Monthly Wrap-Up April 2018

April 2

This month I read 10 books. GR links for the books that I didn’t review. There will be a note attached to the books that I did mini and full reviews for. GR and WordPress links included. Please note that links are only provided for the book title. Let me know in the comments what you read!

 

Book(s) that I DNFed (0-2 stars):

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  1. Ace of Shades by: Amanda Foody-Wordpress review
  2. The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by: Amy Spalding-Mini review
  3.  Boomerang by: Noelle August
  4. Make it Count by: Megan Erickson

 

Book(s) that I Didn’t Really Like (2-3 stars):

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  1. Chaotic Good by: Whitney Gardner-Wordpress review
  2. Spies, Lies, and Allies by: Lisa Brown Roberts-Mini review
  3. Love Songs and Other Lies by: Jessica Pennington-Mini review

 

Book(s) that I Enjoyed (3-4 stars):

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  1. The Case Study of Vanitas Chapter 24 by: Jun Mochizuki-Image from google images

 

Favourite Book(s) of the Month (4-5 stars):

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  1. Nozaki-Kun Monthly Girls’ Volume 2 by: Izumi Tsubaki
  2. Can You Keep a Secret? by: Sophie Kinsella-Wordpress review
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Book Haul: April 2018

April 1

Book Haul is when you share books that you bought from the bookstore, ebooks/kindle, borrowed from the library or a friend, books you won through giveaways, and books for review purposes. GR links for (only) the book titles. Let me know in the comments what books you hauled!

 

Library:

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  1. Steeplejack by: A. J. Hartley
  2. The Astonishing Color of After by: Emily X. R. Pan
  3. Clean Sweep by: Ilona Andrews 

 

Ebook/Kubo/Kindle/Audible:

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  1. The Case Study of Vanitas Chapter 24 by: Jun Mochizuki-Image from google images
  2. Horimiya Volume 10 by: Hero   
  3. Defy the Worlds by: Claudia Gray
  4. Starry Eyes by: Jenn Bennett
  5. The Bone Witch by: Rin Chupeco
  6. Crazy Rich Asians by: Kevin Kwan
  7. The Edinburgh Fate by: Alisha Klapheke 

 

Received from Author: 

  1. The Good Citizen by: Joel Henning Doty-Image from Amazon 

 

 

Netgalley:

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  1. Spies, Lies, and Allies by: Lisa Brown Roberts
  2. Love Songs and Other Lies by: Jessica Pennington
  3. Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku Vol. 1 by: Fujita 

 

 

Bookstore: 

April books

  1. The Stone Girl’s Story by: Sarah Beth Durst
  2. Ace of Shades by: Amanda Foody-Not pictured
  3. Steeplejack by: A. J. Hartley
  4. Firebrand by: A. J. Hartley 
  5. Trouble Never Sleeps by: Stephanie Tromly 
  6. Stay Sweet by: Siobhan Vivian
  7. Only Human by: Sylvain Neuvel 

Review: The Dark Divide

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The Dark Divide by: Danika Stone

My Rating: 3 Stars

Waterton is a town with dark secrets, and after a summer of murder and mayhem, American ex-pat, Rich Evans, knows exactly how far people will go to hide them. Jobless after the fiery destruction of the hotel he once managed, Rich is charged with arson. Only one person, local mechanic Louise “Lou” Newman, believes in his innocence. But even Lou’s love and support can’t dispel the darkness that’s spreading through the community. Dead animals appear on porches, strangers threaten the safety of the locals, and a fingerprint from the fire is linked to a decades-old murder.

The lonely border town has a new danger: a murderer willing to do anything to protect a web of secrets that links them to the arson.

As the risk of jail or death increases, Rich turns to Lou for guidance and she finds herself in an impossible position. Lou has her own secrets! Does she protect the border town where she grew up, or side with the man she loves… even if it means she can never tell him the truth about herself?

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Animal deaths and gruesome murders.

