Why I’ll Never Choose That Book: The Science of Book Appeal

Why I am never going to choose that coverWhy I’ll Never Choose That Book

Why I’ll Never Choose That Book: The Science of Book Appeal. Continuing from Why I’d Choose that Book last week These are the random things that totally put me off reading a book (without a HUGE recommendation from trusted bookworms)…

I am never going to willingly pick up these books:

Ugly Covers

Cover art is a fickle thing and, shallow though it may be, it means everything when I choose which books I read. As these are difficult to put into words I’ve included image examples.

Why I'll Never Choose That Book

Previous posts on cover love or the lack thereof:

The Complexity of Book Covers

When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books

Book Covers I’d Frame as Pieces of Art

A controversial new cover for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Apocalypse/Dystopia

I have read these before and even like some of them, but I feel that is genre needs an originality injection. The stories tend to run almost to a script and although I have no idea how authors could come up with a new way of saving the world, but until then I will be avoiding these stories.

Horror

I love psychological thrillers, but horror is just not for me anymore. I once adored this genre, with Pet Sematary by Stephen King a favourite, but they no longer appeal.

Zombies & Pirates

I just don’t get it.

Steampunk

Tried it – hated it.

Manga

No interest at all even though *hangs head I have never even tried it.

Short Stories

Short stories are not bad and I have read and loved them before, especially those with unpredictable twists such as Roald Dahl and Jeffrey Archer are famous for. But I prefer to get my teeth into a bigger slice of story.

Autobiographies

A huge mistake any author can make when telling their own story is to embellish and deny. I have read far too many sanctimonious versions to attempt another.

Hardcovers

I rarely purchase hardcovers, not only are they expensive but awkward to hold. The most recent hardcover that I refuse to buy is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. There is only one reason why it’s expensive and only available in hardcover and that’s to shamelessly exploit Harry Potter fans.

Author Self-Rating/Review

This is such a turn-off, but many authors are desperate enough to give their books a 5-star rating on Goodreads. One author actually wrote “Well, you didn’t think I would rate my own book badly did you?” under his 5 beaming stars. I wouldn’t read his book if he paid me!

Top Ten Tuesday

 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

 Strange the Dreamer

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

…the dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around.

Strange the Dreamer is… well strange and I can’t decide if it’s a good strange or a bad strange. It’s not what I expected… and I am not completely dazzled.

“The library knows its own mind,” old Master Hyrrokkin told him, leading him back up the secret stairs. “When it steals a boy, we let it keep him.”

But then, my expectations were exceptionally high. I am in love with the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. Every single book in the trilogy is brilliant. A bubbling, melting pot of irresistible words spinning heartbreakingly beautiful tales. So strange (the good amazing strange) that the weird, endearing characters fit right inside my heart. The heartbreaking twists still keep me awake in the early hours. I think it’s safe to say the Daughter of Smoke and Bone and its sequels Days of Blood and Starlight and Dreams of Gods and Monsters (links to where I flail about in wonder that is this series) are my favourite fantasy books, surpassing Narnia and Lord of The Rings. So with all that expectation, I shouldn’t be surprised that I didn’t fall instantly in love with Strange the Dreamer.

There were two mysteries, actually: one old, one new. The old one opened his mind, but it was the new one that climbed inside, turned several circles, and settled in with a grunt – like a satisfied dragon in a cozy new lair.

I started the book the day it released and my pre-order arrived in my Kindle. I devoured the prequel – a delicate tasty morsel that I would be craving for the rest of the book. I read through the first chapter thinking, it’s going to be good, it’s going to be great. Halfway through the second chapter, my thoughts turned to what…? I left it for a while – so it could think about its problems – but didn’t pick it up until a week later on Shannon’s (It Starts at Midnight) reassurance that it does get better. Armed with this advice from a trusted blogger friend I plundered on. And yes, it does get better – slowly, achingly slowly, until almost at the end when it broke through ok to good. Then the ending… I’m not even going to go there – you all know how I feel about cliff-hangers.

On the second Sabbat of the Twelfthmoon, in the city of Weep, a girl fell from the sky.

But I can’t stop thinking about the prequel and how it fell into its place in the story and so the inevitable three star I was planning to give bumped up to 3.5 stars. But I have never given half stars before and it deserves more than a three but not quite a four…

That was the year Zosma sank to its knees and bled great bouts of men into a war about nothing.

In the end, it was the two annoying typo’s that confirmed the result. Forgivable in an advance review copy but not so much in a book published by a respectable publisher and one I paid full price for.

