Reviews, Special Review, ya contemporary, ya romance

ARC Book Review: The Bad Boy Bargain by Kendra C. Highley

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Goodreads Summary:

Baseball player Kyle Sawyer has many labels: bad boy, delinquent, ladies’ man, fearless outfielder… Only one of them is actually true. But then sweet ballet dancer Faith Gladwell asks him to help wreck her reputation, and everything goes sideways.

Faith knows a thing or two about love, and what she had with her cheating jerk of an ex wasn’t it. When he starts spreading rumors about her being an Ice Queen, Faith decides it’s time to let a little bad into her life.

Lucky for her, Kyle Sawyer—dark, dangerous, totally swoonworthy Kyle Sawyer—is landscaping her backyard over Spring Break. Shirtless. And if she can convince him to play along, “dating” Kyle will silence the rumors.

But Faith’s plan threatens to expose Sawyer’s biggest secret of all…and that’s a risk he’s not willing to take.

Review:

The Bad Boy Bargain exceeded my expectations. I was expecting for Kyle to be an actual bad boy, not a “fake” bad boy. To think he was the complete opposite of the persona he put off just so he could cruise through high school without having to be bullied or sought after for the wrong reasons is heart-breaking  and made him more adorable. Faith is a whole other story. She is Ms. goody two shoes who seems to be dating doochebags all the time. Especially this last one, Cameron, is a real piece of work. And the thing is that Cameron and Kyle have some unfinished business so when Cameron cheats on Faith and Faith breaks up with him, she decides to get revenge by going out with the notorious bad boy Kyle.

The Bay Boy Bargain is a story that deals with the pains of teenage life. It shows how one small action can change your school life. To us who are older it may seem silly that it’s so life or death per say in the teenager world, but we all know that in that point of our lives it feels like life or death.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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I’d like to thank Entangled Publishing for providing me with an ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not influence my opinion in any way.

Reviews

ARC Review: The Sound of Us by Julie Hammerle

The Sound of Us

GoodReads Summary:

Kiki Nichols might not survive music camp.

She’s put her TV-loving, nerdy self aside for one summer to prove she’s got what it takes: she can be cool enough to make friends, she can earn that music scholarship, and she can get into Krause University’s music program.

Except camp has rigid conduct rules—which means her thrilling late-night jam session with the hot drummer can’t happen again, even though they love all the same TV shows, and fifteen minutes making music with him meant more than every aria she’s ever sung.

But when someone starts snitching on rule breakers and getting them kicked out, music camp turns into survival of the fittest. If Kiki’s going to get that scholarship, her chance to make true friends—and her chance with the drummer guy—might cost her the future she wants more than anything.

My Review:

The Sound of Us is an emotional and compelling story about a girl who goes to music camp and finally understands what she wants out of her life.

Kiki Nichols takes the summer between her Junior and Senior year of high school to attend a music camp and attain a scholarship that will help to pay to go to college and study music. While at camp she meets a variety of other talented musicians in her program as well as other programs. She meets a boy to helps to open her eyes, see what really matters. Her parents on the other hand hope she fails so they don’t have to waste money on her education, like they did with her older sister. Through out the novel she learns more about herself and what she wants. She strives for her dreams

Julie Hammerle did an excellent job of making this story and it’s characters very real and very relatable. Not many teens know what they want to study and do for the rest of their lives. Seeing these students really push themselves for their dreams is really engaging. The friendships and challenges Kiki faces are the same ones any teen does. Questioning who you are as a person, what you want, who you want to be friends with are all important during this stage of life. And just as important is love and heartbreak. Knowing that you may love someone, that they could break your heart- whether it’s a boy or your parents- and that you can move past it.

I hope readers come away from this story knowing that they can do anything, that they can reach for the starts, and bring their dreams to life.

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Rating: 5 out of 5

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to review this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not sway my review.

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ARC Review: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves

GoodReads Summary:

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

My Review:

So I know this isn’t a YA novel, but when I read the synopsis I knew I had to have this book. Once I got it, back in February, I put off reading it. I think subconsciously, I wasn’t ready for the heartbreak and loss this book would bring… and it brought it hard and fast.

From the summary, you already know Emma had a husband who died. She eventually moved on, fell in love, and is engaged when news  comes that Jesse, her husband, is alive. It’s quite a shock. And that is really what this novel is about- how to come to terms with your past and your future, recognizing the person you have become. 