I received this Arc via the author in exchange for an honest review and in participation of the Sunday Street Team. I was pretty excited to hear that Edge of Wild was getting a sequel. I didn’t hesitate to participate in the street team. I am glad to say that I liked The Dark Divide!

The Dark Divide begins with a prologue set in 1970 in Ohio. A student who was protesting for the Vietnam war is shot by a police officer. In the first chapter readers are told that Rich is going on trial for his hotel, which was burned to the ground in Edge of Wild. After a few chapters in it is revealed that the trial will proceed.

On Sadie and Jim’s (police officers) end they receive word from the Ohio police department that the unidentifiable finger print from the hotel break-in is linked to the prologue murder. After that student was murdered a fellow classmate at the time shot the police officer. And no one has been able to find the person. Waterton has yet another murderer in their midst.

The Dark Divide was a fun and twisty book! It is written in third person from various different characters’ points of views. There are emails and police documents. Also flashback’s and Lou’s visions. The Dark Divide takes place in 1999.

The trial was a lot of fun to read about! I was desperately awaiting an answer. I enjoyed Rich’s lawyer and long time friend Stu. He actually knew his stuff. Lou also played a big part in the trial. As did some of the townspeople.

Lou and Rich’s conflict’s about their relationship was well done! Lou has to try and mentally prepare herself to tell Rich some truths about herself. I enjoyed reading about Lou’s character development. And when Lou did tell Rich the truth, at first he was baffled. But then came around to support her.

Rich was under quite a bit of stress throughout the book. Which made it frustrating to read about his character. Although I did grow to like him towards the end. His character development was suburb!

The townspeople were definitely better in this installment. They were actually much nicer towards Rich and way more welcoming! Rich developed some friendships with a few of them. Which was nice to read about.

The mystery wasn’t as strong as it was in Edge of Wild. Nonetheless it was well done and pretty twisty. And yet again completely unpredictable. Some of the questions in Edge of Wild are answered. Jeff Chan makes an appearance. 

There is a new character that comes in, which rocks the townspeople’s relationships. His name is Alistair a movie maker who comes to Waterton searching for the ‘truth’. Alistair’s character does play a huge role in Lou’s story arc and character development.

The backstory regarding Lou’s visions was fun to read about. Alistair also has visions and the two may have known each other in an another life. The mythology behind it and Lou’s mother was really well done! I also liked how their is an expansion regarding Lou’s abilities. You find out that she can do much more than in Edge of Wild

Another towns-person comes in (was on vacation) Levi. He has a lot of hostility towards Rich and Alistair. Levi has some unfinished history regarding Lou’s mother. He was somewhere in between frustrating and interesting to read about. 

I really appreciated that the Japanese internment camps were brought up! Stone did an excellent job bringing it up and making it apart of the story. It was important to some characters’ arcs.

I had a few problems with it. The Dark Divide suffered a bit of middle book syndrome. It wasn’t as strong as Edge of Wild. I really don’t know what to make off the big reveal about Susan Varley. It was definitely not as ground breaking as the reveals in Edge of Wild. Alistair was utterly frustrating to read about! While his point of view was well done, I really really didn’t like him.

Overall I liked The Dark Divide. I will definitely be reading the last book. I highly recommend it. 

Guest Post: The Challenge of Writing a Mystery

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Hello everyone! How are you all? Today as a part of the Sunday Street Team I am featuring Danika Stone! The topic is The Challenge of Writing a Mystery. Enjoy her post!

