Blog Tour: Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale [REVIEW + GIVEAWAY]

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Book Title: Small Town Hearts
Author: Lillie Vale
Series: None (Standalone)
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: March 19th 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

Rule #1 – Never fall for a summer boy. 

Fresh out of high school, Babe Vogel should be thrilled to have the whole summer at her fingertips. She loves living in her lighthouse home in the sleepy Maine beach town of Oar’s Rest and being a barista at the Busy Bean, but she’s totally freaking out about how her life will change when her two best friends go to college in the fall. And when a reckless kiss causes all three of them to break up, she may lose them a lot sooner. On top of that, her ex-girlfriend is back in town, bringing with her a slew of memories, both good and bad.

And then there’s Levi Keller, the cute artist who’s spending all his free time at the coffee shop where she works. Levi’s from out of town, and even though Babe knows better than to fall for a tourist who will leave when summer ends, she can’t stop herself from wanting to know him. Can Babe keep her distance, or will she break the one rule she’s always had – to never fall for a summer boy?


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour hosted by Xpresso Book Tours.

MY THOUGHTS

Hi! I would like to apologize for my consistent absence both here on my blog and on Twitter because of academic reasons, ugh. But now, our midterm exams are finally over so I get to do more reading, which is always good!

I’ve just started this earlier today and finished it in a day. And considering that I’m a painfully slow reader, that says a lot about how much I adored this book!

Let me start off by saying that the characters are spectacularly-written. If you know me, then you probably know that I am a character-driven reader which means my reading experience largely depends on the characters of the book. So it came as no surprise that I would rate this so highly. Granted, a couple of characters were superficial and “just-there” but I feel like they weren’t really valuable to the main story. The ones that are, though? They were so realistic and I loved every single one of them.

I instantaneously liked Babe Vogel, our main character, mainly because I feel like we’re very similar individuals in the sense that we both fear change, however minuscule it may be. She is also mind-numbingly sweet and loyal to her friends, even though she ends up getting hurt most of the time. But most of all, I liked her since she developed so well through the course of this story. I actually felt like a friend, so proud of who she’s become by the time the book came to a close! Not to mention, she also cares for the environment as she still picked up her trash to throw away even in the middle of a thunderstorm! AND she bakes!!! If all those reasons didn’t convince you in the slightest that she’s one of the best main characters there is, then I don’t know what will.

Poppy, Babe’s best friend, is a character with many flaws which grew on me. I was initially aghast at how Babe managed to be on good terms with Poppy for so long because it seems to me like Poppy was a selfish and manipulative person. However, I understood that she had her reasons and came to realize that she was one of the most realistic characters among them all.

And then there’s Levi. I can’t stop swooning over Levi while reading, and as I’m typing this, I’m falling head over heels in love with him once more! He is definitely the epitome of a perfect book boyfriend. Aside from being extremely talented, he knows exactly how to treat a girl [Babe] right. He was very mature in the entirety of the story and I admire him for that, especially considering that he’s eighteen.

On the other hand, as if the fantastic characters weren’t enough, the storyline of Small Town Hearts is breathtakingly genuine and the romance so heartwarming that I just couldn’t get enough of it!

Small town. Coffee shop. Friendships. And a summer boy. Those are four of my soft spots so seeing them all in one book and be executed properly? Lillie Vale has outdone herself on this debut novel.

Oar’s Rest indeed sounds like paradise, plus the food, coffee and baked pastries mentioned made my mouth water numerous times! The romance was everything I could have hoped for too! It was equal parts charming and honest, which was made extra special since it was the only thing that was mostly going right in Babe’s summer that turned upside down. And although it didn’t touch upon much familial aspect, this book shined because it deals with problems on close-knit friendships as everything seems to change the summer before college. 

Overall, I absolutely recommend Small Town Hearts because aside from being such a sweet and romantic read, I think this is an important book for young and new adults such as myself. This book has definitely made its mark on my heart! I would definitely be on the look out for more of this author’s works!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lillie.jpgLillie Vale, upon discovering she could not be one of Santa’s elves or attend Hogwarts, decided to become a writer to create a little magic of her own. Enjoying the romantic and eerie in equal measure, she’s probably always writing a book where the main characters kiss or kill. Born in Mumbai, she has lived in many U.S. states, and now resides in an Indiana college town where the corn whispers and no one has a clue that she is actually the long-lost caps lock queen. She can be reached on Twitter @LillieLabyrinth and Instagram @labyrinthspine. Small Town Hearts is her debut novel.

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GIVEAWAY

Win a print copy of Small Town Hearts (US/CAN)

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Blog Tour: Enlightenment by Reno Ursal [EXCERPT]

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Good morning, friends! Today I bring you a book about mythology. If you know me, then you know I’m head over heels in love with mythology. But this specific blog tour is special since it revolves around Philippine mythology. Written by a Filipino himself, it is remarkable to see our own nation’s folklore in books like this. So, I wanted to share with you an excerpt!


