Blog Tour & ARC Review: Sofa Surfer by Malcolm Duffy

Sofa Surfer by Malcolm Duffy

Published 06 February 2020 by Zephyr / Head of Zeus

‘A story with great heart, and wisdom, which shows the healing power of true friendship’ Ele Fountain, author of Boy 87.
Written with humour and heart, Sofa Surfer looks at what it means to be homeless.

Malcolm Duffy’s debut novel Me Mam. Me Dad. Me., about domestic violence, won the YA category of the Sheffield Children’s Book Award 2019, the Redbridge Children’s Book Award 2019, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Prize 2019 and selected for World Book Night.

15-year-old Tyler’s teenage angst turns to outright rebellion when his family leave London for a new life in Yorkshire. He’s angry with his parents about the upheaval and furious at losing his home. With only the dog to confide in, Tyler has no idea that a chance meeting with a skinny girl called Spider will lead him into a world he never even knew existed. Spider is sofa surfing and Tyler finds himself spinning a tangled web of lies in his efforts to help her escape her world of fear and insecurity.

Sofa Surfer shows how empathy and action can help those without a home to go to. As with his widely praised debut Me Mam. Me Dad. Me., Malcolm Duffy finds humour and heart even in dire situations. Relevant, warm and rewarding Sofa Surfer is about what happens when going home isn’t an option.

*ARC kindly provided by Zephyr/Head of Zeus in exchange for an honest review*

“I’d thought it would be the most forgettable summer ever, but it turned into the most memorable.”

My first book by Malcolm Duffy and it surpassed my expectations! I so loved it! Sofa Surfer is one of the easiest and probably the quickest book I’ve read (so far) this year. I feel like it was just a breeze reading this book.

“But I didn’t want to give Yorkshire a chance. I didn’t want to give anywhere a chance.”

To say that Tyler was furious to leave his friends and home in London is an understatement. He’s manic, he’s angry. How could his parents decide to leave the bustling city and move to Yorkshire, an almost unknown place? Tyler had a hard time making friends and there really isn’t much that you can do on this new city. Until he met Spider. A girl at the local lido (this is like a community pool) who wanted to learn how to swim.

“It was a though Spider has taken her sleeping bag and moved in my head. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get rid of her.”

Things get a bit complicated when Tyler found out that Spider was thrown out of her cousin’s house where she is couch surfing. Tyler did his best to help Spider by bringing her food, some other supplies and even extending a place for her to stay at temporarily.

Sofa Surfer mainly tackles about the topic of homelessness. I will not bore you guys by giving statistics and such, but we are all aware that a number of people everywhere in the world in homeless. I believe that this book conveys such a good message that empathy and action goes hand in hand especially in helping people. Without the other, things would just not work out properly.

For such a heavy topic, homelessness was handled in such a light, poignant and thoughtful way. I especially like the lack of overdramatic effects! It was just light and touching. Simple as that. Especially viewed in the young eyes of the lead character Tyler. Reading this from his point of view has made a huge difference because everything feels simple but real. At such a young age, Tyler already has the heart to help. I like how he really stood up to his parents especially in helping Spider.  Spider on the other hand is such a strange character. I’m honestly hesitant about her character on the first few chapters of the book but at the end I kind of felt for her. For such a young age as well, she was given one of the hardest things to deal with – homelessness. I would’ve loved to know more of her backstory, I guess. It feels that there is the loss connection with her.

Overall, Sofa Surfer is such a relevant and great book! Definitely recommended for everyone!

4/5 Flower Rating

Have you heard about Sofa Surfer? I definitely recommend this book so please add it up on your tbr!  💚

Blog Tour & ARC Review + Giveaway: Ink in the Blood(Ink in The Blood #1)by Kim Smejkal

(Full Blog Tour Schedule here.)

Ink in the Blood(Ink in The Blood #1)by Kim Smejkal

Published 11 February 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers

A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.