 

The Challenge of Writing a Mystery

I love well-written mysteries, especially those that include unexpected twists and turns along the way. (Tana French has a special place on my bookshelf.) But having an idea and bringing it to fruition are two different things and there are some very specific challenges to the mystery genre. These are the ones that post unique challenges to writing.
1. Your setting is MORE than a setting. Having spent much of my childhood in Waterton, I know the landscape inside and out. It’s gorgeous, but eerily remote. When I started thinking about writing a mystery, it became the obvious location for The Dark Divide. Your mystery setting needs to invoke mood. It needs to provide challenges. (Waterton has dubious cell phone coverage, and there are plenty of areas where even an experienced hiker can be lost.) By considering setting, a writer creates a mood that pervades a novel.
2. You need to trick your readers. One of the things that many other genres DON’T require is a specific plan to confuse and confound your audience. Mystery novels do! To create this, the writer must follow a careful approach to laying out the pieces of the plot. Scene by scene they must dole out enough information to weave a realistic story, all the while providing enough out-of-context clues that lead, like a maze, to dead ends. The best way to do this? Have a good mystery editor to help you on the way. My editor, Dinah Forbes, spent her entire career at McClelland & Stewart, editing (you guessed it) mysteries. She gave me the insights on how to tweak the plot so it was both confusing AND satisfying to readers.
3. You need to spread the blame around. One way to keep your readers guessing is to include enough characters and to make each one of them seem somewhat guilty. This way, the readers don’t know and can’t guess (right away) who the killer is. For me, this complex planning was the biggest difference between writing a mystery and other genres. The Dark Divide has a character list at the beginning so that people who’ve jumped into book 2 (and have not read Edge of Wild) can keep up with all the different people in the story.
4. Your readers have to CARE. The level of tension you must build in a mystery novel is unique to the genre. They must be invested in what happens to the characters, and they need to want to know they’ll be okay. To do this, the plot must unravel at exactly the right pace. You also have to keep the stakes high! One trick to doing this is to list all the terrible things you intend to do to your protagonist, then organize them in order from least troublesome (losing a job) to most serious (death). It keeps your plot moving, too!
5. The plot must move like a well-oiled machine. I’m admittedly better at writing first drafts than at editing. (And that’s why it’s good I’ve worked with excellent editors!) Writing a mystery requires a very careful approach to laying out the pieces of the plot and including enough red herrings to confuse the reader. Each edit requires a recalibrating of ALL the other parts. Where a regular YA novel usually takes me a couple rounds of edits to get “right”, a mystery takes twice that. For me, this complex planning is by far the biggest challenge between writing a mystery and other genres, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies

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Empress of a Thousand Skies by: Rhoda Belleza

My Rating: 5 Stars

Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Empress of a Thousand Skies was taking the book community by storm. Not surprising considering that synopsis. Coupled with all the 5 star author reviews. I was hesitant to pick it up. While I enjoy Sci-Fi, I have found that the most popular YA Sci-Fi has not been for me. I was in the bookstore and I saw Empress of a Thousand Skies. I started to skim and knew that I needed to buy this book. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it!

Rhee is preparing for her coronation. She has finally come of age to take the throne. While preparing Julian’s (her best friend) father comes to see her. Much to Rhee and the readers surprise he attempts to kill her. In self defense Rhee murders him and creates a ceremonial killing. To let whoever sent him know that she’s coming from them. Before the whole ship blows up she is rescued by a stranger.

Aly is quite disappointed to hear that Rhee was murdered. Her murder disrupts a peace treaty between all the planets. After filming an episode for DroneVision Aly and his partner Vin go to investigate a mysterious space pod. While Vin goes off, Aly comes across the pod and opens it. Much to Aly’s surprise there is a grown man murdered in a ceremonial killing. Aly realizes that Rhee is alive and attempts to connect his superiors. After being chased by unknown droids Aly is framed for murdering Rhee.

Empress of a Thousand Skies really surprised me! I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. The writing is in third person in the points of view off Rhee and Aly. There’s a planet map and a character list. It is divided into parts and in the beginning of the those parts there is a text of history. Which gave some interesting incite and provided for extra world building.

