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    Review: WINNER TAKE ALL by Laurie Devore

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    Author: Laurie Devore
    Release date: January 30, 2018
    Publisher: Imprint
    Pages: 336
    Formats: Hardcover, eBook

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    For Nell Becker, life is a competition she needs to win.
    For Jackson Hart, everyone is a pawn in his own game.
    They both have everything to lose.

    Nell wants to succeed at everything—school, sports, life. And victory is sweeter when it means beating Jackson Hart, the rich, privileged, undisputed king of Cedar Woods Prep Academy. Yet no matter how hard she tries, Jackson is somehow one step ahead. They’re a match made in hell, but opposites do attract.

    Drawn to each other by their rivalry, Nell and Jackson fall into a whirlwind romance that consumes everything in their lives. But when a devastating secret exposes their relationship as just another game, how far will Nell go to win?

    Visceral and whip-smart, Laurie Devore’s Winner Take All paints an unflinching portrait of obsessive love, toxic competition, and the drive for perfection.


    NOTE: This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy was purchased for my collection.

    The Review

    There is a lot to love about Laurie Devore’s WINNER TAKE ALL. It is an exciting, emotional roller coaster of a read. It sheds light on a number of issues – the disparity between the rich and those less fortunate and between women and men, boys and girls. It shows how striving to be the best is not always a good thing, and can cause one to lose sight of who they are and what’s really important. It has a strong, if flawed, heroine. And it has romance, and humor, and drama, and heartbreak.

    Nell Becker wants to be the best. And she would be if Jackson Hart weren’t standing in her way. With his looks, his charm, his money, and his gender, everything comes easy to him. Which only makes Nell want to beat him all the more.

    But in order to win she will have to do whatever it takes. Even if it means playing dirty and becoming someone she never thought she could be. And she will have to decide whether her reputation, her friendships, her health and her heart are worth destroying if that’s what it means to defeat her nemesis.

    Author Laurie Devore packed a lot into her novel of rivalry gone awry. It wasn’t just a fiery but toxic romance. It wasn’t simply a story of secrets, lies, betrayal. There was much food for thought about economic and gender inequality, hypocrisy, infidelity, alcoholism, obsession, competition.

    And while many of these issues were woven seamlessly into the story, there were a few instances where they felt inorganic or heavy-handed and it became more about the issue than the characters or the story itself.

    The most interesting, intriguing, maddening, fascinating part of the story was the author’s choice of heroine. Nell is not the most likable of characters – to put it mildly – and isn’t the most obvious choice to be a paragon. At times her behavior is downright appalling. She’s driven, ultra competitive, judgmental, selfish, stubborn, reckless and arrogant. But she is strong – her mistakes and failures do not make her pitiable or turn her into a victim. She goes after what she wants – even if a bit too ruthlessly. She’s a fighter. And she does, eventually, learn from her mistakes – which, for some, might be too late for her to earn her redemption.

    Whether you champion Nell or despise her, WINNER TAKE ALL is a compelling, thoroughly entertaining, and emotionally-charged read that sparks and sizzles and will keep readers riveted.

    The Rating

    A note about the cover: I have some major cover love for WINNER TAKE ALL – and not just because I did notice exactly which match is raised.

    About Laurie Devore

    Laurie Devore was born and raised in small town South Carolina and graduated from Clemson University. She now lives and works in Chicago, where she misses the charms and contradictions of the south every day. In her spare time, she reluctantly runs marathons, watches too much TV, and works a “y’all” into every conversation. She is the author of How to Break a Boy.




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    Author: Jared Reck
    Release date: September 26, 2017
    Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
    Pages: 272
    Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook

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    Matt Wainwright is constantly sabotaged by the overdramatic movie director in his head. He can’t tell his best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her, he implodes on the JV basketball team, and the only place he feels normal is in Mr. Ellis’s English class, discussing the greatest fart scenes in literature and writing poems about pissed-off candy-cane lumberjacks.

