend Evan, whose family is joined to her own by an arcane history, accompanies her. With the assistance of her eccentric great aunts and a loyal family ghost, Kat soon learns that she and Evan can only fix the present by traveling into the past.

As Kat and Evan make their way through nineteenth-century Vienna, the Dark One stalks them, and Kat must decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to save a ghost.

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Sequel to:

Book One: Purchase | Goodreads

Author Bio:

K.C Tansley lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, and three quirky golden retrievers on a hill somewhere in Connecticut. She tends to believe in the unbelievables–spells, ghosts, time travel–and writes about them.

Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days.

The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is her debut YA time-travel murder mystery novel. As Kourtney Heintz, she also writes award winning cross-genre fiction for adults.

If you’d like to receive exclusive bonus content on my books, subscribe to my author updates: http://kourtneyheintz.com/contact/

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Deathly Unloved: Blog Tour

Title: Deathly Unloved

Author: Annee Cooper

Genre: YA LGBT paranormal romance

Being raised as a nephilim has its drawbacks when you’re only quarter angel. Now it’s getting dangerous.

Rune’s always known about the angel blood that runs through her veins. A gift—or a curse—from her halfling mother. She thinks she knows who she is. She’s wrong. After a kiss with a stranger completes a sacred ritual, she’s forced to accept the other side of her heritage. And the lust for souls that comes with it. Now this gorgeous seductress is on a hunt to find others like her and discover the truth about her past. But with her hunger growing insatiable, does she have more to worry about than making friends?

 * *  *   Excerpt   *  * *

“If I leave, will you kiss him? Or any other humans?” the boy asked.

“I didn’t plan on kissing anything that wasn’t human, but if a cute angel comes along I might change my mind.” Rune gave him a cheeky smile.

He made a face and clenched his hands. With a loud sigh and a stomp of his boot, he reached for her hand. Rune glared at him, but her face softened when she saw how pained his expression was. She didn’t back off when he moved closer.

“We don’t even know each other,” he mumbled. His fingers brushed her cheek, then her lips as he searched her eyes. “Say it’s all right.”

Strangely, she wasn’t uncomfortable with the idea. This guy was possibly the first ethereal her age she’d come across. He might be a little curt, but he was also gorgeous, and his touch felt welcome on her skin.

Unable to keep herself from eyeing his mouth, the desire to kiss him turned to an ache.

“Yes.” She inhaled a ragged breath and her hands slithered around his neck, her fingers winding themselves in his hair. “I’m shaking,” she said, still fixated on his lips.

“Me too. It’s because we should have already done this at our age. It’ll be more intense be—”

“Shh.” She finished the sound by pressing her lips into his.

The gentle start became a heated wrestle of hot mouths. Rune drew him deeper and he pulled her tight against his body. Her nerves screamed at her.

More.

Rune lost all sense of being separate. Her spirit welcomed him, opening up to expose her essence. A sweet, icy fire burned through her mouth into her body, igniting her cells and quenching a fierce thirst. It felt like she was inhaling menthol and liquid sugar straight into her veins. The energy between them slowed to a stop and they broke apart, instantly back in reality. Rune fell against the wall, breathless and dazed with shock. Her back felt all tingly, a cold sort of tickle that raced across her skin. The boy didn’t look so harmless now. The whites of his eyes had been completely swallowed by black. All that was left of his irises was a thin ring.

“When they said intense I never thought…” He leaned heavily on the hall table.

“Your eyes,” Rune said in a fragile voice.

“They’ll change back.”

Still trembling, Rune slid down the wall to the floor. That was not what kissing was supposed to be like. She was obviously delirious. Someone must have spiked the vodka. That or this house had a serious hallucinogenic mould problem.

Black Blade: Blog Tour

Black Blade by Alexander Charalambides
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Release Date: June 11th 2017

Summary

Lance is a hero.

With his friend Megan, he does his best to survive high school in a world that doesn’t always make sense, and is almost never fair.

When their school receives a donation from an anonymous millionaire, Lance and Megan find themselves on an international field trip to England, where the two receive an irresistible call to a supernatural adventure that could change their destinies, and the destiny of the country, forever.