… with his nose that had been broken by fairy tales…

Lazlo is a difficult character, one whose weaknesses are his strength, and I didn’t like him at first. He grew on me slowly, although he will never be as real to me as the Sarai is. She and her makeshift family are the characters that give the story life and I wish they had more space in the book.3 star

 

Title: Strange the Dreamer
Series: Strange the Dreamer #1 Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
Publication Date: 28 March 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Source: Purchased

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The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around – and Lazlo Strange, war orphan, and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries – including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?  — Abstract from Goodreads.com

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The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

The Last Thing You Said

The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

 

Told on alternating PVO’s (point of view) – which I love – The Last Thing You Said is simply a beautiful story.

Separated by their grief, Ben and Lucy share slithers of Trixie with the reader. In addition, the Trixie stories, interspersed throughout the book, bring her vividly to life. Sara Biren writes from personal experience and empowered by her words with their emotional triggers I sank into sorrow, joy, and hope. All the feels in one book!

I slip my hand into the pocket of my jeans. It’s there – Ben’s agate, smooth, cool to the touch.

I make notes while reading review copies and looking back today at The Last Thing You Said’s notes scrawled across saved screenshots I was plunged right back into the story. In my own hardly legible scrawl… I want to live in this book and have the characters as my best friends…

… I pull on my ratty army-green Rapala hoodie. An image comes to me, and I suck in a breath: Lucy wearing it, standing on the rocky shore of Lake Superior, orange streaks of sunrise glistening on the water behind her.

This is an excellent book to use for bibliotherapy as it explores grief and dealing with the death of a friend. In addition, the author has helpfully provided contacts to the National Alliance for Grieving Children at the back of this book, if only for those in the US. Open to Hope is available for international support.

She closed her eyes and willed all their sorrows and fears from their hearts to her own. Her heart was heavy and she staggered from the weight of it…5 Star

 

 

Title: The Last Thing You Said

Author: Sara BirenThe Last Thing You Said

Publication Date: 4 April 2017

Publisher: Amulet Books

Source: Review copy

 

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Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.   — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes are taken from my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval

There’s more to life than staying safe…

Caraval promised so much, and as with all books with tremendous hype, I was nervous going in. This was justified. The plot has brilliant potential, that just fell flat. I actually like whimsical writing and flowery similes, but some of the similes in this book were just too much.

The spray smelled of daisies and urine…

The pace is slow – the first 100 pages occur before the game even begins – and it’s very repetitive. Much of the story is just Scarlett’s angst and she wasn’t a character I felt much for. In fact, the characters are very stereotypical and with little substance to entice me to want to root for any of them.

Once inside you will be presented with a mystery that must be solved…

The world-building is flimsy and unsubstantial, giving the impression that, like cardboard, it could all blow over with the slightest breeze. This contributed to my difficulty in becoming more invested in the story.

… but the taste of his blood remained.

There were a few elements of the game that were good (look out for Nigel) and the twists were all unpredictable, but they were extremely confusing and unmemorable. I know I will not remember the ending – a dreaded cliff-hanger –  when it comes to the sequel.

The world tasted like ashes and lies…

The story comes across as juvenile and I think (minus the romance and abuse – which would be an improvement) this would be better suited to middle-grade readers.

He tasted like midnight and the wind, and shades of rich brown and light blue…

It is difficult not to compare Caraval with The Night Circus where Erin Morgenstern cleverly uses its confusing plot as an advantage and The Game by Diana Wynne Jones which is my favourite middle-grade fantasy.

3 star

it’s not all bad, but for me – it is just an okay story.

 

Title: Caraval
Series: Caraval #1
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publication Date: 31 January 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: Purchased

 

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Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.   — Abstract from Goodreads.com

 

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Goodbye Days

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

For the most part, you don’t hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house. Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone.

From Jeff Zentner, who writes about grief as if it were his own, Goodbye Days is a beautiful book, fraught with emotion.

A liquid rose-gold warmth – whatever color is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the color of aloneness – fills me briefly.

I wish there had been more insight into the individual personalities. I didn’t feel as though I really knew Mars, Eli and Blake.

Life is everywhere. Pulsing, humming. A great wheel turning.

In particular, I would like to have had the chance to understand Adair’s perspective, to get to know her and her relationship with her brother.

A movement evading my notice. The sun crossing the sky. It crept into my heart like vines overgrowing a stone wall. It caught me like a river rising and swelling.

In essence, this is a book that should be on the shelf in all high school libraries and brought to the attention of healthcare providers offering grief counseling.