    If this were a movie, everything would work out perfectly. Tabby would discover that Matt’s madly in love with her, be overcome with emotion, and would fall into his arms. Maybe in the rain.

    But that’s not how it works. Matt watches Tabby get swept away by senior basketball star and all-around great guy Liam Branson. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough, but screwing up and losing her as a friend is even worse.

    After a tragic accident, Matt finds himself left on the sidelines, on the verge of spiraling out of control and losing everything that matters to him. From debut author Jared Reck comes a fiercely funny and heart-wrenching novel about love, longing, and what happens when life as you know it changes in an instant.


    NOTE: This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy was purchased for my collection.

    The Review

    A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is an unassuming title for a story that packs such a very large punch. It is sweet and funny and moving and heartbreaking. It introduces an authentic and relatable character with a wildly entertaining inner monologue. It is an intensely emotional, gut-wrenching read that will not be so easy to recover from.

    Matt Wainwright knows exactly when he fell in love with his lifelong best friend and neighbor, Tabby. If he were someone else, he probably would have told her how he felt. But he wasn’t confident enough or starry-eyed enough to think that things would work out like they did in the movies. And he didn’t want to risk losing his friend.

    But when Tabby starts dating Liam, he can feel her slipping away from him anyway. And instead of doing everything in his power to keep their friendship intact, he lets his insecurity, his jealousy, and his anger drive her away.

    To get Tabby back in his life he’d had to get over himself, bury his feelings, and just be a friend – things he should have done in the first place. Maybe if he had, he wouldn’t have lost all that time they could have spent together. A regret that didn’t seem so deep when he thought they had a lifetime of memories ahead of them, but felt bottomless when he learned there wouldn’t be any.

    Jared Reck’s debut is nothing short of brilliant. It is the perfect mix of light and weighty, heartwarming and devastating. The wry humor will make you laugh. The raw pain will destroy you. His character, Matt, will make you cringe at some of his bad decisions, chuckle at some of his poetic masterpieces, smile at just what he’s willing to do for his family, sigh when he gets in a mood and lets the expletives fly, ache for his loss, and sympathize with his plight.

    A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is a tragic, unrequited love story that promises to be a tearjerker. But it’s not all darkness and despair. Its amusing chapter titles, its likable main character, and its positively adorable moments throughout, infuse happiness and levity into this exceptionally well-written tragedy.

    It is clever, it is captivating, it is absolutely outstanding. And with much to think about and a few life lessons to learn from, it proves itself a meaningful story that is not to be forgotten.

    The Rating

    Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.

    About Jared Reck

    Jared Reck is a debut author. He received a BA in English from Clemson University, a Master’s in Educational Leadership, and recently completed graduate coursework in McDaniel College’s Writing for Children & Young Adults program. He lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, where he’s an eighth-grade Language Arts teacher. Learn more about Jared on Twitter at @ReckJ.



    Review: WILDMAN

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    Title: WILDMAN
    Author: J.C. Geiger
    Release date: June 6, 2017
    Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
    Pages: 336
    Formats: Hardcover, eBook

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    “How can a total stranger understand you better than the people you’ve known your entire life?”

    When Lance’s ’93 Buick breaks down in the middle of nowhere, he tells himself Don’t panic. After all, he’s valedictorian of his class. First-chair trumpet player. Scholarship winner. Nothing can stop Lance Hendricks.

    But the locals don’t know that. They don’t even know his name. Stuck in a small town, Lance could be anyone: a delinquent, a traveler, a maniac. One of the townies calls him Wildman, and a new world opens up.

    He’s ordering drinks at a roadhouse. Jumping a train. Talking to an intriguing older girl who is asking about his future. And what he really wants. As one day blurs into the next, Lance finds himself drifting farther from home and closer to a girl who makes him feel a way he’s never felt before—like himself.

