ARC REVIEW: The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter – by Julia Drosten

Title: The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter
Author: Julia Drosten
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: August 8th 2016
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: March 26th 2018
Pages: 295
(Originally written in German: ‘Die Elefantenhüterin’)

“Sometimes it’s very hard not to follow the path of revenge.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and AmazonCrossing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I have a weak spot for historical fiction, especially if they are set in an era or country I’m not all that familiar with. I was instantly intrigued when I first read about The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter, with its promises of a country/culture I don’t know much about as well as the era the story takes place. The 19th century history of Ceylon (now called Scri Lanka) is a fascinating background for this story and the descriptions of both the country itself and the customs and culture are lavishly and thoroughly described. It is really easy to imagine how Ceylon would have looked like from the descriptions alone! And it also shows the background for this story was very well researched and put together. Sadly, somehow I didn’t manage to get a proper feel for The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter though. While I love thorough descriptions, especially of places that are foreign to me, I started to wonder about the balance of those descriptions and the actual plot. It is true that the descriptions help set the right atmosphere and foreign setting/era, but they also slowed down the pace considerably. And not just the pace, because I also felt the transition from background descriptions to the more active parts was quite haltered and as a consequence the story didn’t really flow. I can’t put my finger on the why exactly, but I think my mixed feelings had a lot to do with the general tone and writing style as well. Both seemed distant and not natural, and the second especially stood out in the dialogues. And in general, even though they story describes some pretty barbaric events, it doesn’t seem to be able to provoke true emotions due to this feeling of distance. The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter has a lot of potential and the main characters have an interesting story, but sadly I wasn’t able to enjoy this story better. I’m still wondering if part of my problem with the tone and writing style could have been due to the fact this novel is a translation though, and some of its original charm might have been lost.

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In the royal city of Kandy, the king’s elephant keeper’s wife gives birth to a daughter the same day the king’s favorite elephant gives birth to her young. The couple was desperate for a boy to ensure the line of succession, and the mother hides her daughter’s gender by raising her as a boy. Phera and her elephant Siddhi become close friends and spends most of her time with the animal. Phera realizes she is not like other boys, but her parents force her to keep her true gender a secret… Until the British colonists invade Ceylon and they have to flee the capital.

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I really wanted to like this one and I still think the plot itself has a lot of potential. The worldbuilding and descriptions of the era and setting are thorough and it shows the background of The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter was very well researched. Sadly, I’m still on the fence about this one, as I didn’t manage to enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Part of the problem was the tone and writing style as well as the fact the story didn’t really flow… Which made it hard to properly connect to the story. The setting is fascinating though as well as the time period the story is set in with its consequences of the British invasion.


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ARC REVIEW: Deadly Secrets – by Robert Bryndza @bookouture @RobertBryndza

Title: Deadly Secrets
(DCI Erika Foster #6)
Author: Robert Bryndza
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 13th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: March 23rd 2018
Pages: 270

“Are you kidding me? How many times have you put yourself in danger? You’ve been beaten up more times that Jackie Chan. You’re like the bionic woman!”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the DCI Erika Foster series and I have been following her adventures closely ever since I read the first book back in 2016. Of course I had this newest book Deadly Secrets on my list of most-anticipated releases and I’m pretty sure I squeeled when my request was approved. Talk about a perfect (late) birthday present! I literally dropped everything as soon as my copy appeared on my kindle just so I could start reading Deadly Secrets straight away. And this newest installment has exactly the same high quality of writing, plot development, twists and the healthy dose of suspense and action I have become used to with this series. I found myself hooked right from the very first page as there is just something about the writing that draws you right in. And what a way to start this thriller! Deadly Secrets can be read as a standalone since the case itself is easy to follow on its own, but you do miss background information about the main characters. And the other books are so good, you will definitely be missing out by not reading them in the first place! Erika Foster is a character I’ve come to love and her investigations are always intense with lots of twists and turns. In Deadly Secrets, she is not as present as in previous books due to circumstances I can’t reveal because of spoilers, but I like the direction the story takes. The case itself seems to be rather straightforward at first glance, and I even thought I had it all figured out at some points, but trust me, you will be wrong. Misleading plot twists to the win! The ending was definitely a surprise and rather intense… And I’m definitely curious about what will happen in the future. Fast-paced, suspenseful, intense and highly entertaining: Deadly Secrets and the DCI Erika Foster series in general is a must-read for detective thriller fans!