GOODREADS 
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KOBO | ITUNES | GOOGLE BOOKS

*ARC Kindly provided by HMH Books thru FFBC in exchange for an honest review*

Since I’ve reached my 20’s getting a tattoo has always been on my “what-if” list and getting one is still something that I haven’t ticked off from that list. (lol) Now, getting a tattoo without really feeling the pain of it – uhm – yes please, right? Magical Tattoos, Eccentric Theater and a religion where tattoos are of great importance – these are just some of the words that really got me interested and intrigued with Ink In The Blood.

“But the child didn’t leave. Not really. She transformed into the Divine, still guiding us with her ink from afar.”

Ink In The Blood’s story focuses on Celia and Anya. People or what they call Inklings of a religion called Profeta. This religion uses tattoo to represent their Divine’s will. The followers receive this magical tattoo and guides them on whatever life circumstance they are facing at that moment. These two Inklings has been serving Profeta for ten years and they are witnesses that everything that this religion has been preaching is built in lies and the magical tattoos that they have been giving? Instead of guiding the followers, it strips away their freedom. How hard or easy would it be to strip away the beliefs that you have built for more than half of your life?

“With her black everything – short hair, suspenders, tie, top hat, attitude – Celia stuck out like a monochrome stain amid all the color and life.”

Celia is the feisty protagonist. Actions without much thinking. Ruled by alcohol and hate. Determined and strong-willed. She aspires to simply be free. I came to like her character at around 60% of the book because for some reason, I really cannot connect with her. I find Celia to be a pretty complex character because I really had a hard time reading her. I cannot anticipate what her next move would be.

Anya, on the other hand, is the voice of reason on this duo. She thinks things through, and I get this vibe that she’s very modest and gentle. A total opposite of Celia. Maybe that’s why they are best friends, right?

“The Rabble Mob of Minos is nick-named as Citizens of Everywhere and living apart from regular society and opened their gates to sell revelry and illusion. You were born into it or you stood in the audience – in-between didn’t exist.”

Celia and Anya were able to find their escape from Profeta thru the Rovers aka The Rabble Mob of Minos. They are travelling a theater-folk who performed the traditional Commedia Follia. Kinda similar to a circus group. I really didn’t have an idea how would Celia and Anya be a part of the Rovers as they were a fiercely tight-knit group. Impenetrable. But that first performance/audition they did deserve a standing ovation! The performance was exciting and thrilling!

“Perhaps she started out good, but for all her desire to help, her own people had killed her twice. It was enough to change anyone from philanthropist to manipulator. It was clear that she held some grudges.”

Just when Celia and Anya are adjusting to the troupe life someone, they never expected followed them – The Divine suddenly made an appearance. Now, this is where things got a bit confusing to me. Because a LOT happened when The Divine showed up! I honestly got lost and I was not able to fully grasp the scenes that happened. I just find myself skimming thru some pages.

But despite that, I find the story good in overall. It had its ups and down and it took me sometime to get used to the flowery writing, but the solid magical system and world building carry me thru some of the mishaps I have encountered while reading. Plus, the story is original, unique and really intriguing. I can definitely see myself anticipating for the next book!

3/5 Flower Rating

Another question mark bloomed on Celia’s forearm, bigger and bolder than the others. The ink unfurled in an oily black stretched-out tentacle, wrist to elbow, the dot on the bottom a furious splatter. An hour ago Celia had still tried to hide Anya’s messages by tugging her shirtsleeve down. An hour ago she’d still cared that she was in a busy shisha lounge, surrounded by people who might notice the strangeness of Divine tattoos appearing, then vanishing, on her skin.

But lovely absinthe made cares like that disappear.

Celia pressed her finger to the angry splotch on the bottom. I’d tell you where I am, Anny, if only I knew! Her gaze drifted over the haphazard collection of empty glasses on the table in front of her. “Huzzah, absinthe.”