Once I begun reading I had my doubts. Rhee wasn’t exactly that likable and she could be really stupid. Every time I would think to myself ‘Huh that doesn’t make any sense’ or ‘This is really dumb’. I swear it was like the author could read my mind! Belleza would then come in to show and explain us why that certain thought process was written as such. This is how the whole book went for me. I came to appreciate this because it made the characters feel real and flawed. Not Mary Sue’s or Special Snowflakes.

My favourite thing about Empress of a Thousand Skies was how well the diversity was done. Aly is a black and Rhee is Chinese. Black stereotypes was actually used as a plot device to propel the war to come. Aly dispels all these stereotypes and I really felt for him. Rhee also mentions who everyone hints at her too small eyes and make other jabs at her.

Sometimes it felt like I was reading about our world. Belleza did an amazing job showing how fear, racism, and hatred can propel a war. And how easy it is for some people to believe everything they are told. 

Religion does play a huge part of the story. As there are so many races’ each one has their own religion and belief system. A part of the peace treaty is respecting each planet’s religion rather than colonizing them. 

Another plus is that there’s barely any romance! It is hinted but the romance takes a backseat for the plot. This is a journey book. There’s a considerable amount off travel/running away. I felt that it was done well! As it was actually fast paced. To be honest a lot of the plot is predictable. But I still found myself enjoying it and was eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

You know all those cheesy future movies which always show a cell-phone in the brain? Belleza actually does that. The Cube is inserted into the brain and has some cell-phone features. You can call people and even message them. You also have to update it. What’s most interesting is that you can replay memories. Rhee does this quite often.

Now of course once she escapes Rhee has to deactivate her Cube. Rhee begins to experience ‘Organic’ memories. Like flashbacks coming to her whenever she thought of something. It was really interesting to read about her comparisons of the Cube vs. Organic memories. Similar to how we discuss people missing out on experiences for their phone. The Cube becomes a huge plot point as it can be hacked.

Belleza doesn’t hesitate to kill off characters. There are 4(?) characters killed off in Empress of a Thousand Skies. I did think some of these characters would play an important role. I was surprised when they were killed off. I wonder how many people will die in Blood of a Thousand Stars?

Despite what the synopsis says Aly and Rhee do not meet each other. They vaguely look at each other but never actually interact. They happen to be in the same places at the same time but again no interaction. I really don’t understand why the synopsis states as such. 

Rhee spends a majority of her story arc consumed by revenge. Her point of view is written formally. Rhee’s family is a huge part of her arc, as she believes they were murdered. Her sister in particular was in a lot of flashbacks. I enjoyed reading about the flashbacks as they give some more insight into her past.

Rhee has a crush on Julian and the two have known each other since they were children. Surprisingly Julian will likely make an appearance in Blood of a Thousand Stars. He comes in the last chapter. Considering that she killed his father it would be very interesting to see where their relationship goes.

Rhee has a crew of sorts. The guy who saved her (Dahlan) brings a few people to help Rhee in her quest to take the throne. Dahlan himself is consumed by revenge. They each have that in common. Which made for an interesting relationship between the two. Rhee grows a bit past her revenge and chooses to act instead of chasing various people.

Aly’s point of view is much more chill than Rhee’s. There are made-up swear words and he uses them often. Aly is actually a refugee from one the planets that used to be at war with Rhee’s planet. His family also plays a huge role and why he does not want to go back home. There are some flashbacks about his family and his time in a refugee camp. I felt that they were well written and I enjoyed reading it!

Vin who is his co-worker on the tv show DroneVision is vital to the story. It is revealed that Vin is in fact a spy and has had suspicions of the attack on Rhee being staged. Aly doesn’t exactly take this too well. But I really couldn’t blame him as it was a lot to take in. Still their friendship was fun to read and well written.

Aly meets a girl whose name is Kara while on the run. Kara is looking for her mother who was a scientist. She went missing along with other important people at a summit meeting. The two make an alliance to help each other. It’s through Aly’s point of view that readers find out about the Cube experimentation.