Moving through the novel, we experience Emma’s first true love, Jesse. Their relationship is a whirlwind romance. They are high school sweethearts, attend the same college, travel around the world together. You can see that their love could be a forever kind of love. But there comes a moment when Emma questions her future- kids, settling down, etc. And she is not sure of Jesse’s opinion. But in the end it doesn’t matter because he “dies”.

Emma eventually moved back to her home town and is able to move on with her life. Then she meets Sam Kemp. He is her second chance at love and she takes it. They have built a wonder life together, so when Emma gets the call that Jesse is alive, she is thrown for a loop. She now has the opportunity to go back to her travel life with hr first love. But when Jesse does officially come back, it’s different, he’s different, they are different.

When Jesse comes back into the picture, it broke my heart to see Sam believe that Emma would go straight back into her old life, forgetting about him. But Sam was gracious enough to understand that Emma needed sometime to work through her feelings and he gave her that (please go listen to Crash and Burn by Savage Garden– this is Sam and Emma’s song). And I got so mad at Jesse for assuming Emma would drop everything to be back with him, that he thought she shouldn’t have moved on with her life. He was very selfish and didn’t help Emma’s confusion.

Taylor Jenkins Reid does a wonderful job at showing the turmoil a person goes through when they lose someone they love. The book is fast paced, moving through Emma’s life quickly but also showing the most important parts of it. And the transition, that weird gray part of a person’s life right after tragedy strikes, is the most compelling piece of the novel. Reid hits the nail on the head of how the body and mind handles death and destruction. Her words are like a complicated musical, moving from moment to moment, heartache to heartache (please start singing Pat Benatar- love is a battlefield). These in between chapters flow and sway, a slow blooming crescendo to a new life, a new person.

The novel also shows that while tragedy and death do happen, you can move on, you can love again. Heartbreak is not forever.

Everyone should read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5

I received this ARC from Washington Square Press and Edelweiss. Receiving this ARC for free doesn’t sway my review.

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Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

ARC Review: Will You Won’t You Want Me? by Nora Zelevansky

Will You Won't You Want Me?: A Novel

GoodReads Summary:

Marjorie Plum never meant to peak in high school. She was Queen Bee. Now, 10 years later, she’s lost her sparkle. At her bleakest moment, she’s surprised by renewed interest from a questionable childhood crush, and the bickering with her cranky boss—at a potentially game-changing new job—grows increasingly like flirtatious banter. Suddenly, she’s faced with a choice between the life she always dreamed of and one she never thought to imagine. With the help of a precocious 11-year-old tutee, who unknowingly becomes the Ghost of Marjorie Past, and a musician roommate, who looks like a pixie and talks like the Dalai Lama, Marjorie struggles with the ultimate question: Who does she want to be? Nora Zelevansky’s Will You Won’t You Want Me? is a funny, often surprising, novel about growing up when you are already supposed to be grown.

Review:

So this isn’t the usual type of novel we review on this blog- YA. And while I would classify this as New Adult, I think the themes Nora Zelevansky writes about can cross over to the YA genre. Self-growth and maturity. Communication. Coming of age. Disillusionment.

The main character, Marjorie, is basically having a midlife crisis at the age of 28. She isn’t that popular high schooler that can just get by on her looks and status in life anymore. Her best friend moves in with her boyfriend, and only gives her 2 days notice to find a new apartment (Rude! Don’t ever do this to your roommates). She also is fired from her job. So life pretty much sucks. I mean she is called “developmentally arrested” by her friends.

But with a midlife crisis comes the ability to re-evaluate your life. Where are you? Have you accomplished what you set out to do? If not, how do we fix this? Or is this something that needs to be fixed? Are the people in your life supporting you? Or are they dragging you down? All these questions are analyzed by Zelevansky through Marjorie’s story.

I will say, as a 28 year old trying to answer these questions myself, this book was exactly what I needed to read. I am at a point in my career where, depending on my next step, I will be in my field of work for the rest of my life. Is that something I want? And while my friends are moving on, marrying, having babies, I am not– and this is where Marjorie is as well.

This novel is really self-reflective and extremely relatable.  It reflects a time in our lives that not many people speak about. Not everyone has their life figured out by 28 and reading this helped me to realize that I don’t necessarily need to have it figured out.

