Review

Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E Smith

When the power goes out all across New York City, Lucy and Owen meet for the first time in an elevator. Not having any other plans once they are out of the shaft, they decide to spend the rest of the day together, and end up talking about postcards. However, once the power comes back on, the blackout’s spell is broken and Lucy and Owen return to their routines. A few days later, they both find out that their families are moving in complete opposite directions, and they realize this might be the last time they see each other. But as they continue their new adventures, it becomes clear that they still think about what could have been. Through a series of postcards, emails, and meet-ups, Lucy and Owen find their way back to each other in  The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith.

 

I was drawn to this story because I thought the premise of being stuck in an elevator was creative, and I was interested to see how the story would go from there. The story was well-developed and I felt transported to where the characters were in that point in time. I also really enjoyed the connection the characters shared with getting caught in the elevator during the blackout, and their postcard connection. It was really enjoyable to watch the characters grow and discover themselves, too. For lovers of geography and unexpected meet-cutes, The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith combines both in an unforgettable way.

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$10.99
ISBN: 9780316254762
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Published: Poppy - March 3rd, 2015

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Pre-order Today! Due out July 2019!

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim is an enchanting story described as Mulan meets Project Runway, that later develops into an adventure of epic proportions. Filled with trials, romance, and a pair of magic scissors. Maia will take you on her quest to become the greatest tailor in the land.Where you mill travel with her through a beautifully crafted world of war, riches, and natural power; where you will experience every possible emotion. 


If there's not a sequel I will die inside.
 

- Maggie S

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$18.99
ISBN: 9780525646990
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Published: Knopf Books for Young Readers - July 9th, 2019

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

Hugo and his girlfriend Margaret were going to spend the last part of summer going on a train ride across the United States before starting college. At the last minute, Margaret breaks up with Hugo but encourages him to still go on the tour. The only problem being that everything was booked under the name Margaret Campbell. Hugo’s solution is to find another Margaret Campbell who is willing to be his travel companion (solely for the purpose of being the name of the reservation). He gets plenty of responses and in the end he chooses Mae—an aspiring filmmaker who’s looking for an adventure, and a new film idea. At first, their companionship is strictly business, but as the ride continues they realize it may be something more.

 

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith is a contemporary approach to the intrigue of the strangers on a train premise. I immediately fell in love with Hugo and Mae, but as the story continued I loved them even more. Both characters are dealing with a sort of pressure that they try to work out on the train—Hugo is expected to go to college on scholarship with his siblings, and Mae was rejected to her dream film program for college. It’s this in common that really brings them together and helps encourage them. You couldn’t help but cheer on Hugo and Mae. In addition, the story was light-hearted making it even more enjoyable to read. You also get glimpses of the two families and what it’s like traveling by train. One of my new favorite romances, Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith is a wonderful story of self-discovery on one train ride.

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ISBN: 9780399559419
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Delacorte Press - March 5th, 2019

Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle

Kendall and Max haven’t seen each other for a while, but they run into each other when both happen to be in New York City during the winter holidays. Kendall and Max exchange small talk. However, during this exchange, an accident occurs—and none of the bystanders tried to change the outcome. Kendall and Max are unable to forget that evening and feel guilty about not stepping in to do anything. So, when they meet at a diner to talk about it, a waitress overhears their conversation and dares them to perform seven random acts of kindness—one for each witness at the accident—before January 1. At first, they take it as a bit of a joke, but soon realize that maybe it’s a good idea.  


Together At Midnight by Jennifer Castle is a heartwarming story about two teens trying to make a difference. At first, it is about completing the dare, but by the end, it is about doing the right thing from their hearts. Max and Kendall are inspiring characters that made me think about the little moments that we overlook, and how one kind gesture can make a person’s day (or prevent certain outcomes). In addition to Max and Kendall’s perspectives, Castle also includes the perspectives of the people they help. This is a neat inclusion because it allows the reader insight into their situation and an understanding of  how the kind gesture helps them. Together At Midnight by Jennifer Castle is a hopeful book that shares the goodness of people.

