Queen Anne’s Lace by Dawn Gardner

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Gardner’s debut, coming-of-age novel is set in the 1970s and she shed light on some very tough issues which teenagers face, including physical and sexual abuse, homelessness, and alcoholism. Fourteen-year-old Lacy has been hurt by and seen her mother hurt by her father too many times. In a quick act of bravery, she packs a bag and makes a break for it, after finding a photo and note from a man named Tommy in her mother’s closet. Believing that Tommy could be her real father, Lacy decides to try to find him, hoping he will allow her to stay with him. She accepts a ride with a kind truck driver, Butch, and spends a few days with he and his wife Betty, allowing them to feed her and provide her with a safe, warm bed. But when she overhears them talking about calling social services, she knows he has to leave rather than risk being sent back home to her mother and “father,” Samuel. The only thing she left behind at home is a shell of the woman her mother once was, a violently abusive, hateful man, and plenty of alcohol being consumed by both of them. After leaving Butch and Betty, she lives on the streets for a while, a scary situation where she is almost raped after trusting a drug-addicted, homeless woman who offers her helpful information about where to sleep at night. From there, she ends up hiding in a church closet. She catches a lucky break when she crosses paths with Annie at an AA meeting, after she’s been sober for 11 years. Annie provides her with a job, a safe home, and loving care, things she’s never had before. With Annie’s help, Lacy is able to face the hard truth about her mother and real father. The story doesn’t end with a tied in a bow happy ending, which I really appreciate. Lacy’s life continues to have ups and downs and there are some horrible things that happen toward the end of the story. I won’t tell you what they are, because I don’t want to spoil it for you. However, I do recommend that you read this book. It is gritty and real and it will have readers rooting for Lacy to have a brighter future ahead of her. Not recommended for younger teens due to the maturity of the content. Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Faker by Sarah Smith

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Faker delights readers with a multicultural office romance that developed from two coworkers who really can’t stand each other…until they can’t stand being away from each other. Hawaiian born Emmie Echavarre knows how to fake her way through many things, especially her days in the office at Nuts & Bolts, a power tool company full of men. Being one of the few women in the office causes her trips to the warehouse to be anxiety ridden. Her friends know her as easy going and fun but at work she fakes a tough persona, placing a no nonsense barrier between herself and her coworkers.  One coworker in particular, Tate Rasmussen, an all American white boy compete with curly blond hair and burly physique, has always been hostile with Emmie, scowling at her from his office where she has full view of his perfect biceps and curly locks. Even though he’s ridiculously handsome and swoony, Emmie forces herself to dish out the curtness and coldness right back to him. When the two are placed on a charity work team together to build a house, things heat up and scowls and grimaces turn to kisses and smoldering looks. Turns out neither Emmie or Tate are as bad as they thought each other were. Thus begins quite the adventure of a relationship, including an unforeseen emergency surgery & hospital stay for Emmie and a tension filled high school reunion for Tate. It’s also filled with some laugh-out-loud moments and tender moments between Emmie and Tate once his rough exterior is peeled away. Hang in there, readers, you’ll love it all the way to the end. Fans of Helena Hunting’s The Hating Game and Christina Lauren’s rom-coms will enjoy this debut romantic comedy from Sarah Smith. Thanks to Berkley for the advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.