Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Review: Learning to Live by Kira Adams


Ciera Nelson wants what any other outcast wants, invisibility. If she can just make it through the rest of her year with minor incidents and a head held low she will be able to put the hell hole they call school in her rearview. Unfortunately, life has different plans for her.

Topher Carlson is one of the biggest jocks on campus. All the guys want to be him, all the girls want to claim him. When secrets are uncovered, Topher’s life spins wildly out of control.

They are far from friends when the school year begins, but each will impact the other’s life in ways they never dreamed possible. Can Ciera help Topher realize that popularity and status mean nothing in the real world? Can Topher help Ciera learn the true meaning of living?

Sometimes you have to let go to really live. Sometimes being alive means taking risks.

Publication Date: January 2015

I haven’t read a good tearjerker in a long time and Learning to Live left me a bawling mess. I figured the book would be sad, but I was shocked over how devastated I was left by the end. This is the first book I read by Kira Adams, but it certainly won’t be the last.

Ciera and Topher are definitely characters that grow on you over time—especially Topher. Topher was a gigantic a-hole at the beginning of the book and some of the things he did to Ciera were pretty much unforgivable. But as I got to know Topher and learn about why he was such a head case, he earned my sympathy. For Ciera, I really wanted to reach into the book and shake her from time to time. Her forgiving nature definitely made her too saint-like.

CIera and Topher had good chemistry once they got over their issues. I liked that their relationship was gradual and that Topher had to really work to earn her trust. The book is told in dual POV, which was a huge plus. The reader got a glimpse of how their perceptions about one another evolved as they spent more time together.

SPOILER ALERT: This book is really, really a lot like A Walk to Remember. And since I adore the book and the movie, I was definitely into the storyline big time. And just like A Walk to Remember, I was hoping and praying for a different ending. I did see that there’s a novella about Topher that happens two years after the events of Learning to Live, but I don’t think I can move on from my heartache to read it. END OF SPOILER

The pacing in the book is solid and I read it in probably less than four sittings. Once you reach the final third mark, there’s no putting the book down. The epilogue was beautiful and tragic and will definitely leave you with a book hangover.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel for review!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Guest Review: Girls Who Travel by Nicole Trilvas


A hilarious, deftly written debut novel about a woman whose wanderlust is about to show her that sometimes you don’t have to travel very far to become the person you want to be…

There are many reasons women shouldn’t travel alone. But as foul-mouthed, sweet-toothed Kika Shores knows, there are many more reasons why they should. After all, most women want a lot more out of life than just having fun. Kika, for one, wants to experience the world.

But ever since she returned from her yearlong backpacking tour, she’s been steeped in misery, battling rush hour with all the other suits. Getting back on the road is all she wants. So when she’s offered a nanny job in London – the land of Cadbury Cream Eggs – she’s happy at the prospect of going back overseas and getting paid for it. But as she’s about to discover, the most exhilarating adventures can happen when you stay in one place…

Wise, witty, and hilarious, Girls Who Travel is an unforgettable novel about the highs and lows of getting what you want—and how it’s the things you least expect that can change your life.

Publication Date: December 1, 2015

About Guest Reviewer Joanna:

Joanna Franklin Bell is a writer living outside Baltimore, MD. Her articles can be read in "Baltimore Magazine" and various Patch.com sites; her award-winning short story can be found on the "Single Dad Laughing" blog; and her books can be found on Amazon. "Muse: A Cat's Story" is her children's chapter book, "Mrs. Just-So" is her children's picture book, and "Take a Load Off, Mona Jamborski" and "That Birds Would Sing" are her novels. Her third novel, "See No Demons, Hear No Demons" will be released in 2016. Catch up with Joanna on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/JoannaFranklinBell

Joanna's Review:

Buckle up your fanny pack dear reader, because we're going abroad with Kika Shores in "Girls Who Travel." We're hitting Europe and Asia and South America and Scandinavia and… well maybe not Antarctica.  We're going to discover hot beaches and quirky cities and exotic clubs and shake our moneymakers like the rent is due.

That last turn of phrase I stole from the author, Nicole Trilivas, and it's as good an example as any of the irreverent, joyful humor that she infuses her character Kika with. Kika made me laugh once per page, beginning when she is schlupping her way through New York City working for corporate America, bundled against the cold, wondering how she ended up as part of the rat race when she had so recently been traveling the world, free as a bird in an unraveling bikini. Her arch-nemesis in NYC is another scrabbling yet slutty peon on the corporate ladder who couldn't be less like Kika, and her delicious and malicious manipulations set the stage perfectly for Kika's fall from grace.

But that's ok. Kika was never very graceful anyway, and we love her for it.

Through Kika, we yearn for the rough and mysterious Lochlan, her traveling companion whom she had to leave when her money ran, forcing her inevitable return to America. Lochlan continued on alone, eventually finding himself also returning to his native Ireland when his "da" became sick, so after a year apart the two lovebirds find themselves both anchored, and neither is happy about it. As luck would have it, they are anchored on the same continent now that Kika got a job as an au pair in London for an American family who is living abroad. Coincidence? Not really. The family is the same one that got Kika her NYC job, and corporate ties do not acknowledge oceans.

So now our Kika is in London, inadvertently teaching her young charges how to swear like a sailor, and she's catching the eye of the hottie next door who's clearly too posh for his pants and is barely worth a moment of Kika's time. But when she hears his playing his guitar in his garden one day, she can't help but wonder whether there is more to him than his money, and, now that she's thinking about it, why has Lochlan seemed so strange since he learned they could meet up again? Hmmmm.

That's all you get, because another word would spoil all the rest of the plot. Major props to the author for crafting a new take on the NA genre that crosses over to good old Contemporary Lit or Women's Fiction, humble thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy that I received in exchange for an honest review, and bon voyage to the rest of y'alls as you pack it up to go on a journey with Kika.

5/5 Stars

Monday, December 21, 2015

Review: Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace


For fans of Holly Black and Nova Ren Suma, a gripping, hauntingly atmospheric novel about murder, revenge, and a world where monsters—human and otherwise—lurk at the fringes.

When seventeen-year-old Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death, she doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. In life, Breezy was always drawn to the elegance of the universe and the mystery of the stars. Now she must set out to find answers and discover what is to become of her in the gritty, dangerous world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she finds is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

Tense, complex, and wholly engaging, Shallow Graves is a stunning first novel from Kali Wallace.

