A story with so much heart and a truth that resonates... More Than Just a Pretty Face by Syed M. Masood, an #ownvoices story on tour with @HearOurVoicesBT (Review)

Welcome to my tour stop! Read my review of this new contemporary YA below...

More Than Just a Pretty Face
By Syed M. Masood
YA Contemporary
Hardcover & ebook, 352 Pages
August 4, 2020 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers


For fans of Becky Albertalli and Jenny Han, a sweetly funny YA rom-com debut about falling in love, familial expectations, and being a Renaissance Man.

Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.

When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man–a school-wide academic championship–it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.

(Affiliate links included.)

My Review

MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE is an #ownvoices story about a boy who is trying to figure out his place among his peers, as well dealing with his parents' and cultural expectations. It's a story well balanced between everyday teen life (school, girls, etc.) and a search for truth, forgiveness and understanding. Readers will fall in love with these characters and find that they can't help the messages that will resonate in their hearts long after the last page is read.

There is a lightness and cuteness to this story, plus all the sarcasm, humor, and good food (oh my gosh, the food!), but this story is so much more than it's cute cover and title would have you believe. It's a story about a boy who has no interest in excelling academically or living up to the expectations of others. A boy who has his own dreams and talents, even if they aren't valued as important by others. And a boy who is more than his good looks (thus the title). During the course of this book he comes into his own and the journey is well worth experiencing with him. It's also a bit of a story about a girl who, in her rebellion, makes a terrible mistake that is then publicized and she pays for it with no relief or hope for a happy future.

I wasn't sure how I would feel about this book at the beginning. The first page was Danyal checking out one of this friends and making innuendo in his head about her, and dropping an f-word (not my cup of tea). However, I kept reading and couldn't help loving Danyal with his mix of confidence, self-depreciation, humor, and sense of what is right. Really, he's just a good guy in a very genuine way and someone I think all of us can relate to. He could be more successful if he cared to be, but his interests don't lie there. Instead they lie in his family, his friends and in cooking. He's mostly skating through life until two things happen: he meets Bisma and he is selected to compete in an academic contest. 

I loved Bisma and I loved her and Danyal together. I also loved the character development, but also how Bisma and Danyal balanced each other—they don't have the same dreams and goals, but they do have the same respect for and acceptance of each other. Things take Danyal a bit of time to figure out though, so he may never figure that out. I also appreciated that the author has a very genuine way of writing, including his characters, and he didn't let anything come too easily or everything to be tied in a nice little bow at the end. There was heartache, work, and effort, a well as some people to win over.

I really loved all the messages in this story. They were so poignant for life now. The story points out that you can be be too radical one way or the other, about balancing living life and being happy amid the terrible things that still happen in the world. It points out that heroes aren't perfect and most of them write our histories, but how important it is to learn all sides and to tell all sides today. It talks about a loving God, forgiveness, and the importance of fighting for love. There were a few particular passages that were wonderful pieces of wisdom, such as: 

"We come to the New World and forget, I think, that the Old World still has things to teach us." 
"Our humanity is dependent upon our recognition of their humanity. Either we're all human, or none of us are."

I also just have to mention this one scene... Danyal walks into a library for the first time maybe ever and says: "Let me get this straight, " I said. "You're like a Netflix for books?" That whole scene made me laugh hysterically. Bravo to the author for something so hilarious and something I could see someone who is very unfamiliar with a library, but very familiar with technology might say. Plus it just shows how well the author did in making this entertaining, with some lightness to the story, while also weaving in some tough topics that made me think (as well as some that made me quite angry). And I never felt like I was being preached to, especially since even when an idea was being explored, there were opposing sides and questions posed as well.

Really, my only complaints would be the language (consistent use of f-words and s-words, and blatant/crude comments) and some of the innuendo or references used. They made it a book that I would recommend for older teens and those who don't mind the content.

In the end, was it what I wished for? Honestly, I was expecting a cute read and instead got this really well written, genuine, sweet romance with lots of depth that just about blew me away. A story that tugged on my heart and pulled on my emotions. Definitely recommended to YA contemporary fans.

Content: Swearing (including the f-word and s-word), innuendo, crude references, verbal abuse.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through NetGalley, which did not require a positive review. All opinions are my own.

About the Author

I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, and currently live in Sacramento, California. There have been plenty of stops in between though. I’m a first generation immigrant, twice over. I’ve been a citizen of three different countries and lived in nine cities.

I am, as Goethe, said, “nothing but a wanderer […] on this earth.”

Living among different people, in different countries at fascinating times in their histories, has shaped both my view of the world and my writing. Ultimately, human beings are the same everywhere (despite the fact that they tell themselves, everywhere, that they are different from each other), and the theme of this fundamental human unity informs everything I write.