I am giving Empress of a Thousand Skies an extra star for all the issues that Belleza discussed. Without getting preachy.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Empress of a Thousand Skies! I will definitely be reading Blood of a Thousand Stars. I highly recommend it for everyone.     

Review: The Unexpected Everything

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The Unexpected Everything by: Morgan Matson

My Rating: 3 Stars

Andie had it all planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?

Beware spoilers ahead!

The Unexpected Everything was recommended to me by my dear friend on GR Mith! Click on her name to read her review. At the time this was coming out I’d already read Matson’s contemporary books. Of course when I heard about The Unexpected Everything I added it to my TBR. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it!

I read The Unexpected Everything back in June 2016. I don’t really remember a majority of the details that well. Andie’s fathers campaign has a money scandal. Due to this she can’t participate in her internship program. As that was lined up using her father’s connections. Instead Andie meets Clark and applies for a dog walking job.

I liked The Unexpected Everything! Objectively speaking this is Matson’s best work. The Unexpected Everything is written in first person following Andy’s point of view. There are text messages that have emoji’s, books quotes, and flashbacks.

The dogs were so much fun to read about! Each dog had his/her own personality. Andie’s job is quite rare in YA. Initially Andie didn’t enjoy the job. She grew to love all the dogs and the job itself.

The friendship was amazing! Andie and her friends were so close. They all supported each other. It’s really nice to read a YA contemporary without all the girl-hate. The drama that does happen was realistic and handled well. I like to think that Tody and Bri do make-up.

Andie and her father’s relationship is complicated. When Andie was young her mother passed away. Since then her and her father have been distant and barely communicate with one-another. Throughout The Unexpected Everything Andie and her father mend their relationship. It was absolutely beautiful! If you’ve read any of Matson’s books you’ll that she seems to have a love-hate relationship with the fathers in her books. This is evident in Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer. Matson redeemed that in this book.

Andie and Clark’s relationship was so cute! They have sort of an insta-attraction when they meet. Initially the relationship didn’t seem likely to workout due to how guarded Andie is. They got an opportunity to open up to each other and that definitely helped. They each grow from their relationship.

Andie comes to appreciate her father more based on Clark’s relationship with his father. I especially enjoyed reading about Clark’s relationship with Andie’s friends. My favourite was Clark’s relationship with Andie’s father. Also Clark is the author behind those quotes throughout the book. I didn’t know this in the beginning so I actually tried looking up his name on google.

Andie was actually frustrating to read about in the beginning. She was very guarded when it came to her relationships. Specifically of the romance kind. Andie also likes to be in control of everything. Which does lead to the major conflict. Through her relationships with her friends, Clark, her co-workers, and her father Andie begins to open up more. This causes her to come to some realizations about herself. 

This is going to get a bit personal so here goes. I saw a lot of myself in Andie. I too like to be prepared and in control of most situations. Once I came to this realization I took a break from blogging. I wasn’t happy that my life had pretty much become about books. I felt way too much pressure about reviewing and how many books I would read in a month. No one else put that pressure on me. I did that to myself. It was a much needed break. And now I’ve come back happy. 

My only problem was that sometimes it dragged. Honestly there were times while reading that I wanted to sleep. I couldn’t rate it higher because I didn’t love it. While I can acknowledge that it is Matson’s best book, it’s just not my favourite.

Overall I enjoyed The Unexpected Everything! I highly recommend it. 

Review: Can You Keep a Secret?

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Can You Keep a Secret? by: Sophie Kinsella

My Rating: 5 Stars

Meet Emma Corrigan, a young woman with a huge heart, an irrepressible spirit, and a few little secrets:

Secrets from her boyfriend:
I’ve always thought Connor looks a bit like Ken. As in Barbie and Ken.

Secrets from her mother: I lost my virginity in the spare bedroom with Danny Nussbaum while Mum and Dad were downstairs watching Ben-Hur.

Secrets she wouldn’t share with anyone in the world: I have no idea what NATO stands for. Or even what it is.