The rest of the room was alive with clusters of pretty people doing flirty things: enjoying their drinks and smoke, unwinding after a long day of doing whatever it was normal people did all day. Shimmering tenors, as individual as fingerprints and much more visible, shone around each body. Tenors were usually the boldest thing about a person’s look, but there in the lounge their glint and vibrancy blended in the fog of shisha smoke that swirled from the colorful hookahs. Glasses clinked, laughter swelled, and everything fluttered: colorful sleeves, loose pants, long hair, light from a hundred candles, jingly jewelry hanging from ears and wrists and necks.

With her black everything— short hair, suspenders, tie, top hat, attitude— Celia stuck out like a monochrome stain amid all the color and life. Judging by the lounge owner’s fluency in scowls, they’d finally noticed.

Not bothering to right her awkward sprawl, Celia smiled as they approached.

Or maybe it wasn’t a smile, but a frown.

Whichever way was up. Whichever way was down.

“Time to move on,” they said, their voice a deep baritone.

No, time to take a hostage. Pulling the hookah to the floor, Celia clamped the large bowl between her legs and hugged tight around its neck. They wouldn’t muscle her out with so much expensive blown glass at risk. “A few more blasts, good soul,” she said, jiggling the mouthpiece in her hand and then putting it to her lips.

The smoke trapped in the bowl tasted like all the people who’d touched the pipe that day, swirling together. Dia, how long had she been sitting there, doing nothing but staring?

The owner raised their caterpillar eyebrows as Celia struggled to hold in a violent cough. “You’ve had the green fairy; you’ve had some shisha. Now out you go, Lalita.”

A flush crept up Celia’s neck. Fragile bird, my nimble little ass.

Read the full Excerpt here.

Kim Smejkal lives with her family on muse-satiating Vancouver Island, which means she’s often lost in the woods or wandering a beach. She writes dark fantasy for young adults and not-so-young adults, always with a touch of magic. Her debut novel, INK IN THE BLOOD, will release from HMH in early 2020, with a sequel to follow in 2021. She is represented by Daniel Lazar of Writers House.

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Get a chance to win one (1) of two (2) finished copies of INK IN THE BLOOD by Kim Smejkal and temporary tattoos (US Only)

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Blog Tour & ARC Review + Giveaway: Loveboat, Taipei (Loveboat, Taipei #1) by Abigail Hing Wen

(Full Blog Tour Schedule here.)

Loveboat, Taipei (Loveboat, Taipei #1)   by Abigail Hing Wen

Published 07 January 2020 by Harper Teen

Perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen, and praised as “an intense rush of rebellion and romance” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Garber, this romantic and layered Own Voices debut from Abigail Hing Wen is a dazzling, fun-filled romp.

“Our cousins have done this program,” Sophie whispers. “Best kept secret. Zero supervision.

And just like that, Ever Wong’s summer takes an unexpected turnGone is Chien Tan, the strict educational program in Taiwan that Ever was expecting. In its place, she finds Loveboat: a summer-long free-for-all where hookups abound, adults turn a blind eye, snake-blood sake flows abundantly, and the nightlife runs nonstop.

But not every student is quite what they seem:

Ever is working toward becoming a doctor but nurses a secret passion for dance.

Rick Woo is the Yale-bound child prodigy bane of Ever’s existence whose perfection hides a secret.

Boy-crazy, fashion-obsessed Sophie Ha turns out to have more to her than meets the eye.

And under sexy Xavier Yeh’s shell is buried a shameful truth he’ll never admit.

When these students’ lives collide, it’s guaranteed to be a summer Ever will never forget.

GOODREADS 
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KOBO | ITUNES | GOOGLE BOOKS

*ARC Kindly provided by Harper Teen thru FFBC in exchange for an honest review*

Starting this book on the first day of the year was really a good decision! I had a great time reading. Makes me more excited for my own Taipei trip this year.

Abigail Hing Wen have written a very promising and powerful debut which as the tagline says fits “For fans of Crazy Rich Asians or Jane Austen Comedy of Manners, with a hint of La La Land” Now, I love all of these three and have them altogether in one book, uhm yes please?