    This debut novel by a remarkable new talent explores the relationship between identity and place, the power of being seen, and the speed at which a well-planned life can change forever.


    Note: This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy was purchased for my collection.

    The Review

    J.C. Geiger’s WILDMAN is interesting and thought-provoking and strangely compelling. With a remote setting, an unusual cast of characters, a melodic, dreamlike quality to the writing, an unhurried pace, and an uncertain destination, it is a story that will draw you in, pique your curiosity, and make you think about choices and possibilities and friendships and labels and open roads and roads not taken.

    Lance Hendricks had his near future mapped out for him. He would give his valedictory speech. He would spend his summer working at the bank. He would use his full ride at OSU to get a degree in business that would guarantee him a good paying job. He would earn enough money so that someday he would have the freedom to do what made him happy.

    He did not plan for his car to break down hundreds of miles from home in the middle of nowhere. He did not plan to miss the party that would finally give him and his girlfriend, Miriam, some time alone. He did not plan to blow off his mom, his friends, his job, his school, his future.

    But then again he hadn’t planned on saving a life, losing a bet, getting into a fight, making new friends, getting a nickname or a few, having an adventure. And he certainly did not plan on Dakota.

    Author J.C. Geiger offers up a lot of food for thought throughout his story. He’ll make you think about luck and chance and what if. He’ll make you wonder about how much of a hand you’ve really had in the decisions you’ve made, how many clues the universe has given you that you might have missed, how often you’ve delayed gratification for the possibility of a better future instead of opting for the guarantee of a better now.

    The author introduces a character who isn’t the easiest to get a read on or to connect with but who is captivating and intriguing. Lance is both predictable and a bit of a mystery. He is definable and indefinable. He is different things to different people. He knows what he wants and yet doesn’t have the first clue about what he wants. His thoughts are shifting, fluid, wavering, wandering, his moods mercurial, his actions unreliable. And still he is immensely likable.

    WILDMAN is a beautiful and bittersweet and haunting and hopeful debut that will make you fall in love with the quirky inhabitants of the town, the middle of the night call of the train, a ’93 Buick, a boy who won’t be defined by stereotype, and the possibility that nothing is set in stone. It is a memorable and original and offbeat and outstanding summer must must read.

    The Rating

    About J.C. Geiger

    J. C. Geiger has eaten the beating heart of a snake, been deported from a full-moon party, and spent a short time locked in a Bolivian prison. He also writes fiction. His short works have appeared in the pages of Murky Depths and Horror Garage, and onstage at The Second City in Chicago. His debut novel WILDMAN will be released by Disney-Hyperion in May, 2017.



    ANTISOCIAL Blog Tour: Review

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    Author: Jillian Blake
    Release date: May 16, 2017
    Publisher: Delacorte Press
    Pages: 256
    Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook

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    What if your greatest secrets became public? For the students at Alexandria Prep, a series of hacks leads to a scandalous firestorm—and the students are left wondering whose private photos and messages will be exposed next. It’s Pretty Little Liars meets WikiLeaks.

    Senior spring at Alexandria Prep was supposed to be for sleeping through class and partying with friends. But for Anna Soler, it’s going to be a lonely road. She’s just been dumped by her gorgeous basketball star boyfriend—with no explanation. Anna’s closest friends, the real ones she abandoned while dating him, are ignoring her. The endearing boy she’s always had a complicated friendship with is almost too sympathetic.

    But suddenly Anna isn’t the only one whose life has been upended. Someone is determined to knock the kings and queens of the school off their thrones: one by one, their phones get hacked and their personal messages and photos are leaked. At first it’s funny—people love watching the dirty private lives of those they envy become all too public.

    Then the hacks escalate. Dark secrets are exposed, and lives are shattered. Chaos erupts at school. As Anna tries to save those she cares about most and to protect her own secrets, she begins to understand the reality of our always-connected lives:

    Sometimes we share too much. 