Until she spills them all to a handsome stranger on a plane. At least, she thought he was a stranger.…Until Emma comes face-to-face with Jack Harper, the company’s elusive CEO, a man who knows every single humiliating detail about her…

Beware spoilers ahead!

I have been a fan of Kinsella’s since Finding Audrey. Naturally I went through all of her books and tried to decide which one to read. Can You Keep a Secret? stood out the most. I am happy to say that I loved it!

Emma has gone to represent her company Panther Cooperation in a meeting. As per Kinsella books the meeting turns into a disaster whilst Emma spilling a product on one of the other company’s worker. Emma goes back in a bad mood and has quite a bit to drink.

The plane she is on experiences turbulence. Out of panic (and she’s drunk) Emma tells all her secrets to another passenger. All’s fine until Emma goes to work on Monday to find out that the passenger is the CEO of Panther Cooperation.

Can You Keep a Secret? was so funny and relatable! The writing tense is in first person all from Emma’s point of view. There are numbers for the chapters. As well as emails and notes. 

I related to a lot of Emma’s work woes. It’s really hard to prove yourself in a workplace that doesn’t appreciate you. Emma’s co-workers like Artemis reminded me off some of my co-workers. There’s always that one person that’s just fake. On the bright side Katie was fun to read about! She was actually really sweet and a good friend to Emma.

Emma lived in an apartment with two flatmates. Lissy and Jemima. Lissy has been Emma’s best friend since they were 7. Lissy and Emma constantly support each other throughout Can You Keep a Secret? There friendship was absolutely adorable! I’m a bit conflicted about Jemima. She definitely thought she was helping. But Jemima’s suggestions were terrible. And didn’t really make sense. I do have to give Jemima props for trying to help.

Emma’s family play a huge part in Can You Keep a Secret? Emma feels that she’s disappointed her parents. Her cousin Kerry always tries (and succeeds) to one up Emma. Nev (Kerry’s husband) also pokes at Emma about her career changes. Emma is able to sort everything out with her family.

Prior to Can You Keep a Secret? Emma begins dating a co-worker named Connor. Connor works in another division at Panther Cooperation. During the plane ride Emma realizes that she doesn’t really have feelings for Connor anymore. Emma is in denial about this. She breaks up with him much later on.

I personally found Connor to be annoying! Emma asks Connor to keep their break-up to himself for the time being. Seeing as they work together. Instead at a party (while drunk) announces their break-up. Their office blames the whole situation on Emma as she is the one to dump him. And he doesn’t even apologize! It didn’t help that the co-workers didn’t bother to see it from Emma’ point of view.

Connor also tries multiple times to confront Emma about who she is dating. He acts like a martyr and always has a way of patronizing Emma. I also found him to be totally inconsiderate. To try and look professional during a staff meeting Connor shuts down Emma’s point. Just because Jack Harper was present. I honestly don’t understand why Emma blamed herself for everything. Connor has a brain too. He can realize himself that not all women keep secrets.

As far as Emma’s secrets go I didn’t find them that bad. Some of them were really dumb while the others hilarious! What was troubling is how easy it was for Emma to lie. And she did so constantly. Emma did develop and started actually admitting the truth. She even started to stand up for herself! Emma stood up to Kerry and Paul (her boss). I especially liked how she handled Paul. And in the end it paid off as she got promoted.

I really liked Emma and Jack’s relationship! When Jack appears in at the Panther Cooperation, he spends quite a bit of time poking fun at Emma’s secrets. It was honestly so assuming! Through their relationship they grew. Jack learned to become more open. And Emma learned to stand up for herself and be honest. They made a really good couple. Also Jack’s actually American. Can You Keep a Secret? takes place in London.

I didn’t have any problems. Expect for Connor but I think it was well handled. And blissfully she broke up with him early enough. 

Overall I loved Can You Keep a Secret?! I highly recommend it.