Blog Tour +Giveaway: Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

Published by Aladdin Genres: Contemporary, GLBT, Middle Grade



I am thrilled to be participating in the Star-Crossed blog tour today. Today I am joined by author Barbara Dee and she will share with us the 5 qualities she admires most about her main characters.



Mattie is chosen to play Romeo opposite her crush in the eighth grade production of Shakespeare’s most beloved play in this Romeo and Juliet inspired novel from the author of Truth or Dare.

Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.


GoodReads * IndieBound * Amazon * Barnes & Nobles * Book Depository




Five qualities that you admire about your main characters

Mattie’s bravery. It takes her a little while, but I admire how she embraces her feelings for Gemma, and also challenges herself to shine onstage.

Gemma’s charisma. For the premise to work, Mattie needs to be as smitten with Gemma as Romeo is with Juliet. I do think Gemma has a magical quality that makes it possible for Mattie to be hit by a “thunderbolt.”

Lucy’s loyalty. She gently prods Mattie to own her feelings, all the while reassuring her of her support. True friends want you to be your best.

Tessa’s wit. I loved writing her–yes, she could be a bit obnoxious sometimes, but she always cracked me up!

Mr. Torres’ endurance (he’s exhausted, but not burned out) and dedication to his students (“And the thing about bring a teacher, you never bet against your students. You always give them a chance to do their best.”)



Barbara Dee is the author of seven middle grade novels all published by Simon & Schuster, including TRUTH OR DARE (Sept. 2016) and STAR-CROSSED (March 2017). Her next middle grade novel, HALFWAY NORMAL, will publish September 5, 2017. Barbara is one of the founders and directors of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. She lives with her family in Westchester County, New York.



Website   *   Twitter   *   Facebook


One signed copy of STAR-CROSSED, USA only
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YA Book Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

YA Book Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnisThe Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 20th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 352

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

The Female of the Species is such an important, honest and brutal book about all the darker things that DO happen to kids every day somewhere out there in the world. It isn’t an easy book to read and it will make you uncomfortable. Many will even say it should come with a trigger warning. Author Mindy McGinnis doesn’t sugarcoat anything in her story. There is foul language, drinking, drugs, sex, and violence (animal, people and sexual).

At its core, The Female of the Species is a book about rape and all the many ways rape culture manifests in our everyday lives. It is also a story about friendship, loss, rage, and love. There are so many “lessons” all teens (girls and boys) NEED to learn in this story. I would love to be able to hand out copies to everyone I meet because this book needs to be read.

At its core, The Female of the Species is a book about rape and all the many ways rape culture manifests in our everyday lives. It is also a story about friendship, loss, rage, and love. There are so many “lessons” all teens (girls and boys) NEED to learn in this story. I would love to be able to hand out copies to everyone I meet because this book needs to be read.

“You see it in all animals – the female of the species is more deadly than the male.”


The Female of the Species is told through the first-person POVs of three characters:

Alex Craft- her older sister Anna was raped and murdered and whose killer walked because of the lack of evidence. This injustice causes Alex to give in to her darker impulses and seek her own form of justice. She also cuts herself off from social interactions.

Peekay (Claire)- She is the preacher’s kid, representing the “every girl” in us. She is also a representation of the many females that instead of rallying around one another actually do more harm than good, without even knowing it.

Jack- The jock/golden boy, handsome, smart, popular, with a long list of sexual conquests, but who is now interested in Alex. There is more to Jack though than all of these labels, he wants to be a better person.

Mindy McGinnis did a fantastic job with the development of these characters (as well as the minor characters too), and in how they connect to one another. The unlikely friendship built between Alex and Peekay only doubles when Alex saves Peekay from what could have been a really bad situation. Alex helps Peekay see how she without meaning to, contributes to the ideology that “boys will be boys”. In return, Peekay helps Alex come out of her shell and interact more with the other teens around her. For however brief a moment, she helps Alex almost feel normal.

I really like Alex. I know not everyone will feel the same way, but I do. She is a strong, complex, and definitely broken. However, I couldn’t help liking this anti-hero, this girl who calls herself “vengeance” and happens to be a killer (with criteria). We all have a part of us that might go a bit further, a bit darker if pushed to our limits (at least I believe we do). To me, even if Alex did turn out to be a complete monster , she still has redeeming qualities.

The use of animals in certain scenes by the author was a really great way to connect how much pain and violence humans are capable of doing to all living things, including themselves. For as much animal abuse shown in the book, you also get to see the love and care that Alex gives to these animals. You get to see a completely different side to Alex full of compassion and love.

The author has a valid reason for including what some might find to be offensive or troubling. This is all done to create a lasting impression, a way to connect with the reader and make the point stick. Questions will arise while reading The Female of Species and that is a good thing. Questions like: Why shame someone for doing exactly what you also want to do?

