Guest Post + GIVEAWAY with Shaila Patel: Avoiding the Traps in Writing Romance

Hello! I am so glad Spring Break is here! Woot woot! I am currently a little under the weather right now, but I am so glad I have a wonderful author here on our blog today. I met Shaila Patel a couple of weeks ago at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival, and it was so awesome to meet her! She is one of the nicest author I’ve ever talked with, and I’ve loved our little chats. I loved her debut book Soulmated, and she is giving away an e-copy of her book along with some swag. The swag is great; I have some at home and I love them! Hope you enjoy!

Two souls. One Fate. soulmated_shailapatel_1600x2400_seriestitle

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.

Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?

 

a-shailaAbout the Author

As an unabashed lover of all things happily-ever-after, Shaila Patel’s younger self would finish reading her copy of Cinderella and fling it across the room because it didn’t mention what happened next. Now she writes from her home in the Carolinas and dreams up all sorts of stories with epilogues. A member of the Romance Writers of America, she’s a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. Soulmated is her debut novel and the winner of the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews Paranormal Awards for Young Adult. She loves books, craft beer, tea, and cozy window seats—but she’ll read anywhere. You might find her sneaking in a few paragraphs at a red light or online gushing about her favorite books.

Publisher Information:Month 9 Books

Represented by: Agent Amanda Leuck of Spencerhill Associates


A Shaila

Avoiding the Traps in Writing Romance

Hi Kester! Thank you for having me here today to talk about avoiding clichés and stereotypes in writing romance.

As a romance writer and a huge fan of romance novels, I can say with certainty that there are no original tropes. A trope is a scenario or plot device, and in love stories they form the foundation on which the romance is built. Examples include the girl falling in love with her brother’s best friend (or vice versa), or the rich, spoiled hero who falls for the one girl who hates him, or even the classic love triangle where a heroine has to choose between two boyfriends.

All romances are based on a trope, yet despite the predictability, we fall in love with a particularly romance novel because it doesn’t feel like the same old story. And that’s probably because it avoided using clichés and stereotypes that usually leave us uninspired and bored. Imagine eating steamed broccoli, or steamed carrots, or steamed cauliflower every night at dinner. Sure, they’re different vegetables, but having them prepared the same way doesn’t get you excited about sitting down to dinner. The same thing can happen in writing.

So how do you avoid the blahs in writing a romance?

Start by subverting the reader’s expectations. Let’s take the example of Beauty and the Beast. Why not make the beast the heroine instead of the hero? Why not move the story into the present day? Or what about making the beast a Hollywood A-list celebrity instead of a recluse? Now you’d have a story that would spark the imagination and make you forget that you already know what it’s all about.

Once you’ve subverted the reader’s expectations of the trope being used, create characters that can’t be contained on the pages of your book. It’s inevitable that you’ll use a few clichés and stereotypes, but don’t rely on them. Instead, captivate your readers with images and characterizations that force them to spin their expectations until they’re dizzy.

Here are three ways you can do that.

First, create fresh character descriptions. By their very nature, clichés and stereotypes don’t inspire us to think. They’re like shortcuts that are overused and instantly tell us what thought, description, or idea is being conveyed. If I were to describe a character’s hair as “golden locks,” you’d know I was describing blond hair. But does it paint a picture in your mind? Not really. How about this: “hair like garlands of pale yellow primroses.” Paints a different picture, doesn’t it?

Second, develop your characters by adding depth. Create an interesting backstory and personality flaws that—again—subvert the reader’s expectations. Taking the trope I mentioned above (the rich, spoiled boy who falls for the girl who hates him), maybe his backstory is that he was poor as a child. Or maybe he’s struggling with turning his parents in for their illegal activities. Why not make him insecure to counter his confidence? Or even embarrassed by a learning disability? There’s nothing more ho-hum than a one-dimensional, perfect character. It leads writers to fall back on expected character-types that you’d find for specific romance tropes, but worse, it makes the story predictable.

Third, have the expected character-type change and grow. If the hero or heroine doesn’t, you run the risk of having flat characters that do nothing to jazz up your trope. Do you have a brooding male hero? Give him a quirky hobby like doing magic tricks. With an interesting backstory, the reader would know why the hero loves the sleight of hand involved with card tricks, and by the end of the story, it could be part of the reason he grows and changes. Do you have a shy heroine? Give her an unexpected cause to champion and allow it to be one of the reasons she transforms by the end of the story. Parallel the hero and heroine’s growth, and intersect them when you need to advance the romantic plot. The goal is to have readers cheering for the hero and heroine, both as individuals and as a couple—all so that they won’t be thinking how predictable the trope is.