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first five books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

After a mother wakes up to find her daughter’s blood-soaked body frozen on her doorstep, DCI Erika Foster stumbles upon the murder scene on her way to a Christmas lunch. She quickly steps in and takes over the lead of the case, determined to find out who is behind the murder. They have a lot of suspects, but not so many solid leads. And what looks like a pretty straightforward case, soon becomes more complicated as they uncover more and more secrets and lies…

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I had high expectations for this newest DCI Erika Foster story and I’m happy to say those expectations were more than met. I enjoyed every single minute of Deadly Secrets! Book number six takes a bit of a different direction and Erika Foster is not as present as normal, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of action and a very interesting police investigation to follow. This case is another disturbing one that will lead to many misleading twists as the team is trying to untangle the lies and secrets that surround the life of the victim. Very much recommended for fans of the genre!


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ARC REVIEW: The Girl With No Name – by Lisa Regan @bookouture

Title: The Girl With No Name
(Detective Josie Quinn #2)
Author: Lisa Regan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 19th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: March 17th 2018
Pages: 337

“Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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After enjoying the first Josie Quinn book back in January, I have been looking out for a new installment. Lisa Regan writes her thrillers just as I like them: fast, action-packed and intense until the very last page. The Girl With No Name definitely fits all those criteria and more, and has proven to be another thrilling ride. There is just something about the writing style that keeps you hooked and wanting for more… The plot is quite complex and one plot twist bomb after the other is being dropped on you; it almost seems like a war zone. I do have to say I started to doubt the credibility of it all. There are so many things going on and some of it seems a bit too farfetched or convenient to be completely credible. Also, I was able to guess a few of the plot twists before they were revealed, which was a bit of a disappointed. That said, there is no doubt about the intensity of the story and the author was able to create another nail bitingly suspenseful hunt for the truth and not one but two missing persons. I like Josie Quinn even though she is the typical damaged past detective and I do think she has a lot of bad luck on the man department; almost too much to be credible. Her way of investigating mostly makes up for it though. The Girl With No Name is not as dark and disturbing as the first book, but that doesn’t mean it’s an quiet ride. Secrets, missing persons, serial killers, dodgy characters… This Detective Josie Quinn sequel has it all. And while not perfect, The Girl With No Name is without doubt still a highly entertaining thriller to read for those who like them intense and action-packed.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book yet. I’ll keep the summary short but it’s almost impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Detective Josie Quinn and her team are called in after a newborn baby was snatched from his mother’s arms and the mother left for dead in her house. Their only lead seems to be a woman they caught fleeing the scene, but the girl appears to have amnesia and doesn’t remember who she is nor why she was at the house. Is she a witness, a suspect, or a victim? As Josie Quinn and her team dig deeper, they discover the case is a lot more complicated than it appeared… And more than one life might be at stake.

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If you like your thrillers fast, intense and full of action, you will most likely enjoy The Girl With No Name. You won’t find a boring minute as you are reading this detective thriller, and even though I had my doubts about the credibility of it all, I still very much enjoyed reading it. Entertaining and fast-paced, this thriller will bring you along a very intense hunt as they are trying to discover the truth and find the missing persons in time. The ending felt a bit too neat, but it does show promising signs for the next book. I’m definitely curious about both what will happen next and about Josie Quinn’s past!


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ARC REVIEW: No Safe Place – by Patricia Gibney @bookouture @trisha460

Title: No Safe Place
(Detective Lottie Parker #4)
Author: Patricia Gibney
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 22nd 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: March 3rd 2018
Pages: 488

“Sometimes it was better to remain silent. Sometimes, but not always.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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!! Happy publication day !!

