Review: Love or Justice by Rachel Mannino


Love or Justice by Rachel ManninoTitle:
Love or Justice
Author: Rachel Mannino
Series: Protect and Serve (Book #1)
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Limitless Press
Format: eBook
ISBN: 9781680583472
Rating: ★★★★☆
Purchase: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: After stumbling into a deadly kidnapping, Laurie’s life is in grave danger, and it falls to US Marshal Dante Stark to keep her safe until she testifies against Kaimi Quamboa—assuming he can be captured.

Dante knows he’ll lose his job if he becomes romantically involved with a witness…

But when he has to comfort her through constant nightmares, he finds it nearly impossible to fight his attraction to the beautiful, strong young woman he is sworn to protect. Laurie feels it too, but aware she’s in a high-stress situation and that when the danger is past she’ll never see Dante again, she tries to ignore his easygoing smile and the security he offers.

Laurie and Dante are forced to flee again…

When Kaimi’s men descend on their hideaway, they escape to a second safe house, only to be tracked down there as well. Dante now knows there’s a mole inside the US Marshal Service, and the only thing left to do is disappear.
Kaimi will never stop looking for Laurie, and if he’s caught, showing up to testify could be the last thing she ever does.

With each choice as dangerous as the next, Dante and Laurie must confront the boundaries of what they’re willing to sacrifice, and which is more important…

Love or Justice.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to Enchanted Book Promotions for providing me with a copy for reviewing.

Whenever I manage to finish a book in a day, it’s usually a good thing. I couldn’t put this book down. The story jumps off right at the very beginning and sets everything up so I perfectly understood the tone of what I was getting into.

In short, the story is about a young woman named Laurie, a law student who puts herself through school by working at a hotel. She witnesses a crime in one of the rooms one day and is immediately put into witness protection due to the notoriety of the people associated with what she saw. In charge of her case is US Marshal, Dante. Along with Dante’s team, they protect Laurie by moving into a safe house. Throughout their time spent together in such close quarters, something blossoms between Laurie and Dante, even though it really shouldn’t be happening. The consequences for getting involved with his charge are huge, and Dante is one of the best Marshals and has worked hard to get to where he is. But the heart wants what it wants, and throughout the story, the connection becomes undeniable. The story pushes forward as they realize they’re in more danger than they thought. This causes Dante to take extra measures to protect Laurie, no matter what it takes.

Laurie and Dante are both extremely likeable, and their individual personalities complimented each other so nicely. As expected of a US Marshal, Dante is tough, oozes masculinity, and is a leader. But at the same time, he has a soft side. Meanwhile Laurie never plays the role of damsel. She herself is strong and unafraid despite circumstances that keep her life in jeopardy. Their romance is inevitable, but I loved how the author didn’t jump into it right away. The two got to know each other and went through some hard times in order for them to solidify their relationship. And when the calm before the storm came along in the middle of the book, we’re treated to a refreshing approach to their growing emotional connection.

My only real issues were regarding the way some scenes were set up; there were a couple of moments that were just plain unrealistic and had me scratching my head, but I guess they were needed in order to propel the story forward. After that, those little details became unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

To sum it up, the story is ultimately a love story, backed up by some really great action and suspense sequences. It’s definitely a strong debut from Mannino, and I’m looking forward to reading more in this series and any other works she has in the future.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Mannino is a passionate writer who creates characters and settings that allow readers to explore power dynamics in relationships, the empowerment of women, and the ethical and moral dilemmas love can create in our lives. Rachel also uses her writing skills to raise thousands of dollars for entities that enrich our lives and create community change around the world. She has worked for the Peace Corps; the Humanities Council of Washington, DC; Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company; and the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events in Boston, MA. Her first novel, Love or Justice, will be published by Limitless Press in 2016. Rachel has a BA in theatre studies and writing, literature, and publishing from Emerson College, and she has used it every day since graduation. She lives with her husband, author Christopher Mannino, and their adorable dog and cat in College Park, Maryland. (via Limitless Publishing)

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[ARC] My Kind of Crazy by Robin Reul

