Review: Synthetic Love by Christina Heart

Alan Shaden may look like your average Tinder crush – 6’2”, dark hair, dark eyes, dimples – but with his rugged exterior comes a soft and battered heart, and his biggest secret (literally), which he keeps hidden in the back of his closet.

Alan doesn’t stop to think he’s a sex addict until a therapist deems him one, but that’s right before they have sex in her office. Alan isn’t the best man. He’s the first to admit it, but he’s trying to be better. It’s not easy having good intentions and compulsive desires at the same time.

As Alan’s layers peel away, you come to know the worn soul beneath the man. The traumatic childhood tragedies that have made him this way. A troubled past can shape you, or break you, and Alan is teetering somewhere in between. But he’s a gentleman at heart, hiding a dark past, and a life-size, synthetic secret.

Sabrina is a doll. She can’t move. She can’t talk. She can’t kiss Alan back like a real woman can. She can’t even tell him she loves him. But what she can do for him is something no woman has ever done before: she can stay. Who said love had to be with a real person for it to be real?

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Review: Scream All Night by Derek Milman

A darkly hilarious contemporary realistic young adult novel about growing up and finding your place in the world, perfect for fans of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Running With Scissors.

Dario Heyward knows one thing: He’s never going back to Moldavia Studios, the iconic castle that served as the set, studio, and home to the cast and crew of dozens of cult classic B-horror movies. It’s been three years since Dario’s even seen the place, after getting legally emancipated from his father, the infamous director of Moldavia’s creature features.

But then Dario’s brother invites him home to a mysterious ceremony involving his father and a tribute to his first film—The Curse of the Mummy’s Tongue. Dario swears his homecoming will be a one-time visit. A way for him to get closure on his past—and reunite with Hayley, his first love and costar of Zombie Children of the Harvest Sun, a production fraught with real-life tragedy—and say good-bye for good. But the unthinkable happens—Dario gets sucked back into the twisted world of Moldavia and the horrors, both real and imagined, he’s left there.

With only months to rescue the sinking studio and everyone who has built their lives there, Dario must confront the demons of his past—and the uncertainties of his future. But can he escape the place that’s haunted him his whole life?

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Review: Heart Land by Kimberly Stuart

Grace Klaren has finally made her dream of living in the Big Apple and working in the fashion industry a reality. But when she’s unexpectedly fired and can’t afford the next month’s rent, Grace does something she never thought she’d do: she moves back home.

Back in Silver Creek, Iowa, Grace is determined to hate it. She rails against the quiet of her small town, where everything closes early, where there’s no nightlife, where everyone knows each other. She’s saving her pennies and plotting her return to New York when she almost runs over a man who’s not paying attention at a crosswalk. It turns out to be Tucker, her high school sweetheart whose heart she broke when she left ten years ago. They reconnect, and Grace remembers why she fell for him in the first place.

And her career begins to turn around when she finds a gorgeous but tattered vintage dress at a flea market. She buys it, rips it apart seam by seam, and re-creates it with new fabric, updating the look with some of her own design ideas. She snaps a picture and lists the dress online, and within a day, it sells for nearly $200. Suddenly, Grace has her ticket out of here.

But Grace can’t fight her growing feelings for Tucker. Sometimes when they’re together, Tucker paints a picture of what their future could be like, and it feels so real. And when she finally gains the funding to move her new business back to New York, Grace must decide where home really is—will she chase her long-held New York dream, or find a new dream here in the heartland?

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Review: Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering

Lucy Albright is far from her Long Island upbringing when she arrives on the campus of her small California college, and happy to be hundreds of miles from her mother, whom she’s never forgiven for an act of betrayal in her early teen years. Quickly grasping at her fresh start, Lucy embraces college life and all it has to offer—new friends, wild parties, stimulating classes. And then she meets Stephen DeMarco. Charming. Attractive. Complicated. Devastating.

Confident and cocksure, Stephen sees something in Lucy that no one else has, and she’s quickly seduced by this vision of herself, and the sense of possibility that his attention brings her. Meanwhile, Stephen is determined to forget an incident buried in his past that, if exposed, could ruin him, and his single-minded drive for success extends to winning, and keeping, Lucy’s heart.

Lucy knows there’s something about Stephen that isn’t to be trusted. Stephen knows Lucy can’t tear herself away. And their addicting entanglement will have consequences they never could have imagined.

Alternating between Lucy’s and Stephen’s voices, TELL ME LIES follows their connection through college and post-college life in New York City. With the psychological insight and biting wit of Luckiest Girl Alive, and the yearning ambitions and desires of Sweetbitter, this keenly intelligent and staggeringly resonant novel chronicles the exhilaration and dilemmas of young adulthood, and the difficulty of letting go—even when you know you should.

