Kristen Brand’s Mood Board and Inspirations for The Ghost Machine | Author Guest Post

May 25, 2018 Guest Post, Mood Board 1

Do you like creepy old manors full of dark secrets (and possibly ghosts)? Do you find yourself attracted to mysterious gentlemen in Victorian attire who may or may not be villainous? Do you think the best outfit for investigating mysteries is a lacy white nightgown?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you probably like gothic romances.
The gothic genre has been around for hundreds of years and got big in the Victorian Era with novels like Dracula and Jane Eyre. It had a revival in the 1960s (Do a Google Image search for “gothic romance covers.” You won’t be disappointed.), and if you’re looking for a more recent example, think Crimson Peak.

 

When I wrote The Ghost Machine, I wanted to mix steampunk with gothic romance. It influenced everything from the setting (featuring a haunted asylum and shadowy castle), to the plot (the main character, Ella, can see ghosts), to the characters (her love interest is a Byronic hero, and she suspects him of being a murderer for part of the book).

I always associate gothic romances with the 1800s, though they can be set in any time. Maybe it’s because those Victorians were surprisingly morbid, with their creepy photographs of dead family members and the elaborate mourning attire they were required to wear. Or maybe it’s the popularity of spiritualism and their fascination with ghosts.

That’s why I think gothic romance meshes so well with steampunk, which also has a heavy Victorian influence. It lets me play around with steampunk technology that can detect and manipulate ghosts, and I can throw a mad scientist’s laboratory into one of those gothic castles and get a Frankenstein vibe going.

But what I like best about gothic romance is the aesthetic: the dark and sinister mixed with the beautiful. While I’m not a fan of the jump scares and gore of the horror genre, give me the subtle feeling of lurking dread that permeates a good gothic novel any day.

That’s the aesthetic I wanted The Ghost Machine’s mood board to reflect, and that’s what you’ll find in the novel itself.


The Ghost Machine by Kristen Brand
Self published on December 30, 2016
Genres: Gothic, Romance, Steampunk
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Ella Rosenfeld is a lunatic. Locked away in the remote Auttenberg Asylum, she undergoes torturous treatment to cure her hallucinations. Yet the longer she remains within Auttenberg’s austere halls, the more gruesome her visions become, until Ella is sure she’s seeing ghosts, and Auttenberg’s doctor knows it. He doesn’t plan to cure her; he wants to study her ability by dissecting her.

Ella refuses to accept her fate. She assaults her captors, scales the asylum fence, and finds sanctuary in the castle of Baron Viktor Szarka. Young and arrogant, the baron offers her protection, but he’s rumored to have locked a woman in the asylum to hide his dark past, and he has suspicious dealings with Auttenberg’s doctor. Unable to trust him, Ella must uncover the conspiracy surrounding the asylum, her visions, and the baron’s secret…or join the rest of Auttenberg’s ghosts.


About Kristen Brand

Kristen Brand is a total nerd. She writes speculative fiction with lots of danger, snark, and a bit of romance. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found reading novels or comic books, and she’s probably drinking tea right now. You can find out more about her work and read free fiction at her website, kristenbrand.com.

 

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Top Ten Unique Character Names

May 21, 2018 Top Ten Tuesday 22

Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday! This week’s topic surrounds the best character names. This can be as broad or as narrow as you’d like it to be. We did a similar topic on The Broke & the Bookish back in 2013. Check out my responses that week! I won’t be duplicating any of my picks, but I will be stealing my list format! It’s REALLY hard to find unique names in novels with contemporary settings, don’t you think? I found a couple, but most of these are fantasy/sci-fi. I love the creativity authors use when they get to create an entirely new world. We get some pretty cool names out of it.

Zorie and Lennon from Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Legend from Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Puck from The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Rio from Atlantia by Ally Condie

Winter from Winter by Marissa Meyer

Tarver from These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Stellan from The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

Aaru from Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows

Anluan from Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier

Hale from Heist Society by Ally Carter

Which names did you pick this week?