Of the major things I took away from this book, one quote really stuck with me– “The important thing is this: to be able, at any moment, to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”

Rating: 5 out of 5Blog Signature

 

 

This book will be available on April 19, 2016 and can be purchased at Amazon and B&N.

Disclaimer: Thank you  St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this book for free does not influence my opinion.

Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

ARC Review: Undecided by Julianna Keyes

Undecided

GoodReads Summary:

Nora Kincaid has one goal for her second year of college: be invisible. Last year’s all-party-no-study strategy resulted in three failed classes and two criminal charges, and if she messes up again she’ll lose her scholarship. But there’s one problem with her plan for invisibility, and his name is Crosbie Lucas: infamous party king, general hellraiser…and her new roommate’s best friend.

Crosbie’s reckless reputation and well-known sexcapades aren’t part of Nora’s studious new strategy, but as she’s quickly learning, her new plan is also really boring. When Crosbie’s unexpected gestures of friendship pull her head out of her books long enough to see past his cocky veneer, she’s surprised to find a flawed and funny guy beneath it all. The muscles don’t hurt, either.

But as Nora starts to fall for Crosbie, the weight of one of last year’s bad decisions grows even heavier. Because three failing grades and two misdemeanors are nothing compared to the one big secret she’s hiding…

My Review:

Undecided was an entertaining novel about life, overcoming past transgressions, and learning who you are and what you want.

Nora Kincaid spends most of the book reflecting on her previous year of college and trying to move past her failings. To help her move forward, she moves into a new apartment, with one of the hottest guys on campus, and then proceeds to fall for his best friend, the second hottest guy on campus. The interactions between Nora and Kellan, her roommate, are cute. While they don’t start out as friends, their relationship grows. I thoroughly enjoyed their witty banter.

Nora’s relationship with Crosbie is the usual- hot guy on-campus with a bad boy reputation meets uptight, bookish nerd. There is sexual tension right from the get go. She spends a lot of time worrying people will think she is a “crosbabe” and gain a reputation that won’t sit well with the dean… thanks to the arrests of the previous year. But what she learns is “Crosbie Lucas is not quite the cocky, smug ass that he pretends to be.” Same goes for her roommate Kellan.

The plot was very predictable, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the relationships, witty banter, and overall story. There are secrets that cause relationship problems, but as usual contemporary romances go, all parties get the endings they deserve.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Contemporary Conversations, NA Contemporary, NA Romance, Reviews

ContempConvos: Hopeless by Colleen Hoover

Hopeless (Hopeless, #1)

GoodReads Summary:

Sometimes discovering the truth can leave you more hopeless than believing the lies…

That’s what seventeen-year-old Sky realizes after she meets Dean Holder. A guy with a reputation that rivals her own and an uncanny ability to invoke feelings in her she’s never had before. He terrifies her and captivates her all in the span of just one encounter, and something about the way he makes her feel sparks buried memories from a past that she wishes could just stay buried.

Sky struggles to keep him at a distance knowing he’s nothing but trouble, but Holder insists on learning everything about her. After finally caving to his unwavering pursuit, Sky soon finds that Holder isn’t at all who he’s been claiming to be. When the secrets he’s been keeping are finally revealed, every single facet of Sky’s life will change forever.

My Review:

Hopless is a roller coaster of emotion. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started this book. All of Colleen Hoover’s novels deal with some kind of serious issue throughout the story, and Hopeless was no exception.

I do have to say that this book and the theme’s represented hit very close to home for. I don’t want to say too much about what happens because that basically gives away the entire plot of the book.

I can say that Holder is a very caring and concerned person. He truly only wants what is best for Sky and that basically means telling her the truth, which has been locked away for a long time, and exploding her world apart. Sky is very much a simple girl who wants to go to school, love her mother, and live her file. Unfortunately, that just isn’t possible. When events take place they put a lot of pressure on Sky. But, with Holder by her side, even though he turned her world inside out,  she is able to face a past that was  suppressed. She came out on the other side stronger and more understanding of why her mother home schooled her and kept her in the dark.

Definitely know that if you have triggers for certain themes, this book may not be for you. But if you can handle serious life situations and learn from them, then read Hopeless.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

ContempConvos: Lola and The Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss, #2)

GoodReads Summary:

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion… she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – the more sparkly, more wild – the better. And life is pretty close to perfect for Lola, especially with her hot rocker boyfriend.