Together with three mysterious adults who all claim to be wizards, Lance must safe-guard the legendary Excalibur. Traveling into a strange parallel world and keeping his friends, new and old, safe from harm at the hands of a malevolent army of magical soldiers, Lance discovers the truth about heroism and the content of his character.

* * Add to Goodreads * *

About the Author

Alexander Charalambides was born in London and grew up in Berkshire.

He studied Creative Writing, and graduated from the Open University.

In 2008 he moved to the United States, and now lives in New Hampshire.

As a freelance writer Alexander enjoys storytelling just as much as editing and analysis, but often takes time off to enjoy wind surfing, do the sickest of motorcycle flips, wrestle with deadly animals and lie about his hobbies.

Author Links: WebsiteGoodreadsFacebook

Alexander’s MUSIC PLAYLIST for Black Blade
Music is an extremely powerful tool for the imagination, it strengths atmosphere and preserves the author’s intent while still allowing the reader to freely imagine the details and texture the author chooses to leave blank. That said, Black Blade’s atmosphere, and therefore “imaginary” soundtrack is sort of set in stone. Since Black Blade is almost a comedy, you might expect me to have listened to all sorts of silly music (which is what I usually listen to), but this is where the “almost” is important. Black Blade’s characters are pretty over the top, sometimes absurd, but the plot and atmosphere are always serious and often sombre, so the comedy really comes from contrast rather than any specific action. I can’t score the whole thing, but plenty of musical pieces went into building the atmosphere, and since the atmosphere really grew from John Boorman’s Excalibur, we’ll start there.
If you watch Excalibur (and I highly recommend you do) the soundtrack will stand out immediately, the key player being Wagner’s Siegfried’s Funeral March. It’s the keystone of the film’s atmosphere and Black Blade’s as well. In fact, I’m listening to it right now and feeling really proud of myself. Obviously, though, playlists aren’t composed of a single song. I tried to diversify and ended up with a lot of classical stuff. Most people know Night On Bald Mountain, which I think comes in louder and louder towards Black Blade’s end, and I always imagined the crowded breathing and clattering equipment of the Mason’s Guild accompanied by Prokofiev’s Dance Of The Knights.
I know, you probably think I’m boring. All posturing about authorial intent and atmosphere aside, I found that writing with these really old, forbidding pieces added something that I couldn’t find in more modern music, and lyrics were right out.
Maybe I’m just ignorant of the music I really needed since all I usually listen to are nonsense mashups and songs made of sampled dog barks.

Blog Tour Organized by:

Counting to D: YA Review

18518158Counting to D by Kate Scott
Paperback, 227 pages
First published January 28th 2014 by Elliott Books
Source: Review copy from publisher
Thank You Eliott
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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

A contemporary young adult novel about a bright dyslexic teen struggling to find her place in a literate world. Counting to D is sure to resonate with anyone who has struggled with learning disabilities, young love, or just being a teen!

The kids at Sam’s school never knew if they should make fun of her for being too smart or too dumb. That’s what it means to be dyslexic, smart, and illiterate. Sam is sick of it. So when her mom gets a job in a faraway city, Sam decides not to tell anyone about her little illiteracy problem. Without her paradox of a reputation, she falls in with a new group of highly competitive friends who call themselves the Brain Trust. When she meets Nate, her charming valedictorian lab partner, she declares her new reality perfect. But in order to keep it that way, she has to keep her learning disability a secret. The books are stacked against her and so are the lies. Sam’s got to get the grades, get the guy, and get it straight—without being able to read.

My Thoughts

 Counting to D is the uplifting tale of dyslexic teen Samantha Wilson. The story follows Sam as she moves interstate, meaning a new school and leaving behind the most important things to her in the whole world, her friends, Arden and Gabby. She makes new friends easily enough, but then battles her self-doubts as to how much of her true self she is willing to show them.

The author Kate Scott was diagnosed with Dyslexia as a young child and it shows in the depth of Sam’s character. She feels real. Her struggles feel real and her coping mechanisms are explained in detail. Sam is easily likeable and you can’t help but root for her.