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Eight Books I Disliked but Am Glad I Read

May 14, 2018 Top Ten Tuesday 29

Do you ever find yourself totally not liking a book, but continuing on so that you can say you read it? Maybe it’s a book EVERYONE has read, and you were feeling left out about. Or maybe it was a required read in school and you’re proud of yourself for reading it even though you didn’t want to. Or maybe it was a book club read and you’re glad you could actively participate in the discussion. Whatever the reason may be, I think we can all say that we’ve read books we didn’t like just so we could say we read them. I could only come up with eight this week!


The Shivering Sands
by Victoria Holt

My mom grew up loving Victoria Holt, and as a lover of Gothic romance myself, I’d been intrigued for ages. I finally read this one, which has pretty good reviews overall, and it was just a little slow and meh to me. I liked the setting and the writing, but I felt like not a lot happened. I’m so glad I finally gave her books a chance, though, and I’m not giving up yet.


A Study In Scarlet by Sherlock Holmes

I think I read this for bragging rights. It was ok, and I’ve even read the next one… but they are not what I would call gripping and entertaining reads. I’ve always wanted to read the books by that have taken pop culture by storm, and now I can say I have. And honestly, I know I’m going to read the rest of them for more bragging rights.


Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I LOVE Marissa Meyer. Her books are some of my favorites, and her writing is wonderful. That’s why I’m glad I read Heartless. I like reading all the books my favorite authors have written. And really, Heartless was very well done. I just hate Alice In Wonderland. lol


The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

I read it so I can say I read it. I hate sad/cancer books and I am really not interested in any of John Green’s work. But at least now I can say I’ve read this famous book that so many people have connected with.


A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I think it’s safe to say that A Wrinkle In Time kind of set the world of YA lit on fire. Millions of children and adults have read and loved this book across the generations. It’s the kind of book a young person fell in love with in the 1930’s and then recommended to their child and their grandchild, and they loved it too. It teaches reaers some great lessons. It’s beautiful and timeless and influenced so many of today’s great YA authors. I think my problem with it is that I wasn’t a kid when I read it. I found it to be kind of weird instead of magical. It was a chore to get through. I’m so glad I read such an iconic piece of literature, though, because I feel like a part of history for it.


Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

Haha. This book is horrendous. It’s SO bad on SO many levels. I’m really glad I read it, though, because I have never had more fun writing a rage-filled review before.


The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Bragging rights. Completely and totally. I read this as a kid in school and hated it. It upset me and traumatized me and made me hate reading. But I can say I’ve read every stinkin’ page. So there.


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Umm… ditto to the above statements about The Outsiders. I feel very lucky that I eventually (at age 19) found my love of reading again after years of crappy/boring/upsetting required reads in school took it from me.

Which books did you not like,
but are happy you can say you’ve read them?

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My Dream Irish Countryside Excursion | Love & Luck Blog Tour

May 10, 2018 Blog Tour 10

My Dream Irish Countryside Excursion | Love & Luck Blog Tour

Welcome to my stop along the blog tour for Love & Luck by Janna Evans Welch, hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club! The bulk of Love & Luck takes place on a road trip across Ireland, passing castles and historic sites and tons of beautiful scenery.

I’ve always dreamt of touring the Irish countryside so, in honor of this blog tour for a book I LOVED, I’ve decided to share with you the things I’d love to see while on my own road trip. It’s really all about the rolling hills and the castles for me! These are the kinds of scenes I pictured as I read about Addie, Ian, and Rowan on their tour.


My Dream Irish Countryside Excursion

Blarney Castle

Dunluce Castle

Dunamase Castle

The Rock of Cashel

The Cliffs of Moher

It was really hard to limit my post to these ten images. Ireland is so beautiful, and I want to go even more now! Hopefully someday I can take the trip! Anyone in the mood to sponsor such an excursion?


Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Companion to: Love & Gelato
Published by Simon Pulse on May 8, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance — Young Adult
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Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind.

So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism.

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

That is if they don’t get completely lost along the way.


About Jenna Evans Welch

Jenna Evans Welch was the kind of insatiable child reader who had no choice but to grow up to become a writer. She is the New York Times Bestselling author of LOVE & GELATO and the upcoming LOVE & LUCK.

When she isn’t writing girl abroad stories, Jenna can be found chasing her children or making elaborate messes in the kitchen. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and two young children.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Follow the rest of the tour!