    Note: This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy was purchased for my collection.

    The Review

    ANTISOCIAL is a fascinating and compelling and unputdownable read that sheds light on what can happen to friendships and to lives when “private” data becomes public. It shows just how hungry for gossip everyone is, how quick to spread the word, how riveted to the scandal, how hasty to point fingers, and how vicious we can become. But it also reminds us that not everyone is all good or all bad, that we are more than the negative things we say or that are said about us, and that for most of us the positive outweighs the negative. It is a riveting, addictive, at times chilling, a little bit heartbreaking, and absolutely thrilling debut.

    The unraveling of Alexandria Prep is shown from Anna Soler’s point of view. Her world had already come undone when her boyfriend dumped her and she lost her connection to the elite in his world. Having ditched her friends for him and his during the three months they’d gone out, she didn’t think things could get much worse for her.

    But when a vulnerability in a school scheduling app causes search data to be leaked, the information goes viral and soon hackers are accessing and revealing more personal and harmful information. Chaos ensues. Friendships are destroyed. Futures are ruined.

    And through it all, Anna can’t help but watch, read, listen, and wait. Because while she might not  be one of Prep’s most envied or be the most social online, it’s only a matter of time before her secrets are exposed – the things she’s done that she can’t take back and the things she’s said that can’t remotely be called nice.

    Jillian Blake did a fantastic job at showing the many facets of this complicated issue. She gave readers a lot to think about and a different way of looking at a situation that might appear to be only negative. She alerts people to the danger of saying and sharing too much, she points out that it’s a problem that doesn’t just affect those who overshare, and she reminds us that no one is perfect, that everyone is flawed.

    ANTISOCIAL is more than just a wickedly scandalous story, though the dirt that is revealed about the many students at Alexandria Prep will make readers feel as voyeuristic as the characters as they devour each shocking piece of news. It has substance. It has a bit of a mystery. It has a fast-pace, entertaining if not entirely likable characters, and a positive message. It is an exciting story that is not to be missed.

    The Rating

    About the Author

    JILLIAN BLAKE grew up in New England, where she kept her deepest, darkest secrets password-protected. Antisocial is her first novel.



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    Author: Giovanna Fletcher
    Release date: April 25, 2017
    Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
    Pages: 352
    Formats: Hardcover, eBook

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    In this charming and exciting women’s fiction novel, Giovanna Fletcher explores the complicated relationship between three friends—Maddy, her fiancé Rob, and their best friend Ben.

    Maddy, dressed in white, stands at the back of the church. At the end of the aisle is Rob—the man she’s about to marry. Next to Rob is Ben—best man and the best friend anyone could ever have. And that’s the problem. Because if it wasn’t Rob waiting for her at the altar, there’s a strong chance it would be Ben. Loyal and sensitive, Ben has always kept his feelings to himself, but if he told Maddy she was making a mistake, would she listen? And would he be right?

    Best friends since childhood, Maddy, Ben, and Rob thought their bond was unbreakable. But love changes everything. Maddy has a choice to make, but will she choose wisely? Her heart, and the hearts of the two best men she knows, depend on it… Romantic, suspenseful, and a whole lot of fun, You’re the One That I Want is a great read about friendship, love, and the decisions that we make.


    NOTE: This review is based on an eARC received by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A finished copy was provided to me. A Kindle eCopy was purchased for my collection.

    The Review

    YOU’RE THE ONE THAT I WANT is a moving, romantic, wistful story of friendship, love, broken hearts, and a path not taken. It begins with a walk down the aisle, and goes back in time to reveal the beginnings of a childhood friendship between Maddy, Ben, and Robert, advancing through their lives to the present.

    Told only from the points of view of Maddy and Ben, they share how the three met, how their friendship grew, how it changed, and how the changes affected the threesome. Their story is a love story – joyful and sad, sweet and bittersweet. It is filled with moments that are, moments that could be, and moments that aren’t to be.

