BLOG TOUR: The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari [GIVEAWAY]

the best kind of magicThe Best Kind of Magic
by Crystal Cestari
Release Date: May 16th, 2017
Genres: YA, Paranormal, Fantasy

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SYNOPSIS: Amber Sand is not a witch. The Sand family Wicca gene somehow leapfrogged over her. But she did get one highly specific magical talent: she can see true love. As a matchmaker, Amber’s pretty far down the sorcery food chain (even birthday party magicians rank higher), but after five seconds of eye contact, she can envision anyone’s soul mate.

Amber works at her mother’s magic shop–Windy City Magic–in downtown Chicago, and she’s confident she’s seen every kind of happy ending there is: except for one–her own. (The Fates are tricky jerks that way.) So when Charlie Blitzman, the mayor’s son and most-desired boy in school, comes to her for help finding his father’s missing girlfriend, she’s distressed to find herself falling for him. Because while she can’t see her own match, she can see his–and it’s not Amber. How can she, an honest peddler of true love, pursue a boy she knows full well isn’t her match?

The Best Kind of Magic is set in urban Chicago and will appeal to readers who long for magic in the real world. With a sharp-witted and sassy heroine, a quirky cast of mystical beings, and a heady dose of adventure, this novel will have you laughing out loud and questioning your belief in happy endings.

REVIEW: My expectations weren’t super high going into this book. I thought I’d like it, but maybe around a 3. I ended up liking it much more than I thought I would and I think that’s because the main character (Amber) is super likable. Her narration was enjoyable to read and she had this great sense of humor that made everything a lot more fun.

The setting of this book is fantastic. I’m already 100% in love with Chicago, but this book just made the city feel that much more magical. Sometimes books are set in a specific “destination” but actually, it could have been set anywhere because the book doesn’t really include any specifics–just super vague language to describe the city. That is NOT the case with this book. The author throws in all kinds of fun details like descriptions of Navy Pier and the Magnificent Mile. The author also mentions both Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s which are both well-known Chicagoan deep dish pizza joints. It just made me fall in love with the city all over again. It really felt like Chicago without the character having to visit every single touristy thing (like the Cloud Gate or something). Also, this book made me want to eat all of the baked goods. I’m seriously craving Amber’s homemade blueberry muffins right now.

Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sold on the magic aspect of this book. I mean…does everyone just accept that magic exists? Because all of Amber’s classmates are approaching her about their soulmates. Do they actually believe that Amber can tell them who their soulmate is? Or do they see her as just another psychic of sorts? And shouldn’t Amber be trying to keep a low profile and not let her classmates know about her power? How secretive is the magical society trying to be? Because it honestly doesn’t really seem like they’re trying to be that secret. Anyway. I just had a ton of questions about the magical community, etc. (Vampire attacks? Goblins? How is the public not noticing any of this???)

There were some other things I didn’t love as much from the book. The plot was just okay. It was more used as a device to get Amber and Charlie together which I’m not necessarily super mad at, but it made the plot not very exciting. Speaking of Charlie, he seemed a little too mature for who he was supposed to be. I feel that a lot of teenage boys from YA are written a lot more mature than they actually should be. I mean…I know the guys I went to high school with…and they’re nothing like these YA love interests. Amber’s mom was another kind of weird character that I wasn’t sure about. I just don’t feel like we ever got a clear picture of her motivations at all.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty great. It’s a light fantasy with some romance and I guess it’s going to be a series? I’m not really sure where it’s going to go from here, but I’ll definitely be reading!

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild


The Best Kind of Magic Blog Tour

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Crystal CestariABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
With rainbows in my hair and stories in my head, I am a writer drawn to magic in the everyday world.

My debut novel, The Best Kind of Magic, arrives May 16, 2017 from Hyperion. Follow Amber Sand, a magical matchmaker who can actually see true love, as she takes off on a fun and romantic adventure toward happily ever after.

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: Understanding the Stars by X. Culletto [GIVEAWAY]

Understanding the StarsUnderstanding the Stars
by X. Culletto
Release Date: January 1st, 2017
Genres: YA, Science Fiction
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SYNOPSIS: Alexandra Blackwood is minding her own troubled life when she unknowingly gets caught up in an extraterrestrial conflict. Ronan, a human with his own alien-entangled past, has been keeping an eye on her and sets out to help her escape looming abduction, and maybe win her heart.