“This is Loveboat. One big party. All summer. And no one’s going to ruin it.”

On her last summer before college, Ever was sent by her parents to an educational program in Taipei. But what her parents don’t know is that this program also known as Loveboat often leaves the students unsupervised. This means a summer-long free-for-all where hookups abound, adults turn a blind eye, snake-blood sake flows abundantly, and the nightlife runs nonstop – things that are very new for Ever.

“My parents sent me to discover my heritage, but in the process, I’m also finding parts of myself, even if that self isn’t who they want me to be.”

The story introduces us to a unique set of characters that I enjoyed reading about. Ever is studying to be a doctor but her passion is really with dancing. She was introduced as this character who lives by her parents rules but as the story progress, we’ve read about her breaking every single one of those rules and along the way learned new things about her  heritage and herself.

I had fun reading about the bubbly character of Sophie – she’s boy obsessed and had a great fashion sense. She’s a bit wild and liberated; total opposite of Ever. Maybe that’s why they really matched up from the start. But there is really more than meets the eye on her character. I was surprised and hurt by the twist, but I know somewhere, that is bound to happen. Duh, a friend complication needs to arise somewhere. (lol) (I know I’m being pretty vague here, but I don’t want give out spoilers).

Rick aka Wonderboy is the Ivy League bound football player and Ever’s bane of existence. While I did not really like him on the first few chapters, Rick has somewhat grown on me, I guess. He was entirely just an okay character for me. Then, there’s Xavier, the sexy loner but a player character. I always fall for the dark bad boy types, so its again no surprise that I ended up rooting for Xavier. For some reason, I just enjoyed his brooding and mysterious character.

For the romance part of the story, you all know how much I hate love triangles. I was actually hesitant to continue reading when I felt that a triangle is approaching, but since I was hooked and I actually liked both parties involved, I continue reading. And I can say that in such a long time, this the only time again that I have honestly liked reading a story that involves a love triangle. (Yay me!)

The situations that these teens have went thru are pretty entertaining to read. It was like I’m there with them walking into the unknown. Though, there are times that it feels like the story tends to get all over the place especially with the Ever, Sophie, Xavier and Rick drama, I ended up loving that mess of complication.

The issues mentioned and included on this story are very relevant to today’s world. Family Pressures/Responsibility is one of the main topics of the story and as an Asian myself, I relate to this. Though, I was still given by my parents the freedom to choose my degree and other school and adult stuff that I wanted to do, the pressure that Ever’s parents were giving her felt so real and on point. Correct me if I’m wrong but parents especially Asian parents really tend to be dramatic and protective especially on the future of their children. I guess these types of parents are leaning more on the practical side of life that’s why they choose the way they do. The story also talks about several other relevant topics but as I write this review, I thought that they were somewhat brushed off. There’s a talk about leaked nude photos, cheating, depression – these topics were mentioned but I can’t really point out if they were properly addressed.

Overall, Loveboat, Taipei is one fun and enjoying book to read! It’s a whirlwind story of teenage romance filled with drama, heartbreaks, cultural and self-exploration and familial ties. If you are fans of contemporary reads with interesting and bold characters, this one is really for you!

4/5 Flower Rating

 “Rick and this summer gave me the courage to take charge of my own future. I can only hope that I’ve done the same for him.”

“My parents sent me to discover my heritage, but in the process, I’m also finding parts of myself, even if that self isn’t who they want me to be.”

“And as I lunge and whirl my bo staff, dancing to the ancient drumbeats, I feel all parts of myself coming together: glad that a part of me is Chinese, a part of me American and all of me is simply me.”

Abigail was born in West Virginia to a family of immigrants: Her mother is from the Philippines and her father from Indonesia, and her grandparents emigrated to those countries from Fujian and Shandong provinces in China.

Abigail grew up in Ohio and graduated from Harvard University and Columbia Law School. She worked in Washington DC for the Senate, as a law clerk for a federal judge. and now in Silicon Valley in venture capital and artificial intelligence. She also earned her Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

In her spare time, she enjoys long walks with her husband and two boys, and hanging out with friends and over 100 family members in the Bay Area. She loves music and dances to it when no one is watching.