    The instant that Robert and Ben met Maddy, they adored her. And she adored them. Soon they were inseparable. The best of friends. Nothing could tear them apart. Not their changing interests. Not whomever they were dating. Not even Ben’s growing feelings toward Maddy.

    But when a trip to Paris with their art class ends in ways that none of them expected, leaving one of them heartbroken, keeping their friendship from falling apart won’t be easy. Especially with hidden feelings, bad timing, a colossal mistake, a lapse in judgment, unexplored possibilities, and impulsive decisions threatening to derail them and an important choice to be made that could irrevocably destroy their friendship.

    Giovanna Fletcher created a love story that was at times one-sided and maybe unrequited and at others was filled with possibility. The author also created another love story that was at times full of the promise of a happily-ever-after and at others was on the verge of a disastrous end.

    Both love stories involved Maddy. And the author left it up to her character to choose. A character who was loved and in love, who was both confident and uncertain, happy and angry, sentimental, emotional, regretful, remorseful, and guilt-ridden. Making for an affecting and captivating read with an unpredictable outcome.

    YOU’RE THE ONE THAT I WANT is the perfect blend of charming and heartwarming and heartrending and tragic. The love story has the potential to be ill-fated for one of the three best friends, out-of-this-world incredible for another, and somewhere in between for the third. It is a lovely and enchanting and tearful read that is certain to make readers choose which love story they’d want for Maddy.

    The Rating

    About Giovanna Fletcher

    Photo Credit: Jamie Hughes

    Giovanna grew up in Essex with her Italian dad Mario, mum Kim, big sister Giorgina and little brother Mario, and spent most of her childhood talking to herself (it seems no one wanted to listen) or reading books.

    At thirteen she left Essex behind to attend the full-time Sylvia Young Theatre School, where she met her husband Tom Fletcher. Following SYTS she completed an acting BA (hons) at Rose Bruford – since then she’s been acting, chaperoning mini actors and dabbling in a spot of freelance journalism.

    Giovanna is a firm believer in the power of magpies and positive energy. To see what makes Giovanna smile, view her blog at, or her Twitter page @mrsgifletcher.


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    Author: Brigid Kemmerer
    Release date: April 4, 2017
    Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
    Pages: 400
    Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook


    Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

    Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

    When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.


    NOTE: This review is based on an eARC received by the publicity agency via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy was purchased for my collection.

    The Review

    LETTERS TO THE LOST is an incredibly moving, beautifully written, and intensely emotional story that promises to put every reader’s heart through the wringer. It is a story of grief, anger, love, loss, and loneliness that is both extremely fragile and immensely powerful. It is poignant. It is tragic. It is devastatingly heartbreaking. It is the must read book of 2017.

    Juliet was not ready to say goodbye to her mother, even though it seemed everyone thought it was time she did. She idolized her mom. She missed her terribly. And she blamed herself for her mother’s death.

    She couldn’t be the friend she used to be. She couldn’t do the things she used to. All she had was her pain and the connection she had with her mom through the letters she wrote and left at her gravesite.

    Declan was angry all the time. He couldn’t stand the fact that his mother remarried and he despised the man she was married to. He hated being judged by people that didn’t even know him. And he detested his court-ordered community service.

    His dad may be the one in prison, but he was just as responsible for what happened to his sister and he was being tormented by the guilt. His best friend couldn’t understand what he was going through and his mother didn’t seem to care. But when he reads a letter that had been left on a grave, he thinks he might have found someone who does.

    Brigid Kemmerer has done an exceptional job of creating empathetic and relatable characters whose anguish can be felt and understood. Juliet and Declan are both so very lost and can’t find a way through their pain. They both blame themselves for their losses and are riddled with guilt. They are barely coping. They can’t accept their new realities. And alone they aren’t strong enough to fix what’s broken in themselves. But together, through their letters, they might be.