I’ve been hooked to the Detective Lottie Parker series ever since I read the first book, reading each one as soon as it’s available. There is just something about this series that makes you want more. And I think this has a lot to do with both the writing style, the setting in Ragmullin (a town that feels authentic even though it doesn’t really exist) and of course the plot, it’s many twists and the main characters. Sure, things can be said about Lottie Parker’s broken personality and complicated past being a cliche, since most detectives out there have the same description, but she has really grown on me and I like her style. The books of this series have been consistently solid and No Safe Place is no exception to this. I found myself completely hooked right from the first chapter and literally finished it in less than a day. The writing style draws you right in and the fast pace of the plot and the many many plot twists and constant action and new discoveries will keep you on the edge of your seat. As always, the plot of No Safe Place was complex and well developed, having many different layers and little hints and twists that will have you guessing until the very end. Because while I had some vague ideas about what could be going on, the ending still came as a surprise and I definitely didn’t see a lot of the twists and details of the case coming. I also really liked the mix of the official investigation with things that were happening in Lottie’s personal life; it makes the story more human and easier to relate. The final reveals definitely left me wanting for more! I will be looking forward to book five to learn more… No Safe Place was without doubt another highly successful and intense detective thriller.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first three books yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Nothing worse than trying to have a funeral for your loved one, and finding out their grave is already occupied with another body… But that is exactly what happened as the funeral mourners at the Ragmullian cemetery discover the body of a young woman at the bottom of an open grave. Detective Lottie Parker is called in to investigate, and wonders if the woman could be Elizabeth Bryne, who has been missing for the last couple of days. With a new boss, she is under a lot of pressure to solve both cases quickly. But then things get worse and another woman goes missing… Are the cases linked and could they have a serial killer on the loose? And what about the similarities with a cold case ten years ago?

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If you are looking for a well written, fast-paced and intense detective thriller series with a consistent quality and complex and well developed plots, Detective Lottie Parker will be a perfect fit for you. No Safe Place has another intense and complex investigation with many layers and twists to keep you guessing and entertained. I had my guesses, but didn’t find out the full truth until the very end and I was wrong in many occasions. I just love it when a story is able to mislead me! No Safe Place was another excellent detective thriller and I will already be looking forward to the next book.


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ARC REVIEW: The Child Next Door – by Shalini Boland @bookouture @ShaliniBoland

Title: The Child Next Door
Author: Shalini Boland
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 29th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: March 12th 2018
Pages: 279

“My stomach gives a sudden lurch, and I have the sensation that something has irrevocably shifted. That nothing in our lives will ever be quite the same again.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Birthday review!! 😀 Because receiving the message my request was approved last week was like an early birthday present in the first place.

I’ve been a big fan of Shalini Boland‘s psychological thrillers ever since she first reached out to me with the question if I wanted to read The Girl From The Sea back in 2016, and these feelings haven’t changed after reading her next three psychological thrillers. The Child Next Door is already book number five and was yet again very much another winner. There is just something about the writing style that has you hooked from the very first page and literally doesn’t let you go… I finished The Child Next Door in less than a day! This psychological thriller starts with a bang and every mother’s worst nightmare, setting the tone for the rest of the story. Who were those voices Kirstie heard? Are they after her little girl? Oh yes, you are starting to feel paranoid yourself as well as you keep reading and things start to happen to Kirstie. The characters are well developed and feel realistic in general and it was interesting to see them react to the different situations, although I’m not sure they are completely likeable. The pace is perfect for a good psychological thriller and the amount of plot twists and false leads is just right as well. There are a lot of different angles included in this story, making for a rich plot and a wide pool of suspects and possibilities. I did feel the general ending came a bit as an anticlimax after all that was being build up, but it was definitely not something that I saw coming and shocking as well. And that final statement!!! I SO need a sequel or something to know more… I was left staring open-mouthed at the last page because I just couldn’t believe what I just read. If you enjoy reading psychological thrillers, I can highly recommend both The Child Next Door and any of her other books. They are excellent!

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When Kirstie wakes up and hears her child crying through the baby monitor, she hurries upstairs to tend to her. But then she hears an unknown voice in the baby monitor, telling someone to just take the child and go. Kirstie panicks and flies up the stairs, only to find her daughter safe asleep in her cot. Who was the voice she heard? There are no other babies living closeby… And neither the police nor her husband believe she actually heard the voice. But Kirstie knows something isn’t right, and these feelings only increase when things start happening…

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The Child Next Door is psychological thriller at its best. Just the right amount of tension, a rich plot and a healthy dose of twists and false leads, but also well rounded characters and a pace that is just right. To top things off, the writing style will make you want to keep on reading and you will have a hard time letting go. I didn’t see the ending coming at all, as it kind of came out of nowhere, but it was shocking as well. And like I said before, that final reveal left me both speechless and wanting for more. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: The Sun Does Shine – by Anthony Ray Hinton @StMartinsPress

Title: The Sun Does Shine
Author: Anthony Ray Hinton
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, True Crime
First published: March 27th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: March 11th 2018
Pages: 272