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$17.99
ISBN: 9780062250513
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Published: HarperTeen - January 2nd, 2018

Holiday Romance Recommendations from Jennifer Ryan

Something Old

If you believe in fate and soulmates, you’ll love Cathy Maxwell’s A SEDUCTION AT CHRISTMAS. They locked eyes across a ballroom once, but when Fiona Lachlan meets the Duke of Holburn she has next to nothing in this world except her beloved hound Tad – and someone is trying to kill him. If he doesn’t find out who and stop them, he’ll miss his Christmas wedding and a life with the only woman he ever loved.  

Something New

I love discovering a new author. And this debut hooked me.

Carly Bloom’s BIG BAD COWBOY is sweet and naughty, sexy and heartwarming, a thoroughly enjoyable – and a little bit wicked – read.

Something Borrowed

My very good friend and fellow Avon author Lori Wilde writes a Christmas book every year for her fans. This year is no exception - THE CHRISTMAS KEY received a starred review from Publishers Weekly! “The magnetism between Naomi and Mark is breathtaking and real, the magic of Christmas enhances their romance. Readers will cheer for the wounded warrior who may have found a place to call home.”  

So it’s no wonder I asked Lori for her favorite Christmas read…

“I recommend Annie Rain's CHRISTMAS ON MISTLETOE LANE. I love her writing and the book just gives you all the feel-good tingles of the holiday season. It's heartwarming, emotional and sweetly captures the spirit of Christmas.” Lori Wilde

Something Blue

If you want to laugh and have your heart melt, I highly recommend you read a Jill Shalvis book. Once I start reading, I can’t put them down. SWEET LITTLE LIES starts off her Heartbreaker Bay series. San Francisco is the perfect romantic backdrop to this heartwarming friends-to-lovers story. Sometimes your heart’s desire is only a wish away.

Look for my upcoming release DIRTY LITTLE SECRET – book 1 of my brand new Wild Rose Ranch series that’s all about romance and scandal for the women who grew up at the notorious Nevada brothel as they try to make a life outside their mothers’ world.

I hope you enjoy all of these recommendations.

Happy reading!
-Jennifer Ryan
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The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson

Best friends Abby and Riya have spent their junior year miles apart. Wanting to fix things between them, Riya invites Abby on a trip to Europe over the summer. Abby doesn’t really know what to expect from the trip, but heads to Europe to meet Riya. Unexpectedly, Riya’s cousin Neel is also tagging along on this adventure. While Riya is annoyed by his presence, Abby doesn’t seem to mind him too much. The girls moving from country to country with Neel in tow makes for an interesting itinerary—Neel always has a tour arranged, or something else to rush off to, while the girls prefer a laid-back approach. The dynamic of the trio changes as secrets are revealed or kept secret, making for an emotionally rocky trip.


The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson is an entertaining tour of Europe, perfect for the armchair traveler. Even though their friendship isn’t always perfect, Abby and Riya are a great duo. They both look out for each other and are actively working to become the friends they once were. They also balance each other well, which creates a nice dynamic between the two. I also appreciated that this story is really based on friendship and while there is a romance that develops, it doesn’t consume the story (after all, friendship was the basis behind the whole trip). In addition, Culbertson includes many wisdoms in the story among humor and history tidbits, that all work together to make the book especially interesting. The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson is the story of two friends, set in the rich culture of Europe.

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$17.99
ISBN: 9780545731515
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Published: Point - April 25th, 2017

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

It was an ordinary day for April May, until her subway card didn’t work and she had to walk home. On her way, she stumbles across a new art installation. At the time she doesn’t think much of it, as many artists come to New York to show their sculptures. But, something about this statue catches her eye, and she decides to call her friend Andy to come see it, too. He agrees that it is impressive and they decide to make a video about it. They also name it Carl. The two don’t think much about it until the next morning when they find out that other Carls have popped up around the world, and that their video has gone viral. They become instantly famous. From that point, April and Andy’s lives are changed as they navigate fame and the mysteries surrounding Carl.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green is a fun and interesting read. It is easy to relate to April because she is such a human character. When she first encounters Carl, she reacts as anyone would and makes light of the situation. As  she gets caught up in the adventure and excitement of being famous, she also discovers that there are possible dangers ahead. Green’s humor really comes through the pages and you can’t help but laugh out loud. But the story also keeps you on your toes. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is filled with humor, intrigue, and suspense until the very last page.