While the story is rather light and fluffy it touches on a lot of extremely important topics beautifully; friendship, peer pressure, social norms, social acceptance, learning disabilities, self-worth, first times and first loves (just to name a few). It is a heart-warming, fun and fast read. I got to the end of the story and wished there was more. I would have happily kept on reading about Sam’s life.

Counting to D was Kate’s debut Novel, she has since gone on to write a second The Evolution of Emily, which set in the same high school and yes Sam is in it as a supporting character. I’m really looking forward to reading it as well.


Kate Scott: Goodreads | Twitter

Buy Links: Amazon AU | Amazon US | Bookdepository | Booktopia

About Last Summer: Blog Tour

Title: About Last Summer

Author: Patricia B. Tighe

Genre: YA Romance

Pretend to be from Spain? Act like she can barely speak English? Sure, why not? It wouldn’t be the first time Gabby Vega had agreed to a challenge from her best friend, Kenzie. Besides, it’s only for a week of vacation with Kenzie’s cousins. Gabby will prove to Kenzie she can keep up the fake identity for the whole trip—that she’s not a quitter.

There’s just one major surprise. Noah Jernigan is also staying with Kenzie’s cousins. Noah, the boy she fell in love with at drama camp last summer and the boy she had to dump when it was over. The boy who knows who she really is.

Noah can’t believe it when Gabby appears at the Bryson’s vacation home in the New Mexico mountains. He hasn’t seen her in a year. It practically took that long just to get over her. And now she’s Gabriela from Spain? All he wants is to get as far away as he can. Or maybe the exact opposite. Stick as close to her as possible and find out what the heck happened last summer. And definitely get some payback.

Now Gabby has to keep Noah at arm’s length as she pretends to be Gabriela. She doesn’t want to answer his questions or rehash last summer. Because one thing is clear—the more time she spends with Noah, the more she’s in danger of falling for him all over again.

Links

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Patricia B. TigheAuthor Bio

The mother of two grown sons, Patricia B. Tighe lives in West Texas with her husband and dog. She eats way too much pizza, drinks way too much coffee, and watches way too much NFL football. On the bright side, she also reads and writes teen fiction. She promises to include as much romance, angst, and adventure as possible in her books.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

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Excerpt

Noah

I was three measures into a different Celtic song when a sound broke my concentration. A footstep? Probably not. I frowned and kept playing. But somehow, the shades of darkness shifted. I squinted. Someone stood on the blacktop where we shot baskets, half hidden by the side of the deck.

My heart rate picked up. There was only one person it could be. The others were inside, and Amanda didn’t go anywhere without Haley. I kept playing, just more quietly. “You can come out,” I said. “I know you’re there.”

Gabby’s voice came from the blackness. “How?”

I waited until she reached the bottom of the steps. “A shadow moved or something.”

“Oh.” She stepped up and sat on the stair just below the deck’s floor. “That sounds familiar.”

Crap. I’d been playing her song again. I purposely plucked the wrong string, the flat note twanging out like a slap. “Haven’t played it in awhile.” Idiot, idiot. You played it a few minutes ago. If she was outside, she heard it.

She leaned back on her elbows and faced the backyard. “It’s still good.”

I could’ve switched songs. I so wanted to. But a perverse need to show her just how great the song could be filled me with determination. So I let myself fall completely into the music, each note ringing out with precision and aching sweetness.

Finally, when my chest was so tight I could barely breathe, I stopped. My body still rocked uncontrollably forward and back, the last notes reverberating into the night.

She said nothing. Just sat there as if she deserved the whole performance.

And I was caught. I wanted to jump up and go inside. But I also wanted to lean toward her. Remember how much you liked that last summer? Do you still? I had to be the biggest fool between here and whatever the hell river ran through Texas.

She sighed, and it broke through the Gabby-cloud in my mind. “What’re you doing out here, Gabby?”

She looked over her shoulder at me, but I couldn’t see her face in the darkness. Just her soft voice floated out. “Why didn’t you play games with everybody?”

I picked idly at the guitar strings. “I’m tired of games. Especially ones I can’t win.”