Monday, July 24, 2017

Sweet Summertime Reads with Katy Upperman + GIVEAWAY

It's hard to believe that my summer is winding down. How did it all go by so fast?! In just a few weeks I'll be back in the classroom, preparing for a new school year of teaching. But before that begins, I have one last Sweet Summertime Reads post...

Debut author Katy Upperman is stopping by the blog today to answer some interview questions, as well as to celebrate her novel KISSING MAX HOLDEN, which pubs next week (August 1, 2017)!

I had the honor of reading an ARC of this book way back in January and I knew immediately it was a story I would feature on my blog this summer. It encompasses everything I love in a YA contemporary: from the emotional story about first love, family dynamics, to a strong young heroine navigating life with all its obstacles. Katy Upperman is an author to keep an eye on. Please welcome her to the blog & don't miss out on the giveaway at the bottom to win a signed copy of KISSING MAX HOLDEN (open to US only).

About the book: Kissing Max Holden was a terrible idea...

After his father has a life-altering stroke, Max Holden isn't himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge only wants to help him, but she doesn't know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows that she shouldn't let him kiss her. But she can't resist, and when they're caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it'll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea.

With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all? [goodreads]

Author Interview with Katy Upperman

1. Please tell us a bit about your debut novel KISSING MAX HOLDEN.

KISSING MAX HOLDEN is about a baker girl named Jill who, against her better judgment, kisses her troubled childhood friend, Max, setting a whole series of problems in motion. Along with plenty of romantic angst, Jill’s facing a host of other challenges. She’s about to become the world’s most reluctant big sister, her dad’s pulling away from the family, and her dream of culinary school is suddenly up in the air. Plus, she just can’t make herself stay away from Max, even though he’s got a girlfriend.

My goal in writing KISSING MAX HOLDEN was to tell an entertaining and romantic story about longtime friends whose feelings develop into more, but also to explore loyalty and fidelity, and the way families and friendships can either strengthen or weaken under stressful situations.

2. I've followed your publishing career since you announced your book deal. I think it's so inspiring! Please share with us how you came about as a writer.

Thank you! I started writing back in 2008. I’d recently quit my teaching job to be a stay at home mama, and I was desperate for a creative outlet and a project all my own. Plus, I’d just read TWILIGHT, which I found compulsively readable and incredibly entertaining. I’ve always been a reader, so I thought I might try my hand at writing, too. Turns out getting a book published isn’t as easy as I’d assumed. I wrote (and rewrote) a lot of manuscripts before signing with my agent. And then I wrote even more manuscripts, because submissions dragged on, and heartbreaking close call after heartbreaking close call rolled in. It was a frustrating and discouraging time, and I definitely thought about calling it quits.

But then I came across Swoon Reads, Macmillan’s crowd-sourced YA imprint, and thought it might be what I needed to get my foot in the proverbial door. I researched the imprint and the process and the team, and read several of Swoon’s already published books. It became pretty clear that KISSING MAX HOLDEN could fit in among their list. And so, with my agent’s blessing, I submitted my manuscript to the site, where members proceeded to read, rate, and comment on it. (You can learn more about Swoon Reads and the process here.) Eventually, after weeks of bouncing between hopeful and doubtful, the Swoon Team emailed to let me know that they wanted to publish KISSING MAX HOLDEN. After so many years of work and waiting, I was ecstatic!

3. Which authors/books are your go-to Summertime Reads?

Oh, gosh – so many! Miranda Kenneally, Jessi Kirby, Emery Lord, Trish Doller, Jenny Han, Sarah Ockler, Morgan Matson, Siobhan Vivian… Can you tell I love contemporary YA? I especially love to read romances during the summer. Bonus points for beachy settings and/or road trips!

4. What are your plans for release day?

I’m celebrating KISSING MAX HOLDEN’s release with my family. My mom and dad are coming for a visit so, along with my husband and girls, we’re planning to drop in on Jilly and Max at some local bookstores, followed by lunch at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. I’m a frozen yogurt junkie, so I’m sure we’ll indulge in a treat, too.