Publication Date: January 26, 2016

Shallow Graves was a strange little book that I enjoyed much more than I thought. It’s definitely a quirky read and a novel where you’re not likely able to guess where the plot is going. The beginning of the novel really grabbed me and I found myself turning pages way into the night to see what would happen with Breezy.

Breezy is a not exactly human creature who finds herself awakening in her grave after a year of being trapped in between life and death. Magical realism novels are definitely hit or miss for me, so I was very happy to find myself loving Shallow Graves. I found Breezy a refreshing main character and I was captivated by her ability to see a person’s murderous past by just looking at him or her.

The middle of the book wasn’t my favorite with the introduction of a lot of characters. The novel started to feel really busy with too many subplots going on at once. The middle didn’t make me give up on the book, but I did feel like it took away from the creepy vibe that had been so apparent at the start of the novel.

The ending was haunting and really brought the book together for me again. I absolutely cannot wait to read another novel by the author. Her writing style did remind me of Holly Black, another author whose work I really enjoy.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel for review!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Guest Review: Tragedy Girl by Christine Hurley Deriso


Of course Anne would be drawn to Blake. He’s good looking, he’s friendly, and they both bring sob stories to the table: her parents died in a car wreck, his girlfriend, Cara, drowned. Of course Blake would understand what she’s gone through. And of course they can help each other work through the pain. It’s like it was meant to be.

But just as Anne starts to feel she’s finally found something good in all the tragedy, she can’t ignore signs that something’s off. Her friends rarely let her be alone with Blake. Even those closest to Blake seem uneasy around him. And then there are the rumors about the death of Cara, whose body was never recovered. Rumors that suggest Blake’s pain is hiding something darker than Anne can even begin to comprehend...

Publication Date: April 8, 2016

About Guest Reviewer Joanna:

Joanna Franklin Bell is a writer living outside Baltimore, MD. Her articles can be read in "Baltimore Magazine" and various Patch.com sites; her award-winning short story can be found on the "Single Dad Laughing" blog; and her books can be found on Amazon. "Muse: A Cat's Story" is her children's chapter book, "Mrs. Just-So" is her children's picture book, and "Take a Load Off, Mona Jamborski" and "That Birds Would Sing" are her novels. Her third novel, "See No Demons, Hear No Demons" will be released in 2016. Catch up with Joanna on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/JoannaFranklinBell

Joanna's Review:

"Tragedy Girl" was far from a tragedy and I thank the publisher for the free copy I got in exchange for an honest review. In fact, "Tragedy Girl" was a breath of fresh air – I've stumbled upon some stinkers this week, and this book made up for them. I was beginning to think there was no such thing as YA or NA decent books on the horizon, so this restored my faith a little bit in the genre.

That said, it's not without the tireless cliché that every YA/NA seems to lead with: our heroine, Anne, is an orphan! And a recent one! Her parents died together in a car crash! Right before her senior year in high school! If I had a nickel for every time THAT story has been trotted out, I could build a nickel tower and shout as people walk by it, "LOOK AT HOW MANY NICKELS I HAVE!" I could even add that Anne's parents were "T-boned," which was not only mentioned using this unlovely phrase TWICE in the book, but this is the second book in a week where the heroine's parents were "T-boned" in a fatal accident! Is it something in the water? A silent signed agreement in the super-secret YA/NA author's club? A fad? I dunno, but I hope the fad passes. Also, why is Anne going into her senior year in high school, specifically? Why are all the heroines in today's books? I assumed it was so there could be some legal steamy not-underage-anymore sex, but in "Tragedy Girl" Anne doesn’t get past first base. Hmmm. Anyway.

So I docked a star for that. I ALSO docked a star because the author told me THREE TIMES that one of her characters looks like River Phoenix. 1) Do not ever, ever, ever compare your characters to celebrities. It's your job, Author, to think of original stuff, so do not show your hand wherefrom you draw your inspiration. It's clumsy, and it's classless—make up your OWN character for chrissake. 2) Do not ever, ever, ever tell me more than once, if you insist on doing it at all. You must trust your reader to have followed along and understood and remembered—the second you start beating me over the head because you don't really think I was listening the first time, I Reader have lost my relationship with you Author. This author repeated a number of things, actually (two examples: how Anne is an "eleven on the hotness scale," and how her uncle used a particular phrase meaningfully – these were repeated to the point of ridiculousness. You can have something ringing in a character's ears without jamming it into your readers'), and clearly thinks her readership is operating at an IQ below 70. Which is a shame. I hope her savvy editor gets rid of all that nonsense before this book sees the actual light of day. (We're like 4 months pre-release here.)

SO I docked a star for that, too. However, I added one of them back in because this book was soooooo goooooood!! Whee! I couldn't put it down. No real reason – it's not like I highlighted beautiful turns of phrase that I wanted to remember for the rest of my days, and it's sure not like there was anything particularly original about the plot where Anne goes to a new school as a recent orphan and must make new friends and stumbled upon a hot guy and then unwittingly becomes part of a mystery… Yeah. That's been written a few hundred thousand times before, eh? But every author is unique, clichés aside, and Christine Hurley Deriso sure as shootin' knows how to keep a reader on the hook, guessing, committed, involved, and awake all night as the lure of the next page beckons.

I really appreciate how, actually, the characters were under-described. Gone were the "full lips" and "thick tresses" and blah blah blah. The characters were much left for me to envision on my own. There were a few markers for me to anchor my own mental image on (and yes, Anne has high cheekbones... sigh... but there's actually kind of a reason for that description so she gets a pass), but other than that, the author did not pander to the always-beautiful characters that must populate every book. So props to the author there for rising above that, and letting the plot dictate the action and not someone's beautiful dark-lashed limpid eyeball pools... or whatever. And there was zero mention of how slender/willowy/slim anyone was either. Especially for YA/NA, I appreciated the heck out of that omission too. In fact, I don't think a single girl's build was described, ever. Nor should it be, frankly. Not in this culture, and not in this decade at least. We need to get one generation of girls beyond all that before we re-introduce it, maybe...

Well, I'm getting tangential. Read this book with pleasure, it's really very heart-warming even though it's got tragedy at the root of it. The scenes with Anne's aunt and uncle, the scenes between Anne and her psychiatrist, and even a couple of scenes with Melanie and Lauren who are two friends Anne makes are handled very, very well. There are comments on families and personalities and commitment and friendships and futures, and all of it is worth reading, and in fact, should be far more present in so much more of what we give our young girls and new women to read. Cheers, chicks!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Review: Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young


When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn't have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she's met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.