42361566Book Title: Enlightenment
Author: Reno Ursal
Series: Bathala #1
Publisher: Pacific Boulevard
Publication Date: March 14th 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Content Warnings: violence, descriptions of blood and other serious injuries

Goodreads / Amazon

“Enlightenment” is the first book in The Bathala Series, inspired by the beautiful folklore of the Philippines. This is the coming of age journey of Filipina-American Dorothy Dizon and transfer student Adrian Rosario, who teeter between friendship and intimacy throughout the novel.

“Enlightenment” introduces Dorothy as an 18 year old high school student in the United States, learning through Adrian about the mysterious folklore that binds them to the obscure history of the Philippines. She realizes that supernatural forces are no defense for a consuming love, a love that has her lean on her best friend for support, the beautiful Stella De Guzman. Adrian is a blood-eating Danag warrior sent to protect Dorothy from unseen enemies of his secret society in the Philippines, a society that changed the course of history prior to Spanish colonization. Adrian’s doubts about Dorothy are put to the test until the final moment when he feels a connection he could never predict. Together, Dorothy and Adrian experience a metamorphosis of historic proportions, a metamorphosis that changes their souls.


EXCERPT

CHAPTER ONE: DOROTHY

Stella and I were at Tao Nightclub dancing to a dope EDM set by DJ Asia. Out of nowhere, a middle-aged man emerged onto the dance floor. He wasn’t interested in the scantily clad go-go dancers on raised platforms, shaking their butts around us. Instead, he ogled DJ Asia as she cupped headphones against her ears, her long hair and curvy silhouette hovering behind a laptop in the elevated DJ booth. When his view was blocked by a crowd of partygoers, he looked in our direction. He approached us, his musty scent forcing me to hold my breath. I turned away.

“Hey there,” he said in a raspy voice.

Stella nudged me, a signal to somehow get rid of him. She’d done the honors last night at Club Lavo in the Palazzo Casino. Now it was my turn.

I reluctantly turned back. “Hello,” I replied, hating that my voice sounded more polite than intended.

“So you two alone?” the man asked.

“Our boyfriends went to get us drinks.”

The man shifted closer. “Your boyfriends are idiots for leaving you two by yourselves.”

Stella gave me a face before disappearing into the crowd by the bar. I tried to think of any reason to get out of the conversation. “They’ll be back, but thanks.”

The man reached for my arm. “I guess it’s you and me. Your friend left.” He somehow wrapped his arm around my waist and twisted me into him.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I said in a rising voice.

“Come on now,” he breathed in my ear. “Let’s make this a night you’ll never forget.”

“Frickin’ let go of me! You’re like fifty years old. I could be your daughter!”

The man reached for my arms. “You can’t believe I’m old enough to be your daddy, can you?”

A crescendo of sharp energy rose through me once I heard the word daddy. Perhaps being abandoned by my father at a young age had actually affected me, or maybe it was because of this guy’s creepy demeanor. Whatever it was made me twist his hand and pin his neck against the wall with my forearm.

“I’m only eighteen!” I yelled. The look of shock on his face gave me a moment of satisfaction as I fought off a sudden urge to lick and bite his neck. Why did I want anything to do with his neck?

“Feisty,” the man replied hoarsely, my arm still pressed against his Adam’s apple. The color drained from his face, and I almost smiled at that, but the scent of his skin overcame me.

“Who are you!” I growled. And why did my throat feel like it was starting to burn?

The man strained for a breath. “I’ve never seen you before in my life!”

“Why did you walk up to me?”

“You were staring at me! And it’s hard not to notice girls who look like twins!”

It was a bullshit response, even if Stella and I did look like twins, at least on this night. We had decided to wear matching black halter tops and skirts, while I added three inches thanks to my only pair of wedges. Stella soared like a model and her skin had a golden radiance; I was never in her league, but tagged along when she begged me to go out on the strip. And because I had given in, I had to confront this creepy guy who had noticed us in the Tao Nightclub’s strobe lights.

“You shouldn’t even be looking at girls our age!” I yelled.

My hold on his neck loosened when my stomach inexplicably convulsed in a split second of pain. I cursed the impeccable timing of female cramps as the man staggered away. A blue vein spiraled from his neck into his shoulder blade. I leaned closer to touch his skin until two powerful arms grabbed the guy’s collar.

Harvey, a bouncer at the club, looked at me with a shocked expression. I backpedaled, suddenly aware an altercation had started because of me. Smoke seemed to rise from Harvey’s face and over his bald head. There was absolutely no way the guy had a chance now. I took a deep breath, the burn in my throat quickly extinguished. What. The. Heck.