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Have you read, Love boat, Taipei? What do you think about it?

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Blog Tour: Crimson Ash by Haley Sulich

Title: Crimson Ash

Author: Haley Sulich

Published: 10 May 2018 | Write Plan

Synopsis:

You may live as a soldier or face death. Choose wisely.

Solanine Lucille wants her little sister back. Eight years ago, the government kidnapped her sister Ember, stole her memories, and transformed her into a soldier. But Solanine refuses to give up. Now that she and her fiancé have located the leader of a rebel group, she believes she can finally bring Ember home. But then the soldiers raid the rebels, killing her fiancé and leaving Solanine alone with her demons and all the weapons needed for revenge.

After raiding a rebel camp, sixteen-year-old Ember doesn’t understand why killing some boy bothers her. She’s a soldier—she has killed hundreds of people without remorse. But after she fails a mission, the rebels hold her hostage and restore her memories. Ember recognizes her sister among the rebels and realizes the boy she killed was Solanine’s fiancé.

Ember knows she can’t hide the truth forever, but Solanine has secrets too.

As their worlds clash, the two sisters must decide if their relationship is worth fighting for. And one wrong move could destroy everything—and everyone—in their path.

EXCERPT

A soon-to-be City of Graven resident appears in the middle of the room and frantically whips her head around in the dark. It’s common for people to panic. They aren’t gifted with night-vision eyes like us because they weren’t created in a laboratory. In case any of them decide to attack a soldier, we have the advantage of sight.

Once all the future civilians pack into the room with the soldiers, the Commander enters the coordinates for the City of Graven into a keypad. The moment she finishes, an electric current begins to charge the air. Sweat drips into the scrape on my cheek where a bullet grazed my face.

Not a muscle of mine twitches.

Seconds pass before the familiar flash of light and feeling of nothingness wraps around my body while we travel. Then I land on the flat roof of a building.

The new City of Graven residents turn in a circle. Their hands tremble and mouths gape open with an emotion I fail to understand. Mountains—invisible to their mundane vision in the dark—cut jagged lines into the horizon. Skyscrapers rise higher than the one we stand on. The glo-wood trees below lie evenly spaced where streets once were, and they bathe every glass structure in a pale luminescence.

This is the last city on Earth that gleams at night. Everything else died when the Devil’s Dream wiped out most of the human race. Nobody could locate the origin of the virus because it spread too quickly, taking down the strongest and even remotest civilizations. That’s why soldiers search the Earth for survivors. But this fragile society can’t function if people refuse to participate, which is why we give the Choice.

As we wait silently, the clanging of metal emanates from the nearby stairwell. A man in his late thirties appears from below. Mordecai Graven greets his new citizens while soldiers descend the stairs to the individual Alters lining the walls.

I follow the group and step in front of an Alter. Type the code to my cell.

578029

Pushing my palm against the Alter, I feel the faint current racing through my fingers toward my chest. A flash of light. Floating.

Then I arrive in my ten-by-ten foot room. Three concrete walls and a thick sheet of glass surround me. My night vision stains everything blue.

Soldiers live in the dark.

I shed my black gear and dump it into the laundry chute before grabbing a pair of fresh clothes from the concrete shelf. Without my armoured gloves covering my hands, my heavily scarred fingers are a stark contrast to the dark clothing.

Entering the bathroom, I clean my dagger before placing my hands in the dink. Only one temperature of water ever sputters from the faucet. Boiling liquid flows over my fingers as I rinse away the dried blood. My skin blisters and turns raw.

Soldiers don’t feel pain.

Translucent liquid from the automatic curative cream dispenser on the wall begins to repair the damaged nerve cells of my hands and the wound from the bullet graze. The skin scars over, speeding up a process that should take weeks. I touch my hand to the unbroken skin on my cheek.