Publication Date: November 3, 2015

I liked the concept of Hotel Ruby and I definitely find hotels a very creeping setting for horror novels, but I didn’t fall in total love with the characters in the novel. I normally don’t continue with a book when I don’t connect with at least one of the characters, but the mystery kept me reading.

The main problem I had with the characters were that I found them to be very, very bland. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember their names when I picked the book back up. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with Audrey and Daniel and they had a tragic back-story, but I felt no emotional pull to them; even the “mysterious” stranger Elias came across as a yawn.

Hotel Ruby did have a good atmospheric vibe going for it. I’m not a fan of blood and guts horror, so ghost stories are definitely more up my alley. The pace was slow, but I kind of liked gradually learning about the devastating history that took place at the hotel years ago. There was also a really good twist that helped save the book for me.    

Although Hotel Ruby wasn’t my favorite book, I still enjoy the author’s other works immensely. I would highly recommend her series’ The Program to YA dystopian fans.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book for review!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Review: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt


Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive—first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then, herself.

But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.

When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.

Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery, and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.

Publication Date: January 12, 2016

I’ve read novels in the past about school shootings, but this book was unlike anything I’ve picked up before. Underwater offers the unique perspective of a school-shooting survivor suffering from severe PTSD. The narrative was beautifully done with a level of authenticity I rarely see in the genre.

The heart of the novel lies with Morgan and her journey of getting back all that she has lost since surviving a school shooting that left many of her classmates dead. She gets to the point that she’s unable to leave the house from fear of the outside. The book starts months after the shooting when Morgan meets her new neighbor Evan.

Evan and Morgan’s romance is light and sweet and I liked how he was the catalyst to get her to heal from the tragedy. Their relationship felt very realistic and I enjoyed how Evan was able to call her on her B.S. My only complaint is that I would have liked less romance and more about Morgan’s life before the shooting.

There was so much emotion in between the pages of Underwater. Not many authors can keep my interest with so little action going on, but Reichardt managed to make me feel so much that I didn’t find myself bored or skimming pages to get to the meat of the story. I loved how the author made Morgan’s journey to finding herself again meaningful and believable.

If you’re looking for a YA contemporary with a lot of heart, then you must read Underwater.

Rating; 4/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book for review!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Free Book Weekend: Falling for Autumn and Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

Get your free copy of my New Adult contemporary Falling for Autumn now through Monday! Pick up your copy and enter to win a $20 Amazon gift card giveaway!


Autumn Dorey had no problem leaving her hometown of Newpine and the friends there who’d betrayed her. Everyone thought they knew what happened the spring night Autumn’s world fell apart. Vicious rumors about the incident circulated, and she had to be homeschooled the last year of high school to escape her tormentors. All she wants now is to get away from it all and start over at Cook University. She leaves everything but the memory behind—something she swore she’d never forget—and sets off to rebuild what was broken.

Blake Preston is precisely the type of guy Autumn wants to avoid. He’s gorgeous, arrogant and the college’s beloved football star. As much as she believes he’s someone she should steer clear of, avoiding him proves to be impossible. He shows up everywhere around campus, offering her a no-strings attached friendship.

Autumn can’t deny Blake stirs up emotions she thought fled years ago. But things he’s been hiding begin to emerge and collide with her past, leaving her heart ravaged in their wake.

New Adult Romance-Ages 17+ Due to Strong Language and Sexual Situations

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Falling-Autumn-Heather-Topham-Wood-ebook/dp/B00JMHTHV0

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Falling-Autumn-Heather-Topham-Wood-ebook/dp/B00JMHTHV0

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Blitz: Thirst by RP Channing

After a near fatal accident (and getting cheated on by her 'boyfriend'), and beating up the lead cheerleader (with whom the boyfriend cheated...), and being labeled as having 'issues' in her school because she, uhm, sees ghosts, Kira is left with two choices:

1. Continue her 'therapy' (where she's told the ghost is a hallucination and also gets her legs ogled too often...)


2. Go to Starkfield Academy, a boarding school for "Crazies and Convicts" (as the social media sites call them.)

She chooses the latter...

~ Cory Rand ~

Cory Rand has not had an easy life. His mother died in a car accident when he was twelve, and so did his mother's best friend...sort of. You see, Janice made a promise to take care of Cory just before she died, and so she lingers. Undead. A ghost that watches out for him.

Brought up in an abusive home, Cory quickly falls into a life of disreputable behavior. After his third offense (which was prompted by a girl, as usual - he has a weakness) he's left with two choices:

1. Be tried as an adult and share a cell with a guy named Bubba (he thinks...)


2. Go to Starkfield Academy, which Cory is pretty sure is run by vampires. But, hey, at least he'll get an education.

He chooses the latter...

It's at Starkfield that Kira meets Cory Rand, a boy with an insatiable Rage who sees ghosts, too. As well as other things, other things from his past, things that confuse him, things like fire and witches and demons.

Things he's always ignored.

Until now.


Young Adult Romance
Paranormal Romance
High School
Vampires, Demons, Witches
Dark Fantasy

Buy Links

Kindle Unlimited

$20 Amazon Gift Voucher Giveaway

At the back of the book there is a giveaway link. Once the book hits fifty reviews on Amazon, one of those reviewers will win a $20 (US Dollars) Amazon Gift Voucher!

Author Bio

R P Channing started writing three years ago, but never published anything even after churning out over a million words of fiction. Thirst: Blood of my Blood is the first book he dared to publish. When asked why, he said, “Because it’s the first thing I wrote that my wife actually enjoyed reading.” When not hammering away (most literally) at his keyboard, he can be found buried in a book, reading anything from romance to horror to young adult to non-fiction to comedy. If it has words in it, I’ll take it.

Author Links


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Guest Review: Angels Burning by Tawni O'Dell


From the New York Times bestselling author of the Oprah Book Club pickBack Roads comes this fast-paced literary thriller about a small town police chief who’s forced to dig into her own shadowy past as she investigates the murder of a teenage girl.

On the surface, Chief Dove Carnahan is a true trailblazer who would do anything to protect the rural Pennsylvanian countryside where she has lived all fifty of her years. Traditional and proud of her blue-collar sensibilities, Dove is loved by her community. But beneath her badge lies a dark and self-destructive streak, fed by a secret she has kept since she was sixteen.