I’m also doing some exciting events in the days following the book’s release. On August 5th, I’ll be hosting KISSING MAX HOLDEN’s Launch Party at my favorite local indie, One More Page Books, and then I’m heading out on a five city book tour, with stops in Richmond VA, Charlotte NC, Asheville NC, Atlanta GA, and Greenville SC. My tour buddy Christina June and I are so looking forward to meeting lots of fellow YA lovers!

5. When you started writing KISSING MAX HOLDEN, did your brain begin at the first chapter? Or was there a different scene that came about first & you wrote the story from there?

I always draft linearly because I have a hard time writing the in-between parts if I jump around. So, yes, I started at the beginning with KISSING MAX HOLDEN, though I’ve rewritten the story completely from what it was in its original version. All that earliest draft and the book that will soon be published have in common are a few character names, and the longtime-friends-turned-sweethearts trope. The first time I drafted KISSING MAX HOLDEN, the opening chapter was one that still exists in the finished book (the scene where Max drives Jill to school), but the circumstances and the conversation are entirely different now. I like the opening chapter of what the book eventually became so much more – obviously, because there’s kissing!

6. When you're not writing, what occupies your time?

I spend a lot of time adventuring with my family; since we’re currently living in the D.C. area, there’s plenty to see. I also love to bake (much like Jilly!) and I read whenever I get the chance

7. What are you working on next? Can you share anything with us about your 2018 release?

I can! My 2018 release is called THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF US. It’s a young adult romance about Elise, an aspiring photojournalist, and Mati, an Afghan poet. They meet by chance on a California beach and, as their friendship blossoms into more, find themselves struggling to keep their relationship secret from their disapproving families. I think of it as a fairy tale set in the real world, plus it features bits of verse, a really cute dog, and, of course, cookies. It’ll be out next summer. Aside from THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF US, I’m also working on a project I’m still holding close – a potential Book 3. :-)


How great does KISSING MAX HOLDEN sound?! Y'all, I LOVED this book & now here's your chance to fall in love with it, too. Please enter the giveaway below to win a signed copy from the author (open to US only).

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Sweet Summertime Reads with Sarah's Summer Reading List + GIVEAWAY

This week's Sweet Summertime Reads is featuring some not-so-typical summery contemp books from one of my favorite people, Sarah from  What Sarah Read. I know that not everyone likes to read the same things I do during the summer -- & that's okay! It's the beauty of reading! We all gravitate toward something different.

So for this week I thought it would be great to reach out to some of my readers that aren't necessarily a fan of the contemporary genre. Sarah has put together a great summer reading list in the variety of sci-fi, fantasy, and action. If this is more your jam, then you're in for a treat!

She is also giving away one of the books from her summer reading list (open to US & International - must be able to ship from Book Depository), so be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom!


Thanks so much to Ginger for having me on her blog today as part of her epic Sweet Summertime Reads feature. Like Ginger, I'm a BIG fan of summer reading. There's nothing I love more than a lazy summer afternoon, sitting in the sun enjoying an amazing book. The best part about summer reading? You can read virtually anywhere. At the beach or pool, in a tent under the stars, on a road trip or snuggled in bed during a summer storm...the possibilities are endless.

Now, we all know summer is the perfect time to fall in love with a swoony contemporary romance. But if you ask me, it's also the perfect time of year to get sucked into the worlds of fantasy, science fiction and action-adventure! It's such a treat to find that perfect book in that perfect moment and read it from beginning to end in a flurry of pages, swoons and scenes that make your heart race. Lucky for you, I've come up with a list of five perfect summer reads and the perfect summer scene in which to read them. If I'm being honest though, you could read any of these books anywhere and they would still be absolutely amazing!

