Book Review, Author Interview, & Giveaway: The Secrets Between You and Me

The Secrets Between You and Me (Stolen Kisses #2)
Published By: The Studio
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Page Count: 247
Buy it at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iBooks
Source: Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary

I was slightly hesitant about reading this one originally. While I thought the first book, The Boyfriend Thief, was cute, it wasn't the sort of read that had me anxiously awaiting the next installment. The fact that The Secrets Between You and Me is not a direct sequel, but rather a companion novel, eased my apprehension a bit. (Note: These two novels can be read independently of one another.) My second largest worry was Hannah. She was one of my least favorite characters in The Boyfriend Thief. I was hoping that she was just misunderstood and not a total witch. I was willing to give her the chance to redeem herself in my eyes. My reason for laying all of this out for you, dear reader, is that you can understand my intense shock at how much I loved Hannah this time around. I understood her on a deeper level and found that she was a character I enjoyed. First impressions do not always hold true.

In The Boyfriend Thief, I found Hannah to be shady and snobby. Her intense need to be the best at everything was annoying and didn't conjure any feelings of sympathy from me. The Secrets Between You and Me allows the reader to get inside of Hannah's world. I finally understood her actions and motivations. She wasn't the mean girl anymore, but rather just a teen who is dealing with some serious emotional baggage. By the end of this one, I found myself thinking that Hannah and I could have been great friends back in my teen years. She is the sort of girl I would have wanted around.

In addition to Hannah, I loved Jude. He is the perfect sort of book boyfriend - broody, handsome, and tinged with a bad reputation. Underneath it all, Jude is intensely lonely and waiting for someone to truly see him. Hannah's summer with Jude was sweet and endearing. I also loved that these two form a strong friendship bond. That is often the best way to form a foundation for something stronger in the future. I enjoyed their moments together and how they worked through all their frustrations and disappointments.

Romance aside, there are also some great friendships in this novel - particularly among girls. I could have done without Natalie, but it was nice to see Hannah making the sort of friends who were supportive. I also loved that any issues between the girls in this novel had some substance and weren't about a guy or something equally as petty.

Another aspect of this one that I loved was the setting. Asheville, North Carolina is one of my favorite places. I attended college in the area and have so many fond memories of my days there. I was excited to watch Hannah discover the joys of Asheville. I saw many of my favorite locales pop up throughout the story, but I also know have a new activity for my wishlist. I want to climb Chimney Rock. I've heard about it my whole life, but it never seemed like something that would interest me before. I now want to experience it and see it the way Hannah and Jude would have.

I found this novel to be better than the first one in many ways. First, I was able to connect with the characters this time around. I liked Zac, but Avery never made me truly care about her. I found it was easy to become emotionally invested in Hannah and Jude. Second, I liked that the novel focused on Hannah's attempt to forge her own path - even when it was in opposition to the current of her parents' wishes and goals for her. Self discovery plays a huge part in this plot. Third, I feel like Norris' writing was stronger. The first novel was good, but this one veered onto my favorites shelf. This companion novel style series makes me harken back to Miranda Kenneally's Hundred Oak series, which I adore. It's nice to see old characters while letting new ones drive the story.

My one tiny complaint was the beginning. It felt a little slow.

Overall, I highly recommend this one to those who like a good contemporary romance. It was nice to shake off winter's chill was this clean summery tale.

One Last Gripe: I hate the cover. It doesn't match the book at all. 

Favorite Thing About This Book: Hannah's character development

First Sentence: My mother was imagining things again.

Favorite Character: Hannah

Least Favorite Character: Natalie

4 wheels on a rusty truck. 2 gray eyes. 1 secret that could ruin everything. 

 All Hannah wanted was a summer break from being “perfect Hannah Cohen” and a chance to forget about the devastating family secret that could ruin her seemingly perfect life. So when she takes off for her eccentric aunt’s house in the mountains of North Carolina and everyone makes one big (wrong) assumption about her past, Hannah figures that it’s easier to live a lie than have to face the truth. 

 She never expected to make any real friends, like the hilarious and spontaneous Kate and Ashton, who drag her to late night bonfires and ice cream marathons. And she especially never counted on meeting Jude Westmore, the brooding bad boy next door with gray eyes and permanent oil smudges on his fingers, or that he would ever take an interest in her. 

 Between moonlit movie nights in the bed of Jude’s truck and nearly romantic Ferris Wheel rides, Hannah’s old life seems further away then ever, but can she keep her secret, or is the truth worth the risk of losing everything, including Jude?

About the Author

Most days, Shana Norris still feels like she’s stuck at sixteen, which is probably why she enjoys writing about teens. She has faced her fear of heights to climb to the top of Chimney Rock near Asheville, NC, but she isn’t yet brave enough to go cliff-jumping into ponds. She lives in a small town in eastern North Carolina with her husband and small zoo of pets, which currently includes two dogs, five cats, and a flock of chickens.

Shana Norris has entertained millions of readers as the author of Troy High, the popular Swans Landing series, and The Boyfriend Thief, a companion book to The Secrets Between You and Me and a part of the Stolen Kiss collection.

Andrea @ Reading Lark: How did you choose the setting for The Secrets Between You and Me

Shana: My husband and I first took a trip to Asheville, NC, a few years ago and I absolutely fell in love with it. I wanted a chance to explore the beautiful mountains and sites in that area in a book, so when I decided to write a story from Hannah's point of view, I knew that Asheville was the perfect place for her to let herself free.

Andrea @ Reading Lark: Why do you write contemporary romance?

Shana: I actually didn't set out to write contemporary romance! My first goal was to publish high fantasy, which I still really love. But after a few years of dead ends, I took a break from writing entirely for a couple months. When the next new story idea hit me, it was a teen contemporary romance. I was a fan of that genre too and really loved writing a book about teens falling in love for the first time. That's what I enjoy most about this genre: exploring that moment when a teen finds the first relationship that makes a major impact on her life and changes who she is, when she's balancing on that edge between childhood and adulthood and this relationship is the one that can lead her into figuring out who she really is apart from her parents.

Andrea @ Reading Lark: What are three songs on Hannah's playlist?

Shana: Acoustic #3 by the Goo Goo Dolls (this is the song that I've always felt describes Hannah's relationship with her parents)
Pony (It's OK) by Erin McCarley
If I Am by Nine Days

Andrea @ Reading Lark: If this novel was a latte, which kind would it be?

Shana: I have to admit that I know nothing about lattes, lol! I don't drink coffee or caffeinated drinks of any kind. Looking at flavors for lattes, I'm going to put some together that I think might be good: French Vanilla Cinnamon Dolce. The French vanilla for Hannah's life before Asheville, and the Cinnamon Dolce for the spice added that changes things up when she gets there.

Andrea @ Reading Lark: It's a tradition at Reading Lark to ask - What's your favorite bird?

Shana: Owls! I LOVE owls. I have owl jewelry, owl stickers, owl stationary. I even knitted myself a sweater and mittens with owls on them.

Blog Tour Schedule

10-Feb Dream Within a Dream (Review)
11-Feb Bookish Broads (Promo post)
12-Feb A Glass of Wine Blog (Review) 
13-Feb To Be Amongst the Stars (Review)
17-Feb Fiktshun (Review)
18-Feb Reading Lark (Review, Interview)
19-Feb Fic Fare (Review)
20-Feb Such a Novel Idea (Review)
23-Feb Swoony Boys Podcast (Review)
24-Feb Broc's Bookcase (Review, Interview)
25-Feb Butterfly-O-Meter Books (Review) 

*This giveaway is for books via iBooks only.