When a girl is beaten to death, her body tossed down a fiery sinkhole in an abandoned coal town, Dove is faced with solving the worst crime of her law enforcement career. She identifies the girl as a daughter of the Truly family, a notoriously irascible dynasty of rednecks and petty criminals.

During her investigation, the man convicted of killing Dove’s mother years earlier is released from prison. Still proclaiming his innocence, he approaches Dove with a startling accusation and a chilling threat that forces her to face the parallels between her own family’s trauma and that of the Trulys.

With countless accolades to her credit, author Tawni O’Dell writes with the “fearless insights” (The New York Times Book Review) she brought to the page in Back Roads and One of Us. In this new, masterfully told psychological thriller, the past and present collide to reveal the extent some will go to escape their fate, and in turn, the crimes committed to push them back to where they began.

Publication Date: January 5, 2016

About Guest Reviewer Joanna:

Joanna Franklin Bell is a writer living outside Baltimore, MD. Her articles can be read in "Baltimore Magazine" and various Patch.com sites; her award-winning short story can be found on the "Single Dad Laughing" blog; and her books can be found on Amazon. "Muse: A Cat's Story" is her children's chapter book, "Mrs. Just-So" is her children's picture book, and "Take a Load Off, Mona Jamborski" and "That Birds Would Sing" are her novels. Her third novel, "See No Demons, Hear No Demons" will be released in 2016. Catch up with Joanna on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/JoannaFranklinBell

Joanna's Review:

Tawni O'Dell's mother must have hated her, or, had no aspirations for her daughter beyond swinging from a stripper pole. I cannot imagine why else she'd have named her baby Tawni. Since a mother like this doesn't often exist, I assume of course that dear Tawni named herself in an attempt to really sell the white-trash factor of tawdry romances that she pens.

This is what I expected when I opened "Angels Burning," and it got no better when I read the first sentence of the first chapter which ended, "…trying to grope my recently ripened breasts." Yes, that's how the FIRST SENTENCE OF THE BOOK ends.

Strikes one, two, three, and fifteen hundred right there, Tawni. Lord above, I must be so much better than you.

Well thank goodness I had nothing better to do and felt like I could keep on judging this hapless writer and her ridiculous romance. So I kept reading.

And here's where I tell you how quickly I reversed my position and decided that Tawni and her uniquely spelled colorful name was probably just a product of the late 1960s and the creative spirits that birthed her, because this chick can WRITE. And I mean, WRITE. And, yes, she is so much better than ME. Her name could be Larry Curly Moe Joe and it wouldn't matter. You know how long it's been since I highlighted passages because I loved them so much, and not because they contained horrifying crimes against the English language? It's been at least a decade. I cannot wait to read everything else Tawni has ever written, because if it's half as good as "Angels Burning," I'm already a fan. I don't even care if one ends up being a romance.

No formulaic love story here: the main character is a 50-year-old chief of police named Dove, because DOVE had the white-trash mother! I had to laugh. (I do wonder if Tawni knows wherefrom she speaks…) Dove was named after her neglectful mother's favorite soap! Dove's sister, Neely, was named after "Valley of the Dolls," and their brother Champ was named after the mom's childhood dog. If these three don't serve to characterize their mother, who is long dead before the book even begins, nothing will.

The mother's long-ago death interweaves itself with the current crime: the murder of a teenaged girl, whose body was stuffed in the fictional version of Centralia, Pennsylvania's burning ghost town where underground coal mine fires still heat the ground and spew smoke through the cracks. The town in the book is much the same, or at least a section of it is—the police risk their own lives trying to retrieve the girl's body, tying Dove with a rope while she lowers herself into the hell pit to wrap her arms around the charred body, almost lovingly saving the girl, although of course she is far too late.

And the story begins.

Can't tell ya any more without spoiling it… There's nothing I wouldn't recommend about this book. If you read it and love it and highlight passages of your own, tell me what they are—I'd love to know if what spoke to you deeply is what spoke to me deeply. Dove (and Tawni through her) have plenty of deep thoughts to share.

5/5 Stars

Friday, November 27, 2015

Guest Review: What She Knew by Gilly Macmillian


In her enthralling debut, Gilly Macmillan explores a mother’s search for her missing son, weaving a taut psychological thriller as gripping and skillful as The Girl on the Train and The Guilty One.

In a heartbeat, everything changes…

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most.

Where is Ben? The clock is ticking...

Publication Date: December 1, 2015

Guest Reviewer Laura's Thoughts:

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan doesn't require too much to sell it. The story is so obviously captivating. I mean, cute missing British kid. HELLO. There is no forgiving quality in the kidnapper, so we know exactly who to root for (OR DO WE). This novel begs the readers to immediately rally and solve the crime and the only way to do that? READ THE BLOODY BOOK, AND READ IT FAST.

I adored the way she chopped up the novel: through different POV's, official emails, transcripts plus a healthy spattering (ew that phrase) of Internet headlines, blogs and articles. I am a youngish gal; a member of the club that started childhood without the internet but became a person when it started creeping into the households. And maybe I'm reading all the wrong books, but I rarely bump in to novels that utilize the use of Internet to further the story and perspective. And why not! It's our whole world these days, and I appreciated how present it was in MacMillan's debut novel. It showed a different sort of awareness. She recognizes the power of the www and it's capacity to instill fear, incite accusation and promote an total robbery of privacy.

Macmillian did this one thing that really got under my skin at first, and then I went all "dude bro brilliant, just brilliant." When we first met Rachel Jenner, she was breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly in to the camera. We quickly became a character, the audience member she needed to tell her whole story too, granted we could stay quiet and stick with her. YEP, INTO IT. And then...it didn't happen again until we were about 60% through the story.

"I'm also interested to know how uncomfortable you feel now. Whether you’re regretting our agreement. Remember the roles we allocated each other? Me: Ancient Mariner and Narrator. You: Wedding Guest and Patient Listener. Do you wish you could shuffle away yet? Refill your glass perhaps? Now that my grip is loosening whose side are you on?"