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Grab your flashlight, find a good patch of grass to get comfy in and dive into this epic space adventure! The format of this story is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s a combination of interview transcripts, network transmissions, emails, official documents and so much more. It’s fascinating and provided a comprehensive look into an already thrilling and detailed story. Illuminae is unlike any book I’ve read before but still managed to be everything I love in an amazing sci-fi novel! Grab this one today and be amazed!

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Get comfy on your beach blanket. because this book is going to take over your life! The gorgeous and vivid imagery of Taylor's words, and the ideas that spring forth are so exquisite. “Strange the Dreamer” is pure magic. From the multitude of characters that I found myself caring so much about, to the rich and complex world that Taylor built as the foundation of her story. Don't blame me when you find yourself still parked on your beach blanket as the sun sets over the water forgetting about the world around you. This book sucks you right in and doesn't let go until the final page.

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Make sure you're next to a cool body of water before you start reading this one. It's filled with all sorts of swoony and seriously steamy moments! A "Promise of Fire" is an epic Adult fantasy that pairs a stubborn and sarcastic heroine and a brooding and smoldering warlord who love to argue. Can you say enemies to lovers? SWOON! But what I love most about this book is the Greek mythology-inspired world that it's set in. The world is detailed, rich and expansive and it's the perfect book to lose yourself in while you soak up that summer sun.

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice Vice & Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

I JUST finished this book the other night and let me tell is AMAZING! Seriously, one of the best books I've read this year! There's so much fun and adventure (and sass) packed into this story and it's the perfect book to bring along on an epic summer road trip with your bestie! Monty and Percy are such precious little cinnamon roles and I want to tuck them in my pocket and keep them safe from harm. Felicity, on the other hand, I want to be her sidekick while she takes over the world. DEFINITELY add this one to your summer reading.

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

This one is perfect for a stormy summer night! I don’t normally go for the dark and creepy books, and it’s pretty evident from the opening lines that this book is intense! But after a little bit of squirming and reading through my fingers, I discovered that I actually LOVED it! It's an intriguing, dramatic and tense novel that’s inspired by real life mystery and I loved the liberties she takes with the storyline. Most notably, the swoon! Yup, swoon in a story based on Jack the Ripper. I’m not going to say anymore though, you just have to read it for yourself to find out.


Who's ready to read one of these action-packed, swoon-worthy, intensely intriguing stories?! If so, enter the giveaway below! One winner will be selected to choose from the five books mentioned above. This is open to US & International (must be able to ship from Book Depository). Good luck!

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Such a Ginger Read: Adult Romance Edition + GIVEAWAY

Where I read a book and then label it as "Such a Ginger Read" because, well, it is such a Ginger read. To see my first edition post of this new feature, please click here.

If someone were to ask what this teacher did on her summer break, my answer would be: I READ A LOT OF BOOKS!! I've been going through some review books, as well as some new releases. As always, heavy on the romance! I decided to feature three of my latest romance reads on the blog because even though they're all very different, each one is definitely deemed as Such a Ginger Read! + I'm giving away an ebook copy of one of these reads, so be sure to enter at the bottom!

Mister Romance by Leisa Rayven
About the book: As his alter-ego Mister Romance, Max is a drop-dead gorgeous escort who makes romantic fantasies come to life. No sex, just swoon-worthy dates to die for, and the cream of New York's socialites can't get enough. Whether they want a dominating billionaire, bad boy with a heart of gold, hot geek, sexy biker, or best friend who loves them from afar, Max can make it all happen, but he's careful to keep his real identity a secret.

Enter investigative journalist Eden Tate. Having caught wind of the urban legend of Mister Romance from a lovestruck client, Eden is determined to publish a scathing expose on Max and his ability to swindle lonely society women out of their fortunes.

Desperate to protect his anonymity and his clients, Max challenges Eden to give him three dates. If she doesn't fall in love with him, she can run her story with his blessing. If she succumbs to his charms, the story dies.