Understanding the Stars Blog Tour

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X CullettoABOUT THE AUTHOR:
  Xela Culletto loves all genres, but especially loves to geek out to sci-fi and fantasy. She currently lives in Utah with one husband, three miniature chaos lords, and a very lazy Beta fish. She’s an author of young adult books who also teaches secondary English. Add three kids to that and life gets pretty crazy!

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BLOG TOUR: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich [GIVEAWAY]

The Love InterestThe Love Interest
by Cale Dietrich
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Genres: YA, Contemporary, LGBTQ

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SYNOPSIS: There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

REVIEW: This book was a little different from what I was expecting. I knew that both of our main characters were spies, but I still kind of expected this book to be a cute contemporary-ish romance where (basically) everyone finds love in the end. That is not this book. There’s a much bigger conspiracy/fighting the bad corporation aspect that was surprising to me. The plot was pretty slow at the beginning, but then moved a lot quicker after about two-thirds of the way through. However, I felt that there were some plot holes/really unrealistic things (even given the world that they were in). Like, a bunch of celebrities are supposedly in relationships with Love Interests, but celebrities always date other celebrities? And their relationships don’t usually last forever so…what gives? I just don’t understand how Love Interests could realistically be infiltrating our world, that’s all.

I thought the characters were just alright. Caden wasn’t super likable and I didn’t find Dylan super likable either. It was honestly just hard to really get to know the two main characters as they were basically putting on an act the whole time. I thought the fact that they had trainers in their heads the whole time was pretty weird as well. And Caden’s trainer was always like, “Sorry I’m late/missed that, I was on a date”. Cut to me scratching my head and wondering why the heck that detail was necessary. Caden’s relationship with his “parents” also seemed unnecessary. I didn’t see how that added anything to the story or to Caden’s development. I don’t even think they really helped us to learn more about the big bad company. They were just kind of…there.

I will say, that I thought this book did a great job poking some fun at the “bad boy vs guy next door competing for a below-the-radar girl’s heart” trope. There were some classic scenes especially when it came to Dylan: broody bad boy reads poetry, sexy bad boy at the school dance, hardcore bad boy rides a motorcycle, etc. It really reminded me of certain other books and made those things kind of laughable–in a good way. It’s so hard for me to say anything else without spoilers, but without giving anything away, I thought that the way sexuality was represented in this book was a little…manipulative? It seemed like it came into play when it was convenient. Perhaps I just didn’t get it, though?

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good. It was a refreshing take on some common tropes and I really enjoyed that part of it. Other aspects of the book fell flat, but they weren’t necessarily deal-breakers. I think this author has a bright future in YA ahead of him.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cale Dietrich

Cale Dietrich is a YA devotee, lifelong gamer, and tragic pop punk enthusiast. He was born in Perth, grew up on the Gold Coast, and now lives in Brisbane, Australia. The Love Interest is his first novel.

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Love in the Time of Colonial Louisiana | The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green [GIVEAWAY]

The Mark of the KingThe Mark of the King
by Jocelyn Green
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction, Christian, Romance

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SYNOPSIS: After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

REVIEW: This book kind of surprised me because I didn’t really know much about colonial Louisiana. I felt that the author did a really good job of describing the setting for those of us who are unfamiliar with it–I almost felt like I could walk out my front door and into a humid Louisiana summer. I appreciated that some of the characters and events were real so that if I was interested in learning more, I would be able to.

The characters were all nicely fleshed-out. I could really feel for Julianne throughout the book. She had to go through some really tough things, but she (mostly) kept a really positive attitude and it was obvious that she just wanted to embrace her fresh start and get to work. None of our characters are perfect and we definitely see their flaws, but that just makes them relatable and more likable in my opinion. One thing that I especially appreciated was that this book spanned over a few years so we could see Julianne, her relationships, and the city of New Orleans grow and develop.

The plot was interesting, though a little slow-moving at times. I wasn’t really surprised by any of the plot twists, but I still found reading the book to be enjoyable. I don’t read a ton of Christian Fiction (though I have been reading more since partnering with Litfuse) so it’s still a little hard for me to swallow the Christian storyline at times. It’s not that I don’t like the message (I, myself, am a Christian) but sometimes that part of the story seems a little forced or preachy. It just doesn’t come across as natural as I would hope it to be.