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Top Ten Beautiful Purple Book Covers

May 7, 2018 Top Ten Tuesday 52

This week’s topic surrounds your favorite color. It can either appear on the cover or in the title itself. I have a ton of favorite colors, and my Favorite changes all the time depending on my mood. Does anyone else go through phases with their favorite colors? I also like different colors for different situations, such as colors I wear versus colors of things I own. Anyway, I’ve chosen to showcase purple covers today!


That Inevitable Victorian Thing
by E.K. Johnston
Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović


A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco


Goldeline by Jimmy Cajoleas
Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft by Various Authors


Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
A Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier


The Library of Light and Shadow by M.J. Rose
Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

I haven’t read any of these, but I want to!
Tell me which ones to prioritize and which ones I should pass on.
Which color did you choose this week?

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Top Ten Books I’d Slay a Lion to Get Early

April 30, 2018 Top Ten Tuesday 33

I’m blessed with the opportunity to read many advance reader copies (ARCs) of books, but some of them are tricker to get or just never release as ARCs because the publisher doesn’t need them in order to sell books (or they’re the last book in a series and ARCs don’t happen in order to minimize spoilers). The following books are titles I’d really love to get my hands on early.


1. Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco (Out 9/18/19)

Everyone who knows me knows I won’t shut up about how much I loved Hunting Prince Dracula last year. I cannot WAIT to read the next installment in Audrey Rose’s and Thomas Cresswell’s story. And this one takes place on an ocean liner! I couldn’t have asked for a better setting.

2. The Real Deal by Lauren Blakely (Out 7/10/18)

I love a good fake romance, and this one sounds fun and flirty, not to mention the fact that it has all the right ingredients for a hilarious string of events. April needs a date for her family’s summer reunion, so what better place to look than Craigslist? I can’t wait to read it!

3. The Governess Game by Tessa Dare  (Out 8/28/18)

Tessa Dare is my favorite historical romance author, and I can’t wait for her new book!


4. Snow in Love by Melissa de la Cruz, Nic Stone, Aimee Friedman, and Kasie West (Out 10/30/18)

I love wintry/holiday romances, and I’ve come to really enjoy YA anthologies. And Kasie West has a story in this one!! I’m sold.

5. A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (Out 1/29/19)

I live for Beauty & the Beast retellings, and this one sounds wonderful. Plus, that cover!

6. Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson (Out 8/7/18)

With the exception of the final book in the trilogy, which went kind of wonky for me, I love the Remnant Chronicles. The world is amazing, the characters are great, and Mary’s storytelling and writing are out of this world. I’m so excited to see where she goes next.


7. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (Out 2/5/19)

It’s Leigh Bardugo! And it’s Nikolai from the Grisha trilogy! I’ve always wanted him to get his own book, and now he has it!

No covers yet!

8. Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye (Out 1/22/19)

It’s a ninja-inspired fantasy! I love Evelyn’s writing and worldbuilding skills, so I’m counting on this one to be amazing.

9. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne (10/2/18)

To be honest, I don’t care what this book is about. I just know I want it. I loved The Hating Game so much, and I’m excited for Sally’s next book!

10. Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett (2019)

I am such a Jenn Bennett fangirl. She writes such cute contemporary romances. And this one has some mystery aspects to it, from what I’ve heard!

Which books would you love to read early?
Do we share any of the same picks?

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Ten Frequently Used Words In YA Book Titles

April 23, 2018 Top Ten Tuesday 20

So this fun little topic came through on the TTT topic submission form, and I’ve actually had a lot of fun with this one! We all see the trends that come and go regarding book title structures and word choices. I spent a lot of time searching the books I’ve added to Goodreads and came up with this list of commonly used words in YA book titles. The number next to each word tells how many YA books I’ve added to Goodreads that have that word in the title. And these are just the ones I added. There are like a million others. lol.

1. Girl/Girls (60)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Dangerous Girls, New Girl, The Goose Girl, The Coldest Girl In Coldtown, Smart Girls Get what They Want, Geek Girl, Girl Underwater, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Lost Girl, Fangirl, Jesse’s Girl, The Girl at Midnight, etc.