4 Star

 

 

Title: Goodbye Days
Author: Jeff Zentner
Publication Date: 7 March 2017Goodbye Days
Publisher: Crown Books
Source: Purchased

 

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Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?   — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog

Unnatural deeds

Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog

I followed your footprints in the muddy snow.

Unnatural Deeds totally blew me over with its mind blowing twists. This is a book that I know will stick with me forever.

Looking back, if I had realized I was in danger, I might have run.

I read the ebook version and listened to the audio version and although the audio narrator’s voice didn’t quite fit with the book at first, a few chapters in it started feeling comfortable. I am pretty sure this is just because I am fairly new to audible and not used to American accents.

But then your head rolled like a puppet on a string.

The characters revealed themselves slowly and just when you think you know them, everything twists again.

I’d like to say that was when it began, but no. That was when it was cemented. I was a goner the second I looked into those eyes. 

This is a very difficult book to review without spoilers so I am going to leave it like this. But, please go and get a copy of this book. And let me know what you think of it. I am dying to share the secrets with someone!

“My sweet girl,” he said. “You and I are the same. Why would I ever hurt you?”

5 Star

 

 

Title: Unnatural Deeds
Author: Cyn Balog
Publication Date: 1 November 2016Unnatural deeds
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Review copy
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Secrets. Obsession. Murder. Victoria is about to discover just how dangerous it can be to lose yourself.

Victoria Zell doesn’t fit in, but she’s okay with that. All she needs is the company of her equally oddball boyfriend, Andrew. She doesn’t care what anyone else thinks…until magnetic, charming, mysterious Z comes into her life, and she starts lying to everyone she knows in an effort to unravel his secrets.

And then something terrible happens. Someone is dead and it’s time for Victoria to come clean. Interspersed with news clippings and police interviews, Victoria tells her story to Andrew, revealing her dark, horrible secrets…secrets that have finally come back to haunt her.  — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Slow and deliberate, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life chronicles in-depth the lives of a family, both biological and adopted. It’s not always happy, but it is realistic and the bittersweet undertone gives the book it’s strength.

I have a memory that is almost like a dream: yellow leaves from Mima’s mulberry tree are floating from the sky like giant snowflakes.

We already know that Benjamin Alire Sáenz writes beautifully (see Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe), but this is further proof He has written an engaging, seemingly effortless book which relies entirely on the characters and their relationships as they question the meaning of life.  The characters are unique, diverse and human. Well yes, obviously they are human! but I mean they have flaws, are irritating (Samantha’s nickname for Sal) but are still endearing and together form a book that should be on everyone’s bookshelf. My favourite character? Sal’s father, Vicente – he gives weight to the story, anchoring it away from continual angst.

I had something in me that scared me.

And the cover is stunning – another reason why it should be on your bookshelf.

I didn’t understand the logic of this thing called living. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to.

So why just four stars? Book ratings are complicated and I always rely on a gut feel. I loved this book, but it was slow and at times I found myself checking to see how many pages to the end (never easy to estimate on ebook).

It was all so strange, almost if we’d been walking along in one direction and all of a sudden we were going in another and we were suddenly on an unfamiliar road, finding our way through the dark, and we didn’t know where we were going anymore. 

In essence, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is more than a story – it’s a slice of life.

. . . on that day she was wearing dignity. So much more beautiful than pearls.4 Star

 

Title: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life 

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Publication Date: 7 March 2017
Publisher: Clarion Books
Source: Review copy

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Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican-American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?  — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give is a raw, shocking account of a young girl who witnesses a brutal, unprovoked tragedy. Split between two opposing worlds her hands are tied and her voice unheard. Stepping up and speaking up could have devastating consequences, but keeping quiet brings its own set of problems and Starr is stuck in the middle.

I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice making sure the world knew what went down. Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.

Debut author, Angie Thomas, brings an unflinchingly realistic voice to YA and kicks open a door exposing one of humanity’s greatest failures. The unfair double standards, suspicion, fear and hate of fellow humans, neighbours, summed up in one word: racism.

He also leaves instructions for us – stay inside.

Riding the pages like a rollercoaster, this is a book will shock you, scare you and throw you headfirst into emotions you haven’t experienced before.

We open our eyes, Sekani flinches. I’m used to gunshots, but these are louder, faster.

I became so caught up in the story that I was taken by surprise when the pages ran out. I hope we have more from Angie Thomas in the near future.

We’re the ones who get the short end of the stick, but we’re the ones they fear the most.5 Star

 

Title: The Hate U GiveHate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Publication Date: 28 February 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Review copy

 

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.     — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

In the Hope of Memories by Olivia Rivers

In the Hope of Memories

In the Hope of Memories starts without preamble dropping the reader straight into a story where grief and anger swirl and mix with (coincidentally?) hope.