“And with that laughter, I realized that the State of Alabama could steal my future and my freedom, but they couldn’t steal my soul or my humanity.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I was intrigued by the premise of The Sun Does Shine as soon as I first read the blurb. I have a weak spot for memoirs, and Anthony Ray Hinton‘s story is without doubt one that will be able to catch your attention straight away. I knew right from the start this wasn’t going to be an easy read, but it is almost impossible to wrap your head around all that the author has had to go through during all that time. Powerful, infuriating, heartbreaking and with a dose of hope and forgiveness… The Sun Does Shine is one of the best true crime memoirs I have read to this date, and his story will stay with me for a long time. Why did this memoir have such an impact on me? Let’s see if I can explain my reasons… In a nutshell, this memoir is about the life of a man who had to spend thirty years on death row despite being innocent and having a solid alibi. His crime? Being born poor and black in the South (Alabama), a place where he ended up being judged by the color of his skin and the money in his pocket instead of the simple fact he was guilty or not. This fact alone will be enough to enrage you, one infuriating detail of his case after the other causing sparks and making you want to scream and pull at your hairs. How is it possible that in 1985 things like this still happened? Incriminating an innocent man with a solid alibi, discriminating him and denying him his rights? It made me want to travel back in time and just tell those persons involved in his case what I really thought of them. The Sun Does Shine talks about the author growing up as well as the difficulties he has had to face during his entire life, even long before he was wrongly convicted of a crime. Racial segregation and discrimination is an important element in this memoir, and even though Anthony Ray Hinton never points a direct finger at the guilty and even stresses he forgives them, it shows us readers just how wrong the system was and still is in Southern Alabama. It’s a topic that has always touched me, and it is very well described in this memoir.

But this memoir isn’t just about injustice and racial discrimination. Like the author stresses, it is also about hope and forgiveness, which shines through in his writing and underlying message. His experience during all those years on death row is fascinating to read, as well as describing his personal relationships with fellow inmates and how the experience truly changes men. While I believe in punishment for those who have committed crimes, I don’t think death row is a solution. Like Anthony Ray Hinton said, who are we to judge who is innocent and who deserves to die? And then I’m not even thinking about possibly innocent men and women killed because of a mistake during their trials. Anthony Ray Hinton‘s case shows us just how wrong things can go, sending an innocent man to spend thirty years of his life on death row. I’m truly impressed and inspired by his view of life and ability for forgiveness. I can recommend this memoir to everyone; it is a true eye-opener.

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In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with robbery and two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Hinton was working the night the last robbery took place and had a solid alibi, so he knew it was a case of mistaken identity and believed the truth would soon set him free. But the fact that he was innocent didn’t mean anything to those in charge of the trial, and with no money and simply being a poor black man in the South, he was sentenced to death soon after. He spent the first three years on Death Row at Holan State Prison without speaking a word to anyone except those who believe in his innocence. His initial anger and despair of being sent to his death as an innocent man changed when he realized he had to accept his fate, and he was determined to not only survive and prove his innocence, but also find a way to live on Death Row.

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Powerful, inspiring, infuriating, heartbreaking, but also full of hope and forgiveness. The Sun Does Shine shows us how racial discrimination and prejudice helped send an innocent man to death row and keep him there for thirty years despite solid proof of his innocence. The pure injustice of it all makes you want to scream, but both his case and experience is very well documented in this memoir and makes for a painful, but inspiring, intriguing and very powerful read. I’m truly impressed by his views on life and his ability to be able to forgive the unforgivable. Highly recommended!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Lies That Bind – by Diana Rodriguez Wallach @EntangledTeen

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Lies That Bind Blog Tour! The sequel of this international spy series was published on March 6th and has proven to be another entertaining and addictive ride. Please join me while I share my thoughts on Lies That Bind!

Title: Lies That Bind
(Anastasia Phoenix #2)
Author: Diana Rodriguez Wallach
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: March 6th 2018
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Finished reading: March 5th 2018
Pages: 322

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Entangled Teen in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

ABOUT LIES THAT BIND

WARNING: Skip the summary if you haven’t read Proof Of Lies yet. There might be spoilers!!

What do you do when you learn your entire childhood was a lie?

Reeling from the truths uncovered while searching for her sister in Italy, Anastasia Phoenix is ready to call it quits with spies. The only way to stop being a pawn in their game is to remove herself from the board. But before she can leave her parents’ crimes behind her, tragedy strikes. No one is safe, not while Department D still exists.