As to my life outside of writing, I went to the William and Mary School of Law, and before that attended the University of Toronto, where I studied English Literature. I am currently practicing as an attorney and must “measure out my life in coffee spoons” on a daily basis.

Some members of my family will tell you that I’m also a poet. This isn’t true. I wrote a few poems in Urdu when I was a teenager, and I’ve never heard the end of it…which I wouldn’t mind, honestly, if they were any good. As it is, I’m very happy living in prose, thank you very much.

Other interests include good food, video games, sitcoms, and books of all kinds. Most of my time that doesn’t go to writing or billable hours is consumed by my two children, four and two years of age.

Photo Credit: Samantha May Photography

Have you read this one yet or will you be?

Check out an interview with the author for The Seer by Erin R. Howard (Interview & #Giveaway) @Celebrate_Lit

Welcome to my tour stop! Check out an interview with the author and the tour giveaway below...

The Seer
(The Kalila Chronicles #1)
By Erin R. Howard
Christian YA Fantasy
Paperback & ebook, 326 Pages
July 1, 2020 by Expanse Books


Viktor has one order to follow:
Kill the girl before her eyes are opened.

For thousands of years, his job has been to torment and kill seers: humans that have the gift of seeing the spiritual realm. So it was no surprise when his brother Matthias was once again sent to stop him and protect the girl.

Now the last of the seers’ bloodline hangs in the balance, as the estranged demon and angel brothers are forced to work together to save a girl’s life and escape to the sanctuary city of Bethesda.

(Affiliate links included.)

Author Interview

Would you tell us what inspired you to write THE SEER? 

The Seer started as a short story for one of my college writing workshops. We had to use an unlikely hero or write a story from a villain’s POV (point of view). The idea for the story came from that writing prompt. What if I wrote a story about a demon who was tired of being a demon. Can there be redemption? I mean, he is a demon after all. From those questions, I jumped straight into a story about two brothers: one is a demon, and one is an angel, and how they were fighting over a teenage girl who could see into the spiritual realm.

What is your favorite thing about the book’s cover?

I love the swirling wind and the leaves around the portal. The story takes place during my favorite season, fall. I love everything about the fall. The beautiful leaves, bonfires, s’mores, hayrides, and hoodies.

Do you have any specific snacks you eat or music you listen to when you write?

I have a Spotify list of all my favorite songs. I have pretty eclectic taste in music, and there’s everything from love ballads from the 80s to Christian. I used noise canceling headphones and listen to music while I’m writing.

What book(s) are you anticipating reading this year?

There are so many books on my TBR pile right now but here’s my top three that I’m reading next. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, Coral by Sara Ella, and Dust by Kara Swanson.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on a dystopian novel, Beyond the Gates, a novella series that is based in the story world of my current series, and a short story about why Viktor decided to leave Lucifer.

About the Author

Erin R. Howard is a Developmental Editor, YA Urban Fantasy Author of The Kalila Chronicles, and has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing/English from Southern New Hampshire University. When she’s not writing, Erin enjoys spending time with her family, fueling her craft addictions, and teaching writing workshops. Erin is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the KenTen Writers Group. She resides in Western Kentucky with her husband and three children.

More from Erin

If I’ve learned anything these past few months, it’s that I’m still not a fan of change. It’s always been hard for me to transition from what I know, to the unknown, and then find a new normal. Let’s be honest. Stepping out of our comfort zone isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to challenge and stretch our faith. And as a result of stepping out, we hope that we will learn and grow.

I love messy characters, because life is messy, and it doesn’t always work out the way we expect. It’s full of changes and situations. The characters in my series, The Kalila Chronicles, are no different. Each character has unique challenges. For some, they didn’t ask for change, and for others, they are stepping out on their own.

Here’s a little bit more about The Seer. The first book in The Kalila Chronicles:

For thousands of years, Viktor has carried out his orders from Lucifer faithfully. But after a recent demotion in rank, he has grown weary of the bloodshed. His latest order is to kill Thea, a seventeen-year-old Seer before her gift manifests, and she can see into the spiritual realm. However, his estranged angel brother, Matthias, intervenes on his plans. Seeing this as his way out, Viktor proposes that in exchange for leaving Thea alive, Matthias must escort him to the sanctuary city of Bethesda. Although, getting through the portal isn’t as easy as Viktor thought, and now he has to work with Matthias to protect the very girl he was ordered to kill. 