Time won’t stop just because I beg it to, so I might as well spend it tangled up in Hope’s friends, instead of strung up alone with memories of everything I’ve ruined.

Hope (as in the noun and the verb) is the center of the story told via multiple PVO’s. The characters are eclectic, realistic, diverse and their different personalities clash as they race across town to complete  a scavenger hunt.  Of them all, Aiden is the one that I related to the most, although I can’t quite pinpoint why. His courage? His loyalty? His strength? Maybe all three…

His voice quivers like a plucked string on a broken guitar, and I get the feeling it’s the equivalent of me screaming at the top of my lungs. 

Gitty, sad and unexpectedly humorous in the best kind of way and I love that the diversity is natural and never comes across as forced.

. . .  it takes a full four seconds before he manages to get it off. Seconds we don’t have. Seconds that could kill. . .

Art forms a huge part of the story and I would have loved to see the art visually represented in the book.

I don’t really understand exactly what I am looking at, but it’s gorgeous. There’s a Chinese character inked to the front of the card, and it’s made up of a bunch of little ink feathers woven together, The entire thing is blood red, but the boldest splotches are the stars dotted over the feathers.

4 Star

 

 

Title: In the Hope of MemoriesIn the Hope of Memories
Author: Olivia Rivers
Publication Date: 21 March 2016
Publisher: Red Sparrow Press
Source: Review copy

 

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Hope Jackson has lived her short life to the fullest, but her four closest friends are dangling on the brink of disaster. Right before dying of a rare heart condition, Hope sets up a scavenger hunt across New York City using her graffiti art. The directions she leaves her friends are simple: Solve the clues hidden in her art, and they’ll solve the problems haunting their lives.

Two days after her heart fails, Hope’s friends are thrown together:
Aiden, her best friend, whose plans to attend college have been scattered by his OCD.
Kali, her foster sister, whose last ties to sanity are as razor-thin as her anorexic waistline.
Erik, her high school crush, whose success as an athlete is based on a lie with no end in sight.
And Sam, her online pen-pal, whose perfect life exploded into chaos in the aftermath of a school bombing.

Together, the four teens take to the streets of New York to complete Hope’s scavenger hunt and fulfill her dying wishes. But in order to unravel the clues hidden in Hope’s graffiti, her friends will need to confront their personal demons head on.  Hope is within reach.    — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.
Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

Lessons in Falling by Diana Gallagher

Lessons in Falling

Lessons in Falling by Diana Gallagher

Lessons in Falling is about friendships, how they evolve and the dangers of losing yourself to a stronger character. It has a vital message regarding finding yourself and the negative effects of xenophobia, more relevant today than ever before.

I love books based almost entirely on characterisations and was really looking forward to this promising story. While I did enjoy it, I didn’t get the feel of the characters and as a result, the story fell flat. The friendship between Savannah and Cassie was complicated, but despite the strength of her character, I didn’t get a sense of her and this meant her character’s impact was diluted.

The storyline was predictable and without strong characterisation Lessons in Falling didn’t get quite off the ground. Rather hovering around the ‘it’s okay’ line.  The exception (yes there is one character her who really stood out) was Marcos. While I loved the slow, slow burning romance, it was his easy friendships, protectiveness and his reactions to the racial encounters that kept me turning the pages. His spark grew during the story and I would love to hear his POV.

It was no surprise, reading further about the author, that she is a gymnast herself. This came through in her explanations and references on the sport, particularly the self-doubt and fear which can affect the performance.

3 Star

 

Recommended age: 12+

Title: Lessons in FallingLessons in Falling
Author:  Diana Gallagher
Publication Date: 7 February 2017
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Source: Review copy
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When Savannah Gregory blows out her knee –and her shot at a gymnastics scholarship – she decides she’s done with the sport forever. Without gymnastics, she has more time for her best friend, Cassie. She’s content to let her fun, impulsive best friend plan a memorable senior year.

That is, until Cassie tries to kill herself.

Savannah wants to understand what happened, but Cassie refuses to talk about it and for the first time, Savannah has to find her own way. The only person she can turn to is Marcos, the boy who saved Cassie’s life. Being with him makes her see who she could be and what she really wants: gymnastics.

But Cassie doesn’t approve of Marcos or of Savannah going back to gymnastics, and the tighter she tries to hold onto Savannah, the farther it pulls them apart. Without Cassie to call the shots, Savannah discovers how capable she is on her own—and that maybe her best friend’s been holding her back all along.   — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

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