Bad Juju in WICKED CHARM–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review and giveaway for a contemporary YA mystery/romance from Amber Hart. WICKED CHARM is an interesting read about two kids finding a connection, and the killer who might be trying to cut them loose.

Catch my review and enter the gift-blast giveaway down below.
About the book:
Nothing good comes from living in the Devil’s swamp.
Willow Bell thinks moving to the Okefenokee area isn’t half bad, but nothing prepares her for what awaits in the shadows of the bog.
Girls are showing up dead in the swamp. And she could be next.
Everyone warns Willow to stay away from Beau Cadwell―the bad boy at the top of their suspect list as the serial killer tormenting the small town.
But beneath his wicked, depthless eyes, there’s something else that draws Willow to him.
When yet another girl he knew dies, though, Willow questions whether she can trust her instincts…or if they’re leading to her own death.

How about a little taste?

Though Gran’s land is mostly wet, there’s solidness, too. My eyes trace the long path that cuts the property between Gran and Mr. Cadwell in half. I’m expecting to see nature—the kinds of birds Dad and Mom study, snakes, grass, and forever sky—the same things I’ve seen every morning since moving here with Dad and Mom to help Gran, who’s ailing but doesn’t like to admit it.

I get halfway down the path with my stare before my eyes snag on something. A serving spoon falls from my hand with a clatter into the sink.

“Who,” I whisper, “is that?”

Across the way stands a boy. He’s staring at me, wearing a twisted grin like he knows me. The wind ruffles his depths-of-the-ocean black hair. He’s wearing a dark shirt and dark jeans, and I cannot tear my eyes from his.

Gran hobbles over and looks out the window. “What is he doing so close to our side?”

“You know him?” I ask.

I can’t stop staring out the old weathered screen.

“Hell right, I do. Grandson of the evil next door. Trouble in living form. Someone oughta hand that boy a Bible. Change his life forever and ever, amen.”

Gran curses a lot. “Hell” is her favorite word.

“Hell, you’d better look away first,” Gran says. “B’fore he snares you for good.”

I wonder if she’s right. I want to look away first. Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t want to look away at all.

“Mother!” Dad’s voice enters the room a moment before he does. “Did I just hear you cursing around Willow again?”

I rip my eyes away—though it’s hard—to see Dad clad in shorts and a T-shirt, ready for another day of observation. He and Mom are ornithologists, scientists who study birds. Mom follows Dad into the kitchen and takes a seat at the table; her strawberry-blond hair is braided and slipped through the adjustable hole in her hat. Dad’s hair is like Gran’s and mine, his eyes, too. Mom’s eyes are blue, and I’m secretly glad mine are not. I enjoy being like Gran.

“It’s not good to curse around her; she’s only seventeen,” Dad continues.

In Florida, Dad and Mom studied birds so much that I hardly ever saw them. Here’s no different, but at least now I have Gran to keep me company.

“Doesn’t matter, and you know it,” Gran says. “A heart is a heart is a heart. A few words here and there won’t change that.”

My stare goes to the window again. The boy is gone.

“Quit looking for that boy, you hear?” Gran says, knowing.

“I’m not looking for him,” I reply. But I’m a lying liar.

“What boy?” Dad asks.

I join him and Mom at the table.

“No one,” my lying self answers.

“Stop thinking about him,” Gran says.

“I’m not!” I say, frustrated. But only because she knows me so well that I can’t hide myself from her.

Clearly Gran isn’t a fan. We drop it and eat our breakfast, Dad and Mom jabbering about some new species of bird they think they’ve discovered. Gran watching me like a hawk. And me wondering about the gorgeous black-souled, trouble-in-living-form grandson of the evil next door.

My Review:
Willow Bell has just come to like in the Okefenokee swamp with her aging grandmother and her parents–who are ornithologists and often gone on bird-watching excursions. Her grandma’s property has one close neighbor, Mr. Cadwell, who her Gran states is the Devil. He shares his home with his twin grandkids, Beau and Charlotte. Willow, Beau and Charlotte are all seniors in high school, and Willow notices Beau rather soon after her arrival. His fierce stare and attractiveness pull her in, though she gives good weight to her Gran’s warnings about Cadwells and how they will break a woman’s heart.