2. You (49)
P.S. I Like You, The Devil You Know, A Thousand Pieces of You, Wish You Were Italian, As You Wish, The Distance Between You and Me, What You Always Wanted, Seven Days of You, The Season of You and Me, The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, etc.

3. Star/Starry (48)
Starry Eyes, Starry Nights, Stars Above, The Fault In Our Stars, Second Star, These Broken Stars, Even the Darkest Stars, For Darkness Shows the Stars, The Name of the Star, The Chaos of Stars, Eyes Like Stars, Across a Star-Swept Sea, The Last Star, etc.

4. Shadow/Shadows (31)
Shadowlands, Shadow and Bone, Dance of Shadows, Shadows On the Moon, The Shadow Society, Prince of Shadows, Shadow Scale, Shadow Study, Shadow Kiss, Queen of Shadows, A Shadow Bright and Burning, The Shadow Queen, Reign of Shadows, The Library of Light and Shadows, etc.

5. Blood (27)
Silver In the Blood, Blood Promise, Anna Dressed In Blood, Days of Blood and Starlight, Blood Passage, Sisters of Blood and Spirit, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, Blood Rose Rebellion, RoseBlood, Frostblood, etc.

6. Queen (26)
Beauty Queens, The Queen’s Choice, Red Queen, Queen of Shadows, The Orphan Queen, Queen of Hearts, The Shadow Queen, The Impostor Queen, The Star-Touched Queen, etc.

7. Daughter (23)
Daughter of Deep Silence, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Daughter of Venice, The Musician’s Daughter, The Madman’s Daughter, etc.

8. Blue (22)
Into the Still Blue, Nantucket Blue, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Words In Deep Blue, Everblue, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, The Savage Blue, Blue Eyes and Other Teenage Hazards, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, etc.

9. Bone (13)
Ivory and Bone, Shadow and Bone, Ink and Bone, The World of Shell and Bone, The Bone Witch, etc.

10. Smoke (10)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Curses and Smoke,Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, Silver Smoke, Bright SMoke, Cold Fire, Riot of Storm and Smoke, etc.

Which genre or age group did you decide to focus on today?
Do we have any words in common? 

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The Debut Dish: Adrienne Young

April 22, 2018 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish 4

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Adrienne Young (Sky In the Deep).


Sky In the Deep by Adrienne Young
April 24, 2018 from Wednesday Books
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Brutal. Bloody. Introspective. Action-packed.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I think my favorite scene is the one the title came from. Eelyn is standing on a frozen lake and the ice is reflecting the night sky, making it look like the sky is beneath her. It’s the first real moment she realizes that she can’t hold on to everything she’s ever believed and that when everything’s over, she will be different.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at home. The book went to auction, which means that there was a set day and time when the offers would be submitted. I spent the morning on the phone with my agent going over everything and when I hung up on the final call, my husband and two of my best friends were waiting in the other room with mimosas.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Donuts. All the donuts in the world.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A turtle shell. I love to collect things from the natural world like stones, feathers, insects, or bones!

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Top Ten Books My Mom Loves

April 16, 2018 About Me, Top Ten Tuesday 79

This week I gave you the opportunity to come up with your own topic. I love doing this because then I can visit all the participating blogs and steal your ideas!! Haha, just kidding. That’s not totally the reason. I always get requests for really specific topics that I can’t broaden enough to make them apply to everyone who wants to participate, such as “top ten science fiction books” or “top ten books to read if you liked [insert book title here]”. Not everyone can do those kinds of topics and then they would have to sit out that week. So this week you get to do whatever you want!

Today’s my mom’s birthday, and since she’s my favorite person in the world I figured I’d share with you some of the books she’s read and loved, both as a child and an adult, and recommended to me throughout my life.

To my first and favorite follower:

 

 

The Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope
Cherry Ames, Student Nurse by Helen Wells
Racoons Are the Brightest People by Sterling North
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
Mary Higgins-Clark (all her books)
Virgin River by Robyn Carr (The entire Virgin River series)
Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs (The entire Lakeshore Chronicles series)

Have you read any of these books?
Which books do your mom or dad recommend to you all the time?
What topic did you come up with this week?