Tour Schedule

For the Love of Literature, July 22 (Author Interview)
Rebecca Tews, July 22
Artistic Nobody, July 28 (Author Interview)
Wishful Endings, July 30 (Author Interview)
Emily Yager, August 3

Tour-Wide Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Erin is giving away the grand prize package of a copy of The Seer, a Behind the Story Booklet of The Seer, and a $25 Amazon card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

What did you like about the interview?

Falling in love over the phone... Sincerely Yours by Kari Trumbo (Review & #Giveaway) @Celebrate_Lit

Welcome to my tour stop! Check out my review and enter the tour giveaway below...

Sincerely Yours
(Great River Romance #1)
By Kari Trumbo
Christian Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 176 Pages
July 26, 2019 by Inked in Faith Publications


What if you fell in love with a man you’d never met?

When marketing coordinator Liberty Dryden tries to help radio station owner and DJ Tom Higgs attract new listeners and advertisers, she hits a roadblock.
He refuses to meet with her, and she has no idea why.

Tom has an affliction that’s plagued him his whole life—a painfully crippling stutter. On air, he can speak to thousands, but in person, he stumbles to find every word.

After a woman stalked him, he’s convinced his fame and fortune are all women want. He’s unable to tell Liberty why he won’t meet in person. How could he explain his unfounded doubts and his own issues?

Without her, disaster looms for his station. But, meeting her might prove he’s right about women.

Liberty takes matters into her own hands and calls into his radio show… using an assumed name.
She never expects to hit it off with him. If she reveals her secret, it will put her new relationship and her job at risk.

(Affiliate link included.)

My Review

SINCERELY YOURS is a story about two people who find that their lives have become very lonely and secluded. They connect over the phone which leads to the possibility of more, but one of them pretends to be someone else and the other has an issue he's trying to hide. The happily-ever-after ending faces additional challenges with characters who need others to need them and depression. There are some inspirational elements and a light romance for inspirational romance fans.

It took me a bit to get into this story. From the start I felt like this wasn't the first book in the series as there was some background on some side characters who were involved from the beginning and I think it would have worked better to be introduced to the heroine before introducing all the other characters. I did like both Liberty and Tom and started to get more into their story as I read on. I liked that they were both feeling like something was lacking in their lives and had the opportunity to help each other break out of their loneliness.

However, a little over a third of the way through, the story turned awkward for me. The whole situation with Liberty calling Tom on the radio and then them continuing phone conversations and falling in love... it just didn't work for me. Then there were these awkward statements, like: "I really love to help people, to love the unlovable, but she is so sweet." What does that say about the heroine or the person she's talking about? It just rubbed me wrong. No one wants to be a project or be labelled as unlovable (plus I think that statement is just wrong) and the person she was referring to I wouldn't have categorized as unlovable, sweet for sure though. Another example would be: "Then Destiny wouldn't need her anymore, either. Hopefully she'd quickly find someone new to help." And if you're the kind of person who only reaches out to people you feel need you or who are lonely, what does that say about you? Honestly I felt Liberty needed a lot of help that romance wasn't or shouldn't just "fix." It sends the wrong message to those who might be struggling with loneliness or depression that they need someone else to make them happy. So I think that just made me fall out of love with Liberty and then the whole situation with Tom. It was just weird and didn't feel like it developed naturally. Also, the whole time Tom was marking off the similarities between April and Liberty and she was outright being dishonest, on purpose. And then there was a lot of drama towards the end (some of it quite public), which I'm not a huge fan of. It all worked out and ends sweetly, of course. I think there was a lot of potential here, but again, this story just didn't work for me.

In the end, was it what I wished for? This wasn't my kind of story, but other inspirational romance readers or fans of the author may enjoy it.

Content: Clean
Source: I received a complimentary copy through Celebrate Lit, which did not require a positive review. All opinions are my own.

About the Author

Kari Trumbo is a bestselling author of Christian historical and contemporary romance novels. Her books are known for characters who feel real, settings you could move to, and faith woven between the pages. She makes her home in central Minnesota with her husband of over twenty years, two daughters, two sons, and never enough time.

More from Kari

Thank you all so much for joining me on my blog tour! I’m happy to be here. I write an eclectic mix of historical (western) and contemporary (western and not) romance, sometimes with a hint of suspense woven in. I can’t help it; my education is a degree in psychology with a sociology minor focusing on criminality and deviance… the suspense just happens whether I plan it or not.

I am one of those writers who usually gets a story idea and then writes it. I usually don’t write a book just because I “should”. That being said, this is one of those books where readers asked for it and I delivered. The first story in the series is in a popular book bundle Betwixt Two Hearts. In my story, the secondary character Liberty Dryden (named after one of my readers) is a really fun character, even though she’s only in a few scenes. Readers liked her so much, they wanted her to have her own happily ever after.