Cynical Eden has no doubt she can resist his fake romance personas, but when the real Max admits he’s falling for her, she has to decide if the professional liar is telling the truth, or if the passionate man with the mysterious past is just one more character designed to con her out of her career-making story. [goodreads]
This story was a whole lot of fun to read! Eden is very cynical when it comes to true romance, so when she takes on the job to investigate the city's most recommended escort, she is not prepared for the guy behind the scenes. I don't want to give too much away because that was part of the fun; discovering Max's identity. The banter between these two characters was steamy and irresistible. If you're looking for an adult romance that thinks a bit out of the box, then I definitely recommend this one. MISTER ROMANCE grabbed my attention and had me so entertained throughout, that is why I feel it is Such a Ginger Read.


Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata
About the book: Ruby Santos knew exactly what she was getting herself into when she signed up to write a soldier overseas.

The guidelines were simple: one letter or email a week for the length of his or her deployment. Care packages were optional.

Been there, done that. She thought she knew what to expect.
What she didn’t count on was falling in love with the guy. [goodreads]

Do you like a little more emotion with your romance? Then I highly recommend this Mariana Zapata novel. She is the queen of slow burn and I have yet to find an adult contemporary romance writer who does it better. Ruby is writing letters to soldiers overseas because she knows how emotionally draining it can be for them. When she gets connected with Aaron, the most unexpected happens, and so begins a beautiful friendship. I really appreciated the slow build of their relationship simply through letters, then through chats on the Internet. It puts the reader inside their minds and made their connection that much more real. This is highly recommended if you're a fan of strangers to friends to lovers romance tropes. But don't worry, it's not all written in letter format. Eventually these two do meet and it is HOT. So naturally that is why I refer to it as Such a Ginger Read.


Until the Sun Sets by Tara Wyatt
About the book: Two best friends at a destination wedding in Mexico are forced into a fake relationship; but when one kiss turns into a week-long fling, could this change everything?

Dean Grayson doesn't do commitment. So when his cousin asks Dean to bring a date to his wedding in Mexico, he asks his best friend, Carly Jensen, to come with him. After a recent break up, Carly’s feeling like she’ll never find love, so a week in Mexico with her best friend-slash-boss is the perfect way to take her mind off things.

As fate would have it, Carly’s ex is also a guest at the wedding…with his new girlfriend. To protect her pride, Carly and Dean decide to fake a relationship for the week. But between the sand, surf, and sharing a bed, these friends turned lovers realize they’re meant for something more.

Until the Sun Sets combines everything summer into a sweet, sexy novella that’s the perfect beach read! [goodreads]
Oh this book is everything I love in a short, sweet, and sultry summer romance! Take two best friends who are thrust into a fake relationship (their doing, of course) set in the tropical beaches of Mexico. I loved everything about the set up of this story, but it was the characters that truly won me over. For being a novella, I felt instantly connected to both Carly and Dean. Their pretend relationship was fun to witness as it began to blur lines, and both sides started to notice the other in a different light. Dudes in swim trunks, playing beach volleyball, and hot summer nights skinny dipping in the ocean were just a few moments that raised the heat factor in this romance. I didn't realize how much I enjoy get away stories like this! Give me beach + romance + fun fake relationships and you've got yourself Such a Ginger Read!


Did any of these books catch your eye? If so, here's your chance to win one! I'm giving away an ebook of your choice (Mister Romance, Dear Aaron, or Until the Sun Sets). This giveaway is open to those who have access to Amazon kindle (US). Good luck!

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Sweet Summertime Reads with Estelle & Beating the Heat in the City + GIVEAWAY

This week's Sweet Summertime Reads post comes from a veteran blogger, who actually started this summertime feature with me several years ago. I'm excited to have Estelle from Rather Be Reading on the blog today sharing some of her tips on how to beat the heat in the city.

Summertime is not always about beach vacations, time off from work, and lazy days by the pool. We all come from different walks of life, from different corners of the world. I thought it would be interesting to see how Estelle spends her summers in New York City.