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Roomies by Christina Lauren | Book Review

April 12, 2018 Book Review, New Adult 2 ★★★½

Roomies by Christina Lauren | Book ReviewRoomies by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on December 5, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Edelweiss
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3.5 Stars
Marriages of convenience are so…inconvenient.

Rescued by Calvin McLoughlin from a would-be subway attacker, Holland Bakker pays the brilliant musician back by pulling some of her errand-girl strings and getting him an audition with a big-time musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until he admits his student visa has expired and he’s in the country illegally.

Holland impulsively offers to wed the Irishman to keep him in New York, her growing infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves from awkward roommates to besotted lovers, Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway. In the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting, what will it take for Holland and Calvin to realise that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?

I love marriages of convenience and fake/sham romances, so I was excited to find another one from an author (or author partnership) I’ve been hearing really good things about. I also love books set in New York and/or surrounding the theme of music. And… it kind of goes without saying that I love Irish men, so the synopsis checked all my boxes. I eagerly jumped in, and had a lot of fun with this one! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I really loved Holland Baker. She’s so relatable, and I think we can all see at least a small part of ourselves in her. She’s a 25-year-old plain Jane living in New York City (with the help of her two uncles who pay most of her rent), working a dead-end job (that her uncle go her) that is way below her qualifications as she tries to achieve her dream of becoming a published author. Who has been in this position before? *raises hand* Her morning subway runs to work become bearable when she stumbles across a musical genius busking in the station one morning. She gives him a name and makes up his life story in her mind, going out of her way to hear him play as often as she can. This mysterious musician has her completely entranced even though she’s never seen his face or heard his voice. If you haven’t ever had a crush on someone you don’t know, then you’re either crazy or lucky.

2. Calvin is a swoony Irishman who is also working below his qualifications while trying to achieve his dream of becoming a Broadway musician. While busking in the subway station one evening, he saves Holland from an attack and then pretty much disappears. We learn a lot about Holland’s mystery musician, and the two of them end up in a marriage of convenience–both for very different reasons. Calvin is pretty cute (his accent comes through the pages), but not my favorite male love interest. I had a really hard time trusting his intentions with Holland, and questioned his feelings pretty consistently throughout the story. He’s not incredibly thoughtful or romantic, either. I did change my mind about him, and by the end I was in love with him. I was sad I didn’t get more pages with him like he was in the end.

3. I did really like the banter between Holland and Calvin. They’re pretty funny and flirtatious, and I ate it all up.

4. I could not help but picture scenes from the movie, The Proposal, while I read about Holland and Calvin at their interview to prove the validity of their marriage. And their cramming sessions where they tried to learn as much about each other as possible were great.

5. I LOVED Holland’s two uncles, Robert and Jeff. They took care of her like they were her parents, and I loved how tender and concerned they were for her. They call her “Hollsy”, which is so cute! Robert is the mastermind behind a hit Broadway show, but he’s still super down-to-earth and even a little silly.

6. I loved the walks through New York in the freezing cold because it took me back to when I was there at Christmastime freezing my butt off.

7. I love the author’s descriptions of music and what it does to a person. There were some beautiful, sweeping passages that perfectly described the impact music has on people.

8. A fair amount of the book takes place at the theater, and I enjoyed all the tidbits of life behind Broadway. 

9. I think things went slightly sour for me when Holland and Calvin left the getting-to-know-you phase and jumped into the lustier side of their relationship. I loved the sincerity that they brought to the scene as they got to know one another and were intoxicated by Calvin’s new job and Holland’s secret infatuation with him had her checking herself to see if she was dreaming. That was all very sweet and exciting. When they started lying to each other and sleeping together for no meaningful reason, it cheapened everything for me.

10. There was a lot of needless drama, in my opinion. I’ve never read a book where the main couple argued with one another so much, or had so many disagreements. 

11. I loved watching Holland find herself. 

12. The ending was very sweet, if not a little convenient and quick. It all seemed to wrap up too fast for me.

13. I could have done with fewer f-words. 

So, there you have it! My slightly all over the place review. There were parts I loved, and parts I didn’t love. Overall, however, I am so glad I read this book. It was fun and fresh and different from all the other contemporary romances I’ve read.

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