It’s no longer a bleeding gash.

After taking a quick shower in thirty-three-degree water—just above the freezing point to make us immune to temperature differences—I dress and lie on my bare mattress, staring at the labyrinth of cracks on the ceiling.

 

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

 

05 March (Monday)

06 March (Tuesday)

07 March (Wednesday)

08 March (Thursday)

09 March (Friday)

10 March (Saturday)

Blog Tour & ARC Review: Broken Beautiful Hearts by Kami Garcia

Title: Broken Beautiful Hearts

Author: Kami Garcia

Published: 06 February 2018 | Imprint

Date Read: 04 February 2018

Synopsis:

Before, Peyton was a star soccer player with the perfect boyfriend, Reed. Now, she has a torn knee ligament, a scholarship on the line, and a shattered sense of self. No one believes Reed pushed her, causing her injury, and Peyton just wants to leave the trauma behind. Living with her uncle and twin cousins in their small, football-obsessed town seems like a great escape plan.

There, Peyton meets Owen—high school classmate and local MMA fighter. Though Owen is charming and gentle, Peyton is determined to repress her growing attraction. But when her old and new life collide, Peyton must reclaim the truth of her past in order to save her future.

*ARC Kindly provided by Macmillan | Clarion & Inkslinger PR thru Netgalley for Review*

I’ve heard and read about Kami Garcia and her works for a couple of years now since I started blogging but its just now that I finally picked up one of her works.

“I believe everything happens for a reason and usually the reason sucks”

Peyton’s senior life is shaping up nicely. She has great friends, a perfect boyfriend and is on the way to becoming an athlete to her dream school – UNC –  for soccer. On the day she dubbed as “One Perfect Day” everything seemed to shatter right before her eyes. She caught the reason why her boyfriend seems to be changing and keeping secrets lately. They broke up, argument ensues, and terrible things happened that forces her to move with her uncle in Tennessee. It is there that she meets her twin cousins, Christian and Cameron, the friendly cheerleader and the twins’ friend Grace and the aspiring kick-boxer, Owen.

The story started good and high for me. I’m craving to read a YA Romance lately and I’m so happy that I pick this one up. Though I have a hunch that certain parts of the book might be too deep and/or emotional, I felt excited. Broken Beautiful Hearts is one of those books that will give you an emotional roller coaster kind of ride. You’ll feel happy, sad, angry, tormented and just all over the place. Kami Garcia puts a lot of secrets, revelations, twists and turns in the story that others may find somewhat predictable, but I find myself enjoying every chapter and its predictability. The plot is entertaining.

The lead characters Peyton and Owen were written with depth and reality. These two might be your typical high-school seniors, but at such a youthful age it seems life they’ve been through a lot.

I didn’t immediately loved Peyton but as the story goes, she grew on me. I find her a bit sarcastic and petulant at the beginning. But as her story progress, she became a stronger and more independent version of herself. Despite being accused as a liar by people who are once close to her, she sticks with her story of truth and didn’t back down; she stood up for herself despite the consequences it might cause her. She didn’t back down from all the stones that were thrown on her way. I appreciate how the author gave Peyton a great support system – her mom, uncle and cousins.

“Any girl with a heartbeat would have trouble ignoring the pull of his sexy smile and beautiful brown eyes.”

Even after reading the story, Owen still seems like a stranger to me. Don’t take me wrong, I liked his character and appreciate his great parts in it and I know what we learned about him on the story was already an important thing, but I could’ve wished we get to know more about him and his life. I feel like we were only introduced to it on a surface level. But anyway, his character played a very vital role in the story. Just like Peyton, he didn’t back down from all the stones that life threw at him.

The chemistry between these two was very well written. I find myself enjoying their sweet banters and flirting. I’m also glad that the “love story” part of the story didn’t overly occupy the entirety of it.