That is, until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket return to the neighbourhood and unearth a past of hurt that Lola thought was long buried. So when talented inventor Cricket steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally face up to a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. Could the boy from Lola’s past be the love of her future?

My Review:

Of the three novels Stephanie Perkins wrote in this series, Lola and The Boy Next Door is my favorite. While I loved Anna and St. Etienne (their love is eternal), it was Lola and Cricket’s chemistry that had me hooked to this author. Also, it does help that I am a sucker for boy-next-door love stories.

Lola is quite an eccentric character- constantly changing her style to represent who she is that particular day. That really struck a cord with me. Most people tend to be very muted in their personal fashion style, a lot of the reason is constricted by society and code of conducts at work. I lived vicariously through Lola and her ever changing identity. She never once apologies for being who she is.

Cricket is the lovable, softly spoken, “nerd” next door who I immediately fell in love with. He truly is the opposite of Lola; and you know what they say about opposites… they attract. You can feel their chemistry right away and I knew they were meant to be together. There were some obstetrical for this to take place- Lola’s scumbag of a boyfriend, Lola and Cricket’s past history, the tension between Lola and Calli. Also, just the general blockage of Lola herself. She doesn’t try to be self-destructive, but sometimes she just can’t help it.

Some characters from Anna and the French Kiss make an appearance or two, which was super fun.

Overall, a fun, quirky, light-hearted read.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

ARC Review: Playing Defense (Corrigan Falls Raiders #2) by Cate Cameron

Playing Defense (Corrigan Falls Raiders, #2)

GoodReads Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Claudia Waring has never kissed a boy. Never been popular. Never been to a hockey game. All that’s about to change. Assigned to tutor Chris Winslow, a prank-loving, gorgeous hockey player, Claudia’s perfectly planned life immediately veers off course. And she kind of likes it. But as fun as Chris is, she knows she’ll never fit in his world.

After his latest prank lands him in hot water, Chris has to get serious about school or lose hockey. Not an easy thing for someone as carefree as the defenseman. The biggest problem, though, is how much he wants to help his cute, buttoned-up tutor loosen up a little. But while confidence has never been a problem for him, around Claudia, Chris is all nerves. Why would a girl as smart as her ever fall for a jock like him?

My Review:

Cate Cameron’s Playing Defense is an adorable novel about life, love, and deciding to be your true self- despite other people’s opinions.

Claudia is a bookish, nose to the grind, math girl. She has worked very hard over the course of her high school career to get into the University of Waterloo. However, while she has the grades to be accepted, she doesn’t have the extra curriculars. Her guidance counselor assigns her to be a tutor for Chris Winslow, a star hockey player. As a result of tutoring, Claudia gains new friends, and new experiences through the Sisterhood, a club set up to challenge each other to be better people and breakdown their own barriers.

Claudia is quirky and weird. She faces a lot of trials in Playing Defense. She learns to over come her own shyness. She has to decide if she wants to be the quiet, bookish girl she’s always been, or, become the outgoing girl she wants to be. Part of this challenge, and the coming of age theme, is facing her parents. While she is changing from a caterpillar to the beautiful butterfly, Claudia’s parents believe it is the influence of Chris and her new friends, not of her own decisions. Her parents have a difficult time handling her interest in Chris as a possible boyfriend and believe he is no good for her. Eventually, they do get to her, but she is able to face them and be the “Dia” she wants to be.

And while yes Chris is quite lazy, and the reason he needs a tutor, Claudia and Chris help each other grow and realize they can accomplish, and be, so much more if they just try. Trying is the key to this story. Trying new experiences. Putting effort into your work, whether it’s school or sports. Being your true self.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to review with ARC. Receiving this ARC for free in no way influenced my review.

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Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary

ContempConvos: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Firsts

GoodReads Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

My Review:

Flynn’s Firsts is gritty, blunt, and truthful. She takes the topics of sex and high school from conventional to out of the box direction.

Mercedes uses sex as a control factor for her, otherwise, out of control life. Her mother is completely negligent, telling Mercedes, from an early age, she has to be skinny and pretty, and treating her like a best friend rather than a daughter. Her father basically abandoned her at the age of eight. Mercedes believes she is helping these guys, by taking their virginity, and giving them direction for their first time with their girlfriends. It isn’t until everything blows up that she has to re-evaluate her life, who her friends are, and what she really wants. This is a true coming-of-age story, one where Mercedes believes she is an adult, making adult decisions, but in reality she is lost, alone, and confused… and still a child in some ways.