Initially, I thought maybe the author was just like, "FUDGE, remember that one time I started doing this one thing? Ok ummmm, *flips through manuscript* let's throw another audience participation post riiiight....*lands randomly on page* HERE." But I couldn't stop thinking about the placement of this passage, and I realized what a sneaky way that was of turning the tables on us! At this point, I had settled back into the role of docile, unaffected and removed reader but with this passage, the author let me know that I was not the only one judging; Rachel was gaging my character as much as I was hers. She knew (ha, title pun kinda) how she was being portrayed in the media and what the world was saying about her and she wanted to check in - hey loyal reader, ya still with me? The stakes in this story immediately felt gargantuan again and I immediately rallied beside Rachel, all over again. And with that renewed sense of duty, I rushed towards the ending.

Take away: What She Knew is the sort of book that does not offend, but doesn't really inspire either. I enjoyed the hell out of it, but I won't be thinking about it after I write this review. I would happily read MacMillan's work again. If this novel is an indication, she has a knack for addictive storytelling and she mixes it wonderfully with well-researched settings and ideas (you'll be an expert on the inner layout of a police station after this one, guaranteed). I feel like I've been reading a lot of these lately, but What She Knew is a great novel if you're looking to be wildly (albeit momentarily) entertained and never have to work too hard. Another beach read for those with a darker disposition.

Thank you publishers for a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. You dah best. :)

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu


Rachel Walker is devoted to God.

She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy.

But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul.

Publication Date: June 2, 2015

I liked Devoted a lot more than I expected to. The beginning was really slow for me and I just couldn’t seem to connect with the setting or the main character. I’m really glad I stuck it out. Devoted became exceptionally better as the book progressed and the author very subtly explored what it mean to be raised in a closed-off religious community.

I enjoyed Rachel as a character more so as she begins to question her group’s religious views. Her change is gradual and I found it more believable than her simply waking up one morning and realizing that the life she is living isn’t the societal norm. I also liked that her central problem wasn’t her belief in god, but rather whether she was being treated unfairly because she was born a woman.

My favorite part of the book was that the catalyst for the events was Rachel getting in trouble for reading her favorite book “A Wrinkle in Time.” She is chastised by her father for reading something unholy because of the fantasy elements contained in the novel.

There’s not a romance in the novel, but I wouldn’t have found one appropriate. The book was more about a teen girl finding her voice and being able to see that despite her family’s preaching, there was good to be found outside of her sect.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel for review!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Guest Review: Shade Me by Jennifer Brown


Nikki Kill does not see the world like everyone else. In her eyes, happiness is pink, sadness is a mixture of brown and green, and lies are gray. Thanks to a rare phenomenon called synesthesia, Nikki’s senses overlap, in a way that both comforts and overwhelms her.

Always an outsider, just one ‘D’ shy of flunking out, Nikki’s life is on the fast track to nowhere until the night a mysterious call lights her phone up bright orange—the color of emergencies. It’s the local hospital. They need Nikki to identify a Jane Doe who is barely hanging on to life after a horrible attack.

The victim is Peyton Hollis, a popular girl from Nikki’s school who Nikki hardly knows. One thing is clear: Someone wants Peyton dead. But why? And why was Nikki’s cell the only number in Peyton’s phone?

As she tries to decipher the strange kaleidoscope of clues, Nikki finds herself thrust into the dark, glittering world of the ultra-rich Hollis family, and drawn towards Peyton’s handsome, never-do-well older brother Dru. While Nikki’s colors seem to help her unravel the puzzle, what she can’t see is that she may be falling into a trap. The only truth she can be sure of is that death is a deep, pulsing crimson.

Shade Me is award-winning author Jennifer Brown’s first book in a thrilling suspense series about Nikki Kill.

Publication Date: January 16, 2016

About Guest Reviewer Joanna:

Joanna Franklin Bell is a writer living outside Baltimore, MD. Her articles can be read in "Baltimore Magazine" and various Patch.com sites; her award-winning short story can be found on the "Single Dad Laughing" blog; and her books can be found on Amazon. "Muse: A Cat's Story" is her children's chapter book, "Mrs. Just-So" is her children's picture book, and "Take a Load Off, Mona Jamborski" and "That Birds Would Sing" are her novels. Her third novel, "See No Demons, Hear No Demons" will be released in 2016. Catch up with Joanna on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/JoannaFranklinBell

Guest Review:

My birthday is next week. I will be 42. Yes, thank you, I know. I attribute my youthful looks to my high-carb late-night diet, but I realize not everyone can keep up with that program. Well enough about me. The point is, I have solidly transitioned to adult literature, other than a constant and forever love of all things Harry Potter. I read Hunger Games with a little disappointment, rolled my eyes at the whole Divergent thing, and opted right out of The Fault in Our Stars. Teen angst? Can't do it anymore. DONE that, both in life and in literature. Moving on.

But I was given a copy of Shade Me by Jennifer Brown's publisher in exchange for an honest review, and I accepted it mostly because I didn't realize it was a YA book. I wouldn't have necessarily known it was a YA book either, after the first many chapters—I was aware the protagonist was a kick-ass teen named Nikki Kill but a teenage character does not necessitate a teenage audience. Lord of the Flies was not, you know, written for young British schoolchildren just because it stars them. Right? Right.

Nikki won my heart pretty quickly. There are lots of garbage-y stereotypical ways to write about a dark horse teen with no friends who smokes and studies martial arts, and Jennifer Brown fell into none of the traps. Nikki was actually unique and didn't try too hard to prove to the reader how bad-ass she is, making her all the more bad-ass. She has synesthesia too, and while that's interesting and unique, I still think Brown could have devolved into a preschooler's rainbow-world of red and blue and green and yellow… but I was so pleasantly surprised. Her colorful (literally, colorful) descriptions took me into awesome phrases like "ragemonster red" and "brown mist, bruise-violet swirls, sickly green waves" that wed colors to emotions. Nikki's brand of synesthesia is actually intuitive or maybe psychic—her colors can help her spot a liar or a skeptic or even an imminent death. I call it Cheater's Synesthesia, but Brown just calls it Nikki. And I liked it.

Brown falls prey to a couple of amateur writing traps that drive me nuts—her antagonist "bares her teeth," and her protagonist "squints" when she's peering closely or narrowing her eyes. I edit the hell out of both of those mannerisms when I am reading my clients' rough drafts, and I hope Brown's editor doesn't let her get away with them either. Also, I never fully followed some of the family drama and who was whose stepmother, but maybe that was intentionally left vague…? It didn't really matter, since the main thrust of the story was clear and intense and emotive. And very, very colorful.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Review: Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams


Ruth Carver has always competed like her life depends on it. Ambitious. Tough. Maybe even mean. It’s no wonder people call her ruthless.