A major part of the book focuses on two types of abuse – relationship and substance abuse. Kami Garcia was able to handle this sensitive topic with care and in a very realistic way. She didn’t only give us the surface level on how the abuse happen and how it affects the person abused but also how it affects the people around that person. This part of the plot was so important, and I think Kami Garcia handled it greatly.

The writing style also worked well for me. It was somewhat intense, emotion-filled, catchy and strong. There wasn’t a page or chapter that I wasn’t invested in. The ending was quite predictable. But as mentioned on the blurb (which is what I was also holding too as I was reading), this book will break our hearts and eventually put it back together again.

Overall, I really love reading Beautiful Broken Hearts. It was a story of fighting, healing, and letting go of things you have no control over.

“We don’t get one perfect day. We get a lifetime of imperfect days and its up to us to decide what we want to do with them.”

This is not how I envisioned celebrating my big news. I reach for my phone to check the time, wondering if it’s too early to head home. But it isn’t in my pocket. Nothing but lip balm, house keys, and Reed’s car keys. God forbid he carry anything except his phone. I pat down my coat. “I lost my phone.”

“It’s probably in the car, like the last three times you lost it. I need to run to the bathroom and then I’ll help you find it,” Tess says.

The line for the bathroom is six people deep. I can’t wait that long. “All my voice mails are on it.”

Tess knows that by all I really mean one—the last message from my dad. It’s the reason I’ve had the same phone for a year and a half, even though it barely holds a charge.

“I bet it’s in the car,” she says. “Don’t worry.”

“I’m just going to run out and check.” I leave through the back door.

Outside, a stone retaining wall snakes down the hill beside the house. The wall separates a paved footpath from the long driveway. My arm scrapes against the rock as I rush toward the steps at the end of the walk- way that lead down to the street.

Reed parked his car across from the steps, and I can’t get it unlocked fast enough. I search for my phone in the front seat and between the crevices of the center console.

Nothing.

Think. Retrace your steps.

When we got in Reed’s car I tossed my jacket in the back seat. My phone could’ve fallen out of the pocket. I lean between the front seats and grope around.

Come on. Please be here.

What if it’s not?

My chest tightens. I can’t lose Dad’s message.

Reed’s car is full of junk—hand wraps, sparring pads, sweaty T-shirts, and empty energy drinks. His smelly gym bag is open on the floor. I dig through it until my fingers hit something rectangular and smooth.

A box.

I take it out of the bag, expecting a cheap plastic box like one Reed uses as a first aid kit. But this box is glossy black cardboard, like a gift box.

Reed doesn’t do surprises, and he thinks presents are a waste of money. The only gift he has given me in the seven months we’ve been together was for my birthday. And Tess and Mrs. Michaels don’t have birthdays anytime soon.

My stomach bottoms out.

All the time he’s been spending at the gym . . . What if Reed hasn’t been there every night?

Things have been off between us for a while and I’m not a fan of his recent mood swings, but I’d never cheat on him. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t.

The box doesn’t have a store name or logo printed on it, and it’s a weird size—too big for a bracelet and too deep for a necklace. A watch, maybe?

I open the lid.

Kami Garcia is the #1 New York Times, USA Today & international bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures and Dangerous Creatures novels. BEAUTIFUL CREATURES has been published in 50 countries and translated in 39 languages, and the film Beautiful Creatures released in theaters in 2013, from Warner Brothers. Kami’s solo series, The Legion, includes the instant New York Times bestseller UNBREAKABLE, and the sequel UNMARKED, both of which were nominated for Bram Stoker Awards. Her other works include THE X-FILES ORIGINS: AGENT OF CHAOS and the YA contemporary novels THE LOVELY RECKLESS and the forthcoming BROKEN BEAUTIFUL HEARTS (February 2018).

Kami was a teacher for seventeen years before co-authoring her first novel on a dare from seven of her students. If she isn’t busy watching Supernatural, Kami can teach you how to escape from a pair of handcuffs or bake a Coca-Cola cake. She lives in Maryland with her family, and their dogs Spike and Oz (named after characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Visit Kami at http://www.KamiGarcia.com.

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