Using a romance trope in the same way that it’s always been used is like an uninspiring cliché. It doesn’t create a fresh image in our minds. It isn’t engaging. And if you can’t engage a reader, they’ll likely forget what they read.

And who would want to read a book like that?


Thank you so much, Shaila, for coming onto our blog! I’m so glad to have you guest post for us!

If you want to check out Shaila’s social media pages or buy Soulmated, check out the links below!

Contact Links:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Buy Links for Soulmated:

Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Books-a-Million| Google Play | Indiebound | Kobo


Now onto the giveaway! Woo hoo! I think you should enter this giveaway because I loved Soulmated A LOT! I mean A LOT! It was amazing! You’ll really enjoy it!

Just a few quick rules:

1) This is open to ALL International residents. For US Residents, you will get more swag than Int’l residents because of postage.

2) You must be truthful when entering!

3) You must be 18 years or older or have parental permission.

4) Winner must respond within 48 hours of me notifying him or her.

Here’s the Giveaway Link!

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I wish you the best! Hope you have fun! 🙂

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

 

 

 

 

 

Soulmated by Shaila Patel

Hello! Last Saturday, I finally got to meet one of the nicest and best authors at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival (post to come soon)! Her name is Shaila Patel, and she is an amazing romance writer! I am so glad I got to meet her, and her debut book Soulmated just released in January! Go buy it and check it out!

Goodreads Summary: **Winner of the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews Paranormal Awards in YA**soulmated_shailapatel_1600x2400_seriestitle

Two souls. One Fate.

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.

Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?

DISCLAIMER: I received a free electronic ARC copy of this book from the author in exchange for a review. I have also received swag from the author. These will not affect my review in any way.

Rating: 10/10 stars

Overall Thoughts: Soulmated was actually one of my most anticipated releases of 2017, and I was so excited when I got an e-ARC of it from the author! This book was really impressive for a debut author; it definitely exceeded my expectations and grabbed my attention! It’s not just a normal lovey-dovey romance, but instead, it infuses a unique relationship with an air of tension, mystery, questioning, and suspicion. This is not your average young adult romance. It is one of the best I have ever read!

Humor and Relatability: I have not laughed in a book more than this one! There is a lot of humor in what the characters do or say that both teens and adults will laugh at! I know because I’ve chuckled quite a few times. The ethnic diversity of the characters are so authentic that at times it’s funny! I could hear Liam’s Irish accent, and I loved it when Laxshmi corrected her mom’s grammar. I was going “Same!!!” Even the Irish and Indian terminology in the book is great; I had the urge to go “What’s craic?” (which is Irish for “What’s up?”) to some of my peers!

Romance: There are many reasons why the romance between the two protagonists is so unique and amazing!

1) Diversity. The author embraces each of the character’s ethnic backgrounds and portrays it so well in the book. The interracial romance breaks boundaries, yet it uses Laxshmi’s Indian heritage as an important element of this story. You just have to read to find out how it is both helped and harmed their connection.

2) Ups and Downs. The two went through many trials (not spoiling the ending). Both questioned whether it was right to pursue a relationship with the other, yet the still harbored feelings for each other. The dual-POV definitely added a layer of internal conflict that really works with this storyline. 3) Fantasy. Liam being an empath prince adds a ton of tension on the relationship. He is forced to find his “soulmate,” yet he questions whether Lucky (his nickname for Laxshmi) is the one. He at times feels dead-set that she is “the one” but at other times he doesn’t. The empath politics that surround this romance also adds a new sub-plot to it. There are some twists and surprises in store! Read it to find out what they are!

Some Details: There were, like many books I have already read, some parts where I had to think or read about what happened. I had to re-read the ending to grasp the events that were unfolding, but once I realized what was going on, I was shocked. There is a weird time-jump in the middle of the book that actually made me think the Liam at the time was an impostor (it was Liam for real by the way), but other than that, I don’t have a problem with anything!

My Review in a Nutshell: The ending definitely shocked me. I was like “What???” and “I need to read the next book!” I literally want to know what happens next! Overall, I enjoyed this book! I love it so much! Patel did not disappoint in her debut book, and I am so glad I was able to read it!

Recommendation: 100% Yes! I think you will be “soulmated” to this book! (Ha! Get it? No. Tough crowd.)

+ J.M.J.