Overall, I really liked this book and I felt that it brought to light an aspect of history that’s often overlooked. I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in learning more about colonial Louisiana or who just likes a good, clean Christian romance.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate (nothing explicit, just a lot of references to French soldiers spending the night with Native American women)


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Jocelyn GreenABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning author of ten books to date, including Wedded to War, a Christy Award finalist in 2013; Widow of Gettysburg; Yankee in Atlanta; and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman. A former military wife herself, her passion for military families informs all of her writing as well as her numerous speaking opportunities. Jocelyn graduated from Taylor University with a BA in English and now lives with her husband and two children in Iowa.

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: Trust My Heart by Carol J Post [GIVEAWAY]

Trust My HeartTrust My Heart
by Carol J. Post
Release Date: October 25th, 2016
Genres: Christian, Romance

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SYNOPSIS: Grant McAllister arrives in Murphy, North Carolina, with one aim: to sell his inherited property and leave as quickly as possible. The big-city lawyer has no interest in his late, estranged grandparents or the dilapidated mansion he just acquired. After his high-profile divorce, he should be avoiding perky reporters, too. But Jami Carlisle is honest, funny, and undeniably appealing.

After breaking up with her safe-but-smothering boyfriend, Jami is determined to ace her first big assignment. A story about the McAllister estate is too intriguing to ignore—much like its handsome, commitment-phobic heir. Thanks to her digging, the pieces of Grant’s fraught family history are gradually fitting into place, but also upending all his old beliefs.

The two draw closer as they share their dreams, until misread signals and misunderstandings begin to test their trust. But in the unspoiled beauty of the Smoky Mountains, there’s healing and forgiveness to be found. And for Grant, this unplanned detour may be just what’s needed to finally guide him home…

REVIEW: The thing that I love about Christian Romance novels is that I know they’re not going to have a bunch of sex scenes in them. I mean, I know some people like that, and that’s fine, but I’m personally not a fan. Grant and Jami are both really enjoyable characters. I loved that Post gave us such a detailed and complicated background for each of them. It really made them feel like real people, not just two-dimensional characters. I also loved the secondary characters. Even the ones that we don’t actually meet (like Bethany or Jami’s mom) felt so real. I would not be surprised if the author wrote future books featuring other characters (I need a book about Holly and a book about Sam RIGHT NOW).

The setting was fantastic. I really felt like I was in North Caroline while I was reading this book and it honestly made me want to take a roadtrip over there ASAP. I love how often our characters are in nature because then the reader kind of gets to enjoy a little bit of nature as well. I also love how the author emphasized how the main characters would feel closer to God when they’re out in nature. I think that could be encouraging to people who feel like they want to connect with God, but don’t feel that they’re ready to try attending a church.

Overall, I thought this book was really good! The plot was interesting (even if a little predictable) and believable. I enjoyed getting to know these characters and the whole town of Murphy. The romance is sweet but doesn’t dominate the other plotlines. I’ll definitely be looking out for other books by this author!

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild


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Carol J PostABOUT THE AUTHOR: From medical secretary to court reporter to property manager to owner of a special-events decorating company, Carol J. Post’s résumé reads as if she hasn’t yet decided what she wants to be when she grows up. But one thing that has remained constant through the years is her love of writing. She started as a child composing poetry for family and friends, then graduated to articles for religious and children’s publications. Now she pens fun, fast-paced inspirational romance and romantic suspense stories. Her books have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Book award and selected as an RT Top Pick. When Carol isn’t writing, she enjoys sailing, hiking, camping—almost anything outdoors. She also plays the piano and sings with her music-minister husband. Their two grown daughters and their grandkids live too far away for her liking, so she now pours all her nurturing into taking care of a fat and sassy black cat and a highly spoiled dachshund. 

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: Everyday Magic by Emily Albright [GIVEAWAY]

Everyday Magic Everyday Magic
by Emily Albright
Release Date: December 2nd 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

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Note: This book is technically the second in a series, but can be read as a standalone. The first book in the series is The Heir and the Spare.

SYNOPSIS: For once, Maggie McKendrick just wants to control her own life. Her overbearing Hollywood director father has it all planned out for her: UCLA, law school, then working as an entertainment lawyer, preferably for him. But Maggie has other, more creative-spirit friendly, plans. Namely, Thrippletons School of Fashion and Design in England, and then onto becoming a designer, preferably a wildly successful one. The big snag in her plan? Getting it past her dad.