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Review: The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

The addictive debut novel about four young friends navigating the cutthroat world of music and their complex relationships with each other, as ambition, passion, and love intertwine over the course of their lives.

Brit is the second violinist, a beautiful and quiet orphan; the viola is Henry, a prodigy who’s always had it easy; the cellist is Daniel, the oldest, the angry skeptic who sleeps around; and on first violin is Jana, their flinty, resilient leader. Together, they are the Van Ness String Quartet.

In The Ensemble, each character picks up the melody, from the group’s youthful rocky start through to adulthood. As they navigate devastating failures and wild success, heartbreak and marriage, triumph and loss, betrayal and enduring loyalty, they are always tied together—by career, by the intensity of their art, by the secrets they carry together, and by choosing each other over and over again.

Following these four unforgettable characters, Aja Gabel’s debut novel gives a behind-the-scenes look into the highly competitive, mysterious world of high-level musicians. The story of Brit and Henry and Daniel and Jana, The Ensemble is a heart-skipping portrait of ambition, friendship, and the tenderness of youth.

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Review: The Ones We Choose by Julie Clark

Lisa Genova meets 23andMe in this exploration of the genetic and emotional ties that bind, as debut author Julie Clark delivers a compelling read about a young boy desperate to find his place in this world, a mother coming to terms with her own past, and the healing power of forgiveness.

The powerful forces of science and family collide when geneticist Paige Robson finds her world in upheaval: Her eight-year-old son Miles is struggling to fit in at his new school and begins asking questions about his biological father that Paige can’t answer—until fate thrusts the anonymous donor she used into their lives.

Paige’s carefully constructed life begins to unravel as the truth of Miles’s paternity threatens to destroy everything she has grown to cherish. As Paige slowly opens herself up—by befriending an eccentric mother, confronting her own deeply buried vulnerabilities, and trying to make sense of her absent father’s unexpected return—she realizes breakthroughs aren’t only for the lab. But when tragedy strikes, Paige must face the consequences of sharing a secret only she knows.

With grace and humor, Julie Clark shows that while the science is fascinating, solving these intimate mysteries of who we are and where we come from unleashes emotions more complex than the strands of DNA that shape us.

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Blog Tour: The Elizas by Sara Shepard (Review)

When debut novelist Eliza Fontaine is found at the bottom of a hotel pool, her family at first assumes that it’s just another failed suicide attempt. But Eliza swears she was pushed, and her rescuer is the only witness.

Desperate to find out who attacked her, Eliza takes it upon herself to investigate. But as the publication date for her novel draws closer, Eliza finds more questions than answers. Like why are her editor, agent, and family mixing up events from her novel with events from her life? Her novel is completely fictional—isn’t it?

The deeper Eliza goes into her investigation while struggling with memory loss, the closer her life starts to resemble her novel, until the line between reality and fiction starts to blur and she can no longer tell where her protagonist’s life ends and hers begins…

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Review: Nothing Left to Burn by Heather Ezell

The autumn morning after sixteen-year-old Audrey Harper loses her virginity, she wakes to a loud, persistent knocking at her front door. Waiting for her are two firemen, there to let her know that the moment she’s been dreading has arrived: the enormous wildfire sweeping through Orange County, California, is now dangerously close to her idyllic gated community of Coto de Caza, and it’s time to evacuate.

Over the course of the next twenty-four hours, as Audrey wrestles with the possibility of losing her family home, she also recalls her early, easy summer days with Brooks, the charming, passionate, but troubled volunteer firefighter who enchants Audrey–and who is just as enthralled by her. But as secrets from Brooks’s dark past come to light, Audrey can’t help but wonder if there’s danger in the pull she feels–both toward this boy, and toward the fire burning in the distance.

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Review: The Calculus of Change by Jessie Hilb

A poignant and empowering teen novel of grief, unrequited love, and finding comfort in one’s own skin.

Aden isn’t looking for love in her senior year. She’s much more focused on things like getting a solo gig at Ike’s and keeping her brother from illegal herbal recreation. But when Tate walks into Calculus class wearing a yarmulke and a grin, Aden’s heart is gone in an instant.

The two are swept up in a tantalizingly warm friendship, complete with long drives with epic soundtracks and deep talks about life, love, and spirituality. With Tate, Aden feels closer to her mom and her mom’s faith than she has since her mother died years ago. Everyone else even Aden’s brother and her best friend can see their connection, but does Tate?

Navigating uncertain romance and the crises of those she loves, Aden must decide how she chooses to see herself and how to honor her mom’s memory.

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Review: She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop

In the tradition of The Emperor’s Children and The House of Mirth, the forgotten granddaughter of one of New York’s wealthiest men is reunited with her family just as she comes of age—and once she’s had a glimpse of their glittering world, she refuses to let it go without a fight.

When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.

Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, SHE REGRETS NOTHING is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth.

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