Til next time!

~ Kester

Secrets of a Reluctant Princess Blog Tour: Guest Post by Casey Griffin –

Hello! Welcome to my tour stop for the Secrets of a Reluctant Princess Blog Tour! I know this little intro isn’t as long or personal as the others, but I’m a little bit crunched for time at the moment, but I hope you enjoy it!

soarptour

 

Secrets of a Reluctant Princess by Casey GriffinSecrets

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Publisher:  Entangled Teen

At Beverly Hills High, you have to be ruthless to survive…

Adrianna Bottom always wanted to be liked. But this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Now, she’s in the spotlight…and out of her geeky comfort zone. She’ll do whatever it takes to turn the rumor mill in her favor—even if it means keeping secrets. So far, it’s working.

Wear the right clothes. Say the right things. Be seen with the right people.

Kevin, the adorable sketch artist who shares her love of all things nerd, isn’t exactly the right people. But that doesn’t stop Adrianna from crushing on him. The only way she can spend time with him is in disguise, as Princess Andy, the masked girl he’s been LARPing with. If he found out who she really was, though, he’d hate her.

The rules have been set. The teams have their players. Game on.

Link to Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Indies | Amazon | B&N| Kobo | TBD | iBooks

 

Link to Tour Schedule

 

Now onto the guest post!

Casey Griffin

Speaking to Teens

Maybe it’s because I never matured past high school, or because I read a lot of YA, but I’ve never had much trouble putting myself in a young adult’s shoes to write a story from their perspective. In fact, it’s fun, refreshing even, to try to see the world through the eyes of a teenager. All that youthful optimism, the world at their feet, the rest of their lives ahead of them (yet, ironically, they can’t imagine ever being as old as I am). So what do I keep in mind while writing from a young adult’s point of view?

I’ve been there

  • I was once a teenager. I won’t tell you how long ago that was, but it wasn’t too long ago that I can’t remember how monumental some things seemed, how exciting, how scary, how frustrating. And if for a moment I take away some of the boring grown up things that occupy my brain space as an adult like bills, mortgages, and my career, it’s easy to still feel some of those same things. Heck, when it comes to romance, it doesn’t matter how old you get. When you fall in love, it still feels just as exciting and important as your first crush.

For teens, everything is new

  • I’ve had years of experiences that helped me develop the social and emotional tools to deal with a variety of situations (translation: I’ve made a ton of mistakes). For a teenager, a lot of those same experiences are new. They’re discovering their own achievements (and mistakes) for the first time. Add a dash of homework, a good dousing of hormones, trap them all in the same ugly building day after day, and OMG the world is ending! But it’s also fresh and exciting. Where an adult might feel skepticism or suspicion, a teen would have a fresh take on it.

It’s not easy being a teen

  • Many adults (read “all”) think they know everything and that teens should be learning from our past mistakes and limitless wisdom. But adults forget that teens can be pretty resourceful, and we can learn a lot from them too. Young adults deal with a lot these days. Not just in their own lives, but almost on a wider scale—as in globally, thanks to social media and the Internet. After becoming a step mom to a teen myself recently, and with three nephews all around that age, it feels like being a teen is tougher now than when I was one. Maybe there are more issues to face, maybe more pressure—or maybe that’s just all the years playing with my memory.

Put yourself in their shoes

  • While the vast majority of YA authors are not YAs themselves, I think it’s important to stay in touch with the age group you’re trying to write for. If an author has teens in their extended family, it’s as easy as connecting, asking questions, finding out what they’re up to, and what’s important to them. Of course there’s always excellent YA books, TV shows, and movies. It’s all about stepping out of your adult shoes and into theirs—you guys are still wearing platforms, right? 🙂

 

Thank you so much, Casey, for your wonderful guest post! Great to have you on our blog!

 

Now onto the giveaway!

Giveaway Information: 

  • One (1) winner will receive a signed copy of Secrets of a Reluctant Princess + a Tiara!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

About the AuthorCasey

 

Casey Griffin can often be found at comic conventions on her days off from her day job, driving 400 ton dump trucks in Northern Alberta, Canada. As a jack of all trades with a resume boasting registered nurse, English teacher, and photographer, books are her true passion. Casey is a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel finalist, and is currently busy writing every moment she can.