Then the hard part began.

I liked Liberty and I spent a while in her head, trying to figure her out. She was a tough one because Liberty has some hurts. She feels alone and a little used. Don’t we all? But how to write that in a way where the reader wasn’t bored by her self-doubt. Because, let’s face it, it’s cool when a story touches us in a way that is familiar, but if it’s overdone…snooze. I liked the idea that because of their hurts, both characters were shy. So, I gave myself a challenge. These two couldn’t meet until later in the story, but it still had to feel like a romance.

It’s a little like the movie You’ve Got Mail, but different too.

This series was my first big step outside of the western genre (which is funny, because I’m not at all western) and that forced me to think in new ways, which helped with the characters and bringing this story to life.

My favorite poignant quote from Sincerely Yours is, “If I can’t forgive those who ask for it, it ruins my witness. I literally can’t be the love of Jesus if I’m not willing to forgive those who wronged me. Especially if they earnestly ask.”

Thank you for joining me and happy reading!

Tour Schedule

Rebecca Tews, July 30
Pause for Tales, August 3
Livin’ Lit, August 4
Batya’s Bits, August 5
Artistic Nobody, August 6 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Tour-Wide Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Kari is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and signed copies of Sincerely Yours and Winter in Wonderland!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Have you read any of this author's other books? If so, which was your favorite?

Some homes aren't found in places but in people... Coming Home to Bellingham by Katie Stewart Stone (Review & #Giveaway) #regencyromance @Covenant_Comm

Welcome to my tour stop! Check out my review of this debut and enter the giveaway below...

Coming Home to Bellingham
By Katie Stewart Stone
Adult Historical Romance
Paperback, Audiobook & ebook, 224 Pages
July 6, 2020 by Covenant Communications


What begins as a pleasant holiday with a new friend in Brighton quickly turns to devastation for Anabelle Milton when she receives the tragic news: her parents are dead. Turned out of the only home she’s ever known, Anabelle is sent to live with an aunt and uncle who are strangers to her. Heartbroken, she arrives at Bellingham Cottage, a cozy home on the sprawling grounds of the Bellingham estate, to find an unexpectedly warm welcome—not only from her own family but also from the family of their aristocratic neighbors, Lord and Lady Bellingham.

Anabelle soon attracts the attention of the heirs of Bellingham—brothers who, though connected by blood, could not be more different. As she slowly begins to distance herself from the polite and obedient young woman her mother trained her to be, Anabelle is free for the first time to choose her own path. She knows she must be true to herself, even if it means risking unrequited love—but can she trust that the gentleman who has stolen her heart will not break it?

(Affiliate links included.)

My Review

COMING HOME TO BELLINGHAM is a story about a girl whose world completely shifts when her parents unexpectedly die while she is away from home. While she tries to piece her heart back together she finds some unexpected friends who may become more of a home than she's ever known. Likable characters and a sweet romance make for a lovely read.

I'm really big on needing to like the characters of the books I read in order to like the book. Anabelle took me a bit to really get invested in. She comes across a bit shallow at first—just going through the motions of being out in society and being courted, but not having a sincere interest in it all. Then her parents die and she goes through a gamut of emotions and sometimes in a short space of time. She also was quick to comment and judge, or sometimes would have random thoughts and comments. I didn't always see the reasoning behind what she said (it almost felt like some information was possibly in previous drafts or just the author's knowledge that influenced some of those, but as a reader I didn't see any background for). However, once the story proceeds and Anabelle calms down and figures out her new normal, I liked her quite a bit. She was genuine and didn't mind helping her aunt or playing with her nephew. She came across as sweet and humble regardless that she was born to privilege. I really, really loved her interactions with Andrew and Robert. They were probably my favorite parts of the book.

The plot was steady, and this was a fairly quick read. It was also predictable, which I expected, and had a nice happily-ever-after ending. There was a lot of back and forth with the romance, but I really loved Anabelle's love interest. There was a subplot with one of the Bellingham's that was a bit dark and I didn't love how that was handled. I also wanted Anabelle to be a bit stronger in that part. There was quite a bit that felt historically inaccurate in regards to some of the relationships—not that I didn't want things to turn out, but more that I wanted things to be a bit more difficult instead of being solved so quickly. I think it would have felt more natural if things would have let run a bit more of a course. I also didn't feel the epilogue was needed as it didn't really add, explain, or resolve anything, nor further the story.

All in all, I did end up liking Anabelle, her family, and most of the Bellinghams. I liked a lot of the relationships in this story. I also really liked the message of home not always being a place and that home for someone can change. I really enjoyed seeing Anabelle's character develop and her coming into her own a bit. And, of course, she falls for the right man. I really liked how Anabelle summed it up herself:
"...I learned that nothing is ever that certain and sometimes change leads us to where we are meant to be."