A movie shoot takes the family to the Scottish Highlands for the summer, and closer to Maggie’s dream school. While there, she runs into the charming Preston Browne. Maggie is intrigued and decides to bend her no guys rule—instituted after her ex used her to get close to her dad. Forced to keep secrets from Preston in order to protect the future plans she’s made, Maggie finds herself falling for the tall Brit. And for once in her life she knows that he’s interested in her, not her Hollywood connections. When Maggie’s father blackmails her into dating his lead actor, she isn’t left with a choice. The biggest problem isn’t having to date hunky, mega-hottie, Ben Chambers. No, it’s praying she doesn’t lose Preston in the process.

Excelling at her dream school, Maggie’s personal life is a tangled mess. She needs to decide if living a lie is worth losing Preston or chance going against her father and facing his wrath. When the tabloids expose the truth of her fake relationship with Ben, Maggie’s world is thrown into a tailspin. Ultimately, Maggie must find the courage to take risks and forge ahead on her own path.

REVIEW: While I liked the first book in this series fine, I definitely liked this one better. I really liked Preston from the first book, so I was excited to learn a little more about him in this one. Maggie as a main character was fun and interesting. I really liked that she had such a clear vision for herself and she had the passion and drive to make it happen. I also really liked her relationships with her mom and brother. Her dad on the other hand…maybe I’m a bit naive, but I just don’t even want to believe that there are people out there who are that evil. But, you know, definitely a very hateable character. That’s all I’ll say about him.

Like the first book, nothing was really groundbreaking as far as the plot went, but it was still enjoyable nevertheless. While I enjoyed some of the added subplots, there were a couple of times that I felt like the author was trying to cram in too many different ideas into one book. Instead of taking the time to really develop different plotlines, everything was kind of crammed together and happening at the same time. It just made the book feel kind of busy, but again, I still enjoyed it.

Overall, I thought the book was a great follow-up to The Heir and the Spare. I did enjoy seeing some of the original characters and catching up with them. I have a feeling that there will be a third book in the series but I’m not sure who it’s going to feature…Maggie’s brother? Suze? Someone else entirely? I’ll definitely be on the lookout though.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate


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Emily AlbrightABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Emily Albright’s debut novel, THE HEIR AND THE SPARE, was released on January 18, 2016 from Merit Press.

She’s a writer, a major bookworm, a lover of romantic movies, a wife, a mother, an owner of one adorable (yet slightly insane) cockapoo, and uses way too many :).

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: Iron Cast by Destiny Soria [GIVEAWAY]

Iron CastIron Cast
by Destiny Soria
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

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SYNOPSIS: It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

REVIEW: The author starts the book with a note regarding her two main characters. She emphasizes that she really wanted to focus on their relationship as opposed to their individual relationships with the boys they like. I always like a little romance in books, but I really appreciated that the romance wasn’t the sole focus. This book has much more depth to it than that. The thing that I really loved about this book is the interactions between Ada and Corinne. They’re so different and the author does a great job of really portraying them as individuals. Their loyalty to each other is inspiring and I love that the author didn’t have them get into any catty arguments or jealous fights. Their relationship is so much bigger than that.

I loved the atmosphere of this book as well. It’s set in a Boston winter shortly before Prohibition is passed. This book makes Boston seem like this really magical and atmospheric city and I think it was the perfect setting for this story. The magic was also very intriguing to me though I don’t think it was explained very well. What exactly is hemopathy? Why does iron effect hemopaths? And how do they get their powers? What determines what kind of powers they have? Even with all of these questions, I like how wordsmiths and songsmiths have their powers so closely tied to emotion. On the other hand thespians and whatever Saint’s hemopathy is called don’t really seem to tie-in. While I like all of the different skills, it seems like there’s a disconnect. The four “powers” don’t really seem to connect to each other. That being said, they’re all extremely cool.

Overall I really enjoyed this book even though the plot was pretty slow at the beginning. There’s a lot of background and character development that the reader needs to get first, but once the plot really got going, I was hooked. I’m just so intrigued by this world! I don’t know if the author plans on making it a series, but I would love to read another book featuring these characters!

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild



Destiny SoriaABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Destiny Soria writes Young Adult fiction. Her debut novel, IRON CAST, will be published by Abrams/Amulet in Fall 2016.

Destiny lives in Birmingham, AL, where she spends her time trying to come up with bios that make her sound kind of cool. She has yet to succeed.

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Fantastic Flying Book Club

Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.