 

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

Hope you enjoyed it!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

 

 

Romeo & What’s Her Name Book Blitz

Romeo and What’s Her Name
Shani Petroff
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: February 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Understudies never get to perform

. . . which is why being Juliet’s understudy in the school’s yearly “Evening with Shakespeare” is the perfect role for Emily. She can earn some much-needed extra credit while pursuing her main goal of spending time with Wes, aka Romeo, aka the hottest, nicest guy in school (in her completely unbiased opinion). And she meant to learn her lines, really, it’s just:

a) Shakespeare is HARD,

b) Amanda, aka the “real” Juliet, makes her run errands instead of lines, and

c) there’s no point because Amanda would never miss the chance to be the star of the show.

Then, Amanda ends up in the hospital and Emily, as the (completely unprepared!) understudy, has to star opposite the guy of her dreams. Oops?

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iBooks

EXCERPT:

I stood there like a lump, waiting for my line. Finally, I turned toward Kayla and repeated, “I said, LOUDER-ETH.”

She fed me the line again. Supercrazy loud this time. “I would not for the world.”

It was so loud, the crowd heard it and started to laugh. Not the snickers from before, but those evil, full belly laughs people get when watching home videos of someone getting kicked in the groin. Wes was going to hate me for putting him through this. This torture needed to end.

“Methinks,” I said, “I could use-eth a book-eth.” Come on, Kayla. Take the hint. “You know-eth. A BOOK-ETH where-est I can recite-eth beauteous words to thee . . . thou . . . whatever. I NEED THE BOOK-ETH.”

As I was shouting that last book-eth, I got my wish. The script came sailing from off stage left and hit me in the back of the head. “Ow,” I unintentionally yelled, to the delight of the crowd. It weighed a ton.

“Sorry,” Kayla whispered. “My bad.”

I didn’t care. I’d get over the pain faster than the embarrassment I was suffering. I was just happy to have the script. At least I was until I realized Kayla hadn’t bookmarked the page I needed. It was the complete works of Shakespeare. There was no way I would find the right page. Not to mention that since the book was with me, Kayla couldn’t even feed me lines anymore. R&J wasn’t a tragedy. My life was.

I was so flunking English.

“Would thou like some help, my sweet Juliet?”

Did Wes just call me sweet? I swung around to face him, but I wasn’t paying attention to where I was stepping and my foot went right off the balcony. Wes lunged forward to catch me, but why would anything go right for me? So instead of Wes stopping me from hitting the floor, I took him down with me.

I was lying on top of Wes Rosenthal. Only, this was not like any of my daydreams. This was mortifying. I rolled off him and jumped up. “Are you okay?” I was visibly shaking.

Wes stood up, too. “Don’t worry-eth, Juliet,” he said without any anger in his voice. He even smiled at me. For a second I thought that meant he didn’t hate me for the craziness I was causing. But then I remembered he was acting. He actually took what he was doing seriously, and right now his part called for him to be in love with Juliet.

Wes said some line I assumed was to get us back on track. But I had no response. I couldn’t take it anymore. The laughter of the audience. The panic coursing through my body. The thought of making Wes suffer more. It needed to end.

So I did the only thing I could think of—something super Elizabethan. I put the back of my and to my forehead, pretended to swoon, and let my whole body fall back to the ground with a loud thump.

“I am so sorry-eth, Romeo.”

“It’s okay.” He sat down on the ground next to me and took my hand. I felt little sparks fly through me.

I shook my head. I couldn’t let him go through this anymore. “No, I know how-eth this play end-eth. I think I shall stab-eth myself now to save-eth us both.”

“Finally,” someone in the audience yelled out.

I picked up an imaginary dagger and began to plunge it into my heart.

“No,” Wes said, stopping me before I committed imaginary suicide. “Our story is not over yet. So let’s just say, ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night ‘til it be morrow.’”

I was pretty sure that was supposed to be my line. But I decided I probably shouldn’t point that out. Then he stood up and walked off the stage.

After a moment, someone finally took mercy on me and brought the stage lights down.

The scene was over. But I knew all too well that my embarrassment was just beginning.

Author Bio:

Shani Petroff is a writer living in New York City. She’s the author of the “Bedeviled” series, which includes Daddy’s Little Angel, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Dress, Careful What You Wish For, and Love Struck, and is the co-author of the “Destined” series which includes Ash and Ultraviolet. She also writes for television news programs and several other venues. When she’s not locked in her apartment typing away, she spends a whole lot of time on books, boys, TV, daydreaming, and shopping online.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

GIVEAWAY!

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Made for Me, by Pamela Schloesser Canepa

Hi guys! Man, I need to really catch up on reviews! I’m reading more than I could write! I have two more to write after this, so I got to do some more writing! Do you think this book was “made for me?” Ha. Get it? No laughs? Tough crowd.