My Kind of Crazy by Robin ReulTitle: My Kind of Crazy
Author: Robin Reul
Expected Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9781492631767
Rating: ★★★★☆
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble | iBooks
Summary: Despite the best of intentions, seventeen-year old, wisecracking Hank Kirby can’t quite seem to catch a break. It’s not that he means to screw things up all the time, it just happens. A lot. Case in point: his attempt to ask out the girl he likes literally goes up in flames when he spells “Prom” in sparklers on her lawn…and nearly burns down her house.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Peyton Breedlove, a brooding loner and budding pyromaniac, witnesses the whole thing. Much to Hank’s dismay, Peyton takes an interest in him—and his “work.” The two are thrust into an unusual friendship, but their boundaries are tested when Hank learns that Peyton is hiding some dark secrets, secrets that may change everything he thought he knew about Peyton.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

The story starts off with a failed promposal; Hank Kirby intended to ask out one of the most popular girls in school but instead ended up almost burning her house down. He flees from the scene and thinks there’s nothing to trace him back there, but to his dread, there’s a witness.

As I was reading this book, I kept picturing it like a movie in my head; something akin to the awesome adaptation of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. The characters just come right off the page. Each of them have their own quirks, like the fact that Peyton is a complete pyromaniac and that Nick’s dad may or may not be involved with the mob. But when you look at the big picture, they’re so utterly… normal. And it made the story work. These are kids who go through what normal kids do: high school crushes, obsessing over dances, worrying about what’s going to happen after graduation, getting into college; the list goes on.

Reul also touches on a couple of serious issues in this book, but instead of weighing down the story, she kept it light and spares the readers from feeling down. And though it deals with themes we’ve seen in YA contemporaries time and time again, it somehow manages to stray from being stereotypical.

My Kind of Crazy is unconventional, funny (so, so funny), and witty. At the same time it’s emotional and real. I’m trying really hard to not talk too much about the story without going into too much detail because this is something everyone should experience for themselves. All I can say is that there’s this incredible original quality to the book that definitely makes it one YA contemporary to watch out for this year.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robin Reul has been writing since she was in early elementary school, when she used to make her own book club flyers for her classmates and then pen them original stories. Though she grew up on movie sets and worked for many years in the film and television industry both as an actress and in motion picture development, she ultimately decided to focus her attention on writing young adult novels. She likes to write the same kinds of stories she loved as a teen: the ones that give her with butterflies in her stomach and are filled with quirky, memorable characters who stay with the reader long after the story ends. When she’s not writing, Robin can be found singlehandedly driving up the profit margin of her local Starbucks and indulging her love of baked goods, particularly those in the key of pumpkin. She lives in Los Angeles suburbia with her husband, son and daughter. (via Goodreads)

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In Place of Never by Julie Anne Lindsey

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Title: In Place of Never
Author: Julie Anne Lindsey
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Format: ePub
ISBN: 9781601834874
Rating: ★★★★☆
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play
Summary: Can the truth set her free?…

A part of Mercy died the summer her sister tragically drowned. Now Mercy has a chance to discover if Faith’s death was an accident—or murder. Her first step is to confront the lead suspects: a band of traveling gypsies—the last people who saw her sister alive. But Mercy finds an unexpected ally in Cross, the soulful musician in their ranks. He’s a kindred spirit, someone who sees into her heart for the first time in, well, forever. Yet stirring up the past puts Mercy in danger…

Suddenly someone is shadowing Mercy’s every move, making her even more determined to uncover the facts. With Cross by her side, she is ready to face it all, even if that means opening up to him, knowing he may one day leave her. What she discovers is a truth that rocks the foundation of her small river town—and a love worth risking everything for….

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My Thoughts:
First off, I should mention that there are a couple of trigger warnings; the story deals with self-harm, abuse, suicide, and depression. It’s not for the light-hearted, and it’s not something I’m usually the first in line to read, but to say this book surprised me is a bit of an understatement. I mean that in a good way.

I have to admit that it took me a while to get into the book. About a quarter into it, I wanted to drop it and move on to the next, but something about the tone and the way Lindsey writes compelled me to keep moving forward. The story is very much set up as a mystery, taking place after the death of Mercy’s older sister. A few years have passed but the impact still exists in their household. The need to know what happened to Mercy’s sister and the progression of the events after kept me interested ’til the very end.

There are several other themes in this book including religion, music, and culture. I’m not one to usually lean towards books dealing with religion, just because I’ve seen it go totally wrong and get really preachy and/or discriminatory. Now, In Place of Never also deals with Roma and their culture. Mix the two, and again — could go totally wrong. But Lindsey did a good job in keeping the content appropriate.