In the end, was it what I wished for? This was an overall enjoyable story. I feel like this author has a lot of potential and I'm interested to see what she writes next!

Content: Some innuendo, but clean.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, which did not require a positive review. All opinions are my own.

About the Author

Katie Stewart Stone is an Austen enthusiast, a blogger, a journal-writer, and a wife and mother. With her debut work, Coming Home to Bellingham, Katie achieved a life-long goal of finishing and publishing a novel. She writes what she wants to read and rarely reads anything without a good romance. Katie graduated from Brigham Young University in 2012 with a bachelors in Therapuetic Recreation and spent six years working in the non-profit world, while writing on the side. When her beautiful boy was born in 2018, she quit her day-job and committed to finishing her first Regency novel. Now she spends her days dreaming up new ways to bring young lovers together in the most Regency-appropriate scenarios possible, along with carrying out her duties as a stay-at-home mother to two wonderful children who were named after Austen characters.

Tour-Wide Giveaway

What do you like about reading books set during the Regency period in England?

I Can't Wait for... Forget Me Not by Sarah M. Eden (Can't-Wait Wednesday/Waiting on Wednesday) #CWW #WOW

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted here, at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine. If you're continuing with WOW, feel free to link those up as well! Find out more here.

I love Sarah M. Eden and am super excited for the start of her new series, The Gents, with Forget Me Not! I've met some of these characters years later as I've followed their children's lives and am excited to see the happily-ever-afters for the generation before. It's my pick this week...

Forgot Me Not
(The Gents #1)
By Sarah M. Eden
Adult Historical Romace
Paperback, Audiobook & ebook, 256 Pages
September 7, 2020 by Covenant Communications


A Georgian Romance
Nottinghamshire, 1785

Julia Cummings has long been acquainted with loss-her mother, her brother, her sister, her friend, all gone too soon. But the loss that pushed her grief to the limit as a young girl was that of her best friend, Lucas Jonquil, who abandoned her without looking back. Now, eight years later, Lucas has returned to Lampton Park, and Julia has steeled herself-she will never forgive the man who broke her heart.

After losing too many of his friends and family to early deaths, Lucas vowed to live life to the fullest. And after traversing the world, he has returned from his adventures to find his family and home as he left them-except for Julia. The little girl he left behind has blossomed into a captivating lady, a lady who makes it clear she despises him. With little hope of reconciliation, the former friends are blindsided when their parents make a shocking announcement. Lucas and Julia have been betrothed without their knowledge and are to marry immediately. Now Lucas must rely on the help of his closest friends to win the heart of a lady who loathes him-a lady he s coming to love more deeply every day.

(Affiliate links included.)

Will you be reading this one?

Read an excerpt from Sparrow by Mary Cecilia Jackson (Excerpt & #Giveaway) @jeanbooknerd

Welcome! Follow the tour here, and read an excerpt
from this YA release and enter the tour giveaway below...

By Mary Cecilia Jackson
YA Contemporary
Hardcover, Audiobook & ebook, 320 Pages
March 17, 2020 by Tor Teen


In the tradition of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, a devastating but hopeful YA debut about a ballerina who finds the courage to confront the abuse that haunts her past and threatens her future.

There are two kinds of people on the planet. Hunters and prey
I thought I would be safe after my mother died. I thought I could stop searching for new places to hide. But you can’t escape what you are, what you’ve always been.
My name is Savannah Darcy Rose.
And I am still prey.

Though Savannah Rose―Sparrow to her friends and family―is a gifted ballerina, her real talent is keeping secrets. Schooled in silence by her long-dead mother, Sparrow has always believed that her lifelong creed―“I’m not the kind of girl who tells”―will make her just like everyone else: Normal. Happy. Safe. But in the aftermath of a brutal assault by her seemingly perfect boyfriend Tristan, Sparrow must finally find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past, or lose herself forever….  

Praise for SPARROW

“Mary Cecilia Jackson leaves no perspective unexplored in this beautifully woven story of love, loss, self-acceptance, and strength. Sparrow and Lucas are heroes in every sense of the word, as they navigate a new, unfamiliar dance―the pain of knowing when to stay grounded and when to fly.” ―Jennifer Brown, bestselling author of Hate List 

(Affiliate links included.)


PT. 1 

Running down the hall, phone pressed to my ear, I raise my eyes to the huge clock above the library doors. It offers no hope.

“Where are you, Birdy?” Lucas says. “Levkova’s going to slaughter you! She’s already doing that thing where she’s standing near the piano with her arms crossed, looking at us like we’re a bunch of zoo animals.”