“You shouldn’t be that way about her,” Alex says. “I hear what people say and I bet half of it isn’t even true. And even if it is – fine. She’s no different from you and me; she wants to have sex. So let her…She likes boys, and she can get them. You were hurt by that, but it wasn’t Branley who hurt you. It was Adam.”

The Female of the Species questions why society normalizes the kind of behavior/talk where boys speak about girls as if they are non-human, or just things to be used.

“Tonight they used words they know, words that don’t bother people anymore. They said bitch. They told another girl they would put their dicks in her mouth. No one protested because this is our language now.”

It is in accepting these thoughtless remarks/language where girls turn against each other out of jealousy or anger, or where boys aren’t accountable for their actions or words that lead us to the present issue we have with rape-culture. This is one of the many reasons why The Female of the Species is such an important book.

On a lighter note, there are lots of good things that happen in this story. Watching the relationships of all the girls in the story change and blossom was one of the most beautiful parts of this story. I loved the romance between Alex and Jack and how their relationship actually helped each of them grow and become better individuals. So it’s not all about violence and swearing.

The writing is splendid and so beautifully done. The story becomes lyrical and poetic. Here is one of my favorite heartbreaking quotes (keep in mind this comes from an uncorrected proof copy…as do all the other quotes in this review:

“Sometimes I forget for one second and it hurts. It’s a different kind of pain than the constant, the weight that hangs from my heart. It swings from twine embedded so deeply that my aorta has grown around it.  Blood pulses past rope in the chambers of my heart, dragging away tiny fibers until my whole body is suffused and pain is all I am and ever can be. “

Seriously, how can one not swoon to a passage like that?

Yes, The Female of the Species will linger in my mind and my heart for a long time to come. I did not want to put this book down. From the first sentence, I knew I was hooked. What’s not to love about a book that reminds girls to have self-respect? Or to respect one another too? Or one that calls guys out on their BS while also reminding them to be respectful of girls? I highly recommend this story to all teens and adults alike. It is a MUST read. It will not disappoint.

~Thanks to Katherine Tegen Books and Edelweiss for providing me with the arc in exchange for an honest review~



Blog Tour + Giveaway + Review : Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner

Blog Tour + Giveaway + Review : Phantom Limbs by Paula GarnerPhantom Limbs by Paula Garner
Published by Candlewick on September 13th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 368

How do you move on from an irreplaceable loss? In a poignant debut, a sixteen-year-old boy must learn to swim against an undercurrent of grief—or be swept away by it.
Otis and Meg were inseparable until her family abruptly moved away after the terrible accident that left Otis’s little brother dead and both of their families changed forever. Since then, it’s been three years of radio silence, during which time Otis has become the unlikely protégé of eighteen-year-old Dara—part drill sergeant, part friend—who’s hell-bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. But when Otis learns that Meg is coming back to town, he must face some difficult truths about the girl he’s never forgotten and the brother he’s never stopped grieving. As it becomes achingly clear that he and Meg are not the same people they were, Otis must decide what to hold on to and what to leave behind. Quietly affecting, this compulsively readable debut novel captures all the confusion, heartbreak, and fragile hope of three teens struggling to accept profound absences in their lives.

Phantom Limbs is an exquisitely written debut novel by Paula Garner. It gives us an in-depth and heart-wrenching look at grief and loss, as well as how “phantom limbs” (either as body parts or people) effect the lives of the characters in her story. I loved how intricate and complex every single one of the characters in the story were. They felt “alive” and their voices completely authentic. Otis and Dara were my absolute favorites. They were sort of a “ying-yang” when it came to their personalities. Otis is the dearest! He is everything I ever wanted in a real life boy best friend, (especially back when I was in high school). He is a sweet, hopeless romantic with the heart of a poet, yet still completely believable because he has all the usual “teen angst and “guy thoughts”. Dara is older than he, a bit “harsh”, complicated and definitely a bit cynical when it comes to life and romance.

I thought their friendship to be very complex, at times frustrating/irritating but ultimately beautiful in how they were always truly there for one another. Their bond goes deeper than just regular a friendship, it’s almost like they could sense the damage and hurt radiating from one another. As for the romance is this book was done more as memories, or how one remembers their first love or an especially meaningful relationship.

I loved that Phantom Limbs also explored more than just romantic love, but all the many different types of love there is. From the type of love you have for your family to the type of love you feel for your friends this book covered it all. I really also liked the importance placed on the friendship between a male and a female not only between Otis and Dara but also Otis and Meg. Before any love transpired between Otis and Meg they were at their core best friends and that is important. They understood and truly knew each other. It is why when Meg moved away it was so much harder for Otis to let go. It wasn’t just his girlfriend, but also his best friend leaving him. When Meg does return (after three years of complete silence between them), he is confused, hurt but yet hopeful. He wants to feel that part of him again, have his best friend back and hopefully maybe his girlfriend back too. They both need to communicate and listen to each other to move forward, but we all know how the words “we need to talk” can be scary sometimes.  I really appreciated how the author handled and developed of this fragile relationship, especially as Otis and Meg each come to terms with the new people each of them have become and with the ghosts of their past. I think it was handled perfectly.