Now, with help from her friends, Anastasia embarks on a dangerous plan to bring down an entire criminal empire. From a fire-filled festival in England to a lavish wedding in Rio de Janeiro, Anastasia is determined to confront the enemies who want to destroy her family. But even Marcus, the handsome bad boy who’s been there for her at every step, is connected to the deadly spy network. And the more she learns about Department D, the more she realizes the true danger might be coming from someone closer than she expects…

MY RAMBLES

I read and enjoyed the first book of the series last month, which I reviewed here. Some soundbites of my review on Proof Of Lies:

“I love myself a good spy thriller and I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Proof Of Lies. An international setting, conspiracy theories… Can it get any better than that? This is definitely my kind of story.”

“Where the story starts out a little slow despite everything that happens, the second half was what fully made my heart race.”

“This YA spy thriller is fast-paced and entertaining and perfect for fans of the Embassy Row and The Conspiracy Of Us series.”

All of these lines directly apply to Lies That Bind as well. I have a weak spot for any story with a conspiracy plot, spies or an international setting. Having all three of these elements in one story? Definitely the right way to start for me! Lies That Bind picks up where Proof Of Lies ended and show us the danger for the Phoenix sisters isn’t over yet. They have a new situation on their hands, one that might even be more complicated than what they have already faced. Like in book one, it took me a while to get into the story, but as soon as I did I was hooked. The first part of Lies That Bind is mostly used as a base line which the rest of the plot and the next book of the series will be able to stand on. This kind of introduction is necessary and while it slowed down this book, I’m having a feeling book number three will be full of fireworks. Because like in the first book, it was the second half of Lies That Bind that really made my heart race. Why? The non stop action, plot twists, shocking reveals and international setting probably had a lot to do with it. There is no doubt that the ending left me wanting for more… Because I’m dying to find out how they will be able to find their way out. That and a few other reveals I will not talk about to avoid spoilers. But I’m feeling it in my toes the next one is going to blow minds.

The writing style makes it really easy to read this story, and despite the slower start Lies That Bind turned out to be a superfast read. And I also loved the use of foreign language in the text, which helped create the right international atmosphere. The descriptions of the places they visit are well done and make it feel as if you were there yourself. Free travel included while you are reading, another bonus! I do have to say I struggled a bit with the high dose of drama in especially the first half of Lies That Bind. I mentioned in my review of the first book that I wasn’t a fan of the main character Anastasia because of her attitude, and this feeling hasn’t changed. Trust-issues aside, the tension between Anastasia, Marcus, Antonio and Keira did get a bit too much for me. I guess part of this has to do with the romance, but in the end it was mostly the dramaqueen episodes that got to me. I still have a weak spot for Marcus and his little Spanish accent though. And it has been interesting to see how the characters react to the different situations. Even more importantly, the final part of Lies That Bind made me forget about all that drama and I devoured the non stop action as it was thrown at me. I can’t wait to read the third book now and find out what the author has in store for us next! Like I’ve said before, this YA international spy series is fast-paced and entertaining and perfect for fans of the Embassy Row and The Conspiracy Of Us series.

ABOUT DIANA RODRIGUEZ WALLACH

Diana Rodriguez Wallach is the author of the Anastasia Phoenix Series, three young adult spy thrillers (Entangled Publishing, 2017, ’18, ‘19). The first book in the trilogy, Proof of Lies, was named by Paste Magazine as one of the “Top 10 Best Young Adult Books for March 2017.” Bustle also listed her as one of the “Top Nine Latinx Authors to Read for Women’s History Month 2017.” Additionally, she is the author of three award-winning young adult novels: Amor and Summer Secrets, Amigas and School Scandals, and Adios to All The Drama (Kensington Books); as well as a YA short-story collection entitled Mirror, Mirror (Buzz Books, 2013).

She is an advisory board member for the Philly Spells Writing Center, a school-based Workshop Instructor for Mighty Writers in Philadelphia, and has been a Writing Instructor for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth since 2015. She holds a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University, and currently lives in Philadelphia.

AUTHOR LINKS

Author Website: www.dianarodriguezwallach.com

Author Blog: http://dianarwallach.tumblr.com

Author Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dianarwallach

Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dianarwallach/

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dianawallachauthor/


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