A lot goes on in the book, but what I enjoyed most about this book was Mercy’s personal growth. In the beginning, Mercy shut herself out from the world, including her family. It’s not until she meets the travelling sideshow made up of the Lovell family — and a boy named Cross — that she starts coming out of her self-contained shell and demands answers and closure from Faith’s death. A huge part of this growth came from her interactions with other characters: her younger sister, her father, Cross, and the rest of the Lovell family. It was also interesting to get to know the other characters, because every single one of them is so different from each other, but they were all tied together by one life-changing event.

In Place of Never gives readers a glimpse of the effects of a tragedy in a small community where it’s easier to make assumptions than it is to find the truth. All in all, the story is about healing and forgiveness, wrapped up in a pretty engrossing tale full of mystery, justice, and a healthy dose of romance.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Mother of three, wife to a sane person and Ring Master at the Lindsey Circus, most days you’ll find her online, amped up on caffeine and wielding a book. Julie started writing to make people smile. Someday she plans to change the world.

Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW), Sisters in Crime (SinC) and the Canton Writer’s Guild.

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[ARC] These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas

These Vicious Masks by  Tarun Shanker & Kelly ZekasTitle: These Vicious Masks
Author: Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas
Series: These Vicious Masks (Book 1)
Expected Publication Date: February 9, 2016
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9781250073891
Rating: ★★★★☆
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: Jane Austen meets X-­Men in this gripping and adventure-­filled paranormal romance set in Victorian London. England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to Swoon Reads and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

“Jane Austen meets X-Men”. That’s as much as I read of the synopsis before I decided I needed to read this. It’s a thing I never knew I wanted until I read that line. The story centers around Evelyn, a bored society girl whose younger sister suddenly goes missing. She takes it upon herself to find her by any means necessary. Along the way, she enlists the help of the mysterious Mr. Braddock and her friend, Mr. Kent. Through her journey to find her sister, she finds out other things that she probably preferred not to — things about herself and the society she thought she knew so well.

The dialogue, the characters, the settings, the everything — just so, so good. It’s meant to be a period piece and it definitely reads like one. On the flip side of that is the paranormal stuff, which was also very well-written. I don’t know what it is about magic and the paranormal that allows it to mesh so well with the time period. Probably because they lacked the modern technology and were only beginning to discover the science we have today that makes it more believable. There’s room to mould the imagination. What really impressed me, though, was Evelyn. She’s confident, brash, impulsive, and incredibly witty. She can banter with the best of them; her conversations with almost everyone she interacts with are among the best parts of the book. In fact, all the characters are written so well and are incredibly self-aware and contribute their own individual quirks and personalities to the story.

Though it claims to be a romance, there was actually quite a lack of it. What I did see was the beginnings of not one, but two. Ah, love triangles. The bane of my YA-loving existence. But! This one is promising. I haven’t liked all 3 individuals involved in a love triangle since The Infernal Devices. Maybe I just really have a thing for complicated romances set in Victorian London. Who knows? I did wish we got to see more of that side of the story, but this seems like it’s being set up as a series (pretty please?), so I’d imagine that there’s always more time for that to flourish. I won’t say which guy I prefer with Evelyn just yet — I advise you all to pick up this book when it comes out and decide for yourselves.

In short, if you do have enough sense decide to read this book, prepare for a kickass adventure. Because this one definitely delivers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Mild-mannered assistant by day, milder-mannered writer by night, Tarun Shanker is a New York University graduate currently living in Los Angeles. His idea of paradise is a place where kung-fu movies are projected on clouds, David Bowie’s music fills the air and chai tea flows freely from fountains. (via Goodreads)

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Kelly is a writer living in NYC. YA is her absolute favorite thing on earth other than cupcakes and she has spent many hours crying over fictional deaths. She also started reading Harlequin romances at a possibly too early age (12?), and still adores a good historical romance. (via Goodreads)

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Ink by Amanda Sun

Ink by Amanda SunTitle: Ink
Author: Amanda Sun
Series: Paper Gods (Book #1)
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780373210718
Rating: ★★★★☆
Purchase: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building. Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets. Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

My Thoughts:
For starters, I love art. It’s been a huge part of me growing up; I come from a family of amazing artists, painters, designers, and just creative people, period. So when I saw this amazing cover and read the synopsis, I was sold instantly.