When she wakes up with a concussion in the bed of a moving pickup truck, Ruth realizes she has been entered into a contest she can’t afford to lose.

At a remote, rotting cabin deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ruth’s blindfold comes off and she finds herself face-to-face with her captor: A man who believes his mission is to punish bad girls like Ruth. A man who has done this six times before.

The other girls were never heard from again, but Ruth won’t go down easy. She escapes into the wilderness, but her hunter is close at her heels. That’s when the real battle begins. That’s when Ruth must decides just how far she’ll go in order to survive.

Back home, they called her Ruthless. They had no idea just how right they were.

Publication Date: July 14, 2015

Ruthless was a great atmospheric thriller about a teen girl’s struggle to survive against a serial killer. This book was definitely a read in one sitting kind of novel. There was so much tension as Ruth tried to escape her captor while he always seemed to be one step ahead of her.

Ruth was an imperfect character and I think that quality made her relatable. She hasn’t always been the nicest person and her aggressiveness has unfortunately led her to become a target of a deranged serial killer named “Wolfman.” The book opens with a bang as Ruth wakes up disoriented in the bed of a pickup truck. In flashback scenes, readers are given a better sense of what Ruth was like before her abduction and how her captivity changes her.

The present scenes are full of suspense and action as Ruth fights off Wolfman and runs into the woods in a dramatic escape attempt. Her struggles were truly heart wrenching, particularly the scenes where salvation seemed just out of her reach. The Wolfman’s flashback scenes aided in making his character more fleshed out. As far as Ruth’s flashbacks, I wished the author focused on more than one particular time in her life to give more insight into how she became so driven.

Fans of fast-paced YA thrillers will love Ruthless. I wasn’t sure a cat and mouse game in the woods would hold my interest, but the author threw in enough twists to keep me glued to the pages.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel for review!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Guest Review: Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams


Each of the three Schuyler sisters has her own world-class problems, but in the autumn of 1966, Pepper Schuyler's problems are in a class of their own. When Pepper fixes up a beautiful and rare vintage Mercedes and sells it at auction, she thinks she's finally found a way to take care of herself and the baby she carries, the result of an affair with a married, legendary politician.

But the car's new owner turns out to have secrets of her own, and as the glamorous and mysterious Annabelle Dommerich takes pregnant Pepper under her wing, the startling provenance of this car comes to light: a Nazi husband, a Jewish lover, a flight from Europe, and a love so profound it transcends decades. As the many threads of Annabelle's life from World War II stretch out to entangle Pepper in 1960s America, and the father of her unborn baby tracks her down to a remote town in coastal Georgia, the two women must come together to face down the shadows of their complicated pasts.

Indomitable heroines, a dazzling world of secrets, champagne at the Paris Ritz, and a sweeping love story for the ages, in New York Times bestselling author Beatriz William's final book about the Schuyler sisters.

Publication Date: November 3, 2015

About Guest Reviewer Joanna:

Joanna Franklin Bell is a writer living outside Baltimore, MD. Her articles can be read in "Baltimore Magazine" and various Patch.com sites; her award-winning short story can be found on the "Single Dad Laughing" blog; and her books can be found on Amazon. "Muse: A Cat's Story" is her children's chapter book, "Mrs. Just-So" is her children's picture book, and "Take a Load Off, Mona Jamborski" and "That Birds Would Sing" are her novels. Her third novel, "See No Demons, Hear No Demons" will be released in 2016. Catch up with Joanna on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/JoannaFranklinBell

Joanna's Review:

This book is a perfect example of why I am a reader, a lover of literature, a voracious studier of the written word, and a sometimes writer. This book is – this week – the reason I existed and – next week – the reason I will have my head half in the clouds as I let its memory slowly roll off me. I will need to distance myself bit by bit from the characters in order to immerse myself in my own life, unfortunately, because right now they are dancing through the air next to me and demanding my attention. I just finished the last chapter five minutes ago, so you'll forgive why I sound half schizophrenic, but their voices are utterly real in my ear, and will be for days.

"Along the Infinite Sea" makes up for its lackluster and cliché title within the first few sentences of chapter one, and you'll forget what the book is called because it could have been called "Beatriz Williams Writes Some Stuff" and you should still line up at midnight to be the first to buy it at the bookstore because it's that good. So is this where I give you a short synopsis of the plot? No, I think I won't. I knew not-a-thing about it when I first opened it and am so glad I didn't. Apparently (I learned afterwards) it's a partial continuation of some family that Williams wrote about before… and I don't care. They exist in THIS book in a way they cannot possibly in any other and I'm happy to have met them here and nowhere else. Plus, their family is really not the heart of the story so I doubly don't care that they're in other books (I cheated and looked at other reviews real quick, or I wouldn't know this at all).

I did read a rough rough rough draft given to me by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review, and the fact that nothing was properly indented or paragraphed etc, especially during characters' conversations, made reading this a labor of love since I had to slow down and really figure out who was speaking… and I didn't care. I relished their conversations all the more. I found two horrifying instances where Williams uses the name Florian instead of Stefan (they're both characters and the wrong one rolled off her typing fingertips, methinks) but I have all the faith that the good proofreader at whatever trad publisher is field-goaling this forth will find it. (If not, for godssake Bea, ask me so I can tell you which sentences they are before it's too late.)

Criticism? I wish Annabelle weren't compared to Audrey Hepburn, and several times. The author could have – and did – evoke Audrey in this character without having to hammer the comparison home so. Trust us the readers please – I saw Annabelle just fine without that. I see her now. She'll walk with me these next few days. Ditto referring to Stefan and Johann as "Valjean and Javert" – Williams doesn't need to rely on another author's characters to make hers have a similar enemyship. (Enemyship – think I just made that word up.) I hope that was edited out, because I hope her editor sees how strong her writing is without stooping to using someone else's, as I see. I also wish there wasn't a strange nod to Pepper being related to Nick, which tied her to the other main family in the book, but that link wasn't explored (maybe it is in the companion books?). It was unnecessarily head-scratchy since it led to nothing.