I take a corner too fast and my elbow hits the lockers. I run faster.

“Are you seriously talking to me in the studio? Put your phone away, or she’ll murder you before she even gets to me!”

“I’m not that stupid. I’m in the hall, but even out here I can see her eyes turning all frosty. You know how they get, like freaky little balls of ice.”

“Oh my ---, it’s almost two forty. I’m going to have to drive like a fiend to get changed in time.”

I’m breaking the Eleventh Commandment, incised into our brains for the last three years: Thou Shalt Not Be Late for Ballet Class.

“Holy crap, Birdy, you’re still at school? You’ll never make it! You know you won’t get in if you’re late. She loves locking that door at three o’clock, hearing the cries of the damned on the other side.”

“I’m going as fast as I can! Try to stall her.”

“Oh, right. Like that’ll work. She’ll turn me to stone with her ice-ball eyes before I even get close. I’m telling you, she’s in a mood. She just told Charlotte to stand up straight, that orang- utans moved with more grace. Why are you so late?”

I turn the last corner, backpack slipping off my shoulder, dance bag banging against my hip. I can feel my bun falling out of its knot, hear the tiny metallic pings as bobby pins hit the floor behind me.

“Ugh, Coscoroba kept me after class. He wanted to talk about my term paper. You know how you can never get away from him, right? I mean, he’s nice, but ---, once he gets going you can’t get a word in. Today he had to tell me the entire story of Prometheus and his super-unfortunate liver. I swear he never took a breath the whole time.”

“Gross! Okay, look, she sees me out here,” Lucas whispers. “I don’t want to die a horrible death, so I’m going in. Good luck! If you don’t make it, I promise I’ll cry real loud at your funeral.”

“Stop it, Lucas! I’m running as fast as I can!”

Lucas hangs up, and I shove my phone into my bag. The halls are empty, echoing with the sound of my feet pounding the tile floor, the ragged gasp of my breath. I hate disappointing Madame Levkova. She is my rock star, the sun at the center of my universe. Today she’ll give me the look that tells me I’ve let her down, remind me that people who are late are lazy and inconsiderate, and I’ll feel like crap for a week. If I rush in just as she’s locking the door, she may not even let me dance today. Depends on how irritated she is.

Copyright © 2020 by Mary Cecilia Jackson

About the Author

Mary Cecilia Jackson has worked as a middle school teacher, an adjunct instructor of college freshmen, a technical writer and editor, a speechwriter, a museum docent, and a development officer for central Virginia's PBS and NPR stations. Her first novel, Sparrow, was an honor recipient of the SCBWI Sue Alexander Award and a young-adult finalist in the Writers' League of Texas manuscript contest. She lives with her architect husband, William, in Western North Carolina and Hawaii, where they have a farm and five ridiculously adorable goats.  


Tour-Wide Giveaway

- 5 Winners will receive a Copy of SPARROW by Mary Cecilia Jackson. 
- Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter | Ends August 17, 2020 

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Have you read this one yet? What did you think of the excerpt?

An enemies-to-more romance set during WWII... The Enemy Between Us by Melinda Sue Sanchez (Review) @Covenant_Comm

The Enemy Between Us
By Melinda Sue Sanchez
Adult Historical Romance, WWII
Paperback, Audiobook & ebook, 288 Pages
July 6, 2020 by Covenant Communications


ITALY, 1943

As war tears her country apart, Franca Chessari's sole focus is on supporting her family amid Nazi occupation. But when her parents, both high-ranking partisans, go missing, Franca is compelled to take action---even if it means crossing enemy lines to save those she loves.

Peter Weimer is a German soldier forced into a war he abhors. When he can take no more of the Nazi atrocities he’s been forced to witness, he deserts the German army—a decision that brands him as an enemy.

Franca and Peter were nothing more than two strangers from enemy countries, but when their paths collide amid the horrors of war, they are swept into an epic journey of chilling danger, unparalleled courage, and a sweeping passion that could cost them everything they have fought for.

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My Review

THE ENEMY BETWEEN US has such a wonderful message of seeing friendship among those who would be labelled as our enemies. The characters are endearing and the story is one of struggle, hardship, family, hope and love. If you enjoyed this author's first book, then definitely pick up this one as well.

This story picks up a bit before the end of this author's first book, THE FISHERMAN'S DAUGHTER, but readers don't need to have read it to read this one. The first pages are not very pleasant to read as a woman is being tortured and a soldier is ordered to further humiliate her. However, things end up taking a turn and then we soon get introduced to the heroine of the story who is trying to help her family survive as best she can.