Be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of the post for a chance to win a book of choice from one of Estelle's fave local indies + a pretty cool book to treat yourself with.

It’s always a treat to celebrate another round of Sweet Summertime Reads! Let’s be real – I’m not sure if I’ll ever get on a regular blogging schedule again – I’m mostly sharing book recs on Twitter @thatsostelle or Instagram @readinggals these days – but despite that, I’m still thrilled G asked me to contribute. On with the show!

Summertime is probably when I miss the suburbs the most. Growing up in New Jersey, I was always spending time in the backyard, swimming in the pool with my sister and my friends, and enjoying a BBQ. Living in Long Island for a few years, my husband and I lived so close to the beach, close enough to bring dinner there on weeknights after a commute home from work. There was always sand in our house. These days, we’re sweating it out in Queens and making the most of the quiet weekends when so many Manhattanites are in the Hamptons or on fancy vacations.

So I thought I would share a few ways I stay cool (duh, I’m always cool but you know what I mean):

1. Going to the library.

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you may have seen that I challenged myself to read these 40 books that have been in my apartment forever. In the past year, I’ve been in a read and pass along type mood so it’s a nice way to cull and make someone else happy to. Of course, this also means saving my dollars for #2 and #3 on this list and heading to the library. It’s air conditioned! You can stay for a few hours! You can borrow books and go to the next door coffee shop. (Something I do all the time.) It’s a win win.

On my list: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy (currently reading), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Summerlost by Allie Condie. I also just finished Sarah Dessen’s Once and for All and Jamie Brenner’s The Forever Summer – which were both fantastic.

2. Investing in a lot of sundresses.

Sure, they are cute but they also sweep up all the sweat too. And are breezy – if the wind ever starts to blow. I basically live without pants all summer. You can quote me on that. Here are a few of my favorites: Lace Up Shift Dress (American Eagle), Off the Shoulder Maxi (Unique Vintage) and Leafy Ruffle Dress (Loft).

3. Trying new craft beer bars.

For the last couple of summers, my husband and I buy a beer passport for July through early September. For under 40 bucks, we can go to a 38 bars on this passport and get a beer FOR FREE. It basically pays for itself by beer #5. The passport has been an incredible way to support local businesses, explore new neighborhoods, and challenge ourselves to beat our record from previous years. (We have yet to finish the entire passport.)

While this is a limited NYC kind of thing, I recommend putting together your own challenge and get out there and support some new businesses.

4. No-bake treats!

It’s utter hell to turn on the oven in our tiny apartment. It’s actually hell all the time because our oven sucks, but it gets extra toasty in the summer. Time to TREAT YOURSELF. It’s true that my place of work is publishing this book (on August 8) but I’ve tried other no-bake recipes and NOTHING is quite as good as this crispy rice treat recipe made into a fun shape. (Even my mom liked it and she doesn’t like rice crispy squares.) I really want to make a Kermit the Frog – more to come on that. (Oh and you should follow @mister_krisp on Instagram because her updates always make me smile.)

5. Go to the beach or the burbs.

Coney Island! Rockaway! Since we don’t have a car, it’s a long-ish subway or bus ride to both but this means more reading time. We love heading to either of these for a change of scenery. And, of course, there’s always visiting my parents for some pool time, BBQ, and, ya know, catching up with the family and some of my hometown pals.

Nothing says enjoying summer in the city like GETTING OUT OF THE CITY.

I hope whatever you end up doing, dear reader, includes enjoying a chilly beverage, escaping into a book, and surrounding yourself with people who bring you joy.


How fun was this post from Estelle?! Here's your chance to win a book of choice from one of her favorite local indie bookstores: Astoria Bookshop ($20 limit) + TREAT YOURSELF! by Jessica Siskin (will be delivered after 8/8/17). This giveaway is open to US residents only -- good luck!

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Sweet Summertime Reads with Miranda Kenneally + GIVEAWAY

As you are reading this, I am currently living my best summer life possible -- at the beach!! Nothing is more sweeter than the sunshine on your bare shoulders and sand between your toes. Okay, well, maybe a good book to go along with it.