I couldn’t put this book down, and when I had to (due to life) I could almost feel it calling me to read it, like my own “phantom limb” in a way. This book broke my heart in so many different ways and times but it still left me with hope. Even days after reading it I find myself still completely stuck on it. I can’t wait until it is published and I can get my very own copy to love eternally. It was just that lovely of a book. The subject matter is a hard one to write about, but Paula Garner was able to tell the story how families and individuals deal with grief, loss and letting go in the most delicate and stunning way. Phantom Limbs has sealed Paula Garner as one of my favorite authors, and I will forever be a fan of her books, even if they make me cry and cling to my heart as much as Phantom Limbs has.

I highly recommend this coming-of-age story to all lovers of splendidly written books. This would be the perfect book for people who are either new or semi-new to the YA contemporary genre. The story is breathtaking, vivid and heartfelt, and flawless. Definitely one of the best YA contemporary books of 2016. You will not want to put it down and when you come to the end, you will be left feeling like a part of you is missing. Then you will understand the agony that is to have your own phantom limb pains.

Special thanks to Candlewick Press, and Hannah of the Irish Banana Reviews for providing me with an e-ARC and the chance to participate in this blog tour for Phantom Limbs in return for an honest review.


Paula Garner spends most of her time making food, drinks, and narratives, despite being surrounded by an alarming TBR pile and a very bad cat. Her debut YA novel, Phantom Limbs, comes out from Candlewick in 2016. Paula is represented by Molly Jaffa of Folio Lit, and lives in the Chicago area with her family.

LINKS: Website | Twitter


Week 1:

9/5: Such A Novel Idea – Guest Post

9/6: The Litaku – Review

9/7: The Irish Banana Review – Top 10

9/8: Pretty Deadly Reviews – Review

Week 2:



3 Finished Copies of PHANTOM LIMBS (US Only)

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YA Book Review: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

YA Book Review: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin BrownGeorgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
Published by HarperTeen on August 30th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, GLBT, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 432

Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.
Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

This year I’ve been trying to amp up my contemporary YA reading because (normally I am all about YA fantasy) and Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit was one of my top choices to read in this genre. I feel that this book will be an important read for teens dealing with their sexual identity and having a crisis in faith because of it. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit had a little bit of everything I have come to expect with contemporary YA. It was funny, witty, romantic, and dealt with some pretty vital issues plaguing queer teens in today’s society. The book deals with finding acceptance, new family dynamics, faith, and friendship (but don’t worry it doesn’t get overly preachy or overly religion filled).

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit is the story of Jo’s journey to accepting herself. It is also about Jo’s struggles in finding acceptance in her personal life, family, and faith. Jo was one of my favorite characters. She often made me laugh out loud with her observations of things. It was easy to root for her and hope that she would find happiness with her new romance. What bothered me about Jo was how easily she accepted her pastor father’s wishes to “tone down” and basically go back in the closet. I assumed she did it out of love for her dad, but I also felt like she didn’t mind being closeted. However, I reminded myself about how young Jo is and reflected on how hard it is for a teenager to freely admit to being different. I also really liked Jo’s best friend Dana, she’s wild and thinks she can turn anyone gay and is the epitome of the term “YOLO” (you only live once) which reminded me of a good friend of mine. I liked that we got to see Jo’s relationship with her new stepmom grow and develop, even to the point that Mother #3 became “mom”. There are a few plot points that seemed a bit far-fetched but I could overlook those because I really liked the characters the author created and the overall message of the book.

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit is beautifully written, the author does an amazing job exploring how religious faith doesn’t always equal to closed-mindedness or hate. I would highly recommend Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit to all readers (queer or not). I think it is an important book for young teens to read, especially those struggling with accepting themselves and their fear of how their family or religion might react to their sexual identity.

Thank you, Harper Teen and Edelweiss for providing me with an E-ARC of this book in return for an honest review.


Book Tour and Giveaway: The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder

Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Museum CoverThe Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Page Length: 256 Pages
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Shuster
Source: ARC via Irish Banana Blog Tours

Stars: 5 out of 5


In this ode to all the things we gain and lose and gain again, seventeen-year-old Penelope Marx curates her own mini-museum to deal with all the heartbreaks of love, friendship, and growing up.


Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak.

Well, actually, to Penelope Marx’s personal museum. The one she creates after coming face to face with the devastating, lonely-making butt-kicking phenomenon known as heartbreak.