    LETTERS TO THE LOST is a love story. But first and foremost it’s a story about letting go, about trust, about asking for help, about being brave enough to find and face the truth, and about having the courage to go on living.

    It is tough and messy and one heck of an emotional rollercoaster. It is heartrending and courageous and brilliantly executed. It’s an exquisite and riveting and deeply affecting read that will be instantly likable and unputdownable.

    The Rating

    Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.

    About Brigid Kemmerer

    BRIGID KEMMERER is the author of LETTERS TO THE LOST (Bloomsbury; April 4, 2017), a dark, contemporary Young Adult romance;  THICKER THAN WATER (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance; and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.



    WINDFALL Blog Tour Review

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    Title: WINDFALL
    Author: Jennifer E. Smith
    Release date: May 2, 2017
    Publisher: Delacorte Press
    Pages: 432
    Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook

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    Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for the last few years, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. She and he are alike: both are outsiders, both know tragedy. She lost both her parents when she was nine and now lives with her cousin. Teddy’s mother is barely able to hold it all together, forced to grapple with the weight of gambling debts incurred by his father, who abandoned them years ago.

    Then, on Teddy’s eighteenth birthday, Alice buys him a lottery ticket, and to their astonishment, he wins $145 million. In an instant, their lives are completely upended. But what at first seems to be a blessing soon starts to feel like a curse. As Alice and Teddy deal with the ripple effects caused by that one little ticket, they learn more about themselves than they ever could have imagined, and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect. Now if only Teddy can see through his windfall and back to the ones who love him.


    NOTE: This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy was purchased/pre-ordered for my collection.

    The Review

    Inspiring, heartwarming, and incredibly moving, WINDFALL is a story about love and loss, and about good luck, bad luck, and no luck. It’s about being true to oneself, about taking chances, about moving forward, and about making a difference. It’s an utterly enchanting and totally addictive read that is sure to make every reader smile and make them wonder how their lives might change with a windfall.

    Alice never imagined that the lottery ticket she bought for Teddy, her best friend and secret love, on his birthday would change everything. It was supposed to be a gag gift from one very unlucky person to another. But when it turns out to be one of three winning tickets for over 140 million, it’s not only Teddy’s circumstances that will be radically altered, her entire world is at risk of being turned upside down.

    As much as she wishes he had never won, she is just as thrilled that he had. But it complicates things. For him. For her. For them. And with just how difficult her life has been already, she’s not really sure she can roll with the changes or deal with the fallout that comes along with such a big payout. Especially when it seems like her relationship with Teddy is what’s on the line.

    Jennifer E. Smith didn’t write a simple good luck, happily-ever-after love story – WINDFALL was so much more. The money didn’t magically erase all of Alice and Teddy’s problems. It didn’t rewrite their pasts. It provided opportunities, but it also created problems where none had existed before. And it forced them both to confront things they’d managed to avoid for a long while.

    What she did write is a story that has depth and emotion and complexity. A story that is uplifting, that provokes thought, that is achingly sad and beautiful and is also heartfelt and hopeful. She introduces two characters who are connected because of the tragedies in their pasts, but whose current good fortune could tear them apart. She writes about family, and friendship, and generosity, and second chances, and difficult choices, and possibility, and unrequited love.

    And she puts it all together in a story that is meaningful and romantic and endlessly readable.

    WINDFALL is an absolute must for those who believe in luck over fate, who are curious to meet someone who would contemplate turning down millions to avoid upsetting the status quo, who love stories that offer ideas for consideration, and who prefer a story they can devour in one sitting.

    The Rating

    About Jennifer E. Smith

    JENNIFER E. SMITH (@JenESmith) is the author of seven novels for young adults, including The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and spent years working as an editor on a number of bestselling books, including Ballantine’s New York Times bestseller Tell the Wolves I’m Home. Her work has been translated into thirty-three languages, and four of her novels are currently in development for film. She lives in New York City.




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