“What’s going on here?” Harvey yelled into the man’s face.

The man pointed in my direction. “She attacked me!”

Harvey tugged the man’s collar and pulled him towards an exit sign. “You got to be kidding! She’s barely over a hundred pounds!”

The stranger tried to push him, but his arms caught air against Harvey’s six-foot frame. Once they disappeared down a dark corridor, chills ran through me.

Stella emerged and held my hands. “What was that about?”

Exactly. Why did I growl and jump on the guy? I leaned towards Stella’s ear. “I’m not sure what just happened!”

Stella held my shoulders. “Oh my God! I ran to get Harvey when he reached for your arm. But that’s before you pinned him against the wall!”

“I had to defend myself!”

“Shit! Maybe it’s time for me to join Tae Kwon Do so I can be like my girl Dorothy Dizon! You kicked his sorry ass!”

I could still smell the trail of the man’s scent. “I feel…gross!” I absolutely wanted to take a shower to make the ickiness go away.

“Don’t let that loser ruin our night! Come on!” Stella pulled me to the dance floor where she attempted an exaggerated running man in her flats, which somehow made me laugh. I tried not to get into the cheesiness of classic dance moves, but Stella’s enthusiasm broke me down. Harvey emerged and motioned us to the bar in the middle of my half-hearted Roger Rabbit. He asked if I was okay. My insides squirmed at the reminder of the man’s arm around my waist, but I assured him I wasn’t hurt. Then a fight broke out.

Harvey sprinted up the stairs to the second level. He pushed a drunk and pointed at another guy to stay at the end of the bar. There were verbal threats between two guys with high-pitched yells from their girlfriends, making the scene even more dramatic. By the time Harvey and his crew had handled the situation, Stella and I had agreed to call it a night.

After a pit stop in the ladies’ room, we waved bye to DJ Asia in the booth and accepted Harvey’s offer to escort us to my car in case the creepy guy was loitering in the casino. Once we found my Mercedes in the self-parking garage, we thanked him for kicking the guy out. He said it was nothing and watched us drive off before he went back in the Palazzo.

After hitting all the greens on the strip, I accelerated into traffic and started to feel normal, especially when our favorite Cardi B. song played on the radio. But after dropping Stella off and promising to text her from home, my hands quivered on the steering wheel as I swallowed a strange craving at the back of my throat. I focused on keeping my trembling hands from driving me off the road as the image of the guy’s creepy smile made me nauseous.

Who the fuck did he think he was?

I pressed my forehead against the steering wheel and took long breaths after pulling into the driveway, trying to settle the queasy reaction inside me. I texted Stella that I was home and quickly walked in the house.

I checked on my mom upstairs. She was snoring. Loudly. Which meant she would be knocked out until late morning. I closed her door quietly and threw my smoky halter top and skirt in the hamper. I took a long-ass shower, making sure my entire body was slathered with body soap. After toweling off and brushing my teeth, I changed into my favorite Golden State Warriors jersey and shorts and plopped on my bed, cringing at my urge to lick the sleazy man’s neck. No girl should ever want to lick that man’s neck! After a half-hour of tossing and turning, I fell asleep listening to Coldplay’s Viva La Vida on repeat in my earbuds, hoping I wasn’t losing my mind.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Reno Ursal

Reno Ursal is a Filipino American author who received an English B.A. from The University of Michigan and resides in Northern California. He is the epitome of a familiar U.S. immigrant story when his parents moved to the States from the Philippines (by way of Guyana) in 1974 in search of a better life. He grew up in a small Northern Michigan town as his parents established themselves in their new life. His summer trips to Cebu kept him connected to his Filipino family. The hikes up the mountain from his ancestral home in Catmon had his imagination swirling with ideas, especially with the legends of duwendes and other creatures of Filipino folklore.

Reno was an active reader growing up and started writing during his participation in the Huron Shores Writing Institute in high school. When he took an Asian Pacific American Literature course taught by Dr. Stephen Sumida at University of Michigan, the idea of writing a Filipino American story stuck at the back of his mind. Life moved fast after college. He met a girl named Lynette in California. They married in 2000 and became proud parents of three 2nd generation Filipino American children. He had a full-time job and less time to write, but found time burning the midnight oil. His first novel “The Three Promises” was written when his kids were babies. This novel is currently an unpublished novel, but spawned the hunger to write another novel entitled “The Last Remaining.” Many drafts later, the title changed to “Enlightenment.”


JOIN THE TWITTER CHAT!

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Come join the #EnlightenmentBlogTour Twitter chat on March 30, 9 PM (Philippine time) and get to know more about the book, the series, the other bloggers in this tour and many more!