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ISBN: 9781524743444
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Dutton - September 25th, 2018

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith

Don’t let the title fool you; this tale is anything but ordinary. In fact, the titular character in Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence winds up on an adventure that’s wild even by fiction standards. It all starts reasonably enough, with the eleven-year-old going to stay with her grandfather following her parents’ separation. But Hannah soon finds out her grandfather has been involved in a plot with the actual Devil for more than 100 years. All three, plus a talking mushroom, set out on an adventure taking them anywhere from Siberia to an amusement park in Santa Cruz.

Michael Marshall Smith weaves a story that is impossible to predict. I had no idea where it was going, and enjoyed the surprise that awaited me each time I cracked open the pages. Smith’s writing exudes creativity as he jumps from perspective to perspective throughout the tale. Some may find this format too confusing and unorganized, but I personally enjoyed the variety of stories and seeing how they all wove together. Humor is another outstanding characteristic of Smith’s novel. Nearly every page, it seemed, had a funny line or two. In a story that involves some rather hellish scenes, these gags may be necessary.

Despite the comedy, the novel has some serious messages to express. For example, Smith doesn’t try to portray his characters as perfect but instead has them discover the importance of continuing with their lives even if they’re stuck in a rut. And of course the Devil is a character of questionable moral-standing, but Smith uses him to show a necessary balance of good and evil that rests in the hands of humanity.

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence is a novel for those searching for creativity, fantasy, and humor, along with sentient mushrooms and squirrels.  

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ISBN: 9780008300159
Availability: Not Currently Available to Order
Published: Voyager - November 6th, 2018

Strange Days by Constantine Singer

If one thing can be said about Constantine Singer’s Strange Days, it is definitely sci-fi. From time travel to aliens and mind control, this novel has it all. Plus, Singer throws in a healthy dose of music. In fact, that’s how we first find our protagonist, Alex. From the beginning, he’s hearing the sound of guitars coming from within his own head, and from there everything just gets more, well, strange. After receiving several messages from his future self, Alex ends up as part of a group of teenagers trying to save the world.

The most remarkable part of Strange Days, I think, is the way Singer weaves music into the story. He artfully depicts abstract concepts, like the embodiment of a person’s lifespan, in a way that incorporates music and makes visualization easy. And like a rapid song, the novel progresses at a brisk pace. Although I found it to drag a bit near the middle, Strange Days is generally filled with twists that keep the story exciting.

Even while Strange Days makes use of such out-of-this-world aspects, the setting seems plausible. The technology, such as self-driving cars and phones that attach to the ear, is easy to imagine becoming a reality in coming decades. Readers are also introduced to a diverse and interesting cast of characters representing different races, sexualities, and occasionally periods of time.

Really, Strange Days is a very original sci-fi story despite its incorporation of so many tropes of the genre. It keeps readers guessing as to the direction of the plot as they learn more about the characters they meet. And to balance out all the science, Singer creates brilliant musical imagery. So you’ll enjoy Stray Days if you have a soft spot for aliens, time travel, or mind control. And also electric guitars.

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$17.99
ISBN: 9781524740245
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Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - December 4th, 2018

First Kiss by Kasie West

Maggie S Review Fame, Fate and the First Kiss by Kasie West! Pre-order your copy today! Due out February 2019

Kasie West has done it again with her new novel Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss. She has created an intriguing and heartwarming world staring Lacey Barnes, an aspiring actress who has finally landed her first real job alongside the famous Grant James in Dancing Graves. And although this is her lifelong dream it is muddled by the addition of a tutor who fit's the exact definition of a choir boy. But as time goes on Donavon Lake, the detested "choir boy," slowly starts to grow on Lacey as he comforts her through the hardships of an overprotective father, someone trying to sabotage her, and her chemistry funk with her co-stars. And while this may seem like your everyday love story, you will soon learn that that is far from the truth when you take into account the zombie makeup and script additions throughout this artful story.

-Maggie S

Books: 
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$17.99
ISBN: 9780062675798
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Published: HarperTeen - February 5th, 2019

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