The story is about Katie, a girl whose life changes after the death of her mother. She moves to Japan to live with her aunt. Completely new to the country, the society, the culture, Katie has a lot of adjusting to do. She starts her new life at a new school and meets a boy named Tomohiro. He’s cold and distant, and extremely secretive. Later on she discovers that he’s a talented artist whos drawings can move. His ability is connected to the ancient gods (kami). Despite all of his efforts to keep his distance, the two get closer. But Tomo is in danger — he can’t control his drawings when he’s around Katie. And as if that’s not enough, he’s being hunted by the Yakuza for his ability.

Mythology, art, and the Japanese mafia. Sounds like an exhilarating fantastical romp, doesn’t it? But of course, it didn’t come without its flaws. I wasn’t a huge fan of Katie. Not connecting with the main character of a novel always puts quite the damper on things, but hey, I tried. I did understand that life was hard for her; she just lost her mother and she was forced to be in a place completely foreign to her. But she was way too quick to judge people and had some really stalker-ish tendencies that pretty much had no basis in the beginning (sure, it eventually led her somewhere, but just because a guy wants to be alone doesn’t mean he’s up to something).

I’ll forgive the typical YA clichés of insta-love and broody bad boys because there really was more to love about the book. The best part was being able to feel the culture through the author’s words. Sun is a great writer and I enjoyed her descriptions of the more action-filled sequences later on in the book. She obviously loves the culture and did a lot of research on kanji and Japanese myths surrounding the kami. The fact that she took the connection between the two and came up with an original story was fascinating to me. And I’ll just come out and say it: I’m a shoujo girl. I’ve read too many to even count and I never tire of them. This book read like one and I was pleasantly surprised at how well done it was. While, true, I wasn’t a fan of Katie, her relationship with Tomo after it started to develop wasn’t horrible. They were cute, I’ll give them that. The manga-type moments that Sun alluded to put a smile on my face just because of how familiar it all was.

So all in all, an enjoyable read. If you enjoy Japanese culture in any capacity, be it anime, manga, pop culture, Japanese scenery, mythology, language, whatever — give this book a try. I’m sure there will be something that will keep you entertained.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I’m a YA author and proud Nerdfighter. I was born in Deep River, Canada, a very small town without traffic lights or buses, and where stranger safety is comprised of what to do if you see a bear—or skunk. I started reading fantasy novels at 4 and writing as soon as I could hold a pencil. Hopefully my work’s improved since then.

​In university I took English, Linguistics, and Asian History, before settling into Archaeology, because I loved learning about the cultures and stories of ancient people. Of course, I didn’t actually become an archaeologist—I have an intense fear of spiders. I prefer unearthing fascinating stories in the safety of my living room.

​The Paper Gods is inspired by my time living in Osaka and travelling throughout Japan. That and watching far too many J-Dramas. I currently live in Toronto with my husband and daughter. When I’m not writing, I’m devouring YA books, knitting nerdy things like Companion Cubes and Triforce mitts, and making elaborate cosplays for anime cons. (via Official Site)

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Vince’s Life by Vince O. Teves

20151121Title: Vince’s Life
Author: Vince O. Teves
Series: Vince’s Life (Book #1)
Publication Date: May 2, 2012
Publisher: Summit Media Publishing Inc.
Format: eBook
ISBN: 9719270683
Rating: ★★★★☆
Purchase: Amazon
Summary: From the pages of Seventeen Philippines magazine comes the book that chronicles real college life: making the grade, forming friendships that will last the rest of your lives, charting your future, and falling in love possibly for the first time. For regular guy Vince Teves, every significant experience during the four years that would shape the rest of his life was worth remembering. This is his story.

My Thoughts:
Initially, the material from Vince’s Life was published as a monthly column in ‘Seventeen’ magazine in the Philippines. Judging by the title, it’s quite obvious that the story is based on the real life of the author, Vince O. Teves. I picked up this book because, as I mentioned in another post, I’m so heavily invested in reading as many novels by Filipino authors as I can from this side of the world. I chose Vince’s Life as my first venture into my own little personal reading challenge — and by the end of it, I knew I made a really good choice.