So, I am beyond thrilled to feature a very SWEET book by one of my favorite authors, Miranda Kenneally. Her eighth book in the Hundred Oaks series publishes tomorrow, but today I've got Miranda here to answer my questions on all things COMING UP FOR AIR.

Those who know me understand that I have a special place in my heart for swimming (it might have something to do with those good looking swimmer dudes, haha). I love watching swimmers race, and am always blown away by their physical endurance. Miranda has written a story all about swimming from a teenager's point of view. But in true Kenneally fashion, she's excelled at presenting the real struggles so many teens encounter and can relate to. Yes, I love that this book is all about swimmers, but I love it even more for featuring a strong female lead that questions what she should do and what she wants to do, yet still being true to herself in the end. This is a definite must read for the summer!

About the book: Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic try out, so she feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to lose to win? [goodreads]

Author Interview with Miranda Kenneally

1. Tell us a little bit about your new book, Coming Up for Air.

COMING UP FOR AIR is about Maggie, a champion swimmer who spends all her time in the pool. As she's about to graduate high school, she starts to worry that she might have missed out on important teenage experiences, like having a boyfriend and worries that she's going to be the only person at college who's never fooled around. So she asks her best guy friend Levi to teach her the basics of hooking up.

I admit the plot may sound like a fluffy trope but it was important for me to show readers that everybody moves at their own pace when it comes to physical relationships, and that it's okay if you are a different point in your life than your friends. Maggie comes to understand that she wants an emotional connection as much as the physical, but that other people may want the physical without the emotion. And that's ok. What's important is figuring out YOUR comfort level when it comes to sexuality. It's your body, your feelings, and your life.

2. Since this is the last book in the Hundred Oaks series, what made you decide to end with this one?

I am really proud of this book and wanted this series to go out on a high note! I probably could've written another book, but two more? I wasn't sure if I had it in me to write two more books that I would be proud of. I would hate disappointing readers by giving them a bad product. And wouldn't it be weird if it were a nine-book series?

3. When you're not writing, or researching for writing, what occupies your time?

Reading and eating Mexican food! Also, working at the State Department, hanging out with my husband and cat, running, and working out at the gym, and riding my bike... to the Mexican place.

4. Out of all your characters, which one sticks out as a favorite (or most memorable) for you?

The characters I've known the longest are Sam Henry and Jordan. They both appeared on the first page of the first draft I ever wrote for this series. But the character that truly sticks out is Jesse Scott from Jesse's Girl. I started working on him back in 2010! He is so complicated - crotchety and guarded, but also caring (and sexy!). I love his sense of humor. And to think, Jesse and Maya nearly didn't get together, or even have a book!

Several beta readers and publishing professionals told me it would be cliche if the famous guy Jesse actually got together with not-famous Maya (the main character) of Jesse's Girl, so I tried giving her another love interest, which didn't work at all. It made the story so contrived and lame. Maya and the other guy had no chemistry. It wasn't until I just ignored all the critics and let my characters be together that I was happy with the story.

5. Is there a sport-related story you thought about writing as part of the Hundred Oaks series, but didn't follow through with?

I always wanted to write a book about hot lifeguards, but couldn't come up with a plot! At least with COMING UP FOR AIR I got to write about hot guys in swimsuits.

6. If your characters were all hanging out, which ones would it be and what might they be doing?

Jack Goodwin's family loves throwing lavish parties at their horse farm. I'm sure most of my characters are all at his massive 4th of July celebration! After having perhaps one too many cocktails, they abandon the swanky party in the tent when Jordan challenges everyone to a badminton tournament. Is it too late to write a Hundred Oaks book about badminton? *wink wink*


Thank you so much, Miranda, for answering my questions! If you're anxious to read this book after finding out more about it, here's your chance to win a signed copy from the author. Giveaway is open to US residents only -- good luck!!

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