Beau has a big reputation as a heartbreaker, and it’s well-earned. Still, Willow isn’t too starry eyed. She may find Beau attractive, but she’s also a girl with a mission on her mind. She wants to explore her new surroundings and make new friends. Any interaction with Beau is long on exploring–outside of one’s own mind–and short on the physical. Beau is deeply private, and the rumors swill regarding his parents and their long absence–though that didn’t make much sense to me; its a small community. Nosy parkers abound. Still, he likes that Willow gives him the space to be real, and he confides in her some of his deepest secrets. Their bond is tested once the bodies of two girls turn up in the swamp. Two girls that Beau briefly dated. Is Beau involved? What about his friends, who seem a mite too jealous of Beau getting all the girls to swoon for him?

Willow is quick to defend Beau, but evidence points to someone close to him, and she’s not sure how to take it. Naturally, Beau defends his own, but the answer only comes to light when his family is threatened. It’s an interesting mystery/romance as Beau and Willow fight for their love against both Willow’s disapproving Gran, and the killer. I liked the action bits, and the context. The swamp is so well-described it’s almost another character in the book. These kids truly love their world, and are highly protective of the land and people who live there. That was interesting to experience, as a reader.

The end is a nice twist, with a killer that wasn’t the first suspect to mind. While Beau and Charlotte deal with their own personal tragedies, Willow’s there as a buffer, a friend, and more for Beau, just like she started.

Interested? You can find WICKED CHARM on Goodreads, Amazon (US, UK, CA, and AU) Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and GooglePlay. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a gift bundle including a $10 Starbucks card, a signed copy of WICKED CHARM, and two ebooks.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Amber Hart resides on the Florida coastline with family and a plethora of animals she affectionately refers to as her urban farm. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She’s the author of Wicked Charm and the Before & After series for teen readers, and the Untamed series for adult readers. Visit her online at http://www.amberhartbooks.com

Catch up with Amber on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

There Was Love AFTER US–Review and Giveaway

afterus-blogtour copy
Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for AFTER US, a gritty YA romance newly-released by Amber Hart. I really enjoyed this one.

afterusAbout the book:
“Beautiful, lyrical writing and a dangerously suspenseful plot. . .an unforgettable novel that readers will love.” –Lucy Connors, author of The Lonesome Young

Sometimes secrets kill. Maybe slowly, maybe painfully. Maybe all at once.

Melissa smiles. She flirts. She jokes. But she never shows her scars. Eight months after tragedy ripped her from her closest friend, Melissa is broken. Inside her grows a tumor, fed by grief, rage, and the painful memory of a single forbidden kiss.

Javier has scars of his own: a bullet wound, and the memory of a cousin shot in the heart. Life in the States was supposed to be a new beginning, but a boy obsessed by vengeance has no time for the American dream. To honor his familia, Javier joins the gang who set up his cousin’s murder. The entrance price is blood. Death is the only escape.

These two broken souls could make each other whole again–or be shattered forever.
Our time will come. And we’ll be ready.

My Review:
This review contains SOME mild spoilers. This is the second book in a series, and I have not read the first. I was never at a loss in this story, however. And it’s a read I truly enjoyed.

Melissa is eighteen and a waitress at a beach resort in Florida. She wants to go to college, but her dream is on hold because Melissa’s life is essentially on hold. Five months ago she was diagnosed with cancer and though she has recovered from the surgery physically, the emotional scars remain. Four weeks remain before Melissa will have her post-op tests to determine if she needs chemotherapy. Melissa is adrift, and unable to discuss her fears with her close-knit family consisting of her mother and three older sisters. Melissa’s father abandoned their family when she was ten, and she knows she’s better off without his abuse, but she still feels slighted, rejected, even.

Life is funny like that. Life gives you things you never asked for and takes away things you’ve always dreamed of. I wonder where life gets the nerve.

These are feelings she’d discuss with her BFF Faith, but Faith had a mental breakdown after her boyfriend, Diego, was murdered by gangs and she has moved to Venezuela to build schools in rural villages. Despite many calls and messages, Faith rarely calls back. And, when she does, Melissa is too trapped in grief, anger and guilt she can’t confide.

One person to whom Melissa begins to open up is Javier. Javier is a Cuban-American from a family of refugees. He met Melissa through his cousin, Diego, and seeing her on the beach ignites his revenge. If she can get him in touch with Faith, then maybe he can find out more about the gang members who killed Diego.