When I first read the synopsis for Firsts I was intrigued. The topic of sex, high school students, and virginity is something Americans have a difficult time talking about. Especially when it comes to the pressures put on both guys and girls. Most high school sex-ed programs focus on abstinence only in a society where, more often than not, students are having sex earlier and earlier. I think this book portrays high school sex in the most accurate way possible.

Reading this book really took me back to high school, the pressure of sex from my boyfriend, my first time (and those subsequent times after), and what it all really meant. Everyone has a first time story and it really hit home. Guys are expected, by society, to know how to have sex, and how to make their girlfriend feel good. But in reality, it’s a learning curve, one that lasts for a very long time. And, as a society, we put too much stock into virginity and pureness, so girls believe that they have this precious thing  that has to be protected; that they can only give away at the right moment, right time.  It’s absurd.

“They have the hard part, physically and emotionally. Virginity is supposed to be something a girl gives up only when she is ready and feels comfortable, something a girl discusses at length with her friends and flip-flops over a million times in her mind before actually doing it. A guy is expected to be born ready.”

Above is the perfect description of society’s expectations. This topic is near and dear to my heart and Firsts really captures the truth of sex for teens today.

Rating: 5 out 5

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Adult Contemporary, Reviews

Blog Tour & ARC Review: Holding Court by K.C. Held

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GoodReads Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Jules Verity knows exactly what’s in store at her new job at castle-turned-dinner-theater Tudor Times. Some extra cash, wearing a fancy-pants dress, and plenty of time to secretly drool over the ever-so-tasty–and completely unavailable–Grayson Chandler. Except that it’s not quite what she imagined.

For one, the costume Jules has to wear is awful. Then there’s the dead body she finds that just kind of…well, disappears. Oh, and there’s the small issue of Jules and her episodes of what her best friend calls “Psychic Tourette’s Syndrome”–spontaneous and uncontrollable outbursts of seemingly absurd prophecies.

The only bright side? This whole dead body thing seems to have gotten Grayson’s attention. Except that the more Jules investigates, the more she discovers that Grayson’s interest might not be as courtly as she thought. In fact, it’s starting to look suspicious…

Copy of HC24Liz’s Review

K.C. Held’s debut novel Holding Court is laugh out loud funny and vivacious. I started and finished this novel in the same day. I was also at the gym while reading and, let me tell you, no one wanted to get on the elliptical next to me because I looked like I was crazy. I couldn’t stop laughing. Held’s writing is snappy, whimsical, and absolute.

The plot moves along quickly, keeping the reader satisfied, but also, at the same time, wanting more. I couldn’t figure out who the murderer was and the way the story winds, there were potentially three or four people who could’ve done it, including Jules herself.

The characters are characters themselves. Jules comes from a family with “gifts”. An aura reading, matching-making grandmother. A mother who can determine if an antique is real and where/when it was crafted. Jules’ best friend is quirky, giving Jules the nickname Blurt- which suites her quite well. Grayson is charming in a squight kind of way.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a funny, thrilling, off-the-wall read.

Veronica’s Review

OMG. FREAKING ADORABLE. *squeals*

Copy of HC22At the beginning of Holding Court I was a little hesitant because I did not get what was going on. Part of the reason was that I just dove into the book without reading the synopsis. Did not know the main character was psychic so it was a huge surprise when it was mentioned in the book.

I really really like Jules. She is funny, down to earth, and did I say she is hilarious?! Her love obsessions opened the door to many hilarious occurrences and went perfectly with the murder mystery we had going on in the story.

I wish we had an epilogue, but I guess I can be okay with what we got. It was a good ending. But I wanted MORE.

Overall, if you are looking for a hilarious fun read, look no further. Holding Court is everything you didn’t know you were looking for!

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K.C. HELD was born and raised in California with stopovers in Honduras, Mexico, and France. Married to her high school sweetheart, and mom to two avid bookworms, she holds an MFA in costume design and is an accomplished seamstress with a background in opera, theater, film, and television. Although she once spent a summer working in a castle, there were no dead bodies involved.

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KC Held

Just an FYI, K.C. Held is an awesome person in general! Go buy her book!

Rating: 5 out of 5

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not influence my review. 

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