DISCLAIMER: I have received a free electronic copy of this book from the author herself in exchange for an honest review. In no way will this affect my review.

Made for Me outlines the unique love story of Abrielle, a woman in looking of the perfect guy, and Sampson, a guy looking for love. After being paired with each other on a dating website, they instantly fall in love, but Sampson holds a secret that he has been concealing for many years. Concealing this secret for Abrielle means that they will have to go against society’s norms and rules, but she asks herself if it’s all worth it for the love of her life.

Rating: 8/10 stars

This review is going to be written a little differently than a normal review because I have two different feelings for the beginning half of this book and the ending half of this book. As I started this book, there were some things that bugged me as I read on, but once it reached the midpoint, I started to love it! That’s why this review is different from all the others. It’s still going to have 2-4 paragraphs depending on how much I want to write, but in a different order!

Continue reading “Made for Me, by Pamela Schloesser Canepa”

Damaged Goods Blog Tour: Interview with Jennifer Bardsley

Hi guys! If you’re here on the Damaged Goods blog tour, welcome to my tour stop! What a great way to end the tour, huh? This series is actually one of my most anticipated reads of 2016! I can’t wait to start it! And today, I have the honor to interview the lovely Jennifer Bardsley, also known as the YA Gal! (*internally screaming insider because I’m so happy I got to interview her*). Let’s get on with the tour!

damaged-goods

 

damagedgoods_1800x2700

Title: DAMAGED GOODS (Blank Slate #2)

Author: Jennifer Bardsley

Pub. Date: January 17, 2017

Publisher: Month9Books

Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Pages: 300

Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

Synopsis:

Blanca has everything she ever wanted, a hot boyfriend named Seth and the loving support of her foster father, Cal. She’s finally escaped the abusive control of her birth father, Barbelo Nemo, and her tortured childhood at Tabula Rasa School.

But the scars of Blanca’s Vestal upbringing run deep, especially when the FBI start asking questions. Blanca feels abandoned by Seth who is hunting for Lilith, Blanca’s only blood relative. The Defectos, a support group of Vestal-Rejects, offer Blanca comfort instead.

While the Vestal order crumbles, Chinese rivals called the Guardians rise to power and wrest control of important Tabula Rasa contacts. Now Blanca’s life is in peril once more, and this time, Blanca struggles to recognize friend from foe.

 

genesisgirl_1800x2700

Title: GENESIS GIRL (Blank Slate #1)

Author: Jennifer Bardsley

Pub. Date: June 14, 2016

Publisher: Month9Books

Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Pages: 280

Find it: Goodreads | Amazon |  B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Books A Million | Google Play | IndieBound

Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet. 

Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint makes her extremely valuable, and upon graduation, Blanca and those like her are sold to the highest bidders.

Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeals are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable. 

By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online. 

 

About Jennifer: jennifer-bardsley

Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column “I Brake for Moms” for the Sunday edition of The Everett Daily HeraldShe also blogs at Teaching My Baby to Read with the mission of sparking a national debate on the important roll parents play in education. Jennifer is a graduate of Stanford University and a member of SCBWI. She lives with her husband and two children in Edmonds, WA.

GENESIS GIRL will release in 2016 and is about an 18 year-old girl whose lack of a virtual footprint makes her so valuable that she is auctioned off to the highest bidder, the sequel  will come out in 2017. Jennifer is represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Literary Agency LLC.

Follow the Jennifer on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Goodreads.

 

a-jen-bar

Interview with Jennifer Bardsley:

Kester: In your own words, what is your Blank Slate series about?

Jennifer: The Blank Slate series is about a teenager named Blanca who grew up in a quasi-religious cult called the Vestals, where she was shielded from the Internet for eighteen years. Blanca grew up with no online profile or digital footprint. All the Vestals were blank slates, and since that is so rare, it made them valuable. In GENESIS GIRL Blanca’s digital purity gets auctioned off to the highest bidder. In DAMAGED GOODS, Blanca struggles to overcome the brainwashing of her past.

Kester: Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

Jennifer: I grew up keeping a diary. It’s really hard to commit to a diary, and I flaked out a whole bunch, but did manage to write a few times a month. Now I have diaries from when I was ten to fifteen that I treasure. If I was a teenager today though, I’d probably have an anonymous blog instead.

Continue reading “Damaged Goods Blog Tour: Interview with Jennifer Bardsley”