I think about how he fits perfectly with me. How we’re made from this mold that’s so different but that we both, shapes of our own, fit into this space rightly.

Javier is attracted to Melissa, as well, and makes both desires clear when they find some privacy. One thing he neglects to reveal: his mama is highly against any of her children dating/marrying white people. Her prejudice is a palpable force in Javier’s large family, and Javier has witness his mother putting his elder brothers’ white girlfriends out of their home.

Love, I think is love to blame.
And I understand, for the first time, that life does offer more than violence and hunger and trying to survive. Sometimes, if you want it bad enough, life will even give you a chance to become something better.

While Javier is dealing with the impossible position of falling for a gringa (white girl) he is also getting “jumped in” to the gang that orchestrated Diego’s murder. It’s a delicate balance and he fails at avoiding discovery. Melissa had just begun to trust him, but she won’t be with a gangbanger. If nothing else, having cancer has taught her that life is exquisitely valuable, and shouldn’t be wasted in violence or revenge.

Her growing affection is shattered, and he has a lot of hard work to regain her trust. Their clashes over this lead Melissa to seek out Faith, and find the truth behind Javier’s pointless quest.

At first, I was unhappy with Javier and the whole bad-boy theme that seemed to permeate the book. Melissa has a lot on her plate, and even more to live for. I didn’t want her to get caught up with a gangbanging avenger, but (like Melissa), eventually, I could see Javier’s quest was more than idleness. Diego and he were raised together and close as brothers. Javier’s grief was extreme. In the end, when presented with the opportunity for the ultimate revenge, Javier’s actions were surprisingly tempered. I like to think he made the decisions he did because he had a new respect for life due to finding love with Melissa.

I mean, if a young man is going to stand up for his girlfriend against his mother’s most strenuous objections, then he can surely withstand the bloodlust for a guilty man’s life. Perhaps.

The end is quite good, right amount of twists, not too much on the sap. I was immediately in mind of Simone Elkeles’ PERFECT CHEMISTRY series while reading this book. It’s a good blend of growing affection, well-timed plot twists and honesty. The characters are solid, serious people facing real-life issues of life and death. While there is a clear romance, the language and activities are age-appropriate for teen readers, with no explicit sexual content.

I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley.

Interested? You can find AFTER US on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the Rafflecopter link below for you chance to win
one of three prize packs, including a Coach purse!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Best of luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Amber Hart grew up in Orlando, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. She now resides on the Florida coastline with family. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She’s the author of BEFORE YOU, AFTER US, UNTIL YOU FIND ME, and sequel to UNTIL YOU FIND ME (untitled as of yet). Represented by Beth Miller of Writers House.

You can reach out to Amber online on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Inkslinger

Happy Book Birthday to AFTER US by Amber Hart–With Giveaway

afterus-release

Yay! I’m so excited to spread the word on this new release. Expect my review next week!

afterus About AFTER US: “Beautiful, lyrical writing and a dangerously suspenseful plot. . .an unforgettable novel that readers will love.” –Lucy Connors, author of The Lonesome Young

Sometimes secrets kill. Maybe slowly, maybe painfully. Maybe all at once.

Melissa smiles. She flirts. She jokes. But she never shows her scars. Eight months after tragedy ripped her from her closest friend, Melissa is broken. Inside her grows a tumor, fed by grief, rage, and the painful memory of a single forbidden kiss.

Javier has scars of his own: a bullet wound, and the memory of a cousin shot in the heart. Life in the States was supposed to be a new beginning, but a boy obsessed by vengeance has no time for the American dream. To honor his familia, Javier joins the gang who set up his cousin’s murder. The entrance price is blood. Death is the only escape.

These two broken souls could make each other whole again–or be shattered forever.

Our time will come. And we’ll be ready.

Add it to Goodreads here!

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes | Kobo

About Amber Hart

Amber Hart grew up in Orlando, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. She now resides on the Florida coastline with family. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She’s the author of BEFORE YOU, AFTER US, UNTIL YOU FIND ME, and sequel to UNTIL YOU FIND ME (untitled as of yet). Represented by Beth Miller of Writers House.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

****GIVEAWAY****
Click the Rafflecopter link for your chance to win
one of three awesome prize packs, including a Coach purse!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Inkslinger