Is that my only criticism? Umm… yup. And none of those criticisms matter at the end of the day. At the end of the book. At the end of each chapter, or even sentence. They don't matter. This book was magnificent. A triumph. Read it next to Julie Orringer's "The Invisible Bridge," Anita Shreve's "Resistance," and Markus Zusak's "The Book Thief," and oh hell, "The Diary of Anne Frank" while you're at it, and weep that this was, and is, our world, and that these authors exist in it to tell the story. I will tell you nothing else about it. Go read it. It'll make your week.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Review: Lady Bridget's Diary by Maya Rodale


Lord Darcy is the quintessential Englishman: wealthy, titled, impossibly proper, and horrified that a pack of Americans has inherited one of England's most respected dukedoms. But his manners, his infamous self-restraint, and his better judgment fly out the window when he finds himself with the maddening American girl next door.

Lady Bridget Cavendish has grand—but thwarted—plans to become a Perfect Lady and take the haute ton by storm. In her diary, Bridget records her disastrous attempts to assimilate into London high society, her adoration of the handsome rogue next door, her disdain for the Dreadful Lord Darcy, and some truly scandalous secrets that could ruin them all.

It was loathing at first sight for Lady Bridget and Lord Darcy. But their paths keep crossing . . . and somehow involve kissing. When Lady Bridget's diary goes missing, both Darcy and Bridget must decide what matters most of all—a sterling reputation or a perfectly imperfect love.

Publication Date: January 26, 2016

I adored this book! Gah, I’m such a sucker for anything remotely related to Pride & Prejudice and Lady Bridget’s Diary is no exception. The story contained both familiar plot elements from both Bridget Jones’s Diary and Pride and Prejudice.

I’ve read Maya Rodale’s historical novels and I always fall in love with the characters. Bridget and her American siblings all captured my heart and I hope Rodale plans to give them their own novels. Bridget is just like her inspiration from Helen Fielding’s books. She’s plucky and silly and speaks exactly what’s on her mind. She’s the opposite of stoic, serious Darcy and she hates him on sight. But despite her loathing, she can’t seem to escape their electrifying chemistry.

This book is such a sweet, fun tale that you won’t help, but smile throughout it. Darcy becomes the hero he’s meant to be and Bridget opens up her eyes and starts to see that she has judged him too harshly. Her diary entries were amusing, but also offers insight into just how stifling Regency society could be. There was definitely a predictability as far as the plot, but it didn’t make me stop giggling or swooning one bit. I’d highly recommend the novel to fans of historical romances set during the Regency era.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel for review!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Review: Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul


Underneath Everything is a seductive, gorgeously written debut about two girls bound by an obsessive and toxic friendship, perfect for fans of Lauren Oliver and Courtney Summers.

Mattie shouldn't be at the bonfire. She should be finding new maps for her collection, hanging out with Kris, and steering clear of almost everyone else, especially Jolene. After all, Mattie and Kris dropped off the social scene the summer after sophomore year for a reason. But now Mattie is a senior, and she's sick of missing things. So here she is. And there's Jolene: Beautiful. Captivating. Just like the stories she wove. Mattie would know—she used to star in them. She and Jolene were best friends. Mattie has the scar on her palm to prove it, and Jolene has everything else, including Hudson.

But when Mattie runs into Hudson and gets a glimpse of what could have been, she decides to take it all back: the boyfriend, the friends, the life she was supposed to live. Problem is, Mattie can't figure out where Jolene's life ends and hers begins. Because there's something Mattie hasn't told anyone: She walked away from Jolene over a year ago, but she never really left.

Publication Date: October 27, 2015

Underneath Everything was an interesting story about toxic female friendships. Specifically, the book focused on the dynamic between a quieter, passive friend and the dominant, outgoing friend. Jolene and Mattie had been best friends until their friendship dissolved over a boy named Hudson.

The book is very character-driven since not much happens in terms of the actual plot. I found the secondary characters interesting, especially Jolene, but I couldn’t really muster much enthusiasm for Mattie. Her personality was sort of blah and the only trait I could really remember about her most of the time was her odd obsession with maps.

I liked the author’s writing style and I was curious about what happened the night Mattie and Jolene’s friendship imploded. The flashbacks were also a highlight of the book and I liked how ambiguous the author kept Jolene and Mattie’s relationship. I kept wondering if they were just friends or something more.

I think at the core of the novel is a girl struggling to find her identity separate from her “soulmate.” Although I wasn’t totally blown away by the story, I did think it painted an honest depiction of how complicated female friendships can become.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel for review!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler


The party last Saturday night is a bit of a blur.

Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early—the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids.

But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details, and begins to ask questions.

What really happened at the party after she left?

Who was still there?

What did they see?

When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question:

Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?

This story—inspired by real events—from debut novelist Aaron Hartzler takes an unflinching look at silence as a form of complicity. It’s a book about the high stakes of speaking up, and the razor thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.

Publication Date: September 22, 2015
What We Saw is a must read for every high school and college age girl. I guarantee this novel will haunt you long after you shut the book because there’s so much brutal honesty between the pages. This is probably one of the best YA novels I’ve read this year and I love the powerful message the author delivered with using a ripped from the headlines premise.

I thought the author made a smart decision by having the story told by everygirl Kate instead of the rape victim Stacey. Kate was stuck in the middle of the controversy and provided insight into both sides. Kate has loyalty to the accused basketball players because of her newfound romantic relationship with one of the team’s star players Ben, but she was also a friend to Stacey years ago in middle school.

What We Saw tells the story of just how accepted our society is of slut shaming and sexism. From the second, charges are brought against the male students, there is a general consensus among the students and faculty that Stacey is just a slut who is trying to ruin the boys’ futures. There is never any concern about the victim or what type of PTSD she must be suffering after being assaulted and having the damning images spread online.

Kate’s feelings and actions were very authentic in the novel. She’s not a trailblazing feminist by any means, but I appreciated how despite her boyfriend and friends warning her to stay out of the controversy, she made it a point of digging around for the truth about what happened at the party.

This book will bring you to tears as you realize that there are so many women and men out there who think a rape victim “asked for it.” The ending is far from a HEA, but very realistic and honest like the rest of the novel. 

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel for review!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: The Devil You Know by Trish Doller


Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it's just the risk she's been craving-the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions.

A road trip fling turns terrifying in this contemporary story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Publication Date: June 2, 2015

The Devil You Know was a good YA suspense read that kind of reminded me of the premise of “The Last House on the Left.” I almost felt like the subtitle should have been “This Is What Happens to Good Girls Who Make One Bad Choice.” Cadie makes some questionable decisions and ends up paying for them tremendously.

Cadie was likable and I felt for her a lot. She’s had a lot of responsibility thrown on her since her mom died and she’s been kept from having any kind of social life. She decides to go out to a party one night and ends up meeting two handsome cousins. Because she’s so desperate for adventure, she makes the impulsive decision to accompany the two on a road trip.

The beginning was a little slow going, but I was finding the book to be such an easy read, I didn’t feel dreadfully bored and screaming “When will something happen already?!” I think the plot was also moved on by the incredible chemistry between Cadie and Noah.

The book became a nail biter by the halfway point, but this was also the point when Cadie went from being reckless to just plain stupid. But in her defense, she is still a teen and I think some of her rash decisions were her way to finally rebel after having so many responsibilities thrust on her. I wanted to shake her from time to time, but I never stopped liking her as a character.

I probably would have given the book 4.5 or 5 stars if the whodunit part was stronger. I thought it was pretty obvious who the killer was and guessed very early on before the reveal. There was no jaw dropping moment in the conclusion that made the book a home run for me.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel for review!  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Guest Review: The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield


From the award-winning author of The Missing Place—in which “Littlefield’s writing shines" (The Boston Globe)—another gripping exploration of the damage people can do to each other, and the resilience they find in themselves.

A man stands on the Golden Gate Bridge, poised to jump…if a woman on the other end of the phone tells him to.

Maris’s safe suburban world was shattered the day her daughter was found murdered, presumably at the hands of the young woman’s boyfriend. Her marriage crumbling, her routine shattered, Maris walks away from her pampered life as a Bay Area mom the day she receives a call from Ron, father of her daughter’s killer. Wracked with guilt over his son’s actions (and his own possible contribution to them), he asks Maris a single question: should he jump?

With a man’s life in her hands, Maris must decide, perhaps for the first time, what she truly wants. Retribution? Forgiveness? Or something more? Having lost everything, she’s finally free to recreate herself without the confining labels of “wife,” “mother,” or “mourner.” But will this shocking offer free her, or destroy her?

Publication Date: August 11, 2015

About Guest Reviewer Joanna:

Joanna Franklin Bell is a writer living outside Baltimore, MD. Her articles can be read in "Baltimore Magazine" and various Patch.com sites; her award-winning short story can be found on the "Single Dad Laughing" blog; and her books can be found on Amazon. "Muse: A Cat's Story" is her children's chapter book, "Mrs. Just-So" is her children's picture book, and "Take a Load Off, Mona Jamborski" and "That Birds Would Sing" are her novels. Her third novel, "See No Demons, Hear No Demons" will be released in 2016. Catch up with Joanna on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/JoannaFranklinBell

Joanna's Review:

"The Guilty One" really wanted to be a five star book. It sure started out that way. It hooked me instantly without any cheap "in medias res" scenes, invested me in the main character, and had me ask questions. I went from dreading reading it (I always somehow end up getting the stupid romances) to realizing within one page that this was truly something different.

Then, I said, "Okay. This lady can write, but I've read this story before. This is a mash-up of two of Anne Tyler's books, and I remember these plot lines…" Oops, I was wrong. Right when I thought I had identified an overused, overdone, overplayed fiction device, I discovered I was wrong within sentences. I'd never read this story before. This was unique.

A few pages later, I said, "Ohhhh, now I get it, this is just like that movie where Jennifer Aniston wears fake scars and doesn't have on any make-up after an accident…" Nope, wrong again. As before, the slight similarity in a single element of the story was there, but absolutely nothing else. Again, this was unique.

Go Sophie Littlefield! I'd never heard of her, but I realized I'd met a new writer I respected. I picked up the book more and more, loving it more and more. I loved Maris, I loved Ron, I was thinking I was going to get to know Deb, and Pet, and Norris, and George... Calla's beautiful name was straight from its lily, Karl was complex and so far believable. I found some inconsistent paragraphs, some wrongly-described timelines, some errors of setting, but I was reading an uncorrected proof copy (which I was given by the publisher in exchange for this review). Maybe the editor will have caught those. I barely cared, continuing to read and read…

…and it got better. Right when I thought I knew everything, there was another surprise. And then right when I thought there were no more surprises, there was another one. This book was an eternal pleasure with every paragraph, aside from the fact that it's about a LOT of rotten stuff, namely loss and grief and, as the title would suggest, guilt. It's not an easy read, emotionally. But it's a TRUE read, a REAL read.

Until it isn't.

So apparently someone pushed Sophie Littlefield off the same bridge she saves one of her characters from, because someone who might be Soppy Evensmallerfield took over. What were subtle characters became totally bland and one-dimensional and simply walked around speaking lines randomly with no believability whatsoever. Even a few throwaways were introduced, and I have no idea why. There is no earthly reason for a few of the characters to exist, but it's like they were even more bored by the story they were in, so they wandered to this one, looking for the party. They were disappointed here too. EVERYONE DISSOLVED INTO STEREOTYPE and even that's almost a compliment, since they weren't even interesting enough to BE a stereotype anymore.

Everything started to suck. And I, yes me, yes your judgmental reviewer, I DOCKED A STAR.

Take that, Soppy Evensmallerfield! That's what you get for hijacking a good writer's story! It was actually GOING somewhere, VALIDATING life's hardest emotions, CREATING worlds in my head, and then it fell off the rails. And not even in a grand, light-em-up kind of way, like how all of Stephen King's books can be good until he decides he hasn't quite shocked you enough, so he has the bad guy wrenching off his protagonist's breast with a can opener (totally happened – read "Lisey's Story") and you're like REALLY?! No, this just kind of fell asleep at the wheel and drifted gently and disappointingly into a field, where it ended. The characters stood around like wooden marionettes while the off-stage lighting crew hollered their lines unconvincingly, yanked a few strings to make the limbs move in an approximation of lifelike-ness, then went to the bar for a drink since no one was in the audience anymore.

It's enough to make me dock lots of stars, but I have to remember how much I loved it going in.

My recommendation? Read it or don't read it? That's a good question. I say:

Read it, get to the point where they're at the gala, close it, then email me and ask how it ends. I'll tell you in a single sentence, and you can save yourself the disappointment of limping your way towards it yourself.

Rating: 4/5 Stars