This was a quick read; the Kindle edition came up to just around 150 pages. And as much as I love eBooks, I just wish I had a physical copy of the book. Pretty sure I’ve scoured the entire Internet thrice. It wasn’t just because it was short that I managed to finish this (and the other two books that make up this trilogy) in one day. It was because I couldn’t put it down. It reads like a journal where Vince chronicles his experiences as a teenager transitioning into adulthood. Right by his side are his ever-loyal and ever-entertaining friends to help him navigate and grow as individuals themselves. The core focus of the story, however, is his budding relationship with one of his good friends, Andrea. It’s your typical “friends-into-lovers” storyline, but their journey is complicated with different situations that Teves writes with such sensitivity and sincerity. There was no shortage of cheesy lines and clichés — I watch a lot too, too many Filipino soap operas everyday, I was kind of expecting it — but despite that, the book was a simple and realistic look at the joys and hurdles of growing up.

Overall, what appealed to me most about this book was that it’s categorized as “chick lit” but written from a male’s perspective, and he pulls it off so well. Male or female, anyone can relate to his story and will walk away reminiscing about your own experiences. We all face the emotions and realities that line the pages of this book in one way or another, and that’s a huge reason why I enjoyed this book as much as I did.

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The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick

The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley FitzpatrickTitle: The Boy Most Likely To
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publication Date: August 18, 2015
Publisher: Dial Books
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781476791456
Rating: ★★★★☆
Purchase: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To find the liquor cabinet blindfolded, need a liver transplant, and drive his car into a house. Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To . . . well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters. For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard. Then the unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days come back to shock him. He finds himself in a situation that isn’t all it appears to be, that he never could have predicted . . . but maybe should have. And Alice is caught in the middle.

My Thoughts:
I waited a good three years for this book to come out. After reading My Life Next Door, I found myself wanting more of Tim’s story. I wanted so badly for him to have his happy ending and be able to read about it. Was The Boy Most Likely To worth the wait? I’ll get to that. But I will mention that, as with any highly-anticipated follow-up, there were expectations. I have to admit that I had a whole lot of them in my head, only to be left a teeny, tiny bit disappointed… as in one whole stars worth.

Most of my love for this book goes towards how Tim was written. His sense of humour was one of my favourite things in MLND and I was relieved that Fitzpatrick kept it consistent in the sequel. But behind all that self-deprecation and use of humour as a defense-mechanism is a troubled kid who just wants to turn his life around. The whole book was an interesting follow-up to the first installment because of how real it was; Tim is a character with real issues. And it’s not often that a YA novel tackles the kinds of karma that can happen after someone goes through the amount of things Tim went through. But here’s where it lost me. Over the course of the book, Tim’s past comes back to haunt him in one of the most “why didn’t I see that coming?” storylines possible. It was believable in a sense, but something about it rubbed me the wrong way, and the new character that Fitzpatrick brought in annoyed me so much that I kind of had to force myself to read through those bits with her in it for the sake of getting it over with. But Tim’s story is only one-half of this whole. The other half is Alice, who’s got problems of her own to worry about. She’s amazingly sure of herself as an individual, but she puts all this pressure on herself to hold her family together. Even through her developing relationship with Tim, she knows what her priorities are, and she has no time to eff around. Tim knows this, so he sees Alice as the one person who can be real with him and not take any of his s*@t. Which is why I loved their relationship. They balanced each other out amidst all the chaos.

Overall, I really liked the book. Even though the plot twists somewhat threw me, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of being able to revisit the ever entertaining Garrett family and other familiar characters and settings. To be fair, I did find myself loving 90% of the new characters and enjoyed how the story unfolded. The good outweighed the bad with this one, and I’m ultimately satisfied. So yes, it was worth the wait.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Huntley Fitzpatrick grew up dreamy and distracted in coastal Connecticut. She flourished in a family of bookworms where everyone always had their nose in a book. She kept an exhaustively thorough journal which frightened her boyfriends but has proved very useful in her career as a writer. Her debut contemporary Romance, MY LIFE NEXT DOOR, was published in June of 2012 by Penguin-Dial for Young Readers. Now she laughs with and eavesdrops on her six children who provide her with perspective and material. She is represented by the amazing Christina Hogrebe of the Jane Rotrosen Agency. (via Goodreads)

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