Franca was full of spunk and a fierceness that I think you'd need to survive WWII while living in occupied France. She was a bit of a loose cannon because she was held in the dark a lot and, being a young woman, was trying to find herself amidst this terrible situation. Peter does not want to witness and do terrible things for a war his nation was fighting, but didn't know how to move forward. Together, they make quite a pair, and their romance was forbidden and difficult, but the sweeter for it.

I really liked the relationships in this book. There was Franca and her family, Franca's family and their friends and neighbors, Franca and Peter, Peter with fellow friends, and then there were the different political groups. What I found most rewarding about this read was the way people pushed forward, protected their loved ones, and made really tough choices. They had to take what chances they could and do their best to live even amidst the terribleness of their world, which I think many of us can relate to even now. Franca sums it up herself here:
"Life does not wait for us to be ready or brave. It will move on without us if we do not grab on."

I also did have some issues with the story. I felt that a lot of the more violent parts could have been less detailed while still carrying the same impact. It just made it a bit of a difficult read. I've read other authors who do this remarkably well with their stories set during war. Then other places felt like they needed more development or to make more sense to me.

In the end, was it what I wished for? Overall, I did enjoy reading this and seeing what happened after the last book by this author. It's foremost a story of seeing through prejudice, being brave enough to live life, and protecting what is most important.

Content: Some innuendo and violence (some of it fairly violent and detailed, including torture and desecration)
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, which did not require a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Other Books by the Author

The Fisherman's Daughter
By Melinda Sue Sanchez
Adult Historical Romance
Paperback, Audiobook & ebook, 288 Pages
January 1, 2018 by Covenant Communications


Eighteen-year-old Marianna De’Angelis has grown up on her father’s fishing boat off the picturesque coast of Sicily, Italy. She traverses the nearby countryside on horseback and bicycle and works alongside her mother selling fish at market. It is a simple, happy life. But when WWII erupts and the Nazis overtake the country, Marianna’s peaceful world is shattered.

In the midst of chaos, Marianna encounters a handsome, young Italian soldier named Massimo Scalvone. Though she tries to keep her distance, Marianna finds herself powerfully drawn to Massimo. Yet all the while, the man she is growing to love conceals a deadly secret—a secret that ensures that in a world now ruled by politics and greed, Massimo is not free to give his heart. Devastated, Marianna immerses herself in helping her family and neighbors survive the war. But soon, merely helping is not enough, and the young woman undertakes increasingly dangerous missions for the resistance. Although Marianna and Massimo each harbor secrets, their only hope of survival is to trust each other with the truth of who they really are.

Read my review here.

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About the Author

Melinda Sue Sanchez has been passionate about books and the worlds and people they bring to life since childhood. She wrote her first book in second grade and her first poetry at age ten.
Her love of reading and writing blossomed into writing full novels and resulted in her first book, The Fisherman's Daughter being published by Covenant Books in 2018.

Her next novel, The Enemy Between Us will be released in July 2020 and will continue the saga of The Fisherman's Daughter. We'll see Franca and Peter, two mortal enemies forced into hiding from the Nazis together, and fighting a forbidden attraction to one another as they traverse the battlefields of Italy to save their families.

Melinda lives in Az with her handsome husband, beautiful family. several dogs, a cat, bird, snake, turtle and hundreds of books.

What do you like about reading stories set during war?

Read an excerpt from The Kids Are Gonna Ask by Gretchen Anthony from @parkrowbooks

Welcome to my tour stop! Read an excerpt from this new release below...

The Kids Are Gonna Ask
By Gretchen Anthony
Adult Contemporary Fiction, Satire
Paperback, Audiobook & ebook, 416 Pages
July 28, 2020 by Park Row


A whip-smart, entertaining novel about twin siblings who become a national phenomenon after launching a podcast to find the biological father they never knew.

The death of Thomas and Savannah McClair’s mother turns their world upside down. Raised to be fiercely curious by their grandmother Maggie, the twins become determined to learn the identity of their biological father. And when their mission goes viral, an eccentric producer offers them a dream platform: a fully sponsored podcast called The Kids Are Gonna Ask. To discover the truth, Thomas and Savannah begin interviewing people from their mother’s past and are shocked when the podcast ignites in popularity. As the attention mounts, they get caught in a national debate they never asked for—but nothing compares to the mayhem that ensues when they find him.

Cleverly constructed, emotionally perceptive and sharply funny, The Kids Are Gonna Ask is a rollicking coming-of-age story and a moving exploration of all the ways we can go from lost to found.

(Affiliate links included.)


Excerpted from The Kids Are Gonna Ask by Gretchen Anthony © 2020 by Gretchen Anthony, used with permission by Park Row Books.


The house had become an aquarium—one side tank, the other, fingerprint-smeared glass—with Thomas McClair on the inside looking out. There had been a dozen protests outside their home in less than a week, all for the McClairs to—what, enjoy? Critique? Reject? There was no making sense of it.

Tonight, Thomas pulled his desk chair up to the window and kicked his feet onto the sill. He’d been too anxious to eat dinner, but his mind apparently hadn’t notified his stomach, which now growled and cramped. He was seventeen. He could swallow a whole pizza and wash it down with a half-gallon of milk, then go back for more, especially being an athlete. But that was before.

Before the podcast, before the secrets, before the wave of national attention. Now he was just a screwup with a group of strangers swarming the parkway across the street from his house because he’d practically invited them to come.

He deserved to feel awful.

The McClairs had been locked in the house for a week, leaving Thomas short of both entertainment and sanity. He had no choice but to watch the show unfolding outside. Stuck in his beige bedroom, with the Foo Fighters at Wembley poster and the Pinewood Derby blue ribbons, overlooking the front lawn and the driveway and the hand-me-down Volvo neither he nor Savannah had driven since last week. There they stood—a crowd of milling strangers, all vying for the McClairs’ attention. All these people with their causes. Some who came to help or ogle. More who came to hate.

Thomas brought his face almost to the glass and tried to figure out the newly assembling crowd. Earlier that day, out of all the attention seekers, one guy in particular had stood out. He wore black jeans, black boots, a black beanie—a massive amount of clothing for the kind of day where you could see the summer heat curling up from the pavement—and a black T-shirt that screamed WHO’S PAYING YOU? in pink neon. He also held a leash attached to a life-size German shepherd plushy toy.

Some of the demonstrators had gone home for the night, only to be replaced by a candlelight vigil. And a capella singing. There were only about a dozen people in the group, all women, except for two tall guys in the back lending their baritones to a standard rotation of hymns. “Amazing Grace” first, followed by “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” Now they were into a song Thomas didn’t know, but the longer he listened, he figured hundred-to-one odds that the lyrics consisted of no more than three words, repeated over and over. They hit the last note and raised their candles high above their heads. By daaaaaaaaaaaayyyy.

“No more,” he begged into the glass. “I can’t take any more.”

A week. Of this.

Of protests, rallies and news crews with their vans and satellites and microphones.

Of his sister, Savannah, locked in her room, refusing to speak to him.

Of his grandmother Maggie in hers, sick with worry.

Of finding—then losing—his biodad, the missing piece of his mother’s story. And his own.

Thomas was left to deal with it all. Because he’d started it. And because he was a finisher. And most of all, because it wasn’t over yet.

About the Author

GRETCHEN ANTHONY is the author of Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners, which was a Midwestern Connections Pick and a best books pick by Amazon, BookBub, PopSugar, and the New York Post. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, Medium, and The Write Life, among others. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.

What did you think of the excerpt?

Weekly Update #377, getting back in the swing of things...

Welcome to my Weekly Update where I share what's been going on and what's coming up!

I'm linking up to The Sunday Post, hosted by Kimba @ The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

It's been a few weeks since I was really on my blog as we were out of town for two and a half weeks and then this past week was me trying to catch back up. Then add everything being a bit up in the air for school and my part-time job while experiencing a bit of jet lag and it ended up being a weird and hectic week. Thank goodness I didn't have any posts or reviews that had to be up because I wouldn't have made it! We had a wonderful vacation and one that really made this summer for us. It's hard to come back and have nothing to do and not have my family to quarantine with. I am extremely grateful we are all well and hope that you are the same!

This Week

New Books

Here are all the books I got from the end of June and July so far (previously shared on Instagram):

Love's Mountain Quest by Misty M. Beller
Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes
A Dazzle of Diamonds by Liz Johnson
Shadow Unbound by Angie Day
The Gentleman Spy by Erica Vetsch
Closer Than She Knows by Kelly Irvin
Vying for the Viscount by Kristi Ann Hunter
August Fog by A.L. Goulden

The Peasant's Dream by Melanie Dickerson
Airborne by Diann Mills
Relative Silence by Carrie Stuart Parks
Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton
Christmas in Bayberry by Jennifer Faye
The Artist's Healer by Regina Scott
How Sweet It Is by Robin Lee Hatcher
Coming Home to Bellingham by Katie Stewart Stone
The Enemy Between Us by Melinda Sue Sanchez
The Doctor and the Midwife by Sarah Alva
A Foreign Crown by Jen Geigle Johnson
A Hopeful Christmas by multiple authors
Start with Me by Kara Isaac
Terraformer by Colleen Houck

Last Week