Heartbreak comes in all forms: There’s Keats, the charmingly handsome new guy who couldn’t be more perfect for her. There’s possibly the worst person in the world, Cherisse, whose mission in life is to make Penelope miserable. There’s Penelope’s increasingly distant best friend Audrey. And then there’s Penelope’s other best friend, the equal-parts-infuriating-and-yet-somehow-amazing Eph, who has been all kinds of confusing lately.

But sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all is learning to let go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken.

LINKS!: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | iBooks | The Book Depository


I don’t even know how to properly begin a review for this wonderful book. I fell so deeply in love with this book while reading it that I suffered my own little heartbreak once I came to the last page. I don’t want to give too much away, so I am mainly going to express all the love I have for everything in this charming little book. 

Let’s start with…

The Book Cover- It’s bright and colorful and PERFECT. Everything on the cover will make sense once you read the story. A better cover design could not have been created on this earth. When I finally saw the finished copy at the bookstore I hugged it. It is so PRETTY!

Dinosaurs- The book starts with a whole scene about the dinosaurs (from the dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in NYC) leaving the museum. I won’t tell you why, or where this leads because it would give too much away, but how can a person not appreciate a “love story” that starts in such a quirky manner? Dinosaurs are sort of a theme throughout this book, and you will just have to read it to find out why.

NYC- The book is set in New York City and having spent much time in that city (some of it with someone that totally destroyed my heart once very long ago) I felt all sorts of nostalgia for that time in my life when I was so very young, and so very much believed in the “idea of love”. I still very much so believe in love and have found my very own “happily ever after” but it’s definitely a far different version from what I imagined back in those days. 

I loved the references to the tv show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I’m all about #TeamAngel), and even a nod to The Sound of Music (this might just be me making this connection) with “the 16 going on 17, and the 16 and never been kissed” references.

PenelopeI love that the main character Penelope is such a hopeless romantic and believed in soul mates and finding “true love”. I loved that she is a devotee of Jane Austen. Penelope is a dreamer and when I was her age I was the exact same thing. My head was in the clouds and living inside Austen Novels. I love that Penelope always tries to see the best in people and that she never truly gives up hope on love. I liked that she was the type of character that I could identify with and find similar traits of my younger self in her.

Friendship- I love the friendship between Eph and Penelope. I loved that they hang out at The Museum of Natural History, and go to flea markets and vintage shops. I loved how I could perfectly envision them doing these things in my head. Eph is like the best guy friend I always wished for in high school. He was kind and sweet and even had a bit of a “bad boy” to him. Also he’s an artist and draws adorable dinosaurs (I told you they were all over the book). I also really enjoyed the friendship between Penelope and Audrey. They have been friends forever and are just learning how to be outside their own circle of friends. It’s interesting to see how they deal with moving forward without each other constantly by their side, and meeting and making new friends. 

Are there some negatives….sure if you want to nitpick. I suppose you could say the plot predictable…it was…but I didn’t care…because I LOVE these characters and I was so emotionally invested in this story. I wanted Penelope and Eph to magically come to life and become my friends in real life. That is how much I fell for this book. Usually, I don’t like it when I can pretty much guess the outcome of a story, but not when it came to this story. As they say, there is always an exception to every rule.

My ARC copy that I used to read this review was full of sticky note point to all my favorite things about this book and my favorite passages. There are lots of stickies.

My actual copy of The Museum of Heartbreak ARC with all the stickies.

Even though the story is about all the different types of heartbreak one can experience growing up, it was still light and did not have to go into the dark corners of depressed characters to make the point come across. There are lots of things that change in the book from friendships to family to love, and the story shows us how all these things end up happening to get the character to where they need to be. Change can be scary and sometimes painful, but sometimes it is a necessary evil. 

I think the author did a wonderful job creating likable characters and infusing real life scenarios that so many of us can actually relate to. The pacing is just perfect and I did not want it to ever come to an end. Basically, I LOVED this book and I have been raving about it to everyone that will listen. I don’t read too much contemporary, but I am so glad that I decided that this would be the year that I would change that. This book completely converted me. There is a great story in here, with humor and loss, and love and friendship. It will bring a smile to your heart and possibly even make you want to create your own little Museum of Heartbreak.


Special thanks to Simon & Shuster and Irish Banana Tours for providing me with a physical copy for review in return for an honest review.

Thank you,  Simon & Shuster and  Irish Banana Tours for providing me with a physical copy for review. In compliance with FTC guidelines, I must state that I received this book for free and was in no way compensated for my review.

A former bookseller and teacher, Meg Leder currently works as a book editor in New York City. Her role models are Harriet the Spy and Anne Shirley. She is the coauthor of The Happy Book, and spends her free time reading, looking for street art, and people watching. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can visit her on Twitter at @MegLeder.

LINKS!: Website | Twitter



Week 1:

Week 2:



3 Finished Copies of THE MUSEUM OF HEARTBREAK (US Only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway